Monday, January 31, 2011

La Valse & Book Cover Concept

I've been looking for this for some time, and have finally found it! Ravel's 'La Valse';

...and a cover currently being worked with;

Book cover (and book) design is an art in itself; I'm mainly working with Evan to select the cover image on which the text is placed; text font, color etc. decisions are in the hands of the Springer production department.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Huanuco Pampa

Plan view of the architecture of Huanuco Pampa for my textbook; the site was an Inca administrative and military center with a large central plaza for public participation in state ritual and nearly 500 buildings. Among the facilities are nearly 40,000 cubic meters of storage space in the form of state granaries called quollcas. These numbers mean very little for a general impression of things, so for comparsion on the right I've added plan views of Edinburgh Castle, the citadel of Mycenae and a Boeing 747. These give a much better impression of the size of Huanuco Pampa.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A Mexica (Aztec) warrior; my copy, in pen and ink on vellum, from the Florentine codex. After scanning the b & w image I worked a bit with color.

The warrior bears a small wicker shield and a wooden club with black obsidian blades inserted on two edges; he wears a jaguar skin costume and wooden helmet with a feather headdress. The military elite, otomi, vowed to never step backwards in battle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bright Moon

I step off the bus and start down the street. It's dark and the stars stand out. I come around a corner and there is the moon, white and giant. "People walked there," I think, trying to imagine the distances. It was a very extended SCUBA dive.

Folded in my pocket are Kip's two poems and Carrie-Ann's pitch letter: I am walking to Carrie-Ann's for our weekly meeting. Aside from a 6-month absence, I've done this for five years; Wednesday night is writing group.

I linger a bit, outside; I'm looking at the moon, trying to absorb something from its light. OK, enough; time to go in.

Inside Carrie-Ann's six people examine Kip's poems in excruciating detail. "I dunno, this line seems condescending...." We work as a group. Some people have come and gone but the constitution of the group has remained essentially the same. We have poets, realists, memoirists, fiction writers.

"I dunno, I think this is a cliche..." We jab and jibe, we have fun, we talk about how the work influences us, or not, we laugh and people talk over one another sometimes. A lot of what we say says as much about each of us as what we mean to say about Kip's poems. We toil over every word and punctuation mark like engineers preparing a deep space probe before liftoff. We might as well be wearing sterile suits. This attention is exactly what I love.

A slice of cheese, some crackers, some comments on the ridiculous rewording of Huckleberry Finn, and down we dive into Carrie-Ann's book pitch letter. "This might not play too well..." someone says, and this is nicely refuted with logic--actually it should play very well in the hand of an Acquisitions Editor.

I sort of slide away, sometimes, watching Bruce's animated physical style, and Tracy's folded position. Tola sits like a professional; Kip's sits carefully; Carrie-Ann is in the lotus position with her laptop; David leans back but is exploding with interest; and I wonder what I communicate physically, and I think on the fragility of groups, and the integrity of ours. Half of this is showing up, I think, the other is being present, really taking time to examine the work. We all do both parts, and that is a wonderful thing to see. Five years we've been at this, learning each other.

On the way to Carrie's the moon was so beautiful that I'd thought, "This is the best moment of my life..."

How could that be, walking alone on a road with a 7-11 coffee in one hand, and a stale burrito in the other?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Slowness of the Paraglider

"The slowness of the paraglider is the feature that interests me here, not because it makes for soft landings but because it promises in theory to provide ordinary humans with the most detailed yet of aerial views. Sometimes I think people should, after all, tale classes in paragliding, but that those classes should be taught at every public high school in the country and offered as alternatives not only to gym but to the tedious courses in 'civics' and American geography...imagine...the arrival of an entire generation in which people truly had learned to see themselves from above."

William Langewiesche, "Inside the Sky".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Forget Everything You Know About Living in Space

There are significant cultural shifts to make in public associations related to human-in-space activities. For example, I am writing about these in my current book:

To facilitate these, essentially all of what we think of as humans-in-space has to be ditched and reinvented. If we think of "walking on Mars' our point of reference is the clunky Apollo-era suits used over 40 years ago to walk on the moon;

Here the human being is barely visible, encased in constricting layers and almost an afterthought.

But in Mars colonies pressure suits will look nothing like this; new research by Dr. Dava Newman at MIT is producing a new generation of pressure suits that will allow walking on Mars with much more natural human movement. The design is based on a 45-year-old proposal by Dr. James Webb, who was ahead of his time in terms of materials available. Below, Dr. Newman is seen demonstrating the suit;

I picked this image specifically because in the suit we do not see another chisel-chinned titan of the American heartland, but a young woman. Space migration and colonization is going to be about people finding new options for humanity in new places to live; on Mars, on asteroids, in orbital colonies and, eventually, in trans-generational interstellar starships.

My coauthor and I recently established the three premises of the book (which is scheduled for release in late 2011);

Premise 1: Human space migration is not optional, but imperative.

Premise 2: Human migration into space will be the continuation of an ancient process of adaptation.

Premise 3: Anthropology—the scientific study of the human species, in all its aspects from biology to culture—will be critical to successful human migration into space.

From this we move on to the meat of the text; a recasting of human space migration and colonization from a mechanistic, nationlaistic mold to a humanistic adaptive process no different in principle from colonization of the Pacific Islands or the High Arctic by humans several thousand years ago.

Friday, January 7, 2011


My first attempt at a poem:

Wet black elm arms
reach down to us
they are saying
they are shouting!
you are a part of this world!

Why Exist?

Ray Bradbury gives an answer:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

...resilient patterns in a turbulent flow...

"Let's stop looking at the organism purely as a molecular machine. The machine metaphor certainly provides insights, but these come at the price of overlooking much of what biology is. Machines are not made of parts that continually turn over, renew. The organism is. Machines are stable and accurate because they are designed and built to be so. The stability of an organism lies in resilience, the homeostatic capacity to reestablish itself. While a machine is a mere collection of parts, some sort of "sense of the whole" inheres in the organism, a quality that becomes particularly apparent in phenomena such as regeneration in amphibians and certain invertebrates and in the homeorhesis exhibited by developing embryos.

"If they are not machines, then what are organisms? A metaphor far more to my liking is this. Imagine a child playing in a woodland stream, poking a stick into an eddy in the flowing current, thereby disrupting it. But the eddy quickly reforms. The child disperses it again. Again it reforms, and the fascinating game goes on. There you have it! Organisms are resilient patterns in a turbulent flow—patterns in an energy flow. A simple flow metaphor, of course, fails to capture much of what the organism is. None of our representations of organism capture it in its entirety. But the flow metaphor does begin to show us the organism's (and biology's) essence. And it is becoming increasingly clear that to understand living systems in any deep sense, we must come to see them not materialistically, as machines, but as (stable) complex, dynamic organization."

From the most exciting paper I've read in years (and which I've quoted here before): A New Biology for a New Century, by Carl Woese, in Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 68(2):173-186.