Exoplanets and Us

Along with ourselves, there are seven planets in this solar system: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.

The latest composite image of Mercury

The latest composite image of Mercury

As well, there are dwarf planets – like Pluto – asteroids, comets and moons.

Europa, one of four Jupiter moons

Europa, Jupiter’s ice-bound moon

We have a rough idea of what these worlds are composed of and are quite certain that none of them can sustain us. princeExoplanets are the planets outside our solar system, all of which invisible by telescope and instead detected by the disruption in light from distant stars. Kepler 22b, 600 light years away, is an exciting find because it is similar to earth in size and orbiting distance from its sun.

Kepler 22b

Kepler 22b

It is estimated that there are some 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone and a septillion – a thousand billion billion – planets in the universe. As Carl Sagan says, that’s more than all of grains of sand in all of the beaches on Earth. m16 image by travis rector.  correction layers added by mark hannaThere is little doubt that many of the planets out there have life on them; the question is in their level of intelligence and what kind of shenanigans might occur when we finally meet.

Lost Little Christmas Trees

Hey, I don’t know if you’ve been looking…but I think I might have found your Christmas tree.

Randall's Island, NYC

Randall’s Island, NYC

I mean, I realize that it might not be your actual Christmas tree, but I know you threw that one in the garbage. Anyway, this is where they all seem to go. IMAG0031Maybe you feel bad about that? I don’t know. IMAG0035And even if you can’t nurse the little jasper back to health, you could give it a proper burial.IMAG0036Or are you sticking with the plan of forgetting about your old one and just getting another fresh green thing next Christmas?IMAG0038And then throwing that one out too? IMAG0037Oh, okay. It’s still Fuck you, Christmas Tree.

Obsession VI Revisited: Leafs Dementia

Okay, I must admit that my Toronto Maple Leafs obsession might have gotten the best of me as of late. Game Four was not a game but a maniacal phantasmagoria in double time that extended for an eternity and then vanished in a haze. reimerkrejciPhanuef’s missed hit, the shot under Reimer’s arm, the shot off the post, just wide, the 5-3 power play, the Kadri high stick, the giveaways – oh the giveaways!…it all went around in a rotor until I started to descend into an abyss. What could they have done for a better result? How do they make the puck bounce to the right and not the left? Damn Bruins. Damn undeserving, plodding, bumbling Bruins! I sat mute, inert, unable to think. Nothing.

I couldn’t write the next day. I couldn’t focus on anything and so took my axe and straightened out my pile of wood, split log after log – take that Krejci and Chara! – restructured every piece of the 2,000 into an indomitable wall.IMAG0020Ready for Game Five.

Obsession VI: The Toronto Maple Leafs

My obsession with the Toronto Maple Leafs started late, when I was maybe eight, a few years after they had won the Stanley Cup in 1967. I don’t know how it started. I don’t remember a specific moment. I just remember watching the games on Saturday night and listening to them on my pocket radio in bed; the games in California were like magic, crackling from a distant and late-night land. I clipped a lot of newspapers pictures and stories…Ullman, Esposito, Ellis, Pelyk & PlanteIMAG2650 collected memorabilia…IMAG2647IMAG2655 and met half the team when I was in the hospital before one Christmas. IMAG2658I even sent a set of suggested uniform re-designs to the organization in 1978 to help get the team out of a slump. IMAG2659Leafs owner Harold Ballard replied with the most thoughtful rejection letter I have ever received. IMAG2660I have been to many games in many cities – Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, Montreal, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Uniondale, Vancouver and Toronto.Leaf ticketsThe best might have been this past Saturday in Boston where I was privileged to be above the net and witness Phil Kessel score on a breakaway to open the third. kessel Break 2A friend of my brother’s, not a sports fan, quipped that he didn’t know why anyone intelligent watched sports. “It’s just divisive, like nationalism or religion.” And while I understand his point, I think he’s missing something elemental. Prudential There might be no logic in obsessing over a collection of skaters wearing blue and white uniforms, but it isn’t just that. It’s the faith that they will win, enduring the wait and anticipating when the cup comes back….this year and the next. roster615jan18 It’s a simple thing really, just three words: Go Leafs Go. Said a few times and again.

Obsession V: Tickets Stubs

I have been obsessive with saving ticket stubs for over thirty years – a time frame that seems to parallel my rock collection. IMAG2620This isn’t to say I’ve saved every one of them, but I still have the stub from my first concert, The Who at Maple Gardens in 1980.  IMAG2608There have been a lot of hockey games…IMAG2610a clear and intense obsession with The Grateful Dead…IMAG2599NCAA basketball…IMAG2625and more recently many shows at BAM, Carnegie Hall and the Met. IMAG2606Some events I remember better than others. Some I completely forget.IMAG2614They’re just pieces of paper, some just printouts, but still it’s good to remember where most of my money has gone.

Obsession IV: The Elliptical

I wrecked my knee while coaching indoor soccer in 1998. (I believe I uttered an expletive or two at that moment.) I had surgery to repair my torn ACL and then did rehab for some weeks to follow. “Use the elliptical,” my physical therapist instructed. “That’s the best thing to do.” IMAG2579I have taken his advice to the extreme. Since then, I have been on that crazy looking machine about 1600 times (an hour or so each time) at eleven different gyms until I finally moved into a building with its own machine.IMAG2581 I’ve been on this machine almost every day for the past nine months, averaging 1200 calories per session and getting my resting heart rate down to 49. It’s hard at first, especially in the morning, because my body doesn’t want to start; it knows what’s next. IMAG2583The first few minutes is a warm-up, getting the blood and lungs to work, and then it’s time to establish a more intensive rate, time to turn off the TV –  no more NY1 – and get into the music. (Nothing Is perhaps?) Minute 12 is the first real sign post. “How far am I off my pace? How much do I have to make up?” It is a matter of settling in and focusing on what’s ahead. IMAG2587Thoughts finally begin to move: an email to be written, a facebook message returned, a cheque cashed, schedules checked. And then the real ideas start to come, maybe halfway through: a scene that doesn’t work, stilted dialogue, a character developed, a new direction. Each and everything – the emails and scenes, all of them – must be reviewed, numbered in my head, so that they aren’t lost with all the sweat. IMAG2588The last ten minutes is for recounting the ideas one by one, reviewing the list time and again, and working toward the final numbers: calories burned and ideas logged. Today it was 1208 and 5, the last one of these for this blog.

Obsession III: Rocks

I picked up my first rock with purpose in the summer of 1983. IMAG2547I was sitting beside the road in Prince Edward Island on a hitch-hiking journey across Canada when I saw this rock and decided I should keep a memento from each province. I continued to collect sporadically over the years. IMAG2559It became ingrained in me when I hiked the mountain trails around Vancouver, beginning in the early 1990s, bringing a rock home every time.

Crown Mountain, British Columbia

Crown Mountain, British Columbia

I don’t know where all of the rocks are from, although a few do stand out.

Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island

Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Rasafa, Syria

Rasafa, Syria

John Street, New York City

John Street, New York City

The collection continues to grow, maybe around 400 now. IMAG2567More space is needed. IMAG2539I just have to get my partner to agree.