Hic sunt (Martian) dracones

Some people have the explainer bug. They just can’t stop themselves from explaining what they know to people. Eleanor Lutz, a PhD student at the University of Washington, has a particularly bad case. Not only is she good at explaining things, but she does it a lot, and she even explains how she explains things (as in this helpful and thorough guide to making GIFs).

She got a lot of exposure lately with her very nifty virus trading cards. I saw these and followed them to her site, where I was even more taken by her map of Mars. There are lots of maps of Mars, but this one is laid out as though it was created a few hundred years ago. Lovely old fonts and antique flourishes. Maybe this is the map that Percival “Martian Canals” Lowell would have published if he had only paid for a slightly better telescope.


You can even buy a copy. In fact, I think you should.

What’s Old Is New


It was twenty years ago today, April 16, 1996, when the lights first came on at starchamber.com. Initially there were four of us. We took turns by weeks writing something and posting it on the site. The web was young and the word “blog” hadn’t been invented yet, but there we were. As I remember, we were inspired by hipster proto-blogs like Suck.com. Out tag-team approach lasted for a year or so, and then I took over the site as a personal blog. I kept it up for a good long time, but my writing lapsed over the last couple of years.

By the time I stopped blogging, I had become convinced that blogging was dying. I assumed that all such discourse would move to social networks. Which is to say Facebook, with a little Twitter and a smattering of Google+. I’ve never been much of a Facebook person, so I threw my lot in with Google+. People like to make fun of it, but I liked it well enough. I still do. But it wasn’t the lack of crowds on Google+ that made me want to return to my old blog. I realized that I wanted to have my own place again. I wanted the words that I write to live on my own site. Somehow that makes it easier for me to speak my mind.

I can also see that my little prediction failed to come true. Facebook claims a lot of the crowd, but blogs are still here. And so am I. It’s good to be back.