The Cosmic Latte: How The Night Sky Inspires And Boggles

Posted: 21 March 2014

Wherever you are in the world, the night sky always amazes
Wherever you are in the world, the night sky always amazes

“…Every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.  

Many moons ago, when standing in front of big brilliant bonfires on chilly Autumn nights, Bradscribe would crane his beady little eyes to scour the wondrous aerial canopy of stars. Through college, university, a mundane office job and now freelance writing and multifarious online shenanigans, the stars have never failed to bewitch me.

At this stage of my life, settled in the humid climate of Southeast Asia, the comfortingly cool nocturnal breeze offers a welcome respite. Working into the night (and usually right through until dawn) there is alway the chance of stepping out into the quiet night and gazing skywards to the myriad of shiny dots sprawled across the dark blanket of night.   

Everyone should stop to savour the sheer silence, serenity and solitude of the night sky.

Starlight – in technical terms – is electromagnetic radiation. Interestingly enough, while researching my piles files of astronomical literature, someone somewhere has determined that the average colour of starlight resembles “a shade of yellowish white,” amusingly branded as: “Cosmic Latte” (…!)

Admittedly, on one or two occasions, characters in my fiction have sought solace in the night sky as they try to unravel the problems in their lives… which this writer afflicted on them, of course! By gad, what a bounder this lil bunny is! 

The night time is the right time
The night time is the right time

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day” – Vincent Van Gogh.

During the good or bad times, productive or slow sessions, or just lying on the beach pondering where the next stage of my life should lead, the night sky – modern light pollution permitting – has always made for a marvellous spectacle. So it comes as absolutely no surprise that people from ancient cultures around the world held the night sky in high esteem; it influenced their knowledge of agricultural, astronomical and astrological matters.

Let’s not forget the aid of celestial navigation to ancient seafarers, with 58 stars selected and named in antiquity by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Arabs. The most notable of these is Polaris, the “North Star,” due to its proximity to the north celestial pole.

Despite the persistence of stargazing since time immemorial, this year sees only the 200th anniversary of the establishment of study into starlight spectroscopy: the examination of the stellar spectra.

Some gaze skywards to catch the arrival of an extraterrestrial kind; but then again, this bunny’s lived long enough to realise that – considering all the despicable and negative commonalities unfortunately prevalent throughout human nature – if aliens are intelligent and able to travel here, they would be imbued with the good sense to stay away from the likes of us!

The constellation of Orion in the southwest sky
The constellation of Orion in the southwest sky

“Humans are natural-born scientists. When we’re born, we want to know why the stars shine…” – Michio Kaku.  

The most beguiling feature of the night sky has to be the constellation of Orion. It is certainly the most recognisable, and one of the most awe-inspiring celestial wonders. Named after the hunter of Greek mythology, it is visible predominantly during winter in the southwest sky.

The Orion Nebula is a star formation 1,500 light years from Earth. The three stars of Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak, constitute the feature known as Orion’s Belt; the Ancient Egyptians deemed it necessary to align the three pyramids at Giza with Orion’s Belt. The Great Pyramid even has air shafts pointing to Orion. Trying to explain the need to recreate this on Earth has fuelled many theories and discussions, but the real answer still eludes us. 

In the scheme of things, the chance to spot a shooting star is always nice; astoundingly, around 15,000 tonnes of these meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere each year.

For thousands of years, people have gazed skywards; it’s gratifying to realise that one is a participant in such an exalted pastime. It is hoped that long after this lil bunny has shuffled off this mortal plane, countless more curious souls will eagerly revel in the wonders of the night sky.

 

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Determined to Declutter (or: The Stuff That Matters)

Posted: 4 March 2014

Sooty likes my stuff, as long as it's comfortable.
Sooty likes my stuff, as long as it’s comfortable.

“Stuff is everything” – Malcolm Lee Bradford.  

It wasn’t until we moved house last year that Bradscribe realised how much stuff had amassed after a whole decade living and working in Southeast Asia. The wife groaned, not hesitating to admit that it would bring great pleasure to set it all alight.

Years to build – seconds to burn…  

Even the removal men complained about the sheer weight of my stuff. Typical, lesser mortals such as these do not comprehend or appreciate the value of our stuff. Stuff is powerful; stuff is relentless. It can gather and multiply unexpectedly, like an expanding and amorphous malevolent thing from a sci-fi/horror B-movie.

Naturally, those of you writers like me who revel in research will understand that when we collect our sources in various forms, it causes a seemingly insurmountable amount of stuff to just build up at an alarming rate.

No need to fret about your stuff on your own, my friend.

Determined to conquer the curse of my clutter, it was tackled systematically, so gradually the volume of stuff has been significantly reduced. Too good to be true? Not at all; if my stuff can be controlled, so can yours! Read on…

My former office; not my stuff. My stuff is more attractively laid out.
My former office; not my stuff. My stuff is more attractively laid out.

“Every time I have moved house, those first few days  – when the space is empty… are intoxicating. But… the clutter returns with all the vigour of a virulent strain of mould” – Emma Beddington.   

Of all the most incredible remarks this blogger has ever heard is: “Why do you have so much stuff?”

Yes, my jaw hit the floor when that preposterous statement was uttered. Honestly, how can anyone begin to explain this question, let alone answer it?

Everyone has stuff: such is the rich tapestry of life, different people have different types of stuff. After all, the only reason we buy/rent houses is so that we can have somewhere safe and spacious to store our stuff. When we go out, we usually end up buying more stuff. When we visit friends’ storage areas homes, we judge their stuff; and the only reason we go on vacation is, invariably, to accumulate more stuff… isn’t it? This seems to be quite obvious.

However, there comes a time when we all have to step back (if there is room amongst all that stuff) and assess how to reduce some of it. For starters, there is never enough time to read everything we have; realistically, if you have not looked at a certain item in the last four years, then you probably never will. In other words, it wasn’t that inportant; discard it pronto.

This stock photo reassures me no end; my office will NEVER look like this. Honest.
This stock photo reassures me no end; my office will NEVER look like this. Honest.

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Steven Wright.  

Looking for answers on how to manage your stuff? This blogger can help.

The moment when Bradscribe noticed the sheer stuff overload came when he was annoyed to find… that nothing could be found. The most satisfying strategy to take was to halve the number of book projects in progress. Wherever possible, notes and papers no longer relevant could be discarded; some data had taken ages and lots of time and energy to acquire, so it was agonising to let go… but let go you must. Be strict.        

Don’t abandon your work for a day endeavouring to attack all those piles and pillars, mountains and mounds of stuff. Believe me: you will get nowhere; after hours of sorting, sifting and scrutinizing stuff, nothing will look like it’s been sorted out! Most importantly, the office will certainly end up in a messier state than when you started!  

But do not fret, Dear Reader (and Fellow Writer/Researcher), here is a handy tip on how you can declutter effectively:

Just take one hour a day (two if need be) to deal with a little bit of stuff at a time. Select a pile: deliberately sift through the tatty yellowed morsels at the bottom of it; chances are you will find items you thought were lost/forgotten forever. Stay sane. Enjoy the clear-out in gradual stages…

Every little helps.