Careers in Science, IV: Theoretical Astronomy

The theoretical astronomer looks at the sky one night and thinks about watching the tears of St. Lawrence in August and remembers, as every time he thinks about the tears of St. Lawrence falling in August a girlfriend with a birthday then and with whom, one year he broke up on that birthday. As mnemonic devices go, unpleasant yet effective. They were backpacking, and she sang Happy Birthday to Me all the way back to the car.

Maybe it doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s what the theoretical astronomer thinks of when he remembers what a dick he was. He has done worse, too. But anyway.

The universe being infinite, maybe, he posits a planet somewhere upon which he could make amends for all his dickish behavior. Then he posits another planet somewhere the mere existence of which makes amends unnecessary, as this planet is so special its mere existence forgives him.

In theory.

The theoretical astronomer wakes in his bed and can’t remember having gone inside. His father’s ghost stands beside his bed. The theoretical astronomer posits a planet populated by ghosts posited by another theoretical astronomer on another distant, ghostless planet, and wonders if he, the first theoretical astronomer, is on this planet now.

I’m sorry, dad, he says.

His father’s ghost kind of shakes his head. Don’t waste your time being sorry.

But I am sorry. For being so blind to what you needed and wanted and hoped for, and not asking.

His father’s ghost shrugs, sort of, and says, What we hope for is our problem, not others’.

Yeah, well, I was a dick. I not only failed to try anything, choosing to run away instead, I had a weak character and was afraid, and so on. But worst of all I never talked to you, I elevated you rather than understood you. I never understood you or even understood that this was an option I would have been capable of pursuing.

Don’t beat yourself up, says the theoretical astronomer’s father’s ghost. What is, is. Our bad actions and inactions are our hell. The good ones are our heaven.

I’m sorry you’re in a box by the rubber boots, says the theoretical astronomer.

I’m not in any box, his father’s ghost says. My ashes are. I’m here, now, and wherever someone thinks of me.

I am sorry. I wish I could have reduced your pain. Instead I worshipped you.

And I loved you, says the theoretical astronomer’s father’s ghost. That’s why I let you make your own mistakes and was stingy with the advice.

I mistook it for aloofness.

Another shrug. Maybe it was. I’m not… I wasn’t perfect.

Yeah, well. Who is?

The theoretical astronomer’s father’s ghost faded from view. The theoretical astronomer wished he would have stayed longer.

He always wished that.

Outside, although the sky was bright, stars continued to fall. This the theoretical astronomer knew.

Beverage preference among the common garden slug (Arion distinctus)

A study by Mig Living


Darkness, moisture, sliminess, hunger, thirst: tasting, drinking, drowning. Death.

Brief explanation of the study:

Motivated by a desire to protect my vegetable garden from slugs without the use of toxic chemicals or spending an arm and a leg on tin slug fences of unknown effectiveness, I performed a study last Saturday night to see whether placing beer in containers in said vegetable garden would kill slugs and, if so, which shape/size of container was optimal. In order to test slug beverage preference, I employed several brands of beer and one non-beer beverage.

Containers used:

  1. Catfood cans (both the full-size cans and half-size cans with the same radius but only half as tall.
  2. Plastic flower-pot saucers about ten inches across and one inch deep.


All containers were buried so that the top edge was even with the top of the soil. A total of eight containers were used. Six catfood cans (containers #1-6) were placed in the lettuce patch. Two saucers (containers 7  & 8) were placed two or three meters away, between the red beets and the radishes.

The containers were filled to capacity with the beverages and left in the garden overnight.

Contents of the containers (1-6 are the catfood cans, 7&8 are the plastic saucers):

  1. Ottakringer Helles
  2. Schwechater
  3. Becks
  4. Stiegl
  5. Heineken
  6. Red Bull
  7. Red Bull/Heineken mixture
  8. Mixture of the other 4 beers


No slug preference for beer brand was expected. Some slug drownage was expected on the basis of previous reports. Random distribution of a few slugs per container was thought likely. No slugs were expected in the containers containing Red Bull, although ants were expected to construct a three foot-tall anthill overnight.


149 dead slugs were counted the next morning. Distribution between the containers was as follows:

  1. 7
  2. 36
  3. 11
  4. 7
  5. 2
  6. 2
  7. 42
  8. 42


Container depth plays no role in slug-trapping. Container radius seems to be important. The two saucers, which had much greater circumfrence/surface area, caught more slugs than the cans.

The biggest surprise was slug beverage preference. As you can see from the graph, there is a clear preference among arion distinctus for Schwechater, and their least-favorite beer is Heineken, tied for last with Red Bull (although the theory has been put forward that more slugs may have drunk Red Bull, but then jumped back out of the can afterwards; a second experiment utilizing time-lapse photography is planned once funding becomes available).

Something that has not yet been conclusively interpreted in this connection is the fact that the two larger saucers each caught an equal number of slugs despite containing, on the one hand, a mixture of the most popular beers and on the other the two least-popular beverages. It is possible, although unlikely, since it was only 2 meters away, that a different slug population inhabits the beet patch. It is possible that container size is a more important factor than contents. It is possible that the Heineken in the Red Bull in the saucer made the slugs drowsier and unable to jump back out.

It is also questionable whether the 6 beverages used in this experiment were sufficient – a larger-scale study with more types of beer would be useful.

Further research is necessary before a final conclusion on the beverage preference of arion distinctus can be drawn.


The Cripple’s Reel

I would like to compose a tune with that title, “The Cripple’s Reel”. With some unusual time signature, such as 7/3 or something. Or, perhaps, being a reel, 19/8. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, Always the odd shite, Mig, because you don’t know enough about music to make something normal that’s interesting. To which I reply, What’s normal about being interesting? I mean, interesting about being normal? Unless the normality is merely a mask behind which nefarious or subversive intentions are implemented? That would be somewhat interesting.

I’ve been thinking about writing a clinical study on the interaction of muscle relaxants and Jameson Irish whiskey.


Large, mostly dark Gestalt appears to pursue two lighter, one reddish, one grey, and much faster shapes through a lime-green space, suggestive of infinite time/space.

See, this morning after Gamma left for school the kittens got into Gamma’s room and I, still a bit groggy from my “back pill” last night, was chasing them, in my usual black suit and tie, cursing like Harvey Keitel (I like to think) in a Quentin Tarantino film (Bad Vet, maybe). And the elusive little critters were diving between the bed and the trundle bed beneath it, and I would wait 30 seconds silently and, missing the attention they would climb back out, and I would chase them again, and they’d dive back under the bed. This went on for six minutes, or twelve tries, until I caught the female and tossed her out and closed the door. The male is easier to catch, generally, but by this time I was impatient, and my back was killing me from all the diving around, goddammit, so I endeavoured to make his trundlebed hiding place less comfy by sliding it back and forth with increasing velocity until he opted to join his sister in the hallway at which point all was calm again.

I have not combined back pills with whiskey since the first time due to the previously-mentioned (elsewhere) side effects which include falling down (due to excessive relaxation) and being treated well by my wife due to her mistaking me for a friend.

I have, besides this study, also been thinking about dementia, and two relatives directly affected, and how they are coping or not and also, as one does, at least if one has hypochondriac tendencies, wondering whether this dark hole haunting me has any connection to this.

You know the dark hole, right? Not really a hole, just this vast darkness in your mind? Or your meta-mind? This darkness back there, so dark it’s hard to say anything more about it but I’ll try? And you wonder if the names you forget, or switch, or the words you have trouble accessing, are somehow connected, and whether your pursuits, such as ballroom dancing, or music lessons, or artistic pursuits, or composition, are a good insurance policy against this, or useless.

Time will tell, I guess.

Also, fucking back, man.

At least I’ve been dreaming more lately. Great dreams, I am very grateful for dreams. Thanks! Two nights ago I was on a ship of some kind on a stormy nighttime sea, with a Danish singer of whom I am fond, and the ship was sinking, and maybe there was an airplane, and water was coming in, but the ship was very buoyant and my singer friend was reassuring me that this was entirely normal and the ship would not, in fact, sink, and that we would make it to Iceland just fine, or something. In the second dream that night I was pointing a plastic rocket launcher at a family about to escape in a helicopter, waiting for them to take off so that they would die in the crash when I shot them (they were bad guys) (there was also a cargo plane in this dream) when my alarm went off.

Last night: my wife walked into a wall in a seaside Japanese town (or so I was informed by a young man in the dream) and I was a spectator at a massage contest, and one of the masseuses and her friends had decided to massage me, when my alarm went off.

And so it goes.

Get with it, Monsanto

If kittens smelled like bacon, they’d be perfect.