So, how was everyone’s summer? I know there are still a couple of weeks left but the deepening angle of the sun tells me that the end is near. I trust that a good time was had by all. I spent a good part of my summer making some improvements to Rancho Bookworm (i.e. my apartment) and enjoying the company of a certain new member of the pack. I have been reading all the while but nothing especially blog-worthy (with the exception of Lying Awake, which is so profoundly blog-worthy that I don’t know how to approach it). Most enjoyably, I have been wending my way through the Anne of Green Gables books, primarily in audio format. (Right now Anne is busily arranging marriages for all her spinster friends.) Anne’s dreaminess is well-suited to summer, but now that summer is ending it’s time to get a little more serious. I’m sure that Anne the scholar and schoolteacher would agree.
Autumn is probably my favourite time of year. The cool, damp weather is so refreshing after the heat-induced torpor of summer that, paradoxically for a time when nature is winding down, it renews my energy. Add to that the anticipation of back-to-school time and I’m ready to hit the books. I think 17 years of schooling has deeply ingrained in me the connection between September and starting new learning adventures with fresh enthusiasm. Yes, summer has been fun and frolicsome, but now it’s time to get back to learning and studying and doing things that don’t require a trip to the hardware store.
Of course, back-to-school time would not be complete without a trip to the stationery store, and I found something there recently that might be of interest to other bookworms. Staples is selling a handy metal bookstand for a mere three bucks. Despite the low price I’ve found that it does an excellent job. It’s quite sturdy and has rubber tips that keep slippery pages in place. It handles large heavy books and pocket paperbacks equally well. Alas they only seem to be available in Canada, but they are Staples brand so perhaps your local store can get them in.
Another nice thing about this time of year is that it gets darker sooner, which means I don’t have to stay up past my bedtime to look at the stars. I just found something that will make stargazing even easier. As you may recall, the Astronomy Reading Challenge calls for some stargazing with a guide (EVA1). It turns out the guide doesn’t have to be a book, it could be a laptop with Stellarium installed on it. Stellarium is a free, open source, multi-platform, real-time sky charting program that is easy to use by absolute beginners. There are other free sky chart applications out there, but they tend to be rather technical and geared towards experienced astronomers. With Stellarium you can be stargazing in a matter of minutes. I found it easy to figure out the options and get it set up for my location. What makes Stellarium especially useful as a field guide is that you can switch it to night mode, which turns the display red to save your night vision.
Stellarium has a number of interesting features, such as showing constellations from various cultures. You can also do fun things like zoom in on celestial objects. I zoomed in on Jupiter, which was up last night, and was shown the planet and its moons at their present locations, orbiting in real time. Pretty cool. Even cooler is that you have the option of using a panoramic image of your own back yard as the background scenery for Stellarium. It doesn’t get much more personalized than that! If you’ve ever wanted to learn your way around the night sky, I can’t think of an easier way than Stellarium. Give it a try!