Monday, August 28, 2006

The occultation of Spica

Hail
Selected smidgins of news today, Sarah is back and we are relaxing together.

Later I will be replying to comments today from all you wonderful people. As I said before, thanks for the various and numerous well-wishes, and I will ensure they are passed on to Stewart and family. At time of writing his arm and leg are almost back to normal, they feel heavy but he has normal tone, power, sensation, etc. A full recovery is anticipated.

Another (temporary) weird effect, and one which has yet to be fully explained (to me, at least) is that the post-seizure paralysis paralysed his left side, but also affected his handwriting. His handwriting is normally "copperplate", and after the "stroke" it became diminished: much smaller, and "incomplete". This would not be so surprising, except the paralysis affected the left side, and Stewart is right handed, and thus far that was the only complex function disturbed.

That is, it sounds like, a kind of dyspraxia, a loss of knowledge of how to do things. People with dyspraxia forget, or become very bad at, specific tasks - button ing clothes, hammering nails, etc. Sometimes this can take strange forms - the man who could mime eating, but when shown a dinner setting with a pencil, a toothbrush and a fork, was unable to choose which one to use, the woman who knew how to hammer nails but when asked to demonstrate with the hammer supplied tried to use her fist instead.

People with dysgraphia or agraphia may be able to spell but not write, or write but not read what they have written, or (and this last I have only heard about) develop a burning pain in the forearm always and only when trying to write.

Eddington's law applies also to the brain - it is stranger than we can imagine.

Anyway, what else's going on? Tonight I came home and glanced up at the moon, and saw a small, bright star in the western sky, just on the edge of the Moon. I pointed it out to my niece. "Look," I said, "an occultation."

And it was - the local observatory site says the star Spica was going to be eclipsed by the Moon. We didn't get to see it, apparently the full occultation was only visible further east - but it was still something to disturb your equilibrium. Gazing up and out at something burning bright enough to be seen ten trillion kilometres away, two hundred and sixty years into the past.

I remember as a child imaginging aliens, creatures with intellects vast and cool but probably sympathetic, regarding us through telescopes and wondering at us, knowing that whatever they saw was thousands or millions of years in the past. An alien with a particularly powerful telescope, I imagined, would point his/her/squoz's uberscope at a patch of sky, twiddle a knob and a familiar blue green planet would leap into view - but one inhabited by dinosaurs, or tiny horses with toes, or painted Neanderthals worshipping at a cave-bear altar.

And knowing that there was no way, no way at all, of telling what was happening now. The moon I saw tonight could have ruptured two seconds ago - I would not know, because the light could not reach us, and light was faster than anything. The sun could disappear - we would not know for eight minutes. Spica, the star almost occulted by the moon, could have gone nova, or collapsed into a black hole, or been picked up and put in the pocket of whatever unimaginable things strode about out there in space - and we wouldn't know for another two hundred and sixty years.

By the way - what we see as Spica is actually two blue dwarf stars in a binary - but I feel my geek detector going off, so better stop.

Anyway, various newses. I feel I have settled into things at Southern enough to start making a few changes. I have been cutting back on some people's medications (I remember asking one woman how long it took her to go through a bottle of diazepam: she thought about it, mimed grasping the bottle, unscrewing the lid, and jerking it towards her open mouth, and glugging back some water... and then said "about thirty seconds?") and this is causing a lot of problems.

So far I have been accused of forcing four people to inject themselves with heroin, one to break into houses and beat people up, another to rob service stations and a seventh to perform unspeakable (but unfortunately spoken of) acts on old men for meagre amounts of cash. After the third person in a day accused me of this I looked at her and said, "You know, the amount of heroin use I'm told I'm responsible for around here is bloody amazing. I reckon if the Government ever worked out what I was up to they could send the cops in, shut me down and basically solve the smack problem in the South overnight."

Seriously. I'm propping up the trade around here. I should get a white suit and some bling.

Anyway. Enough of my stamping on the faces of the poor. I will answer more comments tonight and post further in the next few days on either my last ED shift and/or the odd man I met in the alcohol unit. And I might just possibly mention the football...

Thanks for listening,
John

3 Comments:

Blogger lauritajuanitasanchez said...

I think I'm gonna go get some heroin b/c your stories here are so enticing. Naturally, I only have you to blame.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Given the overall stress of my life, I am left with a pain only opiates can alleviate. I never would have thought of heroin but for you. It's all your fault. And you probably drove PdeFF insane too. You have a lot to answer for.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Niamh Sage said...

I liked your speculations on the planets and things. I'd never thought before about aliens not being able to see us as we are now, but only what existed thousands of years ago. 'mazing.

4:10 PM  

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