Tag: pluto

Holiday Nerdy Staycation – 2016 edition

Holiday Nerdy Staycation: 2016 edition

I have a personal tradition. For the holiday period between Christmas and New Years I celebrate with a nerdy stay-cation. Last year I read piles of books, watched tv, and binged on youtube series. Reading so much feels down right decadent. Watching whole TV series is sinfully slothful. It is amazingly restorative and just what my soul needs at the end of the year.

So this year, I did it yet again.



  1. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – This book inspired a musical. You might have heard of it, it also won a few things. (Like my undying admiration.) And some people posted about it on twitter.  I’m still working on this one.  It’s an audio book and at 37 hours long, that’s a lot gym trips.
  2. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly –  It’s a truly amazing story about the Black Women who were part of the 1960’s space race.  This one has also been getting some press.
  3. Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – I’ve been hearing for years about what a great writing craft book this is. I wasn’t sure at first. Did I really need a whole chapter on choosing a title? Yes. Yes I did. This really is one of the best writing books I’ve read.
  4. The Case of the Girl in Grey (The Wollenstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 2) by Jordan Stratford – Imagine a steampunk alternate reality where young Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley become best friends and solve mysteries. Oh, bestill my nerdy heart! I discovered this one when I was desperate for a audiobook. By the time I realized it was the second in the series I was too hooked to go back.
  5. The Case of the Missing Moonstone (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 1) by Jordan Stratford. I devoured this book in an afternoon. It was every bit as great as the first book (which was the 2nd) but had the added advantage that it introduced the characters and set the scene. Apparently they were in London not the countryside. Who knew?
  6. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands – Adventure, mystery, secret societies, encoded messages, and blowing up taxidermy bears all set in historical London. What’s not to love?
  7. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser – Like Writing Picture Books, there’s a reason everyone recommends this one. I’m still working my way through it but I can already tell that it will become an oft-used favorite.
  8. The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan – This late addition was started just last night and will probably be done before this blog post gets cold. It has adventure, mystery, drama, and wonderful characters.
  9. Time Travel with a Hamster by Ross Welford – Like some of other books on this list, I’m not yet done with this one. Unlike some, it isn’t because of it’s sheer heft. (I’m looking at you 29 cd audiobook of Alexander Hamilton.) No, this one is taking awhile because, frankly, it drags. Still, I’m invested enough in the characters to see it through. Eventually.



  1. Gilmore Girls – According to my friends I’m the only person on the planet that hasn’t seen the original series. Fixing that now. (PSST. You can stream it on Netflix.)
  2. Die Hard – This was my first time seeing it. It truly is the best Christmas movie.
  3. Crash Course World History – Still working on this one. This is actually a well-done course. Fairly sure it tromps my high school World Civilization class and not just because it has 100% more animation and Mongols.
  4. NativLang – I discovered this gem that covers linguistics topics.
  5. Christmas movies – Every year we run through our favorites. And most years I zone out to read during half of them. Nerdy staycation FTW!


  1. I got a membership to the Planetary Society for Christmas! I binge read my first magazine on Christmas day. It even had an article on New Horizons and Pluto. My family knows me so well.


You may have noticed that more of this year’s list is “in progress.” Some of that is that the books are bigger and just take longer to read. (You know you you are.) But I also spent a good bit of my break writing and trying to finish up kitchen renovation. The moral of the story is that a Nerdy Staycation should feed your soul and if your soul is hungry for writing rather than reading, go for it. The moral of the moral is that you also need to feed your stomach and having a kitchen makes that much easier.

And Now for Something Completely Different

So I’ve been a little distracted And Now for Something Completely Differentof late. I had some big news: my first book, Goodnight Jesus. That’s kind of a big deal.

And then lots of people reviewed it. Grown up people, kid people, video people. More people than I can possibly name. And they said some really lovely things that I’m not sure I deserve.  So a lot of my blog time has been spent gathering up those lovely things.

I have other projects I’m working on, too. There’s the big space-y one about New Horizons. I just had some super exciting news. SQUEEE! Buuuut I can’t share it just yet. Sorry. (Not sorry. SQUEEE!)

And I’m working on a freelance project I’m super excited about. It’s going great. I can’t tell you about it yet, either.

So someday I’ll have more big news to share. Then maybe I’ll have some more lovely things to share. Until then we’ll be back to our regular diet of nerdy book recommendations and mildly helpful writing tips.

Stay tuned.


One Year After New Horizons Visited Pluto

Yesterday marked one year since the New Horizons space probe made it’s flyby of Pluto. That also means it’s been over a year that I’ve been working on writing a book about the mission. Uhm, wow.

It’s been quite a year.  The New Horizons mission was historic. It was the first mission to Pluto and the first to visit anything that far away in our solar system.

Pluto Has a Heart

Scientists made many amazing discoveries. First off, Pluto has a heart. And it has a heartbeat! (Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline.) The heart is known as Sputnik Planum and it’s made of nitrogen ice. On Earth nitrogen exists as a gas in our atmosphere, but Pluto is cold enough for it to freeze into ice. Nitrogen periodically bubbles up out of the planets crust and spreads out over the heart. The rest of the planet may be roughed up with craters and mountains, but the heart is nice and smooth. These “heartbeats” are like spreading a layer of frosting over a cake – it gives it a nice smooth finish.  A frigid, icy heart would be a bad thing for a person, but for a planet it’s just plain cool.


We also found out that Pluto is bigger than we thought. That’s a big deal. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union ruled that Pluto wasn’t a real planet – it is part of a new class called dwarf planets. The decision was spurred when a researcher discovered something out past Neptune that was bigger than Pluto. Many such things had been found but this was the first that was bigger than Pluto. If Pluto was a planet, so was this new thing. And it might not end there; one estimate is that there are hundreds of these things. Rather than let new members to the planet club, Pluto got demoted. Not all scientists agree with the decision. The head of the New Horizons mission has been particularly vocal in his disagreement with the decision. So you can imagine how he felt when it turned out Pluto was the biggest dwarf planet after all.

Dwarf Planets
Named dwarf planets. Pluto narrowly beat out Eris as the biggest


It’s not over, though. A year out from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and we’re still getting data back from the probe. It’s so far away and uses so little power that sending information back to Earth is slower than a turtle in molasses. We’ll still be getting new data until October. It also takes scientists awhile to make sense of all that information. We’ve learned a lot, but we will still be making new discoveries for years to come. 

New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object MU69
New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

In 2019, New Horizons will make another historic first. It will be the first to flyby a Kuiper Belt Object. The Kuiper belt is a band of icy, rocky objects far out past Neptune in our solar system. Some dwarf planets orbit out in the Kuiper belt but mostly Kuiper belt objects are just lumpy rocks covered in ice. That might not sounds that interesting, but scientists would disagree. Those lumpy rocks haven’t changed since our solar system formed. Studying one of these Kuiper belt objects up close will tell us a lot about the early solar system. New Horizons could unlock secrets of our early solar system.

As exciting as this year has been for science, its not over yet.

Happy Flyby-versary, New Horizons! Here’s to many more.

Happy 1 year Flyby-iversary Pluto

4 Pluto Picture books

4 Pluto Picture books (1)

Do you have a little space cadet at home?

Has the new exciting Pluto research inspired you?

Not sure why Pluto got booted from the planet pantheon?

These 4 picture books are for you!


Pluto's Secret

Pluto’s secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery

This book gets top marks from my little space cadet. It tells the complete story of Pluto – predictions, discovery, naming, and it’s ultimate demotion. The story is engaging and covers a lot of science.


Pluto Visits Earth

Pluto Visits Earth

This book is a nice introduction to the planet and why it was demoted down to dwarf planet. Great for the youngest space cadets and those just getting their feet wet.


The Planet Hunter

The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto

Another Isaacs’ household favorite. This is the story of astronomer Mike Brown. He discovered many dwarf planets, including Eris whose size rivaled Pluto’s and set off the planet debate. This is a great story and also a good peek into how scientists work.


When is a Planet Not a Planet

When is a Planet not a Planet

Ready for more? This nonfiction book will give you all the information you need about everyone’s favorite former planet.