Droppington Place – A New Neighborhood

Droppington

I’ve often wondered, but have been too lazy to explore, the link between the words journey and journalist. Both have the same root word, which means “day” in French.

Root words notwithstanding, this site has taken a most interesting road to get here: Droppington Place.

It began as a blog about a garden railway. My wife and I bought a house that had a working G-scale railway in the backyard. It was pretty cool, but rough, and not very well designed, which made running it with our young kids a bit of a challenge. The kids grew older and lost interest, and dogs and cats and nature all took their toll.

The blog chronicled the restoration of the railway from its semi-buried condition to an operational railroad. Along the way I realized I don’t like G-scale: at 1/18th scale, more or less, it’s too big for my taste. I say more or less, because the actual scale of G-scale is rather ambiguous, ranging from 1/18th to 1/32nd. Give me HO, at a constant 1/87th scale.

The URL for the blog, called  PoolsideRails.com, was devoted to chronicling the conversion of a G-scale garden railway to HO scale. Experts shook their heads and clucked: you can’t do HO outside. Well, it turns our they are correct. I found out that I don’t have the engineering finesse to pull off an outdoor HO railroad because, really, I don’t like model railroading. I like the miniatures.

So, away went  PoolsideRails and in came a new URL called Papertecture – an exploration of HO scale paper buildings with a whole section devoted to HO scale vehicles: I like little cars.

While all this was going on, I began working on a novel called Droppington Place, about a disenfranchised twelve year old who finds himself in a paper world run by a homunculus, a paper alchemical copy of a human being. It’s a pretty cool book.

Papertecture didn’t go anywhere. PoolsideRails didn’t go anywhere. The blog didn’t go anywhere. Because they were meant to come together here: Droppington Place.

Your reward: according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, journey comes from the twelfth century French word for “a day’s travel.” Journalism has at it’s root the word journal, which is a French word for a day, jornal in the 14th century. Some time in the 15th century it became synonymous with the word “diary.” Go figure.

The Lego Movie is a Wonderful Surprise

LegoMan

We took our twelve-year-old daughter to see the Lego Move, fully expecting to see the same-old, same-old, same-old. Right out of the box, as in the first five minutes, the film sets itself up for a wild romp in a completely new direction.

If you enjoyed, as a kid, or enjoy, as I do now, Legos, this film is completely satisfying. If you like action movies, this film parodies the best of them. If you have kids of any age, this film will touch you. And, if you have a heart, this film will touch that, too.

Spoiler alert: the Lego Movie runs a wild line between Indiana Jones, Kung Fu Panda, and Toy Story.

The script follows a stunningly simple guy, whose favorite TV show is called “Honey, Where are My Pants?” (it features just that one line, over and over), as he gets swept up in a desperate race against an evil overlord planning to use a secret weapon, the mysterious KraGl, to change life forever. We plumb the depths of his soul to find that, in fact, there is nothing there – precisely what’s needed.

The story unravels like a fine mystery, dropping hints and clues that stand out like beacons but can’t be pieced together until the final moments, which come as a deeply satisfying and delicious finish to an exquisite meal.

Oddly enough, my daughter didn’t like it all that much. She thought it was funny and suspenseful, but couldn’t get past the huge number of cliches. She understood that the film is spoofing all those cliches (the girl reaches out her hand to the hero – “Come with me if you want to…not die!”…wink), but felt there were too many.

That being said, you will reward yourself richly by going to see this film. The imagery is so vivid that, even if you don’t find the film’s conclusion deeply satisfying, your eyes will thank you for bringing them to such a kaleidoscopic vision.

Beyond the sheer mastery of Lego-thinking displayed in every frame (when the bad guys shoot, their bullets are red Lego single piece tubes), the script is genui

The Curious Case of Exoplanets

Image courtesy of NASA.gov
Image courtesy of NASA.gov

I have discovered a phenomenon about expolanets that is quite beyond logical explanation. There exists a homogenous body of readers, anonymous and unknowable, that absolutely devours information on them.

Who Are They?

Here’s what we know about them: they are older than thirty years. They are men. They are of average income. They have bachelors degrees for the most part, with a small smattering of graduate degrees. Most curiously: they read about exoplanets from their homes.

In the world of other topics, most online readership of other kinds of articles occurs during the day, from work, which is where working people are during the day. Either these gentlemen don’t work, although it’s hard to explain the average income and college degrees, or they read at night.  Are they single? Are there that many single men focused on exoplanets that can’t read at work?

Some Numbers

In the last nine months, I have written and published 16 articles on planetary science. One of the articles was about the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. The rest were about exoplanetary discoveries. Between them, the 16 articles generated over 83,500 reads. The Titan article picked up just 66, while the rest went to exoplanets.

At first my thought was that the publisher of the exoplanetary articles did a better job than the Titan publisher: but they are the same company.

My readership numbers gently decline until I publish another article: then they leap through the roof. Older articles leap up in readership right along with the new one. This is a captive audience.

Who Are They?

My audience is focused like a laser on exoplanets, and won’t read anything else. My wife thinks they may be aliens from those exoplanets, looking to see what we’ve learned.  If I were Alex DeGrasse or Stephen Hawking I would think about it, but I’m not.

Is there something larger going on with the search for exoplanets? I’ve often wondered why we would search so hard for planets that might harbor life when we have no hope of getting there.

It ends like a ’50’s science fiction move. We have no hope of going there…or do we?