BAN #163: I took an arrow to the knee, Moth talk, charity event

4 November 2019   Issue #163

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]


Subscribers are the ligaments that hold the skeleton of my life together.


Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

[Me speaking at The Moth event in Fort Collins, Colorado. Credit: Tina Wood]

I’m very excited to let y’all know that my appearance on The Moth, “A Scientific Exorcise”, is now public!

The Moth is a fun gig: It’s storytelling, on stage and live. The organizing group does these all over the country, and when they had one in Fort Collins, Colorado they asked me to speak (and thanks to my pal Lynn Ferguson for suggesting me!).

I knew right away what story I wanted to tell, but it took quite a bit of work to get it into shape for this. I’m pretty happy with how it came out — informative and funny, themed with some layering, and (hopefully) making more than one point at the same time by the end.

And I will stress, despite what you may think after hearing, the story as I tell it is absolutely true. It all happened, and it all happened the way I relate it. It was, well, a helluva night.

Here’s the direct link to the story. Enjoy.



Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Hey, I do lots of stuff at year’s end so I get to have two entries with this heading

Every year, I participate with two nerd charities I dearly love. One, Project for Awesome, has not yet been scheduled, so I’ll let y’all know about then when I know more.

But on November 10th I’ll be calling in to Desert Bus For Hope, a wonderful event that raises money for Child’s Play, to get games for kids in hospitals. I’ve been doing this for many years now (you can read a description I wrote in 2012, and PLEASE read why my friend Liz Smith is one of the driving forces behind it. Trust me, you’ll want to donate after reading it.

Anyway, every year I put together a pile o’ loot to auction, which includes lots of geek stuff I collect over the year, as well as a copy of my book Death from the Skies! and a real, actual meteorite. Yes, a piece of nickel-iron that fell from space.

My call-in will be on Sunday 10 November at 23:00 UTC (18:00 ET). It’s all done live on their site, so check in!


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Personal Stuff

Yeah, but not too personal (except maybe in this one case)

If you follow me on social media, you know that this past week I’ve been somewhat sidelined: I had some outpatient knee surgery on Monday last week. I’m fine, and getting better, but it’s bit inconvenient.

How I found out I needed it is funny to me. Our mini horse, Tiny Elvis, doesn’t like people looming over him, and given he’s like a meter high that happens a lot. So we squat down when we go out to see him, so he’ll feel more at ease and come up to us. Back in the spring I noticed it hurt my left knee to do that, like a tightness that was unpleasant.

[Tiny E and me (I’m squatting, so this was back in better days). If he weren’t so fussy it might have taken me longer to find out I needed medical attention.]

It got worse over a few weeks, and at some point I couldn’t bend my knee very far and it hurt to put my full weight on it. I went to a sports medicine doctor, who told me I had fluid built up in there, likely from some sort of irritation. He used a syringe and withdrew 37 ccs of fluid from my knee, which kinda blew me away; it didn’t look that swollen! He also gave me a steroid shot, but that didn’t help, so I went to see an orthopedic surgeon. After some MRIs and X-rays, he found I had a calcification near my left knee that was likely impinging on my medial collateral ligament there, causing irritation and pain. There were some other things in the MRI that were harder to interpret, and surgery was called for to see what was what.

So, last Monday, they knocked me out, cut the calcification out (it was about the size of a dime, much larger than I thought), and happily saw that nothing else was really wrong. He had to snip some ragged edges off a ligament it was poking at, so I have to wear a brace until that heals, but other than that I’m fine.

Funny: If the ligament had been more seriously damaged he would have had to snip the end off and pull it up some to reattach it to the bone. Had it been even worse, they would have had to do an allograft from… a corpse. Yup, I would’ve had a stretch of some dead person’s ligament in me. Even better: The surgery I had was originally scheduled for Halloween! How appropriate would that have been? But a scheduling issue had them move me up a few days, and either way the damage wasn’t bad enough to warrant making me a partial zombie.

As I write this I’m a lot better; I can walk around with a cane, and soon it’ll take my full weight. I’ll do some physical therapy to get back up to speed, and should be back to normal by year’s end. Hurrah.

I won’t bother railing against the nightmarish medical insurance industry in this country because you’ve heard it all before (I am technically a freelancer so I pay my own insurance, so yay), but I will note that had I needed it, that ligament was available because someone was an organ donor. I’m one as well. It’s as easy as checking a box when you get your driver’s license. It’s the right thing to do, and I strongly urge you to do it.



Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[I love this shot of the birth of a binary star. From Tuesday’s article. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Alves et al.]

Monday 21 October 2019:New observations show the asteroid Hygiea is round!

Tuesday 22 October 2019: ALMA sees the twisted birth of a binary star system

Wednesday 23 October 2019:C/2016 R2 (Pan-STARRS): When a comet blue by

Thursday 24 October 2019:Happy Halloween, from a giant space tardigrade!

Friday 25 October 2019:Why is this anemic galaxy’s black hole so beefy?


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!