Apps for exploring Mars.

The recent news of the massive dust storm on Mars had me so interested in the Red Planet that I decided to explore Google Play to see what related apps I could find. It turns out there are more of them than I thought. Here’s a partial listing.

  • Space Weather – This cool app gives you the current weather conditions on Mars, the phase of the moon and conditions on the Sun. It also has helpful information that explains exactly what’s being reported. On the downside I noticed there’s been no new data from Mars since July 12.
  • Mars Time – I find it interesting that the time on Mars depends on who you ask. Each of the rovers and probes on Mars has their own time of day and this app lists them all.
  • Mars Sky – This app shows a simple view of the Martian sky from a list of various reference points. It also lists the times for the rise and set times for the planets in both standard and Darian calendar formats, so it’s an interesting way to learn the Martian calendar. The Skywheel app from the same developer is worth checking out if you desire an equally simple view of the sky here on Earth.
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The Exorcism of ‘Arking Lot, Part 666.

The lightning roared, the thunder flashed and the zombie choir screeched as I screamed at the unexpected sight of a hideous looking creature who was, in turn, screaming at me. Then I got a better look at the creature upon the next flash of lightning and judging from its religious attire, concluded it was nothing more than a decrepit priest.

“I know what you’re after and I won’t let you have it!” the priest shrieked as he pressed down on the book I was trying to remove from the pulpit. “Begone!” He raised his arm and some unseen assistants appeared from nowhere to lift me off my feet, carried me a few feet away from the pulpit and then dropped me on the floor.

I was not going to let this lame spectacle deter me from my mission, so I stood up before approaching the pulpit to make another attempt to apprehend the book.

“Stop!” the priest screamed. “Leave now or I shall summon the mighty Gummy Worm to devour you alive!”

“Excuse me,” I replied after a stunned silence, “did you say gummy worm?”

“That I did! The very Gummy Worm that lives beneath this floor while ruling the realm of evil that was once ‘Arking Lot!”

“This I gotta see,” I said while taking a seat.

“You’ll be sorrrrrrry!” the priest sang. After seeing me still seated and making no attempt to leave the church, he began thumbing through the pages of the big book before arriving at the desired incantation. Then he cleared his throat and began:

Gamma!
Gimme!
Go Moe!
Goo Moo!

I couldn’t help chuckling to myself.

What kind of incantation was that?

I looked at the priest and saw his eyes closed as if concentrating on something. The entire church fell silent, including the thunder outside. The quiet was nerve-wracking beyond belief as if to indicate a premonition of something dreadful about to happen.

Suddenly there was a rumbling noise that shook the church as the floor began to rise in front of the pulpit. My eyes widened with horror at the sight of a growing mound that caused the floor to break open and expose the concrete foundation and dirt underneath. The dirt quickly disappeared into a large hole that was now exposed, and my pulse quickened. Perhaps my decision to undertake this mission wasn’t such a good idea after all. Meanwhile the priest was laughing maniacally as he hung on the pulpit. Gradually the rumbling subsided, and all there was to do now was wait for the worm to emerge.

Ptu.

Out of the hole flew a small red-green gummy worm that landed at my feet. I could feel my fear and tension melt away as I surveyed this supposed ruler of ‘Arking Lot. I leaned forward to pick it up.

Don’t touch that!” the priest screamed. “It’s going to eat you alive!

“What, this little thing?” I countered before popping it in my mouth. I chewed it slowly to savor its sweet, fruity flavor before swallowing.

The priest was aghast. “You ate it!

“And it was delicious,” I smiled.

“Just for that, I will have you face the wrath of the Four Gummy Spiders!”

Four small gummy spiders swiftly dropped down from the ceiling and landed on the floor. “Oh, please,” I sighed as I walked around the room to each spider, picked it up and ate it. Turning back to the priest, I asked, “So what else do you have?”

You ate the spiders too!

“And I’m ready for more,” I countered.

“Fine,” the priest sneered. “No one can get past my fierce Gummy Bears!”

Suddenly a door hidden in the wall next to me slid open, revealing two small gummy bears on the floor, standing side by side. Seconds later they were gone after I too devoured them. Confidently I began walking towards the pulpit as I watched the priest frantically thumb through the pages of his book in search of another incantation.

“It’s over,” I said.

“No,” the priest replied, “it’s just beginning.”

Suddenly the floor began to rumble. Lightning and thunder raged outside, the zombie choir began screeching as the rumbling became louder and more violent. All the while the priest began sweating and his skin was tensed to the point where I could see his veins. He bared his teeth and widened his eyes as if undergoing some transformation. Then the rumbling died down and there was an eerie quiet in the church as the priest stood staring at me.

Poot.

The priest let out a small fart before he dropped dead, falling backwards to the floor. Then the interior of the church collapsed and disappeared to reveal a meadow surrounded by trees on a glorious morning. The sun was rising, birds flew by and deer appeared along with antelopes. Butterflies flew along with the bees as they caroused among the colorful flowers that bloomed all over the ground. I could sense that my mission was accomplished at long last.

And then I heard a voice.

“WHIPPED CREAM! YUCK!”

In the distance I could see the gladiator, still convulsing with disgust as he ran towards the horizon to collide with the rising sun.

The End

 

 

 

 

Rescuing ‘Arking Lot, Part 9.

WARNING: This segment of our story contains an extremely blasphemous reference some readers may find offensive. You will be warned when the paragraph containing this reference approaches.

I entered the dark church chuckling. “I’m so clever,” I said to myself. “Screaming like that when there’s nothing to scream at, yet I left the reader in suspense anyway. And no, this isn’t really Part 9, but Part 4 in disguise! LOL! ROFL!”

After my laughter faded, I decided to resume my mission to rid ‘Arking Lot of the evil emanating from this place, only I couldn’t see it. The interior of the church was so big that my flashlight did little to reveal the details in the darkness.

Suddenly a flash of lightning illuminated the interior and for the first time I could see the details of the sanctuary where I stood. Rows and rows of empty seats faced the pulpit, and I could see a horrifying sight on the wall just behind it.

WARNING: Blasphemous reference ahead. LOOK AWAY NOW

An upside-down smiley face.

Okay, we made it past the blasphemous reference. You may continue reading now.

Truly, I had never seen anything so blasphemous.

Told you so.

Suddenly I heard a horrific screeching sound and the next flash of lightning indicated its source: a choir of zombies standing along the wall, sounding as if trying to sing but instead succeeding in their voices clashing in the most dissonant notes that sounded harsh to my ears. Their singing sounded worse than a dozen forks scraping on a blackboard.

My focus returned to the front of the church where I had seen the pulpit.

Warning: Blasphemous reference approaching one last time. LOOK AWAY NOW

I tried not to look at the upside-down smiley face but my eyes caught a glimpse of it anyway.

Okay, we’re past the final blasphemous reference. Carry on, my wayward son.

On the pulpit rested a book that I sensed had plenty to do with this mess. I remembered my book telling me that this could be the very tome that contained the incantations summoning all the evil to ‘Arking Lot, but I needed to make sure. After all, this might be a different book altogether, like the latest issue of Vogue magazine.

I used the flashlight to walk down the aisle towards the pulpit where I got a good look at the book in question. The book was opened to a page that was filled with strange letters and illustrations. Upon closing it I got a glimpse of the title on the cover.

The Giant Book of Evil Incantations

Yep, this is it. In order to liberate ‘Arking Lot, I must somehow destroy this book. I began to pick it up when suddenly from nowhere came a bony hand to push it back down to its rightful place on the pulpit. I looked up and saw a deathly pale face with dark eyes and real bad teeth that shone in the darkness as it screamed.

Oh yeah, I screamed as well.

To be continued..

Liberating ‘Arking Lot, Part 3.

There I stood, face to face with a fierce gladiator more than twice my height. I looked around for a way out, but all exits were blocked.

Then the gladiator waved his sword, creating such a strong gust of wind that I was swept off my feet before landing square on my rear, right next to the book. I quickly reached for it and desperately sought any advice on how to defeat my opponent.

You again?

“Please,” I muttered as I frantically thumbed through the pages, “I need your help.”

Suddenly the ground shook as the gladiator took one giant step forward closer to where I was sitting. Just two more steps and I’d be smooshed. Not exactly a fitting end to my heroic ambitions. I continued my frantic search for advice from the book but all the pages were blank. And then I came to these words on the very last page.

What would YOU do?

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked. “My only weapon is a can of whipped cream, for crying out loud!”

Then I paused to allow the mental pieces presented to assemble themselves in such a logically sound arrangement that I heard a loud clicking sound inside my head. A smile came to my face.

“That’s it,” I said to myself as I slowly rose to my feet. “Sounds crazy, but it just might work.”

The giant gladiator stood menacingly, clenching his sword, ready to strike. I took the can of whipped cream and popped off the lid.

What would YOU do?

I raised the can and filled my mouth with whipped cream.

There.

I stood defiantly, daring the gladiator to make his next move. His face began to register shock and disgust as he let his sword drop to the ground with an earth shattering clang. Slowly he raised his hands and placed them on his head as his eyes widened with horror. Then he opened his mouth and screamed, “EWWWW, YOU SPRAYED WHIPPED CREAM IN YOUR MOUTH!” He began convulsing and jumping in place as seemingly disgusting thoughts materialized. “GERMS! GERMS! YUCK! I HATE GERMS!” he continued screaming. With each jump the soft sand began to give way and the gladiator began to sink into the ground. He was too occupied with his thoughts to notice. Instead, he screamed, “I’LL NEVER HAVE WHIPPED CREAM AS LONG AS I LIVE!” before disappearing underground, never to be seen or heard from again. Then the giant sword too sank into the sand and a few minutes later it was as if nothing had ever happened here in the first place.

Now recovered from this terrifying encounter, I began shining my light around the room to determine my next course of action and spotted a small door at the opposite side. I began my cautious approach knowing full well that behind this door was the Source of All Evil awaiting my arrival and plotting my demise.

I slowly opened the door and walked inside.

Then I screamed.

To be continued…

 

Saving ‘Arking Lot, Part 2.

I continued down the dark, cold underground passageway, nervously shining my flashlight around in hopes of picking up advanced warnings of any terror lurking ahead. I did hear the occasional sound from nowhere that induced my panic reflex but I calmed down once I realized that it was most likely my footsteps.

Then I entered a huge circular room completely cloaked in darkness except wherever my light shone. The mood here was terrifying beyond belief although I couldn’t see anything that added to this mood. Perhaps that was made it so terrifying in the first place.

My flashlight caught a letter that was engraved on the wall high above me and next to it was another letter, then another, in fact a whole line of them. Then I saw what they said:

D D C  I AM HERE  P P W

I stood staring at this unusual arrangement of letters and tried to decipher their meaning.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t figure it out. Then I decided to consult the book and see what it had to say.

You’re on your own with this one, bub.

I did a double take. Did the book just say that?

Yes, I just said that. Want me to say it again?

Feeling defeated, I sat down and began thumbing through the pages of the book, skimming them as I went, trying to look for any clues that could help me out of this predicament. I caught a quick glimpse of the chapter dealing with the passageway with the scores of ratss behind the doors. I chuckled at what a silly puzzle that was.

Then I found myself a recipient of a hint of inspiration. What if I’m facing a puzzle similar to the one at the passageway? It’s possible that the letters on the wall too could be scrambled. Once again I shone my light on the letters and tried unscrambling them in my mind to see what words, if any, could form. Slowly and surely some words began to form that I couldn’t comprehend being inscribed on the wall in the first place. I tried to see what other words I could come up with but I kept coming back to the same ones. I shook my head, not understanding their significance in regards to the mission at hand. What could this have to do with the evil plaguing ‘Arking Lot?

I read the words out loud.

“Whipped cream.”

I chuckled at the idea of such silly words being inscribed on the walls of a huge circular room under the spell of darkness and cold, not to mention the evil all over this place.

Suddenly I heard something slide open. Quickly I shone my light around and when I saw the source of the sound I nearly dropped my flashlight. A small panel in the wall at the other end of the room had slid open, revealing a small compartment with something in it. I slowly rose to my feet and cautiously made my way to the other side of the room. As I came close enough to identify the object, confusion once again set in.

There was a can of whipped cream inside the wall.

I reached for the can and removed it from the small compartment. It felt cold to the touch and sent my mind scrambling to comprehend the strange events so far. What could whipped cream have to do with ridding the evil from ‘Arking Lot?

My thoughts were interrupted by a thundering sound of some large doors opening behind me. The ground shook beneath my feet as a breeze roared into the room. Then I could see a light shining back at me, which startled me so badly that I dropped my flashlight. Oddly enough, the light across the room fell to the ground at the same time. Slowly I lowered myself to the ground to pick up my flashlight and saw the light ahead rise as well. Was I looking at a reflection?

Then the ground shook again as my light saw something huge move into the room. I couldn’t tell what it was at first but gradually I could make out small details that did nothing to help me decide whether to panic, wait, or panic while waiting.

The overhead lights came on and I ended up deciding to panic big time. Standing at the other end of the room stood a giant gladiator who was 16 feet tall. He held a long sword with a highly polished blade that I concluded must have been what reflected my light moments earlier. His face registered hostility as he stood ready to slice me to pieces.

I, on the other hand, nervously stood with my can of whipped cream.

This does not look good.

To be continued…

 

 

‘Arking Lot.

In this post I continue my spinoff of Salem’s Lot. As I developed the story, it took on such a life of its own that it no longer made sense for me to continue using the name “‘Salem’s Lot”. No, I thought it was better to use the name ‘Arking Lot instead. (Originally it was named Parking Lot, but the first letter was removed to make the town more inviting to visitors and residents alike. After all, no one wants to live in a parking lot.)

Standing inside the dimly lit lobby of the church that singlehandedly contained the evil plaguing the town of  ‘Arking Lot, I allowed my eyes to adjust to the darkness before I spotted a very dim light shining at a nearby corner. Then I heard a voice.

“Get your program here! You can’t tell a lot from a few without a program!”

I could see someone standing behind the table with a stack of brochures next to a short candle that barely illuminated his presence. I couldn’t see much of him but the tattered clothes clinging to what was left of the corpse that greeted me.

“Well, well!” said the corpse. “Another foolish soul trying to eradicate the evil from ‘Arking Lot!”

“Yeah, that’s me,” I responded.

“Would you like a program?”

“No thanks,” I replied, “I have the book.”

“Which one?”

“This one,” I held up my copy of So You Want To Visit ‘Arking Lot.

“That won’t help you here,” snarled the corpse.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying,” I said as I raised my camera. “Say cheese.”

Don’t point that thing at me!

Click.

The flash went off and the corpse instantly collapsed into a pile of rags and bones. Then I looked at the screen on my camera and saw the picture I just took. Not exactly a pretty sight.

I walked to a row of doors lined up behind me and was about to push one open when I suddenly remembered what I read in the book. The doors lead to a passageway inhabited by hundreds and hundreds of ratss. That struck me as odd. I thought perhaps it was a typo in the book but the word ratss appeared not once, but numerous times. I consulted the book one more time.

There is a long row of doors in the lobby leading to an underground passageway occupied by scores of ratss. Listen for signs of squeaking before entering, unless you choose a different setting for your entrance to the passageway.

What could this mean?

Then it dawned on me that the strange word might actually be a different word with the letters scrambled. But what word would that be? In the meantime, I did hear squeaking, lots of squeaking as the ratss lined up behind the door in preparation for eating me alive at the earliest opportunity.

Ratss.

I mentally rearranged the letters before I got a different word, one that sounded way more pleasant than the one I started with.

Stars.

I went back and re-read that sentence again, this time out loud.

“There is a long row of doors in the lobby leading to an underground passageway occupied by scores of stars.”

The squeaking stopped as a bright glow filled the space behind the doors. When it faded, I cautiously pushed open the door and saw a dark passageway illuminated by countless stars overhead.

Whew.

I began my walk down the passageway with flashlight in hand, unsure of what was ahead. My nose already knew otherwise and alerted me to an extremely pleasant scent that drifted in my general direction. I couldn’t make out what it was at first, but the farther I went, the more recognizable the scent became.

Chocolate chip cookies?

Suddenly from out of the darkness emerged an oversized doll with a body of plain white cloth. It had no face but a plain head along with the plain arms and legs connected to the plain abdomen. And there it stood, leaning forward as if stuck in a bow.

“Ookay,” I said aloud to no one in particular, “What might this be?”

“The Grim Reacher,” came a voice from behind. I spun around and saw a bearded man with his long hair done as a ponytail. He wore a red polo shirt and black pants, an outfit not typical of one who resides in this dark, forbidding place. “Hi, I’m Jim, from Really Terrifying Props. We’re giving our newest animated prop here a test run. So what do you think? Did it scare you?”

“No, not really,” I replied.

“Did it at least startle you?”

“No.”

“Quicken your pulse?”

“No.”

“No? Wow, it scared us when we first ran it. So what would it take to make this thing scarier for you?”

“Well,” I explained, “this thing needs to look scary. What, you call it the Grim Reacher? Then make it look like a Grim Reacher instead of a plain dummy. Give it a scary face and dress it up in black robe and hood.

“Also, the movements need to be scary. Not just leaning forward, but this thing needs to really move. Make its arms reach for you and work in some head jerking movements, too.

“And lastly, this thing needs scary sounds, like maybe someone screaming. Put all those together and you’ll have a terrifying prop that’s scare even me.”

I sniffed the air and then added, “Oh, one more thing. I’d get rid of the chocolate chip cookie smell.”

“What chocolate chip cookie smell?” Jim asked.

“Never mind,” I sighed as I walked on.

My journey was just beginning. I knew the worst was yet to come.

To be continued…