Thursday, December 17, 2009

Steamkini

It’s not a dive suit per se. It is by what many on both sides of the authenticity issue consider an abomination.

On the Brass Goggles Forums earlier this year someone joked about something called the "Steamkini". A steampunk bikini. Granted that comment was made with salacious intent, and I being a salacious person with an over active imagination ran with it.

I talked much bravado of being able to produce a steamkini that blended the garb of ancient coverings with that of the minimal we know of today. I got called on it. I protested that even if I made said article I had no one to wear it! Well suddenly I had volunteers. My fate was sealed.

So I started doing research on bathing costumes of the Victorian Era, and I have to tell you back then with the rules of propriety and what not going to the beach was no picnic.

Heavy ankle and wrist length wool garments that tripled in weight when wet! Black to boot making an already hot day miserable! Then the bathing machines! A contraption that would trolley the ladies into the water so they could step out into the ocean and then bring them back into shore free of the gaze of men? I shant go in to the etiquette involved!

In the end there were a quite a few compromises made. Indeed it looks like a bikini, but there nautical skirts and flaps that give it just enough Victorian flair.

I made three. The first two went to Ohio and the Netherlands and I did get pictures back. But the third one is my masterpiece. I have been tweaking this one for months now and for me is an art piece unto itself. I am seriously considering getting a shadowbox and framing it. This one I made to fit into the theme that runs though my head quite often.

In my steampunk world I have a submarine. A steam-powered submarine. Steam-powered submarines were wrought with issues in the beginning, and very few were produced. What they did do in the beginning of modern submarine design was proving the concept, and urged designers to come up with new power sources.

In steampunk world though steam is king, so naturally the steam-powered submersible is a full realized and functional craft. One thing you are not going to get away from is steam-powered submarines are hot. Very, very hot. So in costuming to support this imaginary vision in my head, I have a dress uniform for events outside my hidden submarine base, and a dive suit when leaving my submarine for the murky depths below, but what were my crew and I to wear when sweating bullets when at sea? Well my seawomen get to sport steamkinis. That is my justification for the concept.

For myself I made the Steamo. Yep. I have a Steampunk Speedo. Now that you have winced…It is the long legged bicycle styled swimsuit instead of the tiny kind most associated with the style.

When I first started getting into steampunk I asked myself what I truly want to be. I wanted to be a submarine captain. I wanted to be an undersea explorer. I wanted to make discoveries, and rise up to challenges! I made a complete wardrobe to support this vision. Someday I am going to a Steampunk convention and eat drink, breathe, and wear nothing but my nauticals! Instead by necessity to preserve the character I wound up being the Mayor of my group, and had to produce a completely different persona.

In my heart I am Vice-Admiral Rudolph Begley, a name the Steampunk Name Generator at Brass Goggles gave me. I am an oceanic explorer. I am a brother to my own characters. I am the Father of the Steamkini.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dr. Strange: My Hero, My Self.

I didn’t really give much thought to Dr. Strange as a character until I turned 40. Back in the day, that of my High School days I was Captain America in the re-written World of Marvel we were doing. At the time I superficially identified with hum because I was on delayed entry for Naval service. That was it. It was the only connection I had to the character.

Having crossed over into my early winter as a full on costumer, I started looking or characters that were older. Besides portraying the Grandfather of any chosen anime character my options were pretty limited. Dr. Strange stood out though. The more I read about him the more I started looking at myself.

Short version of the similarities between the two of us. We were both at the top of our professions and we knew it. Then there was our falls from grace. We had to learn who we were beneath the ego, either to embrace it, or to change it. We both hooked up with a hottie, and we both grew distant from her. We are both currently looking at our lives once again and figuring out what we are going to do.

Marvel comics have take Dr. Strange on a long and twisted journey and now there is a new four part series concerning his adventures. He is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme having experienced another lapse in judgment and fall from grace. And he is no longer a doctor. He is just Stephen. Turns out in issue 1 of 4 he likes baseball! Amazing how I have nothing to do with the way his story is written that the similarities between us continue.

This series simply titled “Strange” starts as he is picking up the pieces of his life and moving on. Naturally he is a skilled practitioner of the mystical arts, but not THE practitioner. Stephen goes to a ball game and what at first appears that he is there to enjoy the game until the reveal. The game is cursed and possessed form beings of the mystical planes. The price the Yonkers Larks will pay is their souls if the lose the game.

He saves the game, and as it turns out everyone in the stadium, by playing ball himself. He is at the game in street clothes and not his normal colorful attire, but the artists have made a nice nod to his costume by keeping the colors of the Larks jerseys the red and yellow scheme o his Cloak of Levitation. A jersey Stephen is wearing to the park.

The battle scene between the Larks and the demonic possessed visiting team is brilliantly rendered psychodelia that we are accustomed to. In the end he may not be saving the entire world from the grander forces of the ethereal world, but he is saving a small part of it from something more intimate. You get the sense in the last panels that he is satisfied.

Steve… we are going to be alright.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Aftermath: The Thanksgiving Trials!

This is what is sad to say and I really shouldn’t.

I’ve been a slack ass all month. No scientific pursuits. No getting out there and enjoying the cool air that is associated with a winter in North East Florida. Minimum geekery.

My major extra curricular has been part of being a Band Booster for my daughters High School Marching Band.

I was invited to a couple of parties and blew those off. In retrospect I should have went but I have a hard time about beating myself up over it. I spent so good quality time with my daughter instead. LOL… she said I should have went!

In the last few weeks I have been getting my superhero geek on. Last year when I joined a gym they asked me what my fitness goals were. I told them I wanted to be a superhero. You know someday I am going to join a gym or health club that well go “COOL! We can do that for you!” instead of “Uhhh….. How about looking better?”

I almost scored Iron Man armor and that would have been bad ass, unfortunately I wasn’t able to pull it off. But what I did do was make a pair of sweats that look like the Iron man suit! Personally I think they are a fabric work of art more that anything else! While I was at it though I made a Dr. Strange hoodie. Dr. Strange is my favorite superhero so I had to do it, but in the process of making the hoodie I was also practicing for when I make the real Dr. Strange costume.

There are a couple of groups that do a lot of charitable events I may hook up with in the future. What is the use of taking on the persona of a superhero if you don’t do anything to honor the source material?

I am also looking at doing a supervillain and a henchman too! Pretty much for the same reason I am doing the superhero.

In Cowford we had our monthly meeting and it was quite good! I posted the details to all of the particulars so I really am not going to go into that here. I love steampunk! I love my crew! I am living for your Christmas party!

Thanksgiving isn’t my best time of year. I spend everyday grateful that I woke up. I have wonderful children and a roof over our heads. I am blessed to have at least three really, really good friends that get me by. I spend all my time acknowledging these facts to the appropriate particulars that I don’t think I should be pressured into believe this is a special time of year. Besides, bad stuff always happens around Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving holiday, I joke about, is the last time one half of my ancestry got along with the other half until my parents met. Yeah, that usually takes a little explaining, but I only joke about it with family so they get it.

I went to dinner at the home of some of my in-laws where I ran in to a “cousin”. I use quotation marks because I am still not sure what his relationship is… I got his mothers number and last night I called her. I am pretty sure I made my cousin-in-laws widow pretty happy. If I did then dealing with familial drama made the entire weekend worth while. I haven’t talked to her since Roberto passed and truly felt like a shit for it. She is one of the most gracious Mami’s I know and a real class act. If feel warm and humble for reconnecting.

Part of my Thanksgiving traditions is digging the tree out of storage and getting it set up the day after. I love Christmas trees! If I could I would leave it up al year. While we are at it I would leave up some of the Hallowe’en decorations up all year long too. I want a room of the house where my Christmas tree sits amongst the tombstones. The fog machine continually churns out… erg… fog. Where the howls of Rudolph the red nosed werewolf punctuate his eerie glow….

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Most Wondrous Hallowe’en!

I joke about it being Hallowe’en all year long for me. As an art form that is compatible for both my aptitude and interests, costuming is something I am most adept with. Not to mention it is fun to play and make-believe.

I do go to a lot of conventions, and I do soak up the adulations of my work, but mostly I enjoy the collective role-play with my groups of like minded and themed kin-of-awesomeness.

Granted, it truly isn’t Hallowe’en all year long. The traditions get shelved for another year to make way for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Children’s costumes are piled in the corner as they get wired on candy delight, and adults barely function from the results copious alcoholic libations, and the stripping of an identity that a costume encourages.

This Hallowe’en in particular was most spectacular! My daughter, a senior in high school, wore my spacesuit to a friend’s party! Her geek and mine resonate on two completely different waveforms so it was a proud moment for me that she wanted to wear one of my creations. She got into the part to as she spent a lot of time laughing and doing this slow exaggerated walk around the house and to the car. Evidently at the party she received mad accolades!

The Cowford Steampunk Society attended a special event at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. On display for this time of year were vintage Hallowe’en artifacts from 1903 to 1911. How very educational! The peoples of this Victorian age put so much in to the holiday!

The Hallowe’en cards were more decorative than our own modern Christmas Cards! The costumes spookier and not surprisingly home spun! Games I had forgotten about, Bobbing for Apples to name one, unheard of these days. In the photographs and the illustrations from the day huge gatherings of community to celebrate this day!

A gentleman and his daughter were on hand to play old 78’s records on a Victrola. Many of the artifacts on hand were ones that he brought from his own collection. Masks made from clay and paper for old Europe, the cards, the 78’s were all his. They even brought reading of old Halloween poetry that was read by Gene, a sophisticated gent and a caretaker of the museum that marked the greatest event of the evening!

There was a vast gathering of people partaking in the festivities, and astonished by the artifacts! To have a crowd on hand minutes after the finish of the Florida-Georgia Game was fantastic! Truth be told from what I saw as I was driving the 30 minutes it took to cover the 10 blocks to the museum was the fans of the game were wearing their own costumes by way of the college colors of the Gators and the Bulldogs. It was fascinating in the anthropological sense to observe this bit of tribalism in urban Florida. Without knowing what lurked in the soul of the stranger you were either marked as a friend, or a foe based solely in the colors of the skin you put on.

I was talking to my friend Jay about this. He is a die hard Gator, being an alumni of that prestigious university, and he agrees that a lot of sports fans are costumers. I may never ever be a goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it doesn’t stop me from wearing the jersey. I saw on a conservative level about 30 people wearing what I believe to be Tim Tebow jerseys and not a single one of them was Tim Tebow!

The thing that made the greatest impact on me though, is all of the writings of the time. Be they the handmade or manufactured cards, the posters, the lobby cards, or even the newspapers all spelled Halloween, Hallowe’en. This made me think about how this grand holiday has been dumbed down and robbed of its elegance. This shall be the last time I ever spell Hallowe’en, Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proof I am a Fanboy.

This writing isn’t so much about astronomy or camping but is going to be loaded with geeky goodness. But mostly it is my way of coping with the impending time change coming up this weekend, and how it completely screws with my system.

I am not going to say I have S.A.D.S. because I have never been nor desire to be tested, but I loathe it when the days are shorter and cooler. Some people are affected by it much worst than I am and if you will please allow me to toss these tidbits out there, maybe it can help you help someone else.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, spring or fall, repeatedly, year after year. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), SAD is not a unique mood disorder, but is "a specifier of major depression".

The US National Library of Medicine notes that "some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up." The condition in the summer is often referred to as Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, and can also include heightened anxiety.

There are many different treatments for classic (winter-based) seasonal affective disorder, including light therapy with bright lights, anti-depression medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, ionized-air administration, and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin.


I find letting my brain run amok and on tangents that I can fixate on helps! Hence the rest of this blog talking about something that will make me feel better.

Hit it Mr. Announcer…. BIKINIS IN SPACE!!!!

There was this TV series in the late 70’s called Space:1999. It starred Martin Landau who would later get an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Tim Burtons movie Ed Wood. (Mr. Landau played Bela Legosi.)

Anyhow… the moon gets blown out of orbit and gets sent sailing across the stars and every week it was all about which alien hated us. But on the moonbase they had tanning beds which I think is awesome!

The particular episode that featured the moon bound bikinis was called Force of Life which guest starred Ian McShane (Yep… Al Sweringen himself). I provided a link to the pictures. !

http://www.space1999.net/catacombs/main/epimg/tifol6.html

So here I sit in soon to be not so sunny Florida wishing I was on Moonbase Alpha. Hell… I would settle for Moonbase Bravo!

Hmmm… There is no Moonbase Bravo but if there were I would imagine it would be on the Farside of the moon.

It’s not the Darkside as Pink Floyd and so many others would have you call it because it actually gets as much sun as the Nearside does. On night with a New Moon, or no moon at all you ever wonder what it is doing? The moon is sunning its buns!

The phenomenon of the moon not rotating on its axis is referred to as Tidal Lock.

The moon sits on the shores of the cosmic ocean in tidal lock, where we need tanning salons on our moonbases to prevent SADs.

Astronomy totally stokes me dude!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adventures - A Short Story

I wrote this for a podcast that was asking for flash fiction submissions. It got rejected, but I love it becsue I wrote it for a friend of mine and it has a special meaning.

Adventures
By Jonathan Ryan

The snorkeler didn’t wake up this morning thinking she would be bent over a gunwale, struggling with an anchor line wrapped around her wrists. She looked through clear waters at Bill trying to untangle the fouled rope from the rock below. A sly grin cracked as she fondly reminisced about the last time she found herself in a similar position. Barbados. Pirates. Planks.

Her day had actually began waking to the gentle tropical breeze wafting through the vacation bungalow snuggling next to Bill. His snoring has stopped since he quit smoking making him just as pleasant to be asleep with as he was when he was awake.

Beth knew that he knew she was watching him, as a grin cracked his face. “Good morning, beautiful.” He croaked.

“Hey there, baby.” She smiled back.

The plan was to rent a boat, get wet, get back and go dancing after a fine evening feast. Beth agreed to her boyfriends bet that she didn’t have the nerve to spend the day in just her black bikini. She devilishly raised the wager if he would in a matching Speedo. She knew he dreaded his imminent embarrassment.

Internally she chided herself for at least not bringing towels to use to shelter themselves for the sun. A few days in paradise was making her soft.

Bill signaled with crowbar in hand he was coming up as she unbound the rope and greeted him as he breached on the starboard side of the Zodiac.

“I think… we are… making progress.” He said a little shallow.

“Are you all right? She asked.

He nodded. She bent over the soft hull gave him a soft quick kiss on the lips.

“You make saltwater sweet.”

“I think we need a break.” She winked.

He gave her a lingering kiss back. “Lets get the anchor free and then we can take as long a break as we need.”

“Okay!” and Beth slipped on her mask and fins and joined him underwater.

The anchor disappeared with the mid-day sun, and everything went black as she was left holding a suddenly slack rope. She was slightly disoriented when she surfaced.

“Bill!” Beth called grasping the boat, and pulling her mask up.

“Beside you babe.”

“What happened?”

“Beats me. I paid the power bill. Climb aboard and we’ll figure this out.” He said, forcibly throwing his mask into the boat.

It took a second for her eyesight to adjust to the pitch black; pinpricks of starlight began to twinkle. She pulled the mask off her forehead around her neck. It was a security blanket in the new unknown.

“Beth. We’re moving.”

She looked around. None of this made sense. “We can’t be. The waters flat and we don’t even have a wake.”

“Look over there.” Bill pointed over her shoulder.

The center mass to which he was pointing began to elongate and streak. It was even more disorienting as the field was being played out broadside to the Zodiac, and Beth lurched back into her companion’s chest and arms. “Not to sound all damsel-in-distressy, but what happened?”

“I know we’ve seen weird before, but I want you to know that I am truly freaking out on the inside, so the best I can come up with at the moment is somehow we have been flung out into space.” She felt him hold onto her a little tighter than usual, “That makes us the first interstellar astronauts.”

She paused. They had a breathable atmosphere. There was no air currents one would assume came with the movement. Checking the luminous dial on her ladies dive watch, and digesting all of the facts she finally said. “We read too much science fiction when that makes sense.”

Bill genuinely laughed “You rock.”

She looked up at him. “No the fact that you are sitting on my spaceship in a Speedo rocks!”

“Seriously?” he replied quizzically.

She kissed him. “Very European.”

“I meant this being your spaceship.”

She welcomed her own giggle, “It’s rented it on my credit card!”

“Aye, aye Captain!” Bill laughed. It was the laugh he had after he got over a bad show and that made her feel more comfortable.

She shed a little of her nervousness, and grinned how everything always reverted back to Barbados, “Behave mister or I’ll have you walking the plank this time.”

He laughed a little more naturally, “It looks like we’re coming up on a star. I’m starting to make out the shape of whatever it is we are in.”

Beth surveyed the illuminating surroundings; it was interesting because whatever machinations that were at work were also slowing them down as they approached the sun of another world.

The trapped Caribbean waters began to glow as if someone turned on pool lights. “It looks like the ocean only goes on for twenty feet all around us.” She noted.

“We are in a bowl!” He said reaching for a paddle as she saw the shell take on a faint nebulous glow.

“I’ll forgo the obvious joke.” She retorted sardonically.

“That is one more reason I am nuts about you, babe.” He turned the boat into the direction they assumed was forward.

They both leaned over the port gunwale as they tortoised their way around the star quietly taking it in what was going on, they couldn’t help but succumb to the wonderment of it all. Beth suddenly reached over and grabbed Bill’s arm, “That’s a spaceship!”

“Jeez! We’re going to pass over it!” hurriedly the slipped back on their masks and snorkels before diving back into the water. At the bottom of the translucent bowl they stared breathlessly at the fellow spacefarer and waved as they passed over her. It sank in that they were not only were they far from home, but they were not alone. Prickled nerves and a rush of adrenaline took hold and they surfaced when they could no longer hold their breath.

“This is so cool!” Beth exclaimed

“I know!” Bill replied.

“Still scared?”

“Oh hell yes!! I’m too amazed to let it show!”

“If this wasn’t such an adventure I’m pretty sure I would be unglued by now.” She looked into the water and at the vessel below she knew her face was tense, but not hard. Beth knew this because he had once told her that watching her concentrate was one of the things he loved about her. “Do you think anyone saw us?”

“You know? I would like to think so.” He climbed back into the boat and helped her aboard. The unusual spacecraft began to accelerate again as the star field began its elongated processional.
In the decreasingly unfamiliar darkness she stroked his still damp arm, quietly as if not to disturb the passing scenery, stated, “I feel frisky.”

He rolled onto his knees to keep from tripping on the fins and took her into his arms. She latched onto his embrace and shifted beneath him and beneath the stars.

“Let me get these off.” She suggested reaching for the straps on her fins.

“I have a confession to make.”

“What’s that?”

“I think they’re sexy.”

“You’re crazy!”

“They make your legs longer!”

Beth laughed, leaving the flippers on and took him hungrily and with great abandon. They lay there in the bottom of the boat goofing about things like what their first words to the first native species they ran across would be, or if they could eat each other if they were going to be trapped in the sphere forever. It helped to ease the disquieting reality that was setting in again. They talked until slumber took them over.

A sunrise came with a gently flowing breeze over the gunwale. Beth stirred and looked at her watch. It had stopped. She hadn’t even noticed that sometime in apparent night he had sat up and laid her head in his lap. She looked up at him, his back against the tube.

“Good morning, beautiful.” He grinned.

“Hey there, baby.”

“I think we’re back.” Nodding over his shoulder.

She sat up to see. “Is that our island?”

“I think so.”

“It looks smaller.”

“Everything is going to look smaller after that tour.”

“No hon, it just doesn’t look the same.”

“Baby? Nothing is ever going to look the same.”

“Why?” She cocked her head quizzically. There was something in his voice.”

For the first time, ever, he said, “Because I love you.”

Beth squealed! “I love you too!”

It was that moment right there they knew it was a different world.

100 Words- Short Story

This was done as part of a Star Wars FanFic contest where the story had to be 100 words exactly.

The wall opened violently. Lady was grateful for the protection of the pillar to which she was tied. The harsh sand and air of Tatooine entered the towered cell.

To her rescue he came. The single window of the TIE fighter peered into the blasted hole, a pilot emerged from the domed hatch.

Garbed in a slave bikini her bonds cut and gag removed, legs weakened, he carried her to the craft. The Hutt’s ire incurred, ground fire pursed the withdrawing spaceship.

On his lap Lady kissed the helmets frown. He came like an archangel, but left like a Spectre.

Athene - My First Epic Poem

I am a HUGE fan of the Chicks in Chainmail anthologies by Margaret Wies an Esther Friesner, so I wrote this for a friend of mine that inspires such madness in me.

My majestic Athene,
Of this I wanted bad.
It was a dream
That I did not have.

Stood you stong and mighty,
In stocks and shackles!
Garbed in chainmail bikini tighty,
Waiting the pyres future cackles.

Stood I before the torch,
Prepared for the fight.
In my hand a weapon to scorch,
I ask, “Dude. Gotta light?"

“Gasp!‚ is what I hear,
Your indignation flagged!
Kill me with your peer,
Is all one can do bound and gagged.

Grin so playful,
The villain I do smash.
The torch his hand I pull,
And leave a fatal gash.

From my side unseen,
An assassin you do clock.
In his chest explodes the spleen,
The impact of the wooden block.

With haste! I free your legs,
Race away we in earnest flight.
Leaving a pack of confused dregs,
Not for long the lull in the fight.

Escape we find on dragons wings,
A beast not docile, but is it seems.
Away from danger our breath we sing,
A favor owed now redeemed.

Thank the fiery serpent with my kiss,
To shelter that of a stony shack.
To free your bonds was my wish,
Not your desire you pull back.

Wicked smile around the cloth,
You nod come here.
Leave you bound I do doth,
To devices we love so dear.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Retro-Futurism is Here!

This just in.... Moon Canon!!!

Steampunk is coming to life! I knew it would happen!!!!

Please enjoy the following link;

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17931-blasted-into-space-from-a-giant-air-gun.html

Blasted into space from a giant air gun

13:26 07 October 2009 by David Shiga

When Jules Verne wrote about a gigantic gun that could be used to launch people into space in the 19th century, no one expected it to become a reality. Now physicist John Hunter has outlined the design of such a gun that he says could slash the cost of putting cargo into orbit.

The gun is based on a smaller device Hunter helped to build in the 1990s while at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. With a barrel 47 metres long, it used compressed hydrogen gas to fire projectiles weighing a few kilograms at speeds of up to 3 kilometres per second.

Now Hunter and two other ex-LLNL scientists have set up a company called Quicklaunch, based in San Diego, California, to create a more powerful version of the gun.

At the Space Investment Summit in Boston last week, Hunter described a design for a 1.1-kilometre-long gun that he says could launch 450-kilogram payloads at 6 kilometres per second. A small rocket engine would then boost the projectile into low-Earth orbit.
Huge g-forces

While humans would clearly be killed and conventional satellites crushed by the gun's huge g-forces, it could lift robust payloads such as rocket fuel. Finding cheap ways to transport fuel into space will lower the cost of keeping the International Space Station in orbit, and in future it may be needed to supply a crewed mission to Mars.

The gun would cost $500 million to build, says Hunter, but individual launch costs would be lower than current methods. "We think it's at least a factor of 10 cheaper than anything else," he says.

Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut and physicist at the Ad Astra Rocket Company based in Webster, Texas, says a launch gun might make more sense on the moon, where there is no atmosphere. "You don't have to worry about drag or heating or anything like that," he says.

Welder's torch

Hunter acknowledges that the projectile would be slowed by its passage through Earth's atmosphere. But he says drag would be minimal on a pointy-nosed projectile, causing it to slow by only half a kilometre per second.

He also admits that the heat generated by the high-speed passage through the atmosphere is "like a welder's torch". However, it would be relatively short-lived, he says, with the projectile clearing the atmosphere in less than 100 seconds. Designing the projectile so that it could survive having some layers of its outer skin burned off would get around this problem, Hunter says.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Observation Report for 29 September, 2009

This is my report of my astronomical observations for the night of 29 September, 2009.

The observations began at 8:00 pm (EST) in my back yard at Neptune Beach Florida. The impromptu session began while I was smoking a cigar and enjoying a rare cooler autumnal Florida evening.

All observations were conducted with a Bushnell, NorthStar model three-inch reflector mirror telescope with a 114mm focal length and viewings were performed with a 4mm and 20mm lens.

Primary observations began with the Moon. Our moon. Why do all of the other planets have beautiful names for their moons and ours is named “Moon”? Come to think of it, we named Earth, Earth synonymous with “Dirt”. That is not an original idea by the way. I got it from the novel Illegal Aliens by Phil Foglio.

The Moon on this night was a Waxing Gibbous (Bit of trivia, Gibbous is Latin for bulbous) at 85% of full. Position was 181 degrees by an elevation of approximately 50 degrees.

On the moon I once again identified The Lighthouse, (Palus Somni) and Luna’s Crater (Albategnius Crater), and began making a concentrated study of Mare Tranquillitas, Mare Crisium, and the Copernicus Crater.

At this point I interrupted my observations to test my friend Allison, to let her know I was looking at the Moon. She texted me back asking if that was Jupiter hanging below and to the right of the moon. She had heard about it that day and switched my focus.

Most of my observations of Jupiter were conducted with the 4MM eyepiece. At 8:55 pm (EST) I the planet and 4 Jovian bodies under view.

According to the Jupiter calculator at homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Jupiter-Path.htm the mirror reversed line up was Ganymede, Jupiter actual, Io, Europa, and Callisto.

Ganymede began to eclipse. By 9:10 pm (EST) it was in totality. Prior to its eclipse I observed a body rising up over the horizon of Ganymede and after the eclipse that body was left in its place. I have yet to identify it. (Flight of Fantasy; If I discovered a new moon I am naming it Cowford.)

Research and seeking peer advice I wanted to know what I saw. I was directed to this article at SkyandTelescope.com. Jupiter’s Moons Dance For You! It reports that Jupiter’s point in relationship to ours an event called “Mutual Phenomenon” occurs where the Jovian moons will occult and/or eclipse each other due to our two worlds being almost exactly edge-on with each other.

According to their chart this occulting and eclipsing occurred on the 23rd, and the 30th of September. Not on the night of my observations. It’s reporting on the 30th that Io occulted Europa to a percentage of 49% at 5:18 pm Universal Time (UT) and at 7:07 pm (UT) eclipsed it to 81%

I was diligent about documenting everything I saw as it was happening. I verified every sighing two or three times, and texted Allison so I could slow and not get carried away. I have since purchased her a pair of binoculars so we can try to verify each others observations, and share in grand discoveries!

Research continues…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Expeditionary Failure

I am sorry readers. It’s me whining again after so short a time.

A couple blogs ago I outlined my plight about the conflicts between the hike and the day of astronomy outreach, and the decision was made for me. I figure I had here choices in the matter. A) Support and participate in the Astronomy Day events, B) Go on the full-moon hike or C) Do the day events for Astronomy Day and then leave from there and do the hike.

The funny thing is I never considered that there would be a Plan D, or the You-Are-Going-To-Get-Totally-Screwed option. My impulse drive on my 1998, at-one-time-white, VW Beetle failed to engage. Leaving me and my teenage daughter stranded in the parking lot at Town Center, after paying a Victoria’s Secret Bill. So we did what anyone else does when stranded at the mall.

Hang out at the Halloween Store, Movie Stop, Game Stop and Barnes and Noble!

We made it home sometime Saturday afternoon, but other than my much abused mountain bike (to which I am grateful for the chance to fix again.) I had no means of traveling significant distances. Well I do in the road bike I take out for anywhere between 30-60 miles at a shot a couple of times a week, but fat chance on throwing on a back pack and a 17 year-old on the handlebars and covering any significant distance.

Grin… Let me tell you about the mountain bike! I have wrecked this thing a dozen times. Mostly something mild like bunny hopping curbs, but here has been a couple of significant wrecks! One involved flipping over a bridge… Anyhow, I got it for twenty bucks at Target years ago because evidently who ever owned it before stripped off the good parts and replaced it with the bad parts. So I replaced the bad parts with ones I bought! I put some additions on it also. Head and tail lights with a generator to power them up, a rear wheel rack with a milk crate, a license plate with my Parachutist Wings. I need to replace the brakes, and the cam that holds the handle bar in place is stripping to the point where one respectful bump or wheelie if it doesn’t actually com off will twist in a way where steering is no longer an option. I have plans for the upgrades…

This all got me to thinking. Some people burn the candle at both ends, but what do they use to light them? I am pretty sure at this point my candle is a birthday cake sized candle and I am firing it up with an oxy-acetylene blow torch.

So I sat down and made an inventory of all of the great stuff I do and tried to prioritize them all. I don’t lament being a part of any of these bodies and I celebrate that fact that these groups actually want me around! My list;

- Family. My oldest daughter away to college, my youngest daughter still at home in high school, their mother my domestic partner, and her mother.
- My J.O.B.
- The Paxon High School Band Boosters.
- The Sweet Briar Outdoors Program. Not that I am a significant part of their activities, but I feel invested in the bright future and safety of these young women.
- The Cowford Steampunk Society to which I am the Mayor of.
- NEFAS, the North East Florida Astronomical Society
- NFTB, the North Florida Trailblazers, to whom I have yet to engage with.
- The Florida Garrison of the 501st Imperial Legion
- The G.I. Joe Costumers

And, every now and then try to fit in some fitness, do a modeling gig every now and then, draw, sew, paint, write cheesy space operas and steampunk fiction, watch the Big Bang Theory, and sleep.

Why don’t I have more to write about?

Now, here is the one thing I left off of the list. Camping For Astronomers. I started camping and stargazing to lend more credence to this blog. This blog is my hobby. I know right? Shouldn’t it have been the other way around!?!? Anyways I want to support it and make it something most righteous, and entertaining, and to do that I have to live a little. Provided I have a functioning vehicle.

If I have to I am thinking rocket motors on the mountain bike. Now you know the upgrade I have in mind!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Wonderful Night of Observing!

I spent last night from about 8:30pm to just before 10:00 in the backyard with the telescope observing Jupiter and the moon. I took pictures and very excited notes!

As soon as I get this information distilled I will publish my observations!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Screwing Up.

So this one has really nothing to do with Astronomy or camping, but it has a lot to do with my current mental funk.

So Friday I blew off the Paxon High School Band Boosters to go to the Meeting with the North East Florida Astronomical Society. My daughter was sick and couldn’t go to the game so I took advantage of that opening in my schedule to go hang out with my fellows.

It was an outstanding meeting. The major topic of discussion was the misconceptions surrounding astronomy. In the end the question was asked, “Why are these misconceptions there?” My answer was because most people just are no into astronomy. This goes back to the entire outreach issue. How can anyone expect to know the answer when they don’t even know the question to ask?

Saturday I re-plumbed a house. I was helping someone out and it was quite the learning experience but I was so smoked from laying pipe in the attic on a traditionally hot Florida fall day that I blew of the public observing session at Hannah Park. Some say I was justified at this but I woke up after sleeping for about 12 hours feeling like a dismal failure.

So I blew off band for astronomy. I blew off astronomy for human weakness. Last week I totally blew a good time at the beach with my Steampunk crew because I was pissed more people didn’t show up.

I am not liking this trend. Dammit… I should have said screw it and we should have had the Victorian Beach party even though there were only two of us there. I should have honored my commitment to the marching band. I should have gone to the park and shared with the public what little I know about the heavens above.

I think this shows just how petulant and self-absorbed I am. These are traits I loathe in other people, but here I am... exhibiting the same behavior.

I have been told I am dull and distant. I understand that now.

Now, to remind myself that not all in the world has fallen to my own waste, there have been good things going on too.

My daughter and I set up the PS2 in my room, and I have been playing copious amounts of Star Wars: Battlegrounds. I joke about how I think Star Wars is a documentary and being a 46 year-old parachute rigger in North Florida is my LARP character. After playing SW:B the last couple days I have really started to immerse myself into it! I wish there was a sightseer mode where I could just walk around the joint and not worry about getting killed. I should write the powers that be to come up with Star Wars: Tourist.

In the end his reminds me of someone else I have been blowing off. The 501st Imperial Legion. It is an imperative that I reconnect and aid in their good works. Especially since I blew off a gig with them a couple months ago.

I have a Big Book of Geek. It is pretty much a legal sized journal I have been keeping track of all of the various projects I have going on. It also gets me out of my head and reminds me of what a full life I really do have, and being grateful for that. When reading it doesn’t pull my head out of my ass I can use it to beat my skull in.

The other day when I was on my ritualistic 30 mile bike ride I wished I had my camera. Even though it is a road bike and I am supposed to be riding my ass off I do a lot of sightseeing. I took a turn at the Baldwin Trail Depot Park and actually rode into the Town of Baldwin and found the High School where my daughter was playing last week!

But nature also unfurled her wonders to me and allowed me a passing opportunity to see her wildlife. I saw wild turkeys, squirrels, snakes, raccoons, and most majestic of them all a red fox. The fox was beautiful! I have never seen a fox up close but there she was!

But there are a couple of things I learned from this. One, Bees will sting a moving target. Two, if you can not avoid running over a snake, aim for the head. You ride over its tail and it is going to rear up on you. The latter is theoretical as the last time I almost hit one I wrecked the bike dodging it. The former… oh that truly sucked.

I like sports. I don’t understand the ins and outs of football, basketball, baseball or hockey, but I do enjoy watching them. Truth be told I enjoyed watching the Tour de France, the World Swimming Championships, the World Track and Field Championships, Women’s Pro Beach Volleyball, and Formula One Racing more.

Still. The other day we were all at Dicks Wings and the final quarters of three different NFL games were on and my daughter and her mother sat there talking about the plays. I grew up a Browns fan, and even though I had long since moved from Ohio, I was crushed when the Browns moved their franchise to Baltimore. I am so eternally glad the Cleveland fought and won the right to keep the Browns name in Cleveland.

So naturally they were busting on Cleveland, and I am in the position to defend them when the score of that game came on… they 34-3…. They lost Baltimore. Here I am anthropologically fascinated by the experience of American tribalism. Most of the patrons are wearing their jerseys of their team. To say they chose their tribe would be a disservice to their loyalty. No, they chose not to leave their tribe, even though they sit in the middle of another’s territory.

This caused me to reflect on where my loyalties and my tribe are. In the end, I am a Cleveland Brown. I am a Cleveland Indian. I am a Cavalier. These are my tribes. For better or for worst they my kin.

I got the new Campmor catalog in the mail yesterday! I totally drooled over it and have a budding wish list going. DROOL!!!! This Saturday is a Full Moon hike down by Camp Blanding. I had tentatively signed up to go on it, but that day is also National Astronomy Day, and NEFAS is hosting a wonderful fair at the Florida State College Kent Campus.

So here I am trying to decide if I should go on a hike with a group I am not even a paid member of based on a provisional RSVP, or volunteer at the astronomy gig where they have already put the call out for help.

We all know that I am going to do the NEFAS event.

It’s not like I am blowing off the hike right? Or maybe! Just maybe... I can do both.

Oh boy… this is going to be a learning experience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Telescope for Every Child. What you Can Do.

What I love about you dear readers, and most of you are friends of mine, is I have no idea if you are actually reading any of this. I know some of you are because I you let me know. It is my hope though that if you respond it will be by supporting this effort.

So this is why this is important.

In a world with pressing issues like a neglected ecology, potential social ruin, a financial Diasporas, degrading third world countries with in our own borders, and over inflated health care why should we care if someone has a telescope? You know, it is my hope, that by seeing past our own horizon, we actually begin to see the world around us and we become appalled enough to do something about it.

Besides our children pick out our nursing homes. Our children will be the ones working said nursing homes. If we do nothing to teach them well, expand their minds and look beyond artificial boundaries we are all fundamentally screwed.

I direct your attention to the following link. https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/

I direct your attention to the following blog written by Dr. Pamela Gay, who you may have seen at Dragon Con, and certainly have read about in some of my previous scribblings. http://www.starstryder.com/2009/09/22/galileoscope-a-dream-of-1-telescope-per-child/

She makes a very passionate plea for the cause, as well as a chance to score some incredible swag in the process. This is a very easy and very simple, and incredibly affordable opportunity to provide kids from the ages of 4 to 104 something unique and of great intrinsic value.

If at a minimum help me get the word out I will be a happy man. If not, I am still going to love you. Just not like I used too…

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It’s true… television does rot the brain.

After spending the day watching Man vs. Wild hosted by Bear Grylls I would like to make certain observations.

I need to stick a few caveats in here first and foremost I am jealous. There, it’s out in the open, I am jealous professionally and personally. He's younger, better looking, gets paid to travel...

I have taught survival for many years but it has been all open water survival to well-equipped pilots and flight crews. Land survival isn’t my strong suit, which is why I joined a camping and hiking club.

Bear Grylls does know what he is talking about. Nothing he has ever said will kill anyone. I understand certain allowances have to be made for better television. My comments are only meant to show an admiration for his work and not condemn it. As a mater of fact, I follow his blog.

Things I learned from Man vs. Wild.

1- Fires are fun and should be started at every opportunity, and in as many and inventive ways possible. Staying warm and dry is just a perk.

2- How to eat anything.
a. Step #1 Bite the head off.
b. Step #2 Squeeze out the guts because you don’t want to eat the poo-poo. It taste like.... bad... I mean really bad, and all of the nasty stuff is in there!
c. Step #3 Chew on one side of your mouth and close the opposite eye.
d. Step #4 Say “Yuck.” Not with any kind of enthusiasm, but just as a blanket statement.

3- Gravity sucks.

4- A little Spanish gets you a long way.

5- Han solo had the right idea on Hoth.

Now...if Bear Grylls were me… (remembering the above caveat that certain allowances have to be made for better television....)

1- DO NOT DITCH YOUR PARACHUTE!!!!!! The Ram Air parachute assemblies he uses are zero-porosity air foils. They make for wicked shelters and the suspension lines have a tensile strength of over 500 pounds.

2- Rope, while fun to play with, is a finite source.

3- Don’t eat anything unless you have enough water to drink with it. Digestion requires water to break anything down. Even if it is a grub.

4- Beat his Outfitter! Unless it is Mrs. Grylls in which case .... erg... anyway... Dude! Wear Underarmor underwear!!! Do not underestimate what crotch rot will do to your spirits. Underarmor will wick away moisture from your privates and dry much quicker. While on that subject... Tinted Safety Glasses. Not only will they protect you from the sun, but flying rocks, cobra venim, bee's, ice crystals, bats…. You get the point.

5- A big part of what I teach is not only surviving, but getting found also. There are many different signaling methods out there, both things you can carry and things you can make on the fly. It looks dramtic to run across the Icelandic tundra. But I can think of a couple ways to mark the snow so someone would know I was alive! (Not the first thing that popped into your mind...)

In all honesty, thank you Mr. Grylls and the Discovery Channel.

Game Called on Account of Weather.

Jonesing have I been to attend the Dark Skies Observation Session with NEFAS that I may have over prepared. I blame the Man vs. Wild Marathon I have been watching all day.

Tonight’s much anticipated session was cancelled because of weather, and quite frankly that is the breaks that come with open sky observations. It is still kind of a bummer. I had a wish list of objects I wanted to observe, and all the necessary reference materials.

I also had bug spray, a camp chair, a small work table, khaki cargos, a long sleeve shirt, a tent if necessary, red lens flashlight, a 2 quart canteen with water, and probably most important… toilet paper in a Ziploc baggie.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dragon Con

So.... I didn't do that much related to science or camping at Dragon Con 2009, but there was much to be done on both fronts. Especially camping... that is standing in line for hours for almost everything.

In this epicenter of wonderous geekery there were solar telescopes attended by an outreach program for the Air Traffic Controllers Association, many panels regarding the status of space exploration, and even a night at the Georgia Aquarium.

But..... It is a science fiction convention and fiction must not get lost in the science, and one of my most awesome experiences was wandering around in my Steampunk Dive Suit!It was quite teh hit!!! I love it! Wait til next year when I have the other major sub-assemblies done!


I have designs to build a Moon Suit.... a Steampunk version based upon the 1966 Grumman Moon Suit so wonderfully adapted to the Major Matt Mason toy line back in the day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dragon Con!!!

This will most likely be my last entry before Dragon Con so with that dear readers, be safe, have fun, and wear sun screen!

My annual foray into the real and fantastic will be significant, and I assure you fun.

Be well all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two things that irritate me.

1- The desecration of the pristine environment that is outer space and the short-sighted failure to take advantage of a fantastic commercial venture by cleaning it up and recycling the parts.
2- Crappy remakes of science fiction classics and neo-classics.

My Solution!

Re-boot Salvage One but with a twist! Let’s make it a reality show!!!

Retro-Blog; 29 August 2009 NEFAS Public Observations

PROLOG:

When Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon I was in Louisville, Texas sitting on my Grandmothers lap. This is the Grandmother that crossed the Red River in a covered wagon. It is her legacy, and that of her people that has prompted such wanderlust and starry dreams.

This is the first blog where I am passing on my observations and research, but I am finding that looking towards the skies is only part of the party. NEFAS was there for a purpose and that has as much relevance to my astronomical pursuits as the actual astronomy and I choose to include them as part of my science.

After that there will be my obligatory flight of fancy….

NEFAS:

Statler and Waldorf live! Straight from the Muppets into a parking lot at Hannah Park for the public observation sessions. Dennis and Don are fellow astronomers and NEFAS members who helped me set up my telescope and gave me a lot of laughs! I have inestimable gratitude for their help, else frustration would have ended things pretty quick. They are funny, extremely knowledgeable, and played off of each other like a seasoned duo! They had me cracking up the whole time. Especially when they referred to their wives, who were lovely ladies sitting on comfortable chairs, as a couple of chicks we picked up off of the street.

It may be serendipity that lead me to this moment as I have been listening to a lot of Bob Marley and the Wailers, plus a whole host of other reggae talents. I have to warn you if you fall asleep listening to Nappy Dread in the headphones…. Man you are in for some funky ass dreamin’!!!

The motto of the Virginia Air and Space Center is “From the sea to the Stars.” and that is just as appropriate for here. The public observations are an outreach program geared towards stimulating interest in the science of astronomy and is held at the Hannah Park State Park, lot #8, right on the beach. Clean salt air Mon… sorry about that… and the lap of waves while pursuing astronomical investigation! Not a more appropriate quote to look upward, really upwards in and for a very long time.

I have always felt that for any organization to survive it has to promulgate itself some how. In the scope of the Astronomical League the Outreach Chair Dr. Mike Reynolds states that, “Outreach is paramount to the survival of our hobby.” If there is one thing I am good at is talking to complete strangers.

The whole time my favorite Muppet characters are helping me out I kept saying let’s point it at the Moon! Let’s point it at the Moon!!! Well I did after I figured out how to center the secondary mirror. And I stayed there all night as my fellows were directing theirs towards Jupiter, Saturn, stars, and nebulas. So I had the moon covered for NEFAS and took great delight in sharing some eye piece time with the public. Particularly the children.

They all asked what my name was. I’d say Buzz. Then they would reply Lightyear! Grin… I knew that was coming. So there they were with Buzz Lightyear looking at the stars. Part of me is hoping that was the sitting on my Grandmothers lap moment or them.

But the next time I will have the tripod lower and a step stool for them to stand on. I was there for them and not me.

OBSERVATIONS:

To conduct my observations I was using a Bushnell, NorthStar model three-inch reflector mirror telescope with a 114mm focal length and viewing it through a 20mm lens. I got the telescope at K-Mart years ago.

The times of the observation were from approximately 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

The moon was at 72.05% illumination and was waxing gibbous.

These were my two significant observations for the night. Lacking a chart or map of my own I created my own geography, well selenography, for one feature jumped out at me, and the other I had an inspired purpose for. After the fact I have researched the real names and other significant data, but I am stiff referring to these objects by the names I gave them, the Lighthouse, and Luna’s Crater.

Palus Somni (The Lighthouse) jumped out at me as the very first thing I thought when I saw it was “There is a lighthouse on the moon.” It is a plain on the northeast side of the Mare Tranquillitatis, close to Mare Chisium. There is a point, a very distinct point of light that had two”rays” running approximately 165 degrees northwest and near southeast or it’s origin. Palus Somni has a higher albedo than the rest of that plain.

I could cheat this out a little more and find out if it is a mountain ridge or a lip of a crater, but I am saving that for future research. All in all it has to be some kind of reflectivity coming off of the landscape, but then again I don’t know because the rays were pretty straight.

The selenographic coordinates: 14.1 degrees North, 45.0 degrees East

Albategnius Crater (Luna’s Crater) did not jump out at me as I had decided I was going to name a crater after my friend Allison. I wanted something unique that I could quite frankly find later to show her. Albategnius is slightly out of round and had a dimple. That dimple I find out is actually another impact crater called Klein.

Selenographic coordinates: 11.2 degrees South, 4.1 degrees East.

Diameter: 129 km.

Depth: 4.4 km

FLIGHT OF FANCY:

So I texted my friend Allison to let her know I just named a crater after her. Allison has a special connection to the moon much like I do and I wanted to do something nice for her. So I let her know. Much texting later she calls and we get to talking.

We have our Steampunk Beach party in September, and that was discussed in between bouts of “Wow” from me looking at the moon, she pausing long enough to say “that is so cool!” and then go back telling me about this neo-Victorian bikini she is making…. So the train of thought went like this…

Allison is making a bikini, and I am at the beach. I am at the beach looking through the telescope. The telescope is looking at the moon. Then I am suddenly hearing One Love/People Get Ready and imagining a beach party on a distant shore.

Jeez… Real astronomers are going to hate me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Retro-Blog; 28 August 2009 NEFAS and the NFTB

I have joined two significant groups this month. The North East Florida Astronomical Society, and the North Florida Trailblazers. The reasoning behind this will come in a later blog. (a.k.a. cheesy way to keep you reading these things!)

I am really glad that NEAS is still around. I checked them out 11 years ago but ended up traveling a lot after that. In my newly resurrected astronomy journal I was amazed at how much time had passed.

But this being the Age of Way-Too-Much-information finding them again was easy. Lo and behold… they had a meeting a few days after I made this little discovery. So I went!

I got there late! I entered boldly and took a seat near the front! It is part of my commitment to the International Year of Astronomy.

Awesome presentation and I adored it! Dr. Mike Reynolds gave a fantastic travelogue/dissertation about his trip about his expedition to Fiji to observe the total solar eclipse in July.

There were awards given out also, and I think it is fantastic to be part of a group that recognizes the achievement of its members.

After all was said and done I handed them a check for membership. Truth be told I had written it when Dr. Reynolds was showing beautiful slides of the simultaneous sunrise and sunset that occurs with a total solar eclipse…

Now I only I can get them to make t-shirts and patches….

I joined the North Florida Trailblazers to enhance the survival training I give. Granted I camped a lot as a kid and some as an adult, and while I am told I am an expert in water survival training I kind of lick in land survival. I am always beating up my students to prepare themselves for just as much of a land survival scenario as a water survival. Yet I lack the critical skills they need, and I can’t provide.

Plus I have been wanting to get out into the great unknown. It is my response to Star Trek.

Unfortunately with my schedule and commitments I am probably not going to be able to hit the trails with them until October. Still in the meantime I can prepare for that expedition. Four day hike. Could be sexy!

By this point you are probably beginning to see where I got the idea or the Camping for Astronomers blogs….

Retro-Blog; October 2008 Kitt Peak National Observatory

My company sent me to Tuscan, Arizona for a gig at Davis-Mothan Air Force base, and there were three things I wanted to get done while I was there besides my job.

1- Troop an event with the Dune Sea Garrison of the 501st.
2- Visit the Kitt Peak National Observatory
3- Eat as many enchiladas as I could.

I am happy to say I was successful on all fronts!

I made friends in Tuscan pretty fast. My first night there I put on my TIE Pilot costume and trooped a Game Stop with the Dune Sea Garrison, and they are the most open and inviting crew you could meet. It didn’t take long for them to peg me as a Southerner because everywhere we went I kept asking for sweet tea and no one out west serves sweet tea. I don’t know how many times I told them I was from Ohio they continued to refer to me in a grand western tradition as “This fine Southern gentleman!” Well at leas I made some one look good.

As I had them taking me from one Mexican resteraunt to the next they gave me the low down on Kitt Peak too. Besides being open and inviting they also were very tolerant.

When I was a kid on the farm I came across a picture of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. I was completely fascinated but the idea of a telescope. I wondered if they had a swimming pool there because studying the sun had to get hot and wondered if they wore bathing suits under their lab coats when they weren’t trying to get a tan. I would like to say that these were just pre-teen musings but hey carried over in to my adult hood also.

So here I am in Tuscan, time to kill and a plot to hatch and I take off across the dessert towards the mountain. It took about an hour to get there. Take water with you when you go. You will get thirsty and there are no vending machines on top of the mountain. Once you clear Tuscan and you can see all the way across the desert and see the observatories across the plain. Distance it the first deception in the high desert. The next is the speed limit. I didn’t see a single speed sign except when I was approaching the U.S. Border Patrol stop. I just set the rental on cruise control and jammed out to XM radios Hair Band Heaven.

Driving up the mountain is majestic. Tuscan itself is already a couple of thousand feet above sea level, but Kitt Peak is 6,880 ft above the ocean, and there are signs going up elling you at which 1,000 you are at. ON the way I came across a gentleman who somehow laid his Harley down and I stopped to help him out. Once we got his hog righted and he made sure it started we talked a little. I gave him some water because he had been there for over an hour waiting for someone to show up. Then he asked me, “So… are you one of the scientists up there?” I laughed so hard! I told him, “Sir, you give me too much credit for being that smart!”

Once at the mountain the first thing I noticed was the helipad in the middle of the parking lot. Not sure why this jumped out at me, its faded marking in the cracked asphalt but it did. I took it all in. I was the only vehicle in the visitor’s lot. I stood there for about 20 minutes and didn’t see a single person. I could have been on the moon.

Very nice visitors center. Clean, air conditioned and a very cordial staff. They asked me if I cared to wait for a guide and most of you know me, I do my best work on my own. So I commenced my exploration.

Obviously you are not going to get into any of the actual working areas of the telescopes, but there are extensive galleries protected by thick Plexiglas window for you to see thought. When I was there, actual experiments were being conducted and you were watching the professionals do their business. The Mayall 4 meter telescope was incredible! I could move in there. You really have see this for yourself!

I got to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope and saw the solar scientists at work, and they weren’t wearing bathing suits. They were not even wearing lab coats. No swimming pool either! Just street clothes! My childhood delusion permanently despoiled… well not really. It’s a fun idea that has been in my head for so long I am not letting it go.

What amazed me is for a place with limited visitor traffic almost every available surface that one could access had some kind of historical or educational exhibit on display and it was all in great condition. You can learn a lot about astronomy just by reading the walls and you can come to know the local cultures by looking at their artifacts.

On the way down I stopped at the picnic area below the large telescopes, and in the middle of it was ARO 12 meter radio telescope. It’s the one in my profile pic. Because I had brought lunch with me because my noble guides in Tuscan told me so, I ate it. I was all alone there. I could have gone streaking and truth be old I had actually considered it.

I did run into a couple of astronomers there. They were great guys. I told them they had the best job in the world and when they asked me what I did for a living I told them and they told me I had one of the scariest. I love intellectual discourse!

There are cabins there that have signs far away from them that say “Day Sleepers. Keep all noise down.”

It was all incredible! I thought about taking a couple hours more to write this to give you all of the technical details about the equipment up there but it would jut be numbers. As I was sitting on the picnic tables thinking how small I am to the observatories, and how little, they were compared to the mountain, and how tiny they were to the desert, and how absolutely dwarfed it was to the skies… seriously… after that what difference dos a 50+ foot focal length mean… To quote the man, “For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky.”

There is no serious way I can give this wondrous place of heavenly pursuits it’s due without and IMAX or just taking you there. If Kitt Peak is not on your list of 1,000 places to visit before you die then it should be.

But to leave you with this…. On the way back to Tuscan I got stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol and they asked me “So… are you one of the scientists up there?” I laughed my ass off!

Seriously… I’m not that smart.

Retro-Blog; Dragon Con 2008 Labor Day Weekend

So okay… it’s been almost a year since these events transpired and I am getting ready for my annual celebration of geek as I am writing this.

In my meanderings around the web and world I know there is a bristling of emotions when fantasy, fiction and reality collide. I like to think of Dragon Con as a the Large Hadron Collider of science fiction and science fact.

With this in mind I am dressed as the Sand Storm Han Solo form a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, and I am seated with my special friend Karen attired in a Princess Leia bikini participating in the live recording of episode 104 of the Astronomy Cast. (www.astronomycast.com)

Panelist for this…erg…. panel were Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/) and Dr. Kevin Grazier, science advisor to Battlestar Galactica and Eureka, and the topics were about what science fiction gets right, and what they get wrong, and how in some ways it is almost forgivable to make certain allowances for entertainment.

Now this isn’t something that happened then but makes an interesting note is my favorite TV show right now is The Big Bang Theory, and it is the only comedy to have a science advisor on staff….

Leading the panel was Dr. Pamela Gay to who’s podcast I have been a big fan of for a very long time. In her comments before and after the main topic she pimped the International Year of Astronomy, to which began the slow burn which is resulting in this very blog page.

She said get involved and I decided I would. Starting with distributing the collection of buttons and flyers she gave me for that very purpose when I met her at her table!!!!! I think it was at that point I became an Astronomy Cast groupie.

You can read about her adventures at Dragon Con at http://www.starstryder.com/2008/09/02/dragoncon-there-and-back-again/ and listen to the episode at http://www.astronomycast.com/astronomy/episode-104-science-fiction-at-dragoncon-with-plait-and-grazier/ .

This was fun. I sincerely hope that anyone who has this stereotyped, and you will soon come to know that I loathe, absolutely LOATHE stereotypes, as nerdy, dark-dwelling, socially stymied science geeks should listen to this episode. It’s funny! As a plus, not to discredit Dr. Gays works, or her intellect… she is quite beautiful.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Testing.... Testing....

As part of my promise to do something for the International Year of Astronomy, and the advice of Dr. Pamela Gay.... I am starting my very own science blog!!!

I am hoping this works!!!!!!!!!

Thanks

Buzz