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.

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.

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


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….


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.


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


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.