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. !

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.

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;

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 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 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!