Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sturtevant Building Inspectors Car Tagged

This vehicle belongs to the building inspector in Sturtevant. It used to be a police car. Where this vehicle is located is right around where some punk ass kids were egging cars, houses, and cop cars on July 3rd after the fireworks. Guess they might have gotten a little ticked because the cops were out looking for them. Looks like there are some childish, out of control kids now roaming and tagging in the village.

Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a UFO! It's the Moon?!?

A story out of Britain making the rounds tells that tale of a woman who saw a UFO hovering in the sky nearby. She called 999 (the British version of 911) to report it and ask someone to investigate. Police responded quickly to find (well, I gave it away in the headline) the Moon.

We can all have a good laugh at someone mistaking the Moon for a UFO, but it really is more common than you would believe. Venus, Jupiter and the Sun reflecting off of low flying planes are other objects commonly mistaken for UFOs. We have satellites that can be quite bright, Iridium flares and the International Space Station. Old satellites that are no longer controlled can tumble and appear to get brighter and dimer or even "blink". On rare occasions, a fuel tank on a spent satellite or rocket explodes which can cause quite a light show.

Then there are other natural phenomena including meteors (and the uncommon point meteors), halos, glories, Sun dogs (and sometimes Moon Dogs), ball lightning, crepescular rays, light pillars and sprites to name a few.

So, what's the point? Any one of these things can and has been reported as a UFO by people who don't spend much time looking at the sky. And the people who reported them are not crazy, lying, or stupid, but inexperienced skywatchers. Frequently reports are cited from law enforcement officers or pilots as "proof" of UFOs existence since they are considered trusted and reputable. And they may be...however, unless they are well trained in astronomical and meteorlogical atmospheric phenomena, they do not have the ability to properly evaluate these phenomena regardless of whether the person is an air force pilot, a sheriff, or two crazy high school kids making out in a farmers field.

So start watching the sky. If you see something unusual, take good notes on time, your observing location, direction and elevation in the sky, and weather conditions. Then do a little resarch and odds are you will find your answer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July and Happy Aphelion!

As we kick back to celebrate the Fourth of July, we are also sitting farther from the Sun than any other day during the year. Earth's orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle...sometimes we are farther from the Sun and sometimes we are closer. It comes as a surprise to most people that we are closest to the Sun in July!

We call this aphelion and are 152.6 million kilometers away from the Sun today. Six months from now in January, we will make our closest approach at 147.5 million kilometers away from the Sun. So the Sun is a little less intense now (averaged over the Earth) than it is in January. Of course, the seasons are due to the fact that Earth's rotational axis is tilted 23.5 degrees. The Sun is high in the sky and more intense in the northern hemisphere during our summer months and the days are longer giving us a nice warm summer.

It may also surprise you to know that the average global temperature is highest in July when Earth is farthest from the Sun! Its almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in January when we are close to the Sun! What the heck is going on here?

The answer can be found by taking a look at a globe. Notice that the northern hemisphere has a lot more land while the southern hemisphere has a lot more water. Land heats up and cools down very quickly compared to water (water has a very high heat capacity which means it heast up and cools down very slowly compared to next to a large lake in Racine, I was very aware of that fact!) Therefore, the northern hemisphere heats up very quickly in June and July when the intense summer Sun beats down. In January, the southern hemisphere's summer, the energy from the Sun is larger, but the water heats up VERY slowly resulting in a lower average global temperature when we are closer to the Sun!

You can do a simple experiement to observ this effect. Take a digital camera. Get some solar film to cover the lens (you can raid eclipse shades available for a couple of dollars at American Science and Surplus in Milwaukee). Cover your lens with the solar filter and take a picture of the Sun sometime in the next few weeks. Wait until December or January and get your camera and filters our and take the picture again (be sure to use the same zoom setting!) Put the pictures side by side on your comptuer screen and measure the diameter of the Sun in pixels on your computer. You will find the Sun is smaller in July than in January. The Sun appears slightly smaller when it is farther away!

As I go out to watch fireworks after the improv show tongiht, I will be grateful that we are slighlty farther away from the Sun right now as the temperature will probably still be in the upper 90s here!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Going to the Parade?

In all the places I've lived in Racine, I've never been more than a block from Main Street, if not right on the street itself. The parade finds me. The past few years, I've holed up while the cat hides under the bed. I may take a peek at the pre-parade, or at portions of the goings-on, but I'm not up for sitting through the whole thing. It's a great time for family and kids, though, and I think it's grand that the city comes together for an event like this.

I took mom grocery shopping this morning and the store was busy. Lots of people buying soda and beer. You can feel an urgency in the air. On Main Street, the No Parking After Midnight signs are up, barricades dropped off at intersections, trash barrels strategically placed (there's never enough), vendors' trucks and trailers parked near the route. Everyone is getting ready. Everyone is getting set.

Tomorrow, everything goes!

Friday's lost video - July 4th edition

Not so much a lost video, but a fitting one.

Ray Charles - America the Beautiful. Nothing more needs to be said......


They put it off a day so they could torture me with tests. I go in about a half hour. Jeez but yesterday sucked. Glad when thiis one is done

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Full Sized Model of Phoenix: 1 inch = 1 inch

I have blogged before about the Mars Phoenix Lander. It is controlled from Tucson (near the corner of 6th and Drachman for those of you who know the city). I visited the building today and snapped a few pictures I thought I would share.

The exterior of the building is covered with a neat mural created by a University of Arizona art class.

The mural depicts Phoenix launching from Earth and landing on Mars. Small squares around the mural have everything from a Delta II rocket to Peter Smith (Principal Investigator or PI) and Marvin Martian.

Inside is the PIT. The PIT contains a full size model of the rover with working copies of the science instruments. They use it for testing...before they send a command to Mars, they send it to this guy and make sure it does what they want. If they want to test something before trying it on Mars, this is where it gets tested.

This model is not designed to look quite like the real thing. they also have a model that looks the same on the outside, but does not have working science instruments.

Oh, and we should zoom in on the stereo camera.

Separated at birtht?

It shouldn't be too surprising that the eye structures are similar. Wall-e probably is designed to see in 3-D which works better with two eyes and so is the camera on Phoenix!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Olympic Trials 100 Meter Champion: Tyson Homosexual?!?

I didn't believe this story when I first saw it and didn't post it until I have had some time to vet it, but it appears legit. One News Now, a conservative web site decided to install a filter to change the word "gay" to "homosexual" in news stories. The problem is, well, some people have the last name Gay, including a young man named Tyson who blazed a 9.68 seconds in the US Olympic Trials 100 meter dash.
According to the Washington Post story, "Fred Jackson, news director of OneNewsNow, tells the Sleuth his organization has now fixed the software glitch. "We took the filter out for that word," he said, without uttering the "G" word.".

He can't even SAY the word!

Now that they have shown their colors and admit they edited other people's stories to fit their agenda, I wonder what other edits are occurring.

Monday, June 30, 2008

100 Years Since Tunguska

June 30th, 1908. Without warning, a massive explosion occurred over a remote area of Siberia. Tens of millions of trees flattened over an area of hundreds of square miles by a blast 1000 times that of the bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Earth had an encounter with a small asteroid or comet probably no more than 50 - 100 meters across. Heat from the blast was felt over 60km away. Fortunately, it hit a very sparsely populated area. Had it hit New York, London, Moscow, etc, the death toll could have been in the millions.

The object exploded in the air rather than staying intact until it hit the ground. Many smaller meteors will give into the stresses cause by passing through the atmosphere and explode before they hit the ground.

So what would we do if something like this was coming toward us today? Well, not much. However, the B612 Foundation is working on ways to deflect asteroids. This privately funded group wants to try to change the orbit of an asteroid by 2015 (being careful to select and asteroid that has no chance of threatening Earth after its orbit changes!)

All the techniques we are exploring to deflect asteroids require decades of advance warning. If we know about the threat that far in advance, we can make a small correction and decades later, it will miss us by thousands of miles.

The necessity of detecting these things in advance brings us to the current detection programs. Many programs currently exist to detect potential threats such as Spacewatch and Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research among others. Pan-Starrs and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will push the search to smaller objects.

There are no currently known asteroids that pose a threat. However, there is a potential one. Asteroid Apophis (about 300 meters across) will make a near approach to Earth in 2029 passing closer than our geostationary communication satellites. The odds of an impact in 2029 are exactly zero. We know it will miss.

But here's the catch. When it passes Earth, its orbit will change due to Earth's gravitational influence. There is a small area known as the "keyhole". If Apophis passes through this keyhole, it will come back and smack us in 2036. Fortunately, the keyhole is VERY small, only about 600 meters wide (and space is VERY big).

Just last week, the House of Representatives proposed a mission to study this asteroid (in HR6063, section 803). The proposal is for a low cost mission to place a transmitter on the asteroid. This transmitter would allow us to track its orbit much more precisely and tell us whether or not we really need to worry.

Impacts of this size happen probably once every 500-1000 years or so. On the 100th Anniversary of Tunguska, it's a good time to consider our preparations for the next one.

Going away for awhile

Looks like they are going to do some emergency bypass surgury shit here. Not looking forward to it at all. I may be able to post a few more times, but I think food and liquids are getting cut off at midnight. Eh, story of my life. Wouldn't be my life without drama. Can't get into the JT blogs here at All Saints so everyone will just have to learn it here. At least the nurses are pretty on this ward, and Kawwwman would be happy. My night nurse swishes. No need of Gaydar for him. Nice guy though, does his job well. I'll blog my recovery as it happens. Going to miss the fireworks it looks like. Damn but this sucks.

Watching the Fireworks

My husband really wants to watch the fireworks from the boat this year. I am so uncomfotable with that idea. It will be us and the kids and maybe my mom. It isnt a huge boat, so I already do not feel great about going on Lake Michigan during the day, let alone at night. So, not only does being on the lake at night make me nervous, but also I am TOTALLY afraid of the fire works falling down on us.

Can anyone tell me if they have experiene doing this and tell me if I am being paranoid and silly??

I will also be posting this on JT only because I need answers. So don't think I am a trader LOL!!

Racine to Welcome its Sixth Sister City

Zapotlanejo, Mexico is about to become the Belle City's sixth sister city. A delegation from that city will be visiting Racine this week, and municpal Presidente Alvarez Contreras will join Mayor Becker in walking the route of the 4th of July parade. There also will be a signing of the "twinning" agreement at City Hall at noon on Thursday.

Party on!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Madame Zoltar: What's Up Before It Goes Down

Hello, my faithful fans!

Here's a treat for you. An online Psychic Quiz:
Watch out! It's eerily accurate.

In the week ahead, I see: mosquitoes. Ouch! Lots and lots of mosquitoes. Ow! Time to put on the Off. For those of you who prefer old-fashioned remedies, gasoline will also work. And there's no truth to the rumor that premium is more effective than regular. They both keep everything away.

I also predict that many people will be outdoors enjoying themselves and summer in Racine, so be careful behind the wheel or handlebars of whatever you're driving or pedaling around town. If you must overindulge, set aside the keys. Otherwise, I see jail in your future.

Finally, there will be no end to the turmoil on Racine's streets this week. I can already hear the wail of sirens and the popping of gunpowder at night. I see smoke and people gathering in the streets. Yes, that's right, the 4th of July parade and fireworks are this Friday! That portends a great commotion in the city. I predict crowds of onlookers at both events. There will be much celebrating. And probably a little over-celebrating, too. Have fun, take a minute to think about the founding of our country, and enjoy the three day weekend.

Thank you, friends, for stopping by.

Follow The Money

A few years ago, KUSD was found to have accumulated just under $50 million in extra cash, over actual expenses and hidden from the public! A few other districts were doing the same thing. Complaints and official inquiries forced the district to create a cover story, which was, the money was for future retirement obligations! Since the cash was exposed, the district decided to invest the bundle. They made a very risky investment and now lost many millions!
The question is, if KUSD can pay all expenses and still accumulate millions and RUSD budgets very similarly, why does RUSD always claim they are broke?

When Will Racine Have A Gay Pride Parade?

Gay Pride Parades are being held worldwide this weekend.

Racine has already had rallies for "rights" for people who enter the US illegally, and marches for peace, and candlelight vigils, but no visible support for our gay and lesbian community.

Why not?

I would think that this cause would fit in perfectly with the mayor's agenda to attract artists and other bohemian types to save us from ourselves.

How can we expect to have two major art districts and a vigorous connecting corridor without a nod toward the alternative lifestyles that will help support these ventures?

Maybe if we hurry, we can tack on an addition to the 4th Fest parade. How about a float with a big, symbolic closet on it, with people coming out of it and waving to the crowd?

"Gripe about your neighbor on "

The story:

The site:

You can punch in a zip code or city name and complain about the idiots next door who let their dogs bark all day. Or find out if there are such idiots in a neighborhood that you're thinking about moving to. (The answer: yes, they're everywhere).

I typed in my zip code and found out something I wasn't aware of: there's one more sex offender living in my apartment building than I knew about; a guy I see and chat with almost every day. First degree sexual assault and he's a lifetime registrant.

Sometimes I think I don't wanna know . . .