Saturday, December 20, 2008

Countdown to the International Year of Astronomy: The Racine Connection

I have mentioned before that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy to celebrate 400 years since Galileo's Observations. Yesterday, our local NBC station aired a piece on IYA and interviewed a couple of my colleagues (I did the set design...most of the props you see came from my office and I was sitting just off camera as this was filmed). You can watch the piece here.


You see Steve Pompea talk about the Galileoscope. This is where I am going to break a little news about your local Racine connections to this project (I am not revealing any big secrets here since all names are on the web!) One of the people heavily involved in the design is Dr. Arion from Carthage College. Merit Models of Racine is the manufacturing partner in the project. The goal of the Galileoscope is to produce a low cost telescope that would show you everything Galileo saw (and to tell you the truth, the optics are better than what Galileo had to work with). That includes seeing the phases of Venus, craters on the Moon, moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. The telescope will have some tool free assembly required so you can see how it works as you assemble it (I can assemble it in under 2 miutes).

I took the prototype they show off home last week and imaged the Moon. I didn't use a tracking mount, so I just pointed it at the Moon and let the Moon drift across the field of view. You can see the results below.


And I did not use the best camera to take this video...just a cheap webcam. I will post more info as the production ramps up.

I will blog more about IYA as time goes on. Next big event is the US opening ceremony on Tuesday, January 6th the AAS meeting in Long Beach. I will be there live and you can watch the webcast of the event...I will post a link closer to the ceremony.

Music Industry Stops Suing Illegal Downloaders

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122966038836021137.html

According to the Wall Street Journal article above: "The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl."

I assume that the lawyers are still trying to collect from the dead person . . .

This is Pretty Big News, No?

I came across this article on Yahoo News this morning. This is pretty big news. This is pretty big censorship.
China blocks Internet access to New York Times


How effective is it to block websites? Every high school kid knows the "ins and outs" of accessing proxy servers. Does blocking information to an entire population even work anymore in this technical world?


There was mention of this problem during the recent Olympic Games held in China, news reporters and visitors were noticing blocks to certain websites. At that time, I thought to myself, hmmm.... are they living in a vacuum? Don't they know what our kids know?

The real intent of the proxy website was to provide open access information to people of countries who have been sheltered from the general news by their government. Along the way, Myspace, Facebook and Youtube high schoolers latched on...

Upon looking for more answers as to why the New York Times would be singled out and blocked, I came upon this older article that may shed more light on the subject.
The New York Times and China

I expect to hear more about this on the nightly news....

Friday, December 19, 2008

World's Largest Gigapixel Photo

This one is really cool. You can pan left, right, up, down and zoom. It may take a moment or two base on you connection speed.



World's Largest Gigapixel Photo

The Physics of Santa

I know we have all seen variations on this over the year...so here is mine (yes, that is me narrating). In addition to the traditional classical physics interpretation of Santa, I go into the implications of applying the theory of quantum mechanics to his journey which just might keep St. Nick from meeting his untimely end on his journey...

JSOnline Weather Webcam

"Check out our traveling road web cam as the latest snowstorm wallops southern Wisconsin."

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/35472924.html

Hubble Does it Again: Jupiter and Ganymede

The Hubble Space Telescope has again given us a spectacular video. This time it is a two hour sequence of Jupiter's largest Moon, Ganymede, disappearing behind the giant planet.

video

Jupiter rotates on its axis about once every 10 hours so you can see significant rotation during this time. Ganymede orbits the planet once every 7 days (as opposed to our Moon's 29 day period). Ganymede is also the largest moon in the solar system with a diameter of about 3200 miles, slightly larger than Mercury. Jupiter is about 88,000 miles in diameter!

That is what struck me about this movie...it gives a good sense of just how large Jupiter is. Ganymede might be considered a planet if it didn't orbit Jupiter. They are both the same distance away, so the difference in sizes is to scale (well, Ganymede it technically a LITTLE farther away, but only a small fraction of a percent...not enough to matter). Ganymede is large and bright enough that it would be visible to the naked eye...if it weren't so close to the much larger, brighter Jupiter.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicst Blog.

Duggars Do It Again

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have just had their 18th child. Wow! Have you ever watched the TV programs on their family? Diane Sawyer did several pretty interesting in-depth interviews with the family. The Learning Channel (TLC) also has an ongoing series.

That many children makes news. It didn't so much just a generation ago. My mother came from a family of 15 children. My father's mother was one of 13 children. Does your family have a history of having large families or multiple births?

All I can say is... thank goodness for birth control. I can't imagine being constantly pregnant. I've only experienced it twice, but the first one produced twins. Personally, I wouldn't rank the experience as being pleasant. The side effects are a huge pain, the total havoc it wreaks on your body, not to mention what happens 9 months later... and then, oh yeah, the next 18+ years!

Don't take me wrong, my kids are the best thing that have happened to me. But had I known in advance???? Not so sure I would have been brave enough to let it happen.

Arkansas family welcomes 18th child, a girl

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Florida news

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - A man who was hit by a stray bullet in the back of the head is back at work _ with the slug still stuck in his skull. E.T. Strickland, 74, a commercial real estate seller, said the bullet hurts, but not enough to keep him from his job. Full story>>

I thought I would beat you guys to it...the real estate brokers down here are a tough lot!

Let's Get a Space Shuttle!


NASA is planning on retiring the Shuttle in 2010 after the ISS is finished. So what to do with them? Well NASA has just put out a request for information to organizations that would be interested in acquiring a Space Shuttle or one of its main engines for display. They are focuses at museums, but other educational institutions are eligible as well...hey, isn't THIS an educational institution? Who has a big backyard?

Of course this could change with the incoming Obama administration. Some people want to see the Shuttle keep flying until our next generation of launch vehicles is ready. Even if that happens, it just gives us a couple more years to plan, right?

Maybe we could pick it up when we get to Florida!

Christmas Shopping for Teenage GIRLS

I need your help. I have two teenage girls (eeeeek) coming down for Christmas...13 and almost 16. I have arranged for them to havae their hair cut, styled and colored and a manicure as their main gift. I would, however, like to get them a little something extra, like spend about $30/each....any suggestions from the Moms out there. Remember I am the famous Aunt B, so it must be cool.

Part of the problem is I am not too happy with some of the really revealing stuff out there for young girls.....I have been to Hollisters, Aerosphate (or whatever the world that one is) and some other joint that sounds like an ice cream sundae, as well as Dillards, and Macy's, Old Navy.

I guess I must remain
Clueless in Florida.

The "Other" site stirs up the hate... again

The newspaper has been covering the story about the LGBT center that was recently approved. Now, I'm not posting this to talk about right or wrong. But as a former (and now reformed) poster there, the first thing that struck me about their coverage was the BLATANT slant. Covering the story is one thing, posting a second story specifically to name who voted against it was a horrible break in journalistic impartiality. And I can see no reason other than to stir the pot and get... what we see in the comments section.

RACINE JOURNAL TIMES - you cannot expect readers and posters to play nice when you pull this s***. This story could easily have been condensed to two lines in your original story, but you chose to make your opinion known on the front page of your website and probably your paper.

Why don't you just change the headline to read "4 Homophobes Vote to Deny Rights to Gays." I think that's the whole purpose of your story. So much for not passing judgement.

Okay, I'm done venting at the class-less newspaper in Racine. I'll fade back to obscurity now.

"The scent of seduction with a hint of flame broiled meat"


http://www.firemeetsdesire.com/


A gift for someone who has everything: meat perfume.

Stats for December

With the shenanigans happening at our former gathering "hole", and I use that term loosely... I figured it was time once again to post some of our crazy, spectacular, unbelievable data to remind us how lucky we are.

In closing up the year end data and getting the ledgers ready for our accountants ;>... I present the following information to our faithful, regular-irregulars and to the recent influx of those who have been peeking in on us from far less happy places. (yes, we see you; and yes, you are welcome here too!) Either sign up or just throw in your comments and give it a whirl. There is always room on the irregular bus, just hop on, no fare to pay, no looking back. As the Eagles said, "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Being irregular kind of gets under your skin.

On to business... Since our inception in mid July, we have amassed 56,390 page loads and we are still going strong!

10,390 of our page hits were returning visitors. This is one busy "Band O'Bloggers" Catch the subliminal message? Think of the advertising $$dollars$$ that could have generated!


18,873 of those page loads were first time visitors, landing here by chance or, in my opinion, by making a VERY good decision and typing our URL into their browser!

That gives us a total of 29,263 unique visitors, based on cookies distributed. I'm *really* glad I wasn't in charge of that baking task!

What would the stat blog be without the colorful graphs that keep our pal orbs entranced.... Let me see, which one looks the most psychedelic today? How about a 12 week summary view this time?



Ok bloggers, Now I'm putting the heat on everyone to get out there and post! As Mme. Zoltar so blithely put it, discard your flotsam and jetsam our way. We are eagerly waiting to read it and throw our own spin onto it.

Happy holidays friends!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my little snowbirds! How nice it is to visit with you again. Even in weather like this, the warmth of friendship radiates through.

Sorry to be posting so late in the day, but my last astral projection crossed paths with that weather system last night and I haven’t been the same since.

First, an email from Mr. Avenging Angel, who writes:

Dear Madame,

What are your predictions for the Irregulars in the year 2009?

Regards,
AA

Dear Mr. AA, what a thoughtful question. You are going to get something extra in your Christmas stocking this year.

I predict that the year 2009 will see the JT Irregulars reaching higher heights while also landing lower blows. If there was a Pulitzer Prize for irregularity, the JTI would win it. Scathing commentary on the local scene will combine with the best music videos online, powerful insights into the world of science, pointed references to national and international foibles, links to games and trivia, mystical online cross-country road trips, and various other assorted flotsam, jetsam and detritus. 2009 will be a banner year for the JT Irregulars. History will be made more than once in Racine, and the JTI will be in the thick of it. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because we’re in for a wild ride.

There were no other messages this week, but I realize that everyone is very busy with the holidays. In that vein, I present a video about Christmas which is very interesting. The logic is inescapable.



Thank you for stopping by this week. Don’t forget to send your questions and comments to: madamezoltar@jtirregulars.com.

Keep each other warm and be of good cheer. Merry Christmas everyone!

OK, people are nuts, or do I just attract them?? Is there some kind of repellant??

I'm having just the weirdest life at work.
Let me say, for those of you that haven't met me yet,
I'm a pretty laid back, happy person, try to be encouraging,
hate confrontation unless a serious line was crossed,
if I can help in any way, I do, been accused of being
TOO Pollyanna-ish...etc...

TODAY...
I held a large, metal ice scoop up to the nose of one of
my maintenance guys and threatened him.
OK, part of it was for the shock value and
to get
thru his head I wasn't playing.

Here is how it all began...
Keep in mind we have fun at work, I'm not an ogre!
REALLY!!
We play around and kid each other, the whole crew.

About a week ago, my foot was acting up, and I was going to be
standing still for a couple hours. I asked that maintenance guy to
bring in my bar stool from my car while he was out going thru the lot.
He offered to have me sit on his lap.
His goofy grin verified he was kidding,

and just going for my reaction.
To which I punched his arm...


Yesterday, I told him I needed him to work in an area
he usually isn't, only for an hour.

He said "I love you but I can't, I'm sick" blah blah blah,
wait, WHAT did you say??
Again, his hysterical laughter tells me he's just yanking my chain,
So since he was too sick to do what I needed him too,
he got a couple
much worse things to do,
I am manager, hear me roar!
GRRR!
I'm too nice, they are not afraid of me :(
Tho, NOBODY likes to get a list from me...(insert evil laugh here..)

TODAY... he was in an overly punchy mood.
The day was rather calm and 'normal'. I went back into our grill,
and hear him trying to tell my grill girls that WE have a thing going,
for quite a while now...
OK, you can yank my chain only so far,

and this is not something I kid about.
I yelled at him after getting my face

back into it's original shape...
and I walk away, totally thrown for a loop.

10 minutes later, I was getting ice with said big ice scoop.
He comes around the corner where I am and I put the scoop up
to his nose and tell him in a tone I rarely use,
"If you keep up this nonsense,
I will call your wife and tell her we DO have something going"

to which he disappeared faster than Houdini, not to be seen again by me.
I think I got my point across. We'll see how he behaves tomorrow :)

If I were a lizard, that would have been an AWESOME
posturing and
head bobbing show!

Am I the only one having one of THOSE weeks??

I know this was not sexual harrassment,
just his being stupid, to which he does quite well...

"Journal Times refines rules for online commenting and blogging"

The story: http://www.journaltimes.com/articles/2008/12/12/local_news/doc4942f60812532593818137.txt

The rules: http://www.journaltimes.com/about/rulesroad.php

I wonder what, if anything, will happen? I assume the hammer will come down, but will it stay down? What will the bloggers' reaction be? Stay tuned folks.

Bumped to top with updates; comments and new link added -- (kk)

Bumped again due to popularity, and the Journal Times story and comments on the LGBT Center. It will be interesting to see how they moderate this one. (Orbs)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twin Wolves

Which one are you?

This is as good as I have ever heard it explained!


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people.

He said, 'My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.'

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf wins?'

The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'


Star Wars Episode 4.5: A Very Wookie Christms

One of the most atrocious television specials of all time aired exactly once in 1978: The Star Wars Holiday Special. Starring most of the cast of Star Wars (except for Alec Guiness who wisely dodged it), this unmitigated disaster has guest stars such as Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and a special guest appearance by Jefferson Starship.

The plot is simple: Han and Chewie are trying to get back to Chewie's home for Life Day, pursued by the Empire all the way. Chewie's family is hounded by stormtroopers while trying to get the meal together and the father watching what appears to be Wookie porn and his son watches cartoons starring Bobba Fett.

In the end, everyone gets home for the holidays and Princess Leia sings the Life Day song before Chewie and Hand go back to battle to get stranded on Hoth.

I remember watching it on televsion and I was in the prime young boy target audience at the time...and I thought it sucked. With my relatively undiscerning taste at the time, I still had no idea how much it REALLY sucked! Some things are so bad they are good...this went past that and back to being bad again.

For those with strong constitutions, the entire show is available on Google video.

Another Cool Christmas Tune



The latest from U2.I Believe in Father Christmas. Enjoy!

Beejay, Florida is NUTS!

Police : Armed burglars demand man's eggbeater.

TAMPA, Fla. - It really must have been a special item. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, two men entered a man's home early Sunday and demanded his eggbeater. One suspect was holding a pistol while the other brandished a knife to the resident's neck.

Police caught the men outside the home and they are being held in Orient Road jail. One suspect also faces a charge of aggravated assault.

Police found the eggbeater in the man's left pocket.

Information from : The Tampa Tribune

OK, I get that is high cookie baking season, did this guy break his wife's prized eggbeater or what??? An armed robbery for AN EGGBEATER?? Use a whisk and be done with it, honestly!
Beejay, no wonder you like to come up and visit us!! Being irregular sure seems quite 'normal' compared to these fine Floridian specimens, yikes!

How Well Do You Know Your Geography?

There was a big bruhahaha over an obvious gaff by Sarah Palin. (Well, there were many....)

Here is a little test to knock you back a notch or two.


How many mistakes did you make? How would you fair under the scrutiny of the public eye?

I'm totally shameful.... Please don't nominate me for ANYTHING!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Burglar Subdued by Ghost

Yeah, I know it sounds like a joke, but a story out of Malaysia says a man who broke into a house was repeatedly pushed down every time he tried to flee...for three days until the owners of the house came home to a hungry, dehydrated man (no word on if the ghost allowed him to use the bathroom).

Guess I can quit paying for that security monitoring service and just put up signs, "Warning: This House Protected By Ghost".

Senatorial Qualifications

Ok, I'm sure Caroline is a nice person and is from a political family, but should she be given a Senate seat based solely on her last name? Yes, it's up to the people of New York State, but, c'mon, is she qualified, really?

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2008/12/15/report-caroline-kennedy-seek-clintons-senate-seat/

"Hedge fund body wants help for Madoff victims"

http://www.reuters.com/article/governmentFilingsNews/idUSLF6597520081215

Bernard Madoff is the hedge fund manager who was arrested last week for running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that defrauded some of the world's savviest investors. Hedge fund managers are the guys who took the worthless mortgages issued by Freddie and Fannie, repackaged them, then resold them as secure investments. They made billions of dollars in "profits" doing this. Of course, the whole thing collapsed into the smoldering heap that is currently our economy.

So now the Alternative Investment Management Association, a hedge fund trade association, is calling for "restitution" to Madoff's victims: mostly wealthy individuals, institutions, and banks. NOTE: they are not calling upon their own membership to make that restitution. I assume they expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for this fiasco, too.

Personally, I think that maybe taking someone like Madoff out into a public arena and putting a bullet into his brain would send the proper message to the rest of these weasels. Of course, we are civilized, so that won't happen. Instead, working people will be forced to pick up the tab for greedy, selfish pigs. Families struggling to make ends meet for their children will pay for these and other crimes. Inflicting economic violence upon the lowest class of performers in our economy is the "civilized" way to do it. Only in the USA can you become an envied multimillionaire by screwing thousands out of their savings, and then making thousands others pay for it.

Iraqi reporter throws shoes at Bush, becomes instant celebrity

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE4BE28Q20081215

"Zaidi shouted 'this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,' at Bush in a news conference he held with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a farewell visit to Baghdad on Sunday.

"The journalist then flung one shoe at Bush, forcing him to duck, followed by another, which sailed over Bush's head and slammed into the wall behind him. Throwing shoes at someone is the worst possible insult in the Arab world.

"Zaidi was dragged struggling and screaming from the room by security guards and could be heard shouting outside while the news conference continued after momentary mayhem."


Wtf? Where was the Secret Service while the president was ducking shoes? Maybe our troops there should be shooting shoes at the enemy instead of bullets.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

THIS IS A NO POST........

Tonight I received seven text messages...jokes. They where sooooo naughty I just couldn't bring myself to posting any.

So, this is a no post, post!

Not a hitching post, or post magazine, fence post or mail box post, or even a box of post toasties. Just a plain no post......so I won't even have to take this to the post office.

Are there anyother types of posts??

Is There a Lull in the "War on Christmas?"

They always say to open with a joke, so I present Toby Keith's "The War on Christmas" from Stephen Colbert's Christmas special.




I just have not noticed the same level of "War on Christmas" rhetoric this year as the last couple and was curious about that. I am sure the little skirmishes the O'Reilly and his fellow commentators like exploiting are still occurring, but they just aren't getting the same coverage this year.

There are a few possible explanations, but I honestly don't know which it is. I don't listen to or watch conservative talk shows, so maybe they are still railing as much as always but the MSM is not picking it up as much. Another possibility is that the economic mess and the incoming Obama administration has given them something else to complain about this year.

So what' the status? Am I just missing it or has the country moved on to different fights this year?

Fun Website

Is your birthday approaching? Just want to find out some cool information about the year you were born? Give this a whirl... You only need to give it your name and a date. Graphics are kinda cool too as the gears turn. So, maybe I'm easy.....

The year I was born:
The average wage earner made $4,650.00 per year, a loaf of bread sold for $.19, a new car sold for $2,200.00 and gas cost $.24 per gallon. One of the top songs was "The Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley. Hey, I remember some of those lyrics, yikes!

http://newsofthepast.com/

The Faint in Milwaukee



Enough carping about negative things like what the JT is doing to ban their users. It is time to act like children on our own. In Stu's Friday night absence, I give you a video to broaden your horizons. It's different from the norm... for sure.

The Faint is in Milwaukee tonight. I'm not going. I would like to, but must acquiesce that I am no longer of the age where I could slip into this crowd without getting a few looks like, "Gawd, what dork brought their mom here?" I'm sure it would be fun but definitely a different evening.

The Faint is a new-wave, dance, indie rock band, with punk tonality that originate from Nebraska. Hip punk, growing from the plains of corn land, go figure. I particularly like this song, "The Geeks Were Right", being the self proclaimed geekish babe I like to think I am....

"Egg head boys with thin white legs, they've got modified features and software brains, but that's what the girls like...when I saw the future, the geeks were right....." How can you not like those lyrics? hahahahaha