Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Bailout for Newspapers?

Connecticut lawmakers are petitioning state government to help local newspapers: 2009: The Year of the Newspaper Bailout?

Of course, some people are already pointing out the obvious: How objective will newspapers' reporting be on government matters if the government is paying their bills? Kind of like, what kind of reporting can you expect on a newspaper's largest advertisers?

What a farce.

Meanwhile, on the local front:

The Journal Sentinel Online: Lee Enterprises debt raises concerns about future

The Racine Post: Journal Times' parent reports huge loss for 2008

The Journal Times: POLICE REPORTS: Jan. 2

Friday, January 2, 2009


I am passing this on to you because it definitely works and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives. By following simple advice, you too can find inner peace.

The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.

So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Zinfandel, a bottle of Tequila, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates.

You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now.

Uncle Jay Explains: Year-end! 12-22-08

This (to me) is a scream. It should put a grin on your face!

Where DId the Wooly Mammoths Go?

A report today in the Journal Science (subscription required) argues that comet or metorite impacts may have lead to the demise of the wolly mammoth as well as early human settlers in North America. You can read a BBC article on the research here.

It's pretty widely accepted that impacts can cause mass extinctions. The most famous example is the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. We have found multiple lines of evidence that an impact caused this extinction including iridium and other unusual elements in sedimentary rocks from this time period and the impact crater off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula (I am not going to try and spell the name of the crater!)

The impact in question would have occurred about 12,900 years ago. They have found iridium in rock layers (called the Younger Dryas or YD Boundary) as well as evidence of large wildfires that can be started by large impacts. They also found nanodiamonds at various sites around North America. Nanodiamonds don't form naturally on Earth's surface, but can form in impacts (if you want go get really technical, they found both cubic diamonds and what are called n-diamonds which have unusal indicies of refraction. n-diamonds are known to occur in metorites but not form naturally on Earth's surface).

But what about the crater? One idea is that the impactor never hit the ground but instead gave rise to an air burst. This would not produce a crater. The Tunguska impact in 1908 was an airburs and leveled quite a large area of forest in Siberia.

This would be an exciting discovery if they could prove an impactor caused this extinction. The more we learn about impacts, their frequency and effects on Earth, the better prepared we will be to handle potential future events.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

911 Call

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day Dip....

Known as the Splash and Dash. Since 1990 the Splash and Dash has grown to see hundreds of Racine residents jump in Lake Michigan on January 1st. and hundreds more come down to North Beach every year to witness this bone-chilling event.

This year I went “as a witness”. Unfortunately, the waves and the ice made it too dangerous to enter the water, so they held a “dry plunge”. I watch several groups get into the spirit of the event and they where running around with just their swimsuits on! I think a few “liquid spirits” help some of these individuals get into the “spirit” of the event.

I did take a few pictures for everyone’s view pleasure. The event had a very nice turnout.

Young Astronomer's Video Contest Winners From Racine

I had to blog this...the Young Astronomer's Video Contest had a winning entry from Racine this year. Students at the Prairie School won for making a short video answering the question, "What is a Black Hole?" The contest was sponsored by Astronomy Magazine, the National Earth Science Teacher's Association and telescope maker Celestron.

Actually, the Prairie School took the top five spots. You can view all their videos here. All the videos are short (less than three minutes) and the last one ends with a fun little poke at all the 2012 end of the world nutjobs.

Congrats to Prairie on a clean sweep!

New Year's Rant

One of the most agonizing times of the year for us long time athletes is January. We get all these New Year Resolution wannabes joining us and suddenly the machines and weight benches are exceptionally crowded. Worse yet, its crowded with people who don't know what they are doing and who think sitting on a machine for 5 minutes in between sets is part of a good workout. Newbies also have no concept of allowing someone to "work in" during those five minute rests either. Rule: If you notice other people doing three or four sets during your rest break, your rest break is too long.

Fortunately, the half-life of the newbies is fairly short. Unfortunately, we get another influx of them in mid-January when the college students return (for college students New Year's Resolutions start when the semester does). Then you get the ones that sit on machines and don't let anyone else use them while talking on cell the person who has stopped running on a treadmill since they can't talk and run at the same time.

If I can make it February, most of the newbies are gone and things get back to normal. My advice...don't sign a 12 month contract...I have a pretty good idea of the odds of any given newbie making it that long!

Happy International Year of Astronomy!

Today marks the first day of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). The IYA celebrates 400 years since Galileo made his historic observations. Over 130 countries have national committees organizing events.

The US IYA has its official opening ceremony in Long Beach, California on January 6th in conjunction with the American Astronomical Society meeting. I am involved in a few projects, including the Galileoscope and Dark Skies Awareness. Since I am bloggind and may do a couple of podcasts, I will also be marginally involved in the New Media outreach efforts.

You can follow IYA events on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

I would like to point out two events that are already underway. First is the Cosmic Diary. This blog will let you get to know astronomers arond the world. They will blog about their their research as well as their lives, hobbies, families etc. The goal is to let people know what astronomers really do (I know my career is much different than I thought it would be when I was a young boy wanting to be an astronomer!)

The second is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Each day will feature a 5 - 10 minute podcast produced by a different person or group on a different topic in astronomy. These podcasts are intended for a general audience. You can subscribe via iTunes or listen streaming at the site. And if you have a little interest, you can produce your own podcast for this project! Dates are available later in the year.

There are many more events coming up throughout the year and I will blog them as they come up.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Money Shot...

I snapped this one tonight. I walked about a block to get away from my building to get a better view of the western horizon.
Click to embiggen. Look closely between the two palm trees near the center of the image. Those two guys are Mercury and Jupiter! Yep, I got the foursome tonight.

Better yet, I submitted the photo to KVOA, our local NBC affiliate, and they just used it on the local newscast! So yeah, I am feeling a little smug tonight.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicst Blog.

Time Warner Cable to Lose 19 Channels at Midnight

Most of the commenters on the Journal Times story are upset:

I would miss Comedy Central, TV Land, and some of the movies on Spike.

Welcome 2009...the Year of...

And 2009 has its share of yearly declarations as well.

The big one for me is the International Year of Astronomy. I am involved in a couple of the projects and on one of the planning committees. I am going to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach to give workshops and the U.S. opening ceremony.

On a related note, 2009 is also the Year of Science. I like 2009 already!

For the animal lovers, 2009 features the Year of the Gorilla.

And when you buy new clothes, remember that 2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers.

These are just a few of the celebrations we have to look forward to starting tomorrow!

Goodbye to 2008...the Year of...

Lots of things to say goodbye to and I am not going to try and outdo the newspaper lists, but rather, say goodbye to some things you might never have said hello to.

For example, 2008 was the United Nations International Year of the Potato. That's Indiana Spud who seems very happy with his discovery.

We also bid farewell to the Year of the Frog. Yes, Kermit was involved, but the message was a little more serious...trying to get out the word about declining amphibian populations.

And the International Year of the Reef is also coming to an end. Hope everyone had a chance to go scuba diving.

2008 was the Year of Reading in the UK, so you are participating by reading this.

And my personal favorite...2008 International Year of Sanitation. It may sound like a joke, but not so much if you live in a country without good sanitation.

I am sure there are other organizations that celebrated their own years in 2008 so feel free to add to my list of Celebrations of the Year gone by.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, peoples! A Most Joyous, Wonderful, Memorable, Prosperous, Healthy and Happy New Year to each and every one of you! May the Sun light your way through every day of the coming year, and may the Moon illuminate your backside as each night falls.

I have consulted my crystal ball and I am ready to make personal predictions for some of my fellow Irregulars. First, I’d like to say that the overall 2009 outlook for JTI bloggers and readers, with one notable exception, is good. I see us learning from our mistakes and taking comfort with others when we hurt. I see us helping others. I see us growing as individuals and as members of the human race. I see us becoming more irreverent, more irregular, and more irresistible.

[The exception, of course, is that arrogant, mean-spirited, little man who infects this site. His year will be as hellish and dark as his soul. Enjoy, OC.]

For the delectable Ms. kkdither, I predict an encounter with a mysterious, tall, dark stranger in 2009. He will turn out to be from the IRS. Tee-hee. I’m sorry, I jest. What I really see for her is some peace in 2009, some room to breathe, as it were. Just don’t inhale too deeply – Racine is out of EPA compliance.

I predict a stellar year for Lizardmom, including recognition and reward at work and at home. I see that she will continue to master projects in and outside the home. I suspect that she might even reward the author of this blog with some delicious treats at the upcoming 1st Annual JTI Christmas Party.

My crystal ball told me that SER will win big in the lottery in 2009. It also told me that he will give most of it away, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Then he will get that visit from the tall, dark IRS agent.

AvengingAngel will also win in the lottery next year. He will lose his winnings in the schizophrenic stock market and on sports bets. However, he will have a hell of a good time doing it.

I see that while he recovers from his recent surgery, it will be discovered that Mr. logjam inadvertently received an elbow joint in place of his knee. This strange situation will lead to his becoming professional baseball’s first pitcher to throw with his leg. While the odd delivery method throws most of his opponents off of their game, it is eventually ruled that the “foot-ball,” as logjam’s pitch becomes known, is illegal.

In early 2009, I predict that Robert Plant will change his mind about a Led Zepplin reunion tour, which will kick off in midyear. Mr. drewzepmeister will enter a contest for tickets to one of their shows in Chicago. He will win the grand prize of dinner with the band, front row seats and backstage passes to all three of their Chicago shows, plus a weekend’s stay at the same hotel as the band in adjoining rooms with access to all private press and party events. Don’t forget your earplugs, Mr. drew.

Mr. hale-bopp will continue to find professional and personal success in the coming year. He will ascribe this to his native intelligence coupled with hard work and his charming personality. I will continue to let him believe that.

Beejay, perhaps the biggest-hearted Irregular, will have a relatively reptile-free year in 2009. Her optimism and work with others will nourish her flowering as a person.

I predict that Huck Finn will enjoy watching the new administration establish itself.

Cyndi and ABBY, the party animals of the JTI, will take part time jobs as go-go girls at a newly opened bowling alley-discothèque in downtown Racine. The establishment will be called “Gutterz.”

My crystal ball shows that RWWackostu will win his first election in 2009, starting him off on a political career that ultimately will culminate at the White House, with his appointment to a newly created cabinet post, Secretary of Music Videos.

DogAddicts will heal in the next year and continue to find love with family, friends, and pets.

Mary, homemomof2, Why Not?, fungi, and all the others will be blessed in ways small and large in 2009. Happy New Year to you all!

Don’t forget to send your questions and comments to me at:

Mew, mew, my kittens. Adieu.

P.S. Behave tonight!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where does women's money go....

China is Building the World's Largest Radio Telescope

For about 45 years, the 1000 foot diameter radio telescope at Arecibo has been the largest in the world (also known as that radio telescope they used in Goldeneye). Now China has something bigger planned.

They call if FAST (Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope...I wonder how that translates?) and is is being built by the National Astronomical Observatories. It will have a similar design, built into a natural depression. It's collecting area will be about 2.5 times that of Arecibo. The telescope will not be able to move. By moving the receiver, they can observe anything within 40 degrees of vertical.

The telescope will observe in frequencies from 70Mhz (a little below the FM band) up to 3gigaherz (a little above our typical microwave oven's 2.4Ghz).

As the Chinese embark on this project, Arecibo is fighting for survival. It must find more external funding sources to survive due to National Science Foundation budget cuts. It is still a great facility and can do cutting edge research with proper instrumentation.

China has already taken the lead over the U.S. in manufacturing...I shudder to think what will happen if they take over the lead in science research. You might think who cares if they take over the lead in astronomy, but they have their eyes on other scientific fields as well so we had better get our act together.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicst Blog.

Happy New Year!

Have you made any resolutions for the coming year?

I think this past year has seen me through a very difficult time in my life. I have found out that I am worthy in my own right; that I am a strong woman and very capable.

I have started doing volunteer work at our local library in a bookstore that is stocked with donated books from people in our area.

I have also had a couple of men ask me out...the latest was a street-corner minister. He owns a farm in the Everglades...that sent up red flags, let me tell you! Think the phyton that tried to eat the alligator. Maybe I read too many of those scary books! And, NO, I am not going out with him. I'm sure he has an alligator as a house pet.

I will also be starting to tutor in the adult literacy program in both proper language usage and math. This should be very interesting. I only have one student, so it is one person's life I'm about to turn upside down either for the good or not so good. Thank goodness it's only one! I have spoken to the student, who reads at a third grade level and has no math skills. She wants to be an LPN or Phlebotomist (is that spelled right???)...Guess she could have said brain surgeon next, oops, that would a neurologist!

For the coming year, I resolve:

To be a better person than I was this year. Play nice and fight fair. (No, not Ken Fair!)

To continue to let my heart heal; I think I'm doing well in that department, finally. Sort of.

To continue to not act my age (that's a good thing, I think?)

To continue to let people think I can dance (NOT). Right up there with not acting my age.

To learn more about football. The only thing I am sure about is a touchdown and a field goal. I do know what colors the Packers uniform is..honest...

To try to avoid being run over by one of these elderly folks in their motorized wheelchairs. My leg is still bruised. The nerve of that man, no back-up alarm on his little trolley. Almost had me in his lap.

And to find a way to fix the economy as well as the world hunger issues. Oh wait, I think SER said he would do the economy for me and Liz probably has some great plan for the world food problem. You know how effective she is in that area.

But all-in-all, I think I will just end up being Beejay who loves to talk and joke and have fun. Remember, there is humor to be found in almost any situation.

I want to hear some outrageous New Year Resolutions from you guys. Oh, SER, we know what you will be doing...get that calculator out NOW. My stocks need help.

To each of you I wish only the best of the best for 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hypnotize Yourself

Relax. Relax. Relax. You will send all of your financial information to Relax. Relax. Relax. . . .

Thought JT Couldn't Get Any Worse....

Thought the JT blogs couldn't get any worse... Think again. I just took a recent browse at the old site and was shocked to find commercialized blogs on the site! It seems that advertisers are paying to post blogs up now. I realize that the Lee Enterprises stock is only about $.50 cents a share now,but this is plainly ridiculous. That site is basically a ghost town now. Glad I'm here!!!

Another Chance at the Threesome...

Not THAT kind of threesome Orbs. I am talking about the Moon, Venus and Jupiter. They are not nearly as close now. Jupiter is much lower in the sky and you probably need to get out fairly quickly after Sunset to catch it. I did that tonight. Jupiter is below and slightly to the right of the Moon, barely above the building. Venus and the Moon should be obvious.

The Moon is going to be closer to Venus tomorrow night and closest on December 31st (the forecast for Racine is not good for tomorrow night but potentially good for the 31st.) You can really see the movement of the planets relative to each other compared to the conjunction in early December.

I took these pictures a few minutes ago. I turned around and looked east and saw Orion rising above the Rincon mountains and couldn't resist trying my hand at that shot.

You can see some prickly pear cactus in the foreground and the familiar outline of Orion, including his sword. You can see some coloration on the left mountain peak...that is snow if you can believe that. Actually, you dont' have to believe can see. Here is a picture of
the mountain taken a couple of days ago.
Not quite the same zoom settings, but you can see the cactus and the mountain.

Wisconsin's Most Absurd News for 2008

From the Journal Sentinel Online:

Beejay, it includes one for you:

"But that surprise paled when compared with one in Beloit when a landlord checked a vacated home and found someone left behind a pet with a disconcerting rattle - a baby western diamondback rattlesnake.

"The Rock County Humane Society removed the snake, then tried to figure out what to do with it, after making sure there was some anti-venom serum on hand.

"'We thought maybe it was a python, or something else, because no one has rattlesnakes,' said James Hurley of the humane society."

If 2008 is dragging on for you, here's why

Make sure you enjoy that extra second.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Obama bristles as the bubble closes in on him"

"The media glare, the constant security appendage and the sheer production that has become a morning jog or a hankering for an ice cream cone – it’s been closing in on Barack Obama for some time.

"Now the president-elect appears increasingly conscious of the confines of his new position, bristling at the routine demands of press coverage and beginning to chafe at boundaries that are only going to get smaller."

I understand the need for security around the president or president-elect, but does he need to be followed around full time by a cortege of reporters? The story above notes that Obama ordered a tuna melt sandwich on 12 grain bread as reporters hurriedly scribbled down his every action. Do we really need to know what he is eating, right down to the type of bread? More importantly, what does such prying do to those who are constantly spied upon? Our leaders are further and further insulated from the realities of our day-to-day life by the people who are supposed to be keeping the public informed, but in reality they are looking for the slightest scrap of dirt, any possible misstep, or other unfortunate incident to trumpet to the world as news. These are the same yahoos who immediately stick a camera and microphone in the face of survivors of a tragedy, or swarm like locust to feed on suffering anywhere in the world. As they point to the wrongdoing of others like kindergarten snitches, they never once look at themselves or the immeasurable harm that they inflict upon others in their quest to manufacture news. To me, today's journalists are about the same as the politicians themselves: just another group of liars and self-serving obstructionists that we the people have to wade through in our pursuit of the truth.