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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Irregular Christmas Party RSVP's needed!!

Hi guys!
If you've noticed on our calendar at the bottom,
our Irregular's Christmas Party is coming up!
The date is Saturday, January 10th
Time is 5:00pm. It will be in town,
details and specifics will be emailed to
the ones that can come out.
Hope to see you guys soon,
(by Friday Jan. 2nd)

PS If you haven't come out to meet us yet, here is your chance-
if IS ok to be irregular even if only occasionally!!
Come on out, you're have fun!

What the *&!?

Okay, what is up with that? Racine 52 degrees, Tucson 37 (my weather station says 32). This is a freakish turn of events.

Well, that five day forecast still looks better here!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Bio-Hacker Next Door

An AP story that appeared in today's Arizona Daily Star focuses on those who play with DNA at home. We are to the point where hobbyists have the knowledge to use off the shelf equipment to start playing around at home and creating life with new genes and properties. One example is a woman who is trying to create yogurt bacteria which glow green when exposed to melamine.

I am sure most people who do this are well intentioned, but it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see the some potential nasty side effects. The law of unintended consequences could come into play quickly. The unlikely but frightening scenario is someone accidentally (or intentionally) creates an easily transmittable deadly bacteria. What if the yougurt bacteria works at its assigned task of glowing in melamine, but causes human health effects? Say someone is working on genetically modified crops and the pollen gets out in the wild, altering crops of nearby fields? The potential economic cost is huge and the person probably would have substantial liability.

This is a particularly difficult activity to regulate. Scientific journals publish enough details for skilled amateurs to recreate and advance a lot of work. These journals are readily available either through subscription or university libraries. The equipment is not expensive and easy to obtain.

This is not really my field so I am not sure how large the threat and potential benefits really are. Perhaps even more worrying, I am not sure there is anything that can really be done except educate the bio-hackers as much as we can about safety and ethics in their research.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist blog.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas in the Air

Back in '88, a family was attempting to travel back to Milwaukee on Christmas eve was stranded in O'Hare airport due to a snowstorm. They had spent their last dime on transportation and were going nowhere fast.

Just when things were at their bleakest, the mom overheard a young man on the telephone. He mentioned that he would be in Milwaukee in an hour. She desperately approached him. Grabbing him by the arm, she asked if he had found a flight to Milwaukee.

When he explained that he was taking a limo to Milwaukee, she was severley disappointed. However, Her desperation moved him. He instructed her to take her children and husband to the waiting limo. They shared an enjoyable ride from O'Hare to Milwaukwee.

Once at home, she asked for her benefactor's phone number. All she wanted was to deliver some thanks the next day. He readily supplied a number and went on his way into the night.

The next day, she called the number. An older woman's voice answered. The Milwaukee woman mentioned that she just wanted to thank "Joey" for his kindness the night before. The older woman was a little confused, but thanked the woman for her sentiment. The older woman explained: You see, we know Joey did many favors for folks when he was a pilot, but he's been dead these past ten years. We thank you for your remembrence.

The Milwaukee woman was taken aback. She said "No, he took us to Milwaukee last night, in a Limo!". The older woman was polite: "No dear, young Joey died in a plane crash 10 years ago with his wife and children. They were comimg back from vacation in Florida. The older woman then said: "Thanks so much for your sentiment" and hung up.

Be careful in you treatment of strangers, because some have entertained angels, unawares.

Christmas Cinamom Rolls

A Christmas tradition was cinnamon rolls. We would mix the dough around 10:00pm or so on Christmas eve...why such an odd time? Because we would let it rise while going to midnight Mass (Catholic household). After midnight mass is when they would go in the oven and we would have hot cinnamon rolls with maple frosting about 2:30 in the morning. Best cinnamon rolls that ever were or ever will be.

What was your odd family holiday tradition growing up?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas JTI

Very Funny Christmas Article

This is an article submitted to a 1999 Louisville Sentinel contest to find out who had the wildest Christmas dinners. It won first prize.

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of panty hose over his fireplace before Christmas. He said all he wanted was for Santa to fill them.

What they say about Santa checking the list twice must be true because every Christmas morning, although Jay's kids' stockings overflowed, his poor pantyhose hung sadly empty.

One year I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses and went in search of an inflatable love doll. They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore downtown.

If you've never been in an X-rated store, don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there an hour saying things like, 'What does this do?' 'You're kidding me!' 'Who would buy that?' Finally, I made it to the inflatable doll section.

I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane during rush hour.

Finding what I wanted was difficult. 'Love Dolls' come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry. I settled for 'Lovable Louise.' She was at the bottom of the price scale.

To call Louise a 'doll' took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve and with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life.

My sister-in-law was in on the plan and let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled the dangling pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. I went home, and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more.

We all agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. 'What the hell is that?' she asked.

My brother quickly explained, 'It's a doll.'
'Who would play with something like that?' Granny snapped.

I kept my mouth shut.

'Where are her clothes?' Granny continued.

'Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran,' Jay said, to steer her into the dining room.

But Granny was relentless. 'Why doesn't she have any teeth?'

Again, I could have answered, but why would I? It was Christmas and no one wanted to ride in the back of the ambulance saying, 'Hang on Granny, hang on!'

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me and said, ' Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?' I told him she was Jay's friend.

A few minutes later I noticed Grandpa by the mantel, talking to Louise. Not just talking, but actually flirting. It was then that we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the mantel, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants.

Granny threw down her napkin, stomped out of the room, and sat in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember.

Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh.

Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

I can't wait until next Christmas.

Merry Christmas to the JT Irregulars!

I want to personally wish the JT Irregulars a Merry Christmas! You guys and gals has made this year a pleasant one. I thank you all! Hope you guys have a great holiday and you get what you wish for!

Here's a video from one of my favorite bands, The Eagles.

Pimp My Radio Flyer

CNN is reporting that the little red Radio Flyer wagon of your childhood is getting an extreme makeover. Tricked out with the latest in modern safety features and technology.

Gone is the flat metal bottom, replaced with padded seats with 5 point safety harnesses. Foot brakes provide stopping power (no word if they are anti-lock brakes). The digital handle tracks speed, distance and temperature to keep junior from getting too hot or cold. Cup holders to make sure there is adequate hydration. An MP3 holder and built in speakers mean kids won't be bored while their parents enjoy things such as "nature".

When I was young, we would build a small ramp at the edge of a ditch and take turns pushing each other over the ramp and play Evil Knieval, inevitably crashing down well short of the other side (I didn't have good parental supervision as a child!) Wonder how this would hold up to that type of abuse!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, hello, my frosty friends! Adeste Fidelis and God Rest Ye Merry, Ladies and Gentlemen. A most Merry Christmas to each and every one of you. Ho, ho, ho!

Everyone that I know has been frazzled and frizzled by the holiday rush. But it’s a good frazzled and frizzled, no? There’s been little time for emails or my blog this week, so instead I’ve decided to present some of my competitors’ predictions for the coming New Year. If any of you think that I’m occasionally a little strange, wait till you behold some of these doozies. Let’s begin with my old friend, Robert Shapiro, who appears to have finally sobered up, somewhat. I think.

Bob shares a blog with our host, so I have to give him a plug:

Next is a take on the coming year by Lance Norris, “Boston's Only Straight Film Critic.”

Lance, if Tony Bennett passes away in the coming year, I’m holding you personally responsible.

Here’s a fellow named Chance offering to give you a personal prediction if you post a video. Someone should have offered Chance some sound editing equipment.

Later, yes, much later . . .

Finally, here is the most plodding, doddering psychic prediction that it has ever been my displeasure to witness. I still haven’t watched the entire video because it is too painfully drawn out for me to withstand. The man gives professional psychics a bad name.

Once again my childrens, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. If you’re in the Racine area, your Christmas most definitely will be white. Enjoy the love of your family and friends.

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

See you all next week. Until then, stay warm. Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

40 Years Since Apollo 8

40 years ago, Apollo 8 embarked on its famous mission and returned what has to be on anyone's short list of the greatest photos of all time.
Known as Earthrise, William Anders captured this photo of Earth slowly rising above the Moon's surface. The astronauts later said they went to study the Moon but discovered Earth.

Apollo 8 was originally supposed to be a test of the lunar module and command module in Earth orbit. The lunar module was behind schedule (surprise!) and there were rumors that the Soviets were planning a Moon mission, so NASA decided to go for a lunar orbit mission in August leaving a much shorter training period than usual. It was also the first manned launch on a Saturn V.

I believe it was the series "When We Left Earth" where they interviewed Lovell's wife. She asked someone (I forget who) from NASA what he thought the odds were of her husband coming back alive and he told her 50%. She was relieved..."I thought it would be much lower" she said. It was not seen as a sure thing to say the least.

The mission went well. They got the famous Earthrise photo. And, in a live Christmas Eve broadcast, the crew gave a truly moving reading of the first 10 verses of Genesis. I have heard it dozens of times but still sometimes tear up hearing the emotion in those voices coming over that crackly radio broadcast. Thanks to the magic of Youtube, we can all watch it again on today's 40th anniversary of that historic broadcast.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.


Where do you go to find out about foreclosure sales? The net is full of shylocks trying to cash in on a simple search. There has to be a place you can go for free information.

Holiday Shcadenfreude:

Happiness at the misfortune of others. Normally I consider myself a pretty empathetic person. However, I have my limits especially when the condition is self induced.

I took a bike ride Sunday afternoon...I intentionally rode past the mall to see all the stressed out holiday shoppers. That's one of the shcadenfreude moments. All the pressure people put on themselves to have a perfect holiday kind made me chuckle. Hey, news flash! There is no such thing as a perfect holiday! Little things will always go wrong, Aunt Gladys won't like someone's haircut, Kevin will get left Home Alone, you can't always afford the perfect gift and the turkey might be a little dry (but still pretty tasty all things considered).

My advice, relax and chill a little bit. It may not be perfect, but I bet any little imperfections will pale in comparison to your increased ability to enjoy the day...regardless of which holiday you might celebrate.

You can wish me Happy Chocolate Day tomorrow...I know many of you celebrate Christmas, so Merry Christmas to you...and I apologize for missing the first day... Happy Hannukkah

JSOnline Time Lapse Video of Recent Winter Storm

On December 19, check out the car buried by snow on the lower left. I didn't think they'd get it out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Geekiest Christmas Card Ever!

Has to come from Fermilab, celebrating the most weekly collisions ever generated by the tevatron, the large particle accelerator.

I think a tax on the oil companies is needed.

They are now exploitatively gouging the public. You may think $1.75 per gallon is a good deal, and compared to $4.00 it is. History however shows that we were paying 1.08 last time oil was this cheap. Now that the Oil Barrons are leaving office, it's time to spank the gougers hard.

Anyone else notice prices were ceap before Bush, and now that he's living? Yeah pure coincidence, but can be twisted and would be if the spin doctors wanted to make a point.

Out if date food at Piggly Wiggly

I plan to not shop at the Pig anymore. WAY too much food has best used by dates that are months old. Sad day though as it was close, convinient, and affordable. Even Aldies has fresher foods. Sentry and Pick and Save are about equal distance, but I stopped using P&S when they refused tor refund a pack of country ribs I found a broken hypo needle in. (yes the breeder must have broke it off and the meat ot sold to me.)

I also boycot walmart, so even if they have fresh food, they wont get my money. Looks like I pay to eat and shop at Sentry.

Who Let the (Sun) Dogs Out?

I just saw on Spaceweather an image of a sun dog from Grafton, Iowa.
Sundogs are one of many atmospheric phenomena caused by sunlight reflecting off of ice crystals...and there are a lot of ice crystals near Racine right now. The Weather Underground also lists clear skies. So go outside and look up. Don't look directly at the Sun...look around it. You might see Sundogs, arcs, or halos around the Sun.

The best Sun dogs I ever saw were in February of 1988 when I was driving to Fermilab with my college physics club. We left at about 3:00am and got the sunrise over the plains of Illinois with spectacular Sun dogs (and it was frakkin cold...don't think it got above 10 below zero that day!)

I will leave you with picture of a halo I took in Tucson...yes, we get some ice crystals here sometimes as well!

Have Fun with the President

A Love Song.........

Reporting from the road,,,

It's beautiful here in sunny Florida!!
Beejay, you're an AWESOME hostess!
Happy Monday all!
If you haven't caught the bus yet,
we can still beam you aboard!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This is bad.......

From the War of the Worlds to the Internet

One of my favorite shows is Radio Lab. Radio Lab, from WNYC, is a quirky science show where they explore a different topic each episode with a quirky, humorous style. They recently rebroadcast their episode looking at the radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" and you can download it for free and listen.

Some interesting notes on the show: in the original broadcast, the guy who played the reported studied the tapes of the Hindenberg broadcast to try and strike the right tone. The Mercury Theater was not popular at the time so not many people listened to the beginning of the broadcast. Lots of the people who paniced were what we would now call channel surfers. Surveys found about 1 out of 12 people listening didn't get that it was a radio play and thought it was real. They even read transcripts of the emergency calls they got...many people thought it was the Germans who were invading!

They also talk about a 1950s version in Quito, Ecquador. In Quito, they seeded the audience by getting the major newspaper to print fake stories about happenings on Mars leading up to the broadcast. On the night of the broadcast, they promoted a live radio performance by a popular singing group to ensure a large audience. Of course, they changed all the locations to be near Quito. Well, it worked. People paniced, even the military went out to find the Martians (which led more people to believe it was true!) At the end of the evening, when the hoax was revealed, pitchfork and torch wielding mob set the radio station on fire...6 people died (including the producer's girlfriend...okay, I don't know if the mob really had pitchforks, but the obviously had some type of fire).

They conclude with a telling of the Disco War of the Worlds done in Buffalo in 1978 which got the Canadian military to block bridges at the border.

So how does the connect to the internet? Well, what percentage of people still think Obama is a muslim? More than 1 out of 12! People want to believe what they hear from "credible" sources (credible in quotations since credible can be in the eye of the beholder). And it is not always easy to tell what is a credible source since some nonsense does sneak into the wire services.

Take the story about the burglar subdued by the ghost I blogged about. Sounds suspicious...could be a hoax. They even talked about that story on this week's Skeptics Guide to the Universe. They talked about various medical conditions that could have come into play or the possibility that it was all BS.

People think we are smarter, more sophisticated and less likely to fall for those hoaxes now than in 1938. Looking around the internet, I think we are probably MORE likely to fall for this nonsense as many people have become much less discerning about their sources of information.

I am already dreading all the 2012 doomsday nonsense I will have to put up with for the next few years (and I have already been interviewed by a television producer from Spain asking my opinion...don't think it will make the show based on what she wanted me to say and what I said!)

Sunday Morning Grin........

This one is for everyone who...

a) has kids
b) had kids
c) was a kid
d) knows a kid
e) is going to have kids.
I guess that means all of us!!


I was packing for my business trip and my three year old daughter was having a wonderful time playing on the bed. At one point she said, 'Daddy, look at this', and stuck out two of her fingers.

Trying to keep her entertained, I reached out and stuck her tiny fingers in my mouth and said, 'Daddy's gonna eat your fingers,'...pretending to eat them.

I went back to packing, looked up again and my daughter was standing on the bed staring at her fingers with a devastated look on her face.

I said,'What's wrong, honey?'

She replied,

‘What happened to my booger?'

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

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 . . .

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 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."

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.

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 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.

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"

A gift for someone who has everything: meat perfume.

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?


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:

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...

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!
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!
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:

The rules:

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!

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?

"Hedge fund body wants help for Madoff victims"

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

"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


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 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?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Were You On Any of These Flights?

The Zurich School of Applied Sciences has been playing with airplane flights and mapping them. The resulting animation below shows every flight in the world over 24 hours...condensed to 72 seconds.

The patterns are interesting. You can see flight frequency decrease at night...the eastbound red eye flights. Many of the international routes are also clearly visible.

Not very practical, but pretty cool I thought.

Do You Enjoy The Holidays?

I run hot and cold on this. There are aspects that I like. And there are aspects that I dread. I more or less walked away from religion as a young man. My family was small, but I married into a larger one that had strong Christmas traditions concerning family gatherings. I’m not very social, but they drank pretty heavily, so I didn’t mind as long as I could get drunk. After my marriage was kaput and I finally sobered up, the holidays were a kind of hollow time. At some point, I made a decision to “take back” Christmas and get into the spirit of it. Admittedly, it appears to be only the secular spirit, but I may be a little more spiritual than you think.

Thursday, December 11, 2008