Friday, December 31, 2010

Morning Planets and Moon

If you get a nice grouping of Venus, the Moon and Mercury, you would expect lots of people to blog about it and see it...unless it is in the pre-dawn sky in late December! I managed to get up this morning and get the camera setup.

I like the effect of bright Venus and the Moon poking through the trees. The Moon is a waning crescent but overexposed in this pic so you don't see that effet well. In order to get a better picture of the Moon, I reduced the exposure time. Of course then you don't see as many stars.

But I haven't shown you Mercury yet. There's a reason for that you can see in the next picture.

Just above the clouds you will see a star with an orange tint. That is Antares, the heart of Scorpio. Mercury is just to the lower left of other words, right behind the clouds!

Tomorrow the Moon will have moved closer to Mercury and Sunday the VERY thin crescent will be just below Mercury. Your best best to see Mercury is probably about 45 minutes before sunrise. I am hoping for clear skies here the next couple of mornings!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Open Blog - New Year's Weekend

May your New Year be filled with peace, prosperity, health and happiness.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Sunset

It was a cold day for Tucson. A big winter storm passed through leaving the mountains coated in snow and daytime temperatures only in the 40's. Late in the afternoon, I noticed the sky had started clearing and decided to try sunset pictures. I am glad I did.

There were some low clouds in the area so I wasn't quite sure what I would get. I would not see the Sun behind the mountains. Let me show you a wide view of what I was dealing with.

Under such circumstances, prospects for a green flash are usually not seem as too good. Let's zoom in at the top of the Sun.

Yep, I caught a rare cloud-top green flash. I saw it as well as captured it with a camera. Not the brightest green flash I had ever seen, but not difficult to see either. I kept shooting and got a bonus a couple of shots later.

Lookey turned blue! I did not see the blue visibly but got the picture. A cloud top blue flash!

Blue flashes are more rare since Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more than green light. The blue light is usually scattered too much to see a blue flash. You need a very clear atmosphere with very few pollutants (both natural and human caused) to get a blue flash. Sometimes a nice storm system is just the ticket to clear things out enough to get that elusive blue flash.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow up to our arses......

KK's post made me think I haven't shared any new pictures of our snow...

This is what 33+ inches of snow looks like!

We're all adults here so....

You know how Celebs and Athletes like to tell the public all the good info on how to stay healthy7 and the like, well scientists are trying to debunk the worst of them like;

"It's actually very good for a man to have unprotected sex as long as he doesn't ejaculate. Because I believe that all that semen has a lot of nutrition. A tablespoon of semen has your equivalent of steak, eggs, lemons and oranges. I am reabsorbing it into my body and it makes me go raaaaahh," he said.

Oh yeah, I'd be going "raaaaahh!" alright.;_ylt=AgDxADty4_i8ve4JuJNBPhOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNxam4xcGw5BGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTAxMjI5L3VzX3NjaWVuY2VfY2VsZWJyaXRpZXMEY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwM5BHBvcwM2BHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5faGVhZGxpbmVfbGlzdARzbGsDcXVvdHNjaWVuY2Vz

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my pretty penguins! How are you? Did you have a merry little Christmas, or a merry big one? Junior and I stayed home on Christmas Eve and had a very nice chat with Santa later on. I only get to see him once a year. Santa is just as jolly as they say he is. He is such a wonderful guy. Santa gave us each a present – nothing fancy, the recession has hit the North Pole, too. And then he was off in the twinkle of an eye. Ahem, let me admit here, if that man wasn’t happily married, I might make a play for him myself. Oh my!

Racine was graced with that holiday lake effect snowstorm, too. Aren’t we lucky? Thank you, Mother Nature, for your gifts.

And thank you, Green Bay Packers, for your stellar performance against the New York Giants. Aaron Rodgers was in especially fine form last Sunday. I’m overjoyed that he is back, although Matt Flynn proved himself a reliable quarterback, too. This coming Sunday our mighty Packers meet their archrivals, the Chicago Bears, at Lambeau Field. Go Pack, go on the attack! May you maul the Bears.

Just two more days till New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year to all of my wonderful Irregulars and to all of my other readers. Madame Zoltar bestows her blessing on each of you! May you prosper in the year to come and enjoy health and happiness. I love you all.

For New Year’s, I thought I would toss out a few predictions of things to expect in the months ahead. I have consulted my crystal ball carefully, and I am quite sure of the veracity of these forecasts:

1) iMoney. In a merger of government and private enterprise, the US Treasury will join with Apple to run our economy. After decades of difficulty with capitalism, our government will simply throw up its hands and say, “Let Steve Jobs run it. He always makes a profit.” My visions have not been very clear on how exactly iDollars and iCents will work, but I’m sure they will be very stylish.

2) Who’s Your President? Mr. OrbsCorbs noted in a recent comment that he thought electing our representatives through reality TV shows would be the logical progression of things. Guess what, Mr. OrbsCorbs? You are 100% correct. Who’s Your President?, of course, will only be broadcast every four seasons, but various local versions of the show (such as Who’s Your Mayor? or Who’s Your Governor?) will be broadcast as needed. Once again, it is a blending of government with private enterprise, this time the entertainment industry. Win-win for the networks and the electorate.

3) WWC: World Wrestling Congress. The WWC will start as a spin-off of the Who’s Your President?-type reality shows. After years of acrimonious debate and near constant gridlock, the members of the US Congress will join the WWC to fight legislative battles in the wrestling ring. All the conventional trappings and showmanship of professional wrestling will remain, only the wrestlers will change. Fans will be able to root on their favorite representatives at ringside or via TV. All the hokum and bunk of the US Congress will remain, too. Again, win-win. A cheap show for the networks to produce, and cheap entertainment for an involved citizenry.

4) Closer to home, I predict a major UFO event taking place in Racine. A large craft will be spotted hovering directly above City Hall. Its appearance will cause a sensation in the country, but the big news to Racine residents will be that Mayor John Dickert is an alien. On second thought, perhaps some people will not be so surprised.

5) Finally, I predict that you will send a message to In that message, you will ask about the future, and I will tell it to you.

Thank you for reading my blog this week, sweethearts. They say we’re getting our January thaw on New Year’s Eve. Watch out for flash floods, my dears. Fallaciloquence!

Paul Zerdin, Ventriloquist, at Comedy Rocks

I don't know why that gadget strikes me as so funny, but it does. Steve does a good job as the dummy.

Open Blog - Wednesday

Today is so big, it's trademarked.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


And no mention or credit to ya either.

A Rube Goldberg Holiday

I just found this's still the holiday season so I am posting it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zero Views

We share popular youtube videos here quite a bit. What about the other end of the spectrum? The videos that don't get many views. Let's take it even further...videos that don't get ANY views. Not from their friends, not from their families, not from their own mothers, not even from themselves!

A few weeks ago, On the Media featured a segment about Colin Fitzpatrick's site 0 Views. And he makes sure that the videos aren't ones that have just been posted that no one has seen. He makes sure they have been up a while and no one has seen them. Seems almost inconceivable with the number of searches that someone should click on everything sooner or later, but it least until the videos make his site...then they get some views.

I got to post one of the videos...a bunch of kids lip syncing the song "Having Fun Isn't Hard/When you have a library card".

Just something fascinating about the videos that no one sees!

Blizzard Videos

A couple of neat videos of the blizzard. First up, the NASA GOES 13 satellite captured great images of its formation and movement up the east coast.

Moving right along, Michael Black took a neat time lapse of the snowfall. I love the way he had to keep moving the clock and add measuring devices!

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

Any Soap Opera Fans Out There?

If so, one of my former students, Sarah Glendening just joined the cast of All My Children as Marissa. Today was here first episode. I have it on my DVR and just fast forwarded through it to catch a few of her scenes. She looks fantastic and I love seeing her do well and get roles. This is the first role I have seen her in on television where she didn't end up murdered (I saw the Law & Order: Criminal Intent and an episode of Cold Case where she was Corpse of the Week...Cold Case was really cool as she was the lead playing a hot shot female pilot in WWII).

We both did shows in local community theaters and we did a couple of shows together in our copius free time, including My Fair Lady and a revue called Broadway Rock and Roll.

So you go Sarah...I am looking forward to bigger and better things in the future!

Hey Orbs! Did you miss the Pope's speech?

Here is a letter written in response....

This is an Open Letter to Pope Benedict on behalf of all victims of child sexual abuse by catholic priests; on behalf of all catholic people, and all honorable catholic clergy; on behalf of every media outlet under the sun; and on behalf of The Holy Spirit.


Some burning questions arise from the following statement you made in your Christmas address to your cardinals on December 20th regarding how it came to pass that the house of The Holy Spirit became a haven for criminals of a sexual nature.

"In the 1970's pedophilia was theorized [by the church] as something fully in conformity with man and even with children."

Please deign to respond to this letter directly and personally and put aside all the pomp and titles and so-called 'proper channels' -- all of which belong not in the 21st century but the 12th and are unbecoming of Christ.

Exactly who held the theory that pedophilia was fully in conformity with man and with children?

Please give us their names.

Exactly when did they hold this theory?

Exactly when if ever did they cease holding the theory?.

Why was this information not given to victims?

Why was it never given to any commissions of inquiry or civil authorities?

Why in all the years since these scandals broke out was yesterday the first mention of this information?

It is highly disrespectful of the victims that you would throw this out as an aside remark and not present yourself for questioning on such a very serious piece of information which would be key in the potential recovery of the church.

The Holy Spirit requires you to familiarize yourself with honesty and respect if you retain any desire to salvage the remains of the church which has been ruined by its being allowed to live by its own laws and not God's

~ Sinéad

Open Blog - Monday

Don't be Grumpy; instead be Happy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

U3-X Personal Mobility Prototype

Oh yeah, I want one. I don't even know what I would do with it, but I want one.

This video may explain why music plays throughout the above one - they're a little noisy:

Champagne brunch in Racine.

Where? Do we even have one? If more than one, which is the best, second best, worst? I want to throw a small(?) B-day party for family and a few close friends, but darn if I know Racine anymore. I figure to make it a philanthropic party and each couple will have to give me a bag of non perishable food for the food pantry. I know I could just give a donation to the food pantry, but then I don't get a party, and I'm not feeling that philanthropic.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Santa Claus day everyone!

I just want to make sure everyone from all walks of life has a Happy whatever day today.

The Christmas Story

Best version ever.

"The Christmas Story (2010 version) - as told by the children of St Paul's Church."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

North Point's iBand

Another way to use cell phones and new technology:

"Christmas music using borrowed iPhones and iPads at North Point Community Church."

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus

Another submission:

"On Nov.13 2010 unsuspecting shoppers got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch. Over 100 participants in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob. This is a must see!

"This flash mob was organized by to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!"

Cell Block Yoga

If only they had done yoga, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart wouldn't have been on trial...

Machinema Meets Thermodynamics

It's a bit of a slow news week before the holidays (Happy Festivus today by the way) so I will just post the Flanders and Swann song The First and Second Law of Thermodynamics performed by characters from the MMORPG City of Heroes/City of Villains. Enjoy!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Irregular Football League Update

We're in the final week and two underdog teams, the KK Krunchers and The Debate Team, face off for the championship, while the Half-Astrophysicists and the Potato Heads, who must have lost their edge on the bye week, take each other on for 3rd place.

Cell Phones

Sassa got me thinking...could you live without yours? I could live without mine for a short period...I don't use it in banks, post offices, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. And I have a rule at my house that says no texting at the dinner table (only one family did I have to enforce this one! They were texting each other...duh!)

Can't we talk to each other...what is this where we can't put the darn thing away for two minutes? I don't get it!

A GIGGLE with the GOATS Jingle Bells Holiday Performance

Submitted by one of our secret admirers:

Intersection Hwy 11 & Hwy 32 Finally Reopens

They have been working on this intersection and its railroad overpass since the Mesozoic era. I drove through today and it was open for all traffic. Hooray! Now, if they will just finish work on the State Street Bridge, another kink will be taken out of my routine.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my holiday hymns and hers! How are you? Well, I guess there is little doubt about a white Christmas in Racine this year. It’s very nice and appropriate. I can tolerate temperatures in the 30’s and 20’s. It was chilly at downtown’s Winterfest last Saturday, but even an old-timer like me can take it for a half hour or so. What I worry about is the months to come. Temperatures in the single digits or below zero frighten me. That gets dangerous. I hope that Mother Nature goes easy on us in January and February.

I watched Sunday night’s Packer game with great trepidation. After messing up my prediction of who the starting quarterback would be, I started to believe the hype about the New England Patriots. By game time, I was a pessimist. But then our glorious Green Bay Packers fought with spirit and valor. They gave the Patriots more fight than they’ve encountered in quite awhile. The Packers led at the half. The game finally came down to the last few seconds. There is nothing shameful about that, especially not for a second string quarterback making his first NFL start after only a week’s preparation. I salute you, o mighty Packers! Enjoy your Christmases, and then vanquish the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

I just have to take time to once again publicly thank SC Johnson Company for their generous donation of more than $600,000 to fix and maintain the Dr. Laurel Salton Clark Memorial Fountain for children of all ages in Racine: We are truly blessed to have a company of such caliber take a philanthropic interest in our city. Thank you, again, ladies and gentlemen.

I received an email from our own Mr. Logjam late last week. Here is what he had to say:

Dearest Madame Z,

This should be the merriest time of year, but somehow I can't get motivated. I am avoiding sending out the Christmas cards fearing I would end up with blisters on my tongue like last year from licking the envelopes. I'm still trying to find a present for the Mrs. that she won't return on the 26th. I have a string of lights out on the house, decorations that I will have the ambition to June. I'm beginning to think that having to pay my property taxes this week had something to do with it, but that isn't all of it. I'm beginning to think Scrooge was right. Maybe I'm getting tired of people, stores, and TV commercials wanting my money, being afraid to say Merry Christmas; preferring to stay with the sterile "happy holidays." Besides a little heat in the eggnog, I am open for suggestions to get me into the Christmas spirit. Any suggestions or hocus pocus you could bring forth would be appreciated.

As always,

Oh my dear, dear Mr. Logjam, I can empathize with you, but Christmas definitely is a wonderful time of year if you can get in the spirit. (By the way, “heat in the eggnog” is a form of spirits.) I try to ignore the commercialization of Christmas as much as I can. If you are in the stores, though, you will be bombarded with it. I try to make my shopping expeditions into “missions” where I go in, get what I want, and get out, as quickly as possible. I don’t have much control over how others treat Christmas or how it is hyped. My antidote is to seek out situations where the holiday is treated with more respect. One simple thing is taking a leisurely drive to look at Christmas decorations at night. Mr. drewzepmeister posted a blog on this: Even just driving by the lights at the Zoo cheers me up a little.

Christmas music is another way to get into the spirit. I’m not talking about what they blare at you in the stores – I’m talking about a favorite Christmas album or two that you can listen to, or, better yet, attend a holiday concert. Often a choir singing can fill me with a sense of majesty and beauty.

Probably the most important thing you can do, though, is to help someone else. The spirit of giving is the spirit of the holiday. Presents and gifts are wonderful expressions of our love for each other, but perhaps there is some simple need in your community that you can fulfill, whether by action or donation or time and effort. Helping others seems to be what His message is all about, so what better way to celebrate His birth?

Oh my, I sure have run on this week. I hope I helped you a little with my suggestions, Mr. Logjam. The “hocus pocus” should have arrived a few days ago. I sincerely wish each and every one of my Irregulars and regulars a most Merry Christmas! May the love of the season warm your hearts all year long. Joyous Noël!

Want to know what the New Year has in store for you? Find out here:

Be careful on the slippery streets and sidewalks, my dears. Slow and easy does it. Take your time and you will get there in one piece. Peace!

Open Blog - Wednesday

Three more days till Christmas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elvis Presley - "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"

One of my favorite Christmas songs. Merry Christmas!

Lunar Eclipse Pics

I just wanted to post several pics I took of the lunar eclipse last night. High thin clouds obscured the view at times here, but got enough holes to see quite a bit. The clouds started thickening up a bit more right about the time of maximum eclipse when the Moon was deepest inside Earth's shadow.


Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Winter Solstice Eclipse and Statistics

A lot is being made of tonight's "rare" lunar eclipse that occurs on the Winter Solstice. Most news reports state there hasn't been a lunar eclipse on the solstice since 1638 to make the point that this is a rare event.

Which got me to thinking, how often would a lunar eclipse occur on any given date. Heck, I know one has not occurred on my birthday during my lifetime.

I admittedly don't know all the intricacies of calculating eclipse frequencies, so this is an exercise in estimation. Eclipses can occur any month of the year as seen from this list. Not every eclipse is total however, so let's restrict ourselves to total lunar eclipses since that is what everyone is making such a big deal about. They occur about every 18 months on average. Every 100 years there are about 67 total lunar eclipses. Let's assume for a moment (I know this is a bad assumption) that they all occur on different calendar date. It would take about 550 years (well 544, but this is an estimate so close enough) for every day of the year to have on eclipse occur on that date. In reality it will take a lot longer since many dates will have two eclipses occur on them long before the 550 years is up. So to me, the fact that this hasn't happened in 372 years just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me (although the solstice can vary couple of days adding another layer to the mix, it still seems well within statistical norms).

Now I have made some assumptions here...the most questionable of which is that eclipses are equally likely on any given day. If this assumption is bad, it could make the winter solstice eclipse a more or less rare event...would take some number crunching to find out. I found a cool catalog of 5000 years of eclipses from NASA but it's not in nice form to easily analyze the dates. However, during 5000 years, there were an average of 69.5 total solar eclipses per century, so my guess was pretty close!

So before you think this is a big deal, take ANY random date of the year and try and find when the last time an eclipse occurred on that date. I bet it won't be hard to find a date that has an interval greater than 372 years! So enjoy it, but remember, statistically speaking, it sure looks like nothing out of the ordinary.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

For You Scrooges Out There

Rémi Gaillard ( is at it again. I don't share the sentiment, but I know that some of you are muttering, "Bah, humbug."

Open Blog - Monday

Only 5 shopping days left until Christmas.

Dear Santa,

Please bring me a new gun.

The Sheriff

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Have a Very Bad Feeling About This...

It might go totally off the geek charts for most people here...

Darn, I Missedd the 'Type-In'

A "Type-In" was held at a pub in Philadelphia yesterday for fans of manual typewriters:

Personally, I was more fond of electric typewriters than manual ones. I had an old IBM Selectric office machine from the late 50's at one point. It weighed as much as a boat anchor and hummed loudly when you turned it on.

I grew up around a typewriter because my sister preceded me in school and she had one. Then I got one. I was never proficient on the keyboard - I use a method halfway between hunt-and-peck and fluent typing. After years and years of eraser pencils that tore holes in paper, and goopy whiteout that stuck to everything, and messy carbon paper that smeared and smudged, I considered it a miracle when the word processor appeared. When computers with word processing software and printers appeared later, it seemed even more miraculous. A lot of the novelty has worn off now, though, and I think nothing of it as I edit this blog before I post it.

I still have a portable electric typewriter, but I haven't looked at it in years. I guess I hang onto it for sentimental value more than anything else. It's just another relic of my prehistoric past.

Here's a couple of links from the story:

HELP needed....

Here's the scoop.

Over a week ago, hubby set up his brother with a gmail account, using my computer.... sounds innocent enough... right........

somehow it piggy backed his new account with my existing account.
When hubby tried detaching them, my account appeared to be wiped out completely.. so I began to reset it up.
When I visited my own blog - MINE, it doesn't recognize me as author, nor does it here.
After much clicking around, and having password assist and other helps emailed to me, my brother in laws account is what controls MY account... the one that I have access to my blogs.
Does ANYBODY at all have a clue how to reclaim my account without wiping out his? For now I reset the password on his before I knew it did that... so he will not be able to access his email (not that he does much anyways...)

Ready to pull out my hair, and why? Because it's too much work for him to hit the button on his own computer and turn it on... grrrr

any help would be hugely appreciated :)

The Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Every now and then you get a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. That's just the way the geometry of the Earth/Moon/Sun system works out. Lunar eclipses are a pretty and easy to observe phenomena.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and passes through Earth's shadow. Lunar eclipses only happen when there is a full Moon. A lunar eclipse won't happen every time there is a full Moon since the Moon's orbit is inclined to the plane of the solar other words, the Moon will usually pass wither above or below Earth's shadow. Every now and then, everything lines up and you get the lunar eclipse.

This eclipse is well positioned for observers in North America, but you have to stay up a bit late. The penumbral eclipse starts at 1:29am eastern time. The penumbral phase is usually not impressive as the Moon is passing through the outer part of Earth's shadow and changes very little (although I have noticed the color of the Moon change from white to a pale yellow during this phase of the eclipse). The ubmral phase starts at 1:32am EST. That's when you notice the dark part of Earth's shadow starts covering the Moon. At this point, it's obvious something is going on. Totality starts at 2:40am EST and mid-eclipse is at 3:16am EST. Totality ends at 3:53am EST and the partial phases end at 5:01am EST.

During the total phases of the eclipse, you can usually still see the Moon as a deep red or orange color. Sometimes it is fairly bright while others it almost disappears. How bright it appears depends on lots of factors including how close to the center of the shadow the Moon passes and how much particulate matter is in Earth's atmosphere. With recent volcanic eruptions, it might be a bit darker of an eclipse than usual, but there is only one way to find out!

No telescope is required to watch the eclipse. Binoculars and small telescopes provide good view. Now just have to stock up on Red Bull to stay awake (or coffee for you coffee drinkers!)

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Journal Times Up To Their Old Tricks Again

I read a story on the Journal Times site this morning about the Dino's Restaurant street camera: If you're a regular reader of Racine Uncovered, you already know about the camera. People there have had access to it for months. A few of the comments on the Journal Times story noted that fact and took the newspaper to task for not covering the "Miracle on 16th Street," the fundraiser organized by Racine Uncovered and Dino's to benefit the children of Racine.

When I returned to that Journal Times story later today, the comments referencing Racine Uncovered and/or the Miracle on 16th Street were gone. I checked Racine Uncovered, and sure enough, there is a story about it:

It brought back memories of how the JT Irregulars started in response to censorship at the Journal Times. Nothing that I saw in today's deleted comments was lewd or libelous. The Journal Times just took down the posts they didn't like. The people who did that are our city's representatives of the "Fourth Estate," our defenders of the First Amendment. How sad. They also represent Lee Enterprises, a large media conglomerate, while Racine Uncovered is run by one volunteer.

Merry Christmas, Journal Times and Lee Enterprises. May the blessings of the season somehow find your hearts.

Dear Madame Zoltar - Special Edition

Hello, my snowgentlemen and snowladies! How are you? In the comments on my blog Wednesday, Ms. DogAddicts wished for some pictures from downtown Racine's Winterfest snow sculpting contest on Monument Square this weekend. I'm always eager to please, so I set out at noon today and toured the event. It was lovely! I took pictures for Ms. DogAddicts and everyone else to enjoy. Please note, most of the sculptures were still works in progress when I photographed them. The event continues tomorrow with the finished sculptures.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift

Christmas songs we like for one reason or another

Last week I put four bags of groceries into the food bin at the grocery store. Whenever I have too much money I tend to buy food and give it to the Pantry. No other time of the year do I do it more than this time of year. My favorite song has a poignant message that I tend to embrace. I don't equate the message to Karma, but to the lightness of a persons Heart. I don't need or desire crowds of friends surrounding me, after all I'm a curmudgeonly hermit. I do try to do what I feel is right and somethings like giving make me happy. Knowing there are folks that couldn't make it without the help, eases and lightens my heart knowing I've done something positive. Please enjoy my favorite Xmas song.

They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the israelite
And I believed in father christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas you get you deserve


When we think of inertia, we think of a mass or object and the amount of force it takes to either stop it or start it in motion. Effort you might say. Inertia though takes many forms. The shortest day and longest night of the year falls on either the 21 or 22 of December depending ion the year. This is the day that gets the least amount of sunlight to the Northern latitudes. Sunlight/sun heat energy is the lowest of the year on that day.

I don't know about you, but I've always thought that when you have the least of something, it can only get better after that. Nope, in the case of Winter, Winter itself doesn't even start until the Winter Solstice occurs. This is all due to that darn pesky thing called inertia. Inertia you see can take on many forms and having winter happen after the days start getting longer is due to the cooling off cycle we have been in since mid Fall. Now that we've lost the heat we had stored in the Northern hemisphere (There are two distinctive weather patterns located on the Northern and Southern hemispheres.), it needs to build back up again. This is why it takes so long for Winter to give up it's cold embrace when our days get longer and sun energy increases from Solstice onward.

Inertia can take on many forms. From mass, to heat, to even politics and public opinion. We won't go there except to point out it was inertia in effect during the 60s, the McCarthy era, and even now. Rest assured the pendulum will eventually move the other way, but for a period we'll enter Winter or Summer (depending on your point of view). America is kind of like Wisconsin weather. If you don't like the weather, stick around. It's bound to change.

Disturbing Childen's Toys

I wouldn't believe this unless I found it on a respectable e-commerce site where you could buy it...the Playmobile Security Checkpoint.

Wrong, wrong, absolutely brimming over with wrongability!

Four for Fridays

Hello everyone! This week sure has flown rather quickly! Can you believe it's getting that much closer to Christmas? More Christmas questions this week...

1) Have you finished your Christmas shopping, yet?

2) What is your favorite Christmas treat?

3) What is your favorite Christmas song?

4) What was the most memorable Christmas for you?

Enjoy your weekend!

Open Blog - Weekend

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yogi Bear...the Director's Cut

Here is the ending that is not being shown in the theaters...

How Do You Shop?

There was an article today in the Wall Street Journal about how smartphones are changing shopping patterns. For those of you that haven't used one, phones have a variety of apps that allow you to comparison shop while you are in the store. I have a few of these programs on my phone. They can search for products you find in a store and tell you where else nearby they are available and for how much (by using your phone's GPS and an internet search) or you an take a picture of the barcode to launch the search. You can look up reviews as well to see if you are getting a good product.

I have used these apps for over a year now. At first I felt a little funny taking pics of barcodes in stores, but the more money I saved, well, I got over it. It saves me running around a lot as well. If I find what I want, I have to go to at most two stores to find the best local price (the first one and the second) or I can bookmark it and order it online later. I have even had salespeople willing to deal when they see me using the cell phone, sweetening the pot to get me to buy there similar to what they mention in the story

So do any of you use smartphones to shop? What do you think of those of us who do? Are we simply leveling the playing field with powerful corporations or being total sleazebags taking advantage of our brick and mortar retailers and using them as a free showroom for Amazon?

Be Vewy, Vewy, Quiet...I'm Hunting Pwanets!

And you can too. Another citizen science project from my friends at the Zooniverse lets you join in the hunt for planets orbiting other stars by analyzing their light curves. Planet Hunters lets you look at data from the Kepler satellite launched in 2009. Kepler is monitoring the brightness of over 150,000 stars in a small chunk of the sky near the constellation of Cygnus. Whenever a planet passes in front of the star, the star will get a little bit dimmer as some of its light is blocked. By looking at a graph of the intensity of light versus time, you can see a series of dips when planets pass in front of the star. Sounds simple right?

In principle, yes. However these dips in light are VERY small, only fractions of a percent. At this level, there is a lot of noise in the data. Computers can pick out some of the obvious candidates, but for complex light curves, even a basically trained human eye is better. Here is a sample of a light curve to analyze.

The interface asks questions to lead you through the analysis. You can see some dips but also some peaks in this one. The dips could be a planet or this could be a variable star. By identifying the dips, you start building up a pattern. If the pattern continues, follow up observations will be scheduled to determine if this is a planet or something else is going on here (even if its not a planet, I wouldn't be surprised at all if a couple of new types of variable stars are discovered in this project!)

There is a short tutorial you can go through to practice before you start looking for planets. You don't need to worry about messing up too much since they show each light curve to many people, so any mistakes should get averaged out.

What if you find a planet? Well, you don't get to name it as there are conventions for that already. However, if you register with the site they will offer to make you a co-author on the discovery paper. Then you can lord it over your friends that you got published in a science research journal!

For teachers out there, this can be used in the classroom as well. When you log in, they keep track of all the stars you classify so it is easy to see if students have done their homework. You can even go back and look at interesting stars again, so if a student finds something unusual, it is easy to show others.

This project comes with the usual discussion forums where you can discuss interesting objects with other users.

If you can read this, you can discover an extrasolar planet!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.