By now, you probably have all heard that the youtube accounts of the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Rational Response Squad have been shut down...on the same day. This reeks of creationist silencing (yet again), and I encourage you all to act. Re-post the video, write and complain.

I almost feel sorry for the people who decided to take down Randi. Randi has brought down much bigger villains than this, and now Randi has a army of loyal friends and followers who are capable, knowledgeable and are sick of this censorship shit.




P.S. I would have posted this a little sooner, but truthfully, I'm a little (read: a lot) hungover right now. I'm about as retarded as I get.




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Earth Hour part Deux

Earth Hour 2.0 was kinda fun actually. For all the potential lameness that might entailed, I'm pleased to say that my cynical "everyone-but-me-is-lame" side lost tonight, and I got to hang out with some other PAA members and a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Admittedly, there wasn't a huge difference in Peterborough. That's probably because although this city has a light-pollution problem, it pales in comparison to Toronto or Montreal. I'm sure the difference in those cities was much more stark.

I had my camera out and took some shots from the highest point in the city. the first two shots were taken before 8:30 (shutdown time), and the third was taken during "blackout".


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on Bros and hos

Remember "Headset Vince"?

Pictured: a 44 year-old man with a faux-hawk. Yes. He's 44..and that is a faux-hawk


Remember how proud we skeptics all were when we learned that he is a former Scientologist who is using the funds from Sham-wow sales to fight legal battles against the church? We all loved him! FYI, truly, the Sham-Wow is a legitimately great product. My parents got a few for Christmas (I stole one), and they work as great as the commercial tells you.

It turns out that Headset Vince has a lot in common with Grand Theft Auto.

Pictured: actual security footage of Headset Vince.

Headset Vince has been arrested for fighting with a prostitute.. To be fair, the prostitute bit his tongue and was way-crazy. On the "Fucked-up-o-meter", this is actually kinda mild. Still, this guy is such a lampooned version of himself that I can't help but chuckle at the messed-up-life-imitating-messed-up-art.

Okay....NOW he looks like he's 44.

Slap-Chop indeed...




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Earth Hour

As most of you probably know, this Saturday night at 8:30 pm is Earth Hour. Last year's was kinda cool, so this year I'll be atop Armour Hill with the Peterborough Astronomical Association. If you live in an urban or suburban area, this will be a great chance to see some stars that you might not get so many chances to see without taking a drive to the country. I highly recomend you try to find some local astronomy group in your area...odds are they'll be having a similar event.

Hopefully the clouds cooperate.





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NGSteve

I know I say it a lot, but I freaking love astro-photography. I love being a musician and all, but the gratification that comes from that takes years to develop. Astro-photography can yield impressive results very fast, often by accident. Take this:



It doesn't look like much, but there's more than immediately meets the eye. On March 22, when on one my frequent trips to the Buckhorn Observatory, I pointed my Canon Rebel w/telephoto (tracking, of course) at a semi-random part of the sky...in this case, just off the ass-end of the constellation, Leo. I was shooting what looked like an open cluster. Turns out, I was shooting the Coma Cluster, a nearby open cluster visible to the unaided eye, sitting at 250 light years away. Just off the end of THAT cluster, were a bunch of galaxies. You can see them there, or you can go to my flickr page for better directions.

Now that I know what is there, I'll be pointing my camera in that direction a lot more often.





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Stargazer Steve:

Carry on my Wayward Sun

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the column, owing to other non-Trent writing obligations. But the summer is fast approaching, and there are still some things about the Sun that I think you might like to know. The Sun has been getting a lot of attention lately, owing to global warming and talk of “solar energy”. But I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the internal and external workings of the sun, and this is one mighty blast-furnace that it’s vitally important to understand.

I took this with my Canon Rebel using a solar filter. Don't be stupid and go trying this without one.

First off, the sun is classified as a “yellow dwarf”. This nomenclature can lead to some common misunderstandings of the sun. I hear it all the time: “the sun is just some average star” or “the sun is one of the smaller stars”. Well, yes and no. The sun is in a stage of its life-cycle called the “main sequence”, which means that it will spend most of its life doing what it’s doing right now: burning the fuel that it has most of (hydrogen). When a star does this, its temperature and size slowly increase over time, but by and large, things are stable (if intense). Some stars which have gone way past their main sequence and burn heavier elements, which cause them to bloat out hotter, brighter and bigger. While it’s true that there are stars out there many thousands the diameter of the sun, 80% of the stars in our galaxy are smaller, having reverted to tiny, dead/dying versions of once mighty-suns, or stuck in the brown dwarf stage, never to grow...like Emmanuel Lewis.

Pictured: one type of brown dwarf. He can burn deuterium in his core. And then lament to his larger, whiter stars, about how the other stars make fun of him.

I mentioned that the sun is in its main sequence. All stars form the same way: a huge cloud of gas and dust slowly condenses under the gentle pull of gravity. At the center of this cloud, pressure builds up to the point that hydrogen (the lightest element) atoms will smash into each other with such ferocity as to fuse, forming the next- heavier element: helium. Stars have a massive supply of hydrogen, and spend most of their lives burning this, in their ‘main sequence’. Helium, (which is heavier) requires more pressure to fuse, and gives off more energy, causing the star to burn hotter and bigger. Since there is less helium, the star will spend less time in this phase. The cycle continues: helium fuses into lithium, into beryllium, into boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc...If the star had a sufficient supply of hydrogen at the start, it would continue to fuse until its core is solid iron. Iron can’t fuse in the core of a star, and so all that stellar pressure causes the star to explode in a supernova, unleashing more energy in a second than our star will create in its entire lifetime. In such an energetic environ, iron will continue its fusion journey, creating every single heavy element known to man. That gold on your finger? That was caused in a supernova. The copper in your blood? Supernova. As Carl Sagan said, “We are all star stuff”.

Our sun, however, will never go supernova: not enough hydrogen. It will continue to burn its hydrogen for a few more billion years, and continue to fuse until there exists a huge wad of carbon at the core, and then blow off the remaining material. In about 13-15 billion years, our sun will be an earth-sized diamond.

It is fashionable to think of the energy of the sun in terms of solar-power. What people should be saying is “photon power”, because that’s what we use in our solar-panels: photo sensitive cells that move ever-so-slightly when a photon travels from the sun, and goes “splat” on the panel. The journey that that photon took makes the “great marathon” of a single sperm look like a leisurely canoe-ride across the Otanabee. The sun creates 380 billion-billion megawatts of electricity every second...that’s more energy than has been used by every single human civilization combined...ever. When hydrogen fuses, it creates an incredible amount of energy, and with that comes lots of light (which means photons). These photons will try their best to escape the sun, but along the way, they smash into other photons, and hydrogen atoms: a zig-zag trip that can take over a million years to escape the confines of the sun in a journey that has been dubbed the “Random walk”. From there, it takes just 8 minutes to reach your face, and cause you to squint your eyes in irritation. This is what powers our solar-panels. If we were to use true solar power...that’s ka-blamo.

"When you're mining for coal and you forget what coal is"

The sun also has interesting magnetic goings-on. The earth and every magnet you’ve ever held has two poles: north and south. The sun has over 10 MILLION poles. The sun rotates at different speeds at different latitudes (called “differential rotation”), and this causes those magnetic field lines to twist and bend like a knot of super-stretchy rubber bands. This creates more stored up energy and eventually, these knots of magnetic line-knots can’t hold together, and they snap, sending powerful waves of energy and radiation (called a CME, or Coronal Mass Ejection) out to whatever poor soul happens to stand in its way. Occasionally, the Earth gets in the way, and this is precisely what happened in March 1989. A massive CME slammed into the Earth’s magnetic field, which sent energized solar particles back along the field lines, and slammed into Quebec, causing a province-wide power outage in the middle of a cold-snap...all because of a CME and poorly-insulated power-lines. This is one reason why it’s important to know what’s going on in space. When it happens again (and it will, many times), a CME could knock out our entire electrical and communications grid, or worse: knock a plane out of the sky.

These same solar-charged particles slam into our magnetic field every second, but we’re largely protected, resulting in little more than a pretty light aurora light-show near the poles. The sun is ancient, bright, hot and powerful beyond comprehension. It’s so central to all life that has ever existed on our planet, and we hardly give it a second thought.

Oh, and one more thing to clear up: you CAN look directly at the sun. Just don’t do it for a long time.





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A twotal Twat

Dear Twitter. I dislike you.

I know that I may risk alienating many of my skeptic and nerd brethren (and sistren) by my anti-Twitter stance, but I also suspect that I am not alone. I think you exemplify some of the most narcissistic values to come out of this post-modern culture we have created for ourselves. Thanks to you, it seems as though it's not enough that everyone is special...everyone is SO special that the boring shit that EVERYONE does is suddenly worth sharing.

I used to have a personal blog. Back in 2002, I would write about whatever-the-crap came to mind: wrestling, television, that breakup I was going through, or the dinner I had ("Chicken Carbonara is SOOOOO Delicious!") that night. Then I realized that everyone goes through this crap, and who the crap cares? I figured this out in 2004. Twitter, you have yet to catch on. In fact, not only do you not get it, but you celebrate "it".

MySpace was narcissistic, yes. But it was so insanely user-unfriendly so as to be unusable but for the most dedicated. Facebook utilized an interface that everyone could use, but could make more use of (have you seen some of my recent astro-photos yet?) many functions than just "this is what I'm all about".

Then you came along. You took the narccississm of MySpace, the usability of Facebook, and the attention span of the "i-generation" and made a phenomenon. Congratulations on your success. I really mean that.

But you have convinced countless millions that their boring minutiae, which happens to be exactly the same as MY boring minutiae, is a)worth reading, and more relevantly, b) worth sharing.

Now, before you chime in and call me a hypocrite be cause I have both Facebook AND a blog, let me explain the difference:

A friend put it to me well the other day. I was expressing my frustration at my sudden writer's block, when he said "I only write online the kind of thing I would like to see". That's a good rule of thumb. You, Twitter, have obviously taken a different approach. No one gives a damn about my crap that is the same as their crap, but maybe, just maybe they care about skeptic and political issues in Canada.

That's the difference: I have something to say. Something that I would read if it were written by someone else.

Twitter: kindly add more features to your program. Or cease and desist. Stop putting "Tw" in front of twevery twucking tword. Or stop being so damn cute. You're not Japanese (are you...?).

Ya twat.









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yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been back since Saturday and I haven't updated since leaving. The conference was a bust, and I bolted before it was over.

Actually, calling it a bust is a bit of a misnomer. It made me terribly, terribly sad with the state of labour studies in the academy. Coming from a working-class background, I had always butted heads with my middle and upper-class colleagues in the academy. The idea that there might be some materialist or structuralist basis behind poverty in Canada doesn't gain a lot of traction in political science these days, largely because it doesn't address issues of "identity" (post-modernism strikes again!). I was hoping that a labour conference would centre around issues of labour, organization of labour in the academy, unions, and communication with a) other areas of the academy, and b) those outside of the academy (who are, after all, subsidizing us all to study...I think they have a right to know just what the hell us smart-asses are thinking and researching about).

Instead, I was met with very high levels of abstraction that might be more suited to a philosophy conference, and a general feeling of derision towards both organization and the general public. Add to this, a culture of self-congratulatory back-patting and no real interest in debate, I intended to greedily devour all the conference-funded food and beverage I could force down in a vain attempt to prevent my intellectual soul from dying of starvation.

As a for instance, one of the more enlightening presentations was about how Canada does not have a cohesive (or existent) industrial strategy: for decades, Canada's industry has been utterly dependent on both our production of little more than raw materials (nickel, timber, wheat, oil, etc...) and American buyers. In other international markets that started out producing raw materials, they systematically phased their industry over a period of decades to make more and more complicated products (as a for instance, South Korea started out making raw materials, then produced things like textiles and construction materiel, then moved to automobile manufacturing and electronics, and now produce sophisticated electronics and telecommunications....the advantage of such a strategy is not only a more diverse buyer portfolio, but it makes an economy less vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices). Even the nickel workers in Sudbury, Ontario are questioning why we ship our nickel slag off to Norway to be put into batteries, when we can make batteries just fine, thankyouverymuch. Instead, Canada has been content to just let our industry grow as it would, letting free markets (and subsequent short-term profits) dictate how we develop (or not develop).

This also got me thinking: Canada doesn't have much of a residential strategy, letting residential development companies have free-reign over acres of contry-side to build (provided they get government subsidies, of course) whatever messed-up illogical road-plan they want in order to cram as many units together (a trip to the region in Ontario surrounding Barrie, Vaughn, and King City can show you the kind of scorched-earth, future-ghetto, hyper-suburbanism that I'm talking about here).

I thought this presentation was very enlightening, yet the presenter was told, essentially, that it doesn't go far enough: we want socialism dammit, and an industrial strategy is selling out socialism to capitalism. I call bullshit. Yes, we labour-people want socialism, but we can't afford to be recklessly idealistic about it, and it's vital that we start thinking about HOW we get to socialism, not just continue to paint pretty pictures about the socialist utopia we can all live in....one day...

After the 1st day of the conference, at the dinner, I found it to be particularly revealing. I couldn't keep track of the number of conversations I overheard that were dripping with ego. What I heard went something like this: "I liked your talk today, well done! It sort of fits in well with my research, which is all about..." and then it would be followed with 20 minutes of abstraction grounded in some Hegelian or Heideggarian dialectic with labour tossed in as a sort of afterthought to justify their presence at the conference. I had hoped to learn how the labour academics were organizing to prevent administrative and neo-liberal abuses from undercutting contract-professors and graduate students....instead I got a micro-lecture on how to interpret Heidegger's "Being and Time" in order to explain the selling of not work, but the selling of the time OF work.

sheesh.

Oh, and considering this was a labour conference, I heard Marx's name mentioned hardly at all.

The most offensive moment came when I flat-out confronted (over some beers) someone about how best to communicate our research to the general public that a)already hates the academy and b) is paying for us all to be here and be smart. This person's response was "I don't see why I should have to vulgarize my research when [the average person] wouldn't understand it anyway....and while I'm busy 'communicating' to people who are too stupid to understand what I'm doing, I could be doing real research".

I have almost entirely lost faith in the academy. No wonder the general public hates intellectuals if they behave like that. Let the whole thing collapse into a vortex of navel-gazing and echo-chambers for all I care. I now feel embarrassed to attach my name to the academy.


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Conference 2

I'll be out of town for the next couple of days, attending the New Voices in Labour Studies conference at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario (one of my favourite regions of Ontario: The Niagara Peninsula....go there if you haven't already...but the American side might leave you wanting). After the colossal circle-jerk that was the International Studies Association Annual Conference, I sincerely hope that my faith in humanity, the humanities, and the academy will be somewhat re-kindled if I'm adequately surrounded by a bunch of marxists and political economy scholars.

P.S.
Thanks to Phil Plait for linking to me the other day, and thanks to everyone who vistited. Thank you, and come again!


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This might have been the best XKCD I've seen in months. I freaking love Don Quixote, and it's nice to see it creep into internet nerd-culture.





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The blog-o-sphere...I does it slow! Dammit. Sleep in one day and I miss the kind of story that would (and did) make me loose my shit from here till friday.

Gary Goodyear, my *favourite* chiropractic accupuncturist Minister of State for Science and Technology is.....wait for it....A CREATIONIST! (well, effectively)

*sigh*

Phil Plait beat me to this, so I won't comment directly....just go read Phil's erudite response. But I will say that I feel some sick sense of justice....I took a bit of heat for bad-mouthing Goodyear, and I'd like to throw this in their face, but for the crushing sense of sadness and embarrassment I have for my country and my government.





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I write this every year, it’s a kind of self-indulgence I allow myself every march: St. Patrick’s Day is the most racist day of the year.


Every year we “celebrate” St. Patrick’s Day by drinking ourselves stupid, beginning in the middle of the afternoon, then maybe getting into a few fights. This is acceptable behavior because, we’re told, this is the one day of the year that everyone is Irish. Why is this flagrantly racist stereotype still so eagerly embraced? I believe it is because it is still widely acceptable to think the worst of the Irish, at levels unthinkable among other minority-groups.


People don’t pretend to be Mexican on Cinco De Mayo by standing in an unemployment line and selling oranges on the street-corners. On Yom Kippur people don’t wear shirts that say “kiss me, I’m Jewish” while wearing a cheap elongated nose while fake money falls out of their pockets. Black History month isn’t celebrated by enjoying an all-you-can-eat-fried-chicken buffet and starting a gang-war. And rightly so: these are all horrible racist stereotypes that reduce huge swaths of diverse peoples into the most negative imagery that is usually reserved for the old-racist-kook fraternity.


Why then, is it okay to celebrate ‘be an Irishman day’ (and lets be honest, March 17th has nothing whatsoever to do with the patron saint of Ireland) by getting drunk, making complete asses of ourselves, and be loud, obnoxious pricks? Even to the point of calling in ‘sick’ the next day, and actually getting away with it?

This friendly little guy is the emblem of Irish respect in North America. We all act like this. At least when we're not a)drinking b)fighting c)drunkenly beating our wives or d) having too many children.


I hear the rebuttals, the same every year: “It’s just an excuse to get drunk…and it’s just an excuse to have fun with my friends”. Do you really need an excuse to have fun with your friends? Of course you don’t. Do you need an excuse to drink? Maybe…but is it necessary for the Irish-drunkard stereotype to serve your loathsome late-night frivolities of licentious lewdness and lunacy?


We like to pat ourselves on the back with how progressive we have become through the delusional artifice of pluralism: the colours of Benetton have become united at last! Yet we cannot look past our beer goggles when the clock points to an excuse to drink that, as it so happens, pokes fun at the Irish. Society has (rightly) shunned people who use words like nigger, wop, chink, and kraut, but it's still okay to spend $10.00 on plastic leprechaun-wear, get drunk in the middle of the afternoon, and get kicked out of 4 bars in a night because, “Hey! On March 17th, we ALL get to be Irish for a day!” and then begin the drunken chorus of “Danny Boy”. I’m a student, but in my spare time, things bother me. St. Patrick’s Day bothers me a lot.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate some else’s Italian heritage by controlling a union and eating a spicy meat-a-ball.




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Orion, where Art thou?


Well, the Trent University Alumni are having an Art Show. Being a sucker (and part-time egotist) for showing my shots off, I entered the following pictures:


The top photo is a stack of 150 30-second exposures taken in mid-September/08, the middle photo is the Orion Nebula, taken on Feb 22, and the bottom is (obviously) the moon, waxing crescent on Feb 28.

I know it's a bit redundant and cliche, but there is tremendous beauty in nature. I see no need to construct art until I have exhausted all the art sitting patiently above my head (though I appreciate that others do construct) for us to notice.

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More astro-shots

I had a great observing night tonight, and I'm incredibly tired. But I got some of the best shots I've ever taken, including the Whirlpool Galaxy (M-51), which I've been trying to get for a while. Check out my flickr page for some of the better ones, including a surprising shot of Saturn.






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Mr. Bill

I got an alarming email in my inbox today. It was couched in the language of "grave threats to our freedom" and "act now before it's too late" kind of talk. The item in question is a proposed bill in parliament, Bill C-6. One of the lines in my email reads, "Why do bureaucrats need to bypass the Parliament and Senate approval process to create new laws? These processes are open and visible to public scrutiny. What don't they want us to see?" (font-size and bold all theirs). I'm skeptical, and the line "what don't they want us to see" reeks of conspiracy theory-thinking to me. The person who allegedly wrote this email warning was "WRITTEN BY HEALTH CANADA AGENT WHO RESIGNED ". rrrrrright.

Well, I read the bill. You can too. I hate to say it, but the alarmists might have something here. I suppose it's okay to be alarmist when something alarming is happening. This is a bill that is ostensibly introduced to provide for the government a more effective mechanism to oversee product safety in Canada. Seems good, eh? After all the bisphenol A stuff, Listeria outbreaks, lead in Chinese toys, and poisonous pet-food, it seems like not a single soul is out there looking out for the safety of the consumer. After all, we're taught from birth that our country depends on us being good little acquiescent consumers who don't think or question: just buy. What happens if what we buy starts killing us and ours? A bill like this is overdue.

However, some very tricksy little tidbits that don't seem entirely necessary or on the level have sneaked their way into this bill, and it provides the government, and any corporation which the government uses in relation, with enormous powers of search and seizure, and the disclosing of personal information.

Not everyone wants to navigate through the dry language of a proposed bill, so I can point out just a few of the suspicious passages
(emphasis mine):

In the preamble:
Whereas the Parliament of Canada recognizes
that a lack of full scientific certainty is not to be
used as a reason for postponing measures that
prevent adverse effects on human health if those
effects could be serious or irreversible;

Section 2, which outlines the definitions for the remainder of the bill, defines "government" as (among other things),
(e)a government of a foreign state or a
subdivision of a foreign state; or (f)an
international organization of states
" (
Remember that, it comes up later.)

Sections 15-16, which outlines disclosure of information
15. The Minister may disclose personal
information to a person or a government that
carries out functions relating to the protection of
human health or safety without the consent of
the individual to whom the personal information
relates if the disclosure is necessary to identify
or address a serious danger to human health or
safety.

16. "The Minister may disclose confidential
business information to a person or a government
that carries out functions relating to the
protection of human health or safety or the
environment — in relation to a consumer
product — without the consent of the person
to whose business or affairs the information
relates and without notifying that person if the
person to whom or government to which the
information may be disclosed agrees in writing
to maintain the confidentiality of the information
and to use it only for the purpose of
carrying out those functions.

Section 36, subsection (2), which deals with the regulations of externally produced material:
A regulation made under this Act may
incorporate by reference documents produced
by a person or body other than the Minister
including by
(b) an industrial or trade organization; or
(c) a government.
and subsection (4):
(4) A regulation made under this Act may
incorporate by reference documents that the
Minister produces jointly with another government
for the purpose of
harmonizing the
regulation with other laws.

That's enough bill talk for now, hopefully you're still reading.

What this means is that the government can override existing Health Canada regulations and freely pass around personal and business information to any foreign state or corporation used by a domestic or foreign state. Health Canada regulations are notoriously stringent for having pesky little things like scientific proof, proper trials and safety protocols. This bill would allow producers to rush-to Canadian markets if a foreign state (say, the United States?) says it's okay.

I don't know about you, but this frightens me.

If you don't want the Ministry of Health to hire a private company to act on its behalf, collect and distribute your personal information without your a)approval and b) knowledge, then contact your MP. If you don't want your pharmaceuticals to have the same lackadaisical standards of safety and efficacy that the United States has, contact your MP.

Canadians, our government is trying to legislate our own sovereignty away from us. The time for complacency is over.




On pictures and Venus

I like to keep showing how easy it can be to get some decent shots with some modest gear, and this is particularly neat. Venus is sinking low and fast, so get out there soon and catch it (in the dusk-hours to the west). This picture was taken with just the zoom lens, nothing else. No tracking, no telescope....just a DSLR mounted on a tripod with a regular zoom lens (in this case, zoomed @ 300mm, with a cheap-0 2x adapter). The techy-stats are: f/18, 1/40th sec. exposure, ISO-200....to the non photo-y person: don't be intimidated by those numbers...I barely understood them myself even a few months ago (hell, I'm still a little confused as to what f-stop means, other than the practical outcome that the higher the number, the darker the picture tends to be)
Just for good measure, I took some pictures through the 8", and this is one of the better ones:
I am still amazed that so little of Venus is illuminated (from our perspective), and it still manages to be incredibly bright (Remember, Venus is covered in what is basically a thick white/gray veil of dense cloud, so roughly 98% of the sunlight is reflected back into space from its white-washed coating)...I've had friends and professors ask me "What was that way-bright star last night? I didn't think stars could look like that? It was beautiful!" It's a wonderful jewel in the dusk hours right now, so grab some binoculars, a cheap-o telescope (or a good one!) and get oot and aboot there and see it. It'll re-appear in the wee-early hours of around 3:00 am in late-July/August, but that's usually an inconvenient time for most people. Except owl-people. But that's when they do most of their hunting.




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Sex education is great. Access to safe-sex education and materials is also great. If you wanted, you could go to your university's in-house doctor's office, and discreetly grab a couple of condoms without having to worry about the embarrassment of the drug store (the older the age of the cashier the more awkward it is). If you do this, take my advice: be careful which pocket you stash the condoms in. And take careful inventory of how many you take, and what else is in that pocket.

Otherwise, you might run the risk of going to the grocery store, and when paying, whipping out your wallet with such ferocity as to fling 5 condom packets all over the cashier's desk and conveyor belt as it was moving. And it's possible that although you, and the other customers saw this rubber-fireworks display, the cashier might not, and continue to move the condoms treacherously slow down the conveyor belt, only stopping when you sheepishly ask, "....ummm....could you...stop the belt....please?"

Not like that happened to me an hour ago at Price Chopper or anything.





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A Moon with a view

This is nothing special, but I posted it because I didn't use any special equipment, just my trusty Rebel XT, and a zoom lens (300 mm, with a 2x telescopic adapter), f/5.6, 1/100 exposure, ISO 100. So don't be intimidated by astro-photography: you can get some decent shots if you have even modest gear.

Also, I'm running out of moon-puns for the titles of entries that have to do with me posting moon-photos.





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Detachable Venus

Venus is one of the prettiest object to be seen, especially now. But hurry up and go see it with some binoculars or a telescope while you can, because it's fast-sinking too close to the sun. By the end of the month, it'll be gone. Right now, it's especially pretty because it's a very thin crescent. I was fortunate enough to get my scope and camera out during a brief break in the clouds, and took this:

If you miss it, it will re-appear in the eastern sky in July at around 4 am or so, but odds are it will likely be washed in morning pre-dawn light. In any case, get out there and look west after sunset!


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Halo, too

I freaking love moon-halos. I took these tonight....have a couple.
You can see Saturn, that "star" to the left of the moon, about half-way between the moon and the halo.




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Don't stop me now....

Well, it seems like the videos I posted the other day will only work some of the time, and not on macs. The lesson: don't embed facebook videos.

Rut-stuck, I still don't feel like writing much, so in keeping with my time-honored school of entertainment which sounds a bit like "show them a fucking movie, that'll keep em occupied until I can be bothered to put down my mohito and fly in from the cape", here's a video that my hetero-lifemate Compley made a few years ago in response to an entry on livejournal (remember them? Emos do), in which, under pressure to hand in a lengthy paper, I lamented that life could be so much more awesome and easy if the difficult parts of it were in montage form. I guess what I'm saying by default is that my life is the difficult part, and so, is now in a montage.









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Called it

One of my 2009 Skeptic predictions has come true.

The unemployment rate in the United States has reached 8.1%.

I called it. Ummmm.....yay?






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Hey! I used to curl here! I won a championship on this ice!

I know, big deal. But my hometown of Midland Ontario rarely gets press that doesn't involve historic buildings catching on fire. (FYI, those were two SEPARATE historic Huron sites that burned down in the same friggin town)





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I'm in a bit of a rut lately. So here's a few videos I shot to make you giggle.











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Heya, do y'all like Rainbows? Do you like music? Do you like songs that ponder destinations around rainbows?



Well, this the other song I played at that Tribute Night a while back. The crowd sounds a lot louder than I remember, but that's probably because the camera microphone was embedded in the crowd. If indeed I am wrong, and the crowd WAS that loud, then it's one more reason that I fucking hate it when people go to a music show and can't shut the fuck up.


Anyway, enjoy.




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2 Pix Shakur

Are y'all ready for some more astronomy pictures? Well, too bad...I'm posting some anyway. As usual, both pics are taken with my trusty Canon Rebel XT attached to my 8" reflector (an Orion Skywatch XT8 for you 'scope junkies)


This is of Venus, f/0, 1/100 sec exposure, ISO-100. Venus is terribly bright right now, at magnitude -3.90, despite very little of it being illuminated (for you smart asses out there who are about to point out that half of Venus is always illuminated, I'm well aware of this, so don't bother). Venus has the highest light-reflectivity (called "Albedo") of all the planets because it's covered with thick, white clouds that reflect nearly all the light back into space. If you have a pair of good binoculars or even a modest backyard scope, go out just after sunset and point your gear (not THAT gear, Mr Filthy-pants) to that bright-as-bejeezus "star" in the west...you'll probably be able to see Venus as a thin-crescent. You're running out of time though, by the end of the month Venus will be too low on the horizon and washed out by the sunlight.
This is the moon. I'll slow down for you if you're having trouble keeping up. The moon orbits Earth. This is a stitch-together of 5 shots, and here are the techy-stats: f/0, 1/50th second exposure time, ISO 400. I've always thought that the waxing-half of the moon has more interesting features to look at than the waning half, including the Pallus Somni, that of 6-sided sort-of-diamond-shaped plateau on the upper-left portion of the shot. It was this deatil that first jumped out at me the vert first time I looked through a real telescope and I've been hooked ever since.


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