Friday, September 30, 2005

red sox tie with yankees

what a great game. as espn said: what a great job by mike timlin.

2 games remaining.

cleveland still playing in the 11th inning. come on cleveland.

everyone in baseball who isn't a yankees fan is willing you to win this game.

new dodge charger ad

question: what's the difference between smug and stupid?

answer: nothing

chevron's newspaper ad

i like the full-page ad in the new york times: slow down. save gas
then followed by: how else can you help?

er, what exactly has the oil industry done to promote fuel efficiency? why haven't they been lobbying for smaller, lighter, more environmentally-friendly passenger vehicles?

i suggest we begin by weaning this guzzling, overweight, infant of a nation from the greedy oil industry's teat.

spot the twat

today's new york times front page:

3 Truck Bombs Kill at Least 62 in Iraqi Town

"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of casualties and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," Bush said. "We will help the Iraqi people establish a peaceful and democratic country in the heart of the Middle East."

november 19th, 2003

sure, dude. um, if you could let the iraqi people know when this miracle is going to happen, i'm sure they'd appreciate it.

spruce knob

nutty & rebecca are leaving light-polluted washington, d.c. and taking "uhuru",(our telescope) to spruce knob, in west virginia for the weekend.

poor old daisy's been up the last two nights working on her thesis, so i expect her to crash within twenty minutes of the skies darkening.

you can see the dust lanes of the milky way (our home galaxy) before it gets really dark at this place. incredible.


just got in from dj'ing at gazuza.

i had one guy who came up to me and asked me to play something from jay z. i said "you've got to be kidding me. why is it so important for me to play something you know?" his response was to buy me a red stripe. fair enough.

rada came out. big points to rada.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

save gas!

america's three best-selling vehicles are pickups,

the ford f-150 has been the best-selling vehicle for the past 22 years.

smallest model base curb weight: 4,788lbs
fuel consumption:16-18mpg
hummer h2
weight:6400 lbs (dry)
fuel economy:10 mpg

europe's best selling vehicle: vw golf
weight:2,771 lbs
fuel economy: 24-31mpg

smart car
weight: 1,588 lbs
fuel economy:60 mpg



the 'fittest friend of nutty award' goes to russ langley

manassas - the darker side of hell

everything was looking very promising for our first trip out to crockett park, in fauquier county, with chris from the washingtonian magazine, to get some first-hand observing experience with us for a piece he's writing about amateur astronomy in the dc metro area.

we were running a bit late and doing a lot of stuff at the last minute that we ought to have taken care of earlier, such as getting gas, going to hudson trail outfitters for handwarmers to keep dew from forming on the finderscope, etc.

we got back to dc just before 4pm. chris was waiting for us in the lobby of our apartment building. rebecca made a flask of coffee and we hurriedly took all the gear downstairs. chris and myself staged everything outside the entrance while rebecca went and got the car. ten minutes later we were all packed up and heading out. a quick stop-off at starbucks for coffee, water and a juice, and we on the road by around a quarter to five..

traffic was worse than expected. a curiously high number of state police stopping traffic didn't help. we had directions to the observing site, and the weather looked extremely promising. we chatted with chris as he sat in the rear. i asked him if he had ever been in a situation in which he thought he was with some wackos. he replied "yes. you guys"....

rebecca saw a sign to take an hov lane. that was the beginning of the ordeal. the hov lane turned out to be a clever ploy to drive past walmart very slowly a few times from different directions, as we tried to get back onto route 66. ten minutes later, we were lost and had no idea where 66was, but eventually after taking a lot of left turns, we hit route 28 to take us to manassas. signs that boasted $1.00 sushi didn't do much to help us feel any better about where we were. manassas is a big, big place. it has to be. there are about 450 signs telling you you are in manassas, even when you're doing everything possible trying to leave. i had a panicked vision of being stopped by the police, like some twilight zone scene.. "sir, you're not trying to leave manassas, are you...?

two hours later... we finally get to crockett park. everything was looking much better. we parked up next to the observing area and quickly unpacked the telescope along with all the other stuff necessary for standing in a field for a few hours. i set the tripod up and asked rebecca for the blue dj bag, that i knew i'd put the spirit level in, something very helpful when setting up the telescope. she replied that she couldn't see a blue bag. i came over to the car, and sure enough, no blue bag. disaster! the blue bag contained not only the spirit level, but the eyepieces, filters, the diagonal,... in other words, we would be unable to use the telescope at all! i walked across the parking lot to have a look at a few cows. two very young calfs along with their mums softened the blow of being so stupid as to forget something so vital. when you observe, there are a lot of bags. never, ever, rush...i'm quite sure that most observers have felt this sinking, horrible feeling. i was also quite sure that most didn't have a writer form a magazine with them at the time.....

i looked up at the sky. an absolutely textbook perfect evening weather-wise for observing was cruelly mocking me. i then looked down at the ground, knowing my fate. in our haste to leave dc, we had left behind the one vital bag necessary. i was pretty sure we had left it in the lobby. there was nothing else for it, but to put our stuff back in the car and head home. we offered to treat chris to a curry for his trouble. on the way home, rebecca and i were eating some celery sticks. even they didn't taste right. very bitter. i'm sure the driver of the car behind increased his distance from us as he saw me hurl the remaing celery out of my passenger side window into the environment for the critters to eat.

luckily, we managed to avoid manassas completely on the return journey. i don't think any of us would have been able to take any more of that place. we got back in a little less than 45 mins and unloaded the car. sure enough, the blue bag had been put behind the front desk,along with my star atlas....

we chucked everything off and opened a red stripe and recounted our nightmare, vowing to have another go soon. i switched on the tv to check on the baseball. just in time to see the orioles pitcher, bruce chen give up a grand slam home run to gary sheffield of the new york yankees.

with that added doom, we all set off on foot for the taj mahal, on connecticut ave. as expected, six people were dining in ethereal silence, as we took our table. for dining room, think of a scene from the hotel in the film 'the shining', but in pink.

we ordered our food. we were suspiciously wary of the chinese girl getting our order correct. and we were not disappointed. they brought out two wrong dishes. nothing for it, but to order another round of kingfisher beer for the three of us. eventually, we received the correct dishes and ate our fill. upon leaving, we all agreed to have another bash after this upcoming weekend, where rebecca and myself are heading to spruce knob in west virginia (eyepieces included).

rebecca and i walked back to the apartment, having said goodnight to chris - can't wait to read the final article :( we walked into our place and put the game back on. the orioles had somehow managed to put some runs (a lot of runs) on the board. the final score was 17-9.

the great victory was somehow not the celebration it should have been. a nine game losing streak accompanied by red sox and cleveland losses meant everything remained the same at the top of the american league east.

Monday, September 26, 2005

creation design

not done with having my attack on the 'intelligent design' would-have-you's, i found a link to - if they weren't trying to brainwash kids with this nonsense, i'd be laughing.

um, as for all these scientists that the discovery institute are so fond of wheeling out as support for their ideas (not theories), my girlfriend, who is finishing up her phd (in ecological engineering) made a very good point. not one of them has ever been published in a review publication! you'ld think that after all these years and so many scientists, they would be able to muster a few important published articles in recognised scientific journals. if they want to be taken seriously, they'll have to do what every other grad student has to do: get their phd and get published in the journals that the scientific community relies upon.

think about that. all those scientists who are seeking to prove their ideas about intelligent design, cannot get their work published in a professional journal. or, as the intelligent design site says:

Over 400 Scientists Convinced by New Scientific Evidence That Darwinian Evolution is Deficient

perhaps these 400 scientists can get together to answer some questions i have:

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made".

- um; why exactly does god need to rest?

what did he do on that day off?

er, what has he done since then?

why are there no dinosaurs in the bible?

what about all the humans that lived b.c.? specifically, mary and joseph's ancestors. that seems a bit harsh to exclude them!

"And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul".

i thought we were all formed from the enrichment of the stellar medium, i.e. the heavy elements that can ONLY be formed from stars undergoing their violent death throes. oxygen included. no mention of anything dying in genesis.

why is there no mention of a molten earth? water?, yes. earth? yes. hm; if the earth wasn't molten, how come there's a huge solid core of iron at the centre of the earth (surrounded by a liquid outer core of iron).

no liquid molten iron, no magnetic field. no magnetic field, no protection from the cosmic rays. no protection from the cosmic rays... it's not looking good.

blah, blah, blah..

dover, pa & intelligent design

a school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.

let's just stop right there.

intelligent design is a theory? that's news to me!
(a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena) "theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses"; "true in fact and theory"

at best, intelligent design is an oxymoronic term, nothing more than a collection of ideas. whatever it is, it's not a theory.

students are "forced" to learn that the earth is a globe, orbits the sun, and is billions of years old, because those are the facts. the age of the earth and the solar system is about 4.5 billion years old, obtained by various independent dating methods, and this is unassailable - whether you like it or not.

i am reminded of:

"..another minority, conscious of the assault that science seems to make upon their cherished beliefs, seek actively to disprove scientific results that annoy or enrage them. they do so, however, quite outside the sceptical framework of science, as you can easily establish by asking one of them, "what evidence would convince you that you are wrong?"

- origins. neil degrasse tyson and donald goldsmith
(an excellent read for any open-minded homo sapien)

light pollution :(

if you live in the city, when you go outside on a clear night and look up at the sky, this is why you don't see much......

two thirds of the world's population never see a truly dark starry sky from where they live because light pollution from human activity obscures the view.

in western europe and the continental united states, that figure rises to 99%.....

Sunday, September 25, 2005

segway fest in washington, d.c.

it's cool to have a segway....

how cool, only this guy knows.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

rita coverage and the stop the war protest

nothing like the very threat of political suicide to make officials and government, and the president suddenly look competent (alright; i take the bush looking competent comment back).

he really is the worst public speaker i've ever heard.

i hope the independent commission considers very carefully at what we all saw on tv in comparing responses to hurricanes katrina and rita.

it might be pushing it to hope for just 1% of rita's tv coverage for the stop the war rally and concert here in d.c today.

doesn't it strike everyone as being very disconcerting that you never get to see any dead bodies on american tv news? as sad and as bad as those images be, they represent the ultimate reality for those unfortunates and unlucky ones.

scenes of death and destruction in war are very disturbing. you know what; show them! the public deserves the truth. you think that when a suicide bomb goes off in bahgdad, iraqi tv news doesn't show any dead iraqi bodies? i would imagine the viewers in iraq are intimately more connected to the stark realities of the war being waged in their country. one being waged by a president who will not allow any images of dead american soldiers to be seen on any of the american news networks...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

democracy for the blind

"look at those iraqi voters!

"Who could have possibly envisioned an erection — an election in Iraq at this point in history?" —George W. Bush, at the white House, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

senate of the apes

Senate of the apes

Since the NRA and the Bush administration is so gung-ho about gun rights and the nation’s Congress chose not to renew the 10-year ban on so-called assault weapons, and apparently gun sales have alarmingly sky-rocketed after what happened in New Orleans...i take you back to:

September, 2004.

"The expiration Monday of a 10-year federal ban on assault weapons means firearms like AK-47s, Uzis and TEC-9s can now be legally bought - a development that has critics upset and gun owners pleased. The 1994 ban, signed by President Clinton, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it, which it did not.

Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Well I have a proposition, Mr. Heston and the members of congress that were successful in allowing the 10-year ban on so-called assault weapons to lapse and not be renewed:

I challenge those individuals to enter congress in full view of live television news cameras, carrying an assortment of 50 (each fully-loaded and with safety catches set to off), hand guns, shotguns, and assault-type weapons (one for each state seems reasonable), place them on the floor of the Senate and deliver a speech on live TV to the nation as to why these weapons should not be banned. The speaker of the House will then ask you to remain standing in your positions.

Then, Michael Moore will walk in, accompanied by 50 chimpanzees, all wearing bullet-proof protective gear from head to toe (The FBI will have conducted background checks to make sure that no chimps guilty of any felony crimes be admitted onto the Senate floor).

The chimpanzees will then be allowed to play freely with the firearms for the next ten minutes. How's that’s for reality TV?

"Guns don’t kill people; People kill people". are you guys absolutely sure about that......?

blogger help

i want to make this blog look a little more visually interesting by changing some of the backgrounds and having a few images instead of the boring solid colours. i see a lot of blogs that do this.

since i don't know html, does anyone know how i can go about changing my template to accomplish this without me resorting to learning a bit of html? had a look in the help section, but couldn't easily find what i was looking for.

many thanks

ichiro & brunell

my favourite baseball player is ichiro, but how about the redskins tonight, eh? i mean come on! dallas at home, by one point.... mark brunell, santana moss? 9 one get any sweeter, they'd have to arrange some very hot girls to dance provocatively right in front of me.

you know what; i still wouldn't sell out my mates.......nothing beats watching a victory with your every beer-loving englishman knows.

i don't know where you were tonight, but if you're a washington redskins fan; all i can say is 'yes!'

Monday, September 19, 2005

monday night football - katrina night - america!

i don't know about you, but i'm getting a bit fed up with the bush administration keep chucking out the line about how generous the american people are.

don't get me wrong, but why, when they had the chance, did these same generous american people, re-elect a government that's done everything possible to make sure that it is not the one footing the bill, and taking care of its poorest and neediest citizens directly, instead of passing the buck and relying on charities. that's great. just what is the role of government in america? how !@#$%^&! bad does it have to get?

something, somewhere, just doesn't add up.

i mean; if americans are really that generous, why don't we have an elected government that collects taxes with fiscal responsibility, and actually take care of all its people and not just the ones with money? i'll tell you the reason; the voting majority voted against that. um; that doesn't strike me as being particularly generous.... anyway you slice it; bush will go down as the worst president in american history, and everyone who voted for him bears responsibilty.

all the outraged republicans reading at this post can easily prove me wrong at the next election. let's see you vote with your wallet as well as your heart. anything less than a landslide win by the democrats will sadly prove me right (that's if they can actually get their act together...).

here's my challenge to america: prove me wrong!


this may look like two points of light.

that's because they are.

but it's also my first ever image of a star (actually the double star, alberio) i captured last night from our 5th floor apartment window, smack in the middle of light-polluted washington, d.c.

alberio lies some 380 light years away. that's 2280 trillion miles away!

travelling at a nice leisurely 100mph, it would take 15,600,000,000 years to get there.....

i'm not saying how long it took me to get this image.......

at the head of the constellation cygnus is the famous star, alberio. considered the most beautiful double star in the sky

Saturday, September 17, 2005

the worst movie ever made

just when you think that the film 'armageddon', with bruce willis, can't get any worse, it does. and continues to do so, ad nauseum, to the very end.
- which is two hours too late.

this has to be the most arrogant piece of crap ever put onto 35mm film.

letter to the democratic party

i just sent this e-mail letter to the democratic party after reading that bush will not increase taxes to pay for the cost of rebuilding new orleans. i bet the poor can't wait for those budget cuts.....

you will never have a better opportunity to defeat the republicans than the one that has now been presented to you on a plate by that irresponsible idiot living a few blocks from where i live.

get yourselves organised and find a true leader. you don't need a nice
guy, you need a pit bull. stop trying to please everyone and stand up
for what you truly believe. the country is waiting for you to do just that.

if you can't win the next presidential election by a landslide, i suggest
you give up and disband your political party, and let another form. one
that really does speak for the masses.

i don't think for one minute that this e-mail will be passed to anyone
in a position of authority in your party. how about you prove me wrong
and send me a non-automated response?

i'm posting this to my blog, so every democrat that happens to stumble
upon my thoughts reads this.

this is what you see after you post a message to the democratic party:

Thank You

Thank you for contacting the DNC. We'll forward your comments to the
appropriate person.

we'll see....we'll also see just who is deemed appropriate by the response
i get. i'll post the reply as soon as i get it.

when home plate umpires go mad

i'm no new york yankees fan, but you have to wonder what home plate umpire fieldin culbreth was on when he tossed randy johnson from tonight's game against toronto.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

, bush, f.e.m.a and this evening

president bush is to address the nation tonight at 9pm.

this is what i want to hear answers to:

1. why wasn't michael brown fired instead of being allowed to resign.

2.why did president bush say that everyone was doing 'a heck of a job'? is he mad?

3. is president bush going to appoint an independent commission on what went wrong, and why?

4. will he publicly admit that his administration's funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect new orleans from hurricane katrina's floodwaters.

5. why was he the last person to know what was going on? perhaps because he refuses to read the newspapers and watch the news on television. he had to have his advisors tell him.

6. what does his administration plan to do in order to tackle the problem of poverty, especially in the light of new orlean's poorest ctizens who had no means of evacuation, and were so miserably failed by their commander in chief, fema, their governor, and mayor. just who was doing a 'heck of a good job'?

7. and on the seventh question, i rested.


from the new york times front page:

president's job approval ratings hit a low

'....41 percent of respondents approved of mr. bush's performance in office...'

the times omitted to mention that those 41% were also recommended for immediate psychiatric evaluation, and admitted that the only way they would not approve of mr. bush's performance was if he raised their taxes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


just throwing this out, as i don't know the answer. i don't know why i even thought of it, but:

for every other part, or limb of the human body, you have the singular, then the plural. for instance:

one eye; two eyes.
one arm; two, or both arms.
a shoulder; two, or both shoulders.
one elbow; two elbows. etc.
one leg; two legs.
one ankle, two, or both ankles.

but why, when it comes to the foot, do you have one foot and two feet?
i'm using foots from now on to describe two feet until i find out.

anyone know the answer to this, or can give another example of the human body?

i'm off to five, now to see ltj bukem. see ya :)


just went to the gym. decided to weigh myself after. 208lbs. oh dear.....

target 200lbs by sept. 30th. not going to weigh myself until then.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

nothing like stupidity + ltj bukem (not related)

a special thanks to eric, who doesn't have a blog for the spam. why don't you try again :) best of luck on the brain-builder.....

and on a much more positive note.....ltj bukem's at club five tomorrow night.

keep blogs spam free!

please don't spam my blog.

the last (very serious and charged) post received a totally subject-free comment from some moron (yes. you, maggs), solely posted in order for me to check out some lame jewellry site, for which i presume, they receive some small pittance for me clicking on to. that's a really great display of intelligence and thought maggs , given the subject of the post.

any more spam will result in the filtering of comments via e-mail first, before allowing posting to this blog. i don't want to be spammed. that means i do not want to be sold to.

this is directly aimed at all you "hey! check this great site out... i found a great deal on boring, boring, boring... ." weak excuses for people.

i have a brain; if i want to buy something, this blog will not be the conduit for that purchase.

er, unless it's with regard to telescopes, of course..... ;)

thank you!


Subject: Fw: Eyewitness report from New Orleans

this was forwarded to me.

whatever the final outcomes of this ongoing tragedy, let's hope that the experiences described below are not replicated in this country. it's a sobering read, and one that clearly is at odds with what the politicians were saying.....of course it's biased. i can't imagine how it couldn't be, given what we all saw on television.

if the democrats can't win the next election after this, they should just give up and disband their party. any other result will clearly indicate that it's time to do so. just when will the candidates actually represent the working class and the poor?. the senate , 40% of which is comprised of millionaires did not prevent this disgrace. democrats: stop trying to please everyone and bring some humanity and common sense back to this country - if the american people care, let them vote for candidates that will speak out and force the change that is so evidently needed. the rest of the world cannot believe what it has seen, especially after all the rhetoric about protecting it's citizens and making the world a safer place. the shocking reality is disturbingly different.

here's the account:

Two friends of mine-paramedics attending a conference-were trapped in New
by Hurricane Katrina. This is their eyewitness report. --PG

Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences

Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators.
Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the
convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole.
The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City.
The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and
others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be
hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts.
Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and
shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two
filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need
be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Monday, September 12, 2005

big new sunspot!

can easily see this huge sun spot (much bigger than the earth) naked-eye with a pair of solar eclipse solar shades.

do not look at the sun directly unless you have special solar filters or eclipse sunglasses specially designed to look at the sun. normal sunglasses will NOT protect your eyes.

very strong auroral activity is forecast, and we're off to great falls in virginia, tonight to see if we can spot some celestial beauty.

the naming of hurricanes

there's absoultely nothing wrong with the name katrina, it's one of the better, less obvious names going, but now i'm fairly confident that this name will disappear from the list of top twenty names that parents will choose to endow their female offspring with. not to mention anyone with the name of katrina now having to deal with the obvious response should they be asked their name......

what a shame. it's about time to end this ridiculous practice of giving names to hurricanes as if they were human-like personalities. a hurricane is a natural event, no matter what the scale. time also to put an end to the media's overworked phrase "...the 'wrath' of katrina" hurricanes don't exhibit human tendedncies, such as anger and wrath, we humans do.

so why do we choose to name them? if we must name them, give them made up ones, like passwords, such as 'wzhtyqf'. that'll stop the media in their tracks. bet you wouldn't see too many headlines such as "washington, d.c preparing for wzhtyqf" . or why not give them a letter and a number, followed by the date? there is no need to romanticise hurricane katrina by attributing personality; the destruction and suffering along with loss of lives and homes needs no romanticising or personlising.

until then, this is the list for 2005:


Sunday, September 11, 2005

cadillacs and the colour beige

it's really weird. we rent a car from budget, which turns out to be a cadillac. now, we're seeing them everywhere in d.c. these cars are truly awful (except when isaac newton's forces of motion remain unchallenged when going at a constant speed and in a straight line, zzzzzzzzzzzz).
how come there are so many of them around?

secondly; beige is NOT a colour; it's a cop-out.

our first novac trip - to spruce knob in west virginia

the roving novice reports:

our first novac observing trip.

rebecca left the apartment around 10:30am to go and pick up the rental car from budget as i continued packing. around an hour or so later she returned…with a cadillac. that’s right; a cadillac. the only car budget had available. an auspicious start, i thought.

the cadillac, or rather the huge silver barge, easily swallowed all our gear and we departed friday afternoon around 12:30pm. being a holiday weekend, i was expecting much worse traffic than encountered as we headed out of d.c, westward on route 66. armed with numerous novac and e-mail printouts i ‘phoned the number for the mountain institute (tmi) to confirm that we did in fact have a place to sleep once we got there.

after leaving a message, a lady returned my call some twenty minutes later reassuring me that everything was o.k.

the first part of the journey was identical to going to big meadows in the shenandoah, and only when we reached route 33, did the trip become more interesting, as we encountered series after series of twisting, winding roads and sharp bends. away from its natural element of dead-straight highways, the softly-sprung cadillac demonstrated the needle sharp response, pin-point steering, and razor-like handling of a bloated slug, while it gulped gasoline. this is going to be a lot of fun heading up a mountain…note to ourselves: let’s not rent a cadillac deville again for this sort of trip, even by default. luckily, i’d packed some cd’s and lee burridge’s, nubreed album provided some decidedly non-mountain music as we lurched and wallowed bend to bend, and then forced to follow slower traffic. well, at least the sound system was up to the task.

within 4 hours or so, we reached the turn to head to spruce knob and wound our way towards our destination. we easily spotted the sign for the mountain institute and parked up at the entrance. glad to get out of the car and breathe in some clean, cool, non-polluted air, we sprayed ourselves in bug-off! and walked along a path to a nearby building secluded by trees.

as we entered the unlocked door, it became obvious that this was an administrative building. a rack full of mountain bikes hung on a wall. i looked around for maps, telephone numbers, anything that might help us find the accommodation we were looking for. nothing. a nearby shack didn’t exactly look promising either, so we returned to the car and headed up a gravel and dirt road. about a quarter mile further, rebecca stopped. this didn’t seem right as the road didn’t seem to lead to anywhere, and the car was having a tough time negotiating the ever-narrowing and bumpy road. we reversed back to the entrance and headed for spruce knob. perhaps the accommodation was further up along. five minutes later had us convinced that we were still wrong and we turned around to return to the entrance we had just left.

i took over driving duties and we had another go at the only real option. a quarter-mile along, we met a car coming towards us. i was very glad when i spotted the driver wearing a woodlands institute t-shirt, who informed us we were only a half-mile away from our destination. as we approached the main building, a huge dobsonian was already set up in an observing field to our right. this was very encouraging. it was nearly six o’ clock by the time we parked up the car. dinner was to be served shortly, and we were very happy to meet a few other observers and also to see that a couple of large cooking trays of shepherd’s pie and a big bowl of salad had been laid out for all the staff and guests at tmi.

we chucked everything off in our twin-bunked room and drove back the short distance to the observing field to set the ‘scope up. i decided upon a reasonably level patch close to the big dob. way before it actually got dark, venus and jupiter put on a great show, shining brightly as they hung above a lone tree to the west. there was a fair, constant breeze blowing as the owner of the big dob returned in a white van. for white van, read complete mobile observatory. jim anderson not only has a killer 22” starmaster, but also a complete all-in-one traveling set-up. undeterred by his obvious experience, know-how and set-up, yet acknowledging to myself that there couldn’t be two people more opposite in their astronomy skills with two telescopes next to each other, we finished setting up “uhuru” and did a quick two star alignment. it was at this point that i realized that the cadillac imitated something out of star wars, courtesy lights everywhere the minute you opened up any door. luckily, jim (of course) had some blue duct-tape and i spent about twenty minutes light-proofing the car. another couple were setting up a televue refractor on a losmandy mount to do some imaging, and rob mckinney came over to introduce himself. i told him i though he looked familiar and i thought i'd seen him on the novac site...... we were all looking forward to a great night's viewing ahead.

jim proved to be an extremely friendly and helpful ally, and we chatted as we waited for the skies to darken. each minute that passed offered us a glimpse of just how great the darkening sky would reveal itself to be. way before it got truly dark, we could see the dust lanes in the milky way forming. wow! i had been blown away by the skies at shenandoah, but this promised something even better.

as a novice, living a couple of blocks from dupont circle in the middle of d.c., you quickly realize that you’re faced with the exact same problem (but opposite) when it comes to recognizing and learning the night sky. in the city, you can barely make anything out, and you’re lucky to see more than a handful of stars. away from a few hundred thousand people, under a truly dark sky, there is so much to see that only the most familiar of patterns are recognisable, and questions such as why doesn’t anyone make a big planisphere, i.e. that is bigger than a few inches in diameter, and why am i forced to perform mental gymnastics when going from the sky to a star chart and then to my sct when i look through it? given the huge numbers of sct’s, isn’t there a market for a star atlas that actually represents what you see at the eyepiece? of course, i have yet to get a decent eyepiece with a wide field of view, so i’ll see how i fare when i do manage to get one.

the goto on “uhuru” wasn’t exactly behaving as hoped for, putting some objects bang in the middle of the eyepiece and then not being close to others. i put this down to operator error setting up, this being only our third night with the telescope out actually observing. jim came over and together we battled the set up. he has an older lx200 12” that makes even more noise than ours (lx’s are not quiet telescopes) and is full of good advice. eventually, we got it pointing reasonably well and we were off. i can’t remember exactly how many of us there were that first night, but i guess around a half dozen. there’s something incredibly peaceful about being under a pristine night sky, whether you know your way around it or not. within a couple of hours, rebecca was all burned out having been up the night before doing school work, and was very happy to have the cadillac’s generous seats parked up within a few feet to crash on.

while i struggled to find objects, jim was calling me over to have a look through the starmaster. wow! shocking is the term i’d use to describe the view. the perception of 3d depth was overwhelming compared to the 8” sct. star clusters that looked very pretty in “uhuru” transformed themselves into neighbourhoods of sparkling beauty. so different a view does it offer, that when i kept returning to my ‘scope to compare the views, i could easily be convinced that i was looking at a completely different object. rob couldn’t resist the temptation either. is wow! the first word uttered the first time a person gets to view a deep sky object through jim’s starmaster? the view of the veil nebula was simply amazing and i was more than pleased to get a pretty decent view through the 8”. i had prepared a rough list of sorts to have as targets for the weekend. of course, the unexpected luxury of having jim’s generosity with his starmaster close at hand was too enticing to pass up, and i quickly forgot about the list and was just very happy to be where i was, when i was. it was getting pretty cold and if it wasn’t for the thermos flask full of coffee rebecca had made at the institute, i wouldn’t have made it through as long as i did. rob came over to chat and he pointed out the double star alberio that until then i didn’t know existed. i was also impressed by rob’s tip of defocusing the image to reveal star colour. much easier to see alberio’s gold and blue hues. he was mainly after open clusters and after a view through his scope and binoculars i could see why.

i was determined to wait up for mars though, and she didn’t disappoint. i have read many times about the benefits of regular observing of the red planet and i guess i spent about an hour with the 8” just staring, looking for any detail. cranking up the power with my cheap orion 17mm and 10mm eyepieces, and then with an orion barlow yielded a softer view, but for one brief moment, at maximum magnification available, i did manage to suddenly get a clear view, which made all the time and effort worthwhile. i was also determined to get a decent view of m42 in orion, having never seen the great nebula through a decent telescope. double wow! it was very late into the observing session by the time mighty orion rose over the horizon, but even being so low in the sky, the view was amazing. I have never seen the hunter better, seeing stars in the constellation i had never seen before. ten minutes later, i was all done, and shut down the ‘scope, turned off the dew heater, disconnected the battery pack, and covered her up for the night, and went and tried to grab some sleep in the driver’s seat of the cadillac.

i woke up to the sound of jim in his white van making his way past our car. it was a quarter past eight in the morning and breakfast was being served at the institute. hot coffee and an improvised toasted bagel with crispy bacon and a splash of tomato ketchup proved to be an excellent, if unconventional breakfast. a good, surprisingly hot shower on-site made us feel human again, and i was very happy to get back to our twin-bunked room and get some real rest on a reasonably comfortable bed, while the battery charged close by.

we didn’t do much of anything that day other than rest. i walked over to the observing field before lunch to check up on the scope and also just to get a walk we had been joined by a few others. two more big dobs, an enormous 24”, owned by bob parks was being wheeled out of the back of a trailer. i also met ralph, another very experienced observer. we were the only rookies!, yet everyone made this trip a super friendly, very community-based positive experience. when you don’t know anyone and you have very little knowledge of what you’re doing, i think there’s a natural tendency for newcomers to feel a little intimidated, and even though no-one would describe me as being a shy and retiring violet, i can say that this first astronomy club experience couldn’t have been less intimidating. i urge everyone out there who has recently joined novac, but has yet to go on a club observing trip to just do what we did; dive straight in. everyone you meet will make you feel very warmly welcomed; you’ll not only learn a lot, but have much more fun in the process than standing in the middle of a grassy area on your own for a few hours. you’ll also get to have a peek through other people’s telescopes...and go ‘wow!’

for the rest of the day, we slept and milled around the institute chatting to a few other people, including those that worked there. six o’clock came, and this time the lasagna proved to be even more popular than the previous day’s shepherd’s pie. we chatted to a few of the girls working at tmi and invited them to join us later on to observe if they felt like it. after getting ready, we drove back to the observing field. it was evidently more cloudy and hardly a gust of wind, although everyone reassured me that we wouldn’t get clouded out.

the objects i’d missed the first night were fairly easily located the next, having the huge benefit of seeing the same sky for the second night in a row. rebecca’s first ever view through a dob, courtesy of jim, was ‘oh my god!’ when she took a look at m13 in hercules, followed up with the expected ‘wow!’ i suggested to jim that he should get a wow!-ometer fitted to his starmaster to record the number of wow!’s he gets from others. it is easily the best telescope i have ever viewed through.

in a short while ominous black clouds began to creep in, doing their best to spoil the party. that and the dew. with almost a total lack of wind, dew began forming on everything early on in the proceedings. down to just the eyepiece, as i didn’t have a means to warm the finder, hunting down objects became much trickier. jim’s view of m57, the ring nebula made up for any disappointments, though.

the group of girls we had met earlier, who had just arrived to work at the institute took us up on our offer to join us, and after i showed them m13 in hercules, rob mckinney provided a mightily impressive and easy to grasp intro to the night sky for us. explaining how to use one’s fingers and hands to gauge measurement, he quickly went to pointing out key stars and how to navigate around the sky. i would say that was definitely one of the highlights for me and rebecca. and all with the naked eye.

speaking of naked eye, later on, when it was essentially down to myself, rebecca and ralph still up and observing, ralph amazed us by pointing out the planet uranus with the naked eye. one minute, it was clear as anything, the next simply disappearing from view... along with the star we were using to locate it. eventually, even we had to call it quits, and instead of sleeping in the car for a second night in a row, rebecca and i did a quick job of disconnecting the battery and pulling over the cover, and walked back the short distance to the lodging. walking back, it was impossible not to be impressed by orion rising over a dark horizon of trees. even though we were pretty cold and tired, we just stood there, taking it in, knowing we were very lucky to be where we were at that moment. it was absolutely pitch black, and we couldn’t see a thing as we blindly inched towards our bunks, trying hard not to awaken kim and ben (hope i got your names right) in the shared room.

a breakfast of bagel, sausages and hot coffee had us debating whether to stay an extra night. we decided to wait until lunch to make up our minds. kat’s most excellent homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese toast was very welcome, but sadly we had to acknowledge rebecca’s schedule, and we loaded up the car and said our goodbyes to everyone, before driving to the observing field to pack “uhuru” up for the trip home.

all i can say is that this was a very memorable trip and a great experience. a great many thanks to everyone we met from novac and the mountain institute for making it such. i learned a great deal, benefiting from the wealth of experience of others, not just on what we were looking at, but the whole process of observing.

i couldn’t have asked for more.

Friday, September 09, 2005

the bushes on vacation..

my very good friend, juliana sent this pic to me.

but let's not forget the's barbara bush's gem of the week:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you
know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she
chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

there's nothing quite like the rich reaching out to the poor, in times of great need to make them feel better about their lot.........

how about putting a brake on all the irresponsible tax cuts and actually do a decent job of looking after those that need it most? if this is what the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world does for its own poor, then someone, somewhere, isn't doing a very good job, are they?

this isn't a time to point the finger and issue blame; it's about owning up to the responsibility of government to all it's inhabitants, and telling the bare-bones truth, just for once.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

gmc ad

for all the reasons i am reviled by the budweiser ad, i have to give top marks for the new gmc ad, wheeled out for the opening game of the season.

what true, football-loving male could say otherwise? i mean; come on........

benny reckons the raiders by three, or so i heard in blue last night. i reckon pats by ten. we'll see who is closer.


nfl season opener

just watched the truly awful budweiser ad on the opening to the 2005 nfl season.

is this a joke?
because i just saw the most obviously big ad music, matched to a truly terrible, stereotyped ad, meant to appeal to literally every sector of society. just like the beer, the ad's a watered down disgrace so as to make it a non-event.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

fox news katrina coverage and music

dear fox news,

we are not regular fox news channel viewers. however, the heroic reporting, especially from the outstanding shepherd smith had us sadly riveted and moved beyond words. we have now just returned home to washington, d.c from a weekend away this sunday evening, and now find a very different coverage of the aftermath of hurrican katrina, one that is being accompanied by 'sad' music.

how obnoxious! this isn't hollywood! i didn't hear music at all last week when the real story was unfolding before our eyes. now that people have begun to be relocated to shelters, we are left with the 'good' and the 'positive' spin. is the playing of funereal music supposed to comfort us? the american people don't need soft music to make them feel better. i thought you were a news channel, not a conduit for bad movie music. the reporting of the good now coming from this story is being totally diluted by the addition of 'sad' music.

you think it appropriate to add sad music at this time, or is this to make the american people help forget the horror of last week? either way, it's plain wrong and as far from journalism as you can get. good news and bad news don't need music. to my knowledge, you haven't been playing music when reporting death and destruction in baghdad....

i trust you will now be adopting a similar strategy for every disaster, not only at home but also abroad from now on. however, you will not be watched in this household. what a disappointment; for a week, you reminded me of the bbc.

mark solomon
washington, d.c.