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Picture of the Week

Sunday 7 April 2002
Sunday looks to be a fine day here. Just a bit of fog on the hills, blue sky above.

Thursday night I was out trying to photograph comet Ikeya-Zhang with the digital camera, again. Conditions were not ideal, some haze, and high winds. As far as I can tell from a cursory pass through the downloaded pictures I have nothing. I played with setting the focus manually to infinity, and taking a dark frame, and playing with the ISO. I'll see if I can work with the images and get anything worthwhile out of them with some processing. I've never done a lot of astronomical photography, and what I can say right now is that (1) it's hard, and (2) it pays to prepare beforehand -  know exactly what you want to do and how you are going to go about it.

Meanwhile the Yahoo Science link to reports it as a remarkably bright object even under city lights. I can't agree, and think that they are doing the public a disfavor by falsely reporting comets to be bright - they are diffuse low brightness objects not at all suitable for inexperienced or first time observers. After comets West, Kohoutek & Halley you'd think they'd know that. Ah well, the media has it's own agenda...profit, mostly.

Monday 8 April 2002

When I rose this morning I happened to see a crescent moon in the east. So, I grabbed the digital camera and headed out in my stocking feet to the yard. Since I wasn't sure what exposure to use I set the Olympus to manual and started playing with exposure and F-stop. Whilst gazing through the viewfinder I could hear a rustling, but was too occupied to look. When I did look, there was a great big raccoon, sitting up on it's hind legs directly in front of me, looking curious!

Unfortunately I was shooting in TIFF mode, which takes about ten seconds to save, and by the time I could photograph him,  Mr. Raccoon was ambling away, probably to finish his nightly routines of tipping over trash cans and terrorizing cats. I think the term for animals living in "harmony" with humans is "cryptozoic".  I've heard it used for people (illegally) living aboard their boats in some marinas as well.

"Moonrise over Martinez"

Tuesday 9 April 2002

We watched "Shackleton" on tv last night, A&E.

It's worth watching. As a critic of the movie I would say that it probably failed to convey the true trials and horrors of the Antarctic - how much endurance was required, and concentrated a bit too much on the one man. But the movie was "Shackleton", not "Endurance", so I suppose we were warned. There was a one hour Biography special before Monday's Part II, and quite a few things that are only hinted at or alluded to in the show were expanded on; the avoidance of a class structure in his organization, the salesmanship required to outfit the expedition, the rogue wave, his later heart attack. Worth watching, though the sad end of the animals in Part II makes it perhaps not fit for small children.

It was a pretty good show, Kenneth Branagh would find it hard to make a bad movie I think ( OK, OK, there was 'The Wild Wild West', one of the worst movies ever made, I won't even link to it ).

I don't like to criticize other people's hard work - it's all too easy to demean others' hard work that I couldn't possibly do myself. So, take my criticism with a grain of salt, and more as an observation for further reading and research in the future. ( Except for 'The Wild Wild West', I just have to stand by that.)

Looking at the Astronomy Picture of the Day I was struck, as I often am, by just how many stars there are. Looking at today's picture of the star clouds in the constellation of  Ophiuchus reminds me of Olbers Paradox:   namely, "Why is the sky dark at night?". Heinrich Olber,  in the 1800's, suggested that if the universe was infinite in extent, then the disks of all the stars would overlap, and the sky would be as bright as the surface of the sun. It isn't, of course, but the suggested reasons why not are interesting. (The site I've linked to is well done, but has a bit of Java and stuff in it.)

Wednesday 10 April 2002

I did quite a bit of yard work, so not much to say for Wednesday. Actually I was rebuilding a fence, so that I could do some yard work; namely I want to plant some Passion Fruit cuttings a friend gave me, against the (rebuilt) fence. They are butterfly attractants - I saw the effect in her yard last year and I think my father will be amazed at the number of butterfly's. And caterpillars, of course.

Looking for a link to "Passion Fruit" I did a Yahoo! search. Some of the links were, shall we say, interesting. Which reminds me of the time that the drive belt on my old lathe broke, and I did a search for "leather belts". At work.

My sister V helped out - she is a neophyte in construction, but learns very quickly, and is doing quite a bit of work on the house where she lives. It's always nice to have someone hold up the other end of a board, or to do the nailing while you hold it up, or to just hand you that out of reach hammer...

Thursday 11 April 2002

Well, I didn't get as much done today as I'd hoped, but that's OK, I'm on vacation. The fence is mostly done, and the little flower bed for the passion fruit vines is started. I don't want to stain the new fence boards until they've dried a bit - the sign said "kiln dried", which is builders' code for green. As we screwed the boards to the runners moisture would bead up and run down the planks. In a months time they'll be nice and dry and absorb paint well. The fountain still runs, so I didn't cut through the electric lines.

We've been listening to "Flight of the Intruder" on audio tape - and it's exhausting. It just moves right along, dragging you with it. Every chapter or two it's necessary to stop and take a breather. I'd read the book, years ago, and forgotten most of it. I never saw the movie. The single book spawned a series of sequels. I think I enjoyed Coonts non-fiction book "The Cannibal Queen" more. After the success of his first book, he uses the proceeds (not as large as you'd think) to buy an open cockpit biplane trainer, and fly to the contiguous 48 states. In his case, he wrote a book, so the expenses were probably tax deductible as well.  The book makes it sound like  a lot of fun, something I'd like to do someday. Along with motorcycling to all 49. And maybe walking. And sailing, definitely sailing, to all the coastal states. Ah well. Someday...

Friday 12 April 2002

It was another beautiful day. We didn't really do a lot - I'm not sure where the morning went. Mid day I went down to the boat, over in Richmond. Traffic was terrible. I even saw a school bus run a red light. The Richmond "Parkway"  nowhas thirteen lights in a six mile stretch. On the other hand, a nice lady in a new jaguar stopped and let me make a left turn in front of her, how often does THAT happen?
Anyway, the boat was fine. The marina has been making noises about shutting off the shore power so they can make some repairs, which means the boat bilge pump would be on battery power alone, which has let to a foot of water in the bilge's beforehand. The hull is sound, but the deck leaks badly in the rain. But, they (the bilge's) were dry, and the power, both shore and 12V battery was available. If I'd gone down a little earlier I might have done a little single handing, but it's near the end of my vacation and I'm getting lazy.
My father had a rental delivery from "Books on Tape" today - it was Patrick O'Briens "The Far Side of the World". What a wonderful author - a little slow and wordy for some reviewers apparently, but my father and I love his naval stories. I even love the book cover art.

Saturday 13 April 2002

I worked in the yard some more today, finishing up. Namely, I had to plant the vines that started the whole fence remodeling project - though I would have done that project sometime soon anyway. So, a little turning of the earth, a border, some weed block, some fertilizer, stone to weigh down the weed block fabric, and finally: the vines. Four little sticks. All I can do is hope that they grow now. In the picture below they are in amongst the white gravel next to the fence.

I'm a little stiff, but not too bad. It wasn't the shoveling, lifting, or sweeping or mowing. It was the weed pulling. Ah well.

Picture of the Week

Raccoons (Three) In A Tree
Notes on the photo: One night the dog went beserk. Walking to the front porch my father captured this shot of 3 raccoons using a fruitless mulberry tree to pass through the yard. A year later there were five of them....

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