Posts from June 2006
A Night Under The Stars
It’s hard to believe tonight was the first night I’ve gone on an observing session since we moved into the house (and, in fact, probably long before…). Of course, I’ve taken the scope out to view the moon, or the odd planet, but those events hardly count. And with beautifully clear skies (albeit quite bright) and wonderful weather, I could hardly pass up such a wonderful opportunity.
Of course, with Jupiter currently big and bright in the sky, it goes without saying that I started there. The Galilean Moons put on an lovely show tonight, with Calisto and Europa to one side, and Io and Ganymede to the other, forming a nice chain with the planet in the center. As for Jupiter itself, tonight had to be the finest seeing I’ve had of the gas giant, allowing me to view the atmospheric banding clearly. This, by itself, was worth the effort to lug my scope outside.
With my appetite whetted, I decided to split one of the most famous multiple star systems in the sky: Mizar. This star forms the bend in the handle of the Big Dipper, and in a dark sky, it’s 4th magnitude companion Alcor can be seen with a good unaided eye. In my 4” scope, Mizar itself was easily split into it’s two components, Mizar A and the 4th magnitude Mizar B, forming a nice pairing. I just can’t believe I’ve never observed it before, or that it’s the first double I’ve split. Very lovely.
Next, I decided to move on to some deep sky objects. Now, because of our northern latitude, and the fact that I chose to observe just a few days after the solstice, the sky is quite bright. As such, I chose the Hercules Cluster, aka M13, as my next target. This bright (magnitude 4.5) globular cluster is very prominent in the northern sky, which makes it all the more surprising that I hadn’t observed it before. In my eyepiece, it forms a surprisingly bright, fuzzy blob with ill-defined edges. Of course, my telescope isn’t powerful enough to resolve any member stars, but it’s still an impressive object to observe. Especially when one realizes it’s composed of several 100,000 stars…
Lastly, with one deep sky object under my belt, I decided to go for another. This time, M39. This open cluster near Cygnus is remarkably large, easily filling my wide field, low mag eyepiece. It’s quite pretty, with many stars of varying brightness. A lovely object to observe.
So, with that, my observing session was complete. However, I was given one last treat. Far off in the northern sky, high altitude clouds were reflecting light from the sun, which never really sets at this time of year. But, rather than red or orange, as is typical, these clouds appeared a ghostly blue. The resulting pattern looked like light refracting through a pool of water. Absolutely beautiful.
As an aside, tonight was also the first night I had the opportunity to use my Palm for observing purposes. I gave Planetarium a whirl, and I gotta say, it was excellent! Having an easy-to-read starchart in my pocket is incredibly convenient, and with Night Mode, I can read the chart without needing a filtered flashlight. Fantastic! This is definitely a program I’m going to purchase.
Review: FrankensteinReview of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (9780007382613)★★★★(https://b-ark.ca/CWGEQk)
In the most famous gothic horror story ever told, Shelley confronts the limitations of science, the nature of human cruelty and the pathway to forgiveness. ‘The rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open...’ Victor Frankenstein’s monster is stitched together from the limbs of the dead, taken from ‘the dissecting room and the slaughter-house’. The result is a grotesque being who, rejected by his maker and starved of human companionship, sets out on a journey to seek his revenge. In the most famous gothic horror story ever told, Shelley confronts the limitations of science, the nature of human cruelty and the pathway to forgiveness. Begun when Mary Shelley was only eighteen years old and published two years later, this chilling tale of a young scientist’s desire to create life – and the consequences of that creation – still resonates today.
Okay, calling this a review is probably a silly idea, considering “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley, was written, according to Frankenstein, in 1818. Still, having finished the book (which I grabbed from Project Gutenberg and read on my Palm), I felt it worth the time to put together a little write up about my impressions about the work.
Now, to say this book is a classic is stating the obvious. Mary Shelley’s story about the bright young scientist Frankenstein and his creation has become a fixture in our culture, influencing countless subsequent works. Being the origin of the modern “mad scientist” archetype, it’s hard to underestimate how much this work has permeated our collective consciousness. And yet despite this, I was surprised to discover that the modern representations of the story are, to say the least, a departure from the original work.Continue reading...
So, a few days ago, I went out into the backyard to take a look at the status of my garden. It’s coming along pretty nicely… all the plants save the corn seem to have sprouted up nicely, although they’re pretty crowded by weeds right now. ‘course, given all the rain, it’s a little tough to get back there and clear things out. Apparently, however, the same isn’t true for what I think was a local dog:
As far as I can tell, the little bugger ran right through my garden! Not only did it leave a bunch of large prints, it pulled apart the nice string grid that I made! Anyway, presuming it was a dog (and I can’t imagine what else it was), it was a big ‘un, judging from the size of it’s paws:
This, along with the rabbits, is just another reason why I really need to put a basic fence up, lest my garden be destroyed by local wildlife.
Asthma Sucks, or How To OD On Salbutamol
Most people who know me know that I’m lucky enough to be a mild asthmatic. This is especially true when I’m exposed to allergens, in particular cats, which can give me a severe attack in mere minutes. Even more fun, the effect can be magnified if I happen to have a chest cold.
Well, on Friday, we went play poker at Javan and Christina’s… and they have a cat. And I have a cold. The poker was good fun. The asthma, not so much. Fortunately, I brought my inhaler… but, with the cat, not to mention the gradually increasing temperature of the house (thanks to the additional bodies), and all the talking and laughing, I had to take a number of doses in a fairly short time in order to control things.
But, it gets better! After getting home, the symptoms flared up, so I took another puff and tried to get to sleep (I would have also taken a Claritin, but I’d taken some allergy pill that Massie had (which is, evidentally, ineffective for me) and wasn’t in to mixing meds). Then, at around 2am, I woke up, wheezing away (see, isn’t this fun?), and did what you’d expect, and took another couple of puffs. And that’s when everything went bad.
You see, the drug in my inhaler is one called Salbutamol. It’s a beta-2 antagonist and binds to receptors in the lungs, triggering the fight-or-flight response normally generated by adrenaline, resulting in a smoothing of the bronchial muscles and a widening of the airway. In a pinch, it’s a miracle drug, capable of moderating an asthma attack in minutes. Unfortunately, it also triggers a number of side effects which, under normal circumstances, rarely occur for me. Except for this time. The difference, however, is that, after some reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that I, in fact, probably overdosed on the stuff. Among the fun things I experienced:
- Hand Tremors
- Heart Palpitations
- Significant Anxiety
As well as increased urination and mild muscle cramps in my feet. Joy! To be honest, I think it was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced… imagine feeling uncontrollably nervous and scared, combined with a racing heart and the sensation of pressure on your chest. Then throw in difficulty breathing, thanks to the asthma, not to mention exhaustion due to lack of sleep.
As you can imagine, there was no way I could go back to bed with all this going on, and so I went downstairs to watch TV and try to relax… and I never really went back to bed. I dozed periodically here and there, but never really slept, and in fact didn’t really sleep until the next night.
So, let this be a lesson to all you asthmatics out there! Salbutamol is a powerful drug! Don’t mess around with this stuff! Exceeding the recommended dose is a very dangerous, unpleasant, and frightening experience, especially if you don’t know that’s what’s happening. Be careful!
Jolly Rancher Rocks
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a really nasty addiction to junk food. I love the stuff. You’d think I’d grow out of this, but I really don’t. It’s not good. Particularly for my ailing teeth. I especially enjoy trying out new types of candy, and have had the pleasure of discovering some tasty new treats (Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Keys, Sour Twizzlers… hmm, I see a pattern forming…). My latest experiment is a new Hershey product called Jolly Rancher Rocks:
Now, I’ve always been a fan of the Jolly Rancher flavours. I remember back in the day when I first tried them out… so very tasty. But I’ve always been the type to chew my rock candies, and the odd not-quite-brittle texture of the Jolly Rancher made it more likely that I would fracture a tooth rather than the candy itself. Moreover, I often found that the standard rock candy was slightly larger than I prefer.
Hershey’s new Jolly Rancher Rocks product seems to solve these problems. The candy comes in a plastic container with a locking lid (a fairly high-quality container, I might add), and the candies themselves are small, fairly brittle rock candy spherules, around 5mm in diameter, in the standard Jolly Rancher flavours. This repackaging of the standard Jolly Rancher rock candy works quite well, allowing one to mix and match flavours and enjoy as much or as little as one would like. And the locking lid makes it easy to eat the candies a little at a time.
So, in the end, I give the new product a thumbs up. In fact, given my choice, I think I’d favour the rocks over the standard rock candy format we’re so familiar with.
The Deck is Done!
Well, sort of. There’s still plenty of work to do, like installing railings, stairs, evening out edges, installing facia, and other such things, but the bulk of the work (framing and decking) is complete!
Now, it’s been a while since my last update, and some people are really interested in seeing some pictures. So, I thought it about time to post a few shots of my work. First off, I have a couple photos showing the completed framing:
As you can see, it turned out pretty well (thought not perfect… the right-most joist on the upper deck isn’t quite square with the rest of the frame). Truth be told, I think framing was the most enjoyable part. It’s not terribly tedious, but it really gives you a feel for what the final outcome is going to be like.
Speaking of which, second, I have a couple shots of the completed deck. The first is an attempted overhead panorama. Unfortunately, the image is a bit warped, but it gives you a decent look at the final product:
And lastly, an elevation shot, showing the deck in profile against the house:
Not too bad, eh? Again, there are a few warts that I, having built the thing, are probably more likely to notice, and only one semi-major thing: it appears the lower deck shifted forward a bit during construction, and so the front beam and posts are leaning forward slightly:
I suspect this is minor, so I’m not terribly worried about it, but worst case I can unscrew the joists, lift the deck (which isn’t has hard as you’d think), push the beam back, and rescrew.
So there you have it! ‘course, now we need to find a way to actually use the 250+ square feet of deck we now have…