Archive for February, 2009

Tonight’s Sky

February 27, 2009

All the astronomy blogs that I follow are mentioning tonight’s conjunction of the crescent Moon and Venus, so I figured I would join the bandwagon.

At sunset today, check the western sky.  Venus is only a few days past the brightest it will be all year.  Venus will be joined by a very thin crescent Moon.  Only 10% of the Moon will be illuminated.

Hope far clear skies.


Big Lie of the Week

February 26, 2009

President Obama to the Joint Session of Congress on February 24, 2009:

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.

Don’t listen to the words, watch the actions.  The “stimulus bill” and the current Ombibus spending bill, and whatever else is coming down the pike will lead to the biggest expansion of the federal government in generations.  That is BIG GOVERNMENT.

I still doubt that we will see many  “people back to work” because of this out of control spending.  As for “put[ting money in their pockets], if it does make it into anyone’s pocket, it won’t stay there long.  A trillion dollars is a big, big chunk of change.  If you spend $1000 a second, it would take 314 years to go through a trillion dollars.


February 25, 2009

Because I was taught differently, it bugs me when I see men and boys wearing their hats indoors.  Especially at church.  But this is going a little too far.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Police said a 58-year-old man stabbed his teenage son after he refused to take off his hat at church earlier in the day. The father and his 19-year-old son got into an argument on Sunday afternoon. That’s when police said the father went to a car, got a knife and stabbed his son in the left buttock and fled.

The son was taken to University of Maryland Medical Center for treatment. The father’s name was withheld pending his arrest.

A Failed Launch for a Failed Idea

February 24, 2009
Photo by Gene Blevins/LA Daily News

Photo by Gene Blevins/LA Daily News

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was launched this morning from Vandenburg Air Force Base.  I became aware of the launch on my way to work this morning.  The strange con trail patterns that you can normally see in the west after a launch were in the east, lit by the rising sun.  I don’t think I have ever seen the con trail drift all the way across the sky and still look like the original con trail.

The launch failed to deliver the OCO into orbit and everything came down in the ocean near Antarctica.  I can’t help but note the irony–a satellite meant to study global warming crashed to earth near the place where the ice is supposed to be melting, but is actually increasing.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was developed to measure the amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  CO2 is the gas blamed for man-cause “global warming” or “climate change.”

Here is the mission explanation from the JPL website:

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) is a NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Project (ESSP) mission designed to make precise, time-dependent global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from an Earth orbiting satellite.

CO2 is a critical component of the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the beginning of the industrial age, the concentration of CO2 has increased by about 38%, from about 280 parts per million to over 380 parts per million. Scientific studies indicate that CO2 is one of several gases that trap heat near the surface of the Earth. These gases are known as greenhouse gases. Many scientists have concluded that substantial increases in the abundance of CO2 will generate an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature. Historical records provide evidence of this trend, which is often called global warming. Current research indicates that continuing increases in atmospheric CO2 may modify the environment in a variety of ways. These changes may impact ocean currents, the jet stream and rain patterns. Some parts of the Earth might actually cool while the average temperature increases. Thus, a more correct term for this phenomenon is climate change.

I still wonder when the scientists without a bias will get some coverage in the press.  Instead of just taking man-caused global warming as a given, how about some real science.

Last weekend, we went to the newly remodeled California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Besides being way too expensive (and crowded), I was impressed with how they had just bought into the “Climate Change” mantra as an established fact.  Nevermind that the “science” behind it is as shaky as Jello in Parkfield, CA.

Iwo Jima Flag Raising

February 23, 2009

On February 23, 1945, after 4 days of fighting and with over 40%  casualities, the Marines raised the American Flag on Mount Suribachi.  Joe Rosenthal took this photo of the 5 Marines and 1 Navy corpsman.  The photo became one of the most notable and recognizable of the entire war.

The battle of Iwo Jima continued for another month.  The number of American casualties was greater than the total Allied casualties at Battle of Normandy on D-Day.

Happy Birthday, President Washington

February 22, 2009


Today is George Washington’s birthday.  With the advent of Presidents Day, most people don’t even know or can’t remember the birthday of our nation’s first president.

George Washington was the Commander in Chief of the Continetal Army during the Revolutionary War.  After the war, we returned to his estate in Virginia and would have been happy to remain a private citizen the rest of his life.  When the Articles of Confederation weren’t doing the job, the Constitution was written and ratified.  Many think that the position of President was written with George Washington in mind.

George Washington could have chosen to be a king.  However, he knew the problems that could/would cause.  He was elected President twice–both times with a unanimous vote.  He decided to limit himself to 2 terms.  That tradition was maintained until FDR.

After only 3 years in retirement, Washington died in 1799.  In his eulogy, Henry Lee said that Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

News from the Associated Press

February 20, 2009


The Headline:  Obama warns mayors not to waste stimulus money.

The Reason:  He doesn’t want any competition.

Yep.  The President wants to waste all that money all by himself.

A Teacher’s Impact

February 17, 2009

I heard a piece on the radio the other morning about how a college professor had completely changed the personal views of the radio host.   The professor did it by patiently teaching and discussing his positions.  Over time, the student realized that he needed to do a 180 with his philosophy.  The professor completely changed his life’s path.

The power of a great teacher.

I had an English teaching in Junior High.  His name was Mr. Kaplan.  I’m not sure if anyone liked Mr. Kaplan.  I don’t think he cared.  He wasn’t in the job to be liked; he was a teacher to teach.  His teaching schedule was completely predictable.  Homework was due on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It was assigned one week in advance.  There were no excuses allowed for not doing the homework, including illness.  He would say, “The homework is posted on the blackboard.  If you are sick, have someone look through the window and bring you the assignment.  The IRS doesn’t care if your dad is sick on April 15th.  It will still expect his taxes to be paid.”   Mr. Kaplan was teaching us personal responsibility.

Once a week, we had an in-class writing assignment called the “20-line Paper.”  At the start of class, we would count down 20 lines, put a mark on the 20th line, then start writing down to the line.  I can’t remember if the topics were assigned or if we could write about anything.  There were strict grading criteria.  To get full credit, the paper needed to include alliteration, onomatopoeia, and a few other items that I can’t remember.  What I do remember is learning (or trying to learn) how to write a paragraph.

Another thing that Mr. Kaplan taught was the skill of developing an opinion and then defending it.  Without understanding what a Devil’s Advocate was, I watched Mr. Kaplan take us all on, probing and “attacking” our opinions.  Nothing was off limits.  Looking back at it, I now understand that he was trying to teach us to think through an idea or concept and not to just parrot back what our friends’ opinions were.  We needed to take ownership of our thoughts–another lesson in personal responsibility.

As I mentioned, I never much liked Mr. Kaplan.  However, he was one of the best teachers that I had.  He taught much more than English.  He helped develop character.

Have you had a teacher that made a difference in your life?

A Stupid Holiday

February 16, 2009

Presidents Day is  a meaningless celebration that replaced recognizing two great presidents–George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Technically, Presidents Day is the legal holiday Washington’s Birthday.  But somewhere along the way, all the presidents got lumped together into one day.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.  Born in very humble circumstances, Lincoln became our 16th President of the United States.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 in Virginia.  He served as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War.  After the Constitution was ratified in 1787, Washington was elected as the First President of the United States on the Electoral College in 1789.  He was the only President to be elected unanimously.

Both Washington and Lincoln are worthy of their own holidays.  And some presidents are not worthy of a holiday at all.  For the presidents that served during my life time, Jimmy Carter would certainly fit the category of not worthy of being honored.

So, today, remember and honor the great ones.  Forget about the forgettable ones.  And don’t go to the mailbox.  It will be empty.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2009