NO! NO!! NO!! Mars will NOT look as big as the Moon!

Friday, 28 August 2009, 8:32 | Category : Stargazing
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Arrgh!!  It’s happening again!  The email hoax about Mars making it’s closest approach in a zillion years is going around again.  it’s happened each summer since 2003, when Mars did make a historically close approach. But as I wrote in 2007:

“No! It won’t happen!! It can’t happen!!!

No, not at all. Or, mostly not at all. This began in 2003, when Mars really did make the closest approach in modern human history. But it still just appeared as a bright red star. The original information was meant for stargazers, not really the general public. Through a telescope, at a magnification of 35 power, Mars would appear through the telescope to be about the same size as the Moon with the naked eye (not through the telescope). Comprehendo? The first time it came around, I think it was an honest misunderstanding. Second time, in 2005, might have been another honest misunderstanding. Third time? I sorta think people are deliberately sending this around.

If Mars ever got close enough to appear naked eye as big as the Moon, like this has led some folk to believe, the gravitational disruption would end human civilization and change Earth’s orbit. Bad news, worse than Bush getting a third term.”

But it does give me an excuse to post this again!

Sweet Autumn

Thursday, 27 August 2009, 7:28 | Category : Gardening
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My Sweet Autumn clematis is in full bloom now.  I love seeing this in bloom, both because I like the way it looks on the arbor, and because it signifies that we’re near the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.  Asters, chrysanthemums, football,  and those little candy pumpkins won’t be far behind!

I spent a good bit of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the flower beds directly in front of the house this year.  At one time, the prototypical green worm existed these – a row of hollies.  That gave way to crepe myrtles centered on each side surrounded by perennials, but the crepe myrtles gat far too large.  So last year I dug those out, and tried some azaleas.  I didn’t like those either.  So I went a very different direction this summer, using mainly annuals in case I didn’t like the look.  But I’m really pretty pleased with it, so next year some of the annuals will be replaced with perennials.  Here’s the result:

I will probably replaced the purple fountain grass in the back (Penisetum) with something like Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, and add a couple of perennials like Rudbeckia, but the Blackie sweet potato vine in fron will stay, and maybe even the marigolds – I like the color against Blackie.  It looked even better a couple of weeks ago when the orange daylilies were in bloom.

Watching the Hummingbird

Tuesday, 18 August 2009, 12:17 | Category : Birds
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I was in the pool Saturday afternoon, cooling off after mowing.  At one end I’ve planted crepe myrtles, altheas, and cannas, and since that’s the deeper end, I tend to hang around there when I’m just hanging around in the pool.  And while hanging around there Saturday afternoon, I noticed a hummingbird working the cannas.  But as I watched, it did something I’ve never noticed a hummer doing.  Maybe it was because, with me being in the water, it didn’t notice me.  But instead of hovering at the flowers, this hummer would sometimes perch beside the canna flower and sip.  I’ve seen hummingbirds perch on limbs and just rest – this one did that several times.  But I’ve never seen one feed that way, except for very briefly at a feeder.  This one would sit for a couple of minutes at a time, then move on to another flower, where it would sometimes hover, sometimes sit.  Neat little birds, those.

BBC World Service Is Ruining Me

Friday, 14 August 2009, 8:09 | Category : Life, Lunatic Fringe
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I’ve always had sleep problems.  I’ve used a CPAP machine for eight years for sleep apnea, and I do sleep better than I did years ago.  But I still wake up almost every night in the wee hours, 2 or 3AM.  For a long time, I’ve kept a radio by the bed with a pillow speaker, and when I would wake up I’d listen to Art Bell and Coast To Coast AM.  If I just laid there with no radio, I’d start thinking about work stuff, or garden stuff, or whatever, and I would find myself waking up.  But listening to Coast To Coast AM, with all the loonies talking about UFOs and alien visitors and power crystals and government conspiracies and Atlantis – I could listen to that and my brain wouldn’t engage, and I would drift off back to sleep.  That worked for many years.  I became knowledgeable about Mel’s Hole, and the Zetans, and shadow people, and chupacabra, and lost cities on Mars, and many, many other things.  I followed Art Bell through his many personal travails, and stayed with George Noury when he took over the show a few years ago.

Then earlier this year, my local public radio station began carrying BBC World Service every night from 11PM until 5AM.  I started listening to this on those occasions when the Coast To Coast topic was too absurd.  Then I started listening to BBC even sometimes when the Coast To Coast topic wasn’t so absurd (not so absurd within the context of Coast To Coast, anyway,  You don’t tune in to C2C expecting a rational discussion of everyday reality).  But it still just served the purpose of letting me drift back off to sleep.  Until I had listened long enough to start being familiar with the programming on BBC World Service.  Then I found myself actually paying attention to the reports, and looking forward to particular programmes (to use the British spelling):  “The Strand”;  “World Briefing”;  and my favorite, “From Our Own Correspondent”.  So now I sometimes find myself laying awake for two hours listening to the BBC, and I’m getting some great, non-US perspectives on things.  But I need to sleep!

So…

Wednesday, 12 August 2009, 16:01 | Category : BlogStuff
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there was this guy, a sort of aging baby boomer guy, not quite in step with most of those around him.  And he had this blog, a sort of little-bit-of-everything-not-much-of-nothing kind of blog, which he updated fairly regularly.  And then he sort of stopped, for a little while, which turned into a longer while, until he wasn’t sure if he was still blogging or not.  Nearly all of his few regular readers drifted away, because who wants to read a blog that never has anything new?  And there was this Facebook thing that broke out of the college campuses and escaped into the wild, and everybody thought it was really cool, and besides all you had to do was type really short posts and comments, and take these quizzes.  Facebook was just it.  This guy, this formerly-regularly-posting blogger guy, also spent some time on Facebook.  Heck, he still does.  But Facebook is kind of like walking through the mall.  You nod at people who pass (at least, you do this in the South).  And if you chance to see an acquaintance, you might even have a brief conversation.  Then you move on.  Like going to the mall, Facebook gets kinda boring after a while.

So, this guy decided to come back to his blog.  Just as when he first started it, he doesn’t really know what it’s all about.  But if he can just figure out a way to do this regularly, maybe it will come.