Category Archives: Politics

No Context For You – June 09th

In the coverage of the current societal situation in the US I’ve seen any number of people suggesting that certain politicians need to be “shot into the sun.” This was also something that was mentioned a number of times in the first four seasons of “The Expanse” which we’ve just binged over the last few weekends. (Very good show, we enjoyed it a lot, FWIW.)

While there is a certain visual image that brings joy to the heart of all good and decent people when they fantasize about the Mango Mussolini and his cult being dropped into the corona to be fricasseed and flambeed in 17,000,000° nuclear fire, the simple fact of physics is that it’s hard to shoot people into the sun!

It might be counter intuitive – we think of the sun as being at the bottom of a gravity well and all we have to do is let got of them, right? Well… wrong. The Earth doesn’t drop into the sun because we’re in orbit, and moving at about 67,000 mph to keep us here. So to “drop” into the sun you need to lose all of that energy and slow down to about 0 mph relative to the sun. That’s a delta-v (change in velocity) of about 29.95 km/sec.

On the other hand, if you want to send something (or someone) on a trip out of the solar system to wander aimlessly through the galaxy with almost zero chance of ever hitting anything or even coming near anything before the heat death of the universe, you only need about 42.1 km/sec. Since the Earth is already going at almost 30 km/sec, you only need a delta-v of about 12.1 km/sec. That’s well less than half of what it takes in rocket fuel to drop someone into the sun.

You can launch TWO politicians on a slow boat toward Alpha Centauri -ish for the same delta-v as you would use to launch one politician into the sun, and still have enough delta-V left over to go to the Moon!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Politics

Frustration

So much frustration right now. *waves vaguely at everything*

There are little things that make me think that the gremlins are just rubbing it in.

For example…

I’ve mentioned that I had to get a new “normal” lens for my Canon Rebel XT. The original lens is flaky, at the wide end of the zoom it won’t trigger, just locks up the camera mechanism. The new lens I got is much more new and faster and wonderful, but might be too new and wonderful for the old camera body. It auto-focuses like a dream, but for manual focus like I use all the time in astrophotography it’s just been a nightmare.

I thought that I had figured it out, right up until I didn’t.

One trick from when I had “figured it out” was to go out a few minutes early and take a test picture which I could review on the spot in the camera. And I got this. Recognize the Big Dipper? Maybe? Kinda? Yeah, if you say so…

Ten frantic minutes trying my new “trick” over and over and over – same results. Finally it’s time for the ISS and Dragon to rise, so set up one more time and take my chances.

It looked amazing. I’ve got that memory.

Do you see that streak in the bigger, right-hand oval? That’s the ISS. See that dimmer streak in the smaller, left-hand oval? That’s the Dragon spacecraft.

It’s more obvious in a blink comparison with the images before and after this one. (New thought, stand by – can I do that in Photoshop?)

(thirty minutes later)

YES! I can. (Remember this for a minute, I’ll be back to this in a minute.)

Here’s a three frame animation with a long pause on the third frame so you can see the looping action. Dragon shows up just to the right of the telephone pole in the middle frame.

Frustrated by this failure on Saturday night, on Sunday I sat down with the camera to figure out just WTAF is going on with this new, fancy, somewhat expensive lens that should be perfect but instead makes me want to scream.

And I figured it out.

Short version – the lens is sort of “fly by wire” in that the focusing ring doesn’t move the lens elements, so it doesn’t have a mechanical hard stop when focusing in or out. Instead the lens simply detects motion on the focusing ring and makes the mechanical adjustments to move the lens elements based on that input. BUT, and here’s the key, since this is being run off of the camera battery, in order to avoid draining the battery at an extreme rate (apparently) it shuts itself off after about five seconds. If you don’t know this (I didn’t) you can spin that focusing ring until the heat death of the universe and it’s not going to change a thing. If you do know this (I do now!) you can flick the power off and then right back on to “wake up” the lens, focus away, and then wait for it to “go back to sleep” after about five seconds.

So I was proud of my stubborn ass self. I had figured it out! REALLY really this time! Now to test it!

There was a pretty good ISS pass on Sunday! And it was cloudy.

So try it on Monday, an even better pass! And it was cloudy.

A great pass tonight! And…

Completely socked in.

As I said, the gremlins are just screwing with me because they can at this point.


Which was my original point when I started writing this an hour ago. But then my brain said, “Wait, that looks better in a blink comparison type of GIF, can I make one of those?” And I didn’t have a clue but I tried and asked the question and fought through some so-so tutorials and finally got close enough to just figure it out on my own before I fiddled with it a bit to make it better and when all was said and done, not only did I have a tiny little thing that I created myself and shared with all of you, but that made the existential angst-ish blanket of frustration lift just a little bit.

And that helped.

It also helped that this popped up on my news alerts about five minutes ago:

Change is possible. That’s one absolutely evil, ignorant, guanopsychotic, complete waste of protoplasm down, a few hundred more to go.

It won’t be tomorrow. It won’t be completely done in November or January. It’s going to take the rest of our lives, and maybe our children’s lives and grandchildren’s lives.

But we’ll get there.

One at a time.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Politics, Space

Never Accept This As Normal

I fear that if I start ranting there won’t be any stopping, and there will so, so many obscenities used. I want this site to be a happy, goofy, thoughtful, occasionally joyous place. There are those who are trying to turn our society into a festering cistern of hatred and chaos, because that’s all they know. We can’t let that happen. So I’ll not start that rant. At least, not tonight.

But never, NEVER believe that my deferral from that rant in this forum in any way is a signal of acceptance or agreement. Just go look at my Twitter feed.

Never accept anything that’s happening now or what I fear might be to come as normal. NEVER. Fight it, always.

And remember to smell the flowers.

You might be seeing a lot of them in the weeks to come. I’m finding less and less to say that isn’t existential screaming.

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Filed under Flowers, Photography, Politics

Dragon Flies

It was a huge day for the future of our crewed space program. I’m sure you saw the news and probably saw any amount of coverage.

The launch. The landing of the first stage booster on the drone ship. (I know they want to re-use them a dozen times or so to save money, but wouldn’t THAT one look good outside the National Air & Space Museum?) The crew’s short TV event on orbit.

Tomorrow morning we’ll see them dock with the ISS and join the three crew members already on the Station, one American and two Russians. In thirty to ninety days (depending on a lot of things) we’ll see them come back down and splash down in the Atlantic near Florida. By the end of the year we’ll see the first operational flight of Dragon (this is the final test flight) with three American and one Japanese astronauts. And so on.

Tonight there was a marginal, partial pass of the ISS over Los Angeles very late. I’ve never before been lucky enough to see a cargo ship or Space Shuttle following the ISS, let alone a Dragon. It was low to the horizon, looking into the street lights, and it’s hazy out there. I went and looked anyway.

There was the ISS, not a terrible pass after all. Not great, but not terrible. And there, about 10-15 seconds behind it, co-orbital so it’s on the same path, was a much dimmer but still visible Dragon.

That made it a good day for me, personally, one I’ll remember for a long, long time.

Of course, then there’s the news. And the fact that technically I was potentially breaking curfew by going out as Los Angeles has had rioting, looting, and burning all day. As has Atlanta. And Philadelphia. And Pittsburgh. And Kansas City. And Minneapolis. And Chicago. And New York. And Denver, Seattle, Cleveland, Columbus, Portland, Miami, Rochester, and Salt Lake City.

I’m old enough to remember 1968. I think I may have made some comparisons to that year a while back.

This is worse.

So that’s the other thing that I’ll remember about today.

Some problems can’t be solved so easily, even with rocket science.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Moral Outrage, Politics, Space

Beauty On An Ugly Day

The news is ugly. Our country is being ripped apart. The death toll continues to rise. Too many people continue to be more stupid by the day. Our “leadership” is actively evil and treasonous.

But these orange-ish roses are still beautiful.

I guess no one told them.

I’m not going to be the ones to break the news to them. Besides, there’s a nice new crop of fence lizards living out there.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Flowers, Photography, Politics

Fifty Years Ago Today – Not Star Wars

Yes, yes, “May the Fourth…” Maybe next year.

Remembering fifty years ago today:

I was only fourteen, raised in a conservative, Midwest, middle class household. I knew that people were protesting the Vietnam War and a lot of people hated Nixon, but I wasn’t involved. I was too young, had too many other personal, angsty teenager things to deal with, like girls, trying to fit in while being a fish out of water in a new state that I (at the time) hated, missing my friends from where we had moved, and trying to figure out how to get out of being an altar boy seven days a week because we lived across the street from the church.

The perspective has changed more than a little bit for me. (Well, except for the girls thing – still a mysterious mine field.)

I don’t know if I think that the military or police or National Guard today would open fire on a crowd of unarmed student protesters.

But given what’s going on in Washington today, and some of the potential outcomes for November…

Hypothetically, if a certain orange monstrosity lost the election by an epic, historic landslide but still refused to leave the White House next January (like you can’t imagine THAT being possible!) and a few tens of millions of people took to the streets around the country demanding that he go (despite what I worry might be a raging COVID-19 pandemic by that point with over a million Americans dead) and it started to get ugly (think Chile, or Turkey, or the fall of the Iron Curtain)…

Would the military or police or National Guard open fire on that crowd?

I would hope not. They might. But I would bet they wouldn’t.

But would these shits stains open fire on innocent protesters?

michigan lockdown protests(Reuters / Seth Herald)

Even thinking about that brings me right back to the 1960’s (we were living in the Chicago suburbs during the 1968 Democratic National Convention) and 1970’s (“Four dead in Ohio’).

Let’s hope that at this time next year we’re having “Yoda-ritas” and watching Star Wars marathons with actual adults in the White House and Senate and House.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Deep Thoughts, Moral Outrage, Politics

So Much…Everything

Things got done, accomplishments crossed off, loose ends tied up.

Yet tonight there has been so much anger (politics), frustration (COVID), sorrow (the season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” which we knew would be brutal), awe (again, the season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” which was SO EXCELLENT), and then a bit of horrible news (not family, not personal friends, but still…) that came straight out of left field.

ALL the feels tonight.

One last time – watch “Zoey,” watch it again. It’s streaming on NBC. It’s so excellent.

As for the rest… One step at a time. And we’ll get by with a little help from our friends.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Entertainment, Politics

No Context For You – May 02nd

This was actually supposed to have information I needed. Not über critical, life and death information, just information. It does not.

I saw many discouraging things today re: our society’s current response to COVID-19. I saw many people, some of them folks I know personally and respect, doing really stupid and dangerous things. I saw total strangers denying facts, substituting their political opinions for data by doctors and scientists.

I fear for our country. For our society. For our future.

We might, in the end, be just too stupid to survive.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Photography, Politics

Done With April

Like, I am absolutely SOOOOOOOOO done with April!

This freefall thing sort of sucks. I know who I blame, and it’s not even an individual, but a whole cadre of evil MFers who are destroying the country and the society that I grew up loving and respecting and believing in.

So 2016 sucked, 2017 was bad, 2018 was really bad, 2019 just was a nightmare, and then January was horrible, February was worse, March felt like it was ten years of bad road, and now April…

It’s not you, April, it’s us. Truly. I’m sure you’re a perfectly good month that just happened to get corrupted and infected by a particularly bad case of MAGAts. You’ll get a chance to make up for it next year as we try to rebuild.

In the meantime, your more or less every other day reminder that there is beauty in the world, even if the news doesn’t show it, and that the bees and flowers and everything non-human are doing just fine.

Most of the roses just grow one at time – this one’s a three-fer!

Love this shade of red-orange-something.

It’s always surprising to me that two roses on the same plant can have such different subtle color variations.

Something about the depth of field and composition on this one grabbed my fancy!

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Filed under Flowers, Photography, Politics

Juxtaposition

I am, of course, following the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission tonight. It’s fifty years ago that the explosion occurred while they were about half way to the moon, turning what had started to become a “routine” flight to the moon (c’mon, really??!!) into the world’s most “successful failure.”

All of the Apollo missions can be re-lived at apolloinrealtime.org – it’s an astonishing project. For this mission, go to apolloinrealtime.org/13 and click on the “sync to today’s clock” clock icon in the middle left – you’ll follow along in real time with pictures, video, all of the ground to space audio, all of the audio from dozens of ground controllers as they tried to troubleshoot the problems. Or you can use one of the slider bars on top to go to any particular point in the mission and follow along.

It was a major catastrophe that hit pretty much out of nowhere. In seconds they went from bored to dozens of life and death decisions per minute. One mistake and the crew would be lost and our space program would have gone in a much different direction.

I’m amazed by the teamwork shown in listening to the “background” loops as the different systems engineers worked together to make sure that they could shut down the damaged Command Module and do an emergency power up of the Lunar Module to use it as a “lifeboat” to get the crew home. It’s amazing, a thing of joy.

And that got me thinking about the crisis we find ourselves in.

It might not have sprung out of nowhere to hit us in seconds – we had months to see the problem start, grow, spread, and finally reach us. But more importantly, our situation doesn’t involve three lives – it could easily end up with 300,000 lives just in this country, and in a worst case scenario where the virus spreads unchecked through places like India and Africa, it could easily cost 3,000,000 lives worldwide in the next year.

And listening to that 1970 NASA team spring into action and troubleshoot that situation and solve one problem after another, step by step, truly highlights the deplorable response to our current crisis. As if the normal, daily, background incompetence and buffoonery wasn’t bad enough, today we got the Mango Mussolini totally melting down at his daily press conference and apparently declaring himself to be a god? Supreme grand high poobah? Chief cook and bottle washer?

Oh, right, “megalomaniac dictator” is the term I was looking for. He’s not even trying to hide it any more.

Good thing that the GOP “leadership” is going to step up and use their clearly defined powers under the Constitution to act as a brake on his lunacy…

So, when we talk about how great we are as Americans, how we “put a man on the moon,” how we’re the folks that can solve any problem, beat any enemy – tonight we get to see how that might have once been true, at least a little bit, but it was fifty years ago.

Today? We can’t even get rid of this two-bit, tin pot dictator who’s killing hundreds of thousands of us, enriching himself and his cronies, lying through his teeth with every breath, and betraying our country to our allies.

If we want to actually solve any of the problems dragging us down to be a third-rate, backwater country maybe we could start with removing that particular cancer so we can start again being like Gene Kranz and his crew.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Moral Outrage, Politics, Space