Archive - 2003


New Year's resolutions

To big odometer will turn to 2004 at midnight. Whoopee. I plan to be in bed, safe from drunken drivers and falling bullets. Yes, there seems to be some problem with gunshots fired in the air at New Year's here in Tucson. They announced stiff penalties for such behavior on the news last night, and told of the last person hurt by a falling bullet which came through her roof. I will be safe here as there are two stories of concrete above me.

December 30th

Some perspective on our place in the universe

My goal while star viewing Saturday night was to learn to locate the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor. I practiced finding it for over two hours, so I should have it down now.

Telescopes, because they see such a small part of the sky, are of little use in looking at Andromeda. The galaxy stretches across four moon widths in our view. The problem is everything but the intensely-lit core of the galaxy is too dim to see with the naked eye. With binoculars on a dark night, however, the whole thing becomes much more clear.

Hitler and cigarettes

The other day at Barnes and Noble, I read parts of a book of transcripts of Hitler's dinner conversations during the war. The conversations were one-sided, almost monologues, as you might imagine. Hitler expanded on many subjects, including art, food, history and astronomy.

Hitler was adamantly opposed to smoking. He didn't allow it in his presence. He listed those he knew who were killed by smoking, including his father. He chided those at the table who smoked, saying "You're next!"

December 29th

Vikings aftermath

People are writing of heartbreak in Vikingsland after their last second loss yesterday. My heart remains intact. I went to the game, yes, but I am not much of a fan. I put the loss out of my mind immediately after the fact. This is not baseball, after all!

Frozen pipes in Tucson

Last night, Tucson hit a low of 19 degrees, which was lower than the low temperature in Chicago, Boston and Anchorage. So, all kinds of advice on the radio today about how to prevent frozen pipes. Apparently there was quite a little trouble last night.

I thought it felt pretty cold at the Vikings game yesterday. I had no idea. No wonder my sinuses are a little funny today. In the sun it can get up to 65 during the day, but as soon as you move into the shade, look out.

December 28th

Vikings game

Spent the day driving to and from Tempe, AZ, where I watched the Vikings. The more complete account is posted as a column to the left. I did not exaggerate. Well, you know I never do. But I was really not exaggerating this time.

December 27th

More on northern lights noise

I just checked on the internet, typing in the term "audible aurora borealis." Seems that the discovery I outlined below is recent enough that it hasn't hit the internet yet, for there are webpages galore attempting to explain why northern lights make noise that is simultaneous with their flashes.

Serious scientists postulated the following possibilities:

--Some sort of radio waves react to people's fillings or inner ear.
--The phenomena is purely psychological, even though it shows up in Eskimo lore from centuries past

Why we can sometimes hear the northern lights

If you're getting sick of astronomy, just scroll down!

I went out to the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Club's viewing site tonight, about 15 miles west of Tucson in a remote part of the desert. I went there last year as well, and was treated to some good views on the many telescopes. Tonight there were fewer scopes set up; the moon is at 25%, which blocks out a lot of the more remote objects, and scares off the astronomers who don't want to stay up late enough for the moon to set.

Reagan's letters

Ronald Reagan’s son Ron once told an interviewer: “Don’t think you’re ever going to figure out my Dad. You won’t.”

A recently published collection of handwritten letters penned by Reagan during his eight years in office only adds to the confusion. Any facile, easy explanation of Reagan’s personality and leadership style seems doomed by whatever new evidence leaks out.

December 26th

Snow in the mountains

Cold and rainy in Tucson this morning. A low-pressure system from the Pacific overwhelmed the arid desert air, but only briefly. Now, only three hours after it was overcast, cold and drizzling, it is clear and in the mid-60s.

When the clouds lifted, they revealed snow-covered mountains to the north of Tucson. The snow adds depth to the mountain views; you can finally tell from the desert floor how high the distant mountains are in relation to the closer, smaller mountains. Without snow, they look all the same.