Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Thinking About Old Enemies

I used to go to school with a Doug Brockman (I don't think that there is a second "n" on the end of that). I don't know what made me think of him... Especially since he is not someone worth thinking about.

I suppose, in all fairness, I shouldn't say that. Maybe he has changed since high school (I don't mean in the obvious way, like gaining weight or going bald... or both... but the better ways). Maybe he is a whole different person. I don't know. I do know that if he were to show up on the opposite side of my desk, I would be hard pressed to hire him. He was an abusive wretch in high school. Why should I think any less (ha, ha) of him now?

I think I saw a cake for him when I was working at Wyckoff Bakery. I should have been given a medal. I know this is going to sound awful, but I wanted to spit on the cake. And before you get all judgmental and think the worst of me, you need to know that this horse's ass (my apologies to equines everywhere) deserved it! He used to spit on me in high school! You honestly cannot imagine what that is like unless you have been the recipient of it.

So I did not do anything to the cake (I will admit I had my fantasies...) and I have never had the misfortune to run into this lowlife, this boil on the ass of humanity. I do give him marks for serving in the armed forces, but unfortunately that does not make him too much less of the gutless worm that he was (and hopefully no longer is).

I just hope he has not procreated!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Another Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!

I'm just getting this in under the wire, I know. It has been a long day and now, finally, it is at a close. Next year, my birthday should fall on a Saturday... which will be a good thing! I know this. I am convinced of this. As much as I appreciated taking the day off from work, all I did was run around like a chicken with my head removed - not exactly how one should spend one's "special day".

Still, it was a good birthday! Luis announced that after careful thought and checking, his birthday gift to me will be...

drum roll, please...

A laptop!

Oh, my goodness! I was shocked and thrilled and I can't get over it! I am over the moon! And the timing is perfect. This computer seems to not be handling as well as it once did (I wanted Luis to buy and install memory in this machine as it is failing), and I really need a laptop for work. I tried to negotiate it into my package but that was the one thing no one would bend on - not that I was going to let that dampen this! Still, I really wanted one. And soon I'll have one! Super wonderful!

My parents were good to me, friends e-mailed me and it was not a bad day. It was just a very busy day!

Monday, 22 January 2007

Sisters

Normally I don't send things like this out but I liked the sentiment. Thanks to all my sisters and may I add daughters to the younger crowd.

SISTERS
A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.

"Don't forget your Sisters," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass.
"They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them. Remember that 'Sisters' means ALL the women... Your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. You'll need other women. Women always do."

'What a funny piece of advice!' the young woman thought. 'Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup! Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'

But she listened to her Mother. She kept contact with her sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, sisters are the mainstays of her life. After years of living in this world, here is what I've learned...

THIS SAYS IT ALL:
Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.
Hearts break.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.

BUT......... Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.
A girl friend is never farther away than needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in and carry you out. Girlfriends, daughters, Granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, Sisters-in-law, Mothers, Mothers-in-law, Grandmothers, Aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our Life! The world wouldn't be the same without women, and Neither would I. When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Every day, we need each other still. If you like, feel free to Pass this on to all the women who help make your life meaningful.

I just did.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Nights In White Satin

Some things do it to me every time. I cry almost anytime I hear "Nights In White Satin" by the Moody Blues.

I remember that at the end of every year the radio (and I cannot remember which station[s]) would have a countdown (sometimes commercial-free!) of the top 100 songs in Rock of all times. I know that while Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" always won, somewhere in the top 10 or so would be the Moody Blue's "Nights in White Satin". I always loved this song. It is Rock but it is Classical, too. I appreciate Classical music as much as I do Rock music. It is just a completely different kind of sound. But listen to Beethoven and then listen to nearly any good musician drom the fifties. Can you hear it? Sometimes it is all the same chords. Change the tempo, change the accompaniment, you have something completely different... and yet, something completely the same. If you ever have the chance to watch "Mr. Holland's Opus", which is a teensy bit preachy but a delightful movie, do so. There is a scene where Mr. Holland, played with Richard Dreyfuss' usual talentedness, is trying to find a way to inspire his music students to appreciate music. In the 50s there was a lot of narrow-minded thinking about Rock and Roll music (an attitude quite delightfully embodied by the officious character played by William H. Macy, another actor I very much admire. He was the Vice Principle at the High School). He realises that thte kids are not going to respond to the Classical music, then thought of as Long-hair music, whithout understanding the way it relates to its predecessor.

A brilliant scene.

One Christmas, my aunt, a professional cellist, played Mozart for me... I really asked her to do it. And I was blown away... not that I haven't been to any of her concerts or heard her playing, but to hear the rich sound filling up the small living room was... wel... awe-inspiring. And beautiful. I had tears in my eyes. It was stunning, moving, lovely in way that no recording can ever be. Maybe after years of playing, the music does not move Amy the way it does me, as I think she was quite surprised at my reaction.
But music is beautiful and brings laughter, delight, richness, beauty and peace. Or it can be moving - moving in a happy way or a sad way, but moving none-the-less. I remember when telly shows really did not offer much in the way of music during scenes. In fact, it was either really hokey, only in the opening and closing parts, or non-existant. Now, watch any show. There are some shows that have constant background music... some with scenes where the actors are doing things with only music, and scenes that would not be the same without that. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation often - in every show - has scenes where the criminalists are doing things in the lab, with some song playing... sometimes it is very heavy-metal stuff, but some episodes stand out with music I know. One had New Order's "Elegia" playing. (This is a brilliant instrumental that is so rich in sound and the music starting so sftly it is inaudible and then swelling to huge proportions. Wonderful!) It made the scene so much richer... Not just because it is music I know and love but because it is not just noise but music to make you think and consider.

We went to the movies and saw "The Thomas Crowne Affair" when it came out... gods, when was that? I guess it was at least five years ago... Anyway, the movie was good, but it was made great by the score and soundtrack. (There is a difference between movie scores and soundtracks. I will let you discover that...) There was a very hot - and I mean, steaming hot - scene with Pierce Brosnan (absolutely nothing wrong with him naked!) and Renee... uh... Russo (that's it! Couldn't think of her surname for a moment) where they were having some really passionate sex all over the house. Now, that would have been some scene without music... maybe. With the music, there wasn't a person in that theatre squirming with sudden heat from that. (It was actually quite funny - I think every last person was completely discomfitted from that!)

People at work find it quirky but amusing that I absolutely must - must - have music. I do. I had one day without it when my little music player (not the RCA one I still have that is gods know how old and holds a max of 125 songs) died. I had a Rio Carbon then and it was wonderful. I loved it. It held about 2500 songs and was filled. It held MP3s and WMAs, the Windows format. I think it held other formats too, but I don't know which ones. It was a delightful piece of technology. It died in October (right before my vacation, which seriously limited how much music I had for my four-hour journey north). I had the little RCA thing to tide me over until Christmas when Luis, that wonderful man, far exceeded my expectations by getting me an iPod Nano. I am filling it up fairly quickly... Unfortunately it takes only the Mac - Apple - format and MP3... This meant that only some music made it (it was quite staggering how much music we lost when Luis' server died), and a lot of it had to be re-ripped and re-purchased from AllofMP3.com. I started out with around 1,000 songs. Now I have 3,304 songs (and climbing) - but I only put the four- and five-star rated songs on the iPod, or they'll not all fit! It currently has about 1440 songs on it and it is about 70 - 75% full (I think).

"Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the volour from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?
Pinprick holes in a colourless sky,
Let inspried figures of light pass by,
The mighty light of ten thousand suns,
Challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
To others the fear of solitude.
Brave Helios wake up your steeds,
Bring the warmth the countryside needs.
Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back in lament,
Another day's useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the volour from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?"

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Who Turned Down the Temperature?

Okay, I take back all the worrying and complaining I did about the warm winter!

It feels like winter now, all -4°C of it. It snowed Thursday night and yesterday. Not enough to really amount to anything but it has been white and pretty and then today... yikes! It has been very cold and very, very windy! Not at all a pleasant day. It is clear, but that is as far as pleasant can go. That is not saying much now.

Tomorrow's forecast: clear, then becoming cloudy in the early evening. It may snow overnight but while it won't amount to anything, it may freeze and cause all sorts of problems for the morning commute. Wonderful. Just what we need. Nothing like starting a Monday off on that sort of note! As I have payroll to run and don't want to wait until 0930 to begin, I will have to brave the roads and hope that what is being predicted will not come to pass.

I started this posting right before heading over the squadhouse. I am happy to say that we had a good night. Considering we had Montville and a portion of Boonton (possibly) under our wheels, this is saying something. We really could have been slammed. As it was, we'dve had no calls if Montville did not have their installation dinner last night. Oh, the irony!

As it was, the night might have been a bit easier had it not been so bloody COLD! It was -8°C, around 18°F... not a warm, pleasant experience by any means! The first call, a young person having an asthma attack, was not a problem (although had it been more serious than it was, the cold air could have really made it a very bad call). That was at roughly 2230. The older patient at 0445 was not a good deal, having to take him out onto a freezing cold stretcher and out again at the hospital. Both seem to have made it with no issues. But we were freezing and it could not have been fun for either of them.

BBBBR-R-R-R-R-R!

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Ten Ways to Know...

"Ten Ways to Know It's Time to Go

A Job-Change Checklist
By Caroline Levchuck

No matter how much you love your job, you may not love it all the time. Folks with the most fulfilling of professions can still find themselves battling a case of the "Sunday Night Blues." And, from time to time, we may all feel a sense of disenchantment with our employer or our co-workers.

But how can you know when it's really time to go? Here's a hint: If more than half of the following statements ring true for you, get your resume ready and start connecting with new opportunities today.

1. You start to dread Monday as soon as you leave work on Friday.

2. It becomes more and more difficult to get up for work each day, and tardiness becomes a way of life.

3. You cannot muster enthusiasm for anything related to work -- other than your paycheck.

4. You spend most of your time complaining to colleagues or about your colleagues.

5. You act defensive and even hostile in company meetings when there's little cause for it.

6. You interact less and less with co-workers, shutting yourself away in your office and avoiding opportunities to socialize.

7. You've used up all your sick, personal, and vacation days -- and the year isn't even half over.

8. You're constantly putting off until tomorrow what you could (and should) do today. When you do actually commit to doing your work, you feel resentful.

9. You're bitter about the company's success or that of a co-worker.

10. You have no professional goals related to your job, and you have a hard time even making some up at your obligatory performance review."

You might be wondering why on earth I posted this when I constantly write about being nauseatingly and abjectly happy with my current employer and position. I am - still nauseatingly! But I have been down the above road. And I hated it. It was misery.

It was not my boss. The woman who hired me is a personal hero to me and I am thankful for every moment I spent with her. I am also thankful for every moment spent with the Benefits Manager there as well. I still keep in touch with her and delight in speaking with her. They have both added immesurably to who I am both professionally and personally. How can I begin to thank them for that?

No, with them, my time there was better than good. It was incredible. Niether person was perfect and they both know their own strengths and weaknesses - something I truly admire a lot. They encouraged me, shortcomings and strengths and never suggest I become them or emulate them. Invaluable. Really invaluable!

But the problem is so rarely my own direct supervisor, it is usually the "powers that be" or the ones steering the boat. The company was floundering when I joined it, but the position was too good (albiet scary!) to pass up: HR Generalist of a small branch of the larger company. The only person there in HR. It was scary - I'd always been part of a department, always in a cubicle and then suddenly I was a person with an office and a set of files and a unique position - no one was directly my employee - and they all were. That is... amazing. And frightening. But after trying it out I really found that this was quite ideal. (Of course, I was not - and still can't - read the future. Who knew that there was something so much better awaiting me, and the people I'd meet along the way?)

I joined this company in December of 2002, with very high expectations and in my department and my boss(es) I was not disappointed. But the company was run by some insincere person who really had no liking or caring of this company or the people who comprised it. I can't help but wonder what sort of karmic trouble comes on the résumé of this individual... I'm sure that there is no interviewing process that make this person shine! No eye contact, no decent writing skills (yes, you can well imagine how incensed I was to see the lack of spell checker, no punctuation, missing letters or words (whole missing words - is that staggering, or what?!), and nothing of substance. I saw few e-mails from this non-enterprising person - at my level, few e-mails from the CEO made it to me - but what a total lacking in any sort of communications. And where did this person begin professionally? In marketing! Who knew you could have no written communication skills in THAT field and rise to - well, that level of incompetence! Shocking, isn't it?

Well. Thank the gods for the squad! I had my EMT stuff to fall back on and make me feel at least a little useful. Certainly it was not hard to see where things were going professionally. It was a small comfort that I was told I was valuable. When the HR Generalist in the Nevada branch left and was not replaced, this was the first real mark of the decline. The HR person in Georgia moved into a new position (another very admirable person) and no replacement was found there. I was told the search was in progress but really... do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck? It may have begun with a search but that search stopped long before we knew.

When the new boss came in my then-manager did the right thing - stepped back and gave the reigns to the new person. The new Director seemed OK but ran the department somewhat like a facist state. I was departmentally denounced for disagreeing with a decision made - in a weekly meeting with only HR people! That was wrong. What good is it to have a department you cannot express yourself to? I was never disallowed from my own opinion with my manager. Who was this to do that?

So when my manager suddenly showed up unannouced and the Operations Manager was looking very sheepish and unhappy, it was not hard to see where this was going. And they both handled it really well, but it was awful for me and for them. And then I closed that chapter and started a new one. The next chapter ended very sadly with a funeral and my lay-off, but I would not have traded knowing Lee - never.

And then... I came to my current position. And the amazing times. And the amazing people. And most amazingly, what I can and do - do!

I love Mondays (well, not so much the payroll, but the rest of it!). I love a fresh new week to begin like a racehorse out of the starting gate. I feel great about getting up before dark and starting my day in my office, in this gorgeous, old building. I face each week with the certainty that I will learn something and do good things! The colleagues who drive me are wonderful - just not at the particular moment that he or she is driving me crazy! I love the projects and work even when I don't. I do not ever feel resentful about what I do (I will admit that filing does not excite me... but does it excite anyone? I doubt it). I am not constantly brought into meetings and I don't view the ones I do go to as time-wasters (that was a huge problem in many, many places!). I am delighted with general and specific success and feel that I am a part of it - at least that is what my manager tells me and I would not doubt this person. At all.

Life is great!

Monday, 15 January 2007

Just Lost in Music...

Everyone has been through trial by fire at some points in their lives. You don't get to go through childhood and have it be all roses and song. Growing up is not, by nature, painless. Would that it were, I used to think. But that trial by fire is what made that lonely, timid, frightned person come out and turn into the force to be reckoned with at work, on my first aid squad... pick your poison!

But this posting, while it explores a large amount of childhood angst and issues, is really about what the root of my love of music did for me and how it shaped my love of it today.

There are a massive mulitude of reasons for things to be as they were in my middle and high school years. There were no progressive schools that I could go to, where being socially inept was less egregious. Even if there was, my parents could likely have not afforded it. There was one young kids' school, one middle school and one high school in Wayne. Unlike anywhere else in the United States (which is probably not the case, but seems like it to my then-child's mind), the system in Wallington, NJ consisted of a kidergarten through Grade 3; the middle school, the Frank J Gavlak school, was definitely living with a huge misnomer - it had the Grades one through three... but on the top floor, you had the Grades Four through Six.

It gets a little interesting here, as this is where the high school (again, a lulu of a boo boo in misnomers!) started at Grade 7 and continued right up through Grade 12. Now, this was strange. I have enough friends and done enough reading to know that this was not the normal set up in any school. Welcome, friends, to the Wallington High School. Welcome to my world.

Well, it really was not my world. It was not being at home. It was not sitting in a class with the same abysmally stupid kids who were interested in make-up and boys and their appearance. Not that this isn't a normal thing for most 12- or 13-year-olds. Clearly it is. But I was never comfortable within my own skin, frizzy hair, brown eyes (not unusual, either, really - I just happen to be able to look back and now know what the problems were). The teachers often had that hopeless look of, "Oh, am I supposed to stuff some knowledge into your tiny little cranium?", whilst they were focusing on boys, girls, unpopular and popular kids. But I wasn't that person. I wasn't the person who wanted to ingratiate myself with such completely empty people. And so many were. I wanted a friend, really, but it seemed that I would have to comfort myself with the few self-centered "friends" that I had. I think I will always have a softspot for Lori Patti. John Solomene, well, not so much. He was mad af me for some reason at some point that I knew at the time but have long, long, since forgotten. But Lori has been and always will be very special.

In 1980 we left the comfort of the apartment of 5523 Nelkin Drive in Wallington. My grandmother had promised to by my mother and my father any house they wanted. We looked at many, many houses before finding the little white Cape on Alps Road.

Wayne... Wallington - worlds apart. I knew Wallington so well - not merely going to the corner store and home or to the school (certainly not in Wayne - which I could not find at all but I was in the eighth grade - right back down the bottom). In Wallington, there weren't too many dangerous creatures. The heavist drug I'd even seen marijuana. Not much of a sampler, me. I hadn't tried it and quite frankly wasn't inspired to - Lori's older brother smoked it a lot in the 70s when we were kids (maybe fourth grade) hanging out in her apartment. It stunk. When we moved to Wayne, I remember walking into the 9th grade girls' bathroom to find some of the snobby, rich girls snorting some white substance up their noses. I am sure that by age 13 I had heard of cocaine, but I had never encountered it. It was shocking. I never did try it. Not to this day and although it is fairly passé now to do coke (there are so many "better" things out there, I suppose), I never will try it. I will never willingly try any of the other drugs of choice out there - herion, E, rohipnol (roofies, I believe is the current vernacular), ketamine, and whatever other potentially deadly things are floating about out there.

That stands out in my mind.

It was not a nice place. The apathy of most of the teaching staff hadn't changed. The curriculum hadn't either. But the students - and my status - did and rather considerably at that. The kids here were ranging from lower-middle class to rich and there were girls I went to school with that never - throughout the whole of the four years - wore the same thing twice. That was so hard for me to grasp - and not feel envious about it. I tried to fit in and be more like the kids in Wayne - a useless effort as it had no effect on how they viewed me and certainly brought me no happiness. So then, I went the completely opposite direction. I became very much the odd teenager, into punk and the look when it was only just starting and not at all present in that God-frosaken school. The teachers mostly ignored it and I was perfectly happy to be comfortable in the clothing side of things, at least. But comfortable was an uneasy thing in that wretched place. I mostly wasn't.

I would come home, and hide in my bedroom. It may have bothered my parents, but they were never ones to push me to do things I would not want to anyway. That was fine. I really think little of parents who force their kids to do things: play piano, join a sport or some sort of club at school. Anytime parents make the kid do something, it is a bad idea. I think a lot of baggage comes with that sort of thing. I'm very happy that my parents did not force the issue of being a joiner on me. I think they understood that whatever I was going through was mine to deal with and there was really little to be done for it.

However, this is not why I got mired into the whole pitiful school-times thing. I got in to this because somwhere in 1981 I found U2. I found them and immediately bought the album "Boy". I loved it. I listened to it all the time. I had already pretty much taken ownership of my parents' records that I did like: Pink Floyd's "The Wall". The Beatles' "Abbey Road". Now I was starting to buy music of my own. I had Adam & The Ants and other albums, but I found U2 and that was all I wanted for a long time. Then I bought "October" - more U2 music to immerse myself in. Oh, so refreshing! And this began my love of lyrics - good, strong, powerful, meaningful lyrics. Music means a lot and I listen to plenty of it that has no lyrics. But when it comes to my musical choices with lyrics, please shoot Britney Speares and give me the meaning - U2, Barenaked Ladies, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Marillion, Coldplay, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, etc. A little thinking, a lot of intelligence. I need that. I won't pick out music I don't like for the sake of lyrics, but it is meaningful to me that what I listen to has meaning, even if it is satirical, like "Eaten by the Monster of Love" or "The King of Bedside Manor".

U2 gave me something to think about, something to fantasize about, something - many things - to believe in. I so needed that. I was one of the most unimaginably loneliest people in the world during my teenage years and this allowed me to feel like I had champions. Like someone knew what I was feeling and added a good sound to it. U2 was older than me - they were ranging from 15 to 17 in 1978 and I was 10 in that time. So they had perfect timing. Listen to the lyrics of the songs on "Boy" - "Out of Control", "Shadows and Tall Trees", "I Will Follow" - and you can immediately see whay any teenager can relate to this.
20 February 2007

I wrote this an age ago. I should just post it since I have long since lost that train of thought...

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Many E-Mail Thanks!

I just howled when I read this. Thanks to TigerTrax for sending this to me as it was priceless. It might not have meant much if I weren't inundated with the same e-mails warning me about the rapists and robbers, and the phone calls to Uganda as well as the countless e-mails telling me that my life will be nothing but an endless parade of bad luck if I don't immediately send it out to the 144,216 friends in the next seven minutes...
To THOSE Who Have Barraged Me With Those Countless Informative E-mail's, Thought I Would Show MyAppreciation With ..........A BIG THANKS!!

To Whoever Sent Me the One about Rat Poop in the Glueon Envelopes because I Now Have To Use A Wet Towel with Every Envelope That Needs Sealing.

Also, I Now Have To Scrub the Top of Every Can I open For the Same Reason.

I No Longer Have Any Savings Because I Gave It To A Sick Girl (Penny Brown) Who Is About To Die In The Hospital For The 1,387,258th Time But That Will Change Once I Receive The $15,000 That Bill Gates/Microsoft And AOL Are Sending Me For Participating In Their Special E-mail Program.

I No Longer Worry About My Soul Because I Have 363,214 Angels Looking Out For Me, And St. Theresa's Novena Has Granted My Every Wish.

I no longer clean my floors with Swiffer wipes because they will kill my animals and small children.

I No Longer Eat KFC Because Their Chickens Are Actually Horrible Mutant Freaks With No Eyes Or Feathers As Soon As I Get My Free Dinner Coupons From Applebee's, I Can Eat Again.

I No Longer Use Cancer-Causing Deodorants Even Though I Smell Like A Water Buffalo On A Hot Day.

Thanks To You, I Have Learned That My Prayers Only Get Answered If I Forward An Email To Seven Of My Friends And Make A Wish Within Five Minutes.

Because Of Your Concern I No Longer Drink Coca Cola Because It Can Remove Toilet Stains.

I No Longer Can Buy Gasoline Without Taking A Man Along To Watch The Car So A Serial Killer Won't Crawl In My Back Seat When I'm Pumping Gas.

I No Longer Drink Pepsi Or Dr. Pepper Since The People Who Make These Products Are Atheists Who Refuse To Put "Under God" On Their Cans.

I No Longer Use Saran Wrap In The Microwave Because It Causes Cancer.

And Thanks For Letting Me Know I Can't Boil A Cup of Water In The Microwave Anymore Because It Will Blow Up In My Face, Disfiguring Me For Life.

I No Longer Check The Coin Return On Pay Phones Because I Could Be Pricked With A Needle Infected With AIDS.

I No Longer Go To Shopping Malls Because Someone Will Drug Me With a Perfume Sample And Rob Me.

I No Longer Receive Packages From UPS Or FedEx Since They Are Actually Al Qaeda In Disguise.

I No Longer Answer the Phone Because Someone Will Ask Me To Dial A Number For Which I Will Get A Phone Bill Totaling $2,374.76 With Calls To Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, And Uzbekistan.

I No Longer Have Any Sneakers -- But That Will Change Once I Receive My Free Replacement Pair From Nike.

I No Longer Buy Expensive Cookies From Neiman Marcus Since I Now Have Their Recipe.

And Thanks To Your Great Advice, I Can't Ever Pick Up $5.00 Dropped In The Parking Lot Because It Probably Was Placed There By A Sex Molester Waiting Underneath My Car To Grab My Leg.

Oh, And Don't Forget This One Either! I Can No Longer Drive My Car Because I Can't Buy Gas From Certain Gas Companies!

Thanks To You, I Can't Use Anyone's Toilet But Mine Because A Big Brown African Spider Is Lurking Under The Seat To Cause Me Instant Death When It Bites My A#%.

And Remember, If You Don't Send This E-mail To At Least 144,000 People In The Next 7 Minutes, A Large Dove With Diarrhea Will Land On Your Head At 5:00 PM This Afternoon And The Fleas From 12 Camels Will Infest Your Back, Causing You To Grow A Hairy Hump. I Know This Will Occur Because It Actually Happened To A Friend Of My Next Door Neighbor's Ex-Mother-In-law's Second Husband's Cousin's Beautician...

Thank you, and Have A Wonderful New Year!

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Bright New Comet Could Become Brilliant

A newfound comet is about to loop around the Sun and might offer skywatchers a rare and fantastic view. But comets are unpredictable, and this one has a wide range of possible outcomes, experts say.

When Australian astronomer Robert McNaught announced Aug. 7 that he had discovered a faint comet on a photograph taken at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, it was a distant and inconspicuous object. But its orbital motion at once made it clear that this comet, officially catalogued as C/2006 P1, might grow very bright right about now.

Comet McNaught's orbit [video] indicates that it will sweep to within just 15.8 million miles (25.4 million kilometers) of the Sun on Jan. 12. This rather close approach-less than half the average distance of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun-suggests the comet has the potential to briefly evolve into a bright object. The big question is, just how bright?

Brighter than Venus?
Recent estimates have ranged widely from magnitude +2.1 (about as bright as Polaris, the North Star) to a dazzling -8.8 (about 40 times brighter than Venus)! [The lower the magnitude number, the brighter the object. The brightest stars in the sky are categorized as zero or first magnitude. Negative magnitudes are reserved for the most brilliant objects: the brightest star is Sirius (-1.4); the full Moon is -12.7; the Sun is -26.7. The faintest stars visible under dark skies are around +6.]

The reason for the great uncertainty stems from the fact that for the past few weeks the comet has been positioned at such a relatively small angular distance from the Sun in the sky that it has been extremely difficult to get good measurements of its brightness. Now, with a little over a week to go before the comet makes its closest approach to the Sun (called perihelion), just how bright it may ultimately get and how long a tail may develop remain to be seen. Predicting a newly discovered comet's brightness has proven historically to be difficult, especially around the time of perihelion.

Spot it Now
This is the 31st comet to bear McNaught's name and at time of discovery, it was no brighter than magnitude 17-far to dim to see with the naked eye.

Observers have followed its gradual brightening as its distances from Sun and Earth decreased. It's currently both a morning and evening object, visible very low near the east-southeast horizon about 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise and very low near the west-southwest horizon about 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. During this upcoming week, prospective observers should seek the most favorable conditions possible. Even a bright comet can be obliterated by thin horizon clouds, haze, humid air, smoke, twilight glow, city lights, or moonlight. Binoculars are strongly recommended for locating it.

But the past few days, reports suggest that Comet McNaught is becoming easier to sight even through the bright twilight glow. [Sky Maps: Morning, Evening]

Bright Outlook
David Moore reported seeing the comet on New Year's Day evening from Dublin, Ireland. He writes: "After searching for over half an hour in strong twilight I saw it easily in 20x80 binoculars from an upstairs window. I could see a small fuzzy and surprisingly bright head about as bright as the mag 3.5 star Lambda Aquilae 6 degrees above it. That said, it was not an easy observation given the strong twilight and the comet was only 3.0 degrees above the horizon!"

Editor's Note: Bookmark this page so you can ...
... Follow the comet's progress in the SOHO spacecraft images starting Jan. 12.
... Learn of any significant changes to the comet's brightness, which will be noted on this page.

Also, SPACE.com will provide more details on the comet in the Jan. 12 Night Sky column. Well-known comet observer, John Bortle of Stormville, New York caught sight of the comet just before sunrise with 15 x 80 binoculars on Jan. 2.

"My eastern view was largely obstructed by trees," Bortle said. "Still it was somewhat amazing to see the comet against such a bright sky and through all those tree branches! From experience in making similar observations, I'd judge that it was not any fainter than 2nd magnitude."

Regardless of just how bright Comet McNaught becomes, beginning on Friday, Jan. 12 and continuing through Monday, Jan. 15, it will be passing through the field of view of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory ("SOHO"); a spacecraft that was launched in 1995 to study the Sun. Astronomers hope to get spectacular views of the comet by utilizing SOHO's LASCO C3 camera, whose images can also be viewed in real time here.

2007 Is Off to a Great Start!

I'm not completely unhappy with the start of the new year! In fact, it is off to a very good start!

I will admit that the first work day of the year did not start off that well. There were some issues brought to my attention and that is never a warm and fuzzy thing, but I see myself really taking aggressive steps to fix them. I also was very gently chastised by someone I work closely with and have a lot of respect for and immediately fixed the issue raised. So I am feeling very good about these things, not bad. I am stressing about them to some degree but stressing in the right way, if that makes sense.

I'm feeling good about this year, though. Good in all ways. I think I will grow more as I usually try to and I think that medically this will be a better year as well. I feel confident and strong. I'm delighted with the possible astronomical events lined up, such as Uranus being very visible (as visible as a 4 billion mile away and low magnitude planet can be); Venus putting in appearances as both the evening star (now through August) and the morning star (August through the end of the year) and reaching magnitude -4.5 from 7 - 12 September; Mars reaching a brilliant -1.4 magnitude in the evening in November; Jupiter at magnitude -2.3 and at perihelion on 7 June (a Thursday which solves the problem of coming in late to work but creates the problem of what if we get a call while I'm outside with the telescope...); and Saturn at a magnitude zero (half as bright due to the rings being nearly edgewise) will be rising early already and quite nicely visible in Leo - all year! Mercury will be the toughest catch - visible only a short time, from 2 January to 12 February after sunset, 14 May to 4 June. Best viewing time will be predawn in November.

There will also be two total lunar eclipses - one on 3 March (fortuitously on a Saturday!) and one on 28 August, a Tuesday. The August one will be in the very wee hours of the morning... I may want to arrange my work schedule accordingly, so as to not miss it. It will be worth it, as this is the last year the moon will be so lofty and high in the sky as it is now. The moon goes through an 18.61 year cycle of rising very high, and very low. January and December are the best months to see the full moon at its highest (hopefully December will work out, as the full moon on 3 January was occluded by poor weather conditions). Other times, the moon will ride high in its crescent phase. One interesting fact: the summer months full moons, because of the riding high of the moon in the warm, moist air, may appear yellow, orange or red and only dimly light up the night sky. That will look amazing and be really condusive to good viewing.

Well! Happy New Year!