Saturday, 31 March 2007

You Need Not Leave Home...

...to experience those things you want.

I love science (yes, I'm repeating myself) and I love volcanoes, earthquakes and tornados - all those weird, wacky, powerful, decimating sorts of things. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't like the human disasters part - although when you think about it, five to forty deaths in a tornado that rates as an F5, cuts a miles-long swath is not a bad death toll. Think about it - something like that can kill far more people than that. But I don't have an interest in that part. I'm just fascinated by the nature - the powerful strength of the air, the earth, magma moving beneath the surface.

I have not seen a volcanic eruption, but I have experienced three earthquakes (all very, very minor) and one tornado. The tornado was by no means an F5 (which is fine) but it was scary as hell and pretty much satisfied any desire I had to be that close to one. On 31 May 1999, a tornado ripped through Lake Parsippany, not a half mile from the house. It did not tear up any houses directly but it dropped huge trees on houses and cars and did an enormous amount of damage.

I awoke around 0230 from a crash of thunder that was like a detonation. The cat was unnerved - Chelsea was totally unaware of it but Ariel was very upset and high-strung. I made myself some tea, and watched the storm through the window. I moved into the kitchen when the wind became too out-of-hand to watch. The kitchen, in the back of the house facing east, had one protected window (it had an awning over it) and the side window was heavy glass blocks like you'd find in a bathroom - it allows in difuse light but no direct light. (The view was the nieghbour's house and nothing else, so this was good thinking on the previous owner's part.) I knew I was safer in there, with the storm raging from the west and the small window there. I was sitting with Ariel when the distinctive sound of a freight train passing by was clearly audible. All that raging storm and that is exactly what I heard. There is just one problem - no trains pass through Parsippany. The closest place to get a train is Morris Plains (not at all close enough to be audible) and those are only commuter trains. It was scary. I knew that meant a tornado from all the documentaries, books and online reaserch I've seen and read. I was unnerved. I had never experienced anything like that and I have not since.

And I did not need to go to Texas or Oklahoma to do this.

I went to Texas twice and not a single tornado showed up. I suppose that this is really a good thing, but I wanted to at least experience one super-cell storm. Not even a rumble sounded to allow for any satisfaction. I have always wanted to go on a storm-chasing journey but have never managed it. But we had a tornado (an F2) pass just down the road from me in New Jersey, a state that averages 3 tornadoes a year. I spent time in a state that averages 248 tornadoes a year and had NOTHING!

I have been to California right on the San Andreas fault and how many earthquakes occured when I was there? Nothing - not even the slightest hint of a tremblor. Nothing. Really nothing. But when I was taking an astronomy class here in New Jersey I felt two tiny earthquakes in the house in Wayne - they were so minor I did not know what they were until I went for my next class and the scientist there showed us the siesmograph.

On 22 April 2002 I awoke around 0600. I went up to my computer in my office, which was the top floor of the house. I remember sitting there while typing and thinking something wasn't right. I kept thinking about this as I was working on a letter. And then it hit me. It was quiet. I don't mean it is 0600 and nothing much was going on, I mean it was dead quiet. There should have been explosive noise coming from the birds in the trees at dawn and there was nothing. Not a peep. It was that total lack of noise that got my attention.

I remember looking around and becoming aware of my pen, resting on my desk, moving... gently rocking back and forth. So was the monitor. It was very subtle, but very striking, too. The pen got to a point where it slowly rolled off of my desk. After maybe 20 to 25 seconds of this, it stopped. I was looking around - there were no sounds, no truck driving by, nothing that could have caused this... it was an earthquake! Sure enough, a day later, I went to the USGS Web site and there it was - an earthquake in Plattsburg, NY - right at the time I felt it - a magnitude 5.4 quake - that, for this area, is exceedingly strong. I went on and posted my experience and there were others that had posted feeling it in areas more south than I was. Amazing, right?

So I went to California in 1999, and felt nothing. I was in Texas in 2001 and again in 2002 and experienced nothing. I never left home in 1986, 1999 and 2002 and experienced three minor earthquakes and one mid-strength tornado. Sometimes you need not leave home to find those thing you wish to experience!

Circadian Rythms and the Penis

Saturday, 31 March 2007
05:39
Yes, my brain has too much time on its hands.... (and the penis part of this is very short. It's mostly about circadian rythms).

OK. How is it that evey morning at five a.m. there is Luis' penis waving in the air. I don't get it. Everyone jokes about the morning hard-on, but it is there without fail as though some invisible, inaudible alarm clock that goes off and tells it to wake up... without the rest of him. It's really quite amusing.

This morning I happened to really like that...

People are all different and circadian rythms are, too (although the universal law of morning erections seems to be the same for every man and moves with the time zones as well). I'm very rigid when it comes to my own circadian rythm. I need more structure and the time change and longer and shorter days are difficult. In the winter I'm really off-kilter with the sun rising at 0730 and setting at 1630. But in the summer, with the sun setting at 2100 it is much the same thing - confusing. I go to bed around 2030, so it is weird to go to bed with the daylight still there - as much as I like it.

When the clocks go back and forward, I have about a week of total sleeping/waking insanity (I'm greatful and bent about it being three weeks earlier this year - I thought that would be better, but it really was more confusing. A life time of clocks going forward in April makes early March trying).

I've lost interest in this train of thought between the movie that is on and watching the sunrise. More later.
Sunday, 1 April 2007
10:56
OK, I'm more interested in this again, after spending last night running all over Parsippany and Lake Hiawatha trying to save lives. The clocks going back or forward are not the only things that screw up my internal clock. Time change from travel is a killer. Traveling west is easy enough - it is a very long day and then after a good night's sleep I am in sync with the local time and it is all good. Travel east kills me. Suddenly there is a huge jump forward in time and it is all off-kilter. I got back from Las Vegas in 1993 and from Palm Springs in 1999 and it was an amazing and distressing thing. I was all screwed up from that - I don't remember too well what it was like coming back from Las Vegas as at the time I was out of work. But I remember all too clearly how long it took to recover from Palm Springs! I was there for six days, returned Saturday evening and then had Sunday to get over it - and it was not nearly enough. It took almost a full week (and I was very much working at the time) to get through the jetlag. Not fun. But I have to tell you honestly that I don't care and will happily pay that price. My trip to Palm Springs was incredible, amazing, educational, huge fun, and the best trip I have ever taken as an adult. I loved it. A little severe jetlag is a great downside to a phenominal trip!
And last night has completely screwed up my internal clock, but again, worth it. I logged more calls last night than the entire month of February. I had a great time with Bob and the experience and driving practice was all wonderful. By tomorrow morning I will just have a little residual tiredness and then I will be fine.
Next time you poo-poo the notion of circadian rythms, listen for the laughing of your body when you are feeling tired from time changes of any kind!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

I Love Being Here With You!

I have been thinking about work.

Luis and I were talking about vacation and the value of it - I see the value, he does not. He loves his job that much, he tells me. And he would be right in thinking that many people don't love their jobs, and that a large group like thier jobs, but still are discontent enough to take vacation to get away from work. This is where we disagree to a degree.

There are a lot of people who don't like their jobs and yes, vacation is a means of getting away. But I know plenty of people who do like their jobs and they still take their vacations and love it. It is a battery recharging thing.

I get up every day and I feel great about going to work. I look forward to returning to work on Monday. I get a lot done and I feel like a million dollars! It is not an issue of look-I-cleared-more-out-of-my-Inbox - that is unrealistic. No one is that amazing. Or, if they are, there is clearly in inequality in the workload.

Stuff You Can Do with Your Cell Phone

THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW YOUR CELL PHONE COULD DO:

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:

FIRST Subject: Emergency The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself outof the coverage area of your mobile; network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

SECOND Subject: Have you locked your keys in the car? Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk). Editor's Note: "It works fine! We tried it out and it unlocked our car over a cell phone!"

THIRD Subject: Hidden Battery Power Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370# - your cell will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50%increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell next time.

FOURTH Subject: How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone? To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: * # 0 6 # - a 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This numberis unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

And finally...

FIFTH Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial (800) FREE-411 or (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

A Week of a Word a Day!

Monday, 19 March
Hair! What a thing! People spend millions trying to grow it. Others spend even more to get rid of it. Some do both, though on different parts of their bodies. We can get in other people's hair (to annoy). We let our hair down (relax). We split hairs (make petty distinctions). Things can make our hair standon end (terrify), or we might be having a bad hair day (an unpleasant day). Sometimes literally. I have seen my niece in tears in a family wedding just because she felt her hair wasn't done as well as she had hoped. (I know what some of you are saying to yourselves, "Just because?") Our hair grows. We cut it. And in between we spend countless hours on it. This week we devote five days on hair -- and on their absence.

This week's theme in AWAD: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

piliferous

(py-LIF-uhr-uhs) adjective

Having or producing hair.

[From Latin pilus (hair).]

Tuesday, 20 March
This week's theme: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

calvous

(KAL-vuhs) adjective

Bald.

[From Latin calvus (bald).]

Wednesday, 21 March

pogonotrophy

(po-guh-NAW-truh-fee) noun

The growing of a beard.

[From Greek pogon (beard) + -trophy (nourishment, growth).] Pogonology is the study of beards and pogonotomy is a fancy word for shaving.

Thursday, 22 March
(mine and Luis' 17th anniversary)

pilgarlic

(pil-GAHR-lik) noun

A bald-headed person.

[Literally peeled garlic, from pill (to peel) + garlic.]

Friday, 23 March
hirsutulous

(hur-SOO-chuh-luhs) adjective

Minutely hirsute.

[From Latin hirsutus (rough, hairy).]

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Tax Breaks in Strange Places...

'Sometimes, despite objections from IRS, taxpayers get to write off some oddball items. Here are some of our favorites. Admit it. As you've worked on your return, trying to come up with extra deductions to pump up your refund, you've taken a few flights of fancy.

"Can I claim a deduction for all those blood donations at the Red Cross?" Nope.

"How about a charitable contribution for all the time I donate to the church?" No, again.

"Can I count the wedding gift for the boss's daughter as an employee business expense?" Come on!

On the other hand, over the years your fellow taxpayers have beaten IRS in court on payments for many crazy things that most of us wouldn't even dream of claiming. We've uncovered what we think are the weirdest deductions allowed, ranging from pet food to free beer.

1. Pet Food
A couple who owned a junkyard were allowed to write off the cost of cat food they set out to attract wild cats. The feral felines did more than just eat. They also took care of snakes and rats on the property, making the place safer for customers. When the case reached the Tax Court, IRS lawyers conceded that the cost was deductible.

2. Moving the Family Pet
If you are changing jobs and meet a couple of tests, you can deduct your moving expenses -- including the cost of moving your dog, cat or other pet from your old residence to your new home. Your pet -- be it a Pekingese or a python -- is treated the same as your other personal effects.

3. A Trip to Bermuda
This island is more than just a scenic place to visit. It's a great place to schedule a tax write-off because business conventions held in Bermuda are deductible without having to show that there was a special reason for the meeting to be held there. That's a sweet perk.

Other countries in the Caribbean region qualify, too, including Barbados, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Saint Lucia plus Trinidad and Tobago. Meetings held in Canada, Mexico and all U.S. possessions also receive this favorable tax treatment.

Attend a convention in Paris or Rome or Beijing, though, and there's no deduction unless you can show it made as much sense to travel abroad as to head to Pittsburgh.

4. Body Oil
A pro bodybuilder used body oil to make his muscles glisten in the lights during his competitions. The Tax Court ruled that he could deduct the cost of the oil as a business expense. However, the Court frowned on his deductions for buffalo meat and special vitamin supplements to enhance strength and muscle development.

5. A Private Airplane
Rather than drive five to seven hours to check on their rental condo or be tied to the only daily commercial flight available, a couple bought their own plane. The Tax Court allowed them to deduct their condo-related trips on the aircraft, including the cost of fuel and depreciation for the portion of time used for business-related purposes, even though these costs increased their overall rental loss.
6. Babysitting Fees

Fees paid to a sitter to enable a mother to get out of the house and do volunteer work for a charity are deductible as charitable contributions, according to the Tax Court, even though the money didn't go directly to the charity.

7. Breast Augmentation
To get more tips, a stripper with the stage name "Chesty Love" decided to get breast implants to make her a size 56-FF. A Tax Court judge allowed Chesty to write off the cost of her operation, equating her new, um, assets to a stage prop.

Alas, the operation proved to be a problem for Chesty. She later tripped and ruptured one of her implants.

8. Landscaping
A sole proprietor who regularly met clients in an office in his home can deduct part of the costs of landscaping the property. The deductible portion is based on the percentage of the home that is used for business, according to the Tax Court. The Court also allowed a deduction for part of the costs of lawn care and driveway repairs.

9. Free Beer
In a novel promotion, a gas station owner gave his customers free beer in lieu of trading stamps. Proving that sometimes beer and gasoline do mix, the Tax Court allowed the write-off as a business expense.
10. Swimming Pool
A taxpayer with emphysema put in a pool after his doctor told him to develop an exercise regime. He swam in it twice a day and improved his breathing capacity. Turns out he swam in the pool more than his family did.

The Tax Court allowed him to deduct the cost of the pool (to the extent the cost exceeded its added value to the property) as a medical expense because its primary purpose was for medical care. Also, the cost of heating the pool, pool chemicals and a proportionate part of insuring the pool area are treated as medical expenses.'

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

What Makes Men Fall in Love?

This is an interesting article...

Judging from the kind of mail we get at Men's Health from men seeking relationship advice, I can tell you this definitively about men: When a man falls for a woman, he falls hard. Men love to be in love. While men often get stereotyped as single-minded sex-seekers, the truth is that a man's stomach churns like a slushy machine when he's in those initial stages of the perfect relationship.

When you consider that half of men say that they're currently not with their soul mates, that means a heck of a lot of slushy machines are waiting to be turned on. What are they waiting for? What makes a man fall in love? After you rule out the obvious intangible laws of chemistry, attraction, and being in the right place at the right time that kick-start many a relationship, I think the question really becomes this: What makes a man fall -- and stay -- in love? About 60 percent of men deem friendship the most important thing in a relationship (sex comes in at a skimpy 8 percent, according to a national Harris Interactive poll), but let's delve a little deeper. What exactly does that mean, and what kind of woman does a man really want? With full acknowledgement that men's tastes in women are as unpredictable as the plotline of "24," these are some of things that many men value in "the one."

A Woman with a Passion in Something Other Than Him
Yes, it's nice to be doted over. Yes, it's nice to be pampered. Yes, it's nice to be with a woman who showers you with compliments, neck kisses, and all of her attention. But there's a virtual Great Wall of China between a fleeting, flirtatious glance and the kind of attraction that can last a lifetime. Many men say they like a woman who's immersed in something else other than the relationship -- be it her work, or her sport, or whatever her "thing" is. Why? The passion she shows for something else confirms her inherent goodness, her personal drive, her independence. All pluses in the woman we're hoping to spend a few decades with.


A Woman with No Problem with Guy Time
Every relationship has to choreograph the time-together dance. Once a couple elevates from casual to serious, it goes through that period when most waking and sleeping minutes are spent together. But at some point in the dance, one person will call a time out from the music of coupledom, and try to spend more time with his or her friends -- while still being careful not to step on any feet in the process. Even when they're with the most perfect woman, men still crave the occasional space to spend golfing or drinking or doing whatever (64 percent of men are happy to have the time to themselves when their wives or girlfriends have plans). Men love, appreciate, and are thankful for women who respect and endorse (and not complain about) his need to have a few testosterone mixers. Don't worry, March Madness will be over in just a few weeks!


A Woman with a Strut
Her strut in the bar may have been part of his initial attraction. The strut from the bedroom to the bathroom after the first night together may have been pure visual ecstasy. But the strut that happens day in and day out is one of the major attractors for a man. What do I mean by the strut? It's that attitude, that sassiness, that confidence, that charisma, that charm that shows she can be a little bold and little daring. In a recent post I talked about the line between a woman being confident and a woman being so aggressive that she turns men away, but the truth is that in certain aspects of relationships, men want women who have the strut. Men want to be with women who challenge them, who push them, and who take the lead some of the times. And that's as true in the bedroom as it is in planning their next weekend getaway. The danger? While it can be insanely attractive, that strut of confidence can also swing a man 180 degrees -- if she uses it in other places, like to flirt with other guys, to become a relationship dictator, or to pick a fight with his mom in front of the whole family. He'll point that kind of strut right out the door.


A Woman with a Good Taste in Ties
Okay, so we don't really care about the ties per se. But what we care about is a woman's ability to give us a little-and this is a key word-gentle guidance. I know Freudian followers will say that it's a man's need to be mothered, but it's more than that. Every relationship is a give and take, and guys will definitely take women who can warn us when our new soul patch looks stupid, who can guide us to the perfect suit and shirt combo for an upcoming job interview, who can help them make decisions without being harsh or judgmental. Guys like to project that they know what they're doing and that they don't need any help. Women who can help steer us, without aggressively grabbing the wheel, are the most treasured copilots.


Have your own ideas about what makes us fall -- and fall hard?

I must be the perfect woman, then! My response:

Hello, David,

I read your article and I loved it. It seems that you have hit the nail entirely on the head. I have been with my husband for 17 years (tomorrow) and I find that I have all four items in my favour. I have great passion for my work (HR Manager), my volunteer work (EMT), my hobbies (writing and reading) and for living as a whole. I think he likes that.

I definitely allow Luis "guy-time" or more importantly, "Luis-time" - and his time is exactly that, whether it is watching the telly, sitting at his computer gaming, working, or going to the go-go bar.

I don't know if I strut, per se, but I walk with confidence. I had never thought of this as an important factor, but it sounds good!

I suppose my taste is fine, and I give him guidance when asked (or if he puts on something truly eggregious, which I am happy to say does not happen often). He seems to appreciate it.

I think, though, that there are two more major components that should be touched upon. Two biggies that are committed all the time by women even more than men and really are the pitfalls of relationships. (Aside from communicating and the difference between men and women there.)

1. (5.) I'm not his mother. It is not my place to tell him what he can and cannot do, what he should and should not do. In no way have I earned the right to dictate to him what is allowed and what is not. Understanding that certain actions may have less-than-desireable results is one thing; telling a grown man aged 41 that he is not PERMITTED to do something or go somewhere is quite another. He is his own free person.
The corollary to this is to cast out any feelings of jealousy - the only person who will be miserable is you. And it won't make him feel good or trusted.

2. (6.) Trying to change your mate. Luis is wonderful and I am crazy about him. He does have a few things that are not ideal and it would be nice if he suddenly woke up a different person but with all of the qualities I DO like. That, however, is unrealistic.

No one makes it 17 years without some concessions, but when I encounter couples very often the same push-pull dynamics are visible: she wants to change this or that about the man, and he is digging his heels in.
Luis is a slob. He is totally unaware of leaving his clothing in the sunroom, unnoticing of leaving dirty dishes around, unmindful of the fact that his desk at home (and at work) is unmanageable and invisible under the many things that end up roosting there.

He snored - in decibel levels that was higher than merely embarrassing.

He is cheap (not frugal, just cheap). Granted, he is cheap in funny ways, not just straight across the board.

He is clueless around the house.

Of these four items, the first four that popped into my head, I have made the following discoveries:
He will pay for cleaning people to come to the house every other week - as long as I am also working. If I am unemployed, I'm stuck with it. So he tells me right after the cleaning people have come, "Haven't I done a great job?"

The snoring had to change - it was directly affecting my ability to work. This was a long hard ugly road and years of trouble (aggragate time spent being upset and tired). Eventually, though, his health actually triggered the change - which underscores how unsuccessfully one can change another person!
I don't care that his desk is buried so long as I can find MINE!

Being cheap is weird so we keep our money COMPLETELY separate. Mine is mine to piss away as I want (provided I meet my monetary requirements first) and his money is his to hoard. It's not mine.

Concessions do happen. If I really hated these things THAT much, I'd not want to be with Luis. I do, so I live with and accept those things about him!

And I am completely crazy about him!

Pretty good, huh?

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Sign Language

Sure, we all know sign language. Flipping someone the bird, guesticulating while having a conversation, it is amazing how much hands can say. Hands say volumes - sometimes more for others, sometimes less (people are so varying, you know. Some people are very active speakers - I am - big surprise, right? Others don't move at all. Amazing). And bodies communicate a lot. There is sign language and there is American Sign Language (I only know a little bit) and then there is the sign languge I know - body language.

Laugh all you want.

So many people come in to see me and it is funny, because I know if he or she really has something serious on his or her mind. Sometimes I don't - there are some people who have too much rigidity or just don't emote the same way or whatever. But most people do. You can see it in the posture, the way he or she moves, the set of his or her hands or arms or the expression on his or her face. That is the easiest thing to hide. I normally don't. I think it should be easier to read people and what is going on in his or her head. Unless I have to hide my emotions. I always have a poker face when I terminate people. I can't imagine what my face does look like, but I think it looks the same for all. But normally, I have a lot of expression.

Body language is funny, as it can give away the secret emotions, but some people can really hide what is on thier minds. I wonder what that must be like, but I don't want to be that way. I obviously can't do espionage... I imagine that requires a really straight face... but I can do what I need to when I need to. And I have no idea what my body language says.
Imagine, though, that signing is all you have. It is all that there is, you are in a silent world. I love music, I need music, and how do you live in a silent world? There are so many things to hear, so much that is beautiful to hear and so much that is not. The honk of an air horn (a noise I know well), the sound of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, the earsplitting shriek of baby (granted, no one is missing anything there...) It was staggering how much noise one little 18-month old kid could make. Unreal. The sweet notes of a bird, the caw of a bluejay. The purring of the cat, the chittering of squirrels. Tires screeching, the sound of a motorbike. The feeling of an airplane taking off, the sound of one passing overhead.
But music! The world needs music. What can bring out emotion more than music? Signing is beautiful. I love to see it - it is poetry with hands. It gives language to those who are hearing impaired or sompletely unable to hear. It opens a whole new world to the deaf and that is a great thing. But I have my hearing. I have tinitus (is that spelled right?) or ringing in the ears, and it scares me, it scares me to my bones. I love music. I need it. It makes life good when it isn't and the sun shine brighter. Weather is just weather - even when you are driving. That is life. Driving to work and home is life - not just part of it. I look forward to my drive to and from work - it is uninterrupted music time! Although I was happily singing out loud in my office, and I rarely do that. I know exactly how bad my singing voice is!
I hope tomorrow is that good!

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Snow and Fun in New Jersey!

We did a total 180 from warm, beautiful late-spring weather to my Gods, where did the winter come from? I drove home on Wednesday afternoon with loud but wonderful music, the windows down and the sunroof open. With a normal, lightweight shirt on! It was delightful - so warm, so sunny, no humidity - that ruins the summer here, if the weather was dry life would be better! Anyway, it was a treat after snow, sleet and frigid temperatures to have a day that was actually in the 80s and beautiful outside.

On Thursday morning it was 62 F and okay - and by 1400 the temperature had dropped to the high 40s and was grey and ominously cloudy. When I got home, it was just starting to rain... little cold hard pellets hitting the windshield. When we headed out to our call at 2140, it was ice falling from the sky. That was it. We headed to Morristown Memorial and when we returned the ice was still falling. When I went to be around 2330, it was still pounding against the windows. When I finally gave up on trying to sleep around 0700, it was snowing hard and piling up fast. I had to run to Chilton to see Ma and first I went to Wayne to find Ray - I'd called him twice before and could not find him. So I went to the house (normally a 25 minute drive, it was a 40 minute odyssy of passing accidents - all single-vehicle spin out accidents) and the van wasn't there. I headed to the hospital from there and Ma was there but Ray wasn't. She had just returned from a test - she had a boatload of tests in two days. They have come to the happier conclusion that she was having focal siezures, not TIAs - a relief, I assure you. TIAs are usually precursors to a massive stroke. This is not that - siezures can be innocuous and caused by a multitude of things. So this is good news.

Ray, it turns out, went to his normal blood test and then physical therapy. He just went to his normal Friday stuff. He came to the hospital to meet me there with a couple of slices of pizza and we ate until they came to take Ma to her MRI test. We waited until 1300 and then the nurse said something about her having a second test... we looked at each other and immediately decided it was time to leave. So off we went, and it took 45 minutes to get home from the hospital, normally a 15 minute drive. Yikes. It was a huge effort to get up the driveway and into the garage. I know how to do it. I have to line up my car to be in a straight line to the garage door and then I have to drive at a fast, constant rate of speed up and into the garage door. I managed it (after three tries) and went into the house with the idea of not leaving, especially as it was still very actively snowing outside - big wet swirling flakes. It was quite amazing.

Luis came home and without me knowing a thing, he began blowing snow. This was around 1400... he was able to manage it for about an hour but then a newspaper got jammed into the blower and it ceased to work at all. He came in after only clearing about half of the driveway. It looked it might be manageable but then it began to rain ice pellets again.

Vicki called at that time and asked if I was available to come over so I said I'd come around ten. I was unsure of the weather but Vicki seemed confident that it would be over by 0200 and the roads should be fine. OK...

Well, the roads were not looking too good, but the driveway was far, far worse. It was covered up as though Luis had not touched it. It took me several tries to get out of the garage - but I did finally get out. I start to head to Vicki's house and the local roads hardly had any visible blacktop. Ominous. Route 287 had no fast lane. It was buried under slush and snow. A few brave souls went through the slush and one such moron threw all sorts of junk onto my windshield - scared the piss out of me. That whole no-visibility thing does not work for me when driving. I was not a happy camper.

I did finally get to Vicki's house and realised that their driveway was not done. At all - I couldn't park in it - I might be able to get in, but I would not manage to get out later. Hmmm. I was too far foward to park in front of the house - the road curves. I had to drive around the street again and park ahead of the house.

It was a delight to see and talk to Vicki and Stephen has really mellowed and become such a mature little boy! He is only three and a half, but he is a big boy - easily the size of a five-year old. It makes it easy for most to forget that he is not that mature - he is mentally right at the level of a three-and-a-half year old. He does have a longer attention span than other 3.5 year old kids. He was a bit of a monster when he hit the terrible twos and lived up to the full meaning of a terribly two year old kid. Not his fault - but certainly harder on Vicki, who originally wasn't really planning to be a parent. She has certainly learned a lot and came a long way from the exhausted parent she became when she first had him. He was a delight this time around. He is a very cute little boy.

So we hung out from 1000 until 1500, and then I left to get home. The roads had thawed and a lot of the roads were completely clear. I was relieved. The drive home was much easier. And driving later that night - well, I get ahead of myself.

I ended up parking in the squad parking lot - the driveway was a disaster. We had not managed to clean out the newpaper from the spinning parts, and so that was that. I figured trying the impossible would not be worth it. It wasn't.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Springing Forward Did NOT Get Easier!

OK. The one and only thing that George W. did right and it still is not any easier.

The clocks went back on Saturday night (let's be honest, here. I am not getting my ass outa bed at 0200 to set the clocks back! Does anyone?). I got up Sunday morning and the daylight was gone - poof! Just like that. Well, OK. I did end up going back to bed and getting a bit more sleep, but that is not often unusual with me. I wake up fairly close to my normal waking time but on weekends, I go to bed later. It is confusing.

As if that wasn't confusing enough, the clocks went back three weeks earlier, so all the normal weirdnesses that go along with April's time change weren't there. They were weirdnesses I'd never dealt with. The times that usually go with the bi-annual time changes were all off. It was weird... I just don't know how I did not figure that. 21 days in terms of lengthening days can see a lot of change. Apparently they did - or didn't. The sun was not as far along as it normally is. I'm guessing at the end of the season - delayed by one week - it will make so little difference as to be unremarkable from the normal insanity and lateness that October's - now November's - clock revision brings.

So much for easier.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Things to Do & See in Las Vegas!

I mentioned to Tom today that I am going to Las Vegas in May to have a great time and live a little for a vacation. He had some wonderful suggestions and I am sure that we will talk more about this between now and then. He has been to Vegas many, many times. So has Luis but his focus tends to be single-minded in a few areas of interest: gambling (and not so much in recent years) and scantily clad women.

I don't mind in the least that Luis is focussed on scantily clad women! That is normal for men and it creates a win-win situation - he goes out to see the scantily clad women and then returns to me to get the action - everybody's happy! Everyone's a winner: the scantily clad women got tips/lap dance money (those things are not cheap!), Luis got a thrill and gets laid, and I get laid! What's not good about that?

Some of Tom's suggestions (what to see):

Mandolay Bay Aquarium - for $15.00 (!) you get free range of the aquarium for the whole day, if you want it. You also get a thing to carry around with a recording set up that gives educational information about the various creatures and tanks that you see. The lighting conditions for photo taking may not be ideal but I am familiar with the pitfalls of photography in aquariums. He raved about that - so many varieties of sharks and other sea life - and I love aquariums in general.

Bellagio - I don't really have specifics for what it is to see there, but I have heard that it is a beautiful casino to see and worthwhile to visit. Certainly the $1.00 chips are sharp. Tom backed up that idea that this is a good place to see.

Stratosphere - I was there in 1993 when it was still Bob Stupak's Vegas World and they were doing the Elvis pitch to get people to buy into financing the new Stratosphere... which at the time was a half-constructed burnt concrete construct with a big crane on the top. It was maybe 600 feet high and nothing to look at but they were pitching hard for the money. They also offered a hell of a price to stay there - negative $100!

Now it a 1,149 foot creation with rides like the Big Shot and Insanity - The Ride as well as shops and other things. Tom did not recommend the roller coaster ride, having done it, but he thought a lot of the other rides, even though he has not been on them. But that is not the only thing to see. He highly, highly recommended the view of three states as well as the mountains and landscape of Las Vegas during the day; at night it is very worth going back to see the Strip fully lit up in its electricity burning glory! I think that this is a great idea!

Ceasars - we went there in 1993 to see the shops and the shows with the moving statues - it was fun. That was fourteen years ago. Now I would imagine that the shows if there have improved and I don't doubt that the shopping is amazing. We may be staying there as that is where the NARCA convention is located. Cool!

Hoover Dam - Tom said Alayna did that tour, and it is worthwhile to do the all-day tour, not half-day tour. Apparently you miss a lot with the half-day show. I wanted to see the Hoover Dam the last time and never made it, so this time I am absolutely going!

Recommendations on what not to see:

Steve Wynn's latest hotel/casino, Wynn's Las Vegas - Tom mentioned this to me, as something not to see. It is just a lot of glitz and glamour and not really worth spending time to see. If it does not have a specific item to see I would not put it on the docket anyway.

Treasure Island - now called TI, the original show of the pirates against the British has been dumped in favour of what Tom called basic pornagraphy - the show is now a bunch of scantily clad women taking captive the other ship and its captain. Hmmm. Tom loves scantily clad women, but if he is telling me that this show is not good, I am very inclined to believe him.

This is all I have at the moment, but I am sure that there will be more!

A Day of Weirdness

15 March 2007
19:40

It has been a day.

It was not an abnormal day - not until after rig check. I got up, I went to work, I did a lot at work. I actually did a whole lot at work - I was lavishly complimented today by several people. It was a good day but it was weird... I'm very tired, very warn out. I have worked every Saturday but one for the last six or seven weeks and I don't mind putting in the time, I love my job, but I need a rest. And a three day weekend is just the ticket! But the tank is running empty... and some of my conversations reflected it. And now - again - my mother is in the hospital.

Now, that just sucks. I mean, really, really sucks. They are supposed to be going to Las Vegas on Monday, but with her having a TIA it seems like they won't be boarding a plane. I certainly can't say I feel sanguine about it. A highly pressurised cabin with a possible brain problem is just NOT a good idea. I can't be the only one thinking that. (Maybe I am, but only because I understand the physics at work in an airplane...) Still. The doctor must know that, too. I suspect they will have to put off their trip.

Ironically Luis told me he is going to Las Vegas in May, and I believe I know where I am taking my vacation! Las Vegas, baby! I think that might upset my parents, but I don't know. It's funny. I spent a large chunk of time looking at various flights last night and mentioned it to Luis that flights across the country were nearly half as cheap as ones to Nova Scotia, just up the coast. Weird. Not to Luis - he suggested that flights to remote strange places are more expensive. Oh... So let me check that out. He was right! $243 to go to Vegas...

16 March 2007
0634

Well... it's always hard to sleep on nights I'm on call. We had one call in Montville last night (for a change we were not the primary crew for them, although that would be surprising on a Thursday. Very often we end up being the primary on Saturday - they have trouble mustering a crew on Saturday). But this time, one of our crew members saw the Montville rig heading down Route 46 West with the medics in tow. So they were out - turns out they had an ETOH, except that there was no smell alcohol or indication of actual intoxication other than behavioural. They were checking the blood sugar levels last I heard (gotta love the police there - very friendly).

I'm watching WarGames. Remember that movie? It was made in 1983 - back when I was a sophomore - when modems were phone cradles that you had to put your phone into. There was a tone then that computers recognised and wouold communicate with them, but this was a very slow thing - a lot less than 96kbps/per second - maybe it was per minute. It was high technology then to have a set up like that - when floppies were the 10"x10" (I think that was the standard. It was before 5.4" and then the 3" floppies). I do remember that. I had a high school friend who had this whole set up - the computer with the monocolour screen and the phone cradle (I don't think that they were called modems at that time) and even a drawing pad with a stylus. It was really slow but pretty amazing. They had bulletinboards at the time, listings with various interests that you could look at and call up information. The systems were not GUI or WYSIWYG - Graphical User Interface or What You See Is What You Get. (Hey, I may not be anywhere near Luis' or Tom's level but I know and recall a fair amount!) The Internet existed then but not for common use - it was still a military interface system at that time. But computers did communicate however slowly at the time and users had the ability to hack into them with much more ease. This one hacked into the NORAD system (Joshua) and was playing Global Thermonuclear War (shiver).

I wonder what Joshua would think of Grand Theft Auto and the other common use games that are now available for any ten-year-old to learn all the wrong life-lessons...

It's a great movie, although it certainly showcased the issues of the time - the cold war with Russia was still quite strong. The USSR (CCCP) did not disband until 1990. I suspect most kids today might know of the cold war, but I remember the fears of Russian warheads - just as my mother remembers air raids and my grandfather knew the fear of the Japanese. A time not so long ago. Not for someone who is 40, who is 66, who would have been 100. Look at what my Director of Security knows. He fought in a war. My grandfather did, too. I know Luis' grandfather did. War has not changed so much, other than the toys used to make it happen. Did you know the first war was recorded in 2700BC or 2700 BCE? War-making... we have been doing this for five thousand years and it seems to be the one thing humanity does well, after all this time.

Disappointing. I get that humanity is violent but I keep hoping that wiser heads will prevail. I suppose, despite President Bush, we still are somewhat ahead. I can dis Bush online and not worry that I will be killed or taken away for saying my opinion (although I'd have to say that it is no longer merely opinion that Bush is an idiot but really more a statement of fact). I won't even be fired for saying such things. In many countries, heresy is still illegal and considered an offense. I cannot imagine that. So I guess some wisdom has crept in and remained. But mostly, violence still exists and we have more and more knowledge of the kinds of violence that man can perpetuate against fellow man.

Look at serial killers - a science all its own now. Still, a scary one (I happen to have done a lot of reading about it. It is really creepy stuff). But while the phenomenon still seems new, it is not. Jack the Ripper of course was one of the first documented but humans have been running around a long, long time... and so it is reasonable to say that serial killers have as well. Look at the winning parties of wars - many were not called that, but they certainly practised it with great enthusiasm!

It had been raining with ice pellets (it was on that call) but now there is snow on the ground and roof next door and so winter is back. Someone at work said that he or she thought winter was over and this warm set of days was the hint that it was done. I responded that we are easily known for seeing snow in April - I have seen enough to know and blizzards happen in April as well - it is only mid-March so it never occurred to me that winter gasped its last breath for the 2006-2007 season just yet. As overall warm as it may have been this season, it is not over just yet. Clearly! It might actually drop 8 - 12 inches on us!

I love this scene - NORAD is closing up and there is a door shutting that is easly six feet thick and shutting for the long haul (the government reached DEFCON 1 - full scale war. Scary. The door is incredible - I wonder if that is really what it looks like and if they still have it. I guess that they do - North Korea and some Middle Eastern countries have nuclear warheads. It is scary, but gods above, I would like to think that even the most insane minds in those countries realise the futility of such a tactical move. I hope!

Everything outside is just varying shades of grey. Chariusco, I think it is called. Two days ago I drove home from work with the windows down, sunroof open and music paying. It was a lovely drive - daylight, warm sun... and now it is snowing. I knew winter was over but really, we had all four season in a twelve hour period!

James Woods is in this movie and he is delightful. His brother, or relative of some kind, John Woods, is also wonderful, but not as much - he was in "Lady Hawke", a cheesy, yet good, movie. That was one of the earliest movies with Michelle Pfeiffer in it. So was Rutger Hauer (yum!) as Etienne Navarre. She was a woman under a curse to spend dusk to dawn as Isabeau but dawn to dusk... as a hawk. And he was the opposite but cursed to spend dusk to dawn as a wolf. Until one day that the curse could be broken - a day without night and a night without day.

An eclipse. A solar eclipse.

At this point, the computer is going through every possible global thermonuclear war scenario and there is an explosion of lights and sound and fury and then suddenly there is deafening silence as the computer has exhausted every possible outcome. And then...

"Hello, Professor Falken."

"Hello, Joshua."

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

So true.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

I Have No Idea...

...what to write about. But I haven't written in a while, so I'm jonesing. Isn't that funny? I suppose there are a million things that people jones over. Drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever, pick your poison. My poison? Communicating! Writing - both physically and mentally and psychologically satisfying! That makes me weird, right? Well. I could be a drug addict. I hate swalling pills and quite frankly, while needles don't bother me, I need not be on the receiving end of them. I prefer to watch the medics putting them into other people. (Yes, that is weird!)

I could be an alcoholic, but as you can see from a posting in February, I have already discovered that drinking - especially when upset - is completely ineffective - for most people it makes things worse, but since everything is right there on the surface with me (and I choose to be that way), there is no more severity from drinking. But it doesn't make happy person pop back out when things are down.



Sex. Well, I love sex. I love it a lot and if the right person asks who am I to say nay? (I do with effort, but admittedly, the right person rarely asks! I seem to be surrounded by them, but they have better taste... I'm not all that and a bag of chips. I am not being self-depracating, it just is what it is. I am not a stunning woman... and there is a whole lotta woman here. I don't love being fat, but for the most part, it is what it is. I know that is not a good attitude. I will get into yoga again. I go through phases to attempt to lose weight. But food is not my best area. Besides being totally fussy (ask the chefs at work or either one of my despairing chef-caliber fathers) I'm afflicted with a love of pizza and other junk foods. And sugar - easily my biggest downfall.



Wasn't I talking about sex?



OK, I could be a marathon sex nut who is doing everything that is moving, but that isn't me. While I admit that there are some people that I would struggle to say no to, there aren't that many - maybe two or three. And none of the three are offering and Luis' drive is quite substantial with his weight loss, now. I think that the whole marathon sex thing could be fun, but that is really not a good path to go own and I highly doubt that it is healthy. It certainly won't bode for a long life.



So instead of druge, sex and alcohol, I have music, I have writing, I have so many books that I absolutely must live another 80 years to read them all (and is there something that makes you think I will cease buying them? Come on, now!), my amazing pen collection and my laptop - which affords me the opportunity to really communicate no matter where I am. Life IS good!



I got my review at work, and I was terrified and rightly so. But as always fairness wins out in the end with this place. It was a completely accurate, completely on-target review. I am not the gods' gift to all that I do (unlike Luis who seems to really be able to do it all and do it all well - do you know how hard it is to live with that?) but I am not, by any means, awful. I have areas that need improvement. Big surprise, right? (That would be sarcasm.) I have areas where excel - I even have one 5 (laugh if you want, but I am rarely ever inclined to give out fives - if I live by my rules, I die by them, too!). I was not over the moon but I was... if that makes sense. I am working hard to correct those areas that need improvement. But it was surprising how hard I am on myself - more so than almost anyone else.



I work with great people, though. No denying that.



I am currently planning a trip to the Bay of Fundy! I have always wanted to go there and see this phenomenon. The Bay of Fundy is just designed perfectly so that the tide comes racing in at some unbelievable speed... let me see... OK, maybe it is not the speed - but the variation in tide heights. The basin holds 12 meters of water and goes from .09m at low tide to 12.0m at the high! Wow. And if it is neap tide, just imagine how wacky that would be! I was thinking of a four day trip - see Nova Scotia, maybe New Brunswick - northern Maine might be a little far to manage. I was originally thinking maybe May, but now I am thinking June or so - it may not be very warm there in May.



OK, where else could I go? A flight to Nova Scotia is short - 2 hours - but maybe it is a little expensive. It is just under $400. And the bed and breakfast was good at $130 a night. If I travel, I am going to do it right - B&B all the way!



I'm looking at June flights to Manchester, England... Youch! $638 for a flight in June. Ye gods! I'm looking at August now but really, this is not when I want vacation. Let's see... Oops - worse... $783. Definitely pricey!



Dallas, Texas? Haven't seen Smells in a long time, since she was very early in her pregnancy. Oh! Wow! That is $266 for a six day trip - yahoo! Let me see something... It's a little cheaper to return on Friday, not Sunday... And Palm Springs, CA? Oh! The same as Dallas! Damn! I wonder what a B&B costs there...?



Ooooooo, Iceland! Let me see... Oh... come on... Yikes! $1,041 gets me a change over in Boston and into Rekyavik the next day! AAAAAAAAAAAAA! OK, forget that! Let me see... West coast again... Seattle, Washington. I need to see a volcano, somewhere! Damn! Wahoo - $274! Oh, I may have to do that! See the West Coast for six days - I can so do that! Let me see what B&Bs they have.



Oh, wow! $432 to go to Cheyenne, Wyoming! I'm sure that this is close to the Yellowstone National Park. I really want to go there. See the geysers, see the lake that is moving from the magma pool expanding beneath - Yow! I'm flooded with options! What do I do? Where should I go?! Gotta go somewhere!



So many choices!



I'm very confused right now. Well, I'm not confused, but my body is. It is a simple thing to change the clocks, go forward one hour. It certainly looks nice! I leave work and there is not much tied up in traffic. Clearly daylight makes a difference in travel. I know what happens when the clocks go back - accidents become more prevalent, and back logs get crazy. It is very obvious to me that daylight makes for better driving. Not that I did not think that - but I'm not a lover of driving home in the dark... I really dislike it. I really, really dislike it when it is dark and raining. Then the visibility is so poor. I feel like I'm old before my time, but I think I'm just more honest about it.





So now I wake up in the dark - which I was doing before. But I'm also driving in the total darkness - something that was not happening before. The sun was rising when I was on Route 24 East - it was gorgeous and the sun looked lovely. Now I'm getting in while there is total darkness and it is weird. And now I leave work later because my darkness barometer is wrong now. Not to mention that it is dark a lot later so it is confusing as to what time it is - it is bright outside much later. I think most people have troubke with this, but most won't admit it. I had enough trouble with it at the right times - early April, and late Ocotober. Now it is still March and the daylight is all off kilter. So is the weather - it was 80+ degrees today!





Wow.





One last thing. Florida was amazing and here is the beach!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Oh, My God, I Hope Not!

"'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?'

I apparently am not, but neither are the adults that go on FOX’s new show to win some money and show the world just how smart (or not) they are.

FOX’s “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” debuted last week conveniently located after “American Idol.” Audiences could watch Simon and the other “Idol” judges praise or criticize how much or little talent people have on “Idol” and then move on to watch grown adults try to match wits with 10- and 11-year-olds while host Jeff Foxworthy cracked some jokes.

Here’s how the show works: One adult contestant has to answer questions in subjects such as reading, math, physical science, animal science and astronomy. These questions range in difficulty from first to fifth grade, and as in “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire,” answering questions correctly moves the prize winnings up a money ladder.

The contestant also gets to choose one of the show’s 5th grade kids as a classmate for two questions each and, if need be, either “copy” (copy the kid’s answer to the question and hope it’s right) or “peek” (look at the kid’s answer and decide whether to use it). If the adult gives a wrong answer and the classmate gives a right one, the kid can also save the adult once, but all three of these aides are just available once.

If all else fails, the adult can also drop out of the game, but has to say directly into the camera, “I am not smarter than a 5th grader.”

Last week’s round of adults didn’t have a chance against the precocious kids. The first contestant, a UCLA grad who went on to law school, couldn’t even answer one question correctly without the aid of his 5th grade classmates. Since that poor soul broke the ice, the show’s contestants have done a little better, but no one has even come close to the $1 million goal on top of the money ladder.

So what gives? Are the majority of adults truly less book smart than a bunch of 5th graders? I don’t think so. It’s a little suspicious that the kids have so far not gotten one answer wrong. Even “Jeopardy” whizzes screw up some times. How well the kids are doing raises a lot of questions about the show. Are the kids given booklets to study ahead of time, while the adults just have to wing it? Are the questions really at the grade level they’re listed as?

I don’t have the answer to those questions and, even if the whole show is a big joke, I don’t care. “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” is entertaining and also a fun way to test just how much you know.

Sometimes you might be surprised at how much (or little) you know. I certainly was. I had a 3.9 GPA in college and yet couldn’t answer some easy questions that I’m sure I learned in elementary school. For example, I couldn’t remember the name of the ship that the pilgrims sailed here on. I could remember the name of where they landed and even remember quite a few Puritan authors, but I couldn’t remember the name Mayflower.

I think part of the problem is that, as we get older, we become more specialized. When you’re in elementary school, you learn a little about a lot – astronomy, history, children’s books, animal science – you name it. By the time you go through college, you start learning a lot about whatever areas you major and minor in and just a little “general education” about all the other subjects.

Once you enter the workforce, you become even more specialized and a lot of time don’t remember whether polar bears live in the North or South Pole unless it’s part of your job to know about polar bears or you’re just interested in them.

And so, FYI, based on my new favorite TV show, I am not smarter than a 5th grader when it comes to animal science, astronomy and … oh yeah … the Mayflower.

But I never liked those subjects anyway … so there."

Below this article was a CGI script to add the reader's comment, so I did. I really couldn't help myself...

"This is very interesting and the theory that we become more “specialised” as we travel through life and gain more knowledge is a good one.

However, Danielle is correct, the Dewey Decimal System does not include fiction or science fiction or young adult books. I know this because I worked in a library when I was 15 years old. I am now 39 and I own a million books and have not been in a library in years.

While we do forget things, and we do become bogged down in details, I still find it appalling what people don’t know. And there is what I commonly refer to as the “lowest common denominator”, which is also appalling. The audience that ends up on Howard Stern, loves only sitcoms, reads nothing and cannot name the 9 (now 8) planets.

I did not like math in school and I probably would get fried on that. But I have a fair amount of confidence that I would be able to handle the history, astronomy (for me, that would REALLY be a no-brainer) and spelling.— Aislinge Mar 3, 7:27pm"

I certainly HOPE I am smarter than a fifth-grader!

Eclipse Article/My Observations

Total Eclipse will be Visible Tonight

In the words of 20th Century Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: "Everything that rises must converge." In this case, it will be the moon rising to converge with the Earth’s shadow in a total lunar eclipse tonight, the first such celestial happening visible from the Western Hemisphere since October 2004.

"The sun is like a light bulb and the Earth is some distance away from it, and so the Earth casts a shadow in space all the time," explained David Cohen, Associate Professor of Astronomy at Swarthmore College. "When the moon passes through that shadow, it becomes very dark, and often a very nice dark shade of red."

This is because the sunlight blasting directly through Earth’s atmosphere is bent, scattering the blue spectrum while reds, oranges and browns get through. The exact color of the moon depends on the amount of atmospheric dust in the atmosphere, said another Associate Professor of Astronomy at Swat, Eric Jensen. Clouds might also add a dark-gray color to the mix, said Dr. Harry Augensen, professor of physics and astronomy and the Associate Dean of Science at Widener University.

Augensen said lunar eclipses occur only at full moon, when Luna is directly opposite the Sun, with Earth in between. The reason not every full moon produces an eclipse is due to the incline of the Earth relative to the moon. "On most occasions, the moon passes either above the Earth’s shadow or below the Earth’s shadow," he said. In this case, the perfect alignment for eclipse will begin at 5:44 p.m. EST, though the moon won’t begin to rise until 5:50 p.m. The sunset will come five minutes later, so there will still be a fair deal of twilight at the beginning of the show, said Augensen. But the moon will remain in umbra, the darkest part of the shadow, until 6:58 p.m., moving then into penumbra, or partial eclipse, until 8:12 p.m., when the eclipse ends."

Lunar eclipses, I think, are fun because it’s sort of a leisurely event," said Jensen. "One of the things I like about it is as you’re watching it come out of eclipse, you can see the edge of Earth’s shadow and see that it is rounded. "This is something even the ancient peoples of Earth understood some 2,500 years ago or more."

Through observation over decades and centuries, they were able to predict the cycles of eclipses, said Augensen, much as modern scientists today can tell you the next lunar eclipse will occur August 28. And, unlike a deep-space phenomenon, this one is still open to anyone who can look up. It requires no special equipment - just a clear view of the Eastern horizon and maybe a pair of binoculars.

"I have often compared it with a rainbow," said Augensen. "It’s something we have no control over and we can just enjoy it for what it is: a thing of beauty. A thing of natural beauty in the sky."

It is a thing of natural beauty and I am happy to say that at the last possible moment, the clouds ceased obscuring the moon just as totality was about to end. It was a gorgeous deep orange colour, just hanging a few degrees above the horizon.

It also underscored how much of an idiot I really am... I had my beautiful telescope out and was looking at the sky - well, trying to - but I could not... oh, honesty. I couldn't find the moon. You know, that big round thing in the night sky, easily the biggest thing in the night sky! I searched all over but I cannot operate the bloody thing! I suspect that it needs to be tightened quite a bit. It would also help if I read the directions, something I am rarely capable of doing... I can't focus enough to get through them. I know how to use it but I don't, if that makes any sense. I couldn't successfully get tonight's moon in the viewer. I saw the eclipse, but I could not get pictures, could not see it up close. I hate being me sometimes, and this is one of those times.

I was so miserable, so completely frustrated, I wanted to cry.

At least I did see it. It was amazing. The weather was clear and sunny until around 1500. It became totally cloudy then, and the ride home was one of recriminations to the sky for being so cloudy. Then around 1630, the sun burst through, and I thought that there might be hope. We went to Rockaway to get Luis' hair cut (he looks much better now) and when we came out, it seemed clear. But... no moon! That didn't make sense - that moon was delightfully visible in the late afternoon sky just a couple of days ago. But maybe it was in the shadow and at night it would be more visible.

Now... I wait for 28 August!