Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! My Top 10 Photographs of 2009

Here is a slide show of my Top 10 Photographs of 2009. I took all these shots myself.



Click the four dots to the lower right on the frame for a full screen version.

I bought myself a new camera for Christmas this year so stay tuned for higher quality shots of wildlife and nature.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mully410 Flickr Views Top 80,000


Whoville?
Originally uploaded by Mully410

This week, my Flickr photos exceeded 80,000 views. Wow! Thanks for viewing. Here is a run-down of some interesting bits about the 1788 public photos I've published on my photostream.

The above photo, Whoville?, is the most viewed photo. There have been nearly 3000 views of it so far.

55 of my photos have been tagged as favorites by people I don't even know. Thanks everyone! Here is the most favorited photo:


Sad Face (Moon Jupiter and Venus)

This Venus, Jupiter Moon conjunction is also the most interesting of my photos according to Flickr and has the most comments. Click here to view my "other people's favorites" set.

This photo below of Minnesota Viking Chester Taylor is modified with tiltshift maker and is the most up voted of my posts on Reddit.com with 68 ups and 18 downs.

touchdown-tiltshift

And finally, this is my most popular video posted on Flickr:

Friday, December 11, 2009

See the Geminids Meteor Shower This Weekend

Telescopes (2)

The Geminids are one of the best meteor showers. It comes around every December. The peak this year is around the 13th or 14th of December. Go here for everything you always wanted to know about the Geminids.

It will be cold here in Minnesota...duh...so dress warm. Once you think you have all your warmest clothing on, put on some more. Then get in a sleeping bag and relax in your lawn chair around 8pm. Recliners work best. Face easterly and kickback.

Don't let the picture of telescopes fool you. Using a telescope or binoculars for meteor showers is pointless and ineffective.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically- December 10 - Note the New Venue!

Blurry Tree 2008

Announcing a new Meetup for Minneapolis Skeptics!

What: Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically- December 10 - Note the New Venue!

When: December 10, 2009 5:00 PM

Where:
Be'Wiched Deli
800 Washington Ave. North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612.767.4330

Our regular venue got booked before I could reserve it for December. Thanks to one our our esteemed members, I think I found a suitable replacement at Be'Wiched Deli. (anyone detect the irony?) They don't have a private room like Common Roots but they will block off a section for us. Check out their website: http://www.bewicheddeli.com/

As you already know, we don't always have a topic or formal discussion at our Drinking Skeptically events. 'Tis the season and all that so why don't we bring our favorite Christmas woo-woo. It could be implausible gift items, strange myths or idiotic predictions. Religion is an easy target, especially at this time of year, so let's try to be more creative and find some other ridiculous topics.

Learn more here:
http://www.meetup.com/Minneapolis-Skeptics/calendar/11915538/

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Touchdown-Tiltshift


touchdown-tiltshift
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Minnesota Viking, Chester Taylor, stretches for a touchdown in this 2008 pre-season game versus the Seattle Seahawks. This Tilt-Shift modified photo got over 700 views in just a few hours. Tilt-Shift Maker alters your photos as if you used a tilt-shift lens. This makes the subjects of the photo appear to be tiny action figures. My favorite one is the wagon teams at the state fair.

Please vote up Chester Taylor at Reddit! Thanks!

Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul - Bah! Humbug! A critical look at charitable giving

Here are the details for another timely topic at the Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul. I have struggled to find many suitably secular charities. I wonder if this will help:

In 2008, charitable giving to 1,514,821 tax-exempt organizations amounted to more than $300 billion or 2.2 percent of our GDP. Nancy L. Raybin, chair of Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Non-Profits confirms the public’s perceived magnanimity of this statistic, “… the American public agrees with us that charitable giving is an integral part of the country’s economic fabric.” Charitable giving has become a sacred cow that only Scrooge would dare to question. In this interactive presentation, we will critically examine charitable giving, keeping in mind that the Critical Thinking Club is one of those 1,514,821 tax-exempt organizations.
Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul
Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94
Date: December 13, 2009
Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon
Presenter: Dr. Laura Hutt
Topic: “Bah! Humbug!” A critical look at charitable giving

Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com by the end of the day Thursday.

For meeting announcements for all Critical Thinking Club chapters, bookmark http://www.crest-o-the-hill.org/CTC/index.htm

Friday, December 4, 2009

Intolerant? I hope so.

I'm not a big fan of the hard-core militant tone of this guy but I have to admit that I got a bit inspired by this video. He makes some interesting points. Go ahead and watch the video and I'll make some comments below:



The manner that this guy presents his beliefs is too aggressive, almost scary, for my tastes. As the chief organizer of Minneapolis Skeptics, I do my best to tone down the anti-religion rhetoric and believe I've been successful for the most part. I want our group to focus on skepticism and education. As skeptics we must be open to changing our minds when presented with evidence. I have yet to see convincing evidence for a god/God/gods but am open to it. However such an extraordinary claim will require very extraordinary evidence. Something along the lines of Morgan Freeman granting me super powers or compelling me to build an ark while animals follow me around. I'm not holding out much hope of that happening.

That said...I am intolerant towards: racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-science crackpots, anti-vaxers, Oprah, closed mindedness, faith healers, psychics, astrologists, chiropractors, Nazis, murder, theft, cheating, conspiracy theorists, homeopathy, starvation, dictators, stupidity, genocide and those fucking annoying holiday diamond/jewelry commercials on TV.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Galileoscope Review

Galileoscope (2)

Note the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe Sticker


As you know, my Galileoscopes finally showed up last week. The first night I viewed Jupiter. It's particularly bright this time of year and is visible from my backyard. The Galileoscope gave me a pretty clear view of 3 of Jupiter's moons. I checked my StarmapPro app and saw one of the moons was either in front of or behind Jupiter that night. Most of the time I can see 4 moons with my binoculars. Jupiter was shrouded in what appears to be a fuzzy smudge around the edges. I wonder if I got a finger print on one of the lenses. Regardless, I think I could barely see some tan in the disc of Jupiter. I've seen it a lot in bigger scopes so perhaps my mind was playing tricks or the atmosphere wasn't cooperating. I'll keep trying.

Last night, I trekked a couple blocks from my house to catch ISS and Atlantis fly by. After that, I stuck the Galileoscope on the tripod. The first thing I noticed was: my tripod isn't very stable. The brisk wind giggled it around pretty good. In between wind gusts, I got a very nice view of the crescent Moon. Very good detail of the craters and shadows. The earth-shine was also impressive through the scope. I looking forward to night with a full moon. The fuzzy apparition around Jupiter was still present. I'm thinking of taking the scope apart to clean the lens but I really don't want to cut the stickers. Perhaps I'll build the spare and see how well that works.

I was only using the 25X setup because I heard negative feedback on the 2X barlow.

I've been toying with the idea of getting a decent telescope so this was a great learning experience for me. I definitely do not want a refractor like the Galileoscope. It's too difficult to maneuver my body around to see high in the sky targets through the eyepiece. I'm also having second thoughts on a dobsonian mount for a big reflector. It's a trade-off though. Dobs mounts are cheaper which means more money for aperture. Bigger aperture means more light. hmmm. I'll probably keep thinking about it and saving my money. A nice 8" or 10" on an equatorial mount is too much for my budget at this time (although I'm open for a Christmas present).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis Flew by my Neighborhood


ISS Atlantis
Originally uploaded by Mully410

I hope you got out to view the ISS and Shuttle tonight. I warned you yesterday. I waved at all the astronauts when they flew near my house tonight. They probably didn't see me because it was quite dark out and they were about 800 miles away. The above is the first shot I took (click it to embiggen). My camera shutter only stays open long enough to get a short streak of light. Go here for the full set. I also have some pics of ISS with Endeavour attached from earlier this year and some shots of ISS with Discovery trailing from about a year ago.

Friday, November 20, 2009

See ISS and Shuttle Atlantis Over Your Neighborhood


ISS and Endeavour (2)
Originally uploaded by Mully410

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is currently docked with the International Space Station. There is a very good sighting opportunity on Saturday November 21st for us in Minnesota anyway. At 5:18pm CST, this pair will become visible in the North North Western sky, just a little bit "right" of the bright star Arcturus. Follow the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to the left and you'll find Arcturus. Over the next 10 minutes, Atlantis and ISS will proceed towards the east, through the Big Dipper asterism, under the North Star, Polaris, and will disappear just as they pass the star Capella.

You won't be able to see any detail of the structures. To us on the ground, the ISS looks like a bright star that is streaking across the sky at about 17,500 miles per hour. Click the picture above to ebbiggen a two second exposure I took of ISS while shuttle Endeavour was docked earlier this year. My whole set from that fly over is here.

Since you are already outside, take a look south. The biggest star like object you can see is Jupiter. If you have a decent set of binoculars you should be able to make our 4 of its moons.

If you aren't in Minnesota or want to verify the sighting times in your area, go the JPL's Human Space Flight - Realtime Data site. You'll need JAVA to use the applet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Galileoscope Arrived!


Galileoscope
Originally uploaded by Mully410

My two Galileoscopes finally arrived today. It took me about 20 minutes to put the first one together (I kept dropping the tiny eye piece lenses.) I'll try the other one in the old Galileo style setup later. I've read negative feedback about adding the 2X barlow so I'll hold off on that until I try it the way it is. It's cloudy here tonight so I will anxiously await clear sky. Too bad they didn't show last week so I could have brought them up north with me...way less light pollution.

I couldn't resist adding a JREF sticker on one side (above) and an SGU sticker on the other side (below). Click the pics to embiggen.


Galileoscope (2)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Storm Prediction Center Director coming to Saint Paul

Clouds at Dusk
Clouds at Dusk
By Mully410


If you read my blog back in March, you know I'm a severe weather spotter for the National Weather Service. There is an interesting event coming up next week at St. Thomas. The Storm Prediction Center director will give a talk on "Outlook and Watch Probabilities." I'm planning on attending at this time. Here are the complete details from the Twin Cities chapter of the American Meteorological Society:

The Twin Cities Chapter of the American Meteorological Society is hosting Dr. Joe Schaefer, Director of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, as our featured speaker for our November 17th meeting. Dr. Schaefer will be talking about "Outlook and Watch Probabilities" as used in Storm Prediction Center products. The meeting is open to everyone. There is no cost and you do not need to be a member of the Chapter to attend.

We will be meeting in the 3M Auditorium of the Owens Science Hall at the University of St. Thomas here in Saint Paul, MN. The presentation will begin shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17th. Parking is available in the Anderson ramp, just south of the Owens Science Hall at the cost of $2 per vehicle. The Anderson ramp is accessible from Cretin Ave.

We have a flyer about the meeting and a University of St. Thomas campus map. The Owens Science Hall is marked as #39 on the linked-to campus map, and the Anderson ramp is #35. Please help us share the information about this special event with your colleagues, students, friends, and anyone who you feel might be interseted.

If you have any questions or would like more details, please contact the Chapter officers by sending an e-mail to officers@twincitiesams.org.

We hope to see you there.

Twin Cities Chapter of the AMS, November Meeting
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Speaker: Dr. Joe Schaefer, Director of the Storm Prediction Center
Topic: Outlook and Watch Probabilities
Location: 3M Auditorium, Owens Science Hall, University of St. Thomas

Bryan J. Howell
Secretary/Treasurer
Twin Cities AMS

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Annual Deer Hunt 2009

Trigger
Trigger
by Mully410


I just got back from my 24th consecutive deer hunting adventure. Between 6 and 10 of my family gather in northern Minnesota every year to eat, hang out and sit in the woods. My father and uncle have been hunting deer like this for over 50 years. Deer hunting is part of my heritage and my culture. We are responsible, safe and ethical in everything we do while hunting. Our "deer camp" is NOT the drunken red-neck stereotype that is so often made fun of by many.

Although killing deer is the point of deer hunting, I'm not sure if it's the #1 reason that I go. I enjoy being with relatives that I don't often see. We have many long standing jokes and rib each other frequently about the same old things. We tell the same old stories and make new ones every year. We eat very well and all get along great. This camaraderie is very important to me.

It may seem counter-intuitive on the surface but I really love nature. You know this already if you read my blog and visit my Flickr page and YouTube channel. I've seen many interesting and beautiful things while sitting in the woods with my rifle. This year I watched a porcupine eat on a tree for over an hour. A gray jay landed about 3 feet away and looked at me quizzically. I also saw: a bald eagle, many black-capped chickadees, some gray jays and pileated woodpeckers. I saw a beautiful sunset that looked like the entire forest was on fire. I came across some tracks I'd never seen before this hunt. There was even a bit of vandalism that I can neither confirm nor deny. In years past I've seen: weasels, a black bear, trumpeter swans, snow geese, wolf tracks, a freaky 10 minute snow storm and game wardens. One of my favorite memories is of a red squirrel that jumped on me. I was sitting on a log and very still against a tree and it apparently didn't notice me. He ran across the log, hopped on me and scurried up the tree. He stopped in the above me and chattered away until I moved. Then he took off leaping from tree to tree and out of sight.

I also enjoy the relatively peaceful calm out in the woods. I really enjoy hearing the wind. It can rustles through the trees and I can hear it approaching. Very cool. I can also hear the rain and snow coming for some time before it reaches me. Fascinating. The spot where we hunt is in the Chippewa National Forest. It's not very remote as far as wilderness goes and we don't "rough it" like some do. We stay at a very nice lake resort in a top notch cabin. In years past we stayed at other resorts without running water and little heat. This year they added cable TV and WiFi. There really isn't anything to complain about. The gravel roads are getting more paved every year. The traffic is picking up around our spot and more hunters are invading "our" territory but I can still go for hours without hearing a car.

Since we hunt on public lands, our tactics are probably a little different than people who hunt their own private lands. We get up and eat breakfast around 5:00 AM so we can make it into the woods at first light. We never know who may be out there so we wait until it's bright enough to see mostly so we don't tempt someone to take a shot at us (that's never happened, by the way). We often see the same deer hunters every year. There are some of us regulars to the area so we know where we are all are and try to maintain a polite distance between groups. We usually sit alone in our own regular areas first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. We don't have permanent stands. I carry a small beanbag like seat and look for a tree stump or lump of dirt. Some of us have small portable chairs. Sometimes new people are near "our spots" so we have to find a different spot. Every few hours we come out to the truck for lunch. We trade observations and head back to the woods. Sometimes we organize "drives." A drive is when some of us sit in certain spots while others walk towards us. It's usually done with some sort organization based on the terrain. We hunt in a mix of deciduous and coniferous forest land that contains thick dark cedar swamps and small open grassy meadows so there is ample opportunity to design effective drives. Our sit times and drive times are often dictated by the weather. When its real cold we move more often and eat more.

I saw a couple deer this year. Two were running away so all I saw was the raise white tail or flag as it's known. On the last hour of the hunt, I saw a doe approaching me at a good run. When I turned and raise the rifle, she veered to my left. It might have been a good idea for me to wait until she got closer but I didn't. Being still and very quiet is paramount. A large buck was running behind her. It was the rut so he only had one thing on his mind. I don't know how many points because as we say "if you can count the points, it should be dead." It was a far shot with my rifle's iron sights. The front site covered up almost half the deer. Had we not had any deer for our party, I probably wouldn't have taken the shot. I whistled because sometimes deer will stop but he didn't so I took two shots at about 100-125 yards. Miss. Alas he ran off unscathed. We searched for blood but found none.

To briefly sum up our deer hunting: It's almost forty hours of sitting or walking in the woods for a chance at 1-5 minutes of heart pounding action and an hour or two of gross gory field dressing and strenuous dragging.

This year we didn't get a deer but that's ok. I got to hang out with nature and my family. It was a great time.

If you like, feel free to ask me about how we hunt in the comments. I have some pictures, sans blood and guts, from this year's excursion here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically - November 12

Angel near the plane

Join Minneapolis Skeptics for our monthly Drinking Skeptically Meet-Up on November 12. We have great conversations on a variety of topics. RSVP here.

We begin at 5pm but that doesn't mean you have to be there exactly on time. This is a unstructured conversational event.

Bring your favorite woowoo, paranormal, cryptozoology, conspiracy or other interesting topics. Please post references to your evidence on our message board so we can be better prepared.

If you have an interesting topic in mind, please go ahead and post it as a comment on this Meet-Up invite.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Atmospheric Physics with the Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul

For meeting announcements for all Critical Thinking Club chapters, bookmark http://www.crest-o-the-hill.org/CTC/index.htm.

Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul

Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94

Date: November 8, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Pesenter: Mark Hugo

Topic: Atmospheric Physics

Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com by the end of the day Thursday.

Mark Hugo writes:

There is an emphasis in the presentation on the history of work in this area, and extensive extracts from classic materials dating back to the turn of the century.

The presentation intends, very deliberately, to demonstrate the fact that radiation balance to the Earth's atmosphere is NOT merely a function of CO2 concentration. But rather extremely dependent upon water distribution, cloud formation and dissipation, the conversion of Ozone (ALWAYS formed in the upper atmosphere and ALWAYS decaying from O3 to O2, with release of the UV captured in the upper atmosphere as "heating" to the lower atmosphere...) to normal O2, and many other factors.

Mention is made of state of the art work by Dr. Hienrick Svensmark (Dutch Space/Atmospheric agency, their equivalent to our NOAA) and Dr. Roy Spencer (University of Alabama Huntsville, primary data analyst, NASA "Aqua" satellite.)

Dr. Svensmark has been elucidating the connection between sunspots, the solar wind, cosmic rays and cloud formation rates, and Dr. Spencer has been clarifying the proper "feedback" coefficient for "climate models" which will make the connection between temperature rise or fall, formation of clouds, and increase in "albedo" or reflection of incoming visible radiation. (Current climate models being used by the IPPC have ALL used "positive" feedback. Dr. Spencer has demonstrated the feedback coefficient is NEGATIVE, based on 9 years of Aqua data.)

Mark Hugo’scredentials include 20 years working in nuclear power and 5 years in medical device engineering. His degrees are an MS, Mechanical, Heat Transfer Specialty. BS Chemical Eng., BS Metallurgy and PE Electrical.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics and Twin Cities Skeptics Present: How the Perception of an Intact Body Can Go Awry



Twin Cities Skeptics and Minneapolis Skeptics present: “Phantom limbs, alien hand syndrome, the rubber hand illusion...How the Perception of an Intact Body Can Go Awry...” on October 24, 2009 at the Hennepin County Central Library.

This should be a fascinating lecture and discussion.

Here are some some snippets from Dr. Phelps:

I am going to talk about phantom limbs-the outcome that up to 70% of amputees will report that the missing limb "feels like it is still there"...
Secondly, I will talk about cases of alien hand syndrome in which brain injury in focused locations will result in a non-dominant arm and hand are complained about as being active by themselves, with the afflicted person reports the limb "does what it wants and I have no sense of control over it..."

Finally, I will talk about a popular research topic known as the rubber-hand illusion in which very simple and non-harmful procedures will result in "normal" individuals will come to report that an rubber hand, a Halloween store type prop, will be reported and perceived as being connected with and actually part of a person's body.
Dr. Brady J. Phelps is a Behavior Analyst at the University of South Dakota. He has published papers on a range of topics including substance abuse, Alzheimer's disease, Dissociative Identity Disorder and cognitive rehabilitation, all from a behavior analytic point of view and current has research programs in the following areas : Stimulus Control in the Rubber Hand Illusion as a Conditional Discrimination Hormonal and Circadian factors in Sleep Duration.

Go to the Minneapolis Skeptics' Meet-Up site for the full details, directions and to RSVP for the event.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Alternative to "Alternative Medicine" is Medicine


Fancy Or Farce?
Originally uploaded by CodeZero


I attended a local "Alternative Medicine" expo near my home today. I had been looking forward to it for a couple weeks. My plan was to listen to the explanations, take mental notes and prepare a rip-fest of a blog post about all the woo-woo. Two thirds of that plan worked perfectly.

A couple caveats before I begin: I've decided not to link to all the woo-woo sites I encountered. There will be enough info in this post for you to do you own Google searches, if you like, and I don't want to generate web traffic from this blog to their sites. I've also decided not to name names of the vendors and not to personally attack any of the vendors or attendees. The manufacturers and inventors are fair game, however. This will be explained later in this post. All the quotes and claims are taken from literature I was given and comments from the representatives as I remember them. One of the skeptics made a recording but I don't have access to that at this time. Perhaps, I'll have to make some corrections to this post in the future.

The event took place in a conference room at my local community center. It wasn't well publicized. I managed to find it through Meet-Up at some sort of light-energy healing group and saw a small listing in the local paper. (not sure why events for this group get pushed to me through Meet-Up but thanks though) The first 100 attendees received a gift bag. Me and the two other Minneapolis Skeptics arrived a half hour after they opened. At that time, it looked like very few gift bags had been handed out. In addition to the three of us, we only saw 3 or 4 other attendees in the hour we hung out there.

A very nice lady handed us our gift bags and thoroughly explained how we could enter to win some gift cards. There were nine tables set up in the room.

The first table we visited displayed some sort of supplement stuff from a company called Max International. We received a sample of "Max N-Fuze with nanoactivators." From the package:
Max-N-Fuze represents a breakthrough approach to nutrient delivery and absorption. This patent-pending product is the fusion of nano and macro components designed to supply the nutrients your cells need for optimal functional and communication.*
The package is a mylar-esque packet similar to the packaging that energy goo comes in. Tear of the top and squeeze it into your mouth. We were told to put it under our tongues to it could be absorbed directly in the body rather than have the stomach and such process it first. There is only a vague description of its ingredients on the package:
Includes full spectrum vitamins, minerals and herbs for peak daily health.*
Pretty much every statement on the package has the * symbol. This leads to the standard CYA (cover your ass) disclaimer:
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat cure of prevent any disease.
The other product at this booth is called "MaxGXL." It claims to fix your glutathione so you live longer. The brochure explains the "5 ways MaxGXL can improve your life!" (all with the CYA disclaimer): More Energy; Immune System; Cellular Detox; Peak Athletic Performance; Fight Cellular Inflammation. We spoke to this woman for a few minutes. She was very nice, very convinced and likable. She didn't pitch on this particular part but I snagged a brochure: "7 Ways to Make Money - The Max Plan." Turns out, this was a typical multi-level marketing scheme. Buy a bunch of product; recruit your friends; your friends recruit their friends; and so on until you all get rich.

I just realized that I won't make a very good investigative journalist. I didn't organize all the literature I received and don't remember exactly which booth we visited next. Therefore, I'll fill you in but it may not be necessarily in chronological order.

There were purveyors of Yoga, Massage, Acupuncture, Reiki and Chiropractic. You probably all ready know about those so I'll stick to the really far out practices for the rest of the post.

Esogetic Colorpuncture. I admit I hadn't heard of this one. From the literature:
[the certified colorpucture practitioner] offers a comprehensive range of vibrational healing therapies to rebalance the body, mind, soul and spirit according to the individual needs of each client. Esogetic Medicine, which includes Colorpuncture, builds on ancient methods expanding on those techniques according to findings in current scientific research into fields such as biophysics, quantum mechanics, morphogenetic field, holograms crystal technologies and more.

Colorpuncture combines the 21st century insights of light physics with the ancient knowledge of the meridians emphasized in acupuncture.
Basically, this sounds almost exactly like acupuncture except she uses a flashlight instead of needles. Perfect! The woman at this booth also sold crystals that, in addition to the healing properties, were "fun to wear." She also provides: "Aqua-Chi foot bath, sound therapies, crystal therapies, brain wave therapies, dream work therapies and other vibrational healing techniques..." Her literature claims: "Therapies Address" everything from ADHD, Allergies, Anxiety to Cancer, Learning Issues and Tinnitus. This appears to be the only woman you'd ever have to see for what ever ails you. She offers classes teach you all her techniques from $265 - $345 plus additional materials.

WTF is "Rolfing?" I hadn't heard of it and didn't speak to the person purveying it but I found a business card in my gift bag for a "certified rolfer." I am pretty sure I saw it on an episode of Southpark involving an evidence bag...but I digress. Check it out for yourself.

"Life Vantage: The Path To Health and Prosperity." This was another way to live younger. Anti-oxidant and free radical mumbo jumbo here. Plus and chance to get rich with their "network marketing" system. Some highlights from the lit:

World renowned, Nobel Prize nominee formulator
Literal ground floor opportunity...
Everyone is talking about antioxidants...

Protandim destroys millions of free radicals per second

Clinical proof
Category-creating science and product redefine wellness, aging and anti-aging!
You can precisely measure how much better this works than regular anti-oxidant supplements just figure out your "aging factors." All this lit had the standard CYA disclaimers.

"Discover a way to...Learn ANYTHING Faster and More Easily" with the BrainGym. "BrainGym is a program of easy physical movements that synchronize body and mind to optimize how we learn and perform in all areas of our lives..." I never heard of this one until today. Apparently, you do these exercises (pay money) and it makes you smarter. Most of this lit piece is testimonials and we should all know by now how scientific those are.

One table represented a entire location for all kinds of woo-woo. Here is a sample from their brochure:
Marriage & Family Therapist & Poetry Therapist (wtf is that?)

Alternative Self Care (fixes everything)

Healing Therapies: Angel Therapy and readings; Dowsing; Emotional Release; Essential Oil/Aroma Therapy; Healing Touch; Personalized Kinesiology; Raindrop Technique (wtf? water boarding?); Rhythmic Movement Training and Touch for Health.
There was a "Compass life coach" offering her wares. "In just 10 minutes a day, complete your MAP or Monthly Action Plan." So, how is it "complete" if it takes 10 minutes a day? She offered self-directed, telephone, virtual and in-person coaching programs for only $19, $39 or $59 per month. My favorite quote from her literature: "Isn't it time for you to take your life back from the demands of your daily reality?" I think I'd consider smoking pot again if I wanted to leave my daily reality.

I got a brochure of Acupressure points so know I can fix my: Large Intestine; Gall Bladder; Pericardium and Stomach.

"The ionCleanes purifies the body more effectively and faster than any herbal or fasting protocals, with little or no stress to the patient.*" (*CYA). Invented by Dr. Theodore Baroody author of "Alkalize Or Die." Check this one out on the web. Basically, this is a foot bath that ionizes trillions of water molecules so it can draw out your toxins. Favorite quote: "Fat and mucous residues found in the water after bathing reflect the wastes that have left the body during the 20-30 minute session." or it's just the dirt, sweat and grime... Second favorite quote: "The IonCleanse creates precisely the same environment as a walk along the beach, only more powerfully because your feet are in direct contact with the ions being manufactured in the water." I asked this woman if it's like the foot pads I've seen on TV and she said yes it was. Claims to (along with dietary modifications) to "substantially reduce and even eliminate these conditions (CYA):" Rashes; dark circles under your eyes; swollen joints; yellow-green and blotched complexions. They provided before and after photos showing feet in a tub of clear water (before) and feet in a tub of water that looks like someone took a nasty watery shit in it (after)...friggin gross.

My Astrophysicist friend had a very tough time not ripping into the people offering "Quantum Theory" explanations. At one point, I thought he was going to blow our cover but he calmed down. He had a long conversation with the BrainGym lady and the wide field electromagnetic spectrum pad guy. I seemed to have lost, or not received, any literature from that guy. He had a video playing that showed a blood vessel and what appeared to be a capillary opening up. He claimed that you just need to lay on his pad for a few minutes a day and it would stimulate your mitochondria to "spin faster" thereby making you feel better or some such. This guy, in a low sneaky type voice, offered to get my friend in on the sales of these things. I'll try to get more from the recording and post it here later.

The Chiropractor had all the standard crap. I've written about that here. She also offered massages and herbs and some "all natural" hand sanitizer that contained witch hazel.

The last table might have been the most disturbing. Of all the people at this event, I felt the woman at this table may have known she was selling bullshit. The other people all seemed sincere and honestly believed what they were saying. This last lady gave me the impression that she was a shyster. I not sure why, perhaps it was my psychic intuition picking up some clues. She had two offerings. Colon Hydrotherapy. Penn and Teller had this on one of their great episodes of Bullshit on Showtime. Basically, they cram a hose up your ass, inject water and suck out your shit with another hose. This is supposed to: "cleanse and detoxify your body; Achieve regular bowel movements; get rid of parasites and bad bacteria; improve functions of all organs; preventative for colon cancer; improve metabolic efficiency; lose weight; transition to a healthy diet; preparation before surgery; relieve constipation." Those last two seem legit anyway. Her brochure recommends 4 sessions over two weeks for $75 each. She also offers and assortment of other woo-woo: Energy Medicine $70/hr; Quantum Bio-feedback $95; Ear Coning $60; Ion Cleanse $49; Energized Body Work $70/hr and for $25 per half hour you can get Far-infra red Sauna, whatever the f that is. I found no CYA notations on this literature.

The thing she really tried to sell me was a "shirt" that would make me slim, correct my posture and improve my overall health. I saw no literature with these claims but she explained that it came in my size, was made out of the same materials used for burn victims (so it was safe, I guess) and had a double layer to hold in my gut. The short advertisement she did give me only said "Would you like to drop 2-3 sizes today?" Basically, this was a girdle but not a very durable one as far as I could tell. My friend said they cost $175.

All in all, this was a very interesting learning experience. I remembered what I learned at The Amazing Meeting this summer from James Randi and Joe Nickell, in particular. They said that people were often misinformed and didn't really merit berating all of the time. Most of the people appeared to have fallen for various multi-level (pyramid) schemes. They were probably just trying to recoup their investments. I'm not sure how many were convinced of what they were offering. A few were and others seemed a little tentative with their claims. The professional chiropractor and the girdle/colonblow lady seemed the most sales proficient. I thought I would leave there energized to rip the crap out of them in this blog. I guess a did that a little bit, but mostly I felt empathetic to their situation and a bit embarrassed for some of them.

As I exited, I spoke with the first lady I met, the one who gave me the gift bag. She seemed a little disappointed. There wasn't a lot of traffic at her event. She still had lots and lots of gift bags. I suppose one good thing about that is my chance of winning the Target and Fresh and Natural Foods gift cards should be pretty good.

In case you missed it above: CYA = Cover Your Ass. It's my interpretation of the FTC required disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat cure of prevent any disease.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Whoville?


Whoville?
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Here is the photo that pretty much all by itself pushed my Flickr photostream over 70,000 views tonight.

...and I still don't know what kind of flower it is.

A helpful reddit-or suggests that it's this: http://www.missouriplants.com/Pinkopp/Monarda_fistulosa_page.html but I'm not certain about that. The area under the flowering part is quite different in my photos.

Thanks for viewing!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Astronomers Without Borders - Live Event - Full Data

m13 30 sec
M13

A couple weeks ago, I attended a live virtual observation event put on by Astronomers Without Borders in cooperation with the Virtual Telescope project. You can find the details of my experience here and here.

Recently, Dr. Masi, the host of the event, posted his thoughts and the images of the event here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

James Randi on Why Conjurers Should Be Involved in Paranormal Investigations

Here is a very great excerpt from The Amazing Meeting 7. It's a small part of a panel discussion about magic and skepticism with mostly James "The Amazing" Randi speaking in this snippet.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul - Oct 11 - The Problem of Evil

This should be a very interesting one.

For meeting announcements for all Critical Thinking Club chapters, bookmark http://www.crest-o-the-hill.org/CTC/index.htm.

Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul

Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94

Date: October 11, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Pesenter: August Berkshire

Topic: The Problem of Evil

The public is welcome to attend, but please RSVP to assure ample seating and meal service. Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. Please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com.

If God is all-powerful, all-seeing and perfectly good, why is there evil and harm in the world? Why are there genetic birth defects, genetic and acquired diseases, and natural disasters? August Berkshire will critically examine the justifications that have been offered for the behavior of God, and whether the possibility of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent God is precluded by the existence of gratuitous evil.

August Berkshire is a founding member and past President of Minnesota Atheists, and a nationally known atheist speaker.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Astronomers Without Borders - Live Event - Append

Asteroid 152664 1998 FW4
Asteroid 152664 1998FW4

I can't believe I forgot to post the coolest picture from the Astronomers Without Borders - Live Event. I told you all about this event in a previous post.

Well, here it is. Click to embiggen it. That streak/smudge is asteroid 152664 1998 FW4. (not cool enough for a proper name, I guess) This is the first one I've "seen" through a telescope. Very cool. Dr. Masi did a 60 second exposure and it moved a lot during that time. Note the stars didn't appear to move at all. I don't know how fast it was going relative to us on Earth but it sure looks fast.

Minneapolis Skeptics October Meet-Up Homeopathy

CH47 Chinook

We had another great Meet-Up in September. Thanks all who attended and brought their favorite 9/11 conspiracy theories.

A number of people suggested that we discuss homeopathic remedies at our October Meet-Up.

Here are a couple references for you:

If this link doesn't work, try going to www.randi.org and search for the term "homeopathy."
http://www.randi.org/...

NeuroLogica Blog: http://www.theness.co...

Marketers often misuse the term homeopathic. Find out how...

Go ahead and google search for it and feel free to bring links to the most outrageous claims you find.

Come and bring your favorite Homeopathic topic and let us know what you've learned about it. This is another casual drinking skeptically meet-up for our group. Common Roots opens the Common Room for us at 5pm. Many people filter in and out at various times so don't feel like you have to be there exactly at 5pm.

Join Meet-Up and RSVP for this Meet-Up

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Blasphemy Day

Blasphemy Day may not be exactly what you think it is. Thanks Lance for putting this together.

Like always, I can't do better than Penn on this so listen up:



Then go to Lance's Facebook Page to learn more about it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Astronomers Without Borders - One People, One Sky - Live Event

ring neb 60sec 2
Ring Nebula

I participated in the first live star party put on by Astronomers Without Boarders over the internet today. Dr. Gianluca Masi of the Bellatrix Observatory in Ceccano Italy hosted this live web event. About 100 people from all over the world logged in to hear Dr. Masi discuss astronomy and see, in real-time, what he was viewing. I've captured some shots of what we viewed over this two hour period. AWB will post a video and the original images shortly. I'll try to post links when they are available.

The first picture, above, is the Ring Nebula, otherwise known as M57 or NGC 6720. It's about 5000 light years away from us. That means it took 5000 years for the photons that comprise this image to travel across the universe, into Gianluca's telescope, into his ccd (camera), through the internet, into my house and eventually on my blog and into your eye. I'll let you follow the links for more details.

Click any of these images to embiggen.

The next object we saw was M13, the Hercules Globular Cluster:

m13 30 sec

Dr. Masi provided a variety of exposure times to show us lesser or greater detail. There are more pictures of this in my AWB Set on Flickr. M13 is about 25,100 light years from earth and about 145 light years in diameter.

Next we were swept close to home to view Jupiter:

jupiter red spot

This image is a number of pictures "stacked" together to show greater detail. If you click to embiggen and then zoom in, you can clearly see Jupiter's big storm called the "Great Red Spot." The Great Red Spot is a huge storm in Jupiter's atmosphere. This storm has been raging for at least 180 years or so and about 2 or 3 Earth sized planets could fit inside it.

Here is another shot of Jupiter with it's four main moons. This shot also shows the desktop that Dr. Masi was using and a map of which moons are which.

jupiter and sat map

I think I have the order of these pictures a little messed up. I actually think the second thing we was Comet Christensen here:

Comet Christensen

I tried to find a link to more details of this comet but apparently there are many comet's named Christensen. hmmm...a little help here...

Here is an interesting spiral galaxy called NGC 7331.

NGC 7331

This galaxy is sometimes known as the Milky Way's twin. This galaxy is about 40 million light years from Earth!

Throughout the whole event, Dr. Masi (and others) would answer questions we typed into the chat box. He was very friendly and answered every question professionally. There were some audio issues but overall the event went off every well. I'm sure the next event will be even better. Go to the Astronomers Without Borders website to sign up for their newsletter or visit the Virtual Telescope Project on Facebook.

For his grand finale, Dr. Masi took us to the Stephan's Quintet. This is a group of five galaxies, four of which comprise the first compact galaxy group discovered.

NGC 7317

I can see four in this shot. The fifth eludes me.

Overall, this was a great event. I highly recommend that you join AWB to get the latest information on their next event. It was really cool sitting in my own comfortable basement with no mosquitoes or unruly weather while visiting the cosmos.

Many more pictures of this event are available in my Astronomers Without Borders Flickr Set. I have some shot of the desktop that was used and some of the processing software we saw.

Monday, September 14, 2009

JREF Posting Videos from TAM7 on YouTube

The James Randi Educational Foundation is posting some videos from The Amazing Meeting 7 on their YouTube channel. Check it out.

So far they haven't posted Randi's initial remarks from the Thursday night meet and greet. I wonder if I'm the only one to have captured that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How to NOT Pay for Health Care Until You REALLY Need It

According to HR3200 (the US House version of health care reform), here are the simple easy instructions on how NOT to pay for yours and everyone else's health care until you REALLY need it:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

See the International Space Station Sept 9

ISS and Endeavour (2)

If we have clear skies, the International Space Station will be visible from 8:36pm through 8:46pm CDT on Wednesday September 9, 2009. Look to the South West for the bright shiny dot moving quickly. It's going about 17,500 mph so it will take less than 10mins for it to pass. It will proceed almost straight up, through the constellations Lyra and Cygnus. Be sure to get out a little early to give time for you eyes to adjust.

Rain is predicted for my area in the afternoon but maybe you'll be able to see it.

The next visible pass is on Thursday the 10th between 9:01pm and 9:11pm. This time look for the station to pass through Arcturus and then the handle of the Big Dipper asterism. I'll probably miss this one because I'll be here.

Visit the JPL Human Space Flight site to figure out the timing and locations in your area.

The above pic is one I took of ISS and Endeavour back on July 18, 2009.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Critical Thinking Club of Saint Paul - Money As Debt - Sept 13

Here is the latest details on the next meeting of the Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul:


Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94

Date: September 13, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Presenter: George Paulos

Topic: Money As Debt

Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com.

We are all utterly dependent upon the monetary system. People expend their working years accumulating money as a form of wealth, but almost nobody understands the nature of the money that they work so hard to obtain. What is money? What is the US dollar? It is not what you think! Even the “profession” of economics is in denial about the truth of our modern monetary system. The recent convulsions in the banking and finance make these questions timely. Congress and the President are engaged in an historic rescue of an out-of-control financial crisis. Unfortunately, they seem to be clueless about the real nature of the system that they are responsible to maintain.

Economics “junkie” George Paulos will present an objective overview of our modern debt-based monetary system along with its characteristics and consequences. Should the current system be abolished? Should the Federal Reserve be replaced? We will discuss these issues and investigate the alternatives.


For meeting announcements for all Critical Thinking Club chapters, bookmark http://www.crest-o-the-hill.org/CTC/index.htm.


Or Visit CTC Saint Paul on Facebook.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Google Opossum Footprints


Google Opossum Footprints
Click the Pic to Embiggen - Originally uploaded by Mully410

This is why I get views of my Opossum Footprints pic everyday. I'm #3 on the Google search.

Grassroots Skeptics Launches GrassrootsSkeptics.org

Here is a press release on the new organization: Grassroots Skeptics. Head on over there and check out their new website.
Grassroots Skeptics Launches GrassrootsSkeptics.org

Philadelphia, PA – 9/4/2009: Grassroots Skeptics today announced the official launch of its website, GrassrootsSkeptics.org. The website is the centerpiece of the group's planned outreach and advocacy in the skeptical community.

“There are a lot of passionate advocates and community groups working diligently to advance critical thinking,” said Grassroots Skeptics founder K.O. Myers. “We want to help increase their effectiveness, by making it easier for them to find new members, share resources, and identify methods for getting their message out.”

The group plans to use the site to gather and organize information about skeptical advocacy. At launch, the site will feature an index of local skeptics groups, information on many skeptical blogs and podcasts, discussion forums, and a calendar of skeptical events. The events calendar is a joint project, maintained in collaboration with the prominent skeptical website Skepchick.org

“There is an amazing amount of information out there that could be helpful for people who want to start or join a skeptical organization,” Myers said. “We want to collect and organize it, to make it more useful for the dedicated individuals who volunteer their time to promote an evidence-based lifestyle.”

“Widespread misinformation about vaccines has lead to a resurgence in preventable illnesses; scam artists posing as 'psychics' prey on the grieving; 'alternative medicine' companies sell billions of dollars of dubious treatments, with almost no government regulation,” said Myers. “Critical thinking is more important than ever, and local skeptics groups are working hard to spread that message. With GrassrootsSkeptics.org, we hope we can make their outreach more effective.”

Future plans for the site include a skeptical speakers' bureau, a searchable map of skeptics groups and skeptic-friendly attractions, and a development kit for skeptics who want to start new groups. “We're excited about this launch,” said Myers, “but we're already looking forward to making GrassrootsSkeptics.org a richer, deeper resource for the organized skeptical community.”

Grassroots Skeptics is a volunteer organization that promotes critical thinking and a reason-centered worldview by helping local skeptics groups to share tools, information and strategies, and connect with skeptical individuals and activists both locally and globally.

Contact:
K.O. Myers
GRSkeptics@gmail.com
http://grassrootsskeptics.org.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

60,000 Views of my Flickr Photostream!


60,000 Views!
Originally uploaded by Mully410

My photos on Flickr had their 60,000th view today. Thanks everybody!

The hummingbird post on this blog pushed it over the top sometime this afternoon. A big help came from the popularity of the Crazy Cowboy video and the Bay-winged Hawk pic from the Minnesota State Fair. Crazy Cowboy is also the most viewed video and 12th most viewed item in my photostream.

This is still the most viewed photo:

Old Naked Statue (3)

This one is the most favorited and has the most interestingness on Flickr:

Sad Face (Moon Jupiter and Venus)

This is the second most favorited and most interesting and is my personal favorite:

More grass seed

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I See Hummingbirds - Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds


Hummingblur (6)
Originally uploaded by Mully410

My parents maintain a hummingbird feeder at their house. This past weekend I spent some time with them helping with chores and eating their food. Throughout the day the hummingbirds were pretty much swarming the feeder.

2 Hummingbirds

For most of the day, one of the hummingbirds got "lost" or something in the garage. He/She spent all of about 6 hours constantly buzzing around the ceiling. We tried a number of strategies to get it out but it just wouldn't leave. Last time this happened, my mom and dad just waited around until the bird got tired. They found it all tuckered out and carefully picked it up and stuck it's beak in some sugar water. We decided that this strategy would be our best bet this time.

Once all the chores were done, we checked out the garage. Sure enough, Mr/Mrs/Miss hummingbird had tuckered out a bit. It was resting by the window. Dad carefully approached the bird and it started flying around. He gently cupped his hands and scooped up the tiny bird. Mom got the sugar water solution ready and dad stuck it's beak into the concoction.

Tired Hummingbird

The little bugger frantically drank up for a few seconds, managed to escape from my dad and flew off. Immediately, another bird joined him in a tree. I can only imagine how that conversation went: "Where have you been, dumbass?" "I don't know but it was weird. The guy that fills our feeder grabbed me and stuffed my beak into sugary water, so I flew off."


Tired Hummingbird (3)


We think this is the lost hummingbird mostly because it was the only one that sat for more than a few seconds on the feeder.

I'm almost certain these are all Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. The females and juveniles do not have a ruby throat patch.

Go HERE for the full set of hummingbird photos I took.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically - Sept 10

C130


Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically - Sept 10

September 10, 2009 5:00 PM

Where:
Common Roots Cafe
2558 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
612-871-2360

We don't normally have a specific topic for our events, as many of you know. Since a certain anniversary is the day after this event, how about we talk a little bit about your favorite 9-11 conspiracy? Missiles hit the Pentagon? Towers were intentionally demolished? Building 7 was a controlled explosion? Israeli commandos were in on it? Bush planned it? Nostradamus predicted it?

Our drinking skeptically meet-ups are casual events. You don't have to be here at exactly 5pm. You don't have to imbibe in alcoholic beverages. Come as you are and converse with fellow skeptics and critical thinkers.

Learn more here:
http://www.meetup.com/Minneapolis-Skeptics/calendar/11118608/

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Minnesota Astronomical Society Star Party Update


Jupiter and 3 moons
Originally uploaded by Mully410

In an earlier post, I mentioned I was planning to head out to the Onan Observatory for a public star party hosted by the Minnesota Astronomical Society. I followed through with that plan.

The day started out great with a clear sky, slight wind and a great temperature around 60F. As the day progressed, the clouds rolled in. By the time it got around to my deadline for a go, no-go call, it was mostly cloudy. Since I was already 2/3rds of the way to the observatory visiting my parents, I decided to head out there anyway.

I'm sure glad I did. The place was packed with maybe 50 people at the start. The skeeters were also out in force. The highlight for most was Jupiter. Through MAS's variety of telescopes, I saw Jupiter's cloud bands and 4 of its moons. The above shot was taken with my little camera held up to the eyepiece of one of their 16" scopes. I was only able to get 3 of the moons in my frame for some reason. From left to right the moons are: Europa, Io and Ganymede according to my StarMap Pro software on the iPod. The big white blob is Jupiter, of course.


MAS Star Party Onan

I also saw the M13 and M15 clusters but my personal highlight was Neptune. I hadn't see Neptune through a telescope until this night. It looked like a blueish greenish dot that was definitely not a star. Very interesting.

My lawn chair came in handy. I kicked back and watched for satellites and checked out Jupiter with my binoculars. I was surprised that I could see the 4 moons with my 7x35 Nikon. I mostly use that for bird watching.

I will be out there again and will likely join their club in future. I had a fun time talking with a members about various telescopes and have pretty much decided on what scope I'll get, if I get around to getting one...10" Orion Newtonian Reflector on a Dobs mount.


Blurry Moon

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Demystifying Adventures of the Amazing Randi

Here is a very interesting article about James The Amazing Randi in the San Francisco Weekly. It's got a little bit of history, a little bit of present a little bit of TAM7.

The Demystifying Adventures of the Amazing Randi

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lunr Flickr Winners!


Lunr Flickr Winners!
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Click on the above shot to embiggen. This is a screen capture of the MyMoon web site news section where they announced the winners of their photo contest.

A while back, I entered my photo, Independence Moon, into a contest sponsored by MyMoon. MyMoon is a collection of Lunar scientists and artists. They are funded by the by NASA's Science Mission Directorate (the part of NASA that brought you robots on Mars and spacecraft gathering information about Saturn, and the Hubble Space Telescope).

Here is a snippet of who they are:

MyMoon is created by you (the Net Generation) and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). Joining us are lunar scientists, educators, engineers, artists, storytellers, and others to provide interactive information about the Moon and opportunities for you to be involved.

Here is what they said about the contest:

Participants were asked to submit their best and most interesting image that captures the character of their neighborhood and includes Earth's Moon.
Here is another snippet from the rules in their Flickr Group Discussion:
The submissions will be judged by the League of Extraordinary Lunar Scientists and Artists!

My photo came in second place:

Fireworks and Moon

Click photo to embiggen

Go to their Flickr group to view the competition that just wasn't good enough to beat my picture. (OK. One guy had a better shot.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Trapped on the Tarmac? Legislate Airplane Delays?

Plane Contrail

On August 21st, there was another flight left on the tarmac for 6 hours. The last flight delayed that made headlines was on August 8. That's 2 plane loads of passengers forced to stay on plane for an unreasonable amount of time. It probably sucked big time on those planes, especially with crying kids and little food.

I've spent a few extra hours on planes over the years. One plane had a bad NAV computer so we sat around for an hour while they fixed it. The fix didn't work so we were all unloaded. By the time we all got processed through customs and back to the gate, we ended up back on the same plane. This took about 4-5 hours, total. Not a big deal for me because I wasn't in a hurry. The plane I took back from Vegas lately was delayed for about an hour because a connecting flight was delayed. The airline decided to hold up our plane until those dozen people arrived. Also, not a big deal for me. I come prepared. My essential airline survival kit includes a one pound bag of peanut M&Ms, a big bag of beef jerky, magazines or a book and a fully charged iPod.

Are these latest planes delays a big deal? For the people on those planes, I'd say yes. Legislators seem to think so. There are demands to hold airlines accountable. There is talk of new laws to protect us from these inconveniences. Do we need Congress to intervene and create some new laws on this? I say no.

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association:
On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings.
It seems to me that a few unreasonable delays and stupid mistakes are inevitable. If August 8th was an average day, then almost 30,000 commercial flights took place that day. One trapped passengers on the tarmac for about 6 hours. That's 1 in almost 30,000 or .0033% of the flights. If every day is an average day and the next terribly unreasonable delay was on August 21st, that means there were 2 of these incidents within a span of 14 days. If all 14 days were average days, then about 420,000 flights took place with two of those flights delayed or stopped on the tarmac for an unreasonable amount of time. 2 in 420,000 or .00048%.

With all the more important things going on in this country like the WAR, the economy, health insurance, and deficits to name a few, is it reasonable to have our legislators drop everything and begin work on this "problem?" I think not. Leave the airlines alone. Fix more important things.

Finally, if you insist on complaining about how terrible air travel is feel free to hop in your car, get on a train or ride a horse to get where you want to go. See how convenient that is...

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