>An early start to a Thursday morning

>

“Way to ruin my night vision Dad”

At 4:20AM on Thursday Morning, I and the_weapon like the rest of the world bundled ourselves up in our warmest gear and left our toasty beds and sat in the back yard to watch the longest total lunar eclipse I have seen in my lifetime.

It was wonderful, from 4:20 when we saw the edge of the shadow begin to cross from the top right corner and fall across the moon’s face. It fell with the slow majesty you’d expect from an event orchestrated across a million kilometers of void.

Damn it was cold, but we were held spellbound, for as the darkness fell more stars came out and we each tried to name the star as it appeared. And I maintain that IRK is not a star we can see, no matter how dark it gets.

By 5:30 the moon was biblical – I mean literally like in the King James ” …and the moon into blood”.

No moon for you

And when I say the rest of the world I do of course exclude North America. As you see from the chart the Moon largely gave a big ‘FRAK YOU’ to the United States on this one. That’s okay, you were probably all busy anyway.

The cold and early rise was worth it because during the totality (the bit when the moon passes deepest into the shadow on this pass) the moon was in the Earth’s umbra for the longest time.

Which means at the height (depth, maximium) lets go with the ‘totality’ if you hadn’t been watching where the moon was the whole time then you couldn’t see it, as no sunlight was falling on it, not even the filtered red light that gives the moon its eerie red colour during the eclipse. For why the moon turns red during an eclipse I turn to the explainantion given by the_weapon, my 11 year old son.

“only the sunlight that goes through the earths air is hitting the moon, the air’s pulled out all the blue light so only the red light is left”

That’s not too shabby and explanation of what happens. He has seen sunlight split into colours by a prism and knows that the sky is blue because that’s the part of the white sunlight that is most scattered by the particles in the air, and he figured this out

White – Blue = red.

For my US friends here is the eclipse someone filmed, my video wouldn’t have recorded for the whole hour and 20 minutes. They have sped it up for those you are busy.

But US you will get your chance with the second total eclipse of the year will be in December 2011.

and I leave you with this science article about an insect called the lesser water boatman, Micronecta scholti. Which on a kilo for kilo basis makes the loudest noise in nature at 105 dbs by

“… rubbing its ribbed penis against ridges on its belly, playing its genitals like a miniature fiddler”

which shows to me why reality will always be more remarkable than what we can imagine.

Warning this post will contain clowns

The_weapon is going up from the cub scouts to the scouts in the first week of next year. He could have gone up sooner but since they will be loosing me as a leader form cubs to scouts they wanted to hang on as long as possible.

The 2nd badge he will earn is scoutcraft. It requires him to be able to demonstrate a bunch of stuff:

 Learn and be able to demonstrate the following knots: 
a) reef knot
b) clove hitch 
c) sheet bend 
d) rolling hitch.

2. Flag
a) Describe the Australian flag and how to use it. 
b) Hoist the flag.
c) Break the flag.

3. First aid
a) Know how to report an emergency.
b) Know the first steps to control bleeding.

4. Safety with camping tools
a) Know the laws that govern the carrying and use of  knives in your state or territory.
b) Know and understand the safety rules for the use and storage of knives, bush saws and axes.
c) Demonstrate an understanding of the rules that apply to the supply and use of firewood in camping areas in your state or territory.
d) Demonstrate the use of a pocketknife or multi-tool.

5. Patrol System
a) Discuss with your Patrol Leader the requirements of the Pioneer Target or other appropriate Target of the Award Scheme.
b) Discuss with your Patrol Leader how the Patrol system operates in your Troop, e.g. election of Patrol Leader, appointment of APL, responsibilities and operation of Troop Council.

c) Show an understanding of the structure and duties of the Patrol.

all good scouty stuff.

It got interesting when the_weapon started to investigate the laws around knives, we could have just consulted an expert but instead we checked out the police and department of Justice.  There is a perception that violence involving knives is on the increase. Consequently in Victoria laws were passed to crack down on knife violence. From the Department of Justice’s website FAQ

Stabby the clown

It is an offence to possess, carry or use a knife or other controlled weapon unless you have a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse can include carrying a knife for the purposes of your job, or when participating in lawful sport, recreation or entertainment activities, for example when fishing. 
Carrying a knife for the purposes of self-defence is not a lawful excuse.


The_weapon has read all this material and to explain it to his patrol leader put it like this,

“If I am a small kid getting picked on by a bully at school everyday and in fear of my life and I carry a life that’s a crime. If the police stop and search me and I tell them that I am the side kick to Stabby the knife throwing clown that’s okay.”

Can’t argue with that sort of reading comprehension.

 

Happy Sagan Day

In respect of the birthday of one of the best advocates of science, atheism and skepticism (like those three aren’t inexorably bound) I have ever heard, the centre for Inquiry, Florida Atheists and Secular Huminanists, the James Randi Educational Foundation and a bunch of other folk are promoting Carl Sagan Day.

You’ll probably come across a few references in the bloggosphere, news stories etc. The weapon and I will put up the telescope if the weather holds and revel in the majesty of the night sky,

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

Then perhaps for desert an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said once

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. 

and of course watch some of the myriad footage that exists and remember how passionately and eloquently he spoke disproving that canard that the best scientist must be cold and emotionless. One of our favorite pieces at the moment is from Pale Blue Dot, his follow up to the awe inspiring series COSMOS


http://www.youtube.com/v/p_naQhynOg0?fs=1&hl=en_US

I realise at 9 mins its too long for most, but it is one of the most cogent arguments why I can’t believe in any religion. I know in video I have embedded you see only half the screen but listen to the words.

The conclusion which begins at 7:52 minutes Sagan raises us all to the sublime. It gives the_weapon and I chills everytime we hear it.

What did you do on Sagan Day?

A fine Halloween

Sometimes things just don’t work out despite you best laid plans. But sometimes the wind is right, and the star align just so and a plan comes together.

Like this Halloween, Samhain, Day of the Dead (not the Romeroesque one) or All Souls Night whatever you want to call it.

After some of the pinheaded comments over on Birmo’s Blunt Instrument I decided to make some effort for 31 October. I picked up a decent pumpkin from the Queen Victoria Markets, and on Sunday the_weapon drew his design,  I carved and we both scooped out the innards.


The jack-o-lantern was surprisingly easy and next year will embark on a more challenging design. So Jack now displayed in pride of place in the front window next to the door. That way any trick or treaters would know they would find welcome. We had prepared toffee apples, and filled a bowl with an assortment of wrapped lollies to reward any seekers.

The seeds we kept, washed, dried added a bit of virgin olive oil and some sea salt and an hour later in a hot over and we had a bowl of Pepitas to snack on while watching a suitable Halloween movie. But which to choose. The local DVD store was of little help.

Then that confluence of good fortune came to be. The Astor is an old cinema in Melbourne east big screen, great art deco and magnificent choctops.







When I saw what was screening tonight – the choice was obvious. I even had the right shirt  thanks to Flinthart.

The_weapon loved it, and would be happy to go to the next school book week as Herbie West

.
How was everyone else’s Halloween?

 



We got it right this time

Today I took the_weapon to get the latest influenza vaccine that’s become available this past week at the local medical centre. For $14 not only does he get increased protection against the (hopefully) upcoming seasonal flu but it also includes the H1N1 Vaccine so he has some protection against swine flu as well.

As a fan of those films where threats to humanity are faced off by steely eyed, squared jawed, well trained and well resourced team of professionals who have plans and contingencies ready to enact at the first sign of a threat. So I was kinda pleased how the health community and the public organised in response to the threat swine flu posed.

I realise its not over yet and some will claim that it was no big deal and we over reacted. To those I offer the following from the latest Australian Influenza report

In 2010, as at 5 March, there have been 50 confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza reported in Australia, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 37,686 since 2009.

Or as more graphically put by the CDC in the United States.
For a parent these are chilling numbers, but they are only numbers. The late epidemiologist Irving Selikoff once referred to a statistic as “people with the tears wiped away.” A friend, referring to someone who lost a child, shook his head and just said, “It’s off the scale.”

Flintheart over on his blog was talking about “The thing is, Stupid only has to win big once, and that’s your whole fucking life trashed, right there” I have to say we as a society are doing the stupid when we allow vaccination levels to drop.

I was hearted to hear from the receptionist behind the counter that they had been really busy with people getting vaccinations. There is hope yet for us as a species. Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy notwithstanding.

Family values

The past couple of weeks the_weapon and I have been getting up at sparrowsfart to get him in for training. He is on the Falcon Academy team swim and they got through the district competition and on to the zones and regionals.

At the last meet I was sitting with the_weapon while we watched the team swim. One of the girls in his class MissyK was swimming. MissyK is from a family of evangelical Christians so in the past she has invited the_weapon along to her church. Needless to say being raised by a militant atheist he chose to decline, repeatedly.

MissyK swam stone dead last in her heat and she was pretty broken up about it, visibly upset as she got out of the pool and walking back. The_weapon got up and started to head over to her. I though what a caring, empathetic child I had.

I then remembered this is my child I was thinking about.

I jumped up and caught up to him before he spoke to her and said

“No asking, where is her messiah now, okay?”

The look on his face confirmed my suspicions. Fortunately by now one of the teachers was providing solace to distraught aquatic Christian.

So I think we have passed on the family value of atheism. As such I am excited that the Global Atheism festival is coming to Melbourne. Not enough stuff to hold a 10 year olds attention but still plenty happening around town like the atheism bus


and I am comfortable with that. What about you folk, any traits your family’s have you want to ensure are passed on. Musicial talent, freakish recall of sporting minutia, ability to roll your tongue into a tube?

I’m a better parent than Nicolas Cage

Like every other parent I try to help my off-spring to be a strong, self reliant, mult-skilled survivor of the coming Zombie apocalypse. From the how-to-make-yourself Apocalypse ready guide here giving him cooking skills based on the London chef Will Sprunt’s Apocalypse chow, and signing him up for CDC’s Disease Detective Camp for the holidays I would like to think I am laying the foundation for a citizen who will standing against the coming darkness.

But in the recent clip from the soon to be released Movie adaptation of the comic book (sorry graphic novel) Kick-Ass I realise I have been neglecting an important aspect of the_weapon’s training.

What a softie!

There’s is no way I’d have agreed to ice cream with Chocolate Syrup and nuts.