Celestron 10″ Advanced GT

Holy crap, did I buy the mother of all telescopes.  I have purchased a – get this – 10″ Celestron Reflective Advanced GT telescope. It’s ginormous. 10″ diameter (for those of you who don’t know what the 10″ stands for), with a 1.25″ and 2″ eyepiece adapter, on a German equatorial mount with a GoTo system. BUT, and this is a HUGE BUT, it doesn’t have GPS. I didn’t think that’d be a big deal, but as this is my first major telescope, it’s a lot harder to set up and take down than I thought it would be.  With my family helping me out, I finally got it up, balanced, and aligned… in an hour. This telescope isn’t for the faint-hearted. I really wanted something that was easy to set up with the power necessary to find me some awesome Messier objects. Nothing quite explains the awesome feeling of seeing Jupiter’s red spot for the first time, or being able to see and count it’s four Galilean moons, but when you see a perfect globular cluster (M13 methinks) for the first time… wow.  Just wow.  The first Messier object I saw with my scope was the Ring Nebula, M57, so named because of it’s ring shape. Also, when you’re going to go out and look for an object, especially in the summer, this is a prime target.  It’s relatively easy to find (ie: straight up), and the magnitude is a 9. Bright, but not that bright.  The telltale sign that you’ve found it is when you have it’s two young blue stars in your finder.  If you know your constellations, it’s in Lyra, very close to Vega (which is how I usually find it).

Okay, if it’s night time, and it’s not raining (for you Oregonians… I know your pain, I do), go outside. Look up, and try to find a bright-ass star that’s close to being straight up, but isn’t quite.  That is (probably) Vega.  Vega is the Northestern point in the Summer Triangle (which is composed of Deneb, Altair, and Vega in the constellations of Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila… but not in that order).  Vega is only 25 light years away (which would take 23-24 days at Warp Factor 6…), so that’s one reason why it’s so bright.  When I mentioned magnitude in the paragraph above, a lower magnitude means the star or object is brighter.  Vega has a magnitude of 0.03. Wow, not very dim, is it?  Compared to 9, yeah, you can see Vega easily with no help whatsoever (a blind man could probably see it).  In lieu of my telescope, I’ve been taking my finderscope outside to look at Jupiter and other stars. I can see the four moons with it!  But, I can’t see the stripes at all (Jupiter is just a point with smaller points in the finderscope). But it’s amazing what you can see with a low-powered object like the finderscope.

I may buy a pair of celestial binoculars as well (25x100s maybe), which’ll serve to allow me to see many things without taking out my scope. I tried to go up to Mary’s Peak the other night, since it was beautiful in Corvallis, but a dark cloud sat right on top of the mountain, effectively turning out the stars. It was creepy.

Ok, this post got out of control, and now I turned on a movie, so nothing more will probably be said.  Nite nite!


Back on the Bike

No more cancer means I can go ride my bike again. I used to ride my road bike upwards of 60+ miles a week (not a lot in road biking terms, but for me, 8~15 miles per day was a good averate), so when I stopped riding, there was a significant hole in my life.  I’m really not a good runner (I can only run on a treadmill), and the gym gets tedious after awhile. So, cycling was my ‘escape’ I suppose. Also, Oregon is gorgeous, and I loved being able to ride on rolling hills through farmland and forests.

I went to sleep last night around 8 pm, and woke up at 2 or so. Not my idea of a good rest, but it did allow me to go cycling at 5:30 this morning as the sun was peeking over the Cascades.  I had been talking to my brother on Skype until about 3:30, when I tried to go to sleep again.  I think I did for awhile, actually.  I have a queen sized bed, and I share it with 3 kitties… so I get a corner of the bed while they stretch out and get comfortable.  Sleeping with them is sometimes a chore, but they’re cute and it’s hard to say no to them.  Around 5:15, I shimmied out of bed with the crazy idea that I’d go cycling before I had to be in the lab around 8:15, so I got my old cycling clothes on, found some socks, and pulled my bike out of the garage.  Man did I have a good time.  I forgot what it was like to have the wind whistle past your ears, stinging your cheeks.  I also forgot to wear my ear covers, which was bad. It was really cold!  When it’s too cold and I cycle, my inner ears really hurt, and it makes the rest of the ride very uncomfortable. (Maybe it was a mixture of the cold and uncomfortable earbuds… who knows?).  My point is that I had an awesome time.

I’m so glad I decided to go out this morning, even if I only rode 3 miles or so.  Hey, I have to take it slow!  I can’t just jump on my bike and ride 20 miles in the first go-around. I don’t even have any muscles right now (well, if I do, they’re very small).  It’s going to take weeks/months to get me back to where I was before I got sick.  Stupid Cancer, ruining everything for me. *grumbles*

No Communion for Public Sinners

You can read the original article here, at EWTN.com.

Finally, a bishop who actually upholds canon law!  This article elicited a small squeel of joy from my lips as I read the headline (I sound like a mouse… you can ask any of my friends).  Too long the bishops of our country have stood idily by, letting our politicans get away with grave sins, and allowing them to receive communion.  It’s almost a sin in itself for the priests who let public sinners receive the Eucharist, because wouldn’t the mortal sin be transferred onto the priest for allowing the mortal sin of the person who took the Eucharist without confession to occur?  *sigh*  I don’t know enough Catholic Apologetics to actually answer that question, but it’s a good one.

Why won’t other bishops take up the cause and do that as well?  Do they feel embarassed?  I would love to see the day when Nancy Pelosi is denied communion.  Actually, I’d smile a little if she were excommunicated.  By far, out of all the publicly Democrat/Liberal Catholics in politics, she is the worst of them.  Despite claiming that she is a “devout” Catholic, she didn’t even know the Church’s stance on when life begins (umm, conception anyone?).  I even knew that when I was a child.  How utterly ridiculous.  I don’t even want to count the number of times she’s tried to foist some pro-choice nonsense through the legislative branch.

I am glad that Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) was quoted thusly:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

Woohoo!  Excellent.  Now, if only our Archbishop Vlazny would deny communion to the Governor of Oregon… Ted Kulongoski is another argument for another day.  He’s just pure evil.  If he would stop saying he were Catholic, then I’d be fine with it. I do NOT want my faith to be associated with people who support death as blatantly as he does.

Hiking in Hijab

You know what?  I get more hits for people searching for ways to wear hijab than anything else.  I know I’m not muslim anymore, but I AM a physicist in geophysics, so let me share my wisdom on hijabing in the wilderness.

Oregon has two climates – cold and wet, and hot and dry.  Since we’re in cold and wet here in Benton County, this is what I usually do when I go up to Mary’s Peak to hike for a day with the geology students.  I wear spandex cycling tights (which you can also purchase for running) under my jeans.   You’ll thank me later.  So, jeans (bring a second pair if you’ll be out for awhile – just leave them in the car), and LAYER your shirts.  Get a very light long sleeved top, and wear a tshirt over it.  Then, a fleecy vest (if you have one), or a fleece itself.  Get a rainshell, preferably a gore-tex one (but only if you live in a ridiculously rainy climate like this one), and gloves if you don’t like your hands being freaking cold.

Ok, time out.  This is like, snowy-time hiking clothing.  When I went last time up Mary’s Peak for a class trip, I froze.  It was snowing/raining, windy, and I wore Keens.  For those of you who don’t know what Keens are, here’s a link of what shoes I wore. I love my red Keens!  Not good for snow.  The snow slips in under your arches, and then you’re hiking around in snow and rocks the rest of the time.  Mmm, flu.

I wore a lycra hijab, one piece, from Al Muhajaba El Aniqa.  I love their one-piece Al Amira hijabs.  They’re comfortable and non-fussy.  BUT, and this is a but: if you have silky hair like I did, they’ll slip right off.  Wear a lace headband to hold your wispies back, and to keep it firmly attached to your scalp.  I also recommend a thicker pashmina if it’s cold weather, and it doesn’t really look like rain.  Everyone will be so flippin jealous of you since you’ll be toasty and they’ll be ice cubes.

In the summer, wear the 2 piece lyra al-amira hijabs.  They fit closely, and you can wet them and pull them back on if you’re hot.  Alternatively, you could wear the Kuwaiti Al Amira hijabs, another favourite of mine.  They’re whispy thin, which lets the breeze in, and lets the heat from your head out (you’d be surprised how much heat you retain when you still have hair!).  The downside is that people might see your hair colour, but not your hair, if you catch my drift.

That’s all for now.  Just keep them pinned down and they won’t blow away.  Don’t let them flow over your shoulders (keep them close to your neck) so your daypacks don’t pull them off.  Keep hydrated!  Have fun 🙂

Best Weather Ever

I live in the Willamette Valley (pronounced will-LAM-met, not will-a-met-e or will-a-met), which is in northwest Oregon.  Oregon State University is in Corvallis, OR, which is a town of about 50,000 people, and the two main professions are either 1) working with the school, or 2) working at HP.  It’s been bizarre weather lately.  We’re known for the massive amounts of rain we get, and you know what?  It doesn’t really bug me at all.  I like the rain.  From the end of October, clear through to the end of April, it’s usually raining 6 of the 7 days of the week.  The other day, it’s just overcast.  We really don’t see the sun at all, and you get used to it.  We even have our own depression named after us: Pacific Northwest Seasonal Depression.  Wow.  So, yeah, about the weather:

We’ve been snowed in.

You heard me correctly.  Lots of snow.  We’re only at 500 feet, so it’s hardly high enough for normal amounts of snow during the year.  We usually get a light dusting a few days out of the winter, and ice storms are much more common.  Flooding happens every year, and I keep my pump on in the basement so I don’t have standing water.  Last year, we had a snowstorm in November that lasted over two weeks.  School closed one day, and we had enough snow to make loads of snowmen and have snowball fights and go sledding and snow angels… all those things we dream of while we watch the rain fall.  This year, we’ve had snow.  SNOW.  Inches upon inches upon freezing on top of inches then more inches.  The roads have been so icy there have been more accidents than I could count, and it’s the first year I wish I didnt have a Prius.  Yeah, you heard me, I’m like a closet hippy, driving around in my shiny blue Prius.  It’s bad for snow, especially in the hilly area we live in.  It’s not meant for anywhere but sunny California.

So, I didn’t sleep last night.  I’ve not been sleeping much in the past few days, to be honest.  It’s been a weird weekend for me, especially since Ashley’s been staying with me (thanks to the SNOW, dammit).  I sat up most of the night watching episodes of Chuck on iTunes (great freaking show, you should watch).  Anyhoo, Ashley calls me on Skype last night and says, “My mobile is in your car. Can you remember it tomorrow?”  “Sure, no problem,” I told her.  Then I looked outside.  At the snow.  There was a good four inches on my car this morning around six, and I called her up on Skype (she leaves it on so she can talk to her boyfriend in Germany).  Oh, note to those who live in the midwest: I did not grow up with Snow.  Snow does NOT happen in California.  It’s 65 degrees in the winter time.  I cannot drive in snow.  Oregon does not snow plow under a foot, so the compacted snow turns to giant ice sheets all over the road.  Most Oregonians are like me: they cannot drive in snow.  Those that do have 4x4s who go up to Hood to ski all the time, and even then, the highways up the mountains are kept pretty clear.   OK back to the story.  So I called her on Skype and the conversation went something like this:

K: It’s icy all over the roads. I don’t want to drive to class today.
A: You have to go to class. We didn’t go Friday, and you were sick on Wednesday, so you’ve not been since last week.
K: Thanks for reminding me. Have I mentioned that I have to drive in ice to get there, when most people probably won’t be there?
A: Don’t be a wuss, just go to class.
K: Fine, gah.

So I went.  My Geology class was canceled.  Would’ve been nice if he EMAILED us.  I risked life and limb trying to get to school.  I sat at the Beanery on Monroe and watched cars attempt to stop at the stopsign.  Hehehe, that was funny.  Reminds me of the ice storm in 2004, and doing the same thing.  So, I went to women’s studies and gave Ash so much crap about making me drive on the ice and risking life and limb, and whats worse, I pretended I didn’t have her phone b/c it wasn’t in my car. Soooo mean.  She freaked out.  But, her momentary discomfort was worth it. 🙂

Dunno where this story is going, but it was an interesting day.  I came home after class, slept, and went to work. When I woke up, all the snow was gone because it had rained.  Hooray rain!  It’s supposed to snow again tonight, but I dunno how it’ll be tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t freeze.

Oregon State – Fight Fight Fight!

The battle for [American] football supremacy is a long-belaboured tradition in Oregon.  The Civil War – the ‘battle’ so to speak of north vs. south, or rather Oregon State (the north, non-commies) vs. Oregon (southern, dirty commie bastards).  Don’t let my opinions get in the way of your appreciation of an inferior university (Oregon, not Oregon State).  No matter!  This weekend was the 111th Civil War game – the 7th oldest meeting in the country.  (Another example would be the Big Game of Stanford vs. Cal… my family are Cardinals, so of course we root for Stanford… and they won [which was a fluke – like England losing to Croatia.]).

Okay, so we won.  This is a very, very big deal.  Not only were they a ranked team (17th when we started… unranked when we finished), but it was at Autzen Stadium, and not at Reser (our home turf).  No away team has won in 20 years or so (don’t quote me on that), so it was exciting.  We were tied in the final minutes, and went into first OT.  Still no score, I believe.  Then we went into second OT, and they got a field goal (for 3 pts).  We scored a touchdown, and the extra point.  OMFG Ashley and I went ballistic!! We were yelling and pumping our arms in the air and high-fiving.  2nd best feeling in the world to OSU winning the College World Series (twice).

We were robbed of a touchdown in the middle of the game, but I’ll let that slide since we won.  But, if the retarded call was made by the SAME retarded ref from a few weeks ago when we butchered the huskies, I’m going to have some anger issues.  A flaming baggy of doggy doo may end up on the Pac-10’s porch.