Thursday, July 26, 2007

Excitement at the Improv

Tonight, Andy and I headed for the San Jose Improv to see Don McMillan. I will not bore you with the details of how I received an offer for free tickets to this show on 3 different days, thought I had chosen Thursday only to find out that I'd really got tickets for Friday. Oh no. And I will also not dwell on the fact that tripping over kid-sized furniture can sprain or possibly break sensitive pinky toes. These things are only sort-of related to the larger story.

The best part of the evening is that Cousin Geetha came over to spend some quality time with Elise while we went out. I had no idea just how wonderful it could be to have kid-friendly family in town. Reports are that things went very well, and I'm not surprised given how very much Elise adores Geetha and would rather eat spaghetti than disappoint her.

We got to the theater, discovered that I'd reserved free tickets for the wrong day, and bought tickets anyway. The host was funny, and the headliner was very funny. It made up for the lousy show I suckered my moms' group friends into seeing there last weekend. (For me, anyway. The rest of the group is still waiting.) The show was good enough that I am now not embarassed to give my 4 free tickets to Friday's show to Geetha.

Beause we live right next to the light rail, it's pretty much the perfect way to get downtown. The San Jose Grand Prix is this weekend, which means that the train is pretty much the only option at this point. I love that.

We bought our tickets to return home after a great show, and noticed the not so faint smell of marijuana on the air. So we started looking around casually to locate the source. We never saw who was smoking the pot, because we instead saw a man lying across the train tracks. How did he get there? We dunno.

As I'm staring in disbelief and looking at the train that I'm hoping will not pull out of the station, Andy looks around and hails a passing fire truck. The firemen looked a little stunned to be flagged down like some kind of cab, but they were great. Within 10 minutes an ambulance had been loaded up and the firetrucks had gone. The crowd of onlookers dispersed.

We got on the next train that came, and thought about how little it takes for any of us to go from "normal" to "spectacle" in any given moment. I hope the guy we saw is okay, and that you are too.

I Blame President Bush

Once again, our President has let us down. We look to our elected officials for leadership, and when they make morally abhorrent choices it affects all of us. I'm talking here about President Bush and his doctrine of preemptive strikes.

Yesterday, Elise and I walked to the mailbox to check the mail, and encountered our neighbors and their two-year-old twins Cole and Chloe. As the grown-ups talked to one another, Cole approached Elise. She leaned over with sufficient force to knock him to the ground. Boom. Just like that. Elise apologized, Cole got up and wandered off to play in traffic (his parents chased him down before the cars did, happily), and we came home.

"Elise, WHY did you push Cole down? You know that's not a nice thing to do."

"I didn't want him to take my pinwheel, Mommy."

"He looked to me like he just wanted to see you. You could have used your words, you know. That would have been more gentle, and better around a little kid."

"I know, Mommy. I'm mostly sorry. But I didn't let him take my pinwheel."

AAAAAUGH!!!!! I don't care if the kid was looking like he wanted to steal your new Dora underpants, you don't push him down just because you think he might do something you wouldn't like.

It's hard to know if it's just that the Bush administration never had a mother to tell them these things, or if they're deliberately eroding the moral fiber of America's youth. Just in case, I'm not letting anyone so much as whisper "Alberto Gonzales" near Elise in case it leads to lying. No Karl Rove in case he brings on cheating. And absolutely no Dick Cheney in case he influences her to shoot friends in the face and refuse to take responsibility for her actions.

...Oh-wait. I'm the mother of the kid who preemptively pushed a littler kid. I'm responsible for teaching my kid about her moral compass and how to use it to navigate in the world. Good parenting is hard. I guess that I can take some comfort that if I fail miserably, my progeny may well take over the world.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Family Stargazing

This past Saturday, the Steingruebls packed up the car and headed for the public star party being held at Coyote Lake Park. Well, really I packed up the car since I know how to fit all of the stuff in there while leaving enough room for passengers. Andy and I both had some trepidation about trying something that could lead to all three of us being tired and grumpy the next day, but we did it anyway.

There was a bad wreck on the 101 on the way down, so we spent an extra 25 minutes or so in the car. But the weather was beautiful. Warm, clear, pretty much perfect for a night under the stars.

When we arrived, Andy took Elise off to finish her dinner while I set up the equipment and Elise's little pup tent. Again, the tent ended up providing a lot of entertainment but not much in the way of actual rest. Elise is happiest sleeping in her carseat at these things.

We did a lot of running around and burning off excess energy before it got dark. Greg, a guy I met at my first star party, was there with his whole family, and Elise and his 5 year old son Joey got along very well.

Once it got dark, I pointed the scope at Jupiter and took Elise to visit the other astronomers while Andy did some stargazing of his own. Elise had a great time talking to my friend Bill ("Who is your friend, Bill?"), and he was happy to be able to show her the impressive view through his telescope. Next, we moved on to Dennis, who offered to show Elise "the man in the moon." She was suitably impressed, having figured out how to look through the eyepiece with one eye. I think that the bright moon was enough to get her focused on looking into the eyepiece, so it turned out to be a good move.

Finally, we visited Joe who was pointed at Alberio. Joe told Elise it was a double star called Alberio, and she was excited about that. She didn't seem to get that it would be two stars in the eyepiece until she looked and then after a startled exclamation, "What's ya ozzer staw cowed, Doe?" ("What's the other star called, Joe?") I nearly hit the pavement. Who is this kid, anyway? Joe was a little startled by that one from such a little person, but recovered well. After that, Elise wanted to go see things through our telescope.

For Elise, the night was effectively over. We tried telling stories and singing songs in the tent, but that wasn't very successful. Finally, she asked to be put in her carseat and tucked in. Andy and I got her all tucked in and she conked out, staying asleep until we got home about 3 hours later. Yay for Elise!

Once Elise was settled, I showed Andy a few of the things I was proud to be able to find. I also got wildly frustrated looking for the Andromeda galexy because I think I'm constitutionally unable to follow the instructions given in Turn Left at Orion. Ah well. A neighboring astronomer helped me through figuring it out and we saw it. I then went looking for Uranus and had to give up. Luckily, Michael with the giant telescope with the expensive star-finding doodads "found" it so we at least had a view.

The thing that really got us was just how bright the moon was from a darker site. It messes up your night vision when it's that bright! Luckily, it went down around 11:30, and it was kind of fun to watch the shadow travel across the parking lot as the moon went down behind the hill.

I haven't seen that many people at a star party before-it was fun! And, the publicity at the nearby campground must have worked, because there were a lot of nice people who came to take advantage of all the cool optics in their temporary backyard.

It's not likely that we'll be doing a lot of family stargazing events, but it sure was fun this time!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

1303-only 24% Evil!

I spend entirely too much time perusing other people's blogs. And I find fascinating things!

According to the Gematriculator, "Steingrueblwe" has a numerical value of 1303, and is not very evil at all. This comes as somewhat of a relief.

The blog as a whole fares slightly less well as demonstrated by the following graphics:

This site is certified 39% EVIL by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Apparently, the most valuable thing I've written (I'm not counting the formatting of the page which actually scores quite high) was the bit about the public library reading program for grownups.

There are all kinds of fun ways to play with this-I'll just have to find some more time to kill in order to figure out what those ways might be...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fisher Price "Young Earth" Conspiracy or Just Stupid Product Design?

I just returned from a leisurely, childless trip to Target. Every now and then, I enjoy perusing the toy aisles in search of the perfect toy that will transform life as we know it. And then I come across the Fisher Price aisle.

Several months back, Andy and I noticed that they've been pairing Litte People dinosaurs with adorable little caveman figurines. Really?! Cavemen and dinosaurs! Together!! That is even stupider than the persistent pairing of lions and tigers that afflicts so many toys and books aimed at the ankle-biter set. (Lions and tigers reside on different continents, unless they are in zoos, in case you were confused for a second there.)

I thought this nonsense was limited to the Little People line, but they've got a line of dinosaurs aimed at older kids that come with caveman accessories. I absolutely understand that dinosaurs are waaaaaay cool and that it's fun to imagine interacting with them and that probably no little minds are actually poisoned by a bit of imaginitve fun. But really, do they have to pair dinosaurs with people to sell them? I mean, aren't dinosaurs cool enough on their own?

Anyway, the things of our everyday lives have a way of seeping into our consciousness, and this pairing of people and dinosaurs disturbs me in light of the amount of delusional religious nonsense pretending to be "science". Toys that don't reflect the "real world" aren't so awful in and of themselves, but when they coincide with the dearly held and obnoxiously defended views of a vocal but looney minority, they start to drift into shadowy territory.

So, whether or not they're trying to plant the seeds of young earth creationism in the minds of unsuspecting youth, Fisher Price is going to have to get their act together product wise before I spend any more money with them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What we need more of is...

..... Okay, you finish that phrase. Andy and I (and many of our friends and family) finish it this way.

In the course of breakfast conversation this morning, something called this phrase to mind, so I uttered it.

Elise took one look at me, yawning and in my PJs, and said,

"Mommy, you don't need more science. You need more coffee!!"

It continues to be disconcerting that she has us this well figured out. And that she looks so comfortable carrying a purse. And that she continues to insist on the presence of an adult when she needs to use the toilet.

San Jose Public Library, Adult Summer Reading Program

How many of you out there have enjoyed participating in summer reading programs at your local library? I can't really remember back to my misspent youth to know whether I participated or not. But now I'm convinced it doesn't matter! Why? Because my local public library launched a summer reading program for grownups!!!!

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, since "turn off TV week" has kind of morphed into "turn off TV life" here at our house. But, I'mnot sure what I've been reading/finishing/starting. At Friday's storytime, the children's librarian found me and told me to stop and enter so that I could win fabulous prizes. So, I did. And then I thought no more of it because really I don't think I'm going to get another serious book read by the end of the month. And I don't want the library to have on record that I chose this summer to take a stroll down memory lane instead of keeping up with my other serious reading.

Well, today Geetha came over to play for the afternoon which made all of us very happy. She mentioned that she'd been wanting to see Ratatouille, and I suggested that we head for the theater. Opening up the ol' laptop to check showtimes, I discovered an email from the library. I won a pair of free movie passes!!!!

Not only that, but Camera Cinemas is an awesome local chain that actually encourages you to bring in your own food, so we did. A perfectly free afternoon at the movies! What a wonderful treat.

This put a big smile on my face for the rest of the day, and I just had to share.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dark Skies Delight

For those of you pying close attention, yes, this entry is backdated. I have a burning desire to get my astronomical observations (such as they are) up online, but have a lot of trouble actually typing them up because I'm usually so doggone tired for several days after I go observing that it's tough to keep my eyes open, let alone type. (And for those of you to whom I owe email, this is also my excuse for that lapse...)

This report actually covers two different viewing sessions. The first was Thrusday, July 12. On that day, Elise went to school, Andy and I kicked back and went to see the new Harry Potter movie, and then we all went our separate ways for the evening. With a going-away to-do for one of Andy's colleagues, eBay night at the local ballpark and monthly pizza night with the moms' group, we were triple booked. Because Elise actually managed to take a nap at school, I figured she and I would ditch all of it and go stargazing instead.

So, I packed up the car with telescope, small tent and padding, blankets, books, snacks, water, warm clothes etc. and off we went to Coyote Lake. (This is pretty much my default viewing site until something better/closer comes along-it's pretty handy.)

Elise didn't like the idea of coyotes, even when I told her we wouldn't see any. Finally, I settled for telling her that they run and sometimes swim and definitely take naps. Well, as long as they take naps sometimes they must be okay after all. We saw cows, horses, turkeys, donkeys and a good number of deer on our way to the park, so that at least was pretty exciting. It's also interesting to note that while Elise is very sensitive to loud noise, she is also weirded out by silence. The few times I persuaded her to stop chattering and listen to the birds and the crickets she was distinctly uncomfortable. Apparently, a mom can't win on this one.

The tent turned out to be a super idea. It's got mesh panels on top so Elise could lie back and look at the stars through the roof, but she didn't like doing that much. We brought a kid-sized folding chair and blankets which suited her fine, but really by dark she just wanted a familiar place to sleep. So, after a half-hearted attempt to see Venus and Jupiter, Elise asked to sit in her carseat. Where she slept for the next 3 hours while I looked at the sky.

I concentrated on Messier objects because it seemed like the thing to do. So, I saw M6 and M7 with no trouble. I had seen them when I was out with Lou before, so it was nice to know I could get back to them. Then I was proud to find M4 on my own. Tried for M80 but didn't make it, so will have to try again. In my notes I have written that I'm getting good at looking for smudges and then homing in on them, but I think that may have been overstating the case a bit. I also drew out my view of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which I'm sure dazzles nobody but me.

Elise and I were both tired and crabby on Friday, and she was doubly so on Saturday. We will not be doing these stargazing trips together on a regular basis as they could be bad for our relationship and for family harmony long-term.

On to Saturday, I went out on my own for my first night of new-moon observing. I met Peter there, and also Bill (who brought his wife along this time!) as well as Alex, someone else I never ended up talking to, and a guy named Michael who brough his very fun 6 year old along.

The clear sky clock is really handy for figuring out when to go/not go to a darkish sky site, but I am still learning my way around it. It looked like a potentially rotten night, but turned out to not be that bad. A lot of wind early on, and then a LOT of dew, but otherwise decent enough to be getting on with. Really, unless it's extra cold or clouded over, any night is a good night for getting out with the telescope, I'm deciding.

Venus and Saturn are setting too early now to really get a good look, and it was so windy and weird that they didn't resolve at all when I tried. Jupiter, on the other hand, was looking pretty good (but again a little wobbly due to the atmosphere). The fun part about Jupiter was seeing the shadow of one of its moons on the surface, always a thrill for me. Dunno why that makes it seem so much more "real" but it does.

Due to problems aligning my various finder equipment the last two times out, I had been having a lot of trouble finding the Ring Nebula. I finally managed it tonight! For some reason I remembered it looking neater than the fuzzy donut I saw, but that may just have been my own wishful thinking.

Then, I wandered around and found M71. It showed up as a nifty smudge and I could pick out some nice individual stars under higher magnification.

I really like the name of the "Wild Duck" which is an open globular cluster, so I set out to find that. And got thoroughly frustrated. It turns out that I was following the directions I had completely wrong. Luckily, Peter was there to rescue me from my folly and I finally got to see it! Didn't really see the resemblance to a duck wild or otherwise, but now that I know where it is I'll visit occasionally and see if I can improve my imagination.

Toward the end of the evening, as things were geting dewey and the glow from the Great Outlet Malls of Gilroy began to intrude, Peter introduced me to the Andromeda Galexy and to the great square of Pegasus. Looking over my star charts, I think I'm going to be spending a lot of time with Pegasus this summer.

And, I've decided that a worthy goal might be to give lots of confusingly named things my very own confusing names. Watch this space for exciting renamings of Messier objects, other catalog objects and creative new asterisms. I figure I should be doing my part to render name memorization obsolete and just focus on how cool stuff looks and what kinds of things science can discern about all of it.

The only thing that marred the evening was my attempt to leave the parking lot without lights on. This is usually not an issue since I've always been among the last to leave and then I'm following someone else. Alex kindly offered to point the way out with his red flashlight. If anyone else out there is looking for tips on leaving a dark parking lot by the light of a flashlight, let me suggest the following:

1. Get the dew off your windshield.
2. If you had the radio on when you arrived at the site, this would be a good time to turn it off.
3. Regardless of how cold/numb you are, a few minutes with the driver's side window rolled down might be prudent.

Luckily, the Santa Clara County Parks know how to construct a sturdy fence, and such fences don't do much damage at low speed. "Didn't you hear me shouting, 'Stop!! Stop!!!!'?" Alex asked me once I had cleverly stopped. I hadn't.

Astronomy teaches me so many fabulous new things! I'll be sure to keep you posted...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Little Mommy

I was never into dolls as a kid, at least not that I remember. Just not my thing. Elise, in spite of having a few dolls, has never displayed much interest until now. Out of the blue, we had a little mommy on our hands earlier this week. Diapering, feeding, burping, pushing in the stroller. It was another one of these, "Who are you, and what have you done with our kid?" moments. And here's the pictorial evidence!!

The turquoise shoes were her idea. She outgrew her brown ones, was sad when the kiosk at the mall didn't have them in her new size, and settled emphatically on turquoise.

Question Authority

It may come as a surprise to some of our readers that our kiddo has adopted the above as her motto. It sure took us by storm.

Elise returned from preschool on Tuesday behaving like an absolute monster. I assumed it was because she is
Where a=not eating the food provided at school, b=not napping at school and c=physically wrung out.

Apparently, there was another variable involved, and it finally became clear when I spent a little extra time dropping her off on Thursday.

Elise ran in, and immediately took off her shoes. Her teacher said, "Elise, please put your shoes in your cubby." This is not a new request, Elise knows this rule. My child said, in very polite tones I might add, "No, thank you." And then she went back to playing. We're pretty much a "do what I say the first time" household, so this outright refusal left me exasperated.

Shoes still very much in the middle of the floor, Elise sat down at the writing center and sweetly said, "Teacher Clara, I would like to make a picture." Who wants to argue with that? She was so cute! So affable! Of course you may color, sweetie, says the teacher. My jaw dropped, because I have fallen for that one about a dozen times myself. "Elise," I said, "You need to put your shoes in your cubby before you may color." One arched eyebrow later, her shoes (and stuffed animals) were in her cubby and she was sitting sweetly at the table.

In the next two minutes, I had a revelation. Elise accidentally dropped a marker cap on the floor and turned to her teacher. "Please pick up the lid for me," she said in this slightly panicky, tense but also adorably imploring voice. It was like watching Obi-Wan Kenobi. "These are not the droids you are looking for." Seriously. Only instead of deadly calm, Elise gives the impression that an otherwise sweet person is now pushed to the limit but is trying so hard to keep it all together and won't you please help and spare us all the heartbreaking torment of a marker cap on the floor because wouldn't that make all of our lives just that much easier. And she gets the tone right, too. Not too panicky, just that "I'm trying not to lose it" edge. Very effective. I hadn't realized that before I watched Clara, a veteran teacher, immediately jump to get the marker cap from the floor.

Following that little episode, the teacher and I had a chat about giving inches and ending up hiking the next 12 miles up a steep incline carrying both one's own pack and another mysteriously filled with library books and Legos. I also mentioned the disaster of last summer, which may or may not have been helpful. (Michele, I am still thanking my lucky for yor rescue after that experience.) When Andy and I picked Elise up from school that afternoon, she had tried some of lunch, taken a nap, and actually followed directions. Clara clearly knows how to do "firm."

(Yes, Andy and I both picked Elise up. He took the day off work and we went to see the new Harry Potter movie. It was fun. And weird. We couldn't remember the last time we just took off in the middle of the day to have fun on our own. I think it was for X-mas shopping about 2 years ago.)

Every time I start feeling like I could be on top of this whole parenting thing, I realize I'm woefully behind, and likely not quite smart enough to keep up with our girl. I love her sense of humor, the way she walks up to random men on the street and strikes up conversations, the way she snuggles on my lap, the way she giggles at our pets when they do silly things. There is also a sneaking part of me that takes immense joy in finding out when Elise has got one over on me. She's beautiful and clever!

We are in so much trouble.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dark Skies and Fog

It was great to get out with a posse of friends last night. Lou and Adolfo were at Coyote Lake, as was Bill, a new friend. Aside from fog that rolled in at about 11pm and cut the evening short (not to mention cold) we had a great time. Adolfo brought some of his friends along, and they seemed to have a good time as well.

I arrived early to set up my new red dot finder so that I could actually find things. Lou helped me collimate which was pretty nice given that she has a much more exact laser collimator than I do. Someday I'm going to get to a site early enough to use my collimation cap to adjust the primary mirror so that I don't have to muck about with the laser as much. It took me awhile to get everything aligned, but the good news is that I did it and it made the evening go very well.

In spite of some high clouds, the viewing before the fog rolled in was pretty good. Note to self: Set up far enough away from the car that it doesn't obscure objects closer to the horizon. I missed Saturn entirely because it was so low in the sky and Wonder Woman wouldn't lend me her jet. Maybe if the Underoos had still fit-oh wait, they do. Now there's no excuse.

At any rate, Jupiter was looking spectacular last night. It didn't take much of a production to see lots of bands-just breathtaking. Also, every time I'd seen it before, Jupiter's Galilean moons were all lined up in a row. This time, one of them was out of line. Very fun to see. I think I also saw a 5th moon, but I was too busy oohing and aaahing over the planet to investigate further.

The other highlight of the evening was when Lou found comet VZ13. I'd brought some very imprecise instructions on how to find it on Thursday, so she found better directions and found it for us this time around. Very cool.

Early in the evening, one of the park rangers drove through on his rounds, and apologized for having his lights on, not realizing astronomers were set up. I thought that was nice of him, given that there were only four of us and we were mostly just chatting at that point. You know you've got a good park ranger when he is game to look through your telescope and at least act suitably impressed. :)

I was really glad to meet Bill. He has built so many cool tools for himself. A lot of astronomers do this, but I was impressed by the case he built for his scope because it contains places for all of his gear as well as some built in red LEDs to make it easier to put all of the stuff away in the end. He also had this cool compass/level combo for getting his equatorial mount set up in about two minutes flat. I was impressed.

All of my recent viewing experiences lead me to think that I have finally found "my people." Musicians are nice, other moms are nice, random computer geeks are nice, but amateur astronomers so far seem to be a class of people I understand and enjoy. Now to find a way to avoid being sleep deprived while enjoying this new found social circle...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Maiden Voyage

This was it-my first night out observing with my very own telescope. It was warm, but all in all the seeing wasn't spectacular due to some clouds and an unusual amount of skyglow from Gilroy making Lake Coyote Park a little brighter than usual. But the views through my telescope were lovely.

After I got it pointed in the right direction.

I decided (initially) to hold off on purchasing any sort of red dot finder, figuring it couldn't be too hard to get things in the spotting scope and then aim the real deal. Hah! Some variety of un-magnified finder will be coming soon to a telescope near me...

So, while I had great fun learning how to collimate and getting familiar with my fantastic new equipment, I didn't get to see much this time around. However, one of the best parts of amateur astronomy is getting to meet other enthusiasts. Lou (who kindly took time midweek to help me try out my new toys) introduced me to her friend Peter, and I'm looking forward to seeing him (and learning from him) as time goes on.

I had lists and lists prepared of stuff I wanted to see, and ended up not finding any of it. These things happen. An added finder thingie ought to sort that for the next outing. I got a nice look at the Flying Spaghetti Monster (aka Delphinus) and eventually managed Jupiter as well. So, all in all not an unqualified success, but a pretty good night nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

When In The Course of Human Events

I realized after I posted the text below that Heather had already put up something on this subject. So, sorry for the repeat, but you should still read the text of the declaration.

Sometimes family traditions are a good thing. We're try not to be sentimental about a lot of things but somehow July 4th brings that out in our family. A few years ago we purchased a book - "We The People - Great Documents of the American Nation." It has copies of important American documents as far back as the Mayflower Compact.

For the last few years we've made it a habit of reading the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July. Perhaps a silly tradition, but its important to be familiar with the declaration and the constitution. You don't have to memorize them to remember how important they are in American history. Here are the first two paragraphs and the last. Remember that by publishing this declaration the signers were committing reason against the British government. Think of that it would mean to commit treason against the US government and you understand that this wasn't something to be taken lightly.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Groovy New Links

Welcome to the new and improved Steingruebl World Enterprises. It doesn't look any different except that I've added lists of my favorite links over there on the side. I've even sort of categorized 'em. Also, I'm working on putting the world sunlight map in a slightly more handy place, but in the mean time it can still be found at the bottom of the page.

Happy 4th of July! It's our tradition on this day to haul out a copy of the Declaration of Independence and give it a good read. After the shenanigans of the current regime, it reminds me of the disconnect that still exists between this revolutionary document and our Constitution. To say nothing of the executive branch of our government (or whatever some of them are calling themselves these days.) The price of freedom being eternal vigilance, it's a good day to pause and reflect.


After weeks of salivating, I've taken the plunge and purchased a telescope of my very own. Yes, I think it's the one I mentioned before-the Orion XT8. Even better, I bought the gently used floor model at enough of a discount to also rationalize getting a filter. This is a pretty expensive hobby long term, so it seems reasonable to hold out on more bits and pieces for awhile.

This telescope is a thing of great beauty, but as Andy pointed out last night, I'm probably going to have to get it outside in order to see much with it. I've been so tired lately, and dark sky sites are far enough out that I'd rather not drive to them without a little more sleep. So, the plan is to meet friends at Coyote Lake County Park on Thursday. (Probably also again on Saturday.)

I'm hoping this lovely telescope becomes a regular member of the family, and to that end I think it needs a name. Please submit your suggestions here in the comments, and we will devise some sort of fabulous prize for the name chosen among what I expect will be thousands of entries. And, you could probably feel free to discuss your winning entry in public, unlike if you entered this contest.

Growing Pains

Sometimes, it's hard to be a kid. Grownups lose sight of that every now and then, I think. Last night, Elise had an experience that sent me back somewhere between a quarter century and three decades.

It was about 10pm, Andy was off at work to do an evening's work because I inadvertently broke the interweb here at home by plugging it in wrong. (Convoluted story, not relevant so omitted here.) Elise woke up screaming in pain, and I dashed upstiars to find out how velociraptors had managed to get into her bedroom all the way from Kentucky.

When she stopped sobbing long enough to get some words out, Elise told me that her knee hurt. "Oh no!" I thought, "she's dislocated her knee!" Hmmm, no. Growing alarmed by the renewed shrieking every time Elise moved her leg, I called Andy at work.

Probably a leg cramp, he surmised. I contend that I probably could have figured this out too under different conditions. Like if it had not been past my bedtime, and I hadn't just spent 20 minutes with an unconsolable child in my arms.

Leg cramp. Man, I haven't had one of those in eons. But I remember waking up with them as a kid. They felt like my whole leg was trying to turn itself inside out. And it could take a good long while for them to go away, too. Last night, it took some tylenol and about 15 minutes of gentle massage, plus one good library book to return things to normal. Now we're free to wonder if she'll have enough of these to recognize it in a few decades.

In the mean time, smiles ruled the morning as she modeled her fancy new nightgown. Awwwwww...