Monroe's Blog

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Celebrating a draft dodger on Memorial Day weekend?

ESPN Classic is doing a series of replays of famous boxing matches from the past this weekend- Memorial Day weekend. Many of these fights involve Muhammed Ali, who was a famous draft dodger during the Vietnam era. At least he was a man and took his punishment for it instead of slinking off to Canada, but still- should we celebrate a man who actively ran from his duty to our country on a holiday devoted to memorializing our war dead? That just doesn't seem right to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Bird Watching

Last Sunday Joyce and I went birdwatching. We started at Susquehanna State Park, which is only about 10 minutes away from our house. Our first stop was the Rock Run Mill area. We didn't see many birds there, but we did hear what sounded like woodpecker babies inside one big dead tree. It sounded like several small tapping things inside the tree. We also saw some geese along with their babies, right by the river.

Our second stop was the picnic area of the park. We had luck seeing birds at a spot on the far side of the lake there, so we hiked around to try again. On the way we saw a woman apparently hugging a small boy. As we passed, she asked if we had any wipes. I said no, and told her there was a bathroom up by the parking lot. When I looked back, I saw that the little boy had his pants around his ankles, and his private parts were all hanging out. Apparently he either had an accident or was pooping by the lake. The woman was trying to clean him up, or keep his near-nudity private from the public.

Once we got to the spot, we did see plenty of birds. We saw red winged black birds, grackles, an oriole taking food to a nest in a tree, cardinals, an osprey, and a barn swallow that flew up and perched on a grill about 10 yards away. I took some photos of these birds, and Joyce spent much of the time with the binoculars.

On our way out of there, a group of adult geese and more babies blocked our path. The adults tried to protect the babies by keeping us away. They did this by hissing and moving their heads up and down, almost like a snake. We didn't want to hurt or scare the geese, so we took our time and waited until the path got wide enough for us to go around.

We finished our birdwatching at the dam. We saw another osprey, and apparently another one in a big nest up on an electric tower. We saw a bird pop its head out of the nest. We couldn't tell if it was an adult or a baby. Joyce saw an eagle with the binoculars. I saw a bunch of turkey vultures, herons, and a few ducks.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Hail to the Chief?

I was elected President of our astronomy club last night. I am not sure how that happened- one other guy was running, and he had the endorsement of the outgoing club officers, and no one really knows me in the club because I am new. I've only been to one event (Earth Day last month) and 3 meetings. I guess I made myself known through my email observaton reports and alerts.

So now I must figure out what I am supposed to do. I have a few ideas about things to make the club more interesting and valuable to the members and the community. I wonder what the rest of the group will think.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Review of Star Wars Episode III

Joyce and I saw "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" yesterday, May 19th. I thought it was a very good movie, a fitting completion of the Star Wars story, and definitely worth seeing.

I'll try not to give away any plot spoilers here, but in case you haven't seen the movie, be warned that I might slip and include something that might be considered a spoiler.

Episode II, "Attack of the Clones", ended with the Republic in the middle of a war with the Trade Federation. The Republic's Army of clone troops fought against the Federation's droid army, with the Jedi on the side of the Republic. Any fan of the Star Wars series knows that Episode IV starts with Luke Skywalker on Tatooine as a young adult, and the galaxy exists under the iron fist of the Empire. So, Ep III must fit between these points in time.

The key theme in Ep III was the final fall of Anakin Skywalker toward the dark side of the Force and his transition from brash young Jedi into evil Darth Vader. A hint of this transformation took place in Ep II, when Anakin slaughtered a village of sand people after they kidnapped and killed his mother on Tatooine. His relationship with Padme in Ep II also showed that he puts his own feelings before that of the Jedi and the Council. These feelings come together in Ep III, with a good deal of help from an evil Sith master, to complete Anakin's fall to the dark side.

The action and special effects of this movie were on par with the others in the series. There are many light saber duels, but no big space battles. One big space battle takes place in the background of an opening scene, but it is nowhere near as intense and focused as the ones in Ep IV or VI, around the Death Stars.

One widely-discussed concern about this movie was the potential for graphic violence inappropriate for children. There are several scenes where combatants lose limbs and other parts of their bodies during light saber fights, and of course there are plenty of explosions and blaster fire during the many battles. None of these scenes are explicity graphic, and there is no gushing blood like you often see in slasher movies.

I was disturbed at only one scene in the movie. One particular fight ends with a character dismembered and terribly burned, and this was shown fairly graphically. This is a key part of the whole story, though, and without it the movie would be incomplete. The prequels exist to set up the storylines from the original trilogy (how did Darth Vader get to be the way he is? How did the Empire get started? What happened to all the Jedi?) so to leave out an important answer would leave the viewer unsatisfied.
I will have no problems taking my stepkids to see this movie. They understand what the story is all about, and they won't be scarred or harmed by seeing this scene. And if I don't take them, I'll be denying them their destiny. (see the story below)


I really am a TV Comedy writer

Yesterday, May 19th, 2005, was the opening date of the new Star Wars movie- "Episode III, Revenge of the Sith." As I normally do when a new Star Wars movie comes out, I took a vacation day from work and planned on seeing a morning show.

Before heading out to the theater, I watched the morning news on WBAL-TV, the Baltimore NBC station. They have a morning feature called the water cooler question of the day, where they pose a question for viewers to respond to via email. At 6:45 AM they show and read some of the responses on the air. I have had 3 or 4 of my responses shown on TV that way.

Yesterday's question was "Will you bring your children to the new Star Wars movie, or do you think it will be too violent?" I replied by saying that I would bring them, because to not bring them would be to deny them their destiny- a cheesy Star Wars dialog reference. I also put the phrase "" in the email.

At 6:45 they did show my reply, with my name on the bottom, and morning news anchor Stan Stovall read it. He actually did the Darth Vader breathing noise sound too! Joyce and I watched this and laughed like we were little kids. Or at least I did.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Today's "water cooler" question of the day on WBAL TV 11, the Baltimore NBC station, was, "Do you think the Senate's use of the filibuster to prevent votes on judicial nominations should be banned?" I replied with this:

I do not think that Senate rules should allow the use of filibusters to delay or deny judicial appointments. The Constitution requires the Senate to provide advice and consent to the President on his appointments. Filibusters prevent any action from being taken, thereby obstructing the process. If the minority party opposes a nominee, they should voice this opposition during debate on the appointment, and with their "no" vote. These Senators should also be held accountable to their constituents for their votes. Avoiding a vote also avoids accepting responsibility for taking a position on a nominee.

I think the filibuster is a weasely way out of taking a stand. Instead of getting on the record with a "no" vote, these spineless Senators would rather hide behind party leadership and just avoid the whole thing by a so called filibuster. These same Senators will proclaim that the Bush administration isn't doing enough on crime while they personally refused to confirm the judges the President nominates to fight the crime problem.

I am also appalled by the use of the term "nuclear option" when the Democrats claim that the Republican majority plans to remove the rule allowing filibuster of judicial nominees. There is nothing nuclear about it, or about the threat to shut the Senate down if the majority gets its way. This is just use of an inflammatory word to stir up the public who half-way listens to the evening news. "What, the Republicans want to use a nuclear option? We can't do that, it'll start a war!"

Maybe Emporer Palpatine had the right idea by dissolving the Senate after getting himself appointed Chancellor. Hmmm, I wonder why Jar Jar didn't filibuster?

Just kidding. Tomorrow- a review of "Revenge of the Sith." I'm taking a vacation day to go see it on opening day.


Welcome to Monroe's blog

This is the first posting to my new blog. I decided to add a text and commentary section to my website, so here it is. I don't have any structured plans for this section. I'll post things of interest to me and my family, interesting stories, astronomy things, and anything else that comes to mind. Maybe in the future I'll develop more of a structure as I figure out what I've got, but for now, let's just get started.

My first post is a description of some solar astronomy I did last weekend (May 14, 15).
With all the talk of solar flares on Friday, May 13th, I set up my Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST) on the back deck Saturday morning (May 14th), hoping to see my first flare.

I did not see any flares, but I did get to see the development of two large prominences.
They were fairly close to each other, about 40 degrees apart on the solar disk. At 7:30 AM EDT, one was very bright, and it looked like a letter "T". The second, which was about 40 dergrees counterclockwise from the first, was wispier, with material apparently streaming in the direction of the first (clockwise).

As the day progressed, the first prom seemed to detach from the surface. A thin, straight line connectedf it to the disk. It also formed two little "arms", pointing counterclockwise. By noon, it was completely detached. The little arms continued to grow and brighten, until the detached area looked like a ghost, or maybe a squid. By 4:00 PM it had flattened out, but was still detached. When I came back at 5:05, it was completely gone. Turning the tuner ring did not show it either.

The second, wispier prom, looked like a loop at times. The wispy area pointing clockwise remained visible most of the day. By mid morning the prominence had an "X" shape. Small detached cloud-like areas appeared between this prom and the first one. One or two small areas were visible most of the afternoon.

On Sunday, when I took a peek around 8 AM, neither big prom was visible. A few small, hair like ones were seen, but nothing as large and active as yesterday.



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