Monroe's Blog

Friday, September 28, 2007


New TV Shows

The fall 2007 TV season is underway. So far, two of the new shows look good to me. On Monday we watched "Journeyman" after "Heroes." It started a little slow, but the episode picked up about halfway through. The involuntary time travel theme is interesting, but the usual time travel paradoxes kick in. And if he spends the whole series chasing after his maybe-dead first wife, that could get kind of old.

"Bionic Woman" was good too. The cast looked like a Battlestar Galactica reunion, though. I guess that makes sense with the producers and writers all coming from Battlestar. I thought the whole transition from being a normal person into a bionic one was too hasty on the show. She was up and moving almost right away, and the impants started working all by themselves, and the nanotech blood stuff (anthracites? Coal?) made the bionic parts look exactly like her originals. Maybe they spent all of their special effects budget on making her run fast. I hope the show doesn't become a weekly fight between Jamie and Starbuck- I mean Corvus.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Total Lunar Eclipse, August 28th, 2007

I woke up early on the morning of August 28th to observe the total lunar eclipse. My home in Havre de Grace does not have good visibility to the west due to some large trees and my neighbors' houses, so I had to go find a better spot. Fortunately I found one right off of Bulle Rock Rd just up the hill from home.

I set up my scope on a side road near one of the model houses up there. The skies were clear and the moon was bright before the eclipse began. I was fortunate to have no problems with clouds or fog. At about 4:51 AM I noticed the first hints of the Earth's shadow on the full moon. A few minutes later I snapped my first photos. I had some trouble connecting my Digital Rebel camera to the scope, so I had to use my backup plan of hand-holding my Nikon Coolpix 4500 to the 40mm eyepiece.

The photos can be seen at the bottom of the page here.

Note that with the unaided eye, the shadow "bite" started at the top of the moon. It is shown on the lower right here due to the orientation of the camera as I took the photo. It is not visible in this photo, but through the scope visually I could see a hint of red in the shadowed portion almost right from the start.

As the shadow moved across the face of the moon, the moon moved lower, toward the horizon. Since sunrise was also approaching, the sky was brightening too. I took more photos every few minutes to document the partial phase of the eclipse.

After this, the moon became so dim that I couldn't adequately hand-hold the camera to the eyepiece.

When totality started at 5:52 AM, the moon looked like a very dim red disk. The sky was quite bright by then. I only got to see totality for a few moments before the brightening sky completely washed it out, making the moon invisible to me.

I was happy to actually see an astronomical event without being clouded or rained out. Hopefully the conditions will be as nice for the next lunar eclipse, which takes place on February 21st, 2008.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Labor Day Owl Prowl

Joyce and I went looking for owls one night during Labor Day weekend 2007. I have been on a few guided owl trips with the local bird clubs, but I have never successfully found any owls on my own. Joyce had never seen an owl in the wild.

I brought my iPod with the bird calls/songs loaded and a flashlight. Maybe this is cheating, but we went to the same places the Harford Bird Club trip went to on an owl trip last year. At our first stop, the sky was not quite dark. I played the Barred Owl song a few times (it sounds like "who cooks for you?") and had no replies. We then decided to drive a few miles down the road, to a place the club saw Screech Owls last year.

I played the Screech Owl song a few times. This bird sounds like a Halloween ghost, with a creepy whinnying sound. After just a couple of tries I heard a screech owl calling back. When a live one is there, it sounds like it is much farther away than it really is. I got the flashlight out and scanned around the nearby trees and got lucky- the owl was right there on a branch alongside the road. Joyce had gone back to the car for a moment and she just got a glimpse of the bird as it flew away.

We went back to the first place looking for the Barred Owls again. I played the tape just once and was rewarded with a very loud, very close reply. The bird was right there, by the parking lot. It flew back and forth over the lot several times, and it perched on branches in clear view. My photos did not come out very well, but Joyce and I both got very good looks at this owl. We heard a second one in the distance too.

So we were successful in our first un-guided owl walk. We hope to find more owls during our upcoming trip to Cape May, NJ.


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