Sunset sky show tonight

From… for my fellow astronomy buffs.

Space Weather News for August 31, 2005

Reminder: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Do you see a pair of lights beaming through the rosy glow of sunset? That would be Venus and Jupiter: the two bright planets are converging for a beautiful close encounter. They'll be side-by-side for the next few days.

Visit for sky maps and pictures from around the world–including the South Pole where the sun is just coming up after a long dark winter, but the sky is still dark enough to see Venus and Jupiter.

Random Thoughts reexamined

I've decided to revisit the Random Thoughts portion of the site.  Rather than try to port over the thousands of database entries I had in the old site (more than 2500 as of today), I'm relaunching Random Thoughts as of tomorrow, September 1.  This will allow me to revisit the Random Thoughts database and extend it with current material while removing some amount of older junk that I no longer wish to use.

So, if you've seen the Random Thoughts on my old site over the last few years, you may — read as "will" — see at least some of them again as I move forward with the new site.  Still, I only update them once per day as time permits…

The new Random Thought archive is now outside of the normal blog chronology, so they'll no longer be viewable as the first post of every month.  They'll now only be accessible from the site link in the About section of the sidebar on the right.  This helps ensure they don't blur the lines between static and dynamic content and inadvertently skew my normal post statistics.

The entry that's on the site right now (as of 8/31) will remain as the Random Thought of the day through September 1 (tomorrow) so that I can kick off the new schema on the first of the month.

Sadly, I looked for more automated options of managing the Random Thoughts.  I was unable to find anything that could integrate with WordPress and easily handle the >2500 entries I currently have.  Oh well…

The Katrina redux

A hearty "Thank you!" to all of you who so promptly asked, after Katrina revisited, about the friends I referred to when originally addressing the hurricane Katrina situation.

The last personal report I had from one of them (she's the one who told me about the power being out) was that the power was still out, there was much flooding, even more worry, but they were indeed doing well enough under the circumstances.  I was happy to hear that, although I still stand by my original response to staying in New Orleans: Are you an idiot?

Regardless of the response, I feel for those caught in the storm's path.  I am, obviously, especially happy to hear that my friends in the area survived unscathed and are doing as well as can be expected.  I realize that many of those who stayed did not have means of evacuating, no way to move all of those who needed to be moved, and only stayed out of absolute necessity.  This is of course discounting the laughably fatuous who stayed because they… well, they’re dumb.

Political aside: The government — any government — should have done more to move those unable to move themselves.  There were too many left behind who only remained there out of necessity, mostly based on the inability to relocate their loved ones successfully in such a short amount of time… or at all.  It's shameful; let's learn from our mistake and take action to ensure that, in the face of any kind of catastrophe, we the people do all we can to ensure the well being of the least of these.

My intention was to respond to increasing e-mails about my friends' status.  Luckily they are all well based on the sliding scale of hurricanes — alive, relatively unharmed (physically more than emotionally), and sheltered in an as yet un-flooded building.  I think we can all say that we hope it remains that way.

The Frist honeymoon was short lived

It was bound to happen.  You know how wishy-washy I am when it comes to long-term relationships.  It's therefore with a certain level of self-induced disgust that I must break off my 27-day-old relationship with Senator Bill Frist.  After commending him on his support of stem cell research, he stepped on my buzz by supporting (un)intelligent design in the classroom.

This move is akin to supporting the introduction of Genesis-based creationism in the classroom.  Actually, that's exactly what it is — besides an offensive mix of church and state and a complete bastardization of true science.

If you've followed the hoopla regarding intelligent design, you know that it is essentially creationism by a different name, the premise being that, while science can explain a great many things, there are still those items which can only be explained if a greater intelligence were involved in their design.  Sounds biblical, huh?  I thought so, too.

While Frist is now endorsing the inclusion of religion in the general science curriculum taught in public schools, I will remind the general viewing audience that he doesn't equally support forcing churches to teach evolution alongside the biblical book of Genesis.  Would it not be fair to force religions to do so if the public is being forced to include spiritual dogma in what is otherwise a "separated" government organization — public schools?

Intelligent design is a falsehood perpetrated by religious zealots who cannot otherwise get into the public school system without the "science cloak" ID provides them.  It laughably ignores the scientific principal and unconscionably tramples all over the truth.  This is not science; it's fanciful propaganda based on misrepresentations of the facts and a complete disregard for the meaning of true, pure science.  I shudder to think that this could ever happen…  But I'm not stupid enough to say it can't.

Let's just hope science actually prevails and religion is left to the churches.

Katrina revisited

In my haste to post something pithy about hurricane Katrina, I inadvertently downplayed the severity of the event, perhaps because it was only just beginning to unfold and because, at the time, New Orleans appeared to have escaped the life-threatening flooding which was unleashed only hours later.  For that I apologize, but only because, in view of the loss of life and property, the utter devastation, the harm to America's economy, and the obvious negative impact to the animals in the storm's path (wild, domestic and otherwise), I may have presented myself a bit more taciturn than I actually am — although that seems difficult for a cynic like me.

As an avid weather nut, I've been intrigued by Katrina.  Despite this, sometimes it's more important to put aside the cold intellectual interest and realize — perhaps respect is a better word in this context — the catastrophic effect Mother Nature has unleashed.

For all of those who have and will suffer because of this storm, you have my sympathy and support.  For those who have taken it upon themselves to act on behalf of the many animals impacted by this event, you have my admiration and respect.

The story continues to develop…