An incredible night of observing

Last night was our monthly star party for the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association.  It was just about a perfect August night, not too hot, not too humid, and with very clear skies.  Apparently the effort that I’ve been spending on publicity for the group has been paying off, because we got at least a dozen new folks there last night.

Once we got enough dark to start seeing things, Bill managed to give a nice tour of the night sky, which people really loved.  This hit some of the major high lights of the big dipper, the little dipper, lyra, cygnus, scorpio, sagittarius, the the milky way, which was in quite full force last night.  Rick and I managed to effectively hide from the building lights behind a few trees, which left us in a nice dark environment.

With so many folks, and Sagittarius in good striking zone, I spent the first half of the night hitting globular clusters and the lagoon nebula over there.  My new ultra high contrast filter got it’s first work out on the lagoon nebula, which was striking.

As the evening wound on we saw two waves of people head out, until just Rick, Bruce, Ray and I were left.  Jupiter popped up to greet us, and we got a few views of that, though through that much atmosphere you were hard pressed to get it above 100x and still see anything.  I randomly found (only identified this morning) the Omega Nebula and the Wild Duck Cluster as I was just exploring around Sagittarius.

About 12:30 the four us decided to call it a night.  I got home at about 1, too wired to go to sleep for the next 45 minutes.  It was a great night.

The probable regional extinction of the little brown bat

From Ars Technica:

White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection that kills bats by interfering with their hibernation cycle, was first spotted in a cave in New York in 2006. In just four years, it has spread over 1,200 km through the US and Canada, reaching from Quebec to Missouri, and killing off as many as 90 percent of the bats in infected areas. Those precipitous declines would seem to be unsustainable, and a new study in Science indicates that they are indeed: even in many scenarios where the virulence of the disease tails off, a common species of bat appears headed for regional extinction, perhaps in as little as 15 years.

This has even managed to get a decent amount of mainstream reporting over the last 2 years.  The focus has been on the little brown bat, because we’ve got population numbers going back 30 years, so you can chart trends.  Other species of bat also appear to be affected, though there isn’t enough historical data to show exactly what’s happening there.

White Nose Syndrome is not really understood, so it’s still not clear what is actually killing off the bats.

Coke uses the Chewbacca defence

First, this is a really good piece of information, which I don’t want to be buried by the “wha.. wha.. WHA!” moment:

The truth is that when it comes to weight loss, what you drink may be even more important than what you eat. Americans now get nearly 25 percent of their calories from liquids. In 2009, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finding that the quickest and most reliable way to lose weight is to cut down on liquid calorie consumption. And the best way to do that is to reduce or eliminate beverages that contain added sugar.

Basically, put down the soda, get yourself a glass of water instead.

And now the context for why that popped up in an article:

Now here’s something you wouldn’t expect. Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company’s vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims. No surprise there. But how do you think the company is defending itself?

In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.

Really?  For the record vitamin water has roughly the same amount of added sugars as a soda of the same size.

Two thumbs up for Bloomberg

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

His speech has shown up many places, this transcription is on Salon.  It’s really worth reading in it’s entirety.

Scratching an itch

Apparently I’m now writing a drupal drush module for patch management, and slowly understanding what that entails.  I’ve looked around and surprisingly there really isn’t a good solution for this yet.  There are a number of solutions for applying other people’s patches that are posted somewhere, but what I really care about is being able to easily keep, and reapply the dozen or so patches I’ve made to drupal modules to make work.  Some of these were due to bugs that don’t seem to be getting fixed any time soon.  Some are due to lost of drupal modules not working with PHP 5.3.

Regardless of the reason, I’ve apparently found a new itch to scratch, which hopefully isn’t going to take me too long, because I really need to get back to android hacking.

Speaking at Central PA Open Source Conference

The full agenda for the Central PA Open Source Conference is now out there, and I’m on the agenda:

Sean Dague: Solar System in your Pocket – Developing Android Applications

It started with a simple discussion after a local astronomy meeting trying to figure out which moons of Saturn we were looking at. This seemed like the perfect first Android application, building an astronomy simulator that would let me answer that question wherever I was. Little did I know that trying to do this would take me on a Journey through most of the major subsystems and interfaces in the Android SDK.

This talk will take you along on that journey of writing your first Android application. It will touch most of the major concepts involved in mobile development for Android, and many of the interfaces you’ll need to write you first application. Most importantly it will give you a list of things *not* to do when developing for the mobile space.

Sean Dague has been an open source software engineer in the IBM Linux Technology Center for the last 10 years. His spare time is split between the outdoors, amateur astronomy, and random bits of open source hacking.

I’ve been looking through all the talks listed, and I’m quite impressed.  I want to attend at least 2/3 of them, which is going to be a problem unless I can clone myself, as it’s a 3 track conference.  From an interest density level this looks like it’s going to be a really great conference, so I’m very excited to be going down for it.

This will also add some impetus to getting the 2.0 of Where is Io out there, which I’ve been hung up on building a custom view.  Once I get that one custom view finished, I should be back cranking out more regular releases.

Definition of SyFy


  • Sci-fi Channel: Short for ‘science fiction’, it was a channel where old sci-fi shows were displayed for fans of science fiction, including classic movies, B and otherwise.
  • Syfy Channel: Short for ‘syphilis for you’, it is a channel where new sci-fi shows are created based on old sci-fi shows, retreaded and reassembled like crusty multi-colored play doh that is drying out. Also includes new movies where giant CGI animals are sent on a rampage after actors with no will to live (or act).

and a continued amusing rant with pictures at