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July 27, 2008

Shade coming to parts of the Earth!

There will be a total solar eclipse on August 1, the first total eclipse in about 2 years. Of course I am not in the umbra, again, for the 18th time in a row but fortunately for the people who live in the northern most shit holes of the Earth- like Greenland, the Arctic, Northern Canada, and the primo vacation spot Siberia-
will get a spectacular view of the sun being totally blotted out by the moon.

A total eclipse will happen somewhere on the Earth roughly every 1.5 to 2 years and if you can hang out in one spot for at about 300 years you will eventually witness a total eclipse. Before people really knew why the moon blots out the sun, it was left up to the folklore and superstitions to explain why. Many an advisor or witchdoctor lost their head for not being able to predict this lunar miracle. Today, we know that it is not a giant dragon eating the sun or an angry god punishing the Earthly denizens.

The moon is phase locked with the Earth which is why we always see the same side of the moon. Its rotation rate equals its orbit rate around the Earth. The moon has a circular orbit but it does not follow an exact axis around the Earth, otherwise we would get a solar eclipse once a month and it would be no big deal. So sometimes it follows and latitude above our equator and sometimes below. But every two years or so it hits an axis equal to the suns and blots out the light along an umbra, or shadow. The umbra is never bigger than about 175 miles so only a small portion of the Earth will be in the exact area to see the eclipse. The rest of the Earth will see a partial, less exciting eclipse. The cool thing about the eclipse is that the moon has the right distance from Earth to block out the sun, but not entirely. What we are able to see is the corona from the sun, or the sun's atmosphere.

But this is always changing since the moon is moving away from the Earth about 3 inches per year. Eventually, the umbra will be huge and more people will be able to witness the event. Those lucky bastards in the year 5000 won't have to take special eclipse tours to see one.

We are very lucky to have the moon, or Luna, as the Romans called it. It is the only moon in our solar system that has the largest relative size to its host planet. Contrasting Neptune, Saturn, and Jupiter, they are extraordinarily huge compared to the dots that orbit around them. The moon gives us tides, stable weather patterns, and for millennia, was used as a time piece. Without it, life on Earth would be very different- if it could exist at all. It was only recently (mid 1970's) that we sorta-kinda knew how it ended up in Earth's orbit.

For centuries people speculated that the Earth and the moon were formed together about 4.5 billion years ago as our solar system gathered the dust and debris from a long ago star that went supernova. As our sun horded the 99% of the debris, the rest of the planets had to make due with what was left over. Luckily there was enough to make the 8 planets and 3 dozen or so moons that exist in our solar system today. People though the moon actually broke off from the Earth which would explain its size and close orbit. But when the Apollo missions returned with the 45 pounds of sample from the moon, the rocks told a different story. Although the isotopes of some of the elements were the same as the Earth, like oxygen, the iron content was grossly different. BFD, you say? Well, it is because the Earth has a nickel iron core and if the moon sprouted from the Earth then it would have the same materials. But it didn't.

Another theory, purposed by a Navy officer stationed in Mare Island, CA who had a lot of time on his hands, said that the Earth snagged the moon out of a close orbit and captured it into our own. This theory was accepted from about 1908 until the mid 70's but it had a few holes. The Earth just didn't have enough mass or gravity to pull something as big as the moon into its orbit. A group of astronomers created a computer model that showed that it was possible for an object about the size of Mars to have slammed into the Earth when it was still a molten blob of matter early in the solar system's life cycle. The collision created debris that was pulled into Earth's orbit and that debris eventually formed the moon. After a day or two, the Earth resumed its circular shape and after a few million years or so finally hardened. This would explain the differences in mineral content but even this theory has a few holes that most astronomers and scientists are willing to forgo until a more plausible theory comes along.

Although interest in the moon declined sharply after the last Apollo mission in the early 70's, the U.S. plans on making a permanent station on the moon for research and to have a better launch point for our eventual trip to Mars. Even China has lofty goals of reaching the moon so that the starving people who live there can look up and know that at least a few astronauts who make more than $2 a day made it to the big time. But for now, we Earthlings will be content with making an occasional glance into the night sky to see our closest cosmic neighbor who has been watching our backyard for billions of years.

July 26, 2008

Falling gas prices

I read an article by CNN concerning the recent lowering gas prices. Normally I don't read anything on the Communist News Network, but this was a generic article that contained some national pricing information.

I have noticed that the gas has been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks. I can remember a peak on my way to work of $4.55 a gallon for the cheap stuff. Diesel was closing in on $6 a gallon. So now everyone is jumping up and down because prices have dropped almost 40 cents- I say BFD. My truck holds 21 gallons of petrol and a few weeks ago it almost cost me $100 to fill it up. I almost crapped my pants. With the current gas prices, my out of pocket cost to fill up is "only" $86.15, a savings of about $8.00 or two grande cinnamon dolce latte's from Starbucks. Using this comparison I get an extra 2 cups of coffee a week which doesn't seem like a bad deal. the bigger picture seems to elude a lot of people- I am paying $86 for a tank of gas!

I have 2 different opinions for the cost of gasoline: one is based on my selfish (but cost effective) desire to pay the least amount of money for gas so that I have more money in my pocket to, oh, I don't know, feed my family. Gas should be no more than $2.00 a gallon- to Hell with oil company CEO's getting a $30M severance package.

"But, it is the price of crude oil that drives up the cost of gas", you say. This is true, however the oil companies have done nothing to build new refineries or anything else to curtail the high costs of crude. Then again, why would they? It is the classic principle of supply and demand (dammit, Capitalism. You got us again!) and if the supply is low, prices increase. I find it ironic that the Big Oil bubbas always seem to find a "shortage" around the time everyone is on their Spring Break, Summer break, or Christmas vacation. More refineries, or repairing the ones that are in disrepair, would help a little.

George Bush said that "Americans are addicted to oil" in his State of the Union address earlier this year. No shit, Sherlock, and behind every addict is a pusher. Oil companies and investors have enjoyed the highest profits in the history of pumping our asses for gas prices. Until there is some pressure from D.C. to put a cap on this horse shit it will never change. Although the oil companies tax the gas at 10%, it is the states and other greedy hands that tax it far more. CA has a 17% gas tax. WTF, over? Is this some hippie, tree hugging plot to get us off fossil fuels or to just line someone else s pocket?

Which leads me to my antithesis point of view: Tax the shit out of gasoline. Why? To wean us off of it. It would be a brutal transition, but if we get enough kooks like Al Gore on the team it just might be realized in our lifetime. The high taxes would be comparable to an intervention of a crack head- throw him in a room and wait for him to detox akin to watching Americans finally getting fed up with fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy sources. It is a win-win situation except for the oil companies, their lobbyists, the people in Washington making money off of fossil fuels, and the oil exporters in the Middle East who use our gas money to fund terrorists. Did I miss anyone?

Switching to alternative energies is great for the environment and cheaper in the long run. It would take a while for us to switch over but can you imagine the cost of electricity if 10,000 people in that area used solar power and fed their excess power to the grid? The costs of utility grid maintenance would go down which would mean cheaper electric bills. Gas stations replaced with battery chargers or other fuels would help the production of alternative fuel vehicles by eventually driving the prices down.

The best part is that the oil companies would be crying like a fat kid staring at his ice cream on the side walk, unless of course they hop on the bandwagon and get into the alternative fuel industry. It will come, eventually. Solar energy is already being traded on the EU stock market. Most of the countries in Europe realize the impact of solar power and put the United States to shame when it comes to taking advantage of the free energy from the Sun. Germany, for example, only receives half the amount of sunlight per year as the U.S. but they produce twice as much solar power. Brandis, Germany has a 42 mega watt solar station. Unreal.

But solar isn't very cheap to utilize mainly because the solar panels cost so much. You will pay about $10 per watt for a solar system with the inverter itself only taking up about 10% of the budget. But there are some places that are helping home owners out with that cost and even giving investors a break when they become partners in a solar energy plant. California has an incentive for solar buyers to help offset the costs of the system, but it will be coming to an end in December unless the incentive is renewed. If Washington could step in and make a national incentive that is worthwhile to owners, investors, and utility companies then more people could buy solar which would be cheaper for everyone in the long run. Yes, I am harping on solar because I work for a solar company but it all makes sense anyway.

Getting back to my truck, I will probably sell it to someone who doesn't mind the sub par gas mileage and wants to haul stuff around. Right now I get about 55 mpg with my motorcycle, something that every vehicle should be getting. In fact, Congress should pass a law stating that every vehicle should get at least 50 mpg. We have the technology to do so but it just isn't in the profit margin for those companies involved in that industry.

Whatever. In 2029, Earth will probably be annihilated by an asteroid anyway. Asteroid 2004 NM4 will come closer to earth than some of our communication satellites. If it gets within ~300 miles or so of Earth, it will collide with us 7 years later.

Sleep tight!

July 25, 2008

Yahoo! news unintended humor

On the front page of my Yahoo! homepage I read these two news stories one above the other.

Only jalapenos grown in Mexico linked to salmonella, FDA says

Three Pa. teens charged in fatal beating of Mexican immigrant

To satisfy my curiosity, I read them both to see if they were related. Unfortunately, they were not. The beating story is really messed up and two honky's are in for a rude awakening. Of course, the hate crime allegations come up because the white boys called the immigrant an ethnic slur (any guesses to which one?) and proceeded to beat the shit out of him when he turned around to ask them if they had a problem.

Dumbass, of course they have a problem or they wouldn't be harrassing you. There isn't anything to do in the shithole coal town of Shenandoah, PA but to harass illegal aliens. John Denver never saw this coming. On que, the lawyers are asking to throw out the hate crime allegations on the basis that they boys were just being assholes and calling this illegal Mexican ethinic slurs, but beating the shit out of him had nothing to do with his race? What's worse is that this guy got beaten in front of his fiance with whom he had a few kids with.

Tough break, man, to come all the way to Bumfuck PA to pick cherries only to fall victim to ignorant, intolerant teenagers. Of course if he came into this country legally this wouldn't have happened. The cosmic irony is saturating. Sad, however, but please don't think that I condone this behavior of illegal immigrants anymore than I do of wife beating- no matter how much they deserve it...

July 17, 2008

Tony Snow gone but not forgotten

I hate not being up on the news and then getting side swipped by something like this. I was in Vegas all weekend and didn't hear about Tony Snow's passing. He was only 53 and died of cancer. That is really depressing since I am creeping up on 40.

I liked Tony and thought he did a great job as Bush's press secretary. He had an abmiance about him and if he did perpetuate some of Bush's bullshit you never would have known it. He was a very likeable person. Here is a write up done by AP. Bush attends funeral for Tony Snow

July 16, 2008

Obama pimp slapped by The New Yorker

This is the greatest and most revealing caricature I have ever seen from that 'elitist' magazine. Here is the story: Obama punked

July 10, 2008

The Giant Douche speaketh

As the time gets closer to chose between a giant douche and a turd sandwhich, the Democratic nominee further distances himself from my vote (if he ever had one) by making the following comment in a town hall meeting in Powder Springs, Georgia yesterday:

Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

So let me understand you correctly- I NEED to make sure my kids can speak Spanish? I will admit that being bilingual has its advantages, but why exactly should they NEED to learn Spanish, especially after this asinine comment:

You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?

So, do I NEED to teach my kids Spanish or French? How about German or Italian? I contend that Obama made the Spanish remark to pander to the illegal aliens whose children are going to school. This would give them the reassurance that Obama is on their side and that they can be rest assured that more help will come.

The next paragraph was Obama letting his guard down and showing just how much of an ass he really is. We can’t even get some our high school graduates to read above a 5th grade level much less learn another language. I am waiting in earnest for the “misunderstanding” message from the Obama camp to tell us what he really meant. Those guys are slacking because it has been more than a day.

To clarify, learning a second language is a good thing, whether it be Spanish (which I am currently learning via Rosetta Stone) or anything else that can give an edge in the global market. I am learning Spanish because my company sells our products to Mexico, Central and parts of South America. It just makes sense for me to learn the language as part of my job- but not so I can tell the cleaning lady to come back after 2 o’clock and to please leave more towels.

The more I listen to Obama the more I think he makes John Kerry look like a pretty intelligible guy. I wonder if Obama is using the same people for clarification purposes. They must be worn out.

July 6, 2008

OK, maybe I won't abandon it completely...

I guess I have too much to say to totally neglect my literary works on Alohadump. I finally broke down and got a page on the biggest pedophile search engine in the world- I have a lot of old Navy friends whom I can better keep in touch with using that service.

This weekend is special for The United States because it marks the date when our founding fathers had enough of the bullshit coming from Great Britain and decided to do something about it. Contrary to popular belief (by most Americans), the Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4, 1776, but rather it was adopted. Big difference there, and FYI the DoI was actually signed on August 2- at least by most delegates who were able put quill to paper.

By the time the DoI was adopted, we had already been at war with Great Britain for about a year. Our relationship with the monarchy took a nose dive during the Seven Years War (that started around 1750) and involved a bunch of countries banding together to fight against this fledgling colonization to claim right to the booty the continent had to offer. France pretty much lost most of its lands to Great Britain and after winning the war, GB started to tax the shit out of the colonies in North America in an effort to strengthen its war chest.

This didn't bode well for the colonists who believed they shouldn't fall under the jurisdiction of the parliament since they had no representation there. (I feel a quote coming on...) Hence the phrase: "No taxation without representation". To further show their disdain towards the King, and flap their fledgling democratic wings, some colonists dressed up as Indians and dumped boat loads of tea into Boston Harbor to show that it wasn't fair to tax the hell out of the incoming tea. This act gave way to the fanaticism Americans have towards their brewed drinks and to the premise of "A Starbucks on every corner".

Like an angry parent preparing to bitch slap a child for an obvious and deliberate act of definace, Great Britain prepared to teach these colonies a lesson in manners. The colonies said, "Bring it on bitch!" and had a tobacco farmer with a knack for writing and diplomacy to draft the Declaration of Independence to further show GB that we weren't fucking around anymore. This was the last straw, sort of like a white girl marrying a black rapper dude just to piss off her intolerant, bigoted father.

So that was it- the preamble to the Declaration of Independence was only 35 words long but it stirred the hearts of men , most whom formed the rabble of an untrained militia, to fight against the most powerful nation on earth. Thomas Jefferson, or "TJ" as he was known by the ho's in Philadelphia, did a pretty good job when he wrote this preamble:

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.

I challenge you to find 3 high school kids at random who can quote those words and I'll give you a million pesos.

If you ever have the opportunity to travel to the Nation's capitol, I would highly recommend visiting Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The walls are lined with the most patriotic and moving quotes I have ever read- aside from the "The way I see it" gems printed on the side of Starbucks cups.

In essence, July 4th marks the day that we flipped out first official bird to an oppressive body and we have been carrying on that way for the last 232 years. Our form of government is the best there is and our country has survived this long because Americans still have that hereditary gene passed down from our founding citizens. Somewhere in the twisted double-helix of our essence is a "Don't fuck with us" gene that allows the United States to endure, even though the founding fathers are probably rolling over in there graves at our own inflexibility and constant "I think what they meant in the Constitution was...".

But that is a post for another time. Happy 4th.