Saturday, September 24, 2011

Close Encounters of the Unwanted Kind -OR- Gay Bars on the Edge of Forever

Second update, 11:54PM 5/29/2014: Section and YouTube link removed -- see below.

Updated 8:16AM 9/27/2011 (Tuesday): I didn't get a chance to post a new entry last night. My plan is to do so tonight.

The Milky Way spans the velvety tropical night sky as seen from the lush rain forest of Mangaia (Auau Enua), the southernmost of the Southern Cook Islands in the South Pacific at 21S.

Alpha and Beta Centauri are visible near the center of the image. The "Milky Way" is the collective aggregate of literally billions of stars that form galactic-scale structures (arms and the central bulge) of the Milky Way Galaxy itself. The Galaxy, of note, is a barred spiral rather than "classic" spiral (pinwheel) galaxy consisting of approximately 200 to 400 billion stars.

What we see as the "Milky Way" in the night sky is really a sort of amalgam of several different galactic structures including the:

* Central galactic bulge (or "galactic bar"); 
*The inner Scutum-Centaurus Arm (or Scutum-Crux Arm);
*The lesser Norma Arm; and
* The smaller Carina-Sagittarius Arm located between those arms and our own Orion-Cygnus Arm (also called the Orion or Local Arm). 

The next one beyond ours is the Perseus Arm, of which the Orion-Cygnus may be a spur.

The Terran Solar System (we can call it that even if it shows pro-Earth bias) is actually located in something called the Local Bubble in the Orion-Cygnus Arm.

A schematic diagram of the Local Bubble, which is a cavity in the interstellar medium that has adjoining "Loop Bubbles" and the Local Fluff, with stars labeled including the Sun, Sirius, Procyon, Arcturus, and Regulus.

The stated structure of the Milky Way continues to be refined and updated based on improved observations and understanding.

As for Mangaia, it is believed to be at least 18 million years old, making it the oldest island in the volcanically active Pacific Ocean basin.


Close Encounters of the Unwanted Kind

**Updated 11:54PM 5/29/2014: Section removed.**


Rainfall Totals / Weather Update

OK, I'm not going to spend this whole entry talking about that gay avian lot. In fact, I really don't have a whole lot to say in this entry. I would like to note yesterday's highly lop-sided rainfall totals around the region.

I forgot to link to this public information statement issued by Sterling (LWX) on Sept. 14, 2011 giving the regional rainfall totals from Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and talking about how the amounts in the latter event were statistical rare (once in 200 to 1,000 year events, although I'm skeptical about these kinds of claims as they are based strictly on statistical extrapolations that ultimately are based on a set of assumptions).

Anyway, yesterday the following amounts were recorded at the usual three climate stations:

Baltimore/Washington Int'l Airport (BWI): 3.19" (daily record)
Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): 0.97"
Washington Dulles Int'l Airport (IAD): 0.36"

My sense is that the BWI amount was too high and, as ever, the DCA amount was too low. This is because the rainfall yesterday featured heavy bands that moved almost due north and I don't think there was that big of a difference between the two.

The IAD amount makes sense because the rainfall cut-off was between Fairfax / Loudoun Counties.

Here is the monthly, since Aug. 1st, and yearly totals so far for the three stations through midnight last night with departures and normals (in parentheses):

Month-to-date: 8.29" +5.48" (2.81")
Since Aug. 1st: 17.21" +11.47" (5.74")
Year-to-date: 35.59" +6.38" (29.21")

Month-to-date: 12.76" +9.74" (3.02")
Since Aug. 1st: 23.14" +16.83" (6.31")
Year-to-date: 45.70" +14.83" (30.87")

Month-to-date: 7.66" +4.66" (3.00")
Since Aug. 1st: 11.40" +3.21" (8.19")
Year-to-date: 33.02" +2.02" (31.00")

Note that BWI has had nearly 2 feet of rain since August 1st and it is already 3.82" above its ANNUAL (full calendar year) 41.88", the new 1981 - 2010 normal.

The DCA annual normal is 39.74" and IAD annual normal is 41.84".

As it is, more intermittent rain showers are in the forecast for tomorrow into Monday. It is also going to remain quite warm and humid with highs around 80F and no sign of actual cool autumn weather.

Oh, it's been a while since we checked in with the Sue Palka-cabra creature.

Are you enjoying this rainy pattern?


Nope, she's not. She wants her usual drought and heat.

OK, I think that's all for now. I need to go grocery shopping and later this evening, Gary and Damon are coming over before we go to Nellie's. Yes, I'm going there again tonight.


Frasier and the Star Mitzvah Episode

Before ending, I'd like to post this YouTube clip of the full Frasier episode "Star Mitzvah." For starters, I did not realize just how much has been cut out of the version aired on Hallmark and We TV. Secondly, this episode features Frasier in Boston for his son Frederick's bar mitzvah (his mother, Lilith, is Jewish).

As background to the episode, Frasier does not speak Hebrew but wishes to say a blessing in it at the event.

Frasier's co-worker Noel, an avid Trekkie, has offered to translate the words into Hebrew, but in an act of revenge (" the rings of Septarus Five you will pay, Dr. Crane!") -- for Frasier not following through on his promise to get Scott Bakula's autograph at a Star Trek convention* that would allow Noel to complete his autographs of all star ship Enterprise captains from all Star Trek series -- he instead translates it into Klingon.

*Noel cannot go because there is a restraining order that keeps him away from William Shatner.

**Updated 11:54PM 5/29/2014: YouTube link was removed at some indeterminate point because Wall-P is a crummy little tool of America's corporate oligarchy.**

The funny scene in question begins at 14:36. The speech by Frasier starts at 17:21 but it is preceded by Lilith's emotional speech in which she recalls him dancing naked as a baby and reading The Cat in the Hat to him, all of which embarrasses Frederick enormously. Oh, and the blinding camera flash is from Martin Crane's Soviet-era 15-pound camera.

Start watching it at 13:10.

This is when Noel discovers Frasier got him a wonderful gift: the wig that Joan Collins wore in (my own personal favorite) Star Trek Original Series episode:

City on the Edge of Forever.

And with that, I really will end this entry. My next planned update will be on Monday night.


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