>Star Gazing


Two nights ago we bundled up our little family and joined up with a few of our homeschooling friends for some star gazing. What a wonderful experience.
Compared to so much of our fast-paced, highly technologized world, looking at the stars is a truly remarkable experience that also connects us to the ancients. It is fascinating to think that the stars and planets we look at today are the same ones the ancient Greeks gazed upon. On the cosmic time scale essentially nothing has changed since they looked out to the heavens.
The telescope we used was hand built and is owned by our friend Chris. It is a Dobsonian telescope and he built it with some help from a former student based on plans from a book. Here is Chris gazing upon a star map looking for clues to finding M31, or the Great Andromeda Nebula, which he did locate and we saw through the scope:
We were behind a middle school just outside of a town outside the city, so we were not bothered by the city lights. The kids ran and played in the dark with glow sticks. There was a playground nearby, so while we looked for stars we could hear them playing. When some interesting object was focused in the telescope the kids would then come running. Sometimes they needed a ladder to reach the eye piece:
We also saw Jupiter and three of its bright moons (it has at least 63 moons). To think that we saw what Galileo first saw in 1610 is really cool. We could even see a clear line of one of its atmospheric cloud bands. Later we gazed upon a globular cluster and the double star in the handle of the Big Dipper.
I know that these kinds of experiences are not unique to homeschoolers, but I know they were not available to me as a kid. I know we were not worried if we got to bed late because our school schedule is flexible. Regardless, if you know someone who has a passion for astronomy and has a decent telescope, convince him or her to organize a night out with several families. Both kids and adults will be rewarded.

>Ring those bells: 350 in Eugene


This morning I did something new for me. I attended an environmental rally.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was a little affair, just a few people for a few minutes. But it was good. After it was over I walked away glad that I had attended. The purpose of the rally was to highlight the number 350 as it relates to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The big deal about 350 is that it is the critical number for CO2 in terms of parts per million in our atmosphere. 350 ppm is the upper limit that scientists have determined is safe for life on the planet. Presently the number is near 390 and rising. The goal is to bring it down to at least 350, or lower. 350 is also the name of a non-profit (350.org) started by Bill McKibben. This was a 350.org event.

I had my wife’s Flip camera with me and took a few shots. Here’s the gang doing their thing:

What was great for me, in a very small way, was just to have gone to such an event. I often tend to not do things I want to do merely because of unfamiliarity. Now that I have gone I hope to feel more freedom to attend future events and possibly get more involved in local/global issues. For the time being, however, I am happy to just try to apply good principles of living to my life, and read, think, and write about these things.

>The Mother of All Demos

>Here are some things that I use and rely on in both my personal life and my work:

  • Email
  • Hypertext
  • Computer mouse
  • Interactive text
  • Video conferencing
  • Teleconferencing
  • …and geographically dispersed teams connected by these technologies

Any one of these technologies is remarkable. If someone did a presentation that demonstrated any one for the first time it would be a seminal presentation. But what about a presentation that demonstrated all of them for the first time? That would certainly be the Mother of All Demos.

For you computer geeks, tech heads, and inventors, here is the Mother of All Demos:


This presentation was given by the brilliant Douglas Engelbart in 1968! Learn more about this early technology here. I find this stuff to be fascinating.