Monday, October 29, 2007

P17 Holmes comet

RASC Winnipeg's own Gerry Smerchanski, got a little prize this morning for his sketch of this most unusual comet, P17 Holmes. He's taken the leap to digital sketching to more closely reproduce what the digital cameras seem to struggle to capture accurately. There is a long and rich tradition of pencil sketching at the eyepiece and this seems to be one of the few subjects where a digital sketch has been a better tool than a pencil.

Astronomy Sketch of the Day for October 29th 2007.

These images give a very good idea of what it was like to look through a telescope at this comet.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comet P17 Holmes

It's been a little while since I have had my telescope out. It was comforting to be out tonight among the stars again with a tool well suited for exploring the night sky. The Winnipeg RASC email list has been a buzz for a couple of days like I've never seen it before.

A comet that increases in brightness about 400,000 times in 24 hours is kind of cool. There are a number of oddities surrounding the unpredictable nature of Comet 17P Holmes, but the most obvious to me is that there is almost no tail to this comet. It's heading away from us apparently. I can't say that the thought hasn't crossed my mind that we are on course for a deep impact and that it's headed directly for us. I wish these things didn't occur to me just before bed! I have a rich inner life.

The astrophoto crew seem to be having some difficulty capturing the visual appearance accurately in an image. Some of the local crew are saying that it looks like a super nova.

Boo was home tonight so I had company to ooh and ahhh over it. If it's clear tomorrow, I'm open to entertaining others at the eyepiece. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Morelia spilota cheynei - jungle carpet python

The mating season has begun and this guy is now cruising actively seeking a mate. I'm not brave enough to team up with someone and share a batch of these, but it's not that it hasn't crossed my mind. It's fun to have him out while he's so interested in being active.

Snoot - lonely skinny chick

Boo and JC


Snoot cringing and JC

Varanus exanthematicus - Savannah monitor

I have had this guy home for a month or so. He's settled in and seems to be content to maintain his feisty monitor self. I'm here to attest to the truth that when you get these guys outside they can become quite a bit more direct in their conversation. :0 I wish I'd been better prepared with a video camera to capture some of the threat responses I saw from him outside.

I used to wonder what the big drawing card was to animals with a lot of attitude, but I'm really in deep with this guy. I love him and feel quite comfortable with him. I've had him out and about as you can see.

I must thank Rich at Red River Arboreals for making it possible for me to have this guy. As is usually the case, Rich was informed and sold me a healthy excellent example of a savannah monitor. Thanks a lot Rich, he's a huge attraction here.

Some videos

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kelly Joe Phelps

I wish I had time to gush through a few drafts of a thrilled to be alive type review of the Kelly Joe Phelps show last night at The West End, but I don't.

A single draft will have to suffice! :P

As I scarf down my late lunch, I'll do what I can to fill you in. I've not seen Phelps before, but admire his recordings on a number of levels. My favourite recording so far, has been his Shine Eyed Mister Zen, It's got a ruthlessly articulate exposure that I find attractive. I don't need a performance to be perfect, but I sure appreciate the sense that a human is playing. This is one of those recordings where I know the player is of the highest calibre. Nothing in the studio got in the way of keeping every subtle note variation clear.

I've waited a number of years to catch his live show and my expectations over time had climbed to unrealistic proportions, or so I thought heading into the city last night to see him at the West End.

Jodie King was on stage first with what I thought was a darn tight rhythm acoustic guitar accompaniment. She described being freshly back from a western Canadian tour of Roots mall stores. I have to admit that lyrically she seemed well suited for insipid rubber stamp type branding and might have stepped a hairs breadth over from the canned mall music enough to have nobody notice. It just wasn't my thing. When she finished up she reminded us of her name and neglected to mention who her flawless and rhythmically interesting guitar player was the tipping point for my bad mouth reviews inspiration.

Phelps doesn't seem to require much warm up. By the end of his first song he had capped it with a signature style invention that traveled the journey up and down the neck of his guitar with a kaleidoscope of inflections that brought me to a fine place, all goose fleshed and grinning from ear to ear. Even though I had built up his expertise in my mind, he did not disappoint me in any way. I think my commitment to being a fan of this man's work is increased by at least an order of magnitude today after being so well satisfied last night.

I was a little disheartened to see the room not filled to the rafters, but he had just been here this summer with Lucinda Williams, but I don't care for the music I know of hers so I passed on the date, knowing he'd be back for this show. Then again, I tend to the negative and know that many are satisfied by pablum served up by spin doctors playing the odds with our culturally vapid taste in so many things. Here is not the place to wax eloquent in the negative though. Last night's show was intimate, gracious and intense in such good ways.

Here is a man that I can believe aims to balance what he knows is right and good with women while being a man with a full compliment of the best of a man's characteristics. He's got enough fire for two at least, and possibly more. Lyrically he's a proven story teller. He's studied at the feet of the masters before him. Names like Dave Van Ronk and Leo Kottke came up in Kelly's rambling chat with the audience. Phelps played a tribute of his own to Dave Van Ronk and although it's been a few years since I've listened to any of Ronk's recordings, Phelps made his tribute sound like every Dave Van Ronk song I'd ever heard. It was brilliant.

He comes across as humble and I suppose it would be tough to do otherwise playing to a modest showing of support in an out of the main stream stop like ours. He made it seem like he drove out from Portland Oregon specifically to play this show. From all appearances he was happy to be playing and carried a professionalism that was virtually indistinguishable from a simple unsophisticated love of playing anywhere at any time.

Stupidly I sat, stage left for a right handed one man guitar show so I missed a lot of details of his hand work and have to assume the instrument was a Martin dreadnought of some kind.

He played with virtuosity I've seldom witnessed live. He did it, providing many obvious layers to both the rhythm and melody. Our middle daughter tagged along last night. After the first song she leaned over and said, "I don't even know how much of this I'm not appreciating!" and that's about how I felt too. I was simply grateful of his care in committing so much of himself to the show last night. I'd go and see him again without hesitation and I'll certainly be having his latest recording. A couple of fine Canadian musicians, once again grace the studio with him.

Facebook provided opportunity for unexpectedly being joined by some friends to enjoy the spectacle. I hope it was as good for them as it was for me. Spectacle might be over stating it in some peoples eyes. A chair, a microphone, a plaid shirt and a very big musical foot print were all there, but no hype could be seen for miles.

Wish you all could have been there.

Please pardon whatever editing remains pending. Life is short apparently!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Christmas cactus

Every year I set this plant out beside the willow behind the out house and every year that I remember to bring it back in before the frost, it explodes into bloom. I never tire of the beautiful and exotic nature of the offering. I cracked a couple of large branches on it when I moved it in. I didn't take into account that it was a bit cool that day, the plant was fully hydrated and the fact that it had used the willow's trunk to support a lot of new growth and it suffered.

I cobbled together some large "O" ring gaskets that could be looped above the main breaks and then wired those off to the pot to help support the breaks until after the flowering had passed. I'm not sure just how I'm going to put humpty dumpty back together again, but I'm sure it will be for the best one way or another.

Once the flowers are all out I'll count them. It sure is a showcase for the species.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More fun than a face full of porcupine quills

What's more fun that your dog's face full of porcupine quills? Both your dogs with their faces full of porcupine quills. I'd so glad this day is over.