Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thanks to a friend across the ocean

Thanks to a friend across the Atlantic ocean,

who lives near my ancestral roots,

thoughtful chronicler and keeper of

images good and bad

and feelings good

and bad and

how people read

her words

and feel so much

even though


across wires, electronic impulses

and air

across the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.

Thanks for the Honest Scrap award,


It is quite an honor!

Visit Herrad at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Levon Helm's new CD Electric Dirt

I am going to get into this more later but for now, you should really buy Levon Helm's new CD Electric Dirt.
If you do, you will not need to read about it. It will catch you with the opening Tennessee Jed, one of my favorite Dead tunes.
Then one song after another and, as I drive around the county on my job, I rediscover each song and listen to the voices, instruments and feelings in that wonderful CD.
It makes it a million times better that we saw him perform many of the tunes in his studio in Woodstock.
Here is his website:

Listen to previews.

Monday, July 20, 2009

40 years since the first moon walk

If I had to pick a color for the moon walk, I would probably pick black and white.
That is what we saw about 40 years ago when Donna's birthday pool party was cancelled due to threatening thunderstorms and fears of tornadoes.
Yes, I remember wishing secretly that we would not go swimming partly because of fear of wearing swimsuits and mostly because I loved space travel more than swimming or parties. A trait I carry today.
So when the black skies looked scary enough, we went home. Now I don't remember whether it was Donna's or our house. Donna probably remembers.
But I do remember the whole anticipation and prime time anchoring by our friendly and familiar Walter Cronkite. Didn't he look a little like Walt Disney?
I remember Neil walking and saying his famous words. I wonder now if they were spontaneous? Did he shed a grown man tear in his helmet?
But years later a bigger thrill came my way. Today I was trying to remember exactly when but narrowed it down to 1982-1988 or so. I was working on the neuro floor and a woman was admitted. Her husband was very friendly and as I went to lunch he said, "Do you want to meet a man who walked on the moon?"
I was speechless. How did he know that I would? I thought he was joking.
"Really", he said. I said, "Of Course!"
I waited with him and his wife.
In walked a very short but handsome strong man and his taller, strikingly beautiful wife.
It was Jim Irwin.
One of 12 men to walk on the moon.
I shook his hand and was quite speechless. I stood in awe.
I don't remember if I even said much. No autographs or big speech.
One person's awe of another.
Today I looked him up and was getting excited about the new book that interviewed the moon mission astronauts.
He died in 1991. He was the first moonwalker to die. He died not too many years after I met him. I was a bit sad thinking of his sweet wife losing her handsome husband.
Today I wanted to thank that man for taking time out to shake a nurse's hand.
What a rare and special moment.
I hope Donna still reads my blog so she too can relive the night we saw a man walk on the moon. Happy birthday!
When will we go back?
I believe it is about time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't read if you are not pro or neutral to Sarah Palin

I'll just warn you up front.
If you read it and dislike SP, your B/P will rise and you won't call me anymore.
So just censor yourself if you harbor hate towards "her".
I tried to send this to Kparker but her website is busted, or broken or whatever.
She seems to love one woman over another so I call this
A Tale of Two Women.
My letter to respond to articles in the Burlington Free Press this past week.
Remember the Golden Rule when you express yourself. I tried as best as I am able.

Hello Ms Parker,
I read your opinions on Sarah Palin and Ms. Sotamayor and I am once again puzzled by the modern professional woman who feels she must ooze respect for one woman she admires and rip apart another she detests.
Nancy Drew might be surprised at your hacking apart Ms. Palin since it was a kinder, gentler time when those stories were written.
You say you are sympathetic to a childless woman, yet you mock one who had a down's baby, 4 others, Governor of a large state and nominated to be a Vice Presidential candidate.
Personally, I cannot state that I like Sarah Palin out loud or I get attacked.
Why, when she is a woman I can identify with?
Your words:
"But when Sotomayor and I were girls, there were few girl-oriented books and fewer female professional role models. On my weekly visit to the public library, I checked out as many women's biographies as I could find, searching for someone with whom I could identify.
These recollections are recounted for the single purpose of illustrating that we are all products of our life experiences. The empathy I feel for motherless children is boundless. My understanding of the world having grown up a minority in an all-male household, feeling outside the mainstream of whole families, is different from those who had both a mother and a father.
And though I never requested or wanted special consideration, my sense of the world as I navigated the testosterone-rich environment of America's old newsrooms as one of relatively few women is not the same as that of my male counterparts."
Wow, Sarah deals pretty well with the testosterone rich guys in Alaska. And then on the national stage.
And then on the media stage, and then defending herself against frivolous legal actions.
Your words (my comments in brackets)
"She is not intellectually curious{Ouch!-not good enough college for you?}. We need and have smart, competent alternatives.”
"Undoubtedly and understandably, Palin is weary of the fray{she is pretty high energy that I have seen}. The crucial turning point was the attacks on her family. No one can honestly make the case that the Palins didn’t take more heat than other public families.{does even that anger you??} That said, it isn’t difficult to avoid media attention. All one has to do is go to Alaska and stay put. {run away you little girl-or stand up?}But Palin, like the giddy Icarus, seems drawn to heat and light{I bet SNL wants her back}Palin also blamed frivolous ethics charges as a reason for her premature retirement. Alaskans lately have turned against the once-popular governor and filed complaints that have run up legal fees in the $500,000 range.{Were the opposing lawyers democrats?} Nobody wants that, surely, but that’s chump change {Is this in your journalistic dictionary?} for Palin, whose supporters tossed $400,000 her way the first month SarahPAC went online...Fortunately, Palin has hired a writer to help with her tell-all{ouch!you think she can't spell?}
Insiders {Who?? Are they Friends of yours?} confirm that Palin felt she couldn’t accomplish as much as a besieged governor as she can as a private citizen working behind the scenes. While those facts may be true, the sidebar reveals a convenient rationale. The usual rule applies: Follow the money.As a public speaker, Palin will be golden." {Oh yes she will and people like myself will go see her and shake her hand for standing up for her family, herself and the right of us all to speak our minds.
Yes, you have a right to slay Sarah and praise Ms Sotamayor.
I see two women who struggle in a man's world and wish them both the best.
I bet Nancy Drew would too.
Thank you for considering my comments.
Mary Gerdt

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Raspberries are wild

The Raspberries up back are wild and make you suffer a thousand tiny needle like picks from the stems to enjoy the perfect, purely purple sweetness and the texture of the tiny seeds, once a nuisance and now a powerful antioxidant.
I started on the north end and made my way around clockwise. As I picked, I marvelled at how I would turn away to pick a new area and look back at where I just picked and see a whole new bunch of ripe berries.
The question that remained was: did they ripen before my eyes or were they there all along? And, if the latter is true, when I saw the first ripe berries, did they obscure their ripe partners? Were the raspberries doing a magic trick?
I froze 2 bags and added the rest to some vanilla yogurt,
gave up wondering about when the berries ripen,
then had my special and rare dessert.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Survivor Charlottesville

I begin my story of our summer vacation with my encounter with the TSA.
I have my injectable experimental meds in a bag and when I approached the conveyor belt, I announced out loud I have injectable medications. My voice seemed louder than it should be, but no one was listening except perhaps the hundred or so people in line.
I said again to TSA women, I have injectable meds.
I was waved through and then the TSA guy said I didn't declare my injectable meds.
He said now he has to search my whole bag. Of course our plane was sitting idling and he is swabbing my purse and a woman had to frisk me.
So began my real life story. I suppose next time I will whip out my shots and declare even louder to the whole line of people. But as you will read below, we did not let this spoil our great week in Virginia, US. Hope you enjoy it.

Some stories start with the ending and thereby hints at the lesson learned.

Our story starts with a cabbie asking innocently at the end of our week in Charlottesville, "So did you have a nice relaxing week at a bed and breakfast?"

I began to laugh at 4:40 in the morning. We were 10 minutes late and our faithful driver waited for us.

Well it's a long story I said.

And that is the truth.

We began at my brother and his wife's home which is a country retreat. Comfortable, relaxing and full of good food, conversation and a tour of rural Nelson county.

Here is the rooster and one chicken. We had delicious fresh eggs, and meals of salmon, cheeses and other delights.

We enjoyed dogs, a cat, a horse and the gardens, views and comfort.

Monday came soon and we drove to our next stop, Survivor style.

Having been pampered for 2 days, we departed the bed and breakfast like home for the Agro tourism vacation where anything was possible and we faced the reality of life down on the farm.

J and M greeted us and we were happy to see them. They were preoccupied however with the need to worm the sheep herd. Farm life waits for no man and we plunged into our first adventure. I drew up doses estimating weights and felt I was back in my ICU days.

Fred tackled sheep and demonstrated his skill with sheep whispering.

J and M got dirty too. We go to eat lunch when done and thus began our agro week.

We picked from the garden greens, beans, broccoli and much more.

We had berries and cherries.

Mid week we went to Mad Maggie Cottage in Highland County. What a special retreat
where we lazed a bit and ate fresh Allegheny mountain trout and portabellas stuffed with spinach, et cetera!

Of course, the rainbow was a welcome sight and a view we shall not soon forget.

We spent 2 days at the cottage

then we wound our way back over the 3 mountains

to the sheep farm.

More challenges faced us as we fought to maintain a meat free diet

enjoyed by our friends. I bought a pound of sliced turkey for lunches.

Once when Maggie and I went to the store to buy bleach for the power washer, I spied an elderly petite man buying a 12 pack of soda and a very large 2 inch thick juicy steak. He almost had company!~

The cottage has satellite radio now.

We struggled to aim this little antennae towards the sky and the cabin went from perfect quiet to plugged in. Part of me wanted to go back to no news, no noise, just the sounds of birds chirping, the wind and the conversation of friends over a good meal.
The challenges were each rewarded by a good meal and porch sitting or a nap.
The last morning we were at the farm we had bought Jimmy Dean sausage/egg biscuits to heat up. Our reward to ourselves.
We busied around packing our bags up and loading the car.
Now there are times when being married to an electrician has its percs.
This was one of them.
The microwave circuit breaker tripped.
Our anticipated meat sandwiches sat frozen in the microwave.
Our final challenge.
Fred managed to find the breaker and we got our hot meat sandwiches.
They tasted better than anything I could remember.
Our reward for our week of challenges and memories.
The cabbie summed it up for us while we sipped crappy coffee from the Sheetz store,
"Sometimes you have to go without to really appreciate what you have."
I wondered if he was doing a Ricardo Montalbaum impersonation.
De plane, De plane...
As we left our Fantasy Island Agro tourist farm vacation, we smiled and started planning when we would return. Then we looked for the advil.
And took a long nap.