Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moonshot

The biggest full moon of the year was last night, when the full moon phase coincided with the perigee of the moon's elliptical orbit around the earth. The moon at that point is 31,000 miles closer to the earth than at the apogee of the orbit, giving the full moon its greatest effect, not only visually but for tidal pull as well. It was a little cloudy last night, but tonight was relatively clear, with just a hint of light fog.

I couldn't resist pulling out the camera, the big lens and the tripod. I have a lot to learn about manually controlling all of the settings, but even with what little I know, and a 2-second timer setting, I got some decent shots of the moon (as I took several in series, the slideshow reveals how the moon marches across the sky, as the image of the moon crept across the frame of the fixed camera position).

Here's the best, cropped heavily (the lens is big, but not big enough to fill the frame with the moon):


(Click to enlarge and see the image properly centered)

The encroaching shadow of the earth is just visible at the top of the moon disc. This is through a bit of fog; a truly clear night (and a more competent photographer) should yield an even sharper image.

Saturday Sports Highlights

Last weekend being a holiday weekend and the first break in the bad weather we had seen in more than a week, our basketball squad was down to four players as half the team headed to Lake Tahoe for epic skiing. Our boys managed to get a tie anyway, with Michael throwing in a basket to help the cause. Playing four-on-four with no substitutes tired the players out, but the extra space on the floor helped them understand better how to move without the ball.

This weekend, everything was back to normal, as our Buckeyes blew out the local favorite Cal Bears. Michael again tossed in a score, plus a bunch of rebounds, assists and steals. The whole team is starting to play team basketball much better, by making more passes, moving without the ball to help teammates, and playing better zone defense. The Cal team was tall, but our skilled boys carried the day.



Before the basketball game, it was picture day for the upcoming baseball season. Michael is now in the more serious Pony league, which will mean several practices and two games each week (once games start in March). Along with the more intensive practice schedule, he has now hit the big time for equipment. In the past, sweatpants and soccer cleats sufficed to go with the league-supplied t-shirt/uniform. This season, we were sent to the sporting goods store with a long list of items to fill the locker: multiple sets of baseball pants (white game pants and grey practice pants), sliding shorts, color-coordinated half-sleeve shirt, baseball cleats, long socks and, ahem, a cup. We also got an equipment bag, which holds all that stuff plus the new batting helmet. The league provided the uniform top and cap (official MLB licensed merchandise), belt and socks. It's a snazzy look:


This ensemble will show up here many more times between now and June.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Event-Full Day

History is a pretty big place, so it should not be surprising that any given day on the calendar will mark a variety of momentous occasions. Still, January 27 seems to cover more than its share of events of particularly historical note:

Mozart was born (1756).

Verdi died (1901).

Thomas Edison received a patent for the electric incandescent lamp (1880).

The siege of Leningrad ended (1944).

The concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau were liberated (1945).

Atomic bomb testing in Nevada began (1951).

Astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire (1967).

The Vietnam peace accords were signed (1973).

President Reagan greeted the former American hostages released by Iran at the White House (1981).

Finally, January 27th is the birthday of both Chief Justice John Roberts and TV talking head Keith Olbermann. I'm guessing that the chances they will text birthday greetings to each other are pretty slim.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saab Lives!

Welcome to the latest installment of my inexplicably long-running account of the saga of the demise of a middling automaker. Just as I thought Saab was dead, someone swooped in to rescue it from oblivion.

No less weird a carmaker than Konigsegg, Saab's last jilted suitor, the Dutch specialty automaker Spyker has stepped up to the altar to save Saab from extinction. For the low, low price of $74 million in cash, plus stock and a loan from the Swedish government, it looks like Saab will live to see another day. What kind of company it can be under the leadership of the tiny Spyker is still to be determined. Dutch and Swedish ownership, however, should ensure that whatever models bear the Saab name in the future will carry on the marque's fading hallmarks of innovation and random weirdness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stormwatch 2010!

Nearly all of California (and Oregon, too) is coping with a series of major El NiƱo-type rainstorms this week. The first came through the Bay Area yesterday, with heavy morning rain that dwindled away to nothing by the afternoon. The next storm arrived early this morning, dumping nearly 2 inches of rain, but again gave way to blue skies by the early afternoon.

Until the line of thunderstorms swept through, that is. They turned day into night in a hurry. Here is a view from my office on a typically clear afternoon:


(That ghostly thing in the left side of the image is not a hideous, multi-limbed creature striding in from the north bay; those are reflections in the window of some office plants. My apologies.)

From mostly sunny to this, within a span of about 15 minutes:


(It was even darker than the picture shows, because the camera tried to compensate for the low light.)

Ever fickle, here is what the storm is offering us just now:


Tomorrow's storm is expected to be the worst of the three. That is cause for some concern, because the benchmark has been set pretty high so far.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday Sports Highlights

Following the holidays, basketball resumed for our men of "Ohio State." Once again, thanks to one superior athlete and a couple of capable shooters, our team dominated the opponent, although we gave up more points than usual. Michael played smart defense, made some nice passes, and took a few shots. No success yet, but it will come eventually.



Our Saturday started early in the morning, though. We bundled up and huddled in the morning mist as our little Boys of Summer went through their evaluation session for the coming baseball season. Michael had not picked up a ball in a month, but he put in a fine showing. There are some kids who have played in this particular league for several years already, who are well ahead of him in experience and skills (and height), but Michael showed that he has the potential to be a contributing member of his team. Enjoy a brief clip of a couple of the drills.

video

The neverending sports calendar marches on ... we registered Kelly for the spring season of volleyball today. Swim season will be here before we know it.

It's still January, right?

Local Airport Makes Good

According to an organization that apparently is tasked with the fascinating duty of recording on-time airport arrivals, the Oakland airport is the very best on this continent at receiving people who, for reasons best know only to themselves, want to go to Oakland. Among the 40 busiest North American airports, Oakland is number one with 87% of inbound flights arriving within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time. It helps that Oakland's two most active airlines, Southwest and Hawaiian, are themeselves the top nation and regional airlines, respectively, for on-time arrivals.

In the fifty or so arrivals I've had in the last two years, my general sense is that these statistics are correct. My flight Friday night was actually several minutes early, which has happened more than once.

This must sting the San Francsico airport people just a bit. Far larger and more glamorous by name, SFO is a well-known delay generator. The slightest amount of fog or cloud cover will trigger flight pattern restrictions. In a city notorious for its foggy conditions, SFO has no hope of ever being a paragon of timeliness. Most savvy buisinesspeople fly to the Bay Area through Oakland because it is just as easy to get to San Francisco by BART from the Oakland airport, and the likelihood of arriving on time at the airport itself is much higher. The time saved walking through the much smaller Oakland terminal is a significant, albeit not often considered, factor as well.

So, the good news is that if you are flying to Oakland, chances are very good that you will get there on time. The bad news, of course, is that you are flying to Oakland.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Saturday Morning Dilemma

On the Saturday that marks the end of the holiday season, before real life returns at full volume, this Saturday morning presents a conundrum. Do I get up early to enjoy the morning to the fullest and not waste one of my last gentle days by sleeping it away? Or do I luxuriate in the rare absence of scheduled commitments by remaining in bed, staying as unproductive as possible for as long as I can?

I haven't reached a firm conclusion. I'm awake and blogging ... from my bed with the iPhone.