Upon returning to the Bizzo following a family funeral in Dickinson, I settled in and decided to check the arsenal of websites I use to attempt my aurora borealis predictions. Things looked promising, and I made a mental note to head out for a look-see after a while. Before long, however, I got a call from a friend who was already out and about: the Northern Lights were blazing!
When my best friend and I arrived on the scene, the colors were pretty faint and uniform. That gave me time to wander around the field in an attempt to find an angle that provided what I was looking for. The windmill didn't want to cooperate, as its head was facing the wrong direction at first. A small breeze apparently corrected that later.
Things ramped up for a bit, painting a sharper wall of light across the northern sky. Northern Lights can take on many permutations; dancing spikes of light, cascading sheets, and sometimes winding bands of glowing green that snake across the sky. This happened to be the long band variety. After a while, things appeared to wane, and it was getting cold...so I decided to pack up the gear.
Apparently that's what the sky was waiting for, because as soon as we began to drive away the intensity flared and we started to get some additional colors and spikes. I hadn't made it far down the road, so I whipped around and bolted over to the previous position to grab a quick few shots. This time some reds began to make an appearance as well as the light began to dance more brightly.
Finally - some spikes of color began to appear amid the horizon's green and blue aura! They were elusive and short-lived, but they were there. I spent a few more minutes in the cold but otherwise perfect night, and the sky began to settle. Hiking back to the truck for the night, I got the gear stowed and checked the numbers one more time.
The way things were looking, I figured that there was a chance that things would flare up again around 3am as they're known to do. It was approaching midnight, however, and I wasn't about to sit out in the cold and find out. The plan was to head home, check on things before bed, and make the call there. In this case I decided to go to bed instead of back out into the night, predicting that the skies were going to settle. It turned out to be the right call; things dropped off after that.
I have a link on my Northern Lights page (link in the upper right column) for each of the many sites I use to "throw in the hopper" and make the call on whether I figure chasing after Northern Lights is worthwhile. It's a soft science at best. In this case, one particular model was accurate and another was not. In other cases, a different model will make the correct prediction. It really ends up coming down to gut instinct: trying to determine which numbers to trust. Yesterday's solar wind blast was expected, but it was not expected to cause any auroras. One blip on one set of data is what made me suspicious, and it turned out to be the right call.
Since I'm a husband and Daddy these days, I can't be bolting out of town every night in the hopes of getting a lucky encounter with the auroras, so I'm trying to see if I can get a better sense of when such a trip is worthwhile. Last night my instincts proved correct.
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Upon hearing the news that Arlon Voge has sold Farmers Livestock and will be closing 'er up after the 28th of the month, I had a disturbing thought. One news report said an adjacent piece of land was also sold as part of the deal, and I thought, "What if that's the piece of land containing one of my favorite local windmills?" Gasp! So I figured it would be nice to go out and take some nice photos of it just in case.
The sun cooperated with me as I found the windmill bathed in Golden Hour sunlight upon my arrival. I snapped a few pics in the cold and, as the sun began to descend beyond the horizon, I spun around to do some silhouette shots with the burning skies in the background.
If this windmill indeed becomes a casualty of the sale, I'll at least have some nice memories of it.
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On my way out of the office earlier this week, I saw Monica Hannan open "First News at 5:00" with a story touting an interesting poll. It claimed that a majority of Catholics' opinion of President Obama hadn't changed in light of the Obamacare mandate on "contraception."
I was surprised to hear this poll reported as credible on KFYR, because it ignores two very important facts:
1- The pro-abort crowd has WON this issue if they continue to refer to it as a "contraception" issue. Go back to those same professing Catholics, poll 'em again AFTER reminding them that the mandate also includes ABORTION drugs. Look up what an "abortifacient" drug is, or a "morning after" pill. Guess what: the Catholic church is going to have to hand THOSE out too. My guess is that at a LOT of Catholics who don't mind strapping on prophylactics in defiance of the Pope would have a real problem with handing out abortion drugs!
2- It's not just an issue of contraception, or even abortion. It goes far more fundamental. Let's simplify the scenario for a second:
Government: "Hey, church - we want you to do 'X' and we're going to require it by law."
Church: "Um...no. 'X' is against our beliefs and teachings, and has been for centuries."
Government: "Well, that's too bad. We're going to make you do 'X' anyway. After a week of bad press, we'll claim it's the insurance companies paying for 'X', but you're still going to do it. Besides, your membership's doing 'X' in secret anyway...regardless of your church's belief."
So what's the right answer for the churches or practicing Catholics to give here? I'll give you a hint: it's NOT one of acquiescence.
And by the way, it's NOT just a Catholic issue. Just because Christian churches don't have a tenet forbidding contraceptives, they are ALL united against abortion. That's what brought Catholic, Christian, Jewish, and even Muslim groups together in unity against this mandate. But you don't hear anything about that anymore, do you?
This is how the media works to further leftist agendas: with a vacuum. They locked the issue of mandatory government-funded abortion into a vacuum chamber, and only reported on "the contraception issue." Not only did that take the worst part of the issue out of the argument completely, but it also sliced those unified groups apart and focused only on the Catholic church, an organization liberals knew they could easily roll over. Divide and conquer, 21st century style.
I'm not surprised at how many Catholics have fallen hook, line, and sinker for it...given the fact that the Catholic Church has given in to liberal progressivism long ago in what Paul Rahe calls "Catholicism's Pact with the Devil."
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The state fleet grew by ten this week as the DOT purchased several Chevy Volts. These are electric cars with a range of about 40 miles, so I don't think anyone will be running from Bismarck to Fargo (or Minot, or Glen Ullin for that matter) with them without kicking in the backup gas-powered generator. I wonder if they'll make interesting little git-around-town vehicles. They're going to be distributed around the state to the eight motor pool regions for state employees to use on official business. GM has suffered dismal failure in trying to convince the general public to buy these things, so I hope the state was able to leverage a sweet deal before spending our tax dollars on them.
If you sense apprehension in my words, don't get me wrong. I'm not fundamentally opposed to electric cars; I think it's a good idea to explore new technologies. After all, the "brick" cellular phone of the 90's had to precede the smartphones of today. What I do oppose are any simpletons who claim they're "saving the Earth" by purchasing one. Apparently people like that think their outlets are juiced by the Electricity Fairy or something. Let's face it: these things are NOT going to be charged by windmills or solar panels...period. Thankfully I don't get the impression that anyone at the state is making any of these pie-in-the-sky claims. This isn't the first set of electric vehicles to frequent the capitol; there are still some GEM electric vehicles in use as well.
All "saving the planet" BS aside, I don't know if I see these things as nearly as big a boondoggle as the state's fascination with ethanol blended fuels. Those are a sure-fire loser, with less thermodynamic potential than gasoline, propped up by taxpayer subsidies in a perverse shell game, while wreaking havoc on the food market. These cars are drawing power from North Dakota lignite-fired power plants, and we can be quite proud of that. I just try not to think of the fact that each one of these cars may already have as much as $250,000 in taxpayer money already subsidizing it.
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Okay, I'll admit there is no rabbit in this photo, so don't bother looking. That was just a hat-tip to the song playing in my iTunes right now, "Rabbit in the Moon" by Scott Hardkiss. There is, however, one really cool feature of this photo. Did you pick it out? In the upper left, right along the terminator, is an illuminated rim of a crater that stands out from the rest.
The terminator is not Arnold "GIT TO DA CHOPPA" Schwarzenegger when we're talking astronomy; rather, it's the line between day and night, light and dark, the illuminated and non-illuminated part of a moon or planet. Notice the nice, gentle gradient of the terminator's edge...and how it's boldly interrupted by the rim of the crater. Cool, huh?
I took this photo in the late afternoon, some might say early evening. It's the best time to photograph the moon because the sky behind it isn't dark. While properly exposing for the detail in the moon, you still get some color in the sky surrounding it. At night all you get is a bold white or gold disk in a sea of black. I suppose that's fine if that's what you're going for, but I prefer to show a little bit of blue.
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