Winter Star Party V-Thursday

Thursday: It was cloudy last night, but I can't say I was disappointed. We were pretty tired after walking around Key West. We had a good lunch with old friends Toni and Larry at that beachfront bistro that we often bike to, Salute. Went to the specialized KW bookstore -- no new Hemingway or Fitzgerald -- the lazy guys have quit writing just because they're dead -- but I got Key West:Turn of the Century (a picture book) and Walk on Water, by Lorian Hemingway, EH's granddaughter, who is evidently a chunk off the the old block, a hard-drinking laconic word lover. Opening at random --
"We hadn't reached the Gulf Stream yet, but there was a light chop, and the sun, at 10 a.m., was a high-noon sun. The bank of clouds in the distance that had brought hard rains the night before showed in relief against waves that were green and aqua peaks, as if painted by a sea-struck Van Gogh, all their madness and tranquility taken into account."
Not too shabby, granddaughter.
We had a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a wine bar on Duval Street and walked awhile looking at tourists and natives, pretty easy to tell apart.
We were just as happy that clouds kept us inside last night. Watched some interesting public TV and turned in pretty early.
I went out at dawn and wandered around a bit in the quiet beauty. A little rain after midnight had discouraged the bugs; I hope it was clear at the observing site. (The weather there can be much different from here, less than ten miles away.) It's about 75% cloudy now.

Winter Star Party IV--Wednesday

Wednesday: It's a pretty horrible morning, for the beach: Cold rain lashing all night long. My only thought Thank god we aren't stuck in a tent! There've been plenty of star parties that we spent shivering in the rainy dark while the invisible stars wheeled overhead in uncaring invisibility.
In space, no one can hear you shiver.
Which I recall in this warm rented apartment. The coffee just started burbling! Life can be a poem.
Here insert a sonnet:
The first quatrain is about cold and rain,
The second is darkness and death.
The third, though, is coffee starting to perk --
And the fourth is not having to work.
I guess that's a sonnlet. Not quite fourteen lines.
In fact, it could be salubrious to recall nights in jungle darkness, rain rattling on your steel pot, eyes straining for the death that waits in the night.
That was half a century ago. But memory is always green.

Winter Star Party III - Tuesday

We did have good dark skies last night. I didn't set up a scope -- Gay and I just wandered through the lovely darkness (trying not to bump into anybody's expensive treasure!) looking through other people's. Some lovely familiar sights. The most impressive might have been the least impressive if you didn't know what you were looking at, a dwarf star in a big telescope: a single smouldering coal, deep dark red. Bright and dark at the same time.
That was R Leporis, Hind's Crimson Star. It's deeply variable, and so not visible much of the time. Its discoverer Hind said "“of the most intense crimson, resembling a blood-drop on the background of the sky; as regards depth of color, no other star visible in these latitudes could be compared with it.” It's one of the first things I look for in the winter sky, with a large telescope.
The same scope gave us one of the best views of the Orion Nebula I''ve ever seen, a billowing cloud with hints of green and red. It was a huge (to me) 24" Dobsonian.
That was the largest one available to hoi polloi. Larger scopes were being employed to more serious ends, in one case by scientific folks in science-fictional uniforms Maybe they were not from this Earth.
Micki's Kitchen, always a welcome sight, was on hand with pastries and oceans of coffee and hot chocolate, lights dimmed to preserve our night vision. Very welcome hot dogs and hamburgers for the protein-starved.
I brought a telescope, my 4" refractor, but haven't unpacked it yet. In fact, we haven't yet claimed a site, and may not, since we're staying at a rented house ten or twelve miles away, rather than camping. We're just stellar tourists, so to speak, hitching a ride.
Of course I feel ambiguous about that, since we're necessarily less involved. Though in fact we're seriously involved with the enterprise, doing registration eight hours a day during the daytime. (One or two people a day recognize my name on the nametag. Not as many as twenty or thirty years ago. In any case, a Hugo or Nebula winner has less cachet than someone who commands a huge piece of glass.)
It might be worth noting, with a breath of irony, that my tiny 4" refractor would have been HUGE when I started spying on our heavenly neighbors
Tomorrow we have a day off, so we're going to head down to Key West, 35 miles down the road, to indulge in the exotic pleasures on offer there. We're immune to the most famous ones -- it's the center, of course, of gay culture in the American south -- but there are other distractions.

Winter Star Party II-Sunday

Sunday: So here I am on Key Largo. About as far from Bogart and cigarettes and shots of straight whiskey as you could imagine. Well, it's too early for that anyhow. In a generic Holiday Inn, though I think it's actually called something else. A Home2. Perhaps a distant relative of R2D2. All plastic and pastel.

Coffee that has heat and caffeine but naught else. The cardboard insulator that protects me from the cardboard cup is stamped RYKOFF SEXTON PERUVIAN COFFEE but really, how can you know? I bet they could sneak in some Uruguayan if it was cheaper. So we're just about done with the eight-lane thruway plunge, and into the more interesting crawl down A1A. The morning fog is burning off, not quite 7:30.

I had a stomach upset for about half the night, but it's okay now.

Of course a family full of shouting, running munchkins just invaded. I moved out into the noise and fog. And birds -- doves hooting and crows cawing. Tweeters tweeting. And three feet underground, a nameless thing shifts its gelatin-smirched wings, readying itself for birth and death. Come. Come feast on the children.

Another ordinary day inside the head of Joe Haldeman, aka Robert Graham, hack writer and plagiarist. (That was on F. Scott Fitzgerald's business card.)

So we'll point the car's nose south and head in the direction of lunch. Used to be a nice drive down a two-lane road with ocean on both sides. Now it's four lanes, sometimes six or eight, from which you can sometimes see the sea.

But we should be off on a pleasant side road. It looks good in my mind's eye. We'll see what the more mundane optic detects.

Winter Star Party I

This is one of those "who woulda thunk" moments.  I'm down in Merritt Island. Florida, just a few miles from the launch pads that have been a gateway to the Solar System for decades, and I'm drinking coffee from an OU Sooners coffee mug.  It's more than half a century since I went off to college in Norman, Oklahoma, and met Claude and Karen Keezer and began playing guitar in their coffee house.  Claude's been gone a few years now, but we still drop in on Karen whenever we're down here.

Went out last night to watch their son play, with his wife, in a beachside bar.  That's been our custom for some years, decades now.  We always head for the Keys in February, for the dark skies and warm clear air of the Winter Star Party.

We'll be doing some registration work later, but for a few days we'll just enjoy the weather and the sky in the land of Jimmy, not Warren, Buffett.

Still on the mainland, until about noon.  Then we head down A1A, deep blue ocean on both sides of the road, to an island that sprouts telescopes this time of year.  The Winter Star Party, where tanned bathing beauties stare at the pale white skin of astronomers who keep vampires' hours.


fishy friends

When I  was in college my relatives sometimes invited me down to their fishing cabin in the Louisiana bayou, where the relatively shallow water was teeming with alligator gar.  Big suckers, more than a yard long.  Good eating, though the white locals disparaged them as "colored-person food" (when they were being polite).    My white relatives knew that was nonsense.  They're delicious baked, or cut up and deep-fried.
I swam in that lovely warm water for just one day, until a toothy six-foot gar jumped out of the water in front of me.  I suddenly felt like bait.
I've swum with bigger fish, sharks, in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and intellectually I know they're rarely interested in people.  I still get out of the water unless I'm in a group.

paying homage

No excitement with the model yesterday.  A middle-aged guy who seemed nice enough, but with no energy.  I drew one 20-minute pose and called it a day . . .

[Here insert twenty minutes of fussing around with the iPhone.  The battery ran down and I can't find the proper adaptor to plug it into the wall.  I have four other adaptors, but they don't speak the same voltage/wattage/ohmage.  So I have to go to Best Buy and pay ohmage before I can post the picture.]

Because my scanner is also down.

Another little karmic quirk -- they're demolishing the massage school building and putting up a new one, someday.  Colleen is looking for a new studio place.

Meanwhile I'm reduced to stopping girls on the street and asking them to take off their clothes.  My success rate so far has been low.

(This was actually a parlor joke my father used to tell at cocktail parties.  A guy sits down on a park bench next to an attractive woman and asks her whether she would take off her clothes and make love to him.  She slaps him and hustles off.  So he goes down to the next park bench and tries again, with the same result.  A bystander asks what is he trying to do?  "Nineteen out of twenty girls react that way," he says.  "But the twentieth says 'Sure!'")

Erotica, circa 1950.

Jack Williams

Jack Williams came into town yesterday to give a "house concert" at our friends Brandy & Christina's place, with Christina putting out a generous spread of snacks.  About thirty people came, and Jack treated us to a very lively time, about two hours of songs new and old.

It's a new way of having concerts that's becoming more and more popular in folk music here in the south.  Some friends of Brandy and Christina's supplied the sound system, we rounded up some folding chairs, and Jack's wife Judy did the organizing, with a large display of Jack's CD's for sale.  They sold a couple of dozen.

It's an interesting small segment of the entertainment industry, with individuals and families taking over the functions normally done by corporations.

Jack's voice was clear and good, but a bit road-fatigued.  He's added a couple of old-new songs, fast loud ones from his rock-and-roll days.  He found them on yellowed old sheet music from his misspent youth!  The patter that went with the songs was vintage reminiscence, mostly about the sixties and seventies in rock and country, an eclectic mix.

They drove off into doubtful weather toward home. They’ve been away for months.

Not a life I would like.  But I'm not really an entertainer.  (I do get paid for entertaining people, but from behind a substantial barrier of intermediaries.)

Jsck and Judy spend months on the road every year, living out of a comfortable van.  They like traveling and are enthusiastic birders.  I think they've observed birds in all 50 states.  With us in Alaska a few years ago.

Time to go back soon.


haploid gnu year

Well, another holiday season sputters out.  A pretty calm one.  Sixty-five people signed the guest book, plus a significant number who were too young to do so, or too confused, or had to protect their identity from galactic spies.  No music, I'm afraid.  It was too cold to use the porch comfortably.

(I didn't know more than half of the people who dropped by to eat and drink, and my normally suspicious nature does make me wonder how many saw a loud open party and just walked in.  Hey, look at all these hardback science fiction books.  They've got so many, they won't mind if we borrow a couple . . .  I've heard of this Jules Verne guy; here's a nice hardback with funny drawings . . . .)

Of possible historic interest:  For the first time in more than a half century, the smoking area outside was not used.  We haven't had smoking inside since my mother died, but the screened porch used to be a smokers' haven during parties.  Less and less used over the years, and this year none of the ashtrays were besmirched.  (I assume people smoking dope wandered farther into the yard.)

Another change, more regretted, is that I didn't set up a telescope outside.  I'm still not up to lifting any of the large scopes, and I'm not quite foolish enough to set up the lightweight Questar unsupervised on a night when hundreds of strangers are wandering around.  "Say, Jimmy," a rapscallion says while lifting the scope with one hand, "How much you think this thing might be worth?"

Lots of people brought covered dishes and bowls of goodies, and as usual we had a long night of noshing.  Even after the New Years' Day gathering, with a couple of dozen munchers, we still have enough for another pretty large party.

I made my traditional bacon feast on New Years' morning.   Gay was making an egg and sausage dish in the oven, so I stood and fried seven or eight pounds (eating perhaps a pound in the process).   The guests did a yeoman job on the leftovers, but we still have bits and pieces jamming the refrigerator.  They'll be gone before February, I hope.  Not counting fruitcake.