Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Be prepared.

The Scout Motto. As a motto, it has a lot going for it.

Certainly better than other two word phrases I hear these days. F*** you. That's Hot. Forget this. Oh YEAH! (Thanks Kool-aid man.) Even Nike's inspiring Just do it doesn't fit every situation. Rob a bank? Just do it. (I know, three words, but short and powerful.)

But what does it mean to be "Be Prepared?"  A quote from the Boy Scout Handbook sums it up:
“Be Prepared.”
“Be prepared for what?”
“Why, for any old thing.” said Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting.

Why, for any old thing... Be prepared ... to give directions to someone lost (physically or figuratively.) treat someone for heat exhaustion (Hello Phoenix.) change a tire. comfort a friend in need. make a toast at dinner. give a stranger CPR. ...any old thing.

That little phrase has inspired 10s of thousands of young people (Girl and Boy Scouts share the same motto) to learn First Aid, Orienteering, Cooking, Sewing, Woodcraft and Public Speaking. And Scouts today learn skills in Computer Science, Rocketry (is that outdated these days?,) Social Networking, etc. I can only imagine the lives saved, let alone the lives enriched, by following the advice, Be Prepared

Lots of folks think Powell was talking about being prepared for an emergency or even war. And Scouting fell on some hard times for awhile, facing accusations of indoctrinating young people into a military war machine.  Granted, a great portion of Baden-Powell's life was spent battling the forces that opposed the British Empire, and (politics of Imperialism aside) he was darn good at it.  But I think Be Prepared is far more wide reaching.
It's about being a good a neighbor, a good citizen, and a good human being.
Being prepared fits well with the theme of self reliance that I would like to promote here. Expect to see more on the topic. ;)

Next time, "Prioritizing what to prepare for." Because you can't suddenly be prepared for any old thing... or can you?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Once in a lifetime...

is such an overused expression.  But today folks over most of the world have an opportunity to view a true "once in a lifetime event."  The Transit of Venus!  I know, exciting right?  What, pray-tell, is the Transit of Venus?  It's when Venus passes between the Earth and Sun and is visible crossing the disk of the sun.

WARNING!: Once in a lifetime events do NOT give us license to be stupid.  DON'T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN! You won't be able to see it anyway, given that Venus will appear approx 1/32 the size of the Sun.  And you may not be able to see anything afterwards.  (Safe viewing tips below.)

What's the big deal, anyway?  Well, this rare astronomical event occurs in pairs (the last was in 1999) and the next won't be until 2117!!

Wait, I thought you said this was once in a lifetime?  You just said it happened in 1999.. Right... it wasn't  once in a lifetime then, it was twice in a lifetime.  Duh. Clearly that's why I didn't blog about it then (and I was too busy partying with Price.)

OK, so it happens once every century (or twice, or whatever) why should I care? Aren't planets and stars and stuff constantly circling the sun?  Planets, yes. Stars, no. (maybe visit the planetarium? today would be a good day.)  This particular event was instrumental in measuring the size of the solar system! And was arguably responsible for making our exploration of Space a reality.

OK, OK, I'm convinced.  How do I view this awe inspiring display of celestial clockwork?

First you have to NOT be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you're lucky, you get an awesome sunset view like the image above.  If not, you have a couple of options.

  • #14 Welding glass or Eclipse Shades  (Welding Glass available at local Welding Supply shops, Big Box Stores (Home Depot, etc) or Farm Supply Stores)  You'll need some pretty darn good eyes to Venus transit the Sun though.  We're not talking lunar eclipse here.  Much, much smaller.
  • Visit your local Planetarium.  If you're reading about this for the first time, you're probably out of luck.  Space geeks probably have all the spots reserved. Probably a pretty rockin' time though.
  • A Pinhole projector.  This is one of the few ways the non-planners can see the transit of they are interested.  Given the size of the silhouette on the disk of the SUN, your mileage may vary.  Pinhole projectors can be elaborate or simple.  You can even use your hands. Just hold up both hands with your fingers overlapping at right angles. The holes between your fingers make pinholes.

  • Project the image with Binoculars or a Telescope.

Thank You NASA!!

So, get your Geek on and take part in a truly once in a lifetime event.