Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Moon Rising

Saturday night I and just about – it seemed – every other person in the D.C. area with anything from an iPhone to a cost-more-than-your-house camera decided to head to the hill by the Netherland’s Carillion. Why is this, you ask?

Well, turns out, for the photographically inclined, this little hill has one of the best views of D.C. Either straight down the Mall – from the Marine Corps War Memorial a short walk away – or slightly offset to the right from the Carillion. The view from the Carillion also doesn’t have all the trees and road signs you get from the MCWM.

Anyway, the reason we were all out there (my estimate is more than 500 shooters) is because of the risin’ of the Super Moon. The big bad moon was at perigee and, as it turns out, was at its closest point of approach in about 18 years (according to NASA).

It made for a pretty good picture. For example:

And this:

And these too:

I hung around a little longer than most people but, as I found out, the higher the moon got, the brighter it got, but the darker the sky got. This led to longer and longer exposures to get the monuments lit correctly, but it also eliminated the possibility of getting any features on the moon. Just as well, the higher it got, the smaller it looked. Kinda like Alice.

If you were out there I hope your shots turned out just as nice. If not, well, the moon is at perigee every month so better luck next time (although it won’t be as close for a while).

*Technical stuff - All of these were shot at an ISO (film speed) equivalent of 100. The first two are 5-second exposures at f/14; the next is a 2-second exposure at f/9; and the last is 4 seconds at f/7.1. Just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fair winds, Discovery

The first of NASA's space shuttle's to reach retirement age landed today after completing its final mission to the International Space Station.

Welcome Home Discovery! You've done your crews, your nation and the world a great service during the past three decades. Actually four, come to think of it, OV-103 first flew in 1984.

Shuttle Discovery lands for the final time at the Kennedy Space Center

According to NASA, even after shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis make their final voyages in the coming months, Discovery will still hold the all-time record with 39 missions, 148 million miles flown (238 million kilometers), 5,830 orbits of Earth and 365 days spent in space. All that was achieved in less than 27 years.

Those of us in the D.C. area are lucky - we'll see you soon. According to what I've heard, you'll be replacing OV-101, the Space Shuttle Enterprise, at the Udvar-Hazy Center out at Dulles.

I can only hope the next Discovery will be as faithful a ship as you've been. Best of luck in your retirement Discovery, and may you have fair winds and following seas for the rest of your days.

Friday, March 4, 2011

From the drunk the joke’s about*

To my friends who are getting married tomorrow:

I wish you all the best as you begin your lives together (even though you’ve been living in sin for several months now) and look forward to a future filled with joy and happiness.

Not being married myself, I have very little advice to offer at the precipice of your journey. But I’m going to offer some anyway.

You’ll notice, of course, I described where you are as a precipice because the two of you are making a leap of faith hand-in-hand. And we all know objects fall at the same rate…at least they do in a vacuum. Sadly, we don’t live life in a vacuum so there will be times each of you will find yourself pulling your love up after they’ve fallen a little faster or further than expected.

Do not begrudge them this, everyone is entitled to a mistake or two – within reason.

As two people who love each other you know there will always be someone at your side, taking life straight on the chin even if it’s coming at you like a gale-force wind. Other times, as the Irish prayer says, the wind will be at your back – nudging and pushing you gently along (while the sun shines warm on your face and the rain falls gently on your fields, that is). And then there’ll be the those times when one of you will have to put your shoulder in the other’s back and support them no matter what may come.

Take their support in the spirit it’s offered – the gift of someone who loves you.

You’re both adults. You both know the difference between right and wrong – although the attorney may look for a technicality and the journalist some ambiguity. If you disagree on something, talk about it before you find yourselves yelling about it. I’ve found that’s the best way, saves the throat you see.

The future is not written. But I already find myself looking forward five, 10, 20 years to when I can write about my friends’ love story and how lucky I, and everyone we call friends, were to be there as it began.

An Irish Wedding Blessing

May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortunes
and rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
from this day forward.

*Q. What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake?
A. Once less drunk.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Aaaannnd...we're done

It took until about 6 p.m. Monday, but, for the most part, my move is finished. Everything is in the house (it feels so weird to write that), and all that's left now is the arranging. And there is a lot of arranging to do.

The last detail on the list? Cable and internet installation. Although they were scheduled to arrive between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Comcast techs didn't show until about 3:30 or so. But when they did, they got right to work and spent an hour or so in the rain running the line from the pole to my house (my house!) and then got everything wired inside. I should point out if they'd arrived during the scheduled window, they wouldn't have had to work in the rain. Such is life.

It feels so good to have my electronic links reestablished. Not having it was almost like losing one of my senses. Yes, I know, I'm the one who complains about our dependence on the Net and social media and all that, but it still feels funny to be without.

Anyway, that's all for now. I've got some unpacking to do.