Whale Watching – June 10, 2015

We went and saw some whales today. Check out these pictures. Sorry the quality is low, but I had to zoom way in to see this guy.

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Then we saw some seals relaxing by a big red can.

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Finally here is a Bald Eagle just sitting there doing his thing.


Lyrids Meteor Shower 2013

The best time to see the Lyrid meteor shower is very early on Monday morning after the moon has set, just before dawn. At its peak exepect 10-20 meteors per hour. They will originate in the sky near Vega in the constellation Lyra. The above picture shows the peak time around 3:30 AM monday April 21. Created with Stellarium


My fellow sky viewers,

I am a night owl by nature, so I tend to be up in the late hours of the morning. Just seems natural to develop a tendancy to watch meteor showers.. 🙂 The next one is tonight April 21, 2013. It is not one of the best (my personal favorite is Geminids in December) but the Lyrids Meteor Shower is one not to miss. While it might not be spectacular with only 10-20 per hour at its peak, but a chance to see meteors.. I just cant pass it up.

While you might see a few meteors in the early evening, say after 11 pm when Vega and the Lyrid radiant first come up in the easters sky, viewing will be difficult because the moons light will drown out most of them. The waxing gibbous moon will set in the early hours before dawn however, leaving a good 1-2 hour viewing window with dark skies.

The good news is that is the same time the Lyrid meteor radiant will be at the best viewing angle the point in the sky from which the shower members appear to radiate, is highest.

If you’re game for a look, head out Monday morning April 22 from about 3:30 to 5 a.m. toting a proper cup of tea or coffee. Make sure you’re bundled up for the weather and get cozy in a reclining lawn chair under a blanket or sleeping bag. Some meteor watchers prefer just watching spread-eagled on the ground. Face south or east and enjoy the grand vista of the summer stars and the fun surprise of an occasional meteor.

A bit of Comet Thatcher burning up in the atmosphere as a meteor shot from the window of the International Space Station over the Caribbean Sea April 21, 2012. Credit: NASA

While the late winter and spring constellations grace the evening sky, if you’re out before dawn, the Earth will have rotated those has-beens off to western horizonland. In the east and south, behold Scorpius, Sagittarius and the Summer Triangle.

Lyrids are the dusty, pebbly debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, discovered by American amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher in 1861. Every spring for at least the past 2,700 years, Earth has passed through the trail, thrilling countless sky watchers with the sight of flaming dust and grit.

Heated by their passage near the sun, comets shed gas, ice, dust particles and rocks. If the comet’s orbit intersects Earth’s some of material strikes our atmosphere and we see a meteor. Credit: National Science Foundation

Lyrid meteors strike the upper atmosphere 60 miles overhead at better than 107,000 mph (173,000 km/sec) and burn up in eye-catching flashes. Typical meteoroids – the name given to meteors before they hit the atmosphere – range in size from grains of sand to walnuts. The bigger they are, the brighter.

While Lyrid numbers are modest, the shower occasionally surprises as it did in 687 B.C. when the Chinese reported “stars fell like rain.” More recently in 1982, a brief burst of 90 meteors per hour was observed.

So you never know. The only way to find out what the Lyrids will be up to in 2013 is to be there.

How to view the Lyrid meteor shower:

Timing:  The best time to view the Lyrids will be late tonight (Sunday) in the short time after the moon has set and before the sun rises.  You can calculate local moonset here.

Location: Since the moon’s light will be especially strong this year, it is important to get away from city lights and find clear skies.  Dark Sky Finder is a website that shows light pollution in and around North American cities. Clear Sky Chart is a 48-hour astronomer’s forecast that can predict whether the sky will be clear and dark at a certain place.

Where to look: NASA scientists suggest not looking directly at Lyra, but to lie comfortably back and gaze at all parts of the sky.  Observers should watch for persistent strains, tails of ionized gas that will glow for a few seconds after about one in four Lyrid meteor has passed.

Patience: The Lyrid meteor shower is not considered a major shower, so observers should not get their hopes up too high.  Ten to 20 meteors per hour can mean three to six minutes between meteors

Total Lunar Eclipse – December 21, 2010

Do not forget to stay up late tonight and see the total lunar eclipse tonight starting at 12:32 AM CST.

A lunar eclipse is similar to a solar eclipse, except the other way around.  It is when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow of the sun. This event only happens about 2-3 times a year.

The total lunar eclipse is scheduled to begin at 12:32 AM CST.

The full moon will look like it is getting a shave on one side a little at a time. As the eclipse continues, more and more of the full moon will darken until the entire moon is completely in the shadow.

At 1:41 AM CST, the moon will be completely within the shadow of the earth until around 2:52 AM CST. You will still be able to see the moon, even though it is shadowed by the earth because of the way the light bends while passing through our atmosphere. It will appear to look dark red or dark orange.

Then as the moon slowly passes beyond the earth’s shadow, it will start to brighten back to its full moon state by 4:01 AM CST, it will look like nothing happened. That will be the end of the eclipse.

Keep in mind that unlike as solar eclipse, you CAN look at a lunar eclipse with no fear of damaging your eyes.

I for one will be one of the millions staying up to watch it tonight. I hope you join me!

If you would like to see an animation of it, watch the video below:


Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13, 2010

I am not an avid sky watcher, but I do like to enjoy sitting in the hot tub at night watching the stars and smoking a big fat stogie.

Over the past few nights, I have been noticing more and more shooting stars, and to my surprise tonight was spectacular. So impressive that I had to look it up just to see what was going on. In the hour that I saw out there, I saw dozens and dozens of shooting stars. Some were quite spectacular, like this one, that trailed sparkling dust across half the sky, and then broke up into several pieces.

Now some were just mere specs, and if you blinked you would miss them, but for the most part, the trails went a quarter of the night sky. Very bright, and moving very fast.

If you have never seen a meteor shower, I would urge you to look up when the next one is supposed to happen, and take the time to check it out. I would compare the excitement to watching a good fireworks display, only the show keeps on going all night long.

So what is the Geminids Meteor Shower?

I would have to say that this is one of the best meteor showers of the year. I do not get the chance to often watch them, but this one never seems to disappoint.

This shower gets its name “Geminids” because the star trails seem to come from the constellation Gemini. For us observers in the  in the Northern Hemisphere these meteors start becoming visible as early as December 6, when one meteor every hour or so could be visible. I personally counted about 3-4 an hour this year. During the next week, rates increase until a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour is attained on the night of December 13/14. Tonight as I recall, there were at least 50-60 in the hour that I was watching around 3 AM CST. The last of the Geminids meteors can be seen on December 18, when an observer might see a rate of one every hour or so.

If you see some falling stars, keep in mind that there are other, weaker meteor showers going on at the same time as this one from Gemini. To know if you indeed are seeing a Geminids meteor, imagine a line backwards and trace it across the sky, and if you end up in Gemini, then its probably a Geminid Meteor! If you are not sure where Gemini is in the sky, the following charts will help you find it from the Northern Hemisphere.

If you missed this one, dont worry, you will have more chances to see some great star trails.

2011 Meteor Showers

Name Date of Peak
Quadrantids night of January 3
Lyrids nights of April 21/22
Eta Aquarids night of May 5,6,7
Perseids night of August 11,12
Orionids night of October 21
Leonids night of November 17
Geminids night of December 13

NOTES These are approximate times for the Lower 48 states; actual shower times can vary. Bright moonlight makes it difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.

Movie Review: Faster (2010)

Well, tonight I went and saw the movie Faster starring Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, and Maggie Grace.

This is another what I like to call Tuesday Movie. Basically my theater gives a half price discount for tickets on Tuesday, so that’s when I usually like to go and see these B-Rated movies.

The trailers for Faster made me initially think the movie is a simple action movie with a revenge plot, and for the most part it is.  But somehow I found it far more entertaining that I had originally thought I would. The flick starts out with Dwayne Johnson playing a character known only as the “Driver”. He is just getting out of a 10 year prison sentence. On his way out, we get a sneak peek at his personality as a Bad-ass during an interview with the warden.  We learn later on that he was imprisoned for a bank heist gone horribly wrong.  He was, yep you guessed it, the driver in the getaway car. As soon as he gets out of jail, he immediately starts killing off people one by one.

We learn that these people were the ones responsible in part for him being in jail.  You see, the bank heist was a setup, and they were all double crossed and killed.. save one, the driver.  We also learn that one of the people in the robbery was his brother, and that is why is so hell bent on revenge.

During his killing spree, he is a ruthless killing machine with no remorse or guilt. Little by little, we get to know him a little deeper, as he only wants to kill those directly responsible for his brother’s death, and as such, he lets a few people go that are trying to hunt him down.  One of these people is a cop that has been after him from the beginning.  The decision to let him go he later will regret, as they have a last show down at the very end of the film.

But there are quite a few twists and turns as the movie progresses, and one surprise at the very ending, that I did not see coming until the last 20 mins of the movie.

There are intermixed a couple of love stories, that seem more out of place and are just injected in to prolong the movie rather than seem a true part of it.

Probably the best part of the movie are the couple of rather amazing car chases where he truly shines and gets his well deserved name.

All in all, I give it 2.5 stars **1/2.  Theatrical Release Date: November 24, 2010. Runtime: 98 min

Grab your copy today! BUY NOW

Movie Review: The Expendables (2010)

If you have only one choice this weekend, go see this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. To me it was a mix somewhere between Commando meets Rambo after leaving the A-Team.

So, Sly does it again. His most recent movies, in my opinion have been getting better and better, and this is no different. Here he plays a mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of mercenaries (played by Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews) are known as “The Expendables”.  They have their own jackets and matching tattoos and everything.

The film opens up with them kicking the azz out of Somali pirates. Lots of gunz blazing and lots and lots of deaths. Isn’t that what makes a good Rambo movie after all? Talking of Rambo, this could actually pass for a Rambo 5 if they had of changed the names. Then they are hired by a super secret shadowy figure/cameo (Bruce Willis) to take down a general (David Zayas) and end the totalitarian reghime in the fictional country of Vilena. However, it turns out that the general is just a puppet of a rogue CIA agent and his henchmen.

This is a great setup for a totally awesome kick-ass action movie. They go in, and do some recon and the body count continues to climb. The special effects are wonderfully done, with a mix of realism and fake blood squirting and limbs being severed. Nothing as gruesome as the 300, but totally done in the good old Rambo style movie making that seems to have become Sly’s forte. I loved it.

There is some banter, comedy, mixed in with some seriousness, drama, and some romance.

In the end, the good guys win, the bad guys loose, and the body count is well over 100. Lots of explosions, shoot outs, knife fights, etc.

My favorite part of the movie is where Terry Crews is showing off his new gun.. a fully automatic shotgun with uranium depleted high explosion shells. They are in a fight for their life, and loosing.. and then the explosions start. The sounds, the shells, the explosions.. just simply WOW.

The other was the 1 minute cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the one liner of Bruce Willis saying “He’s just mad because he thinks he wants to be President.” HA! Wonderful!

This is a must see, and go and see it at the movies. The big screen will only make this movie that much more enjoyable.

My rating.. 3.5 stars.. ***1/2.

Order your Copy of The Expendables CLICK HERE

Movie Review: Other Guys (2010)

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play wanna be cop detectives Allen Gambel and Terry Hoitz. They are terribly mismatched police partners. One is a gung ho wanna be shoot’em up bad ass cop, who had the misfortune of wrecking his career by shooting a famous actor. The other is a pimp-gone-cop who is trying to make a change in his life. Basically these two cops are at the lowest rung of the totem pole. They are overshadowed by two super cops played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. These are the uber hip, super popular, gunz blazing, total bad azz, media loving, darlings of the police force. They are loved by everybody except for Terry.

As the film opens up with a super cop chase scene that was meant to be over the top, I immediately got the impression that I was in for a really stupid movie. However, from there it tones down a bit and it gets a little funnier. I may have even enjoyed it more if the guy sitting behind me wasn’t overly laughing at every single joke, even the really lame ones.  But I digress.

The main plot is these two super cops, get killed early on, and there is now a open spot in the force for two more. So our two wanna-be’s try to fill those shoes. Terry wants to go after the biggest cases he can find, Gambel wants to stay on the more mundane cases, like a scaffolding tax evasion charge.

They chase some bad guys, and learn about each other. Terry finds out that Gambel used to be a pimp, and that all of the drop dead gorgeous women in the world just fall for him…which leads to even more really bad jokes. And then there are a few scenes with Terry trying to maintain a relationship with his own gal. I could have done without those scenes all together.

In the end, Terry gets his guns blazing bad guy, and Gambel gets his scaffold tax evasion guy. And they become the new super cops.

Overall, I found the film sporadically funny. There were way too many gags and really lame jokes to want me to even think of telling people to go and see this movie. It definately will only appeal to a very limited crowd, which I am obviously not in.

So, I will give it * 1/2.

Save your money, and go see some of the much better movies that are out now. Like the expendables.. which I really enjoyed.


Movie Review: Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Tonight I got the chance to see Dinner for Schmucks, released July 30, 2010. The movie stars Steve Carell as Barry, and Paul Rudd as Tim. The general plot is that Tim is a wanna-be-moving-up-in-the-world executive at a venture capital firm. In his quest for success after he impresses the boss he is invited to a private dinner where each of the attendees invite someone with a talent so they can make fun of them. The idea being that they are all so much of an idiot that they will never know the difference. Of course, Tim meets up with Bary through an automotive accident, and for the life of him, just cannot get rid of him. Tim sees how obsessed Barry is with making stuffed mouse shadow boxes that he figures this is the perfect person to invite as his guest to this dinner.

There is also a romantic sub-plot between Tim and his wife Julie played by Stephanie Szostak. They have a rocky romance such that he has proposed numerous times and she continues to profess her undying love and happily ever afters.. just not today. She finds out about the dinner and is quite confused and upset that Tim would even think about attending a party that is designed to make fun of others. This is where he begins his downward spiral of lies and deceit trying to keep his relationship with his wire, but also to keep Barry in the dark about what is really going on.

Overall, my impressions was the movie was going all centered around a dinner party. That was definitely not the case, as the dinner did take place, but only in the last 20 minutes of the movie. The plot was wonderfully done, and intermixed with romance, comedy, and a few tidbits of wisdom. Unfortunately my anticipation of the dinner (which was by far the best part of the movie) detracted from my enjoyment. I kept wondering, “Ok is the dinner going to start now? How much longer till dinner?”

I did laugh out loud several times, so that is a bonus. The audience was quite energetic also, although they laughed a lot more than I did. Sometimes I am often reminded of a friends words of wisdom.. “Simple minds, simple pleasures”.

All in all, I give the movie 3 stars. Mainly for the ideas that the author wanted to get across, and the attempts at humor. This is one of those movies best seen at the movies, and not at home. Having the big theater experience and the laughter of the crowd makes the movie. If I were to watch this at home alone, it would drop at least a star maybe more. So go and see it while you still can at the theaters.


DIY – Building a wine cellar

I love wine, that is no big surprise considering, I own a winery. But I am just now building a wine cellar. This will be my personal wine cellar, and the progress is coming along quite nicely. We took our little red barn out back and converted the middle room into the cellar. The walls will be insulated to R-32, and the ceiling to R-45. The floor I am undecided yet, but it will probably be R-13. The insulation consists of 3.5″ of fiberglass batting, followed by 5″ of rigid foam. To keep everything cool, we will be using a regular window A/C unit that will be modified to stay on until the temperature is a consistent 55 degrees F. This is idea for my red and white wine collection that I just cannot wait to get in there. I will be doing everything from scratch from the installation of the insulation to the construction of the wine racks to the laying of stone on the floor. Granted I have some help from family and friends (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). So far, we have the fiberglass and foam installed. Here are a couple of pictures to give you a status update and to see how I envision it looking when I’m done. When it is all said and done, it should hold around 800 bottles.

I took quite a few pictures, so if you want to see more or something specific, just let me know. Also, everything was done on a shoestring budget. The whole project should come in under 1000 dollars, but I will update with the final costs when it is all said and done. So far we have spend around 20 hours on it, and we are about 1/4 of the way done.

Want to build your own wine cellar?  It is pretty easy, and in this book you will learn how!  

Click Here to download your copy today.

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Movie Review: Salt (2010)

So, yesterday I went and saw the new move Salt with Angelina Jolie. This movie basically is your B-rated spy movie with a budget.

The story is about a CIA operative named Evelyn Salt who from the get go, is marked a traitor by a Russian defector and is on the run. She claims to be on the run to find her husband but as the the movie progresses, it makes you wonder if the claim is true or not. However, the movie doesn’t keep you guessing for long, and most attentive viewers will quickly determine who the real villain(s) are, and well before the climax. But I guess that was the authors intent for the flick to be about the chase and not any real mystery. But of course, then they really should have not stuck the “Who is Salt?” on very ad poster in existence.

She dons several disguises in an attempt to avoid capture, and there are quite a few car chases and chocked full of action. There is even one scene where with the help of a facial mask, almost appears to be a guy.

While the movie is definitely preposterous at every turn, the action and plot is very similar to recent James Bond movies, but without the debonair or dialog to go with it. However, almost all of the stunts appear to be realistic and not full of animated CGI to help sell the scenes.

There is overtures that the author wants to convey mainly that there exists the real possibility that sleeper spys from Mother Russia still exist in the united states, and they could be impersonating anybody.

The main negatives, are the shallow dialog. Definitely the character needed more background more flair to help sell the story. It almost seems that they filmed alot of background, but it was cut out at the last minute to keep the movie at a reasonable 1 hour 39 minutes.

That said, I absolutely loved Jolie’s performance, it was spot on for what I expect from the now retired Tomb Raider. The car chases kept me on the edge of my seat wondering if this time she would get caught.

All in all, it was an average B-Movie  spy flick with a budget.

I will have to give it **1/2 stars and say wait for the DVD.

Opened July 23, 2010 Runtime:1 hr. 39 min