Sunday, 14 November 2010

Still here

I am still here, although I have done absolutely zero observing since 11th October, due mainly to near-endless clouds and rain. We've had a month's rain alone this past week and force 9 gales, gusting to storm force 10 on Tuesday and Thursday but, luckily, my observing shed has held up well in the face of the violent weather, it's still standing and has let in no water, despite the combination of force 10 gusts and horizontal, torrential rain.

The only astronomy-related thing I have done recently is, with a fellow member of VAS, a talk at a primary school about astronomy. Children are not my favourite demographic as I don't really have any real rapport with them, but it was an enjoyable evening, nonetheless, with a good turnout despite the atrocious weather and the kids, although they could fidget for England (one was totally hyperactive and slightly annoying) were interested, surprisingly knowledgeable - except one who said that loads of security lights and street lamps were a good thing! - and asked some good questions. Even their parents didn't ask stupid questions! It had originally been planned to be an observing session but conditions were downright dangerous outside with severe gales and flying debris, so it was downscaled to a presentation istead.
The reason I was there was that, during a committee meeting of VAS (the first after the AGM) they needed what is rather grandly titled 'Outreach and events liason officer' and asked for volunteers. None were forthcoming and I - reluctantly, it has to be said as I am not into outreach whatsoever; I can see the value of it, but it is not for me because on a clear night, I'd rather be doing my own thing - agreed to take on the role. So, I have to be seen to go to the events.

It's Remembrance Sunday and I'm watching the Cenotaph coverage on BBC1. The sheer scale of death and destruction caused by war just goes to show how pointlessly stupid war is, and how insanely destructive the human species can be. We trash the environment, we kill other species and we fight endlessly over ridiculous things such as religion, land and one country looking at another the wrong way. It's politicians who are stupid, not the sailors, soldiers and airmen who have to fight the wars; the armed forces are, as someone once said, "lions led by donkeys".
Not only that, we're in constant danger, if the goverment and media are to be believed, of being blown up by brainwashed morons and lunatics with a warped view of Islam. How can a species - us - that does fantastic things such as space travel, science (when it is not abused), astronomy, make music and build great ships, etc, also be such a stupid one? We are obviously not as advanced or as civilised as we like to think we are. Maybe one day, we'll grow up a bit.
And that's my 'deep' bit for this year. And I'm not usually as misanthropic as this either! Oh, and the 'Last Post' gets you *right there* doesn't it?

On a more cheerful note, after the largely downbeat nature of this post, I am tentatively planning a trip to the southern hemisphere at the end of next year or beginning of 2012. I want to see the southern sky again and, as the 20" plans are unlikely to happen for a long time for various reasons, I have decided to do the cheaper option. I'm considering Australia again and I'd like to go during their summer (our winter) for two reasons. Firstly, I'd like to see the southern summer skies, which I have not done and, secondly, escaping least one crappy, dismal UK winter is an appealing prospect if only for three or four weeks. The Aussie weather should, at least, be better in November-February than it was in May last year and, in any case, will be far better than the cold, wind and rain of north-western Europe.

Also, I am giving a talk at the Webb Deep Sky Society AGM in Cambridge on 4th December. Owen Brazell emailed me and asked if I'd be prepared to give a talk about the Texas Star Party so I thought 'why not?' and agreed. I'll do it as a Power Point presentation with loads of pictures of big scopes, scenery and night skies. Getting to Cambridge is a pain from the Isle of Wight but, hopefully, I can get a lift up there. I'm looking forward to it, actually, because I have not been to a Webb meeting since 2005 and it will be nice to catch up with people again.