January 15th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments
My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

I got a new toy!

It is fairly ridiculous, but I have read more this week than I have in quite a while. I have lots of books, many of which I haven’t read before, and yet I get the Kindle and I am actually reading again! Strange, but true. I have used the Kindle App on my phone, but it’s a smaller screen and there is something about reading with a back lit display that I don’t really like. I can stare at a computer all day, but when I am reading, I don’t like the strain on my eyes. This is especially true when reading before bed, it is hard to wind down by looking at a screen. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I have actually thought about trying to turn the page…

No, I don’t get the authentic book smell and feel, but it really is a pleasure to read on the shiny new piece of technology. It also helps to be able to share books with my fam. Yay for books!

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Space Saturday XXXIV

January 8th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

Welcome to the next edition of Space Saturday! This week’s edition comes from Tuesday’s partial Solar Eclipse.

Partial Solar Eclipse and ISS Transit

Partial Solar Eclipse and ISS Transit

The ISS transits the partially eclipsed Sun.

The ISS transits the partially eclipsed Sun.

A partial Solar Eclipse started in Northern Africa and traveled Northeast through Europe and back South into Russia. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault traveled to Oman to capture the event (source and credit for the photograph). He visited Oman because that choice allowed him to capture the International Space Station as it made a transit across the partially eclipsed Sun. Pretty amazing capture!

And from the Bad Astronomer:

To give you an overall idea of what you’re seeing here: the Sun is 147 million kilometers away (less than usual because this eclipse happened, coincidentally, very close to perihelion, when Earth was closest to the Sun). The Moon is 390,000 kilometers away. The Sun is about 400 times bigger than the Moon, but also about 400 times farther away, making them look about the same size in the sky. If you’re still having a hard time picturing the scale, take a look at the dark sunspot in the lower right of the big picture: it’s about twice the size of the Earth!

The space station, on the other hand, is 100 meters across (the size of a football field) and orbits about 350 km (210 miles) above the Earth’s surface. So the Moon was very roughly 1000 times farther away than the ISS when this picture was taken, and the Sun 400,000 times more distant. Yet all three lined up just right to make this extraordinary photograph possible.


Be sure to check out my Space Saturday Archive for more astronomy photos.

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Seattle Drivers are Horrible: A Rant

January 7th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments
Keep Right Except to Pass

Keep Right Except to Pass

Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here…

If you don’t want me to insult you, please stop reading here because there is a pretty good chance I will. I do apologize for this, but I just have to get this off my chest!

I commute around 30 miles every day. I hit both I-5 through downtown and I-90 over Lake Washington (and occasionally SR520 but really, that’s a nightmare). I see a lot of drivers. Most of them I do not like. Sorry Seattle, but you just don’t know how to drive. For some it is because they are jerks and just enjoy pissing people off but for most it is general obliviousness to what is going on around them. Regardless, it is selfishness.

Here is Washington State law:

RCW 46.61.100
Keep right except when passing, etc.
(2) Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except (a) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (b) when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, (c) when moving left to allow traffic to merge, or (d) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted. On any such roadway, a vehicle or combination over ten thousand pounds shall be driven only in the right-hand lane except under the conditions enumerated in (a) through (d) of this subsection.

Got that? For ANY road (and I would say especially for a highway) that has two lanes in the same direction, you drive in the right-hand lane. I would estimate that there are at least 5 times in my weekly commute where it is faster for me to drive in the right-hand lane because slow people are in the left-hand lane. That isn’t right.

I understand that with the sheer volume of cars on our roads, traffic is inevitable. Fine, I can handle that. What I cannot handle is the fact that so much traffic is caused because of slow people driving in the left-hand lane and blocking traffic behind them. If I can see where the wall of traffic starts, there shouldn’t be traffic: It is being caused by YOU (you know who you are… well you should anyway). I am consistently amazed when I see someone get on the freeway below speed and instantly move to the left lane; there is no reason to do that, at all. If there isn’t anyone in front of you for a decent distance, move over. If you see multiple cars (actually, even if it is just one car) behind you, regardless of your speed, you need to move right. The amount of traffic we have is completely avoidable.

Figure it out Seattle! You are driving a large hunk of metal down the road; you should not be oblivious to anything. Pay attention to your surroundings. Let traffic flow.

Ready for the rule of thumb that we ALL need to follow? Move to the right!

All that being said, Seattle? At least you aren’t Oregon drivers. ;)

Driving Flow Chart

Driving Flow Chart


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You Remember the Constitution, Right?

January 7th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

I thought I would mention a few posts from Power Line relating to the House reading the Constitution since they have some good stuff to say: Read it Again, John.

I thought it was a good idea for the Constitution to be read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives as that body kicked off its new session. The reading reminded those present of the contents of our fundamental law and symbolized a commitment to adhere to that law.

But what seemed like a good idea turned out to be a great one. For instead of good naturedly going along with the exercise, or suffering in silence, a number of leftists publicly displayed their lack of comfort with, if not contempt for, the Constitution. Thus, the public received its clearest indication to date that the left regards the words of the Constitution as an impediment to its agenda.

Read the full post here. And Disowning the Constitution:

[S]ome Democrats, rather than fighting over who owns the Constitution, were publicly disowning it — in some cases symbolically and in others substantively.

The NY Times Explains the Constitution:

I’ve never understood what liberals mean when they say the Constitution “evolves.” They clearly don’t mean that it can be changed by amendment. Nor do they seem to be referring to, for example, the application of the First Amendment to the internet, even though the web is not a “press.” When liberals talk about “evolution,” it generally seems to mean making stuff up–but only liberal stuff, of course.

Read it all here. And finally: Are Liberals Coming Out of the Closet on the Constitution?:

Today’s New York Times editorializes on the Republican takeover of the House. You could paraphrase the editorial as “wah-wah-wah;” the paper basically cries over its party’s November defeat. But in the course of doing so, the editorialists are surprisingly open about their contempt for the Constitution:

A theatrical production of unusual pomposity will open on Wednesday when Republicans assume control of the House for the 112th Congress. A rule will be passed requiring that every bill cite its basis in the Constitution. A bill will be introduced to repeal the health care law. On Thursday, the Constitution will be read aloud in the House chamber.

Those who had hoped to see a glimpse of the much-advertised Republican plan to revive the economy and put Americans back to work will have to wait at least until party leaders finish their Beltway insider ritual of self-glorification. Then, they may find time for governing.

What? Yes, how dare bills be founded in the Constitution? How dare our guiding document be read aloud in the chambers of those that purport to legislate based on that guiding document? Read that full article here.

Now I have no doubt that this whole thing might be blown out of proportion. The folks at Powerline might just be too sensitive(?). I don’t want to offend anyone; I’m sure most democrats and liberals are strong supporters of the Constitution. I just think it is somewhat strange that many are making a big deal of this over on the Democrat side. Why do they have a problem with the Constitution being read? How is it a “presumptuous and self-righteous act”? They are writing laws and passing legislation based on this foundational document, I think they should be reading it all the time.

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Space Saturday XXXIII

January 1st, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

Well it has been over two years since I have posted a Space Saturday! That’s pretty ridiculous. Let’s get a new one up, shall we? I bring in the new year with this: The Constellation Orion!

“Orion: From Head to Toe” (Click for larger imageSource.)

Hopefully you are able to recognize the constellation Orion as it is one of the most recognizable asterisms in the Northern Hemisphere’s night sky. What you may not be familiar with is the mess of stuff visible in the image above. From the description:

Cradled in cosmic dust and glowing hydrogen, stellar nurseries in Orion the Hunter lie at the edge of a giant molecular cloud some 1,500 light-years away. Spanning nearly 25 degrees, this breath-taking vista stretches across the well-known constellation from head to toe. The Great Orion Nebula,the closest large star forming region, is right of center. To its left are the Horsehead Nebula, M78, and Orion’s belt stars. In this 3×8 mosaic of broadband telescopic images, additional image data acquired with a narrow hydrogen alpha filter was used to bring out the pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas and the arc of the giant Barnard’s Loop. You can also find Betelgeuse at the hunter’s shoulder (upper left), bright blue Rigel at his foot (lower right), and the glowing Lambda Orionis (Meissa) nebula at the top, near Orion’s head. Of course, the Orion Nebula and bright stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, but dust clouds and emission from the extensive interstellar gas in this nebula-rich complex, are too faint and much harder to record.

Good way to start off the year, isn’t it? It is pretty incredible to think that when we look at the bright stars of Orion there is so much more there that we cannot see with our eyes! Be sure to check out the larger image because it is gorgeous!

Be sure to stop by my Space Saturday Archive for previous editions!

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Reprise

December 29th, 2010 Matt Jones No comments
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - In Theaters Now!

This year on Christmas my mom and Bob came up to Seattle, it was nice to have them up but a strange change from our usual Christmas festivities. While here we decided to go see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis in general and of the Chronicles of Naria in particular (you can see some of my reviews here). I have enjoyed the modern films; they are fun and exciting and have captured much of the story of Narnia. That being said, they definitely lack some of the finer theological points that Lewis infused in his writings. Prince Caspian was definitely not as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which did include more of the theological underpinnings like Christ’s sacrifice, the conquering of death, and the destruction of the temple…) so I wasn’t expecting much from Dawn Treader but a fun movie. I was pleasantly surprised. While there was some that was taken out ( for example, one specific point at the end – I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can comment on that if you are curious), I was happy to see two of my favorite scenes done very well. It turned out to be a very good Christmas movie to see. You should go see it. Oh, a PS: the kid who played Eustace was brilliant.

Here is my original review of The Dawn Treader. (The review and the following quote have spoilers!) One of the most stirring moments for me is when Eustace is changed from a dragon back into a boy by Aslan:

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart…. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off…. Then he caught hold of me… and threw me into the water…. After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me… in new clothes.

Brings me to tears just reading it, every time (and it was very moving in the film). That is transformation. It hurts and it cuts deep. But it is done by the one who isn’t quite safe:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.

Ok, that’s from LWW, but still fits.

Here are my Narnia series book reviews:

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