every night i've been monitoring the sky conditions, waiting for clear. tonight the wait was over. after watching the red sox win another game versus the tampa bay devil rays, i raced outside to set up my astronomy gear. it's been a while but it's like riding a bike. first i move the tripod, then i bring out the scope, followed by the following items: mosquito incense, red flashlight, astronomy guide book, astronomy journal, a towel (to cover the various telescope caps and keep them from condensing), homemade dew cap, latest issue of sky & telescope, and the control panel and various wires for the autotracking feature of the meade lx200.

astronomy is an unromantic hobby. at least it's been like that in all the times i've been doing it. it's just not about sitting underneath the sky and dreaming about visiting all those stars. no, it's also about freezing your ass off at nights during the cold seasons, keeping brave in the face of unknown noises in the dark, waiting for clear weather, and during the summers its about fighting mosquitoes. oh my god there were so many mosquitoes in the backyard tonight! i could literally run my hands down my legs and smear a mosquito trying to suck a blood meal from me. i thought the smoking mosquito coil would keep them away but apparently not. finally i just gave up and ran inside to spray myself down with bug repellent. i hate those repellents. they don't smell bad, but for me they smell like chemicals i don't want on my body for a prolonged period of time. after i sprayed down i was mosquito free for the rest of the night though.

second obstacle: bad seeing. although the sky was clear, the air was wet and the atmosphere was hazy. the lawn was covered with condensation and all the lush vegetation didn't help matter much either. i stood in the dark deep wishing i could be magically trasported to my dream stargazing location of arizona. dry and clear and dark skies from one horizon to the other. sigh. one day!

so i'm finally seeing this superclose mars i've been hearing so much about. in astronomy i've learned to keep my expectations low (the same probably goes with life as well). you'll never see a hubble style deep sky object or a satellite quality planet. so i wasn't too excited when i finally saw mars. well, it's definitely bigger than the last time i saw it. i could make out some details, maybe a mare in the lower left (my lower left, which in actuality is the lower right because of the way the telescope flips the image). what's cool is in the hour that i was out in the backyard, mars actually rotated and i couldn't see the mare anymore by the time i was about to head back inside. i could also make out the southern polar martian ice cap. that's about it. because of atmospheric conditions, planet mars kept on shimmering like i was looking at it underwater. maybe on a better night i'll try again. i managed to take some photos but they all came out blurry (not my fault, blame bad seeing!).

it's become routine now. another 3 miles. what else is new? okay, how about this being the first time together amanda and i made it across the longfellow bridge running instead of walking? we're also able to carry on a conversation while we run, squeezing out the words in between breaths (we couldn't do this when we first started, and even made fun of people who try to talk to us while we ran). topics of conversation? can't really remember, probably commenting on the people running by us or commenting on the weather. speaking of which, it was warm and humid today. not exactly hot, cool in the shade and cool along the banks of the charles river. this was probably the best day of the week -- i heard the weather's just going to get hotter and more humid as the week goes on. the mass ave bridge, usually a black hole of energy, was actually pleasant to run across like going down a mild wind tunnel.

if i can run a little bit farther i can theoretically run home, since my house is only 4.4 miles away from the office. riding the bus back to belmont, i see people running along the charles and i think that must be a great feeling, run a few miles, get home, take a shower, take a nap. they must sleep likes babies!*

*in case you don't know, i think sleeping like a baby is probably one of the most pleasureable things you can do.