word on the amateur astronomy streets is that the LINEAR comet has brightened in recent days to magnitude 4.4 and can finally be seen in the northern hemisphere in the pegasus constellation -- provided that you're able to wake up right before dawn to catch a glimpse of the comet through binoculars or telescope, and that the sky isn't overcasted. well, i didn't have the problem of waking up because i didn't bother sleeping, waiting until 4am to go out in the backyard (where i have a mildly unobstructed view of the southern sky, where pegasus lies in plain sight) and start hunting for LINEAR with a pair of binoculars on a very clear night. it didn't take long before i spotted a fuzzy grey oval shape. if somebody didn't tell me, i'd have probably guessed it was either a very large nebula or galaxy or even a passing cloud fragment. not very impressive, but a sighting is a sighting, and i know better than anybody that astronomy is not about clear seeing (at least not here!) and the romance of the stars. we new england astronomers take'em when we can get'em. if it's clear tomorrow night, i might try it with the telescope, maybe i can resolve some more details.

i tried to get a photo of the comet with the 24x monocular setup, but it was just too dark, and it was already a little bit of a challenge to locate the comet through binoculars, let alone a monocular image piped through a 2" lcd display on the back of the nikon 950. however, i did manage to take a few snapshots of our old friend the moon, where it sat bright in the pre-dawn sky, half light half dark. i also got to see this conjunction of stars and planets people have been talking about, a clumping of saturn, venus, and aldebaran (taurus constellation) out on the eastern sky.

138 mi. diam.

montes juras

58 mi. diam.

craters in
south pole

how this day started
on this day i woke up at 5am in the morning, the sun not yet out, to ride the motorcycle into work. the temperature was 58 degrees, which was warmer than the last cold morning i rode in, but as i would soon find out, still not warm enough. i wanted to get to work early because i had some programming work to finish up for a 10am meeting. the streets were pretty much empty as can be expected so early in the morning. it wasn't until i got to harvard square when i started shivering from the cold. luckily this time there weren't too many cars out to witness one motorcyclist's battle with the elements. memorial drive was pretty much entirely empty so it was a pretty sweet ride. coming close to kendall the view was spectacular, with the sun just coming up and casting a golden glow on the city of boston across the charles river. if i felt any reservations about coming in early, the sight of my beloved city aglow in the early morning light made it all worthwhile.

rob showcases his mad self defense skills
i don't know how it got started, but rob was showing amanda some self defense moves. first he was doing them on amanda, but then later he asked her to try them on him. it was pretty interesting. the only kind of self defense i know is screaming really loud and running really fast.

rob twisting
amanda's arm

rob demonstrating
a spin move

rob asking amanda
to twist his arm

ugliest running outfit ever
nothing bad happened to me on this friday the 13th -- that is, if you don't count what i was wearing to go running today. usually running clothes i don't give very much thought to. grab a pair of shorts, grab a t-shirt, take a sniff test to make sure they're clean, put them on, and off i go. but today, through some random grab bag misfortune, i went with a pair of green plaid shorts matched with a blue batik t-shirt*. it was like two pattern worlds colliding and fighting it out to the death while i'm going around the charles river wearing this great piece of clashing battle. i spent the rest of the day apologizing profusely to anyone who was unlucky enough to see the outfit before i took a shower later in the afternoon and changed back into my regular clothes.

* this batik t-shirt i actually bought in dunhuang, china last year. it has an aspara angel on the front and the chinese characters for "dunhuang" on the back. if people knew how far i traveled to buy this t-shirt, maybe they wouldn't have made fun of my outfit!

we're for real: non-asterisked run
so during lunch we ran (i got dressed up like a fashion challenged champion, didn't i?) -- we being james, amanda, and myself. i ran all the way around (3 sweet miles), across the longfellow, non-stop. now that is how you do a non-asterisked run, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! james and amanda were behind me, so i waited for them at the base of the bridge, stretching out, rivers of sweat streaking down my tanned face, the front of my batik t-shirt soaked into a wet bib. a few minutes later, i saw amanda running across the longfellow, her gangly arms and legs flailing for the final 50 yards (no, actually, she had good form). "i can't feel my thighs," an exhausted looking amanda said to me. is it okay for me to say that i'm very proud of our ms.garnier? here is the girl who when asked, "are you running today?" usually responds with, "i don't want to run. why are we doing this?" but on this day, friday the 13th no less, she was able to reach deep down and pull out viola! a non-asterisked run! <applause> we celebrated by getting some truck food (old truck), which i was only able to eat half of and put the rest in the fridge, where i probably won't eat it and will end up throwing it away in about a week after its had proper time to sublimate into something thoroughly unedible.

mandy's problem with jimmies
mandy came to me today to show me the extent of her jimmies addiction -- an empty coffee mug with a layer of jimmies at the bottom. maybe there was some sort of beverage in the cup prior to the impromptu show-and-tell, who knows, we can only hope and guess that she isn't eating jimmies straight up from the dispenser. i forgot what she said though. she either just wanted jimmies, or wanted some ice cream, or maybe she wanted chocolate. whatever it is she desired, i hope she got eventually. on a side note, i guess the term jimmies is not politically correct, it's just a local term for what's more commonly known as sprinkles (at least common outside of boston).

is that a metal plate underneath your motorcycle's kickstand or are you just happy to see me sinking into the hot asphalt?
james was kind enough to find a piece of hard metal plate for me to use underneath the motorcycle's kickstand, so that the kickstand won't sink into the soft asphalt on those hot summer days. i don't know where he found that metal plate -- looks like a door hinge or some sort of locking mechanism for a door handle. i liked it so much, i took it with me when i went home, so i can use it wherever i go.

how this day ended
getting onto memorial drive i saw a much of sportsbikers congregrating at the foot of the bridge. a quick glance back, i saw that one of the bikes had flipped onto one of the the grassy island. a motorcycle accident! a motorcycle rule suddenly flashed in my head, always stop for a fellow biker in need. but since it appears he was with his buddies (i didn't see the guy, hope he's okay, they were pretty geared up, so i say his chances of survival are high), i figured the situation was under control so i sped off.

on my way home i rode side-by-side with this mid-life crisis case driving in a black convertible sports car. i was tempted to race with him because i know for a fact that my motorcycle accelerates much faster than his sports car and by the time he matched my speed i'd be way gone. but know what? i'm a little too mature for that kind of road games. this guy however was a real asshole. dodging in and out between two lanes of traffic, kept on looking back at me on his rear-view mirror, as if seeing if i'd do something. at one point he turned on his window washer and i got sprayed with washer fluid (whether this was on purpose or not, who knows). hey, mid-life crisis, get a clue! i also watched him honked the hell out of a bicyclist for about a minute, just because the guy was on the road (isn't that where bicycles are suppose to ride anyway?) and mid-life crisis couldn't pull ahead of the guy.

i got home, ate dinner while watching the sox game (sox won!), and then played massive hours of diablo 2 expansion set, finally getting my assassin to level 30 and acquiring the shadow mastery skill.

and now i am about to get dressed and go outside to see if i can see the LINEAR comet. i hear it's at magnitude 4.4 now. i'm going to try and get a photo if i can.