Archive for July 2009

Observation Log 7/20/09: ISS & STS-127

July 20, 2009

The International Space Station, currently docked with Space Shuttle Endeavour, just made a nice pass overhead. Although I have broken clouds at the moment, I managed to get a very nice view.

In the process, I tested a valuable new technique (for me, at least) for spotting ISS passes. I have an iPhone 3GS, which has a built-in clock and a built-in compass. So, I set up several alarms for the sighting (start, highest elevation, and end), noting from Heavens Above what the compass direction would be and putting that number in each alarm. When the alarms go off, I can quickly pull up the compass and know where to look.

This might seem a bit of overkill, except that my attempt to spot the ISS about a week ago failed! I’ve never completely missed it before. The pass was low in the sky and went through skyglow from the city to the north, but I think I should have been able to see it. Anyway, this little trick should help.

If I had unlimited energy and resources, I would love to write an iPhone application that would use the GPS, compass, the timers, and the inclinometers in the iPhone to allow a user to find any sky object (satellites especially) just by pointing the phone at the sky. Words or sounds could indicate which way to adjust the pointing angle (up, down, left, right) to find what you’re looking for. Real fanatics fans like myself could even hold a laser pointer with the phone, to make spotting even easier! Hopefully someone will do that some day soon!

Lance Armstrong, Miracle Man

July 7, 2009

Serve up (a little bit of) the crow: Against better judgement and past things I said, I am watching a little of the Tour de France. One of my heroes, Lance Armstrong, is back after winning a record-smashing seven straight Tours. Even though he came back to keep his fight against cancer in the spotlight, it warms my heart to see him on his bike, confident, and seemingly as strong as ever. Live Strong indeed.

Tuesday saw the nearness of the man’s greatness. On only the fourth TdF stage he’s raced in four(?) years, he missed taking the race lead, and therefore the yellow jersey, by a fraction of a second. It was so close the race organizers had to refer to the Tour rulebook and get out the calculators to figure out if Lance had indeed captured the lead.

Here’s Lance, being the better man, talking about this day when he nearly took the yellow again: Link.

Honestly, while I have deep respect for the man, and continue to be amazed by his willpower, physical ability, and depth of character in the face of a corrupted Tour organization (including a newspaper and a poor excuse for a lab, all co-owned by one of the “owners” of the race, M. Pierre Borrdry) I hold no real hope he’ll win a Tour again. I would be delighted to be surprised, however the politics behind the scenes of the Tour have shown themselves to be downright dirty beginning with the persecution of Floyd Landis, and unless Lance is practically perfect, the cynic in me fears he’ll be dragged down by the dirty backroom dealers. That’s why I never thought I’d watch another Tour again–even now, former Tour officials are treating Lance like he’s a crook and a cheater, which has never been proven–it seems impossible for anyone who isn’t on the inside of this crooked brotherhood to get a fair chance. There’s something about French jurisprudence that, at least where the Tour is concerned, violated all that Americans hold dear about being innocent until proven guilty. In France, if there’s a hint of misbehavior in their Tour, the inevitable “leak” occurs from the Tour to the French anti-doping lab to the French paper “L’Equipe,” and within 24 hours a champion can be tarred as a cheat based on the most tenuous piece of flawed evidence.

Anyway, it is a wonderful thing to see Lance Armstrong, a man blessed by genetics and hard road back from cancer, come within a second of leading the Tour de France yet again. I should never have doubted his ability and determination.