Sam WHITBY #206

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #206

@...    The sky has continued to be so hazy that I have not been able to see very fine details on Jupiter. Some of my ALPO colleagues have reported a darker section of the STB. I saw what seems to have been the same feature this morning, when the seeing was a little bit better, and timed its following end at 195 degrees, sys. 2. To be more precise, the marking was a darker section of what I would call the weak, faded northern branch of the STB.
  It would be interesting to hear what you succeed in seeing on the planet Mercury. Having looked at the planet many times since my childhood, I have caught it only once when the seeing was good. Mercury was slightly less than half illuminated, and it had a very vaguely granulated appearance, somewhat like the southern highlands of the Moon seen with the naked eye. I will admit to having the probably fanciful hope that the part of Mercury that was not mapped by the Mariner will show maria like those on the Moon, which we can realistically hope to see. Your observer David Graham published an article on the nature of the albedo features of Mercury in the BAA Journal.
  I was interested in your reference to the No drama. I saw a No drama back in 1968. Thoroughly unprepared for it, I was baffled. Since then I have seen references to the art form by the Irish poet/play-writer William Butler Yeats. Arthur Waley is unfamiliar, but I will see what our library can teach me about him.
  It is the time of year for our best native lily to bloom: the Turk's Cap, Lilium superbum. I know only a few places where they bloom, and even there the blooming is not reliable. Lilies have a maddening way of sometimes just remaining dormant. They also get eaten by animals like our native deer. The number of deer has increased, and I have a hunch that they damage more than just my brothers peach orchard.
  Last week I had a good look at a bald eagle down on the Appomattox River. I also saw the first parhelia that I have seen for several weeks. Evidently the temperature up there with the clouds was cold even as we sweated through summer down here. It has been so hot that there have been fatalities attributed to the heat, especially in Texas.
  We still name hurricanes, but now, out of a sense of political correctness, some of them receive male names. As a child I experienced a frightening storm called Hurricane Hazel. It blew down a few buildings and a lot of trees. My Grandfather, the day before the storm arrived, had brought me a small rabbit, carried in his jacket pocket. Hazel blew over my rabbit house and allowed my rabbit, I hope, to escape to its proper home.
  Yesterday evening I saw in the east a tremendous cumulus cloud, of the kind that we call a thunderhead. I began to watch it as I returned home at around 8pm and found myself wishing that I had a camera. It was large, white, and obviously a site of much turmoil, for it changed quickly even though very high up and far away. Back home at 8:35, 8 minutes after sunset, I could still see the cloud. By then it was yellow, and its base was beginning to change to blue-gray in the Earth's shadow. I noticed that the cloud was bright enough to cast shadows on the western wall of our kitchen. I pointed it out to my wife, who said something like "That's nice" before she returned to the television. Tyler saw it and repeated "thunderhead" over and over. A friend today at work told me about seeing at the same time what was probably the same cloud, from about 25 miles farther away than Hopewell.
  It is good to hear from you. Please give my regards to your family and to the colleagues of the CMO. Little Tyler is sick tonight with a bad cold, and he has gone to bed early, hence I had this time to type for awhile.
(21 July 1998 email)

@...    Congratulations upon finishing your driving class!
  This afternoon we tried to photograph the Turk's Cap lilies. Because the lilies were bounded on one side by swampland and on the other by a road with a very narrow curb, I drove as near as I could and pointed them out to Mrs. Whitby, who quickly took several shots with a telephoto lens. Yes, we could have walked, but I would have had to carry Tyler, and it was already late in the day, with failing light. We have not developed the film yet, so we do not know yet how well the photos turned out. If the pictures reflect anything like the beauty of the flowers themselves, they will be worth sharing with friends.
  Tyler has not had a fever today, and he seems to have recovered his strong will. I think he will be OK in a day or two.

(23 July 1998 email)

@...    I want to let you know that we have seen the updated web page and are pleased that you were able to use the photo of the arc. The circumzenithal arc is one of the most beautiful of the open air phenomena, and it is, compared with some of the others, not infrequent. It is infrequently seen because it appears above the sun, and few people know of it or look for it. If the photo encourages someone to take an interest in such things, it will have been worth the effort.

(28 July 1998 email)

@...    Thank you for your message. Thank you especially for your remarks about the current economic situation. No economist but a moralist who worries about his friends and his family, I have been very interested in the Asian economic woes and have tried with mixed success to understand the events. Yes, I can re-state several analyses that have been given, but these viewpoints have not really satisfied. From the personal viewpoint, I do think, as one might say, we are all in this together, and in the long term we will sink or swim together. (My former teachers are spinning in their graves because I used such a figure of speech.)
  I value your remarks very highly and want to respond in a more intelligent manner. Today I am home sick with a bad ear infection, and the medication has me feeling rather groggy. It may be better to wait a day or two before I give the prescription to heal the world - which, in case this does not translate, is an attempt at a joke. I will try to respond better later.
  Today's headline in the Richmond Times Dispatch had something to do with these being the best times ever in the US. People who read a little bit farther and deeper know that there are reasons to worry, even here.
  Thank you for the attached file and the football news. I have received a fine photo from your MURAKAMI-san, for which I am very grateful. I will go now but plan to write something that may help to "take up the slack" (my teachers rolled again) in the CMO.

  P.S.   Although I am still not well and still am slow-witted, a couple of things have occurred to me since I wrote the above. One is that it might be a good time to try to write you a little piece about the different types of open air phenomena that one might hope to see. Such a short paper might be more suited to me than comments about economics. After my doctor's appointment tomorrow, I am free from needing to care for Tyler, so maybe I can write you an interesting message about the open air.
  Secondly, it occurred to me that the expression that my teachers would spin in their graves might be offensive to Japanese readers. I will leave it in the message for the sake of authenticity. Let me add, however, that I mean no harm or disrespect. Quite to the contrary, I am still the respectful schoolboy. When Comet Hale/Bopp came around I telephoned my former physics teacher to urge him not to miss it, and I was somewhat troubled by obvious nervousness in the auditory presence of my teacher, a fact that he accepted kindly but found amusing and unnecessary. He said he did not intend for me to feel intimidated, but I think he enjoyed it nonetheless.

(2 Aug 1998 email)

@...    I have worked a bit on an essay about atmospheric arcs but am unsatisfied at present with what has been written. It would probably be a good idea to let this project incubate a few more days before it is hatched upon the world.
  Your analysis of the current economic situation impressed me greatly. It makes one want to respond in kind even if inadequate to the task. I feel rather like one might imagine that Mr. Clinton would feel if offered a young girl: he would know that he shouldn't, but then he IS Mr. Clinton. In other words, I am tempted to spout off some arch opinion even though I know that I should not. As a traveling Frenchman observed about Americans long ago, even the most uneducated among them likes to imagine himself an expert at politics and religion. I too have something to say about almost everything but am finally beginning to learn that not everything that I say is worth listening to.
  I think I may soon be able to say something to you, man-to-man, not for your readers, about my personal response to the current events. Imagine, me at a loss for words!
  There is a fine photo of a solar halo in the September Sky and Telescope.

(2 Aug 1998 email)

@...    I am going to forward to you a naughty little parody of President Clinton that some anonymous humorist forwarded to me. Perhaps you will find it amusing. If it just does not translate well, I will understand. I personally find it amusing because the witty author (not me) has taken the advice of the advisors who have said that the President should tell the truth and everything would be OK.
  Also, thank you for CMO 205, which has just arrived.

(4 Aug 1998 email)

@...    What follows is my political judgement, man-to-man, not for the CMO. ... Amen. (Sam now gets down from the pulpit.)
  Yesterday our stock bubble gave a little pop, to scare those who know that sooner or later it will burst. I read yesterday that the American unemployment level is about as good as it has ever been, and it is about the same as the rate in Japan now, where it is thought to be very bad. I read also that the savings rate in America is only a tiny percentage of the rate in Japan. So why then are the frugal Japanese not reaping the benefits? ....

(5 Aug 1998 email)

@...    Getting ready to delete some old files, I thought I would send you the attached old photo, circa '82. It shows me, my parents, my niece and nephew, and Colleen in front, wearing the bear dress. Now I am much heavier with less hair. My niece and nephew are married with children. My parents are old and gray. Colleen is in college, now again in New Jersey. This has nothing to do with the CMO. I just thought you might be interested.

(5 Aug 1998 email)

@...    Finally I managed to catch Jupiter's STB spot which has gotten so much attention recently. I thought you might like to see a sketch, which is attached.

(9 Aug 1998 email)

@...    In regard to the Jupiter sketch that I sent to you earlier, it was made on August 7, 1998, at 7:29, with CM1=217,CM2=142, and CM3=247. The seeing was very good, 9 on the ALPO scale, and the sky was very clear. I used my 6 inch reflector at 205x . No filter was used. I have since then, on Aug 15, timed the STB spot at 177 degrees, sys2. It is decreasing rather rapidly in longitude.
  I have much more to write about, but there is little time right now. Thank you for your interesting messages, which deserve more comments, which hopefully will come later.
  Tomorrow Clinton testifies ( testi-lies?) before the grand jury.

(16 Aug 1998 email)

@...    I enjoyed and appreciated the comments you sent earlier, particularly about growing rice and the behavior of the crows. When less tired and stressed out, I will respond more thoroughly. ....
  Last night Clinton confessed. Uta is a Catholic, while I am a Protestant, but I still think confession is good for the soul. I wish he had confessed many millions of dollars ago, before he was cornered by Starr. Now I am just sorry for the First Lady and Chelsea.

(18 Aug 1998 email)

@...    It does not seem that Japanese farmers have too much to worry about from the competition of farmers in Arkansas. American farmers like to complain about restricted markets and so forth. All the while they try to protect their own markets. My grandfather used to point out that since the thirties the government had been heavily involved in controlling supplies and prices. That trend has reversed somewhat in the last few years, and farmers have already begun to scream for help.
  I may have seen the program about falcons accommodating themselves to urban life. If I did not see the same program, I saw one very similar to what you described.
  We have small hawks that live nearby and prey on doves and pigeons. It is rather un-nerving to see one of the hawks suddenly swoop out of nowhere and knock the feathers and the life out of another bird. Down on the river there are peregrine falcons, and they make spectacular splashes as they dive into the water at high speed. If one hits the water nearby, as once happened near David and me, without one's expecting it, it can give a big surprise.
  When I was a boy, seeing a blue heron was unusual. It was believed that they would not live near people, and I remember expecting them to be endangered by civilization. Now they are fairly common, where there is water. I seem to have read somewhere that they just finally accepted the presence of humans, who usually do not hunt or otherwise hurt them because they are beautiful.
  Crows are very common here, and they have learned to scavenge food by tearing open plastic bags of garbage. That skill has made some people think of them as pests. Farmers have felt that way for millennia. No longer trying to grow corn and scare them away with scarecrows, I tend to like them anyway. They amuse me as they walk around like little supervisors looking for some fault to find. And they are so multi-talented. I have an old and doubtful memory of a boy bringing to school a crow that his family had taught to talk. (The boy had a pet flying squirrel that he would carry in his pocket. That memory I am sure of.) When I tried to check the memory of the talking crow by questioning a former classmate, one who will usually swear to the truth of any tall tale, my friend said that he also was unsure, a bad sign for the truth of my memory. I think that my friend wanted to believe me but didn't. You may find it difficult to believe, but I once, only a couple of years ago, saw an albino crow. My wife said it was a gull that just happened to be walking around with some crows, but she was mistaken: it was a completely white crow. We had a camera, but we were on the interstate highway surrounded by (what seemed like race) cars, and I did not want to risk stopping to try to take a photograph.
  Moving along to celestial thoughts, I would enjoy viewing Higa's tape. I have been reluctant to answer because I think you have already been very generous, and I do not want to ask for more. I also apologize for not finding out about whether or not the tape could be played on American machines. Part of the problem is that I go to work before any place opens, and most businesses are closed before I can get home or get time to try to contact any expert for an answer. You may remember that I even have trouble getting to the Post Office. It is good to learn that we should be able to play the tape. I am not exactly a socialite, even among the Richmond area amateurs, but perhaps I can direct some favorable attention to your colleague's good work.
  We are enjoying a probably brief spell of cool weather. The seeing is usually terrible when a cold front comes by, so I doubt that the dark clear sky will be of any serious use to Jupiter observers.
Thank you for keeping in touch. I always enjoy your messages.

(19 Aug 1998 email)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :