eclipse! eh, or not

This eclipse thing was apparently a big deal. Folks cashed in their retirement savings to fly to a city within the path of the total obscuration. Only to pray to their deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

I on the other hand had a plane to catch back home for work. So I assumed I’d be airborne when the eclipse actually occurred. We get aboard the aircraft and the stewardess goes through the typical excruciatingly long six minute United introduction which includes instructions on air travel, United ads, and directions on how to construct your own log cabin. After she’s done, the captain actually leaves the cockpit and stands in front of first class to address the whole plane.

He basically says all will be well, both he and the copilot have eclipse glasses (which he shows us), and that the aircraft is rated as “100% capable of solar eclipse flight”. This got many chuckles from the passengers who weren’t mind melded with their smartphones. I didn’t laugh though, because I know what solar flares can do (in theory) to a fly-by-wire aircraft. Can a solar eclipse enhance a solar flare? I have no idea. But I had a lot of beer and coffee in the 12 hours prior to this flight, so in that psyche anything is possible. Even elves. So many elves in the forest. Run!

So based on my understanding of how the eclipse was supposed to play out, and the pilot’s comments, you would think the eclipse would have happened while we were aloft, right? Nope. First off, I was right side center seat. The guy on the window was a 300 pound former NFL headhunter with a Kansas City barbeque shirt. He played freecell for a half hour then fell asleep. All without ever opening his window shade. So I kind of had to peer around other windows. Did the sun darken? Eh, maybe, I wasn’t sure. But by the time I’d landed on the east coast I’d concluded that the eclipse was over. I was ready to get on with my day.

Then they’ve got CNN [sigh] on at the baggage claim and it shows the eclipse just beginning in Oregon. So I’m wondering if I traveled back in time or what. Nope, no eclipse while in flight. It seems the United pilot executed the verbal equivalent of a placebo. I wonder if the United corporate hacks told him to do it? Either way, it was entirely unnecessary because nothing actually happened while we were in the air.

So I get my car back from the haunted, overpriced airport parking garage and go pick up the dogs. Every once and a while I glance up at the sky to see if the sun has changed. Yes, I broke the dreaded rules. I looked at the bare sun with mine own eyes. Because nobody ever does this at the beach or on a regular basis. But the nannies of modern society would have you believe up to yesterday, that if you looked at the eclipse with bare eyes for three seconds your eyes would burst into flames and three kittens you did not know would die horribly.

Anyways, eventually I got home with the dogs and began to unpack, occasionally looking outside. Nothing ever happened. Did it get a little darker out? Maybe, or was that because of the scattered clouds? Who knows? I’m out there to get the mail and my neighbor Jimmy (who’s a little slow, but is a real nice guy) is like, “Hey [insert degenerate blog author name here], where is the eclipse?”

I told him I had no idea, that it was a bust, and that I’d given up. And so it was. I had 80-85% obscuration of the sun where I live, or so the Internets told me. But without eclipse glasses the sun is too bright to be able to see much of it at all. Go get eclipse glasses? Eh, maybe. But what’s the fun of looking at this through special darkened glasses. I might as well observe astronomy through a telescope with a lens made of aluminum foil.

Oh well, what a waste, whatever. I’ve developed one very specific conclusion from my only eclipse experience. It’s either total eclipse or bust. Anything less than 100% is like drinking non-alcoholic beer or driving below the speed limit. I have no idea when the next American solar eclipse is. Maybe I’ll be a bleached skeleton before it occurs? But if it does, and I care enough, I’d rather fly somewhere to see 100%. And pray to my deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

capser_wyoming_nbcnews-ux-1080-600.jpg

Yep, didn’t see that.

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we prepare to do battle with the Moon

Apparently this large thing in the sky is called a “Supermoon”. I don’t really understand why it has to be Super. Other than that in today’s culture everything has to be epic. For example, I now generally hear on the news several different ways to describe various weather phenomenon or patterns when we used to simply say, “It’s going to be cold tomorrow.”

But hell, I’ll go along with this. It’s a Supermoon. Got it. It’s harmless, right? Wrong. For you see, the Moon is not to be trusted. It has powers. Super powers. Why else would they call it a Supermoon?

This is the closest the Moon has been to Earth since 1948. The thing about astronomy is it has the power to cause you to briefly consider your own forthcoming bleached skeleton state. The Moon won’t be this close again until 2034. Think of all the things you could endure between now and then. Halley’s Comet won’t be back until 2061. Which means just about every person alive on this planet today has (at most) one more shot with Halley’s before their pending commute to Valhalla.

Last night said Supermoon was in the rise phase as I drove home at dusk. It certainly did look bigger. But according to the BBC, this is mostly an optical illusion:

“To observers, it will appear about 7% larger than normal and about 15% brighter – although the human eye is barely able to discern that difference.”

I tend to give us humans a little more credit than that. The Moon doesn’t just look bigger because folks are calling it a Supermoon. I think our brains and eyes can inherently detect that it’s 7% bigger and 15% brighter. We look at the Moon all the time. When it’s that different, our brains will tell us, even if it’s subtly.

I was thinking, that it looked so close and clear last night you could almost reach out there and touch the darn thing. That from my eyes to the Moon’s surface was one clear line, one straight shot. 221,524 miles is a long way, unless you can imagine that it’s not.

The Moon’s always been up there like that while we humans mess around down here. Some Roman Senator or Chinese Imperial bureaucrat pretty much saw the same thing. Some of us have actually been up there. When you really think about it, it’s quite special that a few of us have actually reached out there and touched it. We’ve made that journey. And it really does say something about how little we dream anymore or how much we’ve lowered optimism in our collective psyche that we haven’t been back in five decades.

Where’s our promised Moon colony or Bond villain Moon Base? I mean, technically I guess the Moon Base could have existed without us knowing it. And Bond already blew it up. But I’m betting that didn’t actually happen.

Anyways, either way, I’ll do battle with this Supermoon tonight. I’ll arm myself with a decent coat, a beer, and my camera. My dogs will wield a knife, handgun, or belly full of kibble, whichever they prefer. And we’ll get a shot (camera) at taking on this Supermoon. Moonrise is shortly after my return from work. So it’ll play out well.

If I survive, I’ll try and remember to post a picture on this degenerate blog. I might get distracted, because I have to do a ton of work for second job after I get home tonight. But I’ll try and make it happen. But if I don’t make it, make sure to take your revenge on the Supermoon for me. For you see, the Moon is not to be trusted. It has powers. Super powers.

Update: The Moon was obscured by clouds and light rain.  We couldn’t get a shot.  What does this Supermoon have to hide?  We’re on it.  We’re on the case to find out.  We’ll get right on it.  [cracks beer]  [sips]  [stares blankly at bare wall]