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Clockwise from top left: Delta, Titan II, and Atlas rockets at Cape Canaveral; nuclear power plant in Ohio; early-1980s Toshiba pocket radio/cassette player; Apple iMac, Macintosh Plus, and PowerBook computers; and the full Moon.

Science & Tech montage shadow

* The "Macintosh & Misc." category was split into two separate categories in February 2007: "Culture & Travel" and "Science & Technology."

Scientific Web sites:

Links to publishers & select Mac developers:

# Web site not updated in over a year. MacAddict and MacHome magazines ceased publication a couple years ago.

Web tech resources

August 23, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Totally awesome * eclipse of the sun!

On Sunday morning, Jacqueline and I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime (?)** pilgrimmage to witness one of the most amazing marvels in all the natural world: the total eclipse of the sun. Here in Staunton, the sun was expected to be about 85% covered, but we were both eager to see the glorious totality for the first time. So, we hit the road and drove southwest to eastern Tennessee. (The journey down there and back was an adventure in itself, and will be the subject of a separate blog post.)

In preparation for the eclipse, I had gone to several local retail outlets (on August 13-14) in search of the special eclipse glasses, striking out each time. Then last Friday (August 18), I went up to the library in downtown Harrisonburg, where they were handing out free eclipse glasses, and once again, they ran out just before they got to me. Fortunately, we found another source on Saturday, just in time.

Andrew, Jacqueline eclipse glasses

Yours truly and Jacqueline trying out our "cheap sunglasses" (ZZ Top!), manufactured by the Lunt Corporation specifically for the 2017 eclipse.

I had studied maps and had a good idea of where to go to see the total eclipse for the longest possible interval: about two and a half minutes. My choice of destination depended on the weather forecasts, and we were fortunate that clear skies were expected throughout Tennessee and South Carolina. While in Knoxville on Monday morning I got a tip from a friend (Peter Van Acker), who was already in the town of Sweetwater, Tennessee, so that's where we went. But by the time we arrived (about 10:30), it was already crowded and hectic, so we weren't able to meet up with Peter and his wife. Instead, we found a suitable location at the Flea Market just west of town. We met some nice folks who offered us seats at a picnic table in the shade.

At about 11:30 I took a test photograph of the sun with my Canon PowerShot SX-50 camera (covering the lens with my eclipse glasses), and I was thrilled that sunspots appeared clearly. Just after 1:00, I spotted the moon intruding upon the sun for the first time, and all the folks around me quickly went for a look with their own eclipse glasses. The passage took a long time, nearly an hour and a half before the sun was completely obscured. As the eclipse progressed, I took photos of the partial phases about every 15 or 20 minutes, with fairly consistent results. (I also took some video footage, which I will probably edit and upload to YouTube soon.) At about 2:00 we all moved away from the building and into an open field to make sure the parking lot lights wouldn't detract from our view of the impending total eclipse.

Fortunately, the skies remained bright blue, with just a few scattered clouds. I was a bit surprised that the ambient brightness didn't seem to decrease by all that much, even after the sun was over half covered. You could tell it was dimmer than usual, but the human eye compensates for brightness, making the apparent difference much less than one might think. Then, as the final sliver of sun disappeared and the total eclipse phase began, it got very dark in a hurry and the air cooled noticeably. The crowds ooh'ed and ahh-ed as the black disk of the moon appeared, surrounded by the dazzling, shimmering bluish-white corona. In my whole life, don't think I have ever seen anything as beautiful. Unfortunately, my camera just wasn't up to the task of capturing the sun's corona. Knowing that there would be only had 2 1/2 minutes of eclipse totality, I decided beforehand to relish the moment and not fuss with camera settings. It was at least gratifying to get photos of two planets in the sun's vicinity: Venus, a ways off to the right, and Mercury, fairly close on the left side. There was light along the horizon much like at dusk, but extending all the way around for 360 degrees, making it seem as if the sun was setting in all directions at once!

I was looking up at the entrancing spectacle just as the famous "diamond ring" effect was manifested, when the first bit of direct sunlight peeks along the edge of the moon. That's when it's no longer safe to look directly at the sun, so we had to put our eclipse glasses back on as the solar crescent got bigger and bigger. We noticed small groups of birds acting strangely, obviously confused by the brief period of "night": There were 6-8 Killdeers noisly circling and landing not far from us, and soon I saw a few Common Nighthawks flying several hours ahead of their normal schedule. After a few more minutes, we said our goodbyes [and headed home to Virginia.]

Below you can see a montage that summarizes the eclipse phases (which I posted on Facebook), as well as separate, larger versions of those images. For two of them, I also made double-sized images, which you can see by clicking on the adjacent links with exclamation marks. In summary, [nothing can compare to seeing a total eclipse in person, and] Jacqueline and I strongly agree that it was well worth the travel effort, in spite of hellish traffic on the way back. But we'll leave that part of the story for a separate blog post...

** There will be another solar eclipse in the United States on April 8, 2024, seven years from now. The path of totality will extend from Texas through Ohio and into Maine. So maybe we'll get a another chance for such a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience!

Solar eclipse montage 2017

Roll over (or click) these links to see the progression of eclipse phases (percentages are approximate):

full sun ~5% ( ! ) ~15% ( ! ) ~40% ~55% ~70% ~90%

100% 100%, Mercury 100%, Venus ~70% (receding)

* On Facebook, I posted a "Public Service Announcement" along with one of the total eclipse images: The phrase "totally awesome" should be reserved for occasions such as this!

Solar eclipse watchers

Solar eclipse watchers, near the Sweetwater Flea Market, at about 2:08 PM, when about 70% of the sun was obscured by the moon.

Sweetwater Flea Market at total eclipse

Jacqueline (left) and some folks we met at the Sweetwater Flea Market, during the total eclipse at about 2:28 PM. The sky was dark blue except for all along the horizon, much like after dusk. To see many more photos, please go to the Chronological (2017) photo gallery.

Long live the "Paradigm shift"!

My Macintoshes: *

Model RAM Speed HD Year
Mac Plus 1 + 2.5 MB 8 MHz 0 + 20 MB 1987
Power Book 150 4 MB 30 MHz 80 MB 1994
iMac "Flower Power" 64 + 256 MB 500 MHz 20 + 156 GB 2001
iMac "Aluminum" 1 + 5 GB 2.4 GHz 320 GB + 1 TB 2008
MacBook Air 4 GB 1.6 GHz 121 GB** 2015

NOTES: The "plus" figures refer to upgrades after the original purchase, including peripheral hard drives. The iMac "Aluminum" has had TWO memory upgrades: 1 GB + 2 GB = 3 GB, and then replacing the original 1 GB chip with a 4 GB chip to yield 6 GB total.
* Until 2009 or so, all four of my Macs still functioned properly. When I tried to boot them up early in 2010, however, the three older ones either experienced major difficulties or were stone cold dead. frown
** MacBook Air has Flash storage, no hard drive.

Our iPods & iPads

Model Memory Year
iPod 2nd Gen. 16 GB** 2004
iPod Nano 2nd Gen. 4 GB 2008
iPad 1st Gen. 16 GB 2011
iPod Touch 5th Gen. 37.5 GB 2013
iPad Mini 2nd Gen. 16 GB 2014

** iPod 2nd Gen. has hard drive, no Flash storage.

CAUTION: Exposing your eyes to this subliminal flashing image for an extended period of time may cause you to buy a Mac. You have been warned.
Subliminal Apple

Remember that old song by Queen, "I'm In Love With My Car"? Well it's kinda like that. In the early 1980s I used to press my nose against the window of computer stores and yearn for an Apple IIC or an Apple III. Then came January 1984 and the unveiling of Macintosh during the Super Bowl half time. I could see right then and there my destiny as a crusader for free thought. Three years later I finally had enough money to buy my first Mac, a Macintosh Plus, and I was immediately enthralled with the vast power at my disposal. In 1994 I bought an Apple PowerBook 150 and took it to Peru with me to do writing and research for my dissertation. In March 2001 I bought my third and current Mac: an iMac "Flower Power" edition, and once again I was in MacNerd heaven. All three of my Macs still function, and I have no plans to dispose of any of them. I don't expect long-term Windows users to understand, but I know there are plenty of Mac folks out there who know the joy: Macs rock!

DISCLAIMER: I, Andrew Clem, have not received any compensation from Apple Computer, Inc. in exchange for this blatant commercial endorsement. wink.gif