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If you have clear skies tonight in Montana and elsewhere in North America, you can see a spectacular meeting of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon. Look towards the southwest after sunset and you should have no problem seeing the moon above the two planets. Here in Yeosu, we were treated to a bit of a different configuration. The moon was below the planets, which gave us this very pretty and large “Smiley Face.” :)

I pulled this image off the web. The photo was taken in Thailand, I believe, but it mirrors what we saw here in Yeosu.

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Space Camp

For a few days this week, I was focused on the heavens. On Tuesday, the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Atlantis flew overhead, both easily visible to the naked eye, with the ISS particularly bright–brighter than any star, at about -2.5 magnitude, according to Heavens Above. The Shuttle was about 20 degrees ahead of the ISS, after separating from it the day before. The previous evening, the two were supposed to have been very close together, forming a more spectacular, tight, naked-eye duo soaring in tandem across the evening sky. However, at that time their altitude above the horizon was too low to be seen at my location. It was still a great sight on Tuesday, with the two artificial “stars” taking about six minutes to make their way from north to south, though they were only visible at the camp for, I estimated, about 4 minutes.

The following night, Wednesday, was the equally awesome total lunar eclipse. The event started about 9:45 p.m., my time, with totality lasting from 11 p.m. to midnight. I stayed up watching reddish-orange Luna until about 11:30, way past my normal bedtime. I slept in the next morning, forgoing my usual jog. I took some photos, but none of them turned out very well. The one below is probably the best of the lot. The bright “star” at the bottom of the photo, just to the left of an imaginary line drawn straight down from the moon, is Saturn.

Lunar_Eclipse

Speaking of jogging, I went beyond my previous longest time last Saturday by clocking in at an hour and 23 minutes, 14 laps around the warning tracks of the four fields. I’m nearing my short-term goal of jogging for an hour and a half, and now I’m looking at, hopefully, being able to do 2 hours, non-stop, by July. That’s about 20 laps, and it sounds approachable. It’s good to see some results of the morning run and of other exercising I’ve been doing–my weight is now in the low 190s. (I can hear you snickering out there–that’s pounds, not kilograms!)

I should be able to get some photographs of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, now that burning season is here. It’s the time of year when the surrounding farmers and landowners start burning their old scrub brush, filling the air with smoke and particles, which scatter and reflect the sunlight (something like that, anyway) much more than cleaner air does. That’s another reason to go jogging in the early morning–there’s not as much smoke in the air, though there is a faint gray haze over the camp as the sun rises, and the “campfire” smell is always present.

Who’s lieing–Clemens or McNamee? I suspect they both are, but I don’t really care. The baseball season is upon us–the season when all of the Red Sox dreams of dynasty fade into harsh reality under the Yankee onslaught. Why? There’s a a new manager (Girardi), a potentially lethal crop of young, home-grown pitchers, and it’s the last year the team will play in The Old Stadium, before moving across the street to the new Yankee Stadium next year. The All Star Game will be played at the old ballpark this year, as will the World Series. The ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle and Co., though they’ll be making the short journey to the new ballpark, will make their presence felt throughout this final year in The House That Ruth Built. Contrary to Boston fans’ desperate hope that the Yanks are down and out, there are going to be many championships to come for the Bombers–more now, and many more later.

Cloudburst

Geez, we had a real slam-bang of a thunderstorm/rainstorm yesterday, a deluge more furious than anything Noel hit us with, and it was even pushing water into my room, under the door. It lasted about half an hour and left the fields, which had more or less dried out, drenched with more water than I’ve ever seen them covered with before. So, today’s games were cancelled and tomorrow’s play is in doubt.

Now, with all the rain recently, we’re being overrun by mosquitoes, hordes of them. The grounds crew sprayed everywhere today (with who knows what) to try to lessen the problem. Hopefully, the little critters won’t thrive on it.

Despite (or because of) the early afternoon storm yesterday, last night was very clear, and I finally got a chance to look for Comet Holmes, an amazing object that exploded from being the brightness of Pluto into a naked-eye treat. I bought some binoculars, a pair of Nikon Action 12x50s, while I was back in the U.S., and they provided a glorious view of this exceptional comet. You can look for it in the constellation Perseus. Here’s a story about it and a sky chart.

Ramadan, Bicycle, Eclipse

Today is the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer. The small street running along my apartment was much more subdued this morning, quieter and less bustle. Many of the shops stayed shut for most of the day, opening a little later than usual. Most of them are shut down now, but only, seemingly, so that the employees can go break their fast (it is now after sunset). The patisserie is closed, but they haven’t pulled down their security shutters on the shop windows, so I assume they will open later on this evening. The normally packed streets are unusually empty, almost strangely so, though there is the usual assortment of vehicular traffic. Mohammed told me that most people stay at home in the evening, eating and drinking (non-alcoholic, of course) with their families. A few days ago, all of the restaurants that serve alcohol shut down, as well as liquor stores and the areas in grocery stores that sell alcohol. So, if you’re an expat looking for something stronger than mint tea, you’re out of luck until November.

I finally broke down and bought a bicycle the other day, a Bacini mountain bike (made in Taiwan) for about $110. I took it for a long ride in the country, which you can get to with just a short trek outside of Meknes. The surrounding farm land reminds me a lot of Montana, as I’ve stated before, with rolling hills leading into the mountains and strip-farmed land checkerboarding the landscape. It was a pleasant ride, though I have to do some adjusting to the gear shifters and derailleurs, which are a bit cranky, so to speak. Needless to say, after my 20-km (estimated) ride, my rear end was sore the next day. Here’s a look at Meknes from the southern edge of town.

Of course, I’ll put this image and most of the others that you see on the blog into the photo gallery in a larger size, so check there for these photos, and others, in the new section “Morocco.”

Monday I was tempted to get up early and watch the eclipse, but I decided not to bother since I had no way of observing it without going blind. By all accounts, it was fantastic. There is another one in this area on March 29th, 2006. Unfortunately, Morocco will be just outside the zone of totality.

Hah, Yanks win first game 4-2. I didn’t stay up to listen to it last night, even though it was an “early” game. With a 7pm Eastern time start, that meant it didn’t come on until 11pm our time. Tonight it’s even worse, starting at 2am (10pm ET). Of course, if the people upstairs are still up making noise because of the late Ramadan hours and keeping me awake, maybe I’ll try to watch or listen to it. More later.