Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jupiter !

Look to the right of the stunning full Harvest Moon and you will see what appears to be a large brilliant star. It is Jupiter at its brightest! Using a simple student telescope, you can easily see Jupiter's stripes and big red spot. Don't stop there! Clearly visible, off to the right of our biggest planet, you'll see two tiny spots. These are Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Callisto. (See Jim Lu's wonderful picture on the left.) Good eyes and telescopes can also see the moon Io just at the right edge of Jupiter itself. Looking for more fun? Slightly higher in the sky and off to the left you can find Uranus asking for your attention. Take a look at the brilliant Harvest Moon while you are at it. I never seem to grow old of looking at it's impact marks, craters and varied topography. What a show tonight!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mailbox Wars

Twice a year we declare war. Right before school begins and right after school ends, deep-rooted neighbors chase defiant teenagers. Save your bets. Deep into the night, when no one is watching, the damage will be done. Baseball bats raised and pickup trucks ready to ram, mailboxes will be falling fast. Battered, crushed or in pieces, disgusted homeowners will discover the result in the morning. Another battle has been lost, but there is hope.

Mailbox bashing really hits home to all that suffer it. I have a 98 year old neighbor who found her large mailbox bashed and tossed on her lawn. Her mailbox has been in place since about 1950 and still shows the names of former owners of her house – a legacy from decades and decades ago. It took me about two hours of body work and replacement mounting to return her box to service. She wants to know why someone would hate her so much. I tried to assure her the attack was not personal. Nice prank, guys.

According to The United States Postal Service: ‘It’s a criminal act that hurts our neighbors and our community. Mailboxes are protected by federal law, and crimes against them and the mail they contain are considered a federal offense. Violators can be fined or imprisoned for each act of vandalism.’

A Clint Eastwood approach comes to my mind: Inspired by his latest release, Gran Torino, I vision myself sitting every night with a large gauge shotgun on my front porch. I’m waiting for the mailbox bashers. They arrive, laughing and vulgar, ready to do their evil deed. I cock my shotgun, walk over and say ‘Make my day!” They fall to the ground, groveling and wetting themselves in disgrace. I hold my aim as I call 911. I know this is irrational thought. My anger reminds me of a children’s book by Mercer Mayer called ‘I Was So Mad!’ A cartoon character remains frustrated time and time again. Oh, I was so mad!

A good friend offered an alternate approach. Be indestructible. Purchase two mailboxes – one large and one standard size. Carefully take the door off the small one and position it inside the large one. Pour ready-mix concrete, like Sakrete, between the large and the small box and let dry and harden. Mount the box proudly on your post. They will never be able to dent it again! One of my neighbors took another approach (see the picture above.) Whatever works for you!

I’m too old for this stuff. I have much better things to do than spend time and money repairing basher outbursts. In my angry dreams, I want them captured. I want them stoned by their peers in the town square without trial. I want them to repair the damage. I know they will continue. Destroying the property of neighbors means nothing to them. I can only hope that they are someday recognized and caught. Keep half an ear on the outside of your home and keep a phone near your bed. We will catch them yet! It would make my day to add my name to those willing to prosecute them. Maybe my day will come.