Sunday, October 21, 2012

Solar Prominence on 20 Oct. 2012

Yesterday offered the most stunning prominence I've seen in a small hydrogen-alpha solar telescope. I snapped a couple dozen photos by holding a camera up to the telescope eyepiece and photographing as my eye would view it. I got at least two shots that I was able to enhance to get this image:

The sun is entering it's 11-year peak, so there may be many more of these this year. Note that this was viewed and photographed through a special telescope that allows for safe viewing of the sun.


Monday, October 8, 2012

I Hate Political Season

Six years ago I put a lot of skin into a slate of candidates for our local water board. We were bombed out of the water by outside money and slander, and oddly enough, the opposition was helped by my respresentative to the US House of Representatives. That this representative had a stake in my local Water Board corroborated my conviction that our opposition to the Board's project was justified. I think the project would have died quickly if not for this representative's support.

But who cared? "Oh no, an expensive project will make a few people rich!" was hardly a catchy battle cry -- not nearly as effective as adding a moustache to a photo.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

California Fire Management, Fees, and Taxes

"No one should be penalized for where they choose to live"

This is an approximate quote from a meeting I attended recently. The thought question is Did this quote come from a pro-personal-responsibility conservative or from a we're-all-in-this-together liberal?

Anyone knowing my sense of irony may be able to guess, but let me add more context. The meeting was about a new California State imposed fee (or tax) on residents in California rural areas for funding fire prevention activities.

And the last clue, the meeting was conducted my by representative to the state assembly, whom I quoted.

The statement was made by self-described conservative Republican Kevin Jeffries who opposes the fee, declares it a tax, and was advising the public of it's implications.

Politics are not straightforward. It sounds like this conservative is very entitlement driven when it comes to individuals carving out homesteads among the fire-prone chaparral and dry forests of our urban-wildland interface. I attended the meeting with this bias... but what did I learn:

1. CalFire, the California fire protection agency did not request this fee/tax.
2. The fee/tax applies to residents of California Service Areas (CSA), rural areas managed by CalFire.
3. The fee/tax is for fire prevention actvities in CSAs only.
4. The fee/tax is $150 per livable structure and administered though the Franchise Tax Board. As I understand it, the CSA zones where never designed for use in assessing taxes or fees.
5. I could not locate any scientific analysis to refer to in support or defense of the fee/tax.

And now, I'll speculate a little as to how this fee/tax could happen:

1. Big budget woes hit California at the state level.
2. Republicans stand firm in resisting any new revenue sources.
3. Democrats work around this, reducing the CalFire bugdet by shifting the fire prevention costs of CSAs to the residents of those rural and wildland areas. This is palatable because 1) people can readily believe that there are greater fire prevention and management costs to these areas, and 2) these areas trend Republican.

This is a recipe for further conflict.

Where I  stand? I'm still looking for information on how to assess the costs to the public inherent in where people choose to live. Are they being penalized or subsidized for building homes in fire prone rural areas?

For example, I believe the luxurious homes perched on the ridges of our valley get a disproportionate benifit from public resources used to contain fires; but I, a resident of Wildomar, receive a benefit when CalFire conducts preventative maintenance in neighboring Lakeland/Village. Yet my retired friend in Lakeland Village will be paying an additional $300 a year while I will not.


I'm collecting links to relevent resources here:

My apologies to the Orange County Astronomers

On Sept. 14, I was scheduled to present an overview of the sky this month to the Orange County Astronomers. I allowed myself an extra 1.5 hours driving time, but it turns out I should have allowed myself an extra four hours to make the otherwise hour-long drive. An accident involving a semi-trailer blocked all lanes of I-15 north, and consequently, that route was closed. My dearest apologies, and below is the content of my presentation for those who may be interested.

First of all, there is now an Anza weather station whose data you can see at this link: This will help OCA members to know if weather may scuttle observing plans at their Anza observing site.

TEDx Temecula, an Independently Organized TED Event

TEDx Temecula will be held on Saturday, October 13. I'll be one of over a dozen speakers. My 12-minute talk will be on light pollution in our community.

More information for anyone wishing to attend is here:
TEDx Temecula