Thursday, February 21, 2008


This evening I headed down to Green lake to view the full lunar eclipse (pictured above, taken by me). I knew to expect some company - I'd seen that the Seattle Astronomical Society was planning to gather there for the eclipse viewing. What I didn't know was that it had been advertised in just about every paper, drawing well over a hundred people.

We waited in suspense while the eastern horizon was obscured by fairly dense clouds. Fortunately the sky above that was clear so we had a good feeling that the moon would be visible soon enough. King 5 and Komo 4 news were both there covering the event. Passers-by on their evening walks repeatedly asked what was going on (since there were several telescopes and pimped-out cameras pointing across the lake). Despite some false alarms (our viewing area coincided with the flight path to SeaTac), we eventually saw what we were waiting for. The edge of the clouds began to shimmer and then the moon became visible, already in the throes of a partial eclipse.

Shortly thereafter it cleared the top of the clouds and was fully visible to everyone looking. I shot quite a few pictures, using my borrowed Canon 10D and a rented 300 mm f/4 lens plus 2x extender (to those counting, that amounts to a focal length of 960 mm when you account for the 1.6 crop factor). Since I've been shooting in RAW, it will take me a few days to wade through my pictures and develop the ones that came out well.

It was a pretty crazy scene. It was dark, save for a few street lights, and yet it was incredibly crowded, including quite a few kids. I'm all for teaching kids about astronomy and science in general, but I'm also all for keeping them from running around when there are $1000+ pieces of equipment everywhere. Many of them seemed paradoxically wired - maybe it was the thrill of being outside past their bedtime. I let a few kids borrow my binoculars to get a closer look at the beautiful reddish moon, and I let a few others peek through my camera (though the far better live view was to find someone with an actual telescope).

The crowd thinned as the eclipse wore on, and once totality ended, most people headed home. I stuck around to near the end, enjoying the elbow room and shooting some pictures of the lake and the lights reflecting across it.

As I mentioned, King 5 news was there covering the event. As I set up my camera, they came over to interview me about the eclipse and why I wanted to photograph it. You can see my cameo in their news segment here.

It was a wonderfully pleasant evening (surprising, for a Seattle winter) and the heavens were well worth the effort.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Democracy, up close and personal

Caucusing in the cafeteria
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
This afternoon I went to the 2nd caucus I've ever been to. Today is the day Washington state figures out how many delegates it'll be giving the presidential candidates.

I'm in the 46th district, in a teeny-tiny precinct, so we only got 2 delegates to go on to the next level. This meant we weren't able to split our vote very realistically. The popular vote was about 76%/24% (with about 60-70 people present) split in favor of Obama (reflecting almost exactly the rest of the state) but with only 2 delegates, we had to give one to Hillary and one to Obama. We sure have a weird electoral system in this country.

There were heated debates across the line drawn in the proverbial sand - of our 13 undecideds coming into the caucus, 2 went to Hillary's camp and the remaining 11 sided with Obama. Age, sex, experience (both the pros and the cons of having it), health care, electability, hope inspiration, the Iraq war, and polls all came into the discussion between the two sides. Each side firmly believed that their candidate was the only one who could beat McCain in November. Both sides also made weak arguments as well as strong ones.

Overall it was definitely more heated and exciting than the caucus in 2004 - which was pretty boring, as far as I can remember. Back then there were a few people trying to persuade others to change their vote - but nothing like today. Maybe that's a good sign.

On another, semi-related note, our precinct gathered in the library of Daniel Bagley Elementary School, which allowed me to reminisce about awesome youth literature while listening to the boring caucus rules.

P.S. Thanks to PL for lending me the 10D... I even got a comment that it's a "beautiful camera"!

Update 02/10/08... Upon chatting with a friend I've come to the idea that perhaps there were more precincts of the 46th district at our caucus back in 2004. This would explain why it didn't seem that much more crowded than the last time...