Dwarf planet Ceres beckons

Ceres

Some mildly good news: I have tapped into a free lance site that nets me a few bucks for custom work, I had to pay a small fee for that privilege. It wasn’t much and thankfully the site appears so far to be legit, I’ve almost recouped my initial investment on the very first job and there are others waiting. It’s dull work, the job I chose is writing and formatting a description for a kid’s bike helmet. But it’s work in my field that I can do from home in a bathrobe and the thing is, I wouldn’t have been able to take even that small risk without your help over the last few weeks. I have successfully leveraged your investment in me.

Today is the last day, if you’ve been considering it, my Paypal email at DarkSydothemoon-at-aol is still open. You know you want to!

How about a pure fun science-y-fiction-y article to end this holiday blegathon? I have a timely one in mind: The Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the enigmatic dwarf planet Ceres, it officially arrives on March 6, but by the end of Jan we’ll have the best images ever taken and that’s got a lot of people interested. Ceres is a mysterious world indeed! Right now the best enhanced image we can get using the Hubble Space Telescope is the one above. But in the next few weeks Dawn will see it like its never been seen before. As main belt asteroids go, it’s an unusually colorful world, and its exciting to see any planet up close and personal for the very first time. [Read more…]

Grudge Match 2015: the Kochs vs the Pope vs Satan

Satan!?

Who do I root for now?

The year that was, 2014, was a shitty one for almost everyone I know. It certainly saw a bunch of people worse off, myself included, and there’s not much on the horizon that looks promising. Maybe that means things are more likely to get better than worse. Today is also the last day of this extended holiday beggathon that saved my ass. Readers sent me almost 600 dollars over the past several weeks. And while that may not sound like a lot to some of you, when you are a poor progressive activist, it’s a fortune. If you can squeeze out five or ten bucks, or more, it matters to me. My Paypal address remains Darksydothemoon-at-aol and I’ll drop a snail mail address in comments for checks; yeah, I’m that fucking desperate. After midnight it’s over. Help me Obi-wan, you are my only hope.

Recall that a few days ago reports surfaced that Pope Francis will issue an encyclical on the environment and climate change, challenging a billion plus Catholics to take the matter seriously. Remember, gentle atheists, what you get when you mix religion and politics? Politics! And by politics we mean power and by power we mean money. The grifters of America are more than happy to use religion to dupe the faithful into giving them more money, but what happens when religion interferes with chalking up another billion for the richest zillionaire orc brothers on Earth? [Read more…]

This whole oil price thing will surely end badly

You guys are the best! You humor my half witted science and political posts, gently correct my errors and quietly talk me off the suicide ledge. And the last couple of days have been great for my end of the year desperate plea for virtual change by way of my Paypal account at DarkSydoTheMoon-at-aol. Which I’m using in part to help an amazing, courageous lady who has been through a harrowing battle with brain cancer. Thank you all so much, one more day of begging and it’s all over.

On to the main event: If politics makes for strange bedfellows, the energy industry swings live online with barnyard animals. So it is that right now our best alley, in terms of both low gas prices and in hitting domestic shale oil and tar sands producers right in the corporate jewels, is our good fundamentalist Sunni pals in Saudi Arabia: [Read more…]

2015 starts with an ordeal

We’re supposed to be hurtling through the sky in fusion powered flying-cars. But 2015 has not started out as advertised. I have not slept since 3 AM and I’ve been shivering since before dawn. Sometime in the wee hours, the power went out in my neighborhood. How or why remains a giant mystery, we had a little bit of wintery drizzle in Austin, it was somewhat cold, and there were kids setting off fireworks all night long. Still, you’d think a modern power grid could handle those things. Whatever it was, it resulted in a Manhattan Project level effort to fix. Four huge City of Austin trucks blocked the apartment parking lot with only a narrow pass to get in or out between them, more trucks with yellow flashers cruised up and down streets in the distance. Something like a dozen guys in hard hats worked for 12 hours straight, all focused on one single smallish transformer at ground level in my complex that was already replaced just a few months ago.

The apartments turned into pitch black meat lockers, fast. No one would tell us what the hell was going on and it was obviously something unusually serious. There wasn’t anything else to do besides watch the workers: they had put up and then taken down caution tape, the ground here is wet, water running from an open transformer casing they’re working on over sidewalks and into gutters, from time to time there’s a shrieking screeching racket and mini fountains of sparks flying from cutting tools, there’s way more guys on site than you would think would be needed, all of them looking grim, there seemed to be no progress being made. And none of them would even make eye contact when anyone asked a perfectly reasonable question, such as “Is it safe for us to stay here tonight?” My guess is the transformer melted down, got stuck real bad, and had to be cut out at the metal mount or concrete foundation, but no one knows because these guys didn’t make the tiniest effort to tell anyone. They did get it replaced, working in the dreary, wet drizzle, I’ll give em that. But it was a long cold, unremarkable start to the new year.

My new New Year’s Tradition

Dear Blue-dog Democrat:

I’m writing to you regarding the email that just dinged into my box this morning, December 31, 2014, offering me one last chance to contribute to your honorable organization, which I infer by the subject line, “Stephen, it’s your last chance!” will no longer be available for donations after today. First and foremost, thanks for thinking of me! Truth is most people don’t. As a struggling, middle-aged single man who lost my job and was then laid off in successive waves of outsourcing and downsizing right in the middle of recovering from a heart attack and corrective surgery, it’s good to know that someone is finally thinking of me and the millions of other struggling former Middle Class Americans who have generously given you their hard-earned time and money for years. [Read more…]

2014 by the numbers

Last day of the year, and while every year you stay above ground cannot be called a bad year, 2014 was not a great one for me by any measure. A little older, a little broker, the world is a little bit hotter and many people are a whole lot colder. For the site, the number one search terms were all heart attack, all the time, under various phrasing. After that, Titanoboa, the monster snake came in second, a search term “859th page of the Bible,” about a supposed cancer cure in the good book rated third, atheist related and science/astronomy related searches rounded out the rest of the top five.

Use DarkSydoTheMoon@aol.com

This FTB sub-site site served up about half a million unique hits and logged over 3000 comments from fellow atheists and skeptics. About 80 or so of those visitors kicked in donations adding up to about $400, mostly in the last few weeks during the holiday drive. My pay official payout for the year for the site was a little under $250. This is the last week I’ll ask for donations until next year — if necessary then as I pray to what false gods may be that there will be no reason to bother — so please consider sending some holiday cheer my way if you have a couple of remaining bucks to spare. [Read more…]

Facing the fear of death with no religion

I’m fortunate for a lot of reasons present circumstances aside. I have my health and a few generous readers here who kicked in to my annual Holiday begfest to the tune of several hundred dollars. A couple hundred more dollars, just ten readers with 20 bucks, and I’m done for the year! This time, it’s not just me, I’m helping someone else too.

Please use the Paypal email address DarkSydoTheMoon-at-aol. Or you can use the snail-mail address 11512 Tincup #109, Austin, TX 78750 addressed to my agent G. Scanlon FBO Steven Andrew.
[Read more…]

Santa Claus is coming to town

I’m a sap for Christmas. I like most everything about it. Sure, I’m an atheist, but the lights, time off with friends and family, what Robin Williams’ character called “The Good Stuff,” in Good Will Hunting, even the rampant commercialization, what’s not to like? Where this seasonal optimism comes from is simple: no Gods needed, no magic resurrection spells cast, no special gifts received. It’s as simple as being raised in middle class America.

Below the fold is some up to date info on Santa as tracked by NORAD — another sappy tradition I treasure — and some background for new people on why I have to bleg every holiday. [Read more…]

North Korea may be under sustained cyber attack at this time

A special Holiday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., thanks to all those who have helped me throughout the year with everything from gentle, corrective comments, great feedback, and a few who even sent me money! I would not be where I am without you support. My holiday bleg for your hard earned dollars is almost over. If you can spare a few Paypal bucks this week to help keep me in food and water, please consider directing them in my general godless direction at the email address Darksydothemoon-at-aol.

Don’t look here for tasty insights on the state of North Korea’s online access or broadband penetration. Last thing I read on the topic was that only a few government spooks have full web access inside that secretive nation. But via Vox, a report has appeared today at a website that does claim such expertise and it states something looks to be afoot:

NoKoTech — I haven’t seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before,” said Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research. “Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently.”

That certainly sounds like a proportional response. Or an attempt at one. Apparently, NoKo does have some Internet including official webpages and the like as part of their pitiful PR campaign, word is their access routes in and out through China.  Although how “crippling” even a total nationwide denial of service could be in such a backward country is hard to gauge. North Korean webpages are about as convincing to the outside world as a Potemkin Village.

I certainly want it to be true, because those assholes deserve it, richly, with piping hot dressing and a cherry on top all day long. But this report could also be complete bunk or it could just be a minor, unorganized event thrown together by friendly hackers fooling around with too much time on their hands and a sense of payback. I’ll update the post if we get more details from wherever or any kind of official information.

Update: NYT also reporting likely attack; Yahoo News; Vox has an update on how the Internet works in NoKo and its fascinating; Twitter hashtag #NorthKorea

Update 12/23: It came back up breifly over the wee hours and is now down again. My guess would be this is more like an Anonymous hack, or a group sympathetic to them. But unless State dept or the WH confirms it was gov’t orchestrated, we will never know for sure.

The day the sun stood still and the birth of religion

Some meta-news, I have a new job starting this week and the hilarious thing is, since it’s the holidays, I get a bunch of days off over the next two weeks. It’s a grassroots environmental activism role that pays mediocre. But at least a lot of it is outside, healthy work, with like-minded mostly, young idealistic progressives. I don’t get my first partial check until mid January, so pleeease consider a small holiday donation to Paypal at the email darksydothemoon-at-aol. Thanks!

Today is the December solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the longest day down under. But it’s not the earliest sunset or latest sunrise in the north. How could that be? Follow below the fold for a visual explanation. [Read more…]