Monday, September 19, 2011

Hood Ornaments And Exploding Stars

I’ve got two little things today. So far as I can tell, they are completely unrelated.

[ As I type this, I’m changing my mind, a little. I’m going to leave that top part in because the change I’m making was sparked by my typing the words “completely unrelated.” ]

I’ve got three little things today. They are related only by how they are unrelated.

Okay, this will be another couple of Barangrill stories, but I’m not going to put the Joni Mitchell embed on the post. But the YouTube clip hasn’t disappeared, so it is still available over on my post “What I Learned Today At Barangrill.”


This afternoon I walked across a parking lot (in Barangrill). At some point, the fingers of my right hand brushed against the hood ornament of a car. Completely accidently. My fingers just brushed against the hood ornament, and I felt the hood ornament bend down all out-of-shape and stay bent down.

I stopped and took a look at what I’d done. I saw, immediately, that the hood ornament was a Mercedes Benz hood ornament. And the car was some fancy, mid-sized Mercedes.

I thought, “What the hell, I’ve just broken a car that cost something like a hundred grand!”

But I looked more closely at the hood ornament that was bent almost completely sideways. Very carefully I touched the hood ornament, and moved it back into place. And it moved back into place perfectly.

I looked very closely.

It was some cool design for a hood ornament mount that I had never seen before.

Instead of just screwing the hood ornament onto the hood, or instead of attaching the hood ornament with a spring underneath, this model Mercedes had a hood ornament mounted on a little metal sphere. And the sphere was mounted in a round base that gripped the sphere, but didn’t prevent it from rotating in any direction.

So the hood ornament could be positioned normally, upright and facing forward. But if anyone or anything bumped into it, the hood ornament didn’t break, it just shifted around on the spherical base.

I felt a hundred thousand dollars richer when I realized I hadn’t broken the fancy car.

And I admired the design of the hood ornament. Cool German design and engineering.

That’s one of the reasons I bought a camera with a Leica lens.

Design and engineering.

They’re there to be seen:
Design and engineering.
But you have to look.


Also today I was thinking about this story from the Sky and Telescope website:

M101's Supernova Shines On

That supernova is blazing away in a galaxy I’ve written about here!

Looking To Fall Into The Bear’s Spirals

The galaxies of Ursa Major aren’t too difficult to see, but I’ve never been able to track them down under the bright skies of Chicago. I’ve got a four inch refractor now, but since I’ve gotten my new telescope I’ve never had a good view of the northern sky.

This is a cool story because in almost any context the galaxies of Ursa Major are as far away as far can be. On the other hand, when it comes to observing supernova explosions, many of the galaxies astronomers and astrophysicists study are even still farther away. So this supernova is giving scientists a great show.

And it’s a show that almost all amateur astronomers can get a glimpse of because the galaxy, M101, isn’t too hard to see, by deep sky standards. Even with my four inch refractor I may have been able to see it, if only I’d had a clear northern view.

Maybe next time.


After my adventure with the Mercedes Benz hood ornament, I walked to a nearby little store (just across the street from Barangrill). The beautiful woman who works at the store would look even more beautiful sipping a Singapore Sling.

In the parking lot by the little store, a fire department ambulance and pumper truck were responding to help a senior citizen who had passed out walking to his car.

The little store had the front door blocked open because the weather was nice today. As I was chatting with the beautiful woman who works at the store, I could see the fire department ambulance and fire truck outside.

And I realized that the beautiful woman was wearing a red hoodie that was almost exactly the same shade of red as the fire department trucks outside.

Red here, red there.

I looked around and, as it happened, nothing else around me was red or even reddish. The decorations inside were all built around beige and brown tones. Outside, the other vehicles visible in the parking lot were all cool tones.

So the only red colors around me were the red hoodie on the beautiful woman I was talking to, and the red paint of the fire department vehicles outside. And they were almost the same hues of red.

So—of course—I got pretty excited and explained to the beautiful woman why I was suddenly so animated.

Red here, red there.

Last Friday Thursday I talked about moments like that for me. The beautiful woman in the little store was the kind of person who didn’t smile at all at my idea of an exciting moment.

But it was still fun for me.


Red here, red there. And a supernova nearby in a galaxy that I once used as an example of something that was far away.


To me, distance—here and there—is like jazz,
it’s like a jazz arrangement of a song
where the musicians know what melody
they are improvising around and I
can almost recognize the melody
but I can’t recognize the melody
but it’s fun trying to figure it out.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

A Bird Who Could Fly To Neptune

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