Boojum Buddies

The international adventures of four geezers

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Boojum Buddies behold the ‘Ring of Fire’ – May 20, 2012

The first significant solar eclipse visible in California since 1992, was the carrot that motivated Boojums Bebo and Ron to fire up the humbugy at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning and strike out for a suitable viewing site in Northern California.    Not only would we be able to observe a rare astronomical event, but also photographing the eclipse would be an opportunity to rehearse our photography skills prior to our anticipated trip to Australia in November to view a total eclipse of the sun.

 The week prior was used to prepare equipment and research the upcoming event.  At the urging of veteran eclipse chaser Cherrill Spencer (10 events), we settled on the National Park sponsored site at Whiskeytown Lake, a few miles west of Redding, CA as our destination.

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Cherrill provides some much needed advice


The Whiskey town site which combined mountains, beach and water, resulted in an easy-going crowd and a party-like atmosphere.   It was a mixed group ranging from preschoolers in water wings, teens in bikinis and locals selling Kambucha drinks, to electronic game programmers, chemistry professors, elementary school science teachers and so on.  The Astronomical Club of the Sierra kept everyone grounded with an astounding array of heavy-duty telescopes, equatorial mounts and computers. They graciously made all of the equipment available for viewing by the general public on ‘Telescope Row.”

Waiting for the eclipse to begin

 Most of us made use of eclipse glasses, welding glass filters, and pinhole cameras. The eclipse started almost imperceptibly, but the movement of the moon slowly progressed over the course of an hour to dim the sunlight and finally to perfectly align with the sun.  Since the moon was at its furthest orbit from the earth, the sun was only 96% covered resulting in a ‘ring of fire” around the rim of the moon.   The moment of maximum eclipse was met with applause, whistles and gasps.

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Boojum Bebo does some last minute research

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Creative viewing mask

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Girl with meteorites

The maximum eclipse passed quickly lasting only about four minutes.  We continued to watch for another hour as the process reversed itself and the sun was fully restored to its former intensity.

Approaching maximum eclipse

Full anular eclipse

After an overnight stay in Red Bluff, the energized Boojums headed back to San Francisco.  Topics of discussion included:

       The Titanic: engineering and operational failures, recovery methods and the ethical implications disturbing this site and other burials for commercial or scientific justification.

       Torture: waterboarding, is it or isn’t it. Physical vs. psychological torture. Rendition. If or when torture might be justified.

       Drug trade: methamphetamine use and distribution in E and SE Asia. Iranian drug production, Mexican drug cartel violence, US drug laws.

       Immigration and Citizenship:  renouncing citizenship to avoid paying taxes, the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.

       Prison sentencing guidelines:  capital punishment – when or if ever appropriate, length of prison sentencing generally. Effects of long-term incarceration.

       Denigration of Presidential candidates by the left and right: Super pacs, dirty tricks, Republican primary, personal attacks and boycotts by activists against non politicians. German privacy laws.

       Lifestyles of the suddenly rich and famous:  effects on personality, lifestyle, and questions of social responsibility.

       Transfer of Intellectual property:  US regulations or lack thereof vs. advancement of emerging countries.

 Oftentimes the journey ‘eclipses’ the event.

Boy with glasses

“Clueless in Cluis”

From: Boojum Bebo

In mid-April Nancy and I spent four days in Cluis, France – what? you’ve never heard of Cluis? Not exactly on the beaten path, it’s a village of about 1,000 persons almost in the geographic center of France- 

Now what were we doing in Cluis? It seems that one of the world’s better known etymologists (that’s words, not insects), an ex-pat Brit, a modern day Dr. Samuel Johnson, lives there. Nancy spent four glorious days at his feet (not really), marveling at the roots of English words – I must admit that I enjoyed it as well.

Despite its size, there is a lot to see in Cluis. The city square is dominated by the church that attracts  

many pilgrims. Dating from the 12th century, it is dedicated to St. Paxtent and a massive painting inside illustrates how he earned his sainthood – nothing like a spike in the head to earn eternal glory! 

Also in the main square are some interesting sculptures of escargots – it seems that Cluis is one of the snail capitals of France. Every spring it hosts a huge festival celebrating snail gastronomy (it was happening the week after we left) that attracts thousands of attendees. 

According to our host, there is intense rivalry amongst the village parents over whose children get to ride on the snail floats and be the escargot royalty.

The Mairie (City Hall) in Cluis contains priceless Aubusson tapestries. This room is where the villagers come to vote – and from every indication, it was not for Sarkozy!

The fortress in Cluis played a major role in 100 Years War – one can only imagine how impressive it must have been before it was looted for building materials – apparently most of the buildings in Cluis contain stone from the fortress. 

Lots of great food in Cluis – the butcher, the fishmonger, the bakers,gardeners, and the cheese sellers all bring their wares to the city center. My cheese adventure included a 17 year old St. Nectaire and a Mimolette (which I have never had) that was hard enough the restore the fortress (it even looks like brick) but had a great subtle flavor. I don’t think that much of this is exported to San Francisco!

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