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31 December 2007

say it wit flowers / say it wit mink / but whatever ya do / DON'T SAY IT WIT INK!!! (-- Jimmy Durante)

Yes, click, see more.

S.W.M.B.O., who isn't a math freak, knows I'm a math freak, and for gift-giving occasions uses her intuition and reads reviews on to buy me cool math books. For Christmukkah she scored a real winner, a new book about a Math Thing (a technical term) I've been fascinated with since I was a kid.

Above is a map of the continent of Euforia, on planet Yobbo (where the pierced + tatted teenage dropout punks Lenny + Spike were last known to be loitering).

The Vleeptron Geographic Society has lots of different colors of ink, so they don't have any trouble making a map like this so that countries which share a common border are never colored the same color.

On Planet Earth the shapes and borders of sovereign nations are so weird and loony; often if you know a lot of history, every screwy squiggle is the result of some ghastly war.

In the USA, every schoolkid learns the campaign war cry "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" Well, we didn't fight, and our northern border is way south of Fifty-Four Forty.

But these strange shapes are all about old fights over land. (Quite often they fight because God Himself has clearly stated that a certain piece of land belongs to a specific group of people. Sometimes the Same God clearly stated that the Same Piece of Land belongs to two different groups of people.)

If you look at a map and see a really insane-looking curly-cue country or state or county, you can pretty much assume that once upon a time, a whole bunch of luckless young guys in uniforms had to shoot at each other and step on land mines and get maimed and die, and the crazy shape is the compromise the Leaders (not in uniform) grudgingly settled on when both sides finally got exhausted and were running out of live soldiers.

Much too weird and screwy, actually, so we have to impose some Rules on these crazy maps.

Rule 1. All borders must have non-zero Length.

No Point Borders like Four Corners in the USA (see Fig. 2). I have been to Four Corners; there's a little park there with a couple of picnic tables, and I can verify that it is possible -- easy, even -- to urinate on four states with just a single whiz, and I'm sure lots of other guys and the occasional ambitious and uninhibited girl before and after my brief visit have done the same.

Rule 2. All entities (nations, counties, states) must be a single contiguous blotch of land. No separated exclaves (I just learned that word today, I think it's neat).

Here are two examples of real, true, authentic Exclaves. First, there's Russia (see Figure 3).

Forget offshore islands, we're not talking about them. Offshore islands never present border-coloring problems.

If you're in Russia, it's impossible to walk to every other part of Russia. You have to go through another sovereign nation or take an airplane or a boat to get to Kaliningrad, which belongs to Russia every bit as much as St. Petersburg belongs to Russia. Only Kaliningrad is separated from the rest of Russia by about 400 miles of land you could walk through, but it's land that belongs to another nation. That's an Exclave.

Figure 4 shows the USA state of Michigan. The part shaped like the palm of the human right hand is called the Lower Peninsula, and the other entirely separated splotch of land is called the Upper Peninsula.

So our Rule 2 forbids Exclaves. Vleeptron, Yobbo, Hoon and Mollyringwald are sensible planets and have no Point Borders, and no Exclaves.

Now we can get back to my favorite problem and my new book.

Whether it's the nations of Eurasia, or the counties of England, or the states of the United States of America, or the provinces of Canada, or the cantons of Confederatio Helvetica -- no matter what crazy geopolitical map you can possibly imagine -- what's the fewest possible ink colors you need to color the map so that no two countries with a common border are colored the same?

Vleeptron Geographic used 5 colors for Euforia. Could they get away with just 4? Could they get away with just 3?

Exists there a map that demands no fewer than 5 ink colors? Exists there a map with entities and borders so screwy and convoluted that it absolutely requires 6 ink colors?

Whatever you think is the Answer, Prove It. Don't just bullshit your way through it or try to impress us with Long Words, like Synchropolychromatic. Prove It.

Oh, also, suppose you live on a planet which isn't a sphere, but is shaped like a Doughnut. How many ink colors do you absolutely need for any map on the surface of your Donut Planet?

30 December 2007

Happy New Year from Vleeptron / Past, Present, Future

Click, might be nice.

The velocity of light in a vacuum is the fixed constant of physical Reality; it is perceived and measured the same by all observers everywhere in the Universe. This diagram, the Light Cone, shows the relationship between Past, Present and Future in Time and Space based on the limits of what light permits us to observe wherever we are.

The region outside the expanding green Light Cone is beyond experience and perception. We can only wonder about it.

The Past is frozen forever and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

The Present is where I so much hope all of us will be celebrating with those we love and thinking fond thoughts of those who cannot celebrate with us.

The Future is infinitely malleable, plastic, changeable, and we have the Power to make it finer, more humane, less violent, even peaceful and respectful.

The only Limit to how wonderful the Future could be is our Imagination. I have only one New Year's wish, that we Dream of a finer Future. If enough of us Dream of a better Future, and accept nothing less, and refuse to be bullied or frightened into settling for anything less, the Future will take that shape, and our brief voyage through the Light Cone will not be wasted.

28 December 2007

the War on Drugs vs. tongue toad fun party

Lick toad to get high.

The Evening Sun

(Hanover and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania USA)
Thursday 27 December 2007

Drug czar:
Just say no
to toad licking

by Rick Lee

After he stopped laughing, York County drug czar Bill Graff got on the phone with the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab.

"You can lick all the toads you want," had been Graff's initial response. "I don't think it's a crime. There's nothing in the (state) crimes code banning the licking of toads."

Graff didn't believe it, but the question of toad licking came up after a man was arrested in November in Missouri, accused of possession of a Colorado River toad with the intent to lick it to get high.

But the chemists at the crime lab informed Graff, the county's first assistant district attorney and head of the county drug task force, that certain members of the bufo toad family - specifically the Colorado River toad and the cane toad - secrete bufotenine, a hallucinogenic alkaloid and a Schedule I controlled substance under both federal and state drug laws.

The chemists told Graff the question of toad licking to get high does not come up very often. They said they vaguely remembered a toad licking case "a long time ago." The toads in question are native to western and southwestern states.

"I stand corrected," Graff said. "It's not just an urban legend.

"So, I guess if you caught someone with a Colorado River toad, you could charge them with a Schedule I violation. It's no different from mushrooms or LSD. You would have to prove they intended to use them to lick. I mean not having them as pets.

"It would be delivery of a controlled substance, and the package is the frog, I mean the toad."

Pennsylvania State law does not specifically address bufo toads or any other non-endangered amphibians.

The closest the state's game laws come is noting "there is no requirement for a person possessing ... reptiles."

After he stopped laughing, Dan Tredinnick, press secretary for the Pennsylvania State Fish and Boat Commission, said, "Well, comparing it to soaking a rag with gasoline and huffing it, toad licking doesn't sound that strange."

Tredinnick said there are no regulations governing the possession of hallucinogenic toads "under our small section of the law, so we don't care if you possess one."

State game law does limit the taking of native bufo toads - the eastern American toad and the Fowler's toad - to two a day, he said. But Pennsylvania bufos, while they do have venom sacs that secrete a defensive irritant, don't have the hallucinogenic feature of their southwestern cousins, he said.

Tredinick said the fish and boat commission is more concerned with the release of non-native species into the wild. He recalled the northern snakehead scare that grabbed headlines in 2003 when the predatory fish native to China were found in Maryland waterways. Since then, the state has outlawed the possession, sale and transportation of live snakeheads, he said.

He could recall no such similar discussion about bufo toads.

After she stopped laughing, Diana Weaver, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission's External Affairs Department, contacted one of her law enforcement agents.

She said "if a critter is taken or possessed in violation of a state law" and then transported across state lines, it could be a violation of the federal Lacey Act.

Similar to the Mann Act of 1910, which made it illegal take a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, the Lacey Act, which "makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, buy or sell fish, wildlife and plants taken or possessed in violation of federal, state or tribal law" and could come into play in interstate toad-licking cases.

The arrest

Police in Kansas City, Mo., arrested a man in November and charged him with trying to get high by licking a toad.

The 21-year-old had a Colorado River toad, which produces a venom that works as a hallucinogenic on people, KMBC-TV in Kansas City reported.

Bufo toads are found in most of the United States. Native to the southwest, specifically California, Arizona and northern Mexico, is the Bufo alvarius, commonly known as the Sonoran Desert toad and the Colorado River toad.

Glands in the toad's neck and limbs contain bufotenin and dimethyltryptamine, hallucinogens that are listed as federal and Pennsylvania controlled substances and subject to criminal prosecution.

There are a plethora of articles on the Internet dedicated on how to use the venom for hallucinogenic effects. Most suggest "milking" the toad's glands and drying and smoking the venom. Other vaguely worded Web sites about the care and keeping of bufo toads also allude to their psychedelic properties.

Some sites offer toads for sale with prices around $150 for an adult male and $275 for an adult male and female.

Along with the Bufo alvarius, the Bufo marinus or cane toad also produces a mind-altering venom, according to scientific articles. Cane toads are native to Mexico and Central America and were introduced to Australia in the 1930s to control insects.

In Pennsylvania, the most common bufo family member is the Bufo americanus or American toad. Although it too secretes a venom, it will only irritate human skin but can be dangerous if ingested by small animals.

Locally, the York County District Attorney's Office could not recall prosecuting anyone for the possession of a bufo toad or for ingesting the venom.

- 30-

a newspaper that employs color-blind reporters and editors

The Detroit Free Press story reprinted at the bottom prominently mentions Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).

Thousands of worthy organizations and charities constantly buzz around us begging for our attention, our time, our money. Vleeptron would respectfully like to draw your attention to FAMM and ask you to click on its page and spend a few minutes learning about them. What you do after that is your business.

A few years ago I had the privilege to ride on a bus caravan organized by the New York City FAMM chapter for a political protest and witness. Ordinarily, the same FAMM busses meet every weekend at Columbus Circle in Manhattan and caravan north for many hours to take family members -- the busses are packed with children, mothers, fathers and grandparents -- to the Northern Tier, a belt of state and federal prisons near the Canadian border. Politicians in the largely rural and agricultural Northern Tier have invited state and federal governments to build prisons -- to create a gulag region -- as a profitable and job-generating local industry. Most of the state prisoners come from New York City and the state's other faraway big cities like Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and Albany.

The Land of the Free is the world's largest prison.
We have more human beings behind bars than Russia. We have more human beings behind bars than China. At last federal count, we had about 2,300,000 children, women (currently the fastest-growing segment) and men locked up in our jails and prisons.

You can talk to your broker about investing in this future growth industry, it's a huge player on Wall Street, with nearly guaranteed high returns -- corporations that build and run private prisons for state contracts, corporations that use prisoner labor. In most states, the most powerful lobby in the legislature is the prison guard union. They lobby ferociously every year for harsher drug laws and longer sentences. This brings them more prisoners and more prisons, which brings them job security for life.

Professor Angela Davis of the University of California / Santa Cruz coined the phrase: The Prison-Industrial Complex. This is how we've chosen to operate the United States of America since the 1970s.


Letters to the Editor
The Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan

To the Editor:

It is startling that in your lengthy article about mandatory minimum prison sentences, with crack cocaine mentioned in the first paragraph, the story makes no mention of the racial dimension behind crack cocaine minimum sentences ("Group Aids in Change for Drug Offenders," 26 December).

White powder cocaine is preferred by and marketed to affluent whites in the suburbs. Crack cocaine -- the identical molecule in a different consumable form -- is heavily marketed to blacks in inner cities.

Thus the law's notorious weight and sentencing disparity -- equivalent prison terms for 100 times more powder weight than crack -- has resulted in dramatically disproportionate imprisonment of blacks compared to whites.

Not everything is about race. But the crack/powder sentencing disparity is so monstrously about race that it is far beneath the standards of The Free Press to make utterly no mention of it in what seemed a comprehensive story.

It's about laws that have lasted nearly three decades, to this moment, to send far more African-Americans to prison for far longer sentences for possession of the same substance. Making no mention of the racial component of the crack/powder disparity gives The Free Press the sleaziest excuse not to ask whether federal and Michigan politicians and prosecutors knew what the shameful consequences of these laws would be.

Nor did The Free Press mention the Bush administration's stance on the crack/powder disparity in the Supreme Court. The Bush administration argued to retain the sentencing disparity and to deny judges discretion to take any defendant's circumstances into consideration to consider shorter sentences.

Robert Merkin

Northampton Massachusetts

Wednesday 26 December 2007
The Detroit Free Press (Michigan USA)


Group Aids in Change
for Drug Offenders

by L.L. Brasier, Free Press Staff Writer

As federal government officials grappled with a plan earlier this month to reduce sentences for thousands of low-level crack cocaine offenders, they were being lobbied by Michigan residents in favor of the idea.

Lots of Michigan residents.

Michigan has one of the largest and most-active chapters of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national nonprofit organization that works to repeal what many consider unfair drug and sentencing laws.

With 14,000 members nationwide, including 4,000 Michigan residents, and an annual budget of more than $1 million, the group packs a punch.

After months of lobbying by FAMM and other groups, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a body created by Congress to set federal sentencing guidelines, voted Dec. 12 to retroactively reduce the sentences of many people convicted of crack cocaine offenses.

The commission noted that crack cocaine offenses carry far longer sentences than powder cocaine ones, a disparity many have criticized. Now almost 20,000 federal prisoners nationwide are eligible to have their sentences reduced.

Michigan FAMM members, who e-mailed, mailed and called legislators in support of the change, include prisoners, former prisoners and their families, attorneys, criminal justice professors and a former Michigan governor.

"I think the trend across the country is to focus on smart justice, with an increased reliance on treatment and drug courts," said Laura Sager of the Michigan chapter of FAMM.

A decade ago, state legislators overturned Michigan's 650 lifer law following fierce lobbying by FAMM members. That law, passed in 1979, required those who trafficked in more than 650 grams of cocaine or heroin to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The law was aimed at so-called kingpin drug dealers, but instead many addicts and low-level drug couriers got life sentences.

Along the way, FAMM converted William Milliken, the former Michigan governor and moderate Republican who signed the 650 lifer legislation into law, an act he later said was the biggest mistake of his administration.

Today, Milliken is an active member of Michigan's FAMM chapter, lobbying, writing and speaking about the need to implement smart justice by allowing judges more discretion in how people are sentenced.

"The law I signed turned out to be harsh and vindictive and unfairly treated a number of people who were addicts who didn't deserve that kind of punishment," Milliken said in a recent interview.

FAMM member Barbara Pearson was 42 and a heroin addict in New York, supporting her habit in the early 1990s by mailing drugs to a dealer in Michigan. She was arrested by Michigan authorities and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of delivery of heroin. Pearson, a first-time offender, was sentenced to 50 to 200 years in prison. Her codefendant, who turned her in, got a 2- to 20-year sentence.

FAMM became interested in her case and successfully sought a commutation of her sentence in 2003. Pearson, who spent eight years in prison, now works full time supervising a mentoring program for women in the criminal justice system.

"If it hadn't been for FAMM, I might not be sitting here talking to you today," said Pearson, now 54.

- 30 -

Copyright (c) 2007 Detroit Free Press
Send Letters to:

27 December 2007

they're chainin' up people and askin' ME Kill them NOW, or LATER? / Und legen ihn in Ketten und bringen vor mir Und fragen: Welchen sollen wir töten?

Alan Cumming (as Macheath) and Cyndi Lauper in the recent NYC revival of "Threepenny Opera." (photo © 2006 Joan Marcus.)

Slut / "Die Dreigroschenoper"
Datum: Montag, 21. Januar 2008
Uhrzeit: 21:30 Uhr
Ort: Atomic Cafe
Adresse: Neuturmstr. 5
80331 Mьnchen DE

On Monday 21 January 2008, a very talented and nasty band (composed entirely of young gentlemen) called Slut will perform a compressed musical version of "Die Dreigroschenoper / The Threepenny Opera" at a club called The Atomic Cafe in Munich / Munchen DE. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the collaborations in the 1920s-30s of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill is how un-dated they are -- how timeless, perhaps even eternal. Every new musical and theater generation has rediscovered and found itself spontaneously inspired by this music and theater.

Here is Slut performing "Seeräuber-Jenny / Pirate Jenny," a monologue song by a hotel chambermaid who is secretly the Queen of the Pirates, plotting mass violent murderous vengeance on everyone who was ever unkind or nasty to her as she cleaned their rooms and toilets.

Or maybe she's just completely insane and fantasizes that she's the Queen of the Pirates plotting mass violent revenge. Let's hope it's the latter and that her Ship, the Black Freighter, never sails into the harbor.

I've never heard a bad version of "Pirate Jenny" in any language. The song is so powerful, it elevates anyone with the nerve to sing it to the necessary level of anger, fury, madness and revenge.

Slut had intended to perform and record the complete "Die Dreigroschenoper," but were denied permission by the copyright holders to Kurt Weill's music, The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in New York City. I shall simply state here that after watching Slut perform "Seeräuber-Jenny," I think this is a mistake and a shame. I have enormous admiration for the KWF, but over the years it becomes sadly apparent that scholars and musicologists -- an elite academic priesthood -- have taken possession of Weill's wonderful music, and have become increasingly chilly to the people Weill originally wrote it for and gave it to: Singers, actors (like his wife Lotte Lenya, the original Pirate Jenny of Berlin stage and Pabst's 1931 film, which can now be purchased in North America on DVD)), and, through them, the People who heard it and adored it. This not only is inimicable to Weill himself, but slowly bleaches and sanitizes the raw and explosive power of the original work.

Of the magnificent Brecht collaborations, the KWF and their excellent Weill bulletin have an unhappy tendency to worship Weill but to insult and denigrate Brecht at almost every opportunity. This is about the same as film scholars who praise Oliver Hardy to the skies, but tell the world that Stan Laurel sucks.

To the pathetic extent that I grasp the German language, this is exactly the way I would like to speak German and this is how I would like to sing German. (And this is the way I would like to play guitar.) Slut's singer is Chris Neuburger.

Brecht was a brilliant playwright and poet, but he was not subtle. Everything he says he says in small, fierce, often crude and vulgar words which everyone can immediately understand. You can hate Brecht, but you can't leave the theater in the slightest doubt about exactly what he was screaming at you. Nobody doesn't understand Brecht.

In 2006 in New York City there was a short but highly acclaimed revival of "Threepenny Opera" starring, among other great performers, Cindy Lauper, with a new English translation by the actor and writer Wallace Shawn. Here's a spectacular duet from it.

~ ~ ~

"Die Dreigroschenoper"

Text: Bertolt Brecht
Musik: Kurt Weill

Meine Herren, heute sehen Sie mich Gläser abwaschen
Und ich mache das Bett für jeden.
Und Sie geben mir einen Penny und ich bedanke mich schnell
Und Sie sehen meine Lumpen und dies lumpige Hotel
Und Sie wissen nicht, mit wem Sie reden.
Und Sie wissen nicht, mit wem Sie reden.

Aber eines Abends wird ein Geschrei sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das für ein Geschrei?
Und man wird mich lächeln sehn bei meinen Gläsern
Und man sagt: Was lächelt die dabei?

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird liegen am Kai.

Man sagt: Geh, wisch deine Gläser, mein Kind
Und man reicht mir den Penny hin.
Und der Penny wird genommen, und das Bett wird gemacht!
(Es wird keiner mehr drin schlafen in dieser Nacht.)
Und sie wissen immer noch nicht, wer ich bin.
Und sie wissen immer noch nicht, wer ich bin.

Aber eines Abends wird ein Getös sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das für ein Getös?
Und man wird mich stehen sehen hinterm Fenster
Und man sagt: Was lächelt die so bös?

Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird beschiessen die Stadt.

Meine Herren, da wird ihr Lachen aufhören
Denn die Mauern werden fallen hin
Und die Stadt wird gemacht dem Erdboden gleich.
Nur ein lumpiges Hotel wird verschont von dem Streich
Und man fragt: Wer wohnt Besonderer darin?
Und man fragt: Wer wohnt Besonderer darin?

Und in dieser Nacht wird ein Geschrei um das Hotel sein
Und man fragt: Warum wird das Hotel verschont?
Und man wird mich sehen treten aus der Tür am Morgen
Und man sagt: Die hat darin gewohnt?

Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird beflaggen den Mast.

Und es werden kommen hundert gen Mittag an Land
Und werden in den Schatten treten
Und fangen einen jeglichen aus jeglicher Tür
Und legen ihn in Ketten und bringen vor mir
Und fragen: Welchen sollen wir töten?
Und an diesem Mittag wird es still sein am Hafen
Wenn man fragt, wer wohl sterben muss.
Und dann werden Sie mich sagen hören: Alle!
Und wenn dann der Kopf fällt, sag ich: Hoppla!

Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird entschwinden mit mir.

Pirate Jenny
from "The Threepenny Opera"

words by Bertholt Brecht
translation by Marc Blitzstein, 1954
music by Kurt Weill

You people can watch while I'm scrubbing these floors
And I'm scrubbin' the floors while you're gawking
Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
In this crummy Southern town, in this crummy old hotel
But you'll never guess to who you're talkin'.
No. You couldn't ever guess to who you're talkin'.

Then one night there's a scream in the night
And you'll wonder who could that have been
And you see me kinda grinnin' while I'm scrubbin'
And you say, "What's she got to grin?"
I'll tell you.

There's a ship, the black freighter
with a skull on its masthead
will be coming in.

You gentlemen can say, "Hey gal, finish them floors!
Get upstairs! What's wrong with you! Earn your keep here!
You toss me your tips
and look out to the ships
But I'm counting your heads
as I'm making the beds
Cuz there's nobody gonna sleep here, honey
Nobody! Nobody!

Then one night there's a scream in the night
And you say, "Who's that kicking up a row?"
And ya see me kinda starin' out the winda
And you say, "What's she got to stare at now?"
I'll tell ya.

There's a ship, the black freighter
turns around in the harbor
shootin' guns from her bow

Now you gentlemen can wipe that smile off your face
'Cause every building in town is a flat one
This whole frickin' place will be down to the ground
Only this cheap hotel standing up safe and sound
And you yell, "Why do they spare that one?"
Yes, that's what you say.
"Why do they spare that one?"

All the night through, through the noise and to-do
You wonder who is that person that lives up there?
And you see me stepping out in the morning
Looking nice with a ribbon in my hair.

And the ship, the black freighter
runs a flag up its masthead
and a cheer rings the air

By noontime the dock is a-swarmin' with men
comin' out from the ghostly freighter
They move in the shadows where no one can see
And they're chainin' up people and they're bringin' em to me
askin' me, "Kill them NOW, or LATER?"
Askin' ME! "Kill them now, or later?"

Noon by the clock
and so still by the dock
You can hear a foghorn miles away
And in that quiet of death
I'll say, "Right now.
Right now!"
Then they'll pile up the bodies
And I'll say,
"That'll learn ya!"

And the ship, the black freighter
disappears out to sea
And on it is me.

filched bio of Johann Wilhelm Hey, who wrote "Weißt du, wieviel Sternlein stehen an dem blauen Himmelszelt?"

Filched bio of
Johann Wilhelm Hey, who wrote the children's lullaby

Weißt du, wieviel Sternlein stehen an dem blauen Himmelszelt?

(Do you know how many little stars twinkle in the blue heavens?)

Johann Wilhelm Hey

Born: 26 March 1789, Leina (near Gotha), Germany.
Died: May 19, 1854, Ichtershausen, Germany.

Son of H. A. Hey, pastor at Leina, Wilhelm studied at the University of Jena and Göttingen. In 1811, he became a licentiate in theology, and after varied work as a tutor, became in 1818 pastor at Töttelstadt, near Gotha. In 1827, he became court preacher at Gotha, where his preaching attracted large audiences. In 1832, he was appointed superintendent of Ichtershausen.

Hey wrote his poetry mostly for children. His works include:

* Fabeln für Kinder (Tales for Children, 1833)


1. Alle Jahre wieder, kommt das Christus Kind
2. Aus dem Himmel ferne
3. Glöcklein klingt, Vöglein singt
4. Weißt du, wie viel Sternlein stehen
5. Wenn auch vor deiner Thür einmal
6. Wenn je du wieder zagst
7. Wenn Jesus liebt Der kann allein

26 December 2007

Weißt du, wieviel Sternlein stehen an dem blauen Himmelszelt? / Do you know how many little stars there are in the wide blue sky?

Hilfe! I have fallen into YouTube again and can't get out!

Vleeptron has two deutschesprache consultants whom we turn to when something deutsches strays into dimensions beyond Wurst and Eisenbahn, and this is one of those Deeper Things.

I was wallowing around for every Kurt Weill song that ever ended up on YouTube, and so many of these performances are absolutely remarkable, from Pabst's 1931 movie of Weill and Brecht's "Dreigroschenoper" ("Kanonen-Song") to a Billie Holiday performance of "Lonely House," with its haunting melody and moving Langston Hughes lyrics.

An Israeli singer, Esther Ofarim ( אסתר עופרים ), sings a gorgeous torchy cabaret cover of "Speak Low" from "One Touch of Venus," one of Weill's last projects, a Broadway musical comedy about a statue of Venus who comes to life and falls in love with the nerdy museum curator.

The American comic poet Ogden Nash doesn't usually rise to the heights of Weill's other lyricists -- Brecht, Georg Kaiser, Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes -- but "Speak Low" became an instant classic; every chanteusse and jazz great, piano or saxophone, has covered it for half a century, and as long as educated people keep falling in love and need a haunting love song in the background, "Speak Low" will keep being performed and recorded. Billie Holiday grabbed it immediately, as did her pal Sinatra.

Speak low when you speak love
Our summer day
withers away
too soon, too soon

Speak low when you speak love
Our moment is swift
like ships adrift,
we're swept apart, too soon

Speak low, darling, speak low
Love is a spark, lost in the dark
too soon, too soon
I feel wherever I go
that tomorrow is near,
tomorrow is here and always too soon

Time is so old and love so brief
Love is pure gold and time a thief

We're late, darling, we're late
The curtain descends
ev'rything ends
too soon, too soon
I wait, darling, I wait
Will you speak low to me
speak love to me and soon

Then YouTube pointed me toward another Esther Ofarim performance, filmed outdoors in the middle of Jerusalem on a sunny day, the camera panning around and capturing the domes and minarets of the ancient city. The setting seems so far, in time, space, history and culture, from Europe, but under the hot Jerusalem sun, she sings a song I'd never heard -- a Kinderlied, a song of childhood.

Weißt du, wieviel Sternlein stehen an dem blauen Himmelszelt?
Weißt du, wieviel Wolken gehen weit hinüber alle Welt?
Gott, der Herr, hat sie gezählet, daß ihm auch nicht eines fehlet
an der ganzen großen Zahl, an der ganzen großen Zahl.

Weißt du, wieviel Mücklein spielen in der heißen Sonnenglut,
wieviel Fischlein auch sich kühlen in der hellen Wasserflut?
Gott, der Herr, rief sie beim Namen, daß sie all ins Leben kamen,
daß sie nun so fröhlich sind, daß sie nun so fröhlich sind.

Weißt du, wieviel Kindlein frühe stehn aus ihren Betten auf,
daß sie ohne Sorg und Mühe fröhlich sind im Tageslauf?
Gott im Himmel hat an allen seine Lust, sein Wohlgefallen,
kennt auch dich und hat dich lieb, kennt auch dich und hat dich lieb.


Esther and her husband were living in Geneva, Switzerland in the 1960s. In 1963 ...

Esther represented Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Festival in London with the song “T’en vas pas” (Please don’t go).

She did win -- but only for a few minutes -- and was deposed when
a judging error was discovered and [she] took the second place. Her recorded version of her contest song attained international popularity and was translated into Italian (“Non andar”) and German (“Melodie einer Nacht”).

If I spoke German, if I knew how to say (or sing) anything more complicated than "Please give me that sausage" or "Where is the train to Hamburg?", I'd obviously know this song intimately, a Lied of innocence, childhood and wonder. It must be hugely famous, known to every German speaker on Earth.

I just never heard it before. Who wrote the words? Who wrote the beautiful tune? I think it's one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard; her performance smote me instantly.

Today in German-speaking Europe, is this song considered a hokey piece of forgotten Kinderschmaltz, or do people still love to hear it and sing it to their children at bedtime? What other associations does the song conjure up to the German ear and heart? Just a wild guess, but I'd peg it to the late 18th or the 19th century.

Germany was the first nation in Europe to grant Jews full and equal citizenship, around 1830. The somewhat startled Jews wandered out of their centuries-enforced ghetto segregation and dove into German cultural life with a passion, drinking deeply from it, and adding generously and vigorously to it. For a century, German Jews were voraciously, passionately Germans, and drowned blissfully in German literature, theater and music.

When the European Hell of the middle of the 20th Century finally ended, many of the Jews who had survived made their way to Palestine, and in '48 managed, with considerable armed struggle and violence, to make a sovereign state with special legal status for Jews -- Israel, "the Jewish State." Though Jews had lived in the region for centuries, under Ottoman and then under British rule, at the time Israel was founded, and for the first generation after the founding, the cultural and social face of Jewish Israel was very heavily Mitteleuropean and heavily German flavored. Astonishing as it seems, the Jews fleeing Germany in fear, horror, bitterness and anger took the music, theater, and childrens' lullabies they loved most to the kibbutzim in Israel.

Even Wagner was still beloved by German Jews, and an understood ban on its performance by Israel's big symphony orchestras has often been broken, usually by visiting guest conductors like Mehta. Some of the audience boo and hiss and stalk out of the hall.

Most stay. Many give this music they love so much, the noisy hours of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines and underground demons battling to save and destroy the world, a standing ovation. It's their music. In their hearts and memories no other music can take its place.

I apologize that the world is not a simple place. Even Israel is not a simple place. So here, on a sunny day in Jerusalem, is a beautiful old Kinderlied from deutschesprache Europe, warbled by an Israeli canary. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Ah, someone on the Web has been kind enough to provide an English translation for Sausage and Train Station Bob.


This song is by Wilhelm Hey (1789-1854)

Many thanks to Ulrike Bernhard for contributing this song ... Thanks also to Monique Palomares for the English translation.


Here's what the young girl sings in the middle of Jerusalem on such a sunny day:

Do you know how many little stars there are
In the wide blue sky?
Do you know how many clouds go about
Over the world?
The Lord God counted them so well,
That none are missing
From the whole lot of them,
From the whole lot of them.

Do you know how many little flies play
In the clear heat of Summer?
How many little fishes cool themselves
In the clear high tide?
The Lord God called them by name,
So they all came to life,
And they're all so happy now.

Do you know how many children,
Get up early from their bed,
That they're without worry and sorrow,
Happy all day long?
God in Heaven has, for everyone,
His pleasure, his welfare,
Knows you too and loves you.

24 December 2007

Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth / Good will to all!

Click image for larger.

"Adoration of the Magi"
by Jerome Bosch
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

It's mathematically certain that the strange star in the skies above Western Europe just before the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was Comet Halley. It's possible, but far less certain, that the strange bright star in the heavens above Western Asia which the Magi followed to Bethlehem was also a previous visit by Comet Halley. Giotto witnessed Comet Halley and used its appearance in the night sky as his star in his "Adoration of the Magi."

Some scholars believe the significance of the Magi's pilgrimage to Bethlehem was to show that the new Christian faith was of fundamental importance and meaning to the inhabitants of the Persian sphere of Asia, and was not exclusively a new faith of significance to the inhabitants of the Greek and Roman spheres in North Africa and Europe. Three mystic masters of the ancient Persian system of Astrology had perceived that an Earth-changing event was about to take place, and knew that this strange star would guide them to it.

Vleeptron has already posted a remarkably beautiful illumination from the Winter Solstice and hopes your Solstice was a very good and happy one. Them what has warm feelings toward Christmas -- a very Merry and Happy Christmas to you all!

more to this Solstice photo from Italy than meets the iris

Okay, Christmas eve, much to do, busy busy busy, but I just received this delightful e-mail from the Solstice photographer. We were fixated on a Virtual Theoretical Photograph. Our Photographer-on-the-Ground in Roma was stuck with the problems of having to take a Real Practical Photograph with a Real Practical Camera, Lenses, Filters, Landscape, etc.

Notice particularly, however, that to get equal spacings between suns, he did NOT use equal times!

Shots were taken using an increasing exponential interval time between each and the other till the Sun maximum height, similarly decreasing till the Sunset.

Now THAT computation must be a NIGHTMARE!

Merry Christmas / Buon Natale everyone!


Sorry for the bad English.

The picture "The Winter Solstice" it's a mosaic of 3 multiespositions images of sun, it's made during the winter day solstice.

This image has been studied a lot of time before its realization.

The image is the mosaic of three single shots (A-B-C) taken with a Fuji Velvia 50 ISO film slides, with an only camera of format (120) 6 x 7cm with, focal lens 65mm.

The choose to take three shots was dictated by to cover the entire daily Sun pat from the dawn to the sunset, and also because no exists optics able to cover an angle of 120° (on the long side) without any side distorsion.

Shots were finally stitched in a panoramic view with a normal image processing program.

The sun pat cover the apparent field of around 120° (latitude site = +42°), and a total of 43 single shots have been made on the three mosaic images (someone is hidden from the cloud to the sunset).

Shots were taken using an increasing exponential interval time between each and the other till the Sun maximum height, similarly decreasing till the Sunset. In each single image one shot was taken exposing with a longer time in order to have a "brighter" sun. The other shots of the weak Sun have been made with 2 filters neutral density (Kodak ND 2 and 3) according to the height of the Sun. The light of the 3 bright Suns has illuminated every some three landscapes (images in enclosure).

The landscape is the Tyrrhenian Sea cost of Italy, from "Fiumicino" to "Santa Severa" cities, with the sun that rise just back the city of Rome, that it is hardly visible on the left side of the picture. The original file is 556Mb 16/bit color!

Best regards
Danilo Pivato

Women in Military Service / US Postal Service 1997

Click for larger.


Saw Mom (-in-law) on Christmas Eve, and in the course of a chat with a couple of friendly whippersnappers, she corrected me quite crisply: After her contribution to the successful conclusion of World War II, she retired from active Navy service as LIEUTENANT COMMANDER Frances Robinson. (In a subsequent war, I concluded my active service at the enlisted rank Specialist 5.)

And Mom indeed has this postcard, cheerily colorized as the stamp is, hanging on her wall.

For my mother-in-law, from 1942 to 1945 Lieutenant Frances Robinson, U.S. Navy. In some countries women are subject to military conscription, but they have never been drafted in the U.S.; all women chose to join the U.S. military.

I wish I knew who the artist was, I think this is a very handsome stamp and commemorative post card. I bought it for Mom and another for myself, and I think it hangs on Mom's wall. Mom and I chat about Old Veteran Stuff, and I sing her old pop crooner songs from the 1940s. She had the very good fortune to serve during a much more important war than the one I got caught up in, and I'm enormously grateful that she chose to spend the best years of her young life in the Navy during World War II.

23 December 2007

ignore this, don't worry about it at all if you don't use toilets

Clicking will not help you at all.

Received a few minutes ago from one of my Basement & Garage amateur Ionizing Radiation guys. A LENi is a popular affordable kind of Geiger counter.


A new LENi owner is checking all over his house for natural radiation, reports that his toilet bowl gives a reading.

Interesting, natural clay I suppose, having U[ranium] or Th[orium] or K-40 [a radioactive isotope of Potassium] in it.

Some time ago we all checked our soup bowls and coffee cups, now on to "bigger" targets. If one of our "receptacle, waste, human type" as they might say in the army gives enough of a reading, I will then attempt a spectrum scan.

Have fun

22 December 2007

BOINC Logo / poster / t-shirt V.2 less junky / Vleeptron Supercomputer News

Well certainly you should click.

Okay, this version is much less junky, a lot cleaner. The old one was a mess. I'm embarrassed, and I sincerely apologize if V.1 offended anybody's eyeballs.

Distributed Programming is the main reason I wanted a new computer which has so much speed and memory and raw brute savage power that it is now the envy of every small dental practice and real-estate and insurance agency and small Presbyterian church on Earth. (My brother and S.W.M.B.O. have informed me that they may be buying the Extreme Gamer Alienware 1 Kilowatt red monster that I let Tek Todd talk me out of.)

Anyway, I want to join the Dutch Power Cows and I want STATS! STATS! I'll start with Folding_at_Home, but I'm interested in computing Seventeen_or_Bust -- that's a Pure Math / Number Theory problem that's pretty fucking obscure -- and -- oh Lord this recent explosion in Distributed / Cooperative / Network Computing is tempting me with scores of very interesting projects.

The ones that have captured my attention most startlingly are the ones, like , which actually let dweebs like me save lives and cure diseases. Imagine -- teenage boys who SHOULD be wasting 3/5 of their waking lives playing GTA and FPS will actually be saving lives and curing diseases. Cyberspace is evolving in curioser and curioser directions.

But here's BOINC, which has become the global clearing house for all these new Distributed Computing projects, the coordinating center and Big Mother Central of D.C. located at the University of California at Berkeley. (When I was a college kid, all Berkeley students were naked and ate LSD for breakfast. A generation earlier, a little lab at UC Berkeley invented the Atomic Bomb.)

While Tek Todd was installing Vista (stop badmouthing Vista, it works, and pretty smoothly), he demanded that I give my new computer a Name. He caught me by surprise, but I thought real hard, and the name of my new Supercomputer is


Oh, the new BOINC logo/poster/t-shirt ... it's pretty simple.

Boys, girls, women, men, sentients of indeterminate gender, yellows, greens, reds, blues, plaids, Walloons, Spanish-speakers, Urdu and Pushtu speakers, English-speakers on itty-bitty Personal Computers all over Planets Earth, Vleeptron, Yobbo, Hoon and Mollyringwald all want to solve an Enormous Question. (See the little ? above each of their heads?)

Each by him/her/itself has no possible chance to Solve The Question. But all automagically linked together through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing eventually GET THE BIG ANSWER!!! (See the enormous ! at the top?)

So screw big-ass secret government mega-expensive supercomputers. Decent ordinary human beings on budgets Just Do Not Need Them Anymore. We can model Global Climate Change (a very big and wildly popular BBC-sponsored project), and save lives in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria and cure Alzheimer's and Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis and Huntington's Disease by donating the unused idle CPU time on our personal computers. AND we can break bizarrely difficult Prime Number codes. AND we can find world-record humongous new Prime Numbers themselves. And we can microfocus the big-ass new electromagnets in C.E.R.N.'s new particle accellerator which will find the Higgs/Vector Boson.

And get STATS! STATS! Exactly like the big 50-cent video game at the pizza parlor which forever displays DCM as the highest-scoring teenager who ever ever played Alien Death Blaster while waiting for his/her/its pizza.

You know that Sony Playstation PS3 has partnered with Folding_at_Home so every PS3 folds proteins with its superpowerful chips whenever it's powered on but you're not playing Kill 3D Saturn Worms.

So what thrilling and exciting thing have I actually done with Powercow in the week since Tek Todd installed it?

1. I just figured out why the printer wasn't working. The cable was hooked up wrong. The printer works now. I ran into TT downtown a few days ago and thanked him profusely for all his help but told him about the printer. He recommended I buy a new printer. He went to Hampshire College, but he's not so smart. He's the guy who plugged the printer cable in wrong.

How many Hampshire College students does it take to change a light bulb?

Nineteen. One to change the bulb and eighteen to make a multi-media videodocumentary of it.

2. I just downloaded !!! And it's FABULOUS!!! I've wanted it for YEARS but it wouldn't run under WindowsME (Miserable Excrement). But it hums like a champ under Vista! Stop sending money to Adobe to buy PhotoShop! is FREEEEEE!!!

3. My office is now clean enough for me and Powercow. It's so clean you can see large parts of the floor, and I keep the door open, so if Uwe and S. ever come visit again, the door won't be locked with a big



sign on it.

the Sun moves across the Italian sky on Winter Solstice 2007, the shortest day of the year / also PizzaQ!

You know the drill: Click for larger.

This is the Sun's motion from rise to set on 21 December 2007. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the day Winter begins. The photo looks out over the Tyrrhenian Sea on the coast of Italy from Santa Severa toward Fiumicino.

PizzaQ (1 slice plain): I count 40 exposures. How long did the Sun take to travel from Sunrise to Sunset above Italy on the Winter Solstice -- and so how much time elapsed between two consecutive exposures?

In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the day Summer begins, and is the longest day of the year.

Okay, here's a wiggler of the Southern Skies! They're DENSE! They're DARK! (If it's night when the camera was on.)

Click on the image for larger, and you should be able to see the location of some visible planets and other objects of interest in the Southern Skies above Australia.

If it won't wiggle, go HERE.

This is the Night Sky above Siding Spring Observatory located in New South Wales, Australia. The picture is the latest taken by the fisheye CONtinuous CAMera (CONCAM) in operation there.

More explanation of what you're seeing HERE. Also temperature, weather, time, etc.

One thing that Comet McNaught's discoverer Rob McNaught does here in Siding Springs is survey the Solar System for Big Rocks -- comets, meteors, asteroids -- that might/could veer into a collision course with Earth and smash the crap out of us. Just like in the Sci-Fi movies! Other astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere survey their skies for dangerous wandering Big Rocks.

It is the southern hemisphere counterpart of the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) located in the Santa Catalina Mountains on Mt Bigelow, near Tucson, Arizona, USA. SSS is jointly operated by the University of Arizona and the Australian National University, with funding from NASA.

21 December 2007

Okay, the Southern Skies Star Density thing is SETTLED! But Mike challenges the Astronomy World with his new theory of why the night sky is dark!

Definitely click for bigger & clearer.

The argument about the density of the star population in the Southern skies vs. the Northern skies Has Now Been Settled. Please pay particular attention to the first three words of Dr. Matthew Colless' thorough, generous and prompt reply to Vleeptron's plea to settle this controversy: "You are right ...", and by "You" Dr. Colless means Me.

I knew the shape of the Milky Way. I'm just a crappy draftsman and couldn't figure out how to make MSPaint sketch a bulging discus. Cylinders, disks and hockey pucks I can handle.

Now for Olbers' Paradox. Mike wrote:

Perhaps it's arrogant of me to disagree, but I disagree. Not with you Bob, as this is a very interesting theory, but with the theory in general.

The theory assumes that there's a bunch of lights at a distance, and they're shining right at us with nothing in the way. That's just not the way the Universe is designed. Given the vast (understatement) size of the Universe, you have to assume that even if there's a light source out there, the direct line of sight between it and us is broken a huge amount of times by any number of objects. Dead stars, planets, gas clouds, comets, meteors, etc. All of these objects break down the light and send it off into other directions.

I read the entry on Wikipedia on this, and I did note the Absorption portion of the article, and it's ideas. I disagree with it too (I guess I'm one of those non-scientist people). The objects that "absorb" the light would re-radiate that light. This is true. But it re-radiates it uniformly (I'll get to this in a second). The small portion of the light that should have gotten to Earth is broken down into even smaller portions, and this happens an unknowable number of times between here and there. Also, the Universe is not infinite in size. Some of this light (I'd argue a majority of it) gets pointed away from all other objects. Even though the energy is conserved, it's not light that we'll see. Ever. What this comes down to is even though the light is out there, it's not coming at us, or it's to faint to see. As for the uniform radiation theory, I'm not sure I buy that either. Light reflects. it bounces off of things and goes in different directions.

The human eye can only see so much. The light of a candle is lost at 43 miles. Sure, that's a long way for so little light, but it's not that the light isn't reaching you. How long does it take light to go 43 miles? I'm not going to figure it out, but it's not very long.

I was reading something about Galaxy clusters the other day. There's a pretty cool picture at

This picture is taken with a pretty amazing telescope. Can humans see it with no aid? Nope. Is the light getting here? Yep. But if we were to look right at it, we wouldn't register a thing.

If you look at the night sky on a night with no moon, the sky isn't black. It doesn't even look black. It's a dark blue. Very, very dark. Why? Because there's light there. Not much, but some.

Another thing to consider, even at as lame a distance as 4.3 light years away, our Sun is just a bright star. Dimmer than Serius. What would our Sun be after 10 light years? 50 light years? 1000 light years? That's just 1000 years out of 4.5 billion years old. It's not that the light isn't getting there. It's there. It's just not going to be bright enough to be seen.

OK, now that I've typed a lot, and proven to the world how stupid and stubborn I am, I'll stop typing.

You got guts, I got to say that. Never mind me -- I'd believe anybody who waved a Ph.D. in astronomy around. If they told me the night sky is dark because somebody forgot to pay the electric bill, I'd believe it.

But you're taking on Edgar Allan Poe, Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Fred Hoyle, and whoever wrote the Wikipedia wiki. The best explanation I ever sucked down of the Solution to Olbers' Paradox was in Hoyle's "Frontiers of Astronomy" (1955). But Hoyle rejected the Big Bang, and was a Steady-Stater. So in modern astronomy, there's a little wiggle room for what you believe.

But maybe they're wrong and you're right. In which case I want an invitation to Stockholm to be there when you accept your Nobel Physics Prize. (Al Gore just got to meet Uma Thurman, she was the celebrity hostess of his apres-Nobel party!!!) Everybody was sure Newton's scheme of Space and Time was the Real Deal, and then Einstein (a low-level patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Office) cooked up his very different Relativity. Keep kicking. It could happen.

Now back to the Southern night skies. The Anglo-Australian Observatory runs one of the world's most powerful optical telescopes in a tiny dot called Siding Springs in the Back of the Beyond in New South Wales, Australia. They put it so far out in Nowhere that it's about as free of light pollution as any place you can find in this dirty world.

When the Director of the Anglo-Australian Observatory looks up at the night sky, he's looking at the Southern skies, and I am guessing he's something of a reliable authority on them. Here is my plea to settle this dustup, e-mailed Friday morning, and his same-day reply.

I think Dr. Colless has a soft spot for people who spell well, use good grammar, say Please, and are genuinely curious about astronomy.

Actually I'm 2 for 2 with nice, prompt, personal answers from world-class astronomers; the Japanese comet expert Seiichi Yoshida
answered my question about when Comet McNaught would come back again. (Like the realistic equivalent of Never.) I have a feeling that astronomers enjoy a little dialogue with curious amateurs. Every great astronomer began as an 11-year-old curious amateur, and they remember the days when they were as Dumb As Bob, and needed their questions answered.

Got tough science questions? The Vleeptron High Non-Junk Science Council goes to the center of the Outback to get you The Authoritative Answer!

Dr. Matthew Colless, Director
Anglo-Australian Observatory

Dear Dr. Colless,

Please pardon this space invasion. I'm an amateur and a great admirer of the AAO and the work it does.

I travelled to Alice Springs to see Comet Halley. It was the first time I'd ever seen the Southern skies. They were obviously startlingly different from my Northern skies, but also seemed denser and richer. One of our Alice Springs hosts who provided us with telescope time explained that this was a function of the rotational orientation of the Earth -- that the South just always points to a denser star field within the Milky Way.

Now my blog pals and I have stumbled into controversy, and one claims the Southern skies are not inherently more star-dense than the Northern; but that what I saw was only a seasonal phenomenon, which would have reversed six months later. (I think our visit was in March.)

The controversy, and our pathetic theories and diagrams, are at
Could you spare us just a few moments to Make Us Smart about this question? There are admittedly limits to how much smarter you can make potzers like us, but any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated, and received as a great treat.

Wishing you the happiest Holiday season and New Year,

Bob Merkin
Northampton Massachusetts USA

P.S. The night before we took the Ghan [train] from Adelaide, the TV weather report said Alice Springs would be "grouse." I thought it was an advisory for bird hunters.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 12/22/2007 1:22:08 PM
Subject: Re: Question about star density of Southern skies

[NOTE: R.A. = Right Ascension, one of the two numerical values used to aim at a specific sky direction. The other is Declination.]

Hi Bob,

You are right about the southern skies having denser starfields than the north overall, though it does rather depend where you look and when. The main reason for the difference is that the centre of the Milky Way is in the south (Declination=-29 degrees). Our Galaxy is not so much a disk as a discus (thinner at the edges than the centre) with a fat hub (the Galactic bulge). When the Galactic centre is high in the southern sky (R.A.=17h45m, so our winter, your summer) the total number of stars visible in the sky is much higher than can be seen in the north (the number of bright, nearby stars only a little higher; the number of faint, distant stars is much higher). The star fields near the plane of the Galaxy are a fact of a few to several times denser near the Galactic centre than towards the rim; but the Galactic poles (north and south) are fairly similar. And of course during the southern summer the Galactic centre is mostly below the horizon at night, so the difference between hemispheres is much less. Actually one of the biggest differences between Australia and the US is the lower population density and hence lower light pollution - it is easier to get out of populated areas in Australia and find truly dark skies, and so see more stars.

Regards, Matthew.

Professor Matthew Colless
Director, Anglo-Australian Observatory
Tel: +61-2-9372-4812
Fax: +61-2-9372-4880
P.O. Box 296, Epping, NSW 1710, Australia