Sep 24, 2009

Merlin Meets Snoopy

Merlin Meets SnoopyMerlin adores his bright red MerlinMobile, always eager to hop into his traveling dog clubhouse. Having a wizardly namesake, Merlin has a nose for legend. Mention a flying doghouse and he sniffs out the renowned Snoopy, and Red Baron dogfights. Snoopy’s home is Santa Rosa, California where Charles Sparky Schulz drew the Peanuts Gang comic strip for 50 years. The Schulz Museum hosts a cute outdoor garden Snoopy Labyrinth, built by our pal Lea Goode-Harris.

Snoopy was also a fledgling writer, tapping his typewriter on his doghouse roof. Unlike Snoopy, some of our writer friends finished their novels. They brought them to the Sonoma County Book Festival. We went to see, loading the MerlinMobile for an autumn romp and writer rendezvous.

Merlin in Sonoma LabyrinthEn route through the town of Sonoma for the Valley of the Moon, we espied a labyrinth-suspicious garden beyond a church parking lot. With a quick u-turn at the Vallejo Home Sonoma State Historic Park, we did indeed discover a new labyrinth. The First Congregational Church of Sonoma was founded in 1871, and the labyrinth is a recent addition to their Memorial Garden.

Merlin Meets WritersSneaking the back road way into Santa Rosa, we arrived at Old Courthouse Square and hopped out to find our authors. Merlin immediately located one of his favorite writers, Kate Farrell, author of Girl in the Mirror. He had helped with her cover photography and website artwork, which features his favorite model, Karen Tomczak. After a quick photo op with Kate and Teresa LeYung Ryan, author of Love Made of Heart, Merlin spotted the Redwood Writers table. He was enthusiastically greeted by Ana Manwaring, Susan Littlefield, and Susan Bono. Searching for two of his loyal blog followers, Linda McCabe and Ann Wilkes, he interrupted lunch for Guy Biederman, a former fellow Art Works Downtown resident artist. We couldn’t find Molly Dwyer, because she’s in Paris! Great excuse.

Merlin Meets SnoopyLurking on the edge of the fest was Jo Cool, Surfer Snoopy, one of the 95 statues painted by local artists. Merlin was astonished that Snoopy was so huge, wondering about the size of his flying doghouse, and his biscuits. We sniffed Joe Cools along 4th Street, looking for his typewriter.

Merlin likes writers. They’re always eating. He likes helping out at writer events,Merlin Conference Badge especially those of the Marin Branch of the California Writers Club. They have meetings at Book Passage in Corte Madera and gala holiday parties. He earned a guest badge for their Writers Way Conference in the Marin Headlands, by attending more planning meetings than some of the two legged committee members. Whatever the event, Merlin makes sure all the snacks are tidied.
Merlin Writing at the Beach
Writers go to interesting places for inspiration. Wild, untamed places. Road trip places.
Write on! Ride on!

Santa Rosa romp: 84 miles

Sep 2, 2009

Sleep is for Sissies

Motto of the Robert Ferguson Observatory
Merlin Pup TentMerlin goes camping! Best dog friend, Norma Jean, invited Merlin and entourage to a star party birthday sleepover at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in the Sonoma Valley. Her people booked the group campground and arranged for the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association astronomer docents to open the Robert Ferguson Observatory just for us! Merlin and Norma JeanThey have three telescopes: a 24" reflector for deep space, a classic 8" refractor for solar system objects, and a 14" CCD for photographing faint objects direct to digital, displayed on a huge room monitor. Thrilling!

Our small group had the telescopes all to ourselves. Here's some snapshots from the CCD. Not as spectacular as Hubble, but pretty thrilling for a California State Park in Sonoma.RFO M51a Messier 51a is the cannibal Whirlpool Galaxy. NGC 891 is an edge-on spiral galaxy in Andromeda, 30 million light years away. Sirius, the Dog Star, would appear an hour before dawn. Merlin lasted until midnight. We had our eye on Jupiter all night through the refractor in the dome. It's at opposition, and is the closest, biggest, and brightest so far this century. The brilliant planet revealed four moons through the telescope. Over the night, two bright moon dots sidled up to Jupiter from either side. By 1:30 am all the sissies were asleep. Only Merlin's people were up with the RFO NGC891docents to witness Callisto disappear behind Jupiter as Io disappeared in front. Io’s inky black shadow crept across radiant Jupiter for two hours. Orbital dynamics, live, through a telescope near you. Just like Galileo, except without the Inquisition.

Galileo Galilei was the first to observe Jupiter's moons in 1610, through his telescope invention. Science challenged Church and Galileo lost, spending the last decade of his life under house arrest. Merlin hides out in the arts whenever he has a subversive urge.

Merlin Planet WalkIn the morning we walked to Mars. Pluto was too far on a distant ridge. Astronomy mingles science and mystery, empirical observation with awe and wonder. Plus, we get to stay up all night. Anyone with a pair of decent binoculars can look up into the night sky and see Jupiter's moons for themselves.Merlin Sleeping Bag Tonight, Callisto and Io will slip behind Jupiter as Europe and Ganymede pass in front. All four Galilean moons of Jupiter will disappear, an event which occurs only a few times each century. We’ll be outside, looking up, pup tent near by. Ad astra!


Sugarloaf: 80 miles
Pluto: 2.66 billion miles
Andromeda Galaxy: 2.5 million light years
Edge of Universe: 46.5 billion light years
Sleep Sissies