Tag Archives: legislation

Is it all clear, SOFIA?

This post is a little off topic from my previous post, but only a little. It still concerns the collection of data and the keeping of records.   These records are on an astronomical scale. And they are gathered and analysed by beautiful, sophisticated SOFIA and friends.

We went to visit SOFIA today because the sun was shining, and it was a perfect day for visiting and gallivanting. Here she is. Isn’t she stunning?



SOFIA is stationed at Christchurch International Airport for a couple of weeks. She  is on a surveillance exercise. Of the skies. This is an excerpt from Nasa’s website on SOFIA.

‘NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory will be based in New Zealand for the next two weeks, taking advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s orientation to study celestial objects that are difficult or impossible to see in the northern sky.

SOFIA, formally known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, deployed to the United States Antarctic Program’s facilities at Christchurch International Airport last week and completed its first science flight at 4 a.m. local time July 18 (noon EDT July 17). A team of scientists, engineers, pilots and technicians from the United States and Germany are deployed with SOFIA to support as many as nine research flights through Aug. 1.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (250 centimeters). It provides astronomers access to the visible, infrared and submillimeter spectrum.’ You can access the full text Here

Now I can’t say I understand all that technical stuff , but I can say that I enjoyed admiring  SOFIA and imagining what it would be like to fly so high in the sky with a telescope.

If you want to have a small experience,  flying with SOFIA, check out the SOFIA movie gallery  Here.

Apparently, the people who know these things, say we have very clear skies in our part of the world. Which makes our skies an excellent research area for SOFIA. Our skies are so good  that we are home to one of the best dark sky reserves in the world.  It’s too far from Christchurch for me to take you there, today, so this link will have to do. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7074544/Southern-skies-get-starlight-reserve-status)

I can, however, show you the luminous, light blue sky over us, and SOFIA, this afternoon.

Clear and Blue

Clear and Blue

It surprises me that the sky does look so fresh and pure because the air pollution levels  have exceeded  health guidelines levels  at least 11 times  in Christchurch this winter. Perhaps the blue of the  sky today is an optical illusion.

Writing of smog and lenses and illusion reminds me that some wits in the media have been questioning the timing of the SOFIA project in Christchurch. It coincides very neatly with the Government’s attempts to expand the  Government Communications Security Bureau ‘s  legal powers to spy on us, its own New Zealand citizens. At the moment the GCSB  may spy on  non New Zealanders.  The amendment under debate will legalise the GCSB’s spying on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

I am 99% sure SOFIA is an innocent star-gazer but that is a mighty big telescope scoping our southern skies.  However, as long as she  is gazing upwards and outwards, little ol’ me  and the rest of my fellow Kiwis,  can rest easy, at least as far as SOFIA is concerned 🙂

© silkannthreades

Backyard learnings

When I was very young, I went to kindergarten (pre-school) in my own back yard; my  very own backyard on the tropical island of Fiji. The kindergarten was owned by my mother who was also the sole teacher. It was a wonderful little school and the best part of it was that I didn’t have to leave it to go home. It was home, and I could play there all day and every day for as long as I wanted. It was a very pleasant introduction to education.

Backyard Kindy

Backyard Kindy

That’s me at the top of the slide! At least I think it is!

Sand and sun and stories

Sand and sun and stories

My father made most of the equipment including the much loved cars made from packing boxes.

As the only kindergarten in town, (and possibly the entire Colony of Fiji), there was always a waiting list for my mother’s school. She hated turning away children  but there was a limit to the number of little ones she could handle on her own. The fees charged were miniscule, token, in fact, because her training and background were in the old New Zealand  tradition of free education for kindergarten children. (Plus, I think the colonial authorities may have had some rules about  private enterprise on colonial property, which our house was! ) She took that tradition with her from New Zealand to Fiji, and stood by it, throughout her working life as a teacher/school owner/manager.

We had a great selection of books at my mother’s kindy. I still have many of them but here are two favourites of mine.

One of the Nine Stories has fallen out of favour but the remaining eight are still popular with today’s children, as far as I know.

So, in this simple setting, with these little books, and others like them, my interest in literature, in reading, took its first steps.

Today, I am reading on my laptop via  Project Gutenberg Australia “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” by E.M Delafield. I feel that this passage was written for me:

‘January 14th.–I have occasion to observe, not for the first time, how extraordinarily plain a cold can make one look, affecting hair, complexion, and features generally, besides nose and upper lip. Cook assures me that colds always run through the house and that she herself has been suffering from sore throat for weeks, but is never one to make a fuss. (Query: Is this meant to imply that similar fortitude should be, but is not, displayed by me?) Mademoiselle says she hopes children will not catch my cold, but that both sneezed this morning. I run short of handkerchiefs.

January 16th.–We all run short of handkerchiefs.’

By my bedside table, for evening reading, I have “Toujours Provence” by Peter Mayle.  For any time reading, I have “Poem for the Day’ edited by Nicholas Albery and “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. For idle moments, I have the newspaper where I read that the Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the launch of DogTV, a round the clock digital cable channel, specifically programmed for your dog.  I have not passed on this news to my little friend, Jack, but, then, he is  content to soothe his ears with the voices from  Radio New Zealand (http://www.radionz.co.nz/). I do hope, however,  he closed his ears when the announcer said that our Parliament has just passed  legislation to regulate the sale of legal highs, (party pills and synthetic cannabis).  Sadly, this legislation which  requires manufacturers to prove their products are safe for human use, before they can be sold in New Zealand,  will certainly  mean a continuation of unnecessary animal testing . I can’t help thinking that many of us  would do well to return to our kindergarten roots. We would do well to  remember how much pleasure and fun and wonderful highs we got from our very first books, featuring members of the animal kingdom.

Here is another of my favourite books that I first met in the kindergarten in my very own backyard.

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© silkannthreades