Starfest Summary

During the Starfest weekend I was informed that this was the wettest summer on record for Toronto and environs, and I could well believe it — the drive down was delayed by torrential rain showers, and though I only slowed down, many drivers just pulled over to wait out the showers. There were further slowdowns due to construction on the main highway leading to the Starfest site, and through the town of Mount Forest the road itself was closed, with no detour directions visible to my eye. Luckily our trusty GPS unit saw us around the blockage.

We arrived at Starfest around 1 pm, and after straightening out a couple of minor glitches — no badge for Daniella, and the tag for the car showed us as day trippers rather than campers — we rolled over to our usual site and started setting up the tent. Usually I set up alone as Daniella and my friend Enid (I’d say “old” friend but her hands are registered with the police!) come down later, but with my start delayed by my cold the day before we all came down together, and it was a pleasant change to be able to have help raising the tent. In consequence the tent was a lot more symmetrical this year in comparison with previous instances. It also went up a lot faster, which was good considering the iffy state of the weather.

We attended a couple of interesting talks, then took off for an evening meal before returning for the results of the astro-photography competition. Those results should be posted on the NYAA site in short order. Stepping out of the main tent at the end of the presentation we were pleasantly shocked to see a clear sky with the first quarter moon shining brightly in the south. Unfortunately by this point my energy level was flagging, and I dragged myself back to sleep in the car for an hour or two. I have a couple of lucid recollections of opening the door to look outside, but I didn’t really wake up until morning. I do recall that the glimpses I had were magnificent (and I saw a couple of very pretty meteors through the window) but I missed most of it. I’m told it was one of the best nights ever. I hate colds!

The following day was rainy, but the talks were again quite good. Due to the rain we set up for the swap tables in the smaller tent, but by the time we announced the area was ready, folks had taken matters into their own hands and had started the swap table meet on the picnic tables of the Red Light Cafe (which was sheltered). There appeared to be many items of interest on offer, but any pieces which would have been of particular interest to me were gone by the time I got there. This is one of those events where the ‘good stuff’ goes fast.

Dinner was good as always, and we sat with Norman Fullum of Hudson, Quebec, who had been showing a couple of his marvelously crafted wooden telescopes. Later in the evening Ivan Semeniuk talked about the Large Hadron Collider project in Geneva, which though earthbound has implications for astronomy. I even won a door prize item, though I am somewhat at a loss to figure out how I can use it – a “Dual Angle Diagonal” which can be viewed at a normal 90 degree angle, or with a slight turn, at a 135 degree angle. I’ll stick with my usual diagonals, I think, and pass this curious little item on to someone who can make better use of it.

The sky was full of sucker holes when we left the main tent, so rather than cough through the night, we packed ourselves up and drove on home. It was a little disappointing to miss the one clear night, but overall Starfest was an enjoyable break from the day-to-day rhythm of life in the city.

Packed and ready to go…

Still feeling ill with a very bad cold, but as long as I don’t cough, everything is stable. Coughing, of course, is hell — I wind up with cramped muscles — but so far I can control things by breathing carefully. If worst comes to worse, someone will drive me home, so everything is in place.

I should get to Starfest this afternoon and get at least a little time to hear the talks. Tonight’s Clear Sky Clock for Starfest looks good with clear skies, though transparency is likely to be poor. I’ll take whatever I can get.

…or maybe not

Today was supposed to be the start of Starfest for me, but I woke yesterday with a mild tickle in my throat which progressed during the day to the obvious beginnings of a summer cold. This morning I woke to a painful chest and throat, runny nose — the full-blown manifestation of the Dreaded Lhurgy. The forecast for Mount Forest is for showers for the next few days (and notice how things work for Monday, when the show’s all over):

Today Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
High 24 °C High 22 °C High 23 °C High 23 °C High 23 °C
Low 14 °C Low 15 °C Low 10 °C Low 15 °C Low 10 °C
POP 60% POP 30% POP 60% POP 60%

so I will leave my ‘scopes at home (solving my dilemna of yesterday), and may put off leaving until tomorrow, depending on how I feel this afternoon. For those who wanted to meet me face to face, I hope to be there tomorrow, one way or another. Bring funeral goods, as I think I may need them!


Pulling things together for Starfest

Starfest is one of the premier star parties in North America, and I count myself fortunate that it is within driving distance of my home. During the early years of Starfest its timing conflicted with a major Mac expo in Boston, but since that show moved to New York and died in the move, I’ve been going to Starfest.

The problem has been deciding what to take along. I can tear down the G11 and load it into the car, but now have to decide whether to take the C9.25 cannon or the FLT110 rifle. One has a case, the other doesn’t, which makes the decision somewhat easier — except that I can jury-rig a case out of large plastic containers from Wal-Mart. Decisions, decisions, wurra wurra!


Shortly after 10 am yesterday my internet connection failed. I noticed right away, but I waited twenty minutes before contacting my ISP. Tech support there told me nothing was wrong, but after about forty minutes of struggle, I was able to convince them otherwise, and was passed on to ‘second tier’ tech support, from whom I received a problem ticket number and the admission that when they tried my DSL settings from their own office, the connection failed to complete. Six hours later the problem was ongoing, and I called tech support again, to find that the time for resolution could be as long as forty-eight hours due to a shortage of staff. It’s a long weekend here in Ontario, and this was not news I wanted to hear. In the final event, it took almost nineteen hours to restore service, shortly before 5 am this morning.

The time taken to resolve the problem was not, I suppose, particularly long, but I was astonished at the level of frustration and pain I felt during the outage. I have to admit that I am well and truly addicted to the net. It’s going to be interesting to see how I make out from Thursday through Sunday of the coming week, as I attend Starfest. There is supposed to be a shared wireless connection – I’ll have to take a laptop!