Saturday, February 26, 2005

Big Bertha Behaves

It turned out the decline in performance was a collimation problem--and a reminder that you shouldn't ever trust appearances. The focuser is an older University Optics 2" inside diameter focuser. Instead of a 1.25" adapter that slides inside, instead, you unscrew the 2" collar, and screw the 1.25" adapter in its place. It is a little clumsy, and the 1.25" adapter collar looks cheap.

So I pulled out a more common 1.25" adapter from a 2" diagonal that I had lying around. (It came with my 5" refractor.) This adapter looked and felt like a finely machine piece of work--so I put that into the 2" focuser a couple of nights ago. It did not even occur to me that the decline in image quality might be connected to this finely machined adapter.

When you turn the focuser in with the laser collimator in the focuser, if everything is in the proper position, the laser beam will hit the same spot on the primary mirror. With the cheap 1.25" screw on collar, that pretty much happens. With the finely machined (or so it seemed) adapter, the beam moved a half inch across the mirror as I turned the focuser knobs. It turns out that the finely machine focuser from somewhere in China is actually pretty sloppy in its tolerances.

Anyway, last night, I went to the crummy looking but well-made Japanese adapter, and once the mirror had cooled down--with a little help from a muffin fan--I can honestly say that the telescope is now behaving at about the level that I would expect from a Coulter mirror. It is a little disappointing, compared to my 8" f/7 reflector, which uses a Coulter mirror from the 1960s, when they advertised mirrors accurate +-1/25th wave (and I think managed to do it), but for a telescope that cost me this little, it does okay.

At 500x on the Moon, the image isn't tack sharp, but it isn't all that bad. At 222x on Saturn, Cassini's Division is visible all the way around the planet, although it isn't terribly dark. The brown cloud band on the planet is clearly visible. There is a little bit of either coma or undercorrection--not sure which--that keeps me from going much higher on Saturn--although I think there is more detail visible at 222x with this beast than I can see on my smaller telescopes, even at higher magnification. (Remember that even at the same magnification, a larger aperture telescope will reveal more detail. Dawes' Limit says that resolution is directly proportional to aperture diameter.) I will have to roll the 5" refractor out tonight to do a direct comparison.

Where this telescope does well--and the primary reason that I bought it--is for deep sky objects. I don't have a dark enough sky here to make much use of it yet, but on the Orion Nebula (M42) using 80x--oh wow! The detail that it brings out, and the subtle colors as well--just amazing. I look forward to moving this beast to my Horseshoe Bend property in a few months, once we get construction under way.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Big Bertha Again

Oddly enough, putting in longer screws in the hopes of having a bit more opportunity for adjustment doesn't seem to have helped--it seems to have hurt. I can't get images as good as I had last night. Groan. Time to pull out the books on reflector tuning, and try to figure out what is going on here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Clear Sky & Big Bertha

Okay, a couple evenings of clouds and rain. But tonight it was clear! I rolled Big Bertha out, and waited for the mirror to cool.

And waited.

And waited.

Definitely need to put a fan in there.

But it was still amazing. There is still a collimation problem--I think I need to put in four inch screws instead of three inch for the mirror cell to move on, but at least I was starting to get close.

But before collimation reached that point, oh my, does this gather a lot of light!

Ways To Know You Have Enough Aperture

1. You decide to increase magnification from 111x to 160x not because you need a larger image to see detail, but because Saturn is so bright that it is washing out the detail--enlarging the image makes it less overpoweringly bright.

2. You point at the Moon at 400x--and it is still too bright to make out details without a Moon filter on the eyepiece.

3. You put a cardboard off-axis aperture mask (a piece of cardboard with a hole in it) on the front of your telescope--and the aperture mask still has more aperture than your next size smaller of telescope does.

4. The Orion Nebula (M42) has an oppressively green cast to it.

5. You scroll across the sky and you are astounded at how many stars have very, very noticeable color to them--because there is now enough light to excite your cones, not just your rods.

6. Instead of looking hard and seeing one satellite of Saturn--Titan--you can't help but see four obvious satellites of Saturn. And this is from my suburban front yard!

Okay, there's still some work to do on this. Saturn was not what it should have been. I could see the Cassini Division all the way around the planet, but it wasn't black. I could see the brown cloud band on Saturn's atmosphere, but no more detail than in my 5" refractor (admittedly, at a larger scale). I went to 500x on the Moon--and while it wasn't as crisp as I would have liked, it wasn't real bad, either--and the problem was partly atmospheric turbulence. Coma is a problem (and perhaps even fixing the collimation won't solve it--this is an f/4.5 mirror, and they tend to have a bit of a coma problem). Still, it was awesome, even within these limitations.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Big Bertha's Makeover

I mentioned that there was still some work to do on Big Bertha--a bit more than I first expected. As I mentioned (I think), I created a full flotation mirror cell that sits on three 3" 1/4-20 machine screws, with 28 pound springs between the back of the mirror box door and the 1/2" plywood octagon that holds the mirror. Today I added nine 1" diameter furniture glides to provide an airspace between the board and the mirror (thus improving cooling). But where to put those nine supports?

There's a program called Plop located here that uses rather sophisticated techniques to calculate optimum location based on the mirror material, diameter, focal length, number of supports, etc. Of course, all that precision runs into the problem of how accurately I can measure the location of where to put the supports, but it is still better to be off 5% from perfect, than to just guess, and probably not be even close. If it looks like one of the supports isn't quite right, you are probably correct. I suspect that relative to the precision of the mirror and other parts, this is probably the least of my problems. "Measure with micrometer. Mark with chalk. Cut with axe."

Here's the front of the cell, with additional airspace and lightening holes drilled through using a 1.25" wood boring bit. (And yes, it lightened it enough to solve the slight balance problem that the more sophisticated cell had introduced.)

Here's the back of the mirror box assembly, pretty much as it arrived. The difference is that the 1/4-20 screws now use wingnuts for adjustment.

As you can see, what was actually a pretty nice piece of wood has some water damage. If the optics turn out to be really decent, I'll probably spend some time refinishing the wood, and replacing some parts lower down in the cradle that were much more seriously damaged.

Here's the latch that holds the mirror box in place--and it is a far less precise result than I would prefer.

I'll probably replace that at some point with something more repeatable. The problem here is that depending on position, you can get perhaps 1/10th of an inch more opening in some positions than others, and that is going to affect collimation pretty substantially. Over a common range of angles, it won't be that dramatic, but from vertical to horizontal it will be substantial.

The next step was the focuser. I didn't even need my combination square to see that the focuser wasn't square to the tube and, presumably, not square to the optical axis of the telescope. In addition, the focuser was stiff and cranky, which I suspected was dirt, oil, and sludge in the gears, so I removed it.

If you keep a kosher kitchen, you don't use the same dishes for meat and for milk. You should take the same approach to mixing metals in fasteners. Whoever built this made such nice woodwork, but then combined brass screws with zinc coated steel nuts. In the presence of water, this makes a battery, and corrosion. Two of the four screws put up a fight, but eventually came loose. Another one broke in half, and the last had to be removed by the brutal technique of worrying the head off the brass screw with Vise Grips. This has all the subtlety and finesse of stopping a robbery with a hand grenade.

The focuser itself seems to be an older University Optics 2" unit made in Japan. You change it to 1.25" not by putting in an adapter, but by removing the 2" collar and replacing it with a 1.25" collar that screws onto the chrome barrel. Unfortunately, this 1.25" collar, once removed, would not screw back on to the chrome barrel. Careful examination revealed that while the threads were fine, the 1.25" collar had apparently been dropped onto a very hard surface, and was bent on its side, in the threaded area. This was easily fixed by taking a Vise Grip, using the minimum force to get a good grip on the bent side, and twisting slightly. Now it screws on and off like it was new.

I removed the four screws holding the pinion assembly onto the rack, and then removed the tube to which the rack is attached. The gearing was dirty, but some BreakFree cleaned it up nicely. Still, the tube slid in and out of the housing with some effort, especially at the innermost travel. I polished the inside of the housing, used a little BreakFree there--now it isn't quite as smooth and slick as a Moonlight Accessories Crayford focuser, but it is pretty darn good. There's a very, very slight amount of backlash at some points in its travel--if you are looking for it. Of course, after reassembly, adjusting the tension of the four screws is essential to get this feeling silky smooth.

Reinstalling the focuser, I used 8-32 1.5" long stainless steel screws, washers, lock washers, and nuts. The previous design used only nuts on the inside of the tube, which meant that because the tube is Sonotube, the nuts had buried themselves into the material. Using washers prevents this; lock washers keeps them from getting loose; using all stainless steel dramatically reduces the risk of corrosion. These screws are longer than the 3/4" screws that were in there before, but then again, I can remove these if I need to do so later.

Also, I needed somewhat longer screws on at least one side to correct the out of square condition. I did this by adding three washers between the base of the focuser and the tube on the two screw holes closer to the mirror. This means that the focuser is now so close to optically square that I can't quite persuade myself that I have gone too far the other way.

I washed the mirror one more time, and the found the exact center of the mirror. Traditionally I have center dotted my mirrors with a single drop of garish red nail polish, but since I no longer have a teenaged girl living in the house--and my wife's tastes are a bit too mature for anything garish--I had to pick the better solution, which is a white notebook paper reinforcing ring. This gives you a target where if your laser beam doesn't hit dead on, it is obvious. Unfortunately, Target only had these in packs of 544, so I will be able to center dot 543 more mirrors, no problem!

Here's the mirror, with the center dot (just barely visible):

You can also see the nicely fitted box that the mirror was stored in when I received it, as well as the two eyepieces that came with it. One is a University Optics 18mm Orthoscopic in 2" diameter--which is rather unusual. The other looks like some sort of military surplus eyepiece, apparently about 35mm or 40mm focal length.

I finished reassembling everyhing, then pulled out the laser collimator. Everything came together much more quickly this time, and I suspect, when it stops raining, that the images will be much better.

Now that the primary and diagonal mirrors are clean (and the cobwebs are removed from the focuser), I needed to keep it covered. I couldn't find a spare 35mm film canister for the focuser, so I put a Glad Bag over it. A Hefty Leaf & Lawn bag just barely fit over the front of the tube, but most of the bag droops down. My wife took one look at this loose and droopy cover, and asked, "Are you trying to prevent it from reproducing?"

The next step, if the lawn ever dries, will be remove all the glass, and spray paint the inside flat black to reduce internal reflections.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Get The Lead Out

This article is about one of my pet peeves:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lead left in paint, water, soil and elsewhere may not only be affecting children's intelligence but may cause a significant proportion of violent crime, a U.S. researcher argued Friday.

He said the U.S. government needs to do more to lower lead levels in the environment and parents need to think more about where their children may be getting exposed to lead.

"When environmental lead finds its way into the developing brain, it disturbs neural mechanisms responsible for regulation of impulse. That can lead to antisocial and criminal behavior," said Dr. Herbert Needleman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Needleman's team, using a technique called X-ray fluorescence, found very low levels of lead in the bones of children.

Needleman cited several studies that associate crime with high levels of lead either in the bodies of those accused or in the environments they came from, including one that showed the average bone lead levels of 190 juvenile delinquents were higher than those of adolescents not charged with crimes.

His study suggested that between 18 percent and 38 percent of delinquent crimes in the Pittsburgh area could be attributed to lead toxicity in the adolescents.


Taking lead out of most gasoline has contributed to a sharp reduction in the level of lead in the blood of Americans over the past 30 years.

But lead is still found in paint, some types of fuel for older vehicles, older water pipes and in the soil.
I pointed out in August of 2003 in the midst of a discussion of genetics and intelligence, that removing lead from the environment could be about the best public works project imaginable:
One thing we can do immediately, however, is solve the lead paint problem. Lead exposure creates a significant risk of mental retardation; that's part of why the Reagan Administration speeded up the removal of lead from gasoline. There was a study from Australia that clearly demonstrated the risk.

Poor people, especially east of the Rockies, are more likely to live in houses with lead paint in them. Even something as low-tech and low-cost as having the government pay to repaint existing lead-paint homes every couple of years would be a worthwhile effort. It's not as effective as sanding down to bare walls while guys in hazmat suits vacuum up every paint particle, but we could certainly afford to repaint every lead paint house every couple of years--and it would put an enormous number of unskilled and unintelligent workers (likely, the kids who grew up in homes like those) to work--and give them at least some job skills.
It is still a good idea--a long-term investment in reducing violence and retardation in inner cities, and a short-term investment in giving some basic job skills to a lot of teenagers and young adults who are probably unemployed right now.
I Thought The Catholic Church Was Hierarchical

But you wouldn't know it from this article about the continuing pedophile priest crisis. Part of the article indicates a serious effort to fix the problem:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Friday that over the last year they received 1,092 new allegations of sexual abuse against at least 756 Catholic priests and deacons.

Half of the accused priests over the past year had been previously accused of abuse, said Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Most of the alleged incidents occurred decades ago: 72 percent of the priests were either dead, defrocked or removed from public ministry before the newest allegations were received, McChesney said.

The information came as the bishops released a new national audit of U.S. dioceses to determine how well they've complied with the child protection policy American prelates instituted nearly three years ago at the height of the clergy molestation crisis. Teams of auditors, comprised mainly of former FBI agents, compiled data in visits to dioceses across the country.

The auditors found that more than 95 percent of dioceses have taken the required steps to keep children safe.
The next sentence, however, makes me wonder what's going on. Okay, the dioceses that are "out of compliance" may simply not have completed their plan for out to prevent this in the future, but what's with Lincoln, Nebraska?
Seven dioceses and Eastern rite territories were out of compliance and one diocese, Lincoln, Neb., refused to participate.
One of the big differences between most Protestant churches and the Catholic Church has been the style of governance. Most American Protestant churches have a relatively democratic structure to them. At least in theory, and often in practice, power comes from the members of the church, who delegate operational authority to a board of elders or deacons, who in turn hire the pastor. The Catholic Church's structure is theoretically from the top down. So how does the diocese in Lincoln, Nebraska, get away with refusing to participate? Isn't that rather like an army private refusing to follow orders?

UPDATE: A reader tells me:
A Bishop's immediate superior is the Pope, not the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They have no more authority over the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, than the National Governors Association has over tthe Governor of Nebraska.

Thus, the formal answer to your question is "It's like an army private refusing to follow orders--from a committee of other privates."

The USCCB didn't even exist until the sixties, after Vatican II. Rome discouraged, or actually forbade, such national conferences, for the same reason the Army doesn't encourage its privates to form Committees of Correspondence.

A quick look at the record of the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska suggests that he's an old-fashioned holy terror, of the 1950's model, and if he's not cooperating with the USCCB, it's probably because he insists on setting his own house in order, rather than because he's hiding something.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Big Bertha: Continued

I did another star party this evening, at an elementary school this time. My, what little...energetic creatures...2nd to 4th grade boys can be. Girls that age are so much better behaved. Still, there were a lot of well-behaved kids genuinely excited by looking at Saturn and the Moon. The junior high I worked last Saturday has kids old enough to have something more than, "Isn't that cool?" conversations, but at this age, just getting them to see something beyond their own horizons is enough.

When I came home, I replaced the too weak (12 pound) springs on Big Bertha's mirror cell with some 28 pound springs--much improved. There's still some work to be done on collimation, perhaps cleaning the mirror again, and center dotting it, to improve the precision of the collimation, but it is only a little disappointing on image. At 222x, the Moon is still a bit soft; Saturn is definitely disappointing. But I noticed that Saturn was going in and and out focus--this may be a mirror cooling issue still. My mirror cell lacks sufficient ventilation for cooling; it is probably time to cut some cooling (and lightening) holes in the cell.

Anyway, some readers wanted to see this beast, having some trouble imagining it.

You can see why I take the 5" refractor to star parties.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Battling Big Bertha

I spent most of the evening building a proper flotation mirror cell for the 17.5" mirror. The strategy was to start with a 1/2" by 24" by 24" piece of birch plywood.

1. Then I cut it down to 20.5" x 20.5" with the table saw.

2. Then I measured the exact center of it.

3. Then I measured where 17.5"/2 put me along the center lines.

4. There I marked places for four supports to hold the mirror in place.

5. The supports I cut out of a 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" piece of oak.

6. I put each block in its appropriate place, clamped it there, and then drilled one hole.

7. Screwed in a #7 x 1 1/2 wood screw.

8. Removed the clamp.

9. Drilled a second hole, to preven the supports from rotating.

10. Screwed in another #7 x 1 1/2 wood screw.

11. Repeat steps 6-10 three times.

12. Made sure the mirror actually fit before screwing down the fourth support. Then discovered that I would have to make the plywood into an octagon with the table saw, to fit inside the back of the square telescope tube assembly.

13. Then I cut four very small pieces of Delrin (the wonder material!) to make mirror clips.

14. I drilled the mirror clips and the supports on the top, and screwed them in place. The Delrin is slippery enough that they can turn, but they don't turn unless pushed.

15. Drilled three holes in the plywood, 120 degrees apart, 5.25" from the center of the mirror, a bit larger than 1/4".

16. Used a 1/2" wood boring bit to enlarge each of these holes in the top 3/16" of an inch (approximately) so that the head of the 1/4-20 machine screws would not be scraping the back of the mirror.

17. Drops the machine screws in, put lock washers on the bottom side of the panel, then tightened down nuts to keep them screws from turning.

18. Put a 12 pound spring (after clipping for length) on each screw, and then put the screws through the holes at the bottom of the telescope mirror access door.

19. Attached wing nuts to the screws on the outside of the telescope mirror acess door.

I was still a little amazed at how far off the collimation was, but with a bit of fiddling, I now have it much better than it was, and the mirror is no longer under stress. It's a little hard to tell when I have it properly collimated. I'm using the LaserMate Deluxe collimator, which projects the image back onto an aluminum screen that you can see from the back of the telescope, but the laser beam is supposed to drop into a little centered hole, and you only see a "spray" of red around that hole. By the time the beam has traversed the full focal length of this monster (about 2000mm, I think) twice, it completely overwhelms the hole.

The image isn't perfect yet--not even close. (Sad to say, not dramatically worse than many Meade and Celestron Dobsonians that I have looked through over the years.) Anything above 111x is still fuzzy. This may be that the springs are too compressed--I should probably use 4" long machine screws, not 3". I'll get those tomorrow, and try again. It may also be that the focuser isn't exactly aligned with the tube. Maybe I need to wait for the mirror to finish cooling. It could even be a lousy mirror, of which Coulter made a few.

I will say this: the phrase "light bucket" was coined for monsters like this. I am impressed, even here in suburbia, how much color the Orion Nebula has at low power, how much color lots of stars are showing (because there's enough light to excite the cones in my eyes), and how much detail the Moon shows, even at 57x. There are many satellites of Saturn visible with this beast--it takes you down a lot of magnitudes!

This arrived in my email. It claims:
These are real answers given by children.
Unless someone proves me wrong, I'll buy that!
Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q: How can you delay milk turning sour?
A: Keep it in the cow.

Q: What causes the tides in the oceans?
A: The tides are a fight between the Earth and the Moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature hates a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.

Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A: Premature death.

Q: What is artificial insemination?
A: When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow.

Q: How are the main parts of the body categorized? (e.g., abdomen.)
A: The body is consisted into three parts - the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain; the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels, A, E, I, O, and U.

Q: What is the fibula?
A: A small lie.

Q: What does "varicose" mean?
A: Nearby.

Q: Give the meaning of the term "Caesarean Section"
A: The Caesarean Section is a district in Rome.

Q: What does the word "benign" mean?'
A: Benign is what you will be after you be eight.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Big Bertha

My wife is getting ready to teach a World War I Literature class next month at George Fox University, so she has taken to referring to the latest addition to our garage as "Big Bertha." Yes, it does look rather like a cannon.

I reached the point where I plopped the mirror into the scope this evening, constructed a rolling base for it (I am in the telescope caster business, after all), and rolled it out into the driveway. From the noise it made, its inertia, and the growling noise it made, I found myself thinking of Edward I's "Warwolf," a great trebuchet used against the Scots.

The mirror was closer to collimated than I would have expected, but it is too far back in the tube to get eyepieces to focus. I think I am going to have to construct something a bit more formal in the way of a mirror cell for this beast. Still, the amount of light it gathers on the Orion Nebula (M42) is quite astonishing.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Fun & Games With The 17.5" Reflector

It turns out that I don't need to replace the mirror cell, at least not immediately. Like a lot of Dobsonians built slavishly to a cookbook, this used three three-point pads attached to 3/8" bolts that stick through the bottom of the mirror box, two side blocks to position the mirror east and west, and a sling to hold the mirror in position north and south. John Dobson's original design was driven by the need to keep costs down, and to build from junkyard components--there are better ways to do this, even on the cheap.

Anyway, I removed the sling, added two more blocks to position the mirror north and south, and then replaced the 3/8" bolts which had detached from the pads with 1/4" bolts, wingnuts, and springs. The 1/4" bolts are epoxied to the back of the pads. Now the adjustment screws are free to move a little, taking tension off the connection to the pads (perhaps why they had detached). I'm a little concerned that these springs aren't going to strong enough to hold up the mirror--it is very heavy, even though it is a thin mirror. I squeezed a couple of fingers pretty good returning it to the storage container.

I also removed the diagonal mirror, and cleaned it--although it was surprisingly clean, considering the number of insect bodies and spiderwebs elsewhere in the tube. The diagonal mirror for a telescope this size is huge.

The finder was a reasonably nice University Optics 8x50mm, head in place by a homemade wooden dovetail. unfortunately, nothing held it in place except gravity and hope, so I drilled a hole in the side of the dovetail receiver, and added a thumbscrew to hold it more securely, and more repeatably.

The person who was storing this behemoth got away on vacation before I noticed that the ground board was missing. It may be in his shed still, or it may have been lost. No matter. I bought a 24" x 24" x 1/2" piece of flooring grade plywood to use as a ground board. A little sanding, and a hole drilled, and it seems okay. I probably need to put a sheet of Teflon on it to reduce friction adequately, but for initial optical quality testing, it is good enough.

I was going to respray the interior of the tube flat black, but that has to be done outside on the lawn--and it is now raining.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Huge Telescope

I bought a 17.5" reflector this evening, at an auction run by the Boise Astronomical Society. It has an interesting history to it. Apparently, many years back, a number of families in one neighborhood here in Boise pooled their resources, and built a telescope for their kids. It is a classic Dobsonian design using a Coulter mirror. Eventually, the kids grew up, lost interest in science, and the original reason for this optical cannon went away. So they gave it to the Boise Astronomical Society.

I just bought it for $625. It needs a little work. The mirror cell (originally of wood) got wet, and became unusable. So I'll have to either fabricate one, or buy one (probably less than $200, from what I can find). The finder diagonal is broken. Perhaps fixable, if not, cheap to replace.

Most of the wood is actually pretty decent. Coulter's later mirrors were sometimes decent but often not--but the area where mirror deficiencies become more apparent is at high power. Something like this makes most sense for low power observation of galaxies, anyway.

It is a monster. We borrowed a friend's expedition--and even with both seats down, I was pressed against the windshield in the front passenger seat. I couldn't even put on my seat belt.

First step after I get the mirror cell replaced: casters on the bottom!
Why Do So Few Stories Like This Involve Straights?

Especially if homosexuals aren't really that much different than heterosexuals?
Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- New York City doctors have discovered a previously unseen strain of HIV, which appears to be resistant to three of the four types of anti-viral drugs that combat the disease, and progresses from infection to full-blown AIDS in two or three months, the health department said.

``We've identified this strain of HIV that is difficult or impossible to treat and which appears to progress rapidly to AIDS,'' said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden.

Frieden said the case, diagnosed in a man in his mid-40s who reported multiple male sex partners and unprotected anal sex -- often while using the drug crystal methamphetamine -- was ``extremely concerning and a wake-up call.''

Antonio Urbina, medical director of HIV education and training at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, site one of Manhattan's largest AIDS clinics, said at a news conference that the patient's use of crystal methamphetamine shows that the drug ``continues to play a significant role in facilitating the transmission of HIV.''

The drug reduces peoples' inhibitions and their likelihood of using condoms or other forms of safe sex, he said.
Multiple partners, unprotected anal sex, meth--and by someone in his 40s, when you would expect this sort of irresponsible juvenile behavior would be in the past.

I know that this is going to make me unpopular in some circles, but does anyone besides me find it worrisome that one of the common (although not necessarily majority) expressions of male homosexuality--the guy whose mannerisms are that of an immature child--fits well with this sort of irresponsible behavior? It really struck me when I was in Boston last week how many pairs of men I saw at dinner, or walking together, where one of the men was acting in this stereotyped way that suggests that they emotionally froze somewhere in early adolescence. (Think of the gay character in Airplane! but toned down a good bit.)

For a number of years, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the only spokesmen that the gay community could seem to find for television interviews fit into this offensive stereotype. This is a stereotype that makes homosexual men look bad to the general public--and yet, they continued to use guys suffering from this mannerism.

When I look at the evidence that suggests that there is a causal connection between childhood sexual abuse and adult homosexuality--and I see this bizarre evidence of frozen immaturity, especially after visiting the town where Father Shanley and a number of other priests had been having their way with early adolescents (overwhelmingly males) for decades--well, I don't find this it difficult to see this as an explanation for at least some homosexuality.