WHAT'S WITH PazMiniBits --------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2009 September 20 initial 2014 February 8 current
Here I answer some inquiries about PazMiniBits, the monthly astronomy news digest. The questions are combined from inquiries NYSkies received during 2008 and 2009. NYC Events is the definitive compilation of news for home astronomy for really one reason. You. It is one of the services of NYSkies Astronomy Inc. The entries come from you, the reader, who embed PazMiniBits in your duty to the profession.
WHERE DID PazMiniBits GET ITS NAME? In the 1980s I started collecting odds and ends items of interest for home astronomy but missed from the mainstream astronomy news outlets. These were compiled under generic titles like 'News briefs', 'Some news notes', 'Interesting items'. They were published in Eyepiece, a leading home astronomy newsletter of the 20th century. These notes were occasional but there were several instances each year. As readers found that their news submissions are welcome and appreciated, the column got larger and more regular. The editor, Jack Dittrick, on his own thought up a new title for the now-monthly column. He combined my name 'Pazmino' with 'mini bits' (of news), to create 'PazMiniBits'. He tagged my news items during 1989 with this title. Thee title bescame official with my column in the January 1990 issue. The name carried over to the electronic version when it moved to the NYSkies yahoogroup in 2001 and to the NYSkies website in 2007. It is so descriptive and unique that it is recognized as the name of the planet's best known home astronomy news service.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ADORABLE ABBREVIATIONS AND CONTRACTIONS? When in the 20th century PazMiniBits was in print form, there was a tight allocation of space. I had to compact your news into as little real estate as practical. Remember that there are only 10 microacres of printable space on a US US letter page. I developed an art of abbreviations and contractions for many words. 'Material' was 'matrl; '-tion', '-tn'; 'telescope', 'telescp'; 'institution', 'insttn'; and so on. People absolutely loved this form of writing, even tho some words were tricky to figure out. It was also hard to distinguish a proper word from a real typo! When PazMiniBits moved to the NYSkies website the need to conserve space vanished. Within a couple months the column was issued in clear text. Only common abbreves ere used, like 'Co' for 'Company' and 'Soc' for 'Society'.
HOW DOES PazMiniBits FILL ITS PAGE EACH AND EVERY MONTH? I am very aware that some astronomy columns starve for items and have unfilled pages. This is not so much a problem if the column is posted on a website. There are no paper-based pages to account for. PazMiniBits enjoys a large diverse readership that knows that an item sent to me is fairly and honestly treated. There is no 'editor' to hack up your work, bother you with corrections, put you off to later issues. Readers also know that the wording is internally produced. They don't fritter effort to compose text in hope it'll be posted as is.
HOW DO I SEND ITEMS TO PazMiniBits? You may send PazMiniBits items to 'email@example.com'. You may post them into the NYSkies Yahoogroup. You may give them to me at a NYSkies or other astronomy event. Please send only copies of crucial material, not originals. You really want to avoid difficulties in getting them back. Any material sent via Internet is presumptively a copy. NYSkies may check with other sources to fill in extra details. PazMiniBits composes your item as a short newsnote, capturing the critical details from your item.
WHAT NEWS IS SUITABLE FOR PazMiniBits? Of special value is news not usually carried in other astronomy media. These are generally news from clubs and individuals that do not have casual interaction with other news outlets. Other valued news are items relating to the life of the astronomer in the new York City region. There is NO OTHER astronomy news service that consistently and purposely covers the relations between its astronomers and the surrounding community.
IS PazMiniBits INTERESTED IN CLUB NEWS? One of the crying shames of our profession is the paucity of news outlets for clubs. Apart from their low-circulation newsletter and website, there is little visibility for the club outside their county or town. PazMiniBits is a huge boon for the clubs by letting their news be presented to a global readership that looks for this news. Only major meterstone activity is needed: shifting office to a new location, completing a construction project, hosting a convention, returning from an eclipse trip, earning a special award. Routine news like meeting notices, election results, greeting new members, ordinary stargazing session, will not fit into PazMiniBits. The one exception is for clubs located in the NYSkies region, within 100 kilometers of Times Square. Meeting notices are welcome by NYSkies for the monthly NYC Events column. Please see its own FAQ at 'www.nyskies.org/nyc-faq.htm'.
ARE OBSERVING REPORTS WELCOME IN PazMiniBits? Mainly for special activity like aurorae, dense meteor display, fireballs and bolides, eclipses, large comets. Now here's the mommy talk. Make SURE you include in the report ALL of the pertinent details. First off, your name, observing location, date, hour, and timezone. It's incredible how people send in news and leave out crucial parameters, like the viewing location or the calendar date. The location is that which can be spotted on a state highway map. It may be the closest town, interval between two towns, a park or beach. Just '... from my house the fireball ...' doesn't make it. Next, be careful with directions and altitudes. This is vital for bolides, aurorae, other temporary events. For permanent targets, planets and stars, these aren't so important, except to explain unusual viewing conditions. Next, state the instruments used, even if only bare eye. Please note others with you by affiliation or name. 'I with six other club members watched ....' or 'My sister and I saw ...' are both good enough.
ARE ANNOUNCEMENTS ALLOWED IN PazMiniBits? Yes, like for major conferences, starparties, exhibits, sales. Be SURE to purposefully include ALL of the seven 'W's. They are Who, What, When, Where, How, Why, and Wow ('Wow' has two 'W's, so maybe there are 8?). Step thru each of these so a reader can actualize on your announcement. Missing out one of the 'W's could frustrate the reader and move him to skip over your announcement.
WHAT ARE THESE SEVEN 'W'S? WHAT - the title or name of the offer. This may be a product, service, event. WHO - the name and contact of the offerent. This is the dealer, vendor, host, organizer, agent, sponsor, maker of the offer WHERE - the location of the offer for personal attendance or the address for offers handled remotely. This should be complete enough to facilitate a favorable response from the reader. WHEN - the actual calendar date, hour, weekday, timezone of the offer. This may be a range like for a conference or limited period of sale. Give the end points explicitly rather than relatively. Mind well that PazMiniBits is read worldwide, so the date and hour must include a timezone. HOW - The means of realizing the offer. This may be registration, purchase, attendance, download, application. State the full cost with all necessary parts. A range or floor may be stated: '$87 plus options', 'seats are $25-$45'. You may refer the reader to a website for lengthy instructions or forms. WHY - Attractive features of the offer. This may be conference topics, special speakers, award ceremony, computer program features, functions of a gadget, contents of a book. WOW - The extra bonus of the offer that stands out from other similar ones. The gadget does a better function, conference has a new theme, observatory was rebuilt, product sells at discount. In many cases this can be handled by the response to the other 'W's.
CAN PazMiniBits TAKE MATERIAL FROM MAJOR ASTRONOMY MAGAZINES? On the whole, no. If your item comes from the major astronomy news outlets, like Sky & Telescope or Astronomy, my readers know about it already. It can happen that both PazMiniBits and the major outlets get the news from the same other source and the item then may be carried in both places. This is merely an accident of timing. On the other hand, items from overseas magazines, of limited circulation in the United States, can be valuable for PazMiniBits. Almost all items I get from overseas publications come from readers convenient to New York City because the City has several stores that sell these publications.
CAN PazMiniBits ACCEPT MATERIAL FROM WEBSITES? On the whole there is no reason to copy material directly from a website. It's on the street already. If the item is useful, pertinent, competent, mature, PazMiniBits will issue a note about it with a link to the website. If you find a good website and send me a copy of the homepage or other informative page, I will not bodily paste it into PazMiniBits. I'll write a short description with the page address.
DOES IT MATTER IF THE SOURCE WEBSITE IS RESTRICTED? Yes. If you have special entree' to a website by subscription or privilege, it is likely closed to my readers. Try to find the equivalent material elsewhere on an open website. You'll be amazed how much that is claimed to be privileged is freely to hand on an other website!
ARE THERE COPYRIGHT CAUTIONS FOR PazMiniBits? PazMiniBits doesn't copy substantial amounts of external material, copyrighted or not. All text is internally generated. Altho you may send copyrighted material, like photocopies from magazines, commercial computer discs, recordings of movies, they do not go into PazMiniBits.
DOES PazMiniBits CRUISE THE INTERNET FOR NEWS? With the immense amount of good astronomy news sent to me, there is no cause to hunt for news. I do not slag stuff from Internet. It's too tedious and fiddly. A corollary point is that it's dicey to suggest I continually check a certain website for new items. If you got an item for PazMiniBits, give it to me.
CAN I SEND ARTICLES TO PazMiniBits? Not for PazMiniBits because it does not publish them as submitted. There's no need for that. On the other hand, NYSkies does welcome full length articles on astronomy. These are curated by NYSkies to bring them into higher level attention to other astronomers. They live in the 'articles' section of our website. Altho now, 2009. almost all the pieces in that section are my own, the section is open to all. If you got an article already on Internet, you may ask me to link to it. Give its title, brief description, date of issue, and link. I'll put it in the page under your own name. Do mind that if your webpage changes, the link with us will break. This turns off readers! Think about your website structure before loading it with important pages. NYSkies had this problem with my article on the Shoemaker-Levy-9 collision on Jupiter in 1994. My original page was a text account of my witness of the actual crash of the comet. For the AlCon meeting in August 2009 I elaborated this piece with several illustrations as handouts for the NYSkies booth. They were all taken by the earlier delegates, leaving later delegates empty-handed! I cleaned up the handout when I got home and converted it to a PDF file. But! The search service gobots already latched onto my original page. To keep things straight I revised the page, keeping it in its same place in the website, to aim at the new PDF file.
CAN YOU ACCEPT NEWS CLIPPINGS? These were common in the 20th century but are very rare today. Sometimes an interesting item shows up in a local news medium first before you catch it on Internet. Get details from an Internet source and relay that source to PazMiniBits. Probably the local medium gave only a brief summary of longer account from a major other source. Bear in mind that the item may miss out critical parameters. This is a main reason to ferret out the item in fuller form from the Internet. If you send a clipping, please make SURE the publication, town, and date are written on it. Readers may neatly trim the clipping and lose all trace of the source. Manually write these on the clipping: 'Cornfield Courier, Cornfield, Iowa, 2009 Sep 19'.
WHY DOESN'T PazMiniBits GIVE READER IDENTITY? Some news services do say 'Mr So-&-so sent in this report about Such-&-such'. PazMiniBits often gets the same item from several unrelated readers, making an itemization of them clumsy. It's the content of the item that counts. I note the internal source, like 'Dr So-&-so reports finding ...' regardless of whence the item came.. We do give reader identity when interaction is called for, like to download a file or get tickets or seek assistance.
DO YOU RELEASE READER PERSONALIA TO OTHERS? No. Being that we work in a cyberworld we are very aware of the abuses carried out on personal information. We do not accept electronic payments for, as example, the Observer's Handbook. You send a paper check for it. On the other hand, you may positively want personalia issued in PazMiniBits. You may be a dealer, ticketing agent, conference contact, technician whom the reader must go to in follow up on a news item. It's up to you to mind some cautions. Safest is to release only the website, so a reader faces at least some barrier before getting hold of you in person. If you allow further contact, it can be provided thru your website.
WHAT HAPPENS TO PHYSICAL ARTIFACTS SENT TO PazMiniBits? If you send me a physical artifact, like a book or gadget, please include means for returning it. The common way is wth a free-post shipping label which we attach to the return package. An other method is to arrange for return at a NYSkies or other astronomy event. Please understand that missing an arranged return could eventually lead to forfeiture of the artifact. Without such or sufficient means of return with the artifact, we have to allow that the piece is a gift.
ARE ENTRIES IN PazMiniBits EXCLUSIVE TO IT? Almost for sure they aren't. You send us the news from a variety of source, including those that already circulated the item. An astronomy entry in PazMiniBits may be underplayed or skipped in other services, which is why only PazMiniBits has it. The only really exclusive news in PazMiniBits are cultural items relating to New York City. No other astronomy news service proactively blends their town's activity into their own.
DOES PazMiniBits CHECK THE NEWS IT RECEIVES? I do a sanity check on every item for PazMiniBits. Nothing is entered simply from sayso or hearsay. A given entry may be assembled from several independent items plus direct inquiry. That's why PazMiniBits is considered an 'authoritative' news service, while not being the 'prime' source of news. What you read in PazMiniBits is at least correct, if not thoro. That's why PazMiniBits is NOT an Internet commentary column, a blog. On rare occasion I note honest corrections, where later news, missing a given issue, overrides previous news. The correction is a new item in the current issue and the original item in the old issue is left to stand.
CAN PazMiniBits BE CITED AS A PRIME SOURCE OF NEWS? Since the overwhelming bulk of items in PazMiniBits comes from other sources, it won't help to claim it as the 'prime news source'. Cite the originator of the news by following up on the item. You may cite PazMiniBits as a lead, saying that you were alerted to the news by us and now here are the details. There are items in PazMiniBits that originate within NYSkies. In such cases, yes, we are the prime source. The simple citation is 'PazMiniBits, [year and month], NYSkies Astronomy Inc'.
WHAT IRRITATES PazMiniBits THE MOST? It seems to be a stubborn habit to leave out an absolute date in a news story! The story says '... on Tuesday the satellite lost ...' or '... the meteor was seen last night over ...'. The date of the news occurrence must be guessed from circumstances outside of the story. In a printed medium this may be the publication date. If the medium issues weekly or longer apart, this is a useless clue. When the item is in a neatly trimmed clipping, with no notations, the date is utterly exfenstrate. On websites, there is usually no positive 'publication date'. Material is added or changed continuously. The news occurrence may be orphaned with no absolute date. This is the prime cause for that idiotic 'Mars closest ever' story that circulates each July and August. The original account did not have the full date, just 'August 28'. No year. No day of week. When a news outlet gets this story, from an email or Internet search, it does look current. Mars is coming soon to look as big as the Moon! For items from overseas, these is the complication of timezone difference that can force a change of date across midnight. Often the timezone is not mentioned. A website based in London (in GMT) may report an incident in Malaysia (way east by many hours) and not call attention to the hour offset. PazMiniBits includes in every item an absolute date with no silly ambiguity. The loosest date is a month for situations when the news took place over several days within the month.
ANY OTHER MAJOR IRRITATIONS FOR PazMiniBits? Probably the reckless and careless repetition of a news story with no thought to dig deeper into it. I get entries from many readers for a given news item. All are the same, with silly quotations, little substance, critical parameters missing. What's worse, some are sent by folk professing to be experts in the item's field! Could not they, for their OWN sake, follow up and get the details? An example is the news in July 2009 about a new slate of factors that can disqualify a taikonaut's application. There were 100 factors, so said the news release. Every spacefaring group, so it seemed, went wild about this item. One and all they merely passed along the news without attempt to look behind the [bamboo] curtain. Only a couple factors were mentioned in a quotation from the doctor who handles the applications. Where were the others? PazMiniBits could not just copy off this half-baked news. I ended up calling by phone the China mission and speaking with some one in charge of science and culture. He knew about the taikonaut story and appreciated that NYSkies inquired about it. He explained that the full list of factors was never released publicly. It's for internal use by China's taikonaut program. The doctor was merely discussing a couple points for examples. So in PazMiniBits, 2009 September, you read that the full list was not issued. No where else BEFORE PazMiniBits do you find that crucial particle of news.
CAN I GET PRIOR ISSUES OF PazMiniBits? The NYSkies website holds only the current issue of PazMiniBits for the instant month. It replaces the one for the previous month. Prior issues are sent to offline archive. You may ask for a back issue, which is sent to you by email. You may treat it as if it came from the website. Back issues are available from 1999 thru last month. Those before 2007 are converted from the former printed form or captured from letters posted in the NYSkies yahoogroup forum. A creeping project is to convert more of the earlier issues going back to the 1980s. Please do note that from time to time an archive issue is edited to remove typos and mistakes. No substantial alterations are made. You may recall a typo like '... lumar surface ...' but in your requested archive copy it's now '... lunar surface ...'.
HOW DO YOU GET THOSE BACK REFERENCES? The '[PMB 02 Feb]' kind of note comes from looking up the item in the archives of PazMiniBits. I have about ten years in digital form, making it easy to do a 'find' thru the back issues. For the earlier issues, filled with my famous abbreviations, this method can fail. I now try hard to be consistent with keywords, names, places to ease the chore of looking up items in past issues. I give the next last back reference, which (I hope) itself has its own next last reference. That way you can step thru PazMiniBits to trace the history of that item over the years. This scheme is far from perfect but it does help understand an item now that floated around for a while.
WHY DOES PazmINIbITS HAVE THOSE PECULIAR ITEMS ABOUT NEW YORK? One of the aspects of astronomy in New York is that our profession proactively integrates into the surrounding community. We do not stand off from the town as is usual else where in the United States. We built our calling on the premise that a good astronomer is one who interacts with his City and thereby acquires a holistic attitude about the stars. Yes, it is not just a slogan that 'when better astronomers are built, New York will build them'. PazMiniBits lives within this paradigma of astronomy. It carries assorted items, 'cultural items', of major influence on the New York astronomer. I get positive reaction from remote readers that PazMiniBits offers a glimpse of life in the City thru these cultural notes. It seems that no other astronomy news service will follow our paradigma of astronomy and appear as if they were issued from the Moon. Once in a while I hear a remote reader bellow that HIS news column for HIS club will NEVER touch HIS town's news. Where is that club? Did it figure out the equation of time yet?
CAN I EXTRACT PARTS OF PazMiniBits FOR MY OWN USE? With PazMiniBits in digital form, it's easy to select and copy out portions of the full column. If you do, you're relieved to understand that each and every item has its own absolute date in it. This is in fact one of the primary reasons I insist on an absolute date in every entry. Once the entry is removed from the enclosing column, any attachment of date between the two is destroyed.
CAN I CIRCULATE PazMiniBits LOCALLY? You may but there is little reason to do so. You could, I suppose circulate an extraction of the full PazMiniBits but that seems like a lot of needless work. It's enough to put a link to PazMiniBits from your own website at 'www.nyskies.org/pmb.htm'. You can also alert your visitors about this FAQ at 'www.nyskies.org/pmb-faq.htm'. You should remind that only the instant month's issue is online. Previous months are available by request from our offline archives.
CAN I REQUEST CERTAIN ENTRIES FROM PazmINIbITS FOR MY OWN USE? Yes. I get requests for individual entries, usually related to a certain subject or topic. I collect them from my archive files and assemble them into a new file. This is then emailed to you. You'll breathe a sigh to see that each item has its own proper absolute date. Otherwise, when the items are taken out of their home issues, the attachment to the issue date is irretrievably lost.
IS ADVERTISING ALLOWED IN PazMiniBits? No way. We do include a note about products and services but send the reader to the offerent's contact for the real advertising. Apart for keeping pazMiniBits free of external entanglements, do remember that NYSkies Astronomy Inc is a fiduciary of astronomy operating under the business laws of New York State. We are a not-for-profit organization in that state. This means we must avoid commercial (among other kinds of) operations. Carrying commercial advertising will, WILL, put NYSkies under serious public inquiry. You may read in the general news media about other nonprofits getting into very expensive and damaging trouble for overstepping these limits. On a higher platform, we exercise reasonable and diligent and prudent care to maintain sound business practices. In litigation about an advertised offer, one potential defendent can be the medium that carried the advertising. This derives from the chain of liability where each party in the concatenation from the offering party to the aggrieved party may have a penny to pay. Many clubs have advertising on their websites. The cause for this is peculiar to each club. Some do it in hopes of earning 2 cents per click. Others do it in exchange for the advertiser's donations. Others do it because their Internet service requires it. The NYSkies website is entirely supported within the profession, thru the astronomers of New York. We neither accept nor seek nor allow commercial advertising.
DOES PazMiniBits ACCEPT DONATIONS? Not PazMiniBits itself, being that it is a cyberspatial issuance made from recycled electrons. Artifacts given to PazMiniBits in support of a news item are recirculated into the home astronomy community. NYSkies does welcome general donations for its running expenses and capital improvements. As you may guess, doing business in New York is one hell of a challenge, let alone for a specialized market like astronomy. Donations can not be tied to return favors, like advertising or endorsements.
WITH MANY ITEMS FROM OVERSEAS, DO YOU KNOW FOREIGN LANGUAGES? Just about anything in astronomy is issued in English. There may be parallel issuances in an overseas language as well, notably French. However, at times i do read Spanish, Italian, French. These are similar enough to hop around the linguistics and understand the text. Occasionally a follow up to a given item leads only to an overseas language that I can not decipher. I have to choose between entering an incomplete item or skipping it.
DOES PazMiniBits ISSUE IN OTHER LANGUAGES? It's only in English. It evolved that English is so prevalent, specially thru Internet, that overseas readers have no trouble reading pazMiniBits as is. I find it weird to find a foreign website with an issue in it. The very column is in the King's English (Brooklynites will catch that one) but the circumstant material is in the overseas language. SO widely is English employed that English-language books are no longer routinely translated. The English edition alone does very well.
ARE THERE OTHER ASTRONOMY NEWS SERVICES LIKE PazMiniBits? Unlike NYC Events, where there is a shameful absence of similar astronomy event calendars else where, there is little need for an other PazMiniBits. PazMiniBits covers astronomy news from all over the US and from overseas. It does not try to gather all of the news, an impossible feat even with computer-controlled news collection. It stresses news overpassed by the mainstream news services and adds value specificly for the home astronomer. To get your item into notice by home astronomers, give it to PazMiniBits.
Last update on 08 February 2014
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