Monday, September 22, 2008

webspotting 6 - alpha beta

Published in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission. Very minor edits applied.


In the spring of 1974 we moved house. It was not a "big" move. Normally, every 3 or 4 years, when Dad was transferred, we’d relocate to a new town. This time, as the crow flew, we moved 250 metres from a semi-detached to a full house. We moved from Cedarbrae Ave to Lynnbrook Cres. We remained in north Waterloo. 

Mom and Dad were happy. They went from renting to owning. My sister and I avoided trauma. No switching schools. We’d keep the same friends.

I don't remember if I already knew Frank. Probably it was after settling in that I met him. His parents lived on Lynnbrook Place. From our front porch, you could see the cul-de-sac. Frank's place caught my eye. The driveway was filled with unusual cars.

There were two, maybe three, cars in peculiar colours. There was something strange about their shapes, body work, and insignia. A griffon! Years later I would realise these foreign vehicles were Saabs, probably 96 or 99 models.

Flash-forward to 1982. Ironically, I'm back in Waterloo. My university pal Mary-Rose introduced me to her very interesting boyfriend. I fell in love with Steve's car. It was a very pale light green Saab 99 stick. I vowed that I would buy one. A few years later, they needed something newer, they lamented.

In 1996, I signed up for my first high-performance driving school. It was co-run by local BMW and Saab car clubs. I got to experience a variety of these cars "in action." The affair continued.

Advertisements for Saabs caught my ear. They said the car maker's name phonetically. It rolled off the tongue: Sierra Alpha Alpha Bravo. Clever, given Saab's history, their deep roots in aviation.

As my interest in radio and precise conveyance of data increased, I decided to teach myself the NATO phonetic alphabet. I still use it today, particularly when spelling names, or email addresses. I live at Mike Six Papa Three Echo One.

As my interest in astronomy increased, and I saw how stars were labelled, I felt I needed to learn the Greek alphabet. It was tough, perhaps because I had already jammed a new alphabet in my head. The fact that the number of letters is less and the sequence is different, challenged me. In the summer of 2005, I was quizzing myself weekly, listing the letters in sequence. Later, I began to draw the characters.

In November 2006, I finally found an online tool to test my memory in a way appropriate for mastering star charts. Henrik Theiling built a web site which randomly displayed Greek characters (and variants). I continued my drills.

You can try his script teaching page.

I still use it to stay sharp. And I still like Sigma Alpha Alpha Beta cars.

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