Monday, November 15, 2010

Moon dial

The sundial with the moon the other Saturday early evening before the planetarium show in Ward-Beecher.

Richard Pirko Memorial Sundial

View the entire set of sundial photos here in an album on Flickr

Watch as slide-show here ( 128 photos )

Evening visit

evening visit to the Sundial

Jones Hall in background, with moon

Richard Pirko Memorial Sundial, Ward-Beecher Planetarium, Youngstown State University, Youngstown Ohio
Maag Library in the background

the plaque at the sundial

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Call for YOUR photos to post here!

 Rick's Great Big Space Blog is putting out a call for your photos from the August Dedication and any other related photos or stories about the sundial or any sundial or Rick that I may post on the Blog, with credit, caption - much appreciation from me and Victoria, friends & family, in advance!

Memorial Sundial Dedicated At YSU

Unveiling Sundial Sculpture in Youngstown

Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Points of Light on an Armillary Sphere: A Requiem

video credit: Youngstown State University/
Office of Marketing and Communications

Three Points of Light on an Armillary Sphere:
A Requiem for Richard Pirko.

Douglas Fowler
Appleton, Wisconsin and McDonald, Ohio
June and August, 2010.

          Remember the job painting a high-school planetarium dome out in western Indiana, where all the school officials were friendly; never asked me for an ID when I showed up mid-day to meet you guys already working, and the students all so respectful. They still had Future Farmers of America and studied engine repair.  We ate breakfast at a cafe inside a bowling alley.

          I travel these same roads, tired of interstates.  There’s a free museum in Fairmont, Indiana where I told the proprietor I’d worked in planetariums.  He smiled and pointed me toward the Rebel Without a Cause Exhibit and drew a map so I could find James Dean’s small grave on the north end of town.  I remember how John Moseley out at Griffith Observatory used to publish our things in the Planetarian.  That’s where Sal Mineo’s Plato hid from everyone at the base of a Zeiss projector.  

          So I travel these roads avoiding rush-hour Chicago.  And farther.  We painted domes, built shelves, installed lighting in San Antonio, Fresno, even West Palm Beach where they put us up in the Hilton, and there was Casper, Gibsonia, Mishawaka, Muncie and Kankakee.

          And there was Kokomo. That first trip when I drove showing you the US routes, westbound 24, then south on 31, and we played Charlie Parker on the tape deck in my aging Ranger that had already gone a full light-second.

          You cut sweeping arcs of plywood in the parking lot, your circular saw compassed on a 15 foot radial arm screwed down to the asphalt.  We overlapped them into cove-shelves and you always humored me when I’d countersink the drywall screws, working three drills back where no one could see anyway.  We told the director how to build four sets of vertical cabinets right up to our cove-shelf at the four cross-quarter points around the dome.   We drove back home and you showed me the county roads with corn right up to the asphalt and we drove through Spanish towns in north Ohio that no one knows and we were lost until Fostoria. 

          We drove back to Kokomo two years later after a tornado peeled the roof off the whole spread-out school building.  But the planetarium dome survived perfectly!  Bound by our cove-shelving, sitting on those four overbuilt vertical cabinets.  We were proud.                    

So here is point #1:  Tony Armeni built this sculpture, with its subtle and accurate armillary sphere, so very well.  You would have liked that.  All things should be as well-built.

          It will survive any natural storm, and I hope it survives the kind of storm that took your boot-prints away.   

          And the best trip of all was Casper, painting another dome with old friends, a simulacrum sky over Wyoming.  We’d take breaks and join the public sessions with telescopes wheeled out on the lawn, both of us showing kids the planets in the real sky:  Saturn and Venus near conjunction in Leo; Jupiter in Scorpius, all along the ecliptic in a long summer twilight that gave enough light to see us down three days later from 12,000 feet of the Snowy Range.    

Point #2:  The imitation sky inside a planetarium is not enough.  Our students and patrons must have access to the real sky with light from real objects.  We orbit a spectral class G2 main-sequence sun.  This sundial is the most classic way for anyone to experience our motion in the warm light of our yellow star.   

          And I come to my third point:

Point #3:  If this armillary sphere sundial is to be any memorial to you Rick, it must be used.  It will always be a piece of laboratory equipment as well as art.  And in the best of worlds, is there really any difference?   

          I promise to finish the lab I’m working on.  But you know – it will require students to make careful measurements outside of class, on their own.  Some measurements will be made hours apart.  There will be no showing up to lab for half an hour, take some careless data and then run off.  We will do nothing less than have them observe nature outside of the classroom.  

          That’s a hopeful thing we shared.  Remember how we both got into trouble in that summer program for the gifted.  My crime was showing them math.  But yours was so much better – you showed them some measure of physical access to our skies on our own small world.  You told those kids about the EAA Young Eagles and at least one of them  had her pilot’s license before she turned 18.  

          So now I think of you every time I drive south on Highway 41, past the F-86 Sabre pointing skyward in Oshkosh.   And there was Milwaukee, that second to the last planetarium dome painting job.  You and Diana drove up there and I didn’t make it because my brother passed away and then I taught astronomy at UW Fox  that summer and in the fall we sawed up the big oak that came down in a storm and you were gone two weeks later.

“I started thinking about you up in Milwaukee
  It was raining when we reached Chicago
  but the tears didn’t start rolling down my cheeks
  until we rolled into Kokomo.           Kokomo . . .” 

                                                           John Mayall, 2002       

Sundial unveiling and dedication

The unveiling and dedication of the memorial sundial will be Thursday August 26, at 1:30pm. The tributes will be shared in the Ward-Beecher Planetarium, Youngstown University, Youngstown Ohio 44555 and following, weather permitting, we will move outdoors and the sculpture will be unveiled.

It should be a short ceremony.  Tony Armeni (the sculptor) will be there.  The Dean is invited, but his schedule is in flux, and may not be able to make it. The President and the Provost are also invited. Those saying a few words will include Victoria (Rick's wife), Angela Pupino, Pat Durrell, Doug Fowler and Warren Young at this point. Ron Cole (YSU media person) will be there, and with Warren's help will be writing up a press release for the event.

Victoria has passed several thoughts along to me to share with everyone here:
"Rick would be very humbled at the idea of this memorial but I am exceedingly grateful.

"Again many thanks to all of his friends who helped his family and me get through this difficult time. I would like all of Rick's friends and those he mentored to feel free to stop by at the ceremony - nothing very formal - and and to view the sundial which is amazing. Dr Young, Pat Durrell, Angela Pupino and I are going to speak for a few minutes. Jeez that is going to be tough. Hope I don't cry too much.

"Dear friends, the mere words "Thank You" is such a pathetic way to express my gratitude for all your efforts in making this memorial happen. Rick's first, truest, and greatest love was the Planetarium. What a great idea of his closest friends. I can't believe it actually happened. It is amazing that such a wonderful tribute has been created to honor him and all those who loved him back."

Planetarium is in Ward Beecher Science Hall - Building #14, Lincoln Avenue, Youngstown OH 44555
street map for planetarium

and there is a Facebook Public Event Page for the 26th where one may comment or RSVP at:

Richard Pirko Memorial Sundial Dedication

Photos of the sundial in different stages can be seen in this FLICKR album

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sundial glowing along

Warren Young and Pat Durrell have worked together to set the north alignment, and riverstones have been poured around the base. A final tweaking needs to be done for the `equation of time', an adjustment they will make around the end of August/ September 1, but at the moment it is only off a small amount. Once the final corrections are in place, people will be able to use the sundial to find the correct time to within a few minutes!

It has been suggested that the ceremonial  unveiling take place during the first week of university classes but this is not definite. The plaque is complete and will be installed just before the dedication ceremony.

Anyone can use the sundial, please stop by and read the time - and admire this beautiful piece of sculpture - what wonderful work, Tony Armeni!

The sunlight writing the Roman numerals in the oxidized patina really makes the figures glow! See the photo below...

And the shadows cast by the parts of the dial onto the pavement are graceful and fascinating - especially "the arrow of time" intersecting the shadow (always just over your shoulder, behind you like your shadow).  And lastly, Rick's garlic bulbs are busily propagating, sowing their tiny hard bulblets about.

Many more views can be seen at this set on Flickr - click here.

View as a slide show - click here .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sundial nearing completion

The sundial is almost finished (along with its setting). It is a beautiful sculpture and yields an amazing number of shifting shapes as the viewer moves about it. Here are 4 photos taken yesterday, and more can be seen at this set on Flickr - click here.

View as a slide show - click here .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sundial propotype update

Here is the latest stage of the memorial sundial. Photo of this initial mock-up taken by Pat Durrell. This is the general shape and size, and the basic placement for now, but details are not final for either.  No formal timetable yet for completion of the sculpture - perhaps a couple months? - or of the construction of  the surrounding structure/walkway/platform and the insertion of the plaque(s).