Monday, December 11, 2017

computers in space


Spotted on my brother's Google+ page......


Friday, December 08, 2017

if you love dogs......


Patricia McConnell is a behaviorist who specializes in dogs.
She wrote a blog post with a few heartwarming moments with each of her dogs, and invited readers to comment.
There are a lot of chuckles and heartwarmers (and a few tears) in the comments.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

getting out the vote


This morning I mailed 15 postcards to Alabama voters who are registered as Democrats.

I won't call voters, because I don't want to be called.

But I'll write postcards.  (I'd have written a lot more if I'd learned about this earlier.  They said I should make sure my postcards were in the mail "first thing in the morning, December 6," to make sure the voters got them in time to plan to vote.)

I bought 50 pre-stamped ("Forever") postcards at the post office, for 38¢ each (includes 34¢ postage). 

It is all very easy once you are signed up.  I started here --

The short story is -- you text them.  They email you a list of rules, and a list of suggestions for messages.  You write a sample "get out the vote" message.  You email them an image of your hand-written sample message, with an agreement that you have read, and will follow, the rules (which are easy to agree with).   Having demonstrated you're not a robot, you become an "approved writer."

Once you are "an approved writer," you text their robot, which will text (and email) you a list of addresses.  And if you finish with however many addresses you asked for, you can ask for more.  The bot responds almost immediately......

Each postcard took me about 4 minutes, once I got going.  I can only do so many in a row -- I get cross-eyed and stiff.  But if I'd had more lead time, I'd have done a lot more.

Now that I've got 35 postcards waiting for the next candidate, I am poised and ready to jump on the next campaign!

As with everything, it would be so interesting to know how much difference we actually make.  How many postcards, on average, result in a voter who wouldn't have voted without a postcard?  How many dollars make a noticeable difference to a candidate's campaign?  How many pieces of trash sent to the landfill make any sort of substantive difference?

We can't know.

My position on all of this is -- if we go down, I am going down fighting.  Bad things are not (Not NOT) happening because I sat by and did nothing.

And that's it.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

ten more days to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2017


A record number of people have signed up for Obamacare so far this year. 

Open enrollment is ending December 15th, so there are only TEN DAYS to make sure everyone who wants coverage through Obamacare in 2018 signs up or renews now!


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Help get out the vote in Alabama?


Tomorrow I’m going to buy a big bunch of postcards, and address them to Democratic voters in Alabama. If you are willing and able to write and send some postcards, check out


Thursday, November 30, 2017

spot the International Space Station


Did you know that the space station is the third brightest object in the night sky? I didn't, until just now.

You can find out when it’s passing over your area by visiting


Sunday, November 26, 2017

May 29, part 2 -- sunset over the Grand Canyon


Here is a link to the interactive expedition map.

We decided to watch the sunset from the veranda (on the west side of the north rim Grand Canyon lodge).  In the late-ish afternoon we settled in Adirondack chairs just inside the wall.  We had hummus and pretzels and carrots and other snacks.  And water.  And cameras...........

One of the themes of this post is going to be "I need a new camera."  My old one just is getting tired, I think.  Or maybe just old enough to not be competitive at doing what cameras do.

The phone did a much better job in many situation, especially when the lighting was tricky (dark darks and light lights in the same image, for example).  This next image is a product of the phone.

From the camera, unedited.  Sigh.  I could make this better, but it would not be "just a few clicks."  And the result would still be unsatisfying.

Taken in the same minute -- 5:15 pm -- by the phone.  If I did everything I know to do to the above, I would never get anything as good as this.  I did mess with this just a tiny bit, upping the contrast and lightening the darkest darks.

Closer crop of the previous image (phone).

Unfortunately, the phone I had when we were there had basically no memory.  I felt I had to be very circumspect about how many pics I took.

Digression -- So annoying, when every single digital camera I've ever had has accepted (and expected!) a memory chip.  Memory chips are relatively cheap.  The number of pics one can take with a device that accepts memory chips is basically unlimited.  But with a memory-limited phone which can't talk to a removable chip........................  No.  Alas.

So I used the camera on our expedition, much more than I would have if the phone had been more accommodating, because I could take a a basically unlimited number of pics with the camera.  And could not, with the phone.

I suppose I shouldn't complain -- I have a lot of pics I'm happy with.  But I also have a lot that could have been much MUCH better.

End of Digression.

An example of one I wish were better.   I *have* spent some time doctoring it...........  But when things are totally overexposed, like the sky, below, they are just ... gone.  Period.

Ah well.  It is what it is.  Or was what it was.

I've talked about unfathomable aspects of the Grand Canyon.  Something I haven't dwelt upon is the size of the sky.........

When you sit on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, you have 180 degrees of sky, which is totally unobscured.  No trees.  No buildings.  No wires.  (Phone pic.)

Even the phone didn't always get it right.  I have lightened up all but the sky, considerably, in this next (phone) image.

Phone image.  Or, rather, two images.  I took two in sequence, and this next image uses the sky from one and the rest from another.  And still is marginal.

Looking at the path out to the western view point out in the Grand Canyon right near the north rim lodge.

Closer crop of the above..........

Sometimes the camera did a nice job.

I didn't have anything like enough memory on the phone to even consider using it for video.  This was shot with the camera.

Looking east from the veranda.  This is one of the three enormous windows in that big room in the lodge with the huge couches.  Love the clouds.......  (Camera.)

This is to the right of the previous image.  (Phone)

I didn't ask the phone to work on this next vignette.  The camera was completely unable to think about the sky and the tree at the same time.

Tree, lit by the setting sun.

Same time, same place, but exposed for the sky.

Closer look at the sky.  There were several times in the few days we were on the north rim of the Grand Canyon when we thought it was raining, somewhere to the south.  I'm no expert, but I guess this is rain.  If so, I wonder if the rain made it to the ground, or evaporated before it got there.

The air was very dry, on the plateau that ends at the Grand Canyon's north rim.  Our hands dried up, our faces dried up.  I would not be surprised to learn that a lot of the rain that falls, up here, never makes it to the ground.

See that black blob in the next image?  Well, it's a raven.  I don't like to keep "see that blob?" pics, but this the best raven shot I got at the Grand Canyon, and I want to keep it as a place holder.

Several times, as we lingered on the edge of the Grand Canyon, we saw a pair of ravens slipping and sliding together along the air currents over the edge of the canyon.  So amazing that air, which seems so insubstantial to us landlubbers,  is enough support to allow flight, let alone acrobatics....  And touching, to watch ravens enjoying flight together.

We saw lots of birds from the canyon rim, but I got no other pics.  We saw turquoise flashes I identified as jays (scrub jays, I think?).  And other birds I didn't recognize.  I have a lot of respect for people who take good pics of birds.  It's not easy.

Back to the sunset.  This is two phone pics stitched together -- one exposed for the sky, and one for the canyon.

Weren't we lucky to get an evening with such interesting clouds?  The one at middle right makes me think of a thunderbird..........  (As always, click on any image to embiggen.)


Thursday, November 23, 2017



Thankful for family traditions like pumpkin pie for breakfast.

True confessions -- I have made a lot of pumpkin pie, over the years. I have never, no matter what I tried, managed to make pumpkin pie that didn't have soggy crust on the bottom. I don't like soggy crust.......... 

I finally gave up pumpkin pie for pumpkin custard. Back in the day when I did ceramics, I made myself a bunch of little fluted ceramic "pie crusts." This is pumpkin custard in a ceramic "pie crust." All the goodness of pumpkin pie, without the soggy crust.

Trying to concentrate on gratitude rather than dread, with marginal success.  Remaining appalled at the numbers of people who vigorously, gleefully reject reality in favor of fiction that happens to suit their fantasy...........


Monday, November 20, 2017

May 29, part 1 -- shifting to the Grand Canyon


Here is a link to the interactive expedition map.

This is the view out the back windows of our AirBnB townhouse in Kanab.

There were horses inside that white fence, though none of them are visible in this image.

This is the view from the front door of "our" townhouse.  It was great to have a whole "house" to ourselves, especially two full baths, a full kitchen, and a washer and dryer.....

Goodbye, Kanab.  We are on our way to the Grand Canyon.

Southern Utah.

I believe this is Le Fevre Overlook and Rest Area (which I have added to the expedition map).

You can see a long, long way from here.

This southwestern landscape has extensive flat lands, but the flatness is broken by immense places that rise up, and enormous places where the land has been cut away. 

This landscape is an issue when trying to get from here to there.  Unless you are traveling on wings, there are usually impassable barriers between you and your destination.  There aren't many route choices.

National parks, monuments, and forests are often about extremes of high and/or low. 

I believe this is the road that brought us here.  You can see we are considerably higher now than we were just minutes before.

There is a sheltered picnic spot here, in addition to the lookout.

Driving on toward the Grand Canyon.  I believe this is the Kaibab National Forest.

The top of this plateau is not flat.

I mentioned earlier in the trip that we saw lots of places where the trees were dead.  We never knew why.....

I don't know if these big meadows were natural, or not. 

Big sky.

Moving from the national forest into Grand Canyon National Park.  (I am pleased to have my senior lifetime pass!)

Compared to "high" -- Denali at 20,310 feet, or Everest at 29,029 feet -- this isn't, very.  But for a flatlander, who is used to less than 1000 feet, 8827 feet is high.  And dry.

In the Mountains 101 MOOC I just finished, they talk about how conditions differ, up high.  There are fewer molecules of air in each breath, and there is less water vapor in the air.  Thinner air means more UV radiation.  It's colder, up high.  Summers are colder than in the lowlands, and the non-frozen days are fewer.

Tough living conditions, for plants and animals alike.


The north rim had opened to the public for 2017 just one week before we arrived.  It's kind of hard to plan a trip to this part of the world.  If you want to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon, your dates are limited.  The north rim opens in late spring, and closes in early fall.  If you plan to visit Zion as well, you may not want to come when it's hotter (and more crowded) in Zion than it was in late May.  Very tight timing....

And interesting packing, as you have to plan for 30s or low 40s (if you want to be outside looking at stars after sunset in Bryce), and for 100s (if you mean to have a look at Vegas before you fly home).  Don't forget your sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.  And your moisturizer of choice!

Lots of dead trees here.  I wonder if the ones that are still standing, and the dead ones, are different kinds........

From the top of the plateau, as you approach the north rim, you drive a long way, up and down, over curvy roads.  It's been so long since we were there (as I write this in mid November) that I can't remember all the numbers.  I believe the north rim is about 70 miles from anything.

You have to mean to go to the north rim; it's not on the way to anything else.

When you get the end of the road, there are campgrounds, and a big parking lot, and a lot of tiny cabins, and the lodge.  You can't see much from the parking lot but trees and cabins.  We went into the lodge, which is where you check in, and which has a restaurant (for which you must have reservations), but where no one sleeps.  We checked in and got the keys to our cabin.

The lodge also has a huge room full of huge leather couches, with huge windows.  I was drawn, like a moth to flame, toward the view....... 

The lodge is built right on the rim.  There are verandas on each side of the lodge, also right on the rim, with Adirondack chairs (and one has picnic tables).

You can sit, inside on a couch, or outside on an Adirondack chair, and ... look.  

And look, and look, and look.  

(That white place on the right edge of the image above is a look out point, which we will visit presently.)

A thing about the Grand Canyon is that it is so big.  So astonishingly big.  Too big (and far too complicated) for me to take in, even as I stood (or sat!) right there beside it.

It goes and goes and goes -- down, left, right.  Stretched out in front of you.  I think I could be there for the rest of my life, and not feel that I understood it.


If I studied this landscape for the rest of my life, I would only just barely scratch the surface......

As we looked at the slot canyons, I talked about time. 

Here is deep time, spread out in front of us as far as the eye can see, in every direction.  Inconceivable eons of time to build up the land, layer by gradual layer, followed by more inconceivable time for water and weather to carve the land down, bit by bit by bit.

We are on our way toward the view point we saw earlier.  Here it is.

Closer crop of the above.  Perhaps it's just as well I didn't look, up close and personal, at the rocks supporting this view point until I was safely home in Michigan, where the rocks underneath us are not as ... potentially mobile ... as these appear to be.  (We wondered, from time to time, just how it is determined whether things are "safe" for clueless tourists to walk on................)

Looking down from the view point.  It's a long way down.

A bit to the left of the above.  I bet that most of the green on all of these rocks is adult trees.  It's a long way down.....

A bit more to the left of the above.  The tallest human shadow is mine.

Lifting our eyes.........

To the left of the above -- the lodge.  The huge windows at right, on the half-hexagon, are one end of of the big room with the couches.  The three pairs of windows at left are one wall of the dining room for the restaurant.  One of the verandas is right below the three pairs of windows.

Here is a link to the next post about the Grand Canyon.