No Context For You – September 27th

How can we possibly be at the end of September?

Time seems more fluid, more flexible, more fungible than ever before. I don’t know if that’s a product of my age or this age, whether I’m changing or the world is.

Or all of the above.

But I’m not sure I’m that happy with it. Perhaps if I were more able to see how things were getting “better,” as opposed to “different.”

In the end it all comes down to figuring out what you want, how to get from here to there, and then doing the work to get there.

Tomorrow’s another day. At least we’re not in Florida. Or Cuba. And if you are, be safe.

 

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Filed under Photography, Random Blatherationings

Sunset Again

It’s a few days past the autumn solstice and we had just enough clouds and atmospheric smoke and dust to make the sunset interesting.

Meanwhile, the incoming Hurricane Ian that’s about to hit Florida made my day “interesting.”

Our payroll provider is in the Tampa Bay area. Our payroll would normally be processed Wednesday & Thursday.

So we played “52 pickup” with my work schedule for the week.

Happy Monday!

At least the clouds were pretty for ten minutes.

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Filed under Photography, Sunsets

Vandenberg Video

This was a shot in the dark. There were so many unknowns. Where would the rocket be rising over the mountains? How loud would it be? How fast would it move? How big would it be? Which direction would it be going?

I had some good guesses for some of those. If you look at the video, my eyeballing of the map and directions said “over that white barn with the brown roof out there.” It actually came up directly over that telephone pole to the left of the white barn.

I had my iPhone set as wide as possible in order to increase the odds of catching the rocket – but that also means that when it did, the rocket was just a dot. If I had been actively controlling the video recording, I could have done much better, zoomed in, etc. Next time.

It was windy out there. You’ll hear a LOT of wind noise, and I don’t know if anyone makes a wind sock to slip over the bottom (i.e., the microphone end) of an iPhone 13. Probably should Google that, they probably do. Or I should probably make one, patent it, and get rich.

Lessons learned.

If you can zoom in to see portions of the video, do so. You can actually see the rocket pretty well since this is a high-definition video. I’ve also got some reasonably fancy video software that I’ve never used that says it can do that and give me a video output of that – we’ll see how my learning curve goes. But not tonight.

Through the wind noise, in the background you can hear the launch comms (the guys in the foreground had a radio) and you’ll hear “Engine start,” then “Liftoff,” then at 0:24 you’ll hear people say “There it is!”

At about 0:37 you can start to see the rocket as a glint, heading straight up from that telephone pole toward the sun, and at about 0:47 you start to hear the roar of the engines.

At about 1:18 you see a vapor condensation trail start to appear just to the right of the sun and you can really start to hear the “ripping” sound from the engines.

At 1:48 the vapor trail stops but you can still see the dot of light from the engines as the rocket starts to pitch over to the left, headed south over the Pacific Ocean.

I gave the camera a nudge to the left to keep tracking it at about 2:00, and you can follow that dot all the way to the left edge of the frame, about the time you hear a helicopter go by at 2:39.

The vapor trail starts to drift, down at the bottom you see a cloud of exhaust start to rise from the pad, over the hill, and there’s a ton of wind noise as the video wraps up.

A lot of room for improvement, but it doesn’t suck for a shot in the dark.

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Filed under Space, Video

The Final Delta IV Heavy From Vandenberg

There are stories to be told, maybe, but if so, later. Today was a full day, and a day full of ADVENTURE! The good kind.

Tonight, just the pictures. I’ve had enough time to see what I have and what I missed and clean it all up a bit.

In short, I made it up to Lompoc, about 135 miles north of where I in western Los Angeles County.

The second I opened the window to take this picture, a large, weird bug flew into my ear.

To orient us, the launch site was at Space Launch Complex #6 (Slick-6) as marked on the left side, right near the coast. I was where the blue dot was in the middle right, just barely outside Lompoc city limits. The “heart” pins indicate places where I had flagged from online articles as good places for Vandenberg launch viewing. I was headed for one of the two on Ocean Avenue to the west of where I stopped, but the police had the road closed before I got to either.

I was guessing that we were about eight miles from the launch site. Whatever! This was a new experience, a chance to learn how to do this more in the future. I got settled.

Next to us was a guy working on his field. I have no idea if he loves rockets or hates the crowds. In the background you can see some of the fairly large crowd parked aside the road between his fields.

There was what I perceived to be a large crowd, even if it wasn’t gargantuan. (Try getting out of the Rose Bowl after an N’Sync concert!) Folks were lining all of the roads all the way back into town and beyond, plus any open side road.

There were turkey vultures flying overhead.

There were turkeys taking selfies. Off on the horizon on the left, my best guess by eyeballing the map said that the rocket would come up over one of those two peaks behind that barn.

I was right. (For all of these rocket photos, I haven’t cropped them. They’re all shot with a 300mm telephoto lens – click on the photos to blow them up to full sized, there’s actually some decent detail in the rockets and plumes!)

The rocket cleared the hills about 18 seconds after liftoff. We had plenty of folks with radios who were listening to ULA Launch Control, so we knew when it lifted off.

Remember my guess of eight miles to the pad? That was pretty close, it was just over 40 seconds before we started hearing the engines.

From our vantage point, the rocket seemed to go right next to the sun, which was a rude surpose to those of us (i.e., me) who were looking at it through a telephoto lens.

For a brief time around then there was a really nice condensation trail, which made it much easier to follow.

Here’s a wider angle view from a video screen capture. I’ll have to play with the video to see if there’s anything else that’s salvagable.

Back at SLC-6.

And then there was traffic. And other adventures to tell about later. And maybe video.

Was it worth the three hour drive each way?

HELL, YES!

 

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Filed under Photography, Space, Travel

Nature’s Popcorn Dritter Teil

Yesterday, after I saw the tiny dude from the previous post, I went walking around the back yard and spotted another tiny dude.

This guy was not nearly as calm as the first one, skittering and running like hell when I was still twenty feet or more away.

He got off of the grass and onto the dirt very quickly, letting his natural camaflouge work for him.

If I hadn’t seen him skitter over there, I’m not sure I would have noticed him as I walked by if he didn’t move.

He only waited a few seconds before moving to make his escape over the edge and down the hill, even though I had frozen.

Not sure why he thought I was such a threat. I think it has something to do with the “popcorn” title and the idea that everything and everyone is trying to eat you.

And there he goes, just the tip of his tail left! Total time of the encounter, from first picture to last? Twenty-eight seconds.


Tomorrow, with luck, an adventure!

As many times as I’ve talked about going up the coast about 150 miles to Vandenberg to see a launch, it’s never quite worked out. But tomorrow, the final Delta IV Heavy launches from the west coast (there are two more scheduled from Florida before the rocket is discontinued and replaced with the Vulcan rocket) and my schedule is otherwise clear. No super critical work deadlines, no more Wing activities for the CAF, no travel, no Chiefs game – “no obligations.”

So, footloose & fancy free, I plan to wander up the coast to Lompoc, see if I can find a wide spot off of the road near the base entrance or on the beach if it’s open and not foggy, and watch a really freakin’ big rocket take off.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Filed under Critters, Photography, Space, Travel

Nature’s Popcorn Part Deux

Here’s the same little guy as the other day but with the “big” camera and lens. (Canon DSLR with a 300mm telephoto lense instead of an iPhone 13 Pro Max.)

I don’t know if it’s because I was coming up behind him or not, but I got a lot closer than I did two days ago.

Or maybe it’s just that he had a really good, warm spot and didn’t want to leave if he didn’t have to.

Once he saw me, he kept me in his sights. Lots of side eye.

As long as I moved really, really slowly (and stayed at least seven to eight feet away) he was sorta okay.

That board he’s on is about a half-inch thick (maybe 1.5 centimeters).

That gives you a good scale. He’s not very big at all.

Still bigger than when I first saw him (and his siblings) a week or so ago.

Just hanging out, trying to learn to balance, both physcially on the edge of the board, and in terms of threat assessment, balancing the need to be in the sun and warm vs. being exposed to predators.

Ah, he’s lifting his tail, bringing it out of the shade and into the sunlight. For warmth, or as a prelude to flight?

It was flight. He was off in an instant into the brown grass and essentially invisble.

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Filed under Critters, Photography

NC Headphones Vs The Laugh Track

If there’s a special place in Hell, I hope it’s reserved for whoever invented the TV sitcom laugh track. It’s specially designed to cut right through all of the background noise that might be around you as you watch, very subtle, almost unnoticeable, ever present.

Until you have it pointed out to you.

Until you’re listening to it from a TV down the hall and trying to think and you can hear none of the “jokes,” none of the dialog, just a mush that sounds a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher – except for the laugh track, slicing through reality like a prop from a horror movie (what was that spinning ball with the blades that popped out?) headed straight for your ears like a cruise missile.

And then, once you’re aware, sort of like Rowdy Roddy Piper in “They Live,” you’ll never watch a sitcom in peace again. Whether you’re out of bubble gum or not.

Consider this – have you EVER seen a movie with a laugh track? Think of movies you find hilarious. “Animal House” maybe. “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.” Is there any kind of laugh track to make sure you know which bits are supposed to be funny?

It’s a war now.

Then I discovered Noise Cancelling Headphones.

There just might be a God.

Not only do you get tunes, but the laugh track goes away. It’s blissful. If it’s a war, this is the nuclear option.

The good ones are not cheap, but they’re worth every penny. The Apple iPods are in the $100 range and work okay, if you can keep them in your ears. (I can’t.) The top of the line Bose headphones are about $550, but worth every cent.

Wearing them all night might not be the most comfortable thing when it’s warm and muggy, but take them off for a second, listen to the cackling demon chorus hooting at something that’s not very funny to begin with, and you’ll be surprised how fast you can put them back on and be perfectly happy with the choice.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk!

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Filed under Entertainment, Music

Nature’s Popcorn

That’s a phrase I’ve heard Dr. Earyn McGee use more than once on Twitter referring to tiny baby fence lizards. (Also, tomorrow’s Wednesday, so a reminder that Dr. McGee runs the best “game” on Twitter on Wednesday nights. At 17:00 PT you can get her picture of the week with a lizard in there somewhere and try to #FindThatLizard. When you do, let folks know with the #FoundThatLizard hashtag, with the answer revealed at 21:00 PT. It’s fantastic!)

Well, we’ve had another hatching. We got back from Chicago two weeks ago and I’ve noticed them all over the dry dirt of the back yard. Most aren’t more than an inch or two inches long. You almost don’t see them so much as you see their shadows as they skitter for cover.

She calls them that (I believe) because they hatch by the dozens, but the vast majority of them don’t survive long. They get eaten pretty quickly by birds, other lizards, and anything else fast enough to catch them.

Don’t underestimate that speed. The reason these pictures are marginal is because they’re taken from 20+ feet away with my iPhone on full digital zoom. If I get any closer, POOF!! They’re scattering at Warp Nine.

Maybe one or two of them will win the Darwin lottery and make it to a spot in the front yard under the car, as front door dragon, or big boy of the back yard next year.

 

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In Search Of A Little Green

We started restrictions on lawn watering back in June (or was it May?) and between that and several solid weeks of 100+ºF days every single day, the back yard has taken a beating.

But abour ten days ago, just after we got back from Chicago, there were some hurricane remnants wandering through and we got a tiny bit of rain here. Other places out in the mountains and deserts inland, out beyond Palm Springs and into Nevada and Arizona, some isolated spots got enough rain to cause some flash flooding and mudslides, but here we got maybe 0.2 inches of rain over a 24-hour stretch.

Plus, since then it’s been mostly in the mid-80’s every day instead of 100+.

Did it help?

I’m going to go with a resounding, “Maybe?”

I’m not sure how much of it is wishful thinking and how much is actual recovery, but it seems to be a tiny little bit more green than it was.

I’m not talking about those tall, long desert grasses on the right, it’s the standard issue monoculture lawn grass on the left hand side of that barrier that I’m wondering about. Maybe? In spots? Kinda?

At this point, I would be happy to have the lawn hanging on in a “less dead” state than even bothering to hope for “thriving.” Let’s manage our expectations, folks.

This would be another benefit to owning our home instead of renting. If we owned I would be ripping out the wanna be putting green and putting in some low water, desert vegitation and flowers, along with some succulents, cactus, rocks, pathways, and lots of fancy gravel or decomposed granite in between everything. It would look great, be very low maintenance, and have ultra low water requirements. Maybe a bench or two, a birdbath, some bird feeders…

I think we’ll probably be out of the drought via natural causes and a couple of consecutive El Niño years before the owner will be doing that. Brown and dusty might be the new norm. With just the slightest, semi-hallucinatory bit of green mixed in…

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

And A New Week Is Upon Us

My usual Monday phrase at work for every informal email or text is “Happy Monday!”

I’ve made it quite clear to everyone else on the team that this is 1% a “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy and 99% utter sarcasm. If they ever detect even one part per billion of sincerity in there I am to be immediately institutionalized and given a full course of rabies shots.

It is what it is.

Here, have a random picture of some plants in my back yard as I was dropping my phone while out futzing and getting soaked in the middle of the night tonight.

Happy Monday Eve!

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Filed under Farce, Photography