Category Archives: Fireworks

Full Moon Rising With A Side Dish Of Eclipse

SOOOOOO much happening today! Bird adventures! Lizards! Airplanes! BBQ! Fireworks (all illegal – see my video on FaceBook!)

But we’ll deal with those later. Let’s talk about catching the full moon rising over the Santa Monica Mountains (between Tarzana/Encino and Santa Monica) while also being partially eclipsed! It was only a penumbral eclipse but that still astonishing and at least 100 x more beautiful than my pictures can portray! But I’ll share them anyway.

Thanks to the Star Walk app on my iPhone, I was pretty sure it was going to come up right about there. Which just meant I had to find a hole through the trees on the hillside below me.











For a view of the bigger picture:

From there it was a not-so-quiet yet relaxing couple of hours of listening to the barrage, along with the peepers down the hill, a couple of nighthawk’s circling above, a pair of owls pissed off with all of the explosions, and the wind through the trees.

I had put away the good cameras, but before I came in I took a shot at a picture using the iPhone which I didn’t think was up to the job. I’m glad I tried – I was wrong!

Upper right, way overexposed, the full moon. Dead center, bright through the tree, is Jupiter. To the lower left of center, just inside of that big branch from the center tree, much dimmer than Jupiter, is Saturn. Below it all, the San Fernando Valley in all of its illegal fireworks glory.

I hope you had a safe Fourth if you’re in the US, wore your mask, and stayed physically distant if you went anywhere.

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Filed under Astronomy, Fireworks, Photography, Space

Music Of The Night – July 4th Edition

Between one thing and another we’re not at a fireworks display tonight, which is unusual for us. Be that as it may, it’s not like we don’t hear them.

Here’s the audio off of a video I tried taking with my iPhone a while ago. The moon didn’t show up for beans in the video, but the sound tells a tale.

Note that there aren’t any public displays of fireworks within at least ten miles of us – everything you hear is being shot off by locals. Of course they’re all blatantly illegal, and yes, the state is dry as a bone with brush fires everywhere. These are from Sunday, June 25th, a fire that was just a couple miles from the 78 homes we’re building in Santa Clarita:

Enjoy the pyrotechnics, everyone! Happy Fourth of July to the US of A!

As long as that big orange glow doesn’t start up in the dry brush near our (your) house tonight, we’ll be celebrating the 5th of July as well.

 

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Multitasking On The Fourth

Okay, everybody remember that Juno arrives at Jupiter tonight! If your fireworks got rained out, or were yesterday (what’s up with that?), or are already over, or you’re not in the US and you’re just thinking that we’re especially wacked out today (BTW, you’re correct!), then hunker down in front of NASA TV and watch the show!

If you don’t have NASA TV on your cable or satellite system, or your fireworks are going on simultaneously and you don’t want to miss them, or you’re going to be at a ballgame (like we are), then watch it on your phone or computer or tablet or your freakin’ Apple Watch! C’mon folks, we’re in the 23rd Century here! (Actually, I don’t know if you can watch it on your Apple Watch. You should be able to on general principles alone – just sayin’.)

My thoughts will be will all of the thousands of folks across the globe that have worked for decades on this mission. Tonight’s one of the true do-or-die moments, with very, very little room for error.

To all of my fellow NASA Social tweeps at JPL, a few short miles from Dodger Stadium, where I’ll be – I’ll be watching, keep up the great work! And just on the off chance that any of you were thinking, “Damn, I really wanted to see that game tonight and the fireworks, but now I’m stuck being at JPL!” I have some nice seats on the third base side I could trade…

Head at JPL and Jupiter, body at Dodger Stadium watching some of this (these are from July 4th 2006 at Dodger Stadium):

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The Sound You Hear

Well, THAT sound is the fireworks being shot off up on the hill by knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, pinhead excuses for human beings who apparently think the “EXTREME FIRE DANGER” warnings (not to mention the dozen-plus active brush fires in SoCal) are for everyone else. I know that the LAPD is probably stretched thin, but couldn’t we spare one officer to make sure these clowns end up sitting in a cell someplace until at least the 5th?

But the OTHER sound you hear is the wailing of the war drivers who can no longer mooch off of our wi-fi. (Note for the record – I have absolutely NO reason to believe that any of our neighbors are actually are doing this. They all are lovely people.)

We’ve been having more and more serious and more frequent issues with our internet connection for the last two weeks or so. Today I was able to take care of the problem. Our cable modem was years and years old and finally failing. It was relatively simple to swap it for a newer one at the cable company office. They also said that our connection speeds would increase significantly. (That would be a sweet byproduct of this upgrade!)

It turns out that our new modem has built-in, dual channel wi-fi. We had been using a separate wi-fi router before, but it hasn’t had any security on it for a while. It used to – I set it up when I first installed it. But some time in the last year or so it got reset and I got lazy and never put the security back in place.

The good news is that our cable company is now giving out modems with the security protocols enabled by default. To log in, there’s a thirteen-digit, random, alphanumeric password printed on a label on the bottom of the unit.

The bad news is that they don’t bother to tell you this or give you anything that might even vaguely resemble an instruction sheet or manual. God knows how the average lay person figures out how to log in, let alone change the security settings on the equipment. But when it comes to tech, I’m not the average lay person.

After googling for the model’s user’s manual, I figured out how to log in (without calling customer service!) and found the built-in utility for updating modem settings to be better than average and quite easy to use. I first figured out how to change the SSIDs to “WeLoveTheStarsTooFondly” and “ToBeFearfulOfTheNight.” (There are two because of the dual-speed access.) I changed the passwords, then changed the password and username to log onto the modem.

As a side note, does anyone want to guess how many of these modems in the greater LA area have the username still set at “admin” and the password still set at “password”? I’m thinking that greater than 50% is a sucker bet, and I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it being greater than 75%.

But here at Castle Willett we’re tight now. A good, secure set of passwords, solid security protocols activated, and the hardware firewall set to kill, not stun.

If we find our yard tee-pee’d tomorrow morning I suspect it will be from some frustrated war drivers.

The thought makes me smile.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Computers, Fireworks

Things I Have Learned At My First Angels Game Of The Year

Angels Stadium remains a beautiful park.
The Younger Daughter is Queen of the Photobombs. Especially when the bombee is the lady who gave her a dirty look earlier when she yelled a Monty Python curse.

The crowds are tad sparse this year, especially for a Saturday night with fireworks to follow.
My daughter’s blue car looks purple due to the redshift as she passes us in the carpool lane.

It’s a good thing that baseball food is zero calories and zero carbs!!

At least it will be much easier than normal getting out of the parking lot tonight.

While the wi-fi at the stadium is much, MUCH improved, the PA system (at least in the nosebleed seats) still sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

The replay system this year could still use some improvements, both in speed and in accuracy.

I have a fitted baseball cap. With this übershort haircut, it’s too big (or, more accurately, my head’s too small) so it sits down on my head so far it rests on my ears, making it difficult to put my glasses on or take them off.

I absolutely HATE blown saves!

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A Day For Celebrating!

It was the first day at my new job and it was fantastic! I think this is going to be a great experience for me.

And, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo 2015 and I’ve “won”! I’ve hit 50,257 words in fifteen chapters, and I even know how the story ends (I think) in about five more chapters!

What do we use for celebrations?

FIREWORKS!!!

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Fourth Of July Adventure!

I hope you and yours are having a fun (and safe) Fourth of July if you’re in the United States – if not, Happy Saturday!

I’m at the Dodgers game with The Younger Daughter, looking forward to baseball, hot dogs, and fireworks. At the moment the big question is, “Who starts a Fourth of July fireworks game at 4:15??!” We shall see.

But in the search for adventure beyond the norm, we decided to see if we could get to Dodger Stadium using public transportation. Yes, LA does have public transit!

   

In theory we could have caught a bus a block from home and then switched to the Orange Line bus to get to the North Hollywood station, which is the closest subway station to our house. This would have taken an hour or more.

In practice, we drove to the North Hollywood station in twenty minutes. (In rush hour, it would have been well over an hour.)

 

The North Hollywood station is at the end of the Red Line subway. A train was just pulling in. We rode with many Dodger fans.

Mind you, this was not like riding the train to a Yankees or Cardinals or Nationals game, where 95% of the passengers are going to the game. For us it was maybe 10%. But that’s 10% in the land of the automobile and freeway obsessed. It’s progress.

We got off where the Red Line ends at Union Station. From there the Dodgers and LA Metro have a free bus shuttle up to Dodger Stadium.

 

So it’s actually a piece ofcake to get here using public transit. The bus makes a stop outside of center field and also at the top of the stadium behind home plate. 

Downtown Los Angeles looks like a postcard today.
 

The stadium is ready and has been upgraded a little bit each year, but as always with Dodgers fans, it’s a late arriving crowd. (A 4:15 game? Really?)
 

The big flag is out, it’s time to play ball! Let’s hope it’s as easy getting home tonight as it was getting here! (If not, maybe we’ll try Uber or Lyftfor the first time.)

Enjoy your holiday!

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April Was One Great Month!

A month ago I was happy to have survived March. March this year had some really good times (“Fifi” visiting us at CAF SoCal, my chance to fly in her, my birthday, CAF SoCal website launch, CAF audit, tax returns, daughter coming home from South America) but was generally lived at about 100 miles an hour with no rest stops.

It occurred to me today when I noticed that post that April had been just as busy, if not more so. But where March felt like hard work, April felt like the whole month was spent at Disneyland. (The good Disneyland, i.e. the fantasy one in the commercials, not the real Disneyland, with long waits for every ride and crowds like the Tokyo subways at rush hour.)

April started with a total lunar eclipse, the third one in less than two years!

There were two week-long trips to the East Coast, with all of the fun & games of commercial air travel. That included our first set of lost luggage in quite a while, some delays due to weather and mechanical issues that led to some very tight connections, and enough jet lag to keep my head spinning like a top.

North Carolina had weather & thunder boomers! Duke Gardens! The Durham Museum of Live & Science! Artsy-trendy-weird hotel-restaurant-bar-museum place! Durham Bulls Stadium! North Carolina Museum of Natural Science! North Carolina State Capitol Building!

I got an invite and went to my fourth NASA Social, this one in Washington for Hubble’s 25th Anniversary! The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum! The Capitol, White House, Washington, Lincoln, & Jefferson Memorials! The World War II and Vietnam War Memorials! A game at Nationals Park! Meeting up with my sister-in-law and getting to see my niece perform in an epic belly dance performance!

Whew!

After a good & busy March, I celebrated with fireworks pictures from Dodger Stadium. That resulted in a great & busy April. How ’bout we post more pictures from that set and see if we can go for a fantastic & busy May? (Let’s keep it going, I’ve got a whole thesaurus of superlatives to use.)

Sympathetic magic from a die-hard physics major? Whatever works, baby, whatever works.

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I Made It Through March!

No fooling! (I pranked no one today, not that I don’t have a prankish nature or enjoy the “sport.”)

It was the busiest month in quite a while on about five different fronts (a potential job which unfortunately did not pan out, “Fifi,” CAF audit, new CAF website, tax returns…) and they all seemed to hit simultaneously. April isn’t looking a whole lot better, with at least four major deadlines in the next week, another milestone later in the month, a week long trip, and of course, all of the usual shenanigans here. Of course, there’s a really, really good NASA Social on the East Coast that I would love to do (Hubble 25th Anniversary) as a second trip later in the month, but I think that’s not going to happen for economic reasons.

Regardless, I at least made it through March! And now I’ve spent the evening in “badger brain” mode on taxes, so let’s celebrate! (Not to be confused with being celibate if at all possible.)

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I don’t know if they still do it, but at least a few years ago on July 4th, they let the crowd come out and sit on the outfield grass at Dodger Stadium to watch from there. Mmmmmmm, real, honest-to-god, major league grass!

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My Funeral

First of all, I’m fine. I’m not dying, at least, not any more than the rest of us. I didn’t get any recent news of a tumor, blocked artery, or astronomically high blood pressure, nor do I know of a bullet or a bus with my name on it.

I am not superstitious (or “stupidstitious”) about it being Friday The 13th. Today’s date means nothing other than tomorrow is “Pi Day Of The Century“! Which also means nothing, since the calendar and our measurement of time is about 90% arbitrary, but it’s a great excuse to be goofy and have pie. Mmmmm, pie…

But this song came up in my playlist the other day (see #16) and my brain got to spinning off onto a dozen tangents, as it is occasionally wont to do. (Silly brain.) So, given greater and lesser amounts of seriousness, to be updated periodically as I change my mind or come up with other goofy crap to do, here are some suggestions/requests/orders (you don’t want to be haunted, do you?) for my eventual funeral:

  1. Please do not call it a funeral. “Memorial service,” “life celebration,” whatever the politically correct term of the week is, but not “funeral.” Although as you’ll see, I want the “fun” put back in “funeral!”
  2. Someone take a LOT of pictures. I would do it, but, you know, “dead” and all that.
  3. If at all possible, start the event just before sunset, outdoors, under a clear sky.
  4. Wearing a suit and tie or fancy dress will be frowned upon, unless of course some serious (and entertaining) gender-bending is going on. Depending on the weather, if you must wear “normal” clothes, Hawaiian shirts for summer or turtlenecks for winter are okay.
  5. Extra points: Wear Hawaiian shirts with airplanes on them.
  6. Beaucoup extra points: Wear turtlenecks with airplanes on them.
  7. All things being equal, people should be encouraged to wear costumes — fannish friends might consider bringing extras for the mundane factions of my family and friends.
  8. If not into fannish costumes, mundane costumes will do. Angels, Chiefs, or Kings jerseys and/or hats are all acceptable. Their rivals’ gear will, obviously, not be acceptable.
  9. Extra points: Anyone wearing a combination of Angels, Chiefs, and Kings gear will be recognized for their creativity and given a seat of honor for the event as a reward.
  10. Beaucoup extra points: Have the Angels’ World Series trophy, the Chiefs’ Lombardi Trophy, or the Stanley Cup there for people to take selfies with.
  11. Have a flyover. My pals at the CAF will do a great job.
  12. Extra points: Get the Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds instead of the CAF.
  13. Beaucoup extra points: Get the Blue Angels, and the Air Force Thunderbirds, in addition to the CAF.
  14. Everyone’s invited. (Yes, that means you too!)
  15. God’s invited (s/he’s included in “everyone”) but it’s my party, not God’s, so let’s not make any deities the Guest of Honor, ok? Either I’ll be some mythical afterlife actually talking to some deity or another (my mother’s bet) or I simply won’t (my bet). Either way, I’ll know and you won’t. (Wait, if I’m…then I won’t… Never mind.)
  16. Play “Into The West” from Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, the one sung by Annie Lennox. I absolutely love that song and have wanted it played at my funeral memorial service ever since I first heard it.
  17. Extra points: Get Annie Lennox to sing it live with a full orchestra.
  18. Beaucoup extra points: Get Annie Lennox to sing it live with a full orchestra and Amanda Palmer!
  19. Tell jokes, tell stories, tell more jokes. I’ve done plenty of stupid things, let’s relive them in all their glory.
  20. Share my photographs, and keep sharing them for years and years beyond. They’re a big part of the proof that I was here.
  21. If I’ve managed to get any of my stories published, read some choice selections. If I didn’t break through, pick a couple of my less sucky Flash Fiction efforts to fill time until it gets dark.
  22. As it gets dark, keep the lights off (or at least to a minimum, or hand out flashlights with red lenses) so that everyone can get dark adapted.
  23. Bring out the telescopes and spend the evening (all night if you want!) with everyone taking turns looking through them at the planets, stars, nebulae, comets, moon…
  24. Whatever the venue, sing. Sing filksongs, but use the broad definition of the term (“Anything I’ve ever heard sung at a filksing”) so that things like “A Dying Cub’s Fan Last Request” are included (yeah, gotta sing that one!), and don’t limit it to just filksongs. If it feels good, sing it!
  25. With luck I will have had organs donated, so let people know what went where. I want any usable spare parts of mine used to help others when I’m no longer in need of them, and others should be encouraged to do the same. Have forms there for people to sign up for blood and platelet donations, as well as become organ donors.
  26. Serve chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, chocolate cake, ice cream, apple pie… None of this vegy plate and health food crap – life’s too short, as I will have obviously just demonstrated.
  27. Alternative idea #1: If it’s cloudy or you can’t find a dark sky location, or if it’s just later in the evening and you’re “telescoped out”, light up as many Christmas lights as you can (make it visible from space!) and then follow up with a massive fireworks display.
  28. Alternative idea #2: Have all of the above (or as much as practical) at a ball game. Angels, Chiefs, or Kings doesn’t matter. Can you just imagine a group of my family members, my CAF friends, my fannish friends, and other assorted knuckleheads taking up a whole section at an Angels game on a Big Bang Friday and partying all night?
  29. No flowers. Just because I’ll be dead doesn’t mean that we need to spend a money killing a bunch of innocent flora, most of which are probably allergens to someone in attendance. Instead, take the money you might have spent on flowers and donate it to a worthy charity. The CAF. Habitat For Humanity. UNICEF. Pick a group that’s going to deliver the biggest bang for your buck and help the most people.
  30. In other words, if you wish to donate in my memory, please pick a good, efficient charity, by which I mean one that isn’t going to piss away huge chunks of the donations on six-figure CEO salaries. Education is a huge area of interest, so maybe a group that puts disadvantaged kids through college, or just helps them get through high school. Or maybe a group that educates girls and young women in societies where they’re considered property. (You get the idea – if in doubt, read a few of my rants to see what pissed me off, then give to the group I would consider “the good guys.”)
  31. Hug The Long-Suffering Wife and my kids for me, early and often. As much as I might want this to be a silly & fun party instead of a somber & serious funeral, they might have have a tougher time than I will playing their parts.
  32. Have fun!!

I’ll see you there! (Wait, I forgot…)

Actually, by the time I plan on going, we’ll be doing all of this just to say goodbye to the meat-sack part of me. The all-important “me” part of me will be uploaded into a computer or robot and I’ll be there partying right along with you.

Beaucoup BEAUCOUP Extra Points: Upload “me” into the computer of a Goliath-class starship scout vessel, load the party and all of my friends and family on board, and let’s party on (or at least, near) all nine planets! (Yes, Pluto too.) Drop off those who want to stay back on Earth, then the rest of us will head outbound at some large multiple of c.

Yeah, that’s the best plan of all.

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