Cool Stuff From JPL and NASA!

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NASA and JPL have a very neat set of travels posters for Solar System and Interstellar vacation destinations at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/

You can download these as poster-quality PDFs!

ceres is one on the menu, a nice one.

If you download a poster, you’ll come to this screen that has more goodies.

http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/exoplanettravelbureau#Kepler16b

I used Planet Quest by JPL often when researching for the first book in my Elise t’Hoot series; I wanted to get the latest facts on the exoplanets. FYI, exoplanets are the worlds that orbit suns not our own and it’s amazing how many they’re found. They have lots if the latest news on planets, asteroids, satellites, space, and have many helpful pictures to illustrate the concepts. Now they have lots of interactive stuff as part of the “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”.

All the pictures for this post are from the NASA JPL s1te, I hope you try it out and have fun!

Amway and Appaloosas

Snow on tree vineYesterday I forgot Ma’s medicine at the cabin and didn’t realize it until I got all the way into town. Idiot! Thus I had to drive back with Ma in the swirling snow last night. Of course my brother was there taking full advantage of my not being there, his big old truck blocking the driveway. Surprised him!

Anyway, I set the alarm very early to get in to work this morning as it takes well over an hour to get there from the cabin. The county had the roads cleared well, we only got a couple inches. I cruised up the ramp onto the Parkway, four lanes with little traffic. I set the cruise control on 70 and relaxed some. I pointed outJanuary Cold Geese snowplows to Ma, I pointed out chilly flocks of birds. Then a big pick-up passed me.

This huge black Guzzlero 350 had prominent mirrors on either side. I told Ma those giant mirrors had turn signals incorporated, so the guy must pull a trailer. To have them that nice installed instead of the clip-on kind, he must haul something valuable, regularly.

The pick-up wasn’t the newest model, but had the appearance of being kept up. The black body gleamed, the chrome shone through the crusted snow, no dings or rust. With those mirrors he had to pull a long trailer and have enough money to maintain the truck, the trailer and whatever he hauls. Horses. Maybe he had a line on some horses for sale and was on the way to give them an experienced look.

Snow UPS leaving farmMeanwhile, his wife accepts yet another Amway box from the UPS carrier that knows her name and asks how her sniffly rat dog is doing. “He died”, she told him, and then thanked him for her wonderful package. She wanted to sell Amway but all her neighbors avoid her anymore. She gave Shelly artful make-up sets, lip glosses and blushes for her wan face every Christmas, birthday, Easter and Earth Day and many cologne arrays to her son; he’s only 12 but was growing into it.

Shelly opens the front door, sees the boxful of all night mascaras and pineapple candles and feels the strong urge to go right back out before Ma looks up. Too late. “Hi, Ma.”

“Look honey, I got you these nice gloves that match this bracelet that matches this necklace that goes with this combination flashlight and Pumpkin Spritzer for your purse!”

Dad walks in and shakes off the snow, a rotten habit that makes the carpet soggy and it Snow Close foot printscatches so much dirt. “Hey Shelly! Arnie Butz up in Fordsville has a spunky appaloosa that he’s gotta sell to get his wife some kind of exotic medicine. Dunno, but he’s selling it rock bottom. Help me hook the trailer up and let’s go get it!”

Shelley slumped, ‘There goes more of my meager inheritance.’ Aloud, she said, “Sorry Dad, Ma and I were heading out for breakfast. It’s the eleventh anniversary of my braces coming off and I need to celebrate. We might get some shopping in after that. Want to come along?”

“Hell no! You girls have fun, I can get this myself.” He goes out mumbling.

After a country ham and scrambled egg breakfast, Ma insists on going to the Goodwill. Shelly knows better but relents. Surely all of the Amway plunder Ma had sent her over the years and had donated was off the shelves, in some other ditzy woman’s house.

Ma got a cart because she didn’t like using a cane, it made he appear old. She leans on it and starts wandering. In the geegaw aisle, there laid in a perfect row, were the 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016 versions of Santa’s Favorite never-opened lip gloss in hot pink. “Shelly, looky there! I wonder why some are missing?”

Shelly knew…

 

Ah, end of the Parkway, click off of cruise control, coming into town and traffic. Isn’t funny how a mirror on a passing truck can make a tedious drive more bearable?

No Cabin This Weekend, Wahhhh!

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This is the high part, it goes steep at the end of what you see, down to the road. Note, no snow. Imagine it.

Snow PrintsGosh Durn the 1ooo mile wide winter storm…the little goat roads to the cabin are all iced up with a foot of snow atop that. Plus the narrow roads have precipitous shoulders, follow sharp contours and probably have trees down across them. I with my trusty 2005 Subaru Forester with the shovel in back would brave the elements, but I have frail Mama now and don’t want to risk it. Good thing is, I left enough food and water for the animals down there to last a few more days. Monday should be warmer so I can hie on down there and replenish the feed bowls Tuesday. At least I hope so! Melting would increase flood potential, but greatly reduce SHOVELLING that great long driveway.

With most of the business closed and the roads dangerous because of the other drivers 😉 I suppose we’ll watch videos and listen to music all weekend. Amazingly, I brought my laptop up to town Monday morning, thus I can work on my new stories!

I guess I’ll have time to resolve the problem of how Otto and Socks get from the Better Ore Worse to the Baling Wire asteroid mining ship. At least I should have time…unless the power goes out. Shhh! I didn’t day anything about the power! No, I didn’t! I hope no gremlins subscribe to this blog.

Not that I don’t stay extremely busy here at work…but check out this magnet conundrum. Why does that scraper razor stand straight up instead of being drawn up the magnet? That’s a ready strong magnet and any other ferrous item I put up to it is difficult to pull off. The anti-magnetonic razor! Go figure!

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Since I Don’t Have Enough To Do…

I had heard about Citizen Science for a long while, but equated it with birdwatchers getting eaten up with ticks out in some snaky woodland. That can be great fun, including the monkey-like tick-picking afterwards, however it is time consuming and risks horrid diseases. Then I found Citizen Science for couch taters and cubical residents:

ZOONIVERSE! People-Powered Research

The Zooniverse provides opportunities for people around the world to contribute to real discoveries in fields ranging from astronomy to zoology. Welcome to the largest online platform for collaborative volunteer research.

They have lots of projects from wildlife in Gorongosa to old sailing ship logs to weather patterns – you select a project and they tell you the way to count and identify what you see. They show you pictures. You count or circle or describe. If you like, you can join a chat on the subject.

I have indicated the illustrations in old horticultural journals. I have compared one storm track against another to discern the stronger. I have counted wildebeests and indicated what direction they ran. I have categorized Mediterranean plankton (least favorite). The newest one is spotting and identifying Wisconsin wildlife, looks very interesting. For all y’all that have jam-packed days already (as I do) yet wish to contribute in a meaningful way, give it a try as you can do as many counts as you have time for. It’s fun!

Painting pre-crackle runsPainting crackle detailOooh, update on the painting project – CRACKLE. Check out the before and after; neat effect after drying a couple days. I propped the canvas up at various angles until I got the drip rate I wanted.  I have tons left to do on this. I love the ‘fractured sky’ look and the way it dripped down, but not so much the solid brown right below the crackle. There are plenty of ways to fix that. All I have to do is tear myself away from my laptop and the SF new series…I have more ideas for that too. How long before the weekend starts?

Here, Chicky-Chicky!

Cabin ChickenI had an obsession years back ( who, me?) about chickens. The cabin was about ready to move into and I needed to segue from working on the cabin to working for pay. I got work at the brand new, opening soon chicken plant five miles away! New factory, new career (food safety) and great folks to work with. As a fabulous bonus, any packaged chicken with too few days left to ship was sold at deep discount to employees. I lived on chicken.

Back home, I had a cabin to decorate. Why not chickens?

These are some treasures I’ve collected over the years. The silver one is from Iran – Persia the guy said. The bug-eyed one is battery operated and squawks while waddling. The one with glasses is the Scottish brainy fella from Chicken Run. The one with her neck stretched out I got while in Scotland, from the shop that

Cabin Checken Arraymade it. The rooster in the lower corner was done by April White, a co-worker at the chicken plant. When you roll the wooden one, the egg inside tumbles.

The best of all was the little chicken house I built on the front porch with a ladder going down into the fenced front yard. I got three cochins and a Rhode Island Red. Blackavar was solid black. Guess which breed Rhoda was. Sylvia was, that’s right, silver. The sweetest doll was a Partridge Bread cookbooksCochin, thus Partricia. She would come up to me for a neck rub and would eat from her own little bowl of cereal as I ate mine. I wish I had pictures of them all, especially Partricia. I got so may huge brown eggs I got “The Good Egg” cookbook by Simmons and got really good at making soufflés.

Years of happy. Then fox, fox, fox and finally Particia, fox. I wish I had pictures of those ladies to post. I do have these pictures, Bark and Bark:

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HooDoo Remembered

I had money in my past life way out in sunny California. That’s now I earned enough to buy my land and cabin kit. Ain’t got none now, money that is, but that’s a different story. One of the unnecessary but cool things I bought in that halcyon time was a nice German scroll saw. These are the ones that have the fine serrated blades that go up and down so you can cut out all manner of intricate shapes. I got a wood burner pen with a nifty set of tips too.

A dozen years or so ago, the sad little boy down the way had brought me two puppies in a sack, saying his Mom had told him to go shoot them. Right, don’t take care of the cause, just keep killing the helpless effects…or get your impressionable son to do the dirty work. We have low-cost spay and neuter here and laziness is not a good excuse. I step from soapbox now, sorry.

Of course, I adopted them. I named them HooDoo and WhyNot. Hoo and Why were shaggy and gangly, truly goofy with one blue and one brown eye each. A couple years after I got them both fixed, Whynot disappeared…coyotes? There is heavy predator pressure around here and he was a brave fella.

HooDoo, the forty-seven shades of brown female, stayed closer to the cabin and became the sloppiest leap-and-lick sweetheart. Hoo became shaggier and more fun as the years passed and got along swell with my other animals. I loved the way she’d loll her head back and forth, dripping slobber. Rowdies in pick-up trucks tearing up the narrow gravel road hit her and fled without observable remorse.

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Fast forward, that saw is in the back of the garage with junk piled on and around it. I have no idea where the wood burner pen got off to. However, at one time I put it to good use. The doorway to the garage has a double light switch.

Falco, Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat Hi there! I’m Falco and I live in a very tolerant and ecologically minded lady’s cabin. I’m a Little Brown Bat, and have lots of family around here. A less-than-well-known fact is that independent boys like me don’t congregate with the rest of the gang in a hollow tree; we like to each pick out a warm barn…or cabin.

There’s a high, peaked ceiling in this place, kind of barnlike. I fly all over at night when those tasty mosquitoes and wasps are around, and always say howdy to that lady that sleeps right next to my main roost. I have a grand roost! Right in the middle of the upstairs (a 2nd floor is above half the downstairs area) is a room with a flat top. Well between the flat top and the slanting panel and beam ceiling is a really cozy spot for me. Usually.

I do have a complaint! It started getting rather chilly at night and the nut still had windows in that slanting roof open! Not just one, but the whole darned row of them, from one end of the house to the other. Finally I had to fly down there while they were watching that wretched noise-and-flashy-light-box they have downstairs and get their attention.

My Sweetheart
It wasn’t my fault the goofy bat was so tempting!

They noticed me quick, okay, a handsome fellow catches attention. I asked politely, “How is a guy supposed to hibernate with a cold draft blowing down his back!” I latched onto a log over a nearby wall-type window and stayed right there until that silly yet kind lady got the message and shut those darned windows. Brrr! Now if I can only get back to sleep.

One word on leering, sneaking, lazy, leaping, useless, clawing, flightless, spoiled rotten, nerve-wracking and absolutely butt-ugly creatures called cats: SCAT!

500 Words = New Orleans!

Hey, I won a trip to New Orleans! Where I work, we have VSP vision insurance. I deal they do is go to different cities with a mobile clinic and provide free eye exams and glasses. They posted an essay contest on how access to vision care has affected me or someone I love. I wrote about Ma because Medicare doesn’t pay for glasses, just diseases. I wrote about the comical way she went about choosing her glasses and apparently the VSP judges thought was entertaining, too. Cash, a posh hotel, airfare, wow!

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One whole day I get to be part of the vision care outreach, right at the scene. That is going to be so cool and I will absolutely take pictures to share. Since I haven’t been there yet, here are some miscellaneous cabin shots…why not? Especially needed is the shot of Ma, with her glasses on!

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One more thing, my newest sci-fi book is officially out! Yippee! It’s only $2.99 for the eBook, and if you have an Amazon deal it could be free. Give it a try – and leave a review if you can. Thanks!

 

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You Need A Dowser!

I mentioned my water quality and well recently. This is a true story. When I moved from sunny California back to Kentucky to Cabin June 2015 036build the cabin so many years ago, I needed a well – the place was all trees and county water didn’t run there. A fellow came out from Princeton (Kentucky) and asked where I wanted it. As someone immersed in a very technical field for the previous 16 years, I expected he would survey and probe or whatever, use geological survey maps and check the characteristics of neighboring wells and thus tell me where to site it. Very seriously, he explained the hollers and benches in the geology make the aquifer fold around and features could easily vary every few yards. A friend lightly commented that with all of the springs and creeks about, we should be able to stick a pipe anywhere and get water. The driller gave him the eye and said he could drill us 10 holes, all dry and we would pay for every one because he cases (uses pipe) as he drills – you need a dowser.
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It so happened, the driller said his son was a dowser and he could show one of us what his son did.  Always adventurous, I said would try so he taught me how his son did it. We cut a cherry stick and and I practiced holding it level, loose and springy. He direct me to start pacing across the property with the intent to site a good well. The exhileration I felt when that stick decisively pointed down is unmatched to date. He said that indicated one line, now I had to walk from a quarter turn out to see where the lines intersected. I calmed myslef down and did it, finding the intersection.
All the while, my mind was trying to figure how that stick in my hands Cabin June 2015 011could be so sensitive to the water. Magnetic? EMF? That’s when the driller confounded me. He said to think about where we would hit water, one pace away would equal 10 feet deep. Okie-dokie, sounds hokey. I got an indication 3 paces (30 feet) away, but he said that was surface water, to keep going. By then I couldn’t stop, I had to have the map. I had a so-so indication at 50 feet, a good one at 80 feet and a trickle at 100.  On I trod: white sand at 140 feet, an excellent dip indicating a generous flow.
He scheduled us in. He drilled and hit each spot predicted. At 100 feet we had enough water for just us, but the driller had mentioned the white sand aquifer had pristine water – I wanted it. We hit a grand gush at 140 feet, the beautiful silvery-white sand. I have the best water ever, never treated, I could bottle it, 20 years and still going strong – aside from the occasional chunk of mud.

Science Fiction and Social Responsibility

Hey, isn’t science fiction just for entertainment? Maybe not. If you think about it, what do you know about robots? Aren’t we familiar with sentient, friendly servants that come in handy to heroes? How about Azimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? If a robot didn’t bow and scrape in a friendly manner we’d know there was a mightly big problem somewhere because sci-fi has shown us what might happen. Whereas in reality, most robots perform inspections in small or dangerous areas at the direction of handlers or are anchored to a defined area to repetitively build sections of cars with less innate intelligence than a bedbug. I think that robot engineers are working hard on that science fiction vision of a robot, that some of them picture CP3O as the goal. Too bad we don’t have Artificial Intelligence to guide the robots from science fiction.

Gee, science fiction warns us about Artificial Intelligence too, doesn’t it? We know not to let AI take over our military. We also know that AI could take a big load off of folks in charge of very complex operations like power grids. Science fiction informs our questions as current scientists work toward artificial intelligence; AI will be better because science fiction has explored the good and bad aspects and we’ve already seen many of the pitfalls.

How about Mars? Mars is an inhospitable little crust of a planet but we think of Mars as a DESTINATION. Why? I think it’s because so many science fiction stories have led us from initial exploration through terraforming and on into Martian society. Science is planning exploratory missions and is working up to sending humans there. Sci-Fi makes us believe it is doable and worth it for a grand big pay-off. Science fiction doesn’t stop with Mars, either. We know about other planets in our Solar System and even about societies on planets light years away.

We’ve learned quite a bit about society through science fiction from reading about or watching those characters in Dune or Star Wars or Serenity or Tenembras or in hundreds of other examples. How many stories tell of wars over resources? Or ruined climates that hurl the poor inhabitants into famine and rampant disease? We can use science fiction to help us see how destructive changes in weather patterns and rising sea levels will be. We know it’s a fair possibility that millions of people all along the coasts of every continent will be drowned or battered brutally with ferocious storms. Right now science tells us of record high temperatures for summer and winter and about tropical diseases reaching further north every year. Climate change is here, now.

Science uses actual to tell us the threat from climate change is real and that  a bleak future is very possible. Science says we can affect the severity of what happens in the next 100 years right now.  Science fiction illustrates that bleak future so we can feel the hot wind, taste the dust in the air, hear the cries of the orphans and smell the sickness from the refugee field hospital. Science cannot be 100% certain people are causing the climate to get mean, but the probability is very high. I believe it is my social responsibility to limit that harsh future any way I can, and the science fiction picture of our failure drives me to get up off my patootie and act on that belief.