Monday, September 28, 2015

SuperMoon Eclipses And Wet News From Mars

Super Blood Moon Collage
Collage of photos I took of the 27 September 2015 Super Blood Moon.
(click on image to see a larger version)
On Sunday night we were treated with a fairly rare combination of a SuperMoon (when the Moon is at its closest distance from Earth at the time of the full Moon) and a total lunar eclipse (when the Moon moves into Earth's shadow.  A supermoon is 'super' because it appears larger than most full moons.  A lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a Blood Moon  as it takes on an orangish-reddish color.  So, put these two things together and you get a SuperBloodMoon.  Above is a collage of pictures I took off our deck during the CSI Finale commercial breaks.  The pictures came out better than I expected.

The second astronomical news in the last two days was the NASA discovery of evidence of flowing water on the surface of Mars.  Life as we know it requires liquid water to survive so the existence of liquid water on Mars is a promising step towards the future discovery of alien life.  The discovery of life, when it comes, will potentially be the most important discovery in history and life, as we know it, will change forever.

I love astronomy and these are exciting times we live in.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Book: Iain M. Banks' "The Hydrogen Sonata"

It's been a while since I read a book.  I finished my last book on the 15th of July and I really didn't pick up another book (eBook that is) until I went on my Rocky Mountain camp.  That's not a big gap, two weeks or so, but then it took me a month and a half to finish it.  It took so long not because it was over five hundred pages long.  It was not because it was bad since it wasn't.  I just would pick it up at the end of the day and read maybe five or ten pages before I went to bed.  I just strung out the reading of this rather good book.  Despite the slow progress, Goodreads says that I am two books ahead of schedule.  Good.

This book, by the way, is Iain M. Banks' "The Hydrogen Sonata".  This is a Culture book set up in the far future world Banks created for his Culture Series.  The book revolves around the 'subliming' of a civilization, the time when an advanced civilization transcends the material world.  The story follows the political wrangling, deceit, and manipulation that surrounds this event.

The book was interesting and I think it was one of Banks' better Culture books.  While I have given other Culture books mixed reviews, this one is quite good. The characters, both biological and artificial, are interesting.  There really isn't a huge climax.  This is hardly an action adventure but it held my interest and I was sucked into the world and I wanted to see where it would lead.

This is sadly the last book in the Culture series.  Iain M. Banks was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2013 and passed away in June of that year.  Before he died he asked the woman he'd been living with for the last seven years if she would do him the honor of becoming his widow.  They married soon afterward.  His imagination and creativity will be missed.

I rated this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I will now have to look for another series to follow.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Interesting Weekend With A Friend

Mandala 2015-09-11_002This weekend LA, the Wife's friend, who we met with in New York, dropped by for a couple days.  These days were filled with walking around Omaha seeing the sights through new eyes.

LA arrived early Friday evening and we jumped in the car and headed to the Old Market area of downtown Omaha.  The first thing on our itinerary was a visit to the OM Center to participate in the Chenrezig Empowerment on Compassion.  This Buddhist ritual is a cleansing and blessing of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.  It was a little long for my taste but it was interesting and unique.  After the ceremony we admired the beginnings of the sand mandala the Buddhist monks (who performed the ceremony) were creating.

I added a couple photos to my Tibetan Mandala Flickr Album.

After the ceremony we had a late dinner at the Jackson Street Tavern which turned out to be very yummy.  I'll have to take Mom there sometime.

Omaha Nite & Day 2015-09-11_005
After dinner we walked it off, making our way to the riverfront.  The Wife and I rarely go out at night and this walk reminded me of what we missed.  The skyline lit up with the Woodman of the World tower lit in 911 red, white, and blue.  Bracketing the First National Bank building, apparently coincidentally, were two vertical spotlights that reminded me of the beams of light in New York that represent the Twin Towers.

We reached the Heartland of America park and admired the changing color of the fountain in the center of the pond.  I'd seen it during the day but at night it is even more impactful.

We passed the drunk guy muttering to himself and walked along the Union walk to Lewis and Clark Landing.  The Pedestrian Bridge was all lit up as well, reflecting in the Muddy Mo below.

We naturally walked on the bridge.  In the lights you could see spider webbing attached to the support cables, blowing in the breeze.  The fencing along the railing had teeny tiny spider webs in each square with even tinier spiders at their centers.

Omaha Nite & Day 2015-09-11_011

After the pedestrian bridge we walked over to the Centurylink Center and admired the statues performing in front.  The statues were all lit up.

Omaha Nite & Day 2015-09-11_021

That was enough for the first night. We'd been downtown for almost five hours and all the walking wore the Wife and I out. LA seemed to have unending energy.  We drove home and made it to bed just after midnight.

Omaha Nite & Day 2015-09-12_027On Saturday we had breakfast at the Leavenworth Cafe before heading back downtown.  I parked near the slides and LA and the Wife took a few turns down the slide.

From there we went over to the start of the frontier sculpture.  The sculpture starts with a wagon train representing the settlers of the west.  The sculpture then extends a couple blocks with scared bison who in turn, scare a flock of geese.

We wound our way back and forth around downtown passing examples of Omaha architecture, memorials, and public art.

Not sure how far we walked but it was quite a bit.  By one o'clock I was tired.  I hadn't slept very long the night before and my fall allergies were kicking in with a vengeance.  We got back home so the Wife could watch her football and so LA could do some work that he needed to catch up on.  I took a nap.

Later that afternoon The Wife and LA went to the inter-tribal Powwow at Fort Omaha.  I would have liked to go but my allergies were just sapping my energy and I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much as I would have wanted.

Saturday evening was steak and chicken of the grill, a fire in the chiminea (burning the remains of our fallen crab apple tree), and chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert.

LA got up early to take pictures of the sunrise off our deck.  The weather this weekend had been perfect - almost Fall like.  It had been fun seeing Omaha through a fresh set of eyes.  LA left this morning heading back east.  It took most of the day for the Wife and I to recover from the wonderful time we had.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remember The Fallen

The World Trade Center
Taken circa 1992 while lying on a bench with my very first camera purchased
across from Empire State Building earlier that day.
The world changed fourteen years ago.  History broke.

The 90s were a decade of hope.  The cold war ended.  The Internet boom started.  Crime fell.  Prosperity floated many boats.  Or so we thought.  In hindsight it might have all been an illusion.

When the planes flew into the World Trade Center the illusion came down with the towers.  Immediately after the day people talked about fixing the causes of the hatred focused on us.  There was talk of building bridges between people and faiths.  For a brief moment the hope that existed before promised a better world rising from the ashes of this act of terror.  The brief moment, like the illusion of a bright future before it, was just dust, debris, and empty wishes.  The opportunities we had were trampled under the wheels of the war machine.  A justified war began but was soon eclipsed by a new war, a pointless war, a war justified by acts of deception.  Twelve years later we are still suffering from the aftermath.

Remember what was done to us.  Remember how we ultimately reacted out of fear.  Most of all, Remember those who have fallen.
2015-06-17 New York
The new Freedom Tower.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Language These Days ...

The foul language found in graffiti these days.
Another sign of the fall of the English language ... especially in graffiti.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Shifting Slowly Back On Track

Well, it's September and it's time for me to straighten things up.  August turned out be be a cool down month more me, a cleansing of the palate after a month of furious activity.

A few things happened in August after my return from my camping trip in the Rockies.  First of all my blah mood that I'd been in since early Spring lifted.  I'd always thought it was tied to the anticipation and anxiety around RAGBRAI and my camping trip.  It appears I was right because my mood lifted as soon as I returned from the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The next thing that happened was the complete cessation of all physical activities.  The Spring and early Summer had been chock full of bike training, walking, and stretching exercises in preparation for RAGBRAI mostly but also the camping trip.  As soon as it was all over I turned into a lump.  I ended up taking a three week vacation from all exercise.

The third thing that happened it that I started to obsessively play a Star Trek based computer game.  I don't want to think about the number of hours I put into that game (still am putting ...).  It fills my waking hours except when I am doing my chores.  I guess I went from physically active activities to non-physical entertainment.

But It's now September and I am slowly weaning myself off the game.  I'm still putting many hours into it but I am still playing less than I have been.  The extra time I'm gaining back has gone mostly back into physical exercise.

I put my bike on the training stand in the basement and I rode it a couple hours this week.  I plan to ride a couple hours three times a week (a couple hours = length of a typical Netflix movie).  It felt good riding this week so I didn't lose too much over the past three weeks.

I also went for a walk/hike this week.  Excluding my camping trip, this is the first one I've done since April.  It was a short walk, 8.7 miles (14 km), but I felt pretty good despite the three weeks of sitting in front of the computer.  Fall will be here soon, one of my favorite seasons, and the walks, instead of being in the hot and humid air of summer, will be in the cool and crisp autumn air.

I took my Mom out for lunch this week as well.  I had a good time talking to Mom.  I realize I don't do this enough so I will try to make our lunches bi-weekly from now on and I will have to do some research to find new restaurants to go to.

So September, so far, has been one of getting back on track.  I seem to do this every year.  The Summer activities fill my life with adventure but throw me off my normal rhythm.  Fall is a time for renewal for me.  A return to my routine, a place where I find comfort.