We Are

Tuesday, 6 June 2017, 21:32

We are the ones who came after
We are the dreams of old people
In the days before they were old
The sun of other days
The stars of other nights
Belong to us now
Belong to us now
For a short time
Our dreams will visit like fireflies
On a summer night
They dance and swirl
And slip away to tomorrow

Category : Poetry

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Too early for pumpkins?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 13:34

Category : Gardening

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Somewhere Out There, Updated

Tuesday, 28 March 2017, 16:34

Constellation Opiuchus

Walk outside some clear evening this summer, and look to the south (assuming you’re in the Northern hemisphere!). You’ll see a bright red star – Antares – and if you’re familiar with the night sky, you’ll recognize the constellation Scorpius. Look above Scorpius, into a fairly dark area without many bright stars. This is the constellation of Opiuchus (a bit of trivia here: Opiuchus is actually the 13th Zodiacal constellation, but having only 12 makes things simpler – sort of like how the Big Ten Conference continues to call itself the Big Ten even though it has somewhere between 12 and 16 teams, depending on which reports and rumors you believe). While you’re looking at Opiuchus, think about the mantra of some on the Right, that government can’t do anything right. And then think about this: somewhere in the patch of sky containing Opiuchus, a spaceship called Voyager 1 is continuing the journey begun on September 5, 1977; Voyager 2, actually launched 16 days earlier, and Voyager 1 had a combined cost of about $250 million (not including support in the ensuing years, which has raised the entire mission cost to somewhere around $900 million). Both spaceships have continued to perform important scientific missions as they hurtle in roughly opposite directions towards stars they won’t reach for 40,000 years. Their nuclear power plants will stop long before that – another 10 years or so – but as long as they have power they will continue to send data back to Earth. Currently, Voyager 1 is about 12,800,500,000 miles from Earth (that’s over 12 billion miles). Voyager 2 is about 10 1/2 billion miles in the opposite direction, in the constellation Pavo (the Peacock) in the southern hemisphere.

And we’re still learning. Data from Voyager 1 has revealed that the structure of the solar system isn’t quite what we thought. There’s a layer at the edge that wasn’t suspected. Is this important? Well, we don’t know, and won’t for a long time. Did 15th century Europe know that the islands they had discovered in the western ocean were one day going to be of vital importance to western civilization? Here’s what we do know: science matters, even if you try to deny the sometimes uncomfortable truth. And science at the level of the Voyager missions is only done at the national level. No private research lab is ever going to do science at this scale. Government does, and often does it very well even at the bleeding edge, and in these times of budget cuts and debt reduction, we would be wise to remember that.

Category : Science, Stargazing

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Wow

Thursday, 29 December 2016, 14:38

No posts since May 1. I gotta do better in 2017.

Category : BlogStuff

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Walking Man Update

Sunday, 1 May 2016, 10:28

An update to an earlier post from September, 2014: I’ve continued to walk. Since August 2014, I’ve walked 3,146 miles – 6,768,965 steps; I’ve worn out 4 pairs of shoes; and I’ve seen lots of things and thought about many more. It’s still the best part of the day.

About 9 years ago, I started walking in the morning before work. I hadn’t exactly been slothful before that, but I hadn’t approached walking as a regular form of exercise. For several years, I was pretty consistent, walking 2-3 miles a day; then a series of injuries, minor and less minor, began to interrupt my schedule, and consistency became less so. I still walked, but instead of every day, or 6 days a week, it might be 4 days a week, or 3, or 2. And I might only walk for 30 minutes or so.

Fast forward to last winter. For years, I’d been having occasional episodes of atrial fibrillation. The episodes would typically last for less than a day, I would convert back to normal rhythm on my own, and move on. At some point, my cardiologist put me on an anti-arrhythmic drug, which worked well for about 4 years; then I had a episode that didn’t convert back for several weeks, and he changed me to another drug, which worked for a while. Last January, I had another episode, short-lived again. But at that time, he said it was time to consider cardiac ablation surgery. The drug I was on wasn’t working like it had, and the drugs beyond that had more and nastier side effects. We decided to to discuss it again after my vacation to Greece in March; when I got back, we scheduled the surgery for July 1. In May, I had another episode; I didn’t convert back, so they started me on a blood thinner until the surgery. Once again, my walking got interrupted, because in a state of constant atrial fibrillation, I really didn’t have energy for long walks. On July 1, I underwent cardiac ablation surgery. It went fine, I was in the hospital overnight, and went home the next day to recover. After a few days of a very sore chest and throat (from the things they had shoved down my throat during the surgery), I was getting better rapidly, until my left leg began hurting. No blood clot, but the cardiologist wasn’t sure what was going on. Additional CT scans and ultrasounds didn’t reveal the cause; finally he said I should maybe go see my orthopedic surgeon (which I had wanted to do days earlier). When I was finally able to get in to see him, he diagnosed the problem in 5 minutes – bleeding into the quad muscles, which caused my left leg and knee to be very swollen and stiff, and very painful. He prescribed a month of physical therapy, which worked wonders in fairly short order. And while I was going through the weeks of PT, I started really wanting to be walking again. By early August, I was pretty much back to normal, and decided to start getting out of bed and getting out the door again. Since retiring from my state government job last year (I now work as a consultant part-time) I have a very flexible schedule, so I can get a good walk in and still have a leisurely morning most days before going to work.

So, I started walking again. At first I took walks like I used to take – 30-45 minutes. But I soon realized that (a) that wasn’t really long enough, and (b) I had time for a longer walk. So I began adding time and distance, and finding new walking routes. Some days I walk in the neighborhoods near my house. Other days, I’ll go to the multi-use trail along the Natchez Trace. That’s where I can get some really good, long walks in. My Fitbit measures the distance and number of steps, and I’ve found that the Fitbit’s distance measurement is pretty accurate. Now, most days I walk at least 4 miles, and I often get 5 miles in, all before breakfast. I take my Walkman radio and listen to NPR’s Morning Edition, and walk, and walk. It’s often the best part of my day. And my reward is scenes like this:

or this:

or, at this time of year:

And most days, when I’m walking along the Natchez Trace trail, I have the trail to myself:

Right now, I’m averaging about 25 miles a week on my morning walks. According to Fitbit, if you include all the steps I take during the day, I average about 40 miles a week. I guess when winter sets in I’ll see how dedicated I really am. For now, it’s just one foot in front of the other.

Category : Life, Walks

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