27 November 2015

My, How Things Don't Change

"I know that most men—not only those considered clever, but even those who really are clever and capable of understanding the most difficult scientific, mathematical or philosophic problems—can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with great difficulty—conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives."

Count Lev Nikolayevich (aka Leo) Tolstoy in "What Is Art?" 1897

10 November 2015


Another fabulous picture. Click on the picture for the full-size version, then, when you get it, click on it to set background to black. At full screen resolution, it's quite impressive.


Golden Gate Lightening

Great picture, taken Nov 8 or 8. Click for large version.

07 November 2015

Tech Tips - Phones

Here are a couple things to be aware of when dealing with the overlap between cell phones and land lines.

1. If you have a land line, the number of that land line belongs to you—i.e., it is transferable. If and when you want to convert that number from land line to cell phone, you can do it without hassle (hopefully) or charge (definitely). Just tell your cell phone company that you want to do so, and they'll arrange the transfer.

2. Some cordless land-line phones include Bluetooth. This means that your cell phone and home phone can talk to each other. I have such a cordless phone bought from Radio Shack a couple years ago for $45. When somebody calls me on my cell phone, it rings my cell phone AND my ex-land-line phones. This means that while at home, I (a) don't have to carry my cell phone around with me, (b) I get the benefit of the loud ringing, and (c) I can pick up any of the home phones and talk.


These two capabilities allowed me to simplify and cheapify:
  • I pay less per month in phone charges than previously
  • I don't feel like I'm buying duplicate services
  • I deal with one phone company instead of two
  • I answer my cell phone when I'm traveling and my home phone when I'm not
  • I can hear my loud home phone ringer with no problem
  • All the people who might want to call me don't have to be concerned about calling my cell or my home

I'm not sure why I thought you needed to know this, and didn't already know it, but there you go.

06 November 2015

Thermonuclear Art

Here's something pretty special. See the link at bottom of page, and run in in full screen if possible. And on the biggest screen available to you.

Here's the explanatory text from the NASA web site.

The Sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on February 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on teh entire disk of The Sun, with a prime view of hte graceful dance of solar material coursing through The Sun's atmosphere, the corona.
SDO captures images of The Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps nighlight a different temperature of solar material. Different temperatures can, in turn, show specific structures on The Sun such as solar flares, which are gigantic explosions of light and x-rays, or coronal loops, which are stream of solar material travelling up and down looping magnetic field lines.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on The Sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too. Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. built, operates, and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

All tracks are written and produced by Lars Leonhard.

Credit: The SDO Team, Genna Duberstein and Scott Wiessinger, Producers

NASA: Thermonuclear Art – The Sun In Ultra-HD (4K)

02 November 2015

Turnabout Is Fair Play

I try to not post political items on this blog, but this one is so good that I'm making an exception. One could say that it's not really political anyway, just a pointed observation about what's good for the goose being good for the gander.

01 November 2015

27 October 2015

White Mountains

In early October, my mom and I took the long route from Santa Rosa to Phoenix, and had a very good time driving and exploring across parts of California, Nevada, Utah (especially!) and Arizona. A highlight of the trip was the White Mountains of California, a range that runs parallel to the Sierra Nevada and to the east of the Owens Valley. The White Mountains are home to (a) the world's oldest living tree, the bristlecone pine, and (b) spectacular views of the Sierras. Here's a picture of one of the trees I saw on the Discovery Trail, followed by the view from the road looking west.


On the short trail through the Bristlecone forest, I ran into some serious photographers plying their craft with one of the most picturesque trees. I got a name which led to a web site these pictures:

Dan Swiger Photography 1

Dan Swiger Photography 2


26 October 2015

Picture of the Day

Although the photographer doesn't provide any location info on this shot, it's recognizable (to my daughter at least) as a formation called "The Wave," located in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona.

Click on the picture below to link to the photographer's page. Then, after the photo is displayed on your screen, click it again to go to full screen mode.


28 September 2015

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The Atlantic (magazine) has printed many fine articles in its quite-long history. But I don't recall reading one that I thought was more important or more powerful.

It's quite long and will take you a while, but is definitely worth the effort.

Click here for the Atlantic site and article.

Let me know if you have any problems accessing the article, I'll send it to you another way.

07 September 2015

Burning Man Backlash

There is also backlash from non-Burners. An online fund-raising campaign this year called for a wall to be built around San Francisco during Burning Man to keep those who departed for Black Rock City, as the festival location is called, out permanently.


From a NYT article


Click on picture for full-size version. Once it's displayed, click on it again to change background from white to black (much better viewing).


10 August 2015

The Big Race

Quote of the day, courtesy of friend JB:

“Hopefully the race to grave between body and finances will end in a tie.” (S.W. Martin)

05 August 2015

Disco Ball

Another extraordinary picture. Read the caption below the pictures for some details, though the photographer doesn't say if the picture is (a) one shot or a composite, or (b) "natural" or PhotoShopped. Click on the picture to change the background to black, which is almost always better (than white) for viewing.

23 July 2015

Monument Valley

I was recently in Monument Valley, and took a fair number of pictures of that magnificent place. Today I saw this picture by a professional photographer and was reminded—again—of the place's awesomeness. The sunset sky doesn't hurt either.

21 July 2015

A Couple Great Pictures

Click on them for links to full-size images, then click again to change background to black.



13 July 2015

Take A Hike

I'm on a driving trip to Colorado to see some friends, stopped off at my favorite place in the world--Zion National Park--for a little walk.

Following in an explanation of the pictures that you'll find here:


Three sets:

1. Driving through the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona on Sunday. Not great photos, but they give a sense of what a spectacular gorge it is. Usually I'm going 60 or  70 mph, so was happy for the road construction and 10 mph.

2. The approach to Zion. Again, not great photos, but they give a sense of the fantastic rocks and mountains that one drives through on the way to the Big Show.

3. The Angel's Landing Trail, which starts at the Virgin River and climbs to the stop of a giant rock/mountain. The light was very intense and it was hard to strike a balance between the deep shadows and the bright light of the sky and the giant rock faces. No photography awards in this batch, but you get a sense of the walk. It was only 2.5 miles one way, but there was a lot of vertical packed into those miles, especially the last half mile. The trail is so steep and dangerous that there are chains along most of the way in the final approach--and they're definitely needed. Lots of people quit at Scout's Landing, a large flat area 1/2 mile short of the summit--which gives a very clear view of what's coming. Many more people gave it a shot, but turned around after realizing what they had gotten themselves into. The view from the top defies description--and, unfortunately, I was conserving camera-phone power at that point.

It was a fabulous walk, one of the best ever. Not for the faint of heart.

After looking at my pictures, I recommend an internet search for "Angel's Landing" where you'll find a description and many more great photos.

08 July 2015


So if you decided that you wanted to join a church, and these headlines and articles were your main sources of information, I guess it wouldn't be a very hard choice, would it?

Muslim Religious Scholar Calls on Muslim to Accept the Equality of Homosexuals

Muslim Groups Raise Money for Black Churches Burned Across the South


KKK Leader: 'We're a Christian Organization'

USA Today: Christian extremists pose threat

Griechenland uber Alles?

For anybody following the Greek debt situation: You'd think Germany would be a little more flexible, given its history. Let's hope that Greece doesn't try to solve its debt problem like Germany did in the 1920s/30s/40s.

07 July 2015

Earth As Art

Although I didn't see this page until three years after it was published, I'd say it's worth waiting for. Click on the line of text below the following image to be redirected to the NASA "Top Five 'Earth as Art' Winners" page. When you get there, read the little blurbs about each of the five winning images, and then click on each image itself for a larger view.

30 June 2015

Tech Tips

Here are two important things that all children of the digital age should know. (And like it or not, you're probably one such child.)


1.  Google Flights. Look up "Google Flights," go to the page, and enter the airport nearest you. Optionally enter your travel dates.

a. To find the lowest fare to anywhere in the world, enter the destination.

b. To find the lowest fare to EVERYWHERE in the world (!!!), do not enter a destination (just an origin) and click on "expand map." Then us the +/- keys at lower left to zoom in/out, and click-and-hold to drag the map to the part of world in which you are interested.

What a wonderful thing!


2. Photos in the Cloud. Do you take pictures with your phone?

Apple, Google, Microsoft (OneDrive) and probably others all offer (a) "automatic upload to cloud" services, and (b) in most cases, free storage of your photos. Apple's service is called "iCloud" and "iPhotos," and I'd recommend that for Apple phones. I've tried all three of the services named here on my iPhone 5, and Apple's seems to work the easiest and most reliably. All  the services have software that runs on PCs and Macs so that you can access your cloud photos as if they were on your local computer.

So if you take pictures with your phone, they can be (a) automatically uploaded to the cloud without you having to do anything, and (b) thereby become completely accessible from your PC and other cloud-connected devices.

20 June 2015

Big and Bigger

You may recognize the gentleman on the left as Duane "The Rock" Johnson, an American movie star. Mr. Johnson is six feet five inches (1.96 meters) tall. Shown here with his friend, Sun Ming Ming, a Chinese basketball player.

04 June 2015


A most remarkable "map" showing the evolution of Earth, Earth-based life forms, and Mankind, from Earth's beginnings until the present day.

From the original text:

The Histomap of Evolution: earth, life and mankind for ten thousand million years. Arranged by John B. Sparks. Copyright, 1932, by John Sparks, 1942 edition. Printed and distributed in U.S.A. by Rand McNally & co. One dollar.

To navigate:

1. Locate the little slider bar with the minus sign at one end and the plus sign at the other. Here it is shown on some yellow-with-text background:

Click on either end, or use the slider, to increase/decrease magnification level.
2. Use your mouse—click and hold and move—to reposition the map.
Note that this map is just one of approximately 60,000 digital maps that have been created from the collection's total supply of over 160,000 historical maps. Unbelievable.

03 June 2015


Great bumper sticker seen on a car in San Luis Obispo:

Safety Third
Follow me to certain death.

Interesting Fact of the Day:

When Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas and his men, of the Spanish exploration party led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, became the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, in September of 1540, they estimated the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon to be eight feet wide. (It is actually 200-300 feet wide.)

The point is that even with their eyes wide open, standing there on the South Rim some 5000 feet above the river, having sent three men partway down into the Canyon, they still could not believe—literally—how big the Canyon is.

If you've been there, you probably know the feeling...