Stars, Sails - the Parallax View
A family of astronomers at sea... coming soon to a galaxy near you...
Grading Grind... Practicing
Heather/sunny, 89F, SE 3
07/11/2014, Fort Myers, FL

Because I am a slow grader who makes lots of comments, I am practicing improving my grading speed with the summer class I'm teaching online. My department chair suggested using a timer, so I am trying it now... will report on how it's going!

Derek is getting ready for the next Navy duty. We were planning a rather stay-at-home summer after returning from the Cool Stars conference (Harold was there! And Dave H! Awesome to see them both!), but it hasn't worked out that way -- Ed passed on, so I had to make a trip to New Jersey, and the Navy told Derek he's teaching a class at PSNS next week because the person who normally teaches the class has to replace her boss in his duties -- because her boss disappeared in the fatal Washington State landslide. So, effectively, a landslide changed our plans.

Grant is taking a class this summer that his schedule wouldn't allow him to fit in last year, so I expect to be regaled with tales of international relations and governance for the next few weeks! As usual, he loves the class, the teacher (history PhD) is awesome, and better still, the dress code is more relaxed in summer :-)

Happy Fourth!
Heather/sunny, 95F, NE 5
07/04/2014, Fort Myers, FL

We went to the festivities in downtown Fort Myers for the Fourth of July. It was a crowd scene, but in the middle of it there was a reserved-for-veterans space with seating, hosted by a local veterans' group. Derek being a veteran, we asked and were allotted tickets for the family. What a wonderful surprise!

Some "cheap cruiser" recipes:

Cheap Cruiser Pina or Guava Colada
8 oz pineapple juice or guava nectar
2 oz (6 TBS) International Delights Almond Joy coffee creamer
Blend those two together thoroughly, this is to keep the creamer from getting a little "grainy." Then add:
2 oz rum (shot)
Blend with crushed ice or just shake. Far fewer calories than an equivalent amount of pina colada made with Coco Goya, and a lot cheaper, besides. Tastes good, too. Probably kill me by Thursday...!

Salute to Ed
Heather/sunny, 80F, ESE 5
07/01/2014, South Jersey Shore

Farewell to Ed, who made lieutenant before retiring from the Port Authority police, who remarried a few years after being widowed and had a 20-year happy marriage with my godmother, Marilyn, and who was a veteran of WW 2 Pacific theater (Phillippines). A lifetime of service to others and a great sense of humor, slipped away over time via Alzheimer's, which steals your loved one's personality and mind before finally stopping his autonomic functions. The farewell was to the man we knew and loved, who was trapped in a container which didn't even allow him to say goodbye properly. The farewell was properly done, with two police from the honor guard the day of the viewing, who delivered the final salute, with a police piper playing him into the church with Dawning of the Day (an unusual selection, overtones of Raglan Road or perhaps William Bloat), with a mass and choir, with the piper playing him out to the hearse on Amazing Grace (more appropriate), and with two other police honor guard saluting on entry and exit. Finally, at the mausoleum, two US Army honor guard saluted him into the building, played taps and conducted the flag folding, presenting it to the widow, who will send it on to his son-in-law who's now the acting paterfamilias, to be left to one of the grandchildren's households.

That was all done well, very appropriately, very movingly. Ed's grands and his son-in-law will have some good and moving memories of the process, which spanned two days. And it was very good to see them, to get to know them a bit; Ed was proud of them while he was lucid, and they deserved to be proud of him -- of who he had been and what he had lived through.

Oh, Never Mind...
Heather / dark with scattered patches of light

In the words of my once-office-mate, Paul, "Oh, never mind, oh never mind, oh never mind, oh never mind --
Oh, come and join old Dabney,
And you will never mind .. !"

That's about right. Good things: music, Grant, Derek, family and friends.
Bad things: oh never mind. [CalTech: The Dabney House Song]

Let's go here, instead:
oh never mind the beaches

Veterans' Day
Heather / mostly sunny and 84F/ ENE 8 kt
11/11/2013, Fort Myers, FL

Well, it has been too long since we posted. Seems like the right day for it, this morning we told G his dad's a Veteran, his grandfather was a veteran (Jim), his great-grandfather was a veteran, his great-great grandfather was a veteran, and so forth! I think if you went back on all sides of the family there'd be somebody in some conflict for the last 1000 years or so, at least ;-) I was tracing my father's mother's line and found a fellow who was an assistant to an invading general taking northern France around 1000 AD.

Parallax needed our attention, and this being a very busy semester, she was not getting it. So the pump for the A/C let us know by getting clogged. Once the friendly marina folk let us know that 1) the A/C pump was cycling and seemed clogged and 2) it looked like we might be ready to plant soybeans on our side decks, I jumped in the car and scooted over to the marina, cleaning gear in the back.

Spent 4 hours that first day and made enough improvement that our chances of growing soybeans were ruined :-) but she was still not shipshape. And somewhere between the parking lot, checking in with the marina folk (hi Lisa, hi Terry!) and the dock, my car key leaped off the key ring. No, I don't know where.

Derek was out of town at a conference, so I had to take a cab back and use his car the next day to get to school, but I picked him up at the airport Saturday morning (it was an EXCELLENT conference and he is SO glad he went!), and we retrieved my car from the marina parking lot. We also finally discovered why so many of the gate personnel can never find us: we are not in the computerized system, we are in a book they have for slipholders, so they have to look us up there. Some of them do not know this.

Sunday and earlier today, Derek spent more hours making Parallax much, much cleaner... guess we'll have to give up our new version of "hydroponics..." Here's the Thursday morning "before" and the "this afternoon" after:

Still not perfect, but so much better... got to wait to do the teak again until we haul and repaint, as it needs considerable work. Will strip and sand where needed, then do whatever painting needs to be done, then do the finish on the wood.

By the way, fellow sailbloggers, we have been SSCA members for years, and did not know that they had a deal with sailblogs, so if you are in the Seven Seas Cruising Association, be sure you do your renewals on SB using the code sbssca10.

The Fifth of July
Heather / sunny and 84F/ occ Tstorms
07/05/2013, Fort Myers, FL

Fireworks Fort Myers
Hope you all had a happy 4th of July, wherever you were!

The Earth has passed its summer solstice since my last post. The rainy season continued, but in June, it changed from previous years. There has been a lot of rain lately. Rain all along the East Coast. Drought and record-setting heat and wildfires in the West. The jet stream, it seems, has an unusual northward kink that has moist air piled up over the East Coast.
flooding in Fort Myers and all Lee County
Flooding throughout Lee County in low roads and ground-floor structures in low areas, last week and early this week.

Our house in Colorado Springs was in the mandatory evacuation area for the Black Forest wildfire, for a few days. That fire was probably started by humans -- they are still investigating. It started at 83 and Shoup and swept north and east, wherever the wind drove it. It burned for nine days. It burned 511 homes. Two people were overcome in their garage while loading the car for a hasty evacuation - not hasty enough - their bodies were found still in the garage. That means the investigators will not rest until they have exhausted every means of finding out how exactly this started. Meanwhile, fires burned all over Colorado, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Some still do. Arizona and Nevada and inland California suffer 115-to-120-degree heat in addition. Even Wyoming, Utah and Idaho are in the hundreds, and they, too, have wildfires. July2, 2013 article about the heat wave
incident map wildfires

Meanwhile, planning for everything that starts in Fall proceeds.

The Rainy Season has started
Heather / cloudy and 72 F

Find more about Weather in Fort Myers, FL
Click for weather forecast

Some of the more southerly-dwelling snowbirds have already stated north, so the shopkeepers and restaurant owners are commenting that "the season" is over. It rains nearly every day a bit, and yesterday it rained torrentially in that wonderfully tropical way, one large badass cloud wandering around the metro area with an outdraft around it and looking like a stemmed mushroom, where the cap is dark gray and the stem is dark silvery rain. Our lawn has suddenly remembered what it's for, and thick green has replaced the sparse brownish ground cover of two weeks ago.

But there are places in which "the season" isn't over until May -- places catering to snowbirds from the higher latitudes, the North Dakota and Minnesota and Canada folk who know there is still crunchy snow on the ground up there. Yesterday we had brunch in one such place, visiting Heather's family friend and nearly-relative, Max, and his lady Sandy. They are residents of Bentley, and one can tell the season by the brunch-wear restrictions: jackets are still required for men in the dining room this month.

Compelled and Impressed
Heather / cloudy and 73F
03/25/2013, Fort Myers, FL

the flying bass-ackwards dunk
My personal favorite image from the joyful game against Georgetown, Chase Fieler's bass-ackwards flying dunk.

A week ago, many of our astronomer friends had never heard of Florida Gulf Coast University. Because of basketball, because of the team and the coach, this has all changed. The most impressive and compelling story of this year's NCAA tournament was the stunning upset of 2nd-seed Georgetown by the 15th-seeded FGCU Eagles, 78-68, March 22, only the seventh time such an upset had occurred in tournament history, but the thrill became worldwide last night when FGCU went on to dunk San Diego State 81-71... the first time ever that a 15th-seed has advanced to the NCAA east regional semifinals (sweet 16).

Sherwood Brown, a walk-on for the Eagles program, celebrates with his teammates after toppling the 7th-seeded San Diego State. Comer and McKnight picked up when Brown got into foul trouble early, and the joyful style of FGCU play came though for the second time in three days.

Derek was home watching the game. I was playing Irish music at Hoolihan's, where the game was on both TVs (sound down). Some of the cheering was for the music, but the spontaneous yells were certainly for the Eagles :-)

And yet, I came away from that session with a compelling tune in my head. I have learned it in the hours since the session ended, but I couldn't go to sleep last night without being able to play it through. Sometimes astronomy happens that way as well -- a particular problem or idea is just something you have to keep working at until you "get it." Here's the tune that kept prodding me:

It was composed by a 15-year-old French hurdy-gurdy musician, Gilles Chabenat, in 1983, and is properly named "Les Poules Huppees" (but is widely known in the US as The Crested Hens-- especially since there is another Poules Huppees out there!). The fellow playing it hesitates a wee bit in a couple of spots, but you get the idea -- that is, if something similar has ever happened to you, and I'm guessing that many of our friends have these interesting ideas or stories or techniques or tunes that compel them to fully investigate before they can rest! I suspect Andy Enfield feels something like that about coaching basketball...

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