Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse 2018

Live Webcasts! How to Watch the Super Blue Blood Moon Online from Space.com

The coverage is a little breathless, but I’m still glad I got up to see it.

Why is it “super”?

Because the moon is close to the Earth in its orbit this month, and appears larger and brighter than usual.

Why is it “blue”?

Because it is the second full moon in the month of January. There actually won’t be one in February at all this year.

What’s the “blood” about?

When the Earth’s shadow passes between the sun and the moon, the moon no longer reflects the sun’s light, but it does reflect a bit of light from the Earth, which appears reddish. The red color has historically been called a “blood moon.”

And the eclipse? Didn’t we just have one of those last summer? (And I didn’t keep the glasses)

eclipse-poster-image

 

Yes, we had a total solar eclipse last summer, which I wrote about here and here. This month we had a total lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, covering the sun for a few minutes. A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, and the Earth’s shadow covers the moon. Lunar eclipses last for several hours, and you don’t need glasses to see them. The downside is that you have to get up in the middle of the night.

03BloodRed

I got up just before totality started, and I took some pictures with my iphone camera attached to binoculars. I also have a small telescope, but wasn’t able to attach the phone effectively there. I could see the moon very well through the west-facing glass sliding door that leads out onto our back deck. I opened and shut the door multiple times to keep from getting too cold and to keep the cat from escaping!

Individually the pictures are kind of small and grainy, but together they make a nice collage:

Lunar Eclipse Jan 31 2018

You see how the path of the Earth’s shadow travelled from the upper left to the lower right, how long totality lasted (in comparison to last year’s solar eclipse), and just how bright the reflected sunlight is, relative to the reddish light reflected from the Earth. I stopped watching as the moon set behind some trees and the sun rose.

For more information, viewing, and pictures, check out the article above, this National Geographic article, Rare ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ Coming–First in 35 Years and these photos submitted to Newsweek from all over the world: Here are the Best Pictures of the Lunar Eclipse Super Moon. 

Advertisements

Mundane Monday: Lamps

This week’s Mundane Monday challenge asks for pictures of lamps or lampshades. I’ve got a lot of these. Some of them are even artistic!

These are some serious lamps around the door at Gatke Hall at Willamette University, where my daughter goes to college. They look worthy of the Iron Throne; I would not mess with them.

GatkeHall

And there were also plenty of interesting lamps on our trip to Asia last year. I think lamp posts work especially well for the photography “rule of thirds.”

Seoul
Lamp Post in a park in Seoul
BeijingOlympicPlatform
The lamp post is definitely the most mundane of the 3 structures in this picture, near the Olympic Park in Beijing
Beijing
A less futuristic lamp post in Beijing, on top of the old City Wall, where we found our first geocache in China. The lamp post design matches the bare tree branches in the background.
Zhujiajiao
Lamps in Zhujiajiao, a water city near Shanghai

 

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #145.  Mundane Monday Challenge encourages you to take more pictures by being aware of your surroundings. The philosophy of MMC is simple. You can create a beautiful picture even by focusing on a very common looking, dull or so called Mundane subject!

Mundane Monday on Saturday: Charging, Charging, Charging

I didn’t get around to this challenge on Monday, because I had to take a new picture for it! I couldn’t just look through the old ones I had on my phone. . .

But I like that Mundane Monday has themes now. It means we have to be more intentional about what we post. This week’s theme is Switches.

I’m taking the opportunity to neaten up and show the area where I charge stuff. What’s shown in the picture is my daughter’s old iphone in the center, two external batteries on the left, and on the right a charger for regular rechargeable batteries, where I charge the batteries for my metronome/tuner, the batteries for the Wii that we don’t use much anymore, and the batteries for the Christmas candles that we put in the windows last month. Sometimes there are more things there being charged (like my own iphone, but I needed the slot for my daughter’s, and I needed my own phone to take the picture in the first place). All the chargers are plugged into a surge protector, which can be turned on and off with a switch.

Charging stations have really taken over in the past 5-10 years. Before that, people didn’t even have them, let alone consider them essential. This station is downstairs in our house, in the family room. I make a point of leaving my phone there overnight to charge rather than having it in my bedroom. Bedrooms should be for activities that don’t need a phone!

Plugs

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #144.  Mundane Monday Challenge encourages you to take more pictures by being aware of your surroundings. The philosophy of MMC is simple. You can create a beautiful picture even by focusing on a very common looking, dull or so called Mundane subject!

 

The Ozone Hole is Healing!

Remember the Ozone Hole? It was one of the big environmental problems of the 20th century that seemed to go along with all the other reasons that our planet was in trouble. It was a reason all we light-skinned people, especially the Aussies, were going to get skin cancer and cataracts. According to the Ozone Hole website, the ozone hole of 2006, over Antarctica, was the biggest ever:

The 2006 ozone hole over Antarctica (Photo credit: NASA)
The 2006 ozone hole: big, blue, and scary (Photo credit: NASA)

So what is ozone and why is a hole in it bad?

Ozone is a gas made up of three oxygen atoms, with the chemical formula O3. (The normal oxygen we need to breathe is O2). It occurs naturally in small amounts in the upper atmosphere (also known as the stratosphere) and forms a thin layer covering the entire planet. This stratospheric ozone layer (“good ozone”) protects life on Earth from the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Near the Earth’s surface, however, ozone is created locally by chemical reactions between air pollutants. High concentrations of ozone down here on the ground are toxic (“bad ozone”). The Ozone Hole is a thinning of the layer of protective “good ozone” that allows too much UV radiation to reach Earth’s surface.

Why did the layer get thinner?

Some chemicals that were used in spray cans and in air conditioners and refrigerators contain chlorine and bromine atoms, and these atoms are released when the chemicals come into contact with UV light. Then, when these chlorine and bromine atoms drift up into the stratosphere and encounter the ozone layer, they destroy it. A single chlorine atom can destroy over 100,000 ozone molecules. The most common of these ozone-depleting chemicals are called CFCs.

In 1985, the Montreal Protocol regulating CFCs was introduced. This is an international commitment to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals that was ratified by all UN countries. On January 4 of 2018, the first study was published that used measurements of the chemical composition inside the ozone hole to confirm that not only is ozone depletion decreasing, but that the decrease is caused by the reduction in CFCs. In other words, the Montreal Protocol is working! NASA Study: First Direct Proof of Ozone Hole Recovery Due to Chemicals Ban.

This is only a first step and more needs to be done, because CFCs last a long time and the CFCs made in the last century are still around causing trouble in this one. But it is still a good example of how science can influence governments’ decision-making, and how the nations of the world can work together to solve big environmental problems. May our leaders learn from this example!

EarthSculpture

This post is part of the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase stories of hope and light. The #WATWB cohosts for this month are:  Shilpa GargSimon FalkLynn HallbrooksEric LahtiDamyanti Biswas and Guilie CastilloPlease link to them in your #WATWB posts and go say hi!

We are the World Logo

Thursday Doors: Little Italy San Jose

2017 wasn’t a bad year for me. Things got progressively better as it went on and I look back fondly on many personal and family events of the year.

But as the 1-year anniversary of the Women’s March approached this January, I was reminded how demoralized I had been when last year began. My novel languished, and my blog became very pictorial, as I blogged about what I thought were safe topics. The feeling of my country and our democracy having been attacked and undermined both from within and from without, was chilling. The sparse inauguration crowds and the lies told about them on the world stage added to the cold wintery feelings of alienation.

earthsignBut what a difference a year makes! Last year, as millions marched all over the world, I caught up with an old friend in Santa Cruz. I have to admit that as an introvert, protests, marching, and the like don’t come naturally to me. (I appreciated the sign that read “So bad, even introverts are here!”) I didn’t wear a pink hat, but I enjoyed reading the signs and being surrounded by a group of people who were peaceful but happy and energized, and who cared. That march was the beginning of a long thaw for me. I talked about it in church, and wrote about it here: Wild and Precious.

So this year, when the church was getting together a group of people to march again, I joined in enthusiastically. We went to the San Jose march, which started near City Hall and ended near Little Italy, where I took the photos for this post.

I hadn’t known San Jose had a Little Italy, and it appears to be a relatively new development. Visit their website here, to read about the businesses, the piazza, and plans for a museum and cultural center. The gateway arch pictured here was dedicated in April 2015.

LittleItaly

Here are some of the doors. The last one warns you that you are in Sharks territory!

GreenDoorGreenYellowDoorGreenRedDoorSharksTerritory

PussyCatHatAnd this year, I did wear a hat. It was a gift from a friend, who knitted it by hand and added a silver kitty charm to the brim. I feel blessed to have friends like that!

 

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by adding your post to the link over at Norm 2.0’s blog!

 

Always Walking Away

RIP Ursula K Le Guin.

I read her story, “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas,” as a teenager, and I never forgot it. The name Omelas comes from her reading of a street sign to Salem, O(regon) backwards. “[… People ask me] ‘Where do you get your ideas from, Ms. Le Guin?’ From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally. Where else?” The story is about a beautiful, vibrant town, Omelas, whose very existence rests on the hidden suffering of a neglected and abused child. Most residents of Omelas learn to ignore the child’s suffering when they become aware of it. A few do not; they are the ones who walk away.

More recently Le Guin’s social commentary has been on display in the Oregonian, as she protested the coverage of the “Flock of Right-Wing Loonybirds” who had taken over the Malheur wildlife refuge, or gave her opinion of “alternative facts.” To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie. 

I’m grateful I got to meet Le Guin for a week one summer at the Clarion West SF writers’ workshop in Seattle. There she sometimes referred to herself self-deprecatingly and humorously as “the little she-slug.” I wrote a fantasy story that she critiqued, called “Sunrise on West Lake.” Inspired by my time living in West Berlin before the wall fell, it was about a musician who escaped, who walked away from a repressive society. The protagonist was named Ravena after the corner bus stop where I caught the bus to the workshop. That corner was actually at Ravenna and Woodlawn, in the Green Lake neighborhood. But I dropped one of the n’s, just for fun. Ursula’s first comment on the story was, “why do female fantasy protagonists’ names always have to end with -a? Yours doesn’t!”

“Sunrise,” like every short story I’ve ever written, wanted to be a novel. Recently I wrote another short story that wants to be a novel, called “Life and the Maiden.” The title is meant as a play on “Death and the Maiden,” which is the title of a song, poem, movie, and string quartet by Franz Schubert. Music still plays a role in this more recent story, but the protagonist this time, a “maiden” named Viola (after the instrument), rebels against her musician parents and doesn’t play. And she too walks away, literally, from her childhood home. While writing the walking away scene, I pictured Gwyneth Paltrow’s character from Shakespeare in Love, sole survivor of a shipwreck, walking away from shore towards adventures unknown; propelled towards a new life from the ruins of the old.

John Scalzi wrote this wonderful tribute to Le Guin in this morning’s LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-leguin-scalzi-20180123-story.html

In it, he writes about a different book of Le Guin’s, Always Coming Home, and the effect that it had on him:

“This was a subtle gift that Le Guin gave to a young person wanting to be a writer — the idea that there was more to writing fiction than ticking off plot points, that a rewarding story can be told without overt conflict, and that a world wide and deep can be its own reward, for those building the world and those who then walk through it. “Always Coming Home” is not generally considered one of Le Guin’s great books, but for me as a writer and a reader, it was the right book at the right time. The book turned me on to the possibility of science fiction beyond mere adventure stories for boys — that the genre could contain, did contain, so much more. The book opened me to read the sort of science fiction I didn’t try before.”

I hadn’t thought of this interpretation until now. I understand walking away, but I had had trouble getting through Always Coming Home. At the time I considered that a bug, but maybe it was a feature. Maybe Scalzi’s words are a worthy counterpoint to some of the straitjacketed genre plotting advice that is out there.

I’ve been to Salem O, and my daughter goes to school there. The Pacific Northwest, where Le Guin lived, is a beautiful place. One can imagine where she got the inspiration for the joys and delights of the Omelas summer festival. “The Ones who Walk Away” was written in 1973; it was chilling back then. Read through the lens of modern politics and formulaic action-packed dystopian fiction, at first it seems smaller in scope and even a little quaint. But it still hits me, a privileged, white, (no-longer-so) young person, someone who would theoretically love to participate in such a summer festival, right in the gut.

I wonder again, where are the walkers going? Maybe this is a story about a failure of imagination, or a failure of faith. Maybe instead of walking away, they should have stayed and tried to change things. Can you really walk away from Omelas? Are you walking away, like Viola, to a brave new world? Or, in the walking away, are you finally coming home?

***

“Life and the Maiden” was officially rejected yesterday from the short story contest I sent it to, so I am free to disregard the word limit and turn it into the novel it wants to be. (Yay?!)

Book Review: Autism Goes to School, by Sharon A Mitchell

Autism Goes to School (School Daze, #1)Autism Goes to School by Sharon A. Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Autism Goes to School is an easy, enjoyable read. I do not know many people with autism but I have done a fair amount of reading, and I think this book will be very good for educating people about it. The author provides a sympathetic viewpoint character, Ben, who is ignorant about autism until his son Kyle is diagnosed and Ben gains custody of Kyle. Ben makes a lot of mistakes at first but he is well-meaning and a quick study, and none of the consequences of his mistakes are ultimately very dire. The novel tells the story of Kyle’s year of kindergarten, in a mixed special needs class taught by an expert teacher, Melanie Nichols. Over the course of the year, Ben and Kyle get to know each other better, Ben learns to be a father, Melanie becomes closer to both father and son, and a romance develops between Melanie and Ben.

The book works well as education and reassurance for anxious parents, but to my mind it is less successful as fiction. I found the situation by which Ben abruptly and surprisingly finds himself a single parent to a 5-year-old with autism to be a bit contrived. There is also a minor conflict around the fate of Melanie’s mixed classroom, in which special needs and mainstream children learn together, but that is happily resolved midway through when Ben makes an impassioned speech in defense of this type of education. As a reader, I hadn’t known such classrooms existed, but the author’s words in Ben’s voice presented a strong argument.

In general I didn’t find Ben that convincing as a character, because he had very few rough edges. He stepped up admirably, almost too admirably to be believable, to the challenges dumped in his lap by his extremely irresponsible ex-girlfriend. The characters of Melanie and Millie, too, were almost too good to be true, and there wasn’t very much difference between Ben’s narrative voice and Melanie’s. Both were stoic, cheerful, hardworking, and accepting of their lot.

There were a number of sweet, heartwarming moments in this book, which made it a pleasant read, but the plot got somewhat repetitive after a while, as Ben makes yet another in a series of parenting mistakes which get Kyle into a little danger, and Melanie bails them out. Melanie clearly cares about Kyle, and Ben seems like a nice enough guy, but one wonders a bit what Melanie is getting out of this relationship. She is doing most of the heavy lifting and emotional labor; someone as beautiful and caring and helpful as she is portrayed could probably do better.

Still, the happy ending, not only for Kyle, Ben, and Melanie, but also for Ben and Melanie’s siblings, is appreciated. The story shows that autism doesn’t have to ruin relationships, and that people with autism and neurotypical people can live and work together in mutual respect, support, and love.
View all my reviews

Thursday Doors: Chickens and More

DonkeyI am still doing my geocaching streak, and today’s find, called Donkey Cache, took me to an interesting area that I never knew existed in the Barron Park neighborhood of Palo Alto. To get to the cache, I had to walk through Cornelis Bol park, which is named for a Stanford professor who owned donkeys and lived in the area in the mid-20th century.

Shed

On my way back to my car, I got a little sidetracked and found myself near a shed. I said to myself, “I wonder if there’s a Thursday door around here somewhere that I can photograph.” Indeed there was.

This was a funny little area with buildings that I didn’t understand at first.

FoodandDoor

If you look closely, you can see a chicken in the background, through the door to his coop. A couple of these doors seem to go nowhere in particular.

Gate

They certainly aren’t keeping the chickens out (or in).

Chicken

A little farther along the road there was another structure, with the door closed and chicken statues in front:

Coop

What I am struck most by in these photographs is the drab weather. It’s neither raining nor sunny. Not what you think of when you say “California,” or “January.”

It’s also quite remarkable that this land is still so free and undeveloped, here in the Bay Area where housing is at a premium and prices have reached extreme levels. Cornelis Bol appears to have wanted it that way.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time) at Norm 2.0’s blog here.

Mundane Monday: Chairs

Back in 2016 I went to a writing retreat in Hermosa SD. The retreat was located on a ranch and run by Linda Hasselstrom, a rancher and writer. The house, called Windbreak House, was the place Linda had grown up and lived in virtually all her life. The property was comfortably and thoughtfully but sparsely furnished, except for books. There were a lot of books. And there were chairs, ordinary chairs painted a cheery yellow, which I thought of for this week’s Mundane Monday challenge.  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Chairs

Book Review: The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery

The Scent of RainThe Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to say I enjoyed this book, but that’s not quite the right word. I read a fair amount of dystopian fiction and this novel, about a real-life dystopia, ranks with the most horrifying.

I appreciated the author’s research and the documentation she provided about the FLDS community in Colorado City. I did not know much about the FLDS until reading this book, and I think the author does a service by dramatizing and spreading awareness of the abuses that happen there. She is careful to distance this cult from mainstream Mormonism, who ended polygamy in 1890.

The author is especially strong when she writes about the paradoxes inherent in her subject: the women wearing modern athletic shoes under their prairie dresses; the happy face painted on a truck touting how happy the dour townspeople are; the beauty and timelessness of the mountains and cliffs surrounding squalor and venality; the affectionate little dog murdered by her blundering, clueless oaf of an owner. That these paradoxes are accepted as normal by the young people makes sense, because they are young and it is all they have ever known. But the adults in this tale remained mysterious to me. The author dropped some tantalizing hints of their earlier lives, dashed hopes, and buried dreams, but I wished for more.

The novel works on its own terms, as a thriller, although the pacing is a little off. I also thought that the author was trying to do too much in one relatively short novel. This story really needs to be about Rose Madsen. Rose stands also for the murdered Bonnie Buttars, for her disabled sister Daisy, and for all the girls and women who suffer oppression under this cruel system. Her escape gives them hope. Whereas Adan, Brooke, and Trak have their own stories–interesting, but separate. In this book everybody gets their happy ending, which warmed my heart but also seemed a little forced. It could have worked better as two separate books. The Adan/Brooke/Trak subplot could stand alone as its own novel about immigration and deportation, for example.

Or, in a more ambitious and longer project, this novel could explore what it means to be an immigrant and the true meaning of community. This material is rich and multifaceted and the story is not over. Rose and Adan escaped, but others remain.

View all my reviews