Shallow Thoughts : : Oct

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 28 Oct 2018

How to Extend a Moonrise

Last night, as we drove home from the Pumpkin Glow -- one of Los Alamos's best annual events, a night exhibition of dozens of carved pumpkins all together in one place -- I noticed a glow on the horizon right around Truchas Peak and wondered if the moon was going to rise that far north.

Sure enough, I saw the first sliver of the moon poking over the peak as we passed the airport. "We may get an extended moonrise tonight", I said, realizing that as the moon rose, we'd be descending the "Main Hill Road", as that section of NM 502 is locally known, so we'd get lower with respect to the mountains even as the moon got higher. Which would win?

As it turns out, neither. The change of angle during the descent down the Main Hill Road exactly matches the rate of moonrise, so the size of the moon's sliver stayed almost exactly the same during the whole descent, until we got down to the "Y" where a nearby mesa blocked our view entirely. By the time we could see the moon again, it was just freeing itself of the mountains.

Neat! Made me think of The Little Prince: his home asteroid B6-12 (no, that's not a real asteroid desgination) was small enough that by moving his chair, he could watch sunset over and over again. I'm a sucker for moonrises -- and now I know how I can make them last longer!

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[ 19:32 Oct 28, 2018    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 21 Oct 2018

How to tell sparrows apart

[Sparrow ID page] I was filing an eBird report the other day, dutifully cataloging the first junco of the year and the various other birds that have been hanging around, when a sparrow flew into my binocular field. A chipping sparrow? Probably ... but this one wasn't so clearly marked.

I always have trouble telling the dang sparrows apart. When I open the bird book, I always have to page through dozens of pages of sparrows that are never seen in this county, trying to figure out which one looks most like what I'm seeing.

I used to do that with juncos, but then I made a local copy of a wonderful comparison photo Bob Walker published a couple years ago on the PEEC blog: Bird of the Week – The Dark-eyed Junco. (I also have the same sort of crib sheet for the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins.) Obviously I needed a similar crib sheet for sparrows.

So I collected the best publically-licensed images I could find on the web, and made Sparrows of Los Alamos County, with comparison images close together so I can check them quickly before the bird flies away.

If you live somewhere else so the Los Alamos County list isn't quite what you need, you're welcome to use the code to make your own version.

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[ 19:18 Oct 21, 2018    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 13 Oct 2018

Tape Rabbit

[Packing tape rabbit] I had to mail a package recently, and finished up a roll of packing tape.

I hadn't realized before I removed the tape roll from its built-in dispenser that packing tape was dispensed by rabbits.

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[ 20:11 Oct 13, 2018    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]