Shallow Thoughts

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

Fri, 26 Jun 2020

P is for Ponderosa (and Piñon too)

[ponderosa: only mostly dead] In dry years like this one, hiking the trails you see a lot of dead ponderosas. It's so sad, thinking of the loss of beautiful, tall trees like that.

Several years ago, someone who researches trees told us that even when ponderosas look dead, they may just be conserving resources. They might still bounce back in the next wet season. It's hard to believe, when you see a tree covered entirely with brown, dead needles. I confess, I didn't believe him.

But then we had a wet season, and I started seeing miracles.

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[ 09:44 Jun 26, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

P is for Privacy

The LWV Los Alamos is running a Privacy Study, which I'm co-chairing. As preparation for our second meeting, I gave a Toastmasters talk entitled "Browser Privacy: Cookies and Tracking and Scripts, Oh My!" A link to the talk video, a transcript, and lots of extra details are available on my newly created Privacy page.

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[ 08:58 Jun 26, 2020    More tech | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 20 Jun 2020

Solstice Sun Dagger

Today is the summer solstice. Happy solstice!

[Solstice sun dagger] When I was in grade school -- probably some time around 7th grade -- I happened upon an article in Scientific American about the Anasazi Sun Dagger on Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon. On the solstices and equinoxes, a thin dagger of light is positioned just right so that it moves across a spiral that's carved into the rock.

I was captivated. What an amazing sight it must be, I thought. I wondered if ordinary people were allowed to go see it.

Well, by the time I was old enough to do my own traveling, the answer was pretty much no. Too many people were visiting Fajada Butte ...

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[ 17:35 Jun 20, 2020    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 11 Jun 2020

O is for Overlook Park -- and Other Great City Parks

[Rainbow over Shumo from Overlook Park] "Ho hum, it's just our local city park", we say, walking back to the parking area from the overlook at Overlook Park here in White Rock.

We're joking, of course. The Overlook has stunning views of White Rock Canyon that change as the light changes. It's maybe three miles from home, and we visit it fairly often and never get tired of the view.

It's amazing to have a place like this so close to home. And sometimes we get to thinking: how many other towns have a city park that compares?

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[ 14:55 Jun 11, 2020    More travel | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 06 Jun 2020

N is for Nestlings

A pair of mountain chickadees have a nest in the nest box I set up outside the bedroom window.

[Mountain chickadee] I first saw them bringing food to the nest almost a month ago, May 10, though I'm not sure if they were bringing food to a nest-sitting parent, or if they were feeding chicks that had already hatched.

Chickadees at a nest are quick-moving: they flit up to the hole and immediately enter, not lingering on the threshold like ash-throated flycatchers or Bewick's wrens, both of which have used this nestbox in past years. So it's not easy to get photos of chickadees at the nest box. So instead, here's a photo of a mountain chickadee from several years ago.

Since May 10 there's been plenty of activity, chickadees flying in and out, bringing food and carrying away fecal sacs.

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[ 11:07 Jun 06, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 29 May 2020

M is for Merging ("Dissolving") Several Geographic Shapes

[San Juan County Council Districts]
San Juan County Council districts
[San Juan County voting precincts]
San Juan County Council voting precincts

For this year's LWV NM Voter Guides at VOTE411.org, I've been doing a lot of GIS fiddling, since the system needs to know the voting districts for each race.

You would think it would be easy to find GIS for voting districts — surely that's public information? — but counties and the state are remarkably resistant to giving out any sort of data (they're happy to give you a PDF or a JPG), so finding the district data takes a lot of searching.

Often, when we finally manage to get GIS info, it isn't for what we want. For instance, for San Juan County, there's a file that claims to be County Commission districts (which would look like the image above left), but the shapes in the file are actually voting precincts (above right). A district is made up of multiple precincts; in San Juan, there are 77 precincts making up five districts.

In a case like that, you need some way of combining several shapes (a bunch of precincts) into one (a district).

GIS "Dissolving"

It turns out that the process of coalescing lots of small shapes into a smaller number of larger shapes is unintuitively called "dissolving".

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[ 17:43 May 29, 2020    More mapping | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 25 May 2020

L is for Lovely Lenticular, and Lift, and Lost Airplanes

[Complex cloud formation]

Driving down to Española a few days ago, I was struck by this lovely cloud formation -- a lenticular cloud over the Sangre de Cristos, with something more cumulussy in front of it.

Though admittedly, lenticular clouds aren't particularly uncommon here. The Sangres, in particular, seem to form eddies that lead to all sorts of interesting lenticular cloud structures.

Lenticulars apparently are good indicators of lift: glider pilots seek them out. I guess if we had more moisture in the air, we might have seen some lenticulars over the field Sunday morning when we were flying R/C planes at Overlook.

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[ 14:57 May 25, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 21 May 2020

K is for Knitting

[knitted water bottle cozy] Seems like during the lockdown, everyone's taking up new crafts -- sewing, bread baking, or whatever. I was a little ahead of the game. Last winter I learned to knit. I'd crocheted a little when I was a teenager, but I'd always seen knitting as much more complicated.

It started because I couldn't find a decent headband. I'm not a big fan of hats, because migraines, but sometimes my ears get cold on hikes. I was dissatisfied with the headbands I found in outdoor apparel stores: they tend to be too narrow to cover my ears, too tight, overpriced, and don't come in many colors either. I bought one but wasn't happy with it. I decided I could probably learn to knit my own headband before I found one I liked.

Los Alamos has a great knitting community, as it turns out. (I suspect most communities do). Doris, a friend from Toastmasters, is an avid lifelong knitter (I knew that from her Toastmasters talks, of course), and she steered me to some good beginner books and gave me hints on which size starter needles to buy, including a set of circular needles since everything I was interested in making lent itself to knitting "in the round". But Doris also gave me a list of four different times the local knitters met in person, including one very convenient weekly meeting at the White Rock Library just a few miles from home.

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[ 17:02 May 21, 2020    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]