Shallow Thoughts

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

Thu, 30 Jul 2020

T is for Tame

[Tame grey jay] A couple of weeks ago the hiking group tackled Deception Peak, above the Santa Fe ski area.

It's a gorgeous hike, and one I'd wanted to do for years. Every year the group hikes up to Nambé Lake, at about 10,826' elevation, which I've always considered one of the most beautiful of our regular hikes. And every time I'm there, I look up at the rocky peaks above, and wonder what it's like up there. Now I finally know.

While on our way up the mountain, we were welcomed by a crew of grey jays begging near the trail. Grey jays are sometimes known as "camp robbers" because they're so tame and bold. They've learned that humans are a good source of food, and they're happy to swoop down and take it from you, or, if you're slow about offering the goods, to sit on a branch next to your head scolding you.

I dug some nuts out of my pack ...

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[ 11:19 Jul 30, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 25 Jul 2020

S is for Starlink Satellites

[Comet Neowise and Starlink Satellites] Monday was the last night it's been clear enough to see Comet Neowise. I shot some photos with the Rebel, but I haven't quite figured out the alignment and stacking needed for decent astrophotos, so I don't have much to show. I can't even see the ion tail.

The interesting thing about Monday besides just getting to see the comet was the never-ending train of satellites.

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[ 20:27 Jul 25, 2020    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 20 Jul 2020

R is for Recording Zoom (or other video conferencing) Talks

Giving talks has certainly changed a lot since last year. All those skills we practice in Toastmasters -- using the space, expressive gestures, projecting your voice, making eye contact with all sections of the audience? Meaningless now. In an age of quarantine and video conferencing meetings, speakers need to learn new skills.

Fortunately, there's Toastmasters for a painless, fun way to practice.

I was scheduled to give a talk on browser privacy. My local LWV has a Privacy Study Group that I'm co-chairing, and we had a meeting coming up on privacy while browsing the web. I knew I wanted to show a series of demos in multiple browsers, including additional windows like the Developer Tools window. I also wanted to record the talk so I could upload it later.

In Zoom, the process of canceling a shared window and then starting another share is slow, fumbly and error-prone. I knew this was something I needed to practice before the talk, to find a way to smooth the transitions..

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[ 16:35 Jul 20, 2020    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 16 Jul 2020

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE in the evening sky

[Comet C2020 F3 NEOWISE the morning of 2020-07-16 from White Rock, NM] Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE continues to improve, and as of Tuesday night it has moved into the evening sky (while also still being visible in the morning for a few more days).

I caught it Tuesday night at 9:30 pm. The sky was still a bit bright, and although the comet was easy in binoculars, it was a struggle to see it with the unaided eye. However, over the next fifteen minutes the sky darkened, and it looked pretty good by 9:50, considering the partly cloudy sky. I didn't attempt a photograph; this photo is from Sunday morning, in twilight and with a bright moon.

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[ 12:58 Jul 16, 2020    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 11 Jul 2020

Comet C2020 F3 NEOWISE in the Morning (and eventually, the evening)

[Comet C2020F3 NEOWISE over California desert landscape, by Dbot3000]
Comet C2020F3 NEOWISE over California desert landscape. Photo by Dbot3000

I've learned not to get excited when I read about a new comet. They're so often a disappointment. That goes double for comets in the morning sky: I need a darned good reason to get up before dawn.

But the chatter among astronomers about the current comet, C2020 F3 NEOWISE, has been different. So when I found myself awake at 4 am, I grabbed some binoculars and went out on the deck to look.

And I was glad I did. NEOWISE is by far the best comet I've seen since Hale-Bopp. Which is not to say it's in Hale-Bopp's class -- certainly not. But it's easily visible to the unaided eye, with a substantial several-degree-long tail. Even in dawn twilight. Even with a bright moon. It's beautiful!

Update: the morning after I wrote that, I did get a photo, though it's not nearly as good as Dbot3000's that's shown here.


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[ 18:18 Jul 11, 2020    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 05 Jul 2020

Q is for Quadraphonic

... which is what I have now on my Carbon X1 gen 7 laptop.

Early reviews of this particular laptop praised its supposedly excellent speakers (as laptops go), but that has never been apparent on Linux.

It is an improvement over the previous version -- the microphone works now, which it didn't in 19.10 -- though in the meantime I acquired a Samson GoPro based on Embedded.fm's recommendation (it works very well).

But although the internal mic works now, the sound from the built-in speakers is just terrible, even worse than it was before. The laptop has four speakers, but Ubuntu is using only two.

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[ 12:44 Jul 05, 2020    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

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 ]