Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rattling a Snake

When I climb through places that could harbor a rattlesnake, I make loud claps to improve the chance that a rattlesnake might hear me and start moving away, or start rattling. Yesterday I had the opportunity to test this method. I encountered a dozing rattlesnake, so I recorded before and after making a loud clap to wake it. The loud clap didn't disturb it in the slightest. I conclude that one shouldn't be confident that making noise will help avoid a rattlesnake encounter.

I will add that most of my snake encounters fall into two categories: One, like this one, where the snake makes no motion or sound, and two, where the snake quickly hides and rattles. These responses appear to have more to do with the mood of the snake than with anything proactive that I can do.


Update: A closeup, as the video didn't capture the snake clearly:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pluto System Animation (Pre-New Horizons)

I had trouble finding an interactive model of the Pluto system on the Web. There are either two many static illustrations that clutter up search results or not enough of the interactive kind, so I created my own, which is available on my website here:

Interactive Pluto system animation

I used the now archaic Flash to program to effect the animation. I respected the orbit distances and speed of revolution, but didn't attempt to scale the sizes of Pluto and it's moons.

Most important, I wanted a way to compare Pluto to our Earth-Moon system. Buttons will scale to the Earth-Moon system size and display our Moon. You can also tilt the orbits to get an aesthetically pleasing view.

Regrettably, the animation doesn't work on most mobile devices. I'll be working on version that does. The delay in producing the mobile device version will be advantageous in that I can build in any new discoveries made by the New Horizons space probe. Now, my animation may look like an old map of Europe before a world war. In one month, this may be the archaic pre-New Horizons map of the Pluto system.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Coleman Is Synonymous with Glare Bomb

A few years ago when the company Hostess was in crisis, a problem acknowledged by the company was that their two most well known products, Twinkies and white bread, had become objects of derision. That is how I always felt about Coleman's contribution to the outdoors. Coleman brings to mind an obnoxiously bright light that takes away the enjoyment of camping and the night sky. The typical Coleman lantern is designed to throw light everywhere, compromising the night vision of it's owners, so they require more light, and creating glare for the neighbors. With a Coleman lantern, you can harass fellow campers hundreds of yards away in all directions. Most of my dark sky adventures are impaired by such lanterns because they lack appropriate shielding and are too bright for their task.

It never occurred to me the Coleman would want this association, such that when you think "Coleman" you think "glare bomb",  but recently, I noticed the branding on a Coleman easy-up.

The tarp seems to say, "Remember that obnoxious light? That is our brand".

I'd recommend a slogan to go with it, "Coleman: keeping the outdoors urban" or "Coleman: bring the glare with you".

The solution is so simple: create a lantern that directs light downward and sell a mounting pole accessory to hold the lamp at chest or eye level for adequate illumination of one's campground while preserving the ability for all to see.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Rock Rings (from December 2014)

I have a new puzzle to sort out. Last December, I examined some rocks in a nearby canyon that where covered by silt, but had rings at various former water levels. The rings are levels on the rock that got cleansed, while the rest of the rock is covered with a fine layer of sediment as the water receded. What mechanism would cause the selective cleaning?

My guess is that as the water slowly receded, it would deposit sediment on the rocks. Then, if the rain resumed, we might get a freshened surface layer of water that would cleanse the rocks. The puzzle is how an increase in rain would remain less silty than the rest of the flow. It seems logical: the first rains loosen most of the material that becomes silt, and later rains loosen less. But the water has to flow down the canyon, so any turbidity would be stirred up by the freshened flow. But it seems reasonable that an increase in flow with fresher water at the surface could clean the rocks and leave clean rings.

Other photos:

Suds formed, a presume from natural elements.

Typical muddy flow as canyon drains and water levels drop.

More rings with debris deposits.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ace Hardware Out of Touch

I like my local Ace Hardware store, but their recent mail advertisement is out of touch with Californians and with my community. Below is the flyer I received in the mail yesterday, plus my annotations.

Corporations do not have to be insensitive to make money. The flyer could have advertised low-flow shower heads, more efficient sprinklers, or other products urgently needed to help cut water use. Their concept of a green, fertilized, and chemically treated yard is also outdated, primarily, for being water dependent. Our water utility is offering help with removing lawns, while Ace is saying make them greener. Why? So they yards will be more valuable as sod?

The last item missed another opportunity. Wildomar is trying to preserve our dark sky for our own enjoyment as well as to help preserve research at nearby Palomar Observatory. Ace could be promoting lighting that provides safety and security without creating glare, cluster, light trespass, and light pollution.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lighting in Wildomar: Glarebombs slip though the cracks

A new building in Wildomar has installed lighting the violates Wildomar's municipal code and creates a safety hazard near a public school.

The Wildomar City Council has taken action on lighting violations in the past, and so this presents another problem-solving opportunity. It may be difficult to correct this building, as so much lighting has already been installed. The parking lot lighting needs to be of a lower color temperature (no higher that 3500 k). The wall-mounted glare bombs are useless, and need to removed or replaced. Even the decorative post lamps fail because they aren't adequately shielded.

These glare bombs are on Bundy Canyon Road across from Elsinore High School, a route that is frequently tread by youth showing poor judgment when crossing roads. The area is fairly dark, but now a motorist will have to see the students' dark silhouettes against the glare from the building.

This is how a community loses its dark sky.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lunar Eclipse, 3 April 2015

I've been in the desert for a couple days chasing the eclipse but caught a few other gems as well. Photo 1 is the eclipse, which makes me want to draw a distinction between total visual and total photographic. This eclipse skirted the edge of the earth's inner shadow and though it appeared completely in shadow, none of my photos show a completely shadowed moon.

These photos show one of those scenes not seen in nature, except when it is seen in nature. You will never see a setting crescent moon with the lit side of the crescent up, unless of course, it's a partial eclipse that is setting with the shadow conveniently on the bottom side. 

Below is a sun pillar that greeted me on sunrise (the vertical column about the point of sunrise). 

Last is the kind of thing perhaps only I like: a contrail being replaced by it's own shadow.