Our Eclipse Excursion

IMG_6422

This week I learned that the sun is really bright.  You’d think I’d already known that – but it really is amazing how bright it is.

IMG_6413

Ellyn and I went to Casper, Wyoming, which is exactly on the line of totality.  Casper is a town of about 60K that has an airport and highways headed east and west exactly along the line.  It was also supposed to have the best odds at favorable weather.

IMG_6415

We arrived Saturday with reservations for a minivan, sleeping bags, and air mattresses, and no place to stay.  We ended up with a giant SUV and found a very nice family renting out parking spaces at their drive-up diner (used to be an A&W) who let us use their restrooms – which was really all we needed.  So we car-camped there.  After the eclipse on Monday we were able to get a hotel room for reasonable (instead of $2k+/night) so we could have much needed showers.

The eclipse was amazing.  Various of our parking-lot-mates had set up different viewing tools/projects.  But mostly we just watched it through our glasses.  It takes about 90 minutes from first contact until totality, then a bit under 2 minutes 30 seconds of totality, and another 90 minutes until the moon leaves the sun.  So we peeked every few minutes until it got really close – then just left the glasses on and watched for the “last few minutes”.  When the total eclipse happens there is a moment of confusion – suddenly there isn’t even the crescent of the sun and you’re looking at nothing through your glasses.  Nothing.  Then you realize now is the time you can take your glasses off and look at the totality – and there it is – the sun’s corona and a few planets visible in the sky.  It is crazy and beautiful and amazing.

I highly recommend you get to a total eclipse if you ever have an opportunity to do so.  For those that wonder what the difference is between a partial and a total eclipse, the answer is everything.  Here’s my poor metaphor: you’re at home at night and there are 5 lights on in the house.  4 bedroom lights (closet, 2 reading, and the main light) and a light on in the bathroom down the hall.  33% eclipse is like turning off the closet light.  You can see a difference in the light in the bedroom, but not a lot.  66% you also turn off a reading light.  Different, but the room is still well lit.  99% you turn off another reading light.  Still lots of light.  When you turn the bedroom light off it’s like 100% eclipse – the last bit of sunlight is that bright – it’s the difference between having all the lights off and having the main bedroom light still on.  It’s not pitch black because the bathroom light down the hall is on – but the bedroom is “dark”.

IMG_6453

We will certainly try to get to the 2024 eclipse.

Searching for gold

We went hiking the other weekend with friends at Montaña de Oro – hoping to see the fabled gold mountain.  We were only disappointed in that it wasn’t gold – but there was lots of beautiful purple!  It may be another 4 or 6 weeks for the poppies, I’m guessing.

 

Turns out I coulda stayed home…

IMG_4973

Weekends

Last weekend there was a break in the rain, so Ellyn and I went on a multi-location hike outing.

This weekend it has already rained as much as it rained in several of the past few years.  We’re doing some spring cleaning around the house.

Launch!

We came down to Santa Barbara to visit with friends over the three day weekend.  Elon Musk – who I now work for – but not for SpaceX – decided to postpone the launch from Vandenberg Airforce Base from this past Monday to today.

So we drove up to the top of the mountains north of Santa Barbara to watch the launch.  It has rained a bunch and I can’t remember a day that was more clear.  I can’t even imagine a day more clear than it was, today.  Today I could see the green of the grass on the Channel islands from the 101.

The top picture is a panorama.  The rocket came up from the right edge of the mountain that obscures the ocean near the center of frame.

Left picture is the view north.  Just crystal clear.

Right picture is all that’s visible after the launch.  The trail has drifted left a little.

We were able to see the rocket from just after launch, and we were able to see it all the way up!  It was fabulous as it was arcing over our heads.  We could see the rocket with the naked eye all the way to first stage cut out.  With binoculars we could actually see the first stage falling away from the second stage.  We did not take any video.  It was absolutely amazing!

The landing was way down near Tijuana, so we didn’t get to see that.  Next time, I hope to see the launch from closer up; we live just about an hour north of Vandenberg, so the trip isn’t a big deal – it’s just pretty rare that they launch from here.  And some day I’d love to see the landing.  But today was totally awesome!

Winter in California

It’s winter in California, and things are they way they’re supposed to be for a change.  We’ve had 11.5″ of rain so far this season – which is 140% of usual.

However, our December watermelon didn’t make it.  We didn’t have high hopes.  The vine finally died, so we had to take a look…

img_4815

Zapped

In brief: the procedure went well and the doctor is confident he got what he needed to.  I have “snake bite” wounds at the top of both thighs that are bandaged and doing fine.  In 3 days I’ll be allowed to do all the normal things.  And I shouldn’t have any more episodes.

I went in at 9.  They asked me medical history questions, took vitals, quick EKG.  They don’t shave you any more – they just trim.  Imagine like any army movie you’ve ever seen – with the addition of a vacuum attachment for the hair.  My back, my chest, my nethers – except for a racing stripe.  It is really weird not having any hair on my chest.

Into the operating room at 11.  There were about five guys in there doing various things.  They kind of bundle you up so that you won’t flail around.  The doctor spent a while fussing with the catheters at the top of both thighs (it turns out that I have “challenging” anatomy in terms of how the veins go – not unusual), then suddenly I felt my heart start to beat fast.  “There it goes.”  “You can feel that?”  “Yup.”  And, of course, I could hear the monitor start to beep faster – just for a few seconds.  And I could continue to feel him do things for a few minutes after that.  It felt kind of like he was poking at the inside of my shoulder; very hard to describe but not at all painful.  After a bit of that he declared that he was about ready to do the ablation.  The anesthesiologist told me that he was going to give me something to make me more relaxed and less concerned about things.  Nothing happened — and then I woke up and it was clear they were wrapping things up.  Done by about 12:30.  I figure I was awake for about half the procedure.

Then about an hour in post-op monitoring.  And another hour or so in ‘day stay’ where I was given instructions for site care and follow up.  My doctor (Dr. Porterfield – who everyone agrees is The Bomb) told us that he was able to trigger the issue, find the site, zap it, then was no longer able to trigger the issue.  He and Ellyn talked over my head a bit; if you want the really good dirt you’ll have to talk to her.

So no more atenolol (which was never a big deal) and hopefully no more episodes!

Zap

I have had several more bouts of arrhythmia this past year, each ending with a visit to the ER where they dose me with something that sets things to rights.  This is not painful, frightening, or dangerous, but it is certainly annoying.  And my cardiologist is tired of it, too.

So on Tuesday I will be going in for a cardiac ablation.  It’s hard to believe that any procedure involving the heart could be done on an outpatient basis without even a single night’s stay at the hospital, but that’s how things are done.  You can read the linked article, but in brief and very technically: they’ll run a catheter through a vein/artery “in my groin area” up to my heart where they will zap a bad electrical connection that’s causing the problems.  Then they’ll send me home.

I could probably get “back to work” on Wednesday – since I telecommute – but I’ve decided I’m going to be super slack and call that a sick day, too.  I’m willing to milk “cardiac procedure” for all it’s worth.

Sink hole

I went on a tour of the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant a couple of weeks ago.  I remain a fan of nuclear power.  This is the last active plant in California and is due to be shut down in ’24 or ’25.  I’m OK with that.  By then we absolutely should have enough solar to more than replace the output.  And while I am a fan of nuclear – in areas that can generate enough with solar I figure that makes the most sense.  Particularly if those areas are earthquake-prone.

But I was reminded that we don’t visit the ocean as often as we should, so last weekend Ellyn and I took a little stroll and visited our local sink hole (near Montaña de Oro).

IMG_4752.png