Callisaurus Draconoides

Callisaurus draconoides

I was hanging The Better Half’s bird feeders up on the hill behind the RV drive yesterday, when a Zebra Tailed Lizard ran in front of me, jumped on a rock and waved its tail at me. It stayed there looking over its shoulder at me long enough for me to get out my pocket point-and-shoot to get this (clickable) image.

We see lots of lizards on our property when the weather warms up (it was 94° on the patio this afternoon). The Zebra Tailed lizards are just one variety. We have seen Spiny lizards, brown lizards and Horned Toad lizards, but never a Chuckwalla or Gila Monster which have been seen by others in the area. The Wikipedia article on these lizards referred to the binomial name, which I used in the title, that sounds more like something out of Jurassic Park than something skittering around the desert floor.

One of These Days . . .

One day real soon now, probably in May, we’re going to pack up the trailer and head out on the road. Our destination will be determined at a later date, but we will probably swing through our old home area for visits and some unfinished business. Beyond that, we’re undecided, but have a few ideas. I have a great-grandchild on the way in the northern part of the state, so we may opt for a visit up there.

Our trailer isn’t really big. It’s a 24 footer, but plenty of room for us and the two min-pins (Scratch ‘n’ Sniff). The image above is actually a six-panel slide show of the trailer’s interior. Click on the image to advance to the next panel.

We hope everyone is having a great Easter!

The Heartbleed Bug

heartbleed.jpgSymantec (Norton Antivirus) sent me information about the current internet virus, the Heartbleed Bug. This virus has compromised the open-source secure sockets layer implementation, OpenSSL. Websites that use OpenSSL for their security layer may have been hacked for passwords, credit card information and other personal identity data.

Symantec provided an on-line tool to identify whether a secure website uses the infected OpenSSL software. I used this tool to verify that each secure website I use is or is not subject to the Heartbleed bug.

Symantec’s on-line tool may be accessed at the following URL:

Fortunately, all of the important secure sites that I use tested negative for Heartbleed. I will continue to use the tool whenever I attempt to log in to any secure website.

Norton has posted a lot of information on their blog. There is also a continuously updated vulnerability information page.

3001 - The Final Odyssey

3001.jpgI read the first three of Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey novels years ago. I read the first novel, 2001 - A Space Odyssey, shortly after I saw the movie on the big silver screen; I wanted to read it because the events depicted by Clarke and Kubrick in the film left me a bit shy of understanding what they were trying to show. Reading the book cleared that up for me a bit, but I still wondered about the true intent of Clarke’s story.

When the sequel, 2010 - The Year We Make Contact, came out, I rented the DVD (or VHS, don’t remember) and watched it at home. It was more easily understandable than the first in the series, but I was inclined to read the book anyhow, so I did. To my surprise, the movie had left out a complete sequence from the book; in addition to the joint Russian/American expedition to Jupiter, there was a separate Chinese expedition which ended in disaster on Europa. A sole Chinese survivor of the disaster reported to the Russian/American crew that they had landed on Europa only to find that their lights had attracted some sort of gigantic life form that capsized and destroyed their spacecraft. Other than the omission, the movie followed the book pretty well.

The next sequel in the series, 2061 - Odyssey Three, was never made into a film and neither was 3001 - The Final Odyssey. Tom Hanks was involved in the proposals for films for both, but they never panned out. I did read the 2061 novel, but I won’t go into any details other than to say that there was an expedition to Halley’s Comet and that there was a crash landing on Europa and a subsequent rescue. The book was entertaining, but not the best in the series.

This week, I finally got around to reading 3001 - The Final Odyssey. I ordered the book last week, got it yesterday and started reading it then and finished it today (only 237 pages long, not including epilog and references). I won’t post any spoilers in case you want to read it yourself, but there is a complete plot summary here. I give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Lunar Eclipse Photo

Eclipse Photo

Our son took this image from near Pasadena, CA after midnight PDT on the morning of April 15th. The red moon and blue star Spica (α Virgo), about 2° away from the moon, can be seen in the (clickable) image. Planet Mars, about 10° away from the moon is not in this view. I don’t have details about the point-and-shoot camera and which aperture and exposure settings he used, other than a tripod was used in autofocus mode.

The red color of the eclipsed moon is explained by

Why red? A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway.

You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it’s not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.

Income Tax Deadline

taxes.jpgIt’s April 15th, “National Wealth Redistribution Day.” I estimate that the average income earner will have to work 80 out of 260 working days this year to pay for his/her tax obligation. Over thirty percent of the money one earns becomes property of the government to spend at their whim.

Lucky for us, we’re not like the poor bastard in the image; our taxes were filed via TurboTax® in January and the refunds received before the middle of February - all electronically.

By an interesting quirk in history, April 15th is the date when RMS Titanic hit the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. We have TWO disasters to celebrate today: the IRS and the Titanic!

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse

Courtesy, here is tonight’s total lunar eclipse events translated to Pacific/Arizona times. The Better Half and I plan to stay up to see this one, especially since near-opposition Mars will be in the picture. That will be a sight to behold. We’re not planning any astrophotography tonight, but there is bound to be plenty of visuals on the internet. Clickable image.


Two Games

The first couple weeks of the regular baseball season are over now, but we are still avid fans and watch a lot of the games. We subscribed to “Extra Innings” on DirecTV, which gives us access to most of the games.

Today was no exception to baseball watching with at least five games we watched on the two TVs. Of course, we have to take time out for other obligations like eating and walking the dogs, among other things.

It was a good weekend, with entertainment, nearly perfect weather (a few more degrees, please) and delicious chow prepared by The Better Half and myself (I grilled some beef for the entrée under her supervision, of course).

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