Tag Archives: technology

Kennedy Space Center | GOES-S Launch

by Jim and Melanie

This post describes our view of the launch of the GOES-S weather satellite from the vantage point of the Apollo/Saturn V Center on 1 Mar 2018. Our previous post about the Kennedy Space Center highlighted some of the exhibits at the Visitor Complex. If you are interested in seeing a launch, this link provides details about the options.

Our son-in-law works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA. His company gets the satellite ready for launch, and then tests it during the months after launch, before turning it over to NOAA for operations. He was entitled to nominate guests to view the launch. Our names were submitted along with that of his father, who joined us at the viewing site.

As launch time neared, we made our way to the buses provided for invited guests.

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Kennedy Space Center | Visitor Complex

by Jim and Melanie

Early in 2018, our son-in-law invited us to be his guests at a launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We immediately said “yes.” Our SIL is literally a rocket scientist/engineer. He works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA, whose mission is to support the launch and instrument checkout of the next generation weather satellites of the GOES-R series.

Geostationary GOES-R was launched 19 November 2016 and is now part of the National Weather Service fleet. It views the eastern half of the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean. Storm development, lightning, and hurricane tracking are parts of its main focus.

Our invitation was to watch the launch of GOES-S on 1 March 2018. When GOES-S is commissioned several months after launch, it will view the western half of the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean as GOES-West. Pacific storms, their impact on the western states, and forest fire tracking will be parts of its main focus.

GOES-R Series | Credit: Lockheed Martin

This post is about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Our next post is about viewing the GOES-S launch later that same day.

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House Wren | Songs

The first tiny House Wrens returned last week. Their singing will seem non-stop for the next six months. For their small size, they make a lot of cheerful sound. This one occupies the house attached to our back deck. I wrote about his attempts to fill it with twigs in this recent post.


The Spring 2012 issue of BirdScope from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had an article about the song of the House Wren. The author claimed males can sing 600 times an hour. I confirmed that claim using my own backyard observations. During lunch on the deck, I counted songs for several timed intervals and got basically the same result. That is 6,000 calls in a 10 hour day, 180,000 in a month of 30 days, or 1,080,000 calls in 6 months. I don’t know how they do it. Such a little bird and so much sound. Wrens are one of the most vocal guests in our backyard, along with the Gray Catbird.

More from the article below…

Smithsonian | Udvar-Hazy Center

by Jim and Melanie

When we get a chance, we enjoy visiting the National Mall in Washington, DC. Over time we’ve experienced many of the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is one we have visited several times. It is full of thousands of artifacts documenting the history of aviation and space exploration. Did you know about their companion facility the Udvar-Hazy Center? It is located near Dulles airport west of the DC area in Chantilly, VA. It consists of two hangars with some iconic space and aviation exhibits. We finally got to visit and urge you to do the same if you have an interest in aviation and space.


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Thoughts About WordPress Reader

Update: 2015 Nov 28 The points made in the original post below no longer apply. WordPress changed Reader again.


by Melanie and Jim

Do you use the WordPress Reader to keep track of your followed blogs? We do. Lately, there have been numerous ‘enhancements’ to Reader. In general, the Reader is going to a one-size-fits-all approach in order to fit content into the small mobile screened world.

Changes in recent weeks were not announced. They simply showed up for us to learn. Some of it has been confusing and illogical. We’ve been quite busy and might have missed the rollout announcement. Was there one? What follows are a few of our reactions to those changes.

Random Reader Views

We were both confused by the views presented by Reader when we clicked on a blog post. It seemed there were two possibilities. For some blogs the click went to a barebones view of the post, with white background and text and pictures. All of the widgets (sidebar information and links), related posts, tabs, and other formatting were removed, as well. Some other posts in Reader went directly with a single click to the actual blog set up by the writer showing the theme with the look-and-feel they had worked to present.

Here is an example, showing the difference between the view directly accessed from Reader, and what is seen as designed by the blogger. If I click on this (within Reader)

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.27.02 AM

it takes me to this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.28.29 AM

See how it is all white space? The actual blog looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.28.46 AM

There is nothing obvious at all about how to get from the white-space view to the blog. It was especially confusing because for some blogs, clicking from Reader would go directly to the blog, skipping the white-space version. Why were some treated differently than others? It appeared random.

As it turns out, another click on the post’s title (not the blog name — that doesn’t help!) in that barebones white view took you to the actual blog. Yes, there were links that would take you to their blog in one click. We didn’t notice them at first.

Eventually, we found a clue. Check out these two screen shots of one of our recent blog posts as presented in Reader. Notice one is slightly different in the red oval. Why is that?



By clicking the title or body text of the first one, Reader presented the simple white-space view and did not actually go to the blog. By clicking the title or body text of the second one, Reader presented the actual blog post showing the theme.

Speaking of Theme

Why put a lot of effort into selecting a theme so it looks the way you want? Why make the effort of adding tabs or sidebars with more information? Was Reader bypassing those efforts of many bloggers with the simple white layout? Why do that?

Changing Your Settings 

As noted above, if in Reader your blog shows “Visit [your blog] for the full post” clicks will go directly to the blog. This action is controlled in Settings on your wp-admin page. Choose Settings —> Reading. Then select Summary view in order to have Reader direct to your blog without the black on white view. Remember to Save Changes.


The Reader App

We have not found a way to view and read the actual blog site using the Reader app on iPad. Maybe someone knows how to do that. For us, it always presents a simple text on white view. No themes show for us.


Layman’s Guide to Fracking Technology

by Jim in IA

This diary is NOT meant to argue for or against the highly controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. There are many diaries and published pieces which argue both sides of the issue effectively. Instead, it is meant to inform more people about the technology of hydraulic fracturing. The goal is to avoid getting so deep into the details that readers give up.

According to this research study by the EPA published June 2010, ‘fracturing is a well stimulation process used to maximize the extraction of oil, natural gas or geothermal energy.’ The Saturday Essay of April 2, 2011, in the Wall Street Journal entitled Stepping on the Gas by Daniel Yergin, peaked my interest in the topic. I realized I had seen or heard the word ‘Fracking’ used for the technology countless times. But, I really had no clear idea what the concepts were behind it. As with most things, understanding is an essential part of being able to make informed decisions. And, this issue certainly begs for that.

With any of the following publications, consider the context and the source. The intent of this diary is to illustrate the basic process and does not necessarily agree with the claims of the articles.

A little history of the technology taken from the WSJ article …

In the early 1980s, George P. Mitchell, a Houston-based independent energy producer, could see that his company was going to run out of natural gas. Mr. Mitchell’s company was contracted to deliver a substantial amount of natural gas from Texas to feed a pipeline serving Chicago. But the reserves on which he depended were running down, and it was not at all clear where he could find more gas to replace the depleting supply.

Perhaps the natural gas that was locked into shale could be freed and made to flow. The laboratory for his experiment was a sprawling geologic formation called the Barnett Shale around Dallas and Fort Worth. The payoff came a decade and a half later, at the end of the 1990s. Using a specialized version of a technique called hydraulic fracturing (now widely known as “fracking” or “fracing”), his team found an economical way to create or expand fractures in the rock and to get the trapped gas to flow.

According to the author Daniel Yergin…

As late as 2000, shale gas was just 1% of American natural-gas supplies. Today, it is about 25% and could rise to 50% within two decades. Estimates of the entire natural-gas resource base, taking shale gas into account, are now as high as 2,500 trillion cubic feet, with a further 500 trillion cubic feet in Canada. That amounts to a more than 100-year supply of natural gas.

Two illustrations of the process…
From the EPA study, drilling is done to the rock layer followed by a horizontal turn to follow the layer.


Large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals are needed. The wastewaters from the drilling and fracturing process require proper disposal. Public concerns and potential risks of contamination of water supplies appear in many reports.

A closer view from ProPublica adds some detail to the basic plan.

The NY Times published this 8 part interactive which looked at the process and hazards of hydraulic fracturing.

Halliburton’s web site offers an interactive as well. They are a major player in the drilling industry. But, their graphic does illustrate the basic process.

Finally, this video shows the process as clearly as any I have seen.

I hope this set of information helps you understand what is going on in the fracking process. Many areas of the country are experiencing fracking, or will be. My goal was to de-mystify the process and arm more people with some facts. Then, they may speak their minds more confidently and eloquently as they make their cases in public and private.