General Updatey Things (For Those Who Are Playing at Home)

1. It looks like my step count will likely be a lot better for June than it was for May.  It’s bedtime on June 9 and I’m done with my average step count through June 11.  I will still have to get the actual steps on those days, but if I’m two days ahead already, I doubt that I’ll end up behind like I was in May.  Also, hopefully July will be pretty easy to take care of, despite the 2nd and 3rd being weekend days because July will be our big vacation and I suspect that between running through two airports twice and visiting the Fishlake National Forest*, Salt Lake City, the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Yellowstone, and Dinosaur National Monument (also, possibly Craters of the Moon National Park), I can probably come up with a few steps. It probably won’t be as step-heavy as Italy and New York were because we will have a rental car with us. I have pretty high hopes for August, though, since we’ll be spending four days in Chicago without a rental car.

2.  Originally, our 2017 vacation was supposed to be our return to Europe.  To that end, I started saving up for our 2017 vacation when we returned from our 2014 vacation. Since we’re not going to Europe, but Canada instead, I’m now done saving up for that trip.  Now I am going to continue saving money for two smaller trips next year — a long weekend in Southern California (the last time I was there, Alex was a baby) and the eclipse weekend.  Let’s see how that goes.

3(a). I still have a box full of envelopes of pictures to scan, but the other day I passed the 20,000 picture mark.  I really need to remember to pick up two more SD cards to back up the pictures. Then I have to remember to take them to my safe deposit box. No sense making a backup if I then lose it in a fire or something.

3(b). My dad has a shelf full of genealogical materials.  After I finish my photo scanning project I will, likely, begin scanning all of that in.  Wish me luck.

*Because if you’re that close to the most massive single organism on the planet, it would be foolish not to see (and photograph!) it.  I doubt we’re going to get far enough east on our planned 2018 trip to Washington and Oregon to visit the largest organism in terms of area.

National Geographic July 2013, Part 1

I still can’t access the text version of these issues on-line. I wonder why they even have that functionality if you can’t get to it.

While digging around I found that they do have an Android app finally.  I wonder if I’d be able to read the issues on my phone, or if the text would be too small. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow.

Field Trip on Mars, by John Grotzinger

Grotzinger is a geologist who was the project scientist on the Curiosity rover for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Grotzinger still works on the project, but stepped down as project scientist in 2015.  In Field Trip on Mars, we get to see how Curiosity does its geology work.  Curiosity drills through rocks and analyzes what’s inside them.  The scientists with the project were able to see that Mars once had water capable of sustaining life with the very first rock it drilled through.

As the magazine went to press, Curiosity was heading into a crater towards Mount Sharp, a mountain that, according to Grotzinger, looks more Earthlike than other places that rovers have been sent to.  Curiosity reached Mount Sharp on September 11, 2014.

It All Began in Chaos, by Robert Irion, photographs by Mark Thiessen, Art by Dana Barry

Kind of off-topic, but every time I look at the credits for this article, I see “Diana Barry” as the name of the artist.  Diana Barry, for those who aren’t Anne of Green Gables fans, was Anne’s raven-haired childhood friend from that series.

It All Began in Chaos is about the early formation of the solar system and our evolving understanding of it.  We start with Newton’s idea that the planets move in perfectly circular orbits and then to the idea that orbits are elliptical and the to the idea that orbits are elliptical right now and are likely to stay that way, but that no one can know for certain what will happen in the future because there seem to have been unexpected events in the solar system’s past (for example, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn apparently used to be much closer to the sun than expected, then something happened to move them).

As to the future of the solar system, all scientists can do is speak in percentages like with meteorology because things are still moving and drifting and something like the event that may have moved three of our four largest planets to the outside of the solar system could always happen again.  We just don’t know.

This article was also one of the first times I’ve felt the passage of time from when the article was written (aside from the few articles I’ve read from the 19th century, of course). Irion tells us that in July 2015, New Horizons will fly past Pluto and take pictures of the dwarf planet and its satellites. This flyby happened almost a year ago now.