Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Decline of the House of Overholt

A brief history of Old Overholt over at, of all places, The Daily Beast:
What a long, strange trip it's been.

Good enough to sip, cheap enough to mix.  What's not to love here?

Eclipse Follow-Up

Great news everybody!  After solar eclipse, Americans' eyes seem mostly none the worse.

The next three big-deal eclipses over the CONUS.  Me, I'm going for Tallahassee in 2045.

Monday, August 21, 2017

I Saw, I Projected, I Snapped a Picture

From today's eclipse, here's my pinhole viewer:

High-precision astronomical instrumentation constructed in 0.8 seconds using a ballpoint pen.

I put three holes in it to try: a big 3/8" one inside the circle logo on the box, a little guy about 1/8" that you can see on the left, and a 1/4" hole that's cut off toward the top of the picture.  The largest hole worked OK but didn't give enough resolution, the smallest hole didn't project enough light to see, but the middle one gave just enough light which means that it also had the best practical resolution.   The "projection screen" on the ground is just a piece of 8-1/2x11 bond paper.  Here's one of the better pictures, after a little enlargement and contrast enhancement:
Yay, my eclipse picture!

OK, there are better pictures of the eclipse out there (here're NASA's best), but that's beside the point.  It's just fun to take a DIY break and do some extremely minor science.

By the way, xkcd has been doing an eclipse series over the past week.  In case you missed it:

Eclipse Searches
Eclipse Science
Earth Orbital Diagram
Eclipse Birds
ps Wednesday: Eclipse Review
Don't forget to hover your mouse over the cartoons to get the bonus rimshot lines.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Listen people, don't stare at the sun, not even tomorrow.

There are many ways to safely observe tomorrow's eclipse, but staring straight at it, even while wearing sunglasses, isn't one of them.  Here's an interview with a guy who looked at one in 1962, leaving him with scorched retinas for life: The Time Interview.

It's odd to have to say this, but just a couple of days ago I overhead a grown man saying "I don't think staring at the eclipse can burn your eyes because they're full of water."  No, really, I actually heard this.  So for the folks up in the cheap seats, let's spell this one out:
– UV radiation coming straight from the direction of the Sun is plentiful during a full eclipse, partial eclipse, or just an ordinary day.  Any of this can damage your eyes.
– The "burn" that can occur means "to sear a spot on your retinas so that they no longer work."  It doesn't mean "burst into flames" or anything else dramatic like that.
– It will "hurt your eyes" in the sense of "damage irreparably," not "hurt" in the sense of "you experience pain."  It's over quickly, and isn't all that painful at the time from what I've heard.  
– The effects are permanent.  Your doctor doesn't have any magic eyedrops to fix this one.
– Regular sunglasses are not sufficient protection.

OK, that's how not to do it.  Here are some links on the right way to observe this eclipse, from:
a pinhole projector (that's what I'll be doing)

Got that?  OK, enjoy the sight tomorrow.  And hopefully, enjoy your sight for the rest of your life.

ps and just for fun: Watching Animals Watch the Eclipse, over at Atlas Obscura.
pps: Time-lapse of a 2012 eclipse in Australia, over at APOD.  Yes, it's OK to stare at your computer screen while watching this.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Humidity Blues

Following last Saturday's post griping about all the rain we've had this summer, dehumidifiers have been popping up like mushrooms around this household.  First up, these quiet little guys:

They're nice enough.  Direct thermo-electric Peltier junction devices with a fan for the only moving part, they're simple and quiet.  But the problem is that they only remove about a pint each per day.  That's just not going to get it around here.  Still, good for a large closet or a small room.

Next up, Lowe's carries a line of mechanical refrigerator-type dehumidifiers, like this one:

At 70 pints per day, it's moving gallons of moisture out of the air and keeping the relative humidity down around late October levels.  I don't want to know what my electric bill will be for this month, but at least the active mold and mildew growth has been headed off and my lungs are feeling a bit better.

So... check your house's humidity.  50% is ideal, 60% is acceptable, 80% is the danger line where household dust forms up into shoggoths that will steal your spare change and make your lungs feel like an over-full laundry hamper.

First a post on the dangers of dehydration, and now a post on excess humidity, and neither of them particularly fun posts either.  I'll try to come up with something more enjoyable in the near future.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Tale of Woe (not mine for a change)

A tale of dehydration and bodily systems powering down while out on a weekend bike camping trip, over at Dirt Rag:

Go have a read, if for no other reason than to be able to recognize the symptoms when they occur in others.

Never gotten even close to this personally, never even seen it.  It's a funny thing though, since I've gone on a low-carb diet I just don't seem to get as thirsty.  I know however that this isn't a good reaction, and so I keep pushing a little extra water even when I don't particularly feel the need.  Compensating this way seems to help.  At least, nothing bad has happened – yet.  Will push a little harder now after reading that article.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gearing Up for Hiking, Part 2

Massey's didn't have any wide shoes or boots, and I was going to Crossroads in Gulfport anyway, so what the hell, why not look in at Academy Sports?  And the choices at Academy were slim to... one wide mid-height boot, a Merrell Moab 2.  An extended try-on followed by a quick check of on-line reviews, and off we go:

They come in two varieties, "Vent" and "Waterproof," for which their respective hydrologic permeabilities seem straightforward to determine.  All Academy had were the mid-heights in waterproof, so I didn't have to worry about the options.  And that's fine, because mid-height waterproof is probably what I needed anyway.  Now about the width... it's EE/wide.  I'd have preferred EEEE/extra-wide, but with careful choice of thinner socks, some break-in period, and maybe some judicious insole trimming they'll work.

Overall, pretty nice.  As always reviews are somewhat mixed (here, here); regardless of any reviewers' opinions these boots are available in wide, so that puts them in the top 5% in my book.

Thursday PS:  After a couple of evenings of wearing around the house, it's become clear that 2E just isn't wide enough.  Returned to Academy, where money was cheerfully returned.  Ah well, everybody did their best here, but if they don't fit, then they don't fit.  It's a shame, because they really are nice boots.