MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 45: Telling Stories

This is, officially, the highest numbered “run” post achieved (so far) on this blog. Jhen’s post yesterday tied with the previous record holder, Day 44 from 2015A, what we fondly refer to as The Death Run.

Arizona is opening back up. So, to some extent, is UofA research. Our lab, The XWCL, has been open because of an important project, but only for limited work on one or two things. But starting next week we’ll be able to start paying attention to our other projects, which includes MagAO-X. Still not supposed to meet in person, go to our offices, etc.

However, since we aren’t technically in a “Stay At Home”, I guess this “run” is over. It’s like when we are in the air form SCL to DFW, the telescope time is done, but we still have to clear customs and stay awake long enough to catch the 9:10 flight to TUS. You can still post if you want to, but all of our subscribers should stop expecting daily content.

So we watched “The Rise of Skywalker” tonight. Hadn’t seen it yet — after “The Last Jedi” I just wasn’t motivated enough to go see it in the theater. “Rise” was better than I expected, but still a cluttered mess as far as story telling goes. Too much happens in too many places, with not enough time in between. Remember in “A New Hope” how they actually travel? And the kids play games in the back seat to keep them occupied (there’s even home schooling). Remember how Jedi training was a thing in “Empire”, worthy of half a movie? The conflict scene between Luke and Vader and the Emperor in “Jedi” (the only movie referred to with that single word) was epic, and again was something like half the movie. The sequels just bounce around and try to show us too much with too many subplots. The middle one was especially egregious — the time between events wouldn’t work in even a small U.S. city, let alone a galaxy-scale ecosystem.

Please note: the sequels are at least watchable more than once. Let’s not drag the prequels into this.

The main thing about the sequels that drives me nuts is that they don’t make any sense from a high-level galacto-political sense. I don’t understand why there is a “resistance”. What are they resisting? They won the rebellion, so aren’t they the government now? Sure, sure, you can say they are resisting the First Order. But that’s just it — doesn’t that just make the resistance the military of The New Republic? Why do they never have help? Where’s the actual regular Republic Navy? This is a whole thing that is never explained to any level. Part of my complaint derives from having read Zahn’s “Thrawn” novels when they first came out, and were supposed to be canon. The takeover of The New Republic was part of the story, and well told. The whole expanded universe included this. Characters we know, like Wedge Antilles, are big shot Admirals — not gunners that Lando digs up somewhere. Leia is occupied with politics and governing a galaxy, as you’d expect.

I’m not all complaints though. I think Rey is the best character* of the entire Star Wars universe. Her story is incredibly compelling, and Ridley is fantastic at being the naive reluctant Jedi, and then better at being the badass when her time comes. No spoilers here, but I’ll just say that “Rise” brings the 9 part Skywalker saga to a fitting conclusion, true to its real beginnings in IV. (*Mando is shaping up to be pretty amazing too, from a different point of view).

And, the music is as good as always. Here’s “Rey’s Theme”, by John Williams:

P.S. For future historians, yes, our count is low by one day by the usual rules of run-post-counting on our blog.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 38: Javie Zoomies

I give you a baby Javelina with the zoomies. You’re welcome.

Admittedly, it’s a mild case. But also the itchies. Wikipedia claims that the collective noun for Peccaries is “Squadron”. I’m going with it.

Inspired by the grace and majesty of the Javelina, I give you Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Band”, performed by the U.S. Marine Band.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 25: Hot Enough Yet?

External Temperature and Dew Point vs day in April 2020. Less than a month ago, it was below freezing in our back yard. Today we cracked 100 for the first time.
Our weather station. It’s not high enough to give NWS quality reports. I’d tell you my Weather Underground station i.d. but apparently that’s broken.

Most places, 100F means the dog-days have started. Here, ’tis but a hint of spring. In fact, our gorgeous desert flower show is just getting started. The Saguaros in Sabino have just budded, might be a week or two until they really go.

Our prickly pear have started to flower. The big one in the back of this frame hasn’t yet, but it can be really spectacular when it goes.
Closeup of some old-ish flowers. I plan to make prickly pear ice cream one of these days.
Here you can see two agave flower stalks reaching for the sky. It’s bittersweet when an agave flowers, since it’s the end for that plant. These smaller agave are impressive, but you should see what the big ones do!

That’s a baby Saguaro in the foreground. We just put it in this year — check this blog in about 4 decades and I’ll show you some flowers on it.
Our big Palo Verde bloomed. We gave it a good haircut last fall, so it’s not quite as impressive as before, but it will be back.
My favorite tree is the Cat’s Claw Acacia (reason below). They have just started to bloom, but so far only in parts of our yard.
This shows why they are so-named, you can see the cat-like claws. This particular tree likes to grab the hat off my head when I walk by.
A baby grapefruit, which appears to have survived the freeze back in early April. Looks like we’ll have a good citrus crop this year.
Another sign of spring is these little buggers, the Canyon Tree Frog, congregating in our pool. They are LOUD.

I looked at our weather station logs for last year. Amusingly, we actually hit 100 for the second time on 26 April, 2019 — so this year we’re behind. Not to worry though, we were in the 80s still for most of May, with occasional days in the high 90s. It probably won’t be until June when it really kicks in.

Our weather in April, 2019. Stop panicking, the end times (a.k.a. June) aren’t here yet.
Today’s song is “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 7: Poopie Suits & An Ancient Mystery

I was actually aghast that Logan’s post last week was the very first appearance of the Poopie Suit on this fine blog. After nearly 8 years and more than 560 blog posts, it’s utterly ridiculous that a surface sailor posted the first poopie suit pic. She probably wasn’t even wearing tennis shoes.

So let’s rectify the sitch. Here are a couple of pics from when I was on the USS Pasadena (SSN-752).

That’s me on the right. Colby Matthews is relieving me as Officer of the Deck on the surface. It’s kind of rare to catch an SSN on the surface, but it was also always our favorite watch. Lots of wind, you usually got wet (we’re strapped in for a reason), and you got some sun. Since we both have smooth chins this must be shortly after we left Pearl.
This is maybe more recognizable after a couple of weeks out (and maybe not sleeping for a day or three). Note that I’m keeping it neat though, that fire fighting mask still needs a good seal. Kinda apropos.
The insignia you see on my poopie suit are the Submariner’s Dolphins. You basically have to be able to draw every fluid/mechanical/electrical/air system on the ship from memory, know how to operate everything, and prove it during a bunch of drills, to earn that. Logan is wearing the equivalent “water wings” for surface sailors. For U.S. submariners, it’s actually the fish (mahi mahi), not the mammal. But we always felt special when Dolphins joined us on the surface. Our Captain had even figured out that all ahead standard turns for twelve was the optimum Dolphin amusement speed in a 688 class.
Some more dolphins from the bridge of Pasadena off Oahu. Just because they’re pretty.

So one of the things that some of my shipmates and I have been talking about is how similar our current globally mutual situation is to going to sea on a submarine. Feeling isolated? Same small cramped space every day? Stuck with the same small group of people/cats (not necessarily of your choice)? Pervasive smell of diesel, monoethylamine, and sewage? Ok, if the last one applies maybe call a plumber and/or move.

Now if you really want to get a good submarine simulation, follow these guidelines. Seriously, I feel every one of those. But I lost it when I got to “Every so often, yell “EMERGENCY DEEP!” run into the kitchen and sweep all pots, pans and dishes off of the counters onto the floor, and then yell at your partner for not having the kitchen area “Stowed for Sea!””. All too real. My key lesson learned for our current situation is that if we all end up eating canned three bean salad that we were storing on the hallway floor (and walking on), it will have gone on for too long.

The best modern submarine movie to get you in the groove is The Hunt For Red October. When on the Dallas, most of the extras were submariners, and the background chatter is A+. Listen for things like “conn, maneuvering, aye”, and the word perfect “concur, possible target zig based on bearing rate.”

If you really want to get claustrophobic, any WWII sub movie will do, but Das Boot is the clear winner.

We don’t talk about Crimson Tide.

And now for a message from our sponsors

Like space drafts, only on your own couch.

Many astro-towns have a public talk series, hosted in bars oddly enough (see below), where local astronomizers present their work for a non-specialist audience. In Tucson it’s called Space Drafts. The COVID hasn’t crossed this off the calendar completely: tomorrow from 1200-1900 MST/PDT you can learn all about a bunch of exciting astronomy topics, live streamed here:

Our very own Logan Pearce is up from 1800-1830 MST/PDT Tucson time. Grab a cold one and tune in!

Now on to the ancient mystery. This is one of my favorite pics from the 752. It was a long time ago, but I’ll try to describe it. . .

This is taken at a place called Jim’s in Bahrain, in late March 2003. If you’ve seen Casablanca you kinda know the role Jim’s played there, though not with the same panache. Shown are most of the junior officers on Pasadena and the Eng, an MMCS (senior chief), an MM1, and a couple of O-gang friends who were on a CG out of Pearl. I’m pretty sure that “Nerd” and the Weps had the duty on the boat, and the XO is the photog. (inside baseball: b/c I was the Damage Control Assistant at the time, I almost certainly bought every single one of the senior chief’s beers that night)

Now you might notice that not every sailor looks completely ready to stand watch. Which leads to the mystery posed in one of my favorite songs:

Not actually the best version by USNA Glee on youtube, but I picked it for the venue. Honest question: what amateurs use a motorized stage to focus a camera? It’s all worth it at 1:55 though.

Here’s a more traditional version:

Fun fact: I’ve actually been kicked out of a bar in Charleston for over-requesting this song (Charleston S.C. is the home of Navy Nuclear Power School). Long story, it was a group effort and Irish folk bands can get touchy.

The final version really captures the essence of the song: