Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More about the Snow

I'm not sure the snow ever turned to rain. We ended up with about an inch of snow, enough to cover the parking lot and roads except where cars were constantly traveling. The temperature got down close to freezing, but not below according to my thermometers which are at second-floor level.

The snow is melting. It's mostly gone from the roofs I can see. It's been pretty easy to see where all the rafters are under those roofs, which probably means they're not well-insulated. The parking lot has a little slush left and there's more on grass and dirt, but it's very slushy as well.

The temperature is 38F now. I think most of the snow should be a memory by dusk tomorrow. With a forecast of rain tomorrow, that's pretty much assured.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


According to the Intellicast metro radar, it should be raining right now, but instead it's snowing. So far it's just big fluffy flakes and the radar's showing the precipitation in whatever form shouldn't last too long. It might change to rain, but for now, it is snowing. Unless we got a little very light snow at night back when it was very cold, this is the first snow of the season. I went out on my little deck and took a picture with the camera aimed north and zoomed in a bit to mostly crop out the apartment complex buildings:

Then I pointed the camera at the fir tree between my building and the one about 20 feet west. Since the tree is dark, the exposure blurred the flakes:

There's been enough to accumulate a bit on the bush outside the window beside the computer:

It's been maybe fifteen minutes since I noticed the snow, which was just starting as I looked out while coming back to the computer with my coffee, and already it has nearly stopped. That's fine with me, and it would also be fine if that's all we get here this winter. 
There's been at least one winter where we got a mini-blizzard for about an hour in mid-December and that was it for the season. Of course, it had to hit just as I was getting off work at the call center about 2 1/2 miles away and down the slope toward the Columbia River. The road got a bit slick but fortunately everyone was able to keep moving in spite of several traffic lights.

OK, it's picked up a bit once more, and it might keep snowing until the precipitation stops. The radar is still showing rain, but the mixed area and snow is creeping closer (the red dot is where I am):

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rolling Along

What are those things? They're called snow rollers, formed when wind and snow conditions are just right. Phil Plaitt, creator of the Bad Astronomy blog, explains it all.

In his book Death from the Skies, Plaitt explains different ways the world could end. They include an asteroid impact like the one that did in the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, a poisonous atmosphere, and several others. It sounds scary, but Plaitt presents the science behind it all, and notes the very low probabilities of each deadly scenario.

If you like science blogs, Phil Plaitt's Bad Astronomy blog is a good one to add to your list.

(I learned something about adding these Amazon links: write the text first, then add the link, otherwise any attempt to start a new paragraph beside the link results in the cursor jumping to a point below the link, leaving empty space beside it.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Lights

Yesterday morning I decided to get another set of lights to put around the 6' x 4' window next to the computer, so I made another trip to Walgreen's. It was late afternoon when I started putting them up. I turned them on before stringing them, and I thought they all worked, but perhaps not. When I finished and turned the lights on, only half of them worked. There's two tiny fuses in the plug, but changing them didn't help, so I pulled them off and stuffed them back in the box. As I did, I noticed someone had written an "R" on the front (or back) of the box. Although the lights looked like they'd never been unpackaged when I opened the box, it's possible someone had returned the set.

Back at Walgreen's it was easy to exchange them, then I made sure the new set worked before I started stringing them. They still worked when I finished.

By then it was dark enough to turn on all the lights, then I got the camera out and took some pictures. I was using the monopod on the camera and when I took a picture from the parking lot of the porch and computer window I only took one shot. I also took a picture of a neighbor's lights.

Back inside I took a look and realized the one shot of the porch and computer window was blurred. I was in a hurry because I had only had a few minutes before Keith Olbermann's show started.

This morning I went out again and took a bunch of shots without the monopod, figuring at least one would turn out to be sharp enough. At least one was.

Bedroom window:



Window and porch, taken this morning:

The camera you see to the left of this text isn't the camera I own. It's the one I would like to own. Amazon and Google recently partnered with a way for Amazon associates to easily add links to products to blogs. Since I've been an Amazon associate for a while I thought I'd give it a try.

Normally I have some ad-blocking software running on Firefox and I have to turn it off in order to see the results of adding a product link.

A couple of years ago I got a Canon Powershot S3i. It's been great, compared to the old Kodak digital I'd had since 1999, but it would be nice to have the T1i. Probably by the time I can afford it there will be a newer model out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Lights

The Winter Solstice occurs today at 9:47 a.m. Pacific Time (17:47 UTC). That's a little over an hour from now as I start this post.

I've lived in this apartment since February 2002 but I never put up any lights. This year I got the urge to do it when I was getting something at Home Depot earlier this month and saw light sets that didn't cost a whole lot. But I'm trying to spend very little, so I didn't buy any. Last week I thought about it again and went out looking, but Home Depot, Loew's and Fred Meyer only had clear lights and I wanted colored lights, so again I didn't get any.

Then yesterday I recalled seeing a sign at the Walgreens only a few blocks away about lights, so I stopped in. They had colored lights in sets of 100 for $3.99. I looked at the length and figured I could use one set to outline my 8' x 3' bedroom window and a couple of sets would probably go from my porch light, up to the rafter ends behind the gutter, then down to the railing and back to the light.

Besides the lights, I also needed a little plug outlet that screws into a light fixture. There weren't any at Walgreen's, so I ended up going to the Home Depot, a six-mile round trip for something that cost $1.72. That trip was made only after making sure there wasn't one in my overflowing toolbox.

It was raining and dark when I got back, so all I did last night was tape up the lights around the bedroom window. I put the porch lights up this morning. The lights for the bedroom window plug into a power strip I'd freed up while rearranging stuff on my computer desk a while back. So with the porch light, all I have to do is flip a couple of switches to get everything lit up.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Moon Outside My Window

This morning around 8:45 I happened to look out my window and saw the moon, which is just past full. When I look over the apartment buildings, the view is dominated by a few Douglas firs, one of which has a split top. The moon was getting near them and I decided to take a few pictures. I would've liked to have gone out on my small deck, but then the building next to mine would have gotten in the way. You can see a little bit of its roof in the lower left of the first picture. I had to settle for shooting through the window, making sure the camera's autofocus didn't focus on the window frame instead of the moon and trees.

I didn't have time to get out the tripod since the moon was getting close to the trees, so I had to try to be as steady as I could while shooting. Fortunately I have a lot of practice doing that. The camera has a 12x optical zoom and I rarely go beyond it to use the digital zoom. This was one of those times. The really zoomed shot isn't all that fantastic. A tripod really would have helped, but I tried anyway.

Because of the extreme zoom, not all of the moon got in the frame. I tried again and did get it all in the frame, but the first extreme zoom shot was clearer. Then I noticed a jet getting close to the moon, so I shut off the digital zoom and took another shot at 12x. Getting the zoom right meant the jet was past the moon, but considering I only had seconds to work with, it's close enough and I like how the contrail just intersects the top of the moon.

Here's another image of the same shot with the jet, cropped to make the moon, contrail and jet a bit larger.

The view outside the window, which is in the dining area off the living room (I've never had a dining table - it's my computer area instead) isn't all that great, but at least I can look outside and see trees and sky. Once in a while something interesting happens out there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Questionable Content

OK, maybe some folks my question stuff I've posted here, but the title really is also the title of a webcomic by Jeph Jacques from Northampton, Massachusetts. He started Questionable Content in 2003. It's a slice of life/romantic comic about a group of friends in that town. There are a few odd things, though, since it's set in a sort of alternate universe where there are little AnthroPC robots and some people are already living in orbit and they're not just astronauts.

The characters are all 20-somethings living in the alternate Northampton. Marten Reed is the main character. Early on he takes in Faye Whitaker, whom he had just met. She managed to burn down the apartment building she lived in thanks to a toaster mishap. She works at Coffee of Doom, a shop run by Dora Bianchi where much of the action is set. Marten has an AnthroPC named Pintsize who's always up to something nefarious and occasionally destructive. As the strip develops the cast grows larger. Some of the additional characters are decidedly odd and relationships among the characters can be rather complex .

I found out about QC a month or so ago from a mention in Danielle Corsetto's webcomic Girls With Slingshots. After reading for a while I decided to go back to the first strip and read all the way through to the current one. That takes a while since Jacques has done 1,547 of them so far. It was definitely interesting. Jacques has been making a living from doing the comic along with a line of merchandise, mostly T shirts. He was so successful at marketing T shirts and stuff (at one time he posted a note about going off to buy $1200 in postage for sending out shirts) that earlier this year he joined a group of other webcomic artists who market their merch through a company called TopatoCo.

TopatoCo also markets things for Wondermark by David Malki (he was at Wordstock at the Portland Convention Center several weeks ago) and Christopher Baldwin, who did Bruno, the first webcomic I got interested in. They've got 34 artists overall.