darkoshi: (Default)
I know it's not true, but it seems like *everybody* got to see totality except me (and of course my mom and Qiao, who were with me.)

I know I'm lucky to have been able to experience as much of it as I did experience. To not have even had to travel anywhere to experience it. There are surely people who traveled far from home to see it, and had clouds get in the way; that would have been even worse bad luck. And I'm sure there were many people who were in the path, but were unable to watch it for other reasons.

What with the weather forecasts, it's not like I was really *expecting* to be able to see it. I knew it was a long-shot. It seemed, though, that even if I were to drive somewhere else with a better forecast, it would be just as much a matter of luck, along with the risk of being stuck in traffic during the actual event.

But that break in the clouds here as it was getting closer to totality really made it seem like we were going to get to see it after all... and then... that big dark cloud, sob.

I'm glad that on Monday evening, there was one announcer on TV, who when the others were talking about it, said "well actually I didn't get to see it; in my area it was raining". It made me feel less alone in my bad luck. He's one of only two people I've heard on TV who were in the path of totality, who said they didn't get to see it due to clouds or rain.

I wonder, if I had seen it, if it would have seemed really special, or just a neat glowing disk in the sky. I suspect that latter, because nothing feels really special to me. So it's not like I probably even missed a great experience.

Oh, man. There's a pretty good video of it on this page. But apparently, totality was even visible in Charleston and on the coast, though the weather map had been showing the worst cloud cover there. ::sob, I'm cursed::

... oh, wait. Here's some other people who had clouds. See there, self, you're not the only one with disappointment.

..

I saw the crescent moon this evening, around 9pm. Sunset was around 8pm.

Eclipse Day

Monday, August 21st, 2017 10:24 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
It was partly cloudy here today.

I got to see a lot of the partial eclipse. A few minutes before totality, a big cloud moved in front of the sun, so I didn't get to watch that most special part. But I did get to experience the sky darkening (not nearly as dark as in the middle of the night; more like shortly after sunset), and the temperature dropping, and the wind whipping up, and a few cicadas starting to buzz, and part of the horizon looking pink.

It was very similar to a big thunderstorm building up. That's what the dogs seemed to think, anyway, as they rushed for the porch and pawed at the front door to be let inside. I let them in and then us humans remained outside to watch.

One curious thing is that the partial eclipse started with the moon entering the upper right portion of the sun, and ended with the moon leaving the upper left portion of the sun (when viewing generally southwards for both). That's not what I had expected. Maybe I'm mistaken about what direction I was looking when it started.

Many people here in town did get to see the totality; it just depended on where one was, and where the clouds were. But in some areas, it even rained.

My neighbor was visiting a relative at the hospital this afternoon, and she told me that a lot of the hospital staff went outside to view the eclipse (but staff who were needed inside stayed in). She said that the Emergency Room remained open, but the normal operating rooms were closed for that time period. That answers one of the things I had wondered about.

Click to enlarge...


darkoshi: (Default)
This was a very interesting read. Several of the things mentioned in the article made me think of my niece, who was born in 1995; things which I thought were simply traits of hers, but which may be more general traits of her generation.

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

amusing sentences

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 11:44 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
What a Border Collie Taught a Linguist About Language
Despite their name, sheep are not sheepish and often act on their own closely held ideas about where to go.

Authorities are Treating August's Solar Eclipse, a First in 99 Years, Like it's the End of the World
National Construction Rentals, which rents portable toilets across the U.S., hasn’t seen a spike in demand, but “there most likely will be last-minute requests as the date approaches,” says the company’s sales and marketing director, Scott Barley. “We advise customers not to spend too much time in our portable toilets on the actual date of August 21, or they may miss this very brief but memorable event.”
darkoshi: (Default)
Follow-up to this post.

In the prior post, I pondered about angles. In particular, about the ~13 degrees per day that the moon orbits around the earth, and whether that angle would still look like 13 degrees to me, when measured from the surface of the earth.

The angle would *not* be exactly the same. However, because of how far away the moon is compared to the size of the earth, the difference in angle is very small. That difference can be calculated using trigonometry.

Here's a new diagram. All figures mentioned below are approximations or averages.



The angle measured from the center of the earth is 13 degrees.
"X" is the corresponding angle measured from the surface, which will be calculated.
"D" is the distance from the center of the earth to the moon: 384400 km
"R" is the radius of the earth : 6371 km

I've drawn 2 right triangles such that both have the same "opposite" side, with length "O".
The length of the adjacent side for the X-angled triangle is "A".
The length of the hypotenuse for the X-angled triangle is "B".
The length of the adjacent side for the 13-degree-angled triangle is A + R.
The length of the hypotenuse for the 13-degree angled triangle is D.

sin 13 degrees = O / D
O = D * sin 13 = 384400km * 0.2249511 = 86471 km

cos 13 degrees = (A + R) / D
A = (cos 13) * D - R = (0.9743701 * 384400) - 6371 = 368176.85

tan X = O / A
X = arctan(O / A) = arctan (86471 / 368176.85) = 13.217

So, the corresponding angle from the surface of the earth is ~13.2 degrees.
darkoshi: (Default)
When I have something to add in regards to a post I've made previously (a few hours ago, or a few days, or even months), I'm not sure what's the best approach.

Often I simply update the old post, adding an "Update" section to it. That way if anyone finds the post from a websearch, they'll have all the details right there.

Sometimes I create a new post, and put my update there. That way, anyone on my list who read my original post will get the update on their reading page. I don't usually bother to update the old post to link to the new one... so unfortunately, anyone who finds the original post via a search won't get the whole story.

If the post was either very recent (such that maybe no one else read it yet), or a long time ago, I'm more likely to simply update the original post. If it was in-between but had no comments, I'm also likely to take this approach, as I suppose that none of my readers are very interested in the topic and wouldn't be interested in the update anyway.

If the post had comments/discussion, I may choose either option, but if I update the old post, I am more likely to at least mention and link to the update in a new post.

I've been making a lot of updates to recent posts lately.

What approach do the rest of you take?

photos

Saturday, August 19th, 2017 03:53 am
darkoshi: (Default)
Three vultures and a crow in a dead tree. The crow seemed to be cawing at the vultures.


Impressive power lines.


I call this the "yellow brick road". Yellow flowers grow in this gravel path, and only in the path, not in the surrounding fields of grass.
darkoshi: (Default)
For the last 3 days, I've seen the crescent moon in the sky during the late morning.

2017/08/16, 10:16am EDT:


2017/08/17, 8:43am EDT:


(On 2017/08/18, I saw the moon around 10:30am, but didn't think of taking a photo.)

But I have been unable to find the moon in the sky around 2:30pm (during my lunch breaks). I've been wondering why I can't find it in the afternoon.

(No wonder I've never paid much attention to the path of the moon in the sky. At night, I'm usually inside or asleep. In the daytime, even when the moon is in the sky, it's hard to see.)

On all 3 days, it's been partly cloudy, with today being the least cloudy. So it's possible the moon was behind a cloud. But as much as I've searched the sky, it seems unlikely it's *always* been behind a cloud.


As of today (2017/08/18) at my location, per the NOAA solar calculator (Find Sunrise, Sunset, Solar Noon and Solar Position for Any Place on Earth), solar noon is around 1:30pm. So at 2:30pm, the sun is still fairly high overhead.

On 8/16, it was 5 days before new moon and the eclipse, so the moon would have been about 5 * 13 = 65 degrees away from the sun. So that was most likely too near the horizon for me to see, as there are some trees and buildings around.

On 8/17, the moon would have been 4 * 13 = 52 degrees away from the sun. I think I should have been able to see it at that angle.

Today on 8/18, the moon would have been 3 * 13 = 39 degrees away from the sun. Surely I should have been able to see it at that angle.

The closer we get to the new moon, the thinner the crescent is. So the harder it is to see. It is hard to find a tiny arc of white in a light blue sky, and even more so when there are distracting white clouds around. But is that the only reason I haven't found it?

Per this page: Finding the Moon, crescent moons are "not observable" except right before sunset or after dawn. But I've seen it at 10:30am which isn't right after dawn. So I think it would be more accurate to say "not easily observable".

If I can see it at 10:30am when the sun is already bright in the sky, why shouldn't I be able to see it at 2:30pm?

I got to wondering whether how I think of the angles in the sky is wrong. I am thinking of 45 degrees as being the distance from straight overhead to a point halfway to the horizon. But the 13 degrees that the moon moves per day is in relation to the center of the earth, not to my spot on the surface of the earth. Therefore, is how I'm visualizing the angles in the sky wrong?



When the moon orbits 45 degrees around the earth, is that a much greater distance than the distance I see from overhead to halfway to the horizon?

But... as can be seen in the diagram, the larger you draw the earth, the closer the 45 degrees gets to one's visible horizon, and it would eventually even pass below the horizon. Yet I've been able to see the moon in the mornings, and the distance between it and the sun hasn't seemed such a large angle. So surely the above diagram can't be right.

(Update #2, 2017/08/20: I've figured it out. The diagram is basically correct, but my assumption about the 45 degree line eventually passing below the horizon was wrong (just because I don't draw the horizon line to infinity, doesn't mean it doesn't go to infinity). If the angle to the moon as measured from the center of the earth is 45 degrees (from directly overhead), then the angle as measured from the surface of the earth would be more than 45 degrees. But because the distance to the moon is so large in comparison to the size of the earth, the angle is only slightly more. See follow-up post.)

On the same topic, I got to wondering how much of the sky / celestial sphere am I actually capable of observing from a point on the earth, at any moment in time. Ie. if I turn all the way around, looking towards the horizon, and up above me, how much of the sphere of the sky which surrounds the earth, am I seeing?

Based on the diagram, the amount of sky seen would not be half the sphere, as I've previously assumed. Yet again, the larger one draws the earth, the less of the sky one would seem to see. Surely that can't be right?

Based on these answers, it sounds like you should be able to see half of the sky at any time. But I don't understand the formulas and calculations listed.


Update (afternoon of 2017/08/19):

Today, the morning of 8/19, around 7:40am and again at 10:20am, I wasn't able to find the moon in the sky, even though it was clear with no clouds. So as of 2 days before new moon, the crescent must be too small and faint to see in the daytime. Perhaps a clear sky being so much brighter than a partially cloudy sky, also makes it harder to see.

MoonCalc.org - shows you the current position of the moon in the sky, and moonrise/moonset directions, for any position you select on the map.

Sun Locator Lite - a free app which lets you find the sun and moon by pointing the phone at the sky (as long as the phone has an internal compass/magnetometer - mine doesn't, but Qiao's does). The Pro version lets you get information for any day and time of the year.

Today, 2 days before the eclipse, the moon should be about 2 * 13 = 26 degrees from the sun. I used the above Sun Locator app to find the position of the moon and compare it to the sun's position, and estimated the angle between them. If anything, it seemed less than 26 degrees, not more. So that indicates that there's something wrong with my thinking in terms of the above diagram. But where have I gone wrong? I still haven't figured that out.
(And even with the app to show me its exact location, I still can't see the crescent moon in the afternoon sky.)

But I did have an epiphany on how much of the sky is visible from a point on earth at a single moment in time. It depends on what I'm calling the "sky". I think of the sky as a sphere centered around the earth, upon which I see moon, sun, stars, clouds, etc. But there are many such possible spheres around the earth, different distances from the center of the earth.

How much of the sky is seen depends on which of those spheres one considers. If one considers a sphere which is say, 10 kilometers above sea level, you can calculate the surface area of that sphere. The earth's diameter is 12,742 km. So the sphere's diameter would be 12,752 km, its radius (r) would be 6376 km, and it's surface area would be 4*pi*r^2.

[ another interesting thought... For an infinitely thin sphere, the size of the inside and outside surface areas should be the same, right? But how can that be? I can't visualize them being the same size. ]

Imagine that we cut a small slice, 10 km deep, from the top of that sphere. We can then calculate the surface area of that slice (with some formula, which I would have to look up.) That would tell us how much of the whole sphere we can see at a single moment, and it would be a fairly small portion.

But now, consider a sky-sphere with a much larger radius of 5 light-years - reaching the nearest stars - or even larger. At such distances, the diameter of the earth is minute in comparison - it can be considered negligible. A plane which touches the surface of the earth at one point is practically the same as another parallel plane which intersects both the center of the earth and the sphere. Either way, half of the sphere is above the plane, and half below. So the person can see half of that sky-sphere.

Now, what about a sphere with radius of 150 million km (about the distance from the earth to the sun)? In comparison to that distance, the earth's diameter is roughly 0.01%.* So again, it's basically negligible, and we can see practically half of the sphere at any moment in time.

..

Other interesting tidbits:

How far away is the horizon? Short answer: About 4 to 5 kilometers away, at standing eye-level for an average-height adult.

I see the moon: introducing our nearest neighbour - has several good diagrams/images.
Per this page, the moon's orbital plane is tilted 5 degrees from the ecliptic. That's not as much as I imagined. But when you add in the 23.5 angle of the earth's axis, the moon can orbit up to 29 degrees above or below the earth's equator.

Lunar Orbital Libration
Libration definition: "a real or apparent oscillatory motion, especially of the moon."

Altitude and Azimuth

* A lot of these numbers are rough calculations I've done, and they may have errors. Please don't rely on any numbers I've posted, without verifying them. If you find an error, please let me know so that I can correct it.
darkoshi: (Default)
I thought of an easier way to explain why the eclipse shadow travels west to east, even though the moon travels east to west through the sky.

First, here's the general picture from the perspective of the sun, when looking down at the solar plane from above:
The earth revolves around the sun in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full circuit about every 365 days.
The moon revolves around the earth in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full circuit about every 28 days.
The earth rotates around its own axis in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full turn every 24 hours.

Here's the general picture from the perspective of a spot on the earth at the equator, when looking up at the sky:
The sun revolves around the earth in an east to west direction, completing a full circuit every 24 hours.
The moon revolves around the earth in an east to west direction, completing a full circuit about every 24.5 hours (I hope I calcuated that right)

Now to explain why the solar eclipse shadow goes west to east:

Imagine you are standing on the north side of an east-west street, facing south.
The moon is a person walking on that street from east to west.
The sun is another person walking on that street from east to west, except that they are walking slightly faster than the moon, and emitting a bright light.


When the sun is still a fair bit behind the moon, the shadow that is cast from the moon due to the sun's light will point towards the west.
As the sun starts overtaking the moon, walking behind the moon compared to the observer, the shadow that is cast points towards west-northwest.
As the sun continues passing behind the moon, that shadow changes direction, towards to the northwest, then north, then northeast, then east-northeast.
So even though both the sun and moon are going east-to-west, the shadow goes west-to-east.

Maybe that is totally obvious to other people? I mean, it seems pretty obvious to myself now that I've explained it.

.

It's actually more complicated than that, of course.

The sun's path does go from east to west rather consistently, even though during the summer, the path is higher in the sky (northeast -> northwest) than during winter (southeast -> southwest).

But the moon's path is more dynamic, as it doesn't revolve in the plane of the equator. It may rise in the southeast and set in the northwest. Or it may rise in the northeast and set in the southwest. (right? I haven't ever really paid much attention to the moon's path, but I must have learned that somewhere.)

Because of that, based on the images I've seen, instead of the moon crossing the sun from right to left, during this eclipse, it will cross it from lower right towards the upper left.

So in the above example, the moon would be on a different street, at an angle to the other street, and the streets would happen to cross each other right at the point where the sun was walking behind the moon.
(although what angles the streets need to be at, and which direction the moon is going on its own street is a bit difficult for me to visualize right now.)
..

I guess it's time to create a new eclipse tag for all these entries, and to rename the eclipse tag I used on a single other post in reference to the software called "Eclipse".
darkoshi: (Default)
The local news mentioned that the downtown population could double to a million people, from all the people coming here for the total eclipse. And that cell phone service may be affected, due to bandwidth problems from all the extra people. That's something that wouldn't have occurred to me. They advise people to text instead of calling, to save bandwidth.

.

One thing I'm curious about is whether during totality, it will be dark like during the middle of night, or only somewhat dark like when the sun has just dipped below the horizon at dusk, or if it won't even be as dark as that.

I could look it up. But that would be like watching spoilers :-)

I wonder if the street lights will come on.

I wonder how many people will be driving vehicles during totality. I wonder how many people have to work and won't even have an opportunity to go outside to look. I wonder if store employees will have to stay inside. I wonder if people are going to be shopping instead of watching it. I wonder if employees and even managers are simply going to abandon their posts for a few minutes, in order to experience this once in a lifetime event. I wonder if surgeries and doctor's appointments have been scheduled during totality. I wonder if some people just don't care about it. I wonder if some people think it's too hot to go outside just to look at the sky.

I wonder if it will be raining... :-(
As of now the forecast indicates a clear morning, then partly cloudy til 2pm, then a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Totality here is at 2:42pm.

.

This morning I looked in the sky and found the moon in the general area I expected it to be. This afternoon during my lunch break, I looked and wasn't able to find it again. I wonder if the sky is just so bright during midday that a crescent moon is very faint and hard to see. Or whether it was hiding behind one of the clouds.

.

Aaaannnnd I just noticed that I wrote "left to right" a couple times in my prior post, when I meant "right to left". As if it wasn't confusing enough without me flubbing the words too. I fixed it now.

.

Hah. I found another reason it's good I decided to work from home on Monday. At my home, totality will last 20 seconds longer than it will at my work, because my workplace is further from the center line.
darkoshi: (Default)
This morning, I started wondering why the eclipse will be seen on the west coast before it is seen on the east coast.

I know that the earth spins counter-clockwise (towards the east) when looking at it from above the north pole. And that the moon travels around the earth in the same counter-clockwise direction. And that the earth spins relatively faster. It does a complete rotation (360 degrees) in 24 hours, whereas the moon only travels 1/28th of the way around the earth (360 / 28 ~= 13 degrees) during that time.

So how can the moon's shadow travel from west to east? Isn't the earth spinning into the shadow and out of it in a clockwise west to east direction (the same as it always spins), and so the shadow should appear to move from east to west, just like the moon appears to do in the sky?

According to the answer on PhysLink.com, it has something to do with the moon's orbital velocity being greater than the earth's. But according to this orbital velocity formula, it seems that anything closer to the earth (ie. the earth's surface) would have a greater orbital velocity than something further away (ie. the moon). So that answer seems to be wrong or badly worded, maybe. Of course, if we simply consider velocity, the moon does travel a further distance through space than the earth's surface does, in the same amount of time. But what does that have to do with the eclipse? If it were a race, the earth would still win, rotating faster than the moon revolves.

Here's another page (cached, as the original eclipse2017.org page isn't responding - the website must be swamped) that tries to answer the question. Some of the commenters on that page seem to have the same confusion as I do.

Here's another page (Washington Post) that tries to explain it. Again talking about the speed of the moon compared to the earth.

Watching the various NASA visualizations didn't explain it well to me, because of how the videos keep shifting perspectives. Even in this animation, it looks like the sun must be moving from behind the viewer, to make the shadow move like that.

I think I may finally sort of understand it, but my explanation doesn't match any of the answers I read. So it's probably wrong. But... as the moon moves across the sun from right to left (as seen from the earth while facing south), it's shadow as seen from the earth changes direction. First it points towards the west, then straight, then towards the east.
And while the moon itself, from the earth's perspective, doesn't move far in the sky (and due to the earth's rotation, even appears to be going to the west*), it's shadow moves much faster... that must be why the answers keep mentioning the speed of the moon.. they must be trying to say that the speed of the moon's shadow across the face of the earth matches the moon's speed in space. I suppose that is logical, even though it isn't very intuitive to me**.

* But the sun appears to move to the west faster than the moon, so the moon does still cross the sun from right to left, even though they are both moving to the west.

So the moon's shadow moves quickly from the west to the east.

Right? Maybe? Sort of?

** Because the moon doesn't move in a straight line, but rather circles the earth. And those x-thousand miles per hour it moves up in space only correspond to y-hundred miles down on the earth... Oh jeez, now I'll start doubting my above explanation again...

Ok, thinking about it more. The shadow moves west to east like I explained above, because the moon crosses the sun from west to east. The speed of the moon through space around the earth affects the speed of the shadow, but it's not a direct x = y equation. The faster the moon moves across the face of the sun, the faster the shadow sweeps across the land from west to east. Since the shadow is sweeping through an arc (sort of), the far end of the shadow will pass a different distance during that time, depending from how far away you measure it... which for us is based on the distance between the moon and earth. So the speed of the shadow depends on that distance, and on the speed of the moon's revolution, and on the speed of the earth's rotation, and the size of the earth, etc. And it is complicated more because the moon moves in an elliptical orbit, not just straight past the sun, etc.

Now it makes sense to me. If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me which of my logic is wrong.

.

On a related topic, how long will totality last, across the U.S.? It will start on the west coast around 10:17am (1:17pm eastern time). It will end on the east coast around 2:48pm (eastern time). So for one and a half hours, the shadow will sweep across the country, from coast to coast.

Within that time period, based on the 3 to 4 hour time difference between the coasts, the earth only rotates about half the same distance.

But actually, the earth and the shadow are moving in the same direction... so if the earth weren't turning, the shadow would traverse the distance even faster.

2017/08/16 Corrected some words above. I was mixing up the words "right" and "left", even though I was visualizing it correctly. I'm used to thinking of the west coast as on the left side and the east coast on the right side. For the above, my perspective is from the center of the county looking south. So the west coast is on the right, not the left.
Although since the sun will be pretty high overhead during the eclipse, "left" and "right" aren't good words to use to begin with.
darkoshi: (Default)
I bought some eclipse sunglasses on Tuesday. Seems like I did it in the nick of time, as they are becoming scarce around here. I got some cheap cardboard ones, and some slightly less cheap 2x magnification cardboard ones (I ordered the latter from Best Buy in the morning, and picked them up after work. When I checked the website in the evening again, they were sold out.) The glasses are neat! You can look at the midday sun while it's high in the sky! What you see is a nice orange disk. That may not sound special, but it's neat to be able to look straight at the sun without it being sunrise or sunset. I'm not sure I could see any sunspots or flares with these glasses, but they should be fine for watching the eclipse. As long as we are lucky and have clear skies. The forecast isn't looking good so far... a 50 to 60% chance of thunderstorms all day on the 21st till 8pm. But things may change, and even with thunderstorms, there might be a break in the clouds. (please, pretty please, at least during totality, please?)

I've been debating whether to work from home that day, or go in to work like usual and take my lunch break during the total eclipse. Now I think I'll work from home... that way I can occasionally check what is broadcast from the other parts of the country that experience the eclipse before we do.

I replaced the pull-chain light switch for the light fixture on Qiao's ceiling fan with a 3-way pull switch. Now we can turn on either 2 or all 4 lights, where before you could only turn on all 4 at once. Now while sitting on the sofa, we can turn on only the 2 lights which face towards the other direction, so that the room isn't uncomfortably dark, but without as much glare from above as before. When we want more light, we can turn them all on. Previously, I had replaced the lamp shades and bulbs, but it was still too bright for me.

One of the metal spines on my umbrella broke. I can't think of any simple way to fix it. It's a fairly new umbrella which my neighbors gave me recently, as thanks for looking after their dogs while they were on a trip. A nice lime-green color with reflective edging. I can't bear to throw it away. I couldn't even bear to throw away my old umbrella yet.. On it, the fabric had worn out and had holes. I cut the fabric off that one, and still have the metal umbrella skeleton. It's pretty useless, slightly dangerous, but looks neat in a goth-steampunk kind of way.

My dad has been researching his side of the family tree. It's amazing what you can find in old census records. This FamilySearch website is run by the LDS church, and lets you search records for free. There's an 1885 census from the state of Nebraska, with an entry for my grandpa's father and grandfather. We also found 1870 and 1880 census records which seem to match, but there are some discrepancies which we haven't been able to explain yet. We found that the Nebraska Historical Society has microfilms of church records from the area my grandpa's grandpa lived. Those records don't seem to be online anywhere. My dad contacted them, and they have a volunteer who will check the microfilms for us, even translating from Latin! How nice is that?
darkoshi: (Default)
Remember that song I bought on iTunes, which was so much trouble to buy?

Not only that, but in addition to the price of the song I bought, iTunes charged me an extra $1 which they are now refusing to give back. When I initially contacted them about it via their Report a problem link, they replied by email that it was only an "authorization hold on my credit card" and that it would automatically drop off in an unspecified amount of time. I was dubious, as the $1 had been taken from my PayPal balance (which I told them), not from a credit card. However, I found a PayPal page which indicated that those kind of charges might take a month to get refunded, so I decided to wait that long to see, before bugging iTunes about it again. The $1 never got refunded.

After the month was over, I tried contacting iTunes again via the same link (twice!), but even though upon submitting the report, the confirmation page states that they'll get back to me within 48 hours, they haven't, either time. I didn't even get the immediate "We'll be in touch" email response like I did the first time. So it seems like their system is purposely ignoring me now. (Why? I can't figure that out.)

I had also tried disputing the charge via the PayPal site, however none of the choices PayPal provides for the reason of the dispute seemed applicable. I clicked what seemed the most relevant one and chose answers to the remaining questions that were presented to see what would happen, even though none of the answers were applicable. I thought I'd be given an opportunity to either Submit or Cancel at the end, and that I'd choose Cancel and maybe then try a different initial option. But after selecting the answers, I was only shown a message like "Well, you said you received the thing you ordered (ie. the song), so you can't dispute the charge."

Now when I try clicking the link to dispute the charge again (thinking that maybe I'll select a different initial reason this time), the link doesn't work ("Sorry — your last action could not be completed"). I suspect it is because they previously decided that I have no grounds for dispute.
ARGH.

I do still have the option of calling the PayPal customer support phone number. Maybe I could find an iTunes phone number.

It is only $1 they stole from me. It's not worth the hassle. But it's not right.

Update, 2017/08/19:
I still wasn't getting any response via Apple's Report a Problem page. So instead I contacted Apple support via chat (from that support page, I selected the links for: iTunes - iTunes Store - Purchases, Billing & Redemption - iTunes Store Account Billing - Chat). During the chat, the Apple rep reiterated that the $1 charge was only an authorization hold, and told me to contact PayPal; that PayPal should credit me the $1 back.

So I disputed the charge via the link on the PayPal site again (the link was working ok now - maybe there's a time-out period for how often you can click it?) This time, I selected the option for reporting a Billing issue, and an "issue that's not described". I attached a copy of my Apple support chat, and submitted the report. Within 24 hours, PayPal sent me a reply that they had accepted my claim and credited the $1 back to my account.

So finally, the problem has been resolved.

tunnels, bridges

Sunday, August 6th, 2017 12:35 am
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A while back, my dad had told me about a TV series I might like - "The Bridge". He said that one of the characters, a female cop, has Aspergers, and was sort of like me. I didn't get around to watching it, except a trailer. From what I read, it was a crime drama and I don't like watching gruesome and unpleasant things, so it wasn't at the top of my list.

But recently, I stumbled across a similar show on PBS (The Tunnel, season 2), and the character Elise immediately drew my interest and reminded me of what my dad had said. For a moment, I wondered if this could be the show he had been referring to, but no, this was a British/French show, and I'm pretty sure he had been talking about an American one.

It turns out that The Bridge was originally a Scandinavian TV show. The American TV series was based on it. The British/French version is the latest remake.

Anyway, the characters and plot of The Tunnel were so intriguing, that I ended up watching the rest of season 2, in spite of the subject matter also being very gruesome and unpleasant. I got Qiao to watch it with me, as he generally likes gruesome crime dramas. Next we'll watch season 1. Maybe I'll even check out the Bridge shows later on.

I feel a kinship with the character Elise. In many ways, she is different from me. But still, her difficulty in interacting with others feels very familiar, and I can totally relate to her.

wasps, paper bags

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 11:50 pm
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For several days in a row, a few wasps were hanging around the bay window, and buzzing whenever I opened or closed the side window. I was concerned they were building a nest in the soffits. That wouldn't necessarily bother me, as long as the wasps didn't end up in the house. (That has been a problem in the past.)

But I also didn't want to worry about trapping the wasps between the screen and window, or accidentally crushing them, whenever I closed the window (it is the kind with the screen on the inside, and with a handle that you turn, to close the window). So I looked up how to stop wasps from building a nest. I found that there are fake hornets nests that you can buy to scare wasps away. The fake nests don't actually look that bad either, they are like a paper lantern in a drab color. But I also read that you can make your own fake hornet nest with a small paper bag. So I did that, and stuck it outside. It seems to have worked. The wasps aren't hanging around the window any more.

I did see one of the wasps resting on the fig tree later on. It was very pretty actually, mostly black with iridescent blue highlights.
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My President Was Black, By Ta-Nehisi Coates
- mentions a "brown-paper-bag test".

Brown Paper Bag Test (wikipedia entry) -
The Brown Paper Bag Test was a type of racial discrimination in the United States. A brown paper bag was used as a way to determine whether or not an individual could have certain privileges; only individuals with a skin color that is the same color or lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed. The test was used in the 20th century within many social institutions such as African-American sororities, fraternities, and churches.


What?? Even African-American organizations discriminated based on how dark a person's skin was?!

The Wikipedia "See Also" section for the above entry includes:
High yellow ...
...is a term used to describe persons classified as black according to the one-drop rule, despite having primarily white European ancestry. It is a color reference to the yellow undertone of some mixed-race people. ... It is reflected in such popular songs of the era as "The Yellow Rose of Texas".


What?! The Yellow Rose of Texas?! You mean the original song wasn't metaphorically comparing someone to a beautiful good-smelling yellow rose?

The Yellow Rose of Texas (song) ...
The song is written in the first person from the perspective of an African-American singer who refers to himself as a "darkey," longing to return to "a yellow girl," a term used to describe a light-skinned bi-racial woman born of African-American and white progenitors.
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Why can we smell metal? - it's not actually the metal that smells.

I was wondering last week why my hand smelled bad, then realized it was from simply having touched the metal zipper pull on an old duffle bag. (Yet when I later sniffed the zipper, it didn't smell). Certain metals like that (not sure what kind, but generally the yellowish/bronze colored ones) make my hands smell so horrible that I have to wash them to get rid of the smell. Then I wondered if other people could smell metal too, which led to me finding the above information.
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My mom's power went out this evening during a storm, and by the time she called me, her UPS was beeping in alarm mode indicating it would soon be out of power. It's a UPS I had gotten her earlier this year so that her home phone (which uses VOIP) would still work during a power outage. My mom said she didn't have the TV or anything else turned on, so the UPS should have only been powering the internet modem/router, and maybe a few other devices in standby/off mode.

She wasn't home when the power went out, but I estimate it shouldn't have been out for more than 2 hours. The modem/router shouldn't use much power, so I was surprised that the UPS would already be low. So I checked the specs... It's a CyberPower 375 Watt unit and from what I found online, at full load, it can only run for 2 minutes!!! I can't believe I would have bought it knowing that. At the time, I had taken a photo of the side of the box (which listed the specs) for reference, but it doesn't say how long its runtime is. That must have been on the front of the box. This is the only image I found online of the front of the box. The image quality is low, but I decipher it as saying "Four outlets provide up to 65 minutes of runtime during a power outage".

I bet that when I read that, I assumed that time must be for a near-full load. (Because you can always plug in something which uses way less energy, so how could they give any specific number, if not for full load?) Maybe I assumed that for a smaller load, say 37.5 W, it could run for 10 times as long. I do remember looking at the different models in the store and debating which to get, and deciding that this one, even though not the biggest, should suffice for my mom's needs.

But if it can only run at full load for 2 minutes, the 65 minutes would be for a load of... about 12 W?

I did a few more searches.
This 810 Watt model says on the front of the box "Up to 420* Minutes of Backup Power for your Home Theater or Computer". You'd think that would mean at minimum watching TV or using a computer with a monitor.
But the other side of the box says that the 420 minutes is only for using a DVR in record mode (no TV). For a desktop computer, it only provides 58 minutes. For a TV and game console, it only provides 24 minutes.

I finally found another image of the box for my model... not sure if my box was the same. But this one says 65 minutes for DVR while recording, 24 minutes for a computer, and 6 minutes for a 32" TV and game console.

So maybe I should have known better. Maybe I thought a modem/router uses less than a DVR, or that my mom wouldn't need more than an hour's worth. I dunno.
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How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology - he discovered that a large group of lichens are a symbiosis between an alga and not 1, but 2 different types of fungus. I learned that the singular of "algae" is "alga".

Jon Batiste Reinterprets 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' for The Atlantic - I really don't care much for the original song and I quite dislike the lyrics, because of its religious and warlike nature. Yet Batiste's version gives me goosebumps and is worth listening to at least once, I can say that much. From what I understand, he produced all the many different instrument sounds in the song using only a piano. The video at the above link describes how he did it, but doesn't include the whole song. If you only want to listen to the song, it's at the end of the 1st podcast on the Radio Atlantic page - starting at 1:03:00.
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The other night, while checking the thermostat in the hallway, I heard a thump against the front door. Both dogs were inside, in the other direction. So the sound gave me a momentary fright. (Who is out there?? Did someone throw something at my door?) But it might be the neighbor's dog which occasionally gets loose (he can climb/jump fences like it's the easiest thing in the world, but he's friendly so I'm not afraid of him)... I walked to the door and looked outside, first through the window, then by opening the door. There was nothing there, even though it had only been but a few seconds between me hearing the noise and looking outside.

I sometimes hear similar thumps from other parts of the house, as if something is hitting the outside wall or a window. It must be due to thermal expansion, or maybe sometimes squirrels or birds.

The curious thing is that no matter how odd and unexpected the sound, and how much it makes my heart jump into my throat, once I've determined that it's inexplicable and there's no apparent danger, I quickly forget about it. "Don't know what it was, no way to find out, got other things to do."

Today while in the bathroom with the door open, I heard a distinctly fluttering sound from the next room. Like a bird fluffing its wings. Followed by silence. There's definitely no bird in that room. Oh well, who knows. Maybe the dogs in the room at the other end of the hallway made some noise, and it only sounded to me like it came from the nearby room.

There have been other times I've heard other more inexplicable noises. Things which people who believe in ghosts, might attribute to ghosts. But I don't have any clear memories, just the knowledge that it has happened before, more than once, and it's not that unusual.

There was one strange noise which I did figure out. This one has happened both in my cube at work and in my kitchen at home - an intermittent quiet hissing noise from close nearby. It's from air escaping out of (or into?) the top of a bottle, when I haven't tightened the cap all the way, and the temperature difference between the bottle and surrounding air is right. At home, I store tap water in liter-sized glass bottles in the fridge, because I like my drinking water to be cold. But sometimes I'll leave a bottle standing on the counter. When I go to work, I take a small glass bottle of water with me, and during the day, fill it up from the drinking fountain.