Another Snow Day! This means KU is closed for business... which means more writing! The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella is now up to 49,775 words - that's almost 1200 freakin' more since yesterday! I've almost reached the psychologically important 50k threshold. More importantly, the revision has progressed another 12 pages. I'm only 9 pages away from writing all-new scenes - an even-grander psychological threshold! It's thrilling to be only a day away from jumping into uncharted waters.


Snow Day also means I had to shovel a crap-ton (that's a technical term) of snow from the sidewalks this morning. In many places, the snow was deep enough to spill into the tops of my foot-high snow-boots, soaking the feet. And the wind was so bitterly cold that my molars were frozen beneath my windburned cheeks. Right now, it's only 10°F in Lawrence, Kansas, with a windchill in the negatives... so I was sort of an idiot to try to dig out this morning. At least it's beautiful to look at, and sunny.



This photo shows the back yard, post-shoveling, during Snowpocalypse 2014: Day 2. Unfortunately, as you can see, the ice from last week's storm remains, meaning at least the urban wildlife can come find seeds here as usual... where are you, little squirrels and birds? Come eat!

Chris
mckitterick: At NASA's Moon-rock exhibit when it came to KU. (NASA Chris)
( Dec. 10th, 2013 01:35 pm)
I've been a big baby about the temperatures lately, so haven't yet tried to start the Hot-Rod Newport since rebuilding the valvetrain. With temps in the teens and single digits, MY digits simply don't want to hold metal tools and parts outside... where the car rests beneath its carport. Last week, though, I made some progress: Finished pulling apart the valvetrain, replaced a total of three pushrods, replaced one pair of roller lifters, ground smooth two banged-up rocker arms, adjusted every single lifter-pushrod-rocker team to 1/4-turn of preload (the best I could identify for how my Comp Cams roller lifters should be adjusted), reinstalled a new valley-pan and intake manifold and associated hoses and wires, and replaced the valve covers. ALMOST READY TO START. Here's some of the carnage (those pushrods should be straight, and the loose bits should be attached):



Aaargh, it's painful being so close, yet.... Oh, and I bought a really nice-looking, waterproof, fleece-lined, 7-layer car cover to protect the machine until spring... assuming I can get the thing started, drive it to the car-wash, wax the hell out of it, then drive it home (I really don't want to turn my driveway into an ice-rink). Soon, soon.


Now to put "cold" into perspective: Check out the coldest place on Earth, a ridge high atop Antarctica's East Plateau, where temperatures can dip below -133° F (-92° C) on a clear winter night. Yes, that's NEGATIVE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-THREE DEGREES, aka NEARLY ONE HUNDRED DEGREES BELOW FREEZING in either temp scale:


Of course, that's a balmy-sounding 181° Kelvin. Which would make me sweat just thinking about it. IF MY FINGERTIPS WEREN'T FREEZING OFF.

Maybe this place is what Dante was thinking about when he planted ol' Lucifer in ice he couldn't escape.



Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center made the discovery while analyzing the most-detailed global surface temperature maps to date, gathered using remote-sensing satellites like NASA's Aqua satellite and Landsat 8.

They need to use this level of sensor equipment because thermometers won't even work at such temperatures.

Neither do human beings. Heck, I bet even ice falls apart at temps like that.


Speaking of cold humans, a plug for [personal profile] clevermanka's Etsy shop:

Are you or those you love suffering from chilly legs during this cold snap? Looking for the perfect Xmas gift for your skirt- (or kilt!) wearing friends? Then check out the Bloomershop Etsy shop, which is having a 20% off sale right now! Use the code "TOASTIES" to get the special discount. Lydia makes custom bloomers, too, if you prefer different fabric or trim, or need a special size. Support independent makers for your gifting needs! Plus they're just plain fun.

Chris
View of the house from the (abandoned) street during Snowpocalypse V.2. Look at how the branches curve toward the earth, white gravity pressing from above. Gusts of wind peel lumps of icy snow from upper branches which cascade down, becoming a crunching avalanche. I went outside and took a bunch of photos, even a little video. It's so quiet, muffled, the only sounds are birds chirping, falling snow, and distant chainsaws.



Oh, and what appears to be a bush beside the tree? Branches. Also, the little "tree" on the left of the photo is actually a giant branch that landed thick-side down. I fear for the trees in the area.

It's lovely outside and all that, but if this means Cory Doctorow isn't able to get here for his talk on Thursday....

Stay safe and warm out there!

Chris
The Cassini spacecraft has been working Saturn for a while, but WOW has it ever sent us a couple of amazing shots lately! First up, check out this AMAZING shot of Saturn eclipsing the Sun:


Click the image to see the APOD page.

In 2006, Cassini spent about 12 hours in the giant planet's shadow looking toward the eclipsed Sun and photographed many wonders: The night side of Saturn is lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Normally, the rings appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but bright when viewed away from Saturn, scattering sunlight in this exaggerated color image. Saturn's rings light up so much that scientists even discovered new rings! Particularly nice is Saturn's E ring, created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus, the outermost ring visible. Far in the distance, at the left, just above the bright main rings, is the "pale blue dot" (thanks, Carl Sagan) of Earth.

Next up is a current photo of Saturn displaying its HUGE storm, 8 times the surface area of Earth!


Click the image to see NASA's Saturn-JPL page.

Cassini first detected the storm on December 5, 2010, and it has been raging ever since at approximately 35° north latitude. Cassini photos show the storm wrapping around the entire planet, covering approximately 2 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).

The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storms we've previously detected. Scientists studied the sounds of the new storm's lightning strikes and analyzed images taken between December 2010 and February 2011 and learned that lightning flashed more than 10 times per second. As you might imagine, the storm is also a prodigious source of radio noise, so if you have a radio telescope now's the time to observe this active world. The lightning is produced in the water clouds, where falling rain and hail generate electricity. The mystery is why Saturn stores energy for decades and releases it all at once.

"Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar," said Andrew Ingersoll, Cassini imaging team member. "Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently. I'm excited we saw weather so spectacular on our watch."

Go Saturn go! Too bad it's not in great viewing position right now....

Chris
That Weather.com forecast I posted last night? Well, they got the windchill forecast right at -18°F but were way off on pre-windchill temps: Between 2am and 6am, actual temperatures hovered at -12°F here in Lawrence, KS.

How in the frozen hells did the native tribes and especially early pioneers survive the winters here, thousands of miles from stores where they might purchase Duraflame™ logs to warm their sod huts?

Oh, yeah, they often didn't.

BRRR,
Chris
Like NEGATIVE-BAZILLION degrees cold, is what!


Click the image to see the Lawrence, KS, forecast courtesy of Weather.com.

(That's in Fahrenheit, folks.)

I was wondering why the furnace kept running and running tonight. Now I know. I'm not happier possessing this knowledge. In weather like this, don't forget to open your under-sink cupboard doors to ensure that the pipes don't freeze. Same goes for any pipes near outer walls: Expose 'em to inside air! This morning, my walk-in attic (where I store extra wine and soda-pop) was 32°F, and the very edge of the attic (where the roofline meets the front-porch ceiling) was just over 20°F. Yes, I have one of those nifty laser temperature sensors, why do you ask?

Brrrr. Going to bed now.

Chris
If you've been listening to the news, you know that meteorologists are barely able to contain themselves over the glory of the storm currently pummeling most of the US. Here's what it looks like from space:


Click the image to see the WIRED story.

Meteorologists predict that the storm will bury snowfall records across the Midwest. In the East, it’s expected to deliver ice storms that could cause $1 billion in damage. It’s the latest in a string of storms fitting a pattern predicted by climate scientists. As the world warms up, the air can hold more moisture, loading storm systems with more water that’s ultimately dumped back onto the Earth.

Yes, global warming = more dramatic winter weather! It's a wild, wild world. And exciting! SNOWPOCALYPSE FOR ALL!

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (ice-snow)
( Jan. 10th, 2011 02:11 pm)
So far, Lawrence, KS, has gotten 8" with at least 3" more to come! Looking out from my home-office window at the snowfall:



On the plus side, my dentist canceled my appointment today; in the negative column, I rescheduled for Friday.

But look, SNOW!

Chris
Wow, this is amazing. The massive storm that caused the huge storms all across the country earlier this week set a new record for low pressure in a non-tropical storm in the continental U.S. with a minimum central pressure of 28.24" or 956 mb, the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane. Extratropical storms like this one occur in the spring and fall when the temperature differential between the north of the country and the south of the country is greater. This week's storm produced 24 tornado reports, severe thunderstorms, blizzard conditions, hundreds of thousands of power outages, and winds that reached 77 mph.



Shades of Day After Tomorrow.

Thanks, Bamm!

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Look into the sun! Look into the sun!)
( Aug. 3rd, 2010 03:32 pm)
Just measured the temp in my back yard: 106°F in the shade (Lawrence, Kansas). Heat index? Add 10°F. Hello, summer. Thankfully, Friday evening will be a few degrees cooler and shady for the Douglas County Fair's demolition derby.

It's so hot that breathing feels like inhaling jet exhaust. It's so hot... (your turn)...
Perhaps you heard that a 62-foot-tall and 40-foot-wide statue of "Touchdown Jesus" was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on Tuesday, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and chunks of smoldering foam.

Before Wrathful Lightning Strike:


After Wrathful Lightning Strike:

Click the images to see the story.

The church has announced plans to rebuild a bigger, better, fireproof Jesus statue by year's end. Um, folks, weren't you listening the first time? Now you're really asking for it.

Let me point you to a related story:

In 2003, actor Jim "Torture-Porn Jesus" Caviezel was struck by lightning - TWICE - during the filming of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. My favorite quote, from producer Steve McEveety: "I'm about 100 feet away from them when I glance over and see smoke coming out of Caviezel's ears."

Let this be a lesson, idolaters! The Big Guy is watching!


Click the image to see the UWEC lightning project.

In other news, early this morning I sent off the finished, edited, outta-my-hands copy of my novel, Transcendence, to my publisher, [livejournal.com profile] ericreynolds of Hadley Rille Books.

*Happy Dance of Done-Ness*

Chris
Only, DUDE, not at 3:00am. A massive thunder-boomer just shook the house so violently that I could hear glasses rattling downstairs, and the walls shook a picture crooked. I gave up trying to sleep a couple of hours ago....

I see that we've been under a tornado watch, too. Cool beans. But I'd have been happier with all this drama about 12 hours ago.

Chris
The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in southern Iceland has stranded thousands of air travelers across Europe (and prevented thousands of others from returning) because of the massive cloud of volcanic ash spreading across Northern Europe. From a safe distance to someone who isn't flying to Europe, it's gorgeous. Here's what that blooming mountain looks like:


Click the image to see the APOD story.


Perhaps the most amazing volcanic eruption ever. What do you think?

[Poll #1553212]
Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Vespa 150S)
( Feb. 5th, 2010 02:22 pm)
At the moment, snow is piling down from the skies. Because it's relatively warm (37°F), the roads are staying mostly clear and the flakes are huge and sticky. Check out my front yard:



Ah, the joys of scooting in the winter: Watery eyes, stiff muscles, frostbite.... As much as I enjoy some aspects of winter (like those gorgeous trees), I can do without others (frostbite being one). So a few weeks ago I ordered a windshield for my new Vespa (which I bought a few months ago replace the smashed Aprilia RS50; note the two-stroke Aprilia's charming "leavings" beneath the new scoot).

Well, I installed the new windshield a few days ago. Here's my new winter-riding gear: Tall windshield to protect against icy winds and sleet (even protects the hands), thick rain-and-wind-resistant gloves, awesome carbon-fiber full-face helmet.



Also note the other winter-related stuff that shares space on my front porch: snow shovel (quickly wearing out from all the shoveling this year), container of sidewalk salts behid the shovel, and all-weather scooter cover.

Stay safe out there - especially if you live in Snowpocalpse-2010 Land (i.e., out East). Of course, you locals drive safe, too: No one knows how to drive in this stuff 'round these parts.

Chris
When it rains, it pours... er....

The plows passed through this morning, but because they don't appear to know how to deal with snow in Kansas, they didn't actually remove any snow... or even push it onto the verges on the sides of the road. On the hill leading up to campus today, we have a single lane. What makes it even better? A year or so ago, neighborhood nannies decided to have the city to install little barriers in the middle of all the intersections. You guessed it: There's almost no way to get around them right now.

But here's the kicker: It appears that a water main broke near campus. On the plus side, the massive river of water running down the hill is melting the snow-drifts caused by the crappy plowing. On the down side, tomorrow's high will remain around zero, and tonight we should reach -12°F before windchill factors. Add teen-aged Kansas drivers and hilarity ensues.

I had a real blast trying to get up the hill (on an alternate route) in my Saab - a car designed for winters. In fact, at some point I simply gave up and turned around, which was fun on a one-lane-wide road buried in snow. I learned how to drive in Minnesota, and you couldn't pick a better car for this stuff, and yet. Imagine 18-year-olds in rear-drive SUVs. Good times.

At least it's Friday, so we have a couple of days before the work week resumes. Perhaps by Monday, when students and teachers will be on campus, the hill will be ice-free. It'll require heroic measures, but it could happen!

Chris
The temps in Kansas and Minneapolis are about the same this week, yet the forecasts describe it differently. In Minneapolis, it's simply "Wind chills down to -5°F" while in Kansas it's "Bitterly cold," with no mention of numbers. Oh, and the coldest place I've ever lived (Peerless, Montana) continues to deliver: "Mostly clear, with a low around -23°F. Wind chill values as low as -33°F."

In similar news (especially for you, [livejournal.com profile] sf_reader), my photos from the first day of Snowpocalypse 2009™:


Here's a shot of my front yard snowscape. Snow is pretty in the sunshine.
click for more )
News at 10.

Today on NPR, a scientist working in Antarctica shared with us that it's warmer in Antarctica than it is in Kansas today. Seriously. The ANTARCTIC is warmer than the middle of the US. And not just by a little amount: On the Fahrenheit scale, Antarctica was 30 degrees warmer than Kansas this afternoon. Ant-freakin'-arctica.

Not surprisingly, today I had to help a friend with her disabled car. Apparently, −270°C (-455°F) interferes with an automobile battery's ability to hold a charge. Helped another friend replace a headlight. And the Saab - a car designed and built in the icy northern wastes, no less! - barely started. Needless to say, after performing said errands, I picked up more weather-proofing and insulating goodness from Ace Hardware. Despite new garage-door insulation, guess who feels no strong desire to work in the garage this evening? Or to pull out the telescope and try to catch some Mars action?

Oh, and I also picked up some new fire-and-CO detectors to replace the useless devices that came with the house. Just in case the furnace burns out from running all the time.

Keep warm out there!
Chris
Hope you and yours are safe today. Photos later! (About a foot of snow here in Lawrence, Kansas - and no snow plows in sight.)

Chris
For other weather-porn lovers, I share this image from WIRED magazine. A typical spring day in Kansas:


Click the image to see the story.

You really need to click the image to see it full size with info about each type of lightning.

Best,
Chris
Wait, what did I just type? I meant to say, "GEEZUS, STOP WITH ALL THE RAIN ALREADY!"

Context: I just used the 5-gallon pail to scoop water out of my 40-gallon rain barrel - which collects runoff from 1/2 of my garage roof - 9 times, and it's almost ready for another scooping-out. Do the math.

Oh, and the rain just started about an hour ago.

Anyone having a drought out there? Because this water's coming from somewhere!

Chris

UPDATE: Half an hour later, I checked on the rain-barrel, just out of curiosity. You guess it: Almost full again, and I had to dump 6 more buckets. Where does all this water go? And why can't we save it for the drought months? This is fascinating.

PS: Thunder and lightning, too, but no hail or tornadoes as we got on Saturday.
.

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