Twinkle, twinkle, Arcturus!


I haven’t seen any more Iridium flares since the last post (and I’ve been watching!) but I have started learn more about the stars in the sky.  Just by reading up a bit more, installing a bunch of apps, and standing out in the driveway and/or backyard, I’m slowly learning.

For instance, I can consistently pick out the star Vega on my own now.  And a couple of others I am already better at finding.  But tonight… wow, tonight, I met Arcturus for the first time.  (I’m starstruck.  I know it.)

It turns out that Arcturus is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere’s sky.  I did think any much of it at first — it was still early enough in the evening and overcast that it was hard seeing any stars.  So any star I could find I looked at with binoculars to find what was around it.  But when I looked at Arcturus one thing stood out immediately – it was yellow.  Nothing else I had looked at seemed to have colour, so this was nothing short of a major discovery to me!  Then, when looking with my unaided eye it was actively twinkling!

With all of this observational info and a little searching on charts and online I learned that I was looking at Arcturus.  Astro Bob explained my observations the best and helped me understand more about the twinkling and the colour.

And the best part?  Arcturus is only going to get better as we get into the Fall.  Wuhhooo…. keep your eyes on the skies!

One last fun fact (at least my idea of fun!) — Arcturus is so bright that it easily shows up as a bright pinpoint of light…. even when taken on a cellphone camera.  Look centrally in the bottom third of the darkness.  You’ll likely need to open the image up to see it…. it’s a bright dot but relatively tiny.

Arcturus in September

Iridium 86 – nice to meet you

satelliteI sought out my first Iridium flare tonight.  It was a successful mission and I even got to share it with my parents.

What’s this all about?  A few weeks ago I didn’t know, so don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of a Iridium flare before.

The Iridium satellites are for data and telecommunications — and they are not made of iridium, interestingly enough.  They orbit the earth and something cool happens every so often:  the sun’s rays hit them and the reflected light is visible to the naked eye.  These moments referred to as Iridium flares, which is really just a class of the more general satellite flare.

So, even on this slightly cloudy evening, just before 8:30pm I was out in my driveway, telling my parents where I *thought* we should be watching, and saying it should visible any time now.  Then for a few brief moments we saw what looked to us like a bright, moving star.  It was just long enough that we all could point and see it together, and then it was gone from our view.  We met Iridium 86 tonight.  There are many more to meet in the future and paths will cross with 86 again sometime.

I’m looking forward to looking again on a clearer night and/or with a closer satellite.  I’ve read about how much more intense and dramatic they can be.  What we saw was pretty cool and definitely intriguing.  Some are so bright that you can see them in the daytime!  Wild.

Are you curious now and want to go find one for yourself?  You can check out the latest schedule online, like at  There are multiple phone apps that can help with the schedule as well as hints on where to look in the sky.  I had few astronomy apps installed which had more features, like tracking Iridium flares and that is what introduced them to me in the first place.  Have fun!

Returning to the scene…

Took a drive out to Indian Trail Road this afternoon and returned to see the damage and try to make sense of what we experienced last night. There was lots of damage to see all around a very small areas. Many large, healthy trees uprooted and all pushed over in the same direction. Some powerful straight-line wind damage, folks.

I am blogging-challenged…

Apparently, as great of an idea as this was to keep track of the journey, I haven’t been doing a very good job of it.  I have loads of photos I want to share, and great stories to tell…. I just hope I remember them by the time I get blogging about them.  I decided that I should carry on just the same from right now.

The original plan was for me to return home on October 3rd but it is looking like I will be staying until October 10th now.  More details to follow.

Also, I just had a fantastic evening.  A good meal (that wasn’t room service!), a nice conversation or two with family at home, a nice conversation connecting up with some Salvation Army officers down here, and then an in person visit with my friend who is staying down here.  So very cool. :)

And now, it is time to sleep… perchance to dream… and hopefully not about the software I’m helping to test.  :P  Photos soon I hope…. and stories too… I really want to share!!

Giving Up

Well, I tried to post photos on here, but tonight it is not working.  I not only have my Texan Space Cow photo to share, but also I took some shots of the buildings downtown with damage.  But alas they are not online yet.

Beyond that – how was my day?  It was long.  It started early and did not end early.  But it was OK.  Lots to learn and figure out, challenges to work through and around, etc. but that sounds about par for the course.  Two more sleeps to my new hotel.  Definitely looking forward to that.

Had a pretty unique supper meal – had some appetizers, including a chicken tortilla tomato soup, or something like that.  But my main course was the culinary highlight of the trip thus far.  It was maybe not something I would order again, but it was definitely worth trying and very enjoyable: parmesan-encrusted chicken, with spinach alfredo tortellini and a tomato mozzarella salad on the side.  And the best part was that it was a normal portion size… or rather a Donna portion size.  So I ate it all and enjoyed it.  Yay!!!

Other than my supper meal, I am blanking on anything else interesting to say about Wednesday.  So, onward to sleep.  (Yay!)  Hopefully I will have more luck with the photos tomorrow.

Toilets in Texas

Fortunately I have not needed toilets in Texas to puke yet… (nice way to start a post!) but I have become quite familiar with the inner workings of my hotel room toilet since it does not work properly.  Thanks to various power outages and water issues back home over the years, I am quite equipped to handle the situation until somebody fixes it.  (Not exactly high on their repair priority list with all the damage this place has sustained.)  So, filling the tank manually with a garbage bin is where it’s at!  Wuhhoo!

Saw my first Texan palm trees today.  I think it was in the high 80s/low 90s today, not that I was outside very much.  I wish I could be, it’s such great weather.  (That’s 30s for all the Celsius fans!)  Also saw lots of damage and cleanup… blown out windows in the downtown area, etc.  Interesting.

The commute in from our way out hotel was crazy and heavy, although I’m sure the 401 back home is still far worse.  I’m just glad I don’t have to do it daily anywhere.  Things at the client are quite comfortable.  The people seem nice.  I just hope that I can be of use.  I didn’t feel really brilliant today.  Still there is talk of me possibly staying on longer than the planned dates, depending what happens.  Crazy.  I don’t think I feel ready for any of this.  Definitely an experience to see all that I don’t know, yet again.

Was very glad for some of the Joyce Meyer talks on the TV (I heard some more this morning while ironing in a mad dash to get out) as they came in handy for me this morning.  I’m trying to be much more mindful of myself, even when those around me aren’t necessarily.  It’s amazing how many times I catch myself doing the very same things that I drive me mad.

Lunch was very nice… I had a chicken salad sandwich that had pineapple and pecans in it.  Maybe not everybody’s thing, but I’ve always enjoyed that combo.  So I was glad I picked that boxed lunch from the table.  Hopefully they always provide lunch… If not, I’m gonna have to get really creative really fast.

So far that’s my biggest concern… not being able to eat.  I am ALWAYS eating and snacking so this is weird.   have eaten less in the last 24-48 hours than I care to say.  Plus I am dead tired and a bit stressed, so that isn’t a great combination either.

I turned down the offer to go out for the business supper… I just couldn’t do it tonight.  I have so much else to do, plus I really really need rest.  I can’t afford the time, and since they didn’t need me, I gracefully (I hope!) bowed out.  Hopefully I won’t need to turn them down every time.  I’m sure that won’t look good.  But I gotta take care of this bod plus be able to get work done when needed.  I’m hoping that isn’t going to be necessary every night.  :S

So, I just ordered room service… well not really, I ordered delivery.  Hopefully it will be good, and hopefully I can snack on enough food to keep me going in the meantime.  It could be as long as an hour wait before they get here.  I hope it is hot – I can’t really do anything much with it if it isn’t.

I have company now… the maintenance guy is here to look at the toilet.  He has already come and gone, but he left his stuff here and said he’d be back in a moment.  Here’s hoping that I won’t be doing the manual fill for much longer! :)

Well, I should grab a granola bar and get working.  Hopefully the food will greet the end of the worst batch of work I need to do.  Then I can relax.  Early morning… 8AM (yuck).  Hopefully that means an early end to the day.  But I’m not going to count on it.  Here’s hoping I get some good rest… I need it.  Big time.