Friday, May 31, 2019

French Open 2019 women's upsets

First round exits:

Ostapenko, V. Williams, Wozniacki, Kerber,

Second round exits:

Bertens (got sick), Sabalenka (who is she? 11th seed), Wang (16th seed), Garcia (24), Sakkari (29),

Non-upset: Halep survived in 3 sets against Linette;

Third round exits (so far):

Pliskova! (2 seed), Suarez Navarro, Svitolina (by Muguruza), Bencic (15)

Remaining high seeds still to play in the third round:  Osaka (1), Halep (3), Barty (8), Williams (10), Keys (14).

Clay courts are SO much fun.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Princess Charlene (of Monaco) sightings

Well, last weekend was the weekend of the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500, and the NCAA Division I lacrosse championships.  (They all happen on Memorial Day weekend every year, amazingly enough).

Well, the Monaco Grand Prix provides a chance to watch the cars zoom by the yachts, the harbor 50-meter swimming pool (I still don't understand why it's there), the palace (if you know when to look for it), the rich people -- lots of them -- and the occasional supermodel, Instagram glamour personality, and hot young lass looking for fun.  (Sometimes all three in the same package.)

And of course, the royals.  Having been fascinated by Princess Charlene ever since she got married to Albert II and subsequently provided legitimate heirs, I always look for Charlene around this time of the year.

And the Daily Mail did not disappoint.  Neither did she.

Lady in red! Princess Charlene of Monaco stuns in a silk evening gown as she joins husband Prince Albert and the Swedish and Italian royals at Grand Prix gala

Princess Charlene of Monaco is joined by husband Albert as they watch Lewis Hamilton take pole position for tomorrow's F1 Grand Prix

I despaired of finding a picture of her without Albert II in the picture too, at the Grand Prix gala, but then I got lucky.

Good for sailing and surfing ... up to a point

A very interesting study of trends in wind speed and wave height over the global oceans, conducted by the University of Melbourne in Australia, which would have a vested interest in the subject.

Ocean waves and winds are getting higher and stronger

The Southern Ocean is having the largest increases:
"We found that extreme winds in the Southern Ocean have increased by approximately 1.5 metres per second or 8 per cent over the last 30 years. Similarly, extreme waves in this same region have increased by 30 centimetres or 5 per cent. Generally, winds are increasing at a faster rate than the waves."
But it is happening elsewhere, oceanically:
"In addition to the increases in the Southern Ocean, extreme winds have also increased in the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic, and the North Atlantic by approximately 0.6 metres per second over the 30 year period."
The period covered is 1985-2018, and the study used data from 31 satellites in total, comprising over 4 billion measurements, which is impressive.

Waves can be beautiful and impressive.  This picture is of the wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti, which is surfable.  Sometimes, at least.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Lighthouse of the Week, May 26-June 1, 2019: Cape Brett, New Zealand

After I featured a lighthouse in Australia last week, I checked to see the last time I'd featured a lighthouse from New Zealand.  New Zealand has fantastically situated lighthouses, and I have indeed shown some before.  Surprisingly, though, not since 2016.  So I have returned.

This one is located on Cape Brett, New Zealand.  If you're wondering where that is, so did I.  It turns out that Cape Brett, now a nature preserve, is on the Northland Peninsula of the North Island.  The Northland Peninsula attaches to the square/diamond shape of the North Island roughly at Auckland, and points northward toward the Coral Sea.

Cape Brett is about 2/3 of the way toward the end of the peninsula, on the east side. It's a natural preserve.  See the map below. You can also learn about the Cape Brett Walkway.

On this map, the lighthouse icon out at the end of the cape marks the Cape Brett lighthouse.  Also note, next to it, the "Hole in the Rock", a scenic geological/geographical landmark in the island archipelago that has likely hundreds of scenic geological/geographical landmarks. I  grabbed a picture of it, too.

Given below is some information about the Cape Brett lighthouse.  It was recently fixed up and looks pretty good, though it isn't staffed anymore.
"[Established] 1910. Inactive since 1978. Approx. 15 m (50 ft) round cast iron tower with lantern, painted white. The active light (focal plane 146 m (479 ft); white flash every 15 s) is on a 4 m (13 ft) cylindrical fiberglass tower standing in front of the historic lighthouse."
Pictures below, and a video!

The "Hole in the Rock"; note tour ship for scale.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Agung at night

Agung volcano in Bali erupted on Friday night (May 24), producing one of the most spectacular eruption at night photographic sequences I've seen.   It also produced ashfall on the local villages and canceled a few airline flights.

The photos also show that the volcano is not far away from where people live.

Here's one of the pictures from the sequence.

Highway 41 moves into Tennessee

With Chattanooga behind us now, we are proceeding into and upward in Tennessee.

Cummings Gap

Riverside Catfish House! I told you we could get some catfish!

Haletown, Tennessee

Crossing the Tennessee River at Haletown. I had to show a picture of a Highway 41 sign to prove we're still on Highway 41.

Demi Rose Mawby goes boating

Demi Rose Mawby posted some very fetching pictures on her Instagram account.

When she goes boating, it's worth paying attention to.

A sonnet when things go bad - "must be importent"

Sometimes it seems like all hell is breaking loose.

must be importent

When tremors shake and wisdom cries, as har-
bingers of cataclysm make their presence known
and undeniable, we view the sky
with hopes it will not send a rain of stone
upon the place we stand. We could defy
these omens, and believe a newfound star
is just a consequence of nature's end,
a denouement of glory which would be
disaster for all planets in its hold;
yet rarity insists that we must see
a portent in this brilliance and this bold-
ness, forcing us to think what to defend
against the gales of danger and demise,
because we should be valiant 'til hope dies.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Oh, how did I miss this one?

I had previously written about the Lesedi La Rona diamond when it was found in Botswana, and I speculated about whether or not it could be cut into a gemstone bigger than the world's largest cut diamond, the Cullinan I, in the scepter of the British kingdom.

Two articles I wrote about it back in 2016:

Historical diamond find

Big Botswana diamond will be on sale on June 29

But after it sold, I lost track of it.  But it has reappeared as a brilliant emerald cut diamond, not as large as the Cullinan I, but it is the largest square emerald cut diamond in the world.  It's just over 300 carats.  The original rough stone had two many flaws to allow a larger gemstone to be created from the rough diamond.

OHHH well.  It's still very impressive.

A video about it:

And a page about it, from the diamond company:

The Graff Lesedi La Rona

And here's a picture from that page, if you're in a hurry:

Asteroid flyby, with a twist

This weekend (May 25), an asteroid named KW1994 will fly by Earth.  This isn't a super close encounter - it's going to be a little over 3 million miles away.  But this is a bigger asteroid, too, about a mile wide, considerably larger than the bus-size rocks that have buzzed by inside the orbit of the Moon.

The twist with this one is that it's actually two;  the asteroid has an asteroid moon, about 0.3 miles across.

Click here to read the EarthSky article, which includes observing instructions if you are so inclined.  I imagine that if anyone is so inclined, they've already figured out how to observe objects.

Ever since the Galileo spacecraft passed by asteroid Ida on its way to Jupiter, and discovered that it had a cute little moonlet orbiting around it, subsequently named Dactyl, I've been intrigued by asteroids that have orbiting subsidiaries.

Ida and Dactyl (shown in correct relative scale):

Monday, May 20, 2019

Lighthouse of the Week, May 19-25, 2019: Troubridge Hill, Australia

I searched for "unusual lighthouse" and looked for candidates not located in South Korea, which as we know, has some unusual, crazy, and bizarre ones.  The one I found is not so weird, but it is unusual.  Reading about it adds to its unusualness.

This is the Troubridge Hill lighthouse, located on the Yorke Peninsula, across the St. Vincent Gulf from Adelaide.  It's a 33-meter high tower, with a tapered shape, and it's made entirely of brick, which is it's most unusual feature.

The Lighthouses of Australia Web site has a page about the Troubridge Island lighthouse, which provides more information about the special brickness (I made that word up).

So here's the info:
"The lighthouse is built from special wedge shaped clay bricks that were fired especially for this lighthouse. The lantern room is fabricated from fibreglass.

One of only a handful of brick lighthouses in Australia, the lighthouse is unique as the bricks have never been rendered or painted, making it a distinctive day mark."
And here are the pictures:

Highway 41, near Lookout Mountain (Chattanooga, TN)

The last StreetView look in my previous post showed Lookout Mountain ahead.  Because Highway 41 drives past Lookout Mountain, that's what we'll do, too.  There are both historic and scenic things to see on Lookout Mountain;  if you don't know your Civil War history real well, you may not know that the mountain was the site of the "Battle Above the Clouds", led on the Union side by Joseph Hooker. It was a key engagement in breaking the siege of Chattanooga that happened after the battle of Chickamauga (which Highway 41 passed by a few posts ago).  Fightin' Joe Hooker first got famous at Antietam, got defeated pretty badly at Chancellorsville when in command of the Army of the Potomac, but stayed with the troops to finish the job.

By the John C. Wilson Memorial Park. This is part of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy ( I tried to figure out who John C. Wilson is/was, but I was not successful.

The Camp Ross Historical Site and Placard is on one side, the Tennessee River is on the other side, and famous Ruby Falls is just about straight up from here. Camp Ross Historical Marker (

Crossing Lookout Creek

I feel like some southern-fried catfish. How about you?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Making a considerable amount of hay

One of Monet's haystack paintings just sold at auction.

For $110.7 million.

It's not on my wall.

But it is on my blog.

First Ultima Thule science results are published

The first scientific results from the Ultima Thule flyby have been published.

We learned a lot about an object four billion miles away from Earth.

One of the big takeaways -- it's red.
"In color and composition, Ultima Thule resembles many other objects found in its area of the Kuiper Belt. It's very red - redder even than much larger, 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) wide Pluto, which New Horizons explored at the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015 - and is in fact the reddest outer solar system object ever visited by spacecraft; its reddish hue is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface."
There's still more to learn - the New Horizons spacecraft that flew by Ultima Thule is still sending back data, and will continue to send back data into the year 2020.

Moving through Chattanooga on Highway 41

I've compiled quite a few StreetViews on Highway 41 as it goes through Chattanooga, and I'll be posting them over the next few days.   So in this post:

In Chattanooga, Highway 41 as Main Street turns left and becomes Highway 41 as Broad Street

Finley Stadium and Davenport Field (you can even see the field!), where the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga plays football, and Chattanooga FC plays football, except we call it soccer, though FC stands for "Football Club".

Crossing under I-24

Crossing Chattanooga Creek

Supposedly we are looking at the International Towing and Recovery Museum

Look out - Lookout Mountain ahead

This is probably one of the most interesting sections of Highway 41, and there's more history ahead, as well as more scenery.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Another sparkler on sale - and sells

I always like to keep track of big gemstones.

This one is a big emerald set in a diamond necklace, once owned by Catherine the Great.  It was just sold by Christie's for 3.3 million pounds (according to the Daily Mail).

Impressive.  Also impressive is the size of the emerald, which is 107.67 carats, and very high quality.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Heads or tails for Izabel Goulart at Cannes

She's gorgeous, her body is otherworldly, and the dress was pretty amazing too.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

They made dolomite!

Even though there is a lot of dolomite on the surface of the Earth -- there are mountains of it in Italy named the Dolomites, for example -- geochemists have a real tough time making it form in the laboratory.  A real tough time.  In fact, it has never been accomplished.

Until now.   Those genius types at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology managed to figure out how to make it, using the basic mineral components, along with some anaerobic sulfur-philic bacteria in a biofilm.  Really.   Sounds like an unusual recipe, but it worked.

Recreating ancient minerals
"It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that a Russian microbiologist demonstrated the potential for anaerobic bacteria to cause dolomite to form from minerals in ocean water, a process called biomineralization. Since then, researchers have found that in modern environments, biofilms — containing photosynthetic microbes and the slimy organic matrix that they excrete for their home (exopolymeric substances) — in highly evaporative pools of salty water can provide a surface on which dolomite can nucleate and grow."
View in the Dolomites of Italy

Monday, May 13, 2019

Lighthouse of the Week, May 12-18, 2019: Arenas Blancas, Canary Islands, Spain

In the past history of this blog, I had one picture of this lighthouse in a very short post.  So here's a bit more about it.  It's on the Canary Island named La Palma,  It's on the southeast coast of the isosceles-triangle shaped island (point toward the south) -- mapped here.

The Arenas Blancas lighthouse is pretty unique looking (but not as unique looking as the Punta del Hidalgo light).

Let's get some descriptive highlights from the Lighthouse Directory:
"1993. Active; focal plane 45.5 m (149 ft); white light occulting three times every 8 s. 38 m (125 ft) fluted round cylindrical white concrete tower with a rounded top; the light is displayed through a horizontal window at the top. 500 mm lens. 1-story keeper's house nearby."

Below are some pictures that illustrate the uniqueness.

Only one country didn't sign

It would seem logical, and normal, to sign on to an agreement to help control the ubiquitous plastic waste pollution problem this world faces.

The UN created such an agreement.  And 187 nations did sign it.  The only country not signing it was the United States of America.

Nearly every country in the world approves pact to reduce plastic pollution, except the U.S.

Excerpted quotes:
"Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the "historic" agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

The framework "is historic in the sense that it is legally binding," Payet said. "They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures."
And the USA couldn't sign this?

That's pathetic.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Not what chairs were intended for

Model and dancer Clara Rene poses precariously in Paris.

Farmers may not believe what's causing climate change, but they have to react to it

My reading and tweeting and tweet reading brought this paper from 2017 to my attention.

Skeptical but Adapting: What Midwestern Farmers Say about Climate Change

Here's the abstract:
Farmers stand to be greatly affected by changes in the climate, necessitating adaptive responses, yet little is documented on how U.S. Midwestern farmers understand and perceive climate change adaptation. Eight focus groups with 53 Michigan farmers were conducted in 2011–12 to better understand the following: 1) what do farmers think about the relationship between climate change and agriculture, 2) what differentiates normal weather-related management from climate change adaptation actions, and 3) how do farmers understand the term “climate change adaptation.” Farmers expressed skepticism at global climate change yet conveyed specific details about the local changes in climate they are experiencing on their farms. They were not able to clearly define the term “climate change adaptation” but did note specific adaptive actions they have already implemented. The farmers explained that nonclimate factors were of more concern to them when making management decisions, and they showed reactive (not proactive) actions toward adaptation. Farmers noted that any action they take has to address their specific situation, suggesting that generalized adaptation actions and language might not resonate with them. Building on quantitative surveys conducted by others, the findings in this paper contribute to ongoing efforts to more effectively assess farmers’ perceptions related to climate change adaptation and to use that understanding to promote education, outreach, research, and public policies to more proactively address the consequences posed by climate change.

And here is an interesting paragraph:
Although temperature trends received attention, most farmers across the focus groups noted changes in precipitation as the most consequential changes for their operations, a concern of farmers across the Midwest (Morton et al. 2015). Michigan farmers noted that, recently, rain events have increased in severity and occurrence. In this region, rainwater represents a critical resource even for those using irrigation. Changes in rainfall thus have tremendous consequences for farm production. One farmer highlighted the dramatic change farmers across the region have experienced in recent years, recounting that “We talked about variations in the weather and precipitation, well in the time that I’ve been farming—this past growing season and the 2009 growing season, were as opposite as I have ever seen in my whole career.” Others mentioned the dramatic variation they see: “This last year, at least down where I live, we went 33 days without a drop of rain. And then we got dumped on with four or five inches all at once. So you go through these dry spells and then huge rain events, and I think that’s more of a change from what we used to see.” Another farmer simply stated, “We’re getting heavy spring rains, four to five inches, that we didn’t use to have before on a regular basis.”

Makes sense to me. 

This is terrifying

The Washington Post ran an illustrated article about the city of New Delhi, India, focused on its incredibly appalling pollution and environmental problems.

I found it terrifying.  In light of the UN report on the biodiversity crisis, the increasing pressure that human population is putting on the support systems of the planet's entire interactive ecosystem is truly daunting.

Some of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, and New Delhi is one of them. This is what life’s like there.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

And we are surprised why?

We all knew this was going to happen when Mick "The Dick" Mulvaney was appointed head of the Office of Management and Budget, and them moved up in the strange way of the bizarre Trump presidency to the position of acting Chief of Staff.  At least that's what we think he is.

Senate GOP grows frustrated with Trump chief of staff

"There is a feeling that the Freedom Caucus may be on the wane in the House, but it's on the ascendency in the West Wing," said one Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss colleagues' frustration with Mulvaney.

A second GOP senator said, "He's a former member of the Freedom Caucus, and he's used to saying no."

A third Senate Republican said there's "frustration" that Mulvaney and his ally Russ Vought, the acting White House budget director, are willing to settle for a yearlong continuing resolution to fund the government instead of negotiating a new spending deal with Democrats.

Yeah, there's a lot of "I told you so" in that.

A sonnet: "what I'd like to say is ... "

This sonnet is dedicated to ... someone from my recent past.

What I'd like to say is ... 

Sometimes poetically (e'en though my verse
is much akin to doggerel) I find
my words are given meanings not as worse
as what I'd simply say. So would you mind
if I exposed my deeper... thoughts? I hope
you won't, for here I dwell. When I conceive
a prescient vision of ourselves, my scope
is focused on the wonders we'd achieve
together -- cries and moans and sighs that mean
enraptured junctures as our senses strive
to share each other's joyousness, unseen
and splendored in our treasured realm, alive
as we are meant to live -- and as we yield
to ecstasies, we cherish what's revealed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Time to change Earth's "business" model

From the Washington Post :

Business as usual is not acceptable when it comes to protecting our planet

"Yet “the rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history.” Degradation has cut productivity across a quarter of the planet’s lands. A quarter- to a half-trillion dollars in agricultural production could be lost as pollinators die off. The disappearance of coastal protections such as coral reefs puts hundreds of millions of people at risk of flood and storm surge. More than 85 percent of Earth’s wetlands are gone. Coral reefs are perishing. Overall, land-based native species have dropped by at least a fifth. “Around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss,” the report finds."

Sobering.  Sad. 

So what can we do about it?  I think about that every day.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Lighthouse of the Week, May 5-11, 2019: Pigeon Point, California

When I went back and searched my blog for lighthouses, I found it hard to believe I hadn't featured the Pigeon Point lighthouse in California, south of the Bay area.  I've been near there, but never drove that section of California 1.

It has it's own Web site:  Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park

And from this Web site, we learn:

  • It's 115 feet high;
  • it came into service in 1872;
  • it used to have a 16-foot tall, 2,000 pound Fresnel lens; and
  • it's still in service, but with a new light.

And it's really, really picturesque, and thus there are hundreds of pictures of it available.  It's hard to pick just a few.  But I tried.  The lens is on display in the Fog Signal building by the lighthouse.

I'm sure there are videos of it too, but I was lazy this week.

The lens

Sunday, May 5, 2019

3,000 strikeouts for CC

That's a milestone in anybody's sports book of history.  Sabathia is the 17th pitcher to accomplish it.

This is 3,000 strikeouts. Welcome to the club, CC.

Moon strike

During the recent lunar eclipse in January (which I was actually able to view), astronomers recorded the flash of a small space rock striking the moon.

I didn't see the flash (it was really quick), but it was photographed.   The size estimates of the rock are 1-2 feet "across", but I'm sure no one knows what its actual shape was.

During the Last Lunar Eclipse, a Meteor Smacked the Moon in the Face at 38,000 Mph

Highway 41 StreetView trek - Chattanooga to the Choo-Choo!

FINALLY, back on Highway 41, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Several stops this time.

Highway 41 goes around a traffic circle and turns into Westside Drive

Westside Drive goes under Interstate 24 (not 75!)

Highway 41 becomes Dodds Avenue, briefly

Highway 41 turns onto East Main Street

About a block off of E. Main Street are the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park, which is apparently an open area with large sculptural pieces, so I took a brief side trip.

Still on E. Main Street, in the Southside Historic District

Just a turn off of Highway 41 - the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, for real!

Going inside for a panorama

More Chattanooga (and I think, more history) next time.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lighthouse of the Week, April 28 - May 4, 2019: Sadamisaki, Shikoku, Japan

The islands of Japan have lots of places where lighthouses are necessary, and they also have places where lighthouses are placed in spectacular settings.  This one is both.  This is the Sadamisaki lighthouse (misaki means "cape" in Japanese, apparently), and it is located out at the end of the 20-mile long Sadamisaki peninsula.  (Here's a map.)

As you might expect, this place is quite a picturesque spot.  So there are lots of pictures (and a video).  But first, let's learn about the lighthouse.

Courtesy of The Lighthouse Directory:
"1918. Active; focal plane 49 m (161 ft); three white flashes every 20 s; in addition, a spotlight (JCG-4968) illuminates the Ogon Bae reef to the south. 18 m (59 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a 1-story concrete keeper's house. Entire lighthouse is white."
Also according to the Directory, this is one of Japan's "Famous 50" lighthouses.  It's not hard to figure out why it's on that list.

A strike, a palpable strike

A meteorite struck Costa Rica a couple of days ago.  In fact, it struck a house in Costa Rica.  Since Costa Rica isn't that big (compared to, for example, Russia), this is a big deal.  Add to that it is apparently a stony meteorite, as opposed to the much more common iron-nickel meteorite.

Here's video of the meteor before it became a meteorite (i.e., it was still airborne and incandescent):

Here's an article from Costa Rica about it (with pictures):

Mysterious rock that fell in Costa Rica is a meteorite ‘of great scientific interest,’ UCR says

" “It is a chondritic stone meteorite, composed mainly of silicon, iron and magnesium,” the UCR said in a statement."  (UCR = University of Costa Rica)