Starlink

When we were camping at the Grand Canyon last month, we witnessed a most unusual sight in the night sky. We saw a Starlink satellite train. Starlink is a satellite network that Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation is launching even now. When completed in a few years, it will be composed of thousands of satellites that will blanket the earth’s skies worldwide, bring the internet to every corner of the world. Eventually, each satellite has its own individual orbit, but immediately after launch, because of SpaceX’s unorthodox card-dealing technique for deploying the 60 Starlink broadband satellites that are boosted into space at the same time, they temporarily form a Starlink train.

The Grand Canyon is a dark sky park, the sky was perfectly clear and the timing of the event that we witnessed couldn’t have been better. It was dark, but it wasn’t that long after sundown, allowing the already set sun to illuminate the satellites that were 500 miles above us. I didn’t have the wherewithal to photograph the sight, but plenty of other people have. I chose this example from Twitter, because the scene includes a full moon, so you have an idea of how bright these satellites really are. For us, it was a moonless night and I swear, at the Grand Canyon they seemed even brighter then they appear in this video, brighter than any star in the sky.

As the train passed overhead the campground erupted with cries in the dark of, “Look at that!”, “What the hell?”, “What is it?” Fortunately, I did have the wherewithal to answer these cries in the dark and announced, ” They’re Elon Musk’s Starlink new satellite network.” I’m sure I headed off a UFO panic. Anne was angered by the sight. It is a dark sky park and these satellites are light pollution, but subsequent research has indicated that these train formations are only temporary. The individual satellites will still be bright, but no brighter than the jets flying in and out of the neighboring Albuquerque airport. 

Cabin Quilt Complete

Happy Father’s Day! The shoemaker’s son finally has a new pair of shoes or rather we finally have one of Anne’s quilts on our bed. She has made many quilts over the years and this is certainly her best. So, I guess that it was worth the wait. Anne began this quilt years ago. For many years it lived at the cabin and she would only work on it in the summer, when she was up there. She called it her quilt in a box. That part of the quilt are the six colorful squares in the center of the quilt. Eventually, she brought the box back to Saint Louis. This year she began putting it all together. In-between bouts of being hunched over a hot sewing machine for hours, she would would go to YouTube U to learn new quilting techniques, to perform free motion quilting. I’ve included a couple of closeups, so you see the artistry that she put into her work. One shows the cabin and the other shows the lake view from the cabin. The following is the dedication that she wrote for this quilt:

IMPROV — The Cabin Quilt
— ~ —
Quilt in a box, Quilt outside the box!
Finished (Finally), For Father’s Day 2021

For Mark,

Thanks for all of your love, support and occasional prodding!

Love you Babes!

— AAR —

Now that she has finished this masterpiece, she has already begun working an even grander project, a quilt that will become a wedding gift for Maren and David. Our bed is only a double, but theirs is a king. So, by size alone it will be a bigger project, but she has made so many strides with the Cabin Quilt that the MaD quilt will benefit from her new experience. She calls it the MaD quilt now, but as its October deadline looms, it could soon become the DaM quilt.

White Powders

Where Diatomaceous Earth Comes From

Diatoms are single-celled alga which have a cell wall of silica. Many kinds are planktonic, and extensive fossil deposits have been found. When we were in the Garden this week, at the home gardening center, I noticed that many of the plants had been dusted with a fine white powder. I asked a gardener if it was an insecticide? In a sense is was and it wasn’t. It was diatomaceous earth.

Composed from the bones of millions of microscopic diatoms that over the millennia had built up into a sedimentary layer, diatomaceous earth is sold as a natural alternative to chemical insecticide. Its sharp silica bones act as an irritant to insects, getting into their exoskeleton’s joints and tearing them up. It is less dangerous to humans than conventional insecticides, but care in its handling must still be taken. It is much safer to the environment than most insecticides.

In the play that we saw this week, Mlima’s Tale, the actor portraying the elephant Mlima, first smears his torso and face with white powder, evoking the ritual body painting of African tribes. This powder has a way of transferring itself, as an emblem of complicity, as each player playing a link in the chain that is the illegal ivory trade, is marked with a white powdered handprint on their bodies. In this instance the white powder was likely talc, but I wonder if the choice of its white color was supposed to be evocative of powdered ivory. Powder created when the ivory tusks are carved into objects d’art, their final form.