Heavenly Pursuits

Anne with Her Fireman’s Safety Net Rescuing the Baby

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I crashed my drone. We were in Tower Grove Park. I had flown it once before earlier on our walk and when we neared the Compton Heights Bandstand, I decided to fly it once more. Everything was going fine, until I backed into a tree, a drone eating tree at that. The drone had lodged itself in a tree’s branch, some twenty feet up. It was already late and getting dark, when I ventured over to the park’s maintenance yard looking for help. Not finding anyone there, I “borrowed” a long board that I thought might be long enough to reach the drone. It wasn’t even close. Returning the board, I found a handful of rocks, with which I tried unsuccessfully to strike the drone, in the hope of dislodging it. I want a pitcher, not a glass of water. I was actually lucky that I couldn’t hit it, because after repeated attempts, the stones that I had found started to shatter on the concrete below. The drone would have been smashed to bits. We left it, forlornly blinking its red caution light in the night.

Returning home, we slowly hatched a rescue plan. One that would not risk incurring medical bills far in excess of the drone’s $300 replacement cost. Yeah, I looked that up and also found that there were no more available for Christmas. After several iterations we came up with a plan that revolved around Ole Yeller, what we called our go to camping tent for way too many years. It came with super long poles that had to be long enough. We would use one pole to poke the drone and then use the other poles to set the tent up as best we could to act as a safety net for the falling drone. The pole wasn’t quite long enough to reach the drone, but we had also brought along a step ladder and in conjunction with that, with Anne at the ready to catch it, I poked the drone just once and it fell like a rock into the soft embrace of an upside-down Ole Yeller. One prop blade had been damaged, but other than that everything was good. After replacing the damaged blade, I successfully test flew it and we’re good to go again.

The below picture is from last night. Jupiter and Saturn were close enough to fit into one frame. You can see three of the four Galileo moons of Jupiter. Missing is Io, which might have ducked around behind the planet or is just lost in its glare. Saturn too is overexposed, but you can see that it has an oval outline that is due to its rings. Through the spotter scope, with the eye, I could clearly see Saturn’s rings and the spaces in-between them and the planet. I was unable to see the bands of clouds on Jupiter. Tonight, it is cloudy, but the forecast for the next few nights afterwards looks pretty good.

Great Conjunction 12-17-2020

Starting to look like Saturnalia

McDonnell Planetarium Decked Out for the Holidays

It is starting to look a lot like Christmas, at least around here and snow is on its way. It is in the forecast for tomorrow. So maybe, but probably not. Yesterday, I brought up the purple tubs full of ornaments, also-known-as the purple worn of D&D fame. I cleared the mantel of the everyday knick-knacks and decorated it with the X-mas stuff. Today, we’ll fetch the tree and then straight away put it up in the living room. Normally, we let our live tree acclimate to the warmer inside temperature, by first staging it through the basement, but it is supposed to hit fifty this afternoon. I figure that by then the tree lot’s mercury will be pretty close to what the basement regularly resides at. After the tree is up and has been decorated, then it will really start looking like Christmas around here.

Observant readers might have noticed that I used both the parochial and secular connotations for the holiday that falls every year on the 25th of December. I’m not declaring war on Christmas or anything like that. Even an ardent Christian should have realized by now that there are now more than a little bit of secular undertones to this once entirely religious holiday. Maybe entirely is even too strong an assertion, because it is thought that early Christians chose this time of year to celebrate Christmas, because another Roman holiday, Saturnalia, was available then to mask the Christian’s religious activities. A little bit of drunken bacchanal would go a long way to disguise their devotions. I mean, who wants to get thrown to the lions on Christmas Eve?

I don’t think that it was mere chance that the early Christians chose this time of year for their story of rebirth. Winter solstice is the nadir of the year, with the shortest day and the longest night. It is not by accident that the New Year is celebrated a week later. Scholars wanted to wait that week in order to be sure that the days had in fact begun to get longer again. Does anyone celebrates Saturnalia anymore? While the whole world, if only in its commercial form, celebrates Christmas. This year though Saturnalia is staging a comeback. On December 21st, winter solstice day, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will be in a conjunction. Last summer there was another conjunction of these two planets and we witnessed it while at the cabin. This time they will be close enough to each other that both planets’ mini solar systems should be viewable in one frame. Last time, in those darker northern skies we could see the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. I pray that it is not cloudy here on the 21st.



HIV (120 nm), Influenza Vaccine (100 nm), Lassa (100-130 nm)

We got our flu vaccines. I got the extra-strength variety, but we’re uncertain which one Anne got. Because of differences in our Medicare coverages, she got hers at CVS and I got mine at Walgreens. I was offered the choice between extra-strength and regular, which apparently she wasn’t. CVS might only have had the regular variety. The first place we tried didn’t have any vaccines. Experts are recommending that everyone get the flu vaccine, now more than ever, due of Covid. This year’s flu season will accompany the expected second wave of the Coronavirus. Lately though, our health issues have been overshadowed by those in the news. I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

We’ve all heard by now that Trump has got the Rona. His profligate and devil-may-care attitude towards the pandemic from a policy point-of-view has been mirrored with a similarly reckless approach to his own personal safety and the safety of others around him. His midnight tweet announcing his infection was apparently preceded by days in which he hid this fact, but continued to meet with the public, while spreading the disease. Now, it is all that the Twitterati can talk about. Speculation runs the gamut from he’s faking it, to he is lying on death’s door and everything in-between. Only time will tell and to paraphrase what he said of Ghislaine Maxwell upon her arrest, I wish him well. Too cold? Hey, winter is coming, baby and with it a time for reckoning.

It is somewhat academic now, but I wonder it Trump gets the flu vaccine. I suspect that he doesn’t. It does not appear to be in his nature to get one. Besides, if he did get one it would have been in the news. He is quoted as claiming that since being elected, he gets one, but he claims a lot of things that aren’t true. He also claims that he has never had the flu, but then he claimed that Covid was just like the flu. All of which is either unsubstantiated or untrue or both. So far, about 210,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus, but if you count the number of people who have died this year and compare it to the average, more than 300,000 more Americans have died than normal. In this world, there is a lot more than the Rona out there trying to kill you. Not availing yourself of all of the benefits of modern medicine is a good way to die too.

Strawberry Moon

Strawberry Moon

We went out last night to view the International Space Station (ISS) as it flew overhead. I attempted to photograph it, but was unable to get a decent image. I did however capture the waxing gibbous moon, what tomorrow will be the full strawberry moon. The ISS pass over started at 9:38 and lasted three minutes. A beauty of the space station is that it is never late. It was distinctly visible as it passed nearly directly overhead. To the naked eye, it looked like a fast moving plane. Interestingly, it first just appeared, well above the horizon and likewise it suddenly disappeared also well above the horizon. I later figured out that this phenomenon is caused by the ISS itself, first passing into sunlight and then back out of it again. I was a little concerned going out last night. Because of all of the civil unrest, here was a curfew in the city and not in the county, where I was, but sometimes these situations change rapidly. We were on the old AB Green ballfield and were the only ones out. My only mishap last night was collecting some chigger bites. Interestingly, when Anne and I walked this morning, our path brought us close to the city-county line. Suddenly, both of our cellphones simultaneously squawked then with an emergency security warning that announced last night’s city curfew. Good to know!