Aug 17

Operation Splinter, part two

We were invited to a colleague’s welcome back party on Sunday. People brought their children, and they were all delightful and well-behaved kiddos with over-developed intelligence and the precise amount of rambunctiousness. The kids’ presence meant toys, which also meant bubbles:


And somewhere since then Allie The Black Cat ate the scraps off of my plate:


So things are going about as you’d imagine, which is to say wonderfully busy with nice dashes of color, just for the sake of variety.

And today, despite a busy day at the office I was able to spend the evening, the entirety of it, in fact, working on The Project. You might remember my previous notes on Operation Splinter from this space:

I also wrapped up the first stage of The Project. It needs a better name, but I’m not yet ready to name it, or even discuss it at length. What if it doesn’t work? What if I have to scrap the entire thing? What if it is just terrible? Do I really want to talk publicly about my time machine without knowing how it turns out?

I’ve said too much.

Anyway. The first stage is done. I suppose the true first step was material acquisition. This took place on Friday and Saturday. And then the first stage took place on Saturday and Sunday, and was more taxing than I’d imagined, even as I knew it would be time consuming. By Monday, though, I’d figured out how to to make the process move more quickly, and it did. Only to be slowed down, yesterday, by an equipment failure brought on by user error. So I fixed that issue today and completed the first stage.

Then I performed Operation Clean Up. The first stage took up a half of the garage, and so that ultimately led to reorganizing much of the shelf space in the garage and in bits and pieces these last few days and so even if the time machine it doesn’t work, the effort has been fruitful.

That was two weeks ago. Well, this evening I was able to do a considerable amount of the work involved in stage two of The Project. See, in order to build this rocket ship I figured the second stage would have three big steps. Tonight the first step — which some combination of common sense and necessity found should be doubled — and the second step were completed.

Now I will have to work on two separate series of precise calibrations — Werner von Braun, help me — so I can complete the third step of stage two. I might also revisit a bit of the second step of this stage. But that part should be easy. I’ll do both of those next Wednesday and then the second stage of The Project will be completed. After that there are only three stages remaining, and two of those will go quickly. This project will be wrapped up in two or three weeks. Huh. I thought it would take longer.

Did I say rocket ship? Ignore that. Just imagine I said something else like … hot air balloon or … post-modern remote controlled pterodactyl model. Yeah. That’s what I’m making. I’m about 12 to 14 hours into a remote controlled pterodactyl.

Aug 17

And now, three turtles

With yesterday’s eclipse giving us so much material for the site I was able to save some of my weekend photos. Here are a few of them now.

On my Saturday morning jog I saw The Yankee’s turtle buddy. There’s a little pond near us and about 50 or so yards away there’s a nice, shade-covered creek. And so this guy is on the move a lot. This is the fourth time we’ve seen him, or his identical cousins, in the last few months:


He’d just made it across the little walking path and was about to crawl into the scrub grass and then the trees and go down the embankment to the creek. Meanwhile, not too much farther away on the same path I ran into this much more intense reptilian specimen.


He was pretty aggressive for a ponderously moving turtle.

So that was part of my weekend. Today, I got to hang out in the studio for a bit.


We have a big, big production coming up on Thursday, so there’s a lot to do. Part of it involves figuring out our camera shots, which is what we were doing today. The To Do list will only grow longer, I’m sure, until the show is done.

Aug 17

Eclipsed by the hype

Today was my third eclipse. At least the third that I can recall. My first was in elementary school, when they took great pains to coach us into not looking up. We made the little cardboard pinhole thing and it was underwhelming. (It was only a partial eclipse where we were.) Then, in middle school, I was working one summer for a teacher and we were outdoors and watched another partial eclipse. It was underwhelming.

But this time, so much more of the sun would be eclipsed! A vast, vast majority of the sun where we are! And the hype machine had, of course, reached Mayweather-McGregor proportions. I’d said I wouldn’t bother, but if you hear the drumbeat long enough you’re liable to start dancing. So I got my gear and got ready:


Today was also the first day of classes for the fall term and everyone wisely avoided making ominous omens out of the two parallel events. But we put the eclipse up on the big screen for any curious folks who wanted to save their eyes and enjoy some really top-notch air conditioning:


And when I was walking into the building from elsewhere a student let me borrow his little eclipse card the school was distributing to several thousand people:


If anything, that’s just a terrific demonstration of the “size of the sun” in the sky. That’s in partial eclipse, but look how tiny it is, compared to what you normally think of as the sun’s size, which is really just pure radiation beaming down onto our heads and into our eyes — with which we are, I am told, never to use for solar contact.

Also, I made a video. This is 360 degrees, as I am still playing around with the camera to see what it will and won’t do. (Audio is a consideration, I realized this time out.) So move it around and see a few things:

I would have started the video a bit earlier, and caught more of the eclipse, but I encountered the two most clueless people I’ve met in some time. They whelmed me, but not overly so.

Aug 17

I’d rather be outside today

Classes start back next week. So we’re doing work. But you’d rather be looking at this:

There are things to build and lessons to plan and barcodes to barcode and just a lot of stuff to do, basically. It’ll all get done, but it would be more fun to be under a tree:

Those are Nebraskan trees, from our trip last weekend. As we dig ourselves out of these next few work days, I have a few more things from Omaha to put up. Until then, make sure to follow along on Twitter and Instagram.

Aug 17

I could have used some water out by the river

I did that thing today where you look out of the window of your ninth-floor hotel room and see a nice little park below and think That’s where I’ll jog today. So it was a good thing when I packed my running shoes the night before last, really.

So I put on said shoes and the appropriate clothing and went out to the park. I figured I would do a few laps until I got in my three miles. It’d be a bit repetitious, but I’m in a park in a city I’ve only just arrived in and how badly can you get lost or otherwise out of sorts?

First I ran to the right. I quickly found I ran out of sidewalk space. OK, that’s one boundary. So I turned around, retraced a few steps and set off across the length of the park. The sidewalk in this park didn’t cover one route. There were turns and forks and the like. I managed to take all of the correct turns and, soon, I was down by the river, whereby I remembered my geography. I’m in Omaha, which is in eastern Nebraska. Which means this must be the Missouri River and that, over there, is Iowa.

Down on the river’s edge I met another jogger who told me how to get to the pedestrian bridge and then I ran to Iowa. This is the view on the bridge, over the Missouri. Nebraska is on your right, Iowa on the left:

By now I figure that I have to run at least a little ways into Iowa to make this count, so I did a mile. Here’s some evidence of that:

And at this point I figure, things feel pretty good, I’ll just keep running in the midday sun and make this a 10K. That’s 6.2 miles to you and me. I did that right about here, where the thought occurred to me that, this part of Iowa and Nebraska, looks like a lot of places I’ve seen:

So I’m on this really nice, but ultimately very quite trail, when I see, in the distance and around the bend, the top of a bridge that might be worth checking out. So I figured me and my sweaty shadow would just keep jogging:

I am in Council Bluffs, Iowa at this point. And the rules are, there are no rules:

Finally I round the bend and see the bridge. This is the Illinois Central Missouri railroad bridge. The original Omaha bridge was built in 1893, but what we see today dates to 1908:

And this is a double swing bridge. Each of the rotating spans are 521 feet long. I’m standing on the railroad tracks in Iowa looking back into Nebraska here. The Iowa side of the bridge remains open these days for river navigation. That’s why it is sideways:

The river through here was dredged in the 1940s, and a fire in the 1970s meant the eastern side, the Iowa side, couldn’t operate under its own power. They opened and closed the bridge with a bulldozer and cable after that. Here are some of the gears that would move the Iowa portion:

The bridge was shut down in 1980, but the tracks could be pressed back into service if necessary. Here is a panorama of the Iowa side of the bridge. Click to open the full-sized version in another window.

And this, standing in Iowa and looking west, is the Nebraska side of the bridge and shoreline:

And then, of course, I had to run back to Nebraska. Here’s my view from near the center of that pedestrian bridge I crossed over, this time looking upstream. Nebraska is on your left and Iowa is on your right:

And, finally, the last piece of evidence of my two-state run, the actual map:

I’ve run across a state line before, but that was in a triathlon and by design, not on a 10K impulse. I do not know what is happening.