Snows of March

“In like a lion, out like a lamb,” they say, but mostly March was in and out like a bunch of snow.

Icy Tree
Winter's last gasp


My reading backlog included a bunch of links about Ebola from late last year, but the panicked craze of media coverage died down long before I was done with all these articles.

The Nib: Ebola, A User’s Guide

One Powerful Illustration Shows Exactly What’s Wrong With How the West Talks About Ebola

MetaFilter: Perhaps the 4 most intelligent things you can read about Ebola today.

Inside the Ebola Wars

Diary: Ebola — by Paul Farmer. “Ebola is more a symptom of a weak healthcare system than anything else.”

Life After Death: NPR interactive presentation on how Ebola affected the village of Barkedu, Liberia.

An Ebola Doctor’s Return from the Edge of Death

Maternal health: Ebola’s lasting legacy

After November, when it became evident that Ebola was not going to overrun the US and political fortunes were suddenly less dependent on public panic, the coverage simmered down, and other health issues became the focus of the media hype machine.

Three Belief Stories

Three narratives of faith that recently caught my attention:

On Fear and Identity. I like Jason’s unique visualization of “Christ lighting the city” as a response to spiritual despair, a redemptive journey geographically superimposed over one’s soul, something akin to prayer-walking.

I Used to Believe Better. From Aaron J. Smith, aka “Cultural Savage.” This is where I’ve often found myself, wondering how I ended up in a nominal state of jaded doubt — I recover daily, but it’s much harder for someone with depression to deal with the climb out of that pit.

Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian. From Ana Marie Cox, once founder of Wonkette. She’s not so much concerned with the predictable reactions of nonbelievers as with the outrage of fellow Christians who cannot countenance that a snarky liberal woman could be a sister in Christ. As a fellow liberal Protestant egalitarian, I countenance this wholeheartedly.

RadioShack Bankruptcy

Shortly after RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, stores near us closed down and emptied out.

Empty Radio Shack store

Good time to read Jon Bois’s stories on working for RadioShack through the course of its decline:

Older article of interest from a former employee: 6 Confessions Of A Former RadioShack Employee (2008) — and a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread by an employee as of three months ago.

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy has died.

When I was an introverted and emotionally befuddled third-culture kid who struggled daily with feelings of isolation and alienation while growing up, Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock reached me in my confused youth, in ways that gave me comfort, confidence, and hope that I had a place in the world — a place that would involve space, science, and computers. I’m me today because of that, and today is the future in part thanks to him.

Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy, and live long and prosper.

Snows of February

February delivered some good snow towards the end of a mostly uneventful winter; still nowhere as close to previous February snowmageddons and snowpocalypses, but enough to close schools for a few days and make the general landscape look mildly Arctic.

Snowy Merrifield Pano
Snowy townhouses Parked by a snow drift at sunset #snow

Walking around DC on a Sunday morning after the snowstorm was especially fun since most businesses didn’t bother to shovel or treat their sidewalks till later in the day.

Slushy DC sidewalks, K St NW
Slushy DC sidewalks, 17th St NW

And here’s a snowy selfie.

Snowy selfie

(Yes, I know, I need a haircut, but while it’s still cold I don’t mind looking like a disheveled hippie if the extra layer of hair keeps me warm.)

Pictures of the Sky

On our flights between O’Hare and Narita I’d hoped to get something like Alessandro Merga’s view of the Milky Way, but my plane window long exposures turned out sadly less impressive. I did catch some faint auroras on the westbound flight, though.

Aurora long exposure attempt Plane Window Long Exposure Attempt

The night sky in Puerto Galera, Philippines was mostly cloudy, but the one clear night we had made for some good star photography, stymied just a bit by a full moon and bright resort lights.

Night Sky over Puerto Galera

On January 10th I was able to capture Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), visible as a fuzzy green smear just barely shining through DC area light pollution.

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) — cropped detail

A week later I captured Venus and Mercury in the winter twilight. I’d never actually seen the planet Mercury before; it was much fainter than I had expected.

Venus and Mercury

All photos shot with a first-gen Sony NEX3.

2014 in Review

Most notable thing about last year was @PicPedant, my half-humorous Twitter image-debunking account which somehow got so popular that I made the news.

My grandmother died.

I got a Google Glass.

Travel-wise, I went to Florida to visit the Space Coast and hang out in Orlando with my parents. We went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Visited Chincoteague, twice. Visited Shenandoah, twice. Rode coasters at Hersheypark and Kings Dominion. We finally got to see the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center, which we’d been meaning to do since we moved out to the county in 2009. At the end of the year we went to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my family.

In space, ESA’s Philae landed on a comet, EFT-1 launched and returned successfully, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo was destroyed, killing a pilot, and Orbital’s Antares blew up, losing an ISS cargo capsule.

Work has been sending me to NASA HQ a lot; I take photos.

Best selfie of 2014:

Antennae (standing in front of a metro station pillar)

(You know, when I wrote 2009 in Review, I said I would start cleaning up and backtagging old entries. Six years later, I still haven’t. Sorry.)


ANA 767-300 JA624A at MNL ANA 777-300ER at NRT

The return trip was much less grueling than the flight over: no overnight airport transfers in Japan this time around — though Chicago O’Hare was a pain to transit through, what with the standard bag re-check and a broken airport tram that forced us into a taxi for a terminal transfer.

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