ENTRY 0021, November 26, 2013

Wow, how things have changed.  It's been more than five years since I updated this page.  There are several reasons for this. 

1. Social media was in its infancy five years ago.  Now, everybody seems to have an account for at least one social media website, usually several. This sort of renders blogs on personal websites irrelevant. And yet, here I am updating it. Go figure.

2. We started a Blogger page.  However, we have not updated that in a very long time, either.  Instead, we spend a lot of our time on Facebook.  Sheila also likes Pinterest, while I go for Twitter.

3. Work went insane for a while.  This actually started about 8 or 9 years ago, with the new principal.  Let's just say that she and I did not see eye-to-eye.  It was an exceptionally stressful time for me, and steadily got worse over the years.  This year, things are MUCH better, with new leadership.  Our new principal was a science teacher at our school years ago, and is a man I greatly respect.  Not that this is an excuse for not blogging, but it is a reason for major "blockages" in my life.

4. Realizing that these are read by nobody, unless they happen to come across them completely by accident, kinda made this a pointless effort on my part.  but like Sarah Connor, at this time, these are for me.

5. I also used Netscape Composer to write these pages.  When I upgraded the desktop computer, the new OS (Windows Vista) was no longer compatible with Composer, and I stopped posting because I was too freaking lazy to find something else to help me write my pages.  I downloaded Mozilla SeaMonkey after a while and finally got around to trying it out...


Last time I talked about how the house next door was abandoned.  It was eventually sold to a family of, for lack of a better term, Hillbillies, from out of the High Desert near Twenty-nine Palms. They were an interesting family.  One example: The grandfather came by one day and asked if he could take some of our lemons from our tree.  Since we were not picking that many, I thought it was better than letting them go to waste.  We'd pick a bag or so every couple of weeks, and they ended up lasting us a couple of months.  So he says he'll pick some the next day.  And he did.  And the next day, and the next.  In just five days he stripped the tree bare.  He then took the lemons to several local restaurants and traded them for free meals for the next few weeks.  We were not planning on using that many, but when I said "yes" I was under the impression that they were for personal use, not for trading for food. 

Eventually the Hillbillies sold the house (or the bank took it, not sure which) but they moved back to the hills near Twenty-nine Palms.  The home was then purchased by a young family, husband, wife, three kids from infant to 10 years old.  They were happy to purchase a fixer-upper (the hillbillies had done very little to improve the home, and neglected quite a bit).  Before they moved in they spent a LOT of time and money repairing and upgrading the house.  Once they moved in they began working on the yard.  The backyard would go from a field of weeds to an amusement park.  They have several things that are generally found in actual school or city playgrounds.  They also added a trampoline, a massive swing set and a two-story playhouse that includes electric lighting and is fully drywalled.  They are good people.


Last time, Gas prices were up to $4.54 per gallon.  Prices has dropped by nearly a dollar per gallon. The United States is currently pumping more oil than the Middle East. Not bad, considering the "Drill Here, drill now" crowd said our new President was going to destroy the oil industry.

Anyway, what's new? (Or, more precisely, what has happened since I last updated this blog,  five years ago?)

-Bush has gone on to become a retired non-entity.  It was actually kind of sad to see how much the rest of the Republican Party avoided him during the election. 

- John McCain lost the first election. Barack Obama became our president.  It was an ugly election, but was nothing to what the Tea Party did the following time, when Mitt Romney ran against Obama, and lost.

-Barack Obama started out with massive promise.  He has since become somewhat... disappointing.  He slid to the right farther and faster than I would have imagined.

-We still have two working rovers on Mars. One, Opportunity, have exceeded its expected lifespan by about 1500%. That is still Too Cool For Words.  The second rover, Spirit, finally gave up the ghost and the mission was officially terminated on May 25, 2011.  However, the Mars Science Lab, also called "Curiosity", landed on August 6, 2012.  I am particularly excited by this, because one of my former students worked on this project.  It is a far more advanced rover than the twins were.  

- The shuttle has ended its run.  This makes me both happy and sad. 
A. Sad, because we don't actually have a human-rated spacecraft at this time.  There are are few coming down the pipe, but we don't have them yet.  This means the only way we can get to space is to hitch rides with the Russians on a Soyuz.
B. Happy, because the shuttle had a good run.  The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs lasted only a few years each.  The Shuttle lasted 30 years.  That's pretty amazing.

- The Iraq war is essentially over.  Afganistan is still going on, but it seems to be just an armed holding pattern, more than an actual war. 

- Since the last update,
We went to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. This was the third largest rally ever held on the mall.
The rally (this is
                                            the across the mall view,
                                            not the down the mall view)
Sadly, it didn't really change anything.  Politics is still an exercise in spite and obstruction.  Not a recipe for getting things done. 

-We also went to New York and took a cruise to Canada.  While there, we visited various, very nice places and went to the Titanic Graves in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 
Titanic graves

Upon our return to New York, we got a personal, behind-the-scenes tour of the American Museum of Natural History, with a SomethingAwful goon who worked there.
At Edward Drinker Cope's desk in the
                      paleontology library

  I was also given an autographed copy of The Pluto Files by Neil Degrasse Tyson. It was a pretty nice day, all told.
Me with my new book!

- In November, 2012, I turned 50. For my birthday, Sheila took me to the big island of Hawaii.  It was absolutely amazing.  We visited the observatories at the top of Mauna Kea.  We were supposed to spend a lot of time observing the stars, but it was a truly rare night when the cloud layers appeared both below the observatories (which is common) and, more importantly, above the observatories, which totally blocked the night sky. 
The observatories at Mauna Kea

We also spent an entire day tromping around the slopes of Kilauea, looking at lava flows and craters (both active and less so).
Halem'aum'au crater

 We got to spend some time swimming with Manta Rays.
Manta with remora

 and later got a tattoo to commemorate our trip.
Turtle Tats!

Lots of other stuff happened, but that is enough for now.

Well, I gotta run.

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