Just the Stats, Please

Yes, I’m still here.  Sort of.  I’ve been so busy since the first of the year, I just now came up for air, and only because I realized it had been nearly a month since I’d posted to my blog.  A new year at work means a new budget cycle and all the projects that were on hold now have been given the green light and of course should have been completed yesterday.  The ringing in my ears can be directly correlated to the number of hours per day I spend on conference calls.  I spend so much time in fact on conference calls that the only time I have to accomplish actual work is at home during the evenings.

And for some reason, I thought it was a good idea, to take another online course, this time in Statistics.  I needed one more course to finish my Associates Degree and I wanted to do something related to my core goal – Mathematics.  Ironically, as I learned while reading and studying the first chapter of my textbook, Statistics is not technically considered a course in Mathematics.  Math results in one right answer if you solve the problem correctly – and this is repeatable for anyone anytime.  One problem = one right answer.  This is not the case for Statistics.

For my commutes to and from work I switched from listening to audiobooks (for now) to following various podcasts as a sort of New Year’s resolution.  Some of them are audio dramas, some of them are non-fiction, some are current tech news, some are short fiction (mostly fantasy and science fiction from various magazines) and some are just pure fun.  Most of them I can complete in one day (two commutes = approximately 90 minutes) so I don’t have to worry about losing my place or losing track of the story in a long audiobook.

To prepare for last night’s Tolkien Society of Kansas City discussion of The Children of Hurin, I listened to nearly seven hours of amazing depth and insight on Chapter 21 of the Silmarillion thanks to the trilogy of episodes broadcast by the Prancing Pony Podcast.  I plan a more in-depth post on my tumble down Tolkien’s tragic Turin tale.  Our next group read at TSoKC is Unfinished Tales, but thankfully we’re skipping Part One (which would be yet another reading of Turin), but will start with Part Two and also read Letters 50-89 in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Check our Facebook page for the date of our next meeting in February and join us if you’re so inclined.  All are welcome.

This weekend will be all too short between obligatory after-hours work (ah, the joys of information technology support and maintenance), volunteering at the library (now that is pure joy) and tonight’s General Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City.

It’s the 27th day of January, 2018.  I’ve flown through 7.4 percent of the year in days, nearly 8.3 percent of the months and 11 percent of the first quarter.

Tepus fugit.  Vita brevis.

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Looking a Lot Like Christmas Around Here

As I promised earlier this month in my post about my building’s less than traditional holiday decorating, I managed to snap a few photos of some of my favorite things – and my that I mean Christmas lights, displays and decorations.

In roughly chronological order, starting with Thanksgiving weekend decorating the exterior of our home.


Followed by a drive by on Grand Avenue past one of the tallest Christmas trees in the country in the heart of Crown Center two days later:


I started off December right by stopping just before dawn on Broadway to snap this photo of the annual decorations hung at the Kansas City Life Insurance building:


A week later I made it to work very early, with the sun still below the horizon with the help of some cloud cover and took several photos of the Country Club Plaza Christmas lights from the top floor of my building (despite the reflections of interior lights on the window glass):


Another week passed by and on the ides of December the angel appeared in my landscaping. Due to unexpected altercations with local deer population, our lighted reindeer will be decidedly absent from our yard display:


And finally, and surely not least, as I returned home last night from work, I stopped at Union Station to marvel at their internal decoration bonanza:


Merry Christmas! (click this photo to see rest of album)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip around town, at least the parts of it I frequent on a daily and regular basis.

May all your Christmases be Bright and May God Bless Us, Everyone!

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Canine Couch

Once upon a time, my daughter received a couch and coffee table from the youth group leaders at the church we were attending at that time.  And since both my son and daughter still lived at home at that time, moving furniture wasn’t an onerous task.  Fast forward to our empty nest plus two Rottweilers and you get the canine couch.


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Do You Hear What I Hear?

My final astronomy discussion topic attempts to answer “Why are some wavelengths of radio emission better than others in searching for extraterrestrial civilizations?”

Plot of Earth's atmospheric transmittance (or opacity) to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

Plot of Earth’s atmospheric transmittance (or opacity) to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.


Radio waves can travel immense distances without being significantly altered by interstellar medium.  They penetrate dust and gas and are the logical choice for interstellar communication.  Astronomers have been listening for signs of extraterrestrial life using the radio spectrum since the 1950s and 60s – long before scientists had discovered the means of detecting exoplanets.  But the sheer number of both radio frequencies and directions to search proved daunting and raised question like “Which frequencies should be used to maximize the odds of detecting an alien signal?”

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Merry Bowlingmas

Welcome to my annual roasting of my building’s attempts at modern art holiday decorating.  When I showed my husband this year’s photo, his first words were: “Bowling pins?”


unHoliday Lobby Decorations (2017)

I had to concede his point.  At least this year the dominant color is red with a swash of green.

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Universal Song Remains the Same and Beyond All the Light We Cannot See

For such a small chapter, this week’s topic on Cosmology has some large and deep concepts.  I’m attempting to delve into “How did the period of inflation cause the universe to become homogeneous and isotropic?


Big Bang ~ Universe began as an extraordinarily hot, dense primordial atom of energy and caused expansion, just like an explosion.  Before that moment, nothing existed, not even space and time.  Rather, the explosion created spacetime, which continues to expand.  (Comins, 446)

Inflationary Epoch ~ During this epoch, the universe became so large that today we can only see a tiny portion of it and that is limited by the speed of light.  The growth and size of the observable universe occurred in a very brief time.  (Comins, 451)

Cosmic microwave background (CMB) ~ If the universe began with a hot Big Bang, then calculations indicated the energy remnants should still fill all of space today. The entire universe’s temperature should be only a few kelvins above absolute zero.  This radiation’s blackbody spectrum peak should lie in the microwave section of the radio spectrum.  (Comins, 446)

Isotropy of CMB ~ The cosmic microwave background radiation is almost perfectly isotropic – the intensity is nearly the same in every observable direction.  Isotropy isn’t just limited to observed blackbody radiation, but is also found on a large scale when exploring the number of galaxies found in different directions.  (Comins, 448)

Homogeneity ~ The uniformity with distance (the numbers of galaxies stays roughly constant with respect to both distance and direction) of the universe is homogeneous. (Comins, 449)

Fine-Tuning Big Bang

Any viable theory of cosmology, including the Big Bang, must explain the isotropy and homogeneity of the universe.  Numerous refinements have been posited and as a result the theory now provides an accurate scenario for the evolution of universe from a tiny fraction of a second after it formed and onward to today.  (Comins, 449) Continue reading

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Just A Sun-Day Drive Around the Galactic Neighborhood

This week I’m tackling the subject of our Sun’s motion through the Milky Way Galaxy and approximately how long one orbit is.

The Milky Way Galaxy has two major spiral arms, named the Perseus Arm and the Scutum-Centaurus Arm.  There are also smaller less pronounced arms, including the Sagittarius Arm, the Norma Arm, The Local Arm (aka the Orion Spur) and the Outer Arm.  Our solar system resides in the Orion Spur (Local Arm), branching off from the larger Perseus Arm.  During the summer months in the northern hemisphere, we predominantly observe the Sagittarius Arm, including the galactic center, which appears as steam from the Tea Pot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius.  (Gaherty, 2016)  Over the winter, we’re looking away from the galactic center and through the Perseus Arm.  (Comins, 396)

Artist’s concept of what astronomers now believe is the overall structure of the spiral arms in our Milky Way galaxy. The sun resides within a minor spiral arm of the galaxy, called the Orion Arm. Image via NASA and Wikimedia Commons.

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