Rambling travelogs from a world traveler

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Sun Rose In the West!

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed." ~ Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions

Gentle Readers and Loved Ones,

I beg that you turn your attention back to the post below this one, Sunset Launch.

The pictures were presented in chronological order. You probably noticed that the sun rose in the west. In the picture of the icebreaker, the island and the volcanoes, the sun was below the horizon. In the next picture of my First Officer flying there was Mr Sun beaming bright through the windscreen. How can this be? Is it time to get right with God because the Apocalypse looms near?

Yesterday was Winter Solstice and I have been meaning for some time to present the astrophysics of living at high latitude. I just realized that this last post presented a wonderful opportunity.

If you are unfamiliar with the reasons why the earth experiences seasons please look a this link built by the Allentown School District Planetarium. It does a bang up job of explanation. Recall that the Earth is tilted away from its orbital plane by 23° 26'. This latitude establishes the Arctic Circle. Everything on Earth above roughly 66° N latitude and below 66° S latitude will experience at least one day a year with no direct sunlight. Anchorage sits at just over 61° N latitude - it is not above the Arctic Circle but "you can see it from here."

The other side of this phenomenon is that the sun does not lurk very far below the horizon when you are this far north. As you climb up in altitude in an airplane, the horizon drops below where a ground observer sees it. Further, during the initial part of our climb, we were flying incrementally to the west. These two factors were enough to cause the sun to appear to rise just above above the southwestern horizon. My pictures do not do justice to what we really saw. The limb of the sun slowly climbed up above the horizon and I think I saw a glint of green flash.

Yesterday, Dec 21st was the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. I used Chris Marriot's estimable SkyMap program to produce these numbers all in Anchorage Local Time.

Civil Twilight began at 0912L.
Sun actually rose at 1014L and set at 1542L
Civil Twilight ended 1644L

So...yesterday we had 5 hours and 32 minutes of sunshine and one hour and two minutes of twilight.

Compare this to Honolulu, Hawaii, situated at 21°N Latitude.

Civil Twilight began at 0640L.
Sun actually rose at 0705L and set at 1755L
Civil Twilight ended 1819L.

Ten hours and 50 minutes of sunshine and 25 minutes of twilight.

Not to mention that it was probably around 80° F yesterday in Honolulu while it was a scorching 5°F here.

The good news is that it's all downhill to summer from here on out!

On that happy note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff

Thursday, December 16, 2010


"When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.'' ~ George Bernard Shaw

Gentle Readers and Loved Ones,

It may seem that my posts often contain potty humor at a higher rate than usually found in polite discourse. I apologize up front for that but good stories are found where they live. Mere mortals have no control over where life takes them and what they may observe. At this point, parents may wish to do some parental control over any youngsters reading....

You may or may not remember this post (Cosmo Crapper) about high tech toilets frequently found in Asian hotels.

Surfing the web today, I found this link describing yet another Japanese potty innovation. If you have not as of yet clicked that link, you will find that some industrious computer and software engineers have invented a computer game that one controls by aiming at specific spots on a bathroom urinal. Let us not sink into recriminations about the unfairness of this totally male oriented and female excluding invention but just relax and enjoy the whimsy.

(Although, one might wonder if Go Girl might not soon see a rise in their fortune.)

The perspicacious reader will note that this invention is called the "Toirettsu". I thought that this might be a good time to indulge in another short Japanese pronunciation discussion. As the cliche holds, the 'l' and 'r' sound in Nihongo (Japanese) are the same. It is a sort of lightly trilled "lri" sound where you hold the tongue at the roof of your mouth and sort of mush the l and r into one blurred sound. Not, as many westerners think, a transposition or 'l' for 'r' and 'r' for 'l'.

So, one would pronounce this gadget's name phonetically - "Toy lret soo" - a play on words for toilet of course.

On that happy note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Wish

"It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas Hope and Aspiration that all of us - the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage - may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss - except the inventor of the telephone."

Mark Twain

New York "World", 1890

Gentle Readers,

It has been some time since last I posted here. There are some reasons for that and I may even address them in a future post.

In any case, the point of this blog has always been to share with you the things I see as I travel around the world. Sometimes, I find there are things close to home that are also of interest. Just north of our home in Eagan, MN, the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi River. The bluffs on either side of the river are steep, wooded and quite lovely in all seasons. Just a short distance from the northern bluffs lies the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (KMSP) and the Mall of America (MOA).

Just west of both of those worthy locations runs MN State HW 77. This road crosses the Minnesota River in a very scenic area. On the west side of the road and on the north bluff sits a lovely home with what must be a breathtaking view of the river valley. These lucky folks have a huge oak tree growing in their yard.

As you know, this is the season for christmas lights and sometimes lighting your abode can become competitive with your neighbors. The folks who live in the house described above could have taken that competitive road. Instead, they have transcended that base desire and have found a way to increase Christmas Good Will and Cheer.

Every year they spend what must be a lavish budget on lighting up this oak tree. They apparently hire professionals who must use a bucket truck as no mere amateur on a rickety ladder could light the tree the way they do. Everyone who drives along HW 77 is struck by the simple beauty of a huge oak tree outlined in mono-color white lights. It also stands out to the aviator landing at the airport. Quite striking, lovely and filled with Christmas Spirit.

My monthly commute to Alaska most frequently begins at the FedEx Cargo ramp on the west edge of the MSP airport. Driving up 77 and seeing this tree is often the last thing I see before I leave home and my first greeting when I return. I find myself anticipating the sight.

I stole this picture from this article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

This link has another very nice photo of the tree. This year, these wonderful folks have turned to using LED lighting and the improvement is fantastic.

I have never met these lovely folks and probably never will. But I thank them and wish them Merry Christmas.

If you want to see this tree, this map will help:

View Larger Map

On that note,
I remain,

Dad / Geoff