Thursday, February 28, 2019

Look West!

Finally, some clear skies in Tucson! And for the first time, I could go out after sunset and look for Mercury in the evening sky. Almost due west about 45 minutes after sunset, it is the brightest star-looking object just above the horizon! At left is how it looked from the cul de sac in front of my house... It will continue to be visible for about another week before it starts diving between us and the sun towards inferior conjunction on March 14th.

To the casual observer, it would seem there haven't been any planets in the evening sky, but you would have been wrong! Mars, the next planet out from us, is still in the western sky, but is fading and far from striking, other than the orange glow it still maintains. Passing opposition and at its best over 7 months ago (!), it is a shadow of its former self. At right is a wide shot showing both Mars and Mercury, both well below the Pleiades star cluster a good 45 degrees or more up as it gets dark.

But as they say - But wait, there's more! The planet Uranus is also in the right photo above! It is MUCH fainter than Mars or Mercury, and less obvious too when shooting from town in a 10 second exposure! The cropped portion of the above shot shows the center part of the image, and shows Mars and Aries, and what I THINK is Uranus, just above the limits of detection... It is so faint that the normal green glow it sometimes displays isn't visible. But then, it is almost 2 BILLION miles distant from us at the moment...

And just one more... As I turned to go back into the house, There riding high was mighty Orion, and how could I leave without a quick shot of it too? So at right is my front yard with Canis Major and the brightest star (visible from Earth besides the sun) Sirius is Orion with its prominent 3 belt stars. We've had so many clouds lately that I've needed to catch up with what the sky looks like again!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Dean's New Implant!

I got a new tooth implant a couple weeks ago. The exact need and timing is sort of lost in the blur of time, but I believe the cause was that I had a cavity under a crown (this more than 2 years ago!). Dr. Chang cleaned out the cavity, but there wasn't enough of a stump to fasten a new crown, so the root was extracted and bone graft installed (by oral surgeon). I vaguely recall that because there was a bleeding issue (since I'm on blood thinners), and had to go in for assistance to stop it. Eventually it took, and a few months later, the titanium threaded insert was installed - all was well. I sort of forgot about it, but a couple months ago, Dr. Chang reminded me we had it hanging over me, so after a session with a mouth full of modeling putty, a couple months later I had a new tooth! That is my always-smiling Dr. Chang at left, and at right is an x-ray of the titanium threaded insert and bolt that was in place for something over a year and a half!

The mouth of modeling clay was new (to me), but he took an impression of the top and bottom row of teeth (one at a time) to get a near-perfect model of my teeth. From that, a new replacement was evidently machined or cast and fired in a kiln with a hole to take advantage of the threaded insert. Shown at left is one of the molds with the implant to go at right. The new (pricey)tooth is shown at right before installation - note the hole the bolt goes through to clamp it down.

The modeling clay was used to make a complete cast of my mouth, and was used to create the new tooth. My upper bite is shown at left with the new tooth in place to check for fit.

The implant is fastened in with a titanium bolt, not to different from what you would find in a hardware store - your standard Allen head bolt, but not quite! The sterile one to be used is still in its bag at right.

After the snug check in the plaster cast above, he tried it in the real gap in my mouth. It went in, but interesting he couldn't get it back out! He didn't really panic, but had wanted to remove it to polish it up some, perhaps take a little off where it was binding. Not wanting to damage any neighboring teeth or the implant, he eventually left it in place and placed the bolt in place - yes, using an official torque wrench at left! It really is a little Allen head hex bolt! After proper torque was applied, he filled the drive hole in the bolt with a little UV-curing cement, scraped it off level and it was done! He took one more x-ray of the finished product for the historical record, shown at right... Eventually the gaps will likely distribute more evenly, but I still can't get floss down both sides of the new one. I have an unrelated cleaning scheduled Thursday, so they will likely take another look at it then... For now, all paid for and all the ivories are "in the pink"!

Monday, February 4, 2019

My Travels with Lillian!

Who the heck is Lillian, you ask?! Well, there is a story involved, of course! I met Lillian back last July at my nephew Mitchell's wedding in July. That is him with his beautiful bride Anna there on the left. Though you can't see it in the photo, evidently she has a green thumb and as gifts to each guest, she sprouted succulents and had a variety at each table to choose from, all growing in white milk-glass containers... Succulents are easy to grow, I hear, and here we are 7 months later and mine is still alive - I've named her Lillian!

After the wedding, wanting to keep her in Illinois, I left her care and feeding with a girlfriend in Chicago, not sure if Lillian would survive if she was abandoned for a month or two at a time until I returned to "Ketelsen East". Girlfriend and I have since parted company, so I regained custody this last trip to Illinois, and 3 weeks ago as I transitioned back to AZ, Lillian came along! That is a close-up her at right.

For the first time in a decade, I had driven up to the Midwest in the big van. There were a number of things to haul, and some to haul back. Since we'd parked the Toyota Highlander there, it is so much more simple to fly and catch a ride to a waiting car - it has been great! Driving it makes you realize why we do it that way! 1,700 miles in 26 hours of driving translates to a good 2.5 days on the road, and certainly with the van, you still can't beat the price of half a round-trip ticket. But I justified it with the hauling I needed to do. So as my visit ended, and a winter storm approaching, I left with relatively short notice for the return. Did the laundry, secured the house... Lillian's vase didn't fit in the cup holders, so she rode shotgun, with seat belt fastened, packed with my gloves and a newspaper to make sure she was secure...

Travel conditions were perfect - cool temps, about 40 degrees, and perfect blue skies. Quickly transited Iowa - little scenery with the crops all in... There was a brief scenic event as I passed Brooklyn (yes, there is a Brooklyn, Iowa), where there were a previously unnoticed windmill farm next to Interstate 80!

We made it to Wichita that first evening, and it was supposed to be below freezing, so brought Lillian into the motel and tucked her into bed as I unwound with a little TV...

Overnight the rain moved in, but it was supposed to be snow and ice the next day, so headed west. Drove through rain all day. Very nearly ran out of gas hoping to find cheaper gasoline in Liberal Kansas - engine died 50 yards from pumps. Fortunately, waiting a minute it started again to get enough momentum to coast up to refill... Rain lessened across Oklahoma and Texas, and mostly stopped by the time I got to Tucumcari. We stayed on highway 54 that bisects south across New Mexico, and as sunset approached, the clouds turned intermittent and made for some scenic driving! At right are some small mountains or hills from what must be the previous storm that had gone through...

As we continued to drive south towards Alamagordo, the second night's stop, the skies almost cleared, and had a beautiful sunset! With the destination in sight though, I only stopped once for the post-sunset lone cloud shown at left with some virga (rain that evaporates before hitting the ground) and beautiful colors against a clear sky.

Even before checking in to the Motel 6, I found a Chinese restaurant for dinner, then relaxed before the final push into Tucson the next day.

I was hoping to pause at White Sands National Monument the next morning - thought Lillian would look good with her milk-glass vase against the white sands, but alas, the government shutdown had resulted in locked gates blocking access! A bit later we did get an impressive view of the Organ Mountains (so named because of their resemblance to a pipe organ, I believe), as we approached the pass to cross them to Las Cruces, NM...

As we crossed southern New Mexico, still 50 miles east of the AZ border, I noticed something white far to the west! This was still 25 miles east of Lordsburg, and I was confused for a bit what it might be - then it dawned on me! It was the snow-covered, nearly 11,000 foot tall mountain Mount Graham! I did manage to grab a snapshot of it at full zoom. I calculate it was still just over 90 miles away! Note the slight orange cast due to the long path-length absorbing or scattering more blue light...

Less than an hour later and we approached Arizona! Lillian offered to drive for a bit and after 2 full days, I was glad to let her take the wheel! I did manage to capture the moment we passed the border!

Just over 2 hours later and we pulled into Tucson, arriving about 2pm. It was nice to get out from behind the wheel and to be where it was a good 20 degrees warmer than "Ketelsen East"! Oh, and the day we arrived in Tucson, central Kansas and Missouri DID get nearly a foot of snow, so I got through it with a day to spare! I think it will be a while till I drive again... It was nice to set your own schedule though - not be dependent on reservations made perhaps 2 months in advance! Lillian seems happy and cats seem to ignore her, so all is well!