Author: Going. Walkabout

Uber Alley – Art Cars and Signs of the Apoplexy

8/04/2020 The red Ford Explorer is back in service and driving near 200 miles per day.  It had been 150 miles, but now we are struggling to make up for the time and expense involved with the previously discussed Imbecilic Design of the Ford engine that cost so dearly.  Below are some points of interest around the city, captured in the last few weeks.

Art Car Museum

I pass a lot of places that stand out as quite unique.  This one is the Art Car Museum at 140 Heights Boulevard (77007). 

Figure 1: The Art Car Museum. The website seems to overrule the hours posted on the sign – “Now open by appointment only”. We assume that admission is still free. There was – at one point in time – an “Annual Art Car Parade”. We assume that has been canceled, like everything else.
Figure 2: An example of an “Art Car”. What on normal cars is “collision damage” becomes just another eruption of fruit, in this case.

Signs of the Apoplexy

Public notices and labels or roads and structures can be quite mysterious and or/or amusing:

Figure 3: Bean dip is an ancient product that pre-dates grocery-store tortilla chips by many decades. In the stone age, when I was young – it came in cans and was consumed with Frito brand corn chips – rectangular in shape and curled by the cooking process.
Figure 4: I had occasions to walk by this Hindu Temple and found out three things. 1. The Hindus attending left their shoes out front. 2. The local homeless population did not “walk off” with the Hindus’ shoes, because it would have been a step down. This is because Hindus are clever enough to not wear their best shoes where the have to be left at the doorstep. 3) Hindus are not intimidated by seven syllable words. This is an archival photo. The sign, today is faded to the point of illegibility and the Temple, closed and abandoned.
Figure 5: Just why this building is labeled “SICK” is still a mystery. It seems to be empty and unused, as are the neighboring offices. Could it be one of those asbestos-laden “sick buildings”? I doubt it. That’s entirely too obvious. On the Westbound Beltway 8 feeder, just East of the Highway 249 junction,

Hasta Luego,

Steve      

Comet Update 7/31/2020

7/31/2020 Comet 2020 F3 is now receding back into the distant reaches of the Solar System.  As yet, however, it is still closer to the Earth than the Sun and closer to the Sun than the Earth is.  This should make one appreciate just how rare and fleeting is the opportunity to see these events with “Eyes Only”. 

In point of fact, I – your humble narrator – did not actually see this comet without the use of binoculars.  And even then, it was only a fleeting glimpse – out of the corner of my watering eye (1).

“Above the planet on a wing and a prayer
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night”

That was on July 24th when a rare cloudless Northern sky presented itself and I was awake at the proper time.  I attempted to show this to all the immediate   family.  For the record, it is painfully difficult to describe how to point the binoculars to another person, despite placing the student in the recently vacated footprints of the Astronomy Nerd and the use of tree branches as reference points.  And even when it works, the family member is underwhelmed by the dim little streak that is seen.

Figure 1:  The “Standard” graphic updated for July 30, 2020.  Green series: calculated for distance alone.  Blue series: Daily average of Observations (COBS)

In  figure 2, below is seen the orbital configuration of the comet as of July 31st.  The comet – known by the mundane press as ”NEOWISE”   (which is the name of the space probe that discovered the comet, modified by its extended mission prefix) is actually named only “C/2020 F3”

Figure 2: Orbit Diagram of C/2020 F3 as of7/31/2020

A Norwedian collegue and reader was also able to spot the comet – despite being so far North that he had to wait until a half-hour before Midnight for the sky to be dark enough.  As he pointed out, that left him with about one hour of observation time until the sky woould be brightening again.

“Wola.

Spotted it now with a Nikon 10-22×50

Still hard, but knowing where to look is key.

Thanks…”

I have searched for a definition of “Wola” and can only come up with a Polish district:

“First mentioned in the 14th century, it became the site of the elections, from 1573 to 1764, of Polish kings by the szlachta (nobility) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Wola district later became famous for the Polish Army’s defense of Warsaw in 1794 during the Kościuszko Uprising and in 1831 during the November Uprising, when Józef Sowiński and Józef Bem defended the city against tsarist forces.”

I would continue to search, but I am busy now making Uber commerce at an accelerated rate to fund the difficulties chronicled in Uber Ally   – where I owe an update to my Norwegian colleague. 

This Comet update is also overdue and I hasten to publish same.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Comet Update 7/19/2020

Comet 2020 F3 is creeping up in the post-sunset sky.  On July 14, I may have seen it dimly through the distant haze – in moments when the nearer and opaque clouds drifted out from in front.  In those 20 seconds, I saw what could be the nucleus of the comet through a pair of binoculars.  Any hint of a tail was not to be seen.  But, the sky map doesn’t show anything else in that part of the sky that would be bright enough to show through the haze.

I don’t call out family or friends for these desperate attempts at observation.  Mostly because – when asked to point out this astronomical wonder – I am forced to say,

“See that cloud over there?”

“Yes, I see it.”

“The comet is behind that cloud.”

“How do you know?”

“Because that’s where the sky map says it should be.”

“I mean, how do you know for sure?”

“…I don’t.”

That’s why astronomers have been considered lunatics – for centuries.  You may think I’m joking, so look up a Danish fellow named Tycho Brahe.  (Teak – oh  Bra-hay)

Figure 1:  The “Standard” graphic updated for July 19, 2020.  Green series: calculated for distance alone.  Blue series: Daily average of Observations (COBS)

Figure 2:  Sky map as found at the July 14 link on the previous update.

Figure 3: Sky map as modified by your humble narrator to reflect actual field conditions.

On the next day, July 15, the forecast was for clear skies after sunset, but I made the Rookie Mistake of not setting an alarm and slept through the opportunity.  Astronomers have to set their schedule by when the observation presents itself. 

As Shakespeare wrote, “It is the stars, the stars above us, govern our condition.”

Shakespeare also wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”. 

So, I have no excuse for not setting the alarm.

July 16-19, 2020    9:00 PM  See that cloud? The comet is behind it.

In a message from my long-time reader and cousin:

My friend is in OK right now. I gave her all the info last week. I just got this message:

“WE SAW NEOWISE!!!!!

It was so awesome!!  I was so excited like a kid walking into Disney World!! 
It took us awhile to see it but it has to be very dark and we were out in the country..
The tail was very clear and all the stars around it just highlighted the beauty…”

My reply:

I am happy to hear that someone has seen this comet.  It is starting to dim now as it recedes from the Sun.  It has yet to make its closest approach to the Earth, but any brightening by proximity is more than canceled by a more distant Sun and a calming of gas and dust emissions due to less Solar heat and radiation.

Sky maps (from  Spaceweather.com): July 18, 19, 20.

And a 3 ½ minute exposure by James W. Young – also from spaceweather.com

Figure 4 Three and ½ minute exposure (tracked – or the stars would smear) by James W, Young – from Spaceweather.com

Clear Skies!

Steve

SpaceWeather.com

https://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=165446

COBS:  https://cobs.si/analysis

Uber Alley – Marooned in Houston

On July 13, I had to drop a passenger at a Timewise (or some other sort of convenience store/gas station) and refund her partial fare.  I couldn’t very well charge her $4.80 for abandoning her to call another Uber  – while still 12 miles from her destination.

 I had somehow managed to vaporize most of the coolant and the remaining liquid boiled out the reservoir when I opened it.  I had to buy and pour in a $14 jug of overpriced coolant.  NOBODY has water at a gas station anymore – even for money.  Unless you count the drinking water they sell in bottles.  As it turns out, I should have bought that, because later, I managed to boil off the coolant again and be left dry and overheated.  The Culligan water bottles would have worked out be to less of a loss.

The problem is not the thermostat – as I had imagined – but the water pump.  Water pumps are typically mounted where they can be driven with a belt.  They are normally a half-hour (and under $100)  job to replace.  But this particular water pump is driven by the timing chain – not by a belt.  And the timing chain is sealed inside the lubrication system.  So, when the water pump begins to leak, it spills coolant directly into the engine oil.  That can quickly destroy an engine if not corrected.

Figure 1: Here, the timing chain cover (that seals the water pump inside the lubrication system) has been removed.

You may also notice that to get this image, the author had to photograph an engine that has been removed from the automobile.  I am told that it is possible to change the water pump without removing the engine – but that it might be easier to yank that sucker out!  In either case, it is expensive – very expensive.

You might ask yourself (as I did)  “What were they thinking?”

And see, now?  You have – as I did – assumed that the jackass Ford engineers – who thought this up – were actually thinking

This is an egregious imbecility that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to the vehicle owners.  Ford was being sued in a class-action that is currently dismissed.

 A quote from carcomplaints.com

February 15, 2020

— A Ford Duratec lawsuit has been dismissed, but the plaintiffs may have another shot to prove their allegations in court.

According to the Duratec engine lawsuit, millions of 2007-present Ford vehicles are equipped with the allegedly defective water pumps that cause engine damage.

The Duratec engines allegedly fail because coolant mixes with engine oil once the coolant leaks from the water pumps. The plaintiffs claim the engines may fail without drivers having any warning of the impending doom.

____________________.

Judge Laurie J. Michelson says she still finds the plaintiffs haven’t shown she made a mistake by dismissing the lawsuit, but the judge says she will reconsider her decision to dismiss the case with prejudice. Once all parties have presented their arguments, the judge will decide if the plaintiffs can file a second amended lawsuit.

carcomplaints.com

So, an expensive team of lawyers might be able to try again and see if they can come up with something the judge might like better.  You gonna pay for that?  Nope. Me, neither,

 Please notice that they have been building engines this way since 2007.  If you have ever in your life worked on a car engine, you know this is an irrational thing to do to an engine design and the fact that this happened in the first place is grievously irresponsible.  The fact that – once discovered – it was not corrected is unacceptable.

The result is that the Explorer that I depend on for my livelihood seven days a week is now sidelined for at least three days – probably more.  And the cost of replacing a water pump has gone from two figures to four. Tack on the lost Uber fairs and the cost will exceed a month’s revenue from the Ride-Sharing Business of which I am now the proprietor.  Revenue – not profit.  To clear enough profit to cover this setback will take so long that I prefer to drop the subject right now, rather than calculate same.

Hasta Luego,

Steve      

Comet Update 7/13/2020

Comet 2020 F3 is making the promised rise in the Northern sky. It shows no sign of breaking up. It is approaching its closest point to Earth and should hold its brightness until then.

Figure 1: Orbit of Comet 2020 F3 generated by JPL Small Body Database Orbit Diagram Widget. Augmented and annotated by your humble narrator.
Figure 2: The “standard” graphic for my updates

Now is your chance.

The comet is as bright as can be expected.  It is coming into a position where it should be visible in the early evening sometime in the next week or two.  Infra-red observations indicate that the nucleus of the comet is about five kilometers (three miles) across, so it is not likely to fall apart.  The brightness should be comparable to the stars of the Big Dipper, at least.

Sky Maps for July 13 through 17 (from SpaceWeather.com) are linked here: 

Morning sky maps: July 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; Evening sky maps: July 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Here is another SpaceWeather.com photo taken by Petr Horálek on July 12, 2020 @ Seč, Czech Republic

Figure 3: Petr is using time exposure here so this may be better than you might see. He claims that he rowed out while leaving his expensive camera taking photos automatically and didn’t realize he had drifted into the field of view. I think this was posed, since his oars were out of the water long enough for the ripples to have died down.

Clear Skies!

Steve

SpaceWeather.com https://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=165446

COBS:  https://cobs.si/analysis

Uber Alley – Rusty Bird at 288

In Houston:

Go South on Texas288 just South of IH 610 and have your passengers (you are driving – on a freeway – after all) look off to the right with cameras ready.  There, you will find a compelling field of Artwork on a scale seldom seen.  Too big for any gallery or museum – it comes out of Nowhere and slaps you in the face. So, ignore it if you are driving.  (Okay…well…I did not)

A few weeks later, I asked a local passenger about this.  Apparently, it came out of the HUGE pipe storage yard at Texas Pipe and Supply, which stretched back forever toward the West behind this Park.  I reckon there is a lot of scrap available and a lot of art-minded welders around.  Further investigation is in order.

If you really want to see this place – which I find is called “Electric Menagerie Park” – take the Holmes road exit and continue south past West Belfort to the entrance ramp to 288 and then pull off on the diagonally painted zone – and maybe farther to the shoulder of same – before you get out to look around.

Figure 1: Center: The Volkswagen “Bug” – Yeah, we get it! 😉 Left: Armadillo – have to expect that in Texas! Right: Cows on a ship propeller? – this one needs more investigation, perhaps.
Figure 2: There is nothing to give scale in this photo, but I reckon that bird’s head feathers are well above 20 feet off the ground. The bird’s red color seems to be the rust on its unpainted steel.

There is far more to be seen, but a ride came in shortly after I snapped a few photos.

Figure 3: A satellite photo of the area involved. I would say this is the bird’s eye view, but you saw that bird. He won’t be up here, anytime soon.

There is a lot more to see, but this is Uber Alley – after all – where random sights just appear out of nowhere, from time to time.  Then a ride comes in.

Hasta Luego, Steve  

Comet Update 7/3/2020

stevetrucker2

Comet 2020 F3 is still in one piece and still brightening.  As in the previous update it is rounding the Sun in the fast, sharp curve that includes the Perihelion (closest approach to the Sun).

See Figure 1, below

C2020_F3_Orbit_July 2
Figure 1:  Orbit of Comet 2020 F3 generated by JPL Small Body Database Orbit Diagram Widget.  Augmented and annotated by your humble narrator.

Spaceweather.com features a four-day movie of the comet’s appearance in  the LASCO instrument onboard the Sun-watching SOHO probe.

There were at some observations, after the comet left SOHO’s field of view.  Seven are now documented in the COBS database as bright as magnitude 1.0  – comparable to the brightest stars in the sky.

See it also in the now “standard” graphic for my updates- below.

LightCurve_Calc_OBS_2020F3_7-3_ANOT
Figure 2:  The Standard Graphic.

After the SOHO data (red circle) are “conventional” telescope observations and you might think that a decline is happening.  Don’t take that to the bank, because these observations are from telescopes looking just above the horizon and just before dawn.  That is a lot of atmosphere to look through and a lot of twilight interfering.   Estimates of brightness of the comet might be inexact.

Note that:

The “Calibrated Prediction” (green dots) has about July 17th as the peak brightness.  That is based solely on the distances (Sun to Comet to Earth) and assumes that the comet reflection characteristics never change.  That is – of course – never true of comets when they warm up near the sun – emitting gas and dust chaotically.  So, why do the “prediction”?  Because then we know how much of the brightness variation may be attributed to distance alone.  We can take that effect out to study the changes in reflection characteristics…including periodic variations that must be due to rotation. 

If this sounds like an “inexact science” – good!  All Science is inexact!   However, a good Scientist can give you some idea of just how inexact his science is.   😉

Challenging the Dawn

Oscar Martín Mesonero of Salamanca, Spain, also saw the comet in morning twilight.  See his photo below (also from Spaceweather.com)

F3_low_tel_photo
Figure 3:  Mesonero’s photo of C/2020 F3

The comet is here seen as more-or-less “head on” and seems to vaguely show a bifurcated (two part) tail.  That is not unusual as gas particles may be ionized and affected by the Sun’s magnetic fields and solar wind.  The dust particles tend to stream out behind the orbital direction of the comet’s path, while still blown around by solar wind.  Sometimes the two line up as viewed from Earth, other times, not so.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Uber Alley – Camouflage

Foreword:  I am fully aware of the stereotypical reputation of posts about cats.  So, I promise not to post anything like this again for at least a year. 😉 Posted: 6/27/2020

Some pet owners attribute human-like characteristics to their animal friends. But, some alleged domesticated cats have unique dog-like traits and other qualities that defy description.  Locally, there is this dingy-gray cat named Pepper (but referred to as the Princess, for her attitude) who is the same color as some spots on the concrete driveway.  She frequently likes to play “chicken” with the multi-ton Ford Explorer I am backing out of the garage (as I set off to drive for Uber – that’s the connection, you see).  In the pre-dawn darkness, as imaged by the back-up camera, she appears as just another spot (albeit a moving one) on the driveway.  I take great care to not let her become a literal spot on the driveway.  This is the same cat who will jump into open cabinets despite the dishes there found and climb into empty boxes (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Pepper in a box

Unlike most sane cats, she loves to get in the car and we have to tell contractors and movers in the area to double check their trucks before they leave.  She would sit outside the neighbor’s window and torture the poor dogs in the house.  She hopped in the Ford while I was unloading from a One, Two, Three, Etc. road trip and I found her as I took the car to turn it around.  So I drove her around the block instead.  Far from cowering on the floorboards, this one. See figure 2 below  

Figure 2: Not cowering on the floor

This feline is watched over by a woman who calls the cat “Princess” while referring to herself as “Abuelita” (Grandmother).  Abuelita makes every effort to comfort the Princess – even to the point of providing her with a special chair, covered with the cat’s own blanket and a pillow included.  Please see figure 3, below.

Figure 3: Luxurious repose prepared for Pepper

The Princess, however, rejects the throne and prefers to spend her time in a more rustic location.  Please see figure 4, below.

Figure 4: This is where she really wants to be.

So, this is the lunacy that (to some degree) makes the rest of life bearable.  😉

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Comet Update – 6/26/2020

Comet C/20020 F3 (hereinafter mostly referred to simply as “F3”) is now very close to the Sun as viewed from Earth.  Pointing highly complicated and hideously expensive telescopes near the sun is a process to be avoided and so there have been few observations of F3 lately. 

Let me make this perfectly clear – do not try to see the comet at this time when it is near the Sun!

On the other hand, some instruments are specifically designed to look at the part of the sky around the Sun.  One is aboard a probe called Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO*) that orbits between Earth and Sun in what is called a “halo orbit” around a “Lagrange point” (which has nothing to do with any personal service establishments in the City of La Grange, Texas).

*Note that the acronym should be SHO or SAHO, but SOHO sounded cooler so they use that.

The short story is that SOHO studies the Sun and its atmosphere and comets appear in its field of view from time to time.  F3 has made an appearance there and somebody has measured the brightness about once per day and added that to the COBS (another fractured acronym) database. 

As the comet nears the Sun, it heats up, emits more gas and dust and brightens in excess of distance effect. In the figure below, you can see that the brightness has come close to second magnitude.  Nevertheless – do not try to see it!  SOHO is out in Space and has specially designed instruments – you aren’t and don’t. There will come a time when you can look at it safely and I will be glad to tell you when.

Figure 1: Predicted vs. observed magnitude for Comet C/2020 F3

Below is the SOHO image of the comet for today, June 26.    

Figure 2: SOHO image of Comet 2020 F3 (they call it NEOWISE)

NEOWISE is a project name associated with the Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) which has discovered 28 comets and 313 Near Earth Objects.  That is why Your Humble Narrator does not use “NEOWISE” or any other project or imaging system name as the name of a comet (or other object), like the mundane press so often do.  Because…which one?!  You would think that the SOHO people would realize this…but NO! 😉

Update: I find that the text additions on this graphic are not from the SOHO folks, but added by a third party who shall remain nameless!

In the future, I will quote SOHO graphics myself and add any text for clarification – with attribution to myself alone.

Hasta Luego,

Steve