The Sound Of My Neighborhood

IMAG1578_1There’s a moving truck out back. A neighbor is leaving. I’m not used to seeing this kind of action. My neighbors were farther away in Connecticut. Everything happened discretely. Shhh. New England.

I’m more connected with the outside here. That makes little sense since I’ve got a lot less outside to play with.

The four windows in my office are wide open. I’m on the patio daily. There are sounds. In Connecticut we spent 23 years hearing nothing but nature.

I like hearing the kids playing. They ride their bikes and generally have fun below my window.

Sometimes I hear kids crying. I have a child. I have that experience. It still upsets me.

At night I’ve heard loud family fights somewhere in the extended neighborhood. I now know the “F” word works in Mandarin.

Mostly, the night is quiet. This is an early-to-bed area.

When I cut audio tracks in my former closet “studio” the windows go down. Blinds too. I’d wake the neighborhood.

Once or twice a month cars let loose on Irvine Blvd, over a half mile away. The speed limit is conservatively sixty, but it’s an inviting few miles of sparsely traveled open road to test your ride. In some cases they’re also testing their tires.

We are the next to last home before a farm owned by UC Irvine. We are separated by a high berm, fence and lots of flowers and shrubbery.

Pack behavior howling from coyotes happens nightly. There’s a bunny population explosion every spring. Bunnies are scarce in October.

We hear the Disneyland fireworks. Anaheim is 14 miles north. They’re in the background here, noticeable at 9:30 sharp. You can set your watch to Disney.

In the summer they’re nightly. This time of year, just a few times a week. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the sound.

I’m Jazzed Tonight

Slooh control room, East Hartford, CT

Slooh control room, East Hartford, CT

Broadcast position, in my office in Irvine, CA.

Broadcast position in my office. Irvine, CA.

I am jazzed tonight. Adrenaline pumping.

Two live shows in the can for today. Both were about a specific point in time when nothing specifically significant would happen.

It’s still a cool story. A giant space dirty snowball, C2013 A1, flew past Mars at 45 miles per second. NASA hid their satellites on the other side of the planet.

I was very invested. Lots of research for this.

There was reason for concern. I didn’t know my co-host and there are always emergencies which force a change of plans. Always.

I produced a video open using amazing NASA animations. They are the kings of single point lighting! It made us look better. More polished.

We meet an hour before air on Skype. I’m in my office, windows closed and blinds drawn. Mics are open. Cameras are on. We come and go, but we’re available to each other.

I was trying to get a feel on Dr. David Grinspoon, astrobiologist with the Library of Congress, aka the new guy. He seemed at ease. Good sign.

We were trying to show a comet 700 meters wide, 150,000 miles away and next to a huge and highly reflective planet… live! Nearly everything we would say would be ad libbed.

The broadcast went well. We had plenty of graphics and animations to keep people’s interest plus live images from telescopes in South Africa. The pictures weren’t perfect, but no one complained. This sort of access has seldom been available.

I probably can’t reveal how many watched, but it was significantly more than ever watched me simultaneously in Connecticut. This time they’re spread across the globe.

Dave held up his end perfectly. This is his field. We got the right guy. He was totally comfortable. And he can talk, a required skill.

Here’s why I’m jazzed. I consider the broadcast a good deed. For those interested we provided a previously unavailable service. We taught a lot of people things they never knew.

I feel like I felt after successful snow storm coverage. Like I was a force for good.

I’m Studying Up On Mars


Tomorrow will be busy for me. We’ve got two shows about the close encounter between Comet Siding Spring and Mars.

I host, surrounded by cometary experts. I still have to know the science.

This is an unprecedented event. We’ve never seen a comet get so close to a planet.

That worries NASA.

Actually, let me modify that. Their worry is later.

First, cards on the table. NASA is always interested in ‘visitors’ to our part of the solar system. But there’s a lot more buzz for Comet Siding Spring C/2013 A1. It will come close to Mars and to billions of dollars of hardware circling Mars, plus rovers on-the-ground.

Comet-Siding-Spring-Trajectory-Mars-br2Siding Spring is speeding in from the Oort Cloud, a theorized mass of billions of comets 100,000 times farther from the Sun than we are. It will zip by Mars at a closing speed 35 miles per second–186,000 mph.

The comet misses Mars. We’ve all got that, right?

Later, Mars passes through the debris field left in the comet’s wake. Scientists expect some fragments will be drawn toward the planet where we have satellites and stuff.

NASA’s official “Best Estimate” says the particles miss. Their conservative estimate says 90-100 minutes after the closest approach a stream of small debris will come, then quickly go.

Our satellites all had their orbits disrupted, putting them on the far side of Mars when this happens.

T-0 is officially called the “time of the particle fluence center.”

NASA is praying one or more of the rovers will take a photo or two of the comet brightly shining through the Martian atmosphere. That’s pretty damn cool. It will likely happen and will surely include a part of the rover, lest we forget whodunit.

We’ll also get images from whatever sensors can be turned around on satellites.

I’m not sure how much of this is actually advancing science and how much is showing off. An opportunity and challenge like this shouldn’t be squandered, but this is more photo-op than anything. After all, we’re landing on a comet next month!

Everything is now set. It’s too late for change to matter. Any debris that hits the Red Planet was jettisoned off the comet years ago.

Distance and time are very different in space. You can’t think in minutes and seconds or inches and feet. Our best orbital predictions say C/2013 A1 won’t be back for around a million years.

Behind The Scenes: Video Editing

I like behind-the-scenes views. You too? vlcsnap-2014-10-17-22h53m17s246

I’ve been working on a 30’ish second promo for My computer is set up so I can record the screen. Here’s what video editing looks like. Each horizontal row represents a separate piece of video or audio.


You Really Should Meet William Mullholland

William-Mulholland-in-1924There should be a parade for William Mullholland. We’d be in big trouble without him. He died in 1935, but he’s why Los Angeles exists as it does today.

Mullholland brought water from the Sierras, Owens Valley to be precise, to the San Fernando Valley. That’s 233 miles with no pumps! The entire system is gravity fed. He brought water to the desert!

When the Los Angeles Aqueduct opened, the city had around 300,000 people. That same aqueduct continues as a main source though L.A. proper is now at 3.9 million.

Portrait_of_William_Mulholland_with_a_surveyor's_scope_on_a_tripod,_ca.1908-1913_(CHS-14459)We are in the midst of a horrible drought. Sierra Mountain streams which feed the system are low. Yet conservation related restrictions are very gentle.

It’s getting tight, but we’re all still getting by. The level of overcapacity Mullholland built for 300,000 is crazy.

Did WM’s contemporaries understand the true magnitude of what was happening? Who could see what time and water would bring?

Mullholland put this all in place 101 years ago. He made life in this climate possible.

Cat45-mojaveMy read on Mullholland the person is: arrogant putz. Bad decisions, like declaring a dam safe 12 hours before it failed, saw him drummed from public life. He had no shortage of enemies. But this good work should be his legacy–and is.

There is a beautiful road which winds on the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s been used in hundreds of movies. Twisting curves. Breathtaking views. Expensive homes built on stilts. When I can, I try to spend a little time on Mullholland Drive.

The Surprise Photo

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Rosetta Sounds Like A Movie Plot, But This Is Real

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Nerd Day At NASA

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Shooting At Seal Beach

As mentioned yesterday, Saturday was the annual Worldwide Photo Walk. I signed up to walk in Seal Beach. Nice people. Lackluster setting. I was very disappointed in what I brought home. Part of it was my self imposed lens limit. Part had to do with experimenting with neutral density filters. Part had to do with […]

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