My good fortune continues. I arrived at the Olinger Repair Shop yesterday afternoon around 3PM, in time to visit some before joining Gerard and Paul for the Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Crowley that night. Who comes in shortly thereafter to pick up an axle Gerard has made for him but Brian Gotreaux of Gotreaux Farms? We talk a little and I learn he have more farm subscriptions becoming available and he and his family are now raising a lot more than vegetables: chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, and tilapia to name just a small part of the larger menagerie. (And that’s not including their eleven adopted children! What amazing people.)

Later, at the Dinner, all three of us — me, Gerard, and Paul — all won door prizes. We left early, because it couldn’t get any better than that, and we stopped off at a convenience store to purchase lottery tickets.

I would say I am close to being the luckiest man alive, but I will settle for enjoying a spate of grace that makes me marvel at the workings of the universe. This morning, as I got out of my truck in the university parking lot, a man came bounding up to me. He had seen the ESA sticker on the back of my truck and wanted to know what I thought of the school. It turns out he has two girls in the school as well, and he’s also a faculty member at the university. His name is Gary Kirkland, and he’s a geologist. We chatted for a while, enjoying a nice moment in the sun: two men who obviously dote on their daughters.

As we were taking our leave of each other, I told Gary that I would like to talk to someone in geology about the topology of southwestern Louisiana. Could he recommend the right person? As luck would have it, it’s Gary.

Later, with piles of papers coming in, and me being alone for a time, I decided to spend tomorrow at home, catching up on work. How does the universe respond? I got a text message from Gerard Olinger inviting me to the Farmer Appreciation Dinner tomorrow night.

Thank you, universe, thank you.

I woke up between 5 and 5:30 this morning. Got out of bed at 6. Fed the cats. Put away the dishes in the dishwasher. Made myself coffee. Puttered until about 8 or so, mostly reading the news and then later making a to do list for myself.

About 8:30 I showered and came back into the living room to realize that the house puts on a light show every morning. I had been aware of it in the earlier hours, but walking out of the bedroom with the light bouncing off the dark tiles of the floor and into the striped sunlight of the living room, I was struck by how lovingly the house plays with light.

Traveling to Nashville

Over the last five days I have traveled from my home in Lafayette, Louisiana to Nashville, Tennessee in order to attend the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. A log of my journey is below, but I have to say that thanks to the constant reminders from Leo Laporte on his “This Week in Technology” podcast, to which I subscribe through iTunes, I finally checked out Audible’s selection from audio books. I bought a novel and two nonfiction books and the miles quite literally just flew by. Before I knew it I was in Mississippi, then Alabama, then Tennessee, and then I was in Nashville and already almost to my hotel.

Waypoints for October 12:

  • 09:36 – leave the house.
  • 09:51 – get on Interstate 10 at Louisiana Avenue.
  • 11:56 – leave I-10 for I-59.
  • 12:58 – arrive Hattiesburg.
  • 15:00 – cross into Alabama.
  • 17:08 – arrive northside of Birmingham for overnight stay.

Waypoints for October 13:

  • 07:36 – depart Birmingham.
  • 10:19 – arrive Nashville (I-65 at Wedgewood Avenue).

Emboldened with such an easy passage, I decided to make almost the entire drive back on Saturday afternoon, leaving Nashville a little before three in the afternoon and getting into Baton Rouge around midnight. (I stayed the night with family, and then pressed on to Lafayette the next day.)

  • 14:42 – depart Hilton Hotel.
  • 17:41 – arrive westside of Birmingham (18th/19th Avenue Exit).
  • 23:56 – arrive Baton Rouge.

Making good time while listening to Cussler novel. At rest area west of Tuscaloosa.

Prototyping for Everyone

This article at The Economist profiles two guys in New York who acquired funding to take their prototype of an iPhone stand/camera mount to manufacturing. But the real story, and the links worth pursuing, is the number of shops that now will execute prototypes for an incredibly low fee. One commenter even notes that he now just pays for the objects he wants to be prototyped instead of seeking out an item already being manufactured. The cost is slightly higher, but he gets what he wants.

LEGO Simulation of the Kepler Museum

Second item tagged with both pedagogy and science tonight, but there are some amazing things happening out there. I don’t think we have all the LEGO parts for the orrery described in this NASA page, but it’s great to know it’s possible, and my thanks to the Kepler Mission Education Team for coming up with this:

Image of Lego Orrery Courtesty of NASA

The full write-up, with links for PDFs to build one yourself, is here.

So Long Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, and Thank You

Discovery News has the following story:

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has, quite literally, changed our view of the Universe. And after nine years of mapping the slight temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, its job is done and NASA has commanded the probe to fire itself into a “graveyard orbit” around the sun.

One of the things WMAP did was to give us a pretty accurate age of the universe: 13.75 billion years, plus or minus .11 billion years.