Tag Archives: 2020

How To Shop For A Sextant Online During A Global Pandemic

Or… Shopping For My Spouse’s Birthday Gift

I shake my head and stare at the screen.

“I want to feel the brass and hold it. Feel the movement of each piece and know I’ll be able to calibrate it for him,” I whine to the cat. The autumn winds blowing down from Alaska drown out my words as they wind their way over the Rockies.

Staring at the pictures, I imagine the heavy brass of my family’s sextant balanced in my clumsy hands as my father lets me look at it. His calloused palms poised to catch the instrument should I falter.

“This one won’t do.” I toss it into the mental pile of surveying and mapping equipment I look at; never purchase.

Who can afford to spend over a thousand dollars on something like this over the internet? I mentally discard another with a fancier, more modern black finish.

I call my parents. “I want to buy Jacob a sextant for his birthday. What’s the story behind ours? Does Dad have any advice?”

Thousands of miles of static and telephone lines crackle. “The one your dad has was your great grandfather’s from the maritime academy. Why do you want one for Jacob?”

I pause and shrug into the phone. “To record our locations for dark sky photography. GPS can’t be trusted out here.” I grasp my forehead and castigate my own thoughts. But I’m the one that knows how to use one for surveying, navigation, and astronomy – that would be a terrible gift.

I stare out at the horizon hidden by mountains and try to find the ocean beneath the curvature of the earth. Jacob doesn’t care about the difference between a mile and a nautical mile. What does he care about?

I catch him and ask about his feelings around flying and clouds pass over the sun – visibility down to less than 5 miles and he gives me a look that says VFR ain’t going to fly. He never got a seaplane rating and this dream is about to try a water landing without pontoons. “I don’t know when the next time I’m going to fly is. Please don’t get me anything that could be related to flying.”

I decide against getting him a sextant and reminisce about when we spent hours talking about the intersection of history where airplanes and ships used the same navigation systems and why. I stare at the stormy sea of sky lapping against the mountain sides and remember our last aerial photography trip. I order his birthday cake and continue to brainstorm better gifts.

Montana now has the highest rate of transmission of any state. Distracted, I stare at the news and try to process how dangerous it is to step outside. This was all predictable based on the behavior patterns of 1918.

Birthdays have to remain special in the face of COVID, so I order wine and check our reservation for the weekend. I check that his favorite decaf pop and breakfast cereal are in the pantry. I try and decide what else we should do to make it a special day about him.

While most of the United States has been living with this since March, Jacob has been living with COVID since it first hit obscure global news last autumn and I brought it home by explaining how diseases follow human behavior patterns. In February I set up forecasting models and told him how to prepare before the preppers drained the stores of paper products, resulting in channeled anxiety and full isolation.

My incredible husband and love of my life sits with me in my mind while I wonder how to celebrate someone as amazing as him. I think of bonfires, quality time, adventures, and our daily lives. I think about these acts of preparation and foresight and how they are gifts and acts of love in themselves.

I buy Jacob 2 books and 2 glass vessels for his birthday following the theme: Scientific Magic. I write a blog post about not buying a sextant and realizing that was a dumb gift idea. I refuse to spoil the surprise while I continue further preparations and celebrate his existence everyday.


Happy Birthday to my amazing partner and best friend, Jacob. I have many best friends, but you are the one I married and the one I celebrate today. My forever partner in adventure 💕

Dealing With The Past – a poem

Dealing With The Past

Others hold against you–
Are hurt by and bring down wrath
Upon your pain –
Childhood never ending
Swirling inside the mind drain;
Decisions of survival
During exploration of the self–
These ghosts will haunt
Until end of time–
Their whispers paranoia sells.
There is no such thing
As kindness or compassion
Not even from the ones we love
We will always be alone
But we will always rise above.


Thank you for taking the time to read my poem today. If you would like to see more poetry, please like, comment on, or share this poem. It helps me know which types of posts my readers like best.

People Who Inspire Me: Julie Nolke

Today is going to be a little bit different of a post. I’m celebrating an arguably famous creator/writer/artist and this is going to be the first in a series called People Who Inspire Me. Pretty simple concept, right?

I do not own any of these videos and they are embedded directly from YouTube. I recommend going directly to the YouTube channel and watching the video with ads to support this awesome creator, consider each embedded video a link. I do not get money from any ads played in the embedded videos.

Julie Nolke
Image Source: IMDB // Julie Nolke 2020 // Skyloft productions accessed 12 October 2020

Julie Nolke

You may have heard of her. You may not have. Her first appearance was on a show called Workin’ Moms and a though her IMDB is short, she has no shortage of material.

You can check out her Patreon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

She’s a comedic genius that focuses her superpower on empathetic storytelling.

My sister, Becky, first exposed me to her with this video:

Her comedy sketches around the 2020 Pandemic are some of the purest, most honest humor I have seen in a long time. At first, my impression of her style of humor was along the lines of a phrase I grew up with:

If I weren’t laughing, I’d be crying

Then I realized that’s 2020 and how my dumb ass self decided that the motto for this year was going to be “Hindsight is 2020” when we were all making up funny mottos. (Another person we knew said, “In 2020 We Take Shots Of Water!” As we can see, sobriety has not been working out for many people.)

In her [currently] 3 part series on 2020, there are 2 more videos, but she has added other 2020 themed videos that cannot be missed.

First, here’s Part 2 of the series:

After this video, these gorgeous pieces became a reality. Such as “Quarantine Panic Attack” where she uses her series “Mirror Mirror” to feature more revealing discussions with herself.

The artistic exploration used in some of these videos to explore the expression of comedy with empathy for human experience makes me smile.

One of my favorite videos about 2020 has been the collaboration between her and Anna Akana to create “Pandora’s Box Opened In 2020” – specifically around how messed up it is to put all the bad stuff in existence into a tiny box and give it to someone with the instruction not to open it when you really intended the whole time to have someone open it and simply displace the blame. Shame Zeus. For Shame.

Her other videos on the global pandemic and 2020 have been equally insightful works of pure art. Approaching touchy subjects such as social distancing and the shaming behaviors people exhibited at fulfilling the human need of contact and physical closeness. Pun intended.

Another brilliant video in her series on 2020 includes “First Date Post Pandemic” where she fantasizes about what going on a date after the pandemic would be like.

One of the other 2020 videos themed spot on is the “Casual Chit-Chat Attempt…” video featuring how Small Talk has devolved over this year into practically non-existent and redefined

small talk.

She even makes fun of herself in returning to the “Mirror, Mirror” series with a conversation about her sudden YouTube popularity. The video “I went viral” is an artistic approach at explaining comedic/artistic insanity.

But what about the shirt in that video? Well, it turns out she did a Q&A while taking advantage of Canada’s recreational marijuana laws. One of the things I appreciate about this entire video is the level of preparation that goes into it. She is not a stoner and she has boundaries around her consumption and she’s having fun with it. Similar to how people need to see healthy use of a substance (use of alcohol in moderation as an example) to know what that looks like, she does a great job at showing what NORML defines as healthy use, plus gives us a really entertaining show at the same time.

I would’t mind having this kind of friend at a party.

While there are still more videos not mentioned here on the topic of how 2020 impacts North America, she keeps it real every time. She keeps her viewers laughing and she’s trying not to let it all go to her head faster than that one time she was on the Disney channel.

Then, 4 days ago, she dropped this beautiful masterpiece of a Part 3:

Her last 2 “Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self” videos (parts 2 & 3) have spent quite a bit of time focusing on the protests in the United States (as well as across the world), spurred by the death of George Floyd. The aftermath and the continued self education she works into these videos I find fascinating as she presents reflections of what she has learned.

Julie Nolke takes the time to address some very serious topics (with some Kubrick-esque comic relief). This falls in line with her style pre-pandemic as well as can be seen in her January 2020 video “Confronting Fear.”

Hopefully I succeeded in introducing you to an internet comedian that you can connect with during this year and all of its hard times. I look forward to talking about some of my other favorite YouTube channels and their creators.

Again, if you like what you see, you can support her by checking out her work and or following her on Patreon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Thank you so much for reading this today! If you enjoyed this brief write up about Julie Nolke’s YouTube channel and her work during 2020, please take a moment to Like, Comment, and/or Share. That will help me gauge the posts my readers enjoy. As always, thank you for reading – without you these words would be meaningless little bits and bytes.

Galaxy Rise Vs. Moonrise in Adobe Lightroom

In July we stayed at a cabin outside of Salmon, Idaho in a pocket of true dark sky. Before the wildfires started we had the benefit of high clarity photography conditions, giving us the opportunity to witness a “Galaxy Rise” as the Milky Way galaxy came into view after the moon set around midnight/1 am.

Under dark sky conditions, our exposure conditions were kept more constant. We weren’t having to worry about the changing light conditions associated with the moon even though a lot of light is emitted by a light sky. This is more a matter of human perception of light (I have better night vision than Jacob, he still struggles under dark sky conditions) and less a matter of the actual light produced.

The moon is a heck of a lot brighter. We’re talking the difference between a 30 second exposure maximum and a 6-8 second exposure maximum. The Milky Way was visible both during the photography trip in July and the recent hop over to Alberton, Montana to catch the moonrise. The issue is that the moon is so much brighter than many other celestial bodies.

With that in mind, there are techniques for getting around these issues. Dark sky photography has the unique benefit of being able to pick up details that can be missed by the human eye, plus you can take advantage of telephoto and telescoping lenses to capture celestial bodies that could otherwise be missed.

With the moonrise (waning gibbous inside Taurus) with Mars from 5 October 2020, I wanted to mention using Adobe Lightroom as my preferred method of photo editing compared to other photo editors. That said, this is not a free program. It was also all Jacob’s idea to invest in decent photo editing software that wouldn’t piss me off.

*Insert standing ovation to Jacob*

Often times I find that I turn up the “highlights” and “dehaze” tools the most in these pictures when editing all of the long exposure shots from the Canon Rebel.

I mentioned previously when I was giving an example of the moonrise picture edited using Instagram.

Comparing this to what I uncovered in Lightroom is a little stark. That said, Lightroom isn’t perfect. It won’t get rid of the noise that’s the result of us using a camera with limitations associated with the electronics. This is why some photographers use film, then a film scanner, instead of direct digital. There are also dual digital and film cameras that shoot film with a digital back up (though these have tended to have short lived generations on market).

It’s important to note that I don’t “photoshop” – I don’t add details to photos that weren’t captured with the original image.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed these dark sky photos! If you want to see more posts like this, please like, comment, or share.

Thank you for spending time with me today!

If you would like to use any of our photos from this post:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit us by linking back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.