Tag Archives: Social Distancing

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 💕

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.

Moonrise With Mars

Jacob and I went for a walk last night around the neighborhood and noticed how clear the sky was. Luckily, we live a short drive away from dark sky, so when it’s clear enough with city light pollution that the Milky Way starts to be visible, we hop in the car. Capturing a moonrise with stars and no layering is a difficult challenge. While these aren’t all the pictures from last night, I wanted to share a few of them.

For planning dark sky photography I use a couple websites:

The majority of dark sky locations have insufficient GPS/cell service to use my constellation sky map app, so I can’t recommend it at this time. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe with their next update I’ll include it in another dark sky post. Plus, it was a paid app and I’m currently trying to recommend free services.

5 October 2020 – Early Evening Photography

Source: Astronomy.com Stardome tool

The view that the Stardome tool produces is a bit off since the place where we stood on the surface of the earth is not Milwaukee, but it gave us a bit of an idea of what we were looking at. I hope this helps as a reference guide for some of the photographs below.

For the month of October 2020, Mars is visible to the east in the early evening sky. On 5 October we photographed Mars with a rising 87% waning gibbous moon.

To the north of the moonrise over the mountain crests a cluster of stars is visible. I believe these may be part of the Taurus constellation containing Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, but it is important to note that I am a novice and that is most certainly washed out by light on the horizon.

Post processing of dark sky photos allows for the revealing or obfuscation of information within the photograph. I’ll include a second processed version of the above photo as an example.

Due east and more visible in this next picture is the red color of Mars. We attempted to use a telephoto lens to reduce the exposure and focus on the unique aspects of the trees in front of the moon, but ran into an issue of condensation as the temperature and humidity started changing rapidly.

One of the fascinating things about taking pictures during a moonrise was that I was constantly adjusting the exposure time to prevent starlines/streaking. Before the moonrise exposure time was at 8 seconds and after moonrise I reduced this down to 3.2 seconds. One of the streakier examples is shown below.

One of the incredible things about taking a camera out at night and pointing it in a direction, then setting the aperture open is just how much you can see.

At less than 3.2 seconds the darkness of the shot makes it hard to make anything out without post processing.

At greater than 5 seconds once the moon had risen the star lines were intolerable.

But that moonrise? Beautiful. Except I’m dealing with noise – that’s all the weird blotchy discoloration instead of there being a smooth transition across the sky.

The above image is the one I posted to Instagram. The noise issue is one that Adobe Lightroom handles well, but Instagram amplifies.

It can be seen here too. Look along the bottom edge.

In future posts I look forward to exploring some apps for editing dark sky photos on the go, and ranking based on which ones make the same pictures that start out looking like mostly void and partially stars the best.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed this post and want to see more dark sky photos please like, comment, and share. I have a lot of photos to edit and play around with, plus I enjoy getting out and taking new ones. I’m excited to try and get some aurora pictures this winter.

Thanks for reading 💕

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.

I’ve Walked On A Ruptured Achilles Tendon For Over A Year

I don’t want to share a picture of my ankle, so here’s one of Nyxie’s recent gifts to us. We gave it back, but she is so sweet. She’s my kitten.

One of the things I learned at my appointment at UCSF was that the failure for my right Achilles tendon to respond to one if the normal reflex triggers is because the tendon ruptured. I’ve been walking on a ruptured Achilles tendon for over a year. An injury I shouldn’t be able to walk on because for most people it should be too painful. I’ve been walking on it normally for over a year.

Having very high tolerance to pain is a strange thing. It’s not that I don’t feel the injury. My brain compartmentalizes sensations – tells me what can and can’t be extreme, therefore I shouldn’t worry about it. That funny feeling in my ankle? Well, it got a little red, but it never got super swollen. It never got “yo, your tendon is torn and needs to be surgically repaired, so stop using it.” I figured I was getting repeat minor sprains in my ankle.

But I’m not alone. Others have reported not feeling pain associated with the injury, even with full ruptures that render the ankle more severely damaged than mine. Professional athletes have made winning plays with this injury, completely unawares.

It explains why I kept rolling my ankle unintentionally and strengthening exercises weren’t helping to prevent it from happening on that side. My father is known for having the same kind of pain tolerance.

The same doctor that discovered this performed my lumbar puncture for my CSF analysis and donation. Even though I have high pain tolerance, it took longer than expected and more lidocaine than expected to numb the area for needle insertion between L3/4 (or was it L4/5?). Given I am also known for waking up during surgeries and remembering everything, I’m not bothered by it.

So I now have an acute awareness of having ruptured my right Achilles’ tendon in June 2019 and I’ve been walking on it this whole time. The pain has started to creep into the functional peripheries of my day from what was once just a “kind of weird off feeling.”

The more I walk on it, the more I realize that by the end of every day I can’t walk on it. I’ve been doing barre, running, going to the gym, climbing, hiking, gardening, carrying small children, and so much more while punishing myself for not being able to do more. For some reason I unconsciously convinced myself my ankle injury was “all in my head.”

That’s the update. My ankle hurts now – that level of awareness hit last night like a loony tunes piano and now I’m staying off of it. Doctor appointment over the phone on Monday to discuss. It doesn’t hurt if I don’t walk on it, so I’m not walking on it.

Sorry for the boring update. Stay tuned. Next week Jacob and I plan to release a series of joint posts we’ll be writing together and scheduling this weekend. One of which is a 2020 review of The Matrix. My 1917 Kodak camera finally arrived and can confirm that the lenses are fully intact for that upcoming post. The other is a detailed discussion of long haul road tripping in an electric car while socially isolating and trying not to get covid using the United States charging network. The posts I’m looking forward to most actually involve videos and write ups on The Radiator and Jacob introducing some exciting news around our adventures in lasers.

I’m not hyperlinking because the above is a teaser for those that made it through me bitching about my ankle.

pew pew pew