Five years later

Five years later

Back in April 2012 Jean MacLeod’s Greater Syracuse School of Music organized a ukulele sing-in:

So they’ll be running a series of “Ukulele and Ice Cream Therapy” sessions on Wednesday nights this summer, meeting at various ice cream stands and playing together. Which strikes me as a great concept. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

Five years later, Jean’s retired and the GSSoM is no more, but Salt City Ukulele is here in its place — organized by Lisa Gaffaney, Kristine Marane, and me. Tonight was the last of six weekly beginners’ ukulele lessons. And Jean was there visiting and guest-teaching. Next week begins rehearsals in earnest for the fifth Ukulele and Ice Cream Therapy tour (we skipped 2014).

Where this goes is forward, looks like.


#MarsWalk Day 484, 2811.8 km

#MarsWalk Day 484, 2811.8 km

Besides crossing the Equator last week, I crossed the boundaries of a HiRISE photo. As of Friday I was near the southwest corner of that image. Earth weather was fairly miserable last week and I didn’t cover a lot of distance.

92.1%, projected arrival at MSL (Bradbury Landing) June 17.

MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)

#MarsWalk Day 470, 2724.0 km

#MarsWalk Day 470, 2724.0 km

I finally did it. Laundered my pedometer.It still turns on, except for a few dead LCD segments, but what it doesn’t seem to do any more is count steps, which is a drawback for a pedometer. Remind me not to toss it out without extracting the nearly-new battery.

I have a backup pedometer, the one that I lost in my back yard and then found again a week or so later. It has dead LCD segments too, but does count steps. I’m not sure it counts them accurately. It read quite a lot more steps today than Google Fit on my phone did. For now I’ll assume the lower number is correct.

No bike ride this rainy week.

I’m right in the middle of the lumpy stuff on Mars, which I am assuming is Gale Crater ejecta. Sixty km to my west:


MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger

On Feb. 15, 2017, people paying attention to the US human space flight program were startled to learn NASA was considering putting a crew aboard the first flight of the SLS rocket system. Plans had been to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a circumlunar flight in late 2018, but now doing it with a crew in 2019 or 2020 is being studied.

In fact this parallels a development from the early Apollo program. In 1968 the plan had been to shake down the Apollo Command and Service modules in Earth orbit with Apollo 7, add the Lunar Module but stay in Earth orbit for Apollos 8 and 9, and after that head toward the Moon. The LEM was facing delays, though, and in August George Low proposed a reshuffling of the schedule, sending Apollo 8 without a LEM on a circumlunar flight. Big difference: this wasn’t a mission three years in the future. It was sixteen weeks away. It was the 1960s, the Cold War was on, and NASA could and did improvise and take risks like that.

So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders went to the moon and back.

Kluger’s book about the mission is a prequel of sorts to the book he and Lovell wrote, Lost Moon, about Lovell’s next, less successful flight: Apollo 13. Apollo 8 makes for a more problematic subject, because it went so damn well; I can’t see this book becoming a successful movie the way Lost Moon did. Never mind that people gave this crew no better than a 2 in 3 chance of coming back alive. You don’t build a blockbuster around waiting to see if the Service Module rocket fired or not.

Apollo 8 had one of the space program’s most poetic moments, on Christmas Eve, 1968, when the astronauts sent home video of the Earth above the Moon and read the opening verses of Genesis. You won’t find much else poetic in this book. Kluger writes competently but rather woodenly, giving a matter of fact recitation of the events. The first hundred or so pages look like a book titled Frank Borman rather than Apollo 8, describing his career from West Point to the Air Force to NASA. Then there’s the Apollo 1 fire and its aftermath, the problems with the Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn V rocket, the decision to go to the moon, the training and Apollo 7. Not until page 158 does Apollo 8 launch, and its mission occupies the rest of the book.

Space enthusiasts will want to read this book, not necessarily for any revelations but for a beginning to end compilation of the story. I’m not sure who else will. Apollo 8 was the first time humans left this planet to visit another world, a remarkable milestone in human history. By rights it should inspire stirring and compelling epics. Apollo 8 isn’t one.

#MarsWalk Day 463, 2687.6 km

#MarsWalk Day 463, 2687.6 km

The pedometer seems to be behaving lately.

The past week’s 49 km wasn’t spectacular but was better than most recent weeks, thanks in part to Sunday’s good weather during which I went out on my first bike ride of the year. That and some walking the rest of the week put me in more interesting terrain than I’ve seen in a long time, and about 25 km east of this HiRISE image of some oddly lumpy geography.

“Landforms of Southern Elysium Planitia North of Gale Crater”. It’s official, I’m approaching Gale!

MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)

Full house

Full house

Sadly unmentioned on this blog so far is Salt City Ukulele. This is a group which is what the former Greater Syracuse School of Music’s ukulele class has morphed into since Jean shut GSSM down and retired to Mexico. The rebranding took place in February and we began to plan activity for this spring, including a new series of lessons for beginners. We kicked off with an open house last night.

Going into the open house, I figured I’d be reasonably happy if five guests showed up. We got twenty-two. “Only” twenty actually signed in so maybe two were just along for moral support or something… but in any case we were blown away by the response. Add the five current members who were there and it was a crowd.

Two of the guests were friends from SyraUke, one of whom is technically a GSSM veteran, having come to several lessons back in our Cafe Kubal days, and the other is a former morris dancer I’ve known for a long time. Another was the sister of one of our current members. The rest, well, new friends. Looks like about a third of them found out about us from a prominent mention in the Sunday newspaper.

I brought all my ukuleles (seven of them) and Kristine brought a lot, which was good, because we needed to loan just about all of them out for people to take a mini lesson.

Actual one hour lessons begin next Thursday. How many people will be back? Who knows? Enough to give us a significant boost, I expect. Maybe enough to make us think about finding a bigger room. We’ve booked the Jamesville train station through May and are trying to get it through June, and we’ll be able to play outdoors pretty soon, and July and August we’ll be singing out at ice cream stands again, but come Fall we might need more space. SyraUke also is feeling crowded — they had 26 show up last Saturday (and I wasn’t one of them). So they’re talking about looking for a new venue. If you’re going to have a problem it’s a nice one to have.


#MarsWalk Day 456, 2638.6 km

#MarsWalk Day 456, 2638.6 km

I appear to have worn out the battery on my pedometer. Several times the past week or so I’ve gone to check it at the end of the day and found it reading 0 steps, or something nearly as implausible. Tonight I pulled the battery and it had 2.8 V compared to the nominal 3 V or the 3.2 V of the new battery I put in. I hope that fixes it.

I usually have my phone in my pocket when I’m walking, though, and I have Google Fit working, and it usually reports something moderately consistent with the pedometer when the latter’s working, so I’ve gone by that on the whacko pedometer days.

It’s been several weeks since I last checked in but there’s been nothing really notable on my walks nor on the Mars counterparts. I’m past most of the plenitude of Mars InSight candidate landing sites as imaged by HiRISE.It was this bunch of images that led me to think I was heading into interesting terrain before I looked more closely to discover what they were. But now things really are about to get more interesting. You can see in a week I’ll be among… what? They’re the size of hills but they look more like chunks of debris. Then I’ll thread between some even more rugged features before entering (drum roll please) Gale Crater, wherein the end of this #MarsWalk lies. Probably around the beginning of June.

And I should be able to cover distance a little faster starting soon. My bike just came back from its spring tuneup, and while today we had snow flurries, Monday it’s supposed to get into the 70s Fahrenheit.

MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)


Today, April 4, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kenneth Owen Holmes.

Kenneth Holmes. Ca. 1944.

Ken was born in Schodack Center, NY and grew up in Nassau, NY, near Albany.

“Kenneth’s ‘Jersey Giants'”. Kenneth Holmes.

He was the youngest of the six children (one of whom died in infancy) of Clarence and Alice Holmes.

“North West Corner of living room at 41 Elm St.” “’37–’40?”
Back row: Ken Holmes, Ruth Holmes, Caroline Kosegarten Holmes, Mary Fitzpatrick Holmes, Lynn Holmes
Front: Lawrence Holmes, Viola Holmes, Alice Belden Holmes, Clarence Holmes, Paul Holmes.

In 1940 he married Norma Hanson.

Norma Hanson Holmes & Kenneth Holmes
Wedding, 23 June 1940

During World War II he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific as a radar officer with Patrol Bombing Squadron 106.

“Sampson’s Unexpendables”
Ken Holmes on left (with bow and “GUNNER” sign)

After the war he and Norma had three kids.

Pat Holmes, Richard Holmes, Janet Holmes

Ken worked as an electronics engineer, first at the Air Force Cambridge (MA) Research Laboratory, then at Melpar, and finally from 1959 to 1982 at General Electric in Syracuse, NY.

Ken and Norma were married for 48 years.

Norma Holmes and Kenneth Holmes, 1985

After Ken’s retirement they moved to North Carolina, where he died in 1988.

I miss him.