Groundhog Day

Yep…just like in that famous movie…we keep reliving the same thing over and over. The covid flared up in case numbers but is now coming down again in Florida and especially over here on the SW Gulf coast…but it’s still spiking up and down as one looks around the country and nobody here at home really feels like much traveling is in the cards yet. International travel is still pretty iffy and has a lot of requirements so that’s out too.

Local Fun Stuff©…well it’s been hot and humid for going on 6 months and that means it’s too miserable to really go outside and do anything strenuous for any length of time…and in the summer there isn’t nearly as much wildlife to see and photograph and a hot, sweaty hike all by itself is kind of uninteresting.

So…Neil’s been settling for a bike ride every other day except for the past 3 weeks due to having some abdominal pain. That started a bit before my last post back in October. We originally thought it might be a bit of diverticulitis since his colonoscopy back in January revealed that he does have some diverticulosis which when it gets infected causes the former…Connie’s had it several times over the years and the location and type of pain sent us down that path. He contacted the GI guy and was on first an antispasmodic for 2 weeks then a week long regimen of double antibiotics…then a CT scan which revealed no diverticulitis and also eliminated other possible GI related issues…so the GI guy says to go back to the primary care guy. He’s had a similar pain a couple times over the past 25 years or so…back then it was diagnosed as mostly some scar tissue from vasectomy surgery back in the late ‘80s and what one retired navy physicians assistant said was sort of a pre-hernia condition. The PA said that a surgeon would recommend fixing it that way but with 2 instances in what was about 15 years at that time he didn’t think it was worth it…Neil agreed and did the Advil regimen for a couple weeks and it resolved itself. So…he’s trying that again and hasn’t biked in a couple of weeks but thinks he will start again this week but keeping it easy and low pressure. If that doesn’t help…he’ll try the primary care guy and see what gives.

We do have some updated IT gear in the house…3 of them although only 2 are actually here so far. Back just after my last post the SSD (solid state hard drive for those that might not know what that means) in his laptop died. It was a third party one that he installed himself to get more capacity. Not much of a worry…the folks at Otherworld Computing sent out a new one under warranty. He reinstalled the original Apple SSD back in temporarily while the bad one went in for evaluation and replacement and restored from backup…when the replacement arrived he cloned the original restored Apple one back to the replacement then swapped it back into the laptop.

He has been waiting on Apple to release updated Apple silicon MacBook Pros ever since Connie got her new M1 MacBook Air earlier in the year…despite it being the lowest end model with Apple’s new system on a chip it ran rings around his high end 2015 model MacBook Pro. However…he wanted the larger screen model and more external ports so has been waiting on this release. Add in the fact that most of the keys on his current one no longer have legible markings (good thing he touch types) and it was clearly past time for a new model. Apple released the upgraded models last month so he’s got a new one on order…at last check it was still noted as being “in transit” in Shanghai with no status updates since 3 days ago…very unusual for UPS…they’re usually much more informative on status. It isn’t anything to do with the container ship backlog over on the west coast…they get shipped on airplanes and generally go straight to the UPS hubs in the midwest rather than to the coast. It’s supposed to be here by Thursday according to Apple…UPS’s status page says “check back tomorrow for a delivery date update”.

We also upgraded our router…taking the single Archer model we had out of service as it only has 802.11ac wifi capability and once Neil’s new laptop gets here all of our devices except the iPhones will be capable of the faster and better 802.11ax standard. So…we upgraded to a mesh router system from Netgear named Orbi that supports the faster standard and since it has both a main router and a satellite wifi point that allowed him to switch the iMac file server and photo processing computer back in the office (editors note: we always call it ‘back in the office’ despite the fact that the office is actually in the front of the house facing the street…we figure it’s because we live in the great/family/kitchen room on the rear side…that’s our story and we’re asticking to it.)…anyways…he put the satellite Orbi in the office back there and that allowed him to put the iMac and printer on ethernet cables rather than wifi. Their network traffic still goes over wifi to the main router…but the Orbi has a separate 802.11ax channel between the two Orbi units so effectively those two slower wifi devices get upgraded to faster wifi since individually they’re on gigabit ethernet.

Apple also updated their iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and HomePod software last month…and released updated macOS 12 Monterey which supports both the new Apple silicon hardware as well as older Mac hardware back to prior to 2015. The IT department here at Casa de Laubenthal went ahead and updated everything but the Mac mini connected to our TV out in the entertainment center and the iMac file/photo processing computer. The former will eventually get done but it mostly serves as a network backup destination for our laptops and for the iMac he was waiting on the upgraded RAID software before doing that one. 

Based on the performance increase of the Apple silicon chips over the preceding models that run on Intel chips…basically the high end MacBook Pro introduced 2 weeks back is the best performing laptop of any brand by a wide margin and betters most desktop computers as well…the new chip is just that good…in fact several publications including some that have been traditionally anti-Apple oriented have said that the new laptop outperforms the current Intel powered Mac Pro professional workstation. Anyway…he’s probably going to upgrade the iMac to the Apple silicon powered one when the second generation iMac ships hopefully early next year. Apple has released the Apple silicon iMac already…but it’s only the low end model with a 24 inch screen and he needs the larger screen for photo processing. It’s a want more than a need of course…but he can afford it so why not is his thought.

Connie’s started back at choir…the middle of last month they started up Tuesday afternoon rehearsals and they’re back singing again. The good news is that she really likes that…the bad news for her is that since she is also a cantor and since St. Therese shifted back to 3 masses on Sunday and one on Saturday she is doing 2 masses most weekends. The bad news for Neil is that unless she is cantering at a non-choir mass he doesn’t get to sit with here like he’s been doing for over a year. For choir masses…he will return to sitting over near the choir in what he and the other choir spouses call the ‘choir groupie section’.

We continue to mostly minimize contact with outside people as much as possible…the Elks is pretty much the same group all the time so we go maskless there…in fact most places in our area have gone to no mask required…and while we’ve returned to eating out for Date Night on Mondays instead of Neil getting takeout we still are trying to eat al fresco in the quasi-open air seating area or maintaining social distancing if we eat inside.

Several interesting news items this week to talk about though.

There was an
article this week
 from 9News which is a TV station down under that talked about the coveted “Bird of the Year” award in Aussieland. Now I’ve never heard of this coveted award…but apparently it’s a thing down there and is sponsored by the New Zealand’s Forest & Bird association…and this year’s edition (it’s a public vote thing) attracted a record 56,733 votes. Last year’s winner was the kakapo…a fat, flightless, and nocturnal parrot…in fact the kakapo is the world’s heaviest and largest parrot family member. It was on the critically endangered list back in the 1990s but has recovered from near extinction to just endangered. Anyways…that was last year’s winner. The winner of the 2021 edition of the award was announced in the article…and here’s a portrait of the winner.

Long tailed bat 2021

Yes…your eyes do not deceive you and you do not need an emergency eye exam…this year’s winner is that famous Aussie bird of prey…the long tailed bat. Now never mind that this is a BAT…a mammal that gives birth to live young and does not lay eggs…it’s still the winner of the coveted Bird of the Year award.

You probably read about the COP26 climate conference over in Scotland this week. Mostly it was a bunch of greenies and progressives demanding that we end using coal, oil, and gas and shift completely and immediately to renewable energy sources despite numerous technical, physics, and economic challenges to doing so. I don’t really want to get into a long discussion about climate change…but suffice it to say that yes, climate is changing but despite what some claim it is essentially impossible to determine whether this is random variation that has happened ever since the earth was formed or what factors might be causing it. It is not “settled science” as some say since there is no such thing as settled science. Also…yes, use of fossil fuels does contribute to some extent to changes in climate…but how much, how much can really be done about it, and whether those things are either physically possible to achieve or economically possible to achieve is subject to a lot of debate. That’s not the real story here though…or the reason for this section…

The first bit is the sheer hypocrisy of those attending the conference. In their zeal to be woke and claim to be “fighting climate change tooth and nail”…everybody that was anybody decided that they needed to show up. The hypocrisy part is in how they got to Scotland for the conference. Attendees used in excess of 400 private jets to fly in because their time was too important to waste on things like commercial airliners or trains or electric cars or whatever. Yes…some of the attendees were coming from overseas so airplane travel was probably necessary…but one would think that the political optics would have pushed them to use commercial transportation rather than private jets. Commercial aircraft cause the same issues as private ones do…but the impact is spread out over many more passengers per flight. This is just another case of hypocritical “rules are for thee, not for me” attitude that progressives tend to demand.

The other issue about the conference is that…and I never thought that I would type these words…Neil actually agrees with one thing  one of the greenies said this week…but he says it’s ok because the very next thing said was completely the there’d of the loony spectrum.

You’ve probably heard or or read of Greta Thunberg…she’s the 18 year old Swedish Aspergers foul mouthed climate activist that’s been the star of the green movement for more than 3 years…but her accomplishments have been far outweighed by her press and the media darling adoration she has received. Anyway…she said earlier this week that the current in vogue by lots of big companies and ‘community leaders’ of using carbon offsets…essentially donating money to causes to offset their use of carbon fuels for their limousines, Hummers, and private jets…anyway Greta said that carbon offsets are a “dangerous climate lie” and is “hypocrisy…risking human rights transgressions and to harm already vulnerable communities.” All of those are absolutely correct…and that’s the part I never thought I would type…that normal people like Neil would actually agree with her.

Of course…the next thing she said after “storming out of a session” was that the entire conference was “greenwashing” as she accused banks and fossil fuel firms of “trying to scale up offsetting and give polluters a free pass to keep polluting.”

there is this
…Dr. Fauci was testifying Thursday at a Senate hearing into the origins of the COVID-19 virus and pandemic. Dr. Fauci denied…again…that the NIH promoted or paid for what is known as “gain of function” research. “Gain of function” is a currently controversial method of trying to modify viruses in the lab to get them to mutate and gain function in effect or propagation to help prevent or predict natural mutations that might do the same thing…kind of a heads up thing on potential future virus variants. The good news is that sometimes it works…the bad news is that there is a distinct possibility that the lab modified virus might escape from the lab. That doesn’t mean the lab was trying to weaponize it or that it was deliberately released…there is still a lot of controversy about the origins of this particular virus and I doubt that we’ll ever get a definitive answer. There is considerable evidence that it could have been accidentally released due to improper lab biosafety precautions that infected a worker and they carried it home to the community in Wuhan…and there is considerable evidence that it could have naturally mutated…but there is no smoking gun or incontrovertible evidence of either alternative.

The additional bad news is that Congress…some years back…passed legislation making it illegal for US government funds to be spent on gain of function research. I guess that is the reason for Dr. Fauci’s continuous and repeated denials…or else the fact that he doesn’t want to admit that he lied to Congress under oath before when he denied it was being done. Additionally…while he is currently the COVID Tzar…he technically works for and is paid by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)…and the NIH has admitted that they do and did pay for gain of function testing at the Wuhan lab…but the NIH claims it wasn’t against the law because they gave a grant to a non governmental organization who then used the grant to pay for the gain of function testing, Whether that dodge is also illegal is still under investigation. When challenged by Senator Rand…Dr. Fauci attempted to explain away the definition of gain of function by pointing that the definition on the NIH website no longer said that…it had been changed earlier in the week. Dr. Fauci has repeatedly denied that the pandemic started as an accidental escape from the Wuhan lab…and I have no real proof either way…but if one looks at the preponderance of the studies, evidence and the interpretation thereof with an unbiased eye…it appears that the accidental release has a higher probability of being correct than the naturally mutation theories. We’ll never know the truth…partly because it’s almost impossible to determine for sure but also because even if the government was internally sure that it was an accidental release the official US government position is that it was a natural phenomenon and they’ll bury any conclusions that are contrary to that position.

Neil did get a few photos for ya out back…the wildlife is starting to return as the weather gets cooler…and we’re able to turn the A/C off and get the windows and doors open most days now…yay for that.

This is a Red Shouldered Hawk from our time out in Cody WY in 2019…Neil’s reprocessed it with a new version of Lightroom which includes some AI ability to automagically figure out the actual subject of a photo and select just it…I have no idea how it works but it does. This allowed him to blur out the background more than in the original shot from when I posted it back then…giving that nice creamy bokeh background make your subject stand out.

D7500 2290 Neural

Our neighborhood Green Iguana is back…though it probably never left but just hid in the shade a lot.

Z72 1221

As is our favorite pretty much human habituated Great Blue Heron…again the Select Subject feature in Lightroom made processing these a lot less time consuming than before.

Z72 1253

Z72 1262

OK…that’s enough headlines, let’s see what we can find in the category of…

Interesting things found on the net.

This is what is known as the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C…it’s a two stroke, turbocharged, inline, low speed diesel engine built in Finland for use in large container ships that run on heavy fuel oil. This is the largest version which has 14 cylinders and is 44 feet high and 87 feet long…producing 107,390 horsepower. The cylinders are 38 inches in diameter and the piston stroke is 100 inches…maximum speed is a whopping 120 rpm. Engine displacement is 1,828 liters per cylinder or almost 112,000 cubic inches.In other words…it’s a danged big engine. Fuel economy sucks though…it burns about 10.5 tons of fuel per hour or about 277 gallons per hour. Container ships speed range from 10 to 25 knots but average around 18 or so for fuel economy…which when you do the math results in about 22 mph so the ship gets about 0.08 miles per gallon. Like I said…it sucks but it’s still overall the cheapest way of transporting large quantities of anything.


There are 14 axles on that trailer so assuming that it is a dualley that’s 56 tires carrying a load of 2300 tons of engine plus the trailer which has got to be at least another 40 or so tons…that would be 42 tons per tire…so I’m guessing there’s a lot more tires under there than that.

In astronomy…you’ve probably all seen the image known as the Hubble Deep Field…


This image was taken back in 1995 and included 340 separate exposures. It covers an area about as large as a tennis ball at 100 meters distance and almost all of the 3,000+ objects are complete galaxies. It’s an impressive shot and shows how much is really out there in the universe. However…the folks at NASA and JPL decided that isn’t good enough so they tried again…and the result is the Hubble Extreme Deep Field image.

The Extreme Deep Field image is smaller in area and is about the size of a marble at 100 meters…this image contains about 5,500 objects and every one is a galaxy. Wow. However…the overpriced and designed to be relatively short lived compared to Hubble James Webb Telescope to be launched next month will be…assuming it survives it’s launch and the extremely complex path to deployment a million miles from earth and including something like 340 single points of failure. It’s being launched down in South America by the French Ariane 5 booster because NASA doesn’t have a booster with large enough satellite fairing for it. The Webb telescope is way over budget…it started at $500 million and is now over $10 billion…and something like 10 years behind schedule…so far behind in fact that it’s been completely redesigned twice over the years since it’s inception. Hopefully nothing goes wrong.

Since it was Halloween last weekend…here’s a couple for the albeit a little late.



Some of these require a little more thought…


Physics 1, anatomy 0.

PhysicsOne AnatomyZero





About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
This entry was posted in Critters, Nature, Photography, Technology, WIldlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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