Under the Dome

Really got my heart set on attending a viewing night to get a look see through the 107 inch telescope out in West Texas at the MacDonald Observatory.

But they only have a single viewing night for visitors about once a month, and they are booked up for the next three viewing opportunities through the end of the year.

Its a long drive from College Station, TX to Fort Davis, TX about 8 hours under good conditions.. and its still a little warm this season, averaging over 100 degrees most days.

I'll probably sign up for the wait lists and then see how it goes. Seems they rarely have cancellations.

Viewing Night on the 107 Inch Halan J. Smith Telescope

It's the closest thing to a spaceport this side of McGregor, TX but a lot more accessible.

The nice thing I've read about MacDonald Observatory is its so high in the West Texas mountains and so dark at night that you really need a jacket even in summer time. Its also a little physically demanding and isn't accessible to less physical people.

I've got a crazy imagination thinking about jungle gym climbing all over those 1929 telescopes under the Dome.

It's not eactly the cheapest event either there is a fee for attending a night time event.

And then there's what to do after 3 hours upstairs in the dark? Its like a 40 mile drive back down very dark roads to the nearest town.


Waking the Night

A nice Android Sleep monitor is the app appropriately named "Sleeptime" it produces motion sensor graphs of data collected while your asleep.

We seem obsessed with the idea of getting a good nights sleep. Today its typically recommended as 8 hours. But there has been a lot in the press recently about a "natural" bi-modal sleep rhythm. Divided first into a four hour "Deep" sleep followed by an hour of so of the "Night watch" old French for "Awake" and then "Light" sleep for four more hours.

The "melatonin" spike everyone has heard about usually comes not within "minutes" of falling asleep but as much as 2 hours after dusk, or after retiring.

Let's put all that together, 2 hours to get ready, 4 hours Deep sleep, 1 hour Night watch, 4 hours light sleep is a grand total of 11 hours minimum devoted to the pursuit of a good nights slumber. Yes.. that is close to 12 hours or half a day.

I'd like to think the important sleep gets taken care of first, so its great that Deep sleep comes first, but only after 2 hours? Somewhat disappointing.

To further complicate things, apparently if we're exposed to "Blue light" like the kind a Computer Monitor casting the Blue background from Windows or OSX operating systems usually have, the melatonin spike can be delayed even further.. as much as 2 hours after we shutdown the computer. To counter this I've changed the default background on all my computers to a neutral "brown" and added f.Lux to gradually "tint" the temperature of the screen towards the warmer tones as evening approaches.. based on Latitude and time of day.

Tradition versus Nurture

Absent minded or mindless eating - these are the things we often take for granted and don't bother to remember. After all why bother? Typical American has at least 3 x 365 meals a year. That freight train seems like an impossible logistical problem for any one person to manage. It has to be mostly on instinct or we would have given up long ago.

And yet we have a cultural heritage that attempts to define and guide us, tells us when to eat, whats appropriate to eat. Even advertises to us from television and media to encourage us to "Take care of" the business of keeping ourselves healthy and happy consumers.

History Magazine has an excellent overview of how its changed over time. I highly recommend it.

 What Time is Dinner?

The article traces the evolution of the "three squares a day" notion, as if we were mechanical beasts.

We may be a type of machine but I tend to think we're also a product of biology that adapts and would (given the choice) prefer a much more attentive host to its needs.

For example, in our traditions we don't really take into account (at least not explicitly) the microbes in our digestive and absorption system and their secondary benefits or detriments to our overall health.

A common belief today is that over consumption of six sided sugars (Table Sugar) can lead to dental and gum disease which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. On the other hand there is emerging thought that five sided or "pentose" sugars like Xylitol can act like a natural "antibiotic" and stave off or prevent all sort of bacterial disease and infections.

There is strong evidence we all carry a secondary "digestive" system not unlike that in herbivores which "post processes" and continues to digest what we cannot digest directly into secondary by products in the gut which may cause or stave off  things like cancer... or reset our circadian rythyms to be in tune with the seasons. The importation and availability of foods from around the world may confuse and offset the seasonal cycles and perceptions of our own personal interior worlds.

Table Sugar versus Dextrose

Ever since my doctor recommended decreasing Sugar in my diet to manage a high triglyceride level. I've been fascinated by the link between Sugar and "Blood fats". I'm by no means overweight today. Typical BMI is 19.8 for me,14% bodyfat. I could stand to loose a little fat but not a lot.

Table Sugar is Sucrose, which is a mixture of Glucose and Fructose close to 50/50. Glucose is used by every cell of the body. Fructose is akin to Embalming fluid in that it must be processed first by the Liver and contributes to all sorts of secondary reactions that ultimately can lead to fat deposits in the Liver and higher Blood fats.

Fructose or "fruit sugar" messes with hunger signals and insulin levels as well as Blood fat levels and can contribute to weight gain in a very efficient, if unhealthy, way. Some doctors say its just like Alcohol without the "buzz", all the same "damage" it just doesn't depress the central nervous system and tends to stimulate appetite. In a lot of ways its just plain "not good" for you. But it is addictive.

Robert Lustig compared an 8 oz can of cola to an 8 oz can of beer, same detrimental effects. You don't have to be 18 yrs old to drink a can of cola.

Shifting the ratio of Sugar syrups towards "High Fructose" tends to drive appetite higher, makes you want to eat more and some would argue makes it even less healthy for people who cannot resist the artificial increase in their appetite.

Kind of funny when you think about it, would overweight people voluntarily take an "appetite stimulant" if it were labeled as such?

On the other hand Glucose is used by every cell in the body, and actually "depresses" appetite, regulating it so that consumption is stopped when the body is "full" or the blood carrier system is "saturated".

You can buy pure Glucose sweetener, its not hard to find.. but because of a funny labeling system its called "Dextrose". Its called that because of the stereo-isomer or Left and Right handedness of the molecule.

When polarized light is shined through a solution of the stuff, it tends to rotate its axis Left or Right. The Latin or Greek for one or the other is the "Dex" part indicating its "this type" of sugar and not the other type. Hence its called "Dextrose".

The thing about Glucose however is its not perceived as "sweet" as Table Sugar, so you might end up using more of it, and then eating less of whatever is made with it.. because your body would then dampen your appetite quicker. Leading to less calories consumed and less purchases and less spending.

Think about it this way. A Brownie made with Dextrose would be 50 percent more likely to satisfy your hunger than a Brownie made with Table Sugar. And you'd likely eat 50 percent "less".

The really odd thing about Blood fats are they are mostly made from the Glucose or Fructose molecules strung together like beads in a chain in our blood. But there are some fats our body can't make, no matter how much sugar you consume. The essential fats or Omega-6 or Omega-3 fatty acids.

We get these from our diet too.. but if our blood is already filled with all the fat chains "we can make from sugars" versus the ones that we cannot make (ever).. we end up literally starving ourselves to death.

The "Sugar fats" crowd out the "Essential fats" we cannot (ever) make..

The lining of our blood vessels, the thin film of cells at the back of our eyes that allows us to see.. all fall into a state of disrepair.. and we age faster.. until something catastrophic happens.

Table Sugar scares me, and not in a minor way.

Its pervasive in most of the things that we buy.

Its hard to avoid.

External mixing of multiple computer audio outputs

I live in an apartment complex and often work at odd hours of the day. So I tend to try and keep noise down to a minimum.

But sometimes I like to listen to a podcast, watch a movie, or edit some video with sound on the computer.

I have a Windows, Linux and Mac computer running most of the time.

Each of these has an audio output and each could take up an external speaker system and make a lot of noise in the quiet hours.

I bought a pair of "over the ear" headphones specifically to control the noise emitted into the room, but grew tired of switching from one output to the other. I didn't have a sound board so admittedly it was an exercise in getting at the back of lots of computers whenever I decided (usually after the fact) to start using one or the other computers for playing or editing something.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that what I needed was an external "mixer" with about 3 or 4 inputs. Not the justification for a large surround sound theater amplifier, but something smaller.

After searching Amazon I found this:

Its's a ROLLS MX44s Mini-Mix IV stereo mixer that comes with a small wall wart power supply and a 1/4 to 1/8 inch adapter for each channel. It also has a battery compartment for a 9 volt battery, so it can be used as a portable mixer when necessary. On the back is the combined output jack and on the front are the four inputs. Each jack is a stereo connector. Having the alternative sizes for each channel is just a convenience. And best of all it only cost about $65

There are passive and active models, this is the active model which means it has a pre-amp built-in. Without a pre-amp the signals produced by computer audio are usually far to weak to mix properly.

The case is a painted heavy steel or aluminum and it has rubber feet.

So now I plug my headphones into the combined output and slide the audio levels up and down to mix the sound coming from each computer.

I did have to buy cables from Monoprice, and they do tend to pick up interference. I probably should have bought "shielded" cables. But for now I just center or slide down the channels I'm currently not interested in. If there is signal on a channel it tends to drive out the interference, but if there is no signal, floor noise tends to get amplified and I have to turn down that channel.

Celiac or Wheat Adverse, simple experiments

A number of years ago I had an early test to rule out Celiac or an immune response to Gluten or Wheat. It was confusing and inconclusive. But suggested I was having a strong reaction to something all of the time, the IgA was very high.

Nothing so invasive as a biopsy, but a simple allergy test. This mostly because I started "getting watery eyes and sneezing" whenever I over indulge in something like Pizza. And milk products have never quite set well with me.

Also I tend to get a minor rash that looks like bug bites in minutes. Well.. maybe not "minor".. major skin flushing and welts.

About five years ago my doctor recommended a low sucrose diet. Throwing myself into it, it became essentially a Low-Carb diet with virtually no Gluten or Wheat. I recognized not only a lot of weight loss, but my allergies cleared up.

That's when I came across a book called "Wheat belly" and decided to experiment with a low gluten, wheat adverse challenge and diet.

The results were personally pretty shocking.. black and white amazing.Undeniable.

I could now reproduce the "sneezes" and "rash" on command, simply by eating a grilled cheese sandwich. A fresh dinner roll caused excruciating pain (the kind you can't scratch and aspirin doesn't help) and blisters across my chest.The kind that boil up from the dermis and leave a mark that does not heal for quite a while, not something superficial.

Reading more about Celiac I found that after a period of "damage" lactose intolerance was a common occurrence. And the rash was identical to a type of dermatitis (there are lots of pictures online) that often serves in place of a biopsy to diagnose Celiac disease.

I haven't shared this with my doctor, self diagnosis is probably something to be avoided. But I have definitely chosen to treat Gluten and Wheat as something to be avoided (for me) along the lines of a vegetable I like to avoid.

Interestingly I also found an obscure reference to a person in West Texas who refused a typical Celiac diet who responded well to a particular vitamin that dampened down the IgA response. So far it seems to work well for me.. but I don't plan to go back to overindulging on Gluten or Wheat products.



This blog is mostly about myself, my opinions and the events in my life. Think of it as a rogue Facebook page or a collection of personal notes and links.

But what about appx, linx and winx?

I like and regularly use Apple, Linux and Windows operating systems and hardware at an enterprise and consumer level weekly if not daily all of the time.

This is an outlet for me, and a referent for things that I discover.

  • appxweekly - is a site about Apple, their operating systems, hardware, news
  • linxweekly - is a site about Linux the operating systems, hardware, news
  • winxweekly - is a site about Microsoft, their operating systems, hardware, news

First Thought

I live in College Station Texas, United States of North America. Early 21st Century, planet Earth