Mars: Top Ten Fun Facts


One of the first images taken by Perseverance on Mars!

Do you remember when I had the good fortune of chaperoning Team Mercury to the Kennedy Space Center? My daughter, along with her team of high school Space Exploration students and their teacher John Yi, took a trip to the KSC when they won NASA’s App Development Challenge. We watched the launch of a rocket, NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2, toured the building where rockets are built, the Vehicle Assembly Building, built our own rockets, stood under the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and learned about NASA’s work to get Perseverance to Mars through lectures and participation in the Mars Experience.

On February, 18, 2021, Perseverance landed on Jezero Crater on Mars, and the excitement of the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was palpable. Perseverance, which launched from Earth on July 30, 2020, will stay on Mars at lease one Mars year (657 Earth days) with a goal of seeking “signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” Hon, did you watch the landing? Want to view raw images from Mars? Click here.

Top Ten Fun Facts About Mars

  1. Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
  2. Mars is red because of rusty iron in the ground.
  3. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  4. There are signs of ancient floods on Mars, but now water mostly exists in icy dirt and thin clouds.
  5. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes.
  6. A year on Mars is 687 Earth days because it takes a lot longer than Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun.
  7. Mars has two moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos.
  8. Based on the make-up of the planet and atmosphere (iron, magnesium, sulfur, acids and CO2), researchers have concluded that Mars smells like rotten eggs.
  9. Mars is home to the highest mountain in our solar system, a volcano called Olympus Mons, which is about three times the height of Mount Everest.
  10. The first spacecrafts to land on Mars were the Viking Landers, which touched down on the surface in 1976.

Sources: NASA Science Space Place, Australian Academy of Science, National Geographic Kids

Top Ten Unexpected Positives in 2020

Happy New Year Hon!

Thinking about the holiday events we’d be attending and hosting if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, my mind turned to silver linings. In 2020, believe it or not, there was actually amazing news (Polio has been eradicated in Africa) as well as mundane news (Flour was in high demand.). Focusing on how the pandemic effected everyday life and in no particular order, here are the…

Top Ten Unexpected Positives of 2020

  1. Dogs were happy. Very happy. “Shelters, rescues and breeders report increased demand as Americans try to fill voids with canine companion” (Washington Post)
  2. Kids rode bikes to socialize. “How the pandemic has inspired some teens to get off their laptops and go outside” (Washington Post)
  3. Walking was a pastime. “Why Walking is the Ideal Pandemic Activity” (National Geographic)
  4. People stayed outside, even in the cold and rain. “Why You Should Brave the ‘Bad’ Weather” (The New York Times)
  5. Books sales increased. “A Surprisingly Strong Year of Book Sales Continues” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  6. Comfy clothes took over closets. “Dressing for success these days means ‘Athleisure'” (CBS News)
  7. Home cooked meals promoted healthier eating. “Home cooking is the new normal.” (Smart Brief)
  8. Families sat down to dinner together. “The return of family dinner” The Boston Globe
  9. Exercise classes were more accessible than ever. “Virtual workouts have exploded in popularity—and they’re here to stay.” (MindBody Business) And…
  10. Grandparents learned how to FaceTime! “Grandparents, thank you for FaceTiming and learning how to use Zoom during this quarantine” (Motherly)

Top Ten Cool Facts About The Shape of Water

I love going to the movies, so you might find it strange that I’ve never reviewed a movie on Bmore Energy before. Well, hon, I’m starting a new category because I loved The Shape of Water so much! It’s a modern fairy tale by director Guillermo del Toro who also directed the devastating but beautiful movie Pan’s Labyrinth. The Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug JonesMichael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg is atmospheric, interesting, captivating, cruel, and different than anything I’ve ever watched. One of my daughters and I loved it so much that, after we saw it, we spent the rest of the evening on the computer searching for information about the story, characters, costumes, set, and how the movie was filmed.
And that was before it was nominated for an Oscar.
At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
The Shape of Water is a $20-million Cold War-era fairytale about a mute cleaning lady, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who stumbles upon a top-secret tank where a team led by the brutal Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) experiment upon a mysterious Amazonian fish-man. As Eliza falls for the fish-man, aka the Asset, del Toro delivers his twist on Beauty and the Beast, one where the beast need not be a prince to be loved.
Top Ten Cool Facts About the Movie The Shape of Water:
  1. Some of the underwater Scenes were filmed using “dry for wet,” a technique where actors and props are suspended on wires and smoke is blown onstage. Bubbles and debris were added digitally to make the scenes look more realistic.
  2. It took three hours for Doug Jones to get into the Amphibian Man’s costume. Once he was in the suit, Doug Jones said, “I can’t see as well, I can’t hear much, I can’t feel much, and I got these webbed fingers on—I can’t do anything for myself.”
  3. The Amphibian Man’s gills were operated remotely by a mechanism tucked into the back of the suit.
  4. The Amphibian Man’s eyes were lenses created out of acrylic resin which snapped magnetically into a housing on Jones’ face. “For extreme close-ups, I had eyes that I couldn’t see anything out of,” Jones said. “I had to know the geography of the room pretty well before we put those eyes in. We had other versions of the eyes I could see a little bit more through — the pupils had been cut out for wide shots where I’d have to move across a room or swim around underwater.” Eye blinks, along with other “micro-expressions” such as the furrowing of the brow, were added digitally in post-production. Each shot, however, was based on scans of Jones’ own expressions.

  5. Green is the movie’s dominant color. Production designer Paul Austerberry said “everything inside [Elisa’s] home hinted at water or the ocean.” Her “world is water surrounded with cyan, blues, aged texture and furniture shaped with curves, while [Gile’s] place is bounded by gold and mustard colors to signify warmth and empathy.”
  6.  Green is carried further. It’s the color of the antagonist’s candies, Giles’ pie, and the lab’s interior, creating an unsettling mood and grimy and steamy feel. “The color teal is spread methodically throughout the hallways and detailed in the tile of the lab to signify the future. It even shows up when Strickland purchases his new Cadillac, ‘the car of the future.’ Strickland’s office is also tied into the theme, with greenish-blue tiles creating the backdrop to the glass-enclosed command center that sits high above the floor.”
  7. The main character is mute. “Elisa only communicates through sign language and body movement – the flick of an eyebrow, a shrug, a tender smile. To prep, Hawkins honed in on the role’s physicality, taking ASL lesson.”
  8. The antagonist, Richard Strickland’s bathroom routine shows how strict and scheduled he is with the world and himself.
  9. Of  his character Strickland, Michael Shannon said, “The only thing with the candies, I kept trying to add it to more and more scenes. I thought if we were going to do the candy, we should do it wholeheartedly. And the candy really is insightful in terms of knowing where Strickland is at psychologically. His relation to the candy tells you kind of what’s going on in his head.”
  10. The movie was shot in 45 days.

Did you see The Shape of Water? What did you think?

 Click here to watch a “Making of” Featurette on You Tube.

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

Plains Lubber Grasshopper

In my last post, Tarantula Territory, I lamented that I didn’t see any tarantulas on a hike but, guess what I did see? A Plains Lubber Grasshopper! The approximately five-inch insect caught my attention–how could it not?–and I had to get a closer look. I looked at her and she at me. We bonded.

I can’t believe I got such a clear photo of her awesome exoskeleton, which protects her against predators and prevents dehydration. (Come to think of it, that could be a great pick-up line. “Excuse me, but you have an awesome exoskeleton.”) Plains Lubbers are native to southern and central USA and Northern Mexico.

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

  1. A Plains Lubber can’t fly because its wings are too small.
  2. A lubber has a pod that holds approximately 20-35 eggs. After incubating in the ground during the colder months, or for as long as two years, the eggs hatch in May or June.
  3. It uses two pairs of eyes (simple and compound) to see.
  4. It uses its bluish-brown antennae to feel and smell.
  5. The tympanum, or round membrane located on either side of its body near its legs allows it to “hear” or detect sound waves.
  6. To breathe, it has spiracles, or tiny holes located all along the abdomen.
  7. A lubber is capable of jumping from several inches to several feet using its oversized hind legs.
  8. A young lubber will molt its exoskeleton five times at roughly 15-day intervals before reaching adulthood.
  9. Bright coloring and patterning on a lubber’s shell warns predators that it’s unpalatable to downright poisonous. A lubber ingests substances in the plants it eats that, although harmless to humans and the lubber itself, are toxic to many predators. These chemicals may kill smaller creatures such as birds or leave larger animals quite ill after ingesting a lubber.
  10. To protect against predators, a lubber can secrete a noxious foam while making a loud hissing sound. It can also regurgitate a dark brown liquid (commonly called tobacco spit) as a defense.

Hon, which category are you in? Cool or ewww?

For all of the ewww’s, consider the photos below as visual palette cleansers.

Peace along the path.

I “heart” hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching for the sky.

Sources: The Big Zoo, American Orchid SocietyWikipedia, 

Top Ten Cool Elephant Seal Facts

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When Hubby and I went to California in October, we stopped at Elephant Seal Beach in Big Sur and saw these fascinating sea mammals.  I could have watched them all day! If you want to read why I Turned Into an Elephant Seal click hereI hope you enjoy the slideshow of my photos, along with…

Top Ten Cool Elephant Seal Facts

  1. Types: There are two types of elephant seals:  Northern seals are found in California and Baja California; Southern seals populate the waters of Antarctica.
  2. In the Sea: Seals spend months at sea diving deep to forage. Southern elephant seals can dive over 4,921 feet (1,500 meters) deep and can hold their breath for over two hours, which is the longest of any water-based mammal.
  3. Food:  Seals hunt for squid, eels, octopus, small sharks, rays and bottom dwelling fish.
  4. Lifespan:  Northern seals live an average of 9 years while Southern seals live about 20 to 22 years.
  5. Size:  The largest Southern seals grow up to 20 ft (6 m) and weigh up to 8,800 lbs (4,000 kg).
  6. Noses:  Seals aren’t called “elephants” because of their size. They take their name from their trunklike inflatable snouts. The seals we saw on Elephant Beach were young males whose snouts hadn’t grown yet.
  7. Staying Warm: To keep warm in freezing cold water, seals not only have thick skin and fur, there is a thick layer of insulating blubber under their skin. Since their skin molts every year, the seals have to find land in order to molt.
  8. Aggression:  Males battle each other for mating dominance.
  9. Alpha Males:  Male seals claim breeding territories and defend them.  They collect huge harems of smaller-sized females–about 40 to 50 females to one male.
  10. Birth:  After an 11-month pregnancy, females give birth to a single pup. In the one month that the pup nurses, mother seal doesn’t eat—mom and pup live off the energy stored in mom’s reserves of blubber.

What did I tell you?  Fascinating! Hon, have you ever seen elephant seals? Have you seen any fully grown with trunk-like snouts? 

Sources: National Geographic, a-z animals

Lucy versus Groundhogs

'I'll go wherever you go, Mommy."
“I’ll go wherever you go, Mommy.”

"You never know what scents you'll pick up in the wind."
“I love to stick my nose out of the window.”

"I'm on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!"
“I’m on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!”

What is it about groundhogs?

Despite living in a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, frequent visitors to our backyard include wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels and mice.  I call our neighborhood, which backs up to a nature reserve, the South Mountain Reservation “Animal Kingdom.” Lucy, our 4 year-old Labra-Collie rescue, is fascinated by all the animals, but morphs from Interested Observer to Psycho Doggie when groundhogs appear.

A few weeks ago Lucy was languishing in the heat, when she jumped up and made a bee-line down our hill.  She chomped down on something furry. I don’t know if she intended to shake the small animal–dare I say?–to death, or if she meant to scare the wits out of it.  Either way, it didn’t look good for the baby groundhog.

I raced down the hill, screeching, “Drop it!  Drop it!  Lucy, STOP IT!”  (Yes, I know that rhymes. I write picture books, hon. But, I digress.)

Did Lucy listen?  Noooo!

Instead, she proceeded to whip the baby groundhog back and forth like a stuffed toy while the groundhog struggled to free itself and while I chased her around the yard.  As I tried to catch Lucy, my youngest daughter watched from the sidelines.

“GET THE LEASH!”  I hollered.

In the meantime, I managed to grab Lucy and press on the outsides of her jaw until she dropped the groundhog.  My daughter arrived with the leash and dragged her inside.

I approached the poor little rodent, apologizing profusely. Guess what?  There were no bite marks or blood!  Lucy’s Labrador Retriever “soft mouth” clutch didn’t break any skin.  The groundhog, surely in shock, looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Despite its probable concussion, I figured it would get the word out to stay away from our yard.  Apparently, it didn’t.

Earlier this week, I heard Lucy barking with a high-pitched voice I hadn’t heard before.  I ran outside to find her nose-to-nose with an adult groundhog.  Again, I did the “Catch-a-Psycho-Doggie” dance.  Again, amused bystanders watched from the sidelines. This time, it was my son and hubby laughing as I screamed, “GET THE LEASH!”

After quite a bit of chasing (us chasing Lucy, Lucy chasing the adult groundhog), we caught Lucy and dragged her inside.

Would you believe me if I told you Lucy really is the sweetest little angel, a sponge for affection?  Don’t answer that question if you’re a groundhog or a… mailman…truck driver…repairman…motocycle driver…

 Related Post:  Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

Inspiration Puppy
Inspiration Puppy.

Lucy is my Inspiration Puppy.

Lucy is my chapter book’s muse. She and my main character both have silky fur, flappy ears, round, brown eyes and a fluffy tail. My muse shows me how a dog behaves, and my uncanny ability to translate WOOF adds to my main character’s authenticity. Writers are advised to “write what you know,” and I know Lucy. You know?

Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

(with commentary from Lucy)

Lucy is not just a dog, she’s also a:

1. LEG BONKER. Lucy gets attention is by bonking her wet, black nose into legs. Again and again. “What do you want, Lucy?”

Lucy asks, “Do I have your attention now?”

2. VACUUM CLEANER.  Lucy finds the messiest eater and places herself under his/her chair.  If it falls on the floor, it’s hers.

Lucy says, “I’ll eat whatever YOU are eating!”

Hiking Bear Mountain with a stand-in for a mountain goat.
Hiking Bear Mountain.

3.  FOOT WARMER.  This canine is hot, and I don’t mean that in an inappropriate way. Got cold toes? Get a dog!

Lucy says, “Feet schmeet. It’s still petting.”

Pooch Pillow.
Pooch Pillow.

4.  POOCH PILLOW. Need a cuddle or a cry? Tired? Bury your head in a Pooch Pillow and you’ll feel better immediately.

Lucy says, “I’m an affectionate girl.”

Intelligent eyes.
Intelligent eyes.

5.  SMARTYPANTS. Maybe its the Border Collie in her or maybe I’m just bragging, but that dog knows a lot of words.

Lucy says, “First of all, I don’t wear pants and, second of all, of course I’m smart.  I watch your every move.”

Guarding from the front porch.
Front porch perch. 

6.  SECURITY GUARD. Lucy announces strange cars parked in front of our house (or anywhere up and down the street), men walking up the driveway, and delivery trucks–especially the mail truck–by barking her head off, ripping up up her doggie bed, jumping on the front door, growling like a psycho doggie and bolting down the yard at 30 mph.

Lucy says, “Don’t complain. I’m just doing my job!”

7.  TENNIS BALL CATCHER. Lucy LOVES tennis balls so much, she could play ball all day. I throw it and she catches it mid-air.  When I toss the ball up a hill and say, “Roll it,” Lucy nudges it with her nose so it rolls back down to me. See? Smartypants!

Lucy says, “Tennis balls are chewy, bouncy and roll-y. And you’re playing with me. What’s not to love?”

Teen daughter pets Lucy. Lucy reaches out and touches back.
Pet Lucy, and she reaches out and touches back.

"Who wants to scratch my belly?"
“Who wants to scratch my belly?”

8.  LOVER GIRL.  Pet Lucy and she reaches out to touch you back. Want to be greeted in the morning? Get ready for lots of licks. Trying to leave the house? Have work to do?  Too bad.  Lucy the Lover Girl will flop on her back and beg for a belly scratch. She’s very distracting!

Lucy says, “I give what I get.”

Those eyes!
Those eyes!

9.  HYPNOTIST.  Seriously! She hypnotizes us with her eyes. She stares into our souls. I read that Border Collies hypnotize their flocks of sheep or cows with their eyes, and we think Lucy’s part Border Collie. I dare you to look away when she stares at you.

Lucy says, “What’s a soul?”

Such a silly girl!
Such a silly girl!

10.  COMEDIAN.  True, I DON’T laugh when Lucy rolls in…shall I…say disgusting things? But, most of the time she’s a comedian.  Like when we put her outside to get some “fresh air” (see #6) and she stares at us through glass doors. Or when she rests her head our laps during dinner. Reaching for a napkin, instead you find a Lucy’s head on your lap and  she’s begging for people food with her hypnotizing eyes.

Lucy says, “Glad you find my begging amusing.”

Sweet Angel!
Sweet Angel!

 Hon, do you have a pet? How does he or she inspire you?

 

Gutter Mouth Part 2 (or the Top Ten Things I’d Rather Talk About Than Gutters)

IMG_1718

In my last post, I described how our leaky gutters and a self-described gutter expert led to 6 months of drama in our house.

Hubby became obsessed with both Al (also known as Gutter Mouth or G.M.), his excuses and our leaky gutter/ crumbling plaster ceiling situation.  Hubby and G.M. exchanged countless e-mails in that time.  An example of a typical text thread:

Hubby, “So the weather forecast says sun for the whole week.  When can you come by?  I’d like a specific date.”

 G.M., “I’ll be by Monday, for sure.  You can count on me, Pal.  No hard feelings?”

But, Monday would roll around, then Tuesday and Wednesday, with cockamamie excuses from G.M. about why he couldn’t make it.  Hubby had had enough.  He asked for our money back and wanted to take action.  I said to wait, since he lives in our town and all.  As the months flew by, Hubby went from irritation to anger to incensed until Gutter Mouth was just about all he talked about.  The whole affair made Hubby cranky, and a cranky Hubby makes a cranky wife!

Top Ten Things I’d Rather Talk About Than Gutters:

  1. Is there life on Mars?
  2. Is Pluto a planet or not?
  3. Will aliens who previously lived on Pluto emigrate to Mars?
  4. Global warming’s effect on the North Pole.
  5. Smog in L.A.
  6. Celebrities who are famous for doing absolutely nothing.
  7. Why the concrete in a parking garage being built in my town is defective and how much money it will cost the taxpayers to rip it out?
  8. Why a member of the Historic Commission wanted to know what kind of nails we would use when we did work on the house.
  9. Is Times Square truly gentrified when the Naked Cowboy, Naked Cowgirl, Naked American Indian in feathered headdress and Naked Hippie who hangs a bra from her guitar are running around willy nilly?
  10. Football, Curling or Golf.  (Okay, that’s three things but they’re under ONE category!)

Gutter Mouth Part 1(or the Top Ten Excuses and Lies of a Gutter Mouth)

IMG_1718

My family wasn’t a cussing family.

That’s not to say tempers didn’t flare.  There was plenty of hollering in my home, accompanied by stomping feet and slamming doors.  I just don’t recall swear words worse than damn and hell.

Then I went to college, where curse words found a way into my vocabulary.  Along with everything else I loved about college, I loved the freedom to speak any which way I liked.  The summer after freshman year, my mom heard my newfound trash mouth and commented on it.  I tried to curb my gutter mouth while at home.

I recently encountered a different kind of Gutter Mouth, a man who is either a pathological liar, a con artist or both.

This winter, part of a plaster ceiling started crumbling, a sure sign of a leak.  Enter Al who from now on in will be referred to as G.M., a so-called gutter expert from our town.  He came recommended by a neighbor who also lives in an historic house and has introduced us to some wonderful people.  My neighbor’s recommendation was all I needed.  I’d come to find out later that G.M. had been flagged on a local online network as someone to avoid.

G.M. started work on our leaky gutters in December.  He said the job would be done in a few weeks.  After showing up a couple of times, climbing a ladder and assuring me that he was going to fix everything and more, he asked to be paid up front.  Stupidly, we did.  We thought that since he lives in town and has a kid who graduated with our kids, he was as good as his word and the contract spelling out the work and cost.  After we paid him, he never showed up again.

The next six months we tried to pin him down or get a refund.  Finally, under threat of the sheriff’s office, he taped a check to his door.  Hubby made sure it didn’t bounce.  It didn’t and now we’re through talking trash!

Top Ten Excuses and Lies of a Gutter Mouth:

  1. It might rain.
  2. It rained yesterday.
  3. It’s too cold.
  4. It’s too hot.
  5. I’m at the beach.
  6. There was an emergency at the beach.
  7. I’m in D.C.
  8. I’m busy with “the wife.”
  9. My son’s sick.
  10. Check’s in the mail.

Moral of the story:  Don’t believe a Gutter Mouth, don’t talk like a Gutter Mouth and, for goodness sake, don’t pay the balance until the job is done!

My Top Ten Questions For Visitors To The “N” (as in Naked) Resort

a dense forest
a dense forest

Hon, if you read my last post you’ll know what the “N” in The “N” Resort stands for.  If not, let me fill you in.  It stands for naked, as in your birthday suit, as in sans clothing!  On a van ride from the airport in Jamaica, I chatted with a friendly, funny and extremely tan couple who frequent the resort.  Since discovering what “N” stands for, questions have swirled in my head like hot fudge swirled on ice cream with a cherry on top!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging.  As far as I’m concerned, just because I’m not comfortable parading around like the Emperor who lost his clothes doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t.  In fact, I’d be considered a heretic by the Puritans (why I’m not that modest might be a future blog post), and my teenagers would tell you that what comes out of my mouth is completely inappropriate (motto for getting through the teenage years with triplets:  Puberty is fun!).

But, everyone has their comfort level and putting on something to go out in public is mine.  Besides, I studied fashion and there’s always a cute new bathing suit, coverup, t-shirt, shorts and dress to wear!

Here are my Top Ten Questions For Visitors To The “N” Resort:

1.  Is it SANS clothing or clothing OPTIONAL?

2.  So, you don’t get dressed up for dinner?

3.  Question # 2 leads me to…Do you eat all your meals in your birthday suit?

4. What kind of chairs do you sit on?  Metal gets hot, plastic and leather are sticky and cloth just doesn’t seem sanitary.  Wood–the chairs must be wood.  Oh, but what about splinters?

5.  Are the waiters and waitresses also in their birthday suits?  The bartender? The lifeguards?

6.  Do you reapply sunblock?  This is an important question, trust me!  I’ll explain in a future blog post.

7.  Isn’t it awkward if you bump into someone, bend over, or have a “food baby belly” after a big meal?  (sorry if I’m getting too graphic but once you’ve been pulled in, there’s no turning back!)

8.  Do you wear pajamas to bed?

The last two questions I can ask on a G-rated blog…

9.  What happens if you’re happy? (really happy!)

10.  And…what’s “in?”  Does it depend on what part of the world you’re from?  Dense forests? Forests cleared for subdivisions? Or deforestation?

Do you have any G-rated questions?  Or answers to my Top Ten?  If so, hon, I’d love to hear them!