Sunday, February 07, 2016

Complex Stuff

Marathon, FL

I did it again.  I wrote a Science Insights article for Physics Forums.  It is called The Case for Learning Complex Math 

I'm also working on another three articles.  

Warning: This article and the next three are all more technical than the article about rainbows.

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Swamp Walk

Marathon, FL

We had a wonderful time up in Big Cyprus Swamp.  So much so, that we want to make that a regular experience once or twice a year, every year that we stay in Marathon.  It is only two hours away by car.


  • We camped in the Monument Lake campground.  There are two other federal campgrounds nearby.  All three of them look good.   
  • All the RV spots were full, but there were vacancies in the tent-only category.  I suspect that may change on weekends.
  • We visited the Clyde Butcher studio and store.  His photos are amazing.  You have to see them yourself.  A computer screen's resolution can not do them justice.
  • We took the ranger-led swamp walk starting at the Oasis Visitor Center.  That was an excellent experience, and something we can recommend for everyone.  We learned a lot.  We also learned that we can do the walk any time without a ranger.  But you do need a walking stick to keep your balance.
  • The water is not "swampy"  it is pure and cool and crystal clear.  The water temperature was 72F.
  • We also drove the 26 miles on "the loop road" to see the back areas of Big Cyprus swamp.  The beautiful scenes were too numerous to mention.
  • There were very few bugs.  The swamp is most beautiful in summer when everything blooms, including the cyprus trees and the orchids, and when the water temperature is 85F.  But the bugs are unbearable in summer and the cold-blooded critters much more active then.
  • We learned that Big Cyprus Swamp is very different than The Everglades.   The former is a swamp, the latter is savannah grass.  The two are side-by-side along Alligator Alley (FL route 41) 
Enjoy my little slide show.



Saturday, January 30, 2016

A New Generation of Retired Cruisers

Marathon, FL

As I look around the places that we frequent, it is obvious first that the number of retired people cruising has swelled.  Second, that many of them belong to a new generation.

The primary evidence is crowding at all the places and all the facilities frequented by cruisers.   It becomes more crowded every year.   I used to say that Boot Key Harbor fills up by the end of January.  But that shifted to December, and now to early December.  Next year, to assure a mooring ball with no wait, we'll have to be here in early November.   It is the same everywhere.

I think that part of the explanation is the economy.  Boomers started reaching retirement age about the same time as the 2008 recession.  Many of them postponed their retirement.  Now, as the economy is better we have this years crop of newly retired plus a 7 year backlog.

I remember the chat about going to the Bahamas in past years.  People wanted to know about customs, navigation hazards, charts, pets and medical emergencies.  This year, questions about Direct TV and Netflix in the Bahamas dominated.

It is tempting to say that the new generation brings with it unprecedented demand for luxury and coddling.  But I suspect that may be incorrect.  Old timers much older than me will tell you that trend has existed ever since WWII.  So maybe it just seems to every generation that the following generations are spoiled brats.

I do have one prediction that I bet will prove true.  The years 2017-2020 will be prime years to buy second-hand cruising yachts at fire sale prices.   Having spent 2-3 years cruising as their dream retirement home is constructed somewhere, those crews will be in a hurry to get rid of all that cruising stuff and move on.

Along those lines, what would you say about this crew?

US yachtsmen rescued nine times since July say they are 'totally capable guys'

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Happens When You Flip the Light Switch?

Marathon, FL

Blogging is not enough to satisfy my urges for creative writing.
I detest micro-blogging, meaning one sentence messages on Facebook or Twitter.  If you write more than a sentence there, the response is TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read).  Books seem too much like work.  Libby and I are working on a SF novel (although that goes slowly).  Essays, articles and blog posts are just right in my opinion.

I've done magazine articles, even ones that pay me money.  But I don't like the extremely long lead-times necessary in that venue.  I want my gratification instantly.

Physics Forums provides me with a suitable outlet in their Science Insights Series.  I previously mentioned the one about rainbows. That was probably the most general interest article I'll put there.

This Physics Forums article explains how the power grid works in layman's terms.  Especially the chain of scientific, engineering, economic, and even political events that you trigger when you flip the switch.


I have three more such articles in the works.  I'll post them here after publication.



Monday, January 25, 2016

(Non Political) Tyranny of the Majority

Marathon, FL

Last week, Libby and I were debating political systems with Ray and Pat. The subject of “The Tyranny of the Majority” came up. That phrase was mentioned often in The Federalist Papers, and it is frequently on the tip of the tongue of libertarians like us.  I have always thought of it in exclusively political contexts.

VHF 68 is the channel for general boat-to-boat chat here in Boot Key Harbor. The cruisers net is on 68. People chat on 68 all day and into the evening. But this morning, I began at 6 AM to chat with others striving to see the five planets and the ISS space station flyover. We got a complaint from another boat. Apparently they leave 68 on as they sleep, and we disturbed them.

It reminded me of when I was working in Sweden in the 70s. I worked night shift, while living in a hotel. One day a man stopped me and went into a tirade about how rude I was to make noise opening and closing doors at 6 AM, thus disturbing his sleep. But there was no thought given to how my sleep was disturbed at 9 AM by someone mowing the lawn.

The interesting point is that The Tyranny of the Majority is not just a political issue. It happens in everyday life. The majority of people who sleep at 6 AM, feel free to protest vigorously if their sleep is disturbed. The minority of people who sleep at 6 PM, have no right to protest at all. All consideration and empathy goes to the majority, zero to the minority. Is this a universal human trait? I can’t say for sure, but maybe yes.

If life was like the parliamentary system that respects the rights of the minority, quiet hours would include 6 AM 90% of the time and 6 PM 10% of the time.