Vandenberg rocket launch

Marty S. and I drove down to Vandenberg AFB this AM to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch.  We had never seen a launch and it was on my bucket list.  It was around 4:30AM and I didn’t get any pictures, but here’s a video taken from the actual rocket.  We’ll do it again I’m sure and next time we’ll shoot for a daytime launch.

If you ever decide to do this, consider three places to view a Vandenberg launch on pads 3 or 4.  And consider bringing along binoculars.  Options include:

  1.  On Ocean avenue near or on Renwick Ave.  About as close as you can get to the pads, about 5 miles.  Could be foggy.  Park off Ocean or on Renwick.
  2. Providence Landing Park.  About 5 miles further, but at 330′ elevation, might get you out of the fog, if it’s foggy.  You don’t have to get there early.  Look south.
  3. Harris Grade Road up in the hills, at 1000′ if it’s really foggy, but it is further away.

There’s some old info on internet sites.  For instance, you probably can’t reach Surf Beach and Hawk’s Nest is sadly closed.  Having said that, here’s a pretty useful map, including info on seeing other launch pads.

Note that pads 6 and 8 are quite a bit further from the viewing spots I mention than 3 or 4.  If you have a better place to see 6 or 8, let me know.  There’s a coast road but others mention that it’s closed for launches.  I’ll keep this blog updated as I learn more.

Leg exercise is critical to brain health

Interesting article in ScienceDaily says that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells.  The study gives doctors new clues as to why patients who are bed-ridden often rapidly decline in health.  They not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted.

legsThe study was done on mice, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see the implications for you and me.  I’m sure it’ll spark more study but it seems like a good idea to avoid long periods of inactivity.

Khan Academy = learning

Khan Academy just added an Android app to go along with its existing iOS app. Download from Google Play and check it out.  This is the future of learning, where the emphasis is placed on learning and not what the “education establishment” considers “education”.  What I mean by that is that “professional educators” all too often are mostly concerned with two things.  First, they want to keep the “education club” exclusive, optimizing their wages and job security, but not student success.  Second, they emphasize testing as a way to rank students, not as a way to improve learning.  There are exceptions of course.  Khan Academy is one.  For more on this subject, get this book.

New Fast Path to a Degree

According to Money Magazine, several top tier universities are beginning to offer credits towards a degree through competency-based testing.  If you know the material, should it matter if you learned by sitting in a lecture, reading a book, or taking a free online course?  The University of Wisconsin seems to be a leader in this progressive thinking, along with U of Mich, U of Texas system, and Purdue.  Frankly, I’m a little surprised that these middle-of-the-country bastions of academia are on the forefront of what I think is a great idea.  But it shows that the coasts aren’t always leading progress.  If more institutions put students first, this would help slow the skyrocketing costs of college degrees.

Retiring the Clydesdales

According to a 11/24 article in the WSJ, 44% of 21-27 year-olds in the US have not tried Budweiser.  There was a time that it was the “standard” lager that you either drank or claimed that your beer was better than.  Times have changed for the better.  So in an attempt to woo the younger crowd, the folks who own Bud will stop or slow down the use of their trademark hay burners.