BAN #77: Cruising Trek, Owl be seeing you, Next time I’ll try Moscato

January 7, 2018 Issue #77

Subscribers give a hoot.

Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

As you read this I am displacing my own weight in Caribbean waters as part of Star Trek: The Cruise III. I’ll be posting pictures as often as I can, so check out Instagram and Twitter for terrible puns and warp speed nerdery.


Because my home state is pretty

I was out and about recently in Boulder county around sunset, and just minding my own business, when I perchance saw something pretty remarkable. I was really glad I happened to take my camera with me when I left the house earlier that day:

[Credit: Phil Plait]

We have a few great horned owls in the area — I’ve posted pix of a few on social media — but they are almost always alone. Sometimes in our yard we can hear one hooting, and another one far off hooting in reply, but to happen upon two of them so close to each other was surprising. I don’t know if they were a mated pair or what, since I’m not really up on my raptor territorial habits knowledge, but these two were just sitting in these trees, letting the wind ruffle their feathers. They didn’t make any noise, and didn’t appear to be looking for food. They also didn’t care about me either, though I was careful not to spook them.

Pretty cool. All the summer birds are long gone — I haven’t seen an egret or a pelican in weeks (though I did spot a bald eagle sitting on the power pole at the edge of my property the other day; unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me and by the time I was done feeding the goats it was gone) — so it’s nice to still see some big ones sticking around… even if the one that likes to sit in the spruce tree next to my bedroom window wakes me up every morning at 5:00. Grrrr… but still cool.

Life Hacks

Not what you might expect from an astronomer, but in my defense I am alive

Way back in Issue #8 I wrote about replacing window cleaners with a homemade DIY mix that a) is way cheaper and 2) works way better. Since that was a paid-subscriber-only issue, here’s the meaty bit:

We used Windex and other ammonia-based spray cleaners for a long time, but then my wife found a neat little trick. Mix distilled water 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol (we keep both around the house; the first for various appliances like steam cleaners, and the second for first aid), loaded it into a spray bottle, and boom. Glass cleaner.

So why bring it up again? Well, living in the countryside of Colorado, I can safely say that every summer we suffer through a plague of houseflies. I don’t like using insecticides, and a fly swatter is gross and generally ineffective because Musca domesticae will land on just about anything, especially things that don’t work as backboards for a swatter.

You may imagine where I’m going with this. Out of curiosity, I grabbed my alcohol spray and waited for a fly to land on a windowpane. I squirted it (the spray was set to a medium wide diffusion) and the fly suddenly stopped moving. It was stunned, and I was easily able to get it with a paper towel.

To my surprise, this works every time. So there you go. But a warning: The spray can damage some surfaces, so have a care using it. I don’t use it on wood or anything like that. Just glass and such. And flies.

P.S. Did you know there is only one official constellation in the sky named after an insect? And yup: It’s Musca, the fly. Scorpions are arachnids, so Scorpius doesn’t count.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

Monday Dec. 31, 2018: Get ready for humanity’s most distant encounter: Tonight’s the night for 2014 MU69!

Tuesday Jan. 1, 2019: Happy New Year 2019! … but what exactly is a “year”?

Wednesday Jan. 2, 2019: The hour-by-hour phases of the Moon for all of 2019

Thursday Jan. 3, 2019: What caused this griddle-and-pancake-batter feature on the Moon?

Friday Jan. 4, 2019: A distant box of jewels

Et alia

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