Friday, April 12, 2024

Where I've Been and Tools of the Trade

 I bet you thought I'd forgotten the blog again today. Or blown it off. It's been an intense two weeks. Let me show you what I've been up to (via some pixelated, crappy cell phone photos.)

I've been on the road for the past two weeks to Austin, Texas and back again to chase the eclipse. It was epic. The trip back was fraught with seriously rough weather, slow slogs in the freeways in rain so heavy you couldn't see, and constant emergency alerts firing on the cell phones for flood alerts and tornado warnings (three were verified on the ground.) We got to see an amazing celestial event and lived to tell the tale. 

As to what I use to write: Almost exclusively MS Word - it's familiar, it's versatile, and it's so easily converted to different file types. In the cracks of the caveat I supplied, I turn to simple little low-feature drafting tools from time to time like Omm Writer, Dark Room, or 4theWords. Those are for the days I want no distractions - they're about shutting out the rest of the computer screen and silencing notifications. They're for fast drafting when you don't want to let editor mind engage. There's rudimentary spell checking if there's anything at all.

They all import plain text into Word in a hyper-ugly font but that's fine because there's zilch formatting and Word happily goes about putting squiggly red and blue lines under everything I've mistyped or misspelled or grammatically hacked up. I like to think of Word as the program for the professional author and the other programs for the little kid artist who's trying out bits of story.

Back to the eclipse: We joined a Sky and Telescope Magazine group in the Austin area that had arranged hotel, meals, and the viewing location (private! with security!) We were in the company of 230 astronomy geeks, scientists, astrophysicists, and on eclipse day, one astronaut. We were surrounded by telescopes and massive cameras. All we had were viewing glasses and our cell phones (also with filters applied to them). We really lucked out with the weather.

If you're interested in catching your own eclipse experience, the next one is in Spain (through Sky and Telescope) in 2026. After that, Egypt in 2027, then Australia in 2028. Totality for this eclipse lasted just over 4 minutes. It was the shortest 4 minutes of my life.

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