Time Lapse of DSCOVR’s First Year

Too cool for words. Here is National Geographic‘s article about the time-lapse video of Earth taken over NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory‘s (DSCOVR) first year in space. (SKIP THE SHORT VID at the top and go to the middle of the page.) The images were recorded from Lagrange point 1, a gravitational balance point (a Lissajous orbit) 1.5 million kilometers away. Jay Herman, EPIC Lead Scientist (what a cool title!), does a good job narrating.

There was an epic battle to get DSCOVR launched, and scientists waited seventeen years, from 1998, when then Vice President Al Gore proposed it, until early last year, to finally see the satellite’s launch. On July 6, 2015, they released their first image. It is the first image in the time-lapse that ended last month, at the end of the first year.

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First image of Earth from DSCOVR on July 6, 2015

DSCOVR’s intent is to report on variable solar wind condition, warn us of coronal mass ejections, and monitor the things we and our planet do to impact the climate (hence, the link to Gore).

Photo credits: NOAA’s DSCOVR

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.


Posted in Al Gore, Astronomy, DSCOVR, NOAA, Science, Space | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Last Days of Summer” Premieres at Rhode Island International Film Festival

You may know Michael Rosenbaum from his Lex Luthor portrayal in the TV series, “Smallville.” Dark and sinister.

Rosenbaum has done a lot of comedy, as well, including his current TVLand show, “Impastor,” where he plays a conman who has taken on the identity of a gay Lutheran pastor in the fictitious small town of Ladner, Oregon. He plays opposite some well-known comedic talent—Sara Rue, Mircea Monroe and Mike Kosinski. Rosenbaum also produces this show.

What you may not know is Rosenbaum has acted in—and also directed, produced and/or written—a number of indie films, both shorts and feature length. These include his own films, “Back in the Day” (2014), “Ghild” (2011, Outstanding Achievement in Short Filmmaking at Newport Beach Film Festival) and “Fade into You” (2012) as well as “The Visitant” (2014), “Two-legged Rat Bastards” (2011), “Urban Legend” (1998) and “Sorority Boys” (2002).

His most recent indie film is “Last Days of Summer“—an Oliver Ridge/Blood Moon Creative  film directed by Aaron Harvey—where he plays against William Fichtner, Jessica McNamee, Jean Louisa Kelly and Colin Woodell. Its world premiere is August 13, 2016, at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (August 9 – 14, 2016) in Providence.

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It is a story about Mike (Fichtner), who feels life is passing him by, and Jenna (McNamee), the young woman next door, who is trapped in a tumultuous marriage to Scott (Rosenbaum). Relationships start to ravel when Mike becomes attracted to Jenna. It looks to be an intense view into obsession and dissatisfaction with life.

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Here’s the trailer and ticket info. Hoping to catch this one.

Photo credits: Blood Moon Creative, Inc.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Independent films, Indie Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Culture of Violence

We Americans have embraced a culture of violence. We have allowed it to permeate our lives, like cancer growing and spreading through every pore in our body. The rest of the world must think all of us are insane to live this way. We are collectively insane to allow it to continue. Every day, each of us makes the choice to ignore it, to say nothing about it, to do nothing about it.

Two separate killings of unarmed black men in two days earlier this week, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Missouri, Wednesday, spurred the attack last night on Dallas police officers. Four Dallas Police Department officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer were killed, and many others wounded, as officers worked to protect the crowd. It was a well-planned attack, using snipers to shoot at officers patrolling a large gathering of people protesting the earlier killings. The names of the DPD and DART officers have not yet been released.

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Anton Sterling being attacked by police officers

The events of the last few days resulted from the systematic persecution of Black American men by law enforcement officers. It’s not a new thing—our news reporters quickly included statistics to compare them against previous, equally horrific events. This is only one symptom of the cancer, but one that can be rectified.

The Los Angeles Police Department, once thought of as the most brutal in the nation, has spent the last twenty-four years reforming itself, after the now infamous beating of Rodney King in 1992, which was one of the first captured on video by a bystander. It hasn’t been easy and the change has been very slow, but it is changing. The Atlantic’s CityLab wrote about it after the beating and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, just over a year ago.

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Freddie Gray

Police officers need to not only be held accountable for their actions, but also carefully selected and trained to be community activists. The whole police culture in our country needs to change. They are meant to protect us, not kill us—regardless of the color of our skin or our socio-economic status.

I’ve been reading Tweets and Facebook posts about these events, and a predominant theme is the feeling of helplessness. People ask, “what can I do?” Changing the local police department is something we all have some control over. It would be a start. Trying to change local gun laws is another thing anyone, or everyone, can take a part in.

Another frequently seen topic on both Twitter and Facebook is prayer. “Pray for peace.” “Pray for the officers.” Prayer might make you feel better, and that’s fine, but it does nothing to change the situation. Prayer is passive acceptance. I’m going to guess most of the folks making these comments are members of some religious congregation. You have collective power. Influence your place of worship to get involved in the local community to make a difference, and be part of that difference.

We, collectively, are responsible for the community we live in, and by community, I mean our cities, our states and our country. This includes not only how we treat each other, but how we treat foreign nations. Our violence oozes into the rest of the world. We are war mongers. But, we have control over who we elect. Elect the officials, at all levels, who are the most likely to change our violent society into a kinder, gentler nation.

In the mean time, remember the power of video and the internet. With the plethora of smart phones in most people’s pockets, we can be proponents in changing our police forces by creating the evidence to hold officers accountable. Use the power in your hand whenever you see an encounter between police officers and the individuals they interact with.

Another use of video to promote accountability is to have all officers wearing cameras. Some police departments are already doing this. See if you can get your local department to embrace this idea. It provides an unbiased account of events.

Get involved. Be the change.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Gun Violence, Murder, Police Accountability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Remember Them

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

These are the names of the forty-nine people who were killed Sunday morning, June 12, 2016. They were killed because they happened to be at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida. They were killed because someone thought they were gay, and that gays should die.

I won’t name gunman. He was an American. He followed Islam. He listened to ISIL extremists and carried out what he perceived they were instructing him to do. Even though recently questioned by the FBI—he was on their watchlist—he was able to go into a gun shop and purchase the weapons and ammunition that enabled him to carry out his plan.

One of the weapons was an assault rifle—these arms are designed, specifically, to kill people, their sole purpose. Our gun laws need to change, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

I’m writing about the victims.

The oldest was fifty. The youngest, only eighteen. They were mostly young gay men out enjoying themselves on a Saturday night. There were forty-two men and seven women. They were mostly Hispanic. They were travel agents, pharmacy technicians, dancers, students, UPS workers, filmmakers—people of all walks of life. It was the kind of crowd Pulse was known for. To read some of their stories, here’s an article from Florida Today.

It’s Tuesday, two days since I heard the news. I’m still out of sorts, distracted, teary. I remember these feelings from when my husband died of cancer three years ago. I am grieving.

I know a lot of others are, as well. But I also know, many of us have already pushed this aside and gone on with life. Politicians have eagerly used it in attacks on the opposing party—and their constituents lap it up. It makes me a little sad and more than a little angry. Maybe it will spur some of us to action.

But right now, read these names out loud—each and every one of them. Remember them.

Photo credit: Lis Mitchell Flickr.com/pixelfish

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Gun Violence, LGBT, LGBTQ, Life, Murder, Pulse, Pulse Murders | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forty-nine New Names

I’m at a loss this evening. I spent the day trying to come to grips with the mass murder at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, early this morning.

Yesterday, only yesterday, with a heavy heart, I wrote about another murder in the same city—Christina Grimmie was assassinated while signing autographs after a concert where she was the opening act.

It was like a prelude, and today was the rest of the symphony. Symphonies aren’t necessarily happy things. This one was very dark, indeed.

Today was strange. Many people I talked to, hadn’t heard about the shooting. I had to tell them. I found out this morning from PBS NewHour on Twitter while reading about gun control. Kind of a follow-up to yesterday’s blog post about Grimmie.

I didn’t have time to write about it this morning—I was preparing to go to my writing group “read out.” There was a piece I wrote during the week that I was planning to read. It was a back story for one the characters in my fantasy novel.

I kind of like that piece and would have liked to have read it today—I’ll probably read it next time. I still was torn, considering the idea of reading the blog post I wrote in response to the Grimmie murder. I wasn’t sure I could read it, without breaking down into the tears that plagued me all morning.

My writers’ group, Writing Practice, has been having their monthly Writers Read Out at the Stroum Jewish Community Center of Greater Seattle, on Mercer Island. I arrived half an hour early, accidentally. I wasn’t positive what time it started, but didn’t even check before leaving the house. I had to get out of the house.

As I sat, all alone, in a sunny little courtyard, I read my Grimmie story out loud a couple of times—I like to practice before I consider reading something to people. I added some context about it happening only yesterday, a little bit about the Pulse killings, and a quote at the end from the President’s speech this morning.

I was still torn about reading it. While I sat there, a young man came out to chat with me. He asked me if I was part of the reading group—he was Ben, the facilities manager, and probably just making sure I belonged there at the center.

We talked about the massacre, how it made us feel, and I shared my conflicted emotions about reading the Grimmie story. And I couldn’t hold back my tears. He told me, if I felt so strongly, it was something I needed to do. And then he left.

A while later, it was time to go inside. I decided I would read the story.

I’m not sure how or why, but I ended up reading first. I had to start by explaining what happened last night—not everyone had heard yet. I read with a steady voice and no tears. I looked up frequently and made eye-contact with my audience, pausing now and then to let them think about some of the things I said. There were nods from around the room.

The others took their five minutes to read their own stories. One was particularly poignant—about the death camp in, I believe, the former Yugoslavia, where perhaps 700,000 Serbs, Romanis and other ethnic undesirables were killed during WWII. Death on much larger scale.

Afterwards, some of us talked about my story—my words had moved them. One of my peers actually said I should submit my story to the Huffington Post. I don’t know. After the events last night, Grimmie’s story became old news by this morning.

There are forty-nine new names to learn. And one that we should never speak again.

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Christina Grimmie, Gun Violence, Murder | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Many Gun Deaths Are Acceptable?

If you watch The Voice, you might be familiar with Christina Grimmie. She was third runner-up in season 6. Since then, her career has been taking off. After performing at a concert last night in Orlando, she was murdered. She was 22. The gunman was able to carry two handguns, two loaded magazines and a large hunting knife into the concert venue. [1]

With our current liberal gun laws, I’m not sure what the solution to preventing this is. The concert hall apparently searches backpacks and handbags, but obviously this wasn’t enough.

We could create laws requiring all public places to install metal detectors, but that would cause outrage among the gun owners who believe they have a constitutional right to carry arms. It would also incur great costs to the venues that would get passed on to customers. And, can you imagine how long it would take to enter an event like a baseball game or rock concert?

We could change our gun laws (good luck with that one). Last year, nearly 13,000 people died in the US from gun violence, excluding suicides, which account for more than 20,000 additional gun deaths each year. We don’t talk about that too much. That’s damn near 100 a day, or about 4 an hour. Do you hear about all those in the news? Can you imagine hearing about a gun-related death every fifteen minutes? No wonder we’ve become so numbed to all these deaths. [2, 3]

Or we can just proceed as we’ve been doing, and write off another young life as a collateral damage in the war zone we’ve allowed to develop in our country and grown so inured to.

I remember a campaign by the Washington State Patrol last year, where they asked people how many car accident related deaths were acceptable each year in Washington State. There was a wide variety of answers–150, 1200, more. Ask yourself this question. Then, they asked, “How many deaths in your family is acceptable?” Guess what? The answer was zero. I think we should start asking that same question about gun deaths.

My heart goes out to Miss Grimmie’s family, friends and fans. I can’t imagine the loss of child–especially from such cruel and unnecessary violence. My heart also goes out to the gunman’s family. He killed himself, so doesn’t have to live with what he did. They have to live the rest of their lives knowing it was their son, father, brother, uncle, cousin, who took this young woman’s life.

Photo credit: NBC News

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Christina Grimmie, Gun Violence, Murder, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Once There Were Men

Today’s writing was inspired by an article wondering if the CO₂ levels in the atmosphere will ever drop below 400 PPM, published by Climate Central. (It hit a record single-day count of 409 PPM on April 9, reported by Weather Underground based on research by the University of Leicester.) Oh, and a Facebook posting from Old Growth Northwest about submissions to their summer POPLORISH issue, which they would like to be ruminating on the potential near and far futures of America, the world, the human species, and the biosphere in which we all live, hate, love, and die.

I’ll tell you a story. It’s not a happy one, although there were happy times.

Once, there were men. They came upon the face of the Earth small and vulnerable, hiding in the trees at night. But they were scrappy, and really weren’t suited to timidity.

Soon, they ventured forth and, even though they lost many of their numbers to faster, more powerful beasts, they learned to adapt. They were stubborn and persistent—if they couldn’t outrun their prey, they would track it relentlessly until the animal perished of exhaustion.

Observant and clever, they began building enclosures to guard themselves and their possessions, and keep out anything dangerous to them, including other men.

Oh! They were clever. Every new invention inspired the next one. Cultivation of plants, domestication of animals, construction of dwellings, fortresses, towns and cities. Transportation of water, goods, themselves. They always wanted the newest thing, and they took what they wanted.

Possessions. That might have been what drove them to their end. Their hunger for more was never satisfied. They cut down the forests, paved over the fields and dumped their waste everywhere—on the earth, in the sea and up into the sky.

At times, they made the area around themselves so filthy that they took notice and made token efforts to clean it up. Mostly, they ignored it and kept making and consuming more things.

Some of the things were magnificent, art and music and stories, amazing architecture with buildings touching the sky, machines that flew through the skies, across the oceans and over the land—their imagination held no bounds.

As their numbers exploded, the devastation of the Earth was nearly complete. And still, they ignored it and kept slashing and burning the land.

When the air was filled with carbon from long-dead phyla and fauna, and there were no longer enough trees to extract it all, when the oceans were no longer able to cool it, the atmosphere began to heat at an alarming rate. They knew this and still, they ignored it.

They quit seeing the world at all, absorbed by glowing screens—where they read every day about the impending catastrophe. The sun beat down and they continued pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

The glaciers and polar caps melted away. The sea rose. They all lived so close to the oceans, and their beautiful cities were inundated. Where would all their billions live?

Droughts became common, and other severe weather. With water scarce, they could no longer feed themselves. As they starved, they warred upon each other to take control of what little water was left. Their numbers dwindled, but it was too late.

The oceans had grown too warm. The phytoplankton could no longer produce oxygen. [1] They had stripped the Earth of its forests. There was simply nothing left for them to breathe. They took with them all the mammals of the earth and the creatures in the oceans, and, not long after, the rest of the animals and all the plants.

The greenhouse effect raised temperatures beyond the survival of even the phototrophic bacteria that lived in the heat vents at the bottoms of the oceans. The oceans gave up their water as the heat rose to several hundred degrees.

Once there were men. They lived upon the Earth for ten thousand years.

Once there were men. They were able to destroy their home, the home of every living plant and animal, in just a few hundred years. What had not happened in the billion years since life first appeared, happened in the blink of an eye.

Once there were men.

Photo credit: www.asianews.it

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.


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