A few days ago a new (to me) book arrived, Dead Reckoning by Ron Doerfler. The book is yet to be read (other than a quick scan), but the title reminded me of the method of navigation by the same name.

Dead Reckoning navigation is the art of estimating one’s position based on the last known position, elapsed time and velocity (or estimated distance) and heading. In other words, given a known position and an estimate of bearing and distance, the current position coordinates can be estimated (or calculated).

In the context of the book, Dead Reckoning refers to methods of calculation (or estimation) of mathematical problems without the use of calculating tools other than one’s brain. It is going to be a fine read and something that will add to my personal toolkit.

But the term reminded me of my wanderings a couple of years ago. As I traveled around the country, I had only a general idea of where I was going. Given that there was no specific destination and no specific schedule, I would stop along the way, retrieve my ancient glovebox atlas, and estimate my location on the very small maps. Using that information I would set a course and make a decision about where I might stay for a night or a few days.

Once near that location, I would open Google maps on my iPhone and look for a place to stay. After identifying a few possible candidates, the reviews would inform whether the place was acceptable. I would then either just drive in or phone ahead for a reservation.

I thought of this as an automotive form of dead reckoning. Given I had no specific destination, I had little need for the precision of GPS and the inherent maps. I just needed a general direction and an estimate of distance so I could decide where to stay for a night or a week.

I was also reminded of how we navigated when I was a young man. There was no GPS system. There were paper maps of various scales. I loved those maps and still have quite a few of them. I would plan a trip with a map and a notepad and I was able to estimate travel times and ETAs without a lot of effort. Sometimes navigation needed a telephone call (from a pay phone) to get to the destination. Often there were signs that provided directions once one was sufficiently close to the target.

There is something deeply satisfying about just using a simple map and about not having a specific itinerary to deal with. There is something satisfying about just going and then being there in that place for a bit.

I think this experience is coming for me again. There is a need in me to just wander for a bit and enjoy the journey. With journal, pen, and camera I can be very happy enjoying the world I live in.

# The Hunt

This photograph was posted to my “Instagram account, but is worth a revisit.

I see this heron many times when walking the Carson River. He is always a welcome sight, the beauty and majesty of this bird are significant. But catching a photograph of him is difficult.

Earlier this year my Fujinon 100-400mm lens arrived. This lens is a beast, literally and figuratively. It is one of the heaviest lenses I own. It is also one of the best lenses I own.

I carry it often when walking along the river. It has the ability to bring me photographs I cannot capture without it. It is not a general purpose lens, but one very well suited for wildlife photography. I love to capture wildlife with the camera. Results like this one make the expense and effort worthwhile.

# Dynamic Range

One of my favorite YouTubers is Steve Guttenberg. He does a daily show that covers sound equipment and his experience in the high-end audio industry. He sometimes/often includes a music review. I don’t always like his choices, but I have found some music that I really like by listening to his recommendations.

In a recent daily show, Steve mentions a Frank Sinatra recording, The Concert Sinatra. After watching Steve’s show, I searched Spotify for the recording and found it.

As I write this, I have the music playing as well. I am struck by the dynamic range of the recording. What I mean by that is the range between the softest and loudest passages of each song.

The dynamic range is huge! It is so musical and such a contrast to so many recordings of popular music. In his daily show, Steve mentions Beyoncé and a recording she produced that he liked. (But that recording was not sufficiently memorable that he recalled the name of the album.) He contrasts the liner notes from the Beyoncé and Sinatra recordings. In the latter are details about the recording process, the musicians, and the studio. In the former… nothing.

As an aside, one of the reasons I like classical music is the dynamic range in the recordings. A big part of the presentation is the range in volume that the music is played. There are markings on the score to indicate the composer’s intent (for loudness). Dynamic compression of classical recordings is either not done or is limited. This gives classical music a completely different sound than most popular music. (There are exceptions, of course.)

I am not knocking Beyoncé. She is a talented and successful entertainer. There is nothing wrong with her musicianship. But her focus on not on being a musician, but an entertainer. Sinatra was an entertainer, but I think he was principally a musician. It shows in this particular recording.

I do not have any Sinatra in my collection. That is a lack and something I am going to rectify. I think a good beginning will be The Concert Sinatra. It is a beautiful recording of some classic songs. I am going to bet it will be dynamite on headphones.

# Linear Interpolation

Back in the old days, we used tabulated values to compute values of transcendental functions so that the results could be used in subsequent computations. We had tables for logarithms, trigonometric functions, and the like. There was no calculator or computer with which to enter a value and press log10 to estimate the logarithm of the number.

The method I was taught in high school (I think, it was a long time ago) is called linear interpolation. The assumption is that a straight line between entries in the table is a reasonable approximation for values in between.

That is not strictly true, because all of those functions are actually curves and deviate from a straight line between any two points on the function (according to the graph of the function). But, use of interpolation is certainly sufficient for scientific and engineering calculations.

Therefore, I learned to use linear interpolation to estimate the in-between values. The process is simple, computationally. The bounding values from the table are used to estimate a slope of the line between the two values. That slope multiplied by the fraction of the distance between the interval endpoints of the desired value of the independent variable is added to the initial interval endpoint of the dependent variable. The result is the estimate of the dependent variable on the bounding interval.

Probably 20-years ago I was working on a spreadsheet to route a runoff hydrograph through a reservoir. The algorithm is called modified Puls and is an expression of the conservation of mass principle of the hydrograph through the reservoir with the assumption that the slope on the reservoir surface is zero (it’s flat). The process involves generation of several tables of values and then using those tables to execute the algorithm. Most of the time the desired values from the algorithm fall between tabulated values. Therefore, interpolation is required.

The brute force technique would be to hand code each cell of the spreadsheet to advance the calculation. I wanted a more general (and perhaps elegant) solution so that I would not have to hand code each cell. I thought it should be possible to write a general formula using the built-in search function of the spreadsheet over the range of values in the table.

I recall working on this for a couple of days. I was a professor, so I could afford to spend the time on the problem. I constructed a solution using a function in Microsoft Excel called `VLOOKUP`. I am not going into the details here (I have a white paper here), but it is sufficient to say that I did the work, solved the problem, and forgot about it.

I also forgot where I put my notes on how I constructed the solution. As it turns out, I needed (or rather wanted) to use this approach to solve an engineering problem I’m working on. I couldn’t find my notes. A couple of weeks ago I hand-coded the cells just so I could get a solution. But last it became apparent that I might have to make several solutions of the problem using the same tables.

I needed to regenerate the general solution, once again. I did this a couple of days ago. Then, yesterday morning, I woke early and was unable to go back to sleep. So, I rose, made coffee, and wrote my notes so that I would have a reference should I need to use the solution again. (Hence the production of the white paper above.)

I am reminded that there are many times we work out a problem, or we learn something that challenges us in some manner. But then, with the immediate problem solved, we move on and never take time to note what the problem was, what the constraints were, what the solution was, and what we learned. We are carried away by the pressing current of other tasks, other duties, or just the ebb and flow of life.

Then, weeks, months, years, or decades later, we find ourselves facing a similar problem that, hopefully, would have a similar solution. In a frantic whirlwind of energy, we search for the solution we know we found but cannot recollect. We know we solved the problem. We remember working on it, struggling intellectually or emotionally, and the expenditure of intense energy grinding toward the solution. Then, solution found and the immediate need passed, we remember having moved on without taking the time to reflect. We curse our impatience, or failure to document what we learned, and our stupidity.

But we know, having solved the problem once before, we can find the solution (or an equivalent solution) again. So we pick up the trail, work out the solution, and solve the problem once again.

Then what? The wise will set the brake, pause, and make note of the problem, the constraints, and the derived solution. I know that I learned my lesson on this one. Will I make the same error again? Probably. But I won’t make this same error again. I have my notes. I know how to solve this problem.

What about you? What is the problem you’re faced with? Is it one you solved before? Did you pause to make notes after developing the solution? Will you make the same mistake that I did?

# No Perfect Solution

I walk a lot. One of my preferred hikes is along the Carson River at the Silver Saddle Ranch from the River Park staging area up to Mexican Dam and return. There are a number of paths on Silver Saddle Ranch, but during the summer months, my preferred path is along the river. There The Girl has access to water for cooling off and drink. I like the green of the willows and cottonwoods and the sound of the birds.

Lately, I have been listening to music while walking. I gave up on my Bose QuietComfort 20s because I just cannot deal with wires. Because I carry a camera (actually two) and a bag, I am constantly fouling the wires of my headset. Then I jerk the plugs from my ears and get generally pissed off with the whole thing and lose the moment.

So I bought a set of the Bose QuietComfort 30s, which are wireless. They have a necklace that lies over the shoulders and provides the housing for the electronics and battery. They have the Bose sound, which I’m OK with. The noise cancellation is adjustable and effective. I can turn it off so I can hear what is going on around me. (I still like to hear the outdoors even if I am listening to music.) They do not hang up as badly as the wired units, although there remains some interference with the camera and bag straps.

They are not a perfect solution. I have to carry my iPhone in a case on my belt or in the camera bag. I cannot slip my iPhone into my back pocket. I have the occasional skip or drop. But, they are better than the wired units. They are a sufficient improvement that I think I’ll keep them and sell the 20s.

I think this is the general case: There are solutions to my problem (wanting decent quality sound, no wires) but there is not a perfect solution. It leads me to think about the pursuit of perfection, which is something that has been bouncing around inside my head for a bit now. There is an essay there that I hope to write sometime.

The image is one of my captures from the Carson River walks that I do. I was struck by the texture and contrast of the materials and the fact that no one was home. This might have been a nesting place earlier this year, but now it is empty. I am seeing other signs that fall is coming and soon winter. The leaves will be changing in a couple of weeks, I think. The weather is already changing.

The cycle repeats…

# The Joy of It

Over the last couple of years, I have watched these beautiful Northern Harriers work the sageland and wetland areas of Riverview Park in Carson City. It took me a couple of attempts to identify the raptor, but I finally got a view of the bird’s head and with the aid of the Merlin application from the Cornell School of Ornithology I made the identification.

They are now easy for me to identify — that big white patch on the rump is one giveaway. The second is their mode of hunting is to soar about ten feet over the surface listening for mice.

With the acquisition of the red-badge Fujifilm 100-400mm super zoom lens, I now have the capability to capture an image of these birds. They generally do not allow me to get too close, although they will sometimes glide just overhead, teasing me.

On this particular morning, I saw the harrier glide over the field. I made a couple of attempts to capture an image but was not satisfied with my attempts.

However, the bird soon began a climb, having caught a thermal. I watch it rise up and up until it was a couple hundred feet overhead. It soared in large circles, overwatching its hunting grounds.

I stood there a few minutes, knowing that the bird was not hunting but simply flying.

Many of the animals encountered during my life have shown an intelligence that is impressive. They do not simply eat, sleep, and procreate. They interact socially among their species and sometimes others. They play. They do things that please them. Otherwise, why would they waste the energy to move from place to place?

The best teacher of all is The Girl. She showed me there is intelligence without language. She often talks to me, speaking volumes without making a sound. I get it.

As I stood there on the trail, watching the harrier soaring far above me, I got it. This was not about a hunt, or about turf protection; the soaring was simply for the joy of it.

# Does Not Make a Right

A few weeks ago I shared an image and a story about a rattlesnake found dead at a park. A week or so ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch when we came across this snake. It looked to me that someone had killed it on the trail and left it.

I cannot tell if it is a rattlesnake or not. It looks like someone took the tail so I am suspicious that it was a rattlesnake.

I am not OK with killing one of these animals on encounter. The Girl and I bypass them and let them contribute their part to the ecosystem. They fill a valuable role.

This is another wrong… and two wrongs do not make a right.

# The Writing Discipline

About a week ago I met Judy M. while walking The Girl out at Riverside Park on the Carson River. I think Judy is about where I was a few years ago after Wife died and I was in the process of discovering what I was to be without her in my life. It was a turbulent time of reflection and introspection during which I ended my engagement with my previous employer, sold my house, put my things into storage, and went on a long wander.

That wander took me many places where I spent time with family, friends, and loved ones. It was necessary for me to take the time to process my loss. It was good to connect with people I love. I cherish that time.

In any event, I think Judy will be an interesting read and encourage you, the reader, to visit her weblog and encourage her to continue posting. I am going to follow her.

Her sharing with me her weblog reminded me that I have not been exercising the writing discipline on my own site for some time. I see that it was early in July when I posted last. To be fair, I was traveling to see family and friends for a couple of weeks. I spent my time and energy on that exercise and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, it meant that I did not have time and energy to spend writing on my own weblog.

I know that I shared before an intention to write here regularly. I find it difficult, though, when I break the habit (or discipline) of writing regularly here to restart that work. I have many things to do and they will take priority if I let them.

That said, I still have the desire and intention of posting here on this site regularly. I suppose that means I need to set a regular reminder in my calendar that posting day is coming so you better get writing and then dig down and do that work.

I make no promise, although I have the intention of writing regularly. I think it is an important part of what I do and I also think I still have plenty of words left in me. Stop laughing…

While walking The Girl this morning we came upon these large wasps working the flowering plants along the path. I think this specimen was nearly 50mm long. The striking contrast between the black body and orange wings caught my eye. So, I made a few captures with the Fuji X-T1 and the Fuji 35mm f/2 lens. Of all the captures, this one I like the best.

I did give them some space. They did not seem particularly aggressive, but the orange wings looked like a warning to me. “Danger, Ruminator!”

When we returned home, I made some lunch (green salad with some ham, turkey, Jack cheese, avocado, and a Roma tomato) and relaxed a little. Then I looked up the wasp. I think it is a Tarantula Hunter, or Pepsis wasp. It was consuming nectar from a milkweed plant, along with a couple of butterflies.

# Wrong!

On my way east, I stopped at Grimes Point for a break and to make a sandwich. As I sat under the shelter munching a sandwich, drinking a bit of Diet Mellow Yellow, and snacking on some potato chips, I played with the chipmunks begging for bits of my lunch. One of them nearly took a bite of chip from my hand, then shied off. I noticed him creeping up on something a dozen feet away, very carefully. I noticed his attention was focused on a snake. A piece of rebar lay atop the dead animal, the implement of its destruction.

It looked like a Great Basin Rattlesnake to me. Its head was destroyed and the rattles were taken, I suppose as a trophy or souvenir.

This made me a little sad. Yes, rattlesnakes can be dangerous. They do not generally bite unless injured or cornered. They serve a function in the desert ecosystem. They are beautiful animals.

The snake was there because of the rodent population, I’m sure. It was just doing what rattlesnakes do — hunt food. They are where the food is.

It would have been easy to move the snake away from the picnic area without killing it. I would have either left it alone or moved it. They can easily be encouraged to move along without risk. It just takes a long stick and some patience.

There is something wrong with killing an animal needlessly. I have no issue with pest control, hunting for meat, or caring for livestock. But the wanton destruction of this animal was unnecessary and wrong.

What a shame.

# Metaphor

The Girl and I walk the Carson River often, almost every day. At this time of year, I really prefer to be near the water, particularly on hot days when we don’t leave the house very early.

One day we walked up a couple of women. One sat on the bench at this favorite stop while the other played with her dog in the river. Bench-woman told me that the dog has a couple of bad spinal disks, such that his rear legs are not really functional. However, with the carriage he gets along just fine.

I stopped, knelt in the sand (while the Girl snuffled about, got her feet wet, and got a drink) to get a capture of the carriage and the players in the background. On land, the dog is crippled — not fully able to use his body as intended. However, as I watched him play in the water with his friend, he was just a dog swimming and playing like all the other dogs seen in the river. Had I not known of his infirmity, I would never have guessed that his rear legs don’t work.

This struck me as a metaphor that applies to so many of us. Out of our element, we are crippled and not fully functional as many others are or might be. However, when in our element, we are just like all the others — able to work, play, and live like any other dog.