Considering the Moon …

When I go glamping with my grandgirls later this summer, I want to be able to teach them about the movement of the sun, moon, and stars in the wide-open skies. But the nature of how it all works can be confusing. I recently ran across a basketball analogy that put everything in perspective. Since my son-in-law, Lucas, was a basketball coach, the girls are familiar with the game, so it will be a great way for them to remember how the moon orbits around the Earth.

First, picture a basketball court. We’ll scale the Earth down to the size of a basketball and place it in the basket. That will make the moon the size of a tennis ball. The moon, then, basically orbits the Earth at the 3-point line (that’s the line that looks like a circle about 23’ from the basket where you can’t believe Steph Curry just made a basket from).


Note: Because the moon’s orbit is really elliptic and not exactly circular, it extends away from the 3-point line at its apogee (furthest point from the Earth) and perigee (nearest point to the Earth) at about the length of a tennis racket. But I might save this little tidbit for later. No need to confuse the issue (or Nanny Jane!).

Fun fact: At this same scale (basketball/tennis ball), the sun is about the size of a very large hot-air balloon and it’s about 1 3/4 miles away from the basket. The sun and moon appear to be the same size when we look at them in the sky. However, the sun is 400 times larger than the moon. So why does it appear the same size as the moon? Because it’s nearly 400 times further from the Earth!



Surviving Death Valley

Yesterday’s post sparked a memory about Death Valley …

My late father-in-law, Ivan, loved to tell us about traveling across Death Valley to visit relatives, stationed on an Army base in California. He was born in 1910, so that might have been in the early ’20s. At that time, there apparently were no proper roads across the valley, but folks had discovered they could cut off a few hours’ time traveling southwest if they braved the Mojave Desert on their way to the coast.

So enterprising engineers devised a makeshift “road” of two narrow wooden slats over the sand, and Ivan’s family drove their Model T carefully on the boards, taking care not slip off one side or the other (talk about driving attentively!). And since a slip or a breakdown in the Mojave Desert’s extreme temperatures could be fatal, mounted men regularly patrolled the route (early highway patrolmen?).

Death Valley is located on the border between southeastern California and Nevada and covers a 3,000-square-mile area. It’s the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. (It’s also bordered by Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S.). Consequently, it’s set lots of records: the highest recorded temperature on Earth (134°F), the greatest number of consecutive days over 100°F (154), the hottest daily low temperature ever recorded (107°F), the hottest 24-hour average temperature (117.5°F), and even the hottest overnight low (107°F). Not a place you’d want to get stranded.


Photo by Tuxyso via Wikimedia Commons

Today, California SR 190 travels through Death Valley, following the gold-rush path of 1849. A man named Herman Eichbaum was instrumental in creating a toll road through the valley in 1926, bringing tourism to the area. But I couldn’t find information about either the primitive wooden-slat route my father-in-law talked about or the early highway patrolmen. Maybe a similar story has been passed down in your family? Tell all!


Photo by Jon Rawlinson via Wikimedia Commons



Could you, would you?

Hot on the heels of the running goats, I must ask:

“Could you, would you, with a goat?”


Image courtesy of


When Dr. Suess wrote Green Eggs and Ham, he probably didn’t entertain any serious notion that someone could be coaxed into dining in the company of farm animals …

“I could not, would not, with a goat!”

But, hey, Sam-I-Am was eventually able to coerce the fellow in the book to try green food, and it seems that customers at the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Tokyo’s Shibuya District are a really rather receptive to the idea of noshing with nannies.

No kidding!

Take a look: