EncounterQuest 2024


I spent part of my weekend attending the second annual EncounterQuest 2024 in Rockingham, NC this weekend. It is a one-day festival focusing on Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Mothman, and other cryptids. This year it even had a UFO aspect, with the speaker addition of LCDR Alex Dietrich, one of the F/A-18 pilots who witnessed the “TicTac UFO” in November 2004. I don’t know what to make of Bigfoot but having seen Dietrich on TV, advocating for less stigma in reporting UFOs, I wanted to hear what she had to say.

The weekend began Friday afternoon with a plaster casting class (as mentioned in the last post), where participants learned how to properly pour plaster of Paris into any Bigfoot footprints they might find out in the woods. Of course, the plaster could be used to cast prints of other cool and interesting critters so one does not have to wait for the once-in-a-lifetime Bigfoot encounter to have fun with the plaster. We practiced by stepping into plastic bins filled with soil and sand, and then followed this with a layer of plaster, learning the importance of pouring slowly and very close to the print itself. The local journalists got some photos of me making my print, which was a nice surprise.

Just as the print-making was wrapping up a thunderstorm blew in. We moved ourselves and our still-setting prints under the porch roof. Dietrich, who cheerfully introduced herself as Alex, was interviewing participants as part of a new effort she’s involved in to talk to people who go to these types of events. I said hello and before I knew it I was recounting my UFO and ET stories into her microphone.
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Total solar eclipse, part I

Back in the summer of 2017, the Turner family was happily enjoying our summer vacation in Idaho and Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The scenery was unforgettable, of course, but there was one sight we could have seen but opted to skip, and that is the totality of the 2017 eclipse. Yes, we donned eclipse glasses and enjoyed seeing the majority of sun disappear but this pales in comparison to actually being in the full shadow of the moon like in totality. Foolish me thought there was only a slight difference in awesomeness but after hearing others’ accounts I knew we’d made a mistake. I made it a mission to get to totality for the next North American total eclipse in April 2024.

I frequented eclipse-oriented websites and Facebook groups, planning out where I wanted to see it. I considered renting a mobile home to ensure lodging. The hoops that needed to be jumped through seemed extensive, and I thought a ton of planning needed to be put into it. Still, life got in the way and rather than having everything lined up (ha!) in October 2023, I put it off until after New Year’s to make our plans.
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Out of control driver

The last solar eclipse in America until 2045 is happening tomorrow and Kelly and I decided to take a road trip out west to see it. We had just left the airport in St. Louis today when I saw a car ahead of us driving erratically. It couldn’t keep in its lane and its hazard lights were flashing. I gave it a wide berth as we both navigated the rain-slick highway road. The driver swerved one more time, plowed through a large puddle of water and then hydroplaned into the left wall, leaving its smashed bumper in the road.

I had slowed to a stop by now and didn’t know what to do. We inched up on it as traffic slowed behind us. It was a white sedan, fairly new looking up until the crash, but with pitch black window tinting. As we neared the car, I was surprised to see the driver still stepping on the gas. The car was now facing in our direction in the left lane and the rear tires were squealing against the wet pavement!

The driver turned the car back into the direction of traffic and then cut across the other lanes, leaving a good chunk of the car’s front end in the highway as it exited to the right.

Was the driver having a medical emergency? Was he or she drunk or high? I really don’t know. I might have stopped and checked on the driver had it not been for the dark windows – I just don’t know what I’d have been getting into.

Electronics testing at the airport

I haven’t posted a TSA story in a while because I’m lucky enough not to travel as often as I did. When I have traveled, I have come to appreciate how professional the team at my home airport, Raleigh-Durham, is. I’ve never had a bad experience with them and this – I want to stress – is not a bad one, either. Just unusual.

For years I have enjoyed the benefit of TSA-Pre, allowing me to speed through security lines. Naturally, I headed into the TSA-Pre line when I flew out of Raleigh on Wednesday morning. Expecting all to be well, I was intrigued when I apparently set off the metal detector.

“Wait right here, sir,” the screener said, calmly. “We’re going to screen your electronics.”

I waited on the mat next to the metal detector while another agent got through checking another traveler’s electronics. He invited me over and I carried my bags to the testing station.

“Got any thing that is sharp, going to stick me, contraband, etc?” he asked. When I answered no, he politely asked if I had a laptop in the bag. I showed him the pocket it was in and he laid it out on the counter.

He then swabbed my laptop with a chemical pad, popped the swab into the sensor for analysis, and stepped away. To my surprise, the sensor began beeping. My newish work laptop had only been on my office desk and my home desk – not to the coca fields of South America or anything. I began to think over kind of substance could have possibly set off this false alarm.
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Our car’s keyfob was hacked – the question is how?

We were out of town over the weekend and at 5:30 AM Saturday I awakened to the sound of one beep of our car’s “alarm” horn. Thinking it was the neighbor’s car and knowing our car was locked, I went back to bed. When we walked to the car later that morning, the hatch was standing wide open. Nothing appeared to be touched or taken.

I was immediately concerned that somehow our keyfob had been hacked. Kelly thought something probably bumped up against one of our keyfobs and that caused it to open. We’ve had the car for years, though, and an “accident” like this has never happened. If something pressed a keyfob button, why would it sound just one beep of the horn alarm? Why not trigger it to sound repeatedly, as would happen if it were a single press of the button? Seems unlikely an accidental press of a button would cause one clean beep and then cause the hatchback to open.

So, naturally I am fascinated with whatever technology was used for this! There are a couple of approaches.
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San Francisco’s Decline: Failed Government Policies and Cultural Paralysis | National Review

A thought-provoking piece on what’s killing San Francisco.

It’s not what celebrants want to hear when the champagne is exploding out of shaken bottles of Dom, the confetti is falling, and their stock is up 8.7 percent at the market’s close, but I have an announcement to make: San Francisco is past its prime and the fires of creation have abated.

With all the millionaires newly minted by Lyft’s IPO, and with those set to be minted by Uber’s and Palantir’s and AirBnB’s, you might expect this enclave to become the next Babylon of American capitalism. While our moralists in the media — Nellie Bowles, Emily Chang, et al. — busily tsk-tsk the greed and the lust and the hypocrisy and the hubris, there is a story here they miss: The city’s current concentration of wealth likely doesn’t represent the beginning of a golden-if-sinful era, but the end.

Source: San Francisco’s Decline: Failed Government Policies and Cultural Paralysis | National Review

This Is Silicon Valley – OneZero

Interesting commentary on Silicon Valley. I was there for a week earlier this winter and it’s kind of a weird place with a touch of Disneyland-like detachment.

I am privileged to live in Silicon Valley. I was born here, I grew up here, and now I work here as a product manager at Google. The weather is lovely, the crime rate is low, and the schools are well funded. The adults have cushy jobs and the kids have endless resources. People feast on $15 sushirritos and $6 Blue Bottle coffees. The streets are filled with Teslas and self-driving cars.

It’s a place of opportunity. Many new graduates, myself included, are making six-figure salaries straight out of college, plus equity, bonuses, and benefits on top of that. I get unlimited free food at work?—?three full meals a day and as many snacks as I want in between. There’s a place to do laundry and get a haircut. There’s even a bowling alley and a bouldering wall.

This is Silicon Valley. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Source: This Is Silicon Valley – OneZero

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

A good analysis on which mode of transportation is the greenest.

One question we’ve fielded lately with the release of our US airline efficiency ranking is how the fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of aircraft compare to other modes of transportation. Vehicles meet a variety of transport needs, in terms of what is transported (people vs. goods), distance traveled (short intercity trips vs. transoceanic transport), and speed (12 mph on a bike vs. Mach 0.85 in a long-haul aircraft). Typically, travelers choose between different transport modes based upon a variety of criteria—cost, speed, comfort, even safety—with carbon footprint generally only a secondary consideration. But, for those relative few who would consider planning a trip with carbon dioxide emissions in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts.

Source: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

Packing for a two-week trip through the Arctic on a nuclear icebreaking ship sounds like an extraordinary endeavor, but it’s all part of the job for Dr. Joanne Feldman, Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA’s Department of Emergency Medicine and a polar expedition physician with Quark Expeditions. Dr. Feldman, better known as Dr. Jo, has become an expert in motion sickness treatment through many seasons of braving the high seas on expedition ships to both the Arctic and Antarctic; and her specialty in wilderness emergency medicine and experience as a physician with the U.S. Antarctic Program at Palmer Station primed her for the challenges of experiencing life at the extremes. For the less seasoned on the seas, Dr. Jo is a resource as well as a potentially lifesaving presence. Condé Nast Traveler? spoke with her onboard the ship 50 Years of Victory as it powered through ice near the North Pole:

Source: The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Reuters photographer Carlos Barria recently spent time in Shanghai, China, the fastest-growing city in the world. A week ago, he took this amazing shot, recreating the same framing and perspective as a photograph taken in 1987, showing what a difference 26 years can make. The setting is Shanghai’s financial district of Pudong, dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower at left, and the new 125-story Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 632 meters (2,073 ft) high, scheduled to finish by the end of 2014. Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people — nearly double what it was back in 1987. This entry is focused on this single photo pairing, with several ways to compare the two.

Source: 26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic