A bucket of organs leaves lasting impression

CU School of Medicine Pathologist Carrie Marshall, MD, in the Organ Room of tissues used for training and outreach.

CU School of Medicine Pathologist Carrie Marshall, MD, in the Organ Room of tissues used for training and outreach.

Toni Schoenleber couldn’t do her job as a stroke clinical coordinator at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital if she didn’t have brains. In fact, it’s because she has brains that she knew just where to go when she needed more brains…[more]


As Windows becomes Linux

Destroyed mobile home in Lyons a metaphor for my website.

If my website were a house, it would look something like this.

I’m in the middle of a bit of a website revamp. Moving from an aging, custom-designed HTML base (for which I learned Dreamweaver from a book. Ah, memories…) to a WordPress base.

It’s not going particularly well, to be honest, because waybackwhen, I chose a Windows rather than Linux OS for my website’s foundation. Turns out that Windows servers and WordPress don’t play well together. At the moment, for example, any link you hit, anywhere on the WordPress site, will  yield a 404. That despite posts existing happily in the mySQL database.

Four-zero-four is not a happy number in Webville.

I can’t change this up for up to 48 hours, the Godaddy people tell me. Until then, and quite likely longer, as I’ve got paying work to do, the old website pages are still on the server, and accessible here:





More soon. I hope.

(As an aside, the photo is a cell-phone shot I took of a mobile home destroyed by flooding in Lyons, Colo. I am thankful that my disasters are merely digital.)

Deep Impact Goes Dark

Deep Impact impact

A bit of humanity touches a comet, July 4, 2005

The small team still running Deep Impact, in orbit for going on nine years, on Aug. 8 lost touch with the spacecraft. Deep Impact smacked the comet Tempel 1 on Independence Day 2005 and went on to swing by a second comet, Hartley 2, and then hunt for planets. It was probably working on its master’s degree on the side.

NASA sent out a press release on Friday. The spacecraft had, as far as they could tell, gotten itself turned around, probably such that the solar panels stopped drinking in sun, so the heaters that keep the electronics and hydrazine thrusters limiber stopped working, so Deep Impact became, in effect, a frozen spacecraft — a comet of a spacecraft.

Deep Impact orbits the sun, so it won’t be crashing back to Earth as most orbiters do. DI, as they called it, whose job was to help us figure out how our solar system formed, has become a tiny, permanent body of that solar system.

Deep Impact's place in the solar system as of today and, somewhere along that red arc, over the next billion years or so. (JPL)

I saw the press release but was on deadline and had to make a Costco run (strawberries, granola, the obligatory rotisserie chicken) and so on. And then Saturday I decided to add a 1,000 yards of sprints to the six mile run (why?) and was a bit worn out, and then the evening birthday party for the daughter of a friend turning 10, and then it was late. This morning, there’s the Down Syndrome walk and drywall hanging at a friend’s up in Boulder who came within about 20 feet of having their Pinebrook Hills house erased by a mud slide during the flooding. You get the idea.

Acoustic testing - Deep Impact

Deep Impact in acoustic testing at Ball Aerospace. Ball hired Maryland Sound to bring in speakers and blast the spacecraft with enough sound to kill a man (or, I assume, a woman). The schedule was tight because the speakers had to move on to a Hall & Oates concert. (Ball Aerospace)

But I wrote a book about this mission and the company, Ball Aerospace, that built the spacecraft and instruments that enabled it (in tandem with JPL, I hasten to add). And death is a milestone. But until last night, I was having a helluva time figuring out how I felt about it. Then Jim Baer, a brilliant optical engineer who helped design the telescopes on DI (at the time, the big one was the largest ever to leave Earth orbit), dropped me an email. I hadn’t been in touch for probably two years. He wrote:

All good things must come to an end.


We did have a great ride, and it became a great story, thanks to you.


This is sort of typical of Ball Aerospace people, who have had, for going on 60 years now, a tendency to care.

I wrote Jim back:

Great to hear from you, man. Thanks for the note. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about DI and do up a short blog post and am having a hard time conjuring up a ton of emotion. I think it’s because you guys did such a phenomenal thing that so exceeded all reasonable expectations. It would be like mourning Secretariat. It was great to have had the opportunity to meet people like you and so many others at Ball Aerospace – such extraordinary people.

So I don’t mourn, and I am grateful.

Deep Impact's flyby spacecraft looks back to the Comet Tempel 1 after impact (NASA/JPL/University of Maryland)

The Flood of 2013 – Denver/Lowry edition

This body of water does not typically exist.

The worst of this insane tropical storm is happening parts north – Boulder, Lyons and environs. There geographic verticality is guiding once-in-a-generation (rarer yet, actually) rains into tight channels that are shooting stream flow numbers into the 10x-50x ranges and doubling, tripling, quadrupling typical gauge height (this USGS site has the details). A few highlights:

  • Cherry Creek in Denver has risen from a 3.2 feet guage height to a peak of 8 feet, down to about 7 feet at 5 p.m. So the creek path path is submerged. Flow shot from an average for the date of about 10 cubic feet per second to probably 1,800 cfs at the peak, down to about 1,000 cfs at about 5 p.m.
  • The South  Platte at 64th ave is flowing at 2,890 cfs at 5 p.m.; mean is 196 for Sept 12.
  • Boulder creek is running at 8.5 feet rather than five feet average at North 75th Street. Its 5,200 cfs flow is more than 50 times the average of about 70 cfs. This is, apparently twice the all-time high.

In our own little backyard, I tallied abut 8 inches of rain  since yesterday, 3 of which fell in a two-hour span this afternoon. After that pulse, I headed out on a bike with cell-phone and video camera (will post at some point). Here’s what I saw.

(note that at 7:20 p.m. today I stopped back by the floodplain and water levels were down about three feet from what I photographed, so I assume the dam can handle the 2 or so additional inches we’re expecting still tonight).

(Note 2: My thoughts are with friends in Lyons and Boulder whose homes are underwater or partially entombed in rocky mud.)

Detritus in the 11th Avenue dam in Lowry at about 1:40 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. This is typically a wetland, more recently a dryland. The detritus is blocking a path I typically jog. Much of it is cattail stalks but augmented by litter fools have thrown out their car windows far and wide.

A petite Grand Canyon where the water behind the dam breached the crusher-fine path. Looking north parallel to Uinta Way.

Water level was about 62.3 feet atop this spillway and, by extension, within the 11th Avenue dam of Westerly Creek as of about 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 12. Typically the water level is 15 feet lower. I never imagined seeing it wet, much less in 5 inches of water.


My feet atop the spillway. Crocs save the day.

View to the northeast form atop the 11th Avenue dam spillway. Dude in the center soon shooed me out of the spillway, for obvious reasons. They're trying to clear the pipe intake below 11th Avenue here. Westerly Creek north of 11th is typically a couple of feet wide with very little flow this time of year. Water flows over 11th Avenue here

View of the wetland behind the 11th Avenue dam from atop the spillway. Call it Lake Lowry.

A house floods just east of Westerly Creek north of 11th Avenue. The entire neighborhood was later evacuated. Our house in Lowry is about 20 feet higher than theirs.

If it weren't insane, it would be beautiful.

See previous caption. I run these stairs on occasion - the water stops at the rails of the midpoint.

View north from closer to the spike-like sundial feature. Bonfils Blood Center is to the right. The recycled-water sprinkler covers were a common type of detritus on my ride.

When crayfish are hanging out on the sidewalk, you know you've had a bit of rain. Machebeuf High School in the background.

Entering the Great Lawn. Water's eight inches deep ahead (that's a jogging path)

The water's high point near the Lowry Great Lawn playground, demarcated by cattail stalks and leaves.

Close-up of a bridge near the Lowry Great Lawn playground. The larger stick is the work of beavers upstream.

Westerly Creek at the Lowry Great Lawn. Typically this is a stony trickle this time of year.

Another Great Lawn sidewalk

This little fellow had a rough day.

A most appropriate warning

Another photo of my Croc'd feet, in case you missed the first one (on the bridge about which I had just been forewarned).


A noble puggle inspects the carnage of Lake Lowry a couple of hours later (here at about 8th Avenue and Uinta Way, looking north). The water was down a couple of feet as the rain and let up.

TEDx – Inspiration by numbers

A year ago today, I had just practiced my TEDxMileHigh talk to an all-but empty Ellie Caulkins Opera House the day before the big show.

There was a producer in the front row, typing away on her laptop, and, in the far reaches of the gallery, my daughters, ages 9 and 6, with my wife, who had walked over from the Johns Manville offices downtown. The guy who helped affix the not-quite-invisible mic to my ear asked if I’d done much public speaking. I said I’d done a few book talks and the like, maybe 50-100 people.

“This is nothing like that,” he said.

Indeed, the place was cavernous, and surprisingly tall. Like giving a talk to the skyscraper façade.

I spent that afternoon pacing around repeating the talk, trying to get it under my allotted 10 minutes, working the slides in my converted-dining-room office. I mumbled the thing through while walking the dog. He shat righteously afterward, which I tried not to view as his critical assessment.

This year’s day-before-TEDx has been much more relaxed.  I bought my ticket in March and all I have to do is show up and watch. I’m really looking forward to it (tix still available).

But the approach of the local TEDx conference did get me thinking, if in a more languorous and much less repetitive way than last year.

What strikes me is that, when I look through the list of speakers, I don’t recognize a single name. But they’re all going to be worth listening to. Some of them will be brilliant.

Our culture is so fame-focused, it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that, unless you’re famous to one degree or another, you must not have much to say. Or conversely, if you are famous, your views have value.

TEDx events break this notion. Last month alone saw 353 TEDx events in 80 countries, with probably 4,000 speakers, each with something different to say. These numbers offer insight into how much creativity is out there, how many innovative projects and initiatives are being brought to bear, how many exceptional people a global population of 7-plus billion is cranking out. You’re 99th-percentile smart? You and 70 million others.

TEDx talks aim to be exalting. But it’s the sheer number of these talks that I find most inspirational.