Interstates | Highway Numbering System

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

Last weekend we drove through Kansas City and Oklahoma City during parts of a visit to see our son. He is a pilot in training at Vance Air Force Base, Enid, OK. Most of the driving was done on the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways. That link provides a large amount of information on the system begun on June 29, 1956. On that date, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This post is about one aspect of the interstate system, namely how the roads are numbered.

Numbering in General

East-west roads are even numbered. North-south roads are odd numbered. The even-odd scheme applies to the general route of the roads and allows for some deviation in places. The one and two digit numbers start small in the south and west. They progress larger for the roads toward the north and east. Here…

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Schoolhouses 1916 | Plans and Comments

Seedy Bunch stopped the big yellow school bus in front of our farm house. I was excited to join five of my older siblings as they boarded. It was my first day of school.

We arrived at East Railroad School first. It was a mile east of town where some of my siblings were going to get off. I had to get off alone and join a bunch of kids I had never seen before. This school thing was not starting out the way I expected. I cried. I cried for a week.

I must have gotten over the trauma with no harm done. As it turned out, I became a school teacher myself. As a teacher, I felt those pangs associated with the start of school each of my 38 years.

East Railroad School looked very much like this fine example. We found this one on a recent hike celebrating our anniversary. It had been moved from its original location to this park site for preservation.

At Wildcat Den St. Pk. near Muscatine, IA

At Wildcat Den St. Pk. near Muscatine, IA

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Radon In Our House | What We Did

The purpose of this post is to inform, not frighten. Thoughts of radon gas in the home conjure up fear in many people. Reading to learn about it can be challenging. There are very many stories, reports, publications, companies, and anecdotes. Making good sense out of them is difficult. It seemed important to document our story to help others have a clearer idea of the correct information so they can make well-informed decisions.

In the spring of 2014, I attended three Mini-Med School sessions for the public offered by the U of IA College of Medicine, about research they are doing on cancer. Presenters told of their efforts to understand the disease, decode its behavior, and how the public benefits from their research. A presenter the second week spoke about lung cancer. Because we live in Iowa, the subject of radon infiltration into homes was part of the discussion. Radon is recognized as the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Iowa has the highest levels of radon of all the states. Every county in Iowa has levels which exceed the recommended maximum.

The Environmental Protection Agency citizen guide says the maximum level should be 4 pCi/L (pico-Curies per liter of air). The pCi/L is a unit of measure of radioactive concentration in a sample of air. Readings above 4 pCi/L should have mitigation done to reduce it. The average level for the nation for outside air is 0.4 pCi/L. It might be as high as 0.75 pCi/L, depending on where you live. The problem with radon is how it seeps from the ground, infiltrates through the slab and walls of the foundation, and accumulates in dwellings to levels that might exceed current health standards.

This map predicts the likelihood that dwellings in these zones will have a particular value of radon when tested. It does not state that all dwellings will have those values. It is predictive of the potential. Red zones predict a value higher than 4 pCi/L. All of Iowa is a red zone.

Red Zone 1 (>4 pCi/L) — Orange Zone 2 (2 to 4 pCi/L) — Yellow Zone 3 (<2 pCi/L)

Following the university sessions, I felt it was important to test our house for radon level. I don’t spend a lot of time in the lower level where radon tends to be the highest amounts. But, my wife Melanie in IA does. She is a quilter. Her fabrics, sewing machines, and projects are all on the lower level. She deserves a safe environment. Plus, she was raised in a house with a lot of second-hand smoke. That raises her risk factor.

What did you do about it?

Wildcat Den | Our Anniversary Hike

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

by Melanie and Jim

July 8, 2014 was our 34th anniversary of the day we met. To celebrate the occasion, we went to Wildcat Den State Park near Muscatine, IA. It had been many years since our last visit with our young son. He is all grown up now learning to fly for the Air Force.

We drove the hour from home and entered the park from the north in this map view from Google. We parked the car at P and set out with our hiking poles. Light blue arrows show our route started out counter-clockwise around the big loop. Right off the bat we encountered some trouble. There was a giant tree across the path, downed by the heavy rain and softened soil from the week before. Fortunately it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.


Past the tree, the trail (marked with a yellow and red…

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07.12.2014 Super Full Buck Moon

Jim in IA:

Terrific photo of the full Moon this morning as it set in the west.

Originally posted on Stephen Gingold Nature Photography Blog:

Here is what I hope is the first of two or three full moon posts.  July’s full moon, the Full Buck Moon, also is a super moon as it is a bit closer than average.  The actual time for the full moon was about 7:30 this morning, but with sunrise at 5:24 and the moon setting at 5:46, the time to photograph was a bit early but the difference is not really visible.

I had thought about framing the moon inside some limbs of a maple tree on Mount Pollux, but that wasn’t working out.  So I went back down the hill and found this view of the Holyoke Mountain Range from below the parking lot.  I wish I had arrived at my decision a few minutes sooner so there would be a bit more separation between the mountains and moon, but this works ok.  Full-Moon-over-the-Holyoke-Range-071214-600WebAlthough it will be past…

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Supermoon | Just An Illusion?

It’s time again for the Supermoon. This post is for those who will have clear skies on the evening of July 11 or 12 and want to see the Moon closer and bigger than normal. Full moon is actually at about sunrise on July 12 when it is setting in the west for those of us in the U.S. Most people don’t notice it setting full. The view of it at evening moonrise, before or after full, will appear almost exactly as it does at moonset the morning of full.

First, a little sciency stuff. This won’t hurt a bit.

  • The Moon takes about a month to orbit Earth.
  • The Moon’s orbit is not a circle around Earth. It is a bit oval-shaped.
  • During the closest part of the orbit it is called Perigee.
  • During the farthest part of the orbit it is called Apogee.
  • Closer things look bigger and farther things look smaller.
  • The Moon will appear about 14% bigger at Perigee than at Apogee.
  • Supermoon will return in August and September this year.

According to NASA…”Supermoon is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.”


Science @ NASA


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CO2 | OCO-2 Joins The A-Train

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 was launched early July 2, 2014. This night-time long exposure from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is interesting. Its mission is to monitor the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to better understand the sources of it and where it goes. The greenhouse gas is part of a natural carbon cycle that is depicted in the graphic below. The sources of CO2 from human activity has increased steadily. Levels in the atmosphere are at an all time high of >400 ppm and rising. The OCO-2 spacecraft will help us understand and plan more effective measures to deal with this problem in the future.

U.S. DOE | Biological and Environmental Research Info Sys | Yellow = natural fluxes. Red = human contributions. White = stored carbon. Quantities in billions of tons of carbon per year.

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon is found naturally is five main reservoirs. They include the atmosphere, the biosphere of surface plants and animals, dead and alive, along with the soil, the oceans, the sediments of the oceans, and lastly the mantle and crust of Earth. These natural reservoirs don’t include human influences. Carbon is exchanged between the oceans, sediments, atmosphere, and biosphere in natural processes that maintained a steady state balance over the eons of time. Since humans have been burning large amounts of fossil fuels, that has resulted in a buildup of carbon in the atmosphere. It is unable to be transported to other reservoirs. As a result, the atmosphere is trapping heat from the Sun and raising the temperatures world wide. We are seeing the phenomenon of global warming and resulting changes in climate patterns.

Tell me more about OCO-2.