Category Archives: Technology

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 Steam Locomotive Engine

Thousands of people thronged around the Union Pacific’s Big Boy Steam Locomotive 4014 when it stopped at the Union Pacific Depot in Lawrence, Kansas, on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.


On Nov. 19, 2019, My husband and I drove to Lawrence to see the Union Pacific’s Big Boy Steam Locomotive number 4014, which is touring the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 to commemorate the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary. We knew there would be a crowd, but we didn’t expect the thousands of people who showed up.   I love trains, especially old steam whistles. I love to feel the rumbling of the train as it races by. Kansas City, where I live, is the second largest rail transportation center in the United States. If I had really been on the ball, I would have followed Big Boy’s schedule more closely and seen Big Boy when it roared past on the tracks less than a mile from my house on its way to Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 17.

The locomotive began its journey in May 4, 2019, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Its circuit ends on Nov. 26 in Cheyenne.

“The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad May 10, 1869, is recognized as one of our country’s biggest achievements and one of mankind’s biggest accomplishments.

It’s been compared to the Apollo 11 moon landing in terms of the vision, dedication, innovation and collaboration needed to connect the country with a ribbon of rail.

In May 2019, the whole world observed the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, which marked the transcontinental railroad’s completion, and Union Pacific led the celebrations.”

From the Union Pacific Website, linked at the bottom of the post:

“Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. The locomotives were 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds. Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were “hinged,” or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves. They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive. The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyo.

There are seven Big Boys on public display in various cities around the country. They can be found in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.  Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. It returned to service in May 2019 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion “

My video of Big Boy 4014 at the Lawrence, Kansas, Union Pacific Depot.

About the Union Pacific Big Boy Steam Locomotive Engines.

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014’s 2019 Schedule.

Union Pacific Big Boy Steam Locomotive 4014 Journey.

From the Missouri Department of Transportation Website:

“Missouri is home to an extensive rail system.  Railroads are essential to the state’s economy and the region’s economic competitiveness. Missouri has the 10th largest number of railroad miles in the United States with approximately 4,800 miles of track, 2,500 miles of yard track and about 7,300 public and private highway-rail crossings. Twenty freight railroads operate in the state, carrying the fourth largest amount of freight tonnage in the nation.  Kansas City and St. Louis are ranked as the second and third largest rail transportation centers in the nation, respectively. Overall, the state’s rail system moves the equivalent of more than 21 million truckloads per year.”


Filed under History, Kansas City, Photography, Technology, Travel

Kansas City Streetcar and The Western Auto Building


The Kansas City Streetcar passes in front of the Western Auto Building.

When my family and I left a restaurant recently near Kansas City’s Union Station, I saw the Kansas City Street car traveling south on Main Street. My daughter has moved near the route of the streetcar so some day soon I hope to hop on for a ride.

In the background is the Western Auto building on Grand Street. The building was constructed for the Coca-Cola Company in 1914 and later became the headquarters of Western Auto Supply Company. It is now a condominium residence. The Western Auto sign is a Kansas City, Missouri, landmark.  The Western Auto building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

According to Wikipedia, The KC Streetcar, formally branded as the RideKC Streetcar, is a streetcar system in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Construction began in May 2014. The system opened for service on May 6, 2016. The KC Streetcar is free to ride, as it is funded by a Transportation development district. As of April 30, 2018, the streetcar has a daily average ridership of 5,373 daily riders, logging over 4 million riders since opening.

The downtown streetcar runs along a 2.2-mile-long (3.5 km) route between the River Market and Union Station, running through the central business district and the Crossroads, mostly along Main Street. It makes stops about every two blocks and has 16 designed stops along the route. Along the way it connects directly with Amtrak, local and commuter RIDE KC bus services (including a direct route to Kansas City International Airport), and several B-cycle bike-share kiosks.

Proponents tout this initial linear segment as one of the simplest and straightest modern streetcar routes in the United States. All platforms offer level boarding and real-time arrival information.

About the Western Auto Building.

Kansas City Streetcar Website

About the Kansas City Streetcar

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Filed under History, Kansas City, Photography, Technology

Happy Birthday From Google

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think...)

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think…)

The Google Doodle changes every day.  Yesterday, when I opened my Google Chrome home page I saw that the Google Doodle was composed of birthday cakes. I thought “Well, isn’t that a coincidence, today’s my birthday.”  Well, there are no coincidences with Google. When my mouse passed over the Doodle, I got a birthday greeting.

Of course, Google knows my birthday. And pretty much everything else about me. Yikes!  I can’t complain, because I’ve willingly given Google my information so that I can use its services.  I haven’t told Google my cell phone number, yet. I’m sure Google knows that, too, though.

I checked my husband’s Google home page yesterday, and his Google Doodle was different from mine, the one for the ordinary non-birthday people.

Usually, I don’t pay that much attention to the Doodle except when there’s a fuss over the Doodle subject. Google sometimes features obscure and controversial figures rather than major events and holidays. I guess that’s a way to keep things interesting. It got my attention!

Next year, when I’m expecting a birthday greeting from Google, Google may ignore me!

To learn more about Google Doodles, check out this blog post from my friend Planetjan.

About Google Doodles from Planetjan.


Filed under Commerce, Communication, Humor, Internet, Life, Technology


I’m re-posting this post about photography in honor of  National Camera Day, June 29. #NationalCameraDay

Catherine Sherman

A surfer rides the waves in the ocean along Huntington Beach, California.

I love photography, I love to watch surfers catch a wave andI love photographing surfers catching a wave, so I was thrilled when I recently stumbledupon a surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California. I’d been hoping to find surfers, soa tournamentwas a bonus. My ever-patient daughter waited as I shot photo after photo.

I wasn’t the only one there with a camera. My little Nikon D40X was like a child’s toy next to the dozens of big gunsstationed along the pier.I slipped in among them, and we all watched as the surfers waited for a worthy wave.When a surfer rose up,a chorus of clicksfollowed the surfer doing all sorts of fancy moves on the waves.

In a break in the action, one photographer pointedout a pod of dolphins to me, and I hurried after her to find a…

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Filed under Photography, Sports, Technology, Travel

Picasa, Farewell

Google is replacing the multi-talented desktop based Picasa (left) with the minimalist cloud-based Google Photos (right.)

Google is replacing the multi-talented desktop-based Picasa (left) with the minimalist cloud-based Google Photos (right.)

Changes in technology come with breakneck speed. Some we embrace, some we don’t. At least when WordPress streamlined its format, it allowed us the opportunity to use the more beefy original administrator. (Thank you, WordPress.)

One change I’m dreading is the loss of the Picasa photo editing website.  Google is retiring it in spring 2016.  Google has every right to do so, especially since Picasa users pay nothing for its use, but it’s still a bitter blow.  A lot of Picasa users don’t even know it’s going bye-bye yet, although apparently people knew it was coming a while ago. Google is focusing on Google Photos, which is quite different from Picasa and not as useful for my needs. Supposedly, we’ll still be able to use Picasa, if we already have it installed on our desktops, until it dies out from bugs and glitches. We’ll see.

Google Photos is a nice photo storage system, but not a good replacement as an editing and design tool.  In Google Photos, you can upload all of your photos to the cloud for free in a small version, which is probably large enough for most uses, and pay if you need to upload large files when you exceed your large-size quota. I’m transferring all of my large-sized photos to external hard drives.

My son gave me the heads up on Friday night on Picasa’s impending demise, and I was shocked. I was working on my taxes, so I was already in a foul mood, and I quickly went into mourning.  I taped a black ribbon to my monitor. I searched the web (using the damnable Google) to find an alternative.  I use Photoshop a lot, but Picasa is just so darned easy and could do so much. It has lots of design and editing tools and is great for  organizing my photos into files and albums. It will still be usable on your desktop, if you already have it, but won’t be getting any support from Google.

I used Picasa to edit this photograph that I took of Harvest, a cat available for adoption at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Missouri. Using Picasa, I could easy crop this photo to the pixel size and aspect required for uploading to the website. Also using Picasa, I could add my initials so that the shelter administrators would know who took the photo if they needed a larger size. Auto contrast, auto color, straightening and sharpening were Picasa tools I often used.

I used Picasa to edit this photograph that I took of Harvest, a cat that was available for adoption at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Missouri. Using Picasa, I could easy crop this photo to the pixel size and aspect required for uploading to the website. Also using Picasa, I could add my initials so that the shelter administrators would know who took the photo if they needed a larger size. Auto contrast, auto color, straightening and sharpening were Picasa tools I often used.

For more than five years, I’ve been using Picasa to edit the photographs I take of adoptable cats for an animal shelter’s website in Kansas City, Missouri. It makes it so easy to tag the photo with the cat’s name, attach a watermark and be able to find the photos later.  As far as I can tell, you can’t tag photos in Google Photos. Face recognition will not work with cats.  Because of the ease of use and because it was free, Picasa has been a godsend for other volunteer cat photographers who aren’t photo editors. Now, we’re scrambling to find an alternative.

Here’s a Hibiscus poster (below) that I created using Picasa. I used the posterize function to transform my hibiscus photograph, I used the add a border function to add the initial two-toned border, created a wider border with the collage tool, then added another two-tone border. I added the text of Hibiscus waimeae above the flower and added a band of an hibiscus font that I uploaded, which automatically transferred into Picasa when I downloaded it. Picasa allowed color matching so that I could match the greens and reds of the hibiscus photo to the font and background colors. Though there were many steps, it was easy. I don’t relish learning a new program to do these functions.

If you know of an easy, inexpensive alternative for downloading, editing and organizing photos, let me know in the comments.  I’m checking into  Anyone have any experience with that program?

Hibiscus Waimeae Square Canvas Print

R.I.P Picasa: Google shutters aging photo service


Filed under Internet, Photography, Technology


My shattered phone screen.

My shattered phone screen.

My luck ran out.  My Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone fell out of my pocket and hit the floor of my garage.  The screen shattered. I never put my phone in my pocket, but we were having a garage sale and it seemed like a good idea at the time. (Yes, I swore I’d never have another garage sale. When will I ever learn?)

At first I thought the lines on the screen were a real cobweb, not a web of cracks. I was in disbelief and then angry with myself. I’ve gotten very attached to that phone. It sleeps next to me (actually it never sleeps) charging on my bedside table.

This is a re-enactment the next morning of where I found my phone at a Taos, New Mexico, motel.  My phone had fallen out of my handbag as I ran to escape the rain.   I didn't miss my phone until I decided to charge it an hour later. Then I couldn't find it. My friend Lynn and I looked for hours, not sure where I had lost it.  Later, I found it here, on the railing to the stairs.  It was wet, but it still worked.

This is a re-enactment the next morning of where I found my phone at a Taos, New Mexico, motel. My phone had fallen out of my handbag as I ran to escape the rain. I didn’t miss my phone until I decided to charge it an hour later. Then I couldn’t find it. My friend Lynn and I looked for hours, not sure where I had lost it. Later, I found it here, on the railing to the stairs. It was wet, but it still worked.

This is not my cell phone’s first escape attempt. It leaped from my purse in Taos, New Mexico, as my friend Lynn and I were rushing from the car to the covered portico of our hotel in the rain after dinner at a lovely restaurant on Easter.

It was our last night in New Mexico of our week-long trip. I wondered aloud what I would leave behind on this trip. There’s always something that goes astray. A toothbrush, some shoes, hat, gloves, scarf, jacket, a nightgown, a book. I didn’t realize that I’d already lost something — my phone! I discovered that the little dickens had gotten away when I looked for it so I could charge it. Lynn and I searched everywhere in the room, the parking lot, the car, the streets, even went back to the restaurant — twice — just before closing. Lynn called my phone five or more times, and we never heard it ringing. (Thanks, Lynn!) I roamed the parking lot in the rain, I talked to the desk clerk.

Finally, we gave up. I was already on the fourth stage of grief, when I decided to give the search one more effort. I remembered that I’d found a couple of phones in the past, one I had given to the desk clerk of our motel (it turned out to be hers), and the other I had picked up from the street and set on the curb. Maybe someone had placed my phone in a safer place? Minutes later I saw it, sitting on a stair post, sprinkled with rain drops but still in working order. I was so relieved.   How quickly we get dependent on these devices.  My grandparents had a party line phone, which was shared with several neighbors.

I was able to get my screen replaced locally.  It wasn’t cheap. I obviously need a case for it.  A friend demonstrated the protective qualities of his case by dropping his phone on the floor. No damage.

As I looked at my shattered screen, this song came to mind. Now I can’t get it out of my head.

Here a cell phone takes the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  I can confirm from personal experience that it’s darned cold! Writing the check was much easier. Paying for the phone screen repair is also going to be a shock.


Filed under Life, Technology, Travel

Radiation Dose Chart

Radiation Dose Chart

This is a chart of the ionizing dose of radiation that a person can absorb from various sources, including the amount we receive from sleeping next to someone, eating a banana, getting a chest x-ray, sitting in front of a computer screen for a year, an airplane trip from New York to California and the radiation from the destroyed Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami.   Click on the chart twice to get a larger view.

Here’s a post explaining the chart and its origins from its designer. It also includes information on how to help people in Japan, who suffering from the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami as well as those who had to be evacuated from the area around the damaged nuclear reactors.

Here’s a British Environmentalist explaining “Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power”


Filed under Environment, Life, Natural History, Nature, Technology

Take a Ride With Me on a San Francisco Streetcar — 1906!

This amazing movie of a San Francisco streetcar traveling down Market Street was filmed four days before the massive April 18, 1906 earthquake, then shipped by train to New York for processing. It’s a trip back in time to the chaotic streets of early-day San Francisco, where horse-drawn wagons shared the road with streetcars, men on horseback and pedestrians. A sightseeing streetcar passes through the scene. Newsboys cruise the streets, some seeming to pose briefly for the camera. Other boys grab onto the back of a car and run along. The crowd is mostly male, everyone wears a hat and most are well-dressed.

The area shown in the film was destroyed by the big earthquake and fire that followed. In the film, the clock tower at the end of the street at the Embarcadero Wharf still stands. The film originally was thought to have been made in 1905.  David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when the film was shot. Clues he used were the New York trade papers, wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, shadows indicating time of year, the weather and conditions on historical record. He even determined when the cars were registered and who owned them.

San Francisco is the favorite city of my mother-in-law and daughter. My husband went to kindergarten on the Presidio within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, but he doesn’t have the same romantic attachment to the city as other family members do.  He did alert me to this video, though! He prefers the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, which is also earthquake-prone.

Watch the video in full screen, if you can. 
U.S. Geological Survey’s discussion of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Movie of San Francisco not long after 1906 earthquake.
Wikipedia — 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
The original version of “Trip Down Market Street” from


Filed under Automobiles, Communication, Entertainment, History, Life, Movies, Nature, Photography, Science, Technology, Travel

Monarch Butterflies in Space

KU Professor to help send monarchs into space


The Wichita Eagle

(published in Kansas City Star on Nov. 16, 2009)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – (By Ron Sylvester) Chip Taylor is used to people giving him strange looks.

As director of Monarch Watch and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, Taylor has placed radio tags on butterflies and tracked them across pastures and plains.

Sending monarchs to space is not that far-out an idea to him.

Three of Taylor’s monarch caterpillars are set to blast off to the International Space Station on Monday aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Why send butterflies to space?

To study the effects of gravity.

And yes, the thought of sending butterflies to space has drawn some quizzical looks.

But Taylor is used to that in his field.

“We got strange looks last summer when I was working with National Geographic and we radio tagged a butterfly,” Taylor said. “We have to go knock on somebody’s door and say ‘Can we go look for our radio-tagged butterfly? We think it landed in your pasture.’ I mean, you talk about having strange looks.”

Studying insects helps us learn how the world around us works, Taylor said, and how it affects our lives.

“The nature of what we do is to find out what life is all about,” Taylor said. “When you’re doing that sort of thing you’re up close and personal with all these insects, and that’s something people aren’t comfortable with.”

About 600 individuals and schools will be able to watch the caterpillars develop as they orbit in the space station, about 220 miles outside the earth’s atmosphere.

The schools will receive their own caterpillars in a small rearing station similar to that in the space station.

Students will watch those in their classrooms develop and compare them to how the caterpillars grow in space. Researchers hope they’ll turn into butterflies sometime after Thanksgiving.

The object, Taylor said, is to see how gravity, or the near-zero gravity in the space station, affects the insects. These will be the first of their species to travel in space.

“It is so gravity oriented,” Taylor said. “None of the insects they’ve taken up into space have had a particularly strong gravity orientation. The monarchs do. They’re going to be in a nearly weightless environment. It could pose all sorts of different problems for them.”

That will tell scientists more about movement and how life functions, said Steve Hawley, Kansas professor of physics and astronomy and an astronaut on five shuttle missions.

“The more we learn about how physiology works in space whether it’s human physiology or insect physiology or plant physiology the more we’ll be able to use that information on the ground to understand fundamentally how biological systems work,” Hawley said in a statement from the university.

Monarch Watch is working on the project with the BioServe Space Technologies program at the University of Colorado.

Stefanie Countryman, business development manager with BioServe, said their program created habitat and stringent requirements for the butterflies in space.

But they had no food.

Taylor and his Kansas program developed an artificial food for the caterpillars. That’s how they’ll eat in space.

Since April, Taylor has been perfecting the artificial diet.

“That’s what’s making this all possible,” Taylor said.

A study guide being sent to the schools explains that monarch caterpillars walk with 16 legs and spin silk to attach themselves to surfaces.

“What will happen when they lose their grip?” the guide asks, referring to the force of gravity on liftoff or the weightlessness of space.

How the caterpillars are able to react could teach astronauts how to move better in space, the study guide says.

“You win if they succeed, you win if they fail, because you learn something,” Taylor said. “You learn what their limitations are when they fail. You learn how they adjust if they succeed.”

People will be able to follow the experiment through photos, videos and other information at the program’s Web site:

Information from: The Wichita Eagle,


Filed under Biology, Butterflies, Entomology, Insects, Life, Natural History, Nature, Science, Technology, University of Kansas


If we didn't have electricity, how could we have fabulous lighting displays like this!

If we didn't have electricity, how could we have fabulous lighting displays like this!

 After a day of temperatures in the high 60s on Friday, a thunderstorm tore through our city during the night.   We woke to freezing temperatures and no electricity. 


Candles seem romantic, until you have to rely on them for your lighting.

The winds were 60 to 80 miles an hour and tore down trees and knocked down power lines, including a couple of poles on a nearby street.  Some people said they thought their houses were going to blow over.  How did I sleep through that?  Our house was unscathed, except that our bird feeder was flung into the backyard and smashed.  How do the birds hang on in the trees? 

Almost 50,000 houses lost power in the area. Strangely, only half of the houses in my subdivision were affected — all of those just east of mine were fine.  My neighbor’s Santa Claus on the motorcycle was (above) still burning bright when we left the house to find a warm, illuminated place to hang out.  I’m seriously addicted to electricity.  Every blackout, I have new appreciation for our ancestors living life in the cold and mostly dark. We were only without electricity for a day, but it seemed much longer.

I’m grateful for the KCP&L workmen who worked all day on the problem.

When I was finally able to turn on my computer, it rasped and growled for half an hour, probably angry to be so rudely jolted.  I hear ya!

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Filed under Humor, Life, Random, Technology, Uncategorized