Arts & Crafts, Coffee, Food, Gardens, High Desert Living, People, Places

Cassini Orbiter’s Shootout is “Grande Finale”

Blaze of Glory or Grande Finale

Scientists decided to give the space orbiter, Cassini, a final shootout in a blaze of glory as it ends its paparazzi- styled swing through Saturn’s rings. Usually a space mission with a camera doesn’t have any “grande finale” and tends to phase out slowly due to a failure in the battery life or an unforeseen system break down.

Cassini final photos

Cassini Orbiter Swings into its final photo shoot through Saturn’s rings

In this case since its launch in 1997, Cassini has served its purpose of sending back thousands of high-quality photos and avoided crashing into any ring debris. It’s a good track record that offered scientists much more than they expected. Remember Voyager? It was doomed to a short life and it’s still talking to Earth as it rides the solar winds and leaves our Solar System!

NASA scientists held their breath each time Cassini flashed through a spin around the rings of Saturn. This time — going  for the “Grand finale”– as its being called, the spacecraft will purposely dive through the debris rings of Saturn to capture as many photos before hurtling to the planet’s surface.

Retrograding 22 Times

It’s flight path includes 22 swings in and out of the rings as it retrogrades down to the planet. As long as it keeps flashing photos, it will afford a better view of the ring debris as well as the closest view of an alien surface of Saturn. No probe has really done this before.

Saturn rings of debris

Rings of Saturn is Cassini’s final camera shoot

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) used the Deep Space Network at Goldstone CA, (one of a group of satellite dishes communicating with distant objects in space) to pick up Cassini’s far-off signal. As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within 3,000 km of Saturn’s cloud tops and within about 300 km of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA.

Blazing a Trail

graphic rendering of rings

Artist rendering of Cassini’s camera view

“In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare,” Green added.

Browse the latest, unprocessed images beamed back from Saturn by the Cassini orbiter. It has returned thousands of great images. here’s one of better collections.

By May 2nd, the first of these close-ups of rock, ice chunks, and other space trash caught in the belt of spinning gases, should give us the best results yet. Watch the news.

Finale in September

While we wait and hope the camera aboard Cassini has a safe flight, I can image a handful of scientists holding their breaths as each await the September delivery of its last photo download to California’s JPL facility in Pasadena.

Rusty LaGrange

If you enjoy reading these blog events, share the news with your friends then comment.

30 days of…A Traffic Generating Experiment.

Last year, two High Desert food bloggers decided to participate in a traffic generating experiment.  They decided challenge themselves for a 29 day period and increased the frequency and consistency of their blog posts.  The purpose of this challenge, which was called Blog vs Blog, was to determine if consistent posts would significantly improve the number of visitors that was coming to their blogs.

The results were interesting.  Neither website saw a significant increase in traffic; however, they have learned that with food blogs, it’s not uncommon for traffic to drop off after the first of the year.

This year, the  two bloggers are trying it again.  Blogger friends, Angie and Patti, decided to challenge themselves for 30 days to see what would happen if they focused their blog posts for a 30 day period  on only one topic.  Part of the challenge is that they must  publish a new post daily.

The challenge began on April first.  Angie, at Kitchen Southern Hospitality, is focusing on meals for two for the month of April, while Patti, of Patty  Cake’s Pantry, is focusing on meals made from canned foods. It is anticipated daily blog posts should boost traffic to each website.  At the start of April, both blogs had similar Alexa ranks with Patty Cake’s Pantry ranking 14,579,812 and Kitchen Southern Hospitality rating 14,596.594.   Everyone is anticipating that daily blog posts will improve website traffic as well as Alexa Rank.  It is widely promoted that more frequent posting increases website visibility to search engines, too.

Both websites will continue to promote their posts on social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google plus, and Yummly, as these social networking sites help to direct new visitors to their blogs.

We can’t predict the final results of this challenge, but we know it will be interesting to see what sort of recipes they come up with for the challenge.  Visit their websites and see what they’re dong.  Check back here during the first week of May to see what effect, if any, daily blog posts have on improving traffic to a blog.

Day Trip Fun on April Fool’s in the High Desert

Day Trip to the High Desert

Wondering what you can do for a day trip on April Fool’s Day in Southern California’s high desert this year? Consider a visit to the California Institute of Earth Architecture in Hesperia. Attend a SuperAdobe open house.  READ MORE »

Our Space Trash Tracked by New Technology

Trash in Space.

Space garbage

We think our trash will never come back to bother  us.

We are silly humans to think that all of our experimental and derelict space equipment will just disappear into the vastness of space. We created space garbage — things that are littering up our pristine space.

Trash in space doesn’t leave the orbit — it just accumulates. And it’s been doing that for decades. So it’s no surprise when the science news arrived that we had found more trash than we expected. Our ability to see and track space debris is better than ever now — thanks to advances in tracking with Interplanetary Radar technology pioneered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. So the first thing we did was become shocked at the amounts of it cluttering our skies.

Sometimes a bit of debris will fall back to Earth and we see it burn up. But tracking it was never on our list of things to do until it became a problem. The photo taken of our eminent growing problem (above) is from Science World Report.

It’s almost embarrassing. But there’s good news, too.

Our optical telescopes couldn’t see these small distant ones due to the bright glare of the Moon. So this new method successfully located a NASA spacecraft “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter” (LRO) orbiting the Moon. Another one of them was still active but “lost.” Back in 2009, an Indian Space Research Organization’s “Chandrayaan-1” was spinning around the Moon on a polar obit.

Goldstone Complex near Bartow CA

NASA’s Goldstone Antenna sends radar beam for tracking space trash

JPL’s team of scientists used NASA’s 70-meter  — that’s 230 foot — antenna at Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex north of Barstow, CA, to send out a powerful microwave beam aimed at the Moon. They found the Chandrayaan-1. Those radar echoes bounced back to and received by the 100- meter  — that’s 330 foot — Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

Math Does Count

FOund lunar orbit of spacecraft

Indian’s first spacecraft was lost since 2009

Although it’s very tricky, the team used data from the return signal to estimate its velocity and distance to update the orbital predictions. They in turn tracked the signals to verify that the predicted track was correct.

Follow up observations over the next few months were done with Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico — which has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth. Doing all this tracking and sharing resulted in a possible new capability. Working together, these super large radar antennas at Goldstone, Green Bank, and Arecibo proved that they could detect and track small spacecraft in lunar orbit.

The Lost & Found Department

This might come in handy for implementing a future robotic and human mission back to the Moon. Hazard assessments and encountering a potential navigation issue far into our future is another possibility.

So basically, space junk and new radar technology just forced us into a lunar recycling program on the biggest scale yet! Now, to clean up the garbage, we need the biggest trash bag ever inflated — and a twist tie to go with it.

–Rusty LaGrange

if you like what you see here, please leave a comment.

“Feel Good” Flavors of Real Butter

Butter vs. Margarine

Years ago, when my mother was being “the 50s house wife” and raising two children, I was eager to enjoy foods prepared with butter. Rich, creamy and flavorful. Those are the “feel good” flavors that many people enjoy with their memories.

Golden Muffin Topped with Melting Butter

Golden Muffin Topped with Melting Butter

Then the health concerns of butter and heart-healthy features of margarine popped into view. We would die from heart disease and clogged-coronary systems by indulging in the dairy products with high saturated fats. I begrudgingly began training myself to use oleo products, and eventually to olive oil-based margarines.

Over time, the margarine products that I chose to be better than butter, turned out to be less rich in flavor and actually broke down to cause more problems – like carcinogens, producing chemicals that are potentially harmful.

Our health industry has found, through 30 years of research, that maybe some oils are bad when overheated, and yet others are better. Oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6) are especially unstable at high temperatures.

We have many more choices to consider now: coconut, palm, nut oils, avocado, rice-based, refined olive oil, canola, processed vegetable oil, and more, each with their own benefits.

The confusion continues.

But what makes me decide to return to real butter is the fact that baked goods retain a rich density and flavor that margarines really haven’t supplied. Products brown easier in a sauté pan and even caramelize nicer without over cooking. Crusts are flakier and retain their shape much better.

Butter-flavored olive oil-based margarine is still oil. It doesn’t hold its shape. It loses flavor and tastes like … well … oil. Even though I do want to be as health conscience as possible, the butter on muffins is like honey – a sweet treat.

So, I delved into the controversy to read up on the research. And I was right. It’s very confusing. If you are a foodie, then you probably have your favorites to cook with. If you’re vegan, then you have specific products you stay with. And if you indulge in deep frying, then you should know what oils are less loaded up with chemicals and which ones produce a good batch.

Light flake crust

Light flake crust with golden brown

Here’s what The Heart Foundation says on their website:

“While using small amounts of butter every now and then shouldn’t be a problem for most people, the clear, unequivocal evidence remains that there are far healthier fats for our heart. It is better for our hearts to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Making the simple swap from butter to margarine spreads is one way to do this.

“For those who choose not to use margarine spreads, consider avocado, hummus, plant oils (such as olive or avocado oil) and nut or seed butters as good options for a less-processed, more whole food approach. Alternatively, you may choose to use no spread at all.

“Putting aside the butter versus margarine debate, we need to remember that it’s our whole dietary pattern that counts. The total available evidence tells us that a heart-healthy dietary pattern is based largely on minimally-processed foods and includes plenty of vegetables and fruit; some whole grains in place of refined grains; legumes; nuts; seeds; and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish or olive oil; and may contain non-processed lean meats or poultry and/or dairy. By following this pattern, the fats in our diet will take care of themselves.”

Take-home messages:

  • Choose olive, canola, or rice bran oil for shallow frying or barbequing
  • Only use sunflower oil for salad dressing or in spreads (and don’t heat)
  • Try to include healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish in your diet
  • Products with high levels of saturated fat, such as coconut, butter and lard, should be used only very rarely
  • Avoid deep frying foods but if you must do so, avoid oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats because these are unstable at high temperatures


Back to the butter —

I have decided that with all the other things I have given up to be healthy, that I can put butter back into my diet. I won’t go crazy and slather it on everything. I will refrain from globs on my pancakes. But, boy, does real butter melting on healthy red potatoes bring me right back to the good old days.

Thanx Mom for raising me in a kitchen full of great mouth-watering memories.


Rusty LaGrange

if you like what you see here then check out my our blogs:



Small Towns with Big Hearts

Rural Towns Grow Big Hearts

I love small towns.

In small towns, families tend to stay in one place and raise generations. Extended families and extended friendships can grow. Interaction and traditions become second-nature. I love it when the trends of today become the traditions for decades and beyond.

Where else can you drive through a small town and wave to a handful of regulars you recognize and appreciate every day.

Burger Depot

The First Business you see entering Lucerne Valley

You can also see the same store owners and clerks managing the storefront business with the bonus feature of actually knowing you when they say, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

In the small community of Lucerne Valley, we have the basic needs covered. You’ll find schools, plenty of churches, two shopping centers, a bank, thrift stores, barber, salon, and fire department and sheriff sub-station. We have an active library, senior center, chamber of commerce, local weekly newspaper, museum, and two parks.

Just one of everything.

Small towns know how to play nice together. Even though we can support many restaurants, each one offers a specialty: from Chinese to Mexican to American cuisine to fast food, pizza, and deli … even a doughnut shop arriving soon. Very little overlap in menus makes this an accommodating community.

And where else can you go to Burger Depot, our one drive-thru, and get personal service? While I was making my order last week the voice on the intercom asked, “Is this order for your daughter, too?” The owner, Laura Mount, recognized my voice.

Railroad themed drive thru

Inside Depot Burger you are surrounded by railroad and train photos and clocks that toot and whistle

I answered, “Yes, it is. The first burger’s for me; the second for her.”

“Well, she doesn’t like anything but ketchup, lettuce, and cheese on her burgers.”

“Really? I didn’t remember that.”

“Do you want me to change it for her?”

“Yep. You know best.”

When I continued driving up to the window to pay, I smiled at the owner and commented, “This town is so small that you know nearly everyone’s’ choices. How do you do it?”

“They’re regulars. It’s easy.”


And there ya go. Small town living has its perks. With or without pickles.

You can enjoy yummy burgers, burritos, shakes, and sodas plus much more.

Phone (760) 248-6576 · Burger Depot has been in this one locale for over 35 years at 31337 State Highway 18 (near Custer Road intersection.) Monday thru Friday only 10am – 6pm.

Rusty LaGrange

now with three generations living and thriving in Lucerne Valley, CA

follow me at


Take the Time to Read a Book

Read More Books

High Desert, CA bookstores

Hi Desert Book Oasis

Digital or Paperback?

Digital books may be easier for you to read because of convenience. But when is the last time you read an actual paperback or hardback book? Allow yourself the pleasure of spending an hour browsing in a bookstore. Notice the different sections instead of gravitating only to your favorite interest.  READ MORE »

How Can You Hate Halloween Bats?

Halloween bats are not your biggest fear for tonight.

bat rescue babies on clothesline

How Can you Hate Halloween Bats?

Bats are night fliers, sure, but they don’t really bite humans, they only come out at night to eat bugs that bug you. Aren’t these cute? In a rescue clinic down in Australia, they place them in little mini-sleeping bags and hang on a clothesline while they grow up. Ah … how cute!!

Bats Get a Bad Reputation

Yes, I did have a friend who freaked out when a bat got stuck in her hair. But she was getting out of a pool at dusk when the bats love to swoop down over water surfaces. They use their radar-like aerial system to fly fast and avoid hitting objects. She got out of the pool just as the bats were arriving to dinner hunting time. They didn’t know she was a dinner guest.

Not a Halloween Bat in sight!

Then in a panic, she swatted at the bat that got tangled in her hair even more. Panic of the other gals screaming while exiting the pool just caused more hysteria. And sure enough, the little scared bat bit her. I won’t go into the details here — but she survived. Although she does avoid pools … at night … in the summer … in the desert.

They weren’t even Halloween bats.

Like I said, your biggest fear should be those smelly, lurking zombies.

What’s up with that?


Rusty LaGrange

Goldstone Hosts Employee Family Day

Deep Space Family Day

Capturing signals from Deep Space is an interesting concept. Traveling out to Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex north of Barstow is an adventure.

Deep Space Complex, Goldstone CA

A sunset like none other through Goldstone Dish

Families whose fathers or mothers work out at Goldstone get to share the adventure with the next generation of rocket scientists? – we can only hope.

Space suits

Museum holds early space suits

Everyone wants to stare at the behemoth 70 meter dish — dish just isn’t the right word for the gigantic signal collector  — one of the largest in the world!

Goldstone Entertainment

All Ages

All Ages get to see Goldstone

Columbus Day, being a day off for most school children, was the perfect day to visit the canyons full of giant satellite dishes, roam through the Museum, and get free lunch.

martial arts

Guiterrez Martial Arts students demonstrate the floor routines






Martial Arts students

Martial Arts students




For entertainment, Goldstone admin and staff hosted Gutierrez Martial Arts students, who presented their floor exercises and routines; offered a close-up look at Ft. Irwin’s fire engine and police cruisers; and, held a Halloween costume parade for prizes.

Carpooling to see the sights

Families carpooled to the 70 meter dish


Interested in a tour of the complex with your family, civic group, or club? Just go to : and look for the tour info or call Contact: Leslie Cunkelman
(760) 255-8688 or email directly to

space suits

SUITS — past space trips

Rusty LaGrange

connect with me at



The Burger Den–Site of The First Del Taco

Most High Desert residents know that Barstow was the home of the first Del Taco restaurant, but what they may not realize is that the very first Del Taco wasn’t in Barstow Proper.  The very first Del Taco was founded in Yermo in 1964.   This was when Arrowhead trail (also known as U.S. route 91) was the main road to Las Vegas.  During that time, Yermo was home to multiple gas stations, motels, and restaurants.

When interstate 15 opened in 1968, the town of Yermo was bypassed and,  like many small towns across America, a large number of the businesses which relied on the patronage of travelers closed.   The first Del Taco was one of those businesses, but while Del Taco closed, another business rose in its place.      On the site of  the original Del  Taco stands the Burger Den.

Burger Den at the site of the first Del Taco READ MORE »

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

iBlog Magazine for Professional Women Bloggers