Great Jazz Concert Coming to Reno on Feb 6, 2016

January 26, 2016

The legendary Jazz Trombonist Bill Watrous and premier big band arranger/conductor Gary Urwin are coming from LA to Reno to perform with the Reno Jazz Orchestra on February 6 at 7:30 PM. The RJO will be conducted by Gary Urwin, the arranger for all the songs on the program, which will be at the at Nightingale Concert Hall at UNR.

For details and tickets, go to


See Five Planets At Once! (6, If You Count Earth)

January 24, 2016

Tony Berendsen told me there is an opportunity to meet with Tony and other astronomers at the UNR Redfield campus on Mt Rose Highway & Wedge Parkway across from the Raley’s shopping center in Reno, NV, around 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Mercury should come up over the horizon and into view around 6:20. It will be followed by the other planets.


Star Guide: See 5 planets at once! (6, if you count Earth)
by Tony Berendsen

Five naked-eye planets ride the early morning sky in late January and early February. They are recast, like the characters of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western “A Fistful of Dollars,” where Sergio portrayed western cowboys in a realistic fashion, rather than the traditional “villain wears black, hero wears white” structure of early Hollywood. As we gaze at the original five naked-eye planets over the next few weeks, we see them in new light,and with a depth of knowledge.

No longer do the planets represent mythological gods, nor does our understanding of them suffer from the crude blurry telescopic images of early planetary ground-based exploration that left many to imagine canals, vegetation, and alien civilizations. Instead the planets are cast in the stark realism of modern science. We have been to all of these planets; some of them many times. We have gone to them via robots sending back a Robert Ballard-style telepresence to our computer monitors, TVs and periodicals. Our children know them as “other worlds,” and in the near future some of them will set foot on at least one of them.

In comparison to the Earth, the planets vary wildly in size and environment. The only planet similar to our home is Mars, but even though it was once wet, it’s a very different and hostile place. Dusty, arid and cold, with almost no magnetic field to keep harmful cosmic rays and high energy particles from hitting its surface, we would not survive its surface without spacesuits and enclosed habitats.

Venus, the brightest of the naked-eye planets, is the most similar in size to the Earth. It is our closest neighbor and is even more hostile than Mars, with atmospheric pressures similar to ocean depths, lots of carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures so high lead would melt! The surface of Venus is completely obscured by clouds. We have only see the surface by Russian landers and radar mapping.

Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun, and only sightly larger than our Moon. It it is a dense barren globe of rock and iron with the thinnest atmosphere of all the planets. Daytime temperatures can be as high as 800 F and because of the thin atmosphere the temperature can drop to -280 F at night.

Jupiter is the largest and second-brightest naked-eye planet. It is tremendously larger than the Earth and big enough that it could fit within its volume all the planets and the asteroids too. Jupiter is a gas giant with an atmosphere so thick that pressures would be greater than the bottom of Earth’s oceans before finding solid ground.

Saturn is the most distant of the five at almost 900 million miles from the Sun. It takes light about 8.3 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, but almost 80 minutes to reach Saturn. Saturn’s rings make it the most distinctive-looking planet in the solar system. It has a low density too — so much so that if you had a cosmic ocean large enough it would float like a ringed fishing bobber.

The early morning “fistful of planets” lineup begins the last week of January and continues for the first couple weeks in February. On Jan. 29, 2016 at 6:30 AM, check out the view: Mercury on the eastern horizon, then Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter all strung along the ecliptic toward the west with the Moon in between Jupiter and Mars. Mercury can be the most difficult to find, so I suggest loading up the SkyPortal astronomy app to help. Find a vantage point with a clear view of the eastern horizon and arrive a little early to find your bearings and enjoy a rare glimpse into the solar system.

Reprinted with permission from Tony Berendsen, aka Tony the Star Guide. He runs Tahoe Star Tours. He can be reached at 775-232-0844 or

The Lantern Fest – Reno and Other Places

August 31, 2015

LanternFestThis Lantern Fest sounds interesting to explore more. I learned that one will be held just outside Reno at the Fernley 95A Speedway
(1965 Highway 95A) on Saturday, October 17th. There are also others planned elsewhere in the US.

More information about the group is here:


At The Lantern Fest, thousands of revelers join together armed with lanterns for one unforgettable spectacle. There will be music, dancing, s’mores and, when the time is just right, we will light the sky with our highest hopes, deepest regrets, and fondest dreams.

These lanterns are 100% biodegradable. Not to mention after each release we have professional “Lantern Chasers” that will make those armored truck driving meteorologists look like your local news’ weatherman. These lantern experts collect 90% of the lanterns after the event.

Historically lanterns were used to symbolize good fortune, request favorable weather, or to celebrate the life of a loved one, just to name a few. But here in 2015, we don’t care if you are turning over a new leaf or just snapping some sweet shots for Instagram.

Families and friends can dance to the music, roast marshmallows, munch on snacks provided by local vendors, and of course, watch the lanterns float away in an unforgettable release.

Each registrant will receive their own lantern as well as some other goodies.

Safety and Conservation are very important!

See video: here

More questions are answered here.

The Lantern Fest organizers partner with a charity for every event. For our Reno event, we are excited to be partnering with The Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada (DSNNN).

Check out my blogs about things to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Celebrate Earth Hour This Saturday! #YourPower

March 26, 2015

World Earth Hour happens this coming Saturday (It is always observed on the last Saturday of March.) wherever you are on Earth at 8:30 p.m. Local Time.

Another interesting site explaining Earth Hour and all kinds of family activities is from the group that started it in 2007: World Wildlife Fund.

Here is a story about it from – Earth Hour tells it like this.

Check out also .

How dark will your city/town/village get? We will see!

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Fascinating Letter to Grandson

January 4, 2015

Knight A Kiplinger normally writes for investors and executives. In his December 19, 2014 letter, he actually wrote a letter to his first grandson who was born in 2014 in the same fashion as his grandfather did for him and three other grandsons back in 1963. He also gave permission to share his special letter which is what I am now doing with you.

You can read it here.

It is available to download as PDF from if you would like to do that.

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

2014 Pumpkin Palooza Harvest Festival

October 19, 2014

On Sunday, October 26, 2014, at the Victorian Square in downtown Sparks, Nevada, there will be a Pumpkin Palooza festival from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Take the kiddies to play carnival games, show off their Halloween costumes in the costume parade, race pumpkins in the pumpkin derby, compete in the pumpkin pie eating contest or the pumpkin seed spitting contest or the mummy wrapping contest, enjoy the live music and food vendors. There will be a marshmallow shooting range. Storytelling will take place in the ‘haunted’ Glendale Schoolhouse. Get your fortune told.

From the Pumpkin Palooza website:
“Last year, downtown Sparks played host to more than 5,000 people, enjoying good family time. And a heckuva lot of pumpkins! Please join us in thanking the sponsors who made this all possible! And mark your calendar for Sunday, October 26 for an even more exciting time!”

Admission to the festival is free, but you’ll need pocket money for many of the activities. See more details, derby rules, and photos from last year’s festival at the Pumpkin Palooza website.

Pumpkin Palooza is a harvest festival that benefits the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living.

Check out my blogs about things to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Kids can do the Great Backyard Bird Count for 2014

January 26, 2014

Kids can count the birds in the backyard! The Great Backyard Bird Count is to be held February 14–17, 2014. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at This would be a great classroom or family activity! Here is an instructional video all about what you would need to do from the website of the GBBC (Great Backyard Bird Count). Here’s How to Participate. Here’s GBBC for Kids!

News Release:
January 16, 2014
New York, New York
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 14–17, 2014. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

In North America, GBBC participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of magnificent Snowy Owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove to see if it has expanded its range again. GBBC observations may help show whether or not numbers of American Crows will continue to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly because of changing climate.

Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time, thanks to integration with the eBird online checklist program launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab and Audubon. Participants reported their bird sightings from all 7 continents, including 111 countries and independent territories. More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded—nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.

“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by,” said Cornell Lab director Dr. John Fitzpatrick.

“Canadian participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count has increased tremendously in recent years, and it’s wonderful to see this program growing globally,” said Bird Studies Canada President Dr. George Finney. “The count is introducing unprecedented numbers of people to the exciting field of bird watching.”

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It’s free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count visit and view the winning photos from the 2013 GBBC photo contest.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

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Grandpa Ron and I had a Red-tailed Hawk perch on the wall outside a window. I captured 2 pictures of it before he had enough of me and flew off.

… and we always have quail, unless they are hiding…

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

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