Dear readers,

I’ve come to the hard decision that it’s time to put Steve Cross Loves Music and Science to rest. Don’t worry, I still love music and science! I just don’t have time to blog about it anymore. The natural progression of life, relationships, commitments, etc… has forced me to re-organize priorities. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that blogging has to take a backseat to more important things. So, this is the end of this blog! I’ll keep the domain for the foreseeable future, and everything will remain archived as-is. Everything has a a life cycle, and this blog has reached the end.

This is not the end of me sharing this type of content on the internet, however! I do intend to share more science articles, links, tidbits, etc… on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, so follow me there. This will allow me to still share my interests and love of music & science with whomever is willing to listen. I’m also on Instagram, so follow me there for more visual content.

I also have other blog ideas that I’ve been milling around for a while, but I’m keeping that under wraps until I officially decide what I’m doing. If and when that comes to fruition, it will be made public via my Twitter and Facebook.

Whether you’ve just started following me or have been for many years, I hope you learned something, gained something, or otherwise benefited from this blog!

Peace out.

-Steve

NWSlogoIt’s been quite a while since I posted much of anything weather-related, but now is as good a time as any! Our middle TN National Weather Service office started a Facebook page a while back, and I’ve been loving the hell out of it. Let’s face it, the weather service has always had a bit of an image problem. I’d be willing to bet that when most people think of the NWS, they think of a boring office with a bunch of crotchety old dudes staring at weather maps & computer screens. But in reality, the meteorologists are dedicated and passionate scientists who truly love what they do, and they enjoy talking about weather on a more conversational level, too! That’s exactly what their Facebook page is for, and it’s filled with tons of interesting factoids, tidbits, and more humanized/conversational information about the forecast. The forecasters are on there quite often, and are very good about responding to comments or questions posted. They also just closed submissions on a summer weather photo contest, and you can browse through the album and vote on your favorites. The photo with the most likes as of June 20th will be declared the winner. So check out their Facebook page and Like it. Even if you’re not as big of a weather nerd as I am, I promise you will learn something interesting if you Like the page and follow their posts!

Speaking of weather, I’m looking forward to the very favorable forecast for this year’s Bonnaroo! I will be there taking photos for the Scene as I have for the last 5 years, and thus I’m issuing my yearly Bonnaroo posting disclaimer: *This will be my last post before Bonnaroo, and posting will resume sometime early next week.* Be sure to follow our coverage and photos over at the Nashville Cream! Also, my girlfriend Lauren will be there with me blogging about the new & improved food options on her blog Old Red Boots, so follow her coverage to see the festival through the eyes of a foodie. But back to the weather- while it’d be nearly impossible to beat last year’s utterly euphoric Bonnaroo weather, this year’s forecast looks very good. Thursday is a little iffy as there’s currently a 30% chance of showers & storms, and the Storm Prediction Center has Manchester right on the edge of their ‘Slight Risk’ area for severe weather in their convective outlook. BUT, that activity should be pretty scattered/isolated so the risk is still pretty low. Friday & Saturday are damn-near perfect, however- sunny skies with mid to upper 80s for highs and low to mid 60s for lows- very similar to last year! That temperature span also suggests lower humidity! Sunday will be a little hotter with highs in the upper 80s and Sunday night brings back a 20% chance of showers. Overall, you really couldn’t ask for a better Bonnaroo weather forecast. See you here next week!

fix the beer taxRaise your pint glasses, steins, and snifters in a toast to the success of TN’s Fix the Beer Tax campaign! On Monday the bill passed the state senate, and on Wednesday it passed the state house. Both were almost unanimous votes. The bill still has to be signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, but with such widespread support and virtually no opposition whatsoever, he will sign it. TN is now on its way to becoming much friendlier to the craft brewing industry, and no longer will breweries be penalized for making a better quality product. Thank you to all my friends and readers who supported this campaign! Read the full article from the horse’s mouth at the official Fix the Beer Tax website.

 

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It’s almost spring again, and in East Nashville in recent years, that has come to mean BEER FEST. I’ve been to the East Nashville Beer Festival every year of its existence and it’s gotten better every time. Most of you probably know I’m a homebrewer and avid beer lover, so trust me when I say these folks really know how to put on a great beer festival. The list of breweries this year includes Deschutes, Good People, French Broad, Lagunitas, Highland Brewing, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Rivertown, Schmaltz, Brooklyn, Southern Tier, Starr Hill, Terrapin, Straight To Ale, Green Flash, and many more including all your favorite locals such as Yazoo, Calfkiller, Fat Bottom, Turtle Anarchy, Jackalope, etc… It’s well worth the $50 price because there’s simply no other way to experience so many great beers at once, and many of the breweries have very special, limited-edition (often cask-aged) brews that you’d never find in a store or at a bar. There will also be plenty of food trucks onsite to help fill your belly with yummy snacks in addition to the beer. The list includes Biscuit Love, Wrapper’s Delight, Riff’s, Hoss’s Loaded Burgers, and the Grilled Cheeserie to name a few.

This year also boasts a very special food/beer pairing tent sponsored by Whole Foods! It does require a separate ticket for an extra $45 but I’ve no doubt it will be worth it! The ENBF is also a part of Nashville Craft Beer Week, which boasts even more awesome in-store free tastings and other specialty events, so be sure to check out the full calendar, because the madness starts on March 18th.

The festival did not increase the size of the event this year, but they’ve “…doubled our bathrooms, doubled our hand wash sinks, increased drinking water supply, upgraded glassware (6oz glass snifter), and overall will be creating the best venue possible.” If you had issues with any of those things last year, fear not- it’ll be way better this year.

SO, BELIEVE ME- HAVE YOUR FINGER ON THE BUTTON AT 9AM SHARP THIS THURSDAY. This event will sellout in less than an hour, and probably even less than 30 minutes. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out in 10 minutes. Trust me, I had an absolute blast last year with my lady Old Red Boots, and we’ll be back in full force this year. You do NOT want to miss this!

The ENBF and Craft Beer Week are all products of Rhizome Productions. Keep your eyes on these folks, because they’re doing some amazing stuff for the beer scene in Nashville, Tennessee, and the southeast in general!

*Also, don’t forget about Fix The Beer Tax! If you’re a Tennesseean and haven’t heard about that movement yet, check out my blog post about it from a couple of weeks ago (which the FTBT folks were kind enough to repost on their blog!). And then email your state legislators and help us get this archaic and ridiculous TN law changed.*

photoI got back last night from an awesome trip to Colorado. I’m too busy catching up with work and life in general today to spend much time on a blog post, so I’m just gonna post a few of my favorite phone/instagram pics from the trip, and point you to my instagram feed to see the rest. FYI, I use two fantastic apps for iPhone photo editing- Afterglow and Snapeed (which I’ve just learned has a desktop application as well), so if you haven’t tried those- I highly recommend it!

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Django_Unchained_PosterWelcome to 2013. The world didn’t end and we’re all right back in this together. Back to the grind. Everyone loves to grind, right?

I really don’t have a lot to say at this point, as I’m still getting myself out of vacation mode and back into grind mode, but I will say this quickly: GO SEE DJANGO UNCHAINED. This film is one of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces. It has all the trademarks of his greatest films. In many ways it echoes Inglorious Basterds, but I enjoyed it even more for some reason. Tarantino takes the satisfaction of watching the revenge of an oppressed class of people and weaves it into the framework of a classic spaghetti western. The result is as satiating as a big juicy hamburger loaded with all your favorite toppings. Yum.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the big stink being raised over Instagram’s new terms & policies set to go into effect on Jan. 16th. If you haven’t, please familiarize yourself. In short, as the policy is currently written, Instagram would have the right to sell any photos you upload to their service without paying you anything or even letting you know that your photo was being sold or used.

When I first heard about this my initial reaction was utter disgust, and indeed I planned on deleting my account if the policies weren’t changed from what was written. But I also felt pretty confident that it must have been simply some overzealous and greedy lawyers and executives from Facebook writing blanket statements into the policies, and that it wouldn’t be long before they responded by changing the proposed policy. Thankfully, Instagram responded to the outcry today in a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening.” It seems that most if not all of the clauses that pissed everyone off will be removed. The most important thing to take from their statement is this:

Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

And this:

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

As a photographer who makes part of my living from photos and licensing their usage, I am hyper-aware of the copyright issues and legalities involved in photography and of how corporations, media, and other establishments are constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying for usage of creative work. I absolutely would not have continued using Instagram if the original policy change had gone into effect. I also had visions of the crumbling Instagram empire, as the backlash would’ve been pretty widespread, whilst other services such as Twitter and Flickr are launching their own photo-sharing apps/features, complete with Instagram-like filters. Hipsters everywhere would have cried a sea of vintage filtered tears until one of the other services (my guess would’ve been Flickr) took over as the king photo filter/sharing app. It remains to be seen what the new version of the policies & terms of use will look like, but I have a feeling it will keep everyone happy, and not rip off the user base. But Instagram/Facebook, be warned- I’ll be looking at the new policies & terms of use very carefully and if you try to pull anything remotely similar to this, SHAME ON YOU and I will be GONE.

It’s not every day you see a Grammy-nominated musician play a sweaty set of throaty, in-your-face rock ‘n roll jams at a tiny hot wing joint, but that’s just what happened Saturday night here in Nashville. Singer Brittany Howard of the Grammy-nominated Alabama Shakes fronted a Nashville supergroup called Thunderbitch, featuring members of Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks, last Saturday night at East Nashville hot chicken joint Ghot Wingz. I was there snapping photos of this bizarre show, all of which can be seen over at the Cream, along with The Spin’s more thorough review of the happenings. In short, I had to mention it because it’s one of those shows that will go down in history, and I’m proud that it happened in the music town I call home!

In other news, though NASA’s Johnson Space Center Students create fun promotional videos for NASA every year, this year’s is quite impressive. Behold “NASA Johnson Style,” their parody of “Gangnam Style.” :

Curiosity's amazing self-portrait from a few weeks ago. Credit: NASA/JPL

Curiosity’s amazing self-portrait from a few weeks ago. Credit: NASA/JPL

It’s been a very crazy week, and I know this may be old news already for some of you, but I had to post about NASA’s announcement on the Curiosity mission findings that caused such an uproar on the internet a few weeks back. For a detailed explanation of what was found and what it means, check out this article on Universe Today. In short, this was the first time all of Curiosity’s instruments had been used in concert together, and the consistency of the results was exciting. It pointed to organic compounds in the Martian soil, but they can’t say for sure that the Carbon in those compounds is of Martian origin. First they have to determine if the Carbon is actually from Mars, and not a contaminant from earth air trapped in the instruments, then they have to determine whether the Carbon is from a biological or non-biological source. There are lots of possibilities that must be ruled out before we will know for sure what’s in the soil, and where it came from. At the announcement, Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger is quoted as saying, “We’re doing science at the speed of science. But we live in a world that’s sort of at the pace of Instagrams. The enthusiasm that we had, that I had, that our whole team has about what’s going on here, I think it was just misunderstood.” That was after he was questioned about the wild speculation that resulted from his comments in an NPR story about a possible “Earth-shaking” discovery by Curiosity. I just love that a NASA scientist compared the speed of science to the “pace of Instagrams.” Instagram and Science! In the same sentence! That must mean science is hip, right? RIGHT?

In other NASA-related news, it was announced on Tuesday that NASA will build and launch in 2020 another Mars rover very similar to Curiosity. While that may not be the most exciting thing to hear, it shows that NASA is building confidence in its abilities to do mind-blowing things like land a nuclear-powered, car-sized roving science lab on another planet with a rocket-powered sky crane. The more we learn about Mars, the closer we get to putting a man there. Who knows, maybe a prime objective of this new mission will be to actually look for signs of past or current life. No mission to Mars yet has actually had that as an objective. For more on this new mission read this article on New Scientist.

While these next two items aren’t necessarily science-y, they are quite awesome:

Curiosity’s amazing self-portrait from a few weeks ago. Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA scientists have created lots of buzz over the past two days because of an NPR story in which Curiosity’s chief investigator John Grotzinger is quoted as saying the latest round of data from Curiosity’s soil analysis instrument is “gonna be one for the history books.” That’s all the information we’ll get, though, at least for a few weeks. While the scientists are very excited about what they’re seeing, they have to run multiple tests and replicate the results in order to be sure the initial interesting result is not a fluke or a glitch. The instrument in question (SAM) looks for organic molecules in the Martian soil, which are the basic building blocks of life as we know it. While none of the instruments on Curiosity can directly detect the presence of life on Mars, they CAN detect basic organics. Even a confirmation of organic molecules would be a huge, MONUMENTAL discovery.

In the past, scientists that have “blown their load” by prematurely announcing exciting results have been burned by it, so this team really wants to be sure of the accuracy and interpretation of their data before going public. One needn’t look further than NASA’s Martian meteorite fossil fiasco in 1996, or their arsenic-based life announcement in 2010 to know that letting your excitement/amazement at your discovery get in the way of un-biased, fact-based analysis can be disastrous.

I certainly hope that the results they’re guarding/confirming point to organic molecules in the soil they’ve analyzed. Curiosity’s findings thus far prove that large amounts of water once flowed on the surface, right where the rover is exploring. It would make sense to me that some form of basic life once existed there. It also wouldn’t surprise me if one day we discover that the DNA from life there mixed with DNA from life here, and that we’re all part Martian, as the idea of panspermia suggests. Those discoveries are likely years or even decades away from happening, but this is still a very exciting time for science!

This will be my last post before Thanksgiving, so have a happy one!