Monday, April 8, 2024

Solar Eclipse 04 . 08 . 2024

Here we are at 2:09 PM, just after the eclipse started. Eclipse glasses, T-shirts, cameras with lenses covered by filters cut from eclipse glasses, sunscreen - we were ready!

Yesterday, we drove up to a campground in northern New York State between Rochester and Syracuse, to experience the total solar eclipse at Sodus Point on the shore of Lake Ontario.

The weather forecast was not promising, but we tried to be optimistic. After all, when do they ever get it right?

During the first few minutes at the start of the solar eclipse at 2:15 we saw a small bite taken out of the sun, although it was hard to see through the clouds. Then the clouds closed in and completely and totally blocked our view for the rest of the eclipse.

Last view of the sun, around 2:15. Photo was taken with an eclipse glasses filter.  

A few minutes later, about 2:20, cloud cover totally blocked the sun

During the whole (not visible) eclipse, I listened to an app called "The Solar Eclipse Timer" which kept me up to date on what I wasn't seeing the entire time. Eg, “20 seconds - Observe for Shadow bands,” "4th Contact in 2 minutes," or “40 seconds - Observe Umbra Approach” whatever those mean.

Although we didn’t get to see the eclipse itself, the first few minutes when we could see it starting were exciting, and experiencing the drop in temperature and the darkness was amazing. In fact, close to totality, it went from late-ish afternoon light to nighttime dark and back in only six minutes. Incredible!


3:23 pm

3:24PM Totality
3:24PM Totality for us. Across the lake, Ontario is not 
in the moon shadow so it is still light over there! 

3:24PM Totality - View in Full Screen 
3:24PM Totality

3:26PM light again

Later the clouds cleared up and we could have used our eclipse glasses to watch the sunset.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Solar Eclipse Is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You!!!

On of July 20, 1963, I was a little 7 year old away for the summer with my family at a bungalow colony in Livingston Manor, NY, when I experienced my first (partial) solar eclipse. All I remember was that we kids were warned not to look up at the sky or we would go blind and that therefore when I was outside, I scurried around with my eyes on my feet, terrified.

Fast forward to the partial solar eclipse of May 10, 1994. That day, I pulled my 3 boys out of school (1st, 3rd, and 5th grades). We took the train into the city and the subway up to the Museum of Natural History, Hayden Planetarium, where I figured they would know how to do an eclipse right.

(On the subway I had to caution the kids to tone it down, to act cool and stop carrying on like this was their first time on the subway. Also, not to make eye contact with anyone. )

There was a great program at the museum. And to top it off, we all ended up on Fox news that evening. Busted! Eli and I had speaking parts. “And this is Mrs Lill Lansey who pulled her three kids out of school today to come here. Tell us, Mrs Lansey, why did you pull your kids out of school today? “

The above pictures were taken with a film camera. Kids, ask you parents what that was.

More that 20 years later, on August 21st, 2017, another partial solar eclipse coincided with a camping trip Bob and I were on with our 2 oldest grandchildren. We headed to the Paul Robinson Observatory in Voorhees State Park, NJ for that one. Another excellent program.

Demonstration of a pinhole camera, and is history going to repeat itself in terms of being on the news? (Don't know if the photo was published)

Tomorrow, Bob and I are headed to a campground in Sodus Point, NY, on the shore of Lake Ontario, to hopefully see the coming eclipse in totality. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Purim 2024, Brought to You by ChatGPT

                  Purim 2024, Brought to You by ChatGPT              


We wanted to come up with something funny for Purim and asked our son Yoni for help. He suggested letting ChatGPT Pro have a go. So we did. First, let me explain what ChatGPT is in case you don’t know. Chat is, well, chat. The GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. Does that help? No. But Google gives a “simple” definition - “ChatGPT is a natural language processing chatbot driven by generative AI technology that allows you to have human-like conversations and much more.” Was that any clearer? Maybe not. So in my words, it’s an app that magically answers your questions. (The Pro version is much smarter than the regular free version.)

Back to Purim. We asked ChatGPT Pro for something funny for Purim. And it was crazy. ChatGPT produced a whole megillah of suggestions, in seconds. It took a little longer to generate pictures. But the pictures are the best!

Now normally, our Purim shtick is one page long. That’s when we have to write it. But using ChatGPT is a whole nother kettle of gefilta fish. I’m going to limit this to only 3 pages because I want to include a bunch of pictures but no one wants to read the dozens of pages that were generated by ChatGPT in five minutes. Also, I’m trying to keep the printing costs down. I have deleted most of the ChatGPT text to save space, but you’ll get the idea.

Question 1 for ChatGPT

Me:        We've got a leap month in the Jewish year - we need a good Purim spiel. Any ideas? Include pictures.

ChatGPT: Creating a Purim spiel (play) that celebrates a leap month in the Jewish calendar, specifically for a year with an added Adar, offers a unique opportunity to blend tradition with creativity. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. The Time-Traveling Megillah

·  Plot: The story follows a group of friends who accidentally discover a time machine and decide to use it to experience the original Purim story firsthand. However, they find themselves in the second Adar, creating a humorous confusion about celebrating Purim "on time."

·  Themes: Time travel, historical adventure, the importance of timing in Jewish tradition.

·  Key Scene: A comedic mix-up at King Ahasuerus's palace, where the friends arrive in costumes for the second Purim, only to find the palace unprepared.

The first illustration, capturing the essence of "The Time-Traveling Megillah,"depicts the moment when the group of friends, dressed in their colorful period costumes, find themselves in front of an ancient-looking time machine with King Ahasuerus's palace in the background. Their expressions of bewilderment and the comedic confusion about arriving in the leap month are vividly portrayed.

2. Double Adar Double Fun

·  Plot: This play centers around a Jewish community that realizes they have a leap month and decides to use the extra time to double their preparation and celebration efforts for Purim. The community splits into teams, each responsible for different aspects of Purim, leading to friendly competition and hilarious mishaps.

·  Themes: Community, preparation, celebration.

·  Key Scene: A bake-off competition for the best hamantaschen, with judges hilariously unable to decide on the winner due to the high quality of all entries

The second illustration brings to life "Double Adar Double Fun," showcasing a vibrant Jewish community scene. Teams are shown engaging in various preparations for Purim with exaggerated enthusiasm, from a comedic bake-off with mountains of hamantaschen to decorating with an abundance of streamers and practicing a humorous skit. The atmosphere is bustling, colorful, and filled with joyous competition, perfectly capturing the spirit of making the most of the extra Adar.

3. The Missing Month Mystery

·  Plot: In a small Jewish town, the announcement of the leap month goes missing, leading to confusion about when Purim should be celebrated. A detective duo embarks on a humorous journey to find the missing announcement, encountering various characters and learning about the significance of the leap month along the way.

·  Themes: Mystery, community cooperation, educational about the leap year.

·  Key Scene: The detective duo discovering the missing announcement in a humorous location, like the synagogue's lost and found, just in time to save Purim.


The third illustration for "The Missing Month Mystery" captures a charming scene in a Jewish town square, where a detective duo, humorously styled after classic detectives, are on the hunt for the missing leap month announcement.  Surrounded by townsfolk in festive Purim costumes, the scene is vibrant, filled with curiosity, and imbued with a festive spirit, perfectly encapsulating the whimsical adventure to uncover the leap month's mystery.

Question 2 for ChatGPT

We decided to add a few more parameters to the question 

Me: We've got an extra month of Adar in the Jewish year this year, an extra day in the solar calendar, and a solar eclipse - we need a funny Purim spiel about it. Any ideas?

ChatGPT: Certainly! The inclusion of a solar eclipse and the concept of a solar leap year provide rich thematic elements for new Purim spiel ideas. Here are some creative concepts integrating these astronomical events:

ChatGPT came up with 10 scenarios within seconds. Here are some of the illustrations. These are a few of the titles- The Purim Paradox: An Eclipse Adventure, Shadows and Light: The Eclipse of Adar, When the Heavens Align- A Purim Extravaganza Like No Other! , The Great Cosmic Mix-Up, Time Twists and Celestial Quirks, Adar Again? A Cosmic Comedy of Calendars, Lunar Laughs & Solar Surprises, Shadows and Light: The Eclipse of Adar. And my favorite, “ Adar II, the Sequel

If you are observant (perceptive, (not referring to your level of religious observance)) you may notice in some of the following pictures that ChatGpt cannot spell, either in English or Hebrew. It’s not smart enough for that. Yet.


There was much more stuff. ChatGPT created some Purim plays (re the Spiel request) including for each play: Summaries with a thematic outline, five acts with two scenes each, an epilogue, and a recap. Ridiculous. For example: Here's part of the thematic outline of a play called A Cosmic Purim: Leaps, Loops, and Lunacies , that ChatGPT says,“Could make for an engaging and humorous spiel”:

Act 3: Esther's Enlightened Intervention

·          Scene 1: Esther, learning of Haman's plot, decides to host a banquet under the solar eclipse, inviting Haman and the king. She plans to reveal her Jewish heritage and Haman's plot under the dramatic darkness of the eclipse.

·         Scene 2: As the eclipse occurs, Esther reveals the truth to Ahasuerus. The darkness of the eclipse symbolizes the potential doom for her people, and its passing symbolizes the light of salvation.


  To sum it all up:



Happy Purim from Lill and Bob and ChatGPT 2024

Virtual Shalacmonos

Sunday, March 10, 2024

I’m Back Blogging After Long Break ...

I’m back blogging after a long break.

Why the long break? Well, on our last trip, the “I Can’t Believe We Were Traveling For 9 ½ Months” trip, we were so busy, that after the first few months, I had no time to blog.

After that trip, we had planned to go to Israel this winter.

Then October 7th happened, and I didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything. So, nothing to blog.

But after 5 strange months at home, and while we were both still recovering from a bout of covid, we left NJ on Tuesday, February 6th, and came home on March 8th. A very short trip.

I posted “Photo of the day” pictures, as I did in the second half of the long trip, and have some ideas of blog posts for the recent trip.

Maybe I will even get around to writing them.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Happy Purim 2023! Fun and Ridiculous Stuff From Our Current Trip!

Here is some fun and ridiculous stuff from our current trip, for your Purim enjoyment. Also silly pictures! Not in any kind of any chronological order. There is a lot of stuff, you might say a Whole Megillah of stuff, cause we've been on the road a long time. 

1. Bob sometimes wears a Maine baseball cap. People always ask if he is from Maine. His answer always gets a laugh - No, I am from New Jersey but why would I want to wear a New Jersey hat?

2. Everyone has to comment on our NJ license plates. For example - NJ, huh. Where in NJ? I’m originally from NJ. My (insert family person here) lives in NJ or is from NJ. You’re a long way from home. Did you come all the way from NJ just to see (insert current location or attraction). Are you from the north, south, or the famous central NJ? Etc.

3. Early in our trip we took a 2 week Caribbean cruise from Tampa. One of the tour guides on a ship excursion was named Eliezer. He started to explain his name - Abraham’s servant who was sent to get a wife for Isaac - and we were, yeah, yeah, we know the story.

4. I went to the gym once on our cruise. The last day - to weigh myself.

5. A Wynn Dixie near Ocala, FL, labeled Wolffs kasha as “Grits” .

6. We were stranded in Pedernales State Park near Austin, TX for several days towards the end of January as the whole center of the state (including DFW airport) shut down for a week due to only ½ inch of ice and or snow.

7. We saw someone who looked familiar at a restaurant in Dallas. It took a while for us to remember that he was someone who had us for a meal on a Shabbos. But we couldn't remember which city. Bob had to check his email to see where it had been (Houston).

8. A Texas put down - He’s all hat and no cattle.

9. Texas has a great supermarket chain called H-E-B with 350 stores and a giant H-E-B sign at each one. The first time I saw the sign I thought the store was something Jewish, but the name is the initials of the founder, Howard Edward Butt. (Must be why he used his initials, not last name) Many of the stores do have a very nice kosher section though.

10. We always ask park rangers, tour guides, etc., for the stupidest question they have ever been asked. Here are some of our favorites from this trip –

a. The Cruise Director on our cruise had an irate passenger complain that he was supposed to have an unobstructed window in his cabin. She replied, “Just wait till we move away from the dock.”

b. A park ranger in a visitor center was once asked, “How long is the 10 min video?”

c. A Carlsbad Caverns Ranger was asked, “Is this underground?"

d. Another Carlsbad Caverns Ranger was asked, “How much of the cave is unexplored?”

e. A Texas State Park with a river used for tubing has a sign that says, “Once you leave the park, you won’t be able to walk or take the river back. The river does not run in a circle.” This reminded me of a guide on a whitewater river rafting trip in Massachusetts who told us he was once asked, “When do we get back to our starting point?”

11. There were clouds of biting midges in Big Bend National Park everywhere near the Rio Grande River. Every time we got into Our V, tons of the little pests got in with us. For some reason, they were attracted to the windshield. So, every time we got into Our V, we would spend a few minutes squishing the midges against the windshield. This was the first time I have ever had to clean bug smears off the inside of a windshield. 

12. We have spent a lot of time in the wilderness. And by wilderness, I mean No Internet Connection.

13. There is a kosher fleisching (meat) restaurant in Dallas called Milk and Honey.

14. The major of Lajitas, TX‘s name is Clay Henry. And is a goat. His campaign slogan is, “The World’s Most Honest Politician.”

15. Danger! Travel can be dangerous! We have seen signs warning us about: Flying Discs, Dangerous Banks, Historic Steps, Falling Rocks, Tornados, Water on Road, Rip Currents on Road, Flash Floods, High Winds, Wind Currents, Wind Gusts, Dust Storms, Blowing Dust, and Zero Visibility. And the dangers of wildlife such as Bears, Wild Bison, Wild Horses, Mountain Lions, Wild Alligators, Alligators, Snakes, Loose Cattle, and Crazy Tawney Ants. One campground helpfully included this sheet in their handout:

Miscellaneous  and photographic proof of some of the items on the previous list

Great quote seen in the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, New Orleans : "No Jew is ever the first Jew anywhere. There is always one before him." Jacob Rader Marcus, Founder of the American Jewish Archives.

Saw this in the Japanese garden of Bellingrath Gardens, Alabama. It looked like Hebrew but we couldn’t figure out what it said. That’s because the sign actually says, "Drink Coca Cola," in Japanese. We confirmed it with Bob's former boss Ito San. Walter Bellingrath made a fortune from having the only Coca Cola bottling plant in the whole southeast in the early 1900's.

We Were Like Two Cruise Ships That Pass in the Night

A Log Jam

Road Ends Here. Gee, I would never have noticed.

A Smoking Manatee, Homosassa State Park, FL

After they fixed the Smoking Manatee. Not sure this is any better.

Adult Supervision, Fort Desoto State Park, FL


Wolffs Grits

The River Does Not Run in a Circle. In case you thought the river is an Amusement Park Ride. Clearly, and sadly, a lot of people need to be told this. Brazos Bend State Park, TX

Tree of the Year, McKinney Falls State Park, TX. It did really well in the talent competition.

Weird dollar amount. Ochlockonee State Park, FL

You never know what you are going to see on the road. Hope he doesn’t go over a bump. Somewhere on I-95.

You never know what you are going to see in the campground. The guy who built this was great fun to talk to. Emma Long Municipal Park, Austin.

World Famous Clay Henry, mayor of Lajitas, TX, posing for a campaign photo.

We Drove by This Artist and an Hour Later Passed her Again. Look at the paintings.

Don't Text and Drive

Numerous Road Signs (This is not a CAPTCHA)

More Signs

Happy Purim from the Lill and Bob  ©2023