Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Fun & Games

SOMETHING'S FISHY: Saturday brought one of our favorite annual events - Fishermen's Fall Festival, down at Fishermen's Terminal, at the north end of the hill we live on. 

While cruise ships and luxury boats are moored at the south end of our hill, Fishermen's Terminal is where the working boats are (including some of the "Deadliest Catch" boats). 

We look forward to the event every year. It's totally free, there are always lots of arts and crafts for the kids to partake in and they get to go fishing!

This year, an addition to the festivities was a free cruise on an Argosy boat. We made sure to get our tickets first thing, and boarded the Lady Mary a little after 11:30 a.m.
We cruised east toward Lake Union, and saw lots of working boats along the way, including this Port of Long Beach (CA) vessel.
 We saw a few modest house boats and sailboats - as well as smoke from an apartment fire in Ballard (so many sirens!),
There was a fairly large contingent of pirates on board our cruise. They commandeered the bow. 
Fortunately there was no robbing or pillaging. In fact, they passed out beads and cards (with their pictures and pirate stats or whatever) to kids.
We had nice vistas of the Fremont and Aurora Bridges ...
 and boated under the Ballard Bridge. We're usually one of the cars up top.
Back on land, the kids painted Frisbees, built wooden boats and painted shells.

And they each even had a chance to catch a real live fish!

Annabelle was a little frustrated at first. Not sure if her hook was dull or the bait wasn't properly seated, but she fed a number of fish before she got one on the line.

Just look at the catch(es) o' the day!
 I turned the kids loose with the camera to capture the autopsy. Er, 'cleaning.'

 Annabelle and I threw together a dry rub for the trout. Or, "nice, big, fat, rainbow trout, delicious," as Christian called them.

ONE LAST TIME: Sunday we felt compelled to make one more march to Safeco Field, for the last home game of the Mariners' season.
The team was mathematically eliminated a week or so ago. They now hold the distinction of being the Major League Baseball team with the longest drought when it comes to going to the post season. We're #1!!!

Here is the post game celebration. I guess at this point, we're celebrating the fact the miserable season is over. :/

Here's the last pitch of 2015.
And just like that, it's over. 
There's always next year.

ROCKET MAN: Among the notable birthdays today is Robert Goddard. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1882, Dr. Goddard is considered the father of modern rocketry and a genius for his many inventions. 
Per a NASA post on social media today, "In 1914, (Goddard) received the first two of the 214 U.S. patents issued to him, one for a liquid-fueled rocket and the other for solid fuel. On March 16, 1926, Dr. Goddard successfully tested the first liquid fueled rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts. On May 1, 1959, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was named in his honor."

The photo above shows Dr. Goddard pictured with his first successfully launched, liquid-fueled rocket. Awesome!

For more info about Dr. Goddard, check out:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Get our Geek(Wire) On

SUMMITING:  What an amazing Friday!

Today, we had the great fortune of attending the GeekWire Summit at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle. Per the event Web site, it's "the premier technology conference in the Pacific Northwest, bringing together engineers, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators for a conversation about the future of business and technology."

We were there because Annabelle had been invited to participate in the events Kids Tech Panel after interviewing for the position a few weeks back at GeekWire HQ (photo above).

We got to the Sheraton around 1 p.m. this afternoon, and after getting badged, we checked out the amazing artwork. 

We knew that the talks at the summit were being transcribed into graphics. (Without fail, this is what Annabelle does during the college lectures we listen to, rather than taking straight up text notes.) 
 The artist here is Guillaume Wiatr. You can read a great article about him here:
 I think illustrating lectures is one of Annabelle's dream jobs!
This afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear and see an interview with Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. She is whip smart, and we're fortunate she's our senator, IMHO.
 A little bit after 2, it was time for the kids to storm the stage.  
 The kids were all great. Annabelle seemed at home with a mic in her hand. :)
The whole thing is captured in the video below. The kids' panel is around the 1:30 mark, but all of it's worth watching.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Of Myths and Nuts

NUTTY:  It's the time of year when chestnuts aren't yet roasting on an open fire, but they are falling all over the streets and sidewalks of Seattle.

For CJ and I on a walk today (while Annabelle was in art class), the chestnuts presented a learning opportunity. 

I pointed out to him that the chestnuts on the track in the southeast corner looked *very* different than the ones in the northwest corner. 

One type was edible and is coveted. The others, the squirrels won't even touch.

So, we collected some specimens and compared and contrasted the chestnuts.
The ones on the left are the 'horse' chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum). They grow in a green, somewhat spiky pod that looks almost like it's made of plastic or vinyl. The  leaves are large, and relatively smooth along the edge. One end is wider than the other, which tapers. It's a bit of a teardrop shape. And the nuts are big! But even the critters leave them alone.  

The other chestnuts (in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.) are in very spiky coverings that are light wheat colored and oh so sharp when mature. ALL of the nuts were gone from the many, many pods we found along the track. We did find one green pod, and dug the underdeveloped nut out of it. But even if it had been full size, it would have been considerably smaller than the 'horse' chestnut.

We talked about how closely the two types of trees might be related (as it turns out, it's only distantly), and why and how the two different types had come to be.

CJ kicked a horse chestnut for a quarter mile today, all the way around the track. Turns out the nuts, also called 'conkers' are used in a game of the same name played by British children.  Interestingly, horse chestnuts are poisonous to equine, but deer are able to digest them. Perhaps the most famous horse chestnut tree is one Anne Frank wrote about in her diary. Interestingly, horse chestnuts have some medicinal value, including in treating chronic venous insufficiency, according to the National Institute of Health.

IT'S ALL GREEK: CJ began taking a weekly drama class recently. It was announced that the group would be staging the play "Ariadne's Thread," which he was told was a story based on the ancient Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur. 

CJ will explain a bit more about the story of Theseus and the Minotaur ... 
Every year, King Minos, ruler of Greece, decides to make human sacrifices every seven years to feed the Minotaur, a beast hiding in the center of the Labyrinth. Apparently, the people forcefully sent on board the ship were, according to Wikipedia, "the seven most courageous youths and the seven most beautiful maidens", one of which was Ariadne, one of King Minos' daughters. Theseus, feeling that this is wrong, decides to go with the people on board the suicide ship to Crete, where the Labyrinth was, hoping to able to slay the Minotaur. On the boat, Ariadne falls in love with Theseus, and gives him a ball of thread so he could trace his way out of the Labyrinth.
The rest of the story can be read in multiple places, and there are several variations on the story. I look forward to taking part in our school's production.
Sounds like a delightful story, doesn't it? ;)

We have requested a copy of a book from the public library with the myth in it, but in the meantime, we turned to YouTube to see if there were any versions of it to be found. There most certainly were.

We first watched a short (3-minute-ish) animation done in ink about the story. It was interesting. 

We also found a gem of a retelling, a nearly half-hour episode from what apparently is a series, "Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend," a Canadian-produced animated television series that , according to a post on YouTube was "a fixture of CBS' Saturday-morning cartoon lineup. The show featured retelling of popular Greek myths that were altered so as to be appropriate for younger audiences".

We watched Episode 12 from season 1, "Theseus and the Minotaur."
CJ would like you to know that 'despite the fact that (the animation above) reeks of the '80s, it was actually done in 1998.

EARTH SCIENCE WEEK:  The first week of October, we always spend time on Earth Sciences thanks, in large part, to this amazing packet of materials we get in the mail like magic on an annual basis.

I *think* it's from signing up on the Earth Science Week Web site years ago:

We took a good look at this great poster about The Anthropocene today. 
Annabelle summarizes s few of the things she learned from it ...
I recently read an educational poster by HHMI Biointeractive called “The Anthropocene: Human Impact on the Environment”. The poster included multiple facts about how humans are changing the environment. Humans are doing things like overfishing, which can take vital parts of the food chain away, leading to other fish or birds going hungry. Humans also shape the land for their needs, such as cutting down trees to make room for houses or farms. The population on Earth has been rapidly increasing, so even more are needed just so everyone can survive. With a growing population, even more people are traveling, which leads to invasive species being let into places they shouldn’t be.
SMILE TIME: Rather than ending the blog post on a downer (above), why not end with a smile? 

Specifically, an edible goofy grin. 

The kids had a little get together with some peers today, and we decided to take some smiles along.

We'd seen lots of pictures on Pinterest, etc. Basically, it meant taking two apple slices for lips, and using mini marshmallows for teeth. The recipes we read called for using peanut butter to stick it all together. That would have worked well and tasted good, but I was afraid some of the kids might have peanut allergies. So, we decided to try marshmallow creme.
 We tinted it pink and tried putting it on the apple slices (after drying them off). It didn't work. It just slid all over the place. Bummer.

So, I whipped up some stiff buttercream frosting as an alternative. That did the trick.

Not our best work, but the kids seemed to like them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Orbs and Cubes

FIELD OF GREEN:  So, last night we wound up at Safeco Field. That happens, sometimes, if you love baseball and live in Seattle. 

We hadn't planned on going to the game, but when I did some research and found out we could buy tickets for $2.50 apiece, going to the stadium on a lovely late September night became a no brainer.

We got there early, and set up "shop" along the rail abutting the visitor's bullpen. From there, we watched the Houston Astros take the longest batting practice I've ever seen. And believe me, I have seen a *lot* of BPs.

Since practice was so long, way more than the typical amount of BP baseballs wound up being launched to the stands, the concourse and the bullpen. We know from going often than when the bullpen security and players show up, they'll almost always toss those BP balls to fans along the rail.

Before too long, Astros pitcher Vincent Velasquez came out to the pen and very soon after picked up a ball and tossed it CJ's direction. 

CJ couldn't quite get a handle on it, however, and it ricocheted, creating a waterfall of expensive beer. Oops. He eventually chased down the ball, so no biggie. For whatever reason, I just happened to have a Sharpie in my purse, and Mr. Velasquez was kind enough to sign the ball, too.

Fast forward a few minutes later, and the security guard gave a young Astros fan next to us a batting practice ball. I offered them my pen and told them Velasquez was nice enough to sign for us, and maybe they could get an autograph, too. However, the timing didn't work out, so the Dad returned the pen and thanked us for offering it. 

At that, I grabbed our signed ball and asked the four year old if he wanted to trade our ball for his. He wasn't straightaway sure, but his dad sure was, and so we swapped. 

We were happy to send the Astros'-autographed ball home with Astros fans, who really appreciate it.  

THAT'S NO MOON: A post in my Facebook feed from The Museum of Flight today certain got my attention. 
We hopped to the event Web site, and read this ...
Rebel Pilots to the Briefing Room! The Death Star is approaching! Using plans smuggled in this R2 Unit, we will study the technical details of this moon-sized battle station, study our plan of attack, and be briefed on specs of the star-fighters that will be at the Battle of Yavin IV. Learn all you can in this humorous but technically accurate briefing before heading off to destroy a battle station with a snub fighter (what could go wrong?) Bring glory to your squadron by answering Star Wars Trivia, compete in a Lego building competition, and try your hand at launching proton torpedoes without a targeting computer. All pilots will receive a small souvenir of Alderaan to inspire them to save the Galaxy.
Yes, please!

Of course, I signed the kids up straightaway.

CUBISM: In math, we've been working on volume, and today it was measuring cubic volume. 

The kids mostly had no trouble with it, but there was one diagram that gave them both fits. 

I broke out some dice so that they could have a visual, and then it was easy-peasy (even though we were one die short - they were able to fill in the blank!).

IN THE ALLEY: We were trying a new chicken-in-the-crockpot recipe today, and it called for dried basil. Why in the world would we do that when we have fresh basil on campus?
I sent the kids (along with the camera) to the alley to harvest from our lovely little basil plant. 
 Afterward, Annabelle kept sniffing her hands. :)

Monday, September 28, 2015


      Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
MARS MORNING: Our Monday started with a NASA press conference announcing liquid water flows on Mars today.

That's a pretty big deal. 

It certainly boosts the odds that life could exist right now on the Red Planet. That, and it's a potential game changer when it comes to humans traveling to Mars. If potable water can be sourced on site, that would make living on the planet *much* more feasible.

The photo above is of dark, narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae (RSL) on the walls of Mars’ Garni crater. It was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The RSL are up to a few hundred meters in length, and we spent an hour plus listening to why experts now believe they are thought to be formed by the flow of salty liquid water.

Naturally, you can read lots more about this monumental discovery on NASA's Web site

Just a couple of days before this big announcement, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit NASA's Journey to Mars exhibit at the Museum of Flight.
 CJ and Annabelle were happy to jump right in to a spacesuit!
They also admired a small scale inflatable Space Launch System mock up. SLS is the rocket ship that will some day take humans to Mars. 
They took a moment to take a selfie, with the help of a stand up kiosk in the Space Gallery.

It looks like the photo opp was courtesy of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, an agency ''responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions."
A NASA engineer was manning a station where people could take on a LEGO build challenge. The goal was to build a launch pad, a rocket, and a satellite. Each component had to be built to spec.

Fortunately, the kids were up to the challenge and their construct received the NASA engineer's seal of approval! All systems go for Mars!
While we loved getting all the NASA swag and seeing the special stations there for the Journey to Mars day, the big attraction was getting to meet astronaut Jeanette Epps!
She was absolutely lovely with the kids - so sweet. She told us she's one of seven children, spanning 11 years in age difference, and that she has a twin sister. 

Dr. Epps is a CIA intelligence officer, has a bachelor's degree in physics, and a PhD in aerospace engineering. (How's THAT for a resume? Yowza!)  Epps was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2009, and qualified in 2011.
While she hasn't had a chance to travel to space yet, she spent nine days as an aquanaut, living on the ocean floor!
 Can you imagine? Look at how close together the sleeping quarters were for she and the other aquanauts on the adventure. Fortunately, she said the crew had a great time and enjoyed each others' company.
In addition to meeting astronaut Epps and listening to a short presentation from her, we watched a NASA video called "No Small Steps." It was all about the Space Launch System, and the many, many steps it will take to move from designs and drawings to actual spaceflight.

We watched a couple of videos about SLS, including this one. ...

And here are a couple of stills from another ...

Of course, since we were at the Museum of Flight, the kids couldn't help but check out some of the favorite and familiar displays, including an air rocket launch.
 And Annabelle took a couple of minutes to build a satellite.
On our way back toward the center of the city, we noticed a wonderfully nerdy Seahawks' booster sign hanging on Aviation High School
(For those who aren't Seahawks fans, most of the banners 'round town have a big 12 of them, as the "Twelves" are the team's fan base, as in the 12th man - or woman - on the field.)

A SHORT EXPERIENCE: After spending the morning at the Museum of Flight, our next stop was Experience Music Project at Seattle Center. Normally, we wouldn't go anywhere near there on a Saturday (too busy!), but we made an exception because we had free admission tickets thanks to the Smithsonian Museum Day program.
The place was packed. As in CrAzY busy. It was hard to really see or do anything, but in the Indie Game Revolution part of the museum, the kids were stoked to get to play one of their favorite games ever, Tenya Wanya Teens, "a silly party game for two players, each grappling with sixteen buttons."
It's enormously fun to play - or just watch. 

We also squeezed our way into the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction section for a quick run through.
This alien above, Sarris, from "Galaxy Quest," is pretty darn terrifying.

I loved this shot I got of CJ in a relatively quiet corner of the exhibit.
LUNAR MODULE: Our Sunday evening was all about the moon. 

It wasn't just any old moon, but it was a total lunar eclipse during a super moon (a full moon, near the Earth). Woot!  This short NASA video does a great job explaining it all.
We were so happy Seattle had relatively clear skies for the event, which doesn't happen very often. The last one was in 1982, and next one won't occur until 2033.

We headed to the east side of Queen Anne Hill for an unobstructed (except for the Cascade Mountains) view to the east, for moon rise. 
When we arrived on site, I made a quick decision to station the family right next to the one and only person with a HUGE telescope on site. :) It was a good decision. He was very friendly and generous in sharing his scope.

As the time came, there were well over 100 people along the street there! The moon was supposed to rise just a couple of minutes before 7 p.m. However, at that time it was still pretty bright out, there was a haze on the horizon, and the Cascade Mountains were a formidable screen to the east. Couple that with the problem that the moon was supposed to be in full eclipse just 5 minutes or so after moonrise. We couldn't see a darn thing! 

By 7:10, we knew the moon *had* to be up, and I was staring intently at the horizon. I had zeroed in on an airplane's light in the distance. I noticed what I first thought was a wispy cloud just above, it but then I was pretty darn sure it was the curve of the lower right quadrant of the moon. I pointed it out to Annabelle and she announced (loudly) that she could see the moon. The buzz started circulating both directions from us, and we pointed out the spot. Sure 'enough, the moon became increasingly visible as it came out of total eclipse.

It was an electric atmosphere, with many teachable moments. (Many on the street were there because they knew it was going to be a 'cool' moon, but they weren't sure why it was so special.)

KIDDIE CONCERT: Friday was another fun day, as well. We drove up to Lynnwood, WA, for a free concert by one of our favorites, Caspar Babypants. 

You know we have to really love his music if I ventured into a (shudder) mall to take the kids to the show. 

Somewhat oddly, the 45 minute or so set was in the children's department in Nordstrom, if you can believe that. 
Given that the show time was during normal school hours, I figured it would be a preschool set. That presumption was correct. It was stroller gridlock, for sure.
The music was awesome and we saw lots of cute kiddos rocking out to the tunes. 

We also saw So Many examples of, well, poor parenting, IMHO. Seriously dozens of parents non-stop talking to their friends loudly during the show. If you don't want to listen to the music, how about just go wander the mall or whatever and blather? But no, instead, they model for their kids that it's fine to talktalktalktalk during a concert/show. And then there were a couple of parents who decided to let their kids clamber all over everything and everyone during the show, at 18-month-old-will. And then the parent would clamber all over everything and everyone, chasing and filming said kid on their 'smart' phone, meanwhile blocking and sometimes stepping on the views of wee ones. Super selfish. 

But other than that, it was super fun. Caspar Babypants is so much fun. :)