Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ready, Set, GO

ON PATROL:  A mixed bag for MPA today. The kids did math (for the first time in what seems like months), I taught them how (and why) to make a reduction sauce (teriyaki in this case), the dogs had a spa day. and, of course, we fit in some time for getting outdoors and hunting some Pokemon GO!
I promise this is not going to turn into the 'we-caught-this' Pokemon journal. But like so many other things in life, there are educational aspects to most everything, including Pokemon GO!

For instance, CJ has researched the history and origin of the viral game. Here's what he has to share.
Chances are, if you've been outside in the past 2 weeks, you've seen several people staring down at their mobile phones while doing things like crossing the street or seemingly aimlessly walking around the block. In the past, these people were most likely texting, but today, they are most likely playing Pokémon Go. According to Wikipedia, Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. Although Pokémon Go was first released in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States on July 6th, 2016, the concept of an augmented reality mobile game where you must travel in the real world to accomplish tasks in a competitive fashion dates back to at least 2010, with the announcement of Shadow Cities.
However, Shadow Cities ended up being unpopular, so it was closed on October 7th, 2013, with little notice. Niantic, a developer group inside Google, was working on a similar game known as Ingress. Ingress was released on December 14th, 2013. Players of Ingress will likely recognize multiple aspects present in Pokémon Go (and vice versa) such as the stops where you collect useful items (named "Portals" in Ingress, "Pokéstops" in Pokémon Go), and the usage of the phone's camera. Several of the Pokéstops in Pokémon Go are re-used portals from Ingress.
For April Fools' Day 2014, Google altered their Google Maps service to actually include an augmented reality system where you could catch Pokémon on the map and trade the Pokémon with other players. While this event only lasted for one day, it would set the stage for what would become Pokémon Go. Eventually, Niantic split from Google, and became their own San-Francisco-based-company. In 2015, Nintendo, owners of the Pokémon franchise, announced a partnership with Niantic, and announced Pokémon Go.

And Annabelle offers this explanation of how to play the game. ...

Pokemon GO is an app you can download for free on your phone. The game utilizes your GPS signal to place you on a map of your area. If you look around, you can see and capture your very own Pokemon! At first, you are introduced to Professor Willow, who tells you about things like how to catch your first Pokemon. By swiping your finger to “throw” a pokeball, you can catch your starter Pokemon- Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, or, if you walk away from those three, Pikachu! After the tutorial, you can walk around the map. One of the first things I recommend doing is finding a small blue thing on the map near you. These are called “Pokestops”. When you walk near it, it should grow to tell you you’re in range. If you tap on it and “spin” the image, you’ll get rewards! Pokestops refresh every few minutes, so make sure to come back!
One very important feature of the game is catching multiple Pokemon. Pokemon appear randomly on the map and you can tap on them to try and catch them! If it’s too strong or there’s something else you need to do, you can always run away, so there is no need to worry. When you successfully catch a Pokemon, it will be added to your collection and you are rewarded with candies of that Pokemon's type. You can use these candies to power up and even evolve your Pokemon to make them as strong as can be! At some point, you will be prompted to join 1 of 3 teams- Valor, the red team; Mystic, the blue team; and Instinct, the yellow team. The team you choose does not effect gameplay much, so choose whichever you prefer.
By now, you should also be able to challenge a gym! These are the large silver structures on the game map. The color of the gym corresponds to what team “owns” it. If you are on the same color team as the gym, you can train there by tapping on the gym and pressing the small boxing glove icon in the lower right corner. If you are on a different team, you can attempt to take it over by doing the same thing. To battle, rapidly tap on your opponent to deal damage. If you take over a gym, you can also place your own Pokemon to become the leader of the gym. If there is a gym with the same color as you owned by someone else, you can place your own Pokemon there to support it.
Pokemon GO has a fun premise and I would say it’s definitely worth the download. Beware, though, as it requires GPS, visual, and sometimes camera data, so it can drain your battery very quickly. If you have enough time and are willing to be out and about, download the game and “Catch ‘Em All”!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Past and Present

GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL: We got some exercise and a history lesson while chasing Pokemon this morning.

Kennedy suggested some Pokemon hunting, and I suggested the Ballard Locks, as I'd heard there was lots of activity there. 

For those who haven't yet heard of the cell phone based game Pokemon Go, it's an app credited with getting gamers to take their action outside. Rolling Stone aptly describes it as 
You look for the critters, catch them, train them and battle with them. What's different here is that it uses the real world to inform your game experience. The game uses your phone's GPS sensors to track where you are, and makes use of a stylized Google map as the primary game board. Your character moves in the game as you walk around in real life, and events and objects – known as PokéStops – are associated with specific locations in the physical world. In order to interact with them, you need to actually walk to a particular place, like, in the real world. You can look at the game world through your phone's display, which serves as a viewfinder that mixes reality with game objects. Hence the term "augmented reality."
Since its initial rollout on July 6th, the app already has broken every record for app based games, and if it doesn't already, it will soon have more daily mobile users than Twitter.

We headed for the estuary between Lake Union and Puget Sound. It's less than two miles from our house. We found it fertile grounds for rare Pokemon like Squirtle, VictreeBell, and a Dratini. This me very happy.

What also made me happy was that our hunt became a walking history lesson.
There's lots of construction on the north side of the Locks right now. Turns out the 100+ year old pump plant is getting a long overdue upgrade. It was really neat to get to see the century old parts, and read about their replacements.
 Look at this worn-out workhorse, below. Amazing that for years, it was capable of moving 26,000 gallons of water PER MINUTE. I talked with the kids for a couple of minutes about trying to visualize that volume.
I really love that the construction at the Lock incorporated this cool opportunity to get a glimpse of the past instead of just doing it all behind tarps and fences. 
 And oh, yeah, there were boats at the Locks today, too. Wonder if they had any Pokemon stowaways. 
 We noticed that the boat bringing up the rear had a couple of probes on board, and its stern had the telltale "RV" in its name (research vessel).

On our way back to the car, we noticed a full on art in the park session, with painters capturing the railroad bridge. We wondered if it's a regular event, if the group travels, or it was just an unlikely coincidence.

MOD SQUAD: Tonight marked the start of a project CJ has been obsessing over for months. He's hoping to squeeze 'hi def' quality out of a decades old Nintendo NES console. 

He decided this mod kid (pictured below) was his best bet. They are new to the market and were in high demand (go figure), but we managed to score on the first day it launched. 
 CJ and Christian began dismantling the good ol' NES tonight, in preparation for the upgrade.
Please hold your breath, keep your fingers crossed and offer up good thoughts to the retro gaming powers that be that this works. 
To be continued ... 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Open Wide

TOOTHY GRIN: This afternoon, the kids had dentist appointments. CJ was due for a panorama, and the office was kind enough to email me a copy. So how's that for a toothy grin? 

Unfortunately, he has all four of his wisdom teeth. Bummer. We were hoping he'd luck out and be missing some/all of them. No such luck. :/  Guess there will be some "David After Dentist" in his future.

ROCK ON: This afternoon, we headed over the the kids' learning center for a bit. I had a meeting to attend, and they enjoyed an hour or so in the library, learning about rocks. 

There were dozens of specimens on display, and kids were invited to get a sample box and fill them up.

Below is CJ's rock box, and following is a brief explanation of his rock gathering experience.
Today, in the school library, there was a little table with several groups of rocks on it. Lloyanne, the school's librarian, was running the station, and she had collected the rocks on various geological trips through Washington and British Columbia. She gave us a box with several squares in it, to put the rocks we picked out in. I picked out 7 rocks, including opalized petrified wood, fluorite, jasper, quartz crystal, petrified wood, agate, and soapstone. My personal favorite was the fluorite, as it had an unusual shape and pretty colors. My least favorite, however, was the petrified wood. Although petrified wood sounds interesting on paper, in reality, in my opinon, well; it looks kind of bland. Lloyanne told me that I could continue rock collecting at home, numbering the rocks I collect and putting them in my box.
 And here we have Annabelle's box. 
Here's what she had to say about it. ...
Today at school there was a summer reading activity about rocks and minerals. We were supplied boxes by the librarian and she had some really neat rock specimens for us to take home! The one I got that was my favorite was some Lepidolite, and I also chose things like Serpentine, Quartz crystal, Fluorite, and others! It was fun seeing the different kinds of minerals and learning about them. I think this was a great summer program!

Monday, July 18, 2016


AND THE LIVING'S EASY:  Look at them. Above and below, CJ and Annabelle, floating without a care in the world. How great is that? 

That was their reality for a few days last week as they enjoyed camping out with family in the Southern Willamette Valley.
While I convalesced at home post CYBORG SURGERY (sorry, I can't but help type that in all caps, because I kinds LOVE the idea of a bionic part), CJ and Annabelle were lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality and company of their extended family at a campground near the Dorena Reservoir
I'll let them tell you a bit more about it. CJ's up first. ...

For a very long time, my dad's side of the family has gone camping in the Baker Bay Campgrounds, which is located near Lake Dorena (my family usually just calls the campsite Dorena). Over the years, I have become somewhat familiar the Baker Bay Campgrounds, as I have been there for nearly every year of my life. This visit, however, was a special one. This year, my dad was not with me on the camping trip, just Annabelle & I for most of the trip. This was because of my dad needing to take care of my mom during most of the trip, because she just had invasive hip replacement surgery.
Prior to visiting camp this year, we stayed at our grandparents' house for 4 days. I had visited this place several times before, and I enjoyed staying there as usual. At my grandparents' house, I especially enjoyed swimming at their house, which was very fun. At Baker Bay, I enjoyed my visit, as I usually did with my earlier visits (except for that one time I got a disease, but let's not talk about that). Sometimes, it felt odd without dad there, because he had been with me at camp for every previous year. My family members at camp helped us stay comfortable and have fun at camp.
One of the highlights of my trip was going biscuiting behind the "Party Barge", the nickname for my grandpa's boat. If you are biscuiting, then that means you are gliding on water at high speed on an inflatable object (shaped like a biscuit). It was and is always fun going biscuiting, and wiping out, or falling off the biscuit, is not much to fear. One time, I went on a boat ride with the little kids at our camp. They went biscuiting, and when Annabelle and I went biscuiting on that ride, I wiped out once, to show the little kids that wiping out wasn't scary.
And here's Annabelle's account ...
Camping this year was an interesting experience for me, because it was my first time going (for the most part) without Dad. It was interesting having our own tent and making some decisions on our own. The thing about having our own tent meant we had to keep organized and know where our stuff is without much assistance. We also entertained ourselves most of the time instead of being told what to do.
 As for what we did, we had lots of fun! We went Biscuiting almost every day. Biscuiting is when we sit on an inflatable “biscuit” and we are pulled by the boat at a fast speed. Some of the older kids even have “biscuit wars” where they try to knock each other off. We also talked around the fire quite a bit.
 It was nice to be able to enjoy ourselves, even if Dad couldn’t be there. On Wednesday, Dad did manage to make it, and then we had fun with him too. All in all, it was fun for our first time alone!
Of course, what made it all so comfortable for the kids was having multiple members of their Dad's family on site. I'm so glad they got to get away and enjoy the annual trip. Take my word for it, it was *much* more fun than what was going on at home with me post-op.

    The intrepid campers, roughing it with their port-ably powered gaming devices.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Great Heights

LOOKING UP: An arresting image shared today on social media by NASA GO for Launch caught my attention.

In a view looking up from the floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, you can see four levels of new work platforms which have been installed on the north and south sides of High Bay 3. The G-level work platforms were most recently installed, at about the 14th floor level. Below them are the H, J and K level platforms. 
                             Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Per the post, "The G-level work platforms are the fourth of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the NASA's Space Launch System and NASA’s Orion Spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3, including installation of the new work platforms, to prepare for NASA’s journey to Mars."

Exciting developments, to be sure. 

Without a doubt, the iconic VAB is a monument to American ingenuity. At 129,428,000 cubic feet, it's one of the largest buildings in the world by volume. It was built so quickly, when America was in the throes of a space race with the Soviet Union. 
We marveled it from afar when we were at the Cape for the STS-132 launch, shuttle Atlantis' second-to-last trip ever to the International Space Station.

Christian and I are both lucky enough to have been inside the VAB since then.

During the Mars Science Laboratory 'Tweet up" I attended, I was able to tour the facility. It's impossible to capture in a photograph just how massive it is.
This was the view of the VAB from my parking spot!

And below, looking up just before stepping foot inside.
Once inside, I remember snapping several shots thinking, "These aren't going to do it," as far as conveying the size and scale of the building.
 And so, I took a couple of shots before putting the cameras away and just taking it in with my own two eyes. 
 But not before snapping a shot of this lovely vehicle parked inside!
Behold space shuttle Endeavour! Now a museum piece on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Endeavor's first mission was May of 1992, and her final flight was May of 2011 (STS-134, the second-to-last shuttle flight ever).

When he visited the edifice during a SpaceX social media event back in 2015,Christian discovered a "12" or two must work for NASA, given the Seahawks flag inside the VAB. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


By Source, Fair use,

Pardon the interruption, as the saying goes. The last week has involved out of town travel, and turning me into a cyborg.


Ever since I saw "The Bionic Woman," based on "Cyborg" by Martin Caidin, I've dreamed of having some superior,engineered parts. Fast forward 40 years since Jaime Sommers' antics, and I've joined the club. I have a shiny, brand-new titanium hip. Sweet!

However, unlike a made-for-tv story, it's not exactly all cake and circuses getting a good ol' body part cut out and having a new one inserted. So, I've been working my way back. We appreciate your patience during this 'upgrade.'

FIRST FOTO:  Space exploration fans know that last week, NASA's Juno spacecraft achieved orbit insertion at Jupiter. Today, the first photos from the probe were released!
The image above is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th. 

Happily, the view shows that JunoCam survived its first pass through Jupiter's extreme radiation environment, and that it has begun to collect images of the giant, gaseous planet.
The photo was taken on July 10, when Juno was 2.7 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) from Jupiter on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. 
The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27, when Juno makes its next close pass to Jupiter.
More information about Juno is online at and

Monday, July 4, 2016

Day of JOI!

          Conceptual art from NASA
FIREWORKS: Yes, we know it's Independence Day, and yes, we stood on our deck and watched the big pyrotechnics show over Lake Union after dark. 

But all day long, we had our eyes and minds on NASA TV, watching coverage of the spacecraft Juno reaching the largest planet in our solar system. So exciting!
The final view taken by the JunoCam instrument on NASA's Juno spacecraft before Juno's instruments were powered down in preparation for orbit insertion. Juno obtained this color view on June 29, 2016, at a distance of 3.3 million miles (5.3 million kilometers) from Jupiter. The spacecraft is approaching over Jupiter's north pole, providing an unprecedented perspective on the Jupiter system, including its four large moons. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

We watched five years ago when Juno lifted off from Cape Canaveral, destination Jupiter. (The actual launch is about the 4 minute mark in the video below.)

Five years and 1.7 billion or so miles later, Juno has reached its destination and is orbiting the giant, gaseous planet just as planned. Phenomenal!

Following Juno's successful Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI), NASA administrator Charles Bolden had this to say: “Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer -- Juno is at Jupiter. And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

According to Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer. Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

So what's next? Per a NASA press release, "Juno's principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet's auroras. The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars."

We're looking forward to following Juno for the months to come. 

SUBMITTED: We had a loooooong "to do" list today. One item was (finally!) submitting an illustrated manuscript for picture book to a big publishing house. 

As part of the process, Annabelle had to create an online portfolio of artwork. You can see it here:

FUN FACT: If you Google "askew," the page results will be tilted ever so slightly. Hat tip to Annabelle for sharing this info.