Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earthy

EARTH DAY: Isn't it lovely? Our spacecraft, our home, our Earth.

This photo of Earth taken this very morning, on Earth Day, 2014! It was taken by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 's GOES-East satellite at 7:45 a.m. EDT (4:45 Seattle time). Right then, I was wide eyed, in bed, listening to the rain pour, thinking about how our #GlobalSelfie was going to be ruined, ha ha.

The gorgeous photo was greeting me in my inbox first thing, however, immediately brightening the day. The satellite which captured the image is geostationary - it stays in the same place with respect to the rotation Earth. That allows GOES to always be on alert for changes that signal sever weather conditions. (For more information about GOES satellites, visit: www.goes.noaa.gov). 

Unfortunately, the text along with the pretty picture noted "a low pressure area in the Pacific Northwest is expected to bring rainfall in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, stretching into the upper Midwest, according to NOAA's National Weather Service."  

Today, to celebrate Earth Day, NASA was asking people all over the world to take photos and share them on social media in a #GlobalSelfie event, in part to raise awareness about the Earth-based science that NASA is involved in every day, and their Earth Right Now campaign.

There are soooooo many sunny day photo opps in Seattle, but we had to play the hand we were dealt, so where to take an outside photo that would be interesting? ... 

Before long, the good ol' Troll living under the (Fremont) bridge came to mind.
Let me tell you, he is one popular dude! It took nearly 10 minutes to find parking anywhere near him, and he was crawling with people speaking a variety of languages. We managed to get a usable shot, and I uploaded it around noon. Turns out the troll was a hit with people - he got dozens of likes on the NASA #GlobalSefie page.

It was fun looking at others' posts on the page. Response was widespread and huge! We saw posts from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, all over Europe, North and South America, down under - you name it. Students, celebrities, scientists, and everyone in between responded to the campaign. Well done!

THE COSMOS: Spoiler alert - if you haven't seen the latest installment of "Cosmos" yet, you won't want to read CJ and Annabelle's reviews, following. I will make the generic statement that the show was, as always, terrific. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a compelling storyteller, and this story tied in history, health, science, politics and more.  

CJ's recollections:
Sunday night, I watched Cosmos, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Last night's episode was about Clair Cameron Patterson, who had a very large worry about lead poisoning in the public. For a very long time, lead poisoning was a very large problem that drove people insane and killed plenty. Several people tried to deny that lead even posed a threat in the first place, but by the time Cameron pointed out that lead poisoning was indeed dangerous in the first place, it became obvious.
Not only that, but Cameron discovered the age of the Earth using lead-lead dating, which proved that earth was 4.55 billion years old, instead of the prediction that earth is 6009 years old, which was proposed by Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher. In my opinion, I find Cameron's statement much more plausible, as there there are things that have been dated from before Sunday, 23 October, 4004 B.C.E.
Annabelle's review:
Sunday night on Cosmos, the whole thing was about how one man named Clair Cameron Patterson, who had discovered the age of the Earth (using lead) and stopped gas companies putting lead in their gas! Some of the animated sequences showed a man in a lab coat, and when he looked around, he saw a bunch of pink blotches! At first i thought they were germs, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about it, it became obvious it was lead! When Clair Patterson was testing the lead in rocks, he was getting WILD results, and no two were the same! he was forced to work in a sterile environment, and study lead there. He wondered why results were so varied in the non-sterile environment, and discovered that there is tons of lead on the surface, but none in the deep sea! Therefore, it was something on land that was producing the lead. This lead (get it, lead?) him to gas companies! He campaigned to stop the lead in gas, and that's why the gas now is "unleaded".
LITTLE PRINCE: Earth Day evening we headed to The Museum of Flight for a special presentation by the B612 Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting Earth from an end-of-life-as-we-know-it asteroid impact. (You know, like the movie "Armageddon"!)
Here's a video all about B612. 

https://b612foundation.org/
Former NASA astronaut Dr. Lu was evening's featured speaker. 


Before we went this evening, I had the kids do some research on B612, and asked them if they had any idea where the unique name came from. They hadn't a clue, so I gave the kids some of the back story about the classic book "The Little Price" by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry.  In the story, the prince lives on an asteroid named B612. He travels around space meeting others, including other asteroid inhabitants. 

We turned to YouTube in search of video, perhaps of someone reading a bit of the story. Instead, I found an animated version from 1983, called "The Adventures of The Little Prince." It had a National Education Association endorsement, so I thought we'd give it 22 minutes of our time. Per the poster's description, it was Season 1, episode 6, "Somewhere in Space." 


I'm not gonna lie, we three found elements of the cartoon super corny. But it did hold the kids' attention for the full 20-some minutes, I'll give it that! By doing a little research, we learned it was originally broadcast on Nickelodeon back in the day.  Apparently there were 26 episodes in all. But enough about the old cartoon!

The presentation tonight was compelling. I will post a few quotes, the kids' synopses, and a few photos tomorrow.


HERDING: Forgot to mention yesterday that the weekend involved a trip to the money sucking black hole, er, I mean Build a Bear Workshop, LOL. For his birthday, CJ took ownership of the latest My Little Pony Build a Bear is offering. This go-round it's Rarity. 
The kids sure enjoy picking out the floppy, unstuffed animal, picking its heart, a sound chip, getting it stuffed, taking it to the 'spa,' adding personality characteristics, picking out an outfit (yes, ponies wear clothing sometimes) and printing a birth certificate.
The whole process is pretty impressively high tech. And rather expensive ... Good thing birthdays only come once a year. (But unfortunately, ponies have been coming out at a rate of about 4 a year. ... )

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: On our walks, we often spy little lending libraries, like this one, outside the Irish pub a couple of blocks away. 
The one pictured above happens to be part of a formal network of little libraries, called Little Free Library . Here's a video about how that network works:
In looking at their Web site, Little Free Libraries are anything but free to get one started. For instance, that cute red British phone booth inspired one above will set you back $600. Yikes! 

We have seen plenty of people who have made their own libraries which aren't part of any formal network. That's definitely on our 'to do' list. I'm sure we can find something during one of our salvage yard stops which we can repurpose into a library. And we always have books around here that need to find new homes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunday Funday

ELEVEN: On Sunday, we celebrated CJ's 11th birthday. He was born on Easter and this year, April 20 fell on Easter again. 

All day Saturday, Annabelle helped with CJ's cake. We made a herd of My Little pony character cookies, which adorned his cake.

CJ seemed to like them.

The bottom three-layer cake was a rich brownie chocolate with malted milk filling. The upper part was a luscious vanilla with apricot filling. Per CJ's choice, we celebrated with dinner at Wingdome, and gave about 2/3 of the cake to the staff. They were SO HAPPY. :)

After dinner, it was time for Barney (pinata) to meet his doom. We strung him up from a soccer goal at Greenwood Elementary, where Rick spent many hours working back in the day.
                        
The birthday boy got the first whack, of course. He gave Barney a good body shot, but the dino remained intact.

Annabelle was up next. She inflicted some damage, too.

Before long, big brother Rick went ninja on Barney, completely decapitating the purple critter. That was awesome! Afterward, we played soccer with his carcass to get the rest of the goodies out.


SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: To celebrate Earth Day, NASA is promoting a #GlobalSelfie social media campaign.



They're asking people to share photos of themselves with picturesque places on Earth. You can download a #GlobalSelfie sign here: http://bit.ly/globalselfie. Or, as they point out, "If you don't want to use a sign you can tell us where you are by writing in the sand, spelling with rocks—feel free to get creative!"

Once you snap your #GlobalSelfie, post the photo to Twitter, Instagram or Google+ using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie, or post it to the #GlobalSelfie event page on Facebook or the #GlobalSelfie group on Flickr. You can also join the #GlobalSelfie Google+ event page.

The #GlobalSelfie campaign is just part of NASA's attempt to make 2014 a big year for Earth science with a campaign called Earth Right Now. While NASA is perhaps best known for its work off planet, the fact of the matter is, he space agency studies no planet more closely than our own. In fact, there are 17 Earth-observing missions orbiting our home planet right now, plus several more launching this year.

EASTER DELIVERY: First thing Sunday morning, we checked the news to see if SpaceX's Dragon capsule had been captured by the ISS while we slept. We were happy to see that it had!
Image credit: NASA

On board are nearly two-and-a-half tons of supplies and scientific payloads to the station with the arrival of the third SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo spacecraft. Wonder if it included any chocolate bunnies or Cadbury creme eggs!?

TINKERING: Now sure where, but CJ found out about a way to modify one of his Wii games, Super Smash Brothers, so that it suposedly would be more fun. Once he learned about it, he became pretty obsessed with diong what it took to make it happen. It was a several step process. He outlines it for you here:

Project M is a modification for Super Smash Brothers Brawl to make the game more like its predecessor, Super Smash Brothers Melee. While Super Smash Brothers Melee was more focused on skill and appealing to hardcore gamers, Brawl was meant to make the series more appealing to casual gamers and those who relied more on luck than skill.
Project M adds back the characters Mewtwo (http://www.ssbwiki.com/Mewtwo_(SSBM)) and Roy (http://www.ssbwiki.com/Roy), who appeared in Melee, but did not return for Brawl. This pleased several people who had mastered Mewtwo or Roy but were disappointed to not see them in Brawl. KoreanDJ is a smasher who is notable for maining Mewtwo in Project M.
The way dad and I got Project M on to the Wii is by:
1: Getting a 2 GB memory card2: Putting the 2 GB memory card in dad's computer3: Downloading the Project M zip file on dad's computer4: Copying the Project M zip file to the hard drive5: Copying the file from the hard drive to the memory card6: Putting the memory card in the Wii
Following that, we went to the stage builder in Brawl, where you could make your own battlefields for fighting. The game would check the SD card for battlefields you have made, but there is a *BIG* security hole in the checking system that allows you to mod the game with whatever happens to be on the SD card.
I managed to get Project M started, and that, my friends, is how you play Brawl *MELEE STYLE* 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Fun


Image Credit: 
NASA TV

FALCON FLIES: Early afternoon we watched the launch of a SpaceX mission. Atop the Falcon rocket was a Dragon capsule, full of of cargo destined for the International Space Station.

Thankfully, this time, the launch went without a hitch (after having been delayed from Monday due to a helium leak). One thing making this launch interesting - it was a recyclable rocket with legs delivering legs to a robot on board the ISS!

I have to admit, watching the launch live, I thought something was terribly wrong at the moment of ignition. I'd never seen such dark/black clouds billow from beneath a rocket. I mentioned it to Christian after work and he said he thought the same thing! As I read comments online tonight from other launch nerds, we weren't alone in our observation. Some attribute it to the rocket kicking up dirty water when the engines ignited. Others suggested a more serious problem, saying the rocket should have had trenches under it. SpaceX's Elon Musk apparently called the mess 'embarrassing' at a post launch  press conference. 

All that aside, if you haven't seen it before, check out film from a test flight (and landing) of a Falcon 9 rocket. ... 

http://youtu.be/0UjWqQPWmsY

And here's a great video from SpaceX about the importance of the resuability of rockets. 
http://www.spacex.com/news/2013/03/31/reusability-key-making-human-life-multi-planetary

The Dragon capsule is set to connect with the ISS early Easter morning - around 7:30 a.m. East Coast time, before my upping Seattle time. ;)

UNDER THE KNIFE: Preparations for CJ's birthday continue. Yesterday I baked three layers of chocolate cake. Today, it was three layers of vanilla, and a couple dozen cookies. He has changed his mind about the Dora cake, opting instead for My Little Pony. Given that, today we made 17 different colors of fondant (yes, SEVENTEEN) for the ponies. 

Meanwhile, we're also working on a Barney the dinosaur pinata.  The pinata is Barney, becaue I explained to the kids, I've never understood why people get pinatas of something they love, and then beat the crap out of them. Instead, why not pick something that drives you nuts and beat that, right?

And so, we're building Barney. 
One his initial shell was complete, we could carve open his back and prepare to stuff him. 
The carving was easy. The kids were less thrilled with pulling his guts out (balloons we used to shape him). 
 Here, Annabelle looks like she's performing midwife duties!

REST IN PIECES: As planned, NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is toast. The  Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer was purposely crashed on the dark side of the moon. The dramatic end comes three days after LADEE survived a lunar eclipse - a period of dark and cold it wasn't designed to endure. So good on LADEE, going out like a champ! 
When LADEE crashed, it was going 3600 MPH. That'll leave a mark! 

Speaking of NASA constructs going above and beyond, how about that Opportunity rover? Launched in ***, and still going strong on the surface of Mars, *** YEARS after its planned end of mission.

A primary reason it's still running the on board solar panels powering the rover.

NASA just released this interesting side-by-side selfie of Opportunity, taken in late March of this year.  
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

On the left is a self portrait showing a coat of dust covering its panels in Jan. 2014. However, a windstorm cleared them off by the time the second selfie, on the right, was taken by the rover's panoramic camera (Pancam) in March. Per NASA, Opportunity now has cleaner solar arrays than it has had in any of the Martian winters it has endured. With clean panels, Opportunity's energy has been boosted, and it can do more work! So now on its 'to do' list is inspecting Murray Ridge, on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, to learn about wet environments on ancient Mars. Roll on, Opportunity!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: We watched a short video today featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about overcoming obstacles and stereotypes to become a scientist. Leave it to him to turn a STUPID question about 'chicks in science' into something so deep and meaningful.
http://youtu.be/KEeBPSvcNZQ

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rebuilding

FROM THE ASHES: I picked up a TIME magazine yesterday, the cover photo drawing me in. It was a panoramic shot of New York City, taken from a pole atop the spire of One World Trace Center.  

There was a great article about the construction of the nation's tallest building, and the cover referred readers to an online, interactive version of the amazing panorama: www.time.com/wtc

The resolution is incredible. You can zoom WAY in on NYC landmarks, and you can even make individual people out on ferry boats. "Wow! This is amazing! I love this! This thing zooms really far!" Annabelle marveled. 
Meanwhile, CJ groused, ""This is confusing me. I can't see One World Trade Center." I reminded him the camera was atop I WTC and that if he wanted to see that building, he had to look straight down. Once he got that straight, he was good to go.

We played around with the photo for awhile, and then I pointed the kids to another feature to go along with the story - a short documentary TIME (as "Red Border Films) made about One World Trade Center's construction.  The film focused on the ironworkers and what it meant to them to be involved in the project. 
I'm not going to get any more specific, because you really should watch it for yourselves. www.time.com/rise

We sat rapt, for 17 minutes, listening to the stories of the men and women. As I WTC's spire was lifted into place, making it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Annabelle softly said, You know what I just hope ..."

"I know," I said with a sigh. "It's what we're all thinking."

When it was all over, the kids spontaneously started clapping. It was *that* inspirational. I had them each write a paragraph about the structure, and a paragraph about the workers in the story. 

Here is Annabelle's report: 
The One World Trade Center stands at an astounding 1,776 feet (541 m), and has 104 floors! It is currently the tallest building in North America. The window-washing tracks will be named "floor 110" in a tribute to the 110 floors of the original twin towers. The building will also has many features that resemble other famous buildings in NYC, such as the Empire State Building.

The ironworkers who worked on the 1 WTC said that the unity of the team was great, as they worked together on most everything. The team was very dedicated to working on the tower, some even working 12 hours a day with a 2-hour commute! They worked very hard and should be proud!
 CJ's take:
I just watched a documentary about the One World Trade Center, made by Red Border Films.
The One World Trade Center is a building in New York City, the tallest building in North America, and the successor to the original World Trade Center, also known as the Twin Towers. One World Trade Center is (appropriately) located near the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, in New York City. One World Trade Center is the 3rd tallest building in the world, only topped by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Makkah Clock Royal Tower in Saudi Arabia. During initial casework, One World Trade Center was titled the "Freedom Tower".

Several people worked on One World Trade Center, having worked there for over 5 years. Many said that they felt uneasy working on the One World Trade Center. Overall, the One World Trade Center was a very difficult project that you had to be very dedicated to if you were working on it. During the documentary, I heard about a man who's father worked on the original World Trade Center, unfortunately, being paralyzed in a fall.
In the end, the project was successful, and there you have it, the One World Trade Center.
When we were in New York last September, workers were still loudly and furiously working away on the building. We stood and watched the ironworkers' sparks fly for awhile.
And while we were at the 9-11 Memorial next door, the sound of I WTC's construction created quite a din. But it was reassuring, rather than jarring. It was the sound of rebuilding.

THERE IS ANOTHER: Big news from the folks at NASA today. Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. They have named this new-to-us planet Kepler-186f (catchy, no?). 
The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Numerous other planets have been previously discovered in a habitable zone, but they're all less Earth-like (for instance, at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth). 

Unfortunately, we won't be checking out Kepler-186f any time soon. It's about 500 light years from us, in the Cygnus constellation. 

DRAGON ON DECK:  We hope to watch a rocket launch tomorrow afternoon. The same rocket we hoped to watch on Monday - a SpaceX cargo mission (CRS-3) to the ISS.  Monday's launch was postponed due to a helium leak. If successful, this will be the company's third commercial resupply mission and SpaceX's fourth visit to the space station. 
Launch is scheduled for 12:25pm Seattle time. The launch will be webcast live on SpaceX's site beginning at 11:45. http://www.spacex.com/webcast/

NASA TV will also have coverage beginning at 11:15 a.m. http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/

As of Thursday night, the weather's not looking perfect for a launch, but we can hope. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Round Up

TAKING SHAPE: CJ's birthday is coming (this Sunday!) and yesterday morning I woke with a start, remembering I'd promised him a pinata. Those take days to make (what with all the layers and drying time), so we had to get started. But first things first, I had to know what he wanted to beat the living stuffing out of. Turns out the answer to that is Barney the Dinosaur. Excellent choice, I must say.

So yesterday, Barney started taking shape on our kitchen island, with a lot of balloons and some painter's tape. 
Today, we continued the process, adding arms along with another layer on the head and body. He'll get legs tomorrow, along with another layer on his body and head.

I asked CJ what kind of cake he wanted and without hesitation he said he wanted to recreate what is clearly the finest moment in Food Network history, and perhaps the best moment in television history. ;) history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVvdLeRHQoQ

Guess he's officially a tween, as his birthday is all about bashing bastions of childhood, eh?

SAVE THE DATE:
This morning while wading through a pile of junk email, one message popped out at me. It was a from a Portland theater consortium announcing pre-sale tickets for an appearance by none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson!!

I figured if NdGT was appearing in Portland, he most certainly had to be coming to Seattle, too. I took to the Google and it took me a few minutes to hunt down a date and place. Turns out he'll be at the historic Paramount theater on Monday, Sept. 15. Today was a presale with code-only event, but a little more research and I was able to run that down. So now we've got our tix in hands. Can't wait!

UP NORTH:  As of today, we are now spending an extra hour a week up in Shoreline because Annabelle is now enrolled in a weekly art class there, which she's very happy about. Today, she got to dabble in watercolors. She completed the class project, a vase of daffodils, and then had extra time, during which she created a dandelion-themed pony. 

While the kids were in math today, I went to a presentation about an Internet-based curriculum called Odysseyware. I'm trying to sound not too negative, because it was as pretty brief overview, but let's just say it wasn't a game changer, at least for us.

I appreciate what the company appears to be trying to do - offer "Common Core" compliant classes for students in grades 3-12 students. However, I found the interface overly cluttered, clunky and the video portions of classes we saw were (IMHO) cheesy, not dynamic and not compelling compared to classes we've taken online via Coursera, edX, etc.  It also sounds relatively expensive, given all the free, excellent resources there are out there. 

Speaking of EXCELLENT free resources, I'm thrilled to learn awesome math educator Jo Boaler is offering
a class for math students of all ages. From Dr. Boaler's email announcing registration is now open, she explains the class "is FREE and is designed for any learners of math (all ages, all levels), to give them a positive relationship with math. The course has 3 goals
To instill a growth mindset, especially in math
To teach a range of mathematical strategies, such as representing, and seeking big ideas
To show math as a connected, living subject with videos of math in soccer, dance, art, nature and many more applications."
What's not to like?!

The class will consist of 6 course sessions that take 15-20 minutes each, and it will be open at the end of May/beginning of June.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boys 'n' Girls

BOYS TOYS: We almost never go to McDonalds because, well, ick. It's like a three-times-a-year destination, max. But we found ourselves in a McD's drive through line at around 11
today because of the Ponies. Slaves to the ponies ... how many times I've said that. ;)

So, I order a couple of Chicken Nuggets Happy Meals and am immediately asked, "Do you want girl toys or boy toys."

Ugh.

Recently on the Support for Grayson page on Facebook, borne out of a boy who was horribly discriminated against by his public school district for carrying a My Little Pony backpack to school, I'd seen a poster about the longstanding policy of asking 'boys' or 'girls'? (I rememberthat's the way it has been all the way back to Rick and Ken's tender years, and I'm guessing beyond.)

I thought that was dumb then, and I think it's dumb now, and so I was happy to see it supposedly had moved beyond this when someone shared a note from some McDonald's management to its employees.

                
Well, clearly that wasn't the Ballard McDonald's. ... Heavy sigh.

And so, the kids' writing assignment of the day became writing a couple paragraphs on mcdvoice.com where, per our receipt, they supposedly really value feedback. We shall see. ...

It's not like this is a 'little' deal. Truth of the matter is, McDonalds is the largest toy distributor in the world. So if they're stereotyping who receives which toys, that's literally a big darn deal.

At the very least, per our receipt, they 'won' a free Quarter Pounder for logging in and registering their feedback.

JUNGLE IN HERE: This morning an alert popped up in my Facebook feed from the National Weather Service. It had a thumbnail of a tornado next to it.

Curious (of course!) I followed the link. Imagine my relief when it was only an update about when it's safe to move planting outside.

The release had a list of average last frost dates (the average date that the last frost of the season occurs using weather statistics over a number of years):

BELLINGHAM - MAR 15
PORT ANGELES - APR 1
FORKS - APR 28
EVERETT - APR 7
SEATAC AIRPORT - MAR 27
KENT - APR 25
PUYALLUP - APR 30
SHELTON - APR 29
HOQUIAM - APR 5 C
CENTRALIA - APR 29
Per the press release (in all CAPS cause that's how they roll), "NOTE THAT THE MORE OUTLYING AREAS HAVE A LATER AVERAGE LAST FROST DATE AND THOSE CLOSER TO BODIES OF WATER THAT TEND TO MODERATE TEMPERATURES LIKE PUGET SOUND AND THE PACIFIC OCEAN HAVE THE EARLIER DATES."

All this said, the NWS thought it prudent to add, "CLEAR NIGHTS THAT CAN PRODUCE FROSTY MORNINGS ARE NOT IN THE FORECAST FOR THE NEXT WEEK...GOOD NEWS FOR PUTTING PLANTS OUTDOORS. YET GIVEN OUR CLIMATIC DATA HISTORY...IT MAY BE WISE TO HOLD OFF PLANTING THOSE OUTDOOR PLANTS UNTIL AROUND MAY 1ST."

OK. GOT THE MESSAGE!


MOON SHADOWS: Of course, we didn't get to see the lunar eclipse/blood moon last night. Boo, hiss! It had been mostly clear all day, and come 10 p.m., the moon slipped behind a quilt of clouds, not to be seen again for the night.

The Internet was full of pretty blood moon photos this morning. Here's one from our friends at NASA. Lookie how close Mars is to the moon in this shot. Neat-o!

Image Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Brian Day

STRATEGERY: This afternoon we engaged in an epic chess match.
Chess is taxing enough, but when your pieces are all Nintendo gaming characters, it's exponentially harder.Before every move you have to figure out who's who and plot accordingly.

Our match lasted a whopping 90 minutes. In the end, Christian and CJ beat Annabelle and me. We girls were vexed most of the game by the menfolks' blasted Birdos (knights).


Monday, April 14, 2014

Sun, Moon & Diamonds

EYES ON SKIES: We had lovely weather all weekend, and it spilled over into Monday, hooray! We took the opportunity to wash all three of our cars this morning. While out in the alley working, I looked up at one point and noticed a big, thin ring around the sun.

"Look! Look!" I cried, running in the house to get the kids and grab the camera.  After we checked it out (carefully, as staring into the sun isn't the best idea, and my cameras didn't like it, either), we went back in the house to use the Internet to find out what we'd just seen.  "Our" ring was so big, I couldn't fit the whole thing in my camera's field of view.

Turns out it's called aptly named a halo. (There are also moon halos.) I asked the kids to do a little research, and find out how halos are formed.

I ended up reading an article about them on the EarthSky Web site. Turns out the halos can form when thin cirrus clouds are overhead. The clouds have millions of tiny ice crystals, and light is both refracted and reflected by them. In order for the halo to be visible, these crystals have to be positioned just right with respect to your eye. 

For whatever reason, I unfortunately started reading the comments on the article. They quickly devolved into a ridiculous debate about religion after some woman posted, "Jesus said in Luke 21 pertaining to the end of the age that there will be signs in the sun the moon and the stars. We are seeing these things more then (sic) ever before."

Sigh. I wonder how the poster determined "we are seeing these things more then ever before." Of course, then people started chiming in from all angles on the topic. Way to run a science article, people. 

Anyway, reading some of the comments, I was inspired to suggest CJ and Annabelle take a stab at writing a folk take about how/why these halos formed. 

Annabelle's story ... 
   Once upon a time, there was an angel named Wraina, who helped in controlling rainbows and sometimes ice crystals. One day when Wraina was moving the ice crystals, she spread them near the sun. A rainbow simultaneously appeared. She moved the crystals away. The rainbow disappeared. She then moved the ice crystals in front of the sun again, and the halo reappeared. Now, Wraina will occasionally use the ice crystal to make a rainbow again and again.
CJ's story ...
There once was a wizard. If records were available from the time he wasn't anonymous, I would tell you his name. Hoping Sun Dogs couldn't get traced back to him, he destroyed every surviving record. Here's the story:
   There once was a wizard. Now, before you start thinking "Oh, he must be a good guy, right?", I'm here to tell you that he couldn't be any more selfish and attention-seeking; he constantly "warned" people that one day, the apocalypse would come, and the primary signs would be that the sun would get a halo, and the moon would turn blood red, soon after, disappearing. Supposedly, the only way you could survive is if you believed in him.
   Several centuries later, by the time that this wizard was long dead,the only thing people remembered about him was what he said about the apocalypse. However, there did come a day in which the sun had a halo, and the moon turned blood red, disappearing soon after. People started to panic, pray, and perform strange (not to mention, politically incorrect) rituals. However, the apocalypse did not come, and people started getting confused. They eventually realized that the wizard was just looking for attention, and that there was nothing to worry about.
Moral number 1: don't make up lies just for attention.Moral number 2: don't believe in everything you hear.
SUNDAY FUN DAY: We spent a sunny Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field, enjoying the return of baseball. 

We spent some pre-game time out at the bullpen.
We had good seats - just nine rows from the field, up the first base line.
The sights and sounds of the ballpark were entertaining and colorful, as always.


We brought lots of snacks from home with us. CJ got a CJ catcher in his Cracker Jack.
Unfortunately, the Mariners (once again) couldn't put anything but zeros up on the board. 
After the game, we stopped for a light dinner at the very-fun-and-tasty Lunchbox Laboratory in the South Lake Union neighborhood. 

Afterward, we checked out the nearby P-Patch/community garden and playground.
On the playground, in the shadows of my paternal grandma's church, we found an angel bear. 


SCRUBBED: We were all set to watch a SpaceX launch this afternoon, but a couple hours before lift off, an anomaly was discovered, which meant a no go for today. The trouble was a helium leak in the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage.

A SpaceX spokesperson says they expect the issue to be fixed in time for a launch attempt Friday, but the weather outlook calls for marginal conditions then (there is a 60 percent chance weather will violate weather constraints for Friday's launch opportunity). Should conditions with the rocket and the weather be OK come Friday, the launch is expected to take place at 12:25 p.m. West Coast US time.

Guess Robonaut 2 is going to have to wait a few more days to get his legs!
         
                Image Credit: NASA
The upper-body only robot 'lives' on the ISS. With working legs, R2 "will have the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station," per a NASA press release. Eventually, the goal is for the robotic crew member to take on mundane tasks, freeing the crew up to perform more critical work,


STUFFED: We had a little fun with dinner tonight. Last time we visited the family in Siletz, we were treated to stuffed burgers made with the help of a nifty little kitchen device. Incredibly, we happened across that same tool when we stopped at a Fry's store on the way home. 

I asked the kids what they wanted stuffed in their burgers. They replied "macaroni and cheese" in stereo.
So, made up a batch, smooshed the ground beef in the too, filled it up, and grilled it.

They were a hit! 
Christian and I had jalapeno rings, mini sweet peppers, and jalapeno cheese in our burger centers. 

Not exactly health food, I suppose. Do we get some kind of credit for having kale chips on the side, though?

LUNAR ECLIPSE: We've been watching the clouds come and go all day, hoping they are NOT around about midnight, during the total lunar eclipse. We'll have our alarms set and hope to see the blood moon. Fingers crossed. ... 
Image: JPL