Tuesday, July 22, 2014


GOLDEN LOCKS:  This morning we decided not to let a couple rain showers stop us, we wanted to get a good walk in.  We drove to Ballard and parked on the north side of the locks, as I wanted to show the kids one of the trails the dogs and I took while the kids were camping. 

About the first 'highlight' of the tour was visiting the spot where the dogs knocked my backpack off the deck and down a cliff while I was taking a photo. 

Here are the kids and the trouble making dogs on said deck.
And here they are by the statue I was looking at when I heard the sound of nylon sliding.
Happily, we left the deck without incident today.

Just beyond it, I spied a gravel trail I hadn't noticed when the dogs and I were there last week.  We saw signs saying it was open to the public, maintained by Seattle Public Utilities.  We were surprised to find a horseshoe pit along the way.
CJ was pretty dangerous with the horseshoes, let me tell you.  I was taking my life in my hands by standing here.

A little bit down the trail Annabelle noticed a sign that said shore access.  We tromped down some stairs next to SPU Pump Station 38 and, sure 'nuff, we could have gone right on down to the water. (The photo of the access point is at the top of today's blog.)

There were a number of Canada geese enjoying shore access.
 We passed hundreds of boats at Shilshole Bay Marina.  One in this group caught our eye. ... 
Here's a aerial view of the place, thanks to Google Earth. As you can see, the marina goes on and on and on for many a city block.
Our path today (locks to Golden Gardens and back), is traced in bright green.

HOME IMPROVEMENT: We spent the afternoon in West Seattle, helping Rick with a few things around his place.  We put CJ and Annabelle to work replacing the old, ugly, over-sized white plastic knobs on cabinets with some bright, shiny new silver ones.  MUCH better. 

ROCK STEADY:  The Great Rock Wall of Magnolia project continues.  I think Christian and I moved 6 or 7 rocks this evening, which is better than we did yesterday.  We''ve got our system down, and are doing it as fast as the two of us can while being  safe.  However, while our current approach is working find for the first couple of rows in our wall, it's not going to work for higher rows, as we can't lift or tip these big rocks up that high to stack them.  We're going to need to devise some kind of skid set up. Stay tuned. ...  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Moon & Rocks

Photo: NASA, naturally
MOONWALK:  Our happy campers came home last night after six nights away from the MPA campus.

Not long after they arrived, we tuned in to NASA TV to watch a special re-broadcast of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, and the first moon walk.  The broadcast started at 7:39 p.m. our time, to coincide with the real time landing back in 1969.

We watched Neil Armstrong take his 'small step' onto the moon's surface, and watched Buzz Aldrin follow shortly thereafter.

It was interesting to watch their first tentative steps on the lunar surface, and then witness their confidence grow with each passing minute. Within 45 minutes, Buzz Aldrin was literally buzzing all over the moon's surface.  Cool!

It's wild to think The first footprints on the moon will be there for a million years, give or take, since there's  no wind to blow them away.

AND SO IT BEGINS:  If you're a regular reader, you know that we recently gleaned  about 15 or so tons of landscaping rocks (from a Craigstlist posting for free), with hopes of turning a 10-foot cliff/drop off in our yard into a pretty rockery.

A couple of weekends ago, we managed to glean  the rocks from a lovely old home in Madrona (on the west bank of Lake Washington), and drag them cross-town to our yard.
Turns out that might have been the easy part.  Today, we started trying to move the rocks into place on our hill.  It involves a whole lot of planning.
We had all sorts of tools to help us out, including pulleys (above) and heavy duty pry bars (below).
We managed to move six whole rocks today. :/

At this rate, we'll be done in 2017 ... or '18.

WET 'N' WILD:  Lots of laundry today post camping trip.  But here's some video from their adventure that puts a smile on my face!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Quiet Friday

BACK TO BLUE:  I guess the gray was just for a day, because we were back to sunny and blue today.

I needed to return a book to the library, so for our For our morning walk, I parked 1.5 miles away, and the dogs and I walked there and back for a total of 3-miles.  This evening, we went back out, this time in Discovery Park.  

I parked by the Daybreak Star Native American cultural center there and we strolled a couple paths by the shoreline.
Then, we headed inland, for the beaver pond.  I don't see any evidence of any new beaver activity, but there were a couple of ducks paddling around. 
And a blue heron was keeping its eye on us.
HAPPY CAMPERS:  Hey, we actually have some *action* shots from the campers today.

It is reported that CJ has ridden his bike around the campground 'at least 100 times.
And here he is, teaching fellow campers the fine art of playing Kings in the Corner/
I made sure to send a bunch of art supplies with Annabelle, including a big stack of paper.  Looks like she's out of paper. ;)
They'll be heading home Sunday, with stories to tell, no doubt.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quiet Thursday

GRAY DAY:  For some reason, I was thinking it was going to be sunny and 80-plus every day in Seattle from here to eternity.  Guess I was wrong.

Today dawned cool and cloudy, a thick marine layer hanging close to the ground.  The dogs were probably happy for it during our four mile walk this morning.  Today's destination: the Olympic Sculpture Park, along Puget Sound.

Our walk took us past the huge grain processing facility at Terminal  86.  The Atlantic Hawk, under a Nassau flag, was in port. It's a big, BIG ship.  It felt like it took us 10 minutes to walk past it, but it's really 'only' 225 meters (738 feet) long - way more that two football fields! 

This photo isn't particularly pretty, but it does capture the essence of today: gray.
I was very happy to find this pretty lady waiting for us at the Sculpture Park.  I've been wanting to see it ever since it was installed a few months back.
Her head is 46-feet tall, and no, my photo is not, in some way, squished.  The head's proportions are not those of a standard human.  Viewed in person, it's very dramatic. 

The sculpture is the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, who has won a litany of awards.  Called Echo, the piece is named after the mountain nymph from Greek mythology

THE NEXT GIANT LEAP: Lots of talk about Apollo 11 these days, on the 45th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.
NASA has scheduled a a special program about NASA's "Next Giant Leap." It will be broadcast online at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time, live from their Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Morgan Freeman is hosting and astronaut Reid Wiseman, who is on the space station at the present, will join the broadcast.

You can view it here: http://ustream.tv/NASAJPL2

FIELD REPORT: News from down south and the happy campers.

Christian sent me this photo today ...
See! They're doing more than eating. They're also sleeping! (and it looks like quite soundly, might I add).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Drama

TRAIL MIX: The MPA student body is away at summer school (a/k/a camping), and the dogs and I are here holding down the fort.

Have I mentioned our dogs are neurotic ... on a good day? Well, when 3/4 of their pack is gone, they're off-the-charts frantic. And so, it's in everyone's best interest if I take them for a loooooooong walk first thing in the day, in hopes of wearing them out a bit.

Mission accomplished this morning!  Of course, they wore me out, too. Stay tuned for details. ...

We parked on the Magnolia side of the Hiram Chittenden Locks. Fighting our way through the tourists, we made it across the locks, through the park on the north shore, and then entered the western end of the  Burke-Gilman Trail, a two-mile stretch between the locks and Golden Gardens, a great park along Puget Sound. 

One of the first things we passed was Red Mill's "Totem House" location.  It was a fish and chips eatery for 65 years before the local burger chain bought it out in 2011.  It's kinda hard to miss from the road. ;)  - a destination for tourists and locals, alike.
Just beyond that, there was a nice lookout point I'd never seen before. It offered a great view of the train bridge, which we're used to looking at from the south side.
At the landing, there was also an interesting statue.  As I turned to take a photo of it ...
 I heard a furry commotion - namely, the dogs, who were both on leashes, and I was standing on the leashes.  Not only did I hear them, but I heard the sound of nylon sliding.  Not sure how I *knew* that sound, but I did.  And I knew what it meant.  That would be my backpack.  My NASA backpack, which I happily donned this a.m. as a nod to the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11.  Because I'm a nerd. But I digress.

As it turned out, my NASA backpack had 'liftoff' of its own, alright.  As in, off the viewpoint overlooking Puget Sound, and and down a cliff. With my phone, my keys, my driver's license, and a credit card in it.

I still don't know how the dogs managed it, frankly. The deck was surrounded by a rail with cables less than three inches apart. I'm almost convinced one of them SHOVED the pack through. 

The *good* news is the pack didn't fall all the way down to the water. Instead, it got caught in weeds about 18 feet down.  Of course, my first thought was to find a way down to it. We patrolled left and right, and saw nothing but steep cliff with no access point.  I was OK with that. I really thought the best bet was to fish it up.  I had the dog leashes, which I thought could get me the 18 or so foot reach I needed. And I thought I could lash my sunglasses to an end using one of the side/ear rest pieces as a 'hook.'  But I worried that my dollar store glasses might not be strong enough.  I've had many a pair of dollar store glasses disintegrate while just sitting on my face.  

I looked around and noted there was a van near me in the parking lot. It looked to be one of Ballard's many 'city campers' - otherwise homeless people who live in their autos.  From where I stood, I could see the van was packed to the 'rafters' with who knows what.  If he had even one bungee cord of any length, that would make a great hook and I'd be in business.  As my good luck would have it, the owner hopped out at that instant and I asked him if, perhaps, he had a coat hanger or bungee cord.  

Curiosity piqued, he asked why, and I showed him where my backpack was. 

"I can just go down and get it," he said. 

I told him I'd already explored access routes and that it was super steep and that looked like a really BAD idea and that I had leashes, I was just looking for an easy hook.  However, the homeless man in flip flops INSISTED on climbing down the cliff to retrieve my pack. 

He jumped the fence, and that's just what he did (as I held my breath).  Fortunately, he was back within 30 seconds, declaring, "You were right. That was a bad idea. It's super steep down there." 

I thanked him profusely and apologized to him that I didn't have any cash to reward him for his trouble. He smiled, as if it was no big deal. 

As we walked away, I said to the dogs, "That man is our hero today!"
We continued our 4-mile walk and along the way, I found an ATM. I was going to slip our backpack retriever a $20 or leave it under his windshield wiper on our way back.

However, as we approached the parking lot where he had been parked, I saw red lights flashing. "Oh great!" I thought. "He hurt himself climbing down the cliff!" 

Fortunately, the lights weren't a rescue. But they were from a fire truck, and the city campers (a/k/a homeless people) were being cleared from the lot. The man from the van was long gone. 

We all know firemen are heroes, every day. But sometimes, the homeless guys are the heroes, too.

By the way, none of the photos I took today were worth the drama they involved, but here are a couple more ...
I saw hundreds upon hundreds of boats today, and I want to buy a fleet, just so I get to name boats. ;) A couple of my favorites today were 'Little Wharfin' Annie' and 'Tipsea.'

I also stumbled across Leif Erikson. Probably not that unusual, given all the Nordic-heritage folks in Ballard. :)
Here's our proof that we made it to the end of the trail ... 
FIELD REPORT:  I had a number of updates from the MPA field trippers today. 

It looks like Annabelle got some water time in. I'm glad she's wearing a life vest, but I'm not sure what's on her head. ;)
And here's CJ's breakfast. Peanut butter and Fritos on a bagel.  That's why people go camping, right? To eat stuff you can't eat at home? ;)
Our squad was in charge of dinner tonight, too. Even though I wasn't there, I say 'our' because I planned the menu and did the shopping.  On the menu were delectable riblets in a special sauce ... 
as well as a side of red potatoes and green beans in a Greek feta dressing.       
Via text, Christian reports it was "a phenomenal success" - no easy feat, cooking for 30 or so in camp!

TO THE MOON: On this day, 45 years ago, Apollo 11 launched on a mission like no other. ...
Below is the scene at the Launch Control Center in Firing Room 1, where NASA and contractor managers and engineers monitor computer consoles, ensuring all is ready for liftoff of Apollo 11. 
You can listen in on a Mission Control audio clip here;

July 16, 1969, was a turning point for this nation - and the world. It was the day the 
363-foot tall Saturn V rocket rose from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, at Kennedy Space Center, 
On board were Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. What those astronauts and their massive support team would accomplish in the next few days would become legendary for all humankind. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


AND THEY'RE OFF:  It's a little quiet around the MPA campus since the entire student body is gone fishin'. And campin'. And, apparently, tubin'.

Christian texted me the photo above this evening. It's the kids on Dorena Lake, pictured here (via Google Earth). 
At least, I think it's a photo of the MPA kids, but I have to guess, because the photo is so tiny and pixelated.  But I'm presuming he didn't send a photo of strangers' kids, LOL.

Hopefully some higher resolution photos will be incoming in the days to come. 

STARRY-EYED: While the kids were doing their thing, the MPA administration was working around campus and, at times, concentrating on today's Major League Baseball's All Star game. It was nice to see four Mariners on the team, and they all got to play, which is nice.

King Felix started the game and did himself and the city proud, dominating.  Here's a few-months-old photo of Annabelle, repping Felix (and happily holding a batting practice ball!)

SPACED OUT: Today, NASA released a new video highlighting the the many ways the Goddard Space Flight Center helps explore the universe. It's pretty rockin'!

TODAY'S ENGLISH LESSON: Weird Al is in the midst of a week where he's releasing one new video every day. Ambitious! Loved today's debut: "Word Crimes" to the tune of "Blurred Lines"

Blogger is refusing to let me embed the link, so you're going to have to click on it. It's worth the trouble. ;) - http://vevo.ly/yRwiKB

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rock Stars

WE WILL ROCK YOU:  Just look at the happy people, standing in the shade. Annabelle is beaming, having a good ol' time.

What this photo doesn't convey is the temperature. It was 92. And the humidity. It was mondo muggy. It also doesn't capture the size and scope of what we were doing: moving approximately 16 tons of boulders from Medina to Magnolia.  It's about a half hour trip between the places, all on busy city streets. We made that trip there and back six times Saturday-Sunday.

Here's a photo of our Saturday haul.
By the end of Sunday, no lawn could be seen any more, save for a narrow path around the perimeter, so I can water the garden and the parking strip.
We worked hard - and smart - gleaning the rocks from their retaining wall home of 75 plus years. The hydraulic lift gate on the truck we rented from Handy Andy was a life saver, as was the big 'rock dolly' we rented there, as well.

Whilst watering the garden this morning, I counted some 130 rocks. Estimating they weigh, on average, around 275 apiece, that's about 36,000 pounds. And we still have more to get! But first, we have to make room in the front yard. It ought to be exciting trying to move this bad boys down the VERY steep hill in front of our house, where we'll be building a rockery (after years of mowing the 'cliff' as I call it).

Good times.

Saturday and Sunday wasn't all hard labor. We did take a 5-minute break, walking up to the park near the rocks' home, Madrona Playground. They had some neat little seats built into retaining walls there. Gave me ideas. :)

MOON SHINE:  Saturday evening brought the third Super Moon of 2014, and it was a beauty. The Internet is full of gorgeous super moon (perigee moon) photos, but this one - the moon along with a rocket on the launch pad in Virginia, was my favorite.
Here's what it looked like from our place, as it rose over Queen Anne hill.
Science@NASA has a super, short video explaining the 'super' moon: http://youtu.be/D1KKpeW231Y

LIFT OFF: It happened a day late (due to weather), but Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket launched with the Cygnus spacecraft atop it on Sunday. We missed the whole thing because we were busy moving boulders in the heat. We had to settle for a replay.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Cygnus craft is filled with over 3,000 pounds of supplies destined for the International Space Station. It's Orbital's second ISS run for NASA.