Friday, September 23, 2016

Leading Ladies

       PHOTO: NASA Johnson Space Center
BECOMING:  This week, NASA Johnson Space Center and recording star Grace Potter released a new, collaborative space-themed music video. Filmed at at the space center,  it features Potter performing her song, “Look What We’ve Become,”highlighting NASA women engineers, scientists and astronauts at work.
Per a NASA press release, “So much of this song is about when you are coming up through any part of your life and you face challenges, there are so many different ways that that can affect you and change the course of your life,” said Grace Potter. “I think that it creates a strength within you if you do make the choice to push onward and say, ‘I know that this might be more difficult than another path. That’s why I want to do it.”
The press release says NASA’s goal with the video is "to inspire young women everywhere to plot a course for a career in science, technology, engineering and math, and then stay on that trajectory, no matter the challenges, and become a part of something historic." 

GET OUT THE VOTE: The United States has a presidential election coming up this November, and if the lone American on the International Space Station can cast her vote, for sure you should be able to find a way to do likewise. :)
Above, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured. She doesn’t know yet whether she’ll return to Earth in late October as planned, ahead of the election. Fact of the matter is, the Russians have delayed the next crew launch for technical reasons. It was supposed to take place this Friday, but it has been postponed for at least a month.

And Rubins and her crewmates — a Russian and a Japanese crewmember — can’t come home until the next three-person crew arrives. 

Knowing that sometimes things change, Rubins got an absentee ballot before she rocketed away in July, just in case. The Houston, Texas, resident will list her address as “low-Earth orbit” if she's not back in the Lone Star State in time to vote.

BTW, Rubins, 37, is a professional virus hunter by profession. Last month she became the first person to perform full-blown DNA decoding, or sequencing, in space. 

ANNABELLE, FOR THE RECORD: Last summer, Annabelle was fortunate enough to be a part of a "Cool Girls in Aerospace" program. The week-long experience in Everett and Mukilteo exposed young women to STEM-related career paths and opportunities they might not otherwise know about.

In this week's Mukilteo Beacon, in a column by Mukilteo mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Annabelle was quoted regarding her experience in the program. In part, she said, “It was a terrific opportunity to see and do things most girls my age don’t get a chance to experience,” said sixth grader Annabelle Kisky, one of the participants. “It certainly opened my eyes to a world of possibilities.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016


LOCKS WALK: On this first day of fall, 2016, we took a leisurely walk along the estuary between Lake Union and Puget Sound. 

As always, we saw boats navigating the Locks, including this research vessel. 
Between the large and small locks channels, we found a hardy rose growing out next to a concrete control station.
As the saying goes, "Life finds a way." Certainly true for this pretty plant.
 We were happy to discover a second rose bush on the other side of the building.
We went down to the underwater viewing area. There, we spied dozens of coho making their last, long journey to spawning grounds. 

BACK AT THE BALLPARK: Yesterday morning, just a couple hours before first pitch, we decided to head to the ballpark.
There were compelling reasons to stay away. The Mariners had been playing terribly for the past few games, the stadium was going to be overrun with Toronto Blue Jays fans, and the last time we watched Felix pitch in person - just five days prior - he got shelled.

Christian and I went back and forth, trying to talk ourselves into and out of going to the game. We finally concluded even the worst day at the ballpark is better than most anything else.

And where better to spend the last full day of summer than with the boys of summer?
We watched the first couple of innings out in right center field, on a landing overlooking the Dave Niehaus statue.  Eventually we migrated all the way across the stadium, to the topmost row of the west side.
What a game it was! The Ms had the slimmest lead, 1-0, from the third until the ninth inning. The Jays scored a run in the top of 9, and the game was tied. They played three tense extra innings before the Ms managed to put one on the board in the bottom of the 12th. Mariners win! Mariners win!

It was a great day at the old ball game.

SIBLING STYLE: Last week, we went to see Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, who was promoting his new Children's book, "The Darkest Dark." During the presentation, he showed us a short video about how the books illustrators, brothers Eric and Terry Fan, worked cooperatively on the project. 

Now, you can watch the video, too!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tickets to Ride

FAIR, FUN & FOOD: We spent most of Monday in Puyallup, at the Washington State Fair.

It was raining fairly hard, with ominous skies in all directions. But we'd checked the forecast, and it was supposed to improve as the day went on. We took a chance, drove the hour plus to the fairgrounds, and started on some rides in the rain.

Easing into things, the kids relived childhood memories (ha ha) and rode some tiny coasters.

 And they enjoyed a small swing to get into the swing of things. 
Fun houses were a place to hide out as the rain continued. 
 And since it was Talk Like a Pirate Day, they checked out the haunted pirate house, as well. While they were inside, blue sky made an appearance.

We made our way to the midway where the bigger rides were located. They enjoyed multiple revolutions on a sky high swing. 
 Their colorful pants helped me pick them out of the riders as they whizzed overhead.
On the swing ride I couldn't help but notice some of the classic portraits painted on it are looking worse for the wear this year.
There was a pair of Ferris wheels they rode, of course. 
And they checked out a cool new ride with a fancy flame paint job.
Naturally, there were roller coasters to be ridden. The kids are in the front car, below.
Later, on the same coaster, they rode in the Ol Yeller cars. They were third from the back on that go 'round. 
 I love checking out the faces of the riders as they start down the BIG drops. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)
CJ is blocked in the photo below, but you can see Annabelle's expression. 
I thought it warranted a closer-up look. She definitely looks more terrified than thrilled at that particular millisecond.
Of course, it wouldn't be the fair without gawking at the array of mind-blowing (and questionable) food choices. There were really big burgers ...
 as well as cotton candy, of course. 
This 'ice cream bar' looked OK from a distance. The Nikon's big lens made it look significantly less appetizing. 
 There were cookies (near the cow barn, ironically). 
 When we saw this booth, CJ was wishing he had more money and empty calories to spend. 
 He was especially attracted to Velveeta, deep fried and served on a stick.
 Fortunately, he had just filled up on an official Fisher fair scone. We'd never tried them before, and vowed this was the year.
 I have to admit, the bite I had was tasty - and only $1.50, a bargain there!
Incredibly, Fisher scones have been a fair mainstay for 100-plus years!

One new thing at the fair this year was a superheroes sideshow. CJ and Annabelle enjoyed the photo opps within, but passed on meeting the fake Superman and Supergirl.

Here are Annabelle's brief thoughts about her fair visit this year. 
The Puyallup Fair this year was fun. They had almost all of the rides from last year and a couple of new ones! It was especially fun to see the makeover they gave the WildCat roller coaster. It had blue and green, and even a new 12th man cart! My favorite ride at the fair this year was the Classic Coaster, a wooden roller coaster. It’s the last of its kind! It was super cool seeing all the agriculture displays as well. My favorite display was one with a baseball diamond made of seeds, beans, and eggs. The fair really has something for everyone and I can’t wait for next year! 
Of course, a fair wouldn't be complete without some chainsaw art ...  
And we always enjoy the Washington State Grange displays, but ESPECIALLY loved this baseball themed one!
The bracelets we bought ahead of time for access to all the rides included a couple of midway games. Christian and the kids took on the Kentucky Derby game, which involved aiming a water stream at a vessel. While that was going on, horses would run. The first one to fill up their vessel won. 
Annabelle was the family's sharp shooter. She got a stuffed unicorn (!) as her bounty. 
Our last stop at the fair was the face painting booth. Frequently, face painting booths are on site in places we visit. And always, there are long lines at those booths. Not yesterday. She walked right up and got a small constellation of glittery stars, no waiting! 
Here's CJ's summary of the experience
Every year for quite some time, our family has visited the Washington State Fair, more commonly known as the Puyallup Fair. According to their website at, the Washington State Fair is the largest single attraction held annually in the state of Washington. The Puyallup Fair continually ranks as one of the largest fairs in the world. The Puyallup Fair hosts two annual events, the 21-day Washington State Fair every September, and the four-day Spring Fair in Puyallup every April. Recently, my family visited the Washington State Fair, and I will tell you about what I consider to be the most memorable moments from this trip:
First off, I could not talk about the Puyallup Fair without talking about the Wildcat. The Wildcat is a large roller coaster near the northern part of the park that is pretty fast-paced. Although the lines for the Wildcat are long, the experience is probably worth it. Like most other roller coasters, the Wildcat has dips, or places where the cart takes a plunge down a steep part of the track. Unlike most other roller coasters, though, the Wildcat has three dips, all of which are marked by a small number sign.
Placed very close to the Wildcat is the Classic Coaster. The Classic Coaster is, as its name implies, an old, but refurbished roller coaster. According to the Puyallup Fair's website, the Classic Coaster has been a mainstay at the Fair since 1935, and has just completed a five-year renovation to last the next 100 years. In the 1970's, there was a fire that destroyed some of the coaster, as well as several other parts of the fairgrounds. The Classic Coaster is apparently the last coaster of its kind to feature carts that resemble minecarts (I can't remember the exact name), thus making it special. To me, wooden roller coasters like the Classic Coaster are often scarier than their modern counterparts, probably because they sound rickety, and you can see the wooden framework coming dangerously close to your head and limbs.
Lastly, there was the Giant Slide. The Giant Slide, as its name implies, is a very large slide, located near the southern part of the fairgrounds. The Giant Slide is mostly colored yellow and red, which makes it stand out from other parts of the fair. At the bottom of the Giant Slide, riders will grab a rug from a nearby pile, which they will slide down on, presumably to protect them from plastic burns. Riders then climb a pretty tall staircase, which eventually takes them to the top of the slide. At the top of the slide, an attendant will help the riders get mounted on their rugs, and, once the coast is clear, slide down the bumpy slide. Riders then take their rugs, and add them to the aforementioned rug pile.
In general, I enjoyed the fair this year, and I look forward to going to it again.

Monday, September 19, 2016


DO THE PUYALLUP: This is just a placeholder post. We spent a long day down south, in Puyallup, for our annual trip to the Washington State Fair.

It was stormy skies and raining all the way down from here to there, and we got rained on good (to use bad grammar) for our first hour there. However, we lucked out, the forecast was right, and it was a really nice afternoon!

You can expect a full report tomorrow. Until then, here's CJ, Annabelle and a friendly carnie. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Shake it up, Baby

FABULOUS FILM: Last night we had the pleasure of seeing the "8 Days a Week" on its world premiere day. It was only showing at one theater in Seattle - fortunately, it happens to be about 6 minutes from our house. 

When we arrived at SIFF Cinema Uptown about 40 minutes before movie time, I thought we'd be the only ones there. Wrong! A long line of enthusiastic Beatles fans already filled the lobby, waiting for the theater's doors to open. 

The movie was marvelous. We laughed, we cried, we sang and clapped along with the music. The four lads from Liverpool were a phenomenon the likes of which the modern music world has not seen before or since,

I'll let CJ and Annabelle tell you a bit more about the movie. Annabelle's is up first:
8 Days a Week is a film about The Beatles, detailing their years as a touring band. It mostly talked about how The Beatles were feeling behind the scenes, such as, near the end of their touring, getting tired of the screaming and pushing going on in the stands, to the point where they couldn’t hear themselves play. Touring was actually very hard for The Beatles, with massive crowds and sometimes even mobs whenever they arrived. They were playing concerts all over the world, and it was extremely tiring. The purpose of the documentary was to show that even though they were popular, The Beatles were still real live people. I thought it was really interesting, and they even included a full restored version of their concert at Shea Stadium. It was super fun to go and I really recommend the movie!
And here is CJ's take:
Unless you've been living under a rock for more than half a century, you've probably heard of The Beatles. In the event that you haven't heard of them, The Beatles were a rock band from Liverpool, England, that, in the 1960s, became the best selling-band in the world, starting with the release of the hit "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in late 1963. For seven years, The Beatles would almost always have a significant position on the charts, almost a̲l̲w̲a̲y̲s̲ being in the top 10.
Recently, we just saw a lengthy documentary about the Beatles' touring years, from 1960-1966, known as "8 Days a Week". 8 Days a Week is named after the song by The Beatles which stayed at the top of the U.S. charts for 2 weeks in March of 1965. According to, While hundreds of thousands of people saw The Beatles perform during Beatlemania’s peak, there are only four people who knew what it was like inside the bubble — The Beatles themselves. producer director Ron Howard sought to portray that experience in his documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years,” a massive research project that took its own long and winding road to get to movie screens on Sept. 16, one day before a streaming launch on Hulu.
The documentary itself features footage and images from countless sources, only some of which are listed in the film's credits. Considering most of the footage is ~50 years old, the quality of some of it is surprising. However, the transition from modern-day interview footage with subdued colors to classic footage with Technicolor (and vice-versa) can be a bit jarring. Although there was footage from several Beatles concerts from the '60s, there were only 2 that we saw a significant portion of. The first would be the Beatles' final public performance, which happened on top of an office building in London in 1969.
This footage was played in the background of the credits. After the main film finished, we were shown a restoration of the Beatles' iconic 30-minute performance at Shea Stadium, New York City in 1965. Apparently, the audio was restored all the way back at Apple Corps, a corporation that the Beatles founded.

Lucky for us, a remastered 30-minute concert movie of The Beatles' 1965 appearance at Shea Stadium was part of the evening's entertainment. The crowd clapped at each song's conclusion, as if the Fab Four could somehow hear us.

If you get a chance to see the movie, do! :

CANNED: Today we finally got around to making some green salsa with the tomatillo bounty from our garden. This year's crop hasn't been the best, but I manged to make six tiny jars of the stuff. 
And can I just say there are few sounds more satisfying to my ears than hearing the 'pings' of the lids as the jars cool on the kitchen counter top.

BACK TO THE BALLPARK:  Today's Facebook flashback reminded me that six years ago today we were at Safeco Field. 
The caption for the photo above read, "Somehow, CJ and Annabelle manage to smile through this miserable season."

Creatures of habit that we are, we'll be back at the ballpark tonight. Happily, this go 'round, the Mariners are still in the hunt for a playoff appearance. #TruetotheBlue

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Of Dogs and Astronauts

DOGGY DUTY:  On Wednesdays, we have a date with a dog. His name is Pretzel and he's a Doberman puppy. Pretzel was very happy to see us. He loves playing with the kids, especially. He does not love guitars, however.
His owners told us he's terrified of them, and that he runs outside the house to escape the menacing musical instrument when he sees it. CJ and Annabelle were determined to change Pretzel's mind, so they pulled a guitar out. Pretzel promptly went to a space in the house as far away as he could to hide and pout (see above). When the kids started playing it, he ran outside.
We put the guitar on the loveseat and I sat by it, and Annabelle coaxed him into the house. The dog would up sitting on the couch with CJ and Bee, and every once in awhile I would reach over and drag my fingers across the guitar strings. Pretzel didn't like it, but he didn't bolt.
After a few minutes Annabelle picked the guitar up. Pretzel stayed on the couch, which was big progress. Then she started quietly picking out a song. And Pretzel stayed put! In fact, he relaxed to the point he was falling asleep!
We were pretty pleased with ourselves. We'll make sure to play guitar for him on future visits, as well.
TUESDAY LECTURE: As previously posted, on Tuesday evening, we had the pleasure of listening
to the always-interesting Col. Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut. Here's what the kids had to say about the event, Annabelle first.
Chris Hadfield gave a speech at Town Hall Seattle on September 13. He was premiering his new children’s book, The Darkest Dark, and talking about how he made himself an astronaut. He told everyone about how,even though when he was a kid watching the first moon landing, there was noCanadian Space Agency, but he was determined ever since he saw that firstfootstep on the moon to become an astronaut. He became a glider pilot, and thena fighter pilot. When the Canadian Space Agency finally was founded, he volunteeredto be an astronaut and was the first Canadian astronaut in many things.
But what most interested me was the book signing Colonel Hadfield did at the end. He took time to talk to everyone. When it was our turn, I asked him if it was possible to paint in space, since I want to be an artist. He told me thatit is possible, and a man named Alan Bean had done it. Ever since his visit to space, Alan Bean has put a little bit of moon dust in all of his paintings.
When he signed our copy of The Darkest Dark, I gave him a book that my brother and I wrote (and I illustrated), named Pip and the Heart of Pluto. He thanked us and we left. It’s kind of an amazing feeling, knowing an astronaut who was the first Canadian to spacewalk, command a Space Shuttle, and other firsts has a copy of your very own book. It was very fun and I can’t wait to see him again.
And following are CJ's impressions.
On September 13, I got a chance to see a speech by ChrisHadfield, who, according to Wikipedia, is a retired Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. An engineer and former Royal Canadian AirForce fighter pilot, Hadfield has flown two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station. According to Wikipedia, Chris was born and raised on a farm in southern Ontario.Since he was a small child,Chris had dreamed (often literally) of going to space and/or the Moon, justlike the American Astronauts he saw on the television. When he was 9, he watched the iconic Apollo 11 Moon landing on the only TV set on his island, and was determined to become an Astronaut.
9 years after seeing the Moon landing, Chris Hadfield entered the Canadian Armed Forces, where he learned to become a fighter pilot(though he never actually flew on the battlefield), flying the Canadair CF-5and the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet. In 1982, Hadfield earned a Ph.D in mechanics from the Royal Military College of Canada, and a decade later, a master's in aviation systems from University of Tennessee Space Institute.Three years later, Chris Hadfield would serve as Mission Specialist #1 on NASA's STS-74 mission, being the only Canadian in a group otherwise composed of 4 Americans.
The event I went to was the premiere of Hadfield's new children's book, titled "The Darkest Dark". The Darkest Dark is best described as a fantastical embellishment of Chris' experience watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing, with Chris starting out as a boy who aspires to be an astronaut, but is terrified of the dark (as implied by the book's title), and of the monsters he believes are in the dark. After telling his parents several times about the monsters, they warn him that if he makes a single more peep,they will be too tired to watch the Moon landing tomorrow. So Chris goes to sleep, and he has a dream where he and his dog, Albert (who, in real life,would not be born for decades after this) fly their spaceship all the way to the Moon. The next day, Chris and Albert watch the Moon landing on the TV in one of their neighbors' houses, and when Chris comes home with Albert that night, Chris realizes the "velvety, black beauty" of the dark, and decides he wants to visit every corner of the space he can see.
After Chris Hadfield's speech, we got in line to get 2 books signed, One of them was a copy of The Darkest Dark that we purchased earlier,while the other was a space-themed book Annabelle had made, known as "Pip and the Heart of Pluto", which we gave as a gift to Hadfield. When we were getting the books signed, I got to ask Chris a question. Specifically, I asked Chris if, provided the opportunity, he would rather go to the Moon, or Mars.Chris replied by saying that for him, it is less about the destination, and more about the challenge of getting there, so he would do either.
WAYBACK MACHINE: Facebook prompts people to share their memories. Once in awhile, I listen to Facebook's suggestion. Look at this 7 year old photo from the Washington State Fair. We'll be going again next week. Annabelle is considerably bigger now.
 And three years ago today, we were abroad. Part of our trip to England involved seeing some famous stones.
 Specifically, Stonehenge.
What a great trip that was!