Continuing a series of posts that I last worked on, in....er.... February, one of the places we visited in Houson (visiting my brother and sister in law) was the NASA Center in Houston. As a space nut, this was a pretty awesome trip.
The guest rooms we stayed in were very well-equipped:
While we were out on the town for a day, I charged all my stuff.
A few highway photos while we were driving into town.
Houston is VERY big on flyover-overpass exchanges. Here's a good example.
A bit of skyline.
Another overpass set; at least three layers!
A lot of the stuff on display at NASA in Houston is so big that it doesn't particularly lend itself to photography without serious wide-angle gear, and I just had my phone. I attempted to take a few shots to commemorate the occasion.
Here's one of the shuttle carrier 747's with an engineering mock-up
shuttle on top of it, parked outside the museum:
Another highlight of Houston NASA is that they have a complete
Saturn-5 laid out in a horizontal display building. This is looking
down the first stage from the second stage. The first stage is
sitting on its ground carrier vehicle; look at the enormous tires!
An (I'm guessing) engineering test Command Module (the brown bit) with its escape tower on the right.
As of this trip, I have now seen all of the Saturn-5 rockets on public display in the US. There's one at Saturn Apollo Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there's this one at NASA in Houston, and there are two at Huntsville, Alabama, one inside like the other two are, and one stacked vertically outside (which is REALLY impressive to see). I've read there's one more Saturn 5 first stage outside somewhere in Louisiana; maybe I'll go fly over it someday.
Outside the Saturn 5 display building, they have some rocket engines,
and this. It's a "Little Joe" test vehicle that NASA used to test the
escape system for the Apollo Command Module. You can see it here,
sitting with a command module mounted on top of it.
Another flyover interchange.
One of the things that frequently bogs me down in blog posting is when I have a post to make that has a ton of photos, I end up not doing the post for weeks because I don't have the time to put together to edit, crop, and prep them. So the really good, dense posts end up being the ones that slow things down. So for this post, I'm just going to split up the posts, and do the image editing and writing when I have time to do them separately. So this is part 1 of something, maybe 3 for the whole trip.
In March of 2015, I took a trip to a conference in San Jose, California for work. The conference went the entire week, starting on Monday evening and going through Friday. The airline flights lined up in a wierd way; there basically wasn't any way to construct the trip to fly out of my normal airport (Knoxville, TN)(TYS) without adding several hundred dollars, so the base price ticket would have been flying out of Louisville, which more than I want to normally drive.
So I set the cost of the base ticket by the Lousiville flights. But if I'm driving out of Lousiville, I might as well drive slightly farther and fly out of Atlanta. That gives me MUCH more flexiblity in picking flights. In fact, it gave me enough flexibility to actually add a whole leg to the trip by only kicking in a bit more on the tickets myself. So instead of flying directly to California, I flew out of Atlanta to Minnesota first thing on Saturday, spent the weekend visiting family and friends, and then flew from Minnesota to San Jose on Monday.
Just about to leave the house at 04:20 in the morning. It amuses me that the clock with four hands (the long red one is the 24-hour hand; it's just after 08:20 GMT) are all pointing in basically the same direction.
It was first thing on Saturday morning, and it was a relatively warm spring-like day. There were a ton of people out at that time of the morning towing boats; I presume for the first outing of the spring.
By the time I got to the I-75/I-40 split on the west side of Knoxville, the sun was a bit up.
My suitcase, notable because it's bright red (easy to spot if they tell you the wrong carousel by one) and for having a tag for a conference that hadn't happened yet.
And it got interesting when we got to the airport. Enterprise rental
at MSP apparently had a surplus of cars, so they were offering to
upgrade to anything on the lot for a very small sum. They had an
electric blue almost-new Ford Mustang on the lot, so I took it.
The dash on the Mustang was interesting. The center box can be
configured for a number of different things. It can display text
or quasi-analog gauges:
The "vacuum/boost" gauge is amusing. One, because I'm pretty sure that car wasn't turbocharged. Also, I paid attention to that gauge while driving. It probably was connected to some sort of manifold pressure sensor, but it definitely wasn't reading true, or else the zero was (possibly deliberately) way off. To get the gauge to come anywhere close to 0 vacuum, you should have to bury the accelerator, and I could get it to hit "zero" with only moderate acceleration. Ah well, probably for the best.
So I visited family on Saturday. But I decided that with a magnificent car like that, it was a moral imperative to a least do a little road driving with it. It would be a shame to have something like that and just stay around the Twin Cities. So I pinged a college friend, who also lives in the Cites, and proposed that we take a Sunday morning road trip down to our alma mater. She was game, so I headed up to her house first thing Sunday and we did some driving across the state. The photos from the trip itself will be from the next post.
The Minneapolis skyline over the hood of the Mustang.
Me, ready to road trip. I kept me in this photo mostly because it amuses my wife.
This trip continued in a future post.
The rest of the stuff from early 2015.
The three cats enjoying the snowy view. It was really really cold in February:
February was the first big round of adoption paperwork. I sent the
first application packet with a commemorative inverted-Jenny stamp. I
figured we could use all the luck we could get (so far it's paid off;
things are going well).
Again, cold while driving.
And snow coming down. I highlighted a couple of big flake clusters with arrows.
One step back. We managed to leave a hose on the front spigot, and
the cold weather froze the tap, and the valve had a crack in it when
it was open. Here's before:
(As of this writing, December 27, the outside tape is still broken. Argh.)
Oooh--another technical success. And this one I did once and is
finished! I replaced the plug on the vacuum cleaner:
And one final photo of Pangur and Thrice watching the snow.
Wow--March was quite a month. Even in January, March was already shaping up to be a busy month. I had significant trips/commitments early in the month and late in the month. Then I had the bright idea to stick a really busy work trip with personal travel on both ends in the middle. So March was very busy with travel; as I write this on April 6, it's just finally settling out and this week should be back to a normal-ish schedule.
The first journey was a trip up to Cincinattii to help my wife run a conference. This was an absolute committment on my part, and has been on my schedule for at least six months. The two weeks of snowmageddon at the end of February were not encouraging for this trip. The conference was Friday/Saturday. Earlier in the week, the state of Kentucky wasn't doing too badly, but it was looking a lot of the state would get snow dumped on it on Wednesday and Thursday, so us just getting to the conference was looking iffy.
Given the snow that was expected to land on Thursday, if we started heading north on Thursday morning, it was likely we wouldn't be able to get out of town. So we decided to outmaneuver the weather. Wednesday afternoon (in fine weather) we drove to Lexington and stayed in a hotel right on the north side, next to the interstate, so the roads we would be driving on would have the best snow removal possible.
That worked fine. But we did get the expected snow over night. When
we got up, the car was caked with nigh on a foot of snow:
That morning, I did the first clear-start-scrape-defrost cycle
I've done in many many years. I know people in Minnesota do that
every day in parts of the winter, but it's been a while for me. I
also backed it across the parking lot so that it was clear of the snow
piles around it. The end result was pretty good:
While we were having breakfast I made some poor attempts at bird
photography while we were having lunch.
Due to the higgledy-piggledy of the snow and its effect on the
conference schedule, the conference days itself were super-busy, so I
really don't have anything to show. One really nice thing: right
across the street from the hotel was a Joe's Crab Shack:
I think if I were reviewing that as a design for an establishment in a game, I would perhaps ask them to pull back the character a bit.
And last thing: on the way home, I saw this advertisement in a truck stop bathroom. It got me thinking more about car (and also airplane) USB chargers, which is another topic that I've been working on this past month.
So the trip to Cincinatti was the opening salvo of the month. The big trip in the middle of the month was yet to come.
I've been horrible about blogging. I blogged a bunch last August/September and and then like three times since then. Oy. However, Molly Lewis, the wind beneath my wings as far as internet presence goes, vlogged pretty close to every day in April last year, which was an inspiration to me. So I'm going to try again this year to blog every day in April.
I have a bunch of stuff to write about, including lots of photos, but my laptop needs a reboot before I can edit photos and I need to go to bed. So a brief list:
Lots of good stuff to write about this month. And hopefully some new flying photos in the mix.
Ok, I got the photos. This is in January. I took my commission a
little far as far as "cleaning up" the wiring, and and actually
removed a bunch of the accessory wiring. Here it is, spread out on
And here was a couple of weeks ago, with everything back in and lit up
for the first time:
I'm a pack rat; this comes as no surprise to anyone who's ever been in my house or garage or office. I tend to collect things that I want to use later. Often the net effect is that I end up having to throw stuff out later, frequently enough if I want something I can fine the one I used to have and put it to work.
I'm like that with physical things and with data. I have data disks that I was using regularly almost 25 years ago. So this blog post by data preservationist Jason Scott about the end of floppies came as a bit of a rude shock. I'd been carrying lots of old floppies with stuff that I used to use, and it never occured to me that I wouldn't be able to just throw the disk in a machine and read it.
I read that post last fall, when it was more than a year old. That really scared me, so I've been sort of vaguely tryin to get set up to pull data off of disks since then. I had the setup ready about a month ago but since then I've been rather busy. Today my wife is in Knoxville and my plane is in Lexington and broken, so I had time to start seriously feeding floppies into the machine.
The results were actually pretty good. The 5 1/4 floppies actually did better; there were only a few that I couldn't get a full image from. The 3.5 disks didn't do as well, but I was able to get full images off of about 2/3 of them, and partial images off of several more. I have 10 or so that just don't want to read in the drive, so I may work harder on those, or I may not.
Most of what I'd like to preserve are game files, and I got at least one clean copy of all of those. The other thing is images. A lot of the photos that I took in graduate school were on floppies, because the camera that I used was a Sony Mavica that recorded onto floppies. I'm pleased that I pulled images from several of those disks, so I have images of stuff that I haven't seen in 10 years.
Feeding disks into the machine
read read read...
Here's me, much younger and thinner with more hair. This is on the balcony of my last graduate school apartment. The laptop is the one my group bought me. It's an original iBook. I lived in this apartment August of 2000 to July of 2002.
I didn't realize I had any photos of this car. This is my 1986 Ford Escort EXP that I drove from the fall of 1996 to the spring of 2002. Fantastic road car. It died the day that I interviewed for my (current) job. It's parked in front of a storage unit. I'm about to leave for the big summer run of my graduate school experient in the spring of 2000.
Apparently, even then I was prone to taking photos of the highway. This is probably driving towards West Virginia.
These 11 cards (and the corresponding ones in the other crate) were what made my graduate school experiment possible. These cards implement a wire-OR of the results of 352 comparators and put the result out the orange cable on the right. My biggest worry between 1998 and 2000 was making sure that this piece of equipment did its job.
Here's me in the Hall B control room at Jefferson Lab sometime in the summer of 2000. I find this photo terribly amusing; I'm doin stuff on my laptop surrounded by larger and much more capable screens. So that hasn't changed at least. :-)
Here are a few photos while I was flying the airplane home.
Not great photos; we were losing our light, but here's a couple of
photos of me with the airplane after the first cross-country flight.
I stopped on January 9th to avoid yucky weather in northern Georgia
and Tennessee. The general region I stopped in was dictated by the
weather and how far I could get and still be in daylight. However,
the fact that the international airport code of Athens, Georgia
("KAHN") might have played a very small part in my picking it as my
It was a very pretty day flying between the cloud layers.
This is Wednesday the 10th, looking east over the Great Smoky
"Far over the Mistly Mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old..."
One last pic; engine gauges in cruise.
Getting my blog back up to speed has been on my to-do list for more than 3 years. As of tonight, it's done. All my blog entries from March of 2005 through the present are all here in one blog. The photos work, links work. Long live the blog, etc.
I started out using the blogger platform in 2005. It was (may still be) a great platform. I'd already established my own web site at craigsteffen.net, so I quickly figured out how to get blogger to generate entries and export them via auto-magic ftp to my own site. That arrangement worked fine until...I think it was late 2008.
I think it was that year that blogger announced that they were going to discontinue the external-ftp service. So I decided to set up a different blogging software. I looked over some of the packages available, and I decided that pivot was what I wanted to use. It stored its files as flat files on disk, but could be configured with menus and stuff.
I was able to pull most of my old blogger entries into pivot, sort of, but the images never quite worked right. And I discovered that I couldn't make pivot do categories of posts, which is one of the things that I really wanted to work. So after a short time, I decided that it would be easier to just write my own software rather than trying to get someone else's to do what I wanted.
So I've been working on a set of php and perl scripts in my free time for the past couple of years. The blog that you see here is the result. Up until the past few days, the last time I spent serious time working on it was a year and a half ago, the summer 2011. Starting in August of 2011, I've been working on a different bigger project, mentally I've been busier and had less left-over concentration to work on my blog scripts.
However, I've been working on it a lot in the past four days here at my parent-in-law's for the holidays. Thursday and Friday I posted 8 entries that I'd been meaning to put together for the past few weeks. Yesterday and today I've been working on hammering out the script that converted the original export file that blogger created for me in 2008. Today I finally ran that and it was able to pull all the 450-odd entries that I'd had in the old blogger blog. This evening, while watchin football, I ran the script that converted the pivot entries, and also the one that converted the blogger entries. The embedded photos were located in different directories, so I had to carefully combine the two sets of entries to get everythin to work right.
So there might be a few nits here or there, but as of now, I have all the entries from all three major phases my blog has gone through, all working and indexed using the main interface, the one I wrote. It's a bit clunky, but it works. There are the originall bloggger entries, the pivot entries, and the current flat file blog entries.
Happy Holidays, everyone! And happy blogging. :-D
I mostly don't talk about my job here, but I think I've mentioned that I go to a big computing conference every year. This year the Intel booth had a really great exhbit--they leased (or something) the real live original bridge set from the original Star Trek series. If you went to one of their talks, you could go and hang around the bridge and take pictures and stuff. I'm going to post a couple of the pictures here, to have a record of it.
Mr. Sulu's helm station on the bridge.
The navigation console on the bridge.
Hey George, I'm in your spot! :-D
I've had a very very nice relaxing week at home with DW, catching up on cleaning and errands around the house. In fact, this post will have nothing to do with airplanes or Volkswagens at all.
We re-arranged end-tables. We moved one of the book end-tables from
the main floor to the bedroom to use as a nightstant, and the existing
nightstand I set up as a table by the recliner that I sit in.
Along with a bunch of general tidying and putting away, and setting up this table, I now have a place for a bunch of stuff that used to sort of float around the TV room, like chargers and cables and things.
I also hung up some of my photography.
(I'd meant to anway, but that got them out of the way. :-) )
This is a neat part of photos. These were taken looking at Kingston
Pike in Knoxville. One photo is taken follinwg a moving car; the car
is clear but the background is blurry. The other is taken camera
stationary, so the moving cars are blurry.
This was a great set of photos. I took a bunch of pics of a spider
web out on the deck very early in the morning, with the dew clinging
to the web and making it stand out wonderfully. Here's probably the
best of the lot.
I took a work trip to Pittsburgh, PA last week. It was for a computer training seminar, so I spent it indoors without much chance to take photos.
I noticed a rather odd thing driving up. All the way across eastern Ohio, there are signs for the city of "Wheeling", which is a small-ish city on the east end of I-70 within Ohio. Just across the border into Pennsyvania is the Pittsburgh metro area, which is much larger and would make a much more logical choice for "this highway to" signs. I presume some Ohio administrator decided at some point that they didn't want to point people to a city in aother state, no matter how large or prominent.
It was a rather dreary cloudy day, so my phone camera wasn't coping
very well with the low light. That coupled with the fact that take
these photos use-the-force point-and-shoot style meant that I didn't
get very many usable photos at all. Here are a couple from the drive
My purpose for this post is this photo. I'm told this buildin in
central Pittsburgh is called "The Cathedral of Learning"; I think it's
a building in the University of Pittsburgh. It's really quite
something. I hope I get a chance to go inside sometime.
My wife and I took a short weekend vacation over the winter to the
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area of Tennessee. While we
were there, we visited the
Hollywood Star Cars Museum in
Gatlinburg. It has some interesting cars from movies or owned by
movie stars. It also has some other interesting artifacts, like the
Batcomputer from the 1960s Batman series:
They have a neat array of props from James Bond movies, including a Golden Gun prop from "The Man With The Golden Gun":
Among its vehicles, it has one of the motorcycles used in "Terminator
2". It's a 1990 Harley Davidson Fatboy. I took this image of the
And then one quick shot of the instrument panel
Because my wife really isn't into car museums.
I late found myself looking at the second photo a lot on my phone,
looking at the speedometer and light panel:
The bottom of the panel, just below the key switch, are very clearly warning and function lights. The red light in the lower rightis probably the oil pressure warning light. The green one in the center bottom is probably the "neutral" indicator light. The lower left blue one is probably the high-beam headlight indicator. But are the other colored things in the next row up lights, or just trim?
It took me a while to figure out why this one photo of this motorcycle was obsessing me so (meaning a couple of hours for an evening googling photos trying to find better depictions). My revelation was--I'm obsessed with instrument panels of vehicles. I'm not sure why this was a revelation. Whenever I got on a trip I take pictures of my own instrument panel, or particularly of the rental car I'm driving. One of the things that facinates me about my vintage Beetle is the extremely austere instruments: one speedometer dial, which an embedded fuel gauge, and two warning lights. When I look at an airplane for sale, I want to look at the instrument panel more than pictures of the outside of the airplane.
I found an few interesting depictions with Google image searches: an article on howstuffworks.com on the Harley Fatboy, and another specifically on the "grey ghost" on harley-fatboys.com.
Then I started doing some searches on YouTube, and ran into some interesting stuff. Here's a couple of videos featuring someone starting and running a Fatboy where you can see the instrument lights when they turn on the ignition: here and here.
After I ran into those examples, I did some more thorough searching for images, sometimes including for-sale sites. Here's a for-sale ad for a 1992 Harley Fatboy in Tennessee. If you click on the "more photos" link, the middle photo has a nice view of the speedometer/instrument cluster in bright light.
a very nice image of the tank and speedo by Carl Johan on flickr:
I found some other photos on flickr, including this one by Stacey Warnke, which I think is the very same motorcycle. The other photos near it in her photostream are of other cars in that same museum. The image shows the odometer milage of 727 miles, and the page says the photo was taken on July 31, 2008. The odometer in my photo, taken January 2012, lists has 732 miles:
One of the big pieces of infrastructure built during the Apollo moon program was the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's the really big building at the Kennedy Space Center where they stacked the rockets for the Apollo missions and also assembled the Space Shuttles for launches.
It's a really huge building, and an giant industrial space, and with things moving around inside occasionally, it's a safety issue as well. With all those issues, before recently it was a VIP-type tour that you had to at least know someone to get to see the inside of. Starting in November, NASA opened the building up to the general public. I drove down to Florida this last weekend to take the tour and see it.
It's pretty cool, and really really huge. I'm posting a few photos here. I took a lot more of the inside. While the experience is neat, the pictures don't really show much because there's no reference or scale.
Here's a photo of the outside of the VAB:
The VAB is on the left, and the two buildings on the right are two of the Orbiter Processin Facilities, where they reforbished the Space Shuttles after every flight. The two tall vertical grey sections on the VAB are the doors that open to let stacked vehicles out. They go most of the height of the building.
Here's a different angle. The next shot is goin to be from fairly close to the building, showing roughly the area that's circled in green on this photo.
This shows the bottoms of the two grey doors on one side of the building. Notice the area between them, circled.
Those tiny openings highlighted in the last shot are three double-width personnel doors. That gives you an idea of the size of the VAB.
Now, the VAB is very very cool for a rocket nerd like me. However, I'd like to recommend the Apollo/Saturn Center at Kennedy Space Center for anyone who's even vaguely interested in space travel. It's a really well-put-together museum out on the NASA property. They have a really impressive collection. Apparently the way it works is that you take one of the bus tours to see the launch pads and stuff, which end at the Apollo Saturn Center. You can then take a bus from there back to the main visitor's center, where the big parking lot is.The centerpiece of the Apollo Saturn Center is an actual Saturn V rocket, which was the rocket that took the Apollo missions to the moon. The first (bottom) stage of the Saturn V was powered by 5 F-1 engines, each of which developed 1.5 million pounds of thrust. This is a photo of the business end of the Saturn V there:
Here are a few goofy road-trip type pictures from the trip down and
back. Here's the interstate sign when I-75 splits off south from I-40
west of Knoxville.
I was pretty cranky on the way down, and I really horrid traffic
problems. That was apparently the spring break that everyone and
their dog was going to Florida. The rest of the pictures were from
the way back. Monday, April 2, on I-75 crossing I-10 northbound.
I saw this billboard a few times and managed to snag a photo of it.
I know the intention is that it means "We're Nuts!", but I can't being suspicious that this is a front for were-nuts, as in were-wolves, were-bears. Vegetable Lycanthropes! What insidious monsters would those be!
The interstates splitting on the south side of Atlanta. I'm taking the I-285 bypass to the west. That interstate goes very near Atlanta Hartsfield airport; in fact, the highway goes UNDER one of the runways.
An airliner on very final approach.
This was a very pretty cloudscape just before I turned off of I-75 in Kentucky.
It's so well-defined, it almost looks like a Terry Gilliam animated head-of-God should pop out of and start dispensing commandments.
I went to Kerrville, Texas in October for the annual convention of the Mooney Aircraft and PIlot's association. A lot of folks flew into the convention. The Kerrville airport closed one of the runways and used it for parking space.
On Saturday afternoon, a few people took a van out to the airport to drop off logguage and stuff. I tagged along. These pictures are fun; you don't usually get to shoot photos while standing on a runway.
And the panorama larger.
My wife and I went to DragonCon in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend this year. It is, if I'm remembering correctly the fourth time we've gone since we moved to the southeast in 2006.
We got into downtown Atlanta slightly after 4pm, and ended up getting snarled in traffic quite a bit. We probably got delayed for half an hour. Once we were there, it was fine.
The convention was fun; we got to see good stuff. One night there was a musical performance by Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, Molly Lewis, among others, which from a seeing-stuff-on-stage was definitely my highlight.
One super-neat thing: I've been a fan of Wil Wheaton's work forever. I've been following his on-line writing for 10+ years at this point. I've been trying to arrange to go to a convnetion and say hello for a while. He was at DragonCon this year, and I got to do that. Turns out, he recognised my name from on-line interactions and posts I've made to his blog, so that was a neat surprise. You can read the whole story of me meeting Wil Wheaton on its own page.
One of the really fun things to see when going to DragonCon are the "cosplay" costumes that people make and wear to the convention. I took a lot of photos of costumes I saw and I posted some of the better ones on a separate page, so that they don't clutter up my blog page. My DragonCon photos from 2011.
A couple of notes about going to DragonCon. You can book admission (they call them "memberships") long in advance, or right at the door (for more money). However, the hard thing to get is a hotel room in one of the convention hotels. There are 5 now, and they usually all fill up very soon after their rooms are announced, which is usually October or November of the previous year. So if you want to go in 2012, you'll probably want to start keeping an eye on the DragonCon web site for announcements about hotel room availability for next year. (By the by, we will NOT be going next year (2012). We have an important out-of-town anniversary to go to that's also over Labor Day weekend.)
Speaking of Hotels, I would like to put in a plug for the Sheraton Downtown Atlanta (one of the con hotels). If you have the choice, I would highly recommend it as the place to stay. It's much quieter than the other hotels. There were never huge lines for the elevators. Their staff was pleasant; the people running the restaraunts were sort of in costume. It was really a lovely time there.