Sunday, November 08, 2009

North to Alaska...

I spent a few days in mid-October in first visit to this town. Autumn had long-since taken most of the leaves, but the trees that held onto their leaves were brilliant in fall splendor.

I didn't take many photos 1) because I was working but mainly 2) because when I wasn't working it was dark. is the return of an old friend...the cheery hotel window shot!

I did have a couple of very nice dinners, courtesy of fine recommendations from my good buddy Josh. The yummy Alaskan halibut was at the popular Glacier Brehouse. Thanks Josh!

Ground control to Major John...

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of visiting Kennedy Space Center during a work meeting. Around the same time, one of my dear my coworkers down in Southern California took me on a golf-cart ride out to see the Shuttle's 747 at Edwards AFB. Well, two weeks ago, I was able to tour Houston's Mission Control Center...and I was once again in heaven.

We started out tour in the "classic" Mission Control from the Apollo days. This is the Mission Control they replicated for the Apollo 13 movie set...and yes, that is me looking as dashing as Ed Harris in the Flight Directors seat. As dated as this center looks, it was used well into the Space Shuttle days...all without any computer controls in the consoles...just monitors and buttons and the like. I'm a BIG fan of the pneumatic tubes :)

And here is Sarah trying to out Ed Harris me :)

We moved from "Mission Control classic" to the Mission Control that is used for the International Space Station. A tad bit more modern and flashy...and a tad less olive green. The four-person crew of the Station came on-screen during our tour for an interview (not with us). Still, it was fun to watch them pose in zero gravity.

Our third and final Mission Control was the one used for the current Space Shuttle missions. Since the Shuttle is currently on the ground, we were watching them run simulations of day-to-day operations. Evidently, the "overlords" who run the simulations like to throw sudden decompressions or power outages into the mix to keep everyone on their toes. I wonder if they ever simulate an alien attack!! :)

Our last stop was a quick walk through the space station mock-up area, where full-scale models of the various station parts are on display.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Visitor from a far-away land...well...Texas...

There is nothing quite like reconnecting with an old friend. Jeff and I had the surprise pleasure of hosting my dear friend Heath, who I hadn't seen since just after I moved from Virginia. Heath is a wide-eyed adventurer, who infused his unbounded energy into our home and our weekend.

On Sunday, we drove up into Napa and "discovered" a new winery...Frog's Leap. We enjoyed the wine and the hospitality enough to join the Frogs Leap wine club. Oh yeah...and we fended off a nasty yellowjacket attack at Domaine Carneros...nasty sting, but a fun story :)

On Saturday, we started the day with a brunch spot we had been hoping to try...the cozy and uber-popular Serpentine...located in the emerging Dogpatch neighborhood. (For reference...most of the SF graffiti photos you've seen from me over the past two years were taken within a mile of this restaurant.) The menu is short and changes routinely, but one of the staples is the country fried steak and eggs smothered in this amazing gravy. How could I resist!! (Answer...I could not.)

After brunch, we ventured out to the Ocean...first to the bluffs of Ft. Funston, with its abandoned gun batteries and fearless hang gliders...and then for a hearty walk at Lands End, complete with a rock-outlined labyrinth.

In one of the rocky tidal coves, we discovered these colorful starfish clinging to the slippery rocks awaiting the return of water.

Thanks for a grand adventure, Heath. Come back and visit with us soon!

Griffith Observatory...

During our recent visit to LA, we stopped into the historic Griffith Observatory atop Griffith Park. The observatory was recently renovated...but this was our first it was all new to us. The historic structure is bright and clean, and hidden beneath the front "lawn" is a buried new exhibit area.