Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kansas concert

Amy called up in the evening and invited me to watch a free concert downtown. A local radio station brought Kansas in, and closed of a few blocks for the event. I thought it would be fun, plus I hadn't seen her in a while, so I agreed and met her there. She brought folding chairs so we could sit on the side... excellent planning! I got us some snowcones (one of her favorite treats) and we sat back and enjoyed the music.

Kansas played their big hits, including "Point of Know Return", "Dust in the Wind", and "Carry On My Wayward Son", the finale.

It was a nice evening - free concert, and we chatted for a while, catching up on the past few months.

NASA Shuttle Launch Viewing

I had the big plan tomorrow to drive out to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the Shuttle launch. However, the STS-115 launch was pushed back to Monday, so I can't go.

Actually I probably could show up to work Monday and plead for time off to zip out to watch this. But, there is no guarentee it will launch then either, since the weather has been a little iffy. Obviously nobody can predict exactly when the launch will occur, and I'm starting to realize if I really want to watch it go, from the viewing areas on the KSC grounds, I would need to make a major event of it - i.e. take a few days off. Anyway, I'll see how it is Monday, if the weather is good and the launch looks likely, I might bring it up with my boss.

The ticket I bought is good throughout the launch window, which is August 27 through September 13. It would be most convenient if the launch gets pushed back all the way to next weekend. ;) If I can't go I forfeit the ticket, since it is non-refundable non-transferable and so forth.

Watching a launch is a bit cumbersome. I have to arrive in a one hour time window (11:30 am to 12:30 pm) for an expected 4:30 pm launch. I can't leave until 1 hour after launch. It takes about an hour to get out to KSC, but with the extra traffic from spectators, that might go up to 2 hours one way. Thus watching a launch from KSC could literally be an all-day affair from 10:00 am when I have to leave to KSC, until 8:00 pm or so when I would return home.

I'm sure it is cool to watch a launch in person, but I'm leaning towards just catching on TV or the NASA cable channel, if I were inclined to see it.

Anyway, the packet that arrived with my ticket included a bright orange parking pass. It looks kinda cool. On the back is a little notice "U.S. Government Property... Illegal to counterfeit or alter... violation of Section 499, Title 18, U.S. Code... This permit may be kept as a souvenir." I think that wording is fuuny.

Entry Pass

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Gizmo

It has been months since I bought any gizmos. I just so happened to have an REI dividend burning a hole in my pocket, so after shopping around for a bit, I decided to spend the dividend on a Garmin Forerunner 305, which is a GPS and heart rate monitor. I have a Forerunner 201, but the unit has been acting up lately (it is 3 years old I believe) and perhaps too much time traveling in a bag in a hot trunk has melted something. ;)

The watch is large, but less bulky than the Forerunner 201. The HRM strap is the stiff plastic like the older Polar straps (as opposed to the newer ones which are mostly elastic with a small plastic transmitter). The unit has modes for running, biking, and a general multi-sport mode which is aimed at triathletes but lets you configure other sports as well. I will be trying out the various features in the next few days. However the key here is GPS satellite reception and all the other goodies - how well do those work? I haven't always been happy with the Forerunner 201 reception.

I took the 305 out for a "spin" and was VERY pleased to see it located satellites quickly, in less than 10 seconds. When I got back I uploaded the data and I must say it keeps track of a lot of stuff, enough to keep my inner data cruncher quite pleased. As a step beyond that, I uploaded the data to the Motion Based website - check out the info that is gleaned from what the unit records. My plan is to map out various biking and running routes and upload those as well.

Uploading to Motion Based is fun... as a free account I can only keep 10 workouts there. A paid account lets me keep all there, but I'm not sure it is worth $12 a month (or $96 per year with a discount) to do it. The offline software does nearly the same thing, without the sharing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Replay TV R.I.P.

I am sad to report that my ReplayTV, after 4 years of great service, is in its death throes. I can tell because of tell-tale signs I learned from the two TiVo units I owned before: spontaneous rebooting, pause/skips during playback, garbled menus, delayed response doing anything at all, and just general malfunctioning.

I looked on the ReplayTV site and it appears the company has left the hardware business altogether, and is entering the DVR arena with a software offering. Thus they will compete against the likes of SnapStream, Windows Media Center Edition, among many other projects such as Freevo, MythTV and on and on. I fiddled around with my own SFF DVR using just the stock Hauppauge software and it was quite nice, but clearly a hobbyist thing.

I have an SFF box running Windows Media Center 2005, so it can pinch hit for a bit as well. The problem is computers, even SFF ones, just don't integrate into home electronics very well. Fans and CDROMs are loud, plus the extra cables for keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc.

After considering various options, I'm going to give TiVo another chance. I had two previous units that lasted a combined year (8 months on a series 1 TiVo and 4 months on a series 2 TiVo), and I'm hoping that was either just horrible luck or TiVo isn't using junk harddrives for their units anymore.

So I ordered an 80 hour Series2 DT (dual tuner) DVR from TiVo and hope it gets here Friday or Saturday. I decided on the dual tuner model since every once in a while I have a show conflict and would rather resolve it on one unit than be forced get the other systems involved. Yeah I'm pretty lazy!

In the meantime I still have the HD tuner/DVR from the cable company so I'm not completely forced to watch live TV. ;)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Running and chatting with Diana

A productive exercise day. In the morning I biked 22.6 miles in 1:18 with the work bike group, and later that evening I ran 3.75 miles in 0:32 at the Y.

Only four of us showed up, so we all ran together. Kurt and Joe wanted to do 5 miles, while Diana just wanted to a little less, so I turned around and ran with her. It was interesting - she teaches 8th grade English at a local middle school so I asked her what that was like.

Apparently it is pretty crazy. She said she's got kids that span the full spectrum of home life, from being raised by pot smokers to having two loving parents. She mentioned that the vast majority of kids that are the best students have one thing in common: two parents (i.e. married and not living together or divorced, etc.) This is her 4th year of teaching and she still loves it, and puts a lot of extra energy into her work. It is almost funny to hear about some of the parents she has to deal with - one wanted to be notified about assignments constantly (that doesn't scale up to notify parents of 120 kids), another group of parents have all sorts of input into teaching (excuse me, who has the education degree here?). Work can get frustrating sometimes but I just can't imagine what educators have to put up with.

We wound up running 3.75 miles in 0:32.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Amazing Race 10

Amazing Race 10 doesn't premiere until Sept 17th, but I already know what team I going to root for. Peter and Sarah, ironman triathletes. And yes, Sarah is Sarah Reinertsen, the amputee who finished Ironman Hawaii.

Very cool!

I'm sure the team of reigning Miss America contestants will be popular. And the former South Carolina cheerleaders as well. I'm not sure what to think here... I have a feeling there were other very capable female teams that applied, but both members didn't look like supermodels so they got overlooked.

Oh well, it doesn't matter because I hope Peter and Sarah crush everyone else! Unless they are super annoying. ;)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Planet Blowout

I read there are "heated discussions" over a new definition of planet at an astronomer's conference. I just can't imagine the smackdown over this! A new proposal would increase our solar system's number of planets to 12, by adding Ceres, Charon, and 2003UB313 (which is also nicknamed "Xena").

But why stop at just 12? Mike Brown, the leader of the Caltech teams that discovered 2003UB313 says the new definition could result in 53 planets in our solar system.

Think of the incredible opportunity for astrologers to toss out all the current fortune telling schemes and come up with new ones based on 53 planets!

Under the "only 12 planets" scheme Pluto and Charon would be considered a double planet or also termed a pluton. What should really happen is Pluto and Charon should be renamed to Xena and Gabrielle. ;)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Kennedy Space Center

Whew, what a busy weekend. Gail and I spent it at the Kennedy Space Center, taking every tour and seeing nearly everything except the IMAX movies and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Late Saturday we were able to get a slot at SkyVenture Orlando, absolutely one of my favorite things to do. Gail did pretty well, while most of the others flailed around hopelessly.

The historic tour we took on Sunday was especially interesting, since it visited historic sites on Cape Canaveral.

Mercury Redstone
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
This is where Alan Shepherd launched into space in 1961. The rocket is a replica of the Mercury Redstone which launched him.

We also got the chance to see Space Shuttle Atlantis being prepared for launch later this month.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
The external fuel tank and solid rocket booster is visible. The orbiter itself is enclosed by the service platform for protection and for cargo loading.

I checked for tickets and was able to buy one to attend the next shuttle launch, which is scheduled for August 27 at 4:30 pm! The viewing will be at the KSC Visitor Complex which is about 10 miles away from the launch pad. Cool!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Text Message from Gail

Text message received:

"Hey Karl, is there an Apple store near you?"

Clearly the real deal!

I looked and found there are two: one at the Millenia Mall, and one at the Florida Mall. I haven't been to either mall.

I remind myself I have many computers and don't need to get another one, even if it is the small and powerful Mac Mini or the stunning MacBook Pro... maybe I should leave my credit card at home when I go. ;)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Friends visiting

Bev, Ben and family left early this morning so my house is all quiet again. The good news is my friend Gail is coming to visit this weekend! I'm not sure what we'll do, other than an airboat ride. Gail said she was interested in the Space Coast so a NASA tour might be cool, especially since the space shuttle Atlantis was brought out to the launch pad. If we are lucky it will still be there undergoing tests.