Kennedy Space Center

Dec 28, 2011 by Janine |
Last week we headed up to the Kennedy Space Center for our anniversary. I booked us a special tour to the Vehicle Assembly Building, which had been off limits to the general public until recently.

The Vehicle Assembly Building. It is HUGE. Each of the stars on the flag is 6 feet across.

Inside, you just kept looking up and up and up and the building just kept on going. It was pretty awe inspiring, a steel and concrete cathedral.

This is the actual space shuttle Endeavor. It is being prepared for display at the California Science Center in LA. It was a bit sad seeing it sat there like that, but also amazing to be so close to a shuttle that had gone on many journeys to space.

After the VAB, we continued on the rest of the tour. There is a rocket being assembled inside this building:

Shuttle launch complex 39A

Mural of the International Space Station

It was a nice day although bittersweet. Although it was sad to see that the shuttle program is gone, the truth is that with the end is also a new beginning. It is inspiring to see what has been accomplished so far, and exciting to think of what new discoveries await us in the future.

Merry Christmas

Dec 24, 2011 by Janine |
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!
From Rich and me, and all the woodland creatures that inhabit our tree.

Sedona and Scottsdale, AZ

Dec 22, 2011 by Janine |
These are from my trip back in Nov. Only a month and a half late!

After our visit to the Grand Canyon we headed to Sedona to see the famous red rocks. Lit by the setting sun, Sedona is truly stunning.

Apparently Sedona is known for being a site of mysterious energy and profound spiritual quests. I had no idea of this until I got there. I don't normally believe in any type of supernatural phenomena. However, the night I stayed in Sedona, I had an interesting experience- which may have been spiritual in nature, or may be very easily explained by oxygen deprivation and fatigue resulting from the Grand Canyon trip! Either way, it is a fascinating place that I hope to visit again soon.

Speaking of spirituality, the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona is the most serenely beautiful church I have ever seen. It is a popular tourist spot since it provides great scenic views of the red rocks.

The chapel itself is simple and welcoming, with huge glass windows looking out over the scenery.

The rocky cliffs behind the church resemble figures.

Leaving Sedona behind, I spent my last day in Arizona in Scottsdale since I had an inhumanely early flight the next morning. Since I had a few daylight hours left, I hiked most of the way up Camelback mountain, which is right in the middle of town.

I was almost at the top when I noticed a dark smudge across the horizon. I asked one of the other hikers what it was and he said nonchalantly, "Must be a dust storm" and continued on his way. Needless to say, I scrambled down the hill as fast as I could go and just made it to my car when it hit. Almost immediately the sky was dark, I could barely see 50 feet in front of me, and a howling wind screamed all around the car- it was like a really bad summer thunderstorm in Florida. Luckily it cleared up pretty quickly but the wind and dust remained throughout the afternoon, so that put an end to my outdoor activities! I found out later that it was a rather serious dust storm that the locals refer to as "haboobs" from the arabic word habb meaning wind. It was an exciting end to my first visit to Arizona!

Santa Monica

Dec 15, 2011 by Janine |
I was in Santa Monica, CA for a conference last week. It was my first time visiting the Los Angeles area and I did not know what to expect, but I had a pretty good time.

Evening on the beach

After the conference I drove up to Malibu and headed into the hills. It was 28F when I arrived and there was frost on the ground. Not what I think of when I think "Southern California." Glad I brought a coat!

Malibu creek state park. Plenty of birds around, including a flock of about 20 Ruby Crowned Kinglets, which was very cute. Also deer and coyote.

Next stop, Hollywood.

View of the smog shrouded city

Last stop was a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pit museum. The tar pits were awesome, although they reeked! It was interesting to see since I've seen it on TV before. The art museum was a nice way to wind down at the end of the day. I spent my time admiring medieval painting and sculpture.

Mammoth statues in one of the tar pits

Not much else going on, other than I have a short winter break from school. It will be nice to have a life for a few weeks!

Glass Lizard

Dec 02, 2011 by Janine |
Or, "Mr. Lizard Face" as I've named him. He lives in our front garden.

These guys are very quick. The only reason I caught this one was because it was early in the morning and slightly cool.

I just got back from a short visit to Florida's west coast. The weather was weird and unsettled for most of the time, but I saw lots of nice birds and wildlife.

Obligatory Gator

Night Heron

Roseate Spoonbills

I sent in that last shot to the Audubon Society since the middle bird has a band of some kind. I remember they did a banding project in Everglades National Park a couple of years ago, perhaps this is one of those birds.

It is hard to believe that it is December already. Where is time going?!