This is cool: Google Maps has added Street View of selected areas of Disneyland Paris. You can now ‘walk’ through Main Street, other parts of Disneyland, Disney Village and the Walt Disney Studios Park. Pretty neat!June 11th 2009 | 11:15 am CET | No Comments »
We left this morning at 6:00 and have been driving all day from Chicago toward Florida to see the shuttle launch of STS-127 on Saturday morning. It became gradually warmer as we drove south until it was about 34oC / 92oF this afternoon. That is quite different from the cooler weather we’ve been having in Illinois lately. We’re about 8 1/2 hours away from Kennedy Space Center and are looking forward to the launch on Saturday.
I read something disconcerting about the cancellation policy of our launch viewing tickets. It says everywhere that our tickets are for the launch and not for the day. That makes sense, so that if the launch gets delayed to the next day or next month then our tickets will still be valid. But there’s a catch to that. Apparently, if the launch gets scrubbed after you have boarded the bus at the visitor center to the launch viewing area (which is about a 15 minute ride) you have ‘used’ your tickets and that’s it. You then have to buy new tickets if you are lucky enough to obtain them. I just don’t understand this policy. What difference does it make whether you have boarded the bus or are still waiting to board the bus?
It even says the following in the paperwork:
All new sales of Launch Transportation Tickets will be on a first come, first serve basis. Priority will not be given to previous ticket holders.
So what I understand is that if we’re already sitting there on our folding chairs on the causeway at 4:00 in the morning and they announce that the launch has been canceled, we have to race back to the ticket office to stand in line for next day’s tickets at about $50 per person each. But if we’ve been slow and are one of the last ones to get on a bus we may be lucky and keep our tickets for next day’s launch attempt. That’s just weird.
We’re now wondering if we should try to get on the bus as late as possible, if we even have a choice. I’ve signed up to get text messages from the Spaceflight Now Twitter feed about the latest news about the launch, so if we’re standing in line for the bus and we get a message that there’s something wrong we can still jump out and keep our tickets.
There’s generally about a 50% chance that a launch happens, and the weather forecast for Saturday is favorable for a 80% chance. I hope the weather will be fine and there will be no technical problems so we can see a beautiful launch on Saturday.June 10th 2009 | 8:29 pm CET | No Comments »
Last Saturday was a beautiful day. In the afternoon we decided to try and bike to Rollins Savanna from our house here in Round Lake Beach.
First I checked Google Maps to see how we could cycle and avoid busy roads. The Google Streetview feature works for a lot of our area, so I could follow parts of the route online. I was surprised to see that there was actually bike path along one of the main roads we’d take!
The Drury Lane entrance to Rollins is closest to us, so that’s where we normally drive. On Google Maps I saw that there was a spur to the main trail from a small city park, so we wouldn’t have to cycle all the way to our usual parking lot, which was good news. The bad news was that Drury Lane is a torn up muddy mudville from construction.
More » June 1st 2009 | 1:26 pm CET | No Comments »
We woke up this morning to a new backyard bird: a Blue Jay! Finally we saw one of these beautiful birds at our home. I called it a few days ago when I wrote that we were overdue on a Blue Jay. Pretty cool:
Whoo-hoo … yesterday we received our package from NASA in the mail with our tickets for the shuttle launch on June 13th. Being at a shuttle launch is one of those things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. In ten days we’ll drive down to Florida, which will take us about 20 hours over two days. Launch time is targeted at 7:19 AM on the 13th and I knew that we’d get a specific time slot to be there. Well, we now know our time and it is shocking:
Yesterday we visited Fermilab, home to the world’s largest operaring particle accelerator. I hear you say: but wait, isn’t the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland larger? Yes, but it isn’t operating yet; they’re still fixing the mess since it broke down in September last year. When the LHC goes online it will be the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, with a tunnel of 17 miles / 27 kilometers. The Tevatron at Fermilab is still 3.9 miles / 6.28 kilometer. You can see it on the following map.
Today we visited the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). Besides being home to the world’s largest particle accelerator currently in use (LHC is out of commission until at least this fall), Fermilab maintains much of their 6800 acre site with a variety of natural habitats for wildlife. This includes restored grassland prairie – once a major habitat across much of Illinois and the midwest, and former home to tens of millions of American Bison. Today, Fermilab is home to a small herd of bison.
Today over 70% of extant American Bison have been raised for human consumption. Large herds of free roaming wild bison can only be found in a few protected areas in North America, including Yellowstone National Park and Alberta’s Elk Island.
Five bison were brought to Fermilab by the first director, Robert Wilson, in 1969. In 1971 the herd increased by 21; today’s herd at the lab are descendants of those first 26 animals.
Sunday morning we made a walk at our nearest forest preserve, Rollins Savanna, and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and their young foraging through shallow water. We’ve been seeing a lot of cranes around here, but we hadn’t seen a baby crane yet. The two adults were picking out food and carefully giving it to the chick. It was very cute. Here are some pictures and a video we took:
We moved here in early February 2009 and our first bird to visit our feeders was an American Goldfinch on February 22nd. Today, just over 3 months later, we saw our 18th species: a Northern Flicker! So far we’d only seen these beautiful large woodpeckers in woods and nature reserves; it was the last bird we’d expected to see in our suburban backyard! She was sitting on the ground under our feeders, probably eating the ants that we’ve been seeing there since we put up a bowl of grape jelly for our Baltimore Orioles. She was only there for a few minutes and this was the best picture I could get:
Two years ago today we drove to Portugal for a day while on holiday in the south of Spain. We crossed the border on the E-1 highway across the Guadiana International Bridge that crosses the Guadiana River connecting Spain and Portugal. The cable bridge was completed in 1991 and we had a great view of it walking around a wetlands nature reserve along the river, just north of Vila Real de Santo António.