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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Icy berries

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After taking our daughter to a routine appointment with our pediatrician today, I tested the macro mode of my new Olympus C-5060 digital camera on one of the few bits of color I could find on the snow and ice covered streets of Charles Village. The camera also has a super macro mode which would have been able to fill the frame with one of the green leaves. I was leaning into a snow bank, and Amy and baby were heading down the street without me, so I stuck with the easier shot. I'm happy with the image shown here and expect to continue to create the same kinds of images that are in my best of gallery, but with much more technical control.

09:55 PM in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Weekend celebrations

It was a weekend of celebrations, starting with yesterday's 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh and the successful landing of the second Mars rover. As a 20-year user of the Macintosh, I'm happily typing this post on a Macintosh PowerBook, which represents a group of products that has gotten faster, smarter and better looking over the years. I wish I could say all that of myself! See my previous post for links to moblog posts made while watching NASA TV's live broadcast of the landing. It was worth staying up to take in one of the few opportunities of a lifetime to be one of the first to see a new place on another planet.

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Our daughter Cianna is two months old this weekend, and she has been smiling a lot lately. Here she is on my lap grinning at daddy and strengthening her visegrip hold on my heart.

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Instead of driving down to DC to see the Chinese New Year parade, we went after lunch to the celebration at Grace and St. Peter's Church here in downtown Baltimore. The lion dance parade started at 2:30pm, and a group of about 100 people followed the little budda around the block as he teased the two lions with the Qing ball. The parade ended with the traditional offering of Hong Bao (lucky red envelopes) and cabbage to the lions. Here's a photo gallery of the parade and a small QuickTime video (2.3mb, 320x240, 62 seconds) of the lions.

We also ran into artist and professor Sam Christian Holmes, his wife Pam, and son Michael, which gave us a chance to introduce them to Cianna. Pam gave us some good tips on local pre- and elementary schools.

Our last bit of weekend celebration is for tonight's steadily falling snow that should amount to 3-6" by morning.

09:57 PM in Family | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

First light from the other side of Mars

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I just finished watching NASA TV and moblogging the second rover's landing on Mars. Over at hiptop Nation are my posts on the landing, Governor Arnold, the first press conference, the first data and images download, and the release of all the first RAW images. This armchair explorer is off to bed now...

05:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Happy Chinese New Year!

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monkey_character.gifIt's 4701, the beginning of a Chinese lunar month and the year of the monkey. At work, I've dropped a pile of asian snacks on our munchie table and ordered chinese food for our design team Lunch 'n Learn on Friday. Weather and baby willing, we'll be at the parade in D.C.'s Chinatown on Sunday, and will stop by my mom's house to show off the baby in a cute outfit.

Gung hay fat choy!

12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, January 19, 2004

More Air & Space

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The curiousLees took a road trip out to Chantilly, Virginia today to see the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the new extension of the National Air & Space Museum next to Dulles Airport. This was baby's first trip to a museum and another chance to give my new camera a workout. Both baby and camera did well, and mom managed to have a good time in between the two. I'll add a few more notes and links here in the next day or so. Enjoy the photos for now.

1/21—more notes and links: I've added links on each photo gallery page to more information on all the air- and spacecraft shown. Historical depth is one of the things I'm hoping for in upcoming revisions to the new museum, which generally offers only a brief paragraph at most on a plaque near each of the artifacts. Other aspects of the facility are works in progress. The food court is still under construction, so a Subway stand with a limited menu has been set up at one end of the hangar and there was a long line. You may want to pack lunch, or when it gets warmer, plan to picnic somewhere on the museum grounds. The space hangar containing the Enterprise is still gated, and the museum is seeking funding to finish a large restoration facility. Do check the museum's web site for construction updates. We were concerned about baby logistics, but were happy to find that baby changing rooms are nested in between each pair of men's and ladie's restrooms. The hangar ramps and catwalks are very wide and stroller-friendly. And when Cianna cried, the sound immediately dissapated in the monstrous space. My comments on the facilities aside, the sheer number of legendary craft presented in a spacious setting makes this new extension to Air & Space a must see for anyone who appreciates the history and technology of human flight. We'll be returning in the spring.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Seeking infinite horizons

I watched Bush's ho-hum delivery of NASA's new vision for manned space exploration today at a bar at O'Hare Airport. I agree we should continue human exploration of space, and the very conservative approach to budgeting (PDF file) resources over the next 15 years seems, at a glance, workable. Assuming the vision proceeds as described, I wonder how we, as a country, will be able to maintain a focus on probing far frontiers in light of the planet's pressing problems.

On the Airbus heading back to Baltimore, I admired my window seat view of the rising anti-solar arc of earth shadow from 27,000 feet. Somewhere not far into this growing band of night, wife was driving with baby to meet me at the airport, and that was a comforting thought. Blinking away my stare, I turned from the last bit of orange sunlight on the tip of the wing to an essay by Ray Bradbury in the current issue of Playboy (February 2004). Titled appropriately, "Destination Mars," here's a stirring snippet:

Late nights, haven't each and all of us thought to ourselves, How did we get here? Where did Earth come from, and how did the people on Earth arrive? We have thousands of religions with 10,000 answers and none of them completely agreeable.

Years ago I took an incredible light-year glance at the cosmos, wallowed in panic and shouted so I could hear over the din of facts from the farsighted astronomers.

"What if there never was a Big Bang?" I heard myself say."

"How's that again?" I gasped.

"What if there never was a Big Bang?" my demon muse replied. "What if the universe and all its galaxies and hot-fire suns and hot and cold planets were never born and simply always existed?"

"Impossible."

"So is the Big Bang," said my demon muse quietly. "Look up: 10 billion light-years of stars. Look sideways, you'll see the same. How the hell do you find and detonate a Big Bang that immense?"

"You can't," I said.

"You said it," said my demon.

"You mean the universe has been here forever?"

"It's scary stuff. The universe has existed beyond time and eternity, waiting for the final thing."

"What final thing?"

"Us. It lacked one miraculous item. It was a cosmic theater but with 10 million times a million empty seats. The stars knew not themselves. The moons and planets were born deaf and blind, unhearing, unseeing, unfeeling. The great tomb yards of space were just that: gravestones with no names. The universe collected its genetic phlegm and at last coughed forth—"

"What?"

"An audience. It needed to be seen, heard, sensed, touched. It needed to be recognized and applauded. We are that audience. We, you and I, have been birthed amid the blind, mute, soundless tombstones to stand upright in a rain of senseless light and shout against the dark. Religions? They're false. We are our own religions. We are our own gods. That's why it's up to us."

"So," I said, "that's what it's all about. Millions of watchful humans birthed as half-formed philosophers who have asked again and again, 'Why are we here? Why are we alive? To what mysterious purpose were we born? Give me a reason for life and living.' "

My muse replied, "What's the use of a universe unseen, a theater of empty worlds? We are here, hallelujah! And again wild hallelujahs to witness it all, to witness celebrate and explore."



11:55 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Metering baby's cry

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Like all other newborn babies, our precious has only one way to alert us about a need or discomfort, and that is by crying. It's a hard-coded survival reflex, and we respond quickly with compassion and love. But once a day or so, the crying won't stop, even after we've tried everything in the book.

It's during those times of waiting her out that I've recently taken to metering the sound level of her cries with a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter (part no. 33-2055). I read that sustained sound over 100db can cause hearing damage, and given that a baby's cry can ping an audio meter at 125db (!)—louder than a chainsaw at arm's length—I wondered if she could be emitting at dangerous levels.

I noticed immediately that her cries only last as long as a baby lung's worth of air, typically maxing out at 102db (with meter microphone at a distance of 8"), but only sustained for about five seconds. Her typical range is 90-100db in 10-12 bursts over a few minutes, and then she rests for a few minutes so she can start the cycle again. We're way short of chainsaw strength, but other parents have assured me that her lungs and vocal cords will only get stronger and more capable. I can't wait!

Now that I have metrics on our baby's cry, I can benchmark her to other babies. My boss at work has twin toddler boys, and claims he can clock some serious crying.

Update 1/12: The WhyCry Baby Cry Analyzer's indicator icons:

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11:55 PM in Family | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Monday, January 05, 2004

Red egg reminiscence

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In a quiet moment on New Year's Day, I ate the last of the red eggs my mother brought to celebrate Cianna's first month. Staring into the salt covered blue glass plate that held the egg shell fragments, I started to drift back through all the great times I blogged last year. Instead of enumerating all the best entries here in this post, I'll just leave you with this photograph, and continued access to my blog archives here, on my hiptop Nation moblog, and the old Blogger site. Last year was pretty much all good.

11:09 PM in Blogging, Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A perfect landing on Mars

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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit just returned this beautiful panorama of the surface of Gusev crater on Mars after a perfect landing. I've been watching live NASA TV via streaming RealVideo tonight, which presented commentary, the exhilerating moments around the touchdown, press briefings and very first post-landing images. These initial images are just black and white quick look views to assess the state of the lander and the local environs. Throughout the rest of today, higher quality images, including color and stereo, will stream down from the lander's various communication links. Later this week, once the scientists and engineers finish studying the landing site, they'll command the rover to "stand up" and roll off the landing platform to begin exploring. We're assured of some astounding scenery in the coming weeks. SpaceflightNow.com has excellent coverage and live updates blogged from mission control. As if all this wasn't exciting enough, we have the landing of the second rover, named Opportunity, on January 24th.

03:55 AM in Science | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack