Shooting Stars at Lick Observatory

On the last day of my cousin Andrew’s wedding weekend he and his new wife Saara invited all of the friends and family out to Lick Observatory for a Sunday evening of desserts and star gazing.  The drive up to Lick was almost as exciting as the place itself.  We wandered over three windy mountain roads to get to the semi-secluded Mt Hamilton. The Observatories large domes make it a beautiful sight. The view from the top is breathtaking.

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Of course everyone wanted their picture taken in front of the sunset.

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After the wedding party had finished with all of their pictures, docents from the observatory treated us to an entertaining lecture on James Lick, the wealthy entrepreneur who funded the creation of the observatory back in 1888.  Lick was a colorful character who explored the world, buying and selling goods, and made his fortune in California real estate. As Lick aged he had a considerable amount of money to decide what to do with, and having no family, his two main ideas were to build a giant pyramid in downtown San Francisco in his own honor or to have a Statue of Liberty size statue made of himself in the harbor. Luckily the science community was able to convince him to instead fund this lovely observatory.

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One of the greatest treats of the evening was sitting in the room with the Great Lick Refractor.  This telescope is 57 feet long, and 4 feet wide.  When completed it was the largest in the world, and today is still the second. While honestly to me, the images were not that exciting, sitting in a room with that giant machine was.  Operated by a man spinning a ships wheel halfway up the telescope the telescope spins and so does the whole dome to match.  The men shout back and forth coordinates and directions to each other over the mechanical noise of everything moving. Meanwhile you walk your way up a metal ladder in the dark to a thin observation walkway, where you can see the whole thing taking place beneath you.

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Operating in the dark I think ads a bit of magic to all of it. They only use red lights like you’re inside a submarine or something. Also my mom and I decided that the thing sticking out of the side is obviously a laser.

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We were treated to a viewing of the Ring Nebula through the refractor, and then a nice close-up view of Saturn at the other end of the observatory looking through the 40-inch reflector. In addition to the big telescopes the docents also had some smaller but more modern telescopes set up outside. Many people took turns asking for specific constellations. Not knowing a lot about stars I asked some basic questions about our galaxy and really learned a lot from the people there helping.

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Fred was in heaven finally being somewhere without any light pollution, so that he could get photos of the Milky Way. I think he enjoyed taking those wide angle photos than seeing the stars close up through the telescopes.

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We wrapped up the evening with a sing-a-long inside the great dome. The acoustics were amazing. It gave me that perfect mix of warm feelings and an inspiration to continue to learn and better myself that always comes from time with my family. Love you guys!

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Strawberry Moon

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In the United States, the full moon in June is called the strawberry moon because it was used as the indicator of the start of strawberry harvesting season.

There were rumors and photos circulating Facebook showing the strawberry moon as being pink. My mother even sent me a message to make sure I’d get a photo of the strawberry moon for her.

There it is above — definitely full, definitely not pink.

Stop and smell the roses

Some nights you plan to make an instructional video on how to disassemble and service vintage Lewmar Spring Jaw Self-Tailing Winches, but some nights you just have to stop and smell the roses.

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And stare at the sky, watching the planes go by.

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And then eat cookies while you watch a bunch of episodes of Mad Men Season 7 on Netflix.

But tonight it’s back to work … probably.

Rainy Days

It rained every day last week, but it especially rained all day Saturday. And when I say all day, I mean ALL day. We did nothing but sit inside the boat and watch the flash flood warnings on TV.

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We had planned to christen the new grill, but we resorted to picking up fried chicken at lunch and then cooking burgers on the Origo for dinner.

Of course, the rain didn’t bother everybody. This guy thought it was quacktastic.

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Every time we had to walk the dogs, he was just puttering around letting raindrops fall on his head.

However, the fire ants definitely did not enjoy the rain. In fact, as water started pooling up in different places it created floating fire ant swarms. I tried to stay far away from them, but I think the dogs must have picked up a swimmer as they bounded around. Somehow I ended up with the first fire ant bite of the year.

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If you’re not familiar with fire ants, their bite is a bit like a bee sting, but it creates a little blister white head in the middle. Then you pop it, and the bite oozes for days. They’re especially fun when you accidentally stand in a mound and get 30 or 40 bites on your feet at once. I’m sure this was just the first bite of many in 2015.

Eventually the rain did stop. By Sunday evening the sky had cleared, and we were treated to a spectacular view of a new moon with the planet Venus shining nearby. (Well, sort of nearby, I mean it all comes down to perspective, right?)

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