Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Superhero Supply and other shirts

September 24, 2012

I neglected to mention in my last post a couple of interesting shirts I saw. I got them both in the same picture and didn’t notice until I was looking through them at home.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply, and "I was there!"

Brooklyn Superhero Supply, and “I was there!”

The one in the middle is for Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., which actually exists. On the left is a shirt with two pictures of the guy who is wearing the shirt, which is a bit strange. However, the pictures include astronauts and he seems excited over his connection to the space program. He’s like the science fiction fans who show up at conventions wearing detailed costumes, only he is doing it about non-fiction, so it’s cool. Really, everyone who gathered to see Endeavour were fans, even if no one was wearing costume. Some were wearing “Endeavour fly out” shirts; while nice, they weren’t quite as interesting in this context.

I went in my “Low flying spacecraft” shirt. It seemed appropriate. I don’t have any pictures of that; it’s hard to take your own picture with an SLR.


Endeavour’s Departure

September 23, 2012

I had the opportunity to watch Endeavour fly away from Kennedy Space Center one last time.

Endeavour on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flying by

While I didn’t get a picture of her, astronaut Kay Hire was there and greeted everyone lined up in front waiting for a good view.

I finally put the photos up today. I think they came out a little better this time around then the pictures of Discovery’s departure. This time I used a different lens, a 300mm with a wider aperture instead of a 100-400mm . The aperture helped to get better quality pictures, but the focal length prevented getting the whole orbiter or its carrier in the picture when they were on the runway. On the positive side, the names if the crew of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft are readable in a few of the pictures. They are below the cockpit of the 747. There was more haze in the air this time, so some pictures lacked contrast. I did what I could, but it made ISO 200 look more like 1600.

I learned that Tom the bus driver still works there. He still talks a lot, and he gets easily distracted by alligators.

They also started to charge for parking at the visitor center. I suppose that unwelcome change was inevitable.

Fun at Brickcon

October 4, 2010
The Space theme table at Brickcon

The Space theme table at Brickcon

I enjoyed myself this year at Brickcon in Seattle. There were many wonderful Lego models, toys, and minifigures, as well as great people. I attended with my brother, who let me stay at his place and who’s wife picked me up at the airport. Thanks!

I took a total of 1508 pictures using a few different lighting techniques. That doesn’t count what I deleted on the spot because I knew the offending picture was bad. It took several hours to convert them all (finished while I wrote the rest this post) to JPEG format to more quickly review them. I’ll post the good images to Flickr over the next several weeks. I’ll leave most of the discussion of the items at the show for the pictures. I used a remote trigger with my flash along with a small softbox, although during the public exhibition I more often had the flash on the camera. It was during those times when I was asked by a few people if I was the official Brickcon photographer.

I got stuck several times around the space-themed displays while taking pictures mostly because I liked the classic space Lego sets best when I was a kid. While the flimsy guard rails were being put up around the tables before the exhibition was opened to the public on Saturday, I was on the outside of the tables (where the public was supposed to be) taking pictures, but I was very close and using my macro lens. After taking a few pictures, I looked around and realized that I was within guard rails that weren’t there when I started taking the pictures.

Professor Waverly's hallway

Professor Whateverly’s hallway

Then I started taking pictures from the inside, where the exhibitors are usually sittings, and talked to several of the builders. One of them, Ley Ward (Professor Whateverly on Flickr) built the second highest, and the second or third tallest, structure in the exhibit hall. It included several vertical hallways with a hexagonal shape. He saw me taking pictures of a couple small detached hallway sections it, so he brought down one of the hallways so that I could take some pictures down their interior length.

On Friday night, the nearby Lego store had a sale that allowed Brickcon registered attendees to purchase items with damaged boxes for half off. They have a drawing to determine who gets to pick an item and when that is done in such a way that no one knows the exact ordering until briefly before the picking of Lego sets begins. I went first for the first round and last on the second. It was a great way to pick up a Mindstorms kit and other assorted items. I managed to fit everything, including a Power Miners set I won in one of the many drawings at the convention, into my baggage. I have since been surprised by how well the motors that come with Mindstorms NXT 2.0 can double as phallic symbols.

My brother let me use his parts to make an entry for the wacky racer competition. In fact, he insisted I build one. I gave it four wheels, larger ones in back, and a horse riding near the back of the vehicle. The horse had a steering wheel in front of it, a lever to one side, and a carrot and a cup on the other side. It wore an armored head dress with a whip attached that was pointed to a minifigure. The figure was one of the knights with a very worried face, but without a weapon. It was holding onto a cart-pulling piece that placed it in front of the vehicle and above the ground. My vehicle didn’t get very far, but I thought it was funny.

My brother entered several wacky racers; the one that did the best was a single wheel with a minifigure that looks a bit like the Stig tied to the wheel. It was the first to hit the wall on the other side of the ramp. But it did too well and bounced backwards from the wall causing it to lose to another that didn’t bounce back as much.

On the way home, I met up with the guy who made a large and impressive Mechagodzilla model complete with many moving parts. He was waiting on a different flight out of Seattle. My first flight took me to Detroit, but I thought it might stop short because two people had medical trouble that was noticed one hour before the flight’s arrival. It seems that one woman was far too short on sugar; I knew there was a good reason for me to drink Mountain Dew. The event made me wonder how quickly a flight can be diverted and what criteria is used to determine when to land somewhere other than the intended destination.

I had three to four hours in the Detroit airport before my next flight. At first, I thought that at least I got a flight in the same terminal, not that I needed it, but then realized the terminal had around sixty gates and I had to travel more than half of it. On the way, I found that it is a very attractive and interesting looking airport. I used my layover time to get out my camera and take some pictures. The Detroit airport doesn’t have free internet access like the Seattle one does, or at least doesn’t bother to mention it, so it was good to have something else to do other than try to nap.

Quest for a Boba Fett minifigure

August 15, 2010
A large mural made of Lego

People participating in making this large mural received a Bobo Fett Lego minifigure.

My brother informed me that he wanted a Boba Fett Lego minifigure and that they were handing them out at the fifth Star Wars Celebration convention, which was to take place in Orlando. These things don’t often happen close enough for me to drive to them. I decided to attend yesterday (Saturday) and get lots of pictures of costumes. After all, if I just got the minifigure, it would be a very expensive minifigure. Instead, it is just expensive: $60 admission ticket, $32 gasoline, $12 crappy lunch, $8 dinner, and plenty of driving.

Boba Fett

Boba Fett

I managed to get 1208 pictures filling 23.6GB, including plenty of costumes and Lego creations, and drained a camera battery before I finished. I even got sore shoulders and knees. I did also get the minifigure, but I don’t have a picture of it yet. There were quite a few people in Boba Fett costumes, a Boba Fett made of Lego, and a guy who’s Boba Fett costume was made largely of Lego. It’ll take me a while to go through all those pictures. As usual, most aren’t worth keeping, but that is why I take so many. It must have taken my computer six hours or so to produce JPEG images from the Canon specific CR2 image files I brought home. I have my doubts that the software Cannon supplies does the conversion in an efficient manner.

An AT-AT made of Lego from GFLUG

An AT-AT made of Lego from GFLUG

The Greater Florida Lego Users Group (GFLUG) had a huge display of some great models. I found it much more interesting than what the Lego company brought because of the number of models and the size of their minifigure scale city. I think the city was called a “blended Coruscant”, which evidently means some Star Wars models put on buildings modeled after Tampa.  I spent a lot of time circling their display and taking pictures. They had pirates, city dwellers, and Batman minifigures mixed in, and Santa, too. There was one minifigure that looked like Leeloo from the Fifth Element, which I didn’t expect since it isn’t an official Lego product.

I tried to get some use of my flash unit, but it is a tricky thing to get right without harsh light wrecking the picture. It seems that, without a diffuser, the best approach is to use flash compensation to limit the brightness of the flash, and not use the flash on reflective objects. I spent plenty on a zoom lens that is good for available light photography indoors, but when a flash works well it often improves the image. A camera upgrade could help now, too, but I’m not going to spend the money just yet. Someone had a backpack with PVC pipe holding a flash with a diffusing umbrella above him and used a radio trigger. I think that might work quite well.

Slave Leia

This post has little to do with slave Leias, but we can't have Star Wars conventions without them.

The Lego bricks are reflective enough that the flash was often detrimental, so it didn’t get much use at the GFLUG booth. I knelt to get pictures with a low perspective at the booth, but because of the guard rail around it I couldn’t put an elbow on a knee to help steady the camera. I needed some more height, so I ended up standing on my knees. I’ll have to put knee pads on my list of photographic equipment to get.

I was surprised by how many people had DSLR cameras, but they usually had entry level or old stuff. I thought the cheap digital cameras would have prevented such a showing. It is a good sign, though, as they’ll help keep my photography hobby costs down through economies of scale.

Jadzia Dax with a storm trooper

Jadzia Dax with a storm trooper

I was also surprised by one person wearing a Star Trek costume. Not a t-shirt, mind you, but a complete costume. It wasn’t the most elaborate costume, but it was at a Star Wars convention.

I have yet to wear a costume to one of these conventions, but I did wear a t-shirt with the old Lego space man/organization symbol on it. No one at the GFLUG booth mentioned it, but I got the impression that the guy in the Boba Fett costume made with Lego took notice. He seemed to be one of the GFLUG members. I also got complements on the shirt from a couple people working at the official Lego booths, a rebel pilot, and several other people. One of them even took my picture. That was different.

Other interesting shirts I noticed included yellow uniform from the original series of Star Trek, an Atari logo, and one for Weird Al’s tour featuring “The Saga Begins”.

TOM, the KSC bus driver

February 14, 2010

I went to the Kennedy Space Center last week to watch an Atlas V launch the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The closest spot to view Atlas launches from pad 41 without some special arrangement is the Apollo Center, about 5.4 miles or 8.7 kilometers away. To get there, I had to take a bus from the main visitor center.

The TOM was the bus driver. He introduced himself as a space nut; emphasis should be placed on nut. He talked the whole time he drove, telling several stories and factoids. I didn’t mind it at all. It was a good break from the videos I kept seeing a day earlier when I came for the first launch attempt. Those videos wanted to tell me that I couldn’t imagine certain things. Even stranger was the device someone at NASA was (is?) working on using the latest in aviation technology to tell parents when they leave their kids in their car. They didn’t tell me that I cannot imagine what the stupid-parent-alarm needs that wasn’t available as an off-the-shelf component ten years ago, but I just can’t until I start thinking about how to make it needlessly complex. I should hope most parents are responsible enough not to need such a device.

The TOM kept me from the dull videos, which was nice even though he repeated a few details at least three times. I didn’t mind that he kept using the phrase “the whole wide world.” Then he stopped the bus, but didn’t open the door. He kept talking. Other buses arrived behind us and unloaded, but he kept talking. The TOM didn’t shut up and open the door for five minutes after the bus arrived.

The TOM had only once joked that his name was an acronym. Clearly it stands for Terribly Obnoxious Man. I wanted to get a good view of the Atlas V launch, something the TOM knew was happening, but he was not helping.

The Morikami Visit

September 13, 2009


I visited The Morikami last Friday for their Sushi and Stroll event with a few friends. They have a small exhibition hall for art work that was showing items depicting the human form. They also have a rather large and well kept set of gardens with beautiful landscaping. Then, I attended an evening performance of Ronin Taiko. They played music using a traditional Japanese drums in the traditional wadaiko method. It is just as visual with the performers’ motion as it is aural.

Ronin Taiko

Ronin Taiko

I took lots of pictures, but found that I need to improve my technique. Many of the outside pictures I took earlier in the day turned out well. Later, I was dealing with little light and had trouble. I have found that flash photography is more difficult with my new DSLR camera than with simple point & shoot cameras. I also depended too much on the camera for exposure settings during the Ronin Taiko concert. I’ve got an idea how to take better pictures next time.

I’ve uploaded the pictures of Ronin Taiko to Flickr and will be uploading the rest of the pictures over the next week or so.

The Barret-Jackson auction when seen as a car show

April 12, 2009

I went to the auction this weekend to look at the interesting cars rather than to buy something other than Mountain Dew. There were lots of great looking cars. Old ones, new ones, exotic ones, and odd ones. I took over 600 pictures in two days. I would have liked to have gotten a history lesson in the development of the combustion engine or suspensions using some of the examples there, but that wasn’t what the event was about. I’m sure there were people on hand with all the knowledge, though.

Sold in the auction on Saturday was the Batmobile, as seen in one of the earlier movies without Adam West. It turns out that the Batmobile is a 1973 Buick Gotham Cruiser. I like how next to where the gas goes is a label that reads, in quotes, “JET FUEL”. The quotes are very important since you’re supposed to use your imagination rather than real jet fuel. The car went for $110,000.

In the odd category was a 1959 BMW 600 Limousine. It is a small car shaped like a short loaf of bread. Its most distinctive feature is its front door; no hood or engine in front of the driver, just a door.

In the building where they collected tickets, Ford and GM were attempting to sell their new stuff. GM just had several cars around and a couple people to sell t-shirts. Ford had lots of cars, mostly Mustangs, a number of people to answer questions, and a stage setup with two Mustangs for a simulated drag race. GM’s display felt dead by comparison, especially when the sound of those Mustangs spinning their wheels on stage reverberated through the building.

At the other end of the fair grounds, the Ford/GM competition continued, this time with cars going around a short track. I drive Ford’s V6 Mustang around the track, and wasn’t much impressed. The suspension seemed to work well enough, but I didn’t get the acceleration I expected from a muscle car. The Ford representative who was in the car with me touted the engine as a powerful one, delivering 210HP, and seemed to think I might need to be extra careful because of that. I decided not to mention that the car I own delivers just 13HP less, and didn’t heed his warning. At the start of my run through the track, I floored the accelerator pedal, and . . . wait for it . . . wait . . . got some power. There was a noticeable delay, no more than a quarter of a second, before the throttle responded. It was like the car was asking me if I was sure I wanted to accelerate. My brother, a former Mustang owner, tells me that is normal. When Honda gave their 2006 Civic Si the same kind of throttle lag, there were lots of complaints. Honda almost eliminated the lag with a firmware update that was included on the 2007 models and made available to the 2006 owners. Ford evidently thinks the lag is perfectly fine since they have left it in the Mustang for a few years now. Anyway, I’ll keep my Civic. The driving experience on my way home was better. I probably shouldn’t disclose the details.

Ford did do better with their F-150 Raptor ride. A professional driver took me for a trip on an off-road course that included some fast turns and ramps. The truck would get airborne after flying over the last dirt ramp. While on the ride, I kept wondering how the truck didn’t fly off the track, and how it survived all those jumps. It was like a roller coaster ride. Overall, the truck and the driver were quite impressive. I stick to the roads, though, so no sale. If that should change, I’ll need to look at something like that Raptor. I fear I might roll an average truck; turns are just too much fun.

After that, I went to the GM side. I was the second to last person allowed in for the day, which was a good thing. GM was a bit more careful who they allowed to drive; everyone had to take a breath test for alcohol. Such drinks were served at the event, and both Ford and GM used the same track, so I’m puzzled as to why Ford didn’t also do such a test if GM is doing it for liability reasons.

First, I drove the Solstice. It had a four cylinder turbo-charged engine with 240HP and handled well on the track. Some people at the event seem to discount the car because it doesn’t have at least six cylinders, but power is what accelerates. It also did not have throttle lag, although, like all the cars I got to drive at the event, it had an automatic transmission. I’m not a big fan of them, but it makes sense for such an event.

Next, I drove the Camaro. I think it was the 2010 model. It had a good bit more power than the Mustang I tried, although Ford does make more powerful models. The Camaro handled well, accelerated well, and didn’t have throttle lag. I’m not used to its long fairly level hood, but I’d only have trouble with the limited visibility in traffic, and I’m sure I’d cope. I can’t say I’m a fan of its looks; it’s like an evil car for a villain. A villain who needs speed will not be disappointed.

Finally, I was treated to one of the last rides on the Corvettes for the day. Three were on the track and ran it together, like a race. Naturally, this was done by professional drivers. I don’t know if they were using a special model of the Corvette that GM doesn’t sell for use on public roads. Whatever model it was, it gave an incredible ride with the help of a driver who knew how to use it. The drivers were having a little extra fun at the end of the track because by this time they were the only ones on it. Lots of power and plenty of traction. I could see myself enjoying one of these if I ever have money to burn.

It seems Ford had the better marketing, but GM brought the better cars. Unfortunately, a better product isn’t enough. GM may pass away, but I still won’t get a Mustang.

False Steps

The Space Race as it might have been

You Control The Action!

High Frontier

the space colony simulation game

Simple Climate

Straightforwardly explaining climate change, so you can read, react and then get on with your life.