Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fasching Karnival

So I'm a little behind...what else is new?  :-)  
Here are pictures from the Fasching Karnival at the Rilke Schule German Immersion School in February.  
Here is Blake proudly displaying his Karnival hat.  
Fishing for prizes.  Everyone is a winner!   Cedric going for a goal in hockey. Blake scored a goal on the first try!   This is a picture of Katherine and Blake.  They've been friends since they were babies.  If you don't know the story, Katherine declared Blake was his boyfriend when they were 3 years old and has not let go.  This picture is so funny because Blake looks so devious.  Mostly, he's been worn down by Katherine over the last 1 1/2 years.  LOL   Blake getting his face painted.   Woooooofffff!! Cedric getting his face painted. He wanted Spiderman, but they couldn't do it so he opted for a pretty rainbow.   When I first saw this game, I wasn't so sure about it.  Let's see....put sharp darts into the hands of young children.  It just seemed a little dangerous for everyone around.  The kids did fine, though and even popped a few balloons. The football throw.   Here is Cedric making it through both hoops.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The boys...sweet to crazy to calm

Here are a few pictures of Cedric and Blake....from sweet to crazy to calm.  
Sweet Cedric in his Cub Scout uniform.
Two sweet dudes with Mama and Dada's sunglasses on.   Oh yea!  I'm soooo cool and tough! Blake's tough look!  Kung Fu Panda style! The boys looking cool! Cedric and Blake love their yoga for kids DVD.  Here they are doing the beginning breathing pose.  There is nothing like yoga to calm even the craziest and busiest boys.    Triangle pose....
Tree pose takes lots of focus....and practise.
My favorite.....child's pose.  They look so sweet and calm.  Ahhhhhh.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hurricane Hunter Flight

Wednesday, Feb 11th, I had the flight of my life.  Two colleagues of mine and I took a ride with the Hurricane Hunters.  Instead of flying through Hurricanes, we flew over the edge of the Bering Sea ice pack, down over the Aleutian Islands, then east of Kodiak Island.  The views were breathtaking once we were far enough west where skies were partly to mostly sunny.  The following are a small fraction of the pictures I took.  It was so hard to narrow it down. 
Here is a side view of the P3 Department of Commerce NOAA Hurricane Hunter plane.  The black apendage under the front of the plane and in the nose house onboard doppler radars.  
The plane was called "Miss Piggy".   Here is a picture of a few of the onboard sensors located under the right wing.  
I still haven't figured out how to make images stay upright on my mac, so you'll just have to turn your head sideways to view us in our gumby survival suits.  The goal is to get into these suits in under 2 minutes because you will be lucky to have that much warning in the event of a water ditching.  We managed to get them on in 1 minute 50 seconds and as soon as that hood went up, we were sweating like crazy.  On the one hand it was a very uncomfortable and claustrophic feeling....on the other hand, it was reassuring that they were indeed so increadibly warm.  We practiced putting on a life jacket over the gumby suits.  If I thought putting the suit on was hard, maneuvering a life vest over it seemed impossible.  Somehow we all did it.  My colleagues managed to zipper their life vests;  I was happy to secure a single buckle.  Apparently, there is also a strap that goes between the legs. in the world would I hook that up with my extra large 3 fingered gloves?  I just hoped the plane stayed in the air.  
Here we are smiling under the decals showing 77 hurricanes flown, including Katrina and Andrew, as well as all the countries they have done work for.  None of us knew what to expect from the flight.  We just hoped it was smooth with clear skies and perfectly working equipment.    Turns out that is pretty much what we got.  How lucky is that?   The airplane had stations at every seat where you can monitor all the weather and aircraft data being collected. There were screens showing the height of flight, ground speed, pitch, air temperatures, etc; cameras looking out from the nose of the airplane, down to the ground, and out the sides of the plane; radars in the nose and underneath the airplane; and GPS tracking showing our track and progress. The below image is just before we took off. We were on Runway 7. I got to listening to the conversation between the controllers and the pilots, because there were also headsets at every station.  
Our departure pattern courtesy of GPS tracker.  Yes, that is a car symbol on there.  It is a GPS for cars after all.  
Ahhhh.  The clouds broke as we headed west towards Bethel.  This is what southwest Alaska looks like in the winter.   Here we are on the GPS tracker. 
Several dropsondes were released during the flight.  The top tube is for dropsonde only releases.  The lower chute called the "Free Fall Chute" is for the larger buoy and for dropsondes released at the same time.   Our first ice pictures of Bering Sea pack ice.  Isn't it beautiful?  
I really liked the jigsaw puzzle pattern of this ice.   Here is a picture looking from the back of the plane to the cockpit.  The cockpit was open for us to hang out in...ask people questions....and take pictures.  In fact, we were asked to go into the front of the plane for taxing to and from the runway because the extra weight was needed to help with traction and steering the front wheel.  It was so weird to be unbuckled and free during the taxi phase of a flight after a lifetime of flying commercially and following all the rules to keep the seatbelt buckled until the seatbelt sign is turned off.  More ice...different texture with this patch.  It looks a little more opaque.   I like looking at the ridges in this one.  I can imagine Shackelton and his crew navigating similar icy terrain during his wayward adventure in the Antartic.   Here's where we are in this part of the trip.  I wish all flights had this onboard navigator.  As we got to open water, you could see the ice undulating with the waves.  The wave action broke the ice up into smaller pieces.  
This is a close up of the ice riding the waves as we got closer to the edge of the ice pack.  
Now, this is my favorite picture.   Open water.  This is the first phase of the trip.  We made several passes north and south along the edge of the ice pack.   A little ice buildup on the front of the wing. A little ice also accumulated on top of the prop engines.   This is as clear as the Aleutian Islands get.  I can't believe our luck!   Nevermind that blue line jagging off to the southwest. We didn't jump into WARP hyperdrive or anything.   It's just a GPS error.   Another Aleutian Island picture taken from the south side.  If you look close you can see the lights from a couple of fishing boats. is the coolest part.  I got to release the dropsonde into the free fall chute.  The dropsonde scientists gave me the 1 minute signal and instructed me to throw the dropsonde.  When it came time, the pressure difference between the airplane and the outside air sucked the dropsonde right from my hand.  No problem at all.   Next to go down the free fall chute was the temporary buoy that would unfurl line to measure the temperature of the ocean at a depth of 1200 feet.  The buoy was encased in a four foot long casing.  When the scientist opened the hatch, the buoy was sucked out with a giant slurping sound. Barry, the Senior Meteorologist and liason/coordinator for the flight, looks at real time data with the NESDIS (NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service) scientists on board the aircraft.   Our final flight track.  The two blue lines that dart to the southwest were GPS errors.  The rest is correct.  What an awesome flight and an incredible adventure.   Here is a picture of two screens in front of our seats showing our GPS location on the left and right at touchdown on runway 7 at Anchorage International Airport.  The mission was successful!