Monday, November 30, 2009

Plus One

So a couple posts ago I told you all about my new gal Kelsey and out first date out there in San Francisco. If you recall - and I'm sure you all do as you likely pour over each of my posts to the point that it's committed to memory - that actually wasn't supposed to be our first date. She had done me the great honor of granting me the privledge of being her companion to the wedding of her (and my) friend Betsy. I guess you could say that Betsy and Kelsey were closer than, say, Betsey and I. The best evidence of this fact being that Kelsey was in the wedding and I was, ahem... uninvited. Now I've been to a few weddings in recent history, but this one was quite different because (a) it wasn't for one of my sisters, (b) I wasn't responsible for doing anything - see (a), and (c) I got to go with a gorgeous young woman. I win.

I decided to fly in a night early and try and see some old friends from my days at Lewis Cass. We all met up in Indy at Ise's bar for dinner and drinks. We had such a time talking about who knows what; I just remember I was laughing the whole time. So great to see everyone and very generous of Ise (I don't think any of us paid much, and I personally didn't pay for a thing - thanks, Deet). Definitely something we should start doing more often.

the gang

After crashing with Deeter for the night (thanks again, Deet) I headed up towards Kokomo for the wedding festivities, stopping to take care of a few errands on the way. Last being dropping off my rental car where Kelsey picked me up. We stopped off to drop our things - and by drop our things, I mean drop my bag and somehow try to corrall the unsorted contents of Kelsey's trunk together long enough to get them in the hotel (seriously, you're organized?) - before heading to the rehearsal.

The rehearsal was very smooth and quick (didn't seem to be near as many people talking at once as at the other rehearsals I've been to), but then I just had to sit in the back and keep quiet, so it's possible I slepth through a large portion. Kidding. From there it was on to a very nice rehearsal dinner at the Half Moon (?) Brewery. P.S. I had the brisket. Kelsey's parents made it over after to visit, and it was a lot fun hanging out with them and all the wedding party, family, etc.


Saturday morning I was on my own as Kelsey was off doing whatever it is bridal parties do, so I got to sleep in and catch just a little bit of football before departing for the church. The ceremony was really beautiful and everyone involved performed admirably. I was able steal a few moments with Kelsey (who looked so pretty) after the ceremony before she got whisked away with the rest of the contingency for picture time. It was at this point I should have realized how brisk and windy it was outside and offered up my jacket, but I can be pretty dense. I lose.

kelsey (on the right)

With an hour or so to kill before the reception, the Parents Brown and I found a lounge to watch a little football. Once at the reception I began to see a bunch of friendly faces from days gone by (most of which I even remembered). The food was actually excellent, and everyone seemed to be having a rollicking good time. Including Kelsey, who was officially listed in the wedding program as "Friend of the bride: bridesmaid and life of the party." I'm not making this up. Fortunately, I wasn't required to keep up with her at the reception and was free to take pictures and eat cake. We've all got to play to our strengths, right?

bride and groom

life of the party

Kelsey's parents were so kind and made a huge breakfast for us at their house the next morning. It was all delicious. Then we drove over to my parents where we would spend the larger portion of the next two days. But more on that later. Until then, there are more wedding pics here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spoiler Alert

I have the most difficult time with automated sinks. I don't know what it is about me, but I wave may hands all around and it takes forever* for it to come on. I'll even try different sinks, and look for one that is already wet so I know it's not broken. The most recent time was in the airport last week. Then it came to my mind, "I wonder if I'm a ghost like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense?" I decided likely not since I have no trouble with the automated toilets and hand dryers. Something weird about them sinks, though, man.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Strictly Bluegrass? Hardly.

The title above this text describes not only my musical preferences, but also an insanely entertaining music festival I had the pleasure of attending last month. (Guess I haven't been great at the whole blogging thing lately.) So the name of the thing is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (HSB henceforth) and has been occurring every October in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Man, what a beautiful backdrop for some great music. But first let me set the table with some backstory...

I had actually been planning on going to the music festival for a few months. I had wrangled (or so I thought) some friends into going along, but as these things tend to go, more and more were dropping out as the date neared. This is not at all meant as a judgment upon those losers who decided not to come. Actually I think the last couple got scared away by a late addition to the concert-going group. Just kidding. Kinda.

So as I alluded to in the preceding paragraph, another music-loving soul decided to go just days in advance of the concert kick-off. I had been talking to a young woman in the preceding weeks, an old friend who I had got in touch with. There remains some debate on how the whole thing started, but the important thing is we had kind of hit it off conversationally through various medium. The culmination of our repartee actually came while I was in Australia and was a gracious invite to me to accompany this beautiful young lady to a wedding later in the fall. Naturally I jumped at the chance. Actually... I kind of talked my way out of getting an invite and had to beg my way back in, but that fact is irrelevant. The point is: I got a date. Boosh.

...the downside being that the date was still months away. Well what's a few weeks compared to years of datelessness? In ever-increasing anticipation (at least on my part) of the date, we continued our conversation which led to the two of us discovering many interests we (surprisingly) had in common. Not the least of which is our taste in music. Naturally I brought up my plans to go to HSB. As my compatriots began to drop away, I casually half-jokingly (but perhaps hopefully as well) suggested that this lady might like to join me for the weekend. To my great surprise and delight, she seriously considered for about a day and then just went for it and bought a plane ticket. (Now I have to confess here that knowing her as little as I did, I did at least know she was a strong-spirited, daring person. I thought this might work in my favor helping her embrace the spontaneity of a last-minute trip across the country.)

Now that the scene is set, let's move forward to that first weekend in October. I had arranged my flights so they would arrive and leave just before and after her out and returns, respectively. And though anxiety would have been an understandable reaction (best we could figure it had been 13 years since we had seen each other - more than half her life, yikes), I can honestly say the only nerves I got were the few minutes I was awaiting her to get off her plane. Thankfully (?), her cruel joke to tell me she never made her connection as I waited shattered that state of mind. She is ornery, to be sure.

But no matter what lies were told, she did stroll shortly thereafter through the gate threshold, and we set off for a weekend of music, food, and fun. We hit it off right away (in my opinion, Kelsey, if you'd like to argue feel free - but I moderate all comments). After a short trip on the BART, we were off to Golden Gate Park to catch the opening night's festivities.

BART ride from the airport; first meeting in over a decade

It took us (read: me) a few minutes to get oriented and figure out the best public transit route (I had not found the ever so helpful Google transit yet) to the park, and we ended up getting off the bus a few blocks early, but that just meant a longer walk through the wooded trails into the center of the park. We both quickly realized western-style boots don't make the best hiking shoes. Eventually we made it to the only open stage that night (there would be up to six going at a time on Saturday and Sunday) to see John Prine and Lyle Lovett. As this was the only stage open, there were thousands of people already there filling up the entire lawn. We ended up propping ourselves against some logs on the far hillside.

I can't really remember, but I'm fairly certain we ended up hailing a cab back downtown. Bus room was hard to come by due to the thousands fleeing the park each night. Unfortunately cabs weren't easy to get as well because cabs don't really head that far west often, either. This situation would result in a perfect storm of frigidity for Kelsey the next night. The weather was amazing all weekend, sunny and warm, little wind... except Saturday night. As soon as we left the park that evening the wind picked up, gusting heavily and carrying with it some very cool air. Kelsey also picked this particular day to wear the lightest clothing she did all weekend. Already a naturally cold person, these factors combined to make it a chilly walk for her. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be a long walk as we schlepped it for more than a mile (my estimate - Kelsey will likely tell you it was more like four, but she tends to exaggerate) before finding a cab back into town. But I must admit, she was a real trooper and never complained through all her shivering.

Back to the festival though, it was just incredible. So many great acts to see (John Prine, Hayes Carll, Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Earl Keen, Old 97s, the man Todd Snider, and so many more we didn't have time to catch) set against the green meadows of Golden Gate Park with the sun shining down. Incredible I tell you. I have always dreamed about going to Telluride, but even considering it's history and cachet, I think HSB would be hard to top (I'll give it a shot though if anyone out there is interested!). On top of all that, I couldn't have had a better companion with whom to make the trip. FYI, Kelsey is pretty much the master at weaving through a crowd of thousands - literally thousands - to find the spot by the stage just big enough for two to stand. I'm serious. This happened multiple times and without fail.

Hayes Carll w/ Wade Braun of Reckless Kelly

Robert Earl Keen, Jr. (Todd came out
to sing on Corpus Chrisite Boy)

Old Crow Medicine Show

Todd w/ Great American Taxi

So Kelsey, had a short list of "must do's" for the weekend in San Francisco. We tried to knock these out Sunday morning before heading over for the last of the music festival. We rode a street trolley up to Fisherman's Wharf, where we got some sourdough and saw the seals. Then we rode the cable car back downtown before catching the cross-town bus to HSB.

seal clap

riding the cable cars, she had to be in the very front

Monday we had a full day, because someone (mistakenly) booked the red eye back to Indianapolis. But I'm glad she did since it gave us that much more time to see the city. My one regret is that we didn't get to go to all the wonderful restaurants in San Francisco. But the main reason we didn't have time is because we were wearing ourselves out at a spectacular music festival so, no biggie. We breakfasted at the delicious Cafe Kuleto. Best potatoes and grapefruit juice (and eggs Benedict I'm told) ever. Ever. I'm serious. You think potatoes are just potatoes, until... Well, yeah. They were good. Then we headed up to Fisherman's Wharf again because I thought a bus tour would be a good way to see a lot of the city in a short time. We ended only taking one of the tours even though we bought the unlimited day pass - because one bus tour is just the right amount of bus tours - but were able to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito on the loop.

double decker bus across the Golden Gate

We ended up the weekend taking the BART over to Berkeley so I could stop in at Jupiter (for pizza and beers) and whatever the gelato place is named down the street (for gelato, of course - I think I can never remember the name because my the taste sensations are occupying far too much of my brain at the time for me to be able to read).


that gelato place

From there it was back to the airport to end a, not to overstate it, magical weekend. Honestly, it was easily the best first date I've ever had. There is so much I left out because this blog is finite, and the weekend was infinitely fun. Who's in for next year?

More pics here, natch.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Short Cross-Country Flight, One Spectacular Ending To A Lot Of Hard Work

I spent last week baking in the Florida sun and combating a sever case of humidity head. The launch of the experimental Ares 1-X rocket was the culmination of the hard work of myself and many other engineers and scientists. Myself and those on my team were fortunate enough to get a gracious invite form our NASA counterparts to come watch the launch. Thanks to some last minute maneuvering from Paul B. (you the man) I was even able to get a couple important guests on site to watch the launch. Ma and Pa made the drive down from Walton to see the big firecracker go.

The first launch window was open for Tuesday morning from 8am to noon. Since we had to get there early to check in and get bussed over to the viewing site, this meant getting up at about 3am. Ugh. But get up we did. And drove into NASA to get checked in. Strangely enough, the nice lady checking us in looked at my Cass Baseball tee and my parent's IDs and said "are you all from Walton." Um, yes, we are. Turns out her niece is a Lady King. (As coincidence would have it, we met some more people at a picnic later with relatives in the area who recognized my Cass football tee. Strange.)

We were actually granted VIP access viewing (the section usually reserved for astronauts' family) which included access to all of the on site museums including the Saturn V building. So before boarding the bus to the viewing site, we kicked around the Visitor's Center where the retired rocket farm is.

rocket farm

"astronaut" at the Visitor's Center with Mom and Dad

Once at the viewing site, we staked a claim on some bleacher space and... waited. Since we were there so early, it was still a couple hours until the launch window even opened. The Vincents (sans rugrat) were actually at the same viewing site, so we were able to do some catching up whilst we passed time til launch.

The Vincents (hopefully you see one some day)

And much time would pass... There was one countdown from the 4-minute hold that ended shortly thereafter. Everything looked good to go - the national anthem was even played - before the countdown was called off due to a cargo ship approaching the splash down area! Soon after noon came without getting another chance for launch. Unfortunately for the Vincents, they would have to leave the next morning so this was their only shot at seeing it go. But we met up again with them for dinner before turning in early so we could do it all again the next day.

Since there would be no check in, we slept in another hour or so (still awful early). Wednesday played out much as Tuesday did, only I spent a significantly larger chunk of time in the Saturn V building escaping the heat and humidity. Mom enjoyed it. Things didn't look good all morning due to weather - but then a window opened up literally minutes before the window closed at noon. The countdown started up from the 4-minute hold, and to my surprise kept going... 10... 9... ... 3... 2... 1... Liftoff!

Ares 1-X liftoff!

The bright cloud of fire ignited under the engine, the rocket began lifting itself from the pad, and then just like that it was well above the pad and speeding up into the air, into and out of a nearby cloud. The Ares 1-X was much, much faster than the two shuttle launches I had seen before. It was surprising to see just how fast this one moved away from the Earth.

Ares 1-X aloft

It was really satisfying to see something that we worked really hard on go off like that. And even more so that family and friends were able to be around for it. I wish you all could have been there. Rest of the pics here.

Tuttles post-launch

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

I have a bunch of new things to post, but first I want to do a couple more about my trip to Australia. Being in a strange place, you tend to notice how even the littlest things are done just a little bit different. I found myself laughing at a lot of the signage around. I think Australians just have a little different tone than Americans, and I think it comes through in all forms of communication. So here is a compilation of some of my favorite signs during my stay.

Nathan actually pointed this one out as we waited on a bus to downtown Sydney one morning. He felt the sign was a bit antagonistic, but I pointed out the sign wasn't actually calling us chickens, rather just preparing us for some facts regarding actual chickens. I think this information would be better presented with some different punctuation.

This one is self-explanatory and probably funny in any language. Although I think there was a missed opportunity here with The Family Jewels located so close to Grab Denim. Ideally the two stores could merge into Grab the Family Jewels. (If anyone is offended, stop reading now. This is not going to be a real high brow post.)

This one wasn't the sign so much (although that is a strange-looking sign) as it is the multitude of identical signs. You'd think this place would look like Times Square with the number of pedestrian caution signs about. I fear it's more likely the result of some ridiculous litigation as Nathan and I were the only two pedestrians about.

Billboards like this were all over Sydney. Very direct, I think. However the medium seems like a poor choice as anyone answering "yes" would likely not be seeing that sign. Though that might explain the traffic.

Bizarre Hair Management. A sign like that just screams "failed business."

A new shop opening up just around the corner from Nathan and Dina. Not even Dina - a native Australian - knew what a "cheeky fun fashion haven" might be. I pray I never have to find out.

There's no way this sign flies in the States. It gets the point across though doesn't it? It's a bit contradictory to me with the obvious pictures but the politically correct "less mobile" in the text. Seen on the city buses in Sydney.

Every sign in Manly was a joke waiting to happen. And I think Nathan made them all.

Judging by what I saw, this bottle of water speaks on behalf of all Australia.