Stars, Sails - the Parallax View
A family of astronomers at sea... coming soon to a galaxy near you...
Spring ahead
Heather / sunny and 72F
03/11/2013, Fort Myers, FL

This is the week... After a wonderful but too-short visit from Derek's mom (we are in the market for a queen-sized comfortable daybed, now!), after the Irish music session Sunday evening at TP Hoolihan's, Monday evening we're hosting a smallish group for after-work chatter and food, then Tuesday is haircut day for Heather and also Womynfolke practice (a cappella women's singing group at our church. Really fun!), then Wednesday is Irish Session and farewell to John B, a wonderful accordion player who is moving out to the LA area, then Thursday morning is the "point" of having the haircut: Heather's job interview (well, a sample lesson, actually, since the point I guess is for the committee to see whether I can teach physics), and oh yeah, dance class in the evening: Derek is doing something more professional, Thursday is Colloquium for him. And after that? Friday if Heather still has any brain cells left she will finally get her whistle lesson (yay), and Saturday the 16th we're hosting a chili cook-off and "St. Practice Day Party." Then Sunday is... well, Ian and then Wolfhound playing Irish music all day at TP Hoolihan's. Best St Paddy's lineup in several years, for us, I think (keeping in mind that the Bahamas has only limited Irish trad venues and that's where we were last year)!

[Heather] Have to say, it has been so much fun practicing at these sessions and with Trina for whistle lessons, we got here in August and so it's been about seven months, and although at first I was pretty tentative about bodhran playing, it's gotten to be a HUGE amount of fun! With whistle I am still shy about playing in public because I don't trust my pacing, but I will play slower airs at the drop of a hat (like Carrickfergus or Si Bheag Si Mhor), and even occasionally start a jig or reel in "slow session" (the teaching/learning hour every second Sunday before regular session starts).

Finally, I have to learn to do something lower-key at session when asked to sing; I'm used to "performing" for a crowd that wants attitude as well as high-volume sound, and session singing does not have to be that way (and in fact I gather it's less annoying and more musician-ly if it isn't that way!) Ah, things to learn. Then there's a boat to clean...

Grant is doing well, taking another round of tests for his Calvert program and we've been in the process of applying to local schools for fall (he starts high school this fall). The private school had a testing session and he did very well, especially in math and spatial reasoning, and I registered him for the International Baccalaureate program at the public school of our first choice (Fort Myers High), but all of that is up to the committee that does school assignments, and if he goes to the private school (which is incredibly close to where we live, and is an excellent college preparatory school) the assignment would be moot, anyway.

Derek has started a colloquium series and has lined up speakers for the initial semester of it -- each Thursday. Speakers come from all of the sciences relevant to the Whitaker Center, so there are marine toxicologists and physicists and biologists... really a fun idea, and we are hoping that attendance improves as word of mouth spreads. He's also completed and shepherded through the publication process a single-author paper on a mechanism he decided was promising for providing the "extra" energy to the atmospheres of "hot Jupiters," exoplanets close to their primary star which exhibit more heating than expected. He'll be doing some more models and presenting the new results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in June (which, delightfully, is in Indianapolis, breaking the pattern of having summer meetings in really hot places -- OK, that pattern was actually broken last June, when the venue went from June in Las Cruces, NM 2011 to June in Anchorage, AK 2012! And the future lineup looks very temperate). He's also teaching physics, which he enjoys greatly, although I do confess I felt some sympathy for his students when he commented, while holding a volume of The Feynman Lectures, "I'm going to do this the way Feynman does it, it's better than the way their textbook does it, and that way they can see two different methods."
Feynman never expected THIS!

Some Sunny, Some Gray, February Slides Past
Heather / cloudy and 68F
02/25/2013, Fort Myers, FL

Ah, like the gently flowing Caloosahatchee, a month slides past without moving the boat... but of course we have these good intentions. Just not a lot of time to carry them out. The weather has been alternately cloudy and sunny, cool and warm. Today the weather cam overlooking our marina shows this:

Which sums it up well, clouds and a hint of sun.

Things we need to do re: boat
1) CLEANING!!! Exterior needs complete clean & polish
2) Dinghy repair: leak developed in front tube, needs to be found and patched.
3) CLEANING!!! Grab a bucket, your bleach and a hazmat suit, it's time to clean out the fridge...
3) haul, power wash, bottom paint
4) relocate to a less costly marina

This is just what's bugging *me* at the moment, Derek maybe has his own list with some specific maintenance items.

Aside from the boat, we are excited about a first visit from Grandma, and planning for Grant's next school year.

A Sad Month
Heather / sunny and 68F / SE 5
01/24/2013, Fort Myers, FL

It has been a sad month.

Derek's mother and father spent Christmas Day with us in our new home, and Derek drove his Dad around the campus to show him his office and his new university. That was fun and wonderful. Four days later, his father was golfing with his usual friends, hit an excellent drive, and suffered a massive stroke.

Eleven days after that, Derek's father passed away in hospice. Derek and his mother were both there at his passing.

His memorial mass will be on February 1.

Derek's father was trained in Hungary as a (forestry) civil engineer. He came to the USA with almost nothing and put himself through Harvard for graduate school in (soils hydrology) civil engineering while learning English. Here are some pictures of the projects Derek's father built in his long life:

The Tarbela Dam
tarbela was for decades the largest earth-fill dam on the planet. It's visible from orbit.
The Tarbela Dam is the largest earth-fill dam on the planet by extent, and second largest by volume. It's naked-eye visible from orbit, but let's use a satellite:
from space

The Yacyreta Dam between Paraguay and Argentina:
Yacyreta dam on the Parana river.

Geotechnical soils/foundations design for Shihmen Dam and reservoir, Taiwan (taken in 1963, the year before the dam's completion):
Shihmen Dam and reservoir and today:
Shihmen dam from Govt Taiwan's

The Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 near Boulder:
Eisenhower tunnel entrance

And one of his last, The Charleston Aquarium (2008):
Charleston Aquarium rebuild 2008 from the land side

Plus geotechnical design, analysis, testing, rehabilitation and geotechnical engineering supervision of construction of more dams and reservoirs, support structures for railroads (Metro North, Oak Point Link), airports, tunnels, bridges, ports (hello, Skagway, AK and Port Everglades, FL!), piers (1000-foot pier at Pearl Harbor, for example), highways (PR-2 connecting San Juan to Ponce) and drydocks (Portsmouth Drydock 2, testpond and railway at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and drydock on Kwajalein, for example) all over the world, including a replacement wharf designed to resist strong earthquakes in San Antonio, Chile.

If you have traveled any of these places in safety, thank an engineer :-)

Merry Christmas!
Heather / clear and 61F / SE 3
12/25/2012, Fort Myers, FL

merry christmas
With thanks to the Sayle family of Nantucket for Billy's beautiful Christmas catboat

Wishing all of our friends and family a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year!

-- Derek, Heather and Grant

The Ebbing Tide of Boxes
Heather / sunny and 77F / NE 3
12/15/2012, Fort Myers, FL

Ahh, it's getting better. There's been a lot to do -- there was a small lake around the pool pump and we had to have both gaskets (seals) replaced, they were crumbling away. Reconnecting the cable (to be able to post on this blog, for example, or do grading online) also required a technician visit from Comcast -- apparently when the previous owners switched to satellite, the cable was disconnected over at the box -- well, that never occurred to us last weekend when we were trying to get it working and couldn't. It was a cable coming out of the ground, we had no idea where the other end was connected. Now I know where the box is, anyway :-)

And speaking of boxes, the living room was full of empty and broken-down boxes, and more large wardrobe boxes stuffed with packing paper, waiting for Wednesday. Around here, Wednesday is Recycyle Day. On Tuesday night, therefore, Derek dragged and carried boxes -- packing boxes -- broken down for the most part (a lot of those), but also standing tall and full of white packing paper, along with some truly mammoth bags of white packing paper, to the curb in our driveway. It made an impressive pile. Then it started to rain. It thundered, it poured. Our recycling was started in its journey toward becoming paper pulp again. Wednesday morning, therefore, Heather went out to check the pile and was immediately told by two dog-walking neighbors and the lady next door (Hillary! Thanks!) that the trash/recycle company would refuse any box that was not broken down. What???!

Back inside to call the company. Yes, all boxes must be broken down, and, unbelievably, packing paper is not recyclable, it's trash. Are you kidding me??!!!

Back out to the mountain of white packing-paper stuffed boxes, with a small knife and some trash bags. A 13-gallon trash bag is nothing to these mounds of sodden but clean white paper! Drag the mammoth clear plastic bag stuffed with packing paper (it once contained a large TV) back up the driveway, this paper is going to have to wait in the scant shelter of the house wall until next Monday's trash pickup, apparently. And start breaking down boxes with my trusty knife... Derek, already dressed for work, even comes out and starts helping in this hurried effort (the recycle truck is coming! It's one street away -- we can hear it). Then finally we have to give up because there is just too much white packing paper and we'd need 100 of those 13-gallong bags to hold it -- we drag the upright wardrobe boxes back up to the wall to await Monday, and Derek, a bit hot and annoyed at the non-recyclable-white-packing-paper policy, drives off for work. I finish up with the boxes and go back inside.

Ten minutes later, doing laundry in the garage, I hear the truck in our street, and I race out of the garage. The truck is loading recycling from next door. I say hi and apologize for the huge mound of flattened boxes, and I say we were surprised that the company would not recycle packing paper, so that's why there's a huge pile of boxes and bags of packing paper at the wall by the house. I must have been babbling a little, I guess. The driver seems to be listening, then he gestures to the boxes he's picking up and tossing into his truck. He says, "you should tie." Then he gestures up our driveway to the boxes full of paper, the giant bags of paper, and he says, "Bring all. I take." Oh my goodness!

This guy is seriously getting a great Christmas present!

So I dragged all the bags and paper-fulled soggy wardrobe boxes back down the driveway while the recycle guy continued working on the pile of broken-down boxes at the curb; when he switched to the wardrobe boxes full of paper, he got the truck's little arms to pick them up and drop them into the hopper, then he'd crush them into his truck, returning an empty hopper for more bags and boxes of paper. He gestured to the boxes and bags now at the curb, and said, "Six feet." OK, got that, please put all recycling and trash within six feet of the curb, even if that means it blocks the entire driveway :-)

After a cheery wave (no reindeer), he rumbled off to the next house, taking at least one quarter of BoxPocalypse with him! Bless that man. I was hot and sticky and I still had to vacuum the pool, so I headed out back to hook up the hoses to the pump and start that.

Slower is better in pool vacuuming, you will just roil up the debris if you go fast, and it won't get sucked into the hose if that happens. So I Zenned my way around the pool, vacuuming in slo-mo, until I got to something in the shallow end. It was brown, elongated, looked like a small stick, but it moved, and where it had been was a red-brown stain. A nail! OMG, what was a nail doing in our pool?! I walked over to that edge and stepped on -- another nail! At least that one wasn't in the pool... it only dented my heel, as I had stepped on the side of the head rather than the pointy end. It hurt, but not too badly. But how was I going to get the nail off the bottom of the pool? Yeah, I know, I'm standing there all overheated from moving BoxPocalypse Jr., and Zenning my way around the pool, and finally (!!!) I realized that we HAVE A POOL. D'oh! So I shuck down to briefs (hey, they don't call 'em bikini briefs for nothing, right?) and walk in to fetch that nail.

Oh, wow... we have a heated pool! This was delightful. I was cooling off and (fetching the nail) and every time I passed one of the return vents, a blast of warmer water went past -- how fun is this, in December! I could definitely get used to this!

And that is how the first swim in our pool came about. It took a rusty nail to get me in there. But that was so much fun, I'll be doing it again soon :-)

Heather / cloudy and 74F
11/28/2012, Fort Myers, FL

Well, the moving van that was supposed to come a week ago came yesterday. That's a good thing, I was a little worried when they told me they were taking our stuff off to storage until a driver could be found. It became an even better thing when the moving company lady explained that we could be compensated $150/day for late deliveries. That would help. Then the van arrived.

"Wow," said the driver, Tom, "What a beautiful house!" He was looking at the sparsely-furnished but gleaming floors and the travertine wall by the fireplace, leading out to the lanai by the pool. OK, yeah, it did look pretty good. But that was before the truck started to unload...

"Wow," said unloader Rick, "What a great place, I could really see kicking back at the end of the day by that pool! Where do you want thing number 2,847,621?"

OK, he didn't really say that last part. But it felt like it...

Now the cool and wide-open space is beset with boxes. The surprising, the VERY surprising, thing is that the garage is not full of boxes, none of the rooms are precisely full of boxes, either. This place has more space than it originally seemed to.

And with all the boxes standing around, the one box that we need -- the PARTS BOX -- is somewhere we have not found. Yes, that box in which they put all the connectors that hold together furniture the movers took apart. That box. Is it among the myriad book boxes in the garage? Is it INSIDE something else???

We don't know. We can only seek -- and pray. Because if we do not find it pronto, we are going to have to go through ALL The stuff looking for that parts box. And despite the existence of open space in the garage, there are three hundred boxes of books (according to Driver Tom). To find the parts box, we might just have to shift them all...

Thanksgiving Sarasota
Heather / sunny and 76F / NW 10
11/25/2012, Fort Myers, FL

Spent Thanksgiving with Grandma and Grandpa in Sarasota, with a wonderful dinner provided by Grandma, who swears it is the last time... next year in Fort Myers! That would make us really happy, too, to be able to return their hospitality with a fun feast -- next year!

We also celebrated Grandpa Laci's birthday (a little early). Pictures to follow in a few days when the moving van has come and gone...

We voted... Bounty... and cruiser update
Heather / cloudy and 61F / NE 10
11/07/2012, Fort Myers, FL

First, the obligatory sticker/button:
we voted

That is something that would have taken a lot more planning were we still underway, so a plus! And no, it's not as much fun as being in the Caribbean, but it was still fun staying up late to watch the returns and the speeches.

Second, Iris and Coy (M/V FantaSea) are here!!!! That's very cool. We got together at Hoolihan's for the Irish session before Iris went back up to Pensacola for more work, and now she's baaaack! But we are going to avoid Irish sessions and just see them for fun... I can't seem to concentrate on conversation when there's a session going on (blush).

Stan from Carried Away was still in Granada (3 months! It must be a great place to hold his interest for so long!) Oct 23rd but hasn't done a blog update since. He had a friend coming down to help with the next offshore leg. Much more fun than staying up solo for the whole run!

There's a Nor'easter coming, apparently, and that's a reason for a lot of cruisers to be waiting a few days wherever they are, until this thing resolves itself. I don't think anyone is taking the weather lightly after the Bounty went down trying to skirt around Sandy just over a week ago. We had an Internet one-week observance last Sunday at 6:30 pm EST.
Survivor stories are here: NYDailyNews Nov07, 2012 Bounty Survivors Recall Ordeal

Among those planning for the blow, Chris and Marisa on S/V Charisma have been heading north (wrong way, guys!!!) toward New Jersey and one of those "jobs you can't refuse" gigs, freezing their poor sun-bronzed patooties off going through locks along the way, but they are staying put in VA while whatever-it-is blows through or fizzles. Good call! That's the problem with getting used to tropical summer weather, heading north in October and early November feels like an ice-breaking voyage through the Northwest Passage:
Marisa and Chris explore the arctic wastes of Virginia

We're sad to hear that it's expected to pound the same areas that were so damaged by Sandy. A friend of Derek's has only had a couple of hours of access to her (and her father's) damaged houses since the storm. The water took everything on the ground floor, including all of the family photo albums, and now this nor'easter is coming to swat them again. Here's this morning's update on the storm, which on The Weather Channel they are calling Winter Storm Athena:
Winter Storm Athena forecast

A good thing to not head into!

The Full Monty crew are back in Beaufort for a while and probably on the hard by now, doing bottom paint and the whole list of repairs that always accumulate, waiting for the next time the boat is hauled out. We have to set that up for Parallax pretty soon, as well.

House update: The previous owner has been leasing it back from us for a two-week period so that she can finish up her job here in Fort Myers and join her husband in Miami. They are going to have a baby, how cool is that! Anyway, that means we (well, technically, guys in a moving van) will be moving our stuff SE from Colorado around the 14th-to-19th.

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S/V Parallax
Who: Derek, Heather and Grant
Port: Pensacola
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