Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Minnesota Zoo 2015 Part II

More from the Minnesota Zoo! See the last post for the beginning.

Our next stop after the Russian plains was especially popular with the children--the Hanifl Family Wild Woods Play Area. Built into the side of a hill, it has plenty of slides and an exciting variety of ways to climb back up.

The highest/best part of the play area

At the bottom of the slide

Climbing back up

Over the first obstacle

Back at the top

The mega-twister slide

Not sure if they can handle the mega-twister

After a long time at the play area (which just opened in July, so it was immensely popular anyway), we went on to the Wells Fargo Family Farm, a simulation of a classic American farmstead. It started with a nice, shady orchard.


American farm, brought to you by Wells Fargo

The favorite spot on the farm was the goat and sheep barn, though that had mostly goats. We didn't get to feed the goats but there was plenty of petting and brushing going on.

Petting a brown one

More petting

Brushing one who couldn't get away

Who will pet me?

Enjoying the shade

Enjoying the food

The farm also had exhibits on cows.

Enjoying a snooze

On our way back up the hill from the farm, the cousins held hands.

A cute moment

Who's gonna hold my hand?!?

Next we saw the dholes, some dog-like animals from Asia. Their exhibit included a shaded viewing stand from which we saw these fearsome creatures.

Sunning themselves

Playing possum?

Looking for joke-making bloggers

At this point it was time to go home, so we took one last look at the moose and tigers on our way out.

I'm a caribou, not a moose!

Yet another shy animal

The last of the shy animals

Farewell, fair cousin!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Minnesota Zoo 2015 Part I

During our summer visit to Minnesota we made a trip to the zoo. The Minnesota Zoo is located just outside the Twin Cities. We arrived and saw the rather sparse entrance, which was not an indicator of how full the zoo is.

Minnesota Zoo entrance

Buffalo close up

Our first view of real live animals was of the monkey pit at the lakeside terrace.

Monkeys on logs

A parent dry-washing a child

The wet wash

Nearby was the food court, where we had lunch, and the 3M Penguins of the African Coast (I guess they are not allowed to say Penguins of Madagascar unless the exhibit was sponsored by Dreamworks Animation).

African Penguin hangout

We left Africa for Russia's Grizzly Coast by way of the Central Plaza, which was more of a central market place to buy tchotchkes and any clothing you may not have packed.

Central market plaza

Your destination up ahead, the Grizzly Coast!

The bears started out ferocious and downgraded very quickly.

Looks scary, but it might have been a yawn

Lazing in the sun

Snoozing in the shade

Why isn't there a comic book superhero team based on this?

As the sign above hinted, there's more than just bears in Russia's Grizzly Coast. We saw leopards and tigers too.

Photo-shy leopard

Tiger also photo-phobic

Of course, they have more than just predators. We saw plenty of prey as well, including takin, bison, pronghorns, and prairie dogs.

Takin' a rest

Finally a face shot of an animal!

Pronghorns enjoying a leisurely afternoon snack

Prairie dogs, who would probably be just a snack for Russian predators

We crossed over to a deserty area with camels who gave rides to people (though that cost money and the children were not interested, so we weren't taken for a ride) and Asian wild horses who wanted freedom from people.

Camel with riders

Camels enjoying a bath

Asian wild horses looking for someone to open the gate

The next post will have the rest of the zoo, featuring an amazing playground and the Wells Fargo farm stead!

Friday, October 9, 2015

TV Review: Doctor Who Resurrection of the Daleks (1984)

Doctor Who Resurrection of the Daleks (1984) directed by Matthew Robinson, written by Eric Saward

Fifth Doctor Peter Davison is caught in a time corridor and forced to land on modern day Earth (that being 1984 London). Something weird is happening in a warehouse near the Thames. Police behave oddly and a bomb squad is babysitting a load of canisters. One soldier escapes and runs into the Doctor, who is curious to investigate, especially since one end of the time corridor is in the building. The other side of this particular corridor leads to a space station that is under attack. The station is a prison with just one prisoner in cryogenic storage--Davros, insane creator of the Daleks. The attacking ship is full of brainwashed humans who are working for...the Daleks! They want Davros for their own purposes.

The story is fairly entertaining with some good mysteries and interesting conversations about the situation between Davros and the Daleks. There's a lot of cat-and-mouse through the London warehouse and the space station--standard fare of old Doctor Who shows. The body count is pretty high in the episode, which surprised me a bit but doesn't make it a bad series. Davros himself is very shouty, making him less scary as a villain, though he makes up for that somewhat with his more calm and cunning conversations. Overall its an interesting episode but not a great one.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Review: The Sword Vol. 3 Earth by the Luna Brothers

The Sword Volume 3 Earth by the Luna Brothers

Dara Brighton's revenge continues as she hunts down the second brother, Knossos, to his meth-crafting lair in Mexico. It's another round of over-the-top violence mixed in with some back story on both Dara and the trio of siblings who killed her family. While the action vacillates between exciting and preposterous, the background stories give enough depth to the story to keep a reader engaged. Also, TV news coverage of events becomes more relevant in this issue, hinting at an apocalyptic outcome for the story in the next volume.

I found the violence a bit too ridiculous in this issue. The sword keeps Dara from dying no matter what happens to her, even when someone punches her jaw off. She just pops it back on and gets madder about things. Taking the story serious is very hard after something like that. The end brings a twist that makes it seem like the next issue won't be just another run of crazy violence, so I will finish the series off.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Goddard Open House 2015

While we were camping in Greenbelt, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center had one of its rare open houses, letting the general public come on campus and see their exciting projects.

Getting to the Center was tricky. We went to a nearby parking lot from which they were busing in visitors. The only problem was they were screening people's bags before letting them on the buses. They had four screeners and two people putting on wrist bands for the return trip. If they had flipped the people it probably would have gone faster, but they really needed at least twice as many people. There were always two to five buses waiting for people to board. We stood in line for an hour and a half!

Standing in line

The end of the line

After we got to Goddard, we were starving so we went to their grassy area which had food vendors and other booths set up. My son wanted Chick-fil-A, which was fine with me.

The Mall at Goddard

The highlight of the booths there was Tesla Motor's Model S electric car, featuring storage space in the front and back of the vehicle. No test rides were allowed but still it was a popular spot.

Tesla Motors was very popular

Nothing under the hood

The trunk closed too quickly!

We walked past the Hubble Telescope Command Center (it had a long line) and went back to Building 7 and its neighbors. A lot of the really cool science happens there. The first area we visited had displays and interactive exhibits on optics, including using lenses for magnification and lasers for studying the properties of light.

Inside Building 7

A big-faced scout

Jay Leno chin?

A big smile

Lasers in water

Bending light down the water stream

Sparkling water or laser?

We also saw a thermal vacuum chamber where the scientists ensure equipment and small satellites can withstand the rigors of outer space.

Thermal vacuum chamber

Further on is the Space Environment Simulator (SES) which does the same job for much larger objects. Originally built in the 1960s, the SES has undergone many upgrades so that it is still state of the art.

Space Environment Simulator on right

Nearby is a small clean room where scientists build smaller parts and instruments for use in space. The room is kept free of contaminants so that the instruments won't have faulty readings.

Clean room

The Wallops Flight Facility Balloon Program was showing off its equipment and explaining how they use balloons to do research and make scientific discoveries.

Balloons for science!

More sciency stuff

The star of the open house was the large clean room where they are building the James Webb Space Telescope as a companion to the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble is gathering data in the visible light spectrum, the Webb will gather data in the infrared. We had to wait in yet another line to go up to the second story observation room. It was worth the wait.

Crowding in to see the construction

The clean room

The skeleton (and the social media links)

Two scientists were in the clean room and had headsets so they could answer questions from the second floor onlookers. We asked about the cost (eight billion dollars) and the launch time (in 2018).

There's three people down there! Can you spot them?

Close up

Model of the finished product

We were wiped out from all the lines by that point, so we headed back toward the buses. On the way, we discovered why the lines were so bad. Even people from a galaxy far, far away came to the Goddard Space Flight Center!

Posing with out of towners