Halloween 2018

Ezra was an astronaut for Halloween, his first time trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, Grandpa and Grandma coming along for the fun of it.

Ezra as astronaut for Halloween
Ezra as astronaut for Halloween

I also let him be a creeper for a bit but that box head is not well-sized for toddler use.

Creeper Son

Soyuz MS-10

Scary launch failure on Soyuz MS-10 as a booster anomaly led to an abort, with the crew of two returning to Earth via ballistic descent and landing safely in Kazakhstan.

Expedition 57 Launch (NHQ201810110017)

NASA ISS Expedition 57 photo album includes this photo taken around the time of the anomaly — note only 3 of 4 strap-on boosters can be seen separating from the core stage, consistent with the explanation that a separation motor valve failed on one strap-on, resulting in violent recontact with part of the launch stack.

While the launch failure is a frustrating event, it’s at least comforting that launch escape systems worked and kept the crew alive; there has been at least one past incident where the outcome was lethal. Sadly no trip to the ISS for NASA rookie astronaut Nick Hague.

Update: More on the incident, with Roscosmos onboard video of the anomaly, from Scott Manley.

Hurricane Michael

Got another hurricane in the South, Michael, first Cat 4 to make landfall at the Florida Panhandle.

Orbital view of Michael from the ISS. Helicopter video of flattened homes in Mexico Beach, FL. Photos of the aftermath from Apalachicola Times and The Atlantic.

As of this writing the remnants of Michael, now a tropical storm, are over us in Virginia. It’s raining pretty hard and the soil is nicely soaked so I threw some grass seed out on the lawn to let the storm water it.

Around the Capitol

Living out in the ‘burbs now, I rarely get to enjoy much of DC anymore these days. When I can I try to walk the “scenic route” home, circling past the Capitol before heading for the train station out to my stop in Virginia.

US Capitol
Washington Monument and National Mall

Ominous clouds overhead and behind the Washington Monument this time, as Hurricane Florence, despite being centered far south in the Carolinas, stretches its rain bands up to here.

Recent Donut Roundup

Having a Dunkin’ Donuts counter right at my workplace has certainly been good* for my eating habits. (* — bad) There was last April’s seasonal Cherry Blossom donut, and as September rolls along there’s now a “Festive Fall” Donut.

Festive Fall Donut

Over summer we also had a “Capitals Craze” donut commemorating the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup win

Capitals Craze Donut

…and for Shark Week, a donut with little blue shark-shaped sprinkles.

Shark Week Donut

While I’m at this office I will continue to log my novelty donut consumption.


While at the National Aquarium we picked up a souvenir plush shark for Ezra. Amelia gave it a sniff.

Amelia with Plush Shark

Meanwhile, here is Martha’s face when presented with a catnip fish toy. She is such a goof.

Martha with catnip toy Martha with catnip toy

Back to Amelia, who shows us cat circle theory in action.

Amelia in a Hoop

Sad news: I’ve ended the cat-centric “JonesAndPond” Twitter account I started a couple years ago; if you were following it for pictures of Martha and Amelia, there’s always here, and the Flickr “companionkittens” tag.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

Hopped over to the National Aquarium in Baltimore last Sunday. We wanted to be out of the DC area while the white supremacist rally was on (though it turned out to be a failure) — but even not counting that, we also wanted to take Ezra on his first aquarium trip to see some fish and turtles and sharks.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

I’d forgotten how very linear — and exhausting — the crowd flow in the main “Blue Wonders” part of the Aquarium was, parading you past tank after tank after tank before depositing you in the Rainforest, then ramp down shark alley, and an anticlimactic underwater viewing area all in not-so-quick succession, with only a small upstairs cafe for respite along the way. We knew better and retreated back to the larger cafeteria downstairs for an early lunch when Ezra got cranky, but it wasn’t an easy backtrack through the mazelike layout, nor was the return trip via elevator to where we left off entirely intuitive.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

Still, we saw a nice variety of aquatic wildlife, lots of sharks, plus some golden lion tamarins in the Rainforest. I also learned the giant sea turtle in the reef is named Calypso.

Sand Tiger Shark Golden Lion Tamarins

The main aquarium experience ends with an interactive guestbook where a touchscreen invites you to construct a phrase of up to six words selected from a limited, aquatic/conservation vocabulary, for display on a big projection screen. Ezra mashed at the touchscreen a bit to say SWIM HUMANS HEALTH HEALTH HUMANS.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

I haven’t been to Baltimore for a while and have been terrible about keeping up with friends there. Must come back again.

Baltimore Panorama from Aquarium

More photos here, and a collection of photos from previous trips to the Aquarium here.