Thursday, April 30, 2015

Eventful Week!

There's been a lot going on around here!!!  Last weekend my parents were in town and we had such a good time with them!  Lots of long walks through the neighborhood with the pup (my mom and Pandora were enamored with eachother), as well as dinner out with S's parents, a meet up with my Aunt B and her adorable new puppy Buddy for lunch, a night out at the theater (an early b-day present from S, we went to see Bad Jew, which was very well acted and thought provoking), and a Sunday potluck brunch with a great group of friends.  It wasn't a super active weekend, in fact it was sort of relaxing.  Overall we had such a good time!

This week I've been on console at work and there's been a LOT going on.  Systems failing, meetings to approve big new projects, status-ing all of the managers, etc.  I'm not complaining, though, as I enjoy feeling useful and it definitely makes the day go by faster.  It's also the reason this is a rather short blog post, though.  Last night Pandora had her final test in her beginner training class and (of course) she passed!  We rewarded her by forcing her to endure the torture of wearing graduation cap  while being photographed.  Now we have a week off of training before we start her intermediate classes where she will learn how to heel!  Can't wait!!

And I'd like to thank everyone for the birthday wishes as well!  I'm keeping it low key this year, nothing too exciting.  My morning started off with lots of snuggles, which was wonderful.  At work today I supported repairs to the space toilet and am currently staring at a plot waiting for the astronauts to empty their bladders.  Totally serious.  I'm waiting for people to pee.  S asked me where he should take me for dinner tonight and I told him I wanted to stay home and eat bread and gourmet cheeses for dinner.  So I guess the cheese part is sort of exciting.  To me at least.  Mmmm, cheese....

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My 2015 NYC Weekend

Last weekend I went to NYC with my former roomie R!  Why you may ask?  To see Hedwig and the Angry Inch (again) of course!  While R and I have a number of things in common, a deep love for all things Hedwig is most certainly one of our more fun bonding points (recall this weekend back in 2011 for further proof).  We both saw the musical when the ever charismatic Neil Patrick Harris was in the titular role, however the latest headliner of the musical is the ORIGINAL Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell (aka, he wrote the original script, played the original role off-broadway, AND starred in the movie version...), and there was no way we were going to miss an opportunity to see the original Hedwig!
 We decided to make a long weekend out of our trip.  We both flew in on Thursday evening/night and stayed with my cousins D and S and their sweet pup Emmett (who still insists on humping me....).  On Friday we just meandered around the city.  We started our morning with some bagels and then I went back to Venus by Maria Tash to get a few more holes punched in my ears (i.e. 2 more piercings).  I got a 3rd hole on the lobe of my left ear and a cartilage piercing on my right.  I love the way my new earrings look, but I don't want to post a close up photo until my left ear is no longer purple....  After my new piercings, we headed downtown to NYC's first Cat Cafe....
Meow Parlour was certainly an interesting experience.  The cafe portion isn't actually attached to the cat part of the establishment and the reservations to go to this place are packed weekends (!?!?!) in advance.  We managed to get approved as walk-in's and proceeded to hang out with 8 or so cats (and even more people - it was like a competition for cat attention...) for the next 45 minutes.
Most of the cats were sleeping or hiding and didn't have a whole lot of interest in human interaction.  There was one feisty black and white cat that was in a playful mood and a itty-bitty grey tabby that R fell in love with and those kept our interest most of the time.  I think if there had been more cats or less people I would have appreciated the experience a bit more.  After the cat cafe we meandered to a few shops and then ate a late lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar.  I'm a little obsessed with the Momofuku franchise and knowing that R is a ramen lover I figured this one would be a good bet.  We had a run in with fame on our way in (Literally. Apparently Amber Heard was leaving just as we arrived and we brushed shoulders - oooooh.  Also, some famous basketball player was sitting 2 seats down from us.) but that paled in comparison to the awesome food.  R hit the lotto with her veggie ramen that had kale and some sort of incredibly prepared crunchy chickpea topping.  SO GOOD!  I actually couldn't eat the ramen because they use egg noodles (booooo!!!!), so instead I got some pork bao buns that melted in my mouth.  Momofuku wins again!

After lunch we headed back to my cousins' place and hung out with them for a bit while we all relaxed.  For dinner we made our way back downtown to Caracas Arepa Bar for a super tasty and surprisingly affordable dinner (everyone we mentioned the restaurant to HIGHLY recommended it).  Afterwards we were craving some Big Gay Ice Cream, but it was the first nice weekend in NYC and apparently everyone else was also craving it - the line was insane.  So we went to Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream instead where I was unable to partake in their custard based regular ice creams but was happy to have access to a tasty vegan ice cream menu instead.  I got the pistachio and salted caramel flavors - yum!  We met up with R's boyfriend's sister afterward for drinks and wound up staying out til 1:30 talking, so it was overall a fun night!
On Saturday I finally started to feel just how many people live in NYC.  As I mentioned above, it was the first nice weekend the residents of NYC experienced after a long and cold winter and EVERYONE was outside.  We swung by Whole Foods to pick up some food and then walked over to Central Park to picnic with my cousin J and his girlfriend S.  The park was packed to the gills and the weather was divine.  We had such a fun time snacking and chatting and spending time with J and S!  After about 4 hours of fresh air, sun, and great company we headed back to the apartment to shower and change for our evening plans.  The subway was down in numerous locations, so we had a hell of a time finding transportation to dinner, which was at Bareburger.  We met up there with a friend of R's and ate some very unique and delicious burgers.  I got a wild boar burger with sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions, and manchego cheese.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it again....  Then we were on to the show!
R and I were sitting 4th row (!!!) on the right side of the stage.  We could see each individual piece of glitter on JCM's face.  It was amazing.  The show was amazing.  We shad ear-to-ear grins for the entire show.  JCM played a different Hedwig than NPH did, it was a wry, sarcastic, and less active version, though every bit as funny.  But as far as we are concerned JCM IS Hedwig and it was just so perfect.  After the show we waited outside to see if we could get JCM's autograph.
It didn't take long and JCM walked out of the side stage door and he was SO NICE!!!  He took the time to hug and talk to all of his fans that were waiting and even passed out signed Sugar Daddies to the crowd.  Such a fun experience!
On Sunday we slept in a bit (it's been a while since I've gotten the chance to sleep in and done so successfully - my morning Pandora duty has turned me into an actual morning person and my internal clock is usually fairly insistent that I wake up at the same early time every day... it was nice to sleep a little later for once) and then went out for brunch with my cousin D.  After that I grabbed a cab to head to the airport and was homeward bound!  Overall it was simultaneously a fun and sort of relaxing weekend.  It was nice to be able to sleep in, hang out with friends and family, and not have to rush.

This weekend I'm hoping for more of the same, except I'm going to be staying here in Houston and my parents will be the ones traveling to visit!  We don't have many solid plans and are just planning to relax and enjoy our time together, which sounds perfect to me!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Full SpaceX Falcon 9 Landing Attempt

Now this is more like it!  SpaceX released a longer, higher quality footage of the attempted Falcon 9 first stage landing from Tuesday.  You can see that after attempting to right itself, the rocket was never able to regain its balance and toppled over into a fiery, smoky demise.  They almost nailed it thought - next time SpaceX!!!

(top image from here)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Latest Space Updates!

I haven't done a round up in a while of interesting things happening in space and now seems like a good time as there have been a lot of exciting things happening in the last month!  Let's start off with this week's successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket!  The sixth dragon capsule is headed for the ISS and will berth with the station on Friday morning bringing with it over 4,000 lbs of food and supplies for the astronauts onboard.  This was also SpaceX's second attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 on a barge in order to reuse it in the future.  You'll recall that the first failed attempt back in January created a spectacularly addictive video of the first stage of the rocket ricocheting off the barge.  This time the video isn't quite as amazing as it does look like the first stage lands successfully on the barge after a precarious tipping motion just seconds before touching down.  According to Elon Musk of SpaceX, though, the rocket hit too hard and wound up falling over just moments after the publicly released video cuts out. Go figure.  Still, SpaceX is working hard to improve the technology and cut costs on future rocket missions, which is always admirable!
Speaking of the astronauts who need the supplies from the SpaceX Dragon capsule, there are currently two special astronauts on board the ISS as of March 27. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russia cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are going to be the first ISS crew members to live in the orbiting outpost for nearly a full year.  Typical ISS missions are only about 6 months long for an astronaut or cosmonaut due to the health issues that could develop during longer duration spaceflight.  I took a class about this when I was getting my masters degree in FL and it is amazing how fast certain aspects of the body react to a microgravity environment.  One of the more obvious effects is the lack of gravity lessens blood flow to the legs leading to muscle atrophy.  Not to mention longer term radiation exposure.  But NASA's medical community doesn't fully understand all of the effects of long term spaceflight.  Scott Kelly's identical twin brother (and also a former astronaut) Mark Kelly will also be performing some of the same medical experiments on Earth for comparison.  These studies will allow for humans to travel to Mars and beyond in the future!  You can read more about the latest updates on the One Year Mission here.
It doesn't appear to be much to look at, but this is actually a VERY cool picture!  After nine years of hurtling through space on a 3 billion mile journey, NASA's New Horizon's spacecraft is finally getting close enough to it's destination of Pluto to snap a photo!  This is the New Horizon's first color photograph taken of Pluto and it's moon Charon.  The craft is still a whopping 71 million miles away from the dwarf planet (still a little depressed that Pluto got demoted...), but it will make it's closest approach to Pluto in a mere 3 months as it is traveling at an impressive speed of 746,000 miles per day!  Keep in mind that the diameter of Pluto is only about the width of half of the continental United States and Charon is only about the size of Texas, so getting a picture like this from 71 million miles away is pretty cool - just imagine what the close ups will look like in July! 
And finally, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin responsible for all Delta and Atlas rocket launches, unveiled its new, next generation rocket this week - the Vulcan!  Stemming partially from SpaceX's bold space-saving technology to reuse their first stage as well as the recent issues involving the US ban of Russian made rockets, ULA's new rocket design will boast reuseable components, multiple configurations to allow customization for various medium and heavy lift payloads, and American made rockets.  It has been about 20 years since there has been any major re-design of our workhorse rockets, so the new technology will certainly be welcome.  Vulcan's maiden launch is currently slated for 2019 and ULA is anticipating the rockets will cost about $50 million less than a current Atlas mission.

Exciting stuff!  Hopefully the good news and innovation will continue!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Happy April!

Ok, I totally dropped the ball last week on blog posts - it's been busy around here!  Can you believe it's already 1/3 of the way through April?!?  Let's jump to 2 weekends ago.  S and I packed up the car up on Thursday, March 26 with our weekend bags and a crap load of dog supplies, turned the back seat of my car into a dog bed, and road tripped it to Mississippi to visit my brother D and his fiancee B!  It was Pandora's first big car trip and she was a champ!  She's not really the type of dog that loves being in the car and has her head shoved out the window the whole time, but she doesn't seem to mind it either.  She just hunkered down and napped in the back seat for most of the time.  We had such a fun weekend with D and B.  Lots of tasty food, spending some good quality time together, and we even helped them pick out their wedding venue!
Out for prohibition-style cocktails in a hidden speakeasy
Acting goofy at Target :0)
While the drive to Mississippi isn't horrible, it still added up to 14 hours of driving, so we were pretty exhausted last week after our trip.  On top of that, last week was chock full of meetings at work (S has been super busy lately), Pandora's training classes (she's been to 3 so far), and trying to eat healthy after a weekend of amazing tasting but not exactly good-for-you foods.  On Friday S and I celebrated the start of Passover with a slightly modified version of my grandma's Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls - the soup turned out amazing, the matzo balls not so much though (they were falling apart...)
It's basically memories of Grandma in bowl form...
On Saturday, S spent most of the day enjoying himself at the autocross while I spent most of my day sending texts about bridesmaid dresses.  It is definitely difficult for B to coordinate the dresses for her wedding party when we're all located in different states.  The search for the perfect dress still continues, but I took a break from it on Saturday evening when S and I meet up with my friend R and his girlfriend C for dinner at Green Seed Vegan (food was very good!) and then to see Alton Brown Live!!!
At Alton Brown Live!!!
While I've always enjoyed Alton Brown's (AB's) show Good Eats, he sometimes comes across as somewhat cheesy and kitschy, but it doesn't matter because he knows his food science and that will always keep me coming back.  In his Live show though he is an AMAZING showman!  He rapped (!!!), sang, told hysterical stories about his personal food history, made carbonated chocolate ice cream on stage in 10 seconds with a standard fire extinguisher, cooked pizza in 3 minutes with a mega-easy bake oven made of stage lighting, and cracked numerous jokes about other Food Network personalities that were spot on!  We enjoyed ourselves so much!

On Sunday we went to S's brother's house for a crawfish boil and to spend time with the family.  And on Monday I caught a flight to California for some work travel.  Due to delays in the project, I didn't get back to Houston until 1 am on Wednesday night and so I was, understandably I think, exhausted yesterday.  Today I'm finally back up to speed on things and looking forward to relaxing with S and the pup tonight.  It will be short lived though.  Tomorrow S is heading to Austin for the MotoGP (it's his standard annual guys weekend with some friends) while I will be spending my day trying on more bridesmaid dresses, meeting up with my Aunt for lunch, doing some grocery shopping in town, and helping my friend B decorate the nursery for the upcoming arrival of her twins!  Sunday S and I are throwing a premiere party for season 5 of Game of Thrones, complete with a GoT themed potluck dinner.  So it's a busy weekend coming up too!