Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Florida revisited (again)

I wanted to save some of these until after the GeekDad post was up, but this is (probably) the last batch of the Florida wildlife and NASA snapshots and video, since I’ve got other things from the trip to write about. Jim Carchidi shot the pictures.

So here are the before-and-after images of the anole I mentioned in my “critters” post:

It changed color so fast that for a minute, I wasn’t even sure we had the same anole. That little piece of skin molting off its back leg was the giveaway.

Jim got some great pictures of the alligator on Merritt Island, and I think I like this one the best because the angle and the sunlight reveal what’s beneath the water in nice detail. (Cue “The Old Man” from “A Christmas Story”: “It’s … uh … smiling at me…”)

(Here’s the large version, if you want to get closer.)

Seeing Atlantis on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, even from a distance was awesome:

(It’s absolutely worth it to look at the large versions of this one and the close up of Atlantis.) Though you can’t quite make it out in the photos, I love that the giant red lettering on those spherical tanks warns: “LIQUID OXYGEN – NO SMOKING.” It makes me wonder who would need to be reminded of that.

For kicks, I used my little Flip video camera to shoot the launch pads and the Vehicle Assembly Building through one of the lenses of a set of binoculars. It’s a partial success, I think:

Finally, here’s me in training for my next flight, courtesy of the downtown Orlando Publix supermarket:

Couldn’t resist.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Science, Travel, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GeekDad post: Florida again – alligators and space shuttles.

I’ve got another guest post on Wired.com’s GeekDad blog today: “Sometimes the Happiest Place on Earth is the One with No Lines.” Clicks and Diggs are appreciated!

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Science, Travel, Web/Tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida 2009: Critters EveryFreakingWhere

A week in Orlando, and I’ve got bunches and bunches of stuff to catch up on and write about because we had such a fantastic time staying with Jim and visiting Jenn’s family and enjoying our former stomping grounds that I didn’t feel like doing the blogging and photo and video work while I was there.

I’m starting out with Animals of Our Vacation. Central Florida’s got a whole different set of creatures than we’re used to here in Ohio, and which, I have to admit, is one of the few things I actually miss about living there. And my daughter’s a big animal enthusiast – not just the cuddly stuff, either: She’ll fill the DVR with those emergency vet shows that are packed to the rafters with injuries and surgeries and not even bat an eye. Using medical tape, a laptop and a ballpoint pen, she once hooked up one of her stuffed bears to an IV and vital signs monitor. She’s really gotten into it over the last year, which made this trip’s sightings all the more fun.

The day we arrived, just outside Jim’s door we spotted a red-headed skink that looked almost exactly like this one. Living in Orlando, you get used to seeing about four dozen lizards on a slow day, but in the six years I was there, not one of these ever crossed my path.

Later that day, over at my brother-in-law’s house, we saw a color-changing green anole on the sliding glass door, so we went outside for a closer look. He hopped onto various legs, arms, and shoulders (Jim shot some photos which I’ll post soon) while going from brown to bright green.

We spent most of Wednesday, April 8 at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and started things off with a nice view of a nesting osprey up on a platform near the visitor center, then saw what I’m pretty sure was a soft-shelled turtle just below us:

Walking the path that loops from the visitor center through the woods and along the water, we came across this nine-banded armadillo snouting his way through the underbrush. My daughter Kelsey got a great close-up of its face and ears:

So we walk further, and there’s a short spur that leads to a platform at the water’s edge. My father-in-law has his binoculars out and is scanning the far reeds for alligators.

And then I see this one silently gliding in Right. Next. To. Us.

Now, I’d seen alligators out and about before: Several while canoeing years ago with my brother-in-law (and yeah, it’s more than a little unnerving catching a glimpse of a foot-wide gator submerging itself beneath your suddenly-flimsy-feeling canoe), and others from a distance, floating in ponds. Jim and Kelsey and I had even seen a little three- or four-footer sunning itself on a bank near his house just two days before this.

But this one was different: I’d never been this close to one in its natural habitat and it was magnificent and chill-inducing, from the slow propelling sweeps of its tail to the muscle and power hidden in its utter stillness. We watched its nostrils move with each breath. Here it is heading away a few moments later:

That was clearly the high point, safarily speaking, of the week.

We did spend Friday at Ormond Beach and saw about three or four dolphins a few dozen yards out, which is always neat, and my daughter and niece found this purple and orange starfish in a tidal pool:

Wish granted.

April 13, 2009 Posted by | geek, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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