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Tonight, we all went in the backyard and observed Venus (top) in the closest conjunction to Jupiter (bottom) that we'll see for years, combined with the crescent moon in between.
Last night, was also a fairly rare occurrence, as we all easily spotted four planets in the sky at the same time. Venus and Jupiter were the same as above but with no moon. Mars was close to being overhead and was easy to pick out because of its brightness and orange color. Saturn was low on the horizon and near Spica the brightest star of the Virgo constellation. Though equally bright, the boys could easily distinguish between Jupiter and Spica...planets don't twinkle and Spica was twinkling away.
A North American Robin (turdus migratorius) perched in one of our backyard maple trees. Although back behind a lot of branches, the little guy was quite cooperative and let me go get my camera, find the right angle and take a few pictures before he flew off. I might put out some birdseed so that I can get more bird pics.
Our local library had a Stars Wars Celebration tonight. The boys wore their Halloween costumes and we partook of all the activities including getting their pictures taken with some serious costumed characters including this mandalorian.
The boys with two more mandalorians.
The boys with Obi-wan Kenobi holding baby Yoda, Princess Leia and a member of the 501st Legion.
There were lots of Star Wars related crafts and activities including this one where the boys made paper R2-D2s.
After we toured all the activities, I suggested we take off...kind of hoping the boys had forgotten about the costume contest. All the boys insisted we stay for the costume contest. I told them we'd have to wait for the contest to begin, wait for everyone to be judged, wait for the judges to make their decisions, lots of waiting. Still, the boys insisted we wait...so, outvoted 3 to1, we hung around.
Landon, I mean Obi-wan Kenobi, got lots of "aws" and was incredibly brave going up on stage all by himself, especially since I was taking pictures and not comforting/coaching him. Unfortunately, he didn't do his awesome force move, so he didn't score as high as he could have. Still, he's a pretty brave two year-old.
Will, that is Anakin Skywalker, went up like a pro and did a terrific force move for the crowd.
Finally, Drew went up on stage and, despite not having a helmet or a blaster, he struck a great pose. This picture doesn't do his pose justice as I only caught him just getting into it.
In the end, Drew took second place in the Star Wars costume contest out of about 35-40 kids. We all had a terrific time!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! No better way to celebrate this holiday than with a McDonald's Shamrock Shake. It's delicious...once a year...more often than that, and its kind of gross. But, once year...awesome! (Got to get a picture next year before they put the lid on.)
Drew had a baseball scrimmage this morning. Nothing too exciting, still early in the year and everyone is a little rusty. The teams don't even have their uniforms yet. But, Mary and Drew were able to put together Drew's outfit with last year's pants and a USA t-shirt which turned out pretty awesome I think. I mostly like the pics because of the pink blooming redbuds in the background. Drew is playing third base here and getting ready to catch the ball to stop an advancing runner.
Throwing the ball in from the outfield.
Running after a grounder...or possibly backing up another player.
Getting a fix on a fly ball.
Rounding third base at full speed.
Finally, one last long stride and safe at home.
Well, I did it. I made it through the whole post without mentioning the opposing team's coaching methodology...if you can call belittling sarcasm directed at eight year-olds a method. We are very thankful for the coaches we have this year and the past two years. There are some things we simply would not put up with.
While I was at work today, Ma and Pa corrupted my boys by taking them to see the touring St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series champions trophy.
The 2011 World Series champions trophy.
We should have sent the boys in their Cubs hats.
The St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series champions trophy tour van.
Will had his first ever baseball practice today. The coach started the boys out with a baseball running relay game. In reviewing the pictures during a lull in the action, I noticed something that we'd only gotten a glimpse of before.
Will has a serious game face! Our always smiling, happy-go-lucky, silly boy, can put on the serious. I think he's seen enough of his big brother's baseball games and is ready to show us what HE can do!
Will fielding the ball...one handed...and leaning instead of getting in front of it.
Better positioning and almost two handed.
That's it! In front of the ball and with two hands.
Will throwing the ball. Nice form as the ball just rolls off the tips of his fingers.
An animation of Will throwing the ball. Heck of a lot better than I threw it in kindergarten.
Don't worry, there were still plenty of patented Will smiles. In fact, I've never seen a kid more excited about practice in my life.
I told Will to show me his batting stance and this is what he came up with all by himself. Pretty darn cute!
The coach was wonderful and spent a lot of time with each child working on their hitting. It should be a fun season!
I had to travel to Boise City, Oklahoma, for work today. Unfortunately, I didn't get to leave town yesterday until the sun started setting. Driving into the sunset on my way to spend the night in Guymon. Boise City is the county seat of Cimarron County the farthest west county in the Oklahoma panhandle. Boise City is farther away from Tulsa than Dallas, Kansas City, Memphis and St. Louis.
The Cimarron County Courthouse in Boise City, Oklahoma. It stands right smack-dab in the middle of the street in the middle of the town square.
This is looking down the main street of Boise City from the steps of the courthouse. The "city" has a population of 1,266. The entire county has a population of 2,475 in 1,841 square miles. In comparison, the smaller sized state of Rhode Island has a population of 1,051,302 in 1,545 square miles.
I'm a sucker for historical markers and this one was at the foot of the courthouse steps.
From September 23 through 27, 1846, the Mormon Battalion crossed the northwestern portion of the Oklahoma Panhandle. The little army's 500-plus volunteers, recruited for the Mexican War, were enlisted near Council Bluffs, Iowa, from among the first company of Mormon pioneers, who were then en-route to the Rocky Mountains.
The Battalion's 2,000 mile journey from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California, then the longest march by infantry in U.S. military history, traversed for a lengthy distance the Santa Fe Trail. Sixty miles of that famous route passed through the Panhandle. It followed the Cimarron River southwesterly into Oklahoma to the Cimarron Crossing, then west-southwest past Cold Springs into New Mexico at McNees Crossing. Battalion members viewed the Oklahoma Panhandle as part of the "Great American Desert." The challenges of this portion of the march helped forge the Battalion into a disciplined force.
Seriously, a 2000 mile march? Yikes!
You might notice a theme in this and the next couple of pictures. Think state of Rhode Island with just 2,475 people. And, think what would cause the dust bowl, in addition to a drought. This part of of the state is called no man's land and the plains desert, both for good reason.
It is perfectly flat with no trees, no bushes...nothing as far as the eye can see.
There is some irrigated farm land but the majority of the fields are at the mercy of mother nature.
The scenic highway of Route 412 through outskirts of the Oklahoma panhandle.
Between Boise City and Guymon is Four Corners, Oklahoma (at the T-intersection of 412 and 95). I've spent the obligatory 5 minutes googling and have absolutely no idea what it's the four corners of.
Alas, the sun is setting in my rear view mirror somewhere east of Guymon but still in the panhandle...miles to go before I sleep.
Seriously, who makes idiotic signs like this? Which way is Enid? Do you go by the arrow closest to Enid, or the arrow way far away from Enid? If Enid's arrow is the one on the top left, why not switch the arrow with the name so that both Enid and Oklahoma City are on the left and both arrows are on the right and there would be no confusion as to which arrow goes with which city? Fortunately, I didn't need to the sign to tell me Enid was straight ahead and Oklahoma City was off to the right. Sign fail!
Drew had his Pinewood Derby race tonight. This was his competition, an amazing variety of creative hand-crafted pinewood race cars.
Drew and another scout at the start lined up behind their respective cars.
The start of the first set of three races. Each car takes a turn in each lane and the times are recorded electronically and averaged together.
Drew's car is on the right and in the lead in his second heat.
By the end of the evening, Drew had won first place in his den and first place in the whole pack. He received the two medals on his chest and, ironically, before the race results were even known, he received the blue ribbon for the Fastest Looking Car.
Drew's school had an assembly today where students got to trade in "gotchas" received for good behavior in exchange for participation in turning the principal into a chocolate sunday. Drew traded in the most gotchas of any student and was able to pour syrup, whip cream and sprinkles on his principal. Then, tonight, Drew won two first place medals in the Pinewood Derby. Drew said this was the greatest day of his life!
This is Drew's first year of Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby.
The evolution of Drew's Pinewood Derby car. His design drawn on the side of the raw block, a rough saw down to size, a Dremel shaping and sanding, a primer coat, one of three coats of Regal Red enamel gloss, and finally with decals...No. 28.
The car weighed in at about 2 ounces so we drilled out the back end and put in 3 ounces of lead fishing weights to bring it up to the maximum allowed 5 ounces. The first picture shows the car after we wood puttied the rear and sanded it in preparation for some touch-up painting. After the first weigh in, a week before the race, the car was still .2 ounces shy, so we drilled out some of the bottom rear and added .25 ounces more of lead and puttied it up again. Race day, we were again a little short by the "official" scale so we glued some tungsten putty to the bottom rear to finally weigh in at 5.0 ounces.
We spent several hours filing the ridges off the official supplied axles and sanding them down with sandpaper progressing through grits of 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500 and 2000 and then finally with some diamond polishing compound. The end result was a flawless mirror-like finish which will hopefully eliminate a lot of friction resulting in a faster car.
The finished product, Drew's Pinewood Derby car.
Race day, with a good dusting of dry graphite lubrication on the axles which gets all over everything. Next post...race results!
This is my 1,000th blog post. I started this blog on June 10, 2004, and never thought for a second about writing a thousand posts (about one post every 2.8 days, although I usually write them all on the weekends and then pre-date them as appropriate). Without exaggerating, I only have the time to write about a third to half of the family things I'd like to but hopefully I hit the high points. I've almost completely stopped writing about politics which I thought I'd do more of but there just isn't the time.
The blog has really turned into a family scrapbook of memories for the boys to look back on some day. But, also, I recognize that a lot of family and friends stop by to keep up on on how we're doing. I have no idea if I'll write another thousand posts or even if I'll keep the blog public as the boys grow older. If they want, I won't hesitate to take it private and write only for their future benefit. Here's to the future, whatever it may bring.
[Image courtesy of Frank Boenigk.]
We should have bought stock in sports equipment manufacturers and retail stores before we signed the two oldest up for baseball this year. Drew and Will's league had a deal with a local Dick's Sporting Goods store to get 25% all baseball equipment. We took full advantage of the savings. Although, Will's bat is from Academy and Drew's bat is from locally owned Midwest Sporting Goods.