The Lope: April 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leonard Nimoy Retires

Spooooooock! Please...change...decision.

Nimoy, 79, seen here autographing Ace Jackalope's Spock uniform at Trek Expo 2009, announced recently that he's retiring from the film industry.

Now, mind you, he came out of retirement last year to appear as Spock in the re-imagined Star Trek, and I do seem to remember hearing that he would not appear as Spock after a couple previous outings in the pointy ears. He even wrote the book, "I am not Spock", only to follow it with "I am Spock", years later.

Personally, I hope he has a few more Vulcan salutes for us, but if not, I wish him well in his retirement.

Nimoy has a few more sci-fi convention appearances lined up in 2010, and it wouldn't surprise me if he still toured to do signings for any new photo books. He's quite a good photographer, you know. Check out his website.

This year, by the way, Trek Expo will feature William Shatner.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Apollo 13 Anniversary

Hutchinson, We've Got A Party - Honoring the Mission: 40th Anniversary of Apollo 13 this weekend.

I was once held up in traffic by a spaceship.

Seriously, it was 1995 and my mom was visiting my home in Hutchinson, Kansas. We were zipping westward on 11th street when I had to slow to a crawl behind a tractor trailer truck carrying Odyssey, the Apollo 13 space capsule (above), to its new home at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

Seeing an opportunity to show off my city by pretending such inconveniences were commonplace, I turned to Mom and quipped something about never being able to get to dinner on time because of all the space traffic.

I was later privileged to be asked to crawl around inside Odyssey and take some photos of its restoration at the Cosmosphere. You can imagine what this felt like to someone who was a boy when the Apollo program was going full tilt. I remember crawling out of the thing, which was gutted at the time, and noticing rust stains on my knees - space rust.

Odyssey had been in residence at a museum in Paris for a number of years after NASA was through analyzing it, and it was not in great shape. The Cosmosphere managed to talk NASA into getting it back and even reunited it with its internal components.

Here's another view of Odyssey. I love being able to just drive down to my local space museum and look at something that made history. Its rather like being into Egyptology and having the ability to pop down to the British Museum.

Now, I've been asked to shoot some photos at a reunion of the capsule with its surviving crew, mission control personnel and other NASA folks, this coming Saturday.

The Cosmosphere (above) will hold a series of events open to the public, starting with showings of the movie Apollo 13 and a documentary, the Wonder of It all, Friday. Apollo 13 will also be shown Saturday. The launch of a model Saturn V will take place Saturday at 9AM at Gowans Stadium.

But the really cool public event will be the Mission Control presentation Saturday at 10AM at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for kids under 13. This will feature flight directors Gene Kranz, Milt Windler, Gerry Griffin and mission control communications personnel Ed Fendell, Jerry Bostick, Sy Liebergot. Astronaut capsule communications Jack Lausma and Joe Kerwin should also be there, as well as pad leader Guenter Wendt.

This is Guenter Wendt at the Cosmosphere in 2007, when he gave me one of the best quotes I've ever had on this blog. He asked if I know what NASA stood for. Like a boy scout with the right answer, I said National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He told me it really stood for "Never Absolutely Sure of Anything."

Moderating the discussion will be accomplished space author and expert on all things space-retro, Andrew Chaikin.

Saturday night will see a sold-out fundraiser for the Cosmosphere, featuring the folks mentioned above along with a reunion of the almost ill-fated Odyssey with the surviving members of its former crew - Jim Lovell, Commander, and Fred Haise, Lunar Module Pilot. Jack Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot, died of cancer in 1982.

At right you can see the oxygen fans switch that, when thrown by Jack Swigert, sent current through wires that had lost their insulation due to a previous error on the ground. The result was an explosive rupture that blew one side off the service module and endangered the crew for several days. Of course, they were brought down successfully, due in large part to a very cool and calculating mission control staff - men who ate a lot of steak, smoked a lot of cigs and didn't need no stinkin' calculators.

You can see and hear some of them Saturday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kansas MCC Sale this Weekend

I think the guy on the left was starting to crack up. I guess holding a pink tractor up for auction struck him as funny - me, too.

I prize moments like that, be they funny or quint, and the annual Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale (MCC Sale) usually provides a few. This post contains photos and videos from 2009. This year the charity sale will occur this Friday and Saturday at the Kansas State Fairgrounds. See their schedule and note that it's largely over by mid-afternoon, Saturday.

I wish I could know every one of these pies the way they deserve to be known - with a fork.

Here are the serving lines in Cottonwood Court, where the majority of the food is served.

They have this really well organized. Servers raise a color-coded flag when they are about out of something; other volunteers see this and replenish it.

Get there early or wait in line. Really, the line moves incredibly fast, since they have those four serving lines inside.

This is what you are buying at the German buffet.

Elsewhere, there will be seas of cheese..

...and mountains of cookies.

These are for sale in the Domestic Arts building.

Also in Domestic Arts, you'll usually find a demonstration of Pysanky eggs...

...some of which are for sale.

Yes, that's a hat with a frog clock in it. They sell caps here, most are about two dollars and many are unused.

I guess Barack lost his cap.

The part of the MCC sale most talked about is the quilt auction, which occurs Saturday morning in the Meadowlark Building.

Also in the Meadowlark, someone is usually selling vintage fabric.

There will also be a general auction of pretty much anything. It is held in the Sunflower building, Friday and Saturday.

In addition to pink tractors they usually have real ones.

Ace found this cool Victorian house.

And now, some moving pictures..

Take a brief jaunt through the quilt display of the 2009 Kansas MCC Sale, while a musical group performs:

Here's a little slice of the 2009 Kansas MCC sale general auction. Being a simple creature, I was fascinated by the hand-made marble machines:

Here is another example of a marble machine. This one was made by Michael Windsor and family of Inman, KS:

And here is the same machine, with the marble taking a different path:

Yet another marble machine:

See extensive photos of the MCC sale in 2007 and 2006. Their website is here.

Not those jobs too?

So, you think if times get too tough you can always get a job this time of year dressing up as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty and waving at cars in front of a tax preparation office?

Well, enter Robo Waver. Yes, even this job can be taken by a machine:

Innocent enough, isn't he, what with that friendly face and all?

The website for Robo Waver claims he has no hygiene issues and will not get arrested. I think if I were a human waver, I'd feel a bit insulted.

Just wait 'til they achieve sentience. Wouldn't that make a great sci-fi horror movie? An army of cherubic robo-kids goes after people and makes them do their taxes. I bet that next year he'll be baaaack.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


My favorite tiki bar, the 1963 vintage Kon Tiki in Tucson, Arizona, is having a party Saturday night, April 10.

The event, entitled "Relight the Night" is scheduled to involve music, art and fire performers, and will culminate in the re-lighting of gas torches which have been bereft of flame for about 20 years.

The event will also raise funds for the Hope Animal Shelter in Tucson, a no-kill facility. Details can be found here.

I want my dining room to look like this.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Chasing Steam

A boy and a train - where is Norman Rockwell when we need him?

Union Pacific's steam locomotive number 844 is on the move in April, pulling a business/executive/public relations train called the Valley Eagle Heritage Tour through parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. The trip will take most of April. Consult their website to see if it's coming near you. The photo above was shot Saturday in Marysville, Kansas, as the locomotive was being serviced at the end of its day's run.

I've previously pursued this sleek sports car of a steam engine on several occasions and have shot many stills, so this time around I decided to shoot HD video on the second day of its voyage as it passed through parts of Nebraska and Kansas.

After scoping out the train's route using the UP website, the Nebraska DeLorme atlas, Mapquest and Google satellite, I picked a 3.3 mile stretch of dirt road just east of Belvidere, Nebraska, for the initial interception. Although a rough dirt road would not have been my preference, I picked this stretch because the track runs on the north - and therefore sun-lit - side of the road.

This took some preparation on the part of my most capable driver, Sharon, and I. We practiced a couple times driving alongside a freight train and discovered that wind noise from the car was minimized by keeping the windows opposite the open filming window cracked a bit. Also, I had to remember to stay well inside the car to keep the camera's microphones away from the car's airstream. We used a droid phone to track the train via UP's very nifty GPS tracer page.

After the stretch of track seen above, we lost the train when the track cut diagonally away from the road. If you like to find practical uses for geometry, you need look no farther than such a case - the train track crosses diagonally over section roads, forming a right triangle. Using the Pythagorean theorem, the train is running on the hypotenuse of a right triangle and you are driving the sides. If you know the train's probable speed, you can figure out how fast you'd have to drive to intercept it at both section road crossings. Fun, huh?

We were able to catch up to the train and parallel it where highway 8 runs from Fairbury to Steele City, Nebraska. Here it is between Fairbury and Endicott:

Here it is near Endicott:

And this one was shot as we approached Steele City:

You can see the picture overexpose as I zoom in to 844. This is because the locomotive is black and there is no way to set manual exposure for video on the camera I'm using, a Canon SX1is in video mode. Basically, it's a complex point and shoot camera that does HD video. You can do some exposure compensation in video mode, but only after you've started the video, and it's too awkward a process to carry out while being bounced around in the back of a car trying to be a human shock absorber.

I didn't try many stills during this stretch. I was shooting into the bright part of the sky and the locomotive was running on flat land so not laboring and smoking much.

We just barely got to this railroad trestle in time to see the train. I believe this is Herkimer, Kansas:

The train reached Marysville, Kansas, just after 3 PM and the crew began watering and lubricating it. Such was the downfall of steam power, for diesels require lass labor-intensive maintenance of this sort.

While this maintenance proceeded, 844 did what it always does - it drew a crowd:

Here's a 360 degree video of the people around the engine:

A visit from a steam engine brings out a nice mix of people in any town. As I walked through the area, I overheard several people recounting their memories of the steam era. Here, Rod Lamoreaux points out locations of buildings gone by.

Engineer Ed Dickens answers questions from the crowd.

Ed remembered Ace and offered to hold him for a few photos.

As the crowd thinned, it was easier to get unobstructed photos.

UP doesn't miss a chance to make a few bucks off souvenirs, and people seem to be happy to be able to take something home.

The souvenir car has been renamed the Reed Jackson, after a long-time Union Pacific conductor who passed away last year.

I was pleased to see one of my own photos - the one on the right - used in a memorial to Jackson, whom I'd met in 2006 when I rode the train with writer Patsy Terrell. I knew the photo was being used in a funeral program because a family member wrote me at the time, but I didn't know one of the programs would be posted inside the train.

Nice people will sell you stuff. I believe that profits support UP's steam program.

Our visit to the gift shop produced a new UP pin.

Jackson's successor, Jim Coker, introduced himself.

I left 844 in Marysville, but as I publish this, it is on display at Kansas City's Union Station and will head south tomorrow, April 6. Again, consult the Union Pacific website to see if it's coming to a track near you.

Here is my four-part account of 844's 2006 visit to Kansas:

See me gush unabashedly in 844, as the train blasts across Kansas with visits to Salina, Abilene, Herrington and Hutchinson. I really enjoyed taking the starry night time exposures seen here.

Take a tour of the executive train in with me in 844 Returns.

I got to live a railfan's dream in 844: Riding the Iron Horse.

The rest of my own trip behind 844 is shown in mGoodbye, 844, 'til we meet again.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Ace does South America

Ace Jackalope has been in South America recently with my brother, film maker Steve Holmes, who sent these pictures. Here, Ace is seen with the Obelisco in Buenos Aires.

The Obelisco (obelisk) was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires. It has had some interesting decorations over the years, including a sign that read "silence is health" (translation) during the Peron government of the 1970s. The sign was officially a caution against excessive noise, but may also have implied that citizens should keep their dissident political views to themselves. In 2005 it was decorated as if wearing a giant condom for World Aids Day. It has also been a giant pencil.

Steve also sent this picture of Buenos Aires' Lavalle Street pedestrian mall, which he called "the greatest place in the world."

He also sent this shot of Cafe Tortoni, which has been around since 1917, and said he wishes we were there. So do we, frankly.

Moving on to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Steve writes of Easter:

"It is hard to overestimate the importance of Easter to Brazilians. I was told the federal government shuts down the week before and that people treat the week as a vacation." He adds that the week is called "Semana Santa."

"The most obvious signs of Easter are the candy-filled baskets brightly wrapped in colored foil. They hang from store ceilings and people pick the ones they want."

"It's common to see people pushing carts filled with sparkling presents. It has the look and feel of Christmas."

"Thursday night, shoppers filled one store in Belo Horizonte. As fast as workers hung the baskets from a latticework of rods that hang from the ceiling, buyers pulled them down."

Last I heard from him, Steve said he'll try to bring one of these giant chocolate Kinder Eggs back for me.

Since Ace was with him, I'm dubious that the tasty treat survived.

Still Touched by its Beauty

Last Easter, I was still greatly relieved at the news that a treasured friend did not have cancer. She'd been hospitalized in Wichita's Via Christi hospital, which has a wondrous chapel at its core. I stayed with her in the hospital and visited the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother often during that anxious time, and though I do not consider myself religious, I found some comfort there.

Relive with me now, the unique stained glass of the hidden chapel.

Rescued Moai

It's been a tradition here to run photos of Easter Island moai on Easter. I haven't run across any new (to me) moai in the last year, but I do have a bit of good news about a familiar one in Tucson, Arizona.

The miniature golf moai behind Ace in the above photo was endangered when Magic Carpet Golf closed, but it was rescued last year; a bar called The Hut now displays it on their property.

For background information, see Happy Easter Island and More Easter Stuff

Easter Store Window Automations

As you may have noticed, I like to document mechanical holiday displays of the type seen in store windows "back in the day." Most of the ones I've seen are for Christmas, a very few are for Halloween and just a handful have been for Easter.

This is an automated hatching egg at a florist's shop. It was made by the now-defunct Harold Gale display company of Kansas City, probably in the 1980s. I'm afraid it doesn't live up to their earlier work. The motor is under-powered and...well, it just doesn't work for me. Now, if one were to paint the egg black, place a small fog machine inside and include a glowing red eye, then it could be a fine Halloween display.

Here's a Harold Gale Easter Bunny with opening egg. The motor works but has lost connection with the rod that makes the arms lift the lid. Again, not good design. He's about 45" tall.

This is a David Hamberger Display Company rabbit. It was probably intended for Christmas but I am including it here because commercial automated bunnies are scarce:

And finally, I present the Easter opossum. You know the story of the Easter opossum, don't you? I don't; fill me in, please. I have no idea who made this thing but I do know it was part of a series of Easterized (hey...good made-up word there) woodland critters. I can't decide if it's kind of cute or if I want to shoot it:

Empty Tomb in Hutchinson

Here is a detail from a window of St Teresa Catholic Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hole in One on Hill of the Skull?

Yes, someone actually named their mini-golf course "Golgotha Fun Park." See it.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Variations on the Image of the Day

Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona

Chapman, Kansas

Groom, Texas, above and below

Wichita, Kansas

Fredonia, Kansas

London, England

Bernal, New Mexico

Joplin, Missouri

Hamel, Illinois

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Just Topeka It

Hey, if you haven't used Google today, do so. That's a screen capture of their actual home page for April Fools Day, above. But there's more to it than a clever joke. Just, I mean "Topeka" the words "Google" and "Topeka" or click this link and you'll see why I'm tickled to be a Kansan this evening.

First, You Eat Their Ears

Today - April 1 - please click here and take a moment to salute the Peeps and chocolate bunnies who will meet their doom at the hands of your crazed children in a sea of torn colored cellophane three days from now, as well as to honor the memory of those who fell in the Great Peep Uprising of 2006.