Monday, September 30, 2013

More Star-B-Que 2013!

The Fall Star-B-Que of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association was held up at Kitt Peak this last Saturday.  I already blogged about the lizard-in-a-strait-jacket yesterday, so time for more mundane stuff, like the latest pictures...

I also recently told about my IR-converted camera's vacation to New York State, and I wanted to bring it along to the mountain to shoot the contrasts between the titanium-painted domes, vegetation and clear sky.  With the Fall sunset seeming to come early, I didn't have a lot of time to play given my responsibilities as Star-B-Que organizer, so only got the above images.  The one at left is a straight shot of the 4-meter and Steward 2.3 meter framed by a pair of oak trees at the picnic area.

The shot at right is a 5-frame mosaic of shots showing the wide expanse from the VLBA radio dish, located at the picnic area, across the profile of the Observatory.  This picture brings up a topic I've been wanting to discuss for a couple weeks - mosaic software!  I was happy for the last year or so with Autopano Pro in assembling mosaics, but a recent disk crash required a reload, and I couldn't find the version I bought (key protected), and I was loathe to pay another $100 for the new version.  Photoshop has a "Photo merge" feature, but it often has difficulty in assembling anything but the most simple panoramas...

A friend recently turned me on to "Microsoft ICE", which I understand means Image Composition Editor.  The website has an impressive demonstration where a 200 frame mosaic was assembled by the program in seconds, retaining the full resolution of the original frames, or zooming out to see the "big picture"!  The great thing, besides the incredible job it does, is that it is a free download!  The other great thing is that I've yet to be able to stump it - I've fed it star-field pictures and somehow it assembles them perfectly and seamlessly!  You will see the results of my latest effort below...

After the excitement of saving the lizard earlier in the afternoon, a variety of scopes were set up down the clearing of the picnic area.  My Celestron 14" might have been the largest, buddy Roger brought along a 5.5" F/8 refractor that was nice for scanning along the Milky Way.  We had a lot of attendees that couldn't stay late for one reason or another, and just came to socialize and look thru the scopes for a bit at some great skies before the 75 minute drive back to Tucson.  The picture at left is taken with a Nikon 8mm F/2.8 for a 2 minute exposure once it got fully dark.  The glow of the Milky Way bisects the picture vertically, and astronomers with red lights illuminate the foreground.  The outline of the C-14 can be seen in the right foreground.  The brightest star at the upper edge is Vega, below and left of Vega is Altair.  This is a tracked image using the Vixen Polarie.

As advertised, here is the Milky Way mosaic.  It is a 9-frame assemblage, each shot was a stack of two-2 minute exposures taken with a Nikon 80mm lens at F/4.  At left is a single frame, cropped from the one that shows the hydrogen clouds M8 (below) and M20(above and right).  Since the camera was mounted on a ball head on the tracker, I wasn't sure of the overlap or framing, but was hoping that it was sufficient to do the mosaic without any holes!  Once all 18 of the frames were stacked into the 9 individual shots, they were dumped into the ICE program and it was done in seconds!  It was cropped slightly to smooth out the edges, and had levels adjusted some, but is otherwise shown in all its glory at right.  Of course, as I've lamented before, the blog limits pictures to 1600 pixels wide, so you can't go exploring through the Milky Way like I can on the 6,000 pixel wide original...  The Teapot asterism dominates the lower left corner, with the dark clouds and Nebulae scattered along the plane of the galaxy emphasized with the 20Da camera.  The black bits are where the frame edges stopped, and I'm mystified how ICE assembles it without any apparent errors.  Anyone who has been tempted to try mosaics but has baulked at the price ought to give it a try!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

One Lucky Lizard!

Yesterday was the Fall version of the Kitt Peak
Star-B-Que - a chance for the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) to get together and picnic in the late afternoon, followed by some observing with our own telescopes in some great skies. The Kitt Peak National Observatory allows us to schedule their picnic area for the event - a great location about 1.5 miles below the mountaintop at about 6300 feet elevation. Over the years we've spotted a variety of local wildlife, and someone spotted this lizard pictured at left, shown at full camera resolution. And while it is normally difficult to catch these guys, this one was easy - somehow he tried to crawl through a short chunk of garden hose and got caught - the right shows the full frame while he wears his self-styled "straight jacket"

It seems like it would be difficult for wildlife to get caught in something like this, but perhaps it is not.  From the edges, it appears that it has been nibbled on, but is difficult to say.  Common knowledge says that cats' whiskers prevent them from sticking their head into anything they can get stuck in until a mean kid pulls or cuts them and they will get stuck.  Regardless, lizards don't have whiskers, so he might have been doomed had we not come along.  I'm thinking that after a couple weeks he might have gotten skinny enough to be able to crawl through, and we've certainly seen lizards around our house that the cats have brought in that might very well have spent weeks or months under dressers.  But this one was definitely stuck, and it was our mission to free him (assume he was male from his bright coloration)!  Someone had a Swiss Army Knife, and you would think that would have been the perfect tool for the purpose, but such was not the case!  The piece of hose had spent considerable time in the sun and was quite hard and brittle, seemingly impervious to our assault.  neither a knife blade or the scissors were up to the job...  Before he reached for the saw blade, I asked him to let me look in the toolbox of my van.

Fortunately I had a variety of tools, including a long needle-nose pliers that I sent up the length of the hose section just to create a small gap between lizard and hose.  I then had a side-cutter for cutting wire that I nibbled up the length of hose, setting him free at last.  Unfortunately as I was wielding tools, I've got no pictures of that operation.  But I was able to grab a couple shots of one very happy (and lucky) lizard before he ran off in the underbrush.  Glad to be of service!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back From Summer Vacation!

I got a package in the mail the other day - my IR-modified camera got back from its summer vacation back East!  My friend Ken Spencer, who was a real photographer in a former life and writes "A Picture Each Day" blog expressed an interest in old-timey IR imaging that we all used to do back in the day.  Well I offered to send him the camera for a few months during the summer season when the "Wood Effect" makes IR imaging so dramatic.

I think he had lots of fun with it - it really does
open up a new window to looking at things.  But as Fall arrived, he sent it back (with a new camera battery!) and I took it out the other day to remind myself what it is can do. 

The next day I took it in to work at UA and at lunchtime took a short drive over to Reid Park to eat my lunch.  Of course, the IR shots excel with clear skies and lots of vegetation, and though the monsoons were still hanging around, the clouds sometimes add a little drama.  There are open ponds at the park too, and besides showing the vegetation as bright white and the skies dark, water is also a strong absorber, though it offers some reflections of bright trees...  I think the shot at left is my favorite, and when returning to UA, I ambled over to the just-finished addition to Arizona Stadium.  This time the addition wasn't for the Mirror Lab, which is under the east stands, but rather for the football team.  They added an artificial-surface field for "Bear Down" field, to be used for intermural sports.  While made to look like green grass, you can tell immediately from the IR shot is isn't nearly as bright as real vegetation, like the trees in the background are...  Real grass would be just about as bright as the painted lines in IR!

A day or two later I went up to Finger Rock
Canyon when friends were hiking the trail.  While waiting for them to come out, I took a few shots.  Besides the cacti showing lots of green, being the end of the rainy season the ocotillo were all in leaf.  During the dry Spring, they mostly look like unadorned thorny sticks in the ground, but rain brings out their fine leaf structure.  In this shot I've also got mountain slopes with saguaros, partly clear skies and one of the houses built on the national forest boundary line high up the slopes.  Another effect of IR imaging is in haze penetration - you can see and image at great distances without any haze blurring.  I made a small panorama of the downtown Tucson area with a telephoto lens shown at right.  Coverage is from "A" Mountain at right past our "skyscrapers".  Note the light-colored vegetation, as you would expect, but also the visibility of the distant Sierrita Mountains, a good 30+ miles away are quite clearly defined.  The white spot at lower left is a golf course fairway, and the nearby ridge shows individual plants as they appear in IR.

It was great to again image with this converted camera (the IR-blocking filter that all cameras have, was replaced with an IR-passing filter).  Certainly it isn't something you use every day, but is fun to break out now and again!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Night of the Moonflowers!

Last Sunday, Melinda's last night off before her next round of chemo, we took a little evening road trip while she was feeling good.  For some time I'd wanted to take pictures of the evening blooming of Datura Wrightii, known by a variety of other names such as Locoweed, Jimsonweed, Moonflower, and others...  I'd been intrigued by the blog posts by "Ranger Kathryn" regarding watching them open in the evenings, her link listed down on the right side of our own blog. 

We headed out to Kitt Peak, where I've seen the plants before.  About a mile below the mountaintop observatory, we found a couple healthy plants conveniently next to a pullout.  Since it was still a little before sunset, the buds were all still closed, so I set up a couple cameras and timers to watch a couple of good-looking candidates.  For each I used the on-camera flash, since it would soon be dark, and set the timers to take a picture every 20 seconds - one for a side view, one looking down the tubular flower bud.  The photo at left shows one of the cameras well after dark, the bright moon illuminating the distant domes, the flash illuminating the datura.

We didn't have long to wait, pretty much as soon
as the cameras started, the buds started unwrapping and they sprang open about a half hour after sunset.  Ranger Kathryn in her posts above noted the rush of insect pollinators, but since we are now clear of monsoons, sort of late in the blooming season, we didn't see a big rush like she did...  But it was quite striking how quickly they went from closed to open.  The pictures shown here show the change, but it is the time lapse constructed of all the nearly 600 images that is most interesting!  We had the slightest bit of breeze, accounting for the movement you see in the time-lapse, but Ranger Kathryn notes that even in still air that vibrations seem to originate inside the plant...

Here is the time-lapse, with a little intro and epilogue:

And yes, the time-lapse sort of spoils the surprise
- we did have some pollinating visitors show up in two of the frames - 2 different species of hawkmoths, genus Manduca. I believe the one displaying only their rear end out of the trumpet-shaped flower (at right) is Manduca Rustica, the other at left is as yet unidentified, as it doesn't show as clear markings, though the long proboscis is revealed in the flash image. Both of these images are at full camera resolution to show maximum detail...

While up at the Observatory a month before, a few days before the Perseid meteor shower, I was getting buzzed by big moths like this a good part of the night.  A couple nights later, with Melinda present, I detected only a couple, so their population must be quite variable, but they sure get your attention when they are flying around your face!  Next year we'll have to go a little earlier in the season and see if we get more pollinators...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Melinda Update - Into Round Two!

Here we are, about 4 weeks after her lung cancer diagnosis and today she finished the last day of the second round of chemo!  This time, she took all 3 day's worth of chemo as an outpatient at the Cancer Center, which conveniently is only about a mile from our house.  As I said a week ago at our last update, she was really feeling well.  Now that the second round has been loaded into her, we're expecting a few days of nausea and tiredness headed our way.  Fortunately they also give her nausea medicine in an IV before the chemo, and other than a touch of queasiness this morning it has controlled it well.

The good news is that her new port worked great!  No bruises up and down her arm trying to find veins for the chemo to go in.  While they would have allowed her to get all 3 day's worth of chemo with a single port stick, she wouldn't have been able to shower, so they removed it after the first day when she went home, then left it in between days 2 and 3.  Unfortunately they did have to stick her for a blood test - an INR measures the clotting factor of the blood and the Heparin flush to assure her port was open would have affected the results.

The bad news is that she started shedding even her short hair last Friday in the shower, so went to the local hair cutting place for a buzz cut.  So she is looking significantly different, and mostly wears bandannas or scarves, even around the house.  I'm hoping for a photo-shoot with one of the calmer cats draped over her scalp - the good thing about that is she would have a choice of head cover of blond (Lucy, Hannah or Pixel or YellowCat), auburn (Annie), brunette (Hootie or HootieII), or calico (Mia)!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Two-fers on the Interweb!

Today was a good day!  Well, good for being at work, anyway!  I love my job, working on some of the most interesting telescope projects in the world!  We use a net work and the Internet often, both for communications between coworkers, searching for items to buy, and believe it or not, when watching big mirrors go roundy-round for hours, it helps to pay attention to go interwebbing for a bit now and again.  What I really like is finding a site that scratches two itches at once - you know, discovering something that interests two of your interests at once.  I found a couple of those today that I'll share with you...

First up is an amazing website/blog by Brandon Stanton, who writes "Humans of New York".  Now I've blogged about him before - he is a street photographer of some renown in NYC, posting typically a half dozen portraits a day of people and snippets of their lives.  It is an engrossing site, and it is easy to spend a lot more time than you intend to, looking at his images and learning a little about the subjects.  One of today's images is shown at left - a shot as part of a commemoration of "Fashion Week" in New York City.  As a stereo nut, what I love about it is not the item or colors or pattern, but the "accidental" 3D image caused by the pair of reflections from the glasses!  When you "parallel view" the two images, you get a very nice 3D image of the woman holding the purse!  As opposed to my normal "cross-eyed" method of viewing stereo pairs, on this one, you look "through" the image - the goal is to look at the right image w/your right eye and left image w/left eye.  Try it, you will be amazed!  And don't forget to go to go to Brandon's site for more portraits.  Near the top of the page is a link to his trip to Iran earlier in the year - just amazing stuff!  Photo by Brendon Stanton.

The other discovery I made today was an essay on the New York Times online "Opinionator" page of comments.  I was looking for the latest Dick Cavett column - he writes about once per month about show business, his TV show from the  '70s (I was a big fan - an Iowa farm boy watching big city showbiz!), and stories from his amazing life. Nothing new from him on this visit, but up at the top of the posts was a very nice essay by former astronomer Pippa Goldschmidt.  Now how often do you see astronomers having their say on the NYT - almost never!  Her essay conveyed a lot of what I expect many professional astronomers feel - a closeness to the stars by deciphering their hard-won secrets even though these days they are working from well-lit warm offices to do their observing that might as well be in their living room, not on a mountain observatory...  Her essay leads her to a not-too-distant prison that used to house opponents to the then-just ended Pinochet regime in Chile where she did a lot of her observing.  She concludes as an astronomer that it was easier to discover what makes a distant quasar tick than understand people and why they treat others the way they do.  It is interesting reading, and as you would expect from the Times readership, the comments are generally enlightened and interesting as well - make sure you check those out underneath the essay.   I might have to track down Pippa's book that has just come out.  Artwork at left by Brendan Monroe for the New York Times.

So you see, it was nice to make a couple discoveries that covered several interests at once!   The fun is in the searching AND discovering!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hurricane Season!

The latest Melinda update!  Nearing the end of her first chemo cycle, she feels pretty good and almost normal!  The good things are that she is feeling well, has good energy, and her taste buds are almost back to normal too.  The bad things are that a nagging cough has returned and her hair continues to drop.  The cough thing plus a low-grade fever concerned the physician assistant enough to prescribe a round of antibiotics.  The hair triggered another haircut, this time with an electric clippers to a uniform half inch.  By the way - don't ask her how long it is like I just did, or she'll pull out another pinch of it for you to measure!  Interestingly, now that it is ultra-short, her hair has picked up a life of its own and displays a couple cowlicks, the one in back looking like a full-fledged hurricane, the others more diffuse like tropical depressions that may form one in the future.  While she doesn't permit portraits at the moment, she does allow showing her cowlick, shown here.

Today we went to the University Medical Center for a port placement.  A port is a subcutaneous connection that allows a direct connection into a vein without a temporary IV connection every time.  Once installed, they can stay in place for months or years as needed for treatment and blood tests without vein sticks.  The procedure was supposed to take about an hour and we arrived before 0800 for filling out forms and blood tests.  A late start because of a surgical backlog and what ended up being about a 2 hour procedure, we didn't get released until after 1300.   But we're glad to have it - it will greatly simplify chemo and tests without all the bruises she suffered from the first round of treatment.  It is bandaged now, but will only appear as a bump under the skin that can be connected with a special needle.

Her chemo cycle starts anew the first of next week, with 3 days of infusion as an outpatient at the local cancer center.  The hurricane analogy above seems apt somehow...  We've been through a cycle now, and know a little about what to expect.  While there will be some stormy times ahead we feel a lot better about something we've only heard about before.  Knowing that for each cycle there is a good part of it where we can function semi-normally is a great comfort and something to look forward to each time.  Keep fingers crossed and prayers coming our way - a few months more of this and we'll get an evaluation to see where all this is going.  Stay tuned!

More Mirror Lab and GMT!

Someone at work told me the other day they had just seen me on a video about the Mirror Lab.  Poking around and checking on some blogs of the press that attended the recent GMT2 casting under the University of Arizona's football stadium, I found it on the page of the Planetary Society's bloggers.  I met Jason Davis that morning a few weeks back, and was impressed that his blog is right under another that I regularly read - that of Emily Lackdawalla, who writes a great blog about spacecraft images, past and present!  Anyway, Jason's post has a very nice video describing the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab and its work on the Giant Magellan Telescope.  And of course, like my co-worker said - I make a lengthy appearance at the 1:35 mark!  Enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

A More Normal Post!

Two weeks into Melinda's first round of chemo and she continues to improve.  Her nausea passed a few days ago, and her strength has returned in part - enough to do chores around the house, get the mail, drive herself to the store.  We're happy about that, and hope that in future 3-week cycles, that there will only be about a week of unpleasantness...  The only lingering effects are that food still tastes funny, mostly salty or metallic, but she has learned to use a straw with liquids to get them past the tip of her tongue.  The other effect is that her hair is thinning, but no panic there as it was expected.  She already has scarves on hand and has friends knitting various hats and coverings to temporarily do the job of her tresses.  Doctors will insert a port next week so that they won't have to poke veins to administer chemo and collect blood samples in the near future either, so we are looking forward to that too.  And we're making plans for the weekend, and plan to get out of the house a time or two...

So with that bit of better news, it is time to catch up on other business!  Two weeks tomorrow the Mirror Lab held an open house for the casting of the 3rd mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope.  For those of you new to the idea, imagine 7 huge mirrors, each about 28 feet (8.4 meters) in diameter, all collecting light to a common focus.  Astronomers are all about collecting and analyzing light, and anyone associated with the project will look at every milestone with delight, so time to celebrate.  The day of the peak temperature, when the glass melted into the mold, there were over 200 partners and affiliates that came through the lab, and it was "all hands on deck" for our staff to guide and educate the VIPs through the facility.  The star of the show was the spinning oven with 20 tons of molten glass inside.  Rotating at about 4 rpm to maintain the desired 36 meter radius of curvature in the molten surface, it was an amazing spectacle.  During the day, the temperature was still climbing - up over 1050C, but still short of the peak at 1160C.  But it was hot enough you could feel the radiant heat emitted, and you could see the red-orange of the oven's fiery interior at a few spots - small gaps in the insulation or empty thermocouple holes that allowed an interior peek.

These camera views are from digital cameras that viewed the interior through little sapphire windows that wouldn't melt with the intense heat. And while the interior was glowing, these pictures were taken in blue light with the interior lit up with flash units.  The three pictures here show different phases of the casting as the temperature rose.  The first at left above shows the glass chunks pretty much unchanged from room temperature as the interior climbed near the softening point of 750C.  The next one at right shows the view about the time of the open house - over 1000C, when the glass formed a solid disk about 6" thick, but still too viscous to run into the mold.  Finally at left, taken near the peak temperature shows the glass now fully filling the mold, and the faceplate thickness at about 2" thick. There were hundreds of pictures taken in all, and the time lapse of the melting is included with my own images in the video below...  I think these pictures/sequences are just about the most amazing things I see coming out of the lab!

We had a number of other activities visible to the guests in the Lab.  Besides the casting operation, over in the Polishing Lab we had 2 machines running - polishing one of the surfaces for the 8.4 meter diameter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and also grinding the backplate of the 6.5 meter San Pedro Martir Telescope (SPM).  As my schedule permitted (I was running a booth explaining the generating, grinding and polishing operations), I set up my own camera on a tripod with a timer taking a picture every 2 seconds.  Later I found I could even take one per second if I changed to a smaller file size. These images from around the lab were imported into Windows Movie Maker and turned into a 3-minute time lapse of the open house activities.  You can see perhaps a little better about the movement of the equipment as it polishes the surface.  Interestingly, the initial sequence of the rotating oven, at a frame every 2 seconds, exhibits a "stroboscopic" effect, where the oven appears to rotate the opposite direction it was actually turning!  Sort of like in the old TV westerns when the wagon wheels appeared to turn backwards, it is an artifact of the frame rate and wagon spokes creating an interesting optical illusion...


After all the VIPs had departed the facility for the rest of the day's activity (meetings and a dinner at an undisclosed location!), the pressure was off for the rest of the Mirror Lab crew.  Here, a couple staffers "vogue" in front of the spinning oven for our staff photographer (not me!) to take their image(also at the end of the time lapse above).  The only ones not relaxing were the casting crew.  They were responsible for the entire melting process and were little seen during the hubbub of the day's activities.  In fact, about the time we were leaving, we heard reports of their concern for an odd appearance of turbulence and bubbles near the edge of the mirror (seen in the glass-melting section of the time-lapse above).  That particular effect had not been seen before, but evidently came out ok in the end as the subsequent casting looks pretty good.  We'll find out for sure when the oven is opened about Thansgiving! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Patient Approves A Road Trip!

First the medical update...  A week after the start of Chemo last weekend, we feel that Melinda's breathing and cough are improved, but we're struggling to stay ahead of her nausea.  The problem is that she has been sleeping up to 10 to 12 hours a day, and especially during the night she doesn't take the pair of drugs she has at her disposal every 4 hours.  She was also suffering through a sore throat (making swallowing difficult) and Friday the Cancer Center had her come in for fluids to make sure she was staying hydrated.  They also scheduled her for a liter of fluids Saturday and Labor Day.  Today, the "day off" between hydration stops, she felt well enough to get out of the house for a drive!  I described the "Arivaca Loop", SW to Three Points, South to within a dozen miles of Mexico, East to Arivaca and Amado, then back North to Tucson.  Our friend Erica joined us - she hadn't been on those roads, so saw some new territory too.

We had a cloudless day to start, though it was
warmish in the mid-90s.  We didn't plan to spend much time outside, so had a late start (about 10:30am), and headed out towards Kitt Peak.  South of Three Points, with the Observatory out our window, I tried to take some 3-D shots out the window (Erica driving!), but with the cloud buildups starting, even though the shot pairs were taken less than  minute apart, the cloud movement was quite distracting.  Even so, the shot at left, taken about a mile or so separation shows the mountain profile quite well.  The religious mountain Baboquivari (to the Tohono O'odham) fared a little better.  Rather than have Erica pull off the road for the shots, I just had her drive slowly while I shot some frames.  Even then we had some cloud movement, but the results are still interesting.  These are cross-eyed views - cross your eyes slightly to view the left picture with your right eye and vice-versa.  Your brain will then assemble a 3rd picture between them showing depth.  It is easier to fuse the thumbnails, then click on them for the full-size image for more resolution.  Again, ignore the cloud motion between frames that is seen in illumination changes.

Turning East towards Arivaca, we pulled off at a nature walk at Buenos Ares Wildlife preserve to see what we could see.  There wasn't much visible during the little walk we took, though I stalked some butterflies.  The one I saw here is an Arizona Checkerspot (Texola perse) feeding off some lil' flowers. 

There wasn't much happening in Arivaca, so after a slow drive through town we continued the 15 miles or so on to Amado.  The only wide spot in the road here very near where it intersects with Interstate 19 is where the "Cow Palace" is located.  The picture at left (an HDR shot with wide-angle lens) shows another restaurant, now closed, with a giant cow skull as entrance!  The Palace serves as a food destination for many folks - a dozen Harleys were parked outside as we arrived, and lunch that day (admittedly at 2pm) had only the HD crowd, us, and a couple other tables.  The food was quite good, and no doubt we'll be back again in the future as we get to the area again.

Still not in a hurry for a rapid return to Tucson,
we ambled northwards on the I-19 frontage road, and paused at the Titan Missile Museum, where the Cold War missile silo serves as a sobering reminder of our atomic age.  While neither Melinda nor Erica had toured the place, we saved our money this trip and just toured the small visitor center and gift shop at no charge.  From there we headed west up the east slopes of the Sierrita Mountains past the mine tailings of the huge copper mines there.  We then descended into the SW side of the Tucson area.  Upon hearing that Erica had never been to San Xavier Mission, we altered our path to get her to witness this "Must-See" location!  With the sun getting lower and an interesting thunderhead formation over the Santa Catalina Mountains, I shot a trio of exposures for a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image with a polarizing filter to show the dramatic structure against the clouds.  While pausing in the quiet confines, Melinda lit a candle and we all said a prayer for her recovery.  We can't have too many people praying for us!

From there it was a short jaunt to return home.  In all we covered 150 miles in about 6 hours, and we all had a great time.  While I expected Min to be pooped out, she did pretty well and is just now going to bed close to our normal time.  More hydrating fluids on tomorrow's holiday - the conclusion of a pretty good weekend!