Wednesday, November 23, 2011

where I was this morning...

KSC Press Accreditation Building

This is the Press Accreditation Building at the south entrance to Kennedy Space Center. You might have noticed the last few posts here have been from Florida, and I just realized I haven't yet explained what I'm doing in Florida. On this humble blog, anyway; I've mentioned it a few times on the intertweets, and on this blog's geeky new Tumblr sibling, Exploration Images, if you happen to be following it too. I've been invited to a NASA tweetup for the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover, now scheduled for this Saturday, so I'm in Florida all week: Meeting people, taking lots of photos, contributing to the local economy, and hopefully adjusting to the shift of three time zones in time to wake up for the launch.

I picked up my official tweetup badge yesterday at this building, but needed to come back to pick up a free pass to the KSC Visitor Complex (which I'll probably use tomorrow). The Press Accreditation Building is also where "real" journalists come to pick up their credentials; if you look closely at the top photo, you'll see a sign indicating that there are separate press and tweetup entrances.

Separate entrance or no, it amuses me that I went through the NASA press accreditation process (or at least a variant thereof) on behalf of this humble blog here. Well, and my Twitter account, which has a lot more followers than this blog. Same for the aforementioned Tumblr site. And my Flickr account for that matter. Although comparing follower counts across disparate flavors of social media is really not a fair comparison. For example, following through Blogger is really not utilized all that often, even by regular readers (hint, hint).

KSC Press Accreditation Building

In any case, at dinner the other night I talked to a couple of people who'd been here before, some years ago, and the consensus was that the building seemed rather run down, even compared to what it was like just 6-7 years ago, probably due to budget cuts & deferred maintenance. I have no basis for comparison, myself, but to me the unmowed lawn, etc., actually adds to the charm of the place. It's a simple cinder block building that obviously dates to the early days of the space program. I don't know exactly when, or whether it always served its current function, but I have this mental image of stereotypical 1961 reporters lined up for their press passes, all of them wearing fedoras, chain smoking, swilling gin from hip flasks, making cynical wisecracks to each other, driving cars with tail fins, and lugging enormous Speed Graphic cameras around in hopes of nailing a LIFE cover photo. And then John Glenn drops by to meet the newspaper & radio boys and they all start waving notebooks around and chaos ensues temporarily. As far as I know, Walter Cronkite passed through these doors in order to get his Apollo 11 press pass. Or some nameless staffer did it on his behalf, more likely. I realize that's kind of a silly thing to marvel over, but still.

KSC Press Accreditation Building

I have to wonder what 1960s media would have thought of 2011 social media. We have photo gear they couldn't have dreamed of, and mostly use it to take cute cat photos. We have no editors breathing down our necks, and usually nobody to enforce deadlines. We can even swear in print as much as we want and nobody can stop us, although I almost never do. On the other hand, with the lack of annoyances comes the lack of salary, so there's that.

some spanish moss

spanish moss

As seen at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Although basically all Spanish moss looks exactly like this.

spanish moss

spanish moss

spanish moss

spanish moss

spanish moss

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Maybe-Milestone @ Peninsular & Farragut

Milestone @ Peninsular & Farragut


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Today's episode of the ongoing milestone quest takes us to North Portland, where the stone pictured here sits along Peninsular Avenue, near the intersection with Farragut St. This one was spotted by keen-eyed Gentle Reader av3ed, who sent me a tip about it (along with a few other interesting spots you'll probably see here sooner or later).

Milestone @ Peninsular & Farragut

Like a couple of the other recent finds (the big tilted one at 23rd & Hawthorne, and the one marked '5' on SW Spring Garden Road), we have something of a mystery on our hands. As with the one on Hawthorne, I don't absolutely know for a fact that this is a milestone; it doesn't have any numbers visible on it, and neither Peninsular nor Farragut are major streets that you'd think would require a hefty marker like this. What's more, so far I haven't been able to learn anything at all about the thing. Nothing on PortlandMaps, nothing in the old Oregonian database, nothing anywhere on the net that I've been able to find.

Milestone @ Peninsular & Farragut

So unless new information turns up somehow, we're left to guess at what this stone might be. One possibility is that someone hoped Peninsular would be more of a major street than it turned out to be. It's kind of a grand name for a quiet residential street, so I think this isn't a totally unreasonable guess. As for the time period, it looks newer than the Stark St. milestones, but it's still stone and not concrete like the ones along the Gorge Highway, or the Spring Garden one. The house it sits next to dates to 1894, and the design of the stone does look a bit Victorian, so I'm going to guess a few years on either side of when the house went in.

The stone has a couple of round markings on its sides, as if something was attached there at one point. If this was a milestone, that may be where its key informational bit was once located, and everything would suddenly make sense if only that item hadn't been misplaced at some point.

Another possibility that just occurred to me is that this might be an ornate stone hitching post, and not a milestone at all. I'm not aware of any examples of fancy hitching posts around town -- in downtown Portland people relied on metal rings fixed into the sidewalk -- but it's one other possible explanation I can think of. Maybe the circular parts are where the metal rings were once attached, although I don't see holes that would indicate something had once been bolted there. So I dunno. I'm going to go ahead and tag this under 'milestone' for the time being, since it does look very much like one. If it turns out I'm totally off base here and it's something completely different, I'll fix it later and we can all have a hearty laugh at my expense. Trust me, it wouldn't be the first time.

Columbia Buffer Strip Property

Columbia Buffer Strip Property


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Today's obscure city park is the "Columbia Buffer Strip Property", a long, skinnny piece of land that runs along the south side of busy, industrial Columbia Boulevard in North Portland, separating it from the adjacent residential neighborhood. A city document I ran across indicates that the buffer strip was created when Columbia Boulevard was widened around 1970, from leftover parts of lots acquired for the widening, plus vacated rights of way from residential streets that no longer intersect with Columbia.

One reason the leftover land became a park (rather than adjoining houses getting bigger yards, say) is that there's a major sewer line running roughly under the park, in the direction of the nearby Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, hence several parcels of the park are technically owned by the oh-so-delicately-named Bureau of Environmental Services rather than the Parks Bureau, although there's no obvious difference on the surface.

The park has a meandering bike path along much of its length, and a BikePortland map shows it as a proposed official bike route. Or at least I assume they mean the path through the park, rather than riding among all the semis and dump trucks on Columbia.

I do see people using the path regularly on the rare occasions when I'm up in this part of town, so it's really not the most obscure city park I've ever covered; it's just that there aren't any signs announcing it's a park or giving the name of the place. As is often the case, the Parks Bureau's website is no help, and elsewhere on the interwebs it only appears as a name in a list or on a map. Until now, I guess.