2013.03.21 – Winter in DC

And just like that I was back to work! Timing was perfect to get back on board the TWiLiTE project, one of NASA’s high-altitude aircraft instrumentation projects I’d been involved with while working at Sigma Space since 2007. TWiLiTE, which stands for Tropospheric Wind Lidar Technology Experiment, is a proof of concept for using a Doppler lidar based system in space to measure winds here on Earth. After many successful flights on the ER-2 aircraft it was time to reconfigure the instrument for longer duration flights on the unmanned Global Hawk platform. Not only was this exciting work, it also meant being back with an awesome team of good friends and former colleagues.

Sigma Space. Land of lasers, optics, and other really cool stuff!

Sigma Space. Land of lasers, optics, and other really cool stuff!

The TWiLiTE instrument and the ER-2 during our first round of engineering test flights at NASA Dryden in 2009.

The TWiLiTE instrument and the ER-2 during our first round of engineering test flights at NASA Dryden in 2009.

The 500+ pound TWiLiTE secure in the ER-2 Q-Bay with mere inches to spare on all sides.

The 500+ pound TWiLiTE secure in the ER-2 Q-Bay with mere inches to spare on all sides.

The ER-2 after a night flight over the Pacific Ocean.

The ER-2 after a night flight over the Pacific Ocean.

The ER-2, almost 60 years old and still one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built.

The ER-2, almost 60 years old and still one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built.

The Global Hawk, on the other hand, may not be the most beautiful plane ever built but it will serve TWiLiTE well in future missions.

The Global Hawk, on the other hand, may not be the most beautiful plane ever built but it will serve TWiLiTE well in future missions.

The new mounting structure for TWiLiTE's optical bench, laser, and telescope.

The new mounting structure for TWiLiTE’s optical bench, laser, and telescope.

TWiLiTE in the lab in its old, ER-2 configuration.

TWiLiTE in the lab in its old, ER-2 configuration.

TWiLiTE reconfigured for Global Hawk on its slick new shipping and aircraft installation cart.

TWiLiTE reconfigured for Global Hawk on its slick new shipping and aircraft installation cart.

Waiting for me were also a few two-wheeled vehicles. Fun, at least until winter hit, then thanks to Nicolas I had a car for the duration, one with 4-wheels, a roof, doors, heat……amazing!

Riding the Camel once again.

Riding the Camel once again.

And of course Jules, here on an autumn ride to Mount Vernon.

And of course Jules, here on an autumn ride to Mount Vernon.

Two weeks back to stationary life and it was time for a trip, this time for an extremely short visit to Idaho for my nephew Eric and and his bride Sidney’s wedding. While there was no Nyama Choma at this one it was a beautiful affair – and my first time seeing much of my family since the reunion in July. Congratulations guys!!!

Eric and Sidney tie the knot.

Eric and Sidney tie the knot.

Hmmmm.

Hmmmm.

Sidney and one of the ring-bearers (who dressed as a mobster).

Sidney and one of the ring-bearers (who dressed as a mobster).

What's up guys? Happy or something!?

What’s up guys? Happy or something!?

One nice thing about being in one spot for a while was having space to work on projects. Though there never seems to be enough time to complete (or even start!) them all, this winter was host to some fun ones.

Refusing to let my old phone die and succumb to Verizon's evil ways, I rebuilt the still-working parts into an Altoids tin.

Refusing to let my old phone die and succumb to Verizon’s evil ways, I rebuilt the still-working parts into an Altoids tin.

While the phone worked for a while it was ultimately more art than communication tool. But fear not, its replacement was another ancient phone from E-Bay. Ryan: 1, Verizon: 0

While the phone worked for a while it was ultimately more art than communication tool. But fear not, its replacement was another ancient phone from E-Bay. Ryan: 1, Verizon: 0

Getting back to painting, this time attempting to combine some geometric order with completely splattered chaos.

Getting back to painting, this time attempting to combine some geometric order with completely splattered chaos.

Masking out geometries.

Masking out geometries.

Almost finished.

Almost finished.

Finished!

Finished!

And of course some detailed work, here a pendant CNC machined from layers of 0.040" titanium, assembled with ground-flush #0 screws.

And of course some detailed work, here a pendant CNC machined from layers of 0.040″ titanium, assembled with ground-flush #0 screws.

As my “home” for more on than off since 2006, settling back in DC for the winter also meant great times with dear friends. Sadly not too many pictures get taken of just “hangin’ out”, but many quality times were had – it’s been great seeing you guys!!!!!

Brian and I expressing our excitement about the feast Mary cooked for Thanksgiving. I can't remember the last time I ate four meals in a row, fell asleep at 9 PM, and woke up for two breakfasts. Outstanding!

Brian and I expressing our excitement about the feast Mary cooked for Thanksgiving. I can’t remember the last time I ate four meals in a row, fell asleep at 9 PM, and woke up for two breakfasts. Outstanding!

Mary, Jane, Prodigy, Christine and I after our second or third dinner.

Mary, Jane, Prodigy, Christine and I after our second or third dinner.

Uncle Gikiri, Kabi, Wanjiru, Brian, Freddy, Coco and I sightseeing in DC.

Uncle Gikiri, Kabi, Wanjiru, Brian, Freddy, Coco and I sightseeing in DC.

The new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

The new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Uncle Gikiri, Wangiru, Coco, Freddy, Kabi and Brian at the MLK Memorial.

Uncle Gikiri, Wangiru, Coco, Freddy, Kabi and Brian at the MLK Memorial.

Looking east toward the Washington Monument from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Looking east toward the Washington Monument from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Coco at the Lincoln Memorial.

Coco at the Lincoln Memorial.

And then there was New Orleans. A reunion of sorts for Andy, Glen and I, best friends since our first week at university. Kindred spirits always up for adventure and debauchery we decided to meet in Chicago, take the famous “City of New Orleans” train south, and see what kind of trouble we could get into with a week in the Big Easy. Armed with bicycles and a cottage in the heart of the Bywater there was no shortage of the absurd, and as far as we can remember we left Louisiana without any pending court dates.

"I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans.....Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.....Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle.....And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.....This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.....I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans, I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

“I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans…..Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car…..Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle…..And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel…..This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues…..I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Voodoo everywhere, even the sidewalks.

Voodoo everywhere, even the sidewalks.

Andy and Glen carry on aboard the ferry to Algiers.

Andy and Glen carry on aboard the ferry to Algiers.

Interesting sign to see aboard a city ferry.

Interesting sign to see aboard a city ferry.

We may have been out past our bedtime the night before.

We may have been out past our bedtime the night before.

St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter.

St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter.

Watch out NOLA, here we come!

Watch out NOLA, here we come!

Did I mention the bicycles had cup holders?

Did I mention the bicycles had cup holders?

Andy vs. the geese.

Andy vs. the geese.

I mentioned debauchery, ridiculousness, and bikes with cup holders, but did I mention genius? Because what you’re about to see is just that: sheer genius. Or at least we thought so until we later realized the “dirt” pile was actually manure – didn’t have much luck with the ladies around town that night.

Andy perfecting his uncanny ability to fly horizontally through the air.

Andy perfecting his uncanny ability to fly horizontally through the air.

Stunning.

Stunning.

Horizontal yes, but not quite enough altitude.

Horizontal yes, but not quite enough altitude.

As the sunglasses indicate, proper safety precautions were taken at all times.

As the sunglasses indicate, proper safety precautions were taken at all times.

Glen on final approach.

Glen on final approach.

And then Andy says, "Why don't I just THROW you into the manure pile!?" "Gee, that's a great idea, Andy!" replies the idiot.

And then Andy says, “Why don’t I just THROW you into the manure pile!?”
“Gee, that’s a great idea, Andy!” replies the idiot.

After extensive rehabilitation at the chiropractor we headed for the Gulf Coast.

After extensive rehabilitation at the chiropractor we headed for the Gulf Coast.

Andy and the stick.

Andy and the stick.

Andy, Glen and the stick.

Andy, Glen and the stick.

Who does this, really? Damn I love these guys.

Who does this, really? Damn I love these guys.

In January my nephew Tayt got to meet his “girlfriend” when Ellen DeGeneres made his wish come true and flew he and his family to Los Angeles to spend a week at Disneyland and appear on her show. Awesome.

My awesome family and their castle.

My awesome family and their castle.

Tayt, Jace, Corly and Uncle Ryan. Thanks for the mouse ears Amy!

Tayt, Jace, Corly and Uncle Ryan. Thanks for the mouse ears Amy!

Kendra, Tayt and I with Jessie from Toy Story.

Kendra, Tayt and I with Jessie from Toy Story.

My awesome sister Taryn and I in Radiator Springs.

My awesome sister Taryn and I in Radiator Springs.

Corly, Devony, Tayt, Jace, Gage, Jackson and Uncle Ryan in line for the Cars ride.

Corly, Devony, Tayt, Jace, Gage, Jackson and Uncle Ryan in line for the Cars ride.

About to begin our Cars ride.

About to begin our Cars ride.

Gage and Tayt cheer as we gain on the car we're racing.

Gage and Tayt cheer as we gain on the car we’re racing.

Caught speeding by a traffic enforcement camera. Oh the irony!

Caught speeding by a traffic enforcement camera. Oh the irony!

Eric and Tayt on the Star Tours ride. Tayt about lost his mind on this one, I think everyone else on the ride had more fun watching Tayt than anything else!

Eric and Tayt on the Star Tours ride. Tayt about lost his mind on this one, I think everyone else on the ride had more fun watching Tayt than anything else!

Tayt and Uncle Eric, still going strong after a week at Disneyland.

Tayt and Uncle Eric, still going strong after a week at Disneyland.

Getting dizzy on the Astro Orbitor.

Getting dizzy on the Astro Orbitor.

Tayt finally gets to meet his girlfriend! Not many people without tears in the studio for this filming.

Tayt finally gets to meet his girlfriend! Not many people without tears in the studio for this filming.

No tears from this guy though. Just his usual patient, heartwarming and thoroughly contagious smile.

No tears from this guy though. Just his usual patient, heartwarming and thoroughly contagious smile.

In February with motorcycling season approaching my friend Lou invited me to Pennsylvania for the annual BMW Airhead Motorcycle Supertech. Put on by the Pennsylvania Airhead members of the Airheads Beemer Club, it’s a weekend of lectures, classes, and hands-on wrenching for motorcycle nuts (like me!). Best of all they welcomed me even though the Camel has an evil little thing called a “waterpump” and is one cylinder short of a real BMW airhead. Thanks guys!

The Supertech "doctors" gets some recognition after a fantastic weekend of motorcycle wrenching.

The Supertech “doctors” gets some recognition after a fantastic weekend of motorcycle wrenching.

One of the many fully functional cutaways at Supertech. In this one, for example, you can turn the input shaft and shift through the gears to see the inner workings of the transmission.

One of the many fully functional cutaways at Supertech. In this one, for example, you can turn the input shaft and shift through the gears to see the inner workings of the transmission.

Another view of the transmission.

Another view of the transmission.

These few pictures and spare words leave much unsaid about what turned out to be six great months back in DC. But now as the TWiLiTE project comes to a close it’s time to put my things back in storage for who knows how long and take to the world again. In a week’s time my folks and I will be halfway across the Atlantic aboard a ship bound for Europe, and as usual I have no return ticket. With luck I can keep up with the blog better than I did during my travels of 2012, but if not trust that I’ll return sometime with memory cards full of photos and stories to tell when time allows. Bon voyage my friends!

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3 Responses to 2013.03.21 – Winter in DC

  1. Dave says:

    Good stuff, buddy. I have one of those “photo enforcement” mementos as well. The bad thing is, I think I paid more than Disneyland prices for mine and I did not look like I was having nearly as much fun as you guys. I hope for your sake you’ve never sold your handiwork to the fine folks of the Pima County justice department…. We might have to have words if you did…. Enjoy the cruise!

  2. Bailey H. says:

    I love the painting and the pendant! I’m not usually big on abstract, splatter-type paintings, but the sun-streaky geometry component adds just the kind of order-amid-the-chaos element that totally resonates with me. :-P Very very cool. :)

  3. Biko says:

    I love the pics Ryan, you really inspire me to put down the beer….’takes a sip’

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