Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 3

Couple of boats in the Ballard Locks in 2011

In the last post of this series, I talked about things to see/do in Seattle that are close to downtown and/or otherwise fit into the usual conference intraweek schedule. Today, I’ll hit five things that likely will require an extra day (or two) in your trip. It may be too late for extra days this year, seeing as we’re two weeks out, but maybe you can work one of these into your next trip to SEA.

Hiram M. Chittenden (“Ballard”) Locks
3015 NW 54th Street, Ballard, WA
OK, this one may be a little goofy, I know. North of downtown Nashville, there are a set of locks built between Puget Sound and Salmon Bay, which is connected to Lake Union, and eventually Lake Washington (Lake Washington is the big body of water between Seattle and Redmond/Bellevue). These are part of a full canal connecting the sound with the lake built 100 years ago to aid/assist shipping between the bodies of water. They’re still used today, and even during the time of year when Summit is going on, there can be a fairly steady stream of traffic. For someone from boring landlocked flyover country, this is a fun thing to watch.

There is also a fish ladder, primarily serving migratory salmon heading back upstream into fresh water as part of the complex. There’s a viewing area as part of that, where you can watch the fish swim upstream. The salmon are usually done swimming by the time of year that Summit is going on, though.

The city of Woodinville is located northeast of Seattle, across Lake Washington and outside of the 405 bypass. The main point of going to Woodinville (at last for us) is for wine and the occasional distillery. There are a lot of tasting rooms and the like in town, and it’s possible to drive (Lyft, whatever) out there and walk to a bunch of places in one morning/afternoon/etc. There are a few “districts” with clumps of tasting rooms/wineries that make this easy. There are also scheduled events that go on, if scheduling works out while you’re in town.

The Museum of Flight
 9404 E Marginal Way S
Located on-field at Boeing Field/King County International Airport (KBFI) (You know that other airport you drive by between SEATAC and downtown? There.), this is the largest aerospace museum in the world. It is home to a nearly-endless stream of aircraft, related artifacts, and other air-and-space exhibits. There’s something here for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation and possibly even those who don’t–although those folks will probably be more interested in walking around the Aviation Pavilion, the outdoor static display of large aircraft that’s part of the museum, where there are a good chunk of airliners–old, new, fast, and slow.

Boeing Factory Tours
8415 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, WA
The Boeing Factory at Snohomish County Airport/Paine Field (KPAE) has the fun distinction of being the largest airport in the world by volume. Boeing lets us go on tours of their production lines here, which includes 777s, 787s, and the Queen of the Skies. There’s also the Future of Aviation center here, which is another museum-type apparatus.

Also on-field at KPAE is Paul Allen’s (yes, that Paul Allen) private collection of 1930s and ’40s aircraft/aviation equipment and WWII hardware.

Grand Coulee Dam (Brace yourself for 1996)
WA-155, Coulee Dam, WA (this is literally the best I can do for an address)
This is where things get super-nerdy. See, my wife and I have a little bit of a thing about dams, so we make strange trips to, well, see dams. There happens to be a giant one–it’s almost a mile long–about four hours east of Seattle! We’ve still never actually made it out to this, because it’s probably a two-day thing due to the length of the drive. One of these years.

Atlantis, Go at Throttle-Up


Atlantis on the pad, the night before STS-132 in May 2010

This week, we all have the opportunity to hear this, one of my favorite phrases in the English Language, one last time.

“<Shuttle>, Houston, go at throttle-up” is the command from NASA Mission Control in Houston to the ascending Space Shuttle to open the throttles of the three Main Engines back up to 104.5% of rated thrust. This event occurs as the shuttle is coming off of Max Q, about a minute-10 into the flight. I grew up listening to Lisa Malone’s voice narrating this radio exchange. Because I’m a huge nerd, I use this phrase in day-to-day life whenever I can.

STS-135, a mission that wasn’t supposed to happen at all, is currently scheduled for Friday at 11:26a Eastern Daylight.

This is the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the last one of the entire Space Shuttle program. NASA is taking a back seat to commercial endeavors in the human spaceflight department, instead focusing on heavy-lift capabilities. These heavy-lift rocket(s) will propel robotic missions to far-off places such as asteroids and will hopefully be the technological basis for long-term manned missions, as well.

I have my thoughts about this situation, but that’s not what this is about. This post is about Atlantis. This post is about a workhorse that is fading into history. This post is maybe a little bit about NASA Tweetup, as well, as Tammy and I were part of the STS-132 launch Tweetup. At the time, it was officially the last flight of Atlantis; the first of the last. That is an experience that we will never forget and will always be thankful for. It was an item off my bucket list and a lifelong dream. The launch, however, was almost just the icing on that Tweetup cake—the other activities, the people we met (both other Space Tweeps and NASA personnel), and just the experience of it all were truly what those two days were all about.

The best place to watch peoples’ lives changing (and average Joes being on NASA grounds and rubbing shoulders with others who feel the same way along with the employees that make this happen truly does change lives) in real-time this week is the #NASATweetup hashtag on Twitter. If you’re not a Twitter user (why the hell not?), you can get the feed here. It’s also a good idea to check NASA Buzzroom. It’s down at the moment, and I don’t know if it’s going to be back up for the Launch or not.

Not being all that good at writing is making it hard for me to say what I’m really wanting to say about this. Suffice to say that Friday’s launch is a big deal, both to me, and really, to all of us. I think the space program, the people who forge this trail every day, and even us ardent supporters who watch from the sidelines will have a greater impact on humanity as a whole than any of us can comprehend today.

Godspeed, Atlantis (and Roger Roll!)

Repost: Voyager 2

This post was originally written for my first blog, posted on 12/12/2007. It’s a goofy little post I wrote because the Voyager spacecraft are generally awesome and I’m a huge nerd. OK, that and there was a pretty major milestone passed. I’m reposting now because 25 years ago today, Voyager 2 made its 4.19 radii pass of Uranus (pffft). I know it’s pretty far from SQL Server, but, huge nerd and the Voyagers are awesome.

Images Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

I sort of missed the boat on this when it happened, but back on August 20, Voyager 2 marked its 30th year in space. For 30 years, that little chunk (and its cohort, Voyager 1) has been hurtling through space, measuring plasma levels, temperatures, and taking pictures of crap, among other things.

The Voyager Spacecraft


Thirty. Years.

To me, the Voyagers are some of the most memorable and recognizable pieces of equipment that NASA has ever thrown up in the air. I remember 2’s flyby of Neptune in 1989 (map of the planetary flybys is below), and it was one of the targets of my early obsessions with all things aerospace. Sure, the space shuttle was a little more visible, but there was always something special about Voyager.

And here it is, a spacecraft built to run for five years, still going strong after six times that. I guess they don’t make them like they used to, but then again, the Mars Rovers are still going after, what, almost four years now, and they were supposed to go for 30 days? I joke a lot about how we sent men to the moon with chalkboards and slide rules, but man, those Engineers can do anything with just about anything. I mean, NASA did put a square peg in a round hole, once…

Voyager Journey

Voyagers' path within the Solar System

Anyway, Voyager 2 has now reached the edge of the Solar Wind. That’s way out there. Even though I haven’t a clue what most of what you learn from that is about or how it is useful (that’s more of my sister’s area), it’s still pretty cool. I’ve never really thought about the dynamics of the SW on the interstellar gas; I suppose that could be due to how I just thought of the gas as just there, not necessarily an entity that would interact with things within it. This is why I’m in IT and not working at the JPL or something 😉

I can’t help but think about how I zip around far greater patches of space in my little Internet Spaceships in seconds and it’s taken these guys 30 years to get to where they’re at now. I know it’s just a stupid game, but I still believe that someday our technology will have us there, too. I don’t expect to be around to see it of course, but there will be some dreamer like me there to take advantage of it.

Time to stare up at the night sky again

Well, so this didn’t take long for me to break from writing good, useful SQL posts to drop into general geekery.

Long story short, the Earth is as close as we will be to Jupiter until 2022. This makes it very bright in the night sky. If you go outside and look tonight (which you should), you will see a bright thing in the sky to the Southeast of the Moon. That’s Jupiter.

So, that’s fairly cool. But there’s more!

Get some binoculars and look again. Depending on how good your eyes are and how powerful your binocs are, you will see three or four of Jupiter’s four big “Galilean” moons. They’re running in a plane from lower left to upper right. Won’t be able to see any rings without a telescope, but the moons are pretty cool. At midnight it should be more-or-less overhead, which is when everything will be the brightest & easiest to see.

That's no moon...there's four of them (clicky for big)

The pic I took here was with Tammy’s Pentax K10D on a tripod with the crappy 200mm telephoto that we have. I wasn’t even going to do this until @CanSpice said that he had good results, so out I went. Focus ring doesn’t go far enough over to make this really sharp, so between that and, you know, the whole “we’re moving” part, this is as good as I can get with the equipment we have. has some ridiculous pictures posted from other people who have real equipment, along with some more info.

Uranus (heh*) is also in the vicinity (only one degree off), but I wasn’t able to find it–not enough power. All of us (Sun, Earth, Jupiter, Uranus) are all lined up in a row, which is why everything is so close together.

I would expect that there will be another few nights when Jupiter is really visible, so if you don’t see this tonight, all hope is not completely lost.

* I’m sorry, I still, and probably will always, snicker at this

Restart! [<BOOM>]

I agonized for a while with what to do for the first sentence for my attempt to re-enter the blogging community and finally deciding to wimp out and write about the opening sentence instead. Goal #1: Completed!

As I said, this is technically the second blog that I’ve run. The first one I started a number of years ago, with no firm goal in mind—I was just going to mumble about whatever was going on or whatever I felt like talking about. I didn’t do too bad getting things written, but since it was somewhat lacking a purpose in life, I got a little bored with it. This time around, I’m going to focus on writing technical content, as it should help me to learn more about the things that I do every day. Of course, there’s also the part about how all of the cool kids in #sqlhelp are doing it.

I had been kicking around the thought of doing this for a while, and actually it was Mike Reigler’s first post about SQL Cruise that finally pushed me over the edge. Reading his awesome post about the cruise and how he decided it was worthwhile to go for whatever reason finally made me decide that I wanted to do it, too. I’m in no way, shape, or form a good writer, so I don’t know how well this will go over, but I’m going to subject you guys to it, anyway (at least until you decide this is lame).

My goal here at the beginning is to get a post up once a week. It’s not very much, but since I don’t do a lot of crazy stuff at work, I will be doing good if I can pull that off. Who knows, maybe I’ll start to get a bunch of cool stuff going on and I’ll be able to pound stuff out all the time. I hope that I can keep it technical and useful enough to live up to the high standards of SQL bloggers 🙂

The <BOOM> Thing…

This is going to be one of those long crazy stories that I have that will only make sense to me and nobody will read all of. It’s OK, I understand.

The Boom… I used to eat, breathe, and sleep aerospace-related stuff. Until I was in middle school, I wanted to be an Astronaut. This means that I would watch every space- and flying-related show that PBS would put on (<insert shout out to WTTW here>).

Somewhere along the line there was an episode of something that covered the X-15. One of the things included was the time that one of the test airframes blew up on Scott Crossfield during a static engine test. The way I remember it going down, was the engine flamed out, someone said “restart” over the radio, and immediately after that, it exploded. For as long as I can remember, whenever someone says “restart”, my brain fills in an explosion right afterwards. Sometimes this is funny, other times, not so much.

That’s where the <BOOM> is from.

While thinking about putting this story down on paper, I realized that due to the awesomeness of the Internet, there might be some tape of this incident on YouTube. Guess what? There is! Awesome right? Run it up to the one minute mark for the juicy bit:

(link if embed fails:

Turns out, it’s a little bit not-so-awesome, because it appears to have been a planned shutdown of the motor, AND, as you can see/hear, the voice on the radio didn’t say restart, they said reset. Obviously this destroys like 20 years of nostalgia, and now I’m lost in life because my “restart <boom>” thing is all wrong.

The Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away (apologies to God).