Saturday, October 27, 2007

Edison & Ford Winter Estates

We visited the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida, which were built at the turn of the 20th century. The tree trunks in the photo are actually all part on one banyan tree. This banyan tree is one of the largest in the world. Roots hanging down from the tree form new trunks. The tree started as a 4 ft tall specimen in the 1920's.

An orchid growing in the banyan tree.

Edison's chemistry lab. Edison, Ford, and Firestone were looking for a new botanical source of rubber. They experimented with different types of tropical trees. They also did research on materials like bamboo for light bulb filaments.

A series of pullies, similar to those in Greenfield Village, helped power the machines in the workshop.

The Moonlight Garden behind Edison's office.

The pier on the Caloosahatchee River. Supplies for the estates came in via boat.

Edison's home and garden.

An electrolier. The lighting fixtures in the Edison house are fascinating.

Dwarf Poinciana

The interior of the Ford house was decorated in the Arts & Crafts style of the early 20th century. The lamp in the corner is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's style.

This tree near the Ford house had strange flowers hanging from it.

Close up of the tree's hanging flowers.

A huge old Mysore fig tree with sprawling roots.

Close up of the roots of the Mysore fig tree.

Lipstick Plant

You can click on any of the photos in this post to see a larger version. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

STS-120 Shuttle Discovery Launch

We had to be at the Kennedy Space Center at 6am for the 11:38am launch. It was dark and the shuttle was lit up. It looked something like this. This picture is a painting in a NASA art gallery.

Kennedy Space Center entrance on launch day. The Discovery flag flies with the American flag.

We are 6 miles from the launchpad on a causeway across a bay on NASA property. You can see the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) in the background. The launchpad is off camera to the right. This place is the closest the public can get to a shuttle launch.

Shuttle Discovery clears the launchpad. We saw movement before we could hear it. The sound was much louder than at previous locations. It wasn't an earpiercing noise; it was a low rumble that shook you inside and out. Crackling sounds like a giant bonfire faded as the shuttle rose farther up into the sky.

Here's the launch sequence patched together. (Click on any of the photos in the blog for larger images.)

The cloud clears the launchpad. We could smell it. An announcement over the P.A. system said that we could be affected by hydrochloric acid fumes from the launch. If we felt like we had sore throats a drink of water would clear it up. I felt a minor irritation and a few sips of Pepsi washed it away.

The roll.

This is another painting from the NASA art gallery. If I were to make a composite of my experience watching the launch it would look something like this. There were people with cameras everywhere. The orange flame from the shuttle cut through clouds set against a blue sky.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Walking on the Beach

We saw this scene on the way to Fort DeSoto Park. There were people parasurfing on the north side of Sunshine Skyway bridge.

The Gulf water is cooling off, so we went for a walk instead of swimming at the beach. I don't know if this pink plant is seaweed or coral. The color is so vivid.

There were less people and a lot more birds. I've never seen so many different kinds of birds hanging around together. They weren't bothered by people walking along the surf. It was as if we were just bigger birds with cameras.

These little cranes are funny. They have yellow feet that makes it look like they're wearing galoshes.

We walked to the point at the North Beach to where you can almost walk over to another island. I've seen people walk over. The water may be shallow enough to do that, but I don't trust the currents. The sand was packed down and had contrasting wavy patterns in it.

Pelicans and clouds backlit by the sunset.