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A first look at our new home!

We have been trying to build our dream home in Wisconsin for a few years now.  We've always wanted something modern but also important to us is that we have a unique site to build it on.  Our first site next to a dam/waterfall at the Merrillan mill failed (long, complicated story) and since then we purchased a beautiful 14 acre wooded plot with an amazing sandstone cliff overlooking a river valley to the east.  Last month we met with and hired Jim Gempeler, an architect from GMK Architecture

to design our home.  Here is an early first look at the design that he sent to us.  Very cool and exciting!  We have been posting all the details of our experiences in trying to build both projects over at our other site so if you are interested, go check out the details there.


Joshua Tree Stargazing

Spent today at Victoria Elementary School in Riverside as one of more than 200 volunteers from Target for our company sponsored Extreme Library Makeover - I read over 60 pages of "The Witches" to a class of 5th graders. After I got home, we drove out to Joshua Tree National Park and set up camp for a night of stargazing. The weather was really clear and the Clear Sky Clock was showing favorable conditions. Surprisingly, even though both loops of Cottonwood Springs were nearly filled, we didn't see anyone else with a telescope. It looked like a perfect night was shaping up - until...
A bunch of teenage kids showed up in the next camp site over, started a bonfire, and had a bunch of flashlights/headlamps blaring. They were loud all night and the only thing good that came from them was the smell of the cajun chicken they were cooking (and it did smell good).
Will and his girlfriend (Evelyn) actually drove out and got there after 10p - crazy thing is that both of them had to be at work at 6am the next morning! I think they had a good time overall.
Conditions didn't end up being that great, so we kept it to fairly bright objects with the Christmas Tree Cluster being our favorite of the night.

OK, so even though there was a bunch of lights ruining the darkness and smoke messing up the seeing, it was still a good night. It is always a good night when you are out camping under the stars and watching Jupiter cruise across the sky from inside your tent.


Roadtrip from Riverside to Wisconsin

We just made it from Riverside to Wisconsin - 1,900 miles. Here are a
couple pictures from our property. We are here to meet the architect
in Madison tomorrow. More to come later...


Target Pharmacy - "Ask Us" commercial

I don't talk about work much, but Target recently launched a marketing campaign called "Ask Us" focused purely on Target Pharmacy. This is why I work for Target, we are the coolest pharmacy around.


Kennedy Meadows - camping and astronomy

We went to Kennedy Meadows this weekend to camp with the dogs and use the telescope. We drove up on Friday which wasn't bad from Riverside at 170 miles. It is up in the southern Sierras about 25 miles west of US-395 at an elevation of 6,500ft. It is pretty dry and dusty, but not as bad as Grandview (a few hours north in the White Mountains). The campground has around 25 sites, each with a picnic table, a water faucet nearby, and pit toilets for $17/night. The campround was relatively empty with only 3 other people there and they had RVs so it was nice and quite - no lights or campfires.
It is situated in a valley with a fork of the Kern River running by, which I think affected our seeing at night since it seemed that there might have been a slight inversion layer of air trapped in the valley. The weather was warmer than I expected with highs in the 90s during the day and mid-50s at night.
We hiked up river for about a half-mile and took Astro and Orion for their first swim in moving water. It is pretty shallow, with few spots that were much deeper than knee deep but they were pretty freaked out. Except for Orion slipping in, neither one wanted to get wet so I threw both of them in and let them swim to the nearest rock. The water was nice and cool, not moving too quickly, but I still don't think the doggies liked it very much.
We spent both nights using the telescope and while it was clear and dark ( SQM 21.57 ), it was not any better than Cottonwood Springs CG in Joshua Tree National Park (other than being cooler!). It was still a fun night as we just put a Astrocrumb filter slide onto the telescope and we could just click through the different filters we had installed (Broadband, UHC, and OIII) - very cool to follow along the tendrils of the Veil Nebula and switch back and forth with the UHC and OIII without having to thread and unthread filters.

View Kennedy Meadows in a larger map


Running in Montana de Oro State Park

We were up in San Luis Osbispo today to sell the Obsession 18" Ultra
Compact telescope to a very nice guy named Chris from the Bay area.
SLO was halfway for each of is so we met there. While there, we went
for a great run in the state park near by up the Coon Creek trail.


Replacing one telescope with another

A couple weeks ago, we drove to Scottsdale, AZ for the day and bought a used 18" Obsession Classic telescope from a really nice guy who made some great modifications to it. Now that we have the HUMMER, space isn't a problem so we really don't need an Ultra Compact telescope any longer. The classic is the same aperture as the Ultra Compact but has a ServoCat drive system, more cooling fans, and an electric collimation system.
I put the Ultra Compact up for sale on Astromart tonight here:
Here is a picture of the two side-by-side.


Nice, but hot day for a run

Got out for the third time in four days to run a 9 mile loop around
Lake Perris. Feeling good but out of shape having not got many long
runs in during the past few weeks. Probably above 90F and the best I
could muster was a 9min/mi pace. Definately room for improvement You
know it's hot when the water in your water bottle feels like it came
out of the hot side of the tap. Can't wait for cool winter weather!


Family at the top of Mammoth Mountain

Here's everybody at the top of Mammoth Mountain 11,053 ft. Getting
ready go to Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls.


Astro sleeping in the sun

Found Astro sleeping in this perfect little sunny spot on the bedroom
floor this morning. As the sun move through the morning, she kept
scooting along the floor to stay in it.


We bought a Hummer H2 yesterday

Bought a Hummer H2 yesterday. Really fun to drive and surprisingly easy. More details to come when I have a little more time to post.


A nice night of summer stargazing

We drove out to Joshua Tree National Park yesterday with the telescopes and got there well before dark for the first time in a while. We set up in spot B15 of the Cottonwood Springs campground. We brought both the TeleVue NP101 and our 18" Obsession UC.

The sky was clear and it was a great night, warm (low just above 60F), 7/10 seeing, with a SQM reading of 21.53.

There weren't many people in the campground maybe 5 other sites taken in the B loop. We were set up next to two guys with telescopes also - Richard (from San Bernardino) and Bruce (from Moreno Valley). They had a large refractor (maybe 130mm) and a 10" Meade SCT.

We started off looking at Saturn, then moved to the Hercules star cluster M13, M51 Whirlpool Galaxy M51, Pinwheel Galaxy M101 (never really been able to see much detail), Ring Nebula M57 (could not make out the central star), Cat's Eye Nebula NGC6543 (appeared as a pale blue disk), the Veil Nebula (detail easily seen with OIII filter on 30mm Pentax XW), and the Sombrero Galaxy M104, then just cruised around looking for other galaxies in the area.
We then went poking through the Sagittarius region of the Milky Way looking for dark nebula. B86, the Inkspot was the neatest thing we saw all night - it is really amazing to see just how many stars there are in that one area alone.


Welcome to your new home Orion and Astro!

We adopted two terrier mixes from the Moreno Valley animal shelter - Orion and Astro. They were brought to the shelter after being found on the street just a couple months old. They seem pretty happy here, cruising around our place, investigating and chasing each other around. They spent a good amount of time snoozing and sleeping - probably much more peaceful here than in the shelter. Here is a couple pictures of them from the shelter and then back at home tonight.


A new home? Let's hope so...

We spent some time last week in Wisconsin looking for a new place to build our home. After failing to be able to build at the Mill site , we were looking for around 10 acres of vacant semi-wooded land with some elevation change and a southern view to build on. We found a great place with a road going up to the edge of a high sandstone bluff. In the Google Earth image below, South is towards the upper right corner.
We put an offer in on the property this week, hopefully it works out - this is going to be one great place to build a home. From the top of the bluff, there is nearly a 180deg view of the eastern horizon looking out around 20 miles! There aren't many other homes in the area so light pollution won't be a problem for building an observatory. Will post more once everything works out and we will start posting development plans at if we get that far.


me and Spot the Target dog at work


Joshua Tree Astronomy

Headed out to Joshua Tree National Park with the telescopes last night. We got to the Cottonwood Springs campground before sunset, but both the A and B loop sites were full so we drove down to the nearby trail head parking lot and set up there. Unfortunately you can't camp here so we would have to drive home after we were done.
We set up the telescopes (Obsession 18" UC and TeleVue NP101) and watched the crescent moon as it set over the nearby mountain ridge. It was really neat watching the dark part of the moon moving behind the mountain as it was barely lit up by the Earth shine.
The night started out great, Saturn was cool with its rings nearly edge-on, then tried to make out the Horsehead Nebula but it was to far down and into the sky glow from the Palm Springs area. Looked at M51 (Whirlpool galaxy), then on to galaxy cruising in the Virgo Cluster. M61 and M104 (Sombrero Galaxy) were the highlights.
By then, high wispy clouds were moving in from the southwest so we looked at M13 (Hercules Cluster) since it had come up not too much earlier and by then, you could barely make out the Big Dipper so we packed p and drove home.


Saw this rainbow when we got home today. 


Neat day for a run at Mt. Rubidoux

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Running at Torrey Pines today


Strange insect

Saw this strange insect while running in Sycamore Canyon. I have no
idea what it is, but I bet if Bear Grylls came across it, he'd eat it!