Friday 19 April 2024

Where to see the retired space shuttles

Recently I shared some of the things that I saw on our recent trip to New York and Washington, and I mentioned that we had now seen all of the retired space shuttles. I thought I'd put together a post about where all the space shuttles can now be seen, as they are awesome to see in person! The best thing is that they are all displayed in different ways to showcase their various features and uses, so even though the shuttles themselves are similar you can learn new things about them as you see each one.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the museum has gone to a lot of effort to showcase its star attraction. The shuttle is housed in a separate building, fronted by the massive familiar orange external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Before seeing the shuttle you go through several exhibits, including a short film about the history of the space shuttle programme and how the shuttle was conceived and developed. The final film is displayed on a floor to ceiling screen, and at the end the screen rises quickly to reveal the space shuttle suspended in front of you, tilted as though flying through space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The shuttle is displayed with the payload doors open and the Canadarm extended, and as you walk closer you can get a really good feel for how it would have looked while carrying out a mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis with Canadarm extended

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C. in a large hanger, along with lots of other impressive air and spacecraft. It's displayed resting on the ground with the landing wheels down. There's just a low barrier all around it, and it's so close that you almost feel as though you could just reach out and touch it! It's really interesting to be able to have a good look at how the wheels slotted into place underneath the shuttle.

Space Shuttle Discovery on display in Washington

Space Shuttle Endeavour (currently off display)

Endeavour is currently stored at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. We saw it in 2018 when it was in a temporary home, suspended in the air in a large hanger above the heads of the visitors. Unfortunately at the moment it is off display, as it is in the process of being moved to a new part of the museum - the Samual Oschin Air and Space Center. When open, it will be the only place in the world that you'll be able to see a complete Space Shuttle System with a flown orbiter as the shuttle will be displayed upright, attached to the rocket boosters and external fuel tank ready for launch. It looks as though the museum is expected to open next year (2025) and I would love to be able to go back and see it again in its new home!

Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. It's housed in a separate, covered display area at the far end of the museum, and be prepared to wait in line for a little while if you visit on a busy day. Space Shuttle Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. 

You can view the shuttle from a raised walkway around the front of the shuttle, so you can get a good look at the windscreen and heat shields.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at Intrepid Museum in New York

Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia

Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard - the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003, also killing all seven crew members. (There was a recent three part documentary 'The Space Shuttle that Fell to Earth' which was excellent in telling the story of what happened in the Columbia disaster, it's available to watch on BBC iPlayer.)

You can see some pieces recovered from both shuttles at the 'Forever Remembered' memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with personal items and stories from the crew members. There are also memorials to the astronauts of the Challenger and the Columbia at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Finally there are two more shuttle experiences that we've not yet managed:

Space Shuttle Pathfinder (test simulator)

Not a real space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Pathfinder was a space shuttle test simulator made of steel and wood, and it's about the same size, weight and shape as an actual orbiter. You can see it on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and this is definitely somewhere that we would love to visit one day. 

Space Shuttle Independence (replica) - formerly known as Explorer

Space Shuttle Independence is a full scale space shuttle replica. It was formerly on display at the Kennedy Space Center and can now be seen at the Space Center Houston (another place that we would love to visit). It's displayed in Independence Plaza, mounted on the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. Visitors can enter both the shuttle and the plane, which sounds amazing.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Some cool things I've seen over the last couple of weeks

This Easter we finally managed the trip to New York and Washington that was originally planned for March 2020. We spent 6 nights in New York, 5 nights in Washington D.C. and travelled by train between the two. It was a brilliant holiday, with lots of walking and sightseeing. I feel like my head is full of all the amazing things that we saw! 

Here are just some of them:

On our first evening in New York we all booked a trial for the Apple Vision Pro at the shop in Grand Central Station. I've written before about how I was interested to see the technology in action, and we weren't disappointed. We each had half an hour or so to run through a quick demo, learning how to use the headset and seeing what it is capable of. We all loved it and I think my husband was very tempted to bring one back home with us, but at $3500 it's a little out of our price range at the moment!

Apple Vision Pro headset demo in New York

We spent a lot of time in museums on this trip and saw so many things that it's difficult to pick out a few, but one thing I was excited to see was definitely this costume from Hamilton in the National Museum of American History. We spent a lot of time learning about different aspects of US history, we also did a tour of the Capitol building and saw the original Declaration of Independence along with other historical documents.

Hamilton costume in Washington DC museum

We were also lucky enough to see not one space shuttle but two! We first saw the Enterprise at the Intrepid Museum in New York. The Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. Then we saw the Discovery at the Udvar-Hazy Center on the outskirts of Washington. It's parked in a huge hanger at the Udvar-Hazy museum, and it's almost close enough to touch which was amazing. This means that we've now seen all of the space shuttles in their various homes across the US!

Space Shuttle Discovery at Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington

We saw lots of other space related artefacts as well. At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. I was most impressed by Neil Armstrong's actual space suit which he wore when he first walked on the actual moon. I was also interested to see a replica of one of the Voyager probes which I remember learning a lot about as a child. 

Neil Armstrong's space suit

Also in Washington I loved spotting this Floral Library on the National Mall. At this time of year the 93 beds are filled with tulips planted with bulbs from Holland. 

Tulip library in Washington DC

On the final day of our holiday we were fortunate to still be in the US for the solar eclipse. Although Washington didn't fall into the path of totality, the sun was 87% covered by the moon and everyone was looking forward to it. We joined crowds of people sitting on the grass to watch from the moment that the shadow first appeared across the sun.

Children wearing solar eclipse glasses

It was all very exciting, and the sky remained mainly clear throughout. Apart from at the actual minute where the eclipse reached its peak and a cloud appeared in front of the sun! It was quite funny because it blocked out the sun completely and everyone cheered because it felt like a total eclipse! 

Solar eclipse 2024 in Washington

We had a fantastic trip and although we all came back exhausted from so much walking around we saw things that will stay with us for a long time to come.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Things that make me uneasy

My current read is The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (affiliate link). I discovered it a little while ago when I was reading a fiction book which quoted extracts at the beginning of chapters - My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki (affiliate link). 

The Pillow Book was written during the 990s and early 1000s in Japan. It's collection of thoughts, lists, poems, anecdotes and other musings, recorded by Sei Shonagon about her daily life as a court lady to the empress. I've only just started but I'm really enjoying it so far, the translation is really easy to read and many of the sections are really relatable!

My favourite chapters are the lists. They include things like 'Things that make one's heart beat faster', 'Elegant things', 'Surprising and distressing things' and 'Things that should be short'. They make me think of the lists that I compose in my head and then often write up in a blog post (like Things I think about while I'm running or Things I collect that I don't need.) In fact the whole book is a little bit like a blog!

So here is a blog post inspired by Sei Shonagon.

Things that make me uneasy

Large trees, especially when it's windy

Empty plug sockets with the switch left on

Curtains left open after dark

Uneven pavements

Dogs not on a lead

A phone battery below 20%

A cupboard door left open

A letter addressed to me when I'm not expecting anything

Traffic wardens

The back door left unlocked

Level crossings

Temporary traffic lights that haven't changed for a while


Japanese garden
Photo credit David Emrich via Unsplash

Thursday 14 March 2024

Things I collect that I don't need

I've been looking around the house recently and thinking that I'm well overdue for a good declutter. It's been ages since I last took part in a decluttering challenge, and things are starting to pile up a bit. My poor bookshelves in particular are looking a little overcrowded, and there are lots of random things lying about that need to be sorted.

I've noticed so many things in the house that I really don't need but I just can't help keeping. They include:

Scrap paper - I can't bear to throw away any piece of paper that might come in useful. Letters that are only printed on one side, spare pages torn from old schoolbooks, notebooks going back to when I was at school.

Slippers from hotels - Freebie slippers are great while you're on holiday but not much good back at home, however I still can't resist bringing them back with me.

Other items purloined from hotels - In particular little bottles of toiletries, especially now that they are less common. I always think they will come in useful for travel, and then I just find more at my destination. Recently I emptied about twenty tiny bottles of shower gel into one large bottle and forced myself to work my way through it!

Books - This is becoming a big problem. I've always been quite minimalist with my books and passed them on once I'd finished, but I've recently been adding some old favourites to my library as I come across them in charity shops and I'm running out of book shelf space.

Blankets - I love snuggling under a blanket all year round, and I've also made quite a few blankets over the years. We have several times more blankets than people in the house!

Fabric - I don't do a lot of fabric crafting but I do like to keep some fabric scraps on hand and I often buy pieces on holiday in the US where it's much cheaper. There are also quite a few odd balls of wool lying about that I'm unlikely to use.

Recipes - This is definitely an aspirational collection! I cut out recipes from the free supermarket magazines and I also print out ones that I come across online. I store them all in a little box in the kitchen and then forget about them.

Things from the beach - Sea glass, shells, interesting pebbles. I walk along the beach fairly often and it's rare not to come back with something. My handbag and coat pockets are also filled with beachy souvenirs. 

Pretty boxes - From mugs, toiletries, chocolates, little gifts. I do love a nice box and I can't bear to put them in the recycling!

Added to that are clothes and shoes that the children have outgrown or have worn out, and all the other random things that pile up over time.

Cluttered table with mug and books
Photo credit Ella Jardim via Unsplash

Over Easter I'm definitely going to be having a good sort out and making some trips down to the charity shop!

Monday 11 March 2024

What is everyone listening to?

Recently I wrote about some of the things that I think about when I'm running, and one of them was wondering what the people I see out and about are listening to on their headphones.

Is it just me, or are more and more people wearing headphones? I notice it more and more! Usually just the ear bud style, but also large over the head ones. If I'm running behind someone and want to overtake I never know if they can hear me coming, even if I try to let them know I'm behind them with an 'excuse me'.

I have a decent pair of bone conduction headphone, but even though they leave my ears free I don't feel as aware of my surroundings when I'm wearing them. I want to hear what's going on around me, especially if I'm running early and alone. So the only time that I wear headphones is at the gym, and I use the corded headphones that came with my phone - I'm still stuck in the 90s!

The children have always owned headphones which they use for travel, but recently they've upgraded to fancier ones and they seem to wear them all the time. I can't complain because as a teenager I was constantly plugged into my personal cassette player, but I do feel a bit lonely sometimes when I'm driving them back from school and they would rather switch off with their own music than chat with me!

I like to wonder what people are listening to. For exercise I enjoy some fast paced music with a strong beat, but I like peace and quiet when I'm out for a walk. Maybe some people aren't actually listening to anything at all, they just want to be left alone, I can see that being something I would do!

Person on street wearing headphones
Photo credit Mark Rohan via Unsplash

Thursday 7 March 2024

Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation - How to display a book cover on the lock screen

I recently upgraded my old Kindle to a Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation model and I am very happy with it. This time I chose to buy a Kindle which doesn't display special offers and ads, and one feature that I was really looking forward to was the ability to display the cover of the book that I'm currently reading on the lock screen. 

However when I was setting up the device, the options on my menus didn't match the ones that I found when searching for help, and I just couldn't work out how to do it. I spent an hour and a half talking to Amazon online trying to set it up which was very frustrating as they were very unhelpful and actually lied to me, telling me that it would be fixed in a later software update! I was really annoyed.

But then! I was changing some other settings and I found the option under a completely different menu option! So as I hadn't found that information anywhere else online I thought I'd share it here and I really hope that it can help someone else out.

There are just a few things to check first:

* The setting to display a book cover is only available if you have an ad free device. This means that when you bought the Kindle you paid a little extra (for me in the UK it was £10) for a device that doesn't display special offers. To remove the ads from your Kindle go to Manage Your Devices on Amazon. Select your device and look for the Special Offers tab. Click Remove Offers and you will be given the option to pay the fee and remove the adverts. 

* Make sure that your Kindle is loaded with the latest version of the software. You can check this under Settings -> Device Options. Under Software updates it should say 'Your Kindle is on the latest software' and when you press here it will confirm that your Kindle is up to date.

* Restart the Kindle by pressing and holding the power button.

To display the book cover on the lock screen on the Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation:

Go to Settings -> Screen and brightness -> Show covers on lock screen - make sure this option is checked. 

Kindle Paperwhite 11th generation book covers on lock screen

It's so easy to do, I can't believe that it caused me so much annoyance trying to get it set up!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Sorting through my broken links

At the end of last year, Amazon Associates announced that it had decided to stop using the SiteStripe image feature which allowed Amazon Associates to link to products on Amazon using an image link. Although Amazon Associates isn't a huge source of income for me, I do get a small voucher from time to time which is always appreciated. I often include lists of craft supplies, as well as linking to books that I've enjoyed or products that I recommend.

Text links to Amazon still work, but I always used an image link because I think readers find it easier and more appealing to see a picture. So I had hundreds of image links on my blog. I'm afraid I rather buried my head in the sand and pretended it wasn't happening.

This week I realised that I'd not done a broken link check on my blog for a long time so I gave it a run and I was dismayed to see the number of broken links to Amazon. I use Broken Link Checker which is a great free tool, and I've spent hours finding the links and removing or replacing them. Sometimes I've changed the image links for text links, otherwise I just deleted them. I think I've got rid of most of them, but I'm sure that there are some that have slipped through the cracks.

I also discovered many other broken links. Links that have changed, attractions that have closed, products that are no longer available.

Among them I was sad to find many broken links to bloggers who no longer blog. I used to love the blogging community back when I started, I took part in lots of blog hops and link ups. Many of my early craft posts were inspired by groups of bloggers getting together to work on a craft together, like my Sky Blanket, or sharing crafts like Needlework Days. There was also the linky which I co-hosted - Crafting is my Therapy.

Re-visiting my old posts also made me feel really nostalgic. I used to love doing all the little themed crafts with the children and sharing them on the blog! It reminded me of lots of fun things that we've done. Now I feel a bit silly doing children's crafts on my own, although I think I'll still be playing with the Hama beads for a while yet!

Hands blogging on a laptop at a desk
Photo credit Mel Poole via Unsplash

It has made me think about how my blog has changed direction as the children have got older, and I'm not sure that I've really found a new focus for it. I really enjoy being a content creator and I definitely want to continue, but I need to have a think about my new direction!