Fry’s Electronics in Houston

There are three Fry’s Electronics stores in the Houston area. I’m so jealous. I have to go all the way to Atlanta for the one closest to me.

We visited two of them last weekend. A lot of Fry’s Electronics stores are themed, and the two we went to were suitably Houston-themed.

On the north side of Houston, we saw an oil themed Fry’s driving in from the airport and made an impromptu stop to check it out. Oil derrick structures flank the main entrance, and inside are oil pumps and more oil derricks.

On the southeast-ish side of Houston in Webster, not far from Space Center Houston, is another Fry’s. This one naturally is space themed and has a replica of the ISS inside.

 

 

Visiting Space Center Houston

Last weekend we were in Houston and paid a visit to Space Center Houston, the visitors center for NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

NASA Johnson Space Center
NASA Johnson Space Center

Like Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Space Center Houston (SCH) is a pretty fun place to visit. It’s not quite as large as KSC, but it’s got some pretty sweet exhibits including Independence Plaza that features the Boeing 747 that ferried the space shuttles across the country.

Independence Plaza
Independence Plaza at Space Center Houston

I highly recommend the 90 minute tram tour that will take you into NASA JSC. If you go early and catch the first or second tour (SCH opens at 9 or 10 AM. See the calendar for hours), you’ll avoid the long line. The tram tour takes you into JSC where you’ll get to go into the Christopher C Craft Mission Control building, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, and Rocket Park.

At Rocket Park, you’ll see some of the rocket engines that powered the Saturn V, rockets used for the Mercury and early Apollo programs, and the king of rockets, the Saturn V.

The Saturn V at SCH is one of three remaining Saturn V rockets and was restored fairly recently.

From the SCH website:

There are only three Saturn V rockets on display in the world. The rocket at NASA Johnson Space Center is the only one comprised of all flight-certified hardware. The other two rockets are made of flight hardware, mock-ups and test components. The three segments, called stages, contain the powerful engines needed to lift off, entering orbit to reach the moon. In total, 13 Saturn V rockets launched into space.

When you’re back from the tour, head over to Independence Plaza where you can wander through the NASA 905 SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) and the Shuttle Independence, a replica space shuttle. This is another one you probably want to get to early in the day so that it’s not too crowded. We went first thing in the morning on our second day visiting SCH, and had the shuttle and 747 pretty much all to ourselves.

Make sure to stop in the food court where you can have lunch sitting next to the Galileo shuttlecraft (NCC-1701/7) used in the Star Trek episode Galileo Seven. This is the actual set prop that was used in the episode and fully restored. You can read about the Galileo’s history and the restoration at startrek.com.

Before leaving SCH (or before the doors open if you got there too early), make sure to walk the scale model of Solar System. It starts over on the left side of the parking lot near the SCH building and goes around the perimeter of the parking lot toward the main entrance.

Of course, the rest of the exhibits at SCH are pretty cool too. Lots of great shows, interactive displays and an impressive collection of space and space program artifacts. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days exploring while you’re in Houston.

The rose bushes survived Snowpocalypse 2018

Very happy to see that the rose bushes survived Snowpocalypse 2018.

Rose bushes post-Snowpocalypse 2018
Rose bushes post-Snowpocalypse 2018

I had covered them up with some plastic sheeting to try to protect them a bit from the freezing weather we had, and then the snow came. All the snow accumulation on top of the sheet kind of flattened the bushes and they were pretty sad looking for a long while after that.

A few weeks ago leaves started sprouting on the bushes like crazy, so I guess the bushes are doing ok despite the snow and smushing and recent frosty mornings.

No signs of anything resembling rose buds yet, but maybe in a few more weeks.

Drill pressing

One of the things I’ve been wanting for the workbench for a while now is a bench top drill press so that I can put holes into things with a little more precision than I can with a hand drill.

At my local Habitat For Humanity Restore today, I came across one that looked in pretty decent condition and just the size that I was looking for. Price was pretty reasonable ($50), so I bought it.

Drill press
Drill press

It’s an older model Delta 11-950 8″ drill press with 1/4 hp motor and 5 cm travel range. There are 5 available speeds, and changing speeds is done by opening up the top cover and moving the drive belt up or down to different levels on the drive pulleys.

Drill press speed adjustment
Drill press speed adjustment

The drill press is a lot quieter than I expected, and works really well. The drive belt seems to be in pretty good shape without any obvious cracks or flaws in it. The work platform is smallish, but should be adequate for the projects that I have in mind. The 1/2″ chuck is plenty large enough to handle the bits that I have.

Quite pleased with this acquisition for the workbench. Now I’ll be able to up my building game a bit.

Another Nest bites the dust

While I was playing in the South Carolina QSO party yesterday, I discovered my Nest thermostat decided to flake out and turn the AC on, even though it was saying the AC was off.

It’s not the first time I’ve had a Nest fail on me  before (technically, just the base of the Nest).

No idea if it just happened to be a coincidence, or if it got zapped by some RF while I was playing on the radio. Also a little puzzled as to why the Nest base failed this time and not the other times I’ve been on the radio.

A search of the internet brings up a few forum and email threads that suggest the Nest thermostat base might be susceptible to RFI, probably via RF coupling through the control cable between the thermostat and the HVAC unit.

At the old house, I think the antenna was far enough away that it was never a problem. Here, with the antenna pretty much on top of the roof, RFI into the thermostat via the wiring is a definite possibility.

 

Guess now I need to see if I can add a bunch of ferrites to the wiring.