Friday, August 31, 2007


I'm in Seattle visiting my sister and super cute nephew! And...I forgot to bring my camera cables, so no pics until I return to Houston. Monica (my sis) just picked up Bobby (my bro) from the airport. We're going to have a good family time! And I've gotten to babysit John Michael the last two days! Lots of quality auntie time. I'm lovin' it!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Serpent and the Cyclist

Piqued your interest with the title?

So after a productive afternoon of watching the first two Bourne movies with my friends in preparation for seeing the third (hopefully tomorrow), I decided to go for a run before starting on what I am calling my first official order of invitations (for a birthday party! Yay!)

The trail I run on is through a swamp and ends at the beach, so there are signs aplenty warning of alligators and snakes (no, I haven't seen any gators). I've seen snakes twice. The first time I almost ran across one (I thought it was a stick...and then it moved...but I think I moved faster). I'm pretty sure it was just the garden variety. The second time, it was about 100 feet in front of me and just crossing the trail. Today, however, I rounded the corner to see two men standing in front of a bicycle that was lying in the path. The held up their hands for me to stop and called out that there was a snake under the bike. Seeing the snake, which looked suspiciously familiar, I asked if they knew what kind it was...the answer to my fairly ill-timed question was "the kind that hurts you" (and the tone implied I had asked a stupid question...well, I was just curious to see if I was right...and I was, I came home and looked it was a water moccasin...longer than my arm and as big around as my upper forearm...yikes!)

It appears this poor unsuspecting cyclist also recognized the type of snake as he rounded the corner and hit the snake. I have a feeling he must have taken a flying leap off of the bike, judging by the bike's position. The bike fortuitously landed on the snake, pinning it under the rim. Fortunate, maybe, but the snake was now royally torqued off and the cyclist just wanted his bike back.

Well, a metal stake aided in the near decapitation and subsequent flinging into the swamp.
As I started running again, I made sure my headphone wires were securely tucked in...I could just see one of the wires brushing my arm and setting off a delayed case of the heebee jeebees and I would look like I was running to an Irish jig rather than the rocking tunes of The Bravery and Plumb.

And that ends today's excitement.

Friday, August 24, 2007

That's a wrap!

So here are some random last pics from Moscow, including the culprit of my newly oil painted shirt...

Wet paint...

Karen, Natalie, and me at American Bar and Grill (my last night)

One of Stalin's Seven Sisters (this one is going on the Wall)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day off...

So today we had the day off...we haven't been officially told that there will be no BCC (Backup Control Center) due to Hurrican Dean, so I definitely took advantage of the respite. I woke up early (way too poor body is still on the evening shift schedule, which means I didn't fall asleep until after 3am).

ВДНХ- (it's a park with a lot of gardens and fountains (which were actually on!))

The gardens have a space theme, at least the ones in the center garden section...look a UFO!

Recognize the botanical Sputnik?

Makes me want to see the Russian national anthem...


The Kremlin

Hmm, what's that black stuff all over my arm and shirt..oh...yeah...that would be black paint. So in an attempt to get a really cool shot, Kevin had me go on the bridge in front of the church below, while he took the shot from the road level (the bridge crosses over the Moscow River). Well, I leaned against the railing and when I moved away, I noticed some resistance. At first I was like "oh eww, what did I put my hand in?" and then I look and lo and behold there were numerous hand and elbow prints in the paint. I had joined the ranks as well. What is up with the lack of "Wet Paint" signs? And, it wasn't like fresh paint, it was tacky paint. It took about 10 minutes of scrubbing my arm and hands with soap and Wet Wipes to get most of the paint off. I think my shirt (and it was new!) is a lost cause. It's soaking right now...although, it is kinda funny :)

I didn't mean to take this in black and white, but these two little girls were playing tag and I thought it was cute.
One of my favorite 'храм' (or 'cathedral'): Christ Our Savior church.

Undocking Celebration

Endeavor succesfully undocked yesterday, a day early than originally planned, due to the questionable track of Hurricane Dean. Per tradition, we celebrated with our Russian counterparts.

Wow! Look at that spread! MMC and SUDN definitely spoil us.
Alexander, Natasha, me, and Kevin (Grigory showed up right after the picture...I think he planned it that way ;-) )
Natasha in the middle of telling a funny story. We ended up chatting for an hour and half! Our interpreter was gracious to hang in there for that long, although we were definitely using our Russian!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Shopping time!

So I woke up early so I could head to Izmalova for some shopping. Izmalova is a huge, well, crafts fair, swap meet (flea market for you non-Arizonans), souvenir extravaganza. I actually got everything I was looking for, plus this awesome piece of artwork. It's made out of different pieces of birch bark. Birch bark has been used in Russia for centuries (if not longer!) for decorations, household items, gifts, and there are even Russian documents from the Middle Ages that were written on birch bark.

I can't post pics of the rest of my loot, 'cause most of it is gifts and that would just ruin the surprise! Oh and I bought the cheapest popsicle ever, 8 roubles! That's about 35 cents.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just What the Doctor Ordered...

Chicken noodle soup, toast, tea, and Powerade...yep that would be a recipe for sickness recuperation. (oh and blue Powerade is really really disgusting...really)

I had to leave work early yesterday due to a sudden onset of some strange bug that the doctors (yes plural, Dr. Flores was baffled- pulled in another doc) still can't figure out. So normal WBC count is 4-10, mine was 20 yesterday! Lauri, I'd gladly donate my WBCs to you!

So after some fluid loading and a round of antibiotics, my WBC count was 7 today, much better, but still pretty high for me (mine's usually in the 2 range, due to some meds I take for other reasons). But, I am feeling much better than I was yesterday.

My diagnosis- high WBC count and sore throat... yet another chalk mark on the board of "Melissa baffles doctors". Oh well.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tibet Kitchen

Okay, it really isn't called 'Tibet Kitchen' anymore, it's just "Tibet' with 'restaurant' written really small underneath. But, it is one of my favorite places to eat. They have this amazing vegetable dish with almonds that I have gotten every time. And really good "dangzhi' chicken. Yummy! Here are some of my fellow HSRers (Karen and Michael). I convinced them to take a picture (although not everyone was thrilled with the idea :) ).

Christina, Karen said she would take me to the cheap sandwich shop! I'm excited! Except she said the smoothies can be warm...that sounds kinda icky...

Houston Support Room

The Houston Support room is where NASA folks sit to support ISS. There are some people over here (HSG-Houston Support Group) who support on 3-6 month rotations, acting as liasions between US and Russia (and they do a lot of other stuff...they always seem really busy!).

Me at the designated ADCO console

Ops Planners (they are the scheduling gurus for shuttle and station), a Russian Systems Specialist, and the ever busy HSG

For those of you who have been in Mission Control, you'll recognize the plaques. They also hang one out here in the HSR.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Kolomenskoe or bust

The good thing about Moscow, is that you are never lost as long as you know where the nearest Metro (subway) station is.

Since today was my day off, I slept in way later than I planned and then headed out to Kolomenskoe, which is a massive park (it used to be the Imeperial estate) with a lot of old churches. I've never been there and it was the one place I really wanted to see this trip.

So I made it to Kolomenskaya metro stop. The directions said you walk up a hill for about ten minutes. I started going straight, then looked around and saw that to my right was a big hill. Score! So I walk, and walk, and walk...and about an hour later, I start thinking, maybe this is the wrong hill. So I stopped and asked this lady... I think I scared her. Another lady was very helpful. When I asked where Kolomenskoe was, she asked "Metro?". I said, "no, park". Then she nodded and said "jdkdncvnvioaowiaannglfgaojfodigah". Yeah, that's pretty much what I heard too. I caught "tramvay (trolley-bus" and "turn" (or what I thought was turn), and then she pointed, so I headed back to the last trolley bus stop and turned. I saw a couple that looked like they might be venturing to the park, so I decided to follow them. Turns out they weren't going to the park, but a household goods store. Although they led me on a wonderful tour of the hilltop mechanics garage mini-city. So now high on gasoline, oil, and paint fumes, somehow I logically decided to head back to the metro. Upon reaching the metro, lo and behold I see a sign for "Kolmenskoe". Yeah you guessed it. If I had just kept walking straight, I would have found it. So ten minutes later at the top of the hill, I found it...2.5 hours after I started looking for it. Oh well. It was worth it.

I think a large portion of the park is an old apple orchard because there a ton of apples on every tree and there were lots of people picking them...

After walking around for bit, promising myself to come back again, I headed to Red Square.

St. Basil's Cathedral

Lenin's Tomb

Red Square (Kremlin on the left, St. Basil's behind me)


Kremlin and part of a wall that is supposed to be the original, but I have heard that it isn't.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Nephew pictures

Here are some recent picutures my sis sent me. I can't wait to see the little guy in person at the end of the month!

Monday, August 6, 2007

From Russia, with Love

Well, my coworker, Kevin, and I arrived safely in Moscow. I have some stories.

Good: My new iPod nano (it's red, 4GB), complete with protective silicon case

Bad: Not finding your awesome travel pillow and running late
Good: Finding a cool one at Target on your way to the airport
Bad: Discovering after you've popped 2 tylenol PM that the little thing you blow air into won't close, so the pillow keeps deflating.
Good: MacGyvering a solution from a piece of paper and spit- creating a seal that works! Yay for inflated inflatable pillows (I'm still taking it back when I get home)

Bad: Getting really really really motion sick on the descent into Atlanta (it always gets me...stupid Dutch roll motion... but never this bad)
Good: Managing to get to the ladies room in the airport before uh...loosing your breakfast (although it meant leaving Kevin slighty baffled by my mad dash to the restroom)

Good: shashlik and hoichipuri (Lisa and Christina- I like the Tractor)
Good: Going to the biggest electronics store I have ever seen (something like Garbushnya- you know which store I mean). I bought a copy of 'Monsters Inc' in Russian!

It was Tremayne and Tony's (two guys from the Visiting Vehicle Group who were here for the Progress undock and dock) last day here, so we had lunch with them and then followed them aroudn for their last minute souvenir shopping.

Good: Finally being in a NASA room for the first time ever. The best things about it: the water cooler and the computer.

Tomorrow we will head to the TsUP (Moscow Mission Control Center) to set up everything. We plan to take Wednesday off, since we will be working the next 14 days. I think I sense a trip to the KGB museum...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Operation: Invitations

Did my last pictures look blurry? They look blurry to me...

Anyways, it's done...after several weeks of designing, and re-designing, comparing, finding the best ever on-line paper products store (, I called in the troops (Lisa and Christina) and together we completed 80 wedding invitations for Jana's wedding. Here is the finished product (invitations and RSVP cards)

Okay so this picture IS blurry (operator issue :) )