Gazing at Galaxies Far, Far, Away from GRAEF…

By Jason Jacobson

Saturn 2012-05-18

Saturn 2012-05-18

Last night, as the skies cleared and the stars shined brightly, I was able to look up in the north sky and see the International Space Station fly through the sky for a brief few minutes.  It is amazing to think about all we have learned about space flight and our universe in just the past century, and even more amazing to think about what still lies out there to learn.  Life is GRAEF is about the people that make GRAEF the great company that it is to work for.  But what do the people of GRAEF like to do when they need to clear their head and just get away from work for a while.  Something that many people don’t know about me is my interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general.  When away from work, it gives me time to free my mind and learn about our incredible universe and what role our tiny planet plays in this vast space that surrounds us.

My interest in astronomy started early in my life.  Like many kids, my brothers and I received a small telescope as kids and spent the nights upstairs at the farmhouse that we grew up in gazing out the window at stars thousands of light years away and observing the moon which as kids looked so close to us through that lens.  Later on in grade school I had the assignment of doing a report on a constellation.  My report was on the constellation Orion.  Writing that report on “The Hunter” and talking about the thousand year history of observing it and describing the stars that make up its belt was something very exciting for me to research.  To this day I still love picking out Orion in the winter sky and thinking back to that report that I did many moons ago.

Jacobson Observatory

Jacobson Observatory

In my adult life I started to study and read books on Astrophysics.  I know, you must be saying to yourself “how boring”, but this led to my renewed interest in astronomy and my purchase of a new telescope.  Looking close up at craters of the moon, observing Saturn and it’s rings, spotting Jupiter and its moons made me feel like a kid all over again.  You can see some of my crude smartphone pictures of Saturn and Jupiter inserted in this post.  My astrophotography skills are still in their infancy.  But gazing out in my telescope at galaxies far, far away (thousands of light years) and nebulas and star clusters makes you think about the small part we play in this universe.  I like to watch meteor showers and observe those comets that have come out of deep space and zoom past us thanks to the gravity pull of our sun.  It’s amazing to think about the destruction that these comets can cause when colliding into a planet in our solar system, but equally amazing to think about the life giving elements that these comets possess.  There is a current NASA mission ongoing right now that will land on a comet in November 2014 and examine what elements lie inside these life giving masses of ice and rock.  It might answer a lot of questions about life while also creating more questions to be answered.

Jupiter 2011-10-14

Jupiter 2011-10-14

I find continuing exploration of our solar system and the entire universe to be critical in advancing our education in this country and around the world.   The most important thing I see in advances in astronomy and space exploration is that kids in the future can continue to fantasize about universe exploration and dream about what they can find and discover.  Our planet is just a very small part of this universe, but it takes all those planets, stars, galaxies and the binding space between them to make up our complex but astonishing universe.  Just like the people at GRAEF, it’s the individuals who combine their skills together to make it all come together and create a company that does astonishing and wonderful projects around the country to benefit all.

Don’t be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

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One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

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Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!

Don't be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

Image

One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

Image

Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!