Alnilam

Posted on November 7th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, history, life, poetry, space.

No light from any star on high
Can ever reach your earthbound eye
Unless it travels ‘cross the sky
Through time for you to see it

For time is just a form of space
As poets past have long embraced
So every photon starts a race
The moment its star frees it

The race is won when through the air
It strikes your eye while standing there
Its maker’s beauty brought to bear
The journey done at last

The sky of now you’ll never see
From here unto eternity
For stars in your reality
Are from the distant past

Indeed the closest star to us
Past twenty trillion miles must
Ring out its light in hope and trust
In four years it will shimmer

Watch it sparkle watch it dance
Think of how it took the chance
That in the future you might glance
Above and see it glimmer

So when you take in constellations
Think of ancient men and nations
Of firmament’s eternal patience
In shedding all its light

And know you’re watching history
That stars aren’t where they seem to be
And some have even gone to sleep
In that unending night

2 comments.

Happy Birthday!

Posted on October 1st, 2008 by george.
Categories: fun, future, life, photography, prayer, serendipity, space, technology.

First, to my father. Without him, there are countless reasons I wouldn’t be here.

Fish tacos!

Second, to NASA. It’s incredible to me that they share the same birthday. When I called Dad to wish him well today, he said it was meant to be that he have a son who would one day work for such a storied organization.

Me and Aki

So here’s to both of you! We celebrated in fine style this week, with the crew of STS-124 returning to KSC to visit the employees on Monday. I had the distinct privilege of meeting and speaking with Aki Hoshide, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan and Ken Ham. During the question and answer session I asked about their views on the future of space exploration, since Space X successfully launched the Falcon rocket into orbit on their fourth attempt just this Sunday, making it history’s first private orbital spacecraft.

With Ken and Ron

Ron gave a brilliant answer, one which I didn’t forsee and which settles the false dichotomy between public and private space. Many people aren’t aware how much NASA supports private space exploration, even putting their money where their mouth is and seed-funding several startups, not to mention making arrangements for future private-party resupply missions to the International Space Station. Ron said it’s time for NASA to leave LEO (Low Earth Orbit) to the startups, and venture outward into the solar system. The ISS is an incredible outpost, and we should operate it as intended, as an international microgravity science laboratory, but it should be resupplied with cargo and crew by private companies. NASA should throw its weight behind efforts where it has historically excelled, namely exploration. It makes sense to field more robotic missions to planets and NEOs (Near Earth Objects) and to embark on human exploration and settlement of the Moon and Mars. It’s a beautiful symbiosis. Ron emphasized that NASA and other government space programs are the only ones capable of pursuing the goals that are “seventy years out,” meaning the missions for which there is no immediately discernible financial return, but which intangibly benefit us all. LEO is ripe for commercial expansion. But Elon Musk doesn’t have the $40 billion it’s going to take to put a human on Mars.  Yet.

With Mike Fossum

Today, on the golden anniversary of NASA beginning operations, the employees of the Kennedy Space Center celebrated by walking, running and rollerblading 1-mile, 5K and 10K courses on the three-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. I take special pride in being the person who started the rollerblading tradition (much to the chagrin of the competitive runners) four years ago. Each year we have a greater number of dorks in helmets out on the slab. It’s fantastic fun. This year marks the first time I’ve been beaten to the finish line!

Twin STAs

The highlight for me, though, is after the race. It’s not the free catered food and sports drinks, the camaraderie and the swag, all of which are good. It’s the chance to see what goes on nearly every day at the SLF, up close and personal. Astronaut pilots and commanders are training all the time in the STAs (Shuttle Training Aircraft), modified Gulfstreams with sophisticated flight controls and avionics to make them fall out of the sky just like space shuttles.

Exuding with the STAs

Today there were two STAs on the tarmac, and anyone who was brave enough to ask got a guided tour. There’s nothing in the world like sitting in the pilot seat of a split-down-the-middle frankenstein machine, half shuttle, half executive jet, looking through the futuristic transparent HUD (Head Up Display) as the astronauts arrive in their T-38 supersonic jets to train in the very seat in which you sit. We got the royal treatment, too, staying onboard while the engines spooled up and meeting the former astronauts and maintenance officers for the SR-71 and U-2 who teach the younger flyboys and flygirls how to handle the magnificent birds. I learned more in one evening about the STA than I have in all my years as an aerospace engineer. These planes have the longest service history of any Gulfstream (a company also celebrating its 50th) aircraft ever produced.  The engines are different, as are the thrust reversers, the 30-degree-positive flaps, and countless other systems that give these planes their jekyll-and-hyde personality.

Boarding the STA

As I skated back to the car, the sky turned various brilliant shades of pink and orange as more astronauts arrived in their jets.  I bid the crew farewell and said a silent prayer of thanks for the privilege I enjoy, working every day at the greatest spaceport on Earth, for an organization responsible for some of the crowning achievements of our era and that has contributed so much to humankind.

In the student seat of the STA

6 comments.

T-bone Burnett

Posted on September 23rd, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, enlightenment, epiphany, friends, health, life, photography, travel.

Blue Willie
On the way to the movies tonight, Willie and I stopped to pick up Tony at the nursery where he works.  As we pulled out of the driveway, we stopped, then had to make a three-point turn to go back and close the gate.  The movie was starting in ten minutes, so Willie sped off but quickly got behind slower traffic.  This was good, considering the cop sitting by the side of the road.  “Which way do you think we should go?” he asked.  “Take 95,” I replied, “It’ll be about five minutes faster than all the red lights on Fiske.”  He made a right turn, and we carried on with our conversation about how happiness is a choice; that you must be content with your life exactly as it is, that true joy can never be derived from material things.  Lacey twittered about being frustrated, stuck in hellish traffic in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Ike.  I remember saying a Remover of Difficulties for her as Willie went on about how he wouldn’t be upset if his house burned down.  We were on SR-520 approaching the I-95 overpass to turn south on the highway, when, to quote They Might Be Giants, “then came a knock on the door which was odd and the picture abruptly changed.”
The truck that hit us
Suddenly everything was moving in slow motion as I realized we’d been broadsided by a big yellow truck.  I hadn’t seen it coming; luckily Willie was paying attention and had swerved to the right at the last moment.  This kept us from plowing head-on into the oncoming Ford F-250.  Instead, he t-boned us.  I remember a sharp jolt, then watching the world slide past the windshield as we swung through 270 degrees.  “Is everyone alright?” I asked when we came to a stop.  Grunts in the affirmative.  “Willie, do you want me to call 911?”  “Yeah,” he replied as he jumped out to check on the other driver, whose airbag had deployed.  I tried to take stock of myself as I dialed the number.  Within 30 seconds the nice lady had all the information she needed, and a minute later the sheriff arrived, followed by the paramedics, a truck full of firemen, and a state trooper.  As it turns out, the other driver was within 50 feet of his destination; he was a construction worker working on the surface of the on-ramp.  We were swarmed with men in hardhats, his colleagues snapping photos and asking us if we were ok and what happened.  It added to the official nature of the scene, to be sure.

We weren’t visibly injured, so we called Rene to come pick us up while Willie got GEICO to tow his mangled truck.  Rene dropped Tony off, then drove us to my place, where we picked up my car and drove ourselves to the ER.  We were taken to the back before we even finished filling out our forms (how quick is that?).  The nurses and doctors were very kind, even joked around with us.  Willie and I got the same diagnosis and prescriptions, along with the directive to take a couple days off work to rest and recover.

It dawned on me as I took a hot shower just now that I said the Tablet of Ahmad on the way into work this morning.  I find myself pondering now just how dangerous cars can be.  Interestingly enough, my friend Christy had the exact same accident in the exact same intersection last year, except she plowed into the person who pulled in front of her and totalled her friend’s brand new car (she was designated driver).  You’d think by now they’d install a green left-turn arrow.

As I drove home from work today, I saw a motorcycle pop a wheelie and get up to a buck and change on my street.  I remember thinking about how cool that was.  Nothing like a little wake up call to make you appreciate the unforgiving brutality of momentum, and savor each new moment you’re granted that much more.

State trooper

19 comments.

Nine slices, five seeds

Posted on September 11th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, future, history, life, love, music, synthesis.

Over the past few days I have been listening to Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief” on the commute to and from work.  It strikes me that when I first played this album on the stereo, kicking back in my 70’s-era chartreuse La-Z-Boy (oh, how I miss that chair), looking out my bay window on the streetlights of Laurel Avenue, atop the ridge of Fort Sanders in arguably one of the most coveted properties for students at the University of Tennessee, surrounded by meticulously-tended gardens and rosebushes too often robbed of their blooms by passersby, that I didn’t like it.  It’s strange to have adored “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” coming so hot on the heels of yet such a departure from Radiohead’s timeless masterwork “OK Computer,” only to have “Thief” stick in my craw.  At the time, I couldn’t place why it didn’t resonate; I’ve since heard that it was “thrown together” on a short schedule, and suffered from what some say is a lack of polish compared to previous efforts.  I now realize, after having “In Rainbows” wear ruts into my soul, pressing its melodies into the fiber of my being, rivaling the majesty of what to this point was my favorite album, that “Hail to the Thief” suffered only from lack of context.  It was simply ahead of its time; too raw, even though it was finished and complete, like a bridge suspended across a chasm whose far side has only now seen the tectonic plates of time grind past each other, lofting the perfect cliff into place under what seemed a terminus hanging in dead air.  The bridge to nowhere now emerges as a grand paean to the future as told by authors of the past, a gathering together of the sine wave of repeating history, a needle and thread through the wrinkled fabric of this collective consciousness, drawing tight the crevices to be filled with the golden light of meaning.

 

  

It dawns on me now that my love for this group of musicians was tied to the future more than I could imagine, their prescience wholly overshadowing my own, a hand reaching down and transcending the dimension of time, their glowing ladders of song rising out of the misty and dark swirls of this material world to the ethereal flights of the spirit.  I see too, now, that I have not yet fully appreciated my time in the city of my education, the lessons I learned in and outside the classroom, the mistakes I made and the choices I got right that have led me to this day, this moment, these words spilling forth over the banks of my stream, tumbling down white over the rocks of fortune.  Even for all its gray skies and cold nights, its mists and trials, its mazes and morasses, worn desks and defaced walls, I see that I loved that city, my time there, the people I shared it with, the sunshine they reflected that pierced the hazy air.  The rainbow arcs high and bright over the sapling of my existence now; for all their deep and abiding knowledge of past predicting future, I cannot recall a band that’s been through the hourglass that has enjoyed such lofty greatness for so long, or excelled so magnificently so late in their glorious career.

 

P.S. I’m getting married.

 

10 comments.

Deep blue

Posted on July 14th, 2008 by george.
Categories: animals, environment, fun, future, life, sports, travel, video, water, youtube.

In spite of childhood swim lessons in frigid water at the crack of dawn (or perhaps because of them), I have always been a waterbaby.  In the past six months I’ve made rapid progress in scuba diving, beyond PADI certified rescue diver into specialties like wreck penetration diving.  Lately I’ve become obsessed with the geology and location of blue holes, occuring in equatorial karst regions throughout the Caribbean and across the globe, ranging from the cenotes of Mexico to the springs of Florida to the blue holes of the Bahamas, Belize, and the Red Sea.  In exploring online what I hope to someday explore in person, I ran across this video and was entranced.  If you can’t see yourself doing this, then imagine you were along with Lorenia today, as she swam in the azure waters off the Yucatan with massive sea turtles and giant whale sharks, exploring undersea caves and catching rides from 12-foot wide manta rays.

7 comments.

A weekend in New York

Posted on May 26th, 2008 by george.
Categories: friends, fun, life, travel, video, youtube.

Shout outs to my family in the Big Apple.  Nas, Greg, thank you so much for hosting me.  Naseem, congratulations on graduating law school!  You know I wish you all the best in your bright future.  Word to ‘toosa, Temi, Balazs, and all the cool kids I met on this beautiful weekend full of friends, food, fun and games.  Toufan, Mike, sorry I missed you guys.  Next time I might know I’m coming sooner than four days before arriving.  To everyone else, thanks again for another amazing time in the City of the Covenant.  Here’s a clip of pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge.  This weekend marks my first time to make that fabled crossing.

2 comments.

Breathe

Posted on May 18th, 2008 by george.
Categories: life, love, poetry, space.

a soft night descends on a day haply spent
each redolent breath being heavenly sent
yet minds will conspire to question the love
mistaking for ravens the snowy white doves

the illusion of distance is seemingly vast
from ocean to sea, between future and past
but let go your worries; relinquish your frets
give up on your wagers, forsake all your bets

remember your smallness, recall well your place
a blue marble rider in limitless space
a warm, sunbathed planet upon which to roll
release your concerns for you’re not in control

6 comments.

All I Need

Posted on May 14th, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, life, music, serendipity, society, synthesis, travel.

It would take a novel to tell the tale of our recent trip south of the equator. I could wax poetic about the natural beauty of Peru and Bolivia, and indeed, Lake Titicaca is everything the Animaniacs crack it up to be, and Machu Picchu is most deserving of its spot among the New Seven Wonders of the World. What keeps emerging as I tell the stories to friends, however, is an aspect of that same modern world that we as Baha’is are working to eradicate: extremes of wealth and poverty.

Coming home to my first Radiohead concert, after waiting more than a decade to see one of my all-time favorite bands live, only threw the contrast between the United States and Peru and Bolivia into starker relief. While the experience was underwhelming (most likely due to the poor sound quality at Ford Ampitheater in Tampa, the lazy crowd and the mellow setlist), it was still worthwhile. There’s no comparing it to Peru, but I couldn’t get Radiohead’s songs out of my head for days. Indeed I still can’t. In Rainbows defies my knack for hyperbole. I think Vince, who joined us at the concert, said it best.

IN RAINBOWS – choose 1:

a) Great Radiohead Album, or

b) Greatest Radiohead Album

Leave it to a band who defines my generation to say what I wanted to say about South America (and indeed all countries not as privileged as the G8) with a powerful music video, released while we were in Peru.

4 comments.

A bedtime story

Posted on April 11th, 2008 by george.
Categories: death, future, humor, life.

My coworker Chris was tucking his five-year-old son Miles into bed last night.

“Dad, I don’t want Mom to die.”

“Well, Miles, we all die.”

“Dad, can you build a time machine so we don’t have to?”

“Anything is possible, son, but I don’t think I’m smart enough to do that. Why don’t you get to work on it?”

Miles paused, and Chris could see the cogs turning in his son’s head.

“Okay, Dad, but I don’t think I can build it out of my legos.”

7 comments.