Space/travel

Posted on October 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, health, history, mathematics, space, travel.

Hey kids!  Been a while, eh?  I hope you’ve been enjoying the photos from our trip to Bolivia and Peru; I’ve been using my nightly internet allowance to edit and post those shots.  Lorenia put it best this afternoon when she said, “I consider flickr the same as blogging.  You’re simply leaning on images more than words.”  I hope that explains my absence of late.

Huge changes are afoot.  I get married in a matter of weeks (YAY!); my fitness, diet and sleep goals (yes, I have sleep goals) are getting closer to reality; new opportunities are arising at work; and I just got word that one of the references on my astronaut application has been contacted.  You could say things are going well.

There is so much I’ve wanted to blog about.  I have several ideas every day, and it pains me not to have the time to write about them all at length.  Now that I’m on the Zone diet, I spend a little more time each day planning and preparing meals.  Add work, crossfit, and flickr to that, and I do well to get a movie in here and there.  Right now I have over a hundred blog entries started, just waiting to be fleshed out.  At the very least I know I’ll have plenty to do if I ever lose my job or go to the hospital.

What’s broken my silence tonight, first and foremost, is a little something about NASA I’d like to share with the general public.  As you may be aware, most of the infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center was put in place in the early sixties.  The VAB has recently been re-clad after a series of hurricanes over the past few years, and many other upgrades are underway in advance of the new vehicle.  One of those projects is the removal of the large blast-shield louvers on the front of the Launch Control Center.

LCC Louver Removal

Given the decades that these iconic shields have been in place and the millions of visitors to the Kennedy Space Center every year, there are probably billions of photos of these louvers in existence.  Now, with the fancy new windows going in, they are being dismantled and removed.  Out of curiosity, I called up the project manager today to see if they were being donated to a museum.  He was very excited to tell me about the project, emphasizing the care with which the crane operator removed them and gently placed them on a flatbed truck to be sent to KSC excess.  His mood changed, however, when he recollected that once at the salvage site, the workers stabbed the louvers with a forklift and tossed them into the woods.

My plea to you is this:  if you know anyone who would like to include a large part of U.S. space history in a museum, memorial or large-scale art installation, please contact me, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people.  There are three more firing rooms whose louvers have not yet been removed.  Now is your chance to do something to support the space program.

Ok, next topic!  I was on the crossfit website today looking up WODs when I ran across this little gem of an article.  The TSA is one of my favorite whipping boys, and I consider this piece to be the final word on the futility of their existence.  I hope the next Administration has the good sense to abolish the organization and apply their seven-billion-dollar budget somewhere it might actually do some good.  I mean, seven billion dollars?  Where did that even come from?  That’s more than half NASA’s budget!  Do you realize what we could do with those funds?  At the very least, if you’re worried about terrorists, apply them to intelligence where they might actually do some good.  I’ve always found the hassle of the TSA’s security theater galling.  I’m convinced it’s a) a jobs program and b) a crutch for the airline industry who otherwise wouldn’t make as much money on non-refundable tickets.

I’ll leave you with a few words about an epiphany I had today.  After a near-death crossfit workout at the gym, I walked out into the brisk evening breeze and witnessed the glory of the fading sunset.  The cold blanket of air hovering over the continent had pushed all the clouds out of the Florida sky, so we were gifted with a rare, clear-sky dusk.  I marvelled at the strip of orange resting on the horizon, and how the gradient passed through green before fading into the midnight blue overhead.  Two bright planets pierced the veil of the heavens before the stars spilled out, and in thinking about the tilt of Earth’s axis and its role in the seasons it dawned on me:  someday soon we’ll model all the molecules in the atmosphere, and the secrets of how the giant globs of warm, wet, cold and dry air dance around the globe will be revealed.  With a clarity that only intense exertion can create, I further realized that all of mathematics is but a simplification.  It is true, it is correct, the science that rests upon it can be empirically verified, but it is an approximation.  If our beloved equations fully described reality, we world create worlds when we wrote them down.  Instead, they allow us glimpses into creation; they are useful tools for understanding our place in this universe and how to manipulate this wonderful reality to our ends.

Not bad for a weightlifting session.  Exercise is for nerds.

4 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.

Pray for Denise

Posted on August 29th, 2007 by george.
Categories: friends, health, prayer.

Some of you may not know my friend and travel buddy Denise, and others still may not know that she is one of the few female swoopers in the world. What is swooping? Call it “extreme skydiving.” As if the sport weren’t already extreme enough. But Dee is a competitor and an adventurer, and while she may bring sunshine to our lives she’s also tough as nails. Which is why I didn’t hear about her recent skydiving accident until today. I had to phone her to find out. She’s alive, doing ok, but her legs are banged up pretty bad and needless to say she’s out of the competition for this week. If there were one thing I could ask for right now, it would be for your prayers. Thank you my friends.

7 comments.

Exercise: it’s not just for your body anymore

Posted on May 9th, 2007 by george.
Categories: health, life.

From Newsweek:

The old dogma that the adult human brain cannot generate new neurons was overthrown almost 10 years ago, but a question persists: do those new neurons do any good?

In 1998 scientists led by Fred (Rusty) Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences discovered that older adults “well into their 50s, 60s and even 70s “continue to produce new neurons in their brains. Last November, a study found that as little as three hours a week of brisk walking increases blood flow to the brain and increases production of new neurons, researchers reported in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. The same team, led by Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois, had earlier shown that older adults who engage in physical activity have better working memory, are more adept at switching between mental tasks (a skill that generally declines with age), and are better able to screen out distractions (ditto) compared to people of the same age who did not get exercise training. The obvious question arose: is the reason exercise improves cognitive function in older adults that it boosts “neurogenesis,” the production of new brain neurons?

Read on at the source.

6 comments.