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Just in case you were wondering where I’ve disappeared to lately, here’s a quick recap:
I spend half my time in Florida testing, fixing, and launching shuttles, and the other half in Houston helping to design the GNC systems for the new Orion vehicle.
It’s a sweet gig. I ain’t complainin’.
This new MacBook Pro ain’t too shabby either.
All bragging aside, I checked my voicemail today and had 20 messages. In my defense, they aren’t showing up in my inbox. I need to give Verizon a call and have that fixed. My gmail inbox is below 100 unread messages, and that’s good. I get around 40 work emails a day, so when I fall behind, it’s bad. If I haven’t gotten back to you, I apologize. Life’s going to be busy for at least the next couple of years.
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.
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.
The Apples rocked hard at the AKA Lounge tonight. I was sorta disappointed that a city like Orlando couldn’t muster a better crowd for such an amazing band, but any chagrin quickly evaporated as I realized it meant I’d have plenty of room to dance on the front row. First off, I gotta give props to my friend Karen for introducing me to the happiest, catchiest band since Fleming & John. Second, kudos to Andropolis for keeping the flame alive with his recent mix CD that included the stand-out track from the Apples’ new album, New Magnetic Wonder.
After the show, Uncle Billy and I had the privilege of meeting the creative force behind the band, Robert Schneider. It’s not hard to see how such wonderful music comes from so effusive a personality. After thanking him profusely for creating such a positive influence through his mathematically- and astronomically-inspired, crazy-good music, I had but one quick question to ask: what was his inspiration for my favorite song, 7 Stars? I knew it had to be about the Pleiades, but I wanted to know more. I could not have imagined what came next.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Robert is as big a nerd as I am. Super smart and curious, he’s the kind of guy who, not satisfied with conventional tonal scales, invents his own harmonies through logarithmic divisions of the sequence of frequencies from 4 to 16. So he may be as nerdy as a rocket scientist, but considering he’s the lead singer in a rock band, he’s considerably cooler. Turns out the Seven Sisters make up his favorite constellation. He is huge into astronomy and mathematics, as you might have guessed from his music, but what you may not know is that he studies advanced math on his own. For fun. He’s an automath in, well, math.
In fact, Robert is slowly working towards a PhD (one can imagine touring might involve certain time commitments), with his dissertation undoubtedly piercing the veil of primes. But his geek cred rolls mad deeper: he wrote a computer program back in the eighties, when he was in middle school in Lousiana, that graphed out those same 7 stars.
Before we knew it, we’d shared a half-hour conversation on prime number sequences, space exploration, star systems and the underlying language of the universe. It wasn’t long until his wife tapped him on the shoulder to say, “Honey, there are others waiting for autographs.” So he graciously attended to his fans, then we picked right back up where we left off.
Unfortunately by now it was nearly 2am, so we had to part. We said our goodbyes, but not before he slipped us a couple of personalized 7″ LPs and told me he’ll soon be taking his son to Huntsville for father-son Space Camp.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have found a new friend. Robert, if you’re reading this, I can’t wait to escort you and the Apples to a Shuttle launch. Good luck with those primes. And stars. And frequencies. And the mathematical music that ties them all together.