Smoke And Fire

The gallery is just random pictures. If there’s anything you’d like an explanation for, just ask.

I can’t do it justice. I wish I could write something meaningful about the Ares I-X launch, but all you’re going to get is just random observations.

She was beautiful. Wow. After trips down and seeing the shuttle peeking over the pad, Ares I-X was majestic, amazing. She towered over the pad. And the pictures I’ve seen of her all along the development process didn’t begin to do justice to how she looked waiting for launch. Just beautiful. My first sight of her, stacked and ready, was when we arrived Monday afternoon, while it was still light, from “my” pier in Titusville across the river from KSC. And, yeah, she was amazing. After dinner, we went back to the pier in the dark. And — wow! With the xenon lights piercing the sky, she was incredible.

And that was the first time I really began to understand how glad I was I went. Because there has not been a sight like that in decades, and likely won’t for decades. In pictures, the white-with-black I-X looks a little plain compared with the more colorful Ares I. On the pad, though, I can’t help but think that the white upperstage is going to have looked for more regal than the orange. Add to that, Ares I won’t be rising alone out of the launch complex in quite the same way as I-X. I may have been there for what will be the most beautiful pad view for a half-century or more.

The cool thing about the trip was, even the scrub was fortuitous. It meant she was still on the pad Tuesday afternoon for me to see her from closer up (though not nearly as close as I would have liked) on a KSC tour, and meant that the actual launch weather on Wednesday was much better than it would have been on Tuesday. That photo gallery up there has MUCH better pictures than it would have if there hadn’t been a scrub. And, really, how much can I complain that I had to spend an extra day in sunny Florida?

So, the launch then. I was going for history. I was going to be about twice as far from the pad as I had been for the STS-125 launch in May, watching a vehicle with less than half the power. So, mathematically, it should be, what, a quarter as awesome as the shuttle launch? So I was there because I wanted to have been there when she flew.

The reality, though — it was better than STS-125. Even farther away, even with less power. A lot of that was the weather, to be sure — we could see her for far longer than we were able to see Atlantis. And it was a beautiful launch. I was shocked at how slowly she rose from the pad. I’ll admit I haven’t looked at the numbers, but off the top of my head, I was expecting a thrust-to-weight ratio that would cause her to shoot off the pad much more quickly. Instead, she rose gloriously and luxuriantly. Again, amazing. And, something that BIG, that tall, flying like that — she looked … unlikely. A bold defiance of physics. Phenomenal.

And it was history. The first of her kind. In a way, the only of her kind. Sui generis. And she flew brilliantly. All of the naysayers, all of the criticisms that she was too tall, too thin, too top-heavy, whatever, became obsolete. She flew. She flew.

And it made me proud to wear my badge. To be a part, however small, of NASA. To be a part of Marshall Space Flight Center. It’s an honor. An incredible honor.

There was a moment after the launch, on the way to lunch, when I realized just how much the way I think has been shaped by my time with the agency, by working on the book, by the company I’ve kept. There were a lot of adjectives that came to my mind over the preceding two days, a lot of which I’ve used here — beautiful, amazing, incredible, majestic, historic, phenomenal, etc. But there was one adjective that just really summed everything up for me. That gave me goosebumps just thinking it, that’ll give me goosebumps now writing it. And it turned out to be not completely true, but it was certainly close enough. The highest praise you could give Ares I-X and her flight.

It was nominal.

My Day, Summarized

Actually, there was a bit more to it, but I’ll have to catch up later.


Until I can download from my camera.

“You’re so beautiful … And you’re good-looking, too.”


Take On Schmi

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more about "Star Wars: Uncut Trailer on Vimeo", posted with vodpod

OK, granted, the Star Wars Uncut trailer is pretty cool.

But my favorite part is definitely Scene 236, which is, of course, best enjoyed with a-ha’s Take On Me playing in the background. That said, now I really want them to expand that scene out to a full Star Wars trailer set to the song.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

There seems to be a theme with some people I’ve talked with recently, so I’m posting this here, for people who may or may not read it and may or may not know they need it. ‘Cause that’s the way I roll.

I shall not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Me, I’m doing pretty well with that one, I think. I’m more likely to have Mentat Mantra days: “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.”

Even More Random Than Normal

Stuff Dave feels like blogging about today. Like, even more random than a weekend update.

–I saw Orionid meteors yesterday morning. Only three of them, I think, but this is still a big deal, inasmuch as it’s been a very long time since the last time I saw meteors. I have astronomically bad luck — when I remember to go and look for meteors or other such events, it’s invariably overcast; if it’s clear, I’m otherwise occupied (or forget). I do a bit better with space station sightings, but only because I try to see it enough that my low success ratio still allows a decent number of sightings. But, yeah, the Orionids was definitely worth dragging myself out of bed pre-dawn for just to have the experience.

Jennifer Knapp is back. This makes David happy.

–I’m going to Florida next week to watch the Ares I-X launch. This also makes me happy. I’m traveling with someone I met back in July at the Space Camp Hall of Fame event; we’ve talked for probably an hour. This will be my third road trip to watch a launch, and I’ve traveled with completely different company each time. I-X will be a truly historical event, and it will be cool to have been there for it.

Right now, Ares I-X is sitting on Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, while, not too far away, Atlantis is sitting on Pad 39-A. This is the second time this year that both pads have been occupied; Endeavour was on B when I saw Atlantis launch from A back in May. (I also saw part of I-X on that trip in the VAB.) My friend Robert Pearlman put together a pretty cool photo gallery on collectSPACE. And as a Huntsvillian, it’s very very cool that the the Redstone stripe really is about to fly again.

–B.B. King is playing in Huntsville in January. I’ve seen him several times at the annual homecoming festival in Indianola, but that’s a rather unique show, and I’ve always wanted to see him do a real concert. I’ve ordered my tickets, and in just over a couple of months, I will.

–I ate at two restaurants for the first time yesterday; Dolce at Bridge Street and Sam & Greg’s on the square downtown. Both were good; Dolce was one of very few places at Bridge Street I’d never eaten before, and I’ve been meaning to eat at Sam & Greg’s since it took the place of our old improv show venue downtown. I also got to introduce people to Maggie Moo’s ice cream shop at Bridge Street two days this week, which was fun.

–Speaking of restaurants, I’ve written about eating at astronaut José Hernández’ restaurant while in Houston, and having him be my waiter while awaiting his first spaceflight. Well, Huntsville now has an astronaut-(co-)owned restaurant of its own! I’ll have to try it soon.

–I mentioned yesterday that I had ordered And Another Thing… after reading the introduction and a few pages at the bookstore. I’m curious to see whether this is true of the book, but, in the introduction at least, the most bizarre thing, the thing that distracted me, was that the Guide has become … realistic. When I first read HHGTTG, the Guide was this fantastical device. Now, it’s fairly practical, and is described in terms from today’s technology. Sigh.

–I’m hosting an improv show tomorrow night, and am playing in one Saturday night. Come check us out.

–I’m also going to be doing some acting in a video project, but it’s secret, so I can’t tell you.

The Order

For a few months, I knew Monday was drawing inexorably closer. Each month, I got a statement from the Visa Rewards program on my debit card, showing how many points I had. Showing, indirectly, how much closer I was to being able to get a $100 Amazon gift card. Showing, even more indirectly, how much closer I was to receiving a box of $100 worth of my Amazon wish list. Which arrived Monday.

And let me tell you, filling my shopping cart with $100 worth of free books was a lot of fun. It didn’t take long, since, like I said, most of it was just a matter of picking and choosing from books I’d accumulated in my wish list. But even that was a lot of fun; a lot of those were things I wanted but couldn’t justify buying at the moment. Shopping without having to worry about justification is a lot of fun, let me tell you.

So, the results of my spree:

Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft — This is the fourth book in the University of Nebraska Press’ Outward Odyssey series, which, of course, also includes Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story, by astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin and this David Hitt guy. For that reason alone, you should buy Ambassadors. Assuming you’ve already bought Homesteading. Otherwise, buy the latter first.

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon — It’s a comic book. About space. How far wrong can you go? (Well, it’s a comic book about space history, which should be even better. And, technically, I know I should say graphic novel. Anyway …)

These Dreams Keep Me Going These Days: A Bellen! Collection — More comics. This time, comic strips instead of comic books. Or graphic novels. Bellen! is a web comic by Box Brown. We did a guest strip for him once. So I bought his book. (Well, technically, this is the second book I bought; since I also bought the one way back when that featured the strip we did.)

Stargazer — And speaking of personal connections, Stargazer is like Twilight written by someone you went to college with. Well, not you. Just me. Unless you’re one of my readers who also went to college with Claudia Gray, before she was Claudia Gray, the pen name of Amy Vincent. This is the second book in a series, after Evernight. If you like teen vampire romance, or went to college with Amy, check out the Evernight series.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — And speaking of romance and mythical monsters (like how I’ve managed to keep this segues going through this whole post?) … I’ve heard this is good. So I bought it.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot — OK, I have no cool transition to this one. I borrowed a friend’s copy of this book quite a while back. I decided I needed it in my library, so I bought a copy. Earlier this year, I decided someone needed to read it, so I put it in my wish list. As Bruce Springsteen would say, she’s all gone, it’s still here. Or, at least, it’s here now — I went ahead and bought it because it’s one of those books that I know that, at some point in the future, I will want to hand to someone and say, “Here, read this …” (I used to keep a stash of The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel so that I could do just that. Think I’m all out now, though.)

David: A Man of Passion & Destiny — And speaking of books about religious issues (ha, I did it again), I wrote on here a little while back about my meditations on Hosea and David, and that I was buying a book for research on that. This is it.

How to Talk to Girls — My coworker JoCasta shared this book with me, and I had to get it. It’s written by a nine-year-old, and is amusingly perceptive. Funny stuff.

Among the Oak & Ash — The only non-book in the order. I know nothing about it, save that half of the group is Garrison Starr, who I like muchly (and who attended Ole Miss), and so, even though it’s apparently not her usual stuff, was totally willing to spend the nothing it cost me to get this album.

The End. At least, that’s all I got in that order. As a bonus, I’ll throw in that since placing the order, I’ve also bought the following:

xkcd: volume 0 — Another web comic collection. Good stuff. Geek humor, to the extent that I don’t get a lot of it, but with stuff on life and love that is so very true.

And Another Thing… — Yeah, I bought it. I read a few pages at the bookstore, and decided that, OK, I’ll give it a try. We’ll see.

And as yet another bonus, the Outward Odyssey series, thus far:

Any Given Saturday

So Thursday morning I had no plans for the weekend at all.

By that evening, there was at least the prospect that I was going to the Chili Festival in Tupelo, Miss., the next day though I didn’t know that for sure until Friday morning.

The Chili Festival was, in fact, fun, even if the Unitarian chili I sampled was very possibily the nastiest thing I have ever eaten. I mean, wow.

Saturday morning arrived still without plans for the day. Driving to Oxford seemed like a good way to take advantage of the day — it was cold, but, after weeks of rain and general drabness, the sky was blue and the sun made an appearance. Being in the car allowed us to stay warm, while cranking up the music and enjoying the day.

Ah, Oxford. It was only the second time I’ve been back in over two years, which is quite the rarity for me over the past 18 years since I first went there. It was good being back. It was the first time in quite a while that I really walked around town and campus, and it was … right. We also got to visit another old college friend and his family, which was cool. And I had a pumpkin truffle at a shop off the square — The Chocolate Bar — run by an old friend of Shannon’s that was possibly the single best truffle I’ve ever had. I mean, seriously, this was good stuff.

The plan was to go, see the Thompsons, hang out in Oxford, wander through The Grove, and then be back in Tupelo in time for dinner. The plan was not to go to the game. (The fact that none of this was planned is further evidenced by the fact that I was not only wearing red or blue, but the other team’s green.) But then we passed by a guy who asked if we needed tickets. And, you know what? After walking through The Grove, after seeing the team head over to the stadium, after hearing the band play Dixie, after taking in the whole ambience, yeah, we really kinda did.

It’d been too long since I’d been to a football game, and it was great. Especially when Ole Miss scored with only 13 seconds gone from the clock.

The entire evening was a paean to spontaniety. First, we kicked their butt. Yeah, we were playing UAB, and without question should have won. And, yeah, we probably struggled more than we should have before the offense finally showed up. (Our first touchdown of the game was courtesy of special teams, the first first down was courtesy of the defense. We spent quite a bit of the first quarter hoping the offense could just move the ball enough that either special teams or defense could score for us.) But, you know, in my opinion, that’s part of the experience of being a true Ole Miss fan. It’s like watching preschoolers play soccer — you don’t expect too much out of them, but get really excited when they actually do something right.

It was cool sharing the experience with a friend who enjoyed it properly. As best as I could recall, Shannon and I hadn’t been to an Ole Miss game together in 16 years, when we watched Gene Stallings, who had just won the national championship the year before, beat the Rebels. As a couple of native Alabamians, Shannon and I were less disappointed than the rest of the group we went with. Saturday, though, it was all about our Rebels. We yelled Hotty Toddy until I was a bit hoarse. Sure, we’ve been out of the student section for a couple of years now, but you wouldn’t have known it watching us.

And, then, there was the moment where I was eating Corky’s barbecue nachos while they announced the Alumni Hall of Fame inductees, which included former shuttle program manager and current Kennedy Space Center director Bill Parsons. The combination of tasty barbecue, Ole Miss and NASA made Dave a happy man.

All in all, not a bad weekend, really.


Blue sky!