“ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit”


NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), who were married in 2007. (Credit: Giffords Flickr photostream)

It’s hard not to personalize tragedy. For the friends and family of those killed in Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, those losses are the focus. For many others, it was the shooting of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives that resonates. For me, even though the focus was on the same person, Saturday was the shooting of Mark Kelly’s wife.

Mark was one of the first astronauts I met when I came to work for NASA, and certainly one of the more immediately memorable. I don’t know whether the story of how he and his twin brother Scott would take turns growing and shaving off mustaches to confuse people is true, but it fits. Before the problems with the external tank delayed the next shuttle mission, the plan was that Mark would command a shuttle mission that would dock with the station while it was commanded by Scott. You don’t reach the point where you and your twin brother are both commanding literal spaceships at the same time without being incredibly competent, but the twins also have great senses of humor and affable personalities. I never met his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but I hurt for him and the Kelly family. Saturday was a tragedy for the NASA family, and its personal to us all.

I’m posting this, though, not to share my thoughts, but rather this link that Heather sent me, ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit, from two and a half years ago, that puts a personal face on Saturday’s events:

After a busy weekend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords flew into BWI yesterday, took the train to Union Station, then ran into a bar searching for a TV.

“I pleaded with the bartender, who had it tuned to some sports station, with a straight face: ‘My husband is the commander of space shuttle Discovery. They’re in the process of rendezvousing with the international pace station. May I please turn the channel?’ ” Giffords told us. “He looked a little confused and handed me the remote.”

The Arizona Democrat, who turns 38 on Sunday, became a NASA spouse when she married 44-year-old astronaut Mark Kelly in November. The two have maintained a long-distance marriage ever since: she in Tucson and D.C.; he in Houston — and for the next 11 days, 218 miles out in space. She’ll watch him on the news every day, and wear her Christmas gift: a meteorite he had made into a pendant for her.

This is Kelly’s third trip into space. He’s shepherding a $1 billion space lab, a pump to repair a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear doll and two items from his bride: a flag from the National Day of the Cowboy Organization (“I just thought we needed cowboy representation up there”) and her wedding band, inscribed: You’re the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been.“And he would know,” she said.

Did Steve Jobs Just Kill The Web?


Did Steve Jobs just kill the World Wide Web?

Maybe. Kind of.

You could make the argument that he didn’t because he was too late. At least you could if you were Wired Magazine. Back in August, Wired published a very interesting piece  titled The Web Is Dead. Love Live the Internet which argued that the Web is past its prime, due to a combination of two factors.

First, they said, Web traffic is increasingly coalescing around a handful of sites. Most notably, Facebook has essentially created a parallel Web, in which a huge amount of information is organized and accessed all through one site. When you go on Facebook, you’re no longer just seeing your friends’ statuses. You’re playing games and watching videos and reading news and any number of other things. All the benefits of the Web, without leaving the comfort of Facebook.

The other factor Wired cited was the growth of apps on mobile devices (and now tablets). On my computer, when I go to Twitter, on my computer, I go to twitter.com. On the web. On my iPhone, I use their app. Same content, without going on the web. A large number of my favorite apps are the same way — Amazon, TUAW, dictionary.com, Living Social, etc. I’m getting the web content, without ever going on the web. While the last point talked about how sites like Facebook are killing the Web, on my computer, I’m still getting there by going to Facebook.com. On my iPhone, I don’t even do that.

Which brings us to the Mac App Store.  The iOS version of the App Store has been very successful, and thus has given people expectations for how an App Store should work. And the Mac App Store is playing into those expectations. When I logged in for the first time, there was Angry Birds prominently displayed, just the way it should be in an App Store. And there’s a free Twitter client. One of the complaints I read the first day was that there was no Facebook app.

Really, why should there be? The app would be designed to run on your desktop or laptop, which is capable of running a full-featured browser, letting you access Facebook in a way that lets you do more than you can in the iOS Facebook app. Arguably, there’s no need for a Mac Facebook app.

But because of the success of the iOS app store, there’s an ingrained expectation that there should be one. And if one were created, theoretically, it would be the optimum version of Facebook — a version of Facebook freed of the mobile-device limitations of previous apps and of the browser-compatibility limitations previously on desktops and laptops. And then not only would there be the option of leaving the web, there would be a reason to.

And this isn’t true just for Facebook. A year from now, will I end up editing my blog from the Mac WordPress app because it’s better than WordPress.com? And will I be getting my weather from the Weather Channel app? What web sites will I stop visiting because there are better ways of accessing their content?

There’s a bit of irony here — for the last few years, the trend has been that everything is moving toward the web, and that web applications will replace desktop applications; that I’ll be doing my word processing through the web instead of using a native application.

If the best analyses are to be believed, two years from now, I’ll be reading Facebook in an app while I’m doing spreadsheets on the web, streaming movies on to my laptop while controlling my computer through the TV. I’ll also be washing my clothes in the stove and cooking dinner in the bathtub.

Just so long as my Garmin GPS music player is compatible with my flying car.

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