The Best of Huntsville, Alabama


My Huntsville picture post the other day was part of a blog carnival by local bloggers, titled “The Best of Huntsville, Alabama.” Go check it out!

O Huntsville, My Huntsville!


This is my Huntsville. (My Huntsville has a disproportionate number of rockets, but what do you expect.) There are a lot of things that would be in here if I’d understood young enough how transitory life is to take pictures of them, but I didn’t. So it’s far from exhaustive, but it is representative.

Life On Mars


We have a new Face2Face Improv clip up online, from a scene I did with Jeremy Shelley a while back. We’re supposed to be two astronauts on Mars, and when the host rings the bell, we have to change our last line to something different.

But I also wanted to share the other big Face2Face news — the new Face2Face Improv website is now online!!

I’ll be in a show tonight at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria and Gelateria across from the courthouse in downtown Huntsville at 7:30 p.m.; we do shows there every Tuesday night. Tickets are $5, with children 8 and under free.

We’re also planning a bigger-format show at Thespis Theater in south Huntsville for Saturday, September 17.

Come join us!


For those that haven’t seen Face2Face before, we’re a comedy improv troupe. We make up scenes on the spot, based on suggestions from the audience. (And for the more timid in the crowd, we don’t bring anyone on stage or force anyone to do anything; you’re more than welcome to just sit back and enjoy the show.) We do a family friendly show of live entertainment. If you’ve ever seen the old ABC show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” we’re kinda like that. Only better.

I can’t embed them here, but there are videos of some of my work with the troupe on Facebook that should be publicly visible. Ticket information for shows is here.

Improv-ing The Travel Experience


I thought I’d share this video from a Face2Face Improv show a few years ago that was recently posted online:

This game harkens back to the ‘old days’ when slides and slide projectors were common fare when visiting relatives. More often than not … they tended to be boring.

Here, the show moderator receives from an audience member a description of their recent trip. After a basic, uneventful interview, the moderator chooses an actor to pose as the audience member, who then proceeds to show everyone the slides from the trip.

In this clip, Jen Lohrman Britton narrates a trip to Haiti. Thus the benign description, thanks to Jen, transforms into a much larger calamity of laughs.

We do shows every Tuesday night at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria/Gelateria on the square in downtown Huntsville at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; children 8 and under are free. I’m there almost every week, usually hosting the show. Come check us out.

#SCTweetUp Follow Up


OK, I’m very late with this, but now that I’m posting again, I wanted to go back and finish blogging about the Space Camp Tweet Up about a month ago.

To start with, here are my pictures from the second day. (The pictures from the first day are here.)

First, let me begin by saying that you should follow @SpaceCampUSA on Twitter.

Now, the story —

They say that it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

And that, certainly, is the root of my Space Camp tweet-up story.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was selected for the first ever Space Camp tweet-up. Crazy excited, to resort to incredible understatement. I’d been wanting to go to Space Camp for 25 years. Back in middle school, I would enter the essay contest every year, hoping to win a scholarship, always to no avail. (Apparently my space writing wasn’t up to snuff. Oh, by the way, I have an appointment with them today to do some writing for them. Apparently the last quarter-century has been good for me in that area.)

But, Space Camp always remained just beyond my grasp.

So you can imagine it was a very very sad day when I had to turn down the chance to go to the tweetup. It was going to be the same day as the STS-134 space shuttle launch, and I owed it to some people to go to that instead.

To add insult to injury, the launch scrubbed. I had to watch it much later on television.

But …

So did the tweet-up. Remember that ill wind I mentioned? The tornados that blew through Huntsville two days before the scheduled launch caused the tweet-up to be delayed, and I was able to get back on the list. Which made me a very, very happy man.

I’ve had the opportunity to do some very cool space-related stuff, from watching launches with astronauts to going on a Zero-G flight to talking to the space station. But so many of the things I got to do at Space Camp had this great “I’m finally doing this!” quality to them that made the experience even more special.

One of the first things we did, for example, was ride the Multi-Axis Trainer, a chair  mounted in concentric loops that all spin in different directions at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times I’d seen the MAT, and been jealous of the fact that I’d never gotten to try it. And now, here I was, strapping in. Awesome. (For the record, I didn’t get at all nauseated, but that’s typical. It has something to do with how quickly the spinning changes direction.)

While we were there, we also got to use the One-Sixth-G Chair, which simulates what it’s like to walk on the moon, using an elaborate pulley system. There was a bit of irony there for me — I’ve experienced “actual” one-sixth G during my reduced gravity flight, so I was probably one of a few people to get to experience the real thing before simulating it at Space Camp. What I learned is that it really doesn’t matter whether it’s real or simulated — I stink at being in reduced gravity. If the real moonwalkers had been as awkward on the moon as I was in the chair, NASA would have covered up that we ever landed out of embarrassment.

Also that night, astronaut Hoot Gibson came and spoke to us about — well, anything he wanted to talk about. Hoot’s a great speaker, and his talk was informative — I learned a few new things — and greatly entertaining.

The next day started with a tour of Marshall Space Flight Center, which was somewhat bittersweet for me. It was a little odd being back just over a month after I left, and I have to admit that I missed it a bit. They do some incredible things there, and it was an honor to have been involved with that.

Our lunch speaker was Tim Pickens, of the Rocket City Space Pioneers team that is competing in the Google Lunar X Prize. He’s a brilliant man, and RCSP is an incredible team doing brilliant things. Hopefully you’ll be hearing more about that on here at some point.

And then, it was time for our mission. For me, the highlight of the entire event. Again, I’d been waiting a long time for this.

OK, to be perfectly honest, I was slightly disappointed. I wanted to be in the orbiter. Instead, I was in Mission Control. Watching Apollo 13 one time, I decided that it wouldn’t be that bad being in Mission Control at Space Camp if you could be Flight, and say really cool stuff like Gene Kranz. But I wasn’t even Flight.

I was a prop.

Well, technically, I was PROP, the propulsion officer. And I did get to say some cool stuff. Heck, just going through the Go/No Go polling was enough to send chills through you. “PROP is Go!” Even if I wasn’t in the shuttle, it was still amazing to finally get to do a Space Camp mission.

I’m not entirely sure the crew would have survived the mission in real life; my pet peeve, for example, was that they never activated their auxiliary power units like they were supposed to. I’m pretty sure that would be a bad day on a real mission, but I’m not sure if they technically needed them on our simulation, which was a once-around abort. Also, the spacewalkers were basically doing a separate sim at the same time as the inside-the-orbiter, so from Mission Control, they basically got left in orbit. Still, I admire their dedication to the mission and their country.

A few things remained after that. We toured Aviation Challenge, where I crashed many simulated airplanes. I got to ride their centrifuge, but it only went up to 3G. (What can I say, I’m a G-snob at this point. It would be great fun for most people.) We rode Space Shot. We got to see the new Sue The T-Rex traveling exhibit, which was pretty cool.

And then it was done.

It was an exciting, exhausting, exhilarating two days, that was a complete dream come true for me.

The only downside —

The only downside —

Was that finally getting to go to Space Camp in no way, shape or form diminished my decades-long desire to go to Space Camp.

And next time, I wanna fly the orbiter.

Great Moonbuggy Race 2011


This is how it’s supposed to be done:


This is how it’s more often done:


This is what happened to the team from Russia:

They did, eventually, push the buggy out of the obstacle, and pushed on to the next one before giving up.

I was amused by the fact that when they hit the obstacle and got stuck, the guy on the team launched into a flurry of Russian I didn’t understand, punctuated with a couple of words starting with F— and S— that I and the other bystanders did.

I guess English is truly the new Lingua Franca when it’s the language used when we have to pardon your French.

I thought it was really cool that Russia joined the participants this year, but I’ll admit that I still had enough nationalism to find it amusing that they struggled. I’ll admit having a passing thought along the lines of, no wonder we beat them to the moon.


These are some pictures I took: