Monday, January 16th, 2017

Fair winds and following seas, Eugene Cernan.

Gene Cernan | 6:16 pm CDT
Category: space geekery | Tags: ,
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Monday, November 2nd, 2015

New favorite moonshot find on the internet: recordings of the intercom chatter between flight director Gene Kranz and the members of the “White Team” that were on duty when an oxygen tank blew up on Apollo 13.

The cool of these guys is jaw-dropping, especially Sy Liebergot, the guy who eventually noodled out what had gone wrong. The pressure on him to come up with an answer for Kranz must have been colossal, doubly so when it turned out to be the answer nobody wanted to hear. “I’ve got a feeling we’ve lost two fuel cells,” he tells Kranz about twenty-six minutes after the accident. Up to that point, they had been working as if they might be able to fix the problem, even though Kranz already suggested they could use the lander to get home if they needed to.

This is a recording of the closed loop the flight director (Kranz) used to talk with the rest of the team, so the only time you can hear the astronauts is when the team members are not talking, and then only distantly, because they’re on another loop. But you can hear Lovell report about fourteen minutes after the accident that they’re venting something into space. I guarantee that chills will run down your spine.

chills | 8:00 am CDT
Category: space geekery
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Sunday, August 16th, 2015

I’ve passed some time these last two weeks reading the Apollo Flight Journal, an annotated transcript of the transmissions from the astronauts who went to the moon. This is some pretty geeky stuff. The transmissions themselves would be nerdtastic all by themselves, but the annotations are so packed full of detailed moon-shot minutia that I may never stop getting my geek on.

But even if you’re not a space nerd, I thought you might enjoy this line of traffic from an astronaut to mission control about three hours into the flight:

002:56:10 Unidentified Speaker (onboard): [Garble] SECO [garble] gimbal [garble].

Speaking as someone who’s had to transcribe recorded conversations, I can empathize with a desire to get it all down in words, even when it gets crossed up with a frustration at not being able to make out all the actual, you know, words.

garble | 5:18 pm CDT
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Sunday, June 14th, 2015

After our weekly visit to the farmer’s market on Madison’s west side, My Darling B and I crossed the street to the Hilldale Mall where B had to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding. B hates shopping with the blazing white intensity of a thousand exploding suns, but the wedding is just two weeks away, so, even though there was still some time left to procrastinate, she decided it was time to get it over with. As luck would have it, she fell in love with the very first dress she found, but it’s fire-engine red and apparently there’s some rule about wearing a dress to a wedding that would upstage the bride. She put it on hold and kept shopping, eventually ending up with what she called “the granny dress,” a cream-colored, knee-length dress with lots of sparklies. B loves sparklies.

While she was trying on dresses, I wandered down the street a few blocks to a garage sale on Midvale Avenue that I spotted as we drove past. There wasn’t much that interested me, and the only thing I eventually bought was a book published by the Associated Press to commemorate the 1969 moon landing. Titled “Footprints On The Moon,” it was a coffee table book chock full of familiar photographs of the space race, starting as usual with Sputnik and ending with lots of lofty prose about how Neil & Buzz walking on the moon had ushered the world into a new era, yada yada yada.

When I picked up the book I had no intention of putting it down again. I’ll buy almost any book or commemorative nick-knack that came out of the space race. I’d never seen this book before and as I opened the cover I thought, Oh nice, something new for my collection, but I didn’t think it was anything extraordinary at first. Then the book fell open to the middle where the folded newspaper pages were tucked away. My heart sped up. It was the first four pages torn out of the Wisconsin State Journal dated July 21, 1969. “ON THE MOON!” the headline on the front page blared in block capital letters over a full-color photo of Armstrong and Aldrin in a training scenario, using tongs to pick up rocks in their space suits. An inside page ran a snapshot of the video feed from the moon, unfocused and about as black-and-white as any photograph could be. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might not realize what was going on.

I tucked the pages back in the book and carried it reverently to the front of the garage where a quartet of old friends were bantering with some customers about one of the items for sale. When one of them turned to me and offered to help, I handed over the book, which he opened to the inside cover to read the price: two dollars. “Footprints on the moon,” he said conversationally, flipping through the first couple pages before it fell open to the middle where he found the newspaper pages. I was sure when he saw those that he would either take them out because they weren’t part of the book, or at least charge me for them separately. He barely looked at them before he snapped the book closed. I held my breath. “Two dollars, please,” he said. I dug two singles from my wallet and handed them over; he thanked me, and I walked away with a tiny piece of history.

Shopping for dresses took a lot out of B, so we headed straight home where she planned to spend time in her garden to decompress. It had been raining for the past two days so the ground was probably too wet for her to plant anything. Even so, she figured she could at least pull weeds, but when we got home she wasn’t up for that any more. “A new bar opened in town with fifty-zillion taps,” she informed me, and she wanted to go there to see what that was about.

The bar was Mr. Brews Taphouse, a Wisconsin chain of bars that specializes in craft beers and features loads of local brews as well as national craft beers. I don’t know how many taps there were; it was too way many for me to bother counting them. We settled in at a hightop table next to the beer menu chalked on the wall, where I studied the options long and hard. I spotted a specialty brew called Sixty-One from Dogfish Head that a friend had raved about; I wish I could say it was as good as the hype, but I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. B ordered a delicious barrel-aged porter called Barrel Aged Brrrbon with Vanilla from Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland OR. She let me taste it, then she let me taste it again, and then I tasted it some more. Eventually she just said to hell with tasting and we called it sharing.

After the first draughts were out of the way, we ordered a flight of four beers: Dynamo Copper Lager from Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago; Bean Me Up Scotchy from St. Francis Brewing in St. Francis WI; Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer Company in Boulder CO; and Quinannan Falls Lager from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo MI.

We’ve been to Chicago on our own, but we have to go back soon on a proper beer tour because there’s some really good brews coming out of there. If Dynamo’s any indication, I could probably spend all day in the taproom of Metropolitan Brewing, sampling their beers.

St. Francis is just north of Milwaukee and we’ve enjoyed their beer before. Bean Me Up Scotchy is a barrel-aged version of their scotch ale, known as Pride, and I would guess they’ve added vanilla beans to the recipe to boot. Very smooth, and yummy enough to make me want more.

I don’t remember drinking any brews from Boulder Beer before, so that’s something I’m working on correcting, starting with this excellent porter.

Bell’s has been one of my favorite breweries ever since I tried Two-Hearted Ale, a very hoppy beer. I’m not so much into hoppy beers any more, but fortunately Bell’s has produced plenty of other styles that are ever so tasty, and this lager, I’m happy to report, is no exception. Plus, it comes from Kalamazoo, which gives me an opportunity to say Kalamazoo. I love to say Kalamazoo. Who doesn’t love saying Kalamazoo? Boring people, that’s who.

I can’t remember whether or not we visited Widmer Brothers when we were in Portland. Looking photos of the place and where it is on the map, I’m pretty sure we didn’t. If we didn’t, we were stupid. It looks like a pretty great place to visit. Plus, the vanilla porter we sampled was scrumptuous. Getting some right from the source would’ve been a treat.

Our sufficiencies well and truly serensified, we retired back to Our Little Red House to pass the rest of a quiet afternoon reading and napping until supper time. And that is a satisfying way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

walking on the moon | 9:04 am CDT
Category: beer, books, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, space geekery
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Sunday, December 7th, 2014

I wasn’t sure why at first, but this photo of Christmas stockings hanging over a doorway (next to an upside-down Christmas tree) on the International Space Station warmed my heart:

Christmas stockings on the ISS

The photo was posted by Samantha Christoferetti in the on-line journal she’s been keeping while serving on Expedition 42 to the ISS. One of the comments left by a visitor to her journal noted that it was little things like this that made the difference between surviving in space and living in it. There it is; there’s the heartwarming connection.

stockings | 9:52 am CDT
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Friday, February 15th, 2013

Meteors: Nature’s way of asking, “How’s that space program coming along?”


Bam! | 5:49 am CDT
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Monday, February 4th, 2013

Aw, hell yes!

Aw Hell Yes!

hell yes | 6:09 pm CDT
Category: beer, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, play, space geekery
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Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We had to shovel the driveway. I’m pooped. Here’s an awesome video. G’night.

 

pooped | 8:59 pm CDT
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Friday, January 18th, 2013

Well, this is refreshing: “I don’t know whether or not they landed on the moon, but I know they couldn’t have faked it.”

moon hoax not | 6:39 am CDT
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Thursday, September 27th, 2012

image of Saturn

“…the Cassini spacecraft pulled into orbit around Saturn. There was nothing scientific about it, just pulling into orbit. Yet the Today Show figured that was news enough to put the story in their first hour – not in the second hour, along with the recipes, but in the first twenty minutes. So they called me in. When I get there, everybody says, ‘Congratulations! What does this mean?’ I tell them it’s great, that we’re going to study Saturn and its moons. Matt Lauer wants to be hard-hitting, though, so he says, ‘But Dr. Tyson, this is a $3.3 billion mission. Given all the problems we have in the world today, how can you justify that expenditure?’ So I say, ‘First of all, it’s $3.3 billion divided by twelve. It’s a twelve-year mission. Now we have the real number: less than $300 million per year. Hmmm. $300 million. Americans spend more than that per year on lip balm.’

“At that moment, the camera shook. You could hear the stage and lighting people giggle. Matt had no rebuttal; he just stuttered and said, ‘Over to you, Katie.’ When I exited the building, up came a round of applause from a group of bystanders who’d been watching the show. And they all held up their ChapSticks, saying, ‘We want to go to Saturn!'”

NEAL DEGRASSE TYSON, Space Chronicles

space chronicles | 8:30 pm CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, books, current events, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
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Friday, September 21st, 2012

image of the Milky Way in the night sky“Unlike other animals, humans are quite comfortable sleeping on our backs. This simple fact affords us a view of the boundless night sky as we fall asleep, allowing us to dream about our place in the cosmos and to wonder what lies undiscovered in the worlds beyond.

The effect is to leave us restless for want of a plan to discover. We know in our minds, but especially in our hearts, the value to our culture of new voyages and the new vistas they provide. Because without them, our culture stalls and our species withers. And we might as well go to sleep facing down.”

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON


face up | 5:34 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, books, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
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Sunday, August 26th, 2012

image of the moonI have a strange confession for a space geek to make: I have only the sketchiest idea where I was, and no memory of what I was doing, when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon.

I’m pretty sure I was in Marquette, Michigan when it happened, but I have no memory of watching the landing, none at all. I can only assume that I did. I was a huge science geek when I was a boy, especially about moon rockets. I have a very vivid memory of just about wetting myself when I unwrapped the giant-sized model moon rocket that my parents gave me for Christmas, and I still remember wearing an old blue sweater with the Apollo 11 crew patch printed across the front.

But, unlike most people, I can’t tell you where I was and what I was doing when the moon landing took place. I will probably be able to tell you, many, many moons from now, where I was and what I was doing when I learned that Neil Armstrong had died, however.

I had just gotten up from a refreshing nap after bicycling into town and back to visit the Orton Park festival with My Darling B on our wedding anniversary. I poured myself a beer and saddled up in front of my computer monitor to check out the Twitter feed and maybe watch videos of some adorable kittens playing with string or something equally wasteful. The tweets memorializing Neil Armstrong had already begun to hit the feed and I thought, “What the hell is this? Neil Armstrong can’t die yet.”

But when I skipped from one news site to another I found that, yes, in fact, he could do that, and he did. And after the idea had sunk in and hit me way harder than I ever thought it would, I went upstairs and out the back door into the yard to search the skies for any sign of the moon. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw it during the day, so I wasn’t even sure it was visible at that hour, but I desperately needed to see it just then.

“What are you looking for?” My Darling B called to me from the kitchen window. “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” When she stepped out the back door to join me, I told her I was looking for the moon. “Why? Isn’t it there any more?”

“I sure hope so,” I said, then told her, with an unexpected catch in my throat, that Neil Armstrong had died. She’s not the space geek that I am, far from it. Her eyes usually glass over whenever I start talking about space geekery, but she understood immediately that I had lost a hero, so she gave me a big, warm hug and told me everything would be all right.

And it was, even though I couldn’t find the moon in the sky that afternoon, or later that evening. Clouds slowly filled the skies until rain began to fall late in the night and all through the morning today. I’ll have to wait until a clear night to wink at the moon.

wink at the moon | 10:58 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, space geekery | Tags:
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