Monthly Archives: April 2011

A day of waiting, with less waiting

Today was an off day. Went spent a long morning at WonderWorks. It was a fun place with arcade games and edutainment stuff. There was a rope climbing area in the air above the arcade games. Most of us did it, though less actually enjoyed it. Sadly, Emily couldn’t partake because she wasn’t wearing appropriate footwear. It would have been fun to see her up there. There was also a roller coaster simulator. An interesting experience, but rather silly, really.

We took a break for lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant, and then went back to WonderWorks for laser tag before heading back to the hotel for a little swimming and R&R.

For dinner, we went to Downtown Disney. We ate at a fish and chips joint and spent way too much time in the Legos store (or waiting for people who were taking too much time in the Legos store). We got back to the hotel around 10pm. I guess we’re trying to keep the kids on Colorado time…. Yeah, that’s the reason.

We still don’t know if we’ll see the shuttle launch. It sounds like they’ve been making progress diagnosing the issue, but no announcement will be made until Sunday morning. Our flight out is scheduled for 10am. At the least, Scott will be on that flight so that he won’t miss more school. I’m completely bummed about it, and so is he.

Scrubbed

Well, the kids and I are out in Florida to watch the shuttle Endeavor launch for its 25th and last time. Along for the trip are K and her brother Sparkles.

We started the morning off at with breakfast at 6:30 am and got to the Kennedy Space Center a bit after 8. We were worried about traffic, and ended up getting there an hour earlier than we needed. (Actually, it seems obvious now that we could have shown up much later without trouble.)

We wandered around the visitors center for a while before deciding to go to a show – Star Trek Live. The best that can be said about it was that it wasted some time. It was a rather silly two person show about… well, I’m still not sure. There was an astronaut, and a Romulan woman, and some audience participation… but no real point.

We then had some lunch, and watched a little presentation about the upcoming launch. They tried to reassure us that the really gray skies and wind could easily be gone by launch time (they were basically right – not that it mattered). There was a female astronaut (I don’t remember her name) who had been on four shuttle missions. She was very interesting and answered lots of questions. Scott asked her how they cooked fried eggs in space. She gave an interesting answer about cooking, or the inability to cook, in space, but didn’t really answer his question.

We then went to find a spot to watch the launch. While everyone else sat down, Tim and I wandered over to the Astronaut’s memorial. We watched an alligator in the pond there for a while. Then we heard the news.

Scrubbed.

There was problem with both of the heaters for one the auxiliary power units. The astronauts hadn’t even made it all the way to the launch pad before turning around.

After that, we decided to look around for a while. The kids and I played with legos for an hour in the IMAX building. It was a really big room with piles and piles of legos. Tim made a very cool model of a shuttle, though he really didn’t have time to finish it to the best of his ability. I’m not really sure what Scott built, but it was really cool. A Lego designer was there, and came over to him, and helped him with it. He really liked what both Scott and Tim made.

Then, we decide to wait in a line. Since the launch was scrubbed, they opened tours of the center back up. Or so we thought…. It turns out that president Obama was on site for the launch, and he stayed for a short tour. Well, a tour. Well, a private tour, so that nobody else could move around the site. We waited in that line forever… and ever… and ever…. By the time the busses started moving, it was 2 1/2 hours later. Ugh.

We rode by the Vertical Assembly Building, over to the Saturn V building. It’s still incredibly impressive seeing that huge rocket laying on its side. Did I mentioned that it was huge? No? It was freaking huge. OMFG, that thing was huge! (Inside joke: don’t whisper that.)

Outside the building, we could look across the pond at the two launch pads. It’s a really nice view, but honestly, we couldn’t tell for certain which pad had the shuttle on it. OK, I’m pretty sure it was the right one. But the shuttle’s on the far side, and you really couldn’t tell what we were seeing. I hope one of K’s shots has enough detail to pick it out. (Actually, they did.)

After that, we headed back to the visitors center, and then back to Orlando. I had a good time, but I hope the kid’s memory isn’t completely dominated by that long line.

The next launch opportunity is Monday. Sadly, Scott needs to get back to school, so he will definitely miss it. We won’t know for sure if they’ll even attempt the launch until they can troubleshoot the issue tomorrow evening. If they do try to launch, Tim, Emily, and I may stay an extra day. We’ll see.

To be continued….

Books

The last few years had been pretty light on reading for me. I’ve been trying to change that. I can’t say I’m catching up on my to-read list very well since I keep adding books, but I have read a bunch of books – mostly listened to them – over the last year or so. Here are the ones I remember.

The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin (audio). Turns out to be a pretty darned good book. It’s written for the layperson, so like most science books I read, it left me wanting more detail. And like those other science books, it’s not that the detail doesn’t exist. Thinking that is a huge mistake. This stuff is totally cool, and reinforces my amazement with the workings of the world and the universe. (Not to go into it here, but discovering how things actually work is so much more rewarding than having unfounded faith in made-up stories from thousands of years before humans had tools to make these discoveries. It boggles my mind, and saddens me, that so many others don’t experience this wonderment.) If people are interested, and want to read a real book, I suggest you get a copy with lots of pictures and annotations. I can’t recommend one, but having pictures of all the things Darwin describes would probably add much to the book.

So why did I list this book first? Not because of a (not so) hidden agenda of promoting science. I simply finished listening to the book yesterday.

Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov (audio). I re-read this after probably 20 years. Definitely felt dated, but after the first book I really started to get into it again.

The Art of War – Sun Tzu. What complete crap. I simply don’t understand why people think this is so good. If you use it as a model of modern capitalism, it simply encourages you to cheat and lie. Jeepers.

The Ascent of Money – Neil Ferguson (audio). A rather dry, but easy to listen to description of how modern markets evolved. I’m not sure I could have finished this if I was reading instead of listening. I was hoping it would talk more about the structure of modern markets, but it mostly just dealt with history.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins (audio). One of the more interesting books I’ve read. I rather chilling detail of what really goes on. And yeah, I believe it. Of course, saying I believe it doesn’t mean that I think it’s a complete picture of the world. Far from it. But I do believe there’s a huge amount of disgusting and immoral enslavement (for lack of a better term) that the US and its largest corporations are inflicting on the world.

Don’t Be Such a Scientist – Randy Olsen. Good stuff. Talks about using emotion and not worrying about being so damned precise when communicating to the general public. Inspired by his work with filmmaking after being a tenured professor.

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins. Not sure this book needs much description. Dawkins is right-on, though I wish he had discussed how and why humans are so good at self-deception.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (audio). I certainly knew the story, but couldn’t remember if I ever read it or not. Very good stuff. Book burning is bad. Period. 🙂

iWoz – Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith (audio). Apparently, this Woz guy was kinda smart. Though he comes off as well-aware of this, he also comes off as a really good person. It was fun reading every now and then about some of my friends.

A Man Without a Country – Kurt Vonnegut (audio). Hmm, this guy sounds kinda liberal, with some very similar views to my own.

The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (audio). An excellent Sci-Fi read. (“God’s Eye” is a nebula (I think), and “The Mote” is a star in it.) The book deals with the first contact with an alien race and with over-population.

How To Brew – John Palmer. My first book on homebrewing. Very detailed, but not as good an introduction as the next book. Just gives too much information for a first-time brewer.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian. Probably the best introductory text on brewing beer. Easy to read, and very informative. I read the Kindle version, which has all the tables formatted horribly. Buy the paper version.

Physics for Future Presidents – Richard Muller. It would be nice if some presidential candidates actually read this book. It’s at a very simple level, but I expect still beyond many of them. We should never elect (or even seriously consider) a candidate who couldn’t understand this stuff.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk – David Sedaris (audio). Not his best book, though a couple of the stories had me laughing out loud.

The 4 Percent Universe – Richard Panek (audio). A simple history of the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. Very interesting coverage of the two rival supernova discovery teams. I remember the competition going on, but this goes into lots more detail. Made for an interesting tale.

It’s a lot easier to get reading done when driving in the car (by listening). Reading at 2x speed has worked out really well for me. I now often skip the podcasts I’ve been listening to for the last five years in favor of books.

140 miles last week

I’m starting to think a bit more seriously about the bike, and my upcoming ride of the Triple Bypass. It’s 120 miles with 10,400 ft of climbing. Not something to be taken lightly. I did ride Span the Rockies last year, so I’m sure I’ll make it. That was 125 miles with 9,400 ft of climbing, so it’s quite comparable.

So this past week I finally started riding for real. I managed 43 miles last Sunday and 60 yesterday. (Strava seems to think 15 minutes of my idle time yesterday I was actually riding, so it’s calculation of my speed is low.) Yesterday I road with Dan Glaser who will also be riding the Triple Bypass, and Blade, who has done it twice before. They both, and the wind, completely kicked my butt on the ride. They were very kind to wait up for me a bunch of times, and try their best to shelter me from the wind (though it was still hard to keep up). Despite that, yesterday’s ride felt pretty good. And according to the training schedule we have up on our cycling group, I’m ahead of schedule with my training.

So with those two rides, and two mid-week rides I hit 140 miles. My total for the year is 340, so this week was a very large chunk of that. Four rides, a hockey game, and a 4 mile run made for my most intense week of the year. Not likely to be repeated very often.

Tomorrow I head to Cupertino for my normal every-month-or-so trip to the mothership. So I guess it’s running for the week.