Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, February 06, 2010

  The Shuttle launch this morning

I started re-reading Russian Spring this morning, at around midnight, so I could maybe get to sleep.

I completely, utterly, totally forgot the plot, and the characters... and it was once one of my favorite books! This has happened to me a lot in the last 8 years, and it's still hard getting used to.

Whenever I get under the least amount of stress these days I have memory problems but to lose an entire book is unusual. I'm under stress, my mom is visiting, and a good buddy is getting married at my place next week... All day I was aphasic, losing and/or substituting words.

All I remember about the book was that I cried several times, reading it. Page flipping around it now, I can see I will have a lot of empathy for the main character, Jerry Reed.

I had intended to give the book to a friend yesterday, but forgot to do that.

I can tell that Russian Spring was on my mind, at least in part, due to some of the setting being South America, and the recent cancellation of the Constellation project...

... and since I'm so messed up, I'm also listening into and watching via NASA TV the upcoming Shuttle launch of mission STS-130.

The video and audio keep going out. I wish there was a way to turn off the visual feed, and just get the audio stream. When I was a kid my dad used to mute the TV announcer of the baseball games, and tune in the radio, the games were much more vivid that way. Aha! there is a real-audio audio-only stream... that's working good. I wonder if I can get a video only stream.... oh, yes, just mute the audio on the video stream, that's working, intermittently.

Waiting for a spacecraft to launch is one of the most boring, yet interesting things there is. As hard as the announcers try to point out ever detail for future generations, how getting to space was done, this morning, feb 7.

And still my heart leaps to my throat when I think of the candles being lit.

You just have to keep remembering.. that in all that boring detail is that several peoples lives and a billion dollar payload all ride on the intricate dance of thousands of people...

Having a good book handy, helps too.

It's T-42 minutes, and counting. The launch is scheduled for 4:39 AM EST, but the weather is steadily getting worse, with only a 30% chance of launch.

I think I'll just listen to the launch. After all these years I still can't forget the images burned into my mind that I sing about so often, but I have forgotten everything after the 3rd stanza of Rhysling and Me, entirely, substituting a flute or guitar solo for the sad part and a new ending. I've played that song thousands of times now, and burned the memory out of me. Even clicking on that link, the forgotten lyrics enter my brain and exit immediately. For forgetting those, I'm grateful.

... some time goes by. It's at a planned hold at T-20 now...

I check the temperature - the announcers haven't mentioned it - according to it's 48F, 8.88889C. Superstitious of me, I know...

... T-9, and holding...

I'm re-reading Russian Spring, slowly, my attention split between the radio and the book, now, after thumbing through it earlier this morning looking for a passage I recognized. Oh, yea! Page 10 I remember - the chocolate ice cream Jack Reed had, at the age of 4, in the early morning of july 16th, 1969. I'm the same age as the lead character, but I don't remember what I ate that day.
My earliest memory of the space program dates back to probably 1971, because I remember how cool the moon rovers were... seeing them shoot lunar dust straight up and having it fall so oddly in the 1/6th gravity.

I could go for some ice cream right now. Don't have anything sweet in the house, actually, except a coke. I'll have to settle for that.



That "greatest moment" was over 40 years ago.

In the interim, we've managed to make spaceflight boring. We went to the moon, and found nothing worth using. We retreated to near earth orbit, constructing several space stations, concluding with the ISS, to which this is the 29th payload. We directed probe after to probe to the rest of the solar systems, but nothing since then compares to those moments when we first strode upon another planet.

I've had people from later generations, intelligent people, educated! people ask me if I thought the moon landings were faked, and I've been to dozens of space conferences, shaken Buzz Aldrins hand with tears welling in my eyes, seen the launch of Spaceship One, and it's all I can do to stop myself from doing what Buzz did to one persistent doubter... I restrain myself, relax, and patiently explain, that:

"That yes, it really happened. Yes, men, Americans all, really did, once upon a time, walk on the moon".

After I'm gone, who will remember, who will still believe?

... There are 11 minutes remaining in the hold. The weather remains a problem... the pace of the operations team increases, the tension rises, but Flight is "no-go" for weather. He's saying that "I think this is not our day today" and after a brief conference with the other controllers, Flight decides at 4:30AM EST:

"Let's go ahead and knock it off."

He calls the shuttle:

"OK, Zambo, we tried really hard to work the weather, it's just too dynamic ... and we're not comfortable launching a shuttle tonight."

Endevour copies:

"We thank you all for the effort you put into night. Sometimes you got to just make the call."

You can hear the heavy disappointment in the flight controller's voice, as he takes a deep breath and makes the hard decision, bringing the rest of the team up to date.

"Let's scrub this launch attempt, and try again tomorrow night".

The rest of the team kicks into scrub mode and starts making the vehicle safe to unload. It's hard to contain my disappointment, but we can't control the weather, yet, or build a rocket ship that can punch through it like an airliner.

Tomorrow, maybe, a shuttle will launch, although I hope to be safely slumbering and just read about it tuesday morning.

...


I've wanted to type up my reaction to Constellation's cancellation since Monday. The reaction from newspace is generally positive, Jon Goff's reaction mirrors mine, but I do have a lot more to say on the subject that I'll say once I can get my thoughts together.

I think I'll try to read myself to sleep. I'm on page 12 of Russian Spring now, and remembering more why I emphasized so much with the main character. I'm not looking forward to being made to cry again.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

  The problem with economic coercion



There's quite a few things about this modification of an old joke that seem profound. We all have a tendency to do things for money that we otherwise wouldn't do. In my case, despite trying for many years now to spend as little time as possible in the programming world, it's still my main bread (and margarine). Programming messes me up - I have to think in English (although I have been somewhat successful in thinking in Spanish while programming on my own projects, working on other projects requires thinking in the standard language), which affects my ability to communicate down here. I get seriously OCD; Nerdy. My relationships suffer. I have a hard time sleeping as I can't turn my mind off. My back hurts, as do my fingers, and while I am deep in a project, I have a hard time fitting in other things that are good for my health. I put myself through death marches...

I have a list of 20+ other sorts of work I can do that don't mess me up, but none of them can bring enough revenue to keep a roof over my head. Do I cry, "Rape!"?. No, but the joke does have a point. I THINK that I can handle 6-8 months a year of it, spread out some, but really have to watch myself lest the computer take over my brain entirely, during the project. Living where I do now, I have that choice available to me. Were I still living in the USA, I'd be back inside a 70 hr week, 50 week a year grind, and still only barely making it. I joke now, that I used to work 18 months out of the year.

I remember a character in a Neal Stephenson book, who had "Poor Impulse Control" tattooed on his forhead - it didn't help. I have a friend, with "Never Again", tattooed on his chest, in reverse, so he can see it in the mirror every morning. That doesn't help, either.

It would be nice to live in a world where you could work at pretty much anything, and get by, and never have ethical or physical conflicts, and do what is right for you, long term, all the time. I don't think such a world has ever existed, except for people that worked hard at identifying what was good and what was bad, for them, and made the difficult choice when faced with a suitcase full of money. And they needed to have the time to contemplate their ethics, long before the suitcase entered the picture.

Sort of related to this is that earlier this year I was buying and drinking soda by the case. I couldn't control my intake, so I just stopped buying it, switched to water, and lost 5lbs in the weeks afterwards. I know that if I still lived in town I'd buy it a lot more often, but living far from civilization means that I only have to exert self control - very consciously - twice a month, when I go to the store. I work off my list, and just my list. I think a lot of people - including myself - can't cope with or function within the minute by minute temptations of the modern world.

Side note: Recently I got interested in the somewhat perverse history of Stevia, a natural sugar substitute. I also learned (actually, I'm not convinced this is true, yet) that due to the amount of sodium in most sodas - that you need to drink more in order to meet your water uptake needs! The "Pause that refreshes", actually, doesn't.

I think I'm going to learn how to grow Stevia(if it's legal here) and make my own sodium-free and sugar-free soda, and see what happens, or maybe try a cane extract.

Does the ready availability of nearly-narcotic substances like sugar, coupled with sodium, amount to "Rape! Rape!" as in the joke above, or do I need another word?

Late last year, there was a huge thread on my blog about the real issues of health care. I'm still working through the comments on it (one of my regular commenters, cpm, was on a roll!), and would certainly like more people to weigh in.

Some of that kind of comes down to this sort of economic coercion - where bad foods like fritos cost less than good foods like vegetables - or, where your taxes are used to pay for other people's problems, so why not abuse the system yourself? - or being constantly subject to advertising that tries mightily to convince you you will be sexier, more handsome, richer if only you'll buy the product being advertised....

Also, in the blog entry, I recalled a story I'd written years before about a dystopic future where it made more economic sense for a young and healthy individual to sell off their extra organs rather than find a real job. Economic Coercion? Rape?

I'm REALLY bad at handling advertising, and run with as many as filters on my internet connection as I can so I never even see them. While this too, helps, it leaves me vulnerable whenever I leave my safely cocooned connection for someone elses - I do make it my mission to install adblock plus on every other friends computer I touch. It's not altruistic. It's self defense. Should I cry RAPE!?

Ah, well, I think, after writing this, I'm going to go do a few laps. At a basic level you still can choose to do what is right for you, for many things.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


Resume,Songs,
My new blog, NeX-6, My facebook page
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Jeff, Rick, Ardour, Jack
Prior Rants - Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of Saving wifi! Fixing Bufferbloat! Fighting the vend... Virgin Media - Fixing the epidemic of bufferbloat ... 49... and trying to find my navel Wheels down on mars! Tracking the landing of Curiosity, from Seattle spotting NEOs from around venus's orbit Asteroids as lunar orbit resources SOPA is bad news Departing France for England, then 'home'.
Best of the blog:
Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
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Doc Searls
Where's Cherie?
UrbanAgora
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
Evan Hunt
The Bay Area is talking
Brizzled
Zimnoiac Emanations
Eric Raymond
Unlocking The Air
Bob Mage
BroadBand & Me
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