A Joyful Perspective

Chiefs fans are having a good time these days, wallowing in anticipation after fifty years of waiting for another Super Bowl appearance.

Tonight while watching the Australian Open on ESPN, the commentators were filling time during some delay and the topic of the tournament timing came up. Specifically, it’s a week later than normal apparently and that means they’ll be on a long flight home while the Super Bowl is being played and they’re hoping that the flight has high-speed internet so they can watch. Then they got to chatting about who they liked in the game.

The first guy (possibly Patrick McEnroe, maybe?) likes the Chiefs.

The other guy (no idea who it might be) bemoaned the fact that he was a Raiders fan. This is a nightmare Super Bowl for Raiders fans. Their division rival, the Chiefs (who, I might add, have beaten the Raiders something like nine games in a row, muuwaaahahaaaa!!) are playing the San Francisco 49ers, their geographic rival from across the Bay.

I hadn’t thought of that. Not only are we there, but the Raiders fans are doubly miserable!

I don’t much like Raiders fans as a group. There are no doubt many that are charming folks, but as a group? Hate ’em.

It’s petty. I’ll admit it. I’m still going to enjoy it a great deal.

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Creative License

Work, work, work, work, work…

As background noise, bright shiny distraction, something to keep me awake while reconciling aircraft ride accounts into the fourth hour at 23:45 after a ten hour day at work to start with and a couple hours of commuting to spice it all up, I’ve been watching the Australian Open. It’s not football or baseball or hockey, but I do like tennis. I sort of miss playing it, played in college and didn’t completely suck.

Anyway…

There’s an ad running, possibly local, where the gist of it is showing a whole slew of guys on a construction site all dancing and grimacing with legs crossed, in agony, and then showing the guy with the Porta Potties whose truck has broken down.

That’s bullshit.

I’ve been on many a construction site between my last couple of previous jobs and I can GUARANTEE that construction dudes wouldn’t be in agony trying to hold it in if there aren’t any portable facilities for them to use. Even if there ARE facilities available, it’s still not unusual to see them just unzipping and letting loose instead of walking all the way over to the outhouse.

But what if there are ladies on site?

Yeah, right. As for the guys, having women on site wouldn’t change anything I’ve said above. As for the women – ditto.

It’s Madison Avenue at its finest, but it’s about as accurate as the science in “Ad Astra.”

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Everyone Have A Great Week

I’ve been hunkered down all weekend (when I wasn’t watching amazing FOOTBALL!! and rocket launches!! and today’s ISS EVA!!) on deadlines that seem to be coming at me at 0.99c and they’re growing like the heads on the Hydra as I get things checked off and done, so I just want to say that I hope everyone in the US had a pleasant long weekend and will have a great (short) week ahead. I’m still here.

Yeah! Short week! Which means I need to get six days of work done in four instead of five…

No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

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That Was A Lot Of Adrenaline

I hate my brain sometimes.

On Friday I wrote about the SpaceX Launch Abort flight that they were going to try to fly this weekend. I mentioned how it was scheduled for way too damn early on the West Coast, but thanks to social media I knew that the schedule had been pushed back from about 04:00 to about 07:30 or so. I’m normally awake by then, so I turned off my alarms. Then when the Saturday morning launch attempt got scrubbed completely, I saw that update almost immediately when I woke up – so I went back to sleep.

They rescheduled for this morning, but later, about 05:30.¬†Even though I didn’t have any alarms set, my idiot brain got me up anyway, only to find that there was another weather delay, this time until about 07:00. I went back to sleep, only to have my smartass brain wake me up then.

The good news is that the test was an amazing success. About eighty seconds into the launch, traveling at about Mach 2.2 (I’m remembering these figures from my sleepy state this morning, they might be off by a tad), the Dragon spacecraft commanded the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to shut down and then fired the escape rockets. It worked perfectly! The Dragon separated, took off like a bat out of hell, then re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and deployed the parachutes, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean about 40 km off shore.

That was fantastic! Here’s to hoping that we’re now within mere weeks of once again launching American crews into space from American soil on American rockets. (That’s not jingoistic, it’s begging for redundant systems for a critical component of human space flight. If there’s only one way to get to orbit and back and something happens to that one thing, you’re screwed. Right now that only one way is on a Russian Soyuz. It had a launch abort last year and there were concerns that we might have to evacuate the ISS when the next crew rotation came up. Plus there’s that whole “political thing” with the Russians trying to overthrow our government…)

Then this afternoon my beloved Kansas City Chiefs played for the Conference Championship and the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl in two weeks.

The Chiefs played in Super Bowl I (and lost) and in Super Bowl IV (and won). Since then, fifty long years, it’s been nada. Zilch. Zip. Bupkis. Last year we were within minutes or seconds of winning the Championship game, only to let the opportunity slip away.

In today’s game we again fell behind early. Last week it was 24-0 before we got on track, this week not so bad but still down 17-7. But as we did last week, we hit our stride, got our game in gear, and ended up kicking ass and winning.

In both the launch and the game there was a LOT of adrenaline spent. It was “happy adrenaline,” not that “oh shit, there’s a cheetah behind me” kind. For that I’m grateful, but for now I’m crashing as that particular hormone burns it way out of my system.

I’ve never in my life been more happy to have a holiday coming up tomorrow. I’m freaking exhausted.

But happy. Happy exhausted.

We play the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in Miami on February 2nd. Well before summer, we’ll see a crew going to ISS on a SpaceX Dragon.

50 years between Super Bowls for the Chiefs.

9 years between crewed flights out of Florida.

WTFL (Way Too Freakin’ Long) in both cases, but the light at the end of the tunnel is there!

 

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That Feeling When – January 18th

That feeling when you finally get a three-day weekend after going through the ringer with this and with that and the other thing and your first thought is, “GREAT! Now I can cram in 18-hour days working on this OTHER volunteer thing that I’m too stupid to walk away from!”

And mean it sincerely.

This might not be a well thought out plan.

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Blow It Up!

When I was four and five, my father would drag my butt out of bed at O’Dark Thirty and set me in front of the television to watch the first US astronauts get launched on their “tiny” Redstone and Atlas rockets. (Usually after hours of delays, which was tough at that time of the morning, but I digress.)

Decades later, I wasn’t shy about dragging my kids out of bed before dark, or letting them stay up way too late on a school night, to watch a Shuttle launch or the landing of a rover on Mars.

Tomorrow morning (maybe) there will be a SpaceX launch which will, with any luck, blow to smithereens just over a minute into the launch. It will be at “max Q”, the point of maximum dynamic pressure, when the air pressure on the vehicle will be at its highest and the vehicle will be supersonic and speeding up. It will be spectacular.

Now, of course, it’s unusual to be looking forward to a massive failure of the first stage on launch. Generally that means a “bad day.” But not in this case.

On the nose of the Falcon 9 booster will be a Dragon spacecraft, which SpaceX and NASA hope to start using this year to take astronauts to ISS. It’s been nine years since the Shuttles were retired in 2011 and ever since then we’ve paid for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get us up to and back down from ISS. (These nine years will forever be known in the vernacular as “too God damn long!“)

One of the final tests that Dragon has to pass before being certified to have humans on board is this launch abort test. What happens if there are people in that spacecraft (there won’t be tomorrow) and the booster fails? The system is designed to have Dragon detach from the booster and have its own emergency escape system fire, carrying it away from the booster to where it can simply deploy its parachutes and land in the ocean. Tomorrow we see if that system works in the real world.

I had my alarms set for 04:30 tonight for a potential 05:00 launch (08:00 in Florida) and I was thinking a lot about getting dragged out of bed to watch Shepherd and Grissom and Glenn. It’s been a really long, busy, tough couple of weeks and going into a three-day weekend with some spare time at last, sleeping in until about 09:00 was sounding like an excellent plan. But I set the alarms anyway.

Late word from SpaceX (thanks, guys, really do appreciate the update!) is that weather concerns are going to having them target the end of the four hour launch window, so launch, if it gets off at all tomorrow, will be more like 11:30 to noon in Florida, 8:30 to 9:00 here on the West Coast. If the weather is too rough to go at all, Sunday looks worse, but Monday looks better. So follow SpaceX on Twitter for the latest.

Whenever it occurs, I’ll be thinking about Dad and Mercury and how far we’ve come. We didn’t have Twitter then to tell us we could sleep in and skip those delays. We also didn’t ever root for a booster to go “boom!”

This one time we will. And then we never want to see it again. But if it does…

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The Long Version

One of my coworkers was playing music today in the office, an eclectic mix of mostly 70’s & 80’s hits. One of them that came on was Don McLean’s “American Pie.

When it got to the verse that starts, “Helter skelter in a summer swelter,” my brain, having been young and impressionable in 1971, automatically thought, “Cool! It’s the long version!” And suddenly, after all the times I’ve listened to that song, it hit me.

There are whole generations out there that don’t know that there were two versions of this song.

AM “Top 10” radio wasn’t going to play anything 8:33 long. So the version that was released for radio was 4:11. Everything from “Helter skelter…” to “I met a girl who sang the blues…” was cut. Eight verses, two choruses, gone in the name of a format that was unforgiving.

But the full version crept out. Hearing it for the first time, having only heard the short version, was a stunning revelation. From then on, every time the song played, there would be an air of anticipation until I knew if I had gotten lucky and could revel in my eight extra verses. (And two extra choruses.)

Then the 70’s passed, we all moved on. FM radio opened up formats and opportunities. CD’s let us take whole libraries of music with us, followed by iPods and iPhones and streaming services.

So now, if you even know that the short version of “American Pie” exists, you have to go hunting around YouTube or the internet to track it down. If you mention the short version, people under forty just look at you funny. (As me how I know!)

It was a different day and age.

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