From Insanity to History

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My whole life I have been endlessly fascinated with space and space travel along with the men and women who build the history and science behind space travel.

Call it a side effect of growing up in New Mexico.

As a fairly young kid I read the book “The Right Stuff” and ate up every word. So I read it again.

Just recently, I read the book yet again and I still loved every bit of it.

I’ve always been an especially huge fan of the early pilots like Chuck Yeager who were willing (on their small military pay) to strap into experimental machines just to see what they could do.

Can you imagine how insane people thought Chuck Yeager was when he was trying to break the sound barrier in a fast plane?

And he was, just a little. But his willingness to put his life on the line meant that scientists understood what body and machine went through at the speed of sound so that they could make better machines and better safety equipment.

Despite the enormous success of the US Space program, I’ve often wished that the military and NASA didn’t give up on developing pilot controlled airplanes to facilitate space travel. They were making good progress when the space race intervened and something had to be done quickly.

Instead of highly experimental planes, it was easier to strap an astronaut to a rocket and blast off. Hell, the solid rocket booster technology that fueled the last Space Shuttle launch in 2011 dates back to the 1960’s. And it still works. More or less.

Today with the sad decline of NASA and the growth of private space development, we may be getting back to the realm of real fast piloted planes as a way to get people up into space. As we start thinking about space tourism, the thoughts of safety become more important.

Enter the latest in a long line of courageous (and a little bit crazy) men. Yesterday an Austrian gentleman named Felix Baumgartner piloted a helium balloon to some 127,000 feet over the New Mexico desert (a record for a piloted balloon flight), and then he jumped out.

You know, just to see what his experimental spacesuit would do.

It was, first and foremost, a publicity stunt for Red Bull energy drinks. But there’s more to it than that. Mr. Baumgartner was testing a new pressure suit that not only protected his body but allowed maneuverability. Traditional pressure suits used in space flight don’t allow the astronaut to move around much which means in the event of danger it is damn near impossible for astronauts to eject and to survive.

So in his fairly thin space suit, Mr Baumgartner broke the sound barrier. With his body. On the same day, October 14, that Chuck Yeager first hit Mach 1 back in 1947.

Sixty-five years ago breaking the sound barrier seemed far fetched. To break the sound barrier with little more than a space suit on seemed nigh on impossible.

And yet.

When I first heard about this proposed jump from space, I thought it was pure insanity. As time went on I became more and more fascinated by the possibility of it.

Yesterday when I saw they were live streaming the event, I was all over it.

I have to be honest, I didn’t think Mr. Baumgartner was going to survive the jump. I worried that I was spectating a man’s death.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment when he was standing there on the step of his capsule.

And then he wasn’t.

As his body tumbled and cartwheeled I was absolutely terrified. Well made airplanes have broken apart at those speeds. I thought that was it. I thought there was no way.

Then somehow he got control. His body righted itself and he was in perfect form and he was really doing this thing!

Then at just the right time his parachute deployed and he sailed down to mother earth. Feet touched ground and he took a couple steps and boop, he was home.

That crazy bastard. What an accomplishment.

And what a step forward for commercial space travel.








Image found on SFGate.com with photography credit to Red Bull Stratos.



When They Finally Let Me Into the Dugout

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In honor of the postseason baseball and because my beloved San Francisco Giants are profoundly sucking this year, I happened to stumble across an old post I wrote over two years ago and was compelled to post it again.

I totally forgot about this post but upon a re-read I was like “My god, I am a genius.”

Behold blogging perfection, laid out before you.

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Originally published March 7, 2010

Getting My Geek On

Earlier in the week, a local sports radio guy posed the question to his callers:

“Star Wars Character draft, who’s your no. 1?” (this from the @DamonBruce Twitter feed)

Well, I was so geeked out over the start of Spring Training, I thought he meant baseball players.

Turns out he meant basketball.

No matter, I brought up the question to The Good Man over lunch, which led to a rousing conversation about our all-Star Wars character baseball team.

The Good Man and I parted ways on a lot of the position players, but that’s ok. Debate is the heart of baseball.

Herewith are my starting nine (you’ll note I’m sticking to Episode 4,5 and 6 characters. I’m old fashioned that way):

First Base (and batting switch): Luke Skywalker. The guy can do yoga and is bendy. I need a guy who can stretch it out to grab the ball. He can “use the force” to figure out when a ball is coming hot down the line. Gotta keep it from rattling around in that weird right field corner at AT&T Park.

Second Base: Boba Fett. Solid hands. Decent footwork. Backed up by Yoda at short. Yeah, I’m ok with this choice. (yes, I know Fett is a bad guy. Go with me on this.)

Short: Yoda. Who else do you know that could pick it from the shoelaces and do a 360 to first for a double play? Gotta be Yoda.

Third: Obi Wan. Solid hands but an old guy. Too much action at first, third is his spot. I need him to nail down the hot corner and keep runners from scoring. I think an Obi to Yoda to Luke double play combination is *hot*. Keeps runners off balance. Yeah.

Left Field: Lando Calrissian. Look, Billie Dee is the MAN. He’s gotta bat clean up, can take it over the wall and look good doing it. Yup.

Center: Wedge Antilles. The guy’s an ace pilot. He’s lean. He can run. He’s got a good eye. I’ll bet he knows how to take a good route to the ball and can dominate that deep outfield at AT&T Park.

Right Field: Han Solo. Ok, the guy’s kind of a bumbler. I want him where he can do the least damage. I’m betting he can bat ok (but probably slump-y like Aaron Rowand) and can probably handle right (except I worry about him at AT&T Park). He’ll sometimes take a crappy route to the ball and you’ll want to put your head through the television. But mostly solid. The Good Man has Han Solo in left on his lineup card. I may agree with him…don’t know.

Catcher: Chewbacca. Furry Man has got the plate *sealed off*. Plus I bet he’s got a cannon on him. I see NO ONE stealing second with Chewy behind the plate. The Good Man has Chewbacca at third, and there is a good case to be made for that. I’m sticking with catcher. He’s a little tall for the job, but I think his knees can take it.

Pitcher: Well Darth Vader of course. Look, who else do you know in the Galaxy that has the control to throw a nasty 68 mph sinker followed by a 98 mph right up broadway and keep the batters off balance? He’s as ugly as Eric Gagne and twice as mean. You need a pitcher who can play mind games with the batters and Darth is your guy.

Here’s the lineup card I’m exchanging at the plate:

CF Wedge Antilles. Leadin’ us off with speed on the base paths.
1B Luke Skywalker. The guy can get on base and load ’em up for the 3 and 4 hitters.
C Chewbacca takin’ it deep or at least moving the runners.
LF Lando Calrissian batting cleanup. Might switch with Chewy if he’s on a streak.
3B Obi Wan
2B Boba Fett
S Yoda. Not a power hitter but he gets on base.
RF Han Solo. Where he can do the least damage.
P Darth Vader

Because where I come from, the pitcher has to bat. No designated hitter in my galactic ballgame.

I invite your own thoughts on the lineup. I can be persuaded….




What Tuesday Looked Like

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Tuesday. It wasn’t pretty.

I’m going toe to toe with an obnoxious company who are being jerks simply for the pleasure of being jerks.

I’ve gone twelve rounds with these yabos and I’m e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d.

And so, this is the perfect representation of my Tuesday.

This photo, oddly enough, was taken while I was on an evening con call with a whole other clan of jerkwads.

The Good Man texted me from the living room to ask how I was doing and this was the reply he got.

Rawr face. Coming at you.

May Wednesday be nicer.







Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, subject to the Creative Commons license in the far right column of this page, and taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.



Old Technology Gets a New Boost

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Somewhere back in the early 2000’s, right around the time that Apple came out with video chat, the use of desktop video conferencing took off. Or, I should say, tried to take off.

I was commanded by my leadership at the time to procure a camera (laptops didn’t come equipped with cameras like they do now) and to begin having meetings in video form.

And I did. For a while.

It was a new toy and we all played with it and then, we got bored. Suddenly no one was logged in. Cameras were quietly disconnected and stowed in a drawer. And we went back to the usual phone call, chat or email way of communicating.

Fast forward to this week. My new leadership has commanded that I procure a camera (because our company security demands that the one on my laptop be disabled) and sign up for a brand spanking new desktop video conferencing service.

Per the long winded training I was required to complete, using this “new” technology will promote productivity (oh really? When we’re wasting precious minutes in meetings fiddling with cameras and asking “can you see me ok?”), enhances cost savings (because I just spent $100 of the company’s money to buy the “approved” camera) and reduces carbon emissions (except when I’m taking antibiotics).

The Good Man and I have been debating why video conferencing doesn’t catch on. While it’s nice to see the other person in a conversation, it’s not natural. Everyone just feels a little awkward.

Last evening, I was watching an edition of BBC World News and as they went to field reporters in many far flung countries, it became quite clear that they were using Skype or something similar to do these televised reports. No more camera and a camera operator.

As I watched these reporters, I began to realize why video conferencing is awkward. No one knows what to do with their eyes. Instead of face to face, eye to eye conversations, you get a lot of shifty eyes, and shifty eyes make for uncomfortable conversations.

The most natural fix for this is to look the camera square in the eye.





However, that’s natural for the people on the other end, for the speaker, it feels weird to speak to a lens. You are inclined to look at the screen to see the person you are talking to. That’s how humans communicate.

So you get this instead:





And then, of course, there are the multitaskers. Not only are they not looking in the eye of the camera, but they are also not looking at the screen where the other image is located.

It’s something like this:





And this:





And this:





*sigh*

Well, whether I think this is a good idea or not, I’ve been commanded to video conference, both in my one to one sessions with my boss and in our staff meetings.

And so I will.

This, however, severely limits my ability to wake up fifteen minutes before my 8am staff meetings, shamble down the hall, fire up my home machine and take the meeting on the phone with frazzled hair, still in my nightgown, while eating breakfast.

Damn you UK-based Boss Man! : shakes fists toward London :

(I’m reminded of an episode of the Jetsons where Judy had a videophone mask for those very bad hair days. I need that.)





Image is a screen grab from a YouTube clip of the Jetsons




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Well I’ll Be Darned

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Over the many years of our association, The Good Man and I have run into quite a few “well I’ll be darned” moments. New York boy and New Mexico girl are sometimes worlds apart in our life experiences.

The latest came around when we moved into our new apartment home. I’ve lived in huge apartment complexes, six unit buildings, and the last place I lived was a duplex.

And at each of those places, they way you got rid of your trash was to schlep it downstairs to the big metal trash bins in the parking lot.

But our new place has a curiosity….a trash chute! This blows my tiny little mind. I’ve never even seen one much less lived somewhere with one.

This is the coolest thing EVER.



So beautifully unobtrusive





Ok, that hole is a little scary, but rather effective


It’s a pretty, shiny bit of steel. Open the convenient door, drop in my trash, close the door, dust off my hands and whistle a happy tune.

It’s just down the hall and around a corner from my place. I can even slip out there in the morning in my nightgown and bare feet. Fabulous!

The other day, The Good Man put some boxes down the chute and said he was pretty sure they were stuck. I suggested he send a bowling ball down after it. He wasn’t amused.

See, he’s used to the Super getting really mad when the trash chute gets blocked. Me, I don’t know from a Super or a trash chute, so I have the luxury of just being a wise ass.

So The Good Man is all “yeah, whatever” and I’m all “whooooooo!” about this feature of our home.
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Next time, on Intercontinental relations, we’ll discuss “Why are the traffic lights in New Mexico horizontal, that’s just weird” (him) counterbalanced against “Why doesn’t California use mile markers? No wonder you people drive like crap.” (me)