June 29, 2007

Shuttle Musings

This is from the June 8th Atlantis launch. The remarkable thing about this rather unremarkable shot is the fact that we are on the 528 at the time. The 528 is the toll road that runs straight towards the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach. We are sitting in bumper to bumper traffic as so many have come out to watch the launch. Yes, we got in the car at the spur of the moment and headed that way to see if we could get a closer view. This is as close as we could get. That remarkable part I was talking about? We are still in Orlando, directly north of Orlando International Airport. Some 40 to 45 miles away!
The shuttle and all things NASA are major news stories here in Central Florida, of course. Almost anytime there is a launch, shuttle or simply another satellite, there is plenty of media coverage. It is definitely gets as much attention as the theme parks get. Now, shuttle launches seem to be news everywhere. There was a time when that was not true.
Back in college, shuttle launches were so routine that no one stopped to watch. But then one day in 1986, that all changed. I had just sat down in Calculus, or as I called it Math as a Second Language, beside John (yeah, "Dubber") when another guy comes in and says did you hear the shuttle blew up? The image on our calculus book coincidentally was that of the shuttle on the launch pad at night. No one really took him seriously. Not until others came in with the same story. After class it was a bee line to any television to find out what had happened.

(Side note: 1986 - Cable still a toddler so the majority of people were watching network news. No internet, so zero information from that source. No cell phones. Some "car phones", those monsters that were just this side of portable, but those were mostly used by law enforcement. Our kids will think we lived in the dark ages...)

My point is that by then there had been some two dozen shuttle launches, and, with all the hundreds of other rocket launches since the sixties, it was no longer "news-worthy". We had conquered space.

(Side note 2: Moonraker came out in 1979, two years before we actually launched the first shuttle. This was 007 meets Star Wars. Worst. Bond. Movie. Ever. But it shows just how much hoopla went into the shuttle program. It is amazing how some 6 years later, we wouldn't care anymore.)

So here we are; 26 years and 2 disasters later. The shuttle is news-worthy, but not in a good way. The shuttles are being shunted. They are old and out-dated. NASA is talking about life after shuttles. So why is everyone watching?
To put it simply, too many cable news networks need to fill airtime and the very inkling of another disaster makes them drool like Pavlov's dog near a fire alarm's bell. Several minutes were spent showing the super slo-mo of the launch and how foam may have hit the shuttle. Several more minutes spent on the "blanket" and how it would affect re-entry. Showing (with scale models) what the crew would have to do to fix it. Then several minutes detailing how far away a storm could be to where the shuttle would land. (34 miles in most cases, 32 miles in others. Seems to me to be cautionary, just go with 35...)
Anyway for better or worse, the shuttles primarily and NASA peripherally, are news. At least it's better than another blurb about Paris Hilton...

June 26, 2007

Me and The Blues

It seems that a pall of negativity has taken up residence around here recently. No matter where I turn, someone is telling me how "horrible" their life has become. It seems to be stronger at work, thankfully, but even friends and family are focusing on the negative.
Now, as I've said before, I'm a big picture sort of guy. I don't fret about things I cannot control. But what do you say to people, especially co-workers, when they start up?

One guy's ex-wife is moving out of state, and taking their son with her. They had no real stipulations about this. He could have fought it, but the kid seems okay with it. So he is doing what he thinks is right for his son. But every day he works, he brings this up. Usually 2 or 3 times each day. And usually, I swing the conversation back to whatever task we have to do. In truth, I really do not care.
And that is I guess what is really bothering me. I find that I am really apathetic towards all my co-workers. Ironically, I am the one they come to first. Probably due in part to my position. Partly because I have never turned a deaf ear to anyone. Ever. And yet, I find my mind drifting away from the conversation and onto what tasks I can give them. And the longer I listen, the longer their task list becomes.

With family and friends, it's different. Maybe because I am more invested in the relationship. Maybe because I actually care what happens to them, since I am involved in some way? Maybe because I can give comfort and care to them.

Most of the time, co-workers are looking for a place to vent. At least that's what I tell myself. If someone asks for advice, I give it. But it's still sterile. Maybe clinical is a better choice of word. No matter how you slice it, I keep them at a distance.

Is this bad? Or evil? How do you handle work relationships? There are only two that I would even consider hanging out with. But my position could make things complicated in that they are subordinate at work, but not socially. It's lonely at the top.

Anyway, enough complaining. Right now it's midnight. Me and the blues.

June 24, 2007

June is bustin' out all over

This has been a month to forget. The "job" to which I must go - it is the one paying the bills - has had me running ragged since right after Memorial Day. First it was a reset of one-third of the store. This required a week and a half of overnights. Actually this was the best part of the month, in that I did not have to put up with customers during this time. And I am a night owl, so I truly was in my element.
Next, came inventory. We knew it was coming; it just means making sure that everyone stays organized. And that the *ahem* counters they bring in stay accurate. But with my system thinking that dawn means bedtime, I was glad I was not the one who had to be there at 4 AM!
Next came the surprise part of the month. DURING INVENTORY, we were to rework the front displays to accommodate the Semi-Annual Clearance Event. Cue dramatic music. Needless to say, I was coasting into this weekend.

All this is a long-winded excuse for not posting. Also, for not doing any writing - the "job" that does not pay the bills, yet. And while I haven't put pen to paper, still I have taken this weekend to decompress. I did go to Star Wars Weekends at WDW! Another day about that.

The thing is I committed myself to at least six entries here a month. The goal is to get to eight a month. I do not understand why this is so hard. I did not commit to a specific topic. I could easily post four entries today!
But they would end up rushed and unpolished. Genuinely they would be gibberish and drivel. The title of my blog was meant only to serve as a place holder until something pithy and thought-provoking came around. Plus, as John can attest, my first email address, and still my junk email address, begins with e_gibberish. Yeah, it's hot! It's always funny when I put that down at a store, etc. and the clerk smirks. Actually, now I have that in a different site also. Yippee! The second one was actually an oops! I set it up for receiving job responses. It seemed weird that I didn't get but a couple of responses... (If you think you've figured out one or both of the two places, drop me a note!)

Anyway, I will try to do better. This is supposed to be a creative outlet for me. A place where I can put myself out "there", but with much more control. At least on my end.

And those four posts I threatened? Before I started a blog I pulled out my old journals. I made sure that I had a list of at least 50 topics to use. Some are fiction. Some corny. Some are actually good! I was supremely proud of my sci-fi post in honor of Star Wars 30th. But somebody did not seem to get some of the references...
Anywho, I will bring a couple of these out soon. If you do actually email me, I will tell you the titles of the four posts!

June 11, 2007


I have found there is something more precious than gold. More precious than diamonds or rubies. Even more precious than a barrel of gasoline.
They have no physical presence. They exist simply in the ether. And yet, they must be carefully tended. They must be protected from the evils that wait in the big, bad world.
They are passwords.
How far we have come in the advancement of society and technology that we keep our personal information secure or limit access to secure points on the internet, at work, and even at home with a "magic word".
The hard part now has become password management. In my case, I have seven email accounts between personal and work. To log into work is another, while logging onto another system within my logon, I have a second, different password. Several online payment systems, ebay, paypal, blogger, monster.com, the local library website, discussion boards, and a few newspapers equal an astounding 24 more passwords. That brings my total to 33. There are probably more that I'm overlooking.
Passwords used to be fun. My first email password was sesame. As in open sesame. Yeah, I know, that was cornball. I know people who would use their middle name or a pet's name. Or what their pornstar name would be.
For awhile, since I was not really that concerned of someone pilfering information, I used Poe's cypher. He felt that the most pure way to create an unbreakable cryptogram was to substitute the same letter each time. So "password" becomes "iiiiiiii". Yes, one of my emails still uses that one. That would be the one to where all the junk and spam get sent.
Now those simple days are behind us. These days there are so many rules for creating a password. Some require both numbers and letters. Some prohibit double letters (ie "letters" would not be allowed because of the double t's). Most all password must be seven characters or more. All in the name of protecting our identities.
It is sad that we have to live in this manner. Yet, I cannot see how to get around this. We are stuck with this. At least until it takes DNA to unlock our websites.
I have streamlined most of my passwords. There are really only about three of four different ones that I use. It still is irritating to figure out what combination of characters will again allow me access. But at least I remember them. I once created an excel document listing all the sites and passwords. I even password protected it. And then, I forgot that password.

June 07, 2007

Take my bird, please

Okay. This is a completely random post. This is my all-time favorite joke.

A man walks into a pet shop and sees a beautiful red macaw. It is bobbing up and down and laughing inside his cage. The man then notices that the sign on the cage says, "$50. All Sales Final. No Refunds. Period." The man cannot believe it. He runs up to the counter and tells the clerk he'll take it.
The clerk says, "Really, sir, it's kind of a joke. You see, that parrot is absolutely the meanest bird on the face of the planet. He cusses. He bites and scratches. I've sold him twice before, but he keeps getting returned in a couple of days. You seem like a nice guy. I couldn't sell it to you."
The man thinks about it for a second. He says, "You know, I am a very patient man. I am sure that I can retrain him. I'll take him!"
The clerk says, "You have no idea what you are getting into. I'm serious about no refunds. If you take him, I NEVER want to see him again!"
The man agrees, hands over $50, and takes the parrot home. He puts him and his cage in the living room. And the man starts talking sweetly and nicely to the parrot.
In no time, the parrot wreaks havoc throughout the house. The parrot has bit and scratched the man several times. By the second day, the cat goes missing. The dog will not even go near the living room. She stays in the kitchen and howls. The wife and son have also been bit or scratched. She gives her husband an ultimatum. They won't be back until the parrot is out of this house!
The man is shocked at how vile this parrot is. But he vows not to give up. He knows he can retrain this bird. He keeps trying to be sweet. He offers a cracker and says, "Polly want a cracker?" The parrot nearly bites his finger off, and says, "No! Jack wants real food, dumb ass!
This was the last straw. The man snaps. Angrily, he opens the cage and grabs the parrot around the neck. He screams, "You will be good!" The parrot bites and scratches and answers back, "Screw you, buddy!" They start rolling and wrestling on the floor.
Their battle takes them through the house. Finally, bleeding and dazed, the man finds himself in the kitchen. In desperation, he opens the freezer door and throws the parrot in.
The refrigerator starts bouncing up and down. The parrot is screaming. He's cussing. The refrigerator moves away from the wall. This goes on for about 5 minutes. Then suddenly it stops.
The man starts to open it, but thinks maybe it's a trick. He waits another 5 minutes. Still nothing. The man wonders if the parrot is dead. Slowly he cracks the door open and peeks inside. The parrot is sitting there, head down. Still slowly, he opens the door more. The parrot sits there. When the door is fully open, the parrot says, "I want to apologize to you and your family. I promise from this day forward, I will not cuss, bite or scratch you or anyone else. Now, if it is alright with you, could you please take me back to my cage?"
The man is dumbfounded. He puts his arm out and the parrot, still head down, steps gently onto it. The man walks the parrot over to the cage, puts the parrot in, and closes the door.
The man stands there for a minute looking at the sullen and contrite parrot, then turns to go clean up. The parrot then says, "By the way, what did the turkey do?"

June 01, 2007

An Open Letter To Tourists

Now that the summer season has begun and many of you look to enjoy time with your family and friends, I feel compelled to offer some advice. I know many of you think that you are top-notch travellers, and this really isn't directed at you. You would be incorrect. I've seen you. And your family. 54 million people visit the Orlando area each year. And 50 million of that seems to come during the summer. I can spot you from a mile away. I can even tell what stage of your trip you are at. If you are all smiling like the Cheshire cat, you just got here. If you are slightly burned, you've been here three days max. If you look like you need a nap and a vacation, you're probably leaving tomorrow. So trust me; I know what I am talking about.

First of all, have a plan. I'm talking about right after deciding where you are going and before you step out the door. What exactly do you plan to do when you get there? I'm not saying plan every minute, but have some idea of what you are going to do each day. Buy a book and study up. Do your homework. No, there are no CliffsNotes. Be prepared to be tested when you get there. Otherwise, it will be your and your family's patience that is tested.

Dress appropriately. It goes back to having a plan. Find out what the weather is like. If you are coming to Florida in the summer, know that it is hot. And humid. To some this is a lethal combination. And don't go around repeating, "Man, it's hot and humid!" Everyone else has already figured this out.
Get sunscreen. If you tend to burn, get SPF 45 or higher. If you are trying to tan, get SPF 40. (okay, SPF 30.)
Also, you will be walking. Quite a bit. A WHOLE BUNCH. Wear comfortable shoes. This is not the time to break in a new pair. The only thing worse than sunburn blisters are feet blisters. You still have to walk to get on the plane.

Strollers. If you are pushing one, please be careful and not run into the person walking in front you. If you are near one being pushed, please do not stop abruptly in the middle of a walkway. You will get clipped, and it's your own fault. Quit looking so wounded.

Theme Parks. Okay, this is common sense stuff. Sadly, many tourists forget to bring that with them.

  • Yes, it is crowded. Did you really think you were the only ones who thought to come to a theme park in the summer, when your kids are out of school?
  • Yes, there are a lot of kids running around. See above.
  • When you are walking to the next attraction, please do not stop in the middle of the walkway. Or at the intersections of walkways. There are several people (read: hordes) that you are now in the way of. Yes, you will get ran into. And by strollers.
  • Do not complain about the prices. You should have been prepared. (See Have a plan above.)
  • Do not complain that the line to the attraction is too long. It's crowded.
  • No, costumed characters CANNOT hold your child. It's called liability.
  • Please do not feed the birds or other animals. Seriously. They become too dependent on handouts. And then they get aggressive.
  • Do not complain that it's raining. Unless it's a hurricane, it is usually a brief event. In 15 minutes, it will feel very nice to be outside.
  • You are supposed to be here to relax and enjoy. Everyone else is here for the same goal. So above all else, do not complain.

Driving. Again, common sense is the key. Do not abruptly stop in the middle of the road. If you miss your exit, relax. There is another coming up soon. And if you ask for directions, but the person doesn't know where you are trying to go, simply thank them and ask someone else. You probably are asking another tourist in the first place.

There is certainly so much more I could go into, but I think you get the idea. Keep a cool head, no matter how hot it gets. And have fun! That's the whole idea for going on vacation in the first place!