Known Johnson

July 2, 2006

Be there and be square

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:37 pm

Jesus Christ, it’s hot. I know, I know, it’s July, it’s Arizona, it’s July in Arizona but man, it seems nastier than usual. I’ve had this little project outside that I’ve been trying to get accomplished, and it’s just not, because of the heat.

I get up in the morning around 6 am, weekday or weekend now because that’s just “the schedule” because Amanda pretty much dictates that. By 6:45 or so I’ve woken up enough to feel like I can actually do something productive, so I get dressed and go outside and begin banging on the wall with the hammer. This isn’t just for fun, or to annoy the neighbors, it’s to create an improvised trellis for these vines that we’ve had for years that, for all those years, we’ve not understood why they refused to climb said walls. Well, a few weeks back I saw a segment on the local news that talked about making your own trellis on brick walls out of nails and wire when you want a special shape that you couldn’t find pre-made in a store. The gardening expert talking talking about this just happened to be talking about our exact vines, as it turned out, and I found out that our vines won’t adhere to walls because the walls here get boiling hot in the summer and wind up killing the plants, and the plants just don’t like that at all. So they do like ours did, which is just sprawl all over the ground in a mound.

So when I’ve felt like it, which is, admittedly, pretty rarely, I’ve been out trying to get these trellises done. Well today I finished . . . one. And it looks good. I wound the vine in and out of the wires, trying to give a few a head start on winding their way around the trellis. Hopefuly I’m not too late and it’s not too hot in general for the vine to take.

I spent much of Saturday morning glued to NASA TV, watching, for the first time ever, almost the entire sequence of pre-launch events that are televised. I’ve never had the opportunity to see all of the footage NASA TV makes available on the digital portion of our cable. I’ve gotten to see much footage of the space station and space walks there, plus a lot of the inspection of the last space shuttle flight, but never have I seen the many hours of preparations for flight that go on at Kennedy Space Center. Astronauts suiting up, walking to the elevators, walking to the shuttle bus, waiting at the launch pad to be outfitted with the final gear to get into their seats on the shuttle, and actually being fitted into their seats (which takes a surprisingly long time – 10-15 minutes each, with two people helping.) Not to mention footage of inspection teams doing their jobs, and, of course, many long, silent shots of Discovery and her tank and boosters looking ready to go.

Now, don’t get me wrong – for most people, this is incredibly boring stuff. I understand that. Most of the footage was of the orbiter stack sitting on the pad and the only indication that you were actually seeing live footage and not still images was that you could see white O2 steam venting from the orbiter’s three main engines. For me, however, this is exciting – the images may seem boring on the outside, but to me, they are kinetic. I know how much is going on that we can’t see and what potential excitement there is. And, really, after 25 years of following the shuttle program, I still get a big thrill out of just seeing the space shuttle. As I read on a message board (yes, there really are space program message boards,) the space shuttle is about as sexy as rockets are ever going to get, and when the program ends in 2010, we’ll be going back to boring old triangular capsules instead of these cool space planes. Something will be lost when the shuttle is mothballed. As hard as it is to admit, it really is something kind of sexy.

But for now, we have at least the prospect of the upcoming flight. It didn’t happen yesterday, it didn’t happen today – foul weather forced a delay both days, and now due to restrictions put in place at NASA there’s a full day stand-down, which they will use to top off the orbiter’s on-board fuel cells, which will mean that the shuttle can stay aloft an extra day. The neat thing is that the third launch attempt will fall on Tuesday, July 4 at 2:38 ET (give or take a few minutes) – and if it goes, it’ll be the greatest fireworks show ever, even if it is in full daylight. (Weather supposedly looks more promising for Tuesday, too, which is hopeful.)

The other big “news” is that we finally broke down and got a new digital camera: this Casio Exilim EZ-Z600. It’s just a tiny little thing meant to replace, in a way, two other cameras (our Canon Elph APS-film camera and my aging Nikon Coolpix 995. Much as I loved it, it was difficult to use, and it was really beginning to show its age. And as ofr the Elph? Well, it’s film and that’s just kind of getting difficult to deal with, in general.) So I did my research and came to the conclusion that this smaller-than-a-stack-of-cards camera had it all – all the functions we needed and not a single bad review to be found. But wouldn’t you know it, the weekend was so busy that I really didn’t get much of a chance to play around with it, so pictures will have to be forthcoming. . .

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