Saturday, January 28, 2012

Challenger 26


Today is the 26th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. One brief memory:

I had left astronomy a few years earlier and was teaching school when it happened.  I only knew one of the astronauts, Dr. Ron McNair.

In the late 70s I was lecturing in space science at the California Museum of Science and Industry.  One day, my college buddy, musician Joe Ransfer stopped by for a visit.  We chatted and he told me "There's this guy I know who's a lot like you and I want you two to meet.  Dr. Ronald McNair".

McNair was working as a physicist at Hughes Research Labs out in Malibu.  Coincidentally, the computer-savvy among us on staff were using a terminal (unknown to management) in the museum basement to hack into Hughes Research regularly.  Not to steal anything. Mostly to see whatever the physicist/science-fiction author Robert Forward was working on and leave him messages how to better secure his account.

McNair also played sax and Joe wanted to get us together to play some "cosmic slop" as well.
When we chatted, I skillfully neglected to mention my youthful hacking indiscretions to Dr. McNair.  He asked what I wanted to do and I replied galactic astronomy was my thing.    We talked about the shuttle program which was pretty behind schedule.  I had the opportunity to visit the first "drop test" of shuttle Enterprise out at Dryden.  It was cool, but I was definitely a part of the robotic space exploration camp.  We resented all the budget dollars going into manned space.

He was only a few years older than me but spoke to me in a fatherly way and gave me the appropriate advice to dream big and get out there and do it, the implication being life is short.

A few years later, he flew as a mission specialist aboard STS-41B (Challenger), launching satellites and controlling the manipulator (that big robotic arm).

Ronald McNair lost his life 26 years ago today when the Shuttle Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic on STS-51-L.  He had planned on doing a live sax recording from space with composer Jean-Michel Jarre.

On a visit back to L.A. about 10 years ago I ran into Joe's uncle who informed me he had passed away while sitting at home one day from an un-diagnosed heart problem.

Of the three of us, I'm the only one remaining.  And while here, I'm dreaming big and getting out there.  Because, no matter how much of it you get, life is short.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Now a Socializing Dude!

Angie reports she's had a tough time getting the Dude to socialize with the other dogs at the park.  He just wants to play ball.  She throws his ball away and he searches out all the balls in the park the other dogs have lost!  Today he recovered two balls from the snow which she promptly heaved over the fence.  Without his favorite pastime, a dapper Dude introduced himself to a nice lady dog at the park and they spent the morning doing a bit of that frolicking-thing!  Bravo, Dude.  Have a treat on me.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dark Days and SOPA/PIPA

A lot of providers on the Net hav gone dark today.

I've been working with the Internet for a long, long time.  I was on it when it was still a DARPA project in the 60s.  Yeah, I'm crazy old...

If I had to vote on SOPA and PIPA my vote would be no.  But then again, I don't have a vote and neither do you.

Ping your congress-person and tell them to vote no.  And if he/she asks why, have them explain DNSSEC to you. Can't do it?  Then tell 'em to trust you and vote no.

--Court--

Happy Birthday Peter Mark Roget!

Why is Roget one of my heroes? 

He was by all accounts a brilliant physician who went on to co-found the Univerity of London.  He invented the slide rule, which was still being taught during my freshman year of college. 

Might be better known in America for a project he picked up after he retired, Roget's Thesaurus.