Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mystery Illness

My wife has been sick, literally for weeks. She's had a nasty cough, has been tired, and also had a bout of the hives last week. The hives showed up just about the same time she was starting a new medication, so she stopped taking that, they went away, and we figured the rest of her symptoms was the result of a cold that wouldn't let go. We've concluded, however, that she actually has walking pneumonia. She's doing better, but still coughs stuff up every once in a while. I worry about her a lot as we're going on vacation this Wednesday, and even though it "shouldn't" be stressful, the preparation and constant work required to care of the kids will prevent her from resting. I've tried to convince her to go to the doctor to get some meds, but she's acting like a guy right now ... "I don't need to, I'll be fine." Stubborn wife.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fathers Day 2009

My Father's Day yesterday was pretty good. I was able to keep church meetings to a minimum and spent most of my time with the family. Breakfast was a smashing success, as my wife had baked French bread and made French toast with it. It was divine, and it's amazing that she did it all from scratch. My children were pretty well behaved during sacrament meeting, in comparison to some Sundays, and then I was able to attend some very good lessons. After church, I was able to go home and play games with the kids and my wife made me a great hamburger for dinner. For dessert, she made a wonderful brownie thingy that was cooked so that the bottom turned into a pudding. She wasn't so happy with it, but I quite liked it.

As is typical, I did get a tie for the blessed occasion, but this time it was a hand-decorated tie with my three children's favorite colors. My oldest likes blue, my middle child likes pink, and my youngest likes purple. It was great, and I have no doubt that one of these days I'll miss getting these kinds of gifts.

I was able to relax on the couch soaking my feet, watching some TV and reading the paper. By and large, the kids were pretty good, though often I wonder when my oldest will learn to act his age. It was kind of a weird day, though. It was relaxing, for sure, but I'm not quite convinced it was restful. There's just so much looming in the next few days that I can't quite shut it all off and chill out.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Holy Periodic Table, Batman

My best friend from college works at Marshall Space Flight Center. He has three adorable little girls and apparently has been teaching them to be nerds. When I watched this video, my jaw hit the floor. Considering the ages of these girls, his two oldest, this is a feat that is nothing short of remarkable. I am amazed and impressed by these two, and can't help but shake my head a little at my crazy friend who subjected his daughters to who-knows-how-many hours of training to teach them this. Even so, I'm very impressed, and I think you will be, too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

LRO/LCROSS Launch

LRO/LCROSS just launched. It was very pretty. Most of us here at work are standing around right now watching the video feed of the computer animation that reflects the telemetry coming from the Centaur upper stage. When launches happen, not much work gets done around here ...

When I first looked at the rocket, I thought to myself, "Why are they using an Atlas 5 to go to the moon?!" The Atlas 5 is what MRO launched on in 2005 -- it's a very big rocket that at first blush seems like overkill for a lunar lunch. Nevertheless, going to the moon is nearly as hard as going to Mars, as far as C3 expended, and with the need to push the upper stage on the same trajectory, it does make sense after all.

Very pretty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something I Love

Babysitters who think we overpay them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Humility

When I first got married, my wife and I had this fascinating discussion on the size of the universe. This discussion just about blew a few circuits in her brain because she'd never really contemplated how vast space can be. As for myself, I had long-since wrestled with the fact that We The People are tiny, practically insignificant specks in the grand scheme of things, so it doesn't bother me that much. In my head, I just remember that space just keeps going and going and, at least as far as we're ever likely to be concerned, it doesn't really end. It's like asking the question: what is the biggest number? It's impossible to answer that question, for as soon as you give a number all you have to do is add one and you've got another bigger number.

So it was with some amusement that I stumbled upon this video, which shows the size comparison of the planets in our solar system as compared to stars we've observed ... and beyond. Check it out:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebrating Diversity

I'm all for diversity. Really, I am. I feel I'm not racist or sexist, in spite of the fact that I personally live a very "traditional" lifestyle with a wife who stays home with the kids, with myself being the primary bread winner. These two "-ists" are the ones, I believe, that really count in this world, because at the time of a person's birth, one can not choose one's own skin color or gender.

I even feel pretty confident in my ability to appreciate other ethnic cultures. While I don't quite understand why the Chinese New Year or Cinqo de Mayo are such big affairs, I respect people's rights to celebrate and to enjoy themselves on these days. In addition, even though I am not a drinker of alcoholic beverages, I would not dream of denying the Irish their right to imbibe (extensively) on St. Patrick's Day. It's their culture, it's their thing, it's their celebration. Fine. This form of diversity is more about cultural tradition, and this I get. As I respect others rights in this regard, I expect others to allow me to celebrate my own observances as I desire (Pioneer Day anyone?).

When things get a little out of hand, I believe, is when people begin to celebrate "diversity" in the guise of behaviors. To me, the lengths that some people go to in order to find an excuse to celebrate often border on ridiculous. Even so, most of the time, it doesn't bother me when I hear about months or days being set apart to recognize specific things related to stuff that people do. Just in the month of June, for example, we have Black Music Month, Go Skateboarding Day (June 21st), International Surfing Day (near the summer solstice), even Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 25th). These are days that are "quietly" celebrated by people who are interested in these things.

Today, however, I received an email via my work encouraging me to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. As I have extensively said before in this space, I do not feel that I am homophobic; in fact, I have many co-workers whom I see every day that live that lifestyle, and I have a respectful and courteous relationship with them.

Even so, I believe it is very inappropriate for my place of work to advertise this particular observance in an email that is sent to every employee. Again, I'm cool with diversity, but this is not one of the "-ists" or a cultural observance, and can't even be classified under an "American Heritage Event", which is coming up in a few days. This is a celebration of behavior that I do not appreciate, support, or agree with. To me, it's like celebrating alcoholism or adultery -- people are free to engage in said behaviors, but you can't reasonably ask me to support or celebrate it.

The message I received begins:

Message from the Acting Administrator -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

During the month of June, NASA is joining other organizations throughout the United States to observe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.

LGBT Pride Month commemorates the events of June 1969, when patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that was all too common for members of the LGBT community during that era. Celebrating LGBT Pride each June commemorates this act of rejecting discrimination and standing up for the American values of fairness and equality.


(Okay, I get this, and I believe in people's right to be free from harassment. Nevertheless, the reasons for the harassment were the result of elected behavior as practiced by those who were harassed, not due to some innate feature of their persons. This doesn't excuse the harassment in the least, but the scenario is hardly akin to those who were forced to drink from a different drinking fountain because of their skin color, something about which people have no choice. The email continues:)

This month-long observance gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of LGBT Americans and celebrate the many contributions members of the LGBT community make daily to the fabric of American life.

Members of the LGBT community contribute to the richness of our diversity as a country, playing vital roles in all aspects of our nation, including here at NASA today and throughout the history of the space program. LGBT people like Todd Hawley, co-founder of the International Space University, and atmospheric scientist James Pollack have made important contributions that we all have benefitted from.


(Okay, but is this saying that these people were able to serve in these vital roles because they are gay? Or in spite of them being gay? When you get right down to it, does it really matter that they are gay when it comes to performing their work duties? Do I really need to know? To me, the very fact that they are calling out these people's sexual orientation is somewhat demeaning and lessens the importance of their contributions. It's like, "Hey, look, they're gay, and see what they can do! Isn't that special!")

LGBT Pride Month is a reflection of NASA's commitment to inclusiveness across the broad spectrum of our workforce. NASA strives to be a model employer by ensuring it adheres to the principles of inclusion. These principles include fairness and respect for the many different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our employees. We are committed to practicing these principles in all facets of our work.

(So are we talking quotas here? And what about my perspective as one who doesn't approve of the gay and lesbian lifestyle?)

At NASA, we value and acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in working toward the success of our agency. I encourage you to participate in the programs and activities planned at your NASA center in your community for LGBT Pride Month. If there aren't yet planned events at your center, I encourage you to organize one. Take time to learn about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, and celebrate the diversity that has helped shape and strengthen NASA and our nation.

Christopher J. Scolese
Acting Administrator


Yeah, like that's going to happen. There's no way I'm going to throw a party to celebrate a behavior that I feel is morally wrong. Absolutely no way. And I'm expected to go identify people who are gay or lesbian just so I can celebrate their accomplishments? Am I really being encouraged to nose around and find out about people's sex life? Sure sounds like it ...

The whole announcement just seems so ... off. Let's try this. Let's replace "gay" with "married white heterosexual male", and the historical entry with a different one and see how the announcement reads:

Message from Me -- Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month

During the month of November, NASA is joining other organizations throughout the United States to observe Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month.

HMWM Pride Month commemorates the events of November 2008, when married, white male members of the heterosexual community resisted public harassment that was all too common for members of the HMWM community during that era. Celebrating HMWM Pride each November commemorates this act of rejecting discrimination and standing up for the American values of fairness and equality.

This month-long observance gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of HMWM Americans and celebrate the many contributions members of the HMWM community make daily to the fabric of American life.

Members of the HMWM community contribute to the richness of our diversity as a country, playing vital roles in all aspects of our nation, including here at NASA today and throughout the history of the space program. HMWM people like John Glenn, the first American man to orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, have made important contributions that we all have benefitted from.

HMWM Pride Month is a reflection of NASA's commitment to inclusiveness across the broad spectrum of our workforce. NASA strives to be a model employer by ensuring it adheres to the principles of inclusion. These principles include fairness and respect for the many different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our employees. We are committed to practicing these principles in all facets of our work.

At NASA, we value and acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of our heterosexual, married, white male employees in working toward the success of our agency. I encourage you to participate in the programs and activities planned at your NASA center in your community for HMWM Pride Month. If there aren't yet planned events at your center, I encourage you to organize one. Take time to learn about the contributions of heterosexual, married, white male Americans, and celebrate the diversity that has helped shape and strengthen NASA and our nation.

Christopher J. Scolese
Acting Administrator


Hmm, sounds so innocuous, doesn't it? Yet you can bet that if there were even such a thing as Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month, there would be all sorts of public debate about it.

Diversity is good; I wholeheartedly agree. Just don't expect me to celebrate behaviors that I find to be morally reprehensible.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The State of the Family

My wife is sick, which means the whole family is more than slightly dysfunctional. I don't know how we would ever survive if something happened to her long-term. She was really quite down and needed the rest, so I took the kids on the pre-planned excursion that she so wanted to attend, but I did so with the hopes of giving her some quiet time alone. What did she do with it? Mostly just zombied around the house. (Is that a word? It is now ...)

The excursion was pretty fun. We drove to Santa Monica and forked over the 10 bucks to park by the beach. Then we took our bicycles and, with my youngest in a bicycle trailer, we hauled ourselves from the northernmost part of "the strand" at Will Rogers State Beach to the Santa Monica pier. A few things happened along the way:

-- I accidentally left my biking gloves (which I've had for ten years and absolutely LOVE!) by one of the bathrooms and two minutes later returned to find them gone. Things that are not bolted down go fast at the beach.
-- My youngest (4-years-old and 30 pounds light) is too old for a bicycle trailer, but he's a good sport because he likes to go fast. Every time I twisted behind me to ask him how he was doing, he'd smile up at me and say, "Good!"
-- Riding downwind is better done on the return leg of the trip. Duh.
-- My two older children have absolutely no idea what I mean when I say, "You! Have! To! Keep! To! The! Right!!" Seriously, they about got killed several times by fast-moving bicyclists, who literally came screeching to a halt when one of my children veered in front of them. I'm surprised I didn't get beat up for not teaching my children proper bicycle trail protocol. My exasperated apologies were well-received, though, and I'm grateful to report that most people have a sense of humor.
-- I was so afraid to leave the bikes behind, due to the earlier Stolen Biking Gloves Incident, that even though they were locked up at the Santa Monica Pier, we didn't even get out onto the pier to go explore the sights. My bicycle lock couldn't chain up the trailer very well, and we had all our stuff just sitting in it, so I most definitely did not feel comfortable being out of sight. Luckily, the kids were so tired, I don't think they really noticed that we actually didn't go to the rollercoaster or the ferris wheel.
-- Crabs are cool. I actually caught one (it was a slow-moving one) and held it, while my oldest son completely freaked out. He doesn't like sea creatures with legs; don't ask me why. The poor little thing was trying its darnedest to pinch me, but, as I said, it was a slow-moving one ...

My wife was a total trooper today, though. She made us lunch before sending us off, and we were gone for over four hours. We returned to find her asleep (I think). My youngest also passed out in the van on the way home, so with both of them down for a nap, the two oldest kids and I tried to stay quiet.

Nevertheless, she woke up soon after our return, and so I tried to keep her resting. Therefore, all afternoon we just had to watch "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." My daughter is now obsessed with aliens, and has been talking about them all night. She's quick to bounce from one fanciful thing to another. I told her that most movies with aliens in them are actually about mean aliens, and she didn't believe me. If she were 13, I'd show her Independence Day ...

Maybe we can show her Invasion of the Body Snatchers ... the old one ... yeah ... that'd scare (scar?) her.

In any case, I'm just trying to make my wife comfortable tonight. She sat and croaked me instructions for assembling dinner, and I did my best. It worked out well -- all, again, thanks to her. She is a light in our life that even when she's ill can't really be dimmed. So, I'll get her some hot cocoa tonight, have her sit on the couch zoning at the TV, then probably put her to bed early. And, hopefully, maybe, she might be a bit better in the morning ...

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