Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This is not a filler post

Rather, it is something much more noble: a reassurance that I am, in fact, still here. To be more precise, I am back here, having returned from a superlative vacation in Turkey.

Mrs. Blog and I loved it (as in "we need to live here" loved it) and crammed a bunch of amazing experiences into far too short of a time. There are a few that stood out, though. And I promise that in coming days, you'll read about them here.

Just pour yourself a cup of apple tea and be patient....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Top of the World

That's the headline that I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as an intern when the U.S. women's soccer team won the World Cup in 1999. It was excellent, thrilling to watch, a source of pride for the country's athletic programs. And of course it led to this iconic shot (which ran on the Journal Sentinel's front page):

Hey, it was a hot day.

Last night, I happened to catch a reply of the most recent big victor for the U.S. women's team in World Cup play, when they beat Brazil. The game was decided on penalty kicks (just like the '99 final game), but the iconic moment was here:

Now that's a hell of a pass. Now the U.S. is in the tournament's final four and plays France today. They have a good shot at winning it all. And with any luck, the team's next two games will be just as thrilling to watch... with identical outcomes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Great media jobs

The military is a sprawling organization. Yes, much of it is devoted to blowing stuff up real good. But there are lots of other jobs. Flying in tight formation and impressing airplane dorks, for instance.

Then there's the guy who took this picture:

That's loopy. (for gigantic version, click here)

His title? Mass Communication Specialist. His job? Apparently, taking pictures of awesome things... while flying in a high-performance fighter aircraft. Which might make it the best journalism job in the world.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cleared for departure

Well, it's the day of the last planned Space Shuttle liftoff. I already brought the dorkiness in my last post.

So in this one, I'll just let STS-135 speak for itself on NASA TV.

STS-1, or Gerry's First Space Memory

The Space Shuttle Discovery heads into orbit for the last time tomorrow, assuming the weather holds. It will mark the last of 135 Shuttle missions, the first of which was in 1981.

That was a remarkable flight in many ways. It was the first--and only--time the U.S. had sent a manned space vehicle on its maiden flight with a crew in it. That's right, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo... all those capsules orbited empty a few times to work out the kinks before we loaded them with pilots.

So this was a huge risk, tossing a totally new system into space after rigorous atmospheric testing but with only computer modeling to tell us how it would hold up in a vacuum... or more important, in the hellish conditions of re-entry.

Columbia had ejection seats, a feature that was later removed. Its external fuel tank was painted white to match the rest of the vehicle stack, a decision that also lasted only a few flights because the paint added 600 pounds to its launch weight. It was a test flight, and the entire world was watching.

Looked smooth, right? But this checkride definitely discovered some problems. The most serious--the "overpressure" wave from the ignition of the solid rocket boosters damaged the rear of the shuttle at launch--could have doomed the mission. But engineers used the data from that first blastoff to improve the water sound suppression system and prevent that danger in future flights.

Of course, five-year-old me didn't really see it that way. I just saw a rocket, a graceful piece of machinery, head up into the unknown. That sight has never stopped inspiring me. And it will be sad to see it for the last time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, United States of Awesome

It's the Fourth of July, and here in the UAE, we're celebrating by not shooting off fireworks, going to baseball games or grilling outside. (Actually, there has been some grilling--Thanks to Friend of the Blog Brad, I now know that springbok is delicious. But the rest is true.)

As such, in keeping with Read Ink tradition, that leaves just one way to mark the 235th anniversary of Paul Revere's gun-shootin', bell-ringin' ride: Muppets.

Happy Independence Day!