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Notably Awesome Space Adventures

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Launch of STS-135

I am a child of the shuttle.

The final extended mission series to be launched by the United States was Apollo.  Apollo 17 launched on December 7. 1972, slightly before my time on earth began.  The final manned launched before the shuttle program was for SkyLab, which occurred shortly after my time on earth began.  The only thing I have ever really known is shuttle.

Growing up with shuttle, I never really appreciated the complexity involved in launching a space craft.  Really, I can’t say now that I fully appreciate it, other than I know it’s hard.  As with most things, if something has always been around your whole life, you tend not appreciate it as much.  In the last year, I have started to study the shuttle program and I am in awe of what it entailed and what it accomplished.  It was the most complex machine humans have ever built and had the most complicated launch profile of any space mission.  Literally millions of tasks and checks had to be performed in the final nine minutes before launch and a failure at any level would result in an aborted launch.  What is truly remarkable is that a failed launch was rare.

My favorite part of shuttle is the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs).  Here are a few facts:

  • The SSMEs burn cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen for fuel
  • The fuel pumps on the engines could drain an average size swimming pool in 25 seconds
  • The engines burn 350 gallons of fuel per second
  • The combustion chamber in the engine operates at over 6,000 degrees fahrenheit, hotter than the boiling point of iron
  • The reason the engines do not melt at that temperature is because  the cryogenic fuels are used to cool the engine before they are burned
  • The engines produce 418,000 pounds of thrust at lift-off

When I first read about the SSME combustion temperatures being hot enough to turn iron into a gas, I believe my initial reaction was something along of lines of WTF?!

Each shuttle mission was coded as STS-x (Space Transportation System, the original name of the shuttle program).  A total of 135 missions were flown, with two missions ending in the loss of the orbiter.  I have a vivid memory of the loss of both Challenger and Columbia.  It brought focus back to how dangerous it was to hurl 4.4 million pounds into space.

Now that shuttle is retired, we have gone back to the drawing board on how to replace it.  I’m eager to see how the final product preforms.

In closing, here is my favorite launch video, from STS-51c (sound on, please):

Notice how the entire launch assembly rocks back and forth when the SSMEs are ignited.  Awesome.

I also encourage you to watch the shuttle tribute that shows up in the video window during the launch.

And so it goes.



Father of Daughters

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I have the pleasure of being a father to four girls and a boy.

Our oldest, known here as the Alpha Child, is joyful, eccentric and can be, um, difficult.  She is a natural performer.  This past year she sang, ‘A Few of My Favorite Things’, from The Sound of Music at her schools talent show.  Did a great job for a nine year-old.  My Facebook friends can poke around on my wall and find the clip.  When she was researching saints at school this year, she had to say what cause she would be the saint of.  I suggested that she could be the patron saint of dramatic little girls.  Note to self:  Dramatic little girls don’t like to be called dramatic little girls.

Our second daughter, Julia Grace, died when she was very young.  She still looms very large in my perception of the world.  She would be turning five about this time of year.  The kids have a cousin that is her age and I often watch cousin Izzy and wonder what Julia would be doing now.  And so it goes.

Next down the line is The Cuteosaurus.  The running joke with her was to pick an adjective or action and add ‘osaurus’ to it. Burposaurus, screamosaurus, eatosaurus, etc.  The CS has steel in her.  She is four and half now.  When she was 1-2, she would scream this piercing scream to get what she wanted.  It drove my wife to go back to work.  Seriously.  It took a lot of work to get her to stop screaming and start asking, but we got there.  Now she is the easiest of the kids to manage.  She just wants to make you happy and has a mostly sunny disposition.  The screaming will return on occasion, but nothing beyond the scope of what one would expect from a kid her age.  The CS is the most driven of our children and I expect that she will be the one to go into the business world.

Finally, we come to LJ.  (That not a nickname or anything.  Her nickname has her actual name in it and I’m one of those paranoid types who tries not to list his kids names on his blog.)  LJ is two and half and knows the exact moment when my wife and I are too busy with the others to pay attention to her.  She can switch between ornery and sweet very quickly and I never know quite what to expect.  I got her out of the bath the other day and she put her head on my shoulder and said, ‘I’m so happy to see you daddy.’  It really get’s you.  Five minutes later she was screaming at me because she didn’t want me to put lotion on feet.  That really gets me, too.

So there you go.  With summer around the corner,  I expect things to get a little hectic.  We put in an offer on a house last month, so if all goes well, our summer will include a move.  Four kids and a move?  No sweat.  (end delusional statement)

I’ll cover Biffie (the boy) later.

And so it goes.



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I love a good mystery.  There are always thing that I don’t understand and love the anticipation in finding out the answer.  The plant above is a great example.  Alpha bought the Venus fly-trap at our local farmers market.  We fed it random flys and it did well.  Each of the fly-eating leaves die after the fly is digested, so we are patiently waiting for it to grow new leaves (one of which you can see if you look carefully).

Included in this plant was a very small, two leafed sprout.  That sprout kept growing and is the much larger plant in the pot.  I don’t know what it is or what it could be.  We bought the plant from a booth that sells all sorts of neat herbs and such, so maybe I have some kind of herb on my hands.  Maybe it is just a weed that sprouted, as weeds do.  In any case, I look forward to transplanting it soon and seeing what it grows into.

Nature is so cool.

And so it goes.


Wahlnacht Lachen

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The other day I put youtube mobile on my phone.  When I opened it up, it suggested a video called, ‘Hitler Finds Out That Scott Brown Won The Massachusetts Senate Seat’.

I fired it up and it was a scene from The Downfall with new subtitles.  I had seen this same gag a few years ago covering the real estate bubble:

The first thing I noticed was that there were all sorts of the parodies.  The include:

  • Someone stole Hitlers car
  • Hitler Reacts to Notre Dame’s coaching
  • Hitler gets banned from Xbox live
  • Hitler gets a margin call
  • Hitler goes to McDonalds
  • Hitler Is a Jedi
  • Hitler plans burning man
  • Hitler gets scammed on ebay
  • Hitler wants Burger King

And so on…

I haven’t watched most of these, but I would imagine that some are funny and some are not.

It really amazes me sometimes how the internet can be used to turn one history’s greatest monsters into a gag reel for expressing outrage at both non-trivial and (mostly) trivial things.

And in case you are curious as to the Scott Brown video…

And so it goes.


I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds

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Today marks the 64th anniversary of the start of the atomic age.  At 05:29 on July 16, 1945, the very first atomic weapon was detonated in the Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico under the code name Trinity.

I have always been fascinated by this event.  Several years ago I started to learn what I could about the origin, development, testing and use of nuclear technology.  I collected videos and articles from the very scientists who developed the methods that made nuclear fission possible.  It was clear from their writings that they both loved and hated what they were doing.  The end result of their labor could only have one possible outcome, yet they pressed on.  From some, it was the thrill of finding the answer first.  For others it was a very strong feeling that this secret was going to be cracked sooner or later.  Better it be ‘us’ than ‘them’.

The single most fascinating item I learned was that this whole race was essentially kicked off in Germany, where scientists there had split a Uranium atom.  The implications of that discovery were obvious to a few key scientists.  Given the aggression of Germany, they felt that action needed to be taken in order defeat Germany before they created the weapon above.  In the long run, it was discovered that Germany was nowhere near developing a bomb.  Where have I heard that before?

The single most frightening thing I learned was just how easy it is to build a bomb like the one featured above, at least on a conceptual level.  Given enough time and enough leeway, any country could develop the technology and means to produce a crude atomic weapon.  The plutonium implosion weapon featured above would be considered highly primitive and it still has the explosive power of twenty thousand tons of TNT.   (Just to put that size into perspective, the largest weapon detonated by the US was Castle-Bravo.  It came in at fifteen megatons, or fifteen million tons of TNT.)

There is a family story about my Pop, my maternal grandfather, who owned a saw mill in northern Kentucky.  During the War, materials were very scare and he needed some parts to keep his mill operational.  A friend of his told him to go do the dealer and tell him the parts were for the Manhanttan Project.  The next day he had the parts.

I withhold judgement on whether or not the United States should have gone down the nuclear path.  I leave that question for people far smarter that myself.  It is of little difference to me what we did or did not do.  The history of the development and use of this weapon is far, far more complex than most people realize.  The players who brought this scene to life were both egotistical and humble, both madmen and saints.  I do not envy the leaders who were faced with the decisions leading up to this event.  I can only say that I hope that I am never in a place where I would be faced with such a terrible choice.

The title of this post is from the Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad GitaDr. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific leader of the Manhattan project, later said during an interview that this quote went through his head as the bomb detonated.  The director of the Trinity test, Kenneth Bainbridge, had a more colorful remark: ‘Now we are all sons of bitches’.

And so it goes.


Happy New Years!

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Well, tonight we say good-bye to a rather tumultuous year, at least for our clan.  We saw the loss of a job, an unanticipated move, the gain of a job, the blessing of a better place to live and the great blessing of another child.  There were also the incidental victories.  I got my second Bag ‘o Crap from Woot and I and won my fantasy football league. 

Looking back at the year, I feel the same way a forest must feel after a fire.  The fire hurt, but now there is room for growth and renewal.  In 2009 Sammy will start kindergarten and Mary will start pre-school.  I will continue (God willing) in my new job and Casey’s Speech-Pathology practice serving the Catholic Schools will grow.  We will wrap up the year with our first Christmas in Boise and our first Christmas in Idaho since Casey and I were married. 

We lost our dog, Cassie this year.  She was a good dog.  A good dog.  Noelle started wearing an eye patch to help with her Anisometropic Amblyopia.  For each day she wears her patch, she gets a gold dollar to use to buy a hamster.  The hamster won’t live as long as the dog (at least I hope not.  I don’t want a 16 year old hamster).

We are going to strive to cut our current garbage output from four bags a week to three bags.  We have cloth diapers for Leela and Mary will be potty-trained this year.  We tried last year, but it just didn’t take.  Too much going on. 

We replaced our dinner table one that will allow us to seat all six people and keep food on the table.  That may not sound like much, but it is really a huge deal to us.  Ralphie and Steve were nice enough to provide the table. 

Ralphie was able to spend a month with us while Leela finished cooking.  The kids loved having Grandma Ralphie around for so long.  So did we.  Mary is still asking, ‘Where did Ralphie go?’. 

This year my blog enters its third year and I will pass the 100 post mark.  I don’t know if that is really a big deal, but hey, I am running out things to say.

I hope all of you have a wonderful 2009 and that it is full of the Lord’s blessings.

And so it goes.



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Ok, the woot-off is over.  I got a Bag of Crap!  Good for me! 

Jihad Cat


How to dance!



Sorry about the shark one.  I just couldn’t stop laughing.