Sunday, October 26, 2014

As I get older...

Time inexorably marches on...and seemingly speeds up with each passing year. Though I still feel and think of myself as young, I know that forty-two is definitely middle-aged. Does that bother me? No...I really don't think it does. Three of my children have already graduated high school, and the last is a senior. I can't imagine a more perfect spouse and partner than my wife, and my job has recently given me the opportunity to make some major impacts, both locally and nationally. All good stuff.

So, do I feel the call of the 'mid-life crisis'? Yes...kind-of...but maybe not in the way one might think. If, after reading the previous paragraph and doing some "mental math", it should be clear that I started parenthood *very* early - my son was born when I was twenty. So I've spent nearly all of my adult years being a parent (and some of that time as a single parent). That means spare time being devoted to the needs of the children and family.

How does that translate into (kind-of) feeling the tug of a 'mid-life crisis'? Do I want to blow lots of money on a fast sports car? No. Take care of the thinning hair? Nope. Cover the gray? I couldn't care less. So...what is it? Now that an empty nest is a very near reality, I can spend more time on me and doing the things that I want to do. This blog is part of that. I've also built a home studio to support a podcast I've been kicking about for several years. Another of my interests is the space program (as should be obvious from my other posts) and I've been participating in NASA Social events.

Does that really qualify as a 'mid-life crisis'? *I* don't think so...but I'd wager that neither does the guy with a toupee and a convertible Corvette.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Great time at the airshow...

Hello, all. It's been a while since I've posted anything (and, according to the visitor stats, all zero of you that visit the blog missed me very much, I'm sure), so I thought I'd post a 'quickie'.

Near-perfect conditions for an airshow.
This past weekend (Oct 19), I had the opportunity to visit the 'Wings Over North Georgia' airshow at the Richard B. Russell airport just north of Rome, Ga. The weather was absolutely gorgeous - only a slight breeze, cool-ish temperatures (but still tons of UV radiation...much to the pain of my unprotected, English-descended skin), and only high cirrus clouds.

There were quite a few vendors set-up, most of them aviation-related (as would be expected). One of my friends wanted to see the Elio Motors booth. Oh, you've never heard of Elio? Neither had I. But he was all about seeing them. I did a bit of research the night before and was quite intrigued: a 3-wheeled, 2-passenger vehicle...84 MPG...nicely-equipped...made in America...priced at $6,800.00. Yes - six thousand, eight hundred dollars.

More spacious than one might think...and easy on the eyes.
What's the catch? Well...lots of them, in my opinion. Firstly, I don't see how they're going to be able to sell it for $6,800.00. I just don't. I have a motorcycle that cost more than that. Considering they say it'll have A/C, heat, stereo, and a 36K mile warranty (covered by PepBoys...yes, you read that correctly), I just don't see how they can hit that price point. Secondly, they've yet to make a production unit. Then there's the fact that this is not a car. Nope. It's a motorcycle. You're going to get a motorcycle license to drive it on the road. You might even need to wear a helmet. Stylish. Lastly, there's the concern about safety. Oh, they say it has a 5-star safety rating...but it's never been crash-tested.

Don't get me wrong - I think it's cool...and I'd like to have one. But I think this is going to be a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering. I hope they prove me wrong, but I don't think that'll happen. Set a reminder on your calendars to check back with me in 18 months and we'll see how this pans out.

Nice corkscrew-stall maneuver.
Where was I? Oh yes - the airshow. It started out with some incredible aerobatics...had some wonderful WWII and Vietnam-era aircraft...and concluded with the USAF Thunderbirds! Sadly, I missed the Thunderbirds - I had to get back to take a math test. Stupid math. There was an OV-1 Mohawk aircraft at the show that was quite impressive. It's not the prettiest, sleekest, or fastest plane, but it was just plain (plane?) cool.

I liked this OV-1 Mohawk
There was also a breathtaking P-51 Mustang. It's definitely one of my 'Top 10' favorite aircraft. Though it wasn't really doing much in the way of aerobatics (can you blame the pilot for not wanting to stress a 60 year-old airframe?), it was incredible to watch, nonetheless.

I love the Mustang.
I have tons more pics, and I'll post them on Flickr when I get the chance. don't follow me on Flickr? Click here to take a look at my albums...and feel free to follow. Thanks again for visiting, and don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

EDIT: The photo album is now shared here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

NASA Social - Just Do It!

With all due respect to Nike, I had to "steal" their slogan to convince myself to apply for my first-ever (and, so far, only) NASA Social event. Like many of you, I saw mention of these events pass through my Twitter feed, or my Facebook timeline, and wondered what it was all about...but never applied because I'd think: "Who am I? Why would NASA pick me for something like that?"

So I didn't apply.

And I'd see the next event come through the feeds and I'd think about how cool it would be to see some "behind the scenes" things that most people never have the opportunity to know about, let alone see in-person. I would have that same mental tug-of-war with myself about how many more qualified people would be applying for the spots. I'd click the link to the application, start to fill it out, but then talk myself out of it. What did I have to add to the social media space that others weren't already doing?

So I didn't apply.

So began the next iteration of this cycle - seeing more events pop up and going through these mental gymnastics trying to convince myself to apply. I saw one that piqued my interest: NASA was unveiling the Vertical Assembly Center (or, more colloquially known as the Welding Wonder) - the world's largest spacecraft welding tool (for more info about the Welding Wonder, click here) at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. I have a background in engineering (I attended Georgia Tech for nuclear engineering, and I'm currently a network and wireless engineer), so this is something that really interested me. Also, to be fair, it sounded less glamorous than many of the other NASA Social events, so I thought my chance to be selected may be improved.

So I applied.

Yes, I applied. When I received the confirmation of my submittal (not the actual selection notice, mind you, but the email that simply said "We're NASA and we received your application. Thanks."), I was quite excited. I told friends and family about it. I told coworkers about it. Now began the waiting game...and I had no idea how long it would be before I heard anything.

So I waited.

Finally, I received an email from NASA! Though I wasn't selected, I also wasn't rejected - I was on a wait list. OK...ok - I could deal with that. I was pretty happy knowing that I kind-of made the cut. I figured that I wouldn't hear anything else back, so I mentally filed it away.

Then, a few days later, I received another email from NASA - an email that initially confused me. I was told I was being removed from the wait list. Wait...what?!? Did I do something wrong? Hold a sec...let me read a bit more. Oh! I was being removed from the wait list because I was being selected! Woo-stinkin'-hoo!!!!! Yes!

They needed a reply from me within a couple days to secure my spot. I'm pretty sure I replied before a minute was done. Yes! Christmas in September! It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting - and fun, for an enginerd (yes - that's a me - and thanks to Jen W. for introducing it to me) like me - things I've ever done simply for myself. I mentally kicked myself for not doing it sooner.

If you're "on the fence" about applying for one of the NASA Social events, take a cue from Nike: Just Do It! What have you to lose? It only takes a few minutes, and you might get a lifetime of memories...and a cool group pic with other like-minded space folk like yourself:

The whole NASA Social group at Michoud with Astronaut Patrick Forrester (center).
Just. Do. It.