February 20, 2004

The Proton's Connected To The ...

Muon, the Muon's connected to the … Positron.

The Avocare naturalist posts continue. Want to see computer graphic images of subatomic particles colliding into a nickel plate at the speed of light? Visit Fermilab Now. Scientists exploring the ends of time, updated in real time.

Posted by Avocare at 10:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

A Maher Rant Actually Worth Reading

Usually I think Bill Maher is a whiney, grumpy, angry old fart who gives those folks from the left who have good names bad names. But this week's “New Rules” are priceless, and you should read them here.

All right. New Rule: If everybody was wrong about the weapons of mass destruction, then somebody has to say, “My bad.” When Bill Clinton was in the White House, we investigated his business partners, his wife's business partners, the guy who was governor after him, the girls who did him, his travel agents and the guy who cut his hair. For some reason, the two words this president just can't seem to say are “Sorry” and “nuclear.”

Something is terribly wrong when the only person who has been fired over terrorism is me.

Posted by Avocare at 12:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004


If you listened to the link in the prior post, you may like to know that the oral history project in which that couple took part is part of StoryCorps. Go here to listen to stories from StoryCorps, or to record an oral history of your own.

Posted by Avocare at 05:14 PM | TrackBack

Valentine’s Day: All You Need To Feel

Forget all the longing, poetry, gifts, flowers, and songs of love. To feel all the Valentine’s Day emotion there is to feel, simply listen to this.

Yes, it’s real. Here's the brief set up: a couple, he 25 and she 26, in an Oral History Recording booth in New York City's Grand Central Station. Listen to get the rest, and you may go here to learn the rest of the back-story.

And if your eyes are dry at the end … then you, sir, may well have no soul.

Posted by Avocare at 05:08 PM | TrackBack

The Greatest Thing In The World …

My wife.

I love you, sweetie. Thanks for making each day so full of love and fun that our Saturdays tend to feel like Valentine's Day, and our Valentine's Days tend to feel like Saturdays. You make me a better man, and I love you.

Posted by Avocare at 04:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004


Hello from frosty Minneapolis. You know I pass on a product recommendation from time-to-time, and I have one now: the free Mozilla Firefox internet browser, which I've been using for two weeks now. Smaller in installation size, softer on memory usage, faster, and easier to use than Internet Explorer, and entirely free. Learn more, and download Firefox, here.

Posted by Avocare at 08:46 AM | TrackBack

February 08, 2004


Yet another in my series of cloud shots, this taken somewhere over western Pennsylvania. Click to see full-sized.

Posted by Avocare at 07:12 PM | TrackBack

OK, OK ...

Catching some well-deserved shit for not posting lately. Funny thing is that there's actually more than a peck to post … I've simply been very busy, and directing most of the blog energy I do have to TCP.

That said, I saw this report on CNN today, and found the sites it mentions fascinating. Consider this the latest in the Avocare series of naturalist posts. Read the CNN article if you wish, but to cut to the chase go here and be amazed:

Posted by Avocare at 06:54 PM | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Tree Of Life

That's the amazing thing about the Web: I can say to Wife, “Give me a word. Any word.” She says, “Tree.” I type “tree” into Google, and find the Tree Of Life Web Project. Go to the Life On Earth page first. Follow the links and you will be there for at least 30 minutes. Do this with a child, and you may be there for hours.

Posted by Avocare at 10:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Remembering Columbia

Today, we remember some of the world's many heros:

  • Rick D. Husband, Commander: Rick Husband's childhood dream was to become an astronaut.
  • William C. McCool, Pilot: Willie McCool loved to see “the eyes light up when you talk to kids” about space.
  • Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander: “Very early on,” Michael Anderson “thought being an astronaut would be a fantastic thing to do.”
  • David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1: As a kid, David Brown thought of astronauts as “movie stars.”
  • Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2: Kalpana Chawla's path to become an astronaut began in Karnal, India.
  • Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 4: Laurel Clark felt “incredibly lucky” to see Earth from the unique vantage point of space.
  • Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1: Son of a Holocaust survivor, Israel Air Force Colonel Ilan Ramon was that nation's first astronaut.

Read the NASA memorial page here, or, read what I think may be the single best piece written about Columbia, Bill Whittle's Courage, here.

Sensors fail all the time. But this was different. This was a pattern, and it was spreading. And something was starting to pull the ship to the left.

I don’t know the words he used, but I can hear the tone perfectly in my head, because it’s exactly the same tone I’ve heard dozens of times on cockpit voice recorders. It’s concern. Alarm, even. But it’s cool. Disciplined.

All right, we’ve got a problem here…

The Pilot and Mission Commander probably never exchanged the knowing look that we’d see in the movie. They were too busy working the problem. But in the two seats behind them, and the three below, those five brave passengers looked at each other and now the smiles and the grins were gone.

Something was wrong with Columbia’s left wing. The air that should be slipping over and under her like water off the back of a duck had found something to hold on to: perhaps some missing tiles, perhaps a dent, or a micrometeorite hit – we just don’t know. But 3000 degree ionized air was pushing into that wing, and heat sensors were winking out one by one because they were being burned through by gas far hotter and sharper than that at the end of a blowtorch.

Guys, we’re in real trouble here.

The Commander would have told them. I have no doubt of this at all. You love and respect those people, people who have shown courage the likes of which we will never know. These are not babies, not shrieking, hysterical, self-centered adults either. These are astronauts. They deserve to know.

The air pushing backward and into that left wing continued to yaw the nose of the orbiter to the left. This cannot be allowed to happen – the ship will disintegrate if she doesn’t come in at exactly the right angle. So the computers flying Columbia commanded the aircraft to roll right, to bring that left wing forward using the rudder and elevons, the controls on the wing and tail that made Columbia an airplane and not merely a space capsule.

It wasn’t working. Columbia still pulled hard to the left, so hard that the computers fired the attitude control rockets on the nose to try and force it back into the relative wind. When that happened, when they heard the roar of those rockets firing in a last desperate effort to keep that ship intact, and when the rockets fired again, and kept firing, Rick Husband and Willie McCool must have known that they were not going home that day.

Guys, it’s Rick. I don’t think we’re gonna make it.

And I know what courage did for these people. I know they looked at each other and nodded, and whether they actually said goodbye I know it was in their eyes. We know it. We know. We saw it on the deck of the Titanic, in the aisles on United Flight 93. On some level, they had all said goodbye to their families and their lives before they walked through that circular hatch, right below the word COLUMBIA.

When PSA Flight 182 collided with a small plane over San Diego in 1978, and dove straight into the ground trailing fire from the wing, the last words on the Cockpit Voice Recorder was a calm, level, “Ma, I love you.”

And in that last second, there may just have been enough time, as that bulkhead wall opened into golden and purple light, to smile and think, It was worth it. It was a great ride. I wouldn’t have traded this for the m

Buildings shook in Texas. Columbia was coming home.

Read it all.

(This post is cross-posted here.)

Posted by Avocare at 08:34 AM | TrackBack