Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Clemens is back with the
Clemens is back with the Astros! Woo!
I ran after work yesterday, despite the oppressive humidity. After my frustrating afternoon, I needed to burn off some energy. I told myself that I'd just do a nice easy run in the heat, but of course once I got out there, all keyed up after my crappy day, I took off faster. I did something a little different and hit the splits at the half mile markers instead. I ran the first 1.5 miles without stopping, then took a short walk break. I took two more short breaks at 2 and 2.5 miles, but ran faster because of it. In a way, it was almost a pseudo-speed session.
Mile 1 - 11:10 (5:40, 5:30)
Mile 2 - 10:56 (5:20, 5:36 w/walk)
Mile 3 - 10:32 (5:18 w/walk, 5:14 w/walk)
Including the walk breaks, I did 3 miles in 32:40. Because of my walk/run pattern in the last half mile that had me running sub-10:00 pace for the portions I ran, I finished gasping for air, but feeling much happier about work and life in general. Geez, running is such good therapy.
This morning I had to drive to work in a deluge. I think the rain started around 4 am, but it was still falling hard when I left at 6:45 for my sim. I had a crapload of stuff with me -- purse, backpack, and suitcase -- since I am leaving straight for the airport in a couple hours, and my umbrella was, of course, in the car. I held my suitcase over my head and ran for the car, and managed to avoid getting the upper half of my body too wet. The suitcase, on the other hand, had to be opened just so that water didn't leak through the top onto all my clothes!
Umbrella now in hand, I made it from the parking lot to the control center without difficulty, unless you count the fact that I was running late and therefore did not have time to stop for Starbucks. The control center, of course, was freezing, which felt great, especially on my wet legs. Sigh.
I'm off to Los Angeles this afternoon for two days of meetings at JPL about Mars stuff, followed by a Saturday hanging out with Gavin. I plan to catch a Dodgers game and push my list of stadiums over the halfway mark! Dodger Stadium will be #16. If only my flight got in a little earlier tonight -- I could've gone to an Angels game as well!
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The project that I spend
The project that I spend 50% of my time on makes me feel like an idiot.
This afternoon, with Gavin back at JPL, I was summoned into action to explain a design process to our new summer co-op. I stumbled over half my words, couldn't answer half his questions, and looked like an idiot as I couldn't get half of the programs to work correctly the first time.
This is my constant problem with this project, and it's plagued me for two years. See, feeling stupid makes me procrastinate, because I'd rather work on things that don't make me feel stupid. Then I get behind and forget how to do even the simple things that I'd managed to understand. Then I want to quit the project entirely because I feel like I am making zero contribution, and hate feeling like an idiot all the time. So I tell myself that I'm thinking irrationally, and promise myself to try harder. I come to work feeling reinspired, only to inevitably hit some roadblock within approximately 15 minutes. I feel like an idiot all over again.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
This is why I don't think I'm meant to be an engineer for much longer.
On a less depressing note, my brother continues his travels in Europe with this amusing tale (and apparently his typing sucks):
"Dublin was miserably cold, rainy, and sort of depressing; but the Guiness ,useu, was cool and included free fresh Guiness in a bar overlooking the city. I stayed up there a while since the weather was bad, and found some other Americans to talk to. From Dublin I flew yesterday to Eindhove. I took the train from there to Maastrict and then to Belgium. I had poorly planned and aound up at a train station at 2 in the morning, surrounded by unsavory characters and no other trains for over two hours. Luckily a guy who turned out to be Irish and from Kilkenny spotted me and realized I was in a bad situation. He let me stay the night on his couch to catch a few hours sleep before heading out in the morning. He told me how he could tell I wasnt sure what to do and wanted to help because a lot of people there and in the rest of Europe wouldnt in a similar situation. Thankfully Irish people are very friendly and he tunred out to be in the right place at the right time for me. I wont make the mistake of being in a train station witout somewhere to go again."
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
There's nothing like a three-day
There's nothing like a three-day weekend, and this one seemed to stretch on beautifully, wonderfully, forever. Long enough that I hardly remember what I did on Friday night -- oh! X-Men 3. Which was entertaining enough.
Saturday was the 5K, followed by a lazy afternoon and capped with dinner at Nick's apartment. His mom was in town and cooked, and I can never turn down her authentic Mediterranean cooking! Garlic chicken, tabouleh, mujudhra, lamb, hummus. SO YUMMY.
Sunday and Monday were made for sleeping late. Both days, I didn't even have lunch until 2:00-3:00, and enjoyed the lazy morning with coffee, reading, and TV. Jose, Becca and I saw Da Vinci Code on Sunday afternoon, and it, like X-Men, was entertaining enough. The book was better. (Duh.) There were far too many little details in the book to ever do a thorough job with the movie, so everything on screen just felt rushed.
I spent the rest of the weekend spending money (hooray for sales, I got a new shirt at Kohl's for $3.60! $3.60!), browsing the bookstore, and reading. All in all, it was fantastic.
Exercise plans for the week are a bit up in the air, since I'm flying to LA tomorrow evening for two days of meetings at JPL. But I plan to run 3 miles tonight, and maybe do a 5K in the Pasadena (Cali, not Texas) area on Saturday morning.
Monday, May 29, 2006
When I walked out the
When I walked out the door early on Saturday morning, I knew we were in for one hot 5K. As we walked from the car to packet pickup, I think I started sweating! It was warm and it was humid.
Before the race, I saw a lot of the HRBers, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to really talk to anybody in the rush of picking up my packet, getting Jose registered, and getting our chips.
Thankfully, the first mile was run mostly in the shade of downtown's skyscrapers. I wondered if Jose would feel the ol' adrenaline rush of running in an actual event, and I think he must have -- we hit the 1-mile marker in exactly 11:00. That's equal to the fastest mile we'd run in our training!
The second mile saw warmer temperatures as we emerged from the buildings into the sun. UGH. We ran back past Minute Maid Park and south to Mile 2. I hit my watch at the marker -- 10:56! Jose had actually been pulling me a long for a bit, pumped up by mentally chanting Marine Corps chants that a friend's dad used to yell when the ran together the one season he was on the track team. SO, not only did Jose just run two solid miles without a walking break for the first time, he also did both miles faster than he'd done during any of his runs leading up to the race!
His effort caught up to him in Mile 3, and we walked twice -- once right after the water stop, and once again on the slight uphill section that took us back towards the ballpark. We slowly made our way in the sun back towards the park, and as we neared the stadium, I said "ok, no more walking, you can make it the rest of the way, no problem!"
I haven't run with Jose enough yet to know with certainty what kind of motivation he does or doesn't like while running. Some people like being cheered for and constantly encouraged; some people would rather you just leave them alone and run beside them quietly. Turns out that my "no more walking" remark was a good one, and he later said that he was glad I'd told him that because he'd been thinking of walking one more time.
With two walk breaks, we still managed a 12:20 third mile. We hit the 3-mile marker just before going into the Minute Maid tunnel and whoa -- talk about a strange experience. We went from sweltering in the hot sun to being plunged into virtual darkness. Jose remarked that he wondered if he'd blacked out; I just worried that I'd fall on my face in the dark. We both made it through the last tenth in 1:01 for a 35:18 finish. That's faster than anything we'd run in his training, which he later told me had been his goal -- to finish the race at a faster pace than anything he'd done before. SO, Jose's first race, an average time of 11:20/mile...not bad, not bad at all! I was very proud of him. Aw. Schmoop. ;)
If he breaks up with me tomorrow, at least I can say I did him some good!
Yesterday I had a little change of pace and hopped on my bike for the first time since last June. Yes, it had been 11 months since I'd ridden anywhere! After consulting my training log, I realized why -- last summer was when I had the bulk of the problems with my right knee, it was the time when the overuse injury from marathon training really kicked in. Bike riding made my knee hurt more, so I stopped. And just never started again, as evidenced by having to pull out of the MS150 this year due to a complete lack of training.
I'm happy to report that after yesterday's ride, my knee felt good. A little aching and discomfort (the injury has never entirely gone away), but today it feels normal again.
I took things pretty easy, with a nice 15-mile ride that included two laps around the space center. It took me just over 56 minutes, and I averaged exactly 16 miles per hour. I was pretty happy with that distance and speed for it being my first time on the bike in almost a year. Thankfully it wasn't too awfully windy either.
I hope to get in at least 1-2 more rides before the Tejas Triathlon on June 11. I certainly won't be in top form for the race, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless as a means of getting me back in triathlon mode! It's been almost two years since I did one, which is really a shame since I enjoy them so much. I'm even thinking of signing up for On The Run's tri training program that starts in mid-June...
Saturday, May 27, 2006
On Wednesday, Jose and I
On Wednesday, Jose and I ran 3 miles in 36:00. This morning, in some nasty, nasty humidity, we ran 3.1 miles in 35:18 as he made his racing "debut." Yay Jose!
Friday, May 26, 2006
Softball last night. We won
Softball last night. We won in extra innings, which was an unexpected surprise since we are quite adept at making it to extra innings only to lose by a landslide. I was too tired to add swimming to the mix, so my workout plans are already shot for the second of two weeks. I really must buckle down and get back on track. My jeans were tight this morning and that just depressed me. I'm heavier at the moment than I've been in more than a year. BOOO. I blame the fact that we (referring to both my friends and my boy) go out to dinner a lot. I have about zero willpower when it comes to not gorging on yummy fattening restaurant food.
I am very much looking forward to the weekend. We have Monday off, of course, for Memorial Day, and I have gloriously little else planned after the Astros 5K tomorrow morning. Time to finally catch up on my reading, clean up my apartment, and maybe do some quality sitting by the pool. Ah, weekend, how I love thee.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
I've been enjoying the pumpkin
I've been enjoying the pumpkin loaf from Starbucks; I've been hungry in the mornings more than usual lately, and the pumpkin loaf really hits the spot. Today I made the mistake of looking up how many calories are in one piece of pumpkin loaf. Sigh. No more pumpkin loaf for me.
Jose and I ran 3 miles in 36:00 last night, or a flat average of 12:00/mile. We took short walking breaks during each mile. It was hot, but surprisingly not too bad. I felt like I could have gone faster and longer. Nevertheless, Jose is ready for the Astros Race for the Pennant on Saturday and I plan to run with him.
This post about Letter People totally took me back to kindergarten. I'm pretty sure S was a dude with Super Socks, which may explain why I like funny socks so much.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Plans for the next week
Plans for the next week or so:
Wednesday - 3 mile run
Thursday - 1/2 hour swimming plus softball
Friday - Off
Saturday - Astros Race for the Pennant 5K
Sunday - 15-mile bike ride
Monday - Memorial Day! Off.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Things don't slow down when
Things don't slow down when you go on vacation. If anything, they speed up.
The "chicks" survived another LSO Golf Tournament on Monday. Becca, Jen, Buzz and I together, using the best ball method, shot a 94. That was 14 strokes worse than anyone else and won us $2 each and the title of Worst Gross Score. We wear it proudly. Through a series of bizarre and just plain absurd twists, we actually birdied two of the handicap holes and parred one or two more of them, so our net score only dropped to 88. We won Worst Net Score as well, though we didn't get any money for it -- they said we could only win worst score once! :)
Monday was also J's birthday. I took him out to dinner, and he liked all of his presents, which made me very happy because buying good presents is important to me. I'm a weirdo that way. He is two years younger than me, which had me alternating between trying to harass him about getting older while following it up with "oh, I remember being 26...good times..."
Actually I don't remember anything specific about 26. Let's see, it would have been March 2004-March 2005. I went to Peru when I was 26. (I always think of travel first!) I bought my SLR and started doing more photography when I was 26. I bought my first car, the first that I paid for myself, when I was 26.
Yesterday it was back to work, but I spent the majority of the day in the control center which means it was a very fun day. Last night's sim was slow, but two of the cases were really interesting. We had one prop case, and prop cases are notoriously difficult, especially since we're now working new procedures. When it popped up last night, I thought I did a really good job of handling it as quickly as possible (which, unfortunately, is still not as quick as we'd really like, but such is life).
Afterwards, though, it turned out that we had had some communication issues about dump duration versus dump cutoff time, and I felt like TRAJ, Targeting and I were getting minor slaps-on-the-wrist for not modelling the problem quicker. For the first time in my training so far, I found myself getting a little defensive. For once, I had worked the procedures correctly. TRAJ doubted me at one point, but then realized I was right. I even heard a "oh wait, she's right" comment over the loop. So during debrief I jumped in and made the case that Targeting and I had worked the procedures correctly and efficiently based on the information we had been given from the FCR; it took us a long time to get modelled because the information we'd received was not correct! The front room misinterpreted the data, and I argued that the problem in that run was not with the procedures, but with our communication, and that Targeting and I could only model what we had been told.
This is going to sound strange, but the whole run made me feel really good about my training. It felt good to have the confidence that I was right, and had worked the procedures correctly. It felt good to be able to add my input and opinion, even though it differed from the FCR. In the end, I think they heard what I was saying and agreed with me. That was awesome.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Summary of the weekend, in
Summary of the weekend, in words and photos!
We got to the trailhead for Smith Creek Trail in Unicoi State Park just after 10:30 in the morning. It was a 10-mile round trip to Anna Ruby Falls and back, and the sign said to expect 6 hours to make the trip.
Despite growing up in North Carolina, I've never done any hiking in the Appalachians! (I know, horrible.) The most noticable differences from all the hiking we do out west are 1) the lower altitude and 2) there are trees everywhere! Even when we topped out on a ridge, we couldn't see anything beyond the trees.
We arrived at Anna Ruby Falls a bit before 2:00. They were very pretty, and we sat for a while admiring them. They are formed by two creeks that meet and tumble down to form a third creek -- Smith Creek, the trail's namesake.
We needed to refill our water bottles, but we didn't take the "rocks are slippery" sign seriously enough, and Becca slipped. I had to retrieve her water bottle from this eddy.
We had dinner that night in Helen, an incredibly cheesy "alpine village" on the Chattahoochee River complete with copycat Bavarian architecture and things like funnel cake and beer houses.
Becca ordered crab legs. What none of us realized is that she would receive like ten crabs worth of legs.
On the way back to Atlanta yesterday, we couldn't resist stopping at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Yes, where Cabbage Patch Kids are made. We giggled a lot and actually watched "Mother Cabbage" give birth under the "Magic Crystal Tree" with help from Intern Jerry. It was amusing and slightly disturbing.
We made it back to Atlanta in time to have a late lunch at Doc Chey's with Carter and Kent, where Karen iced the finger she hurt when she tripped on the trail the day before in the darkness of a thunderstorm, and we all had a grand old time making faces for the camera.
And a good time was had by all!
Friday, May 19, 2006
Jen and I swam last
Jen and I swam last night in the pool at my apartment complex. The pool is heated, and perhaps they just haven't turned off the heat yet, because it was like bathwater. It was not too pleasant. But we did hang on for 30 minutes, during which I swam 25 laps, or about 3/4 of a mile.
Not much to say besides that! I'm off to Georgia for what should be a nice, relaxing girls weekend.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Not much to say today.
Not much to say today. Life goes on, and it is good.
Jose and I ran last night. We did three miles in 36:16. He hadn't run in two weeks, and it was hotter than we thought despite the lack of humidity, so we took a couple walking breaks. Still, he is optimistic about the Astros Run for the Pennant, though I think he was worried he might come in last. I told him that would not happen -- because I'm going to run with him, and because there will be at least a couple hundred people that are slower than him! I'm excited. I'm glad he runs with me sometimes. I don't know how much he likes it, but I'll take what I can get.
I'm going on a last-minute trip to Georgia this weekend. This is the first time I have ever used frequent flier miles, and I must say I'm happy with how well they worked out. Buying a ticket on Tuesday would have cost $600 normally, but I was able to get one for $80 + 35,000 miles. And it could have been only 20,000 miles if I'd decided to come back at midnight on Sunday instead of earlier in the evening. Better yet: I could use 35,000 miles and I still have the 105,000 necessary for an eventual business class ticket to Australia.
It's a girls weekend with Karen and Becca, so sorry boys, but I don't think I'll have time to stop by the condo or apartment. We're heading up to the mountains for two days and only one night, as Becca and I have to be back for work on Monday. After calling a dozen different places and getting told they were either full or required a two-night stay in the summer (it's summer? it's not even Memorial Day!), we finally got a room at a bed and breakfast in Sautee. Randomly, I have been to Sautee before, because Rachel used to live there. I think she lives in Helen now, but I'm not sure. Regardless, we will be in her neighborhood.
Plans are loose, but will include hiking in one of the state parks at some point. Those of you familiar with the Georgia mountains and the Helen area are welcome to leave suggestions of neat things to do, or good hikes in Unicoi or Amicalola.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
My brother left on Monday
My brother left on Monday for a couple months in Europe. Jealous? Me? Naaaaaaaah.
I got into London this morning about 6:30 and mademy way on the tube to a hostel in London. I then went and walkedaround for a while. I saw a big park with lots of birds and then stayed around buckingham Palace for about 2 hours waiting for and watching the changing of the guard. It was cool, but it took way too long. Then I walked down and saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Winchester Abbey was closedto tourists today. Then i rode the tube to the London Museum,but was so tired I didnt spend much time there. Im back at the hostel now and am going to take a nap for a while so that I'll be able to do more tommorow.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
It took a month and
It took a month and a half before Jen, Jason and I were all able to attend an Astros game together, using our season tickets, without someone being out of town or otherwise engaged -- but last night was finally the night! We headed downtown with hopes of seeing the Astros perform better than they had on Monday night (when they lost 10-1) and with hopes of seeing Barry Bonds hit home run #714 to tie Babe Ruth for second place all-time.
We saw neither. In fact, I don't remember ever seeing a less enjoyable baseball game than the Astros 14-3 loss to the Giants last night. And though it certainly made things less enjoyable, it wasn't the ugly loss that made the game so uncomfortable.
The fans were bad. The entire ballpark was filled with what I can only describe as negative energy. Barry Bonds was booed, loudly and repeatedly. A large group of fans in front of us held up signs with an asterisk and the outline of a syringe. The Giants fan behind us complained loudly about the booing. The fans in front of us told him to take a hike.
In the 6th inning, Bonds was brushed back from the plate by a poorly aimed pitch from Russ Springer. Both benches were warned. Springer then came inside on Bonds a second time. The crowd cheered as Barry hopped back. The next pitch hit Bonds on the shoulder. Springer was tossed, and the crowd cheered. They cheered loudly. The fans were cheering because our pitcher had just been tossed from the game, because he had hit Barry Bonds.
It made me physically uncomfortable, to hear the fans behaving so badly. To me, it was just wrong. I don't care what you think about Barry Bonds, or the home run record, or steroids -- cheering because your team plunked a hitter is low. And lame.
The epilogue? When Bonds was taken out of the game in the 7th inning, 75% of the fans left the ballpark. Those of us that stayed were able to watch the final innings in peace.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Well, my exercise plans for
Well, my exercise plans for the week are already shot -- I'll be making a quick trip out of town this weekend, so there will be no 15-mile bike ride or 3-mile run. There will, however, be hiking. :) And I'll try to stick to my plans for tomorrow and Thursday.
Such is life, eh?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Ever have a series of
Ever have a series of days when you just feel fuzzy-headed?
I've worked two sims in the last week, and while I performed decently enough that nothing got screwed up, I've just felt off. Slow. Mushy-brained. Fuzzy-headed.
In an attempt to get back on some sort of schedule, I thought I'd try posting my workout plans for the week with the hopes that if I post them, I'll follow through.
Monday - nothing (late sim)
Tuesday - nothing (Astros game)
Wednesday - 3 mile run
Thursday - 3 mile run OR 1/2 hour swim
Friday - nothing (Astros game)
Saturday - 15 mile bike ride
Sunday - 3 mile run
I discovered the other day that I have already signed up for the Tejas Triathlon in Sugarland on June 11, so I'll be out there doing it -- trained or not! Gulp. It's a 1/2-mile swim, 13-mile bike, and 3-mile run. With good training, I feel like I could do that in ~1:45. My goal for June 11 will be ~2:00.
Monday, May 15, 2006
It was a strange weekend,
It was a strange weekend, with brief periods of intense activity followed by long naps, and capped with a slow, gray, lazy Sunday.
I am not a nap person. Oddly, this is not to imply that I don't like naps; I do. I love lying in bed in the middle of the afternoon dozing and feeling like everything is right with the world. But I rarely do it because mid-day naps leave me feeling so groggy.
This weekend felt like four days. Four weird, groggy days. All my activity of the past few months caught up with me, and I crashed. I crashed hard.
I crashed on Friday night, after the MOD party and a low-key dinner, and was asleep by 10:30. I was up at 7:00 the next morning for the Summer Kickoff 5K, but afterwards I showered and crashed again for a two-hour nap. I didn't get up until lunchtime.
Saturday was spent watching the Astros lose and then dropping by Nick's housewarming party. He just moved to a nice studio apartment up in town on Alabama. Nick, being who he is, was all atwitter at being able to throw a party. (Yes, atwitter is the proper word to describe him.) Of course, I crashed again that night as soon as I got home.
I was up early -- 6:15 -- yet again yesterday to drive to La Marque to take some photos at the Webster Duathlon. I tried to stay awake while getting eaten alive by mosquitos, at least until it became so breezy that all the bugs were blown away. I was home shortly after 10, at which point I crashed again and slept for an hour and a half.
At this point in the weekend, I'm pretty sure J had decided that he's dating a narcoleptic, but oh -- I wasn't not done yet! After a late lunch and a matinee movie, I spaced out at the grocery store and leave one bag of groceries at the checkout and didn't realize this until half an hour later. Then, as my encore, I fell asleep halfway through The Big Lebowski and have only hazy memories of how I got from the couch to the bed.
The kicker? I'm still tired today!
It is absolutely gorgeous outside today and I can't go running because I'll be at work until 10:00. Boo.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Contrary to what Joe says,
Contrary to what Joe says, I didn't know every 5th person at the Summer Kickoff Fun Run this morning. Maybe every 10th though. ;)
I love this race precisely because it's in my part of town and so many people turn out for it. The course is actually one of my least favorite -- a pretty dull out-and-back along 2094 and South Shore Boulevard -- but it passes quickly when I spend most of my time watching the people on the other side and looking for friends.
Joe's been having hamstring issues, and with his higher priority race in Colorado coming up in two weeks, he decided to take it easy and run with me today. Debbie was also with us for the first two miles, but pulled about 50 feet ahead at the mile 2 water stop and stayed there until the finish line. It was nice to have a pacer (though I think Joe was really just running whatever pace I wanted to go) and someone to chat with.
We finished in 33:01 with steadily slowing splits of 10:18, 10:34, 11:09 and 1:01. Not fantastic, but not too bad either.
The laundry list of people I saw is long. Buzz gets special mention for setting a new PR and finishing 1st in my age group (25-29 female), which she accomplished by keeping Ron (her husband) in her sights throughout the race; Joe and I met fellow Houston Running Blogger Erin for the first time, and she took 1st in her age group and was a mere 13 seconds from winning overall; Chris, a coworker, finally let his wife Kristin drag him along and ran his first race ever finishing just behind me in ~33:30 (Kristin was 2nd in her age group, and their adorable kids did the kids race); and Rich tried racing again despite the fact that his longest run of late had been 2.25 miles.
I also saw coworkers Mark, Darrin, and Floyd... Michelle came out to cheer (she'd already done her run for the day but came anyway)... Sam was out as a supporter as well, taking it easy in preparation for his leg in the Beach to Bay relay next weekend...
The funniest moment of the morning, though, has to be when I went to the packet pickup table to get my packet. They looked and looked and -- no Sarah. I wasn't on the list! Did I forget to register ahead of time? It was highly possible -- I register for so many races that I do lose track. The volunteer helpfully pointed me to the registration table, so I walked over and presented them with my situation: "Hi. I thought I pre-registered but apparently I didn't. I want to register now, but since I thought I registered ahead, I only have $6!"
I offered to take the money by the local store, On The Run, this afternoon, but they said I could just mail it in. "Do you happen to work at NASA by any chance?" the guy asked. "Yes." I replied. "Well it'll be ok then, I work there too, I can track you down if you don't pay!!" Needless to say, the first thing I did when I got home was write a check and put it in the mail. :)
Friday, May 12, 2006
While I was busy flying
While I was busy flying on the Vomit Comet yesterday, my brother was busy graduating from Carolina with his Masters of Accounting! Congratulations Brian! (Photos courtesy of muh sustah Katie.)
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Seven years ago, this was
Seven years ago, this was me on the Vomit Comet. (No, that was not posed. Yes, I was actually puking.)
Today, this was me! Yep, that's me hovering up at the ceiling. I never felt sick at all and, of course, had a BLAST flying again.
The official NASA photographers are starting to post some of their photos from our activities.
Here I am getting fitted for my mask.
Here is Merle from Circle High School totally cheating off my test in the hypobaric chamber last Friday. Apparently hypoxia turns him into a big fat cheater! ;)
Here's me looking loopy.
And here's me looking much better now that I have oxygen again.
And here's 3/4 of my team (me, Rob, and Wade) at the Test Readiness Review on Monday.
Not an official photo, but here's my team after getting our flight suits yesterday.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
It's semi-official -- I've been
It's semi-official -- I've been assigned to my first space shuttle flight! Assuming I get certified within a reasonable amount of time, I will be the ARD Support for the launch of STS-117, scheduled for no earlier than February 22, 2007.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Jose took me to the
Jose took me to the symphony last Friday night to hear them perform Holst's "The Planets" while they showed imagery from Voyager and the Hubble on two big screens above the orchestra. It was very cool to hear "Mars" while flying through Valles Marineris, and "Jupiter" while watching the Great Red Spot whirl and swirl.
It was also very cool to get dressed up and go out on the town, even if my Vomit Comet physiological training and the fact that I wasn't done until after 5:30 meant that our "romantic dinner" consisted of stopping at Whataburger on the way home and eating it on my coffee table. ;)
This was the first time I've seen the Houston Symphony and they did not disappoint. What did disappoint me, however, was the imagery used in the slideshow. It didn't appear to be something the Symphony itself put together, and so perhaps the responsibility doesn't lie with them, but the photos were quite out of date. Stunning, yes, but dated -- I estimate that it must have been made about 10 years ago. There were a few photos from Mars Pathfinder (1996), but the images of the outer planets were all from Voyager and Pioneer. There were none of Galileo's amazing images of Jupiter and its moons (or Venus, which it flew by) from the late 1990s. There were none of Cassini's stunning photos of Saturn and Titan from its past two years in orbit there. And there were none of Spirit and Opportunity's awesome pictures of the surface of Mars.
I doubt most of the audience even noticed. But that, combined with Space Day on Saturday, has had me thinking about NASA's public image lately.
Space Day was held Saturday at the George Observatory, a small observatory about an hour away from Clear Lake in Brazos Bend State Park. I went to take photos, but I listened to a lot of the presentations as well. First up was "Mad Science" from the Houston Museum of Natural Science, with an hour-long session led by the very engaging Dr. Molecule. He lit things on fire! He made fog! He sucked an egg into a flask! It was fun, it was entertaining, and the kids loved it.
A little later, an astronaut spoke. He stood at the front of the room and showed some Powerpoint slides with neat photos of training and his mission. He used big words and long sentences. He called it a "manipulator" instead of a robot arm. He said the shuttle has "very poor aerodynamic performance" on entry instead of saying it drops like a brick. He didn't invite interaction from the kids.
Everything he said was entirely precise and technically accurate. And everything he said sounded boring.
The kids looked around. They poked their friend next to them. The shifted in the chairs and shuffled their feet on the floor. The adults asked some questions, but the kids were gone. Their attention was elsewhere. They wanted to know when they could get out of that stuffy classroom and go pet the snake outside in the lobby, or make a balloon rocket.
Why is it that astronauts are selected based solely on their technical merit? Is it because we think that the space shuttle can only be flown by the country's smartest people? (News flash: any of you reading this could probably fly it too with the proper training.) I do not by any means intend to slight or belittle the astronauts here; they are incredibly intelligent people and have done amazing things. But fact is, astronauts are the public face of NASA, and sometimes I think they could be doing a better job.
NASA gets applications from thousands of technically qualified people who want to be astronauts. Instead of choosing one over the other because one has a Ph.D. versus a "mere" Bachelor's degree, can you imagine what things might be like if a happy and outgoing personality was just as big a factor in selection? If public speaking skills were required? If educational outreach experience was a consideration?
Just imagine what could happen if the most public faces of NASA were never boring!
Monday, May 08, 2006
My Vomit Comet team's experiment
My Vomit Comet team's experiment passed the Test Readiness Review this morning and we're set to fly! I've been really impressed with my team's resilience: They arrived on Thursday and were told that they needed to come up with a different way to arrange their experiment since their rack could not be certified (because of the wood), and after only a few hours at Home Depot and in the hangar this morning, they had a new arrangement that passed inspection with flying colors.
Wade and I fly on Thursday; Rob and John follow on Friday. I can't wait!
Saturday, May 06, 2006
When we flew on the
When we flew on the Vomit Comet in 1999, my pre-flight training ride in the hypobaric chamber was interesting -- after a couple minutes of breathing air at a simulated 25,000 feet, I put down my pencil, looked up, and completely zoned out. I have a hazy memory of the test conductors helping me put my mask back on, and regaining my senses on the 100% oxygen it provided. I expected a similar reaction yesterday. So imagine my surprise when my hypoxia symptoms this time around were totally different!
After pre-breathing 100% oxygen for half an hour to rid our bodies of some nitrogen and lower the risk of getting the bends (yep, just like a scuba diver), we went from sea level to 25,000 feet in a mere five minutes. This is accomplished, of course, by sucking air out of the chamber with a big vacuum pump. The percentage of oxygen doesn't change, but the partial pressure does. Your body can't get as much oxygen and you start to feel, well, drunk. Yep, breathing the air at 25,000 feet has about the same effect as drinking a six pack!
The people on the other side of the chamber took off their masks first, so I got to laugh and point at Becca, who was sitting across from me and exhibits the classic symptom -- euphoria. It was fun egging her on in her hypoxic state. Mwa ha ha.
After that it was my turn to drop my mask and instantly go to the level of Mt. Everest. I expected to feel dizzy quickly, and then start to zone out. Instead, and surprisingly, I can honestly say that I never really lost track of where I was or what was going on. I was breathing more deeply, a little dizzy, a little happy, and a little slow, but I stayed coherant for the entire five minutes. I lost some awareness -- for instance, I didn't notice that the teacher next to me was totally cheating by looking at my worksheet (which has simple math problems and questions to test your reasoning as you get more and more hypoxic). And at three minutes, I wrote down that my symptom was "hot cheeks," which amused everyone later on as we descended back to sea level.
It took me a little while to realize that my difference in symptoms is probably due to the fact that between 1999 and 2006, I became a runner. I raised my level of fitness. I am in far better shape now than I was seven years ago, and I think it showed in the hypobaric chamber.
It's funny that it took a hypobaric chamber run to make me realize that even when I'm berating myself for having been a lazy bum over the past few months, I'm still so much farther ahead than I once was.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
My Vomit Comet team is
My Vomit Comet team is here from the great state of Wisconsin. Did I mention I'm mentoring a Vomit Comet team? And that I get to fly with them next Thursday? WOO!
They arrived last night but I met them this morning for the first time out at Ellington, where they got their boring (but necessary) safety briefing and then unpacked their experiment. It's a behemoth of a thing -- a spiderweb of two-by-fours and wires and screws and nails. It will not pass inspection in its current form, since wood isn't homogenous and therefore it's next to impossible to say that it will successfully carry 9 times the force of gravity in the event of a crash. So we're going modular -- taking it apart so the individual pieces can be stowed in crates for takeoff and landing.
Wade, John and Rob are all physics teachers, and their flight is part of the World Year of Physics (which was 2005, but their flights have been delayed by a whole year now). A guy named Vinaya from Physics Central will be blogging about them. Wade and John can't be any older than I am, and I'm guessing Rob is still in his 30s. They're a young team, which makes it even more fun for me. Here is a team photo that Vinaya took this morning and has already uploaded. Technology rules.
They'll be keeping me busy for a good portion of the next week, including our all-day physiological training session tomorrow -- classroom in the morning followed by an altitude chamber flight in the afternoon. (Who needs alcohol when you can just simulate breathing the air at 25,000 feet? It's just like being drunk!)
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I've been pretty good about
I've been pretty good about my exercise for the last week and a half; it helps to have someone else holding me accountable. On Monday, I went to Pilates for the first time with Becca and Jen. It was fun, but I don't think I was doing the exercises right -- I really wasn't very sore the next day.
This evening I went running in the heat (~6:00) with J. He had to make it to his apartment complex before they closed at 7, so we did two miles together -- 11:07 and 11:09. I took a short walk break to bid him adieu, then ran one more mile a little faster -- 11:10 including the walking time.
I've got two upcoming races in May, well, three if you count one that I'm shooting. This weekend I'll be doing photos at the Trot for TOMAGWA north of town; May 13 is the Summer Kickoff 5K at the local high school; May 27 is the Astros Race for the Pennant (two free tickets, yay!). Hope to see a bunch of the running bloggers around.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Letters to the Editor, Stanford
Letters to the Editor, Stanford Magazine, May/June 2006:
I am writing as a proud alumnus of Stanford and a proud faculty member at Georgia Tech. The article "Turning the Tide" (November/December) describes an Indonesian student who wanted to study industrial engineering at Georgia Tech. The student was urged "to raise his sights and think about Stanford." Raise his sights? The engineering programs at both Georgia Tech and Stanford are typically considered among the top five nationally. In fact, Georgia Tech's industrial engineering program has been ranked No. 1 in the nation every year for more than a decade. In the future, please refrain from publishing disparaging comments about peer institutions.
Mark Prausnitz, '88
And as a proud alumnus of both Georgia Tech and Stanford, I'd have to say: Right on, Mark. Hear, hear.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Last night I freaked out
Last night I freaked out a little bit. I can honestly say that hadn't happened in quite a while, and I hope it doesn't happen again anytime soon.
Work ended on a rough and frustrating note and I got a little overwhelmed by all that I have to do in the next week. There's a zillion things for work -- I have footprints, trade studies, procedure comparisons, and a Vomit Comet team about to arrive in town that I anticipate will need quite a bit of help before being cleared to fly -- and no one seems satisfied with my progress on anything. There's a final project for my web design class -- see, tonight is the last day of class but I don't have my project finished. I've turned in one project late already, and am about to turn in one more late. On top of that, I feel like I've done a half-assed job on them.
I felt stressed. I must have looked stressed too. "This isn't your style," he said. "You don't turn things in late. You don't do assignments halfway. It's against your religion, even if you don't care about the class."
My shoulders sagged and I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding. He nailed it.
This isn't me. It's a class I should have dropped in January, knowing how busy my spring would be. But I didn't. And even if I don't care, it's not like me to turn in assignments late. Or do them crappily. Or not finish them at all. Even if it is "just" UHCL. Even if it's just a class I'm taking for "fun."
It's just not like me.
I'm glad the semester is over.
(Project 4 - Portfolio. Required a Flash intro.
Grad Project - JC Booth Chorus page. So not finished yet.)
Monday, May 01, 2006
What time is it? What
What time is it? What day is it?
The thought of fully recapping my weekend exhausts me, so here it is in bullet form.
+ Friday night. Dinner in Kemah. Not as crowded as I'd feared. Rented movies. Too tired to watch them.
+ Saturday morning. Ran a 5K with Debbie. It was a sketchy one, but turned out to be official. Only ~15 people there, all Team-in-Training except us, I think. The blow-your-mind part? Debbie and I finished first and second. In 35:25 and 35:30; she out-sprinted me. We got medals for finishing first and second in our slowest times ever. I'm suspicious. Google pedometer says we ran 3.25 miles, not 3.1. Makes more sense now.
+ Oh -- as I was driving to the race, saw Keith running down NASA Parkway with two girls. Considered yelling out the window at him. Didn't though. Hi Keith!
+ Saturday afternoon. Lunch was samples of tens of different kinds of chili at the JSC Chili Cookoff. What happened to chili with beans and vegetables?? Turns out that the rules stated "no beans," which explains why all the chilis were really more like versions of beef stew. Weird. And all the teams were giving out free jello shots. Also weird.
+ Carter called. He got a new car!
+ Saturday night. Birthday party for Debbie who turned 27. Met at Curt's, painted our faces (ok, just Jason and I painted our faces), and marched the half mile to Debbie's house carrying lit tiki torches. Alarmed many neighbors and heard at least one mumble "well that's something different." Surprised Debbie, then cooked shish-ka-bobs on the grill and Cari clogged her sink. But then unclogged it.
+ Sunday morning. Woke up way too early to drive over to Braeswood to take photos with Holden at the first ever Stepping Stones 5K/10K. Was harassed by Steeeve, who used the PA system to publicly ask where Jose was. (Am thinking Jose is going to regret dating a girl who blogs and has a fairly large contingent that actually reads her blog.)
+ Sunday afternoon. Drove downtown for the second time in 6 hours to have lunch with Jo at Empire Cafe. Wish Jo still lived here. She is fun.
+ Sunday night. Soccer game. Hot hot hot. We lost. One girl butt-bumped me, fell down, then acted upset when the ref didn't call a foul. HA HA -- He saw you do the butt bump, chica.
+ Thought about watching the movies we rented on Friday and didn't watch. Still too tired. Fell asleep before 11:00.
+ In the few hours between all that, I did homework. Still have a bunch left to do. So, so glad that tomorrow is the last day of class.
I am far too busy for my own good and feeling rather guilty about neglecting the boyfriend. And suddenly, sadly, it is Monday.