Saturday, June 30, 2007
When Jose goes out of town, I have nothing to do but blog, apparently.
Over the Christmas holiday of 2003, I made a t-shirt quilt using the race t-shirts from my first 30 races. The t-shirts had begun to pile up, and a quilt was a really fun project -- not to mention a good trip down memory lane. But it's been more than three years since then, and I've amassed far more race t-shirts. I don't even know the number, as I was too scared to count.
But today I narrowed down this:
To this, maybe 20% of what I started with:
I saved the t-shirts from big events like the marathon and half marathons, and saved a few just because I like the design. But the rest are gone! If you're looking for practically new t-shirts, check your local Goodwill, because I probably provided enough for the whole city. ;)
It begs the question: what do all my other running friends do with their own mass quantities of t-shirts?
Here's an idea: races could offer "with t-shirt" and "no t-shirt" registration options! Sure, it'd be another logistical detail, but having organized a race myself, I suspect that it would not be too hard to deal with, at least for smaller races. One of the hardest parts of ordering t-shirts is guessing how many you will actually need to account for race day registrations, and while this wouldn't change, it wouldn't be any harder of a decision if you let pre-registrants opt out of getting a shirt. You'd just assume that all race day participants will get a shirt and that's the price they pay for signing up late.
Now, some people, myself included, like a nicely designed t-shirt, and if the shirt design is nice, I'm always glad to have it. But so many races have ugly t-shirts! So here's the second part: races could publish the t-shirt design in advance to help people make their t-shirt or no t-shirt decision.
Now, I know the t-shirt is a big draw for some people, so races need to offer them. But I run so many races that I'd rather have $5 off the entry fee and just not get a shirt.
Something to think about. Perhaps the Yuri's Night 5K next year will allow this option!
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I did a long run this morning on the Seabrook trails.
Long, of course, is a relative term. When I trained for a marathon, my long run maxed out at 22 miles. Earlier this year while training for the Half Ironman, my long runs were the two Seabrook Half Marathons. But since the Charlotte Half Marathon in mid-April, I have only run 3-4 miles at any given point, so today's "long run" was a mere 5.1 miles.
I started just after 9:00, a little later than I'd planned but still early enough that the heat wasn't completely oppressive. The first three miles went well, and I followed the 11/1 run/walk pattern that I did on all my long runs this past winter -- 10:54, 11:24, 11:54. I slowed down over time, but that is typical of my running in the heat.
Mile 4 was horrible. I walked three times during that mile and the split showed it -- 12:12. I considered stopping at 4 and just walking the mile back to the car, but then I heard thunder. Woohoo!
I know, I shouldn't be excited about thunder, but in this case, it also meant that clouds rolled in to cover the sun, the "feels like" temperature dropped by 5-10 degrees, and it started to rain. I got all wet, but felt so much better with the slightly cooler air. I did the last mile at a much more respectable 11:34 and only the 11/1 pattern -- no extra walk breaks.
The summary? Summer heat and I just don't get along. It's frustrating to see my times slow so much, and it's hard for me to believe that I ran a 29:45 5K just a month ago. I just have to keep telling myself that even if I'm running super slow in the heat, the fact that I'm running at all will make me faster this fall.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Ever since I got my laptop two years ago, I've had a weird problem with Internet Explorer: images are pixellated and somewhat garbled. I've messed around with the IE settings but have been unable to fix it. It's only a problem in Internet Explorer. Firefox, as well as all other non-internet applications, look fine.
Does anyone have any idea how to fix this??
(Internet Explorer on the left, Firefox on the right. Actual size -- IE displays larger than Firefox. Note the "TAY" text and the bird's wingtip if you really want to see the pixellation.)
Update: Well obviously I hadn't tried an internet search in a while. I googled for a bit and found this solution. Hallelujah, IE doesn't look like doodoo anymore!
Friday, June 29, 2007
Jose left for Corpus Christi after work yesterday. I had to eat dinner alone, and watch the Astros game alone, and when I messed around on the computer aimlessly for more than an hour, there was no one to make fun of me. I'm so used to having him around that not having him there made me sad and lonely, so I guess it's official. I'm attached. It only took a year and a half. But then, you probably all knew that months ago.
Last night I joined the BAFT crew for an open water swim right here in Clear Lake. Well, not actually in Clear Lake, but in this area. Turns out there is a landowner off highway 96 in Kemah who has a sizable pond on his property and he has started to open it to swimmers in a similar way to how Twin Lakes operates. We had to sign a waiver and pay $5, but then we were free to hit the water.
One lap around the pond was ~600-650 yards as near as I can tell, and the water was much cleaner and clearer than most of the lakes I've swum in. No nasty algae or plant life, and visibility was at least a few feet. I did get nipped by the fish at first, which I did not like at all (due to my previously mentioned aversion to fish), but they stopped as soon as I started moving. I did two laps, without timing myself. The water was comfortable, if a little warm on top because of the sun. Perhaps I'll see if I can organize another outing for any bloggers who want to try open water swimming. Anybody interested?
I still can't believe I missed that baseball game.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
We had tickets for tonight's game. But Jen's parents are in town and she has a 4-week-old. Jason had a late sim at work. Jose is on his way to Corpus Christi for the weekend.
I had no one to go to the game with. So I sold our three tickets.
Three people sitting in our seats just saw Craig Biggio go 5-for-6 to not only hit #3000, but also 3001 and 3002. And then Carlos Lee won the game with a walk-off homer. But not just a homer. A walk-off grand slam.
And I sold our tickets.
I can't believe I missed this game.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
If I had more space (which, as previously mentioned in the "to buy or not to buy a house" discussion, I do not), I would seriously consider buying a treadmill. Though I professed in the past to hate the evil machines, I think it would do wonders to eliminate my uncanny ability to talk myself out of running because it's hot, or dark, or cold. When there's a treadmill staring at you, it's hard to come up with enough excuses. And running on a treadmill is better than not running at all.
Last night I was going to run, but Jose told me it was too hot and that I should go inside on the treadmill. I hesitated, but ended up doing what he suggested. I've been having so much trouble in the heat lately that a relaxed run that didn't involve me ending up nauseated sounded like a great idea. Into the gym I went. I hopped on the treadmill and set the speed at 5 mph. While that sounded horribly slow, it felt very comfortable, so I resolved that I wouldn't worry about my speed (especially since I always run a little slower on the treadmill for reasons I've yet to figure out) and would just run relaxed. After a bit, I upped the speed. After another bit, I upped the speed another notch. But I never sped up too much, and ended up doing 4 miles in about 46 minutes. There's a part of me that's disappointed that I didn't push harder, but there's also a part of me thinking that I probably don't do enough of that type of run. The relaxed, no worries run.
I did discover a new "feature" of the Gilruth treadmills: they've programmed such that you can't set a time of more than 30 minutes. I understand their reasoning, as they limit use of any of the cardio machines (treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes) to no more than 30 minutes. But the sign specifically says no more than 30 minutes during peak hours. It does not specifically say what peak hours are, so I have always operated under the assumption that if I reach 30 minutes and there are people waiting, I will stop. But if there are open treadmills, then I can keep going. Which I did last night. After having to reset the program. Hmph.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
To buy or not to buy a house. It's a good question, and I've been thinking about it for at least a year. Last fall, I said I'd probably buy a house this summer. But summer is here and I am not house-hunting.
There are many reasons to buy a house. I want more space. I want my space. I want to actually have enough room to invite people over for dinner and movie-watching, I want to live in a nice comfy neighborhood. I want to be able to run from my house without worrying about getting hit by traffic on the major road next door. I won't say that I want to be better off financially, because the houses don't here just don't appreciate fast enough to say that buying a house is definitely a better investment.
But there are many reasons to stay in an apartment (or at least to remain a renter). My lease is up in August, which means I'll have to renew for 6 months, which means the soonest I'd move into a house (without suffering penalties) is February. And a big factor is that I don't know what I'll be doing past 2010. When the shuttle program ends, I don't know if I'll stay with NASA. There's a chance -- I don't know how big of a chance, but it's not extremely far-fetched -- that I will be preparing to leave Houston within the next three years. Right now my rent is fairly reasonable, my apartment complex is nice, and I can afford to sock away a pretty good chunk into savings each month.
So one day I decide that I'm going to start looking. And the next day I decide to stay put. And that's pretty much what I've been doing for a few months.
For the first time, I am having to consider the space shuttle launch schedule while trying to plan a vacation. This is no fun. See, we want to go to Japan. But STS-120 is scheduled for launch on October 20 and STS-122 is scheduled for December 6. I am working both launches, and Jose is working the entire October mission. Our proposed trip dates are in mid-November. Right now, 120 would land sometime around the first of November. But the more it slips, the more it pushes toward our first choice of vacation dates. Of course, it hasn't slipped, and hopefully won't slip. But it could.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
A few months ago, I told Mom that when she came to visit, we could go look at houses. Then I got scared and have yet to actually make a move towards buying a house other than wistfully thinking about what I would do with all the extra space.
Last night as we were waiting for Jose to get out of class so we could go to dinner, Mom suggested that we drive around to a couple of the neighborhoods that I like, just so she could see what I'm interested in getting whenever I do finally decide to buy. Depending on how you look at it, this was either a very good or very bad idea, as it made me start thinking more seriously about a house again. Since the neighborhood I visit most often is South Shore -- only 10-15 years old and thus still rather plain-looking -- I had forgotten that there are some really nice, comfortable, homey neighborhoods in Clear Lake. Neighborhoods with trees and shade and all sorts of unique houses that remind me of the neighborhood I grew up in.
Maybe I do want a house... Jason just bought a house, I can do it too...
Over the weekend, the coordinator of the scholarship that I had while at Georgia Tech created a Google group for those of us that were freshman in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Yesterday he sent out an email asking what everyone is up to, and a dozen people have already responded. I would be annoyed by all the emails, if it wasn't so interesting to hear what everyone is doing now! I haven't seen most of these people since graduation. Now they are all over the country doing all sorts of cool things and popping out all sorts of kids.
We really are adults now. Wow.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Mom decided that we needed to do a least one educational/historical activity while she was in town, so yesterday we headed over to see Battleship Texas. It's docked (probably feet deep in silt by this point) right off the Houston Ship Channel and next to the San Jacinto Monument. While I'm sure this area of town was much different years ago when the Battle of San Jacinto took place, it's now devoted solely to making funny-smelling and probably toxic materials. Nothing like going to see a historic landmark nestled amidst chemical plants galore. Anyway.
As we learned, the Battleship Texas became the first memorial battleship museum in the country in 1948. It was commissioned in 1914 was, at that time, the most powerful weapon in the world. It saw action in both world wars, even though it was a pretty old ship by 1945, and was part of D-Day, as well as the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Only one person was ever killed in battle onboard, and the ship was surprisingly unscathed in both wars. It was decommissioned right after WWII and had been scheduled for use as target practice, but the people of Texas managed to buy the ship and bring it here in 1948.
It was a cool ship, and fun to visit. The big disappointment was that the engine room was closed -- the engines are National Engineering Historic Landmarks and we wanted to see them. But the rest of the ship was cool enough. A couple of the anti-aircraft guns on the deck still move, so Jose and I had a lot of fun aiming the gun and shouting things like "fire in the hole." Enjoy the photos...
I'm not sure that I can take much more of the Astros. Last night's game, though they managed to eke out a win, was the perfect example of the exercise in futility that their season has become. After losing the first two games of the series, they were up 7-3 in the 8th inning. But Rick White and Dan Wheeler each gave up 2 runs, and the game was tied. In the top of the 9th, the Astros somehow managed to score another 2 runs to make it 9-7 -- which Dan Wheeler promptly ruined again as he was inexplicably left in the game and gave up 2 solo home runs. The Astros somehow managed to score another 3 runs in the 10th to make it 12-9, and finally the bullpen was able to hold onto a lead to win the game. The worst part? Dan Wheeler got the win. The win! He got a blown save, and a win. What a chump.
After Biggio gets hit # 3000, I'm not sure how much more there will be to see this season.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Yesterday I took Mom along to BAFT's prediction run (an idea which I think they may have actually gotten from me when I told them about the similar run that BARC did two weeks ago!). The distance was 3 miles, so I predicted 32:30 -- just under 11:00 pace. Mom predicted 58 minutes for her walk time. It was humid, but thankfully the sun was hidden behind a good layer of clouds. I finished just over my prediction in 32:37 -- dang it, I took one too many quick walk breaks! Mom shattered her prediction, finishing in 51:03. She was really surprised. Maybe it was because Houston is so flat. Who knows.
We spent the rest of the day watching HGTV (Mom's favorite), doing some errands, watching The Pursuit of Happyness (good movie but you have to wait a long time for the payoff), and visiting Gavin, Jen and Carina. For the first time, Carina was actually awake when I saw her and it was very fun to watch the funny faces she was making. I held her until she got fussy, at which point Jen took her back and Carina immediately calmed down. I guess she already knows who her mom is!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Despite my lingering tendancy to be directionally challenged, what I've decided to call "Space Shuttle Pilot School" is going well. On Wednesday I had my first session in the dome. The dome consists of the shuttle's aft cockpit, with aft and overhead windows, and all the switches and controls just like the real shuttle. Surrounding the cockpit is a dome-shaped screen. There are projectors that show computerized views of whatever you'd expect to see out the window for the particular situation you're simulating -- a satellite, the earth, the space station, etc.
Let me just say that it is way cool to get to fly the fancy simulator. I almost feel like an astronaut! In our first session we practiced approaching a satellite on the Vbar (i.e. approaching from the front), stationkeeping on the Rbar (i.e. sitting stationary above it), and maneuvering to get the satellite in the end effector of the robot arm (i.e. seeing the satellite with the camera in the end of the arm and lining up to grab it).
Very fun. Those are the days when I love my job.
No running, biking, or swimming last night, but I did play softball. After going basically hitless for what seemed like weeks, I can now cautiously say that I may have turned a corner. Last week I went 3-for-4 and last night I went 2-for-3. After getting some advice from Matt, I have stepped a bit farther back in the batter's box and have stopped choking up on the bat. Seems to be working so far, and I find softball much more enjoyable when I'm not an automatic out.
Mom's flight arrived early, though the website hadn't indicated that and therefore I was 20 minutes late picking her up. We didn't get home until 11:30, so it was 12:45 before I got to bed. I'm sleepy!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
STS-117 is hopefully coming home today after a wild 'n crazy mission. The weather is cloudy with scattered storms in Florida though, so they may not make it in. I worked the launch, but I'm only a spectator for the landing. But speaking of the mission, here I am in the backroom watching the undocking on Tuesday. Those are the undocking procedures in my lap. We weren't even looking at the displays because at that point we were watching the pretty pictures on TV. ;)
Can you believe they didn't take any photos of the backroom during launch? Dang! My first mission, and I don't even have a record of me working it.
My mom arrives tonight for a 5 day visit, so I spent some time last night cleaning. Now my mom has known me for, oh, more than 29 years, so she knows that my apartment is always in a state of clutter. I organize by the "pile method." I have a lot of stuff, and I keep most of it neatly stacked in various piles around the room. She knows this, so I don't feel an overwhelming need to hide my piles.
I do, however, feel the need to clean things that have the potential to make her question how successful she was in raising me. (For the record, she was very successful.) This means wiping down the countertop in the bathroom, vacuuming the floor, putting fresh sheets on the bed, taking out the trash, and cleaning out the refrigerator.
I threw away everything in the fridge that was old or expired. I was left with what's in the photo. While it's not quite approaching bachelor level, it's certainly proof that I eat out far too much. I'd be hard-pressed to make a full meal out of anything in there. (Go to the Flickr page to see notes on what's in there.)
I skipped BAFT's bike-run workout last night in favor of a solid hour on the bike, since I hadn't ridden in three weeks. I left my apartment at 6:00 and did two laps around JSC plus a bit at the end to end up with 15.5 miles in about 57 minutes. I felt good on the first loop. I felt horrible on the second loop -- tired and slightly nauseous. The slightly nauseous feeling has been common lately. My best guess is that I'm just not totally adjusted to the hot weather yet. I've always had a tendency to overheat quickly, and as a kid I often got heat rash. My guess is that the stomach discomfort is just a touch of heat exhaustion. Whatever it is, I hope it's just a passing thing.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
So as you may have figured out by looking at my Flickr stream, I am on a vegetable-growing kick right now. It started with some basil seeds from Lowe's and ended up with two more trips to get already-sprouted tomato plants and more. I always thought that growing things was too hard, or that I just didn't have the talent. After all, I killed not one but two cactus plants in college.
Against all odds, my vegetables are growing like crazy! I have two tomato plants and a bell pepper plant. The cherry tomatoes and bell pepper are at Jose's apartment, where the balcony gets full sun for at least half of the day. I picked my first three tomatoes this week and they were TASTY. They were the early bloomers. The rest are still green. But I counted last night and I have 31 cherry tomatoes on the plant right now. 31! The bell peppers are growing as well, and I've got two big ones to show off.
I have a grape tomato plant at my own apartment, where it only gets about 2-3 hours of morning sun each day and is subjected to more wind. It's not doing nearly as well, but there are 3 tomatoes growing and I staked it the other day to hopefully keep it more protected from the wind. We'll see how it does. At some point I may take it to Jose's.
In other news, I ran 3.1 miles last night. It was supposed to be a tempo run, but only about 7 minutes were actually run at tempo pace because it was so damn hot. The entire run took 35:40, with a couple pauses to swig water. At the end, I felt like either throwing up or dying.
Also, it turns out that I pretty much suck so far at learning to fly the space shuttle.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
My good friend Chris got married on June 9 in Denver, and I couldn't be there because of the shuttle launch. I was pretty bummed. Chris and I have been friends since we met as co-ops in 1999 (I think) and while I was sad to see him leave Houston last year, at least it was to a lovely place like Denver, and to be with a lovely girl like his new wife Lisa.
He sent me a link to his photo album tonight so I could see all the pictures since I wasn't there in person. Everything looked beautiful, but there was one photo that stood out.
That is officially the coolest cake I have ever seen. I wish I'd gotten to taste it!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
After watching the space shuttle perform a successful undocking, flyaround, and separation, and enjoying some really spectacular video of the whole thing, I had lunch with a bunch of people, including Jen and Carina! It was the first time I got to see Carina since the hospital. She looks a little bigger, but that might just be me. She slept the whole time, but opened her eyes a couple times to yawn or let out a cry. I tried to take a photo, but both camera batteries I had were dead. I know -- impossible but true.
Photo or no photo, Carina is super cute.
Last night I did indeed go swimming. I'd planned to go all out and do 2000 yards, but I was running late and didn't make it into the water until 6:32. That left 28 minutes for me to do as much as possible before the old ladies took over the pool for their water aerobics class! At a moderate pace, I managed to get in 1500 yards, the last 300 coming while one man was jumping the gun and pulling up the lane ropes all around me. I had my defense ready -- a short and sweet "lap swim goes until 7:00, therefore I'll get out of the pool at 7:00" -- but I didn't have to use it. I can always tell when I haven't been swimming enough, because my arms get tired more quickly. I reached around to scratch my shoulder blade today and could feel soreness in my shoulders.
Tonight I'm running with the Bay Area Fit Tri folks at 6:00 p.m. The heat index is currently 101, which scares me. It's gonna be a rough run.
In other news, I'm still dealing with a lot of emails with questions about the new HARRA website, and my patience is starting to evaporate at a rapid rate. Yesterday I got an email from a man in Jackson, Mississippi. He got a confirmation email from the new site for someone with the same first initial and last name. The person obviously put in the incorrect email address when they signed up. Who doesn't know their own email address??
After this experience, I will always think twice before firing off an irate email to someone I don't know. For all I know, the person I'm emailing in frustration to tell them that the new way is too complicated and that I preferred the old way might be volunteering her time to try to make things better down the road.
At least I've gotten two or three positive emails. My favorite was from the guy who said he loved the new look of the website, but could I please adjust the "current Houston weather" box on the main page to read 10-15 degrees cooler with a lot less humidity?
If only, man. If only...
Monday, June 18, 2007
Blah. Sigh. Ugh. Funk.
I'm in a funk.
Without whining too much, I will say that I am tired of:
I need to make some changes, but I'm fairly deep in the funk and don't know where to start. But I'll try to jumpstart things will a swim tonight. No ifs, ands, buts. I'm swimming. If you don't read about swimming tomorrow...I don't know. Go throw me in a pool or something.
I did have a very nice weekend in Corpus Christi with Jose and his family. On Saturday we visited the USS Lexington and had a lot of fun despite the heat. (Imagine the sun radiating off the deck of an aircraft carrier. H.O.T.) We also saw Ocean's 13, which was far more enjoyable than the second movie. Yesterday we'd planned to leave at 1:00 but didn't get out of town until almost 4:00. To make things more enjoyable, we decided to take the scenic route back to Houston and drove along the coast and through all sorts of picturesque Texas towns. If it hadn't already been getting late, I would've had Jose make plenty of stops along the way for photo-taking. Small towns are neat, and Texas can actually be pretty.
Friday, June 15, 2007
My sister and brother-in-law have bought a house in Seattle, a mere month after moving there. I found out last night, as Jose and I were sitting around relaxing, web surfing, and watching TV.
My reaction: "Oh my God. I'm 29 years old, I'm unmarried, and I still live in an apartment. My sister is 24 years old, has already been married for two years, and just bought a house. What's wrong with me? Waaaaaaah."
Jose's reaction: "Cool, there'll be a guest room for us when we go visit!"
That, my friends, is the difference between men and women.
The space station is having some very serious problems this week with their computers. I'm not involved in working them, because 1) I am a shuttle person and 2) I'm not qualified to do any rendezvous or separation analysis yet, but tons of people are finding themselves working on things they never expected to think about. As such, I am headed to Corpus for the weekend as planned, with fierce hopes that the problems will be resolved by the time I get back.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Ok, what gives? Why have plane ticket prices suddenly gone through the roof? Is it the higher gas cost? What? My mom is coming to visit next week and the cheapest reasonable ticket I could find was $350. Now I'm trying to find a ticket to Boston in mid-July and I could get it for $260...if I left Sunday morning at 5:35 a.m.! Any reasonable times are $350 or more. Suck.
The first lesson in "how to fly the space shuttle" was on the DST. I don't actually know what DST stands for. (Dynamic Systems Trainer? That's an educated guess.) Anyway, the DST is a computer that's hooked up to the translational and rotational hand controllers (i.e. the sticks) so that you can practice flying the shuttle. It's like a shuttle on a desk top.
First of all, I probably should not have attempted to do anything that required serious thought yesterday, as I am still recovering from my cold-that-strangly-had-no-associated-congestion-just-the-achiness-and-general-malaise and as such, my head has been very fuzzy. Trying to fly the space shuttle with a very fuzzy head is hard. I found it very difficult to concentrate.
Secondly, I am going to have to get a little space shuttle model and label it with the +X, +Y, and +Z axes and sleep with the darn thing under my pillow in hopes of learning through osmosis what the body coordinate system is, because I can't for the life of me remember it. For the record, +X is out the nose, +Y is out the right wing, and +Z is through the belly.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
So the iPhone comes out on June 29. This is all well and good, and I'll be curious to see who will be the first person I know to get one. (Potentially me, due to my love of all things tech, but thus far I have remained immune to the iPhone's charms.) But here's my stupid question -- what cell phone service does it work with? I've done a cursory look through the webpage and I can't find the answer to that simple question. What service is going to offer the iPhone? I remember hearing rumors that it was Cingular (which I guess is now AT&T). But I can't find any confirmation. It seems like that's a key detail that is missing...
Today I get to start in the "How To Fly The Space Shuttle" training flow. It's the training flow that all pilot astronauts take, and as a future Rendezvous GPO, I get to take it as well so that I understand both how the vehicle flies and what the astronauts are doing when they're flying it. When I'm done with the training, I'll be certified to fly the space shuttle, just like any other pilot astronaut. So if, you know, they ever need me...I'll be ready!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Well, I didn't get into this year's New York Marathon. Oddly, I am actually disappointed. I guess that means I wanted to do it, despite my uncertainty when I spoke about it a few weeks ago. Maybe I'll aim for the Seattle Marathon on November 25, possibly with my sister. The only problem is that it's Thanksgiving weekend...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
1) I'm home sick today with a cold. I felt crappy while running Sunday but better the rest of the day. Felt sort of sick-ish yesterday. Feel a little more sick-ish today. I always feel slightly guilty when I take a sick day. I think the feeling dates back to elementary school and always trying for perfect attendance. I guess I should just be glad this didn't hit me last week. If it had, I'd have infected the entire ascent team because there was no way I would've missed that launch.
2) There's a new little site called This Day in Type where you design the date in your choice of font and style. I thought it was a neat idea, so I submitted an entry for June 8, launch day. Mine got selected over three other entries! I was just too busy to mention it until now.
3) I finally have revived my photoblog, but it's in a new location. Enjoy salcantay.net!
Monday, June 11, 2007
Yesterday I ran the BARC Prediction Run. I predicted that I'd cover the 5K distance in 32:00. I know I ran 29:45 a week ago, but I didn't want to go all out because it was hot, and I wasn't feeling that great. I figured I'd feel better once I started running. WRONG. I got through the first mile ok, and I'd guess at about 9:30 pace. But then I fell apart. My head hurt. My legs hurt. Every time I started running, I felt nauseous. When I walked, it went away. So I spent the next two miles running and walking and running and walking some more. I finally crossed the finish line barely jogging, and told Joe (who was timing) that I didn't even want to know. I predicted 35 or 36 minutes. I felt horrible.
Turns out I ran 34:15. I ran 4.5 minutes slower than a mere week earlier, which sucks, but 34:15 is actually faster than I thought I'd run, so there was a silver lining. And everybody got to take home something. I ended up with a pink BARC long sleeve tech tee. Not bad!
I feel even worse today though. Not sure what's going on. My throat feels weird, and my head is all stuffy. But I'm not congested. And yet I'm tired -- despite having slept from 10:00 last night to 8:00 this morning. I had a long week and came in yesterday to watch the shuttle/station rendezvous -- which was so nominal that it would've been boring if it hadn't been real -- so maybe I've just picked up a bug.
Jose and I are heading to Corpus this weekend. It'll be nice to get out of town.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I overslept this morning and missed BAFT's 25-mile ride. I guess I was pretty worn out after the long week and the excitement of last night.
I'm so happy today. Last night I finally got to be where I wanted to be. I'm not sure I actually realized that until the engines stopped, I heard "MECO confirmed," and I slumped in my chair, letting out the breath that I swear I'd been holding for the entire eight and a half minutes since engine ignition. But I was right where I wanted to be, even if it took 5 years to get there.
I don't know if I'll stay at NASA when the shuttle stops flying, and I don't have any idea what kind of career I might have going on in another 5 years. But last night was awesome.
I arrived on console at 11:00 and though I didn't leave until almost 8:00, it felt like no more than a couple hours. The first few hours were calm. I didn't have any immediate actions since everything had already been fully checked out the day before, so I spent the time organizing my data and reviewing all of my procedures, with special attention to the particularly complicated cases. I couldn't help but think that while everything was likely to go extremely nominally, I certainly didn't want to be the weak link on the one day that something did go wrong. I got my brain up to speed and working and felt much more confident.
Around 3:00, we got the final numbers on how much oxygen and hydrogen was actually loaded into the external tank. The actual numbers are always slightly different than the predicted numbers, and I have to make some adjustments to the ARD to account for that.
An hour and a half later, there was another flurry of activity as we got the final updates to the ascent trajectory. The first stage trajectory, before the SRBs are jettisioned, actually changes based on the winds and atmosphere in Florida as measured by weather balloons. Those last-minute trajectory changes have to get into the ARD as well.
Nex thing I knew, we were coming out of the T-9:00 hold! As the countdown neared zero, my heart was pounding so hard that I could hear it in my ears. If I'd been wearing a heart rate monitor, I'm sure it would have read 120 or more. I was certain I was going to have a heart attack right then and there!
I stared at my displays, watching the numbers, making sure they all were what I expected. There was a TV right in my peripheral vision tuned to NASA TV, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the flash of the engines lighting at liftoff.
Inside my head, I was incredulous. "Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap!" went my internal monologue. "This is for real! Holy crap!"
At 20 seconds, we got the indication of how the SRBs were performing via a TDEL, or time measurement between when we expect to reach a given velocity and when we actually do. Anything between -0.21 and 0.21 is nominal, and every time we saw a nominal value in the pre-flight sims, it was 0.072. It's just a peculiarity of the sim that it always shows the same number for nominal.
Yesterday that number was 0.112. For a moment, I scrambled, scanning my chart to see how our throttles would change because the SRBs were a bit hotter than expected. But wait! 0.112 is less than 0.21! It's a nominal bucket! I made my call: "Nominal bucket." The engines throttled down, and back up, and all was well except the pounding in my chest.
The SRBs separated and I made my standard checks. Our targets were good, and the OMS Assist started as scheduled. We looked at the thrust update calculation, which gives us a measure of how the shuttle is performing compared to our model of it, and it was -2, with a thrust update of -99. "Go flag -2," I called. Pound, pound, pound went my heart.
The thrust trend continued to go slightly down, and I called TRAJ to make him aware of it. We only shared a few words, but as I pointed out a minor correction to something he'd said, suddenly, something clicked inside my head.
It no longer felt like a real launch. It felt like a sim! A very nominal sim.
My heart rate slowed down immediately. I fell into my normal rhythm. And everything after that was cake.
"MECO confirmed." I sat back in my chair, let out a big breath, smiled, and turned to my mentor, who had been there the whole day as an observer, standard procedure for someone working their first flight.
"That just made everything worth it."
Friday, June 08, 2007
Successful launch, and the ARD was go. ;)
Full recap tomorrow...
Friday, June 08, 2007
It's launch day!
A year and a half ago, I began training to work space shuttle launches. Six months ago I certified. And today, I'll work my first mission.
I'm so excited!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
It has been a week of many activities. Preparing for a space shuttle launch during the day. Getting the new HARRA website up and running at night. I'm even done with my new photoblog, which I'll post a link to very soon. And I'm only one chapter away from finishing the book that I've been slowly working on for months.
We should launch every week. Apparently it makes me super productive!
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
If you are having issues with the HARRA website and came here looking for info, allow me:
The domain is being transferred and is currently propagating through the wild and crazy world of the Internet. For the next couple days, going to harra.org could take you to the old site, or it could take you to the new site. Here are some hard links for use during the transition.
Old Website - http://site371.mysite4now.com/harra
New Website - http://www.memberize.com/955dir
At the moment, harra.org might take you to the new membership portal, which is confusing to some people. Read the info there and follow the links to get to the new website or to renew your membership.
Soon, harra.org will take you directly to the new site.
Once the domain has finished propagating, an email will be sent to all HARRA members explaining all the changes and what you need to do.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Wanna see what I look like when I'm running as hard as I can maintain? Well, here's my race photo from the Heights 5K. I think this may be close to the finish, when I was basically gasping for air. Attractive, right? Ugh.
I joined three of the BAFT coaches tonight for a tempo run in Walter Hall Park. We met at 6:00, which was perfect timing -- I finished my work for the day at 5:30 -- and also horrible timing -- it was hot. Steamy. To be honest, it wasn't that bad compared to what I know the temperatures will be like a month from now, but still. Hot.
A lap around the park is about 1.2 miles, and we were scheduled to do a 40 minute tempo run, so that lined up pretty well -- a lap of warmup, a lap at tempo pace, and a lap of cooldown. The tempo lap was done at 9:37 average pace. I started out faster and slowed down at the end as the heat really started to get to me. I walked for a minute to catch my breath before starting my cooldown lap. I find it very hard to go from fast running immediately to cooldown running -- I always feel like I need to walk, catch my breath, let my heart rate come down a bit, and then start a slow cooldown jog. I don't know if that's ok or not, but it's what I do.
Since the launch is in the evening, I thought about signing up for the Tejas Tri on Sunday but decided not to push things. Instead, I'll stay closer to home and do the BARC Pay-Your-Dues Prediction Run on Sunday morning. I'm looking forward to it. I've never done a prediction run, so it'll be interesting to see how close I get to my expected time without any watches or Garmins to use during the run. And it'll be nice to meet some more BARC folks.
For the first time in two and a half years, I've been thinking of doing another marathon. I entered the lottery for the New York Marathon in November, so there's already a slim possibility that I'll get picked for that one. If not, I'll be looking for an interesting race in the January/February time frame. I could do Houston again, of course. I already registered for the Houston Half Marathon, and I could just switch to the full if I decide to go for it. But I can't shake the feeling that if I'm going to do another 26.2, I should do it somewhere new.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Today is L-4. Four days to the launch of STS-117. Four days until I work my first shuttle ascent. And four days to do a huge amount of work that involves setting, checking, and rechecking flight-critical data. It's really not possible to get much of a jump on things -- products are delivered according to a set schedule, and one product leads into the next such that we go through periods of waiting for data followed by periods of concentrating hard to get that data where it needs to be.
Someone is always working. By Friday, everyone will be always working.
Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that I can't do everything. Because I'm the kind of person that wants to do everything. It never seems to fail: when I am busiest, there is always something else that I wish I had time for. I really want to be able to work my first rendezvous sim tomorrow, even though I have been told by multiple people that I really need to set aside this entire week for launch preparation. My mentor, while giving me final instructions before leaving on vacation this week (which I will take as a sign that he trusts me to do things right, not that he thinks I am beyond hope), explicity said to me: "If anything non-flight related comes up next week, just say no. Seriously. Say no."
I didn't tell him that I had already agreed to work the rendezvous sim tomorrow. A generic rendezvous sim that lasts for 8 hours and has nothing to do with the mission.
This morning we had our last ascent sim before the flight on Friday. The sim itself went ok, but I managed to royally screw up the database by making what I thought was a very simple change. It was fixable, and we fixed it, but it left me frazzled. Then I started talking to the others, discussing when certain products will be delivered for me to use in the scripts and processes I have to have completed by the end of Wednesday. A couple products will be available later this afternoon. A major product won't be available until tomorrow.
And finally -- finally! -- I realized that trying to work a rendezvous sim tomorrow is just about the dumbest thing I could possibly do this week. I need to be focusing my full concentration on this launch, not a generic sim. A sim is just a sim. I wanted to work it badly, because it would have been my first rendezvous sim. My first sim in my new job.
But this launch is the real deal. I can't afford to not be thinking about it.
I don't know why I didn't just listen to what everyone was telling me in the first place. Sometimes I just really want to have the cake and eat it too. Cake can be refrigerated and saved for a little later, right?
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Here's a photo of me and Carina that Gavin took last week when we went to visit her. She is moving out of the NICU (appears to have been a big false alarm) and might go home with Gavin and Jen tomorrow! Hooray!
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Heights 5K Race Report
I ran the Heights 5K in 29:45. That's my fastest 5K since December 2003, and less than 30 seconds off my PR. My splits were 8:57, 9:41, 10:07 and 1:01 according to Garmin, but Garmin measured slightly long at 3.13 miles so the actual splits were a bit different. Mile 3 was slower, and the last tenth was faster. I started fast and spent the last mile just trying to hang on. My average heart rate was 196. I had to walk for a handful of 20-second bits in the last mile to catch my breath. It was all I could do to keep going. But I made it.
It was all thanks to June. I would not have run sub-30 without June. Heck, I wouldn't even have shown up to the race in the first place if it weren't for June. That's why it really really, really sucks that June didn't make sub-30 due to injury. But she's the reason I made it. Couldn't have done it without her.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Miracle of miracles: the Astros won. They won big. Every single starter except the pitcher had at least one hit. The leadoff and second hitters went 7-for-10. Lance Berkman hit a home run. El Caballo did his thing. Hunter Pence tried to stretch a double into a triple because he's just so dang excited to be in the bigs. All in all it was a great game, and hopefully the start of a 10-game winning streak.
Last night I submitted my entry for Houstonist's 600 sq mi photo exhibition. I haven't been very active in my photo-taking lately, but the contest didn't require that photos be recent. I had six that I really liked, but the limit was three, so I had to choose. Here were the original six. I don't want to be second-guessed on which three I submitted so I'm not going to say, but feel free to say which 3 are your favorites, because I'm honestly curious.
Art League of Houston, Inversion House, 2005
Ballunar Festival, 2006
In Minds, Hobby Center, 2005
Johnson Space Center, 2005
Season Finale, Minute Maid Park, 2006
Ballunar Festival, 2006
Which three are your favorites?