December 08, 2007

Scrubbed

Atlantis_upright,_August_29,_2006.jpgUpdate 9:30 am Sunday: The launch of Atlantis STS-122 has been delayed until January at the earliest (more from MSNBC). Fortunately, my ticket is still good for regular admission so I'll probably go tour Kennedy later this week. Plenty of photos to come.

Update 7:25 am Sunday: I was up at 6:20 am this morning in order to arrive at Kennedy Space Center before they close the gates. I've been monitoring the NASA control center audio feed and after announcing that one of the four fuel sensors has failed during fill a little after 7 am, they have scrubbed today's launch. The revised rules required that all four sensors work properly for a launch. More from CNN.

Every once in a while I'll come across something that almost makes living in Florida worth it. This time it's the space program two hours east of Tampa over at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. On Thursday, Shuttle Atlantis (STS-122 in NASA terms) was due to launch in order to deliver a European-built science laboratory called Columbia to the International Space Station (Atlantis is shown in the photos). The Thursday launch was scrubbed because two of the four fuel level sensors failed prior to launch. From what I can gather, it would be like driving your car on a road trip and you can't tell when your gas is getting low because the indicator is broken. Except with Atlantis the malfunction could mean disaster. The Atlantis rocket has four such fuel sensors and the program currently requires that three of the four work properly.

I found out yesterday that NASA was aiming for a Saturday afternoon launch so I decided to buy a ticket to be able to watch from the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. As is my luck, a few hours after I bought my ticket online the launch was scrubbed again and moved to Sunday afternoon. My ticket is still good though and unless something else happens I'll be driving over to Cape Canaveral to experience a once in a lifetime thing. If it's scrubbed again, the team has until December 13 to launch before it has to wait until next year (when I'm long gone). Worst case scenario my ticket is still good for the whole Kennedy Space Center tour.

Point of the story, I've become a space junkie literally overnight and while I don't know how long it will last I'm hoping I get to see a shuttle lunch in my lifetime. No telling the future of NASA and the space program, or how long we'll have an non-militarized space to launch in to.

Here are some links I've been visiting frequently.
NASA Shuttle page (latest official info)
Kennedy Space Center
Spaceflight Now (really up-to-date info about the launches)
A photographer's website about viewing launches
Read about the crew in this NY Times story.

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Posted by Will at 12:58 PM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2007

No love from Delta or the Northeast

My return from North Carolina to Tampa tops the list of the most frustrating flying experience so far. Normally I fly Southwest between Tampa and Raleigh, but this Spring Break was a little different because I was hitting Chicago last weekend and flying directly into Wilmington to spend this past week with my girlfriend. Going against her suggestion, I decided to use Delta for the trip because it's one of the two airlines that flies into Wilmington (the other being US Airways). Well, thanks to the bad weather in the north many of the Delta flights that go through Atlanta were canceled, and I was told the earliest I could leave was Tuesday morning. Normally I would be thankful for an opportunity to stay in NC longer, but since my girlfriend left for Indianapolis this morning, I had to get moving. So Delta bought me a $180 taxi cab ride from Wilmington to Raleigh where I'm sitting now, waiting to fly out later this afternoon to arrive in Tampa at 2:30. Frustrating enough, but the ironic thing is that I was just in Raleigh yesterday visiting family.

My countdown timer in the right sidebar isn't moving fast enough...

Posted by Will at 08:56 AM

February 24, 2007

Florida's Undeground Weirdness Magnet

There's a piece in the St. Petersburg Times this morning that puts into words what I've been thinking for over a year now: Florida is weird. Consider, for example, the recent headlines of Lisa Nowak, the NASA astronaut who drove from Texas to Orlando to confront a lover's lover, the Anna Nicole Smith drama down in Ft. Lauderdale, and a middle school principal right here in Tampa who bought crack from an undercover cop right in his office. Remember Debra Lafave, the would-be attractive Tampa teacher except for the fact that she molested one of her students? That happened before I moved to Tampa but apparently she is a waitress somewhere in the area. Politically, there was Mark Foley from Palm Beach who had creepy chats with young congressional pages. Palm Beach County can also be blamed for the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Some stories are just plain shameful and embarrassing, like when the entire country converged on Pinellas Park (just across the bay from me) and refused to let Terry Schiavo die in peace.

The media carries a lot of the blame. They latched on to the fact that Lisa Nowak was wearing a diaper when she drove from Texas to Florida. Um, fine, but what about all the murdering tools in her car? That seems of more consequence to the story than a diaper. Similarly, the media seemed to be seduced by Lavave's good looks. How could such a pretty woman have sex with such a young boy? Oh, by the way, that's illegal and stuff but she's so pretty!" And nothing needs to be said about the circus in Ft. Lauderdale.

My point is that strange things happen in every state of our union. Florida does seem to get its unfair share of weirdos and oddball stories, but the media who controls the flow of information from this state does nothing to help Florida's image. One could argue that Florida is a strange place by virtue of its large population. I think it's more than that. Carl Hiaasen, an author and columnist for the Miami Herald pretty much hits the nail right on its weird, strange, whacked-out head:

"This is a place where people come, and they're either running away from something or running after something," Hiaasen once said. "It's not where a stable, honest person comes. ... Anybody who lives here is just teetering on the brink of lunacy. And once you get used to the fact that you live in such an exuberant cesspool, then the art can begin."

I like to think that I'm a stable, honest person but after almost two years of living in Florida, I'm starting to second guess myself. Dave Barry, in a brilliant column in Friday's Miami Herald, believes that there is a giant Underground Weirdness Magnet:

"It's buried here somewhere," he wrote in his weekly column that ran Friday. "It has to be. How else can you explain why so many major freak-show news stories either happen, or end up, in South Florida?"

Posted by Will at 11:29 AM

January 11, 2007

Gator

Enjoy this photo of one of the two gators that live in the lake behind my apartment here in Tampa. And this guy or gal is the smaller of the two!

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Posted by Will at 01:32 PM

December 10, 2006

Go fish

I was treated to an incredible fishing trip with my buddy down at his parents' home in Boca Grande, FL this weekend, a well deserved end to a long semester. Not being a huge fisherman myself, I ended up catching the biggest fish of my career. I am now the sheepshead's worst enemy.

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Posted by Will at 12:58 PM

December 05, 2006

The Sandhill Crane of Florida: 4-foot-tall beauty

crane2.jpgOne of the more exciting aspects of living in Florida is the wildlife (indeed, one of the only things I like about the state). My apartment overlooks a small lake and when I look out of my back porch I get to see all kinds of cool stuff, including an alligator that lives nearby. One beautiful bird, the Sandhill Crane (scientific name Grus canadensis), has been making an occasional appearance on the banks of the lake out back and most recently right next to my car in the front parking lot. Apparently these guys (and girls, I presume) are harmless unless provoked, but even then they seem pretty docile, just walking along minding their own business as if being a 4-foot-tall bird with an attractive red head was no big deal. I have yet to capture them on film myself, but will try next time they're hanging around.

Well, someone has to go and try to ruin one of the few redeeming aspects of the Tampa Bay area and cut off the legs of these magnificent creatures for a reason only fathomable to the moron who cut them off. The St. Pete Times is reporting that Sandhill Cranes are being tortured in a Pasco County subdivision. Incidents have occurred elsewhere. As if it wasn't bad enough that we are encroaching on their habitat, someone has to rub it in their faces. It's akin to someone busting down your door, drinking all your beer, and then punching you in the nuts just for the heck of it. I promise you although Florida is one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse states in the country it is home to one species that I wouldn't mind seeing going extinct, Gigantus idiotsis (common name: big idiot).

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More about the Sandhill Cranes from Houghton Mifflin and Wikipedia.
Nature photos from birdsphoto.com.

Posted by Will at 12:40 AM

August 12, 2006

Lowry Park Zoo

Now that I am all moved in to my new apartment, my father and I decided to take in the Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa. It was a hot day, but the zoo turned out to be excellent with some great up-close encounters with the animals (especially the giraffes). You can find the entire collection of photos on my Flickr page.

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Posted by Will at 02:32 PM