Confessions of a Space Geek

As long as I can remember, I have been a space geek. I was the kid in elementary school who the teachers asked about space travel.

I was six when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth. Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, even Scott Carpenter were household names for me. I stayed up late one Sunday night when Neil Armstrong made his one small step. I would have stayed up till Monday morning at oh dark thirty to watch those crude televised images. (You would think NASA could have sprung for a color camera…)

A little of me died when the Challenger blew up and the Columbia crashed.

So naturally, I watched with great interest the National Geographic Channel’s Live from Space, which aired last night. The 2 hour live program followed the International Space Station through slightly more than an orbit, 250 miles high.

The host of the program, Soledad O’Brien, had the good sense to let the astronauts do the talking. And let the visuals speak for themselves. The geek in me thrills when I see human beings floating in space. The program demonstrated what a unique environment the ISS is. The walls are chock full of instruments and computers and experiment packages.

The crew members, both on orbit and on Earth, talked repeatedly about what fun zero gravity is. They occasionally performed somersaults, effortlessly.

One small thing I noticed–the microphone. A commonplace item in showbiz, but in sero g, an amazing thing. Psssing the mike on earth is a bit like running a relay, but in space, you simply let go of it, do something spacey like opening a freezer, and then grab it back. If you did that on Earth, the mike would be on the floor. (I have read that when space travelers return to Earth, they find it hard to undo this process; one poor fellow “parked” his grocery bag in midair while shopping.)

But, fittingly, the real star of the show was the Earth, gliding patiently outside the windows. Here all the spacetalk cliches (fantastic, phenomenal, awesome) fail us. We are left with wonder. ( I wonder if the astronauts get so close to the window that they leave a nose smudge, as children do. Probably not–it’s an undisciplined thing to do, and astronauts are disciplined.)


Gratitude x 10

Today is my 59th birthday, one day before Thanksgiving. I believe in the spiritual principle of gratitude, so here goes…

I am grateful for…

1. My clean and serene (well serene is optional some days) time, without which any gratitudes would be hollow.

2. A nice apartment within my budget.

3. A live and beating heart. (Long may it wave!)

4. My freedom.

5. My extended family (Dad, brother, and Sis)

6. My friends on Facebook and Shutterchance.

7. My bundle of cat love, Miss Kai.

8. My writing ability.

9. My recently completed cooking class that slowly unfolds new horizons beyond store-bought (and slightly radioactive) mac and cheese.

10. My small-but-powerful church.

I challenge all who read this to make their own gratitude list. Odds are you will feel better. Enjoy your turkey/terducken/tofu Day!


… as opposed to trivia. This blog is intended as a celebration of small things, but sometimes big things crop up.

Such as the pain in my chest. I have not yet been diagnosed as having a heart condition, but I probably do. I am almost 59 and not in the best of shape. Neglect has consequences.

So I will see an IM and a cardiologist this week, and hopefully learn more. In the meantime, I have a little bottle of nitro pills to relieve the pain. They work, and I am glad of that. I have the love and prayers of my family, and I am most grateful for them.

I am supplementing my poor diet with healthy stuff like whole wheat and fruits. I have been taking a nutrition class… and that is no coincidence.

Still… the good Lord speaks of the peace that passes all understanding. I get anxious, but I have that peace, down in my soul. I have my church family, and prayers, and for today, that is enough.

Simple Pleasures Are the Best

A random list of some of the not-so-dramatic things I enjoy:

1. Stroking my cat.

2. Praying as I walk.

3. Pop-Tarts

4. Delaying my get-up time because the bed is cozy.

5. Playing Skip-Bo with my friends.

6. Taking pictures of rotting leaves and peeling paint.

7. Writing in my blog.

8. Putting on the headphones and listening to Marshall Crenshaw. (Haven’t heard of him? Check YouTube.)

9. Jaye’s cat Prince who sits in my lap.

10. 1950s monster movies.

11. Driving. (Okay, so maybe that’s a complex pleasure. So sue me.)

In praise of my cat…

This is not the web’s most original topic, but since this is my blog…

I chose Kai, my cat, from her picture on the Internet. She was living at the ASPCA shelter. It’s not the first time a pretty face has swayed me. She is a lovely creature: a mix of grey tabby with brown highlights.

Right now she is sleeping in my half-full laundry basket. Cat persons don’t mind a little fur on their clothing. My brother’s cat loves to sleep on piles of clothing straight from the dryer. He puts out the warm clothes on the living room carpet for easy access.

Kai is a furry adventurer. Her goal is to get inside every space normally closed off. The sound of the door opening under the bathroom sink brings her running. Race car drivers should have such reflexes.

Another target of opportunity is my feet when they stick out of the covers. At any second, blam, the claws. Ditto for loose pens, shoelaces, and bits of shiny paper.

Lately she has perfected the art of chasing her tail. Not content with the traditional dance of the tail, which resembles a top, she lies on her side, swishes the tail, and lunges for it. This oscillation can carry her across the floor in nothing flat. I ought to put a crank on her, attach it to a generator, and provide my own electricity.

Kai is skilled in the feline arts of affection: mock bites and licks on my finger. Sometimes she licks me for several minutes, until she gets a better offer from her tail.

But she’s no angel. She spurned my carpeted cat stool in favor of shredding my futon. I have a role of black duck tape that I need to put to good use.

Still, I forgive her many sins. She’s my one-and-only shelter kitty and, without getting sappy, I am not quite sure what I would do without her.


Back from vacation…

I had the company of three congenial adults last week, as I took  my first out of town trip in two years. We went to Emerald Isle, North Carolina, one of our famous barrier islands.

Rather than the crashing tumult of the Atlantic, our cottage faced the Bogue Sound, a calmer body of water. This led to a tranquil mood among the four of us. My navy veteran father spent seeming hours behind his binoculars, examining sailboats, power boats, egrets, and seagulls.

The other three of us (two brothers and a female friend) also looked to varying degrees. We saved much of our energy for card-playing (Uno and Skip-Bo) and watching DVD’s For the latter, the connection of our TV, the cable system, and the DVD was so complex and so poorly mapped we had to call maintenance to explain it to us.

Really, the best entertainment was the cards. Dad likes to dramatize his shifting fortunes with extravagant gestures and proclamations. He also gave us two impromptu concerts of folk favorites on the guitar, achieving an impressive result despite his protestations of lack of practice.

More adventures of the family Bliss to follow…

A long time ago

A very long time ago the prophet Habakkuk said:

“Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.

So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.

The wicked surround the righteous–

therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”

–Habakkuk 1:2-4

You don’t suppose he means us, do you?