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I first posted this in 2005. The link to Dr. Sanity’s blog is still good.

As some of you may know, I grew up on Florida’s Space Coast. My father was a Quality Control engineer for IBM, working on the Instrument Unit (guidance system) for the Saturn V rocket. I got to see all of the manned missions up through Skylab launch from just across the Indian River, except for Apollo XVII – the only night launch. I watched that one from my front yard in Titusville.

There were two dawns that day.

Consequently, I’ve been a space exploration enthusiast from a young age. I try to watch all the launches, or at least listen to them on the radio. I remember listening to the launch of the Challenger early in the morning here in Tucson, and thinking – as the station broke for a commercial – “At least this one didn’t blow up on the pad.”

Morbid, I know, but I’m also an engineer. I wasn’t then – I had just graduated from college in December and didn’t have a job yet – but that’s been my orientation for most of my life. I knew that each manned launch was a roll of the dice, a spin of the cylinder in a big game of Russian Roulette, and that NASA had become just another government bureaucracy. (And I also knew just how close we had come to losing three men in Apollo 13 because a series of small, innocuous errors had cascaded into a catastrophic failure in a system that was almost neurotic in its quest for safety.)

It was just a matter of time.

Still, I was shocked when they came back from commercial to announce that Challenger had been destroyed in a launch accident just minutes after liftoff. I knew that all seven of the astronauts were dead. I knew that the “teacher in space” wasn’t going to get there, and that a classroom of students had to be devastated by that realization. Many, many classrooms, but one in particular.

I watched the footage of the liftoff, now splayed in endless grisly loops on every network – all of which had previously declined to show the launch live and interrupt really important stuff like “Good Morning America.” I watched as the flame bloomed out from a Solid Rocket Booster joint, impinging on the huge external fuel tank, and said, “That’s what killed them. What the hell caused that failure?” I watched the Satan’s horns of the SRB exhaust tracks as they trailed up and away from the epicenter of the blast. And then I watched it all again.

Over and over.

Later I discovered that the engineers at Morton Thiokol had tried to get the launch scrubbed, knowing the problems that cold weather caused in the O-ring joint seals of the SRBs, but they had been told to “take off their engineer hats and put on their manager hats” in order to make a launch decision. The launch had been delayed too many times, and President Reagan would be making his State of the Union address that night, with a call to Crista McAuliffe – Teacher in Space.

I decided right then that I didn’t ever want to be a goddamned manager.

I also found out later that the crew, at least most of them, probably survived the destruction of the Challenger, and were alive and aware all the way to impact in the Atlantic. I like to hope not, but facts are sometimes ugly things.

And I wondered if NASA could regain the spirit, professionalism, and devotion to excellence it’d had during the race to the moon – and doubted it severely. As I said, NASA has become just another government bureacracy, more interested in expanding its budget and not making waves than in the visceral excitement and attention to minute detail that space exploration should inspire. (I’m speaking of the upper-level management, and many of the lower-level drones. I’m quite certain that there are still hundreds of people there still dedicated to the dream. They’re just shackled and smothered by the career bureaucrats and the nine-to-fivers who punch the clock and wait for retirement.)

Anyway, all this is leading to a blog I found while perusing my sitemeter links tonight. GM’s Corner, which linked to me last month, has a recurring “new blogs” post. This month’s entry is Dr. Sanity, the blog of Dr. Pat Santy – who happened to be the flight surgeon for the Challenger mission. She has a post up about that day, and it’s well worth the read: Challenger – A Flight Surgeon Remembers.

Highly recommended.

And if you want to read something even more inspiring, I strongly recommend Bill Whittle’s essay Courage, about the Columbia disaster. Warning: it gets dusty towards the end.

Goodbye, Glenn Frey


A perfect day, the sun is sinking low
As evening falls the gentle breezes blow
The time we shared went by so fast
Just like a dream we knew it couldn’t last

But I’d do it all again if I could somehow
But I must be leaving soon, it’s your world now

It’s your world now, my race is run
I’m moving on like the setting sun
No sad goodbyes, no tears allowed
You’ll be alright, it’s your world now

Even when we are apart
You’ll always be in my heart
When dark clouds appear in the sky
Remember true love never dies

But first a kiss, one glass of wine
Just one more dance while there’s still time
My one last wish, someday you’ll see
How hard I tried and how much you meant to me

It’s your world now, use well the time
Be part of something good, leave something good behind
The curtain falls, I take my bow
That’s how it’s meant to be, it’s your world now
It’s your world now, it’s your world now

He left a lot of good behind.

I’m tired of all these deaths.

Got a Spare Double Sawbuck?

(And man, did I date myself with that reference.)

Mark Alger, proprietor of BabyTrollBlog and author of the Baby Troll Chronicles is in a tight spot. He says:

I am a creative who has, for all my life, dreamed of earning my living as a writer. I even have published a novel and been a regular contributor to periodicals.

This past December, two weeks before Christmas, I came to an involuntary separation from my 35-year career as a commercial artist, and was left without a means of supporting myself. I was, at the time, a matter of weeks from being able to publish my second novel. Now, I am about to move forward with that goal, but the soonest I will receive any royalties will be in three months.

So he’s opened a GoFundMe page trying to tide himself over for the next six months.

I’ve enjoyed his stuff for years, so I’m tossing in some ca$h. If you’ve got some spare laying around and feel the same, please feel free.

Debate? DEBATE?!?

No, it’s performance art.

Watch this:

Those were the winners of the Cross Examination Debate Association‘s 2014 national championship.

What debate took place here?

From the Wikipedia entry:

In the 2013 tournament, the winning team from Emporia State University was criticized for using personal memoirs and rap music to criticize white privilege during the debate. Opponents to this form of debate argue that rhetorical tools utilized by recent championship teams violated the anti-harassment policies of CEDA and the National Debate Tournament, and common sense. CEDA President Paul Mabrey points to the value of limited actual formal rules in CEDA debate and the ways that a variety of forms of debate raise the educational value of the activity and call these objections “nothing other than thinly-veiled racism.”

In the 2014 tournament, the CEDA came under fire for crowning a championship debate team whose arguments critics described as incomprehensible, off topic and refused to abide by time limits and moderation. Going so far as to make a fart sound as a rebuttal. Despite winning the tournament, the winning team from Towson University was criticized by these observers for referencing racial slurs. In the wake of this controversy, CEDA President Mabrey stated in an official CEDA video that the accusations of poor preparation and incomprehensibility “These stories represent the worst of our human bigotry. These attacks on Towson, Oklahoma, and others in our debate community are motivated by racism.”

“President Mabrey” is Paul Mabrey, a professor of communication at James Madison(!) University.  One more example of why you should go ahead and stick a fork in Western Civ.  We’re done.

I’m pretty sure James Madison is whirling in his grave.

Quote of the Day – Quora Edition

Someone over at Quora asked “Why do conservatives oppose progressive politics?”  A gentleman by the name of Charles Tips left an epic answer.  Unfortunately, those who need to read it, won’t.  Today’s QotD comes from that answer:

The implementation of our public schools supplanted our liberal “Little Red Schoolhouse” model that was firmly entrenched in civil society and has resulted in our children having their butts passively parked in desks for increasing terms of hours per day and years of their lives spent hermetically sealed from the real world, as, in progressive minds, the proper way to prepare them for the real world. The goal of J. G. Fichte in designing the Volkschule, which serves barely changed as the model for our public schools, was “workers who will not strike, citizens who will not revolt, soldiers who will not disobey orders.” It was designed as an indoctrination scheme to prevent the children of the non-aristocratic classes from becoming able to operate independently of state control. It is no way to produce rowdy, curious, can-do Americans, and statist Republicans clearly revere the scheme every bit as much as do progressives, just to slightly different ends. Our schools continuously disappoint, and the progressive cry in response is always, “More money! More teachers! More Admins!”

If you’ve read my posts on education you’ll note that this QotD is echoed by the writings of John Taylor Gatto and numerous others.  It’s a mini-überpost, spanning a lot more than just education.  By all means please read the whole thing.

Blogshoot Update

Earlier posts about the 2016 Annual Central Arizona Blogshoot are here and here.

I’m bringing the thumpers this year.  The .45-70, the .458 SOCOM, my as-yet-unfired Mossberg 930JM with 1oz sabot slugs, and one of my No. 5 Mk I Jungle Carbines.  I’m also planning on bringing the 629 if I can get some .44 Mag loaded in time.

If you want to shoot any of the long guns, I recommend wearing something with a pad in the shoulder.  Weather promises to be cloudy, calm and cool after the storms move through Thursday and Friday.

My Reaction to Obama’s Gun Control Announcement

I’ve just about completed my inventory of reloading components.

I have a LOT of stuff I need to put together into functional ammunition, collected over the last few years while the picking’s been slim.  Powder, primer, cases and projectiles.  Just received 200 .300 Win Mag cases this afternoon, for instance.

I’m going to be busy for a while.

Into the Fog

Bill Whittle’s Opening Salvo for 2016:

Quote of the Day from this piece:

Because, you see, we no longer live in a nation of laws. If we did, this woman (Hillary) wouldn’t be running for office, she’d be running for Mexico.