Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year...

The Mariner float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. (NASA/JPL photo)

As we kick 2008 out on its tuchus, let's welcome in 2009. A year that will begin with some historic events.

Oh and...


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, the Christmas shopping is done. A Very Nickish Christmas VIII has come and past.

Now I leave you with this:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens via Project Guttenberg

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday....

Parliament of the UK photo

December 3, 2008, one of the more interesting events in the United Kingdom takes place; The State Opening of Parliament!


It's a pretty cool ceremony full of historical symbolism, one that I make time to watch on C-Span every time it's on.

You can find out more information HERE.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Malloy...always thinking...

This one's for you Wacky Neighbor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A little late for Veteran's Day but a little early for Christmas...

Britain vs Germany the REMATCH!

I was listening to AVNC VI (The first one that I've put on my iPod) and "Christmas in the Trenches" came on. So I went and poked around online and found the neat article above about a soccer game rematch that commemorated the original game in 1914.

I have to say, this is one of the reasons I really like Britain. They DO care about history.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A photo that has been a long time coming...

This is my grandfather on my Mom's side, Pop Pop Albert. He was in the Army during WW2 and spent most of it at Fort Irwin, CA. During that time he heard Gen. Patton speak and on weekend passes would ride the Southern Pacific into town.

Man I miss him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holy freaking cow...

Look at what these guys found in a garage and look at what they did with it!


Handy use for WD-40


I believe Barney was trying to tell the reporter that, "For the last goddamn time! I have no comment about the election results!!!"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I wish...

I wish Dr. King, Rosa Parks, A. Phillip Randolph, Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were here to see this.

How about we add Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pictures from Houston...

I've added some more photos to my Houston Album.

You can view them HERE.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Rock on Barack. We need you in there on 1/20/2009.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My goal...

When I was little, after the explosion of the Challenger, I wanted to be a Mission Controller instead of being an astronaut (as I had wanted to be for the past two years.) I admit that I got scared of being blown up on the way to orbit. (A valid fear for a 7 year old.)

So, it was Aerospace Engineering and then Mission Control. At least that was the plan...(Yes, I had "life plans" already in elementary school. I really was an older child than my years even back then.)

Until Calculus.

So, I opted for the subject I was best at and had the most fun with, History. I decided to shelve my dream of becoming an engineer involved with the space program and planned on becoming a history professor. Well, the history job has evolved into a library job at a NASA Contractor so, I've moved kinda back towards my original career path. But still, I never thought I'd get to be in Mission Control.

Until this past Tuesday that is.

That's me at the Apollo Era Mission Control Flight Director's Console. That's right. THE Console in THE Room where it all happened. This was the room that, filled with smoke and nervous engineers and astronauts, monitored Armstrong and Aldrin's descent to the lunar surface, and radioed the instructions that helped save the crew of Apollo 13 from dying of carbon dioxide poisoning.

I tell ya, it was the best day of work in my life. Especially when, as this photo was being taken, our guide said my pose was "Kranz-ian."

(Update-10/31/08): Now that I'm reflecting about this picture today and not as excited, I wanted to thank some people for helping me get where I am. Seriously, I've wanted to be in that room for 23 years. First, my family for being really supportive, especially the home made astronaut costume my mom and dad and grandparents (who had bought a toy race car driver's helmet that wound up being covered in foil and becoming an astronaut's helmet) made for me in 3rd grade. It was cool. They never stopped supporting me, (trips to Air & Space, Florida to KSC for the family vacation to Disney World), even when I made that hare-brained decision to go for a history degree. (Yeah, I can get a job with history, no sweat!) I'm glad it's worked out in the end, even I got worried for a while. Next, at Kemptown Elementary, the principal and my teachers in 4th Grade let me be part of a special program for the 5th Graders when a NASA person came to visit. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and loved every minute of it. It really helped stoke the flames of my passion for working at NASA. Now, all of my teachers and professors, especially my math and science teachers. While I didn't go into the field, I still learned a lot, and in my job I actually do use it. And finally, my friends. Thanks for sticking with me and suffering through one of the most nerdy blog posts ever.

Prep for tonight...

(NASA Photo)

Okay, see that guy with the white vest and white shirt and buzz cut in the photo?

That's Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director. (And played by Ed Harris in the movie Apollo 13.) The guy in charge. He can override the president if he feels the order/request will endanger the crew or mission he is directing. This shot was taken during the flight of Apollo 13 in the Mission Control Center in Houston, TX.

Why does this matter?

You will see shortly.

1 vs 6 Billion....

Or at least as many people are voting on this.

Astronaut Greg Chamitoff who has been on the Inernational Space Station and beating the ground stations, is now taking on the world.

Thanks to the US Chess Federation and the Stevenson Chess Team in Washington State, people can vote on the next move and play against Chamitoff.

There are three boards monitoring the progress of the game. The one on the station, the one on-line and the one I saw Tuesday at Mission Control Houston.

Click HERE to see where the match stands and vote for the next move!

Mike Singletary for President....

Apologies for catching this so late, but I had a good excuse, I was in Houston.

Mike Singletary took over as coach of the San Francisco 49er's in time for a bad loss to the Seattle Seahawks. After the loss he gave a great press conference, it was old school football and just the kind of attitude that some members of that team, cough cough Vernon Davis, needed to see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008



Photos to come soon.

Signing off from Houston, TX.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Come fly with me...

Mercury Astronauts in the early "Vomit Comet" (NASA Image)

Come Monday I'll be off to Houston for a couple of days of meetings and training sessions at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. I'm also going on a tour. More photos to come. (Hint: The password is: Geek-out)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Geroge F. Will's Column on Gettysburg...

Read it. And if you have kids, PLEASE TAKE THEM TO GETTYSBURG! (once they can comprehend it.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On TV Tonight, something worth watching...

The Crew of STS-107. (NASA Photo)

Tonight NOVA on PBS will be airing a show on the loss of the Orbiter Columbia.

As NOVA is one of the best shows out there, I expect this episode will be up to its usual high standards of quality.

I highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for something good on TV tonight. It won't be a happy show, but it will be informative and riveting.

Details can be found here:

I sense something, something I've not felt since...

Does anyone else get this feeling from time to time? The feeling that something just isn't quite "right" but you can't put your finger on it.

I had that hit me last night during the Giants game and answering email and surfing the web. It's a bit like deja-vu but I don't feel like I've done something before, just that something isn't the way it should be. Something isn't fitting. It was weird.

On another note, we're into the last week of the three weeks of hell for me. This is what I euphemistically call "October." It's my busiest month from a railroad historical society perspective and this year has, like previous years, lived up to that title. First week was the Convention, last week was the train show, and this week is archives. Next week I'm off and then the last week of October I'm going to Houston for work. (Which reminds me, I need to get my airplane reading.)

A few belated congratulations need to go out:
KLETCO and Foxdeath for their Baltimore half and full marathon runs respectively.
My friends Shelby and Spiff for the birth of their son Alexander. (Welcome to Earth Alexander, enjoy the now, everything gets more complicated as you get older.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Highballing to Pennsylvania...

From Trip to Medina

This week is the B&O Railroad Historical Society Convention in Butler, PA. I'm leaving tonight to begin my journey north and west. My first stop will be Altoona, PA and its famous Horseshoe Curve. Then it's off to Butler and the Convention.

Good times...good times.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A right thinking Scotsman...

Craig Ferguson last night on "suspending" the campaign and Democracy. I can't find one thing here I disagree with.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rush hour...

NASA Kennedy Space Center Style!
(click on images for larger views)

Of course, it's also nice to get the last parking space.

(Note: Look at the lower left corner for the crawler on its way back to the crawler parking area.)

Click here for more information about the upcoming Shuttle Mission

NOTE-9/24/08: Some of you may be curious as to WHY there are two shuttles on the pad. Well, Atlantis is being prepped for STS-125. The second, Endeavour, is the rescue shuttle. Since the loss of Columbia NASA now has a shuttle READY TO GO as a rescue ship in case the shuttle on the primary mission is damaged and cannot safely return its crew to Earth. After Atlantis makes its safe return, Endeavor will undergo final preparations for its November launch to the International Space Station to perform crew rotation with the existing Expedition 18 members, deliver supplies and perform repairs on the solar arrays.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dead Men...

Tell no tales?

Well, let's find out.

Now that my most recent graduate degree is done I've decided to start researching one of the most important company presidents in the history of the B&O Railroad; John Work Garrett.

First research foray is Friday, all day. I'm also pouring through copies of the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and New York Times for mentions of Garrett and the B&O Railroad. I haven't even started going into the Civil War stuff in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. And there are company files and other documents that are yet to be discovered. Of course time, the Great Baltimore Fire and the 19th Century habit of destroying letters and documents that make an ancestor look bad will hamper this search.

The thing I'm pondering is organizing my research. I'm considering putting up a website and blog. I've seen other authors who do this and am not sure if it's worth doing, but it does allow for off-site storage of some data and possibly puts me in contact with people who may have more information. I'll think about that more as I continue to research.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Well, it's over. I have finished my second and FINAL graduate degree. That's it. No Mas, No Mas. I'm in debt to my elbows and now I have a Masters of Science in Library and Information Science. This was easier than getting the first Master's at UMBC, mainly because there was no Thesis to write or Comps to take. For that I am grateful, my nerves are grateful and my friends, family and co-workers should also be grateful. Now I've got my degree and won't be going any futher.

Vee vant to go for zee doktorate.

To be continued?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hey, I'm no economist but...

Even I could tell the NPS and the Gettysburg Foundation that $8.00 to see a 22 minute movie is a really bad idea.

Which is apparently something that they have found out the hard way.

Now, I'm a fan of the NPS, Gettysburg NMP and museums in general. But I also am a private citizen who has a set amount of money that I can spend on fun stuff during a year. I would not spend $8 to see a 22 minute movie of any type. Even though the cause is just, I just don't see that I'm getting something worth my $8. I could see a 2 hour matinee for $8.

On the other hand, I'd gladly put a ten spot in the donation box at Gettysburg NMP just on principle.

Kinda contradictory? Yeah, maybe. But when I put the $10 in, I'm making the decision on my own to make a gift to a worthy cause. I'm not paying for the "privilege" to see a short film. And honestly, I don't feel like I need it. I've got a Master's in History with a specialization in the Civil War. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Now, Gettysburg is making what I think is another error in terms of their fee structure: A Fee to Enter the Museum

Again, this is a bad idea. I urge you, if you are also against this new fee, and I'm sure people have their own reasons, please visit that link above and comment. Now, remember, keep them civil, keep them logical or your comment won't really be taken seriously. I personally think the fee structure shouldn't be expanded to make-up for an earlier mistake in pricing. I think they should lower the fee for the film and enjoy the benefits of a larger number of viewers. (Since the film is about 1/4 the length of a movie, let's make it 1/4 the cost: $2) I'd pay that. No problem. And that sure makes things more reasonable for a family of 4 to see the movie as well.

Just my two cents.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sad tidings...

Both Don La Fontaine and Jerry Reed have died.

Here are a couple of tributes:
For Don:

For Jerry:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our long national nightmare is over...

I think it's appropriate for my 301st post that I announce the completion of my course work for my Masters of Science in Library and Information Sciences. Now everything just needs to be graded and I need to successfully complete my review of requirements for graduation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


This is week 9 of my final 10 week long quarter for my Master's of Science in Information and Library Science at Drexel University. I have two resource guides to complete and submit and one scavenger hunt to do and I'm done.

I am slowly coming to the realization that I will have more free time.

And I don't know what to do with it.

And I'm really not that concerned about that. I'm actually pretty cool with it. I think I deserve some time off. Because sooner or later I'm going to do something stupid and volunteer.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

THFH: Now with MORE Art Donovan!

Have you been reading this blog and said to yourself, "You know, this blog needs more Art Donovan." Well, your wish has been granted.

A good friend of mine who is also gathering objects for the Lutherville VFD Bull Roast and Auction was at NFL Hall of Famer Art Donovan's place today getting autographs for the items to be auctioned off. Art signed this Hall of Fame card for my friend and it was given to me this afternoon.

My friend would have been at the B&ORRHS Archives sooner, but he was at the Country Club Art owns and Ordell Brasse came by and the Colts team doctor showed up and my friend spent the mid-day listening to them trade stories.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

This is hopeful news for me...

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. If this works, man I'm gonna be really happy about it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Long days...

Well, another B&O Railroad Historical Society event has been completed and it made for another long weekend. I can't say I'm very coherent now. But I have to comment some on the wierdness that has been the weekend of August 9, 2008.

Russia vs Georgia- (Russia minus 21) I'll take Georgia with the points here. A US trained army in the mountains of the Caucasus going against the same army that never really took down the Chechens. Seriously, all they have to do is run the Fulda Gap playbook from 1982 on this one.
Is it me or does it seem the Cold War is coming back?

Truck drives off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This is big news in MD. The latest updates are here. Still no details about what were the sequence of events.

Bernie Mac, dead at 50. WTF? I thought he was getting better. That is a bummer.

Issac Hayes, dead at 65. Again, an unexpected death. All I have to ask is, who's the black private dick who's the sex machine to all the chicks?

We'll miss you guys.

Oh, and the answer to that question, it's Shaft.

Damn Right.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets...

Wow, I really would have expected him to go to Tampa.

Ah well, at least he doesn't have to get rid of any green shirts in his wardrobe.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Things fall apart...

The Center does not hold.

And Brett Favre and the Packers are splitsville.

I am not pleased.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A battle of champions on the thawed tundra...

Brett Favre is back with the Packers.


There's going to be an open competition for the starting QB spot.

Note to Aaron Rogers, get the clipboard and headphones ready. Yours is the rawest deal of all in this situation.

Update 8/3/08-9:15pm EDT: Brett Favre has landed in Green Bay.

He's coming...

I saw the trailer today while going to see "The Dark Knight." I am pleased.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A book review...

This is getting to be a good time to plan trips to Pennsylvania (leaf season is just two months away.) A couple of months ago I was sent a review copy of Pennsylvania's Forbes Trail for review.

This ain't your parent's guide book. This is better. Of all the great things about this book, what impressed me the most, was the amount of HISTORICAL detail that the authors put in this guide book. The text provides an excellent background for the travelogue and helps readers understand this important campaign in what is, unfortunately, a forgotten war. Fred Anderson's introduction helps set the reader up for the very well written historical vignettes that accompany each section on a specific community or portion of the trail. (For those of you who don't know who Fred Anderson is, he's the author of the best modern study of the war The Crucible of War: The Seven Years War and the Fate of Empire in North America 1754-1766.)

The maps are well drawn and easy to follow and the guide is very well organized. It's clearly meant for an east-west trip to replicate the march of Gen. Forbes' column, and I'd recommend people use it that way. The guide tells you about what it's like to hack out a road west through the Appalachian Mountains through what was at that time pristine wilderness. The book is also blessed with excellent illustrations and photographs. It very much reminds me of the fine guides published by the National Park Service, particularly with the artwork.

Finally, those who want to further their research are provided with a small but very well chosen selection of books to read for further information on the French and Indian War. If you're looking for something to do in the early fall, a drive through Pennsylvania is a good option and this guide book is worth getting. You'll learn and get to travel through some great communities and see some great things.

This book, and the trail itself is definitely worth checking out. See you on the road! (I'll be up that way in early October and then again in late March.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cue The Gatlin Brothers....

Guess where they're sending the Outreach Team in October?

Houston mean's that I'm one step closer to you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday NASA!

Happy Birthday to the agency that funds the contract that provides my employment!

Stay classy NASA!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I want this...

Oh man, the fun one could have with one of these at work.

This was at the LA Museum of Natural History.

Friday, July 18, 2008

This I find to be absolutely fascinating

This is a lunar transit of the Earth as seen from the Deep Impact space probe. Wow.

The press release can be found here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Bastille Day...

"American troops of the 28th Infantry Division march down the Champs Elysees, Paris, in the `Victory' Parade." Poinsett, August 29, 1944. 111-SC-193197.

Yeah, I'm a smartass.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hot gas...

A photo of the Okmok eruption from today, taken by the US Coast Guard at 20k feet and hosted at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

No real major post today other than a volcanic eruption in Alaska. There are some neat photos at the Alaska Volcano Observatory page.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Ok, one of the places I hang my virtual hat is the B&O Railroad Yahoo Group. This past week there has been an active discussion about the late John Work Garrett, a President of the B&O Railroad.

There is no existing biography of this man and the on-line discussion was mainly about debunking the myths about how good a president he was for the railroad. In reality he was a pretty bad president for the railroad. But there's no single volume that talks about this.

So...I'm gonna write one.

To the library catalogs!!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Environmental Protection...

This is what I think the show Mythbusters was like in 1947.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hello trusted friend...

So, I have TV again, and I had forgotten about something.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is on SciFi Monday nights from 7 to 11.

I really had missed that show. Man it's good to see it again.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Only my friends...

Could go to a bar and have conversations about the following:

Masters of Horror
How many Senators can you name?
Why the parliamentary system would be good for American Government
How do you think Battlestar Galactica will end
Roscoe Bartlett
What does the C.A. stand for in C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersburger
The Assassination of James A. Garfield and Civil Service Reform
The weight limits of tables and sinks

Yes, all these topics and more were covered at J. Patrick's Bar in Locust Point, Baltimore, MD last night.

I find this very comforting.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It was at one o'clock that two Confederate signal guns were fired...

And so, 145 years ago on this day, began Pickett's Charge.

The charge has been romanticized so much that the actual event has been muddled in the memory of the American public. Not many people outside of the Civil War community know that there was a a second, larger division under Pettigrew that made the charge as well. Just like Pickett's Division, they were slaughtered by the artillery and musket fire from the Army of the Potomac.

The charge has also been the subject of much July 4 quarterbacking. "Lee should have..." type discussions. There are many historians who cringe when people do this, but I think it's fun. It's the game we all play with hindsight. The challenge is, knowing what the people knew then, not what we know now, talk about what could have happened.

So consider that at 1pm Eastern Time, as a whole pile of Confederates stepped off their start lines and went on to their place in history.

For further reading I recommend:

Carol Reardon, "Pickett's Charge In History and Memory."

Earl J. Hess, "Pickett's Charge-The Last Attack at Gettysburg."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Museum Piece...

On Saturday, the B&O Railroad Museum rolled out B&O GP-38 locomotive #3802. This locomotive was chosen by Trains Magazine to be THE typical American Locomotive in 1982 based on average age and miles traveled, among other factors.

I remember locomotives that looked like this running in service as a kid. Now it's in a museum, my how time flies.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Reflections on the John Adams Show...

I just finished watching the last part of John Adams tonight. I have to say it was excellent. Once again HBO has done a great job with a non-fiction book being turned into a mini-series.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were NOT the last two signers of the Declaration of Independence to survive.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the four signatories from MARYLAND was the last surviving signer of the Declaration.

There are some other things that need to be fixed, but I couldn't let that pass without a rebuttal.

Despite the error, watch this mini-series. It is very very good and Paul Giamatti does a very good job as John Adams.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The John Adams Show...

I'm watching my newly purchased DVD set of John Adams. I just got through part 1 tonight, which deals with the Boston Massacre and Adams' defense of the British soldiers and then to his departure for Philadelphia, PA.

So far I really like it. Giamatti does a serviceable job as Adams and Laura Linney is very good as Abagail.

Aside from the acting, the scenery is excellent and I'm still wondering how one does an accurate tar and feathering scene like they did without making it look fake.

Doing stupid things...

Last night I tempted fate.

Seriously, I came close to disaster but I survived.

What did I do?

I lifted a 99 lb TV by myself with a back that's gone "BOING" twice in the past and will do so again. (According to the docs it's not "if" but "when" I'll pinch my nerve again.)

However, I did it. The TV is on its new stand. I've ordered cable. There's a little more than a month before pre-season football and I'm in the last 9 weeks of my course work for Grad Degree II. Life is pretty good right now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin 1937-2008...

George Carlin died yesterday. This is a great loss of the comedic history of the United States.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good-bye Twitter...

I've removed Twitter from my blog.

Why? Well, I only really can use it from my job via the IM function. It's fast and unobtrusive. For MONTHS that feature has been down and I'm not seeing anything from Twitter that makes me think they are close to solving it.

So, like an old time saloon keeper taking care of a patron who is too drunk to keep paying, I'm throwing them out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I now own...

An exercise bike.

And I have already used it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Last week of laziness...

Okay, this is it. My last week off before the final quarter. I just got my grades for the previous quarter, they're all good so I just need three more credits to graduate with the Masters of Science in Library and Information Sciences aka MSLIS.

In keeping with my enjoyment of a week off, here's what I'm reading, in addition to the Forbes Trail Guide:

Yep, nothing else says a fun couple of weeks off than reading about the very violent end to World War Two in the Pacific.

Actually I'm a latecomer to Max Hastings' works. I picked up Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-1945 when I was commuting back and forth from Northern VA in 2005. I really enjoyed it. It was a broad sweeping history of the end of World War Two in Europe and very crisply written. He was able to cover the major topics without getting too far into the minutiae to bore readers but still provide enough detail to provide a clear picture of the events.

Retribution is so far written with the same quality. I'm very pleased he's actually writing about the war in Indochina which for most Americans is truly the forgotten theater of World War Two. There's more to come like the liberation of the Philippines and Iwo Jima and the bomb, but I haven't gotten there yet.

So, based on the first hundred pages I've read, I definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Friday, June 13, 2008

French and Indian War Guide for Review

Just got something in the mail today!

I was sent this guidebook to review so I'll be uncapping the red pen and taking notes. It's a good sign that Fred Anderson wrote the Preface. If you don't know who Fred Anderson is, he wrote the best modern history of the French and Indian War (in my opinion); Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766.

More to come.

Quick someone talk some sense into me...

Okay, it's that wistful two weeks between quarters at Drexel's On-Line MS Program in Library and Information Science.

In fact it's the last two weeks I will enjoy between quarters for I am due to complete my degree at the conclusion of the summer quarter.

This means I will have no academic requirements to meet. No readings to read or blow off, no papers to write and no assignments to complete.

Just loans to pay...many many loans.

Now as I am looking at this chasm of academic inactivity, I find myself wandering to the University of Delaware's graduate program page. Dr. Nick...hmmm sounds interesting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Heh, this is a dumb line but...

Can you smell the rocks we're cooking?

Yes, it's time for another tangent on what's doing at NASA today. And it's that the Phoenix lander has successfully gotten its first sample of Martian soil into its oven for analysis. We're looking for water or evidence of water on the Martian surface or just below the surface of the polar regions. The idea is if we find water, we'll find life.

Please enjoy this brief training film on Martian Life:

Monday, June 09, 2008

As I was ruding while I was sayly interrupted...

My apologies for the dearth of posts, but grad school work just knocked my blogging schedule right on its keester.

Okay...historically, what's been going on:

Well, tonight was the first night of "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" on the Discovery Channel. I have been pleased with the footage they've shown but they really just threw people right into the narrative with no prep. The space race really goes back to WW2 when the Germans were working on missiles and the Americans and Brits were building A-bombs and the Soviets were looking on with concern. I wouldn't have minded a bit more prep-work, heck even a pre-show just about that at 8pm EST. But that's water under the bridge.

This is definitely a show worth watching and worth buying on DVD. First, it's probably one of the last times we get to see interviews with some of these people. We're down to TWO of the original SEVEN Mercury Astronauts. The mission control staff and the engineers aren't getting any younger either and the New Nine and Astronaut Group 3 aren't spring chickens themselves.
Second, people, your kids need to see this. We went to the moon with computers that were less sophisticated than what's in our CARS. We went on kerosene, oxygen, hydrogen and slide rules.

Think about that.

Also, just for grins here's my favorite crew of the entire history of the US space program:

(NASA Image found at: GRIN)
This is the crew of Apollo 12. Left to right: Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean. They made the first pinpoint landing on the moon and actually brought back pieces of another space probe that had landed years before. In addition, they were probably the closest buddies of the Apollo crews and had more laughs on the way to and back from the moon than any other crew.
I'll take people who enjoy their jobs for $200 Alex.

You can read the Apollo 12 Flight Journal HERE and the Apollo 12 Surface Journal HERE

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lest we forget...

We have memorial day for a reason:

This shot is from Arlington National Cemetery. It was originally the estate of Robert E. Lee, Col. USA. After Col. Lee became General Robert E. Lee, CSA things changed. First his estate was seized by the United States Government. Second, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs felt that there would be some poetic justice in burying the Union dead coming from the battlefields of Virginia at the hands of Gen. Lee and his Army at the former estate of said general.

After the war the southern states created a day to remember their dead, Confederate Memorial Day. Former Union General John Logan, now head of the Grand Army of the Republic (the Civil War version of the American Legion), decided that the Union should have a day to remember their dead. (I can see Logan's thoughts, "I mean hey, WE won! What is it with the losers having a holiday for their fallen and we don't? Dudes! Why didn't we think of this!") So Logan and the GAR campaigned and eventually got Memorial Day to be a National Holiday.

For my day off I thank you General Logan.

For my freedom I thank the soldiers under your command and their comrades and successors.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Moving on up...

I have left the wide open subdivisions of Frederick County and the family ancestral estate for suburban Baltimore. Only a few minutes from work and more space for me and my books.


OW! I am sore.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Last dispatch from Huntsville...

Well, this is our last night in Huntsville. We fly out at 3pm tomorrow and hopefully will miss the line of storms that is supposedly coming our way.

This has been a great trip, we've met some great folks at the center here and it's nice to put names to faces. I've also had a chance to check out some historic buildings and walk in the steps of Werner Von Braun.

Also we've enjoyed some great food. Here's our dining locations for this trip:

Day 1: Dreamland BBQ. A chain restaurant but very good BBQ.

Day 2: Rosie's Cantina. Great Mexican food.

Day 3: The Greenbrier. A local place west of Huntsville. Worth the 12 mile drive for the hand breaded catfish and the hush puppies.

So that's it. Hopefully it will all be ok tomorrow.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Greetings from...

Space Shuttle Main Engine Test Firing at MSFC (NASA Photo)

Huntsville, Alabama

This week I'm doing a visit at the Marshall Space Flight Center here. Three days of presentations and visiting, this is actually one of the most ambitious site visits I've done.

The flight down was uneventful, but we had an hour delay in Atlanta. However we found a great BBQ place here in Huntsville.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Trying to educate...

I'm trying to do some web based interpretation. Check it out here.

Let me know what you think. Should I include a more extensive list of helpful books? Should I put in more maps? More photos?

My moment of Larry King...

How about those Baltimore Orioles?

The Miami Dolphins will surprise everyone this year.

Brett Favre, greatest quarterback ever.

Is there a hotter team right now than the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Drew Carey was on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me this weekend. Funny guy.

John McCain...that guy married well.

Ed in Sacramento, GO!

The O in B&O...

This weekend is the big spring trip to Ohio, the O in B&O Railroad. However the original O was for the Ohio River not the state of Ohio, but still it works for me as a nice little title for a blog post.

Anyways, I've had a rather productive weekend. Got some backlogged projects almost done for the Historical Society, just have to move those out to the printers and pressers (some are CD-ROMs.) I got my homework done for my class. I'll have to ramp up early this week to get stuff done before I go on the road and then I'll have to do my homework from a hotel room next week as I'll be in Alabama doing a center visit for work.

Unfortunately I screwed up with my travel reading and read my Werner Von Braun book during my trip to Stennis Space Center and therefore I don't have it available for this visit. I try to pick books that are appropriate for where I'm going. The next book that would have been good was Glatthar's "Lee's Army from Victory to Defeat" which I'm almost done with and is a great book. So, I'm down to my third string books for this trip. ARGH! I'm gonna have to hit Borders this week and browse to find something new.

Friday, April 25, 2008

You know I'm busy...

When I'm not posting.

Things have been very busy, archives stuff, work stuff, school stuff. All kinds of good to mediocre things have been occurring. But it's all been so long ago that they don't make good blog posts.

However, I'm going to another NASA Center in two weeks. Woo!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where have I been?

Sorry, I totally missed a chance to post something from Joshua Chamberlain's "The Passing of the Armies" on the 12th. I got a cold and I got stuck on a project, etc.

Anyhow, more info as things calm down.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

April 9, 1865...

Appomattox Court House, Virginia:

The First Day of Peace by Stanley Arthurs from: NPS Appomattox Court House NHP

April 9, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

GENERAL: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by U. S. authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.


April 9, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U. S. GRANT:

GENERAL: I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

R. E. LEE,

From The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

The war wasn't over yet, a Confederate army still faced William T. Sherman's men in North Carolina, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Government were on the run and there were various smaller commands that still needed to be confronted with the news.

But it was a start. Tune in for the posting of the 12th where Maj. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain oversees the surrender of arms from the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Friday, April 04, 2008

For those who love the 50s and 60s...

The University of Texas at Austin has put several episodes of "The Mike Wallace Interview" on the web. Neat stuff!

Check them out here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hi! My name is...

This past weekend was another weekend on the road. Malvern, PA and the Railway Prototype Modelers meet. Three days of clinics about how to make your model railroad look something like this:

It was a long weekend, I took Friday off and hit a Dr's appointment and Saturday night had a great dinner with a friend from college.

Then on the way home, in case I didn't see enough trains...I saw this at a hardware store in Pocopson, PA:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

For the Wacky Neighbor and all the baseball fans...

Play Ball!

In the Library of Congress!

And no, we don't mean literally! It's a library!

No, not even with Nerf balls and bats!

I think I figured it out...

I think I figured out why I wasn't nearly as drained reading about the Civil War as I was while reading "To Conquer Hell."

In to "Conquer Hell" the World War One American division, corps and army commanders really don't see what's going on at the front. The Corps Commanders (commanders of two or more army divisions operating as a single unit) are well behind the lines and are totally clueless about the situation on their front lines in WW1. There's one, a real piece of work named Bulloch who just makes you mad when you read his orders and comments. Mean, Stubborn and Inflexible is no way to command thousands of soldiers, especially if one is far behind the lines in a nice chateau far from the guns.

During the Civil War, corps and division commanders were much closer to the front lines. Much of this was due to the smaller size of Civil War Divisions vs World War One divisions and the lack of effective communication systems outside of couriers. So you had to stay close to your subordinate commanders. As a consequence many of these men were under enemy fire. They also accepted the value of having a general around his men during a tight situation. Many Civil War battles had division commanders and corps commanders under fire and many were wounded or killed. (Winfield Hancock at Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain outside of Petersburg, Cleburne at Franklin, Edwin Sumner at Antietam, Joe Hooker at Antietam, Phil Kearney at Chantilly, Reynolds at Gettysburg, Hood at Gettysburg, Longstreet at Wildnerness, the list goes on.)

As a consequence of this I think the generals tended to be more aware of the state of their commands and in most cases lived or died by the consequences of the attacks and defenses they planned and in a great many cases led.

I think there's something that should be learned from this, and George Patton appeared to have it down pretty well, "Lead from the Front." (Patton used a noodle on a plate as a teaching tool for his subordinates to learn this principle. He'd try to push the noodle forward and it wouldn't work, but if you pull the noodle...well then you're in business.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I finished "To Conquer Hell" at 12:15 this morning. It was probably the most emotionally draining history book I've ever read.

Now this is no small statement. I've been reading history books, particularly ones about war, for almost 20 years now. Most of them have been books about the American Civil War and many of them had soldiers' recollections just like this book had. But they were not as raw and the circumstances not nearly as horrific, or they pulled their punches when writing their letters home and memoirs.

Also, those soldiers aren't as forgotten as the American World War One soldiers are.

Seriously, think about it, how many WW1 memorials and monuments can you say you've seen?

How many Civil War memorials and monuments have you seen?

Notice how your first number is much smaller than your second number.

Did you know that there is NO national World War One Memorial? The only WW1 Memorial in DC is one to the soldiers of the District of Columbia who fought in the war.

I guess this lack of recognition of their service is one of the reason's I'm drained about this. We forgot these guys. I feel bad about that. Everybody from Vietnam to WW2 has a memorial. The Spanish American War has a Memorial, the Mexican War, the Marines, the Air Force the Navy, the War of 1812, the Civil and Revolutionary Wars have a whole pile of parks chock full of monuments. But the Doughboys are absent.

If you happen to read this book you'll probably come away with two questions:
1.) Why didn't they get their memorial?
2.) Why did we forget them so quickly?

I don't know the answer, perhaps because it was so awful and so short that nobody, including the soldiers, wanted to think about it anymore...and then WW2 came along and it became obvious that the job wasn't done and the Doughboys had to send their sons and daughters overseas to finally finish off what they had thought would be the War to End All Wars.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Harry S Truman...

(Truman Presidential Library)

Harry Truman is one tough guy. I'm reading "To Conquer Hell" and I have to say it is a very tough book to read. Not that it's written poorly, but rather it is written so well. It's very easy to get into the story and quite frankly the story is about as tough as one can get. The Americans are getting massacred and much of it is due to the incompetence of their own superiors. However, one of the bright spots is this plucky captain from Missouri who's breaking the rules (shelling a battery of German guns that are outside of his area of responsability but right out in the open) and telling off superiors (telling his colonel who called to yell at him for shelling said German guns to "go ahead" and court martial him because he'd do that anytime he saw a bunch of targets out in the open like that) and apparently being a stand up guy as the Germans are preparing to mount a counter attack, Truman's battery levels their guns to shoot using their sights while a French battery leaves. (The Germans didn't attack but one of Truman's artillerymen got to punch a French captain for telling them to leave.)

So Mr. Truman, my opinion about you went from you being an okay president to...(drumroll please)... A PRESIDENT WHO DESERVES TO HAVE A CARRIER NAMED AFTER HIM.

Yes Harry, you join the ranks of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, your predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt and your successor Dwight D. Eisenhower.

One may notice that I have not listed all the presidents who happen to have carriers named after them. My criteria and that of the Navy differ in that I adhere the following criteria:

1. Has the person been dead for 30 years.
2. How has their presidency been evaluated by now?
3. Did they do something special (fight in a war, help save France, Berlin Airlift, etc.)?

If 1 is yes and 2 is "They are regarded as one of the greatest presidents in our nation's history." and 3 is "yeah they did something extraordinary." Then in my opinion you deserve a carrier named after you. 1 can be overridden if they died in office.

Oh and Harry, nice motto you left for the men of your ship:

"The buck stops here!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hello trusted friend...

Have you ever had one of those moments where you're cleaning up your room or in my case...library that I also happen to sleep in...and come across a book you really liked but hadn't thought about in a while?

You pick it up and you're like, "HEY! I remember this! This is a great book!" And you think about how much fun you had reading it and start reading it again and wind up staying up until 2am to finish it in one sitting.

I did that recently with "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. I guess it's triggered a 29 year crisis for me because I'm rallying hard back to the Civil War and a lot of books that I've missed because I started doing railroad history stuff.

I was also recommended "To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918" by my great uncle. My great great uncle served in the 79th Division during this campaign. I've started reading it and found it to be quite good so far.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke...

Has passed away at age 90. He wrote one of my favorite book series, the 2001 quartet.
Of the three, 2010 is my favorite as it deals with guilt, loss, duty, and the need to explore. The movie wasn't too bad either.

Godspeed sir.

Also, if you want to see a LEGO version of the spaceship USS Discovery seen above, click HERE.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Worthy Charity for St. Patrick's Day...

If you want to get your tax deductible donations in early...

Check out this organization that is very appropriate for St. Patrick's Day.

Happy St. Patrick's Day...

(nps photo)

Bless ye brave sons of Erin.

Sorry about the charge at Fredericksburg.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How about that!

My alma mater ('00 BA History and '05 MA Historical Studies (19th C. US and Public History)) is going to the NCAA Tournament!!!

Way to go UMBC!


Go to Vegas right now and bet everything on UMBC to win...

at chess.

Yep, we will Rook you up!

This day in American History...

"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
-George Washington

Today, Washington delivered the Newburgh Address. Ostensibly this was to help defuse a coup d'etat that was being planned among the officers of the newly victorious but not paid Continental Army. While his words were strong in the speech, it was the opening line above that really showed his officers how much their commander had sacrificed to protect the fledging nation.

Washington had sacrificed almost 20 years of his life leading them and in turn had lost the last vestiges of his youth. The humanity shown in that opening caused many of the officers to reevaluate their positions and eventually abandon the conspiracy.

As for George Washington, the country was not yet finished with him, but that is a story for another day...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Under the radar...

I am disappointed this hasn't gotten as much play as it really ought to, but the 250th Anniversary of the French and Indian War is underway.

Why should you care?

Well, the French and Indian War was the impetus for many of the Taxes and "Intolerable Acts" of the British Crown that led to...

wait for it...

wait for it...


I love it when a confederation of free and independent states comes together!

Happy Pi Day

It's 3/14...

Pi is 3.14....

Get it?

So in celebration of Pi Day, I think I know my dessert of choice for this evening.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

John Adams...

So, HBO is bringing David McCullough's John Adams to life on the small screen as a mini series.

Given the previews I've seen, I'm impressed. Casting looks pretty good, but Paul Giamatti will have to work hard to beat my favorite John Adams:

Mr. William (the voice of KITT) Daniels.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The unstated perils of being a historian...

Okay, kids, parents, teachers, advisers, counselors, professors.

Please do this to anyone that you think may even be remotely interested in studying history at the college and/or graduate level:

Have them lift a 14 gallon Rubbermaid container full of hardcover books.

Tell them they will need to do this many times whenever they move.

I don't want to discourage people, just let them know what they're in for.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What I've been reading...

With this trip happening, I was able to indulge in some reading.

Here's what I've gotten through since Valentine's Day:

I would recommend all of them. They're all great books, very readable and very interesting.

March 4, 1865 Washington, DC....

Fellow Countrymen

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the enerergies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it -- all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war -- seeking to dissole the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern half part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope -- fervently do we pray -- that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said f[our] three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to achieve and cherish a lasting peace among ourselves and with the world. to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with the world. all nations.

[Endorsed by Lincoln:]

Original manuscript of second Inaugeral presented to Major John Hay.

A. Lincoln

April 10, 1865

More info can be found HERE

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Great NASA Photo...

From the good folks at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA:

This is a photo from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of an avalanche on Mars. Great stuff!

You can see more HERE

Favorite photo of the trip...

I'm a sucker for the shuttle. So here it is:

This is STS-123 on Launch Pad 39B. STS stands for Shuttle Transportation System, this is the official term to describe "the stack" of the solid rocket boosters, external tank and orbiter.

Pad 39B and Pad 39A will both be modified to handle the ARES rockets over the next ten years.

This shot was about a mile and a half away from the pad. The closest anyone could get without having to talk to a guard with a submachine gun. On launch day you can't get closer than 5 miles if you aren't taking a ride on that bad boy or helping the astronauts get in.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Kennedy Space Center...

Well, the work trip is pretty much over. The photo above is a shot of the Astronaut's Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center. It has been a busy trip, but a good one. Now I'm flying back home from Orlando tomorrow. I have to say it's tough to leave. It's warm and sunny here and I'm seeing cool stuff. It is going to be really hard to leave that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Second big work trip...

Guess which space center we're going to on this trip?

I do so love this job.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Last week we had a mess of an ice storm.

Here are some shots from the back yard.