The Challenge(r) and Why We Should Bother

30 years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed just over one minute into its 10th mission. Traveling at 1,977mph, the shuttle was increasing its throttle as planned. Seconds later, the craft became a fireball and the world could do nothing but stand by helplessly and watch.1

It was a tragedy and the first fatal flight NASA had in 56 launches. As a result, the entire Space Shuttle program was grounded for two and a half years.

The problem was later traced back to a seal (the O-ring) around a piece of the rocket boosters which had failed. It is likely that the freezing temperature the night before the launch had caused the O-ring to become brittle and lose its malleability. As the O-ring failed, extremely hot gasses escaped the rocket booster and damaged the external fuel tank. Ultimately, the mixture of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen caused the explosion which tore apart the ship. 2, 3, 4

Our thirst for exploration is fraught with peril. But hopefully we can recognize the sacrifice that many make in order to further the advancement of humankind’s knowledge. And it’s abundantly clear that the journey to seek answers and get a better understanding of ourselves, our world, and our universe requires brave souls.

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Nerves of steel and the ability to face down danger are required too as you are willingly strapped to a rocket with over 3.5 million pounds of fuel.

With the risk to life and the financial cost of the space program, many wonder if it’s even worth it. I mean, c’mon, we landed on the moon, right? Why even bother with anything more? What else can there be?

A lot actually.

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Reflecting on 1812 and Beyond

Fear not. As enjoyable as it might be for me to write about, I’m not going to bore you with a history lesson. Even if I would love to discuss the War of 1812 and the famous (and incredibly bizarre) storm and tornado that saved D.C, I won’t be doing it. No discussion of the Star Spangled Banner creation. No retelling of Samuel Woodworth’s Hunters of Kentucky poem about the Battle of New Orleans. Believe me, I’ve learned my lesson from seeing enough eyes glaze over when I start talking about some historical event.

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“So the White House wasn’t really gray before the British burned it down in 1814? Wow. I’m glad I know that…it will have a profound impact on my life.”

Nope, this one’s about football. We’re just a few days away from the NFL’s Conference Championships. On its surface, obviously a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. Can it get more dramatic than that? It sure can. Future Hall of Famers #18 and #12 are playing in what is likely to be their final rivalry game on Sunday afternoon.

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The Poke and the Pinkeye

He was sick. Sick as could be with that eye agony; and when the doctor finished looking at his eyes, he was allowed to sit up, and I felt my mind racing. The diagnosis, the dread diagnosis of conjunctivitis, was the last that truly registered in my ears. After that, the follow-up questions and answers seemed merged into a foggy, amorphous buzz. It conveyed to me the feeling of dejection, perhaps from its joining in union with the hum of the overhead fluorescent lights.

Ok, I may not have the style or clout like Edgar Allen Poe, and this situation was nowhere near as dramatic as the Inquisition (for those that recognized the above paragraph’s allusion), but it was one of the first references that entered my mind. At the very least, it seemed like a humorous parallel to start my story. Having children seems to be the modern bladed pendulum or even perhaps the Sword of Damocles; all hell can break loose without a moment’s notice.

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Amazing how an innocent smile can belie the destruction that has just happened…or is on its way.

It all started innocently enough this past Saturday afternoon. My three year old, Jason, was in the playroom, switching between making Play-Doh animals and trying to corral our obstinate dogs into the faux zoo he had constructed with Legos. My wife and I were in the midst of an intricate dance in the kitchen as we switched between preparing dinner for later that night and handing off our three month old Maggie. Continue reading

Always Seek Improvement

The sun shone with a seemingly new intensity in the frigid morning as it crept up above the horizon. As the long expanse of vehicles made their way down the southbound section of I-290, the road began its natural curve to the east, and that is the exact point where flowing traffic turned into stop-and-go. Blinded by the brilliance of this furious fireball in the sky, people must have forgotten they have sun visors in their cars for that exact situation.

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Someone should invent some type of tinted transparent material that you can wear on your face…maybe in the shape of glasses. Alas, if only such a thing existed!

The obligatory groan of disgust emerged from my throat as my foot moved from the gas pedal to the brake, and I began to accept that I would be late to the office. Sure, I could have cussed out all the “dumbass drivers” up ahead. I could have directed a voodoo curse on the individual who was the first person on this stretch of the highway this morning who wasn’t expecting the sun and subsequently felt the need to decelerate, causing this current turtle-pace procession. But that person had likely last been in this area 30 minutes ago, and it would do me no good. That, and I haven’t kept up with practicing my voodoo curses in a while; and you know what they say, if you don’t practice, you won’t get it right.

So I did the only thing I could, which was turn up the radio. I was listening to ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike  as they interviewed recent College Football champ Nick Saban.

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Finding Appreciation in the Bitter Cold of Winter

I have to admit, I like winter. I do. Parts of fall and spring are good too. But I sure like winter. I’ll wait for you to get the scorn for me out of your system.

All better? Ok.

Yes, in summer you can go fry on the beach or elbow your neighbors at the crowded local pool, go for a run/bike ride outside wearing just special lightweight, sweat-whisking clothes, go camping and bury your poop in a hole in the ground, and other fun outdoor activities that generally don’t result in frostbite.

Truth be told, pretty much anything above 80 degrees is hot for me. Once it hits 85, it starts feeling brutal. Honestly. And that’s probably where it all starts for me.

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Yeah, that pretty much illustrates it.

Most people’s jaws drop to the floor when I say I like winter. That’s never more true than when January rolls around with its single-digit temperatures and below 0 wind-chills. Most everyone I know from family, friends, and co-workers to business associates or random people I pass in the office building strike up a conversation by complaining about the winter season.

I’ve come to expect it, and have regularly found myself either forcibly chuckling along or just silently standing by when this comes up. The same is true when any discussion relating to “good vs bad weather”, spring vs summer, or similar conversations arise.

But I’ve tried to regularly remind myself that even if I don’t like something, I can find things to appreciate within it. And I felt the same can be true for many people during these cold winter months.

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Quarterback Hot Potato

The NFL is fast. Maybe not as fast as the slap hands game or a perhaps a ninja, but it’s fast. Most of us know the speed of play increases from high school to college, and from college to the NFL. I mean, it makes sense since you’re continually whittling down the pool of athletes until you get to the cream of the crop.

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Forget the probable 17th origin of that phrase, I’ll take 1987’s Macho Man interview any day.

I was reading a few NFL game recaps and kept seeing how Tom Brady has a fast release, while reading other QB’s, like Teddy Bridgewater, hold the ball for too long. But nothing fully illustrated how fast is a fast release or how long is too long to hold the ball. So my curious nature got the best of me and I went looking.

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