This weekend, in Titusville.

Despite living in South Florida for most of my life, I never managed to drive up to Cape Canaveral for a shuttle launch. When I saw that SpaceX and NASA were launching astronauts into space from Florida again, I thought it might be a good time to finally see a launch. Since I live in Orlando, the Cape is right around forty minutes away by car, so I took a half-day from work on Wednesday to go see the launch with some friends.

The first thing I was not expecting was just how bad the traffic would be for the crowds going into Titusville. It took more than 90 minutes to make that forty-minute drive, and when we got out of the car to move to a place where we could see the launch, they halted the countdown because of weather.

Such is life in Florida.

The first backup launch window was Saturday, so we tried again. This time we set out with a wider time window before the launch. We arrived in downtown Titusville and found parking with about three hours until the launch, so we grabbed a quick fast food lunch, and took a quick walk through Space View Park, which has some really neat stuff to read and see.

Space View Park, Titusville, looking east toward the launch site.

A short while later, we met up with another group of friends at Playalinda Brewing Company for a tasty drink before we went to sit and wait for the launch.

Downtown Titusville is super cute.

There were already people setting up with canopies and blankets and folding chairs, none of which it occurred to us to bring. It alternated between cloudy, raining, and sunny, and about fifteen minutes before the launch we moved to a closer vantage point, even though it was in a very thick crowd.

I took some video of the launch, but trust me when I tell you that the more official video is significantly better. Seriously, check out the first few minutes of the C-SPAN video:

From where we stood, roughly twelve miles due west of launch pad 39A, Crew Dragon was a tiny dot atop a column of fire. After about a minute, the sound reached us- the most incredible rumble of rocketry.

Being present for living history- the first launch of astronauts from American soil since the Shuttle program halted in 2011- was amazing, but seeing the crowd response and hearing that thunderous rocket first-hand, I’m tremendously glad I went to see Bob and Doug heading off to the International Space Station.

I don’t even mind getting sunburned while also simultaneously being rained on. Stupid Florida.

Here’s what it looked like from my perspective:

Did you watch the SpaceX/Nasa Demo-2 launch? What did you think?

19/52

Peter Dinklage and I Have One Thing In Common

I never really gave much thought to the place where I was born. I’ve only been there twice. The first time is when I was born, before I went home to the family home in nearby Livingston.

The second time was in 1997, when the entire family went to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding. During that trip, my brother and I took the rental car for a brief day-trip to check the place out. I was a little curious about my birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey.

While we were there, we walked around the downtown area a little bit, walked by the hospital where I was born, and also walked through a park in the center of the town. Unbeknownst to me, the Morristown National Historical Park is the site of General George Washington’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, and there’s a Washington museum on site.jon-in-morristown-2016_08_01_21_43_27_001

The picture to the right is of Jonathan standing in front of the equestrian statue of General Washington.  This was the first moment that I had any inkling that my birthplace is interesting on its own, and since then I’ve found out a few other neat facts about the town.

  • During Washington’s encampment in Morristown, Alexander Hamilton was present. It was during this stretch of time that Hamilton met and courted his future wife,  Elizabeth Schuyler.
  • The Morristown Green is also the site of  a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de Lafayette, and young Alexander Hamilton.  (I’m gonna have to go back some time to see this one, probably.)
  • The 1780 court martial of Benedict Arnold also happened in Morristown.
  • There’s an additional encampment from the revolutionary war situated on a hill which gives clear views to the North, East, and South, while being backed by mountains on the West.  This encampment, created by order of General Washington in 1777, has the hilarious and awesome name of Fort Nonsense.    (Note to self:  I’m totally gonna steal that for my next apartment.  “Hey, let’s go back to Fort Nonsense and watch movies!”)
  • Peter Dinklage was born there, four years before me.  He’s no Alexander Hamilton, but he’s really good at drinking and knowing things.

Does your birthplace have any interesting history?

Feelin’ Blue (Musings on a Trump Presidency)

I’ve been positively sick and despondent about the election results ever since I woke up on Wednesday morning to find my phone full of incredulous WTF messages from my German friends.   I almost rage-quit my blog out of the intense feeling that I would never have anything to say again-  my faith in our country was that shaken.

But then I saw a bunch of news about the things that are going on, and I feel like I need to say a thing.

To all the #notmypresident protesters. To all the disgruntled Bernie-Bros.   He is our President now. For all of us, not just the Red States.   Half of our country may have voted against him, but the peaceful transfer of the Presidency is part of what makes us America.  Let it go, and choose your battles carefully for the next four years.   This fight is already over.  It’s time to move on to the next challenge.

To all those talking about leaving the country.  Don’t. If you don’t like what this is going to become, stick around and fight. And vote in Democrats at the midterm. And vote in a Democrat four years from now.  And subscribe to your local newspaper, even if you don’t plan on reading it-  we need those reporters to keep tabs on what a Trump White House is up to.

I saw a picture of the electoral map as voted by people in the 18-25 age bracket, and it gives me hope.  This is our future:

18-25map

To all the rampaging bigots who are taking this election as carte blanche to be hateful, a hearty hi ho fuck you.  There are already reports of nasty behavior and intimidation to blacks, muslims, trans folk, and pretty much everyone who isn’t white.  To the alleged perpetrators, get over yourselves.  A Trump presidency doesn’t negate your obligation to be a decent human being.  Stop it.  Just play nice with everyone else.

Ann Coulter said this thing:

…and she missed the point.  She missed the point by a LOT.

There aren’t that many people in this country who have four natural-born grandparents.    I’m a second generation American myself-  only two of my four grandparents were born in the US.  I think that’s true of a great many people, because the country really isn’t that old.  240 years is not a long time when you’re talking about multiple generations.  But I digress… my point in bringing up Ann Coulter is that she missed the point because we’re the United States of America, even if right now it feels like we’re anything but.

My country’s better angels are all about inclusion and adaptation.

My $.02: I am not a Trump supporter. I despise everything he said during his campaign.  I find him to be a misogynist, a bigot and a bully.

However,  he’s our President now, and we have to deal with that. We made it through eight years of Dubya (who seems positively mild by comparison), and we’ll make it through this.  Maybe he’ll turn out to be an OK President- not evil so much as just mildly ineffective.  Maybe he’s the guy that will finally actually unite us all.  I kinda doubt that last one, but I live in hope.

Fellow Blue-State people, we have to accept that this is a done deal and move on.  For my part, I will continue to advocate and fight for minorities, GLBTQ people, and people of all faiths.  Even the ones I think are boogety-woogety nonsense.  (Hint: That’s all of ’em.  I don’t have to share your beliefs to fight for them.)

Besides, now that Sarah Palin is reportedly being considered for a Cabinet position, the late night talk show comedians are going to have a field day.  I mean, what’s next, Michele Bachmann as Secretary of State?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

A bunch of semi-random thoughts in one last post.

My drafts folder is full of tiny little notes about topics that piqued my interest at one time or another.  Most of them have been sitting in my drafts folder for months or even years, but I never really figured out a way to parlay them into full length blog posts.   Since I’m cleaning out the drafts folder now, I thought I’d try a sort of clearinghouse post where I cover all of them in one go.

Topic the first:  Alpha Cities:  Around February of 2014, I heard a concept of city ranking which utterly fascinates me:  Global Cities.  To be a Global City, here’s a few of the many factors that are needed:

  • International financial services (banking, a Stock exchange, insurance, and real estate)
  • Headquarters of several multinational corporations
  • Major manufacturing centers with port and container facilities.
  • Centers of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture and politics.
  • Centers of media and communications for global networks.
  • High-quality educational institutions, including renowned universities, international student attendance and research facilities.
  • Multi-functional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical and entertainment facilities in the country.

The thing about this classification system that really got my attention is that it’s divided into tiers:  Alpha (which is then subdivided into Alpha++, Alpha+, Alpha, and Alpha-), Beta, Gamma, and a bottom tier called “Sufficiency level cities.”  Of the Alpha++ cities, there are exactly two: New York and London.     Here’s some examples of the Alphas:

  • Alpha++ cities are London and New York City, both of which I’ve been to.
  • Alpha+ cities include Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Dubai, Beijing, and Paris.  (I’ve been to three of those!)
  • Alpha and Alpha- cities include Chicago, Mumbai, Milan, Frankfurt, Toronto, Madrid, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Brussels, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vienna, Istanbul, Warsaw, Zurich, Miami, Barcelona, Dublin, Boston, Munich, Stockholm, Atlanta, and more.

The tiers above include some of the most amazing cities on Earth, so naturally this makes me want to visit them all.  I’m a huge list ticker, but this is a checklist I simply don’t have the time or resources to complete.  At least not for a while

Topic the second:  Social Jetlag and Chronotyping:   This is an idea that I was never aware of before I came back from Germany.   I’ll try to explain it succinctly:  Lots of your body’s metabolism and sleep cycle are controlled by your circadian rhythm, based on when you have naturally occurring sunlight.  However, different people’s personal rhythms vary a lot.  Some people are naturally morning people, and others (like me) have a terrible time waking early and are much more awake later in the day.  This is being referred to by scientists as your chronotype.  The concept of chronotypes leads to silly descriptive words like “eveningness” and “morningness.”   They’re also referred to sometimes as a person’s “lark” or “owl” tendencies. I’m not making any of that up.

With me so far?

Ok, so:  In research dating back to 2010, scientists have determined that people who struggle between their body’s chronotype and external requirements such as work or school schedules suffer from “social jet lag.”

It gets worse!  Social jet lag has been linked to obesity and diabetes,  among other health detriments.   Scientists have a solution for this problem, of course.  They just think companies should start work later.

Naturally, I learned about all of this right when we were transitioning into daylight saving time, while I’m having the worst time waking up before the sun rises.

Topic the third:  Impostor Syndrome:  I spend a lot of my life feeling like I’m a complete failure.  I often feel like I’ve coasted along from success to success, being blown forward like a leaf on the wind.  Despite having a pretty great life so far, I almost always feel like I’ve just been faking it all this time.    Every time I attempt to break this by listing out what I’ve accomplished, it feels like a douchey humble-brag.  Doing pretty well at my job for the last thirteen years?  I was only promoted because nobody else would go, not because of my ability.  Traveled the world mostly on my own?  Sure, but I was just ticking off lists and doing really touristy things.

I didn’t even know until last March that there’s a name for this feeling – Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. ”

Yup, that about sums it up.   I really wanted to do a longer post about this, but I’m not sure what else there is to say.   If only there were a cure.

Topic the fourth: On things expiring:  I’ve just renewed my passport, and the process has me thinking about how far I’ve come in the almost ten years since my initial passport application was filed.

In 2006, I was 33 years old.  I owned a small two bedroom condo, and I was four years into my employment at Mr. Company.  I had never left the country, except for one jaunt into the Bahamas from a cruise ship in 2003.  I’d been thinking about getting my passport for a while, because I really wanted to go to London.    I’d been focused on all things British since I fixated on Doctor Who and Dangermouse when I was in elementary school and I wanted to see the city.  My brother had just gotten married, and his honeymoon was in London.  I was British racing green with envy.

In the ten year life-span of my passport, much of my life changed.  I don’t own a home any more, and I’ve roamed around quite a lot.  I made it to London during my first year.  I’ve been to London three times now, along with bits of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.  I am still an inverate list ticker.

For the last four years of that time, this blog has been a showcase for all of my thoughts about living in Germany, and all of my experiences abroad.   Over time, it became a travelogue, and my posts became more and more about the travel I was doing.  I started the blog initially just so that my family and friends back home could see what I was up to, but it became something more than what I intended and I built up a small armada of bloggy friends around the world.

I’ll always be around, reading the blogs of my friends, and commenting on their adventures.   This blog, however, has reached a conclusion.  I realized as I was slogging through the never-ending stream of Japan posts that once I was done with Japan, I was done with this blog.  Much like my first passport, this blog had an expiration date.

Now that I’m settled back into the US, I don’t travel as much.  Aside from my trip to Japan, I’ve barely pulled out my dSLR.  Since my return to the States, I’ve been struggling to find a voice for the blog.  Now that my life is more stationary,  I’ve also struggled to find both time to write and ideas to write about.  It seems like now is a good time for me to get out of the game.  I don’t know if this is a permanent closure, but I have no plans at this point to come back.  Maybe I’ll restart the blog some day.

It’s been a wild, hilarious, fun ride, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of you here.  Be good to each other while I’m gone.

At long last, my drafts folder is completely and utterly empty.

Be seeing you,

-Steven

sorry-were-closed-tommaso-galllCreative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  Tommy Ironic

I’m having trouble maintaining an election.

I wrote last year about election time in Germany, and one of the aspects which fascinated me the most was the incredible variety of poltical parties in the race.

In the US, there’s a wide variety of parties, but only two that get enough votes to make a difference in most races: The Republicans and the Democrats.  Not that you’d know it from the election mailings and Robocalls.  Here’s a small sample of the incredible stack of mailings received by this household in the last month:

2014midterms

Throughout my time in Germany, I had made arrangements to vote by absentee ballot.  The Broward County supervisor of elections office e-mailed me a PDF of the ballot for each election, and I printed it out, filled in the dots, scanned the result, and faxed it back. I still voted by absentee ballot in Tuesday’s midterm election because it was simpler to just follow through that way than to change my voting status this close to the election.

Because the Broward SOE has my (former) German address, I received these campaign mailings in Germany as well; big glossy cardboard fans of fluff and nonsense.    I did notice an interesting trend:  the mailings that I got while overseas were more often Republican than Democrat.  I assume that’s because the Republicans know that deployed military families are more likely to vote Republican and the Dems probably choose not to spend their money in that arena.  That’s just a guess, though, because Jenny (who has been receiving my postal mail since I left) made an observation that it’s very difficult to determine their party just from the mailings:  They often show no outward sign of which party affiliation they hold.

That didn’t affect the sheer volume of them, though.  If you have enough registered voters at your postal address, you could easily wallpaper a room with the mailings.  The Robocalls are prolific and awful if you have a land line, like my father.  I received none of them on my cell phone this year, however, which was nice.

That didn’t stop me from seeing the television commercials when I got back, or hearing the radio commercials.  Or hearing the endless discussion of the midterm elections on the news.  The elections went on this past Tuesday, and the Democrats took a pretty substantial hit.  The Republicans have been making pretty, empty noises about working with the Democrats to get things done, but the very next breath included things like repealing Obamacare and impeaching the President-  that doesn’t seem very cooperative to me.  Now that the Republicans have control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, I expect Presidential vetoes to hit an all time high.  One of my Facebook friends commented that now would be a great time to buy stock in Mont Blanc.

I’m just glad the election is over.  For all the Sturm und Drang about the massive shift in power, I really don’t think that anything will change:  Our Congress will still accomplish very little, and the state legislatures will continue to quietly remake the country in their ideological image.

But at least the mailings and the commercials will stop, at least until 2016’s Presidential election starts to ramp up.

Were you annoyed by this year’s campaign ads, flyers, brochures, signs, and zeppelins?