Saturday, August 25, 2012

RIP, Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong passed away today.  Here's a repost from the day I met him.



When it comes to morale tours, this is the stuff...

Every once in a while, while we're down here in the hot sandy place-- Oh, didn't I mention that I've been in the hot sandy place since just before Christmas? No? Ah. Well, I have been. But I'm going home soon, so no matter. Where was I?

Ah, yes. Every once in a while, we get a morale tour through here. Think USO, Bob Hope, like that, only not as cool. The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. A band called "Saving Abel." Four NFL guys whose names I frankly couldn't be bothered to learn (although I am grateful that they took the time to come visit, really, because there are some real football nuts here, it's just that I'm not one of them, and... oh, tangent again. Sorry.) They're OK, these tours, and as I just said, they do show that folks care, and they do boost morale, if you're into whatever they're famous for.

Which leads me to today. Take a look at these guys.

Do any of them look familiar? Maybe not, but I know you know at least three of the names. They're arranged onstage from left to right in approximate order of coolness, in my opinion. Ready to find out who they are? OK, here goes.

Robert Gilliland. Former chief test pilot at Lockheed's Skunk Works. The first guy EVER to fly an SR-71, and the guy who flew the first flight of every production SR-71 made. He has spent more time travelling at Mach 2 and Mach 3 than any other human being. (And he's arguably the least cool of these guys. Whoa. And why doesn't he have a wikipedia page?)

Steve Ritchie. Retired USAF Brigadier General, and America's last fighter ace. Shot down 5 MiG-21s in Vietnam, including two in one day (within 2 minutes). In 2007, at the age of 65, he requalified on the F-104 Starfighter, which he still flies for fun and profit.

Jim Lovell. Yes, that Jim Lovell. No, he doesn't look much like Tom Hanks, but this is the guy who made the most famous understatement of all time, "OK, Houston, we've had a problem here."

Gene Cernan. Commander of Apollo 17, and the last man to walk on the moon. Who could possibly be cooler than that?

This guy. Neil Armstrong. You don't know how tempted I was NOT to hyperlink his name, because if you don't know who he is, shame on you.

Cheerleaders? Football players? Pfft. These guys are literally names from your kids' history books.

It was a real treat, part of a "Legends of Aerospace" tour. The moderator for the panel was David Hartman, former host of Good Morning America (and, incidentally, former USAF officer...) They started with a very cool intro to a darkened room: "Only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Two of them are here with us this evening. Only three people have ever piloted a crippled spacecraft safely to earth. One of them... is here with us this evening." And so on... Then a multimedia presentation about the careers of each of them, followed by a panel discussion led by Hartman.

At one point Neil Armstrong was telling about fears that the lunar surface might not be solid enough to support the lunar module. He described how careful they were to be prepared to take off on a moment's notice, if need be, but as it turned out, the surface was firm and rocky.

"A lot like this place, actually!" said Cernan, causing the audience (and Armstrong) to break into laughter.

I got a bunch of pictures, but they're lots of "Lovell looks amused" or "Cernan seems interested" types of things. Cool, in their own way, but I'm not gonna post them all. I'm just really happy that I was able to go. This type of tour really is the stuff... the RIGHT stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On Fatherhood, a few days early...

Too often, Father's Day is a pleasant Sunday in June, when the kids let dad sleep late, mom makes a special breakfast, and another tie gets added to the wardrobe.  But Susie asked me to think about what fatherhood means, to me as a dad, to me as a kid, and to my children, and so I've been remembering what it was like when I became a father, and my relationship with my own dad, and trying to put those thoughts into a coherent form.  It's hard, because so much of fatherhood is emotional - fear, pride, love, frustration, joy - and talking about emotions is something most men aren't particularly good at.

I had a friend in my neighborhood growing up, Lance, and I remember that we knew his mom, but we never heard about his dad.  One day, another friend asked where his dad was, and he answered, very matter-of-factly, "I don't have a father."  Now, I don't know if that's because his father had died, had left, was never in the picture, or what, but I do remember, even at age 8 or so, thinking how sad and strange that was.  So when my own parents divorced when I was around 10, and my mom broke the news to us, I can vividly remember being distraught, and asking her, "Does this mean I won't have a father?"  Of course, she reassured me otherwise, and she was right.

My relationship with my dad changed, as you'd expect. Instead of seeing him at dinner every night, he'd come and take the four of us to his new home twice a week. He wasn't around to be the role model, or to play ball, or fix my bike. I never thought it was the fault of us kids that he left, but in the back of my mind, I always wondered how he could leave us, the kids, "if he really loved us." He did love us, to be sure, but it took a long time for me to be confident in that again.

I remember the moment I really felt like a dad for the first time.  We were in the hospital after David had been born, and the nurse had just wheeled him into the room from the nursery for the first time.  He was ... well, I was going to say "so small," but he was a big baby... so fragile and helpless.  The nurse fussed with his blankets, and started to leave.  I stopped her, and asked, "Is it ok if I pick him up?" She just smiled, and said, "He's your son." My son.  My responsibility.  Wow.

As a father, I want my children to succeed. As a former child, I remember that it's not possible to succeed at everything. At least, not the first time.  I want my children to be willing to try. I want them to know that my pride in them is absolute, success or failure, but that they will never know what they can do, or even what the like to do, until they first make the attempt.  That's not to say I'm going to force them to try sumo wrestling, or sword swallowing.  It just means that if they express any interest in a thing, and it's within my means, I'll see that they get the chance to have a go. But - and there's always a but - I also want them to know the value of persistence. "If at first you don't succeed," and all that.

I want my children to be happy.  That's the easy one. But what does that mean? I believe it means that they have the means and opportunity to be their own people - the people they want to be.

I want them, eventually, to know that while they may not always be dependent on me, they can always depend on me.

Most of what I know about being a dad I learned by learning to be an adult. I've always tried to treat my children as people, and not just "the kids," as if they were some sort of tadpole, unable to learn to hop until they became full grown frogs. These little people - and children are little people in their own right - don't know anything that we don't teach them. Why would you not treat them as you want to be treated? Why would you want to take this empty vessel and fill it with stupidity? Screaming at a child for doing childish things makes no sense. Of course a child wants to swallow that golf ball - he's never seen one, and it just might be tasty! Of course a child is going to pull on the dog's tail - it's fuzzy, and it moves, and she's never seen one before. Yes, by all means, stop them from doing dangerous things, but if you don't use the opportunity to teach them something, you've missed the point of parenthood. If you model poor behavior, they learn poor behavior.  If you model self-reliance and pride, they learn that. And if you teach them nothing, they learn - nothing. This is not a great insight, but it's one of those things that's so simple, it's easy to overlook when raising children. The old management saw of "set the standard high, and your people will meet it" seems to work with children as well. I'm not talking about "tiger mom" standard-setting, I'm talking about "I expect you to do the right thing because it's right." It's not just behavior, either. I learned, from my mother-in-law and how she dealt with my nieces, that if you don't talk down to a child, the child doesn't come to rely on that simple mode of dealing with the world, but grows into his intellect naturally and quickly. This makes sense, in hindsight.  They say the early years are the best time for children to learn a foreign language, because their minds are still growing. So of course it's going to be the best time to learn manners, counting, reading, or whatever. And if you treat your children like people, they'll learn that that's just how people relate to each other. It’s called empathy, and I'm unimaginably proud of my children, because they have learned this, and learned it early. For example, when Lily was about 5, she came home from school and asked, "Can Teddy come around soon?"  When Susie asked, "Do you want Teddy to come around, then?", Lily said, "Well, Teddy wants himself to come around, and I just want Teddy to be happy." That, to me, is parenting success.

I've been a very lucky father. This may be the haze of memory, but I believe I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have had to discipline either of my children. I think this comes from treating them as responsible, and expecting responsibility.  Sure, we have the typical "I don't wanna go to bed!" dramatics, but so far there have been very few "punishments." This fills me with no small amount of pride: in them, I have the beginnings of two very nice people. People I like to be around, and people others like to be around.  That's all that any father - any parent - could hope for.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


And it's over! Yay!

Susie's sick, but the doctor gave her some 'cillin or other, and I got another day off, at least.

So that's another NaBloPoMo!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oops, I did it again...

This is my annual "forgot to write anything until the last minute, so I'm writing that I forgot to write anything" post.

Hey, it counts, right, Eden?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home, for real

Back home. It's a nice feeling, no matter how much you enjoyed your time away. And especially since I had been home for less than 24 hours before we headed out to Dublin.

We did bring back a couple of unwanted souvenirs, it turns out: Susie and Lily both came back with colds. Lily's got this sort of nagging "eh, eh" cough, and the occasional spike of fever. Susie's got this wracking full-body cough that's both productive and painful.

And we're expecting snow this week. Actually, we're sort of hoping for it, because if it snows tonight, no one has to go out to school in the morning.

On the bright side, Susie and I just put our Beef and Guinness Stew into the crock pot to cook overnight. It's our first attempt, but after having a really good one in Dublin (who'd have figured, eh?) we just had to try. It should be ready for lunch tomorrow. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Still two days off to go. Yay!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Woke up this morning a little early, and as we were sort of coming around, there was a great flash outside. A few seconds later, as expected, thunder. Susie went to the window, and said, "Hey, it snowed!" There was about an inch on the ground, which was nice for the kids. Then the thunder and lightning picked up again, and it began to hail. Pea-sized hailstones covered the already-fallen snow. Fortunately by the time we got up and out it had stopped, and turned to a more manageable flurry.

Now we're packing up, and getting ready for the early flight tomorrow. We were thinking we had booked a later flight, but when we checked, it turns out we're on the 8:45 AM flight. So, up at 4:30, but all in all it's been a good trip.

We've had three days on the ground in Dublin, and we've had a really good time. We took a bus tour around the city that showed us lots of sights (and led us to the new Dublin drinking game, "failed revolution"). We saw the National Leprechaun Museum, which was pretty cute. We toured the Guinness Storehouse, and learned how my favorite beer is brewed (and got a couple of samples, and had a great lunch). We saw the latest Harry Potter movie in a decent theatre. We visited the Dublinia exhibition, and the National Wax Museum Plus, which I have to say, while a bit disappointing, I preferred to Madame Tussauds. We got some souvenirs (mostly sweaters from Trinity Sweaters and rugby shirts, and a cool travel mug).

I think we all had a pretty good time. And I still have a couple of days off before I have to go back to work.

But there's snow in the forecast...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Up for a challenge?

I guess the textbook used at this Dublin school is Ulysses; I know I sure wouldn't fancy my chances of a passing grade...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy O'Thanksgiving!

Here we are in Dublin, well known for its Thanksgiving ambience. heh.

We wanted to do something different this year, spend the time together, and not worry so much about a massive feast. So this morning, when I reminded the kids that it was Thanksgiving, but we weren't going to have a big turkey dinner, Lily said, "Well, I'll have to do the "Roast Dinner Dance." Which she did.

I demanded an encore so I could film it for posterity, and she obliged. And now, for you all to enjoy, the "Roast Dinner Dance."

(she says she and a friend made this up at school, so she doesn't claim full credit. Give the co-writer credit to Lily's friend Anna.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


...or something like that. We're in Dublin. And now, after a minor fiasco with a folding bed for Lily, we're done for the night.

More tomorrow. Maybe. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Talk about your close calls

We showed up this morning for our flight home, and I was almost immediately told, "Um, so I think you're gonna need to get a ticket home."


They got us home after all, on a different airplane (well, I was on the one I thought I would be on, but everyone else came along too...) and after the usual "hi, thanks for going away, here are all the services you can take advantage of" (I asked the lady if she was going to start giving us loyalty cards, so we could maybe skip every 5th briefing, or get a free coffee, or something) I headed home.

And that's where I am now. Home.