Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Calm, Peace, and Tranquility, People!

Take a deep breath.

Now take another.

And another.


President Obama has been in office a little over a week now. No, he has not single-handedly stopped global warming. He did not walk into Gaza and cause both sides to stop shooting at each other. He has not melted Vladimir Putin's icy heart. He has yet to eradicate poverty, hunger, and disease. The economy remains broken for the time being.

Hence the grousing.

The grumbling, a low, inaudible rumble that permeates the news and the Internet, is brought about by myriad things. Many groups who supported Obama, put their hopes on his Presidency, literally willing him into office, are finding it easy to complain that he has not addressed their issues immediately or with enough dispatch. Others are complaining that he is too eagerly running roughshod over President Bush's policies, without giving them due consideration, in attempt to castigate him in some way as he ambles into retirement. Some are questioning his tactics, sitting down with Republicans, listening to their concerns and trying to get them on board with his economic stimulus package, even though it would pass the House and Senate without them.

Oh, and he angered The Vatican. In his first week!

Our President is a busy man. He has a lot on his plate. The economy, unemployment, and job creation are his highest priorities, for obvious reasons. He has a full slate of agenda items for dealing with a great number of missteps, miscalculations, and just plain bad governance left over from the previous administration. He made a number of campaign promises and he's going to try and live up to them.

In a word: patience. It's been a busy 7 days -- there are quite a few more days ahead. Let the administration go to work, and we'll check back at the 100 day mark to see how he's done. He might just surprise everyone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Fire

Today marks a sad anniversary for anyone who is a NASA aficionado, as I am. On this date in 1967, during a routine test that marked the start of manned Apollo missions, fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module, killing the three astronauts inside: Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee. At the time of the fire, the capsule was pressured at sea level pressure with 100% pure oxygen. While the cause was never completely confirmed, a review board determined that a spark from a faulty wire may have ignited the fire, which, under the environment at the time, caused the capsule to be filled with flames. The crew were not incinerated by the flames, but the toxic gases released in the brief interval of the fire caused all three men to be asphyxiated. The reason the men could not escape the capsule at the inception of the fire, was that the spacecraft hatch did not have explosive latches as other previous hatches. In what can only be considered irony, this was due in part to an experience Gus Grissom had at the end of his Mercury flight, where the hatch blew prematurely upon the capsule landing in the water, causing it to sink, and almost taking Grissom to a watery grave.

Within NASA, the event would simply be come to known as "The Fire," and it marked a turning-point in the race to get to the Moon. For the first time, astronauts had lost their lives during actual operations. The seeming invincibility of these men and the Apollo program as a whole was dashed. Through a single event, the danger of spaceflight was driven home.

The luster of Mankind's accomplishment in conquering the distance between the Earth and the Moon is slowly becoming lost to history. Even now plans are being hatched for a return, but given the uncertain economic times, there is no guarantee that this renewed effort will be forthcoming. It is sad to think that we may not return to the Moon until after the last of the original Moonwalkers has passed. Sadder still that the contributions of men like Grissom, White, and Chaffee, and their heroic efforts, are completely forgotten. Think what you will of the "race to the Moon" and all that went into it, but even if you felt it vainglorious and wasteful, do not hesitate to mourn these men and the sacrifice they made for Mankind. We are poorer for their passing, but richer for their dedication and their adventurous spirit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We Must Cry For Caylee

My three-year-old daughter was home Tuesday, sick, watching the Inaugural with my wife. It struck me that at her age, 40 years beforehand, I too had been before a TV with my parents, watching a momentous event: Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon. I marvelled at the resonance, and the fact that as I grew up in world when men had set foot on another celestial body, she would grow up in a world where it would be possible for her to be President someday, now that the barrier to that office has been shattered.

Of course, as much as my daughter delights me and makes me humble, she also upsets me and often does things I wish she wouldn't. Of late, she has kept me up at night, and interrupted my sleep, which I do not seem to get enough of. I have been curt and cross with her lately, despite my best intentions as her father. But as angry as I sometimes get, when she behaves badly, it never occurs to me that my life would be anything but worse without her.

So, reading today about the current evidence in the Caylee Anthony murder investigation, I was stunned. Admittedly, I find the thought that someone murdered this beautiful young child abhorrent, but the new information just released to the public leads me to believe the murder was the act of a psychotic mind. To hear that the poor girl had been gagged with duct tape, and then her captor had apparently placed a heart-shaped sticker on the gag, was mind-wrenching. It is one thing to murder an innocent child, quite another to do it so calculated a fashion.

Caylee's poor life was snuffed out, not in some random act of violence, which is all too common, but in an act of premeditated and selfish destruction. It takes a complete self-absorption and cold resolve to so callously kill a child.

I do not know if Caylee's mother did this or not. If she didn't, I'm sorry for what she went through. If she did, I can only hope that she is consumed in the fiery pits of an other-worldly hell. To kill a child is bad enough, but to kill your child is a sin from which there can be no redemption.

And so I will cry for Caylee, as we all must, we who value the precious life of children. Tonight I will go home, pick my daughter up, hold her very tightly, and tell her how much I love her. I will revel in that feeling. I will try to let it seep through my skin. I will never forget it. And inside, in a small corner of my heart, I will share that feeling with a poor girl who will never know it again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The First Night

The first night in a new place
Is always the hardest
The furniture is different
The floor doesn't squeak right
You hear noises you don't recognize

And you get up at some point
Shuffling quietly to the bathroom
Fumbling for the switch
The light stings your eyes
And it takes time to adjust

But there in the mirror
Is the face you know well
Etched by the long, hard fight
The multitudinous sleepless nights
And the tumultuous days on the road

It is a face at once familiar
Yet not quite the one you know
For it seems different somehow
In the cool, bright light that bathes you
In this unfamilair place

So you stand there staring
At the countenance before you
Listening to your breathing
As it echoes off the tiles
Syncopating with your heartbeat

Slowly the idea spreads within you
You are HERE!
The place you have always wanted
The place you knew you belonged
The place where destiny is forged

You flip off the light
Stride quietly back to bed
And nestle under the covers
That first night is strange
Until you realize you belong