No-Go For Launch

I’ve set a personal record of a sort.  I’ve gone through an entire year without visiting the east coast of Florida before, but now I’ve managed to drive over there 4 times in the space of a single month.  I’ve never made so many cross-state trips in such a short timeframe.

One trip was to visit a few of the places where I used to live.  The other three trips were all attempts to see the space shuttle Endeavour lift off.  All three of those trips were in vain, since the Endeavour is still sitting on the pad hoping for a break in the weather today.

One trip to Titusville was made in June when we found out that the launch had been scrubbed just as I was arriving on the east coast.  The two other trips were both made this last weekend.  I was camped out at a riverfront park for five hours on Saturday morning before that days attempt was cancelled, and then drove back on Sunday morning and spent twelve hours out in the sun on a gorgeous day just to see storm clouds roll in at the last minute and force another cancellation.

Counting previous attempts over the years I’ve made a total of six trips over to see the shuttle lift off and I’ve only actually seen it go up once.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.  Still, after three failed attempts to see the shuttle go off in the space of one month, you’d think I’d be over it, but I’m not.

My weekend consisted of a combined 10 hours of twice driving across the state & back, along with a total of about 17 hours sitting under the sun, which can be pretty brutal in July in Florida.  Instead of being disappointed that things didn’t pan out, I come away from the weekend feeling that I’m really spoiled in a way.

Practically everyone I met at the viewing area came from out-of-state.  There were a lot of people from Georgia and the Carolinas.  I met people from Ohio who flew in just to watch the shuttle.  There were people from Japan and Europe there.  All of these people came a long way, at considerable expense, in the hopes of seeing the shuttle lift off.  For me it’s just a two-hour drive from my house, and on a clear day I can see it from my house anyway.

Being a Floridian, I pretty much knew how to stay cool during the day and take precautions against the sun, so it wasn’t that bad.  I got to spend a day and a half sitting by the water watching the dolphins and manatees play just a few feet away.  The tourists went ga-ga over them, and it was fun to see people take such delight in things that I get to see all the time.  The shuttle didn’t go off this weekend, and who knows when I’ll get another chance to see a launch, but I can think of worse ways to spend a summer day.

I really am spoiled.

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Public Enemies

Creative Loafing had a headline stating Public Enemies was the “Best Movie of the Year (so far).”  I thought that was an endorsement of the film, but it turns out that it was a condemnation of the rest of the years’ films to date.

It’s not that Public Enemies is a bad film, it’s not.  It’s just not a very good one either.  At 2 hours and 20 minutes long I would expect to get some sort of story.  Instead, almost all of the characters come off as paper-thin, and it becomes very obvious that the film is based around a handful of gunfights, prison escapes, and a whole lot of filler.

We don’t see John Dillinger’s rise to infamy.  The film starts with him as Public Enemy #1 and never bothers to explain how he became something of a folk hero.  There are a couple of lines in the film referring to his popularity (“people love you”) but how he got there is never addressed.  To the audience I imagine his popularity is meant to stem from the fact that the popular Johnny Depp plays the role.

The film does that a lot, glossing over the actual story of John Dillinger to fill the spaces where there’s no action, hinting at a story without actually telling it.  For example, Marion Cottillard is completely wasted in this film as Dillinger’s girlfriend.  Dillinger sees her in a crowded room, tells her she’s his girl, and she acquiesces.  That’s pretty much the entire relationship in a nutshell.  I’m convinced that the only reason she was included in the film is because the Hollywood Formula For a Summer Movie dictates that there must be a love interest involved.

There’s nothing wrong with making an action movie that’s thin on plot.  It’s just that when you stretch it out to almost 2-1/2 hours long without fleshing out the characters or story, you end up with an action movie that’s thin on action.  By the end of the movie when Dillinger meets his fate, all I could think was “finally.”

Like I said, it’s not a bad movie, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the price of admission either.

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Paths Not Taken

I spent Saturday on the east coast of Florida. I made a quick stop in Miami’s South Beach to watch the sun come up:
Ocean Drive

After that I drove up to Palm Beach County to check out all of the places there that I used to live. I’d been over to that area exactly once since I’d lived there, but as I was driving through Alligator Alley it occurred to me that even that visit was probably over 15 years ago.

I saw the trailer park that was my first home in Florida. It was a lot smaller than I remembered. I visited a few parks & such where I spent my time as a kid, and they were all slightly familiar, but only slightly. The whole experience felt like I was walking through a setting for a story that I’d read; The names were familiar but I felt like I was seeing almost everything for the first time.

The real highlight for me was visiting the town of Boca Raton. I saw my old house & the houses where a lot of my old friends lived. I lived in Boca throughout middle school and Boca Raton High School was the first of many high schools that I would end up attending. I’d made good friends there and leaving was pretty tough. Unfortunately I never heard from any of them again.

Boca holds a special place in my memory. It stands out in my memory as one of the two happiest periods of my life. My stepfather was an ass and things weren’t necessarily easy, but I had a pretty stable life, lived in a nice house, had my Mom, my friends, and a future to look forward to. At the time I thought that I would graduate at that same high school and keep my friends until we all went our separate ways for college. Shortly into my freshman year, Mom and I moved into a trailer park in Delray before moving on to an efficiency motel in Daytona. That was the beginning of a very chaotic period in my life where friends were hard to come by and life was anything but stable. Dreams of a future in college were replaced by dreams of having an actual cooked dinner. I’ve only seen Boca Raton twice since.

Later in the night after driving around town and exploring I found myself sitting at a restaurant I’d never seen before, in a shopping area I’d never seen, off of a street that didn’t exist a few years ago, and found myself thinking “I went to high school here.” It all seemed so surreal, to feel a tie to a place that wasn’t familiar. I began to wonder what life would be like if I had been able to stay in Boca Raton. I wonder what kind of person I would be if I’d gone to just one high school instead of six, or if I’d been able to maintain relationships with my friends instead of learning how to expect all relationships to be short-term.  I guess in a way, Boca Raton doesn’t stand out in my mind as a “home” but rather as “the home that might have been.”

What would I be like?  It was an interesting little mental diversion. The answer lies in some alternate reality where a different path was chosen. It’s odd how every now and then, a decision can change the course of your life forever. I didn’t get to keep a stable life in Boca. No sense in crying over it. In truth things probably worked out for the best. Like I said, my stepfather was an ass. My Mom and I were better off without him. Also, Boca Raton (and nearby Palm Beach) can be an insular little place where people with too much money live in a little bubble of their own creation completely removed from the outside world. In several neighborhoods we drove through the only dark-skinned people I saw were the ones doing the landscaping and cleaning. I have to imagine that I’m much better off for having gone back to New York and lived among people from many different cultures, better off for having had the experiences I’ve had.

Sour grapes? Perhaps, but I can’t spend my days thinking about what might have been. That way madness lies.

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Late-night adventures

“Hey, want to go watch the space shuttle launch?” This question usually leads to some sort of goofy adventure, and very rarely results in actually witnessing a shuttle launch. With the shuttle program slowly drawing to a close (only 8 remaining launches are scheduled) I figured I’d head over to the Cape to catch a rare Saturday-morning launch just after sunrise.

I loaded up the car shortly after midnight and hit the road, dodging the Friday night drunks. After the trip to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago I was thinking to myself that this was becoming a habit, packing up the car and leaving late on a Friday night after a quick catnap.

As I was nearing the end of an uneventful two-hour drive across the state I crossed I-95 and I noticed that most of the traffic heading west away from the Cape consisted of tour buses. Uh-oh. Check the iPhone and sure enough, the launch had been delayed.

I was so close to Titusville at that point that I figured I might as well continue on and scout out the area, in case I got the chance to head over for another launch. Even considering that it was 2:30 in the morning and a lot of people had already left, the coastline was pretty crowded. Lessons learned: You cannot arrive too early for a launch, and as always it’s a hit-or-miss affair. I took a few pictures of the sky and the floodlights that were illuminating the shuttle Endeavour on the pad. What the heck. I’d gone that far, the least I could do was take a picture of something.

No-go for Launch

If I had one gripe about the experience, it’s that NASA had scrubbed the launch just before I left the house, but it wasn’t announced on their website until about 2 hours later when I was arriving on the east coast. Maybe I should have checked NASA TV instead. Oh well. This was my fourth trip to the Cape to see a launch, and I’ve only seen one so far. Even so, seeing a launch that one time makes it all worth it. Hopefully I’ll catch one before the program ends.

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Well that was pretty painless

The WordPress “5 minute installation” took slightly longer than the advertised time, but not by much. It’s really a pretty slick package and a hell of a lot better than the last canned framework I tried to implement. I spent more time poking around with the options than I did getting it installed and running.

There are a few minor style issues that I’ll hunt down once I get the time, and I’d love to start tearing the php code apart. For now, I think it looks ok and the admin is pretty much what I was working towards with the last site but never had time to implement. At least the styles play better with Internet Explorer right out of the box.

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What do geeks do on 3-day weekends?

How about install WordPress and totally re-create a website?  Well, it is a rainy weekend after all.  This is obviously a work-in-progress, but hopefully it won’t take me very long to get it tailored a bit to my liking.

1 Comment Posted in Software Development