Paid in Full

With part of our tax return we decided it would be a good idea to pay-off the remaining balance on my car. So we did, and the title / lien-release arrived this week. Now I just have to deal with the DMV to find out how to get a title issued in my name and what mess needs to happen to have mom’s name removed. Then we can finally get all of our insurance needs on a single policy! (Currently there’s one policy with my name and Jess’ name; and there’s a separate policy with my name and my mom’s name.)

We’re excited that there is one less bill to pay and, when the insurance policies get consolidated those two bills will turn in to one. With that bill done we can focus on getting student loans paid down and putting a little more into savings every month.

First Photo Competition

This week’s camera club competition category was “pictorial” which they use to mean “anything you want”. Generally it’s a good time to submit photos that don’t really fall into the other categories (journalism, nature, travel, and creative). I submitted two of my pictures. Club members are placed into categories based on experience and skill (beginner, intermediate, advanced, and master). Out of 11 entries in the pictorial, projected images, basic my picture of the figurine placed 4th. Not too bad for a first-time entry.
IMGP0155

Veterans Park Photo Shoot

The photography class we’re taking had a field trip last week to Veterans Park in Livermore. We got up incredibly early and met at the park at 7.

We took a bunch of pictures; many of which we’re still working on cleaning up. I didn’t get nearly as many as I hoped that I really like. We did, however, get to see some turkeys (they were sitting in the trees! and then they flew!), and some deer, and some (what I believe are) turkey vultures warming up in the sun.

Here are some of the turkeys (I was pretty far away and without a fancy telephoto lens this was the best I could do). I tried to get closer, but those things are skittish and ran off:
IMGP0579The deer were a bit easier to catch, being right out in the sunlight helped:
IMGP0788These (I believe) turkey vultures, were just hanging out in the sunlight to warm up. They’d sit there with their wings outstretched for a long time:
IMGP0814I got to try for one of those fun smooth-flowing-water pictures. I need a tripod though, can’t hold the camera still enough for the entire exposure:
IMGP0832So far my favorite picture from the shoot is this wine tub:
wine tub
There’s still some work I’d like to do on it to really make it nice.

I don’t think it was really the weather’s fault…

Following a headline from CNN’s website I read this article: Winter weather causes 50 car pile-up. The article was scant on details, but for some reason I’m skeptical that it’s really the fault of the weather that this massive pile up occurred. Seems to me the headline should read something like “Crappy driving results in 50-car pile-up during slippery road conditions”.

My favorite part of the article, however, is at the bottom:

The crash happened right in front of WAVY News 10’s Lori Crouch and photojournalist Matt Mrozinski. They watched as accident victims went to check on others.

“Our employees sat around and did nothing while other people made sure no one was seriously injured. More at eleven.”

Nostalgia for the Future

This morning the Endeavour orbiter launched from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center carrying people and equipment into space. Only four more shuttle launches will occur and the fleet of orbiters will be retired in mid-September. When that happens, America will lose the ability to put a man in space.

Many will argue that putting people in space or on the moon is/was pointless and a waste of money. Those with this attitude will kindly turn their attention to the list of NASA spin-off technologies. This list includes (among many others) LEDs, in-ear thermometers, and improved water purification systems. There are also countless other improvements in technologies driven by NASA’s need for more efficient and more reliable equipment.

President Obama’s budget plan for 2011 removes all funding for the Constellation Program, which would have led to the development of a new vehicle for transporting humans in to space. If the cancellation of funds occurs (which is pretty close to a sure thing) then the United States will not be able to put people in space for the foreseeable future. This saddens me. We’ve given up on exploring space in any serious manner. We haven’t been to the moon since 1972. All the astronauts still living that walked on the moon are in their 70s. Another ~20 years and there will be no person alive who walked on the moon. Isn’t that kind of sad?

I wasn’t alive when any of the astronauts walked on the moon; but I am still filled with wonder at the idea of stepping foot on a different celestial body. While Star Trek is fiction, I think its tag-line embodies the sense of awe several generations have held about being able to put people into space: “…to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before”. It expresses the desire to seek out knowledge for the sake of learning.

The mission wasn’t “to find and commercialize new civilizations and technologies, to open new markets for our products, to boldy make a buck where no man has made a buck before.” Unfortunately, that seems to be mantra of our society. NASA operates on a shoestring budget, the National Labs have (essentially) been privatized to focus on making money (goodbye long-term original research projects to discover more about the universe), public education is about rubber stamping every kid’s high-school diploma, and being educated is nerdy and undesirable.

I miss the future we were promised as kids. A world where space exploration was common. A world where man’s search for knowledge and understanding overcame petty differences of culture and societal status.

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I’ve always wanted to watch a shuttle launch and time is running out. Jess and I are hoping to take a trip to see the final flight of the Atlantis orbiter in May.

On September 24, 2010, when the Discovery lands, marking the end of U.S. manned spaceflight, I hope everyone can pause for a moment to reflect on what we’ve lost.