Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Attending the Apollo 16 Launch

Early on the morning of April 16, 1972, which was exactly 45 years ago from today, my parents woke my brothers and me, bundled the three of us into the back seat of our family car, and started the long drive from the west side of Florida to the east. I was only six years old at the time, so I had no appreciation for what was to happen later; I simply wanted to remain asleep. But my dad had a bolder vision for us that day as he drove our family from Tampa to Cape Canaveral in order to watch Apollo 16 lift off for the second-to-last Lunar Mission.

Apollo-16-LOGO

When we arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, we were not VIPs, and therefore we had to watch the launch from a distance. We pulled up to the edge of Indian River, where we parked along with hundreds of other spectators to wait for the show to begin. In those early hours before the launch, my brothers and I played in the water, chasing skates around the shallows while my mom admonished us to avoid getting stung.

As the time for the launch drew near, my dad pulled us over to the car where he had a radio tuned to a station where we could hear the news coverage for the countdown to lift off. When an appropriate time arrived, my dad pointed across the water and told me, "Watch that big thing that looks like a smokestack, it's a rocket that's going to fly to the moon."

The countdown continued, and when the clock approached 00:00:00, the sky surrounding the massive Saturn V burst into flames in a colossal and terrifying display of unbridled power. Seconds later the mighty rocket slowly lifted off as it clawed its way into the air, fighting the earth's gravitational pull for each and every inch of altitude. If you watch the news coverage in following video, the footage from 1:48 to 2:20 shows what the launch looked like from my vantage point.

Moments after the Saturn V left the ground, the deafening roar from the first stage engines reached us and the whole earth seemed to quake. Too many years have passed since that day so I do not recall for sure, but I am willing to bet that a great deal of cheering from the assembled multitudes was taking place at the time.

As the launch vehicle soared higher and higher into the sky, our family joined the hundreds of spectators gathered around us as we collectively stood motionless while we craned our necks to catch our last glimpses of the rocket as it climbed out of sight. Shortly thereafter it was gone, and the crowds of spectators slowly began to pack their things and head off in whichever direction their homes were located.

In the past 45 years I have grown to appreciate the significance of that day's events, even though I was too young at the time to discern the magnitude of what I had just seen. Nevertheless, I am extremely thankful that my dad woke my brothers and me early that morning and made the multi-hour drive across the state for us to watch the launch; it has remained one of the most-impressive displays that I have ever seen.


PS - Here are a couple of extra notes:

  • 35 years after the launch of Apollo 16 I was able to attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-117) as it carried part of the International Space Station into orbit; this launch was also an amazing spectacle to behold.
  • Another view of the Apollo 16 launch from NASA's footage is available at http://youtu.be/KKbljFi0WBc. The footage in this video does not shift every few seconds like the news coverage; most of the footage is from a single vantage point, which makes it somewhat easier to appreciate the sequence of events from a spectator's point of view.
Posted: Apr 16 2017, 11:45 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: History
Tags: ,
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Who Says the Military Doesn't Have a Sick Sense of Humor?

When I was stationed with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fulda, Germany, I lived in a sleepy little village named Kleinlüder, which was over the hill and through the woods from post. At the time that I lived there, a Surface-to-Air Missile Battery was situated on top of the nearby mountain. Actually, they were kind of annoying, because we could hear them from our apartment every time they had an alert. (Oh sure, they were protecting us from invasion and all that... but I still wanted a peaceful night's sleep.)

Anyway, it's been more than 25 years since I left, and the land where that missile battery was located has long-since been sold off. However, I found it interesting one day recently when I was scrolling through the area on Google Maps and I noticed that the SAM battery's motto has managed to survive on one of the old launch platforms:

if-it-flies-it-dies

Now, who says that the Military doesn't have a sick sense of humor?

Smile

 

Note: Click the following link for the original map: https://goo.gl/maps/1gAHfk62oYH2

Posted: Apr 06 2017, 22:30 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Military | Humor
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Road Signs for Cyclists

I tend to pay attention to this warning sign more than any of the other warning signs when I'm riding around Saguaro National Park...

cyclists-beware

Open-mouthed smile


PS - True story: the sign depicted above is posted right before a very steep descent into a 90-degree right turn, which is immediately followed by an almost 180-degree turn to the left into a steep climb. I have ridden that section of the park almost 200 times, and yet I still navigate it very slowly, because I am reminded of the cyclist I once met who lost control of his bicycle in that section of the park; he woke up in a hospital with a femur which was broken in four places and no memory of the preceding two weeks before the accident.

Surprised smile

Posted: Apr 03 2017, 18:38 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Bicycling | Humor
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Bicycle-Friendly Rock Classics

I first mentioned this in my Ride Notes for Cool Breeze 2015 blog, but I like to rewrite classic rock songs with a cycling theme while I'm out on my weekly rides. As a reminder of past contributions, I came up with the following offerings during the Cool Breeze Century:

  • Sung to the tune of "Safety Dance":
    "We can pass if you want to,
    We can leave your friends behind.
    'Cause your friends can't climb, and if they can't climb -
    Well they're no friends of mine."
  • Sung to the tune of "Hotel California":
    "Welcome to the Cool Breeze California,
    Such a tiring race, such a grueling pace.
    You'll question your mind at the Cool Breeze California:
    I'm no competitor; why'd I register?"
  • Sung to the tune of "Margaritaville":
    "Climbing the hills again in California,
    Wondering why I'm still here at all.
    Some people say that there's a friend I can blame,
    But I know - it's my own dang fault."

During this week's ride (on a particularly blustery day) I penned the following:

  • Sung to the tune of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim":
    "You don't coast on all of your downhills,
    You don't ride into the wind,
    You don't pass the leader before the first mile marker,
    And you don't buy a bike from Schwinn."

Winking smile

Posted: Apr 01 2017, 22:24 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Bicycling | Humor
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Gila Monsters in Saguaro National Park

I saw two good-sized Gila Monsters and a four-foot rattlesnake during this evening's bicycle ride around Saguaro National Park. I won't stop for the rattlesnakes, but I did manage to get a photo of this little guy as he was crossing the road.

And of course, this leads to the question: "Why did the Gila Monster cross the road?"

  1. To get to the other side.
  2. Because of his crimson hide.
  3. He was chasing some stinkbugs and flies.
  4. If he bites you you'll swell up and die.
Posted: Mar 23 2017, 20:16 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Bicycling
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Flamenco at the Speed of Light

I felt like some old-school jazz flamenco this evening, so I put on some classic Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin playing Di Meola's masterpiece Mediterranean Sundance. It's been over 35 years since these three toured together, but it's amazing how great this piece has held up... and Al Di Meola's run of 256th notes starting at 2:40 would melt most fretboards.

Surprised smile

Posted: Feb 12 2017, 21:46 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Music | Guitar
Tags: ,
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

New Political Terms

Given the recent performances of many public figures on the left, I have coined a new phrase:

hypocrat [hip-uh-krat]

noun
  1. a liberal who condemns the actions of a non-liberal, while at the same time defending or dismissing the actions of another liberal
  2. a liberal who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a liberal whose actions contradict stated beliefs
  3. a liberal who feigns some desirable or publicly-approved attitude, especially a liberal whose private life, opinions, or statements contradict his or her public statements

UPDATE: Sadly, it appears as though I was not the first person to think up this term:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hypocrat

Oh well. Winking smile

Posted: Jan 22 2017, 10:19 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Politics | Rants | Humor
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Please Behave Yourselves

Remember when this image was making the rounds right before the election?

Don't Gloat or Despair

Don't you wish that everyone had paid attention to it's message? [Deep Sigh]

Sad smile

Posted: Jan 21 2017, 22:07 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Politics | Rants
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

Fake News on Inauguration Day

One of the big buzz words being thrown around these days is "Fake News," which is a perfectly-descriptive term for an all-too-frequent occurrence these days, and it became a significant factor in the United States' most-recent Presidential race. As a brief description "Fake News" is when hearsay, rumor, conjecture, propaganda, conspiracy theories, or even outright dishonesty is passed off as legitimate news correspondence. This behavior is currently in practice on hundreds of websites, and by lackeys from both the liberal and conservative sides of the country. (Note: This does not count satire from websites like The Onion or The Babylon Bee.)

The real danger that arises from "Fake News" websites (or Facebook pages) is that, to put it bluntly, many people are far more gullible than they think they are. And as a result, these beguiled patsies see an article with which they agree, and rather than establish the article's veracity through a reputable news outlet, they share it to Facebook or post it to a blog, and in so doing they perpetuate the inaccuracy. To be fair, in recent years the number of "reputable news outlets" has decreased significantly as the major news sources like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, and FOX have all resorted to pushing articles which meet their underlying political agendas at the expense of honest reporting. (Note: For this reason I prefer the BBC, which has a slightly left-leaning take on the news, but its generally pretty unbiased and blunt where the United States are concerned. Besides, no one with an English Accent would ever lie, would they? [Snicker])

In any event, after today's inauguration ceremony, the following image popped up from the folks at Occupy Democrats, which is one of the most-nefarious "Fake News" websites in existence:

inauguration-crowds

This is a perfect example of "Fake News" in action; the two photos in this image are taken from opposite sides of the mall in order to exaggerate the crowd sizes. In addition, there is no indication that they were taken during the same hour of the respective inauguration ceremonies; the photo from 2009 might be an hour after the ceremony began, and the photo from 2017 might be an hour before the ceremony began. We have no context, but considering the source (the O.D. website) and the fact that the photos were already falsely utilized in order to support an opinion rather than an accurate portrayal of the facts, it's pretty easy to dismiss this image. And yet, I have seen dozens of people posting this image to Facebook with comments of overwhelming approval.

In this specific instance, it is far too simple for anyone to discredit the image. The video listed below from CNN shows an actual side-by-side comparison of the crowds during each inauguration ceremony:

Inaugural crowd sizes: Trump v. Obama
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politicsvideo/inaugural-crowd-sizes-trump-v-obama/vi-AAm4m6C

trump-vs-obama-crowd-size

It is evident that there was a larger crowd for Obama's inauguration, which is as it should be; the nation's first African American president is considerably more-significant to history than Trump's election. However, the disparity was nowhere near the level of imbalance which that "Fake News" image was trying to convey.

Returning to my earlier point, this particular example of "Fake News" perfectly illustrates why the acceptance of these sorts of deliberately inaccurate images and stories do so much damage; these hoaxes replicate like viruses through social media, and they rapidly enter the collective psyche of those who eventually believe that these images and stories are true simply because they want them to be. This where another new term needs to be defined: "Post-Truth," which describes an all-too-common situation where opinions are formed and defended based on emotions rather than factual evidence.

Through honest self-examination, I think everyone can agree that we have all let our emotions get the better of us, (on more than one occasion), and we have all agreed with something simply because we wanted it to be right, even when common sense would argue otherwise. This philosophy led to a situation which was all-too prevalent during the election: everyone who was passing along inaccurate information created their own false reality, with which many of their friends actively participated, and yet no one was anywhere near the truth. After the election this syndrome was referred to as an "Echo Chamber," where people were simply hearing others repeat back what they said or wanted to hear. One such example was the poll numbers which everyone kept sharing on social media, which always seemed to indicate that Clinton would win the electoral college by a landslide, and yet on election day she lost the electoral college in a humiliating defeat. Of course, the 24x7 news coverage from all of the media outlets added a never-ending supply of fallacious data to the debate, but still - there were plenty of indicators that the election was a lot closer than the false narrative which everyone kept repeating; people just needed to take the time to look.

Nevertheless, we should all try to do better where "Fake News" is concerned. As a general rule, if you see something which seems too good to be true - or too bad to be true - please check with other news sources before posting anything to social media.

I think the following image sums up that sentiment quite nicely:

Jane-on-the-Internet


POSTSCRIPT: The following blog contains a small list of "Fake News" websites which everyone should avoid:

Please Stop Sharing Links to These Sites
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2016/09/18/please-stop-sharing-links-to-these-sites/

There are many more, of course, but it's a good place to start.


01/21/2017 UPDATES: As another example of "Fake News," there was a bogus story making the rounds over a year ago about the Obama administration ordering guillotines in order to perform executions. On the one hand, I hate to include the link because I don't want to drive traffic to their website; but on the other hand, I want to show an example...

Obama Orders Guillotines To Be Used For Executions
http://www.tdtalliance.com/2016/03/obama-orders-guillotines-to-be-used-for.html

There are hundreds of thousands of stories just like this on the Internet, so don't believe everything you read.

One additional point which I should mention is something that a good friend said to me earlier today: a fabrication isn't real just because you agree with it, and something isn't fake just because you disagree with it. (Wise words, my friend.)

Posted: Jan 21 2017, 01:37 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Politics
Tags:
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us

More Thoughts About Vaccines

Two years ago I wrote a post which was titled Anti-Vaxxers are Idiots, in which I explained in great detail how important it is for people to be vaccinated and to vaccinate their children. So it came as something of a depressing surprise for me to witness another needless debate fueled by ceaseless drivel from uninformed conspiracy theorists who still cling to the long-disproved belief that vaccines cause autism and other maladies. I am simply amazed at the level of denial from most of these people; it's like they belong to the "Flat Earth Society." Nevertheless, these fools are most-likely alive and healthy and able to voice their misguided opinions only because previous generations were vaccinated sufficiently enough to halt the spread of diseases which would otherwise have killed the parents or grandparents of these naïve nitwits.

Despite any protestations to the contrary, vaccines stop diseases. Period. If you deny that fact, then there is no other way for me to put this - you're just an idiot. I wish that I could put that nicer way, but that's just the way things are.

However, because someone was positing the theory that vaccines are ineffective since occasionally some people still get sick, I thought that I should point out another point of truth: sometimes a vaccine doesn't just lessen the chances of contracting a disease, sometimes it lessens the severity of the disease.

Here is a true story: during my time in the Army, all of the soldiers were forced to have flu vaccinations every year. This decision was passed down from the Pentagon because diseases run rampant throughout the military, which is due to the deplorable conditions in which we had to live in order to do our jobs. (See the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic for an example.) In any event, there were several years when I was vaccinated and I still got the flu, although I was over it after a day or two. So when I left the military, I decided to stop having my annual flu shot.

However, two years later I contracted the flu during another domestic outbreak. The illness wreaked havoc on my system for several weeks, and my life was spared only because medicine has continued to evolve over the past few decades since the last devastating pandemic. But make no mistake - 20 or 30 years ago I probably would have died from that strain of the flu.

I have learned my lesson, and now I make sure that I get my flu shot every year. Sometimes I still get sick, but never as sick as that year when I skipped my flu shot.

Posted: Jan 12 2017, 23:36 by bob | Comments (0)
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Filed under: Rants
Tags: ,
Social Bookmarks: E-mail | Kick it! | DZone it! | del.icio.us