Eclipses, part 1 of 2: the lunar eclipse (a delayed posting here ...)

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/02/2017 10:38:00 PM

Hello all,

First, I'd like to officially say that I'm rethinking the title to this blog.

Given the fact that it has been 6 years since I made my last entry into it, I think I might call it "A blog ... someday" ...

Second, I want to expand a little bit on a couple of events over the past 2-3 weeks.

This first entry is about the lunar eclipse that spanned the lower 48 states, and my experience with it.  Due to my new location, the totality wasn't far from me ... about a 150 mile ride from Huntsville AL to the area of 97%+ eclipse.  So, on Monday, I decided to "play hooky" from work (there were no pressing milestones), and drive up to Central Tennessee. I left that morning with my dog (my wife was back in Houston for a baby shower for my niece ... the first great grandchild! ... as well as a meet-up with her sisters and high school friends for a bit of a "girls night out", as well as meet with our sons).

I decided to head to McMinnville, TN, to see the lunar eclipse.  It was kinda on my "bucket list", and I felt that I would have more regrets if I did not go than if I did.

What I found was a town of about 13,000 ... kinda seemed like Mayberry.  It was a great time - crowded, with a big party in their town square, and a band playing Pink Floyd ("Dark side of the Moon" seemed appropriate).  My only real problem was the traffic getting in, and that I couldn't take a decent photo of it with my cellphone camera.  Between my poor dehydrating dog pulling in odd directions, the need to hold my eclipse-rated sunglasses against my cell phone (which I think was confusing the auto-focus), and the auto-correct changing the lens exposure to adjust for the lack of lighting (which removes the ability to actually show things going dark), it all became a struggle.(BTW, thanks to a lady who gave me a styrofoam cup, & my carried bottle water, he didn't stay completely dry.)  All in all, a long day, but a fun one.

Best shot I got of the partial eclipse. Yeah, I know ... weak
Charlie, my confused copilot

McMinnville, TN main street - all cordoned off for the eclipse.  The people in the neon shirts were (mostly) kids let out of school for the event

People waiting for the eclipse in the shade (it was a hot day)

I came for the main showing!

Charlie gets a needed water break.  Note how the shadows of the leaves look a little odd - we were at about 3/4 occultation

The band played on!

The newsies and astronomers were there

Pushpins for where people came from.  Note the clump from in and around Huntsville - I wasn't alone. (And I had to put the one for Houston)

Starting to get darker - need those marquis lights!

Even darker!

Eclipse time!  They needed the marquis lights!

Sensuous and Godlike Trombone playing

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/14/2011 08:57:00 PM


It's definitely that time of the year: time when nearly-graduated High School seniors have or are applying for colleges and college scholarships. 

Here on the home front, one of our own is about a month away from his graduation.  He has already been accepted to the local Junior College, where he'll get his basics behind him. 

He has also applied for a few scholarships.  Of course, most scholarships require the applicants to provide an essay on why they should be awarded the scholarship.

Years ago, I came across a humorous entry, and I showed it to my son.  Fortunately, he did not take my "suggestion" seriously.

You can also find it at

Here is the excerpt...


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.

An interesting work week ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/01/2011 03:53:00 PM

This week saw me on the "graveyard shift" in Mission Control.  It was an interesting week. 


The week started with the Japanese HTV2 vehicle departure.  Since I worked the early shift, I was not there to see the departure, but it went as expected.

The HTV2 Konoutori vehicle served us well.  It was attached to the ISS twice as long as we had expected, and had been relocated twice before it departed.  Estimates are that the crew packed more trash than was originally expected, which helps with onboard stowage.

But was much more touching was the origami.  Each Houston Flight Control console position had a varying number of origami birds, which were made in honor of the HTV2, our Japanese colleagues, and the Japanese people in general.

These were the origami birds we made at our console. 
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance
to make nearly as many as some of the other console positions.

Debris Avoidance Maneuver!

On Thursday, our Trajectory Operations Officer informed us that we would have a close approach with orbital debris.  This is a very serious condition which could affect the Space Station.  As a result, we had to consider reboosting the Space Station to avoid the orbital debris.

There are several problems with orbital debris manevuers.  The first is being assured that we are actually going to avoid the orbital debris with the maneuver - a problem because it is a function of the certainty (or lack of certainty) of the position of the orbital debris.  Let's face it  - orbital debris is typically not equipped with GPS receivers! 

As a result, we started to plan an orbital debris maneuver - only to cancel that plan before finalizing it.  But today, we had to plan yet another orbital debris maneuver, to maneuver around the same debris.  As of this blog entry, I am not certain whether the maneuver will be performed - but the entire series of events gave me quite a bit of work for the past two days!

Upcoming event teaser
Upcoming event "teaser" on ISS will include a famous classic rock band!  You'll know more about it in mid-month - no April Fools joke!

More NASA stuff, and assessing a potential career... as an Acronymologist?

Written by Bob McCormick on 2/24/2011 11:35:00 AM

As I type this, STS-133 is in its countdown to launch.  The Space Station crew did manage to move the HTV to the Nadir (upward-pointing) port - and actually a bit ahead of schedule, so the STS-133 team can do its job.

Earlier today, we docked the ATV-2 (launched by the European Space Agency from French Guiana) to one of the Russian docking ports, and later tonight, we will perform a reboost test with the ATV-2.  Busy days!

I've been on console on the ISS the past few days, but plan on handing over the the STS-133 team for what amounts to a half shift later today (assuming STS-133 launches).

By the way, I'd like to take this moment to dispel the rumors that ATV is actually a Star Wars Rebel X-Wing Fighter.

In other news/thoughts, I am considering a potential career as an acronymologist.  Coming up with acronyms has to be a growing career.  Let's face it, which acronym sounds cooler - ISS, NACHOS, COCHISE, or MAHEM?


Work happenings this week (somewhat HTV-related, at least)

Written by Bob McCormick on 2/12/2011 01:20:00 PM

This past week saw significant SPDM use.  SPDM (also known as Dextre) is robotic equipment that was used to relocate external equipment from the Exposed Pallet (brought up to the ISS via the HTV) to the SPDM itself (temporarily). 

This link details a lot of the operations that were performed.

Next week, the HTV will be relocated by the SSRMS, from the Nadir (lower) Node 2 port to the Zenith (upper) Node 2 port.  It's the first time an HTV has been relocated.  It's needed because the next Shuttle flight is bringing up a module in the payload bay - and having the HTV on the Nadir port would block the ability to remove that module from the payload bay.  Thus, the HTV will be relocated back to the Nadir port after the Shuttle flight.

What I think about Obama's proposed NASA budget

Written by Bob McCormick on 2/09/2010 10:51:00 PM

Let me answer by analogy ...  I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.

I now live in east HoustonI used to live in west Houston.  It's no secret that I used to live in Dallas and I've traveled there before

I liked Dallas.  Dallas is not a perfect place, but I think it's a good thing that I could prove that I could live there like I can live in Houston.  Houston is also not a perfect place, but having people in two places is a good idea, because it would be bad if there was a natural disaster in Houston, and people only lived nowhere but Houston. 

I also don't think I need to make Houston a perfect place before I decide I need to go to Dallas, just like I didn't think I needed west Houston to be perfect before I moved to east Houston.

So someday, I'd like to go back to Dallas -  maybe for short visits, maybe to live there. Certainly others will want to go to Dallas, whether I go or not.

Dallas doesn't have everything Houston has, but it does have a few unique things that Houston probably doesn't have.  So, going to Dallas - either to visit for periods of time, or to live there - has its own merit, simply because it isn't Houston.

I'm sure that when I want to go to Dallas, I really want to go to Dallas.  I could go there by going through Austin, San Antonio, Waco, or even out of state.  All those places also have merit, but Dallas has its own unique merit, and I could get to those other places from Dallas as I could from Houston - maybe even easier than from Houston.

When I decide I want to go to Dallas, I have a number of choices on how to get there.  I could drive, I could take the bus, I could fly in an airplane.  Clearly, how I get to Dallas dictates what I can do once I get there.  But the decision on how to get there is different than the decision on going there in the first place.

My current car has high mileage, so it might not be so reliable to get me to Dallas (and back).  But, it will allow me to drive around Houston.  So, assuming I want to go there by car (because going there other ways doesn't allow me to do the stuff I want to do), I might want to buy a new car, or a used car.  If no cars existed that were reliable enough to get me to Dallas and back, I might build a car - or hire someone out who could build me that car.  I'd probably go with the least expensive option.  But notice - I needed to decide to go to Dallas before I could even decide on whether to build or buy a car! 

Whoever builds the car needs certain technologies that assured that I could get to Dallas, do the stuff I want to do while I'm there, and get me back.  This would include good tires, some sort of engine to allow the car to be motorized, heating (and most importantly, air conditioning!  This is Texas, after all) ... the kinds of things that will make it more likely for any car to get to Dallas and back, or allow me to stay in Dallas.  I could test out those technologies by driving my car around Houston (and that idea has merit).  But deciding to test those technologies by driving around Houston, even if they could be used to drive a car to Dallas, is different than deciding to go to Dallas (or Austin/San Antonio/Waco, for that matter)!

In the final analysis, deciding to go to Dallas is the most important decision.  How we go to Dallas, or what technologies to use in our vehicle to go to Dallas ... those decisions are important, but they are not (literally)the driving decision.  Even WHEN I get to Dallas is not tremendously important (especially from the perspective of getting there just to get there ... after all, I've been there before), as long as it is within a reasonable time frame for me to do the new things I want to do when I get there. And if I focused on those decisions, while ignoring the question about what to do with them once they are developed, I would be showing a lack of vision.

Other thoughts here (much of which, I agree with).

P.S.  Another good analogy ... "Operation Overlord Canceled"

No wonder Google didn't get popular until this decade ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/29/2009 11:03:00 AM

It took quite a while for its service to really take off. If it had been designed in 1960, it probably would have looked something like this ...

H/T: Dane Carlson/Business Opportunities Weblog