Fixing the bloglines backlog

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/29/2006 11:08:00 PM


I'm normally the first one to praise, but I've been contending with a problem related to it.

At one point, I had over 600 posts marked!

So far, I've whittled down the list to just under 250, by saving the links off to or just flat-out deleting them.

Also, things are complicated due to the fact that I'm using's beta site here (as you can see). I really like the ability to establish tags to each of my postings, which is why I jumped to it as a beta site. But I lost my ads in the process (I think I've got that problem fixed now) and am having other difficulties editing the look and feel of the site.

Granted, html gets unwieldy, but I don't like it when GUI interfaces "help" me by restricting how I can modify the look and feel of the site. Is anyone with me on this? I just hope that can put the html editing in their blogging capabilities soon.

Yeah, I know it's a beta site, but a blogger can hope, can't he?!?

Back to Mission Control

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/28/2006 09:44:00 PM

With the delay of STS-115, we're having to continue on with plans to fill in the time before the Shuttle returns. Fortunately, we've already developed these alternate plans, and will now execute them (again, until the Shuttle gets back).

We also are changing up our console manning schedule a little bit, and as a result, I'll be going in tomorrow in Mission Control. My console position is directly in front of the ISS CAPCOM and Flight Director, so if NASA TV is on at the right time, you might be able to see the back of my head on occasion!

I guess it's my 15 minutes of fame ... :*/

UPDATE: Well, that was surely a strange day. First the Shuttle is returned to the VAB, only to be turned back around again when the Tropical Storm Ernesto wind predictions at the Cape fell back below allowable limits for the Shuttle on the pad (literally while the Shuttle trawler was bringing the Shuttle to the VAB). We were fortunate that we already had alternate near-term ISS plans, taking into account a "no launch" scenario for this week, so we weren't scrambling as much as you'd might think. Here's hoping that we will be able to obtain some decent launch days out of this ... looks like the effort will preserve a couple, but we'll see.

My kind of people in NOLA

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/26/2006 06:21:00 PM

Here is a story of two people who did the right thing. They didn't wait for a government agency to help fix their place - they did it themselves, rather than "playing the victim".

Hat tip: Boing Boing and NY Times

Turning the tables on the telemarketers

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/26/2006 05:31:00 PM

I recall a discussion I had with my marketing professor about telemarketing. He had a technique which was designed to annoy the telemarketers. Since he was a marketing professor, he turned the discussion to a point where he was surveying the telemarketer, rather than the other way around.

He would ask questions like "Are you reading those questions from a script?", followed by "Is that script on a computer or on paper?", along with "Are there others in the room that are asking the same questions, or different ones?" etc. All along, he would maintain that he was a marketing professor who was researching telemarketing and was using the questions he asked in a telemarketing study. Somehow, this seemed to keep him from being called by telemarketers.

Well, it looks like Martijn Engelbregt has come up with a codified script to do what my marketing professor did. Check it out, and see how much longer you'll have to endure telemarketers. Maybe you can turn it into a study ...

Hat Tip:

The trumpet section loses the high pitch - Maynard Ferguson dies

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/26/2006 02:38:00 PM

This past week, jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson passed away at 78.

Back in the late 70's, there was hardly anyone involved in high school jazz who hadn't heard of Maynard Ferguson. Even though the "Big Band" era had long past, Ferguson continued with his group, touring in mid-size ventures (and even high school ventures), practically keeping the Big Band format going by himself. His commercial success came mainly with his rendition of "Gonna Fly Now" from the first Rocky movie . His ability to hit screechingly high notes, in tune and in time, set him as the standard that practically every high school and college jazz trumpeter aspired to.

Jazz really won't be the same without Maynard Ferguson.

HTV meetings

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/22/2006 07:16:00 AM

I'm not slated to support STS-115, but I am assigned to support the flights that will be used to develop the Japanese portion of the ISS.

To that end, I am currently supporting a meeting (here in Houston) with my operational counterparts to discuss how the HTV (short for "H II Transfer Vehicle") will rendezvous, dock, and operate with the ISS while attached. The first demonstration mission is slated for 2009, which is quite a way off - but there's plenty of work to be done in preparation for it. Thus, the need for the meeting, to coordinate efforts between JAXA (the Japanese Space Agency) and NASA.

I say the HTV will "dock", but in reaity, it's more like a "capture" and an "installation" operation. Unlike the Russian Soyuz or Progress modules (or the Space Shuttle), the HTV will not fly all the way in to the docking port. Instead, the HTV will fly to a hold point, and then will be captured by the Space Station robotic arm, followed by HTV "installation" on the berthing port. This is the first time this will have been done, so there's obviously a lot of work involved in making sure this can be performed.

My job, with the help of my planning partners in Japan and the input of many system experts, is to develop the timeline to see how all this lays out. We're in the process of developing two timelines - one for rendezvous and installation, and another one for the attached phase. We plan on spending the bulk of this week coordinating our efforts, and should have a solid timeline coming out of the meetings (or a plan on how to get there).

Time to get to work!

STS-115 Countdown!

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/21/2006 10:04:00 PM

The next big thing at work will (hopefully) start this upcoming Sunday, with the launch of STS-115.

STS-115 (also called 12A) is really the next big step in ISS construction. STS-115 brings up another pair of US Solar Arrays, to go along with the existing pair that were installed in 2001. (Note: The Solar Arrays are huge - I remember one engineer explaining each one of them as "something the size of your backyard". And since they are moving, it's obviously something don't take take trivially.)

Despite all the attention that the last two Shuttle flights (realistically) had, STS-115 really marks the beginning of the next "growth spurt" of the International Space Station. Within the next 3.5 years, we anticipate finishing the assembly of the US truss work (including the solar arrays), This will allow sufficient power to assemble the rest of the international modules on the ISS (from Japan and Europe) and finish off ISS assembly by the expected Shuttle retirement in 2010.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like it will delay 24 hours at least, and for good reason - due to weather, but not weather on Sunday ... weather that happened Friday afternoon.

The local yokels take the (fantasy) field!

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/20/2006 12:29:00 AM


I joined in with a group of guys at work in their fantasy (American) football league. For those of you who don't know, a fantasy football league is defined pretty well in wikipedia here. Our league is for much smaller stakes ($20 altogether, with the winner taking 70% of the pot). There are 12 of us all together.

We just met earlier today for our draft, with yours truly taking first pick!

After consuming a lot of beer, pizza, and munchies (and plenty of trash talk in the process), here's how the future league champions (i.e., my team - the "Local Yokels") shapes up:

QB - Eli Manning, NY Giants (starter)
QB - Brad Johnson, Minnesota Vikings
RB- Shawn Alexander, Seattle Seahawks (a.k.a., "The Franchise") (starter)
RB - Tatum Bell, Denver Broncos
WR - Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts (starter)
WR - Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (starter)
WR - Terry Glenn, Dallas Cowboys
WR - Donte Stallworth, New Orleans Saints
WR - Santonio Holmes (R), Pittsburgh Steelers
K - Jay Feely, NY Giants (starter)
K - Lawrence Tynes, Kansas City Chiefs
Defense - Indianapolis Colts (starter)
Defense - Denver Broncos

I'll be keeping everyone posted on how all this goes (and I also reserve the right to change the team's name - depending on how they shape up).

OK, my turn ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/17/2006 08:32:00 PM

I'm the next in the line of tags ...

Instead, he slumped in the back of the plane, looking irritable and gloomy. Evans sat beside him, keeping him company. Morton was drinking straight vodka. He was already on his second.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of it and the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag three people

I'm tagging my loyal readers who might have their own blogs. Let's see how this goes!

Oh, and the quote is from State of Fear, by Michael Chricton (which I'm currently reading).

Now I've heard everything

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/16/2006 11:27:00 PM

Seems that Nicole Kidman (and a few other Hollywood types), will actually be putting out a full page ad in the LA Times condemming terrorism and specifically calling out Hamas and Hezbollah.

Maybe there is hope ...

The extended story of my life so far ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/08/2006 11:44:00 PM

Based on an idea borrowed from

(updated 8.2.2006)

2006: Currently happening...
2005: Was drafted as assistant lead planner for Expedition 11 after lead planner determined he could not complete his work. Assisted in developing increment on late notice, and in the process, helped develop the plans for the eventual Shuttle return to flight. In this way, I fulfilled my vision from two years ago - in spite of everything!
2004: Was assigned lead planner for Expedition 9, which initially looked as if the Shuttle would return for but ultimately did not. Expedition became chaotic when we lost a circuit breaker that took down one of our control gyroscopes early in the Increment, leaving us one failed gyroscope away from potentially losing attitude control and/or significant altitude. Spent next two months planning spacewalks (after finding out that US EVA equipment was not usable and borrowing Russian spacesuits to do the task). Crew replaced the circuit breaker and the control gyroscope was put back in use- while still getting a significant percentage of their planned experiments done. Never say die!
2003: Columbia accident. I remember seeing the Columbia launch & thinking it looked fine ... how little I knew. Accident completely revamps how ISS will operate, and completely changes the plans I had led development on for the Expedition 7 crew (which would have launched on the Shuttle following Columbia). I decide to withdraw being that Expedition planning lead, but assist in transitioning the relevant work to the new lead. I decide I'd rather work on the Expedition that brought the Shuttle back to ISS.
2001: Become lead Operations Planner for STS-100/6A. Sometimes, ya just can't find the right way to describe stress ...
1999: Earn certification as a Station front room controller in Mission Control.
1998: Earn certification as a Station flight controller.
1997: Begin to support Shuttle flights as a flight controller (OJT). Earn my MBA. It was time consuming, but worthwhile - it has its own intrinsic value. Now if I can just convert it into actual value ...
1996: Transfer from Assembly Operations Group to Operations Planning Group (similar, but not the same work)
1995: We move to an actual house, although we're renting. Younger son is born. Travel to Moscow to participate in some of the preliminary Russian designs to work on ISS. Cannot believe I'm standing in the middle of Red Square, looking at the Kremlin & Lenin's tomb, and not seeing the familiar red flag with the hammer and sickle over the wall.
1994: Space Station almost gets cancelled, but is reincarnated as International Space Station, with heavy Russian participation. Redesign efforts get chaotic.
1993: Get fed up with some work politics, but take my energy and devote it towards continuing education - this time, not getting intimidated about pursuing a Masters, I qualify and enroll in the MBA program at UH-Clear Lake. Our group gets merged with a larger Space Station Assembly Ops group.
1992: Older son is born. Book manage the next Space Station Assembly document.
1991: Became book manager of a document that described Space Station Assembly through its first 10 flights. Twas a lot of work. Soviet Union collapses.
1990: In November, got transferred to Mission Operations-Space Shuttle/Space Station Assembly Operations Group, but had to delay my transfer for a week on account of having to get married & go on a honeymoon.
1989: Got engaged, & kept working in Mission Operations/Space Station Flight Design. Berlin Wall falls.
1988: Went to a church picnic and started up an egg-tossing event, pairing myself up with a good looking woman. We got so far apart that I really had to heave the egg high in the air to make it to her. To this day, she says I threw it too hard, but she tried to stiff-arm the catch - a big no-no in egg-tossing. Sure enough, she wound up with egg all over her shirt. I decided to make it up to her by taking her out - not as a date, but as an "apology". I've been apologizing to Mrs. McCormick ever since.
1987: Work took a funny political bounce. Company needed staffing in Washington, so I went on temporary duty for 7 consecutive 1-month arrangements, supporting Space Station Systems Engineering and Integration Group. Managed to transfer back down to Houston by November. Meanwhile, Soviet Union launches the MIR space station.
1986: Like the JFK assassination for the Baby Boomers, the Challenger explosion was the significant event for members of my generation. Couldn't get work in Engineering, since the oil patch went bust, but I realized there was plenty of work down at/around NASA. I was working at Foley's and had an afternoon shift, but tried to call a local NASA contractors to see about an opening. Was surprised to hear that "all circuits are busy" from the phone operator. Turned on the radio & put it all together. Watched the endless reports & video replays. I was concerned about my career, but more concerned about the crew and their families - and NASA as a whole. Miraculously was able to find work 3 months later with a local NASA contractor that was working on a newer project - Space Station.
1985: Managed to wear down UH, getting a BS in Mech Engineering at the end of the fall semester. Vegas bookies pay off …
1984: Elect not to go into band again - I've had my 4 years. Decided to get a degree instead. Ironically, UH managed to get to the Cotton Bowl, but got popped by Boston College & Doug Flutie. Final four again, but UH loses to Georgetown in final game.
1983: UH doesn’t qualify for a regular bowl but is invited by Mitsubishi to play SMU in the “Mirage Bowl”. Winds up being a cool 1 week trip out of the country for me, with plenty of bizarro band stuff during the trip. It’s also the peak of the Phi Slamma Jamma basketball years. Ironically/unfortunately, UH loses national championship on a dunk. I still have nightmares about that game …
1982: Managed to get a VAX account so I wouldn't have to submit my computer programs via Hollerith card decks. WOO HOO! Basketball manages to get to Final Four (1st year of a 3 year run) but loses to North Carolina in semis.
1981: President Reagan is sworn in and American hostages are released. College courses are much tougher than I thought they would be. UH goes to Sun Bowl, collapses against Oklahoma.
1980: Oilers knock harder but still can't top Steelers. Iranians take US Embassy hostages. Carter tries rescue that fails - and seals his political career. Second oil crisis and more long gas lines. I score well enough on SATs and High School rank to be unconditionally accepted at UH. Unemployment's bad nationwide, but Houston is the energy capital and is a boomtown, needing more engineers. John Lennon assassinated. I join UH Band & go to the Garden State Bowl in Giants stadium, touring New York in the process. Manage to get to the top of the World Trade Center buildings - never realizing that it would be the only time I would ever make it there.
1979: Oilers "knock on the door" but can't get past Steelers. UH beats Nebraska in a last-minute drive in the Cotton Bowl. Another oil crisis - this time, with odd-even rationing. At my mother's suggestion and my Chemistry teacher's recommendation, I attend a summer engineering seminar for 1 week at the University of Houston.
1978: I get my driver's license and my dad lets me have the old '68 VW Beetle. With no air conditioning. And black interior. In South Texas. On a positive note, I'm able to get AM stations via the one speaker I have in the dashboard. And I can fill up on about $5 - 7. Younger brother is born, and band director confuses his birth with another sax player in the band whose mom had delivered a child the week before. Hilarity ensues.
1977: Star Wars came out in May. Whoa! We're on to something here. Meanwhile, I start High School life as a lowly freshman.
1976: Carter is elected President, and his brother's drinking beer behind him while he accepts congratulations from President Ford.
1975: Dad gets a transfer to Houston, where Mom and Dad have lived ever since. The Oilers stunk, so we weren't too worried about Super Bowls. We move into a small, cramped 2 bedroom apartment on the west side & start to look for a house, which we find in Southwest Houston. I start to play sax again and find myself terribly behind the other players (wonder why?). When we move to our new house, the new band director suggested I play Bari Sax, which I continue throughout High School. I found a new late night show on TV called Saturday Night Live, with Lily Tomlin ... it was a hit. Saigon falls.
1974: Dolphins win another Super Bowl. Nixon resigns presidency - Ford (who was never elected) is sworn in. Dad gets work as an Insurance Adjuster with Crawford & Co., and looks to transfer back to Dallas. I start going to Pines Middle School. I give up on Sax since I would have had to begin all over again FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW.
1973: Unbelievably, Dolphins go undefeated & beat Washington in the Super Bowl. Dad opens the branch, only to be told that ITT was divesting itself of the business & he is let go. He decides to open his own business with janitorial supplies and services. He has one main customer, which decides to become a slow pay. Very not good, because he is undercapitalized AND OPEC decides to shut down oil delivery, delivering the first oil crisis. Dad folds the business & looks for work in Insurance adjusting (he had previous experience). Watergate hearings start on national TV during the summer. We all scrape by. NOT A GOOD YEAR
1972: Staubach becomes Cowboys QB & they win the Super Bowl this time. Life is good. But then we have to move to Miami - Dad will be opening up a branch for a janitorial supplies company in the area (the company is a subsidiary of ITT). No sax playing for me until Sunshine Elementary starts band instruments - I have to pretend that I'm learning to play all over again.
1971: Practically have a nervous breakdown after the Cowboys lose the Super Bowl. St. Monica's offers band classes for kids who want to join. I learn to play the alto sax. My younger sister is born in December (Pearl Harbor Day).
1970: While I managed to fit in at St. Monica's, my sister never did. To make matters worse, she had a congenital heart failure and died in November of that year. NOT A GOOD YEAR.
1969: Armstrong & Aldrin land on the Moon, and we land in Dallas. I go to F.P.Calliet Elementary midway through first grade, and I couldn't understand my teacher because of her Texas accent. (I eventually learn to speak Texan.) I ran slower than any of the other kids & got teased pretty badly (and my older sister got it worse). My sister and I enroll at St. Monica School at the beginning of the next school year, leaving the trauma of F.P. Calliet behind.
1968: Democratic National Convention. I like pulling this factoid out of the air with baby boomers ..."Yeah man, I was there in Chicago in '68" ... makes me sound like a hippie rabble rouser of the time. Of course, it's context dropping ... I was actually living in the 'burbs and was only 6 at the time. I like to see if any of them catch on to that ...
1967 :My first year in school at Lincoln Elementary in Villa Park, IL. I went back there 25 years later & found that it was gone ... replaced with houses. You'd never know a school was there. :*(
1966: My first memories - our family traveled to Battle Creek, MI, and visited the Kellogg's plant. I was completely rattled by the sound of the machines making the cereal - to this day, I can't stand Fruit Loops.
1965: We move from Chicago to Elmhurst, IL (Chicago suburb)
1962: Born - April 13, in Chicago, IL. (Actually, technically in Evanston, IL - the road that the hospital is on is the city limit of Chicago, but is on the non-Chicago side). Same day as Thomas Jefferson's birthday

Request for reader input

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/08/2006 10:31:00 PM

Hello all you fellow blog consumers out there!

I'd like to take a minute of your time and explain something I'm doing, and see if you'd be able to help.

As you probably know, a "Blog" is short hand for "web log". Basically, it's a sort-of diary of whatever topic comes to mind. But many blogs are not “diaries” in the traditional sense – they can become sources for certain types of information. In fact, a lot of the information that you see in a typical magazine or newspaper is also published in a blog (it’s what’s allowed me to drop my Houston Chronicle subscription – I just subscribe to a few of their equivalent blogs for free!).

In my opinion, blogs can and will serve a good use from here on in. They are a solid way of getting and confirming information apart from the mainstream media. There are literally millions of blogs out there- what you subscribe to (see as an example of how to subscribe to blogs) is a matter of what you choose to want to pay attention to.

Just like the other millions, I’m just one guy with one blog. But I’m attempting to make a “high quality” blog.

That’s where you come in.

You guys know me. You know what information I can provide, and you know what information you need and want. So … what info do you want that you think I can provide? (Within reason - I'm probably not the guy to tell you about Bolivian snails.)

Please comment to this blog entry & let me know what I can develop in the blog.


- Bob

Trying to find the "battle rhythm"

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/05/2006 10:51:00 AM


I've found myself in a weird situation.

I'm finding that I typically drag myself in to work barely at 8:00, and I feel sleepy most of the day. I'm feeling sleepy because I'm not getting enough sleep . I'm up too late looking at my 112 bloglines feeds, trying to come up with ideas/entries for the blog.

My personal timeline is working something like this:

0130 Sleep start
0600 Wakeup (Note: Only 4.5 hrs of sleep!)
0800 In to work
1700 Finish work (can drag to 1800 or 1900)
1-2 hrs of nap (makeup for the short sleep)
1900 Dinner
1945-2030 TV
2030-2115 Dog Walk
2115 - 0130 On the internet, monitoring my 100+ blogline feeds, attempting to come up with something for my blog

Clearly, the excess bloglines entry and lack of blog material is driving everything else (lack of sleep, lost time with the family, lack of exercise ...). I could also cut back on the TV watching as well.

So the trick is ... how do I establish a plan that looks more like the following...

0600 Wakeup
0800 Work
1700 End work
1745 Workout
1900 Dinner
1935 Walk the dog
2010 Blog entry, maintenance, research
2230 Sleep (Note: This gives me 7.5 hrs sleep ... a much better duration)

My hunch is that to get to the right "battle rhythm", I need to "just do it". Of course, this means that life moves along predictably - which can be a stretch.

Anyone out there have any other ideas on how to get to where I want to be, or how to control the unpredictability?

Israel-Hezbollah observations

Written by Bob McCormick on 8/03/2006 07:57:00 PM

Oswald Sobrino at Catholics in the Public Square has written a fairly well articulated piece on the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict, how the mainstream media has reported the conflict, and what Israel's inevitable reactions have been.

In short, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran have miscalculated. The only thing remaining is for the MSM to recognize this. Hezbollah (as Syria and Iran's proxy) cannot rain rockets into Israel, blend in with the civilian population while doing so, and promulgate Israel's destruction without expecting this kind of reaction from Israel. Any sovereign nation would react similarly, and to expect anything else is naive in the extreme.

It's unfortunate that the MSM currently lives in it's own naive world, but it's not the ultimate arbiter of how Israel should act. Israel has every right to defend itself.