I really feel uninspired right now, but I think I know why ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/20/2008 04:07:00 PM

It's the wrong time of day to be doing this - it's been scientifically proven.

I'll try again in about 6 hours.

But I won't blog from my shower or bathroom.


Not understood - local Houston utility prices

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/19/2008 11:51:00 PM

I'm the biggest advocate of de-regulation, and yes, energy prices have gone up (although not extremely lately), but even I can't understand why the prices are so high.

This article from the Houston Business Journal in August tells us that we had the highest home utility bills in the nation. It compares Houston to Portland, which isn't a fair comparison at all in July. What it doesn't say is what the average price per kilowatt-hour is ... which is the real valid comparison.

What is true is that customer service can really suffer, as one of my co-workers now knows.

Even more amazing is that Texas electric provider deregulation doesn't seem to be uniform across the state. My in-laws in Austin and Huntsville didn't realize that they have to choose their electric providers ... do they not have a choice?

If you live in the Houston area, or in Texas (or for that matter, anywhere), what's been your experience? Let us know in the comments.

Hurricane Ike ... Thanks for the memories

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/16/2008 09:33:00 AM

It's been about a month since Hurricane Ike hit us. And while everyone in the Houston area certainly has not gotten completely back into their pre-Ike routine, there's still some funny memories from the MSM buildup for Ike.

In closing, I'm left (and am leaving you) with three images for Ike. Then, I won't blog about Ike anymore. Really.

1. Some dude in a bear outfit playing on the Galveston Seawall while the storm surge was coming in ... (Hat tip: Mike McGuff)

2. A streaker over in Beaumont (Hat tip: Lou Minatti)

3. Last, but not least ... Geraldo Rivera biting it on the Seawall.

Welcome back to the ISS, Mike Fincke!

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/14/2008 09:34:00 PM

Work was great yesterday. I got to see the 17 Soyuz crew dock to the International Space Station, which they managed to do about 5 minutes ahead of schedule (and since I happen to manage and monitor that schedule, I should know ...).

The 17 Soyuz crew consists of the new Expedition 18 Commander, Michael Fincke, as well as the Expedition 18 Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov (who is also a veteran on the ISS, albeit with a visiting Shuttle). It also includes the 17 Soyuz Visiting Crewmember Richard Garriott (who is the son of the Apollo and Skylab Astronaut Owen Garriott).

Soon after the docking and ingress, the crew had a public relations event with visitors at Mission Control in Moscow (where, naturally, the docking was also being closely monitored). There, Mike's wife Renita and his children (Chandra, Tarali - who was born on Mike's first tour to the ISS, and Surya) were able to speak and see Mike again on orbit.

After my last experiences with Mike on orbit, the whole thing brought me a sense of deja vu. I'm definitely looking forward to his latest upcoming expedition.

Related links:
Space.com, New Crew, Space Tourist Arrive at Space Station

The experiment is over, and the results are in ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/11/2008 04:15:00 PM

... Blogger is a better place to blog than the free version of wordpress (wordpress.com).

I didn't realize this until I started blogging there. Blogger seems to have quite a bit more flexibility in what I can add to the site than the free version of wordpress.

Any other bloggers out there agree with me ... or have a different opinion? LEt me know in the comments.

BTW - I've decided to repost all the postings I had at wordpress over on this site.

Alt.energy roundup: Wind power

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/05/2008 03:44:00 PM

As I’d mentioned earlier, Texas is actually an early adopter of wind power (and my school’s positioning itself well). Now comes news out of Norway that they are looking to build a floating wind turbine there. Also, CNN says that T. Boone Pickens is looking to get into wind energy as well.

However, look before you leap in investing in wind energy. FuturePundit reports that wind turbine costs are up for both offshore and onshore sites, with offshore sites being much more expensive.

As just an average guy, here’s some questions I have:

1. What would happen in a hurricane to all those offshore sites? (Granted, the situation is no different than for offshore oil rigs. And of course, onshore sites are not immune to weather problems.)

2. How is the energy generated by the windmills transmitted to the power grid? (I’m assuming some sort of AC power conversion, much like existing high-tension lines.)

3. Is there a larger issue of grid support costs? That is, the wind energy is collected out on the Great Plains but the electrical load is on the coasts – how much investment in the electrical grid is required to get the wind energy to play a significant role in offsetting the overall electrical national electrical load?

Let me know if you have any thoughts in the comments.


Related links:

Slashdot (5/27/08) Giant Floating Windmills To Launch Next Year

Slashdot (5/23/08) Oil Billionaire Building World’s Largest Wind Farm

The best space news last week

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/02/2008 03:43:00 PM

I personally think we had great news from the “space biz” last week.

It wasn’t the Chinese mission (although that was good).

It wasn’t the ATV reentry (although that was good, too)

It’s not even the funding that Congress & the President will provide for more Soyuz vehicles (which was needed - but they probably held their noses while they signed, given the political tension with Russia lately) …

No - the best news was the first launch of a private rocket. Assuming they can repeat the task, it is a paradigm shift for how low Earth orbit access can be done.

Way to go, Spacex! Definitely better results than the last time I mentioned Spacex!


Related links:

Digg.com: The Chinese Space Walk

SPACE.com: European Spaceship’s Death Plunge Caught on Film

Chair Force Engineer: For SpaceX, a Golden Opportunity

Commercial Space Watch: National Space Society Statement on SpaceX Falcon 1 launch

Digg: Space X Did It — A Private Rocket is in Space!

Space.com: Countdown Coverage: SpaceX’s Fourth Falcon 1 Launch


Slashdot: On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit

Spaceports: Orbital Science Corporation’s Taurus-2 May Seek Human Launch Rating!

Catching up: My Mom and Dad’s 50th

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/01/2008 03:43:00 PM

August 30, 2008 - what a day!

It was a day my parents probably thought never would happen. And it was a day we were looking forward to with a little bit of fear, due to my Dad’s Alzheimers. But … we had it! And it was fun - even my Dad agreed.

We had a mass for my parents. (Well, OK, I’m stretching the truth a little bit. It was the standard 5:00 Saturday mass.) But it was also the exact date of my parents anniversary … who could have planned it better?!? We were concerned that the priest would ask Mom & Dad to renew their vows - which in Dad’s condition would have been awkward. But instead, the priest and deacon gave them a blessing.

After the mass, we headed over to the Villa Capri restaurant. The food was delicious. My only regret there was that I was busy helping with the entertainment. I was in charge of the music, which I was able to pull off with a laptop and an i-pod (maybe I have a second career as a DJ?).

We played a lot of Sinatra music for my parents - which was OK since there wasn’t a lot of dancing. However, I did manage to play my Mom & Dad’s song, “All the Way”, by old blue eyes, and everyone joined in the dancing.

It was great seeing friends and relatives (even ones from Chicago who had NEVER been to Texas!). And we all braved the Gustav predictions.

Mom had suggested we make some toasts, so I came up with an impromptu toast, reminding everyone of what had happened in history in 1958 via “that font of knowledge, wikipedia”. NASA had graciously provided 50th anniversary banners all up and down NASA Road 1 … although I’m told that had something to do with the fact that it’s NASA’s 50th anniversary this year. ;*)

My only regret was that I was not able to make it to the UH football game … but they spanked Southern 55-3, so I think everything worked out fine anyway.

August 30, 2008. What a day!

TeenACTS retreat -July

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/30/2008 03:42:00 PM

This past year, I was fortunate enough to go on two ACTS retreats - one as a retreatant, and one as a “retreatee”. My wife was also fortunate enough to do the same thing (men and women go on separate retreats).

“ACTS” is an acronym which stands for Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service. An ACTS activity typically consists of a weekend retreat where retreatants engage in discussions, activities, and prayerful reflections centered about the Sacraments and Roman Catholic liturgy/catechism. It is a powerful event for both the retreatants and the “retreatees” (former retreatants who assist in all preparation and execution of the retreat).

Most ACTS retreats are for adults. However, in July, both my wife and I were fortunate enough to assist in our parish’s first ever Teen ACTS retreat, with our oldest son being one of the retreatants. It was a beautiful experience that I highly recommend any adult or teen take the opportunity to do if they get the chance.

The backlog

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/28/2008 03:42:00 PM

Posted by rjmccormi on September 28, 2008

Sorry about not posting more frequently. The next few blog entries will be about some things that have happened in my life over the last several months. Don’t worry - it is mostly good news. I’ve just been waiting for the right time to blog about it.

So, with those “teaser” statements, get ready for some good stuff!

Ike - finale

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/28/2008 03:31:00 PM


We are more-or-less settled back into our house since Ike. We lost all of our refrigerated food (and probably our freezer in the garage … it still reeks after being treated), as well as quite a few tree limbs.

The tree limbs and rotten food have been removed, and we have power restored to our house. However, I finally got the chance to drive down parts of Todville road in Seabrook - very close to Galveston Bay. Almost every single house had a 4 foot pile of furniture, carpeting, and other debris which will take a long time to be hauled away. I also saw about 100 refrigerators off of Red Bluff Drive in Seabrook, just sitting out in an open field.

In short, our neighbors to our immediate east and south (not to mention down on Galveston Island and on the Bolivar Peninsula) will take quite a while to recover from all this. Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and help our near neighbors out. I was on graveyard shift on console this week, so I couldn’t do that … but the rest of my family did. And we’ll need to keep it up for the next several months.


I'm outta here!

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/25/2008 08:59:00 PM


More precisely, I won't be updating this particular blog anymore. Instead, I've moved to WordPress!

You can find my new, hopefully-improved blog at http://mcc0rmick.wordpress.com/.

See you there!

- Bob

Ike, Part 2

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/23/2008 08:44:00 PM


We hung out in Austin for several days, waiting for the chaos in Houston to subside a bit. In addition, my brother in law drove by our house & told us we had no power, so there was no sense in heading back to Houston just to forage for gasoline, ice, and food. We came back on Thursday (18 Sept), to find that some of our old fences had fallen, and our front and back yards had tons of tree debris in it ... but nothing through the roof!

My brother in law had an air-conditioned apartment above his garage in League City, so without a generator for power, we decided to stay there while we'd clean up our house and wait for the power to come back. After cleaning out our refrigerator and our yards, we came back when power was reestablished to our house yesterday afternoon.

It will still be a while before things return to normal here. Our neighborhood came out OK (relatively speaking): we are close to the water and storm surge did affect parts of our little city and definitely parts of Clear Lake as a whole, and other people still do not have power to their homes. But all in all, we will recover and be the better for the experience.

My Ike Evacuation story

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/15/2008 09:24:00 PM

I'd been keeping my eye on Hurricane Ike when it was in the Atlantic Ocean. As everyone knows, it took an unfortunate turn into the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, right on top of where I live!

I also had the "opportunity" to be on console during the runup to Ike's landing. Per NASA rules, we started making preparations for shutting down JSC (and Mission Control), and relinquish ISS control to a control center close to Austin, as well as to Huntsville, Alabama. During my shift, the predictions were such that the eye of the storm would pass over the far eastern corner of Matagorda Bay, which, given the predicted storm intensity, was just on the edge of my decision to evacuate. I figured if the track went any further east, Seabrook would not be safe.

In Mission Control, we wound up handing over ISS control at 4 AM on Thursday, but my last shift ended at midnight Wednesday. During my last shift, my wife called to tell me that there was a local run on gas, as everyone was topping off their cars, per local government direction. As a result, I made sure to do the same thing before I got home. But I was kind of wound up with the day's events ... I checked too many things out on the Internet. As a result, I didn't get to sleep until about 3 AM.

At about 7:30 in the morning, my supervisor called up to let me know that JSC was taking administrative leave to shut down the center, and that if I left, I should call him so that he could keep track of who evacuated or not. Just after I hung up the phone, the local news reported that our zip code was in a mandatory evacuation area, and that the predicted track was going to go over Galveston. My wife and I had seen enough, so we started to make plans to head to
New Waverly where my Mother and Father in law live, just as we had for Hurricane Rita, and I called my supervisor back to let him know. However, we also realized that the track was probably going to take the storm in that direction. In the process of letting everyone know where we were going, my wife called up her sister in Austin, who offered to take us in. We took her up on her offer, as we realized it would be safer than New Waverly (and definitely safer than Seabrook), and I called my supervisor back again. My wife and I decided not to pack as much as we had for the Hurricane Rita evacuation, but still would up taking 6 hours to pack. So, we took off for Austin at 2:30. We knew from our past evacuation that we wanted to avoid crowds, but we headed up Interstate 45, then turned west down Beltway 8 - and that's where the traffic started.

However, both us had our cell phones and Key Maps, and were able to stay on side streets parallel with Beltway 8 until we got to the southwest side of Houston. From there, we saw that Beltway 8 traffic was light, so we got back on Beltway 8. We thought we would do well to get on the Westpark tollway, but it was backed down right at the Beltway 8 intersection. So we came up with an alternate plan - go up to Hwy 290, then proceed west on FM 529 all the way to Bellville.

Things seemed to take forever to get through Houston, but once we got past the Cypress-Fairbanks area and were in the country, there was no problem. Of course, this was at 6:30 - we had already been on the road for 4 hours. We pulled into Bellville and had dinner at a Dairy Queen with a number of other people who also seemed to be evacuating the Clear Lake area.

After dinner at the DQ, we decided we'd drive up Texas 35 to Milano, and then come down US79 to get to Austin. This route would take us into Austin from the north - we figured the southern approaches to Austin from Houston would be crowded with Houston traffic. And indeed, it did - we are now staying to the west of Austin, in the Lake Travis area.

Before we had left home, we had registered our cell phones and e-mail addresses with the El Lago City Website. Now, we're getting e-mails and phone calls from the city of El Lago and from the Johnson Space Center which tell us when and where things are gonna opening. It doesn't look like JSC is going to open till Thursday. Furthermore, the reports indicate that there's no power into El Lago, and news reports indicate that gas, ice, and food are in short supply. Since I don't need to get back to town until Thursday at the earliest, I'm in no rush to get home, just to sweat it out with now power/Air Conditioning.

While all these was happening. my mom and dad evacuated to where my brother lives in the woodlands. Apparently they lost power, and things got a little rough for them. But my brother brought them to where he works at Fox Sports, and they stayed there overnight.

I'm voting for Adlai Stevenson this year ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/08/2008 12:12:00 PM

'cuz I definitely don't like Ike.

Dude - you invaded NORMANDY. Stick with that plan!

Swarmed by Ants at Mission Control!!!

Written by Bob McCormick on 6/22/2008 08:40:00 AM

About a week or so back, there were several reports about a new strain of Ants in Houston - and at the NASA-Johnson Space Center here in Houston.

Just to make the reports sillier, the ants were named after the entymologist (I think I got that spelling right?!?), whose last name was Rasberry.

The ants do not look like Raspberries (aaah, a different spelling). Instead, they're called "crazy ants" - smaller ants that tend to move quite a bit quicker than an average Texas fire ant, and tent to wobble as they move about.

To add to all the hysteria, the Crazy Ants are apparently stowaways that got here from the Houston Ship Channel, which is why they are at JSC, and they are apparently attracted to electronics.

Speaking of Fire Ants, that's one good thing about them - they apparently eat fire ants. So maybe they are a good "alien"?


One of the top ten ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 6/20/2008 11:06:00 PM

ISS considered one of the top ten satellites orbiting the Earth (includes the Moon)

What if he does show up with it when he says he will?

Written by Bob McCormick on 6/18/2008 11:35:00 AM

According to this article, SpaceX and Elon Musk will attempt another countdown attempt sometime between the end of this month to the beginning of the next.

As I've said before - great! I hope they're successful.

On an equally important note: as some of you know, there is currently a planned gap between the retiring of NASA Space Shuttle flights and the start of NASA's successor vehicle, the Orion, of anywhere from 3 to 5 years (all depending on governmental funding). The Orion is designed similar to an Apollo capsule, but larger: it's meant to carry 4 crewmembers. The vehicle is boosted to orbit on a Solid Rocket Booster and External Tank designs based on Space Shuttle efforts.

When NASA is ready again for missions to the Moon, another follow-on vehicle (Ares V) will be used to lift lthe Altair Lunar Lander to orbit. Ares V is also designed around more SRBs and the Shuttle's External Tank. Orion and Ares V will rendezvous and dock with each other, and then go in tandem to the Moon. But before the Lunar missions can start, NASA will use Orion by itself to keep the crew on the Space Station.

But what to do about the Space Shuttle to Orion launch gap, and the need to have crews on the ISS in the meantime??? Currently, NASA is dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicles to provide the "lifeboat" function needed on ISS. And there's an issue with the Soyuz vehicles - the last two vehicles used for returning the crew to Earth have undergone problematic "ballistic reentries",which expose the crew to much greater g loads then the nominal entry profile (as well as other potential risks). So, "staying the course" may have technical risks above and beyond Russian launch dependency.

Enter SpaceX and Elon Musk. They are currently building a vehicle under NASA's COTS program which will provide unmanned logistics support (propellant, food, water, etc) to ISS. However, the COTS program has a possibility of requesting a human-rated vehicle - which NASA is currently studying whether to do or not. To make things more interesting, SpaceX's CEO has already stated that he could "eliminate" the gap.

Now, I am not working with COTS in any way, so I have no true technical insight as to whether Musk's statement is a boast or a highly probable event. But what if he does show up with a workable, human-rated vehicle in 2011? What of all the design efforts into Orion - and why would NASA need it 4 years later?

It makes me wonder whether the $ being spent on Orion might be better programmed straight into Ares V.

P.S. - Here's a neat video of the proposed SpaceX/Dragon rendezvous and docking for ISS. Check it out!

お祝いの言葉 (Congratulations)!

Written by Bob McCormick on 6/17/2008 09:31:00 AM

A big congratulations to our Japanese partners now, for both a successful 1J/A and 1J mission!

I worked a lot on 1JA but not much on 1J ... and this was a good thing, since I was a "Team 4" (reserve) member for the 1J mission.

Everything was successfully installed over both of these flights, including (among other things)...


- the new Robotic equipment

- A successful tile repair test onorbit


- Installation, activation, and ingress of Kibo (the Japanese Lab), and the Japanese Robotic Arm

- Fixed the Toilet

I didn't work much on the mission, but I went on console after the Shuttle undock. One interesting thing that happened was the Japanese Earthquake. The epicenter wasn't really close to Japan's Mission Control, but they called us & told us about it during the earthquake. They felt its affects, but nothing was damaged at Mission Control.

As for the follow-on flights - first, NASA will have to fix the launch pad. Discovery's latest launch revealed quite a bit of damage post-flight (I've seen the pictures - bricks were blown throughout the "outfield" of the pad, into the fence (knocking it over somewhat), and into the lagoon beyond it! There was about 10-15 feet of bricks missing from the flame trench as a result.

And as another side note: My own toilet needed repairs over the weekend. You can see my handiwork below. Am I now qualified to go to ISS!?! ;*)

I knew this would happen as soon as I heard about it ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/28/2008 10:28:00 PM

Here's hoping that next Saturday's launch of STS-124 is a successful one. STS-124 will mark the launching of the Japanese "Kibo" laboratory module - which the Houston Chronicle appropriately names the "Lexus" of labs.

My fear is that the newsies will drown this fact out with an overreporting of the toilet problems onboard ISS. I was aware of problems last week, but the troubleshooting was over the weekend & there was no point in mentioning it. But of course, MSNBC got it and CNN has covered it at least twice, the morning yakkers have mentioned it, others have mentioned it as well, and now everyone seems to be aware of it.

Watch for the inevitable overcoverage of that story, and undercoverage of Kibo installation and activation. (sigh)

And while we're on it, congratulations to the Phoenix Lander Team! A successful landing, followed by successful command/telemetry troubleshooting gives them an A+ in my book.

The only downside I have with the Phoenix Lander is that, since I also work for NASA, there are many times when folks outside NASA confuse the JPL unmanned work (like the Phoenix Lander) with the JSC manned work (like Shuttle & ISS) - and I get innocent questions about what is up with the Phoenix Lander. (sigh)

The "Solar Singularity"?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/27/2008 05:50:00 AM

Quite a while back, Instapundit pointed to Phil Bowermaster, who cites that "The (Solar) Singularity is Near.

I just don't know.
I easily recall starting my Engineering studies in 1980, with a viewpoint that energy costs were going to do nothing but go up, and that a future in alternate energy sources seemed like a "secure" thing. By the time I'd graduated, a barrel of crude was ~ $5/bbl. Oil was cheap, and the domestic energy exploration industry (and with it, the local Houston economy and "alt.energy" industries like solar) was practically dead.

Yeah, yeah, that was a long time ago. And China and India were not online. The China/India factor is what's really pushing up the prices, and why I'll think they'll never go down - at least, for quite a while.

I find aspects of today's energy debate disturbing. On the one hand, there's the environmentalists who think we can just save our way to success (as well as develop the alt. energy sources). On the other, there's the folks who want to drill for oil everywhere - in ANWR, and off of each of the USA's "pristine" coasts (Pacific, Atlantic, and E. Gulf of Mexico - and yes, Texas & Louisiana are acutely aware that the rest of the US doesn't think their coastline is as "pristine" as theirs, but they're willing to take the $).

I personally think that BOTH sides are right. As Robert Zubrin points out, the real issue is an economic one, not one based on CO2 emissions (as it always has been - see the "Omissions and Emissions" portion of his article). We need to do the drilling, including in the "sensitive" areas, and do the other things (more coal use w/CO2 sequestration, shale oil use, Nuke power, etc). However, the amount of coal, oil, and uranium in the ground is finite, to whatever economic point we want to go at it, that drilling etc. will only buy us time. We can use that time to develop renewable resources. It's time for all of us to stop the political/philosophical posturing and get on with the right short term and long term goals.

In spite of what some may think, energy independence is a worthy goal.

Echoing the Curmudgeon ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/26/2008 12:48:00 PM

On a day like today, it's time to give thanks for those who have saved us from war's devastation.

Another wise call for space exploration

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/26/2008 06:46:00 AM

Neil DeGrasse Tyson (as I noted earlier) has not been the only scientific "celeb" to call for more space exploration. About a month ago, as part of NASA's 50th anniversary celebration, Stephen Hawking delivered a reasoned proposition on the subject - particularly human exploration and settlement of outer space.

Hawking posesses the capability to comprehend some of the most complex theories in existence. However, in this case, Hawking's argument is simple: Humanity needs to spread to outer space as a hedge against catastrophe on Earth. To do this, Hawking proposes that 0.25% of all worldwide GDP be invested in the effort. He also agreed that lunar settlement/colonization was the first necessary step in the process.

These types of goals are long term, which do not bode well in the short term political environment that most space exploration policy is created. But the case and investments have to be made.

Hat Tip - Keith Cowing/NASA Watch

Will this mean that shootouts are too expensive?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/25/2008 06:37:00 AM

A couple of months ago, an interesting article popped up in the NY Times. The editors of Freakonomics (Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt) noted that the rising cost of metals extended to ammunition as well.

And looking at the comments, apparently Chris Rock and JSpeilburg had the same observation!

How to Suck Less at Photoshop

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/24/2008 01:24:00 AM

For a good laugh and (maybe) some learning (if you actually have Photoshop), surf over to Suck Less at Photoshop, a series of edgy, yet funny videos done by Donnie Hoyle.

Two observations:

1. These films are hilarious

2. Donnie Hoyle might want to check into counseling.

HAT TIP: Gina Trapani/Lifehacker

The boss is right ... and so is Neal DeGrasse Tyson

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/23/2008 06:35:00 PM

My boss forwarded on to me a video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson & his views on Human Spaceflight.

Granted, I'm biased, but I agree w/Dr. Tyson (and by extension, my boss).

Mandy and Lester ... and doing the right thing

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/22/2008 06:27:00 PM

Normally, I don't take my moral cues from commercials. But this video is a good one, and is part of Liberty Mutual's "Responsibility Project".

It's not normally seen on TV, but it is sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. As a result, it's probably the best type of advertisement I've seen - helping Liberty Mutual's viewers make the connection between doing the right thing and what their company is promoting that it stands for.

You can check out more about the Responsibility Project at http://www.responsibilityproject.com/about/, and from the Responsibility Project Blog.

An overview of this blog

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/21/2008 05:45:00 PM

I see from the multitudes now flocking to this site :*/ that folks want to know ... "Hey, what is this blog all about? He teases us with the NASA space stuff, but then doesn't say anything about that".

Well, I have heard your lamentations long enough, so I will come down from by blogging perch atop Mount Olympus and give you a smattering of an idea as to where I think this blog thing will go.

FIRST, I've decided to live up to the title of this blog. It says "A Blog A Day", so dagburnit, that's what I should deliver, as a minimum frequency.

NEXT, let's talk about some of the "themes" in this blog, which should give you, the almighty reader, an idea of what will be coming.

Currently, I have 11 different topics I like to blather about. Some of my entries will be about more than one of these topics. Here's the blog entry categories:

alt.space - insights into and thoughts about the plans and progress of the non-NASA/gov't, non-AirForce, non-"Big boy" (Boeing, Lockheed Martin) aerospace companies that are trying to get humans back in space. I'm avoiding reporting on "the usual suspects" with this category.

nasa_plans - In January 2004, George Bush, as a result of the studies done after the Coumbia accident, announced the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). I'll have several entries that talk about what folks think about NASA's progress implementing it.

past_future - As the modern philosopher Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." It's amazing to see how people in the past thought the future would unfold. These entries illustrate how far off they got.

nostalgia - just nostalgic wistful memories of things I lived through. Again, from Yogi Berra, "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."

msm - my thoughts on the mainstream media, and why people will depend on blogs & the internet much more heavily than in the past.

interesting - things that seem, well, interesting to me. Your mileage may vary.

inspirational - things that move me in some manner. Again, your mileage may vary.

Humor - funny observations by myself & others.

Houston - It's my hometown & where I basically grew up. It's been through ups & downs & I wish it the best. I care, so you should care - and if you don't, then blog about your own locality, OK?

Boys - I've got a teenage son & 1 who's about to be a teen. Before long, college & the "Real world" will await them. These blog entries are a preparation for that.

alt.energy - In the 70's, it was observed that coal, oil, gas, & uranium were finite resources. Prices on those commodities have gone down & up, but the fundamental fact that they are finite has not changed. These entries identify what f0lks are doing to contend with that fundamental fact.

Anything else you'd like me to blog about? Let me know in the comments.

In any event, I hope you like the blog & visit often.

- Bob

The Windy state

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/20/2008 11:42:00 PM

From Houston Business News, 4/15/08, Survey: Texas leads nation in wind capacity .

Hooray! We're number one!

And I believe it - there were windmills all over the Pecos Mountains and on the edge of the caprock when we went on vacation in 2006. And guess which University is going to be running the wind research institute down near Corpus Christi? Nice setup, eh?

Semper Fi

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/19/2008 11:06:00 PM

Not sure why, but I am inspired by this ad (I've seen snippets of it on TV already) - and I've never been in the military.

From instapundit, a TV ad from the Marines.

How my boys will sell me on Wii - to get fit!

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/18/2008 10:59:00 PM

According to the cnn.com technology page (5/10), the folks at Nintendo have been able to incorporate all sorts of fitness exercises into the Nintendo Wii.

I wonder when the inevitable exercise injuries & lawsuits will start? :*/

On the pollution front

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/17/2008 03:33:00 AM

See, it's not Houston's fault. From the chron 4/12 Study: Sea salt a key ingredient in Houston pollution

And as I thought, it's those Chinese new starts that are really doing it. Instapundit (4/15) points it out ... China now top polluter

Two words - Haloween Costume

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/16/2008 03:28:00 AM

From Boing Boing ...Voice-changing Dalek helmet

Old subway cars as artificial reefs - is this OK?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/15/2008 03:19:00 AM

Slashdot reports on Old Subway Cars as Artificial reefs.

Call me crazy, but with a probability of gas prices continuing to increase, with an increased need for mass transit, wouldn't it make more sense for old subway cars to be used as something like, say, reused subway cars?

Let the fish & coral get their own mass transportation systems!

Read price charts & dream yourself a business tycoon with Inspectd ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/14/2008 03:56:00 AM

From Freakonomics (4/15). I think I made $20k in about 25 deals ... Inspectd. You may not waste any real money, but you can waste plenty of time with it ...

Transportation meddling

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/13/2008 04:01:00 AM

From Boing Boing (4./12)Cities making red-light cameras more profitable by making them less safe

And from Techdirt (via Slashdot) (4/12), a title about pretty much the same thing.

I remember talking to a Transportation Engineer when I worked at the Texas Transportation Institute while I was in college. He told me about similar shenanigans along Texas Highways when small municipalities would adjust the speed limits so that the towns could be "speed traps" and the town could use those highways as "revenue enhancers".

Problem was, if a Transportation Engineer rated a piece of the highway as being able to maintain a certain speed limit, AND an accident was attributed to the municipality lowering the limit significantly lower than what that rating was, the municipality AND THE COUNCILMEMBERS WHO VOTED FOR THE LOWERED SPEED LIMIT could be held JOINTLY and INDIVIDUALLY LIABLE for any loss of life or property attributable to that lowered speed limit.

I would think the same thing would hold about traffic lights and/or cameras.

We'll see how all this goes ...

I think Dr. Smith got it wrong this time ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/12/2008 03:29:00 AM

From Houston Business News 4/23/08 ... High gas prices equal good Houston economy, says economist

I think this would have been true if it was 1988 - not so much now. The Houston economy is more diversified, and therefore more reflective of the national economy as a whole. High gas prices (and associated profits)won't necessarily flow to Houstonians, regardless of how many corporate headquarters we have (even if Texas now has more Fortune 500 headquarters than New York!).

How many of y'all agree with me? Let me know in the comments.

Ghost hotel ... inspired by the Gobbler?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/11/2008 04:22:00 AM

Boing Boing (4/23) came across what looked like a luxury hotel shell in the Sinai peninsula. Now, tell me that it doesn't sorta look like a Gobbler shell ...

Do men run the world?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/10/2008 03:51:00 AM

Instapundit (4/15) points to the modern philosopher Scott Adams who tells the real story. Boys, take note.

For more efficiency in your life ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/09/2008 04:25:00 AM

Again, in search of that never-ending quest for efficiency in your life ...
as I showed before, you can shower and get your morning coffee in the same operation. You can also automate your kidnapping letters.

Now ...

you can interface your jeans to your computer & type anywhere!

Hat tip (again) Boing/Boing (Cory Doctorow)

Link love to Pegster

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/11/2008 07:21:00 PM

Just a simple link to my little sis ...


Go girl go!

VW Beetle ... Aaah yes, I remember it well

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/11/2008 12:08:00 PM

It must be something about those cars, I sorta have fond memories of mine too. Mine was a '68 Beetle that my parents gave me as my first car - they had originally bought it new, 10 years earlier. They used it in our move from Chicago to Dallas, and later, we used it in our move from Miami to Houston (more about those moves later).

I have no idea why I have those fond memories. It was a dark red, two-door sedan, with a black interior, and had no A/C - the perfect car for Texas. :*( It only had AM radio coming out of a tinny speaker near the instrument panel (later, I tried to mangle some speakers into the cardboard-paneled doors).

But, it was my car - my first car! It allowed me to get back and forth throughout all of High School.
Everything worked fine until the summer after I graduated High School. The engine block cracked - which is what tends to happen to aluminum block engines that have no water jacket.
It's the perfect kind of car to have as a "first car" - no flashiness, it just gets you where you need to get. Also, it means you have to learn how to use a manual transmission, which ought to be MANDATORY for all new drivers.

Workin' Powerpoint again

Written by Bob McCormick on 3/31/2008 06:40:00 PM

At work today, I've been spending my time developing some presentation material for various levels of management.

I'm struggling to put my thoughts together ... but I know some things to avoid. David Airey lays it out at his youtube site ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLpjrHzgSRM

"So, Mr. Flight Controller guy, Where's all the NASA space posts?"

Written by Bob McCormick on 3/28/2008 06:27:00 PM

Good question.

Let me tell you what I will blog about and what I won't blog about.

I WON'T blog about heavy-duty stuff that I do at NASA. Yes, the work can be intense, but I also am doing this for a living. I will not be blogging about what I might have done on any particular week I am on console (other than in generalities). I MOST ASSUREDLY will not be blogging in any gossipy-sort of stuff - so even if I think Flight Director X is a flake or Astronaut Y is a jerk or co-worker Z is a bozo, you won't be reading about it in this blog.

Last time I checked, NASA has it's share of flakes, jerks, and bozos (and always has) - they are not unique relative to any organization of similar size. The jerks, flakes, and bozos are the vast minority and their antics do not require or deserve my reiteration here. Besides, I'm sure sometimes they think I'm a flake, jerk, and bozo - and sometimes, all at the same time. And who knows - they may be right!

I ALSO WILL NOT be blogging (at least, not directly) about any large-scale NASA policy. As many of the NASA folk would say, those decisions are "way above my pay grade". No sense ruminating about how they might not be my favorite decisions.

I WILL blog about what I see going on in the alt.space world. I think that what is happening there can lead to a renaissance (I know that's not the appropriate word, but you get the point) for the US aerospace industry and for our chances of making any kind of scaled-up spacefaring civilization.

That doesn't necessarily mean that NASA's doing the "wrong thing". From what I can tell, the alt. space efforts and the NASA efforts are not mutually exclusive - they are not an "either/or" proposition. As the Chinese might say, "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom".

My main goal is not necessarily on how I personally can be an Astronaut. I applaud others who have this goal; however, my goal is focused on how to facilitate the space environment so that the probability of actually getting there goes up for everyone (of course, myself included). It may not be my generation, but it may be my kids' generation - if we can get our act together now.

I was on console when Bill Shepard was launched into orbit, as part of the first Expedition to ISS. On that day, as on other similar days, an American flag was raised on the roof of Mission Control. That flag is a symbol to remind us that there are Americans in orbit. The goal our FCT established that day was to assure that, from here on in, there will always be an American in orbit.

It's a hard goal to attain (and it takes forever to verify that you've done it!), but one I think that is worthy.

Why I didn't vote in the Texas Democratic Primaries this year

Written by Bob McCormick on 3/27/2008 09:20:00 PM

It's looking a lot like 1984 ... no political pun intended.

Or is it?

Today's News

Written by Bob McCormick on 3/26/2008 09:45:00 PM

In today's news...

I was invited, and went to, the United Space Alliance's SARA (Superior Achievement and Recognition Award) awards event. I was invited as a nominee because I was a member of the OMEGA (Operations Planning Multilateral Exercise Group Assessment) team.

It was a team we spontaneously formed because we knew that we would be participating in ISS with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japanese Exploration and Space Agency (JAXA) for the first time in 2008. We were concerned because it had been years since we had last tested these interfaces, and we needed to make certain that all parties had the same understanding as to when planning files needed to be transferred, and what information needed to be provided.

And while the event was starting, STS-123 was landing! Almost as if someone had planned it that way ... ;*)

And in other important news ... I was really sleepy after the event. And not because of the event. :*) I think my sleep shifting problems are over!

Sleep shifting back to reality

Written by Bob McCormick on 3/25/2008 10:18:00 PM

The sleep shifting back to reality hasn't worked that great for me.

I came back to Mission Control to get my "goodie book" as well as some food "goodies" from the back room, and found that the rest of my ISS flight shift (who was still on console) was planning on celebrating after they got off shift. But that was at 11:30 PM. I was with them for several hours, then came home & got on the computer for a few more.

Needless to say, that messed up my sleep shifting plans. I wound up waking up at 11 this morning ... I'll try better today.

Oh BTW, here's a pic of my Flight Control Team that apparently somebody posted on Digg (I definitely DID NOT put it on there, nor did I do any of those comments!). It's the same one I've put into this post (above). See if you can spot me ...


Written by Bob McCormick on 3/24/2008 12:27:00 PM


Things have sure been hyper-busy (and it's been too long) since my last blog entry.

I've been EXTREMELY busy the last few weeks working on the latest Shuttle mission. It's STS-123, or "1J/A". I just finished my last console shift ... and boy, am I tired! Today, I'll try to stay up as long as I can - my last shift started at 7:30 PM & ended at 4:30 AM. I should be super-tired when nighttime comes ... I'll just be sure not to drive or operate heavy machinery.

As I said, it's been a long flight. In fact, it was the longest docked mission flight to the ISS. It will be a 16 day long mission by the time the Shuttle lands - assuming weather's good, it should land Wednesday. It was a good mission - the crew accomplished a lot. And we now have a new robotic capability, and a new International Partner, onboard. I was glad to finally hear my Japanese counterparts on the voice loops during mission operations. Them, as well as my European and Russian counterparts, make the loops pretty busy!

Oh, and you can count on this blog living up more to its title - unfortunately, it's read more like "A blog a year"!

Let me know how things are going for you in the comments.


- Bob

People who didn't make it through 2007 ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 1/01/2008 04:48:00 AM

This post is a reprise of a similar post I did last year, where I decided to make a list and categorize (via wikipedia) of all of the people who died this past year that I considered noteworthy in some way (either famous or infamous).

As it was last year, in many cases, they were well known. In some cases, they were related to the well known. And in still other cases, they really fit more than one category, although I forced myself to limit them to just one.

And just like last year, we seem to lose more entertainers than anything else. (Is that because there's more of them, or because we track them more?)

Anyways, without further adieu, here’s my list of people who didn’t make it through this year. Here’s hoping that all of you make it through this year and next!

- Bob

Schirra, Wally, American astronaut (3-May)
Yost, Ed, American inventor of the modern hot air balloon (27-May)


Cade, Robert, American physician and inventor of the beverage Gatorade (27-Nov)
Claiborne, Liz, Belgian-American fashion designer (27-June)
Evans, Bob, American restaurateur (21-June)
Gallo, Ernest, American winemaker (6-Mar)
Helmsley, Leona, American hotel operator and real estate investor (20-Aug)
Valenti, Jack, American film executive, creator of MPAA film rating system (26-Apr)
Roddick, Anita, English entrepreneur (10-Sep)


Bergman, Ingmar, Swedish film director (30-Jul)
Bishop, Joey, American entertainer (17-Oct)
Brecker, Michael, American jazz musician (13-Jan)
Carlisle Hart, Kitty, American singer, actress & talk show panelist (17-Apr)
de Carlo, Yvonne, American actress (Lily Munster) (8-Jan)
Coltrane, Alice, American jazz musician (12-Jan)
DeForest, Calvert, American actor and comedian (19-Mar)
Delp, Brad, American singer (Boston) (9-Mar)
Doherty, Denny, The Mamas and the Papas) (19-Jan)
DuBrow, Kevin, American musician (Quiet Riot) (25-Nov)
Fogelberg, Dan, American singer and songwriter (16-Dec)
Ghostley, Alice, American actress (21-Sep)
Goulet, Robert, American entertainer (30-Oct)
Griffin, Merv, American TV personality (12-Aug)
Herbert, Don, American television personality, Mr. Wizard (12-Jun)
Ho, Don, American musician (14-Apr)
Hutton, Betty, American actress (11-Mar)
Knievel, Evel American motorcycle daredevil (30-Nov)
Laine, Frankie, American singer (6-Feb)
Marceau, Marcel , French mime artist (22-Sep)
McNair, Barbara, American singer and actress (4-Feb)
Pavarotti, Luciano , Italian tenor (6-Sep)
Peterson, Oscar Canadian jazz pianist and composer (23-Dec)
Ponti, Carlo , Italian film producer (& Sophia Loren's husband) (10-Jan)
Poston, Tom, American actor (30-Apr)
Randolph, Boots, American saxophone player (3-Jul)
Reeves, Del, American country singer (1-Jan)
Reilly, Charles Nelson, American actor (25-May)
Roach, Max, American percussionist, drummer, and composer (16-Aug)
Scott, Gordon, American actor (30-Apr)
Sheldon, Sidney, American author and screenwriter (30-Jan)
Siegel, Joel, American film critic (29-Jun)
Sills, Beverly, American soprano (2-Jul)
Smith, Anna Nicole , American model and television personality (8-Feb)
Snyder, Tom, American talk show host (29-Jul)
Somers, Brett, American actress (15-Sep)
Takamoto, Iwao , Japanese animator (8-Jan)
Turner, Ike, American musician (12-Dec)
Wagoner, Porter, American country singer (28-Oct)
Wilson, Dick, American actor (Mr. Whipple) (19-Nov)
Wyman, Jane, American actress, former wife of Ronald Reagan (10-Sep)
Zaret, Hy, American lyricist and composer (Unchained Melody) (2-Jul)
Zawinul, Joe, Austrian musician (11-Sep)

Bhutto, Benazir, Pakistani politician (27-Dec)
Curie, Ève, French author, daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie (22-Oct)
Gastão, Prince Pedro of Orléans-Braganza‎ , a claimant to the Brazilian throne (27-Dec)
Hamed, Awad al-Bandar, Iraqi judge (15-Jan)
Ibrahim, Barzan al-Tikriti, Iraqi politician (15-Jan)
Kollek, Teddy, Austrian-born mayor of Jerusalem (2-Jan)
Miyazawa, Kiichi, 78th Prime Minister of Japan (28-Jun)
Pierre, Abbé, French priest and founder of Emmaus (22-Jan)
Pompidou, Claude, wife of President of France Georges Pompidou (3-Jul)
Ramadan, Taha Yassin, Vice President of Iraq (30-Mar)
Rostropovich, Mstislav, Russian cellist and conductor (27-Apr)
Spencer-Churchill, Arabella, (Winston Churchill's granddaughter) English philanthropist (20-Dec)
Waldheim, Kurt, Austrian politician and diplomat, former UN Secretary-General (14-Jun)
von Weizsäcker, Carl Friedrich, German physicist and philosopher (28-Apr)
Yeltsin, Boris, first President of the Russian Federation (23-Apr)
Yokoyama, Knock, Japanese comedian and politician (3-May)

Buchwald, Art, American humorist (17-Jan)
Halberstam, David, American author and journalist (23-Apr)
Hart, Johnny, American cartoonist (7-Apr)
Ivins, Molly, American columnist (31-Jan)
Mailer, Norman, American writer (10-Nov)
Parker, Brant, American cartoonist (15-Apr)
Strauss, Bill, American satirist, author and historian (18-Dec)

Astor, Brooke, American socialite and philanthropist (13-Aug)
Deaver, Michael , American political adviser (18-Aug)
Eagleton, Thomas, American politician (4-Mar)
Falwell, Jerry, American evangelist (15-May)
Graham, Ruth Bell, Wife of Billy Graham (14-Jun)
Jewell, Richard, American falsely accused of bombing the Centennial Olympic Park (29-Aug)
Johnson, Lady Bird , former First Lady of the United States (11-Jul)
Humbard, Rex, American evangelist (21-Sep)
Hyde, Henry , American politician (29-Nov)
King, Yolanda , American actress and activist, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. (15-May)
Messner, Tammy Faye, American evangelist (20-Jul)
Schlesinger, Arthur M. , Jr., American historian and political commentator (28-Feb)
Smith, Ian, Prime Minister of Rhodesia (20-Nov)
Thomas, Craig L., American politician (4-Jun)
Tibbets, Paul, American general, pilot of the Enola Gay (1-Nov)
West, Barbara, 2nd to last living survivor of the Titanic sinking (16-Oct)

Brewer, Gay, American golfer (31-Aug)
Duckett, J. Fred, American sports announcer and teacher (25-Jun)
Griffin, Eddie, American basketball player (17-Aug)
Hill, Marquise, American football player (28-May)
Johnson, Dennis, American basketball player (22-Feb)
Koy, Ernie, American baseball player (1-Jan)
Kuhn, Bowie, American lawyer and sports administrator (15-Mar)
Mancuso, Frank, American baseball player and politician (4-Aug)
McGee, Max , American football player (20-Oct)
Mitchell, Kevin, American football player (30-Apr)
Nash, Damien, American football player (24-Feb)
Nuxhall, Joe, American baseball player and announcer (15-Nov)
Rizzuto, Phil, American baseball player and announcer (13-Aug)
Robinson, Eddie, American football coach (3-Apr)
Stingley, Darryl, American football player (5-Apr)
Taylor, Sean, American football player (27-Nov)
Walker, Jimmy, American basketball player (2-Jul)
Walsh, Bill, American football coach (30-Jul)
Williams, Darrent, American football player (1-Jan)