February 01, 2003
STS-51-L, STS-107-L

A friend of mine sent the speech below just a few days ago, for obvious reasons. I read it at the time and was immediately reminded of one of the worst things I've ever seen, back from my days in high school. A few seconds of footage that can never be forgotten. It wasn't until several years later that I saw the complete footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger, mission number 51. The film seemed to run for hours, although it was really only a few minutes, following the explosion and then the large chunks of debris -- in extreme close-up -- as it spiraled its way to Earth.

I saw that complete film only once. Words can not convey how devastating those images are to me.

The men and women of the space programs of the world are heroes. Every time they travel into space, they carry with them the hope of an entire species; hope that we will endure, that we can attain ever greater goals.

And now, seventeen years later, the space shuttle Columbia has also been lost.

I am profoundly saddened by the news today.

"Ladies and gentlemen:

I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy.' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.

There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime, the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye, and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

-- President Ronald Regan addresses the nation in the aftermath of the shuttle Challenger disaster, January 28, 1986.

Posted by at 04:32 PM in the following Department(s): | Comments (0)
 February 02, 2003
Roast Beast Sammiches

A friend of mine wrote to me: [...] Anyhow, I was also wondering if you would share your beef on weck recipe; I would like to try to make it this winter sometime and don't want to wait until we get together again.

Guess what I'm making for dinner tonight. :-)

Since I typed up the recipe for my friend, I may as well share it with all y'all while I'm at it. The term "beef on weck" comes from a popular dish in Buffalo: steamed roast beef on a kimmelweck roll. Kimmelweck is a Polish roll with salt and caraway seeds baked into the top. It's hard to find 'weck outside of Buffalo. Over the years, my recipe has changed quite a bit, so this doesn't resemble the Buffalo-style sandwich as much as it used to. Still, I think it's pretty good.

Allan's World Famous Beef on Weck

There are four easy steps. This is sooooo easy to make.

Step 1: heat beef broth* to boiling; let simmer

* Whenever I can, I use fresh au jus from the deli counter, but they don't do that kind of thing here in the northwest. I don't know why. In Buffalo, the au jus is *free* when you buy a pound of roast beef. Anyway, when I don't get fresh au jus, I just buy Franco-American Beef Gravy and add a half part water to each part gravy. I usually get three small cans (10 oz.), throw the contents into a big pot, then fill each can half-way up with water and toss that in, too. Don't add water to fresh au jus; that's just for cutting the gravy. :-)

Once the beef broth or gravy or au jus is boiling, we move on to...

Step 2: Throw in some spices; let simmer for a bit

I always throw in a handful of crushed red pepper.
I then throw in either a handful of rosemary, a handful of freshly chopped cilantro, or both. (Today, I'm doing both.)
Optional: There is this fine marinade called Allegro Hot & Spice Marinade that you should be able to find at your local grocery store. A little bit of this adds a nice little kick to the sauce. I don't measure how much I add, but it's probably about a quarter of a cup; definitely no more than that, possibly less.

Step 3: Throw in a pound of sliced roast beef; let simmer some more

I don't just throw in the whole pound at once, I add each slice one at a time. I don't know if this actually makes it taste better, but I *think* it does. Never underestimate the power of psychology. At this point, you're going to want to let it simmer for quite a while. At least an hour or two to get the best flavor.

Step 4: Put on buns; eat

If at all possible, I get genuine kimmelweck rolls like you get in Buffalo, but that's not very common where I currently live. Kaiser rolls (or hard rolls, bulky rolls, soft rolls, or whatever they call them where you live) work just fine.

That's all there is to it. To recap, here are the ingredients:

* beef broth (either fresh au jus *or* 30 to 40 oz. of Franco American gravy cut with 50% water)
* crushed red pepper
* rosemary and/or fresh cilantro
* optional: Allegro hot & spicy marinade
* one pound of sliced roast beef
* buns

Bun Appetit!

Posted by at 04:45 PM in the following Department(s): Recipes | Comments (2)
 February 07, 2003
All Your Bomb Are Belong to Us

A few days ago, some high ranking official (hmm... where to put the hyphen?) of the North Korean government said that North Korea could launch a preemptive strike against the United States by launching a nuclear bomb aimed at... Seattle.

Now, I hope that someone has pointed out to the North Korean powers-that-be that taking out Seattle will not, in and of itself, eliminate the nuclear arsenal of the United States government. A preemptive strike only works when your attack disarms your opponent. If you don't successfully disarm your opponent, then it isn't much of a preemptive strike. See: Japan v. U.S., 1941.

In the case of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were at least *trying* to disarm the American government by crippling the nation's Pacific fleet. Why North Korea thinks that taking out Seattle will prevent the United States from fighting back, I do not know. I think that's why our current administration has stated that they don't take North Korea's sabre rattling seriously. And while I agree with this sentiment, I'm not sure that telling the North Korean government "you lie" is a particularly face-saving gesture. Maybe, someday, the administration of the United States government will ask for my advice concerning diplomacy.

But I digress. You see, I didn't want to comment on foreign policy so much as discuss personal ramifications if Seattle were to be hit by a nuclear bomb.

I currently live in a suburb of Seattle called Redmond. If downtown Seattle were to be hit by a reasonably-sized nuclear detonation, either in the air or at ground level, then my neighborhood would quickly become a radioactive fallout zone. Our buildings would probably remain standing, but the quality of life (short though it may be) would decrease dramatically. If I read the charts correctly, the radiation would likely kill the healthy adults in my neighborhood within an hour or two. Of course, this assumes that the bomb is on target, and doesn't accidentally hit Everett or Renton by mistake (in which case we might actually escape with our lives).

The point being, it's hard for me to conceive of a more lame, albeit newsworthy, way to end my concerns than to have a nuclear bomb detonated near my neighborhood. I mean, I've got a mortgage to pay off, a business I'm trying to get off the ground, a child to raise, and a marriage to tend, let alone a writing career I'm trying to develop... I've got issues I'm working on. With each passing year, I manage to make a little headway here, experience some setbacks there. I hope to reach the end of my life able to say that, all things told, I done okay.

Speaking purely from a personal point of view, I would be profoundly disappointed to have my life end in the middle of all this tension (I'm talking about my own personal struggles here, not international diplomatic tension) with simply some bolt from the blue. I mean, a random death would be annoying, but *this* kind of random death would be doubly annoying.

Can you imagine reading a big, thick novel with dozens and dozens of interesting characters, all with their own story arcs and intersecting in fascinating ways, with various plot reversals and complications and funny anecdotes, when halfway through the story -]BAM[- there's a nuclear explosion and nothing but blank pages for the rest of the book? *That's* what I'm talking about. No denouement, no nothing. If you read a novel like that, you'd say, "What was the point?"

And that's my point.

Nuking Seattle would be annoying. So, North Korea, if you're listening: please allow me to recommend bombing Paris, instead.

Posted by at 04:12 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits , Tidbits III | Comments (1)
 February 10, 2003
Occupation: Typist

Been busy tonight. Spent much of the evening into the wee hours typing. I've been revising and otherwise cleaning up a short story of mine called "Suspicious Activity" that I'd first put to paper during my time at the Clarion West workshop two summers ago. (catching breath after such a long sentence.) I'm optimistic that this one might finally, uh, get me off the slush pile.

I'm beginning to see that the key to success in writing is to lower your expectations while you raise your standards. :-P

Posted by at 02:35 AM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (0)
 February 11, 2003
A Tale of Two Teeth

A kind reader recently e-mailed to ask how my recent gum surgery went. Rather than reply off-line, I thought I'd share the news with the world.

This second surgery was much quicker than the first. Of course, they didn't have to transplant any material, they only had to traumatize (sorry, "freshen") my gums and re-sew them this time. The recovery was also much less of an issue than it was the first time: I needed no painkillers at all (not even my favorite stand-by, Advil) after the surgery.

I did everything I was told to do -- I took it easy for a couple of days, I went to see a movie, I ate soft foods. I didn't pull my lip to look at the surgery site. I was a very good boy.

The results? Well, the jury is still out. I went back to the periodontist's office two weeks after the surgery. They removed the sutures and cleaned everything up. The clefts were all healed, which was very good news. However... the coverage didn't end up being as perfect as it had once looked like it would be. That is to say, there were early indications that the final results would be *perfect* coverage, and now it looks like there may end up being a recession of about 2 mm. Maybe. We'll check back in a couple weeks to see. Originally, there was a tear (less likely to happen now) and a 4mm recession, so the result appears to be progress, but just not perfection.

I'm told that in the next couple of weeks, because the gum tissue is still healing, it very well could end up rebounding and shrinking that recession. So the jury is still out. If we fall short of perfection though, my preference is to avoid further surgery. Perfection would be nice, but I can live with "better than it was." We'll see what the periodontist recommends.

Ah, but I had said this would be a tale of two teeth in the title of this missive, did I not? This isn't just about the gum surgery in front of one of my lower teeth. Oh, no. Someone else has a lower tooth of note, as well.

Baby Alexander, who turns seven months old in a week, is just now sporting his first tooth. It appears to have broken through the gums a day or two ago. Not quite visible enough to see unless you're up-close-and-personal, but I'll post pictures when there's something to see.


Posted by at 11:55 PM in the following Department(s): Gingiva Graft , The Boys | Comments (0)
 February 12, 2003
Ready for Flight

Alexander Styling

Is this baby stylin', or what?

Alexander's paternal grandfather is an avid pilot, and he picked up this flight jacket for the little guy during a recent visit to an aviation shop near Boeing field. The outfit says it's for 12 month olds, but Alexander is, as always, ahead of the curve.

He's got the outfit. Now all he needs is the plane.

Posted by at 12:12 AM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (3)
 February 26, 2003
A bad week for technology

I received an e-mail today saying, "Where'd your site go?" This happened once before, for the same reason:

The front page of this site shows the last two weeks or so of entries. I haven't posted anything since, oh, February 12th, so that means that none of my essays are up on the front page anymore.

Until now. :-)

This past week and a half has been a bad one for me and technology. The two biggest issues have been 1) my computer and 2) my car. My computer went senile. After four years, it experienced the onset of dementia and couldn't remember anything. It kept shutting down for no reason. Like a Florida pensioner whose driver's license should have been revoked years ago, it kept crashing. I made the sad decision to fire the old computer, but hiring the replacement took some time. In the meantime, there was much woe to be had. And no time to post here, I'm afraid.

In the meantime, I took my car in to have the "coil pack" replaced. A coil pack, I'm told, does the job that a distributor cap used to do. Costs about $600 to replace, too. Well, $400, but then the shop finds out there's problems with the wires, and the spark plugs need to be replaced, etc., etc.

Except, when I got the thing home, the check engine light came on again and it was running rough and, oh yeah, something was burning in the engine compartment. Took it back to the shop. Later that day, I had it back. They said the computer reported that it was two of the (brand new) spark plugs. Two days later, same symptoms. Took it back. This time, they said it must have been a bad coil pack that was causing the problems both times. (And, no, the shop didn't charge me for the last two visits. They are expensive, but they stand by their work. I like them.)

The net result was that, as with the computer, I spent a great deal of time either without the car or attending to the car, and little time actually using the car. Unlike the computer, though, my car didn't keep crashing. That's good.

As I told Paulette when I drove home from the shop the third time, "Feels like driving a new car. Again."

And as for the replacement computer, well... there are some nice things about having a new machine. Since Paulette and I run a combo Mac/PC shop, and it was my Mac that died, the new machine is a Mac that runs OS X. As with Windows XP -- the first Windows operating system that has surprised me in a *pleasant* way -- OS X is the first Mac OS in a long time that I've enjoyed using. It's much more reliable than the OS 9's or the late 8's were, and it has a bunch of nice little touches that have made my computing experience just... pleasant. XP and OS X are, in a word, "nice." Not a word I like to use, but preferable to the words I used to use to describe my work-environment operating systems.

So, yeah, this past week or two have been pretty bad for me technology-wise, but now it looks like smooth driving ahead. For at least a little while. :-)

Posted by at 06:42 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (0)

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