Monday, April 23, 2012

An Earth-Shattering Kaboom

We took advantage of a rare open schedule to slip up to Lake Tahoe this weekend. We did some sledding near the house, and later lunched amoung the beautiful people at Squaw Valley, all in mid-70s temperatures under spectacular blue skies.

Sunday morning, we were startled out of our lazy start to the day by a resounding boom that shook the house and trailed off in a long echo. It was a little like somebody taking a run at a sliding glass door and bouncing off, but amplified many times over. Daisy has been known to run into closed doors, so that wasn't completely beyond the realm of possibility, but the sound was just to big and all encompassing for that. It was like a single peal of thunder, with no preamble and no follow-up reverberations. I concluded that it was a sonic boom, but could not figure out why we would have experienced one. I could only surmise that a military jet flying across the deserted wastelands of western Nevada had strayed too close to populated areas at high speed.

As it turns out, we did hear a sonic boom. So did people across California, from the Bay Area to Reno and Las Vegas. The source of the noice, as it turns out, was somewhat more worrying than a wayward warplane. A meteor the size of a washing machine tore through the low atmosphere, turning into a fireball that was plainly visible in bright sunlight as it streaked to earth, ripping off a sonic boom as it passed through the sound barrier. It is presumed that pieces of the meteor made it all the way to the ground, even after it burned and broke up on its passage to earth.

I think I am glad I did not see the meteor come in. I might have been a little alarmed if I had seen a bright fireball streak across the morning sky, accompanied by a sonic boom. Manmade or alien, whatever it was could have been terrifying to witness.

I hate to think that my last thought, as the earth was blasted asunder by a meteor strike, could have been, "the Mayans were right!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Best Backyard Ever

An Oregon family has built a 1/3 scale Fenway Park on their back acreage, perfect for wiffle ball games.

I love this. If I had the room, I am reasonably convinced I would try this, but with a replica of San Francisco's AT&T Park. The pool could go behind the right field arcade.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

R.I.P. Ferdinand Porsche

The designer of my favorite commuter car has died. Working for the company founded by his grandfather, who designed what became the Volkswagen Beetle, Ferdinand Porsche penned the equally iconic (and long-lived) 911.

I will deploy my car's rear spoiler at half staff on my way home from work tonight.
Boeing is testing its new space vehicle -- excellent! It's time to return to manned space exploration, to boldly go where we haven't yet gone ...

Wait a minute. This looks familiar.

Welcome to the brave new world of 1965 all over again. Automakers are mining the '60s for their current designs, so why not the space program?

Come on, NASA, quit pretending. Just call it "Apollo" already.

Monday, April 02, 2012


Spring break has arrived. As with most traditional vacation breaks, it means far less to me that I wish it did. Annoyingly, employers outside the education system do not keep up with the childhood traditions of Christmas, spring and summer breaks.

Kelly's spring break will also be a bit different this year. She is spending her break with 240 other high school students and adults from our church and community on a mission trip to Mexico. This trip, which our church has been taking for more than 20 years, sends kids to build houses in communities around Rosarito. The trip is extremely well organized (it is run by Amor Ministries), a lot of hard work, and ultimately very rewarding for everyone involved. The families will get a solid roof and walls around them, and these American kids from the affluent suburbs will get a first-hand look at both the poverty in which much of the world lives, and how little wealth matters when it comes to the dignity of human relationships.

I delivered Kelly to the church at 5 am on Sunday; the buses were rolling by 6 am, and they reached their camping site by the evening. The students will spend the week in tents in a closed and guarded compound, and venture out to the job sites with their teams each day this week. Each team will build a basic 11 x 22 wood frame house for a specific family they will meet and get to know over the course of the week.

Coming off a successful two-week run of Guys and Dolls performances and two thirds of a year of high academic demands and achievements, Kelly really wanted a chance to relax for spring break. Once the departure date approached, however, she warmed again to the idea of the trip. She will get a chance to put the Spanish she has learned so well to use, and she may even learn how to drive a nail. We have no doubt that she will come back changed by the experience.

This being the 21 century, the church is maintaining a blog for the trip, for which we are grateful. The first step in the weaning of a parent is preschool, when the child is away for a morning a few days a week. Then comes elementary school, with the full day away from the house, and some homework besides. High school takes the child even further away, with more curricular and extracurricular activities. This is a whole new arena, though. Kelly is off doing something tremendously impactful in a community far from here, someplace we will likely never visit. She is going to have moments of struggle, inspiration and growth that are completely beyond our influence. As much I'd still like to share all of Kelly's experiences, this is a good thing.