January 13th, 2014


Christmas Cards In/Out

Midnight between Sunday and Monday, and it's 41°F outside. This warm up, after the snows and deep freeze has luckily been soft enough that there's not a problem with flooding.

Having sent out a Christmas letter for the first time in five years, or in the process of sending them, I assumed we'd start hearing from people. Reconnecting with those who got lost in the post office change. Tonight we read four letters that came recently.

-- One NU friend is retired from the USAF Band in DC -- marched in his seventh and last inaugural parade and now has a Ph.D. in music.

-- One of Mrs. Dr. Phil's Earlham classmates has a daughter heading to college. We saw her as a toddler! Wasn't that recent?

-- One good friend from MTU who has had health issues is still alive and kicking. When you are out of touch, you worry, but never seem to find the time to reconnect. This is why the lure of the Christmas letter is so powerful -- it changes the game. Prods you to write. It's a good thing, I think.

-- And a retired pair of professors from the U of I library school proved to be faithful archivists. Their letter, sent after ours, included the last three we didn't get.

I love these people, and we will get around to sending follow-up letters methinks. Real Soon Now. (grin)

Now if these people would just include current email addresses. (double-trouble-grin)

Dr. Phil

Clear Sailing

With the warm up, this was the first day back with clear roads the whole way, full speed driving, and clear parking lot and sidewalks. Yay.

I've been trying to leave around 7:30am -- today was 7:38 -- and have time for a pit stop at Wayland, but this was the first day I had twelve minutes in my office before I had to head down to class. Last week I went directly to the lecture hall. This is how it's supposed to be. (grin) Crazy to see it so cleared out after just a week ago being in whiteout conditions and two days of cancelled classes.

I suppose I shouldn't get used to it. Not in months that have an R in them.

Dr. Phil

Living In The Future?

Ho-hum. I can hear some people saying it.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocketed up to 71,000 feet in a test flight on Friday. That's nothing. Not even space. -- Yeah, that's true. But getting to 71,000 feet in a test flight of the X-15 rocket plane some 50+ years ago would've been similarly dangerous and adventurous.

But the big flights are only going up to 325,000 feet. Big deal. -- Well, hopefully it's 328,000 feet, which according to my calculator is 100,000 meters. Or 100 km. Or 61.9 miles. The definition of space. And for the record, the X-15 didn't make it to Space either, or at least not by modern standards. The USAF awarded astronaut wings at 50 miles, or 264,000 feet, or 80.45 km, for a time. The X-15 official record was 314,688 feet in July 1962. Or not quite the modern definition of space. Unofficially, in 1963 X-15 Flight 90 went 106.01 km and Flight 91 hit 107.96 km. These were major milestone flights, not so ho-hum at all.

Anyway, the passengers are only gonna get four minutes of zero-gee on the commercial flights. -- Yeah and that's longer and higher than you're going to get on a Vomit Comet style parabolic flight.

And about that last point. They've got passengers! Something over 600 deposits on the quarter million dollar round-trip (grin) fare. Including Stephen Hawking (!).

Complain if you like that it isn't big enough or long enough. Or that Richard Branson's stunts and NBC's sensationalism are over the top. But I think that once SpaceShipTwo and her four to five cousins start flying, that it might just create a new attitude towards space travel.

And that bodes well for the future.

While I will probably not make it to space, I think in my lifetime we'll have orbital vacations and probably commercial circumlunar flights to see the far side of the Moon...

Dr. Phil