Friday, May 30, 2003

What's the opposite of deja vu? There's got to be a word that describes the feeling you get when you know you've been in a certain place or situation before, but it seems totally unfamiliar and you don't recognize anything. I thought about that a little while ago when I was back in Austin where I went to college and stopped off at one of the big shopping malls nearby. Obviously I had been there before, but it'd been so long that enough had changed and I didn't even recognize the layout anymore.

Hmmmm. After a quick search, it turns out that there really is a term: Jamais vu, which according to the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, means "a disorder of memory characterized by the illusion that the familiar is being encountered for the first time." It's normally associated with epilepsy and amnesia.

According to a Dr. Funkhouser [1] of Switzerland, there are several flavors of deja vu, too:

  • deja vecu, "already experienced or lived through" - you have a feeling of doing or saying something that you've done before
  • deja senti, "already felt" - you have a "hey, I remember that!" feeling all of a sudden
  • deja visite, "already visited" - you visit a new place and find it to be familiar

    [1] Dr. Funkhouser would also be a good name for a rock band.

  • Friday, May 23, 2003

    Tuesday, May 20, 2003

    I found the show "Coupling" on BBC America a few months ago, when it was announced that NBC would be remaking it as a US-based show. If you haven't heard of it, it's most often described as a cross between "Friends" and "Sex and the City".

    In episode 1.4 ("Inferno"), Steve's girlfriend found a copy of a video he has called "Lesbian Spank Inferno" (and no, I'm not just writing that to make my hit count rise, I don't have a hit counter here yet). At a hilarious dinner party, the question was asked of Steve, "why do you like movies like 'Lesbian Spank Inferno'?"

    His reply:

    Because it's got naked women in it! Look, I like naked women! I'm a bloke, I'm supposed to like them, we're born like that! We like naked women as soon as we're pulled out of one! Halfway down the birth canal we're already enjoying the view! Look, it is the four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche. We like: naked women, stockings, lesbians, and Sean Connery best as James Bond. Because that is what being a boy is. And if you don't like it, darling, join the film collective. Look, I want to spend the rest of my life with the woman at the end of that table there, but that does not stop me wanting to see several thousand more naked bottoms before I die. Because that's what being a bloke is!

    When man invented fire, he didn't say, "hey, let's cook!" He said "great, now we can see naked bottoms in the dark!" As soon as Caxton invented the printing press, we were using it to make pictures of - hey! - naked bottoms. We've turned the internet into an enormous international database of - naked bottoms!

    So, you see, the story of man's achievement through the ages, feeble though it may have been, has been the story of our struggle to get a better look at your bottoms. Frankly, girls, I'm not sure how insulted you really ought to be.

    I don't know how long the US version is going to last (though it's got the lovely and talented Rena Sofer in the role of Sally, played by the just as lovely and talented Sarah Alexander), but the BBC version of this show rocks.

    PS.... Lesbian Spank Inferno. Heh.

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, But a dry, bare sandy hole. It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort."

    It's been something like ten years since I read "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings". I just started re-reading the books this weekend. I don't know if I'll be able to imagine Gandalf or Frodo as anyone other than Ian McKellen or Elijah Wood. I'll see for myself how much was left out of the movies. I knew just enough about the story to greatly enjoy the two movies so far, but it was far enough in the past that I didn't miss whatever was cut.

    Friday, May 16, 2003

    OK, so it's been like three months since I last posted here, not that there was anyone who checked in. It's not that I didn't have anything to say, I just didn't feel like saying anything.

    It's been three and a half months since the Columbia was lost, and like everyone at NASA I've been following the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). It's a scary time, we don't know what's coming next (or even when it's coming). Now we've got Congresscritters calling for the abolition of shuttle flights, and now that the Board is zeroing in on just what went wrong - at once fascinating and horrifying - the uncomfortable thing coming is "what could NASA have done to save the crew?" I have no doubt that NASA would have tried everything, Flight Rules be damned, to pull off an Apollo 13-type miracle. Would they have been successful? That's the scary thing, what if the board says yes, if they had done X, Y, and Z, then the crew would have had a 50-50 chance of making it back. "Missed signals", "bureacratic fumbling", "complacency", "wrong judgement"... These are things we're hearing over and over again about the chain of command and management.

    It's hard to hear. This is the administration that inspired me and thousands of others; I'm a lifer, I don't see myself working outside of the manned space program - as long as we still have one. During my training of the STS-80 mission in 1996, astronaut Story Musgrave described his relationship with NASA: it was his calling. I hadn't really thought of it that way for me before, but once I heard him say it, I knew it applied to me too.

    Those who can, do (fly in space). Those who can't, teach (astronauts). Anyone got a spare $20 million I can borrow to pay the Russians for a ticket on a Soyuz? That's going to be my only way up.

    The board's final report will be issued later this summer. I'll even make it into the Appendix as someone who gave a presentation to the board. On Feb. 21st, with about 24 hours notice, I gave a pitch to Roger Tetrault and Brig. Gen. Duane Deal describing the landing gear system and explaining what's in the left wheel well. At the time, little was known except that there was strong evidence that somehow hot plasma got into the wheel well, so the board wanted an introductory briefing on what's there. I was honored, and a little awed, to be speaking before the board, even if it was an informal session and not to the entire board. I wanted to do more - I volunteered to go to North Texas to search for debris, but I wasn't chosen to go before they wound things down.

    Damn. I want to go flying again. Let's fix the problem and light these candles.