Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the road again

Greetings and salutations from Virginia!

Yes...it's that time of year again...THANKSGIVING time! Jeannie and I are safely at the farm in rural Virginia. And the weather isn't what I expected at all! I brought my cold-weather gear, thinking it would be frigid. It's not (woo-HOO!) It's still chilly for me, of tropical blood....I'm chilly in California usually! But considering what it could be, I'm quite thankful.

Let me back up a few days...into last week. My work has been quite busy. We are shorthanded, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, if at all. Well, let me be fair...we have a plethora of managers...just not enough WORKERS. We just went thru our last (?) round of layoffs, where we got rid of MORE workers...while the managers seem to have shielded themselves quite aptly. So in 3 years when our contract is bid for real, there's likely no way we can win it against a company who doesn't need the upside-down pyramid structure of managers to workers. But I digress...

Last Thursday my boss came to me late in the day and said I was needed to come in at 11:30pm that night for a 12 hour shift. It was time for the spacecraft (that I was with down in Los Angeles back in Sept) to be transported to the launch pad from the processing center. Okey dokey I said (not a lot of choice, but hey...I'm a team-player). So I went home, had a bite to eat and went to bed (like you can go to sleep at 6pm). The babies were hovering and walking around, wondering what I was doing in bed so early. Jeannie was out getting her hair done, as she was flying to VA early Friday morning (she was going out early to visit with friends). I was to follow on Sunday morning.

I get up at 10pm, grab a bite to eat and head out by 11 for work. The transport went well, and we were at the pad by around 5am. Then the problems began. It seems the company responsible for this part of the operation (lifting the encapsulated spacecraft into the Mobile Service Tower and attaching it to the Atlas V booster) hadn't run a "trailblazer" on this model fairing and with the lifting sling. A "trailblazer" is a full dress-rehearsal with a fake spacecraft/fairing assy so-as to find any wrinkles in the plan. Well...there was a wrinkle. The lifting sling holding the encapsulated spacecraft wouldn't allow them to lower the vehicle all-the-way down onto the booster so it could be attached...there was parts that didn't fit. That should have been caught during a trailblazer. So now there is a billion dollars hanging on the "hook" (attached to the crane) that can't be mounted...so they had to lower it back to the pad-deck far below and disconnect / reconfigure the lifting sling. Then they re-hoisted the billion (plus) dollars and tried again. Still no work'y. Lower and reconfigure. Try again. No joy. By then our shift was well over and the next shift came in.

My job in all this btw is to wait until ULA has the vehicle attached to the booster and then we shut down one of our monitoring systems, load it all up and move it all into the tower, hook it all back up and get it working). So I had now worked a 14 hour shift on maybe 3 hours sleep. And because the vehicle STILL isn't attached to the rocket, we had to come back in again on Friday night at 11:30 to try it all again. Jeannie was now gone, somewhere in mid-travel to Richmond VA. I got a few hours sleep (another 3 or 4 maybe) and then it was time to go back in. After a few more tries they finally had the sling configured correctly so they could soft-mount the vehicle to the booster....HOORAY! About 9am on Saturday morning we got the go-ahead to shut down one of our systems, take it all apart and move it into the tower. We had that all done, system hooked up and functional, around 1pm. My job is done, I am now on VACATION! Got home and did a zillion things on my pre-travel list, and then some sleep...Sunday morning I was at the airport for my turn in the travel blender.

All went relatively well...just a few extra-hours in Chicago as my flight was weather-delayed in arrival, so instead of getting to Richmond around 9:30pm Sunday night I landed about 11:30pm. Finally got my luggage and a cab, and I arrived at Jeannie's sisters place around midnight. Jeannie had been napping on the couch waiting for me, her sister asleep as she had to work on Monday. No showers were available sadly as the cast-iron-tub had fallen over the morning before, luckily her sister wasn't hurt, as she was just getting ready to get in...the tub must weigh 300lbs and could kill or maim for sure if it rolled over on her. The maintenance guys had never seen a cast-iron-tub have a foot fall off, and it had ripped the plumbing out of the floor and was lying on it's side.

So as Sara went off to work we were off to find breakfast and then drive to the farm (about 2.5 hours north-west of Richmond). We made it to the farm uneventfully after a nice drive thru the Virginia countryside, resplendent in fall colors. The temperature was probably in the mid to high 60's...not too shabby for sure. We stopped at the Farmville Wally-world for groceries as usual on the way. And now we are relaxing at the farm. It's Tuesday morning, cloudy and windy but a far cry from snow and cold that I was expecting.

And so...have yourselves a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! On a closing note, just watching the news and the pathetic rioting and looting in Missouri over the Michael Brown Grand Jury decision...pathetic (the rioters, not the Grand Jury). There are always those looking for an excuse to do bad things. Which sadly takes away from the 99.9% of honest folk who were peacefully demonstrating their feelings (which is a god-given right). I certainly can't say what the right answer is other than I listened to the prosecutor talk for about 15 minutes explaining what evidence the Grand Jury heard, and how/why they came to their decision. It sounds like they did the right thing...but a lot of people don't want to hear that...their minds are already made up even though they had not heard the FACTS of the case. And the looting/burning commenced as expected. I sure don't know how we will ever get past all this racism stuff....sure it exists and I don't know how to fix that. But it appears our country just stepped back 50 or more years. Sad, just sad.

I have lots to be thankful for this year as always...I'll reflect on that during the week as we approach Turkey-day. Be safe and enjoy.



  1. I was hoping to chat today but with the crappy weather, I'll be leaving shortly! Want to keep the retirement dialog going but that will have to wait till Friday.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING Matt & Rae & to all of us at the Inane Asylum!

    (Matt- where exactly is that farm? What's the closest town?)

  2. Hey Susie....the farm is outside (but still considered part of) the tiny town of Cullen. The nearest town of consequence is Farmville. The farm is forty acres of typical rolling Virginia hills, smack in the middle of Amish country. Any time of the day you are likely to hear the clip-clop of horse-hooves pulling a cart down the road.

    We are obviously sharing the weather system....today is rainy and chilly (but NOT cold like had feared). We haven't even had a fire in the wood-stove thus far on our trip...which is abby-normal I do believe....I recall previous Thanksgiving trips it's been pretty chilly and the wood stove blazing away day and night.

    Anyway, hope everybody has a wonderful turkey-day! Relax with friends and family...it's what the holidays are all about!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Matt and SusieB and all!

    I have the day off work; this morning my daughter and I participated in the Flying Feather Four-miler and snagged nice bottles of Sangria for our efforts. It was pretty chilly; 29F and snowing lightly, which wouldn't be too bad but there was a stiff breeze too....but my 4 layers did the job (cold fingers and toes and nose to start but all warm by the end). Then home to make pecan pie with chocolate crust, squash pie, roasted game hens with stuffing, roasted radishes, leeks, fennel, Brussels sprouts and carrots; traditional green bean casserole; cranberry/orange relish, chestnut soup, and crescent rolls (it just isn't a holiday dinner in my house without them!). Yes this is all for just two people, but we love our veggies and pie and LOTS of leftovers!!

    Now I am fighting off the sugar coma, looking at the paper and browsing my favorite sites. Tomorrow I may put up Christmas lights ... or will start saying that I will put up the lights....after all, why procrastinate today what you can procrastinate next week?

    But I really will need to (believe it or not) give the lawn its final mowing, to get the grass down to 2" tall for the winter and mulch in the last leaves. Also working on cutting up and containerizing the limb that fell during the snowstorm last week. This pear tree, a notoriously weak species, has survived hurricane force winds several times, including a real hurricane in 2008, without injury (including this last Monday when gusts hit 65mph) but a measly little 6" snow took down a large limb. Fortunately it missed both the porch and the car, landing perfectly in between them.

    Hope you all had a great day with family, or friends, and food!


  4. On the topic of places to retire, here is a thread at another forum that you might find interesting:



    1. Great link....nice discussion, AND it gave a link to THIS site:


      I look forward to browsing the bestplaces.net site for all the cities I'm interested in...and btw, I keep hearing about Asheville...and other than the cost of housing, it sounds awesome! I will have to really dig into the surrounding area where it's cheaper to buy.

  5. Hey Rae....can't say I was envious of your 29F Flying flyer ride...I'm just too "tropified" I guess (I'm a tropical weather kind of guy...what can I say...10 years in Hawaii will do that to you). Though I can recall many a year ago riding my 1st Mt bike in North Chicago during the winter...riding it over frozen swamps and lakes...so cold my Manitou Sport shock (elastomers) was frozen solid....as was I.

    Glad the limb missed your car and porch...lucky!

    And Turkey day on the farm was quite nice...about as kick-back as it can be. My bro-in-law cooks a mean dinner...and as we had a butterball turkey this year, I didn't have to help "process" the live bird...MUCH prefer that way! I thought the butter ball tasted most excellent! As did the sweet potato/cranberry dish, green beans, mashed taters/gravy, and the pistachio/marshmallow yummy salad dish...and then of course the required fresh baked pumpkin pie w/ oodles of whipped cream (I prefer my pumpkin pie to be totally BURRIED in whipped cream).

    Sadly I'm back at work now...we flew home yesterday (Monday)...boy oh BOY were the airlines crowded...I don't think there was a single empty seat on any of my 3 flights. But we got home w/ out any long delays...and picked up Sydney at the sitters house, then back home to PG and Sweet Pea...everybody was quite happy to see us! Always like to travel, but there's no place like HOME!

  6. Tried to post a long one but it zipped off to the unknown....headed to Calpe, Spain for team training camp. Hope it's a fun one. Just got back from moving my 90 year old mom to Chattanooga - that's a really nice place, Matt. I've been there a few times with Tour de Georgia and will definitely be there more now that I've moved my mom there. I'm an expert on elder care now. Wow, what a racket!!

  7. Hey Cathy...welcome back! Nice to know you're still out there! Have a BLAST in Spain...I LOVE Spain!

    I'll add Chattanooga to my list...also people are saying Nashville...I'm wide open, willing to look at pretty much anywhere. As long as the winter is decent (and it's not Florida)...

    Keep us posted on the haps at camp if you can...love to hear about it!