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Updated: 02/16/03

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"Daughter of the Queen of Sheba"
by Jacki Lyden



Sunday, 16 February, 2003

I've figured out part of the problem that the Weather Charletans have in figuring out what's going to happen, weather-wise. They don't look at their own radar screens.

When I woke up this morning and turned on the news, they were predicting that the big blizzard that has been hitting the Mid-Atlantic region wouldn't start here in Philly until late afternoon today. They were saying it would be a big storm, maybe eight inches or so in town. OK, fine. Then they show the "Doppler 10,000 Radar" that is exhibiting a GIANT BLOG O' WHITE just outside the city.

[Yo! Y'all want to try that again?]

Sure enough, ten minutes later it started to snow, and the Weather Charletan announced that they had revised the start time and accumulation forecast. Shocking.

So now it has been snowing for four hours, and is supposed to just dump on us until tomorrow night. They're suggesting up to twenty inches of snow. Ouch. Glad I made it to the supermarket yesterday.

Seems like a good day to curl up with something to read. Bill Whittle has written another wonderful essay, this time about flying, the Space Shuttle, and the motivations of aviators. It's long, but well worth the trip. Go read it, we'll wait. (Via InstaPundit)


One of the parts that I really liked about Bill's essay was his description of a shuttle launch, both from the perspective of the astronauts and of those watching from the ground. In February 1997, I was fortunate enough to be invited to see a shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center. It was a Discovery mission to repair the Hubble Telescope - in order to meet up with the orbiting telescope, it was an early morning (3:55 a.m.) launch from Pad 39A.

We arrived the day before and took a tour of the facilities. We even got to go out to the pad and see the Discovery about twelve hours before the launch (we got the VIP treatment since Rick Hauck was traveling with us). That's Vivian, Maura and me looking rather chilled.

Go Discovery!

We stayed at the Best Western Space Shuttle Inn in Titusville (no, I'm not making that up), and went to the launch viewing site around 2:00 a.m. It was cold, and we drank hot chocolate and coffee and listened to the countdown clock, watching the brightly lit launch pad three miles away. Bill describes the scene:

The Shuttle rolls off the pad in complete silence at that distance. Itís surreal. Thereís nothing to compare it to. People are usually kind of quiet.

Then the sound hits you: you feel it in your chest more than hear it, the sound of millions of pieces of thick canvas being torn all at once. And then a funny thing happens, because youíre surrounded by people but suddenly youíre all alone out there Ė sunburn forgotten, mosquitoes a memory from a past life. Youíre ten or fifteen or twenty miles away, but itís just you and the white butterfly now, thatís all there is. Youíre crying and you donít know it, you're screaming but you canít hear it, youíre jumping up and down, and itís every time a Gator wide receiver ever beat a Florida State defensive end and heís just pulling away and ainít nothiní gonna stop him now Ė heís going all the way.

There are a couple of vivid memories I have. The first is that sky went from pitch black to high noon in the span of a few seconds. The steam from the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that flood the trenches under the shuttle just before ignition reflects the flames of the engines.

High Noon

The second memory is exactly what Bill wrote: it is silent. The crowd is hushed as the clock ticks down to launch. Even as the engines ignited and the shuttle moved upward and the sky grew brighter and brighter, a thought moved through my mind: "Where's the noise?" And then I saw the sound wave move across the waters of the marsh before us and suddenly the sound was everywhere, surrounding us, engulfing us, filling us. It was so mind-blowingly impressive and emotional.

One of the guys in our group had his video camera with him. When he played it back, he said, "I couldn't figure out who was yelling and screaming - and then I realized it was me."

[As an aside, the Commander of the Discovery flight I saw, Ken Bowersox, is one of the astronauts that is currently stranded on the International Space Station.]

Slipping the surly bonds

Here's another one for you to read. It is an open letter from a British Journalist to America. (Via Vodkapundit)

Dear America, you quirky mix of 280 million misfits that have somehow blended into the strongest nation in the world, I write to offer you four apologies and two vows.

Go read the whole thing. It's nice to see that at least one European isn't decrying America as the Great Satan, despite what the press corps suggests.

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"Wise Man: One who sees the storm coming before the clouds appear."

-- Edgar Watson Howe (1853 - 1937) US editor, novelist, essayist

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