Monday, February 20, 2017

U.S.A.: We can still do shit!

SpaceX launch. Photo from nasa.gov
If you missed it, check out the launch of the Space-X rocket from historic launch pad 39A. The final countdown starts at about the 19-minute mark. And watch through minute 30 to see the first stage landing. I was lucky enough to be wasting time on FaceBook yesterday morning, instead of going to church, and caught the live video feed a friend had posted to his page.

There was much to be amazed by. First, any big rocket launch is cool. Second, the landing of the
reusable first stage is very cool. And third, that I was watching it live on FaceBook along with thousands of others, live commenting, as the count-down unfolded—very, very cool!

I also felt something I hadn't felt in a while. Pride. American pride. We still can do shit! Big shit! Big shit with a purpose. Here is what I wrote on my friend's FB page commenting on the launch:

This is how its supposed to work. Big projects require massive investments. Only gov't can really do that at that scale, clear the way, so to speak, whether its rocket launches, railroads or the internet. Then the IP and infrastructure is shared and private industry takes it from there.

In our country we have gotten locked into an either/or debate and we need to end it. It's not helpful. It's not that government is bad and the private sector is good. Or the other way around. Each has its purpose. Each can do good work and both, together can do really good work. And, by the way, when we talk about "government" or the "private sector" we are really just talking about people. We the people. We create those these. Oh, and speaking of people, the person leading SpaceX is a person named Elon Musk. An immigrant from South Africa.

It's President's Day today. Much to wring hands about, I'm sure. But today I am going to celebrate that "can-do" spirit that is uniquely American. And what attracts people to want to become Americans.

Monday, February 13, 2017

French fries and daffodils

Lori's dad turned 82 Thursday but yesterday was the first day we could visit. He is in a well-maintained assisted living facility about two hours away. We arrived later than hoped and Lori's dad was in the dining area, back to us, reading a newspaper while the twenty or so others slowly and silently, some needing assistance, finished their dinners.

"Hi Dad, it's Lori and John," Lori said as she leaned over him from behind with a hug. With shaky hands he set the paper down and greeted us with cheer. I asked him if he had watched the Super Bowl—yes, but had fallen asleep before the end. Without the Steelers in it, I asked who he rooted for, New England or Atlanta? Atlanta. Lori handed him the double order of Burger King french fries she had brought, a favorite, along with a potted daffodil, it's blooms timed for his birthday four days ago.

After the introductions and gifts, he turned quiet. Not too long ago, during past visits, Lori would ask her dad about growing up on the farm in Indiana, PA, or his time in Korea, or how he met mom. Yesterday he seemed content to turn back to his newspaper.

Driving away, Lori cried. We want to do what's right, you know? Honor a father on—or near—his birthday. Maybe cheer him up with flowers and french fries. Did we cheer him up? Does he remember it?

Canadian Geese
Then we turned to the real topic: There are still miles ahead for us but there is enough road behind to know how quickly it will go. We won't be like that, right? Difficulty eating, going to the bathroom. We'll end it before getting to that place, we tell ourselves unconvincingly.

We were quiet for a moment then Lori pulled out her iPhone and clicked on the live stream of our local NPR station's Sunday evening programming: The Big Broadcast. Last night it was another episode of Johnny Dollar, Our Miss Brooks, and Gunsmoke. We drove on.

Living in the present. It's hard work.