Thursday, February 23, 2006

While not in the running for the Darwin Award, I did make my son scared by his genetic heritage this past weekend. My friend, Patrick, has lent me his car while my van remains in a coma. Last Thursday night I drove home from across town, a trip of about 10 miles, with no particular problem. The next morning I got in the car to head to work, turned the key…….and the car didn’t start.

Apparently cars come to me to die!

I called my neighborhood mechanic but he was unavailable until Saturday. I let the depression wash over me and decided to take the day off from work. While he was nervous about the news, my friend Patrick seemed to take this latest chapter in stride.

My mechanic showed up just after lunch on Saturday and immediately went about tinkering with the engine to diagnose the problem. A persistent noise from the back of the car and the engine not turning over narrowed the search to the fuel pump. Always trying to save me a dollar or two, my mechanic crawled under the car and started hitting the pump with a hammer hoping to dislodge any blockage.

“Hey!” he bellowed, “this tank sounds awfully HOLLOW!”

My mind replayed the ride home the night before. It was the day before payday, so I had no money to fill the gas tank. The needle sat at 1/8th of a tank; a safe cushion as I had previously run the tank on almost fumes with an accompanying “idiot light”. My ride home the night before had been devoid of any fuel problems.

“Rock the car and let me hear how much gas is in there!”

I leaned on the bumper and rocked the car up and down a few times until he slid out from underneath, rose to his feet and gave me a look as if he were talking to a 5 year old, “Humor me and let’s go get a couple of dollar worth of gas.”

Sure enough, we returned, emptied the gas can, turned the key and heard the car jump to life. My self-esteem sank as the engine grew louder. At least it had saved me a major repair and only cost me a 12 pack of Michelob.

When I told my son, he just sighed and said, “Dad!” with a mix on astonishment and terror that he was in the same gene pool as his Mensa reject of a father.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Well, I got the van moving today. OK, so it took fibe guys pusjing it from behind, but IT WAS MOVING!

The guy who manages the park where I live hooked me up with a neighbor who works on cars on the side thinkning he could get it up and running quickly. We were still al running under the assum[tion it was a fuel filter problem. Four hours and $30 later the van was still an inter pile in the driveway.

The next step I try before simply letting the van roll down the hill into the river is back to the salvage yard who worked on in back in December. He seemed to think the problem was connected to the fuel injection system. It's worth a shot and since I got to him through a connection where it will cost me close to nothing to have him do the work, it can't hurt.

Everything I know about the mechanics of the internal combustion engine have been from all the times over the years that I have had a car break down. If I could turn it all into preactical kmnowledge I'd be ASE Certified by now!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Yes, I know I still owe some big time, heart wrenching blog about what has been going on with work and in Starfleet. Both of them have basically blown over so that will wait until either the muse hits me or either frustrates me again.

Instead, how about the two words which have turned “24” completely around this season….Manny Coto. Manny is the Executive Producer who turned “Star Trek: Enterprise” from a pathetic and pale clone of the original franchise and added strong story lines and a respect for the original. Manny has now joined the production staff of “24” and made the same drastic change in the tempo, intensity and overall feel of the show.

They are already gone through 6 hours of the “day” and have not lost the pacing or heightened tension. There have been the occasional stretches of logic and both Chloe and Edgar need to be slapped several times about the head and shoulders just because they are annoying…but you forgive most of them because each episode, so far, has been fantastic.

I had almost given up on the show as it seemed to be the same old thing over and over taking bigger and bigger leaps of logic and believability. Then came Manny. Now the show keeps me on the edge of my seat the entire hour. I have every confidence he will be as good for “24” as he did for “Enterprise”.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

As I’ve said it’s been a busy few weeks; let’s hit the good stuff first.

Last weekend was the 20th Anniversary of the Challenger accident. No, that’s NOT the good stuff. The good part about it was the 2nd Annual Fleet Day at Kennedy Space Center. This is the second year that members of Starfleet International have gone as a group to Kennedy to honor the memories of all the fallen astronauts. This year coincided with the 20th anniversary and was even bigger than last year’s outing.

32 members of Fleet ended up showing for the major part of the weekend on Saturday. All dressed in either Star Trek costumes/uniforms, chapter t-shirts or Fleet paraphernalia we made an impressive looking group. Most were from around Florida with some traveling from Alabama, Kentucky and (he just happened to be in Florida at the same time) California. Once gathered together, we made our way to the Memorial Mirror for the official ceremony. This was a long drawn out parade of speakers ranging from the boring politicians and NASA bureaucrats to members of the Scobee family. Dick Scobee’s widow seemed to go on the longest; she seemed to wrap up three or four different times and then just kept going and going and going. Still, a very impressive and occasionally inspiring ceremony.

Starfleet became an unofficial part of the ceremony completely by accident. Kennedy Space Center was handing out individual flowers for visitors to leave at the Mirror. We brought a beautiful wreath for our own little ceremony after the official event was finished. The area directly in front of the mirror was blocked off for the ceremony so we placed the wreath off to one side to wait. As the ceremony dragged on some people decided not to stay. With gentle reverence, one by one, people started leaving flowers at the foot of our wreath apparently thinking that was part of the memorial. Within minuets there were hundreds of flowers blanketing the base of our wreath. TV crews filmed it and photos were taken by local media and Reuters. If only they knew.

For the remainder of the day everyone scattered on their own for the most part. Since I had taken the bus tour last year I mostly hung around the Visitors’ Center going through the different pavilions there. At the end of the day we had a group dinner at a local Friendly’s. Arrangements had been made for a group rate at a local hotel which held over about a third of the group to the next day.

On Sunday we visited the Astronaut Hall of Fame. A very impressive museum for anyone interested in the space program. The highlight for me was the g-force centrifuge. This was a smaller version of the one used to train astronauts. It spins you to simulate up to 4-g’s; not too bad actually.

A farewell lunch at a local buffet restaurant capped off the weekend. All in all; quite a success. Plans are already in the early stages for next year, which will be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire. I am hoping for a repeat of this year’s success, if not something a little bigger.

Since I was the person who planned the event I was presented with a gift at the end in honor of my efforts. I was given a pin from the planets series sold in the gift shop. They had chosen the one planet which most reminded them of me…..URANUS.

It’s so good to have friends!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

This has been one of my longest dry spells in posting and it's been a busy couple of weeks. The problems at work I never got to last time, more shake-ups at work, more car trouble and a visit to Kennedy Space Center. I will recap some of this over the weekend. The topic which brings me to the keyboard is one of the recurring topics on here; death.

I just talked with my son who informed me that his uncle, my ex's brother-in-law, suddenly died two days ago from an epileptic seizure. He was just 30 years old, married less than a year and a new father. Needless to say, it was something of a shock to the family there. This would be his first wake and funeral if he decides to go.

His mother and I talked for a while about this and do seem to be in agreement on how to handle this. We are going to leave the decision up to him to attend or not. His first reaction is not to go. We are both leaving it up to him but still gently nudging in favor of actually attending. It is something he is going to have to deal with sooner or later and better to do so with someone not quite as close as other people on his life.

I can still clearly remember the first person in a casket I saw. My Uncle Kenny died when I was 10 years old. He and I were very close as I went to his house every day after school. He was loving and funny. More than thirty years later I can still remember his smile and large, gentle hands.

My father arranged to bring me into the funeral home when no one else was there. We sat in the car for a few minutes before I could actually get out and move towards the building. I had wanted to go and see him. I don't know what my parents said to prepare me but I was ready.

The warm scented air inside, heavy with the scent of flowers, almost pushed me back as the door to the funeral home opened. My father led me in with a hand on my shoulder. At first, all I saw was the casket. With little hesitation, we walked closer.

There he was. A favorite uncle who would always greet me loudly and happily lying silent and motionless. While it was unreal to me I can recall that I was most surprised that it was not scary. The serene setting of the paneled walls and draperies with a collection of beautiful flowers on either side of the casket made a very relaxing atmosphere. I looked directly at his face studying every detail. I asked my father some questions which he answered in quiet, hushed tones. Even though we were the only ones there we still had to whisper.

I just looked at him. I didn't say a prayer. I didn't break down crying. Nothing horrible or emotionally disturbing happened to scar me for life. I was sad that my uncle was gone. I don't know if there was any of the ever popular "closure" in saying goodbye. He was my Uncle Kenny and I had to see him one last time. Maybe because it was him that it wasn't a scary or traumatic experience; there was never anything scary about Uncle Kenny.

Like anyone, I can still do without attending wakes, but they are a part of life. Just as my father was there to see me through my first experience, I hope I can be there for my son.