Monday, July 27, 2009

Traverse City

I recently took one of those online surveys where you answer a bunch of questions and it tells you which Michigan location would be the best match for you. For me, if the result is to be believed, that match was Traverse City.
Thus I suppose it was a good thing that that's where I just spent a long weekend. As with the vacation in Washington DC, it was good to get away from my troubles for awhile and just relax and have a bit of fun. Among the highlights of the trip: reading on a beachside bench while my kids swam and hunted for fossils (they found some nice ones, too... quite the junior paleontologists).
We also rented some bikes and rode around the TART bike trail along the bayshore and around scenic Boardman Lake. (Being an eco-nerd, I was happy to see a small wind turbine along its banks.)
The highlight for me, though, was a public observing session at the Rogers Observatory south of town on Saturday night. The clouds were pretty thick around sunset, but we decided to check it out just in case. Good thing, too. The clouds drifted away as if by magic and we were soon treated to awesome views of Saturn, the moon, some multiple stars and some really cool star clusters.
There's a saying among amateur astronomers: never look though a telescope you can't afford. Well, I violated that one when I enjoyed the view from the nearly half-meter-aperture scope located in the observatory's main dome, but I have no regrets. The view of M11 was a fantastic sight through that scope and was worth the trip for that alone.
Almost as beautiful as the astronomical objects we were treated to was the view of the Traverse City area from the hilltop on which the Rogers Observatory is located. From that vantage point one could see both bays and the lights of the city. Very nice indeed!
But now it's back to Flint, fruitless attempts at job hunting and putting the finishing touches on the final schedules of WFUM.
But those few days in Traverse City made it more bearable.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Taped Over WHAT???

Well, it turns out the rumored and much-hoped-for recovery of the original Apollo 11 EVA video is not to be. After much searching and investigating, those involved have reached the inescapable conclusion that the tapes were likely over-recorded with material from later Apollo missions.

While instances of wedding videos being wiped-out by careless husbands recording football games have been sitcom fodder ever since the rise of Betamax, this is in a class by itself. Damn! Erasing the original video data from Apollo 11? Waaaaaah!

As someone who has been responsible for a rather large videotape inventory for the past couple dacades, though, I can actually understand how it could happen. Whenever an organization has conflicting pressures of needing to constantly make new recordings while at the same time not being able for budgetary reasons to purchase new recording media, there are strong pressures to re-use recording media one would rather preserve. It kinda sucks, but in the day to day world archiving things sometimes is a secondary concern... if it's even a concern at all.

And - to be perfectly honest - I don't think the REAL importance of the Apollo 11 landing will be realized within the lifetimes of those of us who experienced it. I mean, sure, we all knew it was "important", but I don't think we fully realize that 1,000 years from now Apollo 11 will probably be the only thing people will remember and/or care about from our era in history. Had we known, we would have taken better care to preserve the original tapes.

At least the search has been made to find the best surviving tapes so they can be cleaned up and preserved for the future. They do look much improved, and I appreciate the hard work of those doing the preservation, but "if only"...

And that makes me wonder about the future preservation of digital media. Back in my day, taking pictures, for example, required an investment in film and processing and the number of exposures you could take was, relatively speaking, highly limited. When you got your stack of 24 exposures, you had a physical artifact you were more likely to hold onto and store in a safe place. Now, you can store a gazillion images on a single memory card with great ease. But will they just get deleted and forgotten? Will it be a matter of "Oh. well, taking pictures is so effortless now..." it seems more a matter of instant gratification rather than a question of preserving things for the future. But we'll see. Just a word of advice for those of you young 'uns with digital pictures/video/recordings... make sure to back up your stuff and save it for the future. You never know what will be important to someone someday.

In other news, this 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 is a groove-fest for space nerds like me. I'm totally digging the streaming audio from NASA in which they're playing the Apollo 11 mission audio in real time (plus 40 years). AWESOME!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No, I'm Not Dead Yet

Yes. I realize it has been well over a month since I posted last. Sorry 'bout that.

Here's a brief recap of what has been going on since my last post. First of all, we took our family trip to Washington DC. At first, I didn't know if I would be too stressed-out to enjoy it, but I needn't have worried. The trip was the best thing I could have done, sanity-wise. It was wonderful sharing the awesomeness of the Smithsonian museums with my kids and I also got to fulfill a lifelong dream and finally see Monticello.

In other news, I finally got my "RIF" letter, meaning my last scheduled day of work will be September 30... "subject to extension". What that means is if another station makes a successful bid to buy the station there's a chance that the transfer process could take a few additional months during which my services may still be needed. But that's all speculation and I probably won't know anything for certain for at least another month... if not even further down the line.

In the rumor mill is news that another Michigan PBS station has made a pretty serious bid for the WFUM transmitter, so if that's the case, my educated guess is I will probably indeed be working at least a little while past 9/30. But again, that's just a guess and nothing is certain.

On the personal front, I had hoped to get through these stressful times without resorting to any "happy pills", but the stress regarding the impending change in employment/income status and the resulting anxiety and insomnia were finally getting to be too much for me to take. So, a visit to the doctor later, I got a prescription for some Zoloft (25mg daily). I had been on it once before for about a year and it did me a world of good. I've been taking it for a little over a week now. The adjustment period is a real pain in the ass. In fact, early on, I found that the anxiety and insomnia actually increase, but I knew what to expect from the last time I was on it. But then it starts to slowly kick in and things become a bit more manageable.

So here I am. Drugged out and happy to be that way.

Hopefully, I'll be able to resume semi-regular blogging.

In other TOTALLY unrelated news that has me totally hyped: the rumor mill is abuzz that NASA has located the original videotapes of the Apollo 11 lunar landing somewhere in Australia and will unveil these long-lost treasures in a press conference on July 16 (the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch). If that's the case, as a space nerd I'm TOTALLY geeked about this! I've heard stories about how the Australian transmission tapes were vastly better than the highly compressed video that was recorded in the states, but that these tapes went missing shortly after the landing. Something to look forward to, for certain!!!