February 26, 2003

To my regular readers I am certain you have been missing my regular updates to London Chimes. As have I!

As I am certain you can understand establishing myself in my new position as Manager of Special Events for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America has indeed been a great challenge and in the words of my boss, I have plunged myself into my new role and without question am totally enthused by my daily challenges.

This has been compounded by our phone system breaking down for a matter of days following one of the largest snowfalls I have ever seen. One storm system dumped 24 inches of the stuff from Boston to below Washington DC. (I never want to use my snow shovel again this winter). Between Cavalier who we recommend to anyone who lives in their service area, and Verizon (who we don’t), the technicians worked out the problem and managed to get us back up and running. Although being without a phone line, unable to contact anyone, use email, surf the web and call ahead to place an order with the local Chinese takeaway, reminded us just how much we reply on a small piece of wire running from outside our home, subject to sub-freezing and boiling hot tempratures.

I have to a greater degree unplugged from the international affairs of America and Britain to a greater extent than at any other time since starting London Chimes. I have relied on the brief news bulletins of B101.1FM in Philly and the BBC News web site which changed their layout recently, in my opinion for the worst.

The War of Words continues to echo around the corridors of power over the issue of Iraq. This is a good thing, as the original sounding off from all sides now seems to be balanced with a firm sound of reasoning, and focused objectives that will for the moment use diplomacy as the weapon of choice.

Certainly, you would have thought the world has gone crazy given the increasing numbers of conflicts and acts of national agression, which to some degree have been bubbling away outside of the normal radar screens of the media. The issue of North and South Korea is troublesome at best and there are opinions that America once its task is completed in Iraq will move on to prevent a nuclear buildup in North Korea, a country that has isolated itself in some kind of tempral timewarp, considering everyone as an enemy.

The actions of France in particular have shaken the average American Joe, to the point of avoiding french goods in the supermarkets and stores. This token gesture is hardly worth the consideration as the only frenchmen affected are those businessmen and wine growers who have enough problems to maintain their small foothold in the American market place. Instead it is the French government that should be focused upon, as it is they and they alone who are creating this rift.

From the BBC last week comes the following commentary, somewhat tounge in cheek!

With the United States the target of anti-war demonstrators' anger, France's President Chirac has declared that despite his differences with the US, he still loves the country. And when you look at it, there are hundreds of things the US has done for us.

The readers views are just as fun for example the posting that simply says The Muppet Show alone is reason enough to love our American cousins.

Link here for more

Yet it is easy to find something to celebrate in the news today, given that we are only 25 days on from one of NASA’s darkest days After more than 30 years in space heading away from Earth, Pioneer 10 has sent its last signal home.

The spacecraft will be left to drift among the stars carrying a message on its side from the creatures that made it. Nasa's Larry Lasher adds: "Originally designed for a 21-month mission, Pioneer 10 exceeded all expectations and lasted more than 30 years." Pioneer 10 was launched on 2 March, 1972, on a three-stage Atlas-Centaur rocket, reaching the speed of 52,150 km per hour needed for the flight to Jupiter. It was the fastest object to leave the Earth, being fast enough to pass the Moon in 11 hours and to cross Mars' orbit, about 80 million km away, in just 12 weeks. In July, 1972, Pioneer 10 entered the asteroid belt becoming the first spacecraft to pass through it. For the full text link here

Pioneer truly is a Star Trek, together with sister ship, Pioneer 11, and Voyagers 1 and 2 could outlast the Earth. Long after our Sun has swollen into a red giant and destroyed our planet, these four spacecraft will still be drifting silently amongst the stars, almost forever. Pioneer was launched only 3 years after the first moon landing, we all now appreciate the technology that achieved that feat for mankind and appreciate that the computers we sit to read and write blogs are for more powerful than those used then. So given this, to appreciate the engineering marvel and communications wizardry that have allowed a peep at our neighbouring planets has been a privilage.

These unmanned vessels now drift at the mercy of the solar winds to orbit unyet specified heavenly bodies, perhaps with life intelligent to decipher the route to earth from the panels on the sides of the space craft. Mankinds ambassadors seek to explore the heavens, while man has a great deal more to find the peacefulness of space here on earth.

Until my next posting, live long and prosper!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 15, 2003

Weekend Posting

Another weekend and an interesting weekend of news to report from both sides of the Atlantic.

**The final mission for Europe's Ariane-4 series of rockets has been successfully carried out, with the placing in orbit of a communications satellite on Saturday. The Ariane-4 has been in service for nearly 15 years and has well over 100 safe launches to its credit. It is being replaced by the much larger Ariane-5 rocket, which is capable of carrying bigger payloads into space. Flight 159 was to be a triumphant event but the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and problems with the new launch vehicle have cast a shadow over space exploration. Out of 14 launches of the successor Ariane-5 so far, two rockets have exploded and two have put satellites into the wrong orbits. **

It hardly seems just two weeks ago that the crew of Shuttle Columbia were lost. The latest reports broadcast on network news here indicate that investigators are heading into the mountains of New Mexico as they believe the shuttle began to break up earlier than previous results have indicated. A therory that the left wing was in some way breached allowing superheat inside the structure of the wing is being explored.

ON the subject of science reports from the UK this week tell of the death of “Dolly” the now famous cloned sheep. Years before the end of her natural life, suffering from a form of cancer. While Dolly was the result of cloning some years ago and the process having been refined since that time. The death of the most public result of the process reopens the question should man really interfere with nature in this way and to what end are these experiements being conducted?

With both the UK and the US on heightened level of alerts, pictures of tanks at Heathrow were beamed to the TV sets in America this week as the story of the Venezulian who tried to smuggle a live grenade through Gatwick unfolded. Today detectives from Scotland Yard are in South America to find out more about this gentleman.

Today is a day of action by peace protestors against Bush / Blair and their policy of conflict with Iraq. One therory being suggested is that other countries are distancing themselves from pending armed conflict, for fear that their homelands would fall victim to attacks witnessed on September 11 2001. Meanwhile as I have mentioned on a number of occassions, the diplomats continue to talk, debate, and draft resolutions. Although the terror alert has heightened, and Home Depot is running out of supplies of duct-tape as citizens pull together a small survival kit to last 3 days if needs be. The decision for military action now seems and is reported to be weeks away and not as close as we all thought this time last weekend.

For our household yes we have put together a box of essentials, torch, fresh bottled water, long life foods, plastic and duct-tape, enough to last 3 days. It is but a precautionary measure. Tom Ridge Director of Homeland Security has been on TV again this morning, explaining there is NO need to tape up windows and doors. The information they have is reviewed several times each day although and this is important, the information they are working with is vague.

Add to the recent tape by Bin Laden, historically attacks of one type or another have followed within a short space of time after. Vigilance is the watchword.

Locally most of this news is well off the radar as we are waiting out a double-wammy of a snowstorm. Last night should have brought another 3-6 inches here to add to the many inches already sitting on the ground. This storm passed to our south leaving about an inch hitting Washington and Baltimore more fully. The weather channel is required viewing as the big one is heading our way with Philly area right in the middle of a storm system that could drop as much as 10 inches of powered snow that will cause drifting.

For Philly this is the second snowiest winter since 1983 and we have only had a couple of days over 40F in the last 5 weeks. Yes, I cannot wait for Spring to arrive, the snow is lovely, but I have seen eonugh already for one winter as our cumulative total on our drive has hit over 2 feet. Shovel ready for Monday, thank goodness it is a 3-day weekend here!

While of course Friday was Feb 14, with roses and choc's and love and romance and fluffy chick-flicks on the TV to sit and cuddle on the couch to. Life goes on, and on fun days like Feb 14, they bring a sense of normality to this crazy world of ours.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 12, 2003

Mid Week!

My new position at the MSAA (see perma-link on this page), is without question exciting, terrific and challenging. Who could ask for more?

With any number of thoughts dancing around my head at 4am this morning, I simply had to get up and put my ideas onto paper, or this case a word document that I have already emailed to my office address. Well at least it beats being woken up rudely by the cats!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 09, 2003

Sunday Extra,
On the subject of Dinosaurs.

From the BBC International pages comes this story,

The Guatemalan writer, Augusto Monterroso, has died at age 81. Monterroso - winner of Spain's Prince of Asturias literary prize - is credited with writing one of the world's shortest stories.

El Dinosaurio (The Dinosaur) reads in its entirety: "Upon waking, the dinosaur was still there."

I cannot imagine for one moment that the illustrations that accompany this short story are exactly riviting.

AND ON THE SUBJECT OF DINOSAURS, what on earth are France and Germany up to this weekend?

The German Foreign minster seemed to throw a curved ball at Donald Rumsfeld yesterday over a peace initative that has been discussed with France as American analysts have only the media to provide information on their plans. Well that is the story being spun in the press, somehow I expect the truth to be a little different. While Donald Rumsfeld looked on the brief video clip to be perplexed at this latest revelation, one wonders what was known in the White House before yesterday morning.

The German Foreign Minster is quoted as saying "I am not convinced... I cannot go to the public and say these are the reasons because I don't believe in them," he told a European defence conference in Munich.

US officials reacted angrily to reports that Germany and France were formulating a new UN resolution, which they refused to discuss with the Americans. An article in Der Spiegel news magazine, confirmed by German officials, said the plan envisaged deploying UN troops to Iraq to support extended weapons inspections. It would also declare the whole of Iraq a no-fly zone, and tighten sanctions on exports to the country. But when Mr Rumsfeld tackled his German counterpart Peter Struck about the proposal, he was told: "We're not ready to discuss it yet." This last quote is very interesting, if the media have a fair and reasonable account of the plan WHY are these governements not being more open. As one senior US official is quote in a BBC news item, "The last thing you want to do is to lay on a major diplomatic proposal through the press,"

Yet France and Germany are preparing a peace plan to be presented to the Security Council on the same day as the inspectors' report - next Friday. Add into the mix, Russia - which like France may veto any Council action - says it will back the Franco-German proposals, which could include using UN troops to beef-up inspection teams.

What next, France and Germany offering Iraq to join the EU?

The path to large scale direct action is historically a bumpy one. The diplomats have to complete their game of tennis first, as the ball is passed from each end of the court. Within a matter of days we will have a clearer understanding of their plans. Be certain that what ever is being cooked up between them has probably been slowly stewing for more than a couple of weeks. Yet to keep the American government at more than arms length on this issue is probably not the wisest of decisions.

Pope John Paul II is also entering the discussions: he will meet Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on Friday and is sending an envoy to Baghdad.

While their is vast amounts of hot air expelled by hot heads over Western Europe this week, we should all remember that there is small skirmishes over Iraq airspace, as recent as yesterday. US and British warplanes attacked what they say was an Iraqi mobile air defence facility 150 kilometres (95 miles) south-east of Baghdad. The target it is said was a threat to coalition aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zone the US has declared in southern Iraq.

And so the wheel continues to turn.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 08, 2003

Mega: Weekend Posting

Why a “mega” posting?

As I write this entry on a Saturday afternoon, I find myself sequestered in the upstairs of my own home as my wife plays hostess downstairs to our sister-in-laws Baby Shower, the second such shower to be held in our home. This is very much a “ladies” event, tea sandwiches

With blue skies over frozen ground and the remains of over eight inches of snow that finished falling from the sky less than 24 hours ago. I have been diligent in shoveling such a depth of snow with in comparison a tiny little shovel to allow the maximum number of vistors to park on our drive. The ploughs did an excellent job of clearing the road leaving me with a bank easily eighteen inches high and at least twice as deep to clear at the entrance to our path and access to our drive. With a covering up to eight inches for the remainder of our drive that can take 6 good sized vehicles.

I am tuckered out! There is on occasion a great argument to own a snow blower sometimes!

Periodically I hear the doorbell ring as additional guest arrive before the “guest of honor” who has no idea why she is stopping by our home this afternoon.

Dr. Phil, the TV “relationship guru who originally featured on the Oprah show for many years first brought my attention to the term “Honeydo Lists”. At first I misheard the term and for a long time refered the term as a honeydew as in the melon. My wife & I for a long time used to joke about this as Taney has never produced any such thing for me in our time together. Although given the scope of the hostessing duties today, I suggested that with the poor conditions of the roads yesterday, added to the fact I had taken the Jeep to work (and good job too), there was to much for one pair of hands to compete. I suggested Taney put together a honeydo list for me to start on my return from the office.

Of the few things left, the last item noted on the list was to give my tired wife a big hug. Considering Taney had rearranged all the furniture to accommodate nearly 30 ladies plus small children, set out much of that which was needed, a hug was the very least and most satisfying item on the list.

S-U-P-R-I-S-E, the vocal cheer has just charged up the stairs to the surprised Nicole, I am certain she will have a wonderful shower, and is counting down the final couple of weeks before the due date of the baby with her husband, Scott, March 3, 2003. 3-3-03!


Reversing the journey I made over two years ago I understand from my Mum that an American railway chief Tim O’Toole, a lawyer from Philly has been chosen to run London Underground by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

A shallow report with no analysis may suggest that the Americans are taking over the Underground, following the earlier appointment of Mr Kiley, the former New York subway chief who heads Transport for London, at the heart of running London's transport system. Mr Livingstone said Mr O'Toole's experience "will help turn the Underground around". Given the recent bad press, the accident on the Central line, the continuing issues of part privitisiation of the system, this is one full agenda.

I wondered at first if Mr. O’Toole had been an executive for SEPTA, or the NJ Transit system that is responsible for the public transportation in the urban and suburban areas in the Philly area. Apparently not, reports indicate that he was chief executive and president of the $8bn Philadelphia railway company, the Consolidated Rail Corporation, between 1998 and 2001.

Mr Livingstone said his experience will stand him in good stead and in probably the best “worst quote to be used in a press conference on the subject of the London Transport, "He has also transported cattle," he told BBC London. Given the increased number of commuters jamming themselves into tight hot tube trains twice a day, five days a week, the connection to transporting cattle is at best in very poor taste.

To be honest, I am sure that the cattle trucks rolling through the freight lines of Eastern Pennsylvania are air conditioned, meet the regulations for the transportation of livestock and are subject to less cancellations and maintenance issues than the tube. Mr. Livingstone using this analogy to the media offered, "If the Underground passengers could get the same quality of service he gave to his cattle that would be a step forward on our system."

OH wonderful, not only are the tube commuters packing themselves in like cattle, they are to look forward to be treated like cattle! Perhaps the removal of all seating, throw fresh straw on the floor and board up the windows with wood is an improvement?

Mr Kiley, who is believed to have recommended Mr O'Toole for the post, described him as "a world-class transport manager". (Jobs for the boys?). That last statement is unfair. In a realistic world the tube system is in urgent need of major investment and management. If the expertise required to turn the continued decline of the system around is to be found outside the UK then it is only appropriate that these individual should be sought out.

However I strongly recommend that someone gags Ken Livingstone from insulting the millions of commuters who use London Transport every day. They are after all voters and a very strong voting lobby. “People who are something in the City”. A couple of weeks ago during the snowstorm in London it provided a great insight to how Londoners would cope without the Tubes and Buses. Poorly it would seem.

I was told a story of a local resident from Finchley, an old neighbour of my parents who’s Northern Line Train would not venture further than Archway, the last point within the tunnel system that trains could be switched within underground sidings. With no public transport available it took him four hours to walk back to Finchley through the snow, up Highgate Hill, passing the point the Dick Whittington was alleged to have turned on hearing the bells sing to him “turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London”, through East Finchley to Finchley Central.

For those who had a destination of Mill Hill East, West Finchley, Woodside Park, Totteridge and Whetstone or the final point High Barnet, would have had a far longer walk home.

I have little idea of the millions lost in business through over the two days London slowed to a halt, but there are evidently lessons to be learned about the importance of London Transport.

Last gasp: the best minds in advertising launch their cigarette campaigns to end all campaigns,
(Source Independent, posted February 8).

Let me start with a simple statement, I have never smoked a cigarette, I have never been tempted to try. Friends of mine that I have known for many years induldge in the practice and are sensitive enough not to light up while as a group we are sitting down eating dinner.

Regardless of my involvement with the development of a medical education program for the Department of Addictions in New Jersey last year, titled “A Conversation on Tobacco Dependence”, I cannot take a holier than thou attitude to smokers. (I tried when I worked on this project, but it was not exactly a way to win friends and influence people). For the most part smoking in the USA is not tolerated in public places. This varies state-to-state. I prefer to work in a smoke-free environment, and prefer to sit in a non-smoking part of a restaurant if I am there to eat. Yet I respect the right for those who want to smoke, to smoke. Should I find myself in a situation where the smoke is beyond my toleration and as a non-smoker I am in the minority, I will simply walk away to a smoke free area. That is my right.

So I was interested to read that at the stroke of midnight on Thursday, cigarette advertising on billboards and in newspapers and magazines in the UK will be stubbed out for the last time. If I was given a test by an advertising agency to identify which adverts relate to which products from over the years I could probably score high as the advertising revenues to promote smoking products over the years has made these billboard images as much a part of the social landscape and the act of smoking itself.

The Independent puts this as “To some they are works of great and lucrative art. To others, the Marlboro man, Benson & Hedges' pyramids and the ripped fabric of Silk Cut are the worst form of propaganda, luring a fresh generation of impressionable youngsters to premature death and debilitating diseases”.
In an effort not to bow out gracefully the advertising industry has 6 days, a last chance to prove its artistic and commercial prowess, unrepentant at the health effects on generations of smokers, millions of pounds are being spent before the axe falls in a defiant blizzard of publicity.

Among these is a £2.5m camapgin dedicated to promoting a completely new brand that will be launched later in the month, when advertising will be impossible.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act became law last December, exactly two years later than originally planned. It brought printed adverts into line with television where cigarette promotion was banned 38 years ago.

Tobacco sponsorship of sports will be the next to go with a deadline of the end of July. Global sports which are highly dependent on tobacco funding will have an extra three years' grace until July 2005 to find alternative sponsors. This will affect the World Snooker championship, and most controversially for post-Ecclestone affair New Labour, Formula One motor racing. A sport that has been described as watching “fag packets on wheels” broadcast on TV years after the practice of adverts on TV was outlawed.

So you would think that the campaigners who have tirelessly worked to achieve just this would be happy in their victory. Perhaps, but this is just a battle not the war. There is a serious concern that thr revenues saved by the new laws will trigger a price war. An interesting thought considering that HM Government also benefit from the taxation on each pack of ciggies. More sales = more taxation = more revenue = greater profits for the companies concerned. Sounds like a win-win situation of a sort.

So much for cynacisum HM Governement through the Department of Health predicts that after all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship are banned, consumption will drop by 2.5 per cent, saving 3,000 lives a year and £20m to £40m from the NHS bill for treating smokers.

Somehow I consider this just to be the filter tip of the iceberg as through the creative talents of the agencies around Soho and Convent Garden look at other methods of exploiting loopholes in ways of promoting their brands, for example clothing, one area that remains open for the time being.

Well we are getting to the end of the mega blog, in the time it has taken to write this and one long call to my parents, I have just popped my head downstairs to see the last few ladies remaining from the shower, Nicole has had a great deal of fun and it would seem suitably showered given the quantity of gifts piled by the front door. The cat it would seem had at some point been slipped less than quietly out of the bag, as it was not quite the surprise it was hoped to be. Nevertheless, all has had a wonderful afternoon.

Now I will find that Honeydo list and work backwards to help my wife turn our home back into just that from “shower central”, that is to say without throwing eight inches of snow back over the drive.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 03, 2003

Should man continue to explore space?

As news schedules here in the US return to some semblance of normality, and the teams on the ground continue to locate and investigate the remains of the shuttle Columbia, questions regarding the continuence of the space program and its benefits have started.

Former Senator and astronaught John Glenn was on the Sunday morning programs yesterday morning and answered the question in the best possible way.

He related the shuttle crews of today in the same vein as Lewis and Clarke, I would extend that to Charles Darwin, Stanley and Livingstone. All famous explorers who searched out the unknown, made universal discoveries and wrote the history for the future of mankind.

With Friendship 7 and most recently a shuttle mission to his credit, John Glenn is without question not simply a space pioneer but a respected figure and statesman. He made mention that living in America in the 21st Century we expect inventions and breakthroughs in science as a matter of course. Not very many years ago cellular technology was leading edge science; now everyone has a cell phone and does not think twice about the history of the science.

In his recent shuttle mission his crew were responsible for over 80 experiements on board the shuttle. Columbia was 90. Thanks to NASA scientists and space crews we have over the years been fortunate to reap the rewards from the technology that has put man in space and from the experiments carried out in that environment.

Smoke detectors, human cell experiements including cancer research are but two. I discovered today that the cooling suits used by those challenged with multiple sclerosis and provided free of charge by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is based on NASA technology.

While robots can and will still venture where no man has gone before, there is no substitiute for a human crew. Should man continue to explore space? Of course, but first let us understand the cause of the breakup of Columbia. The International Space Station should continue to be manned and used to its full extend, much has been invested in this project and to mothball such achievments now falls below shortsightedness.

I understand from the press calls with NASA over the last couple of days, broadcast in full by Fox News, that the shuttle design is far larger that present needs as the forecasted customers to maximise the payload space never met its targets. Should the shuttle be redesigned there is an argument to design and build a smaller craft, yet this process will take years and millions of dollars.

Perhaps the space program, as following the Challenger incident has been put back two years, yet if one thing is clear it is the resounding sound of support to NASA, its team of scientists and technicians, its family. NASA is one of the things that make America great. Yet NASA although may be American in residence, is a shining example of the cumulative efforts of the international community.

We all have a stake in the future of NASA and space exploration. Now is the time to reniforce the goodwill and belief in an agency that will for many years to come, take man further into the stars, to our neighbouring planets and using artificial intellengence, further afield into the cosmos.

The 21st Century will be the century of science. Look at what we accomplished in the last 50 years, imagine what can be achieved in the next 50 years.

President George W. Bush has echoed words of continued support to NASA, their budget will continue to be increased for the 3rd year running with an extra injection of funding announced today. The previous administration under President Clinton cut the NASA budget continually creating potential fundemental safety issues highlighted by the experts that knew.
From today, the public at large has changed their perception of the safety of space flight. Shuttle missions are not safe, Sunday drives into the stars, each mission poses any number of risks that have been factored and minimised by the number one priority of safety in space.
NASA received a black eye, but with the support of the public, is back on their feet before the count of 10.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 01, 2003

''The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth but we can pray they are safely home.''President George W. Bush, February 1, 2003.

With the highest respect to the crew of the Shuttle Columbia, a personal statement.

Today is Febuary 1, 2003; it is the birthday of Clark Gable, Boris Yeltzin and me! Historically nothing of any real interest has ever happened on this day, until just after 9am this morning EST.

I was sitting writing a friviolus entry to LC about turning 40, I had noticed that news from AOL that there was a communications problem with the reentry of Columbia – that was all I knew.
The posting, never posted as my link to AOL was disconnected at around 9:15am, the due arrival time of Columbia to terra-ferma.

This tragic event touches more than simply the NASA family, it extends through humanity. There remains an intangible interest in the projects mankind seeks above the clouds, above the atmosphere, surrounded by the deep blackness of space and parade of the stars in the heavens.

After a phone call this morning, one that wished me a happy birthday, I was told of the news of Columbia. I watched the videotape that captured the flight across northern Texas as at 200,000 feet Columbia broke up producing a sad and tragic plume downward to earth.

My instinct supported by the facts broadcast through Fox News that at that speed and that altitude this could not be a terror attack, sadly, tragically an awful accident to add to Challenger and Apollo 1.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of the lost heroes. My thoughts are with the NASA family who again have work through a painstaking process to examine what happened and why. Meanwhile there are Americans and a Russian on board the space station, they have a capsule to return them to earth but at this hour nothing is fully certain.

I have just watched a live press call from NASA. The senior agents are devistated. Yet as the information comes together it would seem that this tragic accident may have been initiated by some problem within / or on the left wing. That said at such a high altitude, at such a speed, there is little that could be done. I understand that there is an escape pod on the shuttles for the crews, yet again at that speed there is little data on how it would have performed in this situation.

Only a couple of days ago I wrote that it is my wish to see a shuttle launch. I can only emphasise that statement as given the technology the huge advancements man has made into space, it is only a matter of time before the flag at Kennedy will be raised to its full height and the countdown clock will restart for the next mission.

Given the opportunity I would embrase the opportunity to watch that next launch to support the crew, the ground crew, technicians and the NASA family. But first I understand the need to pause, reflect, investigate and remedy.

One former astronaught plainly put the case today, that mankind now treats shuttle missions akin to a Sunday drive. Just get in the car a go. It is testiment to the strict processes that have made space travel what it is today without a greater number of incidents” Yet we should remember that each time the countdown clock reaches zero, and the space vehicle leaves behind the clasp of gravity from that first moment and number of possiblities that could lead to potential disaster have been considered and minimized. Yet it remains dangerous, we have witnessed that today.

Today may be my 40th Birthday; life may start at 40, yet 7 brave lives were lost today. Somehow the need to celebrate the achievements of NASA far outweighs the need to celebrate a 40th Birthday.

Tonight I will celebrate with a Chinese dinner party on Chinese New Year. I shall wear a tie that I was given from the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. It has the Shuttle Columbia on it. While I may be toasted tonight, when I raise my glass it will be to the crew of Columbia.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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