Category Archives: space travel

20 Questions

An old quiz I got from Ken Levine:

1. What newspapers do you read?
The Times Union (Albany), the Wall Street Journal, a couple business weeklies, occasionally the New York Times on Sunday if I’m caught up, which I never am. But I’m often checking the Times and the TU when I get a bulletin, such as last night when I read that Tom Watson blew the British Open and Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, died. (Never read that book, BTW, though I did read his followup book about being a teacher. I DID see the Angela’s Ashes movie and found it amazingly bleak.)

2. Which ones do you move your lips to while reading?
One of my racquetball buddies reads the New York Post; that’d be it.

3. Which Web sites are on your favorites bookmark?
Tends to be libraries (Albany Public Library, State Library).

4. Where do you get your car washed?
Hoffman’s. They’re all over Albany.

5. Do you know your dentist’s first name?
Yes: Michael.

6. Do you believe newspapers are going to die? If so, when?
Not entirely, but there will be many more corpses before some agreeable fiscal model settles in. There’s an article I read in print recently I found interesting:
Why ‘Going Galt’ Isn’t the Solution for Newspapers
by Nat Ives
Published: June 22, 2009
NEW YORK ( — What if every newspaper gated off all their content tomorrow? What if newspapers embraced the idea of “going Galt”? Well, it would be suicide.
[Galt refers to an Ayn Rand character.]

7. What was the last book you read?
The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg

8. What’s the last book you say you read?
I have no need want to impress people with how hip I am.

9. If you got a unicorn what would you name it?

10. What does your TiVo think about you?
In my case, DVR – You are a news nerd.

11. Character of fiction you most resemble?
Radar O’Reilly

12. Who plays you in your bio-pic?
Charles Dutton.

13. Do you floss?
Yes. Actually that was one of the things I never even knew about until I was an adult, somehow. But it’s supposed to extend one’s life.

14. Did you ever believe your toys come alive when you leave the room?
Of course.

Do you still?
Sure, why not?

15. How many old cell phones do you own?
One that I’m going to give to a local women’s shelter. They refurbish and give to women avoiding abusive situations.

16. Best show legendary biz/movie star encounter.
Since Rod Serling is my ONLY Hollywood biz encounter… Well, there was the time that I met Anita Baker at a concert and Mike Tyson and Jack Nicholson were backstage.

17. Do you get satellite radio?

18. And as a follow do you “get” satellite radio?
Sure. No commercials, 170 music channels.

19. Do you read the Enquirer/InTouch/US/People?
Only in supermarket lines.

20. Do you lie about it?
No. I had a subscription to People for several years in the 1980s and early 1990s. Now, I only see it in the lunch room and I wonder “who ARE these people?” more often as not. For every Brad and Angelina, there are are people who must have devolved from some reality show.
Ah, the moon landing 40 years ago today; Gordon muses on it. Too bad Cronkite didn’t quite make it to the anniversary.


Sputnik and Little Rock

I just discovered that two things that happened when I was 4 1/2, external to my immediate surroundings, but with long-lasting effect on me, both took place within a two-week span.

September 25, 1957: Nine black students safely entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, after President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to deal with a mob that interfered with a federal court order for the school to integrate. At the beginning of the school year, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had ordered the state’s National Guard to stop any black students from entering the school, a decision that was countermanded by the federal judge in the case. The story is well told in a son made popular by Pete Seeger, and performed for a time by my father, State of Arkansas; the third verse I especially remembered without assistance:
“Three hundred National Guard were there
Dressed up to fight a war.”

Even at that age, I knew that race mattered. I was also vaguely aware that the federal government was doing an extraordinary thing that was not universally popular. This led me to believe in the innate goodness of the federal government, a notion that has been dashed time and time again in the intervening years.

October 4, 1957: Sputnik was launched, beginning the space race, which was seen, in part, as an extension of the arms race.

As writer John Noble Wilford put it: “Sputnik changed everything – history, geopolitics, the scientific world.” Certainly, the headway made by the “Commie Ruskies” colored my entire time in school. It fueled competitiveness to learn, but also exacerbated a Cold War paranoia that we’d all die by some entity, unseen until it was too late. I used to do these “Duck and Cover” exercises:

My wife was listening to the “duck and cover” drill that I played, and it was scary to her.
I’ve complained that current politicians like to deal in fear mongering, but on reflection, I grew up learning to be afraid of the Commies. It may be that the “counter culture” of the late 1960s was as much a reaction to that paranoia of the 1950s and early 1960s as it was to the promotion of civil rights and opposition to the Viet Nam war.

These two events, one of civil rights and the other a specter of war, taking place before I was in kindergarten, had a huge, and continuing effect on me that I hadn’t fully appreciated until now.


Given the fact that this month is the 36th anniversary of the moonwalk, the United States is trying to get back in the space shuttle business, and Scotty from Star Trek died,

Please tell me:

1. What character from a television program or movie about space travel do you most identify, and why?

2. What thing in space travel fiction (book, movie, TV) is most likely to turn out to be true/possible in the future?

3. As commercial space flight becomes a reality, how much would you spend to go up in space? How long would you have to be up there to make it worth your while?