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Ramblings of an itinerant rocket scientist...

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Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
7:11 am - Happy birthday!
To geekchick, who is dear to me, may you have a pleasant birthday today!

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
1:21 pm - Happy 21st David!
Happy birthday to my son David, who is 21 as of today! I admire and respect the challenges he's overcome to get where he is today in school and socially. :-)

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Saturday, March 7th, 2015
10:02 am - A proposal win!
Yesterday afternoon I was grumpy after getting an email notice from NASA's proposal-management system, "A decision has been reached regarding your PSTAR proposal." Generally, the PI's of winning proposals get a congratulatory phone call from the relevant NASA program manager... I checked my phone, saw no call, and assumed the worst. And was kind of cranky with cyan_blue when I reached Atlanta yesterday afternoon. I let go of it in the evening, as it was my brother Coby's birthday party and I've lost on lots of proposals before.

At 2am there was an email from a co-investigator on my team, urging me to check the database as it looked like we were selected... and we were! A win! And for a large research grant, to essentially create over 4 years a Mars-analog rover mission with flight-mature astrobiology instruments, and take it to the Atacama Desert in Chile for testing. Our team colloquially called it "the 2024 brassboard" internally.

This particular proposal had been submitted twice before -- both times near-misses, it had been "selectable" but never funded. This time it made it past that threshold. And so I get to bring this team together and towards future Mars exploration, hopefully.

After the past year of rolling with various shocks, it is great to have a pleasant surprise!

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Saturday, February 7th, 2015
12:17 pm - A year of facing mortality
A year ago, I was contemplating anniversaries, things which had changed my life profoundly in relationships and in how I interact with others . My quote was "February 7 is dear to my heart."

Later that day, I had a close brush with death, as my car was T-boned by a speeding driver running a red light under rainy conditions. My reflexes (and a fast car) saved me, as I accelerated far enough that the impact point was the left rear tire rather than the driver's door. It totaled my black Mustang, parts of which were then salvaged to combine with my current red Mustang. I was battered and bruised and still have some left knee pain. The other driver (in his 70s) hired a law firm and threatened/cajoled the eyewitnesses and claimed the light was yellow, escaping full responsibility.

A week later on Valentine's Day, my father Jack, who was on warfarin after a stroke the previous year, fell while fetching the newspaper, developed a breath-blocking hematoma and nearly died then. I spent the evening trading calls with my brother Coby back in Atlanta, outside the restaurant where patgreene and I had gone. Dad then spent a month in ICU, a month in rehab hospice, was released in late April. I was with Pat again in Mendocino celebrating her birthday and got a text from Coby, "he's lost the will to live, won't last a week, you need to come home". I went, a couple days later, and tried to help out. And again in June (with the boys, Father's Day) and September (his birthday, a surprise) and November. Dad stabilized and improved somewhat and got the feeding tube out over the summer, even went to the beach. But over the holidays, had a mild second stroke, but developed pneumonia in the hospital and didn't bounce back this time, passing on January 1. Both Pat and Geri went to Georgia with me and supported me there, and tenacious_snail offered.

My mother-in-law Eloise Greene was one of the nicest people I've ever known. She also helped Pat and I raise the boys when they were small and we had no local friends or community here... she would come and live with us for a month at a time. Twice over, when Pat's C-section (after Kevin) ripped open and required home nursing care for two months. Her banana pudding was famous, and she loved and respected me. She laid down for a nap on Mother's Day and didn't wake up. I did my best to support Pat and her siblings at the funeral and after.

In childhood and my teen years I was taunted and beaten and abused by my peers. Boys were dangerous and often hostile, not to be trusted. Girls were neutral and stayed out of the abuse. Consequently, 95% of my close friends in adulthood are female. In terms of other men around whom I could be vulnerable or express myself openly, the only ones were my father, my brother Coby, and Rob Firester, whom I met at MIT, was my best man at my wedding with patgreene and was the only male non-relative whose company I actively sought. A redhead like myself, Rob developed melanoma three years ago, had gone through a series of treatments, and died on 30 October, exactly 34 years after Rob had set up Pat and I to meet at a party at Wellesley College. anaisdjuna met me in Atlanta and supported me at the funeral.

This summer field season in the Arctic at Haughton Crater was colder than usual and very wet and muddy. There were only five of us in camp, and it was more of a challenge than usual. Exhausted, we beat low ceilings and bad weather and made it back to Resolute only a couple of days late on 4 August. Whereupon back on the grid, I got the news, relayed from a former OSO, that my LDR partner Ara Easley had died unexpectedly, in her sleep two days after having routine neck disc-replacement surgery. She was 41. And apparently my date with her in late June, while in Pasadena for drill tests, was her last with anyone. Ara and I had had a bumpy relationship, on and off over the years with some happy and some difficult times. But I had not lost a partner before. I arrived home on August 7 and left a day later for her funeral, accompanied by patgreene.

That's four loved ones lost over the past year, and a close call myself. I've spent periods of the past year depressed and seeing the world in shades of grey. It has affected my demeanor at work (cranky and brittle) and around the kids at home (likewise). There have been other challenges... David withholding disclosure of bad school performance, Kevin not getting into the colleges he wanted, the house being flooded (when we returned from Georgia on 12/31, there were several inches of water across most of the house due to a broken toilet... I spent 36 hours frantically cleaning and drying and doing remediation, fell asleep afterwards only to be woken by Kevin with news of Dad's death). Pat's month-long struggle with pneumonia in April. Even the used motorcycle I bought for $850 turned out to need $1200 of repairs, caused by botched maintenance by the prior owner and fraudulently covered up at the time of the sale.

I used to expect things would turn out all right in the end, if we kept moving forwards. Lately instead I've felt dread and expectations of disaster, "what's next?". Bracing for unspecified bad news. Ongoing low-level stress and depression. I've also gained ten pounds and my blood pressure is up 15 points, despite exercise.

There were some happy moments over the past year. But more and darker loss and grief. February 7 is no longer an unalloyed happy anniversary. It has been a tough year.

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Thursday, January 1st, 2015
9:44 pm - Dad's passing... today.
My daddy is gone. He passed away about two hours ago in Marietta... Coby and my mom were there at the time. He had recovered largely from a mild stroke on 12/22, but the subsequent pneumonia continued to worsen.

I saw him for the last time 48 hours ago in person. I thought then that it was likely goodbye, but still hoped he could stabilize and bounce back, as he'd done over the past 20 years (quintuple bypass, COPD with < 18 months left (went 11 years), first stroke, throat injury and bleeding after fall, and now this second stroke... he was tough, and beat the odds already in the past, so why not again?). I came back to CA with Pat and Geri and David and Kevin, as planned. And have then spent the past 30 hours dealing with my flooded house upon arrival here.

Even though this wasn't unexpected, the reality is still a shock. I'm dazed and hurting.

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Sunday, December 21st, 2014
11:02 am - 2014 beds...
Unless something radically changes, these are the 41 places where I've laid my head over the past year:

Mountain View, CA
San Leandro, CA
Harbin Hot Springs, CA
Pasadena, CA
Cocoa Beach, FL
The Woodlands, TX
Beaumont, TX
Bend, OR
Mendocino, CA
Austell, GA
St Petersburg, FL
Orlando, FL
Monterey, CA
Monrovia, CA
Woodland Hills, CA
Santa Clara, CA
Ottawa
Iqaluit, Nunavut
Resolute, Nunavut
Devon Island, Nunavut
Valencia, CA
Ukiah, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Edina, MN
Memphis, TN
Madrid
Nerva, Andalusia
Salema, Portugal
Lisbon
Malibu, CA
Santa Rosa, CA
Alexandria, VA
Washington, DC
Independence, MO
Topeka, KS
St Louis, MO
Landover, VA
Geyserville, CA
Healdsburg, CA
Sacramento, CA
Novato, CA

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Sunday, November 30th, 2014
9:57 pm - Thanksgiving weekend remodel project
Over the weekend... finished a bathroom mini-remodel. Removed the pedestal sink in the main bathroom, the light fixtures, and the rusty medicine cabinet. Removed a section of wall and confirmed that we have a local infestation of drywood termites behind the shower. Donned bunny suit and protective gear and sprayed 0.25% imidacloprid/Premise in the walls. Then put the wall back up. Today I had to open up the walls again to fix a plumbing issue. Did more termite spraying while I was in there. The neonicotinoids aren't terribly toxic to humans or animals... a version of imidacloprid is the active ingredient of Advantage flea treatment for pets. (Penwiper, you're overdue...) It is terrible for bees, in agricultural uses, but I don't want those in my house's walls anyway.

Still, now we have nice new fixtures and I put up waterproof contact "paper" (vinyl) over the most water damaged/discolored areas of the walls, after spraying and replacing.

I also put up our outdoor holiday lights (despite the rain), rearranged the living room and hung pictures. And went out to a fun party Saturday night, so wasn't completely domestic.

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Friday, October 31st, 2014
12:40 pm - 34 years ago...
My best friend in college, Rob Firester (and still my closest male friend) helped introduce patgreene and I to one another, 34 years ago at a party at Wellesley College. Rob and I have stayed in contact over the years.

Yesterday he died, in Atlanta (although he was from Long Island) after a years-long battle with melanoma. I will miss his jokes, his intelligence and wit and insight.

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Friday, October 10th, 2014
5:03 pm - Rule of thumb...
My latest vehicle purchase ( a 2005 Kawasaki EX250 motorcycle) is once more reaffirming the rule of thumb that any used vehicle I buy will incur in the first two months of ownership, maintenance and repair costs greater than or equal to the purchase cost of the vehicle. In this case, the guy who sold me the bike had done his own valve adjustment a few months earlier. He apparently badly botched it, ruining the valves and valve seats (one cylinder had zero compression). Then offloaded the bike to me, saying that it ran rough because the carbs needed cleaning and it needed a $10 mixture screw. Sigh.

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Sunday, August 10th, 2014
12:04 pm - For Ara Easley, today
Daring and challenging
red-haired dancer
Fearlessly yourself, unworried.

Quietly holding together
many strands, many times
Our quiet joyful bubble.

You wrestled me
Pushed my boundaries
Loved me meanwhile
I grew up.

Vibrantly taught me
being here in the moment
playing, creating
Loving facets, differently.

The bubble goes on
Somewhere.

--Jay Glass, 8/10/14

current mood: grieving

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Sunday, July 27th, 2014
8:08 am - En route to Devon Island, 2 days in Iqaluit...
This itinerary is taking awhile to get to HMP this year... I left SFO on Wednesday, arrived in Ottawa, spent a full day there buying food and supplies and coolers, which accompanied the five of us (myself, Pascal, Jesse, Bolek, and April) Friday to Iqaluit for our connection there to Resolute.

Which didn't happen... Resolute was fogged in, so our flight was cancelled. Same thing yesterday. Hopefully we make it today to Resolute, possibly all the way to Devon Island... although Iqaluit is growing on me. It has aspects of Arctic village, frontier town and city. And a cash economy and even some paved roads. :-) And sits in a stunningly beautiful landscape...

Still, I want to get our tasks going, to get started, to know something of what other challenges are waiting ahead. This will be my first time (in 17 seasons) going in the first plane that opens up base camp. Two years ago the main dining tent was discovered to have been crushed by a huge snow drift. In the past, the first arriving had to clean up after polar bear damage. So there is uncertainty as to the condition of the camp when we arrive.

Today's 9:30am flight has been delayed, again, to 1:30pm. That makes it unlikely we will make it to Devon Island today, as we need at least 3 hours in Resolute to locate and move the equipment in our pre-shipped air cargo over to the Kenn Borek hangar for loading. But, who knows...

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Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
12:35 pm - One decade ago...
Ten years ago, tenacious_snail and I had our first date... we clicked, it was my first local poly relationship, and I had a steep learning curve (apologies again to those splashed by the ripples of that, years ago). It was intense, with really high highs and some pretty ugly lows. But even though we haven't Dated in years, she is still dear to me, a partner-without-benefits, and I am very happy, a decade later, that she is still in my life. In whatever capacity. :-)

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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
1:52 pm - 31 years...
31 years ago, patgreene and I nervously walked down the aisle at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, in St Petersburg, FL. And afterwards had to hitch a ride with the photographer, as the best man had my car keys and he absent-mindedly left with them for the reception 5 miles away. (Without cellphones then, there was no way to contact him.)

Recently Pat and I went back to the same church... after her mom's funeral. Very bittersweet overlay of feelings.

When I first asked Pat's father for permission to marry her, his response was "well, it won't be boring." It hasn't been. And has been loving and joyful and sometimes stressed and turbulent (like any relationship) and overall quite a success. (The priest after the ceremony told a bystander that he predicted it wouldn't last, and he'd be doing an annullment within 2 years.) And we have three bright and ethical and handsome sons. Congratulations to us! :-)

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Monday, May 12th, 2014
7:54 pm - Missing Eloise...
Yesterday my mother-in-law, Eloise Greene, died unexpectedly in her sleep, at age 87. She was a compassionate and loving and playful person, a joy to be around and a great in-law... like another parent figure to me. I will miss her a lot. It just seems so... weird that she's gone, that she's not going to banter with me on the phone again or ask about her grandsons or how Pat is doing. Or go with her motorhome to Disney or Ft. DeSoto.

Right now I am still kind of in shock and trying to lose myself in logistics and plans for the next week. And supporting and holding close Patricia Greene and talking to the boys. I was supposed to be in Washington, DC right now... on business. I went to SJC at 5am, got my ticket canceled and refunded, and returned home. It felt like the right thing to do. Wednesday Pat and I will head East to St Petersburg, FL for the memorial service.

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Monday, April 7th, 2014
10:01 pm - A thought from a FB thread tonight...
Solitude is desolation.

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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
10:39 am - Proposal submitted...
Since last summer, I've been part of a group that is proposing a life detection instrument in response to the call for potential 2020 Mars rover mission instruments. My part would be to lead the development of the sample acquisition and transfer subsystems, getting Mars dirt into an inlet funnel. As well as the ground software to talk to/from our instrument from/to Earth. Given project experience, I also wrote the sections on project organization and management, procurement regs compliance, past relevant flight experience, and rewrote our initial-phase task plan and our implementation plan.

This collaborative effort, spanning the US, Spain, UK and France, has consumed most of the past six weeks. Not only did I not get time to relax during the holidays, we were meeting and working on weekends and evenings. Hence few LJ posts. The past few days built up to a crescendo of effort spanning the Atlantic, and by 6pm PT yesterday it appeared we were done. The proposal had to be submitted by CAB in Spain, by midnight today ET. So we had margin. I went out for dinner and contra dancing with tenacious_snail while others finished the final tweaks and their corrections. When I returned home at 11pm, there was an email saying that the final version was complete and had been uploaded.

But not submitted yet, as it was still night in Spain. Because I'm a bit obsessive or paranoid (take your pick), rather than go to bed I started reading the final version. Which... had two sections that in reformatting had extended over their required maximum page length limits, by two pages. It was noncompliant, and would be disallowed or at least penalized if submitted as-is.

So I called our proposal manager, woke him, and we looked at it. Everyone else was non-reachable at that hour, so he and I fixed the issues and I re-uploaded a now-OK proposal around 2am. And then at 5am (here), the principal investigator in Spain hit "submit" and it was done.

Now, to catch up on everything left back-burnered, like my home mortgage refinance or neglected friends and sweeties...

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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
6:07 pm - 2013's overnights...
Places where I spent the night over the past year (including places where there was only daylight ;-) :

Christchurch, New Zealand
McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica
University Valley, Antarctica
Akaroa, NZ
Oamaru, NZ
Te Anau, NZ
Fairlie, NZ
Parramatta, Australia
Brisbane, Australia
Mountain View, CA
San Leandro, CA
The Woodlands, TX
Harbin Hot Springs, CA
Santa Clara, CA
Arlington, VA
Annapolis, MD
Alexandria, VA
Quincy, MA
Windsor Locks, CT
Minneapolis, MN
Stillwater, MN
Pasadena, CA
Carmel, CA
Yellowknife, NWT, Canada
Resolute, Nunavut, Canada
Devon Island, Canada
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
East Palo Alto, CA
Fresno, CA
New York City, NY
Tyson's Corner, VA

31 places, 5 countries, 3 continents. Both polar regions...

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5:31 pm - Overtime!
I am into 2013-overtime! Meaning it has lasted for me more than a standard year in duration, thanks to travel... I celebrated last New Year's Eve in Christchurch, New Zealand.. 21 hours ahead (it is already Wednesday afternoon there now).

So my 2013 will have an extra 21 hours added... which is not a bad thing overall for me, as it has been a good year.

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Friday, December 20th, 2013
1:20 pm - Celebrating a win :-)
Yay! A proposal I submitted in August from the field on Devon Island, "Life-Detection Mars Analog Project," working with our Spanish friends at the Centro de Astrobiologia and with Honeybee Robotics, has been selected by NASA Headquarters for four years of (modest) funding.

It will support testing of "dirt to data" with sample acquisition, transport, and biomarker detection at Pasadena (in 2014 and 2016) and the Rio Tinto, Spain analog site (in 2015 and 2017). This keeps us in the game, so to speak, for another four years.

And with 8-10% selection ratios in these competitions, I had not had a major win in five years, probably 20-25 proposals submitted meanwhile. So I feel lucky today!

(high-fives my team members :-)

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
9:10 am - silliness...
Happy 09:10 11/12/13...

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