1. While I’ve been quiet here in terms of new material, I’ve been fairly busy on a “back of house” basis putting Indie Moines into a retirement phase, sorting through over 1,000 blog posts (I figure there’s an equal number that were once online, but were dropped somewhere along the way), and preparing to re-launch this website as my primary online outlet. It feels good to reclaim my name: when I moved to the newspaper blog page in Albany in 2007, and then to Indie Albany, and then to Indie Moines, I never really envisioned letting this page go fallow, but things happen, and here we are. Hopefully by not splitting my market presence I will consolidate traffic more effectively into a single destination for the long form stuff I do on my blog, while also driving traffic from my increased activity over at Twitter. We’ll see!
2. Today is the third anniversary of my arrival in Iowa, after two horrible days on the road with two very unhappy cats. I shudder to recall it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect in a lot of ways when I got here, and I had some visions of what my possible futures in Iowa might look like, but as always happens in real life, the actual path taken is hard to foresee, difficult to predict, and filled with unexpected twists and turns, some of which are surprising and delightful, and some of which are not. At bottom line: I have a unique and interesting job in a field that engages me, we live in a wonderful house in a good neighborhood, both Katelin and Marcia are here in Des Moines with me and happy in their own work/life situations, and the cats remain the cats, happily in a house, and not in a car. It is interesting to compare and contrast where I was at my third anniversary in New York, circa 1996: I had left Naval Reactors and had no full time job (instead freelancing for the local alternative newsweekly), Marcia was just beginning her legal practice, we lived in a small rented townhouse, we were trying to make decisions about where Katelin would be going to Kindergarten and how we were going to afford our first choice private school, and we were still bleeding financially from a house we owned in Alexandria, Virginia that had not been the good investment we might have desired. It was a tough, stressful time, and if you’d told me then that I would still be in the Albany area 15 years later, and would happily consider it home, I probably would not have believed you. So it’s obviously just as hard to see what the future here in Iowa might bring, too, a point which was serendipitously affirmed for me this morning when I read the latest post on one of my favorite blogs, Amy Biancolli’s sublime Figuring Shit Out. Here it is . . . words to the wise, words to live by.
3. Watching the European Space Agency’s Rosetta-Philae Mission perform a soft landing on a comet yesterday was one of the most exciting space nerd days I’ve had in quite a while, made all the better by the vast out-pouring of interest and support from folks around the world. Special mention must be made of Randall Munroe’s live animated progress reports on his utterly geektastic and incredible XKCD website as the mission unfolded; you can view the whole sequence compiled here. (Note that it doesn’t quite tell the full story of how the Philae lander actually bounced and drifted a kilometer away from its planned landing site, and that it appears to currently be sitting on two legs up against a cliff . . . we didn’t know that until after the fact!) Planetary exploration is important and worth funding — and it’s a red herring to compare/contrast it to earth-bound domestic programs at a dollar-for-dollar basis, so don’t take that tack with me, please and thanks. As I’ve noted before here many times, we’re really living in a golden era of planetary exploration, as best communicated by this excellent graphic showing all current and planned missions in (and beyond) the Solar System. I also frequently hear people express dismay because (a) we haven’t been back to the Moon since 1973, and/or (b) the Chinese are likely to put the next bootprints there. Keep in mind, for perspective, that 58 years lapsed between the first and second sea circumnavigations of our own planet, the first on behalf of Spain, the second under the British flag. It has only been 57 years since the Russians launched the first man-made satellite, and 43 years since the United States placed its flag on the moon. In relative terms, we’re making great progress, and if the Chinese are next to visit our fascinating sole natural satellite, then that’s just the natural order of how exploration unfolds. I’ll be rooting for them when they go — but just as avidly rooting for our own Orion mission when it makes its first unmanned test launch beyond our atmosphere in early 2015. Go Team Earth! Conquer the Heavens!