Monday, June 12, 2017

Day 1: Great Barrington, MA to Clarion, PA.

Farm Pond.  I often wonder why I leave...
Finally packed up and ready to go, I was ready to break the chain to the ground, being ready enough.  There is always more things to do but I was ready enough and the clock is ticking.  But it's always hard to leave family and friends and the comfort of home (and Farm Pond!)

All fueled and ready!
The goal is to get to Denver, CO to see my brother, Chad, play with his band, Dispatch, at the Ogden (Thursday night) and then Red Rocks (Friday night), which I've never been to.  The weather didn't cooperate this spring, so I'm having my flying expedition now.

Over 105 degrees.
Sweating it out.

92 degrees today in western mass, meant that it was 105 degrees in the cockpit.  Sweating bullets, I was very happy to get into the cooler sky, where it was a pleasant 70 at 4,500 feet.

This pic was taken over Pennsylvania.  After flying towards the sun all afternoon, I was struck by the amazing thing that we live on a planet near a star.  How lucky we are to exist on such a cool planet.

I landed after 2+ hours in Clearfield, PA but they didn't have self-serve fuel and I didn't want to wait for the services to open up, so I headed on to Clarion, PA, where I've landed many times before.  Got in as it was getting dark.  Had to click the mic seven times to turn on the runway lights.  Such a beautiful sight to see all the lights turn on.

All parked, and flights entered into the various logs.  I'll sleep outside tonight and hope the bugs aren't too bad.  Under the wing, looking up at the stars.  It's always hard to leave home, and I sometimes wonder why I do, but I usually find the answer out here.  Happy to be out and about in the world.  Saw the space station fly overhead as I was parking Freddy.

Hope to fly a good distance tomorrow.  Lots of daylight being so near to the summer solstice.  

A Star Wars sunset.  Looking for the other star in the binary system...

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Comment/Subscription Clarification

Hello!  To readers who would like to leave comments, my mother suggested I make some clarifications.  If you have subscribed (through the window on the top right to get an email each time I post something new) you cannot reply to that email to leave a comment.  I will not get the message.  
If you want to respond, you can click on the blue link at the top of your email - that will take you to the blog.  Then you can scroll down to the bottom and there is a place to read and write comments at the very bottom.  Or you can always feel free to email me directly.  

But to be clear, if you respond to the automated email, I will NOT get your message.  If you want it public, go to the blog and type in your comment at the bottom.  If you want your comment private, email me directly! 

And if you want to subscribe, you type in your email address to the window in the top right, then you'll get an email asking you to confirm you want to subscribe and a link to click on to verify it's really you.   I know many people have put in their address to subscribe but have never verified themselves.  YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.  I'll be writing a bunch over the summer with some flying and sailing and otherwise, so do as you chose.  The whole point of the blog is to not overwhelm overflowing email inboxes.  

As always, thanks as always for reading, and thank you Mom!

New Astronauts Announced

12 new Astronaut-Candidates were announced today.  Long ago, I knew I was not going to be among them, but finally seeing the twelve NASA selected from 18,300 was interesting to say the least.  There are men and women, in their twenties, thirties and forties, PhDs and medical doctors, military and non-military, pilots and non-pilots, a SpaceX employee, a NASA employee, a submariner and a bunch of Antarctic experience among the group.  With over 18,000 applicants it's hard to compete.

So again, I am closer to having passed the window of age where I could be selected but seeing who they selected, I am again confronted with the seeming reality that I won't get selected.  Questions arise as I watch and listen on NASA TV.  Should I have joined the military, should I have gone into the Aerospace industry right after college, should I have gotten a masters.  Maybe I shouldn't have worked at a school for the Deaf, shouldn't have become a certified arborist, shouldn't have become a sailor, shouldn't have been trying to learn how to play the bass guitar, and so on and so forth.  NASA's not really looking for sailors, even though astronaut means "star voyager."  They're looking for military test pilots, NAVY SEALs and medical doctors.  I simply don't come close to measuring up to those selected.

Out of the 18,000 there are another hundred who got very close, and some will probably be selected next round.  I was not close at all and didn't even make it through the first round.  So it's extremely unlikely that it will ever happen, and though I've told myself that my whole life it's hard to come face to face with the likely reality.

I will still apply again.  I will be over 40 by the next selection but two were selected this round over 40.  But I expect to get no further that round.

So my answers to the questions?  Even though it may have been lessening my chances, I wouldn't change a thing.  I love my Deaf friends and their language, I love the trees, my sailboat, my borrowed bass guitar.  I've loved my five seasons in Antarcitca, and the expeditions I've done with friends.  I love the expeditions I've led for NOLS and Outward Bound, I love that my tree company is/was called Spacewalk Tree Service and its logo features an astronaut with a chainsaw.  I am happy and feel incredibly lucky.  I have had such incredible support and such an incredible family and network of friends.

And thank the universe, I have my own expeditions to embark on in a matter of days!  Flying my little Cessna-172 out to Colorado to see my brother play in his band, Dispatch, then sailing in Maine on my sailboat before returning to western Massachusetts for the start of the school year at Berkshire School, where I'll teach another year of Engineering and Astronomy.

Not getting selected gives me more freedom and freedom I have always loved.  I can keep sailing, keep flying, keep signing and singing, keep playing ice hockey and squash.  And I'll keep exploring the Earth as if I came from another planet.  I guess I'm an Terranaut, an Aquanaut and Aeronaut.  The elusive Astronaut out of reach, but there is much to be explored still by land, sea and sky.  I have my own "spaceships."  And so I'll not dwell and take to the skies on Monday!

Thank you to all who've supported me with such enthusiasm and for all your words of encouragement along the way!  They mean the world to me!

Here are a few of my favorite shots exploring the world by land sea and sky:

All suited up in my glacier rig while instructing a NOLS course.

One of my first tower climbs in Antarctica as an antenna rigger.

Riding in helicopter to our worksite in Antarctica. 

Sailing in Baja with NOLS.

Instructing a mountaineering course in the Waddington Range of British Columbia.

In the cockpit and at the controls!

All skin covered, probably high on Mt. Erebus in Antarctica.

My view from the cockpit.

Wind turbine work on Mt. Erebus, Antarctica.

Deep underwater in the Bahamas.

At the summit of one of the Scandinavia Peaks, Alaska on a personal trip.

Daphne, my long term spaceship.

Happy as a clam in the Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Sign Language Interpreting

And so I was called into action in a last minute desperate attempt to find an interpreter - any interpreter at all as the time was so short.  That's the kind of interpreting I do best, not being certified and all...A desperate need for one student on a Wilderness First Responder re-certification course.  I was hesitant as my skills aren't as good as when I was a teachers' aide and coaching the soccer team at The Learning Center for the Deaf, but when I found out I knew the student and she needed the cert for her summer job, I was agreed to be "better than nothing!" 

And hopefully I have been.  Two days done, one more to go.  One Deaf student out of 19 students.  It has been interesting watch her navigate her not-certified interpreter.  There are times, I know she's confused and is just being patient with me (oh so patient) and there are times when I'm interpreting some long-winded, too-specific story from some student that has nothing to do with what is going on or what we're trying to learn.  I appreciate those who are succinct and clear in their communication. 

Having taught similar courses, I am caught in the dilemma of communicating exactly what I hear or communicating what I think will best convey the information.  All the while, not really stopping.  At the end of the first day, I was ready to take my arm off at the elbow and look around for another one.  My finger-spelling started to slow as my tendons and ligaments started to fatigue, then I could feel every movement in my forearm.  When I had a short break, I would let my right hand hang like I was rock climbing, trying to get some healing blood back to it.  Shake it out...hope it lasts another lesson.  Normally there are two interpreters for a job so they can rest their minds and hands.  When I showed up they told me there were usually three for these courses.  

With no experience, some work easily with a Deaf co-student.  Some tend to find someone else to work with.  Those who are willing make a difference.  Those who treat their students Deaf and non-Deaf all the same are wonderful.  

Back in this wonderful language, so beautiful, so cool, knowing it feels like a super-power!  Since my client and I are looking at each other for much of the course, there are wonderful shared moments where one of us will catch the other in a moment of confusion, chills, boredom or mental fatigue.  Smiles come, sometimes laughter, our own little beautiful world.  It would be made more beautiful if the room was full of Deaf folks and I was teaching them wilderness first aid skills directly instead of interpreting them through another instructor, but as it is, it's our own little beautiful world.  Her perspective is probably not the same as there are times that I am not interpreting things perfectly due to the nature of what or how something is being said or in what situation.  She looks confused and we laugh about it later.  She probably thinks, "What the Hell?!" and either thinks the instructor is an idiot if I'm interpreting things properly or thinks I'm an idiot for not doing a better job.  On second thought, she surely knows I am at fault.  Hopefully I am still better than nothing!

My client I have not seen in many years and so wonderful to reconnect.  Before a student, now a friend.  Confident, smart, ever so patient, and with wide eyes to the world.  So impressed how she works with us hearing folks.  Lookout world!  So nice to have such people in the world.  

I would write more, but really should rest the hands.  Slept almost 10 hours last night, trying not to move my hands and forearms.  First day in a long time I didn't play a guitar or bass.  It was worth it though.  Power to the people who can communicate with their hands and faces.  I was drawn to this language as a kid and the grace and beauty of the language and the people of the Deaf world have forever enriched my life.  So many thanks to all who've been so patient with me and let me into their world.  

Waddington Range Mountaineering and Dogsledding in Minnesota

It's almost summer time which means it's almost adventure time!  The quick plans, once school is done, fly myself out to Red Rocks in Colorado and back to hear my brother play with his band, Dispatch.  Then up to Maine to spend the rest of my school-teacher summer aboard my beloved boat, Daphne.  

But first a recap.  The first half of last summer was spent in British Columbia teaching a NOLS mountaineering course.  With two other instructors and 11 students, we traversed over 50 miles of glaciated, rocky and think vegetated terrain in style and with lots of laughs, and maybe a few tears.  It was an awesome experience, made more powerful with the knowledge that the first time I had been there was with my friend AJ, who was killed in a plane crash two years ago.

The days were long and the views stunning.  I used my Maine coast fog navigation skills to navigate the team many miles up a glacier, through a pass, then down a glacier to our campsite in one of my favorite days in the mountains.  Everyone who was behind me had to quietly plod along, separated by the rope lengths (in case one of them fell into a crevasse), in the cold soaking rain, while I, on the front of the first rope team, with map and compass in hand, took bearings, made marks on the map, and quietly dead-reckoned our way to camp while thinking, "I love this shit!"  When we arrived to camp, one student asked, "How the heck did you get us here?!"  Thank you to the Maine fog and my time as a sailing instructor for Outward Bound.  

We had long days and short nights.  Both in actual daylight and in hours awake.  Many days on end contained only 5 hours of sleep or less and I would often wonder, how am I still functioning.  It was a probably a combination of the good company, the responsibility of being in charge of the whole team, our stunning scenery and the fact that the terrain involved much careful thought, mitigation and planning to safely travel through it.  I will not forget coming down one glacier, looking up to see the headlights high above as they followed the little wands I had placed marking the safest route.  By midnight we were down but had no where off glacier to camp, so we had to have two people with probes probe out an area safe for us to sleep.  A long day ahead, it was only a few hours of sleep again for us instructors.  

The route out of the mountains was perhaps the most challenging part.  Jenga logs from pine-beetle kill, bushwhacking, it is indescribable to any who haven't been there.  What a feeling to emerge with our team happy and healthy, a month after entering the mountains of the Waddington Range.  

From there it was a few weeks of sailing on the Maine coast and then back to the school.  

This spring me and another on the faculty took students on a dog sledding trip in Minnesota.  We hired an outfit to lead it and it was a spectacular experience.  Sleeping in bivi sacks on the surface of a frozen lake at -10 degrees F, listening to the ice crack and looking up at the stars.  It was a little taste of the Antarctic and I felt right at home in Ely, Minnesota.  

Doing my best to look like an arctic explorer...

School is almost done!  A story of last spring's adventure flying to Houston and back to talk to NASA folks will be published in the July issue of Popular Mechanics!  Apparently over a million readers!  
That's all for now!  Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!