In the City, the New Immigrants

The beeping had gone on for days. Once every minute. Loud. It hadn’t bothered me at first. I noticed it during lunch. Later that day the beeping was still there, and I left the living room, retreated to my bedroom. It was strange. The only time I could remember when my bedroom was more peaceful than my living room. I’m not being a pig. Swear. My bedroom faces the street. The living room is nestled in the middle of my apartment. It’s a sanctuary, a place of peace from the noise of the street, a great buffer of contentment, and rarely was there disturbance. But that damn beeping. It was regular, dependable, and loud, in every negative and annoying way a sound could be. But after that first night, I forgot it. Parked in front of the machine, the living room took a back seat. Less living there than there should have been. But that’s the way in the age of technology, right? Continue reading “In the City, the New Immigrants”

One Giant Leap Backwards

Today, the X Prize Foundation announced its latest competition, the Google Lunar X Prize. In a follow-up to 2004’s Ansari X Prize, which was awarded to a team that successfully launched a privately funded suborbital manned flight, the foundation would seem to be raising the bar. The finish line in this latest competition is the moon itself, the conditions calling for a robotic rover, similar in concept to those exploring Mars today, to land on the moon, travel more than 500 meters, and transmit high definition video and images back to earth. No easy task. The $25 million prize more than likely will not cover the cost of development and execution of a successful mission, but it has never been the goal of the X Prize to make money for the competitors. Instead, the competitions are meant to foster innovation and development, leading to the betterment of mankind. That being said, the Google Lunar X Prize does none of this. Continue reading “One Giant Leap Backwards”

Danny, We Hardly Knew Ye

St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery was completed and consecrated in 1799. It is one of those old buildings you come across all the time in the city. More prominent than most, its architecture and the skewed angle in which it sits next to Second Avenue ensures it will not ever fade into the background. In a city that boasts thousands of buildings competing for the eye’s attention, anything that busts through the mold has an instant leg up on the competition. Continue reading “Danny, We Hardly Knew Ye”

Morning Ritual

We pulled into Union Square and the doors slid open. Two-thirds of the passengers all swarmed the doors. There was no mad rush, however. How could there be? No room. But there was a press. An inexorable shove. Anxiety grew with every half second still stuck in the car. Every one of these ticks was one closer until the conductor would hit the switch, and the barnyard door would try to snap shut, about a hundred pounds of torque on anyone who hadn’t quite made it through. One second, two seconds, three, and any progress towards the waiting platform is impeded by the asshole with the book and the iPod blocking half the doorway. Continue reading “Morning Ritual”

Nothing in the West

When I was young, I didn’t care for the west. Actually, I hated it. It seemed to me the land of the dead. The desert was dry, dirty, devoid of anything other than the most prickly of life. And it was hot. Unbelievably hot. I was nine when I stepped off a plane in Phoenix for the first time. There was a jetway, but there was a small gap between the jetway and the aircraft door. As I moved from plane to jetway, my eyes opened wide and my mouth gaped. I uttered a childish ‘whoop!’ as I was blasted by a stream of superheated air. I had never felt something so hot before in my life. It was akin to a supercharged hair dryer. I couldn’t understand why the Phoenix airport felt it necessary to blow hot air on passengers as they left the plane. What devilish art was this? Why was it done? Were they trying to blow dust off the plane, or something else? I had no idea. Until I was led out of the concourse and into the parking lot towards my uncle’s car. Of course the hot air wasn’t the machinations of man, it was merely Arizona in August. Continue reading “Nothing in the West”

Junkyard of Power

The sun blazes down white hot on this place even in April. The salt flats are baked, the Russian thistle thrives, the rattlesnakes lie in wait. The pipes, cables, and squat buildings all add to the layer of rust bringing on their inevitable demise. But this is the desert, so decay is slow. These remains, these corpses of the greatest power mankind has ever wielded, could last long enough to be witnessed by our grandchildren’s grandchildren, as they should. As they must. It’s the craters, however, that are the great testament to what went on here. Continue reading “Junkyard of Power”

Flameout

The sky was bright on September 29th, 2004. Azure. Crystalline. Through the lenses of the television cameras down on the ground, it had a flavor of indigo. High up in the air, Mike Melvill was ready to do it again. The countdown had begun. Here he was, strapped into the tiniest, oddest-looking hunk of hardware to ever boom its way to a hundred kilometers straight up. SpaceShipOne. A polished white football with a couple of thick wings slapped on, designed by the legendary Burt Rutan. He was strapped in like all the crazy test pilots back at Edwards, back when some tub would haul you and your badass rocket up to 20,000 or 30,000, cut you loose, and then you would hit the switch. Continue reading “Flameout”

Google Our Secrets

“How can they let us look at this stuff? This has got to be illegal.”

A constant refrain. Everyone I know has the same reaction at first. From hundreds of miles up, traveling our native land with the aspect view of the astronaut has entered the cultural mainstream. This isn’t Mapquest. They had satellite photos, too, but they didn’t work as well, and they mysteriously disappeared in 2003. What happened? Only they know, and possibly the NSA. Or so you would think from a person’s reaction when they get a glimpse of the Pentagon or Edwards Air Force Base from on high. Continue reading “Google Our Secrets”

Selah

The method never worked for me. The last I remembered was arising in the late afternoon with one of those vicious, evil hangovers. You know, the type that moves its way down the back of your neck and makes the walls painful to look at. Every part of my body felt bathed in poison. It had been one of those nights. How long had I been asleep? Were the stars still out when I finally crawled into bed, or had I decided to push the envelope until morning, bringing on this frightful bout of forgetfulness, remorse, and crapulence? Continue reading “Selah”