Saturday, August 25, 2012

"We Come In Peace For All Mankind"

Neil Armstrong received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. I went to Purdue, and I met him when he visited as a VIP alumnus. Sadly, we just lost a true American Hero.

On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the Moon. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Apollo 11, humanity's "one priceless moment".


1. All three crew members - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins - were born in the same year: 1930. All three were pilots (Collins and Aldrin in the USAF, Armstrong in the Navy). But there the similarities ended. Collins and Aldrin were from military "blue blood" families, Armstrong from small town Ohio. Collins dubbed the crew "the amiable strangers".


2. It was never a foregone conclusion that Apollo 11 would make the first lunar landing. Each Apollo mission had to fulfill various objectives. But if, for instance, Apollo 10 had failed in its mission, testing the lander (called the LM) in lunar orbit, then the task would have passed to Apollo 11. That would have given the first lunar landing attempt to Apollo 12 and made Pete Conrad the first man on the Moon.


3. Neil Armstrong might never have been the one to take that historic "one small step". It might have been his lunar module pilot, Buzz Aldrin. During the Gemini missions, the mission commander stayed in the capsule while the pilot carried out the spacewalks. Initially NASA - and Aldrin - thought the same would happen on Apollo. But Nasa managers were worried about the image of the first man on the Moon, a man who would become the next Christopher Columbus or Orville Wright. Aldrin had not won many friends at NASA because of his forthright style - "he was a burr in the saddle", said one senior manager. But Armstrong - the strong, quiet, courageous all-American hero - was a natural choice. NASA changed the rules and told Armstrong he would be first out of the lunar module. (Aldrin was furious and later drew up plans for a lunar lander with two doors that would allow the astronauts to get out at the same time.)


4. Armstrong was almost killed in the weeks leading up to the mission. The commander practised for the lunar landing in a contraption called the lunar landing training vehicle (LLTV), dubbed the Flying Bedstead. Using jets, it mimicked the Moon's gravity to give the Commander a realistic experience of what a lunar landing would be like. Armstrong practised on it tirelessly. But in May 1968, the machine went berserk. He tried in vain to bring it under control but failed. At just 100ft, he hit the eject button a second or so before the LLTV crashed to the ground and was destroyed in a fireball.


5. Each crew member was allowed to take personal items on board. Some of these could be sold later in lieu of the life insurance policies which, unsurprisingly, were hard to come by for Apollo astronauts. Armstrong took with him some pieces of wood from the Wright Flyer, which had made the first powered flight in 1903. There were also commemorative medals for the crew of Apollo 1, who had died in a fire on board their Command Module during a routine ground test, and the dead Soviet cosmonauts, Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin. (In fact, Valentin Bondarenko was the first man to die in the space race, but it wasn't until 1980 that the world learned of his grisly death in a fire in an oxygen-filled pressure chamber during an endurance experiment.)


6. The Apollo 11 mission could have ended in failure because of a series of relatively harmless computer alarms that went off as the lunar module was descending to the surface. It was saved thanks to a rehearsal weeks before the mission. Mission controllers were put through their paces in a series of practice runs, simulating a lunar landing. On the final day, one of the controllers called an abort because of a simulated computer program alarm. It had been the wrong call. But it meant that when there were similar alarms during the actual Apollo 11 landing, the same controller knew he could ignore them and allow the landing to continue.


7. When the lunar module Eagle was still 20 feet above the surface, Armstrong and Aldrin were told they had only 30 seconds of fuel left. If they still hadn't landed by then, Mission Control would have ordered Armstrong to abort the landing. But would he have? Back on Earth, Armstrong revealed: "If I'd run out of fuel, why, I would have put down right there. I could fall from a fairly good height, perhaps maybe 40 feet or more in the low lunar gravity, the gear would absorb that much of a fall. So I was perhaps probably less concerned about it than a lot of people watching on Earth." (As it turned out, after the mission NASA calculated that Eagle could have flown for at least another minute.)


8. When Armstrong made his famous announcement that the landing had been "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", he had actually meant to say "one small step for a man" but it had come out wrong. Considering it is one of the most famous quotations in human history, Armstrong has always been typically sanguine about it. "I thought about it after landing," said Armstrong afterwards, "and because we had a lot of other things to do, it was not something that I really concentrated on but just something that was kind of passing around subliminally or in the background. But it, you know, was a pretty simple statement, talking about stepping off something. Why, it wasn't a very complex thing. It was what it was."


9. There were many firsts about the Apollo 11 mission, but two of the most notable were the responsibility of Buzz Aldrin. He became the first human being to celebrate Holy Communion away from the Earth, and the first to urinate on another world.


10. Just in case the mission had ended in disaster, President Richard Nixon had prepared a suitable valedictory speech. It spoke of how "fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace". It would have meant Mike Collins, the command module pilot, would have had to make the loneliest journey home; but from that time onwards "every human being who looks up at the Moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind".

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Help! Text the Police!

I had to call the police this week.  Actually, I had to call them twice. The first time, I called them directly - as in NOT by dialing 911. I called and said “this is NOT an emergency. At least not yet”.

I’ll give the short version here: a bunch of guys working at our home did a big “Bozo No-No” on our property, which prompted me to call the police. I told the police that I am about to explain to this contractor and his crew their multiple errors in judgment, and that there is a chance that HE might be calling 911 in a few minutes. I thought it would be a good idea if I called the police first, to get my side of the story on the record. I might not be able to speak intelligently during my conniption. 

 Now, I don’t know the last time you had to call the police for anything, but in my town, in my neighborhood in Northern New Jersey:

  • The police have a website.
  • All police officers in our town carry cell phones.
  • All police use texting to and from their phones - to landline phones.

I have been selling cellular phones and service since 1983. I probably sent one of the first “texts” to and from phones as a paying customer, when it was around $0.50 per message. I found it amazing that the police in our town use texting - and - they actually prefer texting for non-emergency communications. 

Texting In Class During Exam - Hire that Man!

I don’t have the need to call the police often, and I cannot remember the last time I needed to do so.  But I had no idea that texting is now the preferred method of communication between the citizens and the local police. It turns out that the texts are a permanent record, and that the texts go to multiple people, including the 911 dispatch center, just in case it is indeed an emergency. The texting also automatically tracks the communication, so that via GPS tracking, the phone sending the text is tracked to within a few feet of the caller’s location.

Texting has become the preferred method of communication for the police. You can always dial 911, if it is a true emergency. But calling 911 in our town goes to the county Sheriff’s office. The Morris County Sheriff takes all 911 calls, for multiple towns in Northern New Jersey.  If you want your local constable, you should send them a text.  


What’s next?  Twitter?  Facebook? Texting is cool, but it might take some time for me to get used to texting the police. I have never in my life had to call the fire department, but I guess they will be next.

OMG! House is on fire. RU coming? Not LMAO!

By the way if you want my contact information, text
TOM to 70101 and you will get my mobile business card on your cell phone. Seriously, try it. Paper business cards are so 90's

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Day at the Beach

“Like a Day at the Beach” is a great saying. An oasis of calm and relaxation, a vacation you can take any time and on any budget. For as long as I can remember, going to the beach in the summertime was “the” thing to do. When I grew up, it was free to park, free to spread a blanket and free to stake your claim in that perfect spot on the beach. Not too near the water, not too close to the lifeguard stand, and certainly not too close to the family with a brood of kids under five years old. Alas, a day at the beach is now far from free, but it is still a bargain.

We just returned from a wonderful family vacation. Drake’s Island (in Wells Beach, Maine) was a hidden treasure that we found on the Internet. 300 miles from home, it was just far enough to make the drive-time acceptable.  

We checked out Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, the home of President Bush. We explored Ogunquit with its world famous beaches, artist community, fishing villages and fabulous shopping. Lobster, clams and lobster - every day of the trip.


The entire point of going to Maine was to get away from work, to get away from stress, and to get away from technology. Unplug and relax! Leave the laptops at home!

Technology made the vacation better.

Our GPS in our phones and car allowed us to see much more of the Maine coastline. Our smartphones allowed us to find just the right places that were doggie friendly. I was able to put up an auto-responder away message on my email, and yet using my service, know that if someone really (really) needed to find me for something urgent, they could. Technology allowed me to get away from technology, and leave my laptop at home. When you tell someone that they can contact you during your vacation - they will. There are less emergencies in life (and in business) than we imagine. So, I felt perfectly fine leaving my laptop at home for this well deserved and needed vacation.

I did not leave my laptop at home.

There were five of us (including Bella) in Maine; there were four laptops and four smartphones. Wi-Fi was everywhere, and that allowed us to do more, see more and have more fun. On the drive home, my oldest son plugged in and worked on his online courses from Quinnipiac University. There is something amazing about taking college courses online from the backseat of a Lincoln Navigator, while doing 65 MPH on Rt. 95 Southbound from Maine towards New York City.

When you master technology, then the technology becomes your friend. When the technology masters you, technology becomes the enemy.

Our last day on the beach, the weather was “iffy”. In fact, severe weather was predicted. I was able to check out the from the beach, and purchase tickets, just in case the day at the beach turned nasty. But, via keeping in constant contact with we knew that the clouds were going to pass us by, and that we could stay on the beach.  Close, but no storms to worry about in our area.

Smartphones allowed our family to have a better vacation. My service told the business world that I cared, but please don’t bug me unless it was a really big deal. GPS technology saved us time, money, and found us dog friendly rest stops. If it were not for our smartphones, we would have gone to the beach with Bella too soon - no dogs on the beach until after 5pm.

I don’t know if I would ever want to completely unplug from the world, whether on vacation or at anytime. Technology can make anything better, or it can make anything worse. It is really up to us how it all works out. 

I guess it is like they say in sports: "play the ball, don't let the ball play you".