Dear Pat Ryan,

I just thought I’d check in to see how things are going with you.  Some of us have gotten a little curious because we haven’t heard much of anything from you in a while now and we started to wonder what was going on.  I mean, if you say you’re going to write a blog, it is customary to actually write something from time to time.  You know, something to make the customers realize that you’re not stone dead, or ignoring them, or “too busy with work and other things” to be bothered keeping up with your commitments.  C’mon, just six damn posts in the last four months?  What’s the deal?

I mean, fercryingoutloud, in just the last few months you’ve passed up the chance to say something about:

You’ve sort of led people to believe that you cared about civil liberties and the whole gay marriage thing, or were at least interested in the subject, but when

you observe radio silence.  I mean, you gotta understand why the people would at least wonder if you’ve given up, or converted or something.

You even let this great picture on Twitter go by without any acknowledgement!


So anyway, I’d just like to say I hope you get your shit together and try to be a little more regular contributor in this space, or the owners may start thinking seriously about changing the name up there at the top of the page.

This is a no-brainer…so it’s perfect for this blog

My Houston Astros kicked off their American League existence Sunday night with a big exciting win over the Texas Rangers, and Monday I thought I should write something nice for the blog about the entire event. You see how far I got with that.

Tuesday night my Houston Astros nearly got perfect-gamed for the second time in less than a year, just the kind of thing that the doomsayers who’ve predicted a third 100+ loss season for the Astros needed to be able to say “I told you so.” Yeah, well, you didn’t count on Marwin Gonzalez, did you? (Yes, Marwin Gonzalez. I know.)

This morning I found a post on Awful Announcing that combines the comfort and excitement of Opening Day with the sense of disorientation that we Astros fans are working through as we get acquainted with our new team and league: major league players performing bits of “Who’s on First?

And that made me think, I want to see the original in all it’s glory…and I’m betting, so do you!

Recommended reading: an inside story of the loss of space shuttle Columbia

This week, January 16, is the 10th anniversary of the last launch of last launchspace shuttle Columbia. If you’re interested in knowing what happened at NASA leading up to that launch and what happened in Houston during the flight, read Wayne Hale’s Blog. Wayne is retired from NASA now after a 32-year career that saw him rise from flight controller to flight director to posts within the space shuttle program hierarchy and at NASA Headquarters, including Space Shuttle Program Manager after the loss of Columbia and her crew.

Start with his August 14, 2012 entry and read forward in time: he carefully and colorfully sets the stage, introduces the players and fills in shuttle program background; he doesn’t retreat into engineering jargon; he offers his recollections of the most difficult time in the professional lives of many of the people who make up America’s human spaceflight program and doesn’t spare himself from a close look. He writes of “The Tyranny of Requirements” and the warnings that were plainly there in the two previous flights (for any who could see them), of “Counting Down to Disaster” while “Working on the Wrong Problem.”

As someone who worked at Columbia crewNASA then and now, I’ve found his essays both moving and instructive; I don’t know where he’s going with the story exactly, but I’m eager to read each new installment. I can explain to you what happened to that vehicle as it rose to orbit 10 years ago, and what tore it apart and killed its crew as it came home 16 days later, but Wayne’s point of view on what led up to those events—what caused them, what was responsible—is unparalleled in its accessibility and honesty.

In 2002 I thought we were paying the right level of attention to the shuttle. I thought I was paying the right level of attention to the shuttle. I was a Flight Director. I was also a husband and a father and active in my community. I thought I could do it all.

I was wrong.

Later on, I will write about the MLK three day weekend that cost us a crew just because we took three days off. But how can you know in advance where the proper balance is between work and life when you work at extreme risk?

While I can’t cite specific studies, my observation of several major NASA projects that have gotten in trouble over the years shows a high correlation with new, added, late, or poorly defined requirements which caused technical issues, increased the costs, and delayed the schedule. Put simply, a good program manager has got to have the gumption to just say no to changes in requirements – even when they are really good ideas.

In the end, I am convinced that the “relentless budget reduction pressures” were a major cause of the Columbia accident that cost us a crew and an orbiter. Not the only cause, but a major cause.

So where do you draw that line, between prudent and acceptable expenses and extravagance? What do you do when you depend on a vehicle that just flat costs more to fly than you can afford?

The rest of the story is coming soon, but you can get caught up now: the story of space shuttle Columbia on  Wayne Hale’s Blog is worth the effort.

It’s OK to be away from the blog for a few days

You’re busy at work, and then there’s a holiday…and besides, after all the recent hubbub you just want some time not to think about things too much for a while.  The next thing you know you haven’t posted to your blog in more than ten days and you think you really should write something just to keep engaged—and then, you find the email you sent yourself ten days ago with a link to something you thought was funny, and everything just makes sense:


Thanks, Tom the Dancing Bug and

The mind of the blogger, revealed

Calvin writes

I really couldn’t think of anything, either…thanks, Calvin and Hobbes and