Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

2139Hours EDT

A Contemplation Of Things Past

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CNN just reported that Tallahassee will be the recipient of strong thunderstorms from Hurricane Dennis' feeder bands in a few minutes. Having left there yesterday at around seven in the evening, Erik and I expected to encounter some inclement weather during our trek back to Orlando.

Interestingly enough, the entire ride down Interstate-10 eastbound and on Interstate-75 southbound to Gainesville was uneventful. The sky was ominously brewing as we made our way out of the city, but would not experience a single drop of rain until after leaving Gainesville at 0200. Somewhere north of Sumter County we encountered very high wind gusts and heavy rain that made driving over 45 impossible. But even that experience lasted for only ten or fifteen minutes.

For the balance of the four hour drive, the rain was intermittent and never particularly strong, however the wind continued to maintain its status as an adversary on the road. Overall, we managed to avoid any severe weather and did not feel unsafe traveling. We did see around 100 military vehicles transporting troops, generators and other supplies in addition to State Police and a convoy of Asplundh company vehicles, all traveling toward where Dennis is slated to make landfall shortly.

In other news, the trip itself was a complete blast. It was fun hanging out with Claire and Ash in their newly-purchased home and the party was quite enjoyable as well. In addition to general running around town, I finally did something I have been meaning to do for years: a tour of both the old original Capitol building and the current headquarters.

We first toured the old Capitol building, standing on its present location since 1845. The second floor rooms have been converted into sectional areas, each describing relevant periods in Florida history — such as segregation and the 2000 Presidential election debacle — and a thorough chronicle of the State's government. Of particular interest to me was the restoration and partial recreation of the original State Supreme Court chamber, which served the Court from 1845 to 1912.

Next we walked across the small courtyard to the current Capitol building, a twenty-two floor executive office building completed in 1977. While I had been looking forward to viewing the floors of the State Senate and House of Representatives, the 360 degree panoramic view of Tallahassee from the top floor of the building was an unexpected treat. Also, visiting Governor Jeb Bush's office lobby contained some interesting items, like a first-press set of the Florida quarters presented to Bush from the United States Mint. I asked the secretary working there for one of his business cards as you can see above and we all signed his official guest book.

It was a great trip and I hope I will have the opportunity to go back and hang out again before Claire and Ash's October wedding.

Return to Flight

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Part of life here in Orlando includes the once-regular Space Shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral and the frequent Delta Rocket launches. Having the gateway to space as your next-door neighbour is one of the few positive attributes of living in this area.

And now that two and a half years have passed since the last Space Shuttle launch, I share with NASA the enthusiasm of returning the Shuttle fleet to space. As such, I am going to drive to the coast to watch mission STS-114 get off the ground. Now while the view from my front yard is spectacular, nothing compares to sitting on the gravel beach of the Banana River directly across from the launch complex. The initial flash of light at ignition and the delayed rumbling make the experience one you not only see, but feel.

Dean Acosta/Allard Beutel
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1898/4769)

Michael J. Rein
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
(Phone: 321/867-2468)

June 30, 2005

RELEASE: 05-171

NASA Gives Go for Space Shuttle Return to Flight

NASA has cleared the Space Shuttle to Return to Flight. After a two-day Flight Readiness Review meeting at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, senior managers approved a July 13 launch date for Discovery.

Commander Eileen Collins and her crew are scheduled to lift off at 3:51 p.m. EDT on the first U.S. space flight since the February 2003 loss of the Shuttle Columbia.

"After a vigorous, healthy discussion our team has come to a decision: we're ready to go," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said after the meeting. "The past two and half years have resulted in significant improvements that have greatly reduced the risk of flying the Shuttle. But we should never lose sight of the fact that space flight is risky.

"The Discovery mission, designated STS-114, is a test flight," Griffin said, noting that astronauts will try out a host of new Space Shuttle safety enhancements. In addition, Discovery will carry 15 tons of supplies and replacement hardware to the International Space Station. July 13 is the beginning of three weeks of possible launch days that run through July 31.

NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, William Readdy, chaired the Flight Readiness Review, the meeting that traditionally sets launch dates and assesses the Shuttle's fitness to fly.

"Today's decision is an important milestone in returning the Shuttle to service for the country. Our technical and engineering teams are continuing their in-depth preparations to ensure that Eileen and her crew have a successful mission," he said.

Photo Credit: NASA/KSC

Hyrail Truck

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As I was driving down Interstate-4 this afternoon, I was passed by a CSX work truck. It was outfitted with the über-cool hyrail technology, allowing the truck to be driven on regular city streets and with the push of a button, on rail as well.

It reminded me of the first time I saw such a vehicle. As I was approaching a railroad crossing, the indicator lights came alive and the stop arms lowered into place. Instead of a whistle and locomotive, a lone pick-up truck rode by on the tracks.

At the time I thought that was extraordinary, but I later learned that these vehicles are used all the time. In fact, Union Pacific has a fleet of larger, delivery truck-sized vehicles with enhanced hyrail used to detect possible trouble on the tracks. Filled with sensor equipment and computers, these rail detector trucks roam the country inspecting about 145,500 miles of track a year.

Photo Credit: Bob Parkhurst


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Not too long ago my friends Claire and Ash — who are engaged to be married in October of this year — left their rented townhouse and purchased a home. While I had originally figured on stopping by to visit and see the new place while in transit to Athens, Georgia helping move Erik and Lauren in to their new apartment, it was concluded that a detour to Tallahassee would be too time consuming and costly with the rented moving van.

So instead, Erik and I are taking a dedicated trip to visit them next week. We will be leaving Orlando on either Wednesday or Thursday, stopping in Gainesville to chat and possibly dine with friends Dan and Andrea. Our return is scheduled for Saturday evening, as Erik has an early morning work schedule for the following Sunday.

I am looking forward to this trip. It has been over six months since I have been to Tallahassee or seen Claire and Ash, plus it will be fun to see the new home.