Friday, January 21, 2011

Violinist and Basketball, Astronaut and Bicycle

An astronaut and a friend of mine shared a similar experience about twenty years apart...

When you're a budding violinist getting ready for an important recital you practice, then practice and then practice some more. To achieve the level of perfection that is needed to play the violin, knowing the notes by heart is not enough. Your muscles, ligaments, fingers and soul have to become one with the piece you play, so you invest a lot of time towards those crucial few minutes of performance. At some point, especially close to the big day, you may want to take a break from practicing and do something else to take the edge off the tension and jitters, for example play basketball. You think nothing of it. Just for an hour, you rationalize it to yourself; it's better to take a break than to fall prey to the concern you're not ready. Relaxing is just what you need. So you go out and play ball.

Being an astronaut is hard work. When you're an astronaut you train for years for a single mission. Like a violin player, dedication and repetition are necessary so that all possible mistakes happen on Earth - in the simulator, classroom and at the pool (Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory) rather than in space or on the way to and from. After all, when you're in space, there is very little room for error, which would cost time and money if not life. As a mission draws near (or gets delayed multiple times), you may need to clear your mind. Riding a bicycle fits the bill - exercise and nature combined, feeling the wind you won't feel in space, cutting through real air, not a crafted mixture coming out of compressed tanks. So you hop on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lunar Eclipse and Chuck E. Cheese's

Photograph by Doug Murray, Reuters (sans Chuck...)
The lunar eclipse on December 21st of last year was magnificent. If you missed it because it was too cloudy, too late, daytime or you're just not into that sort of thing you can find many photos online. I was out and about, next to the hotel we slept in on our last night in Colorado before launching into our new life in the Seattle WA area. I took some inadequate pictures due to lack of tripod lying on a bench, switching my thoughts between how beautiful it was and how to time my escapes into the hotel to avoid missing too much while maintaining the feel of my extremities.