Thursday September 21,2000
The accounting of three months in Maryland by NASA Boy
Or Life just outside the Washington Beltway
It all started on a dark and stormy day. Yes, back on the 5th of June (2000) it was still raining in Oklahoma. (Once I left the state, then the rain and cool weather moved with me out east. More on that later.) I packed the van carefully so I had a sleeping space on the floor. I didn’t hit the road until afternoon, so I only got as far as central Illinois before I was too tired to go further. I slept in one of my favorite places- a road side rest stop! (Nothing beats the drumming of diesel engines and the soft swoosh of passing cars to lull a person to sleep--- or is that the carbon monoxide…?).
My main form of entertainment on the way out was an unplanned game of “find the lock combination”. I bought a Wal-Mart bicycle lock that you can configure with your own combination. I wanted to lock my bicycle to the roof whenever I stopped. I tried to read the directions and push the little pins around while driving. I did it wrong and ended up with a random combination programmed in. I went number by number for about 4 hours until I hit on it. I highly recommend this as a long distance trip diversion.
On day 2 I passed out of southern Illinois into Indiana, then Ohio, then Pennsylvania (pretty surprisingly hilly/mountainous) and down into the skinny (kind of silly thin) part of western Maryland. I entered Maryland around 9pm and wanted a shower (2 days of living and sleeping in the same clothes left me in a less than optimal state for meeting Art Micozzi and his neighbors). I pulled into a truck stop and went in to ask for a shower. The guy I went to thought it would cost a non-trucker $13. I wanted to use a credit card and he had to bring his supervisor over to help. She sent him away, fiddled around for a while and gave me the key with a wink. Wow- free shower! I thanked her greatly as I left nice and squeaky clean.
Rand McNally let me down by mis-reporting a rest stop just out of Pennsylvania about 5 miles into Maryland. It was about 9pm and I didn’t want to show up at Art’s after 11pm, so I bedded down outside a gas station I found.
The next morning I finished the drive and met up with Art. I had time to change clothes and go to his Catholic church (he is a Deacon there). It was neat. I went with him to church most of the days he was in town (he traveled much over the last 1/3rd of the summer). I didn’t learn all the responses or creeds, but I made some headway.
Within 56 hours, I was completely unpacked, had my office set up, had cable modem, an interstate electronic toll pass box (for the tunnels that go under the Baltimore harbor which were on my way to and from work everyday). Fun fun. http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/
My research, which was conducted under Brad Fisher of the TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission see http://trmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/ ) program at NASA Goddard, was first going to look at diurnal rainfall differences in different networks using a program that looks at differences between convective and stratiform (non- convective more gentle rain) as determined by rainfall intensity. It quickly evolved to a straight evaluation of the performance of the satellite (which looks at both the microwave emissions from the clouds/atmosphere/earth to determine rainfall, AND an active radar that pumps a radar beam to the earth and measures what reflects back. Computer programs take that information and try to estimate how much rain fell. I came with rain gauge data from the surface of the earth that could be considered ‘truth’ (or at least more true). It was great research that made me write programs that total and average rain gauges together, programs that read the satellite data and prepare it to be compared with the gauges, and programs that read in binned (data put in boxes) Doppler radar data. It was great. There were plenty of brains to pick any time I got stuck for even a moment. I even got to give a talk about my first results in the end of July to a bunch of the TRMM scientists.
Each day (M-F) basically ran like this: I got up between 5am and 6:30am. I’d run (June 15th saw me start the training for the Chicago Marathon Oct 22nd www.chicaomarathon.com ), I’d go lift weights at Fit Tech gym on Pulaski Dr. [I found this gym thanks to a really powerfully built guy named Skip (nickname) who I met on my first day with Art. He took me to a birthday party and I met 10’s of people all at once- talk about networking!], then I’d head down to Greenbelt MD about 8:45 or later (to skip out on the traffic). Then I’d work on my gaggle of computers, drinking protein drinks and diet root beer until around 7-8pm when I’d head back up to home (again after the traffic glut on the B-W Parkway. In the morning I’d listen to the best morning news/talk show I’ve ever heard. You can catch it from 5am to 8 am (Central Time) at www.wcbm.com via Real Audio. Its best feature is “Choose your shocking news” which is a 5 minute long segment where the host reads 3 shocking news stories and the staff of the station (and the listeners at home) are to pick which story is not true (or ‘bull dookie’ as Hosni would say). It was GREAT. You should listen in.
While there, my ‘rent’ was to wind the coo-coo clock in the kitchen. I strove all summer to make an automatic clock winder. I got it working, but the motor was not strong enough with the friction on the line and spools. I’ll put pictures of the winder on this web site eventually. I think a turnbuckle and pulley system should work when I get back there!
Art and I went out to eat at Cantlers (my FAVORITE Maryland restaurant – fish and crabs! http://cantlers.com/ ) and an incredible Italian restaurant not far from his home. Melany Micozzi and daughter came out and visited Art and I as did my co-worker Greg from EVAC. Both of those visits included Cantlers again. J On my birthday, I walked to a nearby Outback Steakhouse. I was amazed at the quality and quantity of the food. It was a fantastic meal (this was my FIRST time to successfully get into one). Another amazing food out there (well, crab cake is amazing as well- if it is heavy on crab and light on filler – such as is found at Casa Mia’s) was Krispy Kream donuts. They are 10X better than Dunkin’ Donuts. People line up for them. They are light, sweet, fluffy, buttery and flavorful. Just amazing. When a Krispy Kream franchise opens near you- JUMP ON IT. MMMM…. Marco’s brother David is a chef/caterer. His cooking was FANTASTIC as well. He can whip a lot of high quality vittles together in a short time. He is just as fun to know as Art and Marco. What a great family!
I could go on with details, but I would probably bore you the tender reader- to death, so I’ll quickly cover the trip home.
I did some sightseeing in the end of the summer (I didn’t want to take any time from the work time at NASA until I had accomplished what I came for or more). I went up and visited the Gettysburg PA civil war battle field (http://www.gettysburg.com/ ) and the U.S. N.S.A. cryptology museum http://www.nsa.gov/museum/ .
On the way back, I spent the weekend with Eric Fooshee’s parents. They took me to a number of wineries for tasting and buying. (http://aylic.com/VaWine/vawine.htm ) I’m still working on the tasty wines I picked up. I also got to run on Skyline Drive and hike a mile of the Appalachian Trail. I further got to enjoy some FANTASTIC cooking. Yummy!
My next stop was at Charity and Ian’s home (and nearby her parents home) at the mouth of the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (http://www.gorp.com/gorp/resource/US_National_Park/tn_great.htm ) I got to see the wedding video, pictures and the primitive church in Cades Cove (right?). Ian works at the Little River Outfitters (http://www.fishingline.net/ADVERTRS/ltlriver/ltlriver.htm ) – a place I could easily burn up a credit card in. They took me hiking and out to watch them fly fish. It is an amazing quiet beautiful world. (We even got to see a black bear high in a tree at sunset eating fruits up there. Soooo cool.).
My next stop was at my brother Scott’s house to see his family and hang out. We ran together, talked and cared for the babies. (By the way- Bev is gonna have another BABY!!! YEAAA!!). With the whole family (including his Mom who was visiting at the same time) we trekked to the Field Museum and saw the Star Wars traveling exhibit and some of the other exhibits there. That visit ended too soon.
Then it was on to my Dad’s where I ran around looking for computer deals for them and upgraded their world. Thanks Dad for the computer fun stuff! I finally got to see Pricilla, my Dad, and my expertly driving step-sister Savvy all at the same time (usually one is gone when I come through).
My final stop was Bentonville Arkansas and the home of Mike Bell (ace roommate http://weather.ou.edu/~mbell/ ). He showed me around his home stomping ground- I even got to visit Walton’s five and dime (Wal-Mart’s roots) (http://www.walmart.com/estore/pages/about2.jsp ). Oooooh.
Mike and Jason made my 3 month absence from home possible by mailing me my mail and keeping the two cat beasties of mine alive. (I still owe them a hunk of steak or a Mexican dinner soon… they are GREAT!). Overall, it was a FAST and FUN summer. I plan to work for NASA once I 'grow up' and get a job.
P.S. Oh yea, Jason Levit proposed to his girlfriend Nicki (Nikki?) while I was gone. I’m sad I missed it, but YIPIEEEEE! http://caps.ou.edu/~jlevit/
And, also, the 4th of July on the National Mall was incredible too! It was hard to get home, but it was an amazing show sitting next to the Washington Monument and seeing 30 minutes of fireworks all done to live music. You gotta do that someday!