Monday, April 20, 2009

Aloft with a Superstar Astronaut

I had cleared security at Moscow's Sheremetevo-2 International Airport week before last and was waiting to board Delta to Atlanta. Across the room was a young man I recognized. I had seen him up close and in person but he didn't seem to recognize me earlier when we'd nearly bumped into each other.

Across the waiting area, I kept staring. He was busy poking away on something digital and I was wracking my brain trying to place him and chatting with a young lady from Houston. She said, I'm seeing NASA labels on several people's bags. We must have people here with the space program. Suddenly things clicked and I bolted in his direction.

Excuse me, but aren't you the guy who paid his own way into space last year?

I certainly am,
he smiled. Hello, I'm Richard Garriott.

I took your photograph. Now I know where I've seen you. You've been in my living room on my television. (Pictured above with his translator. Click image to enlarge.)

I had seen him and fellow astronauts during a press conference in Moscow last October. That crew with two Americans was particularly interesting and I took lots of photos. I remember being impressed with Richard's thoughtfulness and eloquence when he answered questions about his motivation for going into space.

Now, wasn't your dad an astronaut too?

Richard pulled out a postcard with a photo of the two of them.

Here, you can have this, he said.

Well I remember Googling your name, I babbled, and didn't you pay for this trip all yourself?

Yes, I paid for it by writing computer games.

He pulled out another prize. Here, you can have this too. And he kindly proceeded to explain the meaning of each item on the patch. Fellow astronauts are listed around the edges.

Well, what do you know, I have a photo of Michael Fincke, too, the shuttle flight engineer who hails from Pennsylvania.

Mr Fincke was impressive because he spoke good Russian.

By now it was time to board and I ran back to get my carry-on. Li Ming, the young lady from Houston who was watching my things devised a plan for getting a photograph. She would follow me through first class with her camera and we would try for a shot as we headed back toward steerage. ;)

Richard graciously agreed to a photograph and . . . here you have it. He had come through Moscow and then gone to the launch site in Kazakhstan to meet astronauts from Soyz 14 who had just returned from work on the space station. What a genuinely nice fellow.

How about you, fellow blog reader. Have you ever run into a celebrity on a flight? Gotten a photograph? Or have you ever dreamed of being a space tourist?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dallas Cowboys New Stadium: An Inside Look

You've heard about the Dallas Cowboys New Stadium and the superlatives of that structure: That it is the largest domed structure in the world and will seat 90 thousand. The stadium is scheduled for completion in May and insider sources say it's one busy place. Care to join me for a look around? (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Here's the stadium from a distance. The ends of the building will open and the roof is retractable. Let's go inside for a look around.

Here we're on the top row of seating, a seven-story climb up steps but we're only a third of the way to the roof. The screen-scoreboard there in the center, 5-stories high, dominates the view. The playing field is three stories below ground level.

Here's a look up at the retractable roof, an improvement on the original stadium in which the playing field was open to the sky. When it rained, people on the field got wet. I myself got rained on there. Ask me about it sometime. . .

Oh mercy me, I'm getting ahead of myself. Please allow me to introduce our guide, Dan. How we know each other is another story but here he is on the retractable roof.

Dan works for the Birdair, a contractor who specializes in tensile structures. And the retractable roof on the stadium is one such structure. Dan flew in from North Carolina two weeks ago to start on this roof.

The roof crew use large irons to activate the glue on the fabric. This fellow gives a thumbs-up as he presses on.

These motors open the retractable roof. What a relief that they're not operated by hand-cranks, eh? Boy howdy, this is one fancy schmancy operation.

Across the roof, we see Ranger Ballpark, home of the Texas Rangers. Beyond that toward the left is a roller coaster, part of Six Flags over Texas.

Well Dan, thank you so much for the tour and the photos. Dan's my brother, and to see what he's doing with himself, his life, his family - well, it's heroic. I'm as proud of him as if he were the star quarterback for the Cowboys. Not that he can get me any complimentary tickets or anything. But I plan to be in Dallas area soon and I hoping Dan will get me inside for a look around. Go Cowboys! Go Dan!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Superpower Presidents Meet in London

Presidents Obama and Medvedev met for the first time in London at the G20 summit. Highlights of their conversations in this report from Russia Today.

Note to self: Barak Obama plans to visit Russia in July.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cars Say the ( . . . . ) Funniest Things

Last week I happened upon a car with a message. It reminded me of Silence is Golden, a song from the 60's. You do remember that song. Don't you?

Rather than being golden, in this case Silence, the car would be. . . what color would you say that is? In real life, it was yellow with a few shakes of green. Not quite *leaf of celery yellow-green.* More *avocado pulp yellow-green* or *not quite ripe lemon green.* Whatever you call it, that's the color of the Silence tooling around the streets of Rostov-on-Don.

Oh, and then just outside my balcony window earlier this week, was a car with a message from the 40's.

That whitish car straight on out there, it has a special message. Care to zoom in closer?

Zooming, zooming. . .

Closer, closer. . .

It says To Berlin. Huh? The trusty Oxford Russian-English dictionary says it can be translated capture Berlin. I might have missed something, but I was thinking that that had already happened several, several decades back. Checked with my language teacher, Olga Michaelovna, who explained that at the end of WW2, military vehicles heading from Russia to Berlin had these words painted on the sides.

So the vehicle above might be 1940's vintage. Or it might belong to a person of that era. Or a WW2 buff might have been having fun. Or. . . what? All I know is that that vehicle is no longer parked outside this building. It may have gotten washed. Or it might be flying across Ukraine, across Poland heading toward eastern Germany.

But you didn't hear it from me. After all, Silence is golden, golden. But my eyes can see. . .Silence is golden, golden. But my eyes can see. . .