Sunday, January 28, 2007

Space... the Final Frontier




Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of a fire that killed three men on a dry spot in the Florida swamp. Today is the 21st anniversary of an explosion that killed seven men and women in the skies over the Atlantic ocean. In a few days, it will be the fourth anniversary of an accident that killed seven men and women in the skies over Texas.

I’ve said it before, space travel and more to the point, space exploration is a dangerous business. It is also, and much more importantly, the best, most noble manifestation of what we human animals do. We explore. We become our best – or worst – when we reach for that which is just beyond our grasp.

Our species’ history as explorers is checkered at best, heinous and horrific at worst. Let’s let the seventeen men and women whose names are listed above, and the numerous others who died in less public ways along the path to the stars, be inspirations for us to be that best, most noble version of the human animal.

And let us not stop exploring space. Not for an instant.

“Roger Houston. Go at throttle-up.”


Old Guys

I don’t know if any of you watch CBS Sunday Morning (which by the way, has a tough time holding a candle to the program it was when Kuralt roamed the set). Today was a high water mark of sorts with the profile of two fairly lively old guys… well, old anyway to this 51-year-old.

They profiled two guys by the names of Chouinard and Seger. Depending on your leisure time activities, you may have heard one name or the other. Both, if you’ve lived a particularly interesting life to this point.

Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia. No, not that Patagonia (though he could probably afford to buy it if he had a mind to), the other Patagonia… the outdoor equipment and clothing company. At 68, he still surfs (which makes him alright in my book right there!) and runs his company with an eye to the future of the planet and using all of its best features – you know, oceans, forests, mountains, snow, things like that – as a great big sandbox. The title of his business biography, I think, says it all: "Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman." He started as a dirtball climber, making his own pitons because he couldn’t afford to buy them, then making pitons and other climbing equipment for friends, and now at this end of history, presiding over a company valued at roughly $500M… and his whole company surfs whenever there’s surf, because “surfing isn’t something you do next Tuesday at 2:00.” You go when there’s surf.

Bob Seger… From Chevy commercials (“Like a ROCK…”) to “Against the Wind,” from Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in “Risky Business,” to giving it all up at age 51 to go home to Michigan to raise his kids. Along the way, this guy penned the greatest rock ‘n roll song ever recorded, “Turn the Page,” about a tired old rocker hitting the stage one more time – because that’s what he does. Now, ten years later, at age 61, and not from keeping in shape like the Stones, but for the pure love of it, he’s back on the road for a four month tour, promoting a new album that’s already gone platinum.

Here are a few lines from “Turn the Page.” These lines could have been written by Hemmingway - but they weren’t… they were written a long time ago by a tired young rocker from Michigan who’d already been on the road a long time – because that’s what he does.

Well you walk into a restaurant,
strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
as you're shakin' off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
but you just want to explode
Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
you don't dare make a stand

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' star again
There I go
Turn the page

Or take a listen here:

When they played that at the end of the Sunday Morning segment this morning, more than one tear came to my eye. Gives an aging fly-fisherman-watch-geek-right-brained-engineer hope ….