Belated NASA Pictures

Back in December, Steph and I took our usual vacation to Walt Disney World but we added a twist this time – a day trip over to Kennedy Space Center. We’re both big space geeks and neither of us have been to KSC since we were kids (probably 20+ years ago). So this was going to be a highlight of the trip for us.

And it was. It was a cold and somewhat rainy day but that kept the crowds down and we had a good time spending almost the entire day there. So without further ado, pictures!  Here’s a few choice ones but a completely gallery is here: http://imgur.com/a/oI94f

 

Tis the season!
Tis the season!

 

Space X uses some of the facilities at KSC. This is them prepping one of the pads for launch.
Space X uses some of the facilities at KSC. This is them prepping one of the pads for launch.

 

Pads 39A and 39B - the two most historic launch pads at NASA.
Pads 39A and 39B – the two most historic launch pads at NASA.

 

Vehicle Assembly Building - where all the rockets, space shuttles, etc were put together. It's really hard to express how big this thing is. It's huge.
Vehicle Assembly Building – where all the rockets, space shuttles, etc were put together. It’s really hard to express how big this thing is. It’s huge.

 

The Saturn V Rocket that transported the Apollo project to the moon. Big. Very, very big.
The Saturn V Rocket that transported the Apollo project to the moon. Big. Very, very big.
In all it's glory.
In all it’s glory.

Bonus! Since our last visit there, the Space Shuttle program was retired and one of the shuttles – Atlantis – was sent to KSC. This is the first time either of us have seen a shuttle in person and it was fantastic. A very neat addition to the tour.

The Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle

 

Drafty Progress; 2015 Total

The phrase “It’s only a draft, it’s allowed to suck’ really doesn’t fly when that draft is coming through your office window and it’s -6 outside.

It’s been incredibly cold up here in NE Iowa. Yesterday was something around a high of -9 with wind chills in the -40s. It made walking to work quite fun, I must say. That aside, another progress update that’s long overdue.

December: ~2,000

No picture this time because I forgot to take one this morning before leaving the house. December was slow though due to vacation, the holidays, and generally me re-thinking a lot of things about the plot and other aspects of my writing. Hopefully more updates on that later.

Yearly: ~65,550

Wow. That … that is more than I was expecting to be honest.  I wish I could say that was the majority of a novel written but I had major re-writes and re-drafting in there with parts of the story thrown out and completely re-written. But looking at that number now, I’m not upset. I’m hoping 2016 is a better year – with more writing and more frequent updates to the blog. I still owe some vacation pictures from Florida (visiting NASA was awesome) so maybe that’ll get done yet this week. *knocks on wood*

Progress and Going Away

Welp, there I go again. Not updating for an extremely long time. At least I have been remarkably consistent in my inconsistency. As December rolls around, I’m hoping that 2016 will be a better time for blogging and updates. I am finding myself missing the blog and just in general writing about whatever I want to write.

On top of that, I’ll be starting the new year sorta fresh. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because Steph and I are going on first away from home vacation in over a year starting this weekend. We’re headed off to Florida which, of course, means Disney and warm weather but we are also doing a little side trip that both of us are extremely excited about:

JFK Space Center

That’s right – we’re going into space! Okay, close to space. We’re going to see the stuff that makes it possible for other people to go into space so that’s close enough, right? Both of us are big space geeks so this is going to be pretty neat for us. We’ve also both been to the Space Center but it’s been ages. I think I was in 7th grade or maybe even before that. It’s been a really long time. Expect many pictures of big rockets and stuff when I get back and hopefully a re-energized Matt.

Now, onto the progress report:

September

September
September

Total Words: 6,000

October

October
October

Total Words: 6,250

November

November
November

Total Words: 6,500

All in all, remarkably consistent. Just like my blogging 😛

 

Return to the Invasion of Normandy – 2015

Last July, a group of friends and I went to ION (Invasion of Normandy). This past weekend, I went and did it again. And like last year, I had a blast.

For those who don’t recall (and who don’t want to click on the little link above) – ION is a massive scenario paintball event that takes place in Albrightsville, PA. Approximately 4,500 people come out to shoot one another and attempt to win the day for their side. We were once again Allies.

Fortunately, this year I traveled with not one but three other folks from Iowa. Okay, just two others joined me on the trip from Iowa out east but we swung by Michigan to pick up my brother who is an Iowan at heart so that counts for something. From there, we headed down to PA. Along the way, we listened to the audio book of The Martian, which helped pass the time. (Hint – If you haven’t read the book, go read it now. It’s awesome).

In any case, we camped Friday night, fought on Saturday, hung out Saturday night, and left early Sunday. We stopped in Michigan for the night and then finished our drive the next day. All in all, a really good time.

Highlights

  • Last year storming the beach took less than 20 minutes. This year? Almost 90. It was a lot harder fight and required a lot more strategy. The group I was with worked together and led a number of charges that overran enemy positions. For the last 30 minutes, I had no paint in my gun and was simply leading charges and getting other folks to move. It was a sight to behold.
  • On occasion, ‘props’ are dropped in certain locations that will give the side that controls that area points (with which to ‘win’). We learned that a prop was going to be dropped near a place called the Museum at 4pm. Our group of 30 (plus about 15 regular folk) marched for the Museum. We found it unoccupied and setup defensive positions. And for the next 45 minutes, we held that place against 200-300 Germans determined to take it. It was one of the more glorious moments I’ve had in my life and was immense amounts of fun.

And now, some pictures:

After the beach.

 

The most grievous injury. I have no idea where it came from or what caused it.

 

My vest and name patch (Harrier is my nick within ShackTac).

 

Happy to have survived.

Full gallery of pictures here: http://imgur.com/a/c2A8h#3Rbou1A

Turning 41 Amongst Gentlemen of the Road

Received last night from my little brother:

So this is 41 … it’s something alright. How am I planning on spending it? Well, the folks are coming up for dinner but aside from that, not too much is happening.

Most of the fun stuff happened last weekend. As a combination anniversary (June 5), Steph’s birthday (June 15), and my birthday (June 23), we treated ourselves to the Gentlemen of the Road music festival down in Waverly. (Fun Fact – It was originally to be held here in Decorah but logistical arrangements couldn’t be made with the college, so we lost out on it. Boo.)

What is GoTR? In short, it’s a two day music festival with about a dozen bands, headlined by Mumford and Sons. And it was fantastic. Four of the bands played on Friday with the rest on Saturday. So I got to see names I knew – Mumford and Sons, The Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis – and a lot I didn’t know – Dawes, My Morning Jacket, Macabees, and a few others.

The headliners capped it off with a 2+ hour long show that was incredibly high energy and fun. Didn’t regret it one bit. Had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The only problem was the thunderstorms that swept through Saturday morning. Looked a little bit like this:

Thunderboom
Thunderboom

We were fortunate though in that one of Steph’s friends was from Waverly and her parents lived right next to the campground. We were able to get our car out of the mud pit that was the parking lot and park on solid ground. This also let us skip out of town right after the concert, getting home about 1:30am and letting us sleep in our own beds that night (plus the heavenly shower).

All in all, a great weekend. So here, treat yourself to some pictures and vids (click to embiggen any of them):

Campsite (only about 1/3rd full)
Dawes
Festival Grounds Entrance
Jenny Lewis
Flaming Lips (Not nearly enough drugs in the world to understand this show …)
Mumford and Sons

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen years ago on a nice, summer day not too unlike today, Steph and I were married. It has generally been a pleasant time.

Since that church in Calmar, IA (about 10 miles from here), we’ve been a lot of places. Our first anniversary was in Galena, IL, a town not far from where I grew up in Dubuque. Then we bounce around to a few other places – Colorado, Atlanta, and others here and there. Few topped the 4th in Paris with lunch at Versailles and dinner at the Eiffel Tower (that earned me about 10 years, just sayin’).

This year, we opted not to go anywhere and spent the week at home. This morning, we planted trees. Two apples and a cherry.  And, with a bit of unintended humor, one of those apple trees? 

We totally meant to do that.
We totally meant to do that.

Welcome Bee

Proving that I am woefully behind the times …

We have a new resident in our house. Say hello to Bee.

 

Bee

Bee, short for Beholder (either in relation to the one-eyed D&D monster or the phrase, “Eye of the Beholder”, take your pick) came to us from the local Humane Society. She lost her eye when she was younger but otherwise is the epitome of a young cat – full of energy and loves to get up in your face and find out what you are doing. This includes when you are sleeping.

This means, of course, that Steph fell in love with her right away. She spent a couple of months wearing me down until I finally gave up and said “Sure, bring the cat into the house.’ And so here she is.

Bee was found in a trailer with 19 other cats so she’s used to other animals. This has proven a boon as she has no problems with Skye or Cici. Now, Skye and Cici having problems with Bee is another story but it hasn’t been as bad as we feared. Cici came around pretty quick (she’s always chill) and Skye has taken a bit longer. There’s still a bit of ‘Who the hell is this?’ but very little hissing and even some playtime.

And if anyone asks – No, we are not getting any more pets. That’s final. End of story. Because if we do, I get to buy a new computer. 🙂

February Progress

I honestly did not mean for a month to pass before posting again. Wow.

Anyway, here’s some February progress.

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

Again, the Green dots represent days that I’d written in increments of 250 words.  Orange is video games (guess when I beat a game? Go on, guess!). The total for the month is roughly 7,500 words. That’s not bad considering that A) February is a short month and B) I was laid up by a nasty cold for a solid week. Total for the start of the year is almost 17,000 words which is alright in my book (both literally and figuratively).

March is shaping up to be a pretty good month as well. Hopefully I can keep that up and avoid coming down with the plague or something. That would totally suck.

January Progress

I actually meant to post this last week but a nasty bout with the stomach flu waylaid me. Here is a picture of cute cats to atone for the error:

Our cats doing what they do best.
Our cats doing what they do best.

Okay, that aside, here is another picture:

January Progress
January Progress (Click to Embiggen)

A couple of months ago, I read about V.E. Schwab’s method of tracking her writing.  She explains it in depth in a video called ‘Best Writing Trick I Know‘ but I’ll sum it up quickly here: Go buy a simple calendar and a bunch of stickers (she uses stars, I use dots). Each star or dot represents X number of words. Hit or surpass the goal and earn a sticker. Different colored stars or dots can be used to track other things such as exercise, reading, etc.

For me, I set the goal to 250 words earns a green dot. The orange dots represents how much time I spend playing computer games (1 dot = 30 minutes), a known and major distraction for me.*

The whole purpose of the calendar is to be a visual reminder of your progress and to give you something to work toward.

And it works surprisingly well. There is something about looking at the calendar and saying “I haven’t earned a sticker today” or “Another 150 words and I can slap down a third dot for the day! Booyah!” Guess it goes back to that childhood fascination with getting a gold star on your paper or whatnot. In fact, I’ll probably be switching to stars in March as the dots seem rather bland. In any case – I like it and it’s working. I wrote most days in January and earned 9,500 words.

This makes my editing buddy very happy:

"Write faster human. I need more paper balls to chase."
“Write faster human. I need more paper balls to chase.”

* The gaping holes in Wednesday and Saturday are due to those being my session days with ShackTac. Those are known times and I try budget for them on other days.