Yay Discovery!

STS 114 mission patchI just finished watching the lift-off of the Discovery and it was so cool, especially because they have a new camera now mounted on the external fuel tank (the big orange thing) so you could see the Shuttle roll over and then you could see it separate. The fuel tank falls off and burns up in the atmosphere on re-entry, and you could watch the Shuttle just float away above it. It's pretty incredible after so many Shuttle launches to get a never-before-seen view of the process.

I love watching the Shuttle and it's always held a special place in my heart, as I saw two lift-offs when I was younger in Florida. I thought I'd written about my experiences here, but I realized that I posted about it ages ago over on Metafilter, in a thread about the launch of Atlantis (STS 98) back in February, 2001. I've reposted it below:

I actually attending two launches in the 80's, a Challenger lift-off in 1985 (STS 51-A) and the first lift-off, of Discovery (STS-26), after the Challenger explosion. A family friend was on both missions, and was actually the commander (Rick Hauck) of the Discovery. Far and away, it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life.

The first time we sat in the astronaut VIP seats, about 3 miles from the pad. After Challenger they moved all the viewing stands back to about 7 miles. Still, an astronaut's family and guests sit closer than anyone else, so the view is unobstructed, and there's a loud speaker right next to the stands. The ground shakes and the flame when the engines fire up is as bright as the sun, you can't even look at it.

My adrenaline rushed as they said, T-3! 2! 1! And after lift-off, as the count went up, and edged towards 73 seconds (the time when Challenger exploded), everyone went totally silent. All you could hear was the mic, saying "t plus 68 seconds, t plus 69 seconds, t plus seventy seconds.) As soon as Discovery went to full throttle up at t + 73, and the boosters fell off, everyone burst into tears and cheers. (I'm not kidding, it was really that emotional.) There was this little trail of white and off it went into the heavens.

It still is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life.

Watching today, it still brings tears to my eyes. I'm so hopeful that today marks our return not just to the International Space Station, but to Space with a capital S — to the moon, to Mars, and eventually beyond! Godspeed Discovery, I only wish I were onboard too!

A very new subway megnut

After years of procrastination and crappy redesign mock-ups in Photoshop, I've done the impossible and actually launched a new design for this site. Yes, it's still an homage to New York City's subways, but now it's 20/21st century NYC subway. Before it was 19th century NYC subway (no, that wasn't pool tiling). It's been somewhat tested. Shoot me an email if something looks amiss to you. Now I just need to keep the old girl updated!

Also, I forgot to add: for those who aren't familiar with New York's subway system, the M, E, G and N are all real lines. The U and T are really the V and L, with some Photoshop trickery involved. I like that there are enough to spell "Meg" without faking it.

The glories of the grill

Many of you readers will respond — and rightly so — to the following post with the simple statement: Duh! But that's because you are much smarter than I, and therefore, have known about the glories of grilling for a long time. I have only really understood the glories of the grill for 17 days, for it was on July 3, 2005 that my grilling life was changed forevermore.

The event? A simple large fillet of salmon grilled on a nice round Weber over 100% hardwood charcoal. The result? The flavor! The perfection of the fish! The texture! Everything conspired that evening to change me profoundly, and for all time. Going forward the idea of "grill" means charcoal only, no more gas. And 100% hardwood, no briquettes.

Late last week, we ventured out and bought our own grill: a 22 1/2" Weber One-Touch® Silver. The first night we started simply (and with guidance) by preparing a grilled t-bone steak featured in the June 2005 Gourmet. Success! The next night: grilled corn and portabella mushrooms. Again we were met with success! Who knew grilling could be not only so good, but so easy? A few nights later, we reproduced the salmon that started it all. And yum! Last night we grilled lamb rib chops and made a (grilled) bread salad to accompany it. And because I can't stop, I grilled a nectarine for dessert. Topped with a nice chiffonade of basil and some heavy cream, mmm, mmmm, it was grillicious!

Anyway, all this crazy grilling has led to a bet in the household: whether one can actually taste the difference between an item grilled over gas or charcoal. My money is on Yes, you can. Someone else's money is on No, you can't. Stay tuned as we put the grills to the test and learn even more about the glories of the grill.

The wonders of a digital memory

Today Jason wrote about memory and digital lifestyle, and then this afternoon I found a half-written entry I'd begun about the same topic earlier this year, which I shall now post as if I'd never forgotten about it and had it saved in my digital scrapbook, aka computer:

The amazing thing (OK one of the amazing things) about living a digital media life is the way all kinds of stuff is recorded, even when you don't think about it or mean it to be. For example, I have a lot of ICQ chats saved from 2000, back before I switch to AIM. I would regularly save them, and tonight I was reading through an old one when I stumbled across this message:

3/27/00 10:42 PM
…today i was laughing hysterically for a bit and had tears coming out of my eyes.

3/27/00 10:42 PM
why were you laughing hysterically?

3/27/00 10:44 PM
oh because i had headphones on an ev came over to talk, so i put them around my neck and while he was gabbing away, my brain took over and said, "ugh, these headphones are choking me, i'll move them…hmmm…but where? hmmm…why not over my ears, that'd be the perfect spot" so while ev was talking to me, i just put my headphones back on without even realizing what i was doing…he was pissed…

It's funny because I don't remember that at all, yet it's here in this textual "memory" of mine, and I have MBs and MBs of those memories. Rarely do I revisit them, and when I do, it sure is a trip. I bet there are so many Pyra stories that I've forgotten that would seem so much more interesting now.

From phone numbers to daily office happenings, it's handy to have technology record this stuff we simply don't have the capacity to keep track of ourselves. And in my case, even when we do, I forget about it again.

The end of the jeans police

It has come to our attention here at NYC Jeans Police HQ that imminent layoffs may be required! According to this article from style.com, The tide is high, "[m]idriff-exposing, thong-baring, low-riding jeans are finally finished." Though we here at HQ are shocked by the changing jeans current, and are certainly saddened by the prospect of releasing our highly-trained, devoted unit of officers, we must acknowledge fashion's fickle flow. The days of issuing tickets for exposed thongs may be over.

Is there any hope? What about our cadets in training? Fear not! We have spotted legions of women donning gaucho pants in the streets of Manhattan. It appears the estilo sudamericano (South American style, last seen in 1978) is in full swing in our fair borough. First panchos, then peasant skirts, now gauchos. What's next, the urban sombrero? Fear not, citizens of fashion, our forces will re-group to combat this newest clothing menance. And once again, the streets and subways will be safe.

Looking at fonts underground

A neat article on Underground Typography compares the navigation of three major subway systems: London, New York, and Paris. I've ridden all three systems (though not London in ages) and I love that Paris and London tell you when the next train is due. Both those systems exhibit an orderliness that's apparent on the streets above. And the Paris metro font is amazing. But New York's subway, for all its grime and confusion, is my favorite because it's the embodiment of the city it serves: diverse, fast-paced, surprising, confusing, and awe-inspiring when you think of how it actually all works.

I finally understand podcasting

When the first podcasts started, I was on sabbatical on Nantucket and not paying much attention to what was happening online. Towards the end of last year, when I began to re-engage with the web, I tried to grok the whole podcast thing but just couldn't. As much as I love to express myself on this site, I couldn't picture myself making audio posts available for download. And as much as I enjoy reading many other sites, I couldn't imagine listening to people talk about breakfast or parking their cars. I've never been able to test my podcast assumptions because I've been using a dial-up internet connection for a large chunk of this year, but now I think I finally get it.

Podcasting isn't (just) about listening to your friends talk about their day on your iPod. It's about time-shifting: being able to download and listen to programs when you want, e.g. four episodes of Fresh Air while you're cleaning your house. And also time-travel: imagine when the BBC or PBS release their archives and you can listen to a BBC interview with the Beatles from 1965, or something to that effect. It's about mobility: loading those episodes on your iPod (or player of choice) and listening while you're driving or out jogging. It's about ease of production: you can produce a podcast now with existing publishing tools, and it's going to get a whole lot easier as more tool makers add this functionality, and new tools like Odeo are released. And finally, it's about that old chestnut: the democratization of media. The old barriers to entry are being demolished, and it's easy to produce and distribute not only text but audio and video as well. And as we've seen with blogging, that can lead to some pretty exciting new content.

It's taken me a while to get my head around this podcasting (perhaps because I needed to take it out of the sand first) but I'm pretty excited about it now that I'm finally paying attention.