Sunday, February 01, 2004

February comes around again blog.

The good thing about February is that it means that we're shed of January. Otherwise, it's a kidney stone of a month. But I have managed to dig up some material written in other Februaries.

Regarding the comments in this one, I still think we ought to go to Mars, but not until the Space Shuttle program is dead and there's a relatively inexpensive way to get into Earth orbit. Could be a long time in coming, as in not in my lifetime. The man to read on that subject is Gregg Easterbrook, writer for The New Republic and other magazines. Anyway...

February 17, 2000.

About seven-eights of the snow on the ground here has melted, leaving a dirty residuum, but the Weather Bureau says that a mess more snow is crossing the Rockies, headed our way, even as I type. A storm missed us earlier in the week, instead whipping through the North Woods of Wisconsin and the UP, but so what? That happens up there in June, for crying out loud.

I had a fine time at Cape Canaveral and the NASA Space Center (there's that late 20th-century center again; more aesthetic would be "Space Port"). It was a thrill for someone like me, who followed the Apollo program very carefully. All eight- to 12-year-olds should have that opportunity. Which is why we should go to Mars, just to thrill a generation. The Space Shuttle has no panache, and neither does the International Space Station, parts of which -- mockups, really -- were on display at NASA. Those modules have all the thrill of the Omaha Greyhound Terminal (and I've been there).

I had obligations back in Orlando that afternoon [February 6], but I was free in the morning. Time enough to take the NASA bus tour, see some of the visitor center exhibits, including the "Rocket Garden," and eat lunch at the cafe -- roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, tea and Key lime pie. The bus tour takes you to (1) and observation deck some distance from Launch Pad 39, where the Shuttles lift off; (2) a large building with a genuine, restored Saturn V rocket suspended from the ceiling (it's a large building); and (3) and exhibit about the yet-to-be finished Space Station. The Saturn V rocket exhibit was worth the price of admission alone. It is, of course, a big thing, but more impressive was what it did. NASA brags that it was the greatest machine ever built, and I think they have a case.

Whatever one thinks of space exploration, at least Cape Canaveral was a good alternative to that central Florida empire known as Disneyworld, At NASA, real people do and achieve real things; at Disneyworld, false people do only one thing, take a lot of your money. That said, Disneyworld had its interests.

Now I've forgotten what those interests might have been. Nice fireworks. And something about dancing ersatz Aztecs just outside the entrance of Epcot... but it's a fog. I did learn what Epcot originally stood for, but now I only recall that the last three letters stand for "community of tomorrow," as in planned community. The term should be enough to send you screaming for the door.

My time in the Mouse Empire was mostly spent in and around the twin convention hotels at Disneyworld, known as the Swan and the Dolphin. I was astonished by the size of the Disneyworld complex, much of which I "toured" on the shuttle bus from the airport. The last time I visited was in March 1982, when the Magic Kingdom -- the Disneyland-like part of the property -- was the only game in town, connected to hotels by a monorail. Since we were driving up from St. Petersburg, we didn't stay at any of them. Now, there's Epcot, MGM and a bunch of other things, along with a lot more hotels, and a spot called "Downtown Disneyworld," which has nightclubs and such. Everything is expensive, because Disneyworld is like its own island, with everything imported.


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