A New Day Has Dawned

19 October 2015
11:23 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

It's been 12 years since I started working in America’s greatest space agency. I never thought it would be that long. I thought I’d be there a few months at most: not 12 years. Throughout those years, I often thought I would end up being a lifer: someone who spent an entire career in one organization, never experiencing the joys and thrills of working somewhere else. I was convinced I would say good night to my coworkers one Friday afternoon as they shuffled out and headed home for the weekend, and at some point before I, too, took off, fate would hit me, and I would be found Monday morning, a bloated, cold carcass still sitting in front of my computer and staring at the screen of my computer thanks to the creepy effects of rigor mortis.

This past Friday, I walked out of NASA Headquarters for the last time as a NASA employee. As of this morning, I am officially a civilian employee of the United States Coast Guard. It’s very exciting and scary. I can’t believe that I am starting a new job with a completely different organization. What if I'm really not as good as I think and they decide that they made a mistake hiring me (technically, I’m on a probationary period because I'm now a supervisor…but I think it’s formality since I'm already vested in the government). I’m sure I’ll be fine, but just thinking about all the new faces, names, titles, topics, acronyms…it’s all so overwhelming. But then I stop and think; how bad can it really be? I mean it’s not like I’m going back to my old job today, right? Change is always good. It may not be the right change, and it may be something that I’ll regret, but at least I'm trying something new; I’ll never know if I'm good at it or if this is a great job if I don’t try. And so, with that in mind, I’m super excited to be heading into my new office with new people, new gossip, new drama, new adventures, new everything!

To be honest, I had no idea I was actually going to get the job. My first interview was back at the end of May when I was in Hawaii. It was a horrible interview. I was holed up inside a tiny car sweating (I had closed the windows to deaden the noise of traffic all around me). I was in excruciating pain from my tumble into the Waimea River…but that’s a completely different story. I felt that I wasn’t prepared for the interview. Then, a few weeks later, I got a call asking if I was still interested in the position and if I’d like to call in for a phone interview. This was kind of odd, but I said sure. I got an email a few hours later saying they had made a mistake (I figured…they accidentally put a check by my name instead of an X). Would I like to come in for a face-to-face interview? Seriously? Yes, of course (but I was convinced they were just trying to save face at this point since they accidentally called me). Again, I was as prepared as I could be, but I felt I was a bit too flippant with some answers and too aggressive with others. That was it; I thanked them and walked out the door, destined to remain at NASA forever.

A few weeks later, I got an email offering me the position. What?? But, yea, here I am in my brand spanking new office with my brand spanking new job. I’ve already made a friend or two, found my new stapler, arranged my thumbtacks and generally inhaled and enjoyed that new cubical smell…oh, not such a good smell actually…but it’s my new cubical at my new job!

11:38 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

Ten years is a long time to do anything. Imagine my surprise when I realized I hit the decadal mark on this blog? True, it hasn't been 10 years on this specific site, but overall, I've been hacking away at this blogging thing for 10 years now. That means kids born when I began are in grade 5. People who got married when I began are exchanging tin or aluminum gifts (kind of chintzy material if you ask me).

At first, it made me a bit depressed to think 10 years had slipped by at such a rapid clip. Where have those years gone, and what do I have to show for it? It just so happens I have 10 years of blog entries to show what I did in the past 10 years.

During that time, I started working at this fine federal agency where I spend the majority of my time. I've moved around a bit and gotten some raises and increasing responsibility along the way. I still may not be exactly where I want to be career-wise, but I've gotten to do some amazing things, and (I think) gained the respect of my coworkers.

I also met a beautiful woman who accepted what I thought was a rather romantic marriage proposal. We might get on each other's nerves from time to time, but I like to think we're happy and doing just fine.

We produced two healthy, brilliant, and beautiful girls who make our lives better and more complete. Did we want children? Who knows? But the simple fact is I can't imagine life without them, nor do I want to.

On a more material side, I bought my first car (a Honda, which I still love) and a house. The former is still running quite well and has been very good to us. The latter is a challenge that has taken all of our strength (and money), but it has been an exciting adventure to say the least. We don't know if we'll live in this house until the mortgage is paid off, but we do know we all enjoy having a little piece of the American dream we can call our own.

The blog, too, has evolved over the years. What began as a venue to rant about the unfairness of life is now morphing into a chronicle of my life and an outlet for some modicum of creativity. At some point I was up to 3 blogs and 2 photoblogs, but that was just too hard, so I have consolidated back to 1. This consolidation necessitated reviewing every entry and making some choices about what to keep and what to ditch (well, not really ditch...just hide from public view). I think the current version--the one you're reading now--is the right one going forward (until things change again). I may not write regularly or on a single topic, nor do the virtual masses appear to be reading my ramblings, but I still enjoy writing and posting.

I have learned a ton about WordPress and Drupal along the way. I am no Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, and the techies can run circles around my piddly attempts to use css, but I still consider myself an autodidact when it comes to building websites.

Ultimately, it's been a fun 10 years, and I look forward to reviewing the blog again in another 10 years. I have no idea what's in store or what I'll decide to post, but I guess that's what makes it so exciting. Who doesn't want to stay up late reading to find out how it ends? So I invite you to embark with me upon the next chapter in my blog. If I may end with a literary reference, I'd like to quote Albus Dumbledore:

"And now … let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."

Run, Fat Boy, Run

21 June 2014
15:48 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

I'm not a very athletic person. I never have been. In fact, I was the kid in gym class who got assigned to a team because I was the last one in the line-up. It's true. The big, fat, uncoordinated slob and the boy with Coke-bottle glasses got chosen before me. It's ok. I'm not scarred or anything like that.

With this penchant for non-athleticism, I've always lived by the credo that one should run only if being chased by thugs or wild dogs. Other than that, I could see no justification for exerting oneself to that degree. Until recently.

About 3 years ago we watched Run, Fat Boy, Run. After the credits rolled off the screen, my wife turned to me and said, "we should do that." "OK," said I. As I typically do in situations like these, I turned to Google. There I found a 10 week program that promised to turn a couch potato like me into a Kenenisa Bekele. I downloaded it and started running the next day.

I thought I was going to die. My heart was pounding, and I was truly afraid it was going to give out and just stop beating. My feet ached from my toenails to my ankles. I looked down at my lower legs expecting to see my shins ablaze given the burning I was feeling. But, I'd done it. I had run. Granted it was only a minute, and I was now on to walking a minute. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to run the next 9 sets of 1-minute runs, but I did. I was sore; I was in pain; I ached all over. In the end, I had run 1 minute 10 times, I was euphoric. I'd never before been this physically active. It was awesome.

After that run and a shower (to remove the prodigious amount of sweat), I returned to Google to see how to relieve the pain in my feet and shins. General consensus was a good pair of running shoes. So to the store I went. What a world of difference a pair of shoes makes!

I continued with the program off and on for the next several years, but never made it past week 5. We agreed we'd never actually get to a 5K if we didn't suck it up and just enter one. About a month ago that's what we did. I, of course, hadn't run in a while, but my wife said just to pick up where I'd left off. That's just nonsense. I had a program. But time was growing short, so I took her advice. Suffice it to say that her plan was better than mine.

This morning, we ran our first race, the Cooking Light and Health Fit Foodie 5K in Fairfax, Virginia. After a lifetime of refusing to engage in any sort of sports, my only goals for today were 1) to cross the finish line and 2) to cross the finish line within 45 minutes. I'm pleased to say that met both goals. I actually surpassed my second goal. I officially clocked 34:35. I guess technically that's a personal record.

I'm truly amazed with myself that I did as well as I did. I ranked pretty low in the scores, but who cares? I was competing only against myself. I'm in awe of my wife as well, who not only crossed the finish line but also was pushing a double-wide stroller with 2 kids aboard. Major kudos to her!

We've already started talking about the next race. I'll be running in the Electric Run 5K in Baltimore in July (a day after a 30-hour flight home) with a co-worker, and I'm looking at one of those obstacle courses through the mud. Is a marathon in the future? Perhaps a triathlon? Maybe an Ironman? Who knows…keep reading, and we'll find out together.


23 July 2013
23:38 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

For centuries, we have placed rocks in strategic places along the highways and byways crisscrossing our continents like so many spider veins on an octogenarian's body. Because these markers delineated the mileage to and from key cities or junctions, in the 1750s, someone had the bright idea to call them milestones, and ever since, parents have been able to tell their children exactly how far they have left to go or have gone on their vacation when they are asked that infamous question ad nauseam, "are we there yet?"
In more recent times, some MBA type (to be sure) had the even brighter idea to refer to the key moments in our lives or the lives or our programs as milestones. It makes sense when you think about it. These are moments in your life that took you time to reach, whether it be training for a marathon, graduating college, or getting married. They are defining moments that allow you to see how far you've come or, in some cases, how far you have left to go. We all set milestones, even if not consciously. They are the goals we set for ourselves to help bring meaning and purpose to our lives.
Today we reached a significant milestone in our lives. We have been waiting almost 5 years for this moment, and finally it came. Like all great moments in life, as we approached it, time slowed, and we were able to savor in the moment, enjoying the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event. But, like all great moments in life, once it was over, time accelerated back to normal speed, and we were whipped along the temporal current like flotsam in the ocean. Just like that, it was gone, a mere moment in our lives, a distant memory even as we left the courthouse to go celebrate.
That's the funny thing about milestones. We lay them down on the path we traverse from womb to tomb and note them on our calendars. Each evening we tick off the day and note how much closer we are to the goal, not unlike the forlorn prisoner marking his cell wall, scratching off the days until his release (another milestone in and of itself). Yet, when we reach that spot on the road of life, we pull off onto the shoulder for the slightest amount of time; then, we we get back in the car and continue on the journey. Now focused on the next milestone, few bother to peak in the rearview mirror to catch the last fleeting glimpse of the previous milestone as it slips below the horizon and is gone forever.

Today was no different. Even with the ceremony still fresh in our minds, we were already heading to the post office to submit paperwork for the next significant milestone in our lives together. And as we left the post office for Fogo de Chão, we were already discussing the next milestone. It never ends, these milestones. We're constantly setting milestone after milestone ad infinitum. And it seems that it's a good thing, otherwise we'd have nothing for which to strive.

And that's the crux of it. No matter how we mark the passing of the current milestone, it's important to stop for a moment and celebrate the simple fact that we have achieved a goal we set for ourselves, and we should reflect on the path to this milestone before carrying on to the next one without appreciating how we got to this one.

Although the pomp and ceremony of today's event will fade with time, and we will probably forget the date, we will never forgot that we reached this milestone, and whether we remember exactly where we placed it or not, there will always be a little stone with today's date etched into it sitting on the side of the path that we are traveling together.

Hair Cut

12 December 2012
19:48 EST (-05:00 GMT)

I cut my hair today. I realize this is not really all that profound of a statement; however, if you read my previous post (which I'm sure you have), you would understand it's been quite a while since I last cut my hair. In fact, it's been about 2 years and 2 months. Because you are welcome to read my previous post, I won't go into the details here in this post. Suffice it to say that I finally reached the length of 10" and was able to accomplish my goal to donate it to Locks of Love.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was surprised about the amount of sacrifice I would have to make. I knew I would look scruffy for a while and that I would get gibed for my apparent love of 1970s shag hairstyles. I knew I would feel awkward and uncomfortable since I'm not particularly a big fan of men with ponytails. I also knew I would have to deal with condescending remarks from the more conservative folks with whom I work and otherwise associate. But I really wasn’t prepared for all the sacrifices I would make.

For instance, I had some job interviews during the past two years, and even though several gave me second interviews, ultimately I didn't get any of them. I admit that it's entirely possible I just wasn’t a right fit for them; but, for at least one of them, there is no doubt it was the hair. I had a great phone interview and that evening they sent me an email asking if I could come in the next day. I was super excited, and dutifully showed up on time and looked as best I could. My hair was washed and neatly pulled back into a tight ponytail. I thought it was a great interview. I nailed all their questions and confidently demonstrated how I was an ideal candidate for the position. Sadly, I never heard back from them. Nothing. Nada. Nil. Garnisht.

It's OK. That's all part of sacrificing, right? If it were easy to do and had no hardship attached to it, there wouldn't be much point, would there? I mean, what holds everyone back from donating their hair or their time?

On the flip side, it was a lot of fun (in retrospect of course). I learned all about conditioners, humidity, wind, and a bunch of other things that guys should never need to worry about it. I got called "Ms." several times, which a guy should never have to deal with. I won the admiration of a great many people. I found out there are a ton of great folks out there who also donated their hair for a great cause. And, I discovered that there are a boatload of men at NASA who are follicularly challenged. We can't all have hair like Fabio.

I am saddened that there are so many people out there who wouldn't hire someone highly qualified just because he looked like he stepped out of a headbanger music video. But, I'm back to Catholic schoolboy look, so let the next round of interviews begin!

Overall, with or without the missed opportunities, I have to say that it was totally worthwhile and I don't regret the 2-year, 2-month commitment. I feel really good about myself for having done it, and I highly recommend that everyone who can do it. It's for a really great cause, and if you have it, you should share it. For more information, check out Locks of Love's website.

Everyone asks if I'll do it again. It's a tough question. On the one hand, it was really easy, so why not. On the other hand, it was incredibly difficult: As I tweeted on Twitter today, "Hey @LocksLove, after about 790 bad hair days, I give you 10". Please make a child happy. Thank you."

15:10 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

I'm not a fan of haircuts. I never have been. I don't remember crying or throwing tantrums when my mother took me to the barber to get my locks shorn. But, I do remember feelings of dread as I climbed into the chair. I would look in the mirror and try to imprint that image into my memory. That was me staring back at me. I knew once the barber did his duty, I would no longer be me. Not that I would turn into someone else, but I would be a different me; I would be reinvented, and I would have to start over in becoming comfortable with me. Hair is a part of who you are; it is part of your identity. So, you can't be you if you change your hair.

I'm still like that. I know I need to get my hair cut; yet, I put it off as long as possible. On the other hand, after two years in Catholic school, I'm reticent to let my hair grow too long. Once it's over my ears or my collar, I usually make an appointment at the salon. Although I don't like to get it cut, I don't particularly like it long either. It's just one of those dichotomies that make me me.

So, it's significant that this October marks one year since my last haircut. The last time a pair of scissors touched these tresses, I was in the Holy Land. I went to a friend of the family and profession stylist. It was a nice haircut. Still, it took getting used to because it was very different from what I usually get. As it grew out and lost its shape, I watched it grow and did nothing. As I took note of losing sight of my ears, I did nothing. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore; I was beginning to look like a Beatle, and still I did nothing. Then, about four or five months later, I realized I still hadn't gotten a haircut. I also realized it had been almost six months. My record for not getting a cut was seven months. Now I was on a mission. I had to break my personal record.

When I was in graduate school, I knew a student who had long hair. One day he came to class, and his hair was short. I asked what happened, and he told me he had donated his hair to Locks of Love. I thought that was great and said one day I, too, would commit this act of charity.

Charity seems so easy. Drop a few coins in a donation box. Write a check and mail it off. Give a homeless person your leftovers from the restaurant. Yet, when you think about it, charity is about sacrificing so others don't have to. Although a few pennies in a pushke won't affect most of us, we are still giving up something for other people's happiness. I believe the more you sacrifice, the greater the charity.

I had no idea how much I would sacrifice when I started down this road. It seemed so simple when I began: don't cut my hair, no biggie. It never occurred to me I would be going through so many awkward stages along the way. It never occurred to me I would look so scruffy and unprofessional. It never occurred to me I would whine and moan about it so much. Yet, here I am, a year into it and going strong.

All of this to say that I'd like to thank everyone for their support: my management for giving the go-ahead even though I am a spokesperson for the agency; my colleagues for their encouragement (even if it comes in the form of teasing); my friends for their hair advice; and my wife for always talking me out of cutting my hair.

Thank you!

Here’s another pretty useless list I’ve come up with. These are the mission patches for each of the Interntional Space Station Expedition missions that have occurred since I joined America’s greatest space agency:

Interntional Space Station Expedition

Expedition 6
November 25, 2002—May 3, 2003

Expedition 7
April 28, 2003—October 27, 2003

Expedition 8
October 20, 2003—April 29, 2004

Expedition 9
April 21, 2004—October 23, 2004

Expedition 10
October 15, 2004—April 24, 2005

Expedition 11
April 17, 2005—October 10, 2005

Expedition 12
October 3, 2005—April 8, 2006

Expedition 13
March 30, 2006—July 4, 2006

Expedition 14
September 18, 2008—June 22, 2007

Expedition 15
April 7, 2007—November 3, 2007

Expedition 16
October 10, 2007—June 14, 2008

Expedition 17
April 8, 2008—November 30, 2008

Expedition 18
May 31, 2008—April 8, 2009

Expedition 19
March 28, 2009—May 29, 2009

Expedition 20
May 29, 2009—October 11, 2009

Expedition 21
October 30, 2009—December 1, 2009

Expedition 22
November 30, 2009—March 17, 2010

Expedition 23
March 17, 2010—June 2, 2010

Expedition 24
June 1, 2010—September 25, 2010

Expedition 25
September 25, 2010—Novemeber 26, 2010

Expedition 26
26 November 2010—March 16, 2011

Expedition 27
March 16, 2011—May 23, 2011

Expedition 28
May 23, 2011—September 16, 2011

Expedition 29
September 16, 2011—November 21, 2011

Expedition 30
November 21, 2011—April 27, 2012

Expedition 31
April 27, 2012—July 1, 2012

Expedition 32
July 1, 2012—Sept. 16, 2012

Expedition 33
Sept. 16, 2012—Nov. 18, 2012

Expedition 34
Nov. 18, 2012—March 13, 2013

Expedition 35
March 13, 2013—May 13, 2013

Expedition 36
May 13, 2013—Sept. 10, 2013

Expedition 37
Sept. 10, 2013—Nov. 10, 2013

Expedition 38
Nov. 10, 2013—March 10, 2014

Expedition 39
March 10, 2014—May 13, 2014

Expedition 40
May 13, 2014—Sept. 10, 2014

Expedition 41
Sept. 10, 2014—Nov. 10, 2014

Expedition 42
Nov. 10, 2014—??

I'm a DAD!!!

14 May 2010
4:34 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

I can't believe it!

At 4:34 this morning, little baby SoomSoom came into the world. She was 7 pounds and 19.75 inches. We got to the hospital at 4:00, and she just sort of popped out 34 minutes later.

Mozal Tov to me!!

New Job

19 April 2010
15:35 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

After being in my now old position for a whopping 4½ months, the big boss called me into his office and offered me a job on the other side of the office. Now, I was very excited to get my now old position; however, I feel very strongly that when the big boss offers you an opportunity, it's bad form to turn it down.

So, as of today, I am now a public affairs officer. That's pretty darn cool, but I'm pretty scared that I have them all fooled and they're going to realize that I don't know jack about what I'm doing. Oh, well. At least it will be an adventure.


who'da thought

29 January 2010
8:35 EST (-05:00 GMT)

Today marks 1 year that the Sabra and I have been crazy is that? I never thought I'd actually get married, let alone be celebrating an anniversary. Wow, craziness.

We are going to watch a movie and eat Ethiopian for dinner...nice way to celebrate, don't you think?

One down, and the rest of our lives to go.