Green Wave In Space

Space Shuttle Discovery Launch
First off, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Netherlands, but it has everything to do with being a Floridian and a Tulane University graduate.

Now, look closely at that glowing spot in the middle of the photo. That, my dear readers, is the Space Shuttle Discovery on its launch in July 2005, as seen from the shores of Daytona Beach, Florida. We were there for less-than-ideal reasons, but I’m glad I got to see one last shuttle launch. I grew up in Orlando in the 1970/80s, so it was hard to miss the thrill of the Space Shuttle launching each time. It was still new and exciting, and it was also close enough that we could see the shuttle and its smoke trail in Orlando, even though it was launching down in Cape Canaveral. In 2005, we were in Daytona, where my grandparents had lived, so we went to the beach to watch the launch, as did many other people.
Space Shuttle Discovery Launch

Today, when the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for the last time, it will be piloted by Doug Hurley, who graduated from the Tulane University School of Engineering in 1988. I am also a graduate of Tulane University (Newcomb College, rather than School of Engineering), so I’m proud that one of my fellow Tulanians will be piloting the last flight of the space shuttle program. For me as a Floridian and a Tulanian, it’s a nice bit of symmetry.

No, no. That’s not tears. I just seem to have something in my eye.
Space Shuttle Discovery Launch

Amerikaans Burger

The other evening, we were talking with a friend who is a university student. He was telling us about an exam he took for an American politics course he was taking. The course seemed to be an overview of the basics of the government system, along with how it has been used over the years, politically and culturally. I think they covered everything from Thanksgiving and battles with the Native Americans to Vietnam and the shifting morals through the 1990s and today.

I learned two things in discussing this exam with our friend. One, you can take an exam over at the end of the summer here if you’re not sure you did well enough the first time around. I would have liked that option on a few end-of-year exams when I was at university. Two, I realized that despite being an Amerikaans Burger (American citizen. No, really! Burger, in Dutch, means citizen! My ID card says Amerikaans Burger on it!), I would probably not have passed this exam. It’s not that I don’t know my own history; I know my fair share and did well in my US History courses, but when it comes down to being tested on specifics, it’s easy to realize just how much information we forget. There were also whole sections and essays on My Antonia, by Willa Cather, a book I’ve heard of, but never read. I almost feel like I should read it now. My friend said not to bother.

A bit of history I do remember is the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the toll it took on James Brady, Reagan’s Press Secretary. He was one of three people shot and was permanently disabled, as a result. He has since become a strong proponent of gun control. On March 30 this year, he was invited to the White House for a meeting with Press Secretary Jay Carney on the 30th anniversary of the shooting. While there, President Obama joined them all briefly.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

If you’re wondering why I’m posting about this, it’s because of the gentleman in the background in the tan-colored suit. He’s a friend and fellow Tulane University alum. We didn’t know each other at Tulane — I think he started the year I graduated — but we met when I was living in NY and attended the Tulane alumni meetings. He was very active in the NY alumni branch and is just an all-around nice person. He’s now in DC, still active in Tulane alumni work, but also working to secure greater gun control. It’s nice to see a friend and fellow Tulanian doing good work. Pretty cool that he got to meet the president, too!

And in honor of all of this, we’re having burgers for dinner tonight, hopefully grilled outdoors to take advantage of the lovely weather! Enjoy your weekend!