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STS-134: First Attempt Scrubbed

After much deliberation, I finally decided to go through with my trip to Florida for the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor on STS-134. The launch (originally scheduled for yesterday (Well, originally originally scheduled for a number of earlier dates, but we’ll go with yesterday being “originally” for the purposes of this blog.)) ended up being scrubbed until at least Monday, May 2, due to technical issues with auxiliary power units. The APUs are required to run heaters that prevent hydraulic lines from freezing in orbit or upon reentry. If the lines froze, it could mean loss of control (since the hydraulics, in effect, steer the shuttle) or the risk of explosion. We should know in a few hours whether or not another attempt on Monday is feasible, as NASA engineers are investigating as I write this.

The scrub was disappointing for a number of reasons, but I think my travel plans will be flexible enough to allow me to be there for the next attempt. The couple sitting next to me at Kennedy Space Center won’t be so lucky—they are from Nottingham, England, and were on a two week trip based around the earlier April 19 launch date. They flew home today, and won’t be able to make it back for another try. President Obama and his family were also scheduled to see the launch, and while they toured the Kennedy Space Center facility and met with the crew of STS-134, the scrubbed launch was a missed opportunity to inspire the president and demonstrate the value of manned space exploration.

My visit to Kennedy Space Center was my second time there, having visited with my family when we made a trip to Disney World and the surrounding area growing up. I remember the trip from Orlando taking much longer than it did this time, and the rockets of the rocket garden being much bigger, but the awe I felt was not diminished. I felt giddy as I passed by the first car checkpoint and began to cross the causeway to Merritt Island, on which KSC is located. It was great fun to sit in the crowds of people eagerly awaiting the launch, watching NASA TV on the large screens set up, and paying close attention to each update. People cheered when veteran astronauts appeared on screen to take questions from another site, and applauded their efforts when they left.

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Happy New Year (2011 Edition)

Welcome to 2011! The month of December was pretty crazy, but I’m happy 2011 is here now. I had a great holiday break, but I’ve started my new position at Deere and recently found out that the offer I put in on a house was accepted.

So first, I am buying a new house as part of my previously-announced relocation to the Des Moines area. I found a house in Johnston, Iowa, that met all my criteria. It’s a new construction, finished shortly before I started looking, which will be a new experience for me.

Since I was house hunting from out of town, I decided to record walk-through videos as I viewed houses with my realtor—mainly to help me remember the details. I think the first day we saw something like fifteen houses, which is way too many to keep straight. As a side benefit, I’ve been able to use the videos to show family and friends prior to putting in the offer, to get feedback from them, and now I can show it to you! The house was a model home for the neighborhood, so the video shows the model furniture, but it will be bare when I take possession.

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Roasted Turkey Breast on the Grill

While watching Illinois embarrass Northwestern’s run defense Saturday, I cooked my first turkey at home. (Technically, it was a turkey breast, but it was still delicious.) Since my oven doesn’t has never worked, I roasted it on the grill, which I’ve not seen anyone in my family do before. Of course I also had to make stuffing and mashed potatoes, too.

Herb-Roasted Turkey BreastHerb-Roasted Turkey BreastAfter thawing the turkey in the fridge for a couple days, I prepared it with an herb rub from Ina Garten, with lots of thyme, rosemary, and sage. (This was actually probably the weakest part of the dinner—I thought the herbs overpowered the turkey.) After applying the rub, I ran the turkey through with four skewers, in order to successfully place it on the grill. My grill surface is set up such that I would not have been able to collect the drippings if I had just placed the turkey on the grill, so I removed the middle grate and placed a homemade drip pan in its place. Then I rolled up some aluminum foil to lift the skewer base up a little bit, and lit the flames for preheating. I only lit the outer two flames because I wanted indirect heat for the bird.

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Moving to Des Moines

I haven’t been able to say anything until recently, but I can now confirm that I accepted a new job as a Senior Software Developer (tech lead) at Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group in Urbandale, Iowa. I can’t say much about the actual job, but suffice it to say that I’m very excited about the position (although maybe a little less excited about moving to Des Moines). 

It was way back at the end of September when I interviewed for the position, and I knew that the other applicants were also very qualified. In fact, my good friend Jason VanGundy also applied for the job, so I was a little concerned about it being awkward if one of us got the job. Luckily, though, it turned out that the hiring manager actually needed two people, and we both were hired. Our mutual friend Matt Travi has been on the team for at least a year now, so it will be great working with those guys.

Living in Des Moines will be a change. I definitely won’t be able to make it to as many Illini basketball and football games, since the drive to Des Moines will add about six hours to the round trip. I’ll miss having Mom and Dad nearby, too. But I have family out there, too, and a number of friends, and Illinois looks pretty good in HD.

As I weighed the pros and cons of accepting the offer, I was pretty surprised as how hard it was to make the decision. I knew the position would be great but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to move. It occurred to me that I hadn’t struggled with a decision like that since deciding to go to Ireland in college, so hopefully this turns out just as well as that did.

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Long Time No Blog

Well, clearly I haven’t written anything for the blog in some time. It’s been a busy couple months between work during the week and Illini football (significantly exceeding my expectations, even if this week’s Michigan game was a setback), a little Illini basketball, and the general social agenda overall. 

Anyway, I have some big news that I’ll be posting in the next few days, but until then, check out these pictures from the Illinois basketball Orange & Blue Scrimmage.

Player Introductions Player Introductions Tipoff at the Orange & Blue Scrimmage

While Illinois football has been much more enjoyable to watch this season, I’m really excited about basketball season. Watching the Orange & Blue Scrimmage and two exhibition games (Lewis in person), it has been frustrating at times, but there are sparks of potential that bode well for the future. Watching our freshmen Meyers Leonard, Crandall Head, and Jereme Richmond work their way into the rotation and contribute to the team’s success should be a lot of fun.

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The Black Keys & Flaming Lips

A couple weekends ago, Raff, Sharma, Tom, and I descended on Canandaigua, New York, for the Black Keys and Flaming Lips concert on July 23. The concert was great, as was hanging out with everyone around Canandaigua and on the lake. Those guys took off for home on Sunday, but Nathan and I went up to Niagara Falls after dropping them off at the Rochester airport.

The Black Keys Devon wipes out while skiing Canandaigua Lake Niagara Falls Moon Rising over Canandaigua Lake

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Boston

The remainder of my time in Boston was as excellent as the first couple days. After Kelly and I spent Tuesday together, I had the rest of the week to spend at the MIT Information Quality Industry Symposium, and then spent some more time with Kelly on Saturday. The symposium was excellent—especially the keynote speakers—and I met a number of interesting IQ professionals.

Boston Harbor Sunset Cruise Boston Harbor Sunset Cruise Sam Adams Brewery Tour

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Briefly from Canandaigua…

I’ve been in New York since Thursday, first in NYC visiting Devon and then in Canandaigua visiting Nathan and going to see The Black Keys and The Flaming Lips. I’ll post a more detailed update tomorrow (along with notes about the rest of my Boston trip) but I wanted to share pictures from the concertskiing on Canandaigua Lake and my day trip to Niagara Falls.

Panorama of Niagara Falls

Ken wipes out at Canandaigua Lake Nathan waterskiing on Canandaigua Lake

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