## Working In Microgravity

A couple of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station took a walk outside today. Dangerous work. As New York Magazine reports:

An Italian astronaut, Luca Parmitano, nearly drowned during the station’s last spacewalk in July after water began pooling in her helmet.

This time they were outside removing a 780 pound pump. That’s 780 pounds on Earth. In microgravity it hardly has any weight at all.

Weight doesn’t really matter!

Microgravity makes it easier for the astronauts to move something, but that object still exerts force. Force is important. If your hand gets smashed by a hammer, it’s not the hammer’s weight that does the damage. It’s the force!

A little math coming up, but I’ll explain. Don’t panic.

The formula for force is F = ma, or force equals mass times acceleration. See what’s not there? Weight.

What is there is “mass.” Even in microgravity the pump’s mass is unchanged.

So, this pump that currently won’t register on a scale can smash your bones to bits! And, of course, with microgravity it’s easier to get the pump moving.

The astronauts will be back out in a few days to replace the bad pump with a spare. It’s another spacewalk fraught with peril and danger. Extremely physical work performed by major league nerds.

If you’ve read my blog any length of time you know I’m not a big supporter of the manned space program. However, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating how difficult and dangerous work in orbit is.

## New York City Trip Report – Day 3

###### Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.

Lots to talk about as we finish our three days in New York. But, before we get to the day, a little housekeeping.

First, there’s the question of Internet access. The Millennium Broadway doesn’t have high speed access. In this day and age, that’s inexcusable. I knew it coming in. The location was our most pressing concern. Still…

The first night, I used dial up and got a fairly decent speed. I haven’t used dial up regularly in a long time. I don’t want to get used to it again.

The Sony Vaio laptop I brought along had a WiFi 802.11b card in the PCMCIA slot, so I tried to see if it would find anything. Zip from the desk. I moved the laptop to my lap and sat by the window. With all the buildings surrounding our hotel you’d think there would be some activity… and there was.

Using Netstumbler, I started looking at what I was hearing. First, most of the activity is concentrated on channel 6, which is in the middle of the band and probably the default for most access points. It was for mine (though I’ve since moved it).

Much of the traffic is WEP encrypted. That’s smart. There was a cluster of encrypted AP’s, all with ID’s that made me think they were owned by Bertelsmann Music Group. There were other encrypted transmitters and, a few that were open and in the clear. They just weren’t very strong.

Thursday evening, I was able to send and receive my mail using an AP that identified itself as Apple and then a cryptic series of digits. Probably an Apple AirPort. I sent myself an email through that AP to see the actual IP address. It was routed using road Runner, which is the time Warner cable modem service.

When the weather turned rainy on Friday, I was no longer able to connect to Apple or any other in the clear AP’s.

Over time, we grew to dislike our little room. It never really seemed clean and had some stains in strange places that weren’t right. The bathroom floor always seemed dull, even after the maid had visited.

I still don’t know how a hotel becomes 4-star. Is it self assigned?

Finally, I made an interesting discovery, looking at our window on that rainy Friday morning. There were weeds and moss growing on the top of an air conditioner unit. I am unsure if this unit is associated with the hotel or an adjacent building.

Now, with all this said, it’s on to Friday. It was a rainy day – the antithesis of Thanksgiving. Thank heavens the parade was yesterday!

Helaine and Steffie wanted to do some shopping and go to lunch before we headed back to Connecticut. We left the hotel and headed toward Macy’s. Being a good weather oriented family, we were prepared with the proper outerwear.

Macy’s isn’t too long of a walk, so we headed out to Broadway and then downtown, toward 34th Street. As you leave Times Square, Broadway is a monotonous series of cereal box office buildings with first floor storefronts. It is an area without much charm.

Macy’s is located in Herald Square. I’m not sure how it got its name. It might be a similar story to Times Square, in that there was a New York Herald (which, by the time I was growing up was the Herald Tribune, and whose Sunday supplement was New York Magazine).

Macy’s is probably unlike any other store you’ve ever seen. Its two buildings cover a full city block with 10 stories and over 1,000,000 square feet. Above the 4th floor, the metal escalators give way to wooden ones that must be fifty years old. The store is beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Since Macy’s attracts so many shoppers, it also attracts its fair share of everything else. By the time we got there, there was already a TV crew with a microwave truck from one of the local stations. I also saw a reporter/photographer team from a Spanish newspaper and a long photographer from Women’s Wear Daily.

There were also protesters. I’m sure this isn’t isolated. Macy’s was being picketed by animal rights activists, who themselves were corralled into a small pen, shouting about animals being killed to make fur coats. Outside the front entrance, a lone woman railed on about Macy’s policy of racial profiling and how they had a prison in the basement. If she was changing hearts, it was impossible to see. No one seemed to pay her any mind.

As Helaine and Steffie went shopping, I walked through the area. It’s not a really thriving shopping district, though there is a lot going on. The area holds Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and The Empire State Building.

Across from Macy’s, in a microscopic triangular shaped park, Yahoo had set up four laptops with wireless Internet access and was extolling their shopping site. Everyone I saw who entered their little promotion won a hat… except me.

I met the girls at the base of the down escalator, and we left the store and hopped on the subway. We were heading to Greenwich Village to Jekyll and Hyde – a theme restaurant with a SciFi/Horror bent.

Getting off the subway at Christopher Street, we headed into Sheridan Square. Up ahead was a theater that has been the home to the long running “Naked Boys Singing”. Hey, it’s Greenwich Village – don’t be surprised.

I had actually been at either Jekyll and Hyde or the restaurant next door back in the mid-60’s when Bob Weiss’ family took Bob and me to see Jean Shepard do his live Saturday night broadcast on WOR. For a kid who idolized Shep, that was an incredible experience. I wonder what happened to bob. I probably haven’t spoken to him since 1966 or ’67.

Maybe I was a little tired, and ready to go home, but Jekyll and Hyde was not that great for me. I had a pretty good turkey club tortilla wrap, while around us, figures mounted on the walls came to life. At the same time, some jerk at an adjacent table made loud cell phone calls. Across the way, a little girl was celebrating her 4th birthday. I wonder if Jekyll and Hyde would cause her nightmares to help remember the day?

We hopped the subway and headed back north. While I looked at the “Rodenticide” sign, Steffie had a ‘wildlife’ spotting on the tracks. Obviously Rodenticide only works so long.

By the time we returned to the hotel to pick up the Explorer and head home, it was nearly four. I reached for the claim check… but it wasn’t there! We did find it, in my coat which had been left in storage with the bellmen.

The trip home was pretty easy. The day after Thanksgiving may be busy at the stores, but it’s less than pedestrian on the Connecticut Turnpike. Manhattan to our house took a little less than two hours.

During our stay in New York, I took nearly 500 photos. On Thanksgiving alone, I snapped nearly 1 GB worth of images. We all had a great time. Our anniversary will go in the books as a happy one. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will be a lifetime memory.

As I type this, early Monday morning, Priceline has just sent me a survey, asking about my hotel. I told all.