Archives For January 2017

with distinction – vsco

January 30, 2017

Received an email from VSCO today declaring this photo as “With Distinction.” The text of the email as follows:

WILLIAM BEEBE — Millions of images are shared on VSCO every day. Today, your image has been recognized by our Curation team.

Thank you for sharing and contributing to VSCO, your community for expression.

the challenger accident

January 29, 2017


Shuttle Challenger, flying mission STS-51-L, with seven astronauts on board, exploded 73 seconds after liftoff on 28 January 1986. On board were

  • Francis R. Scobee, Commander
  • Michael J. Smith, Pilot
  • Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist
  • Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
  • Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist
  • Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist
  • Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Educator

I was working directly for Martin Marietta (the future Lockheed Martin) at the east Orlando facility near Research Park and the University of Central Florida. MM had, and still has, a nice cafeteria facility with a large outdoor patio that allowed for great viewing of rockets lifting from Canaveral. I was watching because my wife was an English professor at Valencia College, and we were expecting our first child, a girl, in May. The launch had special meaning for me. I was there to cheer on, quietly in spirit, the women who were on that mission as well as the educator.

It was right before lunch, the day was cool, crisp, and clear out to the coast, and there were about two dozen of us standing and waiting on the patio. As Columbia’s launch plume cleared the tops of the trees we all started to talk excitedly. When the big bloom of smoke and the devil’s horns appeared about a minute after liftoff, the whole patio went silent. We knew. The patio cleared pretty quickly. Inside the facility all the TVs were tuned into the local news stations, and we all walked by constantly trying to hear the news. I went home that night numb.

Over the ensuing months we would learn what happened. It would come out formally in the Rogers Report. Nearly three years would pass before another shuttle launch. By then a lot had changed, and not for the better. One of the primary requirements drivers for the Shuttle, the Air Force, walked away from the Shuttle when they decided it too unreliable for their use and switched back to “dumb” rockets to loft their payloads. Belief in NASA’s invincibility was shaken, and drove an already slow internal bureaucracy to go even slower. This led to Shuttles continuing to fly, but failure after failure to find a substitute for the Shuttle. When all the Shuttles were retired in 2011 and mothballed to museums, the only way into space and specifically to the ISS was by buying expensive seats from the Russians on Soyuz.

Challenger has a special place in my heart and soul, for who and what we lost.

fallen giants

January 28, 2017

Apollo 1 Crew, left to right, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee – via NASA

Grissom, White and Chaffee. I was a seventh grader when their names became permanently etched in my mind like no other astronauts. On 27 January 1967, during a ground rehearsal inside the sealed Apollo capsule, all three died due to a flash fire in pure oxygen inside the Apollo capsule. The fire was so hot and so fast, and the original Apollo capsule so poorly designed for emergency egress, that all three astronauts died before the hatch could be opened. Over the years America would go on to loose two more astronaut crews in the pursuit of space; Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986 (today’s date) during launch, and Shuttle Columbia on 1 February 2003 during re-entry. I’ll write about Challenger and Columbia in a later post. It’s the uniqueness of Apollo, its successes and tragedies, I want to touch on here.

I continue to pay special attention to the Apollo astronauts, especially those who landed on the moon, because they are the most unique of a unique class of individuals. Not all of them set foot on the Moon, but enough of them did, and humanity, as well as America, is far better and greater for their achievements. They truly where the “best of the best” as some want to mockingly remark today. All three of the Apollo 1 crew weren’t just test pilots, they were accomplished engineers as well. Grissom was a mechanical engineer, and White and Chaffee were aeronautical engineers. Those men didn’t just know how to fly, they knew intimately what it was they were flying. It was that knowledge that led Grissom to rightfully criticise what he saw as defects in the original Apollo capsule, defects that no one would listen to, and that contributed to their fatalities on that fateful day. But all of that’s now 50 years in the past.

The bigger problem is that those that went on to land on the moon have now reached an age where they’re beginning to die due to natural causes. We’ve now lost both the first man to walk on the moon and the last man.


Neil Armstrong, 21 July 1969, Apollo 11 LEM, after walking on the moon.


Gene Cernan, 13 December 1972, Apollo 17 LEM – via Nasa

Neil Armstrong passed away 25 August 2012 and Gene Cernan passed away a few weeks ago on 17 January 2017. We’ve now lost, through age, both the first and the last men to walk on the moon. We’ve thrown away an entire generation of technology and men that allowed us to literally stand on the edge of limitless space. I don’t know which is the greater tragedy, Apollo 1 or what we did to the legacy of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We could have literally planted boots on the surfaces of multiple planets other than the moon, be building a permanent presence on worlds other than earth, and pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the universe in ways unimaginable to us now.

Instead we have Trump World and Brexit.

CAT – cats against trump

January 27, 2017

The best I can do for the moment after the first full week of the Trump presidency is to create this fictional organization with cats. The cats, of course, are my cats, at least the Gingersnaps Beau (pictured above) and his brother Luke. I’m wondering if that’s a wise thing to do, to drag such innocent creatures into the Trump political swamp.

Photo was first taken with iPhone 7 Plus in low light, then post processed using VSCO and the S3 preset, then processed again in Instagram using the Sierra filter. There’s a lot of lost detail, and the smudging looks like a cross between plastic wrap and paint. I like the coloration but it can only stand to be seen on a phone screen. As it grows larger on bigger screens the visual defects begin to be seen, and I don’t mean pixel peeping. I’ll let this stand as a personal warning not to do this in the future.

it’s not easy being green

January 26, 2017

There was one spot where the red was held at bay at Health Central. I happened to literally stumble across it while headed back to where I’d parked. I managed to carefully find just the right location for this composition. In retrospect I like the vertical surfaces overlayed with the complex shadows from above. Later, in VSCO, I straightened out the vertical lines and general orientation (which VSCO makes incredibly easy to do) before final touch up and running through the KK1 preset. Once again, on the iPhone 7 Plus. The combination of the Plus’ camera and the tools (apps) you can download from the App Store are incredibly powerful, yet easy. The more I use the iPhone 7, the more I want to use it for the visual arts. The fact it just happens to make phone calls is now incidental to me.