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30 Years, But Yesterday

Challenger Crew - NASA

The Challenger Crew. From NASA.

Next Thursday we’ll all be asking each other one question: where were you thirty years ago?

On January 28th, 1986, at 8:39 A.M., I was in math class. After some initial commotion, the classroom was quiet as we all diligently scribbled out the task at hand. One of our classmates was in the sitting area adjacent to the northwest corner of the classroom. Besides reading adventure books aloud to us, our teacher also rewarded students with time in that area, which was furnished with a stereo.

In 1986 many of us kids had a strong pride in our country and its technological prowess. This was the year Top Gun would wow us, Reagan would launch air strikes against Libya, and we felt well-defended against the shadowy, mysterious Russians on the other side of the globe. January 28th radiated this patriotic pride as the Challenger space shuttle prepared to launch on a gloriously sunny day.

Suddenly, Scott, who’d been stretching out his legs near the stereo, exclaimed, “the space shuttle just blew up!” A shock wave stunned the classroom as we all gasped and tried to make sense of what he’d just said. Shortly after, our principal came onto the intercom and announced that the Challenger had just exploded. What?!!

Our school had been keeping close tabs on the space program because one of our teachers from a few grades prior had been considered by NASA for this mission. Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire, was the finalist. She and six others were aboard the ill-fated space shuttle that disintegrated off the coast of Florida.

More than fifteen years later, the image of people jumping out of hellish infernos in Manhattan would be forever seared into our minds. But for us Gen Xers in 1986, the image that will never leave us is this:

Challenger Explosion

We tried to make sense of it. While my friends and I were well-versed in the early failures and fatalities in aviation and the space program, this was the ’80s. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We’d advanced. We’d adapted. These problems weren’t possible. That a space vehicle containing such a wonderful diversity of Americans as well as a teacher just blew up– no, no, no. These things didn’t happen in our country.

For years we waited for answers as the Rogers Commission did its thing. Ultimately we all learned about the o-ring. The o-ring did it. With the ice. A minor player killed our heroes. Perhaps the worst part of the truths of this tragedy coming to light was finding out that the cabin containing the crew could be seen flying off to the side. They were very likely alive as they dropped from the sky and then hit the ocean at over 200 miles an hour. Did they even have time to realize what had happened?

On February 1st, 2003, a Saturday, I was sitting in bed with the TV on. In the blink of an eye I found myself back in January 1986. The space shuttle Columbia had broken up as it reentered the atmosphere. The first Israeli astronaut was killed along with another team of heroes. Debris, parts of the spacecraft, parts of people, rained down across the southern U.S. in a wide swath, plummeting from 231,000 feet.

This time there were no math problems. There was no intercom announcement. There was no Scott, no stereo. It wasn’t particularly sunny. But that horrific feeling of, “no, no, this does not happen in America” engulfed me like a tsunami. I put my knees up to my chest and just sobbed. There was a personal connection to this incident that made it particularly biting. Again I wondered how long each astronaut was alive after the explosion and what they would be thinking if they even had time to think.

Where were you January 28th, 1986? Three decades now span the chasm between now and then. Memories sometimes fade from steel bridges to rope walkways to wispy tendrils of smoke as the future consumes us. But not this memory. This one will always be fresh. More so than John Lennon being shot, or Reagan being shot, or the events at the Berlin Wall.

On January 28th, 2016, at 8:39 A.M. Pacific time, I will be sitting at my desk at work. I will be doing math. My radio might be on. In the northwest corner are filing cabinets. There will be an explosion to the southeast. An adolescent voice will announce the unthinkable and twenty-five children will burst into shocked conversation. A voice from the ceiling will confirm the event. A sea  of OP t-shirts, Levis, and matching socks will shimmer and shift in my mind as my feet are rooted to the floor in the third desk back.

We will try to make sense of this for years. But here, now, most of my life later, I’m not sure that some of us ever really have.

10,957 days later, it still feels like yesterday.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Saluting the Squirrel

Every January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. What are you doing for the noble, nimble nut-burying ninjas in your backyard this year? Here are some smashing ideas from the National Wildlife Federation.

And if you don’t appreciate this compilation of squirrel videos, your cat will.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Hawk Herons

Driving through Kenmore, Washington last Sunday– the day of the big Seahawks game versus the Panthers– I spotted these two feathered fans at a major intersection.

Kirkland has its cow and coyote statue that is duly decorated for such occasions, but I’d never seen these bike racks gussied up before. So I grabbed ye olde cell phone camera.

Herons are dear to Kenmore. There is a colony of Great Blue Herons at the Kenmore Park and Ride right on bustling Bothell Way. Who ever thought a park and ride would be a birding hot spot?

Seahawks Herons 1-17-16

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl

Back in mid-September of last year, the Alexander Farm on Ebey Island in Everett held a pumpkin hurl and medieval faire. This was part of the annual Snohomish Valley Festival of Pumpkins.

People of all ages were treated to some fantastic entertainment. Take the standard autumn quest for jack o’ lanterns, add tents, pirates, Vikings, weapons, crafts, food, all manner of costumed characters, knights, and horses, and you have a blast, pun intended.

After bumpitty-bumping through the parking pasture and paying for admission, you do need to wander around a bit to figure out what’s going on. There is some walking to do but it’s worth it.

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The day’s menu.

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Umbrellaed gnome, pirate, princess, REI gnome. This family was awesome. You can show up in whatever you want– which is how work should be. Every day.

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This weaver had mad medieval skills. He gladly demonstrated the logic behind the loom. It was complex.

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A look down Market Lane.

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Minstrel solo jam.

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One of the merchants.

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A Viking gathering spot. Check out the Etsy shop of my associate in red, who makes much of his own gear, Hearthfire Nordic Wares.

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A pirate on his AYYYYEE-pod. Oh wait, he’s with the other guys.

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Ah, pirates and their cannons. These things are louder than they look. One kid started screaming hysterically after this went off.

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Our emcee, ready for battle, brawls, and merriment. I couldn’t decide which picture I liked better. He did a fantastic job.

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Both adults and children can participate in battles. Here, Team Princess-Cowboy-Wizard prepares to charge.

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And yes, there was a banana. Why wouldn’t there be?

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There was Viking shield wall training.

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Oh yeah.

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Enter the trebuchets. This is the main event. Teams bring their pumpkin launches to the edge of the field, load them up with weight, and send squash hurtling through the air as far as they can.

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This knight and king soaked in the day’s festivities.

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A professional survey team drove this van around the field to accurately measure how far the fat orange fruit were flung. When they were not on the field, corn was occasionally launched from air guns at the targets. It was hilarious.

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Whaachaaa… the pumpkin is already out of the frame but you still see the motion of the launch.

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Swashbuckling spectators ponder the economic advantages of firing plump produce from their cannons instead of metal balls. Sustainability is one of Seattle’s most beloved buzzwords right now.

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Here’s the big boy. At the end of the competition, all of the teams threw their metal weights into his bucket to increase his power. You could launch a Volkswagen from this thing. And centuries ago, they would lob just about anything available at their enemies.

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And the emcee’s shelter collapses. There was a strong breeze. Thankfully no Vikings, wizards, gnomes, or bananas were caught in the canvas.

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Enter the Seattle Knights. These lords and ladies are the real deal. Their website accurately describes them as, “(the) Northwest’s medieval combat troupe with excellent equestrian skills, high-energy acting, and choreographed stage combat using real steel weapons.” The knights and their steeds have well-developed personas and you are encouraged to cheer for a particular color.

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Between events the knights bring their horses to the sidelines so spectators can interact with them. There are various breeds and sizes, the oldest of which was an energetic 27. All are poetry in motion.

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There are both male and female knights.

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Off with his head! Literally. This knight beheaded his foe at a gallop.

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Getting the spear through the ring at this speed has to be something like threading a needle while you’re tripping over a pile of Legos. Amazing.

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Knights challenge each other to combat. By the end of this round, she had him at spear point on the ground.

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The thrill of the joust. It was difficult to get a good action shot over the crowd. It is intense to see this event up close.

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What a day. What makes it so appealing is that you wear what you feel like, you get to participate and learn things, and the entertainment involves all manner of medieval weaponry. All area pumpkin farms have unique attributes to draw crowds; we’re serious about our gourd hunting in Washington State. This one basically offered time travel. I hope they have a similar program next year because I plan to bring the whole Fruit of the Loom pack along.

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I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. -Henry David Thoreau

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Seen in an unnamed store in an unnamed location yesterday…

Retail 1-1-16

I love holidays. There’s one to celebrate every day. Today, for example, is Run it Up the Flagpole and See if Anyone Salutes Day. Tomorrow, January 3rd, is Festival of Sleep Day (yes!!) and Fruitcake Toss Day. But this display was just too much.

Each holiday has an approximate place– no Christmas in July, no Valentines in December, no Nightmare Before St. Patrick’s Day. I would be fine with the wearing of costumes to all such events to boost the celebratory cheer as such garb could be relevant to each holiday. I proposed a Christmas party where people would dress up as their favorite Claymation character– Rudolph, King Moonracer, Hermey, Boss Elf, etc.

Christmas is a season to me, not a day, and I have no issue with leaving decorations up for a few more weeks. It takes a lot of work to put them up and they bring an extra sparkle to dreary winter nights. But– aagh, they all seem to run together now, with no buffer between them. Someone already sent me a card with Santa, Dracula, the Easter Bunny, and the whole pop culture pantheon represented. One card does it all! And in the meantime we lose sight of the divine origins and meanings of some of these days, like an all-powerful God coming to earth to give us lasting hope and life.

Retail sector– could we at least get a bit of a breather before you launch into the holidays for the next four to six months? The Christmas season is intense and we need a break before you start dangling plastic trinkets we don’t actually need for the next round. Ooh, look, a glow-in-the-dark leprechaun…

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year all! Despite our second rainiest December on record here in the Seattle area, we had a brilliantly sunny and frosty New Year’s Day as we often do. Temperatures actually got into the 20s last night, which doesn’t happen that often.

New Year’s Day morning I was bird watching and spotted this handsome couple, who were taking turns bobbing for breakfast. At first they alternated their acrobatics, then synced up. If Duck Diving with the Stars was a real show, they’d have won first prize.

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If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands. –Douglas Adams

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

True Christmas

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