30 January 2016

Helmet Donor Poser and Krueger the Scrooge

From the end of my 03 August 2015 post:

"Saturday afternoon was the monthly ex-pat gathering at Zen Café and I had a chance to talk with a couple people about the helmet project. I also handed out some of the new cards.

"When I met R***, who's lived here 10 years and is married to a VN woman, we started talking about our thoughts of VN. I mentioned that on my first trip here I was taken back by the lack of helmets on children and that I was glad to see that the new law is apparently working. He replied that he wanted to spend up to $1000 to buy helmets for children, but had no idea where to get good helmets or how to distribute them.


I was being charitable. What I didn't write then and feel obliged to share now, is that after R***'s comment about having "up to $1000", I handed him a card and said, "I have all of that worked out. I am buying the best children's helmets available in Việt Nam; I am working with the Red Cross to find the poorest schools in Đà Lạt; and we have media lined up for stills (photos), video, and television. What would you like to know to feel comfortable joining us?"

R: "Ummmm...


"Well, I'm not sure I'm ready..."

Me: Okay, we have time. All of the money—over $7000—for the first shipment of helmets for the first two schools is coming out of my personal funds. I'd love to have you and your wife come to one of our presentations so that you can see what we're doing before you contribute.

R: "Well, I'm not sure I have $1000 I could give right now..."

Me: "That's okay. Come to a presentation and then decide."

R: "Okay, when is it?"

Long story short, I asked for his number so I could call or message him when we had the details nailed down. He said he had my card and that he would call me.

Yeah, about that bridge in Brooklyn...

As expected, I never did hear from him. I wonder if he's still telling people he wants to "do something" about the fact that all too few children here wear helmets?

Probably... though I can't tell you for sure because now, when he sees me, he turns and/or walks away rather quickly. He also avoids friend and contributor Eric's attempts to engage in conversation about helmets and HelmetsForChildren.

Then there's the Brit who, at One More Cafe's Christmas party, showed us that he really is the asshat everyone had told me he was. We'll call him "Krueger".

Krueger was talking with Tim as ViLa and I approached Tim to say hello and Merry Christmas. After we greeted Tim, I turned to asshat Krueger, extended my hand, and said, "Hello, I'm John and this is ViLa." Krueger's hand stayed frozen in his lap as he looked at me, coldly said, "I know who you are!" and turned away.

I waited for a few seconds, then smiled and moved on. Although I've seen Krueger numerous times before, mostly at OMC, we had never before exchanged words or even glances. Maybe he knows I think he's stupid to wear a $25 helmet while riding a US$20,000 (in VN) high-performance motorcycle?

He never before heard it from me... until now.

Two people who witnessed Krueger's class-less act that night later approached me individually to apologize for his rudeness. They each told me that he sometimes takes some warming up.

Really? The room was comfortable for ViLa, so I doubt it was cold for him.

My reply to both was, "That's okay. I was just being polite saying hello and Krueger showed us who he really is." Both smiled in reply.

I'm tired of self-important posers, and there are a number of them in the local (and probably any) ex-pat community. These are two of ours...

29 January 2016

Challenger—Obviously, A Major Malfunction


Spoken by Pilot Mike Smith, those were the last recorded words from the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, 30 years ago yesterday, January 28th.

I was at the Kennedy Space Center as a photographer and member of the press corps until two days prior to the launch of Challenger and mission STS 51-L. There had already been a few delays in the countdown and with very cold weather moving in, it looked like it would be a while before they would launch.

I distinctly remember asking NASA's KSC Public Affairs Manager Ed Harrison, on Sunday, the 26th, about the schedule. Eddie assured me that they would be delayed at least another four to five days. I had commitments for a couple commercial photography jobs that week, so I drove home to Fort Lauderdale, planning to return later toward the end of the week when Eddie said they'd "probably get a go" for launch.

It was more than a year before I again drove through security to the KSC Press Site.

Why did they launch when it was so cold? President Reagan's State of the Union speech was scheduled for that evening, and I believe that Reagan wanted Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe up there so that he could talk about her—the first civilian (non-astronaut) in space. I believe that the White House put tremendous pressure on NASA to "get that bird in the air!"

It flew for 73 seconds.

Most people don't know what happened next, and I'll bet you're one of them. Yes, you know that all seven are members died...

Did you also know that:

  • The crew survived the explosion of the external tank (ET) and the resulting breaking apart of the orbiter, only to die about 2-1/2 minutes later as the crew compartment hit the ocean's surface at ~200 mph? 
  • They were almost certainly conscious all the way to impact?
  • Although it took six weeks to recover the first crew remains, NASA knew the location of the crew compartment only days later?
On 13 November 1988, the cover story in the Miami Herald's Sunday Magazine, "Tropic", was an expose of the events leading up to and following the destruction of the Challenger. I kept an original copy for over 25 years and included it in the donation I made to The Museum of Flight in October 2014.

The article lives on on-line and I strongly recommend you read it. Click here to access it. If you cannot find it, send me an email and I will forward a PDF to you.

Please read the article and take a few minutes to remember the seven pioneers who gave their lives that day...