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On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, and after a series of delays, the shuttle Discovery lifted off Pad-A and headed downrange for the last time. There are only two more launches until we enter a long dry spell for the manned space flight program. For the final launch I will certainly be on the base (Kennedy Space Center) somewhere, but for this one, I left work a couple of hours early, giving up a great view (and photo op). Lots of people are coming to our area to view the launches. Lots and lots. After many years of the general public being pretty blase about them, these last few shots are attracting hordes of people. And they are coming in their cars.

Imagine a couple of hundred-thousand people coming to your community for the day. Imagine that the best sites-of-choice for most of these folks involve crossing multiple bridges. Then they all get in their cars at the same time and try to get home. You can imagine the result. Launch was about 5:00 pm. There were still jams at 12:30 the next morning. It wasn’t pretty.

I had to work the previous launch, so I couldn’t avoid dealing with it. The secret is to get out quickly in order to miss the bow-wave of humanity heading west. I have to get out before the tourists leaving the Space Center clog the Center’s exit then head south to get to a bridge before the mass of cars from the beachside reaches them. I have two choices of causeways to take to the mainland. The first one leads straight to the most popular areas and is all highway. It’s always a parking lot as I drive beneath it. The second one is a surface street that also leads straight to the beach, but it takes longer for them to get to the bridge. I can usually make it across there and home free without too much problem.

This launch I went to a viewing stand out on a hiking trail in the swamp/marsh to take a couple of photos and run home. Turns out there was a branch in the way. Limited photos, but it was a pretty shot. And I got home after only an extra 20 minutes.

STS-133, 2/24/11, Merritt Island, FL

Geek Note: That branch really pisses me off. I used Google Earth to draw a line from the viewing stand to the pad. I noted local landmarks to help me line up the camera towards the pad. Looked perfect, I had been worried about the branch but it wasn’t it the way. When it launched I was pointing too far east. I don’t know what happened, but I’ll blame operator error for now.

A typical bookshelf in our house.

Both of us are heavy readers. I have had books in progress for the vast majority of my life, usually at least two of them at a time. My sister is like that. My daughters are like that. My youngest once spent a couple of weeks crying herself to sleep. She could see her sister lying in her own room with a book and she was so frustrated that she couldn’t yet read. It’s an addiction with as strong a pull as any other. The Utah contingent of this family travels with a large bag of books. And an even larger bag of shoes, but that’s a subject for a later post.

Which leads us to the problem shared by bibliophiles all over the world: what to do with all of these damn books? All of our shelves are at least two levels deep in both directions: up & out. We have boxes of books in storage. They’re everywhere. We try to weed them out by donating to the local library sale, but that doesn’t always work out. I once bought a book at the sale, only to get home and quickly realize that I had already read it. That, in fact, I had donated that very copy.

Which leads me to LibraryThing. It’s a site that catalogs and organizes your library. You enter your books and you have a record of your library. It generates statistics. (How many science fiction? How many by Neal Stephenson?) You can review/comment/rate your books. How many others share your interests? Lots and lots of different ways to look at your library. Most importantly, you can see what you’ve read and what you want to read. And it’s cheap. It’s free for the first 200 books and only $25 for a lifetime unlimited membership.

They sell a cheap bar code scanner ($15) that just lets you scan the ISBN and it adds the book to your library. For 15 bucks it makes the data entry task for a library of our size trivial. I’m totally there. After less than a week with the scanner I have 84 books entered. The vast majority of these are from one bookshelf, and they were the ones that were on top of, or in front of, the other books. It may not help us physically organize our collection, but at least we’ll know what we’ve got.

To see our library, go here.

(BTW: I had a problem when I ordered my membership due to operator error. I contacted their customer support and they rock! Quick response and they fixed my screw-up in short order. I love these guys.)