One small website for a man, one giant website for mankind

Like many other kids, I spent a fair amount of time lying on my back with my feet on the seat of a chair.  That was the only way to pretend to be an astronaut.  As I got older, I discovered that the Louisville Science Center had a mockup of the Gemini capsule that you could get in.  Only one of the two seats was open, and many of the controls were behind plexiglass, but that didn’t matter.  There were switches I could switch and no trip was complete without sitting in the capsule for far longer than any normal kid would.

Although the dream of being an astronaut slowly gave way to reality, I never lost my fascination with the spectacle of manned space flight.  It seems fitting that, although I never set foot in an astronautics class, I attended the “Cradle of Astronauts.”  Purdue University has contributed 22 astronauts to NASA (including two on the current shuttle mission), but the most famous has to be Neil Armstrong.  You may have heard of him.

Purdue has buildings on campus named for Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, two alum who were tragically killed in the Apollo 1 fire.  In 2007, a third astronaut-named building was dedicated.  Armstrong Hall stands majestically at the corner of Northwestern and Stadium Avenues — the brick, glass, and steel shaped in such a way as to evoke the thought of flight.  On a chilly October morning, I joined hundreds of others to stand in the mud and witness the dedication ceremony.  I knew this would be a very memorable moment for me because of the list of speakers.  Of course the University’s president and the Dean of the College of Engineering would speak, but also there would be remarks from the most recent man to walk on the moon: Purdue alumnus Gene Cernan.  Oh yes, and NEIL EFFING ARMSTRONG!

Neil Armstrong, by all accounts, is just a guy who wants to get the job done and get back to being Neil.  For years he has shunned the spotlight, rightly arguing that he was just one man on a team of many who succeeded in the goal of putting humans on the moon.  He is reclusive, so it is very rare to get the opportunity to hear him speak, so there was never any doubt that I would go and watch.  I don’t even remember what he said, I just remember that the entire time he was speaking I completely geeked out.  “OMG!  This is Neil Effing Armstrong!”

Later that day, the Purdue football team played host to Northwestern.  A while back, a tradition what started that I don’t particularly care to partake in.  At the end of the third quarter, a guest of some sort will wave a large flag out of the press box window and give some variation of “Hey Boilermaker fans, it’s time to shout!” and then Otis Day and the Knights will regale us with their version of the lively tune while the fans occasionally join in.  Well on this particular day, who should be waving the flag but Neil Effing Armstrong!  I had no choice but to shout.  If Neil Effing Armstrong says to do something, you do it.

On the same note, the football team was losing 14-17 at the end of the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter, the Boilermakers scored 21 unanswered points to win 35-17.  Clearly the thought process was “hey, this guy walked on the damn moon.  The least we can do is win a football game for him.”  If only we could get Neil Effing Armstrong to show up to all of the football games.

So later today, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Unfortunately, some of us didn’t exist when it happened originally, so we can’t relieve it in our minds.  Fortunately, everyone can relive it on the internet.  The JFK Presidential Library is re-creating the entire Apollo 11 mission in real time at  You can be sure I’ll be following it closely, and re-living the dreams of my childhood.

Boiler breakdown

Welcome to the inaugural post in the “Sports” category. I forewarn you, I am a complete Purdue homer, but I do generally enjoy watching Big Televen basketball. I’ll try to keep things as unbiased as I can, but my ones of readers will have to forgive if I let my true colors show from time-to-time. Let’s get things started by talking about Purdue’s season so far.

After a few sad years in the middle part of the decade, I was really excited for this year’s Purdue team. Last year, with mostly freshmen and sophomores, the Boilermakers outperformed expectations, including a sweep of eventual conference champions Wisconsin. With all of the key players returning, including Preseaon Player of the Year Robbie Hummel and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Chris Kramer, it was obvious that Matt Painter’s team was the favorite to win the conference title. So what has happened since then? The team is struggling to remain in contention for the title, and may realistically finish somewhere in the middle. Why?

  • Injuries – Robbie Hummel hurt his back early in the season. Last week it was revealed that he has a stress fracture in his L-5 vertebrae. Hummel has shown an amazing ability to play through it, but as the season has gone on it has become more obvious that he’s not playing as well as he could. He’s sat out the last two games, including today’s blowout loss in Champaign. Purdue has a lot of talent, but they’re just not the same team when Hummel is on the bench. In three of the four conference losses, Hummel sat out entirely, and in the opening loss to Illinois, he left the game on crutches. It looks like Hummel may not be back until tournament time, if even then, so this does not bode well for the remainder of the schedule.

    Robbie Hummel isn’t the only player to deal with injuries. Chris Kramer had his nose broken by Michigan’s Manny Harris, although that doesn’t seem to have slowed down his defense. Lewis Jackson suffered a concussion at the hands of Joe Krabbengoon in Wisconsin. Keaton Grant, JaJuan Johnson, and Jackson spent a week battling the flu.

  • Silenced shooters – Junior Keaton Grant and sophomore E’Twaun Moore shot very well last year. This year, they’ve been quiet for the most part. Especially in light of Hummel’s absence, Purdue can ill afford to have either of these guards not making shots. To have both of them silent has been brutal.
  • Running out of gas – With Hummel’s back and the various other injuries and illnesses, the players have been worn out. In the last two games, it was clear that the team was only able to play 30 minutes. This is where I blame Coach Painter, to some extent. Senior Bobby “Buckets” Riddell and freshman Ryne Smith aren’t as good as some of the other players on the team (although I think I’d pick either one of them over Marcus Green) but they could provide a few minutes of valuable rest to the rest of the team. It might not have mattered against Illinois, but it could have ended the game against The Ohio State University in regulation. Which brings me to
  • Overtime – I don’t know why, but Purdue has yet to win in overtime under Matt Painter. Does it have to do with running out of gas? Maybe. It could just be bad luck, but it’s a very disturbing trend. Certainly, this year’s team has to get it done in regulation.

So why might Purdue be okay going down the stretch?

  • Chris Kramer – I will freely admit to having quite a man crush on #3. One of the best defenders in the country, he sparks his teammates just by being on the floor. Although he’s been a weak presence on offense, his defense will be key to keeping Purdue in the game down the stretch.
  • JaJuan Johnson – What a difference a year can make. Johnson has gone from being a weak, scrawny post player to a great, scrawny post player. Johnson has had some big games, and he can battle anyone under the basket. His slight frame hasn’t kept him from getting several double-doubles in conference play. With the threat of JaJuan Johnson underneath, opponents must give a little extra room to the guards.
  • Schedule – Purdue faced a rough first half of the conference schedule, including games at Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota, and Ohio State. The remaining schedule keeps them in Mackey Arena for five of the last seven games, including what should be an absolute drubbing of Indiana. If the Boilers can win the remainder of their home games, then there’s still hope for a decent seed in the tournament.
  • Coaching – I know I gave Matt Painter grief above, but he is truly one of the outstanding young coaches in basketball. He can do a lot with a little (see: 2007 NCAA tournament) and I’m sure he hasn’t given up on hanging a 22nd banner.

The Big Ten conference is one of the toughest in the country this year, and there’s still a lot of basketball to be played. There are still several teams who could get hot and win the conference. We’ll find out in March.