Carrying the Fire

I’m running a series of machine-learning events wherein I train a model on some data sets and test it against another. After this, I add the test data to the training set, and introduce a new test set. Time goes up with the square of the number of data sets, and my computer has now been running for hours.

Meanwhile I finished “Carrying the Fire” by Michael Collins, the astronaut on Apollo 11 that didn’t land on the Moon. I really liked it. Mike Collins comes across as more human than most of the great figures in history writing books. He jokes about girls, criticizes the food, and discloses the remarks where he sounds a little off. There’s a bit where he’s talking to Houston while orbiting the Moon alone, and because of the time delay, his comments come across as being a little needy. That’s such an utterly human thing to do, screw up his timing and then notice it, while everyone else misses the remark, ignores it, or observes it in silence.

He also talks about something I’ve long considered, the difficulty with getting people to do more than one thing. The irony is that while he was in astronaut training, he only did one thing: be an astronaut. He complains about the parts of astronaut-being that annoyed him, like PR or meetings, and yet he was in a situation where he totally focused his efforts on the undertaking as a whole, being an astronaut. Yet in his thoughts on the future, he talks about how important it is to do many things, explore space AND improve the world. He talks about his love of the USA, specifically, and also how he wants the US to help the world. Doing many things and seeking areas where they’re doable simultaneously is a goal of his, yet from an outside perspective, one could easily observe him as only an astronaut.

Yet that’s a bit of a slip. From far outside, he was only an astronaut for a few years, and yet from inside, he was a lab rat, engineer, pilot, and unwillingly spokesman. He was also a husband, a father, and kind of annoying. His discussions of perspective, of the reality of knowing the world is small and one, is to him a pure thing. From nearby he’s a complex and myriad person, yet from history he’s just this astronaut. He looks the same way at the world. From nearby, we’ve got to give it to the bastards, and yet from far away, we’re all the denizens of a small, fragile orb. The perspective is worth taking, even second hand by reading. Why else read a book?

And this is a good one. One of the better reads I’ve had in quite some time and strong recommend.

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