Well, I've just spent most of three days putting Paul Alton's travel-log into Chapters 73 and 74, so decided to finish up our July 4th with one of my own.

This has been a great July 4th weekend + -- I say plus, because for many it's a 5-day weekend. For us retirees, of course, it's just another weekend. This one, however, is usually looked forward to with a little dread. Why? Because it's been a custom in Florida for many years to fire off a bunch of fireworks starting about 3 days before the holiday (July 4th, Christmas, New Year's, and any other excuse they could think of) and continuing well into each night until about 2 days after the holiday. This year, the authorities have FINALLY decided to start enforcing the law - NO FIREWORKS!

Why am I so down on fireworks? Well, I guess it started back when I was about 16 and a close friend blew her hand apart with a Cherry Bomb. That sort of ended my interest in blowing off my own fireworks. I still enjoy going to the official displays, but I even saw one of those blow some people up in Guntersville, Alabama a few years back. All in all, I guess I don't see much value in fireworks anymore. Then, since moving to Florida and accumulating 4 little dogs, our biggest problem has been trying to keep the dogs from having heart attacks during those 5 or so days when all the neighbors are enjoying their fireworks. Our best solution thus far has been to gather them all  in our bed, close the blinds, turn the TV up, and wait for all the boom-boom-boom to stop.

This year was great. Other than some distant booming today (possibly an organized display), we've not been bothered at all.  The best fireworks show of all, however, was just completed here on our space coast. The shuttle launch at 2:30 today was fantastic! I took some photos off of the TV, then some out in our front yard, then a few more from the TV and have included all below.  I remember years ago when I worked on Apollo, dreaming of one day being able to venture down to the Cape to watch a launch. Who'd have ever believed I'd be able to step out my front door and see it in living color? Ain't life full of surprised, though? I've put the photos below in a larger size then usual - CLICK ON ANY TO GET AN EVEN LARGER VIEW.

And now ... I've done enough "work" ... I think I hear an online card game calling my name ... Happy 4th!

OOPS! I spoke too soon! See update note at the bottom of this page.
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75. A Great Independence Day, 2006
Prelaunch TV
Prelaunch TV
Prelaunch TV - 9 Minute Hold
Prelaunch TV - Countdown started (6:15)
Prelaunch TV - Part of the 200,000 watching the Countdown
Prelaunch TV - 1:23 and Counting
From the front yard - no sound yet
From the front yard - no sound yet
From the front yard - no sound yet
From the front yard - Shuttle disappearing from view
and we now start hearing the roar of the launch
Post-launch TV - View of External Tank and Earth in background
Post-launch TV - more View of External Tank and Earth
Post-launch TV - I marked the parts for clarity
Post-launch TV - Shuttle roaring off
toward International Space Station rendezvous
Fireworks Illegal in Florida!

This is an update to my pleasant note above concerning how happy I was that fireworks were finally officially illegal, residents were paying attention to the law, and police were finally going to enforce the fireworks ban. None of that turns out to be true in Rockledge, Florida!

My nearby neighbors started shooting fireworks in their back yard at about 7 PM. They were soon joined by dozens of other Rockledge residents, ignoring the law and the fire danger, in order to entertain themselves with loud noises and bright flashes.

I don't know how it is elsewhere in Florida, but in Rockledge, nobody is paying attention. The residents continue to break the law and the police continue to ignore it. Anyone trying to enforce the law would have to be deaf to not hear the explosions that continued until well past 1 AM, and blind to miss the rockets firing hundreds of feet into the air.

Thus, we were relegated to another night of trying to keep the dogs quiet and calm. Joyce took them all into the bedroom at about 8 PM, closed the shades and the door, turned the TV up loud, and got very little sleep all night. Then, in the morning, one of our kind neighbors decided they needed to finish up their supply of firecrackers at 9 AM. Thanks to all and we hope you enjoyed your fireworks.

I don't understand why people can't simply go to the official, organized, safe displays that are held in multiple locations in all communities and are usually visible for long distances. Why they feel it necessary to buy and burn their own fireworks is beyond me. Here's hoping that next year the law enforcement officials REALLY enforce the illegality of fireworks being sold only to farmers needing to chase birds (is that BS or what?), REALLY enforce the illegality of fireworks being used by individuals, and FINALLY allow those of us who don't enjoy the booming and flashing to have a quiet, safe Independence Day (and Christmas and New Years and whatever other holiday everyone decides they need to blow off more fireworks).
NOTE: Shortly after posting the opinion below, I received a very courteous phone call from a representative of the Rockledge Police Department. He explained some of the problems they have in enforcing the new county-wide ordinance and the plans they have to improve the situation in the future. He sympathised with my concerns and is hoping things will improve by the next ROCKLEDGE FIREWORKS HOLIDAY. Thanks to him and the mayor of Rockledge for their prompt response.