Sunday, July 31, 2005

---Shuttle Problems Not a Surprise, Tenth Planet?, Mars Express Finds Ice, World's Worst Writers, Some Other Amusing Stuff 

What Part of “It’s Not Ready to Fly....?
An interviewer with Fox TV News pointed out this afternoon that the shedding of foam debris by Discovery’s External Tank should not have been a surprise to NASA management, or anyone else.
Indeed, looking over the Final Report of the (Stafford-Covey) Return to Flight Task Group Executive Summary (PDF format), we find this:

“Nevertheless, despite diligent work, it has proven impossible to completely eliminate debris shedding from the External Tank. The hard fact of the matter is that the External Tank will always shed debris, perhaps even pieces large enough to do significant damage to the Orbiter.”
A lot of this document is taken up by a deferment of responsibility to the NASA administrator, a near apology for the mandated work of the RTFTG, even applause for the effort to rectify problems that contributed to the loss of Columbia in 2003. Nevertheless, we find extremely troublesome remarks in the Report, such as:
“Unfortunately,repairing damage to the thermal protection system again proved to be technically challenging almost to the point of impossibility.”
“However, because of the limited amount of time remaining before the Presidential mandate to retire the Space Shuttle fleet, NASA has chosen to implement only a limited number of improvements to harden the Orbiter to withstand debris strikes.”
“Despite a great deal of excellent work on the part of the Agency and its contractors, the
External Tank still sheds debris that could potentially cripple an Orbiter.”
Other events and findings from the mission continue to provide an emotional roller-coaster for NASA and the flight crew. They are working to decide whether two protruding gap fillers [Space.com ] for the heat shield tiles are going to have to be fixed on-orbit. As I remember, these fillers have been an ongoing problem for years. The response [ MSNBC.com ] of Shuttle Commander Collins to the news of continued debris problems was surprising.
The response [ SPACE.com ] [ MSNBC.com] of new NASA head Administrator Griffin, on the other hand, is mystifying.
NASA has been protesting for days that the news media’s use of the term “grounded” for the indefinite period needed to fix the Shuttle’s persistent problems is unfounded. As if in response to a taunt, Griffin announced that NASA will likely make a fast fix for the debris issue and return to flight before the end of the year.
To sum up the implications of these recent events in human spaceflight;
the U.S. Space Shuttle is a mistake, the illegitimate offspring of an inappropriate liaison of politics and technology (why do SRB’s have “field joints”?). It is still being used at the risk of its flight crews for no honest or constructive reasons whatever. It is plagued by fundamental, systemic design flaws which are well past the “point of impossibility” to correct.
Just stop.

The Tenth Planet, or Whatever....
[Space.com - MSNBC.com]
In a very busy week for astronomers,
Dr. Mike Brown announced the discovery of a very distant and relatively large object out in the Kuiper Belt, which some are calling the “Tenth Planet” because it is thought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 times the size of Pluto, which many still consider to be the “Ninth Planet”. The new object is the farthest known body orbiting the Sun, and its orbit is inclined at something like 44° to the plane of the "regular" planets. We will all wait anxiously to learn the name of the new whatever-it-is, of course. Other scientists anticipate the discovery of even larger Kuiper objects, some as large as Mars or even Earth. They’ll have to come up with a better numbering system, or we will quickly lose count.
Confusing the issue even further, the "10th Planet" announcement came out just days after the announcement of a body that’s about 70% of the diameter of Pluto.[SPACE.com] [BBC NEWS] [New Scientist ].
This body has been found to have a small moonlet [New Scientist].
Got an idea about what the Universe is like?
Don't bother to write it down, or at least keep the waste basket handy.

Mars Express Finds Water Ice Near Mars' North Pole
The ESA orbiter has imaged a sheet of persistent water ice at the bottom of a crater near the Martian north pole.
The stereographic, high resolution color photos from the orbiter have been incredible so far. They should be finally getting the radar system online soon.

Worst Writer Contest
In the dubious tradition of “a dark and stormy night”, this year’s entries include an extremely unfortunate comparison of women and auto parts, and an especially rancid metaphor about India hanging “like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia" .

On the lighter side:
[various stuff found on BlogsNow]
World's Ugliest Dog
I thought it was something they made up out of latex as a sick joke, but it apparently is an actual dog.
No kidding---this animal could peel paint at a distance.
Color Perception Illusion
An amazing demonstration of the effect of background on the human brain’s perception of color.

"The Best Paper Airplane in the World"
I haven’t tried this yet.
This design supposedly approaches simple balsa hand launch gliders in performance. The site includes details folding instructions and adaptations to various paper-airplane regulatory rules systems. Some variations can supposedly be tossed straight up and recover to a smooth glide much like an HLG.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

---Shuttle Grounded, "A Lamentable Mistake", Clinton Admits Failure, U.S. Fights "Zombies", Pluto's Moon, Life on Titan?, "Star Wars" R/C 

Shuttle Grounded Indefinitely After Discovery Debris Near Miss [FOXNews]
[Spaceflight Now]

The photos from the ascent of Discovery showed a large, “T”-shaped piece of debris streaming past the Orbiter just after SRB separation. In an ominous development for the future of STS, engineers studying further photographs have found out what it was---a large piece of foam shed from the External Tank near the exposed LO2 piping. NASA managers conceded that f the timing and aerodynamic conditions had been different, the debris could as easily have hit the spacecraft. As a result, the U.S. Shuttle fleet has been grounded indefinitely.
It has to be pointed out, though, that on any previous mission, the debris would never have been seen at all. The unprecedented imaging effort in the wake of the Columbia disaster did what it was supposed to do---showed the PAL-ramp shedding and several other pieces of debris, and demonstrated that the effort to make the Shuttle reasonably safe has failed. Discovery appears to be safe for this flight, but the implications for the future of U.S. manned spaceflight, ISS, and NASA are bleak at best.
Another incident recorded during the ascent was the impact of the External Tank nose with a bird, which caused no apparent damage to the tank. The bird, on the other hand....

"...A lamentable mistake."[FOXNews]
Jean Charles de Menezes was not only not involved in the London terror attacks in any way when British police threw him to the floor and shot him 5-8 times at point-blank range, but was Brazilian, an electrician, in Britain legally, and Catholic. Some reports say his visa may have expired, the apparent motive for his refusal to stop when ordered by police.

Bill Clinton Admits Failure, Regrets Rwandan Genocide
Bill Clinton’s all-to-frequent response to his mistakes has been the “nobody-told-me-I-didn’t-know” thing. It is commendable that he has finally accepted responsibility for something he did wrong, albeit far too late. But the genocide was the backlash from decades of racial hatred between two groups of blacks, and everybody including the U.S. news media was screaming about this horror on a daily basis---how could he not have known something was wrong? What was this man doing in a position of responsibility in the first (and second) place? Will American voters, empowered by generations of sacrifice and struggle, make the same mistake again?

U.S. Government to Require Better Internet Security From ISPs [CNET]
The threat of poor Internet security to the economic well-being of consumers is so severe that the U.S. Government is stepping in to require service providers to do something about it. “Zombies”, computers in the hands of uneducated consumers that have been compromised and exploited to perform harmful tasks such as dissemination of spam, phishing schemes, and malicious code, can no longer be tolerated. If consumers can’t be induced to secure their machines to stop the problem, the ISP’s are going to have to do it for them. Better enjoy your Internet access while you can.

Occultation Study of Pluto's Moon, Charon
I saw this extremely clever idea before at a local amateur astronomy club meeting; with careful coordination, a group of observers can deduce something about the shape and size of an object in our solar system by timing the ground track of its “occultation” of a star from multiple locations. In that case, it was some asteroid or other. Here, it’s been used to study Charon, the moon of Pluto as it passed in front of a distant star. [I’m confused about the center image of the included photos; it seems like the caption should read "During the occultation (center image), only Pluto is visible”.]

NASA Scientists Seek Evidence of Life on Titan [New Scientist]
NASA scientists are planning to look over the chemical profiles obtained during the descent of the Huygens probe to the surface of Titan to see if there is evidence of the presence of methanogenic microorgainisms in the gelid environment of Saturn’s moon. I had a sort of similar discussion with several people on one of the sci.space newsgroups as the probe was approaching Titan, mostly just to be an irritant. Of course, if there is some sort of chemistry that can function like a living process at those temperatures, we just dropped a probe into the midst of it, together with its inevitable contamination of Terrestrial microbes. Oh, well....

STARWARS (tm) Electric Parkflyers [RC Groups Discussion]
[found on BlogsNow]This is an ongoing discussion of attempts to make flying electric-powered radio-controlled small-scale (“park flyer”) models of the familiar Star Wars(tm) spacecraft. The attempts to make the “Millennium Falcon” stable in flight seem to have been only partly successful, but the photos are pretty amazing.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

---STS-114 On for Tuesday, More Terror in London, Roberts Nomination, MRO Nears Launch, Elian Gonzales is Back 

STS-114 Readied for Tuesday Launch[FOXNews]
Engineers seem to think they have found the problem[Spaceflight Now] with the troublesome backup LH2-level sensor in Discovery’s external tank. The description sounds like a ground loop has affected high-impedance-input detection circuits, making them susceptible to interference from the new tank heaters installed as a result of the Columbia disaster investigation. Management is contemplating a relaxation of flight rules to accomodate only three working sensors, has decided to forgo a new tanking test requested by some engineers, and may extend the flight window for Tuesday’s launch attempt by relaxation of optimum lighting requirements.
As always, it’s not really the sensor that would worry me, it’s the “fly when the weight of the waivers equals the weight of the payload” attitude of NASA management.

Second Terror Attack on London[FOXNews]
The last thing I would want to do is second-guess, Monday-morning-quarterback, remote psychoanalyze a bunch of terrorists, but eveybody else is trying to figure out what they could have been thinking when they tried this attack in the middle of the massive British government crackdown from the first attack two weeks ago. We can feel truly blessed that they messed it up so badly that no more British civilians were seriously hurt. Speculation centers on bad, maybe homemade detonators as the cause of the failures.

Conservative Comments on Roberts Nomination[Ann Coulter]
Coulter says about everything that needs saying about G.W. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to replace Sandra O’Conner on the US Supreme Court. Even if the justices were retiring fast enough, they have backups, with no relief in sight.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Nearing Launch [JPL]
The new orbiter promises to revolutionize study of Mars, if they don’t drop it, if they didn’t make some critical sensor element wrong and forget to say anything until it’s in space, and if it doesn’t smack into the Martian atmosphere from a miscalculated orbital insertion, or come up with some entirely new way to mess up a Mars mission that nobody has thought of yet.

Elian Gonzales is Back
Elian Gonzales has resurfaced in the news. This is the boy whose mother died trying to escape to the United States on tractor tire tubes, who was then deported back to Cuba by the Clintons. As a consolation, Fidel has now announced that he considers Elian his personal “friend”.

Ecclesiastes 10
There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
6 Fools are put in many high positions,
while the rich occupy the low ones.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

---James Doohan Dead, Iraqi Constitution Co-writer Assassinated, CardSystems Gets Fired, Elf Zoning in Iceland? and Other Stories 

James Doohan Dies [Fox News]
Best known as the Scottish engineer of the original “Star Trek” series, one of the most colorful and memorable characters in science fiction history. I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t know he lost a finger during the D-Day landings in WWII. He died of pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

Deep Impact Imager May Lose Science After All [New Scientist ]
Looks like the images of the crater formed by the impactor on comet Tempel 1 may be lost. The correction of manufacturing errors in the focus of the critical imager by matematical means apparently needed more contrast than is available in the images. The unexpected amount of dust thrown up by the collision appears to have masked the surface beyond the ability of the algorithms to correct.

Iraqi Constitutional Committee Member Assassinated [FOXNews]
A Sunni member of the committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution has been assassinated. This is presumably an attempt to derail the constitutional process for some incomprehensible reason.

CardSystems followup: Visa and Others Fire Credit Processor [FOXNews]
Visa and AmEx have shut off their affliliations with CardSystems over security breaches that potentially compromised millions of credit card holders. CardSystems, as mentiioned earlier, was keeping transactions records onsite in violation of its agreements with the credit card companies.

Uganda Offers Free University Education for Chastity [CNN]
As part of continuing efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Uganda---which has been highly successful, by the way---a member of the parliament has promised to cover University fees for girls among his constituency who remain virgins through graduation.

US Soldier Helps Sniper Who Shot Him [Army Times, found on BlogsNow]
U.S. Army Medic Pfc. Stephen Tschiderer survived the sniper attack while on patrol in Baghdad, then helped treat the wounded insurgent sniper’s wounds.

Computer Users Trashing Infested Machines [NYT, found on SpyWareInfo.com]
Faced with rampant hordes of malicious and destructive software programs, with little to no useful information and no end in sight, computer users in increasing numbers are simply throwing the unusable machines away. This is a terribly sad state of affairs, indicating just how serious the Internet security crisis has become. Of course, throwing the CPU out and getting another one solves nothing---in the absence of effective security measures, the new machine will become as infested by spyware and viruses as the old one very quickly. What’s needed is effective security at the ISP level, and information for the consumers who buy computers and Internet service. Of course, the real answer would be for the Internet vandals to realize the extent of the harm being done and quit.

Icelandic Elf Zoning? [FOXNews]
In Iceland, they seriously consider the needs of elves when building highways and stuff. Polls indicate that a majority of Icelanders believe that elves are real.

Proverbs 14
31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

---STS ECO details, Jobs for Terrorists, Chinese Threaten U.S. with Nukes Over Tiawan 

More on the Shuttle ECO Sensor [Harwood, CBS/Spaceflight Now]
A concise description of the troublesome “engine cutoff sensor” in the STS fuel tanks, what it’s for, and the possible consequences of failure. It also describes the history of prior and current incidents involving these sensors.

Pro-terrorist rapper loses job as--- [Newsday.com]
You’ll just never guess what he was doing for his day job.
Bassam Khalaf was working at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport as a baggage screener. On his off time, Khalaf wrote rap numbers celebrating terrorist acts---including the World Trade Center attacks---and encouraged and threatened future attacks, and posted them on his web site. Apparently HR no sabe Internet. Evidently various government agencies missed the clue, as well.

Chinese Warn of Nuclear Weapons Use against U.S. Attack[FOXNews]
Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu warns of possible use of nuclear weapons if the U.S. attacks China in a war over Tiawanese sovereignty. The only people mentioned in the article as apologetic about the remarks seem to be working for the U.S. government.
Proverbs 16
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

---New SF season: FarGate, Serenity, and more: 

The familiar cast of "StarGate SG-1" has finally moved on, taking up occasional appearance roles. Their replacements were a surprise, since I don’t keep up with the fan news. I’m concerned about the whole thing morphing into “FarGate”. The first episode was entertaining, and included no muppets. Certain of the cast members could use a quick visit to the “What Not to Wear” series, though. "StarGate Atlantis" wrapped up the invasion they started a couple of months ago with an apparent solution to the fatal strategic problem the “Ancients” couldn’t solve. "BattleStar Galactica" cleaned up some of the mess they left at the end of last season, with a very intense episode. It seems like the writing for Galactica has improved in season two (experience?), although one has to wonder where they are going with some of the subplots---magic arrows, several stray babies, disturbing religious beliefs on both sides, and history repeating itself.
SF Channel will start showing the original episodes of “FireFly”, the unique space western that was nearly destroyed and finally dumped by Fox. SFC is even planning to show the episodes in the correct order:
The movie version of “FireFly”, called “Serenity”, is screening at a number of locations and will be released to the public on September 30. It looks like a retelling of the story shown in the two episode series pilot, with much more detail. Mal, according to the current trailer, is “planning to misbehave”:

Isaiah 2
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

---Shuttle Delay Indefinite, More Guantanamo Trouble, MicroSoft Buys Gator, Emily's Up Next 

Shuttle Launch Delayed by Sensor Glitch [Fox News]
"if we go in and wiggle some of the wires..." [MSNBC]
So far, it looks like even the managers’ natural instinct to refexively override the judgement of the engineers has been dampened by the looming spectre of catastrophe. No “when do you guys want to launch, September?”. Something is seriously wrong with the fuel sensors in more than one of these tanks, and sooner or later they will have to take it back to the VAB and actually fix it.

"Gitmo Inmate Forced to Act Like Dog" [FOXNews]
Yes, the war in Iraq is a mistake, because they all are. Yes, making abusive jokes out of prisoners in one’s custody is reprehensible. But if these guys would just stop beheading and blowing up Americans (and others), I’m sure we could convince our public and military officials to cut down.

MicroSoft Buys Claria [SpywareInfo.com]
MicroSoft is buying the company that produces the much-beloved “Gator” spyware that you probably need to scrub off your computer with specialized scanners right now. The motives of the giant software company are unlikely to be honorable.

It's That Time of Year [NOAA]
Time for the hurricanes to line up on the Equator west of Africa like a string of pearls...or maybe more like the balls in a game of planetwide pinball. Currently, Emily is tracking into the Caribbean on its way to the Gulf.

Isaiah 5
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

---Hillary Cranks It Up, Gmail in Trouble?, Hot Dogs in "Space" 

...and So It Begins:
FOXNews.com - Politics - Sen. Hillary Clinton Slams Bush in Speech
...Campaign 2008, and so much more. The problem with this anti-Bush pronouncement for the would-be candidate is that it opens the floor to cartoon-character metaphors for his predecessor. I promised, after an earlier lapse of judgement, that I wouldn't repeat that unfortunate comparison with Caligula's horse. Consider it not repeated.

Making Gmail Work
But on to important stuff. Gmail, Google’s noble experiment in gigantic online email storage, seems to be in trouble. The business model seems to be breaking down, like other recent consumer experiments, because people hate advertising.

...and now for something completely...
Well, frankly, “different” doesn’t quite cover it. I certainly will never look at a hot dog in the same way again. What really saddens me about this, though, is that this isn’t the worst job of acting I’ve seen this year.
[found on BlogsNow]

Isaiah 10
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

---STS-114 Countdown Begins 

"Back to Space"

[Boyle, MSNBC] After 2 ½ years of public investigation and soul-searching, NASA will attempt to launch the Shuttle Discovery on Wednesday. I certainly pray for the safety of the crew, and I honestly expect that they will complete their mission and return safely, even though it is fairly obvious that many of the management reforms and safety upgrades mandated by investigators after the last tragedy have been met only by public relations pronouncements or excuses. It’s statistical---even with largely superficial changes in the fatally flawed bureaucracy and the essentially impossible process of maintaining one of history’s most complicated politico-technical compromises, they will probably be okay.
But I won’t be watching this mission or later ones. I have this gnawing certainty that at some point in the future, when I’ve stopped thinking about it, while I’m going about my ordinary business, someone will come into the room or call on the phone, and say, “Did you hear what happened to the Shuttle?”---as has happened twice before. Seven more human lives will be relegated to the posthumous category of heroes who would have wanted us to press on and explore, if they could just be here and that was what we were doing.

Isaiah 1
23 Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves;
they all love bribes and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow's case does not come before them.
24 Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
"Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

---Justice Denied, London Under Attack, Unskilled and Unaware, More Comet Science, O’Conner Retires 

London Under Attack
Another skillfully coordinated, well implemented, completely insane and senseless attack by monstrous, pseudoreligious psychopaths....
A day after the attack, the British try to go on with their business in a tradition born in earlier conflicts.
For our part, we pray, looking forward to a day of better and wiser things.

Justice Denied
The Groene kidnapping and murders continue to provoke questions that can't really be answered. By several accounts, Duncan, arrested for violation of parole from one child rape and suspected of another, was released on relative pocket-change as bail by a judge who had never seen the convicted rapist’s record.
The consequences of this perversion of justice; six dead and two more children repeatedly abused, the survivors of another family devastated beyond comprehension by monstrous evil in a working partnership with unfathomable stupidity.
The American judiciary---so efficient and capable when stamping out politically unpreferred thoughts and ideas---no longer has any real practical function in the service to the American people for which it was given unthinkable power in exchange.
It is no longer relevant whether we have anything to replace it or whether our republican institutions can survive without it----we are already barely subsisting in spite of it. A growing number of its victims aren’t even that fortunate.

Unskilled and Unaware
[Found on Blogsnow] On the lighter side, this study confirms a long-held intuitive notion that the most incompetent members of any organization are also those who think most highly of their skills.
It's another one of those times when anybody who's ever worked for the government might have saved the granting agency a lot of money.
In my experience, the self-deluded incapable are also the ones who most aggressively pursue---and often achieve---high leadership positions, usually involving someone else's safety, the critical business of the Church, or the future well-being of large numbers of other people and their families and generations yet unborn if at all possible---or maybe I'm just getting old and embittered.

Tempel-1 Impact Analysis Continues
It wouldn’t
be much fun if it turned out like everyone expected. Analysis of the plume thrown out by the “Deep Impact” spacecraft shows that it consists of extremely fine powder. An early conclusion is that the nucleus more resembles a large clump of “talcum powder” than the snowball or ice cube analogies frequently used. They still have to figure out the cause of the blinding flash that resulted, settle bets about the size of the crater they made, and several careers worth of other stuff.
If one did ever have to deflect something like this from a collision course with Earth, the necessary understanding of
the mechanical properties would probably require several careers after that.
...or maybe it’s more like that freeze-dried Astronaut “ice cream” that NASA used to sell to unsuspecting visitors.

O’Conner Retires
While the subject of judicial perversion is still bouncing around the old virtual blog container---Sandra Day O’Conner stepped down from the U.S. Supreme Court recently.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has a number of salient observations about the departing Justice this week.
It’s safe to say, in any case, that if O’Conner and the members of the “Court”, as we Americans sometimes call it, can still use words like “Constitutional” and “legitimacy” without incandescing with shame, they’ll be the last to know.

Proverbs 17:7
Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool—
how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

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---Warning! Incoming Movie Review: 

"War of the Worlds"
Movies.com: War of the Worlds
Rottentomatoes.com: War of the Worlds

We saw "War of the Worlds" at an obsolete (only 6 screens!) theater which had been converted into a dinner theater by replacing half the rows with small, individual tables. The experience was synergistic---a mediocre movie, poor service, and stale food.
The movie wasn’t a complete loss. The expensive spine-tingling special effects were pretty good, although certain scenes caused me to have “Half-Life 2” tm flashbacks. It eventually bacame clear that they took the original story (much of it seemed to be straight from what I can remember of the book and even the first movie version) patched in a couple of poorly developed subplots to make it all "21st Century", and got Tom Cruise to annoy everyone as a substitute for dramatic involvement. It’s still a reasonable excuse to get out of the house.

Now it’s time to find a copy of the old 1953 Gene Barry version.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of annoying celebrities:
Scientology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard"

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

---AIDS in Africa, Titan Lakes?, Zamboni-ing Drunk, Minnesota Broke, STS Near Disasters, Vapor Off Japan, Impactful Comet Encounter, and other stories 

"Sabbatical 2005: AIDS and Africa"
The pastor of our local church reports on his visit to Uganda, where a missionary family from our church is stationed. It isn’t clear that most Americans fully appreciate what this, and a growing number of other devestating epidemic diseases are doing to the people of Africa. Some of us may even be unsympathetic to what is rapidly becoming the ultimate horror story of our time. There is a better way to look at the situation.

Cassini-Huygens: Titan Lakes?
A sequence of images from Titan’s south pole, showing movement of bright clouds and a peculiar “footprint” shaped region which might be the long-awaited evidence of a body of standing liquid on the surface.

Zamboni-ing Drunk:
There just have to be a whole bookful of jokes one could make about driving a Zamboni drunk, if one had a sense of humor. No word about what it was like to skate on the resulting surface---perhaps an earthquake would be necessary.

Minnesota Government Closes Down
They were unable to agree on a budget. The obvious danger in all of this is that, beyond the missed pay for government employees, nobody will notice---or worse, that life in Minnesota will actually improve.

NASA Reviews Past Near-Disasters With Shuttle
“...near-catastrophic problems have cropped up at least one in 10 shuttle missions to date.”
"You know, there is not a lot of difference between a close call and an accident."
The answer, according to STS managers, is a "close call awareness" program.
[Fox News TV is advertising special return-to-flight coverage for Saturday, including an interview with Story Musgrave. I can’t find a refence to it on the web, or further details.]

Strange Vapor Cloud Erupts from Ocean Near Japan
A “...3,300-foot-high column of steam rising from the Pacific Ocean off a small Japanese island ” has been sighted. Volcanism? This time, guys, when the giant radioactive lizard shows up, aim for the zipper.

NASA Probe Has an “Impactful” Encounter:
Impactor Movie of Collision
Movie of Collision from Flyby Spacecraft

Yes, I also am sick to death of collision puns associated with the “Deep Impact” mission. Spectacular pictures, though. The movie on NASA Select TV shows more clearly the initial, almost spherical shock wave and flash from the impact, followed by comet stuff spewing out in plumes. The kinetic energy released was estimated equal to about 5 tons of TNT. Now if I could just get my horoscope to settle down....

Iraq Insurgents Learn New Trick
They are reportedly now attacking representatives from other Arab countries, to discourage Arab cooperation in Iraq’s reconstruction. It makes the heart soar to see such a world vision---oh, brave new... oh, wait....

Teenager on Trial for Developing "Sasser"
Now 19, the perp is on trial in Germany for developing the malicious code as a minor. The worm scans and exploits specific system vulnerabilities. Ten years ago, the little monsters would have slipped out to Wal-Mart for a $1.98 can of spray paint and made bad words on the wall of their schools. Now, they want to “gain fame as a programmer ” by busting up other people’s computers.

Isaiah 3
14 The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people:
"It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses.
15 What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?"
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

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