Tuesday, June 27, 2006

---Israeli troops enter Gaza, More on STS-121, More on H5N1, Hubble ACS Down, "Book Club" Too Stupid!, and Other Stories 

Israeli troops enter Gaza
FOXNews.com - Israeli Troops Knock Out Electricity in Gaza, Enter Strip - The Mideast
Confronted with one or more kidnappings of Israelis by Palestinians (including elements of Hamas) in Gaza, the Israeli armed forces have moved into the Gaza Strip in force. The Israelis destroyed bridges and knocked out electrical power to the area.
The Hamas government is now caught between its apparent involvement in the abductions and negotiations with Fatah in which it proposes to finally recognize Israel. Palestinians responded to the crisis by posing in the streets with their weapons.

[My Way News[AP] - Israeli Planes Buzz Home of Syria Leader
In further developments, Israel delivered a sort of personal invitation to Syria---presumably a suggestion that it rein in the Syrian-backed Hamas-led Palestinian government. Israeli warplanes on Wednesday "buzzed" the Summer home of Syrian president Bashar Assad while the leader was in residence.]

I’m not alone....
Foam would threaten shuttle rescue[FL Today]
...in thinking that dependence on a rescue mission by a second Shuttle with an unresolved criticality-one design flaw as a mitigation for launching the first Shuttle with unresolved criticality-one design flaw is not credible engineering management. Bryan O’Conner evidently included that consideration in his decision to vote against a July 1 launch for STS-121.

The controversy heats up
NASA engineering official reassigned - Space News - MSNBC.com
The Flame Trench space blog by Florida Today
Charles Camarda, head of the engineering directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and member of the crew of Discovery in last year’s mission, has been abruptly “reassigned” to another directorate, removing him from the mission management team for the upcoming STS-121 flight of Discovery only a week before the planned launch.
The management at Johnson Space Center, steeped in decades of its management tradition---piled on the shoulders of such manned space exploration giants as Huntoon and Abbey---yes, in huge steaming piles of decades of its management tradition---apparently just couldn’t continue its pretense to the unprecedented level of candor advocated by the Griffin administration. Some of the controversy, in fact, is JSC’s well-practiced semantic ballet about the difference between “fired” and “reassigned”. Contrary to Camardo’s own email on the subject, reproduced in the post on FL Today.com, JSC denied that the “reassignment” has anything to do with STS-121, or his refusal to “abandon his position”.

My Way News[AP] - WHO Says Bird Flu Virus Mutated
The cluster of human H5N1 infection in Jakarta, Indonesia is apparently attributable to close, confined human contact, and not to any measurable change in the human-to-human virulence of the influenza strain, according to WHO. They were able to demonstrate, however, that the virus mutated in the course of the outbreak. The mutation apparently had no significant effect on transmission of the disease, however, and the cluster of human infections reached a dead end after killing eight people.

SPACE.com -- Hubble Telescope's Main Camera Stops Working
The Advanced Camera for Surveys, source of many of the most spectacular Hubble images, has safed itself. The problem seems to be more serious than other recent safe-mode incidents recently. Hubble management remains hopeful that the problem is in some power supply circuitry, and can be fixed readily.

Now this is news!
My Way News - CBS Pulls 'Tuesday Night Book Club'
This kind of news is why I started blogging about news! CBS has shut down its latest “reality” show after only two episodes because of abysmal ratings. That’s right, folks, they actually developed a reality show that was so stupid that nobody watched it!

Windows Venezia---Ventura---Vengeance---Ven-something-or-other....
What's in Store : WinFS Update
...or whatever the eagerly anticipated next MS OS is supposed to be called, is apparently going to be released with the same old file system. Contrary to the latest expectation that the new “file system” would be released separately, MS has decided that---it won’t.
Come on, guys, even Bill is leaving.

Something to do
Cassini-Huygens: Kids Space-Paper Model
JPL has a scintillating activity on their site---a serious, detailed paper model of the Cassini spacecraft. Amazingly, the real one seems to be working well also.

SPACE.com -- Huge Asteroid to Fly Past Earth July 3
An asteroid about a half-mile across will approach to just outside the Moon’s orbit radius on July 3.

Something else to do
How to destroy the Earth @ Things Of Interest
[found on Space.com] People are actually sitting around (no, evidently not playing soccer or extreme wrestling) and devising ways in which the Earth could be theoretically made not a planet, viz. utterly destroyed. Mostly harmless, if kind of uncomfortable.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hungarian Revolution 50th pre-Anniversary, More on STS-121 

Hungary, 1956 commemorated
My Way News - Bush Pays Tribute to Hungarian Revolution
President Bush is paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of the brutal Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolt in November, 1956 a few months early.
I learned the details of the 1956 revolt back in my Texas A&M days, when a graduate school housemate left me a copy of "The bridge at Andau" in a box of used books. The images of children fighting tanks, and would-be revolutionaries who convinced themselves that the Americans would appear on the horizon just in time to save them are still quite vivid. It took another thirty years, thousands of dead, and suffering we may never fully comprehend, before the Soviets finally left Hungary.

More on STS-121, or how NASA learned to stop worrying and fly with “technically unacceptable risks”....
FOXNews.com [AP]- NASA Engineer: Shuttle Scheduling Trumped Safety Concerns
Spaceflight Now | STS-121 Shuttle Report | Officials tell reporters about 'no-go' shuttle launch votes
Chief of NASA Engineering Christopher Scolese continues his dissent over the decision to schedule the launch of STS-121 for July 1 despite unresolved safety concerns such as shedding from the ET “ice/frost ramps”. It is worrisome that both Scolese and O’Conner apparently view this matter as a risk to the orbiter, but not the crew. But because NASA chief administrator Griffin decided that the ISS “safe haven” option mitigated the risk to the crew, O’Conner says,

“...I felt like I was not going to lie down in the flame trench or throw my badge down.”
NASA associate administrator for space flight, Bill Gerstenmaier, had some even more bizzarre things to say, such as:
“I'm just as concerned about protecting the hardware as I am the crew....”
Gerstenmaier admitted, however, that “...Discovery's flight will be the first in shuttle history with a system officially classified as probable/catastrophic, that is, one that poses a technically unacceptable risk.”
The decision to launch evidently was based on the conclusion that it would take too long to actually fix the “ice/frost ramps”, and the impact on the ISS construction schedule overshadowed the concerns. After all, if anything bad that they’ve predicted happens on ascent, the crew can always hole up on the poorly maintained, poorly supplied, undermanned, technically negligent Space Station until another Shuttle or several Soyuz spacecraft built by a massively underfunded Russian company can come get them....
But not everything about this is overwhelmingly negative. Two important NASA managers dissented in a very important decision about manned spaceflight, and have not yet been fired, harrassed or idled until health problems forced them to retire to avoid killing themselves, or re-purposed to basement broom closets, and superior managers who dismissed their opinions have yet to receive special honors or promotions. Progress!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rain in Houston, STS-121 to Go, N. Korea to Test ICBM, and Other Stories 

In the news again
Fox News/AP: 10-Inch Rain Floods Houston
Massive traffic jams, airport delays, flooded streets and homes in several places, and inevitable comparisons to tropical storm Allison . Flooding problems were experienced all the way to Lake Charles in Lousiana, where some nursing homes were evacuated.
It wasn’t close to being as bad as the 2001 storm that sawed back and forth over Houston for five days and dumped 37 inches of rain on the metropolitan area in less than 48 hours. But since then, the weathermen here all get skittish every time a low pressure system pauses to circulate over the coastline for any length of time, and threatens to start up another "bucket brigade" from the Gulf to downtown Houston.
We got a fair amount of rain today also, but there was about half a day for everything to drain off. I did have to check my back yard drainage yesterday to make sure the water didn’t stack up back there. We also stayed home all day yesterday. Chronic unemployment has its priviledges....

STS-121, ready or not
FL Today: Launch is on, despite objections
Spaceflight Now | STS-121 Shuttle Report | Hale says no pressure due to 2010 shuttle deadline
, Safety chief, top engineer discuss shuttle decision, Debate still rages about shuttle fuel tank foam risks
One of the astronauts---not a member of the current STS-121 crew--- gave the benediction in Church Sunday. It was one of the most unusual public prayers I can remember. It included unprecedented technical detail about the ice/frost ramps, “acreage” foam, and other specifics, and requests for particular Spiritual support for crew members’ families at critical points in the mission timeline, especially those where previous Shuttle missions met with disaster---ascent and re-entry.
Regardless, STS-121 is solidly scheduled to launch on July 1, 2006. Wayne Hale got the “ice-frost ramp”issue classified as "probable/catastrophic," but apparently did so only to get the matter on the agenda, not because he really thought one of these foam structures on the External Tank would actually cause catastrophic damage to any of the 17 remaining scheduled Shuttle missions. Michael Griffin heard top engineers’ objections in this process, but decided STS-121 should go ahead as scheduled, assessing the probability of another catastrophe to be within the range of the numerous other things that could destroy the machine and its crew.
The Florida Today story details other comments that Griffin made that seem much less optimistic:

"If we were to lose another vehicle, I will tell you right now that I would be moving to figure out a way to shut the program down. I think at that point, we're done," Griffin said. "I'm sorry if that sounds too blunt for some, but that's where I am."
Very sensible, if hardly politic, and about two Shuttles late. NASA marches forward in an almost zombie-like commitment to pretend to "complete" the "half-finished" (and essentially worthless) Station, and even this may not be enough to finally persuade them to stop.

In further developments:
My Way News/AP - NASA Safety Chief Against Launch Decision
Former shuttle commander and NASA chief safety officer Bryan O'Connor, said in an AP interview that he continues to object to the decision to launch STS-121 without a fix for the ice/frost ramp foam shedding problem. O’Conner said he did not formally protest or offer to resign, because he believes that the issue does not threaten loss of crew, because the crew will have ISS bivouac as a contingency option. The principles in the launch decision seem to have resigned themselves to the July 1 scedule, based on the comfortable option of having the crew hole up on the Space Station if the Shuttle is damaged by debris strikes during the ascent. Everything is going to be okay no matter what, because they’re going to stop by the ISS, inspect for any damage, and if they can’t fix it, they will stay until somebody can evacuate them.
Okay, so the exploration of the unknown is a very dangerous enterprise. The unknown has been the constant shadow of death over every venture from the first dugout canoe to our ventures into Earth orbit and the Moon. I drive in Houston daily, so I understand the ever-present threat of the unknowable, the sheer stochastic terror that results from tens of thousands of mentally undeveloped, warlike teenagers that don’t remotely understand how to drive the massively overpowered sports cars their daddies bought them.

But when you can see the fatal flaw, the lethal compromise, coming up "5th Avenue".....

North Korea goes for broke
FOXNews.com/AP - U.S.: North Korea Readies Missile for Test
North Korea seems dismissive of calls by various other nations to honor last year’s agreements, and determined to test a missile system that could threaten parts of the U.S.. Everyone should know better by now than to think they would be serious.
In my simulation gaming metaphor from a couple of weeks ago, this would be known as "playing the 'Test an ICBM' event card". How many players will be watching "Aliens" before the game ends?

FOXNews.com/AP - Pentagon Document Classifies Homosexuality as Mental Disorder
“...medical professionals, members of Congress and other experts, including the American Psychiatric Association....” have condemned the Pentagon report.
It is the tone of the AP story, and multiple invitations by the news service to consult various authorities on the “correct” view of “sexual minorities” and “gay and lesbian issues” that makes their affront to basic human decency so infuriating. There can be no public recognition that anyone could possibly have any other legitimate opinion on the subject than the "correct" one, and no reference to views in opposition to the determined agenda of the AP "news story" is offered.

Some days the bear....eats oatmeal?
My Way News/AP - Bear Eats Oatmeal in Woman's Kitchen
Sort of the bears’ revenge for the whole Goldilocks thing? ...and mostly harmless.

Useless Facts [found on BlogsNow]
Useless, a waste of time, in some cases debunked by other sources long ago, and in some other cases, things I would rather have remained ignorant about....but also mostly harmless. Be sure to check the facts on Burt and Ernie, the reason firehouses have circular stairways, and whale vomit. Don’t ask me why I chose those. And remember...

“When someone annoys you, it takes 42 muscles to frown, but it only takes 4 muscles to extend your arm and whack them in the head.”

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

---Al-Qaida Wanted War, Parents Warned About Christian Thoughts, Chinese Church Raid, An Inconvenient Movie, Hawking Talks, The SBC, and Other Stories 

Documents: Al-Qaida Sought U.S.-Iran War
Among the “treasure” of information gleaned from Zarqawi’s final hideout was an purported plan to bolster al-Qaida’s waning fortunes in Iraq by inciting a war between the U.S. and Iran. Elsewhere [FOXNews.com - U.S. Identifies al-Masri as New Al Qaeda in Iraq Leader - Iraq], the Zarq-inator’s replacement has stepped up, doubtless providing endless new material for SNL, top-ten lists, and a lot of pointless journalistic speculation.

Parents warned about Christian content
Scripps Howard News Service- "Narrow focus draws 'PG' rating for Baptist-backed film" [found on BlogsNow] The MPAA has slapped its “PG” rating on the film "Facing the Giants", not because of racy themes, sexual innuendo, crude body-function humor, or nudity---all staples of films which target juveniles and their parents' money these days---but because it contains a frank expression of Christian thought. The MPAA told the film’s production company that it felt that the movie’s “...thematic elements...” “...might disturb some parents".

...and in China....
FOXNews.com - China Detains 28 Christians During Raid on Unauthorized Church
Chinese police detained attendees at an “unauthorized” home-Church service, fined and released some, and confiscated their Bibles and notes.

Japanese file-sharing embarrassments
My Way News - Virus Spreads Data, Scandal Over Winny
A new worm has begun to inconvenience a popular Japanese file-sharing network by invading users’ computers and “sharing” their files. “Antinny” seems to be confined to Japan at this time, but it appears from the article that the technology could easily be adapted to other file-sharing systems like BitTorrent.

Inconvenient truths about “An Inconvenient Truth”
Canadafreepress.com: Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe [found on BlogsNow]
AlGore’s environmental magnum opus draws scathing criticism from legitimate climatologists.
...and it’s somewhere South of “Poseidon” and “R.V.” at the box office...

Another "tragic mutual incomprehension"?!
My Way News - Hawking Recalls Pope's Views on Research
Popular physicist Steven Hawking has been getting out lately. I am amazed to learn that Hawking is 64, especially considering the ongoing effects of ALS on his body. In Hong Kong, the holder of Newton’s chair in Mathematics at Cambridge spoke on subjects ranging from Creation to his speech synthesizer, which has become almost as much of a cultural icon as he is. Hawking referred to a conference at the Vatican with John Paul II, then leader of the world’s most popular pseudo-Christian heresy, in which the Pope cautioned scientists “we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God”. Hawking compared the assertion to the suppression of Galileo by the Catholic Church in the 17th Century.
It appears that Hawking’s comments were a partial repeat of a presentation in Oakland, CA last November:
Hawking's cosmological riff | CNET News.com [found on Simberg’s Blog, by way of Cowing’s NASAWatch site]
Here, Hawking is quoted as calling the current U.S. 10-year plan for manned exploration of Mars “stupid”. It isn't entirely clear whether he meant Bush or NASA, both, neither, or something else.

Which reminds me....
My Way News[AP] - Report: Design Flaw Caused Genesis Crash
The final report on the humiliating failure of the Genesis recovery faults LockMart for installing accelerometer switches backward in the Solar-sample-return capsule, which caused the parachute recovery system to fail to deploy. The report further faults lack of oversight by NASA-JPL and the Goldin-era management atmosphere in which the probe was constructed. LockMart skipped pre-launch testing of the recovery system, preferring instead to compare spacecraft drawings with the similar Stardust probe. The combination of goober-headed goof-ups converted the important Solar exploration mission into yet another multi-million-dollar sight gag when the return capsule dug a hole in the Utah desert, splitting open like an egg.

Also from Simberg’s Blog
The Flame Trench space blog by Florida Today
Commentary and information on NASA and space at FL Today.

TIME.com: The Bloggers' Favorite Southern Baptist [found on BlogsNow]
I evidently haven’t been keeping up with the Southern Baptist Convention. Whether TIME is on track with this assessment, or whether the developments are truly a significant change of direction for the denomination remains to be seen. The SBC has managed, over the last several decades, to strongly alienate many local member churches with its political intrusions and very public arrogance. I have met enough of those alienated members, including ministers and teachers which the Convention apparently considers too "moderate", to conclude that its notion of religious "conservatism" is largely one of political compliance rather than of consistency in Christian doctrine. The SBC will regain its credibility when it begins to humbly pursue unity in God’s Love, in Christ ( John 17:22-24 ), rather than in the political and financial ambitions of its leaders.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

---Al-Zarqawi dead, Tianamen Anniversary, Indonesia, Pakistan Bans 'Da Vinci Code', and Other Stories 

Abu Musab, we hardly knew ye....
My Way News [AP]- Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi Killed in Air Raid
Abu Musab "Gunner" Al-Zarqawi, that wacky wedding crasher, is dead and in hell. A number of others died in the U.S. airstrike, including his "advisor" Abdul Rahman and a woman and a child. Of course, the one thing the human species has never had a shortage of is fools, and another one will certainly step up to replace him before the sun sets on the wreckage of the building he was in. In fact, the bizarre and contradictory reaction of the terrorist’s family shows why we are having so much trouble with these guys in the first place:
My Way News [AP] - Al-Zarqawi Now a Martyr, His Brother Says

...and elsewhere....
My Way News [AP] - Security Tight for Tiananmen Anniversary
The Chinese celebrated the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest by beating up a helpless old woman who threatened to hold up a sign. Remembrances in Hong Kong were somewhat more successful:
FOXNews.com [AP] - Thousands Mark Tiananmen Square Anniversary in Hong Kong

...and elsewhere....
FOXNews.com [AP]- Iraqi Students Dragged Off Bus, Killed
Armed thugs in Iraq furthered their “cause” by separating 21 Shiite high school students from their Sunni classmates, dragging them off their school vans, and executing them. Virgins for everybody!

...still elsewhere....
My Way News [AP]- Thieves Steal Personal Data of 26.5M Vets
The phrase “improperly brought material home” is becoming a virtual motto for the U.S. civil service these days. What this boo-boo-brain was doing with the critical personal information of millions of military veterans in his house (it has since been learned that even more were on the hard disk than first suspected) defies imagination.

Just because it works....
FOXNews.com[AP] - Prison Fellowship Ministries Forced to Close
An anti-recidivism campaign in Iowa prisons based on Christian Bible study has been ordered to cease by a U.S. District judge. A representative for “Americans United for Separation of Church and State”, gloated, "Anyone who doesn't stop it is putting a giant 'sue me' sign on top of their
building." [ I have since learned---from reading other online sources, certainly not from the AP---that this is Chuck Colson's prison ministry. ]

Much as I would like to further promote my thesis---that humanity will never run out of fools---with a discussion of lawyers, I only have so much disk space.

Another disaster in Indonesia
FOXNews.com [AP]- Indonesian Quake Toll Jumps to 5,137
There is some speculation that the 6.3-magnitude quake may have aggravated the activity of Mount Merapi, which has threatened thousands more with a potentially major eruption:
FOXNews.com [AP] - Mount Merapi Rumble Forces Evacuation of 3,000 More

...and just when you think you know what’s going on....
FOXNews.com [AP]- Pakistan Bans 'Da Vinci Code' for 'Blasphemous' Material About Jesus
In the U.S., of course, we can fully expect that the 'Da Vinci Code' will become required reading/watching for high school and college students nationwide. In Pakistan, however, the movie has been banned, out of concern that it may offend the nation’s Christian minority.

Marriage Vote Fails
Government fails.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

---62 Years 

American Cemetery, Normandy
Looking toward the Channel coast (from February, 2005)

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