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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