Friday, March 30, 2007

---NASA Lend-Lease?, AP Claims Iraqi Cop Rampage, Saturn's Polar Hexagon 

SPACE.com -- Repair Efforts Continue on Atlantis Shuttle’s Dinged Fuel Tank
FL Today "Flame Trench" : Wednesday, March 28, 2007 11:52 AM:" Delicate work ahead on tank"
My Way News [AP]- NASA Worries About Gap in Space Flight
Let me sum this up more bluntly....NASA is engaged in risky, untried repair procedures and other ongoing practices which place the lives of flight crews in jeopardy, desperately trying to stay on schedule to “complete” the “Space Station” by 2010 so that they can turn it over to the Russians, and whomever they happen to be politically and militarily allied with at that time.
In an even more bizarre display of managerial and political lunacy, the “gap” in U.S. manned spaceflight is expected to be 4 years instead of 2 years, in part because they have to rob the development budget for the spacecraft intended to replace the Shuttle in order to “complete” the “Space Station”!

My Way News - Shiite Cops Reportedly Rampage Vs. Sunnis
At least according to the AP, which has learned its lesson about attaching actual names to its sources...
“...officials said.”
“...according to police and a local Sunni politician.”
The hospital official, who spoke on condition of anonymity...”

Cassini-Huygens: News-Press Releases-2007: "Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn"
Actually, it was first seen by the Voyager spacecraft, but this is a much more detailed view from Cassini 26 years later. Saturn’s north polar vortex has six neat, almost equilateral sides. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious explanation.....
Then there’s the other obvious question....does this mean that Saturn’s atmosphere is turn-based?


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Saturday, March 24, 2007

---A380, Yellowstone, Alaskan Tech Support Blues, and Other Stories 

Ezra 9
3When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.
FOXNews.com [AP]- Double-Decker Superjumbo Airliner Makes First Trans-Atlantic Flight
The Airbus A380, now the largest passenger aircraft in the world, made its trans-Atlantic debut, landing in New York. A real achievement would be to convince a struggling air transportation industry to make the considerable investment required to upgrade to the double-deck 550-passenger planes from an equally troubled manufacturer.

LiveScience.com - Surprising Activity Discovered at Yellowstone Supervolcano
As if it weren’t surprising enough that almost all of Yellowstone National Park IS a volcano, the monstrous caldera has been doing strange things lately. The floor of the supervolano’s caldera has been rising and falling noticeably over the last twenty years, but the central portion rose an “unprecedented” 7 inches between 2004 and 2006. Moreover, the nearby Teton range, contrary to scientific expectations, is sinking. Geologists keep saying that a super-eruption---which could be a global catastrophe, and would likely cripple civilization in North America---is unlikely any time soon. Since no human has ever been present for one that we know of, this all seems like guessing to me.

Prison's deadliest inmate, hepatitis C, escaping - Infectious Diseases - MSNBC.com[AP]
First of all, this story is from the Associated Press. If we assume, however, that the account is even superficially based on legitimate facts in evidence, this situation is shocking beyond belief.
“by some estimates, around 40 percent of the 2.2 million in jail and prison are infected [with hepatitis C], compared with just 2 percent of the general population.”
Even beyond the unfashionably moral implications of people refused testing and treatment for a life-threatening condition because it costs too much and is politically unpopular, the consequences of this failure are potentially staggering. As inmates are released from this ideal breeding ground into the general population, there is a real ongoing possibility of a deadly epidemic of this often incurable disease.

FOXNews.com [AP]- Computer Tech Accidentally Erases Info on Alaska's $38 Billion Oil Fund
“While reformatting the disk drive during a routine maintenance check, the technician mistakenly reformatted the backup drive as well and, suddenly, all the data disappeared. A third line of defense — backup tapes that are updated nightly — were unreadable.”
Yes, anybody who has spent any time with a computer has had these little lapses, but this one is probably a record-breaker. The Alaska Department of Revenue had to go back to 300 cardboard boxes containing 800,000 original documents to clean this one up. Admittedly, it does little good to ask why so much critical information was entrusted to two hard drives and some obviously defective tapes (all of which could have been readily housed in one rusty old PC), or a technician who evidently didn’t know what he was doing. The lesson has supposedly been learned, and “a proven and regularly tested backup and restore procedure” is in place, along with a price tag of about $200,000 in expenses.

The top 10 funniest tech videos on YouTube
And speaking of hilarious situations caused by computers and their technicians, here is a collection of spoofs on computer tech support from those wacky guys at ComputerWorld.com. The first three are especially poignant, or whatever. The skit from Conan O’Brien---“Andy Blitz...Visit to Indian Call Center” was almost more than I could stand unsedated....

The Museum of Lost Interaction... Exhibits
A multiplayer game based on a network of telephone booths in 1900, a multitrack music recorder (using four wax cylinders) in 1918, a music download service from 1920, a mobile wireless communicator (using Morse code) from 1932, and other technical breakthroughs that were far ahead of their times. This museum has reconstructed these astonishing communications devices in a series of exhibits, available online.

My Way News - Mormon Church Objects to Angel T-Shirt
Okay, let me get this straight---Joseph Smith worked out this whole Mormon religion thing after talking to a being named “Moroni”?! Shouldn’t this have been a clue or something?


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Friday, March 23, 2007

---Iranians Seize UK Sailors, Menu Contained Rat Poison, KSM Sings, and Other Stories 

FOXNews.com[AP]- Iranian Vessels Seize 15 British Navy Personnel in Iraqi Waters
Oh, well, nobody seems to be overly concerned about this, like it was a Gulf-of-Tonkin-class historical “tipping point” or anything, It apparently isn't the first time the British have incurred Iranian displeasure.

My Way News [AP]- Rat Poison Found in Tainted Pet Food
The cause of the Menu Foods pet food scare seems to have been found. Samples of the dog and cat foods involved were found to be contaminated with aminopterin, used in some places as a cancer treatment, and in others as a rat poison.
There's probably a metaphor about life in this story somewhere, but I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader, if any.

FOXNews.com [AP]- Pentagon Transcripts Show Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Confesses to Sept. 11 Attacks
"The language of the war is victims..."
At a closed-door military tribunal Mohammed has confessed---or proclaimed---his principal role in planning the attacks on New York City, the murder of Daniel Pearl, Bali, the USS Cole, and dozens of other actual or planned acts of terror and assassination.
KSM went on to compare Bin Laden to George Washington. Of course, Washington isn't the comparison they will ultimately have to answer for.
There is considerable controversy about the military proceedings, since all reporters and independent observers have been barred. The proceedings are to decide whether KSM and others are “enemy combatants” who can be held indefinitely and tried solely by the U.S. military.
It might be more instructive for future understanding of these horrific events if there was some sort of independent observation and assessment of the hearings. Of course, we instead would probably get the AP in any case....

FL Today: sts117etrepairs-705904.jpg (JPEG Image, 1600x1064 pixels)
Here’s a nice shot of the repairs proceeding on the hail-pocked foam insualtion of the External Tank attached to Atlantis. The guys in the clutter of mismatched, Home Depot™-class flourescent lights and scaffolding look like they’re setting up to paint a barn.
The big, orange, thing in the middle, by the way, is the infamous External Tank....

FOXNews.com [AP]- Pentagon: Children Used in Iraqi Homicide Bombing
Religion and politics have driven the insurgency in Iraq to an all-new level of senseless brutality. Not only did the hellspawn put children in the back seats of bomb-equipped cars to get security forces to lower their guards, but left the children in the cars as they detonated them from a safe distance.


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Friday, March 09, 2007

---Nowak Out, Firemen Against Guliani, WikiTrouble, Swiss Invasion of Liechtenstien, and Other Stories 

FLToday Space: "NASA dismisses troubled Nowak"
Actually, NASA sort of “gave up” its right to borrow her from the Navy, and deferred opinion about her guilt or innocence in the civilian charges against her, effectively making the whole mess SEP*.
According to the article, Nowak is the first member of the astronaut corps ever dismissed ---indirectly or otherwise.
*Somebody Else's Problem [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]
FOXNews.com - Firefighters Union Blasts Giuliani on Post-Sept. 11 Cleanup
I’m not really a Guiliani fan, but this is something of a surprise. After everything that happened in the wake of the horrific tragedy in New York, it doesn’t seem to have been widely publicized that the firefighters harbored lingering animosities against him.

FOXNews.com [NYT] - Wikipedia Editor Out After False Credentials Revealed
It has always been clear that the Wikipedia was a source of first convenience, not really a stand-alone quotable source for most things. Of course, as I have stated many times in this weblog, I’m almost always far too undermotivated to follow up with less convenient and/or more credible sources.
It now becomes apparent that the credibility issues with Wikipedia are more widespread than expected, however, as one of the most prominent contributors reveals that his degrees and other credentials have been exaggerated. In fact, he is a kid (well, 24-year-old, which should be barely old enough to drive) with no degrees or credentials of any consequence. Pretty clever, in some respects, though....

Still unclear if virulent bacteria was cause in 100 hospital deaths - Haaretz - Israel News
Hospitals in Israel have reported an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, which has infected around 200 patients, and may have contributed to the deaths of about 100.
"It is resistant to all forms and kinds of antibiotics known to us at this stage. We are trying to deal with this."
Officials assure that the infections are strictly opportunistic, and would not be a problem for healthy
individuals with normal immune systems.
So far, so good....

My Way News[AP] - Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein
The incident was apparently more embarrassing than aggressive, as a Swiss infantry company blundered into the wrong country last week. Liechtenstein, which lacks armed forces, was nevertheless unimpressed by the incursion.

Computer sleuths try to crack Pioneer anomaly - space - 02 March 2007 - New Scientist Space
Both Pioneer 10 and 11, launched 30-odd years ago, were way off their predicted courses the last time anybody heard from them. Was it an asymmetric heat dissipation or other oddity in the design of the spacecraft, or is our scienterrific understanding of the fundamental principles of gravity lacking?
Some intrepid volunteers are sifting through thousands of pages of telemetry from the historic exploration spacecraft to see what happened.

William J. Clinton Foundation
...if you can say that the people you sought to serve are better off when you stopped than when you started, it will all have been worth it and more. “ ---Clinton at some School Graduation, Dec. 13, 2006
He gets it!!! He finally gets it!!!
Oh, who are we kidding? Bill Clinton is the real-life equivalent of Baltar in the TV series “Battlestar Galactica”---so pervasively pathological that he actually has irrevocably convinced himself that he did the right thing.
Unless he means something metaphorically similar to “...when they stopped repeatedly smashing themselves in the forehead with that cast iron skillet, they were better off than when they started....”

SPACE.com -- New View of Ancient Mars Water System
New views of information from the ongoing remote exploration efforts is gradually refining the initial
hypotheses about water in the Meridiani region of Mars. Rather than the shallow, persistent ocean visualized in early reviews of the MER data, this model proposes that the evaporation-related deposits resulted from periodic, transient backup of groundwater from the newly discovered system of underground channels onto the surface.
There’s still hope for Martian ocean fans, but these guys conclude that Meridiani Planum wasn’t it---because it isn’t a closed area where water could have accumulated.

Imago Dei
Another Christian web site on WP.


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Saturday, March 03, 2007

---Cameron "Mockumentary", Dow, U.S. Veteran Scandal, Atlantis Damaged, and Other Stories 

Here we go again....
FOXNews.com[AP] - Scholars, Clergymen Criticize New Documentary on Alleged Tomb of Jesus Christ
“Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.”

The “documentary”, of course, could not have been more factually ludicrous if it had been made by the Comedy Channel. No legitimate scholarly or religious source lends the material the faintest credibility. The Discovery Channel presentation is receiving a public venue solely because it contains a prominent celebrity insulting Christian beliefs.

FOXNews.com [AP]- Wall Street Slammed After China Stock Woes
My Way News[AP] - Swiftness of Dow Drop Due to Computers
The U.S. stock market sufferred a severe “correction” Tuesday, as flutters in the Chinese economy and whatever else causes such events caused investors to get all jittery. Use of computerized trading caused the average to drop 200 almost instantaneously in mid-afternoon, due to a lag in the system caused by the huge volume of sell orders being processed. The markets went on to have the worst week in about four years.

My Way News [AP]- Cheney OK After Afghan Blast; 23 Killed
It was a very busy news week. It included an supposed Taliban attempt to assassinate U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (although it is unlikely that the attackers could have known he was there) during his visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with a suicide bomb. 23 people were killed, including two Americans.

My Way News[AP] - Ramadi Bombing Kills 18, Mostly Children
Islamic radicals proved the value of their faith this week, by murdering 18 10–to-15-year-old boys who were playing soccer in a park in Ramadi.

My Way News[AP] - Army Secretary Resigns in Scandal's Wake
U.S. Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned Friday, following removal of the commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The scandal involves “shoddy facilities”, “squalid living conditions”, and substandard care for Army veterans at Walter Reed.
Mistreatment of military veterans, of course, is a tradition of Western civilization going back at least to Roman times.

FLToday Space: Freak hail storm forces rollback, launch delay Spaceflight Now | STS-117 Shuttle Report | Hail storm damage grounds Atlantis
NASA left its Space Shuttle out in a sudden hail storm on Monday. The upper portion of the infamous External Tank and parts of Atlantis’ wing were pocked with as many as 7000 dings and pits of various sizes. NASA first considered whether the damage---probably the worst suffered by a Shuttle at the launch pad---could be repaired in place. Engineers will now roll the craft back to the VAB and attempt repairs to the damage, including sanding out the dings or pouring in additional foam insulation.
Few motivations besides ISS completion schedule pressure could possibly explain the flutter-brained attempt to patch up the damage rather than to wait for a replacement tank. If the current tank can be patched, they are hoping to launch in April. Otherwise, they would have to wait until June to get Atlantis off the pad.

The Flame Trench: " Report: station robust, but risks remain"
An interesting report, including a list of the most probable ways the ISS and its crew could be destroyed.

Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | Pluto probe's amazing view of the volcanic moon Io
On approach to a close encounter with Jupiter, the New Horizons probe returned a picture of the tidally-tortured moon Io, with a huge volcanic plume visible above the surface.

Higgs boson: Glimpses of the God particle - fundamentals - 02 March 2007 - New Scientist
In case you were wondering what physicists think about all day. Couldn’t get through it all---at least not without a nap. Something about finding the particles that mediate the mass of matter, and needing a yet-more-complex model of how the Universe works.

Crabfu SteamWorks
Includes photos and videos of a variety of small steam-powered crawlers, walkers, tanks, and others, some radio-controlled.


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