Monday, February 26, 2007

Poetic Fisking

...of Fisk's latest anti-British propaganda at Tim Blair's site:
Comment #23--

Half a truth, half a truth,
Half a truth onward,
There in the valley of Death
Strode the Fisk blunderer.
‘Forward, the Lightweight Brigade!
Type for Talibs’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Strode the Fisk blunderer.

Followed immediately by #24:

"If you’re wounded and left on Afghanistans plains
And the women come out to cut up your remains
First shoot Robert Fisk, and then blow out your brains
And go to your God like a soldier”.

As a fan of both Tennyson and Kipling, I've got to enjoy these!

3 Moslem countries to allow Israeli overflights to Iran

Ha'aretz is reporting that Qatar, Oman, and the U.A.E. would not object to Israeli flights over their territory to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities. You know it's a serious issue if Moslem countries are allowing the Israelis to go through their airspace!

Hmmm...of course, the countries which would actually be useful would be Jordan and Iraq...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Buzz Aldrin talks about property rights in space

Here's an interesting post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Buzz Aldrin (from Apollo 11) is discussing the application of private property rights on the Moon. The discussion goes beyond superficial speculation and into how this would promote development of space commerce.

The most likely scenario for private property in my mind has the US establishing the lunar base and then turning over to a private company to run.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What there would be in the year 3,000

This is a person wondering what there would be in the year 3000.

Maybe they would live underwater, they just came out with a waterproof cellphone.

and maybe plants would grow super fast and snow would be able to be dry and room temperature.

[This is the little one, guest-blogging today. She just heard this song on the Disney Channel. --ed]

What would you do with a crazy astronaut in space?

If an astronaut on a long-duration space flight goes nuts and tries to kill everybody else, how would you deal with him? Never fear, NASA's on the case and is already thinking of a solution. Like so many other aspects of life, this one can be solved with duct tape:

It turns out NASA has a detailed set of written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say the astronaut's crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary.

I love the fact that this is part of official NASA policy. My field of work actually includes plans for tying somebody up with duct tape! (Well, I'm an astronomer, but hey, it's all space-related.)

Ooh, wait--it gets better!

"Talk with the patient while you are restraining him," the instructions say. "Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe."
The instructions do not spell out what happens after that.

What a line to put after that quote.

"'NASA has determined that there is no need for weapons at the space station,' Hartsfield said."


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Washington's Birthday

Happy Washington's Birthday!

None of this "observed" changing-of-the-date-to-Monday nonsense. None of this fallacious "Presidents' Day" silliness. And no, around here, we do not celebrate the birthday of the man who invaded our state.

So today, remember our first president, the Father of our Country, and the Man Who Would Not Be King.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The FAA revokes its collectivist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment

(Via Instapundit) Interesting, and yet, weird. The FAA had issued a regulation against astronauts carrying weapons on board spacecraft. To back this up, they claimed that the Second Amendment is only a vague, collective right. (What--you've got the right to join the National Guard?! Or, the state has the right to bear arms?)

They've now changed the wording of the regulation to remove the collective interpretation of the Amendment. They've kept the regulation, but they're justifying it differently. Well, it's a start, anyway.

The existence of the regulation itself is weird, though. They're apparently worried about the hijacking of commercial, suborbital spacecraft. Maybe they're getting ready for regular commercial manned spaceflight (I hate that "human spaceflight" phrase--"manned" is a better and more natural term, free of the PC clunkiness). At the moment, I think this kind of security issue ought to be up to the company. They're not taking people from off the street, you know.

The Lincoln Memorial and the National Park Service

Groan. Groan on both sides, honestly.

The National Park Service's website is politicising the Lincoln Memorial? Kind of inevitable, isn't it? Well, the particular way in which they're doing it is truly a problem. They're applying some kind of postmodernism to the building itself:

One of the interesting things about monuments and memorials is that they often say more about the generation that built them as they do about the person or period they were originally intended to commemorate.


Perhaps it should come as little surprise that the predominately white, classically minded and university educated, upper-middle class generation of architects and engineers that built the Lincoln Memorial would stress the theme of National Unity over that of Social Justice.

Ugh. So the Yankees get damned right along with us Southerners. Not that I really mind the hoisting on one's own petard aspect of this, but it doesn't advance Southern interests to have this nonsense propagated by the Federal government.

But then, Schaefer's National Review Online article has to make snide comments about Jefferson Davis in the process, so I'm not predisposed to take sides in this thing. Let the conservative Yankees fight the liberal Yankees. If they can't be courteous to us Southerners, I'm not getting involved.

Proof of Intelligent Design?

The existence of the Hebrew language.

I didn't take Greek, although I read just a little of the Greek textbook on my own, and it seemed a lot more complicated than Latin. Hebrew's vocabulary was a lot of work for me to memorize, but I did fairly well with it, and some of its quirks have still stayed with me, so maybe I did "get it."

I've read that among seminarians, who'd be expected to learn both Hebrew and Greek, you find that you're either a Greek person or a Hebrew person. Not an Old Testament/New Testament split, but the feel of the language. Greek has remarkably complicated verb structures, with all kinds of nuanced meanings and moods. It's a philosopher's language. Hebrew expresses things more directly, and instead of creating new compound words, it uses metaphors.

I don't know that I'm necessarily that way, myself, but I think I did get the feel of Hebrew.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Continuing the trend on "Lost"

Last week's episode of "Lost" was weird and interesting for a number of reasons. Without giving away spoilers yet, let me say first that we now have the Scotsman's full name: Desmond David Hume.

David Hume. John Locke. Rousseau. Edmund Burke.

Heh, heh, heh! I love it--they've been including the leading political philosophers of the Enlightenment in the cast of the show. I picked up on this early, when a leading character was named John Locke (perhaps my favorite Enlightenment philosopher, outside of Thomas Jefferson), and he was clearly the one advocating the individuals to achieve their best, use the situation to make a fresh start and create civilization out of the state of nature they found themselves in. Then there was the wildwoman in the jungle, Rousseau, who was clearly state-of-nature-girl incarnate. The near-opposite of Locke.

The guys over at The Corner picked up on an Edmund Burke character introduced two episodes back. I missed the name when I watched it, but apparently he was an unsavory character. Shame--the real Burke seems to have been a good and humane guy. And he's considered by many to be the father of English and American-style conservatism. Doesn't seem like "Lost" made any allusions to Burke beyond the name.

Now, on to Hume, which is just tickling me pink:


OK, now you've been warned. The last episode centers on Hume, our Scotsman friend who sacrificed himself in the hatch to save Locke and the others, at the end of the last season. He's since woken up, stark naked, in the jungle, apparently blown out by the explosion that destroyed the hatch but presumably saved the world from the poorly-understood electromagnetic quirkiness going on there.

Ever since he's been back among the living, he's gotten these glimpses of the immediate future. Enough to save people from drowning or set up a lightning rod before the bolt hits. We find out why in this episode. It turns out that when he blew the hatch, he woke up back in civilization, a few years(?) earlier, in his old life. He gets to relive it, but he's occasionally conscious that it's all happened before. He's got vague memories of things that happened, just before they do (again). So he tries to change some of them, without avail.

All of his attempts to change his life, to improve things for himself and others, or for that matter to apparently see the future--all of these come from the fact that he's lived the exact same things before.

Now, here they've done a clever little twist on the actual David Hume's philosophy: Hume was the founder of skepticism as a philosophy. Not "I'm a skeptic--I don't believe in anything," but the idea that "all knowledge is based on experience." He didn't believe that there were natural laws out there to be discovered. You could drop musket balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa all day, measuring their fall times, and finding remarkable consitency. You might think that if you do it exactly the same way again, it will fall at the same rate again (to within measurement errors). Why do you think so? Because you see the trend you've established. There appears to be a law of nature that you're uncovering, and you can...deduce (? I always get deduction and induction mixed up) from it to predict what will happen in other situations.

But Hume thought that you could not make that claim. You can't predict for certain what will happen. Why? Because you don't know anything beyond what you've already experienced. Just because the musket ball fell a certain way a thousand times, you can't say it will do it again the 1,001st time. Maybe it will fall sideways!

So what's the connection with our "Lost" Scotsman? This Hume's knowledge is also based on experience, with the twist that he knows the immediate future because he's reliving it.

Very spooky and interesting.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rome and Canterbury to unite?

Riiiiiight... And the Anglican laymen are going to wake up one morning and be told by their bishops that they're all "Anglican-Rite" Catholics now? And that they must all believe the Roman Catholic catechism? It doesn't work that way in Protestant churches.

Consider the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Now compare with the Roman Catholic catechism. See any conflicts between these two?

Predictably, the newspaper thinks the marriage of priests is the big deal to get over. That's trivial. Compare the Anglican

Articles VI (Of the sufficiency of the scriptures for salvation),

XI (Of the justification of man),

XIV (Of works of supererogation),

XIX (Of the church),

XXII (Of purgatory),

XXV (Of the sacraments),

XXVIII (Of the Lord's supper),

XXX (Of both kinds),

XXXI (Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the cross), and

XXXII (Of the marriage of priests).

I wouldn't say such a unity is something to be desired, either. Better to work together as Christians, without trying to force a combined hierarchy on the laymen, and compromise on our beliefs.

Archbishop Cranmer has reluctantly been prodded into commenting on this. He agrees that it's better to tolerate each other as separate denominations: Let us just agree to differ, and let our mutually manifest tolerance be light in an increasingly intolerant world.


Quasar picture of the day

Thursday, February 15, 2007

B-1 over Baghdad

Pajamas Media is reporting (with a photo!) the appearance of a B-1 bomber patrolling Baghdad's skies in daylight. This has apparently not happened since 2003, so it's something new.

I hope this is part of The Surge, which would mean it's already started, regardless of what the Congress wants. Sadr and his minions have apparently fled to Iran to avoid getting JDAMed. The Surge is having good effects, even before the troops arrive. We've got a great opportunity, here. We need to press our advantage while the enemy is scared.

If the Democrats and weak-willed Republicans kill this, I'll be very upset. If we have a chance for victory and they steal it from us... [grumble]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Edwards' "Anti-Catholic" Bloggers

I've read a good bit about John Edwards' blogger fiasco. (Check this entry and several others at Confederate Yankee.) But I'm a little confused by the near-universal description of these two as "anti-Catholic." For Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, that makes some sense. But I haven't seen much evidence of it for Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister.

The Catholic League's press release only attributes to McEwan one offhand reference to the Pope. But there, she was simply listing the Pope as one among prominent Christian leaders:

‘some of Christianity’s most prominent leaders—including the Pope—regularly speak out against gay tolerance.’

So I think "anti-Catholic" isn't a proper term for her. "Anti-Christian" or "anti-religious" would be better.

Really, this would be a better term for Marcotte, too. She does cast particular aspersions on Roman Catholics, but she has rather disgusting things to say about all of us Christians.

Our new look

I've made the switch to New (Google-) Blogger today, so I'll be interested to hear of any problems you have in seeing the page. So far, it seems to be working OK. Soon, I'm going to see about putting our own image in the header. Something appropriately space related, I expect.

I will say, as uneasy as a Google takeover makes me, they have added some snazzy new options for us bloggers. And we have some interoperability with a few of the Google tools. I haven't tried those out, yet, but I'll experiment.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mookie Flees to Iran!

(via Glenn Reynolds) Wow--I didn't see that coming. I'm happy, though. Think it has anything to do with The Surge? Hmmm...

"He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house." Yes, well, that does have a way of concentrating the mind.

I do wish that we'd managed to simply arrest the guy a long time ago, though. The whole trouble with this trouble-maker started when we tried to arrest him as an accessory to murder, I think. Then he started rousing a rabble against us to try to distract us from getting him.

Captain Ed comments, "Well, so much for the whole 72 virgins thing and the radical Islamist desire to die in martyrdom." I noticed that with respect to, say, Yassir Arafat, too. These guys play up the glory of self-martyrdom, but why don't they want to share in that glory, themselves? [Yes, this is a rhetorical question. Give me some credit.--ed]

So The Surge hasn't even been done yet, but it's had its first success. Reminds me of my dad's comments on Reagan's SDI plans. It wasn't ever implemented, and yet it succeeded in fatally crippling the whole Soviet Union.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Polish town proposes statue of Reagan to replace Soviet monument

Katowice, in southwestern Poland, has a monument in their "Freedom Square" to the Soviets, for driving out the Nazis in 1945. But now the town has been presented a proposal to replace the Soviet monument with a statue of President Reagan, the defeater of Communism. The proponents would also rename the square "Ronald Reagan Freedom Square."

It's not clear this will go forward. The spokesman for city hall, Waldemar Bojarun, says the town council will consider the proposal, but that it would cost $168,000, and the city has other needs, as well. Nevertheless, Bojarun said that he has "enormous respect" for Reagan.

Well, I'd love to see it happen. I wish the proponents well. It'd be nice to see similar respect paid in the United States...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Miss a meeting with your kid's teacher...and become a criminal

That's the proposal by a Republican legislator in Texas. (Link via The Corner)

Even though this doesn't have much chance of passing, it offends me and my whole idea of the role of government. Put yourself back in the days of our Founding Fathers. Think of the concept of government that they held. Read the documents like the Declaration of Independence that explain why government exists.

[...] they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men [...]

Yes, we're occasionally going to need a few others, but when considering a new law, our government needs to step back from the problem at hand for a moment and consider the law in the light of the purpose of government itself. Go back to the basics each time, and ask yourself, "Is this what we're supposed to be doing?" It's when they get the idea, "We can pass any law we feel like" that this becomes a problem.

Jonah Goldberg on that Biden quote

Here's his take on Biden's line that Obama is "articulate." I pretty much agree with how he puts it.

By the way, I've gotten to hear Alan Keyes speak, back when he was running for the Republican nomination in '96 (actually, just after he dropped out). My dad had heard of him and said how impressive a speaker he was, and Dad was right. I thought his speech was fairly good, though not amazing, but when he got to the Q &! The man can reason his way clearly though anything you throw at him. He's terrific at that. And so I'll second Goldberg's description of him as "articulate."

New York ban on crossing street while...

...talking on the phone, listening to your iPod, typing on your Blackberry, etc. (Link via Drudge) Yes, it's dangerous to walk out in front of traffic while not paying attention. And like riding in a car without using your seatbelt, I wouldn't ever consider doing any of this. But it's not the state's job to protect us from our own risky behavior. We're free men, not wards of the state, and legislators need to realize this fact.

That astronaut thing

I'm going to avoid much commenting on that astronaut who was apparently trying to kidnap the other lady over a love triangle with another astronaut. But it does make me think of the debates people have already had over long-term space flights (like to Mars) and crew behavior. Do you fly married couples? Single-sex crews? Yikes--imagine this bunch had gone up together!

I'll leave the final comments to Instapundit.

P.S: Laura Ingraham is groaning about all of the news coverage this has been getting. I haven't been watching the evening or cable news this week, so I don't know. But are they doing the round-the-clock deal with this? Geez.

Chavez gets to rule by decree

So now it's official: the Venezuelan legislature has passed a law allowing Hugo Chavez to rule by decree for the next 18 months. The legislature is filled only with Chavez supporters, as the opposition has boycotted the elections because of fraud allegations. So now that he can rule by the stroke of the pen, can we finally call him "dictator"? How is this any different from the powers of a dictator? Let's see if the word makes its way into the press.

"Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool."

Mrs. Clinton vs. Hugo Chavez

I was listening to Rush the other day, as he talked about Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, threatening to "nationalize" various industries. And then Mrs. Clinton, who said she wanted to take the profits of the oil companies and put them into alternative energy development. Rush laughingly refused to say they had the same attitude, because Mrs. Clinton just wanted to take the profits, while Chavez wanted the whole company.

I'd say, Mrs. Clinton wants the golden egg, while Chavez wants the goose! (Of course, both the goose and her eggs belong to somebody else...)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hubble's Main Camera Down (Again); Astronomers Get Object Lesson in Irony

Here's the official statement. This is the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which also went down a little while back, but that was just temporary. This time, we're hearing it might be a lot more serious. Well, the previous problem was with the camera's electronics, and they just switched over to its back-up electronics. Now that we're on the back-ups, there aren't any more electronics to switch to, to solve this problem.

The irony is that it happened the day after our observing proposals were due for the year. Guess which camera my group wanted to use?

It's not a total loss, though. The Space Telescope Science Institute (which operates the Hubble) is extending our proposal deadline and letting us rework them. And the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), which used to be the primary camera, is still up and running. Everybody's going to be clamoring to get time on it, of course, but at least the science can get done.

Of course, we've got a servicing mission scheduled for around May 2008. Two new instruments are flying (Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Wide Field Camera 3), and they'll do gyroscope repairs, among other things. But I'm hearing pessimistic opinions as to whether we'd be able to fix the Advanced Camera then.