Friday, May 29, 2009

Homosexual marriage vs. the kinship system

This is a thought-provoking article by Sam Schulman on how homosexual marriage would clash with the kinship system. This is not exactly where I come down on the issue; my objection is primarily moral and only secondarily social, while his is mostly social. And I am not entirely sure about the primacy of the kinship system, which he seems to place as the root justification for marriage. Nevertheless, my disagreements are essentially matters of degree, rather than of kind.

Schulman is a master writer and knows how to write a sophisticated and meaningful sentence, without being obscure. This whole article is a joy to read, and on substance, he raises issues I hadn't thought about. It could easily be an article for First Things. I'm going to keep an eye out for his essays in the future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did Obama's team make Chrysler shut dealerships of GOP donors?

Lots of blogging being done about this. The dealers who've been closed are overwhelmingly GOP donors.

But one basic statistic that must be found is the percentage of GOP donors among the dealers remaining open. For instance, what if Chrysler car dealers in general tend to be GOP donors? Then having a high percentage of Republicans among those that are closed would be what we'd expect, all other things being equal.

If, on the other hand, the dealers that remain open show a significantly lower percentage of GOP donors, then we ought to start being suspicious. Even at that point, there might be non-political reasons for the discrepancy. Perhaps there's a correlation between dealers that perform poorly and dealers that donate to the GOP. The neighborhoods could have a different economy that affects both, for instance. Though if that were the case, then it would make a nice retort to the "rich Republican" stereotype.

Anyway, thus far, I haven't seen anyone do a look at the control sample, and we ought to withhold judgement until then.

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Koreans apparently conduct nuclear test

To quote Gomer Pyle, Surprise, surprise, surprise! Actually, the surprise for me is that Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.

Damn Yankees

Trying to break the tradition of Presidents sending wreathes to the Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. It's a tradition I was unaware of, although as a member of the D.C. camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I have taken part in several activities there. I just don't remember a wreath from the President. Southern Senators, Congressmen, etc., yes.

Interesting that they say President Bush changed the tradition from sending the wreath on Jefferson Davis' birthday to (Yankee) Memorial Day. Yankee Memorial Day is different from Confederate Memorial Day. Offhand, I don't recall the exact dates, but I think Confederate Memorial Day as we celebrated it there was on Davis' birthday. We don't have any services on Yankee Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

British Parliament scandal: a sentence I wouldn't see in the American version

The British Parliament is going through an expense-account scandal this week. Members of Parliament have been claiming all kinds of things as reimbursable expenses (especially house-related items) , and the public is getting absolutely outraged. Some MP's are claiming that these are within the rules, but if so, the rules themselves are a scandal. Sounds like the House banking scandal back about '92 that helped usher in the Republican majority.

But here's one sentence that I wouldn't expect to find in an American version: "Mr Hogg was forced to stand down by David Cameron, the party leader, after it emerged that he had 'claimed' for the cost of having his moat cleaned because it was listed on the bills for his estate."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I wish...

that Turner Classic Movies wouldn't ruin the channel with this disgusting pandering to ethnic grievances. They're running grossly heavy-handed interviews with hispanic actors about hispanics in film. It's non-stop whining and complaining about the roles hispanics get or got in movies. Please, please, PLEASE stop! Come on--you've got a respectable reputation, but you're ruining your image. Plus, it's just cringe-inducing to watch. Yeugh.

...and they're away!

Congratulations and deep thanks to the STS-125 crew for such a great mission.

Atlantis is "go" for release!

Hubble release in 15 minutes

The astronauts are preparing to release the Hubble Space Telescope in just 15 minutes! As I see the screens now, they've got it detached from the docking ring and are holding it with the Canada Arm.

All has gone well in this final servicing mission, and we can only pray our telescope holds up for several more years.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good line from the space walk

"I'm ready for a hot shower and a good meal."

--John Grunsfeld, on finishing up his EVA for today.

(The other astronaut laughed and replied, "We'll...uh...see what we can do.") Actually, they do have halfway decent facilities on board, and the food's improved a lot since the '60s. No more freeze-dried meals.

Hubble Servicing Mission 4

I'm watching John Grunsfeld (whom I've met a few times) do some repair work on the Hubble right now. It's funny how an ordinary thing like operating an electric screwdriver can become so exciting when you see it done in space.

I was sad to have the camera I used for my grad school work (WFPC2) finally be removed after 15 years of service. I feel like holding a memorial service for it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Egypt's pig cull

Unsurprisingly, it's exacerbating religious tensions. The oppressed minority Coptic Christians are the only ones raising pigs, of course. So even if Egypt's Moslems weren't intending to take an anti-Christian measure, it has been felt that way. Of course, there's no reason to cull pigs anywhere because of the swine flu--it's already made the jump to people, and the person-to-person transmission is what is causing the problem now.

I'm not sure about the reporter's description of relations between Christians and Moslems in Egypt as "usually harmonious." Actually, that may be true, but there's a lot of tension there, and it doesn't take too much to make strife bubble up.


Solid Rocket Boosters have separated successfully


T-2 minutes

Watching the last shuttle mission to the Hubble

T-7 minutes and counting! I can't wait to see the new instruments (COS and WFC3) installed. My old camera, WFPC2, is being retired, though...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fiscal discipline? Riiiight.

So spendthrift California, having gotten themselves into a nice mess with their budget, actually decides to do something that might help, namely cut some salaries. And the Obama administration tells the state to raise those salaries back or lose its "stimulus" package. Would you be surprised to find out that the employees (home healthcare workers) were in a union? Would you be shocked to learn they were in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)? Would you be aghast to be reminded that SEIU was a really, really influential group with Obama's campaign?

Nah, didn't think so.

P.S: The blatant loss of any pretense of principle is really what gets me, though. Telling a nearly-bankrupt state to spend more, or else?