Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Was 2008 the year that Global Warming was finally debunked as Unscientific Nonsense?
Ask one of those polar bears that have failed to drown like they should have.
Or better still, read this article by Christopher Booker from the Telegraph:
2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved
[...] Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.
First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.
Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.
Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to "natural factors" such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted (although they plaintively assure us that this cooling effect is merely "masking the underlying warming trend", and that the temperature rise will resume worse than ever by the middle of the next decade).
Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.
Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. As we saw in this month's Poznan conference, when 10,000 politicians, officials and "environmentalists" gathered to plan next year's "son of Kyoto" treaty in Copenhagen, panicking politicians are waking up to the fact that the world can no longer afford all those quixotic schemes for "combating climate change" with which they were so happy to indulge themselves in more comfortable times.
Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for "emissions trading", "carbon capture", building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to "biofuels", are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess.
As 2009 dawns, it is time we in Britain faced up to the genuine crisis now fast approaching from the fact that – unless we get on very soon with building enough proper power stations to fill our looming "energy gap" - within a few years our lights will go out and what remains of our economy will judder to a halt. After years of infantile displacement activity, it is high time our politicians – along with those of the EU and President Obama's US – were brought back with a mighty jolt into contact with the real world. [...]
We can only hope. But fantasies don't always die easily. I expect that just like Holocaust deniers, the hard core of the Global Warming Chicken Littles will always be with us.
And of course, since global warming has failed to materialize, it's adherents now claim that, no matter what the weather does, it's all proof that their theory is true anyway:
"Global warming" is a pseudo-science like astrology
A theory that can't be disproved, because no matter what happens, it's true anyway? What's science got to do with it? Nothing that's demonstrably true.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Is this book "The Shack" theologically correct?
Is it supposed to be? Does it matter? I haven't read it, but it was recommended by someone in a Christmas card we received, so I looked it up on Amazon.com:
The Shack (Paperback)
Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.
Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.
In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!
It has over 2,000 customer reviews, giving it an average of four out of five stars. There are some sample pages to you can read from the forward to the book, and I read them up to the point where it stopped. It was interesting enough to hold my attention that long. Don't know if I would want to read the whole thing, as I'm not a fan of religious books generally.
When I looked it up on Amazon, the search also showed me this book:
THE SHACK: Unauthorized Theological Critique (Paperback)
In this booklet I hope to guide you through The Shack. We will look at the book with a charitable but critical eye, attempting to understand what it teaches and how it can be that opinions about the book vary so widely. We do this not simply to be critical, but as an exercise in discernment and critical thinking. We will simply look at what the author teaches and compare that to the Bible.
This book had 14 customer reviews, that averaged out to be two out of five stars. Judging from the comments the reviewers left, many didn't care for the author's criticism.
I don't consider myself religious, because I don't care about doctrines of theology or religious dogma. I consider myself a Christian culturally, but I don't identify myself as a Christian religiously, because to do so has specific meanings, implies things about beliefs that I don't hold.
In my youth I explored religion, and found it wanting. From Christianity I did learn some things of value, and they have stayed with me. The rest I discarded. As appealing as parts of it may be, I don't try to associate myself with the religious whole, because my beliefs would make me a heretic or a hypocrite. I also don't have a need to have everything explained for me; how can anyone explain away the ubiquitous ineffable? I'm content with The Mystery.
Where The Shack is coming from and where it is going, and whether or not I'll ever read it, I couldn't say. It does appear to want to tackle some tough questions, and perhaps from a spiritual perspective it could be interesting. But this book is being called "The Pilgim's Progress of our Times". I read Pilgrim's Progress, and hated it. It was interesting as anthropology/literature, but spiritually it seemed to embody much of what I don't like about religion, and stridently religious people.
I see faith as a personal matter. I'm not interested in religious arguments. I can't comment on a book I haven't read, so I won't. I'm just wondering if it's a book that would have appeal beyond a strictly religious audience? I've read that there are plans to make it into a movie, for general theatrical release. That implies it could have a wide appeal, unless they have to change it a lot for the movie.
The author of The Shack has a website at www.theshackbook.com. The book's index, "forward" and the first chapter are all available on-line there.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Majel Barrett Roddenberry, 76, dies of Leukemia
Majel B. Roddenberry, wife of 'Star Trek' creator, dies
Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the widow of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and an actress whose longtime association with the "Star Trek" franchise included playing Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series, died early Thursday morning. She was 76.
Roddenberry died at her home in Bel-Air after a battle with leukemia, said family spokesman Sean Rossall.
"She was a valiant lady," Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on "Star Trek," told The Times. "She worked hard, she was straightforward, she was dedicated to 'Star Trek' and Gene, and a lot of people thought very highly of her."
Roddenberry, whose pre-"Star Trek" acting career included guest appearances on series such as "The Untouchables" and "The Lucy Show," had no idea she was establishing a career path in science fiction when she took her first "Star Trek" role.
"Not at all," she said in a 2002 interview with the Tulsa World. "I certainly didn't have any idea that I'd be doing it this long, for so many different shows and films -- especially as a product of a series that was a flop. The original was only on for three years. It wasn't considered a success by anyone's standards."
The show took off as a pop-culture phenomenon after it went into syndication, however, and Roddenberry, who was married to Gene Roddenberry from 1969 until his death in 1991, attended her first "Star Trek" convention in 1972.
"You know, when the conventions started out, I'd attend four or five a month," she said in the 2002 interview. "But after a while, it got where there was no time for anything else. You'd just travel from city to city, making the same speech, answering the same questions."
Rossall said both Gene and Majel Roddenberry maintained warm relationships with "Star Trek" fans. And as late as August, he said, Majel Roddenberry attended a "Star Trek" convention in Las Vegas.
As she told the Buffalo City News in 1998, "It's been a hell of a ride." [...]
I didn't even know she was ill. I think she enjoyed her life, she had a lot of fans.
Star Trek Universe Loses Majel Barrett Roddenberry
[...] Majel Barrett Roddenberry reprised Nurse Chapel for brief appearances in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She played the recurring role of Counselor Deanna Troi's mother on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Gene Roddenberry died in 1991 at the age of 70.
After his passing, Majel Barrett Roddenberry helped bring alive one of his pet projects in the form of the 1997-2002 series Earth: Final Conflict but said she had nothing to do with running the at-times-flailing Trek ship.
"Gene sold out all of his rights to Star Trek way back 15, almost 20 years ago," she told SciFiDimensions.com in 2000. "So, they ask nothing. I volunteer nothing. They invite me to a few of their shindigs. I'll bet you I haven't been on that lot in two years."
Still, Roddenberry welcomed the recent digital remastering of the original series and Abrams' theatrical take, seeing them as validations of her husband's legacy.
"What's nice is you know a Star Trek movie is still one that everybody wants," she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2006.
In a statement today on Roddenberry.com, her son, Eugene Roddenberry Jr., said his mother appreciated the role fans played in keeping the Trek franchise running for 40-plus years.
"It was her love for the fans, and their love in return," he said, "that kept her going for so long after my father passed away."
You can read her biography at The internet movie data base.
"Reality Check" for USA is long overdue
Whether it's passing failing students through the education system and letting them graduate, uneducated and unemployable, or bailing out failing auto industries instead of letting them be replaced with non-failing ones, it's the same thing. Postponing reality only makes your reality check much harsher when it finally, unavoidably arrives.
Some of us were raised to believe that reality is inescapable. But that just shows how far behind the times we are. Today, reality is optional. At the very least, it can be postponed.
Kids in school are not learning? Not a problem. Just promote them on to the next grade anyway. Call it "compassion," so as not to hurt their "self-esteem."
Can't meet college admissions standards after they graduate from high school? Denounce those standards as just arbitrary barriers to favor the privileged, and demand that exceptions be made.
Can't do math or science after they are in college? Denounce those courses for their rigidity and insensitivity, and create softer courses that the students can pass to get their degrees.
Once they are out in the real world, people with diplomas and degrees-- but with no real education-- can hit a wall. But by then the day of reckoning has been postponed for 15 or more years. Of course, the reckoning itself can last the rest of their lives.
The current bailout extravaganza is applying the postponement of reality democratically-- to the rich as well as the poor, to the irresponsible as well as to the responsible, to the inefficient as well as to the efficient. It is a triumph of the non-judgmental philosophy that we have heard so much about in high-toned circles.
Detroit and Michigan have followed classic liberal policies of treating businesses as prey, rather than as assets. They have helped kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So have the unions. So have managements that have gone along to get along.
Toyota, Honda and other foreign automakers are not heading for Detroit, even though there are lots of experienced automobile workers there. They are avoiding the rust belts and the policies that have made those places rust belts. [...]
It's worth reading the whole thing. Thomas makes an interesting comparison with the horse and buggy industry, and the businesses supporting horses and horse-transportation, that were displaced by the automobile. There were no bail-outs or stimulus packages for them. Somehow, everyone adapted without a diaper-changing government spending tax dollars to keep dying industries going.
People have no respect for "easy" money that they don't earn. Government has no respect for our money, because they don't earn it. The government doesn't need to reform the auto industry (the free market is doing that), the Government itself needs to be reformed. From the WSJ:
Let's 'Restructure' Washington While We're at It
Congress is at least as unresponsive to consumer demand as Detroit.
Congress has been suitably tough in its advice to Detroit, calling for "a complete restructuring" of our failing auto makers. But how about restructuring Washington? The federal government is a giant Rube Goldberg machine that not only wastes hundreds of billions of dollars each year but also burdens local governments and the private sector with legal requirements that no longer serve the public good. Congress should take its own advice and retool Washington. Here's how:
- Streamline management. The federal government employs about 2.5 million civilians (including the Post Office), about 10 times the number directly employed in the U.S. by Detroit. The bloat is legendary. In his study on "thickening government," NYU Prof. Paul Light found that some government agencies have 32 layers of management, compared to five layers in most well-run companies.
Civil-service rules make hiring an ordeal and firing practically impossible. Rigid job classifications are far more onerous than UAW work rules, guaranteeing massive inefficiency. At many federal agencies, people shuffle back and forth, passing paper from one level to the next, doing nothing useful. Civil service needs to be overhauled.
- Make products that the public wants. Congress is in the business of making and revising laws. But it almost never goes back and reviews unintended consequences. Pick up any volume of the U.S. Code and ask yourself whether the detailed provisions of that law make sense today.
Take something relatively innocuous, like the requirement in the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to maintain the privacy of patient information. One effect is lots of forms -- over $1 billion worth annually. Compliance also stifles important activity: For example, research on heart-attack recovery at the University of Michigan slowed to a crawl when only one-third of the sample bothered to complete the necessary HIPAA paperwork.
- Enhance competitiveness. Washington's failures are far more significant to the economy than Detroit's. The federal government not only is over seven times larger than Detroit in annual expenditures but it also establishes the legal platform on which the entire U.S. economy operates. The legal infrastructure that Congress has provided is a huge, internally inconsistent mess, requiring businesses, hospitals and schools to negotiate a maze of legal detours. Day-to-day, teachers, doctors, business managers and government officials are unable to make sense of ordinary choices. Law has effectively removed the freedom needed to take responsibility. [...]
There's more suggestions, with examples, it's worth reading the whole thing. One thing they mentioned that I didn't excerpt was farm subsidies. They may well be worth reforming, but I'd be VERY careful about cutting or reforming funding to something as essential as our food supply. But the rest is an excellent comparison of our government to the failing automakers. They suffer from the same problems. Both are strangling from bureaucrats, unions and needless paperwork. In both cases, major reforms are needed.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Check out the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus
He has some interesting things to say:
Vaclav Fights the Dragon
[...] "To consider one of the organizational methods of Europe as sacrosanct, untouchable, that cannot be questioned or criticized, is contrary to the very nature of Europe."
"It is necessary to return to the Laeken declaration and to re-negotiate the Treaty of Lisbon. It is necessary to decentralize, to speak in such a way that powers are restored on the national level, closer to the citizens, in order to change supra-nationalism into inter-governmentalism."
The Laeken declaration is the text by which the Convention on the future of Europe was summoned, and which led to the Constitutional Treaty. It is indeed necessary to return to the point of departure, and then to move in another direction: that of respect for the peoples. [...]
Vaclav klaus is due to serve a 6 month term as President of the European Union when French President Sarkozy finishes his term. Looks like he intends to make some waves and rock the boat. Let's hope so.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
More British Nonsense for the Holidays
Does this guy look like a criminal to you?
He will be if he shakes that can. He'll be arrested for "Religious Harassment".
After 130 years of fundraising, Sally Army told to stop rattling collecting tins because it might 'offend other religions'
[...] One collector told the Daily Mail: 'I've been doing this for more than 40 years and I fail to see how rattling a tin could cause offence. If I was shaking a tambourine I could do it all day - if I shake my tin, I could end up in court.'
The 'Silent Night' rattle ban manifested itself at the weekend in Uxbridge, West London, when musicians from two local branches performed outside a shopping mall.
(They were outside because traders complained last year they were too loud to play inside).
Tony Keywood, shopping with his wife Sheila, was among a crowd enjoying the carols and stepped forward to make a donation.
'I jokingly told them off for not shaking their tins,' said Mr Keywood, 78, a retired telecoms executive. 'They said they weren't allowed to do that in case it caused offence to other religions. They said they'd been told rattling a tin was considered to be intimidating.
'I don't know who makes up these rules but I suspect it will have something to do with human rights. I do feel Britain has lost its way on things like this.' [...]
Sheesh! Religious harassment? Where is Major Barbara when you need her?
How about this, for genuine religious harassment:
Blind man's guide dog barred from restaurant for offending Muslims
[...] Mr Elder-Brown was taking his girlfriend out to celebrate her birthday with her five year-old daughter last week when he was told he would have to leave his dog, Finn, tied up outside.
He showed a card issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers certifying he and his dog were allowed into any premises but an argument ensued and the owners threatened to call the police if he did not leave.
"It was humiliating and degrading, especially as there were a lot of people around me," he said.
"I was made to feel like a piece of dirt. They told me I couldn't come in because it was against their religious beliefs to have a dog in the restaurant.
"They then said I could leave Finn tied up outside. I stayed calm but when they threatened to call police I left."
He added: "It was horrible. It put a dampener on the whole celebration."
Under the Disability Discrimination Act it is illegal to refuse to serve a disabled person of give them a diminished level of service because of their disability. [...]
People are emigrating out of Great Britain in record numbers. Gee, I wonder why?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Totally electric cars not viable any time soon
I'm all for "green" technology, but only when it actually works. At this point in time, the best "green" cars we can make won't be electric ones. Consider this:
Politically inconvenient truth about electric cars
[...] Mr Sarkozy’s own government commissioned months ago one of France’s leading energy experts – Jean Syrota, the former French energy industry regulator – to draw up a report to analyse all the options for building cleaner and more efficient mass-market cars by 2030. The 129-page report was completed in September to coincide with the Paris motor show. But the government has continued to sit on it and seems reluctant to ever publish it.
Yet all those who have managed to glimpse at the document agree that it makes interesting reading. It concludes that there is not much future in the much vaunted developed of all electric-powered cars. Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles. Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr. Even that is well above the average top speed restriction in Europe, with the notable exception of Germany. New so-called “stop and start” mechanisms can produce further 10 per cent reductions that can rise to 25-30 per cent in cities. Enhancements in car electronics as well as the development of more energy efficient tyres, such as Michelin’s new “energy saver” technology, are also expected to help reduce consumption and pollution.
Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent. It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.
By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways. This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars – the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures. The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle. Battery technology is still unsatisfactory, severely limiting performance both in terms of range and speed. The electricity supply for these batteries would continue to come from mostly fossil sources.
The misgivings over the future of the electric car may explain why the French government appears to have spiked the report. It probably considers it politically incorrect [...]
This pretty much fits in with many of the things I've read. Improving conventional gas combustion cars to be more efficient, and improving hybrid cars until batter technology improves. If we are going to think seriously about having "greener" cars, we have to be PRACTICAL, by supporting what works, not POLITICALLY CORRECT by insisting on promoting technologies into the mainstream that cannot perform yet.
That is one of the things I find worrisome about our own Congress and their Auto Industry Bailout plans. Congress seems hell bent on forcing the introduction of electric cars, before the technology is good enough. They can throw a lot of our tax money down the drain on political correctness, forcing the mass production of inefficient, overpriced electric cars that no one will buy. No one can waste money like government can.
The suggestions in the French report for improving gas combustion engines would do a lot to help reduce carbon emissions, but it's being repressed in favor of an untenable solution. You have to wonder if the real motive isn't to reduce carbon emissions, but to reduce personal freedom and capitalism by restricting transportation choices?
Environmentalism is increasingly being used as an excuse to promote other, hidden political agendas by the Left. We must be wary, and carefully separate authentic environmentalism from the political kind.
Congressional Motor's New Car of the Future
Ford Motor Company is profitable - in Brazil
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Farm House of my Dreams?
At least it is when the weather is cold and nasty. Behold, the House-Barn:
Uncle Howard's Barn-Homes, "Great Western" floor plan:
76' x 80' Custom Great Western Barn and Home Conversion
4 Bedrooms, 3 1/2 Baths, Office
Here is more details and photos about the "Great Western" model:
THE GREAT WESTERN STYLE
Barn Kits, Horse Barn Kits, Barn Home Kits
I told Pat and Andy about it at lunchtime, and how I thought it would be energy efficient, having everything under one roof. Pat said we would end up smelling like the livestock!
I was thinking, I could take care of the animals without having to go out in the rain. But the smell, that would be something to consider, especially in the summer.
If you look around their site, they have all sorts of designs for barns and buildings of many different sizes. Some are Barn-House combos, others are barn-like houses, or free standing barns, garages, or small multi-use buildings. Have a look around till you find something you like.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Largest Full Moon in 15 years
That was last night, when it was at it's peak:
Look up tonight for a spectacular treat in the sky
If the full moon tonight looks unusually large, it is not your imagination – it is the biggest and brightest full moon to be seen for 15 years.
Each month the Moon makes a full orbit around the Earth in a slightly oval-shaped path, and tonight it will swing by the Earth at its closest distance, or perigee. It will pass by 356,613km (221,595 miles) away, which is about 28,000km closer than average.
The unusual feature of tonight is that the perigee also coincides with a full moon, which will make it appear 14 per cent bigger and some 30 per cent brighter than most full moons this year – so long as the clouds hold off from blocking the view.
The next closest encounter with a full moon this large will not be until November 14, 2016. [...]
The photo above was taken from Fayetteville, N.C. on Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. The moon should still appear large and bright for the next few days, so have a look if you can.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Will Obama cancel NASA's Moon Mission?
Let's hope not. I've written before about NASA's Constellation Program, which aims to replace the space shuttle with Ares rockets and the Orion spacecraft, which can also be used to bring us to the moon again. Will the financial crisis affect this program? What will an Obama administration do?
The space program has always been a target for budget cutters. Many people view it as an extraneous waste of money. Many Democrats in particular, think the budget for the space program would be better spent on social programs.
It's quite natural that we should wonder what Obama's plans are for NASA and the Constellation Program in particular. It seems there has been a lot of tension between NASA's current administrator, and Obama's transition team:
NASA has become a transition problem for Obama
CAPE CANAVERAL – NASA administrator Mike Griffin is not cooperating with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, is obstructing its efforts to get information and has told its leader that she is “not qualified” to judge his rocket program, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.
In a heated 40-minute conversation last week with Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator who heads the space transition team, a red-faced Griffin demanded to speak directly to Obama, according to witnesses.
In addition, Griffin is scripting NASA employees and civilian contractors on what they can tell the transition team and has warned aerospace executives not to criticize the agency’s moon program, sources said.
Griffin’s resistance is part of a no-holds-barred effort to preserve the Constellation program, the delayed and over-budget moon rocket that is his signature project.
The tensions are due to the fact that NASA’s human space flight program is facing its biggest crossroads since the end of the Apollo era in the 1970s. The space shuttle is scheduled to be retired in 2010, and the next-generation Constellation rockets won’t fly before 2015.
Nearly four years ago, President Bush brought in Griffin to implement a plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 as a prelude to going to Mars. Griffin and his team selected Constellation, with its NASA-designed Ares I rocket and Orion capsule, as cheaper and safer than existing rockets. Constellation – especially Ares 1 -- is the center of what Griffin sees as his legacy to return humans to the frontiers of space.
Griffin has made no secret that he would like to stay on but only, as he recently told Kennedy Space Center workers, "under the right circumstances," including being able to finish Constellation.
But budget problems and technical issues have created growing doubts about the project. Griffin has dismissed these as normal rocket development issues, but they’ve clearly got the transition team’s attention.
When team members arrived three weeks ago, they asked the agency, among other things, to quantify how much could be saved by canceling Ares I. Though they also asked what it would take to accelerate the program, the fact that the team could even consider scrapping the program was enough to spur Griffin and his supporters into action
According to industry officials, Griffin started calling heads of companies working for NASA, demanding that they either tell the Obama team that they support Constellation or refrain from talking about alternatives. [...]
I would like to see the Constellation program stay on track. The Orion spacecraft is needed to replace the aging shuttle fleet, and will be more economical in the long run. It's needed to service the ISS too, so I suspect it may continue on schedule. But the return to the moon, I don't know. It would be nice if Obama were to look on it the way JFK did.
A great deal of time and resources have already been expended on the current plan; altering it significantly could throw a lot of that investment away. Also, NASA is providing jobs in the high tech industry, even in the private sector, and creating spin-off technologies that help us in so many ways. There is so much going right with it presently, I'm hoping that an Obama administration will choose to build on that rather than subtract from it.
I know Obama's team has to ask questions and make assessments. As to what he will do, I'm hoping he's going to be a JFK kinda guy in this regard.
The Constellation program will ultimately be not only less expensive, but safer for our astronauts too. It can service the ISS, AND get us to the Moon again, as well as assist us to getting to Mars eventually. Hopefully Obama can make it part of his plan and his presidential legacy, too.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Christmas Lights Are Here at Last...
Been meaning to put them up, and finally got around to it yesterday:
A nearly full moon rises over the farm as the sun sets.
I hung the colored lights across from the living room windows, so we could see them from inside.
The winter moon shines through the cold damp mist. The weather forecast says SNOW is on the way for the weekend.
The warm looking lights will cheer us through the dark cold winter. I will probably leave them up until March at least.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Christian moralizing as a party platform
Are conservative Christians and the Republican Party one and the same thing? I wouldn't say so, although I wouldn't deny they make a up a huge part of the party. So much so, that Republicans can't win elections without them. But not so large, that Republican's can rely ONLY on them. The Republican Party needs to expand it's base, and it needs to do so while retaining most of it's current membership. How can that be accomplished?
Since Bush senior, conservative Christians have made their social issues the spearhead of the Republican party. While that may have had a short term gain for the party, in the long term, due to changing demographics, it's likely to be a losing proposition.
I'm not suggesting that religious conservatives give up their social positions, because:
A.) They WON'T.
B.) I wouldn't let anyone tell me to give up my positions on anything, so I would not expect anyone else to.
What I am talking about is, the spearhead of the Republican Coalition. In a coalition, the members have core beliefs they share, and a variety of other beliefs that can differ considerably. If the coalition is to hold together, the spearhead must be the core beliefs, so all them members can rally behind it and support it. If the spearhead is instead the agenda of one coalition member, the support drops, and the spear, through lack of support, never reaches it's target.
I think that's what we are seeing currently. Religious Republicans have been putting their social issues at the forefront, the spearhead, of the party. When they are asked not to do that, they complain that they are being asked to "give up" their social issues. I submit that that is not the case. I think what they are being asked to to is, to rally around the core beliefs that they share with other non-religious Republicans, and put those at the forefront of the party.
Why? So we can win elections. Why? Because if your party is powerless, NONE of your issues will be served well, if at all.
If you insist on all or nothing, you will often end up with nothing.
Social issues are also Hearts and Minds issues. They can't be legislated onto people against their will. If you try to impose such issues on a free people, against popular sentiment, you create resistance and even a backlash.
The political left understands this. Tammy Bruce, in her three books, goes into great detail as to how the left has succeeded in implementing many of their agendas over the years. The secret: they did it incrementally. They knew that giant, sweeping changes would only alarm and repel. So they advanced their causes piece by piece, eroding away at the opposition. Over time, it adds up, it counts, it makes a difference.
Religious and Social conservatives could do the same thing, but they tend to stick to "all or nothing" scenarios, and thus often end up with nothing; the moral purist high-road becomes a dead end.
The other factor is positivity. Who wins elections, historically? Usually it the most optimistic, positive and upbeat candidate. Democrats often loose presidential elections because their candidates whine and complain, and emphasis what they are AGAINST, more than the expound positively what they are FOR.
Obama was very upbeat and optimistic. Superficial perhaps, but it played well none the less. Conservatives (myself included) fell into the trap of constantly criticizing Obama about things the media would not cover, which ended up making the Republicans sound very negative. Furthermore, many conservatives were often negative about our own candidate John McCain. Some came around towards the end, but only half heartedly. And what did the loudest voices in the Republican party, the Religious/Social conservatives, keep pushing to the forefront? Anti-abortion and Anti-gay marriage platforms, and all sorts of things they were AGAINST.
We become the party that was AGAINST, which is usually the Democrats losing strategy, but this time it was ours. Oh sure, there was plenty of stuff we were FOR, but it was not at the forefront of what the public saw.
Are we going to learn anything from this? I keep hearing different factions of the Republican party saying, we need to kick out the religious conservatives, or the social liberals, or the small "L" libertarians, etc. Ridiculous. Kicking people out just makes our party smaller and weaker. What we NEED is, at the forefront of our party, a spearhead that we can ALL stand behind, support enthusiastically, and speak inspiringly of, and be positive about.
It's perfectly doable, but will we? Or will we continue to be perceived as the negative, all-or-nothing, divided and divisive, interfering busy-body party that non-religious voters complain about? It's up to us.
Tammy Bruce today has a poll on her blog, asking Should the GOP reach Out to Pro-Choicers?. I'm sure many Pro-Life conservatives would be tempted to automatically vote "NO", but I would ask them to think about it more deeply. I would ask them to consider, are you more interested in posturing against abortion (and getting nowhere), or changing laws to limit abortion, thus saving actual lives?
Tammy Bruce herself, while being pro-choice, has also called abortion "the Razor's Edge". She's said she doesn't approve of the way it's used as birth control, and she has a lot of sympathy for women who are pro-life. She has said that as a feminist, she wants every women to "find her own voice", and when many women do that they find that it's a "pro-life" voice, and she accepts that.
Tammy is conservative on many, probably most issues. Can we not expand our party to include people like her? Would it be such a bad thing for us to win elections?
This isn't about "giving up"; it's called "give a little, get a little". It's about the art of political maneuvering; it's about making incremental advances, instead of blunt inflexible posturing, that may feel good when you do it but in reality does NOTHING to advance your cause.
I've used abortion as an example here, but it could easily apply to just about any social issue that's important to you. "Compromise" is only a dirty word if you believe that idealism is more important than affecting actual change on the ground. Incremental change not only makes a difference, it also is a footsoldier in the battle for hearts and minds. If your cause is better served by incremental advances, then get started. Start moving things to where you want them to be, even if it's slowly, instead of just loudly complaining that you aren't there yet.
There is no political party that fits my views 100%. With maturity I've learned to compromise, because I realized that it's the only realistic way to actually advance the causes and principles that I do care about. I've understood that I can't do it alone, that I need other people, and that means agreeing with people on the things I can agree on, and agreeing to disagree about the rest. An 80% ally isn't a 20% enemy. Ronald Reagan taught me that, and it's a lesson that the Republican party as a whole would do well to strive to embrace, if it's going to survive the 21st century.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Unemployment worse during Bill Clinton's term
How bad is current unemployment? It has been worse at other times:
Unemployment Nearly as Bad as During Clinton
When the media aren’t talking about the bailout, they’re talking jobs. They should be. Job losses and unemployment are up. A year into what we just heard is an official recession, unemployment hit 6.7 percent. That’s the highest for the Bush presidency. At this rate, it will soon get as bad as it was in 1993 – when Bill Clinton was president.
Reporters are leaving out that reality of the “staggering” job losses, as CBS called them. Journalists rarely point out that total unemployment isn’t even as high as it was during Clinton’s term (and when they do, the Clinton name is conspicuously absent.) [...]
Read the whole thing for details. Perception trumps reality. MSM bias at work.
Time to stop whining and get back to basics
Republicans have spent too much time whining about Democrats, and it's a losing strategy. And when I say basics, I mean Republican principles that a majority of Americans can get behind and support. And what principles might those be? Gov. Tim Pawlenty explains:
Cut up the credit card
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist — or even a political scientist — to understand the steps the Republican Party must do to again become the national majority party.
The 2006 and 2008 election results are warning signs for the GOP. The good news is our party’s future is brighter than many think. Newsweek’s recent cover story makes it clear America leans more right than left.
The Republican Party’s conservative values — freedom, personal and moral responsibility, the power of capitalism and a limited accountable government — are as important as ever. The GOP should build on its core principles by making its case with common sense ideas that are better than our competitors.
Our approach on issues like security, energy independence, free market solutions for better health care and education with a focus on accountability for results instead of just increased spending are ideas that will do just that.
But it all starts by putting first things first. A cornerstone of the Republican Party must be fiscal responsibility — living within our means like most Americans do. Wall Street and the federal government chronically disregard this principle and have substantially contributed to our current economic mess.
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Americans don’t need a Nobel Prize winner to understand we can’t solve a crisis caused by the reckless issuance of debt by then recklessly issuing even more debt.
Remarkably, we have now entered the second or third round of bailouts for some companies and industries. But bailing out the bailouts is like using credit cards to pay off credit cards. It’s a strategy that would have made even Charles Ponzi blush.
He goes on to make some good points, about the weak spots in the Democrat's plans. But he says above, "A cornerstone of the Republican Party must be fiscal responsibility — living within our means like most Americans do." But DO they? I'd like to think so, but it seems a shocking amount of people are living beyond their means, and they are doing it on credit.
I was going to add, "... and that's why they've elected a Democrat government that wants to keep spending". But we've just had 8 years of Republican government that did that! Republicans have lost credibility on that issue.
The Democrats may blow it too, as Pawlenty points out, but it remains to be seen just what they will do. It would be ironic if the Democrats were to lead us into fiscal responsibility. I'm not saying they can or will, but stranger things have happened.
Every government screws up some things, they are only human. But the question is, how much, how fast, and what the damage is. The answers to those questions will determine who becomes (or stays) the dominant power. We shall see how the Democrats do. Then next four years certainly won't be boring.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Here it comes; The Cow Fart Tax
Proposed fee on smelly cows, hogs angers farmers
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.
Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which is one of several put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases emitted by belching and flatulence amounts to air pollution.
"This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do," said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the proposal.
It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.
The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and "all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them."
Sparks said Wednesday he's worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.
"We'll let other countries put food on our tables like they are putting gas in our cars. Other countries don't have the health standards we have," Sparks said. [...]
With continuing rising food prices, do we really need to be adding food taxes and driving farmers out of business? The government won't allow us to drill our own oil, now they want to limit our food production. Are we supposed to depend on foreigners for everything? Whatever happened to American self-sufficiency?
President-elect Obama wants to spend billions to rebuild our nations roads and bridges. I can support him in that, because it needs to be done, and it's a traditional function of government. But should regulating cow farts become a function of government?
It's essentially a meat tax, and while vegetarians may be pleased by it, I think few others will. Big government will always think of endless new ways to raise new taxes and control people by limiting the things they depend on for life and freedom. But only if we let them. We should draw a line here.
Cow Farts Collected For Global Warming Study
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Firefox 3 Memory Issues Explained
Pat and I were talking about how the latest versions of Firefox (3.X) uses memory. He read that at times it uses much greater amounts of memory than Firefox 2 did. Then I came across this article, explaining how the usage is now more efficient, and verifiable in test results:
Firefox 3 Memory Usage
[...] Ways to test
There are many ways to measure memory usage in a browser. Open up 10 tabs with your favorite websites in them and see how much memory the browser is using. Close all but the last tab and load about:blank or Google. Measure again. Another simple test is simply loading Zimbra, Google Reader and Zoho each in their own tab and logging in. We’ve learned that users do so many things with the browser it is nearly impossible to construct a single test to measure memory usage.
We wanted more of a stress test — One that was more reproducible than loading random sites from the web.
For the results below we loaded 29 different web pages through 30 windows over 11 cycles (319 total page loads), always opening a new window for each page load (closing the oldest window alive once we hit 30 windows). At the end we close all the windows but one and let the browser sit for a few minutes so see if they will reclaim memory, clear short-term caches, etc. There is a 3 second delay between page loads to try and get all the browsers to take the same amount of time. We used the proxy server that is part of Standalone Talos to make sure we were serving up the same content. We had to disable popup blocking to allow the test window to open the 30 windows for running the test. You can get the simple webpage test here and the python script to monitor memory usage here. These things are built on top of the standalone talos framework so you’ll need to drop the python script in with talos to get good results. Mad props to Mike Schroepfer for getting this all working.
Looking at the graph:
* All browsers increase in memory use slightly over time, but the Firefox 3 slope is closer to 0.
* The _peak_ of Firefox 3 is lower than the terminal size of Firefox 2!
* The terminal state of Firefox 3 is nearly 140MB smaller than Firefox 2. 60% less memory!
* IE7 doesn’t appear to give any memory back, even after all the windows are closed!
* Firefox 3 ends up about 400mb smaller than IE7 at the end of the test!
This is just one test that I feel shows the great progress that has been made. We’ll continue working on adding additional tests that can measure more of the ways that users use their browser.
Our work has paid off.
We’re significantly smaller than previous versions of Firefox and other browsers.
You can keep the browser open for much longer using much less memory.
Extensions are much less likely to cause leaks.
We’ve got automated tools in place to detect leaks that might result from new code. We’re always monitoring and testing to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.
All of this has been done while dramatically improving performance. [...]
If you follow the link to the full article, there is LOTS more information, and embedded links too. I just excerpted the parts that seemed to matter most - or should I say, that I actually understood best ;-).
PC/OS: an easy Linux for older computers
This Linux distribution has caught my eye. It's based on Ubuntu, but it uses the lightweight Xfce desktop environment, which is simple and easier to run on older computers. PC/OS is also configured with starter applications and multimedia codecs, making it totally useable from the start, without any extra tweaking:
PC/OS: Insert CD, use desktop
PC/OS aims to be an easy-to-use Linux distribution right out of the box. Being Ubuntu-based, it has a head start on being user-friendly, but PC/OS goes above and beyond Ubuntu's measures to ensure ease of use by having common third-party non-GPL software included in the install.
PC/OS Open Desktop lives up to its claims of being user-friendly. While it isn't perfect, somebody who is unfamiliar with computer systems could install and use it without outside help. I don't believe that you can say the same thing about the latest Windows operating system. On top of that, it also fits on one CD, unlike many distributions which have switched to DVDs in their effort to include more software. PC/OS has stripped its distribution down to programs that cover users' essential needs; its simplicity is a sound principle when designing user-friendly software.
PC/OS just plain worked for me. There were no hitches, no problems, and no additional configuration or software installation required to perform what the daily tasks of Web browsing, instant messaging, word processing, and playing multimedia. While no trouble arose for me, there are forums available for you to ask any questions you might have about the distribution. [...]
This sounds like just the thing for my eight year old computer in the farm office. I'm currently running Linux Mint with a Gnome desktop. I works fine for the most part, but occasionally I strain the system resources by opening a lot of windows. A lighter desktop might be better. Mint also offers a Xfce version, so perhaps I should it out also. But I've wanted to try out PC/OS for a while now, so I'll probably download it next week and give it a whirl.
It's great to have choices.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Lt. Uhura and I have something in common
No, I haven't gotten big boobs or a red mini skirt. But like she, I too now have a silvery metal thing sticking out of my ear. Yesterday I got a bluetooth device to use with my cell phone.
I wasn't particularly keen on getting one. I had been using a wired earphone set with my old cell phone that worked just fine. But then our cell phone company, Edge Wireless, was taken over by AT&T.
At first, they changed nothing. But eventually, we got a letter saying they would be closing down the Edge Wireless net, and we would have to transfer to AT&T or lose our service.
When we went in to their office in town to transfer our account, they said we would need new phones, because our old ones were not supported. We got nice new Samsung phones, which were better than our old Motorola models. But my old wired earphone set did not work with the new phone, the plugs were different. Suddenly, I had to hold the phone when I was using it, and I missed having my hands free to do work while I talked.
I paid $8.00 for a wired earphone set for the Samsung phone, but everyone complained it was hard to hear me. The folks at the AT&T store suggested a blue-tooth device. They let me try it out in the store, and I got a decent Samsung model, the WEP 301, for $40 bucks.
It seems I'm not the only one to make an Uhura-Bluetooth connection. Interestingly enough, Nichelle Nichols, the actress/singer who played Uhura, has herself been seen apparently using a bluetooth device at a NASA event:
What can I say; everyone's doing it? But I didn't do it to be trendy, it's actually quite practical. I can tell you though, I won't have it glued to my head 24/7. But some people who do use cell phones a lot, wear them all the time. Probably because of the fear of brain cancer from constant exposure to intense radio waves so close to the brain, as well as the convenience of having one's hands free. But not everyone is happy with this new trend:
Star Trek nostalgia meets the pragmatic dilemmas of suburban life
As weird as they look, I have a certain fondness for Bluetooth headsets because they always make me think of my childhood heartthrob Lt. Uhura, everyone's favorite communication officer on the Starship Enterprise. Besides being a pioneering role model for African-American women, her low-cut uniform and high-tech headset presaged the geek-chic look twenty-five years ahead of its time. While we may not be able to open a hailing frequency, or decode an Antarean sub-space transmission, with the Bluetooth headsets that have blossomed lately in so many ears, they certainly give us a taste of what the future may look like. And now that reality is bumping up against fiction, I've got mixed feelings about the whole thing.
... I find it hard to completely condemn those little headsets -- even though I don't own one. I certainly agree that the damned things look terminally dorky and are probably inappropriate in many of the situations people insist on wearing them. I wonder if one of the reasons you see people sporting those headsets in restaurants, bars and other social venues is because it's sort of like the old days when pagers were new and having one on your belt meant you were important (I seem to remember they were called chick magnets for a little while, although the term quickly shifted to electronic leash). Hopefully, the status factor will fade quickly so that half the people I see at my kid's lacrosse games won't look like the Borg with those chunks of metal and plastic jutting out of their skulls. [...]
The article goes on about people wearing them in "inappropriate" places. Apparently this annoys a lot of people. The guy who wrote this article was discussing it nicely, compared to some of the really nasty stuff other people have written elsewhere on the internet.
Well for me it's not a fashion statement, I'll be using it in the farmyard mostly, where only the chickens, ducks and dogs will see it. I doubt it will become a Borg-like attachment to me; I don't generally like to talk on the phone all that much. Fortunately I don't need to be on the phone that much as part of my job. But for someone who does, I can understand why they would wear it a lot.
Will practically everyone be wearing them eventually, most of the time, almost constantly "plugged in" to... whatever? I don't know. But I suspect, we shall see. Brave New World, and all that.
Star Trek Communicators - Star Trek Communication Images
Cell Phone Dangers: how true are they?
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
High Tech "Green" city being built in Abu Dhabi
I read this in CNNmoney.com this morning, it's facinating:
A green city blooms in the desert
Abu Dhabi, which reckons the world will wean itself from fossil fuels, is building a city that runs on solar power, recycles all waste, and bans cars. How will it work?
The leaders of Abu Dhabi have declared that petroleum belongs to the 20th century, so they are making an investment in the 21st century by building Masdar, the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city, powered almost entirely by the desert's plentiful sun. Ground was broken last winter for the $22 billion project, financed by the government of Abu Dhabi and outside investors and slated for completion in 2016. While more expensive to build than a traditional city, Masdar will use 75% less electricity and 60% less water.
Within the walls will be a green-tech research institute, developed with help from MIT. The city itself will act as a laboratory to test carbon-free products and prove that alternative energy can be deployed on a massive scale. "We want Abu Dhabi to be an energy player, not just an exporter," says Khaled Awad, Masdar's director of property development. [...]
It makes good sense to build such a city in a place where there is such an abundance of sunlight and heat. The article is divided up into ten short segments, each focusing on a different aspect of the New City and how it works.
It's a quick read and there are plenty of graphics and diagrams throughout, I found it very interesting. And to think it could be finished by 2016. The future is practically here already!
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Modern Pirates chase even More Modern Ships
Thank goodness the Nautica was able to outrun the Somali pirates:
Under Fire, U.S. Liner Outruns Pirates
[...] The liner, carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members, was sailing in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, a maritime corridor patrolled by an international naval coalition, when it encountered six pirates in two speedboats.
The ship's captain brought the Nautica up to flank speed (above its full cruising speed of 18.5 knots) and began evasive maneuvers.
One boat managed to close within 300 yards and pirates fired upon the passenger liner with rifles, but the liner was able to outrun the smaller boats.
Most of the ships hijacked by pirates have been relatively slow freighters or tankers. This attack was on a high-speed cruise ship, and that's what may have saved her, says CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.
Had the pirates been able to capture a ship full of people - and not just people, but wealthy Westerners, a lot of them presumably American - the piracy story in the Gulf of Aden may have been taken to an ominous new level. [...]
I'm sure being chased and shot at by pirates wasn't in the cruise brochure. The cruise ship is beautiful:
See some online photos by passengers:
Aboard the Oceania Nautica cruise ship
Or take this virtual tour:
Oceania Cruises: Explore the ships
"McCain-Spears" better than "McCain-Palin"?
With all the talk about why McCain lost, has anyone considered, that it might be because he picked Sarah Palin instead of Britney Spears?
Spears beats Obama
Hey, why not, after all, Britney is a Republican.
Of course I'm kidding. About her being Veep. I'm just wondering, as time goes on, and the Republican Party desperately needs to attract the youth vote, if the day will come when the party has to appeal and reach out, in some way, to the "Britney Spears Republicans"?
In 2004, the party said "no":
Republicans not voting for Britney Spears
But if the Republican Party isn't able to grow and diversify, including attracting younger voters with liberal social values, they may have to rename themselves "The Incredible Shrinking Party".
Monday, December 01, 2008
The motives behind the terrorism in Mumbai
From Maynard at the Tammy Bruce blog:
India and Pakistan: To War?
Why was Mumbai attacked? Here's a theory:
Since the 9/11 attacks, America has bribed and pressured Pakistan to take further control over its lawless border with Afghanistan, which has effectively given militants a safe haven. This has been a delicate situation, but there seems to have been progress in recent months. We've lately heard news stories about American attacks inside Pakistan, and more aggressive moves by Pakistan's army. Such things only happen after behind-the-scenes diplomatic agreements have been reached.
The attack on Mumbai leaves the Indian people demanding revenge, and Pakistan is the obvious target. Does Pakistan deserve the Indian reprisal? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, if hostilities break out, Pakistan's army will have better things to worry about than the Afghan border. So a conflict between Pakistan and India serves al-Qaida's interest, in that it gives the terrorists additional breathing room. This may be why the Mumbai attack was launched. [...]
It makes a lot of sense. Condi Rice is no doubt very busy right now. As Maynard suggests, let's hope cool heads prevail.
Ford Motor Company is profitable - in Brazil
It's one of the most advanced and efficient car manufacturing plants in the world, and they aren't begging for a bailout. It's worth noting the reasons why. Here is a 3 minute 33 second video of Ford's plant in Brazil:
They would like to build such efficient manufacturing plants here in the USA, but they can't, because of the stifling unions that won't allow changes in the manufacturing process. So American jobs continue to go overseas, and Americans won't buy cars with bloated prices due to extra costs created by union demands. So we need to bail-out the unionized auto-makers, so taxpayers can subsidize the unions and the cars they make that aren't selling?
South of the equator, Ford and GM prosper