Monday, January 30, 2006

Ignoring the true vile nature of insurgents

We keep hearing a lot about how a television talking head named Bob Woodruff has been injured by an improvised explosive device, or IED, in Iraq. And the media can't devote enough space to his continuing saga.

And, tellingly, this prompts no coverage that I can find.

During his weekly press briefing Jan. 26, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Coalition spokesman, provided details of insurgents emplacing a bomb at a school, and local citizens' growing rejection of the terrorists' goals and methods.

“They're seeing what you're seeing. Just in the last several days down in Basra , Zarqawi and his network placed an IED against the wall of a schoolhouse, detonated it and injured 20 innocent children,” Lynch said.

“Just last Sunday here outside of Baghdad Zarqawi and his network took a bomb, put it against a schoolhouse door and set it up as a booby trap.” Lynch said. “And if it wasn't for the awareness of the local Iraqi security guard, that bomb would have detonated when innocent children opened that door, and children would have been killed.” [emphasis added]

Seems like only the U.S. Army thinks this is worth covering. Injure a reporter or an anchorman with a bomb, and the press is all over it. Put schoolchildren in danger, however, and it seems not to register. What gives? Do the media really want the insurgents to win so bad that they refuse to portray them in a bad light until one of their own is hurt? Can they not work up even one inch of space for injured Iraqi schoolchildren?

Sadly, I think I know the answer to my own question.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"Russia plans mine on the moon by 2020"

Wow. Why aren't we (the Americans) planning for this?

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia is planning to mine a rare fuel on the moon by 2020 with a permanent base and a heavy-cargo transport link, a Russian space official said.

"We are planning to build a permanent base on the moon by 2015 and by 2020 we can begin the industrial-scale delivery... [sic] of the rare isotope Helium-3," Nikolai Sevastyanov, head of the Energia space corporation, was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying Wednesday at an academic conference.


Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope of helium that can be used in nuclear fusion.

Rare on earth but plentiful on the moon, it is seen by some experts as an ideal fuel because it is powerful, non-polluting and generates almost no radioactive by-product.

If this is true, wouldn't helium-3 be the ideal answer to our reliance on fossil fuels and our concerns about pollution? Shouldn't we be building more nuclear power plants fueled by moon-helium? Sounds like a good idea.

"Arctic Ocean Ice Crashes on Alaska Shores"

Beware the ivus.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Ridges of Arctic Ocean sea ice were shoved onto a Barrow road in quantities not seen in nearly three decades. Two ice surges, known to Alaska Natives as ivus, stunned residents who had never seen large blocks of ice rammed ashore. ...

Ivus are like frozen tsunamis and crash ashore violently. They have killed hunters and are among the Arctic's most feared natural phenomena.

And the Whoa, dude! statement of the day:
"It just looked like a big old mountain of ice," said L.A. Leavitt, 19, who left his nightshift job at the city early Tuesday to check out the ridges.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Remembering the Challenger

Twenty years ago, I had just finished filling the gas tank in the old Chevrolet Caprice I used to drive, and, when I got back into the car, I turned on the radio. Instead of music, I heard the DJ announcing that the space shuttle Challenger had just been destroyed in a horrific accident. I drove home as fast as I could and turned on the television. Sure enough, every station was carrying footage of the tragedy, and they were playing it over and over again.

I was stunned. The destruction of the Challenger and the loss of the astronauts was horrible, and I knew that this incident would set back the space program significantly (the next shuttle did not fly until September 1988). But I think that we need to keep exploring space. We should be careful, but not overly cautious to the point where we never get off this planet. Accidents do happen, and they are tragic. But it shouldn't take almost three years for us to figure out what happened and to work the courage up to launch astronauts once again.

This piece from James Oberg has some chilling and eye-opening information about the Challenger disaster. If you think you remember that day well, you should read this. You just might learn something.

Oberg's closing quote: "The disaster need never have happened if managers and workers had clung to known principles of safely operating on the edge of extreme hazards — nothing was learned by the disaster that hadn’t already been learned, and then forgotten."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Selling lies as truth

Why do publishers want writers to tell lies in a non-fiction genre?
Well, I have written a book. It is a book based on my experiences in Operations for a bush commuter in Fairbanks, AK. It is a book with a lot of flying, some dying, and a lot of thinking about just how much you should be willing to risk for your job. ... I have been trying to get an agent or editor interested, and pretty much everyone thinks it's a great idea for a book, that the flying is amazing and on and on. But - then - they think that it should be nonfiction. They have asked me to change the names of the pilots (they are all fictionalized composites already) and call the whole thing nonfiction. They want it to be a memoir and if I will do that then they will talk to me.

Is that what the reading public really wants these days? Do they want to hear about our "true" personal stories, about what happened to us? Even if it really didn't happen? Perhaps so.

I blame Oprah. When she puts her stamp of approval on something, that defines it as quality in the eyes of her adorers. Even if the thing is crap. The problem is, she has so many adorers that her stamp actually has an effect.

UPDATE: Oprah changes her mind and berates the liar she propped up.

NEW YORK - In a stunning switch from dismissive to disgusted, Oprah Winfrey took on one of her chosen authors, James Frey, accusing him on live television of lying about “A Million Little Pieces” and letting down the many fans of his memoir of addiction and recovery.

“I feel duped,” she said Thursday on her syndicated talk show. “But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers.”

She should have said that from the start of the mess instead of initially defending him.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Comet sample collection bedazzles scientists"

Nothing better than a few bedazzled scientists.

"This exceeded all of our grandest expectations," Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington-based researcher and the principal Stardust investigator, told a news conference.

The team was still giddy from the smooth landing of the Stardust capsule in the moon-lit Utah desert, but that turned out to be just the beginning.

When the sample canister inside the capsule was opened, scientists could see with naked eyes small black rocks and other particles that had been trapped in the probe's gel-filled collection device.

"We were totally overwhelmed by the ability to actually see this so quickly and so straight-forwardly," Brownlee said.

Them's comet parts they're looking at. Sublime in their very presence on Earth, trapped in aerogel for naked human eyes to see.

The universe is in our front yard.

"NASA probe blasts off for Pluto"

Go "New Horizons"!

With an unprecedented five solid-fuel strap-on boosters, the rocket sent the relatively tiny spacecraft into space faster than any object launched by man before. It sprinted into the sky and quickly disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.

Fitting employment for him

"Cloning cult offers job to disgraced scientist"

PARIS - South Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk, a science superstar disgraced when his pioneering stem cell research was unmasked as a fraud, has a new job offer from a UFO cult that says it has produced six human clones.

Clonaid, a company linked to a group that believes humans were cloned from prehistoric alien visitors to Earth, said it had offered him a post in one of its

Quite sad when a man who was revered as the top scientist in his field is reduced to fielding a job offer from an outfit tied to the Raëlian Movement. Also quite telling is that Clonaid is actually interested in employing a demonstrated cheat. That alone should be enough to warn off anyone who might be willing to give Clonaid--or the Raëlians--the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Unsurprising headline of the day

This just in:

"AP Poll: Blacks Likelier to Celebrate MLK"

And in other news, the Irish are more likely to honor St. Patrick.

Park morning

Nothing but a park on a sunny morning.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Capsule Brings First Comet Dust to Earth"


DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah - After a seven-year journey, a NASA space capsule returned safely to Earth on Sunday with the first dust ever fetched from a comet, a cosmic bounty that scientists hope will yield clues to how the solar system formed.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Calling attention to nothing

Don't worry, Jen. He didn't call to tell me either.

"Rep: Aniston Wasn't Alerted to Pregnancy"

NEW YORK - Brad Pitt did not call Jennifer Aniston to tell her about girlfriend Angelina Jolie's pregnancy announcement, entertainment TV show "Extra" reported Thursday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Frat handshake gives away principal's resume shortcomings"

Nanoo nanoo.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A secret fraternity handshake was the downfall of a Cleveland charter school principal who apparently faked his resume.

I've pretty much been of the mind that the secret rituals and trappings associated with fraternities and sororities are somewhat silly. In this case, since the secret Alpha Phi Alpha handshake helped expose corruption and dishonesty, I must disagree with myself.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Thinking about polygamy

Glenn Reynolds has an interesting discussion about polygamy here.

I don't have much to add to his observations (being as how my parents and their friends seemed to remain pretty faithful to their monogamous marriages, and I can't remember ever meeting a polygamist), but it seems to me that any romantic relationship is complicated enough as it is. Especially a marriage! Why anyone would want to intentionally make it more knotty and complex by adding spouses is beyond me.

"Zero hour approaches for Stardust delivery"

Here's hoping Stardust returns safely with its precious cargo of comet dust. It's too bad that people in my neck of the woods (Texas) won't be able to see the capsule as it burns through the atmosphere, but that should be some sight to see. If you live on the West Coast, I hope you take the time to watch the spectacle.

In the meantime, here's more on Stardust.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Euro coin

Nothing but a five-cent piece (Euro) from France.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"New Device Will Sense Through Concrete Walls"

Absolutely cool.

The new "Radar Scope" will give warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room, Edward Baranoski from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Projects Office, told the American Forces Press Service.

By simply holding the portable, handheld device up to a wall, users will be able to detect movements as small as breathing, he said.

The Radar Scope, developed by DARPA, is expected to be fielded to troops in Iraq as soon as this spring, Baranoski said. The device is likely to be fielded to the squad level, for use by troops going door to door in search of terrorists. [emphasis added]

I am all for giving our soldiers what they need to survive and win on today's battlefields. The "Radar Scope" seems like just what the general ordered.

Watch out, terrorists.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Puzzling baseball card

I was sorting through some old baseball cards when I came across this strange one. Pictured below are two copies of a 1988 Score card (158 of 660) featuring Lee Mazzilli of the New York Mets. The two cards are obviously from separate print runs (as you can tell by the difference in color saturation), but they should be identical in every other aspect.

They are not. Can you spot where they differ?

Yes, oddly enough, the two print runs featured two different spellings of the same player's name! (I believe the one on the right is the correct spelling.) I've never seen such a discrepancy before. It seems that Score misspelled Mazzilli's name at first, caught the error somewhere along the way, and corrected it. But not before some mistake cards got out.

If you collect cards, please let me know: have you seen a mistake like this before? If so, can you remember the example? If not, what do you think about Score's 1988 Lee Mazzilli mistake?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tapping a new automotive market

I wonder if car dealers do a brisk business in France. (Filed under the remarkable headline "French police relieved by unremarkable New Year's".)

PARIS (Reuters) - French police said on Sunday they were relieved that expected violence failed to materialise on New Year's Eve, just weeks after the worst rioting in France in nearly 40 years.


Police said 425 cars were burnt, of which 177 were in the Paris region, and 362 revellers were detained. That marked a slight rise from the 333 burnt cars and 272 arrests last year. [emphases added]

I'd hate to see it when expected violence does materialize.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Coin from Germany

Nothing but a coin (obsolete, at that) from Germany.