Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting to space, privately

I think we need more of this.

Thanks SpaceX.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking in space, Chinese style

The Chinese achieve a significant milestone in the progression of their space program.

BEIJING - Chinese celebrated their nation's first spacewalk Saturday, gathering at outdoor TV screens to cheer live video of the milestone for a program that has ambitions of building a space station and challenging the U.S. and Russia in off-world exploration.


The spacewalk was mainly aimed at testing China's mastery of the technology. Mission commander Zhai Zhigang's sole task was to retrieve a rack attached to the outside of the orbital module containing an experiment involving solid lubricants.


In step with its growing list of achievements, China's military-backed space program has grown progressively less secretive, and officials have hinted in recent days at a desire for greater cooperation with other nations. China plans to mass-produce the next version of the Shenzhou ship to service a future space station and says it may make such missions available to other countries.

As with anything about China, I have mixed feelings about this achievement. I think it's great that other nations are at least showing an interest in working together to advance humanity's chances of becoming a space-faring species. On the other hand, this is China.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Calling B.S. on an insane saying

Here is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sunday, September 21, 2008 issue of the San Antonio Express-News.

Review the history

In order from highest to lowest, the 10 U.S. cities with the highest poverty rates are: Detroit, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, St. Louis, El Paso, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark.

The last time the following cities elected mayors who weren’t Democrats was: Detroit, 1961; Buffalo, 1954; Cincinnati, 1984; Cleveland, 1989; St. Louis, 1949; Milwaukee, 1908; Philadelphia, 1952, and Newark, 1907.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

C. F. Eckhardt, Seguin

No, no, no, no, no! I am tired of hearing this stupid saying! Please, quit using it!

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not the definition of insanity. The definition of insanity is really "the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind". I know, I know, people like to use that line repeated by Mr. Eckhardt of Seguin because it makes for good hyperbole, but that is not an accurate saying, and it was never uttered by any person such as Einstein.

In fact, the line actually is this: "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." It's from a book by an American writer named Rita Mae Brown. It may have been a clever line at the time Ms. Brown published her book, but it's not anymore. It's overused and it's trite. Please, let's not utter it again.

Rant over.

Downtown afternoon

A view of downtown San Antonio on a bright day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calling B.S. on Star Trek

Someone had to. It might as well be a talking dinosaur.

The issue in an ongoing series is once you've done it and it wasn't a fluke, it's like you've shown that one of your characters got Superman powers. And then in the next episode when a building is about to fall over on someone, Superman's running around in circles saying "Oh no what do we do? Frig frig frig" and the audience is sitting there, furrowing their brows, one hand on their chin.

I'm with T-Rex on this one. Star Trek made time travel too easy for it to be a compelling plot point in later episodes, and T-Rex is right to wonder why they don't do it all the time!

My own personal pet peeve with Star Trek concerns warp travel. If it takes seven (or twelve or twenty) days to get to the next starbase at warp three but only three seconds at warp nine, then why not go full speed all the time! C'mon, it makes no sense to be dawdling about the universe in a huge ship with a well-trained crew when you could be handling crises in an instant!

Captain, we need to dock at Station 33.3 for vital repairs.

Very good. Set a course. Warp five. Engage.

But Captain, that will take us 23 hours. We can get there in like ten minutes if we just go warp nine.

Oh. OK, I forgot. Let's do it then. Warp nine. Engage.

Makes sense to me.

Streetscape morning

A dripping potted plant on a pole in downtown San Antonio.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shadowy Mimas

Have you ever wondered what a moon might look like with the shadow of planetary rings falling across it?

Wonder no more, and gaze upon Saturn's moon Mimas.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Read more about it here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Most unmatched headline of the day

As Hurricane Ike roars ashore, KSAT-12 in San Antonio has a bold headline followed by an unmatched second hed.

AP: About 1M Stayed Behind
Authorities in three counties alone said roughly 90,000 stayed behind, despite a warning from forecasters that many of those in one- or two-story homes faced "certain death."

There's a big difference between 1,000,000 and 90,000.

Since the home pages of the news stations have been changing frequently, I include the screen capture for illustration purposes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A domain for the tree people

One of my e-mail addresses ends in ".net", but sometimes I find my fingers accidentally typing ".ent" instead. Obviously, this doesn't work, but wouldn't it be cool if there was a domain reserved just for the Ents?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

River Walk afternoon

Sometimes, a placid river runs through a busy city.