Saturday, August 22, 2009

Potpourri XCVIII

Must post this stuff, some of it evil, just to get it out of my inbox.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that NASA might have to outsource its crew access to the International Space Station. Well, duhhhh...

NASAWatch's Keith Cowing is reporting that Charlie Bolden (the new NASA Administrator) suggested that it made sense not to launch Ares I-X if Ares I were cancelled. Here's hoping he got the rumor wrong.

Several from Lin:

  • "A Justice Department investigation is now apparently investigating whether photos of covert CIA officials surreptitiously taken by the American Civil Liberties Union's "John Adams Project" were unlawfully shown to terrorist detainees charged with organizing the attacks of 9/11."
  • "Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, hospitals can't even ask for a patient's immigration status or ability to pay prior to delivering treatment. They also can't keep such uninsured patients waiting, even if their problem isn't an emergency. Nor can they discharge them until they're fully stabilized and have safe transportation."
  • A variety of editorials (the primary link, plus the four-part series cited in the article) by Thomas Sowell on Obama's approach to getting his healthcare program sold.
  • Last week President Obama closed down the email address, which he asked people to email if they found individuals "spreading lies" about the president's healthcare program. This might sound reasonable, but what it amounts to is a "turn in your neighbor" hotline that allows the White House to know whom to target if they face increasing resistance to their program. Think I'm kidding? Then why did individuals sent to the "flag" email find themselves the recipients of emails from members of the Administration? Well, Obama has thrown the PR firm responsible for sending out the emails under the bus (political speak for "allowed them to take the blame"). If any of you reading this have referred this site to the "flag" email, rest assured that I did not receive an email from the Administration...yet.
  • Congressional Democrats are prepared to "go it alone" to get healthcare passed. They could've done this in the first place, but by trying to push for "bipartisanship," the Democrats can get the GOP to share some of the blame when (not if) the plan is passed and screws up the country. If there was ever a time to be the "party of no," this is it. Of course the GOP should have a shopping list of reforms that can be done that don't require massive government interference--and, in fact, reduce government interference in the healthcare biz.
  • Sears' web site was the victim of some nasty hacking.
  • A web site is stating that Obama's science advisor favors global efforts to enforce population control. I'd heard this on a news report, but the book is here, if you're curious. Paul Ehrlich, his cowriter, was author of "The Population Bomb," a 1970 book stating that we would all be starving by now (2000) thanks to overpopulation. It didn't happen thanks to improvements in technology and agriculture, as well as the expansion of freedom in the former Communist Bloc, but of course no one pays attention to such things now. One wonders what the fate of Al Gore will be in 40 years.

I got this one from Darlene the Science Cheerleader. It's just weird. How does the Internet see you? Based on what sort of content you put out and how you are cited on various sites.

Got this little bit of good news on the swine flu in my inbox yesterday:

Marshall Space Flight Center has experienced its first case of what is thought to be H1N1 flu. All employees are reminded that if you experience flu symptoms such as fever, body aches and coughing, you should remain home until 24 hours after you are fever free and not using any fever reducing medications in order to prevent the spread of the flu. Also, you should call the MSFC Medical Center at 544-2390 for illness tracking purposes but should not go to the Medical Center for evaluation or treatment. To fight against becoming infected with the H1N1 flu, employees should frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer, especially after participating in group activities or spending time in common areas such as bathrooms, conference rooms and cafeterias. According to medical personnel, H1N1 flu has been no more severe than the normal annual seasonal influenza.

Let's be careful out there. And for gosh sakes, wash your hands!

Boeing has successfully tested the Airborne Laser program. The ABL, which will likely get cut under the Obama Administration, is mounted in the nose of a 747. That's a cool and useful toy to have, given the number of hostile countries trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

Here's the web site for the people who plan to cover Huntsville's full-size Saturn V mockup in a quilt made of kids' refrigerator art. The only other argument I can find against this project is just that it's sinfully ugly. Mosaics tend to depict actual pictures or include geometric patterns of some kind. A vague attempt is made to simulate the markings of the Saturn V, but it is, naturally, a patchwork. And did I mention it's ugly? Seriously. It brightened my day not at all to hear that NASA Administrator Bolden favored the project. The best way for NASA (or anyone else) to inspire kids to go into space is to go into space and do something inspiring! Anything else is trying too hard.

And on a completely different note, No wonder I have a complicated job! I was ruminating this morning, and I started listed all of the different items that we need to account for when we’re trying to sell space exploration to the public:

  • Technology
    o How it works
    o What level of readiness it has (TRL)
    o Complexity
    o Number of manufacturers
    o Science being performed
    o Materials used
    o Amount of automation
  • Politics
    o Federal budget priorities
    o Election cycle
    o Location of NASA centers/contractors
    o Seniority of senators/congressmen in space-related districts
    o State of the world (wars, rivalries, etc.)
    o State of the nation (boom/recession, civil peace/unrest, etc.)
    o National defense/security needs
    o Job programs
    o Public interest
    o Media coverage
    o Advocacy/lobbying activities/effectiveness
    o Other space activities (e.g. commercial)
  • People
    o Workforce aging
    o Workforce size/availability
    o Workforce skills
    o Job location (see Politics)
    o Management behavior/practices/personalities
    o Organizational culture(s)
  • Programmatic issues
    o Funding/competition for resources
    o Schedule
    o Technical readiness
    o Quality
    o Management structure
    o Public affairs responsiveness

This might explain some of my end-of-day headaches, but it still beat checking in tourists or answering guest letters at Disney World. I still maintain that engineers and physicists have it easy because the laws and factors they deal with don’t change.

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