Sunday, April 26, 2009

Potpourri XXVI

New from Hu, all sorts of articles about the lack of a NASA Administrator:

And another from Hu on the 1:10 scale Saturn V launch. That's a lot of rocket for a model!

Even Disney, a very PC company (for anyone who worked there), can be accused of not being politically correct enough.

North Korea is now considered a fully fledged nuclear power. So now what?

Happy Debt Day! Apparently it took only until Friday, April 24, for the government's expenditures to exceed its income. I wonder how long any citizen would stay solvent if we lived that way every year.

The bailout saga continues. The government has developed a so-called "stress test," which will use some as-yet-unknown criteria for determining if banks receiving bailout funds are solvent in the long term. If the banks don't pass this test--again, standards unknown--they might qualify for government takeover. If you read the Wall Street Journal, you'll discover that some banks are contesting the stress test and their classification according to said test, mostly because they don't want to be taken over by the government. The government released a white paper giving some rough outlines of what the stress test involves, but not the specific metrics or the banks tested. One would think, in a rational world, that both sets of facts would be revealed, and that said facts would help investors sort out which banks are what, and where to place or remove their money. However, the actual result of the stress test and the way its standards are being released actually increases uncertainty. Expect the Dow to drop or continue its high volatility until the first week in May, when the government releases the actual results and bank names.

YeeeOOWWWW!!! A guy was killed by having 30 nails driven into his skull. That's a lot of anger. And a lot of nails.

The Capitol was temporarily locked down after another private plane accidentally flew into restricted DC airspace.

Nancy Pelosi and a lot of other self-righteous folks in Congress were briefed about the interrogation techniques being used on the Gitmo prisoners as early as 2002. Of course this isn't news. This was public knowledge by at least 2004, but the press is hoping you'll forget. Don't.

Desperate to keep your state's employees in their jobs? Perhaps you should consider accepting some of the prisoners from Club Gitmo. A prison in Montana is open to the idea. No promises of federal help if they escape or convert some of your prisoners to "the cause," though.

My trip to Europe promises to be more and more interesting. Some power plant workers in France cut off the power at their plants in a protest against partial privatization. Guess I'd better bring along a battery-powered alarm clock. There have also been rumblings of civil unrest in Germany because the government is laying off workers to cut costs in the worldwide recession. Oh yeah, and then there's that massive earthquake in Italy. I might get writing ideas on my trip whether I want them or not.

Oh yes, and as a followup to my rant about the possible prosecution of CIA interrogators, the Obama administration plans to release photos of detainees allegedly abused in the interrogation process. It's all fun and enjoyable as long as it's Democrats bashing Bush people for doing this. It'll be more difficult when similar allegations are made against Obama people by Europe or the UN. I hope they have a good answer for that.

Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon, which served as the basis for the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, now has his own blog. I'm guessing that whatever he says, it's likely to be smart and worth paying attention to. I have yet to see a better portrayal of humanity's first exploration of the Moon than that TV show.

Some links from Father Dan:

  • A car run on compressed air? Maybe.
  • A Cato Institute posting on the Supreme Court's decision to allow citizens to bear arms in the District of Columbia. I like Fred Thompson's definition of "strict scrutiny" on Law & Order: "Well, Your Honor, strict scrutiny is like regular scrutiny with a girdle on."
  • An extreme approach to bicycling. This guy will probably get a job stunt-riding somewhere.

Looking for an entertaining guest speaker or part-time humorist? May I suggest Dalton Hooper, a former manager of mine from Disney. Dalton belongs to the Mark Twain school of storytelling. He doesn't come right out and tell you things, he sort of meanders into them. He's the sort of Southerner that puts people at ease because he's about as laid-back as they come. The country could use a few more like him.

Welcome to Alabama...7 fans injured at Talladega at the recent NASCAR race. I can't get NASA to go in for "extreme space travel," which is probably just as well.

Okay, Darlene the Science Cheerleader posted this a few days ago, and I wanted a chance to discuss it a little more fully here. The X Prize Foundation is holding an auction on eBay for people to bid on the right to have their entire genome sequenced for the benefit of science. I posted some comments on Dar's site, which as of this writing haven't been cleared yet, so I'll summarize them here. I confessed that this auction hit my decided sweet spot between technophilia and technophobia. Would it bring benefits? Undoubtedly. However, in the age of HIPAA and other major privacy issues, would an individual really want the entire Western World to know what makes him/her tick? What will be done with the information? Who will control it? What happens to the individual if that information is put into "non-scientific" hands? What risks are involved? Look, I am not anti-science. I am pro-caution. This is a huge deal, and the technophiles at X Prize and in the genetic engineering community are so gung-ho to think about what can be done with certain information that they don't stop to ask if it should be done. The Sorceror's Apprentice. Faust. Frankenstein. Jurassic Park. We've already had plenty of myths and warnings in our own culture to know that these questions exist. Are we just choosing to ignore them out of ignorance or hubris?

"Let us redefine progress to say that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing."
--President of the United Federation of Planets, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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