“I have slipped the surly bonds of earth”

January 28, 2006

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of STS-51-L and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger.

On that day, I returned home from school for lunch and turned on the television, only to catch the news reports and constantly repeated video of the explosion on every channel. In my memory this was only the second time I had seen this kind of wall-to-wall news coverage – the first was the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. But I was 10 at the time, and it had hardly the emotional impact as the Challenger disaster did on a more mature, 15-year-old spaceflight buff for whom the thrill of the first Columbia mission hadn’t worn off.

This, for me, was my generation’s “Kennedy” moment – at least until 9/11 made it look insignificant.

But, two and a half years later, NASA got back on its feet again; Discovery launched flawlessly on mission STS-26 on September 29, 1988. And for the next few years, new and interesting things were in store for us space buffs: the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station being the most notable. I worked for a time as a technical editor for a local company that supplied hardware to NASA for the ISS, so I have worked briefly with astronauts and had lunch with an entire shuttle crew.

NASA fell down, but got up again. It’s too bad that in the aftermath of the Columbia‘s destruction in 2002, they seem a little wobbly on their feet.

Reagan’s speech on the eve of the disaster is one of the most significant of his presidency.


Oh dear.

January 27, 2006

No subliminal message here!


Psycho-Fundy Argumentation 101: The False Dichotomy

January 25, 2006

I can’t think of anything better to call this particular “debating” tactic that frequently crops up on chat forums and mailing lists, such as BaptistBoard or the Fighting Fundamental Forums, that are frequented by Fundamentalists.

Basically, the “argument” works like this: Fundamentalist A advocates a certain moral position, usually a strict and abstemious one. Fundamentalist B disagrees mildly. Fundamentalist A then accuses Fundamentalist B of wanton moral profligacy: Fundamentalist B doesn’t merely disagree with Fundamentalist A on the one point that Fundamentalist A was arguing; rather, he has a secret agenda of wanting to legitimize every big, dangerous, grossly sinful act that his depraved little mind can possibly conceive of.

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And now . . . this – Jan. 25/06

January 25, 2006

The words of God © 2006 the Vatican

THE Vatican has been accused of trying to cash in on the Pope�s words after it decided to impose strict copyright on all papal pronouncements.

For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The edict covers Pope Benedict XVI�s first encyclical, which is to be issued this week amid huge international interest. The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff – as Pope and as cardinal – but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.

[Full Story]

In other news, the Virgin Mary will be suing the owners of tortillas, cabinets, underpasses, and so forth over image rights.


OK, but . . .

January 25, 2006

Here’s a good idea as far as it goes: the SnackShotz Treat Launcher fires treats so that your pup can chase them, thus fighting doggy obesity.

I’m sure it’s great fun for all involved. Our family Yorkie loved chasing down treats, notwithstanding my mother’s fears that if I kept the habit up, he wouldn’t want to eat unless his food was thrown at him.

Only thing is . . . can’t you just toss treats to your dog without the gun, and burn a few calories yourself? If it’s good for the dog, it can’t be all that bad for his human.

(H/T: Boing Boing.)


Magnify to coolness level 4

January 24, 2006

Google Local has made another upgrade. In addition to adding new high-resolution imagery (such as the parts of Sydney, Australia that are actually interesting, they’ve bumped up the zoom resolution in some areas by a couple of levels. This means that we can now make out details like the lines on the roads, make and model of vehicles, and sometimes even individual people.

Interestingly, I don’t think that the new images are actually newer. One of my favourite Google Maps shibboleths is Las Vegas, because of the interesting architecture along the Strip. Despite new high-resolution footage, for example, the Vegas images still show the Wynn Las Vegas, which opened last April, as a huge pile of sand In addition, I think at least some of the new hi-res stuff is really just resampled from the extant zoom levels, as it’s pretty blurry at times.

Still – it’s a lot of fun to zoom in on some of those details you couldn’t quite make out before.


Half a loaf: Better than no loaf

January 24, 2006

Some final thoughts on the national election.

According to Elections Canada, the preliminary, uncertified results from the 39th General Election are as follows:

Conservatives: 124

Liberals: 103

Bloc Québecois: 51

New Democrats: 29

Independent: 1

As of today, Canada has a new Prime Minister-designate: Conservative leader Stephen Harper. He will lead a minority government, meaning that while the Conservatives hold the most seats in the House of Commons, they have fewer seats than the combined three parties and one independent MP that form Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Minority governments are weak and rarely last longer than a year; the Liberal minority that was defeated last night bucked that trend and survived about a year and a half.

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