"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

About to comment here for the very first time?
Check Where'd my Comment go?!!! to avoid losing it.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughtcrime

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is bravely defending us against the perils of free speech and that awful 1st amendment.

See Brad Kozak's Freedom of Speech Evidently Has No Place In a University., and what got them up in arms (so to speak) ...
Poster from Brad Kozak's post (linked above)

This poster, from one of my favorite short-lived series Firefly  (sort of a live-action Cowboy Bebop), made U of Wisconsin-Stout officials go ballistic (Can I even use that word?) when a theatre professor posted it on his door.

Apparently he's posted things there for a long time, but this particular one set off the trip-wire of political correctness, which obviously trumps a 200+ year-old scrap of paper called the Constitution.

Please click on the link and give Mr. Kozak's post a look.  There's another poster in there which did not further endear the professor to the powers that be at that institution.

This is a public service announcement from Paul_In_Houston.

H/T: Instapundit

Addendum - 30 Sep 2011 - Context:  Captain Malcolm Reynolds (the dude in the poster) and his motley crew make a pretty much off-the-books living by using their "Firefly" class cargo ship to transport various and sundry items and passengers to other worlds. On learning that one of his passengers has smuggled aboard his sister (a greatly sought-after fugitive from the oppressive Alliance) and berating said passenger about them being an albatross he just doesn't really need at this point, the passenger openly wonders about being killed in his sleep, prompting Mal to clarify things a bit.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Your browser is no longer ...

... supported by Blogger. Some parts of Blogger will not work and you may experience problems.

For a couple of days now, I've been unable to edit or update my existing blog posts, or to create new ones.  When searching through Blogger.com to see if others were also having problems, I learned that they just recently tightened up browser requirements, hence the title and the top line.

If you are having problems, try Google Chrome

That is their recommendation.  Blogger.com is a part of Google, and they recommend using Google Chrome as a fix.  How about that?

It's vaguely reminiscent of Jimmy Breslin's Watergate book wherein he describes Nixon campaign fundraiser Herbert Kalmbach telling businessmen, "You do a lot of work with the government. You should be in with the right people".
 In other places, other men, better men than Kalmbach, tell you, "Pay, -- or die!"
    (~Jimmy Breslin - How The Good Guys Finally Won)


I've been usimg Firefox 3.03 for years now, because it's not so much of a resource hog as other browsers I've worked with.

Now, it looks as if I'm gonna have to use something else.

I'm using an HP computer that I got at the end of 2003, with Windows XP and 256 MB of RAM.

Get a new one?  Right!!!
 "I'll just walk out in back where the money tree grows.
  Grab me a handful and off to the store I'll go."
 (Slight rephrasing of an old Roger Miller song).

I've had several people recommend Chrome to me even though it comes from the evil empire of Google (as opposed, of course, to the evil empire of Microsoft :-)

Truly, a choice of evils. :(

Well, I've downloaded Chrome and am using it (this post is proof that I changed to something else, as my version of Firefox wont help me any longer.)

Biggest irritant of course is getting used to the changes in layout of some things (although, thankfully, the bookmarks menu imported from Firefox retains its general appearance even if it is on the wrong side of the page.

But I can adapt, even to changes that I truly think may have resulted from boredom on someone's part.

The early part of my engineering career was in the slide-rule days. Give one of those to modern day engineers, and I'll bet you some would be trying to figure out, "How do you turn it on?"  ("With a really interesting problem.", I would respond. :-)

That particular career (before I moved into IT) was from 1964 to 1984, and during nearly half of it, the most modern tool we had was an electric adding machine.  I truly kid you not; we had one engineer who used an abacus (and was damned good with it).

It was the late 1960's before someone tried to interest us in a four-function electronic calculator, about the size and shape of an IBM Selectric typewriter, using a bank of tubes showing 7-segment numbers for the display and costing about $600.00 (at a time when that was 1/3 third the price of a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle).  We passed on the deal, at that time.

A couple of years later, I bought a Miida calculator (still only four-function) for about $170.00 from Sears, Roebuck, making me the first in the company to have one.  It got popular very quickly.  I even worked out a three-step method of averaging to get very precise square roots from it (we used those a lot in electrical calculations) and felt pretty damned good about that (although slide-rule accuracy was actually more than sufficient for our purposes -- it was an ego thing for me, I suppose).

Of course, another year or so, and the same amount of money bought an 80-function calculator.  Since then, prices of those things have dropped so much that the only thing keeping them from becoming Cracker Jack prizes is fear of lawsuits if a kid swallows one.

Through all my careers, I have become self-taught on slide-rule, logarithms, computers and programming.

If I can figure those things out, I reckon I can somehow manage the transition from Firefox to Chrome.

I think.

(Pray for me).
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

CALL it "The Freedom Tower" ...

... Not that mind-numbing bureaucratese of "One World Trade Center".

(Originally published 1404 CDT 10 SEP 2011 - Updated below)

"Freedom Tower" is what it was originally meant to be called anyway, until somebody got their panties in a twist and thought that such a name would be a gigantic Foxtrot Yankee to those who tried to bring us down. (Sounds to me like an excellent reason to so name it.)

From the Wikipedia entry (for what that's worth) ...
In 2009, the Port Authority changed the name of the building from "Freedom Tower" to "One World Trade Center", stating that this name is the "easiest for people to identify with".

All I can say is (EXPLETIVE DELETED!!!).

I saw a NOVA special on TV a few nights ago, all about the design and construction of the  1 WTC Building (They've already forgotten the original name) and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The Presence of Absence ...
That's what the architect of the memorial said it was to evoke;  the sense of loss in the footprints of the original twin towers.

That's not a bad description of what appears to be the attitude of Obama and many of his minions who will appear at the 10th anniversary on 11 Sep 2011.  An attitude of "Let's put this behind us and move on." ;  a good sentiment in some circumstances, but in this context almost like saying that the Holocaust Museum should never have been built.

In the Shadow of the Freedom Tower ...
To add to the mix, we also have the Ground Zero mosque, except we're not supposed to call it that on account of it ain't located directly on the former World Trade Center site, Ground Zero, nor is it primarily a mosque,  ("A rose by any other name ...")

Although the City of New York refused to let a Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed at Ground Zero be rebuilt, they appear to have no problem with this abomination.

Maybe some solace can come from the fact that its location, about two blocks northeast of the Freedom Tower suggests that in the fall (around Sep 11), each afternoon it will lie in the shadow of the tower.

So, where are we now? ...
I don't have a date for the picture on the left, but it would probably be several months ago. The two open squares will be the memorial (hopefully completed tomorrow 11 Sep 2011). The picture on the right is how the tower should look when completed a couple of years from now.  (All images in this post are from www.nyc-tower.com )


This one is dated 24 Aug 2011


And this was taken on 01 Sep 2011 - coming right along.

Where was I on that fateful day? ...
The same place most of you were;  at work that Tuesday morning 11 Sep 2001.  Being in IT, they tolerated my occasional surfing of the internet, but it was other workers who urged me to check out the CNN website that morning; something about an airplane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

I immediately thought it was a horrible accident, with Murphy's Law working at peak efficiency that it would be the tallest thing in Manhattan to be hit.  Indeed, that even made sense as it would be a more likely thing to happen because of its height.

I had read, many times, about the July 1945 incident in which a USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) B-25 Mitchell bomber ...

... tried to land in zero visibility (because of fog) at LaGuardia Airport and the pilot became disoriented and crashed into the Empire State Building between the 78th and 80th floors.  At the moment, I felt that, because of the proliferation of tall buildings near landing approaches, such an accident was almost inevitable sooner or later.

Of course, that second plane hitting the other tower made it painfully clear what had really taken place.

The most horrific part was when the South Tower collapsed.  Most of the people killed would have been those trapped on the upper floors.  By that time, the ones below would have already been evacuated, with the only people still below being responders and others desperately trying to reach those still trapped.

What a horrible word is "only" when applied to people like that. The most merciful thing in their case was that when the rumbling started, they probably barely had time to wonder "What the Hell is that?" before it was over.  It was half an hour later before the North Tower went, and I believe that rescue people were still trying their level best there, knowing all too well what could happen and being totally aware when it did.

A year later, I took a driving vacation and, among other places, visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

On display in one wing of the museum was a U-2 reconnaissance plane.  On one wall, curving up from the floor, was a huge aerial photo, taken from that (or a similar) plane, of Manhattan Island.  What you could see so clearly in that photo were the Twin Towers, and it literally took your breath away realizing what was now gone.  I was trying very hard to hold back tears, and I don't think I succeeded. (If any reading this have been to the museum recently, I'd love to know if that photo is still on display.)

Update 27 Jan 2012 - As nobody has volunteered that information, I emailed the museum and received this reply:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your inquiry of January 26, 2012, regarding an exhibition has been received in the Smithsonian’s Public Inquiry Mail Service for response.

The oblique U-2 photo of the New York metropolitan area in the 1970s is still on view in the Looking at Earth Gallery (110) in the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update - Sunday, 09 Sep 2012 - What was, ...
(Couldn't find a date for this picture)

... what is ...
As of April 2012 - from urbanpeek.com 
(The only image in this post not from www.nyc-tower.com )

As of today (Sunday, 09 Sep 2012) - from live camera

The steel structure is complete, with work on glass still proceeding and the spire to follow.

... and what shall be ...

The Tower is scheduled to be ready for occupancy in 2013, and at present has about 55% of its leases filled. The current economy isn't exactly helping, but those who worry about being able to find tenants should recall that the Empire State Building and the original Twin Towers took decades to fill to capacity.

Bottom line, about that name ...
I hope this will be read by bloggers with far greater readerships than my humble 3 or 4 hundred a month, because I beg you to launch a campaign to make "Freedom Tower" the official name of this magnificent structure, or failing that, at least make it the de-facto name.

For my part, from here on out, I shall never refer to it as anything else

If honoring the memory of those who fell there was the only reason, that would be more than enough.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Give this site a visit ...

,,, Astronomy Picture of the Day ... and bookmark it (or set it as one of your "favorites" (or however your particular browser lets you do it)).  Far more rewarding than most websites you'll visit.

Today's (Thu, 08 Sep 2011) entry is a low altitude pass over the site of Apollo 17's landing on the moon on  11 Dec 1972.  See Apollo 17 Site: A Sharper View  and click on the picture for an even larger one.  Rather than steal the pictures for my own use, I'm giving you that link instead. Enjoy.

To Houston residents.  Our downtown city streets appear to have been laid out 16 to the mile, making their center-to-center spacing very close to 100 meters. At the upper right of the picture is a 100 meter bar, which you can visualize as a downtown city block to give you a sense of scale.

I have a special fondness for Apollo 17, as it eventually launched me into an entirely new career trajectory and a complete change in my life, as breathtakingly chronicled in
  Adventure of a Lifetime
followed by
  The Adventure - Continued


Having lost all shame of promoting myself, I'm hoping you will take a look, and not find them too boring.

Thanks. :-)
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Before last night's GOP debate ...

... I had planned on posting about it.

But, this post ain't gonna amount to much, because I didn't see any game changers there.

The two items that were closest (to me at least) both concerned Rick Perry ...

1) When challenged about his "Ponzi Scheme" description of Social Security and Karl Rove's assertion about how "toxic" such a characterization could be, he stuck to his guns there.

2) On being attacked about his record on Capital punishment, he came out swinging on his use of the death penalty.  The cheers he got from the audience were probably not what Brian Williams expected ( I suspect that he was thinking, "Texas barbarians", perhaps forgetting that the debate was in California and one might suppose most of the audience to also be from there).

What I found most encouraging about Perry is that, as a campaigner, he most certainly will not be a doormat to anyone.  If you cross swords with him, you had better be ready to fight.  (Of course, he is a Texan. Were you inclined to actually to go after him with a sword, you might want to recall the classic scene between Indiana Jones and a huge swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  :-)

I'm going strictly by what I saw in the debate itself.

Upon seeing that the analysis (the first half of that word being particularly appropriate) would be conducted by such worthies as Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton, I figured that watching that would be an exercise in masochism I could forgo.

So, I did.
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Where'd my Comment go?!!!

-Yeah;  it really is "Rocket Science".

I've heard from more than a few commenters telling me of writing a long, involved comment, only to lose the entire thing  after being asked to sign in after writing it.

So, herewith a primer on how to keep that from happening ...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Apollo 18 -- The Verdict

(On 16 Apr 2011, 15:46, I originally posted this as "There is a REASON why ...")
... I'll very likely check out the new Apollo 18 movie when it eventually comes out.

And, here is that reason ...


Poster downloaded from http://apollo18movie.net/ ages ago.
The release date on it is no longer valid - see below.
Click on it for larger image.

Produced by Russian-Kazakh film director Timur Bekmambetov (best known for the vampire franchise Night Watch and Day Watch ), this promises to be at least interesting and different (as opposed to the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay film school of "blow 'em up real good". :-)

One year ago today, I posted Adventure of a Lifetime, about my odyssey to the Cape to watch the liftoff of Apollo 16 which went up on the afternoon of 16 Apr 1972.

A couple of months ago (mid February) that post started getting an awful lot of hits.

I learned from one of the commenters that it was due to a comment I had put on the IMDB page about the movie. The movie is supposed to be about a secret mission, and a commenter there asked, in effect, "How in Hell do you manage a clandestine launch of a Saturn V?!!!"

I replied that I could personally attest that such an event is a bit conspicuous, and I included links to "Adventure" and also to its follow-up, The Adventure - Continued.

I started to put much of this in a further addendum to "Adventure", but decided that doing so would only change the focus of that post.

That poster shows an 04 Mar 2011 release date. By the time all the comments hit my post, it had changed to 22 Apr 2011, and the imminent arrival triggered an avalanche of visits to the IMDB page, and subsequently to my post. As of today, it now appears that it will be 06 Jan 2012 when it hits the theaters.

Update - 29 Jun 2011 - It now appears it will be released on Friday, 02 Sep 2011.

I have many times breathlessly anticipated upcoming movies, only to have my hopes dashed when I finally saw them.

The business of bringing a movie to life is such a combination of art (hopefully), decision by committee, pure dumb luck and often mind-boggling stupidity (Pauline Kael once described movies as "an art form, run by businessmen") that Lewis Carroll would be hard put to render it justice.

Harlan Ellison has managed it on occasion, in some of his essays, and the process ain't pretty. In truth, the fact that sometimes, something really good actually emerges from all this is a true miracle.

So, I fully realize that chances of what I'm looking forward to turning out to be indescribable dreck are fairly high.

But, honestly now, hasn't that poster piqued your curiosity, at least a little bit?

02 Sep 2011 - The Verdict - I've satisfied my curiosity today.  Is it dreck?  No.

It's sort of a "The Blair Witch Project (1999)" version of a lunar mission, and is actually quite chilling and effective in places.  In fact, if it was a Saturday night offering on The Syfy Channel, I'd consider it well above average for that venue. (Yes, that is damning with faint praise.)

I doubt that you'll be wailing about an hour and a half of your life that you'll never get back.  On the other hand, you probably wont go back for a second helping.

Now that that is out of my system, only three more weeks to go ('til September 23) to check out yet another movie I'm very curious about (see Possibly a good movie ... ).
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