Saturday, January 28, 2006

Where I was when Challenger died

In the Physics Department library, studying. There weren't many people there. The librarian actually came up to me and told me. The shuttle exploded on takeoff.

My first reaction, and I make no apology for it, was this will kill the space program. I was correct, too, because you can't really call this terrified-of-risk, barely-funded travesty with antique equipment a space program. The seven who died, I suspect, would agree with me. Look, nobody sits on that much liquid oxygen without knowing deep in your internal organs that death is a distinct possibility that day. They still did it because to them the risk of NOT KNOWING was worse. I grieve for their lives but I grieve more that their deaths seem to have been wasted.

When are we going to dream of the stars again?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bribes have been administered

Stay tuned. I think you will like what your Evil Overlord is doing for your entertainment ... and if you don't, the moat always needs cleaning.

Meanwhile, I find this absolutely fascinating. See, theoretical physics (and astrophysics is, of necessity, largely theoretical) is primarily a cheap form of institutionalization for the mentally questionable. It keeps them quiet and happy and they never seem to notice the locks on the doors don't work with their keys. Gravitational theory is one of the biggies. If they come up with something that combines quantum AND relativity, they get extra points. (And irritate the ghostly presence of A. Einstein, who famously a) invented relativity and b) hated quantum). This would be like serving espresso and sugary snacks at a faculty seminar. Professors waving their arms! Shouting, gesticulating, and diagrams scribbled on walls! Frightened students hiding under the refreshment table!

Go on, read it. I promise there aren't any equations.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


The wait I referred to here has been resolved. Launch has been scrubbed, game is over, and various zaftig ladies are warbling about Tosca's Kiss. I was the one who pulled the trigger, too, since it involved a contract that was a) strange, atypical, and much to my disadvantage, and b) they adamantly refused to change it. Not a good sign for an ongoing business relationship, I think you will agree. So ... starting all over again. Maybe someday I can tell you what it was all about, but for now Discretion Is Our Watchword.

And it would have been such a beautiful death ray ....

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Decadence Day

Decadence Day is next Saturday. If you didn't know that don't feel bad, since it is a holiday I invented to fill a much-needed gap in a month that is usually dark and gloomy around here. It takes place on the third Saturday of January, and is devoted to doing at least one thing you've never done before that is fun, indulgent, and primarily non-practical. You can do other decadent things you enjoy, but you should add at least one new thing each time.

Decadent Things I have done:
- spa day
- bought cool electronic things that go ping! and have blinkenlights
- henna tattoos
- the details are a little blurry, but it involved lots of chocolate

So ... what should I do next?

As I long suspected ...

Turns out if you stop telling them what they can do and just get out of the way, you find out what women can actually do. (via Instapundit) I had my doubts about the whole "women are inherently weaker than men, even when they are a foot taller and more muscular" argument since college, where I had a good (male) friend in Army ROTC. I could bench-press his scrawny ass and tie him in a pretzel without breaking a sweat, and I freely admit to being out of shape at the time. So ... why was *I* the one who couldn't handle the Rigors of Combat(tm)?

Not to say they won't find some actual differences, but I am glad to see that researchers are casting suspicious glances on the tired old bromides. They used to think women shouldn't study math because the blood would leave the uterus and go to the brain instead. Yes, really. I can assure you (math minor) that is not the case. So now I look forward to studies where they compare the physical abilities of similar-sized men and women. I'm suspecting that a lot of the differences will fade. And they will fade over time as well, as women discover it's fun to be strong.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Crowbar therapy

In times of trial, when things aren't quite going your way and you need to let off a little agressive steam in a socially-approved manner and you don't have access/permission/an alibi to use Things That Go Boom, ripping the bejesus out of some really ugly interior paneling (the better to remove antique wiring and introduce that newfangled notion, insulation) is a satisfactory substitute. Added benefits include being inside where it is dry and you don't need a license or a good excuse to own a crowbar. That's Blue Max up there. I ripped off all the old siding on my house with that -- two layers. With a good crowbar much is possible.

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya ...

I hate waiting.

I'm supposed to get the final word on a project I've been waiting for for YEARS. Much work, mental anguish, and teeth-grinding has gone into this. But it's one of those things where it's important to get it right from the beginning, and if it's all screwed up I will pull the plug and start over. Duct tape has its place, but not in the initial design.

(taps fingers on desk, looks at watch)


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Don't hate me ...

Because I live in a temperate climate. That's a crocus and the tip of a tulip coming up in my front yard. In January. If this is one of the Dire Consequences of global warming, I'm all for it.

To all my friends in Solid Water Country, there is only one thing I can say ....


Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Message to you, NYT

The God of Straightlines has provided yet again. In yesterday's pile of junk mail was a missive from none other than the New York Times, promising me a subscription at a reduced rate! Admirably concealing my transports of joy, I composed the following on the back of the offer letter and sent it back in the postage paid envelope.

Dear New York Times;
It is the customary mode when an offer is made for thanks to be expressed, regardless of the sentiments that might be felt. But I cannot -- I have no interest in a reduced rate, or even a subscription for free. Forgive me if my blunt speaking wounds your sensibilities, but I am at a loss to understand why you sent this to me in the first place. (Actually I am aware that your circulation numbers have been in a downward spiral for some time, but the Seattle area already has several publications that serve the heavily-biased-liberal market should Hell freeze over and I wish to avail myself of them.)

Your fact-checking is excrable. Your own ombudsman can't even get his questions answered, so what hope do ordinary mortals have? You make particularly laughably errors every time you attempt to report on the military, the kind that a simple phonecall or even Google could answer for you. On your masthead is the stirring motto; "All the News that is Fit to Print", but you have a, shall we say, elastic definition of "Fit". Otherwise you would be equally excised over all alleged leaks of classified information (e.g Valerie Plame vs. the recent NSA phone intercept program). In the last presidential election you were quick to print a story alleging that the Swift Boat Veterans claims concerning Kerry had been "debunked" but you never allowed your readers to learn from you exactly what those allegations were.

I do like your new TimesSelect program, though. By putting all that dubious content behind a paywall innocent children surfing the Web will be sheltered from inadvertently reading it.