I knew this would happen as soon as I heard about it ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/28/2008 10:28:00 PM

Here's hoping that next Saturday's launch of STS-124 is a successful one. STS-124 will mark the launching of the Japanese "Kibo" laboratory module - which the Houston Chronicle appropriately names the "Lexus" of labs.

My fear is that the newsies will drown this fact out with an overreporting of the toilet problems onboard ISS. I was aware of problems last week, but the troubleshooting was over the weekend & there was no point in mentioning it. But of course, MSNBC got it and CNN has covered it at least twice, the morning yakkers have mentioned it, others have mentioned it as well, and now everyone seems to be aware of it.

Watch for the inevitable overcoverage of that story, and undercoverage of Kibo installation and activation. (sigh)

And while we're on it, congratulations to the Phoenix Lander Team! A successful landing, followed by successful command/telemetry troubleshooting gives them an A+ in my book.

The only downside I have with the Phoenix Lander is that, since I also work for NASA, there are many times when folks outside NASA confuse the JPL unmanned work (like the Phoenix Lander) with the JSC manned work (like Shuttle & ISS) - and I get innocent questions about what is up with the Phoenix Lander. (sigh)

The "Solar Singularity"?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/27/2008 05:50:00 AM

Quite a while back, Instapundit pointed to Phil Bowermaster, who cites that "The (Solar) Singularity is Near.

I just don't know.
I easily recall starting my Engineering studies in 1980, with a viewpoint that energy costs were going to do nothing but go up, and that a future in alternate energy sources seemed like a "secure" thing. By the time I'd graduated, a barrel of crude was ~ $5/bbl. Oil was cheap, and the domestic energy exploration industry (and with it, the local Houston economy and "alt.energy" industries like solar) was practically dead.

Yeah, yeah, that was a long time ago. And China and India were not online. The China/India factor is what's really pushing up the prices, and why I'll think they'll never go down - at least, for quite a while.

I find aspects of today's energy debate disturbing. On the one hand, there's the environmentalists who think we can just save our way to success (as well as develop the alt. energy sources). On the other, there's the folks who want to drill for oil everywhere - in ANWR, and off of each of the USA's "pristine" coasts (Pacific, Atlantic, and E. Gulf of Mexico - and yes, Texas & Louisiana are acutely aware that the rest of the US doesn't think their coastline is as "pristine" as theirs, but they're willing to take the $).

I personally think that BOTH sides are right. As Robert Zubrin points out, the real issue is an economic one, not one based on CO2 emissions (as it always has been - see the "Omissions and Emissions" portion of his article). We need to do the drilling, including in the "sensitive" areas, and do the other things (more coal use w/CO2 sequestration, shale oil use, Nuke power, etc). However, the amount of coal, oil, and uranium in the ground is finite, to whatever economic point we want to go at it, that drilling etc. will only buy us time. We can use that time to develop renewable resources. It's time for all of us to stop the political/philosophical posturing and get on with the right short term and long term goals.

In spite of what some may think, energy independence is a worthy goal.

Echoing the Curmudgeon ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/26/2008 12:48:00 PM

On a day like today, it's time to give thanks for those who have saved us from war's devastation.

Another wise call for space exploration

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/26/2008 06:46:00 AM

Neil DeGrasse Tyson (as I noted earlier) has not been the only scientific "celeb" to call for more space exploration. About a month ago, as part of NASA's 50th anniversary celebration, Stephen Hawking delivered a reasoned proposition on the subject - particularly human exploration and settlement of outer space.

Hawking posesses the capability to comprehend some of the most complex theories in existence. However, in this case, Hawking's argument is simple: Humanity needs to spread to outer space as a hedge against catastrophe on Earth. To do this, Hawking proposes that 0.25% of all worldwide GDP be invested in the effort. He also agreed that lunar settlement/colonization was the first necessary step in the process.

These types of goals are long term, which do not bode well in the short term political environment that most space exploration policy is created. But the case and investments have to be made.

Hat Tip - Keith Cowing/NASA Watch

Will this mean that shootouts are too expensive?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/25/2008 06:37:00 AM

A couple of months ago, an interesting article popped up in the NY Times. The editors of Freakonomics (Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt) noted that the rising cost of metals extended to ammunition as well.

And looking at the comments, apparently Chris Rock and JSpeilburg had the same observation!

How to Suck Less at Photoshop

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/24/2008 01:24:00 AM

For a good laugh and (maybe) some learning (if you actually have Photoshop), surf over to Suck Less at Photoshop, a series of edgy, yet funny videos done by Donnie Hoyle.

Two observations:

1. These films are hilarious

2. Donnie Hoyle might want to check into counseling.

HAT TIP: Gina Trapani/Lifehacker

The boss is right ... and so is Neal DeGrasse Tyson

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/23/2008 06:35:00 PM

My boss forwarded on to me a video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson & his views on Human Spaceflight.

Granted, I'm biased, but I agree w/Dr. Tyson (and by extension, my boss).

Mandy and Lester ... and doing the right thing

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/22/2008 06:27:00 PM

Normally, I don't take my moral cues from commercials. But this video is a good one, and is part of Liberty Mutual's "Responsibility Project".

It's not normally seen on TV, but it is sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. As a result, it's probably the best type of advertisement I've seen - helping Liberty Mutual's viewers make the connection between doing the right thing and what their company is promoting that it stands for.

You can check out more about the Responsibility Project at http://www.responsibilityproject.com/about/, and from the Responsibility Project Blog.

An overview of this blog

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/21/2008 05:45:00 PM

I see from the multitudes now flocking to this site :*/ that folks want to know ... "Hey, what is this blog all about? He teases us with the NASA space stuff, but then doesn't say anything about that".

Well, I have heard your lamentations long enough, so I will come down from by blogging perch atop Mount Olympus and give you a smattering of an idea as to where I think this blog thing will go.

FIRST, I've decided to live up to the title of this blog. It says "A Blog A Day", so dagburnit, that's what I should deliver, as a minimum frequency.

NEXT, let's talk about some of the "themes" in this blog, which should give you, the almighty reader, an idea of what will be coming.

Currently, I have 11 different topics I like to blather about. Some of my entries will be about more than one of these topics. Here's the blog entry categories:

alt.space - insights into and thoughts about the plans and progress of the non-NASA/gov't, non-AirForce, non-"Big boy" (Boeing, Lockheed Martin) aerospace companies that are trying to get humans back in space. I'm avoiding reporting on "the usual suspects" with this category.

nasa_plans - In January 2004, George Bush, as a result of the studies done after the Coumbia accident, announced the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). I'll have several entries that talk about what folks think about NASA's progress implementing it.

past_future - As the modern philosopher Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." It's amazing to see how people in the past thought the future would unfold. These entries illustrate how far off they got.

nostalgia - just nostalgic wistful memories of things I lived through. Again, from Yogi Berra, "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."

msm - my thoughts on the mainstream media, and why people will depend on blogs & the internet much more heavily than in the past.

interesting - things that seem, well, interesting to me. Your mileage may vary.

inspirational - things that move me in some manner. Again, your mileage may vary.

Humor - funny observations by myself & others.

Houston - It's my hometown & where I basically grew up. It's been through ups & downs & I wish it the best. I care, so you should care - and if you don't, then blog about your own locality, OK?

Boys - I've got a teenage son & 1 who's about to be a teen. Before long, college & the "Real world" will await them. These blog entries are a preparation for that.

alt.energy - In the 70's, it was observed that coal, oil, gas, & uranium were finite resources. Prices on those commodities have gone down & up, but the fundamental fact that they are finite has not changed. These entries identify what f0lks are doing to contend with that fundamental fact.

Anything else you'd like me to blog about? Let me know in the comments.

In any event, I hope you like the blog & visit often.

- Bob

The Windy state

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/20/2008 11:42:00 PM

From Houston Business News, 4/15/08, Survey: Texas leads nation in wind capacity .

Hooray! We're number one!

And I believe it - there were windmills all over the Pecos Mountains and on the edge of the caprock when we went on vacation in 2006. And guess which University is going to be running the wind research institute down near Corpus Christi? Nice setup, eh?

Semper Fi

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/19/2008 11:06:00 PM

Not sure why, but I am inspired by this ad (I've seen snippets of it on TV already) - and I've never been in the military.

From instapundit, a TV ad from the Marines.

How my boys will sell me on Wii - to get fit!

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/18/2008 10:59:00 PM

According to the cnn.com technology page (5/10), the folks at Nintendo have been able to incorporate all sorts of fitness exercises into the Nintendo Wii.

I wonder when the inevitable exercise injuries & lawsuits will start? :*/

On the pollution front

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/17/2008 03:33:00 AM

See, it's not Houston's fault. From the chron 4/12 Study: Sea salt a key ingredient in Houston pollution

And as I thought, it's those Chinese new starts that are really doing it. Instapundit (4/15) points it out ... China now top polluter

Two words - Haloween Costume

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/16/2008 03:28:00 AM

From Boing Boing ...Voice-changing Dalek helmet

Old subway cars as artificial reefs - is this OK?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/15/2008 03:19:00 AM

Slashdot reports on Old Subway Cars as Artificial reefs.

Call me crazy, but with a probability of gas prices continuing to increase, with an increased need for mass transit, wouldn't it make more sense for old subway cars to be used as something like, say, reused subway cars?

Let the fish & coral get their own mass transportation systems!

Read price charts & dream yourself a business tycoon with Inspectd ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/14/2008 03:56:00 AM

From Freakonomics (4/15). I think I made $20k in about 25 deals ... Inspectd. You may not waste any real money, but you can waste plenty of time with it ...

Transportation meddling

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/13/2008 04:01:00 AM

From Boing Boing (4./12)Cities making red-light cameras more profitable by making them less safe

And from Techdirt (via Slashdot) (4/12), a title about pretty much the same thing.

I remember talking to a Transportation Engineer when I worked at the Texas Transportation Institute while I was in college. He told me about similar shenanigans along Texas Highways when small municipalities would adjust the speed limits so that the towns could be "speed traps" and the town could use those highways as "revenue enhancers".

Problem was, if a Transportation Engineer rated a piece of the highway as being able to maintain a certain speed limit, AND an accident was attributed to the municipality lowering the limit significantly lower than what that rating was, the municipality AND THE COUNCILMEMBERS WHO VOTED FOR THE LOWERED SPEED LIMIT could be held JOINTLY and INDIVIDUALLY LIABLE for any loss of life or property attributable to that lowered speed limit.

I would think the same thing would hold about traffic lights and/or cameras.

We'll see how all this goes ...

I think Dr. Smith got it wrong this time ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/12/2008 03:29:00 AM

From Houston Business News 4/23/08 ... High gas prices equal good Houston economy, says economist

I think this would have been true if it was 1988 - not so much now. The Houston economy is more diversified, and therefore more reflective of the national economy as a whole. High gas prices (and associated profits)won't necessarily flow to Houstonians, regardless of how many corporate headquarters we have (even if Texas now has more Fortune 500 headquarters than New York!).

How many of y'all agree with me? Let me know in the comments.

Ghost hotel ... inspired by the Gobbler?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/11/2008 04:22:00 AM

Boing Boing (4/23) came across what looked like a luxury hotel shell in the Sinai peninsula. Now, tell me that it doesn't sorta look like a Gobbler shell ...

Do men run the world?

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/10/2008 03:51:00 AM

Instapundit (4/15) points to the modern philosopher Scott Adams who tells the real story. Boys, take note.

For more efficiency in your life ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 5/09/2008 04:25:00 AM

Again, in search of that never-ending quest for efficiency in your life ...
as I showed before, you can shower and get your morning coffee in the same operation. You can also automate your kidnapping letters.

Now ...

you can interface your jeans to your computer & type anywhere!

Hat tip (again) Boing/Boing (Cory Doctorow)