28 July 2005

Crap - Shuttles on hold

    Until we’re ready, we won’t go fly again. I don’t know when that might be.
      Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons
Today Discovery docked with the ISS, after performing a back-flip maneuver to inspect the whole shuttle. Unfortunately, there's bad news with the good. The fleet is grounded as NASA determined that a foam piece came loose during launch. Thankfully, it looks like Discovery came through unscathed.

27 July 2005

See Discovery from many angles

    You can go with this
    Or you can go with that
    You can go with this
    Or you can go with that
      Fatboy Slim
MSNBC put together this cool interactive that let's you watch the launch from multiple angles at once, changing cameras on the fly. Check it out.

26 July 2005

Godspeed Discovery

    Freedom lies in being bold.
      Robert Frost
Good luck and godspeed to the crew of Discovery. The dedication and determination of the men and women of NASA are an inspiration.

25 July 2005

Things I miss from childhood

    You set sail across the sea
    Of long past thoughts and memories.
    Childhood's end, your fantasies
    Merge with harsh realities.
    And then as the sail is hoist,
    You find your eyes are growing moist.
    All the fears never voiced
    Say you have to make your final choice.
      Childhood's End
      by Pink Floyd
Rob at Laughing at the Pieces offered his post on this subject then tagged me. So here goes:
1. The woods behind my neighbor's house.
Many a war game was played there. Many an expeditions were launched. We dug up old farm equipment and hid in the old chicken coops. They were a safe place for us to play in an unsafe manner. Now, the woods are gone, replaced by houses.
2. Climbing trees
There was one you could climb high enough to see the high school, a couple miles away. We built tree houses (plural, because they lacked the structural integrity to last), a rope swing, and the slide for life (a pulley that your rode down a 50' length or rope). There was one time when I jumped down from a tree, and my knee caught me in the face, putting my tooth through my lip. Good times!
3. Vermont
Every year we went there, to the same lean-to in Calvin Coolidge State Forest. They were all named after trees. Ours was Basswood. Such was my family's dedication to this annual vacation that they went when Mom was eight months pregnant with me. Going there each year was like going home. I keep pestering Sharon about going there again. Someday....
4. Gram
My dad's mother came to live with us when we moved to a larger house. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have that, though I do now. Gram always had stories about this and that, so familiar that I took them for granted. And there was her cooking. I don't miss that, to be honest. Having lived through the Depression, she wasted nothing. This made for some, um, interesting dishes. How about a lamb sandwich? No mayonaise for the egg salad? BBQ sauce will do.
5. Atari 2600
Okay, I've got to be honest on this one. I loved that Atari. I did. I wasted countless hours of my life finding the chalice again in Adventure, rolling the score over in Space Invaders and Asteroids, shaving another second off my time in the Indy 500 ice race, etc., etc.

Well, there ya go. Who should I tag next? I will randomly choose from my friends' blogs. Leaving Rob's off, there are six. The result of 1d6 is... six! That means I'm tagging Jeri.

24 July 2005

Point of view

    "First of all," [Atticus] said, "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-"
    "-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
      To Kill a Mockingbird
      by Harper Lee
Today I was posting some comments to this post at The Center of NJ Life. I was critical of random searches in the NYC Subway and NJ Transit, and someone asked me for alternatives. After explaining why I thought random searches wouldn't work, I voiced support for better information sharing, espionage, and good old detective work. I also said need to address root causes in our foreign policy. That's a buzz-word laden way of saying I think we need to do more to understand what is leading people to terrorism.

Here's the thing. I almost left that last one off. I wanted to avoid the inevitable accusations that I hated America and supported terrorism. I was remembering Karl Rove's remarks in June. I went ahead and put it in. We'll see if the thread gets derailed or not.

I've been thinking about this whole root cause thing for awhile. As a software developer, I deal with root causes often. There's a problem with an application, bad behavior, a bug. For example, I have a label on a button. All of a sudden, the label is garbled. What do I do? I can just reset the label, fixing the immediate issue. But something garbled that label. There's still a bug, and odds are it will manifest elsewhere. To do it right, I have to dig in a little, look at what's changed recently, maybe step through the program as it runs watching everything. That takes more effort, of course, and the solution is more complex. Yet that is clearly the right way to handle it, and the solution is more robust.

Like the quick fix, we have a quick answer for why terrorists hate us. "Because we're free," is what Bush has said more than once. It's a great soundbite that plays well in big speaches. But it denies the complex issues at hand. It turns a blind eye to real problems that lie at the heart. Until these root causes are addressed, this hatred will manifest itself over and over in new and different places. I am not advocating for apeasement here. I don't believe we should bargain with terrorists. We need to truly understand what motivates these people to such extreme actions.

It can't just be that they're evil. No one is born wanting to do this. People learn to hate. Mohammad Atta came into this world just like the rest of us. He was an innocent little kid once. He learned to hate us. Why is that? Have we really thought about it? Are we doing anything to change that? Shouldn't we be? And why is it un-American to do so?

I know most of the people who read this, so I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But I'm just so sick of hearing that the only solution is to "brandish steel," as Rove put it. We've brandished plenty of steel, and what has it gotten us?

13 July 2005

Is Rove the new North?

    The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.
      George Orwell
This post from eriposte at The Left Coaster does a great job detailing and debunking the GOP talking points about Karl Rove blowing Valerie Plame's cover. I was incredulous when I watched John Gibson's ridiculous commentary suggesting Rove deserves a medal. He went above and beyond today in service of his GOP masters.

Then it dawned on me. Karl Rove could be the next Oliver North. I re-read the talking points, and it starts to add up. They tell this story:
Self-serving Valerie Plame recklessly hands an overseas assignment to her hubby, left-wing nut Joe Wilson. Joe is supposed to look into the yellow-cake deal, but he's a liberal peace-nik who doesn't want a war, even in Iraq where there is a clear and present danger. He also wants John Kerry to win, so he can get a job in the new administration. So he tries to sabotage the case for war by offering up a flawed report designed only to serve his own agenda.

Enter patriot Karl Rove. He sees through Joe's plan, and he's willing to stop Wilson no matter what the cost. Selflessing putting himself in legal peril, Rove does the only thing he can: he exposes the secret backroom dealings of Plame and Wilson. Sure, it could be against the law, but our national security comes first.
It's a great story. It side-steps the legal fallout and re-casts Rove as the selfless patriot. As a bonus, it implies that Saddam really was trying to buy yellow-cake after all. New life for the WMD justification.

Sound too far-fetched? Don't think the American public will buy it? How many people still, still think Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks? How many think Ollie North is a hero?

Call me Uncle Pennybags

    Advance token to nearest Railroad and pay owner Twice the Rental to which he is entitled.
      Chance card in Monopoly
That phrase signaled the end of the game for my daughter this past weekend. It was anyone's game until then. In order to come up with the $400 rent, she had to sell off all her houses and mortgage two of her last three properties. I did the only appropriate thing for a loving father to do at this point: I danced around laughing and shouting, "IN YOUR FACE! IN YOUR FACE!"

That's a joke! Geeez! What do you take me for?

Actually, I said she played a good game, told her it was bad luck, and noted that had I hit her houses first, it would have gone the other way (which it would have). Of course, I did still take her money and build two more houses on Boardwalk and Park Place, just to make sure. And I said, "Sorry honey," right before I asked for the $1400 rent that officially bankrupted her. For the record, she's won several games of Monopoly in the past.

Sharon had taken my younger daughter to a birthday party in hell, I mean Chuck E. Cheese. My oldest and I were home, and I asked what she wanted to do. It was hot out, and she'd already ridden her new bike for an hour, so she asked if we could play a game. First we played Stratego. She picked that, I swear. Then (and I am not making this up) she asked if we could play Risk. I said that would probably take too long to play, so she suggested Monopoly, which we did. We both had a really good time playing games. I'm psyched that she has my love of board games.

After the game, we headed up to the school where she rode her new bike around the parking lot while I flew a kite. A nice finish to a great afternoon.

12 July 2005

Joel Stein, you're lame, lame, lame, lame!

    Here's what I think: Joel Stein is a ninny.
Rob offered this post about Joel Stein's slamming of adult Harry Potter fans. I read Stein's piece. He's clearly trying to be contrarian. He also talks big for someone who didn't read the books. I began a comment on Rob's blog, but decided to go full-blown-post because, well, I need something. Here are my observations:

He says Judy Blume is a good author, but adults don't read Freckle Juice. Well, my daughter read Freckle Juice. It's, like, 48 pp., so yeah, he's right, adults don't go for books like that. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is 309 pp. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is 672 pp. A little different don't you think?

He also points to the equivalent books of our youth. (His point: we had those books to fill our adolescent needs, leave it at that.) He includes Tolkein's books in there. So he's saying Tolkein is only good for thirteen-year-olds?

Oh yeah, he needs to point out how simplistic the plot is. It's just your basic good/evil story. Surprise, a fantasy story that has a battle between good and evil. How about that. And the story is by no means that simplistic. There are plenty of shades of grey. Take Delores Umbridge. What she does, and why, is more complex than simple a good vs. evil plot. And what about Snape? Talk about an ambiguous character.

Etc., etc., etc. Joel might figure this out a little more, but, as I mentioned, he didn't read the books.

Strength in numbers

    You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life!
      A Bug's Life
The White House press corp demostrated that intimidation can only carry the Bush administration so far. The briefings from yesterday and today are sights to behold. You'll find nothing of value in Scott McClellan's answers. He can't even come up with new and interesting ways to say, "No comment." The good stuff is in the questions, which are relentless. It's like the reporters all decided at once they'd had enough bullshit.

I'd love to blog about this on a play by play basis, but I need to get back to work. But Seething in the Wilderness has everything you'll want to see here and here.

08 July 2005

Rove the White House leaker?

    Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
    Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
    Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
    Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
Newsweek is reporting that Karl Rove is one of the sources behind the outing of Valerie Plame. Okay everyone, together now in your best Steven Wright monotone:
Oh my god. Can you believe it. What is this world coming to? I am sooooo surprised.
Karl Rove, huh? Who would have thunk? Well, anyone with five or more neurons, but why care? Rove can relax, secure in the knowledge that he's more likely to be ridden to victory in the Kentucky Derby than face prosecution.

Besides, the London bombings will leave this story buried. Just another reason for whoop-whooping over at Fox (SitW has the details on that).


    1. To show the way to by going in advance.
      The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
I looked up leader and found a picture of Antonio Villaraigosa.

Details from:


    Today we are all British
      Sign being held up outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.
I don't know what to say about the London bombings that is better than five words from a guy in front of the British Embassy. I will share this photo, which struck a cord with me:

This is the crowd of people heading into Liverpool Street Station once it reopenned, showing that sometimes you triumph simply by getting on with your day.

06 July 2005

Shine on you crazy diamond

    You know that I care what happens to you
    And I know that you care for me
    So I don't feel alone
    Of the weight of the stone
    Now that I've found somewhere safe
    To bury my bone
    And any fool knows a dog needs a home
    A shelter from pigs on the wing
      Pink Floyd
I finally managed to watch a video of the the Pink Floyd set at Live 8 (streaming, without the annoying MTV commercial breaks I heard about). Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright played together for the first time since 1981. The guys didn't sound half bad.

Comfortably Numb was the song I really wanted to hear. I think it suffered most from the absence of Gilmour or Waters. Any live version sounded wrong because because half the vocals weren't the voice I wanted to hear. Wish You Were hear suffered the same problem, although to a lesser extent, and it was good to hear that too.

It was nice to see them up there together playing some of my favorite songs. There were several points where the camera caught band members making eye contact with one another. Mostly it was Waters or Gilmour looking back at Mason. I know I'm looking through a fan's eyes here, but they seemed to exchange this little knowing look, as if to say, "You're right, this is cool."

There was a nice moment at then end, with the four of them standing together thanking the crowd. You've probably seen the photo. They all seem genuinely happy they're there together. I hope they were. I was.

The Nazi card

    No soup for you!
      The Soup Nazi
I don't know if I've said this already, but my new favorite political commentator is Keith Olbermann. His MSNBC blog is call Bloggermann, and his posts have a Jon Stewart sensibility that I really appreciate. One recent post I like was this one on the recent Nazi references by U.S. Senators Byrd, Santorum, and Durbin. Personally I don't think they should resign, as Olbermann suggests. But he's dead on here:
The Republicans are not the SS, and the Democrats are not the Gestapo, and Gitmo is not Buchenwald.
I like that he seeks to reign in the extreme rhetoric that makes enlightened debate so difficult these days. And I think both sides are guilty here.

To be sure, we can be to P.C. about the term. I had no problem when Seinfeld introduced the Soup Nazi. I came accross this L.A. Times commentary that speaks to this issue.

I don't know where the line is. Going back to the three Senators, here's my take. I thought Byrd's comments were okay. He was talking about strategies the Nazis used to gain power and drawing (IMHO) fair comparisons to our goverment. As much as I dislike Santorum, I didn't think he was calling Democrats Nazis, he was making an analogy, albeit a stupid one.

Durbin, I think, crossed the line. He made the direct comparison the others did not. By implying that Guantanamo Bay interrogators acted like Nazis, he failed on two levels. First, he was just plain wrong. The worst actions of the interrogators were nothing close to what the Nazis did routinely. Second, in making this comparison he undermined his own cause. He lost credibility on the issue and, in doing so, failed to address the real and dangerous situation in Gitmo.

That's a mistake we can't afford to make.

04 July 2005

What I did on my vacation Pt. 1

    I long for wildness... Woods where the woodthrush forever sings, Where the hours are early morning ones, And there is dew on the grass, And the day is forever unproven... A New Hampshire everlasting and unfallen.
      Henry David Thoreau
The quote was on a sign at the entrance of Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. When I saw it, my first thought was, I need to remember that for my blog. Of course, I forgot the exact quote, but googling '"lost river" thoreau' turned it right up.

The New Hampshire HouseLast week was the family vacation. My family, my brother's family, and my parents all rent a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. It was a lakefront house (pictured). It was taken from the pontoon boat we rented (but I'm getting ahead of myself). There plenty of bedrooms for everyone, a great view of the lake, a dock, beach, and use of the canoe and kayaks. The lake was great for swimming, and we did plenty of that.

Other activities included the aformentioned pontoon boat. They're nice in that there is room for everyone to sit and space for the kids to walk around a bit without fear of them falling out. The house is on a section of the lake named Moultonboro Bay. Getting the boat from the rental place to the house is fun because you have to navigate through The Graveyard. Yes, it's really called that. There are more than 1000 markers on the lake warning you away from rocks and boulders that would, if struck, significantly increase the rental cost of the boat.

View from West RattlesnakeWe explored Lost River, as I said. We also did a bit of hiking. Right next to Winnipesaukee is Squam Lake, and the Squam Lake Association maintains a wonderful and diverse set of trails. The "Bridle Path" trail takes you up West Rattlesnake to an elevation of 1220'. All the kids made the trip up, where you are treated to wide vistas overlooking the lake. The picture at the right is the view from the top. We headed down shortly after, ahead of the approaching thunder storm. We all got doused by some rain, but everyone still had a great time.

Sharon and I also got a hike of our own in. We took the SLA trail to Eagle Cliffs. The trail climbs up the mountain, traversing Eagle Cliffs as it goes. There's one spot where you can even climb the cliff for 0.1 mi. The view was great there too, although it was cloudy that day. There was a neat point where we ascended into the cloud. It was suddenly quiet and foggy.

Well, time to head off to the cousin's house for Independence Day fun. I'll post more later.