Friday, July 23, 2010


CNN botches a report on the space program. In the piece entitled What will inspire tomorrow's rocket scientists? Lauren Russell writes

Ferguson and most other astronauts paid for their shuttle tickets with post-graduate degrees and years in the military.

But, if commercial organizations take over NASA's suborbital shuttle missions, the next generation's astronauts might purchase their ticket as they would a bus or plane ticket.
The only problem with this is that the space shuttle does not perform sub-orbital operations - it was designed and is used for low Earth orbital missions. Perhaps I'm just being pissy, but this kind of thing bothers me. Reporters should know the subject that they report on.

NOTE: Several hours after I first spotted this mistake it is still up on their website. I've saved the page just in case.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

THIS is why I'm NEVER leaving the USA!

NOTE: I started work on this post back on the night of March 23 2008. A few weeks later my life fell apart so the post never got completed. (I don't know why I didn't complete it before then. I have a huge volume of stuff "under construction".) But this post at Ambiance reminded me of all the fun. I've made a couple of minor changes, but I'm mostly just publishinig my draft as I don't know what else I had in mind.


Wherein it gives added weight to the phrase "Don't drink the water!"

WARNING: The contents of this post are quite disgusting!

Of all things, a blog post about Kate Beckingsale's eating habits led me to detailed instructions concerning the proper procedures for use of the dreaded Squat Toilet. ("Rule One: Exhaust all other possibilities." - My wife comments that this is the Golden Rule of Squat Toilets.)

Apparently squat toilets are very common in China. With the Olympics being held in China this year in 2008, many people are now were trying to discover how exactly one uses a squat toilet. Well, the interwebs, amazing things that they are, helpfully provide the answer! (Note that the blog post in question is almost two four years old.)

Proceed as follows:

Most stalls do not have toilet paper. This is the best time to realize this. Either take paper from the general dispenser in the bathroom area or preferably bring your own as it will be made of tissue and not plywood carpaccio.

Approach the squat toilet apprehensively and make sure it's not covered in stool. If it is covered in stool, choose another stall. If another stall is not available, accept the cards that have been dealt you. This is a good time to come up with a title for your experience such as My Great B.M. Adventure or Disgusticon One.

Close the door to the stall, knowing full well the handle has more germs on it than the entire population of Botswana.

Place your feet on the appropriate foot grids, assuming they are not covered in stool. If they are covered in stool, place your feet on the least fouled space you can find, being careful to maintain balance.

Unfasten and drop your trousers and underpants, making sure that they do not make contact with the urine and stool covered surface area.
The post goes on at great length from there, and gets no less disgusting.

Not enough "Ick!" in the world.

To completely misquote Douglas Adams, "Panic!" Although this does provide the perfect reason to always carry a towel.

I can't even begin to imagine how a woman would use this thing while wearing pantyhose.

As the Banterist asks
Grimace and ask yourself if a country with such a toilet can or should ever be a superpower.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

World Cup!

Mostly I've been annoyed by all the World Cup coverage. Really, I do not know a single person that gives a damn. Yet everywhere I turn I find coverage. On the opening day of the Cup the local paper (Orlando Sentinel) featured a page ONE above the fold story in its print edition. The World Series doesn't get that kind of coverage, and the NBA only merits that kind of attention when the Magic are deep in the playoffs. Only the Super Bowl (always) and the Olympics (sometimes) normally receive that kind of front page attention.

Honestly, we do not care! I don't have a problem with the rest of the world loving the sport, but we do not. Stop with all the rah-rah internationalist BS.

I do have to admit, however, that I find it particularly funny that the first World Cup held in Africa is being dominated by Europe. The more things change....

But then, soccer is one of the whitest sports this side of water polo.

NASA may as well engage in group therapy ...

... since it won't be putting Americans in space any longer.

Obama's NASA apparatchik Charles Bolden outlined Obama's goals for NASA on Al Jazeera:

I am here in the region - its sort of the first anniversary of President Barack Obama's visit to Cairo - and his speech there when he gave what has now become known as Obama's "Cairo Initiative" where he announced that he wanted this to become a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. When I became the NASA Administrator - before I became the NASA Administrator - he charged me with three things: One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."
For those that don't want to read the full quote, Obama's goals for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are:

  1. Get children to do their math and science homework
  2. Make the world love us
  3. Make Muslims feel good about their contributions to science, math and engineering

No mention of aeronautics or space. No wonder Obama has moth-balled efforts to for more US manned space vehicles - that has nothing to do with his stated goals for NASA.

TPM attempts to spin this to the Administration's benefit, but I don't see how this helps:

At issue is an interview NASA administrator Charles Bolden gave to Al Jazeera while on a trip to Quatar[sic] recently. The interview came as Bolden was in the Middle East to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Obama's Cairo speech, where he called for renewed ties between the U.S. and Muslim nations around the world.
NASA spokesperson Bob Jacobs told me that any suggestion that Bolden was describing a new mission for NASA in the interview was false. NASA will still spend its time exploring the cosmos and advancing aeronautics, he told me.

"I think unfortunately this has gotten caught up in some political rhetoric," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he is "not aware" of any "specific efforts" to include Middle Eastern know-how in future space projects "at this point" -- but said that since the Muslim world is "part of the international community," it made sense that Bolden would refer to the area when discussing the administration's plans to leverage international cooperation for the future of the space program.

"The interview took place in Qatar," Jacobs said. "I don't think it would be strange that he would make a specific reference to a local audience in his remarks."
Why is the Administrator of NASA in the Middle East working on a strictly political mission? Moreover, if NASA is NOT looking to add "Middle Eastern know-how" to future projects, then the NASA Administrator has even less reason to be in the Middle East.

One wonders if the State Department will now be in charge of developing new spacecraft. That would make at least as much sense.


Side note: Do those Arab Muslims have any know-how worth exploiting? NASA doesn't seem to think so. However the commenters at TPM seem to think that Muslims inventing Algebra means that they are critical to the NASA effort. But the last Arab Muslim contribution to engineering had something to do with finding the critical stress loads at which large structures lose integrity. Yeah, that's the critical kind of help the US space program needs....

Obama's Parsimony

Accusing Obama of stinginess seems strange on the face of it, but consider:

(a) The Obama Administration has been reluctant to spend BP's money to enhance the clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico.

(b) Obama has cut NASA's budget. Instead he has NASA attempting group therapy so that the Muslim world can feel good about themselves. (Yes, I know Obama has promised more money in the future. But $6 billion isn't much, and who really believes that Obama's budget commission won't cut that and more from NASA's budget this fall?)

(c) Obama has been very reluctant to spend any money to enforce the nation's immigration laws.