Friday, February 16, 2007

Pale Blue Dot

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space, Voyager I, 1990], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

"The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Carl Sagan, 1996

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Reduction in NASA's budget could prolong the gap in human spaceflight after the shuttle retires."

From Astronomy Magazine
Proposed cuts to the NASA budget could prolong the gap in manned spaceflight capability from 2010, when the shuttle program is slated to end, to 2014, when NASA had planned to start operating a new launch system, according to NASA chief administrator Michael Griffin.

"The FY07 appropriations, if enacted as the House has resolved, will jeopardize our ability to transition safely and efficiently from the Shuttle to the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle," Griffin said at a press conference February 6. "It will have serious effects on people, projects, and programs this year and for the longer term."

This really REALLY cheeses me off.
The benefits society receives from the space program are myriad.
On top of that, our Turkey in Chief encourages and challenges the space program to achieve higher goals, to return to the moon, and to send a manned mission to Mars with one hand and cuts NASA's funding with the other.
NASA's funding is already less than 1% of the national budget for crying out loud! We spend NASA's budget every three weeks with our ill-founded and costly war in Iraq. How does the Turkey in Chief expect his challenges and goals to be fulfilled on an already tightened budget, let alone one that will be stretched further if the FY07 budget is enacted as stated?
Our society advanced more during and because of the original space race of the 1960s than at any other time, and we have reason to believe our society will again advance at a rapid rate if the space program is properly funded and motivated.
The cost of our misadventure in Iraq is already in excess of $360 trillion dollars. NASA's annual budget is less than $16 billion. Think of the advances in science, health care, computer technology and material productions that could have been made (not to mention the thousands of lives saved) if that $360+ trillion had been spent in a more productive manner.

Shame on us for having been seduced by the dark side...twice.
Okay, a little bit of back story...
My wife's 2000 Mazda 626 has been having cooling system problems for a while now, and like a good little mechanic I try to track them down and repair them as soon as possible (and if I can't solve it myself, I pawn the problem off on my good buddy Kim Conover who's a veritable genius when it comes to cars).
So, on Friday my wife tells me her car is steaming coolant a little, so I let her drive my Suburban and I pull my 67 Mustang out of mothballs for the weekend while I try to figure out where the coolant leak is.
It turns out I didn't have time to get to it until yesterday, so I drove it to work with me. I figured the ten minutes I live away from work would give the car enough time to pressurize the coolant enough to show me where it was leaking from. I get to work about 4:45 AM Monday morning and the parking lot lights are off.
Okay, no big deal, I thought to myself, I'll catch it on the way home.
So, on my way home the car does start to steam a little, then it stops. Hmmm, ok, must not be a terribly big leak, I think.
Odd thing was, it would start start steaming whenever I came to a stop. So, there I go, looking good while I was moving, steaming a bit when I'd stop for a light.
I get about a mile or two away from home and the temperature gauge starts to creep up, so I pull into the Reams parking lot to let the engine chill for a while so I can add more coolant.
Now, mind you, the steam coming out from under the hood of my car wasn't much, not enough to alarm me for sure.
I pulled out my iPod and book and prepared to camp out for fifteen minutes or so. After a while, when the temperature gauge read normal, I went to the trunk and retrieved a jug of coolant I keep there. As I'm adding coolant to the engine and reservoir out of the blue and into the parking lot screams a West Jordan Fire Dept. engine.
They pull along side me and the passenger rolls his window down, "Your car on fire?"
Huh!!?, WTF? I think, "No, just a coolant leak; it's a pressurized system and I have to wait for it to cool down before I can add more coolant."
"Oh," replies the firefighter, "okay, someone just phoned in that your car was on fire."
Ok, major WTF factor in play now. How on earth does someone interpret a little steam (a LITTLE, not bellowing, not belching steam) as fire? I've seen engine fires before, and they look NOTHING AT ALL like what was happening to my car.
an aside I'll have to get some photos scanned of the greatest car fire I ever saw. It was while I was living in Surrey, B.C.. Some asshat doused his girlfriends car, which happened to be parked next to our building, with gasoline and set it ablaze.

Back to the matter at hand...
I wonder what little stimulus it takes to send the 911 caller who thought my car was on fire into a panic. Did it ever enter their head that I sat in my car for almost 20 minutes because I knew I was in no danger?
Yeah, okay, they were concerned citizens and if my car really WERE on fire, I would have been grateful for the gesture (though, if my car was on fire, I'd have called the bloody fire department myself), HOWEVER I'm still confused at how anyone could mistake a little steam for a full blown engine fire.
I can understand being helpful and being a concerned citizen thinking of the well being of others, but in cases such as this doesn't common sense say one ought to double check if one knows diddly-squat about [_________ insert topic here] instead of trying to be a hero and making an ass of yourself (and me) in front of the firefighters and the general public?
I can only assume that the jumpy Samaritan fled the scene after they realized their mistake, because the caller was never located.

Just another day in the life...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Vancouver, B.C.

"When the lights go down in the city

And the sun shines on the bay

I want to be there in my city

Ooh, ooh"
Lights by Journey
Photo by Gordon L Wolford
I miss living in Vancouver. Every time I listen to "Lights" by Journey I think of my old home. I don't know what it is, if it's one thing in or many things generally that make me miss it.
I miss being able to listen to CBC Radio 2 without having to have an internet connection at hand.
I miss riding on the SkyTrain and visiting Chinatown.
I miss Stanley Park, London Drugs, and a little Chilean deli called Santa Teresita.
I miss the many cultures, the availability of live jazz music, walking along the Strait of Georgia and seeing the Coast Mountains rising from the water.
I miss the temperate climate and the smell of trees everywhere.
I miss my old crackerjack box apartment above the Dominoes Pizza on Joyce Street near Kingsway.
I miss the constant stream of cars hissing below my bedroom window.
I miss my friends and the people I knew there.

The last time I was in Vancouver was this past June, and only for a week. I was able to catch up with a friend or two and visit Capilano bridge, Stanley Park and Chinatown, but one week isn't nearly enough.

I fell in love with Vancouver while I was there. There hasn't been a day that goes by in the four years since I moved home that I don't think about it.

One of these days I'll make it back for good.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Rush Limbaugh is a racist, not to mention an ass.

Rush Limbaugh, asshat extraordinaire, has turned his obvoiusly powerful intellect [insert brash sarcasm here, with a good dose of eye-rolling] back towards football:

From Media Matters :

"On the February 5 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh, responding to media coverage of Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, stated "they're dumping on this guy -- Rex Grossman -- for one reason, folks, and that's because he is a white quarterback." Limbaugh later insisted in conversation with a caller that, "they just want this guy not to do well 'cause he's a white quarterback," and that Grossman was "targeted for destruction." The Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI.
Limbaugh was forced to
resign from his position as a football analyst for ESPN in 2003 after he claimed that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because "[t]he media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." The following season, McNabb led his team to the Super Bowl."

I've got a real problem with you, Rush. You're a bigot and a fool, neither of which I suffer gladly. First those lousy comments about McNabb, then your tirade about Michael J. Fox (which you pretended to be sorry for), now this (on top of your usual asinine buffoonery).
Nobody's born a bigot, Rush; it's a conscious choice.

Didn't you get the message when ESPN canned your ass? Get a clue and grow up already.

The Bad Astronomer

I'd like to give quick props to Dr. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer and his blog .
Dr. Plait always has some of the most informed and easy to understand information about astronomy and related science, but he's most famous for his debunking of scientific asshattery (read antiscience).
If you're in any way interested in astronomy, I highly recommend his blog.

In the beginning....

Alrighty then!
This is my first foray into real blogging after having done so for a while with a MySpace blog, so you'll all have to bear with me while I figure things out.
I suppose I ought to introduce myself and explain why I felt the need to start my own blog.

My name is Tyler. I'm a musician, writer and photographer from Salt Lake City, Utah. Where I live I'm both part of the religious majority and the political minority. No, I'm not a Democrat, but my views are considered "lefty" by the local population, and according to them, that's just as bad as being a member of the Democratic party. I consider myself to be something akin to a social progressive centrist.

I spent my years growing up in this highly conservative state.
I'm married with one child who will be turning two this year. This also has an obvious influence on the way I see our State, our Nation, and our World.
I also spent two years living in Vancouver, British Columbia (western Canada, for the geographically impaired), which also has influenced my views and opinions.

I see many things going on in our society that I feel are fundamentally wrong, many of which I hope to comment on as this blog runs it's course.
I also intend to use this blog as a means discuss some of my hobbies and recreational parts of my life, which include reading, music, ham radio, gadgetry, astronomy, movies and television, my 1967 Ford Mustang and automobiles in general.

We'll see how this takes shape...