Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Death on the Highway

The title isn't referring to the short film that every drivers ed student is forced to suffer through. (Aside: Given that most drivers ed students today own the entire Saw series on DVD, I'm pretty sure it has even less of an affect than it had back when I had to watch it. (Aside to the aside: Do they even use Death on the Highway any more, or is it considered too graphic for the little kiddies who own the entire Saw series on DVD?)) Instead, I'm referring to the Interstate of Death, otherwise known as I-4, which claimed another victim early this morning. I had a crazy bike ride this morning with lines of cars everywhere and a three-car pile-up just down the street from our apartment. I had to make a big loop just trying to get across a two-lane residential street that looked more like I-4 at rush hour. Then Debbie, fortunately as it turns out, tried to go into work early only to end up stuck in traffic for half an hour (her work is only five miles from our apartment). Just another day in Sunny Central Florida.

I seem to have hit a wall with the whole bicycle thing. It feels like I've got a boat anchor dragging along behind me all the time and my average speeds seem to indicate that as well. I can barely keep above 12mph average on the best of days; any wind and I'm down in the 11's. I've checked tire pressure, adjusted the brake pads, looked for any indication of some moving part rubbing on some other moving part, etc. I certainly hope that it isn't a bearing problem; there are nowhere near enough miles on this bike for something like that. Maybe it's just the insane heat and humidity and things will get better in a couple months. Or maybe I'm just old.

More "good" news on the human spaceflight front. Since we no longer have the ability to launch humans into space and are instead hitch-hiking rides on the only other spacecraft capable of taking humans to the International Space Station, there is a single point of failure. Which of course, failed. If the investigation into the failure and whatever modifications need to be made take too long, the current crew of the ISS will have to return before their replacements show up, meaning that the ISS will be empty for the first time in in a decade. Coming this close to the end of the Shuttle program, that could be bad news for Americans in space. The only bright spot is that the Russians don't waste a lot of time with competing panels of inquiry pointing fingers; they find the problem, they fix the problem, they get the thing flying again. Let's all hope they can pull off a quick turn-around on this issue. And thank the gods this was a cargo flight and not a crewed mission.

In local news, there is a planthopper from Texas that kills palm trees by puking on the fronds (you can't make this stuff up). There is no cure once a tree is infected and the planthoppers are spreading slowly east from the Tampa area. It's not a big problem, but no one has a workable solution so that's temporary. Yeehaa.

This just in: The sun causes climate. I know! Who knew! Ok, ok; seriously, cosmic rays create clouds, and variation in the sun's magnetic fields alter the number of cosmic rays that hit the atmosphere which affects the amount of cloud cover which affects climate. This would be just another data point, another factor in the climate models. Except:

The hypothesis that cosmic rays and the sun hold the key to the global warming debate has been Enemy No. 1 to the global warming establishment ever since it was first proposed by two scientists from the Danish Space Research Institute, at a 1996 scientific conference in the U.K. Within one day, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Bert Bolin, denounced the theory, saying, “I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible.” He then set about discrediting the theory, any journalist that gave the theory credence, and most of all the Danes presenting the theory — they soon found themselves vilified, marginalized and starved of funding, despite their impeccable scientific credentials.

Of course, because nothing says science like good ol' fashioned politics.

Dr. Pournelle has a good what-if:

Suppose that the Global Warming/Climate Change fears are all well grounded. Increases in CO2 will doom civilization and threatens the stability of global climate, and the ability of the Earth to sustain civilization. What is it that we – by we I mean the people of the United States – should do, and what is the meaning for the rest of the world? 

The short answer is, "Nothing good." But you already knew that.

Irene was a bit of a bust in New York City, but that doesn't mean that it just disappeared when the news industry lost interest and went back to discussing what color Lady Gaga dyed her pubes this week. Our old stomping grounds in Swanzey, NH seem to be doing Ok, but Vermont got seriously clobbered. Brattleboro, where I worked the 2010 tax season is a lake. It's going to be a long process to put things back together.

First we had to suffer through Bush's Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and his looney-toons Christian Reconstruction crap. Now we have the New Apostolic Reformation being all cozy with front-runners in the Republican primary race. I know fear makes people do stupid things; lets just hope this isn't one of those times:

Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the "seven mountains of culture" from demonic influence. The "mountains" are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.

"They teach quite literally that these 'mountains' have fallen under the control of demonic influences in society," says Tabachnick. "And therefore, they must reclaim them for God in order to bring about the kingdom of God on Earth."

Wow. That is so not what we need right now.

Every so often, there is a story about some kid who gets his lemonade stand shut down for not having a business license or violating the homeowners association covenant. Initially, this story looks like yet another one of them, only serving green tea instead of lemonade. But was this really a kid selling drinks on the front lawn? It sounds more like it was Dad's green tea stand that was some distance from home in a public place. Dad leaves his 12-year-old in charge while he runs back to the house and returns to find the operation had been shut down. That's a lot different than a kid selling glasses of lemonade in the front yard. Public spaces have rules and unfortunately, most of those rules came about because of grifters and scam artists making it impossible for the public space to be used as intended. Now certainly, in a nation where less than half of all murder investigations result in even an arrest, I would think whatever version of cop took the time to hassle a kid selling green tea needs to think about his priorities, but there is more to this story than we're getting.

More serious is that Gibson has been raided by the feds for the second time in two years because the feds suspect their wood is improperly sourced. I would think a couple of suits could check on that without the military raid tactics and seizure of Gibson property. The name of the case from the first raid, United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms, demonstrates just how idiotic our "justice" system has become. The federal government is borrowing money from the Chinese to put a stack of wood on trial. At least the prosecutor and the stack of wood are evenly matched in the wits department.

If you want to get a PhD without doing much, head on up to our neighbor to the north and enroll in the University of Manitoba:

The University of Manitoba said it is reviewing its policy on how to accommodate students with disabilities despite winning a victory in court this week over a controversial decision to grant a PhD to a student who failed his courses due to “extreme exam anxiety.”

...The university had defended its decision, saying it was legally required to accommodate a student’s disability, in this case, exam anxiety.

It's nice to know we'll have company as we're swept into history's dustbin.

And Micky's big hand says it's time for bed.

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