Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger

Space Shuttle Challenger ' s smoke plume after...Image via Wikipedia
It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since the Challenger disaster. As I sit in my office, surrounded by colleagues who aren't old enough to have witnessed, or remember witnessing, this disaster, I feel old.

I watched the live coverage. I grew up in Houston, home of NASA. One of my high school classmates was the niece of an astronaut. Space exploration was a very real thing to me. One of my earliest memories is seeing the moon landing. I've written about that before.

I was beginning my own studies towards teacher certification when Christa McAuliffe earned the right to be the first teacher in space. It spoke volumes to me that the first average citizen that NASA chose to send into space was going to be a teacher. Who better to inspire the youth of our nation? Who better to explain space travel to the average joe than a teacher?

When the shuttle's O-rings disintegrated and that great cloud of gas blossomed, I knew something was terribly wrong. As the days and weeks and months progressed after the death of the Challenger, we learned that what caused the mistake was just plain stupid. Looking back on what lead up to the decision to launch in sub-freezing temperatures, one thing comes to mind - science should never take a back seat to public relations.

The risk was underplayed. Politicians, latching on to the imprecise nature of predicting systems failure, chose to interpret the numbers as they felt best fit their political agenda. Sound familiar? Science is rarely capable of providing us with a single, clear answer. The more variables in the equation, the more likely the answer is to be muddy. Can't prove 100% that there's a problem with the O-rings? Then we'll take the best case scenario that's been given us by managers more interested in keeping the money flowing and ignore the engineers.

More than the sad reality that politics played in this and other scientific enquiries, I look at our space program now and wonder - what the hell happened?  The surviving shuttles are scheduled to retire this year. What will replace them? We have no replacements. Those plans have been scrapped. Future Americans scheduled to work on the International Space Station will reach orbit in the vehicles of other countries, most notably the Russians.

President Obama spoke of a Sputnik moment in his State of the Union address. But he wasn't addressing space exploration. That dream, that most American of endeavors,  has died. Strangled in its crib by the idiocy of those who can't understand science, by those who wish to force science to fit their political agenda.

Humanity may conquer space. We may build on the moon and reach the stars some day, but that exploration and advance will not be lead by American ingenuity. The minds that managed to save the Apollo 11 crew with leftover parts and slide rules have been replaced by managers and politicians more interested in show than results.

We must find a way to escape this mud-ball we call Earth if we are to grow and survive as a species. I have always believed this. To do so, we must look to the future.

Something that I fear as Americans, we have forgotten how to do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RTT - After a long hiatus I may be back, but then again...

Yo. It be Tuesday. You know the drill. Head over to the Unmom, grab the fugly button and come join the randomness.

Ok, now that's over...I figured Random Tuesday was the way to get back into the groove, so to speak. Between Christmas and hospitalizations and recuperation, I have not been to inclined to sit and blog. For a while, sitting at the computer was not conducive to keeping the swelling from making my leg blow up and then when I was back to work, I had sooo much work to catch up on that writing on the job was not practical (when is it ever) and then being too pooped to do much more than collapse when I got home put a crimp in things too but now, I'm mostly back to my normal grumpy self. So, here I am.

While I was out sick/on vacation, our VP decided to make a Brochure template using our new desktop publishing software. He did a fine job, except for one little thing. All the tacky, meaningless, lovely image files the PR firm decided we should be using as our corporate imagery were too large to embed in the document. So he made them linked images. Which would have been okay if those images were stored on the local server. They weren't. They were stored on our UK server. It took five minutes for the finished template to open in our office. Not an exaggeration. So it's up to me to clean up his mess. I copied the images to our local server and relinked them in our copy. Now the file opens - poof!. Of course, it took half an hour to relink half a dozen images, but now at least the damn thing opens. He's a bright guy, usually. Why this solution did not occur to him, I have no idea.

It's good to be needed, I guess.

Much crazy shit has been going on in our country since last I blogged. Shootings, freshman Tea Baggers threatening to cut NEA and PBS funding as a a solution to our deficit, claims of "blood libel" by the professional victim, and here in Texas, Gov. Big Hair is positioning himself for a presidential run. How you say? By pushing through "emergency items" sure to be favorites with his "base" - a Voter ID bill , another to end "sanctuary cities", a bill requiring a sonogram before getting an abortion, and legislation calling for a balanced Federal budget. Yep, we're $27 billion in the whole as a state but the Feds need to get their act together.

Speaking of that enormous budget shortfall, guess what our Republican supermajority wants to cut first? Education. Sure, why not? Speaking of education, we got rid of one crazy person on the Texas State Board of Education and replaced him with someone who thinks Intelligent Design should be taught. Guess which subject area the SBOE is tackling next? Science. Way to go, fellow Texans. It seems Texas will continue to be the laughing stock of the nation. Austin ISD is already contemplating cutting over 400 teaching positions because of the budget problems.

I have a nightmare - a winning Perry/Palin ticket in 2012. If either or both of these idiots gets into the White House I'm putting in for a transfer to our UK office. I would rather live in the ass end of Northampton than here if that happens.


It's enough to make me want to scream. Or go look at cute doggie videos.

I know it's not Christmas but Bailey is too much fun to pass up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

RTT- Happy New Year?

Mine needs to get better. PDQ!

Tis Tuesday and you should know what I mean by now. But, if you don't, head on over to Keely's and grab the fugly button.

Let me start with the mini-rant that is one part Blogger-complaining and one part craptastic Dell laptop-complaining. So it took like five tries to get the link above to work correctly without adding the 5 words after it to the link. I only added the one and did what I thought I needed to be able to continue typing without having to take extreme measures - which meant a carriage return, typing a word, moving the cursor and backspacing. Which is where the rant about the Dell part comes into play. This is Hubby's work laptop and he curses the damn thing every day. Away from his desk, minus a mouse and reliable internet, the thing is a beast...moving the cursor sucks, the keyboard is, well, a laptop keyboard. OK! I'm spoiled dammit. I know it.

Moving on.

It is amazingly difficult to type with an IV cannula in your left arm. Especially one that has been taped down within an inch of it's life. This sucka is NOT moving. As the above statements imply, I am in the hospital. I checked in around noon on New Year's Day. As I approach Day 5 here in lovely Scott & White, on my third IV, and with no end in sight, I cannot truthfully say it's been a great New Year yet.

I have Cellulitis. (I'd show you pictures, but the ones on Google image are just really horrific. If you're brave, you can go look for yourself, but I wouldn't advise it if you have a weak stomach.) This is same lovely diagnosis that I had almost four years ago minus and this is the important part) the co-diagnosis of Sepsis. So, while uncomfortable, ugly looking, generally unpleasant. I will survive.

As long as I don't go nuts from the combination of boredom and sleep deprivation.

On a lighter note, and Lord knows I need one, here is jewel from Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Is Luke Skywalker
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

No, Jon. I don't think you're going to loose audience share. I saw your fans at the Rally.

Needless to say, I will be out of pocket for a while. I can get emails and check Facebook and Twitter from my phone, plus I have the usual basic cable extravaganza, so I am not completely cut off from the world. Still, I'm well enough to be bored to tears yet sick enough that I have to stay. Such is my life.

Good news is that Eldest brought over my new Stephen King book that I hadn't gotten a chance to read, so all is not lost.

Later folks.