31 October 2007

Truth in Flying

I am not afraid to fly. I get a little airsick now and again, but I don't really mind flying at all. The only thing I kinda don't like about flying is the idea of sudden deceleration -- like, into the side of a mountain, or something.

The first week of October, we flew to Key West, Florida for our annual holiday. That's 2,525.7 miles door to door. The trip took about ten hours -- seven of those actually in the air.

It was fine. I felt safe (well, except for having to endure a Harry Potter in-flight movie). However, according to a report soon to be released by NASA (under pressure, it appears) we were not nearly as safe as I would have thought.

NASA spent more than a million dollars to interview 24,000 pilots about the true levels of safety issues with airplanes. NASA originally said it would not release the results because it "feared it would upset air travelers and hurt airline profits." Because, of course, the most important things involved here are airline profits and the sensitivity of flyers.

I don't know about you, but if there is a problem with airline safety, I would much rather know about it than fly ignorant of the possibilities. And if there IS a problem with air safety, I would certainly hope someone would address it and make it safer.

23 October 2007

Have You Seen Me?

Generally speaking, I don't like "Antiques Roadshow." Although they occasionally have items of interest, they seem too focused on the biggest, the oldest, the rarest -- with little regard for something unique, important or just different. I mean, how many Greek helmets are you going to find stuffed up in an attic? Not many.

That said, I will allow they do some good -- especially attempting to track down lost art items of no little importance.

At their
Missing Masterpieces site, you can read about items for which the art world is furiously looking.

One of these items actually turned up recently. Don't know which one? Click
here to find out.

22 October 2007

Think Big. Think REALLY Big.

They trip off the tongue: Vesuvius. Krakatoa. Mount Saint Helens. Santorini. These are just some of the big volcanic eruptions known to have affected humans and other animal and plant life around the world.

Think of an eruption even bigger -- bigger than those four eruptions combined -- and you will get Tambora, the Indonesian volcano that killed more than 92,000 people in 1815, and whose influence was felt for many years. In fact, so great was that explosion, so massive was the amount of crap hurled into the air, that summer did not come to most of the planet in 1816, killing crops, animals, and causing the starvation deaths of untold number of people.

Now, just imagine what would happen if such an eruption occurred today.

You can listen to a story about Tambora

14 October 2007

"This one's going to die"

It is a disgrace to our country that so many dogs and cats are euthanized each year because their caretakers do not take care of them. Spaying and neutering are the only way to reduce the numbers of animals killed each year.

But, in the meantime, what do we do with all the animals that have been abandoned?

Please read this article about what one man has done to stop the carnage.

His website will be found here.

12 October 2007

Paging John Galt

Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.

I cannot begin to explain the profound influence Rand's work had on my life. I cannot understand it, let alone explain it.

I have never been a real religious person. I find it hard to believe one omnipotent being has enough time and energy to care about the individual lives of a couple billion humans on the planet. Additionally, how to reconcile the myriad religions? Buddhists think one thing, Muslims something else, Christians something entirely different. They cannot all be right, so what gives?

Back in the very late 1980s I was looking through my library of books, and found my paperback copy of "The Fountainhead," which I had had for a few years, but never read. I read it and my life changed. I was astonished to discover there was another person on this planet (Rand) who thought the same as I did about the value of a human being, the value of achievement, and the frustration living in a world where so many people do not care about either.

Then, I sought out her epic novel "Atlas Shrugged" and have never felt so alive in all my (then) thirty years of life. I wanted to find a place like that Valley populated with people like in her book.

Other of her books followed. I am glad to know there are others like me in the world, and sad for the people who read her works and do not get past their misconceptions of her concept of selfishness. It is not about "Me, me, me." Far from it. It is about people having the freedom to do as they please, guided only by reason, free from the restraints of emotion, mythology, government and the need to do for others -- as long as their actions do not intrude on the lives of others.

Just think what a grand world this would be.

Here are two articles about Rand's influence:

The New York Times

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

04 October 2007

I Miss the USSR

Do you remember 50 years ago today when the Russians (the USSR) launched the first space object called Sputnik? Do you remember the panic that swept the streets when America (gasp!) realized that someone else had more brains than we did? Do you remember the great race to put America into space -- to do it better, faster, and sooner than those godless commie bastards?

Neither do I. I wasn't born yet.

And, as if that weren't enough, four years later (1961) those ignorant peasants put a human into space. A HUMAN INTO SPACE!

Yeh, I miss those days.

I miss the days when another country beat America, was first into something that would wipe the complacent smile off our collective faces. I miss that. I mean, look what happened:

Slightly less than 12 years after Sputnik, America and Americans put a human being onto the surface of the moon (1969). Yeh, we beat the stinking beet eaters there, didn't we? Nineteen years after (1976), we put a probe on Mars; and then 24 years after (1981), we launched the first space shuttle.

Then, the Berlin Wall came down (1989), and the Soviets and their country began to unravel.

So, what have we done since then?

Um, cut back NASA funding.

Ah, sent a couple more probes to Mars.

Let's see, we've done a lot of talking about a new space shuttle, and more talk about humans on the moon (by 2020) and on Mars (by 2030).

Hold on! In that time we perfected the cellular telephone, and made better microwave ovens, and cheaper flat screen televisions, and bigger SUV's.

Well, that's just great.

I want to go back to living in a country where people actually want to achieve something worth doing. Do we really need flat panel televisions? Perhaps, but think of what we as human beings could achieve by finding a way to put human colonies on another planet.

Of course, that's not going to happen until we Americans once again have a superior foe that will piss us off and force us to get off our lazy butts and actually start WORKING toward achieving something other than finding more sources of oil or cheaper digital cameras.

Competition is indeed the driving force behind innovation and creativity, and just look what's happened since we lost ours.