Monday, December 29, 2003

Shuttles Will Return to Flight Upgraded With Added Technology: "When the next space shuttle lifts off, perhaps as early as September, an upgraded model of the decades-old spaceship will be doing the flying. Packed full of additional technology intended to make the astronauts safer, most of the improvements won't be obvious when you watch the launch on television. … Those changes will be included as the direct result of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's final report, released in August, which detailed 15 recommendations NASA must do before resuming shuttle flights. Another 14 must be adopted as soon as possible."

"Chief among those: incorporating the ability to detect damage to the shuttle's heat protection system of tiles and reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) material and then repair that damage while still in space. Another major task: redesigning the shuttle's external tank so large chunks of insulating foam won't fall and threaten the shuttle's heat shield in the manner that led to the Columbia tragedy in February."
The fate of a wing shaped by politics: "Fragments of Columbia were laid out on a vast concrete floor like broken bones on an autopsy table. … For weeks, wreckage poured into the isolated hangar at Florida's Kennedy Space Center—27 tractor-trailer loads in all delivered by Lone Star Trucking."

"A key to interpreting the debris in the hangar was Columbia's flight data recorder. … 620 sensors had actually recorded reliable data. Fortuitously, there were more working sensors on the left wing than anywhere else on the vehicle. They matched the timing of interruptions in the sensor readings with the physical locations of wires that fed data to the recorder. By reconstructing the sequence of burning wires, they could follow the heat through the left wing. The new data established the timing of the accident and, by inference, narrowed the location of the initial wing damage.

"Wing sensor V07P8074A—one of the first to fail during reentry—also had recorded an unusual spike in pressure 16 days earlier, only 81.9 seconds after liftoff, just about the moment a spinning block of foam hit the leading edge.

"The debris, too, pointed to the left wing. Searchers found 827 pieces of the wing. Looking for the sense in so much slag, technicians in the reconstruction hangar used a computer database to match fragments against the locations where they were found. The resulting map revealed that the left wing had disintegrated first, falling to Earth west of Nacogdoches in East Texas."

"Few remember why the shuttle had a delta wing in the first place, but Max Faget does. … As a leading architect of human spaceflight, Faget left his stamp on virtually every U.S. manned spacecraft. He led the team that designed the blunt-bodied Mercury and Gemini space capsules. He collaborated on the design of the Apollo moon capsule. His name is on patent documents for the space shuttle system.

"By 1969, NASA had 13 different concepts for a fully reusable shuttle on its drawing boards. Faget was the chief engineer at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center. For a space shuttle, Faget had in mind a two-stage reusable rocket plane with enough cargo capacity to resupply a space station. His design featured short, straight wings like those of a DC-3 cargo plane and a true tail so the shuttle could maneuver under its own power like an airplane, instead of gliding heavily to the ground like Columbia.

"In those plans, Faget proposed that the shuttle minimize the fierce heat of reentry by descending with its nose pointed up at a much steeper angle than the spacecraft that NASA would eventually build. The craft's belly would act like the blunt body of the Mercury and Apollo capsules he designed, spreading the heat more evenly across the broad underside of the spacecraft, rather than concentrating it along the leading edges of the wings.

"In 1971, the purity of the shuttle's design collided with the reality of politics. President Richard M. Nixon informed the space agency that there would be no Mars missions, no space station, no nuclear rocket engines. The remaining moon missions were canceled not long after. Unless NASA officials could win the support of the Air Force, there would be no space shuttle either.

"That meant NASA had to make more room in the cargo bay for big spy satellites. It meant NASA had to build a broad delta wing for the craft to carry out maneuvers required for military missions. All that extra weight meant an even heavier heat-shield system. Among other things, the extra pounds made it harder to accommodate the weight of crew escape pods or a stronger, more heat-resistant crew compartment. 'The delta wing was really the price of the space shuttle,' Faget said."

"At NASA, the men and women who tended the space shuttles were no longer its inventors and innovators. They were by necessity curators of an operational museum piece. At least a quarter of NASA's scientists and engineers were expected to retire within five years. Already the people over 60 outnumbered those under 30 by nearly 3 to 1. 'People talk about the learning curve,' said physicist Paul Dimotakis of Caltech. 'Nobody talks about the forgetting curve.' When it came to Columbia, time had made a mockery of NASA's institutional memory.

"The space agency had millions of technical documents meant to capture the expertise of the thousands of engineers who had designed and built the space shuttle fleet. Over the years, there had been so many design changes and so little money to document them that thousands of shuttle blueprints appeared to describe a vehicle that no longer existed. When accident investigators sought out a report documenting details of the shuttle's design or performance, they often found only PowerPoint presentations.

"Without the knowledgeable voice of the engineers who had originally presented them, the slides were meaningless. The board's investigators soon coined a phrase for this new institutional amnesia. 'Death by PowerPoint.'"

Saturday, December 27, 2003

A Love Story (Some Assembly Required): "It's hard to explain, but I love walking into a Radio Shack in December.

"And here is what I love a little bit more: Watching people storm out of a Radio Shack in a huff. Before the holidays are over, be sure to take time to storm out of a Radio Shack in a huff, just for the yuletide exhilaration of it.

"There are about 7,200 store locations nationwide, although the exact count fluctuates with the seasons. (The company proudly boasts that 'an estimated 94 percent of all Americans live or work within five minutes of a Radio Shack store or dealer,' and this can be a troubling ubiquity, since some Radio Shacks exist within sight of one another.)

"Radio Shack and the American consumer have a comically codependent Christmastime relationship, defined by both affection and hot tempers. Radio Shack is a wonderful place for last-minute gifts, and also last-minute tantrums. (Tantrums about refunds, about coaxial cable, about credit checks on wireless calling plans.) Of all the chain stores you could storm out of, there is none more satisfying than a Radio Shack, which, on some level, seems fine with Radio Shack, because they know you'll come back. You also know you'll come back. It's a love story."

The rest of the article is just as funny. It's a must-read all the way to the end!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Bush's Faith-Based National Parks: "The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, smogged up as it is these days, still retains the power to prompt even the most secular of visitors into transcendentalist reveries as they cast theirs eyes toward Shiva's Temple and Wotan's Throne. Now tourists at the federal park in northern Arizona will be greeted with scriptural passages affixed to park signs to help interpret the religious experience of gazing into God's mighty chasm.

"This autumn Donald Murphy, deputy director of the National Park Service, ordered three bronze plaques featuring quotes from Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 placed on viewing platforms on the south rim of the Canyon."
Sprint customers finally have a Bluetooth option: "Early this year, Sprint announced that it would soon begin offering the Sony Ericsson T608, the first CDMA mobile phone with Bluetooth. … Today, there is word from Sprint PCS Info that Sprint is now offering the T608. This finally gives Sprint customers with Bluetooth-enabled handhelds the option of buying a mobile phone they can use to wirelessly connect to the Internet."
DoCoMo to fund advanced-handset development: "DoCoMo tipped its hand on future offerings last week, when it announced it will award US$344 million to handset developers to work on a generation of handsets based on the Linux and Symbian operating systems.

"The goal, the company said, is to produce handsets in 2005 capable of achieving the broadband speed goals of its high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology."

"Based on W-CDMA architecture, HSDPA has a goal of increasing downstream speeds to 14Mb/s."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Intimidation Campaign Spreads: "As news of the Center for Reproductive Right’s (CRR) top secret memos (PDF) to establish international abortion and “sexual” rights spreads within the public policy community, CRR has stepped up its campaign to silence critics by threatening more groups with lawsuits."

"At the same time, analysis of the documents continues to reveal startling details of both the means and long-term goals of the abortion-advocacy group."

"Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who introduced the memos into the Congressional Record, notes that 'One of their strategies is to manipulate international norms to force countries to do what CRR wants.'"

"Smith also describes CRR’s domestic goals, 'CRR has programs to work with major medical groups to oppose parental involvement in abortion decisions and to "debunk the extent of parental rights currently recognized." They have programs on forcing hospitals to do abortions and on forcing taxpayers to use state and federal funds to pay for abortion. They even go so far as to target Pregnancy Resource Centers.'"

"John O’Neil, a pro-life advocate from California, also notes that CRR acknowledges that it intends to undermine laws mandating the reporting of child abuse for what CRR labels 'non-abusive sexual relations,' which appears to mean that CRR intends to fight age of consent laws, the primary goal of groups such as the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)."
Selling Content on the Internet: It's Happening, But Is It Profitable?: "If you look at the latest report from the Online Publishers Association covering online paid content, you might well think that online information is a hot commodity."
American skydiver to jump from edge of space: "An American female skydiver plans to set a world record for the highest free-fall by jumping to earth from the edge of space. In a feat which could lead to an astronaut bailing out of a space shuttle, Cheryl Stearns plans to make the 25-mile jump in 2005. She is preparing with the aid of the US space agency NASA."

"Ms Stearns, who is a champion skydiver, told New Scientist magazine that her aim was not just to set a record. Her jump from the stratospheric height in March 2005 could benefit shuttle crews facing a situation like those on board the Columbia, which disintegrated when entering the Earth's atmosphere on 1 February, at a height of 200,000ft and travelling at about 12,500mph."

"Ms Stearns plans to wear complete spacesuits, as there is negligible oxygen at their target altitude. Ms Stearns estimated she would reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, in 47 seconds but wouldslow down when she reached 100,000ft, where the atmosphere thickens. Even there, she would be three times higher than the summit of Everest."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Baghdad-bound, with no escorts: "Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) had never traveled abroad until he won a seat in Congress more than two decades ago. Today, along with Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Wolf is among Congress’s most adventurous travelers."

"Instead of flying into Kuwait on military aircraft and touring Iraq under military escort, Wolf and Shays flew into the turbulent U.S.-occupied, cold and damp country aboard a small prop plane chartered by a nongovernmental organization."

"Wolf said Monday in a phone interview that he wanted to see the country without official trappings because he had voted to send American service members to war and a young Marines Corps corporal from his district had been killed in April." Frank Wolf represents me in Congress as well.

"Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and a group including Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) returned from a trip to Argentina, Chile and Peru where they discussed trade, terrorism and drugs with government officials and executives."

Mobility Electronics expands on RadioShack deal: "Scottsdale-based Mobility Electronics Inc., a specialist in products for mobile computer users, and Texas-based RadioShack Corp. Thursday announced a distribution agreement for Mobility to sell RadioShack-manufactured power products—products that utilize Mobility's patented 'smart tip' technology—worldwide to non-RadioShack outlets."

"In addition, RadioShack will also carry these products in their 7,000 plus retail stores. Products included under this agreement include cigarette lighter adapters (CLAs), low-power mobile AC power adapters, inverters, and a low-power combination AC/DC power adapter called Squirt."
Sprint PCS Vision VM4500 by Sanyo: This is the phone I have! :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Atomic Bomb Survivors See Enola Gay: "A small group of protesters briefly disrupted the official opening of the National Air and Space Museum's new annex at Dulles International Airport Monday, spilling a red liquid supposed to resemble blood near the Enola Gay exhibit and throwing an object that dented the airplane."

"The Enola Gay is one of 82 racers, gliders, helicopters, warplanes and airliners currently on display in the Smithsonian Institution's nearly 294,000-square-foot aviation exhibit hanger. Other notable exhibits include the S-R 71 Blackbird, an American spy plane that still holds the record as the fastest plane ever built; and the space shuttle Enterprise, which was used by NASA to test various concepts during the development of reusable spacecraft.

"The Smithsonian's aerospace collection also will eventually be displayed in the 53,000 square foot James S. McDonnell Space hanger. 'This is the largest air and space exhibition complex in the world,' said retired Gen. John R. Dailey, director of the museum. 'We have about 40 percent of the aircraft in here today, and over the next three years we'll be moving more in.'"

"Visitors, for the most part, said they were impressed with the new annex." Yours truly was at the museum on opening day! Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment. The resolution is a little low, but that will have to be forgiven considering this is the first group of pictures taken with my new phone and uploaded to Sprint.
Storm over Mexican cloning ban: "The Mexican parliament has approved a bill that would ban 'therapeutic' cloning—the creation of embryos to obtain stem cells to treat a variety of diseases"—the creation of human beings in order to create organs and then kill them.

"Under the legislation, which is intended to outlaw all forms of human cloning, and was approved by the house of deputies earlier this month, cells 'of embryos that are alive or obtained by nuclear transplant should not be the subject of human research.'"

"Members of the conservative National Action Party, who voted for the ban, say that embryonic stem cells are not necessary for research, and that adult stem cells—which do not require the creation of cloned embryos—can be used instead."

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sound of Freedom: "In his opening remarks to the sold-out crowd in attendance Tuesday evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the historic event as 'the music of hope; the sweet, sweet sound of freedom.'

"On Tuesday, the National Symphony Orchestra, led by music director and conductor Leonard Slatkin and joined by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, shared the stage for the first time ever with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra."

"Met by spontaneous thunderous applause, cheers, and a standing ovation, it was obvious that the orchestra wasn't prepared for the reception they received. 'They were blown away,' commented Arabic interpreter Mustafa Sayid. When asked about his emotions, Iraqi violinist Luay Yousif simply said through a smile, 'wonderful, very wonderful.'

"Another said 'this was the first time we were ever able to leave Iraq without government minders watching our every move and ordering our steps.' For the first time in many of the musician's lives, they were experiencing a small taste of freedom."

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Defending Traditional Marriage: "In recent months, one of the most important cultural debates of our time has raged in the media. After the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a law banning marriage between homosexuals, and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas law prohibiting sodomy, we’ve seen a flood of articles and reports about 'gay marriage.' And the debate is not likely to fade away.

"The cultural argument about marriage between homosexuals is really an extension of a debate that has lasted for decades. Beginning in the mid-1960s, our culture embarked on a path of social experimentation when we looked at a variety of social mores and decided that things needed to change. We decided that people needed to enjoy sexual freedom without constraints. We decided we needed to relax our disapproval of divorce. We decided we should base our moral decisions on individual desires and opinions rather than on biblical truth.

"In some areas, we did need cultural change; the civil rights efforts are a prime example. But today it is clear that the social earthquake that began in the Sixties mostly left us with a rubble of social pathologies that continue to plague us today."
Q&A: Abortion case: "In 1991 Mrs. Thi-Nho Vo had her healthy pregnancy terminated by mistake after she was mixed up with another patient. Since then, she has been unsuccessfully attempting to prosecute the doctor who carried out the procedure for unintentional homicide, the French equivalent of involuntary manslaughter.

"Mrs. Vo has failed because the courts do not recognise the foetus' right to life. Her lawyer, Bruno Le Griel, argues that the unborn child is protected by article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees the right to life. He said: 'I will be asking the court to recognise reality. That is to say that human life begins at the moment of conception.'"

"The case is in its first stage, an admissibility hearing, where the court will decide if it should go ahead and hear full arguments. Although this case is individual, the court has been asked to consider other cases. … On each occasion, the European Court shied away from taking a decision because each member state has very different abortion laws.

"It is possible they may again leave the decision to national courts. … The court rules on individual cases, and its rulings are binding only on the respondent states—which in this case would be France."

The end here, to legally protect unborn human life that is created in the image of God, is good. The means by which this is being pursued are questionable. Should the national sovereignty of any nation be usurped because a local wrong cannot be righted?

Though many people could easily be classified as having blinders on to all other political implications, save the life of the unborn, they must see the potentially greater concerns involved such as the centralization of power that for the moment may be good, but could eventually once again lead to tyranny.
Heads up: Local firm bringing cockpit display tech to cyclists: "Fighter pilots have long been able to view flight data projected onto jet windshields within their line of sight. Soon recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists will be able to take advantage of that technology."

"The Sportvue head-mounted display will allow riders to see speed, rpm and gear position without taking their eyes off the road. The system gathers speed information from a global positioning satellite receiver attached to the rear of the helmet."

"Motion Research will be the first company to attempt a truly low-cost consumer application. The price of the motorcycle Sportvue will be from $249 to $349. The bicycle version of Sportvue, which will be introduced sometime after the motorcycle system, will project speed, distance traveled and heart rate information, like current cyclometers do, and cost from $150 to $199."

Monday, December 8, 2003

KnoxNews: National: "Even at 10 stories high and three football fields long, the National Air and Space Museum's new center might not be the world's largest airplane hangar.

"But when its full complement of more than 200 aircraft and 135 spacecraft and related large artifacts are on display, the museum's annex on the edge of Washington-Dulles International Airport [IAD] will surely house the most diverse collection of flying machines ever assembled.

"The new museum, named for Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, an aviation executive who donated $65 million toward the $311 million center, opens to the public Dec. 15, two days before the 100th anniversary of powered flight is celebrated with a re-enactment of the Wright brothers first flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C."
UN may vote on cloning Monday: "US-led group may push total ban, despite earlier vote to delay a decision for 2 years"

"An initial proposal, supported by more than 20 nations including Belgium, France, Germany, and Japan, would have banned human cloning for the purposes of reproduction." In other words, create people, grow them for parts, and then mandate the killing of the rest of those human beings.

"A second proposal supported by the United States, Costa Rica, and 64 other nations—mostly developing and strongly Catholic countries—would have led to a ban on both reproductive and 'therapeutic' cloning for research purposes."
NASA's funding displaced by 'pork': "When House and Senate budget negotiators announced a deal on a massive $328 billion federal spending bill, lawmakers proudly noted that they had funded NASA at the amount requested by President Bush in February.

"But a closer look at the $15.5 billion bill shows that budget writers axed more than $300 million from NASA's budget request and replaced those dollars with money for line items of their own choosing. Many of them are hometown 'pork' projects that win legislators political favor at home but no fans inside the federal agencies they affect.

"For example, the proposed budget slices $200 million from the international space station program and $70 million from the Space Launch Initiative, part of NASA's effort to develop a next-generation spacecraft. An additional $20 million came from Project Prometheus, a key element of the agency's hopes of finding a way to convert nuclear energy into electricity for in-space propulsion and power.

"In place of those funds, lawmakers stuffed in an assortment of projects, spreading federal dollars across the country. The U.S. House is supposed to vote on the spending bill Monday. The Senate may take it up this week, although Democrats are threatening to block a vote until January.

"Some of these so-called 'earmarks,' such as a $1.9 million line item for infrastructure repairs at Kennedy Space Center, can't really be called pork. But there is more than $220 million in bacon in the NASA portion of the budget bill.

"The projects are as varied as $3 million for an astronomy center in Hawaii and $4.5 million for a new science center at St. Bonaventure University in New York to $3 million for 'ocean and weather research' at the University of Alaska—home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"All of this comes in a year when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration suffered one of its darkest moments, the Feb. 1 loss of the space shuttle Columbia, and when many legislators have openly criticized the space agency's budget as insufficient.

"'It shows you that no agency, no program is sacred and is protected from the appropriators,' said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based nonpartisan group that tracks overzealous federal spending."

"Sen. Bill Nelson, who has frequently complained that NASA has been starved of funding by the administration and Congress, said the projects may be admirable but should not take precedence over the needs of the agency."

"NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, a longtime staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee—and a former aide to Stevens—knows the budget process from both sides. He also served as deputy White House budget director in the first year of the Bush administration, before coming to NASA in late 2001.

While O'Keefe would not specifically address the redirected money, he complained about the decision to pare the space station's budget. He said the cut will put a crimp in the station's reserves and leave the project vulnerable to money woes when, inevitably, the unexpected happens.

"O'Keefe sounded particularly bitter in noting that NASA did exactly what Congress ordered it to do—get the station's spiraling cost overruns under control—yet lawmakers are now upsetting the balanced ledger that was so hard to achieve."

"Williams, who noted that earmarks are prevalent throughout the spending bill, said the growing practice shows just how much power the agencies have lost in the budgeting process. When lawmakers can tweak each and every expenditure, he said, the agencies are weakened.

"'Why have all these people employed at NASA when the appropriators are telling them how to spend their money anyway?' Williams asked. 'Their power is going unchecked. They're using money for political purposes and not things that accomplish a mission.'"

However, if the "agencies" (a euphemism for bureaucracy) are eventaully the downfall of every civilization, then perhaps their weakening is exactly what we need. If the appropriations process, as deplorable as some may find it, is the vehicle to preserving America as an institution, so be it. After all, the only thing appropriators change about government spending is where that money is spent; the same things are being accomplished, just in different places.

The problem remaining is the excessive and ever-increasing level of government spending. Then again, all this could change with an anticipated announcement on December 17.

Saturday, December 6, 2003

Bush expected to target moon, Mars: "Raising the prospect of a new space race, George W. Bush is expected to announce soon that the United States will return Americans to the moon, then aim for a manned mission to Mars.

"With the Soviet Union no more and its Russian successor state short of cash, the competitor this time will be China. China's progress in space exploration is beginning to set off alarms in Washington after Beijing said this week that it plans to land a man on the moon by 2020."

"Washington is abuzz with talk Mr. Bush will breathe new life into the U.S. space program in a speech on Dec. 17 marking the centenary of the Wright brothers' first powered and sustained airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It is also possible he might save any announcement for his State of the Union speech in January."

"Chinese officials have said that in contrast to the U.S.-Soviet space race, China will move ahead at its own careful, cost-effective pace. 'We will focus on deep-space exploration,' said Luan Enjie, director of China's National Aerospace Bureau.

"Mr. Bush's commitment would give Americans a renewed sense of being on the cutting edge of progress amid their anxiety about terrorism and the struggle to bring Iraq under control. Mr. Kennedy delivered his "bold challenge" [to Congress on May 25, 1961] after the U.S. humiliation in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which saw Cuban leader Fidel Castro repel a U.S.-backed bid to overthrow him.

"Mr. Bush would also be setting the stage for completing yet more work started by his father, George Bush. … On space, George Bush Sr. marked the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing with an address on July 20, 1989, calling for a permanent U.S. presence on the moon and, ultimately, a mission to Mars."

Friday, December 5, 2003

Bush Wants Mission to the Moon: "President Bush wants to send Americans back to the moon—and may leave a permanent presence there—in a bold new vision for space exploration, administration officials said yesterday."

"Sources said the president may also give the go-ahead to pursue a manned trip to Mars—a long range goal. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told an advisory council yesterday that 2004 will be a 'seminal time' for the agency."

"Bush could spell out his new plan for space travel on the 100-year anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, Dec. 17, officials said. … If the president does announce his new space vision on Dec. 17, it would be 100 years after the Wright Brothers first set an airplane in flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., and it would be two days before the [31st] anniversary of the last manned lunar landing."

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Sprint PCS launches video service: "Sprint PCS launched its Video Mail service allowing customers to compose, send and receive video clips of up to 15 seconds in length with full sound at 15 frames per second between other Video Mail-enabled handsets or send clips to an e-mail address."

"The Video Mail service is initially available on the Sanyo VM4500 handset, which includes both video and picture mail capabilities, a camera flash that doubles as a light for the video service, a one-time zoom for video, and compatibility with Sprint PCS’ recently launched Ready Link walkie-talkie service."

"Sprint PCS said the Video Mail service builds upon its Picture Mail offering, which the carrier noted accounted for 23 million uploads during the third quarter of this year."

This is the phone I plan on buying later this month! Of the three colors in which it will be shipping (silver, gray and navy blue), it will probably have to be the Navy gold color for me. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Holiday sales increase 5.4%: "Sales rose 5.4 percent, to $12.4 billion, on Friday and Saturday from a year earlier, according to ShopperTrak, which monitors customer traffic at about 30,000 stores. Visa International Inc. said U.S. spending using credit and debit cards rose 12 percent on Friday and Saturday from a year earlier, to $6.5 billion.

About 43 percent of shoppers visited discounters, 29 percent made purchases from department stores, and 23 percent bought from specialty shops, according to the National Retail Federation."

Monday, December 1, 2003

Electronic voting firm drops legal case against free speech advocates: "In a major victory for free speech enthusiasts on the Internet, Diebold Inc. has agreed not to sue voting rights advocates who publish leaked documents about the alleged security breaches of electronic voting.

A Diebold spokesman promised in a conference call Monday with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel and attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that it would not sue dozens of students, computer scientists and ISP operators who received cease-and-desist letters from August to October."
RadioShack Thinks Small: "With its affordable and comprehensive selection of accessories, batteries, and peripheral items, RadioShack holds an important spot in the consumer-electronics market. Sales on higher-priced items may be lackluster, but the company is confident that its stock of smaller items can more than pick up the slack."

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Lambeau story could hit the silver screen: "Greg Le Duc grew up surrounded by football. A 1972 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the GB-born Le Duc was raised on stories about the Green Bay Packers, and he, like most local residents, developed a life-long love affair with the Packers, the only team in professional sports to be owned by the citizens of the town.

"It was the stories behind the team, including that of Curly Lambeau, who back in the 1920s helped establish the team as an NFL powerhouse, that inspired Le Duc to pen a screenplay, to share the team's history with the rest of the world."
Hermann Hauser, Europe's Godfather of Technology: "The future of technology is biological, mobile, talk-oriented and made of plastic"

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Scoop: Kucinich Requests Hearing On Diebold DMCA Abuses: "Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), today, sent a letter to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee requesting that the Committee hold a hearing to investigate abuses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by Diebold Inc., one of the nation's largest electronic voting machine manufacturers.

Recently, Diebold has waged an intimidation campaign to repress circulation of employee e-mails that raise concerns about the security of its electronic voting machines. Since early October 2003, Diebold has sent more than a dozen cease-and-desist letters to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and universities that host websites that either posted Diebold employee e-mails or merely hyperlinked to other websites with the e-mails."
Hackers Live by Own Code: "Sure, they break into computer systems, but not always with bad intent. And these tech whizzes do have certain quirky rules of etiquette."
Lawmakers agree on language banning patents on human organisms: "The U.S. Patent Office would be barred from issuing patents on human organisms, such as genetically engineered embryos, under an agreement reached by lawmakers Monday.

"Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., a medical doctor who sponsored the provision to be included in a giant spending bill, said it would codify existing Patent Office rules that human organisms are not patentable subject matter."
Parents, infants learn sign language: "Colorado Springs parents are part of a rapidly growing trend of using signing to communicate with hearing babies. &0133; The idea isn't to replace the spoken word, but to establish two-way communication with children who have the motor skills to make signs but haven't yet developed the skills needed for speech.

"Teachers at the A. Sophie Rogers Laboratory School at Ohio State University have been using American Sign Language as a tool for communication with infants and young toddlers for several years.

"'We've always felt very strongly that children have lots of thoughts and ideas, but just didn't have the means to get them out,' says Michelle Sanderson, director of the school. 'We know that at 13 months of age, they have about a 50-word vocabulary of what they can understand but only a two- or three-word vocabulary of what they can say.'

"A commonly voiced concern is that signing will discourage a baby from learning to speak, but studies have shown the opposite is true. Research has found that babies exposed to signing have higher IQs, accelerated language development and a greater interest in books, among other benefits."
Are You Liberal or Conservative?: "Looking to the past, it is no wonder that confusion exists regarding the understanding of what the terms liberal and conservative really mean.

"It is only in the last century that the term liberal has become associated with socialism. This collectivist ideology involves the redistribution of income and wealth with an accordingly greater control by the central government over the interactions of economic enterprise.

"Prior to this evolutionary change, being liberal had the reverse meaning of being in strong support of individual freedom with an attendant limited role of government in one’s life. …"

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

NASA told to slow space-plane plans: "In one of several stern directives to NASA, congressional budget-writers are suggesting that it slow down plans for an orbital space plane until there is a broader vision for the troubled agency.

"As part of a massive federal spending bill produced by House and Senate negotiators—which was filed Tuesday—lawmakers expressed concern that the proposed spacecraft may not fit in after that broader vision is established."
Hobbyist Turned NASA Contractor: "What started as a hobby, has turned into a unique partnership with NASA for a Central Texas man. Bob Cervenka's work may help to keep future shuttle astronauts safe. …

"Cervenka fell into an opportunity of a lifetime about four years ago. He wanted to build a radio controlled replica of the space shuttle's orbiter, complete with landing gear, and a turbine engine. He contacted NASA, and after some convincing, entered into an agreement in which the space agency would help him with the plans.

"And from there the interest grew to the point where they said, 'Wait a minute, can we share some technology or can we share some ideas with you so you can test these on what you're doing?' And is sort of developed from there and it's still developing. They're wanting me to do more and more each day," says Cervenka. …

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt to Host News Briefing via Phone for College Newspapers: "Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt will host a news conference for all college newspaper reporters via telephone on December 2, 2003, at 3:00 PM EST, to discuss the vital role today's young women and men have to play in preserving reproductive choice.

"During the December 2 briefing Feldt will call on students to join her for the March for Freedom of Choice in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2004. This historic gathering, which will include thousands of college students just like you, will march to the National Mall."

Yes, abortion may reduce teen pregnancy, but that doesn't make it right. We need to pray for these people. Just as they begin preparing far in advance for something like this April event for next year, so must we.
RadioShack Demystifies Wireless Local Number Portability for Consumers: "As the Federal Communications Commission's wireless local number portability (WLNP) regulation goes into effect November 24 in the top 100 U.S. metropolitan markets, RadioShack Corporation is poised to provide 'easy answers to customers' in its more than 7,000 convenient neighborhood stores and through a new robust online education initiative."

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Sun Goes Haywire. Wondering why it's so warm in November?
IHT: Meteor shards linked to massive extinction: "About three dozen microscopic shards of rock unearthed in Antarctica may be the fragments of a meteor that killed most of life on earth 250 million years ago, scientists reported Friday.

"The shards bolster theories that meteors caused several of the mass extinctions in earth's history when large numbers of species died out almost simultaneously. Most scientists agree that the most recent major mass extinction 65 million years ago, which killed off the dinosaurs, was caused when a meteor struck the earth near the Yucat√°n Peninsula of Mexico.

"The extinction 250 million years ago, known as the Permian-Triassic boundary, was the largest extinction of all. More than 90 percent of species living in the oceans and 70 percent of those on land disappeared.

"At present, the primary suspected cause for the Permian-Triassic extinction is giant volcanic eruptions in Siberia, which might have induced catastrophic ecological changes.

"Writing in Friday's issue of the journal Science, the researchers report that they found the meteorite fragments in rocks in Antarctica that date to the Permian-Triassic boundary. The mineral composition of the fragments, each less than one-fiftieth of an inch, or roughly half a millimeter, wide, correspond to that of certain meteorites and is like nothing found naturally on earth, they reported."

With a little tweaking, this would be an intriguing explanation of how God executed his flood of judgment on earth and wiped out most of life on earth. Just as the second and final judgment of earth will affect the entire cosmos, so perhaps the first judgment was as universal in its effects.

There is a growing school of thought in creation science that such astronomical activity is what triggered "all the fountains of the great deep" breaking up and other flood-related activity. Perhaps the asteroid belt is what's left of a planet that He blew up to bombard earth and the rest of the planets and moon in the solar system. Look at our moon! There's more.
More work, but holiday hiring same: "'Retailers are hiring people who are flexible,' [National Retail Federation Spokeswoman Ellen] Tolley said. 'They might be hiring the same amount of people, but those employees will be working twice as much.'" How true is that!!
Avoiding Pitfalls With Extended Warranties: "Service Plans Can Protect Investment in Expensive Holiday Gifts." In the interest of extending raw gross margin, I couldn't resist blogging this article. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

RadioShack and E.N.T. Exceptional New Technologies Sign Agreement to Identify New, Emerging Business Opportunities in Israel: "On the heals of the recent RadioShack Corporation Worldwide Innovation Conference in Fort Worth, the company today announced an agreement with E.N.T. Exceptional New Technologies Ltd. to identify innovative technologies and products the consumer electronics retailer can bring to market either through its stores or other distribution channels. E.N.T. is a leading technology marketing company specializing in channeling unique Israeli technologies into the worldwide marketplace."

Sunday, November 16, 2003

What Customers Really Want Is for You to Do Their Jobs: "When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives, they look around for a product or service that they can 'hire' to get the job done. This is how customers experience life. …

"The functional, emotional and social dimensions of the jobs that customers need to get done constitute the circumstances in which they buy. In other words, the jobs that customers are trying to get done or the outcomes that they are trying to achieve constitute a circumstance-based categorization of markets.

"Companies that target their products at the circumstances in which customers find themselves, rather than at the customers themselves, are those that can launch predictably successful products. Put another way, the critical unit of analysis is the circumstance and not the customer."

Put a Genesis 1 way, address the Day 1 to 3 environment before the Day 4 to 6 things that fill it!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Survey Finds KSC Among Best Places To Work: "Kennedy Space Center ranks in the top 10 in overall employee satisfaction and received very high ratings from [federal government] employees in several important categories. It gets a No. 3 ranking in teamwork, effective leadership and training. Those are areas in which NASA was criticized by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, but the survey showed that employees believe there's a lot that's right with Kennedy Space Center."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Stand In Awe!: "It is time to stand in awe! In awe of who God is and who we are. &0133; Let us then be done with lesser things. Too many of us are successful in accomplishing those things which simply are not worth doing. What is money worth which is not used to serve the Savior?"

"Christian realities are, in fact, to be viewed with awe and then with commitment, for they are the ultimate truths of the universe. We presume, therefore, to offer a word of advice to all who would pursue the mission glorious of living for Him."
The Devil's Favorite Trick: "It is this—he obscures the Gospel."

Whether it be resurrecting the Soviet Union in Brussels, dominating South America through the Forum of Sao Paulo, or obscuring the erosion of religious freedom from the Church in the United States, he has one goal: to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ from spreading.

Patrick Henry once declared, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."

Freedom comes directly from God Himself, and his love for us. His archenemy is about using whatever means necessary, especially government, to control and supress the spread of the Gospel. Sadly, he has rendered the Church in America not much of a threat; and the Church is hardly willing to fight back.
The Tide of Our Times: "Two Romanian astronomers claim to have pinpointed the exact time and date of the crucifixion of Jesus. … In 2002 a staggering 91% of church kids who said 'there is no absolute truth.' … It is estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 people accept Christ as Savior every day in China."

Monday, November 10, 2003

Sprint closes in on PTT service: "The push-to-talk market is set for more fireworks this week as industry sources are predicting Sprint PCS will launch its Ready Link service as soon as Nov. 16."
Voyager approaching solar system's final frontier: "NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is about to make history again as the first spacecraft to enter the solar system's final frontier, a vast expanse where wind from the Sun blows hot against thin gas between the stars: interstellar space. However, before it reaches this region, Voyager 1 must pass through the termination shock, a violent zone that is the source of beams of high-energy particles."
Mobility adapting as a power player: "Mobility Electronics Inc. is finally living up to its on-the-move name. Newsweek and other big-name publications have praised its all-in-one Juice charger, which gives users one device that charges their laptop computers, cellphones or PDAs at home, in the car or in planes. Mobility recently signed a major multiyear deal to develop power products for retailing giant RadioShack Corp. Its sales are taking off, and its stock is back out of the tank."

"'We went back to some of our roots and we finally said, "OK, it's time to start exploiting those,"' he said. Mobile devices were proliferating, and the group saw that people needed ways to accommodate multiple gadgets. Mobility kept up its pace of spending about $6 million a year on research and development. It started developing new power products, first among them the Juice charger.

"The company also started to diversify by acquiring other businesses in the computer-peripheral space, using precious cash from its initial public offering and stock battered by the depressed tech market. It bought iGo Corp., a Reno-based company whose main strength was in distributing its products through catalogs and major resellers such as CDW, Insight Enterprises and Micro Warehouse. 'They had a long list of people they'd sell to and we didn't have relationships with,' Mollo said. Mobility also bought Portsmith Inc., a Boise, Idaho, company making modems and cradles for hand-held computers, and Cutting Edge Software Inc. of Dallas, which developed software for hand-helds and cellphones.

"It cut dozens of jobs at the acquired companies, outsourced its call center and Web site operations, and outsourced most of its manufacturing to companies in Taiwan, China and Idaho. Along the way it also settled lawsuits from rivals alleging patent infringements. Mobility's stock price is still off about 4 percent from the $12 it garnered when the company went public in June 2000. But that's much better than other Arizona companies that went public that same market-mad year."

"Juice went on the market this summer, becoming the first combination AC/DC power adapter in the industry. … Analyst Michael Kim of Roth Capital Partners LLC in Newport Beach, Calif., said Juice puts Mobility on the cusp of a strong ramp-up in power adapter sales. 'You're seeing a pretty rapid proliferation of mobile devices, but the power adapter side of the equation hasn't changed much,' he said. 'There's no reason you can't have one intelligent adapter.'

"Both Blankenship and Kim call the RadioShack deal big for Mobility, both because of RadioShack's 7,000 stores and the chance to develop new products due in the retailer's stores next year. The company pursued Radio Shack for a long time, Mollo said. Under the agreement, Mobility will develop a family of in-car power adapters for cellphones, a line of computer power adapters and new adapters for digital cameras, MP3 players and other electronic gadgets.

"The move takes Mobility into the broader electronics market, and plays into RadioShack's new initiative to identify emerging markets and innovative products."
Google Labs released the new Google Deskbar last week. I just noticed this by checking an unofficial Google Weblog.

I have already customized my toolbar to the hilt. It sits atop my desktop with my Address toolbar on auto-hide. Instead of the default <Ctrl>+<Alt>+G to pop up to the search bar, I'm using F1. After all, I never use the system help anyway, so why not have it accessible with one easy keystroke? For the mini-viewer, I set that to F9, another infrequently used key on my keyboard.

This toolbar is also quite useful in replacing the old QuickSearch shortcuts I had set up. There are now 11 custom searches on my deskbar. I still have a few QuickSearches set up for my days in politics for tracking members of Congress and their legislation. :)

The relevant Google Labs team will soon have my list of suggestions and a bug fix or two, soon. Thanks, Google, for great service as always.

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Open-Source Scripting Language Becoming Dominant: "PHP, a little-known open-source scripting language, is becoming dominant on Web sites, according to Netcraft.com, the U.K. surveyor of the Web, … found on 52% of the 14.5 million Apache-based Web sites that it inspected."
Wolf Forum Seeks To Tap Air & Space Tourists: "The opening of the new Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum annex next month off Rt. 28 will bring thousands of visitors a day to the southside of Dulles Airport."
US Bid for Global Stem Cell Ban Runs Into UN Wall: "A U.N. tradition of seeking broad international consensus in the drafting of treaties has set back a Bush administration campaign for a global ban on medical research on stem cells."

Friday, November 7, 2003

Politicians Catch The Space Bug: "Maybe it was China's orbital mission in October; maybe it was the recent release of the Columbia Accident Investigation report with its challenge to continuing human spaceflight; just possibly it was the buzz about the X Prize in recent weeks as a couple of teams seem to be close to the finish line. Whatever the trigger, many of our leaders seem to have discovered a new interest in space science and development."
Guys, Look Spiffy In A Jiffy: "From machine washable suits, to maintenance free shirts, and stain resistant ties, the National Retail Federation says business-casual is out and fuss-free formal is in!"
RCR Wireless News: "Sprint PCS is apparently getting closer to launching its planned push-to-talk service, as a newly approved mobile phone from Sprint handset provider Sanyo features what appears to be a dedicated PTT button.

"The Federal Communications Commission recently approved the new Sanyo phone, the SCP-5500 [which] features an integrated digital camera for both picture and video capture as well as text messaging and Java support. The phone also features a dedicated Ready Link button, [Sprint's] PTT offering."
Netflix, TiVo, and XM Satellite: "TiVo just surpased the million-subscriber mark, a milepost it hadn't expected to reach until the holidays. XM Satellite Radio which reported Q3 earnings this morning, is also celebrating the million sub mark, and movie rental service, Netflix recently passed the mark, too, and now has 1.3 million subs."

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Israel proposes its first motion at UN since 1976: "Israel has challenged the United Nations to show as much compassion for Israeli children as it does for Palestinian youth by calling on the world body to endorse a resolution that censures those who kill Israeli youngsters through terrorism."

"Israel's motion comes against a backdrop of Palestinian suicide attacks that have killed or injured scores of Israeli children, among other civilians, in the last year. The motion marks the first time since 1976 that Israel, which has been the object of hundreds of critical UN resolutions over the last three and a half decades, has tabled anything at the world body."

"A vote on the issue is expected by the end of the month in a committee that includes all of the General Assembly's 191 members, and so serves as an indicator of how the final vote will go in the GA plenary later this fall."

"Israel's last proposal for a resolution came on Dec. 6, 1976, when it circulated a draft calling for the reconvening of Middle East peace talks with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. However, it withdrew the document three days later when amendments were introduced that would have included in the talks the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose charter still called for Israel's destruction."

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Develop a Five-Year Plan for Your Site: "Web sites change the way an organization communicates with its staff, customers, investors and the general public. A change in communication is a major shift for the organization.

"To effectively implement such a change will take time. You need a five-year plan for your Web site. Let’s dispel a big myth—that the Internet is changing so fast, it is impossible to plan for. That is absolute rubbish."
Students buck DMCA threat: "Because the legal status of hyperlinking to copyrighted documents is unclear, the lawsuit is noteworthy for that reason as well. In a November 2001 case that pitted the major movie studios against 2600 magazine, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that linking to illegal content can be restricted 'consistent with the limitations of the First Amendment.' That ruling is not binding on California courts."
Students buck DMCA threat | CNET News.com: "Because the legal status of hyperlinking to copyrighted documents is unclear, the lawsuit is noteworthy for that reason as well. In a November 2001 case that pitted the major movie studios against 2600 magazine, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that linking to illegal content can be restricted 'consistent with the limitations of the First Amendment.' That ruling is not binding on California courts. "
Students buck DMCA threat | CNET News.com: "Because the legal status of hyperlinking to copyrighted documents is unclear, the lawsuit is noteworthy for that reason as well. In a November 2001 case that pitted the major movie studios against 2600 magazine, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that linking to illegal content can be restricted 'consistent with the limitations of the First Amendment.' That ruling is not binding on California courts. "
Students buck DMCA threat | CNET News.com: "Because the legal status of hyperlinking to copyrighted documents is unclear, the lawsuit is noteworthy for that reason as well. In a November 2001 case that pitted the major movie studios against 2600 magazine, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that linking to illegal content can be restricted 'consistent with the limitations of the First Amendment.' That ruling is not binding on California courts. "
Teacher-astronaut determined to carry on dream: "In just over a week, Barbara Morgan should have been rocketing into orbit as NASA's first fully trained educator-astronaut, carrying on the shattered dream of Christa McAuliffe. Like the space shuttle fleet, though, Morgan is grounded indefinitely. Her ship, Columbia, is gone along with seven more friends, lost in a wintry Texas sky.

"Yet the former Idaho elementary schoolteacher who was McAuliffe's backup for the doomed Challenger flight is determined to persevere. NASA remains committed to the education-in-space program as well."

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Kansas man's study of flight leads to work as drangonfly expert: After Roy J. Beckemeyer "retired from Boeing in 1997, he invested more time in the study of bugs. He walked regularly along Cowskin Creek in Pawnee Prairie Park, carrying a huge dragonfly net, accompanied by his dragonfly-hunting Labrador retriever, Joe.

"One day he borrowed a high-speed camera and filmed dragonflies in flight. Conventional film takes a picture of a moving image at 30 frames per second. The camera he borrowed from Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research takes 1,000 frames per second; it's used to create the ultimate slow-motion film showing what happens to crash test dummies during tests.

"Roy made films and studied them in his Riverside home. And he sat back and smiled. The films showed what he'd already learned from the research of others.

"Most bugs have four wings, which operate together as one - 'in phase' with each other, as aeronautical engineers say. Dragonflies have four wings, which operate 'out of phase' with each other, if the dragonfly so chooses. … Out-of-phase wings create an incredible flying machine that turns on a dime, climbs or dives like lightning, yaws or rolls with almost unbelievable dexterity."

Friday, October 31, 2003

RadioShack Press Release: "As part of its business innovation effort announced in September, RadioShack Corporation today announced a strategic alliance with GlobeSecNine, a Washington D.C.-based, privately-held investment group, to identify declassified military and law enforcement security technologies that have wide-spread consumer applications for individuals and families."

"GlobeSecNine is an ideal alliance for us in that it has unique access to innovative technologies via its broad-based, experienced management team drawn from law enforcement, military services, the National Security Council and the private sector," said Len Roberts, RadioShack chairman and chief executive officer. "In particular, their chief technical partner, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, is plugged into a multitude of amazing technologies that have countless consumer applications but no effective way to go to market.

"That’s where we can help. A technology is nothing more than an idea unless it finds the appropriate manufacturing and distribution channels, and we can do both. We can find the capital or production resources necessary to bring products to consumers in a marketable, cost-effective fashion."
5 years ago...Clinton signs internet copyright protection act: "29.10.98: President Clinton yesterday dealt a blow to internet piracy by signing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act into law. The Act aims to protect copyrighted software, music and text on the internet by outlawing the technology used to break copyright protection devices."
Tribute looks to future: "The National Space Mirror Memorial reflected more than grief Tuesday morning as the names of the Columbia astronauts were unveiled. …"

The "'missing man' formation of four NASA T-38 jets suddenly roared overhead, with one jet peeling off and crossing the sun. The moment echoed Kennedy Space Center's memorial, the week of the February disaster, when the same formation was flown. Many of those watching wiped away tears as the planes soared into the distance. …

"It's very emotional," Husband said afterward. "This is my first time back since Feb. 1, so I was determined to at least make it to the hotel before I started crying, and I didn't, but that's OK." Her family has spent vacations on the Space Coast, and there are memories everywhere, she said. "It's a different atmosphere here than it is in Houston," she said. "There's more of a tenderness here, I think, because the launches take place here, and it's just everybody, it's very much their way of life."
Report backs night re-entry: "NASA could reduce the chance of killing or injuring people on the ground in a Columbia-like disaster if the agency landed shuttles in the middle of the night, an analysis released Tuesday concluded. What's more, the analysis said NASA should perform a detailed study of the risks that debris from a disintegrating spaceship might pose to general aviation and commercial aircraft when shuttles are re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

"And in a finding that mirrors those of a Florida Today analysis published on May 11, the study also said the chance of casualties on the ground would have increased significantly had Columbia broken up less than a minute earlier on Feb. 1. More than 40 tons of wreckage then would have fallen on the southern suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the newspaper found, exposing three times as many people—and three times the number of homes—to shuttle debris. …

"The newspaper's examination also revealed that in 22 years of shuttle flights before the Columbia disaster, NASA—which is responsible for ensuring public safety during shuttle re-entries—never studied where wreckage would fall in such a catastrophe. NASA now is conducting its first-ever shuttle re-entry risk assessment. The idea is to evaluate the relative risk to all people and property under every possible flight path into its three primary landing sites—Kennedy Space Center, Edwards Air Force Base in California and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico."
Cabin Shields Might Have Saved Crew: "'This physical evidence makes a compelling argument that crew survival under environmental circumstances seen in this mishap could be possible given the appropriate level of physiological and environmental protection,' wrote former astronaut James Bagian, who co-authored a crew survivability report (PDF) that is among six volumes of data released Tuesday by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. …

"The [Columbia] crew cabin … emerged from the main body breakup intact, the study noted. It was destroyed shortly thereafter by aerodynamic heating and structural stresses. Pathologists determined that the seven astronauts died from a lack of oxygen and blunt force trauma. The precise times of death could not be established, the report said, but occurred sometime after the breakup of the orbiter itself.

"A similar finding was made after the 1986 Challenger accident. Challenger's crew cabin, likewise, survived the initial explosion that destroyed the main body of the shuttle. Challenger and seven astronauts were lost during a launch accident. After the Challenger accident, NASA researched ways to outfit the crew cabins with shields and extra life support gear so they could serve as emergency escape pods. High costs, however, prompted managers to shelve the project. …"

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Names Of Columbia Crew Added To Memorial: "Family members gathered Tuesday as NASA added the names of the seven-member Columbia crew to the Astronauts' Memorial at Kennedy Space Center. The memorial remembers the men and women who have lost their lives for the U.S. space program. The names on the memorial now total 24."
Hurricane season effectively over: "The nip in the air may not last long, but the cold front that settled into Galveston County early this week is a welcome sign that yet another hurricane season has come and gone, a representative of the National Weather Service said Monday."

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Google: No date for IPO yet: "Despite frenzied speculation of an imminent Google public offering, company co-founder Sergey Brin said he's still casually debating the pros and cons with board members and has not yet set a date. … Brin, who turns 30 on Thursday, answered questions from Danny Sullivan, editor of industry newsletter Search Engine Watch, which hosts the 5-year-old conference."
Could your hyperlinks land you in hot water?: "France's Internet Rights Forum (FDI) has published recommendations on the responsibilities of sites that create hyperlinks to 'illicit content'. One working group has been grappling with the thorny subject of for seven months—neither the European directive on ecommerce or a bill under discussion in France designed to boost confidence in the digital economy have been able to deal with the issue.

"The FDI experts highlight that creating hyperlinks can become problematic when they direct users to illicit paedophilic, pornographic, Nazi or racist content or sites that are connected to pirated material that could be deemed detrimental to a third party (defamation or harmful to a brand)."

Forgetting for a moment that this is France we're talking about, let's consider some of the implications herein.

First, a link is strictly part of a site that's independent of any link's destination. FDI begins with a faulty premise in stating, "A principle must be stated: the establishment of a link is free. This principle is justified by the nature and the very functioning of the Internet." Links are not in essence a matter of cost or function; links are information, and only that. Such source information establishes the publisher's credibility and confidence in its sources to its readers.

Browsers make linked sources accessible. A hyperlink in no way implies ownership of a site; further, were any such illusions valid, links would then do nothing to add credibility to the linking site. Restricting linking would restrict accessibility to source information and thus restrict credibility. Therefore, to consider a link anything more than a source citation is tyranny.

Second, the content of a link's destination is not fixed. Web site's are fluid—they change. How can one be held permanently accountable (as content is not always, though ideally, permanently archived) for the content of a site at a time later than a link was published?

Even Congress agrees that such is an unreasonable. That's why as part of The PROTECT Act it enacted the Truth in Domain Names Act to "prohibit knowingly using a misleading domain name with the intent to attract a minor into viewing a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct on the Internet." Read: it's a link destination's owner who is responsible for a URL's content and whether it's legal, pirated, or whatever.

Finally, there's the free speech issue. (Back to the French.) Americans, in dwindling numbers, immediately recognize the free speech implications of such restrictions on speech. Forgetting for a minute the misattribution of linking properties (the first two items discussed here), one should ask the question, "So what if the content of a site is hateful?" Yes, obscenity is illegal, and piracy is illegal in general. But of all possibly pirated material, why single out hate?

Hate is not illegal. Of course it's undesireable, but not everything that is undesireable, or even harmful to some should immediately be limited. When it is, tyranny has won, we are no longer free, and we cannot grow.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

DoCoMo, Sony get 'smart': "Sony Corp. and NTT DoCoMo Inc. have agreed to jointly develop mobile phones equipped with smart chips that will enable users to pay for goods and services, sources said."
Can Water Power Your Cell Phone?: "Canadian researchers have demonstrated a new way of producing electricity from flowing water which could provide power for anything from mobile phones to the national grid."
Strong Solar Storm Could Buffet Earth Friday: "A strong dose of space weather is forecast to hit Earth Friday, potentially disrupting satellite communications and posing a threat to power grids on Earth. The event also presents a nice opportunity for anyone to view sunspots, though safe viewing techniques must be employed to prevent eye damage."
Researchers find that good night’s sleep enhances language learning: "Scientists at the University have demonstrated that sleep has an important impact on improving the ability to learn language."

"Scientists have long hypothesized that sleep has an impact on learning, but the new study is the first to provide scientific evidence that brain activity promotes higher-level types of learning while we sleep."
President Supports Use of English as Official Language: "President Roh Moo-hyun expressed his support on Thursday for making English South Korea’s second official language."
New definitions of property needed: "America is accused of being on a crime spree. ... We Americans view ourselves as a moral people. We are called to 'pay any price, bear any burden' to protect the world. And we believe that. No sense of guilt, much less old-fashioned sin, clings to all this thievery.

"We have to look at our basic moral codes and see how they should apply to see what is wrong. We actually get our morality from three sources: religion, economics and politics. Or, as some would put it, God, Gold and Glory."
Space Station Mission Opposed: "NASA's decision to launch a fresh two-man crew to the International Space Station last weekend came over the strenuous objections of mid-level scientists and physicians who warned that deteriorating medical equipment and air and water monitoring devices aboard the orbiting laboratory posed increasing safety risks for the crew, according to space agency documents and interviews."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Brickner raises top-level Virginia opposition: Governor Warner stumps in Fairfax County for Connolly.

"One of Brickner's central campaign themes is a pledge to cap new property tax revenue at 5 percent annually. Brickner says a cap would leave room for the county budget to grow at a generous rate, preserving the quality of Fairfax's schools and other services."
The Structure of an Accident: "When the Columbia shuttle began to disintegrate during re-entry over California on the morning of February 1, 2003, few people were even aware that the space shuttle had been in flight."
Sprint PCS offers consumer guidelines on WLNP: "Following on the heels of other operators, Sprint PCS has unveiled guidelines for its customers who may want to take advantage of wireless local number portability, which is scheduled for Nov. 24."
Court Rules AM/FM Simulcasters Must Pay Royalties: "The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has upheld a ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office requiring radio stations that stream broadcasts over the Internet must pay royalties to recording companies and artists as well as to composers. Traditional over-the-air radio stations only pay royalties to songwriters."

Monday, October 20, 2003

Apple has sold 1 million songs on iTunes for Windows: "Apple Computer Inc. said Monday that Windows computer users had downloaded its iTunes digital jukebox software and bought more than 1 million songs at a cost of 99 cents each from its online music store since their launch for Windows last Thursday."

This could be a watershed event to break RIAA and hopefully MPAA from their panicked legal battles against music- and movie-lovers. A large, "duh" is in order.
The wisdom of Lewis Carroll: "the wisdom of the English mathematician and writer Lewis Carroll lay in his uncanny ability to intelligently yet delightfully fuse semantics and mathematics—the world of words and the world of numbers."
EarthLink to sell Web service at RadioShack: "EarthLink Inc. will sell its dial-up Internet service at more than 5,000 of RadioShack's 7,000-plus stores nationwide, according to an agreement between the two companies announced Monday."
A new tech battle brews in D.C.: "Even casual observers of the moral swamp called Washington, D.C., may remember the notorious Hollings bill, a mandatory copy protection proposal last year, which Hollywood's lobbyists loved and Silicon Valley hated."
Soyuz Craft Docks With Space Station: "A Russian spacecraft filled in for the second time since U.S. shuttle program was grounded this year after the Columbia disaster, delivering a three-man crew Monday to the International Space Station."
Material created at Sandia could aid space shuttles: "'A friend of mine here is a former NASA commander, and he flew the shuttle,' Keese said. 'He refers to it as a flying brick.' The new material is too heavy to be used on NASA's huge modern 'flying bricks.' But it could be used in a very thin form, as a coating, to protect smaller, more aerodynamic space vehicles, Keese said.

"'The applications span beyond the space shuttle,' Keese added. 'Obviously there are military applications and civilian interests as well.'"
China's space progress could motivate NASA: "A local member of NASA's advisory council predicts China's entry into the exclusive club of manned space exploration will give new urgency to efforts to preserve America's leading role in space. 'I believe it is going to get a lot of people's attention,'' Mark McDaniel, a Huntsville lawyer, said this morning.

"McDaniel said his service on the council has convinced him that NASA's manned space program is the reason the United States is a world leader in educating scientists and other researchers. 'It inspires our youth to be explorers and pioneers,' he said. 'We can't let down.'"
NYT: Cellphone Deals Sweeten in Face of New Rule on Keeping Number

Friday, October 17, 2003

Fiorina Reflects On CIO Napier's Contributions: "Before he died of cancer, the IT veteran helped pull off one of the biggest integration projects ever.

"Business-technology executives looking to learn something from Hewlett-Packard CIO Robert Napier, who died Oct. 13 after a fight with cancer, should remember this quote: 'Every business decision triggers an IT event.'

"That, HP CEO Carly Fiorina says, sums up Napier's view of the close relationship between business and technology. 'Bob was all about how to make the technology enable and accelerate and inform that business decision,' Fiorina said in an interview with InformationWeek."
A Better Longhorn Through Blogging: "When Microsoft kicks off its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles Oct. 26th-30th, the event will in many ways mark a major shift in transparency about its core products, as well as a major victory for a subtle public relations build-up ahead of the event. ...

"Thanks to a growing number of Weblogs by Microsoft employees, many PDC attendees will arrive with some working knowledge of why the new APIs in the pre-beta version of Windows (code-named Longhorn) are helping to form a radically new development environment, as the blogs say. ..."
New rule rattles cell phone industry: "Come Nov. 24, the U.S. cell phone industry will lose the one thing that insulated it from true competition. In what could be the biggest event in the industry's 20-year history, a new rule will let consumers keep their cell phone numbers if they switch carriers. ...

"For 154 million U.S. cell phone customers, that will end the pain of changing phone numbers on business cards, in ads or in address books of family, friends and co-workers. ... About 24 million customers are expected to switch by June 2005, estimates the Management Network, a consulting firm. If so, 16% of the cell phone market could change hands — sinking some carriers while lifting others. ...

"'From an operational view ... this is the biggest thing that has hit the industry maybe ever,' says John Comisky, vice president of operations for Verizon Wireless. ...

"Not every cell phone user will be affected Nov. 24. And a smooth transition isn't certain. Issues: Availability. Number portability will only be available on Nov. 24 in more than 100 top metro areas. The FCC requires carriers to extend it nationwide by May. ...

"Timing. Carriers aim to make number switches in 2½ hours. The FCC wants them to hit that mark, but there are no established penalties if they don't. Depending on the carrier, "It can take anything from several hours to several days," says Jonathan Tinter, vice president of marketing strategies for AT&T Wireless, the No. 3 carrier. ...

"Landline transfers. The FCC also requires phone companies to switch some traditional home and business numbers—called landlines because they use wires—to cell phones. ... The cellular association, CTIA, estimates that because of the way wireless networks are set up, only 13% of wireless customers will be eligible for this. ..."

Thursday, October 16, 2003

For a good description of what you can find at any RadioShack store.
Ultimate Customized Cars Debuting at Madison Square Garden Street Showoff: "XMODS™ Custom RC Cars Bring Competitive RC Racing to the Masses - Now Available at RadioShack"
Red Hat CEO Puts Linux in Position to Challenge Microsoft: "One of Red Hat's proudest moments, ironically, was provided by Microsoft. At one point in its long-running antitrust trial, a Microsoft lawyer held up a box of Red Hat Linux to make the point that Microsoft indeed faced competition. Szulik keeps a framed news photo of the scene in his board room."
Sprint Celebrates 250,000 DSL Lines in Service
Missing asteroid found: "Known as Asteroid 1937 UB, or 'Hermes' for short, the asteroid set a record for closest recorded approach to the Earth on Oct. 30, 1937. In the 66 years since then it had not been located. ...

"Brian Skiff of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona spotted an interesting bright object with the LONEOS telescope in the early hours of Wednesday morning. ... he and other scientists were able to work together to identify the object as Hermes, which will again pass Earth Nov. 4—by a comfortable margin of 4.2 million miles."
Space News from the Space Coast: "China's successful 14-orbit voyage around the Earth on its first manned rocket trip puts the nation in the same circle as Russia and the United States, experts said.

"The craft carrying Lt. Col. Yang Liwei, 38, landed safely early today on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia in northern China as planned. His trip makes China the third country to put people into orbit successfully. The Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin was first in 1961.

"'The mission was a success,' said Li Jinai, head of China's manned space program. He called Yang a 'space hero.'"
FLORIDA TODAY: Breaking News: "BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — The Russian space program strayed slightly from its superstition-laden pre-launch ritual today, using a new, longer railroad route to take a rocket to a launch pad in the bleak, dusty steppe of the Baikonur cosmodrome.

"Change comes hard to Baikonur—where the space age began with Sputnik’s launch and Yuri Gagarin pioneered manned space flight—and some traditions held strong during preparations for Saturday’s launch of a three-man, multinational crew toward the International Space Station."
Leader of the Free World: "How Linus Torvalds became benevolent dictator of Planet Linux, the biggest collaborative project in history."
Nextel Inks Second LNP Agreement: "Nextel Communications Inc. has made another portability operating pact with one of its rivals. The latest: The carrier has inked a service level agreement with rival Cingular Wireless. ... Nextel forged a similar SLA with Sprint PCS at the end of last month."
Think tank says new regulations will increase consumer wireless bills: "A think tank funded by the wireless industry and other tech sectors today warned in a new study that U.S. cellular subscribers could pay over $16 billion a year—or about $10 per month extra—to pay for taxes and regulations imposed on the wireless industry.

"The study’s authors—economists Thomas M. Lenard and Brent D. Mast of The Progress & Freedom Foundation—predicted the 18-percent cost increase would hit minorities and rural customers hardest. Moreover, the study concludes, higher prices could result in 31 million fewer wireless users. There are currently nearly 151 million mobile-phone users in the United States."