All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

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."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Chinese launch could signal new space race: "Four decades after the Soviet Union—and then the United States—first sent men into space, China has matched the feat and, perhaps, launched a new space race.

"Chinese state media have reported the launch of the nation's first manned spacecraft. With that, the world's most-populous nation became only the third to send a man into space.

Chinese state television reported that the launch took place at 9 a.m. Wednesday (9 p.m. Tuesday EDT) in the Gobi Desert."
When a crying baby is not 'alive': "A baby's cry is not necessarily proof of life.

"So concluded Illinois Circuit Court Judge Karen Thompson last November when she acquitted a mother previously convicted in two prior trials of murdering her newborn daughter."
Cingular puts $140 million in cell towers: "Cingular Wireless will invest almost $140 million in its Memphis and West Tennessee network between now and next year.

"Cingular has added 35 cellular towers in Memphis this year and is poised to add another 30 next year. The company now has a total of 218 and will have almost 250 by the time the expansion is complete."

In case you ever wondered how much it costs to build a wireless phone network!

Monday, October 13, 2003

Cedarville's new leader embraces challenge: "Brown, 49, served as president of Bryan College in Tennessee for 10 years before making the difficult decision — reached after much prayer, he said — to leave a school where he had worked for 18 years and accept the Cedarville presidency."

Albert Stevens, chairman of Cedarville’s board of trustees, said Brown received the unanimous support of the board and is "on the threshold of taking this university to new heights."

Brown’s voice choked with emotion as he thanked his parents, wife and two teen-age children, and then, opening his arms to the audience, he said, "To the family of Cedarville, we are in for a great ride."
Is the degredation of language destroying culture in the U.S.?: A review of Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care, by John McWhorter (Gotham, 304 pages, $26)

"'Spoken language is best suited to harboring easily processible chunks of information, broad lines, and emotion. To the extent that our public discourse leans ever more toward this pole, the implications for the prospect of an informed citizenry are dire. ... Americans after the 1960s have lived in a country with less pride in its language that any other society in recorded history.'

"McWhorter has nothing but relentless scorn for the National Council of Teachers of English and other ostensibly professional groups who since the 1960s have been campaigning against disciplined grammar, analysis and other formal standards."

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Foreign language spoken in 20% of U.S. homes: "Nearly one in five Americans speaks a language other than English at home, the Census Bureau says, after a surge of nearly 50 percent during the past decade. Most speak Spanish, followed by Chinese, with Russian rising fast."
Neil Postman, 72, Mass Media Critic, Dies: "Neil Postman, a prolific and influential social critic and educator best known for his warning that an era of mass communications is stunting the minds of children—as well as adults—died on Sunday at a hospital in Flushing, Queens. He was 72 and lived in Flushing."
Sleep boosts ability to learn language: "Scientists at the University of Chicago have demonstrated that sleeping has an important and previously unrecognized impact on improving people's ability to learn language."

As a sleep-deprived sleep advocate, I concur. Maybe we could even get napping on the job sanctioned, or institute a cultural siesta. Unfortunately commuting, among other things, stands in the way of such progress. Onward with telework!
Author-Professor Neil Postman dies: "Neil Postman, a New York University professor and author who criticized the television industry for treating serious issues as entertainment, has died. He was 72. Postman died Sunday of lung cancer, said NYU spokesman James Devitt.

"A faculty member at NYU for 39 years, Postman founded the Steinhardt School of Education's program in media ecology in 1971 and chaired the Department of Culture and Communication until 2002."

Having read at least of Postman's books, this is indeed a tragic loss. While his ideas did not always reflect a practical perspective on the intellectual discussion of communication, a voice worth hearing has no more to say. We can only hope that he settled ultimate issues while he was alive on earth.
Online buyers click on in-store pickup: "Conventional wisdom used to be that online shoppers used the Internet because they didn't like the hassle of going to retail stores. But as the 2003 holiday season nears, retailers that sell both online and off-line now say that in-store pickup is becoming an increasingly popular option with their e-commerce customers.

"Retailers and online-shopping experts say in-store pickup is a hit thanks to several factors, including shoppers' desire to avoid shipping charges, their need for instant gratification, and some customers' wish for more control of their in-store experience."

RadioShack very recently set up a service that's the exact opposite of this. For customers who shop in the store for an item that's not in stock, the store can have the item shipped directly to the customer from the warehouse for free. (Well, at no charge to the customer.) It's called Direct Fulfillment.
News: Torvalds starts locking down next Linux: "Linux leader Linus Torvalds has moved the development of the upcoming 2.6 kernel of the open-source operating system to a new phase aimed solely at making the heart of the OS less likely to crash. ...

"Some are taking the new priority seriously. Greg Kroah-Hartman, who leads the USB (universal serial bus) work in Linux, told programmers Thursday he'll have to postpone adding a fix for Linux's support of an infrared communication device for programmable Lego toys."

Now that sounds pretty cool. How many PCs talk to Lego interfaces? It will be an interesting day when the Linux community leads the majority of innovation in the software industry. They do now, but they're also still playing catchup a lot.
Scientists propose policing their own: "Despite scientists' general distaste for any constraints on research, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences yesterday recommended prior review of experiments that could help terrorists or hostile nations make biological weapons."

Now if we could only get scientists to self-govern themselves on other ethical boundaries such as creating human life and the diminishing of other translinguistic barriers.
China set to launch a manned spacecraft: "China is poised to join the United States and Russia as the only global powers capable of launching humans into space, a feat that Western experts say would signal a growing technical and military prowess. ...

"China has been developing space technology purely for peaceful purposes and will never participate in any arms race in outer space," [China's foreign] ministry statement said.

If it truly is for "peaceful" purposes, then why wouldn't they instead use the term describing those purposes such as "research" or something of that ilk. The statement seems to reveal itself to be a fraud.
Astronauts Help Launch Disney's 'Mission Space': "All systems were 'go' Thursday night in Epcot Center as Disney World launched its highly-anticipated new attraction 'Mission Space' with the help of several astronauts past and present. ... Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner, Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and NASA President Sean O'Keefe presided over the dedication."
High-Tech Cameras Planned For Shuttle: "In order for the shuttle to return to flight, NASA technicians are installing a highly-advanced camera system that'll deliver pictures of unprecedented clarity. ...

"They will also be installed on the fuel tank, looking down to measure the size of any foam insulation chunks that come off. Digital cameras will capture the fuel tank as it jettisons."

The really interesting thing is that this is reminiscent of STS 112 on which NASA had a camera attached to the external tank looking down during launch. What was different then was that it seemed (a) driven by a commercial initiative to pay for putting the camera onboard, and (b) more for watching the ground disappear underneath than it was to watch the shuttle ascend through debris.
NASA May Have Fixed Night Shuttle Launch Problem: "NASA said on Wednesday it may have solved one of the most vexing problems in its struggle to return its space shuttles to flight—how to launch them at night while still getting full photographic coverage.

"The fix involves flying two modified B-57 high-altitude airplanes on either side of the shuttle, filming its liftoff and the first two minutes of flight, said NASA imaging expert Robert Page. This would allow long-range cameras aboard the planes to photograph parts of the shuttle that are obscured from ground tracking cameras during night launches."

This is very encouraging news. Not only does it re-open "half the launch opportunities available in any given year," but it also facilitates one of the more beautiful pleasures of the space program.

Few beyond those who closely follow the space program remember the spectacular night launch of STS 113, the mission just prior to the fateful STS 107 mission Columbia flew. (The STS 113 launch was, incidentally, delayed for a substantial period of time while the shuttle fleet had been grounded due to hairline cracks found only by the sharpest of inspection eyes. Many failed to acknowledge that rigor for safety in the aftermath of Columbia.)

So, to maintain night launches in the shuttle program will do much for the public relations of the space program. And that just whets the appetite for the thrill of watching a live spacewalk on NASA TV.
Hurricane Isabel Drives Amish Farmers to Use Modern Machinery: "The hurricane tore up cornfields and the Amish method of harvesting. Horse-drawn wagons and gas-powered corn binders had no chance of navigating the fields, and farmers needed a quick way to pull the corn off the downed stalks before the crop grew moldy.

"Local bishops gave their blessing for the one-time use of modern-day heavy farm machinery. So for the past few weeks, contractors operating corn harvesters from as far away as Maryland have worked the Amish cornfields in central Pennsylvania, saving what nearly became a ruined season.

"Jake Lang, an Amish volunteer helping to coordinate the effort, called the temporary break with tradition 'a call of mercy.'"

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Voters Voice Deep Dissatisfaction With Governor's Record: "In an emphatic end to an extraordinary campaign, Californians voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to recall Gov. Gray Davis and chose as his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder and movie actor making his first run for office, according to a survey of voters leaving the polls.

"Polls closed at 8 p.m., Pacific time, and official results were not immediately announced. But results of the survey of voters conducted for The New York Times and other news organizations, showed deep dissatisfaction with Mr. Davis's performance in office and the direction of the state. The survey showed that 56 percent favored removing Mr. Davis, and 44 percent voted to retain him. Early voting returns supported those numbers. ...

"Secretary of State Kevin Shelley estimated the turnout on Tuesday at 9.25 million voters, about 60 percent of the state's 15.4 million registered voters, compared with about 50 percent last November and 71 percent in the 2000 election. If the estimate proves accurate, it will be the state's highest voter participation in a nonpresidential election since 1982. ...

"Groups have tried 31 times to invoke the recall to remove California governors, including the Republicans Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, but this is the first recall attempt to qualify for the ballot. The last American governor to be recalled was Lynn J. Frazier of North Dakota, in 1921."
Report: China will launch manned space flight on Oct. 15: "China will launch its first human being into space on Oct. 15 in a 90-minute flight that will orbit the Earth once, a major Chinese Web site reported, quoting a top government rocketry official. ...

"The flight would take place one day after the closing of the Chinese Communist Party's plenum, a major political meeting. That schedule — coupled with the National Day holiday last week — illustrates China's long-held desire to hold up its space program as a patriotic endeavor."
Federal telework programs slow to catch on, despite agency efforts: "Despite a mandate from Congress and more attention from the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration, telework programs continue to grow slowly in the federal workplace, an OPM official says. ...

"An earlier study conducted by [OPM and GSA] concluded that the lack of a universal term for the practice made it difficult for agencies to keep track of how many employees telecommute. This year, OPM has pared the definition of telework down to two categories—core telework, which encompasses regular and routine teleworkers, and situational telework, which covers employees who work from home because of weather problems or other nonrecurring events."

While the progress may not be to 100% yet, or perhaps even within the new 6 month deadline, once this is reached, this will be a huge standard for the federal government to have attained. Business will actually be looking to the high standard the federal government has raised in teleworking. The workforce will never be the same.

Telework and number portability (and an entirely reshaped telecommunications industry) mean the world could be a very different place a year from now!
Family Wireless Plans Pull in Kids, Spur Growth: "Family options have been around for a few years, but they are generating more interest as wireless operators like Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless Services Inc. have simplified them—and cut prices by as much as 50 percent. Analysts see the plans as a major force that will drive U.S. cell phone ownership above the 50 percent level, where it has been hovering for the past couple of years.

"It's a huge avenue of growth," said Legg Mason analyst Craig Mallitz. Mallitz said family plans were a big reason why far more people than expected became cell phone users in the second quarter. He expects the industry to bring on about 15 million new customers this year, up 36 percent from 11 million additions in 2002. Analysts had initially expected flat growth.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Islands of Clarity: "The Four Corners Monument is out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dust, rocks, and boulders. Aside from a selection of Navajo art and trinkets sold in the nearby craft store, there’s really nothing to do or see. We’re talking a desert region.

"But that hasn’t stopped upwards of 2,000 people a day from visiting The Four Corners National Park. Why do the masses make the trek? They come and wade through long lines just for the thrill of having their picture taken standing in four places at once.

"Only in the United States where we, as a society, attempt to live our lives constantly in two places at the same time, would that be considered a worthy way to spend a vacation. And yet, it’s a picture of how so many of us are electing to live our lives. ..."

Monday, October 6, 2003

sup? E-generation has a language all its own: "These days, a typical teenager can talk on the phone, watch television, type a school paper on the computer and message scores of friends from all over the world on the Internet -- simultaneously and without missing a beat."

"I've probably had 12 conversations at once," says Christine Line, a Carlisle High School senior who has 151 names on her computer's buddy list. "To have good conversations, you can really only talk to six."
Satellite Signals Stay With Truckers: "XM and Sirius managed to tap into the niche market partly because they are selling a modern spin on the citizens band radios that truckers have used for decades to warn each other about police, make restaurant recommendations and ham it up. XM encourages truckers to view satellite radio as a way to communicate with other drivers.

"It seems to be working. More listeners call in to Open Road than any other channel, the company said. In September, Open Road received 22,137 calls, or 1 of every 5 calls placed to any of XM's 100 channels. ...

"Truckers' families use the service to send out messages to dads and moms. 'I can't count how many times the wife of a trucker called me and said, "Tell Joe it's a boy" or "Tell Joe it's a girl,"' said Mack, nicknamed the 'Midnight Cowboy.' ...

"XM and Sirius, both still unprofitable, already have proven there is a niche audience for satellite radio. But whether it will become as ubiquitous as cable TV or DVDs may depend, in part, on how much the typical driver has in common with truckers. According to XM, 94 million people spend an average of 35 minutes driving to work, three-quarters of them alone. With a market that size, XM figures there is only open road ahead."
Marshall redesign efforts set to raise the bar on safety: "A two-foot-long explosive bolt and its holding assembly, which can be described as the linchpin of the space shuttle, is being reworked by Marshall Space Flight Center engineers to improve safety margins so NASA can return the shuttle to flight. ...

"The explosive bolts keep the 149-foot-long solid rocket boosters pinned to the 184-foot-long external fuel tank. They also support the 4.5 million-pound shuttle on the ground and endure 3.3 million pounds of rocket thrust from each booster while the shuttle flies.

"When the 70-pound bolt's job is done, it is blown apart, releasing the boosters to be parachuted back to Earth. The bolt pieces blow back into a bolt-catcher assembly. The catcher, filled with an alloy fashioned into a honeycomb, slows the bolt, which is traveling about 80 mph when it is blown, and keeps pieces of it from hitting the fuel tank or booster. Tests show there is a possibility the bolt catcher could fail. ...

"Every bolt catcher we fired the bolt into never failed during a launch," [David Martin, head of Marshall's Solid Rocket Booster Program office,] said. "We found a lack of (safety) margins, but we never found a situation where it failed. But you never know how close you are to having one fail. The hardware appears to have worked very well, but if you don't have the margins you want, you go back to a redesign."
Managing Linux Systems With Webmin

As one who has used Webmin extensively in administering a Web server, I can attest to its tool as a power. Many of its features are also there as a result of suggestions I made to the Australian developer. Jamie is a very responsive programmer.

I never expected such a tool to need a book though, much less have 60 chapters and 765 pages! That said, Mr. Cameron's responsiveness will render the book out-of-date in short order. That is a testament to his product more than anything else.
1938 hurricane an unimaginably ferocious storm: "Once upon a time, hurricanes could sneak up on us and strike without warning. Those of us who remember the hurricane of 1938 know full well how valuable weather forecasting is today. Tom Brokaw, on the anniversary, Sept. 21, said, 'It struck without warning and showed no mercy.' The devastation was so massive that those of us who lived through it remember the savagery as if it were yesterday.

"The rain was going crosswise, and the wind was whistling, screaming and shrieking like a jet engine. Sweeping across seven states in just seven hours, with walls of water up to 50 feet high, and winds so strong, it destroyed every instrument designed to measure them. Paint was literally sandblasted off of automobiles and the wind tossed railroad cars along the coast like tinker toys."

"At Watch Hill, 44 cottages virtually vanished and everyone in them was killed by the 50-foot tidal wave that struck at flood tide. Once-towering mansions of the rich and famous at Watch Hill were swallowed up by the water and left only sand. Some 700 people along the coast were killed.

"In the view of some experts, it was the most powerful storm in all American history. Winds were clocked at 185 miles an hour before the instruments broke. Inland, there were three factors affecting towns such as Norwich. It had been raining for days, and several upstream dams had burst along the Shetucket and Quinebaug rivers, sending walls of water through Plainfield, Jewett City, Baltic, Occum, Taftville and Greeneville."
More people, technology boost hurricane impact: "Last month, more than a million residents lost power in New York. In Virginia, the lights went out for 1.6 million customers, and the figures ranged in the hundreds of thousands in the other states affected by Isabel.

"It may seem that every year the weather gets worse. Every hurricane, deep freeze or tornado appears to set new records. Nature, however, has not gone wild. The reason for unprecedented numbers of service outages and homes damaged is twofold: the population along the U.S. East Coast has risen in the past 30 years; and our use of information technology."
Don't Swim with the Sharks: "[Let's] raise some warning flags about joy-predators. ... If you swim with these sharks, you’re gonna lose your joy for sure. So you have a choice to make.

"A few years back I did a series on heaven called 'A Glimpse of Glory.' Heaven is a lot more than gold streets and church all the time. Heaven is phenomenal, big, and abundantly fulfilling—so much so that your mind can’t even comprehend what God has in store for those who love Him.

"In your first five seconds in heaven all sorrow is erased. All human happiness eclipsed."

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Trained in containers: "The 25-year-old company, which will open in San Jose on Oct. 18, is an unusual animal in the retail business: It gives full-time employees about 240 hours of training in their first year; part-time employees get at least 100 hours. The typical retail worker gets less than a day of training, according to the National Retail Federation.

"That focus on educating employees, along with the company's generally competitive pay and benefits packages, is part of a company culture that has helped the store rank at or near the top of Fortune magazine's '100 Best Companies to Work For' list for the past several years."
U.S. SENATE: Coleman seeks lower file-sharing penalties: "Sen. Norm Coleman, two days after holding a high-profile hearing on the recording industry's anti-piracy campaign, said Thursday he will push legislation this year to reduce legal penalties for people who download copyrighted music off the Internet."
NASA Sets Preliminary Shuttle Launch Date: "NASA is looking at next fall for its first shuttle launch since the Columbia disaster. Space agency officials say there are just too many post-Columbia repairs to fly any sooner. NASA had been using next March as a planning date. Senior space agency officials decided Friday to aim for a launch date in September 2004 for Atlantis. But they caution the launch could be delayed even further into next year or even into 2005."
'Space race' about to be reignited in new 21st century version: "America is due to get a jolting reminder that we don't dare abandon our human presence on the high ground of space. That's because China is about to put its first astronauts into orbit—maybe even three at once—in its Shenzhou 5 space capsule."
NFL plans Super Bowl tribute to shuttle crew: "Feb. 1 will be a day of mixed emotions in Houston. The Super Bowl, with all its festivities, will be held in the city for the first time in 30 years.

"But for many, especially those in NASA's extended family, it will also rekindle the painful memory of Columbia's breakup over Texas exactly one year before. The NFL will mark the occasion at Reliant Stadium by honoring the crew and the commitment to space exploration, said Jim Steeg, an NFL senior vice president in charge of the Super Bowl."

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Hurricane Isabel inland damage was unusual: "Isabel was unusual for our region in the sense that she posed more of a high wind threat than a flood threat. Since Isabel was projected to move to the southwest of the region, across the higher Appalachian mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, widespread heavy rainfall was not expected over the region."
Hurricane Juan blows open Sunday shopping debate: "Nova Scotia Liberals had asked the Tory government to allow stores in hurricane-ravaged areas to open on Sunday."

This is a surprising vestage of God-honoring law in a country that on many levels largely forsakes any such principle. There is still hope!
Headlines Powered by Business Wire: "Approximately 250 Florida Power & Light Company employees said goodbye to Virginia this morning and turned their 130-plus vehicles south toward homes and families that they haven't seen since September 18."

Thank you, FPL, for all your help!
Dominion on Target for Completion of Hurricane Isabel Restoration Effort: "Dominion Virginia Power crews were working Friday on the last few remaining outages from Hurricane Isabel. Full restoration of virtually all affected customers should be completed by late this evening."

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Buy List Highlights: "RadioShack Corporation is one of the nation's largest and most trusted consumer electronics retailers in the United States ..."
Job hopefuls, start shopping now: "Now is the time for workers to get in gear if they're looking for a temporary income boost or a job that lasts beyond Dec. 26. Retailers start ramping up for the holidays after the back-to-school season, and competition for choice jobs often is intense. That might be particularly true this year, with retail sales rebounding and unemployment rates still high."

RadioShack is certainly hiring this time of year and there's definitely potential for that job to last beyond the holiday season as well.
Retail survey predicts 5% decline in Halloween spending: "Consumers expect to spend about 5 percent less on Halloween than they spent last year, the National Retail Federation says. ... Halloween remains the second greatest decorating holiday after the end-of-year winter holidays. ..."

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