Thursday, September 30, 2004

Little things...

I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks. Everything I read about good blog manners says that you have to post as much as humanly possible, practically spending every waking hour at the keyboard writing about the things you'd be doing if you weren't in here writing a blog. So, I'm a bad citizen. I'll flagellate myself later, I promise.

I've been developing an essay on enterprise data security, but it's not going to be done for quite a while. It's dry as a chip, and as hard to write as it is to read. Once I get the research done, all the facts down, and draw a few conclusions, I'll try to spruce it up a little before I post it. If it's too dry, neither of you will want to read it.

In the News...

Space: There's been a lot going on in the news lately. Very recently, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne made the first of two required flights to an altitude qualifying as "space" in pursuit of the much-desired Ansari X-Prize, with the second flight expected within a week. However much I congratulate Mr. Rutan and his colleagues on their accomplishment, I can't help but lament that one of the other contenders isn't set to win the race. Mr. Rutan has done a great many things in the realm of "first" during his career; I'd like to see someone else in the limelight. Many of the other teams struggled to get their projects done on shoestring budgets, and maybe a few more billionaires could have stepped up with funds to make a real competition out of it.

My favorite, Armadillo Aerospace, seemed to have a good run going for a while. I really thought they were going to make it. Engine troubles plagued them the whole way, though, as well as some fuel supply issues. The engine troubles seem to be resolved, but the fuel supply issues (manufacturers won't sell them high grade hydrogen peroxide) still haven't been worked out. They still have a viable business in the joy-ride launch business, though, if they can get their vehicle completed. My fingers are still crossed.

Film: This weekend, the much awaited anime film Ghost in the Shell 2 is going to be playing in Portland. I'm generally not much for anime, with its preponderance of big headed, doe-eyed, prepubescent school girls with voices that would shatter glass as the main characters. A few films, though, use the Japanese animation techniques to tell stories more traditionally aligned with science fiction. I really love movies and novels about a gritty, dark near-future where the world as we know it has come unravelled and the characters are doing their best to find their way in what remains. I saw the first Ghost in the Shell about six or eight years ago and really enjoyed it. The plot was straightforward and not terribly unique, but the story was interesting and the artwork was excellent. Since then I've been enchanted by Cowboy Bebop, The Last Exile, and a few of the Animatrix shorts produced by the Wachowski brothers. I hope that producers continue to see a market for these pieces. Evidently there's some support for it, because the beautiful Charlize Theron is starring in a live action version of Aeon Flux, which has been a somewhat enigmatic short clip favorite on MTV for years.

Politics: Speaking of anime, the presidential debates are on tonight. I'm looking forward to hearing what they both have to say, even though I sort of feel like the analysts have read the scripts to me every day this week already. Early on in the year, I had the hope that the Dems would put up a candidate that could stand up to the Republican machine with the virve and stamina, not to mention good looks and charisma that it takes to win an election. John Kerry's not that guy, and the only hope I have now is that people across America are pissed off enough to get out and vote.

Mind you, I'm not against the Republicans in general, just a few of them that are at the top of the heap right now. Like a lot of people, I'd vote for Colin Powell in a hot minute (twice if I lived in Florida) if he were running. There are several people in the Republican party that I think would make fine leaders of this country, but the one we have isn't one of them, and neither is his second. Furthermore, I don't see how we can have a balanced system of government in this country if all three components of the government are held in majority by one political party. Don't we decry other countries that find themselves in this position as un-democratic? Of course, ten years ago we went over and kicked Iraq's ass for having the audacity to invade another country where we had business interests. We've become one of those "do as I say, not as I do" people. No wonder our president gets nothing but golf claps at the U.N.

I want a new president in this country so that I'm not embarassed to go outside of its borders. I can deal with going to Canada, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of being an American in Europe right now. Not that I'm afraid, but I'm really ashamed. And I love this country and all she used to stand for.

Culture: Elsewhere, I saw recently that Madonna has taken an interest in Kabbalah, a Jewish form of mysticism. It's all over the news, and photographers hound her at the temples and shrines she visits. Pardon me, but why is this news? I took an interest in Buddhism once, no one cared. Okay, so I'm not as famous as Madonna is. For that matter, I'm probably not as famous as her dog walker, if she's got one. But this woman has, since I was a wee teenager, been delving into whatever interested her at the moment with all the energy she can muster, which is evidently a lot. I don't imagine that her interest in Kabbalah will last long, nor will anyone care about it a year from now. Does anyone remember or care about all the hoopla around Stevie Nicks being a "white witch?" Okay, you over there, put your hand down. Really, it doesn't matter.

Outdoors: Anyone living in Portland may have noticed recently the new addition to the river front between OMSI and the Hawthorne Bridge. It's a new dock for non-motorized boats, such as kayaks (yay!!), canoes, rowing shells and dragon boats. It's been put in place in conjunction with the opening of the Portland Boathouse, an educational organization for paddlesports. The launch platform on the dock is very close to the water, so it's easier to get in and out of small boats, and there are no cleats on it to get your pants caught on. I did that once, getting my shorts caught on a tie-up cleat as I was sliding into the cockpit of my boat. There I was, suspended halfway into the boat, both feet in but not the rest of me. In several less-than-graceful moves, I managed to extricate myself from the situation and sort of belly-flop back up onto the dockside, where I moved my boat down a little and got in without further incident. Embarassment was my only wound, though it cut deep as I looked around at all the yachters in the moorage, staring down at me with looks of disgust and amusement. I could tell that they thought I should take my playtoy elsewhere. Too bad. I'm sure one or two of them were nice people once.

I can't wait to get my boat down to the water at the new dock, though.

Well, I'm going to leave this thing for now, as I don't have anything more to say. Feel free to comment on anything I've said by clicking the link down here at the bottom of the post. I started this thing because I wanted to interact with people more than I was by posting the occasional bit of blather on Slashdot. It doesn't seem to be working. I'll keep it up for a while, though, and see what happens.


If you don't stir the pot,
the stuff at the bottom just sits there.


Prego or Ragu? said...

Space: Today they won the prize with their second flight. The prize wasn't the end all for competition, the other serious competitors will still be attempting to make an actual business out of space tourism/travel. I have to admit, I was somewhat tickled to see that Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines is investing in the industry to make an actual "spaceline" company out of it. I look forward to the day when we are taking 1 hour trips half way around the world. I think they'll need to do away with the hokey carrier craft that actually gets the spaceship in the air.

Politics: What a debate! Bush was struck dumbfounded by Kerry's brilliance. I can't believe Karl Rove only gave Bush "wrong war, wrong time..." to use. It got a little old after the the first 20 minutes. What's with these simple folks who want a president they can "relate" to? I'm sorry but I don't want someone running the country that I "relate" to. I'm a procrastinating, lazy, laid back goof off who only has a passive interest in what's going on in the world (I'll read opinion pieces but won't do any of the research). I want a President that's pretty darn smart, curious and questions his/her advisors. If that comes with a side of upper class stuffiness, so be it. Anyway, for Kerry it was easy pickin's. Edwards will have a tougher job tomorrow against Cheney. He may win on the charm factor, but Cheney at least has a clue as to what's going on in the world.

Culture: I took an interest in Buddhism once too (after seeing "What's Love Got To Do With It?"). I even bought a book, but didn't get around to reading it (see above, re: procrastinating, lazy...). One of these days I might pick it up again, maybe i need "Buddhism for Dummies"...

- Ragu

J.D. Ray said...

I enjoyed the debate as well, and I'm looking forward to the next one. I liked the way Jim Lehrer sort of trapped both candidates into debating again by announcing, right after the first debate was over, that there would be others. Now if one of them backs down, they look like they're not a "complete the task" kind of guy. Mr. Lehrer is shrewd. Maybe we need him as President. :^)

I'm honestly happy that Rutan won the X-prize. Kudos to him and his entire team. I think that the carrier/rocket combination will work well for them for a few years in the joy ride market. I'm still hoping that Armadillo's design scales well enough to get them into the orbital launch business. Carmack mentioned in his blog that, after taking one of Zero-G's flights, they saw the need to add cabin space so that their passengers could have the same sort of experience. It seems that they can add about 75 cubic feet of cabin fairing for only about 250 pounds of launch weight. Not bad at all.

If, in the next ten years, a robust sub-orbital joy riding market can be developed, and Bigelow can realize his orbital inflatable dreams, complete with "reasonably priced" launch services to orbit (in the million USD per trip range), then it shouldn't be long before we're seeing privatized moon landings, asteroidal mining missions, and manned missions to Mars. I can't wait!


Prego or Ragu? said...

ok, my favorite part of the VP debate:

EDWARDS: That was a complete distortion of my record. I know that won't come as a shock.

The vice president, I'm surprised to hear him talk about records. When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors.

He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's.

IFILL: Thirty seconds.

CHENEY: Oh, I think his record speaks for itself. And frankly, it's not very distinguished.


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