Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Neil Armstrong Interview Clips

Thanks to the tip from reader Tim, I browsed to CBS News online and watched some video clips recently taken with Neil Armstrong, interviewed by Ben Bradley. It's interesting to see the thoughts of the first human on the moon, a very private man, several decades later. (The commercials before the clips get pretty tiresome, though.)

P.S. Kudos on Discovery's safe landing today!


Monday, July 17, 2006

Danger in Lebanon

There are a number of things I've been meaning to write about, including progress on my book, but right now my thoughts keep going to Lebanon. I have a friend named June, who traveled to Beirut last week, in fulfillment of long-laid plans to reconnect with separated relatives. Shortly after her arrival, Israel started bombing the city—starting with the airport, cutting off travel.

It is a testament to the internet—and email—that I know as much as I do about what's happening. With the city in upheaval, there's not much she can do except go to internet cafes and let people know what's happening.

At first, she felt reasonably assured of her safety, being in the same neighborhood as the British Consulate and American University. And then a lighthouse two blocks away was bombed. It is her belief, and, she says, that of everyone she talks to, that these air strikes have nothing to do with trying to keep the captured Israeli soldiers from being moved out of Lebanon and everything to do with an intended much larger war. She is not even confident that the U.S. Navy, if and when it arrives to evacuate U.S. citizens, will be immune to attack by either side. Hezbollah has Iranian missiles, and Israel has deliberately attacked U.S. ships before (U.S.S. Liberty, 1967, in an incident that is shocking to read about even today).

And so, she waits. No doubt the situation is much worse for many innocent Lebanese people who are being targeted, intentionally or not. (And, presumably, for many members of Hezbollah, who are not innocent at all.)

I'm not going to get into a big discussion of who is right or wrong in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Both sides seem ready to seize any excuse for war. But I am worried about my friend, and wondering why it's taking so long for the U.S. military to get our people out of there. According to June, the Italians and French have begun evacuating their citizens already.

I'm also wondering why, according to the Boston Globe, the State Department "warned that citizens would have to pay the cost of their own evacuation." What, are they going to sell tickets to get onto Navy choppers? Really—is this how we take care of our people? As a taxpayer, I say this is one of the things I willingly pay taxes for—to help people when they're in bad straits. These people have enough to worry about with bombs raining around them, without wondering if they can afford the bill to be airlifted to Cyprus.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Movie of Discovery Nearing Orbit

Okay, this is cool. Astronomy Picture of the Day has an animated GIF of Discovery flying away from the spent solid rocket boosters, taken with cameras mounted on the boosters themselves.

There's a smoother version of it, but with less supporting text, on NASA's site. You can see some other videos, as well, including the external tank falling toward the atmosphere. Oh, and be sure you watch the one called "STS-121 Right Forward Solid Rocket Booster Video" for a rocket's-eye view of the liftoff, followed by a long, graceful fall back into the ocean.

By the way, having spent last weekend at Readercon, I'm now really burrowing into work on Sunborn. I'll post an update soon.


Friday, July 07, 2006

New Manned Spacecraft Named Ares

According to Astronomy Magazine, NASA has announced a name for the replacement to the space shuttle:

As the space shuttle Discovery prepared for launch Friday, NASA announced the name of its replacement. The Crew Launch Vehicle, which will ferry astronauts to Earth orbit as early as 2011, is now called Ares I. The monstrous heavy-lift rocket, designed to loft cargo headed for the Moon later in the decade, is called Ares V.

Ares, the Greek word for Mars, is a nod to the agency's vision of one day sending astronauts to the Red Planet. The numerical designations salute the Apollo-era Saturn I and Saturn V rockets, the first large U.S. launchers specifically designed for human spaceflight.
Ares. That's way better than CLV. And I like the "I" and "V" designations in salute to the Saturn that took us to the moon, my favorite of all rockets. Pictures and more details at astronomy.com.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Religion and Politics

A friend emailed me a speech by Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois. It was his keynote speech to the Call to Renewal Conference sponsored recently by the Sojourners, a Christian organization. I found what he had to say rather important. He talked, in part, about the need for Democrats to speak meaningfully about the connection between progressive politics and religious faith, and also about the need for all sides to engage less in pigeon-holing and more in listening and genuine communication. He began:

During the 2004 U.S. Senate General Election I ran against a gentleman named Alan Keyes. Mr. Keyes is well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, Mr. Keyes announced towards the end of the campaign that, "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved..."

I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously, to essentially ignore it. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, and his arguments not worth entertaining...
But perhaps Keyes' arguments did need to be entertained, and discussed. And that, in part, is what the rest of Obama's speech was about. He continued:
I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we're going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution...

[Conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.
Read or listen to the whole speech at obama.senate.gov.

Labels: ,

Discovery Flies on the Fourth!

I haven't been at my computer much the last couple of days, so I'm celebrating the Fourth of July online a little late. (For you folks from outside the U.S., that's Independence Day, or the birthday celebration for the United States of America.)

This year my family went to see the Boston Pops do their traditional outdoor concert down by the Charles River—only we went on July 3 for the rehearsal performance, which was theoretically less crowded. It was a great time. Just one thing: no fireworks. Now, I love fireworks. But the best fireworks this Independence Day were about 1500 miles to the south of me—at Cape Canaveral. Here's what they looked like:

Yes, Discovery is back in space! Let's hear it for NASA and all the people who worked to make it happen. And let's pray for a safe mission.

Now, that's what I'm talkin'!


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Jim Baen (1943-2006)

Jim Baen, founder and publisher of Baen Books, died on June 28 following a stroke from which he never awoke. He was a major figure in the science fiction field, and one whose influence has been felt in many ways. His death marks another sad milestone in the field.

I knew Jim only slightly. He bought my second short story, "Alien Persuasion," for Galaxy Magazine, back in—actually, I'm not sure. I think it must have been 1975. My story was published at a time when Galaxy was in financial trouble, and it didn't last too long beyond the appearance of my story. (That story was my first venture into the star rigger universe, and ultimately became the first part of my second novel, Star Rigger's Way.) Jim Baen later went on to work with Tom Doherty at Ace Books, then at Tor Books. He finally became publisher of his own company, with Baen Books. My sympathies go out to all those at Baen Books, and his family and friends.

For a more complete and knowledgeable obituary, see David Drake's web site.

Labels: , , ,