Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lemming Tracks: The Lemming's Taking a Sabbatical, Sort Of

The Lemming's done time in American academia, and grew up in that subculture: so for the Lemming, a "sabbatical" is what the University of Sussex says it is: "A period of time (usually a term) when a faculty member is not teaching, but concentrating on his/her own education or research."

Sussex is on the other side of the Atlantic, the Lemming isn't a faculty member, and doesn't intend to be gone for a term. For that matter, the Lemming's not going to be doing his own education or research. Not entirely, that is.

But "taking a sabbatical" sounded cooler than "taking a break."

Besides, being the company gopher at a convention isn't exactly "taking a break."

"Company?" What Company?

The Lemming's involved with the company that makes Spiral Light Candles. If a picture's worth a thousand words, this half-size video should be a real time-saver. It's a time-lapse of a Spiral Light Candle - the thing takes about two hours to burn.

"Spiral Self Filling Candle"

(shown half-size: full version at YouTube)
Ryan Theis, YouTube (Oct 12, 2012)
video, 0:19

"A candle that burns around a hollow center and fills itself...."

The Lemming's son-in-law is showing the things at a trade show in Philadelphia next week. Just outside Philadelphia, actually: but the Lemming figures you're more like to know where Philadelphia is, than King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Besides being the company gopher at the convention trade show, the Lemming's going to be handling streaming video - using software that the Lemming didn't know about last week.

Between getting on speaking terms with a new-to-the-Lemming technology, and miscellaneous other preparations, the Lemming thinks it's best to not try posting in this blog - or the Lemming's other 'daily.' Not for the rest of this week. Or, probably, next week.

Return of the Lemming

The Lemming doesn't know what the trade show schedule will be like - and jobs one and two will be gophering and managing a video feed. So the Lemming will either have opportunities to post from Pennsylvania - or not. Eventually, the Lemming plans and hopes to return to central Minnesota, and the small town he's called home for the last quarter-century.

When that's going to happen? Good question - the Lemming's letting someone else do the heavy lifting with those decisions.

It's Not Research, Quite; or Education, Exactly

Since someone else is doing the driving at least part of the way to Pennsylvania, the Lemming's taking along story notes and sketches - and plans to get a little creative time in. There's a project or two that's been on the 'back burner' for - too long, and the Lemming hopes to change that situation.

And that's another topic.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:
More about the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and me:

Monday, July 25, 2011

King Tut - In Minnesota

"Enter the Golden World of the Pharaohs"
Science Museum of Minnesota (exhibit ends September 5)

"Time is running out! Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs ends soon.

"It took 3,000 years for them to make it to Minnesota, and in only a few short weeks, they'll be going away. Don't miss your rare opportunity to see priceless artifacts that tell the captivating story of royal life in ancient Egypt. King Tut features dozens of stunning artifacts from the tombs of some of ancient Egypt's most powerful and well-known rulers, including beautifully-crafted statues of Khafre, the builder of the Great Sphinx; Hatshepsut, the queen who became a pharaoh; and King Tut's father, Akhenaten.

Fan: A gilded wooden fan found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber. The fan was a symbol of kingship and depicts Tut's rule over Upper and Lower Egypt. From Science Museum of Minnesota, used w/o permission.The exhibition's final galleries are dedicated to King Tut's famous tomb, including an area devoted to its discovery by British explorer Howard Carter in 1922....

The Lemming saw a King Tut Exhibit in San Francisco, about a third of a century back. The artifacts on display then were - quite remarkable. The mask of Tutankhamen in particular was a great deal more lifelike 'in person,' than in photos. Whether or not the Lemming will see this exhibition - is a good question.

The Tut exhibit is traveling - so the Lemming put a link to Tutankamon at the end of this post. And in the preceding sentence.

Related posts:
  • Tutankamon
    The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs
    Arts & Exhibitions International, AEG Exhibitions and National Geographic with cooperation from Egypt’s Ministry of State for Antiquities

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brunost, Ekte Gjetost, and Gamalost - the Cheese with Personality

"Brown Cheese And Birch: Nordic Foods' Appeal Grows"
J. S. MARCUS, Food & Drink, The Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2011)

"The bright-orange sea-buckthorn berry may sound like something from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. In fact, it's one of Scandinavian cuisine's star ingredients, which are driving adventurous foodies to forage in cutting-edge restaurants, Pacific-Northwest wine bars, local health-food stores and IKEA outlets.

" 'I love the boom,' says Marcus Samuelsson, the Swedish-raised New York chef who helped pioneer awareness of Scandinavian cuisine in the U.S. when he was executive chef at Aquavit, which he co-owns.

"Mr. Samuelsson uses aromatic cloudberries-'the king of berries,' he calls them—in sorbet and serves the sour sea-buckthorn berries with game meats. He sometimes spikes a sauce with Norwegian brunost, a sweet brown cheese traditionally made from caramelized goat's milk whey. "It's like goat-cheese butter," Mr. Samuelsson says...."

Brunost is okay - more than just okay - but the Lemming wonder's if what's sold in the Pacific Northwest is, quite, Brunost. At least one sort of Norwegian goat cheese, packaged for export to the United States, turned out to be diluted - 50% goat cheese, 50% the sort of bovine cheese most Americans are used to.

Sure, it tasted sort of like a half-strength gjetost, which it was - but it wasn't gjetost. Somewhat of an anticlimax for the Lemming, who remembers real gjetost. And Primost.

This, perhaps, really is ekte gjetost - real gjetost:

"Ekte Gjetost 100% Goat Cheese"

"Ekte Gjetost means pure goat cheese in Norwegian. Ekte Gjetost is a unique Norwegian whey cheese made from 100% goat's whey, its colour is darker than Ski Queen's and the flavour richer. Its texture is firm and it is served in thin slices on bread or biscuits...."

"Ekte Gjetost means pure goat cheese in Norwegian"?? Oh-kay. Sort of. The Lemming would have thought it was more like "real goat cheese" - but what the hey: "Pure" is sort of like "real." And the Lemming would expect ekte gjetost to be 'real' gjetost - not half-and-half.

So, there's brunost, and gjetost - ekte and otherwise. But why is there such a thundering silence on the subject of gamalost? Sure, it's got an aroma you'll never forget: and Wikipedia says it's "a brownish-yellow cheese with irregular blue veins."

But what's a little body odor and a complexion issue to someone who's into cheesy food?

The Lemming could have phrased that differently. Probably should have.

Related posts:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spaceplanes: Seven Decades, One Infographic, and a Hopeful Lemming

"Space Planes: Evolution of the Winged Spaceship (Infographic)"
Karl Tate, Space.com (July 5, 2011)

See how engineers turned the dream of winged spaceship into reality with NASA's space shuttle in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

It's a pretty good one-stop look at the last seven decades of spaceplane development.

There's the usual stuff about the American military 'admitting' that the X-37B spaceplane exists. It's (almost) true. Sort of. I've posted a sort of reality check about the X-37B. Several times. Including this:I got the memo, about the death of Disco and passing of the '60s: but not everyone seems to have read their copy. And that's another topic.

Space Shuttle, Hype, and Hope

The Space Shuttle wasn't the sort of airliner-to-orbit that we'd hoped for. On the other hand, it carried modules of the International Space Station (ISS) up, ferried people to and from the ISS, launched satellites: and carried the occasional repair crew. Remember the Hubble fix?

Until folks started building working models of today's spaceships, there was some optimism. Maybe even excessive optimism. ("Future Space," Tales of Future Past, David S. Zondy)

On the whole, though, the Lemming thinks excessive optimism is easier to stand - than the 'and we're all gonna die' attitude that's been fashionable for a while. Yet another topic.

As outfits like Bigelow Aerospace add to the ISS - and set up other orbital destinations - there's going to be a market for anyone with a practical, safe, surface-to-orbit ferry service. Which probably means that Skylon, Dream Chaser, some other spaceplane - or maybe something like the scuttled Delta Clipper - will be the 21st century's DC-3.

Or maybe swarms of killer bees will make nuclear power plants explode, paving the way for killer robots, mutant frogs, and homicidal computers to kill the survivors of biological warfare, global warming, and the coming ice age. ("Science Fiction in the Movies: 'The Satan Bug' to 'The Matrix'," Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (January 26, 2010)) That's not likely, though: in the Lemming's opinion.

Related posts:Also:What's next?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Alexander Calder, Mobiles, and Encouraging the Kids

If you use Google, you've probably seen today's Google Doodle, and know that today's sculptor Alexander Calder's 113th birthday.

Turns out, the doodle's got a secret:

"Google's Calder Doodle Reacts to a Moving Laptop"
Eric Mack, PCWorld (July 22, 2011)

"Google is commemorating the 113th birthday of sculptor Alexander Calder with a new, funky doodle that replaces the company logo with one of Calder's mobile sculptures. Like many previous Google doodles, there's also a hidden Easter egg feature, and you'll need an accelerometer-equipped laptop to find it.

"The use of the representation of one of Calder's more famous hanging mobiles comes courtesy of the Calder Foundation, and the doodle version responds when a laptop with the right equipment is tilted. It also rotates and sways in response to clicks and drags. Interacting with the doodle, especially when trying to do so via an accelerator-enabled device, seems to work best in a Chrome browser...."

Some of the 'cultural' sort in America seem to have gotten a little less stuffy over the last half-century. At least, the Lemming's noticed Minnesota's public radio announcers saying something like 'remember, all music was once new' a few years back.

Maybe residents of Hoity-Toity Lane are getting over the notion that something has to be bug-ugly and overpriced, or a hundred years old, to be called "art." If so, maybe there won't be much fuss about Google's messing with Calder's 'great art.'

Calder Made Mobiles? Big Deal??

In some parts of America, if things haven't changed too much, folks may think of mobile sculptures as a sort of elementary-school craft project. 'Big deal.' 'Kids' stuff.'

Two things:
  1. Change happens
    • These days, fast
      • As in "blink, and you'll miss it"
  2. Calder established mobile sculpture as "art"
From the Calder Foundation's website:

Calder Foundation

"Alexander Calder was born in 1898, the second child of artist parents—his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter. Because his father, Alexander Stirling Calder, received public commissions, the family traversed the country throughout Calder's childhood. Calder was encouraged to create, and from the age of eight he always had his own workshop wherever the family lived. For Christmas in 1909, Calder presented his parents with two of his first sculptures, a tiny dog and duck cut from a brass sheet and bent into formation. The duck is kinetic—it rocks back and forth when tapped. Even at age eleven, his facility in handling materials was apparent.

"Despite his talents, Calder did not originally set out to become an artist. He instead enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology after high school and graduated in 1919 with an engineering degree...."

Alexander Calder was a hydraulic engineer and automotive engineer before he got back to sculpting: as a serious career, anyway.

Hats off, by the way, to Calder's parents: who encouraged their child to create.

Given the Lemming's, ah, diverse job history, Calder's experiences make good sense:
  • Learning to be
    • A hydraulic engineer
    • An automotive engineer
    • A timekeeper in a logging camp
    • A fireman in a ship's boiler room
  • Taking art classes, which led to
    • Doing commercial newspaper illustrating
      • Drawing pictures at a circus

More Than Mobiles

There's more to Calder's art than mobiles - the Calder Foundation (www.calder.org) does a pretty good job of breaking his work out into bite-size pieces.

As for the 'my kid could do better than that' attitude toward 'modern art:' the Lemming sympathizes. For every Calder, there seem to be a hundred alternatively-ethical con artists with a knack for separating wannabe sophisticates from their money. And that's another topic.

Finally, maybe your kid can 'do better than that.' Alexander Calder almost certainly wasn't the last creative kid. Encouraging kids to do what they're interested in doing - and good at - is, in the Lemming's opinion, part of what parenting's about. Even if the kid wants to paint, or sculpt, or flip burgers.

Related (?) posts:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space Shuttle Era Ends: "It's On to the Next Adventure"

"Atlantis Makes Final Landing, Ending 30-Year Shuttle Program"
FoxNews.com (July 21, 2011)

"After decades of inspiring millions around the globe, space shuttle Atlantis made a final, picture-perfect touchdown at Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 a.m. EDT -- ending the shuttle program.

" 'Job well done, America,' mission control told pilot Doug Hurley and the thousands watching and listening to the landing in the pre-dawn dark.

"There was a clear sense of nostalgia on the part of both crew and staff at Kennedy Space Center, as the ship made its final arrival safe and sound.

" 'Having fired the imaginations of a generation, a ship like no other, its place in history secured, the space shuttle pulls into port for the last time -- its voyage at an end,' reported mission control.

" 'Mission complete, Houston,' Hurley responded. 'After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. Atlantis has come to a final stop.'

" 'It's been 30 great years for the Space Shuttle program,' said Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, in a statement on the landing. 'With this venerable space vehicle retired, it's on to the next adventure.'..."

The Lemming indulged in a little nostalgia - including taking a look at a 360-degree interactive picture of Mission Control on NASA's Space Shuttle Multimedia page. That room has changed - a little - since the '60s. Each station's screens are a lot more colorful, rows of mission emblems are on the wall, and the folks at each station don't all look quite so much alike: signs left by three decades of rapid change.

It's been an exciting ride, in many ways.

Now What?

(from NASA, used w/o permission)
"Space shuttle Atlantis lands for the final time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls"

Americans with travel plans in low Earth orbit and beyond are in for an awkward transition, in the Lemming's opinion. NASA's extended their contract with the Russian space program, so we've got reservations on Soyuz vehicles through June 30, 2016. (NASA press release (March 14, 2011)) That takes care of basic transportation needs for folks working shifts at the International Space Station - but that's about that.

Considering how shaky the Federal government's finances are - the Lemming thinks it's probably good sense for the feds to let someone else get the job done, when it comes to routine freight and passenger runs.

On the other hand, the Lemming compared one of of NASA's high-profile missions with what advertisers spent on Super Bowl commercials - and what Congress does with our money. And that's another topic.

Meanwhile, quite a few folks have been developing their own spaceships. Some, like Virgin Galactic, with a great deal of publicity. Others, like Blue Origin's New Shepard program, very quietly indeed.

It's not just American companies that have their eyes on Earth orbit and beyond. There's Skylon, the Reaction Engines Ltd. spaceplane; and Japan's H-2 Transfer Vehicle 1.

Building spaceships isn't the only way to be involved with the next few decades in space. Bigelow Aerospace is focusing on developing rental properties in Earth orbit.

The Space Shuttles are headed for museums and history textbooks - after hauling freight and people to what's arguably the first construction site in space: the International Space Station. The ISS is just about finished now, so we probably won't need the sort of freight-car cargo capacity that the Shuttle offered. Not right away.

A few years down the road, we could be seeing everything from flying gumdrops to hypersonic waveriders carrying cargo and passengers to and from whatever joins the ISS in orbit.

Like the fellow said, "It's on to the next adventure"

What's next?Somewhat-related posts:
More, on the NASA website:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Somalia Famine - Just Somalia?!

It's all over the news. Somalia is in bad shape. Particularly parts of southern Somalia, where Somalis face famine. In Somalia. Here's a sample of today's news about - Somalia.

"UN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle"
(July 20, 2011)

"The United Nations has declared a famine in two areas of southern Somalia as the region suffers the worst drought in more than half a century.

"The UN said the humanitarian situation in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle had deteriorated rapidly.

"It is the first time that the country has seen famine in 19 years.

"Meanwhile, the UN and US have said aid agencies need further safety guarantees from armed groups in Somalia to allow staff to reach those in need...."

The Lemming is about as certain as it's possible to be, that the situation in Somalia is bad. Very bad. Definitely not-good. Pretty much the opposite of 'okay.' Somalis are dying of starvation, and diseases that might not have been so bad, if the folks hadn't been starving.

The Lemming is also glad to see that the United Nations decided to make a formal declaration of famine in two parts of Somalia. That's not, in the Lemming's opinion, as silly as it may sound: that sort of formal declaration probably makes it easier for the United States and other interested nations to start the process of getting help to those two spots in Somalia.

Eventually, the United Nations declaration, and government programs, may make a practical difference in the lives of some of the survivors.

In another blog, the Lemming mentioned one of the other outfits that's already in that part of the world: "Drought, Starvation, Death, Request for Help - But No Pressure," A Catholic Citizen in America (July 18, 2011).

Somalia's Got Trouble - And They've Got Company

Again, the Lemming is convinced that folks in Somalia - many of them - are starving, dying of diseases that should be non-lethal, and generally having a very bad time.

That's not right, and the Lemming thinks folks should do something to help. But, hey: no pressure.

Thanks to a long wait in a clinic, the Lemming heard over an hour of CNN news today. In which the tragedy of suffering in Somalia was discussed. Also starvation in Somalia, disease in Somalia, disease exacerbated by starvation in Somalia - where folks are suffering. Tragically. In Somalia.

This is not a criticism of CNN and nobody else - they're not the only ones obsessing on Somalia today. And, again: really, the Lemming thinks folks in Somalia are facing very real, very deadly, problems.

But - and it's hard to tell, given the coverage of Somalia - where Somalis are dying - in Somalia: Somalia isn't alone. It's one of several countries in the eastern part of Africa where folks are dealing with a catastrophic drought:

"...Some aid workers say this year's drought conditions in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan are the worst in living memory...."

Here's that list of countries:
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan

Putting Things in Perspective?

Quite often, the Lemming's all for journalists not taking a local or regional problem and implying that it's a continent-wide catastrophe. But the Lemming also thinks it's a good idea to at least mention when a problem in one country is shared by folks in several neighboring countries, too.

Sure, the United Nations probably didn't make a declaration about Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan today. But would it kill the news anchor to mention that Somalia wasn't the only place where folks are facing drought, starvation, and associated unpleasantness?

The Lemming really needs to give ranting a rest - and that's another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Phone Hacks, Privacy, Pie-Throwing, and a Ranting Lemming

The Lemming's posted about a pillar of British journalism, upholder of the peoples' right to know, and inspiration to spunky girl reporters, before:
Apparently, the Information Age equivalent of dumpster diving isn't considered quite cricket in the U.K. - and may be called skipping on the other side of the Atlantic.

Examination of this serious matter - in the land that brought Parliament, police without guns, and Monty Python's Flying Circus, to the world - has gotten to the pie-throwing stage.


"Murdoch attacker is a 'renowned left-wing activist who had targeted Barclays and Vodafone' "
MailOnline (July 19, 2011)

Pie Throwing: Are Shape-Shifting Space Aliens Involved?

"The pie-thrower who attacked Rupert Murdoch is a renowned activist who is one of the founding members of a left-wing protest group.

"Comedian Jonnie Marbles - real name Jonathan May-Bowles - has been involved in protests in the past, it has been claimed.

"Moments before he carried out the attack he wrote on Twitter: 'It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat'...."


Pie-throwing seems to be more a matter of British culture than British governance - and is a reminder that communities with a population over one probably won't be particularly homogeneous. Which doesn't mean what you may think.

Transparency time - or, the Lemming, unmasked!

If you follow this blog - honestly, don't you have anything better to do with your time?

Where was the Lemming? Transparency. Revelations.

If you follow this blog, you're probably aware that the Lemming is - human. A middle-aged fellow, named Brian Gill, living in a small town in central Minnesota. Which is, at the moment, hot enough to melt butter. Inside. With the air conditioner going. Six months from now - and that's another topic.

The Lemming is "apathetic," in the sense of not going ballistic over whatever intellectual fad is in fashion at the moment - the Lemming's seen too many 'and we're all gonna die' predictions come and go to work up any real enthusiasm.

Although it seems that cancer may cause cell phones - and it may be a conspiracy:
And 'everyone' knows who's really behind the CIA, Wall Street, and the British Royal family: the shape-shifting, space-alien, lizard men! In fact, the Lemming's read that British royalty are those very space aliens who run the world! It's a 'conspiracy,' of course. Or something.

Not that the Lemming believes it.

It's more likely that space aliens would be fairly easy to spot. And might work openly. As reporters.

Standards, News Corp, and Transcript Highlights

"Transcript Highlights: Brooks Gives Evidence "
(July 19, 2011)

"Former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks follows Rupert and James Murdoch in being questioned by MPs over the phone-hacking scandal. Here are transcript highlights from the hearing.

"News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James, the News International chairman earlier faced the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

"It is made up of chairman John Whittingdale (JV), Therese Coffey (TC), Damian Collins (DC), Philip Davies (PD), Paul Farrelly (PF), Alan Keen (AK), Louise Mensch (LM), Adrian Sanders (AS), Jim Sheridan (JS) and Tom Watson (TW).

"Rupert Murdoch is referred to as RM and his son James JM. Rebekah Brooks is referred to as RB.

"JM: It is a matter of great regret, my father's, and everybody at News Corp and these are standards that these actions do not live up to, the standards that our company tries to live up to all around the world.

"JM: It is our intention to put these things right, to make sure they don't happen again.

"RM: This is most humble day of my life.

"JM: The company relied on both the police having closed the investigation and the repeated assertions that there was no new evidence for them to reopen their investigation...."

Seriously, (allegedly) hacking into phones and (allegedly) publishing very personal, very private, information from families who had already been stressed - isn't, in the Lemming's opinion, nice. Or, more to the point, necessary.

Even if it was in the cause of selling more newspapers. Or 'the public's right to know,' or whatever.

This collision of old-school journalism, Information-Age technology, and folks who don't admire Investigative Reporters (who save the world from corruption and five o'clock shadow) quite as much as we're told we did, back in the 'Good Old Days.'

Remember - these are the opinions of a ranting Lemming, who remembers the 'Good Old Days.,' And never wants to go back.

"Humble" - Now that the Scandal's Known - And It's Not Their Fault?

"Murdochs deny blame"
Karen Kissane, The Sydney Morning Herald (July 20, 2011) (It's 'tomorrow' there now)

"THE most powerful media mogul in the world described it as 'the most humble day' of his life. But Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, have told Britain's parliament that they had not been aware of any wrongdoing at News International.

"And when asked if he bore ultimate responsibility for the phone hacking scandal, the 80-year-old Mr Murdoch answered flatly 'no.'

"Instead he said responsibility laid with those he trusted to run the business and 'the people they trusted'...."

The Lemming's a little sympathetic with Murdoch and Murdoch. Outfits as big as News International are - big. It's possible for folks between the top and bottom of the organization chart to get - ah, creative - with journalistic integrity, strict observance of the law, and common decency.

After all, they're journalists - higher beings, beyond good and evil. Sort of like doctors. Some of them. No, wait. That's Nietzsche. And yet another topic.

Back to Murdoch and Murdoch. The Lemming thinks they may really have had no idea of what was going on in their business. Things have changed quite a bit in the last eight decades, particularly in any field that deals with information.

The Lemming's age is about midway between the Murdochs - younger and elder. Thanks in part to a remarkably checkered job history, the Lemming noticed the death of Disco, end of the Cold War, and advent of 'social media.'

Someone running a 'media empire' probably heard of those things - but may not have quite understood just how much had changed. And that's another topic, for another blog:
Back in Apathetic Lemming of the North - somewhat-related posts:

Monday, July 18, 2011

'Cancer Causes Cell Phones!' - or, not

Remember when just about everything caused cancer - and the rest was either fattening, caused heart attacks, or drowned you? The Lemming does.

Cancer Causes Cell Phones?

(from xkcd, used w/o permission)

If the conclusion wasn't so obviously wackadoo, the Lemming suspects that someone might have a shot at getting research money to 'prove' that cancer causes cell phones.

CANCER!!!!!, Common Sense, and the Lemming

The Lemming's explained about this not-exactly-apathetic blog before. It's not that the Lemming doesn't care; the Lemming's 'apathetic' about the latest AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! scare. Whatever it is. There have been too many, over the decades - and there's a discernible pattern.

Many doomsayers seem to be upset because things aren't just the way they remember them being, back in the 'good old days' of their youth. Over the last half-century, the destroyers of society have included:
  • Telephones
  • Television
  • Cable television
  • Computers
  • The Internet
And, of course, cell phones. Information technology seems to be really scary - and that's another topic.

So, does the Lemming think that cell phones are absolutely, positively safe? No.

Does the Lemming think that cell phones cause CANCER?!!! No.

The Lemming thinks that the usual 'it's new, and it scares me' thing is happening again. The Lemming has used cell phones, and will continue to do so. But the Lemming won't use duct tape to keep a cell phone to his year 24 hours a day, or try to swallow one. That probably wouldn't be a good idea.

But, if cell phones cause cancer - and not the other way around - the connection seems tenuous, at best.

Something Doesn't Cause Cancer? (Maybe It's a Conspiracy!)

"Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer or Not? The Latest Answer Is No"
Bryan Walsh Friday, Time (July 15, 2011)

"Back in May, a group of experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made waves when they warned that mobile phones may indeed raise the risk for some brain tumors.

"As I wrote in TIME:
"To the surprise of many cancer experts, IARC classified cell-phone-radiation exposure as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." The panel put cell phones in category 2B on the agency's willfully unhelpful scale, below sure carcinogens like cigarette smoke and in the same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline-engine exhaust. "A review of the human evidence of epidemiological studies shows an increased risk of glioma and malignant types of brain cancer in association with wireless-phone use," Dr. Jonathan Samet, the chairman of the IARC working group, told reporters the day the study was released...."
"I warned readers then that the IARC's conclusion was tentative at best, and that the argument over the potential dangers of cell phones was far from over. And here drops the other shoe — or study....

"...In a new paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology researchers looked at data from more than 2.8 million Danish adults, and found that those who had used a cell phone for 11 to 15 years were no more likely than new users or non-users to develop acoustic neuromas — a kind of brain tumor that develops near the ear, where cell phones would be used.

"From Reuters:
"Among the nearly three million Danish adults they had data for, just over 800 were diagnosed with acoustic neuroma between 1998 and 2006. And those who'd used cell phones the longest - at least 11 years - had no greater risk than shorter-term users or non-users.

"On top of that, [study author Joachim] Schuz said in an email, there was no indication that long-term cell users had larger-than-expected tumors. Nor did they have a tendency to develop acoustic neuromas on the right side, where most held their phone.
"(By the way, Schuz works for the IARC, the same World Health Organization's body that issued the earlier warning against cell phones.)...

"...Schuz's study echoes a recent review in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which looked at the results of the controversial Interphone study on cell phones and cancer — which I wrote about last year — and concluded that it was unlikely that mobile phone radiation would cause an increase in tumors.

"The authors wrote:
"While one cannot be certain, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use causes brain tumors."
"The key words here: "one cannot be certain." Critics of the review noted that the authors received funding from the mobile phone industry...."

So, we're supposed to add "Big Telephone" to the list of big-bads to be suspicious of? Still: it's a point. Folks might tend to see what they want to see in a nondescript pile of data. Even folks who write scary reports for WHO.

Silly Science: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

So, what's the harm in publishing one more half-baked 'scientific' warning that telephones lead to divorce, or cell phones cause cancer, or wearing plaid leads to sword dancing?

There's the story of the boy who cried "wolf." Maybe publishing these none-too-well-researched, dubious, and occasionally silly, findings isn't simply silly.

Related posts:
And even more posts about assumptions - unconsidered, myopic, and just plain daft:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Carmageddon?" "Never Mind!"

Remember "Carmageddon," when Los Angeles drivers would recklessly plunge the city into a veritable abyss of unspeakable chaos, horror, doom, and the mother of all traffic jams? Because Interstate 405 needed maintenance?

As Gilda Radner said, "never mind!"

"L.A. Freeway Reopens Ahead of Schedule"
Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (July 17, 2011)

"The event that many feared would be the 'Carmageddon' of epic traffic jams cruised calmly to a finish Sunday, with bridge work on the Los Angeles roadway completed nearly a full day ahead of schedule and officials reopening a 10-mile stretch of the busy freeway.

"Drivers honked their horns and waved from car windows as traffic started moving in all 10 lanes of Interstate 405 just after noon for the first time since being shut down at midnight Friday. There were no major problems since the freeway was closed, despite warnings.

"The mayor praised contractors for working so quickly and thanked city residents for heeding calls to stay off the roads. He also gave credit to news outlets for spreading word about the closure, which had been planned to last for 53 hours.

" 'We couldn't have done this without the cooperation of this city,' Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said...."

As the Lemming opined yesterday: "The Lemming thinks that "Carmageddon" will fizzle." Mostly because road maintenance and detours are routine here in Minnesota - and the Lemming doesn't think there's really all that much difference between folks in central Minnesota and Los Angeles.

Still: "Carmageddon" was a cool name; the impending doom of gridlock despair gave journalists something to exercise angst about; and the whole thing gave the Lemming posts - two days in a row.

Sort-of-related posts:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Carmageddon" is Upon Us? Them?

" 'Carmageddon': Los Angeles Freeway Shuts Down"
Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (July 16, 2011)

"A 10-mile stretch of one of the nation's busiest freeways has turned into a virtual ghost road.

"Ramps to the normally clogged Interstate 405 began shutting down Friday evening before the entire roadway was closed at midnight, setting the stage for a 53-hour construction project that will test whether this car-dependent city can change its driving habits for a weekend.

"For weeks, authorities have urged residents to avoid getting in their car, lest they trigger what's been hyped as 'Carmageddon.'..."

The Lemming could get sarcastic at this point, about those panicky people in Los Angeles, or those crazy citizens of California, or those addled Americans. One problem with that attitude: the 'Carmageddon is upon us!!' mindset isn't limited to the west coast, or America. Remember this classic?
"...the center cannot hold;
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world....

Although it makes sense to think about the effects some change - like maintenance on a major highway - will have, the Lemming thinks there's something about at least a few folks that thrives on assuming the worst. And then assuming that the worst is inevitable.

The secular versions of that sort of thing have been the coming ice age, global warming, and fearing fluoridated water. American doomsayers with a taste for religion have their own traditions: which the Lemming's discussed in another blog.

'Carmageddon?' Probably Not

There's a little fact behind fears of the coming "Carmageddon:"

"...Such an event could back up vehicles from the 405 -- locals like to joke that its name is shorthand for 'traffic that moves no faster than 4 or 5 miles an hour' -- to surface streets and other freeways, causing a domino effect that could paralyze much of Los Angeles.

"With warnings having been broadcast through television, radio, social media and flashing freeway signs as far away as San Francisco, much of the city's nearly 4 million residents appear ready to stay off the roads...."
(Associated Press, via FoxNews.com)

The Lemming thinks that "Carmageddon" will fizzle. Here in Minnesota, it's a little unusual to have a summer without a few highways blocked for repairs. It's like the old gag. 'Minnesota has four seasons: fall, winter, spring, and road repair.'

But Minnesota isn't California. Maybe there really will be a "Carmageddon." Los Angeles is full of city folks - and that's another attitude.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sinclair Lewis Days Parade - Webcam, Weather, and All That

"Sinclair Lewis Days Parade: July 18, 2009"
A Sauk Centre Journal Realreel
video, 3:44

This is blatant self-promotion by the Lemming. And, possibly, your best bet for seeing at least part of a Sinclair Lewis Days parade this year, in comfort. Even if you live in Sauk Centre, or are visiting for the festivities.

As an alternative to that short video of the 2009 parade, you could check out this eye-on-the street webcam in Sauk Centre, right on this year's parade route, provided by - you guessed it - the Lemming:

Small Town America: Minnesota

Just one downside about Small Town America: Minnesota - there isn't any sound.

Dropping the Editorial 'We' -

My video feed supports audio - but I haven't figured out how to get a microphone outside the window - and keep the thing in working order. I may use the inside mike, and give a sort of 'color commentary,' in the tradition of those televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades.

Or, I may think better of it.

When? Sauk Centre's Sinclair Lewis Days parade is scheduled for "7pm on Saturday July 16th," on the Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce website.

I'm lucky, in a way - the parade route was moved away from this end of town a few years ago. Which was, for most folks, an improvement. The reason it's back in its old path is the Minnesota government shutdown. I understand that, since the state services are gone - temporarily, I trust - we "can't" close Highway 71 for the parade.

I'm pretty sure local law enforcement could handle the situation: My guess is that it's more a case of we aren't allowed to close Highway 71.

The Weather - Good News, Bad News

First, the good news.

Right now, it looks like we probably won't have another storm tomorrow evening. Not even rain.

Now, the bad news.

There's a heat advisory out for this part of the state - effective through Wednesday Evening. Todd county, just north of us, is one of the few counties around here that's not in the advisory - so we may get away with merely oppressive heat.

That's not good news for folks in the parade - or watching it. Oh, well: It could be worse.

Part of the Advisory

"Statement as of 3:46 PM CDT on July 15, 2011

"... Excessive heat watch remains in effect from Saturday afternoon
through Wednesday evening...

"An excessive heat watch remains in effect from Saturday afternoon
through Wednesday evening.

"* Temperature... afternoon highs in the low to mid 90s with low
temperatures in the mid to upper 70s

"* heat index... 105 to 110 degrees in the afternoon and early
(via wunderground.com)

Vaguely-related posts:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"UP" House for Sale: Balloons Not Included?

" 'Up' for Sale: Cartoon House Comes to Life"
Colby Hochmuth, FoxNews.com (July 14, 2011)

"...A Utah builder has painstakingly built a house to be an exact real-life replica of the iconic animated home that took flight in the 2009 Disney film 'Up.'

"The project started when Blair Bangerter, co-owner of Bangerter Homes, saw the movie 'Up' which, with the help of a bunch of helium balloons, flies off to the wilds of South America with its 78-year-old owner...."

"...The house is selling for around $400,000 and Bangerter is looking for the perfect buyer....

"...While the asking price may be a little hefty for the Utah neighborhood where average home prices float in the $270,000 range, Bangerter hopes someone will be able to see past that.

"A reason why the price is so high, Bangerter says, is because a lot of the house had to be specially made and designed to resemble the original house from the film....

Make that closely resemble the UP house. Bangerter had a copy of the film on his laptop, referring to it more than 100 times during construction.

Still, there are some things a non-virtual house probably can't do - like float away, lifted by a gargantuan agglomeration of particolored party balloons.

'Mere Promotional Tactic?' There's Got to be Easier Ways

"...taking a cartoon home and making it life-size was challenging to build. The team found difficulties mimicking the pitch of the roof, the stairs, windows, and some of the small details of the house....

"...For those who say that Bangerter's project has just been a mere promotional tactic, he says it is something that has come from his heart.

" 'I'll be sad to say goodbye to it, its been a project a year in the making, but I hope someone with a great imagination will be able to call this place home. "

The Lemming's pretty sure that Mr. Bangerter knew how much attention an "UP" replica house would attract. But the Lemming's also pretty sure that there are easier - and less expensive - ways to get attention. Doing your own television ads, wearing full academic robes topped by a propeller beanie, comes to mind.

Not quite the same sort of attention as the "UP" house - but attention nonetheless.

If you're in the Salt Lake, Utah, area later this month, you could take a look at Mr. Bangertner's project -

"...Bangerter Homes brought the home to life for the 65th Annual Salt Lake Parade of Homes, which opens July 29 and runs until Aug. 14, where the public can get a close-up tour...."

Would the Lemming buy a house that looked like the one in "UP"? Probably not. It's not that the Lemming lacks imagination. Mostly, it's because the Lemming already has a pretty good place to live, here in central Minnesota: and $400,000, although the house is probably worth every cent, is more than the Lemming has to spend.

Still, the Lemming hopes that someone with the budget and the lively imagination buys the place: and thoroughly enjoys it.

Vaguely-related posts:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper: First Single-Stage-to-Orbit Freighter - Almost

"Delta Clipper Experimental Advanced (DCXA)"

jaglavaksoldier, YouTube (December 14, 2008)
video, 2:26

You won't find the McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper in reports about freight runs to the International Space Station, or anywhere else.

That's because, in 1996, a test vehicle had a bad landing. Sure, there had been many successful flights: but, well, for some reason the McDonnal Douglas Delta Clipper wasn't wanted any more.

X-33 VentureStar, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), used w/o permissionThe Lemming suspects that the much cooler-looking X-33 Venturestar with its XRS-2200 Linear Aerospike engine, was - well, cooler. Someday, all the effort poured into that cutting-edge, revolutionary, futuristic technology may pay off.

Sure, the X-33 didn't fly, the Delta Clipper had a pretty good flight record when it was scrapped, and some folks just want to get into orbit - whether or not the spaceship looks cool. But, well, there may have been good reason for trying to develop a brand-new propulsion system and working out how to make a practical, fully-reusable, freight carrier to ferry supplies to and from orbit.

Maybe Blue Origin's New Shepard program will get the job done:

(from Blue Origin, used w/o permission)
The Goddard, Blue Origin's first development vehicle in their New Shepard program.

That photo is from 2006 - and stressed how much Blue Origin wanted to hire folks.

"Blue Origin's New Shepard Launch (wideangle)"

astromatt9, YouTube (January 3, 2007)
video, 0:49

Like McDonnell Douglas' Delta Clipper, Blue Origin's Goddard flies. Not all that far, but it does fly - and lands. It looks sort of like a wide-body version of the Delta Clipper: no great surprise, since both vehicles are designed to fly to and from orbit the same way.

Dragon Spacecraft, Engineering ModelThen there's the SpaceX Dragon.

"Dragon Overview"

"Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.

"The Dragon spacecraft is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Spacecraft, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo as well as the service section containing avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure; and the Trunk, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.

Falcon 9, via SpaceX, used w/o permission."In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion...."

SpaceX's Dragon is a step in the right direction: a (semi-) reusable vehicle for ferrying cargo and passengers to and from the ISS. Like the old Apollo, Soyuz, and other non-Shuttle vehicles, the Dragon is designed to sit on top of a stack of one-use fuel tanks and rocket motors.

It's a design that works, has been in use for decades, and doesn't require new technology. That's the good news. The bad news is that it still involves throwing away some fairly expensive hardware after each flight. Sort of like an airline that had re-used the fuselage of its airliners, but had to install new wings and engines after each landing.

In the short run, since NASA decided that the Delta Clipper wasn't cool, or whatever the reason was, Dragon and vehicles like it will keep the ISS supplied.

Eventually, though: Blue Origin, or someone else, will almost certainly work the bugs out of vehicles that fly back, land - and can fly again.

Related posts:

Space Shuttle: Three Decades of Flights; and Looking from Silbervogel to the Stars

"How the Space Shuttle Was Born"
Mike Wall, Space.com (June 28, 2011)

(NASA, via Space.com, used w/o permission)

"The last-ever space shuttle launch — that of Atlantis, scheduled for July 8 — will come just over three decades after the first one, which took place April 12, 1981.

"But that's not to say NASA's iconic shuttle program just turned 30 years old. It's actually pushing 40, since President Richard Nixon officially announced its existence in January 1972. And the shuttle's roots go much deeper than that, stretching all the way back to a 1930s concept vehicle the Nazis hoped could drop bombs on New York City.

"The story of the shuttle's birth is one of big dreams and slashed budgets, of shifting visions, of NASA and the nation's attempt to find their way in space after beating the Soviets to the moon in 1969. Here is a synopsis of that long, involved tale. [NASA's Space Shuttle Program in Pictures]

"Roots: The Silbervogel

"In the late 1930s, the Nazis initiated the 'Amerika Bomber' project, an effort to build an aircraft capable of taking off from Germany and dropping a bomb on the continental United States.

"Various engineers, including a man named Eugen Sanger, submitted proposals. Sanger's idea, developed with the mathematician Irene Bredt, was a type of winged rocket called the Silbervogel (German for 'silver bird').

"The reusable Silbervogel would ascend to suborbital space, then drop down into the stratosphere. At that point, the increasing air density would give the vehicle lift, bouncing it to a higher altitude again. The process would repeat, with the Silbervogel making the trip across the Atlantic in a series of leaps and bounds...."

That sort of transatlantic roller coaster isn't likely to ever be used for passenger service - but it's got possibilities as a freight carrier. Provided there's a high demand for ultra-fast transcontinental package delivery.

The article traces the Space Shuttle's development, through the X-15 rocket plane that flew, the X-20 Dyna-Soar that didn't, the Apollo program that skipped over steps we're taking now, with the International Space Station (ISS).

Or, rather, that NASA and the American government would be taking, if the Beltway folks hadn't run up a mind-boggling debt. Which reminds the Lemming of college kids with credit cards and indulgent parents - and that's almost another topic. (May 16, 2011)

'When It's Time to Build Spaceships - - - '

Right now, if the American Congress decides that developing better ways to get people and cargo to Earth orbit: It'll make a difference.

Sort of.

If Congress also decides to stay out of the way of folks who run outfits like Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, SpaceX, and Blue Origin: America will probably be one of the countries with commercial properties in orbit - and beyond. Which will present a dilemma of sorts for Ivy League universities: They'll have to consider whether to have an expedition outfitter with a local office handle their science projects; or impress folks by outsourcing to France. Or maybe India. There seems to be a sort of prestige involved with going to another country - to get what's available down the street.

On the other hand, if Congress decides to 'protect' 'the Masses' from big, dangerous spaceship and the reckless people who build them - well, Japan has a quite active space program, so do India, China, and quite a few other nations.

Someone may even have the nerve to let private sector firms develop transport systems - that work reliably, safely, on-schedule, and on-budget.

The Lemming's been over this before:

This is the Apathetic Lemming?!

In case you're wondering about the Lemming's name? Check out "About the Lemming."

What's Next?

You can buy tickets for suborbital flights right now - although Virgin Galactic hasn't brought its tourist service out of development yet. Other firms are concentrating on less glamorous freight and passenger service to the ISS. And rental properties like the ones Bigelow Aerospace is developing.

The Lemming doesn't expect anything with quite the 'wow factor' of the Apollo project. Not any time soon. International politics don't seem right for something like the 'Moon Race.'

Still - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA have been discussing starship design. (PCMag.com (October 30, 2010)) It's not exactly "Star Trek" stuff - physicists are still wrangling over warp drive theory (June 12, 2009) - but the Lemming thinks we're closer to having a working interstellar probe now, than we were to having people on the Moon in 1955. (December 12, 2010, May 9, 2010)

And, for all the Lemming knows, somebody may have worked the bugs out of Alcubierre's theory.

Meanwhile, Blue Origin and SpaceX are building flying gumdrops that promise to offer practical ferry service to and from orbit.

Related posts:

Lemming Tracks: Sauk Centre Storm and the Lemming

Last week the Lemming opined about a serious dust storm in the American southwest:

"Arizona Dust Storm: THIS MAY BE THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT!!!!! - or, not"
(July 6, 2011)

Then, Sunday evening, about 8:10 or so, the power went out. And stayed that way for 21 hours. Restoring data connections - telephone, television, and Internet - took several more hours.

The Lemming didn't have to guess why the power failed. Wind was whooshing past, first from the south, then from the northwest, more or less. Street lighting was out, but visibility wasn't a problem. a bit of greenish sunlight filtered through the clouds, and lightning was going like photoflash at a celebrity event.

Part of a tree was in the street, in front of the Lemming's house. Happily, those three lovely trees had been taken out during the 2008 Ash Street Project. One of them was practically hollow, and would have snapped off during the storm. The other two? They'd either have blocked the street or fallen on the house - maybe both.

("Thursday: Ash Street Project Takes Trees," Through One Dad's Eye (June 13, 2008))
Much better - a controlled fall, back in 2008.

I miss those trees: but I also like having an intact house, and a clear view westwards. (Through One Dad's Eye (June 13, 2008)

What's remarkable is that nobody got hurt or killed in town. With 90-mile-an-hour winds, hundreds of trees down, quite a few on vehicles or houses: that's really good news. The Lemming opined about that in another blog. ("Storm in Sauk Centre, Minnesota: Trees Down, Property Damage, No Injury," A Catholic Citizen in America (July 12, 2011))

With all that going on, you'd think the Lemming would have photos to show.

Well, the Lemming does have some photos: but they're not posted yet. Remember, the power was out for almost 24 hours, the house was offline for longer than that - and the Lemming had a whole lot of catching up to do when power came back.

Like the Monday and Tuesday posts for this blog, that aren't there. Check back in a few hours: the Lemming plans to poke around and see what's worth posting.

Related posts:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DIY Fireworks - Kids, Don't Try This at Home

"DIY Fireworks Blow Away Factory-Made Displays"
Danielle Venton, Wired Science, Wired (July 3, 2011)

"On the Fourth of July, the sky above towns across the nation will glow in a blitz of factory-made colors.

"But some of the biggest, best and most innovative fireworks won't be on display during the holiday. Instead, they'll be tucked away in the garages and home workshops of hobbyists like Tom Niesen.

" 'I'm an old-school firework artist,' said Niesen, a 43-year-old electrical technician in Duluth, Minnesota. 'I build some of the largest fireworks in the nation. It's something very few people can do.'...

"...Innovations have traditionally come slow to the field: Basic firework chemistry hasn't changed much in the past 200 years. One thing that could really use some help from ambitious hobbyists is the lackluster blue we're forced to put up with, Conkling said. The copper compounds that give fireworks a blue color break down under the high heat needed for bright colors.

" 'So we can get a really bright red, a really bright white, but we're stuck with a sort of mediocre blue for our national colors,' Conkling said. 'There are a lot of amateur pyrotechnicians pursuing this. They'll spend their winter nights in the basement trying to make a better blue.'..."

There's more to the article1 - including a set of pretty good photos of fireworks displays.

Now, the Lemming's going to rant. Just a little.

Being Crazy, Being Careful, and Being Crazy-Careful

There's a huge difference between some dude propelled by energy drinks, something he read on the Internet, and over-confidence, blowing himself up: and somebody with experience and sense trying to improve a process.

For the last half-century, at least, America's best and brightest (just ask them) have been assuming that The Masses have the reasoning power of a four-year-old, and the self-control of a cat in heat. At least it seems that way. Particularly when yet one more regulation comes along.

Or another insanely-obvious warning label. Like the one on a transparent jar of peanuts: Labeled "PEANUTS...INGREDIENTS: PEANUTS...ALLERGY WARNING: CONTAINS PEANUTS". Good grief, what part of "PEANUTS" did some bureaucrat think we wouldn't understand?!

Should a toddler play with sparklers - unattended? The Lemming thinks not. Should sparklers be forever banned because someone, somewhere, might let a toddler play with sparklers? The Lemming thinks that's overkill.

Is it safe to experiment with new fireworks formulas? Of course not.

It's also not 'safe' to use LP gas to grill hamburgers. Not in the 'nothing could possibly go wrong, no matter how many daft, stupid, self-destructive lapses in judgment are committed' sense. And yet, the Lemming routinely grills burgers on an LP gas grill. And hasn't blown up the neighborhood.

Not yet, anyway.

It's not likely to happen, either - because the Lemming observes common-sense safety precautions. Like shutting off the gas flow if the grill doesn't light.

America has tried being crazy-careful for decades. And ingenious nitwits still manage to hurt themselves now and then.

Maybe it's time to try being just plain careful - and let someone else be crazy for a change.

Somewhat-related posts:

1 More from the Wired article:

"...Essentially all public shows will use mass-produced factory fireworks, mostly from China; competition and regulation have largely snuffed out U.S. makers. These fireworks are cheap and abundant, great for post-barbecue reverie but unsatisfying to discerning eyes.

" 'In municipal displays you'll see quantity over quality,' said Niesen, a member of Northern Lighter Pyrotechnics. 'For something really spectacular, the public should come to the conventions of fireworks clubs.'

"Amateur clubs are the source of many of the improvements in firework technology, said John Conkling, a chemist at Washington College in Maryland and author of The Chemistry of Pyrotechnics. Clubs like the Northern Lighters attract licensed hobbyists with the diligence and dedication to innovate....
(Danielle Venton, Wired Science)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lemming Tracks: "Obey Gravity! It's the Law"

"Obey Gravity Bumper Sticker"
Stickers & Emblems; Home & Office, ThinkGeek

Obey Gravity Bumper Sticker
(from ThinkGeek, used w/o permission)

"In The Near-Retro Future, Gravity Police Are Everywhere!

"Are you obeying gravity?
"Gravitational constant not included but implied.
"Vinyl bumper sticker, 9"x3", black & white..."

The Lemming wonders if it's entirely safe to post this. After all, Congress is in session - and someone there may get the idea that Americans won't obey gravity, unless it's properly regulated, licensed, and taxed.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis: "Inspirational," the Last of Its Kind (and what's next)

The last Space Shuttle launch happened this morning.

"Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time"
CNN (July 8, 2011)

"Editor's Note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. ..."

"...[Updated at 1:36 p.m.] Astronaut Julie Payette, a Canadian flight engineer who flew two shuttle missions told CNN: 'I feel good about it being a grand finale for an extraordinarily successful program.'

" 'This program has inspired so many people,' she said. 'It is very inspirational when we do things on the edge and this is one of the edges that's hard to reach.'..."

The Lemming feels pretty good about Atlantis reaching orbit, too. Space Shuttles have been making freight runs for decades now. These reusable spaceships got their job done - ferrying components, supplies, and crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

The Space Shuttle - an Infographic

"NASA's Space Shuttle – From Top to Bottom"
Karl Tate, Space.com (July 7, 2011)

A graphical representative [sic!] of NASA's space shuttle.
(from Karl Tate, Space.com, used w/o permission)
Source Space.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

The original, at Space.com, is a little larger than this copy. The Lemming copied and resampled Karl Tate's infographic so that it would fit in this blog's format.

After Atlantis, What?

(from NASA, via Space.com, used w/o permission) (reduced and cropped)

For whatever reason, NASA doesn't have a replacement for the Shuttle fleet ready. Maybe Congress decided that there were more important things to spend the Lemming's taxes on.1

This is almost certainly not 'the end' for spaceflight. The ISS is still in orbit: and the American government is paying for the occasional ride up there, via Russian space services.

Meanwhile, outfits like Space-X and Blue Origin are developing Earth-to-low-orbit transportation systems. Vehicles like the Dragon and Goddard aren't quite ready for commercial service: but maybe that's just as well.

Construction hasn't been finished at some of the spaceports that will handle this century's outbound traffic.

And that's a topic for another post.

Related posts:More:
1 "They do nothing, we pay them to spend our money." "CONGRESS!!"

Something like that exchange was in a television ad for a game, years ago. The Lemming acknowledges that the United States Congress is probably doing a better job of leadership than one might expect from an equal number of lava lamps.

America's federal debt is so high, that Congress is talking about discussing solutions. Some members are actually coming up with ideas that might work. That's a start. Minnesota's government closed down most services this month - and that's another topic.

As for the NASA budget? It's a significant fraction of the total Federal budget, in the sense that it's a measurable non-zero number. As for how much America spends - willingly or not - the Lemming's been over that before:

Who spendsHow much
Federal Government$3,720,700,000,000 (2010)
NASA's Discovery program$425,000,000 (total)
Super Bowl advertisers$205,200,000 (2010)
(May 10, 2011)

More about budgets and common sense:
Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle online store

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

Actually, some of yesterday's news may be here. Or maybe last week's.
The software and science stuff might still be interesting, though. Or not.
The Lemming thinks it's interesting: Your experience may vary.
("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory