Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Jumble

It's been a while since my last post, so I'll take a stab at writing things that are somewhat random and unrelated to each other.

*I did finally see the Space Shuttle launch last Wednesday...on television. I'm contemplating plans to go to the scheduled August 18 launch of Discovery.

*Earlier this week we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's historic first extravehicular activity on the moon. As a lifelong fan of the space program, I've seen numerous videos and documentaries of the event and done much reading on the subject. Unfortunately, there are still misinformed malcontents who believe that the moon landings were faked. (Whoopi Goldberg, you should be ashamed of yourself! I expect someone who appears on Star Trek: The Next Generation to be more open-minded about the capabilities of our astronauts and rocket engineers.) If you suspect that the Apollo missions were an elaborately-staged Hollywood production (or you know someone who does), I'd direct you to an excellent, entertaining, and informative website: It contains a thorough rebuttal of popular conspiracy arguments, as well as a lot of information about the planning of the missions, the equipment used, and the people who made it happen. (OK, I'm a nerd, so I think that it's fun reading.)

*Most people who have watched the moon landings have heard them narrated by Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchor who passed away just a couple of days before the Apollo 11 anniversary. (One reason why the CBS version is so popular is not just because of Cronkite's professional demeanor, but also because ABC and NBC seem to have lost the tapes of their coverage.) It is difficult to imagine a voice other than his describing the moment that forever altered humanity's path of exploration. A fitting comment on his legacy can be found in Ron Howard's Apollo 13, which opens with narration by Cronkite recorded especially for the film.

*It is possible to oppose health care legislation without opposing the idea of fixing the health care industry. (Really, calling it health care reform is a bit of a misnomer, since the bulk of the discussion is about health insurance.) Too many big players in this discussion take a ridiculous all-or-nothing approach: "If you don't support this bill, then you want to maintain the status quo! You clearly don't care about the needs of the poor and uninsured!!!" Well, those who truly care about the poor and uninsured understand that hastily-written, quickly-passed bad law will be more destructive to everyone in the long run. Those who criticized the previous administration for "rushing to war with Iraq" should display a more patient attitude towards the political process, rather than screaming for a massive overhaul to be passed NOW NOW NOW!!! The whole purpose of having three branches of government is to slow things down to reduce the passing of bills that will do more harm than good, regardless of the initial intent of the policy.

*When you leave your home late for work, you place yourself at the mercy of all the other foolish drivers on the road.

*If you love energetic, hard-driving, bluesy, guitar-driven rock music, go see ZZ Top. I'm not a huge longtime fan, but they put on a great show. And yes, the beards are real. Also, they did appear to be wearing Cheap Sunglasses.
*In keeping with the topic of the moon and space exploration, a legendary film dealing with the subject is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The bulk of the film deals with a mission to Jupitar by a fictitious Discovery spacecraft. The onboard computer, HAL 9000, is often mistakenly thought to be named "one letter ahead" of electronics giant IBM. 2001 co-screenwriter (and book author) Arthur C. Clarke has maintained that the term is actually short for "heuristic algorithm," a fancy term that means the computer is programmed to act human. The similarity to IBM is simply a coincidence. (Source: The Lost Worlds of 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke, published by Signet)
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