Monday, September 29, 2008

Two space milestones

For my fellow space geeks, we've had two noteworthy events in the last few days.

First, the Chinese space program had its first spacewalk. This happened on their program's third manned flight. True, the US and the Soviet Union each beat them by forty-five years or so, but third place isn't bad. Apparently their plan is next to construct a small space station, and then proceed with their lunar program. Although I hate to sound like I'm advocating some kind of return to the old space race, I hope that it gives some impetus to the US for its own lunar return program. (One of my few serious disagreements with Barack Obama is that he wants to put NASA's Constellation program on hold. Although I am not entirely convinced Constellation was the correct way to go, the idea of the US being entirely without a manned launch capability when the shuttle stops flying in a few more years is very unsettling to me, particularly when our relations with Russia seem uncertain. I'm hoping that Congress will override Obama on this, if he doesn't change his mind.)

If NASA is falling behind, however, the private sector is working to catch up. A company called SpaceX managed on its fourth launch to put its Falcon 1 spacecraft into orbit, becoming the first entirely private entity to do so. (Very nice video at that link, too.) We're still some years from private companies regularly and routinely putting payloads, let alone people, into orbit -- but it no longer seems out of reach. The question, of course, is whether they can make a profit at it.

I think they can, but proving it may take a while. Meanwhile, three cheers!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hey, Cartoon Network...

Could you do me a favor? Since you run Family Guy about 73 times a week, when you show part one of a two-part episode, could you perhaps mention when (and if) you're planning to run part two? It's kind of hard to judge it intuitively.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mile-High Robbery

I know I said I probably wouldn't be talking about sports again soon, but after todays Chargers/Broncos game....sheesh! I usually try not to let bad calls get me down; I figure they even out in the long run, and besides, if the game is so close that a call changes the outcome, it was probably a random outcome anyway. But today we faced two real whoppers; the last one being a fumble recovered by San Diego with about a minute to go in the game, which was accidentally blown dead before recovery by the head official. The ball was restored to Denver, who scored a couple of plays later.

Don't get me wrong. The Broncos played an excellent game, and I have to give them particular credit for going for the two-point conversion after that touchdown, risking everything for the win instead of the almost-guaranteed tie. I was especially impressed by their quarterback, Jay Cutler; he is one to watch for the future.

The Chargers on the whole didn't do too badly either. With Tomlinson largely sidelined by a toe injury, Darren Sproles more than made up the difference, with a total of 317 yards, including a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 66-yard pass reception. Philip Rivers is looking very good at quarterback, and making full use of all his recievers; Antonio Gates seems to be fully up to speed.

Defensively, neither team was overly imperssive. The Chargers failed to put much pressure on Cutler, which commentators were blaming partly on the fact that we've lost Shawne Merriman for the season; but I think they may not be giving enough credit to Denver's offensive line, bearing in mind that Culter was not sacked once during the previous week's game against Oakland. And Antonio Cromartie, last years' backfield star with 10 interceptions, is off to a very poor start this year; today he had four penalties, and completely failed to stop Broncos reciever Brandon Marshall, who had a franchise record-setting 18 receptions.

So I still think the Chargers have a potential to get into the postseason, but I don't think they're going to be the dominant force in the AFC west that everyone predicted. I'm not really that surprised; they're very close to the same team they were last year, which was certainly a good one, but I never quite understood why people expected this season to be so much better. For that to happen, the defense has to get its act together, and Tomlinson needs to get back to the level of play we all know he's capable of at full health.

But don't write Denver off, either. They too need to work on defense, but their offense may surprise people. The Chargers finish the season against the Broncos in San Diego on December 28th, and that may be the match of the season. If so, I hope we're ready.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sometimes we forget...

...just how good tuna fish sandwiches are.

Wish I had some Fritos with them, but you can't have everything.

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'...

Sometimes you need perspective. Spent a lot of last night awake partly because of stress over my financial troubles. I finally got to sleep late, and would probably still be asleep now, but for the fact that someone's loud alarm clock began going off a few hours ago, and I can hear it through my window....and it's still going off. Irritating.

But: I don't live in Galveston. I did watch some of the coverage of hurricane Ike hitting the Texas coast last night, and turned it on again this morning. Although most of the coverage now seems to be focusing on Houston, it's Galveston that seems to me to have borne the worst of it, with the storm surge coming over the sea wall (and parts of the town not covered by the sea wall), and with the eye of the storm having passed right overhead, just off the sea, where the storm is still at nearly full strength. When I went to bed, it was being reported that 911 operators were reaching frantic calls from people who had decided not to evacuate and were now realizing their mistake, asking to be rescued...and being told that it was too dangerous for rescue operations and they were on their own. It's easy to shake your head and figure it's what they get for ignoring the mandatory evacuation order -- including being told they faced certain death if they stayed behind -- but when you hear one guy was calling from waste-deep water on the second floor of his house....well, it's hard not to shiver.

Not that Houston hasn't had it bad. Even if you just consider the millions of people who are without power, and may remain that way for weeks, the hardship is considerable. When you add the flooding, the damage to homes and businesses, the debris all over the roads -- well, it's quite a mess, to say the least.

So suddenly, being short of cash and sleep ain't all that bad.

And meantime, as I've been writing this post, that friggin' alarm clock stopped going off. So at least I'll be able to get a nap in later on. And I have a working television, power, an internet connection, a cell phone, and no water on the floor. Yup, life is looking pretty good today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


It's amazing how much things can look better after a short nap.

Sept. 10th

Well, looking ahead at my finances for the next couple of weeks, I think I've reached the conclusion that I am now Officially Fucked. I think I can keep my car from being repossessed for another month, and pay my rent for the next two weeks. What I can't do is do those things and also have any money left over to buy gasoline and a few other things I need to actually do work to earn more money. I've extended both my commercial and personal credit about as far as I think it can go, and I have no idea where else I can turn for help. I also have a strong feeling I don't really deserve more help.

Let's face it: I don't like working. I like having money, but I am not motivated by money, in the sense that if you give me a choice between working another hour for another ten or twenty bucks or going home early, "going home early" almost always sounds like the better option. (And if the choice is between working an hour or sleeping in another hour, the contest isn't even close.) Which is one reason why my current job is not a very good fit for me.

I can't really blame my situation on anyone but myself, and maybe not even entirely on myself. Well, that's not true: I could blame a lot of people, and a lot of circumstances. But it boils down to the fact that I owe money in so many directions that I don't see how I can possibly get caught up in any realistic way.

All I can ask is that people who have kids with emotional problems or bad work habits, do something about it now. Maybe it's never too late, but it sure feels too late for me at the moment.

In the sports world...

So the Padres are now officially mathematically eliminated. No big surprise, as I think we'd all pretty much given up on them by the beginning of August. They're playing the Dodgers this week, and I actually was secretly rooting for the Dodgers, who are slightly ahead of Arizona in the division standings. I've been in San Diego close to twenty years now, so I'm definitely a Padres partisan; but having grown up in the Los Angeles area, if the Padres are out of it, the Dodgers are next in line. Besides, since the Angels still have the best record in the majors (though just barely), there's at least an outside chance of a Freeway series....

Not really sure what happened to the Padres this year. People were expecting them to be stronger than last year's team, which came within a half-game of making the playoffs (actually finished in a tie and had to do a single-game tiebreaker). Some of it was injuries, but that didn't seem to be the whole story. Part of it was the fact that our bats just never deliver what it seems they ought to. Just not sure why that seems to have been the case ever since I've been rooting for the team.

Meanwhile, Shawne Merriman has decided to have season-ending surgery, which I think is probably the right decision; we were all nervous about him playing on an injured knee. But after the opening week loss, I think it has Charger fans in a sober mood. I have to admit that I'm not quite sure why everyone has such high expectations for the Chargers this year -- I mean, yes, I expect them to do well, but I don't see what makes them particularly better than last year's team. Hmmm. Well, I'll still be watching most of the games and cheering them on. Not quite sure how I got so hooked on Chargers football, but hey, it's fun.

And that's probably all you'll hear about sports from me for a while. If I'd been actively blogging during the Olympics, you'd have gotten more...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to The Faulty Bagnose

Time for me to get back into the blogging business! I've decided to start a new one rather than continue the old one, for reasons not entirely clear even for me.

I could write a bunch of personal stuff, and will, but for my first post, I'd like to link to something that I would like to see widely read. It's a long message board post from a Marine officer who has done a couple of tours of duty in Iraq, on the history of Anbar province since the 2003 invasion. The piece, while candid about American mistakes, does not engage in finger-pointing, nor does it argue directly for any particular policy in the future; it simply tells what happened -- how the province went to hell and how it's crawled its way back. It is post number 14 in this thread:

Written by DesertRat, a guy I've never met, but who seems to me to be a pretty shrewd and realistic observer. He explains the situation much better than any magazine piece or news story I've heard for some years.