Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Founder of Facebook Interviews George Bush

The interview.

It's easy to criticize the things that went wrong during the Bush administration, but it's hard to hear the truth about what actually went down during the last ten years, for some of us. It will probably bother some of you that GW is actually a decent guy, and this interview will most likely make that perspective more difficult.

The important principles that Bush stood for are also important to me. I disagree with Bush from a spiritual standpoint, but these differences don't supersede the more important individual principles that we have in common.

Individual liberty and freedom is a universal genetic trait, and eventually those that find it fashionable to deny this reality will end up in the trash heap of history with the rest of those who have extended the suffering of others by pretending that if we just try harder maybe life will be fair for everyone.

It's not, and it won't be. What is most fair is equal opportunity, not equal outcome.

And on that note I leave you with an astronomical phenomenon....

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Semi-Voluntary Hiatus Is Over.

I finally got a new laptop so I can start writing some more here at TmanInTN. I plan on returning shortly with a new face and a different font because a man just needs to change fonts every now and then. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For A Great Cause, And A Great Lady

My friend Amanda, who years ago sent me some great links about one of the main characters from the excellent documentary film by Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer "Mine Your Own Business", is taking part in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Mission to wipe out blood cancer by training for a half ironman as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training.

An eighth of ironman would be enough for me to call it a day, but I'm not as crazy about punishing my body as Amanda. She just ran the NYC Marathon too!

Running for four hours? Pass.

But seriously, take a moment if you have the time and drop on by to her page for the fundraiser an maybe drop some dimes for a good cause.

Good Luck Amanda!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Great Piece on Norman Borlaug, May He Rest In Peace....

"Norman Borlaug, who has just died at age 95 in Dallas, was an exception among living Nobel Peace Prize beneficiaries: he actually deserved the award, which he received in 1970......."

You can read the rest here....the author of the article makes this exquisite point at the end..

"The wonderful legacy of the Green Revolution that Norman Borlaug gave birth to should be better known, not only for what it brought to mankind, but also as a permanent lesson for the future. Honest science, when coupled with entrepreneurship and reliable government, can solve the major threats to human life. The oldest human plague, famine, has been eradicated through these means. The next human plague, whatever it may be, deserves similar treatment."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years On..........

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to write this, as there are plenty of other bloggers and pundits who will produce much more eloquent dissertations on the immediate impact and subsequent fallout from the events occurring on this day eight years ago, but for some reason I just feel as though I should.

Maybe for posterity? Who knows.

On September 11th, 2001 I was coming to the end of my morning commute on Nashville's interstate system, listening to the usual lackluster comic failings of the Bob and Tom show on the radio. Following yet another lamely attempted dick joke, Kristi Lee broke in to the broadcast with a news update about a "plane that has apparently hit the World Trade Center", which at first just seemed like another odd news item that would be explained away as some sort of tragic accident in which a few people died but would soon be forgotten. But instead of Bob and Tom making some wort of wise ass remark about the accident, you could hear a somber quizzical tone from the voices on the radio, as if something was horribly wrong about this news. After about two turns off the interstate I rushed to my desk to get online and find some more news about the incident as my sister was working in Manhattan at the time, and I was worried she might be near what I thought was a horrible accident. As soon as I got online, the second plane hit the other tower, and all naïve assumptions about this event being an accident vanished, and the sinister reality that this was a planned terrorist attack began to unveil its ugly truth. At first everyone in the office was pretty much ignoring the story and working on their business as usual, despite the news feeds blowing up on every major news site. Gradually the reality of the situation permeated the office until everyone started to go in to what I call "work cruise control" where everyone concentrates on the immediate task at hand, ignoring what's happening away from the office as a sort of defense mechanism. Finally the two towers collapsed and the pictures and video started to show up online. My attempts to contact my sister were -much like everyone else who had any family or friends in Manhattan- completely hopeless, and I began to fear the worst. My sister actually had plans to eat lunch with a friend at the towers that day, and luckily for me and my family, she had not been downtown before the collapse of the towers. I finally was able to reach her around noon because she had stayed home in the Brooklyn area, and she told me about the friend she was to have lunch with who showed up at her apartment covered in soot from the towers. The whole days events just seemed far too surreal to comprehend, and it wasn't until I got home and turned on the news that the reality of what had happened truly sunk in. I still remember how stunned everyone was at the time, and how little was known about who attacked us. This would change very quickly.

It was at this time that I -like many others- began to shift internally in my political perspectives about America, and what was important to me about these ideals. Suddenly my conspiratorial views about our government and the "hidden agenda of the elite secret societies" were flushed through the reality of the attacks, and became silly and meaningless in light of the real death and suffering that was occurring before my eyes. Instead of the villain being a "secret society" it was a real enemy who wanted to kill as many real American people as possible. It was impossible to imagine or even contemplate some kind of secret conspiracy that was as malicious and sinister as the people behind the attacks from that day. In what seems to be the reverse of what happened to certain other conspiracy-minded individuals, I transformed from a conspiracy nut in to a conservative/libertarian with renewed patriotic appreciation for the Great American Experiment. That transformation was further refined through the actions of all Americans in the following days as we as a country rallied around each other and did whatever we could to recover from the tragedy. I briefly toyed with the idea of joining the military, but my mom told me she would disown me if I did, so that idea was nixed. As much as I would do anything to defend this country, I could not entertain the possibility of my Mom having to worry about burying me after the personal issues she had recently been through. Family First, as they say.

I have found that I was not alone in this transformation process, and the blogosphere became my new outlet for discovery in my new found political leanings. I read tons of Stephen Den Beste, Glenn Reynolds, Bill Whittle, Jeff Goldstein and others, and laughed at my new favorite cartoons from Cox and Forkum. I actually ended up meeting Allen Forkum a few times at various Nashville blog gatherings. I have now landed comfortably amongst the small "L" libertarians at places like Reason.com, and have found solace in the study of Astronomy and Asteroids.

But todays anniversary made me realize how much I have changed politically as a result of the tragedy of the attacks, and I will never be the liberal hippie conspiracy freak I was at the time ever again. Certain fundamentals about life that are important to me are ingrained in the US Constitution, and I ignored them for far too long. Now I find new reasons to appreciate the genius behind the framers of that wonderfully exquisite document all the time, and I realize just how lucky I am to be a part of this great country.

I don't know why, but I've had this song stuck in my head all day.....

Finally, I want to say thanks to all of the men and women of the military who have responded to the events of those days with the same honor and courage that their forefathers did when this country faced similar challenges. I know I'm not alone in saying that in the weeks and months after that day no one believed that it would be eight years and counting without another successful attack on our shores. Thank you for your service in defense of our nation.

Update: This post from Cox and Forkum....for posterity or something..

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fun With Astronomy: The Galileoscope/SkyVoyager iphone App Edition

So my latest bad excuse for staying up until ungodly hours of the evening is:

Scanning the skies with a Galileoscope and an iphone, and more specifically the iphone app SkyVoyager.

The combination of low-tech in the Galileoscope (manual focus, one moving part) mixed with ridiculously hi-tech (accurately shows the sky from any location on Earth, at any time up to 100 years in the past or future, and can identify and detail everything in the sky in same the direction that you're pointing your iphone) makes for a pretty direct learning experience in terms of astronomy. I've started to catalog what constellations are at what certain angles from my limited view at my apartment (pretty much anything between south and northwest), which allows me to begin to understand the rotation of our galaxay as opposed to just our solar system.

I've played around with a taking a few pictures after my buddy Fin let me borrow his Olympus DSLR- here's one that I took without actually attaching the camera to the scope, instead using a second tripod behind it to line up the shot. Not very efficient nor practical, but hey-I just started cut me some slack. Jeeeez..

A shot of Jupiter which was also taken using the double-tripod contraption, which in retrospect, is substantially more difficult than you might imagine. Notice the moons, which come through a lot more clearly through the scope by itself.

And if you want to truly see how amazing this telescope is for $20 (Twenty Dollars!!!) here is a shot from Flickr Contributor "Zoeff", a member of the Flickr Galileoscope pool. You can find other amazing shots taken from this very scope over there as well.

Moon trough the Galileoscope

Moon trough the Galileoscope by Zoeff.
This is taken trough the Galileoscope at prime focus with a CCD chip. This shows the great quality of the doublet lens that comes with this 15$ telescope kit!

I used K3CCTools for capturing and stacked 50 frames or so with RegiStax.

The CCD chip is a particular type of webcamera that is extremely efficient in taking astronomy pictures via video, and then stacking each video frame through available software in to a single picture. Not only is the resolution amazing but it is also clearly a lot less of a pain in the ass than using two tripods. Apparently these webcams are difficult to find but aside from the cost of my iphone and service, the app and scope have only set me back $35.00. I can see how astronomy viewing habits could get expensive very quickly, which at the moment for me is not an option. I'm ok for now as I stare at stars like Tarazed, that are a mere 146 light years away, but this star gazing stuff is very addictive, and I foresee an inevitable ascension from novice to amateur status in my future.

And the answer is yes of course the SkyVoyager also can point out asteroids, in case you were wondering. I just have to learn to live with less sleep, that's all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NASA Lacking the Funding For Near Earth Asteroid Detection... Again.

Ever since the SpaceGaurd Survey Report from 1992, Congress has been screwing around with this issue and not putting the money where their mouth is. As I have complained about repeatedly here at Tman in Tennessee, NASA does not spend enough of it's annual $17 Billion budget on meeting the minimum standards that were set out in the original SpaceGaurd Survey from 1994. The SpaceGaurd Survey was mainly for detection of asteroids 1 Kilometer in diameter or larger. This same program was "upgraded" again in the the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, when Congress called on NASA to provide an analysis of alternatives to discover, track, catalogue, and determine the physical characteristics of NEOs equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter. The legislation also stipulated that NASA find 90 percent of all these NEOs within fifteen years.

In 2006, Congress requested that NASA give them an update on the state of NEO discovery and tracking efforts, which culminated in the Near Earth Object Congressional Hearings in November of 2007. I wrote about the hearings on this blog after they were concluded, and my analysis then is essentially the same as it was in 2004 when I started this blog, and also sadly enough absolutely nothing has changed.

Here's my analysis from 2007-

To sum up the hearings, I would say that we have somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the much needed argument for the continued funding of the Arecibo Observatory was made by all participants, and hopefully this will get some appropriations. As far as the Spacegaurd Suveys go, we are still behind on cataloging the big ones, and NASA's reps pretty much told Congress that they can't do what they were told to do as per the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, unless Congress.....tells them what to do. Fortunately, we have guys like Donald Yeomans and David Morrison around who are well aware of NASA's shortcomings, and are working around them to develop true answers like the folks at the B612 Foundation.

Next summer will be 100 years since the Tunguska impact. We have a long way to go before even pretending to think we could stop another impact as small as the Tunguska impact. And at $17 Billion I don't think we're getting our moneys worth from NASA in terms of protecting us from NEO's.

And if you're interested, since 2004 I've written several posts about this issue specifically, in terms of what NASA and Congress should be doing in regards to this issue.

Tman In Tennessee NASA NEO Posts

Check them out if you're interested.

Today the National Academy of Sciences released a report detailing the shortcomings of the NASA NEO programs.

NASA’s Asteroid Detection Programs Not Yet Meeting U.S. Goals

August 12 -- According to a new interim report from the National Research Council, NASA’s current near-Earth object surveys will not meet the congressionally mandated goal of discovering 90 percent of all objects over 140 meters in diameter by 2020. Funding for near-Earth object activities at NASA has been constrained, with most costs being met by funds from other programs. A final report will include findings and recommendations on detecting, characterizing, and mitigating the hazard of near-Earth objects.

Maybe someone will pay attention now? Based on the historical record, I have little faith that this report will do anything but restate the obvious, however more news about this issue is better than no news.

Along that same line, WIRED magazine posted a photo essay yesterday on Asteroid Impact Craters on Earth as seen from space-

By Betsy Mason
August 11, 2009
Asteroid impact craters are among the most interesting geological structures on any planet. Many other planets and moons in our solar system, including our own moon, are pock-marked with loads of craters. But because Earth has a protective atmosphere and is geologically active — with plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, mostly relatively young oceanic crust, and harsh weathering from wind and water — impact structures don’t last long and can be tough to come by.

But on a few old pieces of continent, especially in arid deserts, the marks of asteroids have been preserved. One well-known example is our own Barringer crater, also known as Meteor Crater, in Arizona. The images here show some of the biggest, oldest and most interesting impact craters on the planet.

Here's one from just 50,000 years ago-

The Lonar crater in Maharashta, India is around 6,000 feet wide and 500 feet deep and contains a saltwater lake. Scientists determined the structure was caused by an asteroid through clues such as the presence of maskelynite, a glass that is only formed by extremely high-velocity impacts. The impact occurred around 50,000 years ago. This image was captured by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is a simulated true-color image

Image: NASA, 2004

Again, for the umpteenth time, NOT IF BUT WHEN.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jupiter Gets Slammed By A Huge Impactor, And We Missed It.

Jupiter -the solar systems hoover vacuum- the planet that has literally swallowed major asteroids and comets that would have destroyed life on earth in a heart beat, got whacked recently by an impactor of unknown origins.

And even more interesting, it was discovered by an amateur astronomer-

Preliminary image showing a black mark in Jupiters South Polar Region (SPR) which is almost certainly the result of a large impact - either an asteroid or comet - similar to the Shoemaker-Ley impacts in 1994.

Date and Time of Report

Dark impact mark first noted at approximately 1330UTC on 19th July 2009 from my home observatory just outside Murrumbateman NSW Australia.

Inspection of earlier images shows the impact visible on the planets limb at 1411UTC.

Equipment and Contact Details

Contact info: Anthony Wesley

NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, confirmed that this was a major impact.

Scientists have found evidence that another object has bombarded Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Following up on a tip by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark "scar" had suddenly appeared on Jupiter, this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT (6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.

To give you an idea of how big this hole in Jupiter is, I give you a size comparison-

So something close to the size of the moon slammed in to Jupiter, and we completely missed it.

A 1992 U.S. Congressional study produced a "Spaceguard Survey Report" which led to a mandate that NASA locate 90% of large near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 km diameter within 10 years.

Clearly the ten year estimate was insufficient, because we missed an enormous impactor that was in our cosmic backyard, which was also one hell of a lot bigger than 1 km in diameter.

Our current NASA budget is around $17 billion annually. We haven't spent anywhere near close to a tenth of that in terms of Near Earth Object detection in the last ten years.

Priorities, that's all I'm saying.

Once again, visit the B612 Foundation for further information on what needs to be done to address this obvious shortcoming in the protection of our planet.

Friday, July 03, 2009

PJ O'Rourke- "Where Was The Government With Studebaker?"

A little PJ to cheer you up on this glorious Fourth of July Weekend. I love his bit explaining how the automobile allowed the United States to come together. As someone who very much enjoys driving across this great country, I can't imagine having to do it in a train, where your freedom to go where you want is extremely limiting.

Reason.tv’s Ted Balaker sat down with O’Rourke at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Topics include: bailouts, who ruined the U.S. auto industry, politicians’ love affair with trains, how easy women made O'Rourke a youthful socialist and how getting a paycheck turned him into a libertarian.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We Should All Listen More to Perry and the Brits...

Perry de Havilland, over at Samizdata.net, commenting on what fun things we have to look forward to here in the USA....

Millions and millions of Americans support Obama's desire to even more massively intervene in the market for medical care than the US state already does. And of course Obama's moves are just the opening salvo in a desire to eventually end up with fully socialist healthcare, along the lines of Britain's ghastly National Health Service, which has intermittently tried to kill me over the years.

I have tried pointing Americans at the British example to show them what an appalling idea it is to have the state directing any industry, let alone medical care. But alas it is very hard to overcome that special kind of insular American optimism that does not think what happens in another advanced first world nation can teach them anything, because in the USA things will be different.

Well yes, it will be different... in that the control obsessed Obama's of this world will find new, innovative and oh so wholesome American ways to end up with a third rate health care system much like Britain has today.

This might be a good time for Americans to invest their money in Swiss medical clinics as I suspect in the coming years expatriated medical care will be a serious growth industry... plus it has the added benefit of getting your money out of the USA and US dollar.

The current emergency government run healthcare program we already have is Medicare, which is taking in less money than it is paying out, to the tune of $168 billion in 2006 and $179 billion in 2007.

Add that with Social Security deficits, it gets even worse. According to the American Academy of Actuaries-

Considering Medicare spending in conjunction with Social Security spending further highlights the strain these programs place on the economy. Social Security spending as a share of GDP increases more modestly than Medicare over the next several decades, and as a result, Medicare spending is expected to exceed that of Social Security in 2028. Combined, Medicare and Social Security expenditures equaled 7.3 percent of GDP in 2006. This share of GDP is expected to increase considerably to a projected 12.7 percent in 2030 and 17.6 percent in 2080. Medicare and Social Security expenditures are even more striking when considered relative to total federal revenues. The trustees report that total federal revenues have historically averaged about 18 percent of GDP. Using this average, about 40 percent of all federal revenues in 2007 will be used to pay Medicare and Social Security benefits. If no changes are made to either program and federal revenues remain at 18 percent of GDP, this share is expected to increase to 80 percent in 2040, and by 2080, Medicare and Social Security spending would equal nearly all total federal revenues. These projections highlight the increasing strains that Medicare, especially in conjunction with Social Security, will place on the U.S. economy. Moreover, increased spending for Medicare may crowd out the share of funds available for other federal programs.

Someone needs to explain to me why spending MORE MONEY ON HEALTHCARE will make HEALTHCARE CHEAPER thus saving our economy from catasrophe.

Good luck.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lecture: Pluto and Some Q&A

My favorite astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a lecture/interview at the Los Angeles Public Library recently. He came to talk about Pluto and his recent book The Pluto Files, and as usual was Spock-like in his insight and logic in to the world of science and astronomy.

Here's the link to the full program
where you can skip around to different parts of the lecture and Q&A session.

Here are two of my favorites from the lecture: Bush Innocent in War on Science

Remember this next time people talk about Obama "restoring science in America" or whatever, because I'm sure we'll hear about it again. His point about Bush appointing Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over Kitzmiller vs. Dover was especially poignant.

And this one, as Tyson destroys the silliness surrounding the conspiracies that will soon reach boiling point as we approach December 2012:

Just google it!