Shuttle Diplomacy

April 29, 2014

What with the Ukraine encroachment by Russia, followed by the diplomatic sanctions levied by the Unites States, our decision to scuttle the Shuttle is set in a stark new light.

The US built the International Space Station, and the Space Shuttle was the best operational vehicle for blasting humans into orbit (still is, by far).  Under the current administration, the Orion program was nixed along with the Shuttle fleet.  The old was tossed aside with the new!  A novel approach to be sure.

Presently, we have nothing available to ferry American astronauts to the orbiting platform we designed and assembled.

It’s amazing how the shortsightedness of some policies becomes blatantly manifest.

When a US crew needs to get into space, it now has to be on a Russian rocket.

With Vladimir Putin doing the countdown.




O’Reilly O’Wrong

April 4, 2014

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”    ♦The Gospel According to Luke

In reference to his bestselling tome, “Killing Jesus,” Bill O’Reilly told 60 Minutes that on the Cross, Jesus could not have said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He based his claim on the sense that, because of asphyxiation, such a statement would have been impossible.  Or, if it was spoken, it couldn’t have been heard.

Yet, in the same book, O’Reilly allows the possibility that at the very end, Jesus declared, “It is finished.”

Naturally, sound logic makes it likely that if someone at the end of an excruciatingly painful ordeal could speak, they should well be able to make intelligible utterance earlier on.  That’s not a religious wish, it’s just blatantly obvious.

What’s more elusive is the fact and faith that someone, anyone, under any circumstances, could extend mercy while nails were being mashed through their skin.  Yet, this “someone” wasn’t just anyone.  He was, and is, the Son of God.

Therefore, we must ask, if Jesus, the innocent victim, unjustly undergoing the most extreme emotional, physical and spiritual duress, was able to offer forgiveness for his direct tormentors, why is this salve for sin so difficult for many Christians to render apart from themselves?  Why do we still sometimes have trouble hearing and imparting the Lord’s words, even now?

Is it because we give assent to our Creeds, but can’t believe the affection?  Is the reason behind this that we retain some joy in being saved by holding onto the assumption that some others must be damned?  Perhaps, because we were sometimes scared toward Heaven, we are clung to in conscience by dusty, medieval notions of Hell.

Regardless of the root cause, while the Scripture clearly says God has “not counted their trespasses against them,” we commonly insist on keeping score.

In the end, as at the beginning, from a forensic/theology standpoint, the petition of forgiveness offered by the One paying for all sin wasn’t based in an ability to breathe.  It was always founded in an eternal and miraculous power to love.

Good Friday and Easter tell everyone that this Divine embrace, alive before the beginning of the world, cannot be killed.  The only question left behind for those who know and believe this Good News is whether or not it will be shared.

For if it is freely affirmed, it may then be fully heard.


March 30, 2014

Back in the day, I sold cameras for Macy’s while attending grad school. I loved doing this because I’d gotten an Olympus OM-1 as a college graduation gift, and photography was a passion.

This was also the time when nearby brick and mortar photo shops were starting to feel the pressure of big-city volume sales dealers operating successfully with no customer service personnel, but decidedly cheaper prices.

I remember selling a Minolta XG-M outfit to a customer, after spending an hour explaining the in’s and out’s of still photography, so that the desired purchase would be somewhat matched with competent use.

Upon completion of the sale, the customer said point blank that if she found the same gear in NYC for less, she’d be returning everything to Macy’s.  I informed her that indeed should could find a lower price in Manhattan, but the advice she’d received, for nothing, wouldn’t have been available.

The following week, the outfit was returned, for full-credit, and the mail-order, volume pricing won out.

Fast forward to Milford Photo, a brick and mortar establishment that manages to provide competitive pricing AND quality customer advice and service!

The huge mass merchants of “gear” have their place, and I use them too.

But the ability to shop locally and effectively still matters, and in an internet, Amazon world, Milford Photo, in Connecticut, has found a niche others would do well to emulate.

They don’t just sell the equipment, they share the love of the art.

Thus they have survived, and, indeed, thrived.






March 15, 2014

It is now being reported that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately diverted from its planned flight path, most likely indicating bad intent enacted on-board.

Perhaps the aircraft was purposely or even inadvertently crashed.  It is also entirely possible that the plane was landed, with a motive for using it and the passengers for purposes yet unknown.  Certainly, we would hope that for whatever reason, Flight 370 survived its disappearance.

Recalling the initial mystery in the events of 9/11, people couldn’t fathom that individuals would deliberately crash a jetliner into a building.  Prior to that, it was assumed that hijackings meant ransom demands, not suicide plans.

Truth is, sometimes good people can’t quite fathom what evil individuals are capable of.  It’s not easy for many of us to exercise sinister imagination.

In some ways this is a fine thing, but it does leave us a tad vulnerable, and one assumes the investigators looking for the missing plane will consider all possible motives related to the disappearance.

The families of those on that flight must be enduring tremendous anguish amidst the uncertainty, and I hope their loved ones will yet be found alive and unharmed.

The unknown is acutely painful, but as yet, it still leaves some tangible glimmer of hope.

It’s very sad when strong intellect is used for distorted purposes.  Yet good people can be just as creative as anyone bent on criminality, and those who are working overtime to solve this mystery may well need to do so by choosing to fully consider things they would never want to fathom.

Mayor Katrina

February 14, 2014

I remember working out of the Convention Center in New Orleans, immediately following Katrina.  The city was totally evacuated, and we were recovering the remains of folks across the region who’d perished during the storm, or following the failure of the levees.

The Convention Center itself was a cesspool of leftover and congealed human waste, and it was pretty obvious that ever thinking one could use that place for emergency shelter, in the summer, during a power outage, was a huge mistake.  It was actually a series of dangerous bungles made by the city at that fateful time.

Concurrently, CNN allowed Ray Nagin, the Mayor, live access as he proclaimed to whoever watched CNN at the time, that the Convention Center was all cleaned up, and that people should start coming back to New Orleans.

Irresponsible to declare, and perhaps even more irresponsible to broadcast without further enquiry that would only have necessitated a 10 block walk to where teams were stationed on a daily basis, from 7AM till dusk.

In one large expanse of the same venue, several Cadillac Escalades were parked, having been “recovered” by the NOPD.  The real story is they were stolen by members of the same organization so they could evacuate their own families.  Then, when they were no longer required, they were returned as “recovered”.

At the time, everyone knew about the widespread corruption that completely undermined a credible city and state response to Katrina.  CNN had their own narrative blaming the President, and even though that was provable nonsense, they stayed on that angle for the duration.

And now Mr. Nagin has been convicted on 20 counts of bribery and fraud.

I wonder if the handling of his administration by some in the press made him seem and feel invulnerable to scrutiny.  He sure was sacrosanct during our nation’s worst natural disaster, even as he ranted and railed against those who actually had zero jurisdiction.

For a time he got away with a great deal.  But the people he was responsible for lost at least as much.

He is not the only one to blame.

ATT forced Migration

February 11, 2014

At first ATT salespeople called to say I’d need to switch to U-Verse by a certain date or I would lose my internet service.

Making some enquiries, I found that this was not the case.  Eventually, an ATT rep. from Texas confirmed that what I’d been told initially was completely false.  I was also told that as I stayed with DSL, my service would actually speed up as people moved to U-Verse!

Fibre optic is wonderful, I’m sure.  But my deeper concern was that switching to U-Verse meant losing land-line capability in the event of a power outage.  Yes, there is a battery back-up for a few hours, but last time we lost power, it was for days.  I made, and received, several critical phone calls during that time period via the reliable land line feeding the simple phone on the wall.

Since then, here’s the pattern that’s emerged…  My internet connectivity slows to a crawl.  I call DSL tech support, and the rep. says “my account” has to call the “migration” phone number.  I then insist on having my DSL restored.  It’s then restored to normal connectivity.  Then, after a week or so, the connectivity ceases, I call, receive the “migration” number, have to insist on re-connectivity, get my connection restored, and resume the pattern.

Perhaps the move to Fibre Optic is irresistible.  Fine.  Say so.  At least I can move to a much faster system using COMCAST/xfinity.

But, playing games with a decades long paying customer, and forcing migration to a new product by withholding existing tech support is terrible customer service.

Companies need to remember that customers needing support aren’t competitors, they’re the first line of loyal support.



And this is Summer!

January 5, 2014

Yes, we in the Northern hemisphere are in Winter.  The Southern hemisphere, Antarctica, is in Summer…

“The Chinese icebreaker that came to the rescue of a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica, helping evacuate dozens of passengers, has signalled it may now be trapped in heavy ice. The Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, has not moved for several days as it took part in multiple attempts to rescue passengers on a scientific expedition aboard the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy.”

  The MV Akademik Shokalskiy lies trapped in the ice off Antarctica   (Andrew Peacock/Getty Images)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the Xue Long notified it “at 1pm AEDT (0200 GMT) this afternoon it has concerns about their ability to move through heavy ice in the area”.

The Russian ship has been stuck since Christmas Eve in frozen seas, 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d’Urville.

On Thursday, a helicopter from the Xue Long used a makeshift landing pad next to the marooned ship to ferry 52 scientists, tourists and journalists to an Australian government supply vessel, the Aurora Australis.

But instead of making for an Australian base, as originally planned, the ship is now waiting to see if the Xue Long itself needs assistance.

It does.


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