Thursday, January 30, 2003

an age of discovery and chilling consequences

well last week i was at one conf. and now it's time to get ready for another one in puerto rico in a couple weeks. i'll be talking about an idea for visiting several moons of jupiter. seems the Multi-Moon Orbiter idea I've worked on caught someone's attention in the Bush Administration. there was a recent news release: NASA Set to Unveil 'Jupiter Tour' Mission. hot diggety!

as i said, last week i was at a conference in maryland, at the univ. of maryland, college park. the conf. went well. i relaxed, heard some cool talks, met old colleagues, visited a huge centrifuge... that's right, a huge FRIGGIN' CENTRIFUGE at nearby
Goddard Space Flight Center. In the picture at right, a Hubble instrument is about to
be tested (on a tilt table to the left of the picture). this massive facility can be spun at up to 20rpm, leading
to a speed of over 100 mph. the hardware then experiences 15G's of acceleration (but can go up to 30G's). for scale, note
the test technician standing on the movable platform. while I was there, they were testing the rollover susceptibility of SUVs. that's one hell of a ride.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: there're also incredibly scary spacecraft test facilities, to simulate the harsh environment of space: thermal-vacuum chambers, a vibration platform, and an acoustic test chamber -- a 4-story high room with speakers the size of a VW Bug.

while not at the conference, i spent most of the time staying at an
aunt's house in faux-rural northern virginia, near the would-be home of
the homeland security building. it was devastatingly cold... chilling
one's extremities to the bare bone. but an invigorating cold, one that
makes you want to run and shout madly. i stupidly got my rental car towed
in DC while I was visiting museums last thursday. had to go on a
cross-town adventure trying to get that dern car back, but i met all sorts
of characters along the way, like the unamused parking attendant and the
wacky foreign cabby. i learned you gotta pay extra special attention to
them tricky east coast parking signs.

and while in dc, i tried to get
involved with the political system by visiting the supreme court on the
30th anniv. of r. v. wade. it was quite an experience being there when
both the pro-life and pro-choice groups were in full strength. not too
much dialogue going on between those camps, though i did see quite a bit
of shouting. it's such an emotionally charged issue. i've thought of getting involved with California Students for Life (website broken?) or other groups.

I also paid a visit to donna and leon rhoads in oley, pennsylvania, the parents of the former mike rhoads, my old friend. the last time i saw them was with fay about a year and a half ago. it was good to see them again. they seem well. i had a talk with the dad about how he's been dealing with his son's death. he's thought about reincarnation, etc., primarily from the writings of psychic Sylvia Brown. He says it makes more sense to him than the hell/heaven dichotomy. I didn't challenge him, but heard him out.

i also saw an older cousin jim i hadn't seen in a decade and visited the battliefield at gettysburg, pa, to pay my respects to those fallen so long ago.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Frodo Failed

Frodo FailedI thought this image was funny.

By the way, as Ryan Cox points out:

Rumsfeld is now saying that the lack of weapons is
suspicous (see article).
He also claims that the US doesn't need to prove anything, Iraq has to prove
that they have abandoned them. This is sort of like the cops telling you that
they'll arrest you unless you are able to prove that didn't murder anyone.
Apparently two months of violation-free inspections doesn't help Iraq's

This makes no sense to me. Guilty until proven innocent? That's not how we think of trials here in America. If Rumsfeld claims
to have evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, he sure isn't
sharing it with the American public or the UN. And so Rumsfeld's recent
statement is absurd. The burden of proof is on him. Right?

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Weaklings, deviants, and criminals

"Weaklings, deviants, and criminals. Criminals, weaklings, and deviants..."

He kept saying it over and over again. What's going on, Ryan? I thought.

What's up with this talk show host? We must've been listening to some conservative commentator as we drove through mile-high parts of Arizona. By repeatedly chanting his triune mantra, he was highlighting the illegitimacy of the only segment of society "those dern liberals" seem to care about and defend. Somehow he tied this chant into an anti-clone rant. That pissed off Ryan, who wonders what the big moral deal is with time-delay clones?
I wonder myself.

We rolled past terrorist target #1 some time around 1am or so, the Hoover Dam, and got into Kathryn's place around 2am. She wasn't anywhere to be found, but we were desperate for respite, so we broke in. Later we found a key under the welcome mat (doh!). Kidding Kathryn!

The next day we fumbled around, got ourselves together, and went shopping for the night's supplies... bagels, cheese, and booze. At the grocery store we went to, they had funny tamper proof things on the booze. Seems funny that Nevada, of all states, would go to the trouble. As prep for the night, we watched a manly film, Gladiator, where Russell Crowe plays a strong, integrous Uber-man who lives only to see justice in Rome. Then we saw Ocean's Eleven, to get us in a Vegas mood. Sometime around eight, we left Kat's to head to the Strip. Ryan had a strategy for parking in the Monte Carlo, close to the action.

We walked around a few of the big hotels, and the crowd got thicker. Eventually the fuzz closed down all the streets, herding the now-teeming masses onto the sidewalks. Rumor had it that women would flash you for beads -- of course, I would turn my eyes away as one chaste. Several times I saw a group of rowdies surrounding a woman, shouting "Show your t***!" and I was a bit worried things would get out of hand. I did see violence a few times. On the casino floor in one hotel, a gang of lascivious young men, alcohol fueling lustful passions, saw a young couple walking by, having a good time. Lust can turn to envy and wrath when you're pissed and legless. So one of the gang called the man a "Fag!" and some shoving ensued in typical chicken-chested tough guy fashion. I think the woman did most of the shoving, defending her man. And in return, Mr. Tough Guy punched the woman back! What a weakling, deviant, criminal!

At some point where the crowd was so thick and slow that it was like waiting for ketchup to pour, Ryan sped on ahead and I held back. I wandered around and then he called at some point and we joined up again. The new year had already arrived in New York and we were getting poised for midnight's approach. I think we were at Treasure Island or something, so the plan was to wade back through the syrupy crowd toward the Bellagio, which seemed the obvious place to ring in the new year (plus a group of girls Ryan had introduced himself to said they might be there). As we walked back, the jumbo trons were doing a countdown every 10 minutes or so... I don't see why the casinos don't just have a New Years themed hotel where the countdown is constantly going!

When midnight came, the Strip was aglow with with fireworks. And we met a group of people due to some dispute... I think once again over some guy referring to another's sexual orientation. The group said to meet them at a local pub, so we headed back to our car to join them. I'm bad with names, but I remembered one girl was named Britain, "like the country," she said.

Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us move the car for four hours or so since the road was blocked, so we were committed to walking the streets of Vegas. Oh sure, we considered taking the bus, but after a half hour, we decided the bus was never coming. And we tried to hail cabs, but they don't like obscenities shouted at them. So along with other disenfranchised tourists, we walked the wide avenues to our destination. I think we walked past an airport or some such, and it took along time to get past it. The bar was "a few blocks away," but they forget to tell you that blocks are a mile long.

When we made it to the Crown and Anchor Pub, it was 1 or 2 am, and I thought we'd missed everything. BUT NO! There's no such thing as last call in Vegas it seems. So we drank some brew, and talked to folks into the wee hours. I remember several people from Nevada, some from Australia or something, and another from the Philippines or so. All were good hearty folk. And everyone got their New Years kiss or two, even Uber-Chick. When pre-dawn arrived and it seemed that things were winding down, we decided that we certainly weren't going to walk back to our car, so the good people of Vegas called us a cab.

As the sun came up during our cab ride home, Ryan and I realized that we were still alive. The terrorists hadn't killed us all with nerve gas or anything! Yeah!

Well, it's the New Year and 'moderation' is my new thing. People look at me and say... 'moderation.'

'There goes Shane--he's a guy who sure knows when he's had enough to have a good time.'

Ah, yeah...Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, January 10, 2003

Last night, I stayed up until 1am reading about the re-distribution of impact ejecta around an asteroid (wicked cool animation). Then I went to the store, bought sundry items, and wandered around in pajamas. Then I awoke, got four new tires put on the Accord while I ate meat, and came into work. It's great to be alive!

Tuesday, January 07, 2003


So there was Christmas, and there was New Year's Day. And all was eventually quiet. As the events are fresh in mine memory, let me recount them to you, O my brothers and sisters.

John Lin really enjoyed his time in Texas. I think he had hopes that it would be 'another country,' but except for the big sky and the double-wide trailers in the prairies, it was all too familiar. McDonald's, big cars, malls, avarice, sloth, etc. There were honky-tonks and chicken fried steak, to be sure, but I sensed it fell short of the gun-totin', cowboy, shootout one would hope for. But he got to visit me pa and ma on their own turf, and says he understands the wave/particle duality of my nature a bit better.

So John packed up his bags and mosied back to Cali. And in flew Ryan Cox, fresh from the hectic family gatherings common in Ohio, where it's hard to get a few moments to talk to long lost relatives one on one.

We spent a nightlife in Houston, long enough to talk to some starry ptitsas, and real dobby devotchkas, exploring in greater depth the bars in and around Rice Village that John and I stumbled upon some daze earlier. There was even a bit of "highway flirting" on the way back home that night, but she was lost in the fog.

Then it was off to the Santa Fe, where the artists and the hippies and the Indians who tolerate them dwell. We saw a "miracle spiral staircase" at the chapel of San Lorenzo, allegedly built by the caprenter St. Joseph, of Jesus fame, and held up by the hand of God some say. I suspect it has more to do with the particular geometry of a spiral, but is that not, in itself, a miracle?

We momentarily stopped by St. John's College, just long enough to consider that we had no business being there, as it was doubted that Ellie would be around and/or see us. So we left Santa Fe in the red dust and headed toward a dangerous lab where new and nefarious weapons of mass destruction are regularly made, totally unchecked by benevolent and effective upholders of international law.

Thinking they wouldn't let us in, we headed toward their junk site instead, a place known as the Black Hole.
There we tiptoed past atomic detonation wires,
old bombs, Geiger counters, and all sorts of random military-industrial paraphernalia. I picked up a wicker basket and a bunch of steel balls for the home.

After visiting some supercool Indian ruins in Bandilier Nat'l Park, we finally started driving toward the American dream-- Vegas at New Years! But the moment threatened to turn into a bitter nightmare, as we heard on the wireless that five suspicion men-- no, terrorists! -- had illegally entered the country and were surely up to some big-bad no-good. Ryan's mom was certain they were heading to Vegas, perhaps to gas the revellers in the midst of their New Year's bacchanalia. So our heroes sped at alarming speeds in Japanese comfort toward Nevada, unwilling to allow such a dastardly fate to befall Sin City.

to be continued...

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Nothing of importance happened today.