Michael Rogers' Star Talk Weblog
Astronomy, technology, small business, politics




 Thursday, April 03, 2003

News - My Weblog has moved to http://michaelrogersstartalk.blogspot.com/. Please change your bookmarks. The new blog site is nicer to look at, I think, and easier for me to maintain.

This current site on Userland will expire on April 30. See you at blogspot!

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12:48:13 PM    

 Wednesday, April 02, 2003

News -- Last Sunday, The Simpsons had a really great episode about astronomy and the evils of light pollution: http://www.thesimpsons.com

Here's a description from the Website: "A British filmmaker comes to Bart's class to make a documentary on the typical American school, and Bart's celebrity status is plunged into jeopardy when Nelson receives attention from the filmmaker for stealing hood ornaments. Moreover, the filmmaker leaves Lisa with feelings of inadequacy, causing her to run out and choose a career in astronomy. Bart begins searching for unique hood ornaments while Lisa, unable to find a dark spot to stargaze, climbs Mt. Springfield. She encounters Professor Frink at the summit, and he teaches her about the problem of light pollution.

Lisa starts a campaign to reduce the amount of light usage in Springfield, but when Chief Wiggum encourages Springfield to double its light usage to fight crime, night becomes day and the town goes "mondo bizarro," unable to sleep with the constant light.

Lisa finally decides that enough is enough and breaks into the power plant with Bart, overloads the system and plunges the town into total darkness, returning Springfield to normal."

The best part of the episode was the end, with the Simpsons family sitting on their lawn watching a meteor shower. I think we're really making progress in public awareness about light pollution when it becomes the subject of a Simpsons show.

News -- Really, really geeky April Fool astronomy products (see listing under April Specials): http://www.scopestuff.com/index.html

Comment -- True astronomy dorks will laugh-out-loud at these jokes. One of my favorites, for example, is a "dark-emitting diode" (instead of a light-emitting diode) that makes it darker so you can see more stars. Man, I was rolling on the carpet laughing about that one!

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11:00:41 AM    

 Tuesday, April 01, 2003

News - War in northern Iraq is different, with friendly locals and green hills instead of desert sands: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/01/international/worldspecial/01NORT.html

Comment - I like this story because it notes that the soldiers lie under their tarps at night and gaze at the night sky. The picture that goes with the story is amusing, too: it looks like the Marine is getting attacked by a herd of goats.

News - Spartan basketball primed to take off next year: http://www.freep.com/sports/michstate/msu1_20030401.htm

Comment - This article notes the return of all their key players, plus the addition next year of two McDonald's All America guards. I think next year's the year they have to make a serious charge for a national championship, before their players start leaving for the NBA.

Only seven months until they play their first game of the 2003-2004 season!

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11:18:12 AM    

 Monday, March 31, 2003

News - I had a great birthday party Saturday.

Comments - It was all due to my wife's hard work in getting it organized. I love you and thanks again!

Thanks also to my mom for hosting the party at her house, and thanks to all the relatives and friends who stopped by.

News - Spartan win over Maryland in the early hours of Saturday was a nice birthday present, but they fell short on Sunday afternoon against Texas.

Brandon really had a good observation when he said that MSU was not forcing Texas to use the entire shot-clock before they scored. For whatever reason...I think it was the impact of the Texas guard, T.J. Ford...MSU's defense was not as effective as it had been in the first three games of the tournament. Still, State was in the game until the very end.

Next year...State could really be loaded. Depending on whether or not Texas wins the national championship (they return nearly everyone next year), MSU could be pre-season #1.

News -- This Web site tried to pick the NCAA basketball tournament winners by "Googlefighting" the names of the team mascots: http://www.alltooflat.com/funny/ncaa/

Comment - An amusing gimmick that netted mostly nonsense results.

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12:03:54 PM    

 Friday, March 28, 2003

News - Lots of debate over what the U.S. should do next in Iraq: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/28/international/worldspecial/28STRA.html

Comment - The U.S. military is highly adaptable. It's not a "failure" when you have to change your plan to adjust to changing circumstances. From this article: "Whatever happens, the war is fast becoming a demanding test of the commanders' ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, synchronize their diverse forces to get the most from them and prevail in a complex, risky and most unusual war."

The Wall Street Journal has an annoying article on today's front page. When noting our challenges in Iraq (in a war that's all of a week old!) it mentions Hitler's disaster in Russia, especially in Stalingrad.

It's an ignorant and shallow comparison. The article claims Hitler's army "was shattered by crumbling logistics and harassment of supply lines by small Russian units." No, that's not what happened at all in Russia during WWII. Hitler's army was shattered by a vicious, multi-million-man Soviet counterattack that was supplied in large part by American trucks and food. Plus, there was the impact of round-the-clock Allied bombing of Germany and the opening of a second front on the beaches of Normandy.

It's not so much that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them...it's more like reporters who get their history wrong are destined to sound stupid.

News - Okay, I always try to finish on a light note. Frosty Welcome gives you online fridge magnets: http://www.frostywelcome.com/

Comment - Use your mouse to arrange the magnets into a message, then e-mail it to your friends.

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10:38:19 AM    

 Thursday, March 27, 2003

News - Here's a pretty good analysis of what has and has not been accomplished in the war, so far: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/27/international/worldspecial/27STRA.html

Comment - On the plus side: the oil fields were quickly captured, western Iraq was secured to prevent the firing of Scuds into Israel, we have a bridgehead across the Euphrates River, the new Patriot missile batteries appear to be working really well (shooting down most of the Iraqi surface-to-surface rockets) and, for whatever reason, no chemical attacks yet.

On the negative side: Saddam's regime did not crumble under the "shock and awe" attacks (although it remains an open question whether Saddam is dead or alive), the fedayeen thugs are dangerous and need to be eliminated, and weather/supply problems have slowed the U.S. advance.

Here's a summary quote from the article: "The war so far has been demanding and unpredictable. But the United States military has accomplished some important objectives and has changed its strategy and tactics to deal with its foes. Allied commanders seem persuaded of two things: the fedayeen will be defeated and the most difficult fight, the battle of Baghdad, lies ahead."

News - My reading of headlines in the Washington Post, New York Times, and watching CNN makes me think that Bush is starting to turn around the PR battle: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33955-2003Mar26.html

Comment - This article is reinforcing the message that the war could last months and that we need to assemble more troops. What's missing is any hint that we should quit, so that's a win for Bush.

Also, coverage of our troop conduct is overwhelmingly positive. And, several stories today about how the U.S. forces are showing flexibility in dealing with temporary military setbacks.

I'm sure the media is strongly influenced by daily polls that continue to show strong support for the war.

News - Brandon passed on this link to an article that shows what happens when you get too curious about Homeland Security: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16791-2003Mar23.html

Comment - Goes to show that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

News - To close on a lighter note, here's a funny article from Dave Barry about how he helped write jokes for Steve Martin's Academy Awards show: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/columnists/dave_barry/5454934.ht m

Comment - From the article: "We met eight times over the course of three months. Most of the meetings were in the living room of Martin's home, a fine place to sit and laugh. In addition to the writers, these meetings were attended by Martin's Labrador retriever, Roger, whose contribution to the process was to periodically emit eye-watering blasts of flatulence. We'd be sitting around, tossing out jokes, and suddenly, WHOA, the air would turn green. When this happened, Martin would give Roger a stern lecture."

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11:01:24 AM    

 Wednesday, March 26, 2003

News - Here's a picture shot out the window of the International Space Station. It's Large Magellanic Cloud--an irregular galaxy visible from Earth's southern hemisphere: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/images/noseprints/lmc_big.jpg

Comment - The article about shooting photos from the Space Station can be found at http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/24mar_noseprints.htm?list120586. The astronauts say the aurora are the most beautiful things they see from orbit.

News - Worried about the war? Quit watching the news!: http://www.sbam.org/resource/digest/features/32603.html

Comment - From a story I wrote today for our Online Digest:

Try and ignore the media saturation coverage of the war's minute-to-minute progress. "I only pay attention to major developments, otherwise I would find myself worrying needlessly over every event and every reported casualty," says Robert MacDonald, Vice-President of WORKPOINTS, who is a combat veteran with a family member serving in Iraq. "I also find that there are too many media 'armchair generals' offering their own opinions and criticisms of how the war is being conducted. If you are anxious about the safety of a loved one, listening to these self-appointed experts will only make matters worse," he says.

If there's one thing I've learned from reading a lot of military history over the years, it's that there is no substitute for victory. Nothing will shut up the CNN "armchair generals" faster than winning the war. I pray it is soon.

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12:13:53 PM    

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