mm432: Danger? You bet your asteroid there’s danger!

July 7, 2008

dreamstime_3647157

© Andrea Danti | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

From the We Don’t Have Enough on our Plates Dept. (not me! I worry about the global economy, my home’s value, fuel prices, food shortages, and racist, redneck voters just to name five of the topmost), comes this calmly frightening tale of the cataclysmic dangers we potentially face from asteroids.

nytimes

Maybe Chicken Little Wasn’t Paranoid After All

Ideas & Trends | By ANDREW C. REVKIN | Published: July 6, 2008

THE Earth is pockmarked with the evidence of ancient collisions — huge craters blasted into its surface by asteroids or comets. One such object, striking 65 million years ago in the Yucatán in Mexico, is believed by some experts to be linked to the demise of the dinosaurs.

For a decade, NASA has been busy trying to identify what else is headed this way, particularly those potential “civilization killers” of 1 kilometer (.62 miles) or more in diameter that have orbits coming within 30 million miles of the Earth’s — too close for comfort by space standards.

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mm426: Blast from the Past! No. 32: Go to war – play videogames

July 1, 2008

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about. It also marks the beginning of an occasional series in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, comprising 10 parts thus far, called “The changing face of military aviation.”

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

U.S. pilot helped clear the fog of war

mm142

2

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

3

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

4

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

5

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

6

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

7

A shared obsession is a satisfying thing

mm225

8

Videogames. Real warfare. An unsettling

mm288

9

Go figure! Even our robot forces…

mm326

10

Help! Rescue that droning man!

mm369

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 28, 2007, and originally titled “mm155: Go to war — Play videogames.”

MUDGE’S Musings

The changing face of military aviation

Second of an occasional series

With no greater expertise than that of one fascinated with technology, its history, and its future, we embark on an exploration of the future of military aviation, as exemplified by the increasing numbers of remotely piloted aircraft, UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles) and UCAVs (… Combat … …).

The impetus was this recent posting about the creative use of the Predator UAV by an enterprising officer, Greg Harbin, who has been lobbying the Pentagon for increased use of a tool that brings the output of surveillance performed by Predator directly to the front line without delay.

I’d been aware of the growing use of robot aircraft for some years. Not because I encounter them in my daily life! Because I have long had an “armchair” interest in aviation. Long years ago, I frequently read Flying magazine, dreaming of one day taking lessons and taking to the air.

Never happened, although my late brother-in-law apparently long harbored a similar dream, which in the years before cancer took him he was finally able to realize, together with his young son, who now is in his senior year in the Air Force ROTC program at a major university, having earned his pilot’s license, and qualified for combat training upon his graduation next spring.

But MUDGE has confined his interest to the armchair, telling himself that real life has superceded idle imagination.

I no longer read Flying, haven’t for decades, since its audience are the doctors and captains of industry who actually do fly themselves around. MUDGE is neither doctor nor captain, and just can’t relate.

Instead many years ago I found an intriguing publication out of England (home of the Economist, best magazine on the planet — what is it about the British?) called Air International.

AI covers the global aviation field, both military and civil, manufacturers and their air force and airline customers, and is sometimes complete to the point of obsession. Some fun, huh? Well MUDGE thinks so.

They’ve had some features through the years about the UAV/UCAV phenomenon, but, I’m thinking, as flyers themselves, the editors must share an ambivalence about the entire topic of robot flying with professional pilots, military especially, who may well believe that they represent the last generation of their kind.

So, I did some independent research, with the assistant of the globe’s favorite research assistant, Google.com.

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mm425: Short attention span blogging returns!

June 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The Prime Directive of Blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily, has run head-on into the brick wall of fatigue.

Mrs. MUDGE, gathering a bunch of old clothes for a charity pick up tomorrow, has inspired us to gather some stories that we’ve stockpiled but simply can’t do more than whiff at them over the past few days.

So perhaps we’ll just showcase six of them without commentary, just this once. Pretend we’re reddit.com without the social networking trappings. Call this post: “(th)read(bare)it.” Or not.

1. The NYTimes takes a look at a brand new, cost saving (and, get this!, the savings seem to be mostly passed onto the consumer!) gallon milk jug.

New Milk Jug Leads to Cost Savings and Spills

2. The MUDGE household has been weaning itself from the bottled water habit for the past several months. We’re in the minority,apparently.

What’s Colorless and Tasteless And Smells Like . . . Money? – washingtonpost.com

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WcW012: A rare public appearance

June 24, 2008

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

Once again, this occasional series has failed in its nominal attempt to appear on any kind of regular basis. Not so much a lack of enthusiasm as simply a lack of news.

I’ve been working with the team that is preparing to roll out the latest and greatest version of our software, IBM Lotus Sametime, testing, preparing the teaching curriculum, and generally filling the gaps in a very extensive task list. The effort has been lengthy, not least because of its magnitude, especially when measured against the minute size of the team. Really, there are just two people in the enterprise with full time responsibilities for the Sametime collaboration tools; thankfully the other is a tremendously gifted, spirited and hard-working technical architect who works out of his home office in Colorado.

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel has resolved itself: it’s NOT an oncoming train, and we believe we’re mere weeks away from D-Day.

It’s been a time.

Meanwhile, I’ve suspended my classes in preparation for an entirely new approach to the educational process; after more than 650 of them in the past 5-1/2 years, for nearly 4,000 students, management has decided to turn over training responsibilities to our division’s Learning & Development group. I have mixed feelings about this, as I’ve grown rather fond of the process of teaching (NOT fond enough to follow the curriculum to that particular group!); 650 one-to-two-hour classes is probably more than enough for a while.

You may recall that this teaching is all conducted on-line, using Sametime web conference technology, together with a telephone conference call. Such remote teaching has its own challenges; there is much reduced feedback available, since there are no faces nor body language to read.

But, this has worked for me, since, as anyone can tell from the likeness published at the top of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, I’ve a great face for radio. So, a form of radio such teaching is. And, without a live audience (the great old radio series seem to have had live audiences), without that rich feedback, it’s quite hard work.

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mm418: Blast from the Past! No. 29

June 22, 2008

It’s the first official weekend of summer, 2008, in the northern hemisphere, and we’re off to the movies! Silly, right? Warm, beautiful day outside. Cold, dark theatre inside. But since I don’t recreate too well (Achilles tendinosis still an issue), we take our entertainment where we can. It’s just deplorable when real life gets in the way of my blogging addiction. But, perhaps you’ll indulge me… it’s summertime, after all.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 16, 2007, and originally titled “mm143: Arctic Ice Melt Opens Northwest Passage.”

MUDGE’S Musings

In cataclysmic global warming news, the Panama Canal became obsolete (at least during the summer months) today.

This story has been developing all season, and, for once, the term “geopolitics” is not idly invoked.

nytimes

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: September 16, 2007 – Filed at 4:39 a.m. ET

PARIS (AP) — Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

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mm415: Blast from the Past! No. 28

June 19, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 15, 2007, and originally titled “U.S. Pilot helped clear the fog of war”.

MUDGE’S Musings

Got to tell you, like most of us, I have long since developed war fatigue. And I’m nowhere near the front. All I seem to be able to do is wring my hands and whimper, “Get our soldiers out of this!”

But, I have a soft spot for technology, and this is a technology story, about Iraq. But of course, wars are fought by women and men. And this is even more a story about a creative and determined man who took on as his mission to sell a particular technology to the command structure.

So we’ll take a look.

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mm413: Computers: Not helpful for poor kids?

June 17, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© has been an enthusiastic observer of Nicholas Negroponte’s idealistic One Laptop Per Child initiative since it started getting close to launch late last year.

By one count, in fact, this would be the 18th such post, a sizable fraction.

But, it seems such a good idea: provide millions of dramatically attractive PCs to governments at a rock bottom price (original target, $100) to be distributed to school children. The hope: in the same way that cell phones have bootstrapped the developing world into the maw of 21st century communications without requiring the arduous and costly laying of trillions of miles of copper wire to every last remote corner of the planet, connect kids in deprived lands to the 21st century via the Internet.

Well, the launch price last November was closer to $200 than $100, but the dollar (not to speak of the price of oil — not just fuel for transportation, but even more valuable, if underappreciated, as the feedstock for the manufacture of plastic, a key component of absolutely every computer of any cost) is not what it was in 2005 when the program was formulated. To bring faithful reader up to speed on this topic, we’ve provided a handy list of those 17 previous entries.

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review
mm267: XO – A Missionary Position
mm382: One Laptop Per Child…Windows

Some intriguing, if disturbing, research hit the news this past week.

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