For Everyone Of You That Says You Can't...

Stephen Hawking has just said a resounding "I CAN!"

Hawking's zero-g flight is an inspiration to the rest of the human race. In a world filled with those that think in terms of limits, this flight shows that thinking only in terms of limits sells ourselves short. Hawking's thought in terms of possibilities. He was and is the expression of the modern "dreamer."

I think his comments of the risk adverse nature of government when it comes to space exploration is telling:
"I think that getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species. It will be difficult to do this with the slow, expensive and risk-averse nature of government space programs," Hawking said, working in a veiled reference to NASA. "We need to engage the entrepreneurial engine that has reduced the cost of everything from airline tickets to personal computers."
I agree with independent space consultant Charles Lurio. Hawking's "gets it."

Reserving Judgment

I'm going to reserve judgment on this "leaked speech" until I get more details. From what I've read on it so far the Tories have finally bowed down to the golden calf of carbon emissions cuts - though not the cuts the Kyoto treaty requires.

I sincerely hope otherwise. I wonder though if this is just a "goal" much in the same way the former Liberal government made it a "goal" to meet Kyoto targets though many knew the whole concept of making over 30% reductions was unrealistic. My thinking leans towards this being a ploy to placate the environmental issue by agreeing to "goals" that no one can enforce in the first place.

Lip service or capitulation? Only time will tell. Either way I think the end result is bad for Canada.

One thing I'm not reserving judgment on is the plan to ban energy inefficient light bulbs. This is rampant state interference in our daily lives and can only lead to no good.

A couple months ago I was facing hydro bills that were out of this world and I couldn't imagine how I could be getting bills like this unless I was running a grow op.

Perusing through the hydro one web site I found a calculator for home electricity costs. It listed wattages for common appliances along with estimated usage times per month.

Being an engineer I took down the wattages and did my own calculation to satisfy myself.

On my energy inefficient light bulbs how much did I pay? About $3/month.

Over 68% of my hydro bill was attribute to one item: electric home heating. Light bulbs are nothing to save money over and I bet that this initiative won't show any appreciable difference in energy consumption anywhere in the Great North.

But It's gets better. A good deal of the energy in these so-called inefficient light bulbs are apparently dissipated in heat.

So that means that the $3/month light bulbs that were saving me money on my hydro and were cheaper than my electrical heating are being replaced with $1.50/month light bulbs that won't save me any money on heating.

What if electrical heating proves to be a less efficient method of heating than what I got from my "inefficient" light bulbs? Then it means electricity usage will go up and not down.

That's government interference at work.

When Socialists and Conservatives Unite

At least that's what's happening over this latest Liberal motion to pull out troops from Afghanistan.

Besides the obvious weirdness around this vote, even weirder is NDP leader Jack Layton's reason for voting against this motion:
“This is a flip-flop for Liberals who opposed the extension last year, including Stephane Dion. The Liberals brought us into this combat mission war and now they want to keep in it for two more years,” said Layton. “That is unacceptable.”
In other words, the troops should come out, but this isn't fast enough.

Strategically one must wonder at this action by the NDP. No one wants another election - especially not the NDP. But it is only natural for the NPD to vote in support of this motion since it is consistent with its politics.

One must wonder if the NDP made some sort of procedural deal with the Liberals. To keep this parliament alive the NDP votes with the Tories. This way the Liberals are free to vote in such a way that makes them appear more reasonable to those in the white uptight urban peacenick demographic.

Why the NDP would want the Liberals to come across this way is strange to me - the Liberal push to the left is only at the expense of Jack Layton. If they did make a deal you'd think Layton would have gotten something out of it.

SUV's On Neptune?

Guess what? Not only are their gas gussling SUV's on Earth, but they exist on Mars, Jupiter Pluto and now Neptune:
Long-term photometric measurements of Neptune show variations of brightness over half a century. Seasonal change in Neptune's atmosphere may partially explain a general rise in the long-term light curve, but cannot explain its detailed variations. This leads us to consider the possibility of solar-driven changes, i.e., changes incurred by innate solar variability perhaps coupled with changing seasonal insolation. Although correlations between Neptune's brightness and Earth's temperature anomaly—and between Neptune and two models of solar variability—are visually compelling, at this time they are not statistically significant due to the limited degrees of freedom of the various time series. Nevertheless, the striking similarity of the temporal patterns of variation should not be ignored simply because of low formal statistical significance. If changing brightnesses and temperatures of two different planets are correlated, then some planetary climate changes may be due to variations in the solar system environment.
Global climate change is very much starting to look like Solar System climate change. And unless there's aliens on Mars the sun obviously plays a bigger role than some are willing to admit.

h/t Gay and Right

The Kyoto Battle

With Environment Minister John Baird's recent salvo against Kyoto the strategy of the Harper government towards the Kyoto Protocol is becoming clearer.

Under Rona Ambrose the tact was simple. The science was phony. The protocol was a joke. It was better to ignore and legislate to clean up pollution - a word never used once in the protocol.

Somewhere along the line the Harperites came to the realization that the strategy wasn't good. The environment was becoming the number one issue for Canadians in the void of anything else for anyone to talk about. Somewhere after the stunning rise of the Green Party in London-North-Center the strategy got a revamp.

The environment overnight became a non-winnable issue for the Conservative Party. Now the same way Harper strategists viewed Health care they were looking a the environment: wherever the Liberals are so are we. Or at least that's the way things appeared to this oft mistaken blogger.

Now we are learning that there was a strict stipulation on that strategy - we would not buy into the lie that Kyoto is a realistic treaty with achievable results. Baird's tact all along seems to have been to build up Conservative credibility on the issue while attacking the treaty.


Spiegel Online chronicles the European reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings:
"Doubtless there will be a call to review the availability of firearms. The National Rifle Association's (NRA) response is predictable too. They will point out that events such as this are not carried out by a rifle-wielding member of a weekend militia. There is no doubt that access to rapid-action shotguns makes these events even more destructive but as we have seen with suicide bombers, who are closer to spree killers than is often realized, if a person really wants to take their own life and kill others in doing so it is exceptionally difficult to prevent it."
Smug. Arrogant. Self-serving. How European.

Words are words. They can be used for good or for evil. This isn't the time to playing politics with the tragic events at Virginia Tech. It is the time to mourn and reflect on the events of the past week - not on blaming Charlton Heston.

But since it's some enlightened few refuse to do so as a gun rights supporter I'm forced to respond.

Europe has had similar school shootings in the past. Where was their enlightened gun laws then? And the NRA is right: if someone really wants to take a life they will find a way.

Guns aren't evil. People using guns are evil.

This is a time of mourning, and I'd rather not discuss these issues - but the actions of some have forced it.

Apparently VT was a gun-free zone.

Update II:
Apparently the CBC just can't help itself linking the war in Iraq to the VT killings. I guess we know now what some people mean by "compassion."


All I have to say is boo-hoo:
"We're celebrating the 25th anniversary this week and they don't want to have anything to do about it. It's just kind of shocking...Diefenbaker was such a proponent of the Charter of Rights," Chr├ętien said. "I hope they will not put the flag at half-mast because it will be the anniversary."
That was Chretien's reaction to Harper's snubbing of the Charter celebrations. I can't help but think that if Harper's ticked off Chretien he's done something right.

The Charter is the biggest embarrassment this country has. We decide to enshrine the rights of Canadians from West to East of this great land but yet we somehow manage to forget the most fundamental of rights - the right to own property?

This most basic of rights, that all other civilized countries have, we somehow forget?

What's worse the Charter has been used over the years as an excuse to radically redefine the Canadian social landscape with rulings on abortion and same sex marriage. Instead of fighting for the hearts and minds of Canadians those social liberals out there now appeal to an elite class of ruling judges that know better than the rest of us.

What's worse it was a charter that reminds us perpetually of the open wound still left in this country around Quebec. That province has yet to sign our very own nation's constitution.

The Charter of Rights of Freedoms is by no means something to be celebrated.

Right on Harper.

Environmentalism.... with an emphasis on the "mental"...

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has a loose cannon on her hands:
"When I saw the first tower cascade down into that enormous plume of dust and paper, there was a little voice inside me that said, 'Yeah!' When the second tower came down the same way, that little voice said, 'Beautiful!' When the visage of the Pentagon appeared on the TV with a gaping and smoking hole in its side, that little voice had nearly taken me over, and I felt an urge to pump my fist in the air..."
Yes that's right - he's talking about 9/11. This green party candidate pretty much sums up what I notice predominately from the extreme left - a cult of human hating. Hatred of humanity is just something they can't help but do. Especially those enviro-fascists out there.

Meanwhile May finds herself in hot water herself:

"Well, I don't believe in backroom deals of any kind. If I had a deal, I'd talk about it publicly," she said.

"We don't have any deal. But that's not saying that I haven't talked to many of my friends in this riding who traditionally support the New Democrats and traditionally support the Liberals. And I know that locally there are people who will want to help me win this riding. I'd appreciate the help from any quarter, but at this point I don't have any guarantees or deals of any kind."

Just to be clear this isn't a deal. But what it is an agreement that Stephane Dion won't let anyone with the Liberal Party banner run in Peter Mackay's riding, and coincidentally May will just happen to support Dion as Prime Minister in the next election. Again though - it isn't a deal.

This prompted Jack Layton to make this response:
"It's disappointing and somewhat surprising that Ms. May, who professes to be someone who stands on principle, would have so quickly slipped into the muck of backroom wheeling and dealing," said Layton.
I think Jack is placing himself quite well to receive the disgruntled Liberal and Green votes over the maneuver. And since the Dippers look like they're still running in Central Nova I'm thinking that left wing vote splitting will continue to produce Peter Mackay as an MP. Keep in mind it was the NDP that finished second there the last time around and not the Fiberals.

Another space tourist, another step forward for capitalism in space

This time it was a friend of Martha Stewart:

Billionaire Charles Simonyi, 58, who led development of Microsoft's Word,
lifted off from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan at 1731 GMT.

The $20m ride will make him the 450th person to enter orbit and by his own admission "the first nerd in space".

American businesswoman and lifestyle guru, Martha
Stewart, was there to wave her friend off on the 12-day trip.

You have ask yourself the question, with this many people ready to fork up $20mil to get their chance to see the great beyond, I wonder just how big the market will be when they get prices down to $250,000?

The irony still remains, that the country that was once home to marxism and communism, has become the one country in the world that has embraced capitalism in space.

This bodes well for the future of space colonization and the space tourism industry.

Vancouver Blogging...

Went on a plane yesterday. It was Ontario cold, and Ontario snowing. Good friday travelling seems like a dream when you've had little sleep for the past week... So literally at certain moments I was dreaming.

I got off the plane in Vancouver. People are wearing shorts and tees. It's hotter than hell. Here I am, Ontario cold, bundled in my sweater and hoodie and long jacket in this weird parallel universe where there are mountains that people ski on all year long and the Reform Party got it's start. I'm in the land of extremes. Either it's socialist or capitalist in this land that Allan Fotheringham once remarked was all about "entertainment" when it comes to politics.

A day. A night. A sleep. The next day and I walk out the door. It's cold. Not Ontario cold, but cold.

Someone remarks to me "That the way things are here.... One day it's cold, the other is hot, it's weird."

I halfway muttered jokingly "It explains the politics."

This is my first time out in the Northwest. I'll say one thing, I'll never get used to looking at the rockies.

The True Climate Change Deniers II

Global warming on Mars? It's not the sun, it's Martian albedo:

"Albedo" is the technical term for a planet's ability to reflect sunlight, and on Mars its over-all albedo has decreased since it was first measured between 1976 to 1978 by infrared detectors aboard the two orbiting Viking spacecraft whose landers had descended to the surface in a search for signs of Martian life.

More than 20 years later, infrared heat detectors aboard the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor measured the planet's albedo and found that it had darkened significantly.

That's an interesting conclusion. Because if the warming was caused by something else... say solar radiation, like a small minority of scientists have claimed is the cause of terran warming, then it would make that minority's argument seem baseless.

After all if global warming is happening all across the solar system then it's obvious it isn't something locally being done by humans on earth that's causing it.

So there is an added political benefit the establishment has in accepting these findings since they neatly explain away one of the prevailing arguments against humans being the prime cause of global climate change on earth. That fact makes me question these results.

The causes of global warming on Mars -- still not entirely understood, Fenton said -- are not only far different from those on Earth, but the temperatures involved are totally different.

Not “…entirely understood…” is about right. Especially since Jupiter is also showing signs of warming:

Researchers think the Hubble images may provide evidence that Jupiter is in the midst of a global climate change that will alter its average temperature at some latitudes by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

We have two planets in the solar system other than earth showing global warming trends and yet we still believe that the sun's effect on global climate change on earth is negligible to small? What's worse we try to explain away Martian global warming now as a natural effect. Soon to be explained away will be Jupiter I'm sure.

It seems to me that those that continue to exclude the possibility of the sun being a primary source global warming over the past decade are the true climate change deniers.

The True Climate Change Deniers I

Williams The Fool

These ads are brilliant:

Williams, who says he hasn't seen the ads but held a news conference today to respond to them, says he would be happy if Stephen Harper were voted out of office "this afternoon." The federal Conservatives are expected to hit back this week against the premier with radio and print ads to run in Newfoundland and Labrador that accuse him of running a misinformation campaign over the federal budget.

Last week Williams took out print ads in newspapers across the country, accusing Harper of breaking a promise over equalization.

What hollow words from the premier who once railed against the US government for daring to launch rockets hundreds of klicks in the atmo over Newfoundland. See, he was afraid that debris would fall on an offshore oil platform and well... kabloee!

He eventually toned down his remarks over the affair once someone finally drove the point home to him that he was acting like an idiot. The chances of something like that happening should leave anyone wondering who was advising Williams, or whether no one was.

I don't see his behaviour over the budget being all that different. Saying Stephen Harper lied is a stretch if I ever heard one. He fulfilled his commitment to Newfoundland by allowing NF to exclude non-renewable resources from equalization payments. That's a fact. He can deny it all he wants to.

Now the deal is that Harper put a cap on what those exclusions can be. That's what the issue is here. The deal was not as rosy posy as Williams and NF would have liked it to be. Fair enough. But this tirade over "lying" is completely unwarranted. Williams is making his province seem like a cry baby that doesn't like the fact that it's been left out from the goodies.

Trust me they are better off in NF without the federal intrusion this money would bring. The spending orgy in Quebec is going to do more harm to that province than good. Solving the fiscal imbalance was going to have to involve disappointing some - and turning some friends into enemies.

Patron Saints of Hypocrisy

I think I've taken about as much I can of the Conservative spending orgy that Harper's gone on lately:

"They [the Conservatives] attacked government investment in aerospace as unwarranted government subsidy," Scott Brison, the Liberal industry critic, told the Globe and Mail.

"And in a pre-election environment, they're trying to do the same thing. These guys are the patron saints of hypocrisy.

"This sounds like a pre-election, ad hoc drop in the bucket to improve the perception of what they've done for aerospace."

As much as Bombardier needs more state money to build snowmobiles, I think it's safe to say that they didn't need this money. I hate to say this but Scott Brison, the true Patron Saint of Hypocrisy, has it right when it comes to this. He's not right in calling Harper a hypocrite, after all Harper never promised he would end subsidies to the aerospace industry, but he is negating the conservative principles of individual initiative and individual

Aerospace subsidies are far more harmful to the aerospace industry as far as I'm concerned. It promotes an uncompetitive environment where players become in disordered markets of aerospace they wouldn't be bothered with if they didn't have all this government money to waste.

I know there are plenty of good people working in the industry. But this was not a conservative policy move whatsoever. Tax cuts do not negate the individual responsibility and I think prove to be far more effective than subsidies doled out to politically advantageous interests...

I hope and pray that Harper ends this cash extravaganza because it was this type of spending that got the Liberals into trouble with Adscam. Otherwise his government quickly could become not hypocritical as the King of Hypocrites Scott Brison would claim, it will become corrupted and devoid of principle... That leads to hypocrisy.

Benefiting From Plunder

MarsBlog manages to close a blog post on NASA's Constellation Program with this gem:
From my own perspective, it's win-win. Either the project I'm part of right now succeeds, or it fails and I take the (useable) knowledge and experience gained from it to one of the many new companies aiming to shove NASA aside. It's nice to know that if Orion gets cancelled (or completed, for that matter), there'll be other appealing alternatives waiting.
Legalized plunder of tax payers I guess has some practical advantages to MarsBlog. Though it would be morally preferable if they didn't plunder that money to begin with. On one level you have to wonder if it's right for MarsBlog to take advantage of the taxpayer in this way.

Then again, how many times have I worked on a design project I knew would go sour? My motto has always been "I get paid to do my job, not to agree with my boss." Following orders is necessary. Following orders is good. Even if they're bad orders. But not if they're immoral ones.

Sometimes your boss is right and you're wrong. Sometimes you're right and he's wrong. That's at his discretion to figure that one out. Bush, for all his faults gets it: "he's the decider." NASA has made a poor choice, and will probably pay for it.

So long as MarsBlog continues to make it clear that he disagrees he's in the clear as far as I'm concerned. And until then I'll continue to snicker at comments like those.

All of that moral stuff aside, I agree 100% with MarsBlog. Constellation was in one sense doomed to fail before it began. But I think so more from a design perspective. The use of SRB tech was a bad idea to begin with. Von Braun IMHO was right. Control is more important when it comes to rockets. Going the SRB path, with manned launches is problem ridden.

I understand the reasoning that abandoning existing tech for some radical new system was a bad choice. Using existing expertise and knowledge was a better bang for your buck. That being said I measure the success of a launch vehicle solely by its ability to transports pounds to orbit on the cheap. By that count I figure that with all the safety drawbacks related to sitting on a heap of solid fuel that gets lit and everyone sits back and prays everything goes right isn't exactly what I'd call an "ideal design."

But hey I'm no expert so I'll just sit back and watch the big guys play.

Lafleur goes AWOL

Apparently legendary Liberal lover Adscam connected Lafleur is no longer in the country:

Police told the court they went last Wednesday to Lafleur's home, a Montreal apartment rented nearly two years ago.

But police say residents in the building report never seeing Lafleur since he moved in. A man claiming to be a lawyer went to the apartment about a month ago wanting to remove the articles inside, police said.

The lease on the apartment is up in a month and hasn't been renewed.

Police also told the judge Lafleur no longer has a car registered in his name and his driver's licence is no longer valid.

They say he has no other known residences in Canada so they are unable to send him a summons to appear in court to face the 35-count fraud indictment.

This couldn't have come at a worse time for the Liberal Party in this country. With Dion's shaky leadership under fire, the party diving in the polls the ever never saga of Adscam gets fired up once more.

I would hope that this whole experience makes more than a few in the Liberal Party learn that arrogance, self-serving attitudes, centralization of power in the hands of a few, and moral relativism lead to... well moral relativism, not to mention corruption, lack of public trust, and oblivion.

But that's too much to hope I'm sure.