Archive for October 2006


October 28, 2006

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, NASA chief Michael Griffin will announce the fate of the Hubble Space Telescope.

HST has received tremendous popular support since it’s launch in 1990 (actually, since the 1st repair mission compensated for the mirror design flaw that initially crippled several science instruments). I suspect that if Griffin decides that NASA should abandon HST now, without directing funding for a last repair mission, there will be some outrage noted in the press.

But what I want to know, and what I’m not seeing in the MSM, is what the effect of keeping HST aloft does to the James Webb Space Telescope (formerly the Next Generation Space Telescope), currently scheduled for launch in 2013. Will it be delayed further? Or will the JWST mission be further reduced in scope?


The observatory’s sendoff into space is now slated for June 2010 – an 18 month slip from an earlier timetable. Lightweight mirror technology also proved to be no lightweight of a problem. NGST was at first to utilize a primary mirror 26-feet (8 meters) in diameter, since shrunk down to some 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter across.

and the 2008 date referred to indirectly was already a slip from the 2007 date that nobody believed.



October 21, 2006

I attended a Catholic grammer school square in the middle of an ethnic area in the city of Buffalo, NY., largely populated by first and second generation emmigrants from eastern Europe who left the old country around the turn of the century. The Latin Rite Mass, known as the Trinitine Rite, suited them. The Mass was full of candles, bells, chants, incense and mystical-Latin phrases that created a special kind of awe and a sense of the presense of God.

From a comment in Amy Welborn’s blog

The classical Roman Rite of Mass, known to many as “Tridentine”, is a VASTLY DIFFERENT LITURGICAL EXPERIENCE than the New Rite. It isn’t the silence or the Latin alone – though these things are important. It isn’t the posture of the priest or the orientation alone – though these are vital. It is the tapestry of prayers, scriptures, gestures, rituals, language, music, silence, contemplation, supplication – a mix of elements culled from the wisdom and tradition of the Church over the centuries to create what can only be described as the paradigmatic prayer of the Catholic Church, as witnessed through her primary rite, and as celebrated (formerly) by her only Pontiff. To say that the old Mass is the paradigm is not to say that it is perfect in se, only that it is the most perfect form of prayer that the Church, in her frail humanity, has yet conceived.

I wouldn’t go quite that far. The New Rite, for all the complains about it’s lack of liturgical merit, artistic merit and bad music (ahem!) is, after all, a wonderful way to instruct and engage the congregation (not an altogether bad idea).

There has been some discussion about the status of the Trinitine Rite: Is it prohibited? Is it only discouraged? – Permitted in special circumstanced? Pope Benedict has recently hinted broadly that it’s status will be more clearly defined. It’s more than speculation that the Rite will soon not be prohibited or discourged by Bishops by default, only to be allowed with the Bishop’s permission. Instead, it will be permitted by default.

As much as I would enjoy finding again that feeling of inspired wonder evoked by the old rite (at 6:30 am in the mind of a a 7 year old), I don’t see how this can be done, really. Are we to have all churchs build since 1964 retro-fitted with alters that fact both ways? Are young priests fluent in Latin anymore? Are the server’s responses, which used to be done by alterboys, to be done by adults fluent in Latin? Well see.

What I imagine is some parishes offering one or two Latin Masses a week, approximating the old rite as the church can accomidate. In other words, I would expect the priest to be still facing the congregation and I doubt that many will run out an purchase a set of bells. I really doubt that only boys will be allowed on the alter. But some old forgotten phrases will, spoken in Latin, will return. Ultimately, I could see a merging of both the old and new rites into something that meets in the middle.

I Call Godwin

October 13, 2006

The Godwin award goes to the first side in an argument that invokes Hitler and Nazi Germany. They also lose the argument.

In this report, the pejorative “global warming denier” is used to “describe scientists and others who don’t share [their] view[s] of the Earth’s climate.” The term is chosen specifically to invoke comparisons to Holocaust deniers and Nazi Germany.

Grist Magazine’s staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the “bastards” who were members of what he termed the global warming “denial industry.”

Roberts wrote in the online publication on September 19, 2006, “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.”

The quoted lines can be found directly here.

Oh. And who finds this Grist Magazine respectable enough to grant interviews? Why, Al Gore and Bill Moyers, of course.

Linux Update

October 12, 2006

So it was January of ’05 that I put together a PC from spare parts and put my first version of Linux on it. That was the Mandrake 10.0 distribution. It wasn’t until April of that year that I finally, finally, finally got enough saavy to get the (wireless) link to the wireless router working, and get online.
Well, since then, almost every part in the pc has been replaced, usually with compatible used stuff from ebay, and Mandrake changed it’s name to Mandriva. The PC is still a now-puny 600 MHz PIII. But it works surprisingly well.

Mandriva has changed too. I’ve gone through the 10.0 and 10.1 Mandrake, and 2005 and 2006 releases, and this week, just a couple of days after it came out, I installed the 2007 version. The surprise was that my wireless, the card that took me almost 4 months to master and make work in a half jury-rigged kind of way in 2005, now works “out of the box”. I’ve had more problems with windows drivers.

Not that it all went so smoothly, mind you. I erred by turning on the 3-D graphics effects without checking that the video card I’m using can handle that. I still don’t know! Once the effects were turned on, I couldn’t find a way to completely turn them off. Some settings, local to my login-session, were corrupted badly. Two days of futzing with it did absolutely no good, and re-installing fresh was a cheap option. Since I already had everything backed up, that was a snap.

My history with Mandriva is a good-news, bad-news, kind of thing, with mostly good news. The bad is that they seem to have a habit of releasing new versions with an uncomfortable number of frustrating bugs. This time it was the graphics configuration, and maybe a minor bug with screen-savers. Last time, it was a buggy menu-editor and a mouse driver error that made the mouse cursor almost transparent!
The good news is that Mandriva has been pretty quick to get out the bug-fixes and updates, and when they do that, the system has been tremendously stable. For all the complains made about 2006, (and my own misgivings about giving up 2005, which I really liked at the time), it was a fine release after the first go-round of updates.

It’s still very early, and the complaints I have left are with 3rd party software (like mplayer – what’s up with the inability to detect their own codecs anyway? They either have a software problem they’re not owning up to, or they don’t bother to read their own installation instructions, which are pretty mediocre to begin with).

I have an acid test coming up. I’ve been collecting parts for a new PC, this time based on the Athlon 64 processor. I’m just one heat-sink and one DDR memory stick away from a complete system now, and yes, it’s an exciting thing to contemplate! Well see if I can make it work.