Friday, April 16, 2004

Hindsight

You may or may not know that when STS-114 flies next year, the space shuttle program will have another shuttle ready to be launched within 90 days in case the first suffers damage that makes it impossible for the shuttle to return home. The crew of the damaged shuttle would retreat to the safety of the International Space Station. The concept is called ?Safe Haven?, and the rescue mission that would launch to retrieve the crew is officially known as STS-300.

What keeps bugging me is that the rescue mission would not be needed if NASA had not abandoned the X-38 program. If X-38 was docked to station and the damaged shuttle scenario occurred, the stranded crew could return to the earth via the X-38. No rescue mission would be needed. No additional risk to the rescue crew. No additional risk to the shuttle program. No additional risk to the ISS crew who would still have the Soyuz to return home in.

Yes, it’s arguable whether there would be—or will be-- a shuttle program if another shuttle is lost. No matter. The program would still launch a small crew and vehicle to retrieve the stranded ones, even if was the last mission the shuttle ever flew. An X-38 onboard ISS would alleviate that extra risk.

Sure, it’s all spilled milk and hindsight. But my point is that had NASA gotten the funding it needed to complete the X-38 program, both the shuttle program and shuttle crews would not have to suffer the risk they will if anything else goes wrong.

We’ll do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t. But this is another example of how something designed for one thing finds an alternative and viable use; and how abandoning a program before its prime—like the Bush Administration is proposing to do with shuttle to get the mythical Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) spaceborne—may hurt you in ways you haven’t yet imagined.

Bush's Speech and Andy's Analysis

I listened to Bush’s speech this week, and he was right. The United States must stay the course in Iraq and do everything we can to give the new Iraqi government a fighting chance to establish itself. Bush’s idea is that we are there to give the country a chance at democracy. I keep wondering, though, what it is the Iraqi’s want. If the answer to the question of whether they want democracy is ?no?, then we are sacrificing American lives, both in the killing and maiming that war costs, for little or no reason. Bush is very naïve to think that all peoples in the world want or are ready for democracy.

Still, whether we stay the course or not, that doesn’t change the real question: Did Bush take us into this war for the good of the country or for his own reasons? I suspect it was the latter, and I’ve said so in earlier blogs. The real result of this war won’t be known for a decade; Iraq has as much chance at turning into another dictatorship as it does of being free.

In a poll on a CNN this week, most respondents felt that the war in Iraq had weakened the war on terrorism. I agree. Not only has it removed both troops and focus on Afghanistan, but it is slowly increasing anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is that sentiment, even more than military or police actions, which will make or break terrorism around the world. I believe it’s naïve to think that terrorism will ever be totally eliminated, which raises the question of how long the U.S. will remain on a ?war footing?, as Bush said this week. Forever? If that’s the case, then the terrorists have won, no matter how much we deny it. That’s part of the reason why Al Quaeda has been quoted as saying they’d like to see Bush re-elected. He’s good for their business.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Problem with Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time (DST) sucks. As every year passes, I get more and more sensitive to forces in my life that jack me around, and this silly time change is one of them. Can someone tell me why we do this, other than mandated ritual? Sure, lots of folks like having more daylight at the end of the day. But I hate DST for a couple of reasons.

The first is that it’s all well and good to move your clock around, but the one clock that doesn’t reset that easily is the most important one of all, i.e., the body clock. The clock on my OS X menu says it’s 10:16 p.m.; but as far as my body is concerned, it still thinks it is 9:16 pm., too early to go to sleep. By the time I do get sleepy it will be at least 11 p.m. if not 12. The clock is going to go off at 6 a.m. regardless of what time my body thinks it is. There’s a good chance I’ll still be tired.

People who want to find some heart-rending reason for this scheme say it’s so that school kids can walk to school in the daylight. But is that more dangerous than putting them in the proximity of a nation full of drivers who are still tired because their body clocks have not yet reset? I don’t think so. Few kids walk to school anymore, anyway. They usually drive or are driven. Don’t believe that? Try to get out of my subdivision in the mornings between 7 and 7:20 a.m. It’s an exercise in either "super-patience" or "daredevil-darting-into-traffic"; take your pick. A high school is right next door.

There are plenty of studies that show overall productivity is down the day after this time shift. With jobs in decline, it would seem like we really couldn’t afford that or would want it.

Secondly, living in the hot summer south, having more daylight at the end of the day works against me. Working out until the sun is almost or completely set is asking for a heart attack or heat stroke; with DST that sunset doesn’t occur in summer until almost 9 p.m. Such late sunsets also work against me as a pilot trying to get some nighttime in my logbook. Because they occur so late, trying to fly at night during the week becomes problematic unless I’m on leave or on holiday.

I’ve looked around on the Net for a good reason for why we make this change, and I’ll be dammed if I can find it. My wife and I have been looking for jobs out west again. This seems like a pretty good reason to take a stronger look at Arizona. Not only would I get out of the swamps and into the Desert Southwest but my clocks would continue to revolve throughout the year without any help from me.