Sunday, May 25, 2008

Behinds the scenes for Phoenix

Here are some pictures Dan took here at Goldstone during the Phoenix landing. Enjoy our ugly faces! Uncropped and unairbrushed. :)

Half the folks in the room hid from this photo. This is WAY more folks than are normally in this room at any one time.

And here I am hard at work. Too bad you can't see what my screens are showing with these filters on the screens. Odd...

Congratulations Phoenix! You made it!

Just to reiterate, I do in fact work for NASA. So yes, I was involved with this landing, in fact I was the prime controller on the prime downlink antenna for this landing. So I know everything that happened as it happened. Which was nifty on one hand, on the other hand this wasn't the most exciting landing or event for me since Phoenix doesn't talk directly to earth, but only through a UHF relay to every other Mars bird in orbit.

So right now we're watching and waiting for the solar arrays to deploy. For me the track is a normal boring track waiting for the data relay. Here's hoping it went okay.

All of my experiences in NASA really make me realize how much most folks really don't need to know what goes on behind the curtain. It makes things a bit more boring or lose their glamor if you know how we really do things.

Update: The solar panels are confirmed opened and photos coming down! Well done!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fun? Who has time for fun?

Wow, Gozer, you really know how to throw a challenge out there. It made me stop and think; what do I even do for fun?

First, a quick run down the list. I'm not an on-line gamer. I have a wife and two kids, so I have a lot of fun that involves them. Going to places, doing some things, but nothing in particular. When you have a family, it's often fun just to go someplace and hang out with them. The last movie we all saw together in a theater was Bridge To Tarabithia, which we liked, but it was a little weird that one of the two main characters died 2/3 of the way through. Good flick, though, and that little girl is going to be a major star.

I guess we watch a lot of television. We're big fans of kid-vid. Both my daughters are hooked on Hannah Montana, which I don't mind. The show's pretty well done, and fairly well written. A lot better, in fact, than a lot of stuff aimed at that same demographic. In fact, we watch several Disney channel shows regularly. That, Suite Life of Zach and Cody, and Kim Possible are all family favorites. Even me. Shoot, Zach and Cody is better than most of the network sitcoms. I can't get through five minutes of a Friends rerun, but Z&C is actually funny. And, it's not swimming in sexual innuendo. We also like iCarly on Nick.

For grown-up fare, I'm hooked on House. Quite simply, it's the best written show on TV. My wife's into a bunch of cop/forensic shows like CSI Miami and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I like reruns of Crossing Jordan. I'm also an unrepentant Trekkie. Yep, Star Trek in every form, from any era. Kirk to Archer, and all the movies. Gimme Trek.

Yeah, I'm dull, and I'm out of the loop. I know what I like, though.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Lighter Side!

Nice to see you haven't given up on the blog old man. ;)

While I enjoy the Secular society discussion I felt it the perfect time to take a diversion into the fun side. We did mention we'd have some fun things on here too!

1. Movies

I saw Jackie Chan and Jet Li's latest movie: Forbidden Kingdom and let me say this is a must see of fans of both actors! For one you get to see Jackie revisiting some of his classic "Drunken Master" moves, but this time as a master. For Jet Li fans you get to see the lighter side of this talented actor.

Those who dislike wire fu (I.e. running on branches and jumping in the air) should be warned, but not dissuaded. Unlike Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the entire movie isn't full of such antics, just parts.

The basic story line is as thin as most Hong Kong action movies, but there's enough there to move the action along. All in all a fun romp, but don't think too hard on it!

2. Video Games

Operation Darkness is coming out for the Xbox 360, and a demo is available for download. If you're a fan of SRPG's (Strategy RPG's) then you should check this one out. Now there ARE issues with this game, as with all games. First off is the camera. It's odd and for me it doesn't let you zoom out far enough. There IS a mini map (press Y) which helps a little but the camera is still touchy and can spin you around if you're not careful. Another thing to watch our for is it's got shades of Xcom in it where you can not take back moves and you can set up overwatch to shoot when the enemy movies. Unfortunetly while cover is important you have no control over your character's stances (I.e. Standing, kneeling, or crawling) . I always knock off points when I see this in a game because Xcom friggin had it over 20 years ago! O.O!

For me this game is a rent (gamefly has it listed) and I'll give a full review when I get the final product.

3. Board Games

Yep, I'm old school. How old school? Try D&D. No "A" mind you, D and Bloody D baby.

Which I find funny since I HATE the D20 system I still play it. :p

So I bring this up because 4th edition is on the way. (Dun dun dun!) So what's new? How about a major dummying down of the system, which at first blush sounds bad but I've been noticing it isn't always the case. Sometimes added complexity doesn't help matters (BESM 3rd edition).

The major deal with 4th edition is how they're starting to label classes into "roles" like in MMO's. So you've got Tanks, DPS, and healers, though they're calling them things like Controllers, Protectors, and leaders for D&D. I haven't read or seen much on the mechanics involved here but it certainly sounds like they're streamlining things here for ease of use. Which isn't always bad since you old school folks can remember the loss of a state. (Comleyness anyone?)

Add to the rules changes they are actually creating a "Virtual table top" for us to play with online. Unfortunetly I'm seeing lots of words like "subscribers" and the like that I don't want to see. One of the great things about role playing was it allowed you to bring in people who DID NOT buy these games and let them play. I hope there are free clients that folks can use to try it out because having to subscribe to play D&D? Don't think so.

All in all I'm optimistic, but in the end I won't buy anything since I doubt they'll fix my biggest complaints with the system. (Level based class system. :p )

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Godless Society, part deux

Oh, man, am I ever falling behind here or what? Very good stuff, Gozer. Btw, congratulations on your promotion in Frontier Fleet. All right, down to business.

Some time ago Gozer went on about a Godless society. He made several excellent points, but I felt that it needed to be expanded on. And so . . .

sec-u-lar (adj.) 1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things not regarded as sacred; temporal. 2. not relating to or concerned with religion (opposed to sacred) 3. concerned with nonreligious subjects. [Webster's American Family Dictionary, c. 1998, Random House]

A secular society is one that is not dominated by any system of religious belief. Which means, in real terms, there is no such thing. Society in the United States, for example, is dominated by Judeo-Christian beliefs. In contrast, Turkey is dominated by Islam and Japan, by Shintoism and Buddhism.

But all three are established as secular systems. What this means is that there is no official, state-sponsored religion. Unlike Great Britain, for instance, which has the Church of England. And even Old Blighty functions as a secular state, dealing as it is with a growing Muslim population.

The advantage of a secular system is that, in principle, no religion is banned. All are legal. As opposed to, say, Saudi Arabia where the legal penalty for conversion to Christianity is death. Of course, in this day and age they'd have a hard time enforcing that. They'd probably stop at letting the air out of your camel. But I digress.

Inevitably, people of like mind and background gather together and certain ideas tend to predominate. As in an Italian neighborhood, where most people are Catholic. And yet, legally at least, these people are prohibited from persecuting anyone who prefers to worship at a Mosque or a Synogogue.

A quick disclaimer; I am a Christian. If you're looking for a pigeonhole to stuff me into, try Evangelical Born-Again. Do a google search for the Nicene Creed and you've got my basic theology in a nutshell.

Christians, like other religious people, are often offended by what we see happening in our secular society. It's something that we religious types have to put up with. The up side is that you also have the freedom to be religious. As long as you don't hang out with a bunch of tolerant, open-minded liberals, that is.

Still, it's worth it to live in a secular society. To live in a religious one would quickly turn to oppression. Every non-christian loves to bring up the Spanish Inquisition. (NOOOObody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!) And, I suppose they're right to. It's proof that the most well-intentioned religious law can quickly turn Taliban.

On the other hand, to say that law should never reflect morality is ridiculous. Law, by its very nature, reflects morality. Even laws against things like murder and stealing reflect morality. In a secular democratic republic, the majority get to decide the moral leanings of its laws. Even so, there are people for whom killing and stealing are good things to do. Let's just hope they stay too busy killing and stealing to vote.

The thing we Christians, and other religious folk, have to remember is that freedom is risky. People who don't agree with us still get to use their freedom. For instance, the issue of gay marriage. I'm against it. I believe the bible is against it. Ya want chapter and verse? I'm dead sure that God himself is against it. And yet, I fear that it is inevitable unless we amend the constitution. Nothing in there currently, specifically, prohibits it. Back in the 1780's nobody at the Continental Congress apparently thought it was a big enough issue. At that time it was obviously immoral, like killing and stealing.

The goal is NOT a Godless society, but a secular one. One that does not discriminate. One that says, if it's all right to put the zodiac on the high school wall, it's also all right to put the ten commandments. I'm sorry, but I don't trust people who want to completely remove God from society. They would probably deny it, but the inevitable end is for them to set themselves up as god. Denying me my morality forces me to follow theirs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Expelled, the movie!

So, Ben Stein is doing a documentary about how Intelligent Design proponents or even mentioners are being hounded out of the scientific and educational communities. It sounds like it'd be an interesting movie to see and I hope to catch it eventually (being in the middle of nowhere will make that less likely until it comes out on DVD or something) but let me say this:

The premise of speaking out against the "established ideas" in science sounds a lot like how those who don't buy into Man-Made global warming are being treated.

The red headed step-children of science as it were. Pay no attention to the science or theories they're putting forward just call them names and shout them down. Kick them out of "proper" science or teaching because you don't want their kind there.

Sounds a lot like what happens to Conservatives in general in the education system as I pointed out before in the Indoctinate U post.

Do I believe in ID? Do I believe in evolution? I think there's plenty of evidence for both. I've joked around before that God created the world in 7 days through evolution by putting the world in Fast Forward. Who's to say that's not right either?

Basically for me the idea issue is still open, why shut the door on oposing ideas? Hell if you think we have such highly encoded data in our DNA that we STILL can't figure out after all these years working on it with modern computers was done COMPLETELY at random. Cool. If someone else thinks aliens came down and tinkered with some stuff to get the ball rolling here that's fine as well. To me there's evidence of both and holes in all theories big enough to drive a star through.