Friday, February 29, 2008

Stop Spying on Me

I haven't put a lot on this blog about political issues. You can probably figure out some of those issues if you have been following the news items that I have shared through Google Reader. The protection of the freedoms granted to us in this country is very important to me. These freedoms are being eroded away, not by the terrorists, but by those who "claim" to have our best interests at heart.

Currently the US government is asking cell phone companies to tap the calls of its users. This is illegal. Now the government wants to cover up this transgression by granting immunity to those telecommunications companies who cooperated with the government. This is wrong. Our elected officials have a responsibility to uphold the laws of our country, not bypass them. The PFAW - The People for the American Way and the EFF - Electronic Frontiers Foundation have created a petition. Please consider signing it.

Please, Sign the Petition.

Happy Leap Day

If I wasn't home sick, I would want to celebrate this day. An extra 24 hours of life this year - ENJOY THEM. Check out this awesome Leap Year Card by Roy Dotty. If you are curious as to why we have this extra day this year, Phil Plait has a detailed explanation.

I'm feeling a lot better, Thanks

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am Third Wave

You have heard me rave about the novel Playing for Keeps in an earlier blog post. It is time for the truth to come out. I am Third Wave. Look below to find out my secret superhero identity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I am sick, I have been for at least a week. I think I have a mild flu... and I even got a flu shot. As John talked about on the news, there is a flu strain that wasn't covered by the vaccine. This makes me unhappy. I'll try and post all about the cool things I have been up to when I get better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipsed Birthday

Just a quick note to wish my Dad a Happy Birthday! I'll never tell how old you are.

And a reminder to everyone else that the there will be a total lunar Eclipse visible from Europe and North America tonight. For details on viewing in your area, check Space Weather.

The picture above is from a trip to Colorado (not the X-Prize Cup in New Mexico as I originally thought). Those pictures haven't made it to Flickr yet, but some others have. Check them out here.

Happy Observing

Sunday, February 10, 2008

China Road

I really don’t want to turn this blog into a series of reviews, but I must comment on the book, China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford.

Rob Gifford is a correspondent for NPR who had been living in China for 20 years. Before leaving this post and becoming NPR’s London correspondent, Gifford decided to travel China’s Route 312 across the country. For those of us in the US, this is the equivalent of driving Route 66 or I-70 from east to west.

This book is so many things. It is a travel log of his experiences along the road. It is a glimpse into the every day lives of people across the country. It ties the past to the present and provides context for the situation in which China currently finds itself. It is a long last look at a complex country where Gifford made his home, before he moves on.

My 9 weeks in China were nothing compared to Gifford’s experiences. I was a student in an international program with people, not just from China, but from all over the world. Gifford spent 20 years there as a journalist. I can’t speak the language. Gifford can, and used that ability to interact with people, and ask deep questions. I barely left Beijing. Gifford traveled Route 312. Despite these differences, I feel I understand a lot of what Gifford discusses in this book.

Before I went to China, I tried to educate myself a bit on the country. I watched some specials, I read some books. While I was there, I kept my eyes open. I made sure I talked to our Chinese classmates, whom it was my honor to meet. I was also in the “Space and Society” department, which exposed me to more of Chinese culture than I may have seen otherwise. My conclusion leaving China was that it was a much more complex place than many of us in the “West” are led to believe.

In China Road, Gifford paints this picture of the complex place that is modern China. Along his journey he talk to whomever he can from Amway salesmen to the ethnic peoples of the Gobi desert to a woman who enforces China’s One Child policy.

In addition to the book itself, there is a series of audio journals that aired on NPR’s morning edition. In these segments you not only hear the author’s own voice, but the voices of those he interviews.

If you are curious about China, are considering traveling there, or have ever gone there, I highly recommend the NPR morning Edition Segments and this fantastic book (in either audio or print form). You may wish to stop by Rob Gifford’s web site.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Black Holes and Balance Beams

Despite my excitement about all that is going on right now, there are unfortunate consequences. The biggest casualty of my constant desire to put my fingers in every possible pie is e-mail. My e-mail boxes just keep getting bigger and bigger. This disease affects no only my personal e-mail (>800 unread messages that span the years since I created the e-mail address) but also my work e-mail. Often, people will think that I am ignoring them, or perhaps that I don't care, but no... the e-mail has just vanished into the black hole that is my inbox. I feel I don't have the time to respond appropriately, so the message sits and waits. I am hoping that sometime soon I will learn how to stop time, or at least slow it down to get caught up... but the reality is that if I learned how to do that, I would just try to do even more things creating some sort of infinite loop.

The other consequence is that some weeks everything hits at once. This week and next are such weeks. I have worked long hours almost every day this week trying to finish up a document before I go out of town. Am I required to... No... but I am a perfectionist and I want to produce a good product, so I work to get the best possible product out before I go to a space conference next week. But wait! If I am working late, that means I am not evaluating applications, reading e-mail relating to aforementioned space conference, doing laundry, paying the bills, getting my hair cut, or any of the other myriad of things that I have to do before I leave on Monday. It all makes me tired.

Really, I am not complaining. I know it sounds like I am, but I'm not. I broadcast this out to the universe so you can all understand a bit more about me, and the things I do to myself. One day, I am going to learn how to balance time, work, play, etc... but I wouldn't place any bets on when. Until then, off I go to fight another day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

State of the Blog

Those very attentive souls will have noticed some changes to the bar on the right hand side of the blog. I have had some complaints about how the calendar appeared on the blog and that it was difficult to see the events. Thus, I have just made a link to another web site that just shows the calendar.

Beyond that, there is a new bar that shows some news items that I have found interesting. The most recent items that I share in Google Reader will show up in that bar. Items may range from the most recent space news, to art sales, to whatever.

Finally, I am once again keeping a list of books I have finished either reading or listening to in 2008. You can keep track of my progress throughout the year. Last year I fell off from updating the list, I hope to do better this year. Currently I am in the middle of reading the following books (yes all at the same time), so PLEASE, no spoilers:
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (started in 2007)
  • The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  • The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanly Robinson (started in 2007)
  • The China Road by Rob Gifford (audio)
And probably some others that I have forgotten and will have to start over.

Two Thousand and Eight

It is now February, and 2008 is 1/12 over. Thus far, 2008 has remained a pretty sedate year with no travel outside the greater Washington D.C. and greater Baltimore Area. This will change very soon.

I have never been surfing, yet I have seen it in movies. You paddle out into deep water and wait for the wave. Soon, the wave comes and there is a heady rush of surfing that wave, trying to balance all of the complex variables, and suddenly you have either reached the shore or fallen in the water. The first 5 weeks of 2008 were like paddling out into that rough water, getting ready to surf those waves. Pretty soon, those waves are going to crest. Whether I want to or not, I am going to be swept towards the shore. Before I know it, 2008 will be 2009.

So what is in store for 2008? Of course I can't predict anything, I can make a forecast. (Just don't ask me to give you a percent accuracy.)
  • 3 trips to Europe (at a minimum)
  • Several trips around the US (at least 7 states + DC)
  • Speaking at 2-3 science fiction conventions (2 confirmed)
  • Attending space conventions
  • Taekwondo (if I can find a place that will work with aforementioned travel)
  • Interesting developments at work
  • Lots of both animated and boring talk about the next president of the USA
I have been looking forward to 2008 more than any year in recent memory. While I am sure things will get overwhelming soon, it is going to be interesting and fun. Part of why I started this blog, was as a commitment to myself to live life to the fullest. Take the experiences life gives you and make the best of them. Here is to 2008, may the Earth be a better place at the end than the beginning, and may I have some role in making it so.