You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded.
To the question, “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, “Why not?”
Atheist: Natural Morals, Real Meaning, Credible Truth

27 February, 2011

Discovery on its way, one last time.

Some lucky people got to see Discovery launch on it's final mission the other day. This image from an airliner (in the right place at the right time) is awesome. 
Humans accelerating millions of pounds of spacecraft to 17,000mph is puny in comparison to nature and the grand scheme of things. 
The Pale Blue Dot, up close.

via @Crooooow from an airline window seat

25 February, 2011

The Frustrating, Difficult, Never-Ending Search for God

"We may not know precisely what God is, but our tradition clearly tells us what God does: God heals the sick, clothes the naked, houses the homeless and pursues peace."

Really? Based on our traditions that include slavery, torture, genocide, persecutio­n and murder? Those traditions tell us god also feeds and clothes us? Really? The same god who aborts many more babies DAILY than we have ever done? Who wipes out thousands with volcanos, earth quakes and tsunamis? REALLY? I've never had any religion or faith, so to hear intelligen­t people say this stuff with a straight face is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I poke my head in here occasional­ly, see this stuff and go running for some rationalit­y in a Science blog.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Fwd: Liz

Begin forwarded message(s):
On Nov 23, 2010, at 2:03 PM, George wrote:

Hi Tom,
When does Liz get her Master's?
She sent me some pictures of your new stairs. Very nice. Hope you are surviving home ownership...


Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 14:38:59 -0800

To: George

She keeps claiming that she'll be done on 14 Dec but that is just when classes are done. I'll have to find out when she "walks" or gets the sheepskin.

This house will kill me.
It is evil.
It has Liz under it's control.
I fear that it will make her smother me in my sleep.


Subject: RE: Liz
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 02:23:02 +0000

Sounds like a Stephen King novel. Cindy was crazed when we bought our house in San Jose. She still cries over selling it. I will never buy another house for as long as I live.

Let me know when she gets her diploma. My sister and my parents would not believe this. Liz really changed her life, something that many of us talk about but very few do.

On Feb 25, 2011, at 8:59 AM, George Vadney wrote:
I hope you are still alive and Liz has not smothered you in your sleep. I wanted to wait until she graduated before we told her our gift, but Liz pushed me by being too worried about paying us back. We hope this helps the stress level for you 2.
Subject: Re: Liz
I am ok. The house tried to knock her off instead, she slipped and busted her butt on the driveway after going down the stairs we put in to keep her from breaking her neck.

I kept trying to figure out when she walks, I am still confused, it appears there are three events, one informal one in her school's office (April), one formal one for just her school (May), and then the general graduation for the university at Spartan Stadium (May). She only wants to do the informal one, typical for her.

This is an amazing gift that greatly relieves our stress level. :-) I'd gush more about it if I didn't think you'd roll your eyes at me. Having not known the Liz before, I don't know the change. But I am really proud of who she is and what she does, the stubborn effort she put into getting this done (you have no idea what it took to get through the math) and the amazing things she does for her kids in her class. Her former boss who retired last year flies and works with me at the airport in Watsonville. After she retired and could talk to me, she told me that Liz orchestrates her classroom full of kids and aides into a calm world of work and learning, can look a parent in the eyes and tell them what their child needs, and can find a way to make progress with the most difficult students. Your gift will do a lot of good.
Thanks to you both!


An Atheist's View On Abortion

An Atheist's View On Abortion

A clearly worded view on abortion. I've seen abortion as the removal of a tissue growth if done early enough. Even later, without viability, the fetus to me isn't more than a sad story, the evidence being that brain functioning isn't more than automatic survival until very late. I do think every abortion in the later two trimesters should be considered and performed as a birthing in case the fetus does survive without support.

In regards to a soul, I think it doesn't exist outside of the brain. That is pretty much clear to anyone without the corruption of religious belief and even the basics of human biology. Just the fact that a doctor can very effectively shut off your thinking with a couple of drugs makes this obvious. The nature of consciousness is still a scientific frontier that I look forward to future discoveries in. The amazingly complicated system of connections in the brain seems to be leading to it, but how... wow. Considering how the brain is put together and how it evolved, it is amazing we have the capacity to have an intelligent thought at all. Or that mental illness or developmental issues like autism isn't more common. But to attribute this capability to an immortal soul is to ignore the obvious evidence.

The Republican war on Planned Parenthood seems to be a smoke screen to the fact that they can't do what they were elected to do, balance the budget. They can't do it with what they are doing, this is only a stall tactic to get to 2012 with some ability to get into the White House. As with religion, it is all about power, acquiring it and keeping it.

12 February, 2011

New fasteners! :-)

I finished installing new fasteners on the cheek panels on the side of the nose of 44D. Now I need to get a kit for the upper cowl fasteners, I am feeling confident about drilling out old rivets and popping in new ones.  The lower panels on the nose were losing their old fasteners and I was tired to trying to replace them, besides the fact that the panels themselves were wearing thin around the fastener holes.  On the left side, it was down to 5 of the 10 fasteners remaining, I finally hit my level of "I have to do something about this" threshold. Losing the panel in flight would probably mess up the engine cooling and I'd have to find a place to land.  Not that I ever go anywhere, but I do have plans to go visit grandpa soon.  

The new receptacle, had to drill out the old rivets and pop these in. The new fastener is nice since they are adjustable in depth. The old ones had to have the right depth fitting for each hole, since the holes were wearing differently. Not really wearing, pulling through the panel.

Right side cheek panel with new fasteners.

Left side with dramatic view of pilot's window and tail in the background.

44D also got a new canopy cover to the  tune of $500.  I hope it is worth it.

06 February, 2011

Finished reading Pullman's "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ"

I read Phillip Pullman's "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ".  I liked it, it is an easy read.  An alternative story of Jesus Christ that could explain the story we have today.

02 February, 2011

Green Flash!

I finally saw a green flash last night at sunset over the ocean. Clear horizon and cold air. I stopped at a scenic overlook on the way to the airport thinking I might have a chance. Sure enough! Yay! Just wish I had my camera with me. :-( No chance tonight with cloud cover on the horizon.

This hardly compares with the news from NASA today about the Kepler mission's success. This is very cool! Staring at a region of space that covers only 1/400th of our galaxy and they find more than 1200 potential planets. 50 of them in "habitable zones" around their stars. Scale that up and you get at least 20,000 planets in the right place for liquid water, potentially life, in our galaxy.
Motherlode of potential planets found: more than 1200 alien worlds!

With the potential of a million planets in just our galaxy being in the habitable zone of their stars, the chances of life elsewhere are huge, especially since we are thinking even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have conditions that could breed life. Pretty amazing. Because of the physics of space and distance, we'll probably not visit or maybe even see any, but detecting the signatures of life is entirely possible.