Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 9:41:46 AM by Stephanie
Just a quick update this morning. First, Adam Bell is safely in Houston -- with WiFi (at least he'll be able to use it as soon as he can get the Apple geniuses to help him get the card installed into his G5). Go Adam! ;)
Second, most of the best coverage of this hurricane is coming from bloggers. Brendon Loy's Irish Trojan's blog is one of the best -- I didn't mention it last night. He's keeping it updated with reports from all over.
Last, though devastation will certainly be great, I'm happy to see that the storm did calm down a bit as well as moved slightly east. There may be a Mardi Gras again. Good luck, New Orleans!
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2005 9:54:16 PM by Stephanie
I just wanted to give a shout out to my friends in New Orleans. Thanks for hosting us at MAX last year. It was fun. To my friend, Adam Bell, I hope you're safely in Houston by now. (And I hope the New Orleans User Group is safely evacuated.)
All that said, I'm a Florida girl. I lived in Baton Rouge, LA till I was three, and then to Jacksonville, FL until I was about 20. For about 9 or 10 years now, I've been back in beach country in Wilmington, NC. Yes, I'm definitely hurricane saavy. And so, I watch in horror as Katrina prepares to decimate the gulf coast. And at this point, I do mean decimate.
I've been talking to a friend on MSN and comparing links to information about/from the area. Interesting stuff. I hope we don't see a repeat of the hurricane parties that ended in devastation during Camille. I hope people were wise enough to leave... but watching the Weather Channel earlier tonight, I saw 20-somethings that seemed almost excited -- "We're staying. We've never been in a hurricane before and we really don't know what to expect," the young couple said grinning. Oh my. I know what to expect.
If you'd like an idea, check out:
- The Weather Channel's blog - blogging by the meteorologists that bring you the best.
- Storm Digest Blog - real talk about the weather -- interesting stuff.
- Insomnia: New Orleans Stories - live blogging by people who didn't leave -- though without generators, I doubt we'll hear from them for much longer tonight
- Darwin calling on New Orleans - an intersting post discussing the situation's gravity.
- Weather Underground - blog from the Wunderground
I'd love to think that they'll all get out of there, Katrina will drop to a level three before hitting, and we'll all live happily ever after. Time will tell.
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 1:05:53 AM by Big John
As a confirmed Spacebug, I'm always aware of the gadgets we humans send careening or crawling around the neighborhood. Cassini is performing its massively pre-choreographed 4 year loop-dance around Saturn with dizzying precision, playing tag with the various moons and rings. Other probes are snapping the Sun, capturing the Cosmos, and roughing up innocent comets. This is the real Golden Age of space exploration, folks.
But one achievement surpasses all others of recent memory. At this very moment down on the dusty surface of the Red Planet, two ridiculous six-wheeled contraptions are driving around, imaging, sampling, and spectrumizing for us, and they have been doing this in a cold harsh alien enviroment for almost a full martian year. That's about two Earth years, kids.
"So what?" I hear you say? Well, prior to this mission, Mars was known as the "mission graveyard," swallowing up two thirds of the machines we sent its way. But we got both rovers down on the surface in perfect condition, despite scary last minute changes to adjust for dust storm activity. Then once down, a software glitch nearly killed off Spirit in the first month of service. Only an emergency "backdoor" recovery command secretly installed by a paranoid JPL geek saved the day.
Our high tech dune buggies were only meant to last 90 days with any confidence, altho it was hoped that they would stand up longer. Also remember they have had NO maintainance in all this time, unless helpful Martians are sneaking around at night with socket sets and lube guns. Besides that, these are solar powered toys, and dust buildup was supposed to eventually smother their power flows forever. Amazingly that hasn't happened, thanks to playful and very handy dust devils that apparently come along and perform "cleaning events," thank you very much!
Each rover is sporting a bum wheel now, but they persevere, dragging, pushing, and damn well FORCING progress to happen. Opportunity plowed into a big soft dune and got stuck for weeks, but dang if it didn't bust loose once more. Spirit had nothing but boring basalt to look at, so it "headed for the hills" almost two bloody miles distant across a rubble strewn plain, climbed them hills (with 5 working wheels and an anchor-wheel, in winter yet), and is now poised only 70 meters from the highest summit! Veni vidi vici.
These go-carts were never meant to be billygoats. They aren't really dune buggies. Their "brains" are available only thru a very slow and intermittent dialup from Earth. And yet they soldier on. They have survived crisis after crisis, many not well known to the public. Spirit has lasted so long that its rock abrasion tool is wearing out! Nobody ever suspected that would become a problem, and now they have to do wheel scuffs as a substitute. Hey, whatever it takes, man.
Finally, they have totally nailed their primary mission, to see if Mars really was once a wet world. It was, and we now know this thanks to those two beautiful expressions of the Geek Spirit. Millions of Geek-hours and about a billion bucks went into the mission, and it has paid off big, BIG TIME.
When I was young I dreamed of such things, but it seemed absurd to suppose it could ever actually happen, especially after we found out how expensive and difficult space travel really is. Many other geeks dreamed the same dreams, and somehow made it a reality. Now only one big question remains to be settled there.
Was Mars once a living world, and if so, does it still live?
This geek expects to learn the answer one day.