excuses, excuses

As it happens, I’m in the midst of preparation for another trip, this one pretty literally the most important one of my lifetime thus far. Since I try to keep my religion and politics off this blog, I don’t have too much more to say about that, or about the whole WisCon fracas (aside from saying that as far as pure science fiction writing ability goes, replacing Elizabeth Moon with Nisi Shawl is a laudable coup indeed).

With deference to Mrs Moon, I ask for a little more forebearance from my readers!

Related, I do not endorse it, but do guiltily admit to finding this hysterical (via Brickmuppet).

UPDATE (unrelated): this is why you should always try to engage another blogger with a post link rather than an email. We are bloggers. We shouldn’t ever have any reason to email each other.

Headed to Stockholm tomorrow

I’m going on a trip to Stockholm tomorrow, for my annual conference. Will try to post photos etc. In the meantime, any suggestions on essential things to do there would be welcome… probably won’t have any time to do anything extra-curricular, but who knows.

Also, I also always drink ginger ale on planes. Funny, that – I thought it was just me.

video: rebooting air travel in Europe

Amazing video of European air travel starting up again after the volcano:

Airspace Rebooted from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

I found this via Mark Ashley‘s indispensable air-traveller blog. Mark notes,

You’ll notice some gaps, especially over France. That doesn’t mean that there’s no radar over French airspace. Rather, the website’s data are gathered by individual aviation enthusiasts who hook receivers up to their computers, to capture and track planes with ADS-B transponders. It’s an enthusiast community, sorta like HAM radio operators. (I’ll defer to the site’s “About” link for an explanation, since I claim no expertise in transponders.)

But regardless of the technology driving the site, it’s a neat video. You’ll notice a few test flights, some flying a loop. Then a few more. And then, the deluge.

In particular, note the impact when London Heathrow comes online. A behemoth.

All this is particularly reassuring to me personally as I have a little trip to Europe myself coming up.

the Romanticist astronaut

Steven is a bit harsh on Brickmuppet, who was complaining that we haven’t escaped low-earth orbit in four decades, and how that represented a betrayal of our generation’s birthright. Steven argues that the past 40 years, dominated by unequivocally successful space probes throughout the solar system and (in the case of Voyager) beyond, have been anything but a betrayal, but I think Steven misses the point.

Steven is right, that the best way to do science is via unmanned probes. You can pack more sensors and bring back more data without the need to keep a human being alive – this is just the simple reality of biology, information theory, and physics. But the space program was only partly about science, it was also about something more primal, about something that is unique to the human animal, the need to explore and understand. That indefinable wanderlust has been the subject of artistic exploration as well as physical – I think it’s best captured by Romanticist art, in particular the famous painting The Wanderer (1818) by German artist Caspar David Friedrich:

471px-Caspar_David_Friedrich_032.jpg

I’ll leave the meta-analysis to Wikipedia but I think anyone will recognize a familiar emotion in this work – the same emotion that makes us receptive to 2001: a Space Odyssey, or Star Trek, or even Lord of the Rings. The space program was the ultimate expression of this wanderlust because it was real – the possibility existed that we might actually follow where our imaginations have lead. All of us wanted to be an astronaut, and most of us still do. Maybe our children will yet be, one day.

back from Mombasa

I intended to mention that I was going on a trip to Mombasa, Kenya but seem to have neglected to do so here (though I did mention it here). At any rate, I am back. Whether this translates into more blogging or not is an orthogonal question 🙂

I will say though that this was my first visit to Africa (aside from a childhood visit to Egypt), and certainly my first visit to the Other Hemisphere. The toilets flushed the same direction, as far as I could tell.