Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Achieving Orbit

We woke up early thanks to our daughter's special interest in NASA's program, today the launching of a space shuttle. The events were well timed and exceptions minimal. NASA still does great control room. We watched it with Bob Schieffer, a CBS anchor I've always liked.

This is two years after the tragic loss of the previous shuttle, owing to exceptions at launch. This shuttle trip is all about repairing that damage, which many said was evidence of a loss of safety- consciousness at NASA. If true, or even if not, we might use this opportunity to remind ourselves that loss of safety-consciousness is not a phenomenon limited to NASA. Please drive safely.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Followup, July 28, 2005: Per today's New York Times front page, exceptions were not minimal as I'd earlier surmised: a big piece of foam broke away from the fuel tank, like last time (although this time it missed hitting the shuttle). So a root cause of the last shuttle disaster hasn't been fixed. The launch process is still unacceptably dangerous.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More on USA OS

I was listening to this guy on public radio last night, trying to persuade us that the founding fathers were for the most part Puritan, that Deists were the exception, not the rule, and that French Enlightenment fathers such as Voltaire, were not the source of the American Revolution, nor behind the establishment of the United States thereof, in the form of two founding documents: the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States.

He started teaching us a specific vocabulary around "covenant," of Biblical origin, for contextualizing the Constitution. What was important to him was to see USA OS as a subprocess of a Christian process, not a fork, and not a separate, secularist process, as if such a thing were possible (how could a process operate without God's guidance? -- we all need to be started and stopped from within the OS, no?). Gays and lesbians were a special target of his, i.e. we wouldn't be giving them such liberties were his Xtian OS running the show, and wouldn't that be agreeable? I didn't agree.

Like many listeners, my mind shot to the Native Americans, who were already here and doing cyberspace (or spooky governance or whatever the chiefs wanna call it). Europeans had a lot to learn when they got here. The arrogant know-it-alls proved difficult to teach, so why bother? There were plenty wanting to get it, about this place. Ben Franklin for example -- part of our national treasure (was the radio guy hoping we'd just forget that?). As a scientist cum anthropologist, Ben cared what Native Americans had learned from living in North America for some thousands upon thousands of years. When Mazama blew, they/we knew. Crater Lake. Then in 1980, Mt. St. Helens (which has other names as well). I think we're all impressed by God's energy -- way bigger than our own (saw the new War of the Worlds last night -- Tom had a lot to work through).

Anyway, back to USA OS, I see her as coming a long way since the 1600s, and the East India Company days. The Puritan voice is still heard, most definitely, and the commitment to democracy in their language is strong, and an important part of our heritage, nothing to deny or try to silence in any way. We are grateful for First Amendment principles, which enshrine the sanctity of human speech, about practically any subject, because we value Language as a gift from God (why not? -- why not be thankful? (Atheists and Nontheists, think of God-talk as a grammar for expressing gratitude, but not, thereby, subservience to any other human or human establishment)).

We value Puritan speech.

And we also listen to the American Transcendentalists. We read No More Secondhand God by R. Buckminster Fuller. We're a pretty smart people. Geeky, like the Greeks. Programming an operating system is something we'll do for breakfast. USA OS is our project, we shield it and give it serious attention, and we're good at what we do. And we're not all of us Christians, and that's perfectly OK, or as the bumper sticker goes: "Just Ducky with God."