Saturday, September 24, 2005

To whet the JMS B5 fans' appetites...

For those of you who are J. Michael Stracynski fans, particularly of his Babylon 5 work, he has announced that he is releasing, in paperback form, all 91 of the scripts he wrote for B5, including extras of "newly written introductions and commentaries about each episode that are thus far averaging about 30 pages per book, telling some of the behind-the-scenes stories that have never been told before (and some that have), talking about the writing process, how the arc was created and maintained, anectodes about cast and crew, what went into the stories..." and some other bonuses. They will be released in a 14-volume set, with about 7 scripts per book. It looks to be an interesting buy, especially if you like the scriptwriting part of the field. Click here to sign up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A spectacular duo

I suppose it's astronomy month here in Spooland, but there have been some spectacular nighttime sights this week, especially with the moon coming off of its harvest full-ness from this weekend. Tonight, it gave off a terrific waning gibbous view with Mars nearby. Here is a collage that I made from my photos of the view: [left] The Moon, with Mars at the bottom right [middle] A close-up of the Moon [right] A close-up of Mars. (click photo for a larger view)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Harvest Moon

I went out, at some point during the evening, the last three nights of this weekend to get pictures of the Harvest Moon this year. The best presentation occurred tonight, with a goldish tinge to it, which I am sharing here with you all. Hope you got to catch it in your neck of the woods.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Somber 4th Anniversary

I went out and took some pictures of the Pentagon today, as I have every year, in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of 9-11. You can see the section that was hit, at about the center of the facade, designated by the lighter stone that was used in the rebuilding of the SW face.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Celestial Trio

A total surprise happened tonight, when I let my cat out on the balcony to lounge a bit and happened to look at the twilight sky and saw an awesome astronomical sight! I wasn't expecting anything this spectacular--maybe a nice sunset--but found a waxing crescent moon hanging large near the horizon, flanked by Venus (left) and Jupiter (right)! (see star chart for September 6th) I suppose you could actually call this a celestial quartet, because the little blip of light between Venus and the Moon is the star Spica. (see illustration) I took several pictures of it with the tripod, trying to get at least one good one, but nearly all turned out great in some respect. I was so glad to have "accidentally" looked out the door to find such a beautiful surprise.

Friday, September 02, 2005

On Hurricane Katrina

I suppose it's about time for me to weigh in on the events of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast this weekend. First, let me preface this all by saying that my prayers and condolences go to all of the people who were affected by this storm, whether losing people and/or property in this natural tragedy. That being said, there are a few other observations I would like to make, especially after seeing others that carry similar sentiments as I.

First of all, this hurricane was predicted, and even tested for a year ago, and yet the evacuation and response was anything but successful. Everything that they trained for did not come to pass. So where was this disconnect? Even though the Mayor of New Orleans, sounding like one of the Superdome residents rather than the leader of the city, cussed out the President and Lousiana Governor on national radio (and now fears the CIA will remove him because of his unprofessional rantings), he should have been the first in the hierarchy to get things in proper order for the preparation and evacuation for the hurricane. It's not the President's (nor the federal government's) responsibility for what happens at the city level--that's what local governments are for. The Mayor's been pointing fingers at everyone except himself for the disastrous response pre- and post-Katrina. ([Update 9/20/05] This mayor is a piece of work...he called for people to reinhabit New Orleans, trying to boost tourism--without considering that the experts called the move "premature" and questioned his timeline for re-entering the city--and now has the audacity to rip the current FEMA chief for "stepping outside his lane" and calling off the return due to the impending Hurricane Rita that may hit the area. Nagin, who criticized FEMA for not doing anything before, now does an about-face and criticized the new FEMA chief for doing something that was in the self-interest of people's safety. Still pointing fingers at everyone else---he truly needs to find another job....) Here is a very good blog entry that echoes many of my own sentiments regarding the blame game that has been going on about and the attitudes toward this very disaster.

Secondly, what is taking so long for the relief efforts to come in? They knew just as well that this could be quite disastrous in scope--and it wasn't even as bad as originally predicted--but they seemed unprepared to come in very quickly. It has been noted that the FEMA chief Michael Brown was professionally unprepared for this type of job, and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff hardly expected the storm to be this bad, claiming that they had too little time to prepare for such a powerful landfall, assuming that it would perhaps change course. Apparently, Bush isn't satisfied with the lag time of relief, either. Even though Bush has taken responsibility for the federal government's part in the response delay, Louisana Governor Kathleen Blanco at least took some of the responsibility for the more local government's neglect and even blocking the relief efforts from coming in. Meanwhile, Nagin has taken no responsibility for his shortcomings as the first line of defense and has only pointed at Gov. Blanco, President Bush, FEMA/Feds, and whoever else he can find his finger to go to besides himself. Everyone has a part in how this went awry, but the lack of humility and responsibility the mayor has shown shows his arrogance and childish finger-pointing, rather than like a responsible adult in the leadership position he had been elected to. Finding where the glitches are in the process is productive and will help future situations; playing the blame game does nothing but make one look like a whining brat.

Speaking of relief, I noted to myself but didn't see anything in the media except one commentary today on the same idea, that as much aid as we have given to other countries in crisis--including $1 billion in aid to the Tsunami crisis--we have hardly received any significant offers whatsoever from other countries. They may not have the means by which to help, but any gesture would be appreciated. Apparently, they think we can handle our own--and everyone else's--disasters on our own without any negative repercussions. (Update: There have finally been more offers coming from other countries--the Middle East, no less--of $500 Million pledged from Kuwait, and $100 Million from Qatar.)

Thirdly, crises seem to either bring out the best or the worst of humanity, and it seems that this has brought out the worst with the looting, raping, and violence that has been going on in an anarchist society that has come about with everything being wiped out. This commenter posited that if residents of New Orleans might have had different inclinations if they'd been taught the basics of law: the Ten Commandments, one of which is "You shall not steal." Surely we can come together in times like this, instead of taking awful advantage of a terrible situation. Interestingly enough, the police/national guard/whoever haven't really taken hold of the problem, either, so it continues.

Interestingly, some people have considered Katrina some sort of divine retribution for the sins of New Orleans, being a city of debauchery and the occult, or even on a larger scale as a national payback for supporting Israel to compromise land to the Palestinians. More generally, people like Hal Lindsey and Pat Robertson have commented on whether this and other large, more frequent natural disasters are signs that indicate the Second Coming of Christ is getting nearer (though other Christian commentators and some scientists would beg to differ). Whether these assumptions are true or not, this news report talks about how some National Guard soldiers are definitely experiencing some supernatural occurrences on their watches. Regardless, it appears that some prayer would not hurt not only for the victims of this hurricane, but also for the state of our nation as a whole.

At best, I suppose we can learn from our mistakes. If we don't, we'll set ourselves up for worse trouble and chaos in the future. Time will tell if we have indeed learned.

Click on these links if you would like to make a donation for the victims of the hurricane at the Red Cross , the Salvation Army, World Vision, the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Fund, or Catholic Charities.