Rick's web -- Tech Tips, Tricks, & Help
 
Unusually Long Heat Wave --
The streak of 100+ days continues here deep in the heart of Texas. Unfortunately, the heart of one of the more stubborn high pressure ridges we have seen in some time. The only reasonable comparison to this heat wave is the one in the summer of 1980. At that time we had 42 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We are currently setting at 33, I believe.  The only possibility for relief is to have the high move out, or perhaps for a tropical system to move in. This is the first time (in my 57 year old  memory) that we have an Excessive Heat Warning in place. In fact this year is the first time I have ever heard of that type of warning statement from the National Weather Service.

One Sweet Read -- East To the Dawn by Susan Butler. A very well researched biography focused on the use of primary source materials covering the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, possibly the most famous female aviator in history!

Mrs. Butler has done a superb job of researching and writing a comprehensive biography. Covering her family history up to her birth, Mrs. Butler has written a detailed, highly readable history of Ms. Earhart. From her early childhood, growing up, going to school, eventually going into social work, with an interleaved exceptional interest in mechanics and aviation. Mrs. Butler's work includes descriptive and vivid sections on her long distance flights and records of her accomplishments both in the air and in the field of women's rights.

Probably one of the best sections comes at the end of the book with her round the world flight attempt. Her initial attempt going west from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii was a new aspect of her ill-fated attempt. In fact, I had never understood this aspect of her 1937 efforts. Her Lockheed Electra landed heavily at Wheeler Field with damaged undercarriage components. On the attempted takeoff, the right side landing gear collapsed causing an unexpected and serious accident, which cost several weeks delay in getting the Electra repaired. From that point, getting the plane back to California for extensive repairs, she changed her plan for an east to west transit to the fateful east to west effort. Her plane with herself and Fred Noonan, her expert navigator never reached tiny Howland Island, her third from the last landing point needed to complete the attempt. Extensive searching by several organizations were completely fruitless. Mrs. Butler reviews the various "alternative" speculations as to what really happened. In superb writing based on extensive and meticulous research, Butler leaves the reader with the one unquestionable result of the attempt -- she and Noonan disappeared without a trace. If you like a readable biography with exceptional attention to detail and excellence in research, take the time to pick up East to the Dawn.  It is an exceptional read - well worth the time to savor it fully. You will not be disappointed.

Quite a lengthy review here. The next installment will look at two of the examples of democracy in inaction -- both with tragic consequences, one expected and one realized fully...
 
First sights... 07/26/2011
 
 Currently, the view is rather dark as "Falling Skies" plays in the background. s There have been several "alien" entertainment offerings. "Falling Skies" is unique in the field as it is TV series on TNT. The acting is good, the story line is complex and well done, and the special effects are generally well done as well. Definitely worth a peek, if you like alien (read extraterrestrial).

Late last week, humanity witnessed the end of a 30 year manned spaceflight effort. The last mission information site link tells the story more eloquently than I. The immediate fallout from this event is still raining down with the immediate effect showing up as several hundred jobs being cut from the NASA roles as well as the shutdown of the Mission Control Center at NASA JSC in Clear Lake, TX, outside of Houston. The future of manned spaceflight will be up to the private sector to establish and maintain, while NASA is charged with planning return of manned missions to the Moon and the initial interplanetary exploration by man to Mars. It will be interesting to see how both of these efforts will work together to maintain and extend manned space exploration. I believe we can continue to see NASA working with unmanned explorations in both near Earth, lunar, and interplanetary efforts - at least there are several missions in the planning and preparation phases at this time.

On a more science fictional note, I highly recommend the first book in Stephen Baxter's Time's Tapestry series, Emperor. The link will take you to Mr. Baxter's website. Click on the Works option on the top navigation area to see the entire constellation of his works to date. He writes "hard" science fiction - "hard" in this context means the story includes researched science works for the more "speculative" aspects of his stories. He makes sure that his stories stick closely to extant scientific reality, and he rarely takes liberties. His combination of following science fact with compelling stories makes Stephen Baxter one of the best science fiction authors writing today, at least in my honest opinion.

Quite a lot to see on the first trip around...Look for more soon.