Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Landing #130

I watched the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis this morning, live on my computer.

A little over 29 years ago, I watched the first Space Shuttle landing, that of Columbia, live on my TV.

I was 7 months pregnant with my first child, and I cried. The accomplishment of landing a spacecraft like a normal airplane seemed so majestic, even spiritual.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't cry.  I attributed it to the pregnancy hormones but even watching today's landing I admit to tearing up just a little.

The Space Shuttle program is nearing its end. The baby I was carrying is now married and expecting his own first child. I'm no longer a 20-something, but a 50-something, reinvented multiple times since that first landing on April 14, 1981.

And in the process of verifying that date I discovered that the first landing, like everything else, is on YouTube.

It looks pretty much like all the landings except for the chase planes and the fact that it had never been done before.

This latest mission was number 132, which means that it's the 130th safe landing.

I will miss the shuttle program, which has only two more scheduled missions before retirement. However, it's not reasonable to expect NASA to continue with thirty year old technology.

In 1981 I watched on analogue cable TV; in 2010, on broadband Internet on a wide-screen HD monitor.

In 1981 I did not have a microwave oven, VCR, nor a cell phone. People didn't have home computers, and the Internet was in its infancy.

If I've moved on, I guess NASA should as well.

What's disappointing is that there is nothing comparable to replace the shuttle. Trips to the space station will continue via the Russian program and there are some vague rumblings about trips to the moon (or not) and Mars but that won't be in my lifetime.

It's difficult, as always, to justify the amount of money spent on space exploration when compared to funding needs on earth. But if it weren't for the space program, would American schools and hospitals be better off? Would the money really have been spent there or on other programs for the common good?

Funding magically appears for ventures such as the invasion of Iraq and bank bailouts so I can't help but feel that it's lack of motivation, not lack of resources, that has allowed most of the dysfunction in society to continue.

I was six years old when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, causing a spurt of science mania for the US, which couldn't let their Cold War enemies eclipse them technologically.

The igniting spark might have been political but the result was a better educated public and great strides in scientific achievement. Science was cool. If you got the grades, you studied science in school.

I completely fail to understand the current public attitude toward science. It seems to range between apathy to disdain to outright mistrust. And while it might be appropriate to question the motivations of corporations such as drug and oil companies, the underlying science in its pure form has no hidden agenda, according to the scientific method.

It was a shock to discover from my own kids that science and the space program were no longer cool and that hardly any of their peers went into science in University. It's beyond disturbing to read about the state of science education in parts of the United States and even Canada when religion tries to exert an influence in an area in which, in my opinion, it does not belong.

So now, as I watch the stock market sputter and the oil spill crisis unfold, I have to wonder whether a better educated society would have allowed corporations to fulfill their destinies with so few checks and balances.

Or was that the point, all along?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian women fight back against Freedom

Skimming through twitter today, the above headline caught my eye.

Canadian women fight back against Freedom?

First thought, a story about a right wing women's group propped up by the Harper government. One whose funding wasn't recently cut.

But clicking through revealed that it was a sports story about a Canadian women's soccer team playing against an American team named the "Freedom".


I'd like to have some of what they are smoking over at the Globe and Mail.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

STFU? Not a chance...

It seems there’s been quite an epidemic of potty mouth in politics these last few weeks.

In the US, both Senator Carl Levin and Vice President Joe Biden have had their sound bites bleeped for the words “shitty” and “fucking”, respectively.

In Canada, NDP MP Pat Martin threw an “ass” into the mix.

Now, in an even more shocking turn of events, a woman has joined in the profanity.

Not just a woman – a Senator, a Conservative, and a Senior Citizen.

I had to wonder, WTF?

Seriously, how can Nancy Ruth, a woman who has devoted her life to human rights and women’s issues, bring herself to tell women to be quiet about Canada’s plan to omit funding for abortion in the G8 maternal health initiative for developing countries?

You can hear it for yourself via the sound clip on the CBC page.

“I have every confidence that it will include family planning and so on” if “allowed to roll out”, Ms. Ruth said.

“And so on”? It’s a little late for euphemisms after you’ve told people to STFU.

Does “and so on” mean “abortion”? If not, does this government think that contraceptive planning is really a solution for those parts of the world where rape is endemic?
Are women supposed to carry around condoms to hand to their rapists?
If a woman’s only choices are to bring an unwanted child into the world or take a chance on an unregulated abortion, how does this help women and children lead healthy lives?

Another part of the statement that jumped out at me is this:

“This is not about women’s health in this country… Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t make this an election issue.”


I thought the initiative in question was for maternal health in developing countries. How did abortion in Canada suddenly land on the table?
Is Ms. Ruth saying that Canadian women are to care only for themselves, not for their sisters in other countries? If so, why is Canada undertaking a health initiative for those people in the first place?

My head is spinning.

No, this whole thing doesn’t add up. Kind of the opposite of “if it looks like a duck, etc. then it’s a duck”.
This is not a duck.

The more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that Nancy Ruth just might be a genius.

She has, with four little words, both given lip service to her party’s platform and blasted it to smithereens.

She had to know that telling Canadian women to STFU would have the opposite effect. And just in case, she threw in the so-called f-bomb, to ensure maximum media coverage.

“Don’t make this an election issue” could be code for “ladies, your rights here at home are in more danger than you think. Speak up now, let there be an election, get these Neanderthals out of office!”

“This is not about women’s health in this country” means “This IS about women’s health in this country.”

Finally, not once but twice Ms. Ruth planted the idea in our heads that she means the opposite of what she is saying:
“I hope I’m not proven wrong” closely followed by  “I hope I’m right”.

I hope I’m right too, and that Nancy Ruth is actually encouraging Canadian women to speak up, rather than showing signs of entering her dotage in a most public and embarrassing way.

In either case, however, I certainly have no intention of shutting the fuck up.

That was never ever an option.