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Time-wasting Nerd Fun

I haven’t got much done these last few days. I’ve been too busy watching the Nasa TV live feed from the Hubble servicing mission.

Hubble attached to the shuttle bay with the Earth in the background

The problems they have on a mission like this are so wonderfully groan-in-sympathy familiar: stuck bolts. Like working on old plumbing, with the same issues. They’re too professional to say it, but if I was in the control room there’d be a lot of, “Watch out! Don’t strip that thing. Omigod. You stripped it.” And so on.

Yesterday, Mike Massimino had to get at a failed power card inside the telescope. It wasn’t designed for removal, so the access plate was held down with over a hundred screws of a bunch of different sizes, which was itself behind a great big steel bar of a handhold on the surface of the telescope. The steel bar had a stuck bolt. It would not come off.

They have mockups on the ground of the same setup. Some smart tech figured out you could break the whole thing off. They showed video. The thing snapped with a bang like a rifle and shot across the room.

I love the language they use in the astronaut business. When they were going back and forth about this maneuver with Massimino on the telescope — a maneuver that could shred his suit and the telescope if it went wrong — ground Control said, “We’re a bit concerned about the stored energy in the handhold.”

One of the striking things, watching the astronauts work, is how slowly everything goes. They move slowly, slowly, slowly, like fish in glycerin. They can barely bend their hands to grasp tools because of all the pressure keeping them alive inside their suits. But when I was watching Massimino on that one space walk, everything seemed way speeded up. At first I thought they were running file footage at double speed. Then I learned he’s from New York.

And now, folks, sorry, but I have things to do. Got to watch them putting the new thermal insulation “blankets” around all that great new equipment they’ve successfully put in. As Jack Horkheimer says, “Keep looking up!” There’ll be great new Hubble pics coming out of this.

Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Breakfast Read

  • Obama at Notre Dame
  • Obama’s commencement speach at Notre Dame has been the new cri de guerre for some in the last couple of days. It’s over now. So what’s next? Can Randall Terry and Alan Keys go back to nowhere where they belong?

    At Notre Dame, Obama Calls for Civil Tone in Abortion Debate

    As anti-abortion demonstrators protested outside and a few hecklers shouted inside, Mr. Obama used a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame to call for more “open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words” in a debate that has polarized the country for decades. The audience at this Roman Catholic institution cheered his message and drowned out protesters, some of whom called him a “baby killer.”

    Conciliatory Fighting Words

    There were many messages sent from South Bend. Obama’s opponents seek to reignite the culture wars. He doesn’t. They would reduce religious faith to a narrow set of issues. He refused to join them. They often see theological arguments as leading to certainty. He opted for humility.
    He did all this without skirting the abortion question and without flinching from the “controversy surrounding my visit here.”

    Anti-abortion protests mar President Obama’s degree award

    President Obama made a controversial appearance at America’s foremost Catholic university yesterday, where angry protesters were arrested as they demonstrated against his support of abortion rights.

  • The Hottest of All Hot Potatoes
  • Could the stakes be any higher?

    Ahead of summit, Obama and Netanyahu press different agendas

    When the leaders meet Monday, the US will push for progress toward a Palestinian state, while Israel will ask for a harder line on Iran.

    Iran, not Palestine, tops Israel’s agenda

    Today’s US-Israeli summit is scripted to end happily. Any real differences will be exposed later

    Netanyahu under pressure over Palestinian state

    Barack Obama attempts to ward off disastrous military air strike on ‘nuclear’ Tehran

    President Obama will seek today to persuade the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister that the White House’s recent overtures to Iran should be given time to work and that an Israeli military strike against Tehran could trigger disaster.

    Israeli PM faces tough talks in US

    Jackson Diehl of the WaPo does an excellent job in analyzing the stakes in today’s meeting between these two very different politicians.
    Mideast Contest Of Wills

    Roger Cohen chimes in with some history
    Arabs, Persians, Jews

  • The Question We Will Keep Mulling Over
  • From a Liberal point of view, many policies of the Obama administration have been below expectation, but still better than what a Republican could have come up with. However, more and more are asking themselves how far they can agree with simply “better” Republican policies or how much compromise they can live with.
    Liberals Fret Over Obama’s Compromises

    President Barack Obama’s decision to maintain Bush-era military commissions is the latest in a series of compromises and delays that allies on the left see as a disappointing shift away from campaign pledges.
    On everything from national security to climate change to immigration, liberal groups are saying the president’s recent actions contradict his soothing ability to convince them that he will move dramatically on their issues.

    Paul Krugman faces the same dilemma
    The Perfect, the Good, the Planet

    [A] somewhat uneasy coalition of progressives and centrists rules Washington, and staking out a position has become much trickier. Policy tends to move things in a desirable direction, yet to fall short of what you’d hoped to see. And the question becomes how many compromises, how much watering down, one is willing to accept.

  • Torturegate
  • The GOP finally found the culprit and wants justice
    GOP turn up volume on Pelosi comment on CIA

    Why won’t the Addams Cheney family go away and leave us alone?
    Iraq war case wasn’t built on the waterboard, Liz Cheney says

  • GOP Quo Vadis?
  • GOP sounds alarm on Latino voter gap

    GOP gives Dick Cheney green light

  • Economy Watch
  • I beg of thee. Tell me this is a joke:
    At Geithner’s Treasury, Key Decisions on Hold

    Many Advisers’ Roles Are Undefined And Others Still Awaiting Confirmation

    After throwing gazillion after gazillion because “Too Big” shouldn’t fail, did we forget the little guys? Or was that the whole point?

    While investors have focused mostly on the nation’s largest 19 banks that were the subject of the government stress tests, shares of some smaller banks have been getting pummeled since last week’s rollout of the test results.

    Rising Incomes May Help Democrats Avert 2010 Election Debacle

    Coping with the worst economy in a half century and unemployment likely to peak at a 26-year high around the middle of next year, Democrats by rights should be facing the prospect of a disaster in the November 2010 congressional elections.
    They aren’t.

    Toyota Rolls Out New Prius

  • The Swine Flu Is Still Here
  • Assistant principal is 1st NYC swine flu death

    Jump in swine flu cases in Japan

    The number of swine flu cases in Japan has risen rapidly – with more than 120 cases now confirmed.

  • Iraq War – The Sequel
  • The Bad
    Horror and stresses of Iraq duty led US sergeant to kill comrades

    The Good
    From Serving in Iraq to Welcoming White House Guests

    She is on hand to greet nearly every official visitor who has an appointment with the president or his top advisers. She oversees the front of the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, serving coffee to former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, making small talk with a delegation from Kazakhstan and trying to chew a mouthful of almonds quickly before saying hello to Tiger Woods as he stands at her desk.

  • Google No Longer The Only Game In Town
  • Wolfram search engine goes live

    A search engine hailed as a significant rival to web giant Google has gone live to the public.

  • Why Maureen, Why?
  • You’re so much better than anyone else. You’re not vile like that “evil calculating witch” Hillary Clinton. You’re not a cheater like that “slick” Bill Clinton. Or are you?
    NYTimes Writer Admits Using Blogger’s Words

    New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has admitted to using a paragraph virtually word-for-word from a prominent liberal blogger without attribution.