Thursday, January 22

A Dream of Mars

In 2008, thousands of people fell in love with a robot, far from its home, out in the cold of space. No, not Wall-E: the Mars Explorer, nicknamed “Phoenix.” Aside from its obvious purposes of space exploration and study, the Mars Explorer was also a new step for NASA when it became one of the most followed accounts on Twitter. In early November, the Explorer ceased communicating with Earth, but not before creating a massive following, and capturing the hearts of thousands. Some of the last few Tweets from the Explorer(written by Veronica McGregor of Jet Propulsion Laboratory) were very poignant:

I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I'll be humankind's monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me ;-) 1:57 AM Oct 30th, 2008 from web

Take care of that beautiful blue marble out there in space, our home planet. I’ll be keeping an eye from here. Space exploration FTW! 12:55 PM Oct 30th, 2008 from web

Many of the Explorer’s followers on Twitter expressed amazement that they were getting so emotional over a robot, especially when everyone knew the messages were coming from JPL, not the surface of Mars. Why get worked up over a machine that was slowly shutting down?

It wasn’t the machine itself that we loved: the metals, the mechanisms, the scientific equipment. It was the human spirit that had sent it there, so many miles from our home, not for profit or war or necessity, but simply because there was a chance to discover something we’d never known before. So many people had dreamed, had planned, had worked to put that bit of metal on that frozen surface, and the light of the human spirit shone as bright as any star. The freezing chill of Martian winter may have caused the machine to shut down, but the spirit it embodies is still there, as strong as ever, burning bright with curiosity, determination, and optimism.

Last night I visited Jet Propulsions Lab, and got to meet many of the people behind the Mars missions; many of them were kind enough to sign my copy of The Martian Chronicles. And it hit me. The dream still lives on. Would we be so excited to discover Martian ice if we had never read about Martian canals full of wine? Would we have been so excited to see the cold red dust of the surface if we had not walked the streets of its cities with Dejah Thoris and John Carter? The dream isn’t about finding aliens, or seeing ancient Martian cities, or any of the specifics from the books and stories. The dream is the Red Planet itself, that bright shining dot in the night sky, the cold barren world of shifting sands and sublimating ice. The dream doesn’t die with the discovery of fact; the dream is the power behind that discovery.

Ray Bradbury, that dreamer of Mars, said “We're always asking, ‘What are we doing here on earth?’ We are the audience. There's no use having a universe, a cosmology, if you don't have witnesses. We are the witnesses to the miracle. We are put here by creation, by God, by the cosmos, whatever name you want to give it. We're here to be the audience to the magnificent. It is our job to celebrate.”

We have sent machines hurtling through millions of miles of space to discover the face of Mars. We have seen the red earth. We have touched the ice below the surface. We are the audience to the magnificent, and we will celebrate.

Wednesday, December 31

It's time again for my traditional New Year's blog post. I heard this song sung at a New Year's service at church years ago; the pastor read the names of all those who had passed away during the year. A woman then got up, and sang this song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

It singeth low in every heart
We hear it each and all
A song of those who answer not
However we may call.
They throng the silence of the breast
We see them as of yore
The Kind, the brave, the true, the sweet
Who walk with us no more.

‘Tis hard to take the burden up
When these have laid it down
They brightened every joy of life
They softened every frown
But oh! ‘tis good to think of them
When we are troubled sore
Thanks be to God that such have been
Though they are here no more.

More homelike seems the vast unknown
Since they have entered there
Tis not so hard to follow them
However they may fare.
They cannot be where God is not
On any sea or shore
What e’er betides, Thy love abides
Our God, forevermore.

In memory of all those who have passed away during the past year: rest in peace, and go with God.


Tuesday, November 4

An open letter from a young conservative:

I am proud to call myself a conservative. Even when my views have made me unpopular among others my age, I am proud to have stood for my beliefs. But at the moment, I am very angry and almost ashamed to identify with conservatives.

Why? Because the other conservatives that I see are acting like spoiled children. Every time one of your fellow conservatives disagrees with you, you throw a hissy fit, and stop speaking with them except to shout them down.
Why do you think we can’t keep our government on course when we can’t even work with people who disagree with us? I thought we were the party of responsible adults, those who understand the proper place of government. I thought it was the Left who turned politics into a religion, but conservatives keep excommunicating anyone who doesn’t meet their standards of ideological purity.

I am not telling anyone to shut up and toe the party line—far from it. I want to hear the full diversity of conservative voices. I want to hear arguments and debates. But I want to see us as one movement, not a divided army who shoots their wounded. Just because you don’t agree with someone on every single point doesn’t mean you can’t work with them. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you can’t find a common goal to work towards.

Keep in mind, the goal is not simply to win, but for our country to be the best it can be. If all you want is for your point of view to win, then any and all tactics are open to you. I, and most young conservatives I know, want to truth to be known, the good to triumph, the right to be allowed to flourish. We want to act with responsibility, dignity, and integrity. We can band together in the midst of disagreements, because we know that what we fight for is bigger than ourselves. I’m fighting for freedom, and I can work with anyone else who wants freedom. I’m working for human dignity and human effort, and anyone who wants the government to stop playing nanny can help. I want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I am happy to join hands with others to work for that whenever I can. Freedom and justice are bigger than I am. My likes and dislikes, and my petty debates with others are not worth fighting over.

It’s time to grow up. Move on. Understand your opponent, and learn to fight them instead of wasting your ammunition on your own allies. Someone calls you a name? This isn’t kindergarten, deal with it. Ignore them. Someone says something you disagree with, but doesn’t violate conservative core principles? Brush it off. Debate it if you like, if it’s an appropriate place and time to do so, but stay focused on your endgame. When you find it more important to tear others down in the middle of a losing battle, I do not believe that you really care about the bigger goal. You may say you care about freedom, but if you spend your time tearing down another conservative while that freedom is being jeopardized, I believe that all you’re really concerned about is your own reputation.

Once the bigger battles are won, we can fight over the small stuff. When we’re facing wide-spread socialism, it’s not the time to excommunicate someone over the gold standard. When we’re fighting a reduction of freedom in the name of comfort, it’s not the time to shout at someone because they called you a name. Keep your eyes on the bigger prize.

Grow up, act like adults, and get over yourselves. It’s time to get serious.

Joi Weaver

Thursday, October 30

In honor of the Mars Phoenix, now shutting down in the Martian winter.

The frigid wind whipped the icy sand against her helmet as she rounded the small rock outcropping. She staggered for a moment before regaining her balance and pushed forward. Her communicator crackled.
“Eagle1, you ok out there?”
She activated the transmitter, and responded.
“Everything’s fine out here, Eagle2. Just a few more metres.”
“Better hurry. They’re talking about calling you back. They don’t know if you’ll be able to stay in contact once you get there.”
“The only way they’re getting me to come back is to come after me themselves.”
The signal crackled, and faded. She assumed Williams had signed off, and pressed forward.

A glint sparkled momentarily through the dust. She squinted, and adjusted the polarization of her visor. The Martian landscape was still bare here near the poles: no-one had yet found it profitable to construct a dome this far north. Her communicator crackled again.
“Eagle1, report.”
“Eagle2, I think I’ve found the site. Gotta get closer to check.”
“Eagle1, you have been ordered to return to your vehicle and begin the return to base.”
“With all due respect, Eagle2, screw you.”
“Why is this *crackle* important to you? It’s a beatup piece of junk. Went 90 days, then a few more 2 years later, then silence. Even if you find it, it’s of no use to us. *crackle* obsolete 75 years ago.”

She could now see a small structure half buried in dust and ice. The distant sun glinted sharply off several of its surfaces. Though her suit was fully heated, she felt a chill go down her spine.

“Eagle2, my grandmother was one of the people who used the original primitive network. She loved it. She had friends all over the world. She followed the progress of this one. She used to tell me stories, about how she would get excited to see what this machine was doing each day, to look at the pictures it sent from hundreds of millions of miles away. When she told about how it was settling in to freeze in 2008, and the messages that were posted about it…she still got tears in her eyes. It meant something to her.”

A long silence settled in, and she pushed her way the last few feet. Reaching out a hand, she brushed a bit of dust from the surface, and felt an electric thrill as her gloved fingers came in contact with the ancient artifact.

“*crackle* over a machine?!”
She smiled, as she rested a hand on the cold, ancient metal. “No. It wasn’t the machine. She said the machine was only the place in which the human spirit, human curiousity, and human endeavor dwelt. Here they were, just learning to reach out to each other, but they still wanted the stars. Think of the time and learning and brilliance it took to put this here. And they flung it out into the stars, knowing it would cease, knowing it would die alone on a distant planet…and they did it anyway.”

With a click, she silenced the communicator. She would deal with Base in a minute. She caressed the metal, and smiled.

“We came back for you. “

The wind whistled.


Sunday, September 14

very funny vid! The news media does remind me of hyenas, these days...

Thursday, September 4

Palin: Do NOT mess with the Barracuda!

Again, I don't normally do politics on my blog. But after Sarah Palin's fantastic speech last night, I want to put out a few words. Mostly in response to this bit of silliness:

Most notably, to this paragraph: “It was a very skillfully written, very skillfully delivered speech. But there was not a word about the middle class or health care or how people are going to fill up their gas tanks or a single word about how we’re going to get our kids through college.”

News flash, Senator Biden! Palin was talking TO us, not about us. She didn’t need to use the phrase “middle class” because she’s one of us, she knows us, and she was talking to us, not to some insulated group of Ivy League journalism majors who haven’t worked with their hands in decades, if ever.

Now perhaps you feel the need to talk about the “middle class,” Senator, because you think we might not understand you if you didn’t use that phrase. Maybe you thought we needed you to be our protector in the big bad mean world. Guess what, Senator. We. Don’t. Need. You.

We are middle America. We are Small Town, U.S.A. We’re not interested in Beltway deal-making, speechifying, or interest groups. We don’t want a political savior—we want someone who will ensure that the government stays out of our way and does the job we elected it to do.

If you haven’t yet watched Palin’s speech, go watch it. Word is that the teleprompter was kept running through the applause, and by the middle of the speech was no longer cued up properly. You’d never know it by watching her. She knows what she’s doing.

One of the main critics I’ve heard by pundits on both sides is that she took too many low blows to the Obama campaign. I respectfully disagree. I think “Middle America” is tired of being talked down to, disregarded, and described as bitter gun-clingers. Palin hit back, with a smile, and gave the snobs a taste of their own medicine. That said, she should probably pull a few more punches from now on. But at least now they know she can hit!

And while she made the audience (and me!) clap, cheer, and laugh, she also made us cry—I know I teared up while she talked about John McCain’s service (great line: “There’s only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.”)

Oh and just so it’s clear—her family is ADORABLE. A husband who seems genuinely happy for her, kids who look bright, clean, and happy (no traces of typical teenage jadedness!). And if you didn’t at least smile when little Piper Palin licked her hand on national tv to slick down her baby brother’s hair, you have no soul.

As Jonah Goldberg has said, "Sarah Palin was put on this earth for two reasons: to kill caribou and kick butt. She's all out of caribou."