Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vengeance, The Kennedy Curse, The Dark Side of Camelot

Vengeance, George Jonas, ISBN 0743291646

I read Vengeance a few months before I saw Munich, the movie on the same subject by Steven Spielberg. The book is better but the movie's not bad. Vengeance has some rough edges unlike Spielberg's creation. Terrorism has rough edges. Vengeance is not a pretty thing. Jonas, in his interview of the leader of the Israeli team of Mossad agents, leads us through the same journey this man, Avner, took as he progresses(was it progress?) from a Mossad agent performing menial duties in what was essentially peacetime to the leader of a team of state-sponsored assassins. Avner tries to convince us, and mostly himself, that what he did was right and that he would do it again. But he does not entirely believe this himself. He is riddled with the guilt of murder and the guilt of having led some of his friends to their deaths. He is a hurting man. One who is a shadow of who he would have been. A man stripped of innocence and of the ability to justify what he did in the way a soldier may justify killing to defend either himself, his friends, or his country. What they did was not noble and not defensible. Do we become monsters in fighting the monsters of this world? This is an important question for us to answer in these morally grey, difficult to understand times.

The Kennedy Curse, Edward Klien, ISBN 031231292X

Although the premise of this book, that the number of Kennedys who died tragically is somehow linked to a curse is just hokey, the research done by Klein seems solid. After years of hearing a lot about John F. Kennedy I wanted to get a better insight into who he really was. In order to understand John you have to understand Honey Fitzgerald, his favourite grandfather, and John's father Joseph Kennedy and the role he played in shaping his family. It was not any curse that led to the tragedies within the Kennedy clan, just bad corrupt leadership.

The Dark Side of Camelot

This one is more specifically about John F. Kennedy but still covers much of his family. The facts are similar to the previous book but the presentation is different with more of a focus on Jack. It is less distracting then 'The Curse', allowing us to concentrate more on the facts. What he presents is not pretty either. I've only begun reading and so will have to see where it leads. I wanted a second perspective so I could check the 'facts' presented in The Curse. So far they are supported.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pluto no longer a planet!

In a previous post I discussed the possibility that Pluto's status as planet might be rescinded due to the recent discovery of a larger celestial body.

The Economist writes:
On Thursday August 24th a general assembly of the International Astronomical Union, the body with the authority to decide such matters, voted to remove Pluto from the list of planets. Predictably some astronomers are angry and have criticised the system for making such choices. There were certainly problems with the voting. Nevertheless the decision was right.
I totally agree. It does not matter what has been historically taught. Sometimes you need to ask fundamental questions based on new information and alter long-held views.

Changing our views is what learning is all about.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More Commercial Space News

A while back I wrote about the disappointing news of SpaceX commercial rocket's failed maiden flight. NASA hasn't taken this too seriously having awarded $500 million to 2010 to both SpaceX and another private company for the delivery of payloads to the International Space Station.

Another feather in the cap for commercial spaceflight!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brand "Canada"

The Globe and Mail has an article today about how Canada is perceived internationally. Aparantly Canada
... was named the world's second most popular national brand by a global pollster. The Anholt Nation Brands Index for the second quarter of 2006 saw Canada jump ahead of Germany and Switzerland to claim the number two spot on the list of 35 countries. Canada's rosy image now only pales beside that of the United Kingdom's (and the EU's, which was featured as a 'guest country' on the survey).

But Simon Anholt, an international branding adviser who commissions the quarterly poll through Global Market Insite, Inc., contends Canada is failing to capitalize on its positive international image — and points as proof to the gulf between those polled who say they would like to travel, invest and study in Canada to those who actually do."
Great but isn't this kind of normal. Sort of like
Gee I sure would like to go skydiving...haven't got around to it yet. Gee I sure would like to read War & Peace...haven't got around to it yet...or, Gee I sure would like to marry you...haven't got around to it yet.
If there's nothing pushing us to go somewhere or do something we rarely will...human nature. And we are halfway across the world for most of its population. By the way, I did marry her.

It's nice to know Canada is viewed so positively...but I suppose that's a pretty Canadian thing to say. Read the article.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pluto may no longer be a planet...

The Boston Globe has an article on Pluto's status as a planet.
Some 3,000 astronomers and scientists from around the world will meet in Prague this week to decide whether Pluto, discovered in 1930, measures up to the definition of a planet.

The question arises from the fact that there are a number of celestial bodies of Pluto's size in our solar system that have been found since its discovery. This is expected given the improved instruments that give us a greater ability to study the Solar System. In 2003 astronomers at the California Institute of Technology discovered Xena, a ? (not planet) a little large than Pluto in diameter.

Some have expressed concern that if we downgrade Pluto from planet to asteroid? "it would disappoint children and throw our understanding of the universe into chaos". Oh my gosh - maybe my children will suddenly develop anxiety attacks, have nightmares and start wetting their beds. Or maybe they'll wonder if they too will be downgraded from human to chimp and suffer from resulting self-esteem issues. How incredibly fearful and small-minded! Call a spade and spade, I say - if that shakes things up than so be it. Publishers are waiting with bated breath to find out if schools will be ordering reprints of science textbooks$$$ so we know someone will benefit – hey, I wonder who organized this thing, anyway? Although I have to admit to liking a shake-up of the status quo...