Three Cheers for the Webb Space Telescope


In engineering, a “single point failure” is a term for any step in a multi-step process which, if it fails, craters the whole project. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), from launch to deployment at Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2) involved hundreds of single point failure risks. Hundreds of motors, cables, moving…

Dunleavy Loses Yet Again


WC got an email from Alaska’s First Lady, Rose Dunleavy, last week. The First Lady asked WC to support her husband’s run for re-election as Alaska’s Governor. She made an astonishing number of remarkably, starkly false claims, but WC chooses to focus on just two sentences. Ms. Dunleavy said, Mike is proving that we can…

R.I.P. Marvin Lee Aday, 1947-2022


It started as a meta joke. In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the character Eddie, who later serves as the main course for supper, was played by Marvin Lee Aday. Aday, better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, inspired the character Columbia’s complaint about the entrée, “Meat Loaf again?” That line usually gets used…

The U.S. Supreme Court (Mal)Practices Medicine


As we approach 900,000 Americans killed by COVID-19, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided the ongoing pandemic is not a safety or health issue, so the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can’t address the epidemic. It’s medical malpractice committed by a bunch of lawyers. What happened was President Biden directed the U.S. Occupational Safety and…

Bragging on Mrs. WC, Hieronymous Bosch Edition


A brief photo story, without much explanation beyond the photo captions. Mrs. WC enjoys jigsaw puzzles and is very good at them. An example. This is “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” the most famous – and strangest – painting by Flemish artist Hieronymous Bosch: She worked on the puzzle only intermittently, not continuously. Patient, skilled…

Alaska Native Villages Need Not Apply


The National Park Service already has an environmental assessment out for the proposed repairs to the Denali National Park Road at Polychrome Pass. Readers may recall the existing road crosses a rock glacier and climate change has accelerated the glacial flow, carrying off the road. The Park Road is closed east of Polychrome Pass. You…

Still a Huckster


This email turned up, appropriately enough, in WC’s Junk Mail folder. What Donald is selling this week has less flavor than a Trump Steak and less substance than a degree from Trump University. But it’s still just another con. He’s selling you the privilege of getting junk mail. He’s selling you the right to get…

Bird Feeders


WC and Mrs. WC maintain a few bird feeders in our backyard. Tube feeders with sunflower seed kernels, tray feeders with mixed seeds, a mesh bag with nyjer and a small suet cake. Nothing fancy, but it draws in a decent variety of birds. We also have cracked corn in ground trays for Mallards and…

The End of Open Source Software?


One of the things that is very, very important to software developers that non-programmers don’t know anything about is the vast amount of open source software that is out there. Those libraries of pre-written code, available mostly for free, are indispensable to developing today’s computer and smart phone applications. Without them, software development would be…

Jocotoco Antpitta

Some Notes on DEIJ and Conservation


DEIJ, for anyone show has been living under a rock, is “diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” and it is a powerful and developing theme in many national and international current events. In the context of conservation, DEIJ raises issues of environmental justice, acknowledgement of historic treatment and mistreatment of races and people of color, recognition…

D.N.R.I.P. Cyber Ninjas, 2014-2022


Cyber Ninjas, the wholly unqualified computer security firm hired by the Arizona state senate to perform a wholly unnecessary audit of the Maricopa County, Arizona 2020 election, is going out of business. It leaves behind compromised election data, unpaid subcontractors, unperformed work, ongoing court fines and a laughably shoddy report, devastatingly rebutted by the Maricopa…

Double-breasted Oystercrackers


WC, with Mrs. WC and two terrific young birders, were scouting for a birdathon in Valdez, Alaska some years back. Our scouting took us to the Valdez Small Boat Harbor in late afternoon, as the sport fisherpersons were coming in. One especially drunken fisherman saw our birding gear and slurred, “Have you seen the Double-Breasted…

R.I.P. SN 2020tlf


It isn’t very often WC writes an obituary for a star, especially a red supergiant star. In fact, this is the very first time. Because it is the first time astronomers have watched the final days of a red supergiant star and observed as it exploded into a Type II Supernova. The star in question…

That Edict from Idaho Republican Soviet


The Idaho Republican Central Committee recently considered a proposal that would allow only candidates approved by the Central Committee to run for office. The proposal originated with the Bonneville County Republican Committee.1 Under Bonneville’s proposal, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, legislators, even county commissioners and sheriffs would need official party permission to appear on the…

Remembering SFBC


Technically, the Science Fiction Book Club is still around, even if it’s a pitiful, feeble shell of what it was. But WC is getting ahead of his story. In 1976, in response to a mail solicitation (“Get Three Books for Free!”), WC joined the Science Fiction Book Club. It was owned by Doubleday then, but…

How WC’s Mind Works: Hans Island


For those who may be interested, here’s an annotated blog post illustrating how WC’s mind works in finding topics for and writing this blog. We start from one of Howard Weaver’s Facebook posts: That’s a nice meme. Wonder if it’s true? (A few minutes on Google) Huh. Hans Island, in the Kennedy Channel, between Ellesmere…

Why Is This Gator Smiling?


Alligators have been around a really, really long time. Fossils of Alligator prenalis date to the late Eocene; call it 35 million years ago. They are nearly indistinguishable from modern Alligator mississippiensis. And their reptilian ancestors, of course, trace back to the Jurassic. Humankind has been around about 300,000 years, less than a hundredth of…

An Open Letter to MLB Owners


WC is having surgery today. A few days of posts are written and scheduled, but depending on how his post-op recovery goes, there may be a break in blog posts. Comments may not be immediately approved. It’s nothing major and not a cause for alarm. But the chassis needs repairs. Major League Baseball – the…

Okie Dopey


Well I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee A place where even squares can have a ball We still fly Old Glory down at the courthouse And white lighting’s still The biggest thrill of all — Merle Haggard and Roy Burris, “Okie from Muskogee,” 1969 The use of marijuana in Oklahoma for anything but…