Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pawlenty Vague on Signing Franken Into Senate

Time Pawlenty has become famous for his ability to be extraordinarily vague. Now we are seeing this in relation to the expected Minnesota State Supreme Court decision on the Franken-Coleman Senate election contest.

For the most part, Pawlenty has signaled that he will only sign the election certificate if he is instructed to do so by the court. He has implied, therefore that he will not sign it if he is not instructed even if the court has made a decision.

He has not explicitly stated which court he is referring to, but it seems that he is expecting that the state court may instruct him to sign before a federal court (to which we assume loser Norm Coleman will bring the contest) decides on the matter.

Here’s the problem: The state court will produce its ruling any day now. They are rather late in doing so and we await not only a ruling but an explanation of what has taken them so long. Once they do this, Pawlenty COULD sign the certificate, but may not.

Independently of the court’s decision, the court may or may not provide an instruction t the governor to sign the order. What Pawlenty is saying is that he will sign if so ordered, otherwise …. the implication is that he will not.

If he does not, he would wait for the court to provide such an order. That would likely only come if the issue is brought before the court, they hear arguments, then sit in their chambers for who knows how long.

Details here. The story is based on an interview with Pawlenty on CNN on Sunday.

Lost Moon Tapes Found in Perth Australia

UPDATE: grrrrrrrrrr…..

The original story, now retracted, is below the fold.

Somebody is dicking around on the internet. It is possible that the Daily Express article is a “hoax” or a “fiction” … at least, this is what some are claiming. See the updates here on Bad Astronomy.

I’m not sure if I would use the word “hoax” if this is simply inaccurate reporting. A hoax is different (sort of like the difference between a mugging and a hate crime?).

I also don’t like the phrase “it is a fiction.” What does that mean exactly? This story has several elements to it, including the description of the processes the data went through, including NASA losing the tapes, including looking for the tapes, including failing to look for the tapes, including finding some kind of tapes, including thinking that the tapes that were found had the missing data on them, and including trying to get the data off the tapes.

Does the phrase “it is a fiction” mean that all of that is made up? Some of it?

The original story implies that NASA was mad because the story was being released early. Is that a fiction as well?

At this point it is entirely up to NASA to make a clear statement about what is true and not true and to give us the details. Of course, they can take their time to do this right. And if they feel that the Express overstepped their bounds, they should make that clear as well.

Continue reading Lost Moon Tapes Found in Perth Australia

Happy Birthday FreeDOS

DOS stands for Disk Operating System.

In the old days it was how you ran your PC. You booted up the computer and you had a prompt much like today’s Linux command line in appearance. If you typed “wp” at the command line, a text-based non-GUI version of WordPerfect would run. If you typed “dir” you’d get a list of files in the current subdirectory. If you typed “nc” you’d get norton commaner. Maybe. Can’t remember exactly. And if you typed something like “term” …. well, you were on the internet, checking your mail in pine and maybe mining data with gopher.

Then, one day, it became true that if you typed “win” that Windows 3.0 would run. Windows 3.0 would take over the screen and produce a very clunky GUI that would slow down your computer and limit access to its functionality.

And ever since then your computer has been screwed.

In 1994, Microsoft announced that DOS would be discontinued shortly. They lied. They discontinued it much later than they said they would. But no matter, a guy named James Hall who was using DOS very productively decided to make a new operating system called, originally, “PD-DOS” and later “FreeDOS”

I’m privileged to actually know James. He is an occasional commenter on this blog and he often sends me interesting things to post regarding Linux. He also helps me with the Klingon translations that I need done now and then.

Well, today is the fifteenth anniversary of James Hall’s efforts to preserve DOS by creating FreeDOS!!!

Today, James runs his version of freeDOS inside an emulator on his Linux machine. Personally, I think it would be fun to play around with it. I wonder if I can run an old copy of WordPerfect on it. WordPerfect 4.2 was …. perfect. Version 5.1 did add some important functionality but they ruined it with pulldown menus. If any of you could see the keyboard I’m typing on now, you’d know what I’m talking about.

Oh what the heck, you can see it. I’ve just gotta point my web cam the right direction and ….


There, so you can see the keys on the left side. These were used by WordPerfect to format text and stuff. I use them today to do HTML.

Anyway, Kudos to James Hall for making FreeDOS happen. Visit the FreeDOS web site here.

Sadly, James is now stepping aside as Benevolent Dictator of freeDOS.

Long Live freeDOS!

Questions about Missionaries

As you know, there has been quite a bit of discussion about missionaries in the Congo on this blog. This is the central post pointing to everything else, and at Minnesota Atheists you’ll find a link to today’s radio show on the topic.

It turns out that a number of calls and emails did come in to the station today but we were unable to get to them. Among the emails, there is this two parter from from Jason Thibeault:

I have a two part question for Greg Laden. In conversations on your blog related to the topic prior to this show, you mentioned that there are secular missions to many of these areas, the purposes for which are to provide the services that the religious missions provide, only omitting the proselytizing. You said at the time that you didn’t know much about them — have you managed to find out more about any existing missions since then?

When I look up “secular mission” on Google, I find stuff about missions where the word “secular” is used for some reason or another, and I find myself. This is not good.

Perhaps the secular “mission” right now is the UN, and in some cases USAID (but if you want that to work, you’ve got to contact your representatives in congress and push for critical evaluation and positive reform) and various NGO’s that are not religious. I think we need to do more research on this, and also, to make things happen.

Also, the thought of setting up such a mission without the backing of a church or religious institution seems particularly daunting. How do you figure one might go about putting together such a mission, if not supported by a religion or university; for instance what would it involve with regard to raising funds and establishing contacts in the countries in question? I’m not suggesting I’m going to do it personally, but hypothetically, if someone like me wanted to, is it possible?

I think the thing to do is to work directly with existing semi-autonomous developing communities. These things exist. I can’t advise specifically regarding the Congo at this time, but in South Africa, I’ve worked with communities that have an internal structure, are fitted to the existing governmental system, and work with secular NGO’s. An outside entity could hook up with some existing partnership such as that and provide grant money for specific, defined projects (this school or that goat farming operation or this water supply program or whatever).

Thanks for the questions, Jason.

Also, as long as water has come up, browse through this blog site for ideas as to how to get involved in that specific issue.

Poor and disadvantaged suffer greatly from poverty-caused neglected diseases

The best of last June


Triatoma infestans, Chagas vector
This is the conclusion of a report to be published in the June 2008 PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal. The report, by Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is a clear indictment of economic disparity in the United States. The bottom line: Many poor Americans are, effectively, living in a poorly managed third world country.
Continue reading Poor and disadvantaged suffer greatly from poverty-caused neglected diseases

How Birds Fly (book review)

previously reviewed

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines is a book by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Patricia Wynne for, I’d say, Pre-Elementary School kids and first/second grade. This is a good book to read to a pre-literate kid. Then put it away for later when the first grade academic report on birds is due … it will be an excellent reference.

This is a well done and highly recommended book.

Continue reading How Birds Fly (book review)

The good book

Whenever I sat at Joseph and Mary’s dinner table, Mary showed a great deal of interest in my work. In between her frequent forays away from the dining room table to get this or that food item, or to issue instructions to a servant, or whatever, she would sit at the table across from me and ask questions.

“So, have you found anything interesting?” which is a standard question to which the answer was always “no” … we do not want to give people the idea that they should head out into the bush with a shovel. “So, what to the Pygmies think of your research.” And so on.

I remember that during our second dinner, the fourth or fifth question was this:

“So, since Radiocarbon dating has been proved to not work, how do we really know that the earth is billions of years old?”
Continue reading The good book