Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Love to see those kids run

A footnote to the ING Miami Marathon was a schoolkid exercise called Run for Something Better. Sixth, seventh and eighth-graders ran the last 1.2 miles of the official half-marathon course, after qualifying by running 20 miles in increments at school or home. I used to love running, and I still love watching runners -- of any age.

The satellite gap

In case you missed it, check out this scary report about the deterioration and likely failure of the weather satellites that have helped warn coastal areas about when and where hurricanes were likely to strike. Marty Merzer and The Miami Herald are doing us a real service by drawing attention to the concerns at the National Academy of Sciences -- that valuable forecast tools such as the QuikSCAT shown here may not be repaired or replaced before they wear out. Here's Merzer's article, and here is the document at the core of his reporting.

Otis Brown, dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, underlined the gravity of the situation with his own opinion piece in the Herald's oped page. He wrote, in part:
Nearly half of the country's environmental satellites -- most past their estimated life expectancy -- may stop working by 2010, which could lead to a loss of data used to study climate change, predict natural disasters and monitor land use. And, while the potential risk to residents in an area prone to natural disasters and in great need of this information is readily apparent, this is clearly not a budgetary priority for the agencies that maintain the current satellites and plan for new, equally (if not more) effective ones.

The two-year study contained in this report delineates how NASA's Earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000, with more funding reductions planned as its priority missions of manned trips to Mars and a station on the moon take further hold. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration likewise faces funding challenges with its National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System that is now three years behind schedule and $3 billion over budget.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tech wise but half-smart

Lots of Americans have decided that they don't need to be good spellers or competent map-readers, because their computers fill the gap. You can read it and groan in the New York Daily News.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A new consumer movement

I'm back from the holidays, and greatly refreshed. I think I shall have a few new thoughts for you in days to come.

One springs from a brief disappointment during our holidays, and how we coped. We were spending Christmas at a country house in Virginia, where someone had promised to cut us a tree that we could decorate when we arrived late on Christmas Eve. We arrived even later than expected -- only to find no tree and no prospect of one until sometime on the 25th. Bummer!

But as you see from the photo, we made do with some white pine trimmings left by the power company's right-of-way maintenance. We just stuffed their ends into a big mailing tube, locked the tube into the tree stand and decked the branches with lights and a few ornaments.

Our make-do decorations, I think, fit the spirit of a new group I just heard about that's been under way in San Francisco for about a year. They're part of the anti-consumer movement, which has been around a long time, but the pledge they take -- to buy nothing new for a whole year -- takes commitment to a whole new level. You can read about their thing in a blog called Compact.

The Compact site reminds me of the "swap shop" at my wife's old hometown, Henniker, N.H. There, the community maintains a significant recycling depot for paper, cans and bottles, etc., and part of it is a shed where people take still-usable cast-off belongings that elsewhere might end up in a trash can or, too often, a roadside gully. Everybody contributes and anyone can take away anything they find that they have a use for. Our daughter loves the colorful airline flight bag we found there. Is there a swap shop in your community? Tell us about it, won't you?

And what are YOU doing to re-use, make do or do without?