Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring is Sprung

Springtime is once again upon us, at least for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. I've been spending more time enjoying the splendid weather than doing deep thinking. But I do have an assortment of thoughts about what's going on hereabouts:

1) I don't get baseball. I don't dislike baseball, I just don't really get it. In a strange way, baseball is a lot like space flight, in that participant spend most of their time standing around waiting for something interesting to happen. There are bits and pieces of the game I find entertaining. Such as, for example, the time Nolan Ryan had this fool twenty years his junior in a headlock, administering an impromptu lecture with his pointer knuckles on the virtues of respect for one's elders. Along with Zinedine Zidane's last play, surely this was one of sport's finest moments. But such things are few and far between. And it's entirely possible that I'd find baseball more interesting if my home team were anyone but the Texas Rangers.

2) I don't get basketball, either. If baseball is too slow, basketball is too fast. By the time I figure out what's happened, play has long since moved on. I've no doubt that I could figure it out if I really wanted to ... but I have no real desire to do so. I spend enough time on the couch as it is.

3) Andy Reid WILL rue the day. Granted, Philadelphia was in a rut, and had to do something. Making the move to your QB of the future makes good sense in that regard. But trading McNabb to a division rival? Someone you know you'll play at least twice every year? Sure, on one hand you could argue that the Philly defense knows all about McNabb, and you could say that this means they're not afraid of him. But, the flip side of that same coin is that McNabb knows the Philly defense inside and out. He's going to be powerfully motivated this year to fold their defensive playbook 'till it's all corners, and stick it somewhere it's gonna hurt. And he just might be able to do it, too. One thing I do know: the Philiadelphia-Washington games for the next couple of years are going to be good, old-fashioned grudge-ball. McNabb's return to Philadelphia, in particular, will be fine sport.

4) J. K. Rowling will be writing a new book. Exactly what it's going to be, no one knows. That said, I've daydreamed about what a sequel series could look like. We do know that Harry and Ron went to work for the Ministry as investigators of a sort. But you have to wonder: who would they be investiating that they'd be all that worried about? They'd already put paid to the biggest Big Bad that they're ever likely to find. So it'd be a more light-hearted series, with a couple of wise-cracking agents foiling the schemes of the bad guys. Now, where have I seen something like that before?

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." plus wizards could be really fun.

5) Polywell marches on. I've talked about the Polywell project before. Last year, we covered the latest Navy research contract. We know nothing definite yet, but the indications seem to be that interesting things are afoot. They have not released any results, but they are seeking funds for development of a full-scale 100MW reactor. One of two things is true here: either they're running a scam, or they've got solid enough results from their Navy work that they want to begin work on a commercially-available version. I'm inclined to think it's the latter. And while I'm not sure that I want to donate, if they offer stock I'm damn sure buying. This could be the real thing, folks. And if it is, hold on to your hats, because the whole world's going to change. We'll know more in about a year or so -- the thing to watch for are the follow-on contract awards -- but at this point I'm guardedly optimistic.

6) START me up? I happened to be in a position to catch the signing of the new START treaty between the United States and Russia on live TV. The interesting thing is how little both parties actually give up. Nuclear weapons are acknowledged by most professionals as having little to no military utility. This wasn't true when they were introduced in 1945. Back then, atomic weapons were strategic bombing writ large; if I showed you a random decimated cityscape photo from WWII, unless there was a distinguishing landmark present or you were a dedicated scholar, you probably couldn't tell me if you were looking at a photo of Hiroshima, Tokyo, Hamburg, Dresden, or Berlin. The only difference is that in the first of those cases, the devastation was wrought with one bomb in one sortie. Now, however, if we want to shut down a city, we can identify a dozen or so weak points -- single points of failure in the infrastructure -- and destroy them simultaneously without touching anything else. What need, then, for nukes? They chew up tremendous resources without contributing anything really useful. Except, that is, for deterrence. Their only use is to stay the hands of those similarly armed. I'm not sure we'll ever be able to be rid of them entirely. That bell probably can't be un-rung. But, we can reduce our stockpile to the minimum required to present a credible threat. This treaty goes a good way towards that goal, provided that the Senate will ratify it.

And that's about it for now. Spring calls!

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