Archive for the ‘Features’ Category


My dearest love, my absolute dearest love, I am sorry. I am sorry for abandoning you, sorry that these last weeks have been wrought with anger and focused on my selfishness. You are right of course; I am totally being selfish. But you were wrong about my feelings, Alex. You have always been my everything: my lover, my closest friend, the family who would never abandon me. And now I am abandoning you. I am so desperately sorry, darling.

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An American Funeral

Loving and spirited, never shy about sharing an opinion, she had filled her 70-plus years in ways both ordinary and not so ordinary, including honorable service as a U. S. Marine back when women were told their place was in the kitchen. Had grief not clouded their thinking, the family could have gotten her an honor guard with a 21-gun salute, “Taps,” and a flag, but they thought about it too late. To me it was a shame, not just because it was an honor she richly deserved, but because I would dearly have loved to see the reaction to the 21-gun salute from the other residents of the apartment building whose party room hosted this event.

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A “Fine-Tuned” Universe as Proof of a God?

There are many scientists who believe that, if one or more physics constants of the universe had varied only slightly, they would have produced a universe incapable of supporting life. For example, if one constant had been slightly different, the universe would have collapsed back in upon itself before life had a chance to form.

Some religious people look at this supposedly “fine-tuned” universe and claim it is proof that a god exists who did the fine-tuning. Let us examine this claim.

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Thoughts on Stuffing a Turkey

The biggest problem with writing down my stuffing recipe is that the answer to every question about ingredients is “It depends.” So rather than writing a recipe, I’m going to attempt to guide you through all the different ways it depends and how to make your own choices.

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UFOs Rumsfeldian Style!

There is, however, another context where you will hear “Rumsfeldian” being bandied about, and that is in conjunction with his famous quote during a press conference on Feb. 12th, 2002:

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”

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Religion Hunter Bites the Dust

Being a religion hunter says a couple of things about you. First, you are likely sincerely seeking that something outside yourself. Unfortunately, the longer you look without finding, the more you are likely to become prey to the grifters, the charlatans, the greedy, and the idiots who just might kill you. Second, it says you are looking to others to give you what you are unable to give yourself. If you hunt out religions, you must carry the belief that other people know something, hold some secret, that you haven’t found yet–and that it’s something that they can share.

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Dispatches from the International Robotic Explorers League

Consisting of the many and varied robotic spacecraft exploring our Solar System and parts beyond, the IREL soldiers on tirelessly, often in obscurity and in conditions that would make even the most hardy of human beings question their resolve, all to provide us with the data necessary to enhance our understanding of the Universe. They may only be robots, but they give every ounce of circuitry in the service of completing their missions, in many cases going above and beyond the call of duty to return useful measurements long after their designed operational lifetimes. Join me now as we take a look around the league.

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Cleaning Up the Orbital Neighborhood

While responsible space-faring nations are making de-orbit plans a standard feature of launches today, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of derelict objects still around from the time before this need was recognized. These factors combine to create a recipe for eventual chaos in the orbital arena, which if left unchecked, could render wide regions of Earth’s orbital space effectively unusable for decades or even centuries.

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Gettin’ It On in Space

Late in July, my wife and I welcomed our first child, Liam Oran, into the world. He is a happy and healthy 10 weeks old now, and his presence prompted my wife to suggest today’s topic when I was soliciting suggestions a few weeks ago. While contemplating the idea of sex in space may invite more than its share of muffled laughter or red faces, for anyone who believes that the future of the human species depends on our ability to colonize outer space and other planets, it is serious business.

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Two Towers, Part II

My first indication that this lovely theory was just so much wishful thinking came when she was two, and we were on a field trip to the state capitol building. We were climbing this beautiful marble staircase, which had a lovely marble railing supported by marble columns with–oh-oh–spaces in between where a child could look out and down and see just how much farther away the floor was getting with each step. Her steps slowed, then stopped. I tried the ignore-it bit, urging her to come along like she was just an ordinary dawdling child. We did finally get her to the top of the staircase by switching her over to the center railing where the view was mostly other steps and people’s legs. We took the elevator back down.

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