Life as an Extreme Sport

The End of the Shuttle Era

I took a nap rather than actually sleep through the night, in order to watch STS-135 (Atlantis) land for the final time. For the entire space shuttle program’s final time.

Atlantis Landing
The last shuttle landing, via NASA TV

The shuttle program is 33 years old. I grew up watching the shuttles, from the Enterprise OV tests to Challenger and Columbia and all the launches and successes between. And now this, the bittersweet end. A program that started because JFK realized the importance of manned exploration of the world beyond ours, fueled by a space race against those evil commie Russians, now ends with American reliance on the Russians to get to the ISS at all.

There might be a modicum of irony in that.

Yes, the shuttle program is expensive – but it’s the kind of expensive I want my tax dollars going to. It’s the kind of expensive that brings back miraculous and amazing technology, research, and discovery. So much of the world around us has come from NASA – yes, more than just Tang. Whether you realize it or not, the space shuttle program has touched your life, immediately and directly.

And now it’s gone.

Sure, there’s talk of privatization, but that’s still several years off at the very least and optimistic. And NASA says that they will shift their focus to manned space exploration, to Mars and beyond. And of course, Voyager and Voyager2 are still out there, still threatening to become V’ger, and there are the Mars rovers and the list of what NASA is doing is still impressively long.

But it’s not the same, and I have my doubts about some of these things ever happening, like a manned voyage to Mars. Right now, our country doesn’t value science, exploration, or discovery. We have managed to lose that adventurous spirit that defined everyone who came to America looking not just for something more and something better, but for the answer to the simple question: what’s beyond that horizon?

Religion and politics have split us asunder in the last twenty years, and a casualty of that war is our national curiousity, our pride in scientific advancement pushed by brilliant American minds, and now, our shuttle – and space – program.

Counting the Coverage: The Daily Show and Dicks*

For the past week plus, there have been rumblings in the blogosphere that Jon Stewart has not done enough to mock, slam, satirize, or otherwise shame New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, and the charge is two-fold: Stewart won’t because Weiner is a Democrat, and Stewart won’t because they were, for a time, college roommates, and have remained friends.

The charge that Stewart isn’t as hard on Democrats largely and unsurprisingly comes from conservative commentators (feel free to read “FOX News and fans” here); Stewart and The Daily Show shot to prominence in a post-9/11 world, and a lot of viewers (and/or detractors) didn’t have the experience of Clinton years for context. And it can be a bit hard to compare administrations against one another – it’s rare that political situations are ever similar enough that an apples to apples comparison can be done. (And this would be one of the reasons you literally get apple to apple comparisons on The Daily Show – it’s easier to show Rand Paul being a hypocrite and why than it is to try to show contrasting clips across different administrations.)

But for good or bad (and/or “reasons I moved out of New York state”), the Weiner “scandal” is something that has an almost direct one-to-one correlation: NY Rep. Chris Lee, Republican, who resigned in February after emails and a shirtless photo were sent to a woman in response to a Craigslist dating advertisement.

Now, clearly these situations are not precisely parallel. While Lee and Weiner are both married men, Weiner (so far) has not been caught trying to lie about his identity or do more than send photos that were in bad (or at least juvenile) taste**. Lee, on the other hand, a self-described “classy guy”, lied about being a divorced lobbyist (and his age and other such things). He was looking for more, and the young lady involved wasn’t interested in liars. A quick Google search confirmed her suspicions; one eMail to Gawker later and Cuomo was holding a special election in Western New York.

So, not identical, but really damn close. Clearly the best thing to do, then, is to directly compare the coverage of these two events on The Daily Show. Now, Lee resigned Wednesday the 9th of February, which I believe was a dark week for The Daily Show. There is, of course, a problem here with a news cycle moving quickly, but surely something of such magnitude would be mentioned, right? After all, it’s a Republican resigning over a sex scandal, and given how “easy” Stewart has been on Weiner this past week and change, it’s inevitable that the Chris Lee resignation would be stretched out over several days.

Or, well. One.


On February 15th. That was interrupted by John Oliver’s need to discuss the Harry Baals government center in Indiana. You can view it here.

Note the similarities: jokes about the fitness of the representative, R.Kelly-esque R&B music with Stewart grooving in his chair. There’s even John Oliver involvement. But it was an entire “scandal” covered in approximately 2.5 minutes, highlighting the fact that Lee got lucky – he resigned the same day the Egyptian Revolution started. Lucky guy – the media was largely distracted.

Do I really need to compare the time dedicated to Weiner versus Lee, at this point? No, but I will anyhow.

The “event” begins on the night of May 27th, a Friday. While The Daily Show doesn’t film on Friday, rather coincidentally, they were dark that final week of May, as well. This means a lot of material to come back to on Monday – eerily similar to the Chris Lee scandal. The Daily Show even begins coverage on May 31st, a Tuesday. And this is how it breaks down:
May 3st, Tuesday: 6 minutes, 51 seconds
June 1st, Wednesday: 2 minutes, 59 seconds
June 2nd, Thursday: 4 minutes, 10 seconds, as well as an additional 2 minutes, 57 seconds and 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
June 6th, Monday: 4 minutes, 4 seconds
And for the most recent episode, Tuesday the 7th of June, we have:
5 minutes, 55 seconds
2 minutes, 49 seconds
4 minutes, 46 seconds

And that is not including several Moments of Zen.

Now, math has never been my strong suit, and even less so at nearly 6am. Nonetheless, it would seem that math is rather firmly on the side of “Weiner’s received far more coverage than Lee”, even though Weiner is actually a friend.

Any way you try to slice it, Stewart has given more time and attention and mocking disbelief to his friend than he did a Republican representative in nearly the same situation. 34 more minutes of time, just to be exceedingly precise.

*Metaphorical or otherwise.

**Have you met the internet? Let me introduce you to it, where everyone under the age of 35 has done at least one stupid thing involving it, and many, many people have done many stupid things involving body parts typically best only seen through the haze of beer and dim light.

Prop H8 Supporters Continue Their Quest to Look Stupid

Normally, I try for some small modicum of tact. (I can hear you laughing from here, Michael. Shut up.) But this latest tactic from Prop 8 supporters can really only be boiled down as “stupid:”

In another jab at the federal judge who ruled against Proposition 8, sponsors of the gay marriage initiative asked a district court Monday to set aside the ruling on the grounds the judge was in a long-term same-sex relationship that posed a conflict of interest.

Attorneys for ProtectMarriage, the group that sponsored the 2008 ballot initiative, said in a legal motion that Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who retired from the San Francisco-based district court earlier this year, had a duty to disclose his relationship and step down before deciding whether a ban on same-sex marriage violated the federal Constitution.

“Judge Walker’s ten-year-long same-sex relationship creates the unavoidable impression that he was not the impartial judge the law requires,” said Andy Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage. “He was obligated to either recuse himself or provide full disclosure of this relationship at the outset of the case. These circumstances demand setting aside his decision.”

So let me get this straight (heh) – only heterosexual judges can rule on legal cases involving gay civil rights (the right to marry, in this case)? Really? How far does this particular brand of stupid and/or crazy “logic” extend? Does this mean a judge who is married cannot rule on divorce cases? Or does the judge have to be divorced? Which is the conflict there? What if the judge is separated?

If the defendant is African American, is it okay if the judge is African American? What if the plaintiff is Caucasian? What is the acceptable race for the judge? Do we have to find someone who has mixed heritage? Or does that only matter if it’s a civil rights related case?

This is clearly a very complicated matter, and I look forward to Andy Pugno and/or ProtectMarriage stepping forward and offering us clear and uncomplicated flow charts to indicate just who may reside over a trial at any given time.

Discredited Doctor Andrew Wakefield

My name is Kelly Hills and I am an occasional blogger. Per the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, I must disclose any and all compensation for endorsements or posts.

I am not being paid, receiving remuneration, or otherwise compensated for this post on Andrew Wakefield, nor have I ever been paid to specifically write about him – contrary to his assertions in today’s NYTimes Magazine article.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me assert, again, my belief that Andrew Wakefield is a discredited doctor from the United Kingdom who is single-handedly responsible for the surge in preventable childhood illnesses that cause permanent disability and death, that he has fooled countless parents into believing it is their fault their child has autism, and that his continued insistence in his position being correct is, ethically-speaking, the worst sort of malfeasance.

I hope that makes it all clear.

Dead Mother Disqualification

On Twitter, there’s a somewhat interesting organization for the area called AroundMainline. Their goal is to increase the visibility of companies and events on the Mainline – simple enough. They also publish an e-newsletter to go with their Twitter feed. They promote restaurant week, do giveaways and prizes, etc.

Today, they said:
One of our most amazing giveways EVER! Win a $500 Mother/Daughter day at Joseph Anthony Retreat Spa and Salon!…

I read the details and went “well, that could be fun for me and my sister… but I’d better ask*, since I suspect they would say ‘no’ to that.” So I did, and had the following conversation:

@AroundMainLine Clarify: must it be mother/daughter duo that accepts/uses the prize?

@rocza anyone can comment to win the day at the space but the prize is for a mother/daughter duo to experience, hope that helps!

@AroundMainLine Clarifies. Unfollowing til after Mother’s Day. It’s insensitive, to say the least, to folks w/o mothers + other traditions

And to be honest, I probably won’t follow again, although who knows – I can be a bit flighty when it comes to things like that.

What’s the big deal? Well, a few things:
1. I get a bit tetchy when it comes down to the grand Mother’s Day push, given that whole “my mother is dead” thing. Having everything I look at or am exposed to via advertising or just having the gall to go to the store be all about CELEBRATE WITH MOM kind of irks because ya know? I don’t have that option.

2. You never see father/daughter giveaways like this for Father’s Day. Or father/son, mother/son, or sibling pairings. It’s not like “Sister’s Day” is going to roll around and you’re going to see someone offering a $500 spa package giveaway for two sisters to share.

3. Who’s to say that the sister and I doing a “mother’s day spa day” to honour the memory of the woman who gave birth to us is a bad thing, or an invalid way of celebrating a day dedicated to someone we can only honour in our memories? What am I supposed to do, win a $500 salon visit and take a ghost?

It’s the whole lack of balance thing. Yes, people who still have mothers who are alive are a special bunch – their mothers are still alive. Let’s try not to make what’s already a difficult thing even harder by rubbing it in with “special special people parties” versus “poor lil’ motherless children who never get invited to the fun.”

*Note: they clarified the contest after I asked my question on Twitter. It was initially left vague and non-specific.