The Final Frontier

Space is truly one of the final frontiers. Where else has the footprint of man not been felt? Only the deepest depths of the oceans have escaped our influence. There is, I think, more to be gained by examining our Earth’s cousins in the solar system than probing the seas here at home.

Considering the vast amount of natural resources to be gained from exploring the asteroid belt, it seems an easy enough choice to make: go forth, and conquer.

Why no government or company or investor has made such an attempt to date is puzzling. Considering the lengths to which we will go for a barrel of oil, our collective lack of will is a quandry.

Many of us can remember, if only vaguely, the thrill of seeing United States astronauts striding the moon. Have we lost that zeal, the need to explore and conquer? Or is it simply mis-directed toward the ethereal shell game of Wall Street?

To previous generations of Americans, a challenge was reason enough for the effort. “Because it was there” was motivation enough to climb mountains.

Space is still there. Quiet and unexplored. What are we waiting for?

Rail Killer

Dean Kamen’s Segway HT, short for Human Transport, has opened a new frontier
in the battle with traffic congestion and air pollution. If you are not familiar with the device,
read this article by Jane Hadley of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Imagine five lanes of traffic filled carbon monoxide belching automobiles, lined up
and immobile as far as the eye can see, tail-lights blinking on and off as the clock
ticks closer and closer to 8:00 AM. Sound familiar? Houstonians in the audience
certainly would feel at home in that picture.

Now, imagine the same vast concrete runway topped with snappy little Seqway
scooters zipping along at forty miles per hour, each one carrying the same number
of commuters as today’s automobile. That is to say, one. Does this seem like a
more effective use of resources to you? Taken as a whole, time, money, and natural resources would be greatly conserved by this transformation.

My own wife will scoff at this idea and mock me in front of the children, certainly it is not without difficulties, but it does make sense. The list of petty complaints will be endless. “It’s raining!”, “I want to go faster!”, and “My scooter is ugly!” will be mantras heard across the land, but to no avail.

Houstonians are currently involved in a struggle over whether or not to spend billions
on rail systems over the coming decades. I submit that future generations of personal
transport devices will be a much more cost effective solution.

Ultimately, some form of this vision will replace the internal combustion engine, it is as simple as that. When our grandchildren look back at the year 2002, they will recognize the
importance of the Segway as being the first useful personal transport device.

It certainly will not be an easy transition. Today in Houston, on nearly all of our surface streets it is far too dangerous to ride a bicycle. Amidst much gnashing of teeth, simple economics says room will be made for the Segway’s offspring. Not convinced? Remember, people like my parents actually WANTED to drive those ugly blue Honda Civics back in 1975. Hard to believe.

Pop Star Politics

Apparently pop singer Moby wants to use his 15 minutes of fame for something meaningful. “I resent having our foreign policy determined by oil men,” he wrote. “And I resent having a cabinet that is filled with old men who have no understanding of the new economy. And I resent anachronistic, right wing politics that focus on absurd issues like the Pledge of Allegiance while the economy falls apart. And I resent having people who work at energy corporations determining our nation’s energy and environmental policies…”

When I was a teen, musicians and artists seemed to have something to say to me, but as I grew up, their stature shrank in kind until I could see them for what they were: mere boys and girls living in a fantasy world. This is not to say that all stars are ignorant of reality; Bono and John Mellencamp have exemplified themselves with their actions. As for most of the rest, I am glad to have outgrown their strident ravings.

Apparently Moby thinks it would be more appropriate for ennergy policy to be determined by persons ignorant of the way that industry really works. Sloppy thinking like that is one reason I was eventually able to see through the facade of meaning cast by the pop stars of my time.

As for the “new economy”, there’s no such thing. There’s only THE economy, and the remaining new economy players are simply scrambling to find a place with in the reality of it.

Moby does get one thing right, in part, when when he decries the time and effort that is being wasted bickering over the Pledge of Allegiance. He is quite correct in calling this farce ridiculous; however, it is hardly as a result of the right wing of our political system. Rather, it is the very constituency of which Moby is a part that have wasted our time and resources with this childish natter. Pop stars…

State Government Tear-jerker

I read an amusing article today at Slate.com. “Pity the Poor, Penniless Governors” by Jack Schafer. Seems many states are suddenly noticing there’s a recession on. “Not enough money? What will we do?!”, they cry!

As Mr. Schafer points out, state legislators simply need to tighten their belts and acknowledge economic realities. This means cutting back expenditures to be in line with revenues.

After all, it does not simply stand to reason that state and local budgets should increase year after year, without end. The folks in Houston know a little something about this type of fiscal unpleasantness, what with Enron’s implosion, hard knocks to Dynegy and Continental Airlines, and the absorption of Compaq by Hewlett-Packard.

Suffice it to say that I’ve known people in much worse financial straits than simply not being able to increase their personal spending. It’s about time government officials experience a little of the pain.

Bush Stock Trades Not News

The Whitewater-like mini-scandal embroiling President Bush over his trades of Harken Energy stock twelve years ago is much ado about nothing.

In fact, it is merely a Democratic tit-for-tat, an obligatory retribution for the assaults on former President Clinton. Democratic leaders have chosen to flex their political muscle during the pre-election summer campaigns to minimize a popular President’s coat-tails.

With the situation in Afghanistan seemingly stabilized, for the out-of-power Democrats, it is back to tedious politics-as-usual inside the Washington D.C. beltway. Meanwhile, our nation waits for another terrorist attack within our borders. Who among us ponders the increasing irrelevancy of our opposition party’s contribution to governmental leadership? One can only assume the Democrats believe the people incapable of discerning their self-serving behavior.