The Real Meaning of Internet Access

If you’re clever, you can find nearly anyone on the net. Early on, at least 8-9 years ago, Steffie was writing a school report on penguins. She wanted to know more about the sleeping habits of the Emperor penguin. I was lost.

Back then I probably reached for Yahoo and looked around. There were a few citations, and I found a website that was close, but didn’t really have what she wanted.

Actually, by this time we had gone way beyond what she wanted. I was now doing this research for me.

I wrote to the website’s owner, and he wrote back that night. Yes, he knew about the Emperor penguin – in fact he was considered an expert on the Emperor. And then, he proceeded to explain their sleep patterns (very light sleepers).

It didn’t impress Steffie, but it did me, that he was from a university in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. And he was totally available.

Since then I have found a way to contact the head of programming at NBC, when they were considering a reality show which would have put a ‘contestant’ on the Russian MIR space station – which, I argued, was a death trap. More recently I wrote to a Nobel Prize winner at the University of Texas and got a pretty funny reply.

Until her accelerated departure last week, I had been writing to Shelley Ross, executive producer at Good Morning America – a show I used to do weather fill-in for – and would move heaven and Earth to do weather fill-in for again. I wrote her more than she wrote me… but she did reply, and even told me I was funny.

A few years ago I wrote the late Jack Paar, who had a very interesting website, but he never wrote back. I was always worried he had seen me (our station can be viewed in Greenwich, though residents there tend to believe they’re actually in New York and primarily watch New York City TV), not approved, and decided to snub me. I hope I’m wrong.

Tonight I wrote Shelley Berman.

In the 60’s Shelley Berman was as big as a comedian could be. A 1963 documentary was his undoing. He still plays Vegas, travels around the country, and teaches at USC, but he should have had more for the last 40 years.

He is extremely active on his website, and I assume I’ll get a response… or maybe he’s seen me… or Paar tipped him off before he died. Who can tell?

Meanwhile, it’s just cool to know I have this access.

When It Comes To Men In Space, I’m Not Alone

I have written, more than a few times, about the U.S. manned space program. It’s a good idea on paper, or maybe it was thirty years ago. There’s little reason anymore to send men into space as explorers in the 21st Century.

Advances in remote sensing and robotics in general (and for these purposes I consider vehicles like the Mars rovers to be robotic) now allow machines to do more than humans, in harsh environments, without the life support costs and without the devastating downside of failure that humans bring.

More than once, on the news set, after a story about the space program has run, my colleagues have turned to me and said, “I bet you’d really like to do that.” It would make sense. I’m a science kind of guy. My answer is always, no. It always has been.

I just finished an article from the New York Review of Books by Dr. Steven Weinberg, the University of Texas/Austin Nobel Prize winning physicist and am amazed that he and I agree so fully about sending men to space. We both say, “no.”

His well documented essay goes point by point to show that we send men into space because of our emotion – not for the sake of science. He points out, as I did earlier, that the tragic Columbia disaster was a mission with minimal science, in a program with little purpose or hope of ever fulfilling its original reason for existing.

I found Dr. Weinberg’s email address and sent him a note – as if a Nobel laureate needs my reassurance that his ideas are sound. Maybe the note really wasn’t meant to benefit him. Looking back, it was reassurance to me that I’m not a Luddite… at least as far as space is concerned.

Blogger’s addendum – After writing to Dr. Weinberg and telling him “It is good to see I’m not some lone Luddite fruitcake sniping at the manned space program (or, if I am, that there are two Luddite fruitcakes out there),” he responded “One good thing about fruitcakes – they stick together. SW.”

He deserves another Nobel for that line alone!.