Saturday, January 21, 2017

Our New President is Inaugurated 

Donald J. Trump was sworn in as our 45th President yesterday with the usual inaugural drama and ceremony. I had the honor of being among the hundreds of thousands who witness this historic change in person.

President Trump's inaugural address (video and text here) repeated the themes of his campaign acknowledging that many Americans have been left behind economically and socially and that America needs to reassert its self interest. The speech then took a lofty tone of renewed optimism for the future.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. 
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. 
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. 
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. 
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.  
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
The recent campaign and indeed much of the national conversation in recent years, even decades has been increasingly rancorous. This division spilled over into Inauguration Day with peaceful protests, which are in the American tradition, but unfortunately some violent outbursts, which must never be tolerated or excused.

All of the hopes of many, and fears of others, about President Trump's administration,have been based on speculation up until yesterday at noon. Now the action really begins, and the president and his administration can be judged on whether he does the right things and does them effectively.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Circus On The Severn Convenes For 2017 

The Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday for its 2017 ninety day run. Transportation will be among the major issues of contention between Gov. Larry Hogan and the leadership of the General Assembly

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: What a Ride! 

Another year has passed. While each year has its individual joys and sorrows felt by each of us and those we love, there are those events and historical developments we share in common, and 2016 certainly has had some unique ones.

2016 saw its share of bloody violence, from all out warfare in Aleppo to terrorism in Orlando to individual murderous acts in Baltimore, to name only a few examples. Tensions festered along racial and other lines, sometimes agitated to advance political agendas.

Progress continued to advance forward, with fits and starts, on many fronts including medicine, technology, commercial space development, etc. Bold plans are laid out for the future (e.g. Elon Musk's plans for settling Mars). Time will tell which plans bear fruit and on what time scale.

In the US, presidential politics dominated attention. A year ago, many wondered whether Donald Trump's candidacy had serious potential or was more of a pop culture sensation. After out-hustling a formidable and talented GOP field of candidates, Trump swept to the nomination in Cleveland and went to take on the favored (and Media darling) Hillary Clinton. In the early morning hours of November 9, many were astounded to find that Donald Trump acquired enough electoral votes to become the 45th President of the United States. Economic anxiety, national security concerns, rejection of extreme "progressive" policies on abortion and other issues all can be cited as deciding factors, along with a general sense that elites in power are not in touch with the concerns of many average citizens.

With the presidential transition pressing ahead and appointments to key positions already named, the table is being set for some of the leading developments of 2017. Trump's confrontational personality combined with the unhinged negativity of some of his opponents mean there will likely be rancorous times ahead, but more important is whether we can make headway in protecting life, defending liberty, maintaining national security and global stability, and achieving expanded prosperity.

Well, wishing you and yours God's blessings and peace and all the best on this new frontier we call 2017.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas! 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:1-14


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Friday, December 23, 2016

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future 

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources for future generations (e.g.  this headline from last year.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview has been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! 

A special day set aside in our nation to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

Thanksgiving has a long history in our country, but the theme of giving thanks goes much further back in history, as recorded in the Bible. Some celebrations of giving thanks in America predate the Pilgrims, including  the celebration of Mass by Spanish settlers in what is now St.Augustine, FL. The end of this Thanksgiving weekend coincides with the First Sunday of Advent, as discussed in this reflection a few years ago by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, starting the season of spiritual preparation for Christmas.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

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Monday, November 07, 2016

The 2016 Election 

Well, the campaign that seems to have lasted forever is finally coming to a conclusion. From a herd of seventeen Republican candidates and four Democratic candidates (recall Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb?), the winnowing process gradually narrowed the fields. I actually participated in the process, running as an alternate delegate candidate for Ted Cruz in the Maryland primary this year. And now the hand has been dealt, with the two major candidates (plus several minor ones). Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be elected this week.

Hillary Clinton is dragging chains of baggage longer than those of Jacob Marley's ghost. Clinton Foundation corruption, unsecured email server, Benghazi, Whitewater, etc.

And the there are the critical issues of life, liberty, security and prosperity. (Protecting life from in the womb until natural death is a threshold issue for me.) Judicial nominations are critical. Not to mention the soaring health care premiums that many of us are experiencing.

As I noted at the top, Donald Trump was not my first choice (or 2nd, 3rd, etc.) for the Republican nomination. Trump is certainly an unconventional candidate with rough edges and a checkered past (and I in no way excuse or condone the alleged acts of sexual harassment). I think he came into the race with a huge ego and a lack of understanding of most of the issues and of how government works. While much of the ego remains, he does seem to have shown increasing seriousness about issues, from foreign/defense policy to protecting life to the economy and even on the future in space.

Some fear that Trump's sometimes rude or outlandish comments during the past year in a half make him and his supporters the equivalent of the fascist dictatorships that arose in Europe during the last century. While I could be proven terribly wrong, I don't think that is likely. I believe that the extreme corruption and deceitfulness combined with the radical world view of Clinton and her associates may present the greater danger to our way of life. Consider the WikiLeaks revelation of the audacity of campaign chair John Podesta and others to think that they could organize a movement to undermine the teachings of the Catholic Church. (Taking on the Church founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ would be an ultimately futile gesture, but other powers in history have engaged in severe persecution in the attempt.)

One other thing. When the history of this election is written, the story of the media may be as big as that of the candidates. The bias of much of the established media toward liberal issues (especially social/cultural liberalism) and candidates, became so much more overt this time. Yet, the rise of alternate networks and especially of Internet social media have made it increasingly difficult for anyone to impose a single narrative on the reporting of current events. A fundamental reason our society is so divided is that people are relying on different sources of information, with many deeply distrusting the long established media institutions. Whatever the election outcome, an altered media landscape may be a long term consequence of this divisive political season.

Finally, we need to pray for the candidates and for the nations. History is ultimately in God's hands. (Recall 2 Chron 7:14.) We also need to be sure that our deep divisions do not separate families and friends. Whatever the outcome, may we gather in two weeks in Thanksgiving for our blessings.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

On Becoming A Multi-Planet Species 

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk delivered a presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico that could have a significant impact on the human future in space. Musk introduced a bold plan for an Interplanetary Transport System that could allow for human settlement of Mars to begin, possibly within a decade (though Musk cautioned that timelines are not firm).

This plan is more than a conceptual study, but is based on engineering development already carried out by SpaceX of a huge booster and spacecraft capable of carrying 100 passengers comfortably to Mars on a single trip.. The company has already begun hardware development of some components, revealing pictures of employees standing next to a giant liquid oxygen tank that would be part of the vehicle.

The presentation (PDF here) focused mostly on the means of transportation to get the settlers to the Red Planet. Musk said that while SpaceX will be making substantial investments in the project, he expects that it will take partnerships with other industrial partners and government agencies to accomplish this daring venture. Perhaps he is counting on partners to develop the infrastructure needed to sustain the settlers on their new planetary home.

SpaceX is already partnering with NASA on commercial cargo and crew to the International Space Station and on the planned unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars. However, this project is so huge it dwarfs NASA'a own Journey to Mars program, providing unique challenges to a partnership.

This kind of undertaking is certainly high risk. There are a number of challenges, including technical, financial, and human factors to be addressed. There may be serious political challenges from those with vested interests and some with ideological motives.

One thing about Elon Musk is that when he sets his mind on an audacious goal, he has the drive to get it done (though maybe not on his originally announced timeline). Also, Musk is not alone with the vision for human expansion into space. Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin space company recently announced plans for a large new rocket (and a hint of a larger one to come) openly shares his vision "I want millions of people living and working in space. I want us to be a spacefaring civilization." And other visionary entrepreneurs are pursuing ventures in developing space habitats, mining the Moon and asteroids, space tourism, etc.

These developments are leading to the expansion of humanity beyond Earth with profound implications for economic growth, national and international security, and cultural development. We live at a time when our civilization is at great peril, and at the same time there is much promise for the future.

Video illustration of SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System carrying people to Mars

Video of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presenting the plan at IAC2016


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Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001, Fifteen Years Later 

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Fifteen years ago today, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Fifteen years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, the current horrific events in the Middle East and the recent attacks around the world and here in America serve to remind us that the threat is still real. We must not allow complacency or political correctness to distract us from recognizing the reality of the current danger.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing and growing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some people, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

OSIRIS-REx Boldly Goes to asteroid Bennu 

Photo credit: NASA/Sandy Joseph and Tim Terry

The NASA OSIRIS-REx  mission was successfully launched Thursday evening on its multi-year mission to scout the asteroid Bennu and retrieve a sample of that body that will be returned to Earth in 2023. The mission could reveal valuable information information about the development of the Solar System and will also provide technical and operational expertise beneficial to future scientific and commercial asteroid missions.

By a coincidence of celestial mechanics, the launch occurred on the 50th anniversary of the TV broadcast of the first episode of the original Star Trek series. So this mission began its journey to boldly go where no man-made robotic spacecraft has gone before!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

World Youth Day 2016 

Over five hundred thousand pilgrims are joining with Pope Francis in Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day 2016 now occurring to energize the world's young people for Christ. (Despite the title, it is actually a several day event.)

Here is the official web site. WYD is also being covered by EWTN.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Forty Seven Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World 


Today is the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Here is a brief video capturing highlights of the first two explorers on the Moon.

The Moody Blues were one of the premier rock music bands of that era. They were (and still are) great fans of space travel. Here is a video of highlights of the Apollo lunar expeditions accompanied by the first three songs from their 1969 album To Our Childrens' Childrens' Children, which was the band's celebration of the first human lunar landing.

Today is also the thirteenth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch 

Forty seven years ago this morning, Apollo 11 lifted off on the voyage to land the first men on the Moon. Here's a replay of what it looked like on TV from ~6 min before 'til ~4 min after launch. (The video quality is somewhat degraded from that of the live TV broadcast.) The terse, crisp voice of Jack King as Apollo Launch Control added to the drama of the historic countdown. Relive the moment or experience what it was like.

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Monday, July 04, 2016

Juno Arrives at Jupiter Tonight 

Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Juno probe launched nearly five years ago arrives this evening to enter orbit around the giant planet Jupiter to conduct unprecedented investigations of that celestial body.

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Happy Independence Day! 

Stars And Stripes by Junior Libby

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is a time to be mindful and protective of the full range of personal, religious and economic liberties. Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us of the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sine Die: The Circus on the Severn Folds Its Tent 

The Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night after its ninety-day session for 2016. Here is the Baltimore Sun's summary of highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly that was passed during this session, and here is Red Maryland's scorecard on the Assembly's disposition of some major issues.

Unfortunately, tax relief for Maryland citizens was not realized as the body adjourned. Some really good news is that the push for assisted suicide failed to even come to the floor in either chamber.

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