Open Records

Among the events to be grateful for this year is the decision by the NH legislature to give adult adoptees the opportunity to see their original birth certificates, starting January 1, 2005.
This makes NH only the seventh state to open records, a legal right granted to citizens of the UK some 30 years ago.

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Slivers of Silver Lining

Time online reports that a “number” of foreign tourists were killed by the tsunami earlier this week in Phuket, Thailand.
Phuket Beach is, of course, a notorious center of child prostitution. Thus, one cannot help but speculate that the world is better off without some of these “foreign tourists”, a tiny bit of good news in what is otherwise an unimaginable tragedy.
Meanwhile, in the Pitchavaram and Muthupet region on the Indian coastline, it was proven that mangrove trees can mitigate the damage from the tsunamis. Conservation of mangroves has been a public/private sector initiative in India for the past 14 years, and precisely for this reason: to act as a buffer between the sea and coastal communities.

Pre-New Year’s Thoughts, Part I

I’ve been sorting through old paperwork – not my favorite chore – and ran across an essay by Susan Polis Schutz on “People Who Achieve Their Dreams”.
The original is a tad sanctimonious (“They never have excuses for not doing something”) and more than a tad unrealistic (“They never consider the idea of failing”).
Even so, there are enough really good thoughts here that I’m copying a good portion of Ms. Schutz’s original, with some thoughts (in italics) of my own.

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Amazing Grace

Interesting, isn’t it, how your perspective can change based on a single incident.
Romantics want to believe in love at first sight, for example.
Social/political behaviorists say that a mugging can turn a Liberal into a Conservative.
This past week, I had a perspective-altering experience that may or may not be permanent. It wasn’t as major as falling in love or being attacked in a dark alley, but for me, it was significant.

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Goodbye, Good Riddance

Sean O’Keefe, the administrator of NASA, announced that he is resigning to take a higher-paying job as chancellor of Louisiana State University.
NASA has been a shambles, and part of the responsibility is O’Keefe’s: the shuttle Columbia disaster happened over a year after his appointment. An independent agency report laid the blame in part on “slipshod” management.
His departure comes at a particularly good time for supporters of the Hubble Space Telescope. O’Keefe had refused to approve any additional missions to keep the Hubble in repair “for safety reasons”. This was a killing blow to researchers who had spent years preparing Hubble-related experiments, and it was seen as yet one more assault by the Bush administration on the scientific community.
Last week, the National Academy of Sciences released a report stating that NASA should use astronauts to keep the Hubble in orbit. This is supported by members of Congress like Senator Barbara Mikulski, who was instrumental in getting $300 million earmarked for the Hubble in NASA’s current budget.
Exploration of the cosmos may be the most meaningful legacy our incomprehensibly corrupt government leaves to future generations. Let’s hope that the next person at the helm at NASA is committed to the advancement of scientific knowledge instead of marking time until a better-paying job comes along.