Archive for November 10th, 2008

No More DHL, Yay!

I’ve expressed my opinions on shipping company DHL in the past, as have countless others, so I’m not exactly saddened by the news that they’re leaving the U.S. market. It’s hardly unexpected – the number of companies in the package and parcel delivery business, at least in this country, has been shrinking for a decade – ever since the last great upstart, RPS, was bought out by Federal Express. Still, it sucks for the employees – at least half of DHL’s hubs are contractor-run, and I expect the employees at those locations are facing rather more financial uncertainty than those at actual, DHL-owned and -run facilities.

I half-joked in an earlier post that this has been a bad year for authors, who seem to be dropping like flies; this is not proving to be a particularly good holiday season for the American worker, either, as layoffs, downsizings, and business closings promise to have an unpleasant trickle-down effect on the economy.

To be fair, you have to commend DHL for not crying to the government for financial handouts; I suppose that since they compete with the government-run postal service here, the odds of their getting gobs of free money are pretty slim…

Published in: General | on November 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment »

News in Space

Two interesting space-related tidbits from the USAF last week failed to get the attention they deserved – any attention at all, really. One was the test of a Minuteman III ICBM within 48 hours of the U.S. elections; offensive military posturing to “send a message” isn’t just a tool of third-world dictators and despots, of course.

The other is the not-entirely-surprising delay in launching a new Air Force spy satellite. They’re being a little coy about just what it can carries and does:

…Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer hyperspectral imager, the Office of Naval Research’s Satellite Communications Package, and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Avionics Experiment. The trio of payloads will offer real-time imagery (within 10 minutes of collection), sea-based information transmitted from ocean buoys and plug-and-play avionics to assist the warfighter in keeping one step ahead of the adversary.

As Wikipedia points out, “Hyperspectral imaging is particularly useful in military surveillance because of measures that military entities now take to avoid airborne surveillance. Airborne surveillance has been in effect since soldiers used tethered balloons to spy on troops during the American Civil War, and since that time we have learned not only to hide from the naked eye, but to mask our heat signature to blend in to the surroundings and avoid infrared scanning, as well. The idea that drives hyperspectral surveillance is that hyperspectral scanning draws information from such a large portion of the light spectrum that any given object should have unique spectral signature in at least a few of the many bands that get scanned.”

Some information about “TacSat3” has already been made public (also see this PDF), but I think this might be the first photograph of the actual satellite.

One interesting aspect of this that probably deserves investigation is the “Ocean Data Telemetry Micro Satellite Link”, which seems to be the same thing as the ONR “Satellite Communications Package” referenced above. This system “will collect data from sea-based buoys and transmit the information back to a ground station for expeditious communication to the warfighter.” Somehow, when they use words like “telemetry” and “expeditious communication to the warfighter”, I have to suspect that there’s more than just meteorological data being transmitted, here…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on November 10th, 2008 | Comments Off on News in Space

A Sociopolitical Interlude

Since the presidential election earlier this month, a lot of people have been peering into their crystal balls, trying to predict what Barack Obama’s election foretells for the country. Some concentrate on the economic, military, foreign policy, public image, or purely political aspects, which is only to be expected. A few, though – including the BBC – have pondered the social impacts, and one – I forget who, alas – went so far as to say that the most momentous social changes would probably come as a result of the new First Family, rather than merely Obama himself; his daughters, for example, are the only “First Children” since, what, Chelsea Clinton?
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Published in: General | on November 10th, 2008 | Comments Off on A Sociopolitical Interlude