Seeing it through

I apologize in advance. I expect by the time this hits the stands on Wednesday you'll be wanting to hear about Judge Jackson's ruling. I fully expect him to rule on Wednesday, actually; since the findings of fact he's made a regular habit of waiting to say important stuff until I'm going out of town. A cruel, cruel man, Judge Jackson. My life is so hard! And yet I persevere, and coverage you shall have just as soon as I'm able. I started following this case two looooooong years ago and it's too late to turn back now. Like the man said—everything I do, I do it for you. (Only I do it more grammatically.)

From the things-are-tough-all-over files, we learn that a gentleman in South Africa has done what I've always threatened to do with my often-cantankerous PC: taken it out and shot it. How gorgeous is that? No more anguished calls to tech support, no more stupid excuses to my editor when things are late, no more deleting important applications and begging the Computer Godz (Larry, Moe, and Curly) to make everything all right again. Every year Americans waste thousands of bullets in other humans; let's cut the crap and start unloading them where it counts. Are you with me?!

Well, a girl can dream. The same article tells of another South African who took his machine out behind the house and ran over it with his four-wheel drive, if that's more palatable to some of you. (No surprise; plenty of Seattleites are passive-aggressive enough to deplore firearms and yet drive their environment-destroying SUVs in a fashion ranging from careless to depravedly indifferent. Letters to the usual dev/null, please.)

What we have here is a creative solution to the problem of dead-machine disposal, an issue causing no end of headaches for US-European relations (not to mention landfills, recycling centers, and the planet at large). Here's another idea: de-orbiting the offender into a watery grave. This is a less than ideal solution if you're thinking of pitching your PC into Elliott Bay, but if you've got a pesky old satellite cluttering up the skies, you might follow the lead of the ill-fated Iridium birds or, on June 3, the hardworking Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. They're going down.

Way, way down. Used to be we let satellites just fall where they would, since they are relatively small and likely to burn up on reentry. But these birds are big—Compton was, at 17 tons, the biggest thing ever hauled aloft by the space shuttle in 1991, and any amateur astronomer can tell you about those pesky, shiny Iridium satellites. (In fact, if you're interested and know where to look you can actually see them with nothing but your own two eyes. No lie. Check out www.heavens-above.com for details.) These days you've got to drop them somewhere safe for humans and the planet, and the best we can do by both parties right now is the middle of the ocean.

Is this important right now, you ask, what with Microsoft on the point of the sword and Congress gutting your First Amendment rights online (read the lead tech story!) and the FDA letting genetically modified Frankenfoods sneak onto our supermarket shelves without labeling and, and, and . . . and chaos all around us, you ask? Haven't I got anything bigger to worry about than a few dozen satellites headed for the bottom of the Pacific?

If you could see a current picture of the earth from space, you'd see an awful lot of satellites up there, swarming around the planet like fleas on a comic-strip dog. The satellites in question are at the end of their lives (the Iridium constellation after a short, unprofitable life, Compton after a successful and long career); in both cases, the folks who put the birds up there took responsibility for seeing the projects through and cleaning up after themselves as best they could. As we wait for Judge Jackson, as congressfolk weigh their duty to defend the Constitution against their desire for campaign donations, as GM-foods opponents gird themselves for the long public-education haul, it's good to remember that following through on your responsibilities is a righteous act—as above, so below. Amen.

 
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