Brief asides


POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Hobbled Hubble up in the air

It's been almost 20 years since the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 amid much hoopla and optimism. Along the way, it has been plagued with costly setbacks, and its life cycle has pretty much mirrored NASA's troubled space program of recent decades.

Now a Hawaii-born astronaut, Megan McArthur, is among seven astronauts launched into space for a risky, final repair job on the aging observatory, to extend its life for at least five more years. After that, Hubble's fate, like that of NASA's space program, is uknown. A final frontier?


Cocktails in the name of research

Researchers in Boston are embarking on a study to find out if alcohol has any true health benefits. By setting up a trial that relies on actual monitored alcohol consumption, scientists hope to come up with a firm conclusion. The study is being underwritten by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Past studies relied on subjects' recollections of alcohol use, which, needless to say, may not have provided the most accurate results.


Good time to invest in forever

What to do? What to do? What to do with all those pennies jingling and jangling in your purse or pocket?

The U.S. Postal Service has a solution for you. Go down to your nearby post office and stock up on 2-cent stamps. Yes, the price of a first-class stamp to mail a letter has gone up again, effective yesterday, to 44 cents from the previous 42 cents.

The USPS lost $2.8 billion last year and is looking at much steeper losses this year. There's talk of cutting delivery to five days a week.

In 1958, a first-class stamp cost 4 cents; 20 years later, it was 15 cents; by 1998, it was at 32.

The Forever stamp debuted in 2007 when it cost 41 cents, and yes, it's good forever, whatever the current rate.

If you do a lot of snail mail, that was a bargain buy. Still might be, at this rate.