FEDERAL BYTES

The return of the blue- and red-eyed zombies

A NASA press release popped out at us as soon as it arrived. It was an announcement of uploaded pictures of an exploding star, Eta Carinae, on the Internet for public viewing.

Even more interesting, the release urged computer users to examine the explosion "through color 3-D glasses with the left eye looking through a red filtered lens, and the right eye looking through a blue filtered lens.

"Please note," the announcement went on, "3-D glasses will not be available through NASA."

Intrigued by this retro type of computer 3-D, we rifled through our desks and found a pair of those glasses - normally reserved for comic books and B movies - and took in the show. The verdict? Refreshingly noncyber. Let's call it virtual virtual reality. Access the site at http://www.stsci.edu/pubinfo/gif/EtaCar3d.gif.

Remembering the Valdez

What's in a name? Apparently a lot. Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) quipped at a press conference last week that only "about five people in the Senate" know that Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.) spells his name with one "x" and pronounces it differently from the oil company's.

Exon, next in line to speak at the press conference, followed with background to the story. "It's true that some years ago a large oil company came to see me wanting to talk about my name," he said. "They wanted to come up with a new name for the company."

The name, of course, is Exxon, which the Senator pointed out has two x's. "If you can't remember that," Exon said, "just remember they are the double-cross boys."

An experienced candidate

As usual, House appropriators are being tight-lipped about plans for the Tax Systems Modernization they will include in the Internal Revenue Service's spending bill, which they will draft tomorrow. But there's been some (probably) wild speculation that the Hill might ask another agency to take over the beleaguered program.

We figure not even a congressman could convince anyone to take on a job that's received so much of a drubbing, but that hasn't stopped us from imagining the perfect candidate: the Federal Aviation Administration.

After all, the FAA knows better than maybe anyone how not to run an expensive, complex software development project. And it has the flexible procurement rules that would make it easy to hire a vendor quickly.

New ideas?

The most interesting item on the Defense Department's Acquisition Reform Web site is titled "Cost as an Independent Variable." Under this concept, DOD is asking its procurement honchos to treat cost to the taxpayer as an independent factor in every award decision, along with technical and other noncost attributes. Admittedly, it's a good idea. It also has been the law for a very long time - since well before the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984.

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