Monday, October 31, 2005


I don't often play the quote game. Looking for some more info on T.R. Fehrenbach's chapter on the Anglo-Celt migration in his Texas history, Lone Star, I found this ..

There is a respect among my folk for the inherent dignity of every person to rise or fall according to his merits and good luck. And while we tend to root for the underdog and look after our own when they have troubles, we also harbor some secret suspicions about the character of those who continually fail to rise on their own merits. We secretly assume that there is something not right in their constitutions, and while we pity them and afford them every opportunity to make of themselves more substantial human concerns, we eventually cease to feel responsible for their upkeep and will allow them to find their own place at the bottom of the pile. Our troubles are essentially our own creations, in some sense, and there is dignity in owning yer own shit, good or bad. That is why we can look at a horse thief who spurs the animal at his own hangin and pay him the respect of sayin, "He died good." There is redemption in that and a pleasing symmetry that makes even the worst of us open to a certain form of Grace.

Which then reminded me of this from my sig file;
For a soldier it is black and white: deeds not words. If you need words to better illustrate, the Latin mottos of two Infantry Regiments I have served in will suffice: "Sua Sponte" and "NeDesit Virtus": Of their own accord and Let Valor not fail.

Or in true cowboy fashion: Saddle your own horse, cull your own herd, and bury your own dead.

Col. Knute Lombatton

Blogroll addition: Albion's Seedlings

Added Albion's Seedlings to the blogroll. Seedlings is the companion website to the book The Anglosphere Challenge - it's a pretty good book or so they tell me. It's on my 'I really need to read that soon' list.

What the hey is an 'Anglosphere'? Glad you asked - there is a primer here.

This is what you pay tax money for: Part II

I am so in the wrong racket.

A Fairmont nonprofit research institute that receives most of its money from the federal government provided its three top officers with a total of $820,035 in salary and benefits in 2003, according to the organization's federal tax return.

Kevin Niewoehner, head of the Institute for Scientific Research Inc., received a total of $397,286 -- including $279,936 in compensation, $110,875 in benefits and deferred compensation and a leased vehicle with a use valued of $6,475.

Paul E. Parker III, vice president and secretary, received a total of $241,485 in compensation and benefits, while Teresa Rundle, vice president and treasurer, received $181,264, according to the tax return.

Charleston Daily Mail

The institute in question is ISR, home to - among other thing - an effort to think tank space elevators.

I am no doubt frightfully ignorant about the true compensation due to really smart guys - but the three quoted folks (and I am very aware that I'm casting stones in a glass house) not actually being compensated for their genius or academic excellence per se - Niewoehner spent a decade at NASA as a Program Planning Executive, Parker is a lawyer, and Rundle is an accountant. Enough degrees for a thermometer. Suits? Dave McGuire would think so. Wonder what the academic grunts at ISR make.

At any road seeing as how they are not a private corporation but are taking money from the taxpayer (hey look more stones in the glass house) and allowing that West Virginia must surely have a low cost of living - you'd think these guys could take a pay cut for the team.

This is what you pay tax money for

From the your tax money at work department.

For two years, NASA paid Laurie Anderson as the agency's "artist in residence." The performing artist was commissioned to perform a theatrical story-telling piece in theaters across the nation, as part of a NASA outreach effort. The artist in residence position was not specifically authorized by Congress

Job Description:

* Create and tour a theatrical piece, educating theater-goers about NASA; and
* " produce a film on the moons of the solar system" for the 2005 World Expo.

Laurie Anderson describes the film in this way, "It's images from above...It begins with this idea of stuttering and how difficult it is to start things. And it's connected to the rocks in many ways."[1]

Additional Employment While Working for NASA

* Preparing for her violin tour;[2]
* Taking long walks around Europe to create an audio diary for French radio; and
* Composing music for a Japanese garden for the 2005 World Expo.[1]When asked how she is working on so many projects while also working for NASA, Anderson replied, "The NASA artist in resident thing is a very small stipend. It's not enough to really do stuff..."[2]

You might not _like_ the idea of a private company getting into and possibly dominating the launch business but you can bet that they won't spend their money on useless works of 'art' - or if they do they'll get a better deal for their money.

Statements by Laurie Anderson in Interviews During Time at NASA:

  • "Congress is the jocks and they're always saying how terrible it is that NASA spends their money on all this stuff."[3]
  • "As sad as I am about being in the United States these days, NASA is genuinely exciting."[4]

  • Suggested to a NASA engineer while touring NASA facilities, "Have you
    ever thought of a different set-up?...I'm on a quest against
  • "...I've been trying to avoid goal-oriented behavior."[2]
  • "I am and always have been a snob."[3]
  • think a lot of people in Washington are extremely suspicious of NASA."[2]
  • "I met many astronauts, and they seemed so out of place."[4]

They'll probably find one that, you know, understands what the f*** space is about at any road.

From NASA's First and Last Artist in Residence? | NASA Watch


[1] "Moon and Stats Align for Performance Artist," Washington Post, June 30, 2004.

[2] "Moon Rocks," NewsweekOnline, July 9, 2004.

[3] Vue Weekly,

[4] "Post-Lunarism," New York Times, January 30, 2005.

[5]"NASA artist in residence tours Ames' key research facilities," Astrogram, July 2003

Cats and dogs, women and men

Lileks quotage

Women writing about men always seems like cats writing about dogs; they just can’t believe that sitting around and waiting for supper or intruders is what it’s all about. It has to be something more. A writer of the Dowd Brigade will ask: why does he want to go have pizza after sex instead of cuddling? A man, or a married woman, will say: because he’s hungry. No, it has to be more than that. Is he using the trip to the fridge as a hedge against intimacy? No, he’s using it as a means to get pizza. Because he’s hungry. You want him to stay, put a frozen Totinos between the mattress and the box spring before you start.

James Lileks - 10/31/05

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fred Reed - A Brass Pole in Bangkok

Fred may not be polite society - but I'd buy him a beer. The man can write.

Some will say that our lives constitute a sordid cohabitation with the ungodly. I hope so. Detritus we are, and detritus we will be. It suits us. The world, the part worth knowing, lives in the alleys. We have known the smoke and dimness of a thousand Asian bars, known them till they run together in the mind, and found the hookers morally preferable to the expensively suited criminals of good society, more engaging than the liars of the press conferences. There is more of life and humanity in the driver of a battered Ford who picks up a hitchhiker in the darkling valleys of Tennessee than in the moral fetor and vanity of Washington.

We are not entirely without ambition. Often I have seen a young lovely in Bangkok, on Patpong or Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy, revolving without excessive clothing around a brass pole in a dim club with disco thumping in the murk and almond eyes watching for a flicker of interest. I do not want to be president, nor a Rothschild nor a computer magnate. But a brass pole in Bangkok, that I could be.

We are what we are.

From Fred on Everything for 10/30/05

Doken Kokka

This is interesting;
The G-Cans Project, in other words, reveals the quasi-mythic splendor of grandiose civic infrastructure, something the United States is ridding itself of entirely – yet something Japan is now all but entombed within.

A "construction state" – or doken kokka – has effectively taken over the Japanese economy, according to Gavan McCormack in the New Left Review. The doken kokka, he writes, "is opaque, unaccountable, and therefore hard to reform. Essentially, it enables the country’s powerful bureaucrats to channel the population’s life savings into a wide range of debt-encrusted public bodies – those in charge of highways, bridge-building, dams and development initiatives," and that means "promising new public-works projects," thus "concreting the archipelago."

The article is pretty amazing, actually, even shocking – though I do have to say that some of the projects it describes would be an engineer's dream. But it comes with the realization that all this frenzied global construction may be more than just a bubble – see recent analyses of China's own building boom, for instance – or Dubai – but a kind of hysteria, a building-pathology.

One wonders, in fact, if there might be a disease, something Freud discovered, a neurosis of some kind: suddenly you start building things – and you don't stop building things. You move beyond talking – building, building, always building – and soon you're like that bearded guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: you've got mashed potatoes all over your hands and there's a mountain in the living room.

That, or you've just built the world's largest sewer.
(Via Archinect – and see earlier on BLDGBLOG). G-CANS photos here.

I find this interesting not just because it's cool and interesting - it is, no doubt and can't you just see mecha in some of those frames? We can hope what the author is describing is the future. We'll be moving up and out soon, building habitats the size of first buildings then cities and larger. These will be doken kokka, they must be to sustain life.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Spaceport Sheboygan

Sounds far fetched. But there is a serious effort being made to expand Wisconsin's presence in the aerospace and space industry.

UPI: Wisconsin may open private spaceport.

What's really going on? I wrote Wisconsin Senator Joe Leibham (9th District) who replied

Thank you for contacting me regarding Senate Bill 352, legislation that I authored that would create the Wisconsin Aerospace Authority (WAA) and Spaceport Sheboygan. While I am not your State Senator, I appreciate your interest in, and comments on this legislation and am hopeful that we may see you in Sheboygan in the future

In addition to creating WAA and Spaceport Sheboygan, one of the primary objectives of this legislation is to conduct a study on ways to improve and develop the aerospace industry here in Wisconsin. To provide you with some additional information, I have attached a link to this legislation - -

and a link to a recent column that I wrote describing my interest in this issue -

Thank you again for your insightful comments. I wish you the best in your career and hope that the State of Wisconsin will be viewed as a favorable climate to locate expanding businesses like Liftport in the

Well, thanks Senator Leibham. We'll see.

What's going on is that some folks in Sheboygan want to turn the Armory there into a space and science center - the Midwest's resource for space travel and exploration, rocketry and so on. Reasonable - they already do a thing there launching some pretty big rockets for high school kids. The state pols (I infer) got involved and want to expand the economy a bit by glooming onto the aerospace market.

Which isn't a bad idea - that's the government's job; creating an environment where business can thrive and create wealth.

I'm more than a little dubious that Wisconsin can compete in the launch business with places like Mojave but .. aerospace can happen anywhere and Wisconsin has a thriving manufacturing base in aero and high tech. We don't have to launch things from here - making 'stuff' would be more profitable (if less glamourous) in the long run. Hopefully the proposed WAA can use the Sheboygan Spaceport idea to attract attention to our strengths.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fan Letters

My very first hate mail. I've never been called names like this in a professional capacity. It's bit startling - like coming to work and finding llamas in the lobby.

Nothing wrong with llamas - just that you don't expect to find them in the lobby.

And the hate mail - hey I've been accused of stomping out freedom of expression and stifling people. Everyone is welcome to read what the fellow wrote. In, you know, the name of free speech and all.

This is going to be a summary - my blog my rules.

I am not proud that I called the guy names - but he irked me.

Profanity ahead if that offends.

The first message was sent to the info@ mailbox. What he was irritated about was that he posted a pseudo 30s era gangster post into the Forum. It was accidentally blown away when we thought it was spam. Mind you we didn't know this at the time.

message: what a bunch of lying dicks.

you say you allow disagreement.

but you pulled my 'organized crime'
forum post.

let me set aside the 1930's chicago
gangster accent.

you are a bunch of lying criminals
mooching off lazy-ass government
welfare programs. Your stupid-ass
ideas are bullshit, and anybody
with the slightest amount of engineering
brain can see it as such.

Enjoy your $95/hr, but in the end,
you are all scum and losers and ought
to be ashamed of your ugly faces
every time you look in a mirror.

Crooks. Con men. I've seen your
kind many a time before. Just because
the government is in alignment with you,
that only proves it all the more.
The government is crooks, just like you.

Space ribbon my ass. Dumbfuckers.

- Norm Hill
Design Engineer
University of Washington
BSEE 1985
near Seattle
Fuck you criminal con-men
unprincipled investigator
welfare-bum assholes.

I replied back thusly

Norm Hill wrote:

Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by

Norm Hill ( on Sunday, October 09, 2005 at 12:50:19


message: what a bunch of lying dicks.

you say you allow disagreement.

but you pulled my 'organized crime'

forum post.

let me set aside the 1930's chicago

gangster accent.

Your post was deleted because one of the moderators glanced at it,
thought he recognized a spam attack he'd seen before and did what he is
supposed to do - remove spam from a message board.

Clarification - the spam he (thought) he recognized was a well known
attack using slang to foil the anti-spam measures that recognize buzz words.

We have had in the past needed to delete posts from the Forum. Such has
been needed due to advertising, blatant off-topic posts and so on.

I'm hard put to see this as quashing dissent. It is commonly accepted
that a well-maintained online forum is moderated to prevent abuse, quash
flame wars and to keep a forum on-topic. Removing a single
somewhat-funny post is hardly denying your ability to dissent.

you are a bunch of lying criminals

mooching off lazy-ass government

welfare programs. Your stupid-ass

ideas are bullshit, and anybody

with the slightest amount of engineering

brain can see it as such.

And so on. Do you speak to your mother that way? A vile trend I've
noticed is the tendency to treat the pseudo anonymous communication
afforded by email, IM, chat rooms and so on as an opportunity to be
odious and hurl insults with an abandon that you would not consider in a
physical setting.

Coarse language cheapens the context, causes ill feelings on both ends
of the conversation and, in the end, does nothing to contribute to a
meaningful exchange.

At the last, your privilege of course. But I've always felt that
intelligent people can express themselves without recourse to locker
room language. You may have proven my point.

And a normal dialog started. I sat on a single email (sent on 10/13) for no other reason than, you know, I'm busy and this hit my mailbox;

Gentlemen -

You don't reply. Its offensive.

You haven't responded to even a single question,
which YOU ASKED FOR ME TO SEND. I've numerous
polite follow-ups, and again, no relies.

Your space-rope can be slain (literally) by the simplest
of analysis of any of:

* electric discharge causing severing of the rope

* atomic oxygen erosion

* space debris impacts

* inability to "uncoil" and place the rope, esp when starting up

* invalid ideas about pulse-response if trying to pull the rope
to and fro and avoid space junk

* inability to power the elevator up the rope.

* uselessness for mid-height orbits, such as low earth orbit.

etc etc etc

This is a fantasy. You know it. You are milking for money
exactly as I said.

But what really offends me, is the actual people who post
on your chat board. You've got quite a nasty little shark-tank
of vitriolic followers. The most casual of "chat" or technical
ideas (which I have tried to do, briefly, in the vacuum of technical
discussion from you executives) is responded to with the most
amazing and nasty hostility from your vitriolic followers. They
actually think that anybody new who shows up on your forum
must be 'disposed of' as quickly as possible, lest somebody bring
up either of

* a good new idea


* a severe technical roadblock that can't be overcome.

You guys can't even sell me any carbon nanotube rope for my sailboat.
So what's the point.

NASA unrolled a few miles of tether from the space shuttle once.
The thing blew apart due to unexpected electrical discharge. Thats
why NASA eschews anything in space that involves lengths of tether.

the real prize would be if you guys were interested in ANY type of
cheap launch capability. For their DO exist aggressive and world-class
efforts into specific equipment, that WOULD yield a cheap launch and
which the Boeing and Martin Marietta's of this world would never,
of their own accord, pursue due to their greedy desire to keep launching
impractical rockets. BUT ALAS, you aren't interested in cheap launch,
you are interested in 'space elevator'.

So this is just a religious cult, topped off by a frosting-layer of
research-grant greed. I know about research grants. They are more
likely to be awarded to things that can never work. This is like a
nasty little den of Amway soap peddlers, except in this case, selling
the soap is PROFITABLE. So enjoy the bed you have made for yourselves.

But what blows me away, is the rudeness of your vitriolic followers
on your chat board, basically thinking its some type of 'road race'
where they have to push the other driver into the ditch. Its as far
from scientific-method as anybody could possibly get. I put up
something polite and something very nasty comes back in return.

The only thing your vitriolic followers are happy with, is a dead
silence on the chat board. They write in a way as to shut down and
impede any normal flow of discussion as might normally occur
amongst normal and intelligent individuals.

I can't be around that, it raises my blood pressure, and its disgusting
(your Dorian Grey carrying on about 'erections' in response to simple
scientific discussion).

So goodbye. Enjoy your gov't research welfare money.

Also, enjoy your snide silence. And enjoy your fantasy.
I have seen enough, and the odds of a space elevator ever being
constructed, is 0000.0000000000000000000000000%

AND its a crying shame there aren't more scientists and
engineers with enough backbone so state it this as I do.

- Norm Hill


And so on. I won't snark on the spelling - but my 8th grade Civics teacher - Mrs. 'Spelling Counts' Robinson - would be disapointed in Mr. Hill. I admit I name called when I replied ..

Norm Hill wrote:

Gentlemen -

You don't reply. Its offensive.

You haven't responded to even a single question, which YOU ASKED FOR ME
TO SEND. I've numerous
polite follow-ups, and again, no relies.

I'm not sure what you expect, really. The replies have been received
and digested. I've marked your emails for a follow-up reply as time
permits. I've written back to you saying so.

What are you on about? In response to a hate filled invective with more
swears and nastiness than I experienced in Marine boot camp you received
at least two polite reasonable letters from people in this company
informing you where you were wrong and so forth.

And now this.

If you can't tolerate the fact that you're not the center of our world,
that some people with far too many assumed roles and an action list
longer than my arm has no time to respond to a nasty git with grandiose
delusions or a bit of give and take on a forum then ... fine be off with
you. The world will be no poorer for your absence.

Which is a shame - you're a bright guy.

AND its a crying shame there aren't more scientists and
engineers with enough backbone so state it this as I do.

Damn them for not showing more backbone! If only they had the wit and
courage to cast the scales from their eyes! Or you could just be a over
educated buffoon. One of those.

You're more than welcome to exercise your right to free speech and ...
you know .. actually do something about that instead of tossing nasty
emails around. But that might ask for of you than you're capable of.

It's one thing to post asinine screeds in a forum and (as you admit)
throw emails around when someone upsets you.

Doing something with more meaning than bleats on the internet requires a
dash of personnel courage which you lack.

Again - a shame. If the world had more people who were like your
assumed persona we'd be better off.

I recieved TWO replies to this

hey brian dunbar,

what is to 'digest' an email. just waht the hell is that.
you never answered the questions.

i have something to say. This is just a vitriolic
"AMWAY" religious cult following. I see the pattern
VERY WELL. The AMWAY types have a very
predictable pattern. Don't say anything to challenge them.
also for your latest round of personal insults towards me.

Remember, YOU are the con-man who wont answer
a technical objection. YOU are the one
who deserves the insults. YOU are accepting money for
a total fucking waste of time. Don't you get ashamed of
not doing anything legitimate for a living? At my most
recent engineering contract, I earned some nasty-ass

"ENRON" type corporation about 6 million dollars for
their bottom line. I did it by paying attention to the engineering,
and succeeding where others would have failed. And by
using common sense!!

Now, it does take the fun out of it, when I know that the only
context of my work, was lining the pockets of grubby-ass
corporate con-men criminals who are too dumb to even understand
that I made them a bunch of money (duhhh, accounting sure is
turning in a fine performance this year, why, the numbers came up
six million higher than projection. Those accountants sure are smart)
something that is real, that gets built. Too bad if it was only for work
for some nasty ass corporate criminals, but it was WORK.

What you do is just so much lazy-ass armchair freeloading and
egging on a bunch of nasty shark-tank jerks in your little forum
to all agree with each other.

Your fucking elevator will never work, and you
are distracting legitimate people, as well as the gullible
little people, who could be working on something more
legitimate (like mowing their lawn).

You fucking run little electric motors up a piece of
sailboat rope, with varyign amounts of success at
getting paid for the waste of time. FUCKING DUMB.
Worth every swear word and gesture ever seen in
the US Marines Military, yes indeed, if you need
a reply about your concerns of profanity.

Goodbye. I don't like con-men, be they government,
CORPORATE, or research-level "once an honest
academic turned into research crook".

'hey well fookin kill diz guy, well fookin put on da
cement ovashoes and fookin throw him in da bay, yah
all in da name of da space elavata".

- Norm


Brian Dunbar wrote:

Which is a shame - you're a bright guy.

and you're too dumb to understand pulse response on
a cable. when I brought up that show-stopper,
you'd have given me a same-day reply about
that if you had the slightest fucking idea what i was talking
about, but instead you are just moving on to the next big scam.

AND its a crying shame there aren't more scientists and
engineers with enough backbone so state it this as I do.

Damn them for not showing more backbone! If only they had the wit and
courage to cast the scales from their eyes! Or you could just be a
over educated buffoon. One of those.

you're a dick.

You're more than welcome to exercise your right to free speech and ...
you know .. actually do something about that instead of tossing nasty
emails around. But that might ask for of you than you're capable of.
It's one thing to post asinine screeds in a forum and (as you admit)
throw emails around when someone upsets you. j

Quit fucking lying to everybody, and I won't be upset.

Doing something with more meaning than bleats on the internet requires
a dash of personnel courage which you lack.

call me and the conversation gets more polite, due to human instincts.
but i'll politely call you the lying con-man that you are, to your face,
to your ears. This has nothign to do with email, it has to do with the fact
that you are criminals and nut-jobs masquerading as scientists.

Fucking research con-men exactly as I stated in the first place.
'fook 'em over, fook 'em over, we haz got ta git da money,
gotta fookin' get da fookin' rasoich dollaz'.

Again - a shame. If the world had more people who were like your
assumed persona we'd be better off.

Quit fucking lying to everbody, asshole, and the world will be a better

You're just a mafia fucker. And I will tune out now,
lest you send over 'Guido' to twist the head off my cat.

- Norm

And so on. Remeber folks for all your snake oil and mafia needs - see me for the best deal in town.

Seriously - it's more than possible I've slanted this to make me look like the good guy. While it's far too late to preserve the email against tampering (hey I could edit the entire thing and make Norm Hill look really bad, right?) I'm willing to send you - on request - the entire series. I reserve the right to retract this offer if my lawer calls me back and tells me this is a really bad idea.

Without a Clue

From Space Politics

Last night the National Air and Space Museum hosted a screening of the upcoming PBS documentary "Race to the Moon" about the Apollo 8 mission. In attendance at the event were the three astronauts from that mission: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. During a Q session after the screening, someone asked the three astronauts what they felt about the recent addition of SpaceShipOne to the museum and the role of commercial spaceflight. Borman's response:

Well, I think Spacecraft One [sic] was a nice stunt. You spend twenty-five million dollars to win ten. I'm not taking anything away from it because the people who flew it were very brave and courageous, but I don't think it leads to much, and I think it's inappropriately displayed up there next to Lindbergh's and Yeager's airplanes.

Borman's comments were met with a smattering of applause from the audience that filled the museum's IMAX theater.

Why mention this here? Borman's comments, and the fact that at least some fraction of the audience agreed with him, suggest that proponents of commercial human spaceflight—especially those who want to sell such services to the government—have not convinced everyone yet of the utility of such efforts.

Frank Borman, it should not be forgotten, it the guy who was at the controls when Eastern plowed into the ground - he may not be the first guy to ask when it comes to how to make money - or run a commercial enterprise. Paul Allen is no slouch in those departments after all and thought the X-Prize investment worthwhile

Whatever. Jeff is right - it's not the public we need to convince about the utility of commercial space flight. Gobless 'em they already know. It's the guys who think they know what they're talking about that are dangerous.

More Casey and Andy madness

Which Casey and Andy character am I?

It's a vase! There are some things that don't need weapons attached to them!
You're Mary, the normal girl who balances out all
the insanity of your home. You also do most of
the work around the house, poor kid. Despite
your unassuming looks, you've had a very
interesting past. You hate one thing above all
else: puns. If a pun threatens to surface at
home, you don the guise of the Pun Police,
ready to shoot on sight.

Test-o-mat! Which character from Casey & Andy are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Meh. Could be worse.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blogroll Addition

Added Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave to blogroll. He likes Heinlein and space travel and he's a Desert Storm vet. Semper Fi ..

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Girl, 8, Credited With Year's 1st Bear Kill
Born to the woods, she's 4 1/2 feet tall and 8 years old, with a shock of light brown hair and a steady trigger finger that put two bullets into a black bear's chest cavity Monday, according to her and her father and granduncle, who were hunting with her. State officials backed the claim by Sierra Stiles and credited her with the first kill of Maryland's second bear season since hunting the animals resumed after a half-century ban.

Good job, Sierra Stiles.
Protestors prove they're not dumb by protesting far far away from little girls with rifles ....
Early on, the hunt did not appear very promising: At least one hunter quit because of the weather, and animal rights advocates in bear suits protested in front of the natural resources headquarters in Annapolis.

I admit I'm not sure how the hunt could be considered not promising because of protestors wearing bear suits hundreds of miles away. But this is why I'm not a journalist, I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tom you are an unmentionable so and so.

Casey and Andy

Tom sent me this link. Warning if you like web comics, mad science, hot women and the dorks that love them, and time travel you might like this. It's deeply weird and disturbing - so much so I've been plowing through the archvies at a mad clip.

Is this payback for Little Dee?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Grace Note

Space flight is the grace note to our civilization - an expression of the best we are and what we are capable of.

It is our gift to the future

How to become a millionaire - advice from Trump

How to become a millionaire - by Donald Trump

"Love what you do. Never give up. Don't trust anyone. Be lucky. And fight back."

New York Post Online Edition: news

America, summarized

America, summarized by William Gilis

Someone kicks you in the face. You get up and beat the crap out of them until one of you falls. Whether your tactic of fighting back is pacifistic or violent. You. Fight. Back.

And personally, try as I may, I simply cannot assimilate the concept that there could be folks who don't think this way.

Human Iterations

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Wealth of Generations: Capitalism and the Belief in the Future

From the The 22nd Annual John Bonython Lecture from The Centre for Independant Studies - Johan Norberg

Belief in the future is perhaps the most important value for a free
society. It is what makes so many interested in getting an education,
or investing in a project, or even being nice to their neighbours. If
we think that nothing can improve or if we think that the world is
coming to an end, we don’t work hard for a better and more civilised
future. And we will all be miserable.

The meat of the lecture is worth reading. As is the conclusion

It is worth giving the last word to one of the most insightful
thinkers of all time, the 19 th century liberal historian and
politician Lord Macaulay, whose Whig interpretation of history has been
condemned as a naïve, Panglossian idea that things constantly improve,
but which was actually a recognition of what individuals can create
when free. When Macaulay wrote his history of England, he couldn’t
believe why the English thought that the past was the good old days,
and he warned later generations – us – not to romanticise his own time,
which, despite being better than the past, was no utopia. And he wrote

“The general effect of the evidence which has
been submitted to the reader seems hardly to admit of doubt [that
living standards are improving]. Yet, in spite of evidence, many will
still image to themselves the England of the Stuarts as a more pleasant
country than the England in which we live. It may at first sight seem
strange that society, while constantly moving forward with eager speed,
should be constantly looking backward with tender regret. But these two
propensities, inconsistent as they may appear, can easily be resolved
into the same principle. Both spring from our impatience of the state
in which we actually are. That impatience, while it stimulates us to
surpass preceding generations, disposes us to overrate their happiness.
It is, in some sense, unreasonable and ungrateful in us to be
constantly discontented with a condition which is constantly improving.
But, in truth, there is constant improvement precisely because there is
constant discontent. If we were perfectly satisfied with the present,
we should cease to contrive, to labour, and to save with a view to the

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Test of Flock

Space Elevator: Explained by and for the geeky layman

Bull Dork explains the idea behind the space elevator, how it would work, and the benefits of having a working system, in a pithy 'by a layman for a layman' way.
The conquest of the universe is leaving the feasibility study phase and entering prototype testing. You can see how this excites nerds. Already, startups are gestating and testing their hauler vehicle designs. People are signing contracts to build nanofiber manufacturing plants. This is happening now. This is the next great bubble. Space is the new black, people.

Here's the problem. Which (if any) of these pie-in-the-sky startups will have the money and technical savvy to complete the most audacious engineering project in human history? Will they also have the political clout and smarts to outwit a US government who will try to seize their patents in the name of national security, to outwit the corrupt regimes along the equator that will exploit their position on the prime elevator-building spots? Will they also be able to maintain security, or will terrorists manage to sever the umbilical cord between Earth and the fledgling lifeboat-less space colonies, while also sending a 60,000 mile long structure plummeting to Earth and basically destroying everything within ten miles of the equator?

And can they turn a profit doing it?

The answer to all of these questions is: bloody unlikely. But the rewards of a functioning elevator are so dizzying- as far beyond the dreams of Bill Gates as $100 billion and control of the Internet would be beyond the dreams of the doges of Venice- that inaction is impossible. The logic of the market demands that the attempt be made. The logic of the media demands that there be hysterical coverage. The logic of your 401(k) plan demands that this will be a very real part of your life soon.

I agree that any one particular person or company is unlikely to make a profit at this game; but someone is going to, no doubt.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Waiting for the lights to go out - fisked

The guys at The Speculist team up to respond to a lengthy dystopian screed in the Times Online, Waiting for the Lights to Go Out. Let the fisking begin!

We've taken the past 200 years of prosperity for granted.

So we deserve to be punished!

Humanity's progress is stalling, we are facing a new era of decay,

Really? Says who?

and nobody is clever enough to fix it.

Wow. So, should we give up now or...

Is the future really that black, asks Bryan Appleyard

Oh, so he's just asking. Whew. We were afraid Bryan might have an ax to grind. Okay, so let's get into his balanced investigation:

Fisking at The Speculist, article at Waiting for the lights to go out.

My own humble contribution
Either it's just not worth pursuing certain innovations since they won't pay off — one reason why space exploration has all but ground to a halt
Space exploration has all but ground to a halt. Let that phrase roll around inside your mouth for a bit.

One site - JPL - lists twenty-two missions involving space craft. A few more involving ground facilities. I won't bother listing ESA, Japanese, Russia efforts; you get the point.

Gloomy pessimisim is one thing. Willful ignorance is just sad.

Welcome Back

Remember this guy?
Once Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt realized he could wiggle his toes and fingers, he had one message for the insurgents who wounded him - defiance.
He's back.
A month ago today, Dunlap had driven to Burghardt's aid after the Marine explosives expert wasn't able to disarm the last of three improvised explosive devices.

Two things amazed those who were there that day:

• Burghardt survived the explosion and would return to duty in less than a month.

• A World-Herald photograph showing Burghardt standing on his own two feet, pants cut off, legs bandaged and directing a single-digit salute of defiance at his attackers, has transformed him into one of the most famous Marines of the Iraq war.

The photo appeared on numerous Marine-related Internet weblogs. Burghardt received more than 100 e-mails within days of the picture's publication. It has become a screensaver on soldiers' and Marines' computers across Iraq.

"I don't know how my anger turned into a motivational picture," Burghardt said.
Can't keep a good man down.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Edifice Complex: Liftport is in good shape

From Slate - The Edifice Complex
…The truth is that individuals and institutions usually turn to architecture at moments of decline. This curious fact was pointed out years ago by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1968 best seller, Parkinson’s Law. This book is full of pithy observations on the foibles of business administration, the best-known of which is: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Less well-remembered is the author’s observation on architecture. Parkinson considered buildings as an important barometer of corporate health, but as a negative barometer. “During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters,” he wrote. “The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death.”…

Liftport offices in a building in the unfashionable part of Bremerton. The Millville site is functional - the exterior resembles my barn in Texas. IT is a hosted server, wherever Seth happens to be, Tom's living room and my kitchen table.

We're cool according to the Slate article.

Tip to TJIC.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Sandhill Trek reports that this cat results in really high hit counts for whoever steals the image.

This cat brings into play the WTF factor.

Now that I have your attention. Would you pretty please with sugar on top go here and sign up for Liftport's announcement list? We send you an email once a month and it's worth your time.

Yes, okay you've signed up. Now go convince five of your friends, associates or siblings to do the same. You'll whiten your teeth and enhance your sex life.

Would a guy posting cute fuzzy cat pictures fib to you?

Earthling Property Right

Final frontier for lawyers -- property rights in space.
Bizarre though it sounds, the case of Nemitz vs. United States is just one of the odder sideshows in an emerging circus known as "space law." Space is new legal terrain, just as the air was in the early days of aviation and as the seas were in the dawn of ocean voyaging.

For space buffs, the stickiest legal issue is property rights in space, the question of whether a private person can lay claim to property where there is no constituted government. And it involves not only land, but also the airless void of space.

Entrepreneurship is the driving force.
Of course there is a poll. Early returns are not looking so good.
Q: Do earthlings have a right to claim property rights in outer space?
Yes, we should be allowed to claim anything that is not owned. 13%
No, space should remain the province of all beings. 58%
Only if we can send all the lawyers there. 28%
Total votes: 537
If we rephrase it to "Do San Franciscans have a right to claim property in Marin County" would a majority then vote 'yes'?

Vote early, vote often.

Monday, October 17, 2005

'D' is for ...

Ms. Grotenhuis was showing Cian (5) objects that start with 'D'. A dog, donuts.
Ms. G: What else starts with 'D'?
C: Diesel!
Gotta love that kid.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fred Plans to Devolve

Fred Reed on evolution in modern education;
Now, what grave consequences are thought to await if children hear briefly in school an argument that they have heard a dozen times in the course of ordinary life? Will the foundations of civilization crack? The birds of the air plunge, appalled, to earth? The planets shudder in their orbits and fall inward in dismay? Surely everyone short of the anencephalic knows of Creationism.

Or is it thought that kids attracted to the sciences will abruptly change their course through life and enter the clergy? That applications to graduate school in biochemistry will cease? Children learn (or did) of the Greek gods and goddesses, and that ancient people believed that the earth rode on the back of a giant turtle. I have not heard that they now sacrifice oxen to Athena.

One plausible explanation for this rigid evolutionary monotheism, though I think an incorrect one, is a fear that the children might come to believe in Creationism. Unlikely, but again, so what? A belief in Creationism does not prevent one from working in the sciences. A goodly number of scientists, to include biochemists, are in fact Christian and, some of them, Creationists. Others presumably are Buddhists or Hindus. The only thing for which acceptance of Creationism renders one unsuitable is…Evolutionism.

A more likely explanation is a fear that children might realize that a great deal of Evolution, not having been established, must be accepted on faith, and that a fair amount of it doesn’t make a lot of sense. While Creationism is unlikely to convert children into snake-handlers, it does suggest that orthodox Evolution can be examined critically. Bad juju, that.

I once posed these questions in a column on and, in another place, to a group of committed evangelicals of Evolution. A tremendous influx of email resulted. Much of it was predictable. Many Christians congratulated me on having disproved Evolution, which I had not done. The intelligent and independent-minded wrote thoughtfully. Of the Knights Templar of Evolution, none—not one—answered the foregoing yes-or-no questions. They ducked. They dodged. They waxed wroth. They called names.

This is the behavior not of scientists but of true believers.

There is more - Fred is always worth reading.

Have you noticed that a number of interesting and opinionated people are former Marines? Yes, Fred was am Amtrac driver in Vietnam. Are interesting opinionated people made by the Marines or attracted to the Marines?

September 1967 - AmTrac crew atop vehicle B-26
Photo by: Hugh Connelly - 1st AmTrac Battalion

Friday, October 14, 2005

Keith interviews Brad Edwards

KeithCu interviews Dr. Brad Edwards.

Interesting interview.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Ties That Do Not Bind: The Decline of Marriage and Loyalty

There is a great deal to agree with in The Ties That Do Not Bind: The Decline of Marriage and Loyalty
Man is a social animal – utterly dependent on forming and maintaining relationships with other people. A person who has always been truly alone is one who will be emotionally dead. Of all of the relationships into which people enter, the family is the most important. We are raised by parents, confronted with siblings, and introduced to peers through our familial roots. Indeed, human character arises out of the very commitments people make to others in their family or outside of it. Marriage, of course, is the supreme form of that commitment. When we make marriage less important, character suffers.
There is a great deal here - some I agree with and some not. It is hard to argue with the premise; character matters and family is important.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Highland County Boy - Lyrics

Scott Miller's 'Highland County Boy' was playing on Boot Liquor Radio the other day. Love that song - like any bleak poetry it brings a manly tear to my eye.

I couldn't find the lyrics on Google. Yes, Google failed. I did find it on Miller's board. As a rebuke to Google then ...


I am a Highland County boy and William is my name
I farm those rocky hills before the Jackson is the James
Well my brothers they all joined 'the cause'
But I was left behind
Too old to hold in Mama's arms
And much too frail to fight
But I remember the day they marched away
They sang down Richmond Road
"Ol' Lincoln's bound like ol' John Brown
for the long end of a rope"

Well one died at Manasass, sir, and one at Malvern Hill
And after making it through that, Archer he took ill
Charlie's lost but not confirmed
When they fought at Cross Keys
The last sight that they had of him
Was crawling through the weeds
A letter said a shower of lead
Had hit the men down low
And they danced around like ol' John Brown
On the long end of a rope

The spark of plow to rock is now the only fight I've known
And the songs of victory that they sang don't help the seeds I've sown
'Tis wickedness and self conceit that is the bane of man
So the farmer and the land compete
As God's first reprimand
There'll be a day when the Blue and Grey
Will hear the trumpets blow
And they'll danced around like ol' John Brown
On the long end of a rope

October 15, 2006 Update. This post gets a fair bit of traffic - at least a few per week. Anyone who has come by looking for lyrics to "Highland County Boy" feel free to say something in the comments.

Shameless Monkey Blog

I shamelessly used monkeys in my latest Liftport Blog post. And the cover of a beloved children's book. I feel so very very low and small.

At the last I can feel good; I did not use the llama.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Support your local police

What is a police department for? Protect, serve, all that jazz? Nope.
In what was described as an initially hostile stop, Roane politely asked the New Jersey officers to turn off their lights and slow down. The Passaic officers claimed that returning from helping with Hurricane Katrina rescue duties gave them the right to speed.

"We just had guys down there for the last 14 days... helping our brothers in blue," Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale said in a recorded telephone call to Roane after the incident. "You know what? You need to get off of that highway, pal, and wake up and learn what law enforcement is all about -- supporting each other."

"It's a disgrace," Speziale said of Roane's conduct. "If you think that that's not a disgrace, you should take the badge off your shirt and throw it in the garbage."
Which reflects poorly on law enforcement in general, I know. Still - this is the attitude publicly aired by the top cop in Passaic County, New Jersey. Wonder what his troops say to each other on patrol?

Hat tip to The View from North Central Idaho.

Update: I was wrong. Sherrif Speziale was quoted in a recorded call to Deputy Roane. Transcript here.

Update the Second: more at The View From ... 9/11 calls from motorists.
“I had my cruiser going 70 [mph], and they just blew right past us,” Graham said. “It was just a whole snake of them. It looked like a NASCAR race where they draft each other” bumper to bumper.
Said one caller: “There are four New York police cars running side-by-side with flashers on. … They are not letting traffic go by, going approximately 50 to 55 mph.”
“The four New York police vehicles … just cut me off,” the driver said. “They have the right lane blocked and won’t let anyone around them.”

The dispatcher taking this called listed the caller as “very upset.”

Which sounds bad. Unless you're a New Jersey lawman. Then it's all problems with 'airing dirty laundry in public' and the villain in this sorry affair is
the Trooper with the Virginia State Police who pulled the tape of the conversation between Sheriff Speziale and the VSP, contacted the media, and turned it over to them so it could be printed everywhere.

Great job you spineless piece of garbage. Great job in handing the media more reason to keep this story going and attack your profession.

Whatever. I used to think Marines were a clanish insular bunch. Ah - Marines. I turned this around - what would I think if (say) a convoy of Marines from my unit was caught jacking around and playing the fool in a convoy.

Get upset that another Marine (allegedly) slipped a transcript to the press? Nope - I'd be ashamed of my brother Marines for being dipsh*ts and disprespecting their uniform. I'd put the blame where it belongs in other words.

Great job, guys.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

David Brooks - NYT. Worth reading.

David Brooks wrote this in the NYT. Excerpts from Mark.

Worth reading, based on the bits excerted below. But won't be, sadly, by many because it's hiding behind their subscription wall.
I believe in the lost tradition of American politics, the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln and the Bull Moose. In other words, I believe that social mobility is the core of the American experience. I believe that society should be structured so that as many boys and girls as possible can work, and rise the way young Hamilton and Lincoln did.

If something is going to make American society more fluid and dynamic, then I am for that thing. That's why I love globalization, even while I am aware of its costs. I love the fact that American businesses are going to be improved via competition with Chinese and Indian rivals. I love the fact that to compete we are going to have to reform our lobbyist-written tax code into something flatter and fairer. I love the fact we'll have to make health insurance competitive and portable, so workers can move and companies can thrive.

I can't believe people want to shield America behind the walls of "fair trade agreements." I can't believe some people think we're going to be overrun by those hustling Asians. Americans are the hardest-working people on earth and the most mobile. American manufacturing output is twice China's and it's growing at 4 percent a year.

China isn't going to bury us. It's going to make us better and richer; it's going to open more opportunities than it closes.

Like Alexander Hamilton, I love the dynamism of capitalism. And like Alexander Hamilton, that doesn't mean I hate government. I love government when it lifts people up to compete. I hate government only when it stifles competition and coddles. I hated the old welfare system, which pushed its victims away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.

NYT - tear down that wall!

Windows 2000 vs. FreeBSD 4.x

I have a Thinkpad. I had installed FreeBSD on early in 2004 for a project at work. Installation was unremarkable, bar fiddly problems with the display drivers and power management. The former was fixed by hacking the X config file, the latter by recomiling the kernal with the APM specific mods. Both fixes were (if memory serves) found with a few minutes of searching on Google. And it didn't keep me from using the thing.

Time passes. Now the Thinkpad needs to be a Windows machine again. I put in Windows 2000 Pro, install and ... the video is messed up. Fine, I can download the drivers from IBM. No, I can't. The ethernet drivers don't install, and appropriate drivers are not on the installation disk.

Yes, I know, use the restoration disk that came with the laptop. I'll have to find it of course.

Two Operating Systems, both install from a single disk. One simply works after install, the other requires a ton of effort going to the vendor for driver and so on. And the majority of users are running Windows machines .. why?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Iraq and Terror

Fred asks an interesting question at A VC.
It really begs the following question:

Are we safer or in more danger because of our war in Iraq?
I've replied in his thread, but wanted to post this here; it doesn't matter, and the question is, on reflection, foolish. Sorry Fred.

We can't know the answer. We can't go back to the last save point and try it again. We are where we are. A better way to phrase that question is Now What Do We Do?

I submit that, all said and done, winning is better than loosing. We're better off with a regime friendly to our interests than the regime ante bellum. We can win the current campaign in Iraq; the Army and Marines have learned their lessons from past defeats (and victories) and they're not dumb at the art of warfighting.

It will cost and the butcher's bill, while small in the grand scheme of things, will be tragic and a loss for all concerned.

That it may not be the wisest course of action is open to debate - but we can win this campaign.

There, done. I'm going to stay well away from politics from here on in. Unless it relates to really important things like the space access industry.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This will not persuade Greenpeace

It may, however, cheer the rest of us up, a bit.
Good News. A new study, to be published in Environmental Science and Technology in November, has concluded that the manufacturing of specified nanomaterials such as buckyballs and quantum dots is safer than oil refining or making wine. This was based upon an actuarial model that Zurich based XL insurance have developed to assess risks in existing manufacturing processes. Using the model allowed an assessment of the 'environmental footprint' of potential nanomaterial manufacturing.
Not that I have any reason to cheer the prospect of safe nano manufacturing on. Well, possibly more reason than some, but nano holds out the hope of being as important to the 21s century as wrought iron was to the 18th.

Busload of Faith

You can depend on cruelty
Crudity of thought and sound
You can depend on the worst always happening
You need a busload of faith to get by, ha

Lou Reed - 'Busload of Faith'

What? Oh, no reason. (cough)helpdesk(cough).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hey, Tom Hanks!

Want to walk on the moon? NASA says you'll be too old, and that you're too tall to go. Which is really uncool on their part, considering all the great PR you've done for them over the years.

But you know what? You're wealthy, you know people. I'll bet you could talk to some people and get something done about that. I even know of a proposed launch system that will subject people to minimum stress on liftoff. We'll get your aged bones up there in comfort and style.

And Jack? You want to be a part of the next moon mission? Good luck with that. What I said above applies to you, as well.

Blogroll Addition

Everyone - both of you - welcome Event Horizon to the blogroll.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Semper Fi, Gunny

Injured Marine defies attackers.
Once Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt realized he could wiggle his toes and fingers, he had one message for the insurgents who wounded him - defiance.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt signals defiance at his Iraqi attackers after being injured by an improvised explosive device near Ramadi. Attending to the Marine were Nebraska 167th Cavalry members Spc. John Adams (far left, in front) of Hastings, Neb., and Pfc. Darin Nelson of Fremont, Neb.
Full text at The Smallest Minority.

Great big ones, Gunny Burghardt. Semper fi.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Want to see a cool picture?

From the tease for Seattle Business Monthly's 25 Top Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Photoshopped of course - but a very cool picture.

You know you live in Wisconsin when . . .

Wife: It's trash night tonight.
Me: Sure, after the Game.
Son, aged five: It's not just football, it's the Green Bay Packers, Mom!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Impearls: The Industrial Revolution and the origin of the Modern Age

Impearls has a fascinating post on (among other things) free enterprise, the industrial revolution and some other topics. Nothing seems to lend itself to excerpts - doing so drains the context.

Worth a few minutes of your time to read.