From 'The Star Faction' by Ken Macleod
Friday, March 31, 2006
From 'The Star Faction' by Ken Macleod
Great Moments in Public Education--I
An article in New York Teacher, the magazine of the state teachers union, pays tribute to Jack Powell--but not for his professional accomplishments, which are rather meager:
A longtime singer and guitarist with the Zucchini Brothers and a substitute teaching assistant for Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES [school board], Powell has lived frugally for years. He works about three days a week as a sub, earning about $70 a day, with no benefits. From March to October, he rides his bike 20 miles to work when work is available.
Sometimes he works for a funeral home to make extra money. The shawl he has wrapped around himself on this winter day, he says simply, doubles as a blanket.
"I do whatever it takes to survive and live a socially conscious life," said Powell, who has a tepee in his yard.
Far be it from us to fault Powell for lacking ambition or being a bit eccentric. If he's happy leading a modest life with his bike and his tepee and his courgette fraternity, hey, more power to him. But why is New York Teacher honoring him? Well, that is because of a "principled stand" he has taken. To wit:
Part of that survival--or so he thought--included shopping at Wal-Mart to take advantage of cheaper prices for himself, his partner and her two children. Then his discussions about Wal-Mart with Sandra Carner-Shafran, a teaching assistant at BOCES and a member of the Board of Directors of New York State United Teachers, started churning inside him. . . .
"I don't like what Wal-Mart stands for," Powell said, noting the mega-chain's scanty health insurance for staffers. "Because of all those things they can lower the prices."
He and his partner agreed to go on food stamps for their family rather than shop at Wal-Mart any longer.
Powell, that is, has generously permitted American taxpayers to subsidize his unaffordable moral tastes. Pardon us if we regard him as something less than a profile in courage.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Tom writes in the Liftport Group (The Space Elevator Companies) Forum
I thought this Logarithmic Map of the Universe
was pretty cool - go check out the full scale map. I took the sub-map
that only covers the area near Earth, and added roughly where the SE
would be. Obviously the line thickness is greater than the real SE, but
I think I got the angle hour and height roughly correct. You have to
read their paper to see how they calculated things (and note that the
size of the Moon is exaggerated). But it’s interesting to see all the
objects in orbit, and just how far up the SE will go.
Cross posted in the Liftport Blog
We have a need to enable a small group of wireless clients to access an application. We're at release 6.1. To enable this costs $6,500. Per server. We own three of these servers. If you upgrade to release 6.2 the service we need is .. free. Bundled with the application.
We can't really upgrade before we need the wireless service. We really don't want to spend $2437.50 per device to enable connection.
We've been using this application for over three years. We promise to upgrade to 6.2 asap following go-live. Could the vendor give us a break and .. you know let us borrow the needed service until we upgrade.
Oh hell no. They'll rent us the service. For $4,500. Per server.
So they get nothing. We'll be aggressive, I'll pull a few late nights and loose my weekend. We can't just stop using the application - there are some serious development hours and a scripts to customize ... it's not like buying Toyota if the Lexus dealership irritates you.
But it feels wrong. 'Anally raped by monkeys wearing lemon-juice lubricated condoms' wrong. We spend hundreds of man hours installing your application, spend serious bucks for a complicated system, send guys to your training and when we need a small break THIS is what happens?
This is why thingamy is so damned attractive.
One single system to run your business.It would be all kinds of cool. Stay tuned, I've begged to be let in to the beta ....
No need for other enterprise software nor middleware.
No need for hierarchies nor information tree structures.
No need for management to run the workflow.
Enter the future at your own pace, start small or big.
Refine your business model and processes continuously.
And yes, you're not the first to utter unbelievable, bollocks, bullshit, etc. under your breath.
We like that, leaves us only one task: Prove that the system actually works.
Would that not be kind of cool if we did?
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Yes, Bruce is making fun but the implications of his photoshop leave yours truly awed. Private enterprise on the moon and all that implies: "Here's to the great Capitalist Conspiracy to which I've always wanted to be a part of!"
On my way home from the SAMPE presentation Tuesday night, it struck me again how amazing it is to work on the space elevator. In a way, it’s sort of the engineering equivalent of being among the first few scientists to work in a new field, sort of like the first physicists to work on quantum mechanics. Despite the work of Artsutanov, Pearson, Edwards, and others, the design of space elevators and issues surrounding it are still in their infancy, ripe for anyone to come along and make progress. Working out these issues feels more like discovery than simple number-crunching, and is at least part of the reason why so many people get so excited about the SE. And because so many of the SE issues rely on well-understood engineering principles, they can be tackled by a much wider group of people than could, say, the early development of quantum mechanics.
But the SE is even more useful as a learning tool. Even if students replicate prior work, doing homework problems that are centered on the space elevator would, in many cases, be more “fresh” and interesting than some older problem sets. Which would you rather have assigned as a homework problem: Working out the stresses in a steel bridge, or in a carbon-nanotube space elevator ribbon?
When Medic Michelle Chavez tried to remove Sgt. Smith's helmet, she realized that it was holding his head together. A bullet--one of the last fired from the tower--had entered through Sgt. Smith's neck and traveled up into his brain, shattering his skull from the inside. There were 13 bullet holes peppered over his armored vest--the impact from any one of them enough to knock a man down. The vest's ceramic armor inserts, back and front, had been cracked in numerous places.
"Sapper Seven," the wiry, hollow-cheeked guy who had been so hard on his men in training, so exacting, so insistent on "doing it right"; the guy who had led them into battle on the first day of the war with a rock-'n'-roll tape blaring from his Humvee; the guy who had personally got down on his knees in front of their convoy to patiently, carefully extract the deadly mines when they ran into a minefield near the Karbala Gap, was dead.
A chaplain and a sergeant in dress uniforms came to Birgit Smith's home near Fort Stewart, Ga., late on the night of April 4 to break the terrible news. Mrs. Smith, the German girl Paul had met and married during his tour of duty in Western Europe in 1992, listened numbly to her visitors. She fought the growing dread and pain by grasping at a desperate hope:
"Our name is so common," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "Maybe it's a mistake."
There was no mistake. Paul Ray Smith had given his life protecting his men and his position. He had almost single-handedly blunted an overwhelming attack which might well have overrun the nearby aid station.
"There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane," Sgt. Smith had written in an unsent email to his parents. "It doesn't matter how I come home, because I am prepared to give all that I am to insure that all my boys make it home." He had been the only American killed in the courtyard fight.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
On the Apollo 8 flight Lovell, whose main duty on the trip was navigation, held up his thumb and covered the entire disc of the Earth, which brought home for him how far away he was. (Hanks has this as part of his Apollo 13 movie.) A new statue at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago commemorates this historic gesture. It shows Lovell, space suit glove off, navigational book in hand, holding his thumb up to the capsule window, where a small Earth is visible. Beside the statue an inscription reads, "I have seen the Earth as it truly is... a grand oasis in the vastness of space." Thirty-seven -- 37! -- years on and still not many people can truly say that.
It says a great deal about a culture - much of it not good - that we sent a handful of men to the moon and then just stopped going.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Instantly, the pilot reached up and tapped the yellow panel of the device. This would give him a more detailed report. “Gas particulate limits exceeded. Non-recoverable performance loss.”
“What the hell—?”
“You’ve flown through something. That was the bump we felt,” I said. “Possibly a hovering cloud of stingflies. They’re invisible. They follow the worms.”
“I never heard of that—”
“Gee, that’s too bad,” I said sympathetically. “In that case, maybe we won’t crash. God grants dispensation if you have a good excuse.”
He's been working away on the Chtorr Wars series (with book six promised Real Soon Now) since I was in high school. Not exactkly a blistering pace but they're worth the wait.
Thanks to Dave at Garfield Ridge I know exactly what a Chtorrian looks like when it's doing what comes naturally.
Not for the easily nauseated. You have been warned.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The predictable happened. Eli Sanders suggested that the gun-show loophole be closed
I wonder: When they trace the weapons used in the Capitol Hill shooting back to their original source, will the original source be an under-regulated gun show?Which caused a flurry of hatred, name calling and general bad feelings in the comment thread.
I support total gun control.... this might help get some measure or two passed next legislature. We can hope.Mind you we don't know where Kevin Huff got the weapons he used. Or that gun control would have deterred him much.
and was denounced as a nut
If anyone at the party had been carrying the guy could have been put down before he killed so many.
There are two sides to the issue - keep that mind.
It amazes me how idiotic gun nuts are. Clearly the guns were the problem in this issue not the lack of guns by other parties. Ask the cops if they would've prefered more people at the party carrying guns.
Clearly the guns were the problem, not the shooter. How un-nuanced of me.
There is name calling and some crap from left field
So maybe you'd like to take your repulsive Wild West fantasies of defending the homestead back to Montana or Texas, someplace where you won't bother anybody. We've got a city here, and we're suffering through a horrifying tragedy, and all you want to talk about is what kind of ammo your cock substitute takes. Well, we don't want to hear it.
Unh hunh. The fellow also misses the point
This guy wasn't crazy and he didn't "snap". He was a nice normal responsible gun owner, liked to hunt, polite to old ladies. But he had a huge arsenal. And any hint of a suggestion that maybe there ought to be some way to prevent people from amassing arsenals like that brings out the Second Amendment die-hards, the Dick Cheneys and the Charlton Heltons.
I'm not sure what you call multiple murder plus suicide if not 'snaping'. Surely not part of your normal routine? How all people with 'arsenals' handle stress related events?
Let me put out my .two cents here. I am not ideological - I go with what works. If what works goes against my own belief system, too bad for that system because the practical always trumps ideological.
In a word - ideology sucks.
You simply cannot control what people want to have. It's been tried. People have also in various times and places tried to control sex, booze, drugs and pornography. Yet all of those are still around.
However the polar opposite of gun control would be open carry and unlicensed fireams. This would be suboptimal for a place like Seattle, probably.
What is the best way to keep people like Kevin Huff from multiple murder and suicide? I have no idea. But I do know what doesn't work.
We forget to notice the everyday courage of astronauts. We forget to think about all the Americans doing big and dangerous things in the world--members of the armed forces, cops and firemen, doctors in public hospitals in hard places. And now, famously again, astronauts. With their unremarked-upon valor and cool professionalism. With their desire to make progress and push on.The rest of that poem goes
Buzz Aldrin captured it this morning. He tried to read a poem about astronauts on television. He read these words: "As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky." And tough old Buzz, steely-eyed rocket man and veteran of the moon, began to weep.
He was not alone.
Now the rest is up to us, and there’s a future to be won:
We must turn our faces outward, we will do what must be done:
For no cradle lasts forever; every bird must learn to fly:
And we’re goin’ to the stars–
See our fire in the sky!
Why now? Gee, Brian, the Columbia, Challenger, Apollo 1 month was last month's news.
The song came up in iTunes. Any my boyo .. he was not just listening he was listening if you catch my drift. Sure you can't get there by good intention and filk but neither one hurts.
A lot like that, actually. Read Little Dee - it's good for your soul.
Note of caution - the Rammro site is under construction - be kind.
It is one of the most chilling images to emerge from the horror that has become, simply, 9/11. Against the steel-and-glass background of the World Trade Center, a man falls headlong 1,300ft to the street below.
While pictures of the Twin Towers billowing smoke and flames will remain the most enduring image of the terrorist attacks, this one man's dying moments somehow humanise the toll of New York's darkest day.
And yet, as famous as the image is, the man's identity has remained a mystery. Until now.
Five years after the horror of September 11, 2001, the falling man has finally been identified as Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old who worked in a restaurant at the top of the north tower.
Rest in Peace.
And never forget.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
But I like Heinlein and I love The Door into Summer. How cool to see an old favorite given a new twist.
Why Do We Have a Manned Space Program
A variation of the "wake me up when..." theme was described to me in terms of the cat that gave Heinlein's novel, The Door into Summer, its name. The cat meows at a succession of doors during winter, trying to command its owner to open the right one, the one that leads into summer. The cat doesn't understand that the time is not right, and it will just have to wait. Similarly, space colonies and the other important things that space futurists want to build will just have to wait; the technology is not ready, and sending humans into space at current launch costs with current life support, power supply, and manufacturing technology is like the cat scratching at the door to make it be summer.Pete found his door into summer. Maybe ours is the one we're meowing at now.
Update: I fear that it is possible I might fall into a Bruce Gagnon like state where I utter pretentious krep and start to take myself way too seriously. Feel free to admister repeated doses of 'boot to the head' should this happen. Thank you!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
It's amazing what people are doing with the Google Maps API. I'm really digging the Flood Maps, which show you where the water would be if the seas rise by anywhere from 0 to 14 meters. Looks like 8 meters is the sweet spot for me -- so far as I can tell, that puts my condo right on the new beach.
For me the sweet spot is 14 meters. At that point the patch of land occupied by the Liftport office building becomes an island.
bad thing. Horrible. But a frikin' island. That would be a cool place to work from.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Needless to say things go downhill fast from there. I become sort ofYes. In spades. Time to get busy.
ornery and nitpicky on the phone and do the thing that studio
executives and my wife hate more than anything: I bring up problems
without providing any sort of solutions.
People hate that.
So I don't do the job and someone else does and frankly at that point I
lose interest in following the SNAKES ON A PLANE saga. The movie could
be the Next Great Deadly Animal Loose on a Plane movie and my heart'll
always be a little sad. And believe it or not maybe there's a little
screenwriting lesson in here somewhere:
If you're gonna do it, do it. Don't creep right up close to it, think about doing it, and then back off just a bit and try to convince yourself you're still doing it. You're not. It's binary. You either have faith or you don't. You're either doing it, or you're not.
I hope I've made myself clear.
Via Dean Esmay
They want the abolition of a new law known as the "First Employment Contract"Oh. Well yes then by all means riot. A nationwide hissy fit over employment law. As Hugh Macleod said
Yes, France, you are correct. The 21st Century was indeed invented by the Anglo Saxons for no other reason than to mess with you.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
A 1972 documentary on ARPAnet, the early internet. A very interesting look at the beginnings of what is now a huge part of most of our lives.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
While the desire to make a fast buck may not be as noble a motive as the desire to expand the sphere of human knowledge, we should not forget that the history of exploration and colonization here on Earth is the history of mercantilism and exploitation, albeit often with savage consequences for those who have been exploited. At least in space we shouldn't have that problem. Manned and unmanned space exploration go together, hand in glove, and we shouldn't rule out one in favour of the other. The real question is what is the most efficient way of getting out there, and the answer to that is to take the project out of the hands of the bean counters, bureaucrats and politicians and into the hands of those driven by that most basic of human desires, greed. While businessmen and corporations may not be paragons of human virtue, at least they have a tendency to get things done, because if they fail they cannot hide behind walls of bureaucracy and political manoeuvring, instead they go bust, and the technology and patents they have developed are snapped up by their competitors to be used again, rather than disappearing into the governments' archives, never to be seen again. We will get out there someday, but as long as the space program is a slave to the whims of government, of national expediency, of the military, and indeed of science, it will be a long, long road with many switchbacks, reversals and pauses, and I for one could do with rather less white elephants sitting in the middle of the road.
Greed is good.
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
Greed is right.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.
And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
I do not think Oliver Stone set out to make a pro-capitalist movie but he seems to have captured the essence of what makes it all work.
Update: Broken link corrected.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Monday, March 13, 2006
Blogger has really screwed up now, it seems they have lost four months of my postings! This is really ticking me off. PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR NEW CULTURE OF LIFE NEWS PAGE!
Google just got a gazillion dollars and they can't keep this site afloat. Says a lot about corporate responsibility!
Ur, no. It says a lot about Google's business practices, but nothing about corporate responsibility. That is all down to statutory obligations. Perhaps she means corporate social responsibility? I am hard pressed to see how they have a social responsibility to provide a free service to bloggers. Elaine can have cloudy opinions on whatever she pleases - but by no means does anyone have to think she knows what she is talking about.
“It’s very likely — I’d say certain — that we don’t yet understand all the ways a space elevator can fail, so the current designs may well underestimate how much damage a small impact could do,” said Jordin Kare, who has a doctorate in astrophysics from UC Berkeley and is now a private consultant to the aerospace industry in Seattle.
A veteran researcher on the subject, Bradley Edwards, formerly of Los Alamos National Laboratory, disagrees. He is confident that the space elevator can be safely moved out of the way before space debris hits it. Thus “we can eliminate any concern related to space debris.”
Kare counters that such “an active system will always have a chance of failure, whether through mechanical failures, or plain old human error.” He wryly imagines this frantic exchange between the tracking officials and the elevator operator: “Move the ribbon left! No, the other left!”
I was waiting for someone fromt the engineering side at Liftport (The Space Elevator Companies) to respond before I said anything. Tom obliged last night
I have to side with Jordin on this one. I agree that we will need an active debris avoidance system, and it will do a lot of good, but nothing is fool-proof.
No kidding. Murphy was a grunt and then used the GI Bill to attend MIT, I suspect. Things will break and anyone who seriously wants to build anything more complicated than a toaster would do well to keep this in mind.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
I'll say it again, if you haven't watched Preston Reed's concert video, you are seriously missing out.
[Preston Reed's blog is here.]
[Preston Reed homepage is here.]
He's right. The man can flat out play. His posture looks uncomfortable but what do I know?
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
SF readers are an interesting lot - those who self-select and get into fandom are even more interesting. One staple of Cons is a blood drive - picture the Red Cross bus filled with fen in costume, one guy dressed as Dr. Who another wearing pirate garb, talking about fanish things - the fellow who just made a Storm Trooper costume for example and was going to wear it to Masquerade that night ...
I'm the last one to be tapped. I'm dressed in a suit because we are representing a company that aspires to earn enough confidence to be entrusted with billions of dollars of capital. Which makes me stand out.
Nurse: What do you do?
Me: I'm representing my company here, handing out literature, spreading the good word.
Nurse: And what do you guys do?
Me: We're building a space elevator.
I love this moment. Are you serious? What is that? We're at a Con, she's probably heard some outlandish stuff today ...
Nurse: And that is ..
Me: Cable on the ground, attached to a satellite and ascend the cable mechanically. For 80% of the cost of a rocket
Long pause while the nurse assimilates this, and decides that I'm not obviously insane.
Nurse: You're .. serious? You are. Wow.
I love moments like that.Cross posted at Liftport.
Pretty damn cool.
From the IEAS (they build and fly really big rockets .. for fun) at the next table: "When are you guys gonna get that thing built so we can fly these where they belong?"
Met Liftport stockholder Frank Smith who drove up from Kansas City. His first con as well.
Was it worth it? Sure was. Walked in and the very first person I saw was a fan on wheels. In costume. Said costume was from Earth Defense Forces and leaned heavily to berets, black camo and replica firearms from the late 20th century. Peace bonded of course. How cool is that? Plus the puns, the cameraderie and so on. All good stuff.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Not many people are thinking about what this really means. They should be. Bush's trip to India, and the deal made there today, may end up being the single most consequential act of the Bush presidency.
Proving James' point, the lead on CNN? Arms sales. Granted CNN isn't there to cover the grand sweep of things but c'mon.
The perspective from India?
The most powerful man of the world found his reception at (Rastrapati Bhawan) President House breathtaking. Landmark Indo-US nuclear deal went through successfully and the joint statement made people all over India very excited about the totally changed Indo-US relation. It was 'historic' for one and 'necessary' for the other. It may be the happiest day for Manmohan Singh and his expressed it words and gestures too. The whole world today recognizes the necessity of India in decisions on matters of global importance, and does also consider it a responsible nation. Bush openly talked of the significant contributions that Indians in US are making for the American economy. I consider Bush sincere and brave to whatever he commits, and he can go to any length. I don't doubt if he can make his Congress change the law to make the deal effective. His braveness is clear from his body language. Bomb blast in Pakistan today killing number of persons including one American officer can't deter him from going to Pakistan. I heard one former ambassador considering Bush as the most committed admirer of Indian democracy. I remember the years of Eisenhower and Dulles' diplomacy and how badly we used to feel.Not, to me, surprising but it is breathtaking.
Bush is going to Hyderabad on Friday. It is Hyderabad, as Chandra Babu Naidu by his personal endeavour built and brought the city worthy enough to come on global radar. In evening tomorrow, Mr. Bush will address a select gathering the 16th-century Old Fort (Purana Qila) that will become the focal point of the global attention or some time. This will be a first-of-its-kind event for an Indian monument. Mugal Emperor Humayun built it. And Sher Shah defeated Humayun, occupied it, and built Sher Mandal and a magnificent mosque, the Qila-I-Qunah. Humayun after the death of Sher Shah occupied the fort again, and used Sher Mandal as his library. Humayun fell to his death from the steps of this building. And Friday evening, this dilapidated fort will see and hear the voice of the most powerful ruler of the world getting transmitted all over the world. Is this not a surprising and breathtaking event of history?
It is an important article no doubt but I can't say much that isn't being said by hundreds of other bloggers. Luckily William Gaddis has a way with words.
I know it's already made it's way to Slashdot, but still. Twenty Trillion Dollars. Fuck your small-minded primitivist models. Fuck the Crash and fuck dying in the cradle. Fuck anyone who doesn't think we can or should have it all. Fuck any "utopia" that makes concessions. Fuck all those people who so delight in social power that they would keep us all crippled and chained to weakness.
The resource model is not closed. The future is not the past. There is room for progress.
Another world is possible.
Many, many, many other worlds.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Now if we had one with a hacked up Liftport logo ... no, it's still no good. Frank has been to that well and used it up.
Not for everyday use of course. The cards would be to hand out at places like, oh, Marscon.