Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Glenn Reynolds - 2005: A Space Odyssey

All I know is - it sure feels like the time is right to railroad.
Space enthusiasts, God knows, have seen plenty of disappointment in the past few decades, as the brief false dawn of Apollo led to years of failed promises and no visible momentum. But we're now seeing signs of new technologies -- and, just as important, new systems of organization -- that make a takeoff into sustained growth much more likely for the space sector. Prizes to develop technology, space tourism to develop markets and help us move up the learning curve, and people with the money and vision to provide the seed capital for both: The essentials now look to be in place. It's about time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Even a stopped clock

is right twice a day.
When you allow others to control your destiny, because you think nothing can be done to stop them, you are essentially signing the death warrant for democracy. You are basically voting by your own inaction for the worst case scenario to become a reality. Everyone wants someone else to come and rescue them from totalitarianism - but that is not how it works.
Wow. First he calls for exploring the solar system, now he's encouraging people to participate.

Be careful of what you wish for - you'll get it in spades.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Economic Bits

Secrets of Irish Success
. . . in 1985 Ireland made a u-turn. It drastically lowered the tax burden. All wasteful government spending was eliminated. In three years time public spending was reduced by no less then 20%. The result was that Ireland entered a period of explosive GNP growth, averaging 5.6% from 1985 to 2002. This is rough­ly three times the Belgian growth rate. The boom went hand in hand with the creation of new jobs, which was far in excess of that in Belgium.

Because of its awe-inspiring rise in prosperity Ireland has now more resources available for all sorts of social, cultural and environmental initiatives than Belgium does.
I am not ideological. If something works - if it's proven to work - then you use that tool and ideology be damned. Tax breaks, reducing government spending et. al seem to work, massive government programs and spending do not.

Even SF cartoonists get it ...
Petey: Restore your system to greatness. Nurure, Heal and Defend, per the Sacred Charter.
New Principal: How? The economy is a twisted mess!
Petey: Are you asking for advice?
NP: Yeah
Petey: Rebuild your orbital defenses. Offer tax breaks to private industry for orbital projects, and don't be afraid to let them profit by growing their space-based industries on the side. Re-tool your welfare programs around training for service industries. Those willl boom in short order. In ten years you'll be hailed as the greatest Principal your world has ever seen.
Mind - Petey is a hyper-intelligent AI so he can be expected to be smarter than your average psycho koala bear alien.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Time to move

Submitted without comment.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga the man that runs the most successful political blog in America can't afford the Blue state of California:

So I'm getting a little frustrated with the Bay Area real estate market, and for the first time in years I'm casting about the rest of the nation to see if there's anywhere else where I could possibly live.

How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who's got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren't rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas Zúniga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artificially high real estate prices.

Friday, December 23, 2005


An Explosion on the Moon

NASA scientists have observed an explosion on the moon. The blast, equal in energy to about 70 kg of TNT, occurred near the edge of Mare Imbrium (the Sea of Rains) on Nov. 7, 2005, when a 12-centimeter-wide meteoroid slammed into the ground traveling 27 km/s.

NASA's Hubble Discovers New Rings and Moons Around Uranus

To the surprise of astronomers, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a pair of new rings around the distant planet Uranus. The largest is twice the diameter of the planet's previously known rings. The new rings are so far away that they are being called Uranus's "second ring system."

The universe continues to surprise. Wonder what we'll find when we actually get out there in a big way. Stay tuned ...

A Lileks Christmas

Lileks rarely makes me chuckle aloud. He's good, just not that kind of a writer. Today being the exception.
Let’s recap: I ran into the garage door; the toilet overflowed during Child™’s Christmas party; I screwed up the cards, my wife’s lovely job of light-stringing ended up with the plug at the top of the towering outdoor evergreen, the kid found one of her presents, the tree died, a mail-order gift didn’t show, the party didn’t come off, and something else. Can’t remember. The dog found a skeleton in the backyard dressed in Santa clothes, maybe. That’s just Santa’s Halloween Helper, hon! Hide your eyes. No, that wasn’t it. Well, something else went horribly wrong. And my mood?

Happy. I’d be a fool to feel otherwise.

TJIC: Getting ready for the belt

Travis is thinking ahead . .
We need a few things before we move out to the Belt:

The linked article is good - very infomration dense. I would add that things will really take off when fabricators are perfected enabling settlements to sever supply lines and live off the land.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

'Tis the season

I blogged Dr. Pournelle's learned take on the 'war on Christmas'. Foamy has his own opinion as well ...
Leave the Christmas folks alone. 'Tis the season to STFU and stop being a whiny bitch.

Foolish Consistency

Speaking of exploring space . . .
Please do what you can to help us build pressure against the launch of New Horizons. Cancel the mission. The planets have been out there a long time and aren't going anywhere. Explore space sure, but don't risk the lives of people here on Earth. Develop alternative technologies for space exploration. No nuclear launches!
Hunh. This is the same guy who last year wrote;
Generally I think our membership would first support building a real mass transit system here on planet Earth before we go rushing off intospace. It is our belief that until we get our shit together here on this planet we ought to slow down the rush to move our bad seed of war, greed, and environmental degredation into the heavens.....

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds as that foolish little man said. Glad to see Bruce - and by extention his network of fellow travellers at GNAW is on board with the program. Next year the moon.

Attention ET: We taste terrible

This is the first thing an ET will hear as he / she / it approaches Earth. Good if they get the joke. Better if they have no sense of humor and conclude that treating homo sap gently and with respect is the prudent course of action.

Via Transterrestrial Musings

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Just squint and mentally add a rusty red hue

Hey look .. the future . . .
Concordia Station is one of the most isolated -- and most important -- permanent scientific outposts on Antarctica. A joint project of French and Italian national research programs, with the involvement of the European Space Agency, Concordia has just completed its first "overwinter" mission and is now home to its second
crew. Antarctic research, while interesting, isn't inherently worldchanging, but Concordia is special: its location, Dome C, is rapidly becoming the best spot for a variety of scientific missions on Antarctica; and this year's overwinter crew at Concordia has the assignment of prepping for a mission to Mars.

Home Sweet Home

Haliburtonish Subway Empire and Marching Society


Pardon the profanity. But .. really .. do you guys expect the great big Haliburtonish Subway Empire and Marching Society (HSE&MS) to listen? Or ... really ... to care? You've elevated the discourse past 'loud' to 'crude'; if I wouldn't listen to you - indeed after being told to get the f*** out I'd do all in my power to get the f*** in just to annoy you and watch you turn purple in hapless fury - why should the HSE&MS?

*Motto: Coming soon to dominate your hometown and make you eat six-inch BLT on wheat.

From Interdependence to Independence: A Path Forward

From Event Horizon;
For instance how many people dare not speak their minds on important matters – not for fear that they will be arrested by some secret police – but merely from fear that they will lose their jobs? What I'm trying to say is that as society becomes increasingly interdependent the individual must necessarily lose independence and become subject to the will of the whole in order to just subsist. It was for this very reason that Theodore Kaczynski (AKA the unibomber) came to believe that all technology must be destroyed. So the question remains: How can ever increasing interdependence be squared with human freedom? The answer is that it cannot be.

So should we just throw in the towel and all become Luddites? Certainly not. The advance of technology could not be stopped even if it were desirable. The solution to this problem is technology it self.

I foresee a radical new state of affairs arising in which every individual is self-sustaining and independent and yet continues to enter into states of cooperation willingly and not because it is necessary. Let's take a look at what kind of technologies will make this possible and then I will flesh out the concept.
More at the link. These are important things to think about. It is certain that the advances of the past several hundred years - from muscle power to space flight in just a few generations - are down to rule of law and the rights of the individual. How do we keep that engine going?

Pournelle - The War on Christmas

Pournelle on the War on Christmas. Of course he dives into the heart of the matter;
Our system is designed to appeal from Peter drunk with emotional appeals to Peter sober and rational, and it has generally worked; but I urge all of you to think on what happens when the majority finds its will frustrated over what it perceives to be trivial matters: trivial to those who object, but not at all trivial to the majority itself.
So my concern in this War on Christmas is that those who seek to manipulate the system to remove from it all traces of support for the religious principles that generated the nation may find they have done a better job than they intended; and that if enough people begin seriously to ask why they should put up with people not like them, and whom they do not like, they may come to conclusions most of those here would abhor.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

In Which Jane Fonda Irks Me

Jane Fonda has never bothered me. Hanoi Jane was a long time ago - I found her actions there irksome but that was another war; I was five.

But this is really damned irritating.
One doctor, she insists, told her U.S. troops had been deliberately trained to be "killing machines."
True enough actually. See neo-neocon for a nuaned discussion of that point.
"This began," Fonda maintained, "because the military discovered that in World War II and Korea, [U.S.] soldiers weren't killing enough."
Again, true. See the above link.
"So they changed training procedures" to teach troops how to commit atrocities.
Hunh. Somehow at Infantry Training School (now called SOI) I missed the training blocks devoted to rape, abuse, mass murder and etc.

Damned foolish woman; what is irritating is that people will latch onto this as gospel. Not the least of them our enemies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thinking long term

Why Democrats should support space exploration
The fact that it has fallen to a Republican president to issue the Vision for Space Exploration should not keep Democrats from supporting it. Divided as Americans are on so many other issues, the expansion of humanity throughout the solar system is a cause worthy of a Grand Alliance.

Well yah, good luck with that. My own (modest and, I admit, politically naive) judgment is that if a Democrat wins the Presidency VSE is dead in the water. Not for it's flaws, but because it was Chimpy McBushitler's plan, and for that reason alone it's got to go. You spend (not you, nor you but those other guys) spend eight years equating someone with a mad dictator and a primate ... obviously nothing much good can come from it, nu?

Sow the wind and weep; killing VSE might well spell the end of any manned exploration for yet another generation, all things considered.

In twenty or a hundred years our clever robot probes that we'll throw across the system in our stead (we're saving money! for more return on our investment!) can be picked apart for salvage by explorers and colonists from a more vigorous culture.


This is 'why' space4commerce, this is why I work gratis for Liftport. Because the species needs space and the options it will give us. More, we'll benefit by having a liberal Western culture growing ascross the system. It is not improbable that a more vigirous culture, with values anithetical to Western values, could take up the challenge and win the high ground.

Weep, should that happen.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dear iTerm

Dear iTerm.

It's just not working out. You're flashy, you're hip and cool - you bring things to a terminal session that Terminal just doesn't have.

But sweatheart - you've got problems. The "won't save default settings" issue I can overlook. Heck it's fun editing preference files to save a default setting, when that option clearly does not work in your menu. Once.

But worse, you crash. With frequent abandon. This just is not cool in a terminal session, and it's your worst sin of all. I'm sorry, but it's .. over.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Going on a bear hunt

In New Jersey. They've bagged (as of today) 216 black bears including a six-hundred pounder. This might sound like a slaughter except they estimate the (pre hunt) population of black bears tops out at 3,000. New Jersey, for the love of sweet-thorny-headed Christ.

In which I display my lack of tolerence for bums

Freeganism. Everything you fear it is, and more. So much more.* I'm getting old and grumpy. In my day we'd call these guys 'bums'.

*phrase borrowed with glee from Dave at Garfield Ridge.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A modest proposal: American / Australian Union

He's kidding of course.
Modest Proposal Number 317: America becomes part of Australia.
Yet .. weather and the women aside the idea does have it's merits.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Columbus or Erikson?

Columbus or Erikson?
Human history has favored both the spatial and cultural expansion. Fresh prospects yield new perspectives. Life springing from the sea to land was similarly favored. We now stand on a beach, our world, timidly dipping a toe into the sea of space.

We stare into this ocean of light and imagine we are the Columbus generation. I fear we may be the Lief Eriksons.
Via Music of the Spheres.

The merry sound of children

screaming in terror. Inside a snow globe. Don't look at me like that .. it's funny.


We need a space frontier

This on Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor Mail 390;
I agree with you in today's view, but, I also believe that holding back automation is a cure whose results are worse than the disease. Keeping skilled jobs that could otherwise be replaced with machines is just another way of saying those workers are not smart enough for the real work.

What we need is a space frontier. Our society in this country has no place for the young to aspire to. The frontiers are gone. The current model of rock star and mega rich is simply too shallow and of course pointless. And it is only going to get worse. A space frontier would provide an environment where the left of the bell curve as well as the right would find great opportunity. Hard work and guts would be just as valuable as advanced skills and in many jobs more important.

Phil Tharp

The sign of a truly intelligent man is when he agrees with you ...

Hunh. The English middle class tired of the Laud's gaudy Episcopapacy and fled to the New World. Some of my ancestors sought the frontier, bypassing the settled Atlantic colonies for the West. When the solid American middle-class tires of seeing their world eaten into from beneath, and tires of seeing their close held values mocked by the rich and Progressive elements .. where will they go?

In a hundred years will we see a revitalized, Anglosphere presence in the heavens? And will they ... you know .. care as little for the new Old world as the Americans of Jackson's and Houston's era cared for Great Britan?

This is what I get for re-reading history books at night.


The Dunbar Number as a limit to group sizes. Because group dynamics are important for a small organization.

"In short, alternate energy eliminates many of the problems which turn natural disasters and economic problems into crises." See Alternate energy is civil defense.

Ramsey Clark is a tool. Sorry, he's a past AG and a good guy but there it is. Via TJIC.

Michael Mealing has some interesting things to say about infrastructure.

Space Station Sims.

Bruce Gagnon is going all Thoreau and babbling about snow.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pandora's Box

Pandora. They're evil, no doubt, because they make you register, demanding a modest amount of information and they display ads. But they've got a neat trick in the area of music streaming. Pick a singer or song and they'll stream music similar to you choice. Similar to, granted, but it's not a clone of that service but a country cousin.

And they've gone better than in at least one respect; they know about Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker - artists that never could manage to find. Ya gotta love an online service that is either so cool or so dorky they've got Robert Earl Keen and Jerrry Jeff Walker in their database. It's like listening to Bruce Kidder and Brett Dillon at KHYI whenver I want.

Via Infectious Greed.

12/4/05 Update: Pandora is hiring - and oh-good-golly it sounds like a little slice o' geek heaven. You can always tell a lot about an organization by what they look for when they hire people.

Core Technologies: Linux, bash/sh, tcp/ip, nfs, x86 hardware, and dns/named, Linux, Java, Python/Jython, Apache, distributed systems, embedded systems

Secondary Technologies: Cisco/Foundry, ipchains/iptables, ipsec, Debian/GNU, apt, rpm, Postfix, VNC, evms, Raid, Postgres, python, C, PostgreSQL, XML-RPC, Jetty, Lisp, Oracle, PL/SQL, streaming media.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Comic Goodness

Dunno if they'll be in it for the long run (Hi Schlock Mercenary) but La Casa Comics is entertaining.

This one about Washington's weather is funny.

Via Dean's World.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The High Road

Or .. can't we all just get along?
The world is awash in capital. We have trillions of dollars of houses, cars, and businesses. The world’s productive capacity is growing all the time. We are figuring out how to build old things better so quickly, we have to find an ever-increasing pace of new items to produce. Ever more of our productive economy is being devoted to entertainment, beauty, recreation, vacationing, art, luxury food, leisure, and lifestyle medications. And it is doing so with less energy per dollar of GDP . It is only a matter of time before early adopters follow the style of Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos, and start their own space programs—or at least go for a ride.All the existing aerospace related firms and many others can prosper if demand and capitalization grow for space enterprise. All of the following companies and more can succeed: ATK Thiokol, Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Energia, Imaginova, Incredible Adventures, Lockheed Martin, Liftport, Masten Space Systems, Northrup Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Rocketplane, Space Adventures, The Spaceship Company, SpaceShot, SpaceX, TGV Rockets, t/Space, United Space Alliance, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Skill, and XCOR Aerospace.

While there are long-term lean scenarios, there are also extended boom scenarios. If there is an elevator that is put up, we will need more rockets, not fewer. We will spark a vast new era of development, colonization, and exploration with lots of rockets and spaceships flying off of a space elevator.

As Monte Davis recently said on “The Space Show”, we have to set aside our petty differences. Shut up about Moon vs. Mars, hybrid vs. liquid, SSTO vs. TSTO, alt vs. biz, tourism vs. military, private vs. public, orbital vs. suborbital, robots vs. people, and asteroids vs. space invaders. Start subordinating our unimportant grousing about other’s companies and products to common goals. Start smoothing over our differences, agree to disagree, and push forward a positive message about our own and all competing products. Start teaching each other how to promote in a positive way and teach the media how to cover us in a positive way.

Mark Twain's quip comes to mind; the reason that school board elections are so vicious is that the stakes are so small. The opposite is true here - time to realize that, yes, the stakes might be high, but the payoff is huge for all concerned.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Taking bets on the first kilogram to orbit by space elevator

Travis is taking bets on the first kilogram and the first man to orbit via space elevator.
On the dog walk today I asked Nick when he thought we’d have a space elevator that could lift 1kg from the surface to orbit.

I was thinking 35 years.

Nick said “With 75% confidence…10 years”.

OK, what are everyone else’s bets?? Feel free to divide into “1kg to orbit” and “1 man to orbit”.

My bets are 35 and 40 years respectively.
I think Nick is being foolishly optimistic, but Travis is guilty of not anticipating a massive uptick in enabling technology. Something like what happened in England in the first decade after Watt perfected thesteam engine, but with more acceleration. If the steam engine was a light shining a dark era the coming decade is going to be a laser beam.

I am of course optimistic.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

'space elevator' slipping into casual usage

I don't know who CrackBass is. That is beside the point.
maybe not even a god, but The God. we dont deserve him. there is no way he is from this planet. Perhaps he arrived here via a space elevator. Maybe he is from the future, and has traveled back to now so that he can just completely kick everyone's a$$ on drums. whatever. doesn't matter. what matters is - he is here, and deserves your worship.
He's talking about Jeff Ballard, a drumer. I don't know who he is either. The point is the casual usage of the phrase 'space elevator'.

* If it's slipped into common usage .. great. Better than that if you want to build one.

* You guys who want to rename it 'cosmic funicular' or something else? You're about five years too late. Space elevator it is, and always will be. Sloppy and imprecise but there it is.

* Better than Keith Moon? You'll have to convince me.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hacking Google - deserved mocking

Google 'failure'. The first hit is the White House biography of George Bush. The second is Nothing like rooting for the underdog . . .

Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure.

Me, I think a google hack aimed at Bruce Gagnon would be more amusing, but since failure is taken ...

. Goofball. Goofball. Goofball. Goofball.

Thanksgiving coda

The Dunbar family had a nice Thanksgiving. Snow, but just enough to dust the ground. Family and friends over for the day. Leftover enough to tide the family over for a week of turkey sandwiches, turkey ommlettes and so on.

That is - we had enough leftover turkey for the week. We now have a few ounces of turkey and a very full German Shepherd.

A likeness of the guilty party - in happier times.

Nuclear Power makes you go AAAGH!

From Leyden's Jar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free Market Management Style

one fateful day in 1962, Charles, also an MIT engineer, plucked a book from his father's library on the free-market principles of the so-called Austrian school of economics. "The experience changed my life," Koch wrote in a 1998 article for Chief Executive magazine. After Koch took over the company when his father died in the late 1960s, he spent the next three decades knocking down the "command-and-control" tenets of traditional corporate structure and replacing it with more of an "intellectual framework."

You've probably never heard of Charles Koch or Koch Industries. So what do they have to offer?

30,000 employees in 50 countries. Growth of 1,600-fold since 1961. Koch just bought Georgia-Pacific, taking it private. Might be worth paying attention to.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dil Bahadur Shrestha

Dil Bahadur Shrestha. Goes by both 'Dil' and 'Bahadur'. From Kathmandu, Nepal. Has had recent business dealings in Germany and Wisconsin. I will not publish defaming information in public but if you are doing business with him you really should get in touch with me for our side of the story. Use the contact email address for this web site.

This has nothing to do with Liftport - I'm doing this as a favor for a close friend who (may) have been burned by the guy; using the power of the lazyweb for good not ill.

Friday, November 18, 2005

WKRP In Cincinnati - end theme lyrics

WKRP was, I think, the best sitcom ever filmed. The cast had chemistry, the jokes were good and 'twas funny without smut. Plus Jan Smithers. And that closing theme. For years and years I thought there weren't really any lyrics - just a guy belting out nonsense - but rocking good nonsense.

Turns out if you listen long enough .. there is something there.
Said to the bartender "Best night I ever had"
Sang to the bar
Had a microphone in(to) her heart

I said -
Goodbye madam
I'd had a bird in hand

I said - I'm doing good
And put love in her heart

Makes more sense than some of translations from 'Cowboy Bebop'. Poor quality wav at the link - but a rocking GOOD poor quality wav it is.

Update: I forgot about the Cloth Monkey 'homage' page to Jan Smithers. This might be where I picked up a 'thing' for girls wearing glasses.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

US Army Military History Institute - online documents

Via Jerry Pournelle - the US Army Military History Institute has a number of interesting soruce documents online. Index at

An Epidemiology of Representations

Via Event Horizon, An Epidemiology of Representations - A Talk with Dan Sperber;
This is where I part company not just from your standard semiologists or social scientists who take communication to be a coding-decoding system, a transmission system, biased only by social interests, by power, by intentional or unconscious distortions, but that otherwise could deliver a kind of smooth flow of undistorted information. I also part company from Richard Dawkins who sees cultural transmission as based on a process of replication, and who assume that imitation and communication provide a robust replication system.
More at the link.

Evolutions of thoughts, transmission of culture. Ever since T.R. Fehrenbach introduced me to the idea that not just the cowboy but the entire Plains horse culture was transmitted entire from the Spanish on the lower Rio Grande to Anglo-Celts filtering out of the wooded Southeast, I've been interested in how ideas .. culture .. migrates to a new people.

Semper Gumby, Micah.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is this blog an "Anglosphere Blog"?

From Albion's Seedlings;
The Anglosphere is the growing world network of English-speaking nations and people increasingly connected by electronic media, fast cheap air travel, and other modern developments. In that sense, it is a subset of globalization, but a globalization that is not happening smoothly, evenly, or at the same pace or degree in all directions at once. There are vectors, and the evidence continues to accumulate that participation in the cultural complex that includes speaking, writing and reading English, and sharing in the institutions, culture and history of the English-speaking world is an important one of those vectors.

Anglospherists differe from universalists by saying "we can't really come up with a quick formula that fits Mozambique and Iceland equally and usefully." We can say that stronger civil societies are freer and more prosperous, and we can even say "reducing public goods reduces the corruption of public processes", but we can't instantly come up with a formula that would tell how to rewrite a constitution to implement these insights
Maybe. There is worse company to be in.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Space elevator takes romance out of the void

Space elevator takes romance out of the void
The fact is, no matter how many carbon bells and nano-whistles you put on it, an elevator is still an elevator -- the most boring and awkward conveyance ever concocted. And all its annoying traditions would be sure to seep into any space-age upgrade as well.

LEO on the Cheap

LEO on the Cheap
Methods for Achieving Drastic Reductions
In Space Launch Costs
Air University Research Report AU-ARI-93-8
Lt. Col. John R. London III

Published in 1994, "LEO on the cheap" is easily accessible for the lay public. Colonel London explored why existing space launch is expensive and presented recommendations to drastically reduce the the cost of space transportation.

The conclusions are hard to argue with
The United States needs a means of space access that costs much less than the current launch systems. Foreign competition continues to chip away at the US commercial launch industry. A dramatic expansion in military, civil, and commercial space initiatives could help fuel a technology-based economic revitalization in the United States, but this expansion will not come about unless drastic reductions in space launch costs are achieved.
He then goes on the argue for development of a minimum cost design booster - minimum cost because (supported by arguments in the preceding chapters) boosters do not need to be complex or expensive - good enough is sufficient and cheap.
An ultra-low-cost launch system cannot be developed using traditional government acquisition practices. A large number of personnel, heavy documentation requirements, complicated and time-consuming procedural compliance, and an almost inevitable complexity in design are all associated with typical acquisition of an aerospace system. These traditional acquisition characteristics will drive the cost of the launch system well above what anyone would consider low. Therefore the program for developing a low-cost launch system must be accomplished in a highly streamlined manner.
In other words - it can't be done the way we've always done it. However, the cynic in me is convinced that an organization laden with 'crats and procedures is unable to reform itself absent external competition. There isn't any at this point in time. Space X is, yes, busy building the Falcon and Virgin Galactic may loft tourists but these guys alone are not going to force the US government and Boeing/Lockmart to change their ways.

Colonel London goes on to list forty recomendations in procedure, policy and so on.

All in all, a good read for the lay public, invaluable if you're in the industry, or simply want to be informed. Available online in PDF format at

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thinking Cleary About Space

Monte Davis' 'Thinking Clearly' series is worth a seperate blog entry.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part I: Hustling the Future
For more than a century, space enthusiasts have been hurrying the future: projecting how the world will be changed by technologies and capabilities humanity does not yet have.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part II: Everybody Wants Space
Who can resist the poetry of Humanity’s Timeless Outward Urge? Space is the endless frontier, we say—it’s in our genes. It’s the next inevitable step in evolution. It’s our species-level insurance against global disasters. It’s the spread of life and intelligence from a pale blue dot to the 99.9…% of the cosmos that isn’t Earth. Throw the bone, cue the music, match dissolve to orbit: thank you, Mr. Kubrick.

It’s all profoundly moving. It may even turn out to be true. But it’s an obstacle to progress, if talk of Humanity persuades us that most actual human beings share our enthusiasm.
Thinking Clearly About Space Part III: Hardware and Hand-Waving
One of the clichés of space enthusiasm is author Robert Heinlein’s "Once you’re in orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere." It’s a vivid expression of the physics of launching a spacecraft and escaping earth’s gravity well. The velocity change required to attain low earth orbit, just 200 miles up, is more than twice that needed to go on from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to the Moon. It’s comparable to that needed for reasonable travel times from LEO to other planets, thousands of times farther away.

We usually repeat the cliché in the service of our hopes. After all, we put a satellite in orbit in 1957, and human beings in 1961. We were halfway to anywhere two generations ago—let’s get on with it!

But the cliché misleads as much as it enlightens.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part IV: The Virtuous Cycle

The temptation to slip from hurrying the future to hustling it is always present. You can see the latest variation at every space conference, on every space forum and weblog:

* “What will make us a space-faring civilization is people making money on space tourism and orbital hotels; on solar-power satellites or on helium-3 from the moon or asteroid mining.”

* “NASA and the big aerospace vendors and the politicians are all in the same bureaucratic swamp, maintaining their turf and their constituencies. Look at Spaceship One! Only private enterprise is lean and innovative enough to get us out.”

* “Sure, rockets have always been expensive, but that’s only because we make so few of them and fly them so rarely. With high flight rates and the streamlined operations that will bring, costs will drop to a fraction of what they are today.”

The common thread is that we don’t need more federal spending or new technology to speed our progress into space. All we need is the proven power of market economics to transform what is new, rare and expensive (electricity 1850, automobiles 1900, computers or jet aircraft 1950) into the routine and affordable.

Monte Davis on Livingston's Space Show

Monte Davis, historian, science writer and all-around good guy writes;
I'll be on David Livingston's Space Show tomorrow, starting at noon Pacific time. We'd be happy to hear from you during the show; details for calling or IM/ICQ'ing in during the show are here.

The main topic is "mythbusting" about where we currently are (and aren't) in space -- the real technological, economic, and political constraints, and what seem to me the shortcomings of most space advocacy.

But I expect we'll also get around to possible alternatives to chemical rocketry: nuclear, laser launch, and... you guessed it.

For a preview of the angle I'm coming from, go to here and see the four-part "Thinking Clearly About Space" series under the "more top stories/recent headlines" tabs.

Beats the snot out of listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

Ready to break out of the post-Apollo doldrums

Good name for this era - post-Apollo doldrums.
UI and other students are likely to have a lot more such opportunities in the future, said Gregg Maryniak, former executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation, which sponsored the $10 million prize for the first privately funded manned space flight, won last fall by SpaceShipOne.
"For the first time in many, many years I feel a real resurgence in hope for the future ... right in your careers," Maryniak, now director of the J.S. McDonnell Planetarium in St. Louis, told the students.
But Maryniak said the Bush administration's push to return to the moon and eventually travel to Mars is only part of the reason he thinks the nation has a chance to break out of what he characterized as its post-Apollo doldrums.
He said NASA's $15 billion annual budget – about what Americans spend on lipstick or pizza every year – is unlikely to ever do much more than double, if that.
"It's not enough money to make space happen on a strong and perpetual basis," he said.
But government programs can overcome initial hurdles – like proving the feasibility of bases on the moon, which might become resource harvesting and manufacturing outposts later – that need to be cleared to attract private investment, Maryniak said.
Oh yes - Tom Nugent is at SEDS, doing nifty things with robots and space elevator proto tech.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day

I wrote this on Steve Barnes website in response to his review of "Jarhead". Let it stand as a comment on Veterans Day. It is not that I think my words are epic or worthy of wider notice - but they are mine.

There is indeed something about service in hard places with like minded men that calls to the heart of a man.

I spent eight years in the Corps. I had some good times, some bad times, overall I was not the best Marine I could have been but .. ah gawd when it was good, it was grand indeed!

I've yet to find - after thirteen years - anything to compare to that feeling.

I've found a substitute with my wife and family - and it's a good life and relationship we have, and I'll not trade it for the world. She is my rock and my heart and my life.

But it's not the at all the same, not by half.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy 230th, Marines

Happy Birthday to my brothers and sisters in the Corps. Hoist a glass, toast the oldest and youngest present and keep the faith.

Semper Fi.

Nick at Brutally Honest says it much better than I.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

60 Minutes: Being The First Man On The Moon

Some choice bits from the '60 Minutes' interview with Neil Armstrong on 11/6/05.
After the almost-fatal ordeal (with an experimental LEM simulator), Armstrong went back to his office to do some paperwork. “I did. There was work to be done,” says Armstrong, matter-of-factly.

“Wait a minute. You were just almost killed,” Bradley says.

“Well, but I wasn't,” says Armstrong.

Armstrong clearly remembers the lunar surface. “It's a brilliant surface in that sunlight. The horizon seems quite close to you because the curvature is so much more pronounced than here on earth. It's an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”

Armstrong knew the Apollo program had a limited life but expected it to last longer. “I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.”

“And why do you think we didn't continue?” Bradley says.

“When we lost the competition, we lost the public will to continue,” Armstrong replies.

“You said you would like to see us go back to the moon, and then go on to Mars. Something you want to do at this point in your life?” Bradley asks.

“I don't think I'm going to get the chance. But I don't want to say I'm not available,” Armstrong says, laughing.

If you're looking for a hero - however you define the word - you could do worse.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


October 28, 2005

We're all familiar with the more common names for FTL (faster than light) drives in the SF universe. Warp drives, hyper drives and so on. Here are some of our suggestions. The Top 9 Other Names for FTL Drives

9. The "No we're not there yet, now shut up before I turn around and smack you" drive.
8. Science Fiction Nerd "Lack of Sex" Drive.
7. Einstein's Blowjob.
6. FTMFF (Fleeter Than Michael Flatley's Feet) Drive.
5. TTE ("Take That, Einstein!") Drive.
4. FTL: Fatter than Light. A new drive system based on the Atkins Diet.
3 . Deus Ex Machina Drive.
2. Who cares, as long as I can save money on my car insurance!

and the Number 1 Other Name for an FTL Drive...

1. Bubba's Interstellar Drive-O-Matic.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Liftport week at Bull Dork's place

It's Liftport Week at Bull Dork's blog. I promised the man I'd make it Bull Dork week on the Liftport blog (or something like that) but some things have conspired against my doing that.

* An appraiser is due next week to look at the house for a refinance inspection. All those fiddly chores I've put off for the past year? It's all come due. I've been up till the wee hours of the morning moving stuff around, sanding, painting and so on. The good news is we'll have a set of really nice rooms sans smelly old carpeting and with newly painted hardwood floors.

* I spent the past few days fighting with Automator and learning it's a better man than I. Automator really wants you to use and not Thunderbird and is very very picky about the whole 'using OpenOffice to create PDF files thing'. All of this to produce a PDF with a potential investor's name and to mail it back to them.

You've not seen the last of ME Automator.

* I approached the central committe about the 'make the Liftport blog into a celebration of Bull Dork's life and times' deal and they looked at me as if I'd sprouted an extra head. I'm on thin ice after the Commodore Decker thing.

Anyhoo. Hie thee to the Dork's site and comment.

It Begins.
Social Issues.
Legal Issues.

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.