Thursday, May 31, 2007

Carnival of Space

The Fifth Carnival of Space is up at 'Why Homeshool'.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Long Live The Revolution

Mr. Chavez,

If your police are in the streets shooting people because you've closed a television station - you need to give that Socialist Revolution thing a re-think.

Brian Dunbar

Google wants to know everything about you


I, for one, welcome our new bithead overlords.

Eric Schmidt said
“The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ”
How? Gathering personal data from everywhere. Which is not hard - most of us leave tracks all over the infosphere*, most of it just sitting there. Do you know how to encrypt email? What about using onion routing to mask your IP address? And for the love of God if you use onion routing do you know that some programs leak data to DNS servers to establish the onion route?

If the infosphere were a forest most of us are loud rubes from the city, gawking and tromping all over the place, being loud and scaring off game for a country mile. Bird watchers and fishermen are wincing as we come tromping by, wishing you'd just get back in your Winnebago and go away. It was nice before you showed up and it will be nicer once you leave.

But .. Google. Personal data in the hands of the unscrupulous is double-plus un-good.
After all, here we have a corporation whose executive are not publicly elected, whose activities are not subject to any form of public oversight, and who chose - not reluctantly, but enthusiastically and without the slightest complaint - to comply with censorship in China. To be honest, I'd probably trust the government more with the kind of information that Google wants to amass under the flimsy excuse of helping me find information and services I know how to find perfectly well already, thank you.
As an aside - where you stand on this depends on how you feel about government. Which in turn might depend on how recently you've been goosed by it. But I digress.

I don't want to get too deeply into this but it's worth noting that while we don't elect executives in Google neither do we elect the executives in our government. We elect the guys who are in charge who in turn hire the guys who are running things. We elect the CEO. Get a layer or two down and the guys who actually run the government are pretty much just like the guys who run Google.

That's not where I was going with this.

Transparent Society

David Brin speculated that cameras would soon be everywhere, would be networked and capture our public moments. Getting down to the bedrock issue here, we get down to a who watches the watcher problem. We have two ways of living in this future;

* The cops (The Man, John Law) monitor the cameras. Recordings are kept by them, for their use.


* There is no Monitor Central. The feed from the cameras is tossed into the ether for anyone to view.

I'm paraphrasing this badly - Brin is a writer and he does a much better job of this. Go read the article if you have not already done so.

Where we're at is that this is not a deal you can stop. The cameras are coming. Our only choice is to have a society where the cameras are controlled by John Law or by no one at all. It's that stark.

Here is the problem, and where Brin's lovely thought experiment fails; cameras are mounted, paid for and installed not by a bunch of grubby hackers but by the Laws. Would your average bureaucrat just hand over data?

I won't hold my breath.

Where I'm Going With This

You probably saw this coming a mile away. Is the man collecting data on you? If we are tromping through the infosphere like tourists from the city then our tracks in a thousand government databases are fossilized footprints. You're known about a thousand different ways from Sunday.

Integration of all these databases will happen. Call it empire building or 'but the people paid for this data they have a right to good data'** or a well-intentioned effort to thwart the pressing crisis of the day ... it will be slow and expensive but it will happen.

Google is plowing forward with the same plans - but with a million sources of data that are not controlled by the State. They're doing it better and faster.

What Google - and a thousand scruffy hackers who want to be the next Google - are up to can be seen not as evil or even bad but an effort to build a public feed of data. Transparent Society Version 2.0.

Intentioned or not this is an effort to construct a better place to live than the one we'll get if we do nothing.***

On the one side is that massive data integration by the State - and if you think you'll see much data from that, you'll be waiting a long time. On the flip side all the other data, just put out there for people to use. The State's default mode is to hide everything, Google's is to put it out there for everyone to use.

I know which society I'd prefer to live in.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

*I use this not in the way that a learned policy wonk would so he can up his fee for a speaking gig but in a mock-ironic sense. In fact assume that all consultant and wonk talk above is used in this sense.

** Hat-tip to Ellen Ullman.

*** Or not.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Cutting apart the remains of a tree that fell over in an ice storm, spilled a small amount of chainsaw oil on my gloves ...

The smell of pipe smoke is permanently linked in my brain to my maternal grandfather.

For my paternal grandfather it's the smell of the oil they use to lubricate chainsaws, backhoes and other bits of heavy machinery that grind or dig or shove things around.

Both nice guys from the Pacific Northwest, about as different from each other as you could get. And here I am, the sum of them both.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dangerous Book For Boys

Last night was payday and the boys get to pick up a new book. Older Monkey is twelve; he was dithering over two books - a new addition to a young-adult series he's been reading or this: Dangerous Book For Boys. He opted for the latter and I am quite pleased by his purchase.

Topics in DBFB? Famous Battles. Invisible ink. Latin phrases every boy should know. How to make a trip wire. How to make an electro-magnet. The Declaration of Independence. How to play poker. Girls. Girls?
You may already have noticed that girls are quite different from you. By this, we do not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse code. some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.
Which is, sadly, true. I would have avoided a whole lotta marital strife if I'd learned this sooner than I did.

It reads like the Boy Scout Manual would if the editors had gotten their way and included the really good bits as well as the stuff BSA requires. Older Monkey spent an hour this evening making a tripwire using two AA batteries, wire salvaged from two dead fans and a light bulb. Of note is that he started using the directions and then strayed off using his own design. Which doesn't quite work and led to learning how to troubleshoot electrical circuits and ... more fundamentally .. learning troubleshooting techniques and stuff like .. logic.

Highly recommended.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Friday, May 25, 2007

coComment Issue - Resolved

The issue with coComment I mentioned here has been fixed.
We initially suspected some browser issue related to security but quickly found out this could not the the case. After deeper investigation, we identified that the time on one of our servers was not correct and jammed our anti-spam system. This was reducing the time you have between entering the page and submitting the comment (and this is why it took us some time to identify the issue as when we tested the comment submitting it was always working).
Yow. I have some sympathy - issues like that can be tricky to resolve.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

coComment Issues

I love coComment. Create an account, install an extention in Firefox and you can track blog conversations all over the place. It really is pretty keen.

It's been broken all week, however. Leave a comment anywhere and you'll get an error message telling you that remote cookies are disabled. Except they are not. It appears to be more than just me as well.

It is amazing how quickly you can get used to something until it breaks.

Carnival of Space #4

Carnival of Space #4 is up. And there was much rejoicing.

The good folks there were kind enough to link to this entry at The Daily Brief.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ode to Muni Wi-Fi

An Ode to Municipal WiFi - inspired by Paul Kedrosky
Skepticism about municipal wifi is growing again, and this time it's more than just technologists and policy wonks. Now we have people inside recent roll-outs who aren't happy with the results, prices -- and I did I mention incumbent broadband providers are also responding?
The Muni Wi-Fi Song (With Apologies to The Simpsons)

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
What'd I say?

Ned Flanders: Wi-Fi!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

Patty+Selma: Wi-Fi!

Lyle Lanley: That's right! Wi-Fi!

[crowd chants `Wi-Fi' softly and rhythmically]

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are a luxury...

Lyle Lanley: Like telephones and cable TV.

Apu: Is there a chance taxes would escalate?

Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.

Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?

Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.

Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.

Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.

I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!

All: Wi-Fi!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

All: Wi-Fi!

Lyle Lanley: Once again...

All: Wi-Fi!

Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...

Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!

All: Wi-Fi!

[big finish]


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NASA Mission Patch

How long has it been since we've been to the Moon?

From How NASA Screwed Up (And Four Ways to Fix It).


My sister-in-law Cindy, nieces Bianca and Allie. Venice is far away but y'all are near and dear to our heart.

Brett Favre Demands Trade

GREEN BAY—Three-time MVP and undisputed future Hall of Fame quarterback
Brett Favre, disappointed with the Packers' refusal to aggressively
pursue receiver Randy Moss and frustrated with his team's apparent
indifference to making immediate improvements on offense, is demanding
a trade to the team he feels will give him the best shot at winning a
last Super Bowl ring before his retirement: the 1996 Green Bay Packers.

Although the Packers had no immediate comment, head coach Mike McCarthy
said the team would be "heartbroken" to part with its greatest player,
although in deference to Favre's long service, and for the good of the
current team, they would be willing to consider a trade package
including a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft and the 1996 Brett

Michael Laine on the Space Show

Michael Laine on Dr. Livingston's Space Show
Michael Laine, the CEO of LiftPort, was the guest for this Space Show
program. Michael came on the show to describe in detail the current
situation facing LiftPort as well as himself. He talks about the
financial difficulties they are facing, their upcoming timeline,
Michael's having funded LiftPort and then the loss of his building and
much more. Here the facts directly from Michael Laine. He also provides
some current information the space elevator. Many listeners had
questions for him about how LiftPort can generate a cash flow, a
product mix for the company and much more. You can email Michael your
comments and questions at

MP3 here.

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar


Robert Reich in his latest blog entry "How to Reduce the Use of Off-Shore Tax Havens";

So when the super-rich use offshore tax havens to avoid paying what they owe in taxes, they’re reneging on their duties as citizens. It seems only fair to me that the consequence of that kind of tax avoidance ought to be loss of citizenship. If it’s more important to someone to avoid paying what they owe in taxes than to continue being an American, then let them keep their money. They can become a citizen of the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or wherever else they store their wealth, and come here on a visitor’s visa – if they can get one.

Exploit a loophole, loose your citizenship. Nothing illegal just .. not what Mr. Reich would have you do. I'm sure of course that he pays the full amount of his tax bill and uses no deductions, exemptions or other dodges.

Classy thinking from a Professor of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley and 22nd Secretary of Labor.

Space Solar Power at 3 Quarks Daily

A link to Taylor Dinerman's article 'Space solar power: why do we need it and what do we need to get it?' at 'The Space Review' was linked to at 3 Quarks Daily.

Which is all kinds of cool and put a little sunshine in my day. 3 Quarks is a blog where S. Abbas Raza writes
my guest authors and editors and I hope to present interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating.
I'd gotten the impression over the past month that while the site is interesting, mundane stuff like 'the future' was not within their scope. Glad to see that the topic on on Mr. Raza's radar.

And space solar power itself? That we need it is one of those 'well duh' things ...
Professor Nocera makes it clear that neither conservation nor wind, nuclear, hydro, or biomass energy sources are going to be able, even when taken together, to fill the demand for energy that any reasonable standard of living will require. China and India alone will need more energy than is produced today by the entire planet. Coal, oil, and gas could provide some of the answer but environmental and security reasons tend to rule out those alternatives. Even if one is skeptical of the whole anthropomorphic global warming theory, there are good reasons to want to minimize the use of oil and natural gas and to tread carefully when it comes to using coal as a primary energy source.

So his solution is to go for solar energy in a big way.
One problem. Solar power is not always convenient to obtain. For another we could really use the ground that would be occupied by solar arrays for other stuff. Houses, yes, but also reclaimed wilderness. Would you rather see a hundred thousand acres of restored prairie or the same space covered by solar collection arrays? Thought so. But only 62 miles away is nearly limitless room and sunshine undiluted by an inconvenient atmosphere.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Star-Pit

'The Star-Pit' by Samuel R. Delany was published in Worlds of Tomorrow and then broadcast on WBAI-FM in November, 1967. It's available here in four parts. Delany's notes are here.
In 1967, two years prior to Stonewall, on the written page the most notable thing about “The Star-Pit” had been its gender skewing.
I've not read the printed version but the audio .. I can see how it might be remarkable for 1967. Forty years on ... it is indeed invisible.
"You can grow kid-boy or you can die. That's the choice you've got and it goes on all your life."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Steve Kagen - shrewd politican but a poor business msn

Representative Steve Kagen is either a shrewd politician or a bad business man.
Kagen noted his Kagen Allergy Clinics had gross revenues of nearly $1.2 million last year; net income after tax was $220,000. He called himself sole proprietor of the business.

He entered Congress in January, and in light of a ruling from the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, he then said he was selling his business to brother Charlie Kagen, a dermatologist.

In his report, Kagen said he sold the practice for $50,000 on Jan. 2.
Well, gosh. I guess he's just not very good business man is he? But yay for his brother who picked up a thriving business for a song.


Mark Steyn on Flight 93's memorial. The plan now includes - for the sweet love of thorny-headed Jebus - a wetlands. Full of life. Meant to provide reflection and social interaction. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, ducks are now a fitting memorial for our dead.

Go to any Civil War memorial on any New England common, and marvel at how they managed to honor their dead without wetlands and wind chimes.

A hundred years ago they didn't have people whose sole job was to tell you that your ideas were tasteless or tacky or jingoistic. You wanted a memorial you hired a guy to sculpt a soldier, make sure the names on the bronze were correct and there, done; a memorial for the ages that can move a strong man to quiet tears a hundred years later.

What emotion would wetlands inspire? Nothing that would be fitting for Flight 93. I wonder if that's what is truly desired.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.



A routine moment for the Navy, and for us.
ABOARD USS JOHN C. STENNIS – Cmdr. Muhammad Muzzafar F. Khan relieved Cmdr. Timothy Langdon as commanding officer of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 31 during a ceremony held at sea aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) May 13.

Khan is the first Muslim to take command of an operational aviation squadron in the U.S. Navy.
Not because this is a touchy-feely PC moment - whoop-te-do look at us for promoting an oppressed minority! - but because this kind of stuff happens all the time in the military. It's only remarkable because he's the first. And it's only remarked on because that's what PR people do.

Here is a guy who had it good in Pakistan; daddy was an airplane pilot and they just don't give those jobs to anyone. Gave it up when he was 18 to come here and study, then join the Navy. This is what we're good at doing - co-opting the best and brightest and letting them get as far as they want to.

And the West generally and the United States in particular do this all the time.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Our Betters

Four representatives prove they don't know how to live like everybody else.
Ryan and three other members of Congress have pledged to live for one week on $21 worth of food, the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance. That's $3 a day or $1 a meal. They started yesterday.

According to the rules of the challenge, the four House members cannot eat anything beside their $21 worth of groceries. That means no food at the many receptions, dinners and fundraisers that fill a lawmaker's week.
The stunt is to demonstrate that $21 dollars in food stamps doesn't go as far as it needs to. But the terms of the stunt are self-limiting; Declining a free buffet because it's not in 'your' budget? Can you say "setup an experiment in order to fail"?
"No organic foods, no fresh vegetables, we were looking for the cheapest of everything," McGovern said. "We got spaghetti and hamburger meat that was high in fat -- the fattiest meat on the shelf. I have high cholesterol and always try to get the leanest, but it's expensive. It's almost impossible to make healthy choices on a food stamp diet."
Cry me a river. Food stamps are to supplement the diet, not be the entire enchilada. And for all of that I've lived healthy on a budget of $20 a week for food. I didn't like it but it's possible. Of course I cheated by eating 'free' bagels at work when available but I was aiming for 'practical' not 'prove a point'.

Ryan blogs about here.
The McGoverns blog about the experience here.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

This is the future

A fine rant, reproduced in full.
30 lightyear away, eh? Let me think. With a working Orion-style drive, assuming a payload, for purposes of rough calculation the mass of, let us say, Skylab or 20000 kg; figure that every ton of fully loaded and fueled spacecraft has a volume of 5 to 10 cubic meters, and ten percent of the fully loaded mass spacecraft mass is structural mass. Now, postulating an exhaust velocity of 30000000 m/s, and assuming this is all fuel, and plugging in the values for the rocket equation .... how many years, assuming equal periods of acceleration and deceleration at both ends, minus the relative motion of the star GJ4356 versus Sol ... in terms of time, it should take us ... let me get about my slipstick ... Aha! here we go. My rough back-of-the-envelope calculations show that, under the assumption that we are working within the confines of modern technology, and assuming no fundamental breakthroughs in engineering, and assuming we advance this project at the same rate as other space exploration projects, it should get to his new planet in roughly about ... NEVER because OUR SPACE PROGRAM IS TOTALLY DIS-FUNCTIONAL and WORTHLESS pack of time serving BUREAUCRATS who haven't done anything but throw robots at the outer planets ever since Apollo 17! Do you know when the last moonshot was?? 1972! That was four years before the first airing of Charles' Angels, it was so long ago. Aren't those girls grandmas now? THIRTY FIVE FRELLING YEARS SINCE WE PUT A MAN ON THE MOON !!! That's almost four decades!!!! Do you know what our forefathers could accomplish in four decades? John Ericsson designed the steam-powered ironclad Monitor in 1862; forty-one years later the Wright Brothers flew the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine; four decades later, in 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the first faster-than-sound jet aircraft. Ack! Gack!! Choking on geek-rage! Where's my flying car? It's 2007, for Kal-El's sake! This is the Future!
I couldn't say it better myself.


Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Robert H. Tourtelot - Attorney at Law and Goofball at the Bar

Robert H. Tourtelot - Attorney at Law and Goofball at the Bar.

If your attorney responds to potential defendants with slang and fails to spell-check
For a moment, I thought I was losing my mind. The guy said in his e-mail: “nowhere does he list copyright law”. Well, cutting him a little slack, I guess maybe he is dyslectic! As you can see from reading our web- site, we do list “Intellectual Property Litigation”. Duh!
Gets little details wrong like the state of residence of the potential defendant and engages in 'my dick is bigger than his' rhetoric
I have been quite successful keeping up the charade for all these years, only to be exposed now by someone in D.C. who probably makes less in a year than I gave to charity last year.
If your attorney challenges people to fisticuffs with an implied death threat
Dear Mr. Corcoran: I am in receipt of your e-mail to my client, Mr. XXX. I note your comments about me. I have a proposition for you. I will pay your way to California if you will agree to come and meet me in a gym, the address of which the limo driver who meets your flight will have.

Oh yes, the deal only includes a one-way ticket, as I do not believe you will be needing the return portion! Ciao, and have a good day. RHT

It's time to get a new attorney.

Or if he's not your attorney mock him with derision and scorn until you hear the lamentations of his women.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Field Improvised Upgrades

Murdoc had a bit about an upgrade package to the Army's M1A2 tanks.
“The guys can’t wait,” said Capt. David Centeno, assistant product manager of the TUSK program. “They need this stuff. Every time I go [to Iraq] they ask, ‘When will we get it?’”
Well gee, I thought, the guys at the sharp end have to wait for the Army to get around to adding equipment like a second mount for an M2? Or a T.V. camera on the back for the driver? Were I the C.O. (and this might be a good reason why I'm not) I'd have my mechanics whip out a welding rig and go to town.

Seems like the Marines have more initiative than the Army.
The Seabees of 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) provided the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion with an armor upgrade May 1 to help keep the gunners safe during their operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

On a tank crew, the loader feeds ammunition into the machine gun and is often exposed to small arms fire from opposing forces. To stay safe, the loader has to close to the tankís access hatch. But if he does that, he can no longer do his job.

"It[The new armor] lets us leave the hatch open," said Marine Staff Sgt. Ceasare Williams, of the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion. "This allows the loader to stay in the fight."

"It will also help [protect us against] IED (Improvised Explosive Device) shrapnel," added Marine Sgt. Brad Nevitt, also of the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion, as he referred to IED often placed in the road by insurgent forces.

Semper Fi. And the Seabees rock.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Deal with it later

Fascinating animated short from Colby Buzzell's story "Men in Black". It is graphic - not so much what is shown but implied.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

This is what defeat looks like - avoid it

Via Sgt. Mom at The Daily Brief: A Neglected But Significant Anniversary
Many military factors were involved in the defeat–obsolete doctrine on armored forces, inadequate use of radio communications, a strange and cumbersome military organization structure. But the roots of the 1940 debacle are not to be found only–or perhaps even primarily–in strictly military matters. A major role was played by certain characteristics of French society and politics of the time–and some of these factors are spookily similar to some of the things that are going on in America today.
You can't learn from the past until you know what was going on.

* Post title from S.M. Stirling's 'Marching Through Georgia'. The protagonist is an Airborne company C.O., and is musing on the aftermath of a successful attack on a village controlled by German SS troops and muses "This is what defeat looks like - avoid it."

Schools are for Fish

Everett True: Best. Daily. Comic. Ever.

Truly an outstanding example of newspaper funnies.
The plot:

Panel 1: Someone yells at, bugs, bothers, or generally inconveniences Mr. True in some way.

Panel 2: Everett responds by beating the living shit out of him and screaming (unless it's his wife, in which case she beats the living shit out of him).

Yes it is. The good old days were not but there were bright spots.


Friday, May 11, 2007


My wife, boys and possibly nephews are making plans to be at Windycon.

Me: "... that's the room rate ..."

Her: "Oh, that's not bad at all."

Me: "... Suite rates will differ."

Her: [Gives me that look]

Me: "But you don't want to rent a party suite ..."

Her: "I don't?"

Me: "You'd want to throw a party at a con?"

Her: "Why not?"

You never know with her.

Hammer Time!

MC Hammer - he has a blog of course - has been hired on to a panel of expert by Technorati. Is he an expert on startups and marketing and Web 2.0ish things?
Well, he did squander 33 million dollars. One could say that is enough to qualify him.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Carnival of Space - Week 2

Carnival of Space - Week 2 is up. And look - The Daily Brief was mentioned.
At The Daily Brief Brian Dunbar responds to an Apollo Lunar Surface Journal article. Brian points out that we are in danger of losing knowledge regarding the moon from the guys who DID go to the moon. It is amazing to think these men will be pushing 100 years old when we finally get around to going back.

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar

*that one's for you, Timmer.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Let the Problem be the Boss

On Charles Kettering and "Let the Problem be the Boss"
The trouble that most people get into when they run into a problem they have never experienced before, he explained is that they immediately try to solve it using what they already know. The more educated and “expert” the person, the greater is that tendency. Kettering advanced the idea that true solutions to problems come not from trying to fit every problem to the answers you already know but from meeting the problem on its own ground and letting it teach you what you need to know to understand it and solve it. Once, Kettering said, you “let the problem be the boss” and not try to bend it to fit your small view of the world, you begin to grow in power and ability.

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar

Cross posted to LiftPort Staff Blog.

Carnival of Space reminder

Reminder from Henry Cate

I am feeling better and plan to put together the second Carnival of Space this Thursday. Entries are due Wednesday evening, at 6:00 PM PST. Go here for instructions on how to send in your submission.
Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal is a record of the lunar surface operations conducted by the six pairs of astronauts who landed on the Moon from 1969 through 1972. The Journal is intended as a resource for anyone wanting to know what happened during the missions and why. It includes a corrected transcript of all recorded conversations between the lunar surface crews and Houston. The Journal also contains extensive, interwoven commentary by the Editor and by ten of the twelve moonwalking astronauts.
Interesting? Heck yes. Important? Quite.

By the time anyone else walks on the moon anybody who was involved is going to be pushing their century mark or dead, and long retired certainly. They won't be around to tell us about the hard lessons learned - we damned well better write as much of it down while we can.

Ask anyone who gets and does something for a living - be it welding or flying airplanes or leading a patrol in Juwayba - book learning is all well and good but learning from people that have learned the hard way is vital.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Trip to D.C.

From our recent trip to Virginia

My gorgeous sister-in-law, Kay.

That's Emily. Insert standard lame 'predator behind unsuspecting kid' caption.

Cian, Bert, Aidan.

Monkeys on the couch.

My classy mother-in-law, Yong.

James Lileks - an open letter to the Star Tribune

An open letter to the Star-Tribune re, Lileks. As if they'll care but ... it can't hurt and it might do some good.

I'm not a Star-Tribune subscriber. Nor am I 'in the business' - I'm only this guy, a civilian, who doesn't know your business at all.

Feel free to cheerfully discard everything I have to say, by all means.

I think you are doing your organization a massive dis-service by assigning James Lileks to news stories and killing his column.

The man can write, he's got a good ear for a catch phrase and he's a keen observer of the passing scene.

What y'all should be doing - hey look, unasked for advice from the masses - is promoting his 'Bleat' column on your web page, pushing the Diner podcast and letting him cheerfully romp hither and yon as muse takes him. It may not return much on the bottom line (as what you've got him doing next week will) but you could see a massive reward in increased viewers on your site (more advertising revenue), attention from the rest of the world for making an interesting choice for a 'newspaper'.

Granted, doing this isn't strictly speaking what a newspaper is all about. But consider the industry's decreasing subscriber base and dismal financial future. It could be that business as usual got you (as an industry) where you are now and doing more of the same is digging a hole.

You might strike oil that way but the smart money is all you'll end up doing is deeper in the hole.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sights you will not be able to un-see

You will never be able to un-see this;


Saturday, May 05, 2007


So .. what's new with working dogs and the modern military?

I wonder if the spotter gets any trigger time ...

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Education Snark

Student graduates college after thirteen years
Lechner has finally decided to trade in his toga for a college diploma, as he puts it. He’s set to walk across the stage, clad in cap and gown, on May 19. With no regrets so far, he feels prepared to tackle the future.
and heads straight to the local McDonald's where he'll put his skills to work
Lechner has more than 300 credits and will graduate as a quadruple major, triple minor, with areas of emphasis in theater, communications, liberal studies, health, education, women’s studies and social work.


Jerry Pournelle at Space Access '07

I'm certain that a small but significant portion of the viewing audience will a) get this and b) smile.

You want me to name ..

But I found it amusing.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Intemperate Reply

This fellow - obewan - commented on TJIC's blog. The following reply I judged to be too intemperate for someone else's house.
Why do people keep missing the virtue present in simple austerity?
Hey, Obewan, who made you the spiritual Jello Sheriff? Were you elected the Grand Poo-Bah of Morality? Did someone die and elect you Pope?

No? Good. You don't get to lecture on morality. You don't get to decide whose way is best or what is a moral responsibility.

Lecture all you want to - it's a free country. But damn if I'll do anything but fling it back in your face for your troubles.

When you have groked this in fullness you will understand the American Way.

Wally Schirra

James Lileks has, I think, the best obit I've seen today.

Think of it: we shot two rockets into orbit, and one of them – guided by men and an onboard computer that probably had less computational power than your cellphone – found the other, drew alongside, and flew in formation for a while. When I was a kid I was space-crazy (still am, really) but I always thought the Lunar Excursion Model was somewhat unlovable – those black empty eyes, those insect legs. The Gemini capsule was iconic, though, and Shirra was one of the men who drove it up and drove it down.

One by one they go, and we’re the lesser for their loss. There’s courage. And then there’s this.

When you can't beat em, blockquote 'em. You'll be missed, Wally Schirra.

Minor League Baseball

We took the boys to see a baseball game tonight; The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Dayton Dragons. It was C's first baseball game and at seven he's just old enough to make it through a full game without a lethal case of the fidgets. A is twelve and it's been too long since we've been.

Minor league baseball - what a deal! The tickets are inexpensive, Fox Cities Stadium only has 5,000 seats so there really aren't any bad seats in the house. My little guy leaned around the corner of the dugout, said 'hi' to Leury Bonilla who grinned a big 'hi' back and tossed him a baseball. A few innings later a perky usher asked him if was having a good time, found out this was his 'first ever' game and dug up a game ball with someone's initials.

We even had a chance to boo the umpire ...
In the ninth, Timber Rattler frustrations bubbled over. Dayton had runners at second and third with no out. The Wisconsin infielders were playing in on the grass to cut down the run at the plate. Justin Turner hit a grounder right to Bonilla at third base. Bonilla dove for the runner at third and appeared to have tagged him out. Base umpire Alex Diaz ruled the runner safe and Rattler manager Jim Horner sprinted out of the dugout to argue the call. After a brief, but heated argument Horner was ejected. Just before the next pitch was ready to be delivered, Diaz ejected Bonilla.
I have no idea why Bonilla was ejected. From where we were sitting he appeared to be just standing there then ... bam he's outta there.

All in all an excellent night - you almost don't mind that the good guys lost by three runs.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hackety Hack

Speaking of kids, I set the older boy up with Hackety Hack. Why not - I'm working my way through a 'grown up' Ruby tutorial at the same time.

- What's that?

You said you wanted to learn HTML - try this.

- Ok.

Ten minutes later he's further ahead than I am and he's a) enjoying himself* and b) he's learning. Oh and c) he may have found out that computers do more than just toss content at you - you can create with them.

Hacking trumps playing Neopets any day.

*How do I know? I hear clicking followed by sotto voice 'cool's and 'wow's.

Fight the tide

The local schools have a good reputation and, by all accounts, are not so bad at the education biz. Why home school? Well ..
Inside the school, I felt the same cold grim feelings I had the last time I’d come here – even empty, the place bristles, somehow. A couple of students walked past, and I silently counted to see how long it would be take before someone deployed the Effenheimer, or the dreaded Mother Effenheimer. Three seconds. I’m not in favor of having nuns patrol with nail-studded two-by-fours, but on the other hand, I am. Or least some authority figure around which the Youts would feel compelled to display a civil tongue. I was talking with one of the neighbors at the bus stop; she’d been to the school last week, and one of the stuecadents hit on her.

My child is not going there.
This is why: because a school that excels academically, where the students are polite and well-mannered is becoming not, perhaps, a rarity but certainly a cause to pause and say "Will you look at that".

The way it should be is becoming an exception. I can't fight the tide but I can take my kids to high ground.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Constant Conflict

Constant Conflict
Ralph Peters
It is fashionable among world intellectual elites to decry "American culture," with our domestic critics among the loudest in complaint. But traditional intellectual elites are of shrinking relevance, replaced by cognitive-practical elites--figures such as Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Madonna, or our most successful politicians--human beings who can recognize or create popular appetites, recreating themselves as necessary. Contemporary American culture is the most powerful in history, and the most destructive of competitor cultures. While some other cultures, such as those of East Asia, appear strong enough to survive the onslaught by adaptive behaviors, most are not. The genius, the secret weapon, of American culture is the essence that the elites despise: ours is the first genuine people's culture. It stresses comfort and convenience--ease--and it generates pleasure for the masses. We are Karl Marx's dream, and his nightmare.

Secular and religious revolutionaries in our century have made the identical mistake, imagining that the workers of the world or the faithful just can't wait to go home at night to study Marx or the Koran. Well, Joe Sixpack, Ivan Tipichni, and Ali Quat would rather "Baywatch." America has figured it out, and we are brilliant at operationalizing our knowledge, and our cultural power will hinder even those cultures we do not undermine. There is no "peer competitor" in the cultural (or military) department. Our cultural empire has the addicted--men and women everywhere--clamoring for more. And they pay for the privilege of their disillusionment.

American culture is criticized for its impermanence, its "disposable" products. But therein lies its strength. All previous cultures sought ideal achievement which, once reached, might endure in static perfection. American culture is not about the end, but the means, the dynamic process that creates, destroys, and creates anew. If our works are transient, then so are life's greatest gifts--passion, beauty, the quality of light on a winter afternoon, even life itself. American culture is alive.
Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Early morning ramble

Ilkka is taking Disney movies way too seriously.
After the flashy start, the underbelly of this society of cars slowly revealed itself as the cars, apparently with no free will or choice of their own, obsessively kept simulating many aspects of human society that simply make no sense for sentient automobiles. Their physically very mobile society is very rigid with no real social mobility, since everyone is pretty much born (how?) to his place in society and cannot really aspire to become anything else. As the young hotshot racecar is stranded to the small town that was bypassed by the Interstate highway and therefore no longer gets to extract monopoly prices and quality of service from the cross-country travellers, we kept making hypotheses and asking questions such as "Why did the train like bubblegum so much?"
Pot, meet kettle. I used to vocalize thoughts like this but the kids kept rolling their eyes and my wife was all "it's just a movie" to which I have to say "BUT IT MAKES NO SENSE!"