Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Know what the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is? A fairy tale begines 'Once upon a time'. A sea story begins 'Listen up cause this is no sh**'.

Jarhead is a lotta things. It's a great bit of writing. It humps along at a good clip, it's got some things to say and it says them in an entertaining way. It moves along quickly enough that it was not until I sailed clean past the end that I realized it's most glaring fault.

Jarhead is a sea story. I don't know how accurate it is; I was an 0311 who never served in the FMF. I didn't go the Desert; I spent the war learning how to be an 4000 at 3D FSSG. It's chock full of stories that 'everyone' knows; here are the Jarheads playing football in the Desert in full MOPP gear. Here is the famous cuckold video a wife sent to her husband in the Desert. All the stories we heard, the lingo of the Marines in the early 90s. Some of the details are off but it was written a decade after the fact - we may chalk this up to memory or wishful thinking.

The problem with Jarhead is that civilians will read a memoir by a Marine turned academic and take it s Gospel. This would be wrong, wrong wrong. It's a story about a callow young man who went to war, saw some things and came home. That's all that it is.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Guppy 13 - cute

This is 'Gumdrop'. She's is - probably - a Guppy 13 and the nicest - and only - pocket cruiser I've ever sailed.

Guppy 13 - 'Gumdrop'Guppy 13 - 'Gumdrop' starboard

The Guppy class had a short run in the mid 70s. This one has been jacked up a bit by a prior owner. It was wired for electricity and has running lights. A shower faucet handle was added to fhe fore-deck for reasons that are unclear - I speculate the intention is to use it for an anchor. The outboard that came with her is a 4 horse kicker - which is way more motor than the boat needs.

If I'm going to keep her - and I think I am - I'm going to have to get used to having a conversation starter at the lake. She's so unusual looking that everyone gawks and most people want to talk about her. She's just so cute.

8/18/2010 Update.

She's for sale!

Here are some close-ups.


A Quest for What?

Oh dear ...

I got Wordperfect 5.1 running in DOSbox under OSX.

Now I just need to find a DOS-native version of Lotus 1-2-3 and a copy of DBase III+, and my quest will be complete.

Emulating a desktop micro from the dawn of time - is there nothing that OSX can't do?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Jim Oberg is The Man

As we said in my mis-spent youth "get some".
Jim Oberg appears about half-way through this clip from Channel 4 (below) which seeks to portray American astronauts as drunks. When Jim appears he sets an idiotic talking head straight - one located halfway around the world who seems to be using UK tabloids as "sources" as opposed to the actual NASA report. Alas, this dolt is so dense that he does not understand what Jim is saying. A gold star for Jim.

Good job. I'll bet they won't invite him back. Click and watch and be entertained.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Popes in Space


…Far more likely the only people ever to go to other stars are Jesuits. Life in a steel can for decades ship-time (or, more likely, in an inflatable mylar balloon) might be done to carry the Gospel to the E.T.’s — because even a worldly Pope might think the Popes two thousand years from now will remember him for organizing the expedition…

It would be a kick in the pants if organized religion caught the wave of the future and kick-started Western Civ into space.

Who better to run a centuries long effort like Terraforming Mars than an institution that thinks in centuries and has been around for two thousand years. Who else has the patience to invest in projects whose payback is decades away? Like, oh, I dunno, a radically new launch system. I could accept a Jesuit as a project manager - just think of the banter around the conference room table.

I see a new space race involving the Roman Catholics and the Mormons. The Catholics have the edge in organizational excellence, the Mormons are the wacky underdogs that have enthusiasm on their side.

And we need the Jews. Both because it would irk Radical Islamists and because 'Lunar Zionist' sounds so cool.


Dating Advice

Mental Note: Next time postpone the Dr. Who convention, & all preliminary discussions thereof, until the 2nd or 3rd date. At the very least.

Bottled Water - Winners and Losers

The Man has replaced bottled water in the break room at $WORK with a filtered system drawing water from the tap. A cost saving for the company, no more guilty thoughts thinking of the oil being burned to haul bottled water around in a truck. Hooray!

In other news, the guy who hauled the bottled water around is now out of a job. You win some, you loose some.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hello, Government

It was an accident. She needed a stamp and there they were.

But it is funny.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Third Shift Can

The Third Shift Can.*

Who can call at oh-dark thirty, ooo ooo ooo,
but not leave a message or email a clue.
The third shift can, oh the third shift can.
The third shift can cause they know they got a problem
and production is down.

*to the tune of 'Candy Man'.
With apologies to Sammy Davis Jr.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Carnival of Space - Where are the hordes?

The LiftPort Staff Blog is hosting Carnival of Space Week 13. To date I've only received six entries.

C'mon, people. This stuff doesn't just happen. You gotta participate. COS can cover anything related to space - astronomy, rants on the High Frontier, limericks, poetry - the sky is the limit.

Submissions for the Carnival of Space are due to: CarnivalOfSpace@gmail.com by 6:00 PM (PST) on the Wednesday evening of the week. It will be appreciated if the submissions come in earlier. The carnival will be posted on Thursday. Please send the following information:

Title of Post
URL of Post
Name of Blog
URL of Blog
Brief summary of the post

If you haven't read any blog carnivals before, please read What is a Blog Carnival.

Here are the expectations for carnival participants.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Space Suits and Bureaucracy

Ah, the power and the limits of Internets. Incomplete information at your fingertips!

A modest splash was made last week courtesy of the MIT press machine. They're working on a new space suit, one that uses mechanical counter-pressure, solves problems that the current pressure suits used by NASA have.

What the bleep, NASA. Asleep at the switch, again? Need a little pick-me-up from someone playing outside the box?

Well, yes. And no. Like anything it's complicated and somewhat tedious. What follows is highly condensed and subjective. Readers are encouraged to think for themselves. Links at the bottom may help.

Gas-pressure suits have Issues. Mobility isn't the best. It takes forever to put on a suit. They're more expensive than my house, more complicated to operate than an M1A2 and takes a ginormous amount of energy just to pick up a pair of pliers.

All in all they're 'ok' for mission that is planned to the nth detail, years in advance. Not so good if you're going to have thousands of guys building stuff in space. Enter the Space Activity Suit and the follow-on effort, Bio-Suit.

The idea behind mechanical counter-pressure suits have been around for a long time. Your body - yes the one you're wearing right now - is almost good enough. You just need to apply pressure all over to make it work in space.

In the 1971 program ten successively refined prototypes of the suit were built, including 13 hours of wear by test subjects in vacuum chambers of up to 2 hours 45 minutes duration. The tests showed no significant problems in comparison to conventional suits. But whereas the energy cost of simple tasks in the Gemini or Apollo suits was typically 2.26 times that for a nude subject, in the SAS it was 1.64 times. And the mass of the suit, was half that of the Apollo suit.

Excellent! But there are issues.

... the tests also showed the major detailed technical challenges of completing development of such a suit. Most important was swelling/edema in parts of the body. To prevent blood pooling, the pressure across these regions needed to remain smooth. The most difficult areas to accomplish this in the crotch.

Yow. Despite that Progress was made and the program was terminated. Technology that just didn't work? Bureaucracy? What the heck is going on here?

Jim Oberg mentions that the guys at JSC debunked the concept.
This is what the spacesuit guys at JSC told me back in the 1970s, when the
concept had already been invented -- and debunked -- several times.

Done, not worth pursuing.

Jerry Pournelle reports that NASA didn't investigate the idea in any serious way. The initial SAS studies were underfunded, politics trumped what was best and that is that.

First: the "investigations" didn't lead to much in the way of publications, did they?

Second: the Space Activity Suit is one candidate for a work suit; it may well not be the right choice for the standard EVA suit. It may, on the other hand, be very much the right choice for an emergency inspection suit. They have to be cut to fit and one might not carry more than one, but having a flight engineer able to go out and inspect might have saved Columbia.

Third: NASA hasn't "investigated" alternatives to the present low pressure pure oxygen suits. There was some activity at Ames, underfunded, and when that looked like paying off, the turf wars saw to it that nothing would happen. The Ames suit developed by Webbon and Vykukal was far more suitable for EVA but despite a successful demonstration that it could be worn pressurized for hours without fatigue, no serious "investigation" was done.

Were the people you asked employees of Hamilton Standard? Did they include the executive who tried to get McGraw Hill to fire me for my BYTE column about the computers in the Ham Standard space suits? Just curious.

There may be some ax-grinding going on here. Or not - it's not like Doctor Pournelle has a career riding on the outcome and I've generally gotten the impression he's a straight arrow about this kind of thing.

My own semi-informed opinion is that what was not possible in 1970 might be possible now. NASA does have bureaucracy problems and ditching the old and proven for the new and untried is not going to be easy in that environment.

Space Activity Suit - Encyclopedia Astronautica

Bio-Suit - Encyclopedia Astronautica

Japan Space Elevator Association

Ted Semon found the Japan Space Elevator Association.

I would LOVE IT if the Japanese got into this in a big way. Here’s a country with the technical know-how, the resources and the balls to pull this off.

I'm loving the idea of the food concession for the first space station to go to a Japanese firm. Mmm orbital sushi ..

The Japanese are - as a culture - used to planning around disaster in a way that only people who live in California can appreciate. I'd love to see Japan taking a huge lead in this idea.

Update: Ted Semon's name was spelled incorrectly in this post. My apologies.

I follow all the lame memes

In the Simpsons-verse I look like a Blues Brother.

Update: I see what is a horde (for this blog) of visitors to this page. Howdy! Hope you come back to my humble crap blog more often.

While you're here check out my 'fun' job, LiftPort. We're aiming to build a space elevator, your good will and kind thoughts will help.

Killing Field

When the British dithered* over 'what to do' with Herr Hitler in 1937, images like this were on their mind.

Killing field: A German machine gun unit strafes No Man's Land at
Passchendaele as artillery shells churn up hte ground and mustard gas
billows over the front

Having experienced this first-hand they were in no hurry to visit in on their children.

From. Via.

*yes, I know it's more complicated than that


After reading this sea story, there is this ...
But there’s a more important message buried in my personal college kid-to-combat pilot meme, that the elitists in any society would like to hide from us common folk: Almost anyone can become exceptional, because most kids are itching to be a rock climber, a cat burglar or a fighter pilot, if the parents don’t keep them too safe. And, yes, video games make better pilots.

Fire Flight at Katum, 25 Jun 68

You should read this story - Fire Flight at Katum, 25 Jun 68.
As if there's a bar bill riding on it, Pat lays it on the centerline, 150 feet in from the approach end. A textbook touchdown - as long as you don't count a wing on fire and no right main or nose gear.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Code Monkey - animated

Code Monkey
Code Monkey have every reason
To get out this place
Code Monkey just keep on working
See your soft pretty face
Much rather wake up, eat a coffee cake
Take bath, take nap
This job "fulfilling in creative way"
Such a load of crap
Code Monkey think someday he have everything even pretty girl like you
Code Monkey just waiting for now
Code Monkey say someday, somehow

now in cartoon form!

Happy Fricking Moon Day, People

What he said
38 damn years, people. There ought to be a Starbucks up on the moon by now, and a bunch of tourists experiencing the challenge of sipping a vente latte in one sixth G.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Little monkey found a package left by the mailman between our screen and front door.

What was inside?

Awesome he said with seven-year old enthusiasm. He was impressed that those are picture of 'for real' rocket planes that guys are really flying in races. Then he looked at the pictures inside, reading the captions .. literacy is cool. So is this book. I'll post more after I've read the last half of it.

Down the well - Post Script

About Sameer Desai;
Here was this character, who I meant to be a charming, hustling rogue, and you came out… well, like a twit. An annoying, whiny twit. And the more I wrote you, the worse you got.

So he's a typical Fred Pohl protagonist then. Putting him down the well was a mercy on the reader.

Down the well

Scalzi has a conversation with a Sameer Desai, a character who was exed out of the novel The Last Colony. Sameer was the lead character but after four chapters Scalzi pushed him down a well ...

John Scalzi: Tell the folks why you’re down there.

Sameer Desai: Hey, man, you’re the one who put me here. As far as I knew, I was doing everything right.

JS: And so you were, Sam. During those first four chapters, you were indeed doing everything right – you got yourself in trouble, you fled just ahead of some bad men, you had amusing cultural misunderstandings with your relatives, and you were appropriately confused when you found yourself hustled off to a colony. But there was one problem with you, Sam: I found that I didn’t actually like you.

SD: I figured this out when you pushed me down a well.

JS: I never said you weren’t smart. Just that I didn’t like you.

SD: But you wrote me.

JS: I know! And it was killing me! Here was this character, who I meant to be a charming, hustling rogue, and you came out… well, like a twit. An annoying, whiny twit. And the more I wrote you, the worse you got. After four chapters, you had to go.

SD: So you’re blaming me for your own deficiencies of character building. Brilliant.
Scalzi rocks at the writing game.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to spot a failing project

CIO Magazine has an article up: 'How to Spot a Failing Project'.
  • Lack of Interest
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of velocity
  • A "No-Bad-News" Environment
  • Lots of overtime
  • Diversion of resources
  • Ratios trouble
  • Milestones aren't met
  • Scope changes

Here is a foolproof way to tell if your project is in trouble
  • The breakroom coffee pot always has a quarter-cup or less of coffee in the bottom.

An awesome indicator and you don't even have to have a meeting or read a GANNT chart to see the data - just stroll around and look.


It's a funny old place here and now. I have friends and acquaintances in our drive-past town (in a fly-over state) and I have friends and acquaintances 'elsewhere'. I work with people in a dozen timezones, some of whom I've never met in person. Some mis-guided souls claim that you can't have a genuine social life mediated by tubes and wires - you need physical contact for that.

This is belied by the way I felt when I heard this news a few days ago
My wife Martha and daughter Samantha were in a terrible head-on car crash on July 7. A car bearing three people veered out of the northbound left lane of Highway 89, crossed the center turn lane and left southbound lane, and struck my wife's car as it traveled in the right southbound lane. Martha was killed instantly. Samantha was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Flagstaff Medical Center until today, when she was moved to a room in the Pediatrics Ward. She suffered two skull fractures, three fractures of her left arm, two fractures of her right leg, burns, and multiple lacerations and bruises.

I can imagine how David felt, typing that out. Numb, perhaps, but doing this as part of what a man has to do because .. well just because your world is ending doesn't absolve you of responsibilities.

Keep David and Samantha in your thoughts and prayers if so inclined. He is one of the good guys.

Martha Portree, Requiescat In Pace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Carnival of Space #12: Galactic Extra Edition

Pass on the desert, but thanks

Dava Newman and Jeff Hoffman from MIT are working on an old concept - using mechanical counter-pressure to maintain integrity in a pressure suit.

This will do wonders to promote good eating habits in space. Hard to hide a middle-age seat spread in that rig.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Something I did not know this morning

Jacob Vouza

After the Japanese invaded his home island in World War II, he returned to active duty with the British forces and volunteered to work with the Coastwatchers. Vouza's experience as a scout had already been established when the U.S. 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal. On 7 August 1942 he rescued a downed naval pilot from the USS Wasp (CV-7) who was shot down inside Japanese territory. He guided the pilot to friendly lines where Vouza met the Marines for the first time.

Vouza then volunteered to scout behind enemy lines for the Marines. On August 20, while on a Marine Corps mission to locate suspected enemy lookout stations, Vouza was captured by the Ichiki Detachment, a battalion-strength force of the 28th Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel Ichiki Kiyonao. Having found a small American flag in Vouza's loincloth, the Japanese tied him to a tree and tried to force him to reveal information about Allied forces. Vouza was questioned for hours, but refused to talk. He was tortured and bayoneted about the arms, throat, shoulder, face, and stomach, and left to die.

He managed to free himself after his captors departed, and made his way through the miles of jungle to American lines. There he gasped a warning to Lieutenant Colonel Edwin A. Pollock, whose 2nd Battalion 1st Marines held the Ilu
mouth's defenses, that an estimated 250–500 Japanese soldiers were
coming behind him before accepting medical attention. The subsequent Battle of the Tenaru was a victory for the Allied forces on Guadalcanal.

After spending 12 days in the hospital, Vouza then returned to duty as the chief scout for the Marines. He accompanied Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson and the 2nd Raider Battalion when they made their 30-day raid behind enemy lines at Guadalcanal.

He wasn't a kid - the man was forty-one years old when he re-upped to serve in the Coastwatchers, and ran around in the bush with a bunch of kids half his age.

Semper Fi.

We're a contender!

Hooray! Neenah, Wisconsin is one of the best places to live (Small City Category, State of Wisconsin division).

Okay, we're not in top 100 - but we are a contender. How that sink of pestilence New Berlin got the nod is a mystery. I suspect bias on the part of the judges.


We sang this in Concert Choir in middle school (Jenks, Oklahoma - Saaa-lute) as a warm up.

Coffee is not for me,
It's a drink some people wake up with,
That it makes them nervous is no myth.
Slaves to a coffee cup,
They can't give coffee up!

There - out of my head and into yours.

Welcome to the Future, Mr. Andreessen

Andreessen is a bright guy and I'm happy he's paying attention to press releases from the Air Force
I'm very happy for the Air Force pilots who will no longer have to risk their lives, and can go home every night to their families.

I'm very concerned that we will be able to declare air war without any concern for consequences other than loss of military hardware.

but he's never read Fehrenbach's This Kind of War
"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life, But if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud."

Drones don't allow us the comfort of push-button warfare - nothing will. It ain't about sleeping at home with the wife and kids, it's about being a more effective fighting force.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hello, Unitek

Dear Unitek,

I'm a simple man. I see printed words, I don't see weasel words, I believe them. If you have a class schedule posted on your website, with a location, date and time, and a big fat 'Enroll' button I'm going to believe that there is a class booked and an instructor lined up.

It really bites to get a call back telling me that there isn't actually a class lined up for that date, but oh hey there is one for a few months from now. The onliy problem being that the class I wanted is geographically handy for other reasons, such as family in the area and whould have allowed a mini-vacation to kith and kin.

I will allow that the people that I deal with at Unitek are friendly and willing to fall all over themsevles apologizing for how sucky their employer is. I stand by what I wrote last year
If it was a choice between the competition and Unitek .. I'd go with the other guy. It's a once burned forever shy kinda deal.

YouTube Activism

It bothers me that YouTube hosts trash like this (warning - graphic content).

I identify with the guys on the receiving end, I can easily picture my step-son there and .. damnit I may not like the campaign in Iraq very much but those are our guys over there.

I know what I don't want. I don't want the State to reach out and tell YouTube to stop it. Censorship worked in 1943 - but this ain't 1943 and this isn't that war - censorship isn't the optimal path. But the appropriate verbage reads
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Looks like it's down to an informed private citizenry. And hey look here is a guy with an idea ..

1. Log into YouTube and run a search. Any of the following key words will land you in the right spot: IED, Jihad, Death to Israel, Islamic Republic of Iraq, etc. You won't have any trouble finding them; they are legion.
2. Open the jihadist video, then click the icon that says "Flag as inappropriate." Use the drop down menu and click on "hate speech."
3. This last step is going to take a great deal of self-control. You're going to see a lot of comments cheering on the terrorists as they blow up American and allied soldiers. Don't answer these comments directly. We want your comment directed at YouTube management. Something like: "This video aids and abets our enemies in time of war and should be deleted" will be sufficient.

I like it because the approach echoes Flight 93 - the only thing that worked on 9/11 was an informed citizenry.

Waiting around for the government to save you is to be a bystander in your own life.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.


I have some pride. But not much.


This is Radio Shack's first pong, with the usuall several variations to choose from - Tennis, Handball, and Hockey. Unique though is the single player practice mode that allowed one person to play. Something important when you sat home alone Saturday night with your frizzy hair, pimples, thick glasses, and grranimals wardrobe your parents insisted in dressing you in.

For the record, my hair was not frizzy.

Hearts and Minds

By chance happened across this YouTube post called 'Afghan: Other War LAV3Strykers Ruin Effort 1, which is a clip from a PBS special.

The poster obviously has a thing against wheeled fighting vehicles but apart from that what struck me was that the guy in charge of the overall NATO effort in Afghanistan, General David Richards, made no effort to speak the local language during an opening of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

He's speaking at a crowd of local notables. Some of whom can mutter a bit of English, others might or might not understand it - that's not the point. The point is that the guy in charge is doing a speaking thing, being nuanced and all as if he's talking to the Rotary and is making no effort at all to speak to the locals, and is instead speaking at them.

I have no doubt he had an interpretor. I have no doubt that when the head cheese makes an effort to speak the local language can have a positive, nay, electrifying effect.


I had a very minor and completely non-essential role with JTF Sea Angel. My job was to rush as quickly as possible to the CP from Okinawa and explain to the S1/G1 team how to read the manuals and build a personal database. Once I got THAT out of the way I stood radio watch (as messenger because I wasn't qualified to touch the radio), and fixed a few computer problems. It was like being on vacation except I could not go anywhere, the bugs were huge and plentiful, the food 'meh' and I wasn't on vacation. Oh and the water in the shower would kill you if you ingested any.

At any rate the day before flew home* we were all treated to dinner at the Bangladeshi Army Officer's Club. Speeches were given, by some Bangli flag officers and civilians, in English and Bengali. The American ambassador gave a speech, duly translated into Bengali by a translator. Then LGen Stackpole** stood to give the last speech of the evening.

Now - we liked the guy well enough. He cruised through the CP once a day or so, was the thoughtful boss and not at all a screamer. His Bengali Army MP*** detachment that followed him around seemed impressed by him as well.

Stackpole opened his mouth to speak .. and gave a twenty-minute oration. In Bengali. Which was spoke well enough that the Bengalis gave him a standing ovation at the end. I doubt any of them present have forgotten, I have no doubt if there is any good will generated from JTF Sea Angel it was improved by that single speech.

That is how the head cheese wins hearts and minds in a strange land far from home.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

* The mood the week we were packing up and flying out was summed up nicely by a banner hung in the Operations Office: "We're done, Sir. Can we go home now?"

** Semper Fi!

*** They called themselves MPs but their demeanor reminded me of Colonel Hammer's 'White Mice'. Nice guys for all that - they let us fondle their AK-47s and were openly envious over our foot gear. I paid, out of pocket, more for my jungle boots than they made per month.

Carnival of Space

A note about Carnival of Space - Week 11.

I enjoyed hosting Carnival of Space a great deal - it certainly puts you in touch with a wide variety of people.

At great risk of sounding like a 2nd tier NPR personality during pledge week ... please participate! Public interest can't do anything in space .. but nothing in space can be done without it. A blog carnival is one way to build awareness that 'space' can be for everyone not just a few government employees or scientists.

Host, post or link. A blog post isn't much in the grand scheme of things - but it's better than nothing.

Carnival of Space (COS) submissions - here.
COS Archive - here.
COS Schedule - here.

Next Week's COS is hosted at Music of the Spheres. He's thinking about buying an IPhone - someone stop him before he drinks the Apple Kool-Aid and becomes one of us ..

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ootstanding Elephants

My son had only one thing to say to this
Two female Asian elephants, performers at Newmarket’s Garden Brothers’ Circus, broke free of their pen this morning and wandered into greener pastures.

They were found around 3 a.m. munching on trees and foliage outside some nearby homes by a group of friends walking nearby. One elephant was munching on a tree, a witness said during an anonymous phone call to York Police.

“We just found an elephant walking down the street,” he said to a confused dispatcher. “Like, a full grown elephant.
He said "I want an elephant in my backyard." Ya - I'd like to see what the dogs would do about that.

Lotta woofing and barking from her, I suspect.

He'd notice but he'd pretend not to. He's like that.

911 call - here.
Dispatch conversation - here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Carnival of Space - Week 11

A cacophony of eclectic posts

So what do we have on deck for this week? Archeology in the Shetland Islands. Asteroid mining - it's not going to be for the faint of heart. A liquid telescope on the moon. Why Shubber picks on the drinkers of Kool-Aid.

It's all over the place - there isn't a coherent theme. Or if there is I'm not good enough at the exposition thing to sort it out. Which makes writing an intro and the wrappers just that much harder.

We'll simply have to get into it and leave the fancy stuff for the real writers.

Phil for Humanity has an interesting observation on the speed of light and a constant bearing object . . .
I have been thinking a lot lately about how someone would perceive objects traveling near the speed of light, and I think I stumbled upon something that no one else has realized yet. Specifically, how would an object, such as a spaceship or alien spacecraft, appear to a stationary observer if the object was traveling directly towards the observer at a velocity that is almost the speed of light?
I am not qualified to judge on this one - but do read and judge for yourself.

Why Shubber goes after the Kool-Aid drinkers.
The reason I began this blog is, in part, to help save other people from getting sucked into the latest huckster proposition without at least using their critical faculties to peer behind the smoke and mirrors and see what is really viable. Years ago, after giving a talk at a conference in Melbourne Australia on the space industry value chain and the reason why launchports and launch vehicles were a bad place to be focusing one’s time (regulatory and market issues being the primary), one of the engineering students approached me and said “I just want to go home and cry.”

My response: “I’ve done my job.”
It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Archeology in the Shetland islands from Clioaudio.
All that’s certain is that the circle has one alignment and an egg-shaped circle is bound to point somewhere. You could also argue for astronomical significance if it pointed to midwinter sunset or midsummer sunrise/sunset. If the circle pointed to one of the cardinal points that could also be significant. There’s also evidence of lunar alignments in some prehistoric sites in Scotland, which gives you eight further targets for lunar standstills. If you say any given site is aligned +/1° then the odds of randomly aligned sites pointing to something significant is less than one in eight. This doesn’t mean that the circle’s alignment is not significant, simply that proving it becomes difficult.
Did they know what they're doing? Seems likely. Can we know what they were doing at this remove? Probably but ... it would be nice to have the design notes so we knew what they were doing.

Alien radio - how likely? From Dr. Pamela Gay at SIUE.
As we continue to find extra solar planets around increasing numbers of stars and continue to find liquids (water, ammonia, methane…) in increasing places in our own solar system, one has to wonder when will we find life. Answering this question is a complex dance that requires us to first ask, “What is life?” and follow up with the question, “How can we detect it?”
I am going to omit the obvious jokes about Alien Top 40 and 'Coast to Coast. A man has to have some pride in his work.

Galaxies far, far away - and very young from Louise Riofrio.
Using the 10-meter Keck telescope on Mauna Kea, astronomers will shortly report the most distant galaxies yet detected. They were detectable only by gravitational lensing from a foreground galaxy. These 6 galaxies were fully formed only 500 million years after the Big Bang.
The more we look the more interesting the universe is.

Asteroid mining from Darnell Clayton. It's going to be a dangerous job.
With most of these invaluable asteroids tens of millions of miles away from the nearest colony world, asteroid minors will find themselves heavily dependent upon supplies for food and water. Their isolation will also make them prime candidates for space pirates, not to mention feuding powers from Earth, Mars and the Jovian systems.
A possible problem - but an asteroid miner is not going to be helpless. Any drive powerful enough to get them there is also going to be a weapon.

Darnell slipped in a space elevator reference, which always tickles me.

Telescopes on the moon. Liquid mirror telescopes. From Astropixie
the idea behind a liquid mirror telescope is relatively simple and very cool! you start out with a big, shallow cylinder that you fill with some sort of reflective liquid (silver, mercury, gallium-indium-tin alloy...). when the liquid sits in the cylinder, the downward force of gravity resisted by the fluid force of the liquid creates a flat surface.
Insert an obvious pun playing off the liquid and astronomy bits.

A balloon-born Mars probe - designed and built by the Mars Society of Germany. From Space Files.
... a private group of space enthusiast, the Mars Society of Germany has proposed ARCHIMEDES, a short duration, low cost Mars balloon project, that would be launched as a piggy-back payload on AMSAT's P5-A orbiter. (About AMSAT P5A in german) Archimedes was named after the greek philosopher who discovered the floatation principle.

After considering other options, namely balloon deployment in air and balloon deployment after touchdown on the surface, it has been decided that the balloon would be deployed in space, its drag slowing down the probe to slowly sink to its operational altitude. This way, the ARCHIMEDES mission will demonstrate the technology for inflatable atmospheric drag devices on Mars. (This part of the design is novel.) This means it will provide valuable data even if later phases of the mission fail.
Germans and their wacky infatuation with lighter than air craft. Gotta love 'em.

Space Video of the week - 'the most important image ever' - from Robot Guy Ed Minchau.

I don't know if it really is the most important image ever - but that is what the video claims. I do know it has a kickin' guitar solo.

A how-to to make stereo images from the STEREO spacecraft by Ian Musgrave at Astroblog.
I've written before about making stereo images from the STEREO SECCHI beacon images. For the image to the left, all you have to do is cross your eyes, until the images are superimposed, and viola! A 3D image appears. To make this kind of image, you basically just need to copy the ahead and behind images align them and place
I love how-tos.

A funny from WTF. Jupiter has .. issues.

In this post Jeremy writes I’m waiting for some religious fundamentalists to attack this blog with their spite grenades (similar to the holy hand grenade, only filled with pictures of Jerry Falwell). That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it to the big time.

Dude - you're in the Carnival of Space. Welcome to the big time, baby.

Brian Wang
has a review on the current state of space programs.
I personally measure the progress in space by progress in launch costs and capability and the progress toward the ultimate goal of large scale development in space. Science research is a good thing but I differentiate between science that is exclusively from unique technology deployed in space and general science research that happens to be included in a budget that has a space title.
How we doing in space? Meh. Could be better - it could be a great deal worse.

Thanks to everyone for reading and for all of the people who submitted their posts. See you next week!

Weekend Update:

Please participate! Public interest can't do anything in space .. but nothing in space can be done without it. A blog carnival is one way to build awareness that 'space can be for everyone not just a few government employees or scientists.

A blog post isn't much in the grand scheme of things - but it's better than nothing.

Carnival of Space (COS) submissions - here.
COS Archive - here.
COS Schedule - here.

Next Week's COS is hosted at Music of the Spheres. He's thinking about buying an IPhone - someone stop him before he drinks the Apple Kool-Aid and becomes on of us ..

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hobby with Blam

Some people have interesting hobbies ..
Via Tamara and Oleg we find out that iodine is now a controlled substance. Apparently it can be used in the production of meth. I just want it to make explosives.

A Balancing Act - or indication of need?

Gail sees a guy doing something amazing.

I see a guy who needs to buy a truck.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nobody likes whiners

I've deleted a long page of rambling prose whose general thrust is this; because of new and complex rules for account management and because I are a moron and fumble-fingered a login via the VPN, I'm locked out of my work account until around 08:15 in the morning.

But nobody likes a whiner. So it's gone and the world is a better place for one less rambling screed.

Could be worse - at least no one at work is going to turn off the A/C in the server rooms.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Die young leave a good looking corpse

Dead at 44 from heroin overdose does not indicate a happy life. Nonetheless if you gotta go (and we all do) going out with a bitchin' obituary makes up for a lot.
Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sony VAIO customer service - a tale of woe

Jane Galt is having issues getting her laptop serviced. As she describes it - it's pretty bad.
I could call the press office, identify myself as a writer for The Economist, and complain. They'd get it fixed for me; they don't want any mention of their shitty customer service in a major magazine. But that's weaselly--first, because I'd be trading on my employer's name without authorisation; and second, because reporters shouldn't have special access to get their computers fixed.

So instead, I'll try to change the cost-benefit analysis. With your help, I'd like to make this little incident as expensive for Sony as possible.

Let's remind Sony that sometimes, the dumb bitches have blogs. And friends with blogs.
Read more at Sony VAIO customer service

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Carnival of Space - is it July already?

Zzzz. Zzzz. Hmph snort .. wha? It's July already?
The Carnival of Space will be held next week at Space For Commerce, click here for information on submitting a post.
Wow - guess I'd better get busy and gussy the place up a bit for company.

If you feel like contributing, please do.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Recruiting and recruiters

Recruiting and recruiters. It's a love-hate thing even for the military. The good recruiters tell it like it is, most of them will shade the truth a hair, and some will do anything to fill a quota.
Jimbo: Are you guys hitting on us?
Recruiter 1: No man, we want to talk to something near and dear to us.
Dolph: What - being gay?
Recruiter 2: Close - the Army!
And some are just clueless.