Archive for November 3rd, 2009

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“The Righteous Stuff,” Chapter 17

November 3, 2009

The Righteous Stuff

by Jeffrey D. Waggoner

based on characters and situations in the

“Domination of the Draka” novels written by S.M. Stirling

CHAPTER 17

USAF EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT TEST FACILITY

RODRIGUEZ DRY LAKE

CORUM, CALIFORNIA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

JANUARY, 1953

 

Most people who arrived at Corum first asked, “When can I get out of this dump?” For Allan Northfield, the metal hangars and tired-looking cinderblock buildings looked like heaven. As he jumped out of the transport steamer a shining silver shape was screaming off the north-south runway, faster than Northfield had ever taken off from Pax River. He raised his free hand to shield his eyes enough to try to see just what was flying, but by the time he could focus on it, it was only a bright speck in the northern sky. He dropped his hand, and shouldered his bag again. The driver had said “straight down this road.” There didn’t seem to be any other roads.

The nearest building was about a half-mile away. The bus had already turned around and left, heading back to the Army base twenty miles away that served as a cover for Corum, among other things. Northfield shrugged and started walking, knowing that his uniform would be soaked with sweat before he got to a checkin point. It had to be over ninety degrees, and it was only eleven o’clock in the morning, and in January, yet.

Before he could walk a couple of hundred yards, he heard another set of jet engines wind up on the other side of the hangars. He still couldn’t see what was over there, and he figured that was intentional. The hangers were numbered, with large single digits painted black on their white-painted sheet metal roofs. The other buildings had no distinguishing markings at all from this distance. Northfield hoped he could find his commanding officer. It was bad enough for a Navy man to be stuck out in the desert, but to be commanded by an Air Force officer…the things a man would do to fly into space.

If anyone would get into space, from anywhere in the Alliance, it would have to be from here. No other Alliance country had anything like the American technological advantages, nor did they have the added advantage of almost a hundred former German rocket and aircraft scientists. How that had happened was still highly classified, all these years later, but rumors got out.

It had apparently been a very near thing. The US Army Airborne got to Peenemunde just ahead of a Draka strike force. It was hard to believe that the Draka were more interested in killing these men than using their skills and knowledge, but the Draka were not consistently known for military foresight. Some of the Nazi officers—there were few civilian scientists working in the rocket program—managed to hide from the Americans. They foolishly thought they could negotiate an escape with the Draka. As American troops attacked from the west, the Draka came in larger numbers from the east, and finally took over the factories, launch facilities and research laboratory. There was a rumor out there that some of the Nazi scientists actually wanted everything destroyed, so they could leverage a better position with the Draka, but no one in the Alliance really knew for sure.

Northfield had met a couple of these “Operation Paperclip” scientists. They were interesting and intelligent men, mostly unashamed of the fact they had willingly worked for the second-most brutal government on Earth. While Northfield found that hard to understand, it was very easy for him to identify with their burning desire to get into space, no matter what the cost. They seemed happy enough to work for the American government instead of Hitler, but Northfield thought they would have worked for Satan Himself if he gave them the supplies and workers they wanted without a lot of paperwork.

Am I really that much different? he thought. I’ve moved all over the country, put my body in machines that had killed other people, and now I want to fly into vacuum. And nobody is going to stand in my way!

He reached the first cinderblock building, which was sort of covered in peeling white paint. It had a couple of window air conditioners laboring in the small windows that faced east, toward the road and the hangars. A small, hand-painted sign said “Operations,” so Northfield went in the door.

“’Morning,” he said to the secretary in the outer office. “I’m Lieutenant Allan Northfield, ma’am, US Navy pilot. I was told to report to General Boyd.”

The secretary looked up at the young blond man. He looks like a pilot, she thought. He’s not very tall, but athletic, with that open but almost stupid look. She sadly shook her head. “Sorry, son. This is the Operations Office for Pacific Aircraft. We build planes and test them here. You’ll probably fly some, before long. But if you’re supposed to report to the General, you need to walk down the street to the fancy new building, with the big windows.” She fanned her face with a file folder. “It’s also the one with real air conditioning. It’s about a half-mile that way.” She pointed farther north.

“Thank you ma’am. I expect I’ll see you later.” Northfield grinned at her in what he always thought of as his “fighter pilot smile,” though he didn’t have any real combat experience. It was part of the stuff that made pilots pilots. He pulled his bag back onto his shoulder and went back out the door.

The door had hardly swung shut before a voice called from down the hall. “Sarah, was that the Navy kid?” Ridley came down the hall to her desk.

“Um, yes, sir, it was Lieutenant, um, Northfield, sir,” the secretary stammered. “I sent him to General Boyd’s office. Was that wrong?”

“No, no, you were exactly correct. I just thought I could catch him. When did he leave?”

“Just a minute or two ago.” She was talking to Ridley’s back. He had been told Northfield was a “special project” of the General’s, and he figured he should get to him right away.

 

“Lieutenant? Lieutenant?” Ridley trotted down the road, catching up with Northfield.

The Navy pilot turned. “Yes?” He squinted into the sun.

“Lieutenant, I’m Captain Jack Ridley, US Air Force, retired, sort of. I’m to be kinda your buddy around here, according to the General.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir.” The two men shook hands. They were about the same height, but Ridley was dark-haired and still had his Oklahoma twang. Northfield had a little bit of a drawl, but not quite from the south. Ridley couldn’t place it.

“Where you from, Northfield?” Ridley asked as the continued down the road toward the two-story glass structure.

“Ohio, originally.”

“Southern Ohio?”

“Nope. Northern, almost on Lake Erie. Learned to fly AT-8s there.”

“No shit? You flew Stout ATs?” Ridley couldn’t believe the kid was old enough to fly the classic trimotor aircraft.

Northfield looked a little smug. “From when I was fifteen years old, sixteen officially. Flew ’em commercial, too, passengers, mail, food, dogs, chickens…you name it, we flew it.”

“Damn. You gotta tell me about those old planes. Woulda loved to have flown one.” Ridley and Northfield continued down the road, Northfield excitedly recalling the “good old days,” ten years before.

 

“That,” declared an obviously proud Jack Ridley, “is the X-7a. I think it’s gonna be a stone bitch to fly, not the best design idea I ever saw.”

Northfield walked around and around the silver wedge-shaped aircraft, running his hands over the fuselage surface. He turned his head just a bit in Ridley’s direction. “Two seats. Does it somehow take two pilots to fly it?”

“Not supposed to.” Ridley chuckled ironically. “I personally think with five people in there, you’d still have to eject. There’s some kind of theory the design people in La Jolla have that says one pilot, and a computer, can handle it, with the computer doing most of the flying. They call it ‘fly-by-wire,’ ’cause you don’t really control the surfaces. You just…”

“Send the information down the wire to the computer, yeah, I’ve heard of it.” Northfield was still running his hands over and over the skin of the plane. “I flew some demonstrators at Langley and at Pax River that used it. You can get used to it, after a while. Kinda have to adjust your response to the feel of the plane, though. Use your butt more than feelin’ the stick.”

Ridley looked at the younger pilot with more respect. “Yeah, that’s what they told us. They don’t think the feedback system will give us a good feel for the plane. That’s one of the things we have to try out. As we go faster, there’s less time for us to screw up.”

Northfield turned to him. “What’s this thing made of?”

“Um…I don’t exactly know. Everybody asks. It’s a ceramic-metallic composite. I think it’s from outer space. Never even heats up.”

“You may be right. I’ve heard rumors…but that’s probably just what they are. You know how the hangar rats are.” He abruptly changed the subject. “But the second seat?”

“The back-seater monitors some computer displays, navigation, stuff like that. I had a devil of a time finding my way around in the X-7, since the scramjet enclosure doesn’t allow for windows to be very low on the plane. It was almost impossible to see the ground. This thing has a little camera and screen, but there’s so many instruments on the pilot’s instrument panel they put it back here. The back-seater gets to tell the pilot how to land.” He snorted. “That’s what worries me.”

“It might work.” Northfield was back at the rear of the plane, looking into the scramjet engines.

“Glad you think so, ’cause from what I hear, we’re gonna have to try it out.”

Northfield’s head popped up from behind the plane. “Really? You mean, you and me, fly it together?”

“That’s what they tell me. And you’re the pilot. I have to fly with the kid, and go along for the ride. The brass seems to really like you, kid. On the other hand, I happen to like me, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t get me killed.”

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“V,” Episode 1

November 3, 2009
Vchick

Laura Vandervoort in "V"

Well, it’s prettier than the 1983 original. And the TV anchor dude looks kind of like Marc Singer. And as I predicted, Anna the Boss Alien Chick is the most intriguing character on the show. Most of the rest of the characters are pretty stereotypical. The plot moved fast – we know the aliens are really big lizards (thanks, Dr. Venkman), and there are little topical bits thrown here and there. I just don’t know if there will be enough intrigue to keep it going.

One of the problems with shows like this – and a lot of genre shows with arcs, nowadays – is the balance between giving you new information and keeping you hanging.I found Lost to be too drawn out and I gave up watching it. I think Fringe strikes a successful balance. When you do a remake, you have to figure out how to maintain that mystery balance. Ron Moore figured that out, by going in a new direction in Battlestar Galactica. (Some would say, and I half-agree with them, that he held the final pieces of information to the end and then didn’t quite deliver.) This one is going to be dicey. Good luck, writers!

The inclusion of Alan Tudyk as an FBI agent/lizard is a pretty good casting decision, though. Now that I think about it, replacing the cast of this show with the cast of Firefly would have been a plus: Sean Maher (Simon in Firefly) could have covered the TV anchor part as well as the Shep Smith lookalike. Nathan Fillon could have played the FBI agent. Yeah, I know it’s a female character in the show. All I say is: Starbuck. So could Gina Torres.

Hmm. Where does Ron Glass fit in? He would be another really imposing Visitor, maybe. Jewel Staite is just so dang cute she could handle a part like the blond V chick above.

Well, I can dream.

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Gold at over $ 1000 an ounce?!

November 3, 2009

gold-bars-636Back in ’79-80, when I was in graduate school, I remember waking up every day and hearing that inflation during the Carter Administration was causing the little money we had to lose value on a daily basis. In fact, I had to cut my graduate studies short and wrap it up in a year because I had to get back into the work force fast – the budget we had planned to use for that year went out the window just because of inflation. We lost almost 20% of the value to our money in a single year.

price of gold 71.07

That spike is what I'm talking about

 

 

One of the big indicators I remember hearing about every morning was the price of gold. It was over $ 300 an ounce, and rising fast. I thought that was a bad thing.

I heard this morning that gold is over a thousand dollars an ounce. You can check on that price here. The rise in the price of gold makes me fear that overall inflation can’t be far behind, and that is a scary thing, friends. I’m no economist, but I sure would like to see some other direction in government  – almost any other direction! – instead of the nuttiness we have going on right now.

gold_10_year_o_usd

10 year gold prices