Archive for December, 2010


One more thought for tonight…

December 31, 2010

We’re sitting here, twenty minutes to midnight, watching “Jaynestown,” from “Firefly.” Once again I recall just what a gem this show was. I know that if they were to start back up even today it wouldn’t be the same, but I can dream, can’t I? At least we have these few episodes…and on blu-ray, to boot!

And it’s the man they call Jayne, after all!


Happy New Year musings

December 31, 2010

I’m writing this about an hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I know that the passing of one day and the start of the next means no more today than it does any other day, but humans are time-binding animals, and we seem more comfortable if we can divide things into manageable units.

Years are such units. Of course, the Earth’s orbit does that for us, but we could still just think of the passage of time as seasons or something else. Maybe just “many moons” would be enough.

But we believe in marking the passing of time by years. And in that marking, we have set this date as the changing of the years. So I go with it.

Why all this? Because I’ve heard for a long time platitudes like “I hope this year is better than last.” I never really thought of that as being a sentiment I would embrace until now. I’ve always looked to the future, and I’ve been mostly optimistic about what the future might hold for my family. We’ve had good years and bad years, but I have to say that 2010 was probably the most challenging I can remember. From the passing of my brother early in the year to my wife’s job difficulties, this has been one of those years I would not care to repeat.

There were wonderful things as well, of course. While the loss of my brother has struck all of us hard, I think it has brought our family closer than we have been in many years. Our granddaughters are a constant source of delight of me. They are truly blessings from God. I really think I understand the meaning of that phrase now.

My wife’s job difficulties, like mine that started four years ago, appear to actually be turning out for the better. It didn’t make it easier to go through, and we’re not out of the woods yet, but in the long term it looks like things will be better.

Family and faith in God will get you through almost anything, though. I really do believe that. I don’t think I want to test “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” I’d rather not find out how much He thinks I can handle. At least, not this year.

And I wish a good year to all of you in 2011!


iPad vs. other book readers, etc.

December 30, 2010

I’ve had the iPad for a few days now, and here’s my take on it as a book reader:

The display is beautiful, very, very readable, and too heavy and cumbersome. I know, I’m picky. I like reading on it better than on my second-generation Kindle. However, I’ve noticed that there are several companies that sell handgrips that fasten somehow to the back of the iPad to make it easier to hold. That shows that there is a little bit of an uncomfortability factor here.

Kindle version 2

Now, let me be clear: it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of technology and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, let alone used. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think it’s the future of computers/information appliances/communications devices for most people. I also think it is to the really usable form factor what the original iPod was to the current models.

Am I unhappy I have it? Hell, no! It’s frackin’ gorgeous, and I love it! I think I’m going to love the iPad 5 even more in 2015, though!

My wife just got a Barnes and Nobel Nook for Christmas. It has a really decent screen, is about the same size and weight as my Kindle, but backlit. For many folks it will be the perfect compromise. It has a web browser and will have other apps coming out soon. We’ve not tested much of this yet, though. It cost about half as much as my iPad, and it probably has about half the functionality. For a lot of folks that’s enough.

My old Kindle is best used for reading in bed with an LED booklight. It has great battery life because it’s not backlit, and it’s fine for reading books. (However, I’m starting to see “ghosting” on the screen. I don’t know how long the screen will last on these devices.)

The iPad user has several book reader apps to choose from. You may want to use more than one. I have the Kindle app, because I have about 70 items in my Kindle library, and buying books from Amazon is easy. I’m trying the Apple iBooks app, and it’s pretty, but it seems kind of slow. I’ve not tried the Nook app on the iPad yet. I have used it on the iPhone 4, and it works, but it’s just OK. I’ve not tried them all, certainly!

Right now I’m leaning toward the Kindle app. It’s readable, easy to use, and pretty fast at rendering pages. The best part is the way Amazon is set up to sell books. I can share my Kindle purchases with all my devices – iPhone, computers (Intel Mac and PC), iPad, and even the Kindle! My wife also uses my Kindle account so we share books. The iBooks store is new and will get better with time, of course. I’m just more comfortable with Amazon and it’s the one to beat right now. ZD Net did a review of ereader apps for the iPad back in June 2010. You can find it here.


Living In The Future

December 27, 2010

I’m writing this on an iPad. It will take me some time to get used to the lack of tactile feedback from the on-screen keyboard, or I’ll just resort to using my Bluetooth Apple keyboard. In either case, I’m living in the future!

No, really! It feels like that. I’m sitting here, typing on a half-inch thick plate with a sheet of glass on top. While I’m typing I’m listening to Cannonball Adderly, played on the same device. It may not seem like q big deal to you, but this is almost flying-car future stuff for me.

When I finish writing this will be stored someplace, I don’t really know where, and people from all over the world can read it. Do you realize how truly amazing this is?

I’m beginning to believe that the iPad is the first real personal computer. At least it’s the first one that is intuitive enough for the masses to really use successfully. Prediction: by 2015 we won’t have flying cars (sorry, Doc Brown), but most everyone will be carry something like an iPad around the way we now carry smart phones. The price of these devices will drop to half what they are today, and Microsoft’s version will be less elegant than Apple’s – and the user interface from Redmond will use color choices picked by kindergarteners.


A Decent Price for Launch Vehicle Development

December 14, 2010

While digging around in a number of places on teh intertubes, I found a note from Bob Zubrin on the Mars Society site that mentions that the SpaceX Falcon medium-lift launch vehicle was developed for a cost of $ 200 million. That’s all it cost to get to an operational Falcon 9 vehicle? NASA couldn’t do such a thing today, with Boeing or LockMart.

Granted, even Elon Musk admitted they” stood on the shoulders of giants” in developing their vehicles by leveraging all the previous research and technology available. Still, they did it – something no one else can say.

Apparently he told NASA that he could build a heavy lift launcher for about $ 2.5 billion. NASA seemed uninterested. SpaceX has a list of launches set up on the manifest for the next couple of years already. Maybe he can build it on his own dime anyway. Perhaps he can’t afford it yet…but maybe in a couple of years he will. Who would have thought SpaceX would have been as successful as it has been already, even with all the hoops the government has made it jump through. Things like making them launch from the South Pacific instead of either coast, all those other extra rules and regulations they invented to “regulate commercial space flight.” Grrrr.


This is cool!

December 13, 2010

Multiple exposures, right? Oh, if it were real…


No, I’m not ACTUALLY at Groom Lake!

December 13, 2010

If I was, I might see things like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Or maybe this:

At least, maybe this:

Although I have it on good authority that they were last seen at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

I would really like to see:

Or at least:

Why do I need to be here?


And I figure when it comes back, that’s where it will show up!


Another problem solved!

December 13, 2010

If you find the intertubes unusually slow, don’t call your provider until you check for lolcats first. It’s one of those simple repairs you can do yourself and save money! It’s easy and fun! No special tools required!



Indiana Jones silliness

December 12, 2010

Cate Blanchett should have known better.

The Indiana Jones movies have been playing all weekend on the USA network, and watching the last one – the “Crystal Skull” – reminded me that most of it wasn’t so bad. Even surviving the atom bomb blast in the refrigerator was kind of clever. I could almost take the “Ancient Astronauts” plot, too. What I found most silly was the behavior of the Russians, who were as cartoonish as possible. Cartoonish Nazis, OK. I think sometimes even the Nazis knew they were over the top, but thought it was kind of cool. The Russians (OK, Soviets) in this movie were also-rans to the menace of the Nazis in the first and third films.

Even Cate Blanchett couldn’t save it. Instead, she was probably the worst. Not a redeeming quality to her,  unlike the blonde in the third film.

I hope they stop with this one. The only thing worse than an Indy 5 would be a spinoff for Mutt/Henry III. I can take his acting when there are gigantic killer robots in the film, busting stuff up, but not when we really have to try to suspend even the tiniest bit of disbelief.

I thought at first they green-screened a lot of the desert portions of the film, but watching it on the HD side of the USA network, it looks like the director felt they needed fill lighting for some reason and just overlit the sunrise portions – or they shot it outside during midday and then green-screened the sunrise. It may have been sunset – it was hard to figure the time frame out.



SpaceX Dragon orbits, returns to Earth successfully

December 9, 2010

An earlier drop test of the Dragon spacecraft

Yesterday (December 8) a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral and put an 11,500 pound Dragon spacecraft into orbit at about 185 miles. Two orbits later, the spacecraft deorbited successfully and splashed down about 500 miles off the southern California coast.

This marks the first time a private company has successfully launched and returned a spacecraft from orbit. The spacecraft was unmanned, and is designed to carry either cargo (to the ISS) or up to seven passengers.

My sincere congratulations to Elon Musk and the entire crew at SpaceX. There’s no leftover military hardware here; all the engines were designed and built by SpaceX, as was the complete launch vehicle and spacecraft. Talk about a starting with a clean sheet of paper!