Archive for August, 2011


Don’t panic and abandon the ISS yet!

August 28, 2011

According to this interview on SpaceFlight Now, the recent failure of a Soyuz launch vehicle’s third stage does indeed give pause to wanting to put a crew on the next one right away, but Michael Suffredini, the NASA ISS manager, had the standard NASA response: OH NOES OH NOES OH NOES WE’RE DONE LET’S GET OUT NOW!

Well, actually he said that unless the Russians had success with launching the Soyuz reliably by November of this year, the crew would have to be brought home and the eleven years of a continually-manned space station would come to an end.

The Soyuz-U launch vehicle’s RD-0110 engine shut down early, causing the vehicle to crash. Fortunately, the Russians had telemetry all the way down so they have lots of data with which to analyze the fault.

The Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG, used in manned flights, are almost the same vehicle, so the concern is not entirely unfounded. Still, this launcher is still the most reliable, and most-used, in the history of spaceflight. Various versions of the Soyuz launcher (which was based on the original R-7 ICBM used as a launcher by the USSR from 1957 onward) have been launched over 1700 times, and has a reliability record of over 94%.

Granted, the third stage is a little less validated than the rest of the vehicle – the earlier models that launched Vostoks and Volkshods had a smaller third stage. But not by much…

The R-7 variants are a little different from most American (and European) launch vehicles. The first stage is actually the liquid-fueled outside booster stages. The second stage is the core sustainer stage. The third stage would be considered the second stage on most American launchers, like the Deltas. This site gives you a lot more information about the Soyuz vehicles.

So I’ve digressed. My point is that I think these folks probably have a handle on getting it fixed. It feels weird saying that about the “Russkies” but it is what it is. They’ve built a load of these and most of them have flown. They know what they’re doing. I think it’s premature for the person in charge of the ISS on the NASA side to say, just a few days after the failure of an unmanned Soyuz, that we may have to abandon a billion-dollar space station in November. I hope he and the rest of the NASA ISS folks will wait a little longer and let the people in charge analyze the fault in the Soyuz. Some people bend tin, and some people spend years and years assessing risk.


Cheney-Palin 2012? Why the heck not?

August 28, 2011

OK, so the site was obviously set up by a lefty. Still, the idea has a certain attraction. And the Mr. & Mrs. Smith image is great. Site is here, at least until Dick Cheney gets to them with a shotgun…go order a bumper stick or six. You know you want to, no matter where you are on that there political spectrum.

(A tip o’ the old chapeau to Curmudgeons Corner.)


The “lost” 1984 Macintosh Introduction

August 28, 2011

Restored by the folks at Macessentials. Thanks, guys! It’s a piece of history, and right now is a great time for us to remember it – or see it for the first time!


Most of us are wrong about Obama

August 28, 2011

A lot of conservative pundits, commentators, talking heads, and any other thing you would like to call them have spent a lot of time talking about President Obama’s motivation. His behaviors seem to be inconsistent, at least with the template for a far-left liberal.

That doesn’t mean that sometimes he behaves as a conservative, or even some kind of Clintonesque pseudo-centrist. He’s just not predictable, so  all kinds of theories have popped up: he’s being given his marching orders by George Soros, he really has no idea what he’s doing, he’s motivated by racial issues, he’s following the Saul Alinsky plan, etc.

Maybe none of those are correct. Dinesh D’Souza, conservative writer and President of King’s College in New York, wrote a piece in Forbes last September in which he analyzed the President’s decisions based on his father’s legacy.

By studying Obama’s book, “Dreams From My Father,” and writings by Barak Obama Sr., he has put together a pretty logical argument that Obama Junior may be the “last anti-colonialist.”

He discusses how the senior Obama, an economist, defined socialism differently than we would here in the US. He used it in the context of, as D’Souza puts it, “the state appropriation of wealth as a means to achieve the anticolonial objective of taking resources away from the foreign looters and restoring them to the people of Africa.”

In fact, Obama’s father advocated the state confiscation of private lands and the idea that taxes could be raised with no upper limit, “as long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.”  (The quote is from a 1965 article in the East Africa Journal authored by the senior Obama.)

Theoretically, the logical extension of this could mean taxing at 100% if all benefits are received from the government, which is more like our usual definition of socialism.

Obama’s father was working to separate Africa from the neocolonial influences of Europe in the 1950s. The younger Obama does not operate in that environment. Instead, he is in charge of what he considers to be the last colonialist power on Earth – the United States. By extension, and by following his father’s beliefs, he does what he can to “level the playing field” for other countries, hence some of his bizarre decisions. For example, the promotion of NASA as a way to help Muslim nations feel good about themselves, or to deliberately cripple our oil industry while allowing, or even promoting, the oil industries of other countries over our own.

It’s an interesting idea. I can’t vouch for its validity; I’ve not even read Obama’s book. I’ve not tried to verify his examples or anything. D’Souza grew up in India, another country that struggled with the neocolonialist influences, so his viewpoint is far different from mine and makes him more suited to draw such conclusions. (One could say it makes him more likely to draw such conclusions, but I don’t if that is true or not.)

Read the article. Apparently he’s working on a book. Perhaps D’Souza will be the one to really understand and explain this President, who has, time and time again, confounded his friends and enemies alike.


Gibson Guitars and the DOJ

August 27, 2011

Over on my “Keep Americans Free” blog I have a new piece about the Department of Justice seizing legally-obtained wood from the Gibson Guitars company. I think there’s more to what’s going on there than just a really wide interpretation of the Lacy Act or another opportunity for Holder & co. to harass a successful American business. You may want to check it out.


Why can’t we name storms in the Midwest?

August 26, 2011

All this about Hurricane Irene – which, to be sure, is a big storm, but made much bigger in the media because IT’S ON THE EAST COAST OH NO OH NO IT’S WHERE WE LIVE OH NO OH NO – makes me think of all the thunderstorms we’ve had roll through the midwest this summer with  50-75 mph winds, or more, and dumping 5+ inches of rain, or more, and not just once, but sometimes three times in the same week. I know, we got some coverage. But this this thing, because it can be tracked by satellite so easily (that space program expenditure that’s been such a waste of taxpayers’ money, you know) and gives the 24-hour news cycle something to talk about besides where Quadaffiduck might be hiding, seems to be blown out of proportion to we midwesterners. I mean, declaring states of emergency three days early? Closing airports and subways? Come on…we got pissed if the Metra trains were late here in the snowstorms last winter, and there was much grumbling because Rich Daley couldn’t wave his magic wand and get all those snowbound cars off of Lake Shore Drive in an instant. We only closed school for two days then!

I swear, those folks in the northeast can be such sissies.

Disclaimer: I know, you all aren’t sissies any more than all midwesterners are tough. Maybe not even most of you. Maybe I shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on media coverage. But hey, that’s what Uhmurrica is about, right? Jumpin’ to conclusions with no data to back it up?

(That was sarcasm, right there.)

Like Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues,” I want a name for the big midwestern storms. (“I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide…” OK. Maybe not the best analogy.) Let’s name them after something scary, like Japanese movie monsters one year and Greek mythology the next or something. “Here comes Ghidrah, the three-headed storm monster!”

You gotta admit, it beats the hell out of Irene.


What is Sarah up to?

August 25, 2011

On September 3, Sarah Palin is supposed to make a “major announcement.” Is this the long-teased announcement of her candidacy for President? Or is it, as Roe Conn predicted today on WLS-AM radio, that she is announcing a new umbrella group for the Tea Party folks and then will throw her support to one of the other candidates…perhaps Rick Perry.

That would be better than her deciding now to be a candidate herself. I hate to see her get tied up into the whole media thing again. It would, as they say, “suck all the oxygen out of the room.” We need to have a solid debate and good targeting on the issues, not the usual media games. I like what Sarah stands for but I think she has kind of grown beyond the Presidency in a way. She can talk about anything now, and have a tremendous influence on the next President’s policies. And she can do it without all the other nonsense we went through the last time.

We’ll have to see…


Where is my flyin’ car? Maybe here…

August 25, 2011

This is not what I meant. This is no excuse for no flying cars. And besides, Lotus is dead, right? This commercial is from 2000, which is like 70 years ago in dog or software years…

How about this one? It’s no Terrafugia, but it’s kinda cool. I’d hate to be in it in a thunderstorm, though, in the air or on the ground.



For model builders: weird but funny…

August 25, 2011

If I saw it on the intertubes, it must be true...

Here it is, folks…Japanese model manufacturing company Tamiya is apparently creating a Moon Landing Conspiracy plastic model kit, as you can see above. (The image is larger; click to expand it. The detail is important!) Yes, in the lower right corner are two Nixon versions: happy Dick and sad Dick. I particularly like the steering wheel for the lunar rover.

That should be the tip-off. According to the web site The Inspiration Room, this image and the ones below were created by Tamiya’s ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather Vietnam, for a series of print ads the company is going to put out. Some of the others are in just plain poor taste. Here’s the Elvis set:

And the Roswell set:

(Note the pig on the bottom of the sprue above. Ick.)

Now it gets weird. Here’s the Marilyn Monroe set:

And the most tasteless of all, but one that couldn’t be missed, of course: the JFK set:

The pity is, I don’t know whether to deplore this or wish I had a set or two of each…


Jobs resigns as CEO of Apple, Inc.

August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs promo photo from the first issue of MacWorld when the Macintosh was introduced in 1984

Steve Jobs, who has revitalized Apple over the last 14 years and made it one of the most successful and most talked-about companies in America, has stepped down from the CEO position. He has been ill for some time, originally from pancreatic cancer. He received a liver transplant and has been treated in a variety of ways but he and Apple have been very close-mouthed about his health situation.

Tim Cook, COO, has been moved up to the CEO position. He had been running Apple since January when Steve took a leave of absence. Steve remains as Chairman of Apple’s board. He recommended Cook for the position in his resignation letter. This ensures a smooth transition and there should be little disruption in the day-to-day operation of Apple.

But day-to-day wasn’t Steve’s bit. Steve is the vision guy. Somehow – and nobody, probably Steve included, understands how – he has an incredible ability to pick winners. Apparently he pushed and pushed the design teams for the iPhone and iPad until he was satisfied…apparently he pushed them far more than other design teams at other companies do, as evidenced by their competing products. Historically he has been very demanding of his people, and very opinionated. He’s been able to do it because (a) he’s been mainly right, and (b) because he’s been right so often they make a lot of money. I don’t think he “invents” in the traditional sense of the word, but he “filters” – taking the ideas of others and determining which of those are the best and most marketable. That is a particular kind of genius.

If you read a biography of Steve Jobs, you will see that he had absolutely no training for such a thing. He’s a college dropout, was kind of a Seventies hippie – slash – tech geek, but he has something – something you can’t learn at Harvard Business School. I don’t know where it comes from.

I want to believe that without his guidance Apple will continue to innovate the way it has for the last decade and a half. The history of Apple from 1985 to 1995 doesn’t support that belief, of course. A parade of poor management almost destroyed the company. When Jobs came back, it was like a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t the design people who were at fault, but those who decided what direction the company should go in. In other words, the leadership. Somehow, Steve Jobs is a leader. He doesn’t fit most of the models that have been thrown out there the last few decades for what a leader should be, but you can’t argue with the numbers. He’s done the job, and far beyond. He deserves some time to rest and recuperate.