Archive for April, 2012


Falcon 9 hot engine test today was successful

April 30, 2012

Engine Hotfire Test, Falcon 9, COTS-2, 4/30/2012

The SpaceX team conducted a short hot fire test of the first stage engines today. The nine engines were ignited, run up to full thrust for two seconds, then shut down. The launch date of COTS-2 flight is now planned for May 7. (With a little luck, I may actually be there to see it!)

This would be cool if there wasn't a Dalek hanging upside down (is there such a thing in microgravity?) just behind the Dragon spacecraft...


The shuttles are now historic artifacts, and it’s a funeral

April 29, 2012

This article by Judi McLeod about the New York flyby of the Shuttle Test Article Enterprise compares the Washington overflight of Discovery and the New York overflight to a state funeral. I remember the funeral of John F. Kennedy, and that event and the shuttle flights are both events that are very much misunderstood by the American public.

In November 1963, the shock of a Presidential¬†assassination so overwhelmed the country that decades later Kennedy still had a near-mythic status. It wasn’t until about ten years ago or so that I heard some political pundits dare to say that, had Kennedy served out his first term, so many poor decisions would have come home to roost that he probably wouldn’t have even been elected a second time. This is probably part of what fueled the conspiracy fire that Lyndon Johnson was a part of the assassination plot – he knew JFK would have probably lost the Democrats the White House in 1964. (He probably did in 1960; except for the grace of the first Mayor Daley and his army of fictional voters.)

That may or may not be true; I doubt we will ever know in any of our lifetimes. Too many records have been sealed for too long and are not set to be released for decades yet.

Still, I remember seeing the funeral on television. No matter what your political stripe, it was a sobering thing for America.

The overflights of the shuttles should be thought of as a funeral procession as well, argues Ms. McLeod, and to a degree I agree with her. If we had a strong follow-on human spaceflight program going on, the retirement of the shuttles would be a celebration of American technological prowess. We have no such program. The meager amount of money NASA can dole out and the books of restrictions on private spaceflight companies stifle the development of the kinds of vehicles we can build with today’s technology. We are force to launch super-Apollo capsules on the cheap, maybe two years or more from now. Until then, we ride Russian 1960s-technology spacecraft.

That should never have been allowed to occur. I blame the Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama administrations. Nobody was willing to come out in favor of bold new space exploration initiatives. For that matter, Congress has generally only been interested in NASA as a jobs program for certain Congressional districts. (Otherwise, why would NASA put its major facility in Houston, Texas? Thanks, LBJ.) Other than Dana Rohrabacher, congressman from California, I can’t think of a single congresscritter who has consistently supported the space program.

So for all of you celebrating the overflights of Discovery and Enterprise – look, they are now going into museums. Once, we flew these wonderful machines into space. Now, we beg for rides with the Russians. And didn’t we say the Russians were the ones on the ropes?

Elon Musk, many of us are depending on you…


Romney as candidate and President

April 26, 2012

I wrote a piece on the Keep Americans Free blog about Romney as a Presidential candidate and as President, and why I think he will be successful at both. I invite you to read it.


Photo Phoolery

April 26, 2012

(click for a larger version)

I shot this image of the Trump Tower last week while I was on the Chicago River on the Wendella Boats Architectural River Tour, which I recommend. I put it through an app called Focus (available at the Apple App Store) then adjusted it in Pixelmator (same source). I didn’t have any plan at all, just messed with stuff until I liked the look. I have no idea what I’m doing with these tools, and I assume folks who really know what they are doing could do something really special. I just liked how this one turned out – I think mainly because of the angle of the shot.


Why we are not, technically, a democracy

April 25, 2012

Over on Keep Americans Free I posted an essay on the differences between a democracy and the republican form of government. I invite you to read it.


Another Mac OX problem (apparently) solved!

April 24, 2012

My desktop (well, under the desk) Mac Pro has been giving me fits for the last three or four months. I am running Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3. Everything else was fine – including email access using Thunderbird –¬† but I was experiencing incredibly long load times for web pages.They were so slow that Google Chrome (yes, I was that desperate) gave me dialogs that said the page was stalled, even when it wasn’t. I did a lot of troubleshooting and research.¬† It wasn’t an internet connection issue, or a DNS issue, or a firewall issue, or another of the dozen other things I thought it might be – I tried all of the fixes for those things. It was…caches.

Apparently caches can be cleaned, and also can be “deep cleaned.” Too much inside-baseball for me. I thought I had cleared every cache I could find, but it looks like it wasn’t enough. I can’t seem to return to the forum where I found this tool, but once I ran Lion Cache Cleaner my problems went away. It does a bunch of other stuff as well, including repairing permissions, optimizing a bunch of stuff, and even checks for rogue rootkits.

Thanks to whoever suggested this – and I recommend this little app. It’s $ 10 (shareware). I was to the point where I was using the laptop for web work and the desktop for other stuff; (It’s the one with the two big monitors, and I didn’t want to change that if possible.)


Romney wins by 5 points? Maybe…

April 23, 2012

Mary Matalin, well-known Republican consultant, is hosting Rush Limbaugh today. She just said that she thinks Romney will defeat Obama by five to seven percentage points.

If you don’t know who she is, check her out on the intertubes. Pretty amazing woman. Not the least of her accomplishments is her long-term marriage to James Carville, who was one of the most influential Democratic consultants during the Clinton era. Carville is…interesting. (He’s the guy, sort of, played by Billy Bob Thornton in the Clinton tell-all film Primary Colors.Today, he teaches at Tulane University.)

And she’s from Calumet City, Illinois, and went to Western Illinois University!

Boy, do I hope she’s right. I tend to trust her gut more than most political pundits.


This explains why we haven’t found the Higgs Boson yet

April 18, 2012

That’s right. The Large Hadron Collider is being run by…Marshmallow Peeps!


Adios, old friend…

April 18, 2012


Yeah, where is it, anyway?

April 18, 2012

reference for the uninitiated