Archive for October, 2012

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Fox News and Libya

October 29, 2012

I just did a piece on Fox News being the only news outlet to really cover what happened in Benghazi over on Keep Americans Free! I invite you to check it out.

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Are we losing touch with what America is about?

October 24, 2012

I wish we could get news people, political pundits, and the candidates themselves to stay focused on the issues. I don’t know when Obama called it a terrorist act and I don’t care. I do want to know how he would respond when – not if – Iran threatens Israel with nuclear weapons. I want to know why he won’t promote the use of US oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear power. I want to know what he believes should be done about all the people on some kind of public assistance to get them off it. I want to know if he is finished with his obsession with green jobs and businesses assisted by the federal government that still fail.

I should already know all about this, especially after him serving a full term as President, but I don’t. I’m not sure he does, either. Let’s quit the talk about binders and Big Bird and bayonets and contraception and all the other little gotchas that have nothing to do with what the President is paid to do.

Our elected leaders and the national media really do think we are stupid. We are supposed to be impressed if one candidate is more “aggressive” in a debate, not what he says. A debate is not a cage match. The color of a candidate’s wife’s dress is said to be more important that the candidate’s lack of a plan for the country, I don’t know if it is planned to be diversionary or if the Obama campaign is just grasping at straws at this point.

Reagan had the advantage in 1980 in that no sane person thought Jimmy Carter would face down the Soviets if it came to that. For all the concern that Reagan was a “warmonger,” I think most people deep down knew that, if the missile threats started flying, he would be the guy we wanted to get the call. Not having a foreign enemy like the Soviet Union – but a very faceless one, instead – makes the world no less dangerous but it makes it more difficult for Romney to make a case about it.

Could we also please stop the Bain Capital attacks? Obama has no previous experience to run on, except his failures as President. So we must drag our opponent down to our level. Perhaps the sins of Bain (whatever they were) were no more Mr. Romney’s fault than, apparently, many things going on today are Mr. Obama’s. Romney has far more experience in running organizations successfully, both in public and private life than Obama. But we have to talk for days about binders and Big Bird.

(By the way, the presence of David Axelrod, Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett, Eric Holder, and a host of others of their ilk show that Obama’s personnel binders must have been pretty empty.)

I am completely mystified how the poll numbers can be so high for Obama, MSM pandering or not. People can see for themselves how things are going. We in the Chicago area may consider graft and corruption a way of life, but there is no reason the rest of the country must do so. Perhaps, painful as it may be to think about, Mr. Romney may be correct – a significant percentage of the electorate is receiving some sort of public assistance and doesn’t want that threatened. They can’t see far enough to understand that, if taxes are lower, businesses are more successful, so actual tax receipts are greater. A stronger economy means the investments made by pension agencies pay off better, so those who are retired or will be retiring have less reason to be concerned about their pension system becoming insolvent, and increasing taxes to pay for them becomes unnecessary.

Remember – this country was settled by misfits: those who were religiously persecuted, or who were not going to inherit the father’s estate and had to make their own way, and pure and simple by those who didn’t want a monarch or anyone else telling them what to do, or taking the fruits of their labor. America grew quickly into a major power partly because there were many Americans dissatisfied with their lot in life who wanted to do better, and this was the place to do it. You could make money in the American colonies, and when that was threatened enough, we got together and threw off that kind of impediment to making money. There will always be abuses of power, but here we made that less likely to affect individuals by limiting the power others had over us – by putting limits on government and providing a rule of law to keep one man from ruling another.

I’m afraid we need another frontier, someplace where the dissatisfied can go to make a way for themselves. It was a huge investment for a family to buy a Conestoga wagon and head out for the West. The investment required to get off-planet is too high for homesteaders. When or if that might change it could easily be too late – we will have taxed ourselves into oblivion and no one will be able to get off-planet.

But a good start would be to make this discussion about the real issues and how we can get America back to what it is all about.

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“Atlas Shrugged – Part II: The Strike”

October 13, 2012

I think in most cases, if you like Ayn Rand’s book, or even found it thought-provoking, you will like the movie. If not – especially if you respond in great horror to Rand’s ideals – you will hate it.

This cast was, by and large, at least as good as the Part I cast, except for Dagny. Samantha Mathis is no match for Taylor Schilling, sorry. Oh, and Rebecca Wisocky was a far better Lillian Rearden in Part 1.

Jason Beghe was a fine, growly Hank Rearden. I can’t think of a TV part where I’ve liked Paul McCrane, so he is a fine Wesley Mouch – even though the name seemed to fit Michael Learner better.

I think the plot modifications and updating to fit the present day worked very well. I know it must have been difficult to edit down all those great monologues, like Francisco’s at the wedding and Hank’s at the hearing. $ 40 per gallon gasoline would have seemed ridiculous a few years ago, but today it just seems prophetic. The most chilling visual to me is any of the scenes of the streets of New York. There are so very few cars on the streets that are normally jammed with traffic, yet it is midday – the first time I didn’t even notice it. When I did, it scared the bejeezus out of me.

The main threads are there – the increasing desperation of the government as the economy goes down the toilet, the opportunistic nature of Mouch and his friends (remember Rahm’s “never let a crisis go to waste”?). Of course, every decision made by the government is exactly the opposite of what should be done…in a black-and-white world like that of the film it is much easier to see the folly of the government’s directives than it is in our daily lives.

Dagny is more and more driven by trying to discover the secret of Galt’s motor and torn apart by trying to save the country singlehanded. As more and more of the men who actually keep the world going disappear she is pushed practically to her breaking point…and she escapes. Her escape is very short-lived, however, and she is compelled to come back to save the railroad once again. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, yet, I won’t spoil any more of it for you.

If you have read the book, and enjoyed it, and saw how it is a cautionary tale for today, then by all means go see the film and take your friends. The really “extreme” – to use a term bandied about too much nowadays – ideas of Rand are not promoted in the film. There isn’t much in here to argue with unless you are an extremely close-minded liberal. Even conservatives of a religious bent can’t argue with the film as much as with the book. Rand promotes the idea that organized religion is almost as bad as government – she refers to religious folks as “mystics” throughout the book. None of that is present in the film. The film really promotes enlightened self-interest over “social justice,” equating required sacrifice for the good of all as a form of slavery.

The Dagny/Hank Rearden romance is downplayed somewhat in the film. It’s used as a plot point as required by the book’s plot, but it doesn’t become overwhelming. In the book the romance is based on mutual respect and an attraction forged by their shared beliefs and passions. This is not a romance that develops between “oil and water” types of people. The only thing that holds them apart is Hank’s marriage, loveless though it may be.

Of course, all of that changes in Part III…after all, at the end of Part II, Dagny looks out of the wreckage of her plane and sees…John Galt.

Is it perfect? No. Does it do a good job of presenting the main points of the book? Yes. I hope a lot of those “undecided” voters see this movie. This could easily be the America of 2016, if we choose unwisely.

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“Atlas Shrugs Part II” opens Friday!

October 10, 2012

With a new cast, the second installment of the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy, based on the Ayn Rand novel, opens in theaters this Friday. It will be interesting how the whole “Galt’s motor” thing will be handled in the near-future setting of the movie series. (The book gives no particular date, but there is a lot of speculation that was to be set in the – at the time of the book’s publication – near future of the mid-1970s.) It will probably not be in theaters for a long time, so check it out right away. It’s important to see before the election. And if you haven’t purchased the first installment, it is available here and is on the Amazon video-on-demand service as well as  on Netflix.

https://www.facebook.com/AtlasShruggedMovie

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Dragon commercial spacecraft docks at the ISS

October 10, 2012

Dragon at the ISS

After a number of thruster burns over the last two days to bring the Dragon into the orbit of the ISS, Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide grabbed it at 6:56 a.m. EDT today. Apparently there were no problems. Tomorrow the hatch is opened…which is great, because there is ice cream in there!

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The Princess Cecile build continues…

October 10, 2012

Off and on, off and on. In bits and pieces I have a few other items finished. Designing this ship while I build it is pretty interesting!

In my previous post, I decided I needed to add some kind of “pods,” for lack of a better term, to provide more living space. I also decided the missile tubes would be located there.

After cutting the acrylic tube in half, I cut curves into the ends. Then after a lot of sanding I primed them and started to figure out how to attach them.

I hit on making some curved bulkheads. The tube halves, as they were cut, gained a bit of a twist, so I knew I couldn’t just epoxy the edges and hope. I started making bulkheads out of styrene, but that didn’t work very well unless they were very thin. I hit upon using some balsa foam I had around. It is pretty delicate stuff but it sands fast.

The “pod” half-round acrylic piece with the ends curved. Also, various bulkhead types I experimented with.

 

Each individual bulkhead was cut using the first one as a master, then sanded to fit.

A balsa foam bulkhead.

Then I made some more of the sheet styrene copies so I could cover the balsa foam, hiding it from view. I also put together a short piece of Plastruct girder, sanded down, and a piece of plastic tube (the missile tube):

Bad iPhone shot of the completed pod. The original bulkheads were sliced in two and spread out more.

It looks pretty bare, with no putty, paint or greeblies. And the forward end cap isn’t on yet!

A lot of the “personality” of the ship will be in finish details – little greeblies on the bulkheads, hoses, etc. Since the plan is to display the ship in the water, floating on the outriggers, I will need to cut some small openings all over the ship and add some hatches. Those will come later.

Before I can attach the other pod I need to cut a hole in it to continue the cargo hold opening that I originally placed in the side of the hull. I’m going to do that before I epoxy the pod in!

Then a little epoxy and the first pod was on the side of the ship:

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Falcon 9 performs successfully even with one engine flameout

October 9, 2012

Sunday evening’s launch of the first commercial ISS resupply Dragon cargo craft appeared to go on without a hitch. However, it was discovered that, about at the point of maximum dynamic pressure, one of the nine Falcon 9 first stage engines failed. On-board video cameras recorded a gush of flame and pieces of something dropping off the booster. The onboard flight computer system ran the other engines about another 30 seconds to achieve proper speed and trajectory for the second stage to fire correctly and place the Dragon in the proper orbit. From there, a series of thruster burns by the Dragon itself will modify its orbit as it “chases” the ISS.

The flight computer did its job, but apparently a small Orbcomm satellite prototype, carried on the same second stage, was injected into too low an orbit as a result of the engine failure. There are very specific rules on orbital paths that are available in the vicinity of the ISS, and since deployment of the satellite was delayed, the second stage was not able to do an additional preplanned burn to put it in the proper orbit. Doing so would have interfered with the ISS “safety gate”window allowed for it. Remember, the previous Falcon 9/Dragon test flight was delayed several times because the launch window required to get the Dragon to the ISS was only one second long.

The Falcon booster is designed to be robust, and to have the ability to achieve its objectives despite an engine failure. The deployment of the Orbcomm satellite could have been accomplished if the ISS safety gate was not in place – there was nothing wrong with the second stage of the Falcon.

Unlike most European and American boosters, which use only one or two main engines in the first stage – often augmented by solid boosters, Russian Soyuz/Progress boosters have four rocket engines on the main central stage and four on each of the four “stage and a half” outer boosters. Solids cannot be “turned off” once they are burning – one of the safety concerns with the Shuttle and one also with the proposed/pipe dream heavy lifter NASA wants to build. That rocket could have either solid or liquid-fueled strap ons – my money is on Aerojet getting the contract to do liquid fueled boosters instead of ATK getting it for solids. ATK seems to not be the NASA favorite right now, and Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, one of the major liquid-fuel engine players, was recently  acquired by the parent company of Aerojet. (Aerojet builds most of the engines for the Delta rockets.)

So the booster has proven to be robust. Building and flying a rocket motor is not easy – the use of supercold liquid oxygen and high pressure/high temperature nozzle and thrust chamber make it tricky business. That is why today we rarely see a new motor designed from a clean sheet of paper. Most of the engines used today are improved varieties of designs from the 1960s, if not earlier.

I would think this flameout, despite it showing a less-than-100 per cent success rate, shows that a manned vehicle using this booster has a better chance of successfully reaching orbit than one with fewer engines. That, plus the powered escape plan using the improved Draco engines on the Dragon, should make this a safe and reliable passenger booster.