Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, August 09, 2008

  saturday grabbag

I used to hope that when broadcast tv went dark, nobody would miss it. No such luck. The urge to sit back and let a preprogrammed world wash over you must be in humanity genetically or perhaps it started with long nights staring into a fire, imagining stories in the shadows.

One of the great mysteries of my household in Nicaragua is that periodically, the shower turns on, all by itself. We are not talking a drip here, we are talking about a full bore shower starting up, running for 3-20 minutes, then stopping. When I get there the valve is tightly shut; there's no sign of an invisible man in the shower, dirty or otherwise. I have no idea how much extra water pressure is required to push past the valve, I imagine it is a lot, yet I'm the only one in my building to report this, and there are no waterspouts on the street!?

If I fix it (adding a secondary valve) - will I blow up somebody else's plumbing? It would really suck if the overpressure wave took out someone's toilet. Not suck, actually, blow....

There are now 5 confirmed asteroids in an Apohele orbit, with 4 more possibles. The delta-v required to reach these is minimal. Atira is 2km in diameter. Nobody knows what it is made of... Perhaps it is the stuff of dreams. It's really hard to spot Apolheles from Earth, I'm surprised we've found as many as 9 so far.

Not technically in a Apohele orbit, but still close by, isCruithne which is a "Periodic inclusion planetoid".

I wish more people cared about fixing the ocean's decline. Here's a great piece about that in Mother Jones.

I'm still waiting for solar cycle 24 to kick in. In catching up on two of the skeptical-to-AGW sites I track - Watt's up with that, and Solar Science I spotted a familiar name - Joan Feynman - a notable scientist. She came up with a reliable way to predict sunspots (but that web page lacks a cite - I'd like to know what it was - still looking) She started her career in solar physics, was one of the first to describe the magnetosphere and what caused auroras, and her take on the global warming investigation is that it is Great Fun.

I wish more people could take matters of great import less seriously. The Feynmans get it right.

Her son tells a wonderful story on the trials and joys of growing up in her household. Imagine having a mom that knows how to create small explosives for her boy - cool!

I'm more of an engineer than a scientist, so the pleasure of finding things out (great video) is often subverted by the pleasure in blowing things up - maybe I will have to add that secondary valve to my shower this week....

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Friday, August 08, 2008

  Some marketing bundling ideas

Every so often the fallacy that "buying stuff will bring you happiness" gets under my skin. I keep thinking: Why not make the link explicit?

Get your Iphone! Now with Prozac!

The new, improved Wii - comes with three months of lithium, absolutely free!

Our new 4ghz laptop comes with 1GB of memory and 500 mg of elvitar - for that ultimate online Pr0n experience!

Somebody stop me...

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

  SpaceX's burn rate

I've enjoyed reading the tea leaves as much as everyone else as to the probable cause of the falcon 1's 3rd failure to make orbit.

My take on matters is that separation occurred too soon after MECO, and a final burp of the new engine twisted up the staging. If true, a mere line of code - maybe even just a variable - is all that needs to be changed for the next launch (probably more than that to correct the roll in the first stage, if that was the problem, but still, not much to fix). I also believe that my opinion is worth exactly what you are paying for it right now.

I do hope that SpaceX one day soon releases the final 15 seconds of video from the flight. At one level it's bad PR, at another, any PR is good PR, and seeing the explosion would be a more satisfying end to trailblazer, and for James Doohan's son, than the current disappearance. Update: SpaceX just released the full video. No explosions, just a bump on staging....

What caught my eye, outside of the ongoing investigation, was that SpaceX recently accepted a 20 million dollar investment from the Founders Fund. SpaceX has 550 employees now. Assuming an average salary of 100k, that's a burn rate, on salaries alone, of 4.6 million dollars a month. The latest investment barely covers 4 months of salaries, let alone operational expenses.

Divide that salary estimate by two (unlikely for a business largely based in California) and that's sufficient capital to pay for only 8 months. Now, admittedly, SpaceX has some major contracts for other sources of revenue, but I'm willing to believe that the above investment was required in order to meet further delays in SpaceX's schedules.

Now, SpaceX has expended a lot of energy on building factories that could manufacture 30 merlin engines a year, and at least one Falcon 1 rocket a month.

I don't believe that creating the actual hardware, fuel, shipping, and launch can cost much more than a million dollars over fixed expenses, now that all that infrastructure has been built.

Those employees can stand idle, or be doing useful work.

As for the hanger queens - the satellites flying on the falcons thus far - it's cheaper to blew them up than store them.

This is an unmanned program, not a manned one. At this point it is better for SpaceX to fly a lot, and crash a lot, and learn a lot, than not. They can fly every month, if they need to. There seem to be a lot of unknown variables in the second stage left that can only be obtained the hard way.

Still, the size of Musk's standing army causes concern. He's got to fly a lot of rockets, soon, just to meet payroll.

Update: I was right about the staging problem.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

  The all-pervasive Gulag in the cartoon economy, part Z

"Suddenly all the professors and engineers turned out to be saboteurs — and they believed it? ... Or all of Lenin's old guard were vile renegades — and they believed it? Suddenly all their friends and acquaintances were enemies of the people — and they believed it?" - Solzhenitsyn

Idiots run the asylum, understanding nothing but power itself. Threaten that power and the response is harsh and immediate... And the true idiots run amuck, not knowing why their quality of life is declining, barely aware that yesterday was a better day than today, holding to power at the expense of reason...

Still the PR men spin... Win FREE MONEY! and no amount of counter spin can stop them. It becomes easier to believe outlandish conspiracy theories while the Jellyfish move in closer to the shore, their dumb stinging tentacles clinging to anyone that dares to swim.

The government builds warships as monuments to living men, contrary to 200 years of tradition, and prints money only to have inflation outrace spending. The only bright spot there was that rental income was up an astounding 14% for the month - shantytowns will be next.

Vampire books, and zombie stories dominate the reading lists, for those left that still read, and vaguely feel the malaise: the relentless mind-sucking tide of the moronic majority, turning on the one eyed men in the kingdom of the blind.

Others trap the competent men in a pecking party of clueless distrust and probable deceit.

There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no place left to think freely - more good men have quit fighting the copyright battle, too. (I despaired of fixing copyright when Costa Rica somehow voted for CAFTA, despite the fix being in.) In today's world, Harry Tuttle wouldn't have made it to the second act in Brazil.

And while some loonies contemplate destroying unused housing stock to prop up the prices of existing housing, when prices are still so high that millions can only rent, and others live in tents, Congress temporarily bails out Fanny Mae, as if half the housing stock wasn't already effectively nationalized. I can see the ad campaigns coming - Soon you can combine your mortgage and taxes into one brutal payment! Call now!

The young, already shackled by the debts handed down from the previous generations - and the costs of financing their own education, are gleefully proposed once again for national service by a supposedly independent media -

Oh, we reap the rewards of globalization, too: And one party debates about who to blame for the cartoon economy while the other turns the lights out.

I wish that I was writing about Stalin's USSR, or China's Cultural Revolution, but I'm not. The gulag is waiting, now, for everybody.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


Resume,Songs,
My new blog, NeX-6, My facebook page
Orgs I like
The EFF - keeping free speech in the world
Musical stuff I like
Jeff, Rick, Ardour, Jack
Prior Rants - Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of Saving wifi! Fixing Bufferbloat! Fighting the vend... Virgin Media - Fixing the epidemic of bufferbloat ... 49... and trying to find my navel Wheels down on mars! Tracking the landing of Curiosity, from Seattle spotting NEOs from around venus's orbit Asteroids as lunar orbit resources SOPA is bad news Departing France for England, then 'home'.
Best of the blog:
Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Where's Cherie?
UrbanAgora
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
Evan Hunt
The Bay Area is talking
Brizzled
Zimnoiac Emanations
Eric Raymond
Unlocking The Air
Bob Mage
BroadBand & Me
SpaceCraft
Selenian Boondocks
My Pencil
Transterrestial Musings
Bear Waller Hollar
Callahans
Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

If you really want to, you can poke through the below links as well.

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