I Suck

July 8th, 2017

Yesterday, 7 July, was Robert A Heinlein’s birthday, and I missed it. Could I possibly suck any worse? The Prophet would’ve been 110 years old.

Those Who Can’t, Complain

July 4th, 2017

So here’s the latest in tree-hugging:


In New York, negotiations towards a nuclear weapons ban treaty—involving approximately 130 countries plus sundry civil society groups—are drawing rapidly to a close. A second draft of the text is already under discussion. In the end, supporters of a ban will have their day. So it now seems a foregone conclusion that the UN will soon open for signature a treaty banning nuclear weapons, which would enter into force 90 days after 50 signatories have ratified it (Article 16.1).

Don’t worry, though:

Does that mean nuclear disarmament is close? No. In fact, the ban treaty probably won’t remove a single nuclear weapon from the face of the earth. No nuclear weapon state is attending the negotiations. And, of all those countries known to enjoy an extended nuclear deterrence guarantee, only the Netherlands is attending. Disarmament aficionados aren’t dismayed though: they get to criticise the nuclear weapon states and their allies for not attending, and to write the treaty text that best codifies their own understanding of ‘international norms’. Problems that might be genuine difficulties in any real nuclear disarmament exercise—like verifying dismantlement, punishing breakout, or designing new stable force balances at key strategic fulcra—are either postponed to a later date or avoided altogether.

Essentially virtue-signaling at its finest. Carry on.

It’s Not Easy, You Know

July 4th, 2017

Twice in the last two days SpaceX aborted the same launch. They fixed the issue that stopped the 2 July launch, but had another auto-abort at T-10 seconds yesterday. They had planned to try again today, but that got scrapped. Too bad; a launch on the Fourth woulda been great! (They’re going to try again tomorrow).

As disappointing as this is, look on the bright side, they could be Chinese:


(There’s some stupid registration/paywall thing, so I’ll be quoting from Instapundit’s coverage here https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/269066/#respond )

The unexplained launch failure on July 2 has also ruined an attempt at testing an important new spacecraft bus while also putting an end to the quantum-technology communications satellite based on that bus.

Long March 5s, China’s largest rockets, are supposed to launch the Chang’e 5 lunar probe this year and the first module of China’s planned space station next year; the timing of both missions cannot now be assured. Furthermore, two other new Chinese launchers plus another soon to enter development share much technology with the Long March 5, notably engine components, raising the possibility that the launch failure has implications for them.

China’s chief space-launcher builder, Calt, developed the Long March 5 and builds it at its new industrial base at Tianjin in northern China.

The Long March 5 that failed seemed to ascend normally from its pad at the Wechang launch base on the tropical island Hainan. But on the same day Xinhua news agency, the government’s main mouthpiece, issued a terse statement: “An abnormality occurred during the flight of the rocket. The mission has failed. Experts will analyze the cause of the fault.” The English version of the report said an abnormality had been “detected” in the flight.

The payload of the failed mission was the Shijian 18 geostationary satellite, built on the DFH-5 bus, which was to go into orbit for the first time. Exploiting the capacity of the big new bus, Shijian 18 had a weight of 7 metric tons. Apart from quantum communications technology, it featured a new type of Hall-effect electric thruster.

I have yet to see any other coverage on this, so I don’t know if the thing fell into the drink or came apart in some giant splodey mess and then fell into the ocean.

And then there’s the other part of this: you don’t see (or will likely see) a bunch of regular Chinese citizens forming their own version of SpaceX. As I’ve said, there’s a concern over SpaceX’s use of our tax dollars to fund their efforts, but they’re producing results that NA$A can only dream about.

Consequences, Ivan, Consequences

July 1st, 2017


HELSINKI (AP) — Sweden and Finland have joined a British-led military rapid reaction force that can either operate alone or jointly with the United Nations, NATO or the European Union.

The two non-NATO members joined the Joint Expeditionary Force on Friday when Sweden’s Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and his Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinisto signed a deal in Stockholm in the presence of British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who called it “a force of friends.”

The unit can consist of up to 10,000 troops from Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It can be used in combat, deterrence or humanitarian support.

Additionally, and most importantly:

In recent years, Finns and Swedes have strengthened their military cooperation with NATO and bilaterally with London and Washington, mainly due to neighboring Russia’s behavior in the Baltic region.

Tovarisch Putin is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them, so I can’t easily explain why he didn’t see this as a consequence of both his Ukrainian adventures and the saber-rattling he’s been up to in the Baltics. Let’s not forget that the Finns gave Stalin more than he could handle, and moreover, the Swedes (along with the rest of Scandinavia) set up Kievan Rus, which dominated Russia until the rise of the Duchy of Muscovy in the 16th Century. I cannot imagine that the Russians want any part of a horde of pissed-off Scandinavians and Finns running around the Rodina.

Then there are the animals the Norsemen brought along with them:

Russhins? Traditional delicacy amongst mai peeples!

I Don’t Know About This

June 30th, 2017


As part of its version of the 2018 Defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee voted late Wednesday night to create a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces: the U.S. Space Corps, which would absorb the Air Force’s current space missions.

I’m really ambivalent about this. On the one hand, especially given the institutional culture of the USAF, a separate “Space Corps” would probably be a good thing. Particularly, as I’ve said a bunch of times before, the flight crews should be submariners, due to the long experience that the US Navy has in operating in the hostile environment that is the sea. Remember: “When your airplane breaks, you bail out and get another one. When your submarine breaks, you die.” This is a vital distinction when operating in space. And let’s face it: so long as Space Command is a USAF institution, that’s never going to happen.

OTOH, there are downsides. First off, as a sci-fi geek, I can easily see this ending up as the progenitor of Star Trek’s Federation of Planets, or Firefly’s Alliance. That’s not going to be good in the long run. Secondly, we already have a bloated and inefficient Federal agency tasked with space flight: NA$A. And the most likely outcome of this proposed “US Space Corps” is another NA$A, but with uniforms. Not only duplication of effort, but let’s not forget the start up costs: facilities, special uniforms, perhaps even some silly new rank structure. And that’s just for starters. And each and every year, there will be a freshly minted army of lobbyists, begging for more and more of our tax dollars.

I’m sure there’s a place for military-based space ops. But it would be far better to combine Space Command and NA$A, and have the classified stuff be compartmentalized to keep the necessary secret stuff secret. And then take the savings and give it off to the private companies, who are clearly doing a better job at this point at this. Yeah, it’s still our taxes being used, but right now I’m thinking that it’s a necessary evil. As more and more people become convinced that going Elsewhere is both doable and needed, subsidies will shrink. And if we’re ever going to get truly independent settlements, those Gummint dollars need to stop.

Life with a Feral Kitten

June 29th, 2017

Last night, I makes myself a sammich and a glass of milk to go with it:

Deathwalker: [sniff] lap lap IZ PRETTY GUD

Kitten: [shoves Deathwalker out of the way and takes a sniff] lap lap DIS IZ YUMMY!! lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap guzzle lap lap lap lap

Me: Hey! That’s my milk!

Kitten: NAWT ENNY MOAR. lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap lap guzzle lap lap

[Srsly, he drank the top quarter of the glass]

Me: How ’bout some skritches?

Kitten: NOPENOPENOPENOPE (He stubbornly refuses any contact from me)

Kitten: AI HAZ A TIRED. AI SLEEPS NAO. [waddles off and collapses at the end of the desk]

Deathwalker: ?

Me: Don’t look at me. He’s your friend.

Papers, Please

June 26th, 2017


Blah, blah, blah. But’s here’s the funny part:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 calls for a $19.5 billion budget for NASA — an increase from $19.3 billion in 2016 — and also asks that NASA create a plan for getting humans “near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.”

The 2030’s, huh? I can see it now: the overpriced and overengineered vehicle with “NA$A” painted on the sides gets into Mars orbit, only to be greeted by a local radio call: “This is Mars Base. Please prepare for our Customs Agents to board your craft for inspection. Make sure you have all your visa documents in order if you have any intention of going to the surface. Have a nice day.”


The Court Turned Upside Down

June 26th, 2017

(Revolutionary War reference. Are you sure you’re reading the right blog?)


Trump travel ban partly reinstated; fall court arguments set

Unstated in this article is that this was a unanimous decision, hence this post’s title. It seems that the Justices actually remember that pesky Constitution thing once in awhile.

I’ll leave you to read the linked article at your leisure. What I thought justified the posting is that when actual adults get involved, adults who understand the enumerated powers of the Executive branch, suddenly the posturing of the lower Courts don’t really matter. Since the lower Courts are a creation of Congress, perhaps they might want to take a look at their creation. A pipe dream, I know. Just look at the mess that the revised version of Obamacare is shaping up to be, not to mention that the Hearing Protection Act is still buried in a committee somewhere, and them actually doing something to reform the robed mess that is the US Circuit Courts is highly unlikely. But a fellow can dream.

Oh Em Gee, Terrorists!

June 26th, 2017


Two top Australian government officials said Sunday that they will push for “thwarting the encryption of terrorist messaging” during an upcoming meeting next week of the so-called “Five Eyes” group of English-speaking nations that routinely share intelligence.

The move indicates that Canberra is now running ahead with what the FBI has dubbed “going dark” for several years now. This is the notion that with the advent of widespread, easy-to-use strong encryption on smartphones and other devices, law enforcement has been hindered. Many experts say, however, that any method that would allow the government access even during certain situations would weaken overall security for everyone.

According to a statement released by Attorney General George Brandis, and Peter Dutton, the country’s top immigration official, Australia will press for new laws, pressure private companies, and urge for a new international data sharing agreement amongst the quintet of countries.

Fuck off, mate. The chances that you won’t abuse this to spy on your citizens or use it for short-term political gain is zero. You cannot be trusted with this capability, as you’ve repeatedly shown.

“Within a short number of years, effectively, 100 per cent of communications are going to use encryption,” Brandis told Australian newspaper The Age recently. “This problem is going to degrade if not destroy our capacity to gather and act upon intelligence unless it’s addressed.”

Too damn bad. Maybe if you hadn’t used the power and authority you now posses to spy upon your citizens, we would be having a different conversation. But you did, and you can just fuck right off.

Oxymoron in Print

June 26th, 2017


After nine launches in 2017, it’s tough to be an honest critic of SpaceX

And here we have the oxymoron referenced in the title: “honest” critic? People who purport to criticize private space travel are anything but “honest”. Face it, NA$A, after having landed on the moon, has devolved into a work program for people with advanced science and engineering degrees. NA$A is nothing but a drain on our tax dollars, funding huge programs that by the time they’re launched (assuming they ever get to that point) end up costing far more than was approved and rely on outdated componentry. You’d be surprised at how many of their on-board computers are still using Pentium III processors.*

Everyone else? Satellite launches, China and India are starting to talk about landing machinery (not people) onto the moon, all stuff that we did fifty plus years ago.

“Honest critics”? Please don’t make me laugh. The only valid criticism that one might have is that SpaceX relies too heavily on Government support and funding, something that will fade in time as they get better at what they’re doing and more people realize what I’ve been hammering on for years: we need to get off this planet and remember what we humans excel at, which is exploration.

* I couldn’t find the article that claimed NA$A was using PIII CPUs. According to this link (http://cpushack.com/space-craft-cpu.html) I may have been optimistic by several generations.

See also this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2867009/How-phone-powerful-ORION-Computer-Nasa-s-Mars-spacecraft-processor-2003-Apple-iBook-G3.html

I kinda think that the solution here is somewhat similar to the writing instrument thing (NA$A $pent millions developing the Fisher Space Pen and the Ivans simply used pencils). You install a box, thickly lined with lead, and fill it with off-the-shelf tablets. You use the one you have until some gamma radiation kills it, say a few Bad Words, and then grab the next one out of the box. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

This will be solved. Remember: Kitty Hawk to Tranquility Base happened in a single lifetime.