July 31, 2007

Light Racers

This announcement came in the email today, from the Spaceward Foundation:

The Spaceward Foundation opened registration today for the 2007 Great Light Racer Championship.

The Light Racers Championship, a space technology competition, challenges kids, young adults and grown ups to design, build, and race beam-powered lunar rovers that could help NASA get to the ice deposits located in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles.

Total prize purse this year is $10,000.

For the Light Racers, teams build and remotely control vehicles that capture a beam of light (from a spotlight) and convert that energy into power to navigate a course. There are both hard-surface road courses, for speed, and an off-road course with obstacles. There are no batteries or fuel carried, all power is supplied by the lightbeam. More details are here.

This is the same foundation that sponsors the Space Elevator Games, which is its own special brand of coolness.

Posted by: Ted at 05:54 AM | category: SciTech
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The Case for Population Growth

Over at Transterrestrial Musings, Sam has fired up an interesting debate with a post about population growth.

States should not be in the business of pushing people to have babies.

Yes they should. A baby will become a taxpayer and a useful citizen. Zero population growth did far more to hold back development of China and India than Reagan's (anti-) family planning policies.

He goes on with:
A populous world is a rich world. There will be greater grand challenges that can be tackled. There will be more people to conceive more ideas. A world with one trillion people at the current standard of living would have GDP of $10,000 trillion or $10 quadrillion dollars a year. If 0.2% of that was spent on space exploration that would be $20 trillion/year. At $20,000/kg, that's enough to lift one billion kg. At $200/kg, that's enough to allow one billion people to emigrate to space every year.

A populous world can be the Garden of Eden to settle a harsh solar system and galaxy.

Read entire, especially the comments, where an actual exchange of ideas happens, rather than the too-common degeneration into name calling.

Just imagine, millions and millions of young Asian babes... mmmmmmm.

Posted by: Ted at 05:41 AM | category: Links
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July 30, 2007


A fitting tribute:

Frank-Zappa-Strasse or Frank Zappa Street - formerly Street 13 - lies on the eastern outskirts of Berlin amid empty industrial buildings in what was communist East Germany.

The street is home to Orwo Haus, a former Communist-era film factory that now provides practice studios for more than 160 bands.

Musicians at Orwo Haus campaigned for two years to have the street's name changed. Eighteen bands, including the Frank Zappa cover band Sheik Yerbouti, celebrated the renaming this weekend with an all-night concert for more than 2,800 people.

Bravo, Berlin!!!

Posted by: Ted at 11:29 AM | category: Links
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Obviously Named Before Political Correctness Training Became Mandatory

I didn't know this. In 1954, President Eisenhower initiated Operation Wetback:

The operation began in California and Arizona and coordinated 1,075 Border Patrol agents along with state and local police agencies to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics.[1] Some 750 agents targeted agricultural areas with a goal of 1000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Around 488,000 people fled the country for fear of being apprehended. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and the INS estimates that 500,000-700,000 illegals had left Texas voluntarily. To discourage re-entry, buses and trains took many illegals deep within Mexico before being set free.

This was the second such operation, the first being during the Great Depression when Mexican nationals and other illegal aliens were "invited" to return to their native countries because they were competing for scarce jobs with American citizens.

Posted by: Ted at 05:15 AM | category: History
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July 29, 2007

Flower Blogging

I went outside this morning and spent quite a bit of time watering the flowers because it's been very dry around here lately. I also took a bunch of pictures of the various plants, but I used my old digital camera instead of Liz's new one, and the pictures were too blurry to use. Another day, maybe.

Anyway, as I'm deadheading and watering and generally putzing around the garden, I'm watching the activity around the various flowers. We have a basket of purple blossoms called petras that are like crack to bees. Little tiny bees, big-assed carpenter bees, bumblebees, wasps, mayflies and more. The entire plant is just swarming with 'em, lined up to grab a spot at the blooms. They're so intent on the flowers that they ignore me as I reach in with the soaker hose to water the pot. Bees and I get along, so there was no problem there.

I posted a picture a couple of years ago of a mandevilla that we grew up against a trellis. It's a tropical and didn't survive our winter. This year I've been trying to grow another clematis. Actually, I've planted four there, of which one is still alive. It's scraggly and chewed on and spotted with fungus, but damned if it doesn't keep stretching upwards and weaving its scrawny self through the trellis bars. After all of that, it even managed to pop out a single pretty bloom. I hope it makes it through the winter, because this is a tough little plant and I admire its deterimination to survive.

You followed that link above, right? The other photo there is a shot of New Guinea Impatiens. Around here (northern Virginia), Impatiens and Vinca are *the* go-to annuals. Quick growing, prolific blooming over the entire summer and fall, easy to care for and resistant to insects and disease, if you need to add a spot of color, then plant one or more of these. Spectacular. This year I planted six vinca in the front bed, and they're doing nicely. They probably won't overflow the bed like in that photo, but I didn't plant as many and they were planted relatively late.

We did find a nice variety of impatiens that we hadn't seen before though. It has variegated leaves and the blooms look like little roses, about 1 inch across. Very pretty.

In the side bed we have another O'Hare-esque situation, this time involving a pink phlox and some blue pincushion flowers. Butterflies especially love the pincushions (which have the rather unattractive "official" name of scabiosa), and there will generally be anywhere from six to two dozen assorted butterflies flitting around these plants. What's funny is watching the bumblebees land on the pincushions, because their weight causes the flower stalk to immediately crash to the ground, like an overbalanced painter on a tall ladder. When the bee falls off, the flower springs back into the air. The phlox and pincushions are both perennials, and will come back bigger and better every year. Teamed up with some white Dragon Flowers (a Virginia-native perennial cousin to snapdragons) and an interesting little annual called Agaretum with tiny blue pom-pom blooms about the size of your pinky nail, the side bed has a nice mix of whites, blues, purples and pinks. Come fall, our order of blue asters and purple coneflowers will arrive and we'll get them established to make that side bed entirely perennial.

When I'm stressed from the work week, sometimes the best remedy for me is to watch rockets majestically climb into a big, blue sky, and sometimes it's better for me to look closely at the amazing amount of nature that's happening right in my front yard.

Whoever said "stop and smell the roses" was a friggin' genius.

Posted by: Ted at 01:12 PM | category: Square Pegs
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July 27, 2007


This is funny as hell. Some guy over at Amazon has posted reviews of a couple of items using his less than perfect English (link from the comments over at Trying to Grok.

While reviewing an electronic Russian-to-English dictionary, he goes off on an anti-American screed. I think.


His review of a Zippo lighter is a bit better, in that he stays on topic and offers lots of handy advice:


I wish this guy had a blog.

Posted by: Ted at 05:45 AM | category: Links
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Thinking Blogger Award


Zoe Brain nominated me for the Thinking Blogger Award, for which I'm very grateful and humbled. I'm also aware that with every recipient nominating five others, that within 17 days everyone in the blogosphere will have the award. Methinks Zoe may be misidentifying thought provoking ideas with the confusion caused by reading my nonsense. That's ok though, I'm not giving it back.

And now I am supposed to link to my five nominations for The Thinking Blogger Award, and since we're all Thinking Bloggers or esteemed readers of a Thinking Blogger, I'm going to label my choices in hexidecimal. Congratulate yourself for understanding the complexities of a 16-base numbering system, and by all means follow the links. These are in no particular order.

1. Hold the Mayo. "The Truth Served Plain", and a long-time friend. He doesn't post often enough, but when he does it's a treat.

2. Lovable Pixie. Not well known yet, but she's got the right idea about starting interesting conversations.

3. Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge. Financial matters from a young single professional who's a little freaked out about her future.

4. The Ministry of Minor Perfidy. An ecclectic group blog, and by that I mean the guys (and girl) writing there range from a BDS-afflicted commie to a right-wing potential tower-sniper. They post beer recipes too!!!

5. Random Nuclear Strikes. Another group blog, with a major focus on the Pacific Northwest. If tree-hugging hippies piss you off, visit here and get a glimpse of what it's like to live amongst the rainbow-heads.

So there you go. Be honest now, how many folks caught my little trick? Number 4 wasn't hexidecimal, it was actually octal!!! Don't you feel smart? That's why you come by, isn't it? To feel smarter than...


Posted by: Ted at 05:14 AM | category: Links
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July 26, 2007

You Say "Tomato", I Say "Worthless Cocksucker With No Honor Whatsoever"

You've probably heard about the "Scott Thomas" affair, even if you don't recognize the norm-de-ploom. The New Republic published supposed first-hand accounts of alleged abuses by US troops in Iraq under the title "Shock Troops".

As you would expect, people across the spectrum reacted in accordance with how well the described actions fit their preconceived notions about the military. Certain shrillbots screamed vindication because this proved what they'd been saying all along. Others on the other end immediately called bullshit.

I am firmly in the "bullshit" camp, mainly because the stories don't pass the smell test. Parts of the story don't add up, and corroborating witnesses are as anonymous as "Scott Thomas". Just in case you haven't heard, here are the three alleged "eyewitness" accounts: 1. Soldiers in a chow hall make fun of a female contractor who has been facially disfigured by an IED. 2. Soldiers uncover a mass grave full of children's bodies and one soldier wears part of a skull like a hat for the remainder of the day. 3. In a Bradley fighting vehicle, the driver purposely and repeatedly swerves to run over dogs. In each of these cases, "Scott Thomas" gives a first-hand account, placing himself as part of the act. Not as an observer, but as a participant.

Over at QandO, like many places on the 'net, the fact checking has begun in earnest. You can follow links as well as anyone if you want to know more about the specifics, but that's not my point for this post.

What has become clear is that too many Americans today lack honor. Furthermore, they have no concept of what honor is or understand why it is such a powerful motivator for those with it.

A quote from the comments at QandO:

Honor or dishonor is irrelevant and a matter of opinion.

That's from a college professor, by the way.

Here's the reply:

No. NO it is not. That you can even make such a claim just shows that you donÂ’t understand what honor is, which probably means that you have none.

Honor isnÂ’t about opinion. It isnÂ’t about supporting someoneÂ’s narrative. It isnÂ’t about speaking truth to power. ItÂ’s not about agreeing with someone or not. Honor is about honesty, responsibility, integrity and true compassion.

"Scott Thomas" was a participant in these horrible (and alleged) actions. An honorable person would have reported the second and third to their superiors. In the first case, he would've stepped in and stopped the cruel teasing immediately.

So if what he claims is true, then he is just as dishonorable for his actions during as he is if he's lying about it all.

Honor is something found in greater concentration in the military than anywhere else in society. Those who have never served may never be able to grasp what honor is, why it is important, and how it motivates those "poor stoopid kids" to keep volunteering. They will never understand the lofty ideals that honor inspires, the willingness to risk everything to protect even those who refuse to acknowledge it, and the optimistic belief that by performing their mission they are giving each and every one of us the opportunity to thrive and achieve greatness.

Honor isn't an exclusive trait of conservatives or liberals or white people or the left-handed. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree or like or dislike an honorable person. You will always know in every situation how that honorable person will act. With "honesty, responsibility, integrity and true compassion."

Thanks Michael.

Posted by: Ted at 08:05 PM | category: Links
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July 25, 2007

Voracious Jumbo Squid Invade California!!!

I was all set to panic and then I read the story... they mean Voracious Jumbo Squid Invade the ocean next to California!


Posted by: Ted at 05:19 AM | category: Links
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New Movie Reviews

This week at Joe Horror, my review of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and many more.

Posted by: Ted at 04:52 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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July 23, 2007


Friends and long-time visitors know that my wife has fibromyalgia. She can no longer drive or work, and outside of our home she must use a wheelchair. Now there's a new fibromyalgia website with lots of information about the disease. It's worth a read, because with 6 million Americans suffering from fibromyalgia, chances are you know someone who's dealing with it.

Posted by: Ted at 05:37 AM | category: Seriously
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July 22, 2007

De-Romanticizing Moonlight

When the first rock and dust samples from the moon were returned, many folks were surprised because they were dark gray, almost black. We think of the moon as light colored because it's the brightest thing we see in a dark sky, but in actuality it's not very reflective. In fact, on average, the surface of the moon only bounces about 7% of the sunlight back. That's about as reflective as asphalt.

Posted by: Ted at 07:36 PM | category: Space Program
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What I Did For Summer Vacation

I promised you a picture of my latest project.


She makes her maiden flight on August 18th. The white part of the airframe is where I had to stretch it to make room for a new, larger altimeter bay. It'll be painted black to match this week. I also plan to stretch the rocket another fourteen inches in the near future to accommodate the "big honkin' motor" that I originally envisioned flying in her.

Posted by: Ted at 01:19 AM | category: Rocketry
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July 21, 2007

Someone's in the Kitchen with Diinaaaaah!

Here's a simple dessert that will impress guests.

Caramelized Pineapple

1 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, divided
4 Tbsp dark rum, brandy or water

Preparing the pineapple: If you've never done this before, you will be amazed at how easy it is. Using a sharp knife, cut off the end with the stem. Cut off the bottom. Slice the pineapple in half from end to end, then cut the halves into quarters, then again into eighths. Now slice off the inside wedge containing the tough middle (there's a reason for pineapple rings) and slice off the outer skin. Chop the fruit into 1 inch long chunks.

Put pineapple chunks into a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar. Toss to coat all of the fruit well.

On high heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large non-stick skillet. Add the pineapple to the hot pan and cook for 10 or 15 minutes. Don't turn too often, but shake the pan frequently. You want the sugar to form a rich brown crunch coat on the pineapple. When it's ready, remove the pineapple.

Add the remaining butter to the pan juices, then the rum or other liquid. Heat and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any tasty bits that stick to the pan, until it thickens a bit. If you used water instead of spirits, a small dash of almond extract can be added too.

Serve the hot pineapple over vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of the sauce.

Posted by: Ted at 07:12 AM | category: Recipes
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July 20, 2007

World's Oldest Swinger?

I had no idea that Cheeta, the famous chimp who appeared in so many Tarzan movies in the 30's and 40's, is still alive!

He turned 75 last April.

Posted by: Ted at 11:26 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Podcasts! Yay!!!

Episode 6 of the SciFi adventure Silent Universe is up! Clicky here for the previously posted Rocket Jones review.

And the second season of Second Shift has begun!!! Two episodes and a supplimental podcast have already been posted. If you didn't catch the first season, you can still get them by following the link. Here's the Rocket Jones review of the first season.

Hey!!! Oh, uh... Update: I just looked at the new Second Shift advertising flyer and guess who's review is quoted from? Rather prominently, I might add. Woot!!!

Really though, it's a lot of fun. Give 'em a try.

Posted by: Ted at 05:18 AM | category: Links
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July 19, 2007

Apollo 8

I'm re-reading A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts*, and thought I'd pass along a few things that fired my imagination as I read.

Nothing like a little history to refresh your memories, or to educate you youngsters who don't remember back that far.**

Apollo 8 was crewed by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. They were the first men to fly to the moon and go into orbit there. It was quite a jump for the day because the farthest away man had been from the Earth before them was 850 miles. Their destination was 240,000 miles away.

If the Saturn V (pronounced "saturn five") was standing next to the Statue of Liberty, the crew could look down and see the top of the torch about six stories below them.

The crew had lunch with Charles Lindberg the day before liftoff. During the conversation, they figured out that in the first second of their flight they would burn twenty times as much fuel as Lindberg used on his trans-Atlantic trip.

Forty seconds after liftoff, they went supersonic.

As the crew was preparing for liftoff, Bill Anders noticed a hornet building a nest on the outside of the window of the Command Capsule.

I'm sure there will be more of this trivia as I continue the books. Wonderful stuff.

* The Amazon link is to a paperback version released with a Foreward by Tom Hanks. I have the original 3-volume hardcover set.

** I'm one of those youngsters. I was too young to pay attention to Mercury and Gemini, and barely recall the later flights of Apollo and the moon landings.

Posted by: Ted at 07:32 PM | category: Space Program
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Now I Just Have to Remember Your Damn Words

A Quiz: How Technologically Useful Are You?

Seven out of ten! I'm almost ready to head back in time and take advantage of my educashun.

Posted by: Ted at 11:43 AM | category: Links
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July 18, 2007


I've been meaning to post a photo of my latest project, but hadn't gotten around to it. Taking the photo, that is. Probably a good thing, since I discovered last evening that I am going to have to extend the airframe by four inches. Wouldn't want y'all to be seeing this thing all stubby now, right?

So by the end of the week, I'll have pretty pictures for you.

Posted by: Ted at 05:58 AM | category: Rocketry
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Motivational Posters for the Zombie-pocalypse

"Looking silly does not automatically make them harmless"

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:19 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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