Month: April 2012

Death of the Shuttle

Death of the Shuttle

Sigh. So there are photos of Discovery being ferried over Washington, DC. The photos are being labelled “Shuttle’s last flight.”

Nah. Not true. Because before the Shuttle (and its brethren) are delivered to the museums, they’ve been cut up and rendered unserviceable. You can’t take a shuttle now, turn around and make it a flightworthy article.

We did the same thing with the jigs used to make the Saturn rocket when Congress approved the shuttle.

Why? So that we couldn’t make more Saturn rockets.

Cortez burnt his boats, we simply castrated our space program.


With Congressional approval, practically with Congressional mandate.

Werner von Braun proposed the original shuttle. It was proposed as a strictly manned vehicle, an adjunct to the Saturn I and V rocket fleet. The Saturns would the heavy-lifters while the shuttle would get people into orbit in a low-stress launch.

The space shuttle was always supposed to be the first experimental version of a permanent re-usable vehicle.

Instead, in order to get funding and Department of Defense backing, the shuttle was perverted into a crewed heavy-lift “truck.” Naturally, being designed by committee with two different goals, it failed at both.

And because it was touted as this “cheap, safe” access to orbit, no one was ever willing to discuss the follow-on — the vehicle built from the lessons learned in the design, development, and deployment of the shuttle.

So what have we got now? Nothing. We buy our “heavy lift” from either Europe or Russia. We buy our “manned lift” from Russia.

Every American should be ashamed.

We have squandered an invaluable lead in space exploration and research.

The argument that private enterprise will fill the void is wishful thinking. I recall Burt Rutan saying that there was an order of magnitude difference in difficulty between suborbital flight (like SpaceShip One) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

We can hope that the people at SpaceX or some other private enterprise will bridge that gap successfully.

But right now we’ve got nada, zip, zilch — a national disgrace.

Why I left Facebook

Why I left Facebook

Some of you may have friended me on Facebook.

As of today, I have deactivated my account on Facebook.

I did it because I found the new Timeline user interface, forced without consent, or recourse, upon everyone to be a poorly written user interface whose imposition on people indicated a corporate culture with which I do not want to associate.

Several friends have suggested using patching programs to alter the timeline to something more acceptable. I think all of you who suggested this but it misses the point.

At the end of the day, our last recourse is to vote “with our feet.” When something is bad, there’s always the option to stop using it.

Facebook is going to make lots of money mining the data provided by its users (for more, read Anne McCaffrey’s “The Dull Drums” which pretty much predicts the way in which Facebook and others will be mining our data).

The smart move on their part would be to make their user interface completely transparent and encourage users to develop their own variants, culling the best and offering them to newcomers. This is not only empowering but a smart way to get good interfaces.

That Facebook did not even think of that but rather forced “their way” on everyone is indicative of a culture which doesn’t actually care about its users. Our information, freely given, is theirs to mine; our feedback, completely ignored, means nothing to them.

Fine. I voted with my feet. If enough people do the same, Facebook may become more responsive to its users and may survive. If not, their very arrogant nature will ultimately spell the downfall of the company.

I hope they learn but it’s telling that sending feedback to Facebook is only possible when quitting.

Asus ZenBook (UX31E)

Asus ZenBook (UX31E)

My regular ol’ laptop is a casualty of a bad CMOS battery (and maybe of worse) so, in desperation as I do at least half of all my writing outside the house, I acquired a replacement.

I got the ASUS ZenBook one of the new breed of Ultrabooks. It’s got one of the new Solid State Drives (SSD) which makes it blindingly fast to startup. Ooooh, I’m in love.

On the downside, while small and incredibly lightweight (and cute), it will not (snif!) run modo, my favorite 3D software. (That may actually be a good thing).

My kidlet and I definitely agree that this is the sort of ultrabook to take to classes and on the sort of European trekking we’ve both been thinking of doing (separately, kidlet would die before backpacking with Daddy).

When the Villain Returns

When the Villain Returns

We’ve officially got the publication date for When the Villain Returns — August 1, 2012!

My short story, Robin Redbreast will be in it and I’m thrilled. Robin Redbreast was inspired by Evil Genius Pills and was described by Gabrielle Harbowy, one of the two editors (along with the amazing Ed Greenwood) as “creepy — and cute — and creepy!”

Here’s the official link.

Naturally, I’ll be posting more as we get closer to publication.

Some lucky people at Aggiecon43 got to hear my hoarse-voiced self read it!

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