Apr 232017

Some more of what you don’t want to see your rocket doing.

Soviet N-1:

Titan IV:

Delta II:


Ariane V:

Years ago I worked for a self-important egotistical jackass who thought that the way to create progress in the field of aerospace engineering was to hide from failures, to disappear all evidence of such, to pretend they didn’t happen. When you have ten-pound chunks of twisted aluminum zipping past your head at a reasonable fraction of the speed of sound, it makes you sit up and take notice, and it makes you want to make that not happen again. And the *best* way to prevent future disasters is to learn from past disasters. And you don’t learn from them by trying to pretend they didn’t happen.

With rockets, failures are often quite spectacular. And few things make PR people more unhappy than spectacular failures. But PR people do not fix problems with the design or manufacture of rockets; that’s for the scientists, engineers and technicians. And they need to see the fails, and be reminded of the fails. And in areas of engineering that are leading edge… they kinda need to *revel* in the fails. Failure is where you learn.




 Posted by at 10:13 am
Apr 202017

Now this right here is funny.

We’ve all encountered this type of smug progressive, either online, in other forms of media or, if we lived sinfully in a previous life and are now being forced to pay off karma at a vastly accelerated rate, in real life. And while the real ones are nothing if not monumentally frustrating – they are either wholly deluded, or they’re lying to you – they are readily mockable.

 Posted by at 11:28 pm
Apr 182017

First up:

Inmate punches inmate who wouldn’t pray with him

Short form: “Abdullah Abdullah” was *sure* another inmate at the Lancaster county Jail would pray with him. But when the other inmate said “No, I don’t want to (expletive) pray with you, so stop asking,” Abdullah displayed the caliber of judgement and rational thinking that got him tossed into the hoosegow in the first place, and decked the other guy.

Second up:

Hate crime is suspected after a gunman kills 3 white men in downtown Fresno

One  “Kori Ali Muhammad” decided that there’s a war between whites and black, so he murdered four white guys. Oddly enough, the cops decided very quickly that this just might maybe be a hate crime. Oh, and the story includes the Phrase That Pays.


Cleveland murder suspect Steve Stephens kills himself after pursuit

Couldn’t have ended better.


 Posted by at 9:03 pm
Apr 182017

Having heard that the latest North Korean missile failed “almost immediately,” I decided to go looking for the video of it. Haven’t found it (and may not, who knows), but I did find this video of a Russian Proton launch failure from a few years ago. It certain displays some odd behavior, and I gotta wonder just where the hell the range safety officer was on this. Not exactly Johnny-On-The-Spot. Ivan-On-The-Vodka, perhaps…

Some pretty spectacular close-up, slo-mo footage of this. BEHOLD as the TVC system over-corrects! MARVEL as the payload comes unglued! GASP IN AMAZEMENT as the external tanks tear loose!

I hear lots of folks laughing at the North Koreans and their launch failures. Folks, even for the Russians, who’ve launched a bajillion rockets into space, rockets can be hard. The Norks are trying to accomplish what the Soviets and the US did more than half a century ago, but they’re doing it without the benefit of a budget, full bellies or even a proper understanding of science and engineering. Now, imagine if the same budget and mission was given to a team of women and ethnic studies majors… do you think those geniuses would do even a *tenth* as well as the Norks?

Here’s a video of that failed Proton launch taken from the public viewing area, apparently a bunch of Europeans from Astrium who worked on the payload. Note that they take off running *after* the shock wave gets to them. Why? Well, one *really* good reason to get the hell out of Dodge is that the propellants used by the proton are impressively toxic. I would *assume* that nobody would be dumb enough to put visitors downwind of a Proton launch pad, but who knows…



 Posted by at 8:21 pm
Apr 152017

And the new dark age begins:

Purdue announces new head for School of Engineering Education

And who is this? Let’s check out her bio (from her previous stint at Smith College):

My scholarship currently focuses on applying liberative pedagogies in engineering education, leveraging best practices from women’s studies and ethnic studies to engage students in creating a democratic classroom that encourages all voices. In 2005 I received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation to support this work, which includes developing, implementing, and assessing curricular and pedagogical innovations based on liberative pedagogies and student input at Smith, and understanding how students at Smith conceptualize their identities as engineers. I seek as an engineering educator to be part of a paradigm shift that these pedagogies demand, repositioning concerns about diversity in science and engineering from superficial measures of equity as headcounts, to addressing justice and the genuine engagement of all students as core educational challenges.

I seek to revise engineering curricula to be relevant to a fuller range of student experiences and career destinations, integrating concerns related to public policy, professional ethics and social responsibility; de-centering Western civilization; and uncovering contributions of women and other underrepresented groups.

In EGR 330 (Engineering and Global Development), we critically evaluate past and current trends in appropriate and sustainable technology. We examine how technology influences and is influenced by globalization, capitalism and colonialism, and the role technology plays in movements that counter these forces. Gender is a key thread running through the course in examining issues of water supply and quality, food production and energy.

In EGR 205 (Science, Technology and Ethics), we consider questions such as who decides how science and engineering are done, who can participate in the scientific enterprise and what problems are legitimately addressed within these disciplines and professions. We take up racist and colonialist projects in science, as well as the role of technology, culture and economic systems in the drive toward bigger, faster, cheaper and more automated production of goods. A course theme around technology and control provides for exploration of military, information, reproductive and environmental applications. Using readings from philosophy, science and technology studies, and feminist and postcolonial science studies, we explore these topics and encounter new models of science and engineering that are responsive to ethical concerns.


A few things:

  1. “Democratic classrooms that encourage all voices:” this is utterly inappropriate in engineering. Is it because democracy is wrong? No… it’s because some *people* are wrong. In engineering there are *clear* wrong answers. There’s no “you tried” award if there’s a “your bridge collapsed under normal loading.” With a “democratic classroom” that “encourages all voices,” the students trying to get an actual education will have to share time with the fricken’ idiot who thinks that getting a shaman to bless the bridge, or building not out of steel but some sacred rubber tree, or waving magic crystals over forming stress cracks are all cromulent ideas.
  2. “uncovering contributions of women and other underrepresented groups,” is, I suppose, fine if your interest in engineering is the *history* of engineering… but it’s utterly meaningless if your interest in engineering is, y’know, engineering. It’s been a bit of a while since I got my degree, but as memory serves, we spent approximatley zero time on describing the peronal travails of the various people who discovered or invented the little bits of science, technology and math that we used. In aeronautics we learned about Bernoulli’s Theorem… because it’s important and relevant. What did we learn about Bernoulli the man? Doodly squat. Because WHO CARES. Whether he was a asexual autistic Italian banker, or  lesbian Swiss cheesemaker makes absolutely no difference to the theorem itself. E=mc^2, after all, whether Einstein was German or Austrian or Swiss or Japanese, white or black, Jewish or Hindu.
  3. “Womens Studies/Ethnic studies/Colonialism:” you see any of that and you know you’re in for an idiot harangue from someone who cares far more about who did something than what that something actually was.

The reasoning behind this hire seems straightforward enough to suss out. STEM fields are overwhelmingly dominated by white and Asian males; females and males Of Some Other Color are under represented. And this has become a political cause among the shouting set in recent years, because STEM graduates *tend* to make pretty good incomes (present company sadly excluded) because STEM fields are, compared to libarts, actually useful to society. So, fine, bring in more women and People Of Some Non-White Color in the the STEM classrooms. The more the merrier! But where this is a screwup is that the process isn’t to convince women to do the hard work and take the math and engineering courses… they’re trying to water down STEM to where it’s palatable to the type of person who thinks that womens or ethnic studies courses are actually a good idea.

 Posted by at 3:20 pm
Apr 132017

The reward for info leading to the arrest of whoever tortured and killed Sage the cat rose to over $61K, but so far… no arrest. But then there’s this in the news today:

Reward: $3,000 offered for another abused cat within a block of Sage the cat was found

Fortunately this cat has survived. The nightly news said that this orange tabby is very friendly, but the Humane Society doesn’t know who the owner is, so it may be put up for adoption. It’s unknown if the same person is responsible, but due to proximity of both time and space, I’d bet the chances are good. It would be even worse if there were *two* people doing that this close to each other. Hopefully he/she/they can be found and brought to justice.

 Posted by at 11:52 pm
Apr 112017

This one’s a bit different. Instead of shockingly awful mens fashions, this here is an ad for some form of cologne. Now, I have no idea if this particular brand of stink-pretty was good or bad… but the package it came in is, ah…. ummm….

Dude, naw. Naw, dude.

See this packaging travesty after the break.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:07 am
Apr 102017

So, a United Airlines flight was overbooked, and they needed to stuff four more UA employees on the flight so they could be where they needed to be. This is an irritating and unavoidable fact of the current system. One could obviously argue that overbooking should be banned, but for now, it’s still a thing. Anyway, United offered the passengers bribes to take a later flight, but they weren’t able to get enough volunteers. So, they boarded the plane anyway and *then* decided to randomly select some poor saps to yank off the plane. Well, one guy didn’t want to go. So what did United do? They called the cops. Which, strictly speaking, is the legal course… once they told the passenger that he was no longer on that flight, and he refused to leave, he was technically trespassing. But what did the cops do? They beat him so bad he was yakking up blood and they had to take *everyone* off the plane in order to clean up the mess.

Yeah. I’m thinking what we have here is an insta-millionaire in the making. The situation is, one one level, entirely of United’s making…. *they* are the ones who overbooked the flight. And anyone who has flown in the last, oh, sixteen or so years knows it’s an excruciating nightmare; you just want to get it over with, so it’s understandable that the passenger didn’t want to get pulled off a flight he was already seated on. But we’re in an era when every other passenger will be filming anything unusual on  plane… and a passenger beaten so badly he’s literally begging for death while spewing blood all over? Yeah, that’s what’s called “bad optics.” Crack open that checkbook and start scribbling zeros.

One is left to wonder just what would have happened if other passengers had leaped to this guys defense. Now, *maybe* he was being a jackass, and initiated physical combat with the government employees who gave him a pounding. *Maybe* he had this coming. But you know… *maybe* you shouldn’t have violent thugs as minor functionaries for the Feds, and *maybe* airlines shouldn’t overbook. If it comes to a lawsuit and goes to court, and if it turns out that this was just a guy who wanted to go home (he apparently claimed he was a doctor who had patients to see), then I’d recommend this settlement: find out how much United Airlines saves annually by overbooking rather than underbooking. Then double it, and demand that. And then demand an equal amount from the law enforcement agency that did the actual thrashing.

So not only is *this* guy turned off United Airlines, so is probably everyone who was on that plane. I know I sure s hell wouldn’t want to pay money to a company who could at the drop of a hat make me a trespasser, then set goons upon me. Hell, this is why I don’t fly anymore. I’d much rather drive 1500 miles than fly it.

All that said, imagine another competing airline sees this story, and they decide to reverse course on the last couple decades in aviation trends. Instead of less legroom, they reduce the number of seats and give you more. Instead of overbooking, they intentionally underbook, then make the last empty seats available at a discount in the last few minutes. And then they run a series of TV ads showing this incident in glorious technicolor, saying “Don’t fly United, cuz this might happen. Fly with us! We’re more comfortable and hardly ever beat paying customers into bloody pulps in front of small children going on vacation.” Seems like that’d be a winning ad campaign.

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Apr 082017

Anybody else ever notice how common headlines like this are? “He was an activist for X, and it turns out he was actually…”

He lobbied for gay rights and opposed Trump — now Seattle’s mayor is accused of sexually assaulting minors

And because why not, the world ain’t half weird enough:

It’s now illegal in Russia to share an image of Putin as a gay clown

And on the subject of Russia… if you still have a LiveJournal account, it’s time to close it out. LJ was sold to the Russians years ago and in December the servers moved to Russia; you are now subject to Russias laws regarding censorship and control over the internet. You are not allowed to post political discussions without first getting LJ’s approval (i.e. the Russian government), and if you have more than 3,000 views per day you’re supposed to register as a media outlet.

Russian-Owned LiveJournal Bans Political Talk, Adds Risk of Spying


 Posted by at 9:22 pm