Apr 162015

College Apologizes for Serving Mexican Food During Sci-Fi Event

In short: Stevenson College in Santa Cruz, CA, held a sci-fi themed “Intergalactic Night.” Along with a “well, i guess they tried” series of sci-fi decorations, they had food. In the form of  buffet. Of Mexican food. Because even in a sci-fi setting, tacos are awesome. But guess what? People got all offended. I gather the illegal aliens on campus got in a snit about the association between Mexican food and science fiction aliens.

So, of course, sensitivity training all around.

Kinda curious how this effort to separate Mexican cultural elements from science fiction would play into the recent effort to enforce diversity in the Hugo awards… hmm…

 Posted by at 9:48 pm
Apr 152015

Taken from a bit of a distance, this seems to show the vehicle leaning pretty substantially as it lands. Looks a lot like the first landing attempt. Balancing that pencil seems to be a bit of a challenge.

I wonder if a wider, shorter, *squatter* booster would have made sense. Shape it like the old Phoenix design, the ROMBUS, the Nexus. Then tipping over wouldn’t be nearly the concern, though drag would be much higher.

 Posted by at 2:55 am
Apr 142015

So this afternoon I went out to get groceries. I stopped at a gas station on my way home, about 5 miles from home. After having heard a weather report, I checked the cars thermometer… 75 degrees.  Nice warm day. Five miles later as I pulled in the driveway… 60 degrees. Within an hour… snow.

By tomorrow I expect nitrogen to rain out of the sky.




 Posted by at 7:12 pm
Apr 142015

Launch was great, landing was great. *Sticking* the landing… well, not so great.

Well, I guess now the program will be put on hold, Congress will get involved, there’ll be years of hearings and political posturing before another attempt is made… oh, wait. No, this is a private effort. Never mind, they’ll fly again in a month.

Here’s the cool thing: Unless the barge was trashed (I have no data on that)… NOTHING WAS LOST. It was an entirely successful launch! Even though the first stage booster was destroyed on landing… it was gonna get lost *anyway* if they didn’t try to recover it. So…w ell, ok, maybe they lost the cost of the landing gear, but that’s not exactly a lot.

Were this a NASA vehicle, the *landing* would have been the metric by which the launch was measured. Like if a VentureStar went into orbit, delivered its payload to the ISS, re-entered, and then pancaked onto the runway when the landing gear failed to lock. And then the program would be terminated.


 Posted by at 2:07 pm
Apr 062015

Sometime around 1990 I was attending a community college in Illinois. Between classes, I’d go to the library and go through every issue of every magazine that seemed relevant. I was short of funds and the photocopier kinda stunk, so I was selective in what I copied. This strategy, sadly, has led to a few minor disappointments… in particular I distinctly recall seeing a painting depicting the interior of a Dyson sphere. But rather than a  simple spherical ball, it was made from stacks of differently-sized ringworlds, forming sort of a sphere. I did not photocopy it at the time.

For reasons which seem good to me, a few weeks ago I decided that I *needed* to find that illustration. I felt certain that it was in “Futurist” magazine. So a few weeks ago I went to the USU library and looked through every issue of “Futurist” from the mid-1970’s to 1990. No luck. I went back again and looked through every issue of “Space World” magazine from the mid 70’s to the end of magazine in 1988. Again, no luck.

While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did find some other stuff of interest. But what struck me the most was something I picked up in both magazines: the 1970’s were fundamentally very different from the 1980’s.

The magazines from the 80’s could pass for present-day magazines. Sure, the technologies presented are seriously out of date… but they are recognizable as early versions of what we have now. The fashions were different, but not *too* different. The graphic design of the magazines, as well as the paper and the color photos and other graphics, are more or less up to current standards.

But the 70’s issues…. ah, no. Just… no. Everything was different. Everything seemed alien. Even the tone was just plain *off.* The 70’s gave the world some ideas that are just plain ballsy, such as space colonies and solar power satellites; but the activism behind them was enthusiastic to a degree that smacks of desperation. And from what I can remember of the 70’s, “desperation” pretty much fits the bill. Everything was awful… the Arabs and oil, the Soviets and nukes, Nam, Nixon, terrorists blowing up planes and sporting events, Carter, polyester, perms, white people with fros, etc. People were, I think, resorting to excessive partying in order to avoid the reality. And thus… disco. Studio 54. Cocaine. KC and the Sunshine Band. Songs that, as a six-year-old, I thought were great tunes about the awesomeness of rockets… but really weren’t.

Whatever the cause, the 70’s were just *wrong.* The 80’s, in contrast, were the beginning of the current era. As evidence, I present this magazine ad I saw posted online earlier today. Take a guess what decade it’s from. Go on… guess.


It’s not just that the fashion shown is stuck in one very specific period, never to return again (with any luck). It’s the text. Holy carp, it’s just *bizarre.* This weird appeal to fake masculinity is something that faded out in the 80’s and has not returned, and now seems totally inconceivable.

If you want to see more mind-melting 70’s jumpsuits, here ya go.

Just… aaaaargh.

What turned the 70’s into the 80’s? Probably a vast number of things. But I do not discount Reagan. After the Sweater President, master of malaise, Reagan brought with him confident optimism. And that, coupled with the veto power, is damn near the *only* power the President Constitutionally really has that can fundamentally change a national economy. An economy is composed of a vast number of people; if they are on the whole depressed, the economy will suffer, and the people will be even more depressed. If the people can be cheered up, then the economy will improve. Even if the hard objective facts on the ground are *exactly* the same, you can get a fundamentally different economy and culture based on whether the President talks the economy up, as Reagan did with constant optimism, or talks it down, as Carter seemed to do.

And so when the tone out of Washington suddenly shifted, the culture suddenly shifted. And thus… no more jumpsuits.

But I’m still looking for that Dyson Sphere illustration. Sound familiar to anyone? Now I think it might’ve been in something like Science Digest or Omni… but who knows.

 Posted by at 10:08 pm
Apr 012015

Heart transplant recipient Anthony Stokes dies in police chase, crash

The story reads like a bad sitcom. Two years ago Stokes was denied a heart transplant because of a history of medical non-compliance… i.e., he wasn’t taking his meds, so the doctors figured if he got a new heart he’d screw up the opportunity and wind up wasting the transplant. However, “civil rights” groups got involved, caused a legal ruckus and got the docs to change their ruling. So Stokes got his heart. What did he do with his new lease on life?

  • Carjacked  a car from a mall
  • Shot at an elderly woman in a home burglary
  • Led the police on a high-speed chase through populated areas
  • Hit a pedestrian
  • Crashed the car (which, again, was not his), nearly cutting it in half
  • Died.

Not mentioned in the story: whoever *should* have received the heart that Stokes got, and instead had to wait, or perhaps died.

Stories like this make me yearn for the day – hopefully not *too* far in the future – when simple organs like the heart can be replaced not with donations, but clones. Then the issue won’t be “who is the bet fit for what we have,” but “who can pay.” Had that been the case here, the “civil rights” groups that demanded that Stokes get his heart could have simply passed a hat around and collected the funds to clone him a heart.

UPDATE: I have doubts about the current structural integrity of his organs, for those wondering if they can be harvested for further transplantation:

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One good thing about this news item: it led to the funniest Twitter exchange of the day.

 Posted by at 9:33 am