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WEEK 6 2003

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Lancaster Weather

Saturday 8 February 2003

Saturday - got up too late to go to the dump municipal refuse facility. The side yard is a disaster area, but what the heck, it'll wait. There's more than one truckload of stuff anyway, but less than two. So I should wait, right?

Book Review of the Week. (----*) Years ago I read a science fiction book than involved giant crabs from outer space eating people for snacks. I could never recall anything else,  not the plot (if there was one), nor the names of any characters (human or giant crab), not the author or title - nothing except the cover - which featured, appropriately enough, giant crabs. Well. Surfing the blogs I  found a reference to it by chance, from one Angie Schultz's page: darkblogules,  which has a brief but unmistakable description of the book, and a link to the authors' web page, Petaja Pages: The Website of writer Emil Petaja ,  which in turn has a brief synopsis of 1969's  The Nets of Space! There is even a picture of the books' cover, with the giant crabs, and little people running away. As the darkblogules writer mentions,  the memory of this book has a strange hallucinogenic quality to it. I rate it at one star, just for the staying quality of the cover art work.
cover of the book: The Nets of Space
...the nets....the nets....

She also talks about a star about to explode  - close enough to be interestiing, not so close as to be uncomfortable.

Here is a good page of  Frequently Asked Questions on the Columbia shuttle accident. Of interest, the Equivalent Air Speed. EAS, was only about 170MPH in the mach 18 flow. Aircraft are not designed to fly sideways, but that's not as high a dynamic pressure as I thought. I actually have a copy of "Re-entry" around the house, bought ten years ago or so, but haven't had the heart to look through it again.

Friday 7 February 2003

Friday - just a normal days work - except that I worked very late trying to get this model finished. I didn't, so it'll be waiting for me next time I go to work. Sigh.

I sent my father a picture of an aircraft carrier ( the USS Nimitz? ) making a hard turn to port during sea trials. Very impressive to see a huge machine like that turning at speed. Anyway, he replied back with a bit of personal history from WWII:
Great pictures, I would like to have
been on the carrier just to hear the sounds
of everything breaking loose. Once on the
corvette the OD and I were talking and he said
"lets put her in the trough and see how she handles it"
he did and she handled it just fine but the noise was
amazing, things came loose all over the ship. The
captain was on the bridge two minutes later.....
Flower class corvette's were not known for "stiffness" at sea to start with. My father is a bit of a hell raiser - I can recall while  growing up occasions when he would look at one of his sons' and say "Go sit on your brother." and sit back entertained at the brouhaha. Though he blames the Officer of the Deck,  I have to wonder if someone put that poor soul up to it...

Thursday 6 February 2003

Thursday - a group of us went out to dinner, the Royal Buffett, and then over to the LPAC to watch some chinese acrobats. I can't recall this groups name, but they were pretty good. They jump through hoops ( literally ), climb ropes, do various contortionist things, and generally entertain you. It was a lot of fun... I didn't get home until after 10:30 pm.

There was a system administrators meeting at work. For a pretend administrator, like me, it looks like a lot of work in the near future. A lot of it is common sense, administrator certification and tests, hardening systems, getting rid of dubious services and protocols. The problem is that it is all being done by fiat: "You will do this", "It will be done by this date." - and "No, we don't supply any money for training, hardware, or upgrades. That's your problem. We just make the rules." Authority without responsibility.

Wednesday 5 February 2003

Wednesday - nothing too remarkable going on at work. More security. Memo's not to talk to the press or public about the Columbia... I don't think I've said anything here that isn't pretty general.

At lunch we were discussing government. I was thinking that it took millennia to come up with systems of working representative democracy. Before, it was all variations on the theme of nobility and rule by birthright - kings, queens, emperors, knights, caliphs, princes, and so on. And it was all pretty bad. Now we have republics, democracies, parliaments and congresses. It's still bad, but not as bad. But what about bureaucracy?

I suspect that bureaucracy, slowly agglomerating power to itself, ruling not by law, but by regulation and red tape in triplicate is the next big threat. What sort of meme could fight it?
Of course, the foundation of regulation is law. The government passes a law stating that whatever "committe xyz" says, or "department zzz" puts down on paper is to be treated as law. So not just the senators and representatives are controlling you, it's also their unelected lifetime serving proxies...

Yeah, I know, I know... "Let's  kill all the lawyers..." ( I think that was Falstaff's line - which says something about the idea...)

Of course, if Bill Joy is right, in 30 years Skynet the internet will become conscious and take over anyway, and it won't matter one way or the other. Unless Arnold & Linda  can save us...

[ Scene: 2030, the Screen Actors Guild Retirement Home. It's a dilapidated former motel in Tijuana, the best the guild can afford since P2P sharing of movies put Hollywood out of business. The walls are army barracks green, and there are two sagging twin beds, an old 19" color tv, and a rotary phone... ]

Phone: Riiinnnng... Riiiiinnnng...
Arnold: Hello?
Phone: This is the President, we need you to fight Skynet
Arnold: Hello?
Phone: This is the President, we need you to fight Skynet
Arnold: Hello? You'll have to speak up, I'm a little hard of hearing these days...
Phone: (louder) This is the President, we need you to fight Skynet
Arnold: You're selling hairnets? Hold on, I'll get Linda...
Phone: No, no, not hairnets, SKYNET - the evil.....hello.....hello...
Linda: Hello?
Phone: This is the President, Skynet is coming to...
Linda: We already have cable, sorry.... "click"

Phone: Riiinnnng... Riiiiinnnng...Riinnnngggg
Arnold: Hello?
Phone: This is the President, we need you to fight Skynet
Arnold: Hello? You'll have to speak up, I'm a little hard of hearing these days...
Phone: (louder) This is the President, we need you to fight Skynet
Arnold: The home's director won't let us put up a dish on the roof , we just have cable...
Phone: No, no, not a dish, it's the evil...hello.....hello...
Linda: Hello? Listen, Arnold's tired, he had to go lay down now...
Phone: This is the President, Skynet is coming to life, we need you both...
Linda: Very funny. How'd you get this number, it's supposed to be unlisted... "click"

Skynet: (giggling) Dave's not is gonna be easy....

Tuesday 4 February 2003

Tuesday - working on a CFD model, again. Booorrriiiinnnnnnggggg. As my niece might say. But it's part of the job. By nature I'm a bee, dipping here and there into different interesting projects. So, nitty-gritty day after day of looking at the screen and ascii printouts starts to wear after a while. But hey, it's not particularly stressful.

Apparently they ( NASA, NTSB, FEMA and the rest...) are indeed looking out here in the western United States for debris from Columbia. Problem is, it's been a wide open aircraft/rocket/missle test area for fifty or sixty years. There are bits of debris from as far back as the 1930's laying about - and as I said earlier, not looking particularly old to the eye. Columbia, under the tiles and heat blankets was probably about fifty tons of riveted aluminum airframe, constructed much the same as a DC-3 or an Airbus. So, these guys in the west will have their work cut out for a while. Tiles from Columbia, marked with serial numbers, will be unmistakable however.

If there is stuff, probably it'll be found by four-wheelers and dirt-bikers for the next decade or so...

Jay Mainfold, over at A Voyage To Arcturus, has a bit on what kind of telescope would be needed to properly image the space shuttle's tiles from the ground. Personally I've always thought that we needed a permanent high altitude observatory, a stationary platform at, say, 40K feet. At this altitude atmospheric blurring is very very small for an optical telescope, infrared telescopes work better, and so on. It might give Hubble quality imagery - or better - for a fraction of the price. Though I must say I haven't run the numbers to see if it's a practical project. Aerostats so far have been, to my knowledge, rather low altitude platforms. Mountaintops are getting crowded!

I found my image archives. On the shelf, with all the other backups and software. Who'd have thought it'd be there?

Monday 3 February 2003

Monday - went into work a bit late, thinking there might be some delays at the gate. There were none when I went in, and no-one mentioned any. Odd. What with the Columbia, and an upcoming invasion of  Iraq you'd think they'd be strip searching people at the gate...

Not to be harsh, but.... There were a lot of emails to the workers today, about not talking to the press, and about "grief management", and about how the "NASA family" all feels pain. Prayers even, via email. Then there was an all hands meeting with more of the same. I didn't go - watched a few seconds on the tv and then went back to work. I feel grief - and I'm glad I do - but I don't really feel the need for the mommy state to comfort me. Maybe others do.

Talking to people at work was interesting. We are in the flight test biz out at Dryden. We spend an lot of time, and a lot of thought, and a lot of money on safety. And we are, all false modesty aside, the best in the world at flight test. And we still get it wrong sometimes. So, I observed grief, sadness, but not disbelief. Stuff happens. Maybe it was the stuff coming off the external tank, maybe not. The media has seized on the idea, but almost all aviation accidents are a "chain", a collusion of cold events conspiring again fragile human flesh. Time will tell.

Some friends from work came by and helped me plant a couple of  trees in the back yard. I am not good at trees - they have a distressing tendency ( 100% so far ) to die. So, observing my panic attack at the thought, my good friend C and her friend R came by to help me plant them, and we got it done in less than an hour. Whew!

I just ran the spell checker. I misspelled February everywhere. Stupid extra "r".

Sunday 2 February 2003

Sunday - a sad day. I can remember Challenger, it was on a work day, and it's so strange to be feeling that loss again, like a family member has died.

I have things to do, but can't seem to concentrate.

I have pictures of shuttles, flying over, landing, being towed by, that I have taken over the years. The first shuttle landing I ever saw was the Fourth of July landing, when President Reagan gave a speech over at Edwards. I was still in school, and was over with the teeming masses, on a graded patch of sand out on a hillside. You can still see the patch I think, twenty years or so later. I've seen, probably, all the shuttles land, and a lot of the astronauts.

I can't seem to find my backup CD's - I'm sure they are around somewhere, but I'll have to look and see if I've any Columbia pictures.

Some items of note to me are reports from observers here in California that the shuttle was already "sparking" as it went over. One report was from an astronomer in the Owens Valley, and another from an engineer out at Mojave. If so, then there is the chance that debris has rained down from California all the way to Texas. Much more widely scattered of course. Still, in the desert it's easy to find things - I was once with a group of people looking for X-15 pieces, for a museum, almost 30 years after it crashed. And we found them, too. Stuff that doesn't degrade in sunlight lasts a long time, and erosion and such act very slowly. Bits of the inconel skin were as bright as the day they were made.

Picture of the Week
Small grild playing with ribbons in front of a haberdashers
Photo Notes:This is recent sunrise, from my own back yard. Quite colorful - despite the clouds we've been having a remarkably warm winter - shirtsleeve  shortsleeve weather on occasion in December and January.

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