Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I suppose that greeting isn't politically correct, but as you may guess by now, I don't care about that.

Because of the holiday, there may not be any more posts today after this one.  But, I want to be sure to keep posting every day, because that is my intention.  Someone may have to shoot me in order to get me to stop.

I'll keep posting my ideas about space travel too.  It may not be the official way that our fearless leaders are interested in, but the ideas may actually work.  If they don't, it's fun to speculate about them anyway.

So, far, I have written about a Paul Spudis' Moonbase, a Deep Space Station, and now my plans are to write a bit about Mars.  I read some free samples of Zubrin's books on my Kindle.  I will be writing more about that in coming posts.

By the way, my ideas for the Deep Space Station are based upon a NASA study done in the early eighties on what to do with the big external tanks being used at that time in order to launch the shuttle into orbit.  I'm just tossing in a few of my ideas.  In effect, I'm proposing turning this into a flyable space station for deep space missions, hence the name Deep Space Station.

Summing up, in order to get to Mars, you need a plan.  Once you get to Mars, you need another plan for when you are there. Finally, you need an exit plan in order to get back.

I think that a Moonbase and the Deep Space Station are good first steps.  I don't think that it's an either/or proposition.   You do the Moon and Mars both.  But the idea of launching a mission directly- from the Earth's surface to Mars- is much too ambitious.  We should set up a system which will allow many missions over a long period of time.  An Apollo type mission to Mars will generate about as much as the lunar version.  A few trips and a very long lag of nothing afterward.

So, this plan here is to go to the Moon first.  Establish a Moonbase, and a Deep Space Station, then set our sights upon Mars, the asteroids and beyond.

Some further thoughts on the Deep Space Station.  Since the shuttle derived system can be partially loaded and still deliver a payload, here is an idea.  Fully load the rocket with fuel and send the ET tank to EML1.  The ET's become the payload.

Perform six of these launches and assemble the station at L1.  Configure it so that it can use the rocket engines already there to power it to missions beyond Earth.  The configuration will allow for lunar water from the lunar base to be accumulated and converted to rocket fuel for interplanetary missions.  It may take several years to fill the tanks.  But on the other hand, you may not need to fill the tanks to get to and from Mars, nor any other location.

I got an idea about how the external tank holding the fuel can be permanently shaded.  This will make it very cold in the shade and allow for cryogenic storage for long periods of time.  The idea was to use shuttle tiles as a heat shield against heat build up which will cause boil off.  These tiles can keep the underside cool, while the outside gets hot.  Assemble these panels inside the station, and then deploy these around the tank so as to make a permanent shading facility that will also serve as an insulator.  You can make it into a big square box for ease of assembly.  Put the big panels around the big tank.  The panels don't have to weigh much.  They just need to be attached to something that can be assembled in space.  On second thought, you may not even need a box.  Just a big flat panel that creates a big enough shade to shield the ET holding the fuel.

With such an apparatus for storing fuel, we can then collect it over a long period of time.

With our rocket engines, we have a means of propulsion.

With our big empty tanks remaining, we have a habitation system for long term space voyages.  They can be spun up to provide artificial Martian gravity at 2 rpm.  They can be supplied with lunar water and other life support supplies (from the Moonbase) for the long voyages, such as a Mars mission.

There's a lot of room inside the Deep Space Station.  You can store a lot of machinery and whatnot for your deep space missions.

You have everything you need to do whatever you want.

That's my Christmas present.  Do you like it?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Robert Zubrin

My education of matters of space exploration continues.  Now I will be looking into this proposition:  A manned mission to Mars.  Zubrin has been a big proponent of this.   However, I am a bit skeptical going in.  The book, "The Case for Mars"  is not available yet on Kindle, so I may wait for it to become available.  Or if I get in a hurry, maybe I'll just order up an older version of the book.  This new one will be an updated version of the original which went to the presses in 1997, I believe.

I did check some customer reviews on Amazon.  It is mostly positive, but that doesn't necessarily tell you anything.   There was one negative review by a Ms. Tutt which I would tend to agree with at the moment.

She is also critical of another one of his books.  Unfortunately, I think Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit tends to agree with Zubrin.  It should be noted here though, that I don't regard anything that anybody writes as gospel.  If I don't agree with Zubrin, I will not be hesitant to say so.  It won't make any difference who says otherwise.

NASA needs to go into survivor mode

Are you a survivalist?  Can't say that I am, but having read enough of Chris Laird's stuff, I am of the opinion that it is a good idea to be prepared.  By being prepared, I mean the ability to meet survival situations on your own without expecting nor receiving outside aid.  That's because outside aid may not be available, or if it is, it may come too late to be of use.  I mention the topic in connection with the space program as a way of suggesting that this concept must be adapted to space travel.

It isn't new, and it isn't my idea.  Yet, it is not being used now, nor does it seem likely to be unless something happens.  You can't be a survivalist in terms of space travel if you are always demanding that new rockets be built every time you think of a new mission.  A survivalist meets the situations with what he has available; he cannot expect to wait around for something to be sent to him.  It may never get there.

That is not to say that something could get there.  Just don't predicate everything upon its arrival.  You make do with what you've got.  An implementation of this idea is in situ resourcing in space.

The mastery of the technique of in situ resourcing is going to be mandatory if the space program is ever to get out of low Earth orbit.  The reason is the high cost of launch.  The less that has to come off the Earth, the better.  Ultimately, this is the justification for a Moonbase, or Space Station.  It is the reason for recycling the ET's, which I have been writing about.  Such facilities will reduce the need for launches from Earth.  By doing so, it makes space travel less needful for government assistance and closer to actual commercialization.

A way to dress rehearse in situ resourcing is to recycle the ET's.  If you can't find a way to do that, why bother going up in space at all?  In the end, if this isn't going to be done, the space program is going nowhere, really.  In the end, the space program is needful of a survivalist mentality.  If it is to survive, it had better find a way to use what it has instead of expecting funding as if the funds were inexhaustible.  Here is a way for NASA to show that it can come up with a way to do what hasn't been done before.  What rocket has been converted from one use to another while in space?  The external tank has that potential, but will it ever be used?  Or will NASA or Washington expect a new rocket for every new mission?  But if that is the thinking, circumstances may mean the end of the space program.  Funds are limited, and time is running out.

In a reflective mood

As I am writing this.  After a little over 3 months and a bit over 200 posts, what have I accomplished?  I think you could say that it is a modest beginning.  Secondly, you can say that it is a hobby, not a business.  Third, I have received something of an education.  All in all, it has been fun.  I've enjoyed it.  But it is a serious world out there, and hobbies have to give way to real world stuff.  But no, this is not goodbye.  I like doing this, and I want to continue.  But I will have to throttle down a bit and turn my attention elsewhere.  Most likely, at some point early in the next year, I will be working full time again at a regular job.  Hopefully, I will have enough time and energy to come back here and do some of this stuff.  I think I will, but you never know.

I will try to do at least one post every day.  But I can't guarantee it.  I have managed to get a small audience going here.  The risk is that I will lose you.  What little I've managed to get has been hard won.  I hate losing it, but it is what it is.

I may try to integrate this blog into my "day" job. If my new job is anything like my old one, I will go places.  It might well be interesting to post about the places I will go and the things I will do.  That could be fun too.  So, don't go away.  I am too stubborn to give up that easily.  Stay with me.  Over time, things could change in such a way that it may be possible to do this on a full time basis.  It may take a bit of luck, but sometimes you get lucky.

Xtranormal's potential

Maybe it is too early to say what the potential is for this software.  But as is my custom, let's speculate, shall we?

This software reminds me of a game console that my brother bought a long time again.  I think it was called Odyssey.  It was great fun to play with, but its graphics by today's standards were quite crude.  This Odyssey console allowed you to play a number of games: football, baseball, hockey,  and soccer.  These were the ones that I knew about.  There may have been more.  I suppose today someone would buy a playstation or some such thing.  I'm not into that kind of stuff, but an old high school friend of my has one of these.  When we had a meet up not long ago, we played on that thing.  The animations and such were far superior to the old Odyssey games.  But you would expect that after all these years.

The point I am getting at is that this Xtranormal software is crude right now.  But in the next few years it could get quite sophisticated.   In my mind's eye, I can see realistic videos being made with real, human-looking actors.  It may even be possible to recreate real actors that would perform real scenes.  All of this could be done in a virtual reality type system.  It could even get Trekkie-like, with holograms that would allow you to participate in scenes, like a holodeck.

As for now, the Xtranormal software is rather crude.  These are just stick figures with a limited repertoire of gestures, facial expressions and so forth which enables you to create these cartoon-like videos.  It is fun to use, but on the other hand, it is limited.

Sometimes, it is not easy to make this software do what you want it to do.  My last video may not look like much, but it has taken me a lot of time to get to this point of being able to create stuff with it.  Keep that in mind when you watch them.  They may seem super simple, but it isn't necessarily that simple to make them.

Hopefully, this software will get a lot better.  In fact, I think you can count on it.  In twenty or thirty years, this thing will look like Odyssey would today.  Assuming of course, you could find a working Odyssey machine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chris Laird public article

If you recall, earlier this week, I posted the first part of one of his newsletters.  He does write some public articles, and he has one here.  This is pretty representative of what he writes.  As you may observe, his opinions diverge somewhat from mine.  I would say his opinions tend to be much more pessimistic than mine.  Not that my opinions have been wildly optimistic.  Generally, he is of the apocalyptic genre of writers, in my estimation.

This allows me to segue into an observation about how people determine value.  There is a difference between price and value.  For example, the price of gold is 1380 dollars an ounce, roughly.  But depending upon the situation, gold could be worthless.  If you are desperately hungry, can you eat a gold piece?  The only thing you can do in that case is to trade gold for food.  If food is scarce, your gold may not buy much food.  Yet food is relatively cheap in comparison to gold.  My point is that food is more valuable than gold.  You can't live without food, but you can live without gold.  How can you value gold more than food?  The answer is that you can't.  All the price of a thing says about that thing is a statement about its relative scarcity.  These days, gold is relatively scarce and food is relatively abundant.  Yet food is always necessary.  If you value gold more than food, you may be making a fatal mistake.

I think there's a lot of confusion about price and value.  Many people think a thing is worth its price.  But that is not necessarily so.  As a matter of fact, that confusion is how Warren Buffet got so rich.  People will undervalue a property for irrational reasons.  A rational man like Buffet can recognize the true value of a thing even though the crowd cannot.  He will buy when everybody is selling and will sell when everybody is buying.  He will do this on the correct determination of value.

Sometimes when I read something I get the impression that the writer is not making this distinction.  That's two posts today where I got this impression.  Yet these writers are intelligent, no doubt.  But I am not taking their words as gospel.

Randall Parker

Has a post up which struck me as a bit odd when I first read it.  After further thought on it, I can sort of see what the problem is.

There is a conflict between benefactors and those on the receiving end.   There is no incentive to produce if the receivers can take your goods without giving you proper compensation.  Yet, at the same time, it is important to spread the benefits of knowledge as far as possible.

That paragraph above is almost Krugman like in its sentiments.  But one difference.  The left wants to take without any compensation at all.  The grounds for this is for the public good.  Yet, it cannot be good if there exists no incentive to produce the wealth at all.  On the other hand, wealth cannot be allowed to be hoarded.  If it is hoarded, then nobody, not even the wealthy can benefit from it.  What good is to have a Fort Knox full of gold when there is no place to spend it?

This is a big problem, actually.  Greed, selfishness, avarice have negative connotations for good reasons.  Yet on the other side of the coin is benevolence to the point of foolishness.  There's a need for balance:  the need for finding out how to avoid being a Scrooge while at the same time avoiding becoming a soft headed fool.

Shall we dance?

Having a little more fun with the Xtranormal video tool. I don't see any way to make these characters dance, so I invented something.

Short editorial

Some may ask: Why are you are climate skeptic?  I think that it is a silly question, but I'll provide a simple answer anyway. 

My answer is this:  Why should I believe in it? 

It is the liberals who say that the ordinary American voters are too stupid to act in their own self interest.  So, is paying higher prices for fossil fuels in my best interest? 

I will not believe it when they may counter that this cost can be shifted to others.  With that way of thinking, somebody is going to get hit with the bill.  History may show that the people getting hit are going to be those who are least organized politically to oppose it.  Eventually, you will fall into one of those groups because you can't watch these politicians all the time.

The cost shifting suggestion isn't an intellectual argument anyway.

The argument in favor of self interest is.  Why should anyone act against their own self interest?  The only way they can win this argument intellectually is to not to have an argument at all.  Isn't this is what is being attempted?

I am not going to drink that Kool Aid, thank you very much.  Try somebody else.


I have a few more thoughts to add:

Wouldn't it be better to actually get something for your money, as opposed to someone telling you that you have to pay more in order to feel better about yourself?  Isn't that all there is to what the warmistas are offering?  Their offer is for you to pay more, so you can feel less guilty.  What if it was this instead:  Pay some money and we can bring you "this".  The "this" thing that they would bring would be an actual tangible object that makes sense economically and is usable and desirable in its own right.  Whatever they might claim, this is not what they are offering.

ET tank, #11

Earlier, I said that it will take 4 ET's to spin up to Martian artificial gravity levels.  There was a discussion in the pdf file that I've been referring to that mentions 6 ET's.

Can we find a way to use the 2 others? I think I know one.  Put one on each side of the center of gravity.

One side could be used for propulsion, the other side for docking.  It could be set up so that it doesn't have friction so that it won't slow down the spin of the station.  Use magnetic field to push it away from the station while it rotates.  You could also use this magnetic field to spin it up and to slow it back down again if you don't want to spin all the time.  The propulsion can be provided by the tank, engine assembly as is.

In order to avoid boil off, keep the propulsion part in a permanent shade.  This should simplify keeping it cold enough so that it won't boil off.

There's another idea that I had.  Use magnetic fields to provide shielding from ionizing radiation in space.  Perhaps spacesuits could be fitted with such devices.  The Earth's magnetic fields provide such shielding on the surface.  Use that principle to make a wearable shield for astronauts.


If the spacesuits mentioned above can split carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen, it could enable longer spacewalks and such.  The oxygen can be recycled continously while collecting and storing the carbon monoxide which can be used later as a fuel.

In the above mention of the permanent shading for the ET, plenty of material can be found inside the tanks which can be used for that purpose.  Thousands of pounds of metals can be recycled for purposes such as this as well as other purposes.  This is "in situ" resource utilization applied to our own spacecraft.  It is the same principle that got Apollo 13 astronauts safely home.  They scavenged materials in order to make a carbon dioxide scrubber.  Without this improvisation, they would have died.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More on Paul Spudis' Moonbase Project

It's a 16 year project, 31 launches, 88 billion dollar project that will establish a permanent presence in space. It will enable routine access to cis-lunar space without having to launch from the deep gravity well of Earth.  This will make future missions much more affordable.  Here's a way of thinking of it:  it is an interstate highway system to the solar system.  It is an infrastructure project in space.

People may recoil at the cost, but remember that it is for a 16 year project.  Money will have to be found of course.  It may well to remember that the ISS takes up about 3 billion a year, if I am not mistaken.  That is about halfway there, but you will have to wait until 2020 to start.  That's the year that the ISS program is scheduled to end.

It came to my attention that the shuttle derived system takes up 2 billion a year even if there are no launches. Not only that, but it will take some redesign work to make it off the launch pad.  This entails further costs.

Now, what if we used the shuttle derived system to launch those ET's and terminate this system from that point on?  You would need only 6 launches ( or less) to put up the tanks.  Subsequent missions can be accomplished without this launcher.  It can then be retired and the 2 billion can be saved.  By the end of the decade, you will have your 5 billion a year and you can start to work on the Moon base.

Well, you don't quite have enough money yet, but if you stretch the program out a few more years, then that will bring it into line.

The ET's can be your deep space platform to go to Mars.  It can be refurbed over a long term period that will give you plenty of time to be ready when the Moonbase is operational.  When the Moonbase is operational, you will begin work on your Mars and deep space capabilities.  This time frame will be around 2040.  This is about the time frame the Augustine commission was setting for a Mars mission.  So, you are still on schedule.

The ET's will provide plenty of shielding and living space for the crew for its 2 year mission to Mars.  It can be spun up in order provide Martian artificial g, so that the crew won't have to recover from weightlessness when they get back from their mission.  The spaciousness of the ET's will give the crew plenty of room to operate in.

I'm sure that that will be a welcome addition as opposed to be cramped up in tight spaces for 2 years.

One other thought occurred to me.  If the ISS is to end in 2020, why not try to recycle those components along with the ET's?  It seems a waste to send the ISS to a fiery death into a reentry in the Earth's atmosphere. With all the room on the ET's, the space station just might fit inside.  It will cost money to deorbit the ISS. Why not use that money to recycle it instead?


I just now recalled that NASA is spending a lot of money to study global warming.  That needs to stop.  But I am sure that these people will fight that, so here is what I propose in its place.  Set up this Moonbase and Deep Space Station, and then you will have the capability to transition out of fossil fuels into solar power from space.  Instead of wasting money on studies, actually build something of value.  If the money spent on global warming studies is transferred out and spent on this, it will free up the money to accelerate this program and bring a real solution to at least one problem: energy.  We need energy.

There's a mini ice age coming, says man who beats weather experts

There's a mini ice age coming, says man who beats weather experts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How the adult world works

This kid just doesn't get it yet.  But he will.

Perhaps this authority figure can explain what the adults have been doing lately.

Paul Spudis

Asks: Can we afford to return to the Moon?  Hmm.  It all depends.  How much will it cost?  Will the money be available?  If it is at all possible, then I am all for it.  Shoot, I'd be for it even if it wasn't feasible.  I'd try to find a way to make it feasible.

He also has a full write up in a pdf file.  I am reading it now.

My prose looks like I drank a little too much eggnog.  All fixed now.  Hic.  'Scuse me.


An idea occurred to me.  Could it be possible to include in this package a way to recycle those ET's and make a space station?  It seems that somewhere I read that there wouldn't be a necessity for a fully fueled ET for the two launch mission to the Moon.  One launch isn't enough to get all the hardware up there, but two was too much.  There was an excess capacity, if I recall.  Is there a way to use that excess capacity to save a few of those tanks?


3/2/11 approx. 4 am, cst

This was a long pause, but it is necessary to update this a bit since I've gone out on the limb on my Facebook page and said getting back to the moon doesn't have to hard and expensive.  That was me, who may not be believable, but this guy may be. That would be Rand Simberg who writes the blog Transterrestrial Musings.
I'm going to put this post on the sidebar.  Anybody interested in reading the thread through can find a link to Paul Spudis' moonbase concept on Rand's post linked just above.

Robert Ringer

Ringer is the guy who wrote "Winning Through Intimidation".  I mentioned this guy in an earlier post, but I can't remember which one offhand.   Or how to find it in my own blog.  But it is in here somewhere.

But my own disorganization aside, I recall writing that his book made me aware of Ayn Rand.  Eventually, I got around to reading "Atlas Shrugged", and another one of her books, "Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal".  I can't say that I became an Objectivist.  But I can say that her works convinced me, even though I did not need all that much convincing.  When Ronald Reagan said that the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, it could have come out of my own mouth.

I read a book by Nathaniel Branden, who is or was an Objectivist.  And in an earlier version of this blog, back in 2004, I reviewed a book by Leonard Peikoff, who was closely allied with Ayn Rand.  So, I am familiar with that philosophy.  Not necessarily a fully fledged member of it.  This is not to say that I am against it in any way. I tend not to be a joiner, nor a Kool Aid drinker or any flavor.  I tend toward an independence that runs almost to an extreme.

It would be easy to dismiss me as a kook.  Perhaps that is what many people think.  If so, then so be it.  I can't be who I am by pleasing other people, and in the process, sacrificing myself for their approval.

I favor Capitalism, but I am not going to drink that Kool Aid either.  So, when I suggest that we use the external tank from the shuttle derived launcher, I feel it is in the spirit of Capitalism, but not necessary in the letter of it, down to the last dotted "i" and crossed "t".  To me, there is no need for that kind of purity of principle.  For I am a practical man.  Some have said "too practical", but it is what it is.

I mention these names so as to inform people of the direction from which I am coming.  With a few caveats sprinkled in.  For what it's worth, the last thing I would suggest is to keep a boondoggle or create a new one.  If I thought this is in effect of what I was proposing with these external tanks, I would drop the idea in a heartbeat.


One of the commenters yesterday asked why put up one of these big stations?

Here are 4 reasons:
1) To use it to generate artificial gravity.  Tethers could be used, but a solid structure could be better.
2) To use the huge volume for storage and habitation.  Machines could be installed as well to enhance capabilities.
3) Cheaper to reconfigure what is already in orbit as opposed to building it and launching it from Earth
4) Want to use it for deep space missions.  Take this station to the asteroids and mine platinum for profit.

Here are few more:
Testing techniques for in situ resource extraction using the ET's for that purpose.
Testing techniques for tethers while constructing the station.
Testing skills for managing artificial gravity systems.

Rand Simberg is right

When he says that the heavy lifter without a mission is a solution looking for a problem.  Here is a problem to be solved:  how to establish a permanent presence in space while at the same time enabling economic development of space.

But there are many lifters available and that seems to be one of the problems.  What to do with all these?  I think this problem is big enough for all of these to have something to do in order to solve the problem mentioned above.

What if nobody thinks of this as a problem though?  What if the question is this "Who cares about being in space?"  If all we are talking about is competition for a few satellite launches, then certainly, we don't need all these rocket systems.

It seems to me that the above problem is the one that occupies the minds of most people in this business.  It's a competition for limited demand.  In cases such as that, you need to eliminate the competition so that you can survive.  Anyone else that's around is taking business from you and you just can't have that.

So, the problem could be restated.  Create new missions so that there are enough to go around.  There are plenty of things to do in space.  Plenty for everybody.  It just takes some people to realize that and to start looking for ways to get it done.

I think one mission is to exploit space for profit.  Impossible you say?  Why not look into that as a problem to be solved?  Why not see if it can be done?  If it can't, then why are there in the first place?


I just went back and checked the comments.  If they can do what they claim, then you don't need the shuttle system after all.   I don't have a dog in this hunt.  It's no skin off my back.  Whatever works best, I say.  If the shuttle system is water under the bridge, then it is what it is.  Whew!  More cliches than you can shake a stick at!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Krugman has a convenient memory

If one is to believe Krugman, the government needs to restore highly "progressive" income tax rates and spend like a drunken sailor.  If only the government did that, all would be well.

Yet the government did do that and there were still recessions and some of them were bad.  Anyone who lived through the 70's can remember that was no cakewalk either.  By the end of the decade, double digit inflation was occurring in a recession.  This was not supposed to have happened but it did.  This was how Reagan got elected.  Reagan's deep tax cuts and deregulation appears to have brought the economy back.  Or did it? What is Krugman's explanation for that?

No, we are to believe that Bush's tax cuts and Clinton's tax increases were the real test cases that should be shown as examples of failed policy v successful policy.  But it is not quite so simple as Krugman is trying to make it.  You have to look deeper.  If a superficial examination is all that is required, then Krugman could appear to be persuasive.  It's a nice try, but I am not drinking the Kool Aid that Krugman has been drinking.

Contest cancelled

The proposed promotional contest has been cancelled.  Nobody entered and nobody showed any interest.

I'm asking for it

And I just might get it.  I went over to Transterrestrial Musings and left a comment there about the heavy lifter rocket being developed for NASA.  Before doing that, I followed the link to article he linked to from Rand Simberg's blog.

I realize that I am not an expert.  So, I just might get creamed.  We'll see.


I misspelled the name of the blog.  Great.  Corrected now.


As of this writing, there have been 7 comments in response to that post at Rand Simberg's blog.  I made 3 of them. There were a couple of responses to my comments, but nothing that I would call a disaster, fortunately.

If I am lucky, maybe I got some people to consider my ideas.  But I don't believe in counting on luck.  I'll keep posting on the external tanks as space station concept.  I think the idea may live to fight another day.


There was one reply to my comment at The Space Review .  "Coastal Ron" wrote the reply.  There doesn't appear to be much love for the shuttle derived system.  Not that I have a "dog in this hunt".  I'm not an employee of NASA, nor is anybody I know nor any relatives.  I have no financial stake in the outcome.

If this program is going to survive, it may well have to come from the Democrats.  It is also fair to point out that all the Democrats really want is a jobs program.  Between the two factions, this system may just die for lack of interest.  Too bad.  

Chris Laird's Prudent Squirrel

As I've mentioned before, I have a subscription to the Prudent Squirrel Newsletter.  This last newsletter is interesting enough that I decided to mention something more about it here on this blog.  By the way, I have a link to his website on my products page.

Chris will allow his subscribers to reproduce up to 10% of his newsletter as long as they give him credit for it and a link to his site.  If you want more, you'll have to get a subscription.  I haven't been posting any of his material here, but I will include a little this time in order to give you a sample of what he writes.  So, here we go.  This is probably far less than 10% and it is only the list of topics discussed, so here goes:

Newsletter - Edition 246 - 19 December 2010
By Christopher Laird
Rising interest rates – what might we expect?
The Plaza Accord
China interest rate hike due
My positions
Shanghai and other “emerging markets”

And there it is.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  He does a good job and it is well worth a read.  Now, I want to discuss a little of some of these topics here.

Let's start from the top, with interest rates.  As I wrote earlier, I would not be a buyer of bonds.  I am already on record there.  check

The Plaza Accord wasn't really any different policy than what the US has been doing since Nixon closed the gold window in the early 70's.  Guess what?  Inflation followed that.  We thought we had inflation beat, but it will definitely come back.   Why?  Have you heard of Quantitative Easing?  Same thing. check

I am not well researched on China.  My impression is that China will import US inflation as long as they allow their currency to be linked to the dollar.  The same will hold true for all of our trading partners.  The only way to preserve their markets here is to enter the race to the bottom of competitive devaluation.  If they decide to stop playing along with that game, the musical chairs scenario will leave the US dollar as the last one standing. That's not where you want to be in that game.  Just my opinion folks.  So, China may raise rates, but it won't be effective in stopping inflation there.  They aren't serious, but when they do get serious, look out.  check

Korea doesn't interest me much, except for the stability issue.  If war breaks out, it is not good.  check

I don't disclose my stock or financial positions here.  This isn't a market advisory service.  I give my opinions for free, you can read it for entertainment, amusement, or what have you.  check

As for oil, I have felt for many years that this is a show stopper for the US economy.  If our fearless leaders don't get their rears in gear, we will continue having problems.  This problem has been talked about since I was in school back in the 70's.  For once, our leaders need to step up to the plate, and deal with this problem.  I won't hold my breath.  check

Emerging markets is just not my bag, baby.  A little Austin Powers lingo there.  So, there you are.  My reaction to Chris' newsletter.  If you subscribe, you can read his stuff and mine and compare notes.  I think he is more of a pro at this because he has been doing it a long time.  Not trying to grab his glory, just expressing my own opinions.  check

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recycling the ET, part 10

It looks like 10 posts so far on this subject, identified by this label.  I have to apologize for the lack of organization here.  This blog is a bit more haphazard than what I would like.  It appears that so far that there are 9 posts, but I wrote more on the subject in previous posts.  Yet this seems to be hard to find.

What got me interested in this proposition was the fact that the shuttle derived system is now being adopted as the heavy lifter.  Since I learned that, it is now 10 posts, which are easy to access from the label at the end of each post.  Just click on it to bring them all up.

I learned of the decision to use the shuttle derived launcher late last month.  By then, it was a month old decision since it was mid October when the decision was made to use the DIRECT approach.  The DIRECT approach is the name for shuttle derived system as the heavy lifter.

What does this decision mean?  For one thing, the entire rocket system now can be independent of the orbiter.  Since the orbiter carried the main engines on board, it meant that the entire shuttle had to come with it so as to have access to the engines.  Now that the shuttle will be gone, that extra mass, which was considerable, will no longer be needed.  The significance of this is that the external tanks can go into orbit at a much higher and safer altitude than before.  Without having to carry the extra mass of the shuttle, there will be plenty of thrust to get the external tanks to that orbit.  Even with the shuttle onboard, the tanks could have been put into orbit (not just my opinion here, it is in the documentation that is in the pdf file I reviewed).  The reason they weren't was the fear that the tank could reenter the atmosphere due to orbit decay.  At a higher orbit, this concern can more easily addressed.

As for some of the ideas that I put forward, they are not new, unique, nor mine.  It is in the pdf, just mentioned. Not necessarily in the form that I put it in, because that pdf is material that is nearly 30 years old.  The shuttle was still a relatively new launch platform back then.

Thus the use of the external tanks as a space station is an idea which has already been studied by NASA. What may make the idea more interesting is that some of the limitations of the shuttle have now been removed. It may well be more feasible now than before.

What I am saying is that there may be an opportunity here.  The question is will somebody be able to see this and take advantage of it?  Or will that opportunity be lost?  A window of opportunity can close really fast.  I hope that it will not be lost.

Hot Dog!

Here's George Carlin, the comedian, saying something funny and serious at the same time.  Guess what?  It makes a lot of sense to me!  WARNING!  This video is liberally sprinkled with f-bombs and bad language.  This is a clean blog, or mostly clean.  But this video is PG, or at least an R,  okay?

Times is Tough

Another one of Wishbone's videos that I am stealing here.  yuk, yuk.  Hey, it's Christmas, Wishbone.

That was so good, I think I'll have another:

Organization counts

I like to read Lance Zierlein on sports. He is an NFL guy and I
think his dad was in the league as a coach. His latest blog post was about
the Houston Texans and how they are managing to go down in history as a
study in futility.

Maybe that is not exactly how he put it, that's my way of putting it. Yet
it doesn't surprise me at all. Before the season, when everybody was picking
the Texans to be playoff contenders, I had them pegged at 8-8. They will
do no better than that, and they just may do worse.

There was something there, maybe it was a comment about what Kubiak has
been saying that struck me.  He said that he believed in his system and that
they were going to stick with their system.  Now, a system is not the same
thing as intelligence.  No system can deal with novel situations.  Only intelligence
can do that.  After all, a system is just a system.  A human mind is smarter
than a system and will beat it every time.  Intelligence wins over systems.

But systems matter too.  All I am saying is that systems don't substitute for
intelligence.  If it does, you are going to get yourself into trouble.  If my hunch
is correct, I may have put my finger on what is  wrong with this team.

I would have made this as a comment, but has been too long since he made
this blog post, so I won't comment there, but post here.  Here is the link to
this blog post, in case you're interested.

A time for new thinking

Well, it's Sunday morning, and I'm back at it here.  Today is the day of rest, but we don't get any around here. That's a joke, son.

Anyway, I figured I would start a new topic last week.  I felt pretty good last week about this blog.  Things were on the upswing, but the enthusiasm was getting a little out of hand.  So, I figured I needed something to keep my feet on the ground.  Well, maybe I shouldn't have worried about that.  The world will kick your butt and make you get your butt back on the ground, and your butt is connected to your feet.  This blog's audience seemed to take a dive this past week, and that was the butt kicker.  So now I am on the opposite end of needing to stay centered.  I need something that will help me keep my chin up.

There are always little things to feel optimistic about, when it comes to this endeavor, but is it a realistic way of proceeding?  Every step forward here is a baby step.  Every step backward is a pratfall, it seems.  But I try to learn from my mistakes so I can keep moving forward.  Too many of these and I will run out of time.

My biggest problem seems to be with myself.  What I am referring to here is my own habits which tend to undermine my best efforts.  Take yesterday, for example.  While at the San Jacinto Battleground, I noticed a man walking in my direction while I was checking out their nature trail at the park.  I have this habit of avoiding social situations.  That seems to be the way I'm built.  It is customary for me to avoid people, and I started to turn around and go in the opposite direction.  But I caught myself.  Because I have become aware of this tendency to do this, and I want to stop doing it.  It just doesn't work for me anymore, I have to change my ways.  So, rather than do the habitual thing, I slowed down and made some social pleasantries with the guy.

He turned out to be someone who went to the same high school that I went to.  He knew the some of the same people I knew, but I didn't know him.  Or I didn't recall knowing him back then.  We got to talking about the old days and I learned a few things I didn't know.  For instance, one guy I used to be buddies with has died from cancer.  That makes you feel old.  Like I didn't feel that way already.

We chatted for a few minutes, but I did something that I also have a tendency of doing.  I got a little rude.  I made an abrupt exit because I wanted to do other things besides chatting with my old classmate.  Shame on me.  I need to do better and I fouled up.  Sorry, Robert, if you are reading this.  You see, I gave him the info so that he could access this blog.  Maybe he came already.  I don't know.  If you do come here, Robert, please feel free to comment and let me know.  I don't try to be a jerk, but sometimes, I can't help myself.