Archive for July, 2011

My thoughts on the end of the shuttle program

Posted in Politics, Science, Spaceflight on July 21, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

While the space shuttle is an awesome piece of technology, I’m glad to see the program end.  The main reason is that while it is awesome technology, it’s thirty year old technology.  A few years ago, I saw an article about how NASA didn’t want to fly a shuttle mission at the end of December into January, because the computers had trouble with the changeover.  The calculator I bought some fifteen years ago – while not built to withstand the rigors of launch and zero-g – doesn’t have a problem with the year changing.  So I’m glad it’s ending because it’s time for something new.

Now, should we have kept flying the shuttle until that new thing was ready?  In an ideal world, yes.  But we don’t live in an ideal world and we have to make do with what we have.  And what we have is Congress.  In an ideal world, Congress would tell NASA “we want you to do X.” The two would then debate over the price and timescale.  Once they were agreed to a realistic and reasonable price and timescale, Congress would give them the money.  Even if it took five or ten years to achieve X, Congress would make sure NASA had the money, with certain checks and reassurances.  That’s an ideal world.  In this world, one year Congress tells NASA “Do X.” The next year, they tell NASA to “Do X’ for $300 million less.” NASA then spends a great deal of time and money retooling for X’ only to have Congress come to them next year and say, “Do X’’ for even less.” After several more years, Congress asks NASA, “Why is Y so overbudget and behind schedule?” The biggest obstacle – even threat – to American crewed spacecraft are the politicians with their own agendas who control the purse strings.  For example, some politicians bitched and moaned when Obama cut the Constellation program saying he was destroying the American space program.  But I’m sure in some parallel world where Obama didn’t cut the program, many of these same politicians are bitching and moaning saying he’s destroying the country because he’s running up the debt by not cutting this overbudget and behind schedule program.

So what should be done?  I believe launch to Earth orbit should become the domain of commercial launchers.  True, they are as yet untested launching humans, but give them a decade.  By then there should – hopefully – be a couple of space launch companies to choose from, much as there are different airlines.  And what of NASA?  I believe that NASA should be tasked with exploring the rest of the solar system, together with other national agencies and commercial companies where possible.  But someday – hopefully sooner rather than later – we will become a spacefaring civilization and all that NASA does will be done by private companies.  The end of NASA will be much like the end of the shuttle program; bittersweet, but less of an ending and more of a better beginning.


The Amazingly Flexible Apartment

Posted in Humor, Odds on July 20, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy
Just over six years ago, I was apartment hunting and I was shown what would become my apartment.  The previous resident was still living there and the place looked cramped, but that was because he had a lot of stuff packed in there.  I thought, Oh, this is more than enough space for all of my stuff.
A few weeks later I signed a one-year lease and received my keys.  I walked into my apartment and … swore.  It was so small.  I won’t be able to fit everything in hereWhat the hell am I going to do?  I felt like storming back to the office and demanding to know what happened to the apartment they showed me, because this one looked half the size.
But I soon calmed down.  I had made my bed, now I’d have to lie in it, assuming it even fit.  But as I began to move stuff in, I don’t know if the apartment grew or if my furniture shrank, because everything fit.  Not only did it fit, I still had room.  It was very weird.
Now, the process has reversed.  At one point while I packed I tweeted that my apartment must have hidden dimensions, because it seemed no matter how much stuff I packed, there was still more stuff to pack.  But I finally got ahead of my stuff, and my apartment began to look empty.  As long as I kept a box or two for last minute things, my apartment seemed to remain the same size.  But once it was empty, it seemed to have shrunk back to that tiny little thing I walked into six years ago.

My apartment, about a year ago


My apartment, as I left it for the last time


A weird experience inside my closet

Posted in Humor, Odds on July 15, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

I have – for the next couple of days anyway – a walk-in closet.  In the six years I’ve lived here, I pretty much just left the door open.  Probably the only time I closed the door was whenever I had company over and needed to hide the mess.  😀  Anyway, I went into it today to vacuum up some cobwebs and dust, and I closed the door to clean it.  I’m pretty sure that was the first time – in six years – that I saw the back of the closet door.  It wasn’t what I expected.

Front of the closet door


Back of the closet door

I hadn’t expected the holes or the cardboard.

Pissed at Comcast

Posted in Rant on July 12, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

I have Comcast for phone, cable, and internet.  Except for a monumental screw up when I first got it, maybe six years ago, I haven’t had any complaints.  (That monumental screw up is too long of a story for here.)  Anyway, I’m m0ving, so I called them today to terminate my account NEXT WEEK.  That should have been straightforward.  Now, probably five minutes after I hung up with them, my system reboots.  I still have phone and cable, but I couldn’t get on the internet.  I’d go to Google and a screen would come up saying I needed to create an Xfinity account or whatever.  I didn’t want Xfinity.  I just wanted what I’ve had for the past six years for six more days.  So I had to go through this 27 step process to create an Xfinity account, including about eight attempts to find a username that hadn’t all ready been taken.  I went through several variations of “fuckyoucomcast” until I just went “asdfasdfasdfa” which finally worked.  Once that was done, I had to download something and install it, which my malware software didn’t like.  In the end, it said it was incomplete, but I can get online again.  Of course, I have the stupid Xfinity thing across the top of the screen.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to clean all this crap up once I move.

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to moving back home

Posted in Astronomy, Odds on July 5, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

Last Friday I took a load of my stuff home.  I arrived home about 11:30 at night.  After driving for a couple of hours with my headlights on and triggering the motion sensor light by going up the driveway, I stepped out, stretched, and looked up.  At night in King of Prussia, if the sky is clear I might be able to see ten stars.  That’s about all I can see with all the light pollution from Philly and all the streetlights around the apartment complex.  But when I looked up at home – without even waiting for my eyes to adapt to the dark – I saw hundreds of individual stars, as well as sections of the Milky Way.

Home, it’s full of stars.  😛


Posted in Humor, Odds on July 1, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

I think this guy I used to work with has a luchador fetish.  He’s shopped a few of his coworkers wearing masks.  This is the one he made of me:

Disturbing, isn’t it?