Friday, December 24, 2004

tis the season

tis the season

Merry Christmas.

I was unable to finish my little video as I had hoped earlier. Now that the Holiday season is nearly over I will again have more time to work on it. Several people have said that the link for the teaser didn't work (works for me every time), so I will track down the problem and fix it before I post the whole video.

I guess I better say Happy New Year while I'm at it, as I don't know if I will post anything more until 2005.

Oh and one more thing - don't be an asshole; if you're drinking, take a cab or have a designated driver.

Peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

retirement

retirement

I figured I'd weigh in with those who are arm wrestling Michael Kinsley.

The system in the USA sounds similar to what we have here in Canada. Up here, the Canada Pension Plan payment is deducted directly off the top of your paycheck. Those currently in the workforce pay the pensions of those who are retired.

It is obvious to people my age (36) or younger what will happen in the next thirty years. The Baby Boomers will be reaching age 65 between 2010 and 2029. As this massive population bulge retires, there will be a sharp increase in the number of people withdrawing from the pension plan and a sharp decrease in the number of people paying into it.

Add to this that people are living longer every year. Half of the Boomers will live past the age of 78, perhaps more than half as medical technology continues to improve. In Canada, that adds another wrinkle to the problem; our already-overburdened health care system will undergo even more financial strain as technology improves (and as the new treatments involved become more expensive) and there are more older patients in the system.

One difference between the Canadian and American systems is that the CPP goes into a separate account, not into general revenues as in the USA. Canada's pension plan currently has a surplus due to a massive increase in the CPP premiums; such a situation will not remain stable. In six or seven years the trickle of retirees will turn into a flood and the surplus will be drained. At that point, the government will either have to draw money out of general revenue (and increase taxes to make up the shortfall) or increase the CPP premiums again.

So more and more retire, fewer and fewer are contributing, and the amounts they contribute increase, directly or indirectly. A tipping point occurs when one in three adults is retired: the taxes required to sustain the pensions and health care system become so high they cripple the economy. Then one month the pension checks just. don't. come.

The first pension plan was brought about in Germany in the late 19th century by Bismarck. The same system is in use pretty much unchanged today, with the age 65 as a magical cut-off age. In Bismarck's time, fewer than one percent of the population lived to the age of 65; such a system is sustainable, as there are always far more people working than retired. Today with the average person living 13 years beyond the age of 65, a population bulge like the baby boom is enough to bring down the system.

There are two solutions to this problem. The first is a solution that bothers Michael Kinsley: let people keep their own money to invest for their retirements as they see fit. I guess that idea is just too American for Kinsley.

The second solution assumes that pension plans will continue to be government programs. In order for pension plans to remain viable without crippling the economy, the retirement age must gradually be increased. That is, raise the age to 66 in 2006, to 67 in 2010, to 68 in 2014, to 69 in 2018, and so on. The last of the baby boomers would thus retire in 2037 at the age of 73 rather than in 2029 at the age of 65. For the last of the baby boom, that means eight more years of contributing to their own savings and eight fewer years receiving pension checks from the government. For me, that means retiring in 2043 at age 75.

One of these solutions must be chosen eventually. If the status quo remains too long, then in another 13 or 14 years there will be a crash in the pension plan. By 2018 half the boomers will have retired, and will be expecting a pension check every month. And they damn well better get it; seniors tend to vote in large numbers.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

what i've been doing lately

what i've been doing lately

I have been shamefully neglecting my blog of late. There have been a couple good reasons for that, only one of which I will go into at this time. This link is a rough draft of the first 16 seconds of a little video I'm putting together. The whole video will be about two minutes long, and will serve to demonstrate a robot that I am currently designing. These first few seconds are sort of a prelude to the main action of the video, but are kinda cool on their own.

I am using 3D Canvas for most of the animation, as well as Celestia for some background shots. I am doing the editing using VirtualDub and Audacity.

The audio is Boston's Foreplay. I haven't asked permission for this use of their song, but the video isn't a commercial video. It does match the theme of Boston's breakthrough album, with the focus on space and technology.

I am hoping to have the whole video done before Christmas, an hour here and an hour there. When it's done I will post a link to a heavily compressed version here in the blog; I may put a higher resolution version up on Kazaa or bitTorrent. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

My Beef With NASA

My Beef With NASA

I have touched on this subject before. A recent exchange in the comments section on the Unmutual blog prompted me to collect my various musings on the matter in one place.

Click here and scroll down to April 18th for the first example, and more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, definitely here, and here.

That pretty much covers most of my beef with NASA. I am sure I will think of more later.

Monday, December 06, 2004

robot mission to save Hubble

robot mission to save Hubble

Okay, so I am several weeks late in picking up on this, but it looks like the Dextre robot will repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Also going along for the ride will be a deorbit module, new equipment for the Hubble, and a rack of tools for the robot to use in fixing the aging space telescope.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

look who's back

look who's back

Chris Muir has restarted the Day by Day cartoon. Good to see ya back, buddy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

my name is Ed

my name is Ed

... and I am an alcoholic ("Hi, Ed").

That's how one is supposed to introduce oneself at AA meetings. I've only done it twice, since I quit drinking seven years ago. The first time was on the day I quit drinking, the second a few months later when my dad dragged me along to a meeting.

I have never understood the "anonymous" part of AA. In fact, I think that the anonymity just makes it harder for alcoholics to quit. It is as though there ought to be some shame associated with what is really no more than an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Screw that.

AA really didn't help me. Oh sure, there may be people who get some value out of AA meetings; I'm just not one of them.

Instead, what I learned to do is say one simple phrase: "I don't drink". It is amazing how powerful that little phrase is. "C'mon Ed, I'll buy you a beer"..."No, thanks, I don't drink". I have yet to have anyone respond negatively towards that. Matter of fact, the response I usually get is "good for you, wish I could do that".

I still go to bars, I still buy drinks for pretty women - I just don't buy for myself anymore. Now, instead of waking up in the morning (or the afternoon) with a massive hangover, puking up bile, I wake up feeling rested. Now, instead of spending 200 bucks on alcohol for myself, I might spend 30 bucks on liquor for my friends, and end up enjoying myself far more. I also remember everything that happened the night before.

I no longer have to worry about embarassing myself due to alcohol. Now, any foolish stuff I do is done sober. If I get into a fight, I am certain of winning because the other guy is drunk and I'm not - my balance is ten times better than his. If my friends need a ride home after a night out, I can be the designated driver - and I end up feeling pretty good, knowing that my friends got home safe and that I had something to do with that.

I was going to write about my struggle with alcoholism, but it really hasn't been a struggle at all. It is just as easy as saying "I don't drink".

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

ok this time i'm back for sure

ok this time I'm back for sure

I've been taking a lot of time away from the internet lately. There have been some rather lengthy (for me) absences from the blogosphere over the last couple weeks.

There have been a few factors contributing to this. I have been working on a few projects, and the last few weeks they have demanded a greater share of my attention.

While I haven't been blogging, I have been percolating some ideas around in my head. Some of these are going to turn into essays, a little longer than the average blog posting. Some of these essays will be heavily linked, others not so much. The topics will be spread out all over, sort of like the rest of this blog.

So, sometime over the next few days, I will start what I hope is a lengthy series of essays: on the discovery of fossil life on Mars, on my beef with NASA, on my struggle with alcoholism, on learning Physics, on artificial intelligence, on current events, on and on and on.

Also, on December 1st the Day by Day cartoon will return to the top of my blog (Stan and Isaac will remain, but near the bottom of the blog).

Now, if y'all will excuse me, I have three weeks of Instapundit to catch up on.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Carolyn Parrish is wack

Carolyn Parrish is wack


...and she pisses me off. As a Canadian, I am ashamed that she is one of our members of Parliament.

Most of my readers will not have a clue as to whom I am referring. Parrish is the MP who last year stated "Americans--I hate those bastards", and who now is one of the most vociferous opponents to the proposed continental missile defence shield.

What the hell is she on, glue?

Canadians take an inordinate amount of pride in the social institutions of this country such as universal health care. What is so often overlooked is the reason why we have such social programs.

It has nothing to do with some sort of caring & sharing quality of Canadians. We are no more compassionate than any other country. No, the reason that we have "free" health care in this country is due to the fact that we don't spend nearly enough money on our military. We let the Americans look after defence for us.

Our entire army is smaller than the New York City police department. Most of the equipment is older than the soldiers using it, in some cases (like the Sea King helicopters) decades older than the soldiers expected to make it work. Why? because we don't need to have an army, the Americans protect us.

That simple fact is what allows us to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on things like health care.

And yet, people like Parrish continue to bite the hand that feeds us. Have any of the America-bashers considered what would happen if the USA was to actually listen to them? The softwood lumber dispute and beef ban are just the tip of the iceberg. What if they decide that enough is enough and firmly close their borders to us? More than half of all Canadian jobs are directly dependent upon that border remaining open.

And here we have an opportunity, to help the Americans develop an air defence system - and all we have to do is let them operate it in our airspace. We don't need to put any money into it (the americans do that) or put any of our young people in harm's way (the americans do that, too). And in response, we get Members of Parliament acting like toddlers throwing a temper tantrum.

So to Carolyn Parrish, and the america-bashers throughout a big chunk of Canada: grow the fuck up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

what's the frequency kenneth?

what's the frequency kenneth?

Watching Dan Rather tonight is highly entertaining. The verbal gymnastics he is performing are incredible. He simply refuses to see reason; all logic and reason point to a Bush victory in Ohio, which gives him 274 electoral college votes and the presidency. New Mexico is icing on the cake, and Iowa will probably go for Bush as well.

DC is screwy

DC is screwy

(of course)

They voted 90% for Kerry and 9% for Bush. Kinda telling, isn't it, of the sort of person that is attracted to Washington DC.

we have a record

we have a record

President Bush has just surpassed the record number of votes received in a presidential election, eclipsing Ronald Reagan's record. Hearing that from Dan Rather's mouth... priceless.

more

more

CNN just called Nevada for Bush; CBS did it a few minutes ago. That makes it 254-242, with Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico left to go. Bush is leading in all four of those states with 98-99% of the vote counted.

Congratulations President Bush on your re-election.

election results

election results

So much for this prediction.

99% of the polls are in in Ohio. I've been channel surfing for a little while, and I happened upon Ed Bradley explaining mathematics to Dan Rather, showing that John Kerry would need to win more than 80% of the provisional ballots in Ohio to win the election, which is mathematically improbable. Watching Dan Rather implode is hilarious; he has had it coming to him for a long time. He is nearly sputtering as he trys to defy logic.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

fearless, meaningless prediction

fearless, meaningless prediction

Ok here goes: based upon extensive, methodical polling of me, I predict that come Tuesday President Bush will be reelected. I am quite willing to give a breakdown by state as well. Every single state will vote republican, and Horseface will win at most one electoral college vote in Maine. Take it to the bank.

Friday, October 29, 2004

i'm back

i'm back

Here's a few more pictures; I took them a few days ago.

The snow has been here for a couple of weeks now, and it looks like winter is here to stay. Although most of the trees have lost their leaves (except of course for the evergreens), a few hardy trees still have green leaves on them, mixed in with some yellow and red:



The geese haven't flown south for the winter yet. They seem to like the reservoir on the west side of town. The water there is very deep, so it takes longer to freeze over than other ponds. Even so, a paper-thin layer of ice now covers about half of the reservoir. This thin layer of ice is enough to support the weight of a full-grown goose:

Sunday, October 24, 2004

sorry

sorry

I have been neglecting my blog terribly these last few weeks. Heck, I have hardly even been on the internet long enough to check my email every few days - real life has a way of interfering with stuff like that. Anyhow, regular blog postings will resume sometime in the next couple of days.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

testing testing

testing testing

I have wanted to add some video to this blog for a while, so I am trying this little video I made a couple months back. The sound isn't the greatest, but I'll be working on that for my next video.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

being lazy

being lazy

Geez... it really is easy to neglect a blog. I just checked it now, and see that holy smokes! I haven't written anything on it in almost a week.

Apologies to my fan.

Let's see, what's been happening lately? HR 3752, the bill that was supposed to make space travel regulation much easier to cope with, had some poison pill amendments introduced that would have made it impossible to ever launch private spacecraft. Thankfully that bill died.

hmm what else... oh yeah, there was a townhall-style "debate" between dubya and flipflop the other night, and Bush beat Kerry like a rented mule. Wanna buy some wood?

The Aussies had an election and made Spain look like a bunch of Frenchmen. Howard's reelection was a great big "Fuck You, Asshole" to OBL and pals.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Well, I respected him

Well, I respected him

Rodney Dangerfield died tonight in Los Angeles, at the age of 82.

Rest in Peace, Rodney. There'll never be another like you.

Monday, October 04, 2004

they did it

they did it

Arrgh. I was having problems getting into Blogger earlier today, so I didn't get a chance to post about it until just now. By now it is old news that SpaceShipOne has won the Ansari X-Prize. More from Glenn Reynolds, Rand Simberg, and Clark Lindsey.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

sunday bloody sunday

sunday bloody sunday

Strolling through the Daily Recycler's archives today I came across this gem: President Bush "singing" Sunday Bloody Sunday. Fricking hilarious. More stuff like this can be found at thepartyparty.com.

Friday, October 01, 2004

space tug

space tug

BBC NEWS has an article about the coneXpress space tug, the first of which will be launched in 2007 aboard an Ariane. The tug is designed to latch onto the aft kick motor found on most telecommunications satellites, and then to use an ion engine to boost such satellites. This would be done to extend the operating lifespan of satellites which have run out of fuel; their electronics typically last much longer than the fuel supply, so the addition of a tug could extend the satellite life by several years.

Go for Launch

Go for Launch

Florida Today reports that SpaceShipOne is ready for a launch on Monday:

"The history-making spacecraft designed by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan will blast off Monday morning from a small airport in Mojave, California, in a bid for $10 million. "

They also report that SS1 only went to 337500 feet on September 29th, rather than the 358000 feet that had originally been reported by CNN.

I hope they make it on Monday. However, if they come up short then they still have until October 13th to try again. If they don't make it by that date, then the door opens for Brian Feeney and the da Vinci project team.

Go baby, go.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

government property?

government property?

Occasionally I check out my Sitemeter, just to see who my (ahem) select few readers are, and what articles they are reading. One of the features of Sitemeter is that it lists the domain name of the reader.

Around ten percent of my readers are visiting my blog from government-owned domains. This has been the case since I started using Sitemeter.

Of the last 100 readers, I have received hits from the government of California (once), the government of Alberta (once), the government of Ontario (once), the government of Saskatchewan (SIX times), and NASA (once). In the past I have also received hits from various other state and provincial governments, as well as from various US government agencies - NASA has visited this site several times, usually after I write something derogatory about them. Today's NASA visit occurred just before 7am, their time.

Umm... shouldn't you people be, I dunno, WORKING? Since when is reading blogs a goverment function? Since when is the use of goverment property in this manner allowed?

And what in the hell are NASA workers doing just before 7am surfing the net? Does it have anything to do with this post? It certainly has nothing to do with exploring space.

C'mon people, goverment property is NOT your personal plaything. If you want to visit my blog, and lord knows I certainly want you to do so, then do it on your own time, with your own dime. Stop ripping off the taxpayers - use your home computer or go to an e-cafe, use your own bandwidth and electricity. And don't collect pay for the time you spend surfing the net, when you are supposed to be working. After all, that is why we supposedly pay taxes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

into the wild black yonder

into the wild black yonder

Clark Lindsey has a roundup of links about SpaceShipOne's inaugural Ansari X-Prize attempt today... the rockets should kick in in about 10 minutes or so.

Live webcast here

update: that was the coolest fucking thing I have ever seen. 358000 feet, they broke the record of the X-15. Way to go Mike Melville; high five, Paul Allen... and Burt Rutan, if I was a woman and at Mojave, I'd be kissing you right now. Congratulations guys, well done.

upperdate: Touchdown, a beautiful landing. Mike Melville is one helluva pilot; he kept the nose pointed straight up even though there was a slight roll in the spaceship during launch - it rolled about 30 times or so on the way up. He then brought it under control using the reaction control system while in space, feathering the wings during the rolls. Then he rode her all the way into suborbital space, breaking the altitude record of the X-15, and brought her down safely. Picture-perfect... I'm grinning from ear to ear.

Now all they have to do is repeat the same feat on Monday, in the same craft, and they win 10 million bucks. The giggle factor is gone.

Fuckin A.

uppestdate: an excellent blow-by-blow of the launch can be found here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

galactic ghoul vanquished?

galactic ghoul vanquished?

Taylor Dinerman's column in today's The Space Review says that NASA has "got the hang of Mars robotic missions".

I dunno. I am starting to suspect that Spirit and Opportunity are not even on Mars at all.

That's a strong statement, I know. I haven't fully fleshed out the theory yet, and I pray that I am wrong... but ... well, in a week or so I will either be able to categorically state that NASA has faked the MER mission, or that I have my head up my ass. Stay tuned.

Branson steps up to the plate

Branson steps up to the plate

The BBC reports that Virgin boss Richard Branson has finally become seriously involved in the space tourism business; he is having five spacecraft built by Burt Rutan, each capable of carrying five pasengers on suborbital flights. From the looks of the model, the design will closely mimic the design of SpaceShipOne, on a just slightly larger scale.

He is also making noise about orbital flights and hotels in orbit.

It was only a matter of time before Branson got seriously involved in space; he has been leaning that way for a long time, personally putting his butt and wallet on the line for high-altitude ballooning and attempts at round-the-world balloon flights.

...via Rand Simberg, who also points out that Jeff Bezos has finally taken the lid off Blue origin.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

cookin'

cookin'

So, I have been back in Leduc now for about eleven days. I was in town for two days before I started looking for a job, and found one the next day. I have been working at the Leduc Diner now for eight days as a cook. I have been a cook before, but every restaurant has their own little quirks, their own special way of doing things. I have been slowly but surely getting it, and I am now at the point where they can leave me alone in the kitchen for a while if necessary. I don't need anyone watching over my shoulder constantly, which I am sure they appreciate.

I figure that by the beginning or middle of December, I will have enough money saved up to try my trip to Florida again. I won't be taking my bike down this time though; it will be too cold by then. Next time, I will be taking the Greyhound down there. By that time, hurricane season ought to be done with for the year as well.

Friday, September 24, 2004

launch on hold

launch on hold

The DaVinci project's suborbital launch has been put on hold for a few weeks, mainly due to the lack of multiaxis filament winder in Canada, a necessary device to build the composite-material passenger compartment. So, unless there is a major mishap, it appears that Scaled Composites now has a clear field for its Ansari X-prize attempts on September 29th and October 4th.

Dang. For a while there it was looking like it could be a real race. I hope Burt Rutan doesn't run into any problems with the attempts by SpaceShipOne; hopefully he pulls it off without a hitch.

Of course, if he does run into problems (barring a major catastrophe), then the race is back on again... and not just with da Vinci, but with Armadillo, Starchaser, and all the other groups (check out the X-prize blog, linked at left under the blogroll).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

razor sharp wit

razor sharp wit

iowahawk revives the lost genre of the gumshoe. Somehow I can't see Dan Rather approximating Humphrey Bogart... or for that matter, Steve Martin or even Bob Hoskins.

advice from hugh hewitt

advice from hugh hewitt

...for Les Moonves. Hugh isn't in favour of firing the lot of them at CBS; his advice is to give everyone a bail bucket, and start patching the hull of the good ship CBS.

I think it is a little too late for that. The water line is already over the decks. If Rather is still there next week, then that means the crowsnest has sunk below the surface, and that no credibility buoyancy is left to keep the ship afloat.

Of course, I may just be in a curmudgeonly mood lately. After all, I called for everyone at NASA to be fired the other day, too.

more photoblogging

more photoblogging

Well, today is the autumnal equinox, so I wandered around my mom's neighbourhood and took a couple dozen pictures. Of those, only a couple turned out the way I wanted; pretty much par for the course.

These first couple of pics are of the riot of colour that happens every year around here in autumn:





The ducks don't seem to mind the cooler weather one little bit:

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

more oil for food

more oil for food

Claudia Rosett deserves a Pulitzer prize for her dogged pursuit of Kofi Annan in the UN oil-for-food scandal. Indeed, without her tenacious reporting, the entire multibillion dollar theft might have been quietly swept under the rug by the UN.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

memo to the Washington Post

memo to the Washington Post

Are you guys stupid?

Any time I follow a link to a news site that requires registration, I just hit the Back button on my browser. Either that, or I go to Bugmenot.com

If I hit Back, I neither see the content on your site, nor ADVERTISEMENTS ON YOUR SITE. Think about it.

If I go to bugmenot.com, then I just get a fake ID that works on your site. How many 96 year old black Alaskan female sumo wresters are regular readers of your site? Probably quite a lot, from all over the world... she sure gets around, doesn't she?

All these registration schemes do is (1) provide roadblocks to my internet experience (2) piss me off and (3) prevent me from seeing the ads on your site; you know, the thing that makes your business profitable.

Stop it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

looking for a pretty girl?

looking for a pretty girl?

While looking through my sitemeter stats today, I noticed two hits from sk.ca, each lasting 0 seconds. This is probably people in Gull Lake looking for that pic I took of Sheryl... you guys gotta scroll down to the September 12th entry.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

love is like oxygen

love is like oxygen

James Oberg reports that the crewmembers aboard the ISS have refurbished an oxygen generator as Plan B. Hell, forget about Hubble altogether, forget about ever having another space shuttle fly. They won't even have the ISS as a destination to go to anymore, if these breakdowns continue to happen at an accelerating pace.

NASA doesn't stand for what it used to... I'm beginning to think that it stands for Never A Straight Answer or Now Another Stupid Attempt.

Yep. it is high time to mothball the space station (no private buyer would ever be stupid enough to take this white elephant off NASA's hands), and to completely disband the agency. They've had their chance, and another, and another... screw it. Fire the lot of them.

a prayer for Chris Muir

a prayer for Chris Muir

It looks like Chris Muir is having to stop drawing his Day by Day cartoon; several illnesses in his family have kept him from drawing recently. I pray for the speedy recovery of his family members.

Cancer sucks ass.

Anyhow, Chris, don't worry about it, there are far more important things than keeping me amused.

It really is too bad; his cartoon was the Doonesbury of the right wing: insightful, topical, politically ascerbic, and downright funny as all hell.

In the meantime, I'll be moving a different cartoon to the top of this blog; for all who are interested, check out his back issues at daybydaycartoon.com

Friday, September 17, 2004

damn damn damn

damn damn damn

Well, I made it halfway across Saskatchewan, then ran out of money and had to come back. I am having trouble connecting my laptop to the net right now, but when I get that done I'll upload a bunch of pictures (including some of several beautiful women I met along the way). ;)

Anyhow, right now I'm dropping back ten yards and punting.

Geez, the stuff I missed while I was on vacation... I suppose I could do a roundup of it but I'd Ra[superscript]th[/superscript]er not right now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

on my way home

on my way home

At the bus station in Red Deer I met Jeanie. Absolutely gorgeous, with enormous green eyes. She was so friendly, after about five seconds of talking with her I felt like I was meeting an old friend. This girl is just a natural model, the camera loves her. Too bad I'm not a better photographer; I really should learn to take more than one picture of each of these ladies.



My trip is over. I feel like I have suffered a huge defeat, but my mom calls it a setback, dropping back ten yards and punting. So, now I have to find myself a job, save up some money, and try again.

sweet thing

sweet thing

I am in the bus station in Calgary, on my way home. Here I took a picture of the lovely Katie, a girl I met in the restaurant here. Too bad the lighting is so bad; no matter what I did to this picture I just couldn't get a really clear pic of her.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

i gotta quit

i gotta quit

Well, here I am in Swift Current. I'm out of money, the trailer is getting to be a bigger drag every day, and I'm out of options. I have to go home. I have a bus ticket back to Calgary, and in the morning my mom is sending me money to make the trip from Calgary to her place south of Edmonton.

Dang.

Oh well, it has been a fun trip anyhow. Here is a picture of Jessie, a girl who works in the Greyhound station in Swift Current. Her eyes absolutely sparkle.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

beauty

beauty

This picture is of Sheryl, a waitress at Grandma D's cafe in Gull Lake, SK. Huge green eyes, a beautiful face, and don't even get me started on the rest of her. Quite lovely and very friendly, she's the first of what I hope to be many beautiful women that I will take pictures of for this blog.



I'm about 55km from Swift Current, at a rest stop a few k east of Gull Lake. It started raining lightly about half an hour ago, so I stopped here and quickly set upo the tent. The rain is coming down a little more heavily now.

I'm down to 15 dollars in the bank and about 8 dollars in cash. This sucks big time. If I don't have the damage deposit returned to me by the time I get to Regina, I may be forced to return to Calgary.

a long road ahead of me

Saturday, September 11, 2004

unexpected help

unexpected help

I am camped at a rest stop just east of Piapot, Saskatchewan. This is the furthest east I have ever been. The last time I was in Saskatchewan was the day Terry Fox died, nearly a quarter century.

I made a few adjustments today, putting the backpack on the rear rack and the tent, mesh bag, sleeping bag and mattress on the trailer. That took some of the load off the trailer wheels and made things a little easier. I think that once I get the new wheels I will start to really put the miles on. I might even start approaching that hundred-miles-a-day goal I originally set for myself.

Earlier today I was at a visitor information center just north of Maple Creek, and this old fella started chatting with me. His name was Joe, a retired guy from southern California on his third trip across Canada. He was very interested in my bike trip. Anyhow, after chatting with me for afive or ten minutes, he pulled a 50 dollar bill out of his picket and gave it to me, just like that, saying that he'd like to help me. I could have been knocked over by a feather, it was completely out of the blue. I didn't know what to say to him - I'm fairly sure my mouth was just hanging open. I managed to stammer out a "thank you". Yer darn right I took the money; I spent half of it right away, on a pack of smokes and a big lunch at a restaurant about 1 km away. Then I came back to the visitor center for about half an hour, and rearranged the trailer load as I described above.

Before rearranging that load, I had had the backpack on the trailer with everything else. That just caused too much friction on the trailer wheels, a constant drag. Combined with very strong winds blowing across the highway, it made the first 15km I went today seem like a constant uphill. The contrast afterwards was like a shock, it was SO much easier.

So, now here I am in a hollow next to the the rest stop, protected from any winds (unlike this morning, when my tent nearly blew down). To the north of me is the Transcanada highway, and to the south is a train track. A few trains have gone by since I set up camp, thier sound somewhat muted by the ditch I'm in. How appropriate to hear trains going by as I lay here reading Atlas Shrugged.

Tomorrow I will tear down and pack up very soon after I wake up, and not have breakfast until I reach Sidewood or Tompkins. I'm running low on methyl hydrate, so I don't want to use the camp stove for pancakes until I get a second and possibly 3rd bottle. That 50 bucks Joe gave me will go a long way, if I use it right.

Hopefully by the time I get to Regina my old landlord will have returned my damage deposit to my mom. That will help enormously; that and not staying in any more hotels.

still truckin' along

still truckin' along

I've only gone a few hundred kilometers down the road, putting on far fewer miles than I thought I would. Internet access has been pretty scarce on the Tanscanada highway; I'm at a public terminal right now, and can't upload the few photographs I've taken... some pretty decent shots though. Hopefully in a few days I will be able to get access for a few hours and then I'll be posting a bunch of things, backdating them to the appropriate day.

Anyhow, I'm still alive and kicking; thanks to all of you who have been scoping out my blog in the last week or so. Even though I haven't been posting, it sure is nice to know that I'm not forgotten.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

a trailer of sorts

a trailer of sorts

Well, that didn't go quite as I expected. I ended up buying a dolly-style cart for 20 bucks, and managed to rig it up into a trailer. I think that when I set it up in the morning, that I'll do it a little differently than today, balancing more of the weight on the trailer wheels and less on the rear rack.

The wheels on the dolly spin around an axle, are made of plastic and have no bearings. I think that when I reach Swift Current I will buy some other wheels, rubber ones with bearings. Between rebalancing the load and reducing the friction, I ought to be able to start using my upper gears.

One big advantage today: the backpack is on the trailer and off my back, so now I can use the triathlon handlebars. That helps a bit, saving my wrists from a lot of pressure. There was no way I could use the triathlon bar with all that weight on my back, it made it impossible to steer or even go in a straight line.

the steed, with chariot

still looking for a trailer

still looking for a trailer

Well, I'm in Medicine Hat. No bike trailers to be found anywhere. I'm running out of money and options. I'm in a hotel right now, and I think I spent 100 bucks for.... damn near nothing. No matter what I tried, I couldn't connect with the wireless network here. damn.

About the only option I have left is either to bike across Med Hat again (if the Redcliff Home Hardware has trailers), or to get a baby stroller from Walmart at this end of town and try to modify that into a trailer. Either that, or I can pick up sufficient parts at a hardware store on this end of town to build some sort of trailer. I only have $120 left, so the pressure is on.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

back on the road

back on the road

It's been a few challenging days. About an hour or so downstream today, I came upon some guys fishing. One of them said that there was some very rough water about four miles downstream, and that the next bridge was about 10 miles down, at Arrowwood. In three and a half days on the rive, maybe 7 hours of travel time total (it took a long time to get my stuff on and off the river every day), I travelled about 30 km.

Luckily, there was a "road" of sorts on the other side of the river near where the guys were fishing. Had it not been for those fishermen, I wouldn't have known about the small cliffs and waterfalls coming up, nor the road. Thanks, guys.

As it happens, where i managed to land the boat was a few hundred meters from the road, which itself was nor more than parallel footpaths. I had to do some exploring to find a suitable route from where all my stuff was through the brush to the road, and on my return nearly got lost. Good thing that my air mattresses are bright orange and that one of them was sticking up through the grass or I would have been wandering around for hours.

I moved my stuff in stages. First, I carried everything away from the riverbank to a clearing where I deflated the boat and air mattresses, and packed everything up. Then I made two trips to move it all from the clearing to the Texas gate in the road. There, I tried to put everything on the bike - all of it, including the backpack. No dice; I succeeded only in bending the rear rack of the bike. So, I had to wear the backpack if I wanted to get anywhere.

It was at the Texas gate, as I was bungeeing everything down, that I noticed I was missing one bungee cord. So, total losses down the river were one bungee and a 1 gallon pail.

By that time it was getting to be 6pm. I took a guess as to which direction to go on the road (which paralleled the river), and went upstream a little bit. I soon found it intersecting with some other similar roads. I just kept following the better road at each junction until I hit gravel, and then pavement. Then I turned East. It turns out that I had started from the river about 8km west of Gliechen. I kept biking east to Cluny, where I grabbed a quick bite to eat and called mom to let her know I was alive. I kept biking until 11pm, when I hit Bassano, and got a motel room for the night.

Ahhhh, a hot shower.

Motels cost me too much money though. I'm going to have to hit truck stops and the occasional campground instead, if I want to make it to Florida.

I left Bassano at 11 am today, and got to Brooks at about 3pm. There I went looking for a trailer for my bike. StarSports, no luck. Ditto Walmart. I had some MickeyDees at the Walmart, then left town around 5 or so. I made probably another 25-30 km southeast of Brooks by 730 pm, then made camp. No coffee or supper tonight, I had plenty to eat at McDs and still have some pop. I'll probably have pancakes and coffee in the morning.

I have been taking it pretty easy, averaging 16 km/h and stopping every hour for 15 minutes of rest. Until I get a trailer, that's the only way I'm going to preserve my back.

I must get a trailer in Medicine Hat. If not, then I will be going so slow that winter will catch me. Any kind of trailer will do, as long as it will attach to the seat post or bike frame so that it doesn't interfere with an empty (except for saddlebags) rear rack.

I figure that I can reach the outskirts of Medicine Hat by 3pm if I leave here at 9am. I'm in the very broad ditch of the TransCanada highway right now, about 30 m from the road and 2-3 m behind a large round hay bale - fairly safe - about 80 km northwest of Med Hat. Once I get there, I'll be hitting the first phone booth I see, and let my fingers do the biking. Gotta get some sleep.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

this is taking too long

this is taking too long

Well, it was more like 3pm before I got on the river. Moving the tent and tarp to the raft helped out a lot. I went downriver for about three hours. Moving much better today, much more controllable. Even so, this is taking way too long. The next bridge I see, I'm coming ashore. If it is early enough then I'll ride the bike for a few hours, otherwise I'll camp ext to the bridge. No matter what, I'm going to have to hit the internet on the 7th, to upload what I can and to assure my mom that I'm still alive. Again, I'm going to try for an early start tomorrow,... if I get to sleep by 10 tonight, I should be up by 6 and in the river by 8am.

a repacked raft


the view downriver from this island


a cool looking red plant on this island, no idea what it is


clinging to life on the shoreline


high riverbanks

yawn

yawn

Well, so much for getting an early start - I totally slept in. Tonight I'm going to have to camp somewhere with a tree close by so that I can try out this solar shower. I have to remember to fill it before going to bed tonight and hang it somewhere that it will get the morning sun.

I'm almost all packed up now, and should be on the river by about 1:30 or so.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

my god i'm slow

my god i'm slow

Well, i didn't get everything loaded until about 1:45. I only did about 2 hours down the river, then landed on a small island - very small, there aren't even any trees on it, just lots of wild oats. it only took abut an hour to get everything off the river and set up camp. I want to get a very early start tomorrow, hopefully in the river by 8am. I'll stop around noon or 1 maybe for lunch, then back on the river for another three or four hours.

Each day is a bit of a learning experience. Today I learned that I can put even more stuff on the raft, if i want to do so. I'm going to move everything in the boat around a bit too,probably moe the tent and tarp to the raft. That way I should be able to get full extension on my arms, making paddling much easier. I will also be able to put my butt closer to the center of the boat. That may balance things out better. Man, am I ever glad I bought two air mattresses, it would be a nightmare trying to pack all this stuff on the boat.

a rafting we will go

a rafting we will go

OK, I have the raft set up, and pretty much everything packed. I think I'll leave the raft set up as long as I'm on a river, as it takes too long to untie and retie etc. I can use the raft as a mattress as long as I put my Thermarest mattress on top of it. Keeping my air mattresses/raft inflated while I'm on the river will save me more than an hour a day.

I'm going to load as much stuff as I can on the raft, and free up a bunch of space in the boat.

I didn't get enough sunshine on the solar shower, so the water didn't heat up at all. Oh well, I'm all alone out here, nobody else is going to care if I smell a little rank today.

second try at the river

second try at the river

Bright sunshine today. Looks like I'll be able to use my Solar Shower this morning and dry off all my wet clothes.

I think I'm going to make pancakes for breakfast this morning, and maybe some cereal too. I have to boil my water before I drink it, as it is coming right out of the river.

The next town I come to I should buya couple bottles of Methyl Hydrate for the stove. If I run out then I'll be stuck making campfires.

I haven't had to use any insect repellent yet - no mosquitos at all so far.

Just downstream is what sounds like some small rapids. I went over some barely-submerged rocks yesterday; I could feel them pressing on the bottom of the boat, but went over top of them with no problems. These rapids ahead might be another story, so I'll just walk downstream a bit and check them out...



OK, what I thought were rapids turned out to be a big tree that had fallen in the river; if I stay to the right of it I'll be fine.

I think I'll be leaving here around noon or so. Then I am going to put on a LOT of miles today, probably not stopping until I reach Bow City, the fourth bridge downriver. If I can dothat then I will definitely reach Med Hat on the 5th or 6th. Then I'm back on the road. Instead of heading east, I think I'll head south through the Cypress Hills until I reach Lodge Creek, which becomes the Missouri river in Montana. That means I'll be crossing the US border in Saskatchewan at Willow Creek, rather than going all the way to Winnipeg and then heading south.

That all depends of course on how well the next couple of days on the river go. If it is too hard then I'll be biking along the TransCanada highway until I reach Winnipeg. If the river is a lot better then i will go down the Missouri to Bismarck ND, then bike to Fargo, and take the bus to Chicago.

Friday, September 03, 2004

aaaoooooooo

aaaoooooooo

The moon just came up. Calgary is still close enough that I can see the city lights glowing off the cluds. By tomorrow evening I hope that I can't see Calgary's glow anymore - maybe I'll see Medicine Hat instead.

The coyotes are singing again. I went outside for a little bit... oh, the stars! I had never seen the Milky Way like that before. I heard what sounded like some really big fish splashing around in the river. Across the river, there is some construction of some sort, though I can't see it. I have heard heavy machinery operating there, a constant background drone, since I arrived. It is sort of like the river, a low level hum of white noise. If it stops during the night I'll probably wake up.

first time is the hardest

first time is the hardest

OK, that was educational. It was also terrifying at times.

First off, I have way too much stuff in the boat. I'm going to have to move a lot of cargo from my little boat to the raft. There is so much stuff in the boat that I can hardly move my oars, which can't be good. Speaking of the oars: one of them came apart on me. The paddle part just unscrewed itself in mid-stroke. It's a damn good thing that floats. I was able to bring myself close to shore and then snag the paddle as it floated past.

As I was getting all collected after retrieving the oar, I sort of chucked my bail bucket - a one gallon ice cream pail - into the boat. Big mistake. It went sailing right over the boat and into the river. I hopped into the boat and started paddling furiously, and made two attempts to grab it; almost caught it once, but I ended up losing it. Damn, that thing was really useful too.

I got soaked pretty thoroughly today: all that fooling around with the oar and the bail bucket brought lots of water into the bottom of the boat.

It took a long time to get ready today. I didn't get all my stuff down to the river's edge until after 1pm, and then took well over an hour to get the raft and boat all set up and everything packed. I didn't get on the river until about 3, and was off the river by 3:45. I guess today was a sort of shakedown cruise, getting all of the bugs worked out of the system; I probably only went a couple of kilometers. That's OK, tomorrow I will have everything packed better and will be launch much earlier in the day.

I grabbed the nearest shoreline around 3:45. I'm not sure if this is an island or on the riverbank; at any rate I'm done for the day. While wandering around on the "island" looking for a good campsite, I found some excrement. It isn't human, and there seemed to be rather a lot of it. It wasn't from cattle or horses either, I've seen enough of that to know what it looks like. I am pretty far from bear country, so I have no idea what made that deposit. Hopefully I don't find out at all.

From the time I came ashore until the camp was set up and supper cooked was about 2 hours. I figure that if there are no portages, then I should be able to go quite a ways tomorrow.

gonna get wet, again

gonna get wet, again

getting ready to hit the river. I have my stuff pretty much all packed up now; once that is done, I will pack the tent and then start hauling stuff down tot he river's edge, launching about 100 m upstream from here. When I am on the water, the first thing I will try to do is land on an island, just so that I can make sure that I can do it at all.

I'm going to have to be very creative packing this raft. Next entry will be a few hours downstream.



Thursday, September 02, 2004

first problem

first problem

A few hours ago I had my first equipment problem - my camp stove wouldn't light up. I had left a bit fo fuel inside it when I left Conrich, and added a bit more... but I just couldn't get the sucker to light up. I figured maybe that there was a problem in transport, that I couldn't leave it fuelled. So, I dumped one load of fuel and refilled it. No luck. It was already after 7, and I was getting hungry.

I sat down and had a smoke. Why wouldn't it light? It had lit without a problem last night and again this morning. What was different? ... and then I realized that the previous two times I had lit it while it rested on the ground, whereas tonight it was sitting on a picnic table. Whether the ground acts as a heat sink to help drive the fuel flow,or whether there was too much airflow on top of the picnic table, I have no idea. Anyhow, I put it on the ground and started it, no problem. A couple of hotdogs and some coffee later, my belly is full and I feel a lot better.

Cool... I hear coyotes howling.

The US map dried out fairly well. The Canadian map is still wet though, and coming into the tent I put my hand right through it. Hopefully it will have dried by the morning, or I will need a new map.

I want to get started early tomorrow, and be absolutely sure I can get everything down river with me. I'm buying a second air mattress, so that I can make a raft to float my bike behind the boat.

now I'm soggy

now I'm soggy

Well, that was interesting. Because of all the rain, I decided not to head straight south to the Bow. Instead, I went southeast along secondary roads for the most part until I hit Carseland. That's when it started raining heavily, with a little bit of hail. I found a store, and waited out the storm inside. There is a little campground here, where I'm spending the night. I don't want to spend too many nights in campgrounds; way too expensive. I think that I might try camping on an island in the river tomorrow.

My maps were in a pocket on the side of my front pannier. With the rain, they both got rather wet. I have them spread out right now in my tent to dry.

The river is moving pretty fast. if I have this figured out right, I should be in Medicine Hat by the evening of the 4th, and into Regina by the 6th. I have enough food to last until the 9th or 10th. I'm going to have to get off the river in Med Hat, as I don't want to divert north 100km. I'm not really sure how fast this river is going to take me; if it is fast enough then I'll be in Medicine Hat tomorrow.

Hmm looks like it's going to take quite a while for these maps to dry out. meh.

raining

raining

It has rained steadily for most of the night. Hopefully the rain lets up long enough that I have a few dry hours to pack everything up. After that, I will take some pictures and then head straight south until I hit the Bow river, about 30km away; just over an hour if I'm lucky. I figure that I ought to be ready to go in the river about noon or so. Then again, it may rain for a few days - going downriver in the rain is probably not the best idea.

The rain continues, very light. Wind is from the northwest, clouds as far as the eye can see.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

on my way

on my way

Well, I made it to Conrich. It was a little rough at first; the rear rack was not quite balanced properly. I made it about 5 kilometers, then I had to stop and adjust the load. Once everything ws all centered and tightened, it was a lot better. It took about an hour and a half to go the first 5k, due to stopping several times to adjust one thing or another. The next 8 to 10k after that took about half an hour or so.

I got to Conrich at about 1pm, then set up camp for the first time, in the backyard of a friend's place. This was the first time I had set up the tent completely, and it went up without any problems. It is a three man tent, big enough that I could bring the bike inside if I wanted to. I also set up my inflatable boat for the first time. Setting that up was a snap, and repacking it was also pretty easy; good thing too, as some rain started to roll in while I was taking it down. It took less than 15 minutes to set it up and repack it; I finished getting it all in the tent just as the rain started. No point getting it wet before I have to.

The results so far have been really good. I am particularly impressed with my little alcohol-burning camp stove - only a small amount of methyl hydrate, maybe 25 ml, and I was able to make a cup of coffee and some stew. This little shakedown has pointed out for me what sort of problems to watch out for, and verified to my satisfaction that I ought to be able to make most of this trip on my bike.

For those times that I am tired of biking or way behind schedule, I can simply hop on the bus. The weight is distributed between the front and rear racks pretty well. I will keep adjusting it until the balance works out to my satisfaction; it's fairly close right now.

the steed, loaded for battle:

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

ok that didn't go so well

ok that didn't go so well

I was planning on getting out of Calgary tonight. I had everything all packed up... until I realized that I was missing X and Y and Z and had to run around all over town. I sure hope X (the WiFi) works with this computer, as it is an older model laptop. It should work according to the box, but one never knows.

And then there's Y, the digital camera. I picked one up for a fairly good... check that, excellent price secondhand. I haven't tested it out yet. That's a project for the morning.

Speaing of which, I am exhausted. I have been really plugging away trying to get everything ready to go, and just came up short by a few hours. I suppose it might have gone better if I had gotten some sleep yesterday - I've now been awake for 46 hours - working two shifts with no sleep in between, and the time in between shifts spent running around all over town pulling my stuff together, as well as packing and cleaning up around the apartment.... well, it takes its toll.

It's a good thing my landlord is an understnanding guy. I suppose it helps that of all his tenants I'm the only one who paid the rent every month on time.

Anyhow, I'll be outa here tomorrow, testing out all my stuff five miles outside of Calgary. So it looks like the major part of the trip will start the day after that, September 2nd: That's when I will be out on the open road, heading towards Medicine Hat.

well, here I go

well, here i go

After months of thinking about it and thinking about it, I'm finally doing it; my first vacation in 17 years. I guess that makes me the vacation cicada.I am in the final stages of packing up my stuff; in an hour everything will be packed and in a few hours more I'll be on the road. I'm going to stop by a friend's place just outside of Calgary for the night, to test out everything while I am still right next to civilization. Tomorrow I begin in earnest; I hope to get to Medicine Hat from Conrich in two days. I may even have a few photos in my next blog post.

My parents, though worried about me, have been enormously helpful,. Thanks, mom and dad, it would have been a LOT more difficult without both of your' help.

I have to pack the computer now. See y'all in a few days.

Monday, August 30, 2004

well that didn't take long

well that didn't take long

I already commented about Kerry. Dang. And after his daughters getting booed, I was able to hold off for a whole day, too.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Hubble robotics prediction

Hubble robotics prediction

Amid more talk of a robot rescue for Hubble, I will venture a few inches out on a limb: I predict that the robotic mission won't happen, nor will there be a shuttle mission to save it. In fact, I predict that NASA will dither and twiddle their collective thumbs until Hubble becomes completely uncontrollable, when safe deorbit is no longer possible. At that point Hubble will crash where ever it happens to crash.

Hopefully it won't crash on a populated area.

Friday, August 27, 2004

i've had enough

i've had enough

That's it. I'm not writing anything further about John Kerry. It just makes me sick to my stomach.

Maybe I'll start pointing out instead how far to the Left George Bush has swung. Or maybe I'll just lay off politics altogether for a while. I dunno.

At any rate, the month of September will be mostly dedicated to photoblogging. I'm going on vacation soon, and I'll be taking my laptop computer and a camera with me. So, expect this blog to soon contain lots of pictures of landscapes, stuff I happen to see on my travels, and every hot chick I meet in the next month.

I'll be spending most of this vacation on my bike; rather than having the countryside whiz by me at sixty miles an hour (or below me at 500 mph) I'll be moving at a nice leisurely 20.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

my open letter to John F. Kerry

my open letter to John F. Kerry

I sent a letter to John Kerry, through his website. Here it is:

Senator Kerry: You have a choice. You can either sign the form 180 today and put an end to the SBVT accusations about your medals and conduct in Vietnam, or you can continue to allow their charges to gain credibility.

That assumes, of course, that your military records will back up your version of events. I will be looking especially for all the after-action reports describing the "cutting off ears, cutting off heads" and so on that you testified to in the early 70s.

I assume that you included these incidents in your after action reports. If you did not, or indicate that you made no effort whatever to put a stop to the illegal actions you testified about (you were an officer, and there are pictures of you being armed with an M16, therefore you would have been in a position to stop these actions), then I refer you to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, under which you face life imprisonment for dereliction of duty.

Note that under the UCMJ (article 104) you also face execution for negotiating with the north Vietnamese.


I don't expect a response (I am a Canadian, so I can't vote either for or against Kerry). However, a handful of my readers are Americans, and their words would carry more weight with the Kerry campaign than mine. Therefore I urge that handful to ask Kerry some questions of their own, at the link posted above.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

brothers in arms or war criminals?

brothers in arms or war criminals?

Mark Steyn's "Mekong Mailbox" contains this pincer maneuver from Russ Vaughn:

"John Kerry's actions in combat were not that of a single person but that of the commissioned leader of an enlisted crew. One way or the other, those men are either participants in war crimes as originally admitted to by their commanding officer, or they are witnesses to his war crimes and failed to report them to higher authority. Either position is subject to prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

So there you have it - either John Kerry lied in sworn testimony before Congress, or he and his band of brothers are bona-fide war criminals. Either way, Kerry is toast.

implode implode implode

implode implode implode

Curmudgeons Corner makes everything clear... when John Kerry was testifying before the Senate in the early 70's, he wasn't talking about other swift boat vets... he was talking about guys like Max Cleland, John McCain, Al Gore... all of the Vietnam vets except for the swift boat guys.

And then we see Kerry unable (or unwilling) to answer a simple question from Jon Stewart: "Were you or were you not in Cambodia?" ... bear in mind, this was an event that Kerry himself stated, on the Senate floor in 1986, was "seared--seared" into his memory. Kerry is the guy who wants to set foreign policy for the United States of America, yet he gets derailed by that media heavyweight Jon Stewart. Think how Kerry would handle Yasser Arafat. Or the North Koreans.

Then the Washington Post refutes Kerry's first purple heart, using Kerry's own diary:

A primary claim against Mr. Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans is that Mr. Kerry's first Purple Heart — awarded for action on Dec. 2, 1968 — did not involve the enemy and that Mr. Kerry's wounds that day were unintentionally self-inflicted.
They charge that in the confusion involving unarmed, fleeing Viet Cong, Mr. Kerry fired a grenade, which detonated nearby and splattered his arm with hot metal.
Mr. Kerry has claimed that he faced his "first intense combat" that day, returned fire, and received his "first combat related injury."
A journal entry Mr. Kerry wrote Dec. 11, however, raises questions about what really happened nine days earlier.
"A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky," wrote Mr. Kerry, according the book "Tour of Duty" by friendly biographer Douglas Brinkley.


The only way I can see for Kerry's journal to match with the first Purple Heart is if Kerry was in the habit of writing the dates in his journal in Roman numerals... utterly preposterous for a military man, and utterly bizarre for ...well, pretty much anybody.

Then someone posts the entire text of John Kerry's book The New Soldier to the internet. Now everyone can read for themselves why it is that the Swift Boat vets are so mad at Kerry.

If Jon Kerry keeps on imploding at this rate, he'll be a black hole by the beginning of November.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

cognitive dissonance

cognitive dissonance

Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organization is developing new generation weapons that are based on insect swarms - cheap, expendable robots that communicate with each other and work together as a sort of hive-mind.

That's fine, that's their job. However, this quote shows that these guys are lying to themselves about the very nature of their jobs:

"(Alex) Ryan said the project aimed to reduce the need to send troops into hazardous situations.

'That the driving force behind this, it's about saving lives,' he said."


Get that? A new weapons system that is about saving lives. Either this guy is a complete idiot or he's a liar. Oh yeah, he's a mathematician in charge of the team developing this new weapons system, so I think the "idiot" charge can be thrown out.

It's a weapons system fercryinoutloud. Yes, such a system may make it safer for an army to do things like reconnaissance, but seriously, when have the actions of any army been about saving lives?

I want to make clear that it is not the development of a new weapons system to which I object: such things are a necessary part of the operations of any armed forces. What I object to is the cognitive dissonance that leads one to state that such developments have anything to do with "saving" anybody. Such developments are undertaken for one purpose only: to improve an army's ability to kill their enemy.

Mr. Ryan, you're either deluding yourself or lying to everyone else.

virtual losers

virtual losers

3G mobile telephones will soon have a Tamagotchi-like virtual girlfriend game.

How sad is that? These things will be equipped with a modicum of artificial intelligence:

"But to keep their companions happy, subscribers will have to send their girlfriends virtual gifts that cost a lot of money and allow them to progress further in the game and unlock new levels."

And what if you don't keep your virtual girlfriend happy? Does she virtually dump you? And would that be considered even more pathetic than being so socially inept as to require a virtual girlfriend in the first place?

want to vie for the Ansari X-prize?

want to vie for the Ansari X-prize?

Rocketplane Limited is looking for engineers. For any engineers in the Oklahoma City area, this is your chance to get in on the ground floor of the burgeoning suborbital space industry.

527s and Kerry

527s and Kerry

Captain Ed brings it on.

the meme is spreading

the meme is spreading

Dennis at Classical Values has a good roundup of some articles that show the Christmas in Cambodia story is gaining traction among the mainstream media.

traffic

traffic

Instapundit got over a quarter million hits yesterday. On my best day so far, I have (drumroll) .... twelve.

Consider yourselves in elite company. Or maybe you're on the lunatic fringe. I guess which category you, dear reader, belong in, depends on your opinion of this blog.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Should John Kerry be executed?

Should John Kerry be executed?

That is a very strong statement, I know. However, as Steve Gilbert points out in The American Thinker, Kerry's actions in the early 1970's, which include negotiations with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese delegations in Paris in May 1970 (which occurred while Kerry was still in the Naval Reserve) are actually punishable by death under article 104 (Aiding the Enemy) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Furthermore, there is no statute of limitations for crimes that are punishable by death under the UCMJ.

US Democrats: I warned you back in April about the waffle king. And yet, you nominated him anyhow. Not only that, your campaign strategy was to highlight his service in Vietnam and to ignore the intervening 3+ decades. Well, as Dr. Phil would say (along with, I am certain, numerous other barnyard analogies), the chickens are coming home to roost.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

NASA fudging data?

NASA fudging data?

My friend Charles Shults has been poring over NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rover photographs since February; he has made a rock-solid case for the presence of fossils there, by the billions. Lately, he has been looking at some of the photographs of the sky on Mars and has come to the startling conclusion that NASA is editing the images using simple graphics software, and has been deliberately colorizing the skies to make them appear reddish - in fact, the Martian sky is a greyish blue.

Whatever could possess those at NASA with access to the raw data to make these changes? And not only that, but to make their edits obvious? Is somebody Simon Jestering NASA from within? Or is this editing an official policy of NASA? and if it is official policy, why?

One thing is certain: NASA receives its funding from the American people. If NASA cannot be trusted to give accurate data, or if they are editing it in such a way as to give a false impression of the results, then Americans are not getting good value for their money.

When faced with a choice between incompetence and conspiracy to explain the dubious actions of an agency like NASA, incompetence is the case 99% of the time. However, whether the edits of the images are due to incompetence or policy, neither choice reflects well upon NASA.

It is time for NASA to come clean. If they are intentionally misleading the public (you know, the ones who pay their salaries) then fraud charges are warranted, starting with Sean O'Keefe and going right on down the line. If the edits are the result of incompetence (ie poor security), then there ought to be mass firings in their IT department.

gutting Canada's military

gutting Canada's military

Paul Martin's foolish election promise to create a 5000-member Peacekeeping Brigade is going to lead to the mothballing of all Canada's remaining destroyers, and a grounding of 1/4 of our CF-18 fighter jets, in order to free up the money to fulfill the campaign promise.

So in answer to Rand Simberg, no, I can't seriously imagine Ottawa using the army to stop Alberta secession - there won't be much of an army left to stop anything.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

in America's best interests?

in America's best interests?

Mark Steyn suggests that for the prosecution of the war on terror, it would be better for the USA if Canada was to break up into several nations. Can't say I disagree with him.

Friday, August 20, 2004

new from blogger

new from blogger

... is the blogger taskbar, at the top of the page. Using the search function included in the taskbar, one can search for a keyword anywhere in my archives (or whatever Blogger blog you happen to be reading). It works not too bad at all.

hypocrites

hypocrites

That would be the New York Times. They claim a "web of connections" between the SwiftVets and the Republican party - my, how they squeal, though any connections are tenuous at best, like mine to Kevin Bacon. But, where were they when this was going on?

Swift Vets raise the stakes

Swift Vets raise the stakes

The first ad was devastating. The second ad, featuring Vietnam POWs' comments on John Kerry, hits him broadside. As an active war protestor following his return from Vietnam, Kerry leveled accusations of war crimes against his fellow soldiers; the selfsame accusations that the POWs were forced to utter as part of their torture.

No wonder Kerry wants to silence the swiftvets with lawsuits and legal threats against their book publisher and TV stations. Kerry has even gone so far as to call on Bush to silence the swift vets, knowing full well that Bush is not legally allowed to coordinate his campaign with them in any way under 527 laws.

...and the implosion continues....

the sticky details of nanomanufacturing

the sticky details of nanomanufacturing

Space Daily reports on a new nanoassembly technique developed by the University of Michigan. Basically, "sticky patches" are precisely placed and oriented, and then nanoparticles use the sticky patches as guides to self-assembly.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

end of an era?

end of an era?

Jayson Javitz thinks the Democrat party is going through its death throes as the FDR bloc ages and dies.

the Kerry implosion begins

the Kerry implosion begins

Actually, it started a few weeks ago at the Democratic convention, but that won't become obvious for a while yet.

The Kerry campaign began the convention with a military salute, and "John Kerry, reporting for duty". With that, Kerry finally outsmarted himself. He has spent the better part of four decades crafting himself in an image: the ├╝ber-candidate. If a party needed a war hero, someone who could look tough, he could be that. On the other hand, if a party needed a war protestor, someone who could look compassionate, why, he could do that too. He could be anything to anybody, promise anything... as long as he looked good, he would come out on top.

And now, the truth is coming back to haunt Kerry. His entire career, built on a stack of cards, is about to come cascading down. The reason? John Forbes Kerry is all about appearances. His whole career has been a self-crafted illusion.

The Democrat party needed a candidate who would appear to be tough with terrorists - not one who actually would be tough on terrorists, because those people are in the White House now. In the new JFK they hit the jackpot. Here was a guy who won three purple hearts, bronze star and silver star. The Dems rah-rah'ed it up at the convention, played up his Vietnam service, indeed made it the central plank of their platform.

"If you want to know what John Kerry is made of ... spend three minutes talking with the men who served with him." Better yet, visit their website. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that includes most of the men who served with, above, and under John Kerry, make some fairly strong statements about his character - or rather, his lack of same.

Kerry's version of Vietnam and the versions of the others who were there are polar opposites, and the documentation (what the Kerry camp will release) bolsters the Swift Vets' case, not Kerry's. What emerges is a man whose every action in life has been geared to one end: the acquisition of power by guile. The latest bizarre chapter in Kerry's merry Vietnam adventure is the sampan incident:

"Critically important is the fact that Kerry filed a phony after-action operational report concealing the fact that a child had been killed during the attack on the sampan and inventing a fleeing squad of Viet Cong. The operational report is one of the important missing documents that Kerry neglects to make public on his campaign Web site. "

Will the Kerry camp release the document in question? Or the medical reports from his Purple Heart awards? Based on the August 19th 2004 statement by Larry Thurlow on the Swift Vet's site, I am beginning to suspect that the officer who recommended Kerry for all of his medals was none other than LtJG J.F.Kerry.

One thing is certain: if we leave it up to the old media, this story will get swept under the rug. One thing is different in this election from all the previous ones though: blogs. With most of the mainstream media in the USA leaning heavily to the left, there is a disincentive for them to criticize their favoured political party, and an incentive to demonize the Republicans. The old media have left in their wake a fact-checking void. This has been going on for a long time, and were it not for the internet would continue.

But the internet has changed political discourse radically in the last four years, with the arrival on the scene of blogs. Now, when journalists shirk their job responsibilities, Instapundit can do on his lunch break as much fact-checking as "reporters" do in a week. Captain Ed has done some serious digging on Kerry, too, enough that it ought to sink Kerry's boat. And - this is the point that eludes the press - these bloggers and millions of others like them are providing instant references to what they write, linking to each other, fact-checking and correcting each other, and in general circumventing the mainstream press.

The general public is starting to see this too - seeing blogs scoop the mainstream news by in some cases weeks. Editorial cartoons covering subjects not covered anywhere else in the paper, but covered in the blogosphere, are starting to appear. As the newspapers and TV news decline in credibility, blogs increase in credibility. With that credibility comes readership, and the advertising dollars will follow soon enough, morphing the most successful political blogs into the new fourth estate.

update: Dean Esmay agrees.

know thy enemy

know thy enemy

Mark Steyn says that our enemies know us pretty well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

O'Keefe taking fire

O'Keefe taking fire

Bruce Moomaw has an article out today entitled The Case Against Hubble. The article has some pretty harsh criticism of NASA in general and Sean O'Keefe in particular:

"But O'Keefe's ignorance of basic details of aerospace technology is now infamous; and this is not the first time he has been tricked into backing a seriously questionable major new program by his more experienced NASA underlings. They hold a strong and predictable desire to keep the agency's total funding level pumped as high as possible, whether it's justified or not."

I disagree with the first sentence quoted above: O'Keefe does not strike me as one who is easily fooled. Of course, the implications of that are probably worse than if he was "tricked".

As to the second sentence above, I fully agree; I would go further to state that such a desire stretches across all bureaucracies. It goes beyond a desire; it is the survival and reproductive trait of Bureaucracy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

better late than never

better late than never

NASA is planning on using Robust AI on future planetary rovers. About damn time.

I've been working on this very idea for quite some time now - 13 years. Wanna bet I have a commercial version built before NASA gets one deployed?

two new moons

two new moons

The Cassini probe has found two new moons, about three and four km across respectively, orbiting Saturn between the orbits of Mimas and Enceladus.

There are going to be lots more of these small mountain-sized moons found orbiting the giant planets as more probes are sent to them.

next, orbital

next, orbital

With one suborbital manned flight under their belt, and an X-Prize attempt in the early fall, Burt Rutan is already looking further. In a lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Rutan talked about a one-man version of SpaceShipOne, capable of reaching a 130km orbit. The Spaceship would rendezvous with an orbital hotel such as the one envisioned by Bigelow Aerospace.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Oh for crying out loud

Oh for crying out loud

Only last Monday Sean O'Keefe was making a speech, talking about using a robot mission to save the Hubble telescope. Then on Thursday this story came out in Wired.

"NASA science chief Al Diaz told reporters the agency had not yet chosen a specific robot, nor had it ruled out the possibility of sending a human crew to repair the Hubble -- if the agency decides to service Hubble at all."

As I said in the last week, talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

best seller

best seller

Still at the number one spot on Amazon.com is the book by John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi, Unfit For Command.

I have commented directly on Kerry before; nothing I have seen since has improved the man's image in my eyes. In fact, my opinion of Kerry has gotten worse: I think he may have been nominated solely based on the very deep pockets of his wife. When other candidates were running out of money and dropping out of the race, Theresa was still selling lots of ketchup.

John Kerry has the potential to unmask the entire Left in America. Being all style and no substance has its perks, to be sure. But they are illusory benefits, and if unmasked have the potential to expose the core of leftist philosophy, socialism itself: the idea that the productive members of society will support the slovenly, that the evil will be given life by the good, merely because those who would provide the support are productive and good. It is based on the premise that those who contribute to society in meaningful ways ought to be the willing slaves of those who leech upon society.

As John Kerry's Cambodia story unravels, hard on the heels of the exposure of Joe Wilson as a liar, the twisted spin put on by the NY Times and other major media to the 9/11 commission (which concluded that Bush was not lying to bring the nation to war with Iraq, merely acting on intelligence no better than the intelligence available prior to 9/11 about that horrible day), and counterexamples of press hysteria over the Bush administration too "numbrous" to list here, the mainstream media's bias is abundantly clear.

Big media organizations make haughty claims about "independence" and "objectivity". Such claims are worthy goals, but they are hardly the case in practice. It has been this way for a long time, but the blogosphere is establishing a check-and-balance on the media itself. The Swift Boats Veterans for Truth ad is getting out there due in large part to the power of the hyperlink.

That power will only increase, as more and more users blog for themselves, interconnecting the vast web of information available to us in real time, as history unfolds for our digital cameras.

So the big media organizations have aligned themselves with the Democrats, big time, and the blogosphere is filling the void of objectivity by representing the whole political spectrum.

The question becomes, why? What would lead the Press to embrace the sick philosophy of the Left? Could it be that it is the mainstream media itself that is all style and no substance? No wonder they studiously avoid the Kerry-in-Cambodia story. They might actually have to be objective.

World War 4

World War 4

Einstein said "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Norman Podhoretz apparently disagrees, and has written a wonderful essay entitled "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win".

The essay is very broad, deep, and far-ranging. It covers the genesis of the War on Terrorism (ie World War 4, the Cold War was World War 3 according to Podhoretz) in the post-Vietnam era, right up to the present day. The essay is very complimentary of the Bush Doctrine for prosecuting the war, seeing it as a parallel to the Marshall Plan of the Cold War.

Podhoretz's essay is quite long; it took me several hours to read. It gives a good historical context to present day events, showing the roots in the cold war and the reaction of the American people to the retreat from Vietnam. The facts presented (along with a bibliography of references) cut the knees right out from under all arguments against the war on terrror, and the method by which the war has been executed. And for a history, it is remarkably up-to date, incorporating events as recent as this summer.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

India contemplates manned mission

India contemplates manned mission

The Calcutta Telegraph reports that the Indian Space Recearch Organization has practice a retreival of a manned space capsule. ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair says that a manned mission is possible in 7-8 years.

Meanwhile, Scaled Composites will be putting on a second manned mission to space on September 29th of this year. Is there any further doubt that government space programs are due for a radical change in approach?

better hydrogen production through nanotechnology

better hydrogen production through nanotechnology

The BBC reports on a solar-powered fuel cell that uses a special nanocrystalline metal oxide film to convert sunlight from across the entire spectrum into electricity, which is then used to crack Hydrogen from water. The current efficiency of the system is 8%; at 10% it becomes commercially viable.

"Using a 10% cell, we say that a seven-metre squared array will power a Mercedes A class car for 11,000 miles a year [in LA sunlight conditions] without going to power station."

Big day at the ISS

Big day at the ISS

Yesterday, astronaut Michael Finke and cosmonaut Gennady Padalk participated in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

And today, a Russian resupply vessel has docked with the space station.

Now, can anyone tell me, how much primary research has been accomplished on the ISS?

Olympic Games

Olympic Games

Well, the Olympic Games are on again.

It happens every time; in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, I always say to myself, "I'm not going to watch 24/7"... and then, from the opening ceremonies until the flame is put out, I'm glued to the TV. I find myself watching sports I never would otherwise, like synchronized diving (which, for a subjectively-judged event, is nonetheless pretty cool) and ... well, they've damn near crammed pretty much every remotely-physical human activity from ballroom dancing to ping pong in there.

Citius, Altius, Fortius... while I understand that ballroom dancing may be a mentally exacting and physically challenging endeavour, I fail to see how it falls into any of the categories fo Faster, Higher, Stronger.

For events like javelin and weightlifting and cycling, an athelete is competing against the others in an event that can be objectively measured, by the measuring tape or the stopwatch or the scales. Events like wrestling and ping pong and boxing (more on boxing later) pit one athelete directly against the other, with only the winner advancing.

I believe that certain events need to be eliminated from the Olympic Games, purely because there is no objective way to measure the performance of the atheletes. There is no "prettier" in the Olympic motto. Ballroom dancing is one of these; in the Winter Olympics a good example is figure skating.

The big problem with my position is that people watch figure skating and diving and some of these other subjectively-judged events, they tune in their TVs and get big ratings. There is no way that they will be eliminated from the Olympics, because they pay the bills.

Boxing presents a quandary; The only way to eliminate judging in boxing (other than the referee) is to force the fights to go to a knockout. That option has been abandoned for the simple reason that even if one started with only eight competitors instead of 32, there is no way that the winners of the first matches would be physically capable of a enough consecutive fights to fit within the Olympic timeframe. Such fights could go for Sullivanesque lengths, in the tens of rounds instead of only four. So, the only way to incorporate boxing in the Olympics is to have judges counting landed blows. Boxing has improved in this regard since Seoul, with a computerized voting system between multiple judges keeping track of the score in real time, for the audience to see.

The thing to do is to follow boxing's lead: to have the score voted on by the judges in real time, displayed for the crowd to see as the performance unfolds. Torvall and Dean may have deserved their sixes, Nadia Comanechi may have deserved her tens - with such a real-time voting system, their scores would have started at 6 and 10 respectively, and stayed there for the duration - displayed in real time for the home viewing audience.

Hmm... something like that might even enhance the sports in question.