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We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Archive for the category “Other stuff”

Venezuelan Supreme Court usurps all power of the nation’s legislature

Where the Venezuelan Supreme Court filed that part of their constitution defining the legislative branch. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled that it will take over all of the powers of the Congress. That essentially suspends the Congress and removes the remaining power center in the country that is not under the complete control of the president.

Since the president controls the supreme court and obviously now controls the legislature, there is no organized structure that can oppose him.

That’s a major step.

For more info, check out any of the following articles.

For entertainment, consider the spin some headline writers put into their work:

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Summary of accomplishments and plans for SpaceX and Blue Origin. Gotta’ love that competition!

Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Found an article that summarizes accomplishments and plans for SpaceX and Blue Origin, the space exploration companies of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, respectively.

Check out Mike Wall at Space.com on 3/13/17To the Moon! The Musk-Bezos Billionaire Space Rivalry Just Reached New Heights.

Here are many of the key achievements and targets for both companies. I sorted and regrouped the items that drew my interest. As you consider the list, you can see both companies are making rapid progress. The competition is getting serious.

By the way, if the Space.com article and my little summary here does not satisfy your appetite for learning what is going on in space, you really, really need to check out Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry, by Robert Zimmerman, available in PDF format for free at Behind the Black. I am about half way through the paper. It is superb.

First steps


  • 12/15 – successfully recover Falcon 9
  • Through 3/17 – have now successfully recovered a Falcon 9 lift vehicle eight times; 3 on land and 5 on drone ships at sea
  • 3/17 – planned first time reuse of Falcon 9 for launch of SES 10 satellite

Blue Origin:

  • 11/15 – successfully recover New Shepard
  • Late 2016 – retired a New Shepard booster after it was successfully recovered 4 times

Successful recovery of New Shepard booster on June 19, 2016. Credit Blue Origin.

Heavy lift

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Speaking of competition in space, Blue Origin books 6 launches for 2 customers

Illustration of reusable New Glenn lift vehicle from Blue Origin with 3.85M pounds thrust. Credit Blue Origin.

In Behind the Black’s favorite phrase, the competition heats up. Check out the news just this week for Blue Origin becoming a very serious player.

3/7 – Florida Today  Blue Origin books first New Glenn launch contract – Eutelsat Communications has booked the first launch on the New Glenn rocket from Blue Origin. First launch is expected in 2021 or 2022, which is only four or five years away.

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Even more competition in the wide open frontier of private space exploration

Most of the current competitors, with a Saturn V for comparison. Illustration courtesy of Blue Origin.

I am astounded at the number of companies taking on the challenge to explore space. It’s staggering to see the innovation emerging.

Check out the number of competitors that are in the game. That is fantastic. The more companies pushing to figure out how to get in space and provide commercially attractive service at a profit, the harder everyone else will push for progress. Good.

Check out that awesome graphic at the top of the page. Lots of thanks and all the credit to Blue Origin. I’ve been looking for something like that visual for a long time. Yeah, you will be seeing it again and again on my blog.

Check out what some of the competitors are doing. This is what I’ve noticed in just the last few weeks:

2/27 – Space.com – SpaceX to Fly Passengers on Private Trip Around the Moon in 2018 – How does this sound for a great schedule?

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Mali and Central African Republic update – 2/17

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Turmoil continues in Mali. A few recent articles I noticed:

  • European Union decides to keep their troops in the fight
  • Another round of retaliation for retaliation
  • Five countries will add troops to the counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel

1/19/17 – Strategy Page – Mali; Europe Agrees to Stay and Fight – European Union has decided to keep 500 military trainers in Mali to provide ongoing training to officers and NCOs for the long-term. Article says it takes a decade to professionalize a military force. Corruption is so endemic in Mali and other African countries (I will make a guess same concept applies in Asia and South America as well) that it takes that long to train officers and the NCO cadre to avoid corruption.

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More amazing news from the open frontier of space

Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

News from space exploration continues to amaze. Consider:

  • Video of first time SpaceX recovered a booster
  • China sees first commercial launch on government rocket
  • Private sector, or what passes for it, in China gets into the launch business
  • EU’s GPS satellites having lots of unexplained clock failures

Video of the first vertical recovery of a rocket – Beyond the Black highlights What happened at SpaceX the first time they landed a first stage – SpaceX had a bunch of camera operators recording when it tried to recover a booster. Great video. National Geographic produced a documentary on the successful effort. Check it out:

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Update on cost to Penn State for that abomination in their football program. Massive cumulative amount is in the range of a cost of doing business.

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). Fisher Fine Arts Library building. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). Fisher Fine Arts Library building. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The sexual abuse in the Penn State football program has actually had a large dollar cost for the University. Will look at that in a moment and then consider the magnitude of the cost in relation to revenue.

This is in addition to the minor, now-in-the-distant-past, merely-a-cost-of-doing-business penalty paid by the football program itself.  See my previous discussion: NCAA agrees to restore Penn State’s wins. Apparently sanctions for covering up child molestation are merely temporary in addition to being mild.

Financial costs to date

As for the university itself, the AP at USA Today reports Penn State abuse scandal costs approach a quarter-billion. Reported costs are up to about $237,000,000. That’s in the range of a quarter of a billion dollars.

Here is my recap of the costs mentioned in the article, summarized in the way I put them together: 

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How a real hero responds when his Medal of Honor is mentioned: “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The quote above is from Bill Crawford, then a janitor at the US Air Force Academy, when asked by cadets if he was the person described in a history of WWII as having been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery under fire.

Before one of the cadets noted the similarity of names between this WWII hero on the page of the book and the janitor who kept the cadet squadron dormitory clean, Mr. Crawford was unobtrusive, doing his job diligently without any fuss.

The response of a real hero is someone who says some variation of he was just doing his job.

What was ‘his job’?

Well, here are a few articles to check out. I’ll then give some highlights. Read more…

Compare the cutting edge of private space exploration with the let’s-repeat-the-‘60s goal of NASA.

Drawing of launch pad. Tanker is sitting at left ready to be added to booster upon its return. Credit: Flickr, SpaceX has placed this in public domain.

Concept drawing of vehicles SpaceX plans to use for trips to Mars. Tanker is sitting at left ready to be added to booster upon its return. Credit: Flickr, SpaceX has placed this in public domain.

SpaceX is planning to use the above equipment to get to Mars, while NASA is planning to recreate the early accomplishments of this equipment:

Apollo capsule. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Apollo capsule. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Consider the contrast between the following two reports.

  • In the private sector, scientists are working to figure out how to set up an infrastructure to support asteroid mining.
  • At NASA, scientists are working to repeat the mid-60s task of getting a crewed spaceship out far enough to loop around the moon; not land on the moon, just fly around it. In other words merely repeat part of what they did fifty years ago.

11/21 – Space.com – Extraterrestrial Gold Rush: What’s Next for the Space Mining Industry? – A conference dived into the issues underlying what will be needed for the space mining industry to thrive.

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Slivers of evidence for results of state-legal recreational marijuana use – #28

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The reason I am watching the newly state-legal recreational marijuana markets is to see the impact of heavy regulation on the industry.

A related issue is the social results of recreational marijuana. Here are a few articles providing some early hints of the results. Perhaps these are nothing more than slivers of hints. Yet there are some early indications. On the other hand, perhaps these are merely transition and implementation issues.

11/2 – Wall Street Journal – A Brave New Weed / The costs so fare from marijuana legalization are higher than advertised – This grand experiment in legalizing marijuana is going full steam. As ought to be expected, there are substantial costs.

The massively important question is whether the increased costs in some areas are worth the drastically lower costs in other areas (mass incarceration, militarization of law enforcement, severe enforcement costs).

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Tension between federal law and state-legal recreational marijuana – #27

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I am watching developments in Colorado and Oregon for the newly state-legal recreational use of marijuana. Just as a reminder, my interest is not in marijuana. My curiosity is focused on how much of a drag a burdensome and expensive regulatory structure will create for a newly legalized industry.

My hypothesis is the heavy-handed regulations will be crushing and the expected result will be to severely restrain a new industry.

A related tangent is the tension between recreational marijuana use being legal in certain states under state law yet still illegal at the federal level. Here are a few articles I’ve read on this tension.

7/22 – Slate, originally at Inc. – Why Colorado Marijuana Businesses Suddenly Have an IRS Problem – Tax attorneys and accountants are saying there may be something in the range of 30 marijuana businesses in Colorado under IRS audit for their 2014 and 2015 taxes.

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Election results on recreational marijuana – #26

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Results from the fall 2016 elections show spread of recreational marijuana. That means there will be a lot more states to keep an eye on to see how severely the regulations affect in a new industry.

Currently I’m trying to keep an eye on developments in Colorado and Oregon, since they are further along in the experiment of regulating the industry. At this point I’ll also keep an eye on California, which is one of the states which just voted to allow recreational use. Since I live in California, it will be easier to keep an eye on the regulatory environment.

11/8 – Washington Post – Marijuana wins big on election night – Looks like I’ll need to spend a lot more time watching the crushing effect of overregulation on newly legal industries.

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Fun news on the open frontier of space exploration

Antares booster on launch pad. Courtesy of Orbital ATK. Used with permission.

Antares booster on launch pad. Courtesy of Orbital ATK. Used with permission.

The number of private sector companies working to develop commercial exploration of space is amazing, as is the progress they are making. A few fun articles:

  • Blue Origin’s capsule escape test went well; check out the video
  • Orbital ATK successfully launched a Cygnus capsule on their Antares booster.
  • Lots of companies are working in the small sat market, with lots of competition in all sectors of the open space frontier

10/5 – Popular Mechanics – Blue Origin’s Rocket Test Just Went Better Than Anyone Thought Possible – Blue Origin just successfully completed the crew capsule escape test. The capsule’s emergency rockets fired 70,000 pounds of thrust off angle to the flight of the booster to separate the capsule from the booster.

Speculation on Twitter yesterday is the off angle push would topple the booster and require its destruction.

Instead, the booster survived the capsule’s escape, continued climbing to over 200,000 feet, fell back to earth, and successfully recovered two miles from the launch site.


Check out the video. Jump to the 1:07:00 mark for the launch and escape. Watch another five minutes for the astounding recovery.

Amongst the other fabulous details, keep in mind the camera is tracking the booster at 200,000 feet, down through 100,000 feet, all the way to the ground. Amazing.

10/17 – Space.com – Orbital ATK’s Antares Rocket Returns to Flight with Gorgeous Night Cargo Launch Read more…

More long sentences that work well

Union and Confederate soldier reenactors at Azusa Pacific University on 3/1/14. I do not recall what unit they are with. Photo by James Ulvog.

Union and Confederate soldier reenactors at Azusa Pacific University on 3/1/14. I do not recall what reenactment unit they are with. Photo by James Ulvog.

I previously mentioned some comments by John D. Billings as he told of his experiences in the Civil War. His tales appeared in Hard Tack and Coffee written all the way back in 1887. By the way, the book is only $0.99 in the Kindle version.

Look at the following description of the progress of technology during the war, all in three sentences:

The descendants of Paul Revere diverted a part of their yellow metal from the mills which rolled it into sheathing for government ships, to the founding of brass twelve-pounders, or Napoleons, as they were called; and many a Rebel was laid low by shrapnel or canister hurled through the muzzle of guns on which was plainly stamped “Revere Copper Co., Canton, Mass.” Plain smooth-bore Springfield muskets soon became Springfield rifles, and directly the process of rifling was applied to cannon of various calibres. Then, muzzle-loading rifles became breech-loading; and from a breech-loader for a single cartridge the capacity was increased, until some of the cavalry regiments that took the field in 1864 went equipped with Henry’s sixteen-shooters, a breech-loading rifle, which the Rebels said the Yanks loaded in the morning and fired all day.

For my own study and your enjoyment, let’s pull that paragraph apart:

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A nice dose of justice for the citizens of Mali

Map of Mali. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Map of Mali. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Some sadness from Mali along with an encouraging dose of justice.

  • The branch of Al Qaeda in Mali carried out a terrorist attack in Ivory Coast this past spring.
  • The lead terrorist who destroyed many cultural artifacts in Timbuktu gets 11 years in prison after a humiliating confession in court.

3/14/16 – Wall Street Journal – Al Qaeda Turns Sights on Africa Success Story – On 3/14, terrorists from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb shot up a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, killing at least 15 people. That is the al Qaeda offshoot operating out of Mali that has been terrorizing Mali.

Quoted experts have been concerned that group would start reaching out to economically developed countries, such as Ivory Coast or Senegal.

The attack was in Grand-Bassam, which is about 25 miles from Abidjan.

Ivory Coast has worked hard to achieve an average 9% growth rate over the last four years. Good for the people there and their government!

9/27/16 – Wall Street Journal – Islamist Sentenced to Nine Years for Timbuktu Shrine Destruction – Soldiers of Ansar Dine destroyed Muslim shrines in Timbuktu that are many hundreds of years old. Nine mausoleums in total were destroyed. The door to the Sidi Yahia mosque, so the story goes, hasn’t even been opened in 500 years.  All but one of the destroyed sites were on the World Heritage roster of UNESCO.

(Over five hundred years old! Here in California, we are impressed by buildings that are standing 50 or 60 years later. A notable historical restoration project in my city consists of sprucing up a gas station from the ’50s that is on the old Route 66.)

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