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Brendan's Journal
15 most recent entries

Date:2005-10-08 22:22
Subject:The truth is revealed
Security:Public

The Communist plot is unveiled!

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Date:2004-10-31 22:01
Subject:Happy Halloween!
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Date:2004-10-01 21:54
Subject:Commemorative Drink for the Day
Security:Public

In honor of our local party girl:

The Mt. St. Helens -- Volcanic paradise with a rural Washington flavor:

1 part Jack Daniels
1 part vodka
1 part amaretto
3 parts mango juice
2 parts passion fruit juice

Mix over glacial ice

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Date:2004-07-15 22:56
Subject:Census (part 2)
Security:Public

Continuing my analysis of the census data...

(Read Part 1 first, if you haven't already)...

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Date:2004-07-15 22:15
Subject:Random Census Geekery
Security:Public

So, on looking at the 2003 U.S. census data, I decided to try to come up with some new way of looking at the data. This is what I finally came up with:

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Date:2004-06-08 23:03
Subject:Headlines
Security:Public

I noted a headline in the Metro section of The Oregonian from May 31st. It read:

Portland Cases Fuel Rights Debate

Of course, you can read the story above with the third word as the verb as intended. Of course, with the second word as the verb, it becomes a story of the shady criminal type named Portland who's been seen surreptitiously observing the grounds of the Fuel Rights Debate. Or maybe the fourth word is the verb, and the "Portland Cases" company has produced a new fuel which has restored balance to the ongoing debate.

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Date:2004-02-20 22:30
Subject:And now for something completely the same...
Security:Public

OK, so I decided to attempt what many have attempted previously, and come up with a feasible Martian calendar.  In doing so, I've attempted to avoid the impracticalities that I've seen earlier attempts get hung up on.  I hope to come up with something that could actually be used for everyday purposes, as opposed to some of the more unusual calendars I've seen that ignore some pretty basic facts and traditions of human society.  Anyway, here's my attempt:

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Date:2004-01-14 22:21
Subject:More about Bush's Crazy Moon Plan
Security:Public

OK, so if you haven't heard the actual details, check here.

While it's not as bad as I originally figured it would be, it's still not that well thoughtout. I'm feeling a bit generous right now, so I'll name the positive aspects first:

1. Having an overarching goal for NASA is a good thing. This will at least clear up the lack of focus that has dominated U.S. space efforts for the past 20 years or so.

2. There's not nearly as much retrenchment of manned flights as had been implied earlier in the media. This is a good thing. As our lunar experience shows, it's too easy to keep slipping once you scale back your efforts. We may have nearly tapped out many of the potentials of low earth orbit, but you at least need to be there to continue outward. An entirely new spacecraft won't be ready for flight for close to a decade at best, so we do need to continue with interim projects like the space station.

3. Increased funding of unmanned probes is a good thing. I still don't buy the concept put forward by some that unmanned probes are the be-all and end-all of the space program, but they are definitely invaluable in areas where its too remote to haul all the extra weight of life support, and areas where the environment is just ridiculously unsurvivable. Outer planets, comets, the sun and the surface of Venus are places where only robots make sense. But until we can create a probe that can think and act autonomously with human-like intelligence, there's still much to be gained by going as far as say the moon, Mars, or even some asteroids.

And now on to the bad:

1. As expected, no funding. And this is the part that's going to overwhelm any of the other points I can pick, because it simply means that this plan will come to nothing more than a mental exercise. The initial increase in funding for NASA is around $200 million per year. The rest of the "increase" is scavenged from other programs within the current NASA budget. You won't get to Mars on that. You won't even get to the moon on that. It's like asking for an all-expenses-paid cruise around the world with a pricetag under $500. It just won't happen. Too bad.
So in all likelihood, we're effectively likely to wind up at a $10 billion cut to the budget over the next five years.

2. The design of the Crew Exploration Vehicle is going to be forced to be bad due to the present constraints. It makes no sense to design a single vehicle for both short-duration shuttle-replacement space station flights and trips to Mars. If you design it big and bulky enough to support a 2-year Mars journey, with all the attendant life support, storage, redundancy and radiation shielding needs, then it's a total waste to repeatedly launch that much hardware for a simple one-week jaunt to LEO. If you design it as a passenger-only shuttle with multiple launch and landing potential, then you're using critical space and weight for things like aerodynamic surfaces which don't do squat on the way to Mars. I sure hope that they're talking about a modular design where there's a crew shuttle that docks to a space station or a Mars craft that's essentially a small space station strapped to some engines, otherwise, the lesson of the STS program is that they'll come up with something that excels at neither mission plan.

3. Why exactly does the moon figure into the Mars plans? I can see maybe running a moon-based Mars practice mission at the beginning of the program exactly once. Putting the spacecraft in a barycentric orbit to keep it relatively nearby while testing the ability of the spacecraft to operate in deep space has some justification. If you're doing that, you might even test your lander by going to the moon. But really there's nothing that even says that a lander optimized for Mars will work well on the moon, so this may not make sense right away either. What doesn't make sense at all is landing on the moon, then launching from there to Mars to take advantage of "the moon's lower gravity". This only makes sense if you have a fully-developed fuel depot on the moon that's using lunar sources of fuel. Otherwise you're just pointlessly burning fuel to decelerate and re-accelerate for your moon landing. If you're just storing fuel at the moonbase that from Earth to begin with, you haven't improved the potential energy situation at all. Better to just do it by orbital rendezvous. Developing a full mining and processing infrastructure on the moon is a goal for a century down the road or so. If we're waiting that long to go to Mars, then again, the plan is dishonest.

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Date:2003-10-15 20:42
Subject:24-Hour Forecast
Security:Public

Wed, October 15th, 11:00:00 PM CDT

Location: HELL

Overnight Low: 34 F

Increasing low-level clouds and a warm front moving through the lower Styx valley in the early morning hours should keep tonight's temperatures just above freezing throughout the hell area.

Tomorrow's high: 451 F

Fire showers throughout the mid-morning and early afternoon hours with a 60% chance of scattered brimstone.

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Date:2003-10-10 23:59
Subject:Mandatory Political Link
Security:Public
Mood: drunk

This pretty much sums up what I hate about the administration right now....

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Date:2003-10-08 21:05
Subject:Nostalgia
Security:Public

The news is nothing but depressing lately. I just can't help but noticing these days that nothing is as good as it used to be. All the modern inventions and everything just can't make everyone happy. Too bad we can't just go back to simpler times. Why, back in the Planck Era, or as I call it, the Good Old Centiattoyoctoseconds, things were so much better. We didn't have to worry about your modern school shootings, crack babies, video games, and Carrot Top. What do all these modern ills have in common? Well, matter for one. That's been nothing but a disaster from the beginning. You didn't have to worry about being carjacked, or blown up by terrorists or wiped out in a supernova before we had baryons, yet somehow we survived without Krispy Kremes and reality TV. And there were no territorial wars when the whole darn universe was less than 1.6 x 10^-33 centimeters across.

Electromagnetism is hailed as a modern marvel by nearly everyone, still that's no comfort when you're struck by lightning. Today's folk agree that the nuclear weak force can really ruin your day, but no one seems to ever do anything about it. I hear kids today whine, "But how could we live without the strong nuclear force holding our protons and neutrons together?"

It's *inconceivable* to them that somehow we once made due without any of those, and no classical gravitation either! Imagine that! No one today can even come up with a plausible quantum gravitational theory, that's how far removed we've become. It's a shame that we've forgotten this universe's roots, but I for one would love to go back.

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Date:2003-10-07 22:47
Subject:Phase III begins
Security:Public

Carl Weathers for governor.

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Date:2003-09-12 23:22
Subject:First real entry!
Security:Public

OK, so I've finally figured out that the best way to get me to actually write stuff here is to be drunk. Tonight I'm drinking my honorary shot for Johnny Cash. As a result, this pretty random entry:

Pet Peeve of the day: Journalists who convert units without mentioning that they're doing so.

I've noticed this in the newspapers a lot recently. It's sloppy, and I hate it. While articles dealing in natural contexts can be excused somewhat , I HATE it when this is done when talking about legalistically defined values. I can't remember a specific example right now, so I'll make up one that illustrates what I'm talking about. A typical example might be, in writing an article about France's highways: "Speed limits on the freeways (or "Autoroutes") in France are posted at 80.78 mph."

Arrrgh! No, there's a distinct difference between posting something at 130 kph and 80.78 mph! It's misleading to suggest that a statutory value has no tie to the units it was originally designed for. (Actually, now I seem to remember that the example I'm thinking of had something to do with the definition of a maritime or some other treaty boundary, obviously originally written in kilometers, but expressed in miles.) In any case, the ambiguity could be entirely eliminated by just saying something along the lines of, "Speed limits on the freeways (or "Autoroutes") in France are posted at 130 kilometers per hour (80.78 mph)." Is that too much to ask?

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Date:2003-09-03 00:21
Subject:Whee.... Pointless!
Security:Public

So now I finally have a picture! Damn I'm slow about this!

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Date:2003-07-21 21:47
Subject:Let the fun begin
Security:Public
Mood:anticipatory

Just kicking things off with the traditional
exploding toads.

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