September 30, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 3

This week, the lovely ladies of Battlestar Galactica.

Last week, we had a close finish, with no single lady receiving more than 50%. Your vote counts!

Update: Although Yeoman Rand won last week's poll, I think an Honorary SF Babe of the Week Award, Special X-Prize Edition should go to Anousheh Ansari, entrepreneur, benefactor of the X-Prize foundation, and, I should add, a real babe:


Results (Posted 7 October 2004):

SF Babes - Battlestar Galactica
26 Votes
12 Votes
5 Votes
13 Votes

With a special honorable mention to Flight Corporal Rigel (whom I forgot to include):


Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (2) |

September 29, 2004

X-Prize Attempt (Liveblogging)

I have the webcast running on my screen (follow the "Webcast" link from this page) and plan to update as time permits today.

Update 08:17 CDT (GMT -6): Via Rand Simberg, HobbySpace provides this schedule of events:

1. White Knight with the SpaceShipOne will taxi to the runway at California's Mojave airport at 6:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EDT; 1330 GMT).
2. Airborne around 6:45 a.m. PDT (9:45 a.m. EDT; 1345 GMT).
3. About an hour later White Knight will reach an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet where SS1 is dropped at 7:45 a.m. PDT (10:45 a.m. EDT; 1445 GMT) and SS1 ignites its rocket engine
4. Powered flight of about 80 seconds
5. SpaceShipOne coasts up to an altitude of at least 62 miles and then reenters the atmosphere
6. Glides to a landing on the Mojave runway by 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT; 1530 GMT)

Update 08:19 CDT: The live webcast is quite congested. If it keeps up, I'm not sure how much of this I'll get to see "live".

Update 08:23 CDT: is running an update page, too.

Update 08:44 CDT: Mike Melvill will be the pilot for today's flight. Webcasters reporting he has flown more Rutan prototypes than any other pilot.

Update 09:02 CDT: White Knight is pulling out now, preparing for takeoff.

Update 09:15 CDT: White Knight is airborne.

Update 09:24 CDT: As White Knight gains altitude, the webcast cuts to a video recapping the conditions necessary to win the Ansari X-Prize and gives some background on the X-Prize history and concept. Good information for the casual observer.

Update 09:31 CDT: I just noticed the Virgin logo on SS1. Surely a result of this deal announced two days ago.

Update 09:37 CDT: White Knight/SpaceShipOne Separation to occur in about 40 minutes. No updates expected until then.

Update 09:43 CDT: X-Prize benefactor Anousheh Ansari is speaking. I think I'm going to award her a special X-prize-edition-honorary-SF-Babe prize (this is Science Fiction coming true, after all!)

Update 09:47 CDT: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe speaking now. (Personal comment: "Regards to Captain Dunsel.")

Update 10:10 CDT: Separation! Godspeed, Mike Melvill!

Update 10:11 CDT: Rocket firing - SS1 is in a roll -- "Uh-oh... unscripted maneuver" -- engines shutdown.

Update 10:13 CDT: SS1 is in its "shuttlecock position" made it to 338,000 feet (~102 km). They made it!!! (Update in an update: awaiting official confirmation).

Update 10:17 CDT: Transition from shuttlecock to normal wings-locked flight -- SS1 is now a glider on the way home!

Update 10:18 CDT: Sonic boom in Mojave. Mike's on the way... green for landing ... descending.

Update 10:33 CDT: Flanked by chase planes, SS1 is making its final approach...

Update 10:34 CDT: Touchdown! Rutan and company now have two weeks to make another attempt (assuming official certification of the altitude).

Update 10:38 CDT: The White Knight carrier plane has just touched down safely.

Update 10:50-52 CDT: Nice views of SpaceShipOne being towed by the bandstand. Nice touch with American flag waving. "This magic day when super-science mingles with the bright stuff of dreams..." Melvill emerges from cockpit. Greeted by Burt Rutan. Lots of pictures for posterity.

Update 10:56 CDT: Melvill called the unscripted maneuver a "victory roll." SS1 "flies like a dream." He shut off the engine about 11 seconds earlier than automatic shutoff.

Update 11:02 CDT: "Major New Announcement" coming up shortly. Developing...

Update 11:09 CDT: Diamandis announcing the "X-Prize Cup" -- similar to a "Grand Prix" of space vehicles, to take place once a year in New Mexico. Marketing the concept of live TV coverage, corporate sponsorship, etc. This was announced several months ago, so I don't know if this really counts as a major "new" announcement.

That wraps up my live coverage for today. Check back tonight for additional commentary and links. Thanks!

Update 12:51 CDT: Since I won't be updating for the rest of the workday, be sure to check SpaceFlightNow and throughout the day for updates.

Posted by JohnL at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) |

September 28, 2004

Aircraft Cheesecake - Special X-Prize Edition


Posted by JohnL at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) |

SpaceShipOne Haiku

In slightly less than 10 hours, Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne should be making its first official qualifying flight for the Ansari X-Prize.

Since Haiku seems to be the preferred form of Munuvian poetry, I thought I would offer up a single haiku for the occasion:

Fall. Desert morning.
Composite skin gleaming white.
SpaceShipOne takes flight.

If you hear a muse whispering in your ear, leave the whisperings in comments or post them at your own site and track back to here.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) |

Real Escher Structures

Via GeekPress, a couple of pages featuring 3-D models of some of Escher's "impossible" objects.

Of course, each 3-D model only works when rotated so that the 2-D cross-section looks like the Escher drawing. From other angles, they look nothing like Escher's drawings.

Very cool stuff.

Posted by JohnL at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) |

September 26, 2004

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (F4U Corsair)

This week's entry is the Chance Vought F4U Corsair:


I remember this plane as the "star" of the TV show Baa Baa Black Sheep, which I enjoyed as an eight-year old boy. The show was based on the experiences of American WWII ace, Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, related further in his autobiography.

This page has some links to the F4U Corsair's training films.

Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (2) |

September 23, 2004

Russian Tank Museum

From Gravity Lens, a link to a Russian Tank Museum.

Be sure to check out the photogallery of armored trains. Amazing.

Posted by JohnL at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Poll Number 2

This week's poll is among the three lovely ladies of Starfleet from the original Star Trek: Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and Yeoman Rand.

For the results of the first SF Babes Poll, click here.

Vote early, vote often, and have fun. Comments (the more smart-assed, the better) are encouraged and welcomed.

Results (Posted 30 September 2004):

SF Babes - Star Trek TOS
19 Votes
NurseChapel.jpgNurse Chapel
9 Votes
Rand.jpgYeoman Rand
22 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (2) |

September 22, 2004

Good News For Spirit and Opportunity

NASA has extended the missions of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers for another 6 months.

Posted by JohnL at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) |

Five Questions To Bloggers

Here's a new viral thread working its way through the DNA of the blogosphere:

1. Why did you start a blog?
I'd flirted off and on with the idea of being a writer, and wanted to force myself to write regularly (unfortunately, I've been more of a linker than a writer recently).

2. Do you have a blogmother/blogfather?
Not really, though my first permalink came from Prof. Chris Hall.

3. Has it helped/hurt/had no effect on your professional life?
It has had little effect on my professional life. I did remodel my law department's website using the html and css skills I learned blogging, so maybe it helped more than hurt.

4. Do your 'real world' friends know that you blog?
Many, but not all. Few read it.

5. Do you have a blog crush?

(First seen at Ted's site, where I answered them in comments).

Posted by JohnL at 09:57 PM | Comments (1) |

September 21, 2004

120 Years of Electronic Music

Here's an interesting page dedicated to more than a century of electronic musical instruments.

The main page (to which I linked) branches off to numerous articles and pictures of each of the listed electronic instruments. I could easily spend a couple of hours perusing this site. And I will.


Posted by JohnL at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) |

September 20, 2004

Warm Birthday Wishes

I know he's on the other side of the date line, so this comes a day late for him, but I would like to extend a Texas-sized birthday greeting to Pixy Misa, the proprietor of this funky little blog community known as Munuviana.

Bandwidth and server space aren't free, but he makes them seem that way.

Thanks, Pixy.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) |

Private Vomit Comet

Over the past week, Xeni Jardin (co-editor of BoingBoing and Wired contributor) has posted a series of articles (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) on her experience flying with Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero-G), a company founded by X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, to offer its customers commercial weightless flights in a specially modified 727-200 aircraft.

Today, Rand Simberg discusses Alan Boyle's report on Zero-G's inaugural flights, mentioning that Diamandis faced a 10-year process of jumping over regulatory hurdles erected by the FAA. This is shocking. The technique used to create weightlessness using a parabolic arc flight-path is not really novel; it's been around for decades. I would think that informed consent is all that's really required. Geez.

At about $3000 for the flight, I don't think I'll be trying this soon, but it certainly brings an astronaut experience closer and closer to normal, paying customers.

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (1) |

September 19, 2004

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Su-47/S37 Berkut)

I love airplanes. I especially love military aircraft, and even moreso unique-looking military aircraft. For the next couple of weeks, I will try to highlight an aircraft that strikes my fancy. It may or may not become a regular feature.

This week's entry is the Sukhoi Su-47/S37 Berkut:



What I like about this fighter is the forward-swept wing, something I find quite visually appealing in an aircraft. Whether the wing shape confers any performance benefits is open to debate.

Enjoy the pic, and let me know if you have a favorite aircraft you would like to see featured.

Posted by JohnL at 11:31 PM | Comments (6) |

September 17, 2004

Strengthen the Good 2

Strengthen the Good is a network of bloggers who seek to highlight opportunities for "microcharity" -- the ability to make a positive difference in our world with even a small donation.

Please read this post at STG, and then follow the link to the highlighted foundation, the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children. This is an appropriate way to honor the memory of one victim of 9-11 while also helping make the world a better place. If you believe this a worthy cause, I encourage you to donate even a small amount.


Update: I originally posted this on Monday September 13 at 23:18 CDT. I am post-dating it to September 17 so it will stay at the top of the page throughout the week.

Posted by JohnL at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) |

September 16, 2004

More Silly Filler

My pimp name is "Vicious D.J. Slim."


(Tip o' the velvet cowboy hat to Macktastic R. Tickle and Professor Truth Steve Gates).

Update: Rusty "Darth Sidious" Shackleford is starting a Blog Pimp Alliance. Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) |

SF Babes Poll Number 1

New Feature! SF Babe of the week! Vote early! Vote often!

Since this site is the undisputed worldwide source of SF Babe information (just Google "SF Babes" if you don't believe me), I've decided to incorporate a weekly poll of SF Babes in which you, dear reader, may democratically influence the outcome of each critically important faceoff among science fiction's cutest ladies.

(I'll keep this up until I'm bored with the concept, but I will keep track of each week's winner and compile them in a running master list).

For this week, I offer you a selection among the lovely ladies of Lost in Space - both the classic TV Series and the "Major Motion Picture."

Pretend you're a Chicago voter. Vote as many times as you want. Have fun!

(If you have suggestions for future candidates, please feel free to email or comment. Thanks!)

Results (Posted 23 September 2004):

SF Babes - Lost in Space
OldJudy.jpgOld Judy
15 Votes
NewJudy.jpgNew Judy
3 Votes
OldPenny.jpgOld Penny
1 Vote
NewPenny.jpgNew Penny
7 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 11:08 PM | Comments (9) |

Another Stupid Quiz

All I can say is:


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (4) |

No Surprise Here

Take the What High School Stereotype Are You? quiz.

Pinched from the Llamabutchers.

This also explains why I can laugh at these 11 great geek pickup lines (from, appropriately, GeekPress).

Posted by JohnL at 10:07 PM | Comments (1) |

September 15, 2004

Fire Engine Design

I think Ted's universe overlaps a bit with mine. In Ted's universe,

"Fire Engines would be about twice as big, have 4-foot wide tracks instead of wheels and a big honkin' snowplow blade on front. If you can't hear the sirens over your freakin' stereo, then they'll either move you themselves or go right over the top. I'd pay money to see that.

I think I'll put the boys to work on a LEGO model of such a fire truck.

Posted by JohnL at 09:50 PM | Comments (1) |

New Amazon Internet Search

I saw this new Amazon internet search engine at SFSignal today and naturally had to search "TexasBestGrok."

I was highly gratified to see my blog come up first. And, like the guys at SFSignal, I found the linked images feature pretty cool, too.

Along with the traditional search results on the left, a sidebar on the right was populated with images ranging from the Texas Republic circa 1845, to SpaceShipOne, to the appealing ladies of Buck Rogers in the 25th century.

Posted by JohnL at 06:27 PM | Comments (2) |

September 14, 2004

X-37 = SpaceShipTwo?

MSNBC and the Desert News report that Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites will be responsible for carrying the X-37 technology demonstrator to altitude for test drops.

Contrary to the first report in the Desert News, Scaled has not yet confirmed whether the White Knight will be the ship that carries the X-37, as it does SpaceShipOne.

I find this very interesting, given Rutan's recent statements about developing an orbital analogue of SpaceShipOne as the next step in his business plan. I also find it interesting that the program has been transferred from NASA to an "unnamed government agency."

This is one to watch, folks.

Update: According to Keith Cowing's source, the "unnamed agency" is DARPA.

Update: And here's more from on the X-37 program and its transfer to DARPA.

Posted by JohnL at 10:21 PM | Comments (2) |

September 13, 2004

Rathergate Wrapup

I've been tracking this story since last Thursday morning, but haven't felt compelled to write anything about it, given the excellent efforts of Little Green Footballs (start here and scroll to the present), PowerLine (start here and scroll), Ace (again, here and scroll), and the Creator of Worlds (here), among many others.

This animated GIF, created by Charles Johnson (of LGF) is an overlay of the alleged 1973 memo to file with the same memo typed in Word 97 with default margins and 12 point Times New Roman Font. This really is all I needed to see to settle my opinion, and I would argue it is all any open-minded person would need to see:


Contrast that with Charles' efforts to overlay a reproduction of a real typewritten memo from the era:


Here's the original memo without overlay:


And here's another overlay, debunking the notion put forward by Edward Mendelson at PC Magazine that an expensive IBM typesetting maching (the Selectric Composer) would have produced an identical document:


Other good links here and here.

Update: Ouch. That's gotta hurt. Certainly nobody can accuse the Washington Post of partisan bias in favor of the President. (Link via Instapundit).

Posted by JohnL at 10:46 PM | Comments (2) |

Giant Machinery

This is one cool machine.

Language geek aside: This site appears to be in Finnish. How do I know that? It looks like Tolkien's Elvish.

Via Utterly Boring.

Posted by JohnL at 07:21 PM | Comments (1) |

September 09, 2004

Don Leslie, RIP

Donald J. Leslie, the man who invented the organ amplifier that bears his name, passed away last week at the age of 93.

If you like classic rock, gospel, or jazz, some of your favorite songs were most likely enhanced by a Leslie amplifier, which gave the Hammond organ its most recognized voice.

Leslie's invention was ingenious.


His amps typically contain a crossover that splits the audio signal, directing bass frequencies to a 15" speaker aimed down and the treble frequencies to a small driver facing up. Positioned below the bass speaker is a rotating drum (originally made out of plywood) and above the treble driver is a counterweighted horn. The drum and horn deflect the audio signal out through the louvres in the cabinet.


When set at slow speed (Chorale), the lower drum would rotate slowly and the horn not at all. But when switched to high speed (Tremolo), the top horn would rotate at up to 400 RPM. This produced the distinctive doppler-shifting vibrato that many associate with the classic Hammond sound.

I didn't know that Don Leslie was still alive as of last week, as he was not a major public figure. But as the proud owner of a Leslie 147 amp, I am thankful for his invention. You can read some of his obituaries here, here, and here. (Use Bugmenot for the registration-required sites).

Posted by JohnL at 10:04 PM | Comments (2) |

September 08, 2004

Picking Up the Slack Down Under

While I've been slacking off for the last few weeks, tweaking the templates and stylesheets of my site, Alan Brain has been posting a terrific variety of articles on subjects ranging from Iran's missile program and the US/Israeli ABM response to it, to a tale of two very cool naval vessels (including the Australian role in the high-tech design of each), to coverage of the Beslan terrorist atrocity.

I hit his tipjar tonight, and encourage you to do the same.

Posted by JohnL at 10:40 PM | Comments (1) |

September 05, 2004

Redesign 80% Complete

Sorry for the lack of content recently. I've been struggling with getting a stable 3-column css layout that doesn't look too busy.

The middle column still needs some work, I think, but I wanted to go ahead and throw this out there for feedback from my few regular readers.

Please email or comment with feedback on the new look.


Update: Make that 99.9% complete! Thanks for the feedback and compliments. Especially thanks to Madfish Willie for some solid, constructive criticism. I got rid of the dotted line under the banner, as well as the link-underlining in the sidebars. I also moved the sitemeter and scripts down to the bottom right, so that they would load last; I noticed they were keeping the right bar from loading quickly. Any other comments still welcome!

Posted by JohnL at 12:52 AM | Comments (8) |

September 02, 2004

I'm a Liberal Democrat. . .

. . . In Australia, that is, according to this quiz.

Of course, their "liberal Democrats" are quite a bit different from ours. . .

HT: Yobbo.

Update: Prompted by Yobbo's comment, my scores were 17 for Economic Freedom and 15 for Social Freedom.

Posted by JohnL at 12:14 AM | Comments (5) |