July 2008

On Sunday we visited the Chautauqua County Fair.


I love fried dough..


.. and rides that spin you around..


(though not in that order). It was lots of fun.


Unfortunately, I missed most of the demolition derby.

Colby Cosh on Richard Branson’s suborbital dreams:

Here, with talk of satellites and zero-G research, Branson seems to be cynically availing himself of the public’s confusion between “going into space” and “going into orbit”. It is a bit like confusing a walk around the block with an ascent of K2. SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital system designed to reach an altitude just above 100 km, and thus barely breach the arbitrary technical line between the atmosphere and space-in other words, to repeat, with a passenger load, what SpaceShipOne already did in 2004. This will be no mean feat, but as Mark Wade’s authoritative Encyclopedia Astronautica observes, “Orbital flight to space is a whole different order of magnitude than suborbital tosses. To reach 100 km altitude typically requires a vertical cut-off velocity of 1100 m/s at 40 km altitude. To reach orbit requires a cut-off velocity of 7800 m/s at 185 km altitude—over…7 times the cut-off velocity, and 20 times the energy.”

The wealthy buyers who have already lined up to ride SpaceShipTwo will be in free fall only at the very peak of the winged capsule’s trajectory, and as a microgravity research platform it will be about as much use as the cardboard box your kid turned into the Millennium Falcon with his crayons. Branson has the vague plans to design a SpaceShipThree capable of orbital flight, but the relatively humble materials and fuels he is using for SpaceShipTwo won’t cut the mustard.

If it’s possible to get ordinary civilians into orbit through sheer marketing ability, Branson is the man to bet on. What the general public may not know is that other private commercial enterprises are currently tackling the challenge of manned orbital flight, and could conceivably one day put tourists into low earth orbit at relatively sensible prices..


The Gulf state friends of bin Laden use their alliance with a gullible government to spread extremism and hate. It’s not just happening in America and Britain, it’s also happening in Macedonia.

Michael Totten describes The Bin Ladens of the Balkans, Part II

I met Shpetim Mahmudi at a covered outdoor cafe on a cold day in late spring in the ethnic Albanian region of Macedonia. Black clouds hung low over the city of Tetovo. Fat rain drops pelted the sidewalk and the awning over my head as I shivered in my light black leather jacket. “Let’s go inside,” he said, “where it’s warmer and drier.” We found a table and ordered coffee. He leaned in close to whisper when the waiter stepped out of earshot. “We are really in trouble here,” he said. “We are really in trouble with the Wahhabis.”

After the Kosovo War ended in 1999, well-heeled Gulf Arabs with Saudi money moved in to rebuild mosques destroyed by Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces. They’re still there trying to impose a stern Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on indigenous Europeans, and they’re having an awfully difficult time getting much traction. Almost everyone in Kosovo despises these people. They are known as the Binladensa, the people of Osama bin Laden.

Things are different in next-door Macedonia. I had driven two hours from Kosovo’s capital Prishtina through beautifully sculpted mountains and forest to Tetovo near the Kosovo and Albanian borders.

What I saw there was startling…


Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) gives his last lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” *

For more, visit cmu.edu/randyslecture

* Link thanks to Bruce

I’ve been kicked out of my apartment while they do the floors. Posting will be even more sporadic than usual…

Belmar waves and Don Henley..

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