Category Archives: History

The Year In Review

from Dave Barry:


…when the abandoned Chinese space station Tiangong-1, which has been anxiously watched by scientists as its orbit decayed, plunges back to earth and, in a worst-case outcome, fails to land on attorney Michael Avenatti, thus enabling him to continue appearing on CNN more often than the Geico Gecko.

Meanwhile President Trump, faced with — among other problems — a continuing immigration crisis, increased Russian aggression in Syria and a looming trade war with China, launches a barrage of assault tweets at what is clearly the biggest threat to the nation: Amazon. Trump is forced to back down when the retail giant threatens to suspend the White House’s Amazon Prime membership and cancel delivery of a large order placed by the Defense Department, including six nuclear submarines, two aircraft carriers and a missile-defense system with a five-star average review rating from other nations.

Responding to alleged Russian infiltration of Facebook and massive breaches of user data, the Senate Committee of Aging Senators Who Cannot Operate Their Own Cell Phones Without the Assistance of Minions holds a hearing intended to answer such probing questions as:

? What IS Facebook, anyway?

? Where does it go when you turn off the computer?

? Is there a print version?

? Is Facebook the one with the video of a cat riding on a dog?

? How the heck do you get a cat to do that, anyway?

Patiently attempting to answer these questions is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wears a suit and tie and does a solid job of impersonating a regular human, except for not blinking and at one point having a tentacle emerge briefly from his left ear.

Abroad, the big news is a historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. In what observers see as a major breakthrough, Kim agrees to sign a letter of agreement explicitly acknowledging, for the first time, that he has exactly the same hairstyle as Bert, of Bert and Ernie.

In sports, Patrick Reed wins the Masters Tournament, prompting jubilant Eagles fans to celebrate by destroying what little is left of Philadelphia.

We laugh so we don’t cry.

Mike Griffin

For Secretary of Defense?

I agree that we need someone who understands the technology threat at the helm of the Pentagon. But I wonder how familiar Goldman is with Griffin’s actual record when I read “praise” like this:

The overriding strategic risk to the United States is the loss of our technological edge, and the Defense Department needs a leader with the vision and expertise to restore it. Michael Griffin would be an excellent choice. A first-rate physicist, Dr. Griffin headed NASA under the Bush 41 administration.

First, Mike knows physics, but I wouldn’t call him a “physicist.” He’s first and foremost an aerospace engineer (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The problem is that, during his tenure at NASA, he devastated the space R&D budgets and promoted Constellation, an attempt not to develop needed new technology, but to repeat Apollo (except this time “on steroids”) with decades-old technology based on Saturn and the Space Shuttle.

At the time he left the agency (unwillingly) in 2009, all that was being developed to get back to the moon was a rocket designed to carry a capsule into low earth orbit, with no serious plans for things like a lunar lander, and those items were far over budget, and slipping more than a year per year (one of the reasons that, almost a decade later, we remain dependent on the Russians for access to our own space station). Even if they’d succeeded, the planned flight rate would be very low, at ridiculously high cost.

Now, in theory, he could argue that he is now older and wiser, and learned his lesson from that, but that’s negated by the fact that he continues to support their successors, the SLS and Orion. So, if we need someone to restore our technological edge, it’s hard to make the case that he’s the right guy for the job.

[Update a while later]

OK, if Mike Griffin were SecDef, just what would he do, going on past performance? Would he propose a giant expendable combat aircraft, based on parts from F-15s and F-16s, that would fly once a year, and each service could take a turn?

Republican “Control” Of The Senate

I do not understand why Republicans don’t push back on this media/Democrat (but I repeat myself) talking point:

BLITZER: We’re apparently in the same position we were a week ago. The president had, as you know, two years of Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate to get this done. To build that border wall. Why did he fail?

MILLER: Well, the House is voting as we speak o border security. The fight is only beginning. As you know, first of all, we’re talking about successful (ph) boarder security, this president has made unprecedented achievements in that area. But right now as we speak, we are rallying Republican lawmakers to try to get a bill out of the House. And the fundamental issue here is whether or not democrat will supply votes to pass border security or whether they’re going to push for open borders which…

The proper response to this nonsense should always be something like, “Wolf, Republicans did not control the Senate for the past two years. A party does not control the Senate for legislative purposes unless it has sixty votes. No party has controlled the Senate in the past decade except the Democrats, from 2009 through 2011, when they crammed the ObamaCare crap sandwich down the nation’s throat.”

Apollo 8

Half a century ago today, a spaceship left earth to take astronauts not just beyond LEO, but all the way to and around the moon. That was when we won the race.

Bob Zimmerman reflects.

[Update Sunday morning]

More thoughts from John Wenz. This statement isn’t inaccurate, but it is a little misleading:

It was the first time humanity had orbited another body that wasn’t our home planet.

Yes, it was, but some have concluded from that fact that they weren’t orbiting earth. None of the Apollo missions left earth orbit, because they never reached escape velocity, and when you orbit a moon that is in orbit around a planet, you remain in orbit around that planet along with it. No human has ever left earth orbit, but Elon seems to have the most serious plans to do so.

One other point, unrelated to Wentz’s piece. I was looking at the Wikipedia page for the mission, and found this bit of (misleading, at best) history:

On August 9, 1968, Low discussed the idea with Gilruth, Flight Director Chris Kraft, and the Director of Flight Crew Operations, Donald Slayton. They then flew to the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, where they met with KSC Director Kurt Debus, Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips, Rocco Petrone, and Wernher von Braun. Kraft considered the proposal feasible from a flight control standpoint; Debus and Petrone agreed that the next Saturn V, AS-503, could be made ready by December 1; and von Braun was confident that the pogo oscillation problems that had afflicted Apollo 6 had been fixed. Almost every senior manager at NASA agreed with this new mission, citing confidence in both the hardware and the personnel, along with the potential for a circumlunar flight providing a significant morale boost. The only person who needed some convincing was James E. Webb, the NASA administrator. Backed by the full support of his agency, Webb authorized the mission. Apollo 8 was officially changed from a “D” mission to a “C-Prime” lunar-orbit mission.

Webb may have authorized it in August, in the sense of changing the mission category, but this was probably to keep the option open, not because he supported doing it. I’m pretty sure he continued to oppose it, and it may be that one of the reasons for his retirement in October was to not have it happen on his watch (though he probably would have left anyway in the New Year, with the incoming administration of Nixon). Tom Paine (who did favor it), as Acting Administrator, actually made final approval in November, a few weeks before the flight.

The Paleo Diet

Forget it; go neolithic.

I’ve never been orthodox paleo. Basically, I’ve just cut way back on processed foods. I’m back to my college weight, my cholesterol is a little high, but the ratio is good, and my triglycerides are almost unmeasurable. I’m supposed to worry because both my parents died fairly young (father at 55, mother at 68) from coronaries, but they both were overweight, had terrible diets, and were inveterate smokers. Every time I check my arteries, no issues are found.