ISPCS

The opening ceremony is a (brief, presumably) literal space opera about a mission to Mars.

[Update]

“Searching for nothing but action verbs” on Mars. OK.

[Update after the 20-minute opera]

Pat Hynes paying tribute to the late Bill Gaubatz, who helped her get this conference started ten years ago, who died in July.

Safe Is Not An Option: A Review

Finally, someone at NASA is willing to take the book seriously enough to critically review it. Obviously, I will respond at some point (TL;DR version, he cherry picks and ignores much of what I have to say, but that’s to be expected, given his NASA-centric viewpoint), but it’s a bad week between taxes and ISPCS. Anyway, despite my disagreement with the review itself, I’m sincerely grateful to Mr. Fodrocci for finally acknowledging the book’s existence, rather than (as much of the industry, including IAASS, has) pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping it will just go away.

Sierra Nevada’s Bid

Why NASA rejected it:

Although the document praises Sierra’s “strong management approach to ensure the technical work and schedule are accomplished,” it cautions that the company’s Dream Chaser had “the longest schedule for completing certification.” The letter also states that “it also has the most work to accomplish which is likely to further extend its schedule beyond 2017, and is most likely to reach certification and begin service missions later than the other ‘Offerors’.”

Discussing costs, Gerstenmaier says that “although SNC’s price is lower than Boeing’s price, its technical and management approaches and its past performance are not as high and I see considerably more schedule risk with its proposal. Both SNC and SpaceX had high past performance, and very good technical and management approaches, but SNC’s price is significantly higher than SpaceX’s price.”

Touching on why Boeing received a $4.2 billion contract, versus $2.6 billion for SpaceX, he adds “I consider Boeing’s superior proposal, with regard to both its technical and management approach and its past performance, to be worth the additional price in comparison to the SNC proposal.”

Given how subjective such evaluation processes are, it’s not an implausible story.

Is There An Open-Source Doctor In The House?

OK, so I installed Gnucash on my machine last week, and it worked like a charm. I rebooted over the weekend after a yum update (which included a kernel rebuild I think) and now when I try to load the program, it crashes, with this response:

Backtrace:
In ice-9/boot-9.scm:
157: 16 [catch #t # ...]
In unknown file:
?: 15 [apply-smob/1 #]
In ice-9/boot-9.scm:
3597: 14 [process-use-modules (((gnucash price-quotes)))]
702: 13 [map # ((#))]
3598: 12 [# (#)]
2864: 11 [resolve-interface (gnucash price-quotes) #:select ...]
2789: 10 [# # ...]
3065: 9 [try-module-autoload (gnucash price-quotes) #f]
2401: 8 [save-module-excursion # ]
3085: 7 [# ]
In unknown file:
?: 6 [primitive-load-path "gnucash/price-quotes" ...]
In gnucash/price-quotes.scm:
41: 5 [# ]
In ice-9/boot-9.scm:
3597: 4 [process-use-modules (((www main)))]
702: 3 [map # ((#))]
3598: 2 [# ((www main))]
2867: 1 [resolve-interface (www main) #:select ...]
In unknown file:
?: 0 [scm-error misc-error #f "~A ~S" ("no code for module" (www main)) #f]

ERROR: In procedure scm-error:
ERROR: no code for module (www main)

Any ideas from anyone what the problem might be? I’ve tried uninstalling/reinstalling, with no joy.

[Update a few minutes later]

Someone else seems to have the same problem, or a very similar one. I’ve emailed Mssr. Villemont.

Also, I’ve come up with a temporary fix to let me get taxes done. Skrooge seems to be able to import the data. It’s more of a personal finance app than for business, but it will let me do what I need to do until I get Gnucash fixed.

[Update a few minutes later]

Great. I can import my personal finances, but it fails when it tries to bring in the business books.

[Update a while later]

Good news. I deleted the file recommended at that page, and Gnucash seems to load properly now.

The Chairman Of The House Science Committee

is a moron:

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in an Oct. 7 letter co-signed by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee.

So as a bonus, the chairman of the space subcommittee is an idiot, too.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

Bias In Academia

…is destroying scientific integrity:

OK, it’s not exactly a “Sopranos” plot. But it’s pretty shady for the world of higher education. Chen went to great lengths to make up fake email addresses and even assume the names of other scientists to write approvingly of his own research.

In a sense, though, he was just exploiting the deep flaws of the peer review system. The academy has become a kind of club where friends give friends flattering assessments of research, which essentially guarantees promotions and tenure.

Here’s how the former editor of the British Medical Journal explained peer review:

“The editor looks at the title of the paper and sends it to two friends whom the editor thinks know something about the subject. If both advise publication the editor sends it to the printers. If both advise against publication the editor rejects the paper. If the reviewers disagree the editor sends it to a third reviewer and does whatever he or she advises. This … is little better than tossing a coin.”

But it’s not just the clubbiness of academia that is to blame. There is such ideological uniformity in the ivory tower that no one ever questions the important assumptions behind anyone else’s research.

Gee, where have we seen that sort of thing before?

I’d note, though, that contra the headline, it’s not a “liberal” bias. It’s a leftist bias.

Obama’s Great Ebola Error

The last time a president tried to make a health crisis about national security, fifty million people died.

It’s not surprising, really. Wilson was our first truly fascist president (complete with racism). Obama is simply following in his (and Roosevelt’s) footsteps.

And meanwhile, we don’t really have anything resembling a national response. So I guess ebola is just another thing that the president has no strategy on.

[Update a while later]

Well, this was inevitable. Ebola is the GOP’s fault. Because they’ve been in charge of the CDC, with its emphasis on junk nutrition science and gun control, while its budget rose.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The problem with the argument that it’s Republicans’ fault.

As Glenn says, if Congress was smart, it would force the CDC to shift funding from all the junk science it’s been doing, and start focusing on actual infectious diseases. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world in which Congress is smart.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The CDC is losing its grip. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Greg Orman, “Mystery Businessman”

Really? Only if you’re an idiot, or a Democrat partisan hack (both of which descriptions, often simultaneously, describe many in the media).

As Glenn says, there’s no mystery. He’s a Democrat pretending to not be one until after the election, at which point he’ll happily caucus with Harry Reid. And the media will help carry him across the finish line.

There Oughtta Be Fewer Laws

Some thoughts on the potential (and often actual) tyranny of prosecutorial discretion:

“If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows he can choose his defendants. This method results in “the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” Prosecutors could easily fall prey to the temptation of ‘picking the man, and then searching the law books …to pin some offense on him.’ In short, prosecutors’ discretion to charge — or not to charge — individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the large number of laws on the books.

As Glenn often says, we need to take away sovereign immunity from these people.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of the injustice of law enforcement, some thoughts on civil forfeiture, in which someone can be deprived of their property without a trial.

Firefox

Great. Now not only is it refusing to restore tabs after it crashes (even though that’s what my preferences tell it to do), but this morning it came to with total amnesia of every page I’ve ever visited.

[Update Monday morning]

OK, I’ve installed Pale Moon 24.6.0, which seems to be the most recent version for which there’s a Linux tarball. It seems to run quickly so far, but I haven’t done much with it, or opened many tabs.

North California

Just to the south of Jefferson, the new state of North California (shown as purple on the map) would be much larger, with a population of almost four million, comparable to Oregon or Oklahoma.

There is no other state that would really be comparable to North California, in terms of geography and climate. Unlike any of the other new states, it would have very little desert. It would have some of the best wine country in the world, in Napa and Sonoma counties. It would have the coastal beauty of Marin as well, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and the rest of the new state of Silicon Valley to its immediate south. Like Silicon Valley, it will have ocean access via the Golden Gate, from San Pablo and other northern bays, so it would have the option of building its own new ports.

As it is now, western North California would be a bedroom community for the industry of Silicon Valley to the south. With towns like Vallejo, Sausalito, Benicia, Santa Rosa and others along the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay system and Sacramento Delta, access between the two states would continue to be via ferries and toll bridges to San Francisco and Oakland, and Concord in Contra Costa County. One point of contention in a breakup will be which state gets both responsibility for, and revenue from, which bridges.

The eastern part of the new state would be much more rural, with the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and Gold Country in the western foothills of the mountains, and its own wine region centered in Amador County. The foothills and mountains will offer recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, and horseback, with skiing in the winter in south Tahoe. Gold Country, with its historical towns and sites, will continue to be a tourist draw. While not as high as the Sierras further south, there will be some snow pack in the northern mountains to feed the northern part of the delta, and provide water for the new state.

As with the current California, Sacramento would be a good candidate for state capital. The current Sacramento State would likely become the flagship of North California’s higher educational system, the University of North California. The campus of the University of California in Davis would probably have its focus broadened and strengthened from its current one of agricultural research, perhaps becoming North California State.

It will inherit a number of prisons, in Sacramento, Folsom, Vacaville, Mule Creek in Ione, and of course the infamous San Quentin, just over the Silicon Valley state line from San Francisco. As with Jefferson, it is possible that these will provide excess capacity for its own criminal needs (particularly if it, like Jefferson, were to legalize drugs), given that the majority of prisoners are likely generated by the big cities of Silicon Valley, and West and South California. So there may be opportunities for revenue from those states to continue to house their prisoners. Again, the new state may offer an opportunity for reform with an end to the guards’ unions.

With its current voters, North California will have a twelve-point voting edge for Democrats, 43% to a little over 31% for Republicans and almost 3% for the American Independent Party. But as with Jefferson, about twenty percent of those registered are unpartied, so the right Republican candidate and policies could potentially win the votes of the state for governor, senators and electors. A more libertarian Republican might do well there.

Next up, the city-state of Silicon Valley.

The Disintegrating Obama Presidency

Steve Hayes has a long piece (necessarily, because it’s such a target rich environment) on how it is chock full of fail.

[Update a couple minutes later]

This isn’t from the essay, but rather from Jonah Goldberg’s latest “newsletter” (so no link), but it seems apt:

Islamic State took Fallujah and Mosul months ago and he kept calling it the “jayvee team.” As recently as August, he was telling Tom Friedman that it was ridiculous to arm the Syrian rebels. In September, he was wistfully complaining that the Islamic State made a mistake in beheading those Americans because it aroused U.S. public opinion for war. In other words, doing nothing about the Islamic State was Obama’s foreign policy until the domestic political situation made his foreign policy untenable. Chess Masters think many moves ahead, novices respond to whatever their opponent’s latest move is. Total amateurs just move pieces based on shouts from the crowd watching the game. Obama’s like a kid looking for approval every time he touches a piece.

It’s sad because it’s true.

What If Republicans Win?

Roger Simon is concerned about what Barack Obama will do, or at least attempt to do:

Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.

When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace. They are rarely able to admit fault, as if even a crack in their pristine facades could lead to extreme personality disintegration. We have already seen manifestations of this in Obama’s refusal to acknowledge something so obvious as his own inability to foresee the dangers of ISIS, aka the JV team. Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.

This man is angry but highly unlikely to go into an anger management program. Imagine what will happen after November. We could be looking at behavior that would fit the very definition of “acting out,” anti-social but on a global scale. And he still has two more years in office.

I share his concern.

Global Warming

The statistical meltdown:

The sensitivity of the climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide is a central question in the debate on the appropriate policy response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate sensitivity and estimates of its uncertainty are key inputs into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.

Continuing to rely on climate-model warming projections based on high, model-derived values of climate sensitivity skews the cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon. This can bias policy decisions. The implications of the lower values of climate sensitivity in our paper, as well as similar other recent studies, is that human-caused warming near the end of the 21st century should be less than the 2-degrees-Celsius “danger” level for all but the IPCC’s most extreme emission scenario.

That’s the wrong answer. It doesn’t justify ending capitalism.

About That Mars One MIT Study

Some thoughts from Stewart Money, with which I agree:

While presented as a legitimate concern, $4.5 billion is after all a large sum of money, and a very tall hurdle to overcome, it still leads to an interesting counterpoint which the authors of the NASA funded study do not address. NASA is well on the way to spending $16 billion to get the Orion capsule alone through one crewed flight, a number which excludes the development costs of the Space Launch System as well as its ground infrastructure. The agency cannot even begin to put a price tag on gong to Mars. It would be interesting to see the same team run the numbers on that.

There is no doubt that Mars One is [a] risky concept, and if it is to ever gain real traction, it will have to endure a lot more scrutiny than presented in the MIT study. It should probably begin with a clear statement that Mars One is meant as an evolving concept, in which the final product may differ considerable [sic] from what has initially been put forward on a time frame which like all space projects, is subject to change. At the same time, its many critics might want to at least consider how much of the risk to any future Mars mission, whether one way of with a return ticket, could be reduced through advancing the Technological Readiness Level (TRL) of some of the core technologies the MIT team identifies.

Finally, they might want to ask why the U.S. is committed to a very different, but perhaps even more financially implausible plan.

Yes.

[Update a few minutes later]

By the way, Bas Lansdorp has responded in comments over at Marcia Smith’s place.