Monday, April 27, 2009

WhiteKnightTwo scrapes the runway!

Well, it's that time again! And I expect these to come more and more frequently. WhiteKnightTwo made its fourth test flight last week, and it wasn't quite the success others have been... but that's why they call it a test flight.

Partway through the flight, the VMS Eve made a touch-and-go maneuver, and as it did so, its twin tails scraped the runway. Initially, the media speculated that this was due to crosswinds, or that there was a design flaw in the aircraft. This prompted Scaled Composites to issue a press release to set the record straight. Their press release stated that the problem occurred due to an asynchronous application of thrust during the maneuver, and that simply avoiding that condition would prevent it from happening in the future.

We'll see what the future holds...

Trip to Space
Progress: 4.58%  Flight Time: 0:06:52
Solar Array
Progress: 3.28%  Power: 49W

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SpaceX Announces Another Two Falcon 9 Flights

Today, SpaceX announced that they were adding another two Falcon 9 flights to their schedule. Both of the flights were purchased by CONAE, the Argentina national space agency.

Didn't know Argentina had a national space agency? I sure didn't.

But that's the great thing about SpaceX. They're doing spaceflight much more cheaply than has been available in the past, meaning that smaller governments or (more relevant for the purposes of this website) private companies can purchase spaceflight services.

Both of the spaceflights will take place in 2010. If successful, the flights will launch two identical satellites into orbit, both to be used for measuring soil moisture on Earth, among other earth-observation purposes.

Yep, Argentina is launching two satellites into space to keep track of how wet their dirt is.

Insert joke here.

Trip to Space
Progress: 4.58%  Flight Time: 0:06:52
Solar Array
Progress: 3.28%  Power: 49W

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Most Annoying Things Ever.

So I've decided to create a list of the thirteen things in this world that annoy me most, mostly because a couple of them have severely annoyed me again just in the past couple of days, and I feel like having a good rant. You'll notice that this list focuses fairly heavily on internet phenomena. That's because most things that annoy me are on the internet. So without further ado, from the least annoying to the most annoying:

13. The Imperial System of Units
I'm a fairly scientifically-minded guy, but 90% of my difficulties with science can be traced back to the Imperial system. Inches, feet, miles, pounds, ounces, gallons, etc. It makes no sense. The only reason it's used in this country is because the people who founded it wanted to differentiate themselves from their European oppressors (despite the fact that the Imperial system has British origins). That's right, the US version of the imperial system was originally enforced by politicians, not scientists. That's where it all went wrong. Let me give you some examples: there are 128 fluid ounces in a gallon, 2000 pounds in a ton, and 5280 feet in a mile. Now for the metric system equivalents: there are 1000 milliliters in a liter, 1000 kilograms in a metric ton, and 1000 meters in a kilometer. Which system makes more sense to you?

I know this one is rather innocuous, but I just can't stand it. If a hottie were to message me saying "I WANT TO SEX YOU UP RIGHT NOW", it would be a deal-breaker. Probably. Well, I would at least have second thoughts. Call me crazy, but it grates that much against my nerves. This applies equally to using no punctuation.

11. TV previews for the next episode that give out way too much about what's going to happen.
These days, I have to remember to stop watching a show real fast after it ends, because they'll invariably show you a preview of the next episode during the credits, and about 50% of the time, they won't leave anything to the imagination. They'll give away the whole plot of the show! There are entire TV series that I've stopped watching because I failed to avoid the preview a few times and it took all the fun out of it for me.

10. People who drone on at you about their own interests and don't let you get a word in edgewise.
I have a friend who used to call me up nearly every evening and talk about whatever video game he was playing that day. He would blather on and on about it in one disturbingly long run-together sentence without so much as pausing to let you respond to what he was saying and when I decided to break in and try to change the subject he would continue as if I hadn't said a word. And it was always about a game that I didn't play, didn't intend to play, and had absolutely no interest in playing whatsoever. My roommate at the time literally put the phone down for twenty minutes when that friend was talking, and when the phone was picked back up, the guy was still talking and hadn't even noticed. Ever since then, when someone even approaches half this level of insanity, I can't stand to talk to them.

Yeah, internet acronyms. I can't stand them, not only because I prefer communicating in proper English, but because I can't decipher half of them. My brother onced sent me the following message (and I'm paraphrasing): "Btw b4 U go I need 2 tlk!!!!!" It suffices to say that he never got a chance to "tlk" to me.

8. Video games that send you back a half hour when you screw up a complex or difficult maneuver.
I do enjoy playing the occasional video game. I don't have many, because I don't have a lot of time for them and they're getting expensive, but I'll buy one once in a while. However, there's little that I can stand less than when you're sent back halfway to the freaking beginning of the game because you fell off a thin path on a cliff or screwed up a complex puzzle or whatever. If I screw something up, I want to try that thing again, not a half hour of stuff I already got right and then that thing! I like to complete the games I play, but with only one major exception, the few I haven't finished were the ones where I had to go back and do an extra half hour of mundane repetitive work when I borked things up, which happens to me frequently.

7. Bill Sizemore

6. People who tailgate me when I'm speeding.
I know you have some insanely important meeting/TV show/ham sandwich to get to, but I'm already speeding, okay? Cool it. Keep it up and I'll slow down in front of you. Yes, I'm that petty.

5. Blind exclamations of United States supremacy.
Yes, we all know that you're a good patriot and love the country you live in and worship at the feet of freedom and all that. But when you tell others that not supporting a war means you hate the troops, or when you tell others that disagreeing with the President means you want the country to fail, or when you tell others that being a citizen of the United States means that you're better than everyone else in the world, than you sir are a raving lunatic. After all, if we can't admit our mistakes, and if we can't discuss our faults like civilized adults, then how will we ever improve? The same level of annoyance goes for those who make exclamations about what the "Founding Fathers" would have wanted without ever having studied them, those who repeat political information gathered from talk radio and cable news networks without verifying it themselves, and the phrase "Don't mess with Texas".

4. Kewl.
Oh my god, I used to be such a little internet twit. I used to use this constantly. But now I can't stand it. Am I redeemed?

3. Spongebob Squarepants
Yeah, I know, it's cliche. But I can't stand this monstrosity. There are few things that will make me turn away from anything faster if there's even a picture of Spongebob involved. And the voice grates against my nerves. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind most kids' cartoons. In fact, there are a few that I probably enjoy way too much for my age. But Spongebob Squarepants makes The Powerpuff Girls look like Rocko's Modern Life.

2. Rickrolling
Okay, this was funny the first few times. Actually, no. It wasn't. It was insanely annoying from the beginning, and it keeps going on, and on, and on, and on ad nauseum. I don't see the appeal. Whoever thought up this horrid excuse for a meme needs to be drawn and quartered in a vat of acid. There is little that is more aggravating to me than clicking on a link expecting to read some interesting tidbit of information and not getting it. To instead get a stupid video with that same stupid song, again, makes me feel very, very stabby.

1. People who are deathly afraid of turning.
When I'm driving down the road, minding my own business, and the person in front of me decides to slow down to a crawl just to turn onto the next street, it drives me to the looney bin. I'm normally a pretty mellow guy, but the closest I have ever gotten to road rage has been when this has happened. One time, the lady in front of me actually stopped on the street, only to inch forward again to make a turn into a parking lot. The punch line? The parking lot was empty! Just turn already!

And that rounds out my list. There is almost certainly more that I haven't thought of, but I'm done griping for now.

Trip to Space
Progress: 4.28%  Flight Time: 0:06:26
Solar Array
Progress: 2.6%  Power: 39W

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Solar Panel Savings

So, I've mentioned in the past that I intend to start saving for a solar array. Well, I've officially started the savings. But even more than that, I've taken some of my own advice and hunted for new opportunities to earn a bit of money. I'm putting my savings into the stock market.

I've always wanted to try stock trading, and I figured this would be a good time for it. The stock market is way down, but there have been hints that the economy may be starting to recover, and the market should as well. So I signed up for one of those stock trading websites.

Don't get me wrong; I haven't put anything in that I can't afford to lose, but it turns out that I may have some pretty good instincts as far as stocks go. I started out putting in a small amount and investing them in three stocks. All are companies that I know at least a moderate amount about because their products carry a big interest with either me or some of my friends. One is a company that I consider to be grossly undervalued, one is a company where I believe the value will increase this summer, and one is a little of each. I intend to pick out one or two more stocks when I put a bit more in later this month. Not to toot my own horn, but all three stocks I picked have increased by significant amounts since I bought them, and I believe they'll continue to increase.

In fact, I had even more fun with it this morning. After carefully observing the ups and downs of the market for the better part of a month, yesterday one of my stocks jumped over 15%. I was of the belief that while the stock will continue to increase in general, that particular jump wouldn't last. So I sold the stock yesterday just before the market closed with the intent to buy it back this morning. This was a gamble, especially because I have little enough invested that trading fees are a significant concern for me when messing with stocks like this. But this morning, it paid off. The stock dropped 5%, and I bought it back along with one extra share. I even had few bucks left over after the trading fees were paid.

We'll see if my luck continues.

Disclaimer: none of this is intended as advice. If you trade stocks, you're on your own. Don't come whining to me if you aren't as awesome at it as I am.

Update: I haven't updated my trip to space savings bar in a while, and since it has actually increased due to the recent stock market behaviors, I'm updating it now! Also, I'll probably be updating these numbers more often, because I feel like it.

Trip to Space
Progress: 4.28%  Flight Time: 0:06:26
Solar Array
Progress: 2.6%  Power: 39W

Monday, April 6, 2009

WhiteKnightTwo Takes Two More Test Flights

Yes, the testing of Virgin Galactic's first WhiteKnightTwo aircraft (named Eve) appears to be going well. The most recent test, performed just last month, was particularly spectacular.

On March 25, the VMS Eve took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port and flew for two and a half hours. It reach speeds of over 250 mph, altitudes of over 14,000 feet, and performed a battery of tests including a mid-air engine restart. The successful event prompted Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, to announce that he will be aboard one of Eve's upcoming test flights.

This test was, of course, far short of SpaceShipTwo's 50,000 foot launch height, but it's only a matter of time...

Progress: 3.93%  Flight Time: 0:05:54

Friday, April 3, 2009

The First Repeat Space Tourist Launches

That's right, in a world first, a paying passenger has traveled to space twice.

That passenger is Charles Simonyi, and he traveled to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. He launched on March 26 and arrived at the station on the 28th. So now, he has been in space eight days.

He of course payed his millions to do so to Space Adventures in their partnership with the Russian government. One of the ways Simonyi has been spending his time on the space station is using a HAM radio to communicate with amateur radio operators on the ground. That's right, if you're a HAM radio operator and are in the right place at the right time, you too can pick up transmissions from the first repeat space tourist!

Kinda makes me wish I knew someone who has one.

Progress: 3.93%  Flight Time: 0:05:54