Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Ugly Tattoos

I don’t have any tattoos, but I do understand the reason people get them. For many people tattoos are a way of setting themselves apart and showing they are individuals. In a nation where most organized groups are striving for “ideological purity” declaring your individuality is understandable. I also realize there are times when a tattoo can relay useful information.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would go to a bad tattoo artist.

The inspiration for this post came when I met a girl who had several tattoos. The first one that caught my attention was the one on her arm that was either a fish or a duck. Trying not to get caught up on that I looked discretely at her cleavage. She had a tattoo at the top of her left breast proudly saying, “Marry” with the second “r” x-ed out.

I really don’t know what was worse, the fact that the tattoo “artist” misspelled a simple name, or that he thought he could make up for it by just x-ing out the second “r”.

Seeing this girl’s “artwork” made me remember someone I worked with once who had a tattoo on his arm that looked to me like a 2nd grader’s drawing of three rabbits with a circle hovering over them. I asked him why he had a tattoo of bunny rabbits on his arm and he told me that they were, “Indians dancing in the moonlight”. I had to take his word for it.

My feeling is tattoos are like jokes; if you have to explain it, you’ve done it wrong.

Perplexed why someone would get put something that ugly on his body I had to ask, “Why would you go to a tattoo artist that can’t draw?”

His response was, “He works cheap.”

I was speechless. If you are going to try and save money, why do it on something that will be on your body permanently?

If you are going to get a tattoo, a little due diligence pays off. Check out your tattoo artist’s previous work, and make sure they can spell. If you don’t the first impression you leave is not one of individuality, it’s declaring to the world, “I’m an idiot.”

So to all those people that don’t check out the work of a tattoo artist before they permanently disfigure their bodies I say, “Shut-up Stupid, your expression of individuality is one of stupidity.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: GM has stopped giving people Hummers

Down With Tyranny has a funny bit on the Death of the Hummer. While I’m not thrilled that an American Car will no longer be made, it is nice that getting this monstrosity off the American roads will open the way for more fuel efficient cars to come onto the road.

The one major problem with getting cars made of lighter weight materials on the road is that they have to share it with these huge vehicles and the differences in weight means the smaller cars have to be engineered to be safe when the bigger car hits them.

With the death of the Hummer, a vehicle that had no reason to be on road in the first place, the weight difference are reduced and lighter weight more efficient cars can be safer on the American roads.

This will help make the concept of light-weight cars on the road be easier for Americans to embrace and lead to greater fuel savings, and that will lead to a fantastic future.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Show and Tell

"This is my Grandpa, He lives in a box underground.
He doesn't talk much and smells pretty bad too -
But he's really fun to play in the sandbox with."

I’ve been going through my rejected short stories recently that I have divided into categories. Don’t Work, Don’t Quite Work , Love them why don’t they sell?

My “Don’t Work” pile is broken up into two more piles.

“Weak Ideas” is the biggest, I’ll get an idea and write a story and realize after writing it that the main idea wasn’t strong enough to make a story on its own, Like a guy who loves to solve puzzles makes a Pentachoron (a 4 dimensional triangle) that allows aliens to communicate with him, or two of the Galaxies ultimate warriors come to Earth to battle each other in an Earth Game and find out the game is chess.

I keep them around because I might have an idea that dovetails it and they can merge into a full story.

“Weak Characters and Weak Plot” I keep around to remind me never to do that again. (The growth of that folder is slowing down, so I must be getting better or fooling myself.)

My Don’t Quite Work folder is broken down into two piles:

“Weak Characters in a good situation” Self explanatory.

“I’m missing something.” This is the frustrating one, It’s usually some element I’m just not seeing, that is in my mind but I forgot to write it into the story.

My last Pile is the “Love them, why don’t they sell?”

I was looking through this pile the other day and noticed something in one of my stories.
I wanted to tell a tale about an ultimate bad guy, one who believed in his heart what he was doing was so beneficial to mankind that he could do incredible evil to accomplish it.

And that’s what I did, I told the tale. There was next to no dialog, no action, just a guy justifying his being an evil prick.

When I brought in someone to reason with him and ask him try to have a little compassion that’s when he started to come to life. Almost all of the original story was used, I just switched it from third person to first person. By having another character there to react to his justifying his actions it made my bad guy relatable as you could feel his obsession and even though you knew he was wrong you knew he couldn’t be talked out of it. So that even when the consequences his obsession came back at him, it was believable that even that wouldn’t stop him.

It’s the difference of showing vs. telling, but sometimes I’m too into my own stories to see something that obvious.

Darrell B. Nelson

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: I don’t do normal

I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite writers books recently looking at their writing styles. It’s really strange now after trolling for critiques of my books and stories and reading about what a book or story “must” have. So I thought I’d check how some of my favorite authors stacked up in the “must” haves.

Isaac Asimov: Created fantastic worlds that were mostly relayed by conversations among the characters. What did these characters look like, I haven’t a clue and neither did he. What was the setting they were in look like, I haven’t a clue and neither did he. How would the characters re-act in a totally different situation than the one they were in, for most of them I don’t know he didn’t delve into they’re motivations beyond the current struggle they were in.

Why is he one of my favorites: Having the blank slate for what the characters looked like, the setting they were in and their motivations beyond the current struggle, my mind could imagine all these things as I was reading making the stories much more personal for me.

What I’ve learned from him: I try to keep the descriptions of my characters and small settings to a minimum. Let the reader paint their own picture of them. Most of my characters are very unique though so their views on how they would react to new situation show through, if they know what they would do themselves.

Arthur C. Clarke: Painted vivid images of the Solar System, exposing all its wonder. And he had some people doing something, sometimes. Point of View, the main character would look at something until something came up that he could see, then the omnipresent voice would explain it and switch back to the main character.

Why is he one of my favorites: His passion and vision of the future was wonderful.

What I’ve learned from him: Even though vivid imagery is frowned upon by the publishing world, I feel they are wrong. Bad vivid imagery should be frowned on, good vivid imagery can fill the reader with wonder that makes the story that much grander.
That I suck at writing the omnipresent voice so I don’t use it.

Robert A. Hienlein: Mostly had characters who were outsiders to society and culture and through their eyes he explored his worlds (and ours) society. His knowledge of how society works allowed him to come up with Reagan’s Star Wars program which he knew wouldn’t work, he knew the Soviet Scientist would know it wouldn’t work, but he knew it was plausible enough that Soviet Leaders wouldn’t listen to their own scientists.

Why he is one of my favorites: He could paint a mental view of an alien world, which happened to the one we lived in. His outside view allowed us to see the absurd and stupid all around us, and in doing so taught us a little about ourselves.

What I learned from him: The hell with relatable characters. My characters probably aren’t like the reader, if they are I feel sorry for the reader. Most of my characters would barely be considered functional because of their mental problems. Yet they offer a wonderful view of the world. And hopefully, the reader considers them to be like a friend, someone you can feel sorry for even if the same thing wouldn’t happen to you.

These are three of my favorite authors and according to most editors they wrote the exact opposite of what editors what. So I will do the same.

I’ll seek out magazines that expressly say they don’t want imagery and send them some fantastic technological imagery behind a thinly veiled story. And laugh when they send me the check.

I’ll avoid describing what my characters look like, and I’ll have them so strange that to them the normal looks alien.

As a result my stories and books probably won’t be considered normal, but that’s ok I don’t do normal very well.

Darrell B. Nelson

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Crazy Peoples Action Committee

The annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) never fails to make me laugh. It’s a guilty little laugh, as I know I should feel sorry for these people who are so clueless that they don’t know why I’m laughing at them, but it’s still a laugh.

This year’s CPAC ran on a platform that has always been a big hit with the Conservatives, bashing gays and lesbians. Speaker after speaker got up and talked about how gays and lesbians have a ruthless agenda to destroy conservative values and they will never stop in this quest because they are fierce and tireless fighters that will never stop and that’s why we can’t let them into the military.

They then held a straw poll to see whom they thought would be the best candidate to represent them and picked Ron Paul.

Ron Paul’s stance on gays and lesbians serving in the military is well known and he has been consistent on it since he first ran for office. Gays and lesbians should be treated in the military under its “Code of Conduct” which prohibits Public Displays of Affection. This was how gays and lesbians were treated in WW II and it worked fine.

Basically two soldiers can do anything consensually in private, but in public they are expected to be professional. Two soldiers can spend all their free time together and publicly be a couple, but they can’t so much as hold hands publicly, it doesn’t matter if they gay or straight.

So after having speaker after speaker saying how gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military they picked a leader who is for having gays and lesbians serve in the military as long as they uphold the Code of Conduct like every one else.

When gay bashers think gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly, it really shows how issue of gays and lesbians serving in the military has already been decided and nearly everyone agrees that it is past time to change the policy and let any able-bodied American serve their country.

Taking all the rhetoric aside, I do understand what the sensible anti-gay people think. I do find the thought of gay sex icky, but I also find the thought of ugly people having sex icky. So when the ugliest girl I know told me about how she hooked up with the ugliest guy I know my first reaction was “ewww”, but after that passed I was back to having a conversation with a friend.

Just because I get a little queasy at thought of some people having sex together, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, it’s a lot easier for me to put aside that mental image than to have them give up their civil rights so I don’t have to face my moment of discomfort, and I believe most sensible people feel the same way.

So to the people that still support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I say, “Shut-up Stupid, the policy of denying individuals their Civil Liberties just so you don’t have to have a momentary feeling of ickyness is passed. Let them serve their country with honor.”

Darrell B. Nelson

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing Wednesday: The best rejection I’ve ever had

After writing a novel the hard part of being an author comes in, selling the novel, to do that you have to be able to handle rejection. My first novel “Invasive Thoughts” got rejected by over 200 agents before being accepted by PublishAmerica. I’m hoping that will be a personal record and is reflective of the fact I didn’t know how to write a good query letter. However even authors with good query letters for novels that have gone on to be best sellers have been known to get 80 rejections from agents.

For the current novel I’m trying to sell, “The Setting Earth” I’m taking a much different approach, I’m sending out one personalized letter a day to agents. So far the rejection letters I’ve gotten have been faster and not just the standard form letter. The best rejection I’ve gotten has been from Janet Reid, She even put my query letter up on her blog.

To start my query letter I looked over her blog to find the things she likes and dislikes in a query letter and wrote it from there.

This was my full intro:

Dear Janet,

I’d like to say that I am looking for an agent to represent JD Salinger's inside account of the story behind the headline, “The Pope Elopes”. I’d like to say that, but in reality I am looking for representation for my fully finished and carefully edited 65,000 word Science Fiction novel “The Setting Earth”.

It addresses a major problem I see in most books published today, there aren’t enough books with my name in the byline.

You will see that it has a lot of similarities with the Bible as it involves people, places and events. Hopefully because of these similarities it will move as many if not more copies.

The very next day I got a wonderful reply:

ok, this is hilarious in the extreme but what the hell are you doing with
Publish America?
And you need a yesterday. Darrel Nelsons who are DEAD come up
on google before you do (NOT a good thing!)

I KNOW you can write, because this query is funny, but you're making some
beginner mistakes.

There's a blog about queries called
It should help you get this into better shape. First, start with the main
character, not the setting.

This is probably not going to be a good fit for my non-SFF list, but
you're clearly talented.


Thanks to her personal letter I can fix some of my beginner mistakes, like not having my name, Darrell B. Nelson, anywhere on this blog.

I also reworked my description of the novel to talk about the main character first.

Naturally the best response to a query letter would be, “Send me the full manuscript.” But getting a personalized letter like this is close.

It’s really great to have a professional point me in right direction as far as what to put into a query letter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Temper Tantrum: Double-Think, I am certain about the Heisenberg Principle.

To those who visit this blog regularly, you won’t be surprised that I have brain damage. When I was 18 months old I was dropped on my head and it scrambled my brains.

The area of my brain that was damaged was the part that aids Rote Learning. Rote Learning is the process of memorizing something through repetition. The classic example is the multiplication table, where kids are taught to repeat it over and over until it sticks in their heads.

I can’t do that. I can repeat something a million times, but then immediately forget it. So instead of being able to just say over and over 5 X 5 is 25, I had to learn 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 is 25 and use that on the test. In one way this is a learning disability but in another it is a major advantage. Like the mountain climber that doesn’t use canned Oxygen, I’m not dependent on an artificial support to do things.

Because I couldn’t simply memorize things, I always had to learn the concepts behind things. By learning why something works instead of just memorizing things I could take a concept to its next level.

Because of my Learning “Disability” I was able to get the first prefect score on the Iowa Exams in 3rd grade and had a 12th grade math and reading level by then.

I don’t say this just to boast, I’m using my “problem” to show why the idea of grading teacher performance on how a class does on standardized tests is wrong.

For most people the way to learn something quickly is through Rote Learning, you repeat something over and over again until it sticks. Standardized tests are easily fooled by this type of learning, so it’s possible for a teacher to teach Rote Learning and have 90% of a class score in the top without having learned anything about the subject.

The most extreme example of how this type of learning fails was an experiment in “Sleep Learning”, subjects had recordings give them lessons while they slept. It would be something like, “The Nile is the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles in length, The Amazon River is the world’s widest river and is slightly under 4,000 miles in length.”

This phrase would be repeated over and over in their sleep. In the morning they would be quizzed on the information and asked, what is the longest river? To which they would reply, “The Nile is the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles in length.” Then how long is the Amazon?, answer, “The Amazon River is the world’s widest river and is slightly under 4,000 miles in length.”

Finally the researchers would ask “Which is longer the Nile or the Amazon?” and the subjects wouldn’t have a clue. They were able to repeat the phrases they heard over and over again but had no comprehension of their meaning.

As far as going out into the workforce for most jobs, even some seemingly complex jobs workers can get by with information learned through Rote Learning if they can learn how to pull out the right information packet at the right time and not have a clue to the underlying principals of what they are doing. However, there is more to education than just preparing for the workplace.

Thomas Jefferson said, "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

Part of the reason behind the education system in this country is to keep citizens from being victims of what Orwell called double-think, the ability to think two contradictory things and believe them both.

If kids are taught to pass Standardized Tests by merely regurgitating what has been repeated over and over, when they grow to be adults they will take something that is repeated over and over to be true based on the fact that it has been repeated over and over. The truth becomes meaningless as the only important thing becomes how many times something is repeated.

This double-think is already effecting society and can be seen in the latest polls that show:

35% of Americans approve of homosexuals serving in the military, while 75% approve of Gays and Lesbians serving in the military.

The first group is affected by the MSM repeating over and over that homosexuals shouldn’t serve, while second group had the question phrased in a way that wasn’t covered by Rote Learning so they gave their true feelings.

A similar situation is how only 12% think they got a tax-cut when Obama cut the taxes for 95% of Americans.

By pushing for teachers to teach students to pass Standardized Tests, it encourages them to cheat by working on Rote Learning instead of full Comprehension. When that happens they will be easily influenced by repetition, and who ever controls the media doesn’t even have to think of a creative lie, they merely need to tell the lie over and over again.

With people being easily mislead by repetition tyranny can take hold by merely telling people the Declaration of Independence says, “All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” If they say it enough people will believe that even if they are looking right at the Declaration of Independence.

The most important tool in keeping America free of tyranny is push for an Educational System that pushes Comprehensive Learning and shuns Rote Learning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Getting Trapped in a Paper Bag

President Obama has finally called out the Republicans for being the party of NO and invited them to share their ideas on healthcare. The Republicans of course are up in arms because they have figured out this is a trap.

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report did an excellent job in reporting this with Stephen Colbert explaining, “It’s a trap just like a Paper Bag is a trap, if you can’t punch your way out of it.”
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In this case the Republicans have built the Paper Bag trap themselves. Their strategy has been to make their “base” believe that Obama is the black Hitler that is going to bring turn the country socialist. (Not big on understanding history, I guess.)

At the same time they are playing the victim saying Obama isn’t putting any of their ideas into the healthcare reform and hoping independents will feel sorry for them.

If their ideas are televised people will see all their good ideas are already in the House bill.

Tort Reform, in there.

States controlling the healthcare options, the opt-out provision.

Illegalizing abortion for the poor, in there. (Not a good idea, but a Republican one.)

Making it tough for Hispanics to get care, I mean anti-illegal immigration language, in there.

No Pubic Option, I don’t know that this was ever considered.

The only thing that the Republicans have left is Rep Cantor’s plan for healthcare reform:

Step 1: Eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

Step 2: ?

Step 3: Healthcare Problem Solved

I have obtained the flow chart that shows how this plan was devised.

So the Republicans are in the position where if they act like grown-ups and talk about stuff that will help the country they will lose their base, because they are working with the Antichrist, Black Hitler from Kenya, who used Acorn to steal the election.

If they continue their antics in front of the cameras, they will look like spoiled brats having a temper tantrum that should be taken out back and spanked until they learn to behave in civilized society.

So to the republicans who are having a hissy fit that having a responsible discussion is a trap, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, it is a trap you designed yourself.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Getting Closer

In a recent Fantastic Future Friday post I talked about the Aptera a two-seater car that gets roughly 300 mpg. It is a perfect car for me, and I’d talk more about it if Aptera would give me one, but in the comments people mentioned that unlike me sometimes they use their back seat.

A car company is coming closer to meeting their needs, oddly enough that company is KIA. KIA is generally thought of as the car company that makes knock offs of other popular cars. I test drove a KIA once and was surprised at how well it performed, even if it did look like a different car.

Their latest prototype is the KIA Ray. The Ray uses a lot of the same advanced technology for fuel saving as the Aptera does: light-weight materials, Hybrid technology, advanced aerodynamics, ect. But puts it in a more conventional looking vehicle. The result is about two-thirds the fuel savings of Aptera, it gets about 200 miles to the gallon as a plug-in hybrid.

If KIA puts the amount of care into the Ray as they do their other cars I’m sure people will be pleasantly surprised at how well it handles.

With two-seaters getting 300 mpg and four-seaters getting 200 mpg just around the corner it won’t be long before any vehicle, including my beloved Nissan Sentra, that gets under 100 mpg is considered a gas-guzzler.

With more plug-in hybrids hitting the market that get incredible fuel economy, it make a huge impact on our addiction to oil and lead to a Fantastic Future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: F*ing Retards

Allowed to use the word Retard
The MSM is talking about how Sarah Palin is saying how Emanuel’s use of the word “Retard” is incredibly offensive, but Rush Limbaugh using it in the same context is perfectly acceptable. They are saying this is a double standard, I must jump to her defense and show how it’s not.
Definitely allowed to use the word Retard
Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the conservatives are allowed to use the R word, but the rest of the world is not. It’s just like how black people can use the word nigger and it’s not offensive but if a white person uses the word it is. Gay people can use the word faggot to describe themselves and that is not an insult, but if a straight person calls them that word it is an insult.

In the same way it is perfectly acceptable for conservatives to use the word retard because it defines their policies, but if a normal person uses it is considered an insult.

The idea behind minorities, like conservatives, using terms used to degrade them is to lessen their impact. Like how a hooligan used to be a degrading term aimed at the Irish, they took over the word and now it refers to people up to no good of any Nationality.

The conservatives are just trying to take the word that is used to describe them and take away the hate behind it; hopefully they will take it farther and use it to describe all their plans.

They can talk about how they want to bring back the retarded policies of deregulation of banks that caused the financial meltdown.

They can be proud of the retarded war in Iraq that drained Treasury and turned the world against us.

They can boast about their retarded tax plan that led to zero job growth in this country since it was enacted.

They can show how their retarded policies haven’t done one thing to help America in the last 20 years.

Just imagine if they had a retarded convention with all the retards gathering and holding up misspelled signs, opposing the “Pubic Option” or telling Obama to read the “Consitution”.
They are all allowed to use the word Retard
What Palin is doing is using this opportunity to proudly show the world that she and her fellow conservatives are truly fucking retards.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Don’t Let the Stupid Shut-up Sunday: Advice to Harry Reid

The more Competent Reid
In 2009 we got to witness President Obama playing a game of political chess while the Republicans were grabbing chess pieces and stuffing them up their nose.

They have used the filibuster to a ridiculous extreme to the point that Senator Richard Shelby has said that all of Obama’s nominations will be filibustered if he doesn’t get the contract to have the French build planes for the military.

The only reason the Republicans have been able to act like spoiled brats is that Senate “leader” Harry Reid allows it.

The filibuster is a stalling tactic only, when a Senator filibusters they take advantage of the rule that they can speak for an unlimited amount of time on the Senate floor, delaying a vote until they are done or 60 Senators vote to tell them to shut up.

Harry Reid has allowed the Republicans to filibuster without having them have to go through the task of speaking on the Senate floor, so it’s like playing chess with an opponent that grabs the chess pieces off the board and sticks them up their nose and calls it a legitimate move and not slapping their hand.

Harry Reid could stop their foolishness by letting them speak. When they call a filibuster make them take the Senate floor and see how long they can stand there without a break to go to the bathroom or sleep.

Start with the Obama bank tax, let’s see how long the Republicans want to stand there talking about how the Banks should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want with taxpayers money while Obama calmly campaigns across the nation about the value of competition in the banking industry. Obama might win over the Guy Fawlking Teabaggers on this issue.

After a few days of watching their poll numbers drop like a stone, the Republicans would demand that the Democrats break their filibuster.

They could move on to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The military is in favor of the repeal, 61% to 75% of the country is in favor of the repeal so the Republicans would look like idiots as they tried to expand on their talking points. The Republicans would stand up there talking about how repealing it would lead to Child Molesters wanting to join the Military since the Military is such a great hunting ground for picking up kids. While Obama calmly talks about Civil Rights.

After the Republicans have made complete fools of themselves on these issues bring out Healthcare Reform. Use the big guns on this topic, Lieberman and Kerry.

How many hours do you think the Republicans will sit there and listen to Lieberman talking? I’m a Democrat and during the 2000 vice-presidential debate I wanted to hear Cheney talk not because I liked his ideas but because it made Lieberman shut up.
The sound of nails on a chalkboard is preferable

The entire Senate would be on the floor in the fetal position with their hands over their ears saying, “For the love God, make it stop!”

Then have Kerry threaten to join the filibuster, when he is presenting good ideas his speeches are as exciting as watching paint dry. If allowed to ramble on freely some of the older Senators would need medical monitoring to make sure they don’t lapse into a coma.
Typical reaction to a John Kerry speech
The Republicans would be begging for the filibuster to stop.

So to Harry Reid I say, “Grow a pair of balls and Don’t let the Stupid Shut-up, let them put their stupidity on display for the whole world to see.”

Is there a group of stupid people that irritate you? If so I am looking for a guest blogger to do their own “Shut-up Stupid” post. Drop me and email at:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Death, Taste my Carbon.

The biggest limitation of doing absolutely any thing in space is it takes a lot of fuel therefore money to get something from Earth into Low Earth Orbit. So anything that reduces the weight of a Space Capsule, or Satellite, or anything you plan on sending into space saves a lot of money.

One area of research that was being pursued on the Constellation Program was making all composite capsules. The capsules were made out of Carbon Fiber which has a strength to weight ratio 10 times greater than steel. If all things were exactly equal, which they aren’t, you could replace 10 pounds of steel with 1 pound of Carbon Fiber. If things were that simple my 3,000 lb Nissan Sentra could weigh 300 lbs and to replace a tire I would need to lift a quarter of that weight, 75 lbs, and put a block under it. No need for a jack.

In the real world things aren’t that simple, steel bends easier than Carbon Fiber, Steel resists heat better and steel isn’t affected by ultraviolet radiation.

Most importantly steel has been used for centuries so its properties are well known. Carbon Fiber is relatively new on the block and researchers are still finding surprises with it.

That’s why it is important for NASA to continue to research into what areas in space capsules, and by extension planes and cars, Carbon Fiber can be used to replace steel and what areas need to remain steel.

As NASA researches into Carbon Fiber’s properties engineers will be more comfortable in handling it and it will work it’s way into more products driving the cost down. While using Carbon Fiber alone won’t make the next generation of sub-compacts weight 1/10th of the current models, even a reduction in half would greatly increase my fuel economy and give it a better power to weight ratio making it perform better.

As NASA continues to research the properties of Carbon Fiber, it will give engineers more options in making consumer products that work better, leading to a fantastic future.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday Follow-up: NASA

In my Temper Tantrum Tuesday: The Death of NASA it’s clear from the comments I wasn’t clear enough on my feelings about NASA’s new budget and their new direction. I’ll try and clear that up.

In broad terms NASA has three parts: Science and Research, unmanned Space Exploration, and Manned Space Exploration. The new budget transfers the Manned Space Exploration, at least the Low Earth Orbit portion of it to private contractors.

From a resources point of view this is a wise decision. Even given the larger budget that NASA would need to get the Constellation program rolling again, Space X and some other companies would beat them in getting a manned capsule into Low Earth Orbit. The Ares I wouldn’t be NASA’s only access to space even if it were allowed to continue.

The Ares I was designed to be a bridge between where we are now and the time in 10 years or so when there are several companies with different types of launch vehicles so that if one fails it doesn’t stop all space activities. Just like when the DC-10 jetliner was found to have serious flaws it didn’t stop jet travel in the time the DC-10 was down because there were other jets available.

The new budget tries to move up the time that multiple launch vehicles will be available from private companies.

The other parts of NASA also get a boost, the unmanned space exploration where the real work of furthering planetary science is done and the Science and Research arm of NASA that if it were a private company would be the bread and butter part. The money making arm.

The manned space exploration arm was sort of a loss leader; building new rockets with existing parts didn’t help the nation as much as the Science and Research but it looked cool as hell.

In an ideal world the merit of having NASA free to pursue research that would help the Aerospace field enough that all the research money gets returned in the form of patents and taxes would justify a bigger budget to work on longer-term projects.

For example: Right now jet travel is too much of a gas hog to operate when oil prices rise back up above $100 per barrel. The solution is to make the aircraft out of lighter weight carbon fiber, but no one knows how carbon fiber reacts to constant depressurization and repressurization only NASA can do the necessary testing to find out.

When NASA does this testing they lease the patents to the aircraft builders at a cost less then if the builders stole the information and that money is returned to the federal treasury. Then as the aerospace industries rebuild to take advantage of these more fuel-efficient planes this increased economic activity creates more tax revenue for the federal government.

In an ideal world this would be more than justification enough for NASA’s budget.

In the real world, that money comes from Congress, which is filled with idiots.

I could hope that either Harry Reid grows a backbone of gets replaced in the 2010 elections. I could really hope Alan Grayson would get elected to the Senate and replace him. But even if Reid were to suddenly grow a backbone and tell the Republicans when they threaten to filibuster to go ahead and watch everyone turn on them as they give 40 days of speeches, Congress will still be full of idiots.

Only armed with facts and figures doesn’t fly well in congress, slogans work. So even though the cancellation of the Constellation program is better as far as numbers and having NASA work on science and research is better in the long run. It’s a tougher sell politically.

I hope President Obama can do that, I really do. And I’ll give him what little support my little blog can, but it will be tough making congress see that building a good foundation is more important than choosing the right wall paint.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Being a proud Father

Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Ahead

The day has finally arrived, my book “Invasive Thoughts” is now on sale and I feel like a dad whose wife just gave birth. If you would like to order it click on the gadget at the upper left side of the page.

I have wild dreams about my book’s future, just like any dad. Will it grow up and save the world or will it climb to the top of the nearest bell tower with a high-powered rifle and go on a mass murder spree? Ok maybe my dreams aren’t quite like other dads.

I’d love it if it was a world-changing best selling book, but I’d be more than happy if just a few people liked it, and hopefully anyone who buys it feels they got their $29.95 worth of entertainment out of it.

It’s like how a new parent would love it if their child would grow up to change the world, but would still be incredibly proud of their kid if they just grew up and had a some good friends and were liked in their community. As long as it doesn’t become a mass murder it will be loved.

With my book going on sale I need to enter a phase in my writing career. I need to learn how to market my book. I’ve found out through research that a writer can’t just sit around and write, although the title, “writer” would imply that. After nearly a year of writing and rewrites and a year of sending out queries, then months of going through the publishing process, I now have to figure out how to get the word out about my book.

I hope to keep everyone informed about how the whole marketing thing works. It’s not a totally new area for me as I was a marketing professional before the meltdown but I’ve never done it in the literary field.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: The Death of NASA

In his 2010 budget President Obama increased NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next 5 years, but kills the Constellation program, with it the Ares I and V.

As readers of this blog know I was a huge supporter of Constellation program, not just because we would return to the Moon but also because it offered the flexibility to do more things outside Low Earth Orbit.

The Constellation program would have required an additional $15 billion over those 5 years to actually fly, while adding very little to our understanding of rocket science. The basic idea behind the Ares was to take the existing Space Shuttle and Apollo hardware and reconfigure it so that it wouldn’t have the known safety flaws as the Space Shuttle, the side mounted design that was a factor in both shuttle disasters. The program would have allowed us to discover brand new safety flaws.

The Ares I would be the last rocket that NASA would design with the sole purpose of sending people into Low Earth Orbit as commercial launchers would phase it out over its lifetime.

The Constellation Program was killed before Obama stepped in the door of the White House by budget cuts. Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin was in a similar situation to the sober person at the end of a college party where everyone wants more expensive booze but after the hat is passed around there is only $5.17 to buy it. He managed to do an admirable job in getting an inexpensive architecture together with a higher hurtle in the form of higher safety requirements than any other man rated rocket ever had to pass, but in the end every time NASA found a way to trim the budget more without compromising safety the budget got cut more. With this ever-changing goal post it left the Constellation Programs goals always just out of reach of the budget.

The new plan is to rely on Commercial Space Rockets for any manned launches. The Augustine Commission has gotten around the higher safety requirements that NASA had to face by taking their word that the new rockets are safe.

Given the higher safety requirements that NASA faced it was unlikely that the Ares I would launch during Obama’s presidency so he would have to push through a $21 billion program ($15 billion for Constellation and $6 billion for science and research) for a program he would get no political benefit from.

The decision to move NASA out of the space taxi business and back to where they excel, Science and Research, looks like a good idea on paper. NASA can focus on developing new technologies like the X-43 hypersonic aircraft and design a new upper stage booster that builds off the Space Shuttle Main Engines and the Apollo Engines to make one that is even better, instead of just trying to make the existing engines fit differently designed rockets and basically work on new technologies so in 5 years they can be given a task and come out swinging.

The problem is in those 5 years they won’t have any “Bumper Sticker” projects. So when asked by congress they won’t be able to say, “We’re going to the Moon”. Instead they will have to say, “We are developing new systems of both air and space travel that will incrementally bring down the costs of going into space, and by extension reduce the costs of air travel and the cost spent research be returned to the taxpayers as these new industries become profitable.”

The reality is that Congress is filled with morons, who if given a choice on a game show had to choose between some crumpled up old $100 bills and a shiny piece of tin foil, they would pick the shiny object every time. So even though sifting NASA’s focus onto Science and Research and away from being a Space taxi is a better use of resources. Without the “Bumper Sticker” programs, Congress sees NASA as a place to cut the budget even though the science and research arms of NASA actually pay for themselves through the selling of patents and by spawning new industries based on the research they do.

Without the human space program, NASA will probably receive a budget boost this year and face budget cuts for the next 7 years of the Obama administration. The next President will be faced with a decision. Either plan a new direction for NASA, which will be easier as they will have 7 years of new research under their belts and a commercial infrastructure to back them up. Or kill NASA completely, which will also be easier as they will be out of the public view for 5 years.

In my Fantastic Future Friday series I will try think up some bumper sticker missions NASA can embrace in 7 years.