Sunday 30 May 2004

Israel Must Apologise....

From the Jerusalem Post :
UNWRA's commissioner general Peter Hansen is demanding Israel apologize for allegations made last week by defense minister Shaul Mofaz that UN ambulances had been used to transport IDF soldier body remains to terrorist strongholds, reported IBA news.
And from the Electronic Intifada :
Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has today demanded an apology and retraction from the Israeli Government and Military for the damaging and baseless allegations they have made against UNRWA's ambulance drivers in the Gaza Strip.
The statement was released in response to an incident in which an ambulance driver's life was threatened by armed men who demanded that he transport them, along with their wounded comrade, to hospital. UNRWA forbids the transportation of armed fighters in its vehicles, but does not demand that its unarmed staff put their lives at risk.
"I urge you, the Minister of Defense and all others who have repeated this unsupported canard regarding body parts, to issue an immediate retraction and apology for making such a wholly unsupported accusation."

The Israeli Defence Force site shows a picture that could be interpreted as consistent with the UN story. (see Below)

UN Ambulance with Gunmen Boarding

And from Reuters, via Access Middle East, here is video footage that won't have made it to your TV. See if it matches the UN's story of a single 'militant' using the UN ambulance to take his wounded comrade on a mission of mercy to a hospital, or as Israel alleges, that the UN ambulances are being used as 'Terrorist Transport Vehicles'.

So...why hasn't this footage been seen on TV?

Hat Tip to reader Braintrust, who got it from LGF.

That article appeared over on The Command Post, which attempts to give facts rather than editorialising too much within the report.

But here I can ask again:

Why hasn't this footage been seen on TV?

Why has there been no apology from the UN? Why has there been no investigation of a clearly documented War Crime of the gravest kind, the use of 'protected status' under the Law of Armed Conflict (Geneva Accords) for military purposes? This really is a Big Deal, as Israel can now quite legitimately target UN 'ambulances' as hostile vehicles. Unless the UNRWA does something about the situation, including bringing its own personnel to justice in front of a criminal tribunal, then it has been graphically and irrevocably tainted.

And in view of the explosive nature of the footage, why has it been supressed? No journalist who saw it could say it was un-newsworthy. It came from Reuters, not some anonymous and unknown source. This is at least as newsworthy as the Abu Ghraib photos, and even more spectacular. So why?

Saturday 29 May 2004


To everyone who's recently contributed to the Tip Jar, my most sincere gratitude. Even two dollars helps, and two recent donations have been rather more than that. I'd thank everyone by personal e-mail, but one recent sizeable donation didn't leave one. I hope you don't mind, but much as I need the ready (and I really do), some of that donation I put towards the Tom Family (see under 'Inspirational' link).

The Good Folks over at The Command Post managed to raise $15,000 for them recently, to help put the kids through college. Whether you're a 'From each according to his abilities: To each according to his needs' Marxist, or a 'But the Greatest of these is Charity' Christian, or even a Libertarian who wants to spend his own money the way he wants to rather than letting the Gummint waste it all, this is a great opportunity to put even $2 to a worthwhile end.

Of course, while you've got PayPal open, $2 slung my way wouldn't go amiss either... right now it would genuinely help. But honesty compels me to say that $4 to the Tom Family would be even better.

Another Great Turn of Phrase

From Sharp Knife :
There is indeed a certain majesty to good law, well-practiced. Unfortunately, these days that certain majesty is usually Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
From the same article comes a very diquieting word picture :
...a colostomy grab-bag of classless class-actions..

Thursday 27 May 2004

Cultural Treasures

George Formby CentenaryAs promised some while ago, may I present...

The inspirational, astounding, awefulsome Lyrics of George Formby's Greatest Hits.

Having heard it once, who can forget (however hard one might try), 'Imagine Me in the Maginot Line'?George Formby
Now imagine me in the Maginot line, sitting on a mine in the Maginot line.
Now it's turned out nice again, the army life is fine.
At night myself to sleep I sing, to my old tin hat I cling.
I have to use it for everything, down on the Maginot line.
And to go with them, the tunes in Midi format.

And here's the Great Man himself, performing 'Auntie Maggie's Remedy'.

Ah, they don't write them like that any more. More's the pity, say I, and I don't mean just Michael.

Some of the Immortal George's words from a 1938 Radio Programme:
I think the funniest thing that happened during the run of the show was when we were doing a scene showing the Sultan's palace. The man playing the role of the Captain had to propose to my wife. And she had to be very coy about it.
In the middle of his proposal, the scenery suddenly began to fall down
I made frantic efforts to keep it up, and I shouted as I did so : "Go on, fall for him, the scenery is!"
That sums up the man, and his career. You see, he performed at his height during the Dark Days of 1940-1941, when Britain stood alone against Hitler, and for the rest of World War 2. From a short biography :
He continued to entertain throughout the war as part of ENSA throughout Europe and the Middle East and was one of the first entertainers into Normandy after the invasion, where he was personally invited by General Montgomery to entertain the front line troops.
ENSA, by the way, was officially the 'Entertainments National Service Association', but was universally known as 'Every Night Something Awful'.

It is altogether fitting and proper that in the year that commemorates the centenary of his birth, and the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, that he be remembered, and with affection and respect.

Turn of Phrase of the Week

From Normblog :
... try to imagine this day: the great George Jones seated beside the comparably great Merle Haggard, and on the other side of each of them the ghosts of that even greater pair, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill, these four driving a large lawnmower through the centre of Denver, Colorado, in search of a drink. Until it happens is how long anyone who's interested will be waiting for me to apologize for declining to lend my voice and my energies to a political effort that, had it succeeded, would have resulted in prolonging the life of a regime of torture, wanton murder and daily barbarism. And they'd still be waiting after that.

Wednesday 26 May 2004

The Day My Mother's Head Exploded

That's the title of an audio programme written by the daughter of a victim of a ruptured Cerebral Aneurysm, and is today's Brain Link. I recommend listening to the long version.
The mother I grew up with died that day and was replaced by an entirely different person that just happens to have the same memories, and body, and family, and address as my dead mother.
How much of the personality changes are due to the gross physical insult suffered by the brain, and how much due to the psychological changes caused by a near-death experience, is unknown.
I used to be a great worrier...
No longer. Her mother doesn't sweat the small stuff any more. If she wants to burst into song, she does. Many of societal inhibitions, customs and norms are now seen with possibly a clearer perspective. Her new personality is extrovert to the point (and possibly beyond) of embarressment. But only other people get embarressed, she appears to have lost the capacity for it, and doesn't miss it one little bit.

Her daughter, the narrator, is a New Age arty trendoid sui generis. Nonetheless, she is an excellent observer and recorder, and a skilled and competent communicator. She's a flawed, sometimes cantankerous, but always gloriously and charmingly Human human being. I know of no higher honour.

I normally have little time for Superstitious, Arty New Age Trendoids. I have less time for the various Artist Support Programs, whose stable of artists usually only produce what stables normally produce, in fragrant, steaming piles. But the Jack Straw Artist Support Program (who funded the production costs), and the creator, Hannah Paylin, are exceptions. Unconventional, Quirky, but Art, and Good Art at that. May they Live Long and Prosper.

Tuesday 25 May 2004

What's French for 'Dangerous Loony"?

All countries have their raving nutters. Some merely take the dottiness to extremes. Some are comparatively harmless, only murdering a few dozen or a few hundred before they get caught. Others get into positions of power, either by a Putsch or a ballot box, and then they are Dangerous.

Paul-Marie CouteauxBear with me, as I'll quote a primary source en Francais. I've given it in full, and in the original, as it's so incredible. It's a Verbatim quote from the proceedings of the European parliament, dated a few months before 9/11. The speaker is Paul-Marie Couteaux.
Madame la Présidente, le plus étonnant dans notre débat, c'est notre étonnement, car la politique expansionniste d'Israël est le résultat inévitable et prévisible du déséquilibre croissant dans la région, équilibre dans lequel nous portons une très grande part de responsabilité. D'abord parce que la plupart de nos États - à l'exception notable de la France -n'ont pas cessé, depuis 1967, de donner l'impression à l'État d'Israël - un État de plus en plus sûr de lui et dominateur - qu'il pouvait impunément violer la loi internationale et les résolutions de l'ONU.

En réalité, nous avons suivi, là comme ailleurs, Washington et nous persistons à fermer les yeux sur la dérive théocratique de cet état religieux dont les gouvernements se trouvent placés sous la coupe de partis et de minorités fanatiques qui n'ont rien à envier aux autres fanatismes religieux de la région. Pour ces raisons, nous devrions envisager des sanctions à l'encontre d'Israël.

Mais il y a un autre déséquilibre grave où notre responsabilité est engagée, c'est le déséquilibre des forces. Il faut que nous envisagions - je n'hésite pas à le dire - à doter la partie arabe d'une force suffisante, y compris d'une force nucléaire suffisante, pour qu'Israël ne se croit pas tout permis. C'était la politique qu'avait engagée mon pays dans les années 70 en dotant l'Irak de l'arme nucléaire. Nous l'avons détruite. Nous allons donc persister dans notre politique de déséquilibre et ce qui arrive aujourd'hui n'est que le résultat fâcheux, mais inévitable, de notre aveuglement et de notre lâcheté collective.
Here is the official translation into English :
Madam President, the most surprising thing about our debate is our surprise, for Israel's expansionist policy is the inevitable and predictable result of the growing imbalance in the region, the stability for which we bear much of the responsibility. Firstly that is because since 1967 most of our states, with the notable exception of France, have continued to give the State of Israel – a state that is growing increasingly self-assured and domineering – the impression that it can violate international law and UN resolutions with impunity.

In reality, here as elsewhere we have followed Washington and persist in closing our eyes to the theocratic excesses of this religious state whose governments are under the thumb of fanatical parties and minorities that are just as bad as the other groups of religious fanatics in the region. That is why we should envisage imposing sanctions on Israel.

There is, however, another serious imbalance for which we are in part responsible, namely the imbalance of forces. I have no hesitation in saying that we must consider giving the Arab side a large enough force, including a large enough nuclear force, to persuade Israel that it cannot simply do whatever it wants. That is the policy my country pursued in the 1970s when it gave Iraq a nuclear force. We have now destroyed it. So we will carry on with our policy of imbalance and what is happening today is merely the annoying but inevitable result of our collective blindness and cowardice.
A Lone Nutter, you say? Just another Euro-MP, not a Mover nor a Shaker? Here's his political biography :
Senior administrator, Ministry of Education (1982);
Head of the office of the Commissioner-General for the French language, reporting to the Prime Minister (1984);
Special adviser to the head of the Africa directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1988);
Special adviser in the office of the Minister of Defence (1989).
Visiting lecturer at the University of Paris VIII (1995).
Editor of the RPR magazine Une certaine idée (1998-1999).
Technical adviser in the office of the President of the National Assembly (1993-1995).
Technical adviser in the office of the UN Secretary-General (1992-1993).

His position in the European Parliament :
(Polit)Bureau Member of the Group for a Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD)
Member of the European Parliament,
Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy
Member of the European Parliamentary Delegation to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Union (ACP-EU)
Monsieur (or, since he's a Chevalier des Artes et Lettres, should that be just plain Sieur Paul? )Couteaux is one of the guidng lights of Souverainisme - Sovereignism. It's Nationalist, first and foremost, and secondarily Socialist. The term originates in Quebec, but it was he who imported it.

From Souverainisme, j'écris ton nom
Le souverainisme n'est que la formulation contemporaine de la révolte d'un peuple qui ne s'appartient plus, s'en rend compte peu à peu, et ne l'accepte pas.
Or, in a free translation in today's Lingua Franca, from 'A Personal Exposition of Souverainism':
Souverainism is only the current term for a Popular Revolt of the Owned, those who realize their slavery little by little, and do not accept it.
As I've written before, National Socialism is not neccessarily always a Bad Thing (tm). A quick skim through Sieur Paul's works (with my poor French helped by Google's Translator now and then) shows none of Jean-Marie LePen's Hamasesque rantings about International Jewish Conspiracies, Freemasons and Illuminati running the world etc. Instead, Couteaux blames the USA, and with some truth. A French Patriot, or rather, a (literal) Chauvin-iste, he rants against the impotence of France, its irrelevance in world affairs.

But as long as his solution is to give Nukes to Israel's - and America's - enemies to 'counterbalance' the situation (and if a few million Jews or Americans die as the result, that's not a problem , it's a desirable feature ), then France's irrelevance will just get worse.

M. Couteaux was born in France in 1956. I was born not far away (at least in Australian terms), in Southern England, in 1958. We are of similar vintage. English Europeans of my generation will never forget how the US Cavalry arrived in 1942, after England had held the line alone against a Nazi-Soviet pact for nearly 2 years, and a distracted Nazi-held Europa for 6 months thereafter. The war was in doubt until a sneak attack on December 7 that killed fewer Americans that did 9/11 ( though the Directorate of Tube Alloys would have built the Bomb by 1949 at the latest, and England may have been able to hold out that long ). England had been stripped bare of all US holdings by the Neutrality Act, and of the famous 50 destroyers, only 12 were still in service by 1942. Too Old. Too decrepit. But no matter. Boys from Idaho, from Indiana, and from Iowa, as well as Saskatchewan and Surrey and Sussex died at Omaha, at Utah, at Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches. We'll never forget the debt we owe, a debt in the strongest currency of all - Blood. But many French Europeans of that generation, it seems, will never forget, and certainly never forgive the Anglo-Americans for Liberating them, and forcing them to confront their own national failure.

M. Couteaux is willing to see Israel Nuked, not because he's Anti-Semitic, but he sees Israel (rightly) as an outpost of close-to-Anglo-American values. With its querulous, bickering, materialist Democracy, it represents all he despises - Uppity Peasants who see no need for an Elite to guide them, full of cultural and culinary atrocities like McDonalds. He's not against Democracy per se, nor Judaism per se, nor anything much per se - except inasmuch as they're creatures of Coca-Colonialist America. And much as I loath many of the same things about the US's arrogance that he does, the USA has a lot to be arrogant about. I live in Australia, and we remember Coral Sea, and Midway, and Guadalcanal, and... Iraq. The UN has failed as a World Policeman, and an unwilling US has had to act the part of Vigilante. Besides which, despite the best efforts of the RIAA and other US robber-barons, the competition is for the most part, not too unfair. If we want our country not to be overwhelmed by US culture, we can do a bit of cultural overwhelming ourselves.

It's called 'Competition'.

You don't see too much of Americans bemoaning the fact that Fox is owned by an Australian multinational, nor that the Wiggles are producing a generation of American toddlers with a hint of Aussie Twang in their voices, nor that a whole slew of 'Hollywood' epics are actually shot here in Oz or even Kiwiland. The days when 'Mad Max' was dubbed to give the actors American accents are (hopefully) over, the blatantly anticompetitive US steel tariffs are gone, though the Sugar Lobby still holds sway over Congress - for now. We criticise the US when it doesn't live up to its Ideals, not when it does. And our criticism is muted by the abundant goodwill that so many Americans have - those both pro- and anti-War. Often the worst of the 'Bush=Hitler' brigade's Idiotarianism is driven by a passionate belief in the concept of the Land of the Free. Then we see that yet another American has died in Iraq, to help 25 million people to live in an atmosphere of Democracy tempered with Tolerance, and our criticism fades to silence.

Chirac and Saddam at OsirakBut be warned : there is a spectre haunting Europe. A spectre called Anti-Americanism. We in Australia know all about the Tall Poppy Syndrome, we suffer from it ourselves. And the USA, like the World Trade Centre before 9/11, is a very tall Poppy indeed. The Dangerous Loony who's the topic of this article is merely the most visible sign of this Racist Agenda. The real Danger is the degree to which the European Chattering-Class Guardianistas agree with him, and have done for some time. For after all, M. Couteaux has finally let the proverbial Chat out of Le Sac.
That is the policy my country pursued in the 1970s when it gave Iraq a nuclear force. (actually l'arme nucléaire - nuclear arms)
As a 'Special Advisor in the Ministry of Defence', he should know. Until now, the French Official Line has always been that the Osirak reactor was for 'Peaceful Purposes', a story widely believed in the USA and elsewhere. UN inspections had even given it a Bill-of-Health far more complete than for Iran's programme today. Now we know better : the French technology was for a 'Nuclear Force' to be used against Israel. We have it straight from the Horse's... one of the Horse's orifices anyway.

(The picture to the right shows Jacques Chirac with Saddam Hussein at the Osirak site)

Hat Tip to the Dissident Frogman, one of the many Frenchmen who can say with justice about French Middle-East Policy, 'Not in My Name!'.

UPDATE : Thanks to Talos, a reader at Metafilter, I have some more information about the ubiquitous M. Couteaux, and the EDD. He provides a list of the EDD's strange bedfellows from various nations, and another even more bizarre link (site is En Francais). This is a report of M.Couteaux engaged in a debate against the former Minister for Justice and Opus Dei member Jean Foyer, with no less than Prince Louis de Bourbon (the French Pretender)in the middle. M.Couteaux states
Monseigneur, je suis depuis longtemps royaliste ; mais comme je me suis couché tôt, je suis longtemps resté orléaniste
Which, if my French is accurate, is in English :
Monseigneur, I've been a Royalist for a long time; but as I said before, I've remained an Orleanist for a long time.
The headline is :
Paul-Marie Coûteaux : républicain et monarchiste
Which even I have no hesitation in translating as
Paul-Marie Coûteaux : republican and monarchist
I'm less sure what it means though. Is he a Constitutional Monarchist in the English style, or a National Socialist who believes in the FuehrerPrinzip? Curiouser and Curiouser.

Sunday 23 May 2004

A Link Treasury

Today's interesting URL : The Weirdest Links. Although not all links are still live, there's still more than enough weirdness to keep you amused.

Some choice ones:
The Gothic Martha Stewart
The Classic Kikkoman Fish-head Movie (Though you may prefer the Subtitled Version )

An explanation of the subtleties lost in translation is over at a Brain Link, BrainThink (no relation).

Talking about translations... there's the really badly subtitled Hong Kong Pirated version of 'Lord of the Rings'.

The Horse of El Rond

And finally... Reemco. What can I say about a firm that produces the Cat Mantis, and the CDC Ebola Virus Outbreak Playset.

Saturday 22 May 2004

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are here.

While you're visiting though, have a look at a few of the posts below. If one tickles your sense of curiousity, humour, or intellect, have a browse through the archives for much more.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know...

...about Saddam's Nerve Gas capability is in a recent article I wrote over at The Command Post.

Winston Churchill's words on the same subject are in another article of mine there. Remarkably prescient for 1925.

Smithers.. Release the Pidgeons!But amidst the Death, Destruction and Despair, some of the planned programmes for biological warfare were just plain Dotty.

This Report from the ABC is a case in point:
British intelligence agents secretly discussed plans to attack the Soviet Union with pigeons armed with biological weapons, documents made public by the National Archives reveal.

The bizarre Cold War scheme was hatched by Wing Commander WDL Rayner, a Royal Air Force officer who, in the aftermath of World War II, saw suicide pigeons as the future of warfare.

He was part of a top-secret "pigeon committee" set up after the war amid concerns that lessons learned from using pigeons to carry messages through Nazi German lines would be lost as the British military disbanded its flocks.

Rayner's idea called for pigeon lofts to be situated around Britain at locations with the same electro-magnetic and coriolis values as potential Soviet targets. If war broke out, the birds - whose homing instincts depend on such values - would be released, each carrying a 55-gram capsule loaded with a "bacteriological warfare agent" such as anthrax..
Though more sensibly, (and not mentioned by the ABC), an incendiary or even explosive warhead would have been preferred. To continue...
"A thousand pigeons each with a two-ounce explosive capsule landed at intervals on a specific target might be a seriously inconvenient surprise," Rayner wrote in a paper to the committee.
I can just imagine it. Thousands of instances of, er, this Pythonesque situation.
But the idea ran into turbulence from Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5, which branded Rayner "a menace in pigeon affairs" and disputed his participation on the committee.

In the end, Rayner's plans for a full-scale experimental pigeon loft, with about 400 birds, never got off the ground, due to wrangling between the intelligence services and armed forces over who should pay for it.
Of course the Americans would never try such a hairbrained scheme. Their 'Project X-Ray' used Free-Tailed Bats instead.
Full-scale bomber-bat tests were planned for August 1944. However, when Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, found that the bats would not be combat-ready until mid-1945, he abruptly canceled the operation. By that time, Project X-Ray had cost an estimated $2 million.

Dr. Adams was disappointed. He maintained that fires generated by bomber bats could have been more destructive than the atomic bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the war. He found that bats scattered up to twenty miles from the point where they were released. "Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped," he said. "Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life."
Apart from the immolated Bats, that is.

Then there's the truthful but less than cheerful advice put out by the LP Record "If the Bomb Falls : A Recorded Guide to Survival".

After that, I think we all need something less sanguine. So here it is : Virtual Bubblewrap.

Oz Humour

Quoted by Tim Blair in The Bulletin (Newsweek with an Oz Accent) :
News Ltd veteran Ian Moore called a group of friends together in Sydney recently to discuss his colorectal cancer diagnosis. The likelihood is, post-surgery, he'll be equipped with a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. Unhappy silence met Moore's news, finally broken by this observation: "At least you'll have the last laugh on purse snatchers."

China's Space Program - Space Stations and Lunar Probes

I was going to write an article about this, but Cumudgeon's Corner has a succinct post on it, that's at least as good as anything I could have written.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
CAPE CANAVERAL -- Congress is poised to give NASA all the money it asked for in 2005, including funding to start work on human missions to the moon and Mars.
Nothing is final until the Senate votes. But the deal is progress for a space agency that spent months fending off Congressional threats to cut its budget, delaying if not killing the moon-Mars plan.
(From Florida Today)

The preliminary plans provide the first glimpse of the next possible moon mission and how NASA intends to prepare for a Mars expedition. Extended moon visits were proposed by Bush in January as a steppingstone for the more complex task of reaching Mars.
(From USA Today)

More to the point, extended Lunar missions are a stepping-stone to Colonisation, of both the Moon and Mars (for now). And that's the crux of the whole manned space programme, if only we dare say it.

It's Life, Jim

...but not as we know it. We think.

The BBC has an interesting article on nanobacteria. Or possible nanobacteria. They're smaller than the minimum size something can be, and have DNA in it (we think). They appear to replicate in a culture, yet tests for the presence of Nucleic Acids have been inconclusive or negative.
"I don't see any convincing evidence for nannobacteria or DNA [in this study]," Dr John Cisar, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US, told BBC News Online.

"If you know you're dealing with a life form, you can use the staining techniques [they used]. But there are false positives in these types of techniques."

Dr Cisar said in research he had conducted, nanoparticles had tested positive with a stain for nucleic acids. But when he and his team tried to extract these nucleic acids, none had been found.

Previous research carried out by Jack Maniloff of the University of Rochester in New York has shown that to contain the DNA and proteins it needs to function, a cell must be a minimum of 140nm across.

"One of the questions we always get back is: 'well, how do you know it's alive if it doesn't have a unique DNA sequence?' This is true," Dr Miller explained.

"But if you go back to how we defined life prior to our knowing about DNA, our criteria was that things multiplied in culture. This is what we have."

In 1996, nannobacteria came to the attention of the world's media when scientists announced they had found fossils in a Martian meteorite of what appeared to be nano-sized bacteria.

Scientists are now involved in efforts to isolate DNA from the nanoparticles.

Friday 21 May 2004

Where's My Flying Car?

Here. $10,000 down and $490,000 to pay. Double that if you want one of the first hundred.

Moller M400 SkycarMoney quotes from Moller's site, and the Milk Farm site :
There are no technical issues remaining regarding the Skycar. Assembling the eight engines and installation is a manpower related issue. Since our staff is presently shared between Skycar engine installation and Rotapower engine volume production it remains difficult to estimate the date of a tether free flight over the Milk Farm lake.
Presently all test flights of the M400 Skycar employ a safety tether from above to protect the vehicle from catastrophic failure. Certainly during these early tests there are a number of failure modes with an aircraft that has 24 microprocessors and 25,000 lines of machine language software code. Additional factors that make a tether mandatory include:

We are test flying within the Davis City Limits
We presently have only one M400 aircraft
Our insurance will go up substantially when the tether is not used while flying over land
We plan to begin untethered flights when we have at least one additional M400 nearing completion. All flights will occur over a specially constructed lake. This lake is part of the Milk Farm development (see, a commercial 60-acre development underway near the city of Dixon in California on Interstate 80. The lake will have an area of 5 to 6 acres and will be approximately 10 feet deep with a silt, rock free bottom. Most flights will occur at less than 50 feet altitude and will incorporate flotation gear attached to the Skycar.
Deposit is refundable until after a successful transitioning flight has occurred. Thereafter deposits are refundable only if Final Delivery Price exceeds List Price (as adjusted for CPI-W) by 5%, OR Standard Equipment List has been shortened OR Guaranteed Performance Specifications are not met, OR FAA Certification Date of the M400 Skycar occurs after December 31, 2006 or a Purchase Agreement is executed prior to FAA certification.
The two big technical problems were getting an engine light enough, powerful enough, and quiet enough to do the job, and the flight avionics. By neccessity, Moller had to do some considerable engine development, and have spun-off their 'Freedom Engine', a much improved Wankel Rotary design, as a separate concern.
The first Moller Skycars will be bound by the same rules as conventional aircraft such as Helicopters. The first buyers will be the traditional Billionaire Playboys/Playgirls, and probably some film studios. But as people get their heads round the idea that GPS systems really are good to 10 metre or better accuracy, and if some people who do safety-critical software for a living get involved, then it's likely that we will really and truly have flying cars a la 'Bladerunner' etc. And at 68db noise level, they'll be no noiser than, say, a sewing machine.
10 years ago, when I first heard of Moller, I would have thought the odds of them succeeding were less than 10%. Now I'd put it as closer to 50/50. The key was the engine design. If they can get that to work according to spec, then yes, it's feasible.

And I admit, kinda neat.

UPDATE : Of course, first they'll have to chase off the lawyers.

Thursday 20 May 2004

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are still here.

I crave the indulgence of my regular readers, having to wade through interminable posts about Trojan removal. The only thing I can say is that while the 'referers' count still shows a substantial number of people visiting here because their system is infected, I'll keep on having a link to the instructions near the top of the page. Fortunately, the trend is going down, less than 50 per day now.

But to all new readers who are looking for help - just follow the link above. These instructions have been successfully used by dozens (judging from 'Thank-You' e-mails), and possibly thousands (judging from the hits), of people by now. And while you're here, take a stroll through the archives. You're sure to find something interesting or amusing, like the secret artwork buried on silicon chips, or a Self-Assessment of which level of Hell you belong in. Come for the Virus Removal, stay for the Content.

Today's Interesting URL

The Bomb FerrySeen via Kesher Talk, Originally from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12, iss. 68, January 1856. Yes, 1856.

January 1, A.D. 3000
As Judith Weiss says,
Global government, travel by steam cannons, female Generals, genetic engineering, 67 different kinds of water, infant creches, and many more marvels of the Future! Read and be amazed!

Proving that the Spirit of the Satirical Blogger was alive and well 150 years ago.

Specifications for a Realistic Simulation

I'm still polishing up a powerpoint presentation to go with a paper I've co-authored for SimTecT 2004. As the site says :
SimTecT, Australasia's premier simulation and training technologies conference and exhibition. SimTecT 2004 brings together the region's leading simulation practitioners, users and policy makers.
Our paper rejoices in the title of 'Simulation Case Study - xtUML in Agile Development'. It's about how a leading-edge technique, Executable/Translatable Unified Modelling Language, was applied to Agile Development (Jargon with a very specific meaning in Software Engineering, comprising many of the methods used in Extreme Programming, yet another technical term) while making a really, really detailed simulation of the Transport by Air of Integrated Logistics (TAIL). I'll write about this later, it's difficult explaining some of these dry, dusty details to people who aren't Software Mavens without leaving them hopelessly confused, or worse, boring them to tears.

ObjectivesA complete list of abstracts is available on-line which gives the tenor of the whole proceedings. (Ours is No 56 on the list). Think 'Simulation of a Route Clearance Task to Support the Design of a Countermine Clearance Capability' rather than 'Hidden Cheats for Castle Wolfenstein 3d : The Return'.

But thanks to Silent Running, I've come across the specifications for what may be the most realistic - and in today's political climate, the most relevant - simulation to date. Donning my Professional Simulations Expert Hat (with sign that glows in the dark), I present ... the requirements for The Ultimate War Simulation.

Miles Ahead of their Time

Miles M52This is an article about things that nearly were. It's about a small firm that at one time was responsible for the development the first practical ballpoint pen, the first practical photocopier, and what would have been the first supersonic manned aircraft, but got the credit for none of them.
From an advertisement for Miles Aircraft in 1943:
1933 Miles Hawk was FIRST modern aircraft to sell for under £400.
1934 FIRST manufacturer to fit split flaps as standard.
1935 FIRST, second and third in King's Cup.
1936 FIRST to introduce monoplane training in the R.A.F.
1937 Miles Kestrel trainer FASTEST in the world - 296 m.p.h.
1938 Miles Master wins LARGEST contract ever placed for a trainer.
1940 Miles M.20 was FIRST and only modern fighter to be built in 9 weeks.
1941 Miles M.28 was FIRST aeroplane to carry four people at 160 m.p.h. and over 20 m.p.g.
1942 Miles Libellula - MOST successful unorthodox aeroplane.
It's the story of an airfield near what is now the Woodley Technology Triangle, in the heart of SE England. An airfield so long, and with a gravel pit at the end, that it was used as an emergency landing field for badly-shot-up aircraft of all types, and was home to some of the Blackest of Black projects, much like Lockheed's Skunk Works near Burbank is today.
Blossom and F.G.It's the story of some remarkable people, imcluding a one-eyed former actress and divorcee who drove a baby Fiat (and anything else) at terrifying speeds (she'd lost the eye in a car accident), and was an insanely brilliant aircraft designer and draughtswoman. Blossom Miles.

Miles Aircraft was a lot like Bert Rutan's mob today. An Art Deco version.

As is widely known (at least amongst people who are cognosecnti of ballpoint pens):
[The] principle of the ballpoint pen actually dates back to an 1888 patent owned by John J. Loud for a product to mark leather. However, this patent was commercially unexploited. Laszlo Biro first patented his pen in 1938, and applied for a fresh patent in Argentina on June 10, 1943. (Laszlo Biro and his brother Georg Biro emigrated to Argentina in 1940.) The British Government bought the licensing rights to this patent for the war effort. The British Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen, one that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes as the fountain pen did. Their successful performance for the Air Force brought the Biro pens into the limelight.
It took a lot of development effort to make Biro's ideas work in practice. The first successful models used ball-bearings from crashed Spitfires (literally - remember Woodley Airfield was a graveyard for many aircraft that staggered home, badly damaged.). These were the only ball bearings machined to a sufficiently high degree of precision. Much of this work was performed at Miles Aircraft, with some at the nearby RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) at Farnborough. Miles machinists were quick to make these pens up as fast as they could, they were ideal for writing at high altitudes in unpressurised, unheated crew compartments. Theirs were the first production-quality, reliable ballpoint pens in the world. But...
Laszlo Biro had neglected to get a U.S. patent for his pen and so even with the ending of World War II, another battle was just beginning..
A battle fought too late for Miles Aircraft to gain much financial reward.
May 1945: Eversharp Co. teams up with Eberhard-Faber to acquire the exclusive rights to Biro Pens of Argentina. The pen re-branded the 'Eversharp CA' which stood for Capillary Action. Released to the press months in advance of public sales.
June, 1945: Less than a month after Eversharp/Eberhard close the deal with Eterpen, Chicago businessman, Milton Reynolds visits Buenos Aires. While in a store, he sees the Biro pen and recognizes the pen's sales potential. He buys a few pens as samples. Reynolds returns to America and starts the Reynolds International Pen Company, ignoring Eversharp's patent rights.
October 29, 1945: Reynolds copies the product in four months and sells his product Reynold's Rocket at Gimbel's department store in New York City. Reynolds' imitation beats Eversharp to market. Reynolds' pen is immediately successful: Priced at $12.50, $100,000 worth sold the first day on the market.
December, 1945: Britain was not far behind with the first ballpoint pens available to the public sold at Christmas by the Miles-Martin Pen Company.
The rest, as they say, is history.
BIC ® dominates the market. Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman, capture the smaller upscale markets of fountain pens and expensive ballpoints.
Today: The highly popular modern version of Laszlo Biro's pen, the BIC Crystal, has a daily world wide sales figure of 14,000,000 pieces. Biro is still the generic name used for the ballpoint pen in most of the world. The Biro pens used by the British Air Force in W.W.II worked. Parker black ballpoint pens will produce more than 28,000 linear feet of writing -- more than five miles, before running out of ink.
About the Miles Copycat photocopiers, little is known. They were originally invented by the Miles technicians to copy the huge amount of technical drawings needed when manufacturing aircraft, a great improvement over the old 'blueprints'. They used the same electrostatic principles later patented by Xerox.From 'Miles- the Post-War Years'
In November 1947, Miles Aircraft was forced to cease trading. There were many reasons for the financial problems, not all of them of the company's making and questions remain about the behaviour of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the company's bank and certain of its financial advisors. In fact, when the company was restructured, many non-aircraft activities prospered in other hands, notably the Biro pen, the Copycat photocopier and its range of electric actuators.
Some parts for them are known to exist, but that's all.

Model of an M.52

Now for the saddest story of the three. The Story of the Miles M.52. It's still a matter of controversy as to exactly why this project was cancelled. The story given out at the time was that 'Manned Supersonic Flight is too Dangerous'. But there were queues of test pilots waiting to fly in an M.52, regardless of the risks. Quite a few were German POWs who had flown not just Me262 jets, but some of the more advanced (and often hideously flawed) prototypes put out by various German design bureaux.
From Miles- A Brief History :
Outstanding was the Supersonic Project literally built round a Whittle turbine. DesIgned during the closing stages of World War lI, it had been ordered by the Government with the object of attaining the hitherto unbelievable speed of 1,000 mph. After the War ended, chicken-hearted Authority lost its nerve and cancelled the razer-winged projectile before completion so that the Americans, whom the same chicken Authority enabled to study the design, got there first.

Subsequent tests with the air-launched rocket-propelled models showed that the straight-winged Miles design could have achieved its goal. Its success full-scale might have altered the whole pattern of Britain's post war aircraft progress.
From Miles - The Post-War Years
With the Miles M52, the dream of supersonic flight and the glory of being the first to achieve it, was within the grasp of the small team at Woodley, when it was snatched away. And why? Even today, over fifty years later, the controversy is still unresolved and can cause heated discussions among aviation historians. Was it a cost-cutting government - that did indeed go on to decimate the British aviation industry?
Were they under pressure from other sources?
Did well-meaning but influential individuals completely fail to understand why a queue of test pilots wanted to fly it?
Or did so-called experts so completely misunderstand the aerodynamics of supersonic flight?
From the Museum of Berkshire Aviation :
In 1942 the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aviation approached Miles Aircraft with a top-secret contract for a turbojet research plane designed to reach supersonic speeds. The Miles M.52 was designed for a speed of 1000mph at 36,000 feet to be reached in 1.5 minutes.

New ground was being broken in all areas of technology and design. The wings were very thin and designed to lie within the Vee-shaped shock wave created by the aircraft nose at supersonic speeds.
A principle later used in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter...
The fuselage had a separate cone shaped nose section housing the crew of one. In the event of an emergency, this pressurised pod was to have been separated from the remainder of the fuselage by using explosive bolts. The pilot was to have made his final exit by parachute.
A similar method is used for escape from the F-111.
Engine development went to the Whittle company utilising the W2/700 with after burning - later known as the Rolls Royce Derwent. Further power was to have been obtained by fitting a specially ducted fan to increase the airflow through the jet system.
This would have been the first aircraft with an afterburning Fanjet, the same type of angine used on all fighter aircraft currently in production...
However, at the end of the war, the Director of Scientific Research, Sir Ben Lockspeiser, cancelled the project " view of the unknown hazards near the speed of sound ....... considered unwise to proceed with the full scale experiments." In reality, despite 90% of the design work completed and with 50% of the construction finished, the project fell to a Treasury savings measure.

All design data was sent to BELL in the USA and in 1947 the sound barrier was broken in the BELL M.52 look alike, the XS-1. Also, the Rolls Royce Derwent engine appeared in the USA as the General Electric Type 1!
On the other hand, the USA gave the UK a multi-billion-dollar loan to help UK pay its war debts to America. There's a bit more to the story than that, as well. With Roosevelt's death, all the 'gentleman's agreements' that Roosevelt and Churchill may have had were null and void. Rossevelt had kept the Haberdasher from Missouri out of the loop. Truman had to go on only what he knew, not what people with their own agendas might be telling him. The co-operation that had resulted in the UK 'Directorate of Tube Alloys' being transformed into the US 'Manhatten Engineering District' evaporated, and the UK Scientists working in Oak Ridge were sent packing - but had to leave their notes behind. Similarly, the Bell Corp had send a delegation to Miles, and were given all the results from the supersonic wind tunnel tests, and in particular, data about the all-moving tail on the M.52. Some months later, the quid-pro-quo Miles delegation to Bell was informed that their visit had been cancelled 'For Security Reasons'. It was later revealed that US authorities didn't want anyone to know about the big secret they'd 'discovered'. Which secret? You guessed it... the US secret of the all-moving tail was only revealed in the 1950's.
Following the cancellation of the M.52, the Government instituted a new programme involving "no danger to test pilots and economy in purpose." This was another way of saying that it was planned to use expendable, pilotless, rocket-propelled missiles.
In October 1948 a second rocket was launched. This was successful and a speed of Mach 1.5 was obtained. But, instead of diving into the sea as planned, the model ignored radio commands and was last observed (on radar) heading out into the Atlantic.
This isn't quite true : in fact, the drone had been commanded to self-destruct by putting itself into 'uncontrolled flight' by pulling up into a radical loop, causing it to break-up. But the engineers and stress analysts at Miles had designed it to face the unknown challenges of supersonic flight : the wings had been built with cells, so each small area of them had a different flutter-frequency. The drone promptly did a 15+ g loop and carried on...
The final touch of irony came when even these rocket trials were suspended, the reason being, "the high cost for little return". The total dividend from this investment was the information that a small scale model of the Miles M.52 had successfully broken the sound barrier. But, the United Kingdom had already lost the chance of being the first nation to achieve piloted supersonic flight.
How do I know some of these (unpublished) details? My father originally wanted to build bridges. He enrolled in Liverpool University in the early 1940s. Because the normal course had been compressed (it was wartime, remember), in order to do the subjects he wanted, the only other ones available that fit his class schedule were on supersonic airflow for turbines in power plants. Come 1944, when he graduated, there he was, one of the small handful of people with training in both supersonic airflow and structures. So he was assigned to Miles, to work on the wing design. All his work, his notes, and the circular slide-rule he'd invented specifically for supersonic airflow calculations was literally stuffed in a Tea-Chest and consigned to Bell Laboratories. Alas, he died in 1993, before the movies of the 1948 rocket tests had been declassified, and shown on the UK's Channel 4, so he never saw the M.52 fly.

But he did get to meet - and shook hands with - General Chuck Yaeger.

Recommended Reading:
The Miles Aircraft Story, a site with some magnificent original artwork available for sale.
Miles Aircraft, a site that captures the late 30's Art Deco spirit of the times.
The Museum of Berkshire Aviation. Like so much of Britain's historical heritage, Woodley Aerodrome is now a housing development. But this small fragment of it remains as one of the top small aviation museums in the world.
(Cached) Rand Holman Show Online
BBC article

Wednesday 19 May 2004

Sachost.exe Removal Instructions

Are here.

G'day to readers from Switzerland, Finland, and the Czech Republic, in addition to those I've greeted before.

A few articles at random from this blog:
Why you can't Tickle Yourself
The Space Program That Never Was, an illustrated guide.
Breaking the Laws of Thermodynamics
Synoptic Guide to every Dr Who episode

Come for the virus removal - stay for the content.

Tuesday 18 May 2004

Two for the Culture Vultures

The Ill-Conceived P.D.Q. Bach Anthology: The Hearer's Digest Condensed Version
Contains parts of 1712 Overture, Love Me, Classical Rap, Minuet Militaire, and excerpts from Oedipus Tex, The Musical Sacrifice, The Short-Tempered Clavier, Grand Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds & Percussion, Four Folk Song Upsettings.


The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach: The Hearer's Digest Condensed Version
This Hearer's Digest Condensed Version is made of excerpts from the following: Schleptet in E flat Major:Introduction ; Tema con variazione from Concerto for Horn and Hardart:Introduction ; first Aria from Iphigenia in Brooklyn : New Horizons in Music Appreciation IV. : Andante Allegro from 'Unbegun' Symphony : What's My Melodic Line?: 'Open sesame seeds' from 'The Seasonings':Introduction ; 'Now is the season' from 'The Stoned Guest' : 'My bonnie lass she smelleth' from The Triumphs of Thusnelda.

Available here.

If you've never heard of PDQ Bach...

P.D.Q.BachIn 1954 Professor Peter Schickele, rummaging around a Bavarian castle in search of rare musical gems, happened instead upon a piece of manuscript being employed as a strainer in the caretaker's percolator. This turned out to be the 'Sanka' Cantata by one P.D.Q. Bach. A cursory examination of the music immediately revealed the reason for the atrocious taste of the coffee; and when the work was finally performed at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, the Professor realized too late that he had released a monster on the musical world. Unable to restrain himself, and with the misguided support of the U. of S.N.D. at H. and otherwise reputable recording and publishing companies, Prof. Schickele has since discovered more than four score of P.D.Q. Bach scores, each one more jaw-dropping than the last, each one another brick in the wall which will someday seal the doom of Musical Culture.

The conspiracy of silence that has surrounded P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)? for two centuries began with his own parents. He was the last and the least of the great Johann Sebastian Bach's twenty-odd children, and he was certainly the oddest. His father ignored him completely, setting an example for the rest of the family (and indeed for posterity), with the result that P.D.Q. was virtually unknown during his own lifetime; in fact, the more he wrote, the more unknown he became. He finally attained total obscurity at the time of his death, and his musical output would probably have followed him into oblivion had it not been for the zealous efforts of Prof. Schickele. These efforts have even extended themselves to mastering some of the rather unusual instruments for which P.D.Q. liked to compose, such as the left-handed sewer flute, the windbreaker, and the bicycle.
He does for Classical Music what Weird Al Yankovic does for its contemporary.

Monday 17 May 2004

Unpublished Photos from Abu Ghraib Jail

Since the media is concentrating on 6 month old photos from Abu Ghraib jail, showing psychological torture, it's only right to show some photos taken at the same or similar places, slightly earlier. Photos courtesy of the resistance group, Free Iraq.

Warning, these photos are gruesome.

Here is one victim.
And another, slightly more recogniseable.
And another.
An another....

Here is one survivor.
And another.

Questions have been asked as to how did the guards get a (dog)leash or a hood?
Well, here is some of the equipment that was used until relatively recently.

In case it's not blindingly obvious, these are the results of Saddam's regime. These images are all over a year old, because that's when this horror was stopped. Not by 'investigative journalists'. By the US military. But you won't read about that in the papers.

If anyone thinks the shameful acts of some US MPs are just a case of 'same business under new management', then may I suggest they get a prosthetic sense of proportion, as they obviously don't have one.

Those barbarities were also put an end to, by the same people. Not by 'investigative journalists'. By the US military. But you won't read about that in the papers, either.

Saturday 15 May 2004

Today's Brain Link

Brain prefers earning money: study.
Well, yes. <hint>The Tip jar's on the left.</hint>

(Link courtesy of The Evil Pundit of Doom)

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are here.

And a big Aussie G'day to people who found this place via some search engine or other. The link above gives you complete instructions on how to deal with sachost.exe.

I've given up on trying to give a greeting in everyone's native language. I've had visitors looking for sachost.exe removal instructions from Hong Kong, the USA, Denmark, Germany, the UK, Eire, Canada, France, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Chile, Spain, Brazil, Italy, (quick check of referrers today), Sweden, New Zealand and Portugal. Oh yes, and Australia.

Some previous posts for your edification and amusement :
Design Your Own Superhero
Who Really sold arms to Saddam
The Secret Message in Coca-Cola Written Backwards

More random interesting posts here. Or just browse through the archives.

Come for the Virus Removal - Stay for the Content. (Oh yes, and although the Tip Jar is on the right, you may wish to give to another more worthy cause if you want to say thank-you. Even $1 would help.).

Friday 14 May 2004

Spaceship One - a Historical Perspective

Spaceship One Third Powered FlightSpaceship One has just reached the 60,000 metre mark. 212,000 ft, for those in the USA, about 6 times the altitude that Intercontinental jets fly at.

On August 22, 1963, the X-15, also a manned aerospace craft, was launched from a B-52 bomber, reached 354,000 ft. That's over 40 years ago. So what's the big deal?

The answer is that it's a relatively small firm that's doing it; They didn't just build the aerospacecraft, they built the launch platform as well; And they intend to fly just as high as the X-15, and do so twice within three weeks, using the same vehicle. Oh yes, it also carries passengers.

I've done a little research on the history of air-launched rocket programs, spurred on by a regular reader, Mr G. (whose wife is Nana to Gnat Lileks). I even wrote a long article, but Blogger ate it a few months ago, and so I'll just summarise it here. I've restricted it to spacecraft carrying useful payloads that actually flew. Comprehensive list of winged amd air-launched vehicles is to be found at that unexcelled all-round set of resources for all things spacey, the Encyclopedia Astronautica.

High Virgo

From a History of the B-58 Hustler comes data about the WS-199B Bold Orion and WS-199C High Virgo (quote refers to the latter):
Proposals were considered for using the B-58 as a strategic missile launcher, and Lockheed built a 9.15 meter (30 foot) long solid fuel "air launched ballistic missile (ALBM)" derived from the company's X-17 test booster. The ALBM was test-launched four times in 1958 and 1959, with two successful launches.

In the fourth and last launch, on 22 September 1959, the ALBM was launched into space to take a picture of an American Explorer satellite under "Project Snap Shot". This was a proof-of-concept test with applications for satellite inspection and anti-satellite interception, but that particular launch failed. The B-58 ALBM program was then abandoned, though the B-52-based "Skybolt" ALBM program persisted for a few more years.

From the Encyclopedia Astronautica :
After studies in 1958 had shown that it was feasible to air-launch ballistic missiles from high-flying strategic bombers, the USAF issued a requirement in 1959 for a long-range ALBM (Air-Launched Ballistic Missile). In May 1959, Douglas was awarded a development contract for the WS (Weapons System) 138A missile, designated GAM-87 Skybolt. Douglas subsequently awarded development subcontracts to Nortronics (guidance system), Aerojet General (propulsion), and General Electric (reentry vehicle). The GAM-87 was intended for use by the B-52H Statofortress and the British Vulcan B.2. Full-scale development was approved in February 1960, and in January 1961, the first drop tests of unpowered Skybolts occurred. Powered and guided flight tests of XGAM-87A prototypes began in April 1962, but the first five tests were all failures. The first fully successful Skybolt flight occurred on 19 December 1962, but on that same day the whole program was cancelled and the production of the operational GAM-87A stopped. Although Skybolt certainly had its technical difficulties and was well behind schedule, the cancellation was also very much influenced by economical and political factors.

The XGAM-87A was ballistic missile powered by a two-stage solid-fuel rocket motor and guided by a stellar-inertial navigation system. Each B-52H was to carry four GAM-87As, two each side-by-side on two underwing pylons. While on the pylon, the Skybolt was fitted with a tail cone to reduce aerodynamic drag. For launch, the missile was dropped from the pylon, the tail cone was ejected, and the first motor stage ignited. After first stage burnout, the Skybolt coasted for a while before the second stage ignited. First stage control was by movable tail fins, while the second stage was equipped with a gimballed nozzle.
X-15 LaunchThen of course, there's the only crewed aerospacecraft, the X-15.
This joint program by NASA, the Air Force, the Navy, and North American operated the most remarkable of all the rocket research aircraft. Composed of an internal structure of titanium and a skin surface of a chrome-nickel alloy known as Inconel X, the X-15 had its first, unpowered glide flight on June 8, 1959, while the first powered flight took place on September 17, 1959. Because of the large fuel consumption of its rocket engine, the X-15 was air launched from a B-52 aircraft at about 45,000 ft and speeds upward of 500 mph. The airplane first set speed records in the Mach 4-6 range with Mach 4.43 on March 7, 1961; Mach 5.27 on June 23, 1961; Mach 6.04 on November 9, 1961; and Mach 6.7 on October 3, 1967. It also set an altitude record of 354,200 feet (67 miles) on August 22, 1963, and provided an enormous wealth of data on hypersonic air flow, aerodynamic heating, control and stability at hypersonic speeds, reaction controls for flight above the atmosphere, piloting techniques for reentry, human factors, and flight instrumentation. The highly successful program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo piloted spaceflight programs as well as the Space Shuttle program. The program's final flight was performed on October 24, 1968.

Pegasus XL

One current very successful set of boosters is the Pegasus and Pegasus XL (quote refers to the latter):
Uprated version of Pegasus air-launched winged light satellite launcher. 4 stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38. Launches: 22. Failures: 3. Success Rate: 86.36% pct. First Launch Date: 27 June 1994. Last Launch Date: 25 January 2003
My own favourite, which alas never got beyond the 'Design Study' (or more accurately 'Wishful Thinking') stage, was a German project of 1985, the Saenger, seen below. It may have been completely impractical, but from an aesthetic viewpoint, nothing beats it.

Saenger Spaceplane
Photo credits to, Space Daily, Sierra Foothills, and Gunter's Space Page.

Shall We Dance?

Seen via a snippet on Prof Hall's site, comes an interesting Letter to the Editor of Natural History :
The figure-eight orbit that Nell Tyson mentions, as well as other newly discovered solutions to the old three-body problem, are so elegant that a name has been coined for them: choreographies. The figure eight is only the simplest example; other orbits are wildly more complex, with shapes that look more like fluttering butterflies. And those three-body orbits have been quickly generalized to even more fascinating dances for four or more bodies. Animated examples can be viewed on the Web at

As a theoretical astrophysicist working in stellar dynamics, I am sobered by the fact that great mathematicians and physicists worked on the three-body problem over the past three centuries without having any idea that orbits of this kind were awaiting discovery. And who knows what else there is to be found. It is not only with telescopes that new astronomical objects can be discovered. With even a small personal computer, a lucky guess, and enough persistence, anybody is now in a position to find new solutions to age-old problems of a kind that were completely beyond what Newton and the Le's and La's of celestial mechanics (Leverrier, Legendre, Lagrange, and Laplace, to name a few) could handle.
The actual applet for a 3-body choreography is here.

The Complex dance of orbits below mirrors another of Prof Hall's posts. His site is well worth reading for anyone into Spacecraft, Motorcycles, or Politics. Note that the mission it depicts was launched in 1978. We could do far better, with less fuel expended, today.

Complex Orbits

Thursday 13 May 2004

Yet Another Jew Beheaded

Mr Green says it best :
Abu Ghraib represents a betrayal of our principles, while this murder represents an expression of theirs.
Why is it always that when mass Evil breaks out, one of the first signs is cries of 'Kill the Joos'?. Enough Already, we get the message. Al Qaeda Delenda Est

Wonders of the Steam Age Dept.

The new ElectricClerk! It Types! It Files! It performs Mathematical Calculations! It's like writing with a beam of light!

Better Living Through Technology Dept.

One of the more popular ideas for a modus vivendi for Israel is for them to just build a bloody great defensive wall, and let the Arabs on the other side stew in their own juices. The great objection to this is that when a similar idea has been tried, e.g. near Lebanon, all that happened was that the Israelis within about 10 km of the border suffered periodic random artillery bombardment, from everything from portable rockets to large artillery pieces. The only way to stop this was to actually hold the ground they'd be firing from as they do the West Bank. Immediate air-attack on the launchers/guns stops repeats, but still doesn't protect civilians against the first shells. It's also useless against small rockets fired randomly using a timer. And as Israel is so very small, a 10 km buffer zone inside the border would be untenable.
So why are the Israelis building exactly such a wall now? From CBS comes a possible answer :
A joint U.S.-Israeli laser designed to protect northern Israel from missile attacks downed its largest rocket to date during a test over the southern New Mexico desert.

The ground-based Tactical High Energy Laser, or THEL, locked onto and destroyed the 11-foot-long, 6-inch-diameter rocket in flight over White Sands Missile Range on Tuesday, Pam Rogers, a U.S. Army spokeswoman in Huntsville, Alabama, said Friday.

The stationary test version of THEL has shot down smaller Katyusha rockets and artillery shells in the past, she said.

The system, which eventually would be mobile, uses an advanced radar to spot and track incoming rockets and then fires a deuterium fluoride chemical laser to destroy them.

Israel's director of weapons systems and infrastructure development, Shmuel Keren, said the system is able to intercept a variety of aerial targets such as long-range rockets and cruise missiles, to which there is currently no solution.

THEL, being developed by Northrop-Grumman Corp., has passed tests at White Sands since 2000, said Bob Bishop, the company's media relations manager in Redondo Beach, California.

The company could deliver a mobile prototype by 2007 or 2008 if it gets a contract this summer, he said, adding that the project appears in the U.S. defense budget for fiscal 2004 with a $56 million allocation.

Wednesday 12 May 2004

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are here.

Text of a recent e-mail, in its entirety:

If that had been the only e-mail I'd received for helping out, it would have all been more than worthwhile. But it's not, and my thanks to everyone (including John) who have let me know that they found the instructions useful.

After you've gotten rid of the beast, why not have a browse through the archives? Here's a few posts, taken pretty much at random.
Brain Short-Circuiter
The Many Uses of Vegemite
54 Good Reasons for going into Iraq
Design Your Own Hell
Fun With Colloids
Kerry on Defence
Mr Picasso Head
The London Necropolis Company

This blog is a Smorgasbord of stuff, some deep and meaningful, some opinionated politics, and some just plain fun. Come for the virus-removal, stay for the posts.

If you like it, or if you find the virus removal instructions useful, may I please request that you go read this article on The Command Post, and act as you see fit.

Tuesday 11 May 2004

Ethics and Iraq

For an excellent exposition of why people of goodwill disagree about the Iraq war, (and parenthetically, a simple exposition of philosophical concepts such as Utilitarianism), please go read Keith Burgess-Jackson on Tech Central Station.
Even if Philosophy isn't of any interest to you, doing the Right Thing is. This article may help you figure out what that is, and why.

Sunday 9 May 2004

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are here.

The only good thing about this infection is the amount of e-mails I've received from all over the world from people that have been helped. I got a particularly nice one from Chile this morning.

And to the people using the German version of Google who have been finding this page, Schoen Gutten tag, Wie Gehts?

Ah, Spit

Maybe in another 30 years.

From the soon-to-be-extinct Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems :
The Cooperative Research System for Satellite Systems has been advised by the Department of Education, Science and Training that its preliminary business case for the Ninth Round of the CRC Program has not been successful.
"...we believe that the program of space research and development which we had developed with over twenty organisations over the past few months has immense potential for the Australian community. We proposed targeted research in the areas of satellite-based navigation, better communications, improved methods of predicting weather both on Earth and in space, and developing advanced space technologies for applications in Australia and around the world. After the stunning success of our first space project, the research satellite FedSat, we had hoped that our team of engineers and scientists would stay together and devote their talents to this new program. We will vigorously investigate other funding options, because we believe that a basic level of national capability in space technology is vital for Australia 's future. In a world in which the vantage point of space is crucial for social, environmental and economic health, a country which has no other option but to buy or source from off-shore all the space technology it needs will one day face a very unpleasant shock."
The team that built FedSat has already broken up - but it could have been re-formed.

In the meantime, FedSat:
Weathered the largest solar storm ever recorded
Demonstrated for the first time that automatic hardware "Self-Healing" from radiation damage was possible
Is the longest-lived Australian satellite ever
Was the first non-Japanese payload ever launched from a NASDA booster
Earned an Engineering Excellence award - though that and $2 will buy you a cup of tea (at a cheap teashop)

And as far as I know, is still the most complex and capable satellite of its size ever built, running half-a-dozen major complex experiments in one small 50kg box.

The CRCSS is the closest thing Australia has to a Space Agency. With its closure, ends yet another chapter in the sorry saga of Australian Space Program that almost was. Perhaps the Australian Space Network will take up the slack - but as the CRCSS was probably its backbone, that's unlikely. BLUESat is going well technically, but the funding still isn't there. JAESat is stalled due to lack of cash.

Few people know that Australia was only the third country in the world to design, build, and launch a satellite from its own spaceport (and the fifth to make a satellite of any kind) . This was the WRESAT in 1967. Build before WRESAT, but launched afterwards, was the world's first remotely-controlled amateur satellite, Australis (Oscar 5) in 1970.

There is an excellent history of this whole sad and sorry tale, how we as a nation started so well, then did nothing for 30 years.

From another history page, Australia in Space - A History
In 1 April 1947, the United Kingdom / Australian Joint Project came into existence and marks the commencement of Australian Space Program(s). In a memo to PM JB Chifley, 20 Sept 1946, it is stated that ".. this project ... without question put Australia in the very forefront of the most modern developments in ... Science." The project essentially came to an end with the launch of WRESAT in 1967. With the launching of WRESAT, Australia did indeed join the big league of nations launching satellites from their own territory, of which the US and the USSR were the only members at that date. But there was no ongoing Australian Space Program for over thirty years. The only exception to this statement was the launch in 1970 of the very modest Australian satellite, Australis, given a free launch by NASA, which called it Oscar-5. Australis was a simple beacon satellite, like Sputnik-1, with on-board receivers to control powering down (to conserve its alkaline batteries.)
But over thirty years, while communication satellites became commonplace, there were no further Australian developmental or scientific satellites. However, at the start of the next millenium, this dream of fifty years ago may yet come true. CRCSS Chair Tony Staley has prophesised that "the FedSat project would generate a new spirit of national confidence and encourage young Australians to set their sights on the stars."
He was right. But it seems they'd be better off looking towards Tennis Stars or Football Stars; that's where the money is.

I can't help thinking that we've missed out on a nice little money-earner though. With the FedSat bus, we've proved that we have the ability to integrate experimental payloads with a wildly diverse set of architectures. We were able to solve all the complex managerial problems of dealing with different academic groups and international space agencies. We were able to resolve all the problems inherent in integrating very different CPUs with different Floating-Point formats and Endianism, including Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and have it all talking to the ground via a standard European Space Agency communications protocol. We would be a very price-competitive, and an even more risk-competitive option, for any university wanting to orbit a low-power-consumption experiment of high complexity, reliably and cheaply. We have the infrastructure to do all the vibrational and structural analysis, we have military-grade software reliability.... or at least we had. Once upon a time.

Maybe in another 30 years.

Saturday 8 May 2004

September 23rd 1916

An article about my Grandfather's experiences on that day, at a place called Thiepval, during the Battle of the Somme.

More about my Grandad's service in World War I here.

Thiepval Today.

A Bit of a Worry, This

Dirty work at the Crossroads in Europe. From The Spectator :
Mr Tillack is a respected German reporter who has written extensively about the Eurostat scandal. This convoluted affair really deserves a column to itself but, briefly, it involves allegations that millions of euros have been diverted from the budget by Commission officials. More recently, Mr Tillack had started to investigate the broader failure of EU authorities to act on tip-offs. It was this that triggered the reaction. Last month police swooped on his flat. He was questioned for ten hours without a lawyer, while his laptop, files and address book were confiscated. Even his private bank statements were ransacked.

The raid was ordered by Olaf, the EU's anti-corruption unit. Needless to say, no such treatment has been meted out to the alleged fraudsters. In the looking-glass world of Brussels, it is those exposing sleaze, rather than those engaging in it, who find themselves in police custody. Mr Tillack was implausibly accused of having procured some of his papers by bribery. No formal charges have been brought, and he is now planning to sue. In the meantime, though, the notes he had built up over five years of meticulous work have been seized and his sources put at risk.
In the Tillack case, we see perhaps the EU's most worrying tendency: its belief that its cause is self-evidently right, and that this justifies virtually any action against its critics. If you think I am exaggerating, cast your mind back to an article in this newspaper by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard a couple of years ago. It concerned the legal case brought by Bernard Connolly, who had been sacked from the European Commission for opposing the euro. In giving his judgment, the EU's Advocate-General pronounced that freedom of speech was not an all-encompassing right; criticism of the European Union, like blasphemy, lay outside its remit.

Obligatory Cat Post

I'm a Dog person, not a Cat person. Cats know this, and so make a beeline for me. One particular Moggy in the Netherlands would walk up to me as I was just going to work, then just flop, waiting to be given a tummy rub. How could I refuse? When I was about Andrew's age, I used to ride on our huge ginger tomcat, called Spuffles. (Mum wanted to call him Tibbles, my sister wanted to call him Fluffy, and my Father wanted to call him Sputnik. So they compromised.)

I've seen a picture of Spuffles sitting on my Mother's lap, both with backs straight. His eyes were about level with hers. Yes, he really was as big as I remember, 30+ pounds of whalebone, gristle, muscle and fang. Alsatians used to cross the street to avoid him. Yet he was very gentle with me, even when I did the usual things a Toddler does.

So here's an Epic Poem for all cat-lovers out there. The Story of Schroedinger's Cat.

And remember : Dogs have Masters, Cats have Staff.

UPDATE : Looks like Tim Blair is a Dog Person too.

Sachost.exe Removal Instructions

Are still here.

I'm still getting 3 hits/hour from search engines looking for sachost.exe, and as long as the major vendors don't give any information on it, I'll keep on providing easy-to-find links.

My apologies to at least one searcher who needed it translated into Spanish. Feel free to e-mail me if you need help.

Friday 7 May 2004

Avast There, Me Hearties

Oh wait, it's not International talk Like a Pirate Day yet.

Belay that.

Still, in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson, and courtesy (again) of Utterly Boring, I give you.....THE BLACK SPOT. Arrrr. (Sorry).

Urban Legend? Not any more.

Seen via Utterly Boring comes an article about a student so poor he really did live in the library.

Wednesday 5 May 2004

China's Moon Program Updated

Courtesy of the eminently readable Cumudgeon's Corner comes this article in Space Daily about China's plans for the moon.
China will take three steps to develop its space transportation system. For the first step, the existing carrier rocket will be improved. Second, a new generation of carrier rockets will be developed. And thirdly, an innovative space transportation system will be in place to meet the needs of China's space technology strategy and strengthen China's space power.

This is unveiled by Long Lehao, academician of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on April 27.
The seminar, which was concluded on April 27, also disclosed that the timetable for the three stages, orbiting, landing and returning, of China's moon probe project had been set up.

The project, called "Chang'e ", will send a satellite "Chang'e I" to the moon in the first phase which will explore the lunar surface environment, topography, geologic structure and physical field. The second phase will develop and launch a spacecraft to the moon to take on exploration and auto-inspection, which will provide chemical and physical parameters for the selection of the site of the lunar base in the future.

The third phase aims to make and lift up small sampling re-entry cabin, lunar surface sampling apparatus, and robot operation arms. Data offered by the samples and explorations taken by these equipment will be very useful to the manned moon probe and site location of a outpost station on the moon.

Previous posts on the Chinese Lunar Programme :
Space Station announcement
Lunar Probe announcement
China Shoots the Moon
Lunar Colonisation

Today's Brain Link

Thanks to The Eternal Golden Braid, I bring you.... the Martian Brain!

Sachost.Exe Removal Instructions

Are still here.

For an awful example of the rubbish that can accumulate on an unprotected system, and (unlike myself) a guy who really knows what he's doing when it comes to cleaning up the mess, have a look at Tech Support Guy. In the Horrible Example, sachost.exe was just one of the many problems he managed to clean up.

Meanwhile, the major anti-virus vendors still don't have it on their scopes. But as the result of a kind reader giving me details on GriSoft's AVG Free Virus-Scanner, I now have another line-of-defence installed. No, it didn't detect sachost.exe, but neither did any of the others. And the price was right. Being a less-than-trusting-soul, I did a Google search on "AVG", just in case it was malware, before I even thought about installing it. Having checked its bona fides, the installation of the latest version was relatively straightforward, and the scanning time was comparable to PC-Cillin's Housecall. It's too early for me to recommend it, but after giving it a trial for a few months, I'll see how it goes.

[Thanks to reader Alan Murdoch for the data on AVG]

This Takes the Cake

Courtesy of Rocket Jones, I bring you... the Anatomically Correct Thorax Cake!

I've also added two links that should have been on the linklist since day one.

First, Intel Dump.
Near real-time analysis and commentary from Phil Carter -- a former [US]Army officer, journalist and UCLA law student.
In other words, a someone who knows what he's talking about, a pearl beyond price.

Second, Doggerel Pundit, a source of Filksongs for young and old. Example:
I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist,
I've information biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
I know the talking heads and every bureau puke and oracle
from A-B-C to C-N-N in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with schedules for sabbatical,
I live to write a sentence that's both simple and grammatical,
I'm good at leading questions, and my team puts out a lot o' news,
With many damning facts for which, at times, fact-checking's not in use!.....
Though my personal favourites, "Sharia" and "I Feel Pity" are from "Press Snide Story".

Apropos of the example above, the song "I am the very model of a Modern Major-General" ( from Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance) is of course a Filk in its own right.
In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat,"
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery--
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy,
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

You'll say a better Major-General, etc.

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
He is the very model of a modern Major-General.
The song is a biting satire on the Military of the time, whose more senior officers were supposedly Academically gifted Gentlemen, but knew nothing whatsover about the state-of-the-art of Military Science. (The link is to an annotated version, explaining just what the heck a "ravelin" is, amongst other things.)

UPDATE : From Reader C.Mahaffey : Major General" is, iiirc, pointed directly at (then) Major General Wolseley, a military reformer, favoring (among other reforms) a more professionally educated officer corps. Officers (classically educated) were not considered academically gifted. Officer education (RMC and Staff College) had been reformed 1871-78, focussing on military science.

Another, particularly good annotated version is The Buff Barbarian, the song of Xena:
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian;
Through Herculean efforts, I've become humanitarian.
I ride throughout the hinterland -- at least that's what they call it in
Those sissy towns like Athens (I, myself, am Amphipolitan).

I travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian
And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenian
(And many have attempted, by a host of methods mystical,
To tell if our relationship's sororal or sapphistical)....
I'm only quoting parts of the songs, if you want to know what "Parthenian" means in this context, you'll have to Read The Whole Thing.