sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, April 20, 2018


NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life. 

Researchers will use spectroscopy to determine a planet's mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets' capacity to harbor life.

The satellite successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 18, 2018.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life.

TESS, which is expected to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.
"We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe."
Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.
"One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit," said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. "Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That's one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before."
For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.

TESS will be watching for phenomena called transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer's perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness. More than 78 percent of the approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using transits.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft found more than 2,600 exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars between 300 and 3,000 light-years from Earth, using this same method of watching for transits. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets.

The brightness of these target stars will allow researchers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet's mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets' capacity to harbor life.

Or are we alone in this part of the galaxy? Ancient Astronaut theorists have weighted in on their TV show on the History Channel.

The Russian Character

I ran onto this quote by George Kennan and it echoed a discussion that I had at lunch with a friend the other day. Read it, carve it in stone, whatever. Keenan nails the Russian national character perfectly: 
"The jealous and intolerant eye of the Kremlin can distinguish, in the end, only vassals and enemies, and the neighbors of Russia, if they do not wish to be one, must reconcile themselves to being the other.  
No matter how big and powerful, Russia always feels threatened. Even when they are feeling weak, they bluster and bully to hide their vulnerability. In this sense, Putin's policies and beliefs are largely consistent with Russian history and the legacy of the Russian Tzars."
As some of you who know me understand, I am not the least bit anti-Russian. I simply feel that knowing one's rival (or principal adversary as the USSR called the USA) allows you to predict behavior. Good or bad - you, blog readers, are the judge. However, apply Keenan's observations when you judge.

Great Russia and the ethnic Russian people are predictable. Russians brood endlessly and it's why they lead the world in chess masters and axe murders. 

I also enjoy the tv show on FX -  The Amerikans - a show about KGB Directorate S operatives in the United States during the Late 1970's up through the 1980's. I find the vibe accurate, and the shows entertaining. (also on Netflix) It's in its final season on TV now.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

It's All-Theater Thursday

Comey Book Tour

Was/is James Comey just incompetent or is the whining weasel that we see flogging his book (sort of a preparatory move to the Stormy Daniels book tour) a sly, smug, self righteous calculator who was bent on destruction of President Trump? That's a loaded question because the Democrats feel that he betrayed Crooked Hillary Clinton.

I don't believe that I will buy his book, not even to use as a doorstop, or as kindling for the fireplace, what a whining, miserable punk, James Comey has proved himself to be. What a self-promoting (kiss and tell) goofball. First we have Comey on tour and then the whore, but whether Comey or Stormy is the bigger whore remains to be seen.

Two Koreas

Live broadcasts agreed for 27 April. The two Koreas on Wednesday agreed to broadcast live key events of the upcoming inter-Korean summit, South Korea’s presidential office said. 

Comment: According to Kwun Hyuk-ki, a member of South Korea’s delegation in Wednesday’s working level talks, the two sides are largely in agreement over issues concerning media coverage and protection for the two leaders.

North Korea will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party's central committee on Friday (April 20), state media announced on 19 April.

The meeting has been convened to discuss and decide "policy issues of new stage" to meet the demands of the current "important historic period.” This is the meeting where Kim finally will inform the Party elite about his diplomacy.

     China Monitors

Xi’s forthcoming visit reciprocates Kim Jong Un’s visit to Beijing in late March, during which Xi accepted Kim’s invitation. The visit is timed so that he can get a first-hand report from Kim about the summit meeting with the US President.

Xi was serious when he made four proposals for improving ties with North Korea. Chinese leaders are allowing North Korean no opportunity to backslide from Kim’s acceptance of Xi’s proposals. The diligence of China’s follow-up with North Korea attests to the determination of Chinese leaders to not allow a callow North Korean youth to set the terms of security conditions in Northeast Asia.

     Meanwhile in the US

Democrats are condemning CIA Director Pompeo for meeting with Kim Jong Un and working out the details of the meeting. Which is weird because the meeting was about de-escelating the situation in Korea and the Norks dismantling their nuclear weapons with China as the broker for that portion of the deal and joint inspections to verify de-nuclearization with the US and China. Would the Democrats prefer a war? No, not really, they just hate President Trump.

     Back to China

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said:

First, we should stay committed to the general direction of denuclearization. The denuclearization of the Peninsula is the master key to resolving all the issues related to the Peninsula as well as the pathway that leads to the long-lasting peace and stability of the Peninsula. All relevant parties should unwaveringly stick to this general direction.

Second, we should stay committed to the "dual-track" approach, namely, striving to denuclearize the Peninsula and establish the peace regime in parallel. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is closely related to the security threats facing all relevant parties, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in particular, for a long time. When advancing denuclearization, addressing the legitimate security concerns of the DPRK is a reasonable requirement and a necessary step to achieve denuclearization.

Third, we should stay committed to seeking a package solution in stages and in a synchronized way. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue has been there for long time and there is a lack of basic trust between relevant parties, especially between the DPRK and the US.”

As for North Korea, thus far we only know for certain that Kim is committed to discussing denuclearization. The US acceptance of talks about denuclearization implies US recognition of North Korea as a nuclear armed power, which is one of his major goals. Why else talk about denuclearization.

More importantly, we still do not know what denuclearization means as it applies to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its existing strategic deterrent. With just over a week before the first summit, some more concrete notions of North Korean denuclearization should have emerged.

This whole situation has a long way to go to play out but so far, it looks promising.


There was a big drum beat over a PRC live fire exercise as a prelude to an invasion of Taiwan (ROC)

The exercise turned out to be underwhelming. Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the PRC drills involved only land-based artillery conducting "routine" gunnery practice. 
"China deliberately released fake information to exaggerate it, to make it sound huge when in fact it's small," Taiwan's Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told the press.
The Chinese exercise failed to live up to its press buildup as a warning to Taiwan and as an intimidation exercise. It involved no naval or air phases. Taiwan held a counter-exercise that was larger than that of the Chinese.

Meanwhile in the South China Sea, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning conducted a full range of exercises related to carrier warfare.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Driving Around

Pink Hats

I avoid downtown Los Angeles like the plague, but must occasionally go there for this and that - and while I'm there, why not stop for BBQ prawns at the downtown Los Angeles Fisherman's Outlet (worth the detour) at 529 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA. Yes, it's a shameless plug but the BBQ prawns there are really excellent, and there's the seedy downtown LA vibe with the security guards out in force guarding the diners seated on the outdoor patio...dystopian society at lunch.

While navigating streets under construction and other traffic, I happened on a small womyn's march.  

Hillary remains popular!
The signs were interesting, "This Pussy Grabs Back", "Support Dreamers", "Gays (heart) Vaginas"(there were two homosexual male partners), "Pink Lives Matter", "Save the Whales", and so forth. Naturally, traffic backed up to look at the freak show on the sidewalks. There were the usual suspects - chubby blue-haired slatterns and new age hippies joined 'as one', wearing pink hats mimicking private parts. 

They chanted and screamed helplessly at the sky -- and I thought to myself, Conan was right. It's good to hear the lamentation of their women as your enemies are driven before you. The Progs are unhinged and their hoped for salvation: Russia-Russia-Russia, Stormy Daniels, and so forth have all flopped like a dying tuna on the deck of a garbage scow. Their message is - confused by identity politics. I spoke to a police officer while stopped in traffic and he said that there was a black womyn's march permit for the next day. They're apparently in a struggle with the 'color pink'. 

Even as the Democrat Party backstrokes to put as much distance between themselves and "Crooked" Hillary Clinton,  the womyn's movement seems to want her to make another run at the White House. I thought to myself, "that's a splendid idea."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Inconvenient Truth

It's Only Money

The federal government reported a budget deficit of $666 billion for its 2017 fiscal year, but a new comprehensive accounting published by the U.S. Treasury shows that federal finances deteriorated by $1,157 billion in 2017—a figure 74% worse than the deficit. This thorough accounting is mandated by a federal law that requires the Treasury and White House to produce an annual report on the “overall financial position” of the federal government.

Data from this report also shows that the federal government has amassed $89.9 trillion in debts, liabilities, and unfunded obligations. This amounts to more than $700,000 for every household in the U.S., or 92% of the nation’s private wealth. This includes the combined value of every American’s assets in real estate, corporate stocks, small businesses, bonds, savings accounts, cash, and personal goods like automobiles and furniture. 

The Treasury report reveals that the federal government currently owes $7.7 trillion in pensions and other benefits to federal employees and veterans. To pay the present value of these benefits would require an average of $61,000 from every household in the United States. Yet, the vast majority of these liabilities are not reflected in the national debt.

A similar situation exists with Social Security and Medicare. Contrary to popular belief, these programs don’t save worker’s contributions for their retirement. Instead, they are social programs that provide benefits to the aged and disabled mainly by taxing people who are currently working. Hence, Social Security and Medicare are sometimes called “pay-as-you-go” programs.

Social Security’s unfunded obligations amount to $180,000 from every person who currently pays Social Security payroll taxes. Medicare’s unfunded obligations amount to an additional $133,000 from every U.S. resident aged 15 or older.

Build That Wall

On 15 April, two Pakistani Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers were killed and five were wounded in cross-border exchanges of fire from Afghanistan while they were working on the border fence. The border fence project is intended to cover nearly all 2,500 kms (1,553 miles) of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

The border is a sensitive issue, made worse by Pakistan’s fencing project. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations office (ISPR) said the Frontier Corps troops were fired on from Afghanistan while they were busy in "routine surveillance along Pak-Afghan border for plugging of gaps and making necessary preparations for starting fencing in that area."

The Pakistani fence favors Pakistani smugglers. It interferes with Afghan smugglers by cutting their easy access to markets and suppliers in Pakistan’s border regions.

China is contributing to the building of the wall to protect their belt road project in Pakistan. China has another "great wall" that enjoyed considerable success in the past.

Walls work. The Democrats in the US Congress only oppose the US/Mexico Border Wall because it would deny them the votes by illegal aliens voting illegally that is a vital component of their plan for remaining in power in places such as California. (Build the wall; MAGA; lock Her up)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Wave (Sunday Sermonette)

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in Arizona, near its northern border with Utah.

The formation is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau. 

It's not all that far from the Pink Coral Sands State Park in Utah, which is also worth a visit. You can take your quad there and run the dunes - bright pink sand.

The White Wolf Mine and the Mogollon Rim mark the very southern extension of the Colorado plateau. The Wave is farther north on the plateau, north of Grand Canyon. I've spent a lot of time in the general area exploring. "Technically", you can't drive in to The Wave. There is a walking trail and you need to hike it. That's the official word from the Federal folks.

Lat/Long 36.995468, -112.007804

LL, keeping the guys headed in the right direction on the back way to
The Wave. Somebody has to be in charge, otherwise we'd devolve from
a mob into a herd.
There is a back way in (lawfully), where you can get closer and make it a much shorter walk if you know the shortcuts. The shortcut brings you up from the south through Black Valley, and much of it has no recognizable 'road'. 4x4 and high clearance rigs only, bring spare parts for when you break your ride. This country must have been hard on horses, because there is a lot of rock, and you'd wear out horse shoes on the surface (hot in the summer). If you're running solo, bring a sat phone.

The vista can not fail to inspire painters and photographers.

LSP, you need to take Juliette to The Wave 
because it's a mecca for art philosophers and
I would think for parsons as well.

There are different components to The Wave and you
can walk them all in the course of a day if you bring
water with you. No lemonade stands here in this place.

The walk into The Wave is a sermonette
all it's own. At least it is to me. Your experience may differ.

The area was sacred to the Piutes and to the Apache. It's the
far northern range for Apache, far southern range for Shoshone
and the Utes. It was a place for medicine men to receive visions
in the years before whiskey dulled their senses.

Settlers came and tried to raise crops along the Pariah River
a day's ride northwest from here - equally sacred ground. And
the Indians kept killing them off and burning them out. In time
they stopped settling in sacred ground.

It's a maze in its own right. That is
certainly part of the charm of the visit.

A long time ago, these were sand dunes. Then
they became rock. 

Your visit to The Wave can't last 
forever. The goal is to leave no trace.

The journey has a beginning and an end, 
and if that's a sermonette, so be it.