All posts in “Gratuitous Slap”

ROSKOSMOS Head on Recent Failures – “…Sabotage”

President Vladimir Putin (right) with General Vladimir Popovkin at the Voronezh Radar Station in a 2007 file photo (ITAR-TASS)

When all else fails – and your butt is on the line with a major PR catastrophe looming, it is best to man-up, square your shoulders and do your duty as organizational lead by assuming responsibility before The Big Guy…unless you are the head of Russia’s ROSKOSMOS space agency.  Then you can hint darkly about “sabotage”

Roscosmos director Vladimir Popovkin’s comments to state-backed daily “Izvestiya” echo a recent allegation by a retired Russian general who said a U.S. radar in Alaska might have emitted an electromagnetic burst to disable a mission to probe Mars’ moon Phobos in November.
“It’s not clear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are traveling through what for Russia is the ‘dark’ side of the Earth — in areas where we don’t see the craft and don’t receive its telemetry readings,” Popovkin reportedly told “Izvestiya.” “I don’t want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we can’t exclude.”

Never mind the fact that sloppy manufacturing, nonexistent quality assurance, much less configuration management might perhaps to be to blame?  Nope – easier to blame it on nefarious doings over on the dark side of the Bering Strait…

Just as the star-crossed BULAVA SLBM suffered a series of test failures stemming from absent quality controls and poor engineering design that caused a series of upper stage failures (finally corrected after a detailed autopsy of the design and manufacturing process), the PHOBOS-GRUNT mission was doomed by last minute modifications that were not part of the original design, poorly executed and with little, if any risk management applied.  The net result — when it came time to position the spacecraft to burn the thrusters setting it on path to Mars, they failed to start.  The satellite began to drift and when it was unable to orient itself to allow the solar panels to provide power to the spacecraft, it became so much space junk.  $5B rubles worth of space junk with over 7 tons of highly toxic nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine used as fuel – and no means to conduct an intercept like the US did in 2008.  So, in a few days when Doc Newton is proven right (again) and Phobos-Grunt re-enters the atmosphere, there is a very real possibility some larger pieces may survive and make it all the way to the ground with the potential for property damage and personal injury.  The good news, if one wants to call it that, is that unlike that 2008 satellite which had been on orbit long enough for the hydrazine to freeze solid (and thereby improve chances of survival on re-entry), the odds are that isn’t in play here and most of the really toxic stuff will burn up in the upper atmosphere.

Still, in light of the other very public failures of multiple launches last year – including a failed ISS re-supply mission that forced a reduction in manning for the space station, questions are mounting regarding the direction and management of Russia’s space program, from outside as well as within:

In late November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hinted at the “need to carry out a detailed review” of the space program’s problems “and punish those guilty.”

Given that Popovkin’s appointment came about when his predecessor was fired over a failed SATCOM launch and in light of Medvedev’s hints of further punishments, perhaps it is understandable that the old chestnut of “sabotage” is trotted out – but the track record isn’t so good for others that have tried:

They were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly by the book, but they fought me at every turn. If the crew wanted to walk around with their shirttails hanging out, that’s all right, let them! Take the towline – defective equipment, no more, no less. But they encouraged the crew to go around, scoffing at me and spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles and then ‘Old Yellowstain.’ I was to blame for Lieutenant Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamanship. Lieutenant Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Captain Queeg. Ah, but the strawberries! That’s, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with, with geometric logic, that, that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. And I would have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer. (He pauses – looks at all the questioning faces that stare back at him, and realizes that he has been ranting and raving.) Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory… (Caine Mutiny)

Vlad, in the interest of post-Cold War relations and the big red reset button, allow me to offer another time honored excuse rational explanation:

Yep — gremlins

Of Snow and Buffoonery Around the Beltway

(Actually was thinking of something that rhymes with mass-hattery, but we’re family friendly here – SJS)

So – season’s first snow and coming midday like it did only portends ill…We were not disappointed.

So much road, so much snow — so many idiots.

But one in particular merited special attention as he went whizzing by, on the right, at a good 20 mph over the speed everyone else was keeping. So hey, bubba, guess you slept through the high school physics class, eh? A quick refresher to ponder whilst you wait.

In the ditch…

Newton’s First Law:

I. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either remains at rest, or moves at a constant speed in a straight line. Like, oh, perhaps a Mustang doing 70 in snow that encounters a patch of ice. On a curve.

Newton’s Second Law:

II. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (as indicated by their symbols being displayed in slant bold font); in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.

This is the most powerful of Newton’s three Laws, because it allows quantitative calculations of dynamics: how do velocities change when forces are applied, i.e., according to Newton, a force causes only a change in velocity (an acceleration);

Newton’s Third Law:

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This law also carries a societal application as well. Sort of like the hand wave from that pick-up truck in front of me as it passed you, saluting your savvy wet/snowy/icy driving abilities, demonstrated so competently when you cut him off to jump into the lane. That is, before you demonstrated Doc Newton’s First Law.

Oh, and another useful item you may have slept/daydreamed through (or was presented on one of the days you just decided not to go to school): Friction. Let’s talk about friction. When you slide your book on the floor, it will come to stop because of the force of friction. Friction is the force that acts between two objects in contact because of action-reaction.  Objects like, perhaps, tire(rubber) and road, eh?

Force of friction can be calculated by the formula



* Ff is the force of friction in N,
* μ the coefficient of friction, and
* FN is the normal force in N.

The value of μ depends on the surface you are dealing with. The following table shows some examples of μ.

Surface Value of μ
rubber on dry asphalt ~1
rubber on wet asphalt 0.95
rubber on ice 0.005

For your edification, I sort of highlighted the relevant information for you. FYI – the more μ approaches 1 the better your stopping/roadholding.

To recap –

Snow: bad

Ice: bad

Speeding in snowy/icy road conditions: bad

Ditch: bad

Mustang in ditch: bad, very bad (especially since I am a Mustang kind of guy)

Bad driver, bad.

Doc Newton – undoubtedly laughing right about now (good).

Class over.

Proposal Hell

Welcome to another weekend/week of my life…and why things have been a little quiet around these parts the last few…

Measurements and Metrics from Snowmageddon

…And, we’re back.

Didn’t lose power or satellite TV, but the internet went lights out about 5 hours into this weekend’s storm.

Some metrics from the storm:

  • 32″ at the homestead vs.  18″ at Reagan National (it always skews low there – must be all the hot air from up river…)
  • 14,180 ft3 of snow shoveled and blown…or at an average of 15 lbs per ft3 ~945 lbs of the stuff moved from sidewalks, alleyway, feeder road and our neighbor’s drives over the course of 12 hours Friday night – Sunday AM.  Props to Sears and a tip of the fedora to Tim “The Toolman” Taylor
  • 48 hours of continuous coverage of the storm on all four networks – of which maybe 45 minute was meaningful…

We are so ready for spring — but are expecting another 10-20″ tomorrow night and Wednesday.

Next year?  I’m thinking of a better use for ol’  Punxsutawney Phil.

(pics from because I was too ********* busy shoveling and blowing the cursed stuff)

Chicago — Meet Mockba: Russia tops bribe payers list

Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous.

– Mark Twain in “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar”

 Couldn’t swing a cat yesterday without encountering another story about the enlightened (now indicted) governor of Illinois, calling to mind the general state of graft in, well, the state of Lincoln.  Headlining that entourage is the city of big shoulders, Chicago, where one happy celebrant at a Daley victory party was quoted as saying the city wasn’t ready for reform.

Comes a challenger to that paragon of graft, greed and criminality – and it is Russia itself:

Russian companies are believed to be the most likely to engage in bribery when doing business abroad, according to Transparency International’s 2008 Bribe Payers Index (BPI) published yesterday.
The 2008 BPI ranks 22 of the world’s wealthiest and economically dominant countries by the likelihood of their firms to bribe abroad. It is based on the observations of 2,742 senior business executives from companies in 26 developed and developing countries, selected on the size of their imports and inflows of foreign direct investment.
According to it, Russia is far ahead of the richest Western countries as well as its BRIC colleagues – Brazil (ranks 17th), India (19th) and China (21st) – in this respect.
Kirill Kabanov, board member of Transparency International Russia, said: “The West tends to see Russia as an extremely corrupt state with corrupt business, largely because the top Russian officials say corruption permeates everything in this country.”

He said most Russian companies are not transparent. “This concerns both major exporters and state-controlled companies,” Kabanov said. “For example, a large oil company has recently spent a huge sum allegedly on charity, but nobody, not even its majority shareholders, has been able to establish where the money actually went.”
(Ria Novosti)

Maybe Chicago and Moscow can work on that sister city program, what with common interests it seems… 😉

Look at our Lords disciples. One denied Him; one doubted Him; one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn’t have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government? – Richard J Daley

I (Heart) Vista – Not…

So ol’ blue, the long suffering wireless router finally gave up the ghost and we replaced it with a Linksys WRT610n and while the installation and setup was not exactly painless, it was relatively straightforward, until it was time to start bringing the computers back into the net.  Now the legacy Win2K and XP machines and the Mac all lept right back into the fray, with no problem.  The Vista laptop, which, naturally, was the primary machine for SWMBO (more like SWDWBBO…)  – not so.

Did you know if you go do a search in the plethora of fora dedicated to Vista “help,” M$ supported and not, the most common phrase found is “…I don’t know what I did but it finally is fixed;” usually found at the end of several pages of threaded discussion with all sorts of useful, and not so, help.

Six hours later the offending laptop is fixed – and I swear by The-Powers-That-Be, I honestly don’t know what fixed it…

“Upgrades” and such

So – sitemeter does us all a favor and “upgrades” the website.  Of course, we’d *love* to be able to checkout the “improvements” – but it won’t allow us to access our account. All the more aggravating as we had gone the paid path some several months earlier.  Evidently others are equally “enamored” of the upgrade too.

“…it was supposed to be a simple server migration…”

Update: Not so fast

TS Hanna Updates

So Hanna arrived and dumped 12+ inches in a little over 8 hours:

We’re under one of the red spots…(wx station at nearby school reporting 26.8″ – can’t be right…)

Between rain bands…

The Good:

  • Didn’t have to mow the lawn
  • Half the SJS fleet got a brushless car wash
  • PMS for 7-year old sump pump op-checked good (Byron & Phib ought to approve)
  • Cleared most of the reading pile
  • Finally installed the new printer (MAC = easy)
  • The Bad:

  • Still have to mow the lawn
  • Standing by w/bucket brigade if power went out (it didn’t)
  • Rain masked SAT TV (but OTA was just fine)
  • Citadel still lost to Clemson 😕
  • Still have the heavy reading material to finish
  • Windows PCs (see printer installation)
  • & The Ugly:


    So, um Scribe — been a little lax in posting this past few weeks, eh? What gives?
    Well, a little bit of:

    Mix in a lot of:

    And of course, all from the AO viewpoint:

     So yea, been a bit busy with the necessary stuff, but that said have been scribbling offline in the wee hours and will have a few things up later this week.  Amongst which include a look almost one year later at the Maritime Strategy and some discussion on the upcoming NOC and a look at one of the last of the truly fast (and really good looking) jets in the inventory before all manner of stuff started getting hung on ’em and their mission changed (Sid, you’ll relate).


    Meantime – whinefest over, back to the galleys

    – SJS

    Busted – The Photoshoppe Mullahs

    Memo to the Strategic Communications folks – might want to work on that “Uniform Message” thing…

    (version released to AGENCE France-Presse )

    (version released to Associated Press – note the dud in the foreground)