Posts filed under 'Uncategorized'

‘Nuff said…

Add comment March 17th, 2010

On hiatus…

No, nothing is wrong, I’m taking a short break from blogging.  I’m spending this week traveling through central and southern Illinois surveying climate stations.  This is part of a nation-wide project to see how reliable this network really is.  If you want to learn more about it and what I’m doing with it, visit

It’s been much fun and very refreshing.  Just me, the open road, Google Earth and Verizon wireless - what more does one need?  And truly, being able to get away from everything else for a week and visiting people in small towns is good for the soul.  I may make this a yearly pilgrimmage.

A small aside about Verizon data service; it’s freaking awesome.  I have been to the smallest of the small towns (Boody, Assumption, Oconee, Nokomis, etc.) in our state and the data service seems to work everywhere.  It is beyond cool to use Google Earth, live, on my laptop, while I’m traveling…

Anyway, check out what Ben has been blogging at the Official WebSite of the Space Elevator Games;  You can stay up to date with the preparation for the Games there.

Testing for the Space Elevator Games begins next week.  I fly out to LAX on Sunday and will spend the entire week at Dryden.  I’ll have lots to post then…

1 comment June 10th, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…

Oh my God, the relatives are in town and the holidays ARE HERE!!!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but there’s just been no time.  Not much to announce yet either, but that is going to change very soon (with ISEC and, hopefully, the Space Elevator Games too).

I’ll be back posting on Friday Monday.  In the meantime, enjoy the time you spend together with your family over this holiday and don’t eat too much…

And, the following is a special Thanksgiving treat for all you NPR fans…


(Cartoon from here - click on it for a larger version)

Add comment November 26th, 2008

Installing DSL for my mother…

This one is for you Ben… 

Readers may have noticed a lack of posts over the past several days.  This is because I’m currently in NW Arkansas, visiting my mom, a trip I make every year around this time.

So I’m down here, installing DSL for my mother…

Mom (who is now in her 80’s) is not afraid of computers.  She and my dad were quite eager to learn about them and how to work with them.  They purchased their first computer sometime in the 1980’s, an Apple IIE (at least that’s what I think the model was – I’m a Windows guy).  When they first started using computers, I was living and working in Saudi Arabia.  I’d come home once or twice per year on business or vacation and always spent several days with them.  Answering their computer questions was always high on the list of ‘things to do’.

My professional career was spent entirely in the computer industry, mainly in software and working mostly with mainframes and minis (PCs didn’t come along until later on in my career).  I remember in particular one computer question my parents asked me; “how do you copy a file?”  I’m ashamed to admit that it took me the better part of an hour before I could figure it out (and I had to consult a manual).  Apple’s did not operate in the same way as IBM PC’s did and I remember thinking that my parents must wonder how I make any money in this field when I can’t even do something simple like copying a file without needing a manual.  To them, a computer was a computer…  It’s a good thing that the bank I worked at in Saudi Arabia was forward-thinking enough to use PCs early on or I would have had even more trouble copying that damn file.

After my dad retired, my parents moved to Arkansas – this was in 1989.  They brought their computers with them and I soon persuaded them to join the online revolution.  1989 was long before DSL, cable-modems or other high-speed access options to the Internet, so they signed up with the local provider ( for dial-up service and have been using it ever since.  A couple of years ago, NW Arkansas finally moved into the 21st century and DSL became available in the area.  However, my mom didn’t want to change to it; she didn’t see what faster service would do for her (and, since her only online experience up to this time is email, I can see her point).  However, I visit her every year and spend several days there.  My sister and her husband do the same as does my oldest daughter and her husband.  All of us would LOVE to have hi-speed Internet access while we’re visiting her.  It took a year, but we finally convinced her to make the switch.  I received an email from her a few weeks ago saying that she had ordered hi-speed DSL from AT&T and was waiting for my yearly visit so that I could install it for her.

I lived and worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for about 8 years.  My first employer in the Kingdom was The Saudi Investment Bank (formerly The Saudi Investment Banking Corporation) and, during my tenure there, they purchased the second PC that IBM ever sold in the Kingdom.  For those of you who may remember such things, it was an IBM PC-AT.  It was housed in two PC-cases, with the cases connected by a large, thick cable.  We purchased the AT so that we could get a full 10 MB of storage (woo-hoo) and the first application we wrote on it was Payroll.  Back in those days, employees of most companies in the Kingdom were paid in cash.  Payday was always fun; we’d line up in the Treasury department, waiting our turn.  When we got to the front of the line, the clerk would look up our name, place a tick-mark next to it, and then retrieve our pay envelope from a box full of envelopes stuffed with cash.  In the envelopes would be our monthly pay, all in Saudi Riyals and all in cash.  Then 99.9% of us would walk downstairs to the Tellers and have them either deposit the money in our account or else wire transfer it back home.  My boss, the Operations Manager, thought that this was an odd way to do things; he’d have to have a clerk spend a man-day or two counting out our pay and putting it into envelopes and then we’d all waste productive time standing in line waiting to get our pay, and then the banking tellers would have to re-deposit our money in our accounts (and/or wire it somewhere).  So a home-grown Payroll system, written in dBASE II, was the first PC application I ever worked with.

After I moved back to the States, I started my own software company and, in the course of things, acquired several PCs of various makes and models.  My parents had moved to Arkansas by then and so on one of our family visits down there, I took a couple of my older, Windows-based PCs along and gave them to them.  I schooled them in the ways of Windows (I think we were running Windows 95 then) and got them to use email via the dialup connection.

And their old Apple?  If you visit the Southern Illinois University Computer Museum, you’ll see it on display along with a small placard saying, “Donated by Carl and Lois Semon”…

At home, I have a cable modem and absolutely love it.  The service is fast, reliable and relatively inexpensive.  My sole experience with DSL up until this trip was at the offices of CASA of DuPage County, Inc., a child-welfare organization that I am associated with.  CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) works with neglected and abused children who have come to the attention of the state’s child-welfare system.  When a case enters the system, a CASA Advocate is assigned and stays with the case until it leaves the system (the child either ages out or is adopted).  As Advocates, we spend time with the child, ensure that their living situation and services are satisfactory and report to the courts on the child’s status.  We attend court hearings, DCFS meetings, etc.  We’re different from the typical case-workers in that we are usually assigned only one child at a time and we stay with that child / case until it is dismissed.  Often times, we are the only ones who really get to know the child.  If a child is in the system for any length of time, their placement will change, their attorneys and GAL and Case workers will change, the judge will change, etc.  CASA’s are the only ones who stay with the child during their entire experience in the system.  We Advocates go through rigorous training, have to be certified and sworn in by the courts, and are required to attend ongoing training.  CASA is a national organization and is county-based; each local CASA ‘chapter’ serves the needs of one particular county.  I’ve been an Advocate for over six years now and take great pride in what they do and what I do with them.  In addition to being an Advocate for the local CASA office, I also donate my time to maintain their network of 8 computers, various printers, a scanner, etc., etc., etc.  Some years ago, I upgraded them to DSL to replace the dial-up service they had been using.  It was a pretty painless experience and has been working fairly well for us.  Earlier this year, in an effort to save some money, I had AT&T move our data service onto our fax line, thus saving us the cost of a telephone line.  This experience was just awful; it took 5 days to get this up and working and required a visit by one of their technicians to come out to our building to fix some issues they had with their telephone cable.  Our AT&T rep was no help; as soon as she heard there were problems, she scurried for cover, not to be heard from again.

Since this experience was still relatively fresh in my mind, I was a little bit leery about installing the DSL service for my mother.  But hey, it’s just DSL, right?  The product has been out for a long time, the technology is well known and stable, and it’s from AT&T.  What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, plenty…  I arrived at my mom’s Tuesday night.  I tackled the project first thing Wednesday morning because if things went badly, I wanted plenty of time to be able to fix them.  And this is MY MOTHER – I want to make sure it’s working and working well before I leave because I’m the one who badgered her into upgrading to this service in the first place…

When I arrived, the DSL kit was waiting for me.  My mom had already been billed for it on her latest AT&T bill.  In the kit is the installation CD, one of the better ones I’ve seen.  They really try to make it as simple and as easy-to-understand as possible.  Their audience is generally non-technical, just the ordinary family that wants a better Internet experience.  Each step is meticulously described and is illustrated to ensure that the instructions are as easy to follow as possible.  So, first step, install the DSL filters on all of your household devices plugged into the phone lines.  The kit contained four DSL filters but wait, there’s no filter included for a wall-mount phone - why?  They used to be part of the kit, but now all you get is a little piece of paper which says that if you call a certain telephone number, they will ship you one.  Joy.  The phone in the kitchen (which is the one used by my mom 95% of the time) is a wall mount.  Yes, AT&T will ship one to her in the next 2-3 days and it will arrive in a week or so.  However, I’ll be gone by then.  OK, I’m sure we can buy one locally, let’s move on (minus the phone in the kitchen which I’ve now disconnected).  Everything (else) gets hooked up and, joy, the DSL light starts flashing on the modem.  However, we get repeated error messages in the registration process.  Expecting incompetence and frustration, I dial the AT&T support line.  Surprise – the lady I talked to knew what she was doing, gave me a couple of URLs to use to finish the registration process and, Hurrah – we have high-speed Internet access!

And, hey, we can get the DSL filter for the wall-mount phone at one of the local hardware or computer stores tomorrow, so all is cool, right?  Silly me…

After dinner (and watching the Cubs lose – I’m a White Sox fan but my mom is a HUGE Cubs fan), I add her new AT&T email address (which I had to set up as part of the registration process) to Microsoft Outlook, the email client she uses.  It doesn’t work – won’t send or receive email.  Is it me or is it Outlook?  I go onto the AT&T webmail tool and that doesn’t recognize her email address either.  It’s past 10:00pm now, so the AT&T help line is closed.  However, there is an AT&T support-chat tool available.  So, I sign on and, after waiting for several minutes, get connected with “Lisa”.  I tell her my problem – she looks up my mom’s account and says that she has no record of it having DSL.  This in spite of me using it to chat with her AND my mom already being billed for it!  She tells me that to resolve this problem, I have to call AT&T Billing tomorrow morning (they’re closed now, too).  Billing?  I’m sure they’ll be a big help.

The next morning my mom goes bowling in her Wednesday morning league.  I give her the slip of paper which AT&T included in the installation kit and that has a picture of a wall-mount DSL filter (the one with the ‘helpful’ phone number on it).  She’s driving right by a Radio Shack on her way home, so I tell her to stop in, give the salesperson the piece of paper and have him/her sell her one of ‘those’.  Great idea, but Radio Shack is out of them, sigh.  In the meantime, while she’s gone, I’m steeling myself to call AT&T Billing to get my email problem sorted out.  However, I’m bright enough to call AT&T support instead and, surprise, yet another competent person takes my call.  After a brief explanation of the issue on my part, she directs me to yet another URL and has me re-register my mom’s new email address.  She also asks me which email client I’m using and then verifies with me that I’m using the right parameters (server names, ports, etc.).  And it all works!

So, outside of not being able to use her kitchen phone, all is good.  Lowes is out of wall-mount DSL filters, too, but the ‘local’ Best Buy (25 miles away) has two left in stock.  I have them hold one for me and we drive over and get it.  We drive home and I install it and Hurrah – my mom’s Internet setup has officially entered the 21st century!

I’m sure glad I was here to do this, I think my mom (or most anyone who didn’t have a computer-tech background) would have had great problems with this, culminating in a $150 service call to put things right.

And that’s how I’ve been spending part of this week.  Barring any late-breaking, significant news, I’ll be back to blogging about Space Elevator stuff next week.

7 comments September 5th, 2008

More cool credentials…

In September of 2006, I linked to a resum? on Space Careers for an Aerospace Engineer.  The “cool credential” from that resum? was “Senior Member Research Staff – Assigned to Goddard Institute for Systems, Software, and Technology Research (GISSTR), Project, Super Lightweight Interchangeable Carrier (SLIC) & Space Elevator conceptual design”.

There’s a new resum? on Space Careers for Spacecraft Operations Engineer.  This one has the “cool credential” of:

Research Thesis: Feasibility of a Tethered Space Elevator: A technical feasibility study into the possibility of a large scale orbiting tethered elevator, including analysis of tether material, dimension, structure and survivability in the space environment. The results were then applied to synchronous and non-synchronous tether systems; the perturbations affecting these systems were summarised qualitatively and a study of the orbital debris environment at the relevant altitudes completed.

This thesis was done in the time period of 1998-1999 at Cranfield University in the UK.  Here’s hoping that someday soon people with these skills will not be looking for jobs as Spacecraft Operations Engineer, but rather something along the line of Space Elevator Development Engineer or Space Elevator Operations Engineer.

Add comment February 11th, 2008

Globus Cassus - Earth 2.0

There are interesting and wonderful possible applications for a Space Elevator and then there are ideas which just don’t seem to rise even to the level of fantasy.

From the article: “…a brave new world could be built from the remains of our current one. The circumference of this construction– dubbed Globus Cassus, or ‘hollow sphere’ in Latin– would be comparable to the giant planet Saturn. During the multi-million year assembly period, massive hoses would worm deep into the Earth’s fiery bowels and suck liquid metal and magma into orbit through four space elevators sited at equal distances around the equator. This material would be squirted out and transformed into a lattice framework to support the rest of the edifice. As the Earth gradually shrivels and shrinks under this onslaught, its gravity would weaken. Over generations, the skies would darken with the relentless encroachment of the enormous structure above.”

Even though the author (yes, you can buy a book about this) seems serious, I’d put this one down in the “you must be joking” category.

The drawing is from the “Damn Interesting” website, the website where I found this article on (click on it for a slightly larger version).  I highly recommend ”Damn Interesting”, it truly has some very interesting articles on all sorts of strange things…

4 comments December 13th, 2007

Can you believe it?

I know this has nothing to do with the Space Elevator.  But, I’m a “child of the 60’s”, no doubt about it.  My “guitar hero” was Jimi Hendrix.  If the man had made it this far, he would have been 65 today.

Sixty freakin’ five.  That’s a milestone, man, a milestone…

Rest in peace, Jimi - you were truly a “Guitar Hero”…


Outside of the Star Spangled Banner, I think his best piece was “All Along the Watchtower…”

Add comment November 27th, 2007

Taking a break…

It’s the Thanksgiving holidays, my mom is visiting from Arkansas, my younger daughter is home from College for a few days, etc., etc., etc…

I’ll be back posting tomorrow…

Add comment November 24th, 2007

There may be a delay…

I have cataract surgery scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) morning.  These surgeries are supposed to be fairly routine now, so I’m expecting a good outcome, but it’s still surgery - you never can be 100% sure.

So, I don’t know how much I’ll be posting over the next few days.  My vision may be well enough to resume posting quickly or it may take a few days for it to “normalize” enough for me to resume.

Anyway, I’ll be back as quickly as I can (and will be jealous of those who are able to be in Luxembourg for the upcoming Climber and Tether workshop).

4 comments November 4th, 2007

Thank you…

I’m back, and the first thing I want to say is THANK YOU to all of my readers who took the time to post comments on the blog and/or to email me with their thanks.

It is truly appreciated.

Most of you can imagine how hard this is, but your comments make it all worth while.  This blog is truly a labor of love for me - I receive no compensation for my efforts (nor do I want any - you’ll note that there are no ads on this blog and there never will be) - I only want to see a Space Elevator built.

I think this blog is doing its part by helping to keep up the enthusiasm of the “Space Elevator Crowd” and to introduce the concept to newbies…

So, thank you again for letting me know that my efforts are appreciated.  I will respond personally over the next several days to those who sent me emails and will “comment on the comments” where appropriate.  But I just wanted to say a general “thank you” now to everyone…

2 comments October 26th, 2007

A pause…

Posting will be spotty or non-existent for the next couple of days.  I’m off to St. Paul, Minnesota to visit my youngest daughter (attending the University of Minnesota) and to watch my son in the AKA Diamonds Karate Tournament.  Saturday, however, I fly to Salt Lake City to attend and cover this year’s Space Elevator Games and the posting pace will pick up…

Add comment October 11th, 2007

More excuses…

So, I’ve only had two posts this week - far below my usual output.  And, as usual, I have a good excuse :-)

Each year around this time, I visit my mom down in Northwest Arkansas.  When my dad retired, he and my mom built their dream house in a retirement community and moved down there in 1989.  It’s right on a golf course.  You can look out their back porch and out onto the 18th fairway.  They would drive their golf cart from their garage, down their back yard, across the 18th fairway and right onto the 1st tee - a real dream for golfers (as they were).  My dad passed away in 2000 and I’ve made a point of visiting my mom at least once a year since then (as have my sister and her husband and my oldest daughter and her husband have too).

Why is this relevant?  Well, shortly after they moved down there, they got interested in computers and bought one - which they used for email, Internet browsing and not much else.  There wasn’t much in the way of access other than a modem and so this is what they used - and this is what my mom uses to this day.  It is so stinkin’ slow that I want to SCREAM!!!  It takes FOREVER to do anything and putting up the two posts I did while I was down there took so long that I just didn’t want to do anymore.  But I’m home now - I kissed my Comcast cable modem when I walked in the door.

They have DSL in NW Arkansas now and I tried talking my mom into getting it.  Lots faster and the price is the same as what she is paying for her modem!  But she doesn’t want to do it - I’m going to enlist the help of the rest of my family members to get her to change her mind - they all use the computer when they’re visiting her too…

So tomorrow, I’ll be back to posting with my usual frequency - and sorry, Ben, that I haven’t put together that list of Utah Universities yet - that is first on my to-do list and I’ll have that done for you in the next couple of days.

Add comment September 8th, 2007

Power outage…

As many of you may know, the American midwest has been hit pretty hard by storms over the past several days.  Where I live (western suburbs of Chicago) was no exception.  We lost power for nearly three days, along with our phone and internet service.  Everything is now back up and I’ll be posting again later today - thanks for your patience…

1 comment August 26th, 2007

No posts today…

No posts today as 1) today is my birthday and 2) my youngest daughter leaves tomorrow to start her college career at the University of Minnesota.  She plans on being a veterinarian, something I’m very happy to see her do.

I’ll be back tomorrow…

2 comments August 19th, 2007

And, I think we’re back…

All of the blog upgrades are now done and everything seems to be working OK.  It’s nice that software developers continually upgrade their programs and provide bug fixes, but it does get annoying at times to have to do these constant upgrades.  This is my third upgrade this year (it’s only June) and I have skipped others that I could have done.  Once upon a time, I was a software developer myself and, having to work with my customers to upgrade their systems, I always tried to make it as painless as possible.  But it’s never completely painless…

So, for the moment, anyway, we’re on the current release of WordPress (2.2.1).  All of the security issues in the old release have been (supposedly) plugged - now we just have to wait for the hackers to find the holes in this release :)  Even the spelling checker works now!  But WordPress still can’t handle whitespace very well.  The pre 2.0 releases handled it just fine - if you wanted a couple of blank lines in your post, just hit the Return bar a couple of times and there you go.  Now, all of the extra whitespace is automatically deleted by the editor, an attempt, I suppose, to force everyone to modify the .css files instead.  Of course that complicates future upgrades…  WordPress has now also made Widgets the preferred method of maintaing the Sidebar (Widgets used to be available as a plugin, now it’s part of core code).  I could have kept all of my old sidebar hacks, but did want to upgrade to the new method, and that, of course, also complicated things.  They have Widgets called “Text Boxes”, basically places where you can plug in HTML code and place them on the sidebar where you want.  But Text boxes can’t handle php.  For that you need a plugin (Execphp), so I had to install that, too.  But at the end of the day it all seems to work and, I hope, future upgrades will be less lengthy…

I’ve also upgraded to the current release of the WordPress theme I use, Blix Krieg.  It is an offshoot of the original Blix theme, one which does not seem to be maintained anymore.  Blix Krieg is maintainted by theDuck, an Aussie who seems like a nice chap.  And the theme works flawlessly.

I’ve also dumped Sitemeter - it was just so unreliable.  It lost several days of statistics for me on more than one occasion, and I’ve long suspected it if undercounting my site visitors.  In it’s place, I’ve installed StatCounter.  Perhaps it’s just a busy day today, but already my site stats are higher than before.

Finally, I’ve also fixed (I hope) my RSS feeds.  I was using Feedburner but discovered, much to my dismay, that somehow I was burning two Feedburner feeds.  Perhaps this is why they weren’t working properly.  I’d like to thank all of my readers who took the time to either drop an comment or email to me to let me know how my RSS feed was working (or not) for them.  Hopefully, this is a solved problem now, too.

As always, if you run into something on my blog that doesn’t work, please let me know.

Now all I have to do is to get the long delayed photo gallery up and running and I’ll be all set…

3 comments June 26th, 2007

We’re upgrading again…

I’m upgrading to WordPress 2.2.1 and Blix Krieg 2.2 today, Monday, June 25th.  So, if things look funky when you visit, check back in in a couple of hours and all should be set right.

I’m also re-doing my Feedburner Feed (it got messed up somehow) and adding a few more.  So the results will be, hopefully, “the latest and greatest”.  Finally, I’m dropping my Sitemeter stats - they’re just too unreliable - and replacing them with Feedburner stats.

Thanks for your patience…

Add comment June 25th, 2007

RSS - Is it working for The Space Elevator Blog?

For some funky reason, my blog doesn’t appear to show up in my RSS feeds - I don’t know why.  It used to, and then stopped.  It may have had something to do with WordPress’s Feedburner plugin.  I installed it and activated it and… zippo.  So I went back to the old (WordPress) feed, but that, too, is now… zippo.

So, I’ve reactivated the Feedburner plugin and we’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, if any of you use RSS aggregators, could you please send me an email or post a comment on this post and let me know if the RSS feed is working for you (or not)?  I would greatly appreciate it…

3 comments June 1st, 2007


I apologize for the paucity of postings in the past several days; I’ve run into this buzzsaw called FINALS.  Fortunately they finished today, so I’m free now for another 2.5 weeks.

I’ll pick up the posting pace tomorrow…

Add comment May 16th, 2007

Book Review - Running the Line

Dr. Colburn at Far Traveller reviews the Edwards-Riatt edited Sci-Fi collection; Running the Line: Stories of the Space Elevator.  It’s a good, thoughtful review, and one I should have done long ago.

I had earlier reviewed the other, new Edwards offering here.


(Click on the thumbnail of the cover to see a larger version)

Add comment April 25th, 2007

Horizons - Book Review

It’s always a treat to find a new author to enjoy, and I think I’ve accomplished that in discovering Mary Rosenblum, the author of Horizons.  This book is about how human civilization might develop and evolve in space, in places which are connected to earth via Space Elevators.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’m not going to summarize the book here - you can find a summary, if you want it, at the site.  But I do have some comments about how the Space Elevator is used in the book.  First of all, Ms. Rosenblum has done her homework on how a Space Elevator might actually function; indeed, she gives credit to Dr. Bradley Edwards “…extensive work on the realities of the Space Elevator…”.  The Space Elevator she envisions seems to be the same one that Dr. Edwards has laid out.  The amount of time it takes to travel between the Earth and the Elevator-based colonies is both realistic and significant in the story.  She also has postulated four Space Elevators, each with their own colony, each run by a different organization/government and all is close proximity to each other, again quite believable.  Finally, she has painted scenarios where the inhabitants of the Space Elevator colonies could actually threaten Earth and makes this fact, too, integral to the story.

Other future possibilities she posits, including hard-wired links in the brain to a future version of the Internet, are both possible and probable.  And she foresees a huge, perhaps even leading role for China in the future, again something that is quite possible.

Her grasp of technology is solid and her extrapolation of how it might evolve was truly well done.  IMHO, however, I don’t think her development of the characters quite matches it.  Some character changes and outcomes were just too convenient, or too jarring at times and somewhat marred an otherwise excellent effort.  However, in the relative scheme of things, that’s a small complaint.

Overall, however, I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see how a future, Space-Elevator based civilization might develop.

(Click on the thumbnail of the Cover to see an enlarged version)

Add comment March 13th, 2007

The next top nano-tech?

The Varsity Online, the Student Newspaper for the University of Toronto, mentions using carbon nanotubes to build a Space Elevator.

Add comment March 12th, 2007

Site maintenance - Phase 3

It seems that the WordPress development team inadvertently allowed a hacker into their midst and he/she included some unauthorized (and potentially dangerous) modifications to WordPress 2.1.1, the version I had just upgraded to last weekend.

So, I’ve had to scramble and install their new, “safe” release, 2.1.2.  If you’ve noticed anything funky with this blog over the past hour or so, that’s probably why.  Everything seems to be working now - let’s hope it stays that way.

On the bright side, I’m getting pretty good at the upgrade process…

Add comment March 2nd, 2007

Site Maintenance - Phase 2

It looks like WordPress version 2.1.1 is now up and running.  It took nearly six hours to do the upgrade.  The majority of time was spent figuring out that the WordPress developers, for whatever reason, decided to combine the Posting Categories with the Link Categories.  God knows why - I certainly don’t.  This breaks one of the cardinal rules of system/program development - using one entity for two purposes.  Only a bad end can come to it (and I predict it will).  I’ve had to install some Category hierarchy in order to get my sidebar to display properly.  Stupid.  When I go to post now, all of the Link Categories show up in my Posting Category options too.  Stupid.

On the plus side, the theme that I’m using, Blix, has been upgraded to Version 2.1 by it’s author.  This means that I was able to just load it, put in the changes I’ve made to customize it, and go (once I figured out the Category nonsense).  It’s also been re-titled to BlixKreig (the developer is a German - clever, eh?).

So, I think it’s all working, but I haven’t examined every single post.  It looks like the plugins are working too…

Please, please, please - if you run into ANY kind of problem reading a post, accessing a link, or whatever, let me know.  I want this blog to be problem-free for it’s users.

Thanks for your patience everyone…

1 comment February 25th, 2007

Site Maintenance - Phase 1

I’m going to be upgrading my WordPress blogging software from 2.0.2 to the latest release, 2.1.1.  So, if anything seems funky, that’s probably the reason why.

Everything is fully backed up (I think) so, if worse comes to worst, I’ll just restore…

Add comment February 24th, 2007

Leaving The Planet by Space Elevator

This is a long overdue review of this book.  Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator is co-authored by Dr. Bradley Edwards and Philip Ragan and is intended, according to the blurb about it on, to be “An easy guide to the most exciting development in space travel since the rocket. Stripped of the technical jargon, this is a layman’s guide to the breathtaking developments surrounding the space elevator: a plan to string a 100,000 km from Earth to space, revolutionizing space access.”

The book certainly succeeds in doing this.  Anyone who reads this book, assuming they have at least the intelligence of the average 8th grader and are paying attention, will be able to understand a) what a space elevator is b) how it would be constructed c) how it would work d) why it would work (i.e., the physical principles involved) and e) why it is such a great idea.

Edwards and Ragan discuss everything from the practical issues one will run into in building their version of a space elevator (for example, you need the capability to get 80 tons of parts into space, assemble them together and then lift it all to the appropriate point in geosynchronous orbit), to where it could be actually be anchored on earth.  This latter point is most interesting; the authors specify six locations where the factors of nearness to the equator, lack of storms and lack of lightning strikes favor the location of a Space Elevator earthport; the largest being on the equator and west of South America, but also including three locations in the Atlantic Ocean and two locations in the Indian Ocean.  As an aside, I found the maps of places on our planet which have/do not have storms and lightning strikes over the measured period to be fascinating.

The book also addresses a common misunderstanding; the example of whirling an object attached to a string around your hand (or head) is often used to indicate how/why the elevator cable would remain straight.  This is correct of course, but people often misinterpret this to mean that anchoring the cable to the earth is necessary in order to keep it from flying away into space; as if there are going to be some gigantic clamps holding on to the end of the cable (as the hand is holding on to the end of the string).  I still use the ‘object-on-a-string’ example, but emphasize that it is gravity, acting on the entire cable (rather than on just the endpoint) which is holding it in place; i.e. it really is a cable hanging from geosynchronous orbit.  This book makes this same point in a very easy to understand way.

This is truly a fine book and is a wonderful introduction to the potential of a Space Elevator.  Highly, highly recommended.

Oh, and what’s the difference between this book and the previous effort (The Space Elevator) by Dr. Edwards and Eric Westling?  I think you can summarize it this way; The Space Elevator is more technical while Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator is more current.  I have both books and am glad I do – I refer to both of them often.

Leaving The Planet by Space Elevator is available from and  For you eBook afficianados, also offers the book in downloadable format.

(Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version of the books front and back cover.)

Update January 20, 2007 - There is a website dedicated to this book too - you can find it here.

Update January 24, 2007 - Well, I stand corrected.  I had written in this post that it was not really necessary to clamp the earthbound end of the tether in order to hold it to the planet - the centrifugal force pulling the tether outwards (and upwards) and the gravitational force pulling the tether downwards would be in balance.  But, as both Ben Shelef and Dr. Brad Edwards have informed me, there IS a slight, outwards (upwards) pull on the tether; otherwise when the climber was put onto the ribbon, it would have the effect of pulling the ribbon downwards.  So, to correct my earlier posting, yes, there must be a clamp holding the space elevator to earth; otherwise the tether will fly away from the planet.  But it’s not much - only about 20+ tons worth (in a system massing more than 1400 tons).  Once a 20 ton climber is placed on the ribbon, the system is then, essentially, in balance.  I apologize for my mistake…

3 comments January 18th, 2007

Back in the saddle…

Hello all,

After an extended break, I’m now back to blogging - expect several posts over the next few days.

I hope that everyone’s holidays were as happy as mine were…

Add comment January 5th, 2007

Happy Holidays everyone…

I’m taking a short break for the Christmas holiday, but will be back blogging before the year is out…

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Add comment December 21st, 2006

Comments and Spam - Round 2

Well, the Math plugin turned out to be useless - I received as much Spam after I plugged it in as I did beforehand (though I don’t understand why).  I’ve turned on the Akismet Plugin and, so far anyway, it seems to be working.  But I don’t know if I like it because I still have to sift through the Spam it blocked to see if there are any comments that should have been posted.  I’ll hope that people post a bunch of comments in the next week or so (hint hint) and see if they all get through.  if some of them get erroneously blocked (and I have to manually release them), then maybe I’ll look for yet another plugin.


2 comments November 15th, 2006

Comments and Spam

I’ve just added a Spam filter to my Comments. I now receive several hundred Spam comments each day and am getting tired of having to sift through them all to find the occasional, “real” Comment.  The filter I’m now trying is entitled “Did You Pass Math?”, asking the user for the answer to a simple math question.  The location of the answer box is a bit clumsy, but doable.

I’ll see how this works.  If someone has a problem with it or can suggest a better Wordpress plugin, please email me at Ted AT  Thanks…

2 comments November 14th, 2006

Cool credentials…

This is cool.  There’s a resum? on Space Careers for an Aerospace Engineer which reads, in part, ”Senior Member Research Staff – Assigned to Goddard Institute for Systems, Software, and Technology Research (GISSTR), Project,  Super Lightweight Interchangeable Carrier (SLIC) & Space Elevator conceptual design” - this was from his/her posting at ISR.

I was a software guy for most of my professional life, and did some pretty cool things, but nothing like this - I’m jealous…

1 comment September 11th, 2006


Sorry there have been no posts lately - I came down with something which made me feel somewhat on the order of ”death warmed over.”  I’m feeling nearly alive now and should be posting again soon…

3 comments June 21st, 2006

Dr. Gregory Benford - Space Elevator Skeptic

I was at the Skeptics Conference this past weekend - the subject was Global Warming.  One of the presenters was Dr. Gregory Benford (Physicist and prolific SF writer) and his topic was “things that we could DO to solve the Global Warming problem.”

During his talk, he dismissed fusion as a “solution that is 50 years off and always will be.”  Another possibility he mentioned, but dismissed as being too expensive, was space-based, solar power panels.  During the Q&A period after his presentation, I asked him why the solar power solution was too expensive - was it the lift cost to get the hardware into orbit or was it the cost of the hardware itself?  He replied that it was the lift cost.  I then asked him that if there was a much cheaper way to get this stuff up to orbit, would that change the equation; i.e., would this be now a viable solution - he readily agreed.  I asked him what he thought about the idea of a Space Elevator.  He replied that it would be developed ”after fusion power”, getting a nice laugh from the audience.  Sigh.

After his presentation, I spoke to him and asked what he specifically thought was unrealistic about the possibility of a Space Elevator.  He replied that it was “tension” and “stability”, but did acknowledge that some work was being done with “carbon fibers.”  I didn’t have a chance to speak with him anymore - people wanted to talk to him about his solution to global warming and I didn’t want to monopolize his time with my pet subject.

Dr. Benford is a physicist and I respect him tremendously.  He has a reputation for thinking outside the box and I was disappointed in his dismissal of the Space Elevator idea.  On the plane ride back (the conference was in Pasadena, California and I live near Chicago) I spent some time thinking about what to do about this.  I think what I’ll do is send him a copy of Dr. Edwards book and the new LiftPort book.  I have no idea if he’ll look at them or not, but I think it’s worth a shot…

4 comments June 5th, 2006

A Plea for Help with Ruby on Rails

Normally I don’t re-post anything off of the LiftPort blog - figuring that if someone is interested in it, they can just subscribe to it directly.  However, Tom Nugent has posted a request for help in a web-based database application that perhaps some of my readers might be interested in contributing to.  Following is his complete post;

“I’m working on setting up a database-backed web application for outlining space elevator research questions, as part of the work we’re doing this summer with our interns. (I hope to talk about the project in more detail in a future blog post.) I’m not a web programmer by training; I’ve done bits of PHP and database design here and there, but not enough to be an expert. I’m using Ruby on Rails for this task, which has certainly boosted my productivity relative to using PHP. But I need to get a lot more done in a very short time (think: within a week), hence I’m sending out a plea to our community at large.

If you’re a programmer who has strong experience with Ruby on Rails and are willing to offer suggestions, feedback, discussion, and/or improvement of code related to furthering the space elevator project, please get in touch with me. My email address is ‘tom DOT nugent AT liftport DOT com’ (is it hopeless to think that this kind of mis-writing of an email address will fool spam address-harvesting bots?). Thanks!”

So, if anyone can help him out, please send him an email…

1 comment May 25th, 2006

Feersumm Endjinn

Over at BillSaysThis, he posts a review of Iain M. Banks 1995 book Feersumm Endjinn.  This SF novel, favorably reviewed by most readers at, revolves around descendents of a civilization that had built a Space Elevator.  Be warned, this book is supposed to be fairly “heavy reading”, especially for a SF novel.

Project #83 on my To-Do list…

8 comments May 15th, 2006

Ex Machina

I’ve never been a fan of computer role-playing games; I’ve got nothing against them but they’ve just never interested me enough to “float my boat”.  But I’ve found one that I might give a try; In Tri-Stat: Ex Machina (Guardians of Order), Bruce Baugh has put together roles for a future civilization based on and around a Space Elevator.  I’d hazard a guess that it probably has many similarities to Babylon Five (my all-time favorite SF series); permanent inhabitants of a futuristic structure interacting with each other and other, transient characters.  If I could just find the time…

And over at LiveJournal, Malaclypse the Seeker has his own version of these roles.

2 comments May 6th, 2006

Jijaki Space Elevator

I don’t know when this webpage was created, but in it, SF Writer Robert J. Sawyer displays a table of “Apparent gravity in cab going up the Jijaki space elevator, assuming the cab is rising at a constant speed of 110 km/h”

Add comment April 21st, 2006

Earlier mention of Rep. Mollohan and ISR

While perusing the July, 2004 issue of Discover Magazine, I found this paragraph.

The office of the world’s leading space elevator designer is across the street from the Foxx Pawn Shop in the somewhat frayed downtown of Fairmont, West Virginia. The little mining community of 19,000—hit hard by the 1990 Clean Air Act, which made the local sulfurous coal a tough sell—aims to become a high-tech hub, helped by lashings of funds from Congressman Alan Mollohan, a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. Edwards is director of research for the Institute for Scientific Research, a four-year-old technology development house headquartered here in a new, cool, rather spartan office building. The space elevator is the most prominent of a dozen projects on the institute’s agenda.

This is the earliest mention I’ve found, so far, of Rep. Mollohan’s funding of ISR.

Add comment April 16th, 2006

Affordable to the Individual Space Flight

This web site has evidently been in existence for some time (since 1998?), but I just stumbled across it today.  It purports to describe a concept where with “today’s technology”, humanity could build a system which would make space flight much more affordable.  The key concept is a “Earth Orbiting Elevator”, a skyhook.  The author doesn’t describe what the “Elevator” would be made of, but it’s an interesting site nonetheless.

2 comments April 16th, 2006 Space Elevator page

I just found this website; it seems to be an overview and status report (a bit outdated) on Space Elevator technology and development.

1 comment April 16th, 2006

Space Elevator

A book review of the Edwards/Westling book, The Space Elevator — A revolutionary Earth-to-space transportation system.pace Elevator — A revolutionary Earth-to-space transportation system.

1 comment March 7th, 2003

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