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Tuesday, July 24, 2018


I just stopped in the TV room to see that my wife was watching American Idol. They were just introducing a choir from Los Angeles so I stayed to watch. When the song was done and the judges started yapping, I left. This is pretty standard for me. I don't watch the news or weather or sports shows, any show that is mostly talking. It just occurred to me that I do this because listening to any broadcast of people talking is a waste of time. The amount of information contained in a broadcast would fit on a sheet of paper that could be read in couple of minutes. I don't need to spend the next hour listening to these guys jabber, especially since it's a one way street. They aren't listening to me, so they don't deserve any ear time from me. This might be why I don't like long conversations on the phone. If you've got something to say, i.e. some information to impart, spit it out. We don't need to spend the next a couple of minutes chatting about whatever. I do enjoy talking to people face to face, at least some people, some times. I can only do that for an hour or two at most. After that I need a break.

We have come so far in large part because of our ability to devise solutions to large problems by finding small operations, easily repeated, that when endless repeated solve the problem. Hand woven Turkish carpets come to mind, as does dropping seeds in a furrow, one by one. Building the pyramids was essentially two operations: cutting blocks of stone, and hauling them up a ramp, and doing it over and over again. The modern assembly line consists of a zillion trivial operations performed in sequence. Each operation consists on doing one thing and then handing the part to the next operator. The printing press and broadcast radio and television repeat the same simple messages over and over. Much of computer programming consists of devising ways to do some simple thing over and over again.

Elon Musk, aka SpaceX, got a contract a while back to delivery a dozen cargo capsules to the ISS (International Space Station). The contract was for $1.6 billion, which means NASA was paying $100 million per supply delivery. $100 million dollars is a large quantity of money. With that much money you could hire a thousand people for a year, which is essentially what happened. While some outfits may be making a bundle off of these contracts, I suspect many of them have invested serious money in developing the capabilities needed  to actually deliver the goods. We won't count the initial investment in time because these guys were doing what they loved. I mean, why else would you build a rocket unless you loved it? I mean they aren't really good for anything. We've got all the rocket power we need to put satellites in orbit, if you consider satellites useful. I'm not entirely convinced. The only reason they're doing this is because they want to learn how to build bigger and better rockets, rockets that will take us "to infinity and beyond!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Mostly because I am very lazy, I really do appreciate satellites. I am a sailor and, although I know how to navigate using paper charts and various paper charting tools, like pencils, I really appreciate the ease of navigating using a GPS-based chart plotter. One time I was returning from a distant port and the fog was so thick, I couldn't see the entrance to my marina until I was about 20 feet from it. I would never have tried to find it without a really good GPS. I would have sat offshore at anchor until the fog cleared. That could have been ten minutes or ten days.

As always, I love your writing.

Your pal,