Friday, May 25, 2012

The Dragon Flies: SpaceX Photo, and Some Drawings

"Successful Launch Kicks Off SpaceX's Historic Mission"
SpaceX Press Release (May 22, 2012)

"Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit in an exciting start to the mission that will make SpaceX the first commercial company in history to attempt to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station - something only a handful of governments have ever accomplished.

"At 3:44 a.m. Eastern, the Falcon 9 carrying Dragon launched from SpaceX's launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Now Dragon heads toward the International Space Station. On that journey it will be subjected to a series of tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to berth with the station.

"Broadcast quality videos, including video inside of the SpaceX factory, may be downloaded at and high-resolution photos are posted at

"...The vehicle's first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. The second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit. This marks the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth straight launch success for SpaceX...."

As press releases go, that's a pretty good one: quite a few facts; hardly any corporate gibberish; and links to some pretty good graphics. SpaceX generally seems to be doing a good job of telling about Dragon and their other projects. Telling and showing. That color drawing is labeled "Dragon Spacecraft in Cargo Configuration" on their "Dragon Overview" page.

"...Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members. ..."
("Dragon Overview," SpaceX)

There's a picture of the "crew configuration" for Dragon, too.

The photo of Dragon's interior, the one that the Lemming put up there with the press release, isn't identified. From the drawings, it's the Lemming's guess that we're looking up at the squarish hatch near the top of Dragon.

What the Lemming likes particularly about SpaceX's Dragon is the 'commercial' angle. Sure, NASA's the big customer for now: but it looks like SpaceX and other companies are getting read to provide commercial transportation services to low Earth orbit. And, eventually, beyond.

Somewhat-related posts:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Amazing, A-Maze-ing, A-Maize-ing, and a Giddy Lemming

"World's Largest Maze"
Dole Plantation, , Hawaii

"...In 2008, Dole Plantation's giant Pineapple Garden Maze was declared the world's largest maze. The maze stretches over three acres and includes nearly two and one-half miles of paths crafted from 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants. ... one of only a handful of permanent botanical mazes in America. The fastest finishers win a prize and enter into the history of Dole Plantation, with their names recorded on a sign at the maze's entrance...."

The folks running Dole's Pineapple Garden Maze set eight stations inside, which the Lemming gathers must be found and marked before emerging from the maze. That's a pretty good idea: otherwise, someone might get a bearing on the direction of the exit, and barrel straight toward it, right through the hedges. Of course, some of those "colorful Hawaiian plants" probably have thorns, so maybe that wouldn't be such a good idea.

(Dole pineapple maze on Oahu (February 12, 2008) ErgoSum88, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)

Eight-Acre Corn Maze

"Corn Maze"
Denver Botanic Gardens

"We invite you to get lost at this year’s Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield's 8-acre Corn Maze.

"Navigate the twists and turns of the newly designed cornfield this fall at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield's Corn Maze.

"Wind your way through acres of corn, view the design from two 15-foot tall illuminated bridges that overlook...."

Since "corn" is what folks in this part of the world call "maize," the Lemming thinks that names line "Corn Maze" are hilarious. Your experience may vary.

Hedge Mazes Predate Harry Potter

"Hampton Court Maze"

"...'It is the most famous Maze in the history of the world, and immeasurably the one most visited.'
(Ernest Law, 1926)

"The maze at Hampton Court was designed by George London and Henry Wise and commissioned around 1700 by William III. Originally planted using hornbeam and later replanted using yew, the Hampton Court maze covers a third of an acre, is trapezoid in shape and is the UK's oldest surviving hedge maze.

"The maze itself is referred to as a multicursal or puzzle maze and is known for confusing and intriguing visitors with its many twists, turns and dead ends. Before the creation of the Hampton Court maze, unicursal or single path mazes were the most popular form of maze in the UK. Unlike the puzzle maze, the single path maze has one path, usually in a spiral shape, winding to a centre point...."

Outdoor mazes were around for about three centuries before "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" hit the shelves: but it's still a rousing story. And another topic.

Ashcombe Maze

"Hedge Maze"
Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens

"Australia's oldest and most famous traditional Hedge Maze now standing over 3 metres high & 2 metres thick. With four mosaic flags to find in each half of the hedge maze, the hundreds of metres of winding paths take you through the South Maze into the Centre Garden before you tackle the North Maze. While not overly complicated it does take a little while to make your way through (some people take longer than others!) The North Maze is a totally different layout to the South Maze, so any tricks you worked out while making your way through the first part, mean absolutely nothing in the other!

"The Ashcombe Hedge Maze was planted in the 1970’s with more than 1000 Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) plants. They are planted at around 1 metre intervals, and each year the hedge gets a bit bigger (and the paths get a bit narrower!) Being a drought tolerant plant the hedge only needs irrigation in extreme heat waves. It now stands more than 3m high and 2m thick.

"We do not use string lines or straight edges to trim our hedge and the overall effect is very organic...."

That first photo gives a pretty good idea of how complicated and organic-looking the Ashcombe Maze is: but it's hard to tell just how big the thing is. Judging by this one, nobody's going to be looking over the tops of this maze. Not without a periscope. Assuming that's a normal-size human being. Come to think of it, we can't see the creature's face.

Which brings up an interesting point. Do the folks running these mazes keep track of how many people go in - and come out? And what do they do if the "in" and "out" count doesn't match?

What if more people came out of the maze, than went in?

Then there's this story about an absent-minded dude named Theseus.

Vaguely-related posts:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lemming Tracks: A Change in Schedule

First, the good news: For the foreseeable future, the Lemming will keep on blogging.

Now, the maybe-not-entirely-good news: The Lemming's been getting frazzled. Also agitated, bothered, crazed, distracted, excited, flustered - all the way up to perturbed and pooped. Looking on the bright side, the Lemming's not bored. Actually, it may be impossible for the Lemming to get bored: this is a fascinating world, and that's almost another topic.

This is a slightly-serious post, so the Lemming will now drop the 'editorial we.' Or, in this case, the editorial Lemming.

I'm making another change in schedule for this blog, less than a year since the last one:
This time, I'm cutting down to one post per week. Starting today, You can expect one post each Friday morning. The topic will be "whatever." Judging from my interests, that'll probably be science, technology, architecture, design, animals, art history, paleontology, or something else.

Why This Change?

I'm 60, and in pretty good health: apart from high blood pressure; diabetes; and a few other consequences of having survived this long.

I'm not complaining: particularly when I consider the alternative to having lived this long. But I also have to admit that I'm no longer a 40-year-old kid. I need sleep, regularly: and there are only so many hours in a day.

After taking a good look at my schedule, I decided that I can break out several days a week by cutting back on some of my routines. Which included the Monday and Wednesday posts for this blog.

Some fellows around my age might use those 'extra' days to go fishing, spend time kayaking on the Toulumne River, or meditate in a hammock. I've got some creative projects that have been collecting dust: for decades, in one case.

At the top of my to-do list is getting serious about comic strips. Maybe like the seven-panel thing I did in another blog:

"Narcissus-X: TRAPPED!"
Narcissus-X (February 11, 2011)

Or maybe something else.

Somewhat-related posts:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Microsoft, Windows, Internet Explorer, "Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the World," and All That

"Microsoft returning Windows to 'the digital dark ages'?" (May 10, 2012)

"The biggest lawsuit in Microsoft's history dominated the 90s, when the company battled accusations that it was stifling browser competition. Rival Netscape couldn't survive, but the Windows giant was ultimately forced to strip Internet Explorer from its operating system in a landmark ruling.

"That conflict may be brewing up again.

"Mozilla, the developer group behind the popular Firefox browser, argued Wednesday night that Firefox is being banned from certain versions of Windows 8, the forthcoming tablet-centric OS from Microsoft -- returning Windows users to the dark ages before competition.

" 'The upcoming release of Windows … and Microsoft's browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn't have browser choices,” wrote Harvey Anderson, Mozilla general counsel, in a Wednesday night blog post...."

Hyperbole about "digital dark ages" aside, it looks like Microsoft's upcoming version of Windows will allow Microsoft's Internet Explorer to work on computers using Windows, along with most other browsers. Or, Microsoft's new version of Windows will let only Internet Explorer to work.

Either way, it'll be the fault of Big Bad Microsoft: for some folks.

Concerned, Yes: Worried, No

The Lemming is concerned about the latest claim that Microsoft is doing something stupid and self-destructive. The Lemming's computer uses Windows, and the Lemming uses Firefox for most Web browsing: and Chrome, mostly to let the Lemming's webcam talk to a free-with-ads display service.

If the next version of Windows, and subsequent versions, won't let anything but Internet Explorer function as a browser, the Lemming may decide that the next computer on the Lemming's desk will have another operating system.

It's the Lemming's considered opinion that quite a few folks may make that decision: which is why the Lemming is concerned, but not worried. Even if Microsoft decides to be daft: there are other options.

The Town of Hypothetical, West Dakota

Competition doesn't always feel good. Consider this hypothetical situation: Let's say you live somewhere that isn't like Los Angeles or New York City. A remarkable number of folks do, and that's another topic.

You run the only grocery in town: if folks want to buy at another grocer's, they'll have to drive 50 miles. You have to put fresh produce out occasionally, and be careful enough to keep the health inspector from closing you down: but apart from that, you don't have to worry about whether folks will buy your fuzzy fruit and glow-in-the-dark cold cuts.

Then: SOMEONE ELSE OPENS A GROCERY at the other end of town. With (really) fresh fruit, and meat that's not quite so thoroughly aged.

You've got a choice: improve your grocery, or go out of business.

Harsh as this may sound: everybody else in town might benefit from grocers competing with each other. And maybe the hypothetical 'you' with the fuzzy fruit might find indirect benefits in competition-induced improvements.

Who knows: your neighbors might even stop throwing rocks through your windows.

"Things Fall Apart:" A More Sophisticated, Literary, Approach to Unpleasantness

Maybe the Lemming is being unfair about this: but after a while these perennial complaints about big, bad, whatever gets tiresome.

It's like that fellow whose sole talent seems to be finding a dark lining in every sliver cloud; and whose greatest satisfaction is pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. For some reason, a sort of loquacious pessimism has been highly thought of in at least part of the literary world:
"...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
"The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
"Are full of passionate intensity...." (Yeats (1920))
That's not bad, actually. Gloomy, And not the sort of thing to take in large doses on an overcast day: but not bad.

Vaguely-related posts:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Houses: Expensive; Famous; Not Necessarily Big

"Mad for Mod: 10 places to get serious house envy"
George Hobica, (May 08, 2012)

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, photographer unknown, via, used w/o permission"Anyone with a pile of money can build a big pile of a house, and back in the day, that's what you did. (See, for instance, Downton Abbey.) But during the 20th century, a group of architects staged a controversial revolt. Why, they asked, couldn't less be as impressive as more? Across North America, sensational - but often reasonably-sized and usually deceptively simple - homes stand as their legacy. Here are ten of the best. All of them are open to the public, but make advance reservations...."

The article lists each of these houses:
  • Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois
  • Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
  • Phillip Johnson Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut
  • Eames House, Los Angeles, California
  • Miller House, Columbus, Indiana
  • Luis Barragan House, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 7 Neutra VDL House, Los Angeles, California
  • Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts
  • Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, California
Each entry comes with a one-paragraph description: and a link to 'low air fares' to the area, in case you want to plan a trip.

The house in the photo up there is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Two things that folks with the budget for a 'landmark' house like that might want to remember is that the architect is likely to be remembered longer than the original owner; and that bold, imaginative, innovative, houses can have serious maintenance issues.

Phillip Johnson Glass House, photographer unknown, via, used w/o permission
(Phillip Johnson Glass House, via, used w/o permission)
"You'd expect a man like Phillip Johnson, one-time associate of Mies van der Rohe and later an architectural legend in his own right, to live in a pretty amazing house. And he did, in a section of Connecticut's...."

Then there's the Phillip Johnson Glass House, where the original owner's name is associated with it. Possibly because Mr. Johnson stood out in 1940s America as someone who literally lived in a glass house. Or owned one, anyway.

The article's got eight more photos, one for each of the houses. It's a pretty good 'tour' for someone like the Lemming, who doesn't get out much. Not for transcontinental sightseeing jaunts, anyway.

Related posts:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Yes, the Moon Did Look Really Big

"Spectacular 'Supermoon' Wows Skywatchers Around the World"
Tariq Malik, Managing Editor, (May 6, 2012)

"The biggest full moon of the year, a so-called "supermoon," rose into the night sky Saturday to the delight of skywatchers around the world, who captured the lunar sight in dazzling amateur astronomy photos.

"Because of a fluke of orbital timing, the full moon of May peaked late Saturday just as the moon was passing its perigee, the closest point to Earth of its orbit. The result was the biggest full moon of the year, which NASA and other scientists nicknamed the supermoon of 2012.

"In Amman, Jordan, the bright moon amazed skywatcher Carra Almond of Canton, N.C., who is currently living in Jordan with her husband. Almond said the moon was a captivating sight from her apartment balcony. Her photo shows a crystal clear moon shining bright against a black night sky. [Supermoon 2012 Photos from Around the World]..."

(Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, via, used w/o permission)
"Veteran astrophotographers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre captured this view of the supermoon of 2012, the full moon of May, on May 5, 2012, from Woburn, Mass."

The Lemming missed the 'supermoon.' Here in central Minnesota, the sky was overcast yesterday. Occasionally the clouds wrung themselves out, and there's a rumor that blue sky was visible around mid-afternoon. Which would have been a really bad time for trying to see that whacking great moon.

Not that the moon really was bigger: Like the article said, it looked bigger because the moon was at its closest approach to Earth in its orbit, right about when it was full.

One of the "Supermoon 2012 Photos from Around the World" caught the Lemming's eye:

"Supermoon 2012 in Manchester, Wash.: Tonya Traylor"

(Tonya Traylor, via, used w/o permission)
"The supermoon of 2012 shines bright in a cloud-spattered sky in this view from skywatcher Tonya Traylor from Manchester, Wash., on May 5, 2012. "

That was a happy coincidence of moon, cloud, camera: and someone ready to capture an image.

One more thing: the "around the world" pictures include an infographic that shows just how much bigger than normal the moon looked. Or would have looked, if the Lemming's home hadn't been under a soggy blanket. Oh, well: at least the tornado missed us. And that's another topic.

Related (sort of) posts:

Friday, May 4, 2012

"May the Fourth be With You?!"

The Lemming's not making this up:

"Star Wars Day"

"May 4 is considered a holiday by Star Wars fans to celebrate Star Wars culture and honor the films.

"May 4 is called Star Wars Day because of the popularity of a common pun spoken on this day. Since the phrase 'May the Force be with you' is a famous quote often spoken in the Star Wars films, fans commonly say 'May the fourth be with you' on this day. Current day Star Wars fans were not the first to introduce ... when Margaret Thatcher was elected..."

Oddly enough, the former British Prime Minister, Star Wars, and this date, actually are related. Sort of. And Oddly Enough is the name of one of the Lemming's favorite blogs. Which is another topic.

Friday, by the way, is the day when the Lemming's schedule says a post about "whatever" is due. This post, in the Lemming's opinion, qualifies. Abundantly

Allegedly-related posts:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Santa Monica Place, Famous Architects, and Why Minnesota Malls Have Roofs

"Venice Designer of Santa Monica Place Mall Honored"
Paul Chavez, Venice-MarVistaPatch (May 1, 2012)

"David Rogers, a Venice-based architect, has been named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in the design category. Rogers most recently was the principal designer of the Santa Monica Place mall.

"David Rogers, a Venice-based architect whose most recent works include the Santa Monica Place open-air shopping mall, has been named as one of 105 fellows of the American Institute of Architects in the design category.

"Rogers is the co-design director of The Jerde Partnership, an international architecture and design firm based in Los Angeles...."

The rest of the article is mostly about David Rogers: which figures, since the Venice-MarVistaPatch reporter is writing about a 'home town celebrity.' David Rogers has done work outside California: like the Beursplein in Rotterdam, Zlote Tarasy in Warsaw, and something in the Kuntsevo district of Moscow. Rogers isn't quite 'world-wide, though: He seems to have missed South America, Australia, Greenland, and Antarctica.

The Lemming's more interested in Santa Monica Place, though. In this post, anyway.

That's a Big Makeover

"Santa Monica Place Swaps Gehry for Airy"
Marissa Gluck, The Architect's Newspaper (August 6, 2010)
"Stodgy mall by starchitect transformed into luxury galleria hocking sunlight and sea breeze"

"Thirty years ago a little-known architect named Frank Gehry designed a three-story indoor mall near the beach in Santa Monica while working at Gruen Associates. It was a far cry from the sumptuous buildings he creates today, but the use of metal, glass, and expressive forms was still there, in its infancy.

"Now, little of the original Santa Monica Place remains, as it has been renovated and reconfigured into an outdoor luxury shopping center by Dallas-based Omniplan. Save for some chain link signage, it is an entirely different place, less jazzy and more natural, less claustrophobic and more connected, a classy joint-at least by mall standards-that the developer hopes will attract the crowds that never flocked here before...."

Happily, this article includes photos. Quite a few of them. Including this set, shrunk down to fit in this blog.

Here's what Santa Monica Place looked like, 'before:'

(Bobak Ha'Eri/Wikimedia Commons, via The Architect's Newspaper, used w/o permission)

That's what Frank Gehry's atrium for Santa Monica Place looked like. It was like a lot of other shopping malls built around 1980. Nothing wrong with that, in the Lemming's opinion, but the place apparently needed some pepping up.

Here's the same place, 'after:'

(Marisa Gluck, via The Architect's Newspaper, used w/o permission)
"Few of Gehry's flamboyant flourishes remain, but the roofs of the escalators do recall the mall's prior architect."

It's amazing, what taking the roof off a room will do for its appearance. Folks here in Minnesota don't have that option. Actually, we do: but the room would get really, really, cold during winter.

(Marisa Gluck, via The Architect's Newspaper, used w/o permission)
"Looking out toward the promenade."

That looks like a really nice place. There's room to walk, those tiny trees almost provide shade, and there isn't too much room to walk. The Lemming remembers vast concrete expanses of - concrete - back when Modernism was new.

(Marisa Gluck, via The Architect's Newspaper, used w/o permission)
"The dining deck, with upscale eateries and views of the ocean, is a main attraction."

This is the sort of architectural photograph that the Lemming appreciates. The camera is near a human's eye level - and placed where someone might actually be standing. That is how everybody except some acrobatic photographers is going to see the area. A tip of the Lemming's hat, for this 'you are here' photo.

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