Thursday, September 29, 2011

School Fundraiser–Order Here

It’s that time of the year for school fundraisers. My daughter’s school has chosen the Innisbrook as the service provider for the fundraiser. If you wish to support her quest to collect prizes (she is in 1st grade); order some stuff using the information below. They are offering a plethora of stuff including wrapping paper, make-up, chocolate, magazines, gift bags, tumblers, things for girls on the go, candles, bottle stopper’s, cookies, measuring spoons, brownies, spices, nuts, ribbon, lotion, body wash, birthday cards, brain games, final touches, and more…

Here is the form letter from the fundraiser provider:

My school's annual fundraiser with Innisbrook has begun.  Innisbrook Wraps has beautifully designed gift wrap printed on quality recycled paper, coordinating gift wrap accessories, gourmet foods and fine Helen Grace Chocolates that make great gifts, Time Inc. magazine subscriptions, and more.

For every item that is purchased, Innisbrook donates up to 40% of the purchase price to my school.  I also earn a prize credit for every item purchased.  The more prize credits I earn, the more prizes I win!

Please consider visiting the Innisbrook website and making a purchase on my behalf.  A link is included below. Our sale will be over soon, so don't wait. Place your order today.

Thanks for your help!
Seller: SEDONA  Seller ID#  R285148G
School Number:  102730
Click this link below to visit the site and they will recognize me and my school automatically.
If the above link does not work:
  1.  Click below
  2.  Select Shop the Innisbrook Online Store
  3.  Enter School# 102730 and Select Go
  4.  Select Continue
  5.  Enter Seller ID#  R285148G

Here’s my daughter’s pleading for the opportunity to earn prizes:

Please buy this stuff. They have ones with almonds in it. There is one’s with just chocolate, there are ones with chocolate and blue squirrely lines on them. Daddy I don’t know what those are. And on the top and the inside. Chocolate with funny shapes with nuts or something. A mint I think. Something with yellow stripe, but I don’t know what the filling is. (she then read the description reluctantly and determined they are lemon filled). And then theirs something sprinkled on it, and a filling that I don’t know what is (couldn’t read the description). Chocolate things with pretty diamonds on them. And then I don’t know what these things are, I can’t read the first one. And then I have to turn the page and there are these things.

Definitely a shorter request, we’re going to have to work on her selling skills.

Corporate Taxes–They cover the costs!

A quote by Elizabeth Warren has been going around the internet indicating that corporations should pay more taxes, because they benefit mainly from the infrastructure that they use to conduct their business.

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

But don’t businesses already cover those costs?

Taking a look at the Federal Budget we can see that corporations paid the Federal government a shit load of money.

Corporation Taxes 2010 (in millions of dollars)
Income Taxes $191,437
Social Insurance* $432,407
Transportation Fuels $11,030
Transportation Trust Fund $34,992
Airport and airway Trust Fund $10,612
Inland Waterway $74
Tobacco $17,160
Tobacco Assessments Trust Fund $937


* 1/2 of Social Insurance Receipts  

Now I’ve included transportation costs in the number since they primarily are paid to the benefit of businesses. Whether it’s people going to work or visiting a place on vacation to frequent businesses that cater to tourists. There is also the fuel taxes to transport goods and services.

Now lets look at the expense side of the ledger.


2010 Budget Outlays
(in millions)

  Business Citizen Unsure
    050 National defense:      
        Discretionary:      $            714,179
        Mandatory:      $                7,130
    150 International affairs:      
        Discretionary:      $              57,028
        Mandatory:      $                3,567
    250 General science, space, and technology:      
        Discretionary:  $         30,996    
        Mandatory:  $                  91    
    270 Energy:      
        Discretionary:  $            3,714    
        Mandatory:  $            4,018    
    300 Natural resources and environment:      
        Discretionary:  $         36,768    
        Mandatory:  $            2,884    
    350 Agriculture:      
        Discretionary:  $            7,329    
        Mandatory:  $         12,518    
    370 Commerce and housing credit:      
        Discretionary:  $            7,398    
        Mandatory:  $     (126,390)    
    400 Transportation:      
        Discretionary:  $         29,014    
        Mandatory:  $         71,075    
    450 Community and regional development:      
        Discretionary:  $         21,347    
        Mandatory:  $             (244)    
    500 Education, training, employment, and social services:      
        Discretionary:  $         89,481    
        Mandatory:  $            5,674    
    550 Health:      
        Discretionary:  $         58,537    
        Mandatory:    $      347,675  
    570 Medicare:      
        Discretionary:  $            6,246    
        Mandatory:    $      446,372  
    600 Income security:      
        Discretionary:  $         65,680    
        Mandatory:    $      558,362  
    650 Social security:      
        Discretionary:  $            5,764    
        Mandatory:    $      701,065  
    700 Veterans benefits and services:      
        Discretionary:  $         53,274    
        Mandatory:  $         71,170    
    750 Administration of justice:      
        Discretionary:  $         51,976    
        Mandatory:  $            3,180    
    800 General government:      
        Discretionary:  $         18,838    
        Mandatory:  $            4,824    
    900 Net interest:      
        Mandatory:    $      196,193  
    920 Allowances:      
    950 Undistributed offsetting receipts:      
        Mandatory:      $            (82,116)
    Totals  $       535,162  $  2,249,667  $            699,788

As we can see from the breakdown, the costs of the benefits to the corporation to conduct business is around $535,162 million. Now I’ve probably kept some costs in the Business side that belongs in the Citizen side and the defense budget can be argued either way. But in her quote she doesn’t include national defense, so I excluded it and put in the unsure total. Also the profit from TARP maybe should be excluded from the number. Even if we do that business is really close to covering all of the benefits.

Now these are just Federal numbers and don’t include expenditures on the state and local level. But I do think these numbers are reflective of what you would find on those levels also. So Elizabeth Warren’s quote sounds great on the surface, but once we look at the underlying numbers we can see that businesses pay their fair share to the government to cover the benefits they receive.

Take a look at the Citizen column, does something look out of whack there? I’ll cover that in a future post.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part IX-The Launch Days

After all of the tours and speakers the next day it was time to watch the Delta II 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 003Heavy launch of the GRAIL mission. NASA was nice enough to setup a seating area for us Tweetup participants on a causeway. Other then the oppressive humidity the weather appeared to be great. Limited amount of clouds, great sunrise and slight breezes where we were sitting. Other then waking up early to be in time to catch the busses at 6 am the day was shaping up to be a successful one. I guess a benefit of waking up early was catching the sunrise. The sunsets I normally see come at a much more convenient hour, since I’m usually up nearly year round when they happen.

From the causeway we 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 005could spy numerous NASA and Air Force launch facilities. I took especial note of being able to take a picture of one launch facility and a port-a-potty. I like to think that the without the port-a-potty the launch pad in the background couldn’t have been constructed. Now if you think that’s not true try to build a project without them, if reported OSHA will come down and shut the project down. You could say it’s the most important part of a construction project because its one of the first things to show up on the site.

Everyone got set up in their spot to watch the launch. Once 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 007set up people where milling about. One individual seemed to gather a crowd around him while he held court. It seems that Neil deGrasse Tyson didn’t want to sit in the VIP section, but wanted to hang out with all us Tweeps. What was great is that he spent most of the time answering questions about the universe and what ever other topics us Tweeps could come up with. For the most part I felt the interaction between the Tweeps and Mr. Tyson was like watching TV. You could ask a question and hear is response, want to hear more about it ask another question on the topic. Tired of the topic? Ask a question on a different topic and it was like the channel was changed. For the most part there wasn’t much back and forth. It truly felt like a one way discussion happening.

That was until a third grader started asking questions. It’s almost like the same social contract between Mr. Tyson and the third grader didn’t exist as it did with the Tweeps. The perceived rules on how to interact with Mr. Tyson appeared to be different. The interaction was different because the third grader was willing to interact with the answers, not content to just wait for the next topic. Mr. Tyson was espousing on number and factors of numbers. Providing the young person a concept of the size of the various numbers from the tens to googol. It seems that the youngster had issues with one of the large number characterized by the number of stars in the universe. The youngster took issue with the number of stars, since the universe is still creating stars on a daily basis (and destroying them). I could hardly see a socially adept Tweeter doing the same thing. Especially seeing the reaction of the crowd to the interaction. It seemed to be one of amazement and surprise that a third grader would challenge a well respected astrophysics expert on how many stars are in the sky.

Unfortunately the while we where waiting patiently for the first launch window of the morning we got word that the upper level winds where red, or too fast, so the first launch attempt would be scrubbed. A half hour later the second launch window was thwarted by the upper level winds as well. It appeared that we would have to wait one more day for an attempt. Later on the next day, late in the evening, the launch attempt for the next day was scrubbed to allow for more time to inspect the rocket. It appeared that the rocket fuel removal from the rocket after the launch attempt may had some issues. Fortunately for me I was up late enough to get word of the scrub. I heard later that another person wasn’t so lucky and awoke early in the morning to head to the busses unnecessarily.

Finally 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 017the next day the launch would be attempted again. Once again there was a nice sunrise, but this time we were at a different location. The viewing area was at the Kars Park, a bit further away from the previous launch attempt. This time we didn’t have Mr. Tyson to provide entertainment. We did get to see some of the 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 023local wild life. I learned that manatees aren’t photogenic above water, though you can see them pop up every once in a while. Can’t you see the great shot of one in the picture to the left?

In addition to the manatee we spied an alligator. @Fidget02, the person shown in the picture above with Mr. Tyson, got up close and personal with a nest of red ants. I got familiar with the various biting insects flying around.

Unfortunately the first launch window of the morning was scrubbed once again due to high winds. As the 2011-09-13 GRAIL NASATweetup 037second launch window approached it appeared that cloud cover may thwart the next launch window. Fortunately the clouds where the kind that the cameras could see through, so the launch was a go, in regard to cloud cover. As the last launch window approached it appeared that the launch may get upset by upper level winds being too high. Fortunately the last weather balloon to go up came back green so the launch was a go. The rocket took off in a white glow from the solid rocket boosters. The sound of the rocket didn’t catch up with the visuals for quite a time. The rocket was off. Hopefully it makes it to the moon safely and is able to complete the journey. 

The experience of the NASA Tweetup was great. I’d like to thank NASA for holding the event and for my wife to let me go. If you ever have a chance to attend one, I’d recommend it. Hopefully NASA continues to hold these events.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part VIII-The Science

During the presentations the science and engineering of the GRAIL mission was presented. The main GRAIL craft in tandemmission is to determine what the interior of the moon is made up of. The scientists have come up with a method of measuring the gravitation field of the moon by utilizing two satellites orbiting it. While they orbit they will be measuring minute differences in the gravitation field over 3 months. If you want more information you really should check out the mission website.

The reason scientists haven’t been able to figure out the interior of the moon is because the moon rotates at the same rate as it rotates around the Earth. This means that from Earth we can only see one side of the moon. Without being able to see the other side we cannot perform the measurements necessary to determine the composition of the moon.

The coolest part of the mission has to be the Moon KAM. It lets classes schedule missions to take pictures of the moon. All you need to do is convince your son or daughter’s teacher to participate. Participating is easy via the Moon KAM website.

Presentations where also given by ULA and Lockheed Martin regarding some of the facts of the rocket and satellites as well as answering questions from the crowd.

A cool presentation was the Eyes on the Solar System. The Eyes on the Solar System lets you observe the universe and nearly all of the manmade objects launched from Earth. It’s a web only service at the moment and lets you go to any point in the universe and see the space missions at different speeds. Definitely something you should check out when you have time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part VII-The Guest Speakers

After a morning of introductions and tours of NASA facilities it was time for S91-49083the guest speakers and scientific presentations. The guest speakers included Charles F. Bolden, Nichelle Nichols, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

First up was Mr. Bolden, a former astronaut and current Administrator of NASA. Mr. Bolden talked a little bit about NASA’s current mission and where he thought NASA should head in the future. He also answered questions from the crowd. Mr. Bolden is an eloquent speaker and quick on his feet answering some of the hard questions from the crowd. After hearing him speak, its easy to see why he’s an administrator of NASA. His main desire as administrator of NASA to lay the foundation of future exploration of space, including a trip to Mars. Hopefully he is able to convince Congress to fund future missions to space.

Next up was GPN-2004-00017Nichelle Nichols, you may know her from her role as Lieutenant  Uhura in Star Trek. She talked of her NASA experience as recruiter. Nichelle’s goal was to recruit minority and female personnel to apply to become astronauts. It seems in the 60’s NASA had a problem attracting applicants that were either minority and/or female. it seems the general consensus was that applying would be a waste of time since NASA would just ignore the applicants from this group. Nichelle went out to find the best and brightest and convince them to apply. She told the story how she was going to go on a negative campaign against the NASA administrator at the time if he didn’t take the applicants she recruited seriously. Luckily for everyone involved Nichelle was able to provide candidates that were able to fit the bill including Dr. Sally Ride, Colonel Guion Bluford, Dr. Judith Resnik, Dr. Ronald McNair and the previous speaker, Charles Bolden. In addition to speaking about her experience as NASA recruiter she emphasized that if you can imagine it, you can dream it, you can do it.

Last up was Neil deGrasse Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_-_NAC_Nov_2005Tyson to talk about, well I guess it was what ever he wanted to talk about. Boy did he talk about random stuff. His main theme was encouraging people to get into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by inspiring them through NASA missions. Mainly advocating NASA funding of exploration to gain further understanding of our universe. Based on the crowd’s reaction and enthusiasm I think he could have talked about how he makes his favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich (if he likes those types of sandwiches) and they would have been riveted. I guess that’s part of being famous, that as long as the audience is behind you, you can say anything you want and they will follow along. This is more an observation of how famous people are treated in relation to others. Neil definitely got a more rousing applause from the crowd compared to the scientists and engineers who presented. But when you think about why were there and the information provided the scientists and engineers deserved more of the applause and adulation.

Neil talked about how violent the world may look like if we could see different bands of light, such as microwave or cellular signals. Imagine all of the stuff you could see if you could see all of the electrical signals emitting from our electronic equipment. Or have you thought how you would be perceived from other people in the world. If you were able to see someone 1/4 way across the world they would look like they were horizontal since there gravity vector would be 90 degree different from your own. Neil is a great speaker, and if you do have the opportunity to hear him speak I’d say you’d have to take it.

In fact all three of the guest speakers where great speakers and where able to convey their thoughts eloquently. This contrasted with the scientists and engineers who were definitely out of their element. The next blog post will cover the scientists and engineers.

If you want to watch the speakers from above, below are links to the videos (for as long as the links continue to work).

Charles Bolden:
Nichelle Nichols:
Entire Presentation:

All three photos in this blog post are from NASA’s website.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part VI-Launch Pad 17

Wow, that last part certainly was a downer, it’s got to get better from here on out? Well you’d be wrong. For we went from one ending to another ending, the last planned launch at Launch Pad 17 of the second to last planned launch of a Delta II rocket. Well it sounds dire, but NASA purchases a run of rockets in advance based on what they think they will need in the future. Then missions are assigned to the rockets. The key word here is planned missions, in that currently there is no plans, but in the future there may be.

I suppose the real tragedy, if you consider sand and dirt a pollutant, is the erosion 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 123at the end of a road at the launch site. I’m surprised that the EPA isn’t out there posting signs for people to stand back from the pollutants along with lots fines proposed against NASA for violating the Clean Water Act for distributing harmful and dangerous pollutants into the nearby drainage conveyances, creeks and estuary's. Because this appears to be our nation’s priority. Keeping dirt out of waterways. If you think I’m joking keep this in mind at this time when home development is hurting storm water quality requirements are estimated to be costing the industry hundreds of millions of dollars that could be going to other projects keeping people employed. Best of it doesn’t cost the government anything.

Well I think 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 125that’s enough of a diversion for this post. Also at the site was the Delta II rocket that was going to send the GRAIL mission into space. While on the launch pad waiting for launch there is a support structure protecting the rocked. The support structure is rolled back hours before the launch. When the launch is delayed the structure is rolled back into place. For this mission it was rolled back at least twice. Once for the original launch target, and again for the eventual successful launch. As well as protecting the rocket it also provides access for the workers to check the rocket out and make any repairs.

At the launch facility 17 there are two launch pads, A and 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 135B. The launch pad on the left has already been deactivated. When the launch pad was more active they would have the capability to prep one rocket while they launched on the other launch pad. The launch pad is set up to separate the various fuels used during the launch. On the right side RP-1 fuel is stored. The RP-1 fuel is a form of kerosene and reacts with oxygen. Oxygen is stored on the left side of the pad. The oxygen is cryogenically 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 137stored in tanks. Due to the difficult nature of maintaining the temperature of the oxygen, it is required to be offloaded from the rocket for any launch aborts. This process appears to have hit some snags after the first aborted attempt, as additional inspections needed to be done for the GRAIL mission.

I found it interesting the number of cameras on the launch pad. NASA has a multitude cameras around the perimeter for security as well as the vibration activated cameras of the news services from around the world.

Additionally there seems to a rubber chicken following me around. From what I’ve been able t2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 153o find out it’s name is Camilla Corona. It’s a NASA employee whose job it is to spread information to school children around the world. I also have learned that the chicken is a frequent attendee of NASA Tweetup’s. I get the feeling the chicken gets preferential treatment in getting invited to these shin digs. Here she is taking a nap on the launch platform. I think the humidity and heat have gotten to her.

Next up we get presentations from various science celebrities.

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part V-Endeavour

It seems somewhere along this series of posts I stopped 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 114telling a story, or maybe I never really started. I am in the middle of this story, so it feels a bit awkward to put the end of another story here. The end of the story is the Space Shuttle Missions. A blank status board sits empty waiting for the next mission that will never happen. An orbiter called Endeavor sits waiting to be processed to go to a museum in California. A fan blows air into it to keep it dry and it’s forward reaction control system module removed and covered with a clear plastic film. It’s the end of the line for this and the other remaining shuttles.

NASA 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 096must have fears the shuttle might escape for it’s locked behind a chain link fence, keeping inquisitive eyes, hands and feet a safe distance away in case it makes a run for it. To prevent the shuttles from conspiring with each other each as been placed in different locations, Endeavour here in the VAB and the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis in separate Shuttle Processing buildings. Enterprise sits at the National Air and Space Museum waiting for transport to New York City.

Recently thousands of people were laid off due to the lack of a mission for 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 097the Space Shuttles one such person was our docent tour guide on the last launch day. She was an electrical engineer and primarily worked on the Endeavour Space Shuttle. She claims to have been inside nearly every part of the Shuttle, including it’s wings. Which in retrospect of the beginning of this part is kind of creepy since I’ve given the shuttle a anthropomorphism treatment.

Have you ever wondered what good pranks Shuttle personnel2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 094 have done while working on the shuttle? Well I hadn’t until she started telling sad stories of the shuttle missions that never had a proper ending. Evidently the pranks needed to me mild in nature and since there is lots and lots of paperwork involved, that imagine go into three ring binders, there are lots of the circles left from creating all of those holes. Those circles were placed in closed up umbrellas waiting for the intended victim to open up the umbrella for a rain fall of circles. Another prank was placing those circles up in the ceiling cracks to provide indoor rain of paper particles. I guess that’s what people2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 093 are referring to when they say the VAB creates it’s own weather.

I can’t answer why the Congress didn’t want to keep people employed creating new shuttles or refurbishing the old ones. I guess it’s far more profitable for votes to pay people to stay home longer than 26 weeks than employ them directly. For extending the jobless benefits for 6 months costs $40 billion dollars. The cost for a new shuttle around $2 billion. The cost of a shuttle mission around $500 million. If Congress and the President claim to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) I can’t think of a better way to inspire those involved 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 107and keep them employed. As an underemployed STEM member I can say safely say more needs to be done to keep us in the fields, rather than going into other fields.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part IV–Vehicle Assembly Building

The best part of the tour was walking around in the ground floor of the vehicle 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 120assembly building or VAB. The VAB was built for the original Apollo missions and is a large building by most anybody’s definition. Walking around the building was quite amazing. Seeing all the steel used in forming the building and making a realization the building’s steel calculations were most likely done by hand with a room full of engineers dressed in their white shirts, black tie and black pants. Based on my college education in Civil Engineering I can safely 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 064say it must have been a pretty monotonous process. Run the calculations for your section, have someone check the math and then make any corrections.

The hardest part of doing the process must have been the repetitive nature of the calculations. Not only do you have a force applied, but you have to distribute that force throughout the structure in an iterative process. If someone decides to add a large load higher up the hundreds of calculations would have to be redone to make sure the beams, columns and cross members were still adequate.

As with any structure near the entrance is a map with safety information and 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 060what functions were previously housed in the bays of the structure. The building has remnants of previous missions of the facility from the2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 063 jack stands.





View up the outside skin of the building.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 122

Picture of scaffolding structure to gain access to the higher portions of the rocket.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 068

Floor panels to provide access to the Saturn V rockets of the Apollo missions.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 071

Offices carved into the open space above tool and equipment storage.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 074

Pictures of the space shuttle. I’m guessing they are for visitor’s to the facility since I’m guessing most of the workers who worked in the building got to see real life pictures daily.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 075

The doors to the facility with translucent surrounding panels to allow light inside.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 080

Wall where shuttle workers signed. It’s still waiting to get signed by the astronauts still up in space on the International Space Station.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 081

Lots of lights throughout the structure.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 086

As an engineer, I took a picture of the bay of cathodic protection modules for the steel. I suspect without these the VAB would have rusted and fallen apart in the Florida humidity long ago.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 1012011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 102

Picture looking up. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll be able to check out the VAB at Vandenberg Air Force Base and be able to see how the steel size differs.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 103