Flight #2

Second flight was the next morning out of Tullahoma TN. Air was great and the grass was wet.

I had 3 failed launches(in front of the seasoned pilots that patiently waited on me). Got up on number 4 and flew for about 30-45 minutes. I got to practice stowing the brakes and steering with weight shift. Slipped on landing and slid in but everything was ok.

Lessons Learned:

1. Good footwear is critical on wet grass, my boots didn’t have much grip. On takeoff I would start slipping as the motor lightened up but before I had enough speed to launch. On landing my feet slid out as soon as I touched down.

I had a smile on my face for a week.

First Flight

My first flight was far from graceful, but from my POV it was fantastic.

It didn’t register that I had lifted off until I had climbed above the treetops. (Hence the long “run”). The air was smooth and the view was tremendous.

My landing wasn’t pretty, it left me with a great bruise on my heel and smile that still crops up every time I think about that flight. What a ride.

Lessons learned:

1.It’s worth any amount of effort required to get in the air.

2.Look out not down during landing, looking down removes your depth perception. The only thing worse than flaring early is releasing the flare, better to just go with it.

First Flight Video

Why We Must Strive

Why do we keep track of records? The fastest swimmer, the most graceful skater, the strongest runner, the best pilot. Knowing our times and breaking previous benchmarks does not really change anything does it? Or does it define the best of everything that is human?

We are built to strive for more. It’s woven into all of us to varying degrees. The meaning of “more” is different in everyone but the base drive to have more and be more is always there. For some it’s more speed in a foot race. You will see these people pushing themselves through heat, cold, and rain to put in their miles and build their legs and lungs. For some it is more power over others. You will see these people on town councils, HOA’s, and school boards. When that drive is harnessed and directed positively, humans are capable of amazing, beautiful, limitless feats. When directed negatively humans are capable of limitless depravity, each tyrant sure of their own “correctness”.

This is why the Olympics and space travel are so important. How are these things related? To succeed at either of them requires the absolute best that humans are capable of. It requires us to ignore childish differences and focus on the things that unite all humans. As a nation if you exclude a group of people from representing your country at the Olympics, you lose the capabilities offered by that group. Your success will be limited accordingly. Try to ignore the agreed upon rules of the games and you will be removed from the competition. This also sets a stage for nations that would prefer to destroy one another to compete peacefully and openly. The games show us that every athlete is human regardless of the flag they compete under. That those terrible people on the other side of a line on the map aren’t really the evil monsters we are told they are. They train, and fight hard, and collapse into their families arms at the end of a race, just like we do.

To truly explore space requires even more cooperation between humans. Just to keep the space station in low Earth orbit requires 23 countries to ignore their differences and only focus on the things that unite them. Of course every government wants to have control of space flight, but physics itself doesn’t seem to allow for that. If Germany had welcomed Jewish scientist in the 1940’s they likely would have been the first to master atomic power, and likely put men into orbit years ahead of anyone else. However those that strove for power gained control and all of that potential was squandered. Space refused to allow us access until we had grown up enough to handle the responsibility.

Following that tragedy of war, the space race began. Nations competed, records were set and then broken. Human ability and technology was pushed beyond what we believed possible. Then on July 20th 1969 two men left footprints in lunar dust. They also left a plaque announcing they came in peace for all mankind. And before leaving, deposited a pouch containing a mission patch from the Apollo 1 crew lost in a fire, and medals from 2 Soviet cosmonauts also lost in the race for the Moon. The politicians may have been bickering about who owned what piece of the Earth, but those men, and everyone who came together to put them there understood that we are all on this rock together.

In short, we have to go. We must explore space. And every two years we must compete in the games. If we don’t we will forget the best parts of being human, and slip backwards into that dark place where we only compete to control each other. I have no doubt that man can function completely free from coercion. I believe the universe will require us to learn that lesson before being allowed to advance beyond our tiny sphere of rock. And if we don’t learn that lesson? We won’t advance. We won’t develop the technology needed to produce the energy to thrive. We won’t develop the skills needed to alter the course of a comet and prevent it from damaging our little world. We won’t learn to grow food without destroying the soil we need to grow it.

These threats aren’t affecting us now, and may not for hundreds or thousands of years. But one day they will. We had better stop holding each other down to get ahead, and start lifting each other up to the next step. Otherwise, one day the universe and the law of averages will chalk us up as one more failed experiment. And our precious little haven of life will become just one more lifeless, dust covered mass of rock, spinning through the dark.

The Price of Losing

 

“There are no cats in America”- Papa Mousekowitz: An American Tail

Credit cards. Payday loans. Title loans. Mortgages. As we get older and more experienced we learn how dangerous these things can be. Having the warm security blanket of a credit card is a comfort to some people, like a big cuddly tiger. And like a tiger, if you forget what it is, it can eat you alive . We learn to respect the dangers of debt by making our own mistakes and seeing the mistakes of others. But there are other less tangible debts that must be paid down and controlled.

Liberty, like any other debt must be serviced regularly. And make no mistake, this is a debt that requires payment. The longer you avoid it, the more difficult the payments are to make. If you don’t cover your share of the debt it gets shifted onto your children, then grows and moves on to their children. The price of nonpayment is worse than anything a debt collector can bring to bear.

Get a picture in your mind of your family, anyone living under the same roof as you. Now take everything from them they can’t carry. Family pictures, gone. Favorite stuffed animals, gone. Pets, makeup, tools, grandpa’s old rifle, your mothers earrings, gone. Imagine you either had to leave it or sell it to pay a smuggler to give you room in the cargo hold of a dangerously overcrowded ship. Your family gets a bucket for a bathroom and access to the community water barrel for drinking. Anyone who isn’t strong enough to make the trip gets buried at sea, your captain gets paid either way. Imagine all the new experiences you get to explain to your children along the way. Imagine having to keep the fear out of your voice and eyes to reassure them everything is ok. Watching them get sick and not being able offer anything but a caring embrace. Sleeping with your shoes on, on top of what few possessions you saved from your old life. It’s the only way to prevent someone from stealing them.

Imagine putting on a face of confidence knowing that at the end of this trip you are on your own. No support group, no savings to fall back on, and no way to be certain you can provide food and shelter when you step off the boat. What you can be sure of is your family will start at the bottom. Most everyone they meet will look down on them. Other children will laugh at yours for being different. Men will look at you with distrust and become impatient when you struggle with your new language. Mothers will avoid making “play dates” with you and your kids. What work history you had has been erased. Now your a day laborer, or if your very lucky, picking crops by hand. Welcome to your new life. Now imagine you thank God every night for it.

How bad would life have to be for you to risk this? Hard to create that world in your mind isn’t it? That world does exist. That’s why we have had people risking everything to get here since the time we were thirteen colonies. Not the promise of prosperity. You can’t guarantee that for anyone. It’s the possibility of safety and a better life, mixed with the threat of their current situation that prompts them to roll the dice and run to our nation.

But what created that terrible world they ran from? The answer is easy, too few people paid to create Freedom. Over time the price of regaining lost liberties became too high as tyrants took power. We don’t have a large population that experienced this first hand, so it seems less possible here. But we do have history to learn from. The U.S. “Civil War” didn’t happen overnight. It built slowly over the years as slavery, banking practices and various politicians ate away at the Freedom Americans had embraced. Afghanistan once had a thriving trade economy and the Middle east at one time led the world in art and science. China and Russia have both experienced that same rise in quality of life and the terrifying fall into tyranny that left millions dead.

We all have the same natural resources, mental and physical capacity, and 24 hours in the day. The only thing that has kept us from sliding into the same abyss is remembering that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. Not all Americans. All men, and women, and children, everywhere. Remembering this reminds us to pay our bill.

Paying that bill doesn’t require blood, as long as we stay on top of it. It requires letting your neighbor live as freely as you want to especially if you disagree with them. It also requires you respecting others, on the road, in business ,and in the line at the grocery store. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and standing for the National Anthem may give you a warm feeling inside, but if you fail to respect the inherent Freedom of others, and teach that respect to the next generation, it doesn’t count for much. Sometimes paying the tab means doing things that are uncomfortable and scary. Letting in outsiders for example. It’s a risk to be sure, but if we live in fear of what may happen we can’t build the Liberty that will prevent true evil from taking root.

On a somewhat positive note, you got very lucky. It’s unlikely you or your children will ever have to make that trip into an unfamiliar land. Not because it can’t happen here. You just don’t have anywhere to run to. That’s why if we lose freedom here, the price to get it back will be enormous. Please remember that when you get the urge to make any government more powerful so they can keep you safe. Just like any other service, that temporary safety will be paid for sooner or later. If not by you then by those that follow you.

Ross and the Silk Road

By: Kurt Dugger

Once upon a time, there was a website. This website Allowed almost anyone to sell almost anything. The only real prohibition on products stood against anything used to “harm or defraud” someone else. This opened a market for anything from cocaine in the U.S. to Bibles in Saudi Arabia.
This site also created a rating system for buyers and sellers. This meant that using fraud and violence to push your product greatly limited your business opportunities. This reduced the amount of violence inherent to many illegal industries.
This site also required tools such as Bitcoin and the TOR browser to be used in order to create more anonymity.  Those tools posed a real threat to data collection and financial controls used by various States to manipulate their citizens. That could not be allowed to stand.
In 2013 the current owner of the site was discovered and arrested. The subsequent trial saw the rampant corruption of the legal system, including the conviction of 2 investigators on multiple charges related to theft, fraud, and blackmail committed during the investigation. That information was withheld from the defense for months and ultimately barred from the trial by the judge.
Ross Ulbricht is now serving a sentence of Double life plus forty years, for running a website specifically created to reduce violent crime. No one has ever been presented as a victim. Ross’s final chance at appeal is approaching. Even in the face of it all, he is staying positive, most days.
I’ve heard it said “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”.  My question is:  What do governments fear enough to openly disregard their own legal system? The answer appears to be, your privacy.

A letter from Ross from prison.