Travel to Mars on laser light


I have made a few posts on space propulsion over the past year (see ‘propulsion’ in tag cloud). I saw the article “Mars in 3 day? NASA Researches are Working on a Photonic Propulsion System” and though it warranted some attention.

It is easy to understand how light ‘pressure’ can be used to ‘sail’ a space craft using a large sail. It is a little harder to accept that powerful lasers could supply more of a push than the light from our own sun. But this is an idea that NASA is currently investigating.

In theory using photonics propulsion, a 100 kg automated space craft could be flown to Mars  in just three days. A manned space craft would be much heavier and would take up to a month. The NASA research team headed by Philip Lubin claims that lasers could power a space craft to 30% of the speed of light in 10 minutes.

Lubin published the technical paper “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight” in April 2015 with the technology explained in more detail.

USA, Texas, Waller – Buc-ee’s


We all have stopped a the gas station/convenience store as we drive America’s interstate highways. Buc-ee’s takes that concept to an entirely new level! (You might want to check out this article published in July of 2018 –  We visited a convenience-store chain with a Texas cult following, and we were amazed by what we found)

For instance, the Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels, Texas is a little bigger than the run of the mill gas stop with 120 gas pumps. The 68,000 square foot store has over 80 toilets! And every time I have stopped at a Buc-ee’s the restrooms are always very clean.

Buc-ee’s do not allow 18 wheelers. The stores carry a large selection of fresh jerky, and there are a variety of fresh sandwiches and packaged food items. Made to order sandwiches and tacos can be ordered from their large deli. Of course, coffee, fountain drinks and a large cooler with bottled and canned beverages are also available.


Beyond the food items, the stores carry a wide variety of Texas-themed products. They also have items for travelers and sportsmen. One of our favorite purchases is “Beaver Nuggets”. These are caramel and butter-glazed corn puffs.


While I have stopped at the New Braunfels location, the first large Buc-ee’s I visited was in Waller. I had never seen a convenience store so large. I have also visited the Temple location which is not quite so large but has nearly everything.

All the Buc-ee’s locations are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are not everywhere yet but the chain is spreading. Certainly, every road trip I take now means at least one stop at a Buc-ee’s. If we are traveling with kids, they almost always want to get their picture taken with the large Buc-ee statue out front.

If you are traveling the highways of Texas and see a Buc-ee’s I suggest taking the time to stop. You always need gas and facilities and food. In my opinion, there is no better location for that than Buc-ee’s.

See my other Food and Location articles



IEEE Innovators, Engineers & Entrepreneurs Workshop


Being involved in the activities of the IEEE Central Texas Section, I want to promote the workshop that we are hosting next Friday, February 26. The “Innovators, Engineers & Entrepreneurs” workshop, a full day at the AT&T Conference Center on the south side of the University of Texas at Austin campus. This will be our capstone event for Engineers Week.

The workshop will feature some well known speakers – Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet; Donna Wilkins, founder of Charity Dynamics; and Devon Ryan, founder, LION Mobile – among others. Please take a look at the program and see if the presentations are of interest.

Workshop topics include:

  • Power & Energy, Energy Storage, Photovoltaics, Water
  • Internet of Things
  • Privacy and Security
  • Incorporating Legal Organization, Intellectual Property
  • Robotics, 3-D Printing, Manufacturing Automation

If you are thinking of creating a start up, then this will be of great value. Among the presentations are:

  • startup funding
  • how to start a company
  • working with legal teams
  • dealing with security

The workshop is open to all interested parties. You can still register on-line or Friday at the door, though the cost jumps up to $125.

Review of “Back Blast”


“Back Blast” eBook was published in 2016 (February) and was written by Mark Greaney ( Mr. Greaney is the author of 11 novels in the spy Thriller genre. This is Mr. Greaney’s fifth novel in his “Gray Man” series.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. This Thriller is set mostly in the Washington D. C. area in contemporary times. The primary character is Court Gentry, a former CIA clandestine operator now widely hunted for turning rogue.

Gentry has returned to the US in spite of the world wide manhunt. He is back to find out why the CIA wants him dead. It has been a few years since the agency suddenly turned on him and tried to kill him. He has been on the run since, but he has decided it is time to stop running.

Gentry comes to Washinton and begins to dig into why the CIA turned on him. Gentry turns up a few allies, but he is not sure how far he can trust them. He soon finds that not only are federal agents after him, but there is another group that simply wants to kill him on site regardless of the collateral damage. A few, while not exactly allies, begin to question what is happening in Washington as mayhem follows Gentry. The ‘facts’ being released by the CIA are not matching reality.

I enjoyed the nearly 13 hours I spent reading this 528 page spy Thriller. There was near constant action as well as plenty of intrigue. Certainly the twist and turns of plot made the read interesting. While this is the fifth novel in the series, it stood alone well as a stand-alone read. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Another story of robots and jobs


Another day and another story (“Where will robots take over the most jobs?“) of how robots and automation may impact jobs. I have covered most of the sources cited in previous posts (check out ‘robots’ in the tag cloud to the bottom right). One new report I have not seen before from Citi/University of Oxford seems to say much as the other studies reported – Robots and automation to increase and jobs will be lost.

While mentioned in a few of the other reports, one of the ideas the Citi study emphasizes  is not so much the loss of jobs, but the widening gap in incomes. Lower skilled jobs may disappear and the new jobs that will be created will require much higher levels of education.

What is the best preparation? Investment in education and training. Be prepared to relocate and move up into the newly created, higher skill level positions.

If this is a topic that interest you, read the article cited above.

Stairway to Heaven Lookbook

Interesting merger of stair and books. It is amazing what creative ideas some people come up with!

Cafe Book Bean

Creating beautiful and unique ways to display books is something that really intrigues and delights me. I love seeing all the different way people have come up with to make their book experience enchanting. For me it’s even greater looking at space saving book storage solution. This lookbook has the best of both.

These stairs truly are a way to heaven, book heaven 🙂

april-1981-book-shelves-stairs-homeI love the whole design; the architecture, the regal-ness of the books, those stairs are heavenly indeed!

stairs-made-into-bookshelves-13I love the sleekness and modern warmth of these stairs.

This set up is so amazing. I love how all the colors pop off the
crisp white backdrop.

B166.0cI think this one might be the funnest. Climb up stairs filled with books
and slide back down!

Contemporary-staircase-with-minimalist-book-shelves-in-all-whiteI love this, I just imagine that those stairs lead to a heavenly room
filled with even more books.

stairs-book-shelves-combinedDon’t get dizzy. This…

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Robots and humans working together


I have written posts (1/6/161/18/16 & 2/15/16) recently that cite studies that warn of job loss from robots and automation.

I came across two articles today (“Robots are friends, not job-stealing foes” and “Don’t Be Alarmed: AI Won’t Leave Half the World Unemployed“) that say that the job outlook is not nearly so bleak.

The first article is a response by VDMA Robotics + Automation Association to the earlier report from the World Economic Forum. The second to both Moshe Vardi’s call to action and to a 2013 report from the Oxford Martin School.

I think that reality is going to lie closer to what these articles predict. Yes more and more jobs can be replaced by robots and automation, but that will not always be practical. We will have more and more interaction with robots. We will increasingly be working side by side with robots. Many will need to add to their training and education to move into new positions.

Robots and automation will be disruptive to some extent. But our history shows other  other disruptive technologies introduced and we have prospered from them.

Apple vs the FBI


Apple and the FBI are locked in controversy. Why? Recent models of the iPhone encrypt the data on the phone.  Recently the FBI filed a court order compelling Apple to unlock an iPhone used by Tashfeen Malik. He was one of the San Bernardino shooters that resulted in 14 dead.

Apple CEO responded with an open letter “A Message to Our Customers” stating why he and Apple oppose the order. This is an important issue. I have pulled a few of the current articles and included links below.

Everyone needs to understand what the impact is of this order. 

Personally I agree with Apple.

  1. Why Apple Is Fighting Not To Unlock iPhones For The Government
  2. Why You Should Care About Apple’s Fight With the FBI
  3. Support Swells For Apple’s Opposition To iPhone Unlocking Court Order
  4. Privacy advocates gather in support of Apple’s stance against unlocking an iPhone
  5. Google lends Apple support over FBI encryption demands
  6. Cybersecurity companies weigh in on Apple encryption dispute
  7. Petition urges White House to support Apple in blocking government access to locked iPhones
  8. Apple cofounder weighs in on FBI controversy: ‘I think Steve would have gone for the privacy’
  9. Apple’s opposition to backdoors in FBI case gains global, animated attention
  10. In legal showdown, FBI vs. Apple could make or break Silicon Valley
  11. FBI and police are losing the encryption war
  12. 8 surprising twists in the Apple/FBI encryption case – added 2/20/16

Mid-week Meet n’ Greet

We each seem to have our own preference for reading. I used to buy mostly paper backs, but have a small collection of hard backs. I would have preferred all hard backs but the cost and space they take up is prohibitive.

When I got my first iPad in 2010 I began reading on it. I have used all three reading Apps – iBook, Kindle and Nook, though I prefer the Kindle. Since then I have almost exclusively read eBooks.

I read a paperback a year or so ago as I had just received a new eBook for review and found that I had the predecessor to it on paper back. I found going back to the small print was a real challenge. I also found having to hold the book open and having to use a reading light at night were both inconveniences as well.

That said, I saw a few weeks ago that paper book sales has been on a slight increase over the past year or two. I guess that paper books will be with us for years ahead, and that is a good thing.

Cafe Book Bean

Lets get to know each other:
Share about your love of books and/or coffee/tea!
Source: Cafe Meet n’ Greet

I personally like all of them for different reasons. I prefer to use paperbacks for everyday reading, but I like to get a copy of my favorite books in the hardback. Sometimes it just depends on the book, in the bookstore one or the other will speak to me, I would say I’m 70/30 (paperback/hardback) roughly.  I will say one of my many quirks is that if I start a series with a hard/paperback, I have to finish them all the same! As far as e-books, they are convenient now and then, but I don’t think I will ever fully convert. I think that audiobooks are great for car-rides!

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Review of “The Lost Codex”


“The Lost Codex” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Alan Jacobson ( Mr. Jacobson has published 11 novels, with this being the third of his ‘OPSIG Team Black’ series.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. This novel is set in several major cities around the contemporary world. The primary character is FBI profiler Karen Vail, though Special Forces veteran Hector DeSantos and FBI terrorism expert Aaron Uziel also play major roles.

Terrorists begin a series of attacks on US soil. Vail, DeSantos and Uziel are among those that are called in to find out who is behind the attacks and to stop them before they can carry out more bombings. As they investigate they find that two scrolls dating from just after the time of Christ have been stolen. What they contain could disrupt the primary world religions. Somehow these are part of the strategy that the terrorists are following.

Vail, and her team, are retasked to find and recover the scrolls. The trail leads from Washington D.C. to New York to Paris to Jerusalem. The islamic terrorists they are after will stop at nothing. Their goal is a world ruled by sharia law and death means nothing to them. As Vail and her team repeatedly encounter lethal enemies, they begin to suspect that there is a leak in US intelligence. While they face the known opposition, they fear that an unknown threat is lurking at their backs.

I enjoyed the 12+ hours I spent reading this 428 page novel. It was very fast paced with lots of action. There were also multiple threads of suspense that were woven throughout the story. I had not read the earlier two books in the series, but while there were references to a history with the team, this book was a decent stand-alone read. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (