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Fun new video from the Rural Alberta Advantage

So I’ve become a huge fan of the Rural Alberta Advantage.  (You can check out my post about their London concert here.)  They’ve got a new album coming out on Tuesday, March 1st: “Departed.”

They played a couple of tracks from their new album at their concert, and they were great.  (It can be hard to get an audience into new songs they’re hearing for the first time live, but they did it.)  The band has just released their first official video from the new album, for the track “Stamp.”  It’s pretty cool; take 3 minutes and check it out here!

You can also pre-order their album (and posters/t-shirts) directly from Saddle Creek Records here.  If you liked the video you can download the “Stamp” MP3 too!

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What I struggle with every day…

Seth Godin truly nailed it on the head today with a short blog post titled “In and out“.

That’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make today.

How much time and effort should be spent on intake, on inbound messages, on absorbing data…

and how much time and effort should be invested in output, in creating something new.

There used to be a significant limit on available intake. Once you read all the books in the college library on your topic, it was time to start writing.

Now that the availability of opinions, expertise and email is infinite, I think the last part of that sentence is the most important:

Time to start writing.

Or whatever it is you’re not doing, merely planning on doing.

I grew up loving reading, loving learning and this has transformed me into someone that constantly juggles half a dozen books, a couple magazines, a never-ending Twitter feed and a truly never-ending Google Reader.  But as much as I enjoy it, when I step back I realize that I really love doing something about what I’ve learned.

The problem is saying “enough is enough”, stepping back, and taking action.

It feels like I’ll never get the balance right, but I try to get better every day.

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Union Square Cafe – Finally!

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A week ago, LondonAnnie and I finally got a chance to eat at Union Square Cafe in New York City.

I’ve wanted to eat there for over three years, ever since I read Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table” in 2007.  The book came highly recommended by Fred Wilson, a very popular investor / venture capitalist in New York.  Danny is a fantastic restauranteur, and a wonderful writer.  The book goes from his childhood through to setting up Union Square Cafe, to extending his restaurant group with new and innovative restaurants across New York.  It’s a cross between a behind-the-scenes “foodie” book and a business book; Danny is a very wise man.  Like Fred, I’d recommend “Setting the Table” for anyone that is in any sort of service business; you’ll learn something inside.

But back to the food…

Union Square Cafe serves what I would call classic American food, but at a level of quality and perfection that I haven’t ever experienced before.  Our starter was “Fritto Misto of Calamari, Bay Scallops, and Gulf Shrimp with Spicy Anchovy Mayonnaise” which was very, very tasty.  Despite the fact that I can’t stand anchovies, the mayonnaise was very addictive.

For my main course, I went with “Grilled Smoked Shell Steak with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes, and Heirloom Carrots”.  WOW.  Just… WOW.  I’ve eaten at some pretty good steakhouses before, but this was out of this world.  It was cooked to perfection, and seasoned just right.  I think I was talking about this for the next week.

But just when I thought the meal couldn’t get any better, I got “Brioche French Toast with Roasted Apples and Brown Sugar Ice Cream” for dessert.  Within one bite, I had found nirvana.  I thought that the steak would be the best dish of the meal, but the sweetness of this dessert (combined with my all-too-controlling sweet-tooth) brought the house down.

Finally, I feel that I should comment on the service and staff.  Danny Meyer has got a reputation of running restaurants that truly focus on service, and this was very, very clear.  They were attentive and friendly when we needed them, and melted away when they weren’t needed.  Across the board, the staff were absolutely great.

So if you ever find yourself anywhere near Union Square in New York City, do yourself a favor and enjoy a meal at Union Square Cafe.

(Photo via Wikipedia Commons / Americasroof)

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Meet the rockets that will be bigger than Apollo (SpaceX)

I’ve been a big fan of SpaceX for a long, long time. SpaceX has cracked the nut of becoming a viable, commercial heavy-lift aerospace company. They’ve redrawn the economics of the industry, and have a very bright future ahead of them. The last two recent successful launches of their Falcon 9 rocket have been spectacular!

Aside: I got my degree in aerospace engineering because I love the technology and the aspiration; I avoided working in the field because it’s too cyclical, corporate and dependent on government help.

But onwards and upwards…

Earlier this summer SpaceX made a few presentations outlining some of their future plans. And those plans are AWESOME. Here’s what they’ll be up to in the near term as they develop the Falcon X line of rockets:

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The current Falcon 9 rocket can get 10.5k kg into Low Earth Orbit. More tangibly, the Falcon 9 puts the equivalent to three and a half Hummer H2’s into orbit. Doing this requires nine first-stage engines and one second-stage engine.

SpaceX currently has the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket in development. This essentially straps on two additional first-stage sections for a total of 27 first-stage rocket engines! This is a healthy additional boost, and gets 32k kg into orbit. So if you ever wanted to compact eleven Hummer H2s and send them into orbit, this rocket can do it for you.

The Falcon 9 Heavy will also be able to lift more into orbit than Atlas V, Delta IV, or Ariane 5. There are only two systems on the drawing board that are potentially larger than this rocket, and they’re both Russian vehicles that don’t look likely to actually be built. (Of course it will cost you; $56million for a Falcon 9 and $95million for the Falcon 9 Heavy.)

But Space X is looking at developing a large new version of it’s first stage engine, Merlin. (These are speculative right now because it would take $1billion to develop the engine, but clearly thought out.) Powered by this engine, the rocket could put 38k kg into orbit.

Suddenly, this image gets very interesting:

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This outlines how SpaceX could operate a Super-Heavy-Lift Launch System. The Falcon X Heavy could lift 125k kg into orbit, and the Falcon XX could lift 140k kg into orbit.

Within six months as the Space Shuttle program shuts down, there will be NO operational Super-Heavy-Lift system operational. And the largest consistently successful Super-Heavy-Lift system was the Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo missions to the moon.

Where the Saturn V could lift 119k kg to orbit, the Falcon XX could potentially lift 140k kg to orbit. If successful, this would be the heaviest payload sent by man into space. (To complete the metaphor, it’s the same as lifting forty-seven Hummer H2s into orbit.)

Summary

I love the ambition of SpaceX, and that they’ve gone from nothing to multiple successful launches in less than a decade without any public funding. (Though they have had key public contracts to resupply the Space Station.) That they’ve designed it from a blank sheet, not being required to refit existing infrastructure or deal with an existing bloated bureaucracy is brilliant, and probably part of the reason they’ve been successful. Lean and mean…

Hopefully this gives you a sense of the future of the space part of the aerospace industry in the USA.