Good News – California Trip
As promised, I’ve got a lot of good news to share with you folks. But first a quick fulfillment update:
T-Shirts for Christmas / New Year’s
The first batch of about 40 shirts were delivered in time for Christmas. Consider the timing involved these shirts were only shipped in the US, but I got confirmation from several people that they were received in time and that people liked them. I’ve very pleased we were able to accommodate you folks! (I’m wearing mine right now as I type this.)
I’ll ship the second batch tomorrow, and I think they will (mostly) arrive before New Year’s. It will be about 30 in the US and another 35 internationally. Naturally, if they are shipping beyond the US border, it’s going to take longer.
2012 October 15
So now I’ll begin to detail the grand tour that I went on. Before I start I want to thank all of you. It was a very very fun trip. No, I didn’t go on a world tour on your money for the fun of it. While it was a lot of fun, the reason and goal and the results of this trip were all focused around getting the Elevator built! I think you’ll be very pleased with what I accomplished.
Olympia – Bryan Laubscher, PhD.
The ‘California’ segment of the trip was by car. I live in Seattle and driving to San Francisco area doesn’t take all that much time, about a day. And we needed the car, because we had stops along the way and if we flew, then we’d just end up renting a car anyway, so this made more sense – economically.
First off, we start early in the morning because we’ve got stops to make along the way. So we leave the Seattle region about 630 so that we can be in Olympia by 8am and meet with Dr. Bryan Laubscher. Bryan is the ONLY person on the project that outdates me! I was the second ‘employee’ after Dr Edwards, but Bryan was a good friend of Edwards, and so he had been involved as a sounding-board before I came on as staff. Since Edwards has left the project (several years ago now) that makes Laubscher and I (depending on how you count it) the most senior of all Elevator people.
I like Bryan. But I didn’t always. He and I have had many many a disagreement and argument about how to proceed with the program. He has problems with how I run things. He is a physicist – looking for order in the universe, and I’m an entrepreneur – which means I’m always trying to profit from chaotic/imbalanced market forces. We are fundamentally different kinds of people; and for a long time these differences kept us from respecting the other person’s contributions. Over time that evolved. It’s a lot better now.
So I was looking forward to breakfast with him. It was great. We met at a roadside Denny’s (cheap and convenient to the freeway) and had a nice talk. Bryan is working on a Nanotech development that he thinks could solve a significant problem with the tangling problem of carbon nanotubes. He’s filed some patents, but they have not been approved yet; so I’m not going to say anything further on this. We talked about Kickstarter and building communities and how to get the KS folks more deeply involved with the overall effort.
Portland – Charles Radley, MSc.
We get a little further and it’s time to catch lunch with Charles Radley. Now Charles is an interesting guy. (Let’s face it, anyone that is seriously involved with building an Elevator in Space probably has an interesting back-story.) Some people don’t like Charles because he’s got a hot temper. I like him because of that trait – it shows passion and conviction.
Charles has a long-ago background in satellite communications, and is a pretty serious data and software tester. Charles and I crossed paths the first time about 6 years ago at a Science Fiction Convention here in Seattle. We quickly became friends (despite the occasional loud disagreement!) and even considered starting a business together. Ultimately that business never got started, but we were pretty serious about buying Jamesburg Station (more on that in a moment) about 5 years ago.
Charles and I had to hash out some details regarding the “1000 Questions Database”. Briefly the “1kQ” is one of the organizing tools we need in order to build the Elevator. It’s based off the concept that “we don’t even know all the questions, yet, let alone have all the answers…” So we need a tracking tool that can identify the questions, and then systematically allow people to ‘join’ a question, form a team, conduct literature reviews and experimental research and eventually develop conclusive ‘answers’ (with the appropriate trade studies) so that we can get this thing built. And once we did, it was time to get back on the road.
Salem – David Appell, PhD.
We were supposed to stop in Salem to meet with Dr. David Appell, but he was sick and asked us to postpone until our return. So we did… (but we didn’t get to meet him on our way home either, as it was 330am when we driving through his area almost 13 days later. So far, of a 17+ hour trip from Port Orchard Washington to Carmel Valley California, we’ve only been on the road for about 3 hour, and we’ve spend more time in coffee shops and cafes than actual road-time. We’ve got to turn up the speed.
2012 October 16Carmel – Jamesburg Station (A fascinating article on it.)
Our destination for the first morning is the old Lunar communications relay system known as Jamesburg Station. Why? Because it’s for sale and I want to buy it. I realize when I’m going down there that I can’t buy it. The KS money is not nearly enough. But for what it is, it’s cheap. So what is Jamesburg? Ignore for a moment that this was the dish that allowed Neil Armstrong’s famous footprints to be beamed from the Moon to the Earth and an astounded human population. Ignore the fact that this Cold War era relic is near-miss-nuclear-bomb-proof. Ignore the economic reality that to build this asset from scratch would cost 10-15 times the current purchase price. Yup, ignore all that.
Instead focus on these facts: 1) LiftPort needs a home for her staff, 2) we need a remote region for high-alt robotics and balloon testing 3) we need to talk to the Moon if we’re really going to build our Elevator, 4) an asset like this is rarely sold, ever. So while I knew I couldn’t (personally) afford it, I wanted to kick the tires. I thought I might have a way of purchasing it, but it turns out that I don’t. If anyone would like to talk about Jamesburg, and has the capital or financing available, I’d like to chat. It’s a heck of an asset and LiftPort must have it, or something very very similar. And I like this communications station for many reasons – both economic and sentimental.
So we drove all night, and slept in the car under the stars. Because it is such a remote location, the stars were brilliant. The Milky Way was crystal clear and the moment I got out of the car and looked up – I saw a shooting star. At that particular moment, I felt pretty good.
San Jose – Wild Goose Chase
So after meeting with the realtor – who wasn’t very pleasant nor helpful – we had a meeting scheduled with the owner. So we scurry back up the highway to San Jose and meet with the seller. Turns out he was none-too-interested in making a deal. As I said, I’d been interested in Jamesburg for about 5 years. Charles and I drove down and met the owner back then and agreed to a price. Now, 5 years later, I spoke with the owner just 6 weeks prior and he quoted a price very similar to the price of 5 years ago… but now when I’m suddenly sitting in his office again, he’s unacceptably rude, overbearing and childish… and he’s raised the price an extra million dollars for no apparent reason. So ya, that was a pretty frustrating waste of time. Moving on…
2012 October 17
Monterey – Simon Chang, PhD.
Here’s where things start to get interesting – in a hurry.
I’d met Dr. Chang several times. He was interested in using our Tethered Towers system for high-altitude weather research during the LiftPort 1.0 days. But every time I’d ever come to him, I was always asking for research grants so that we could do our experiments… in essence I was always asking him for money and six times in a row he declined. But now, with the KS funds in hand, now I could talk to him about something else.
You see, the US Navy’s Research Lab has its Weather Directorate in Monterey. It is their job to oversee the world’s weather and give updates. They use a variety of tools to do this – ground sensors, balloons, and satellites being the most common. But our Tethered Tower is a new kind of tool. They recognized its significance right away. And now I think they are going to pay to use our altitude. In other words, I think we’ve got our first client!
So while I’m grateful for the 2nd chance that Kickstarter has given our program, I’m equally happy that after the Kickstarter funds run out; after we’ve completed our Tethered Tower robotics experiment of 7km – that we’ll have a paying customer that will allow us to continue with our research!
It’s not a huge contract, and like any good drug-dealer business model “the first one’s free”. But if they like the kind of data they receive, then they are already planning on buying more, later.
I want to stress – we have a handshake deal, and not a contract with a check… so a lot could go wrong. But assuming it goes right, then this client is enough to keep the staff paid while we continue our Robotics research. There were 9 people in the room for this meeting, Simon had brought in all of his department heads. Each one had a different use for our system. So this is an ongoing negotiation. But I’m very very happy with it.
There’s still 10 more days left in this trip, and I haven’t even gotten to the ‘really’ good stuff yet. So bear with me; I’ll let this story unfold over a couple days. I’d said that it was going to be 4 update; 1 of bad news and 3 of good news. But with the length of this update I can see this is going to stretch out a bit.
Take care Mjl
Michael Laine President, LiftPort Group