My Political Post

It seems all anybody can talk about these days is Trump-this, or liberals-that, politics, politics and more politics. I don't quite understand everything that's going on, but it definitely doesn't feel right. So here's a brief summary of what I think about this political season, and what I just don't get.

What is liberalism, and what is conservatism these days?

I was raised in a very conservative home and taught basic principles of right-wing philosophy, so generally that is what I espouse. But the weird thing I'm seeing these days is that what most people think of as conservatism is not what I think of as conservatism. 

So what is conservatism, really? Well, a quick dictionary check will tell you: "the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas." (from Merriam-Webster). I believe conservatism means that the power of the government should be very limited to what only the government can do (i.e. pass laws, run the military, keep the peace, etc.) The basic power and control over people though is only through individual responsibility and natural market balances. 

Now there's another narrative I keep hearing, that conservatism means you are bigoted, hateful, white supremacist, nationalist. In other words, many people today think that if you take conservative ideology to a far extreme you get fascism and Nazism. Extreme nationalism. I don't know why that's conservatism, because it means a very powerful government that has control over you. Especially if you're in some minority it likes to persecute (e.g. Jews, gypsies, etc. during the holocaust *shudder*). 

So here is the point that I would like to make:

Conservatism ≠ Authoritarianism.

To be fair, on the left side of the argument you could make the case that taking liberalism to the logical extreme results in communism, which is also a brand of authoritarianism. 

So no matter which way you go, if you keep going to the extreme it loops up to authoritarianism.

My concern is that we're harmonically oscillating between the two extremes, and we've just hit the resonance frequency. I predict America is going to get more and more and more authoritarian in the next few decades, but I'm not sure which flavor of authoritarianism will ultimately win.

So I made this neat-o infographic that explains political ideology:

The Political Spectrum - It's two axes, not one.
More and more I've been leaning towards Libertarianism in my politics, because, even though I personally hold "socially conservative" beliefs, I seriously doubt the government could or should do anything about some social and cultural problems. So as a Christian I believe that many, many social problems can only be ameliorated by an active and caring local church community. But I'm a little wobbly in my position, and am open to hearing arguments about it.

This may be something where in 10 years from now I'll happen across this old post and just smack my forehead at my gross naivety. Or maybe not.

So what are your political beliefs? Where would you plot yourself on the Cartesian coordinates above? Let us know in the comments below!


The Passing of a Friend

Last December, a good friend, coworker, and pioneering space maverick Aleta Jackson passed away. Aleta was kind of like the mother of XCOR, and she treated us all like a loving, nurturing mother. She was a very capable and motivated individual, too. A lot of my coworkers and even classmates at Iowa State looked up to her as a role-model. She was particularly an inspiration to girls everywhere who aspire to greatness in the field of astronautics, space, and aerospace. Aleta's whole life was dedicated to opening up the realm of outer space to the rest of us. She was a very capable person: she learned welding, she spoke Japanese, was a huge science fiction nerd (and she could write, too), she loved to build things and work with her hands, and she was good at making connections, always seeming to be at the foundation of every enterprise she undertook, behind the scenes making it all work. She was very subtle in some ways, and very ferocious in others! (Who could forget the story of her holding three burglars at sword-point with her katana until the cops arrived?) Aleta was the first person to contact me from XCOR asking me if I was "still interested" in the internship position. Her description of what life and work on the Mojave Air and Space Port made me almost explode with wonderment and excitement. Of course I am "still interested"!!! She tried to downplay it and make it sound like a bad idea to come out, but for some reason it had the opposite effect, and just today I learned that all of the interns and new hires got a similar warning from her about the hardships of working on a dusty little spaceport for a little rocket company. Aleta always took care of us at the office and helped to create a wonderful, creative and easygoing work environment at XCOR. She always told us to go home and recharge if we were working too hard. Aleta and her husband Dan were very gracious and let me stay at their house in Mojave for free while they were trying to sell it. Unfortunately I didn't get to see Aleta since then, and I really regret that. I wish I'd taken the time to get to know her better. Sometimes you don't recognize how much someone means to you until they're gone, and I mourn that. This afternoon was her memorial here in Midland. Everyone had very fond memories of her and I enjoyed hearing stories about her from people who knew her much better than I did. 

Painting of Aleta on the cover of a science fiction book called "A Lion on Tharthee" by Grant Callin

Aleta posing with the "EZ Rocket," the first rocket powered vehicle built by XCOR.


Blog Reboot, Big Fun Scary Adventures

In an effort to revamp my web presence, I made a commitment to return to blogging, which in all honesty is more for my own benefit than for any readers that I still may have out there, because I feel it keeps me on track and focused on learning, exploring, and is a nice record of life experiences. It's like a more public version of my journal, (which I have been keeping regularly since 2005). 

Anyone have any good New Years Resolutions? Well, I really hate the term. So I've been sticking to an ollllllld term I picked up from my National Novel Writing Month days, called "Big, Fun, Scary Adventures", or BFS Adventures, which are like resolutions, but they must be big, fun and a little scary; something that takes you outside your comfort zone and grows you as a person. 

I'd like to share a few of mine!
  • Get back into archery
  • Complete 30 paintings (up from last year's 20)
  • Read 30 books (same goal as last year but only read 17... FAIL)
  • Start blogging and YouTubing again. Goal: 50 blog posts and 20 YouTube videos. (My channel is www.youtube.com/user/DTHRocket)
  • Transcribe 50 children's stories from YouTube in Chinese and learn the vocabulary. This is a new method I've been using to further my Chinese proficiency. My girlfriend Lulu has been helping me a lot!
I have a few others, but one of them I'm a little hesitant to share online!!! Suffice to say big life changes are on the horizon!

Speaking of life, what am I up to these days? I'm currently living in Midland, Texas, and still work at XCOR Aerospace, now as a full-time engineer! Life is pretty good. Lulu is attending grad school in Austin, and I try to drive down to see her a couple times a month. It's pretty hard being so far away, but it sure beats an America-China long distance relationship!

I'd like to touch on one thing I've been struggling with in the past few years. If you've been following this blog since it began in 2008 you probably have a clear sense of how ambitious I've been about reaching space and going far in my field. But to be honest, starting midway through college I've felt a pull in a much different direction. Don't get me wrong, aerospace is a deep passion of mine. But it isn't my everything. After my experience in China and making so many Chinese friends, I really felt God calling me there to serve Him. I don't know what that looks like, but I'm still praying about it. Is there tension between my love for aerospace and my love for China? Sometimes I feel there is, but not necessarily.

The bottom line is that I'm staying the course for now but I'm open to wherever and whatever God leads me to. Life is an adventure, and I see now that the greatest adventure may not be in the direction of my boyhood passion. But it might.

So what's this blog gonna be about this year? Honestly I don't know. I found as an intern that I couldn't really post about aerospace because everything I was doing was proprietary, and that's still true for the most part. Perhaps the deep theme has yet to unfold. You'll just have to keep reading to find out.


Wo Xuexi Zhongwen

I recently decided to be more serious about learning a new language, and between the two that I already am familiar with, Chinese and French, I chose Chinese. My goal is to become fluent within six months, so we'll see how I've progressed by September 1st.

I've learned that the best way to learn a new language is just to speak it, mistakes and all. The best thing about being a college student is that there are many, many international students to practice with. I have already made several friends this semester.

Learning Mandarin is not half as hard as it is made out to be. Yeah, you have to watch your tones, but even that is pretty easy once you get a feel for it. But the grammar and vocabulary make so much sense and are much simpler than western languages. For instance, no verb conjugation or tenses, no masculine/feminine shenanigans, etc. Where it is difficult, however, is character recognition. But thanks to pinyin, the Romanized system of spelling Chinese, I don't have to worry about it until later.


It's Been A Looong Time...

Hi there,

This post is meant to be an update on Daniel Hastings and his continuous upward climb to cool things in the sky. As you may know, I spent the last year in California working with XCOR on the Lynx. I decided to keep blogging to a minimum during this time, because it was all so proprietary, and besides my work for XCOR there wasn't much to say. But I'm back at school now, and I have three semesters before I graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State. 

In this post I wanted to share with my readers what I've been learning lately, and not just about engineering. About life, too. I've been learning a lot, I think, and this post is a collection of these thoughts rather compartmentalized in neat little rows.

The little things are just as important as the big things... if not more.

This is something I've come to realize lately. By little things, I mean boring trivial little ho-hum stuff. Life is made up of a bunch of little things, and life is certainly important. What I may shrug off as not interesting or of diminutive importance may have a lasting impact on somebody else. All the little things add up to one big thing of who you are. 

Now, in another sense, as an engineer the little things are important for more obvious reasons. Historically the little things bring down big things. One overlooked detail can have catastrophic ramifications. It's why engineering is so hard, and it's why I, as a generality person, have tried my hardest to become a detail person. I don't want the Lynx to go down because of something I forgot about inside the landing gear. *Shudder.*

Do things right the first time.

It sounds obvious to say, but doing a job halfway with intent to polish it up later is probably going to lead to much pain down the road. For instance, there was one occasion where I wanted to show an engineer a concept that I had for something. So I threw together a rough engineering drawing of my design, not worrying about proper drawing etiquette or proper dimensioning and tolerancing or anything. So the drawing got passed around a bit and then came back to me: We can't make this like this! Look at these sloppy dimensions! Lines everywhere! Give this to the machine shop and they'll say "silly intern, go sit in the corner!" 

I'm also a writer, as well as an engineer. Now, this goes against everything they will tell you in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org), but I say write it right the first time, or every time you think about your atrocious story you will want to just soak it in HCl and then take a flamethrower to it. I wrote two books during my internship, and... I squirm every time I think about them. You wanna read it? Send me an email!

Live with eternity in mind.


Life is a short paragraph prefacing a very, very exciting, never ending novel called heaven. Do you know what heaven is meant to be? The infinite, never-ending, humongous and powerful God who made everything, who is actively involved in holding the universe together, whose glory is so big I can only see shadows of it rather fleetingly (being manifested in some of the most glorious moments of my life), THAT God wants to have a beautiful, never-ending relationship with you, forever in his kingdom. It's hard to know exactly what life should be about, then, except in this frame of mind. Life is about glorifying God and enjoying him forever. We have Jesus who knows us so intimately--there is no suffering on earth that he himself has not suffered. Why? I dunno. But he loves me and gave his life for me, so that's what I'm going to make mine about. All the other stuff of life really won't last past the first page of the novel, so I'm going to go all in and give it all for my savior Jesus. When I'm alone, when I'm hurting, when I'm afraid, when I'm failing, when I lose and when I'm filled with guilt, I have Jesus as my closest friend, constantly, always there. 

Here is how C.S. Lewis imagined eternity, from the ending of "The Last Battle":

"And as for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Higher up and further in. Every year it's cooler. 


It's Here, It's Finally Here! Ender's Game First Trailer

I have been looking forward to an Ender's Game movie for a loooooong long time. Finally they have made one.. Terrified to see it, because it would be so easy to turn Ender's Game into something it's not. Also the story is rather disturbing and a literal translation to the big screen would most likely earn a thumbs down from me. I hope they are subtle. That's like saying I hope it will rain in the Mojave Desert. But I can hope.

P.S. I'm writing a book right now. More than that I will not say, because I hate to build expectations before I have a finished product.


The Coolest Picture Of SS2

Tail cam view of SS2 during burn.

(Credit Virgin Galactic)