Presidential Candidate Selector

With only a few weeks left, I think it’s important to re-visit the whole candidate issue. My liveliest political conversations often come at the hands (expense of?) my friend, Tom Gasta, who — though often diametrically opposed to whatever I think — normally ends a conversation with, “I don’t think we’re all that different on the big issues.” I suspect he’s right. The problem, of course, is the definition of the “big issues”.

I’ve tried several of the candidate selectors available online, some good, some awful. I think my favorite is the one at President Match. After going through the entire questionairre, you’ll then have the opportunity to see side-by-side comparisons of the candidates. After completing this exercise, I can see why the Nation is so divided on this election. The problem is (at least, this is what I think the problem is…) that very few of us see things as black and white. While we might favor a stance on one issue, we could easily hold the opposite stand on another. And many of these things we might “somewhat support” or “somewhat oppose” and the candidate “strongly supports” or “strongly opposes”. So, in the end, although tools like these are helpful, we’re left to our own devices to make a decision. And when we get to that point, all of the intangibles that can’t be articulated or measured swing into play. Issues like morality, character, principles.

I’m interested to know how you scored, so be sure to let me know. In the interest of full disclosure, I was 51% Bush, 39% Kerry. But I can easily see after viewing the comparison that a couple of nudges in either direction on just a few issues would sway the results. Interesting…

Here's To You, Max. Well Done.

One of the things our customers get from us is the truth. At times, this puts us in a delicate position of having to disagree with something they might feel strongly about, or cause us to recommend something they haven’t thought of. I think it’s one of our greatest strengths: we never sit down at the table to play the role of the “Yes Man”. I was reminded of this when I heard this story about one of America’s great space heroes, Max Faget.

Paraphrasing commentator Andrew Chaiken, on NPR:

Every great achievement in space begins in the mind of an engineer on Earth. Last week, SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million X Prize because of some brilliant out-of-the-box thinking by its designer, Burt Rutan. More than 40 years ago, NASA’s brilliant out-of-the-box thinker was a small, wiry engineer named Max Faget. He was never a household name, even at the height of the space race. But his genius was crucial to NASA’s space triumphs.

In 1958, aerospace engineers were struggling with the biggest problem of space flight: protecting the craft and the astronauts from intense heat of re-entry. It would have to withstand temperatures hotter than the surface of the Sun, if anyone could figure out how to build such a craft. Most scientists favored a sleek needlenose design to minimize air resistance. But Faget had a different idea. He had heard researcher Harvey Allen talk about a ship with a blunt shape, allowing it to slam into the atmosphere, creating a shock wave that would deflect most of the heat away from the spacecraft. Allen’s idea went completely against conventional wisdom, but Faget knew it was right.

When the experts gathered for a conference in March, 1958 to discuss needlenose designs, they got an earful from Max Faget.

“You’re all wrong,” Faget said. “If you’re serious about putting a man in space anytime soon, a blunt body is the only way to go.” His outspokenness helped convince the skeptics and he designed the spacecraft for project Mercury with a blunt heatsheild. It was anything but sleek. But Faget’s Mercury capsule successfully carried the first American astronauts into space, inlcuding Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and Gordon Cooper. Faget went on to design the Apollo command module that carried astronauts from the Earth to the Moon and back. He even led the early design of the reusable space shuttle. But Mercury was always his proudest accomplishment.

Max Faget, Designer of the Mercury capsule and Apollo command module and clearly nobody’s “Yes Man”, died on Saturday at the age of 83. Here’s to you, Max.