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shady deals and shuttles

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Been trying to get some projects closed down for Civilgrrl this week, so the game development has slowed.

I finally got paid for a project that was SUPPOSED to be a prepayment agreement, so we can get off dead center with that one. I'm also trying to get another project completed and out of our hair so we can move it into the "dead projects" box and out of our lives.

This one's been rather interesting. The client is well-known to be a bit shady in his dealings, so I've made it clear that nothing will be submitted until we've got a check in-hand. He insists that "we had a deal" in which we'd get half up-front and we'd bill him for the other half when the project's done. Problem is:

1. We had no such deal.
2. The project cost $5k, and he paid us $1k, which ain't half.

In any case, we've got the package ready to submit to the county, but it ain't getting submitted until we've got a check.

Problem with doing business this way is that you do a lot of driving. If we trusted 'em, we could've just shoved everything into an envelope and mailed it to him. Unfortunately, we don't, so I've gotta drive the project around so I can pick up a check when it's time for him to sign the papers. Yesterday I drove all the way to Midlothian (about 50 miles south of here, D/FW is a big place) just to find the office closed. So I get to make the trek again today.

I also sent one client's invoices to a collection agency this week. He's made it clear that he's not going to pay his bills. We were able to contact one of his client landowners who were more than a bit pissed that he wasn't paying his subcontractors. He apparently had convinced the landowners that the project wasn't being submitted because we were bad engineers, but they've now found out that the project wasn't moving because we didn't get paid. In any case, this is the first time I've worked with a collection agency, so I'm keen to see how well that works.

Doing business is fun. Doing business with the building and construction industries is extra fun!

On an entirely different note, it is exceedingly cool that somebody picked up the X-prize this week. I'd always been interested in the Shadow Composites project, because it looked like they were "doing it right" in the motor department. The motor is basically a large version of the "hybrid" motors that are becoming increasingly popular in large model rocketry (mainly because they are thus-far exempt from BATF regulation). You've basically got a big tank of nitrous oxide which is sent through an inert fuel-grain (basically a tube of thick plastic) and ignited. The nitrous itself doesn't burn but breaks off oxygens very easily, so it just takes a spark to set the plastic to burning.

It's a nice system because it's very safe. There's almost no danger of catostrophic failure (e.g. explosion), and it's got the advantage over other solid fuels that it can be shut off, which is why you saw those big "bunny ears" during the challenger explosion --the strap-on rockets were still flying even though the rest of the ship was gone.

Also you can render the entire system inert in the case of a fire elsewhere by simply venting off the nitrous. It's about as safe and simple a rocket motor as you can design. The only drawback is that it's heavy, which is why the thing doesn't take off from the ground. Most of that little shuttle you see is engine :)
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Actually it's Scaled Composites. Shadow Composites was the team using humans as CPUs and their souls for fuel. I've liked the Scaled Composites approach too. KISS is good in such things.

I've felt for the longest time we've over-engineered our rockets. I realize that getting to space is a hard problem that requires some complex solutions but if we're going to go to space routinely we need to start simple then trade simplicity for complexity in the places where it make sense to make the vehicles more economical, capable or safe.

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You are correct. Shadow Composites sells kevlar mat for model rockets. Thanks for the correction.

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