Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, sorry.  I have been away for a while.  I have been finishing up with classes and such and then writing a major proposal for the last month.

Class turned out to be pretty much a disaster.  If you don't remember, which I don't expect you too, I was teaching the balloon class.  There were three groups that were doing the project, plus me and the GSI tried to do it too.  One of the groups pretty much finished a bit behind schedule, but still while classes were officially in session.  They had issues (like, it didn't really work), but nothing unusual.  The other teams had all sorts of personality issues.  They fought with each other and basically couldn't pull it together to get the project done.  One of the teams basically threw away their design a couple of days before launch and started over (except for the computer and some other components).  They each blamed other members of the team for being lazy and not showing up to meetings and such.  Needless to say, their balloon didn't work very well.  The other team had issues too, but it was only with a couple people on the team.  Their main issue was that their computer system was VERY complicated, because they were actually using something that they are going to launch into space in a year or so.  So, they took the time to figure out how to properly use the thing.  It was a very impressive effort.  Their system worked pretty much flawlessly.  Both of these teams launched about a week after classes ended (but before the end of final exams).

The GSI and I built a system together too, since I had never done this.  It was a challenge, since I was using components that I had never used before.  I was also trying to work while doing this, so it was a little overwhelming.   Eventually we got everything done and working and launched with one of the other teams.  Everything worked flawlessly on board the system.  The only problem we had was that I forgot the ground-station at work, because I was so busy trying to get things for the class team.  Oops.  I guess I fail my checklist.

Just after this ended, I started to work on a proposal for a CubeSat - which, for us is a 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm box (a shoe box, basically) that we will launch into space.  It has a cool instrument on it to measure neat things in the upper atmosphere (what you might call space).  I had a lot of issues with writing the proposal.  I was under the assumption that I would be writing the science part and a colleague of mine, assisted by Master's students, would be writing the spacecraft part.  Well, this was fatally flawed.  The students, who I have been working with over the last 8 months to design the satellite, had only a real vague idea of how to write a proposal (as you might expect), and could not really answer tough questions about the satellite.  I had naively believed that they had written a final report that we could just drag and drop into the proposal.  How stupid I am.  We basically used very little of the original document, and had to do some significant work to put the proposal together.  The other bad part of the whole ordeal was that my Co-PI went on vacation a week before the proposal was due, and was extremely busy with other things the week leading up to that.  So, I basically put the thing together with a bit of help from others.  Not really what I was expecting.  It took many, many, many more hours that I had expected.  But, I guess you can say that I know a LOT more about building a satellite now (or at least proposing).  All of this work is leading up to a bigger proposal to a bigger organization coming in about 8 months.  We are basically proposing the same satellite, but 48 of them.  With 100 times as much money.

But, that was yesterday (literally).  Today we are on vacation.  We have a rough start, since both CrabMama and I worked up until the last possible minute, and so had to do a lot of stuff this morning.  Add to that that we have someone house sitting for us, so CrabMama felt that we had to do spring cleaning, and you get a wonderfully tense situation.

But, no more.

I am literally sitting by the pool while the kids are swimming around.  Here is proof:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Major Neglect

I feel like I am neglecting you blog.  I am spending so much time with my photo blog, and now I have been seduced away even more by blogging using my real identity (Clark Kent).  They actually added my blog on the home page of the department.  How can I turn my back on that blog now, old blog?  I... I think that you might want to get out a little bit more and maybe see other blogs too.  Maybe you should, you know, try your luck on some other blogs and see how it goes. Don't worry, I am not, like, abandoning you.  It's just, you know, I need some space.  I need to have a little freedom.  Hey, I have a great idea - let's be friends.  You know, we can hang out, be buds and all.  Maybe have some benefits (if you know what I mean).  But, you know, like be able to see other blogs too.  You know?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not science, at work

While I listen to a fair bit of "modern" music (i.e., it has come out in the last 10 years), I occasionally find myself descending into an 80s trend.  I think that I am in one of those right now.  On Saturday, when I went on a bike ride, I was listening to 1984 by Van Halen.  "Hot For Teacher" has to be one of the best guitar songs ever.  I just listened to 90125 by Yes.  Now I am back to Van Halen.  On Friday I listened to The Police all day.  Don't worry, I will shake the 80s.  Maybe I'll whip out a little Genesis with Peter Gabriel (i.e., dip into the 70s) before returning to this century, though....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Science, at home

Today we put together our new telescope.  It can do 50x, which is pretty cool.  I also downloaded a sky map on my HTC Hero phone.  It is one of these apps that you can tilt the phone up and move it around and it will show you what you are looking at in the sky.  The app is really freaking cool.

Anyways, the app told us that Saturn was to the south east, so we tried to find it through the 50x zoom, which was quite hard.  You can take the doubler off the telescope, to make it 25x, which makes it much easier to find things.  I located a bright star in the field of view, then put the doubler back on.  After fiddling around for a while, Crab Girl saw rings!  I looked though and saw them too!  Then Crab Boy whacked the thing, and I had to readjust.  After that he saw Saturn's Rings too!  Crab Mama saw a blurred object, but wasn't really able to see rings.

I can appreciate how people would spend a fair bit of money on a nice telescope with a very nice tripod.  We have a $30 telescope and a $20 tripod.  Hard to see anything in focus.  But, it was UberCool!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Manning it up

Today I rode my bike to work.  It was the only day this week that I could actually ride, since I did the balloon launch on Tuesday, and tomorrow I get to go to my undergrad school and give them a talk on how I succeeded in life after getting a degree from there (what?)  Why is biking today so unusual?  Well, it is the first day of the year that I have biked while it is raining.  Now, it isn't pouring.  But, it is cold and rainy, which makes for a miserable ride.  Today I didn't feel miserable.  Today I felt like it was the only day that I could bike, and I was happy.

Just for note, it is the seventh day that I have biked in the last three weeks.

Next week, I won't be able to bike at all (well, maybe Monday I can bike a couple of miles), since I am going to be traveling.  If I am up to it, I may try to find a bike store somewhere in the area and see if I can rent a bike.  Or maybe I should do something like sit-ups or push-ups or jog or something.  Hmmmm....

Well, we shall see.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Balloon Launch of 2010

Today we launched a balloon.  And recovered it!

The day started off quite poorly.  For all of our launches except one, I have driven my own vehicle for all of the flights.  About a year ago, I bought a trailer so we could carry the Helium a little more safely.  I have been hauling it with our minivan, which Crab Mama was really pissed about.  Yesterday I reserved a van from the university.  They actually have vans with trailer hitches!  This morning, I went to pick up the van, and there were no seats in it!  After much hashing around and such, I actually found a Durango with a trailer hitch.  They let me rent that.  All of this took about an hour or so, which was much longer than I had anticipated.

After a slow start, we packed up and left.  We drove to the middle of BFE.  Actually, we stopped in a little itty bitty town to grab a bathroom and some food.  One of the students was talking to one of the people in the store and told her what we were doing.  When he told her we were going to another, even smaller town, she said something like "Oh, you better watch out for those people.  Don't close your eyes!"

Once we got to the launch place, we set everything up.  After a while, we launched!

We climbed back into the cars and proceeded to chase.  Everything actually went pretty well during the entire flight.  We were in constant communication with the package, so it was quite successful.  The main problem that we had was that we didn't have anyone in our car that knew how to manage the radio.  Therefore, we had to futz around with it for a long time to get it working.  It worked for the first half, and then we screwed something up, and it stopped working.

Oh, at this point, I should mention that Crab Girl and Crab Boy came with us.  So, when we couldn't get the radio to work, I got out my cell phone, hooked it up to the computer, and logged into, which is where we were broadcasting our position.  Crab Girl sat with the computer in her lap telling me where the balloon was, what altitude it was at and how fast it was going.  Constantly.  A stream of information.  It was the best navigation I have ever experienced!  She is a natural!
Finally, we turned down a dirt road, got behind a very slow moving truck, and someone yelled out "I see it!"  Then we all caught a glimpse of the balloon package falling out of the sky.  We pulled up to the field, just as it was touching the ground.  We all saw it splash down!  It was great!
Then, back to work.  Drop off the trailer.  Pick up the car, and go home!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

PD Issues

As promised, here are my issues:

PD#1: He just needs more than I can give.  It just feels like I give and I give and I give, but he just won't be satisfied.  Why can't see see MY needs?  Why is it all about HIM?

PD#2: Use the "&" to run the model in the BACKGROUND!  You don't have to sit there at your desk the whole time it is running! Emacs!  Use emacs!  Not pico!!!!  Who uses pico???  (In case you don't know, pico is the editor for pine, which I am sure enlightens a lot of you!)

PD#3: Uh....  Hmmm.... Stop fixing the model and do some science?  Uh, I guess you can't do science with a crappy broken model that your adviser made.... Uh....

Ok, that was probably unsatisfying.  It was unsatisfying for me too.  I just want to rant and rant and rant, but I don't feel like I can/should....  I am mostly frustrated with PD#1 having intense personal issues, which I don't want to deal with.

I have to say that I don't have to "deal" with many personal issues at work, though.  I would say that 90% of the students/post docs that I have worked with have brought very little personal stuff to me.  Maybe it is because I am a super-dick and they can see the "I don't give a sh*t" tattoo just under my hairline.  Just kidding.  It is really tattooed across my left buttock.