Archive for July, 2012

Things I do not need in my Olympics Coverage

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Social media and news aggregation spoiling key results; don’t need this.
Wincing and groaning commentators when gymnasts fumble routines; don’t need this.
Coverage of weightlifting events; don’t need this.

Olympics Ongoing

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Out of habit I often find myself checking Google news, but now that the Olympics have started I have to to be more restrained. I will follow swimming, gymnastics and some track & field. I don’t want any spoilers, so less reliance on news aggregation (sorry Google!). For example, tonight it will be Phelps and Lochte vs. the world in the 400m IM. My pick is Lochte.

Back in the Pool

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Been so busy clearing out my house in Downey for new tenants that had to forgo swimming this week, until this morning. It felt great to be back in the pool. Although, due to special events at my regular aquatic center, the team had to practice at an alternate pool in Newhall. Despite the being slightly too warm for great swimmimg, it still, great to be swimming before dawn.

Great Things Happening at SCV Startup!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Over the past several months I’ve become engaged in a great local startup community at scvstartup.com. I’ve only been to three meetings but they have all been great! The group is getting the attention of VC players such as Jim Armstrong; witness this blog post. Next major event will be a Startup Weekend in early October! That’s huge! Why fight traffic going to Santa Monica when there’s a vibrant local community? I could easily walk to our meetups – hows that for concenience. Great group! Let’s have some fun!

On Becoming a Landlord

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Great news! Found a family to rent my old house. Very nice people, and I think they will be a good addition to the neighborhood.

Last couple of days have been occupied by getting the place ready for them; basically, clearing and cleaning.

It’s been a while since I’ve had this kind of transition, but it’s all good. Hard work getting ready, but it’s all good. Happy for them, happy for myself, and it will be good to have the place occupied.

Batman, the Dark Knight Rises

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I am compelled to say ‘spoiler alert’ although it barely is, really. My comment speaks to a third order plot point, but still, since I reaveal, I will assert ‘spoiler alert’

Anyway, I found the movie to stretch the willing suspension of disbelief way beyond its elastic limit. Because, really, who is going to believe that anyone would lift a finger to save a congressman? Seriously; unbelievable.

Commemorating a Special Day – Apollo 11

Friday, July 20th, 2012
Upshot of the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, the Eagle

History and Heroism Infuse the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing!

A Day to Remember!

July 20th 1969 was a special day for this future Aerospace Engineer, in more ways than one. While not aware at the time that was to be my profession, I was a totally engrossed in America’s space program. And so, despite ample distractions, which I will describe later, I found myself planted in front of the television set on that muggy mid-summer evening. I watched history unfold, and heroism manifest, as it was captured and conveyed back to Earth; grainy chunks of rasterized black, white and gray imagery on that screen – breathless.

That was the day that man landed on the moon.

Visionary and Powerful Leadership

It was the crowning event of the American quest set in motion by President Kennedy during his special address to Congress in which he said that “…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Beautiful, inspirational leadership, and a simple yet elegant system specification as well. To read the entire speech is to witness the power of effective leadership, meted out respectfully mindful of the balance of powers between our three branches of government. A balance of power, and relationships between the branches as established and constrained by our US Constitution. The mission to the moon, and the occasion of this speech, were not for mere pyrotechnic display, or theater, respectively. On the contrary, the President was asking for resources from the Congress in the name of national security. Kennedy cited the extreme stresses of the time, in the midst of the Cold War, and recognizing the on-going struggle between freedom and tyranny taking place on the world stage.

Failed Leadership and Floundering

Kennedy’s strength at the time saddens me, now when considering in contrast, the profound weakness of our current president. Bowing as he does before world leaders, apologizing for, and denying American exceptionalism, abandoning our allies, and decimating our current space program to the point of shambles – we now rely on Russian transport to ferry our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Pitiful.

Heroism Manifest

As for heroism though, I am continually inspired by that of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – the crew of Apollo 11. To me this is the height of human achievement, exemplary performance under pressure, and a testament to the quality of the human spirit. A spirit which is capable to aspire to, and to accomplish great things. At the bottom of this post I have embedded an annotated video clip of the final 13 of descent and landing on the moon. Armstrong, Aldrin and Mission Control acting in perfect coordination. This is heroism exemplified – Armstrong at the control, Aldrin as co-pilot monitoring systems, and Mission Control coolly and professionally executed mission operations per procedure.

Using computer systems that would be dwarfed in comparison to even the simplest mobile phones of today, they prevailed. The entire video transfixes me, but in particular the last three minutes are absolutely riveting. As Armstrong assesses the suitability of the landing zone he in fact has to make manual flight adjustments to avoid boulder fields. Meanwhile Aldrin is calmly reporting systems status – with master alarms going off, no less! The guidance system was being overloaded, but because of robust software design the descent could continue. Regardless, dealing with master alarms in the final seconds of the landing on man’s greatest adventure to date had to be unnerving – still they steadied on. When they landed the Eagle Lunar Module had less than 25 seconds of fuel remaining. Incredible!

Landing, and then the words: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

A Special Gift for a delighted Birthday Boy

As for my other distractions; that day also happened to an anniversary of my own birthday – no need to tell you which anniversary, we’ll let that be a mystery. I am not sure where I stand on the concept of destiny – I don’t actually think that being born on a day that later would also be the day of the first moon landing made me be an aerospace engineer. How I became that is a story for another day.

I can’t deny though, the power of inspiration that I draw from this. Coincidences like this could have had an influence on such choices. But all of that speculation aside I do know that year after year it makes my birthday feel all that more special to me. Not only can I celebrate life, but I can share remembrance of a moment steeped in history and heroism – a moment in time when, as a result of strong vision and leadership, and of near perfect human execution, a great thing was accomplished!

Watch the video here; embedded link provided for your viewing and your appreciation, the annotated video of the Apollo 11 descent and landing:

In addition, the wikipedia entry for this mission is also very interesting.

I find this event inspirational; how does it affect you?

The World Needs a Magical Scoop

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Where’s my Magical Scoop?

What the World Needs Now…

…well maybe not the world, but at least me. This thing would come in real handy. Look at that big pile of change. Accumulated over time. Now what?

So, maybe its maybe it’s just me, but what I need…

…is a Magical Scoop!

I want this magical scoop so that I can dig through this box’o’coins and sort the  coins, and then, before I forget… the scoop has got to put the into properly counted rolls. Well, something else too, I want the scoop deposit the collected, counted and rolled money into my bank account.

That’s not asking too much, is it? What do you think?

 

Good News/Bad News in Space

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Good News – NASA’s Next Generation Crew Vehicle is in Testing!

Good News, Bad News, in Space?

While starting to research a post lamenting the sad state of affairs with regard to US Manned Spaceflight I stumbled upon a bit of good news. So instead of a standalone bad news post, this turned into a good news/bad news post. Let’s start with the bad news, to get it out of the way.

US Needs Russia for Transport to ISS

Since the demise of the US Space Shuttle program, the United States has relied on the Russians to provide transportation of our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The latest trip is ferried our Sunita Williams as a result of a successful docking of the Soyuz capsule with the ISS as reported by Fox News.

As a child of the space age, I grew up in an era when American exceptionalism, including, if not led by our accomplishments is space, was embraced and celebrated. Not so much now, when in America, starting with the office of president our past accomplishments almost seem a source of shame, and are downplayed and even used as cause for apology to the world. Regardless it galls me that we find ourselves as a space-faring nation having to depend on the Russians for transport.

I guess it could be worse; I suppose that absent a Russian program we could enlist the services of the Chinese? How does that sound to you?

Good News – Orion is in the Pipeline

In contrast with that gloomy outlook, witness the other side of the coin – progress is being made on the Orion program. According to the story on NASA’s website:

“A C-17 plane dropped a test version of Orion from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona. This test was the second to use an Orion craft that mimics the full size and shape of the spacecraft. Orion’s drogue chutes were deployed between 15,000 feet and 20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which deployed the main landing parachutes. Orion descended about 25 feet per second, well below its maximum designed touchdown speed, when it landed on the desert floor.”

Despite our current dependence for astronautic ferrying, developments in the Orion program are hopeful signs that US standing in space will improve. Whether such progress will be sufficient to keep pace with other nations who are advancing in space, such as the Chinese in particular is up for debate.

Given how important space capabilities are to our national defense, I remain skeptical as to its sufficiency; what do you think?

Hot for Mentor?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Stern Mentor Deconstructed

Stern Mentor Deconstructed by Michael Jay LaRue

While poring over my recent card acquisitions from Avacyn Restored I noticed art by an artist I have not noticed before, Igor Kierluk. His work on Stern Mentor is outstanding, and it serves as an example of effective composition.

The character is emphasized by choices made by the artist. The most important of these choices is the triangular composition formed by the three candles. The grouping of three items, is itself a common and effective technique – this choice is pleasing to the eye.

Beyond just the grouping, there is thoughtfulness in its placement. The bases of the candles, labeled A,B, and C create an interesting planar structure in the drawing. This plane is oriented in such a way that establishes an up shot. The viewer is looking upward into this scene. This choice adds drama and makes the character seem more imposing and formidable. As such, the artist is faithfully executing the art consistently with it theme as embodied in its title. Isn’t it appropriate, and therefor effective, to portray a Stern Mentor in this way? I think so. 

Not to belabor the point but there is an additional side benefit to this approach – notice how the plane intersects the character at about the level of her sternum. The lower two thirds of the figure, below the plane, is shaded in red in my deconstruction drawing. The placement of this intersection bisects the figure at its topmost third. Things presented in thirds are appealing.

A final element worth noting is the triangular construct formed by the orb in the background as a counterbalance to the character in the foreground.

To summarize, I think this is very beautiful drawing that is enhanced by careful use of triangular constructs that focus our attention on the character. There is an ample demonstration of depth, foreground, to middle-ground, to background.

I totally buy this approach – that character clearly and truly is a stern mentor; my complements to the artist Igor Kieryluk.