Light dusting my @$$

I was told that this is a light dusting compared to Chicago, but this is starting to look like mountain weather at this point-it has been snowing for close to 18 hours now. I think there is a good 12-18 inches on top of this truck.

The snow drift next to the truck is a Mazda 3 (for scale):

A view down the driveway-shoveled clear before noon, completely covered again by 5pm:

Stairs, also cleared at noon, completely covered again by 5pm

Still snowing and no sign of plows, I wonder if the Mayor's last name is Bilandic...


For Veteran's Day and Memorial Day too

Bloody hell. I missed my annual posting for Memorial Day and now Veteran's day has passed as well.

First, to honor Veteran's Day in the Geek Way, Wired's Geek Dad has a list of Geek heros who were real heros as well. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/11/geekdad-salutes-our-veterans/

Well, to maintain my haphazard tradition of posting military poems, I found this one by General George S. Patton, Jr., called "Through A Glass, Darkly". It is a bit long, but I post it here anyway.


Through the travail of the ages,

Midst the pomp and toil of war,

Have I fought and strove and perished

Countless times upon this star.

In the form of many people

In all panoplies of time

Have I seen the luring vision

Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

I have battled for fresh mammoth,

I have warred for pastures new,

I have listed to the whispers

When the race trek instinct grew.

I have known the call to battle

In each changeless changing shape

From the high souled voice of conscience

To the beastly lust for rape.

I have sinned and I have suffered,

Played the hero and the knave;

Fought for belly, shame, or country,

And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles

For the visions are not clear,

Yet, I see the twisted faces

And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior

In His sacred helpless side.

Yet, I've called His name in blessing

When after times I died.

In the dimness of the shadows

Where we hairy heathens warred,

I can taste in thought the lifeblood;

We used teeth before the sword.

While in later clearer vision

I can sense the coppery sweat,

Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery

When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.

Hear the rattle of the harness

Where the Persian darts bounced clear,

See their chariots wheel in panic

From the Hoplite's leveled spear.

See the goal grow monthly longer,

Reaching for the walls of Tyre.

Hear the crash of tons of granite,

Smell the quenchless eastern fire.

Still more clearly as a Roman,

Can I see the Legion close,

As our third rank moved in forward

And the short sword found our foes.

Once again I feel the anguish

Of that blistering treeless plain

When the Parthian showered death bolts,

And our discipline was in vain.

I remember all the suffering

Of those arrows in my neck.

Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage

As I died upon my back.

Once again I smell the heat sparks

When my flemish plate gave way

And the lance ripped through my entrails

As on Crecy's field I lay.

In the windless, blinding stillness

Of the glittering tropic sea

I can see the bubbles rising

Where we set the captives free.

Midst the spume of half a tempest

I have heard the bulwarks go

When the crashing, point blank round shot

Sent destruction to our foe.

I have fought with gun and cutlass

On the red and slippery deck

With all Hell aflame within me

And a rope around my neck.

And still later as a General

Have I galloped with Murat

When we laughed at death and numbers

Trusting in the Emperor's Star.

Till at last our star faded,

And we shouted to our doom

Where the sunken road of Ohein

Closed us in it's quivering gloom.

So but now with Tanks a'clatter

Have I waddled on the foe

Belching death at twenty paces,

By the star shell's ghastly glow.

So as through a glass, and darkly

The age long strife I see

Where I fought in many guises,

Many names, -- but always me.

And I see not in my blindness

What the objects were I wrought,

But as God rules o'er our bickerings

It was through His will I fought.

So forever in the future,

Shall I battle as of yore,

Dying to be born a fighter,

But to die again, once more.


Is Halloween dead? It seems to be in Maryland...

No offense to native Marylander's, but are you from a different America? I have only been in this state about 2 months, but I find it hard to believe I will last a full year.

Halloween came and went this year, but it was very disappointing. We were ready to rock. The kids had matching Power Ranger costumes (their choice). We had candy. We had pumpkins-I even carved three into Jack O'Lantern's (Named for an Irishman, I am sure). Not a single trick or treater was sighted in the neighborhood. We took the kids out shortly after dark, but not very late (around 1900 local time). Out of about six doorbells, only two people answered their doors. They had treats to hand out, but still seemed genuinely surprised to see anyone out and about. We took our now thoroughly dejected kids home in the slight drizzle that just seemed timed for the sad music part of our day. We turned on the TV and couldn't even find the Great Pumpkin on TV. It was like we were in the old Soviet Union. In Russia, you don't scare people, Russia scares you! Bah, I can't even do humor, I am so depressed.

Maryland, you are on notice. We have a few more holidays in the near future. You better get ready to celebrate like you're in America or we kick you out of the union. My family will relocate if we have to. Virginia is starting to sound nice.

So much for Goth Christmas 2009.


Farewell to JSF Flight Test

28 August 2009 marks a personal milestone. It was my last day working on the Pratt & Whitney Joint Strike Fighter engine (aka the F135). It is hard to believe that I worked almost ten years on that program (and slightly more than 10 years as a UTC employee). Unfortunately, I had to leave the company for personal reasons.

I spent most of the last five years supporting ground testing of engines and flight testing of the F-35 Lightning II (the official name for the Joint Strike Fighter). I was able to see and do many cool things.

I attended the last bolt ceremony for the first engine to test.

I went to Indy to help install some equipment that Rolls Royce used to test their LiftFan.

I helped install and test the first STOVL ground test engine at our facility in Florida. I was hanging upside down at one point behind the LiftFan (the upward pointing cone in the picture below) trying to hook up cables I could barely touch but could not see. Obviously, before we started running the engine and there was a safety platform under me. Good times.

I was able to get some trips to Tennessee to learn how to test engines at simulated altitude conditions at Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC).

I spent some time helping out on Accelerated Mission Testing of a STOVL engine. Third shift was so much fun.

I then moved to Texas in 2005 to support engine/airframe integration testing in the labs (required for flight clearance). While there, I got to see and do more cool things.

I watched the first takeoff and landing of the first Joint Strike Fighter (AA-1) before they started calling it the F-35 Lightning II. The landing gear was extended, so it had to climb at a steep angle to keep within speed limits. The chase planes were on full afterburner trying to catch up. A very rewarding sight to an engine guy. First flight was followed up by a party at the Flying Saucer (where I scored free beer from an anonymous P&W executive).

I had the opportunity to test many engines in a Navy hush house. It was great to sit in a trailer, outside of a thick walled building and feel the ground shake when the engine was at maximum augmentation (aka full afterburner for you GE fans).

I learned how to cover flight tests from the control room and was able to support a number of AA-1 flights.

I was able to attend the F-35C carrier variant rollout.

Finally, I got to cover the ground tests and first flight of BF-2, the second F-35B to fly. This took a lot of late nights, 3rd shift work, and weekends, but it was worth it. I even got a very cool challenge coin from the test pilot (he gave one to each of the control room folks). I covered all but the last two flights, including the first aerial refueling of an F-35B (click for a link to LM press release along with a great photo). These were some of the most difficult but also most rewarding work experiences of my life.

But while it was great to see and do cool things, the part of my job in Texas I will miss the most is working with some of the best people on the planet-the P&W/HS Flight Test Team. May our paths cross again one day.

If you are interested in this program, you can find out more at www.jsf.mil (lots of pictures there) or at www.twitter.com/f135engine.


Where did the last two months go?

Huh. It has been more than two months since I wrote something here. Where did the time go?

Helped family move to temporary housing, found daycare, then left family went back to work.

Worked a few extra hours.

Helped family find a house to live in long term, then left family and went back to work.

Worked too many hours trying to get an airplane ready to fly.

Went back to see family for Independence Day, helped with unpacking and moving of heavy objects. Saw some fireworks, hung out with kids, then left family and went back to work.

Worked a stupid amount of hours but finally got airplane in the air.

Keep having to work weekends, so have not seen family in a month. Major suck factor.

Occasionally babbled on twitter. Waiting for work to slow down so I can get back out for a visit.


The Great Move of 2009

Well, we did it again. We moved from one side of the Mississippi to the other. This time east bound to the DC area from Hell's Half Acre in Texas. It took us 3 days. We passed through big portions of four states. The cats shed a lot of fur. The kids (two this time instead of one) took some years off our lives.

Some highlights:
-Cats seemed to find tiny places with good claw holds in which to hide. Fortunately, nature has provided a convenient hand hold on the scruff of the neck. Otherwise, we would have left them somewhere (under a hotel bed or under the back seat of the truck).
-Saw Memphis, TN and was seriously underwhelmed. Place needs an enhanced blast weapon (instead of an enhanced radiation weapon). Kim Jong-Il, this one is a freebie.
-Stopped at Graceland, but the price and the wait (more than the price) made it unattractive, so we did not see the Jungle Room or the cars or the Gold Records. We did briefly see the airplanes (not bad for the time, but pretty unimpressive today).
-Did not see the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue, very disappointed.
-Stopped near Roanoke to check out the Smoky Mountain Brewery and Restaurant. Good stout, so-so food (okay for a pub).
-Spent the night in Kingsport, TN (never heard of it before). We stayed at the Jameson Inn, which was pet friendly, people friendly, and NOT selected due to whiskey preferences.
-Stopped at the Natural Bridge-one big hunk of rock. Got completely soaked in the rain, but the kids seemed to have fun.
-Have become fully ensconced in corporate apartment (Cats have registered grudging approval due to high cabinets that they can climb).

We plan to check out museums (okay, just the Udvar-Hazy center at Dulles) in between house hunting and daycare/school hunting (no licenses required and no bag limit-yeehaw).


T-2 days and counting

We are getting ready to move the wife, kids, and cats cross country to the DC area. Packers come tomorrow (not the ones from Green Bay). Movers come Saturday. Sunday we hit the road (on the road again...).

My temporary apartment is mostly set up.

Kids are starting to tweak like crackheads.

Wife is pretty stressed.

Cats are giving us dirty looks (they don't realize they are coming with, when they do, then the hating will really begin).


This explains my thought processes most days...

I am really starting to like the web comic XKCD. If you know me, then you will understand why I really like this particular edition.

Direct link to this XKCD page: http://xkcd.com/337/

It also meshes well with Rule #21 of the USMC Rules of Gunfighting: ""Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet."


UPDATED (again): All hail the frakin' hail!

Just had golf ball size hail hit here in Texas. I believe when they say that, that is meant as some sort of average hail size. Something much larger or much faster than that hit the rear window of my car and shattered it. Something else hit one of my rear view mirrors, cracked the plastic housing, and knocked the housing off the car. Will update with photos of horrendous damage in the morning when I have some light (and no rain).

Did I mention that I just had hail damage fixed on the car late last year?

Frakin' hail!

UPDATE: Now with pictures! It took about an hour to clean up the glass and water. I am glad I wasn't on the road with the kids, because glass shards covered the car seats and back seat area as well as the hatchback/trunk. My insurance company has mobilized a catastrophe team for the region. No rental cars until after 1430 local time. My car determined to be unsafe to drive until an adjuster can inspect in person. Guess I am on the motorcycle for a while today.

The place where my rear window used to be....

One of three spider web cracks in the windshield....

The roof of the car simulating the dark side of the moon....

UPDATE 2: Got the insurance appraisal. Initial damage estimate is $6200. Holy impact damage, Batman. All that from some falling iceballs. Frakin' hail. Car has been delivered to the body shop. There were about 20 cars parked on the grass. The owner's wife had to start working there just to keep up with the paper work. I heard they are hiring a huge number of paintless dent removal techs (if they can find them).


I am in San Diego

Busy doing stuff, so not really posting much. If you have never been here, check out these pictures:


For those of you stuck in cold places, take heart. It is not sunny and 70-80 deg F here. It is only in the 50-60 deg F range and only sunny sometimes. Don't hate me.

Since I will be here for St. Patrick's day, I may head out to see what amateur hour looks like here.

If you like beer, go to the Coronado Brewing Company on Coronado Island-good beer and good food.


Go read xkcd now

Go to this web site and check out this web comic:


Then notice that there is a button that takes you back to to the very first drawing. Read them all obsessively. Do it now. Obey.


Messing around with 2 Dimensional Bar Codes

Check this out.  

Go get some 2D reader software and install it on your camera equipped smart phone.  One example is NeoReader.  

Next, use the software to scan a 2DBC (like 3DBB only one dimension less) and see what happens.  What?  You don't have any 2DBCs laying around?  Well try this one:

The software should have taken you to this web page.  The information store in the image above is actually my blog's URL: http://spacer1.blogspot.com
Pretty cool, eh?  If you add this design to various items, people can scan it and get the URL back.  The above image was created using a java tool from this web page.  Enjoy.


Pondering counterintelligence

I have recently started playing around with twitter.  I am only following a couple of people at the moment.  One of them recommended reading "Foreign Spies Are Serious.  Are We?" by Michelle Van Cleave.  He then recommended that after reading and thinking about this article, people should blog about it.  He wrote his post here: "Foreign Spies Make Recession Worse and Steal Part of Our Future."  Both individuals are highly experienced individuals with experience in the intelligence community.  Ms. Van Cleave was the head of the National Counterintelligence Executive (great site for some historical papers on counterintelligence, by the way) from 2003 to 2006.  She wrote a longer, more in depth case study on the same subject here.

I cannot lay claim to their level of experience or subject specific knowledge.  I only have access to open source information.  Here is my take:

-There have been some truly embarrassing CI failures over the last three decades (Ames, Hansen, Walker, et al).
-The threat has not changed, despite changes in geopolitics, wars, and economies (it may be more dangerous than before, but is certainly no safer).
-US counterintelligence is still decentralized and distributed (i.e., no single Federal agency in charge), with little apparent change in operating techniques (despite significant changes in technologies, real/potential enemies, etc).

I think this generally lines up with some of the items written in the articles and blogs mentioned above.  I do, however, have some differences of opinion.

-There seems to be a call to arms, as it were, to address this significant danger, before it is too late, etc.  I am convinced that we can and should do things better in every government endeavor-we are paying billions and billions of dollars every year.  We should get the best service or get our money back.  Since it is important to get it right and since it will be difficult to undo the bureaucracy that will inevitably result, we should move slowly.  Any serious threats are already damaging us today and are not likely to be instantly fixed.  So let us get this right on paper, get the supporting agencies and consumers to agree, program the money and the people, and then drive it home with the appropriate laws, Presidential orders and congressional mandates (rather than starting with the mandates and trying to work in the other direction).

-I am not convinced that technology transfer via espionage, violation of export controls, etc is as dangerous as advertised.  I take this position because I am an engineer (okay, a geek and a nerd, but I know some really crazy martial arts, so back off man).  Any nation capable of understanding and exploiting our technology would have gotten there anyway.  Espionage might accelerate things or it might not (knowing how a nuclear weapon is designed does not help if you do not have the materials, tools, and personnel).  Espionage might even work for us (we could feed false or misleading information causing our opponents to waste time and money-Strategic Missile Defense comes to mind).  

-Whether or not you agree with that assessment, you should realize that it is too late.  Much of our technology has already been exported voluntarily by the our companies.  Most large defense contractors have international operations whose goal is to sell US defense technology everywhere they are allowed to do it.  At least one (BAE) started as a foreign company and moved some operations into the US to tap into our huge budgets.  Many US technology companies routinely outsource manufacturing, coding, and tech support over seas to save money.  Many US companies have opened joint ventures in China and elsewhere (joint research ventures, joint manufacturing operations, etc).  I do not think you can protect your technology by hiding it.  I do think there are strategies.  One is to always advance.  Keep updating your tech, keep researching alternatives, do not put all of your eggs in one basket (so if one technology or system is compromised, you can "ground" it and fire up the alternate systems instead).  Another is to incorporate fool proofing or copy protection into your products and software.  This is not as easy as it sounds and is more of a delaying tactic (it forces your opponent to crack the code first-and they will crack it).

Anyway, that's my short rant on the subject.  Fire when ready, Gridley.


Happy 2009!

Happy 2009.  Nothing extraordinary going on.  I am alive and so are most of the people I care about.

Since I don't have much to say, let's go all traditional and hear from Robbie Burns instead (he of the hee-land lassies):

Auld Lang Syne
Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And days o' auld lang syne.

And for auld lang syne, my jo, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne,

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp! 
And surely I'll be mine! 
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 

We twa hae run about the braes 
And pu'd the gowans fine; 
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot 
Sin auld lang syne. 

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn, 
Frae mornin' sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 
Sin auld lang syne. 

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! 
And gie's a hand o' thine! 
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught, 
For auld lang syne.