Let’s Talk About Outer Space

Wasn’t that one of the reasons I started this website, way back in the early days of the universe when the photons were young and the ideals had moxie?

For those who might be relatively new around here and know me only from my “I’ve got a full-time-plus job and I might have a few seconds to throw some crap at the wall and see what sticks” days, there used to be a lot of spacey and astronomy-y things here. For example:

Transit of Venus astrophotography (along with other simple how-to bits for astrophotography)

Total lunar eclipse astrophotography (actually a couple more lunar eclipses as well)

History of manned space flight

Why NASA means so much to me

NASA Social at Edwards AFB

NASA Social at JPL for Orion launch

NASA Social at Palmdale for SOFIA

NASA Social in Washington DC for the Hubble Space Telescope 25th anniversary

NASA Social at Edwards AFB for LeapTech I would note for all of the NASA Social events, there were usually several days worth of posts and pictures, not just the one.

Why is this list important? It’s the one that I sent to the NASA Social team yesterday when I applied for the NASA Social on September 14 and 15th at JPL for the finale of the Cassini mission at Saturn. (If you’re interested, available, and meet the qualifications, you too can click on that link and apply before June 29th.)

On the one hand, I would  REALLY  like to get an invite to this NASA Social. Aside from the fact that it’s been over two years since I’ve been to one (that whole “job” thing mentioned above is really interfering with my fun!), this event promises to be spectacular, emotional, and a singular event in this generation of our exploration of the outer planets.

What are my odds of getting accepted? I suspect they’re…

…astronomical. (Nope, not sorry at all.)

I don’t know how many people will apply for those 25 spots. Not a clue actually. (Kate? Ballpark figures maybe?) I can say that as a WAG I would expect it to be 2,500+ and I wouldn’t be too awfully surprised to hear it was 25,000+.

One clue on the level of competition comes from the upgraded online form that they’re using. They want to make sure that you’re reaching a big crowd so they’re getting the best bang for their buck in inviting you. So now when you identify your Twitter or FaceBook or Instagram accounts, you’re asked to identify how many followers or friends you have:

Maybe it’s me, but if, say, Will Wheaton or John Scalzi wanted to go to this event and could be checking off those boxes deep into the lower half of this grid, they just might get preference over lil’ ol’ me. Just maybe.

Be that as it may, I’ve applied. So if nothing else, let’s start using this as a motivator over the next few weeks to spend much more time here talking about the things that I came here for in the first place. It can’t hurt!

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Filed under Astronomy, Space

Three Days Later

4:57, 4:58, 4:59… and all I’ve got is that it wasn’t “tomorrow” but three days later.

Then it occurs to me that I came up with THIS, so while it’s very, very meta (not failing to be creative by creatively talking about an article in which I talked about possibly failing to be creative) it is better than nothing. But it’s very Ouroboros-ish and I’m not fond of snakes.

Beggars can’t be choosers, but they can apparently be snake charmers.

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The Most Boring Video Game In The Universe

There are projects and deadlines afoot. One of the larger ones involves my CAF gig as Finance Officer for the Southern California Wing and a conversion of our accounting records from Quicken to QuickBooks Online (QBO).

The nicest thing I have to say about QBO is that is probably is no longer in the top three worst programs I’ve ever used in my life. It easily was when I first looked at it about two years ago. Now, it’s probably just in the top ten worst programs I’ve ever used. When you’re stuck with the hand I’ve been handed on this one, you look for “good” wherever you can find it.

As an example of the difficulties involved, consider that  when our old file was converted to their new format and uploaded two years ago, there were thousands of “recurring transactions” created, every single one of which was wrong. Flat out wrong. Garbage. Useless.

Worse than useless in fact, since the “recurring transactions” function is one which I’ll need to rely on heavily. But I can’t use it because of all of the garbage that’s already in there. So I went in to delete the old stuff, the garbage.

3,153 useless, problem, garbage entries.

Where’s the delete button?

Well, I finally found it. On each item listed (slowly, because QBO has to refresh the screen via its Internet connection after every change, so you had damn well better have a good one) there’s a tiny icon that will let you edit, duplicate, or delete that entry. Hit “delete.” Now, of course, you’re asked to confirm that you want to delete the entry. Hit “yes.” Wait for the screen to refresh. Repeat.

Cool – so how do I delete all of them? (If you see this coming, don’t spoil it for those who haven’t been exposed to QBO yet.)

I searched and searched for something that would let me block a whole bunch of entries and once and delete them en masse. Can I do a “page” of 50 or 150 or 300 at a time? Nope. Can I go down the list and highlight or tag a whole bunch of them one at a time and then delete them, like I would spam emails? Nope.

So I went to the “help” function, which actually isn’t really any help from QBO at all, but a portal into a user community. The people who wrote the program don’t seem to be able to take the time to answer questions, but I can throw myself on the mercy of those who also have to use it and pray for guidance.

Guidance was swift and brutal. There is no way to delete those 3,153 entries other than to do it One. Entry. At. A. Time.

Click the icon, click “delete,” click “yes,” wait for the screen to refresh, repeat until the heat death of the universe.

Mind you, this needs to be done in addition to the thousands of records of data that need to be entered and reconciled and verified from the old program file. This is just one tiny little aspect of the bigger problem.

The only good news is that this particular useless task can be done on my iPad. That means that if I need to take a break and sit and watch a ballgame or just plotz for an hour or so, I can mindlessly work through another few hundred entries. At lunch time, every single day this month so far, you’ll see me sitting out on the plaza, stuffing my face with one hand and Icon-Delete-Yes-Waiting with the other.

It was while doing this today that someone saw me and came over to chat. “I see you here every day on that thing. What are you playing?”

Yes, yes, please tell me, you look so engrossed! Minecraft? Some new MMORPG? Pokemon Go? How can I get in on some of this?

“The most boring video game in the universe.”

“So…why are you playing it?”

Nothing gets past some folks.

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Your Marching Orders – June 20th

Some days you need to listen to Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” album at extremely high volume, regardless of the late-ish hour and the possible proximity of the neighbors.

Today is that day.

You have your marching orders.

Go listen to Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” album at extremely high volume!

(Actually, it’s so freakin’ hot here that the neightbors are all buttoned up with the A/C going full blast and so are we, so unless Supertramp actually shows up and sets up a gazillion watt sound system in the room with me, they’re never going to notice. Wait, did I get sidetracked again?)


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No Context For You – June 19th

Lightning round!

A very quick search of the site (and I don’t have time at the moment for much more than a very quick search) does not find that I’ve ever used the phrase, “Make art!” This makes me think I have not yet related a best and favorite story of my college days.

Maybe tomorrow….

The punch line (spoiler alert!) was that I got some very valuable lessons that taught me how to look at problems and problem solving from a much different viewpoint. I had to learn to see things differently and allow myself to be creative.

With the deadlines I’m working under currently and very little time to spend on this site, it occurs to me tonight that what I’m doing is a bit of that only in a much shorter time frame. I only have a few minutes a night so if I don’t already have a thought or something I took pictures of to share, my brain says to my brain, “Five minutes to be creative and clever… GO!”

Somewhat stressful, but also curiously exhilarating. At least, it’s exhilarating as long as I have yet to get to 4:59 while sitting there slack jawed with a look of terror in my eyes.

Maybe tomorrow…

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Happy Father’s Day, Y’all

I hope everyone enjoyed their Father’s Day, either by talking to your father, remembering your father, being a father (I got the pleasure of having nice, long chats with all three of my kids), or at the very least, getting into the whole NPR twitter thread about “dad jokes.”

There were some in there I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. It was a true flashback in many respects.

How do you hide an elephant in a cherry tree? Paint their toenails red!

Have you ever seen an elephant hiding in a cherry tree? It really works, doesn’t it!

Dad, can you make me a sandwich? Poof – you’re a sandwich!

There are a million of them, pretty much literally.

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Says It All

A couple of months ago, the routine pictures Curiosity takes of its wheels (to inspect for damage) showed that there was a small stone caught up in the hollow wheel and traveling along with the rover on Mars.

Today they showed that it was still there:

I wondered:

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Filed under Astronomy, Deep Thoughts, Space