Sunday, April 1, 2018

Chinese Space Station Lands in Hawaiʻi

We received an emergency alert text message on our phones early AM that said space station debris over the island of Oʻahu were possible. This is the first Chinese space station Tiangong-1 falling out of orbit. This was followed 20 minutes later by another message saying this was not a test and this time the possibility was real (as opposed to the message in January about an incoming ballistic missile that turned out to be false). There were some streaks of light in the sky although this is not unusual for Honolulu, which regularly has a fireworks show for tourists. Then some images from around the island started coming in.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Prince Kūhiō Day

Today is a state holiday in Hawaiʻi. Of course I forgot about it and went to work and wondered where everyone was.

It is named after Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole. He is the only royalty that has also been a delegate to the US Congress.

Here is a link to his Wikipedia entry:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch

Congratulations to SpaceX with the Falcon Heavy launch!

I've been waiting to see this for a long time and V and I watched the live feed this morning (I let everyone at work know ahead of time and the launch kept getting delayed by wind but there was no way I was missing this).  Seeing the 27 engine core and two boosters rise up to the sky, after all the worry about vibrations and forces pulling the ship apart on launch, the simultaneous double landing of the two boosters, and "starman" casually (one arm on the wheel) flying in the Tesla above Earth was simply amazing.

It sounds like the gliches were that two of the engines failed to ignite on the central core during landing so it smashed into the ocean at 300 mph and damaged two of the drone ship engines. And, they overshot the Hohmann transfer to Mars orbit.  The latest I saw, a few minutes ago, is that it is headed to the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Juniper!

I call this a huge win! A company, not a country, put something into a heliocentric orbit that will make it out to the Asteroid Belt and back. With all the negative things happening in the news both in the US and around the world it is wonderful to have something positive, exciting (a risk and an achievement), and simply fun for a change.

That is all for now.  I am going to try to add some screen captures I took while watching the live stream (it is unreal to see the car with Earth in the background) and a graph of the predicted orbit. One last comment however, in the followup news conference when Elon Musk was answering questions he said something to the effect that this was just a start, he could easily imagine scaling up the frequency of launches, with simultaneous recoveries and returns, and that they needed to be thinking even bigger.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sunday, September 6, 2015


I am torn about facebook.  On one hand I don't like it.  One company with effectively a monopoly having that much control over people's communications, being able to experiment on people, and collect all of that information and sell it or provide it to law enforcement, should not have as much freedom as it does.  Many years ago I set up a profile on facebook but then I quickly closed it back down because of my concerns.  However, over the years more and more people I know rely on facebook for communication.  This has led to me being left out.  My family shares pictures and communicates there.  Friends I know share information.  Also professionally, I am left not knowing about important information related to my job.  I hate being left out of "common knowledge" information at work because my coworkers share it on facebook.  I have tried setting up accounts with alternative social networking sites but my family, friends, and colleagues don't use them so it ends up being pointless.  Finally, now you can't access the functionality of some websites without a facebook account to log into. 

I read a few weeks ago that most people get their news via facebook than news websites.  Not being on facebook this surprised me.  As an exploratory experiment I set up a fake account on facebook not using my real name, image, or any personal information.  A lot of the videos and games are a waste of time (although I did make 6 million rather quickly playing a few online poker games---too bad it was fake money) but wow, there really is a lot of information I've been missing out on.  I was able to get updates from NASA on the SLS project, follow politics, and there was a huge amount of information about the Free Palestine movement that I had not seen before.  I also liked and followed some random things just to throw a wrench in the works so it wasn't too real and close to my interests. 

But then the other side of facebook came up.  I received advertising and friend suggestions targeted at people in the military and places on the west coast.  Facebook sent me advertisements to "meet my Muslim life partner."  I tried out a profiling tool that uses facebook information and it predicted that I was single, conservative, and had an art education.  People that know me in real life know this is not exactly accurate, but I can see how facebook used the information I was connected to, and the negatives that I was not connected to, in order to come up with these guesses.

What is the social effect of dividing people up so that they only see subsets of information from certain perspectives?  I can guess that it might lead to more extremism.  This new ways of providing news does not allow for shared dialogues over a common frame of reference---like reading the Washington Post each day when it cannot be tailored for individual interests but has to be written for all readers.  That being said, in the past the common dialogue has been from a very biased perspective on certain issues---often influenced by the government and liability. 

We have laws in the US about monopolies, especially monopolies over news information, for very good reasons.  I think it is time we started applying them to companies like facebook.  It is too dangerous for one company to be able to categorize people, link them in networks, and provide tailored information to them unchecked.  At the same time, I also see a value in being able to bring people together with common interests so that they can share information and organize.  However, these two aspects are not mutually exclusive.

While I like the old western movies about the lone holdout that wins the day in the face of long odds, I will probably have to start using facebook again.  I don't like being forced into this.  However, being out of the loop is having increasing costs both at home and at work.  I just want to encourage people to push for bringing facebook under news reporting monopoly regulation so I can feel better about this. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hurricanes all around us!

We are surrounded by hurricanes.  There are three going on in our part of the Pacific right now.  The map above shows Hawai'i in the middle (from WunderMap). 

The Pacific ocean is unusually warm.  It has been very warm and humid here with more rain than normal.  Ridges in the distance like diamond head are turning green and they are usually brown this time of year.  It is also hard to sleep at night because of the heat (we don't have air conditioning).  The heat index last night at midnight was 90 degrees F. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Patriot" act still not dead

A federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that the NSA eavesdropping on the telephones of hundreds of millions of Americans (link).  Also, have a look at this article (Patriot Act is counter to the ideals of this nation)

Here it is again people; the fourth amendment. 

Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Of course over time various governments have tried to engineer loopholes such as the "third-party exception," the "silver platter doctrine" and even the "Barny Fife loophole."  However, how can these be valid without a constitutional amendment---if the constitution is the supreme law of the United States?  The fourth amendment was written to stand on its own; there is no phrase in it that says "except as determined by government loopholes."

How about we all start adding the fourth amendment to our email signatures?  Just to remind the people who are reading our email how illegal that is.  That is both a fourth amendment and first amendment issue.

Below is a draft I put together for people to use:


Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fourth amendment means whoever is eavesdropping on this email without permission is violating federal law. Email is a document and is the modern equivalent of "papers and effects" in the wording of the constitution. This includes federal employees working for federal agencies. No legal loopholes are allowed according to the constitution (the supreme law of the United States of America) and there is no indemnification by your employer; you are personally responsible and accountable. If you have read this I have to advise you to turn yourself in to the local law authorities for prosecution---I will be pressing charges---in order to avoid possible obstruction of justice charges being added to your case.

First Amendment to the United States Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Email is a form of speech and a form of press in the sense of the wording of the first amendment. This means that I am within my rights to give the notice above about fourth amendment violations.