That Job Actually Didn’t Last Long

Remember when I was super-excited about being back in aerospace after 1,508 days gone? That job lasted four months. I didn’t really talk about it back then, but it’s true. That was a fun job, actually, although I was under-utilized — either because I didn’t hawk the work hard enough or because the project manager was incompetent. (You may choose 2 draw whichever conclusion you like.)

What was the job? I supported the development of a second glovebox for the International Space Station. What’s a glovebox? That’s a great question! How about letting Dr. Peggy Whitson tell us!

We now have two gloveboxes on ISS. One is the venerable Microgravity Science Glovebox, shown above; the other is the Life Sciences Glovebox, which is still in its shakeout phase. You can see Lee Jordan and Yancy Young about why we have two now.

NASA Marshall (where I work) wanted to take a ground unit of the MSG and fly it to ISS. Changes to that scope at the program level saw us finish out the partially-complete LSG and fly it to orbit for assembly. I was on the team of people helping to make that trade study into a reality. Marshall really wanted that work, spending engineering funds to do it. Sadly, it didn’t go the way we wanted, and the funds that we paying me dried up before we could get to executing the LSG project. The week before Thanksgiving, I was out the door.

That job’s ending just set the stage for me to start working in ISS payload operations a few weeks later. Less than two years later, I was operating MSG in addition to other duties. Now, less than two years after that, I was the Payload Operations Director on console for some LSG troubleshooting, which amused me greatly.

But the ops story is best told in a small series of anecdotes…

Why I Dropped Off of Social Media

This is not some think-piece about why you should do as I did or any such shit as that. People have a right to spend their time and energy however they want. I totally get why my mom spends a lot of time on Facebook, and I think that it’s a net positive for her.

With that said, I canned my two major social media streams, Facebook and Twitter, in 2018. For both, the shortest rationale is the benefits that I drew from participating in each medium were outweighed by the frustrations that they caused me. Social media has been a boon for disadvantaged/suppressed communities to have a way to find each other, and as long as that attraction is for a positive end, I think that’s fucking awesome.

Facebook

I got tired of the pettiness, the stalking, the willingness to be nasty and combative about whatever you disagree about, and the desire to be showy. All of those things just reflected back to me each of those various shitty behaviors. Leaving let me not amplify them.

Twitter

Twitter just soaked up all the time that I would give it. It was often fun — I actually knew over half of the people that I consistently followed from non-Twitter environments — but the outrage machine just didn’t need to be fed that much. Couple that with the company’s inability or unwillingness to combat abuse problems — striking down the concept that muting Twitter is a freedom of speech violation, and not taking the Pinterest approach to “freedom of reach” — and I was just done.

In both cases, I really did just up and leave both platforms. I said it, I did it, and I haven’t looked back. I never tried to keep Facebook from deleting my account, and I didn’t create a new Twitter account. [I still have three that support side projects. I don’t stay logged in to any of them.]

Instead

Instead, to be honest, I just play a shit-ton of tower defense games. I do it to clear my head. I do it to kill time. I do it to procrastinate. I’m still processing why this was the result, but I guess the only person that I’m pissing off with this crappy behavior is my wife. This is not a net positive exchange.

Do what you want

Go and Internet how you will. But for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to like and follow back.

Around the Clock

I’m 40. I’ve been in aerospace engineering since I was 20, less that period of time that I try not to think about very much. It’s safe to say that I’ve been Doing This Shit for a while.

Regardless, I’m 40 and married with a dog, and I do shift work.

One of my now-former colleagues once told me (multiple times!), “When you do shift work, your family does shift work with you.” She was right — just ask my wife. You can also ask my dog, although all he’d really do if you came over tonight would be to bark like crazy until the police came, as you’d have set off the burglar alarm. Also, asking him is probably not going to be super-productive. You don’t speak Lucky.

I really like my job (even when it irritates the shit out of me). I just certified two months ago as a NASA Payload Operations Director, and I’m nearing the end of my burn-in period, which is a bit like hazing but with shift differentials and FERS contributions. This is my fourth (!) certificate at POIC, and I intend for it to be my last. We do important work, and I do all I can on every shift to try and make it fun.

That said, when your wife is away visiting family and your dog isn’t feeling well, midnight shifts are lonely and disconnecting. Tonight is shift 36 of 38 during my burn-in (yep, I’ve been in the control room pretty much every other day since 02-Jan), and I’m tired and really not feeling it. I think that we all have those days, but I find them a little harder when it’s 21:10L and I’m staring not being home again for another 10 hours.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a puppy who needs belly rubs.

Beginning again

“I should get back into writing on my blog. I need to prove that meeting my wife didn’t kill my blog.” [Really, it didn’t.]

“But I have so many things to write about, that I don’t know where to start.”

“I don’t blather on social media anymore. All those words have to be dammed up, right?”

“Damn right they’re dammed up. Again, I have too many thoughts to get out.”

“But I should write about something, right? Something to break the ice?”

“You tried that almost two years ago and it got you nowhere.”

“Hey, I wrote that one piece in September.”

“You’re proving your own point.”

“Cool. We’re not losing out to Wilson right now.”

“Are you going to engage with what Misty wrote?”

“You mean with …”

I’ve spent a lot of time with my fear. I call it by different names. Sometimes it looks like working on a different project. Sometimes it looks like cleaning up my studio space. Sometimes it looks like sitting on the couch watching tv and crocheting. Sometimes it looks like me spending too much time on social media. But there’s always an oozing puddle of fear languishing nearby waiting for me to fall in if I’m not paying enough attention to skirt it appropriately and do the scary task at hand.

My fear is always willing to tell me specifically that no one cares about what I have to say. That I will die in art obscurity because what I make is banal or laughable or unintelligible or all of those things. My fear is also pretty invested in moving the goal posts of whatever success I do gain so that I will get discouraged and quit.

“Yeah, go wrestle with that.”

“Okay, dude, but we’re about to go AOS.”

“A-O-What now?”

“Don’t be coy. You know that I fly the International Space Station now.”

“But they don’t know.”

“They do now. Oh, and it’s the only job that I’ve ever had that doesn’t have me with near-crippling imposter syndrome.”

“Oh, do you want to unpack that?”

“YOU ARE NOT MY THERAPIST, YOU ASSHOLE.”

Moving cTiVo-transferred movies into Plex-friendly folders with Hazel

I have had a TV for at least 15 years now — maybe 17, but it’s pretty fuzzy back there in my early 20s.  Anyhow, what I always wanted back in the day was a way to archive the shows that I was watching.  I have that now with cTiVo.  cTiVo will transfer files from your TiVo over your local network and then transcode them however you want.  The files can be quite large — the last one I transcoded tonight was 2.48 GB for a 85-minute movie — but I have far more storage space on the Drobos in my house than I do on the TiVo.

My wife’s family and mine love Plex, because we can share all sorts of things (home videos, photos, etc.) via the Internet!  It’s great to be able to share things with them, and sometimes that includes movies that we’ve made archival copies of videos we’ve recorded on our TiVo.

One of the really cool things that cTiVo does is Plex renaming.  The naming is rock solid for TV shows, it doesn’t create folders for individual movies.  You’ll end up with:

Plex / Movies / Say Anything (1989).mp4

That doesn’t exactly fit the Plex naming conventions for movies.  What to do?

Enter Hazel!  This took far too long for me to put together, but here’s what you need.

This is simple, but I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the Noodlesoft fora go way deeper than the simple thing that I needed here.

(I recognize that I’m unbelievably neglectful of this space.  Sorry.  I’ll try to write more.)

Thoughts on #RaininJs

Production Quality Must Improve

Make the show a multi-ender

LoCeltics needs to be a multi-ender.  Jason Snell (2015) and Dan Benjamin (2008) have this topic well-covered; I include both here because the principles are the same even if the technology has changed.  Everyone must be making local copies, and then a smart person pulls them together at the end.

Microphones, microphones, microphones

I was on Liftoff #12 back in the day, and that recording sounds like crap is because I didn’t test my setup in time, so I chose to go with EarPods for recording.  Guess what?  It sounded so crappy, even with a local recording going, that they went with the Skype.  It’s awful, awful, awful, and I feel like I owe Jason and Stephen a beer for how bad that was.

The thing is, though, that I own a Blue Snowball and enough XLR-powered microphones to record everyone at my dining table.  Also, Jason heartily recommends a Blue Yeti in a post about podcasting equipment, and if I were going to start a podcast, I’d consider it.  (I’d probably end up with a TASCAM unit that brought in XLR microphones because I have them.)

If your core team — for LoCeltics, that would be John Karalis, Jay King, and Sam “Jam” Packard — are all locked on and ready to go with good microphones and local recordings that get pulled together at the end, you’re going to have a tighter-sounding podcast that will equal or exceed a radio show.

Get a producer (?)

I’m pretty sure that Karalis pulls the shows together, and that’s fine — host-led production is really common in the podcasting world because you already have someone who was in the room where it happened and has ears to what’s going down.  But an outside ear may help, too, and for two reasons:

Eliminating/reducing cross-talk and vamping

Simply put, the show could be tighter.  On the March 23, 2017 show, they vamped and vamped trying to get a final score on the Wizards game.  Guess what?  You can put the podcast on hold, wait five minutes, and break down the impact on the playoff seeding.  No one needs to know that you were recording during the games, nor that you didn’t record through the end of the Cleveland game.  Here’s how you could have done that.

  1.  Karalis (or Packard, but probably John) could have recorded a voice-over of each score after the games were done.  Simple.
  2. In the meantime, Karalis and Packard could’ve recorded little bits about each of the four scenarios — Cavs win, Wiz win; Cavs win, Wiz lose; Cavs lose, Wiz win; Cavs lose, Wiz lose — and speculated on what that means in terms of rest, lineup choices, etc.

The show leading up to the ending was really, really solid, and it just fizzled down the stretch like the C’s kicking away the Philly game last weekend.  (Note to Jay King: in this situation, you are not IT.)  I think that’s because John and Jam sacrificed the episode on the almighty deadline and working in real-time.  If you don’t want to wait for it, you can script it up ahead of time and put it together in post!  It’s not like you’re doing a real-time radio show, and anyway, the goal is to put those Felger and Mazz assholes out to pasture.

Non-host producers can keep the team organized

Reasons like:

  1. Say that a host doesn’t know a stat — he can ask for it and wait for the producer to get it while collecting his thoughts for a riff based on that factoid.  The producer can note the time hacks for the request and the response and cut out the wait time.  Let the producer make you look smarter.
  2. A non-host producer can keep you on-topic and help you be smooth.  Run a text chat behind the scenes with a large font delivering short messages and you’ll be fine.
  3. Non-host producers can feed breaking news and monitor social media.
  4. Non-host producers can also help with topic ideas / segments (Magical Mystery Machine, #jamjunkdrawer, etc.) and lining them up before the show.

Obviously, a non-host producer is going to be expensive in a number of ways, not all of them monetary.

Recording Schedule

You can’t call yourself the best daily Celtics podcast if you don’t record on weekends; because the teams play on the weekend, you need to be there.  But this brings me to another point.

Add one or two more voices, schedule them, and do crossovers with other LO podcasts

The NBA season is lined up well in advance, so plan accordingly: two-host shows every day, three-host shows when you can, and cross-over shows — either one or two hosts going at it with a host (or maybe two) from another LO podcast before, say, a big and/or rivalry game.  This keeps the show fresh, and if you do that you’re going to have more downloads and stop having your ads be for another podcast and damn car parts.

The other thing that scheduling hosts does is that you allow fans to know what to expect.  John teased an interview that Jay has coming with Millyz for the Friday show.  I love that stuff!  Give me a reason to be in tuned.

The boys have to decide if they want to keep on being the #5 seed or be the #1.  I think they’re going to be the #1.

Told you that I’d let you pick my brain, Jay.

My Votes on 2016 Alabama State Constitutional Amendments

I won’t get into my national support, but at the state level: Shelby and whoever’s opposing Brooks this time.

I do have brief thoughts about the Alabama State Constitutional amendments on the 2016 ballot (yellowhammernews.com; Ballotpedia also has coverage).  I care about Alabama politics enough to almost get arrested over it.  Here are some irreverent and profane thoughts:

  1. Yes, because Boards of Trustees need continuity, although no one needs the Cub in there in perpetuity (seriously, fuck that guy).
  2. Yes, especially because my wife and I were married at Lake Guntersille State Park.  This amendment preserves funding below a certain level and lets them self-fund up to and above that level if they can.
  3. Yes, because I am tired of having to vote on other counties’ shit.  (See below.)
  4. No, because the crazy independent streak in this state needs tampening down.  Also, if you give government the power to organize but not the power of the purse, you will get shitty government.  We have enough shitty government in Alabama as it is.
  5. No, because I hate the Alabama State Constitution and want it to be repealed.
  6. HELL FUCK NO, because we should never raise the bar for impeaching state officials.  That this sailed through the legislature gave me pause to read through the amendment again.
  7. Yes, because I don’t care but I like Etowah County.  (This is always a consideration in these votes for me.)
  8. No, because I believe that unions have an (unlikely) place in Alabama.  I might be the only no vote in Madison County.
  9. No, because 1) I hate Pickens County and 2) this is probably in place to let some old-fart judge sleep-gavel his way into retirement.  Nope, nope, nope.  Old crusty judges help few in Alabama.
  10. Yes, because … well, I can’t be bothered to care about Calhoun County.  I had to look up where it is.  Oh, Anniston?  I like Anniston.  Shine on, you crazy dreamers.
  11. Yes, mainly because Huntsville will use this judiciously while everyone else will fuck it up, allowing my beloved city to continue to rise out of the miry swamp that is this Godforsaken state.  “You live in Madison!” you say.  Yes, Madison will screw this up, because Madison is always going to screw things up (other than the schools).
  12. Yes, because I think that this is a terrible, terrible idea, but it’s Baldwin County, and … fuck Baldwin County.
  13. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, get rid of those old judges non-judicial officials and legislators.  This is the “Let Roy Moore Back on the Court Bill”.  NO.  You can contravene every vote I have in this list but this one and #6 and I’ll be happy.  Thanks to Tommy Cole for pointing out that this doesn’t affect judges, but it could be an attempt to get the Cub back on the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.
  14. Yes, because I do actually believe in some limited autonomy and don’t want Montgomery screwing things up any more.  I almost considered a No because I do like it when Montgomery screws up, possibly leading us closer to the Constitutional Conventional Apocalypse, but that’s too risky.

If we ever do get that new Constitutional Convention, I want Lin-Manuel Miranda there to cover the events and write songs.

Thirty-Eight

Hallo from Ísland!  I turn 38 today, and this is the first birthday (and the first time ever) that I’ll celebrate the day off of the North American continent, although I’m fairly sure that, with Þingvellir to our east, we’re actually still on the North American plate.  I have been on both sides of the rift in the last 13 days, though.

I have enjoyed this trip, and I plan to write much more about it by the end of the year.  We do have something like 120 GB of photos to go through.

28 months ago, I was on a journey out of a really dark time in my life, but I didn’t know what was going to happen.  I felt that, in some ways, it would be a restoration.  I didn’t know that my life would be irrevocably changed on my fourth day in that job.

Unfortunately for the both of us, I’ve been sick for the last few days and unable to do a lot of the fun things that we’d been looking forward to.  Danielle got to see a number of them, though, including the Northern Lights, something that she’d always wanted to see.  They put on quite the show while we were here.

My wife Danielle and the Northern Lights near Geysir in Iceland.  She took this one herself using a self-timer while I was passed out sick in our hotel room.
My wife Danielle and the Northern Lights near Geysir in Iceland. She took this one herself using a self-timer while I was passed out sick in our hotel room.

I don’t really know what my 39th orbit has for me.  This past year, we settled in a little bit to being married to each other, I got certified as a flight controller for the International Space Station, had a contract to build a house, got out of that contract because the builder screwed up the foundation, found another house the next day, bought that house, got the old townhouse ready to sell, put that house on the market, celebrated living half of my life in Huntsville, decided to come here to Iceland while owning two houses, and got very lucky to put the townhouse under contract 72 hours before leaving town.

I’d be happy if life slowed down just a little bit this year, but I’m betting that things won’t.  I’ve got a big thing or two lined up in the pipe (more later, if I get around to writing about it; the pace here has indeed slowed), and work never seems to get much slower.  40 is looming, and I’m starting to come to grips with that.  I often remark that I am not old (I won’t be old for another few decades), but I am clearly no longer young.

We’ll be on a plane home in nine hours, and we’ll be back in the US in 15 or so.  This has been a great trip, but as always, I’m ready to be home.  I’ve been a professional engineer since 2002 and in this business since 1999, and this is the first time that I’ve taken two weeks of paid vacation.  I call this growth.

Thanks in advance for all the birthday wishes.