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.

Huntsville, My Home

My first time in Huntsville was at Space Camp.  It’s true — I was one of those nerds.  Even worse, I went to Space Camp (well, Space Academy) twice.  How my parents afforded it, I don’t know.

It was at my second visit to the Rocket City when I first stepped foot at what would become my home for five years: The University of Alabama in Huntsville.  We did an aquatic rescue exercise in the swimming pool that is now filled in and covered by a weight room in Spragins Hall.  I got a one-hour credit for that week in town; I ended up with something like 168 towards my undergraduate degree.

I moved to Huntsville for the first time in mid-August of 1997, fresh from two years at The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.  My MSMS experience made adjusting to college life fairly easy — probably too easy, because I was too lackadaisical to keep my GPA at a 3.5 or higher.  (Note to past self: you really should’ve taken 21 hours your second semester.)  I wasn’t a stellar student, mainly because I had too many non-academic things going on in my life — namely Student Government and my co-op experience.

I didn’t settle down right away because I didn’t really think that I would stay here, and so I moved from a dorm to my parents’ for a summer to a dorm to an apartment to an apartment to an apartment to an apartment to a rental house where I lived in a detached garage to one final apartment to a townhouse that I’ve owned for over 11 years.

That 11-year period is the longest I’ve ever had one address in my entire life.  Such is the life of a military kid.  That house is on the market now, because my wife and I have bought another, much nicer one.  I bought that townhouse thinking that I’d be in it for a few years before getting married.  Try 10.5, kid!

As of today, I’ve lived half of my life in Huntsville, Alabama.  (Yes, yes, I live in Madison.  I hate Madison.  If I cross my cul de sac and walk through my neighbor’s yard, I’m in Huntsville, and that suits me just fine.)  It’s frankly astonishing to me that what I thought would be a launchpad to greater things somewhere else in the country has ended up a base of operations.

I’ll turn 38 in a couple of months, and I realize now that I’ve lived about 2/3 of my life within a four-hour drive of my home — the exceptions being Dayton, Ohio, and San Antonio, Texas.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I figured out once that I’ve only been gone from Huntsville for more than 10 days at a stretch just three times since I moved here:

  1. A summer with my parents in the Mississippi Delta between my first two years of college.  I drove back at least four times over the course of the summer.
  2. Three weeks with my parents in 2012 after my dad had a heart attack.  He needed taking care of, and I was available.
  3. Eight weeks in 2013 when I took an internship at MITRE.

When I look back at Facebook’s Memories gee-gaw, I see the sadness and frustration that built up during those last two experiences.  The longer I was away from home, the more despondent I was.  The last experience was definitely trebled by the fact that I figured out just a week into my internship that there was no way that they’d be able to hire me, as a freeze was on for that group.  (I think it’s still in effect.)

The MITRE thing is funny to me, too, because I was living about ten minutes from my in-laws’.  I was a year away from even meeting my wife.  It’s always interesting how these little jumbles and bumbles keep life jiggling on — like how getting back into aerospace happened because my co-op mentor needed to clone himself and suddenly I was back in his orbit, or how that job led me to meeting my wife, or how we both got moved away from a glovebox project within a week of my starting my current job, or how I’m now studying to work on glove boxes again.

And yet that Saturn V is a marker, a fixed point, a lighthouse seen in most any storm.  It’s a symbol of our city’s (and nation’s) aerospace past, sited near its present at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, and placed right next to its future leaders at the US Space and Rocket Center.

Sam Cristoforetti and I both went to Space Academy in the summer of 1995.  I like to think that we were there together, although I think that I’d have remembered an Italian girl with a lot of heart.  I don’t know when Kate Rubins went, but she is the first ISS astronaut younger than I am — by all of 13 days.  I watched Sam work on orbit while I was in my training, and now I’m getting to watch Kate kick a lot of ass in her increment.  I may not be a Space Camp Hall of Famer like those two are, but I do my part, I guess.

I can do it only because I came to this little nook of the Tennessee Valley 23 years ago.  I came because my school friends from Ohio were coming here, and I missed them and wanted to see them.  It’s funny then that in searching for a home that I’d left, I found one that I barely knew existed.

Sweet Home Alabama indeed.

#NeverTrump Electoral Math

This one is pretty simple.  Say you’re a standard-bearing GOP voter who is absolutely disgusted with the candidate that your fucked-up primary/caucus season selected.  Your last name doesn’t have to be Bush here.  You could be my dad or my brother, but you’re definitely #NeverTrump.

Trump has the temperament to be a lot of things, but I think that the most likely one is “Andrew Jackson re-incarnate”.  Jackson was so terrible that his party threw him out, leaving him the only President without a political party.  The GOP should recognize that and bar him from office in the first place.

The electoral math is simple: if you vote Republican, you can choose to not vote or vote third party, at which point you make Trump -1.  But if you choose to vote for Hillary Clinton, you’re making it -2, as she gains while he loses.

I support Sec. Clinton for office because I have become far more liberal over the last decade than I ever expected.  I would encourage you to make your vote count double in November if you’re the sort that simply cannot stand Trump and want to push him under whatever electoral rocks he slithered out from underneath.  That said, I respect your right to just go -1.

[An aside: I would expect Clinton to be a one-term President unless the GOP implodes.  She’s pretty polarizing and no spring chicken.  I want to see what she can do, though, given the chance.  18-yo me is so, so confused.]

The Enduring Legacy of Muhammad Ali

I’ve come to understand a little bit of the pull of boxing over the last few months.  I love Sun Kil Moon, and “Duk Koo Kim” made me look up the fighter.  I watched his last fight, his last struggle.  I get the attraction, the primal nature of it.  I wanted to see Ronda Rousey get knocked out that one time, so I watched video of it … a few times.  Then I watched other MMA videos.

And then I got back to the point, which is that any “sport” whose end goal is to cause major damage to the opponent’s brain really isn’t very sporting.  It’s ludicrous that we prosecute street fights and laud prizefights.

Ali deserved better, and frankly, we deserve better.  King was taken from us at 39 by a rifle shot; Ali’s “Parkinson’s” was diagnosed at 42.  The men were certainly different, and it’s perhaps a reach to equate the two, but it’s also safe to say that their social conscience and willingness to stretch the boundaries of what it means to be human and strive to better yourself and your fellow man would have entwined them.  Both could reasonably be alive with powerful voices today, but no.

And yes, the enduring photo of Ali is him standing over Sonny Liston.  But did it have to be?  Were we really meant to have the final image of Ali be of him at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?

I feel cheated.