Day 61: Bzzzz

This is a story about a helpful little robot run amok. I’ve got a lot of work to do today. Between finishing the writeup for SP161 and starting in on the telescope software for SP174, I’ll be busy. I decide to head out to a café with no web access so I can get started. I pick up my stuff and head for the door, and… Bzzzz. That’s just the vibrator in my phone indicating new a text message. Probably my muse flirting again. I take a look, and it’s actually from the house flood monitor, saying [weekly auto-arm] which … Continue reading Day 61: Bzzzz

Day 60: Observatory

You know Dad, but you might not know Chuck. He’s one of Mom & Dad’s best and smartest friends. Chuck is an engineer who makes aircraft navigation systems for Northrop Grumman, and is also a volunteer rescue guy for Sierra Madre Search and Rescue. As you might imagine, when he tells stories, they’re excellent. Today, the three of us are beginning a special project. In the San Gabriel mountains near Pasadena is the Mount Wilson Observatory. The sign says “Authorized Vehicles Only” but today that’s us. When the Mt. Wilson Observatory’s 60-inch telescope was built, it was the largest telescope … Continue reading Day 60: Observatory

Day 59: Biotechnology and the Airplane

I mentioned there were some busy days coming… here’s one. Today I’m heading to Southern California for some serious work on a few fun projects. Dad is away in Washington D.C. in meetings with BARDA about data analysis, so Mom picks me up at the Burbank airport. She says “You can borrow dad’s car, but first I’ve got a job for you.” Mom runs a few biotechnology labs in Pasadena. Startup companies use the labs as an incubator in their early stages, and students use them as a place to learn valuable skills and get practical experience working with the … Continue reading Day 59: Biotechnology and the Airplane

Day 58: Potential Energy

(Author’s note: I’ve got some catching up to do. I hit two days which were so crazy-full that there was no time to write. Here goes.) Right before the MechaniCrawl, my muse had just gotten back from a cross-country flight, so we’re ready for a day of rest and quiet relaxation. She’s finishing another knitting project. This one’s for her sister, but it looks really good on her as well. So it was a quiet day at home. Remember the rule? Any time there’s a quiet day without many pictures, I unwrap another Secret Plan. Secret Plan 118: Pressure Reducing … Continue reading Day 58: Potential Energy

Day 57: How to Impress a Tech Girl

To understand what happened today, you need to know this: My muse has a mechanical engineering degree. She loves machines. Big ones. She actually worked for a while in a truck engine factory, and can usually tell you an engine’s manufacturer by listening to it run. Here she is flirting with a combine the size of a house. So today I’ve got a surprise for her. The Long Now Foundation has invited us to an event called MechaniCrawl. It’s a tour along the North shore of San Francisco of, well, machines. First stop is the Long Now office. If you think … Continue reading Day 57: How to Impress a Tech Girl

Day 56: High Wires and a Good Trade

Dad and Chuck may be getting themselves involved in a really interesting computer project for the Mt. Wilson Observatory. They’ve asked me to help out as well, so look for pictures of a really big telescope soon. The cats look like they suddenly fell asleep after a high-speed collision. The wires above Muni trains are dangerous and carry extremely high voltages, which is why they’re high off the ground. Going anywhere near them is strictly forbidden, for very good reasons. If you did, though, it would look something like this: First stop today is Tartine Bakery. Everyone who lives nearby … Continue reading Day 56: High Wires and a Good Trade

Day 55: Boxes and Blue Cookies

Today I’m in the city, doing some gruntwork and manual labor with people I consider to be family. If you want to see a high-class organization in action, the 6th floor of this building is a good place to start. The Make-A-Wish folks grant wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses. That’s what they do, and they’re really good at it. I had a life-changing opportunity to work with them a few years ago on a special project. Ben (who’s now a tall teenager) is a very smart guy whose wish was to develop a video game where the player fights … Continue reading Day 55: Boxes and Blue Cookies

Day 54: Secret Bricks

I spent all morning drawing diagrams for Secret Plan 161. It’s an electronic █████ capable of █████ ██ completely ██████ █████ to █████ ████ ███ ████ toward it. I’ve never seen one, and I think it’d be super-useful in museums and ballparks. It could also be used for evil. I’m having a very hard time finding the parts I need to build it, because the ████ █████ ██████ are buying them all, and they have a lot more money than I do. Part of the reason for my busy morning is that I’ve got an appointment with someone downtown today … Continue reading Day 54: Secret Bricks

Day 53: What Shark?

A few stragglers from St. Croix; I got the pictures from the cheap waterproof camera developed. Here are the pictures we took just before the whole shark thing. It’s time to shift gears. I’ve spent several weeks on the “casual acrobatics” side of things, and ignoring the “big science” part. Time to focus on some serious geek stuff. I spend almost the whole day setting up equipment and data. The cats are really excited. In the evening, my muse and I head to the simple awesomeness that is Ti Couz. Last week I was crushed to see a big sign … Continue reading Day 53: What Shark?

Days 46-52: Island Mêlée

The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a set of 10 huge radio telescopes, distributed around the western hemisphere. Their combined effective resolution makes this array the most powerful telescope in existence. My muse has an assignment which takes us to the eastern-most telescope in this array. You can see the telescope in this photo. Too bad it’s in the Caribbean. Yep. We’re posing as a married couple on vacation (tough assignment), and we’ve got tickets and passports to support it. Swimsuits, sunscreen, the works. Day 46: San Francisco->Miami->Puerto Rico->St. Croix Less than an hour after landing on St. Croix, … Continue reading Days 46-52: Island Mêlée