I'm a True Geek

Yesterday was a big day for New England. Most people were watching the unstoppable Patriots during the day and then in the evening the Red Sox won the World Series. I wasn't watching the games though. I was reading about the Lunar Lander Challenge competition while hacking a new serial port motor driver I just ordered.

I'm not even going to try and explain what I mean by the hacking bit above, but I will tell you about the Lunar Landing Challenge. This is a competition setup by NASA where they pay up to 2 million dollars to the first team that creates a rocket which can fly to a platform land and then fly back. There are some other rules that I won't mention. Here is a more detailed description for those who care.

One of the big reasons I was interested was because Armadillo Aerospace had entered the competition for the second year in a row. I've been reading about this team for many years. Last year they were the only team to fly and they broke their landing gear during this competition thus failed to complete it. This year they were again the only team to enter (although a lot of other teams were very close to making it this year), and again failed. This year it seems like the gods conspired against them. Here is a short story about their failure. I was disappointed that they didn't win. Mainly because they have this tight design,test,iterate engineering model that is the way I approach my engineering problems. Their leader is John Carmack who makes his real money writing video games. I've actually met him a few times on business trips to his game company when we were trying to get their latest video games to run better on my company's hardware. From those encounters I've realized he's a very bright guy.

Anyways I just though I'd let you all know that while most of the world was cheering for a sports team, I was cheering for my favorite rocket scientist. You'd have to be a geek to understand!


Fall Colors

I was curious so I did a little research into why leaves change color in the fall. The color change seems to be caused by the shorter days and cold temperature will speed up the change. Temperature and daylight affect a trees photosynthesis efficiency. Trees in turn stop producing green-tinted chlorophyll. Without this green tint leaves revert back to their yellow color. The leaves are actually always yellow, but you don't see it until the green fades away. This yellow pigment is from carotenoids, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color.

The red color come from anthocyanins which are the same red pigments found in strawberries. Unlike carotenoids, anthocyanins only are produced in leaves during the fall. They are a protective mechanism for the leaves. They help leaves survive from fungus, drought, and excess UV damage. It's not fully understood why trees expend energy in the fall to produce these anthocyanins, but trees that turn red earlier than the other trees in that area is likely sick from a fungus or enduring other environmental stresses.

Worcester Sharks

In the past few years I've seen numerous semi-pro teams in various sports. They've all focused a lot on adding things to keep families entertained during the game even if they're not that interested in the sport. This sort of thing is very good for the 8 nanosecond attention span of most 8 year olds. I took Devon to a Sharks hockey game yesterday and it was no exception to the semi-pro rule I've observed. If you haven't seen any semi-pro sporting events in the past few years you owe it to yourself to go. Even better volunteer at BBBS so you can score free tickets like me!

The seats BBBS got us were amazing. The were in the first row just to the side of one of the goals. I truly believe we had the best seats at the game. Many times players would slam in the boards just a few feet in front of us. The loud noise of them slamming into the boards just two feet in front of us would always make Devon jump back even when we saw it coming. At one point during a break one of the ice cleaners tossed a puck to our general area and with some fast hands and a large leap managed to grab it for Devon. Then not two minutes later during the same break a referee knocked on the glass with a puck and then tossed it straight to me. Now Devon had two pucks. Of course being an 8 year old he held one puck in each hand and waved them around for the rest of the game with a huge smile beaming from his face. A few people commented about how I was cleaning up on the pucks. One puck would certainly have been enough, but I reckon two pucks make for a better story for Devon to tell his friends. Maybe I should start calling him two-puck-Devon.



I got to take a 9 month old 80 lb. Bernese Mountain Dog for a walk. I love big dogs!

Give Blood

I heard on NPR yesterday that in New England blood supplies were extremely low. They have just a one day supply when they try and have three days of supply. I guess it was a good thing I had signed up to donate today.

I treat this as my bimonthly checkup. They do things like take my blood pressure and pulse. Everything is always good. They also always test the iron in your blood to make sure that's healthy. Previously they just put a drop of my blood in some chemicals and if it sank it was good. Now they have a new machine that reads iron levels and my was a perfect 14. I think values of 13 to 16 were good for men. I asked for the units on this and they didn't know. It's not the first time I asked a doctor/nurse for the units on something they do everyday and they haven't known the answer. As an engineer I find this amusing.

Now it's your turn. Save a life and sign up on the Red Cross web site today!



Devon and I went apple picking this weekend. It was pretty awesome. I convinced Devon that all the best tasting apples were at the top of the trees so he'd climb up like a monkey and get an apple or two and then we'd move on to another tree. I came out with a overflowing bag of apples and ate enough apples while we were picking to fill up my stomach and probably half of my esophagus. Mmm. I forgot how tasty freshly picked apples are. Seriously you need to get out and pick some apples!

Where are the pictures? I asked myself the same question when I started writing this. For some reason I didn't take any. I'm disappointed in myself since I could have gotten some great shots. I must be slacking in my photo taking responsibilities.

Peace dudes!