I’m Back for Now

Incase you’ve noticed I’ve been absent for a couple of months.  So here’s why:

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer the end of 2016.  Prostate cancer is often not a big deal, because it often does not grow or move, if at all.  However, mine was different.  It is the most aggressive type and in 2016 the doctor gave me 18 to 24 months of life.  I spent a week-end preparing myself for an early death.  It wasn’t an entirely horrible weekend.  It was actually quite enlightening for me.

So they did CT and Bone scans the next week, and although the cancer was so aggressive, it had not spread far beyond the prostate.  So they scheduled surgery right away.  

Things proceeded thusly:

  1. The surgery was robotic, the surgeons operating remotely. (Look up De Vinci Robotics)
  2. I spent the next year recuperating from the surgery.
  3. After that, 7 weeks of radiation and 2 years of Chemo (ADT).
  4. I spent the next year, cancer free, trying to improve my health, losing more than 50 pounds and curing my diabetes and high blood pressure (side effects of the chemo).
  5. After that year scans indicated small cancer nodules in my lymph nodes, only millimeters in size.
  6. 2 more years of Chemo and the cancer is still there, but it doesn’t appear to have grown or spread.  I’ll be on the (ADT) chemo from now on.

Interestingly, the cancer has never bothered me, one bit.  The chemo, though, has been an entirely different matter.  

Side effects:

  •   Hot flashes
  •   Fatigue
  •   Loss of libido, though I recognize now how distracting thoughts of sex were to doing my work.
  •   Depression
  •   Constipation
  •   Insomnia

And there are at least 19 other side effects that have never materialized for me.

Reflections on the experience has made me a calmer man.  I think a lot, as much as my short-term memory allows.

I hope to keep posting for a while.  But don’t fret, because I am absolutely not afraid.

And Guys.  Get your PSA checked every time you go to your doctor for a checkup.  My doctor told me that if we’d caught the disease two weeks later, there would have been no sense in the surgery.

We are ALL given this life, out of love, and mine has been weird and wonderful.  But with this loving gift, comes the fact that EVERYONE, regardless of who or where they are has every opportunity to have a wonderful life — perhaps not so weird.

Jesus NEVER taught us to hate.

David (ASD) Warlick

7 Disruptions You might not See Coming

I wrote these down in a notebook yesterday, as I listened to a conference presentation by Daryl Plummer at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo.* One reason was to count the number of times a presenter would mention “Generative AI.” I lost that count.

Here are seven (or eight) disruptions (with my comments) around the corner:

Impact from Geo Magnetic Storms

There is a potential for solar flairs to knock out a majority of our communication satellites.  Our challenge is to harden our power and communications infrastructures.

Regulated AI

An enormous amount of effort, engineering and forsight will be necessary to understand AI in order to regulate the technology.

Space Race

We do not know yet what benefits our exploration and habitation of space, but it’s an enourmous economic giant right now.

Silver Workers

It refers to people in the workforce who are of an age that we think of as “Retirement.” But the speaker emphasized the worth of older workers in their experience and the work environment history that the hold. Perhaps with a less demanding work experience before the age of 65 would make this prospect more appealing to me.

Laggards Leapfrog Leaders

Laggards refers to companies that are so big and established that innovation becomes extremely difficult. The speaker suggests that the opportunity is startups. Use their enourmouse capital to buy the innovations.

AI Driven Legacy Modernization

Remember with our calendars announced the 21st century, and we were worried that everything would just stop. It was because so much of our digital infrastructure ran on legacy software, written by people who had long retired. The speaker’s suggestion is that AI be utilized to modernize those legacy systems.

Pace of Engineering Innovation

No one, who’s paying attention, can deny the pace of engineering advancement. The real benefit, in my opinion, will come when we are willing to make those technological marvels are available to everyone.

Number eight would have to be Generative AI. Wikipedia defines it as:

Artificial intelligence capable of generating text, images, or other media, using generative models. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data and then generate new data that has similar characteristics**

I believe that the speaker suggested that Generative AI might just

“Change the nature of being human.”

* Plummer, D. (2023, November 8). Seven Disruptions You Might Not See Coming: 2023-2028 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVbvcIFeLYw

**Wikipedia contributors. (2023, November 17). Generative artificial intelligence. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:36, November 18, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_artificial_intelligence

Why I Stopped Playing with Rockets

For a couple of months, I was spending hours everyday, building space vessels and launching them into orbit and beyond. I was hooked and reading and watching everything I could find on astrophysics and space exploration.

So why did I quit, cold turkey? Like so many things, I reached a point of proficiency where to advance further, would require an additional investment.

My photo of the Orion Nebula
Photo of the Orion Nebula, captured with a Nikon D7100 camera & Tamron 600mm lens.

With astrophotography, I struggled to get a descent photo of a nebula and in another season one of Andromeda galaxy. But I realized that I had reached the most that I could expect from my cludge of DSLR camera, telephoto lens and tripod for a telescope. To accomplish better pictures would require an investment in more hardware.

With Kerbal Space Program, I was not going to actually land on the surface of another moon or planet with a heavy upgrade in my mathematical understanding. The prospect of a deepdive into “rocket science” was not without its appeal — if I was younger.

So, I’ve left Kerbal and the space race behind, spending more time on projects that I might actually finish that might also be of value to others.

¯\_(?)_/¯

Space Exploration Should not be Done Under the Influence

I’m beginning to recognize a barrier to my happy Kerbal’ing. When I start building my vehicles, I tend to add features to them. In fact, I find myself adding things just about every time I return a vessel to the VAB. The temptation is just too great for me, playing in this sandbox.

At issues is my inability to keep up with it all, when the ship launches. You would think that coding routines into Kos (Kerbal Operation System) would solve this dilemma, and it certainly helps. However, as I continue to add, I continue to alter my code, ultimately causing problems that I spend hours de-bugging.

Managing a space program is difficult with the cognitive problems caused by the medication I’m on.

Anyway, pictured is a vehicle that I’ve built to ferry new modules to my “Space Station Perseus.”

RIP Bill, Bob & Jebediah

Sadly, I killed three Kerbals yesterday, playing Kerbal Space Program.  They were to carry the Turquoise, a small space station, into low orbit, about 100 kilometers.  Unfortunately, I had not adequately secured the station within its fairing, and it broke apart on the launch pad, igniting a booster and causing a massive explosion.

A rocket created for the Kerbal Space Program video game.

The rocket intended to carry the “Turqoise” space station into low orbit.

I always add features to modules holding live Kerbals, that allow me to press an abort button (<Delete> key) that detaches the module from the rest of the rocket and fires small solid fueled rockets to lift it away.  However, yesterday I had neglected to have the fairing deployed with an abort, trapping the Kerbal’ module while trying to make its escape.

Turquoise station components

Components of the “Turquoise” space station.

Like most of my mishaps, I blame my clinically diagnosed ADHD.

(???,)

Adventures in Space

Rocket falling over from above the launch pad.

One of my early attempts into orbit, achieving a spectacular fall after a 35 meter ascent

I’ve been playing around with a video game. I have spent, by far, more time with this game than all video game play in my life prior to retirement. And I’m feeling a bit guilty for it. All of my tech work has always been for production, since teaching my self to program TRS-80 (Radio Shack Model I & III) computers in 1982 so that I could write programs for my students (the school system having appropriated $0 for software). With these machines that have so changed my life, I have spent nearly all of my time coding, writing or preparing slide decks for my presentations.

Astronaut, flaming out, after locking his keys in the spacecraft during an EVA.

At about 26 Kilometers, my Kerban pilot decided to do a space walk. Alas he locked his keys in the capsule and burned up during the descent.

I’ve had a professional interest in video games, however, especially as research was starting to reveal the powerful learning taking place as kids were playing these games. World of Warcraft (WOW) and Minecraft were especially interesting to innovative educators. A friend of mine started a special class for at-risk high schoolers where he gave them missions or quests to perform as teams in WOW. Then they would debrief with discussion of strategies, not just in achieving the mission but also how they collaborated with each other. The students also wrote reports, as newspaper reporters, about their various missions and their strategies and methods. They were developing skills in math, problem solving, communication and more by actually using those skills in meaningful ways.

A nearly successful orbit

These three Kerbans made it into an orbit whose apogee was around 1.4 million kilometers and perigee was somebody’s basement on the far side of Kerbal.

Authentic Learning” (an instructional approach that allows students to explore, discuss and meaningfully construct their own learning within meaningful contexts) was a term being used a lot among education leaders, until No Child Left Behind corrupted public education, shifting emphasis to rote memorization over functional understanding.

I am thoroughly enjoying the experience learning to play Kerbal Space Program (KSP). Its Wikipedia article defines the game as:

“..a space flight simulation video game developed by Mexican developer, Squad. In the game, players direct a nascent space program, staffed and crewed by green humanoid aliens know as ‘Kerbal.’ The game features a realistic orbital physics engine, slowing for various real-life orbital maneuvers such as orbital rendezvous.”

The first time that I explored KSP was in 2013, preparing for a keynote address at a conference for the National Science Teachers Association. I wanted to use the game as an example of an educational science simulation. Sadly, with only a few days to acquaint myself with the game, I was able to compellingly demonstrated how a rocket can blow up on the launch pad.

Today, after much learning and practice (orbital mechanics is hard), I can finally establish a good circular orbit around the planet, and even loop around the moon. But there is much more that I can’t do you.

Rocket is in orbit.
Almost ten years later, I’m in orbit, finally figuring out how to use the orbital maneuver tool that helps you aim your rocket in the correct direction, know when to start your burn and how long to burn, in order to achieve your desired outcome.

More to come!

1 Wikipedia contributors. “Kerbal Space Program.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 Sep. 2022. Web. 15 Sep. 2022.

A Million of Us

I wrote this in my head last night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I also spent some time thinking about how to split some hickory logs to create borders for my wife’s rhododendron garden.

A Million of Us

We are a million children of fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, all who thrived in times other than our own.

We are a million descendants of immigrants, who, as individuals, made the decision to leave what they knew, to make a new future.

We are a million descendants of an Age of Enlightenment, when great thinkers shared new ideas to escape the tyrannies of belief and wealth and corruption.

We are a million descendants of an Age of Enlightenment, when great thinkers shared new ideas to escape the tyrannies of belief and wealth and corruption.

We are a million descendants of families, who learned to thrive in a new world of untamed wilderness.

And we are a million descendants of those who practiced the habits of growth, celebrating its liberty, while hiding its abuses.

We are a million descendants of great men and women, who designed a government and made laws that benefited each of us, instead of benefiting themselves.

We are a million descendants of horrendous crimes and we are the descendants of the victims of those crimes.

We have used the might of an enormous and rich land, and a million individuals of like mind to right great wrongs, and, too often, inflict great harm.

But we are starting to learn, 
That there is much that we will need to know, 
In order to realize our nation’s “state of becoming” in a rapidly changing world,
Instead of recreating a  “state of being” that was lost in some mythical past. 

And we are starting to seek a new enlightenment, 
Of new ideas that will, 
Like before,
Deliver us from the tyrannies of belief and wealth and corruption, 
So that we might live in a land where everyone is healthy and educated,
And free to not only be satisfied with comfort, 
But be inspired to pursue a million dreams.

dfw

If You don’t Trust the News, then You May be Looking in the Wrong Places

Mark Thiessen, contributer to FowNews

Among the “Top News” stories in my news app yesterday, there was an opinion piece [https://fxn.ws/2V6JIaH] from FoxNews, written by Mark Thiessen, a FoxNews contributor from the Washington Post (plus a former speech writer for George W. Bush). He introduced a recent Columbia Journalism Review poll that found that half of Americans have “hardly any confidence at all” in the media. That’s less confidence than we have in congress. Then he goes on to use this bit of information to attack CNN and The New York Time’s coverage of the continuing debate over the legitimacy of Brett Kavanaugh’s right to be a Supreme Court Judge. 

Thiessen’s attack may have a valid basis. I don’t know. But my concern, as one who wants to be able to trust the news, is that the author did not have the courtesy of providing us with a link to the original CJR report. In fact every link that he did provide pointed to other FoxNews stories, — a giant red flag when evaluating online sources.  

With little effort, I found the CJR report [http://bit.ly/2NoPcfS ], and found it interesting that most of the people who have “hardly any confidence..” in the media are Republicans, white, have little or no college and are retired or self employed. The CJR’s poll also indicated that 80% of the respondents get their news from television, the Internet or social media. Only 6% get their news from news print, and 5% from news apps.

Where we go to get our news seems a more critical issue to our condition today, than Brett Kavanaugh’s “ding-donging phase.”

A New Tech Wave?

Sinclair Research’s launch advertising for the ZX81. High-profile advertisements such as this were used to promote the benefits and value for money of the ZX81.

After I had taught social studies for a few years we started to hear talk about personal computers. They could fit on your desk, were fully programmable to perform a multitude of functions and could be had for prices ranging from a few hundred to a thousand dollars and more. Their practical applications were hardly imagined and were noticed only be a subset of a subset of nerd types.

I am starting to wonder now if we’re on the verge of a new emerging and equally surprising technology, do-it-yourself satellites. That’s right, satellites in low earth orbit, built with commercial off-the-shelf components and designed for scientific research.

nCube, 10cm CubeSat created by University students in Norway.
nCube, 10cm CubeSat created by University students in Norway.

They are called CubeSats, typically about 10 centimeters cubed and weighing about 3 pounds. They can be launched as part of the payload of commercial rockets or deployed from the International Space Station.

There are three reasons why I believe that they may be coming to a high school (or middle school) near you.

  1. Our exploration of space has continued with NASA’s exploration of the solar system with robotic space craft and the successful rocket launches by commercial interests including SpaceX and many others. Our interest in Space exploration remains high as shown in a June 2018 Pew Research report which reports that 72% of surveyed believe that U.S. remain a world leader in space exploration. Also indicating increase is a survey reported by Centauri Dreams, that Americans believe that space exploration is a good investment, increasing from 49.5% (1988) to 59.3% (2007) to 69.1% (2018).
  2. Increasing commercial interest in mining asteroids for precious metals and iron, cobalt and nickel for space construction; and weightless manufacturing.
  3. A probable increase in the demand for professionals with knowledge and skills related to a space industry, including: electronics, computer science, geology, chemistry, astronomy,exobiology, engineering, astrophysics and philosophy.

Some high schools have already started designing and constructing CubeSats, some already in orbit. Here is a list with launch dates from nanosats.eu:

  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology [LD:2013-11-20]
  • Max Valier Technical High School [LD:2017-06-23]
  • Woodbridge High School [LD:2018-11-11]
  • University High School [LD:2018-12-03]
  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology [LD:2019-10-19]
  • IRIM – Croation Makers (Croatia) [LD:2020-12-31]
  • Ithica High School [LD:2020-12-31]
  • Raisbeck Aviation High School [LD:launch canceled]
    First high school team to design, fund, build, test, launch, and communicate with an imaging CubeSat and a 3D-printed chassis—using polyether ether ketone, PEEK.
  • Palos Verdes High School [LD:2020-12-31]
  • University High School [LD:2021-12-31]
  • Arnold O. Beckman High School [LD:launch canceled]
  • Valle Christian High School [LD:launch canceled]
  • University High School [LD:2021-12-31]

18 New Planets Just Showed Up

As engineers work to design better telescopes, both earth- and space-based, another kind of astronomy is taking place and teaching us astonishing things about our galaxy. Even though the Kepler space telescope ran out of fuel 8 months ago, the 1.38 terabytes of data (my calculation) that it generated is still being examined — by a new breed of astronomer who writes code at a computer, instead of watching the sky through lens.

They are developing smarter algorithms to scan all that data to identify objects and phenomena that were previously hidden in the digital noise. René Heller, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, and his colleagues recently uncovered 18 new planets. All of them are small, with the largest being just a bit wider than two Earths. One of the worlds is among the tiniest Kepler has yet found; it’s just 70 percent of Earth’s width. Another orbits in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star, where the temperature might allow liquid water to remain on its surface. 

The 18 newly discovered planets, seen in this illustration in orange and green, are all smaller than Neptune, with three even smaller than Earth. The green planet, dubbed EPIC 201238110.02, is the only one in the new haul that might be friendly to life.

Anna Alfonso has written a good description of data astronomy (The State of Data in Astronomy) in her blog, data iku.

There are now 3,972 confirmed exoplanets, worlds that are orbiting other stars, according to NASA’s Exoplanet Archive.

Initial Source: https://on.natgeo.com/2IlA7Xv