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Status Updates posted by efaardvark

  1. Well, they didn't get the bill passed.  Again.  Bosses are saying the furloughs start "next month", which is now only a few days away.  At this point it isn't D vs R, Congress vs Prez, or any of that.  The Ds have said they're willing to pass one of the old R bills that they wouldn't pass before, but the Rs won't go for it now simply because the Ds suggest it.  Spiteful b'tards.  The Senate won't even allow a re-vote on one of their own bills!  As for the Prez, he could simply not veto one of the R's old $200B spending bills if he wanted to end this.  Even if he keeps vetoing, the Congress could override his veto if they wanted.  Lots of ways to end this if anyone at the top was really interested in making it happen.  This is just a bunch of entitled asshats - I refuse to call them "leaders" - playing games with the little peoples' lives and running the country into the ground in the process.

    MAGA?  Drain the swamp?  HA!  This is worse than it's ever been.  Even Hillary would have been better.  New meaning for an old acronym: MAGA => my lawyer got arrested.

  2. Upgrading from Bionic Beaver to Cosmic Cuttlefish.  Should be a simple update but if things go horribly awry and you don't hear from me for a while you'll know what happened.

  3. From the same people who brought us New Horizons' mission to Pluto and Ultima Thule comes the Dragonfly mission to Titan...


  4. Any 賭ケグルイ fans in the audience?   So is Elon Musk apparently...





      I love Kakegurui, one of my fave manga series! 

    Obscure and nerdy. I like it. :D
  6. Today a co-worker pointed out a 2-second pan-shot in the Cassini episode of the Netflix show "7 days out" that contained him, me, and another guy in the control room where we work.  Now I need to track down my brother so I can borrow his netflix account & see if I can snag a screen shot or something.  :D 

    1. efaardvark


      Turns out I'm actually in there in a few different places.  One place you can barely see the back of my head, but @ 33:33 you can actually see my face, and @ 34:25 there's even a few seconds with a full-body shot of me talking to one of the other guys I work with.  (I'm the guy in the green shirt.)  I might as well be one of those animatronic Disneyland dolls, but I'm in there.  :) Kinda cool..

  7. Meanwhile, closer to home, はやぶさ2 prepares for a landing on another small body....
    There's also Osiris-REX that just went into orbit around Bennu..
    .. and the Chinese just landed a rover on the far side of the Moon...
    Just in case anyone was thinking space news was getting boring.  :) 
    1. efaardvark


      Nice summary of the above from Scott Manley...


  8. "New Horizons performed as planned today, conducting the farthest exploration of any world in history — 4 billion miles from the Sun," said Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "The data we have look fantastic and we're already learning about Ultima from up close. From here out the data will just get better and better!"

    It is going to take a while to play all the data collected during the flyby down to Earth however.  Ultima Thule is as far from Pluto as Saturn is from Earth, and the data rates possible from that far away are in the low kilobits per second.  The many gigabits of data that were recorded on the spacecraft during it's flyby are going to take 20 months - nearly 2 years! - to all be pulled down.  The first low-res pictures are already coming down, with more (and higher-res) scheduled to finish downloading on January 2nd and over the next few weeks and months.


    1. Beocat


      I watched the flyby countdown last night and was on my phone this morning watching for the signal acquisition. Healthy spacecraft ^_^ The New Horizons team is truly an amazing group :)

  9. Just getting home from a swing shift.  Worked a mid shift Friday->Saturday.  I don't know if I want coffee or bed.  Guess I'll watch some anime while I decide.  :)

  10. Looks like another busy space year coming up!  Not all NASA-related either, which is cool because it means even Trump's Repugs can't screw it all up.


  11. OMG.. osiris-rex @ bennu, tree on car, thanksgiving, insight (and marco) @ mars, and はやぶさ2 @リュウグウ all in a row.  Then new horizons' fly-by coming up in a couple weeks.  Happy New Year from Ultima Thule!  Love that name btw.  And of course the Christ mass-shopping experience that I (still!) have to work in sometime between now and xmas!  (Making sure I get the gifts that go to my brother's family in Wisconsin out in time.  Gift cards to all!  jk?  I hope.)  I haven't had a chance to watch any anime for weeks!  Next week or two doesn't look promising either.  AAAAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrggggggthpt!  What would Itami do?  If I'm still sane when next year gets here I'm going to count that a win.  (Might already be too late.  :)  )

  12. What a week.  Went by like it was a couple hours.  Never enough time and always too much to do.  Looking back, it is hard to believe only a week has gone by.

  13. 1st picture of a new place on Mars..


  14. Mission briefing on Monday's InSight Mars landing...



  15. Finally getting around to updating my (Synology DS713+) NAS.  Got a lot of catching up to do, including the NAS s/w itself, perl, mariadb server, plex server, and email server, among others.  Updating always makes me nervous.

    1. brycec


      Did you back up the data that is on the NAS? I need to check plex myself, though that always seems to be screaming that an update is needed.

    2. efaardvark


      The data is backed up. 3 drives.. 2 online mirroring each other and one off-line that's periodically plugged in and synced to the online volume.  I'm just being paranoid.  Never had a problem with Synology.

  16. Discord says that one of my friend is "Playing CKAN".  :D

  17. Looks like Southern California is on fire again.  Not quite in my area this time, fortunately.  The closest blaze to me personally is the "Hill" fire in Thousand Oaks, which is about 35-40 miles away from me as the crow flies.  However, I have a cousin and aunt in the Camarillo/Oxnard area maybe 5 miles from the flames that have already been evacuated.  (Safely, fortunately.)  Always pretty dicey when our high winds start pushing the fire around.  Weather people said to expects gusts up to 40-50MPH in the valleys today, and up to 70 in the hills.  There's even been sightings of fire tornados reported.. kind of flaming dust-devils created when winds in and around the fire pick up flaming debris and carry it along, lighting new fires as they go.

    Very not-fun.  And yes, the "Hill" fire is only a couple miles away from the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks where the shooting took place yesterday.  Tell me again why people keep moving to California?


    1. efaardvark


      Been watching the satellite feed (via https://firemap.sdsc.edu/ )  Looks pretty scary south and west of me.  Hopefully the winds will stay down overnight. A bit of moisture would be nice too, but probably not going to happen.  At least we're not in the middle of a summer heat wave.


  18. Got official word today, DAWN is history as far as NASA's deep space network is concerned.  Another one bites the dust...


    ACTION: CDSCC / GDSCC-Documentation / MDSCC-Documentation / DSN-OPS-CHIEFS /

    SUBJECT: NAD-DAWN-080 Dawn Decommissioned


     To inform the Network of the decommissioning of the Dawn Spacecraft


     Dawn launched 11 years ago, a highly successful mission to explore
     the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt namely Vesta and Ceres,
     the Dawn spacecraft exhausted all the hydrazine on onboard, reached
     end of mission and will remain in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres for
     decades. Dawn was decommissioned on DOY 305 YR 2018 (Nov 1, 2018).

     The DSN is officially released from supporting Dawn spacecraft.

     The NOPE/NOA team thank the Network for the excellent support. If you have
     any questions and/or concerns, please contact the Dawn NOA/NOPE Team at:


    ( also https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/11/1/18053366/nasa-dawn-spacecraft-dead )

  19. Got my EDL shirt!  24 days to go!


  20. Got a new Mars 2020 baseball cap from the company store.  My Mars Science Laboratory cap is so old it is coming apart.  I've been wearing my MSL cap pretty much daily since launch in 2011 and I really needed a new one.  Not sure I'm a fan of the 2020 patch tho.  Too abstract.  If I didn't already know what it was I probably would never figure it out.  It isn't bad-looking however, and it does have "MARS 2020" embroidered on the side.  Feels secure on my egghead too, which is a big plus all by itself.  :)  I've got a DAWN and an InSight cap that I don't wear much because they're always blowing off in the wind.


  21. RIP the NASA Kepler probe.  Kepler found 2,681 planets beyond our solar system.  Thanks to Kepler we now know that there are more planets than stars, at least in our part of the universe.


    1. Beocat


      I just heard the same news. Losing Hubble and lost Kepler =/ we need to fund our space programs!

    2. efaardvark


      Probably going to lose DAWN here pretty soon too.  They're almost out of attitude-control fuel.

      But TESS is already up.  TESS was originally planned as a follow-on to Kepler, but since Kepler lasted so long TESS has already launched and started sending us data.  (LOTS of data!  Its highest data rate is 125Mbits/sec, the highest data rate NASA has used to date for any of its probes.  The first downlink the spacecraft dumped over 50GB on us here in the DSN in just over an hour!)

      After TESS there's already the James Webb Space Telescope being worked on.  They haven't launched yet though.  There will also be a lot of competition for viewing time on JWST since it isn't only a planet-finder.

  22. FWIW, Kerbal Space Program and the Making History DLC are on sale at the Steam Store.  60% off of KSP itself and 33% off the DLC.  For the next 2 days $25US will get you both...


    (I'm not in any way connected to Steam, Valve, Take Two, or Squad.  I just have a blast playing the game.)

  23. How many planets are there in the solar system?  8, right?  Used to be 9, but Pluto got demoted to "dwarf".

    Ok, so if you add Pluto and all the other "dwarf" planets back -  Ceres, Eris, Makemake, Orcus, Salacia, Haumea, etc - how many known planets are there in our solar system?  A couple dozen?  A hundred?  A couple hundred?  There's an astronomer at CalTech who's been looking into the matter & he's been keeping a "little" list...


    For what it's worth, a (dwarf) planet only 470km in diameter has a surface area the size of the (US) state of Texas.  Something the size of the entire country of Japan would be about 350km in diameter.

    That's a lot of real estate.

    And that's just what we know about.

    1. brycec


      Interesting, though I wish he provided a legend to read this stuff. He only provides 5 categories, but there are more than 5 colors it seems.

    2. efaardvark


      The text just above the table defines how the terms are applied.  The problem is that it is REALLY hard to even see these things, never mind determine their size.  There is so little light that even Hubble has trouble seeing them.  Basically you have to be looking at a star and notice that it disappears for a while.  That tells you that /something/ was there, and gives you a lower limit on the size.  (If you know approximately how far away it is then that gives you a read on the speed that it is travelling in orbit around the sun.  Based on that speed and the duration of the occultation you can determine that it has to be a certain size or larger.)  To be a "dwarf" planet, it has to be round.  Unfortunately, the composition determines how big a body can be before it becomes round.  How do you determine the composition of a particular body when you can't go there and can't even SEE it properly?  How do you know the size when the occultation time might be through the thickest part of an irregular object or might barely nick the edge of a larger round body?  Some of these things, like Haumea (spins so fast it is oblong, has two moons and a ring orbiting it), are really strange and hard to get a handle on.

      You can figure things based on what you know, and you can put limits on what might be, what can't be, etc., but the error bars are pretty large.




      How many dwarf planets are there? Ceres is the only asteroid that is known to be round. After that it gets complicated. All of the rest of the new dwarf planets are in the distant region of the Kuiper belt, where we can't actually see them well enough to know for sure if they are round or not.

      While we can't see most of the objects in the Kuiper belt well enough to determine whether they are round or not, we can estimate how big an object has to be before it becomes round and therefore how many objects in the Kuiper belt are likely round. In the asteroid belt Ceres, with a diameter of 900 km, is the only object large enough to be round, so somewhere around 900 km is a good cutoff for rocky bodies like asteroids. Most Kuiper belt objects have a lot of ice in their interiors, though. Ice is not as hard as rock, so it less easily withstands the force of gravity, and it takes less force to make an ice ball round. The best estimate for how big an icy body needs to be to become round comes from looking at icy satellites of the giant planets. The smallest body that is generally round is Saturn's satellite Mimas, which has a diameter of about 400 km. Several satellites which have diameters around 200 km are not round. So somewhere between 200 and 400 km an icy body becomes round. Objects with more ice will become round at smaller sizes while those with less rock might be bigger. We will take 400 km as a reasonable lower limit and assume that anything larger than 400 km in the Kuiper belt is round, and thus a dwarf planet.

      How many objects do we know in the Kuiper belt that are 400 km or larger? That question is harder to answer, because we don't actually know how big most of the objects in the Kuiper belt are. While we can see how bright there are, we don't know if they are bright because they are larger or are highly reflective. In the past, we had to just throw our hands up in the air and say we don't know enough to even make reasonable guesses. But in the past few years, systematic measurements of the sizes of objects from the Spitzer Space Telescope and now the Herschel Space Telescope have taught us enought that we can make some reasonable estimates of how reflective objects are. (It's complicated: read the details here ) These reasonable estimates, combined with all available actually measurements, give us the list of the largest Kuiper belt objects, sorted by diameter, below. Carefully note the lack of any error bars. Every single measurement or estimate below is uncertain to some extent or another. I don't include the individual uncertainties in the table, but instead use the ensemble uncertainties to inform classification below. In other words: take the sizes of specific objects with bigger or smaller grains of salt.



  24. Wasted a weekend, but I got my car! 


    I must say, this was something of an experience.  I don't buy cars often.  I treat them well and tend to keep them until they die naturally or are murdered.  My last car was an '07 model that a tree fell on.  The one before that I think I bought sometime in the mid 80s.  I haven't been in the market for over a decade.  These days cars seem a bit different.  Much more exposed electronics and gadgetry.   In fact, these days they're more like "smart" phones.  For example, ipad-like touch consoles seem all the rage (whether you like them or not).  You also tend to have to charge them overnight before you can really use them.  :D  The dealerships I visited were all pushing either hybrids or EVs, or at least things claiming to be hybrids or EVs.  (Is a double-sized battery and a larger starter motor /really/ a hybrid, even if it shuts off the engine at stop lights?  I have my doubts.)  And the apps!  Why apps on your car when texting and cellphones are already such a problem?  Really.  Bad.  Idea.

    One thing that hasn't changed however.. that new-car smell.  :)

    1. Show previous comments  1 more
    2. efaardvark


      Yeah, BT is a Good Thing.  For cellphones, well, I'm one of the 0.01% of the population that will actually turn off their cell connection when driving.  What calling I do is usually just 30-second "I'll be late" type notices when stuck in traffic.  Though I don't use it much, for those times hands-free calling is wonderful.  I also had a bluetooth gadget for wirelessly connecting my phone to my old car's "aux" audio input for spotify because I literally wore out my last phone's audio jack plugging/unplugging for the commute.  (I don't buy new phones very often either.)  I made sure this car had both hands-free phone and BT audio input built-in.

    3. brycec


      Most of the time, the apps stink, so it is a bad idea in that respect, but I still think they could be neat, especially if it could make the car invisible.

      Nice looking car though.

    4. efaardvark


      I wasn't impressed with the apps I saw either.  The apps I want/need are already on my phone for the most part, and I don't need the distraction of dealing with any of the ones in my car while I'm driving.  The only apps I use with any regularity while actually driving are waze and spotify anyway.  I'll probably use the built-in GPS instead of waze because the car's display is bigger.  It would have been nice to have spotify built-in too, but with the BT connection that's not a big deal.  The car does have Sirius XM and Pandora.  XM I'll probably use for the 3 month trial and not miss it afterwards.  I have yet to try Pandora, even though I have a subscription.  That might be good enough to replace spotify when I'm in the car.  Other than that the rest is uninteresting at best, and distracting at worst.

      Invisibility would be cool.  Dangerous, but cool.  :)

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