Friday, March 10, 2006

Musings about JK Rowling website update

So, for those of you who are fans of Harry Potter, you probably know, or at least, should know, about her website, . It is quite possible the best website done by a major author for her fans. You will not find her trying to sell books there, or anything along those lines, just hints about her life and Harry Potter. It really is quite cool.

So, this week, she updated it, and added alot of cool new stuff to the site. There's alot more personal stuff here and there, and alot more secrets. If you didn't know, there was 7, and now appearently 12 secrets to her website, stuff that will give you cool insites to the series. For instance, one of them is a picture of Nearly Headless Nick. There are all kinds of them, with a bit of the history behind them.

So, the latest batch included some gold. Perhaps the best was one of the outlines of HP5, with some elements taken away, and others included. This can be obtained by making a lightning shape on the piece of paper with the pen in the extras section. The lightning should be basically an L then straight down.

So, I guess that's my take on the website. It's way cool, if you like Harry Potter, and haven't gone there, I highly recommend it!

MRO-Orbit Successful!

Yah! So, the MRO is now orbiting Mars successfully! Perhaps one of the greatest moments of my life! So, let me tell you about the flow of the day.

It all started for me at about 1:00 today, or, well, at least, todays story started. I was at the University of Arizona's Luner and Planetary Labratory (LPL), watching with the team of the HiRISE camera the orbit of a martian spacecraft. It was very exciting. We had a wait of an hour and a half to hear if the craft had indeed started it's burn. So, the HiRISE staff started to explain the many features of the craft, it was quite neat.

Well, we had the opportunity to ask several questions. I did so, and it was quite neat to get alot of results, to find out a bit more about what was happening, about the MRO, etc. I had alot riding on the successful orbit of this camera, as I will shortly explain.

So, then, we had confirmation that the first burn started. The whole room started to become tense, there was an era of excitement, unlike anything I have felt before, it seemed. It was fun, a kid right in front of me (I was in the 3rd row by this point in time, the first 2 rows were for the HiROC, or HiRise Operations Control), which was showing one of those cool little charts that they have in NASA, it was visibly showing the change in velocity that the spacecraft was having. It showed several mark points, and it was right on the money!

So then, we soon reached Earth Blackout. What that means simply is that the orbiter went behind Mars. We had a half hour wait, to see what would happen.

So, then, the big moment, would the spacecraft survive. Anxiously we awaited, and then it came, the beatiful sound of "We have one-way contact!" The whole room exploded in excitement! A Mars mission had survived, by this point in time, there had been no known missions to have failed. Still, we anxiously awaited for that confirmation that the spacecraft had indeed orbited.

And then it came, we have confirmed Mars orbit! The room again exploded in excitement! The Mars spacecraft had orbited!

So, why does this all mean so much to me? You see, I will now be working as a programmer for the HiRISE camera. It was conditional upon the succesful orbit of the camera, so I guess I have a new job! It will surely be an exciting time!

ECE 304 and studying

So, if there are any EE majors from the University of Arizona, you might have heard of ECE 304. If your not there, just imagine that really really hard class you had to take, perhaps Organic Chemistry, and you might have about the same idea.

So, I'm taking this class this semester. It's a class in basically amplifier design with transisters. That's the most technical I'll get, so you can keep reading. This class is supposed to be the hardest class in my major. I mean, everyone, even the smartest of people, complain about it. It's just crazy. For all of my undergraduate career, I heard bad about this class.

So, I'm now in it. It's a 6 unit class, holding class 3 times a week for 2 hours, and 2 3 hour labs per week. Not to mention that, but there's homework that takes even me, who am normally that kid who spends a quater of the time of anyone else on a problem, couldn't finish in less than 15 hours, and there are about 10 of these assignments durning the year. Crazy, eh? It's not a class for those with a busy life.

So, I took the first of 6 tests in the class, I'll just put it like this. I've never gotten a grade so low in my life. I decided to actually study for the next test. Some of you might think that's a no brainer, but, well, it's the first time I've ever really studied for a test in my whole life. Yep, it's the truth. I've studied before, but nothing really too serious, normally because I get good grades one way or another.

So, when I started studying for the tests, the results were obvious. I started scoring as much as 3 times higher on subsequent tests as I did on the first, even to go from below average to the highest grade in the class of 60. And I've discovered something, I actually enjoy this nasty class, although I wish there was a bit less homework.

So, it all just depends on your atitude. Just do your best, and it will all work out.

Harry Potter, muses about my early HP days

So, I'm an HP nut. It's hard for me to admit it, but, it's the truth. I started reading the books when the 3rd one was out, I must have been about 16. Wow, that was almost 6 years. So, I read all of the books at the time, all 3 of them. It was awesome. I waited for that oh so special 4th book to come out. But, there was a problem, the day of it's release, I had an activity at my church, of waterskiing. I wasn't as big of an HP fan at the time, so, I decided, fine, I'll have some fun. My dad had ordered the 2 books through some book publishing magazine, and they weren't going to get to our house anyways. Well, we weren't that big of HP fans at the time, and I didn't know any others, far different than today.

So, anyways, I get home from the trip (My dad and all of my brothers were there to, only my mom and youngest sister stayed home), and what do I see? I noticed the cover to a new HP book. I started thinking, hey, we can't have got our copies in the mail yet. So, I heard the story, my mom and sister decided to go and buy the book, and were hogging it to themselves, claiming something like we all had fun that day, they had to have some fun too.

So, I started thinking, I really want to read that book. I woke up at about 4 in the morning the next morning. I started thinking, hmmm, wonder where they put the book. I realized it was in my sisters room. So, I get this crazy idea to go into my sisters room while she's still asleep, grab the book, and start reading. I finally convinced myself to do it, and, well, yep, I did it.

So, I read the first 6 chapters that night. Crazy that I still remember. At about 5:45 I decided to get some more sleep, I snuck into my sisters room again and put the book right back where it was.

The problem was, I got a bit braver, and tried to get it when she went into the shower. Harry Potter can have that effect on people. Well, I got caught.

Still, good came out of it, I got to start reading at every moment they weren't reading I tried to finish the book before they did, and thought I was, I didn't count on my mom and sister staying up till past midnight one night to finish reading the book. My sister was only 7 or 8 then, so, reading was still a bit hard for her. I realized why it was when I got to that last part, it was just crazy.

So, that's the start of my becoming a Potter Head. Perhaps I'll go on to futher details, but it's amazing what Potter can make you do sometimes. The only time I ever did sneak into my sisters room was to get that book. Crazy, eh?


So, I'm taking a cryptology class at my university. I'm thinking, wow, this is amazing stuff. I never realized how much there was into the whole system. It really is amazing at how secure your data can be.

So, I decided, now that I've learned all sorts of fun cryptosystems, I decided to go for it. I decided to build a secure diary system. This system will allow possiby several people to access it, or at least, parts of it, if you authorize them. It's turning out fairly well. I'm writing the program in Python, which may be of use to some of you out there.

Then I'm thinking, is it really that important to make sure no one can read my journal? In the end, I decided, well, not really, but I have to do a project anyways, and might as well have some fun with it while I'm at it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

MRO- Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Tommorow is a big day for space junkies like me. The newest Mars Orbiter will arrive at Mars, carrying an instrument provided by my university, the HiRISE camera, or the High Resolution Imaginge Science Experiment. This camera is HUGE, I've seen a full scale model of it on the UA campus. It will be able to take pictures of up to 25 cm of resolution, or about a foot. Imagine then, if you were on Mars, then the picture could indeed find you, especially if you were laying down.

The following link is a news article about the MRO. It details alot of the risk involved in a MOI, or Mars Orbital Insertion

Granted, NASA is 2 for 4 in recent years, but well, I bet they've learned a thing or two from their mistakes. First of all, I'd be willing to be it's been checked at least a dozen times by a dozen people if the units are metric or English. That one's probably alright, that takes care of one of the orbiters. The other one, well, it went down due to problems in the aerobraking. It happens, but, NASA's surely learned a trick or two since those days. So, I give them at least 80% odds of a sucessful orbit. I most certainly hope they do, there's more than just some fake bet here at stake, but, tommorow I'll be able to post more.

Thoughts on anxiety

Why is it, that when are anxiously awaiting something, that it never comes?

For a while, I have been offered a new job, conditional upon the need of the team. I will find out for sure at about 3 if they will be needing me for the job, and, well, that day just doesn't seem to come ever. Why is that? And, well, this job has been something along the lines of what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid, so I couldn't be more excited.

And why is it, that when one is so anxiously awaiting something beyond someone's control, that every little thing seems unimportant, that one almost gets depressed? I've realized that I'm getting grouchier, and it's just no good.

Oh well. Such is life I suppose.