Monthly Archives: March 2007

I Have Stuff in Orbit

I don’t normally talk about work here, since that’s a good way to get Dooced, but this is too cool for me not to share. About three years ago I had a project to design and build retro-reflecting targets for the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor, a device that measures how far away the targets are and how they’re oriented. If you know that and you know how the targets are mounted to a satellite, you know the distance to the satellite and which way the satellite is pointing. That’s the kind of stuff you need to know if you’re going to dock two spacecraft on orbit without a pilot flying one of them.

And as it happens, DARPA, Boeing and NASA are doing just that for the Orbital Express mission. Orbital Express has two satellites that will move away from each other, re-dock, and transfer fluid to demonstrate on-orbit satellite refueling. OE is using AVGS and our targets.

OE targets

Ah, there our targets are, nicely circled in red. Anyway, Orbital Express launched on March 8th. Today I found out that DARPA has released footage of the two satellites on orbit as viewed from the camera arm. If you watch the video, at the very beginning you can see one of our targets — it’s the bright white cylinder in the top right corner. At 00:26 you can see one of the targets move from the left side of the video to the right and another come into the field of view. At 02:25 to 02:27 you can see a very overexposed version of the smaller target cluster.

Like many kids, I dreamed of being an astronaut. One night in high school, while I waited for my parents to pick me up, I lay down in the grass and stared up past the brick wall next to me and into space. “I’ll see you one day,” I whispered to the moon. Later I realized that I would never be an astronaut, and how the difficulties of going to space meant I would likely never leave the ground. For a boy who dreamed of the stars, having something you held in your hand, something you helped shepherd from idea to reality, now orbiting the Earth is the next best thing.

Friday Night Videos: I Used to Rock!

Eric Clapton: Layla (1970)

As this video from 1983 shows, “Layla” wasn’t always an introspective song. I’d never heard this version before. It’s quite the lineup, what with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Andy Fairweather Low on guitars.

The Police: Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86 (1986)

Oh, man. Oh, man. YouTube doesn’t have the original studio music video that The Police made for this song in 1980, so you get the 1986 version with the slower chorus and the computer graphics and the floating instruments a la the 1987 video for Rush’s “Time Stand Still”. If you draw a line through the 1980 version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and the 1986 version, it goes straight through “All for Love,” the ballad he, Rod Stewart, and Bryan Adams did for the movie The Three Musketeers, and ends at the album “Mercury Falling”.

Eli Sings (Though Not the Blues)

I’m always hesitant about showing Eli singing, since you never know when Simon Cowell will unleash a verbal smackdown in response, but what the hey. I’m enjoying posting audio clips, and Eli sings a lot.

First up is his rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.
[audio:twinkle twinkle little star.mp3]

Next up is what happens when he’s feeling silly: he substitutes other words for “star” and makes up rhymes around them.
[audio:twinkle twinkle little fish.mp3]

When I was trying to get him to sing, he made up a song about frogs.
[audio:frog onna log.mp3]

Finally, for an encore, here is Eli singing “Such Great Heights”.
[audio:such great heights.mp3]

Library, Library, LIBRARY!!

Yesterday, I asked Eli what he wanted to do and he responded, “Go to the Library!”

We’ve been to the library some but not weekly or anything so I was a bit surprised by this request. When I picked him up from school he asked, “Are we going to the library now?”

So we did and we picked up about 12 books for him to read. He made me promise that we would read six of them when we got home before nap. We did and then he had a nap. When he woke up we had to take breaks between watching Little Einsteins to read library books. At bedtime Stephen had to read “The Stinky Cheese Man.”

It’s 7:40 and I’ve already read eight books this morning. Stephen had to take a break from getting ready for work to read a couple. I’m not sure what we are going to do today to top the library books. Maybe I can distract him by taking him to the grocery store to get a cookie.

The Eli Lexicon

Since a lot of you don’t speak toddler fluently, here is a simple toddler-to-English dictionary, along with usage examples and audio clips.


Many Eli statements tell you what you should be doing.

Do it again: You should repeat whatever action you just completed.
Usage: (after tickling Eli) Do it again! Do it again!
[audio:do it again.mp3]

Watch out for me: The toddler is moving quickly, and needs you to be aware of his running and make room for him to pass.
Usage: Watch out for me! (followed by running into a wall)
Alternate version: Here comes me! (followed by running into a wall)

[audio:watch out for me.mp3]

Look into my eyes: You have not truly been listening, and should pay closer attention to the toddler. Often accompanied by the forefinger and middle finger laid on the cheeks and pointing at or near the eyes.
Usage: Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Look into my eyes, mom. Look into my eyes.
[audio:look into my eyes.mp3]

I have to tell you something: The toddler wants you to pay better attention. This serves both as a request for attention and a long version of a filler word.
Usage: Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! I have to tell you something! (long silence) Mom!
[audio:i have to tell you something.mp3]

My diaper is stinky: Though this sounds as if it is indicative, it is truly a demand for you to change the toddler’s diaper. For full effect, this should be the first thing you hear as you are waking up from a deep sleep, with the toddler at your bedside and your faces only inches apart.
Usage: My diaper is stinky.
[audio:my diaper is stinky.mp3]

Reflexive Imperative

Many Eli statements tell you what he wants you to let him do.

I want to watch a show: Life has become boring, and the only thing that can relieve the toddler’s ennui is a TV show or two.
Usage: I want to watch a show. I want to watch Little Einsteins.
[audio:i want to watch a show.mp3]

I want to play games on the computer: Life has become boring, and since you won’t let the toddler watch TV, the toddler wants to play online games like or Disney Online or World of Warcraft.
Usage: I want to play games on the computer. Can I play games on the computer?
[audio:i want to play games on the computer.mp3]

I want long crackers and short raisins: The toddler is hungry, and wants Club crackers (which are rectangular and thus long on one side) and a bowl of raisins.
Usage: I want long crackers and short raisins. No, not goldfish crackers, loooooong crackers.
[audio:i want long crackers and short raisins.mp3]


Some Eli statements ask you to answer questions.

What are you doing?: The toddler is bored, and is faking curiousity about your actions. Do not be surprised to hear this question even if the toddler knows exactly what you are doing and has been watching you do it for the last five minutes. Also do not be surprised to hear the toddler repeat this question every twenty or thirty seconds.
Usage: (while the listener is eating) What are you doing?
[audio:what are you doing.mp3]

Do you like…?: The toddler wants to know if you like something, like sharks or fish or turtles.
Usage: Do you like sharks?
[audio:do you like sharks.mp3]


Many Eli statements tell you what he is doing or was planning on doing, or what Eli thinks of you.

Hmmmmm, let me think: You have asked the toddler to do something, or asked where an object is or what the toddler is supposed to be doing. Often accompanied by a cocked head and a single finger placed to the temple.
Usage: (after being asked where the toddler left the car keys) Hmmmmm, let me think.
[audio:hm let me think.mp3]

I was just trying to: The toddler has been told not to do something, and is attempting to rationalize what the toddler wanted to do.
Usage: I was just trying to eat that bug.
[audio:i was just trying to.mp3]

I’m okay: The toddler has fallen or run into a wall or piece of furniture, and is informing you that he is uninjured.
Usage: (WHAM!) I’m okay!
[audio:im okay.mp3]

Maaaaybe…: You have asked the toddler not to do something, but the toddler still wants to do it, and thus repeats what the toddler wants to do.
Usage: Maaaaaaybe I will eat that bug.
[audio:maybe i have to tell you something.mp3]

Oops, I’m sorry: The toddler has forgotten something you told the toddler to do, and the toddler is expressing remorse in a very cheerful fashion.
Usage: (after being reminded to take his plate to the sink) Oops, I’m sorry!
Alternate version: Oops, I forgot!
[audio:oops im sorry.mp3]

Thank you, girl-man: You are female, and have just told the toddler, “Thank you, man!”
Usage: Thank you, girl-man!
[audio:thank you girl-man.mp3]

Yoooooou’re a silly head: You have told the toddler, “You’re a silly head!” After the toddler replies with this phrase, you must reply, “No, yoooooooou’re a silly head.” Repeat.
Usage: No, yoooooooooooooooou’re a silly head.
[audio:youre a silly head.mp3]

Soda and Presidents Don’t Mix

I don’t talk a lot about politics in this blog. In this instance, though, I’m going to make an exception for an issue that is too important not to.

Propaganda poster against John Scalzi for SFWA president

This is so inside baseball that you’re practically staring through cracks in the leather and past the red stitching. Here’s the synopsis. John Scalzi, a science fiction writer, recently declared himself a write-in candidate for the SFWA presidency, SFWA being the professional organization for writers of science fiction and fantasy. In response, several of his readers created campaign posters, including some excellent remixed propaganda posters by Theo Black.

More recently, as part of his reader request week, he explained why he didn’t like coffee. He’s also admitted his Coke Zero addiction to SFWA members. Put all of this together and, well, I felt the need to play with Photoshop and Illustrator for several hours last night.

Ah, the skills I’ve learned while making videos for Dragon*ConTV.

Worshiping by the Glow of the TV

I’ve always had mixed feelings about letting Eli watch TV. On the one hand, his parents watch TV, and there are a lot of good shows for kids these days, starting with Sesame Street and going from there. On the other hand, he needs to be able to entertain himself without turning to the TV at every opportunity. We’ve tried to strike a balance by letting him watch a set number of shows. For the most part he can choose when he watches them and which ones he watches, but once he’s watched his set number, he’s done.

I’d feel better if he didn’t then remind me about the TV he watches. We’ll be playing together and he’ll say, “Oh, no, dad, we’re being chased by a Nile crocodile!” Would that be the same Nile crocodile you saw on Little Einsteins? He incorporates what he’s seen into his imaginative play, using it as a springboard for his own adventures. That’s cool and all, but should he make TV such a big part of his life?

And speaking of TV, did you see the season finale of Battlestar Galactica? I’ve seen a lot of people discussing how much it annoyed them, and I’m partially on their side. Unfortunately, there aren’t any more episodes until 2008, so I guess we’ll all have to theorize about the dangling plot threads in the finale and read and write fanfic in the meantime.

This Time Around We’re Getting A Doula

When I was pregnant with Eli I was pretty scared about the birth process. What I’ve come to understand is that’s not all that uncommon in this day and time. I didn’t know anyone, besides relatives, that has had a baby in the past 20 years and so had no idea what to expect.

In my quest to educate myself I found out about a person called a doula, which is basically a labor support person. She doesn’t take the place of the dad, she’s just another pair of hands in the labor room to help you with anything you might need. Most especially, she sees to your physical comfort and emotional needs and helps explain options when the situations changes. She helps dad with understanding ways to support you as well, so you become a team trying to get the baby here as opposed to a couple of people stranded in a hospital room with no one to explain what’s going on.

Which pretty much sums up my first labor experience. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t good and mostly, I just felt stranded. The bulk of my active labor was during shift change and I’m not sure we could have scared up a nurse if Stephen had delivered the baby himself and then walked into the hall to ask for some assistance with the cord. There was one delivery nurse that was really excited about Eli scoring a 9 on the APGAR test but she moved out with the doctor to the next delivery. But my doctor was there on time and the baby came quickly so what is there really to gripe about, right?

My doctor is young and I like that about her, she’s only a couple of years older than me but she is a caring and confident person. When I asked her about getting a doula with Eli, she didn’t come out and say she didn’t want one in her labor room but I could tell, it aggravated her. So I dropped the subject. This time around, she has had one child and when I asked her about it a second time, was pregnant with twins. (She’s out on maternity leave now but is supposed to be back before my due date.) She seemed much more receptive to the idea of a doula, so Stephen and I started talking about it again.

At first, it seemed a bit silly to get one for a second birth. I mean, I’ve already done it once, right? What could I possibly need with a doula when I know what’s going to happen? But that’s the thing, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Just because one birth went relatively smoothly, doesn’t mean that the second one will. Since my epidural wore off on one side with Eli, I decided that I’d like to go as long as possible without drugs this time. I don’t know if or how I’ll make that but that’s the great thing about having the doula, she’s there for encouragement for whatever you decide.

So then came the process of actually trying to find someone. I had mentioned it to Ashley and since she’s having her first, she really wanted to get a doula. She started looking and found someone she’s really happy with. The problem in Huntsville is that there aren’t many certified doulas here and then because they like kids, guess what, they usually have a lot themselves. So sometimes even if there are multiple options in your area, they may be out because of their own births or booked up with other people’s births. Which is the case here right now. There’s about five practicing doulas but currently only two of them are taking clients. Ashley’s doula was a bit nervous about taking both of us on as clients since we are both due so close together and rightly so, I think. I contacted the other one set up a meeting with her.

We had our second appointment with Jeanne this week and she is great! I’m so glad that she’s going to be there with us. We talked about what I’d be wanting and she showed Stephen some foot massage techniques. I get my feet massaged during labor? Can I go ahead and get that part started now?

I’m actually starting to get excited about trying to make it through labor without the drugs. Not because I think it’ll be fun but because I want to be awake enough to experience it all this time. With Eli, I just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible but this time, I’m think I’m ready to give the whole experience a try.

I have to say the feeling of optimism concerning the labor and delivery is much more pleasant to look forward to than the dread that I felt before. I think the bulk of that is due to knowing we’ll have an advocate in the room with us no matter what happens.

This Never Gets Old for Me

This is what? The 4oth, 5oth time I’ve posted photos of the boys playing Guitar Hero?

And still it entertains me.

This time it’s the Jerry Garcia vibe we’ve got going on…
Also, notice the power stance!
Here’s some star power action. The best part: he actually can watch the screen and tell when he’s supposed to do it.
Rocking Out is hard work but he’s good at letting Stephen finish the song he’s working on before he demands a new game.