Yes, I actually went on a vacation. It was almost a mistake, but then … wham!… I was vacationing. I didn’t know what to do. The Memphis Zoo was fun. We spent about 8 hours walking around, my legs fell off, but we saw the whole thing.
The architecture was amusing, a blend of Egyptian, Log cabin, Native American Northwest, and Asian. (And a complete lack of understanding of the difference between Chinese and Japanese themes.)

I got glared at by a gorilla, charged by a grizzly, threatened by an ostrich, and generally made a pest of myself at all the local beasts. My wife will upload all the pictures, I promise there is one good for future blackmail in there…somewhere.

Of course, It would hardly be a party without radiation, right? I went and looked at the neutron generator at a facility I will let go un-named. (They have a state permit, but no need to antagonize the neighbors who probably think they are an electronics store.) They have a standing issue about radiation dose that I promised to give them a hand with. I made some measurements with their Bonner Ball neutron detector. I had some initial idea on what the results would be and I’ll publish them at a later date. They appear to be on track for meeting all their requirements on radiation. Still, it was good fun to be running around with a Ball and running MCNPx code. I’m going to try to make a pretty picture for them… not sure I can remember how. Durn these braincells, stuff I knew how to do a few years ago is slipping away. I’ll just have to spend some time playing with code. (durn)

The ball with the Geiger Counter on its back is a Bonner Ball…though there are other types of them.

I’ll tell you something. If you want to get good at a code, you have to learn to play with it. I suspect the same thing is true with golf or cards. Just using it the same way every time gets you very little advancement. Trying to do something that might be impossible…well… that teaches you a lot. (Like don’t try to divide conical sections with planes – weirdest problem I ever had.) I love to take MCNP and mimic other people’s work, do it backwards, whatever sounds like a fun problem. Then I save those pages for when someone asks me to do something crazy. Suddenly I remember how I did some dose calculations back in …. (ok, long enough ago that you might not have been born) … I look up the old methods, play with them a while, then produce a miracle. (Yes, Mr. Scott was a hero of mine.) If that is too vague a reference, I recommend you go get a dozen episodes of Star Trek – the original series – and play them. If you’ve never seen Star Trek… why are you reading my stuff?

“She cannae take much more of this Captain.”

I also received a letter requesting that I post the link to a link accumulator which has a lot of space links. I warn you off the top that it is a commercial site – obviously it sells Disneyworld tickets – but the links look good so if you are weak on REAL space history – as opposed to fake future history like Star Trek – you should check them out. (and buy me ice cream. I clearly am the loser in that bet.)

What have I left out? Silver Star where Corbin and I busted each other up with live steel. Yep, a real dang sword fight. I also worked on outrunning kids in my full armor all day. Heck of a week of vacation. I’ll get some pictures up, but we only got into town last night at 11 pm, got into bed around 12:30 am, and I was at work at 9 am. (yawn) Just an amazing vacation and the first I’ve had since… well… a long time ago.

A Serious Note

As I head off to a few days vacation, it is important to remember a few words.
“I can neither confirm nor deny any aspect of that program.” 
Not very exciting words? Well, for a man in my business – like tens of thousands of men and women in this field – those are the only words you will hear me say about the missile program.
I may play the mad scientist on the stage, but you would have to be crazy to tell a room full of possible foreign persons a single detail about our strategic position.
Here’s a reminder not to tell your foreign lover national secrets
So, he  thought he could trust his girlfriend…well… sure, we all do. We want to impress people with how important we are to national security/the space program/Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Really, and I mean this, none of us are particularly important. Sure, the president will be the guy pushing the proverbial button to start a war (or finish it,) But the decisions on all aspects of running that war were made in committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, and small offices all around the United States. The missiles have a hundred hands on them and were designed by thousands of people. Sure, a lot of people can get to Top Secret material, but that doesn’t make you important – only a danger to your country.


The Engineer’s Baby – Career vs. Child

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen three articles today about women “having it all” despite having a child. It seems like the conversation remains between a “Hard Feminist” position and a normal woman. I’d define the “hard Feminist” position as one that would require a woman to get her education and achieve a significant rank in her career before damaging her promotions with a baby. 

Billionaire Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said that women”are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. The numbers tell the story . . . 190 heads of state — nine are women. Of all the people in parliaments in the world, 13 percent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top . . . 15, 16 percent.”

A normal woman’s position is attempting to balance planning for a child and planning for a career – but still under the context that she really needs to succeed in that career. I understand that some women see themselves as having the most to prove and the most to do with childcare, but I suspect that these articles are somewhat clueless about men in the workforce. They have spent so much time staring at women, they haven’t looked at the man one desk over.

Men also have children. Sure, SOME men don’t care. Some men just want the house to be … an oasis from work. But frankly, these days guys like that don’t have to get married or have kids, they just hook up on the weekends and stay single. Women who want to be CEO’s of Facebook probably should stay single through college and focus on their careers till in their mid 30s.

Most guys I know have been married before they hit 30 and are busting ass at work and at home. Most men that I know devote a substantial amount of their time to their wife & kids. Usually, this meant a time in their careers when they “cut out at 5” (that means 4:30) to coach softball practice or something. Most of the guys out there are in the same boat – every hour at work is an hour they aren’t playing bouncy chair with their babies.

Most managers are older, older folk who’s kids are grown, their spouses have full time jobs or hobbies, and now they are focusing on their careers. Yeah, I remember a couple of managers at NASA that were pushing to get to GS 15 before they were 40, get the 6 figure income and the cool titles. One of those ran an extra-marital affair on his government credit card. The other … well … he stopped after a while. Maybe had a heart attack or some kind of life-change. He isn’t a division chief anymore. Should women feel bad that they aren’t throwing their lives away chasing money and titles? Seriously?

So, why am I chewing on this? I’ve put in my share of long weeks, you can’t hardly get a degree in Nuclear Engineering without some 80 hour weeks. Just remember, nothing is that important. No “captain of industry” is much remembered ten years after he retires. I took last week off and played a lot of “bouncy chair.” Definitely was worth it. Rich and famous? Well, I’m not on that track.

Weekend Geomagnetic Storm

In the excitement of my wife returning from vacation, I missed a nice coronal mass ejection (CME) which had a very high velocity >700 kms. There are some videos I’ve recovered from SOLARHAM.COM which show the CME and the resulting magnetic storm. Ok, you can’t see a Geomagnetic storm, but a big ole storm tends to cause a large dump of charged particles into the Earth’s atmosphere where the magnetic field lines terminate in the atmosphere. You will recognize this as Aurora. A fellow named Mike Criss posted the following aurora pictures and music on YouTube.

ps. sorry for missing a week. Wife went of vacation and I’ve been playing single dad. Between working and the baby I’ve been too busy to play on the internet.

The Engineer’s Baby – Daddy’s Little Girl

You see yourself in your kids, there is no way not to. The older they get, I have a 22 year old and a 17 year old, the more they “talk like you.” Baby D doesn’t talk for much, she has “mamamamama” pretty well down and can get out “BawBaw” for bottle. But she isn’t much of a conversationalist. Today her word was “MMMMMM.” What did it mean? Whatever she wanted it to at that moment. She was trying to join in the conversation, but just yelled “MMM” when she wanted our attention, or thought Snoopy wasn’t playing fair. (He’s a stuffed animal, but has a tendency to escape under the bouncy chair.) Still, I think I know what she is saying when she looks at me and goes “MMMM.”  I just know what I’d be saying and it seems to work ok.

SO – some useful knowledge for you.
At 7 months, the Baby Einstein stuff is the bomb. She loves the music. The bouncy chair & play area is getting her out of her mother’s arms for hours at a time. She has a TV remote, I think it is Baby Einstein as well. Looks like their stuff. In any case, bouncy chairs and musical buttons win.

Getting her to sleep at night hit a rough patch. Cold weather and sinuses make us all wake up coughing, and she has dialed back her mornings from 7 am to 5 am. I feed her and put her down, only to have to wake up “The Boy” and later “The Wife.” I get no sleep at all. 

The picture? Well, I was supposed to send in a head-shot to a convention and … I suppose I was addled by sinus medication. Sadly enough, it does look a lot like me. (I still have more hair, but not a lot more.) 


Solar Cycle Predictions

It is pretty clear that the peak of the solar cycle occurred in December of 2012. (Exactly on track by my predictions – many years ago.) Ok, double peak? If it was O.E. making the prediction, I’d say “yes.” But, I don’t know this fellow well enough to give him much range. They have such good cameras and can do very advanced predictions, but he hasn’t given anything like an explanation of why we should expect a double peak. Could the southern hemisphere generate significant activity in 2013? I would give a qualified “Yes.”
Will It? 
Take a look at the sun, friends and neighbors, it isn’t looking too busy. The activity seems to be mostly around the equator, which I would ascribe to an “End of Peak” signature. Still, I suppose it is a good enough reason to extend the cycle one more year. They would certainly look a lot less wrong on their predictions if there was a second peak in December 2013. Frankly, I haven’t been doing the research this year, baby takes away from my “stare at the sun” time. I don’t see the second peak warming up, but I might get taken by surprise in August. Lets just say that if nothing has started by August, it won’t. We should be solidly on the downslope of activity for the next 4 years. But, listen to the man, maybe he’ll prove me wrong. (And it has some nice solar pictures to stare at.)