Summer Wind

As July finishes up, so does my summer vacation. Less then three weeks remain before my final year of college starts. This summer has been a rather interesting one. If I had to put word to it, I’d describe it as: low-key.

Many of my friends have graduated from college and are getting jobs in The Real World©. My brother and one of my best friends are on mission trips in Europe for the summer. The dynamics have changed for sure.

That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my summer. On the contrary, I love returning back to Seattle. Sailing and hiking are definitely two things I enjoyed doing and I wish I had more time to dedicate to them. I haven’t been climbing or camping yet, which is sort of a bummer. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to those before I start school.

Heads up: any outstanding chits, beers, IOU’s, etc should be redeemed before I leave Seattle on 14 August.

And guess who sighs his lullabies – through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind

Our Man McConnell

I’m not sure where to start with this story. It is one that has been in the making for at least the last ten years1, some might argue even the last twenty-three. I’ll skip the boy-meets-girl, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl part and go straight to the boy-gets-married-to-girl part.

Saturday night was the first time one of Us got married. To think that ten years ago, we were sitting around playing video games; and then to think that a decade later, we would be here: celebrating the union of two wonderful people and loss of our friend Kelly2.

Kelly’s marriage raises the bar for all of Us and is yet another reminder that I’m growing up. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days pondering.

But enough of my doom-and-gloom thoughts. Kelly and Kristin’s wedding really was spectacular. It took place in the wonderful backyard of Kristin’s parents’ house in New Castle. The weather was pretty much unbeatable.

At one point during the reception, I caught a glace of orange out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see what it was: the plastic-like tablecloth the cake was on had caught fire.

I jumped up out of my seat and ran over to put it out. I got a round of applause and everyone at my table was relieved to find out that I was solving problems and not causing chaos. Staples thinks I should have snapped on my latex gloves3.

Around 11:30pm, Kelly and Kristin finally departed in Kelly’s rebuilt baby blue ’65 Nova Wagon.

Photo: Copyright 2008 Jen Emert


  1. How long I’ve known Kelly/been in TheBS, more or less. 

  2. I kid. I kid. 

  3. This an another story that I should probably tell at some point. 

Physical Theories as Women

Humorous.
From www.mcsweeneys.net:

0. Newtonian gravity is your high-school girlfriend. As your first encounter with physics, she’s amazing. You will never forget Newtonian gravity, even if you’re not in touch very much anymore.

1. Electrodynamics is your college girlfriend. Pretty complex, you probably won’t date long enough to really understand her.

2. Special relativity is the girl you meet at the dorm party…

There are nine in total. Worth reading if you enjoy this sort of thing.

via Kottke

What I Do

Here’s the project I work on. It’s from an article that came out in today’s Defense Daily:

From www.defensedaily.com:

Block 40/45 is a $2.2 billion program, with an average cost of $40 million per aircraft, according to Elavsky.

“It is, for all intents and purposes, a complete overhaul of the mission system,” he explained.

He added that commercial off-the-shelf technology “is providing improved computing to allow for better integration.”

“It’s really revolutionary–we’re finally getting a true open architecture system on board the aircraft,” he said. That open architecture will allow programmers to upgrade hardware and software regularly and establish a network for wide-band communications.

Image Source: Boeing

Unsolved Problems

Alright team, let’s get cracking:

From www.kottke.org:

Another Wikipedia gem: a list of unsolved problems from a number of different fields, including linguistics, physics, and computer science. (via lone gunman)

I think my favorite problem deals with the existence of one-way functions, also called hash functions1:

From en.wikipedia.org:

Description
One-way functions are easy to compute but hard to invert. Although there are several candidates for which no good (i.e. quick) reverse algorithms are currently known, it hasn’t yet been proven that any function exists for which no such reverse algorithms exist.
Importance
If one-way functions do not exist then public key cryptography is impossible. Their existence would imply that many complexity classes are not learnable, and that P≠NP.
Conjecture
It is assumed but unproven that they do exist. Several encryption systems are based on the assumption that modular exponentiation is a one-way function.

1 Kind of. Hash functions usually return a value of fixed length, which precludes them from being true one-way functions.

The Bachelor (Party)

I think every bachelor party should start out with someone walking into a sex shop, only to have their phone ring, “Oh, hi Mom. How’s it going? Can I call you back later?” and then turn around and ask the shopkeeper, deadpan, “Where are the inflatable dolls?

That’s how this one started out, kind of; we were actually getting ready for the party. Ben was on the floor, practically rolling in agony from laughter. I’m not quite sure it was that funny.

In any event, Kelly’s bachelor party was on Saturday. It was a party of epic proportions that started out on Lake Union, moved to The Spaghetti Factory, then Buca Di Beppo’s, and finally back to the boat. The night ended with Kelly ralphing over the side of the boat: the first two times as a result of the Gentlemen Jack’s we were taking swigs of, the next three times due to “Peter’s fucking fettuccine.”

My computer is down, although I have a new one on the way. Unfortunately, photos will have to wait for my new computer to arrive, so check back in 3ish weeks.

Crisis of Plan

I think there’s a misconception floating around that everyone things I know exactly what I want to do in life. This is a myth, kind of: if right now was 1959, I’d be working for the McDonnell Aircraft Company building the capsules for Project Mercury. I’d later work on Project Gemini, Apollo, and SkyLab programs before helping design the Space Transport System. If I was lucky, I’d even get to ride up into space to do a stint on the International Space Station.

For the longest time, I thought programs like those still existed. Over the years, I’ve found that the “glory day of engineering” jobs don’t really exist anymore and working at Boeing has proven a big eye-opener to that fact. I think I also romanticized the idea of being an engineer working on the space program.

These two issues put me in what I’ll call my crisis of plan. You see, I had the future mapped out. Not in step by step detail, but more or less what type of job I wanted to do. To discover that I was a half-century too late was heartbreaking. I happened to come across something that I think captures my feelings pretty accurately, on the topic of Engineer at Uncyclopedia:
From uncyclopedia.org:

Star Trek is famous for its unrealistic, but very exciting, portrayal of engineers. In fact, nearly 83% of engineering students claim that they chose to pursue their specialty with the assumption that after passing their PE exam, they’d be assigned to a starship (NCC class or higher) and would spend their remaining days reporting warp core status to smooth, attractive captains or having sex with a diverse array of alien life forms. These engineers are incredibly disappointed to learn that their “captains” are mediocre managers who were promoted so the company wouldn’t have to clean up their engineering.

So where does that leave me now? Well, the search is on. I think I’m in a better position now then I was – even a year ago – to understand how engineering is done. I still want to work on space programs and that’s what I’m going to pursue because that’s what I love, even if it’s not the romanticized engineering I dream of.

I’m still holding out hope, though, that there I’ll be able to find my Shangri-La. I’m confident it still exists somewhere, it’s just not where I expected it to be.

Image caption: An engineer at the Instrumentation Laboratory inspects a mockup of the guidance and navigation system that will be used aboard NASA’s Project APOLLO spacecraft. The spacecraft will carry three U.S. astronauts to the moon and back. Instrumentation Laboratory, together with several participating contractors, is designing and developing the guidance and navigation system.
Image credit: MIT Office of Public Relations, undated MIT Photo