Friday, July 29, 2011

Back to the Dark Side

For the first time since June 1, I'm working a full night - and I'm happy about this.

The morning of June 1, I went home after a six-night run at my job.  I worked the evening of June 3 at my second job, but then couldn't work the evening of June 8 due to equipment problems.  I flew out June 9 for three and a half weeks of traveling, combining some vacation and some stuff for my third job.

I had expected to work July 5-10, but right before I got home from my vacation, my main job also had some mechanical problems, so I spent most of a couple weeks in a cubicle working on documentation.  Fortunately, I managed to spend a couple days here and there help with recovery from the problems.

But now everything's been working again for a week, so I'm back where I belong, operating big heavy complicated things, yay!

And my second job hopes to be back in operation soon, too, which I'd certainly appreciate.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rainbow Volcano

Took a family road-trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park this weekend.  It was a windy day, and in the upper reaches near the Jaggar Museum, misty as well.  So we were treated to a view of Halemaumau Crater and its plume of steam and volcanic fumes... plus a rainbow!  Here's a panoramic view - click for bigger.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share

Recovery work continues after the mechanical problem earlier this month at Subaru Telescope - today's complement of people helping out with whatever they could included members of both day crews (heavy mechanical and electronics), the telescope engineering division, experts from Mitsubishi Electric (who built the Subaru Telescope), the instrument group, science operations group (Josh and me), and even our Public Information and Outreach staff!  It's great to see so many people lend a hand.

A second status report has been posted on the Subaru Telescope web site - lots of progress being made, and we look forward to being back on-sky soon!  The instruments that were affected most by the initial problem will need a little longer for thorough cleaning and fixing, of course.  The first thing we did today was load the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS) into our special instrument-transporting truck, so it can go down to be examined.

Sky and Telescope magazine also has a good article about everything, although I hope to be back on-sky much sooner than they expect!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We come in peace

My friend Josh and I dressed as alien Oompa-Loompas, goofing off with the Keck and Gemini observatories in the background. 

Give us all your Reese's Pieces, and nobody gets hurt.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not a good month for telescopes

It's been a rough month for telescopes - at least the ones I've been associated with!

In early June, weather instrumentation atop the University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, where I used to work, was struck by lightning.  Although many network connections at the telescope now use fiber optics, the weather instruments were still connected via copper cables, which gave the power surge from lightning a pathway into numerous other systems, so a lot of electronics got fried, and technicians are still working to fix everything.

Then, on the morning of July 2, as one of my fellow operators at the Subaru telescope was shutting things down, some sort of mechanical problem occurred with the prime-focus unit that holds our wide-field camera, resulting in power cables and coolant hoses breaking.  I've been told to expect a few weeks of downtime while the engineers sort through some things that the coolant dripped onto.

If there's a silver lining, it's that working normal days in the office will mean at least being home nights and weekends, which my family would appreciate!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Do "geosocial" apps matter in remote places?

I recently read an article about the new wave of "geosocial" apps, which use location to recommend other people around you.  In a broad sense, this isn't really a new idea - by the middle of the last decade, I could log into MySpace, ask it to show me people within a certain distance of my ZIP code, and it'd spit out what seemed like half the teen-or-older population of my city (skewed strongly toward college age, though).

My city, though, isn't a particularly big one - maybe 50,000 people, tops - and collectively, we aren't exactly early adopters: the common saying is that we get everything about five years behind the mainland.  So even today, MySpace has a lot of registered users from there, though I can't say how active they are.  Facebook may be dominant by now - but on other sites and apps I've seen, we don't seem very well-represented.

The new "geosocial" apps offer more precision, by relying on GPS data from smartphones, instead of user-provided ZIP code information.  So instead of telling me there are 25,000 users from my town, they aim to tell me that there are 25 other people at the farmer's market right now, so that we can maybe say hi to one another.  The soon-to-launch "Project Amcius" is one such "geosocial" app.

The challenge, as always, is to overcome the dominant previous-generation app.  Will my fellow citizens give up Facebook, or even MySpace?  If they do, will they look at geosocial apps, or will they just move along to the next social network, Google+ or whatever, without the real-time GPS-based stuff?  From past experience, I expect few of us will be trying the "bleeding edge" stuff, but I'll wait and see.

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

I've stuck it out and continued participating on Twitter while Elon Musk has run it into the ground, made it progressively more inhospit...