No business like space business

September 28, 2008

I was trying to decide if this is no big deal or a really big deal. I’m leaning towards the latter. A private, for-profit (someday) business launched a rocket that truly went into space and achieved orbit. That is a first for a private company.

The company was founded by one of the co-founders of PayPal. This isn’t a touchy feely, “we need to explore space” idea. They want to make space transportation cheaper and more reliable. They want to make money sending satellites up.

The thought that going into space could be a good business model is pretty fascinating.

Here’s the Wired article. And here’s the company’s web site.


Yankee Stadium is boring?

September 22, 2008

To my 5 year old daughter, apparently so. We’ve talked about going to Yankee Stadium and the abstract concept excited her. Though she’s never been interested in baseball. She knows I’m a Yankee fan but that’s about as far as it goes.

We were thinking about buying tickets to take her to a game so she could see Yankee Stadium before it closes, but the cost of buying decent seats seemed crazy for someone who may not even like it.

So we got lucky. My wife knew someone who got tickets through Marsh and he gave her two tickets to Saturday’s game, the second to last game at Yankee Stadium. Not great seats, upper deck, but right behind home plate so really not bad.

We wanted to get there early to see batting practice, but we didn’t quite make it. The subway was slow and tons of people were going early because it was the last weekend. Amusingly “Freddy Sez” was on our subway car going to the game (Freddy takes the D train, if you are curious).

It’s hard to convey the sense of history to a 5 year old, but the whole concept of a baseball stadium was new and interesting. For a while.

And there was cotton candy. And we brought some books. So I tried to keep her entertained so I could watch as much of the game as possible (I had no delusions that we would make 9 inning). It was a pitchers duel, which didn’t help keep Danielle entertained.

Finally I heard the dreaded words from my daughter. “Yankee Stadium is boring”. Argh. So much for my dream of father/daughter baseball outings. At least I still have Victoria to work on…

But of course there were pictures. Someday Danielle can say she was at the “old Yankee Stadium”

Pre-game:

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Top of the 6th. We’re almost done…

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Exhausted on the D train coming home…

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Truth-o-meter

September 12, 2008

I try not to be political here, though I think people know my general political beliefs. Here’s an interesting “truth” type site.

I like the “flip-o-meter” which measures flips flops:

From McCain:

Bush Tax Cuts

From Obama:

Using the strategic petroleum reserve

Public financing of his campaign

From Palin:

Bridge to Nowhere support

From Biden:

Whether he wants to be vice-president (this one cracks me up, but I guess I understand – you can’t run for president and say “I’m really just hoping for the VP”).

So there you have it. Our top politicians all suck…


Large Hadron Collider

September 11, 2008

I wrote the one post containing geeky humor on the LHC, but really the whole thing deserves a real post. This is a big @#$-ing deal. Here is a good and amusing article about it. It has some great quotes, which I will steal, starting from the very first sentence:

It is the biggest machine ever built.

That isn’t hyperbole. This project is grander than anything ever done. This is a 17 mile tunnel super-cooled to temperatures below deep space to send particles flying at almost the speed of light. It would be science fiction stuff if it weren’t actually happening.

Wednesday, they fired this sucker up

The article talks about how they hope to find particles that have never been detected before.

Oh, and they might find some extra dimensions. But this is the delicious part. They. Don’t. Exactly. Know.

The article gets into some of the details. Including some facts about the magnets surrounding the tunnel.

The magnets are superconducting because they are supercooled by superfluid helium, which is superstrange.

There is a great line about what happens if you ask one of the engineers a question:

They may go to a blackboard and begin with the math. You do not want them to do this.

This thing is sending trillions of protons screaming around the underground track at 99.9999991% of the speed of light. They get around the 17 mile track 11,245 times a second. At that speed you get to Neptune and back in 10 hours.

This is all mind-boggling stuff. And very, very cool.


Remembering our folks

September 10, 2008

I posted a blog about the folks we lost on 9/11 a while back. It was before I moved the blog over to WordPress and I can’t find it anymore. That saddens me because I tried to remember the best stories I could and my memory generally sucks as it is, so after 7 years it only gets worse.

Regardless, I’ll try to remember my thoughts.

We usually say that CS STARS lost 12 people that day, but in truth CS STARS didn’t exist in 2001. Back then we were Marsh Risk Technologies, a division of Marsh. It wasn’t even entirely STARS. The areas that are now a part of STARS really lost 10 people. These are the folks I knew (I knew the other two, but not well).

These are the stories that come to mind as I think of them:

Scott Bart: First alphabetically and the closest person to me. Scott was the first manager of CSG. He created the business and was a perfect fit for it. Brilliant, loud, incredibly dedicated. We usually talked early in the morning before most folks were in. He would often not be wearing shoes.

The best work line that ever came out of Scott’s mouth was the night before a STARS client conference. He was explaining the CSG group to the rest of the STARS folks because it was a fairly new thing. He said something like, “we’re the prostitutes of STARS, we’ll do anything if the client pays for it”. Vintage Scott. He shocked some folks because he had no filter when he talked. But he was smart and always delivered. We talked about the ring he was going to buy his girlfriend and about the house they were going to buy. I went to his wedding about a month before 9/11. There are a million more stories. Just a great guy.

Michele Coyle: Michele hired me at J&H back in the day. A “one L” Michele, she was a motherly development manager. I was completely unqualified when she hired me, but they gave that programmer test back then and I did ace that. Oh yeah, and I knew Bob Petrie, that might have helped a bit.

Michele and I went through the transition of one reporting to the other and then switching as I rose up. It was never an issue. One of the sweetest people you would meet and the mother of three boys. She became a contractor so she could work only 4 days a week and spend an extra day at home. If there’s anyone that I ever thought “why not me instead of her?” on 9/11 it was about Michele.

Mike D’Esposito and Peter Klein: I have to list them together because they always were. They started STARS Audit (then called TrendTracker). They were it. Peter was first and then Mike came along. Peter was super smart and a bit of an ass (I mean that in a nice way). Mike was always the nice guy. They did everything together. They were always in early so our one hope for them was that they might have gone down to the lobby of the Trade Center for a bacon/egg/cheese sandwich when the plane hit. Unfortunately that would not be the case.

Chris Dunne: Our first head of QA. A super nice guy and one of the ones I miss the most, so I’m surprised I can’t remember more good stories. He got nicknamed “Khakis” because that’s all he wore. Just a big, tall, lovable guy.

Leah Oliver: One of the ones I knew the least. She had just started a month ago and she was in Service so I didn’t work with her. Very young, very nice, very unfair…

Mark Rosenberg: Another one who had just started, but one I knew fairly well. He was a talker and an early morning person. He was amazingly intellectually curious. He just loved figuring things out. That is a lot like me, so we got along well.

My favorite story about him concerned the hot dog stand outside the World Trade Center. Mark was an orthodox Jew and the hot dog stand was kosher. Mark loved hot dogs, so he had a vested interest in the hot dog stand’s success (it was a pretty convenient kosher meal). But the stand always had a huge line because they had the worst process in the world. They were making one hot dog at a time. This is New York, you can’t do that.

So Mark watched and analyzed the process. He finally went up to the owner and explained exactly how many hot dogs he should have cooking at any time to achieve optimal hot dog throughput. The guy adopted his process and business boomed. Mark was so proud telling this story…

Brock Safronoff: A very smart guy and one of the early STARS Web guys. He got married the same day as Scott Bart (one month prior to 9/11) which was a potential conflict for the team. But only Tim Cope was invited to both and I think he actually managed to start out at one and end up at the other.

Jeff Weiner: Jeff was the head of Service for the NY region. A super smart guy and a ridiculously hard worker. I’m struggling to remember good stories which is a shame because there were plenty.

Jennifer Wong: I didn’t know her very well because she was a relatively new person in Service. We were actually very confused about her status on 9/11 because she was very smart. She was on vacation the week before and told her clients that she’d be back on the 12th, but that was so that she would have one day free from phone calls when she got back on the 11th.

The thing about the STARS team in New York was that most folks arrived late. It was a typical developer team that would rather get in at 10 and work late. But there was a small group that consistently got in early. Take the list above and add Tim Cope and myself and you have the early crew. Tim was on a business trip and I was with my wife taking her father to the doctor the morning of 9/11. So while there was a lot of uncertainty at the time regarding who was lost, it was pretty clear to me because the same people were always there at 8:46. And nobody made it from the 96th floor.

We will always remember them.


Large Hadron Collider Humor

September 9, 2008

Note: if you don’t know what the Large Hadron Collider is or what the recent “controversy” surrounding it is about, this isn’t funny at all. This is definitely geek humor…

Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the world yet?

I’m also amused by the Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy blog) line:

What’s the difference between Abe Vigoda and the Large Hadron Collider?

One has a website where you can see if he’s still around, and one has a website where you can see if you’re still around.


Football Season

September 9, 2008

As a Yankee fan, normally this time of year I’d be totally into the end of the baseball regular season and upcoming playoffs. Oh well, that’s what happens when you put your season in the hands of rookie pitchers.

So on to football. It’s weird not seeing Brett Favre playing for the Packers. I find myself rooting for the Packers and paying attention to the Jets. It was good to see Brett have a good (not great, he clearly doesn’t know the offense yet) first game. And it was even better to see Aaron Rodgers look good for the Packers. You don’t want to lose to the Vikings in week one.

This whole season there will probably be a weekly comparison of Rodgers’ and Favre’s stats. That’s unfair on both sides. Rodgers has a better team around him and is working in an offense he’s known for years. But he doesn’t have to be Brett, he just has to win. So far, so good.

But he has to work on his vertical on his Lambeau Leap (go to the 2:55 mark)…