Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Featured in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Dies at 101 – The New York Times

They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them.

Wielding little more than a pencil, a slide rule and one of the finest mathematical minds in the country, Mrs. Johnson, who died at 101 on Monday at a retirement home in Newport News, Va., calculated the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969 and, after Neil Armstrong’s history-making moonwalk, let it return to Earth.

A single error, she well knew, could have dire consequences for craft and crew. Her impeccable calculations had already helped plot the successful flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space when his Mercury spacecraft went aloft in 1961.

The next year, she likewise helped make it possible for John Glenn, in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7, to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Featured in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Dies at 101 – The New York Times

Square Root Of Change

Back in the early 1990s, I was working in IT at a multi-billion dollar manufacturing company. Ours was a small part of IT, separate from the mother ship. Responsible for about 2000 employees in our area, we had implemented several large projects over a two-year span; all bringing changes to the employees. I was a young IT acolyte, and I thought all change was good, great even. Why were people so grumpy? Sigh. I was so naïve.

Continue reading “Square Root Of Change”

How Much Football Is Even In A Football Broadcast? | FiveThirtyEight

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

The numbers are startling. An average NFL broadcast lasts well over three hours, yet it delivers a total of only 18 minutes of football action.

How Much Football Is Even In A Football Broadcast? | FiveThirtyEight

But somehow, viewers feel they are getting value from the broadcast. There are lessons in here in attention, the need to take a moment to processing what you have seen or heard, and maintaining interest.

The website at the link (FiveThirtyEight) is an excellent source of deeper analytics and modeling about season long sports. And elections, which is much the same as sports these days.

The Fake Image/Video Arms Race Continues

It is not always easy to tell the difference between real and fake photographs. But the pressure to get it right has never been more urgent as the amount of false political content online continues to rise. On Tuesday, Jigsaw, a company that develops cutting-edge tech and is owned by Google’s parent, unveiled a free tool that researchers said could help journalists spot doctored photographs — even ones created with the help of artificial intelligence.

Tool to Help Journalists Spot Doctored Images Is Unveiled by Jigsaw – The New York Times

This is a good arms race. Fake photos and videos exist and will get harder to detect. This is the side that will fight to identify those fakes. I hope there are others.

Neil Peart: Sadness and a profound Thank You

Some of you know that I am a long-time fan of the band Rush. Found them in college (thanks Jim!) and bought all their albums in several formats. They have been a large part of the soundtrack to my entire adult life; various times, various songs, various reasons. The drummer, Neil Peart, recently passed away from brain cancer. This very sad thing happened to a man who brought me enjoyment, understanding, and awareness of the wider world. I would like to tell you a bit about his impact on me.

Continue reading “Neil Peart: Sadness and a profound Thank You”

Phoenix Residence: My sister is now on the Board of Directors!

My younger sister lives in a group home operated by Phoenix Residences. The staff do an awesome job in a challenging financial situation. My older sister** was recently elected to the Phoenix Board of Directors. I think her analytic and communication skills, along with her compassion, will be a great addition. Congrats Sis!

** Special Note: she is indeed my older sister as she is the older of my two sisters. She is, however, definitely younger than me. And hates this joke.

Phoenix Residence, Inc. is committed to developing person-centered, quality living experiences for individuals with disabilities.

https://www.phoenixresidence.org/

The dark side of electronic waste recycling – The Verge

Electronics can be hazardous when disposed of improperly, and the Basel Action Network, or BAN, investigates the underground world of the e-waste trade. The nonprofit group secretly embeds trackers in discarded devices, then hands them to recyclers to see where they end up, exposing bad practices in the process. After dropping bugged LCD monitors in Oregon, they followed along as the trackers traced a circuitous route through the summer of 2015 and into the fall.

The dark side of electronic waste recycling – The Verge

The Christmas Model Train

The Christmas tree train went up today. Like every year.

I remember having a model train when I was a kid. The old 3-rail O scale. It had a diesel engine and some really cool cars. Ok, John, stop with the description and search the internet for it…bingo — found it on my first search FTW. Here it is. You can see each of the cars in the first 30 seconds. Note the starting image of the video isn’t the train I had.

I played with that train for hours. The submarine was driven by a submarine and could actually go in the bath tub. The helicopter could not fly. Firing the missiles was fun, but not reliable. And nothing, you know, exploded when the missiles hit so that was anticlimactic.

As I got older, I picked up some HO scale track and trains. The track was touchier as we didn’t build a permanent setup. I enjoyed changing things each time I put it up. The HO train never felt like a Christmas train — that needed to be something bigger.

The Christmas train started with my first father-in-law. He had been a model train guy since he was a child and always had a train under the tree. On their first birthday, each of my kids got a O scale Lionel set from Grandma and Grandpa. The sets are still on the garage, eventually to make it to their houses when the time is right.

Each Christmas, we would rotate through the kid’s train sets, trying to give them equal time. A few years ago, my son worked at the seasonal Lionel Train store at a local mall. He gifted us a new train set and that is what you see in the first photo.

A model train is a long way from the spiritual meaning of Christmas. Nevertheless, it is a part of my Christmas tree decorating.

Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster’ – The New York Times

To expose fake psychics, Houdini employed a small army of undercover agents, calling them “my own secret service.” Rose Mackenberg, a private eye, was his foremost operative.

Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster’ – The New York Times

You may need to register (free) to read this. A cool story about one of the people that help Harry Houdini uncovered frauds and fake psychics. She often went in disguise.

Music Is Magic: Stairway To Heaven performed by Heart & Others @ Kennedy Center

I grew up listening to rock music. Specifically, classic rock back before it had earned the ‘classic’ moniker by refusing to die. Stairway to Heaven was a favorite of mine and many others. It didn’t get a lot of airplay on the main radio stations as it was over 8 minutes long — much longer than the typical 4 minute top o’ the charts song.

I could usually hear it on the radio once a week during the Top 5 Songs. The local radio station based it off of caller requests and, for a very long time, Stairway to Heaven was #1, so they played it last thing around 10pm. All eight glorious minutes.

But as the play count in my head got into the hundreds, maybe thousands, the thrill faded. I didn’t seek it out and it isn’t in my music library in any format.

But then I saw this version. Lead by the band Heart (Ann & Nancy Wilson), this version was performed at the Kennedy Center to honor Led Zeppelin in 2012.

A couple of things to note for this performance. First, Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s deceased drummer John Bonham, is playing drums. That had to be an intense moment for him. Watch him at the very end salute his dad’s bandmates.

Then there is the guy who has to play the Stairway To Heaven guitar solo in front of Jimmy Page. That had to be stressful.

The part that always gets me is how the song builds. Not the melody or vocals themselves, but how the people on stage build. I’m not going to describe it as you have to see it. Those being honored are amazed and touched by the performance.

What does it feel like to write a song that touched so many people?

The entire Music Is Magic playlist can be found here.