Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: Military

Navy Railgun and Shuttle Ascent video

I came across a cool video of the Navy’s Mach 8 Railgun. That’s right. Mach 8. The railgun uses 33Mj; the aim is to get it to 64Mj. The previous record (by the same lab) was 2 years ago at 10.64Mj. There are still a few issues to work out, namely power consumption and heat dissipation. A railgun has no moving parts and simply uses electromagnetic energy to shoot a projectile. They can also be powered by the ship’s batteries. The Navy is expecting to deploy these to ships by 2020 or 2025.

The other video I came across is one explaining all aspects of the launch of a space shuttle (what the engineers look for, etc.). The video is 45 minutes long, but it is extremely informative and well worth it to watch.

End of a Journey

December 19th, 2000 was a Tuesday. It was the day I enlisted into the Arizona Army National Guard. Today, 9 years later, I’m finishing up my service. From my very first days at C Btry, 1/180th FA, a tour in Iraq, and all the way to Eco 29th BSB, it’s been quite a ride. I didn’t reenlist because I want to concentrate of my career, and frequent deployments would put me at a serious disadvantage in my field. This is not to say that I’m not torn by my decision. Part of me wants to stay in. Part of me will always want to be in the Army. It has been an amazing 9 years for me. Being part of the Army has given me discipline and confidence and has taught me the meaning of honor, duty, loyalty, and courage. I think I was a good soldier and as an NCO I think I did my best to take care of the soldiers under me. Along the way, I also made some wonderful friends who might as well be family now. The kind of camaraderie that forms when you serve with people in a combat zone cannot be put into words.

Looking back I think I can say that I’m satisfied with my career. I still remember coming in as a 19-year old Private… I knew that I at least wanted to make Sergeant before I got out, and I’m glad that I was able to achieve that. Being able to wear the uniform is something amazing. You are a part of something larger than yourself. It’s hard to put into words… I just know that it’s something that I will miss terribly.

I can’t say that I’ve looked forward to this day (although my family has). 9 years is a long time to serve and after doing something for so long, it becomes a very integral part of you and your identity. I guess I will always be a soldier and a veteran; I have earned that right. But I know I’ll always be looking back at my Army years fondly, half-wishing I was still wearing the uniform and still serving the nation.

Go Army! HOOAH!

Inside an actual can of whoop-ass

My friend Joey sent me this picture! I think it’s pretty awesome!

Inside an actual can of Whoop Ass

Inside an actual can of Whoop Ass

HOOAH! Go Army!

The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale was Frakking Awesome, ok?

I know the finale was broadcast last weekend, but I didn’t get to see it until a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet (or if you haven’t seen the series at all and are planning to start), don’t read any further because there are spoilers!

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica earned itself a place in my list of “All-time favorite Sci-Fi shows” (alongside Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, and Doctor Who (2004)) pretty much after the first season. During its run it was arguably “the best show on television”. Although the series faltered a tiny bit during the 3rd season, I have never seen such a well-written show with fully-fleshed out characters, a gripping story line, complex existential, religious, militaristic, and moral themes, and gritty, exciting action. The success and superior quality of the show is further supported by the fact that it attracted an audience that traditionally doesn’t watch Sci-Fi. In fact, many of my friends who don’t usually watch Sci-Fi (to the extent that some of them actually dislike it) instantly liked the show despite its obvious Sci-Fi underpinnings. The themes of the show were especially valid in a post-9/11 world. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of issues that the series tried to address:

  • The effectiveness of armed insurgency or suicide bombing
  • Personal safety (or the illusion thereof) at the expense of personal freedom
  • Civilian versus Military rule
  • The importance of wearing the uniform, military service, and upholding the oath you swear when you sign up (an aspect that particularly appealed to me)
  • Divine intervention, divine providence, fate, and destiny
  • An examination of the human condition in the direst of circumstances (when the survival of humanity is at stake)
  • An attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Human

The series had a message that was so pertinent and so valid, that the cast was invited to a summit at the UN. To quote Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, “You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day.”

Ok, now that I’ve done more than enough gushing about the show, let me go onto the finale. I know that this subject has already been beaten to death since the finale aired, but I want to put in my two cents. The finale was frakking awesome ok? A lot of people are complaining that the finale didn’t address every single question that they had, and that there are some loose ends. Some of them are even complaining that the finale was a little too long, and even that the enter finale was a cop-out resolved by deus ex machina. Ok, they’re entitled to their opinion… but really? Yes, there were some deus ex machina moments (like Starbuck realizing that the opening strains to Watchtower were actually FTL co-ordinates to our Earth) that require a leap of faith. But that’s the point. I mean, what explanation were you expecting for Head Six and Head Baltar? Are they angels or demons? Schizophrenic hallucinations? No one really knows, and that’s fine. The point is that there we don’t know everything and that there isn’t an answer for everything.

You could make the argument that the writers had too grandiose of a vision, and that they had too many plot points, leading to some that were apparently unresolved. But again, it’s a matter of opinion, and it is quite subjective. For example, consider Kara Thrace. What is she? An angel? I don’t know, and I’m fine with that. She was apparently born with a destiny and with a task to perform. From the series you can tell that all her life she has been searching for a purpose. Her entire life has been an existential crisis and a search for relevance and validation. This search is finally realized when she finally leads Humanity to a permanent home.

The weakest part, arguably, of the finale was after they find our Earth. The surviving population is apparently content to leave behind all their advanced technology and start a pastoral life on Earth. This didn’t completely sit well with me. I found it a little hard to believe. One could argue that the human population on the ships haven’t really been leading a good life for the past four years. They have essentially been refugees the whole time. I guess you could argue that wouldn’t want any reminders of those difficult four years and would want to start completely anew. But I still have a hard time believing that the entire population would agree to that. In fact, when it became obvious that they had arrived on a pre-historic (150,000 years ago to be exact) Earth, I imagined that the population would probably split into two camps: one hanging on the the advanced technology, and another abandoning it completely. There would presumably be no contact between the two, and the technological group, to minimize their impact on Earth’s indigenous population would perhaps retreat to an island that subsequently gets destroyed by a natural disaster. It seems like a neater conclusion to the story. But this wasn’t the case, and even still, I don’t think it ruins the overall message of the finale or the series.

Then you have the final few minutes where we find out that the colonials landed on an Earth 150,000 years in our past. Though the finale could have ended with the scene where Admiral Adama sits on the hill beside President Laura Roslyn’s grave, talking to her while looking at the sunset, I think the final sequence presents a clearer message about the cyclical nature of human history, and about death and rebirth. I also liked how they pointed out Hera’s significance to Humanity and Cylons in the end, when it is revealed that she is Mitochondrial Eve. Finally, I also liked the conversation between Head Six and Head Baltar at the end where they compare our current civilization to the past human civilizations on old Earth, Kobol, and the Twelve Colonies (playing into the whole “cylical nature of history”/”death-rebirth” concept) but also note that there is always a chance that humanity won’t chose a self-destructive path again. I know that some people found the ending montage of the robots to be a little cheesy, but I think it was pertinent in the sense that humanity has always advanced faster in technology than in social maturity (Lee Adama talks about the same thing during the finale) and that we really need to be careful. With that, the series finally ended on a cautionary, though optimistic note.

Well, that’s my two cents on the series finale. If I had to condense that into two words, I’d say it like I said before: Frakking Awesome!


I’m going out of town for two weeks for WLC (Warrior Leader Course). It’s a course I’ve had to take after I got promoted to Sergeant while I was in Iraq. I never had a chance to go to it because there was a lot of confusion with the standing-down of the old artillery unit and the formation of the new infantry unit. My readiness NCO was able to get me a class starting this week. The class is in Utah (fun!) and I will be learning a lot of “NCO stuff” like commanding formations, marching, conducting PT sessions, OP orders, and things of that nature. I think it will be pretty interesting. The first week is classroom stuff, and the second week will be field-training. I’m going to see if I can take some pictures. I’ll post them here when I get back.

The other thing that I wanted to write about was an experience I had in college. I’ve been reading The Daily WTF a lot, recently. It highlights examples of bad code, horrible design, and stupid management. Things that basically make you go “WTF?!”. Anyway, some of the articles on the site talk about incompetent professors. After reading that, I was reminded of a terribly idiotic and incompetent professor that I had in college. This happened during the first semester of my senior year (spring of ’03), and of course, I had full-blown senioritis. Scratch that, I wouldn’t say that I was apathetic; I just figured out how to put in the optimum amount of effort. This meant that I would try and see if going to class gave me any value. If it didn’t, I would pretty much teach myself the material. This meant more time for me to party and drink. I’m sorry, I meant study and review. Yes… that’s right. Anyway, the class I had was called CSE 423. I don’t remember the title of the class, but it had to do with VHDL. In simple words, VHDL lets you design logic circuits programatically and then configure an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) to behave like the circuit you designed. It’s pretty nifty and interesting stuff. I would have enjoyed the class if it hadn’t been taught by this retard of a professor. This professor, let’s call him R. C. is as terrible as they come. He came to class unprepared, his slides were full of errors, and he often had no clue what he was talking about. In addition, he seemed to be passively arrogant. Initially we all liked him because he seemed to have a lively personality. But that didn’t make up for the fact that he pretty much sucked. On the rare occasion you actually got through to him (he almost always directed you to the TA – who was nowhere to be found and checked his email once a millenium) to discuss a problem in your homework (let’s say you were docked a point and you wanted to know why) he would be extremely unhelpful. Most professors explain to you why you are wrong, they don’t just tell you “You’re wrong” and end the conversation.

I remember how I had to leave class early once to meet with my readiness NCO regarding some paperwork. I let him know I was leaving. He wasn’t happy and decided to give quiz to the class just because I left. When I talked to him about it, he told me that he needed a letter from my readiness NCO. I gave him one, and after that he gave me two homework questions to make up the quiz. He randomly picked the last two questions in the list of homework questions for the chapter. When I tried to ask him some questions about the homework, he told me that he hadn’t read them and that I was on my own. Now that I’ve told you what kind of person he is, on to the actual issue. We had a midterm that was about 30% of the grade of the class. In that midterm there was a 30-point question having to do with a VHDL implementation of a state machine. I wrote a correct solution to the problem and I was surprised when I got my paper back and I received a zero. I got a 60% on the test, when I should have received a 90%. I went to him to discuss the problem. There were a bunch of angry and aggravated students in the lab. All of them had been unfairly graded on the test. I mean, what do you expect when you have an idiot for a professor? I went up to him and patiently explained my solution and how I arrived at it.

He told me, “It’s wrong.” I asked him, “How? Can you explain to me what’s wrong?” He said, “Your state machine is wrong, so your implementation is wrong.” Once again, I patiently shows him the state machine with all the correct inputs (or transition conditions) and outputs (or states) and how the VHDL implementation corresponded to it. I asked him, “How can you say my state machine is wrong?” He responded and I kid you not, “Your state machine is wrong because the outputs are supposed to be on the arrows, and the inputs are in the circles. The arrows come out of the circles, so they are outputs.” I stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing. Every computer engineer worth his salt knows what a basic state machine looks like. I argued with him for about 10 minutes. Other students were standing around me, shaking their head because they couldn’t believe what they were hearing either. He finally said, “No, you’re wrong. This conversation is over.” I stormed out of the lab, fuming. Due to the idiocy of my professor, I got a B in that course when I should have received an A (don’t even get me started on the final project. Apparently he thinks it’s totally fair to give you a zero on a question that he didn’t even ask you). I eventually was vindicated later that year when I was part of the Student Advisory Committee. We were a bunch of students who met with the department heads so that they would have a better idea of what the students felt. Basically, liaisons between the student body (the CS/CSE majors anyway) and the faculty. They were asking us about our opinions of professors and I told them exactly what I felt about R. C. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me that they had heard the same complaints from numerous students. “He won’t be teaching here again”, is what they told me. Ahhh… sweet victory. I’m not a vindictive person, but this was something I felt very strongly about and I felt that I was treated unfairly. I was glad to know that others felt the same way as well.

Anyway, so that’s my “WTF?!” story. I probably won’t be posting from my WLC training, so I’ll try and post after I get back. Until next time.

Veterans Day

Yesterday was Veterans Day, so I made a video. It’s basically a montage with the Smallville theme in the background. You can view it here and download it here.

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