Sideband #62: Quaternions

Folded into the mixed baklava of my 2018, was a special mathematical bit of honey. With the help of some excellent YouTube videos, the light bulb finally went on for me, and I could see quaternions. Judging by online comments I’ve read, I wasn’t alone in the dark.

There does seem a conceptual stumbling block (I tripped, anyway), but once that’s cleared up, quaternions turn out to be pretty easy to use. Which is cool, because they are very useful if you want to rotate some points in 3D space (a need I’m sure many of have experienced over the years).

The stumbling block has to do with quaternions having not one, not two, but three distinct “imaginary” numbers.

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The 13th Doctor

The Doctor is in!

I’ve written before (twice) about how much I love Doctor Who (even more than Star Trek, and that’s saying something). I’ll tell you right now: nothing’s changed; it’s still my favorite TV science fiction show, hands down. I am enjoying the big changes this season: a new The Doctor and a new show runner, Chris Chibnall.

The big change to The Doctor, of course, is the first ever female incarnation, played by Jodie Whittaker. For some this is a bit like a female James Bond, but the idea that Time Lords (slash Ladies) are gender-fluid is canonical. (Statistically speaking, it’s past time The Doctor was female. As the season promos put it: It’s about time!)

In many ways, I find the fan reactions to these changes as interesting as the show itself!

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Spoonful of Psychopathy

My disdain for reboots means that, out of the gate I’m not inclined to have much anticipation for Mary Poppins Returns. Factor in that it’s a musical fantasy for and about children, and there is even less to attract me. It’s just not my cup of tea, Earl Grey (hot) or otherwise.

I have a sister, younger by a few years, so the original Mary Poppins, with Julie Andrews, was an annual fixture in our house. Along with The Wizard of Oz and that excruciating Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation. I was already a hard-core science fiction fan by then; these family-friendly fantasies bored me silly even as a kid.

I think even then I was just too aware of the implicit psychopathy behind it all.

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2018: Hawaii Gets Bigger!

The Goddess Pele, by Arthur Johnsen

The Goddess Pele
by Arthur Johnsen

The previous year was an interesting one for me. Last July marked five years of retirement, which has been great, but part of me misses the high information content and challenges work threw at me daily. I’ve tried to keep busy with my own pursuits, one of which was a temporary obsession with the Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island, Hawai‘i.

I wrote about this back in August, just after the (unprecedented) activity subsided. At the time, no one knew if the volcano was just taking a breath, or if the lava flow was really over. At this point we know it was over; there has been no activity since.

For two-and-a-half months, though, it was an impressive display of the undeniable power of Mother Earth and, in particular, her fiery daughter Pele.

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Misogyny and Bullying

This is a followup to the previous post, Year of the Woman? That one ran long, and there were some things I didn’t get to. There was also, from my point of view, an egregious memory lapse considering the nature of the post: I didn’t mention the new The Doctor. (Maybe because I’m planning a separate post about her, so she didn’t need to be in the more general one.)

There was a key aspect I meant to talk about with regard to sexual harassment, but my note for it was on a different piece of paper than my main notes. I just didn’t see it while writing the first post (it was in another room).

So now a long post gets even longer!

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2018: Year of the Woman?

RIP Penny Marshall

Some called last year the Year of the Woman. There are good justifications for the phrase, the recent election, what’s happened in the #MeToo movement, but Christine Blasey Ford might have an opinion on how far we have to go.

With President Obama, we were confronted with the reality that, despite progress, racism is very much alive in our culture. The past year or two has spotlighted an identical dichotomy with regard to gender. Politically, socially, and personally, we seem to become ever more divided in ever more ways.

As a white male I can speak on the core of sexism or racism only from the outside, but as a member of a group perceived to be a key source of the problems in the first place, raising my voice in support seems crucial.

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Blog Year 2018

It’s that time for a reflective reviewing the previous year. On a personal level, it’s been an interesting year, a year of some changes with more ahead. I may (or may not) talk about that more down the road. I’ve already shared some of the more mundane ones. I’m still chewing on some of the more personal ones.

As a blog post, it makes sense to do a blog review, as self-indulgent as they are. This is more a milepost for me; a sort of year-end report to the board — see if it’s worth funding another year. (Technically, the Blog Year starts on July 4, with year zero being 2011. The blog is now seven-and-a-half; 741 posts tall. Plus it just grew one more.)

Stick around if you want, but it’s gonna be long, dry, and narcissistic…
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Ultima Thule!

Congrats to NASA and the New Horizons team! Their brave space robot reached (the planet) Pluto, delivered awesome goods, and went on to explore a much more distant Kuiper belt object: 2014 MU69 (fondly nicknamed Ultima Thule).

It made the journey safely and sped past its destination (at 14 kilometers per second!) on New Year’s Day. We’ve gotten the first close pictures back of the most distant object ever seen by us denizens of the third big rock out.

It looks like a snowman. A red snowman.

Or maybe a fossilized Star Wars robot, MU-69.

In any event, it’s darling and awesome! What a nice little present to start off the new year.  It’ll only get better as more data rolls in (over the next two years).

Just consider that this is what we had a day ago:

Shout out to Emily Lakdawalla and her great blog at Planetary Society. In addition to NASA itself, if you’re at all interested in this stuff, she’s one to follow for sure!


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Wireless World

At work, more than a decade ago, Wi-Fi let us take our laptops to meetings or the cafeteria or even nearby outside. At home, while the old laptop couldn’t hold a connection, so remained tethered to the DSL modem, the new laptop does just fine. So does the iPad, going on two years now.

The new laptop uses a wireless keyboard and mouse. And I’ve been using wireless headphones to watch TV for a year or so. It’s really nice having no wires for devices I’ve used for so long in tethered form. Of course cell phones started it quite a few years ago.

It all does seem to come with a new set of (minor) headaches, though!

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