3/4/14

Wo Xuexi Zhongwen



I recently decided to be more serious about learning a new language, and between the two that I already am familiar with, Chinese and French, I chose Chinese. My goal is to become fluent within six months, so we'll see how I've progressed by September 1st.

I've learned that the best way to learn a new language is just to speak it, mistakes and all. The best thing about being a college student is that there are many, many international students to practice with. I have already made several friends this semester.

Learning Mandarin is not half as hard as it is made out to be. Yeah, you have to watch your tones, but even that is pretty easy once you get a feel for it. But the grammar and vocabulary make so much sense and are much simpler than western languages. For instance, no verb conjugation or tenses, no masculine/feminine shenanigans, etc. Where it is difficult, however, is character recognition. But thanks to pinyin, the Romanized system of spelling Chinese, I don't have to worry about it until later.

1/17/14

It's Been A Looong Time...

Hi there,

This post is meant to be an update on Daniel Hastings and his continuous upward climb to cool things in the sky. As you may know, I spent the last year in California working with XCOR on the Lynx. I decided to keep blogging to a minimum during this time, because it was all so proprietary, and besides my work for XCOR there wasn't much to say. But I'm back at school now, and I have three semesters before I graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State. 

In this post I wanted to share with my readers what I've been learning lately, and not just about engineering. About life, too. I've been learning a lot, I think, and this post is a collection of these thoughts rather compartmentalized in neat little rows.

The little things are just as important as the big things... if not more.

This is something I've come to realize lately. By little things, I mean boring trivial little ho-hum stuff. Life is made up of a bunch of little things, and life is certainly important. What I may shrug off as not interesting or of diminutive importance may have a lasting impact on somebody else. All the little things add up to one big thing of who you are. 

Now, in another sense, as an engineer the little things are important for more obvious reasons. Historically the little things bring down big things. One overlooked detail can have catastrophic ramifications. It's why engineering is so hard, and it's why I, as a generality person, have tried my hardest to become a detail person. I don't want the Lynx to go down because of something I forgot about inside the landing gear. *Shudder.*

Do things right the first time.

It sounds obvious to say, but doing a job halfway with intent to polish it up later is probably going to lead to much pain down the road. For instance, there was one occasion where I wanted to show an engineer a concept that I had for something. So I threw together a rough engineering drawing of my design, not worrying about proper drawing etiquette or proper dimensioning and tolerancing or anything. So the drawing got passed around a bit and then came back to me: We can't make this like this! Look at these sloppy dimensions! Lines everywhere! Give this to the machine shop and they'll say "silly intern, go sit in the corner!" 

I'm also a writer, as well as an engineer. Now, this goes against everything they will tell you in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org), but I say write it right the first time, or every time you think about your atrocious story you will want to just soak it in HCl and then take a flamethrower to it. I wrote two books during my internship, and... I squirm every time I think about them. You wanna read it? Send me an email!

Live with eternity in mind.

What...?

Life is a short paragraph prefacing a very, very exciting, never ending novel called heaven. Do you know what heaven is meant to be? The infinite, never-ending, humongous and powerful God who made everything, who is actively involved in holding the universe together, whose glory is so big I can only see shadows of it rather fleetingly (being manifested in some of the most glorious moments of my life), THAT God wants to have a beautiful, never-ending relationship with you, forever in his kingdom. It's hard to know exactly what life should be about, then, except in this frame of mind. Life is about glorifying God and enjoying him forever. We have Jesus who knows us so intimately--there is no suffering on earth that he himself has not suffered. Why? I dunno. But he loves me and gave his life for me, so that's what I'm going to make mine about. All the other stuff of life really won't last past the first page of the novel, so I'm going to go all in and give it all for my savior Jesus. When I'm alone, when I'm hurting, when I'm afraid, when I'm failing, when I lose and when I'm filled with guilt, I have Jesus as my closest friend, constantly, always there. 

Here is how C.S. Lewis imagined eternity, from the ending of "The Last Battle":

"And as for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Higher up and further in. Every year it's cooler. 

5/7/13

It's Here, It's Finally Here! Ender's Game First Trailer



I have been looking forward to an Ender's Game movie for a loooooong long time. Finally they have made one.. Terrified to see it, because it would be so easy to turn Ender's Game into something it's not. Also the story is rather disturbing and a literal translation to the big screen would most likely earn a thumbs down from me. I hope they are subtle. That's like saying I hope it will rain in the Mojave Desert. But I can hope.

P.S. I'm writing a book right now. More than that I will not say, because I hate to build expectations before I have a finished product.

4/30/13

The Coolest Picture Of SS2


Tail cam view of SS2 during burn.

(Credit Virgin Galactic)

First Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo!

I got in to work early yesterday because Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic were planning the first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo and I wanted to be there to see it. The flight was a complete success! They did a 15 second burn on their hybrid engine and reached supersonic flight.

My coworkers had written down Scaled's frequencies and were listening in on their communications during the flight. It made for a wonderful narration for the video.

All those years of tracking model rocket flights paid off and I took a rather nice shot of the drop and ignition, all the way from nearly 50,000 feet:


I snapped this shot just as one of the chase planes was crossing the moon:



The entire video of the flight:



A big congratulations to Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, and everyone in the New Space Industry for this awesome achievement!

4/28/13

SpaceShipTwo First Powered Flight Imminent!

Scaled Composites appears to be gearing up for a powered flight of their SpaceShipTwo this Monday or Tuesday. This is a very exciting time to be in New Space! The results of this flight will have a significant impact on the industry as a whole.

I watched White Knight II flying around with SS2 in tow, but I didn't get to see SS2 glide in by itself. They tend to do their drop tests early in the morning before I get in to work.



I don't know who took the above picture, but it is a fantastic view of their cold flow runs!

Well, whatever happens tomorrow or Tuesday, I hope it goes well for them. We're all rooting for you, SpaceShipTwo!

4/26/13

P Motor Static Test at FAR


Earlier this April I went out the the F.A.R. site for some fun experimental rocketry. Before I got there apparently there had been a hypergolic rocket test of nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine (for those of you that don't know, these are some VERY dangerous chemicals!) Another guy had put together a baby P-class motor (pictured above). As I watched it fire, I realized that I have been spoiled on XCOR's Lynx engine (each engine produces 3000 lbs of thrust with a maximum duration of 3 minutes!). Previously I would have done a backflip to see a P motor but now I feel rather indifferent. In a way it's kind of sad, but at the same time it also goes to show how awesome life is right now.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently got involved in another project, called the Sugar Shot to Space (SS2S) and am working on some electronics for a flight they are planning early this fall.

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