radhardened: (storm trooper hello kitty)
I went to The Next HOPE this past weekend with some friends and had a good time. We took the train up to NYC and slept in a clean, comfortable hotel in the garment district, several blocks away from the fleabag con hotel.

photo by johngineer
My favorite talk, perhaps predictably given my career, was Stephen Cass' T+40: The Three Greatest Hacks of Apollo. Cass talked about the resolutions of three Apollo-era mishaps. Less than a minute after Apollo 12's launch, lightning discharged through the vehicle, triggering false detections of fuel cell overload that knocked out the fuel cells, much of the Command and Service Module instrumentation, and the attitude indicator. Read more about this incident and its resolution here. Apollo 13's mishap is fairly famous; with regard to this mission, Cass focused on flight controller John Aaron's development of a protocol to power-up the completely shut-down Command Module from scratch, something never intended to be done in-flight. This article Cass wrote explains what was so difficult about this power-up and how it was done. As for Apollo 14, its Lunar Module Antares was plagued during descent by an apparent floating solder ball intermittently closing a circuit that would have led to a needless scrub of the moon landing. The crew had to reprogram the flight software on the fly to ensure the descent sequence wasn't aborted. More here.

Outside of attending talks, I made my first amateur radio contact (and got an N2H QSL card for it), hung out with a bunch of geek women, fixed a broken solder connection on my RFID-circuit badge, rode a Segway, obtained a bottle of Club Mate, admired a couple of Bradley Litwin's kinetic sculptures named The Sway of Public Opinion and Tracker-Rocker, enjoyed the hammock lounge, and contemplated buying a kit to convert a typewriter into a USB keyboard. Being a faithful viewer of adafruit's Ask an Engineer show, I had hoped to catch a live session at the con on Saturday night, but in the end the con wireless network wasn't strong enough to let them hold it there.

On Sunday I skipped the talks to head across the Hudson River to Mitsuwa, the largest Japanese grocery store on the east coast. The shopping center includes not just a supermarket but Japanese bookstore, home goods store, and cosmetics store, among others. Between those specialty stores and the supermarket, I came away with a Japanese book on knots for an impressive array of purposes, a trio of cute yunomi, seasonal wagashi for my chado teacher, Hello Kitty pasta, yuzu juice, flour and sauce for okonomiyaki, loose-leaf sencha and hojicha, bottled milk tea, amanattō, and other items too numerous to list without boring the pants off my readers. I'm not sure where the store's permanent food court ended and the weekend-long food festival began, but when it came time for a bite to eat, I had a hard time deciding, not to mention making my way through the crowd of like-minded patrons. Ultimately I went with a matcha zaru-udon / chirashi set, with soft-serve matcha ice cream to conclude. Yum++.



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