“No You Can’t”


There is a huge cultural problem right now wherein people love to say “no you can’t.”

Maybe it’s not always phrased that way, but more and more I see people tearing down people who are trying to advocate, well, almost anything. Somehow we’ve become a culture of anti-advocates. We’re not for anything anymore, we’re just against the things we’re afraid of.

And I think that’s really the core of it: fear. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of losing our comfort. We’re afraid of pain, really.

In my personal experience I hesitate to publicly advocate anything because it seems nearly any time I do, someone jumps to explain why it’s wrong/bad/stupid or whatever. This obviously covers politics, but also spreads into mundane things like brand-preference or even ideological banter. It’s tragic we can’t seem to talk civilly anymore.

It’s even more tragic that we’re failing to support things anymore.

So I guess there are two parts to my request.

  1. Stop discouraging people.
  2. Start supporting things.

Be educated about it. Don’t be stupid. Do your homework regarding the things you support, but stand up for the things you like.

The world would be a better off.



This weekend has been ridiculous. It all started with a text asking if I could sub in for the role of sound-guy this weekend at church. It meant I suddenly had to be at practice Thursday, which I hadn’t planned. No big deal, I enjoy doing it, and normally wouldn’t have been any issue.

I rode my bike home from work that day. Everything was fine when I left work, but by the time I got home the older kid had thrown up. We had dinner while she watched some movie and I got ready to leave for practice. On my way out the door, kiddo was talking like she might get sick again. I profusely apologized to my wife, then noped out of there to the relative safety of band practice.

I got a text toward the end of practice that said “I need you home now” so I booked it. Apparently we were just getting started with sickness. I stayed home from work on Friday to help manage things. Saturday I ventured out with Thing 1 to the music store and a pet store, but as we got home she got sick again.

Saturday night things were looking up and we went to a wedding about an hour out of town. We got back home very late and we were all exhausted. Sunday, after church, Thing 1 was feeling better, but Thing 2 and Naomi both had thrown up.

I stayed home today to help get everything back under control. I did laundry, dishes, and took the kids for a walk so Naomi could sleep.

Thing 1 finally got to sleep, and Thing 2 was still showing signs of pain as he wouldn’t sleep. We found a sticker in his onesie and his leg is all scratched up.

It’s looking like things are calming down now. Everyone is asleep while I’m mining in EVE and listening to Olafur Arnalds. I’m done with this weekend.

Good news, though. I never got sick.

[Update: I got sick.]

16" Telescope

The Observatory

The Night Sky

I went to the Lake Afton Public Observatory once when I was a kid. My dad took us out to view a meteor shower. I don’t believe we went inside, but I do remember laying in the lawn out front and being bored. I think we left pretty quickly, I’m not sure.

I didn’t go again until adulthood. A few years ago my father-in-law invited me out as they were having a photography-night where anyone could hook their camera up to the telescope and take photos. I was a bit disappointed in this trip, though. For starters, we hooked cameras up to the little scope attached to the main scope. Secondly, the clouds moved in right when it was my turn. I got the following crappy-sequence of photos of Jupiter.


Not exactly print-it-and-display-it quality.


I spent a lot of years wanting to get out of Wichita. I imagine most people do, to some degree. It’s super pretty everywhere else and it’s easy to see what Wichita doesn’t have.

I had a few opportunities but nothing solid. After advising a friend of mine one night that he needed to learn to be happy where he was, I realized I wasn’t really trying. I decided to get a bit more involved. I found a group of local developers called DevICT and that lead me to Open Wichita, billed as “a civic hacking and open data initiative in Wichita, KS.”

I sat on the sidelines a bit, looking for projects to contribute to that struck my interests. A few things here and there were kinda neat but nothing jumped out until we heard about Lake Afton Public Observatory closing and a bunch of us in Open Wichita started brainstorming.

Is it Feasible?

On Tuesday, August 4th 2015, a large group of people met to discuss the observatory, why it was closing, and what potential there was to re-open it.

It was daunting but there were some major takeaways.

  1. the observatory cost surprisingly little to keep open.
  2. it actually made money the last few years it was open, excluding the salaries WSU paid the caretakers.
  3. being that it’s only open Friday/Saturday, we figured we could run it on volunteers alone.
  4. fundraising and advertising were previously very difficult due to various bureaucracy complications.

With those major insights, we thought we might actually stand a shot. A few of us Open Wichita guys decided to offer our help on the technical side since that was a major area for improvement and momentum going forward. The group gladly accepted our help.

For the next year, we had meetings, discussions, planning sessions, and all manner of disagreements over the direction, but we constantly moved forward, little by little.

On Labor Day weekend 2016 we re-opened. Over 600 people came out over three nights.

16" Telescope

My Role

At first, I offered my services as a technical adviser. Anything having to do with computer or tech-related needs would fall into my court. I couldn’t get over my science-nerd self, though, and I started asking about helping out as a volunteer.

I was scheduled to be one of the telescope operators on opening night. I had been trained a few weeks earlier on the operation, but I’d never done anything like this before so I was nervous. We had no idea what to expect.

I was blown away.

So many people came to see the observatory we had to shut the doors at 10pm and turn more away. We wanted to move the scope to other objects but we stayed on Saturn all night because it was so beautiful and people were consistently saying how incredible it was.

Since that night I’ve volunteered a few more times, and I’m finding how much I love showing people the stars. I’m also finding that so many people are amazed when they get a chance to look for themselves.  I even had a girl say she didn’t want to come out because she “didn’t like science” but she’d go ahead since her mom dragged her out. The next half hour she was asking me to show her different planets and stars. She even had me show her how to find things using a telescope and after half an hour was in awe of the sky.

Seriously, I love this.

Observatory Panorama

What’s Next?

When WSU announced they were closing the observatory, the reason given was:

“While looking through a telescope has its charm, what you can see can’t compare with the images that can be downloaded in seconds from the Internet”


From the get-go, I took issue with this. By this logic, why would anyone ever visit the Grand Canyon? Why does the telescope market not fail entirely? Absolutely, NASA publishes photos daily that completely blow away our best possible viewings from even a huge telescope, but I couldn’t believe that was the reason the observatory closed.

Because of my involvement with the observatory and the fact that this is technically a public forum, I’m not going to go into why I think the observatory was closed. I don’t see a reason to poke holes and find faults, but I do believe that there is opportunity going forward, and I know people want to see the stars, even if they don’t know it yet.

So, you’ll find me out there on the pad, in the dome, and on my blog talking about how much I love space and mostly getting super excited about educating people. Space is incredible, vast, and terrifying, and most people don’t even think about it. I’ve yet to find someone who can’t be interested in some aspect of it.

Turns out I love teaching people. Who knew?


Artists Rendition: http://jonahrf.deviantart.com/art/Proxima-Centauri-411954215

Proxima B

Artists Rendition: http://jonahrf.deviantart.com/art/Proxima-Centauri-411954215

Artists Rendition: http://jonahrf.deviantart.com/art/Proxima-Centauri-411954215

The folks at the European Southern Observatory have found an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.2 light-years away.

This is amazing.

Part of the reason it’s amazing is because 4.2 light years is very close on intergalactic scale. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to us other than our sun. Also, detecting planets isn’t easy, especially when they’re fairly small as this one is.

In fact, here’s a rendering of the Milky Way galaxy.

Milky Way

While I could have gone to the trouble to point out where our Sun is along with Proxima Centauri, it wouldn’t have actually mattered because each pixel in this photo is roughly 95 light-years across, so if I had bothered to point the two stars out, they’d have been on the same pixel.

But this news is also amazing because this planet is not completely un-visitable. I mean, sure, it’d be really really hard to even send them a gift-basket of a space-probe, but it’s not completely out of the question.

Ion Drives

We have to use Ion Drives though. Rockets won’t work.

Rockets deliver a lot of power but run out of fuel fast. Firing a rocket at a distant target is kind of like shooting a bullet at it. Lots of force up front, then a lot of coasting.

Ion drives are more like a rolling a ball down a hill. Very little force, but it keeps going faster and faster until the speed is ridiculous. They also use very little fuel.

Ion drives are the coolest looking propulsion type ever.

Ion drives are the coolest looking propulsion type ever.

If we were going to use a rocket, we’d need an absolutely tremendous amount of fuel. I don’t mean “a lot of fuel” either, I mean “probably more fuel than has ever been used in all rocketry ever” if we wanted to get a probe to that planet inside our lifetime. Being that humans, even when knowingly running out of Helium, continue to put it into party balloons, I don’t think we’re gonna get everyone to stop shooting rockets at each other and give us their fuel so we can go on the Griswold family vacation of our local star cluster.

Basically, rockets are bad for long trips. Ion drives are great.

The Trip

Unless I math’d totally wrong, an Ion-Drive powered probe weighing in at roughly 50-tons (48 tons of that would be fuel) could be launched by any of the currently-available heavy-lift rockets into orbit, then sent on its way toward Proxima B using its own ion propulsion.

It would take 13.5 years to get halfway there, at which point the probe would be traveling at 30% the speed of light, or roughly 202,884,235 mph.

Like, so fast.

Like, so fast.

That’s twice around the world PER SECOND.

So we’d need to turn it around, fire its engine towards Proxima B, and start slowing down. We don’t want to fly past Proxima B at breakneck speed, we’d like to stay a while and send home a few postcards.

Fun fact: if we just kept accelerating toward Proxima B with our probe, it’d arrive with kinetic energy equivalent to 110,678,469 Hiroshima bombs. So if there are Aliens that we decide are hostile, we could probably really ruin their day.


Time is weird, but put simply, the faster you go, the more time starts to act wonky.


On Earth, we would be watching our probe for 27 years before it arrived at Proxima Centauri, but the probe would only have “experienced” a 26 year 7 month journey.

At that point, it could take pictures and readings and stuff and send them back. But those would take 4.2 years to get here.

So, if we built the probe today, we’d find out if that planet had life sometime around the year 2043.


Of course, this all assumes:

  • the probe has enough power when it gets there to send a signal 4.2 light years back to us that would still be readable,
  • the probe doesn’t, you know, stop working
  • we can get everyone to agree on something long enough to get it launched
  • someone will still be listening for it in 27 years.
  • Matt Damon doesn’t try to hitch a ride on the probe, because then it’d inevitably get lost and we’d have to go rescue him again.


Because I’m not a savage, I include sources on stuff like this.

Model X

I Finally Sat in a Tesla

Model X

I’ve been a totally unashamed fan-boy of Tesla for like, a while. Until recently, I’d never sat in one, and (much to my chagrin) I’ve still never driven one, but let me rant about this for a few minutes because I want to make a point a lot of people aren’t really making or considering with Tesla cars.

Yeah, We Know…

Ok I’ve written before about how electric cars are great and all, and how I think Tesla is changing the world. This post isn’t about that. In fact, other than this paragraph, I’m not going to talk at all about electric cars’ affect on the world, or the future, or the EV industry.

I’m just going to talk about the cars, as they measure up simply as “a vehicle.”

It’s Better

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

Naomi and I have been working for the last six months on decluttering. The idea is that, basically, there is beauty in simplicity. I firmly believe this concept, and until I sat in the Model X and Model S, I had never considered the effect minimalism would have on car design.

The interior is simple, not stark. It has what you need, but it’s all on one of two screens which only show you what you need when you need it. The design feels clean, modern, thoughtful and practical, but not gaudy. The door handles are designed as part of the door-design, rather than just a standard handle plonked into the door panel.


Every aspect of the interior is designed to feel open, simple, and pleasing. The Model S has a big glass roof as an option, but the Model X takes the cake with the windshield.

Honestly, I was blown away at how awesome it felt to sit under the Model X windshield. The glass contours all the way above and behind your head. Sitting inside a store, it was amazing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to drive around say, in the mountains, with this.

Model X Panoramic Windshield

The Falcon-Wing doors are definitely a “wow” feature, but the ease of getting into the car made it feel like a totally new experience, rather than a new-take on a regular thing.

It’s kind of like when you bought your first HD TV. Before, you were totally fine with what you had. Why would anyone spend the money? But once you had it, the thought of going back was laughable. It’s like that.

It Costs So Much

I know. The Model S starts at $66,000. The Model X starts at $74,000. That’s a lot, I get it. But keep in mind, they’re introducing a $35,000 car soon and if that stupid thing has half the design consideration and beauty of these things, it’s a steal.

And that sort of leads me to my point. I’ve sat in and driven a lot of cars, even some upwards of the pricepoint of the currently-available Teslas, and I’ve never been quite as taken by the layout, the feel, the design as I have in this case.

Two years ago I drove a Jaguar XJ which is squarely in the target-market of the Model S. It was a beautiful car with some really great features, one of the most compelling cars I’d driven so far as comfort, feel, and impressiveness goes. Until I sat in the Model S.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Jaguar XJ

Jaguar XJ

Ok look, I know that the Jag probably feels “classy’ and all that, and I definitely have a genetic predisposition against wood-grain, but even still I far prefer the Tesla here. That said, if you’re the sort of person who smokes cigars in your library while listening to Kenny G records, you can still order wood grain as an option.

My Point

In my case, and probably due in no small part to my predisposition toward Tesla as a company, these cars seem more compelling, more modern, more capable than their counterparts. Ultimately, if Tesla hadn’t put an electric drivetrain in the car, I’d still want it. I’d still have been sort of emotionally-moved when I sat in it.

The software-centric touch-screen control system of the car means they can add functionality to your car as it ages. Chevy can’t retroactively add a button to your car for some new feature. Tesla can.

And the upcoming Model 3 has so-far given us no reason to think Tesla is slacking off with respect to design or feature-sets.

Honestly, it seems like Tesla is trying to actually improve on the concept of a car, rather than get you to buy a new one because it has a new feature.

And really, they’ll only get better with time.



The Zoo


During the summer, the zoo stays open later than usual for “Twilight Tuesdays.” A few weeks ago, a family zoo-trip was planned around one of these nights. We love the zoo. We’ve maintained a membership for two years now because it’s been such a wonderful investment for our kids. It’s super fun.

I even thought, “hey, there are probably lots of Pokestops here for you to find sweet Pokemon, this’ll be a great time.”

I hadn’t thought it entirely through. We arrived at the zoo and, by my rudimentary crowd-size estimates, somewhere between one and three-fifths of Kansas was in attendance. I was not prepared.

Some questions:

  • When did it become ok to bang on the Gorilla cage mercilessly trying to Snapchat an angry Silverback? Have these people never seen a movie?
  • Why is the bridge to the Gorilla section only 1.3 Americans wide?
  • Can I borrow a Giraffe? I have an idea.

I do have a real suggestion, though. I think they should change the name “Twilight Tuesdays” to “Reverse Zoo Tuesday” because I’ll bet it’s actually super entertaining for the animals to watch the people for once.

Also, holy strollers, Batman.

We really had a nice time, and while it took me a bit to adjust to the crowd, I enjoyed myself.

I’ve started to figure out how to deal with my uncomfortabilities and it’s actually a little bit life-changing. There was a time when I’d have just shut-down completely because I couldn’t handle the crowd, or even just left early. In this case, I took some time on my own when it got to be a bit much, and relaxed, then rejoined the group and made Pokemon jokes.

I even convinced my brother-in-law, an ex-military camp-ranger, that Pokemon Go is cool.

Well, to be fair, I said “pretend that instead of Pokemon they’re real animals, and instead of throwing a Pokeball at them, you shoot at them.” He was all “oh that’d be awesome. Make that app and I’ll buy it now.”

So I guess I invented Cabela’s Go.

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