Casual Programmer: Posts

Here are the newest posts to my (very) occasional blog.


Path with leaves and snow

2019-10-10: A timeline of space stations

The ongoing story of spaceflight is deeply inspiring to me: what people have achieved, despite all the unknowns, risks, and losses, and the human and engineering stories behind it, and what it says about our potential.

For example, the idea of a “space station” still feels like science fiction, but we’ve been building them for almost fifty years now:

Graphical history of manned space stations

(click to view full size)

These are just the stations which were successfully put into orbit, and which were occupied by humans for at least part of that time (or still are).

There were other attempts that never reached those goals. There were also failures during the programs shown here: the failure of the first docking with Salyut 1, the death of its first crew on re-entry, the damage to Skylab during launch.

Still, this timeline shows an amazing progress of achievement. With the ISS now having operated for two decades and still going, it shows more than that: a sustained, international cooperation, on something truly difficult, despite all that’s happened in this world over these years between these countries. It’s a reminder of what we can do, when we let ourselves.

(I created the above image using my Mac app TimeStory; if you have it, here’s the file.)


Photo of rice terraces

Longji Rice Terraces, early September. Just a week or so before the rice turned golden, but still a stunning, beautiful place. (We would then travel south; down in Yangshuo, a few days later, rice was already being harvested.)


carved head

Carved on the side of a thousand-year-old cart. I know this expression. (Taken while visiting the excellent Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway, last month)


2017 saw the release of Galencia, a Galaga-style game for the Commodore 64. I’ve been playing it a lot on my C128; it’s really well-done, with a great SID soundtrack.

I just backed its sequel on Kickstarter. They have really ambitious plans, and seem to be off to a great start. Looking forward to getting my hands on that cartridge later this year.


Wilson Hall at Fermilab

Wilson Hall, Fermilab, last night. Attended a public lecture on quantum engineering with Hemi. It’s just such a cool place.


Homemade tea egg. Came out pretty nice!

Photo of tea egg


Photo of covered bridge, sun, snow


Ah, that all-tests-passed feeling after a major refactoring. Time for lunch.

screen grab of passed-test icons in Xcode