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Sep 13 2014

Cosmos Research Center is now an official Minor Planet Observatory

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My backyard observatory, the Cosmos Research Center, has been officially certified by the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomy Union.  I am now observatory U79.

I have a modest telescope set up on homemade concrete pier in my back yard, and use an Orion Atlas EQ-G mount controlling a Williams Optics 110mm F7 APO Refractor telescope.  I use an SBIG SFT 8300C camera, with a Starlight Express Lodestar guider.  The mount is controlled by EQMOD and Maxim DL, and I do my astronomic analysis using Pinpoint.

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Jul 09 2014

Underground Railroad and Indian Tomahawk Express Cards from Clayton Curtis

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Clayton Curtis Card

I got these photos of some of the original membership cards issued to Clayton Curtis, MD, who is currently with the VA’s Health Informatics’ Knowledge Based Systems as well as the VHA-Indian Health Service Interagency Liaison for Health IT Sharing.

Long story to be told here, but the bottom line is that the VA and the Indian Health Service have been collaborating for 30 years now, while DoD worked really hard to make its systems incompatible.  I was an informal consultant to the IHS while I was at the VA, and found them to be a very dedicated, but underfunded, agency.  So, the cooperation made a lot of sense.

When I went to work on the DoD version of the software (called Composite Health Care System), things were completely different.  They stripped out the communication capabilities I wanted to use to coordinate systems, and made other changes that would make the DoD version incompatible with the VA.

I wish this could be written off as ancient history, but I don’t think so.  DoD is continuing to do its thing with an $11B “rip and replace” waterfall effort, while VA seeks to take an evolutionary approach.

There has to be a better way.  For starters, the folks in Washington should recognize the power of informal organizations active in their formal organization charts.

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Jul 09 2013

Gone Sailing…

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In case anyone is trying to reach me, I will be off the grid until July 20. If any one wants to reach me, ask NSA for their PRISM data about me.

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Jun 05 2013

Interview with Gio Wiederhold, Stanford Professor of Computer Science

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While I was in San Francisco to attend another conference,  I stopped by the home of Dr. Gio Wiederhold, professor of Computer Science at Stanford.  He was very helpful to me in my early days of the design of VistA, so it was fun to have some time to do this oral history interview of him:

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Nov 27 2012

Google Reinvents Microsoft BoB

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I just ran across Google Sandbox, a weird graphical interface that reminds of Microsoft Bob

Bob was a Really Bad Idea, and failed miserably.

 

 

But apparently Google is trying to reinvent the idea, adding a twist to make the scene twirl as you try to access it, so it becomes a cat-and-mouse chase to try to get the mouse on the appropriate icon.

Seems like folks are just trying to make things more complicated nowadays… sorry that Google is heading down this path.

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Oct 25 2012

Good Bye Apple iPhone – you pushed me into the arms of a competitor (Samsung Galaxy S3)

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The recent Apple iPhone announcement was quite a disappointment, so I started looking at Android Platforms to see what they offered.  I was also fed up with ATT, so it was also a chance to change carriers.  I loved my iPhone, as did my wife, but after taking a look at the alternatives, it became clear that Apple was on the losing end of the smartphone market, both from a technical and business perspective.

I love my new Samsung Galaxy S3.  It is a like a breath of fresh air, being able to use micro SD cards to expand my memory ($30 for 32GB), swap batteries, use standard power cords, open software, choose my software store (Google or Amazon, for example).  I love Google Maps and their detailed instructions (even in parking lots), the large, bright screen, and the near field communications (NFC) capability (going through an airport, I just tapped my phone against an advertising poster, and downloaded a free song and book).  I simply dragged my music over to the microSD card, and the music players figured it all out.  I tried different keyboards (settling on Swift Key 3), music players (settling on Player Pro), and  downloaded the advanced DSP module for the player that allows spectacular fine tuning of the equalizer.  It is true multi-tasking, letting me run many programs at once,  gives me much better statistics on the use of battery and data, (eg. exactly how much juice the screen is using up).

The Android app store(s) seem to offer a much richer diversity of apps, due to the fact that developers have greater access to the computer – all controlled by the Android approach so that I knew which access privileges each app was requesting before installing.  I can try an app and get a refund if I uninstall it soon after purchasing.  The phone automatically detects a windshield holder (bringing up a car dashboard), or a desk stand (going into alarm clock mode), or with stickers that I can attach and program myself.

Android already surpasses iPhone in smart phone sales, and I see this as an unstoppable trend as the full benefits of Google’s open architecture thrives as Apples “walled garden” approach stiffles innovation and growth.

I find the Samsung to be far superior technology to iPhone, and I despite Apple’s marketing prowess, I think that they are going to be seeing more folks leave their iPhones behind, as customers realize how they are being taken for a ride with the plethora of cable changes, closed devices, and approaches.

So, good bye Apple’s “Walled Garden” and hello, Google’s Open platform.

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May 25 2012

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Here is a 1977 paper I wrote with richard Walters test

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May 24 2012

My 1978 paper “A Linguistic Comparision of MUMPS and Cobol”

Here is a paper summarizing some of my original thoughts about MUMPS as a general symbol-processing interpretive language that integrates data and program, and COBOL, as a rigid, predefined language that splits data and program into two different domains.  I presented this at the 1980 AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference in Anaheim, Ca.

Linguistic Comparison of MUMPS and COBOL

The concepts I present in this paper became key attributes of what is now called the VistA electronic health record system.

Unfortunately, despite the success of these concepts, they are threatened by the next generation health record systems, which pretty much reverts to the conceptual models that have descended from the COBOL model I describe.

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May 04 2012

Dances with Meteors

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Dances with Meteors

Originally uploaded by munnecket

Here is a fun image I took at Joshua Tree National Park during the Lyrid Meteor showers.

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May 03 2012

David Brin talking at Cosmos Research Center Star Party

David Brin is one of my favorite intellectual sparring partners.  Luckily, he lives nearby, so he was able to drop in at a children’s science star party I held in June 2007.

Here is a video of David’s presentation to the kids, (mostly K-8).

and here is a portrait I took of him:
Science Fiction author David Brin

I started the Cosmos Research Center in a shed in my backyard, and then got lab coats, a logo, a website, and named myself Executive Director. I really enjoy motivating kids to dig deeper into science, which has also lead to my becoming a NASA/JPL Solar Systems Ambassador.

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