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The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Staying Productive

Bonjour, tout le monde et bienvenue sur Embrasse l'espace! Welcome back! I hope all is well with you! Today's post is a little different, consisting of a compilation of reviews of some things I've been reading/watching/playing lately. I am still waiting on paperwork in order to begin the next stage of my life and while I wait, I have worked hard to keep myself busy.

Employment Status  

I have accepted an offer of employment from Clyde Space for the position of Business Development Engineer. My soon-to-be job will consist of working closely with both the technical and business side of the small satellite industry, in order to help Clyde Space grow and meet our customers' needs. Unfortunately, I am still waiting on paperwork to go through in order to move to Glasgow, Scotland, and start my job! The company must appeal to the UK government and satisfy the requirements of hiring someone from overseas. This step is called the Certificate of Sponsorship and I'm hoping to hear back from Clyde Space concerning its approval very soon. I must wait for this to come through before applying for my work visa, but once I am certified, I expect things will move quickly! 

While I'm waiting, I have been working to stay productive, but also to enjoy my time. Here are some things I've been working on...

Recreational Reading

My two favourite genres of reading are science fiction and fantasy and so I decided to swing back toward sci-fi for the summer. I must pay special tribute here, thanking the lovely Juliette for providing me with ample reading material!

Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson
You can read my full review here, if you'd like, but for brevity, I will just say that I really enjoyed this adrenaline-pumped, Cyberpunk, son of Neuromancer.

Blindsight by Peter Watts
I feel that I must give this book a second read in order to form a firm opinion. At first, the book's futuristic portrayal of biology had me lost, feeling like I was just reading a bunch of bio-garble thrown at me to sound good. As the story unfolded, things made a lot more sense and I really enjoyed the second half of the book! Blindsight turns the first contact story on its head and is a unique portrayal of post-genome-splicing biology and psychology meeting space exploration. 

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
This one came highly recommended to me by one of my friends, and I'm glad it did! The first book in the Jean le Flambeur trilogy, the story is a fast-paced action-adventure story set in a post-Singularity Solar System. The main setting of the first book is on a moving city on Mars, known as the Oubliette, where everyone has the ability to set the level of privacy they have with others. The story involves the best thief in the Solar System working with, and against, different alien races all with interestingly different cultures, perspectives, and levels of technology. Themes of memory, personal identity, privacy, all well-wrapped within a science fiction story that feels at once refreshing and familiar. I really enjoyed this book, and it inspired me to read the next book in the series!

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
Book two in the Jean le Flambeur series moves from the Mars memory palace to a Terran, Arabian-like wasteland where technology is a form of magic that can affect reality. Similar to my experience with Blindsight, the first half of this book seemed off. It didn't grab me as quickly as the first book and I wondered where things were going. However, the alien cultures were presented in a fresh, new way, and I found the story quite intriguing. The plot definitely thickened between the thief and his main adversary and I got to explore an entirely new world and their technology in a really exciting way. I am just starting the third book in the series and I am excited to see how everything will come together!


I have devoted as much time as possible, every day, to reading more about the space industry, space engineering, and specific aspects of design and finance. I am working to make myself a more valuable member of the industry, and also pursuing various avenues of research for possible future work. Here are some of the things I've been looking into...


CubeSat Design Specification, rev. 13 by Cal Poly
This document, updated in 2015, available here, reviews all the electrical, operational, mechanical, and general requirements of CubeSat design. It is a thoroughly technical document, and was a great refresher on the guidelines of CubeSat construction. Clyde Space is a world leader in CubeSats so I thought it was wise to learn more about their requirements, from the institute that really developed and pushed the concept, the California Polytechnic State University. It will be a great reference for future work.

Smaller Satellite Operations Near Geostationary Orbit by Matthew Erdner
Originally a Masters thesis, it is now a full book, available here. The theatre for CubeSats is expanding. The concept was invented in 1999 and while originally thought to be limited to low-Earth orbit, many researchers and business men and women are investigating the idea of using CubeSats in geostationary orbit, deep-space, and on other worlds. This book explores the idea of using these small satellites to discretely observe all satellites in geostationary orbit and provides excellent analysis in the requirements necessary to complete such a mission. While I was originally hoping for a more general approach to deep-space CubeSat design, this book thoroughly tackles the given mission, providing an extensive look into the mechanical, ethical, financial, and physical constraints, as well as a refresher on the tools used to arrive at a design which can satisfy all involved. For those in the field, I consider it the "SMAD of geostationary CubeSats".

Lunar Resources: A Review by Ian Crawford
This document was recommended by a colleague on Twitter, and I found it quite informative. Essentially, the 40 page document outlines the composition of the Moon, the geological processes involved, and the potential for utilizing these resources on the Moon, in cislunar space (i.e. on this side of the Moon), or back on Earth. I found the article so interesting that I made my own review which summarizes the thoroughly explored data in a table. 

The new director of the European Space Agency, Johann-Dietrich W├Ârner, has shared his belief that a "Moon village", a collaboration between different members for creating a base on the Moon, is an important step for building cooperation and sustainability in space exploration. Thus, this document will be a useful resource to all involved and interested in such projects.

Deep-Space Probes: To The Outer Solar System and Beyond by Gregory Matloff
The more I read about them, the more interested I am in working on deep-space robotic probes. I love exploration, discovering new things, and I have followed the exploits of various such missions for years. This is a high goal I am setting for myself, but I would be truly honoured to help design, develop, and operate a deep-space probe exploring a celestial body in the far reaches of the Solar System. 

In preparation for such a role, I read through this textbook. Recommended to me by a good friend of mine, this book covers aspects ranging from understanding the deep-space environment, looking at the next targets for exploration, space propulsion as it stands now (or rather in 2005 when the book was published), and exploring exotic options in terms of future developments in space exploration.

I found the book to be a great review of the techniques currently employed and previously explored. The book comes with example questions and scenarios which help enhance the understanding and application of the subject matter. I think it will be a great resource which I hope will help me in the long and short term.

Video Games

The Wolf Among Us
I played this game a month or so ago and really enjoyed it! The trailer hooked me right away, and why not? Based on Vertigo's Fable comic series, the story involves fabled, fairy-tale creatures living in a small district of New York, magically shielded to appear "normal". In the game, you play as Sheriff Bigby Wolf (or The Big Bad Wolf) investigating the recent murders of fabled citizens. The atmosphere is gritty, the characters involved with unexpected depth, and the game's interactive nature lets you play the game your way, influencing later events and the way you're perceived. I played a firm but fair Sheriff, out for justice, and enjoyed getting to the bottom of the mystery!

XCOM: Enemy Unknown 
(Feel free to check out my friend's more thorough review in the link above!)

It was only recently that I had heard of the XCOM series, despite it having been around for years. I played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified recently and, contrary to the critics, I enjoyed it more than Enemy Unknown. The games all centre around an alien invasion investigated/hindered/covered up by the world's governments. The Bureau followed one character around as he searched for answers and fought alongside brave comrades. The gameplay was mostly first-person shooter with some strategy. Enemy Unknown, however, is a strategy game with some build-you-base dynamics. I liked the game well enough, for a while, but then I became tired of it. The combat is thoroughly involved and exciting, but after a time, I just felt it was more of the same. The game does a great job of making me emotionally invested in the characters but then I found myself wanting to save each one and restart missions. When I got to this point, where the game was becoming more of a chore than fun, I switched. I may go back, especially after my friends read this, but not just yet.

Metro: Last Light
(Feel free to check out my friend's more thorough review in the link above!)

Metro: Last Light is the sequel to Metro: 2033, a game based on the post-apocalyptic novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. It is set in the Moscow Metro, where the last humans survive after a nuclear holocaust. The first game followed much of the premise of the book, so I've heard, as the main character fights off the demons and monsters created in the nuclear-wasteland while trying to live and cope with the people of the metro. The second game continues the story, working with all of the same elements as the first game, but I found with even greater result. The story is immersive, driven by the choices of your character, the atmosphere is rich and vibrant, even in the face of the grim apocalypse, the morality system is hidden and very interesting, and the gun-play and stealth aspects are a lot of fun! I found Last Light to be just as immersive and entertaining as the first game, but with more replay-ability. There are several DLCs (downloadable content packs) which offer great expansion to the game, and I enjoy how much the game embraces the range of combat, allowing total stealth, non-lethal options, as well as a spectrum of more violent, obvious approaches. There is much to explore in the Metro and I am glad to have taken the chance to do so. I think I'll go get the book!

And more!

I've also been teaching myself American Sign Language, Morse Code, and practicing French everyday on Duolingo! I find the challenge just enough to keep me motivated but not too much as to be overwhelming. 

I have continued to use HabitRPG, which I reviewed here, as a means of keeping track of my projects, and for motivating me to move forward. I find that as long as I'm working on something, even just a little, every day, I can use that momentum to get a lot done!

As far as creative endeavours go, I have been working on some Dungeons and Dragons campaigns with some friends and will soon be starting a podcast, so I am quite excited about that.

On top of all of that, I've been enjoying my time with friends and family, visiting, hosting a few parties. The waiting is making me impatient, especially because I am not exactly sure when things will get moving with Clyde Space, but I am hopeful, I am happy, and I continue to be productive!

Thanks for reading! Come back again soon!  

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