Announcing the TAMS Small Schools Scholarship

I’m proud to announce the creation and sponsorship of a new TAMS Alumni Association1 scholarship for incoming TAMSters: the Small Schools Scholarship. Like the other TAMS Alumni Association scholarships, this one covers the cost of the TAMS program charge. Unlike the others, this one is targeted towards students who attended a 3A2 or smaller school.

As a former student of a 3A school I know how limited the opportunities can be in schools of this size, particularly for schools in small towns. TAMS was a life-changing experience for me and I want to help others have that same opportunity.

I’m thrilled this year’s Small Schools Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Gutierrez, an outstanding candidate from a 3A school!3 Congratulations Sarah!

A hearty congratulations to all eight TAMS Alumni scholarship recipients! We, the TAMS alumni, wish you the best in these next two life-changing years.


1 I am not formally associated with the TAMS Alumni Association beyond being a very strong supporter of their mission — I don’t speak on their behalf.

2 3A is a designation of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) organization in Texas. Its primary use by that organization is grouping schools of similar sizes for both academic and athletic competition within the state. Sizes range from 1A (smallest) to 6A (largest).

3 While I sponsored the scholarship this year, I did not participate in the selection of the winner.

Pathfinder-1 launches today!

This evening at 8:43p Pacific, BlackSky will launch our first satellite, Pathfinder-1! PF1 is going up on an Indian rocket, PSLV-35, and there will be a live stream of the launch. We have a 15-minute launch window, so if the weather doesn’t cooperate and the rocket is unable to launch within that window the launch will be scrubbed and attempted again Monday night at the same time. So far the weather looks good!

The primary payload should separate from PSLV-35 about 15 minutes after launch. Then the rocket will change orbit in space before PF1 will be released around 11:30p Pacific.

The BlackSky Twitter account has links to some interesting blog posts about PF1’s trek to India and will have updates on the status of the launch and early operations. The SatOps team has been asked to not discuss the status of the sat after launch and let all official communications happen through corporate, so the Twitter account is the best place to figure out how things are going with PF1 after launch.

LEO, here we come!

Promotion: Validation Manager

I’m excited to announce my promotion to Validation Manager! I’ve lead teams in a technical capacity many times over my 16-year career, but this is the first time I have HR management responsibilities.

My team and I are the sole software validation team within Spaceflight Industries. We’re responsible for the end-to-end testing of our entire software stack: from the web interface customers use to task and purchase satellite imagery, to the ground-station software that operators use to communicate and task satellites, to the flight software running on the satellites in orbit.1 One of our missions is creating and implementing software validation practices across the entire company.

I’m very fortunate that my direct reports, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with over the past three months, are rock stars. I fully expect the bulk of my “manager” duties to be protecting them and giving them space to work.

Oh, and did I mention we’re hiring? I’m looking for a strong SDET with embedded experience to work with our satellite flight software team. Have a strong test background? Feel at home in a Linux terminal? Have experience with C? Like to play with hardware? Excited about SPACE? Contact me!2


1 I like to joke that “we prevent your satellite from becoming a meteor!”.

2 Unless you work for DellEMC, because this is NOT a solicitation of any kind for you.

Celebrating a decade at Distributed Proofreaders

Today marks my 10 year “DP birthday”, as we like to say on the site. 10 years ago I joined Distributed Proofreaders and proofread a few pages. Turns out they needed developers more than proofreaders, the former being harder to find, and I was encouraged to dip my toes into the code. It wasn’t long before I was working with jmdyck, one of the lead developers, rewriting the spellcheck function into WordCheck.1 Thus began my foray into a development style best summed up by the phrase “development by community”.

My involvement with DP has waxed and waned over the years as my free time fluctuated, but I’ve always loved DP’s mission and the great community of people. Despite being a world-wide organization and very geographically dispersed I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several of them in person – all of whom have been delightful people.

Today I am one of the main developers working to improve our code. I periodically wear a system admin hat (a role we affectionately call ‘squirrels’) helping to keep our site running. Recently I was elected by the community to serve on the umbrella organization’s governing board where I am the board president.

If you love ebooks, believe public domain materials should be free and widely available, and need an outlet for a bit of OCD, I would encourage you to drop over to pgdp.net and join a wonderful community of people helping to preserve history one page at a time.


1 Not surprisingly, you’re really more interested in having the text of the page you’re transcribing match the image and be consistent throughout the book, not knowing how they spelled a word in 1892 differs from the contents of a modern dictionary.

PODs, TODs, and beneficiaries

It’s important to have protections in place so that when you die, what you leave behind gets to the people you want. If you are partnered, but unmarried, and die without a Will, your estate could get tied up in probate and whomever the court determines is your nearest relative will walk away with a fatter purse – and that might not be your partner.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need things in place so that after you die your assets go to your partner, a relative, or even a friend of your choosing.

I’ve blogged about using a Will to make this happen. Another, and often more straightforward, mechanism to do this is through PODs, TODs, and beneficiaries.

Disclaimers

Again: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. This is not legal advice and you should always consult with a lawyer for legal matters. If you trust a random blogger on the internet to give you legal advice, you should have your head checked.

This post is US-centric. I am totally unfamiliar with how these matters are handled outside of the US.

Payable On Death

POD stands for Payable On Death and is an account type supported by most, if not all, financial institutions. While you’re alive, a POD account is entirely your own and the person set up to receive it upon your death has zero access to it. When you die, the designated person presents proof to the bank of your demise, and then the accounts are transferred to them, bypassing your Will and probate altogether.

PODs can be changed at any time without witnesses or even a notary. There are additional wrinkles if you are married and the POD designee is not your spouse, however.

Contact your bank to have your checking, saving, and money market accounts set up as a POD account to the person of your choosing. You might even be able to do it entirely online. You will likely need the designee’s social security number.

See this page for further reading on PODs.

Transfer On Death

TOD stands for Transfer on Death and is for investment and brokerage accounts. They act pretty much exactly like PODs – you specify who should get the account assets upon your death, but you alone have access to the accounts while you are alive. Also like PODs, they bypass probate.

Set up your TOD beneficiary through your investment firm’s website.

Beneficiaries

Retirement accounts like IRAs and 401ks have a similar mechanism that can bypass probate: beneficiaries. Like the other two, these individuals have no access or authorization on the accounts until your demise, at which time the retirement accounts will be paid out to them. Like PODs, retirement beneficiaries will likely want the beneficiary’s social security number so have that ready.

Updated to add: If you don’t specify a beneficiary distribution for an IRA account held at a financial institution, or if your primary beneficiary has pre-deceased you, then the beneficiary distribution outlined in the Terms & Conditions document from the financial institution will be the sole governing determinant of the beneficiary distribution. That language may or may not be in line with your wishes, so you should ALWAYS specify a beneficiary or beneficiaries when you open the account. And review those designations every few years, or when you have a major life event. [Thanks to Steve for this information!]

Specify your retirement beneficiaries through the website of the financial institution that manages your accounts.

Being prepared

No one wants to think about dying, but it is important to be prepared, particularly if you have a partner to which you are not legally married.

PODs, TODs, and retirement beneficiaries are a painless way to redirect assets to someone without the hassle of creating a Will. Wills are still important, particularly if you have any real estate, but probate-bypassing mechanisms can be useful and easy to set up.

Counting to 4 … seconds

One one-thousand,
two one-thousand,
three one-thousand,
four one-thousand1

My Granny Pearl taught me how to count seconds. I’m not sure how the lesson came about, although it was probably counting seconds playing hide-and-seek. Telling a kid to count to 10 is likely to have them running through the numbers rather quickly. Telling them to count to 10 seconds, and teaching them how, slows them down a bit.

I’m not certain how accurate my second-counting technique is, but that cherished reminder of my Granny happens every few days at the gym when I’m measuring time while doing planks — and brings a smile to my face.

How do you count to 4 seconds?

And in case the song didn’t spring to mind when reading the title, I give you Feist sings 1, 2, 3, 4:


1 Alternatively, “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi”.

Register to vote and update your address!

The November elections are less than 100 days away and now is the time to make sure you’re registered to vote and that your voter registration address is correct!

Washington state

Washington state residents can register to vote online.

If you’ve moved since last November, even next door, it’s equally important to update your voter registration address. Your address determines where your ballot will get mailed, and also which district you are in for various races, so having your address up-to-date is important.

The deadline to register or update your address online or by mail is October 10th. You can do so in person until October 31st.

Other states

USA.gov makes registering in your state very easy, just go to vote.usa.gov and select your state to get information on how to register.

Trust but verify

Until now and October 31st I’m going to be That Person who is asking everyone he runs across if they’re registered to vote and checked their voter registration address. Because if you aren’t registered, you can’t vote.

And remember, while we will be voting for President this November, we’re also voting for federal and state senators, representatives and in many cases governors and other state officials as well!