Pumpkin Pie

Nothing says fall to me like the smell of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven. Honestly, given how ridiculously easy it is to make one of them, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy one in a store.

This recipe is the one my Mom has used for decades. I’ve no idea where it came from so I’m unable to give proper attribution. For all I know it could be from the back of a can of pumpkin! Regardless, it’s delicious.

Pumpkin Pie

  • 12oz can pumpkin
  • 1c milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1c light brown sugar
  • 1t salt
  • 2t cinnamon
  • ½t ginger
  • ½t allspice
  • ¼t cloves

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into pie crust1. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees for another 45 minutes. Pie is done when a knife in the center comes out clean.

Tip: To prevent the pie crust from getting overly-browned, I use a silicon pie crust protector for the last 30 minutes.


Milk: The original recipe calls for a can of evaporated milk, but I used regular milk for years without issue and I’m much more likely to have that in the house. I’ve used unsweetened almond milk with success for the past few years as well.

Brown sugar: The original recipe assumes you’re using light brown sugar. I’ve found that dark brown sugar also works superbly and gives a much richer taste.

1 I make my own pie crust in the food processor using a recipe from my Mom. There are tons of them online and if you have a food processor and a rolling pin, there’s no reason you shouldn’t make the pie crust too!

SDETs in Space!

I’m having a heck of a time finding, much less hiring, SDETs to fill my open Ground Systems and Platforms SDET positions. My gut tells me that the job descriptions just aren’t exciting enough to get people’s attention. What does a “Ground Systems SDET” do? What “Platform”?

Lets see if I can’t explain them a bit better.

Talk-To-A-Satellite SDET

Ground systems refer to all of the hardware and software components here on the ground that work together to talk to a satellite in orbit. That’s everything from the software the satellite operators use to issue high-level commands, to the systems that relay that information to our ground stations around the world, to the services on the ground station that control and task the radio chain, to the services that move the antennas, to the entire telemetry pipeline back to the missions operations center allowing the operators to know the health of the satellite and ground system components.

Everything that goes to the satellite or comes from it goes through our ground systems. These systems have to work reliably to support our growing constellation.

Making sure they all work together is where the Ground Systems SDET comes in. You’re the first line of defense in making sure that all the awesome code our devs are slinging actually cling together and make a functional system. You get to play with our satellite-on-the-table (aka: Flatsat) in our staging environment to make sure what is being built works, and then see that be deployed to our production systems and task Pathfinder-1 (and soon Pathfinder-2!) in space.

If that sounds interesting and you either live or are willing to relocate to Seattle, WA, take a look at the Ground Systems SDET position and toss me your resume!

Satellite-Picture-Selling SDET

We’ve taken all of these pictures of the Earth from space, how do we sell them to people? Well, you need an intuitive interface for customers to see all of the images you have in your catalog, buy them, and task new pictures to be taken. That’s our Platform that ends up tasking the satellites in space through our ground systems.

There are a lot of factors in play when you start talking about satellite imagery. How cloudy was it when the picture was taken? What angle was the picture taken at? Where, exactly, was the picture and how does it map onto the earth? When was it taken? Is the customer allowed to see an image over this country?

And you can’t just show them a grid view of the images. You need to place those images onto an interface that makes sense, such as a map of the Earth, and oriented such that they align up correctly.

The interface needs to scale with the ever-growing number of users as well as the ever-growing number of images in the catalog. It also needs to have good access time to our customers around the globe while maintaining security restrictions on what geographies have access to what images.

Making sure all of this works is the role of the Platform SDET. As the devs craft javascript and RESTful backend code at a break-neck speed, you’re the one that ensures cohesion and functionality. Oh sure, their new gee-whiz feature looks great in demos, but how does it scale? What did they break adding that new feature? You’re one of the first to see new images from the satellite as they make their way into our catalog and enable customers to fully realize the power of our satellite constellation.

Interested? If you live in the Herndon, VA area or are willing to relocate, take a look at our Platform SDET position and apply!

Pathfinder-1 images are here!

I’m excited to finally share some of the images Pathfinder-1 has taken in its first 53 days in orbit! We’ve had access to these internally for several weeks now and it’s super-exciting to finally share them publicly.

See the BlackSky blog post Hello Beautiful! for the full story and first set of released images. More images to come on the BlackSky twitter feed!

Next up: Pathfinder-2 launches early next year.

I am not OK

The results of last Tuesday hit me really hard and I’ve been in a media blackout since then, both social and mainstream. I’ve had several friends reach out and ask me how I’m doing.

I am not OK.

I am not OK with what the election means for my family’s physical safety. For the safety and security of my LGBTQ friends. My female friends. My Muslim friends. My Jewish friends. My friends of color.

I am not OK with the fear and depression permeating my community.

I am not OK feeling as though we just undid 50 years of social justice work.

I am not OK.

Post-election self-care

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a total shit-show after the election yesterday. These are the self-care things I’m working on, maybe they’ll help you too.

― R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Choose kind. Be kind to yourself and others. Take a mental-health day from work.

Celebrate or grieve. For better or worse, yesterday was a monumental shift in American history. Give yourself permission to acknowledge and process it.

Feel the feels. It’s ok to feel and express emotions – it’s part and parcel of being human.

You are not alone. Regardless of which side you voted for, ~50% of the population agrees with you: you are not alone.

Look local. Significant local issues were on the ballot all across the US. Don’t let successes there be overshadowed by what happened at the federal level.

Ignore the markets. The stock market likes certainty and that got shot all to hell. Volatile times may lie ahead. History tells us that a well-diversified portfolio will weather the storm. Hang tight and don’t act rashly.

Exercise. Moving does the body good, be it a walk, run, hike, or kickboxing class. Sometimes it just feels good to punch something.

Avoid hyperbole. It’s too easy to make grand statements filled with absolutes based on what happened yesterday. Resist the urge to say things, particularly on social media, that you might later regret.

Take a social-media vacation. Consider stepping away from the computer or phone. Create some art. Read a book. Write your mémoire (NaNoWriMo anyone?). Have dinner with friends.

But most importantly: choose kind.

I love the things that you’ve given me
I cherish you, my dear country
But sometimes I don’t understand
The way we play

I love the things that you’ve given me
And most of all that I am free
To have a song that I can sing
On election day
― Norah Jones, My Dear Country

WA State Voting Fallacies

There’s some confusion and misinformation going around about some of the corner cases of voting in Washington state. Here are some answers with references.

It’s too late to mail in your ballot

Wrong! Someone in my office yesterday was telling a coworker that it’s too late to mail in the ballot. This is incorrect, and I told them as much. As long as your ballot is postmarked on or before Tuesday, November the 8th your ballot will be counted. You can also drop it in any official ballot drop-off location by 8pm on Tuesday the 8th. Here’s the full list of those for King County. Outdoor ballot drop boxes are open 24hrs, every day, until 8pm on Tuesday the 8th.

You don’t need a stamp

This is actually true! If you don’t have a stamp (or two, for some WA counties) you can drop it in any USPS mailbox and it will be delivered with the county picking up the tab. Still, put a stamp on it if you can.

Signing your ballot is optional

Nope. Part of the ballot validation process is matching your name with the signature on file with your voter registration. If they differ, or if no signature is there, a county elections official will contact you to make sure that it came from you. After your ballot is validated, your vote will get counted, even if that happens after the polls close as long as it was postmarked by election day.

You can vote online

This is very subtly incorrect, let me break it down.

If you have not received your ballot, either because you moved or it got lost, you can go online to MyVote and fill in your ballot (see the MyBallot link on the right, which points you to https://kingcounty.everyonecounts.com for King County residents) which you must then print out and mail in (or drop off) for it to count. You can also print your ballot out blank, or partially filled in, and fill in the rest by hand as usual.

The instructions also tell you to email the ballot to a county elections office email address, this does not get your vote counted. Emailing the ballot sets the “postmark”, such that when the elections office does get your ballot in the mail, it will be counted even if it’s after election day.

To repeat: you must mail in or drop off your ballot for it to be counted.

You can’t vote in person

This isn’t strictly true. Washington is a vote-by-mail state; however, King County operates accessible voting centers for voters who need additional assistance, such as audio ballots, large-print displays, or other assistive devices. Note that audio ballots take 45 min to one hour to go through, so please allow enough time if you’ll be using that format.

Anyone may come in and vote (or bring in your ballot and get help assembling it) at an accessible voting center, regardless of dis/ability.

I’ll know when my vote has been counted

Not exactly. You can get the status of your ballot at MyVote. For King County you’re redirected to their Ballot tracker. That tells you the status of your ballot that you filled out and mailed in or put in a ballot drop-box. After the county elections office has received your ballot, it goes through a few steps:

  1. The voter record is validated.
    This ensures that you haven’t already voted (see above for how this could happen) and that nothing is preventing you from voting.
  2. The signature is validated.
    People, yes people, compare the signature on your ballot to the one on your voter registration card. If they don’t match, the elections department will contact you to validate your identity. They may even be able to do this on the phone since they have your voter registration available to them.
  3. The ballot is disassociated from your identity.
    We have secret ballots in this country which means that your vote is anonymous. After your signature has been validated, your ballot is totally disassociated from your identity, which means this is the last time the elections office has to connect you to any ballot.
  4. The votes on the ballot are counted.

Any ballot tracker website can only report up to step 3.

The King County ballot tracker reports this somewhat-confusing wording at that phase:

We have received your ballot, your signature has been verified, and your ballot will be counted.
Thank you for voting.

That status message will never change to “your vote has been counted” because they can’t tell you when your ballot has gone through the counting machine because it is no longer tied to you.

Don’t panic – your ballot will be counted!

More questions?

If you have additional questions, find your local elections office (such as the one for King County) and ask them! County elections offices are pretty busy, but they’re there to help you exercise your right to vote.