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Apr. 22nd, 2013


First ever Eigenharp track!

OK, I've not been here in a while, but I thought I'd post this because I know a few people from my flist of old will probably like it. Anyway, here goes:

The instrument I'm playing is an Eigenharp:

Everything other than the drums was played live real time, one take, no overdubs, including triggering of the NASA audio clips. The Eigenharp is an astonishing instrument -- this is my first finished track with it after just playing it for a month.

Jun. 20th, 2012



Tubes is a C++ library, developed at NASA Ames, that could potentially make a broad class of parallel and multithreaded software much easier to write and debug. It builds on the already well-known concept of signals-and-slots, adding direct support for natural expression of concurrent dataflow directly in standards-compliant C++. The library is in the open source release process, and should hopefully be available to the public in a few months.

This video was created with the intention of describing Tubes accessibly in 10 minutes or so. It doesn't take itself too seriously, so I hope it manages to be more interesting than the typical Powerpoint deck. :-)

Tubes (the software library) was the original work of Sarah Thompson, and is the subject of a NASA Invention Disclosure. Sarah is also responsible for a lot of what went in to the video's production: writing, directing, acting (such that it is!), animation, compositing, motion graphics, foley, sound effects, music (all original pieces), and for final grading and sound mixing. Chuck Fry, a colleague from Ames, took on the responsibility of AC and sound recordist, with his wife Calyxa (thanks!) operating the mike boom. Chuck is also responsible for the voiceover.

The cameras used were the Panasonic AF-100 and GH2, with a variety of lenses. 3D CGI sequences were constructed with Lightwave 11. 2D compositing was achieved with After Effects CS6 with the help from quite a few Red Giant plugins. Sound was created and mixed with Logic Pro, Reason, Native Instruments Komplete and East-West Complete Composer collection.

Sarah Thompson is an employee (Staff Scientist/Static Analysis Researcher) of SGT. Inc. on the ISRDS contract and is located on base at NASA Ames Research Center.

Apr. 4th, 2012


Spin (Short film)

Just finished this new short, or rather my superhero alter egos have done so. Entirely safe for work, unless your work has a problem with punk rock death goddesses and/or spinning wheels. Have fun!

Feb. 5th, 2012


Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism is finally out!

Cut for mildly NSFW cover artCollapse )

It's finally finished -- our anthology that was inspired by all the Stuff that happened at Pantheacon 2011. From the book's web page:

"The events at Pantheacon 2011 cause a storm that reverberated across the planet, with discussion on many websites and mailing lists, and even a mention in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

This book was created in the hope of extending the debate and bringing it to a wider audience. We have included articles from people in both major camps, who have explained their positions powerfully and sincerely. This book is not an easy read -- much of it will be painful, and there is probably no on in the wider pagan community who will not be offended by at least something in here. Articles have been edited only for grammar and typography -- you will find honest words, entirely uncensored. This, however, is the point of the exercise.

When nothing is said, nothing will be heard, and nothing can change."

From the preface:

"This book is a result of wanting to make sure that these voices are heard. It is also a result of a promise to ourselves to continue the work we started. The voices you will read here are from both cisgendered and transgendered, male and female, queer and straight, old and young. We present these essays as they were sent to us, with no commentary. We give these words to the community as a way to build understanding and to give people the opportunity to decide for themselves how to act.

It is our will to create change, but how that will happen will not be decided by a select few, but by our community as a whole. As paganism comes more and more into its own, we need to learn how to work and live together with understanding and respect. If we do not learn from the mistakes of other religions and put our own house in order, we will not survive."
The text of this book is released on a strictly not-for-profit basis under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) License (see page 127 for the full text of the license deed). Proceeds, if any, will be donated to relevant charities.

Text copyright (C) 2011, 2012 – ownership remains with the authors.

Cover art: Lilith, by Kat Lunoe (C) 2011, all rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the copyright holder.


* PDF Version (Free)
* ePub Version (Free, redistributable, no DRM)

* Order print edition from

Sep. 3rd, 2011


42: The Truth About Zombies

Finally, my long awaited libertarian zombie movie is complete, presented here in glorious HD on YouTube! Enjoy! (see our film blog at for more background on the making of the movie and upcoming projects). Yaay! It's finally done!

May. 1st, 2011


A message from Mars to the other Mars

This is a video message from us (Crew 104 of the Mars Desert Research Station, Utah, USA) to the crew of Mars 500 (Moscow, Russia).

Apr. 27th, 2011


MDRS Chef's reports

MDRS mission operations are doing a detailed study on food usage, so we are required to submit chef's reports. Since the cheffing job rotates between us, we all have to write these things up. Anyway, here goes:

Day 1: Vegetable Curry


5 cups Basmati rice with lentils

10 cups water

1/2 packet Tamarind rice spice mix

8 shelf-stable ready made vegetable curry packets (2 each of 4 different curries)

1 jar mild lime pickle

1 packet ready-made popadoms


1. Put out lime pickle and popadoms for people to eat as a starter -- no prep required.

2. Put rice and water into large pot, cover tightly and boil for 20 minutes on stove top, reducing heat as necessary

3. Fill 4 bowls with each of the 4 curries, then microwave each bowl twice for 2 minutes each time, stirring in between

Total prep time about half an hour


This was a very quick meal put together to feed people who had just travelled a long way and who weren't going to be terribly forgiving of a long wait for food. From comments received, it went down extremely well.

Day 4: Chicken Biryani


5 cups Basmati rice with lentils

10 cups water

1 tin coconut milk

2 tins chicken in water

3 chicken stock cubes

1 small jar of ghee

1 jar of Patak's Madras curry paste

2 cups dried peas

1 cup dried brocolli

1 tin mixed vegetables


1. Chop the chicken so that all the pieces are approx 0.5" across

2. Add the chicken, water, rice, half the jar of curry paste, half the jar of ghee to a large stock pot. Mix well. Cover tightly and bring to the boil, turning down head as necessary, for about 20 minutes.

3. Add the other half of the ghee, the other half of the curry paste, the drained tin of mixed vegetables, the dried brocolli and the dried peas and the tin of coconut milk, with enough water to reconstitute the dried ingredients.
Cover and bring to the boil, turning down to a simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Total prep time: about 1 hour


This is a pretty traditional Biryani made from ingredients I managed to scrounge up in the hab. Again, I got good comments, though I should have cooked the dried peas longer (reflected in the above -- I doubled the cooking time in the recipe).

5th day on Mars

MDRS 104 Journalist’s Report: Day 5, Wednesday 27th April 2011

Sarah Thompson, SGT Inc./NASA Ames Research Center

The last day has been (mostly) mishap free. There is a little concern that the MARTE drill is going slower than it should – its ROP (Rate of Penetration, yes, I know, too many jokes, but that is what people call it!) was way lower than it should have been on the second core, and it was taking forever to retract. The drill team are out in the field right now, so we should know very soon whether there is a problem. In this case, calling Houston won’t help – Jhony, David and myself will have to figure out what is wrong and, if possible, fix it in the field. The engineering facilities in the hab are pretty basic, though not nonexistent, so it’s probably possible for us to fix most things that could possibly be fixable in the field. If it’s a mechanical problem, David and Jhony will be in the lead – if it turns out to be software, electronics or something electromechanical, it’ll probably be me who gets to have the worst headache later today. Or it might just work. We shall see. Fieldwork with robots is always less predictable than you’d like, which is actually the biggest part of why we do it. Robots rarely behave as they do in the lab when you take them out into the big blue (or red) room outside and subject them to reality. (Update: I just heard on the radio that the drill is working fine – Jhony increased the weight-on-bit to 800 Newtons and it is now penetrating at about 0.2cm/minute, which is well within acceptable for that particular drill).

My other job here is technical imaging, which is a fancy way to say that I’m the person who showed up with way too much camera equipment. Bernard Foing at ESA asked me to attempt to simulate various camera systems on the MSL and ExoMars rovers, so I’ve put a bit of effort into calibrating a macro lens so I know its resolution at particular magnifications – more on that in later reports. Photographing core samples is a little tricky – I’m doing it first when they are removed from the core barrel, which has to be done very carefully because the science team need to maintain their sterility so they can do life detection and organics detection experiments. Once they are done with that, the cores are then washed and can be handled with bare hands, so I then get to photograph them a second time.

Though it’s possible that a core can come out in one piece, more typically it is broken into several pieces. This is what a core looks like when it’s first extracted from the core barrel:

Read more...Collapse )

Apr. 26th, 2011


(no subject)

MDRS Crew 104 Journalist's Report

26th April 2011 -- Sarah Thompson

Since I'm not actually a journalist (nor do I play one on TV), other duties have meant that this is the first opportunity I've had to write the journalist's report for Crew 104. Therefore, I'll catch up by talking about what happened day by day.

Day 1: Saturday 23rd April - Crew Changeover

We arrived in two groups -- most of us around lunchtime, followed by Carol and David in the evening. The day was largely taken up with unpacking and cleaning, the latter mostly a consequence of a rather dirty and extremely smelly hab inherited from the previous crew. Trust me, you don't want details about that. You really don't.

In a bit of spare time in the afternoon before Carol arrived, we had a chance to take a brief tour of the environment around the hab.

Martian Blueberry

Read more...Collapse )

Mar. 13th, 2011


Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism

Some of you probably know already that the hot issue that swamped the pagan blogosphere in the last few weeks was actually largely started by myself and worthyadvisor, though this has largely been lost in the game of telephone that even hit the UK Guardian newspaper recently.

Our side of the story is here: Pantheacon 2011. If you've not already caught the wave -- get popcorn, there are links on that page to most of the more important blogs.

Our intention from here is to build bridges between the communities within the larger pagan community -- to this end, we're putting together an anthology that should hopefully serve the purpose, in print, that the talking stick debate we hosted at Pantheacon served.

Feel free to repost a copy of the call for chapters, and/or to link to the web page or back to this blog page.

Call for Book Chapters

Working Title: Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism

Lead Editors: Sarah Thompson, Gina Pond

The recent events surrounding Pantheacon 2011 and the internet-wide debate that followed it have raised awareness publicly of the issues surrounding gender and transgender in the wider Pagan community. This book will comprise a number of chapters, some invited and most by open submission, which will give all sides of the debate an opportunity to clearly state their positions. In a sense, the book will serve as a written equivalent of a talking-stick debate, whilst also making it possible to capture the sense of this historic time, as accurately as possible, in the words of the people involved. Though space is limited in the print version of the book, we hope to make all submitted papers that meet the submission criteria available for download on the web. The publication will be on a not-for-profit basis, with proceeds (if any) donated to a suitable charity/nonprofit (to be determined).

Invited chapters are being solicited from as many key people as possible.

It is our intention to make the book freely available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license online as an e-book, supporting the major formats (PDF, Kindle, epub, etc.). Print copies will be made available by print-on-demand and will be orderable online, via Amazon or by order via any bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Though we are not currently seeking a publisher, this is not ruled out so long as such a collaboration would serve to make the book more widely accessible.

We welcome chapter submissions on any of the following topics:

* Women's mysteries as related to gender and transgender

* Men's mysteries as related to gender and transgender

* Experiences of redacting a tradition to deal with issues surrounding gender and sexual preference

* Experiences of paganism from the point of view of transgendered people are particularly sought, though experiences of anyone who identifies as a member of any group less privileged than the normative default are also of significant relevance

* Anything else conceptually related to the above and the concept of the book

Who should submit:

* Anyone with direct experience of the issues outlined above will be given priority in refereeing, though anyone with something relevant to say may submit.

* For the avoidance of doubt, submissions are encouraged from all sides of the debate.

Submission Guidelines:

* No hard-and-fast size limit, but approx. 5 - 10 pages will be preferred.
* Submissions should be made electronically.

* The book will be typeset, so it's not necessary to make the submissions pretty.
* Microsoft Word or RTF format is fine, LaTeX is even better if you know it, since that will be the system used to typeset the book.

* Any illustrations or diagrams should be monochrome vector art in EPS format or images at at least 300 DPI at the printed resolution. If you need help with this, it can be arranged.

* Write from the heart, in your own words. To misquote Steven King, do not go lightly to the page. All content is valid, though the editors will steer authors away from prose that could be interpreted as an ad-hominem attack.

* Text may be edited for spelling, grammar and overall length. Major changes will be referred back to the authors. It is not the editors' will to censor any of the material in the book, but good writing and clear speech is something we nevertheless aim to achieve.

* Submissions should identify the background of the author's path sufficiently for a reader to be able to place the chapter in context.


* Notification of intent to submit a chapter: As soon as possible -- we need to know who is willing to submit a chapter as early as possible so we can maintain balance between the submissions. This will also help us make sure we have reviewers/subeditors lined up ahead of time. Please include a single-paragraph outline of the proposed content of the chapter and a brief author bio.

* Chapter submission deadline: Midnight Pacific time, June 21st 2011

* Chapter selection and reviewer/editor comments returned to authors, July 4th 2011

* Final copy from authors due Midnight Pacific time, August 1st 2011

* Final edit complete, galley proofs available: September 1st 2011

* Ebook release: November 1st 2011

* Artwork released to production: November 1st 2011

* Paper versions available: (Tentatively) December 1st 2011

Contact information:

* Latest information can be found at the web page

* Please direct questions and submissions to editors at


* Please forward this call to any relevant blogs, mailing lists, etc.

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