My letter to the Boy Scouts of America

The following is a letter I just mailed to the Boy Scouts of America, following President Donald Trump's speech at the National Jamboree. I implore my fellow scouts to also contact the BSA to express their feelings.

25 July 2017

Boy Scouts of America
PO Box 152079
Irving, TX
75015-2079

Dear Boy Scouts of America,

Like many others I was extremely disappointed and disgusted to hear about the contents of President Donald Trump’s speech to the National Jamboree. Politics aside, I have no qualms with inviting the president, or having him speak to scouts. I was glad that some of the Eagle Scouts currently serving at high levels of our government were recognized for their accomplishments.

However above all, the Boy Scouts of America must adhere to the values of the Scout Law, and it was plainly obvious that the president’s speech did not. Insulting opponents is not “kindness”. Threatening to fire a colleague is not “loyal”. Encouraging boos of a former President is not “courteous”. Talking about fake news and media is not “trustworthy”. At the end of the day, the values of the Scout Law are the most important lesson we must instill in our youth – and President Trump showed the opposite.

The Boy Scouts of America must send a strong message to the public, and most importantly the young scouts that were present, that the president’s speech was not acceptable and does not embody the principles of the Boy Scouts of America.

I will continue to speak well of scouting and the program to all, but incidents like this will only harm future boys who will be dissuaded from joining the organization in the first place.

Sincerely,
Kunal Mehta
Eagle Scout, 2012
Troop 294
San Jose, CA


Building the Lego Saturn V rocket 48 years after the moon landing

Full quality video available on Wikimedia Commons.

On this day 48 years ago, three astronauts landed on the moon after flying there in a Saturn V rocket.

Today I spent four hours building the Lego Saturn V rocket - the largest Lego model I've ever built. Throughout the process I was constantly impressed with the design of the rocket, and how it all came together. The attention paid to the little details is outstanding, and made it such a rewarding experience. If you can find a place that has them in stock, get one. It's entirely worth it.

The rocket is designed to be separated into the individual stages, and the lander actually fits inside the rocket. Vertically, it's 3ft, and comes with three stands so you can show it off horizontally.

As a side project, I also created a timelapse of the entire build, using some pretty cool tools. After searching online how to have my DSLR take photos on a set interval and being frustrated with all the examples that used a TI-84 calculator, I stumbled upon gphoto2, which lets you control digital cameras. I ended up using a command as simple as gphoto2 --capture-image-and-download -I 30 to have it take and save photos every 30 seconds. The only negative part is that it absolutely killed the camera's battery, and within an hour I needed to switch the battery.

To stitch the photos together (after renaming them a bit), ffmpeg came to the rescue: ffmpeg -r 20 -i "%04d.jpg" -s hd1080 -vcodec libx264 time-lapse.mp4. Pretty simple in the end!


Wikimedia Hackathon at home project

This is the second year I haven't been able to attend the Wikimedia Hackathon due to conflicts with my school schedule (I finish at the end of June). So instead I decided I would try and accomplish a large-ish project that same weekend, but at home. I'm probably more likely to get stuff done while at home because I'm not chatting up everyone in person!

Last year I converted OOjs-UI to use PHP 5.5's traits instead of a custom mixin system. That was a fun project for me since I got to learn about traits and do some non-MediaWiki coding, while still reducing our technical debt.

This year we had some momentum on MediaWiki-Codesniffer changes, so I picked up one of our largest tasks which had been waiting - to upgrade to the 3.0 upstream PHP_CodeSniffer release. Being a new major release there were breaking changes, including a huge change to the naming and namespacing of classes. My current diffstat on the open patch is +301, -229, so it is roughly the same size as last year. The conversion of our custom sniffs wasn't too hard, the biggest issue was actually updating our test suite.

We run PHPCS against test PHP files and verify the output matches the sniffs that we expect. Then we run PHPCBF, the auto-fixer, and check that the resulting "fixed" file is what we expect. The first wasn't too bad, it just calls the relevant internal functions to run PHPCS, but the latter would have PHPBCF output in a virtual filesystem, shells out to create a diff, and then tries to put it back together. Now, we just get the output from the relevant PHPCS class, and compare it to the expected test output.

This change was included in the 0.9.0 release of MediaWiki-Codesniffer and is in use by many MediaWiki extensions.



Week #11: Raided yet again

If you missed the news, the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. The Black Hole is leaving Oakland (again) for a newer, nicer, stadium in the desert. But let's talk about how we got here, and how different this is from the moving of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles.

The current Raiders stadium is outdated and old. It needs renovating to keep up with other modern stadiums in the NFL. Owner Mark Davis isn't a multi-billionaire that could finance such a stadium. And the City of Oakland is definitely not paying for it. So the options left are find outside financing for Oakland, for find said financing somewhere else. And unfortunately it was the latter option that won out in the end.

I think it's unsurprising that more and more cities are refusing to put public money into stadiums that they will see no profit from - it makes no sense whatsoever.

Overall I think the Raider Nation will adapt and survive just as it did when they moved to Los Angeles. The Raiders still have an awkward two-to-three years left in Oakland, and with Derek Carr at the helm, it looks like they will be good ones.


Week #10: March Sadness

In California March Madness is really...March Sadness. The only Californian team that is still in is UCLA. UC Davis made it in but was quickly eliminated. USC and Saint Mary's both fell in the second round. Cal and Stanford didn't even make it in. At best we can root for Gonzaga, but that's barely it.

Some of us root for school's we went to, but for those of us who grew up here and support local teams, we're left hanging. And it's not bias in the selection commitee, those schools just aren't good enough.

On top of that we have a top notch professional team through the Warriors, but our amateur players just aren't up to muster.

So good luck to UCLA, represent California hella well. We somewhat believe in you.