2016: A year in review


2016 was a great year for me filled with constant change, some frustrations, and plenty of growth. The biggest change was my retirement from the U.S. Air Force after 20+ years of service to this great nation. I “retired” on a Friday and immediately started a new job in San Diego the following Monday, because I honestly have no idea how to relax and enjoy life. The new job was liberating–after a decade of working in secure environments without windows or continuous access to my smartphone, I got an office with a large window all to myself, with constant access to the Internet! Originally I was brought in as a manager and business developer, with about 25% of my time going into cybersecurity engineering of a new crypto device, but I was soon promoted as the program manager and lead systems engineer for that effort. I quickly got the program back on track, and immediately got bored and started missing my family. The original plan was for me to move to San Diego, grow my skills as an engineer, go back to school, and move the wife down after the kids left home. Rather than abandon the company at an inopportune time for them so I could rejoin the family in Los Angeles, I held on for as long as I could for a graceful exit immediately before the Christmas break.


My daughter moved out around the same time to film what I hear is going to be a marvelous movie. When she returned home, she got my son to be serious about stunt work as well. Note to self for 2017: post videos of the ninjas doing stunts.

I wrapped up 2016 by leaving San Diego to spend more time with the family here in Los Angeles. The funny thing is that I started 2016 thinking the upcoming year was all about me and my growth as I left the military, but as I enter the new year in 2017 I realize that I cannot grow myself without helping my family grow in their endeavors.

The “new year, new me” will begin with a new job in Los Angeles doing [OPSEC REDACTED] for [OPSEC REDACTED] as I support the family in their endeavors in the new year. Follow this blog over the next year to see where we are going as a family, but for now here is a review of 2016 and all of its great moments.


I have way too many photos to share, so here are the best nine Instagram pictures (based on likes) for each member of the family. Check out http://waltkilarphotography.pixieset.com/ for some of my other amateur photography.



Once I let go of my security clearance, I was free to express myself on social media. My greatest hit was a letter that I wrote to my 17-year old self. Feel free to read it by clicking on the picture below. I must have had 10,000 comments on the LinkedIn version of this post, as opposed to three views here on WordPress. Spoiler alert: once I got my clearance back I had to delete the LinkedIn post. The link below contains the letter in its entirety.

1995-2015 Walter Kilar 3


“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isiah 6:8

Wolf-1, the director at my last unit, often said that he served “God, country, and family…in that order”. I borrowed the wise words of Colonel G and used them in my military retirement speech along with select quotes from the Bible and some famous dead people. The quote above is inscribed into a memorial to A1C Josh Woody and A1C Joseph Rimkus, who both died on June 27, 1996 in the Khobar Towers bombing. I dedicated my military retirement ceremony to them. When I was stationed at Eglin AFB, FL, I worked with survivors of the Khobar bombing, and I attended Airman Leadership School with some of Josh’s and Joseph’s close friends and supervisors. They are both buried a couple rows away from my grandfather at Barrancas National Cemetery. Whenever I visit my grandfather’s grave, I make it a point to pay my respects to Josh and Joseph even though I did not know them directly. I concluded my military retirement speech with an homage to my grandfather, Josh, and Joseph…and commenced drinking enough alcohol to forget the Oath of Office…even with prompts from my branch chief.



Through the eyes of a child you will see the world just as it ought to be.

My final work assignments in the Air Force dealt with creating novel methods of using phased array radars. It turns out that a do-it-yourself phased array radar is a viable project. One of the goals I had for this year was to build a phased array radar with a buddy of mine in Los Angeles. That idea went by the wayside when I decided to move to San Diego instead, but I keep this blog entry here in case I want to revisit the idea.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Scientists in Memoriam. I do not understand the obsession with celebrity deaths. My counter to this is to remember the scientists who died in 2016. Unlike the many drug-addicted, vain, a-hole celebrities, these brilliant scientists did go gently into that good night.  [Read more]…

Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organizing our curiosity.

Technology We Should Be Funding to Get Us To Mars And Beyond. The NASA space budget is $18B. The DoD space budget is not readily available, but it is estimated to be $23B. Can either space budget afford to fund technology breakthroughs? Where is this money going? What should we be funding, so we can get to Mars and beyond? [Read more]…

China Just Launched a Hack-Proof Satellite! Why are we not doing this? [Read more]…

Russia Is (Allegedly) Testing Anti-Satellite Systems! Why are we not countering this? [Read more]…

To Infinity…and Beyond! NASA’s Juno is not just flying by Jupiter, but entering Jovian orbit. As the Juno spacecraft enters orbit, it will become the third-fastest man-made object with a velocity of 25 miles per second (40 kilometers per second or Mach 117). [Read more]…

Video of an asymmetric rocket. The Atlas V 411 variant, with just a single strap-on solid booster, has flown only three times previously, and just once from Cape Canaveral back in 2006. The other two launches, in 2008 and 2011, were national security payloads that flew from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles. [Read more]…

Electromagnetic drive: fact or fiction? The the idea behind the radio frequency resonant cavity thruster—otherwise known as EmDrive is that a reaction-less engine powered by turning electricity into microwaves and bouncing them around a closed metal funnel can propel a vessel through space without requiring large rockets and lots of fuel. Is this too good to be true? [Read more]…

My OS X El Capitan security configuration scripts: [Read more]…(look for OS X and Windows scripts to be posted at walterkilar.github.com.


Baron Zemo: Longing. Rusted. Seventeen. Daybreak. Furnace. Nine. Benign. Homecoming. One. Freight Car. Soldier?
Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier: Ready to comply.

From Captain Kilar to Captain America. With this newfound thing called “free time” and this thing that I did not get enough of in the military called “money”, I was able to watch a lot more movies.


I noted in my review of the vastly inferior yet thematically similar “Batman v Superman: Hey, My Mom’s Name is Martha” that the hero-versus-hero slugfest only seems to spring from philosophical differences and the basic fact that these characters do not talk through problems or share deep secrets before these things lead to bigger problems.

The plot is just as crappy as “Bat Ben Affleck v Nobody Remembers Henry Cavill, guest starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman”, minus the female eye candy. The pace slows down during its “Dark Knight” pontification, but the action scenes are amazing. 3/5 stars.


If I could fast forward to all the Darth Vader moments, Star Wars: Rogue One would get a 5/5. Since we have to suffer through an inferior Star Wars plot where everybody dies and Felicity Jones under-delivers, I give this one a 3/5.


Independently of its predecessors in the same sub-genre, I would rate Magnificent Seven as one of the best movies of 2016. With the additional baggage that comes with being labeled a remake, I would knock the rating down a bit. Regardless, I personally give it 4/5 knowing that fellow movie critics will attack my rating.


Take Robert Downey, Jr out of this “devil-may-care genius who suddenly ends up injured and helpless who discovers the importance of helping others, and becomes a flamboyant, flying superhero persona all while aided by a powerful energy source glowing from his chest” plot, convolve it with the charm of Guardians of the Galaxy and Inception, and you have Doctor Strange. Yes, the movie was very entertaining to watch with the family, but if I had to watch this one alone I might not get through it without copious amounts of booze and perhaps some LSD. 3+/5 stars. If I had to rate Doctor Strange directly against Captain America: War of Northern Aggression and Wonder Woman, Guest Starring Superman and Batman, I would give Doctor Strange a slight edge.


Star Trek: Beyond was a very bad movie that I can summarize with the picture above.


The poster for this movie suggests that this is another Contact, The Martian, or Interstellar, but in a surprising plot twist this movie is more about grief, time, communication and compassion than it is warp engines, black holes, and alien invasions. Arrival asks questions in a much better manner than Contact: How do we approach that which terrifies us? Why is it important to communicate through language and not action? Would you change any moment in your past life if you knew how it would all end? The final act of “Arrival” gets to the big ideas of life that you just have to see for yourself. Do not be fooled by the sagging middle of this movie–it will recover, pleasantly surprise you, and quite possibly change how you think about life. 5/5 stars. My favorite movie of 2016.


Sometimes your best just ain’t enough


The Florida Gators apparently forgot there was a bowl game today. Michigan 41, Florida 7.

After another “meh” year for the Florida Gators, I resolved in 2016 to divest myself of the stress and anguish of following these games live. I still followed my Fightin’ Gators of Gainesville, but I cut out the SEC Network and CBS Sports for the rest of the year. Much to my daughter’s chagrin, I could not resist following along via Twitter. I think she follows my Twitter just to laugh at my Gator meltdown tweets. The Gators wrapped up the 2015 season by dropping a deuce in Orlando. In 2015 the Gators started off strong with a top-20 offense under Will Grier, but they plummeted to the bottom once Grier was busted for “over the counter steroid use”.  This New Year’s bowl game confirmed the frustration and disappointment of the Gator Nation. The Gators did their best to get out of the post-Tebow funk, but sometimes your best just ain’t enough.

The Gators did manage to redeem their 2016 campaign with a less “meh” performance in the 2017 Who-Really-Cares-I-Am-Still-Drunk-From-New-Year’s-Bowl.



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