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WEEK 11 2005

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Saturday 19 March 2005

Saturday - still coding and debugging. Tomorrow I am out of town visiting friends, so I am trying to make up for missing part of Monday. It's rather gray and miserable out, so it's a good day to be working inside.

Tomorrow is the vernal equinox - the daylight and the night will be equally long ( well, not when measured in microseconds and such, but close enough for building Stonehenge and such.)

Friday 18 March 2005

Friday - working away. I like the new laptop, it really helps me work more productively. Unfortunately it doesn't help me program, it just runs the programs. Drat.

I stepped out to the Home and Garden show, out at the fairgrounds, for lunch with some friends. Interesting. Lot's of little booths selling this or that 'improvement'. We got a kick out of the lady using fear to sell cookware - as we walked by she was going on and on about the horrors of cooking in aluminum pans. Then there was the guy selling garlic from Gilroy, the various contractors for pools, sidewalks and patios, the plant people, landscape people, and so on.

For you motorcycle riders, this is weird. Using bits of spark plug to make crack pipes. Bizarre.

I found an extension for Firefox that is kind of neat. Stumble On is sort of  link generator that allows you to specify general categories, and then then sends to you various pages and allows you rate the links you get, thus supposedly, improving the chances that you'll find something interesting.

Color an Easter Egg, on line, See the Earth's Population Change, some Jokes to Play in an airport, and the Beard and Mustache Championship page. All from Stumble On - hey, I never claimed it was serious stuff.

Thursday 17 March  2005

Thursday - Heh. FORTRAN is still hanging in there....

I just don't have time to read those 'classics'. Ultra Condensed Classic Books may be for me!

In sad news, Andre Norton has died. As I once wrote, I was first attracted to science fiction by Hal Clement's "Needle", but it was the library's collection of Andre Norton that closed the deal. The Witch World, the Beast Master, Time Traders, and many other books, ideal for a young and curious mind. Her own web site is here. And, well, I assumed that it was a woman, at the time. I mean, who ever heard of a man name Andre?

Ah, I remember this particular cover:

Moon of Three Rings paperback cover

[links via Dean Esmay]

Wednesday 16 March 2005

Wednesday - hmmm. The Tivo gets about 3/4 of the way through the 'Guided Setup' and resets. There doesn't seem to be a way to get around the GS (as it is called in the forums). Bummer. But it is apparently quite hackable, so if it proves to be a show stopper I can have fun with disassembling it.

You probably recall  "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper:

nighthawks, hopper
The original

There is a famous variation of this, 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' by Helnwein:

diner, helnwein
James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, etc, in an alternate universe...

Just after the elections in November I thought to do a Photoshop, putting all the democratic candidates in a diner. But I gave up the idea because (a) I don't have a copy of Photoshop, and (b) I am not much of an artist, and (c) so as to not annoy my relatives who voted for the loser losing side, and (d) I'm an idea guy, not an implementor. But if I had, then I would have put Kerry behind the counter (first real job he ever had), Dean and the other hopefuls at the bar, and Lieberman outside, collar turned up to the cold, walking away.

Maybe Edwards passed out dead drunk in the gutter and George Bush roaring by in a Cord. That might be too much though.

Hmmm. If my sister V, who is an artist, reads this, she may just be inspired to do a version with the Republicans. Accckkkk.

Heh. Anyway, I was reminded of that because a 'Diner' image has showed up lately in a couple of places. The first is at the page where James Lileks has his Diner, a 'podcast', which is basically just a little audio show. Today's show had hash as the special, some Peter Lorre stuff, his daughter stopping in for spaghetti (with cheddar cheese!), and reminisces about hockey player college apartment neighbors. The image is actually a JAVA applet, with falling swirling snow.

diner, lileks
Ok, it's not exactly the same. Sue me. It's still a diner. Say's so on the front.

The second is Pearls Before Swine, which is an amazingly sarcastic comic, and where there is a new collection out, "Nighthogs: A Pearls before Swine Collection".

diner, pearls before swine

Tuesday 15 March 2005

Tuesday - keeping busy. It looks like the Tivo unit has never been used - the cables were still in the shrink rap, the batteries hadn't been put in the remote, and the unit itself still wrapped in packaging. Now I just have to get behind the entertainment console to hook it up...

One of the cats seems a bit listless, sleeping upstairs rather than being his usual rambunctious self. He didn't even come down for the five o'clock feeding. Phoebe may have just eaten too much earlier - I think he ate the other cats food this morning, but it's a concern. I'll watch him to see what he does tomorrow.

The accursed beetles have now eaten two of my plantings - the zucchini and the eggplant. Totally gone. They seem to be ignoring the tomato plants, for now. I have sprinkled some diatomaceous earth about, which beetles dislike but is not poisonous to people. It didn't save the zucchini, though I may have applied it late.

Monday 14 March 2005

Monday - years ago a rear bulkhead failed in a JAL B-747, causing damage to the hydraulics and tail assembly. Rather than declaring an emergency and landing the crew elected, rather, to call the office and see what they should do. They flew in circles conversing with the ground for some time - and eventually the plane crashed. It seemed unbelievable at the time that a professional pilot would so fail in their duties to their passengers, but I am now reminded of it.

We have a report of a BA 747 flying from Los Angeles to Heathrow losing an engine at takeoff and electing to continue on, nonstop, only to be forced to make an emergency landing in Manchester. Insane. Three hundred and fifty people were aboard. From the Times Online article:

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000

By Ben Webster
Turning back after engine failure would have left airline liable to pay out for delays under new rules on compensation

A BRITISH AIRWAYS jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after an 11-hour transatlantic flight with a failed engine.

The fault occurred on take-off from Los Angeles but the pilot declined all opportunities to land in the US and instead continued on three engines for 5,000 miles to Britain.

The incident happened three days after a European regulation came into force requiring airlines to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations. Under the new rules, if the pilot had returned to Los Angeles, BA would have been facing a compensation bill of more than £100,000.

Balpa, the British Air Line Pilots’ Association, gave warning last night that the regulation could result in pilots being pressured into taking greater risks for commercial reasons.

Then, the same plane, a week later has another engine out problem. Not knowing the flight route I can't say that there was an abort field short of their destination, but it seems suspicious:

LONDON (Reuters) - A British Airways passenger jet was forced to shut down one of its engines in mid-flight twice in one week after a replacement engine failed, the airline said Friday.

In what BA described as a bizarre coincidence, the number two engine on a Boeing 747-400 plane flying from Singapore to London was shut down last month after the pilot received an oil pressure warning.

The aircraft, carrying 356 passengers, arrived safely in London after flying for more than 10 hours on three of its four engines. The 747-400 is designed to fly safely on three engines

Then, a few days ago, an Airbus 310 loses it's rudder over the Atlantic, refuses to declare an emergency, and elects to fly back to it's point of origin in Cuba rather than land in the United States. From the Guardian article:

What made an Airbus rudder snap in mid-air?

When Flight 961 literally began to fall apart at 35,000 feet, it increased fears of a fatal design flaw in the world's most popular passenger jet

David Rose
Sunday March 13, 2005
The Observer

At 35,000 feet above the Caribbean, Air Transat flight 961 was heading home to Quebec with 270 passengers and crew. At 3.45 pm last Sunday, the pilot noticed something very unusual. His Airbus A310's rudder - a structure 28 feet high - had fallen off and tumbled into the sea. In the world of aviation, the shock waves have yet to subside.

Mercifully, the crew was able to turn the plane around, and by steering it with their wing and tail flaps managed to land at their point of departure in Varadero, Cuba, without loss of life. But as Canadian investigators try to discover what caused this near catastrophe, the specialist internet bulletin boards used by pilots, accident investigators and engineers are buzzing.

Now, things fall off planes all the time. Generally smaller, less important bits, but there are literally thousands of aircraft in the air at any given time as the airlines try to keep them flying 24/7 to make money, and things happen. It's possible that there are design and maintenance flaws in the Airbus aircraft, if so, it will be discovered. The worry, to me, is the decision to keep on flying rather than landing immediately, or in the case of the Airbus, without declaring an emergency.

Not knowing what caused the first engine failure one must, or rather should, assume a higher probability of failure for the other engines. There is a famous incident of a few years back where the same mechanic serviced all the engines on a Lockheed Tristar - wrongly. In flight all three engines lost oil pressure - the mechanic had made the same servicing mistake on all the engines! With remarkable presence of mind the pilot shut down the engines and glided to the nearest airport, then restarted them in the air and using the last of the oil, landed safely.

My understanding is that a B-747 can fly on two engines, even just two on one side of the aircraft. Airspeed, controllability, sustainable altitude and fuel efficiency all suffer, but it can, barely, stay in the air. It would be an emergency for sure. But one engine or none?

As I recall the JAL incident was attributed to the airline worrying about 'loss of face', i.e.. PR concerns. That was bad enough, but the B-747 and A-310 incidents may well be motivated by money, fear of new regulations imposing fines for flight delays. I don't think I'd want to risk death to improve BA's end of the year statement, or of Air Transat shareholder worth.

In fact, I'd recommend avoiding the european flagged airlines for the nonce. There may be a problem there.

Sunday 13 March 2005

Sunday - One of Saturdays tasks was to bring into the house a new (to me) loveseat to replace an old sofa hide-a-bed. My good friend Tim was buying new furniture for his place and offered it. Since the old hide-a-bed was:
  1. Hideously ugly
  2. Horribly uncomfortable
  3. Shredded by the cats
  4. Stained and smelling of cat pee
this seemed like a good idea. But the old sofa was incredibly heavy, so I had my friend Roger come over and help me move it out of the house and into the back of the truck. Then we took it to the local dump - where they informed me that I could have had it picked up for free, curbside. We were already there, so I went ahead and paid to dump it.

It is quite an operation out there. The carefully graded and layered dump heap stands out on the flat valley floor. It is as if we were driving up to a great pyramid, a thousand feet on a side; but unfinished, only 100 feet or so high. What I hadn't thought through was that the dirt that covers each layer of debris has to come from somewhere. It comes, in fact, from a giant hole next to the pyramid. Sort of an inverted mirror image, as it were.

Picture of the Week
Gargoyle over Adams Market

Photo Notes: Gargoyle, Martinez, California.

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