Sailing Hummingbird feeder

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WEEK 26 2007

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Saturday 30 June 2007

Saturday - Hot. With the help of some friends I did finally get the last of the tomato's caged. The peaches are already getting ripe, which is neat. A few are starting to fall off. The cat's and I spent a couple of hours in the morning outside on the patio & lawn, drinking coffee, reading and chasing birds and butterfly's, as our inclinations directed.

Book #46 is Airship: The Story of the R.34 and the first East West Crossing of the Atlantic by Air, by Patrick Abbott. This is a short, but straightforward and readable account of the East to West crossing of the Atlantic in July 1919 by the R.34 dirigible. The west-to-east crossing had been accomplished by Alcock and Brown, nonstop in June of 1919, but was an easier flight because of the prevailing west-to-east winds over the Atlantic.

Zeppelin, rather than airship, might be a better description of the R.34, as she was a very close copy of the German airships of the time, designs much in advance of the home-grown British efforts. That said, the poor engines (British) and the lack of good navigational equipment, coupled with foul adverse weather meant that it was a difficult trip. After 108 hours of flying they finished the trip in Mineola, New York (at the long gone original Roosevelt Field apparently) with only 140 gallons of fuel left - only about two hours of powered flight at minimal speed!

The British crew members were hero's in the USA upon arrival; honored, feted, wined and dined. Sadly the British government downplayed the significance of the flight, probably due to the influence of heavier-than-air aircraft proponents. Upon the R.34's return to England they were ordered to land at a remote and obscure airport with just a few people watching. The flight is much less known than the nonstop flight of Alcock and Brown. Few commendations went to the officers, none to the crew, and there was not even a commemorative plaque about the flight erected until 1957, upon either shore.

Would it have made a difference, if more government support had been forthcoming? Probably not. Zeppelin's are big, ungainly, delicate and slow. All of these issues expose the owner/operators to extra costs and create barriers to profit. There may be a niche market for them, as there is for Blimps, but no-one seems to have found it yet.

There was a neat planetary conjunction in the western sky this evening, Venus and Saturn, just a degree or so apart. Pretty neat, even through the haze/smoke.

Friday 29 June 2007

Friday - a bright and full moon this evening. The White fire, over west of Rosamond is out I believe, but there seems to be enough particulate matter in the air to keep it from becoming too warm today. They are predicting 115F for this weekend someone said, hopefully in error!

Speaking of the 900 year old boat, mentioned on Tuesday, I am reminded again of the Ship of Theseus question, and Slocum's dictum that a boat, remodeled until nothing original is left, is still the same boat. Apparently a lot of the boat is original wood. I blogged about it in May. I'm surprised that they were allowed to sail - I understand that Britain is now 'certifying' boats as inland, coastal and blue water. It's hard to imagine that the EU nanny-staters would consider a longship seaworthy in this day and age.

Atlantis on rollout, with drag chute
Atlantis on rollout, with chute, June 2007

Thursday 28 June  2007

Thursday - not a lot to say. Pretty busy.

I have been rereading parts of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I love the little footnotes and asides, the phrasing of throw away lines in the book, and sly digs at the non-English - or perhaps at English insularity. For example, on the suitability of an ancient magician to be named as the founder of English Magic:

"MERLIN was another but, as he was upon his mother's side welsh and upon his father's Infernal, he will scarcely do for the pattern of respectable English Magic..."

Emphasis as in original. To be Welsh is to apparently be commensurate with the Satanic. Heh.

Then there is the Stephen Black episode, wherein he is kidnapped by a king from Faerie and transported by magic to a dismal spot where he is forced to dig in a bog to facilitate the kidnap of a woman:

"When he awoke it was dawn. Or something like dawn. The light was watery, dim and incomparably sad. Vast, grey, gloomy hills rose up all around them and in between the hills was a wide expanse of black bog. Stephen had never seen a landscape so calculated to reduce the onlooker to utter despair in an instant.

"This is one of your kingdoms, I suppose, sir?" he said.

"My Kingdom?" exclaimed the gentleman in surprise. "Oh, no! This is Scotland!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Wednesday - sort of interesting. It was a "Welcome SOFIA" event, with all sorts of official meetings and greetings. It actually arrived a while ago and I blogged about it, but now it's official. I avoided most of it today - work to do and all that jazz - but I did go to a talk by Eric Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh. The Boeing 747 SP used for SOFIA was originally named Charles Lindbergh, and they re-christened it again with that same name, Eric Lindbergh presiding. It was an interesting talk, about his 1990's recreation of his grandfather's flight using a Lancair. There is a Discovery or National Geographic channel episode on it apparently. He is also associated with the X-Prize Foundation and talked a bit about that. Interesting stuff.

Need to check outside - helicopters are circling my house.

Okay, they are circling the baseball fields to the southeast apparently. With spotlights. Bah.

I saw another presentation, this one having nothing to do with SOFIA. Rather is was a guy who had a bad hiking experience in the Sierra's, wherein a three day (planned) trip turned into six - and a helicopter rescue. Essentially he was a bit lost, got in some rough country, ran out of food and water - but managed to get to water (he had started with two gallons and two liters - an enormous amount) and a known geographical point. He could have walked out, but the California Air National Guard showed up with all this fancy gear they were just itching to use, and he was really really hungry...

About five years ago I watched Endeavour land at Dryden. Pretty neat. I wonder if I've seen them all? I expect so.

Stupid helicopters. Stupid criminals. Still messing about.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Tuesday - and I am feeling remarkably uncreative. It feels like Thursday already. Or perhaps a second Monday.

Book #44 was Dark Chant in a Crimson Key, by George C. Chesbro. Ehhh. I recalled reading some of the 'Mongo' mysteries years ago and enjoying them, so I was disappointed to find this silly and poorly crafted. Essentially Mongo, who is a brilliant dwarf detective who teaches criminology, goes to Switzerland where he gets involved in secret ninja assassin business. He figures it all out, not by detective work, but by talking it over with some friends. Not recommended.

I can't believe that it got a five stars rating at Amazon. Sheesh.

Book #45 was In the House of Secret Enemies, which is a collection of short Mongo stories. Better than the book above, but still not recommended. Oddly it only got three stars.

 Monday 25 June 2007

Monday - back at work.  The shuttle is back in the mate-demate device. I didn't stay around to watch it roll by on Friday - I just didn't have another four hours at work in me. But, I'm told, the horde of co-ops and summer hires did stay, entertaining the blase' old hands by their crazed taking of pictures as it rolled by, racing to get ahead of the convoy again, taking more pictures until it was past, and repeating the process again and again...

There is a huge fire to the northwest of Rosamond, causing a smoky light over the Edwards for most of the day. There seem to be fires everywhere according to the news at lunch. It's as if the US is experiencing some sort of made-for-scifi-channel-movie, say: "The Demon Firestarter Horde of 2007". I guess I'm being prompted in this fantasy because of a bad movie this weekend. I watched (sort of) Darklight last night. Even fast forwarding with TIVO it was horrible. Poor Shiri Appleby, but then, she's made movies since so it wasn't the end of her career.

This is neat - a 900 year old ship sailing again. It's a viking longship that was built in Ireland. Pretty cool stuff. [via neatorama]

Sunday 24 June 2007

Sunday - more yard work. Hours of it, in fact, mostly in the back yard where weed whacking and edging were the big events. Then it was on to installing and staking the tomato plant trellises, which I should have done weeks ago. They are already bearing fruit and that makes it hard to get them in their cages. I need to get some help for the two big plants...

There has been some discussion on the web about "steam punk" computers, displays, and keyboards. Sadly it is all faux-steampunk stuff, LCD displays inset into an old-timey brass frame, old typewriter keys connected to membrane keyboards,  Pentium processors, and so on. Bah. Humbug I say!

A true steam punk computer would run on....wait for it....steam. So, I conceptualize  it as CPU consisting of steam powered relays, latches and flip flops, running a low overhead OS - some version of Linux (say Familiar, without the graphical display) or possibly Minix. Also a boiler. The hard drive would be hard, man, hard (a drum and probably loud). The keyboard would be mechanically connected. The display would be an (ASCII) flip display, again powered by steam. It'd be cool - the display could be made of brass with black letters, mimicking in a retro way  the totally cool Kaypro amber display on my first home computer (a Kaypro 286i, by the way). Heck, if you wanted you could also do the reverse video mode, brass letters on a black background.

Analog digital display
Detail of a display element. (via Wikipedia)

STEAMIX I'd call it.

Sadly, my garage is full. And I'm lazy.


I haven't quite figured out how to connect it to broadband, though it'd pretty much have to have an ascii browser, something like Lynx...


Stopping now.

Picture of the Week
Shoreline at Martinez

Photo Notes: Shoreline at Martinez.

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