Sunday, August 26, 2007

Food for Thought - Going Green isn't Easy

I got this via Groxx (a spin-off of "This Is True", which has readers submit interesting or unusual news stories).

Walking to the shops ‘damages planet more than going by car’ (The Times)

Summary is that the food you eat has the highest Carbon Footprint of whatever you do, so to be green, forget the Prius, forget compact fluorescent light bulbs, buy local / grow your own, eat less beef, etc. Vegan, skinny coach potatoes, sans TV, have the least impact.

Of course, that's just from the Carbon Footprint POV, which doesn't take into air / water pollution, killing of species, etc.

But, it should make us think about what we eat, and how much.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Birthday Present - I laughed, I cried, I almost puked!

I went and had my Acrobatic Flight Lesson today.

In a word - Wahoo!

The first thing to do was to make sure I could get into and out of the airplane. Yeah - you laugh. These are not big planes, and putting my 6'4" lumberjack frame into a 2-seater Citabria took a bit of contortion.

Good news is that I didn't break the plane. Before Nava gave me the gift, we had WebbieM and CessnyZ, (who owns the flight school I had my Acrobat Lesson at) over for dinner, and Nava tried to nudge the conversation over to flying in small planes. So I jumped in and told the tales of the small planes that are worse for wear after I was in them.

Now that we know I can get into the airplane, question is can I get back out. Why? Why not just go up, and worry about getting out later? Well, there's a few things to do first - pre-flight checklist, check the gas, put on the parachute... Someone said parachute? Jheez I gotta read the info on these things and not just show up - and lunch may have been a bad idea. First time I've ever put on a parachute. You laughed at me trying to get into the airplane? Took 2 tries to find a seat parachute that would fit me.

So - gas topped off, pre-flight checklist done, seat cushions out of the plane, parachute in. Seat cushions out? Yep - it's a lumberjack rule. The CLAA (Canadian Lumberjack Aviation Authority) says you get either a seat cushion or a parachute. CessnyZ (who'll I'll just call 'Z' from now on) recommends the parachute, so I go with the parachute. :)

But seriously - the plane wasn't big enough for me, the parachute, and the seat cushions. Guess I could have sent the parachute up on the seat cushion and stayed on the ground, but what's the point in that? So - Z carefully arranges my parachute across the seat, so that once I'm in, we can find all the straps and put it on. Climb in - almost gracefully this time (OK- not gracefully, but nothing broke, which is close enough), strap on the parachute and the seat harness (you're doing rolls and loops, so no whimpy seat-belt, but a full 4 point harness), and get ready to go.

Oh - and by this point, I've found out that it's a "Acrobat Flight Lesson", not "Acrobat Flight Tour". What's the difference? Tour means I go along, Lesson means I get to do a bunch of the flying. That Jalapeno Cheeseburger I had for lunch is sounding worse and worse!

Z let's me drive the plane down the taxi way, to get a feel for the rudders. Wow - makes me really appreciate power steering! Every time I fly commercial now, and we taxi forever to / from the gate, I'll laugh at those girly-men who use hydraulics for this, instead of raw muscles. Cause you know that if they actually had to do it by strength, there's no way you'd taxi that long commercially! Ok - I laugh at them, but I almost smacked into 2 buildings so I won't be boasting about my taxi-ing skills either.

Oh - forgot to point out one thing. 2 seater plane - me in front, Z in the back. 2 sticks, 2 sets of rudder pedals. But pretty much 1 set of instruments up front, which my large noggin hides from Z. Now, he's flown these planes so much, I'm sure he can do it by feel / sound, but it is a bit odd to be the one with all the info!

Take-off - I always love take-offs in a small plane. Always more fun than in a big plane, and when you're in the front seat, 1000x more so. Being the only person in the front really makes it impressive, until you remember that it's Z is doing the flying, not your mental telepathy. This little plane doesn't so much take-off as once you get going fast enough, you just stop rolling on the ground and start flying - smooth and fun.

A few seconds later and Z does a turn or two, and shows the difference between doing a turn with only the stick (flaps), and using the rudder as well. And then it's my turn! OK- smooth would not be my first description, but I didn't stall out the plane, anything like that. After a couple of more tries, I was even not total crap!

Now that my head's a bit swollen, and Z can't see anything out the wind-shield, it's time for some more basic physics, and stalls. Nose up until the plane is just about to stall, and starts to shudder, then nose down to recover speed / come out of it. Simple enough - my turn. Doh - you want me to try to make the plane switch from "flying mode" to "falling mode"? OK- didn't seem that bad when Z did it, so I give it a try, being a firm believer in physics and design (if you just start to stall, it shouldn't take too much to come out of it, and if you're flying straight / wings level going up, you should switch to straight / wings level going down).

Wahoo - it works. After a third time, and I'm a firm believer in physics, and giving up my brief thoughts of giving up agnosticism and hoping there was a God that would save me should I screw up.

Next up - the Loop. Z explains that if we have enough speed, instead of stalling, we'll just keep on going right over the top, and back down the other side. And pull ~3Gs on the way. Again, Z does an example. Wah - 3Gs does press you down into the seat hard, but Wahoo it's fun to go over the top.

And yep, I got the chance to do it. Nose down - accelerate to 130, then stick back hard, until the accelerometer shows 3Gs, then back off the stick and let it complete the half circle, and start heading down. Dive until you get to 3Gs, back-off and you're flying level, in the same spot you started off in.

The Roll - stick hard over (left in this case) until the plane has gone 360deg around left-to-right. That's fun to, and with the Loop under the belt, not as intimidating. But tougher on the stomach. After a couple / three of them, I was getting a bit air-sick.

I didn't take Dramamine or anything like that on the way - I haven't gotten motion sick in over 10 years, and figured no worries - my stomach and take anything. Well, I was wrong about that!
No - I didn't get totally green and loose that Jalapeno Cheeseburger over Z's nice airplane. I told him I was getting a bit queasy, so we just did some flight-seeing for 5-10 minutes, until it had calmed down a bit. Had some cold sweat on the back on my neck, so I knew I wasn't going to get to 100%, but figured we should try the next one.

Which is called the Hammerhead. Starts like a loop - do the ~quarter loop, but keep going straight up until you stop climbing. The plane then pivots over, and heads straight back down. Wah - 3Gs and the queasies! Lots of fun, but definitely green now! Z askes if I want to try, and the short answer from the stomach was "No!" So I let Z know why, and we do a nice lazy turn back to the direction of the airport (RHV), and land ~10 minutes later.

On the 10 point scale for fun - 9. Probably take Dramamine next time though, so that it could be a 10!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Uncommon Logic(tm) #1 - Daylight Savings Exacerbates Global Warming

Thought I'd start this series on truly amazing thinkers.

Some might call it "folk logic", like snapping your fingers to keep the tigers away. No tigers near here, so it must be working.

This is also known as bad logic, or plain old stupidity.

I like to think of it as a Shrubbery, or the type of logic Shrub employs.

"Daylight Exacerbates Warming (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Northwest Edition, April 16th, 2007)

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ? Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.


Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Meskimen wrote this tongue-in-cheek (see Snopes write-up). But it is still worth a laugh, and, I hope, a start of a new series.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Meet the Hamsters...

Had a bad day at work last Thursday. Made a big mistake by (a) showing up at the project staff, and (b) forgetting to check my values and mouth at the door.

Started off with the big project manager talking about the project we're re-using a large portion of our design from dropping the ball and not designing their stuff to work in our environment. Wouldn't be an issue, other than our project is dead if their stuff don't work. So I asked the question on when they're going to stop calling saying their designing to meet our needs. Guess that's one reason I'm in engineering and not management - that's one of those questions you're not supposed to ask.

Second thing was when Mr. Central Ops was talking about how things are going front end environment, and things are back to normal. Big manager says that's good, as making the decision to go with backup plan is very painful. So I step in and say "You remember that normal wasn't very good. We could work, but not predictably." Mr. Central Ops whips out the spreadsheet with this factoid, and then his get well plan. All of which don't explain why I hadn't been able to turn-in my changes for over half a week. This degenerated, so I stood up to storm out of the room. Decided against storming out (big mistake - always storm out if you're half way there), so sat back down, realized that (a) nothing had changed by speaking up, (b) if I stayed in the room, I was only going to get angrier because of that, so I then left quietly at the end of that conversation.

Very frustrating being one of the few people left who still speaks up and tries to make a difference to have it beaten out of you.

StinkyJ had the same thing happen to him today. Same basic thing - despite your years of experience, and working directly in that area now, this person in the central group knows better.

So if you come by my office and work and hear some squeaking, it's not me complaining. It's just the ball bearings in my exercise wheel needing oil. Oh - and check my water and food on the way by. Don't want the hamsters to die in their offices. That'd be against policy - you should die on your own time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Entertained Hamsters for Decades...

Had to run to the bathroom tonight. Day after Nava's birthday - meant to go out to dinner, but Nava was avoiding her singing group, and didn't feel like going out. So I made dinner - and opened some wine. And a 2nd bottle. And then the news game on.

I'm still laughting about it - newscaster said something, at which point Nava said "Hamsters"? Item was "Entertained fans for decades" - Nava heard "Enterained Hamsters for decades."

First time in 5 year in which Nava made a slip in English as funny as some of mine in Hebrew. I laughed, I cryed, I ran for the bathroom to pee.

And then I blogged it.

I can't translate my 10-100 truly hilarious mis-speaks in Hebrew, as they're not funny in English. Ma-heeg Aleek. That's what I saw on Nava's phone one time - should have been something like "Maheg Alecha", which means "Unknown Caller". But, for some reason, "Maheeg Aleek" made Nava pull-over and call her sister.

Anyway - Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

And yes - Don Ho entertained Hamsters for Decades!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tomatoes, Conquering and Computers

Haven't posted for 3 weeks.

Would have a good excuse if I said I hadn't been on a computer at home during those 3 weeks. Yep, I'd have a good excuse if that was the case.

Was sick for a week - spent a lot of time on the computer, but playing Civ IV. Nice thing about Civ IV is it's like TV - you dont' need a brain to do it, and you can set it on an easy setting and conquer the world with a little bit of competition, but nothing to serious.

And then there was getting everything transferred over to the new computer, backed up off the old computer, backed up again, and then "wiping" the old computer. Last thing you want to do is give away all your financial info and passwords.

You could just delete everything, and use a program like Eraser to overwrite it, or your could reformat your hard disk and start from scratch. Or you could be extra cautious - and run a program to like DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke). You boot to a floppy / CD, and then shred the data on your hard drive, by writing over it in multiple different ways to not only destroy the data, but all evidence of the data. There's the simple write 0's, write 1's. There's the Canadian Royal Mounted Police of writing "I like horsies" followed by "I'm a Lumberjack, but I'm OK". Guess they tried just having the horses gallop all over the hard drives, but that did a better job of rendering them useless than erasing the data.

Of course, the US Millitary / FBI / CIA and NSA (No Such Agency) have their own standards. All of those are variations of recording "24" onto the hard disk, followed by CSPAN. Why does it need to record CSPAN as well as 24? Turns out that dialogue of Jack Bauer is not truly random, with certain phrases, such as "WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR" and "Make no mistake, if you do not tell me , I will kill you." Good thing is that while the political BS on CSPAN is even more repetitive, politicians try hard to put their 100 phrase vocabulary together in different ways, so the combination of 24 and CSPAN are particularly effective in erasing all useful electronic data.

But back to my story. What I did - delete all the files, and ran Eraser to remove all evidence of them. Run DBAN to shread everything on the hard disk. Re-format the hard disk. And only then re-install Windows XP and the software the came with the computer / is free.

Just re-install Windows XP. My computer came with the original Windows XP - not even SP1, let alone SP2. So, re-installing goes something like this:

  1. Install Windows XP from original CD
  2. Reboot, activiate, run Updater.
  3. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  4. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  5. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  6. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  7. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  8. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.
  9. Reboot, click "No" for logging onto .NET, run Updater.

Yep - 9 rounds to get all patches / updates / stuff re-installed. 9 clicks to tell .NET to go f-off. Actually only took a couple of hours. Then it was tracking down good free anti-virus (PCMag recommended AVG, so I went with that), Spyware (Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy also recommended by PCMag, and I've used them off / on for years), and other freeware (OpenOffice looks pretty cool - free software to replace Word / Excel / PowerPoint).

Get the old computer setup and ready to give away, at which point I realize that it's now about 2-3 times faster than it was "pre-cleanup", since it is no longer gunked up by lots of little software programs running in the background, doesn't have 5 years of accumulated electronic dust causing it be slow. If the house was bigger, I might have kept it as a file / print server someplace. Good thing about having a smaller house is the forced minimization.

Which brings us to spring cleaning - started that yesterday. Me in the garage, Nava in her studio. I filled up half a large garbage bags with junk / old stuff don't really need anymore, and Nava discovered the carpetting she's always detested in her studio. Need to go out and do the other half of the garage in a few minutes.

Got the garden in last weekend, after prepping it the weekend before. Good thing about Sunnybail (it's supposed to be Sunnyvale, but with a bit more global warming, we'll be underwater, so I'm betting on Sunnybail) is the free compost at the recycling center. As much as you want, if you're a resident. Now, the Crudolla, which is over 10 years old now, and not as good looking as it is in the "Cast of Characters" over at CherkyB, can hold 8 five-gallon buckets of compost in the trunk. A couple of hours and 3 trips later, I had 120 gallons of compost on the garden, plus some basic fertilizer and green sand mixed in. There's something about me and 3 - maybe it's a mild case of OCD or something:
  • Number of trips to Sunnybail recycling for compost?
  • Number of times I turn the soil over each spring to mix in the compost / amendments
  • Number of unique ways I erased the data off the old computer
  • Number of tires with hubcaps on the Crudolla
  • Number of jokes CherkyB will add relating 3...

Bad thing about going to the nursery on a Saturday afternoon, on the way back from the recyling center with a load of compost, is Saturday afternoon is when the amateur gardeners go there. You get looked at funny for showing up with gardening cloths, let alone dirty gardening clothes caused you've been gardening. And their mozing around like cows grazing in the pasture - no real purpose or process, and they just stand where they want. And leave their carts blocking the isles. And their idiot kids just stand around and you have to ask them to let you by. Saturday mornings 9am is much better. 7am would be better, but then I'd have to leave a note for Nava to find when she wakes up...

Got some tomatos, and peppers and spices. Planted a couple of handfulls of old sugar pea seeds - figured they were old, so I'd overplant by a bunch and see if anything sprouted. With all the freezes we had over the winter, had to replace the pressure reducer that hooked the dripper system up to the sprinkler controller - it froze and cracked a couple of months back, which explained the mad dash outside @ 5:30am to turn off that sprinkler branch when it came on and was shooting water all over the side of the house and the master bedroom window.

And the soil still has a good whiff of funkiness to it, so my jokes about dead bodies with the neighbors are keeping up my "nice but a little off" rep in the neighborhood.