Wednesday, December 01, 2004

You've got to be kidding.

I got this e-mail (SPAM really). Which bring me to one of my beliefs about spam.

From: Teresa Pullio <>

To: undisclosed-recipients

Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 22:59:44 +0200

Subject: Ukrainian people need help!


Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all over the country after November 21st presidential election run off. According to official returns, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, supported by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, won the election outstripping his rival — opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko — by about 3 per cent. Meanwhile, exit polls funded by Western democracies show Yuschenko’s convincing victory. The opposition alleged authorities of a large-scale and wide-spread rigging of the election and called on people to go on a general strike and start a civil disobedience movement. Thousands of people from all over the country arrived to Ukraine ’s capital, Kyiv (sic), and set up tents in the downtown area fighting freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls. Taking turns, they keep a round-the-clock protest rally going on Kyiv’'s (sic) main Independence Square.

If you want to support democracy in Ukraine and to help people striking in Kiev please transfer money to one of these bank accounts.

Thank you for help.

webmoney ID: <deleted/>

bill number: <deleted/>

or to e-gold: <deleted/>

The amazing thing to me is that this may actually work. Here is a real country in crisis. Some person with a home computer can send this stuff out, and gullible people everywhere give them money for free.

But my point here really is about economics. SPAM is the scourge of e-mail as POP UP are the scourge of HTML, and they exists because there is a small investment, with real profits in return. "Marketers" use SPAM because it works to get them money. If there was no money in it, they would stop.

Want to reclaim you inbox? Want to reclaim your browser (with out installing a pop-up blocker)? Then stop buying the products they advertise. And tell your friends to do the same.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


On Mondays, a group of my friends meet for lunch. It's at a pizza place in Redmond where we usually sit and talk about somebody's new tech toy, or car, or house, or kid.

Eric is the official coordinator, and it usually draws in about five or six people. Most as of late are former coworkers. But one is a new guy, Joe. Joe is a nice enough guy, he had worked with Eric at Microsoft, and is now rejoining the former trident team at Google.

So in the course of conversation, we were ribbing Joe about showing up next to Adam Bosworth in all of the gBrowser stories. Not Adam and Rod,
David, or Gary. But Adam and Joe. Joe found it funny too, but speculated that it was because he was one of the early bloggers, which has created for him somewhat of a cult following. (Note to Rod, David, and Gary: See what happens when you stop blogging? The press turns on you.)

He was citing web volume statistics, which were astounding. Zillions of bytes a day. Most of which is due to RSS agregators that read his feed on an hourly basis to see if anything has changed. Wow.

Anyway, it got me to wondering what would I have to write about to get people to pull my RSS on an hourly basis? Whatever it is, I'd better get on it.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I like Airplanes

One of my options of things to do once I'm out of work is to spend more time with my airplane. I like flying around and going new places, seeing the ground from different heights.

And speaking of planes, I thought it would be fun to have a blog just about my airplane adventures. When google first released gmail I got in before the namespace got polluted (thanks Dave!) and scored aviator. I was pretty jazzed. When I was thinking about doing a aviation related blog, I went for aviator again.

Turns out, somebody already has it. As you can see, it has not been touched in, what, two years! One post two years ago. And then left fallow. Clearly this one is ripe for recycling. I went to blogger help, and ended up posting a question from which I got a link to this answer. Which is essentially, blogs never expire -- try asking the owner, but we won't tell you who the owner is.

I looked for a place to post a comment on the aviator blog in hopes that I could get him or her to respond to me. But there is nothing there. No post a comment, no "about me." No link to "My profile."

What is a guy to do?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

All good things have to come to an end

A while back, my employer announced their intent to close the office I work in. They are offering relocation packages to move me and my family to Boulder Colorado, and offering incentive (read $$) for us to stay at our current jobs until we complete our current tasks. Many are finding the incentives inadequate to keep them engaged, and have chosen to leave already.

This pretty much sucks. They are people that I like. No, people that I admire. Engineers that I admire. No matter where you work, when there are people leaving, we naturally question our own motivation for staying. We think, "If they are leaving for something better, am I staying for something worse?"

I know the answer to that for me. For the next several months, I am a coin-operated software mercenary, just doing it for the money. I like the product I work on. Heck, I've worked on the product from it's infantcy into it's adolescence. And I can see what it has the potential to grow into in its maturity. But I believe I'll not be there to see it. Funny, kind of like a death to me. I am no longer invested in seeing it through. So now I have to decide what to do with my life. I'll stay in my current job for a bit. Not sure how long I can hang on for $$ while all of the others a bailing out now. But when I go, I'm not sure where I'll go. I'm thinking of spending some time with my family, and some time with my airplane. And I'm also thinking I want to do some more software. Something cool.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Entry before

This was taken from the entry way floor. At the top of the picture you can see the bridge from the living room across to the master bed room, and the skylights above that. In the center is the beam that holds up the roof, and the small black dot below that is where the fan mounts. At the very bottom is the window above the front door, flanked by wall lights.

Living room after

This is the new light installed in the living room.

Entry after

New fan in the entry way.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mom's 79th birthday party

Mom's the one on the left.

Quick updates

Couple things here.

  1. I updated my personal website to contain a link to here. (whoo hoo!).

  2. I rearranged the bloggers on my site to reflect recent status. (lot's of non bloggers out there)

  3. I found a ceiling fan that matches my criteria, but $350 seems a bit steep. More on me being a tight-wad later.

  4. Sandra has decided that the fan is ok.

  5. I've been using firefox. I like it, especially the tabbed browsing. Makes for a much better experience than IE. However, it does seem a bit slower -- I have not done becnhmarks to confirm -- and clunkier. In particular in the use of the scroll wheel.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Ceiling fans.

Our entry way is 25 feet high. When we built our house in 1995, I wanted to put in ceiling fans that I would never have to climb back up there again to work on. So I got one with a life time warranty. I also got a visibly identical one for the living room, as the two fans are visible at the same time. I also got light kits that matched the dining room and breakfast nook.

Well the one I picked died, and the warranty turned out to be of no value as the our style was no longer made.

So I went out looking for two new:

  • Polished brass
  • full function remote, light dimmer, 3 speeds forward, 3 speeds reverse
  • 52 inch.

Never thought that would be such a tall order.

I ended up getting everything but the polished brass. Spent an hour installing it today, Sandra does not like them. Back to the search. I'll post again on the next try.

Friday, October 08, 2004

A new start

A new blog. What do I have to say?

I could write about my job. (nerd)

I could write about my wife and kids. (one wife, four kids)

I could write about politics. (right-wing nut job)

I could write about technology. (I write code, play with networks, buy new toys)

I could write about aircraft or cars.

I could write take pictures and write about those.

I could write about prouducts I like.

I could write about vacations and adventures.

I think every now and then I'll write lists of things I want to write about.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Why I Fly (Chapter 0)

Note: I originally wrote this in the summer of 2004. In November of the previous year, the same company had lost a T-34 due to metal fatigue and the wing breaking off in flight. At the time of my training, the planes had been inspected and upgraded -- or so they thought.

This year for vacation, my family and I went to Houston Texas to visit my in-laws. I know the in-law jokes are coming, so I'll start by saying I like these people. They fed and housed the five of us, entertained the kids at the pool, and more to the point of this article, provided us housing 4.3 miles from David Wayne Hooks Airport.

DWH is not much to look at. It has two parallel runways, one well cared for 7000 by 100, and the other looking as if it has been abandoned with grass growing through the cracking 4000 by 35 asphalt. But this is an active airport, it has four flight schools, and is not far from several military training facilities, thus providing a constant stream of Navy, Army, and Air Force labeled King Airs, a menacing Apache helicopter, and a stray JPATS T-6 Texan II trainer. It is also the home of Texas Air Aces. That’s what caught my attention.

Texas Air Aces (TAA) got its start as an air combat company, giving regular people the chance to fly simulated air combat in Beechcraft T-34 airplanes against real people. They have since added aerobatic, formation, and unusual attitude recovery training.

So I rationalized that if I had to spend time with the wife's family (that I really like) I ought to reward myself with a little flight training. I signed up for the unusual attitude recovery training. This seemed like sound reasoning to me.

TAA started their Advance Maneuvering Program (AMP) after a couple of notable crashes of airliners that resulted in the manufacturer doing extensive redesign of rudder actuators.

The class attempts to familiarize students with the sight picture of various unusual attitudes in hopes of reducing the element of surprise to the pilot, and then trains on the control inputs to return the plane to normal flight.

I showed up at 0800 at their rather unassuming hangar situated well to the south end of the airport. I was met by their enthusiastic staff, escorted to an air-conditioned classroom, and given a cup of coffee. My instructor, Chuck Michaeson, discussed the aerodynamics of upset flight, described recovery techniques, and regaled me his flying conquests as a Navy pilot and then later as a 777 pilot for Continental.

It was agonizing. My mind twisted trying to figure what I wanted more. Do I stay and listen to the years of wisdom, or do I run for the plane and do the yankin' and bankin'? The class was through in its presentation of G-loading, accelerated stalls, inverted flight, techniques for recovery from different attitudes, static stability, run-away trim and the best presentation of Va I had seen.

A little before noon, I was escorted to the dressing room and given a helmet and a "speed bag" or flight suit, and we were soon climbing into the T-34 -- where I was handed an airsickness bag and told to "keep this where you can get to it quickly."

The T-34 is a low wing, tricycle gear, two seat military trainer with an IO-550 engine. I emphasize trainer. The only thing I found difficult about the plane was making the decision to get out. Taxiing is a bit tricky as it has no nose wheel steering, just differential braking and a big rudder.

Departing the airport, we climbed out staying below the Houston Class-B until we were outside of the 30-mile ring.

Upon reaching our maneuvering altitude we started with some simple aileron rolls, focusing on keeping the nose pointed above the horizon as the plane goes wing over wing. It sounds so easy when I write it, but I took several attempts to learn the techniques. Much of which involves "Stepping on the Sky." This is one of the AMP mantras, and it works.

Once capable of rolling the plane while losing minimal altitude, we rolled the plane inverted. And left it there.

As experienced pilots, we know that if you pull on the controls, the houses get smaller, and if you push the houses get bigger. We know this so well that it becomes the natural response to trouble. But just the opposite occurs when the plane is inverted. In an inverted airplane, pulling increases the trouble. In this case the correct action is to push the nose back to the horizon.

Chuck would then have me close my eyes while he inverted the plane, I would then open my eyes, push the nose above the horizon, "step on the sky," and roll the airplane back to normal flight. After several of these recoveries I was capable of recovering the plane to level flight from a 165-degree roll while loosing about 100 feet. We then progressed into vertical upsets. This is where the pitch angle is so great that the horizon is no longer visible out the front window. Pushing forward in this situation may or may not work depending on the bank angle and how far over the pitch has gone. Additionally, pushing forward will create negative G forces causing the contents of the aircraft, including passengers and possibly their most recent meals to float about the cabin. It can also cause the fuel to lift away from the pick-up feeds resulting in the engine dying due to fuel starvation.

The better response is to look out the side windows for the nearest horizon, and step hard on that rudder pedal. That will cause the nose to drop towards the horizon with out generating the negative G’s. Once at the horizon, step on the sky, and rolling wings level returning the plane to normal flight.

We practiced this several times, and discovered in planes with high horsepower engines, P-factor causes the plane to fight the roll to the right horizon, making it better to pick the left rudder in a tie.

Chuck then simulated runaway trim – with the low tech spinning of the trim wheel full aft. When this occurs the plane will pull up abruptly and can stall. If not corrected it can result in a secondary and deeper stall. In this situation, I was taught to roll the plane to the side, entering a controlled high bank turn and most importantly, no stall. While in this turn the airplane continues to fly and the trim condition can be dealt with calmly.

The training went on to demonstrate static stability with fugoids, accelerated stalls where I was taught to unload the wing to regain flight control, minimum controllable airspeed, and spin recovery.

Far too soon we were back at the airport doing a 360 overhead approach with the smoke on, back to the runway. The T-34 was easy to land with just small chirps from the tires (it must have great shock absorbers).

Taxing up the same enthusiastic staff met us with cold drinks and assistance out of the plane.

Much to my surprise, the entire flight had been video taped by three cameras mounted on the plane -- one in the wing (the gun camera), one in the tail (the god view camera) and one on the instrument panel (the hero camera).

The god view was used for the majority of the flight as it shows best the canopy of the plane and the horizon. The hero camera caught the bad case of perma-grin I had caught from the flight.

Chuck and I sat down at the VCR and reviewed the flight, discussing what went well, and how to correct the things that did not. I was sent home with my video and told to return the next day at 0800.

Day two started with by meeting a new instructor, and review of what I had learned on day one and then back to the plane where we did most of the previous days flying again -- by instrument reference.

Again the flight was recorded and there was a post–flight review. While I maintained the perma-grin. How much did all this cost? $1,875.00 And more important was it worth it? I hope not. You see, this training is only useful if something goes horribly wrong. And I don’t want to face that.

Playing into the value assessment, I may be victim of the "Volvo Syndrome." Growing up, my family owned many Volvos and I learned you will rarely catch a Volvo owner bad-mouthing their cars -- for to do so would be to admit they paid an very high price for what appears to be "just a car." You find this same phenomenon with Bonanza owners.

So for my money, I got "just" two days of flying and a couple of video tapes and a certificate suitable for framing. But I’ll take my new knowledge and big grin and call it even.

Epilog: a couple months later in December, Texas Air Aces lost the second of their T-34s.  This second one for a technically different reason, but in a similarly spectacular fashion.  This crash killed their founder, shortly after Texas Air Aces halted operation.  This was the third T-34 to fail in a short time frame and resulted in much hand wringing with NTSB and the T-34 community.