Monday, October 31, 2005

Interview with a Test Pilot

My last day at the FAA seminar, for lunch, I walked to the adjacent restaurant where we'd all been eating lunch durig the week. The only other guy who showed up was the old white haired guy who sat about 6 people away from me the prior day.

We recognized each other and grabbed a booth. There was room for two more, but no one else showed up.

The conversation soon turned to pilot stuff. He started flying A-4's in the Navy. I tried 5 times to get into a military pilot slot, but was to tall. Then he became a military test pilot. I've got some hours in, but don't have my pilots license yet. He worked for McDonnell Douglas, McDonnell Douglas/Boeing, and then Boeing with out ever changing his desk.

But the thing that got him through the heart, he talked about it like it happened yesterday, was the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash from January 31, 2000.

When I moved up here and jumped into the highly active aviation world in 2001, the transcripts of Flights 261's voice recorders were smudged and dogeared. Every hanger and av shop had one and you couldn't read it and marvel at the professionalism of the pilots who were doing everything they could to keep the broken plane in flight. Even up to the point where they were flying inverted to keep the plane from diving.

Except that the fuelflow systems on air transport planes aren't designed for acrobatics and starve for fuel in a few minutes and then the engines flame out. Aircraft have a glide ratio, even multi engine transport planes flying upsidedown, but sooner or later they do come down and in the case of Flight 261 everyone died.

This gentleman flew that plane and landed it safely. Then he did it again with a different technique and landed. He told me that the trick that you see in movies where they move everone to the back of the plane would have been a big help and there were other techniques that would have helped.

Amazing what you can do in a simulator.

The airline and the FAA never called the manufacturer while the broken plane was in the air. He never heard about it till after everyone onboard was dead. There was nothing he could have done since he didn't know they needed help.

His business partner and best friend died two weeks ago in a plane crash and talking about that, didn't wrench his gut the way Flight 261 did.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Dog Ate my Keyboard

Between the flu and being at a a 3 day seminar (i.e. away from either my work or home PC) I haven't kept up with you guys other than looking for a Temple Street Tale and seeing how our government neglects it's charges.

The above link is hosed due to no fault of the blog owner.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Feminist Dreams

I've seen a target for the artificial uterus set at about 10-15 years.

The jist I seem to get is that this will free women from ever having to 'suffer' pregnancy and enable them to pursue their careers while still having children.

I look at the world through the eyes of a guy, being a guy and all, and maybe my views are dated, but then again, anything that has withstood the test of time, typically is old, tried and true.

I don't see the artificial uterus as freeing women, I see it as making a lot of them obsolete. Of course, the guys who want a traditional family will marry and have children, but the guys who don't want to risk the majority of the next 18 years of their finances will be able to opt for a little genetic splicing and lease a uteromatic for 9 months.

As Vox has pointed out, the dating options for men expand as they get older mature. Seems to me that guys living the world view can have it all, their freedom, no risk of alimonty, kids, and since there will be a big market for nannies, a 19 year old nanny or two living with them.

I wonder if the feminists have considered the law of unintended consequences?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Death and Haunting of DP

Bane went and reminded me of this:

Before I had married my first wife, I was coaching Bantam hockey in Michigan. It seems like an eon ago. My charges were 14 or 15 and though I had grown up playing hockey, I had a new perspective on the profile of the team. I had young men and I had boys, I had first year players and I had player who would play highschool varsity when they turned Freshmen, I had players who were only staying in school so their parents would let them play hockey and there were those who wanted to be electrical engineers.

Like the fascii, they would be bound together into something that could not be broken. I think men are born to do this. In sports I have loved men I didn't like and sweat, bled and hurt with them as I covered their asses and they covered mine. It has been so long for those days, I'm crying at the nostalgia of those days. How I miss them.

I digress...

One of the better players was on my team in his second year as a Bantam. His mother was the league coordinator and his father was my assistant coach. I got to know their family well.

DP was a prankster. He'd hide your gloves after practice or have the one liner that would crack up the lockerroom. You just had to keep an eye on him because, if given a chance, he'd be up to something.

The summer after I coached him, he was at a family reunion at Lake Michigan. He and a cousin of his, both about 16 were incharge of watching the younger kids play in the water when a freak wave came in swamped everyone, knocking them over. His cousin was making sure that all the little ones were OK when he realized that DP was nowhere to be seen.

As his concern mounted, he climbed on a bouy to get a better view of the water. While on the bouy, a man in a suit got his attention and told him "not to be concerned for DP, that he was safe." He told the man that he had to find him and that it was not OK and turned back to searching the water for DP.

When the body was found, it was determined that the wave caused DP to hit his head on the one rock, on the otherwise sandy bottom, and be knocked unconscious. While unconscious in the water, he had drowned.

The cousin noted that the man in the suit had no way of knowing DP's name, but had referred to him by his name. No one else had seen the man in the suit and the suit had been dry, yet there was no way to get onto the bouy without getting wet and there was no boat around. When he turned to ask the man for help looking for DP, the man was gone.

DP had a sister, also in Junior High, and a little brother that was about 5 or 6 that he adored. I was part of the support infrastructure for the family and would visit and let them pour out their grief and talk themselves through the healing process in my presence.

Shortly after the drowning, the little brother would comedownstairs in the morning and tell his parents that "DP was tapping on the wall last night. He was trying to scare me." This was typical DP and his humor. There was an opportuinty and he made the best play he could for it.

When his little brother wouldn't run scared, DP would then talk to him and tell him things to tell his parents since he knew that his parents were taking his death so hard. DP's mom told me that the level of maturity, some of the topics, and the little brothers poise and stature were such that they were convinced that they were talking to DP, through younger brother.

This went on, night after night, morning after morning for months. It helped the parents through their grief and mourning.

Then one night little brother ran into his parents bedroom, terrified. Something had been knocking on his bedroom wall. Something that, pert near, scared the daylights out of him.

After that, the knocking on the wall occured no more. Nor did little brother have any memories of ever talking to DP after his death.

At this time, I was conflustered by Christianity. My solution was to turn my back on Christ (yea, that is a hard thing to admit) and not consider spiritual sides in the equation.

I had grown up in a 200+ year old house with a reputation (to put it mildly). This wasn't the first haunting that I'd experienced, and the fact that it was secondhand, distanced me from the creepyness of it. These stories didn't rock my boat any. It did, and does, support my theory (and I don't think that this conflicts the bible) that little children can see and sense things that adults can't.

Now, as a Christian, I know the 'communing with the dead' even though little brother didn't know what was going on, was not in anyone's best interests.

While I miss the days of playing team sports, I wouldn't trade them for what I now have.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last Barrow Pic

Here it is. Last pic of Barrow to be posted on the blog.

If it was video, you'e be able to see 3, 5, or 6 whales blowing at most any time. There were whales everywhere. All you had to do was look anywhere for at least half a minute.

I do have a Quicktime movie of a 360 degree rotation showing the big sky. It's an overcast morning, so it's not a pretty sight, but the big sky will blow you away. Unfortunately, the Quicktime videos can't be downloaded without faults from my friends website where he hosts them for me.

I'll e-mail this video to anyone who wants to see it. I also have a Quicktime video of a floatplane landing that I wanted to post, but wouldn't download uncorrupted. Any takers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stolen Graphics and Borrowed Javascript

The borrowed javascript seems to work, but the stolen graphics don't seem to blend in to well to the 'dot' background. Roll your mouse over the dots above for some mindless fun.

Why can I make stuff like this work on the first attemt and I can't figure out how to edit the width of my sidebars?

Any help on the sidebar width issue would be greatly appreciated.

just don't click the buttons above and give it time to load. I don't know why it behaves differently here than the original page or the blog preview does.

Transparent Steel

My wife is my brother-in-laws youngest sons Godmother. Five or six years ago, in Camp Legeune, he got pinned after completing the requirements to be a Crew Chief on a CH-53.

Between being only about a days drive (we were, by far, the closest family) and loving the young man, we went down to attend the ceremony. We were there for less than 24 hours, but that was enough to see him get pinned, take him out for dinner, moved him out of his quarters (three large duffel bags(I'm not complaining, but shouldn't the Marines have taken care of that)), and then took him to breakfast at IHOP on the way to the airport since his orders had him transferring to San Diego.

When we walked into IHOP, it was the same at every table: parents with a son with a military haircut. Well almost every table, near the middle of the restaurant, was a large steel ball, maybe 12 feet in diameter. Kinda strange. Even stranger was that I could see through it and in the middle of this large steel ball was a family, waiting for their breakfast to be served.

Deep in my gut, I knew that this large steel ball made the gimball bearings on the Apollo rockets look like marshmallows. I could feel its purity and strength from across the room. I stopped in my tracks and gawked. You would have too.

The father didn't like being gawked at and gave me a "what are you looking at look" and quickly caught up with [Wife] and [Marine]. When seated, I chose a seat where I could keep an eye on them. My antennas were up.

I was drawn into conversation at our table and lost track of the rest of the restaurant untill there was motion at the encapsulated table. A waitress was delivering their meals. I watched.

When the waitress left the family to their pancakes and waffles, they all bowed their heads and said grace. I then realized that what I saw earlier was God's protection around that family.

I am still humbled by that vision today.

Serenity, My Take

I saw the movie Saturday night.

I loved the tv series and was filled with remorse when it was discontinued. I expected seeing the movie to be like reuniting with your long lost love. Bruising passionate kisses lost in the euphoria brought on by the scent of that little patch of skin below the ear, but wait, that didn't happen.

Instead, the movie picked up right where the series left off. It was as comfortable as that old leather jacket that comes out of storage when the leaves start to turn. With the ease of talking to an old friend that you haven't seen in years, the movie picked up right where it left off.

When I started to notice things that were different from the series, the movie would address the differences. This happened more than once and each time it happened, it reinforced the feeling that this movie was made personally for me.

I enjoyed it and recommend seeing it.

But I do have to wonder how Joss Whedon feels about Ritalin.

Dull Pic

Here is a picture of Barrow. This is what it looked like, most every day, all 12 hours of sun light.

The strange thing was 8:30am looked the same as 7:30pm.

Most days the cloud cover was so heavy, one couldn't guess the location of the sun in the sky. The gravel roads made for lots of dust that added to the grey patina that dulled the colors as well as the mood.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sunrise on the Arctic Slope

We had about 12 hours of sunlight a day, depending on the cloudcover, which was usually overcast. One one day when the cover broke, this was the sunrise.

The sunset looked the same, but it was over the ocean.

Here is a short Barrow story:
Seems that the natives hunt ducks on the schedule the ducks set. Sometimes the ducks arrive before duck season starts and the hunting starts.

One year the FBI sent two agents to Barrow to investigate and being FBI agents, they were ready and waiting when the illegal hunting started.

600 natives, all armed with shotguns, versus two agents. The agents got real small, laid low, and left on the first plane. What ever the problem was, they must have resolved it. They've never been back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Game Review

FPSers, at least for me, seem to have peaked with the original DooM or so I had thought. Delta Force, Ghost Recon, etc are all fun, but don't seem to match the thrill and challenge of the first time.

From the web, I downloaded the FEAR Demo. It was violent and engaging. The animation at the start was good for a little character background and development, but would have been nice to be able to [ESC] past it after that. But what draws me back is the creepy factor.

The game seems to be in the horror genre, but what they did was very subtle. The violence is in your face, but the horrible dark secret hides well although you do see and hear just enough to make your skin crawl.

Also they modelled the characters superfast reflexes is in a way that makes sense. In fact it makes so much sense that I was surprised that I didn't see it coming.

I usually wait a year to buy a game and save $30 or is it that my PC will only run the older games? Nah, I have a screaming PC at home for engineering work that can handle any game out there. I might just buy this one after I finish the one I'm playing now.

Ubi Soft has my respect. Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 showed me that they can make a good FPS. Between that and the price for FarCry I bought it.

I was expecting some tropical paradise turned hellish, something similar to the plots in the Jagged Alliance games. Yes, I have been to Arulco, but I never got a shirt.

The game got going right away, BOOM, lotsa violence. There is no downtime between trying to reach goals and the goals are all immediate. Then the game takes an unexpected turn and things turn sinister. Without warning, I find myself playing a horror game.

I'ts o'dark thirty and I'm playing with the headphones on because everyone else is sleeping, the house is dark, and then something happens that makes me burst out laughing. The game would have been worth it just for that.

Also, the mercenaries are threatening all sorts of death and dismemberment when you are in firefights with them. One of the things they threaten is to "shoot you in the face". I can't help but think of Bane everytime I hear that.

Muktuk Anyone?

I've got the pics hosted on the web. Rather than flood one posting with them, I've decided to stay on one topic per posting and keep my postings short. Not that my 'short' postings are short. They always end up being longer than what I imagine they will.

Bane once told me that 'bloviating is my strength' and while I still don't know if that was a compliment or criticism, I do believe that he is right.

Driving to and from the Barrow Airport, we passed a house shack with a nice aluminum boat in front. It was about 18' with a rag top over the cockpit and dual outboards. My coworker would always comment that he'd like to have it and I'd agree with him. Twice a day, coming and going, we'd perform this little ritual.

Sounds boring, but when you consider what there is to do in Barrow, it helped pass the time.

One evening, on the way to the trailer we were staying in, we say 4 or 5 native guys moving the boat. It didn't look like they were moving the boat for the winter, it looked like they were moving the boat to get it ready to go to sea. They had the rag top down and some were loading gear while others were backing up a truck to hitch the trailer.

I think that was the night we had homemade fajitas. My coworker had 2-3 calls to his Russian girlfriend (gorgeous, tiny waiste, blond with green eyes, and a heart of solid gold), I called home, ate, surfed cable tv that would suffer from 'lost mpeg' every 5-10 minutes, read, and then went to bed.

The following morning, on the way to the airport, every second or third shack had a pile of bloody blocks in front of it. One household was up and processing it:

Looks like they had harvested a whale the night before. So that is what they were getting the boat out for.

Muktuk is the native word for the food meal that they make out of whale blubber. Make may not be the best word since it implies some sort of process. All they do is cut it up and eat it. Unless you've eaten it since birth, I hear, that it is a difficult item to eat. Raw whale blubber, I don't know why.

On the topic of native foods, there is also Stinkfish which would be harder to eat than muktuk, I think.

Unlike muktuk, Stinkfish must be processed. The process consists of filleting and gutting the fish. Then you take the carcasses (carcii?) and bury them. Kind of like Kinchii, it needs to ferment in the ground for 3-4 months. So it's not cemented in the ground by the frost, you have to start this in the spring and remove it before the first freeze.

If ready to eat, the fish remains will be transparent and have the consistancy of jello since bacteria have digested the bones.

Now here's the kicker. There are more than one bacteria that will digest fish bones. One is aerobic and requires a container that 'breathes' to survive. The aerobic bacteria is the one that you want. The non-aerobic bacteria has a waste product that is very toxic to humans.

The non-aerobic bacteria will thrive in plastic bags where the aerobic bacteria will suffocate, more or less, but it smells the same. Small villages will get wiped out by a bad batch of Stinkfish.

Yea, but it smells the same. Rancid fish. Ymmmm.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sorry for the delay

I'm trying to get the Barrow pics hosted so I can link to them. My friend who hosts them for me has been inaccessable since my return. So has his brother. Both have been best friends since 1975.

Right before I left, the older brother told me that his mother's colon cancer had returned and spread through the walls of her colon to her liver. Surgery was scheduled to occur while I was gone. I've prayed everyday for her.

She and her husband were like a second set of parents to me. I'd trust them with my son (keep in mind that only one person, my wifes twin, has babysat him in the last 3 years).

I always thought liver cancer meant death in less than a year. In this case I was told that since the cancer had not yet spread throughout the liver, that they could remove the cancerous portion and you could live with half a liver and that, in time, your liver would grow back.

Just the fact that no one is home causes me to imagine the worst.

I could just call their parents home, but I'm just a little afraid of what I might hear.

So, it looks like I'm afraid of spiders and death.

Finally got a hold of the younger brother. Their mom is recovering at the Mayo Clinic and will be travelling home in a week.

She's on chemo as part of her therapy.

Thank you all for your prayers.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Pictures of Barrow

Yea, I have them. I'll post them when I get a chance.

Other than the arctic fox and the ocean, the pics are pretty depressing.

It's a no wonder that the village suicide rates are as high as they are.

Between absolutely nothing to do, the incest, and physical abuse I'm surprised that there aren't more suicides.

The villages get enormous amounts of money to maintain their 'cultural heritage'. Any talk of cutting money to the villages is treated as a blatent racist attack but their lifestyle today has nothing to do with their history.

I think the State is doing a grave diservice to all the people in the villages by keeping them there.

Ah, but I digress. I try to have pics next week.

Career Choices

I just got back from a survey job that my employer sent me out on. I'm not a surveyor, but I can hold a rod with a prism on it level and pound spikes, lathe, and hubs into the dirt. I can do the manual labor and be on the 'dumb' end.

The other part of the team was a trained surveyor with 9 years experience crammed into 6 years. He was 25 and single which allowed him to work the harder jobs in remote areas like Cold bay, Dutch Harbor, and the oil fields in Sakhalin Island, Russia.

By hard jobs, I mean 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week. In one month he can pocket $13K working 2 hour days, 6 days a week. Of course, being a hard lot, they tend to drink like fish on the day off if alcohol is present.

If a guy (or gal) likes the outdoors and is smart, I'd definitely suggest surveying in Alaska to them.

My career? I like it. I know that the grass is always greener on the otherside of the fence and since I just got paid it's really easy to be tempted to mourne the career not taken.

Realistically, I have a family at home and a career I can do till I'm 80. In the long run, I'll make more money than a surveyor and I have my time that I can share with my family not to mention that it was damn hard work. I lost 7 pounds and my metabolism changed.

I was outside the truck when we were done with a setup. Typically I'd eat part of, or a whole sandwich at this time since we never took time to stop to eat. I felt eternity twitch and my appetite just imploded. I know that this sounds weird, but it happened in an instant and I felt it.

On that trip I lost 7 pounds and still don't have an appetite. Last night we had pizza and I usually eat a large. I told my wife to order a small for me and I ate half of it. I had a few pieces and just was done.

You know, I wouldn't trade the better appetite and improved eating for a ton of money and no time, but I would recommend it for young single guy who likes the outdoors and is sharp, but only if he invests a lot of the money he makes so he has something to show for it later.

Back from the Arctic

My two day survey job ended up taking a week. I'd have probably passed on it if I knew that it was going to be that long. Our survey department head wouldn't have pulled a bait and switch on me, would he? I'll have to ask him.

Barrow has no movie theatres, and is a 'wet' village. That means that no alcohol is sold in it, but if you bring some with you, you can drink it yourself. Not knowing this, and being in a hurry to get to the airport, we brought none with us.

What was I doing on my way to Barrow? I'm a mechanical engineer, but my employer also owns a civil/survey company (yea, he's the same guy who dropped off a fridge full of moose meat yesterday for whoever wants it and left the smoked salmon this morning in the break area) and since I work for him, I'll do anything (within reason) that he askes me to do. Besides I love the outdoors and it was a state job that would be paying Davis Bacon wages which means I'd be getting a raise while on this trip. On top of that, I'd be working 12 hour days so I'd be getting overtime.

The big trick for a successful trip outdoors is to be prepared. I brought hip waders since there was a lagoon alongside the runway I'd be surveying. I was also told to bring warm clothing. Typically, I prepared for the coldest that I thought it could get, wool socks, long johns, extra fleece jackets, and a big ski jacket.

One of the funny things about Alaskan's is anything anyone outside would call a pond, we call a lagoon. Another funnything is Barrow, like most of the North Slope with all it's untapped oil reserves, is categorized as an arctic desert. Why a desert? Because it gets less than 2" of precipitation a year.

Who ever said deserts can't be wet. Barrow is surrounded by a swamp. It may get less than 2" of precipitation per year, but that water doesn't go anywhere and it is so humid it doesn't evaporate either. It just sits there and looks like this:

Lucky for me, everything was frozen. Frozen enough for me to walk on it and I had enough warm clothing for it. As hard as it was, walking on the ice was alot easier than wading through swamp.