Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I cancelled flying (and work) on Monday because I was still recovering from the cold I acquired over the weekend. Actually I'm still recovering from it now, but I'm down to the sniffly-nose part that can be tackled with Kleenex and decongestants.

The weather this morning was iffy for flying, due to heavy clouds coming in, but it wasn't raining, so my instructor decided we could fly as long as we just did pattern work (that's flying circles around the airport, for the uninitiated). We did some more practice on unusual takeoffs and landings, which are pretty fun. I scraped the tail skid on one of my soft-field takeoffs, but other than that they went well. The landings weren't quite as pretty but I got a lot better as the day went on. Some better flare technique helped out here, as well as learning to use some rudder to correct for crosswind alignment.

I have homework for the weekend -- some final studying for my FAA written test, as well as plotting out a detailed course for my cross-country trip, which (weather permitting) will be this sunday.

Oh, and a cirronimbus cloud is a big, puffy raincloud, which is exactly what the sky was full of this morning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Air America

I watched "Air America" with Joahnna the other night, which is a fun flick. What I hadn't realized is how close to reality it came. Air America was a fully-functioning CIA airline which operated all over southeast asia.

I had this little epiphany while reading an article on proper leaning techniques for piston engines (fun stuff!), and noticed in the author's bio that he spent some time flying for Air America.

When at first we practice to deceive, it usually ends up as a good plot for a movie.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Eagle Has Landed

Today I completed my first unsupervised solo (on my first solo, my instructor was sitting on a bench watching me fly the plane). Although, actually, it turned out to be semi-supervised, since my instructor was giving a demo flight to a prospective student, and he ended up in the traffic pattern right behind me. So he was watching my first landing.

It was definately a thrill to go out and do everything on my own, with no one watching over my shoulder (or correcting my mistakes). I could have held the plane for longer, but I decided to keep this session short at just over an hour. Sometimes it pays to quit while you're ahead.

It did take a while to get here, though, because of the weather minimums I have as a student pilot. For me to fly solo, the weather doesn't have to be merely good, it has to be darn near perfect. The past few weeks I've tried to go up several times, but when the time came around, the weather was below minimums every time. My biggest enemy recently has been haze (frequently smog), which on otherwise nice, sunny days reduces visibility below the 10 miles I need. Finally a storm system blew in and got rid of all the built-up haze, but then I couldn't fly because of the storm. If it's not one thing, it's another.

But I'm finally past that, and the weather should be getting more predictable as we head in to spring. And if I land the plane a few more times without bending the landing gear, they'll probably drop my minimums a little, too...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

HD DVD Copy Protection Cracked

This Register article reveals that a crack has been found for HD-DVD copy protection. And, apparently, it wasn't even that hard.

Score: Hackers 2, Hollywood 0.

Wonder if the Blu-ray guys did any better of a job on their security?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Kevin Smith Interview

Just finished watching a really funny interview with Joahnna and Adam. Actually, the interview is with Kevin Smith, and I watched it with Joahnna and Adam, but you get the point. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Friendly Fire Video

The Sun somehow got ahold of the gun cam video from an A-10 involved in a friendly-fire incident. Illustrates a number of things, among them the communications lag between disparate parts of the service (the A-10s make two passes and have already figured out that it's probable friendly fire by the time the call comes in from the unit under fire to break off the attack).

Mission: Possible

I got a very excited phone call from Shana the other night, saying that she had been (finally) accepted into Vet school. She got an acceptance letter from Kansas State, and she's still waiting for responses from Oregon and North Carolina. But with this letter it changes from a question of "if" to a question of "where."

Congrats, Shana!


I had a running discussion with Awais a ways back about the number of contractors and contractor deaths in Iraq. Like so much about the war, it is difficult to get any sort of accurate information out of the murk presented by the government. A prime example is the latest casualty report:
Since the start of the war, the U.S. military has suffered 3,094 fatalities in Iraq. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department have also been killed.
This is pretty much your standard casualty report, except in this one I saw a key phrase I hadn't seen in previous statements: that key little caveat "of the Defense Department."

Of course the vast majority of contractors in Iraq aren't Defense Department contractors; they're employees of Halliburton or Blackwater or some other private company, and paid via sufficient indirection that you can claim they're not Defense Department contractors.

Some quick searching showed that I'm not the only one who can't figure this out (Here is a news article on the subject, as well).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Buying Opinions

If there was any doubt in people's minds about how "analyst reports" are generated, this one should pretty much put the nail in the coffin. The article details some of the relationship between Microsoft and IDC, when Microsoft was struggling to come up with a plausible argument on how Windows costs less than a free operating system.

To be fair to the analysts, they did have a bit of trouble finding someone to write the study:
In a different Nov. 3, 2002, message, Houston said that the company had been unable to convince any other major research company to do the TCO study, and specifically mentioned Gartner as one that turned down Microsoft's request.
This may not be researcher integrity, however, so much as having a good sense on which way the wind is blowing:
"We approached Gartner about doing this study and they declined," said Houston. "They said it was because they didn't know that their model for TCO would work well with Linux. I privately wonder if they want to take on this debate."