Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Open for Business

Not many posts lately, as all of my minor updates have gone through the Evil That Is Facebook. Quite possibly one of the greatest time-wasters invented since, well, the internet.

However, Joahnna's photography business is up and running, and as part of our continuing marketing campaign we have launched a website for the business. Go to www.bentonstreetphotography.com and check it out!

Monday, August 17, 2009

No More Word?

Microsoft just lost a trial for an XML patent violation in Word by what appears to be a patent troll. The company, i4i, has no products, so is presumably uninterested in the usual patent cross-licensing deals that major corporations engage in.

Damages are about $200M, which is laughable for a company with as big a bank account as MSFT, but the requirement to stop selling Word within 60 days has a bit more teeth in it. Then again, it apparently only applies to Word 2003 and 2007, so maybe they won't complain too much. After all, it just forces people to upgrade to the new version.

Since Microsoft is one of the worst abusers of the patent system, hopefully this gives them some incentive to work on patent reform. Hoping for too much?

Wheels Down

I touched down in San Jose on friday, after a four-hour flight from Escalante. The flight was uneventful except that I had a bunch of turbulence going from Escalante to Boulder City (where I stopped for fuel), and that I got clearance heading out of Las Vegas to cross over "Area 51" (the China Lake restricted area).

I did not see any flying saucers or black helicopters. Apparently they don't fly on the weekends.

Only 281 messages waiting for me in my inbox on my return.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snail Hike

Howard and I took a 5-mile (according to the GPS) hike today, down the Escalante River and back to the trail head. The trail wanders back and forth across the river (well, stream right now -- it was rarely more than 6" deep and a few feet wide) so I spent quite a bit of time splashing through and occasionally stepping in quickmud (Howard's term). We stopped at a culvert cut out of the rock which provided a nice shady spot to have lunch and look for snails.

Howard looked for snails. I watched and read off the coordinates of each sample.

Afterwards we stopped at the Dairy Freeze for milkshakes and went home for a well-deserved shower. If the weather looks good I will head for home tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I touched down in Escalante this morning, after spending the night in Farmington, New Mexico. I stopped there because a) it was along my route of flight and b) I was tired. I got up early this morning and landed in Escalante around 10AM, in time to miss the afternoon thunderstorms.

Howard and I walked around town and saw some of the old buildings, as well as spending some time talking with his friend Paul, who is one of two or three pilots in town. We are supposed to meet up with Paul later over at his hanger and "talk plane" for a while.

I took some nice photos of Lake Powell on the way in, as well as some canyons that look like they are Grand Canyon scale (note to self: visit Grand Canyon). As I do not have a download cable handy, I will have to wait to return home in order to download these.

I also got an update on Howard's various properties here in Escalante and how various restoration/improvement efforts are going. The Bell house should be very impressive (if difficult to navigate) when it is finished.

Tomorrow we might go flying with Paul, if the weather cooperates, and there is a big potluck dinner tomorrow night. I will fly back home saturday or sunday morning depending on how the weather looks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I made a short flight today, due to a line of thunderstorms working its way across Tennesee and northern Kentucky. A quick replanning in the cockpit gave me a new destination of Lafayette, Georgia.

I found a small town with a friendly FBO that tossed me the key to a creaky Ford Escort with an official Walker County seal on the side. I got me a genuine government vehicle for my ride.

I'm currently hiding out from the heat in the hotel room in the hopes it will be slightly less oppressive later when dinner time rolls around.

Tommorow's plan is to see how far I can get. Stopovers planned for Arkansas and north Texas, and if I feel good, I will push on to Utah. If not I will probably stop somewhere in north Texas.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New York Recap

So, I'm trying to remember all of what we did in New York -- we had a fairly packed week there.

We started off the week at the Guggenheim, then took a walk through Central Park. The next day we arranged a helicopter tour. The tour covered the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and downtown Manhattan. Afterwards we took the ferry to Liberty Island, although we were not allowed up in the statue, since we needed a ticket that apparently one can only get off the island. Foiled, we took the ferry to Ellis Island and walked through the immigration museum, which was probably much more interesting. They had a number exhibits showing how Ellis Island grew in size, how immigrants were processed, population statistics and such.

The funny thing is, we were busy the entire week, but looking back at it, I can't remember exactly what we did from day to day, but we were busy every day from breakfast (okay, we usually managed to finish up breakfast and leave the hotel by 11pm), and it was very hot for the first few days and then around wednesday it cooled down to a reasonable temperature and I was much happier. Over the course of the week, we saw the Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Art Museum, and Little Italy.

Oh, and we loved the pool in our hotel with the swim-up bar, and hung out with Pam, and generally had a good time. I can't say I saw all of New York, or even most of it, but we had a good time.

More time in NC

We decided to spend another day in Raleigh, since we haven't come up with any attractions between here and Utah that we really want to see. Today's plan is to pick up some new charts to cover the trip back, hide from the heat (today's high: 99 degrees), plan our route, and continue sorting through and editing our backlog of photos.

And we still have a few book purchases from Strand's that we need to work through.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Arrived in North Carolina

We had a great time in New York, which is why I haven't posted anything for the last week. I will have a bigger write-up later, but for now we are OK, and got to North Carolina successfully. We had to work our way through some yucky weather and headwinds to get here, and we ended up making an impromptu fuel stop just short of Raleigh.

I actually felt guilty about the fuel stop, because we just picked an airport along our line of flight and figured they had fuel there and landed. When we got there the automated fuel station was out of service, and we had to call the airport manager out to fuel our plane (he left his cell phone number taped to the window -- gotta love small town airports). When he got to the airport, he only had one leg. He then proceeded to fuel the plane for me. Normally I fuel it myself, but didn't want to say anything... So I had my plane fuelled by a one-legged man.

Shana's air mattress is quite comfortable, and her two cats are very friendly, and Joahnna is torn between playing with them and trying to keep them away to keep her allergies under control.

Oh, and Pam texted us while we were on the train north from New York, saying that a small plane hit a tour helicopter over the Hudson river. So, just to let everyone know, it wasn't us.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Helicopter Tour

We flew from Vermont to the East Hampton airport on Long Island last sunday. There was a bit of low cloud cover but we landed without incident. The weather immediately struck us as it was hot and muggy.

We caught a taxi to the nearby train station and took a train from the Hamptons to New York, after which we checked in to our hotel and called up Pam to go out for dinner.

On monday we took the subway up to 86th street and took a quick tour of the Guggenheim, which was showing a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, and then walked through central park. We then caught another subway down to the Soho, where we did some shoe shopping (Joahnna's sandals were just about worn out, so she picked up some Birkenstocks), and found Strand Books, which is a great used book store -- three stories and "18 miles" of new and used books.

We got out of strand six books and about 30 pounds later and made our way back to the hotel, where we changed into our bathing suits and spent some time in the hotel pool and swim-up bar. The only problem with the swim-up bar concept is that if people are splashing in the pool it can get in to your drink.

Later that night we met up with Pam again for dinner, then went to watch "The Ugly Truth".

This morning we levered ourselves out of bed and caught a cab to the west island heliport, where we took a 15-minute helicopter tour. We flew by the Statue of Liberty, then looped around and crossed over the south end of Manhattan island. It was our first time in a helicopter and it is a very different feeling.

Right now Joahnna is taking a nap while I catch up on my blog and read some of my new purchases, and our plan for the day is to do some laundry (we only have 5-6 days of clothes, so we need to go find a washing machine every now and then) and then take a boat to see the Statue of Liberty this afternoon.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


We departed Oshkosh yesterday and flew to Vermont, after a brief stop in Ohio for fuel. The departure from Oshkosh was busy -- we formed a line of departing aircraft, and the tower cleared us on to the runway two at a time and had us line up in parallel. However, once away from the airport we settled in to a relatively uneventful flight. We spent about two hours flying from Oshkosh to our refuelling point just south of Cleveland, and then another three hours to get to Montpelier, Vermont.

At Vermont I flew my first "real" instrument approach -- meaning my first one without an instructor on board, and where actual clouds are limiting visibility instead of the training hood. I got us on the glide slope fine and we broke out of the clouds at about 4000' for a pretty moonlit landing.

Gregg and Lori had a very nice dinner ready-made for us, and we stayed the night at the nearby Morgan Inn. We woke up to a beautiful misty morning and drove back to Gregg and Lori's for a fresh French toast breakfast.

We spent today driving around the Randolph area and taking pictures, as well as meeting the neighbors and having a good time relaxing on the porch, reading, and catching up. Vermont is beautiful in the summer, but the prospect of 8-12 feet of snow in the winter and daily snow-blowing the driveway has chilled Joahnna on any idea of living here.

Tomorrow we have a short (one and a half hour) flight from here to the Long Island MacArthur airport, after which we have a couple hour train ride to get in to our hotel in Times Square.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rained Out

Today the weather has been blustery and overcast, so we decided to skip AirVenture for the day and concentrate on exploring Appleton. We found a small bookshop within walking distance, as well as the Walgreen's, where we stocked up on essential supplies. We also made a reservation to arrive at an airport about halfway up Long Island on sunday.

Love's First Kiss

Our first kiss as husband and wife. :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AirVenture Tuesday/Wednesday

It took a while yesterday to get our transportation situation sorted out, so we didn't actually get to airventure until around 3PM. By that point the air show was in full swing so we found a spot to enjoy the action.

The aerobatics routines were very impressive, with the pilots repeatedly putting their aircraft in situations seeming uncontrollable, then recovering out of it with a dive towards the runway and pulling up into yet another stunt. The camera can't really capture these well, but I did manage to get some short video clips with the small camera which we will push up to Facebook.

After the individual ones came team AeroShell performing formation acrobatics, which weren't nearly as difficult but looked very cool as all four aircraft did loops and rolls together, then broke out in four different directions to come back and regroup. We got some better photos of these as they came in for a low pass.

This morning we caught the shuttle in to the show and spent the day wandering through the various exhibits, looking at the various types of planes for sale and coming out soon, and talking to parts vendors and collecting business cards. Particularly neat was the Yuneec electric prototype, said to have an endurance of 3 hours with its larger battery pack, and the Icon amphibian, which is a nice-looking aircraft that comes complete with its own travel trailer for water launching.

Tomorrow will be our last full day at the show and then friday we head further east.

Back to College

After spending a day at the Hawethorne Suites, we found new accomodations at Lawrence University, located in nearby Appleton. We were completely unsuccessful in renting a car (there are apparently none to be had within 30 miles of Oshkosh), but there is a shuttle bus that runs between the university and Oshkosh, so we took that back yesterday and there and back today.

The room does bring a little bit of nostalgia with it, especially with the few people we see around mostly college-age. We have confirmed that we can both fit in a standard college twin bed, but only with difficulty. The room isn't air-conditioned but it hasn't been terribly hot, so that's not a huge drawback. The biggest problem with the place is that public transportation here is somewhere beweeen terrible and tragic, so without a car our movement options are limited to the shuttle bus back and forth and whatever we can walk to. Fortunately main street in Lawrence is College Ave, and is right outside our doorstep.

It's clear that the recession has hit Appleton pretty hard. We walked through the City Center mall the other day, which is a compact three-story mall nearby. The second and third stories were completely empty except for one shop, and the first floor had a few vacancies in it. There were also numerous storefronts along College Ave available for rent, including one with a sign out front that said "Thanks Bush! One more family-owned business gone!"


Mark drove up from Minneapolis last Sunday to see us while we were at Gina's lake house. We went to a nearby bar (Barry's? Buster's? Something like that) and had lunch, and had a nice chat. Sara unfortunately couldn't make it due to a conflicting party. Afterwards Joahnna took a nice photo of us standing in front of the lake.

Thanks for making the drive!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oshkosh Arrival

For a short (one and a half hour) flight, we had a pretty long day today.

We started out having more trouble with fouled spark plugs. This time #3 and #5 were failing. Aborted our takeoff and chased down a mechanic at Anoka, who cleaned out the plugs, only to find that that fixed those two, but a *different* plug starting having a problem. After that he suspected that the spark plug wires were getting worn out and we were getting a weak spark, which is why the plugs keep failing on the ground. He recommended we go around once in the pattern and test the mags in flight.

We preflighted again, took off and tested the mags at pattern altitude -- all plugs firing normally. So we continued on to Oshkosh.

There were a few rain clouds moving through, so we fired up the GPS with real-time weather info and steered our course through the red dots. Arrived at Oshkosh after an interesting tight left turn to put ourselves down. Had a tough time finding a place to stay but finally found the Hawthorne suites had a room available for one night at blackmail prices.

We wandered around the airshow checking out interesting planes and looking at some of the day's airshow activities. Most impressive was the full-power takeoff by one of the Thunderbirds' F-16s, but the Sky Crane dumping water in a simulated fire suppression and a formation arrival of about 20 T-6 Texans were also pretty cool.

Around 4PM the red dots that we had been avoiding on the way here finally got to Oshkosh, and it started raining, which gradually developed into a mild thunderstorm. We hauled ourselves back to the plane to unload our luggage, manhandled the luggage (we have one huge bag that has all of both of our clothes for a month) on the bus back to the bus terminal, lugged it on to a second bus bus which took us, er, close to our hotel, and then carried it over the intervening street and lawn to get to the hotel.

The hotel turns out to have the only restaurant within 2-3 miles, which turned out to be a pretty nice place. Joahnna had crab cakes and lobster bisque, while I had a stuffed chicken breast. Afterwards we put on our bathing suits and went down and relaxed in the jacuzzi for an hour or so. I decided the blackmail was worth it.

Tomorrow we are taking ourselves and our luggage to a nearby university that is renting out some of its dorm rooms. Tonight, we will both sleep well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Half Cup

Joahnna and I spent yesterday and today at my Aunt Gina's house in Anoka. They have a ten acre property on the edge of a lake, with beautiful sunrises in the morning.

Gina has spent the last day catching us up on our family history and connections on my dad's side of the family. We have found that my grandma Doris was her father's sister, which helps put things in the proper place in the tree. Gina and Will, her husband, are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.

There are several houses here on the lake property, so the summer is apparently a rolling family gathering. They were not surprised much when we gave them a call and said we would drop in for a day or two, and they have plenty of room to put up unexpected guests. With us here at the lake this weekend are Alex, Gina's son-in-law, Jon, and Aaron.

We've had beautiful weather here, plus the best food we've eaten for the entire trip. Gina's sons Jon and Aaron have done most of the cooking, while Will has told us some stories from his time in the Philippines during WWII.

Oh, and the reason for the name of the post is that Gina never drinks a full cup of coffee -- "just a half cup" -- but has several half-cups throughout the day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


We just touched down in Anoka, MN to visit my cousin Gina and her family. The ~3 hour flight from Rapid City was under IFR today, due to low cloud cover over most of Minnesota.

Yesterday we drove out to the Dakota Badlands, which are an eerie-looking landscape of multicolored clay originally formed from volcanic ash. Joahnna got a bunch of great photos, and afterwards we drove back in to town to find... Surprise! The nearest bookstore. Borders was just across the street from Chili's, where we grabbed dinner, and then retired to our hotel for an evening of reading and Facebook uploads.

Right now we are waiting in a brand-new FBO lobby at the Anoka airport, which is appointed like a 5-star hotel, and our plane is enjoying the unexpected luxury of living in a hangar for the next couple nights, since there were no tie-downs available.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mt. Rushmore

Last night we went to the evening lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, which was well-done. They showed a short movie which talked about the four presidents on the mountain and what they did for America, and then after they lit the mountain, they had all the military veterans in the audience come down to the stage for the lowering of the flag.

After that we briefly got lost on the way home (we left the GPS in the plane, so we were forced to fall back on navigating based on the free tourist maps they gave us at the airport), then stopped at Taco Bell for dinner, since it was about all that was open at 11pm at night.

Today we are running a couple errands and then heading out to Badlands National Park, which has some very striking scenery from what we've heard.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Brigham/Rapid City Photos

Test-driving our new oxygen system at 11,500 feet.

Mountains just east of Brigham on climb-out.

Over Utah

Our crew car in action.

Rapid City

We arrived at Rapid City this afternoon, after a relatively short 3-hour flight. We flew by Mount Rushmore on the way, but we weren't really close enough to get a good shot of it.

The fuel station was a little confusing at first, since the credit card slot was 50' away from the fuel pump.

The terrain between Utah and South Dakota is very impressive, for its expansive, rugged look, and for being almost completely empty. There were more than a few times where I had to zoom the GPS out to the "100 NM" scale in order to see any airports on the screen. At one point over Wyoming I tapped Joahnna on the shoulder and said "Look over there! A building!" It's not quite that sparse, but pretty close. Structures are few and far between, and frequently have a radio tower next to them indicating some sort of outpost.

Yesterday and today were both pretty bumpy rides, with the hot air creating lots of thermals and turbulence. At one point today (while we were trying to line up for our photo of Mt. Rushmore) we hit one bump so hard that both Joahnna and I hit our heads on the ceiling liner. That was good for a bit of surprise.

We had lunch at TGI Friday's and later tonight we are driving to Mt. Rushmore for their evening lighting ceremony, which is reputed to be good. Tomorrow we will either visit the Black Hills or the Dakota Badlands.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Well, it wasn't where we planned on spending our first night, but such is the course of our great adventure.

Our takeoff was delayed by a couple hours when we found that one of the cylinders wasn't developing power. A quick check by the mechanic showed the plugs to be fouled, and since this was the second time this had happened, I figured they were all fairly dirty and in need of a good cleaning. I talked the mechanic into cleaning all of them and sure enough, most of them had a good coating of oil and would probably have become fouled soon.

We took off at around noon and flew nonstop from San Jose to Brigham. This was intended to be just a fuel-and-lunch stop, but by the time we got here it was 5:30 local time (we lost an hour going to mountain time).

There was no food at the airport in Brigham, but the shop we stopped at had a "crew car" -- this is a car that FBOs frequently have as a loaner car for pilots stopping for the night. Our crew car is an early 80's Buick Century, with oxidized blue paint and a thick coating of dust on the windshield. This is typical of the breed.

We took our crew car into town (pretty much one main street with all the shops on it), and had lunch at the Peach City Diner, a neat little drive-in. I had a strawberry milkshake made from home-made ice cream, and Joahnna had fish and chips. Apparently the fish and chips were good, despite be many miles from the ocean.

By the time we got back to the airport it was past 6pm and we were still looking at a three-hour flight to get to Rapid City, and I was rapidly fading, so we decided to stop here for the night. We found a brand-new Days Inn where we are currently enjoying the A.C. (hot day today) and reacquainting ourselves with the internet.

Time for a nap for the pilot. Will post photos as soon as we find proper connecting cables (naturally we left our current ones at home).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Air Guido

I got more flying in this last weekend than I did all winter.

For starters, for staying current with my instrument rating I need to fly six approaches every six months (and do a hold). I suspect this is the bane of most instrument pilots -- if you're not making your money from flying, you're unlikely to do more than one or two approaches in actual instrument conditions in an entire year, much less one a month.

So, practically speaking, every six months you need to go up with a safety pilot or instructor and practice some approaches, which is what I did on friday. I went with Manuel, who is building time for a commercial pilot job, and I flew two approaches on friday afternoon and one saturday evening. Together with the three I did a couple weeks ago I am now current.

In addition, I did some air taxi "work" this weekend. Zach has some relatives in Fresno that he wanted to visit, so saturday morning Joahnna and I flew him out to the Fresno-Yosemite airport and dropped him off at a maintenance shop there. It's a little odd flying into a commercial airport because they don't really know what to do with you -- they generally don't have a GA parking area, you have to stop at one of the businesses on the field. They charge a ramp fee for parking, but usually if you're just picking up or dropping off passengers the employees turn a blind eye.

On sunday I flew back to pick him up while Joahnna was working a trade show at Valley Fair. After completing the run-up we were cleared for takeoff on 29 left (the shorter of the two runways), and as we taxied into position I elbowed Zach and said "Check that out" -- as we were taking off, an Air Guard F/A-18 was taking off from the parallel runway.

Don't get to see that every day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Winds in the News

Later found out that high winds caused problems all over the bay area. When I got home I found out that the winds had knocked off several of the plastic drain pipes from the gutters. It also knocked over a big rig on the freeway and caused numerous power outages. San Francisco airport reported gusts up to 41mph

This article reports many of the problems.

Windy Day Flying

Yesterday, I flew up to Lincoln to visit an old friend. We had set up the trip the day before, and the forecast for the time was a nice day with partial clouds. Sure enough, when I got up yesterday it was a bright sunny day with a few scattered clouds. Unfortunately there was also a minor matter of wind.

For flying, we rely greatly on current weather observations at airports, called METARs. When I took off, the weather reports looked like this:

KRHV 141747Z 29015G25KT 10SM SCT040 12/02 A2995
KLHM 141910Z 29020G24KT 10SM SCT070 BKN080 OVC090 13/M03 A2981

For those unfamiliar with decoding these little gems, KRHV was the airport I was flying from and KLHM my destination. The second part is the date and time of the observation, and the third part is the wind. For this one it means that my winds taking off were from a 290 heading, and observed as 15 knots with gusts of up to 25 knots. The runway heading at RHV is 310, so this was about 20 degrees off runway heading.

Takeoff went fairly smoothly, I pulled the plane up into the air once the wheels felt light and immediately turned into the wind. Once off the ground we climbed FAST. We dodged a couple clouds at 4000' on our way up to cruise altitude (that would be the SCT040), and then settled in for a short, bumpy flight to the Lincoln airport.

The winds at Lincoln look pretty similar to RHV -- from 290, 20 knots with gusts to 24. However, the Lincoln runway heading is 330, which makes these winds a full 40 degrees off runway heading. For a 20 knot wind, that gives an effective crosswind of 13 knots.

On my first approach to the airport I did not set up well for the landing. I neglected to take the crosswind into account when turning from base to final, and so instead of turning out lined up with the runway, I did a big skidding turn that blew me past the runway and then to fight my way back into alignment. The approach stayed ugly all the way down to the runway, at which point I scratched the landing and went around to try again.

The second approach went much better. I turned earlier towards the runway, got myself lined up much better, and then transitioned into a good crosswind landing (right rudder, left bank) prior to touchdown. I also think the winds were lighter on the second approach.

Had a good lunch and chat with my friend, then headed back to the airport. For the return trip, I was looking at:

KLHM 142230Z AUTO 03016KT 10SM BKN100 13/M01 A2980

While the winds were lower, they were now perpendicular to the runway instead of at an angle, which didn't make my life any easier (effective crosswind 14 knots). I had to wait for a helicopter and a water bomber that were using the bad winds as good training to make a hole, then again made an uneventful takeoff.

The weather when I finally got back to Reid-Hillview was:

KRHV 142247Z 28017G25KT 10SM SCT040 15/01 A2993

Life hasn't gotten any better back here. I get myself lined up correctly the first time this time, end up touching down near the runway threshold and I am off the runway by taxiway Bravo without even braking hard (Alpha is at the beginning of the runway).

I have mixed feelings about this flight. On one hand, it was good training for dealing with high-wind conditions, and all my (completed) takeoffs and landings went well. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I should have been up in the air in the first place. The takeoff and landing at LHM were both close to the maximum crosswind for my plane (16 knots, I believe). My motivation to fly was about equal parts get-there-itis (I had cancelled on my friend twice before due to weather) and a desire to push the envelope out some on weather I was comfortable flying in.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Replacing the Paperback

I just read this article talking about how the Amazon Kindle could be even better. He has a telling comment on the economics of the Kindle -- how many books you need to buy to make a Kindle pay off.

As an early adopter of the Sony eReader, I can say that the Kindle has a long way to go, because it hasn't really resolved the fundamental problem the eReader faces, which is that it isn't better than a book.

It's different than a book, and has some advantages and disadvantages, but different is not going to make people change their ways. It's not cheaper than buying paperback books, it's not the right format for replacing hardback books, it's fragile (when was the last time you broke a book?), it can run out of power. Against that you have the convenience of being able to order books wherever you are and reducing the storage requirement of books.

And there are business-model differences, too -- once you've read a book on your Kindle, it isn't worth much, but a physical book can be loaned to a friend, resold, or traded in. So, intrinsically, an electronic copy of a book is simply worth less than a physical copy, but typically they cost more than a standard paperback.

I think there are markets for an electronic book, but it's not really a consumer market right now. A larger-format (8x11") e-book oriented towards college students would be a much better device -- if students can buy their textbooks for $25 instead of $50, the device would pay off in a couple quarters, not to mention getting rid of 50+ lbs of books they have to tote around. But I don't see your day-to-day paperbacks getting replaced by e-books until they get a lot more cost competitive.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The End of the Fighter Era

A well-written argument by Lewis Page at The Register on why so many people hate the F-35. It's not that it's a great fighter, it's that it's good enough to put a lot of the competition out of business, and that it's good at doing the unglamorous things that modern militaries actually do -- mainly beating up the forces of small nations equipped with second-rate surplus Russian designs, rather than going head-to-head with large numbers of state-of-the-art aircraft.
But to be honest, to an outsider it looks as though this sector could really stand to shrink quite a lot. The militaries of the West, it appears, continue to plough far too much of their straitened funds into exotic combat jets designed for unlikely wars, and not nearly enough into bread-and-butter infantry, surveillance platforms, helicopters, transport planes and so on.

The F-35 has some of the industry worried not because it's a waste of money, but exactly the opposite -- they fear that it could become the Model T Ford of combat aircraft (available in any color you like, as long as it's grey) and wipe out the competing manufacturers.

I still believe even the F-35 is far more expensive than what we need today. A second production run of A-10s would do a lot more good for today's military actions than any new fighter on the market.

Walking While Brown

Yesterday Zach had an encounter with the Santa Clara Police Department. While walking around looking for a nearby park, he stopped and asked an older woman for directions. A few minutes later an SCPD police cruiser rolls up on him and he is stopped and questioned for a while and then released.

A few details may make this a bit more clear:
  • It was broad daylight -- around 4PM
  • The woman was white
  • We live in a predominantly white neighborhood
  • Zach is half-Pakistani, but looks Hispanic to most observers

Joahnna called the police and complained about this, and in the ensuing discussion, it turned out the woman Zach asked for directions thought that he looked "suspicious" and called the police.

Joahnna and I are at a loss as to what to tell Zach if he wishes to avoid being periodically stopped and checked. It seems as if the bar for "suspicious" is suspiciously low.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Can't Wait for the Weekend

I'm in Israel this week for a business trip, and that means that for me the week ends today (Thursday). Tomorrow evening I fly back to the U.S.

It has been an odd time to travel to Israel. The airstrikes in Gaza had been going on for a week or so by the time I left, and the ground war started as I was flying over. A number of people asked if it was safe, and I said that I believed so, since the action was confined to the Gaza strip.

In many ways the feeling here reminds me of 2003, just after the war in Iraq started. People were concerned about it, but simply went on with their daily lives. The feeling I get here is similar, but the discontinuity is more pronounced -- it's very odd to get in your car and drive to work, realizing that people are fighting and dieing not two hours drive away.