The Big Think

May 22, 2006

She’s at it again

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 8:41 pm

Madonna kicked off her “Please pay attention to me” Tour. I want to know when she and Tina Turner are going to launch the “Grandma” tour. sheesh, I’m getting tired of her (Madonna, not Tina. Tina still rocks)

Just Return the Money to your Shareholders, Mike

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 8:28 pm

Dell opens up two retail stores. One in Dallas and one in New York… in the same mall as Apple Stores. It’ll be interesting to see if their numbers, traffic, and buzz come anywhere close to those of the Apple Stores, or mirror Gateway’s numbers.

Here’s an odd thing about Dell’s brick-and-mortar stores. None of them will carry inventory. As a friend of mine says… doubleyou tee eff?

Bob Hoover

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 4:09 pm

Legendary pilot Bob Hoover demonstrates pouring iced tea while executing a barrel roll in an aircraft. I remember doing some zero-G maneuvers while getting my pilot’s license. Very fun and unusual feeling. I can’t imagine the precision required to do this type of flying. Well, I can, actually, because learning to fly requires learning very precise movements and developing a feel for the airplane unlike what you develop in a car. It’s more akin to the feeling you develop learning to ride a bicycle, or even a unicycle. What amazes me is the fact that Bob is able to fly a consistent one-G barrel roll while he’s pouring the tea backhand. Now that’s coordination.

One of my favorite things I did in flight training was learning to cross-control the airplane. If you think about it, an airplane’s flight surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator) do their normal jobs with respect not only to the forces of lift, but in relation to the force of gravity. Once the airplane gets past a certain point with respect to gravity (past 45 degrees, that is), the flight surfaces start to behave in weird ways. For example, in normal flight, pulling back on the yoke will cause the elevator on the tail to move up, thereby causing the nose of the plane to rise and the aircraft to gain altitude. So pulling back means going higher. But what if the plane is twisted over on its side? Then pulling back means that the airplane goes into a tight turn with respect to the horizon. This is the origin of the so-called “death spiral” that has caught out many pilots when they’re in limited visibility conditions. It’s one of the reasons that you need special training to fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules-in the clouds, basically).

VFR (visual flight rules) training gives all pilots a little bit of exposure to this type of flying. Enough to be able to recognize problems and extricate ourselves from them. Anyway, back to cross-control. Part of training involves getting the airplane into all sorts of weird orientations and then trying to fly a consistent path. I really liked flying the airplane at slow speeds and torqued over on its side. At that point, you have to use the flight surfaces in a very non-intuitive way- the rudder becomes the elevator and the elevator becomes the rudder. Once you get the feel for it it’s like trying to drive a right-seat car with the stick-shift on the left, with your feet, backwards, while looking through the rearview mirror. Very challenging and fun. Since there’s nothing to hit up there, and since you always do this at altitudes you can recover from in the event of a mistake, it’s a fun exercise.

I want to go flying now.

New DSL Installed!

Filed under: Bandwidth Speed — jasony @ 3:03 pm

After a series of false starts, we finally got our new DSL installed. According to the tech guy who just paid our house a visit, the errors are probably the result of a breakdown in the chain of connections that have to happen between the time we call to order the service and the time it actually happens. There are lots of people between here and there and somebody temporarily bobbled the balls.

Anyway, it’s up and running now. Our download speed is around 2-2.5mbps, which is theoretically slower than the “up to 4mbps!” that Cox was advertising (we normally got around 3mbps at the high end and as low as 128KBPS (yes, that’s right) when it wasn’t working well. Upload with Cox was around 256kbps. With DSL it’s 419.

I’ll keep you posted on how good the service is.

Current Reading

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 1:36 pm

I’ve read every one of Alastair Reynolds’ books. Starting with Chasm City, then his Revelation Space trilogy, and his short story book “Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days”. Reynolds favors large canvas, epic, science fiction with a heavy emphasis on how future technology changes humanity, and the repercussions our society faces with Singularity-type advances. What happens when some people adapt to and adopt advancing technology while others reject it? How do we deal with societal schisms? What does it mean to be human in an increasingly technological landscape? He poses some profound questions as only a member of the generation seeing this type of change first-hand can do.
I have mostly enjoyed his books (the exception being the final book of his “Revelation Space” trilogy- Absolution Gap), but it seems to me that he is getting better and better at plotting and pacing the more he writes. In his most recent book,Century Rain, Reynolds keeps a tangle of plot elements in the air while still telling a very fast-paced story, and wrapping the loose ends up in a satisfying way while still leaving room for future sequels (please!). He weaves a great yarn while staying thematically cohesive. Part noir, part hard-boiled private detective story, part who-dun-it, part race-to-save(one of the) Earth(s), and all set against a future Nano-tech landscape, this is the best book I’ve read this year. How quickly I read a book is often a good indication of how much I like it. I plowed through the 500 pages of this sucker in less than 24 hours. Great read!

Happy Birthday!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:06 am

To my brother Ross. He hits 35 today. Happy birthday, Woth!

Okay, I’m officially Jealous of Patrick

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 11:06 am

We went to DC a few years ago, but we didn’t get to see this.

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