Monday, January 31, 2005

Another vacation adventure

A Florida based company called Zero-G is offering a no gravity experience to the general public. Similar to the "vomit comet" rides which prepared astronauts for space, they use a Boeing 727 flying in a parabolic path to create periods of weightlessness. (The actual Vomit Comet is now on display in Houston) For just under $3000 you get approximately 15 separate one minute episodes of low or zero gravity. Most people get sick on the parabolic flights that alternate weightlessness with periods where you feel almost twice your normal weight. They say the trick is not to move around much (especially your head and eyes) in between floating around.

Paying $3000 to be with other people on a vomit filled plane for 90 minutes doesn't sound like my idea of fun.

If you happen to be in Nepal...

Here is a fun activity for your next trip to Nepal. A group called Sunrise Paragliding has you paraglide with a trained hawk. The hawk is trained to lead you to thermals to provide lift and extend your flight. The company works with the Himalayan Hawk Conservancy. If you're in Nepal, it's probably worth an extra $160 to take a flight.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Jon Udell's blog has some interesting entries on screencasting. Screencasting is sort of on-line journalism that streams a movie to a browser window while an audio track is narrated. It's easier to understand by seeing an example. Udell has a great example that shows how a wikipedia (on-line encyclopedia that relies on public contributions and corrections for content) entry is made and evolves. I could see educational uses for this.

Segway's New Frog

Segway has developed a new concept vehicle called the Centaur. It's a four wheeled, zero emission vehicle that still applies their stabilization technology so you can use it for two-wheeled fun. An interesting idea, but lacking in length of use between charges.

I also found it interesting that Segway uses a kissing frog approach to coming up with new product ideas. I guess that's why the new concept seems more of an evolution than a revolution to me. Perhaps at this stage of growth they want to capitalize on their strengths rather than get too diverse. Nevertheless, this approach to new ideas is in sharp contrast to the innovation approach described by Steve Denning that encourages folks to avoid kissing frogs and instead look for a prince.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Michael K. Powell

The current FCC Chairman, Michael K. Powell, announced his resignation today. I heard a CNN Headline News blurb summarizing his four year tenure. They listed some good and some bad things that happened under his leadership. One of the good things was the start of the Don't Call List to reduce telemarketing calls. Among the bad things was a severe crackdown on "indecency" in broadcasting. CNN mentioned that indecency fines were $48,000/year immediately before Mr. Powell started. Last year they were $7,700,000!

I'm no economist, but I think that's higher than the rate of inflation. Thank you Janet Jackson.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Big Screen

I've seen some really strange movies over the years. An example that comes to mind is John Waters' movie Pink Flamingos. However, a couple nights ago we saw a movie that tops my all time strange movie list. It was called Napoleon Dynamite and was put out through MTV films (that should have been a clue to expect something odd). Dianne borrowed it from a co-worker. I thought the best part of the movie was the opening credits -- very clever. For me the movie went down hill from there. The first half or so was a series of seemingly disjointed scenes that followed an odd collection of nerdy characters. It came together a bit towards the end….sort of. I admit there were some very funny slapstick episodes, but overall the writing, acting, photography, etc. was just too strange for me.

Although we're not big movie goers, we did see a few movies over the holidays. The Incredibles was a cute animated feature from Disney. I didn't think it was a Disney classic, but it had a nice story and was very entertaining. I like biographies and blues, so I enjoyed Ray that emphasized the early life of Ray Charles. Finally, we saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I like Bill Murray and enjoyed this film. It reminded me of watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries as a kid except this was an insiders look at an under-funded Cousteau expedition. I didn't think it was quite as good as Lost in Translation, but a solid film.

Just remember, don't play with dynamite -- especially Napoleon Dynamite!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wireless Printing

We have a wireless network in place that uses the first version of Apple's AirPort. The latest version of their wireless product is the AirPort Extreme. It's a secure network -- password protected. (By the way, it's amazing to see how many folks have wireless networks that aren't password protected -- they're open to anyone. They must have simply plugged in the unit right out of the box and used the default setting of no password. That means anyone can connect and start using their wireless network and internet service. Probably not the best idea.) The wireless network has been great to use with our Apple laptop. It's nice to be able to access the web from anywhere in the house.

While internet access was great, we still had to "sneaker net" or email files to ourselves on the desktop computer in order to print something. Not a big deal, but an inconvenience when placing orders on the web (e.g. getting an intinerary when making travel arrangements). It would be great to be able to print through the wireless connection without having to relax security on the wired network. We also have the problem of being a mixed, Mac and Windows PC household (I recently got the Motion Computing tablet PC).

After doing a little reading on networking, it didn't seem like it should be that hard to set up wireless printing given our simple system. I didn't want to set up a home server (yet). We were looking around Office Depot a few nights ago and saw a product from D-Link that looked like it should fit the bill for our network. (Yes, we were just browsing at Office Depot after dinner at Ando, a very good Japanese restaurant. Dianne loves to look at office supplies. It's cute how excited she can get over something like a stapler/caribiner clip product.) I decided to try the install and configure the unit from our desktop machine. The installation process seemed to go well. All the expected screens were coming up and behaving correctly. All was good until I tried a test print. Nothing! To make a long (3 hour) story short, I wasn't able to get the print server unit to respond. So, back to Office Depot.

Although I thought an Ethernet cabled solution would be easiest to set up, I decided to try a wireless connection to the printer using Apple's new AirPort Express product. This multipurpose unit offers Ethernet, USB, and Audio outputs. Dianne was able to get the Mac side of things working relatively quickly, but I wasn't able to print from the Motion tablet. I followed the manual, looked for help on the web, played with various settings, etc. but wasn't able to print. I was getting discouraged. After all that monkeying around I found out I only needed to look to my lovely bride for help. She looked at the tablet PC for an hour or so and figured it out. The "trick" was to manually disconnect the wireless connection we had established on the tablet and then re-establish the wireless connection after the AirPort Express unit was configured. Apparently rebooting the PC wasn't enough to recognize the new, wireless connection to the printer.

I should have had her look at the D-Link product before I returned it. :^)

Thursday, January 13, 2005


While on vacation , we went to the Honolulu Academy of Art to see a Japanese woodblock print exhibition -- a portion of the woodblock print collection donated to the museum by James Michener. The exhibit was very interesting from several different perspectives.

The exhibit started with a brief summary of the very labor intensive, traditional process used to make paper (washi) in Japan. In a few places washi is still made in the traditional way starting from kozo. Here is a great description of the process. Besides being used in printing, washi is used in many other ways. There are a lot of sites discussing the history of paper making in Japan. Here and here are a couple sites.

The prints had been restored to repair damage done over the years (e.g. water damage) or to fix fading of the colors. The conservators had documented the restoration process and included before and after pictures. Here is Dianne looking at one of the displays. In some cases, there were modern day reproductions of the prints placed side by side with the restored print. Color differences and texture differences were readily apparent. For example, you could sometimes see faint wood grain patterns in areas of the original prints.

Finally, it was interesting to see the story or history captured in the print itself. Each print had a brief description of what was depicted in the scene. It gave a quick glimpse into everyday life in another era. It'd be interesting to look at additional prints and read accounts of life in that region.


Here is a picture of Dianne next to a large Daruma in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping area in Waikiki. It's alleged to be the largest Daruma in the world and I would believe it!

This website has an excellent summary of the history of the Daruma. It's often a good luck figurine used to help complete resolutions or wishes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Gliding in Hawaii

I haven’t been flying much since the Tiger is having it’s annual inspection. I have the annual scheduled for January every year. It can take sometime depending on what needs to be done. Although I don’t mind flying in the winter, it’s more fun when it’s a bit warmer. Might as well do the annual during the coldest part of the winter.
To get my flying fix, I did a couple aviation activities while in Hawaii. To stay current for instrument flight, you need to perform some approaches to landing every 6 months. Generally I do these in the Tiger. In Hawaii, I decided to try a flight simulator. The simulator, controlled by an instructor, is nice in that its easy for the instructor to change flight conditions (e.g. like wind) or cause instrument failures to see how you handle emergencies. I went to Flight School Hawaii to try their Hawk simulator. There’s a picture of the simulator on their website – scroll down a bit to find it. I practiced 4 approaches and a holding pattern. I did very well even with a navigation instrument failure.

The other thing I did was take a glider ride with an instructor. We went to Dillingham Airfield on the North side of Oahu. I went with Soar Hawaii. I went up in a Schweitzer 232 glider. Dianne got a picture while I was getting ready to go. We had a tow to about 4500 feet. That got us above the mountain ridge just south of the field and below the clouds that were about 5000 feet. Initially we spent a few minutes making some turns to get a feel for the controls. It took me a couple turns too know how much rudder to apply in order to stay coordinated in the turn. In short, a good coordinated turn is one where the axis of the plane tracks the turn in a smooth way without slipping or skidding around the curve. You can find more info about coordinated turns here and here.

In a glider, it takes good rudder use to achieve this smooth turn. It also took a few minutes to know where to keep the nose in order to maintain the optimal airspeed.

The next thing we practiced was looking for updrafts along the ridge of mountains. There was a vertical speed indicator in the plane that let you know if you were rising or descending. After going through a few updrafts, I found you can also tell by the sound when you hit a rising column of air. By circling or doing figure 8’s along the ridge, we were able to gain enough altitude to be close to the cloud base. We had to do some tough turning to stay clear of the clouds and yet stay in the updrafts. It was a lot of fun. After about 45 minutes the instructor gave me instructions to set up for a landing. We went out to sea about 3 miles in order to lose enough altitude to set up for landing. When on base, he took over and made the landing. It was a great ride and very interesting.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Profile Photo

I posted a photo in my profile. It's a picture of me in the pit area at the National Championship Air Races in Reno held in 2004. I'm standing in front of VooDoo (plane #5), a modified P-51 Mustang that is one of my favorite planes competing in the unlimited class at the races. You can read more about Team VooDoo at:

2004 was an exciting year for the unlimited gold racers. The plane Rare Bear took the title that had been held by Dago Red for many years. You can read about Rare Bear at:

You can find more information about the Reno Air Races at
There are lots of photos, historical results, and information about the upcoming event.

Fly low, go fast, and turn left.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Video Mining

Did you feel like someone was watching you the last time you went to the mall? Maybe you were being watched.

An increasing number of stores are using "video mining" to follow consumers while shopping. They can analyze body shape to pick out adults versus kids, determine how much time is spent in the store, whether or not any purchases were made, etc. They can also analyze which aisles have high traffic or shopper reaction to displays (e.g. plasma TVs) to help improve merchandising strategy. American Express used a camera hidden in a holiday gift card display this past season. They tracked eye movement and handling of the cards. They looked at the results as a function of display placement relative to competitor gift card displays. Technology has come a long way from the days of Candid Camera!

You can check out one of the leaders in the technology at Another site,, gives some examples of the summary data gleaned from video mining.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year!

Welcome to Earl World. This will be a spot for my ramblings.
I set this up after getting back from Hawaii for the holidays.