Saturday, September 30, 2006

Photo Sudoku

Here is a neat site that lets you create and play an image based sudoku game using photos in the Flickr pool. You can create puzzles based on tags or by user. Solve them by clicking on a picture and then clicking on the square where it belongs. Here is a puzzle created from a hamster tag. Here is a puzzle I created from my Flickr photos. This should take Michelle about a minute to solve.

Friday, September 29, 2006

E-mails from Africa

I just have to share this series of emails from Africa. I’m really lucky I received an email at work today from the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Here is a bit of the email:


Date: 22nd sept 2006

From the records of outstanding contractors due for payment with the Federal Government of Nigeria, your name and company was discovered as next on the list of the outstanding Contractors & Will Recipient that has not yet received their payment. I wish to inform you that your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this important message. We equally discovered that some group of people posing as central bank governor is in contact with you based on this payment as a result of their selfish interest or aim as it will boil down to inability of them doing anything for you based on this circumstance because they are impostors and are working on the official payment data/information’s they cloned from the central bank official payment gazette which made them to contact you. You are hereby advice to stop any further correspondence with them for your security.

You should note that from records in our file, your outstanding contract payment will be paid to you ,Kindly re-confirm the followings details to this office=

1) Your full name.
2) Phone, fax and mobile #.
3) Company name, position and address.
4) Profession, age and marital status.
5) Expecting amount
6) Scan copy of your int'l passport or driving license for the purpose of identification.

As soon as these information’s are received, your payment will be made to you in a certified bank cheque or wired to your nominated bank account by electronic swift transfer directly from Central Bank of Nigeria.

Wow….you can fill in the expecting amount! They don’t even ask for an account number. I guess that must already be in their files. If I hadn’t received that email, I never would have realized that this email I received earlier in the day was a fake.

I hope this mail will not embarrass you since we have not had any previous communication, My name is Mr. Peter Odili,I am the governor of Rivers state in Nigeria. I got your reference from the Nigerian business and proffession promotion council and went further to have it confirmed by your country`s trade department.

I,on behalf of leading council of the Government of Rivers States of Nigeria decided to solicit your assistance as regard to the transfer of theabove stated sum of money into your bank

This fund arose from the state bunkering unit since the Government of the Country does not really compensate our state irrespective of the fact that all the money Nigeria has today is gotten from Rivers State onshore/offshore dichotemy yet we are not well compensated, base on this the council of elders/paramount rulers etc after several delibration resorted that they must be partakers of their God given resources decided to steal this oil and hide them somewhere and sell them to some oil companies in our nearby african countries.

This has been done over and over and the leading council now decided that this funds should be transfered into a foreign account for proper use, it is base on this that I have contacted you, in orderword I am therefore seeking your assistance based on the amount stated above of US$21M
which can be speedily processed and fully be remitted into yournominated bank account.

We will offer you 10% (10 percent) of the total sum for your assistance, 85% will be ours and 5% will be set aside for expenses both parties might make in the course of this transaction.I assure you that this transaction is 100% risk-free,all documents as well as computerized records that
has to do with this fund is in our possession, shall be destroyed immediately after this transaction .We advice you to keep this transaction strictly confidential, we are top Government official and can not afford scandals, you are also adviced to act swifty because we are running out of time.

For security reasons, I gave this letter to a good friend of mine : Dr. Graham Wood, who came to Nigeria on a diplomatic mission, he is back to his base in London, I have ask him to contact you directly and as soon as he gets your reply he will notify me and I will contact you directly, Dr.
Graham Wood is also not happy over the waythe Government is treating this part of the country,I will send you my personal phone and fax numbers as soon as I hear from you,it is important that you include your own phone and fax numbers for easy communication.

I wait in anticipation of your reply.

Here I thought Peter was telling the truth when the email said his offer was 100% risk free. Sheesh! You can’t trust anyone. I hope Peter’s not waiting too long for a reply. And I’m going to get right on sending a copy of my passport to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Is anybody falling for these crazy spam email schemes to get your bank account “informations”!?! I can’t believe people waste their time sending out millions of these emails (and here I am reproducing them).

While those emails are clearly false, what do you think about the email below that I got from a poor kid who lost all his ‘families’ – except for his evil uncle who he now has to live with? What a ‘sadly’ story!! Although he has to beg for food, he’s lucky to have internet access to ask for help. I don’t recall being a business partner in precious metals, but I did see Precious Metal race at Reno. Perhaps when Cana grows up, he could pitch this heart wrenching story to a Hollywood film studio and get his money back.

Good day to you.

I hope this letter meets you well, My name is Cana David, I will be 15 yrs old on October 19, 2006. I come from southern part of Cote D'Voire. A boarding student of Maria Regina college. My father was dealing on precious metals before his death, while my mother was a gospel

I am contacting you in respect of my parent's inheritance been abandoned before their untimely death during the February's political terrorist attack in my father's compound. I was in school taking my exams when I was informed that a bomb attack was made in my parents compound on early hours of that sadly day. It was unfortunate that all my families were inside the house when such attack was made. I can neither go into details for now nor express fully my intimate feelings about this sad event. Uncontrolable tears are filled up my eyes as of this moment that I am writing.

However,since then I have taking refuge under my uncle's house who has wickedly and forcefully taken posessions of all my father's inheritance and belongings without giving me any conesnt nor care. As I am writing to you now, my uncle has sold all my father's belonging leaving nothing with me to take care of myself but he used the funds to send his family to Netherland, while I
dont have anything doing now nor even go back to school. I only feed myself with the little casual jobs and begging I do on the street.

Recently, My father's personal attorney informed me about a document containing US$4.2 million which was discovered in one of my late father's file. This is why I am contacting you now, so that you will assist me in retrieving the aforementioned inheritance before my wicked uncle get hold of it. I do not want my uncle to know about this funds as I strongly believe that
this is how God wants to answer my prayers and turn my tears into joy.

The family attorney informed me that as a child at this age,there is no way he would release the document to me, he suggested two opinions (A) To submit the document to my uncle who now represents my family or (B) To submit the document to any of my father's business partner. At this stage and from my bitter experiences with my uncle,I wouldnt want my uncle to have it.
I have already informed the attorney that you are my father's business confidential partner, and that such document will be sent to you to enable you assist me in retrieving the inheritance funds.

Therefore I will like you to contact the attorney immediately so that he will release the documents to you so that the funds will be transferred via your bank account, and after that, you will assist me in moving out from here to meet with you for the investment of the funds.
Below is the contact of the attorney:

Because of your willingness in offering this assistance, I promised to offer you some commissions, but I will seek for your opinion if you can accept to take 25% of the total funds from the funds as soon as it is wired into your bank account.

Furtherly, I will also give you power to invest the balance in any lucrative business in your
country. You will also be managing the investment until I am out from school. The dividends of the investment will be sharing equally.

If you accept this conditions, kindly write to the attorney for the release of the document to you.

For your information, my wicked uncle knows the password to this mailbox, therefore do not reply to me via this address, send your response to my personal address: and also do update me when you contact the attorney.
God bless you so much for your kindness. until I hear from you, I still remain yours,
Cana David

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Benefit of Exercise?

I had my aviation medical exam today. The exam requires a physician certified by the FAA to identify medical issues related to flying and altitude, so I have to go to someone other than my primary care doctor. It’s a strange office and I’m glad I only have to go once every 2 years. Let me share an observation that is a small illustration of why I feel that way.

While waiting in the reception area, I was reading a homemade flyer prepared by the office. The flyer, posted on the wall, touted the benefits of exercise for prolonging life. After looking at it for a minute, I thought it was a poor motivational tool to promote exercise. In short, the meat of the poster was a table showing how various amounts of exercise per day (30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.) increased your life span. In general, across all amounts of exercise, your lifespan increased by about 66% of the time you invested in exercise. The chart also translated that to an increase in lifespan resulting from a year or 10 years of regular exercise.

I was surprised that information was posted and positioned that way in a doctor’s office. At first glance, I took it as a demotivational tool for exercise. The data showed that the time invested in exercise isn’t giving a great lifespan return. Exercising 30 minutes per day for a year means you use about 7.6 days for exercise that could be used for reading, sleeping, watching roller derby, playing sodoku, or whatever. Doing that amount of exercise for a year only prolongs your life about 5.3 days. So from a time standpoint, I’ve wasted 2.3 days. That’s a few months over the rest of my life. Imagine all the things you could accomplish with a few extra months! And if you cut out the 30 minutes of exercise altogether, that’s about 8 months of ‘extra’ time I’d have over the rest of my life. Wow!

I thought it was odd to look at exercise benefits from a time standpoint alone. I’m really surprised there was no mention about the quality of life benefits of exercise. Although you lose a bit of time, regular exercise should make you feel better over the time you have left and improve the quality of that time by decreasing the risks for diabetes, heart disease, etc. In my mind, that’s the payoff for the time investment in exercise.

I’m just glad I passed my medical exam. Now I'm going to the gym to workout.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Marmaduke Sites

Marmaduke, that zany Great Dane, has been in the papers for over 50 years! You can check out the latest Marmaduke comic here. The Marmaduke run is pretty good since most of the comics aren't that funny. Fortunately, I ran across this site that explains the Marmaduke humor. It's a great site. Also, you can check out the Marmaduke project site that is trying to make the strip funny. Some good laughs at that site too. Apologies to all the Great Dane owners out there.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What to do on a Plane?

While flying, I looked at what people were doing with their time. Quite a few were snoozing. A lot of people were reading paper - either paperback books (very popular), magazines, or newspapers. Close behind paperback books was various sudoku books. That’s the traveler’s puzzle of choice. A few people, like me, were using their laptops. Most of the laptop use wasn’t for entertainment though. Must be the Tuesday business traveler. A lot of people combined one of these activities with some music player like an iPod.

What people weren’t doing was watching the movies –OK, there were a few, but not many. Maybe it was the movie choices (X-Men and Poseidon), but it seems like that would be a potential place to cut cost and save a lot of weight in the plane. The MD-90 I was on had monitors above the seats every couple of rows.

There must be a better way to cater to these activities. Electronic books and news just hasn’t caught fire. If the equipment is good and it is easy to load content, it seems like a good solution for the readers. I’d rather have an electronic device with a variety of books, magazines, and news to reduce what I carry. It seems that would be a greener solution too. But such a device should go further and include a music player and some input device for crossword or sudoku puzzles. You could use it for an individualized movie choice. Sounds like a cross between a Sony reader, an iPod, and a Nintendo DS. Wouldn’t it be cool to fill in entertainment choices when booking your ticket that would be handed to you on a memory card when you check in? Plug it in your device and go. Might as well put my baggage claim checks and boarding pass on there too.

Let’s see, I’d like some easy sudoku, USA Today, Newsweek, the in-flight magazine and Sky Mall along with some guitar blues and classic rock.

Oh, and make sure the devices are shielded so they don’t interfere with navigation. I don’t want some goofball trying to finish his sudoku puzzle to put us below the approach path so we crash short of the runway.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ice Cream is Verbotten

I’m no expert on explosives. However, I learned today that a child’s enzymes can convert ice cream into an explosive mixture that can take down a plane. Either that or the TSA classifies ice cream as a liquid, gel or aerosol.

A little kid was about a third of the way done with an ice cream cone purchased on the concourse and the family was going to board their flight. They were called to board. The TSA agent wouldn’t let the ice cream on the plane. Wow! Wouldn’t a kid get sick if he were eating ice cream with explosives in it? The kid was bawling when they threw out the ice cream to board. I’m glad I wasn’t on that flight!

Thanks, George. I feel much safer flying without kids with ice cream.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Area069Today I drove west of Reno to Truckee and then south to see Lake Tahoe. It was pretty warm in Reno, about 83. Around Lake Tahoe it was a comfortable 72 and in the mountains driving back to Reno it cooled to 63. The highest point was about 8000ft. It is a beautiful area. There are a lot of evergreen trees - a mix of fir, pine and cedar. Every time I got out of the car, there was a lovely pine scent in the air. But judging from the road signs, I think the winters would be tough. There were quite a few places where the road was marked to pull off and install tire chains, and the reflecting posts marking the edge of the road that are usually about 4ft. high are about 12ft. high on the road over the mountains from Tahoe to Reno. That, and the bear crossing signs, made me wonder. Click here to see the entire set of photos that I took around the Lake Tahoe area.

Reno Air Races -- Day 5

Click here for the Flickr set of photos I took at the last day of racing in Reno for 2006. I added short descriptions. Here are a couple pictures from the set.

The start of the T6 race.
Reno day 5004

Corsair and Mustang battle in the unlimited bronze race.
Reno day 5046

John Travolta did a flyby in his own Boeing 707.
Reno day 5063

The Big Boss Man on the tail of Ol' Yeller in the unlimited silver race.
Reno day 5081

Mike Brown won the unlimited gold race in his plane September Fury. The last lap was just over 492 mph.

Reno day 5116

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reno Air Races -- Day 4

Here are a few photos. See these and more from the day by clicking here. Most of the photos have some comment.

Reno Day 4124

Reno Day 4111

Reno Day 4054

Reno Day 4044

Saturday Dinner -- Dick Rutan

When I visited the National Air and Space Museum in July and saw the Voyager aircraft that made the first flight around the world without refueling, I never thought I’d shake the hand of one of its pilots a couple months later. The keynote speaker at the Saturday night dinner at the Checkered Flag Club was Dick Rutan.

Reno Day 4162_DickRutanDesigned by his brother Burt specifically for a non-stop, round the world flight without refueling, Dick led and did the construction of the Voyager and was one of the pilots that tested it and flew it around the world in 1986. Read more about Dick here. He received the Collier Trophy and is an enshrinee in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He is one of the best motivational speakers I’ve ever heard. He described the Voyager project in a broader context of dreams, goals, and an innovative, creative spirit. Dick Rutan is very patriotic and speaks his mind about the military and the future of aviation and space. His mix of humor and genuine sharing of emotions makes for a powerful, inspiring speech. This clearly is the highlight of the trip for me.

If you ever have a chance to hear Dick’s story or talk with him, don’t pass it up!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Reno Air Races -- Day 3

It was cold today in the Reno area for the National Championship Air Races. Only in the upper 50’s, it was 30 degrees cooler than Wednesday! On top of that, the wind was about 20 with gusts near 30 mph. That wind not only made it chilly for the crowd, but also difficult for the pilots. Very early in the day there was one biplane race. As the planes were returning to land after the race, it was obvious from the angle of their approach that there was a strong crosswind. The racers are experienced pilots. These pilots were working hard to land and two of them went around for a second attempt. They cancelled the rest of the biplane races for the day. Check out photos of the day here.

Reno 06 Day 3093The speaker at the checkered flag club lunch was R.A. (Bob) Hoover. He made some introductory remarks for 2 minutes and then he asked for questions. That was nice. We heard him talk about his WWII fighter pilot days and how he was shot down. He talked about the X-1 project - how he got bumped to #2, his respect for Chuck Yeager, and his experience flying the chase plane the day they broke the sound barrier. Bob smiled when he said he knew Chuck did it when the X-1 passed him like he was standing still. He shared other memories from his test pilot and air show days for almost an hour. Afterwards he stayed for a bit and I was able to get his autograph. Read more about Bob here and here.

Despite the wind, Ken Pietsch landed his little plane on a RV going 60 mph over less than a mile of runway. Pretty good feat even on a calm day. There are a few shots of his approach and landing in today’s Flickr pool. Scroll to see the sequence.

Reno 06 Day 3222The full US Air Force Thunderbird team gave a nice show. There are a couple photos starting here. One of their nicest maneuvers is when 4 planes fly slow in the landing configuration and then they split the formation so a 5th plane can fly between them at a high speed. See photos here and here to see the fifth plane fly through the formation.

They are having Heritage flights throughout the races that are formations of old and new warbirds. Today they had a Navy formation with planes from the Grumman F4F Wildcat to the F18. See photos here and here.

The unlimited bronze race was exciting with Precious Metal passing multiple planes, including the Big Boss Man, to win. Here is a photo just after passing. The green wings of the P-51 Precious Metal are easy to see. The announcers mentioned Ron told them the team had fixed something that he thought would give a lot more power. He was right.

Voodoo was supposed to be in the final unlimited gold race of the day. However, Voodoo just barely got off the runway when Button pulled the power and landed. I guess something didn’t look right. Hopefully they’ll be back in the silver race tomorrow. Mike Brown won the gold race easily in September Fury, a Sea Fury. He was going about 450 mph. The big battle for fifth and sixth place was between Riff Raff and the Spirit of Texas. They were neck and neck at the finish as Riff Raff went low to gain speed. It wasn’t quite enough, but he was only a few feet behind.

This sign in Rare Bear’s pit area says it all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rollergirls Photos

Just like he did for the first event, Jason Bechtel has posted photos from the most recent Super Roll Sunday event of the Cincinnati Rollergirls. He has some great action shots that are impressive considering the lighting. Click here for photos from the first match and here for the second.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reno Air Races -- Day 2

Reno 06 Day2245 The first thing I did this morning before it got too crowded was go to the Heritage Trophy area to see the restored planes competing for the Peoples Choice award. There were a lot of beautiful planes you can see in my Flickr photos of day 2. My favorite was the restored P-40 shown here and here. They had a photo album and scrapbook describing the restoration. Considering the rusted shell they started with, they did an amazing job!

The US Air Force Thunderbirds did some fly-bys to become familiar with the area for their performances the next 3 days.

Word is that both Dago Red and Rare Bear are out of the unlimited races due to engine problems. Thought to be the top 2 competitors, this opens things up in the gold racing.

Gene Soucy and his wing walker wife Theresa Stokes gave a great performance. You can see their pictures here and here. She doesn’t just strap in and ride along. Theresa actually walks on the lower wing and climbs to the upper wing in flight. She only uses a waistband safety wire when they go upside down. Otherwise, she is just hanging on and moving around. You can see her hanging sideways here. I wonder if Dianne would do that with Tony?

Finally, in racing, I got to see my favorite bronze unlimited racer fly today. The Big Boss Man is a Grumman F7F Tigercat (more info here and here) shown here yesterday in the pit area. It is like a grandfather to my Grumman AA5B Tiger. Hearing that twin engine plane screaming past at close to 400 mph really is something. The photo above shows the Big Boss Man going past the home pylon. My best photo of the day. Mike Brown must love flying that plane around the course.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reno Air Races -- Day 1

Reno 13 Sep06087 It was the first day of the National Championship Air Races in Reno (Stead field). You can check out some photos here. This year I am fortunate to be a first time Checkered Flag Club member. They have a great set-up with many conveniences including a great parking area, a hangar to relax and cool off, leave items, eat, and get liquids to stay hydrated in the dry desert heat. I also had a brush with greatness today as I met Paul Poberezny at the club hangar.

There was a lot of activity in the pits today with crews making repairs or final tweaks before qualifying. My favorite plane in the unlimited class, Voodoo race 5, had the cowling off all day. The crew looked awfully busy with the ‘new’ engine. They did qualify at 435 mph. That should be good enough for the gold group.

The big excitement of the day was Rare Bear’s qualifying run. Rare Bear race 77, a modified, WWII era Grumman F8 Bearcat, has won the unlimited gold class many times and has won the last two years. Today, on the second of the two qualifying laps, Ron opened her up and was going all out. Just after making the last turn on the way to the finish line at the home pylon, we all heard two loud, rapid pops from the engine. After crossing the finish, smoke started coming out and you could tell oil was getting into the exhaust. He pulled up to convert the speed into altitude and pulled back on the throttle. That gave enough of a safety margin that he was able to land on the emergency runway. The plane was smoking the whole way. He shut it down rapidly and got towed from the runway back to the pits. Here is a picture of Rare Bear I took early in the day in the pit area. Note the gold stripe on the side of the fuselage. Here is a picture of Rare Rear being towed to the pit after blowing 2 cylinders. A lot of oil on the side covering the stripe! It’s fortunate Ron landed safely and was able to qualify. However, the crew will have a lot of work to do to get back in it.

Also, I heard that one of Rare Bear’s best competitors, Dago Red, was having engine difficulties that caused them problems with qualifying. I saw them doing an extended ground run of the engine early this morning, but they didn’t fly.

I also enjoy watching the T6 class racers. They aren’t as fast as the unlimiteds – only about half the speed. However, the planes are fairly similar so the pilot’s skill has a lot to do with success. Because they are closely matched, there can be some tight races. This picture shows how crowded the start of a race can be. Even after several laps, some of the planes are very close to each other. It’s exciting to watch!

Bad News for Rare Bear

On the last lap of a time trial, heard 2 pops from Rare Bear's engine after the last turn. Lots of smoke but a safe emergency landing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Thought I had Everything

I packed heavy for this trip - even more than usual. The weather forecast for this weekend in Reno is cool. After sitting through snow flurries for the final race a couple years ago, I packed some cold weather items for this trip. However, tomorrow is supposed to be over 90, so I also have shorts and sandals. I also brought a wind jacket which is good since Thursday they are predicting 20-30 mph winds gusting to 40! I wonder how much racing there will be if it is that windy. In any case, I packed for everything. I have it all.

Dianne took me to the airport this morning. We were nearly there when she asked if I packed the binoculars. Crap! That's the one thing I forgot. So I stopped at REI in Reno to get a pair. Don't want to miss any action on the back side of the course.

Super Roll Sunday II

On Sunday, Dianne and I went to see the Cincinnati Rollergirls’ SRS II (Super Roll Sunday) with Carla and her parents. We had a good time.

Overall, I thought the skaters showed noticeable improvement since the first event. Individually there was a lot of improvement and collectively there was more teamwork evident during the jams. The pace of the action has picked up and the skaters seemed more steady even with an increased amount of jostling and blocking. The pack skaters were making much more of an effort to help their jammers with whips and pushes as well as screening blocks. That made it a lot of fun to watch. There were some hard falls, but it didn’t seem there were as many casualties as at the first event. However, Junk n Trunk took a bad fall and had to be carried off the floor. It looked like the track boundary was a ridge taped to the floor that threw a couple people off balance. I didn’t notice that in Loveland; it seemed like a flat tape boundary there.

The first pairing between the Full Metal Corsets and the Riots was a blow out with the Corsets winning handily. Unfortunate since I was pulling for the Riots. I’m not sure why the Riots had such a hard time since a couple of their jammers (Miss Print and Gummilove ) skated with success in the second match of the day. By the way, you can read Miss Print's take on the match here. One reason the Corsets did well was their blocking. I think it was Collier Mama that was so good at blocking she stalled a couple of the Riot jammers. Incidentally, she has a nice post here and she should be proud. One of the craziest blocks of the match was a block on Bola del Fuego (I think) that pushed her outside when she was going fast on the turn. She went out of bounds, hit the bar on the emergency exit and popped the door open!

The second match between the Bloody Sundaes and the Dames of Destruction was very good. I was cheering for the Dames (by the way, their new logo at left is a huge improvement). They were all tied up at the half. However, in the second half a great effort by Sk8 Crime in one jam and Sadistic Sadie in another put the Dames way ahead. A final jam by Miss Print was icing on the cake for the Dames. The skating in this pairing was fast overall. Both Pantera and Sadistic Sadie did an especially good job zipping around the track and weaving through the pack without losing their momentum.

The event itself seemed better organized and I really appreciated the scoreboard changes. My one wish would be to have the refs show the whiteboard with the jam results to fans as well as the teams and the score table. The sound systems aren’t great and when the emcee talks too quickly, it’s hard to understand.

It was too bad the seats weren’t packed like the first event. The first Bengal game and a Reds home game with them looking for a wildcard spot probably didn’t help. You have a couple more chances to catch the Rollergirls this fall. Don't miss it! Check out their site for ticket info.

PS Sorry for the long post. That’s what you get when I have a 3 hour layover in Salt Lake City.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lunch at Sky Galley

Saturday, after getting a haircut, I picked up Dianne and we took a short flight down to Lunken Field for lunch at the Sky Galley restaurant. It was a beautiful sunny day with very little wind and just a few puffy clouds. Because of the light wind, it was a bit hazy. That's the price you pay for a smooth flight. On the way down, we caught up and passed over a high wing, taildragger that was towing a banner along I-275. It was picturesque to see the plane and banner appear to hang in the sky as we passed overhead.

For being such a nice day, Lunken airport wasn't very busy and we breezed right in. A trip to the Sky Galley is nice in that you can taxi right up to the place in the old terminal building (find out more about Lunken airport history here). It isn't a fancy place, but the food is good and you have a great view of the field to watch the planes come and go. You also have the option of sitting on the patio.

It's the first time I've had a passenger since having the new audio control/stereo intercom system installed in the plane. The new unit is a huge improvement over the old intercom. It has two music inputs (one for the pilot and one for passengers) so you can connect an iPod, CD player, satellite radio, etc. into the intercom. The pilot's music fades and disappears when the intercom or radio are active. Pretty sweet.

We had a great view of the downtown Cincinnati skyline when departing Lunken. We flew straight back to Blue Ash. With the afternoon heating, it started to get a little bumpy and I didn't want Dianne to lose her nice lunch. By the way, there is a nice synopsis of Blue Ash airport history here.

Beta Version of Writely

Writely is a new, web based word processing app being developed by the folks at Google. It's a beta version right now. Let me say it again, I know it's beta. I've used Writely for my last dozen or so posts. Here are my impressions.

The reason Writely is of interest to me is that I like to take notes on potential blog posts, let them simmer, and edit them before posting. You're probably thinking how can that be. I also use a few different computers. Having documents available on the web lets me work on them at work and at home without having to carry them around on a USB drive. Another interesting Writely feature is the ability to take a document and publish it directly to your blog. You set up the login one time and then it posts without having to log in and publish.

I've only scratched the surface, but there are some quirks with the beta version. First, when adding hyperlinks, Writely adds a space after the highlighted text (if there is punctuation after the highlighted item it's 100% and other times occasionally). That's annoying. Second, if you paste formatted text into Writely, it's not always to possible to reformat it (e.g. to un-bold text). That's annoying. Third, if you copy from Writely into a Blogger post you're creating manually, you don't always get what you copied and it's hard to reformat the text. I found that very difficult when using a bulleted list. Fourth, the connection to blog publishing isn't solid right now. I thought going from Writely to Blogger, both under the Google umbrella, would be seamless. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The Writely blog post preview looks good, but when I publish to my blog the title is missing. So if you use this, you still have to log in to Blogger and edit the post to add a title. And heaven forbid you try to edit a post in Writely and republish. For one post in particular, I had so many problems with the edit/reposting that I ended up logging in to Blogger to delete the post to fix my blog. That status didn't get updated in Writely, so you couldn't republish again. Argh! Back to the manual posting procedure.

Bottom line, the concept is intriguing and the possiblities useful. However, the beta version is far from ready for primetime. It's good for working on text, but don't count on all the formatting and publishing options. I'd be curious to hear how the collaboration feature has worked -- leave a comment if you've tried it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Various Gadgets

Here is an eclectic collection of gadgets I've run across in the last week. Maybe this will give you some ideas for your own Christmas list.

Stuck in traffic? Time to buy a new BMW.

Can't afford that? An alternative is the latest nuvi from Garmin -- the nuvi 660. Pretty nice features including hands free cellphone use, navigation, traffic receiver, FM transmitter, etc.

Did your Tamagotchi end up in the toilet? Get an ant farm -- see the picture at left.

Bored while on the go? Get a Sony LocationFree box and watch live TV or DVR'd items on your computer or PSP.

Need a new monitor? Here is a neat LCD monitor/tablet for your PC or Mac. Wouldn't that be a great addition to a Mac mini?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Get Tickets Now for SRS II

Thanks to the Foo Logs for pointing me to this site to generate the pseudo ticket.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Geeky Web Comic

Thanks to Boing Boing, I found this site, xkcd, with some of the most geeky comics I've read in a long time. Some of them are really funny. I like the stick figure drawings -- something I can easily relate to.

All the Unix users out there will love this comic.
The chemists in the crowd will appreciate this Snapple comic.
The gun owners will like this one on laser scopes.
James Bond fans and physicists will like this one.
Scientists and especially astrophysics types will like this comic.
Quite a few Firefox users come here. You'll appreciate this comic.
I liked substitute teacher days since you knew things would be easy that day. Not like this substitute math teacher.
And sudoku players will like this comic.
And here is a fractal view of the Blogosphere -- I like the comments(0):


I'll admit I enjoyed the first Rocky movie...although I was 15 at the time. The hype, the music (who didn't like Maynard Ferguson's Gonna Fly Now?), the story, it all came together. After all, it did win best picture in 1977 (and best director and film editing) and was nominated for many more oscars. I even hung in there through Rocky III in 1982. Of course the big reason was it also starred Mr. T and Hulk Hogan! But when Mickey died, that was the end for me. Rocky used the emotion from Mickey's death to overcome Clubber Lang in the second fight.

I never would have thought we'd see Rocky V in 1990. Now, 16 years later with a 60 year old Stallone, we get Rocky VI! Check out the official Rocky Balboa blog for the upcoming movie. I see that Adrian dies and Rocky hits bottom while training for his "last" fight. I guess Stallone figures we forgot the plot of Rocky III.

I also saw in IMDB that Rambo IV is coming out next year. Wow! He's probably pitching Judge Dredd II to movie execs right now.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dunbar's Number

Dianne and I have both mentioned our use of the MyBlogLog site recently. The site has some nice tracking tools, but also a social networking aspect. You have the option of enrolling in communities that are associated with a particular blog. There isn't any commitment per se associated with enrollment. It does serve a few purposes: it conveys interest to the blog writer (it's nice to know people are reading); it allows networking by giving the option to establish a fan/friend/admirer relationship with the blog writer; helps you find other MyBlogLog members with similar interests in the blogs you're reading regularly; and the site organizes your communities so it's easy to surf blogs of interest (perhaps not as efficient as a news aggregator).

It's the networking piece that is intriguing -- especially after reading this entry about the monkeysphere on the How to Split an Atom (HTSAA) blog. I wasn't aware of that term or the concept of Dunbar's number. There is a good Wikipedia article about Dunbar's number. There is a funny read about the Monkeysphere here. In short, Dunbar's theory is that there are a limited number of relationships that humans can maintain at one time. A rough estimate of the group size is 150. It seems like a reasonable idea and something that would have work/office implications. The interesting idea brought out in the HTSAA blog entry is how does the Dunbar idea apply to the blogosphere or social networking sites. When you're at a social networking site, how many 'relationships' can you maintain? Or how many can you maintain on top of your other family, friends, and coworker relationships? What implications does that have for social networking sites? All very interesting questions.

I haven't jumped on the Myspace bandwagon. I guess I'm not in the right demographic for Myspace. Most of the sites I've seen there have a 'friends' list and on many blogs the number of friends well exceeds Dunbar's number. Are these folks able to maintain relationships with all these MySpace friends? I somehow doubt it. However, perhaps blog communications are a different level of 'social grooming' that lets people support a larger monkeysphere.

Personally, my ability to maintain a social network is pretty small. I don't know if I could even keep up with 150 people. If Dunbar's concept is true, my neocortex must the size of a pea.

New Altitude Record for a Glider

A new altitude record for a glider was set a couple days ago by Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldsen. Flying over the Andes mountains in Argentina, the pair made it to an altitude of 50,671 feet in an unpressurized glider called Perlan. They were towed to 13,000 feet and it took about 4 1/2 hours to find currents to achieve the new altitude record. That's above the altitudes for typical commercial airline traffic. I liked Steve's comment, "I couldn’t understand the Chilean controller describing us in Spanish to the airline pilot - but I understood the answer by the pilot: 'Wow'."

They have made several attempts at different locations around the world. You can find out more details and see photos at the Perlan Project web site.

Importance of Quality From Start to Finish

I was looking around the FDA site today for some information and ran across some items regarding product recalls due to quality issues (as opposed to safety and efficacy issues you’d see in the clinic). I found the CDER Report to the Nation 2005 – Improving Public Health Through Drugs that had some surprising information.

It takes a lot to make the drug chemical entity, get it into a formulation (tablet, capsule, liquid, etc.), and package it to get to the consumer. There are lots of scientists and engineers involved in getting raw materials, manufacturing a drug and then the formulation, testing along the way, and packaging. It takes a lot of effort to convince the FDA a process is in control and functioning properly to make the desired product. That’s expensive! It’s hard work to get a quality product out the door that is safe, stable, and working as advertised. With all the high powered science required, it’s not surprising that something unexpected might go wrong and as a result a product will have to be recalled.

What was surprising is that 3 of the top 10 reasons products were recalled in 2005 involved rather silly mistakes and not failures in what I would consider the science associated with manufacturing. They were:

  • Label error on declared strength
  • Promotional literature with unbranded claims
  • Correctly labeled product in incorrect carton or package

These mix-ups in labeling, packaging, or including the wrong literature must have cost a huge amount of money – even though the product itself was made correctly and of good quality. They didn’t give a percentage associated with these reasons in the recall section, but another chart in the report cited labeling issues in 14% of findings. Correcting these simple mistakes would have a big impact on the manufacturing cost for a product.

Word of the Day

My new vocabulary phrase of the day is ‘Google bombing’ and the word for the day is spamdexing.

I was poking around some random blogs and saw a post about doing a Google search for ‘failure’ or ‘miserable failure’. They had a screen shot of the results. Although I understood the top hit shown on the search results, I was nevertheless surprised. Given my skeptical nature, I didn’t believe it so I went to Google to try it for myself. Try it at Google or click here to see the results. Pretty hilarious and it makes perfect sense given his approval ratings over the last few months.

Google has now added an explanation up front that led me to the Wikipedia entry for Google bombing. In short, it’s a way to raise the ranking of a search result as a joke or for “political intentions.” In real life or in cyberspace, someone is always looking at ways to exploit a system.