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User Journal

Journal Journal: Technology in Legislature

Where are the Technocrats in Legislature?

Here we are, with legislatures asking for a "smart grid" and nobody knows how to build it in such a way that it will be secure. We want "green" energy. But nobody's willing to put up with hydro-electric dams, wind-farms, or even the transmission lines to places where such things can be built.

The explanation is above. Don't blame those people with liberal arts educations, you're just as much at fault as they are!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Technocrat

Those who are interested in intellectually stimulating discussions might take a look at Bruce Peren's Forum web site, The crowd is less juvinile and the editors are a bit more interesting.

We're not without our biases and beliefs, but we are very interested in what others have to say and how they think.

Try it out for a while, but leave the slashdot culture behind. We for one, do not care to see insipid nonsense posted over and over and over...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Quotes of Robert E. Lee 4

He was one of the most reviled and adored characters of the American Civil War. Yet his quotes show a very different man. Check them out.

Some of the ones I like best: "So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained."

I didn't know he felt that way about slavery.

Here's another: "It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it."

And another: "[W]e made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers".

It seems little has changed in this regard...

User Journal

Journal Journal: ADIZ training comments

The FAA tried to make the Air Defense Interrogation Zone (ADIZ) around DC and Baltimore permenant. They posted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and over 20,000 comments came flooding back --and I doubt even one of them had anything good to say about the present state of affairs. So they must have tabled the effort. It's still a NOTAM.

Now, upset that anyone can penetrate the airspace with little warning, they want pilots within a 100 mile radius to take special training so that they can fly in and around the ADIZ. The traning is required if they transit anywhere through this 100 nautical mile radius from Washington DC.

I don't get it. More than 20,000 people commented on the ADIZ saying basically that it's ineffective, it is a lot of extra work, and that nobody thinks it's a good thing. Now they want to make sure that we know this by insisting that we all take training courses on it.

Can't the FAA admit this was a dumb idea and try something that works. Keep in mind that the only person convicted of genuine 9/11 style behavior was discovered by some flight instructors talking amongst each other. Why not encourage pilots to socialize so that airports become home towns where people know each other and look out for each other, instead of anonymous places where someone can get away with almost anything?

Oh, that would look too easy. We need bureaucracy and program managers to work on big ineffective projects so that it looks like we're doing something. Sheesh. Your tax dollars at work...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Musical Chairs

So our IT folks have been fired. Basically, the top managers hired a recruiting firm and told them to bring in lots of applicants from the outside. Then these folks competed for the same jobs as those that had been there for years.

Don't get me wrong, our IT division had some very incompetent people who should have left years earlier. But playing a game of musical chairs is no way to get rid of them when perfectly reasonable tools exist in the personnel handbook for firing those who can't produce.

Meanwhile the incompetence of upper management is showing up like a sore thumb. We have a microwave network which not only carries our telemetry, radio traffic, county police and fire radio traffic, internal security, and OH YES, our IT traffic (it was actually a tertiary reason why we went to private microwave in the first place). Our new boss says MPLS is the answer. But the question is who will maintain the existing network? He doesn't have an answer. He has no transition plan. He is about to "let go" some of the most hard working and productive staff the company has.

If this is the culture of modern management then it is time to be scared. These folks are a like a bull in a china shop. It may not have been a well managed china shop, but now we know for sure that nothing good will ever come of it again.

Our new IT division manager had better watch his step. There are loads of employees who wish nothing but ill will upon him --and some of them have nothing left to lose...

User Journal

Journal Journal: The much maligned practice of IT

I have a long history of very caustic commentary on the ineptness of our IT division. We seem to have a problem hiring and retaining good employees. So you can imagine my relief a few years ago when the entire IT maangement was put to pasture with an early buy-out offer to retire.

I thought that now they have a chance to get better. Sadly, things got worse.
The new managers they found were impressively dilbertian.

There are good people in our IT division. They have learned to keep a low profile. Anyone who advertises their talents gets flooded with all sorts of ridiculous work.

In our company, as in many companies, the IT division is a sort of fun-house reflection of how the rest of the company is doing. And in this case, it isn't just the IT managers who are hopeless, it's the customers. Yes, we have people who want to go data mining through the company archives so that they can do their jobs.

Instead of data mining, why not collect that data as it is created in the first place? This is routine stuff: customer records, pipeline sizes and locations, valve locations, and so forth. These are folks who simply can not wrap their minds around what is really going on in the field. Instead, they go minining through data they do not understand, for purposes that they read about in some trade rag. And then they sit and wonder why IT can't pull a rabbit out of a hat and make things happen the way the magazine article said.

Gosh, these folks wouldn't know a rabbit from a weasel, skunk, or armadillo. IT could pull just about anything from the hat, and they'd be no wiser.

It's just plain sad. Too many do not know the data flows in thier groups. All this out of the box thinking has left them with no idea of what the box was, what it has in it, or where to find it. Douglas Rushkoff had our company pegged.

And in the midst of all this, we still can't hire people with any common sense. Our IT leaders have secured our desktops so much that we can't even change the wallpaper, or (as I like to do) use no wallpaper. We're all stuck on the same wallpaper. Wasn't this supposed to be the era of personal computing?

So what does our executive management do? Instead of getting down and dirty with the details to find out what's happening, they fire the entire IT staff and told them that they could re-apply for their jobs. Of course, these managers do not know what this technology is, let along how it works. So they're using a recruiting firm to help them write new job descriptions, and do the interviews.

I couldn't make this up. And in the middle of all this, they think they've done something good. Hmm. Anyone who is still around after all this is likely to be so demoralized that they'll be useless even if they do know their jobs well. And our division manager goes around asking dumb questions such as whether the "wireless" licensed T3 Microwave radio has enough volts to support Power over Ethernet over a link.

I don't envy those folks in IT. They're getting it from all sides. If I were in their shoes I might be just shy of homicidal right now...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Requiem for Wally the Fat Cat 1

For the last nine years, my wife and I have cared for a wonderful orange tabby cat we formally named Walter, but whom we affectionatly called "Wally the Fat Cat". He was. This cat was always on a diet.

Unlike so many housecats, this one actually sought you out to greet you. He was even nice to total strangers. He discovered us at the Fredrick Maryland animal shelter. I mean that most sincerely. He hopped up on my shoulders as if we were old friends and he was so pleased to meet me. The shelter estimated his age between three and five years old.

We soon discovered that he had once been someone else's pet. He clearly knew what a can opener sounded like.

We brought him home with us to our farm. As time went on, each of our three children introduced themselves to him. He was patient. He was understanding. He never got angry with our kids suddenly --despite understandably ignorant treatment from them which should have upset him quite a bit. Wally would escalate slowly. When she was two, my daughter Abby pulled his fur. We warned Abby. Wally was patient. She wouldn't leave him alone. He growled at her. We moved her. She returned and pulled his fur again. Wally hissed at her. Again, I moved her and scolded her this time. Abby still didn't understand. She returned a third time and blocked Wally in a corner. Wally, with little else to do, swatted her on each cheek of her face. Abby was surprised and cried. I scolded Abby, not Wally. Wally had been more than tolerant. It wasn't just this incident, this is simply how he was to all of our children as they began exploring the world around them.

Wally wasn't much of a mouser, he preferred to catch rabbits outside. But he did his duty where it counted. Once a bat strayed in to the house and Wally caught it with a well timed mid air leap. Thanks Wally. It would have been hard to shepherd that bat back outside...

Wally was cuddly. His fur was nice to pet, and he made sure we knew that. He'd spend loads of time in our laps while we relaxed in the sun room, watched TV, or nursed our kids.

I miss him. My six year old son is heartbroken. Wally, despite his diet, got feline diabetes and became anemic. He was losing weight. He wasn't moving around much. Toward the end, he wouldn't even eat all of his food (very unusual for him).

It was hard. My Wife and I had to have him put down. We buried him near a tree where he often lurked. RIP Wally...

United States

Journal Journal: Restore these Redacted comments 1

Apparently, if the Feds don't like what you have to say in your regulatory comments, they can redact your comments from public files. In the land of the First Amendment, this comes as a big shock to me.

The story is on Aero-news and on Mr. Bush's comments merely pointed out what many pilots have known for years: The So called Air Defense Zone around DC and Baltimore is a waste of resources and can be easily circumvented by anyone with determination. Unfortunately, NORAD didn't like the fact that Bush also happens to fly F-18s for Uncle Sam. Despite the fact that his comments didn't say anything that wasn't already well known, despite the fact that his was only one of some 20,000 comments, and despite the fact that ADIZ is a farce and I (among many others) have also pointed out why this is so. His comments are being redacted.

Does anyone know how I might go about finding a cached copy of these comments somewhere? They were here and here.

I'd like to repost them as far and as wide as possible to annoy as many NORAD poohbahs as possible. Anyone who thinks that the general public is that stupid deserves to be taught a lesson good and hard.

User Journal

Journal Journal: My flight South and Back 2

I decided to attend Distributech in Tampa this year. Rather than go commercial, I figured it was a good stretch for my newly renewed instrument flight skills. So I piloted my way down there.

First, I got a late start. Airplane needed refueling, and preheating. BRRRRRRR. I get off the ground and, wow, it's a blustery Pooh Day in the air. For a while things got so bad that I had to request a block altitude clearance because I couldn't hold my altitude within the required +/- 300 feet without running the airspeed in to the Yellow arc of the air speed indicator. The updrafts and downdrafts were pretty impressive.

Finally, I staggered up to 8000' and things smoothed out considerably once I got south of Richmond VA. Life was good. I landed at Smithfield County (JAX) right under the Seymore Johnson Military Operations Area. The folks there were very nice, accomodating, and helpful. I checked the weather, and filed for Brunswick GA. There was light rain on the radar from Florence NC to just south of Charleston SC. I flew in the middle of it and it felt just like being in the proverbial ping-pong ball. Later that evening I popped out in between layers of clouds and continued on course toward SSI.

I got to SSI just a few minutes before closing. I had just enough time to refuel, file a new flight plan and go. I'd been flying in stiff headwinds the whole day. The trip which should have taken me only 7 hours of flight time from Maryland was in it's sixth hour and I was still nowhere near Tampa.

The weather was clear, but the hour was getting later and later. I finally landed at Peter O Knight airport in Tampa after nearly 9.5 hours of flight time. I had only meant to make one stop on my initial plans, but instead I found that I needed to make two. Some stuff is just too sad for words.

The Conference was informative. They liked the paper I gave. I tried to get away on Thursday just before lunch. But my luck fell on the floor and shattered once again. The Valet had misplaced our car, keys, and our ticket. An hour and a half later, we finally had our car. Some service. After a late lunch, we packed the airplane and made our way toward Florence SC.

But we ran in to still more headwinds. Four hours in to my flight I looked at the time and the fuel gauges and decided that while Flornce was still only 60 nm away, I just didn't feel like landing on fumes in the dark of night. So I turned toward Charleston SC.

Word to the wise: If you're ever offered a stay at the Raddison in Charleston, just say no. Pay the extra and go somewhere else. The place smelled like cleaning solvents, the car perfume stink trees, and something gross that I just couldn't identify. The restaurant was so disorganized that we were in hysterics with all the excuses and silliness.

Finally, the next morning, I get in to the airplane, take off and promptly the audio system craps out. I can't hear anything through my headphones other than the intercom. It's the same damned problem we thought we'd fixed last month. I transmitted in the blind, knowing that the transmitters probably still worked, and advised the tower that we were operating without a working receiver.

Just then the radios came back to life and we heard the tower suggest that we could return to Charleston to fix the radios there. I did just that. Two hours and $151 dollars later, we had almost nothing to show for our effort. The radios wouldn't break.

So I took off, in the afternoon and hoped that finally we'd see some tail winds. We did. Everyone in the Air Traffic Control Center was extremely helpful except for the folks in Patuxent Naval Air Station's airspace. Patuxent sent me way out to the eastern shore of Maryland toward GRACO intersection before handing me back to Potomac Approach so I could cross the Chesapeake again back towards Fort Meade. A wasn't amused. As far as I could see, my filed flight plan from COLIN to GEEMO should have been perfectly acceptable to them.

In all, my trip took many more hours than I thought it would. If I do this again, I think I'll fly a faster airplane.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A precautionary landing 5

A neighbor and I have an informal arrangement where we go flying every week for those proverbial $100 burger runs. We alternate airplanes. Last week it was his turn to be the pilot in command.

We flew out, had dinner, and then made our way back to his airplane for the flight home. Our flight plan was filed, we picked up the clearance and after a brief hold on the ground we went barreling down the runway. We climbed through 800' and then, just as we were about to change to the local approach, someone called us on Unicom and asked us to come back to the airport. "Keep it close to the runway" they said...

So we did just that. We landed, and then taxied back to the hanger where we'd been parked. The folks there told us they'd heard the engine missing. This wasn't entirely a surprise to us, we thought the engine was just a bit rough.

So I hopped out to listen while the airplane was running up. Everything sounded clean. Both ignition systems worked, Oil temperature and pressure looked good, the fuel pressure was good. And we had the full static RPM reading we were expecting. It must have been lead fouling on the spark plugs, I reasoned.

There was nothing to do but try again. Now, we were a bit nervous, so we watched the engine gauges carefully. Everything was on profile. We climbed to 1000, called approach, made radar contact and began climibing to 4000.

At 4000, we leveled off. I was beginning to relax a bit. Just then I noticed the airspeed climb and engine RPMs surge about 150 RPM. "Did you forget to throttle back when you leveled off?" I asked. Nope. It just surged by itself.

It was then we noticed the oil temperature was very close to red-line. Oil pressure was still green but on the low side. Just then Approach cleared us for 6000, but we declined. "Umm, Approach, I'd like to make a precautionary landing".

"What kind of precautionary landing?" she asked.

"High oil temp and low oil pressure"

The formerly busy frequency got VERY quiet.

We had a portable moving map GPS, so we turned toward the nearest airport we were familiar with. We didn't get the airport beacon in sight right away, but pretty soon, we identified it and the runway we needed to aim for.

Approach called us and said "I called ahead and let the FBO know you're coming, you're clear to descend at your descretion"

"I think she just declared an emergency for us" I said.

We closed down the throttle and began a powered descent. Soon the runway lights were in sight and we landed without incident. The engine was still working smoothly, so we taxied to a parking space and shut down. I helped push the airplane in to the space. We breathed a sigh of relief and then headed straight for the office.

We made calls to close our flight plan, and to let Approach know that we were safe. Search and Rescue was not required.

Now comes the weird part. We went back to the airplane to investigate the engine. I figured that we must have been losing oil somehow. But surprisingly, the belly of the airplane was clean. So was the interior of the cowl. My neighbor and his partners keep their airplane spotless. We saw a bit of speckling of oil, but nothing dramatic.

So we pulled the dipstick and lo, it had oil two inches above the full mark. I know that I'd seen my neighbor check the dipstick before the flight outbound and the flight back. If there had been more oil than was warranted, he'd have seen it before now. It's part of every preflight.

Where the hell did that oil come from. "It seems a bit thin to me, and it smells burned. You'd better get an oil analysis done," I pointed out. I wonder if it's contaminated with gasoline?

We don't know. The mechanic at the field thinks that the owners did a poor oil change and ended up putting too much oil in the engine. That would be a good explanation except that it doesn't explain how we got all the way there after a flight time of about an hour.

Anyhow, that's my bizzare tale. When the verdict comes in regarding the engine, I'll let you all know what it was...

Postscript (January 19, 11:20 PM): I flew my airplane and brought my neighbor with me this evening to visit his airplane. The mechanic discovered an exhaust leak and the work had to be sent out for repair. The oil, plugs, and compression looked good. We still don't know exactly how the extra oil got in to the engine. We think perhaps someone may have made a mistake putting an extra quart or two in to this airplane instead of the one they were supposed to service.

The theory that it may have been thinned with Gasoline from the fuel tanks has been pretty much dismissed due to lack of any way for this to have happened.

As for flying again, it was a relief. No airplane is perfect, but my airplane was purring along, flying very smoothly and on profile at 5000 on the way up and at 6000 on the way back. My new LED head lamp worked very well too. The white light was nearly too intense, but the red was perfect cockpit lighting for things like my approach plates. And with the 50 hour life on a pair of AAA batteries, I'll be on the ground long before this thing's batteries die.

I can't wait to fly myself to Florida in February...

User Journal

Journal Journal: WMF and Microsoft apologists 1

I'm amazed that so many think Microsoft did a timely and decent job responding to this threat. I don't think they did.

Their first reaction was understandable. Disable WMF file display capability with a registry tweak. That's a decent initial reaction to a zero-day exploit. It was timely, and reasonable. I can't fault them for this initial reaction.

However, what happened next made little sense. It appears they sat on this problem for several days thinking that it wasn't critical. Meanwhile, legions of black hat hackers and script kiddies were salivating over all sorts of potentials for attack. Someone made an IRC worm out of this mess. Someone else made a WMF exploit kit. Microsoft just sat tight.

Meanwhile, F-Secure discovered the fix by lfak Guilfanov and negotiated to have it placed on Hexablog. However, since most do not know who Guilfanov is or even who these nice guys at F-Secure are, not many used this fix.

No sooner did Microsoft announce an update on the next cycle, when with little technical consideration, many folks decided that All Was Well. One of them, Ed Bott began shooting the messengers of the WMF problem without any apparent consideration of what it was that they might know that he didn't. I pointed out that I didn't think much of Microsoft's responsiveness and while he tried to smear the Open Source community's better efforts with a very lame case.

Only 9 days later, after the WMF virus building kit was already in the wild, did Microsoft release fixes for 2000, XP and 2003 Server. However, this mess existed in every version of Windows since 3.0. True, the associations for WMF files didn't exist by default in OSs prior to XP. However, many application programs used them. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Microsoft is still underestimating this "feature."

Ed is, of course, entitled to his opinons, no matter how ill informed they may be. However, he is not alone in this behavior. I wish there was a way that people in the Open Source Community could quietly make a case that perhaps there is room for improvement in Microsoft's behavior here. After all, they're the ones getting paid for this effort. Shouldn't people get something for their money?

Postscript: It appears I'm not the only one asking this question.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Happy Jewish Carpenter Circumcision Day! 2

...And Christians think Jews celebrate some odd things! Christians built their calendar based upon a particular circumcision. Jews only celebrate it once. Christians keep celebrating it again and again --and what's with the dropping balls?

So, what promises will you make in honor of the 2006'th anniversary of this solemn event?

While we're at it, tell me what you plan to do with the extra second we're expecting at the end of this year. :-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Temporary" Flight Restrictions 2

As reported in AOPA's website, Vice President Dick Cheney has purchased a house on the Maryland Eastern Shore. The FAA wants to establish a permenant restricted airspace over the VP's home with a 1 nm radius and a 1500' AGL no fly zone.

This is foolish on so many levels that I hardly know what to say. First, such airspaces do not prohibit aircraft from flying over his house. I normally fly at altitudes of at least 2000' AGL in that area so this is just a small nusiance to me. Second, from that altitude I could easily drop a note on the VP's house any time I feel like it. Third, what does this airspace accomplish besides annoying pilots, controllers, and most of the aviating public?

Once again, if Joe Terrorist didn't know where exactly to fly to find the Cheney household, he does now. Wouldn't the Cheneys be better served if they simply avoided this airspace thing altogether?

User Journal

Journal Journal: How do you inform users of network problems? 1

Well, if you're the IT department where I work, you send an e-mail to everyone telling them that there are network problems.

I couldn't make this stuff up. Honest. It happened this morning when one of my colleagues tried to boot his PC. It apparently couldn't find the domain controller with both hands. Sure enough, after about two hours of frustration, he finally got logged in and there it was: an e-mail from the IT staff telling us what we had already figured out.

Didn't Dilbert do a cartoon about this a few years ago?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Xeni, Revisited

So, there is news that much of the disaster reporting in NOLA immediately after Katrina was a drastic exaggeration. I sent the following e-mail to Xeni. She's been reporting much of this stuff on Boing Boing --among other places. Admittely, Boing Boing isn't exactly a great news source. But I feel they ought to at least pretend to be accurate, even if they may have their own biases and agendas.,0,5492806,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Choose your source. It doesn't matter. The end result is the same:
You reported disaster hype.

I don't care what you think you're doing. Until you post these links or
similar stories on Boing Boing, you're no Journalist.

I'm not amused. I don't like being lied to. I don't like hidden agendas. Until this woman does the bare minimum of posting this story, I see no reason to give her work any attention whatsoever.

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