Just a Test to see if I can bring this blog back from the dead

October 6th, 2014

Here’s a nice picture:



iPhone 5 – Day One First Impressions

October 27th, 2012

Today was my first day with my new iPhone 5, and I’m feeling pretty good about it so far.

iPhone 5 Video and sound quality are excellent. Integration with Ford Synch is good.

The phone is fast. Sprint 3g downloads and streaming seem to happen much faster and work much more reliably than 4G on my 3 year old Samsung SI Epic. Still no LTE in Austin, but I expect that before the next SXSW in March. Update one day latter: Although Sprint LTE has not been announced for Austin yet, today I was able to get strong LTE in the area of FM620 and Highway 183N up in to Cedar Park! Woohoo!

Photo quality is excellent.

I like the ‘lighting’ connector, it’s way better than micro-usb.

I’m heavily invested in the Google eco-system. The Google mail and voice apps work just like on the Android. I was relieved to find that I can still connect my Sprint line to my Google Voice answering system, just as I did on my Android. Important note: You do NOT have to do that ‘combine numbers’ thing to get Google voice to take messages for your Sprint iPhone. There is an almost hidden ‘advanced’ dialog in the Google Voice settings that gives you a *72 number to call to transfer responsibility for your voice mail from Spint to Google Voice.

One important tip for Google users setting up iPhone 5’s: Don’t bother with trying to synch your contacts using the Google exchange server. Instead, use the iPhone’s CardDAV protocol support to synch. It’s way easier.

Siri is good when she’s good, but easily confused.

The iOS Nav app is clearly inferior to Google nav. Not even a contest. Android rules navigation. iPhone5 Battery life is not impressive. I don’t like having to pay twenty bucks for a second charging cable, cool as it is.

I’ll update after I’ve lived with this phone for a few months.


Good SpaceX Discussion at PJ Media

October 13th, 2012

There is a good discussion about the SpaceX mission here:


I have a comment in there somewhere.


Blog has been Reactived! – Thank NASA SOCIAL!

October 5th, 2012

After almost two years to the day I’ve reactivated my blog.

I’ve been selected by ‘NASA Social’ to act as a ‘Social Media Reporter’ for the October 7 launch of the NASA/SPACEX Commercial Resupply Mission #1.

I’ve arrived at the Kennedy Space Center and am blogging from the Press Annex at Launch Complex 39. To say I am Gobsmacked is to understate.

I’ll be taking pictures, tweets, and recording video for YouTube.

My first video update is here.


Triumph 2011 Sprint GT Demo Ride Impressions

October 9th, 2010

This morning the nice folks at Austin’s Lone Star BMW/Triumph let me test ride their new 2011 Triumph Sprint GT. This is a design that replaces the ST. It sits slightly lower than the ST and has nice FJR-like hard bags. The 1050cc Triple engine has been tweaked to have a little more torque, the fairing is new with a somewhat larger windscreen than the ST. At 590 pounds its noticeably heavier than the Sprint ST.

Sprint GT

In general it has all the excellent qualities of the Speed Triple and ST, smooth precise gear box, wonderful sound, neck snapping acceleration, sports bike handling. The instrument panel is simple and easy to read. This is a high performance well engineered motorcycle.

The heartbreak of the GT is the ergonomics. They are those of a MotoGP bike almost. The pegs are very high, even with my 29 inch inseam my legs very cramped. Great for ground clearance on track day, but come on, nobody would enjoy that position all day long! The bars are not clip-ons, but they are very low. The net/net is that there isn’t much blood flowing through your knees and lots of weight on your wrists. If I wanted all day discomfort I’d buy a Harley or a race replica sports bike.

This bike is close to being a real competitor to the FJR, ST1300, and Honda VFR, if only it wasn’t a torture rack!

Triumph, RAISE THE DAMN BARS, LOWER THE PEGS! And if you really want to steal Sport Touring bike sales from Japan and Germany put on a cruise control!

As configured the ST is just a sports bike with nice bags.


September 2010 Park Run Videos

October 1st, 2010


Motorcycle Stamp Collecting

September 12th, 2010


It’s been almost two years since I earned membership in the Iron Butt Association by complotting a SaddleSore 1000 ride from Austin to Clovis and back

Last November I acquired my Yamaha FJR1300AE, which is made for long rides. My first ride on it was from the dealer in Tulsa to Austin.  I rode it to New Mexico last spring to visit the Trinity site and some rides to other parts of Texas. 

The bike just begs for more long rides, all I needed was an excuse. 

The excuse came during our summer (car) vacation to Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  For the first time in years we visited a number of National Parks, and had a great time.  We had fun getting park stamps for Parks Service Passport

I decided I’d collect Park Stamps and perhaps earn the IBA National Parks Tour award.

I decided to take a few days of vacation after Labor Day and visit several national parks.

I waited all through the super-heated days of July and August, and finally September 4 arrived.  I spent the morning packing and preparing the FJR, by 4:30 I was ready to roll. 


This first afternoon was a mere 206 miles to Woodville Texas.  It was a really pleasant ride except for perhaps for the last 30 minutes, ridden in darkness.    I tend to get a bit nervous riding in the country at night for fear of forest rats. 

I arrived at Woodville’s excellent Stagecoach Inn, an older but very clean independant motel.  I slept soundly and was up early, eager for the short ride to the Big Thicket National Preserve


I suffered through about a 40 minute delay while crews cleared an overturned 18 wheeler from the highway before arriving at the visitor’s center.


After a nice chat with with duty Ranger I got the first part stamp of this trip.  


Back in the parking lot I answered the ‘aren’t you hot’ question twice from curious onlookers. 

The next stop was the Cane River Creole National Historic site, about 150 miles away  in Louisiana. 

The ride to Cane River was in many ways the best of the whole trip. 

A few days earlier I replaced the crappy OEM Bridgestone tires on the FJR with new Michelin Pilot Road 2 dual compound tires. 

My GPS took me through some nice twisty uncrowded back roads.  The PR2 tires were dramatically better than the Bridgestones.  The FJR was much more enthusastic about leaning into the turns, I felt hugely more confident with these new tires. I had a great run into Louisiana. 

Cane River is the site of two pretty much intact Civil War Plantations.  Thanks to the delay getting in to Big Thicket I didn’t have enough time to take the tour, so I’m coming back someday. 


Walking towards the entry pavilion a lady asked me with some concern, ‘has there been a fire?”.  I assured her I was just a motorcycle rider, not a fire fighter.

I found the stamps in the ‘Plantation Store’.  Although I didn’t have time for the tour, the duty ranger gave me a nice rundown on the history of the place.

They have three stamps at Cane River.

The next stop was the Natchez National Historic Park in Natchez, Mississippi.  I arrived at about 4pm, so had an hour to explore the place. 

One really gets a ‘gone with the wind’ feeling driving on to the grounds of the magnificent Melrose Hose mansion, with its perfectly manicured grounds, brick mansion, and huge oaks with hanging moss. 

I sat on a rocking chair in the courtyard for a while, reflecting on the evil of slavery that built these beautiful homes. 

There was no excuse of slavery in a country founded on the assertion that ‘all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights’.  How the slavers lived with themselves is beyond me.

There are three stamps available in Natchez.



I’ve learned to be more careful with my stamping!

I also bought an annual pass at Melrose.

I didn’t have time to visit the Johnson House, located in downtown Nachez.  Mr Johnson was a slave who bought his freedom, started several successful businesses, and wound up owning slaves of his own.  

In the parking lot I chatted for a while with a couple from Massachusetts touring the south on their Harleys before continuing on towards Vicksburg.


My plan after Nachez was to stop at the first local dinner or cafe that I passed on the way to Vicksburg.

I didn’t pass any.  I tell you what, if you know how to run a dinner you could do a lot worse than set up between Nachez and Vicksburg!

I wound up eating at the Cracker Barrel next to the Holiday Inn Express in Vicksburg. 

When I pulled up under the awning a pretty lady was standing there.  “That looks like fun!” she exclaimed.  Her disappointment when I took off my helmet to revel a 58 year old geezer was palatable. 

The clerk at the desk was genuinely worried that I was sick.  I wasn’t sick, just tired after a 370 mile day.

The next morning I was at the Vicksburg National Battlefield by 8:30.  I pulled up to the ticket shack and told the lady there that I had an annual pass.  ‘Can you get at it?’ she asked.  “Sure, it’s right here in my…….”.  My wallet was in my pants pocket which were well inside my Motoport riding pants. I had forgotten to move it to the riding pants pocket.  As I started to try and dig she told me ‘I trust you’ and waved me through.

I stopped at the visitor’s center and watched a short but informative movie about the siege of Vicksburg, and then I started around the long perimeter road. 

This was a very fascinating ride.  As you drive the perimeter you pass hundreds of monuments erected in honor of the various units and individuals involved in the battle.  Union locations have blue signs, Confederates have red signs.  These give you a sense of the siege because there are miles of Union positions in a horseshoe shape around a very much smaller area of Confederates.  It’s a beautiful road, but keep it slow, there are hundreds of people jogging and walking along it.  Surprisingly I saw almost no other vehicles on the perimeter that Labor Day morning.

After a while one climbs up the bluff and begins to encounter the Confederate positions. 


The physical high point and one of the emotional high points of the entire trip was the Confederate heavy artillery position overlooking the Mississippi.

September 2010 National Park Run

By 1863 the Union had control of the entire Mississippi River except for that portion of the river in range of this location.  As long as the Confederates held this bluff they denied the North use of the River for commerce and supply.  The Union fought for this position for 19 months. About 20,000 Americans died in the course of this fighting. 

Vicksburg Heavy Artillery Position

Vicksburg Artillery Position


The next stop was the fascinating U.S.S. Cairo recovered union gunboat.

September 2010 National Park Run

Cairo   was a Union gunboat which was sunk by a Confederate mine in 1862. It remained on the bottom of the Yazoo River until it was recovered in 1965.

A huge number of artifacts were recovered from the wreck, many of which are on display in the excellent museme and Visitor’s Center. 

Motorheads will be interested in the high quality tools and almost intact steam engine.

September 2010 National Park Run

I enjoyed my brief Visit to Vicksburg and want to go back.  Prior to this trip I had no idea that there was so much to see in Mississippi



About 11am I reluctantly left Mississippi for the 150 mile ride to last park of the trip in Arkansas.

This should have been a very pleasant ride up through the rural south.  The roads were not what you call twisty, but they had enough turns to keep things interesting.  The 55mph speed limits were a bit frustrating, here in Texas even small rural roads are usually 65 or 70mph.  But the big problem were painful knots that began to develop under my shoulder blades.  I’ve had these knots in the past but never enough to detract from the enjoyment of a ride.

Eventually I arrived at the Arkansas Post National Memorial.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I found was almost a Zen Garden of Tranquility.

September 2010 National Park Run


The Park was almost deserted except for me and the Ranger in the Visitor Center. The Ranger showed me a movie that told the story of this location.  It turns out this site has been settled by Europeans since before the American Revolution, and by Quapaw Indians for centuries before that. 

It was in fact the site of one of only two Revolutionary War battles fought west of the Mississippi.

It was also the site of a major Civil War battle, the Battle of Fort Hindman.

In the Museum I was surprised to find a faded Texas Flag.

September 2010 National Park Run 

In the ‘small world’ department I learned that the ‘AR’ on this flag stands for ‘Austin Rifles’, also known as the ‘Travis Rangers’.  This was a Confederate unit made up of men from my home town of Austin Texas and the surrounding area.  They surrendered this flag when Fort Hindman fell. The family of the Union Officer who took it eventually donated it to the museum.

In a small corner of the museum I found a couch which faced a picture window of the beautiful park. I rested there for the best part of an hour until it was near closing time.   

Arkansas Post Park is a beautiful and peaceful place. I really enjoyed my short visit there.  There are two stamps available at this park.


Arkansas Post Part stamps


My plan was to ride the 200 or so miles from Arkansas Post to Texarkana Texas.

The first 100 miles went OK with only one unplanned event. I was riding down a country road thinking about updating my FAA pilot’s license.  I didn’t notice a 90 degree bend in the small road and thus found myself riding down the gravel trail at the top of a levy.  This scared me to death, I had to ride down the levy for about 300 yards before it got wide enough to turn around.  I shudder to think how close I came to crashing!

After about a hundred miles my shoulders began to hurt again.  By the time I reached I30 I gave up Texarkana and put in a call to my Mission Control, aka Miz Pat, aka my long suffering spouse.  I asked her to change my reservation to a Super 8 in Hope Arkansas that had billboards advertising a low nightly rate.  This turned out to be the right decision. The Super was clean and well worth the reasonable price.

The next day was a 370 mile run back to Austin.  Weather was overcast and cooler than than before.  As I approach Waco I encountered occasional light rain.

The shoulder pain was still there, but not as bad as the day before.  I’m going to have to get a handle on this shoulder pain issue so that I can continue to enjoy long multi-day trips like this one.

In Waco the rain had stopped but I could see fierce looking storm clouds to the South.  These were Tropical Storm Hermine.  These clouds were very ominous looking, I expected Martian Tripods to appear at any moment.

I was 98 miles from home, and I wasn’t going to let a few clouds keep me from going home. 

The ride from Waco to home was interesting.  Shortly after leaving Waco I rode into Hermine’s full fury.  There were high gusty winds and very heavy rains. In fact it rained 12” that day. 

I had to slow to about 40mph several times due to low visibility.  The FJR was unaffected by the excitement.  It rode down the interstate like a bullet train, ignoring the gusts, standing water, and heavy rain.  I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the ability of the FJR and my new PR2 tires to stand up to Hermine. 

I arrived home wet but safe.  My wife said I looked like a large green drowned rat.

I am very lucky to have a super supportive spouse who gave me nothing but support and encouragement throughout the entire adventure.

Here is the SPOT track for this ride.


National Parks Tour – September 2010

September 4th, 2010

I’m fix’n to leave on a motorcycle trip to visit several National Parks in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

This is the start of a year long project to earn the Iron Butt Association ‘National Parks Tour – Master Traveler’ award.

Watch this space for updates during the trip.

I bagged three parks today, Big Thicket, Cane River, and Netchez Historical site. The last two are big antebellum plantations. Beautiful, but also kind of sickening when you think about the people who did all the real work.

Michelin Pilot Road tires rule, these tires are way better than the FJR stock Bridgestones.

Good night from Vicksburg, MS

The trip is going well. You can follow my progress here.

I’m home safe now after riding through Tropical Storm Hermen. Watch this space for a full trip report.


Local Unlicensed Radio Station Fined $10,000 by FCC

November 17th, 2009


Last summer I was driving down MoPac when I noticed a hand made sign that said something like ‘Radio Liberty 90.1 FM’.

I tuned it in and found a station that was interesting in a train wreck sort of way.  Besides the insane ravings of a local demagogue they  had a lot of shows offering legal advice that seemed to consist of providing magic words that would deflect civil and criminal convictions.

There was never a station identification.

Via a ham radio mailing list I learned that the FCC has fined Raymond Frank, the alleged operator of this station, $10,000.  Specifically

In this Forfeiture Order (“Order”), we issue a monetary forfeiture in the amount of ten
thousand dollars ($10,000) to Raymond Frank for willful and repeated violation of Section 301 of the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended (“Act”).1 The noted violations involve Mr. Frank’s operation
of an unlicensed radio transmitter on the frequency 90.1 MHz in Austin, Texas.

I have no idea if this Mr Frank is related to the former Travis County Sheriff.

According to the FCC

Mr. Frank asserts that, as a citizen of the Republic of Texas, he is not subject to the laws of the United States or the Commission’s Rules. Specifically, Mr. Frank asserts that the Commission lacks jurisdiction over his actions, because he operated a radio station solely within the boundaries of the state of Texas. Finally, Mr. Frank justifies violating Section 301 of the Act, because he claims the Commission’s licensing policies violate the First Amendment.

I’m mainly a software developer, but I’m also what’s called an ‘Enrolled Agent’ and own part of an income tax service.  We sometimes see people who tried to evade taxes with magic words and silly arguments propagated by snake oil salesman. These poor folks sometimes lose everything and face jail time thanks to their misplaced faith in a slick talking guy selling books and dvds.

Good people with highly legitimate concerns about the size and power of the government buy into these ridiculous ideas sold by snake oil salesmen.  In the process they harm themselves and their families, and they discredit real conservatives in the process. 

This kind of thing makes me sad.


What If George Had Done It?

October 27th, 2009

This is making the rounds among us right-wing wackos.  It makes some good points.


If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

If George W. Bush had spent of thousands of tax payer dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan’s holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent “Austrian language,” would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to “Cinco de Cuatro” in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

If George W. Bush had mis-spelled the word “advice” would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?

If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he’s a hypocrite?

If George W. Bush’s administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans, would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive?

Can’t think of anything? Don’t worry.

He’s done all this in 10 months — so you’ll have three more years to come up with an answer