Archive for July, 2006


99% Off!

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

We have a grocery chain here in Austin that has been hit very hard by competition from HEB and Wal-Mart. Recently Albertson’s announced that they were to close ten stores in our area.

Today was the last day for the Albertson’s near our house. Somewhat reluctantly I agreed accompany she-who-may-not-be-named to the store to bargain hunt. When we got there, there wasn’t much merchandise left. But what was there was marked down 99%! We passed on generic cranberry sauce cans for 1 cent each, but we scored some spice, butane cartridges for a curling iron, and some knee high stockings.

They were not kidding. Just look at this receipt. Are we not bargain finders or what!


There were a bunch of store employees there hawking the merchandise. I have to wonder what the business case for opening a store to sell the stuff at 99% off was compared to just giving the inventory away to some charity.

I’m not complaining. It’s not everday you pay $1.23 for $139 worth of stuff, stuff that you actually use!


Air Force Times – Troops search for UAV at Fort Drum

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Air Force Times – Troops search for UAV at Fort Drum

Now, tell me again that’s it is a grand idea to let these computer controlled airplanes loose in the civil airspace system. It’s going to give a whole new meaning to ‘blue screen of death’.

uav,military, air force, aviation


Wasted away in Margaritaville

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Wasted away in Margaritaville

Originally uploaded by Terry_Lea.

Terry Lea from Flickr listed me as contact. I was very flattered, she has some fairly unique pictures on her Flickr page. I liked this one a lot.


CapMetro Commuter Rail Open House, Leander

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Driving home from work today I heard on the radio that Cap Metro was having an open house in Leander to discuss the new train system. On the spur of the moment, I decided to go check it out. I got there about halfway through the formal presentation.

The part I heard covered the trains themselves and the proposed designs for the boarding areas.

The trains themselves are spiffy looking, they have two cars with control cabs on each end, with the power car in the middle. They seat 200 people, if I recall correctly. The trains will have wifi and storage for bikes and wheelchairs. Some of the seats are positioned around small tables in a ‘conversation area’.

It will take 55 minutes for the train to get to the convention center. One guy said he rides the bus to the Travis County Courthouse at 6am, and that this bus gets him to work in about the same amount of time with no changes. He didn’t say how long it takes him to get home, but I’m sure the train will take him longer on average since he leaves so early.

The station design is a big disappointment, its really no different than a covered bus station. My previous concerns about the design of the actual platform area are confirmed. I had hoped for a real train station with room for shops, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the plan. There are huge transit oriented developments going up now near the Leander and 620 stations, but the stations themselves are pretty spartan, especially considering the huge amount of money cap metro is spending on an existing rail line.

The presenter said they were soliciting inputs on two potential station designs. she flashed up a picture of ‘Plan A’, and said “its a conventional awning” in a tone of great disappointment.

She immediately went on to discuss in great detail what was clearly her favorite, ‘Plan B’. Plan B is based on bus stations in Paris.

I do business in Leander, and whenever I sell a product there I make sure to say that I do things just like the French. Leander people just love that approach. The presenter went on for some time about how beautiful the glass butterfly wings will be, how they will have images of the history of Leander, and will have lots of colors in them. In general, they will be loved by the artsy-fartsy Central Austin types who won’t be riding the train anyway. I asked a bunch of people after the presentation, and NOBODY liked the Plan B design.

Most felt that Plan A was on the right track, but that the awning needed to be larger, and they needed to be able to buy coffee at the station.

I really hated the Plan B design. It is pure ‘urban jewelry, the sort of silly thing that Austin throws money away on. The design appears to be intended to direct rainwater onto the waiting customers. I cannot believe that anyone connected with Plan B ever imagined for a moment what it might be like to wait for a train in Texas under these silly butterfly wings. I emailed my comments to and included this diagram, which is an engineering diagram of the physics involved in keeping rain out:

I think the train has a real chance of success. It’s almost 2 years away and yet the private sector is betting millions that the train stop will create commercial power centers around them. I’m a small part of that myself.

I just hope the idea of the trains is good enough to survive being managed by the old hippies and political straphangers in the CapMetro management.

Austin,commuter rail, Leander


Case Closed

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Now that Joseph and Valerie Wilson’s fantasies of having been persecuted by high officials in the administration have been so thoroughly dispelled by Robert Novak (and now that it seems the prosecutor has determined that there was no breach of the relevant laws to begin with), we may return to the more important original question. Was there good reason to suppose that Iraqi envoys visited Niger in search of “yellowcake” uranium ore?

In a series of columns, I have argued that the answer to this is “yes,” and that British intelligence was right to inform Washington to that effect. Iraq—despite having yellowcake of its own—had bought the material from Niger as early as 1981 and had not at that time informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (weapons inspectors effectively stopped Iraq’s domestic yellowcake production after 1991).


This means that both pillars of the biggest scandal-mongering effort yet mounted by the “anti-war” movement—the twin allegations of a false story exposed by Wilson and then of a state-run vendetta undertaken against him and the lady wife who dispatched him on the mission—are in irretrievable ruins. The truth is the exact polar opposite. The original Niger connection was both authentic and important, and Wilson’s utter failure to grasp it or even examine it was not enough to make Karl Rove even turn over in bed. All the work of the supposed “outing” was inadvertently performed by Wilson’s admirer Robert Novak.

(empahsis added)

Christopher Hitchens, Slate, July 25, 2006

wilson, rove,novak,yellowcake


Cessna’s Next Generation Piston Aircraft (NGPA)

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Avweb has a great series of pictures of the new Cessna ‘Cirrus Killer’ here.

The most interesting of these are the third and fourth photos down from the top.

Aside from being a strutless high wing single it doesn’t have a whole in common with a Cardinal. It clearly has a castoring nose gear and conventional tail (the Cardinal has a flying stabalator). One of the nicest features of the Cardinal is position of the wing, it’s much further aft than on the C-172/C-182 airplanes, giving the pilot much better visibility and a larger CG envelope. The NGPA’s wing is sort of between the Cardinal’s and the C-172/C-182. You can see that the leading of the wing is cut back over the cockpit to increase visibility.

The most interesting feature of the NGPA is the doors. It appears to have at least three doors, maybe four. It turns out that the door is one of the most difficult tasks facing a lightplane designer. It is very hard to make a large aluminum door that seals well and holds up over the many decades we expect our light planes to last. The designer and mechanic would prefer a single small door, but passengers hate that.

It looks like the Cessna designers decided to bite the bullet and give the passengers their own door(s). Very interesting.

And one other thing, the belly of the new airplane is very clean!

aviation,aircraft,cessna, eaa, oshkosh,airventure


Two New Cessnas

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Hangar View has good coverage of the two new Cessna aircraft shown today at the EAA Airventure convention in Oshkosh.

It bums me that I couldn’t go this year.


‘Billi’ the Bass Boat

Monday, July 24th, 2006

    ‘Billi’ the Bass Boat

I recently bought an “investment house” on a canal in Rockport, Texas.

I couldn’t stand having a dock but no boat. It’s been almost 15 years since I sold my Catalina 22 sailboat. The sailboat was a lot of fun, but it involved great effort to go very slowly. My sailboat was kind of like having a high priced mistress. It seemed like I was forever obligated to go to the boat store and buy trinkets for her. There is just a lot of ‘stuff’ on even a small sailboat like my Catalina. This time I decided to get a power boat. The main thing I wanted was a good solid powerboat that didn’t need much or anything in the way of fixing up.

I found this bass boat on Craig’s list. It’s a 1989 model, but it’s in good shape, the engine is real strong. The main reason I got it is because its not a project boat. For a fairly low price I got a boat that I can just launch and go. This boat immediately communicated her name to me, it’s ‘Billi’. She’s kind of a white trash girlfriend, but friendly and a lot of fun, and not high maintenace.

The wierd thing about me owning a bass boat is that I really don’t care much for fishing. I am using this boat to explore the Texas coastal bend. It’s real comfortable to drive and on smooth water it can almost fly.

Today was the first day I dared to take my Nikon out on it, but as I get comfortable with it I’m hoping for nice pictures of waterfront masions, birds, and maybe even dolphins.


The Dover C-5 Crash

Monday, July 24th, 2006

On April 3, 2006 an Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft crashed at Dover AFB.

The Air Force Times (a commercial publication) has obtained and pubished the U.S. Air Force accident report for the crash.

To put things on a bumper sticker, the crew made two very serious mistakes. Shortly after takeoff the crew noticed a momentary “thrust reverser unlocked” light on one of the engines. Even though they figured that it was just a light issue, they made the correct decision to shut down the suspect motor and return to the airport to let maintenance check it out. The first mistake was that the flying pilot got confused as to which engine had been shut down. He continued to operate the throttle of the dead engine and left one of the good engines in idle.

Getting confused as to which engine has been shut down isn’t new. British Airways had a major accident due to this exact issue a few year ago.

Even with two engines, they probably could have landed safely except for another mistake.

The second mistake was to select 100% flaps while too far out, and too low. Since they were operating on only two engines to begin with this flap selection put them well behind the power curve. The coup de grâce was delivered when the crew retracted the flaps to the 40 percent position while they were below the stall speed for this configuration. The airplane departed controlled flight, impacted short of the runway, and broke into several pieces. Amazingly, nobody was killed.

The report conclusions place all the blame on the crew for poor briefings and a breakdown in crew coordination.

When I heard about this crash it just didn’t make sense. How could an experienced crew lose the aircraft because of a warning light?

The accident board and the approving General Officer placed all the blame on the crew for poor coordination and incorrect operation of the airplane.

Reading through the accident report, I encountered what I suspect is the real cause of the accident. Para 9-6 says:

All crewmembers who were interviewed and/or provided written statements were given the opportunity for adequate crew rest. However given the early alert time on the day of the mishap (0100L) no crewmember from whom data was obtained slept longer than four and one half hours … Given the limited sleep obtained by thecrew as well as the temporal proximity of the flight and misshape to expected circadian nadairs, the crew was probably not functioning at peak efficency. (emphasis added)

Duh! This paragraph begs the question of WHY did none of the crew take advantage of the supposed “adequate crew rest”. Were they up all night partying, or did their schedule preclude a decent amount of sleep? If the crew was not expecting a 0100 show time, then poor Air Force management should have been listed as a contributing factor..

Maybe 5 milligrams of Ambien would have saved this airplane.


Pick the Good Guy

Friday, July 21st, 2006

Axis v. Allies
Hat tip: Neptunus Lex