Yesterday one of my friends crashed badly and will spend quite some time in hospital getting some crushed vertebrae repaired. Three weeks ago another local pilot crashed at the same site; he's had a number of surgeries fixing a broken pelvis, arm and so on. A few days earlier, a hotshot pilot crashed a few hundred kilometers north of here; he will also spend a long time hospitalised.

And despite that, we keep flying. Even the ones in hospital come back more often than not.

If you look at this impassionately, you can only conclude that we're all suicidal idiots: we know it's dangerous, we see friends getting hurt and still we can't keep from doing it.

Why? I don't really know. I think it is a mixture of addiction and avoidance. The addiction pulls us back into the air, while avoiding to dwell on the dangers allows us to not freeze up shit-scared when flying (which is a good thing as freezing up will surely compound most minor incidents).

It must be a bit similar to how other people in dangerous occupations cope. I've read that fighter pilots among others have this ego thing down pat: while knowing a lot of dangerous stuff happens, one just doesn't believe that it'll be him having a problem. It feels similar with free flyers, motorbike riders etc.

Update (Mon 31.10.2005 14:35):

Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, Paul is back home and walking - after one operation on his spine and only 6 days in hospital and. A speedy full recovery is what I wish him!

[ published on Mon 24.10.2005 13:21 | filed in interests/flying | ]

Enrico Zini notes under a heading of "Spam is useful":

Really. I just realized that. In the past, if you wanted to test mail delivery on your mail server, you had to bother logging to a remote server and sending yourself a mail. Now that's not needed anymore: as soon as the server works, spam messages start coming in. So it's not spam, it's PING mails.

He's got a point there. I've been doing the same with my recent spam/virus reduction setup changes (switched to mimedefang and love it; more on that in another post).

[ published on Mon 31.10.2005 09:53 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Scientists have engineered a molecule that "walks in a straight line" when fed (thermal) energy. They call it a nano-walker.

Now why am I so reminded of the "imp" of the immortal core war game? Molecule Wars, anyone?

[ published on Fri 28.10.2005 09:34 | filed in brainfarts | ]

The chipboard industry is collapsing! Particleboard prices soar! Widespread disruptions affect building industries, housing and interest rates! The End of the World is near! Save Your Homes!

That's how I felt on Tuesday, after having read &rw's note of two weeks ago: Ikea Brisbane was out of The One Billy bookshelf (White, 202x60). "They've arrived at the port, will be on the shelves in a day or two". sigh They need an public stock inventory. I very much dislike driving 60km one way to see only brown, black, ugly Billys.

[ published on Thu 27.10.2005 14:41 | filed in brainfarts | ]

If you read this in a debian package announcement, would you think of work-safe occupations or guba-style activity?

sextractor -- Source extractor for astronomical images.

Thought so. The author is proudly getting his rocks off with those super asstronomical pictures.

[ published on Wed 26.10.2005 19:23 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Sage advice. To enjoy crap rainy weather: come to sunny Queensland.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Tue 25.10.2005 11:01 | filed in still-not-king | ]

This week we had the Canungra Cup comp on, but the weather sucked big time. Saturday and Sunday were sunny but blown out. Monday we flew the first task, but I didn't do too well in that: only got into the next valley (Flying Fox), 6km. Tuesday we started a task at Tambo, but it got a bit very windy; so the comp director canned the day. Wednesday was interesting: thunderstorms were developing but we flew from Tambo. I got to Gleneagle, north of Beaudesert, 19km. Shortly after I landed the wind started howling though and the task got stopped; Shane threw his reserve (it worked) and a few pilots landed going backwards at 20+ km/h. Marble-sized hail in Canungra. Thursday we flew off Beechmont again, but I bombed (together with almost a third of the field). Friday it was raining but with the top guns desperate for a fourth task (to make the comp count towards world ranking points) we sat around, and even drove up to Tambo later:


This is how a AAA-grade competition field rarely looks like. The weather was crap, windy and drizzling; behind the stands it was more comfy.

Saturday we spent hoping at Hinchcliffe's launch, but the low clouds didn't lift enough for a task. Some people then went for a free ridgesoar / galehanging flight but I was too lazy for that.


Nevertheless I made it into 3rd position in my class (DHV 1-2 gliders). Not too bad for my first AAA competition I'd say :-)

[ published on Sun 16.10.2005 21:00 | filed in still-not-king | ]

One of the reasons I bought this Siemens S55 is that it has infrared, the same power/comms connector as the elder models and that I have software for my palm pilot to sync address books and do SMS.

One out of these three proved to be correct: it talks via infrared. The connector is not entirely unlike the old one, just sufficiently different to prevent working. And the software? The software relies on the magics of ITU standards and Siemens' previously established+documented AT command set...which the German Bastards decided to not follow for this model.

So, what do you do if your trusty software barfs all the time with errors about "AT+CPBS=ME" failing, and the software of course hasn't been maintained since at least three years ago? Right: first you curse (doesn't help but relieves the anger). Then you look for alternatives (to no avail, they all suck worse). Finally, you take up the heavy duty tools and kludge together a bloody mess of a fix.

First I found out what exactly goes wrong. The software wants to look at both possible sources for addressbooks, the sim card and the phone. It can access the sim card but not the phone (that's the AT+CPBS=ME operation which Siemens decided not to support in this model anymore. Idiots.).

Then the messy fix. RsrcEdit is a very useful if ugly tool to edit palm objects on the fly; I didn't want to wade through the m68k machine code to yank out the references to the second storage location, so I decided to have it look at some working addressbook instead: of the few other accessible areas only ON (own numbers) is writable. So I simply replaced the strings in the data segment of the program suitably so that the ON addressbook is used instead of the ME addressbook. Works. Done.

[ published on Sun 16.10.2005 20:19 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Hehe. Two of this year's IgNobel prizes have been awarded to Australian academics: one team got the biology prize for figuring out that stressed frogs stink differently from normal frogs. (But hey, they also found an pigeon-be-gone smell that seems to work.)

What I found way more fun, was what the ABC news nicely headed "Watching paint dry": two guys from UQ in Brisbane devoted their entire life to an experiment as exciting as, drum roll, watching pitch drops drop. Which. doesn't. happen. very. often. The experiment started in 1927, and one of the fellows already died - of boredom, I assume. The IgNobel fellows thought this commitment worth the physics prize.

[ published on Sat 08.10.2005 21:52 | filed in interests/humour | ]

...something starts failing intermittently. Over the last few weeks my wireless access point has started acting up: the clients got more and more disconnections during the night and things like that. I suspected a dead client card at first or a bad antenna connection, but today that prove wrong.

The thing stopped working about every 25 seconds for 5-10 seconds, repeat a few times and then it would work again for the next hour or so. I tried everything on the logical level, even investigated if somebody was playing silly tricks with the thing remotely...nothing helped. Resync, connect, a few seconds of activity, bang. It looked like the thing reset itself continuously.

Eventually I ripped it apart to see if it had blown any capacitors, nope. Switching it on again, the LEDs looked weird...kind of spastic. Trying the AP on a different power supply: it works. The original one: nope. The multimeter told me that the wall-wart PSU would produce +5V unloaded but under load it had less than 3.2V to give. No surprise the AP fell flat on its face whenever there was a bit of activity. Ripping the (dinky) dead PSU apart I found a voltage regulator looking very much cooked on a circuit board that also looked quite fried. I didn't have a matching PSU around that would meet the old specs (+5V but up to 2A), so I took an old ATX PSU and soldered a connector. Ugly But Works.

What I also hate is hearing about flying accidents. We had one today at my favourite flying site. I know not a lot of the specifics, but it must have been very ugly. Truly confidence-inspiring for next week's competition. Not.

[ published on Tue 04.10.2005 22:12 | filed in still-not-king | ]

Smoke detectors are useful. Mine usually tells me that eating toast is unhealthy by scaring years off my life expectancy with a Big Bad Jolt just few minutes after I take the toast out of the toaster.

Today, however, it was useful. After coming home from flying I wanted some food - quickly. So I got the microwave to heat up a meat pie straight from the freezer. Mmmmm, Pie! But it incinerated the pie. Pie tastes of donkeypoop!

Picture dark clouds of smoke billowing from my microwave....and the resulting mess. The microwave is now white(outside) and dark yellow(inside). My google-fu tells me that acetone will help, but as I'm not a nail-polish freak and without girlfriend I have no acetone at home. Monday then.

I realised on Friday that this week I had spoken only about 50 words to people personally, maybe another 200 words on the phone. This can't be healthy! (I also sent 37 emails. Some of which the suckers on the other side totally ignored. I hate that.)

[ published on Sat 01.10.2005 23:41 | filed in still-not-king | ]

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