If you have fifteen minutes to spare, read this essay about connections between modern western appearance-mania and clear-headed eastern brutality.

Posted Thu Jun 3 09:00:00 2010 Tags:

insult: Paul McCartney: “After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president that knows what a library is.”
in other words: “I sure wish I had multiple college degrees like George W. Bush, instead of just grammar school.”

Posted Thu Jun 3 10:00:00 2010 Tags:

What a way to find some mirth in the gaza ship fiasco.

Posted Thu Jun 3 16:41:00 2010 Tags:

Saturday morning, our family had the misfortune of running out of sufficient groceries for a big breakfast, so opted to try a new nearby restaurant. It was full, so we were prepared for slower service. But what we got was slower than slow. It was slow enough that all four of us had to eat up time by drawing, because to talk would have meant to grumble. My humble contribution:

It also sported the most pretentious paraphrasing ever on a “stay here, let us seat you” sign at the entrance:
The food itself was great. And, the long cashier queue allowed me the pleasure of assisting a charming & confident young lady, who was a spitting image of a junior Sandrine Holt.

Posted Mon Jun 7 11:14:00 2010 Tags:

I’ve owned quite a bit of Dell computer hardware over the years. My main home server is a now-discontinued Dell PowerEdge 2900 box, with plenty of RAM and disk. It has been completely solid, and I expect will do the job fine for another few years. There was only one upgrade still worth doing: the processors.

The CPUs in the machine are a pair of Intel Xeon 5150s. They’re dual core, which is a bit passe, and I was interested in an upgrade to the Xeon E5400 series for some hot quad-core action. So last year, with a wee bit of original warranty still left, I consulted Dell tech support folks about this particular machine:

Frank Eigler: “Hello, my question is pretty simple. I’d like to find out whether any quad-core xeons work on this PowerEdge 2900 system, without something more dramatic/expensive like a motherboard swap.”
Agent (….): “Thank you, one moment please”
Agent (….): “Still checking, one moment longer please”
Frank Eigler: “thanks”
Agent (….): “Yes, it will support quad core. Ensure your BIOS and BMC is updated.”
Frank Eigler: “Specifically, E5400 series?”
Agent (….): “Yes”
Agent (….): “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”
Frank Eigler: “That’s all, thank you!”
Agent (….): “You are welcome, have a good day”

So a few months later, I purchased a pair from some random electronic retailer. They fit mechanically, and the machine BIOS started them up, recognizing the models and all. Then it stopped: “unsupported CPU combination / system halted”. The BIOS/BMC software were up-to-date. Some googling suggested it may or may not work, depending on the generation of the server motherboard. Apparently one needed a 2900-III, and further analysis showed that mine was not. So the Dell agent must have made a mistake all those months ago.

These chips are not cheap, by the way. As server-oriented devices, they are long-lived, and their retail price tends to be flat over the years instead of falling like consumer products. Opened hardware like that can’t usually be returned to the retailer for a refund either. My piggy bank was out nearly nine hundred canadian pesos, with the blame far removed in time and space.

Hoping that Dell would take some responsibility for the error, I contacted them back in April 2010. I went through probably fifteen different calls, from technical support through customer service, consumer vs. business, canada vs. usa. A day or two later, the phone tag paid off, and I was in email contact with some Dell folks who acknowledged their part of the mistake, and promised to find a way of making things right.

Time elapsed. They pinged me periodically to be patient, asked for my invoice for the replacement processors, asked for some more time. They noted how this is an extremely unusual situation. After a while, they indicated that something good would happen really soon.

And it did. They proposed a scheme involving a partial credit, and a corresponding discount on a new dell widget. We went for it. In the end, our family ended up with a lovely little Dell Vostro 320, some cash, and even those pesky Xeons to try and sell on the used market. Dell ended up with another small bit of revenue for a moved unit of hardware, and this happy customer. Thank you, Dell folks (Alexis Tillada, Tara Stubinski, Lucille Bombeo, Natalie Sarah Cantre, and probably dozens of others), for making things right.

Posted Tue Jun 8 12:46:00 2010 Tags:

This wee blog is almost six years old, spanning some five hundred ruminations. Egads, will he ever stop, you ask yourself? Has he ever written anything worthwhile?

Maybe and maybe. Sorry. In the mean time, here are some links to what may be the best of the previous years’ postings. I’ve read all the others again, so you don’t have to.

few words, many insights
too much ice
she’s a hottie, but she’s only twelve
how to jaywalk
nice bike rider

when colleagues leave
minimum equipment dilemma
mommy day care
beautiful pontiac aztek
logging instrument time
first twin flight, part 2
desperately seeking seaborn
small pearl
thank you, microsoft
two cooks in the cockpit
my taxes at work
document retention policies
sadness in a grocery store
causations and correlations

force asymmetry
states of matter
school shootings and flight 93
famous ancients
tow scam
high as a kite
blue gold
annus horribilis

snow friends
shad valley’s ungoogleables
lousy is worse
systemtap safety
how not to use linux dm-raid5
understatement of the day
does the gpl really cross library boundaries?

negative-sum game of government benefits
entrepreneurs vs. ceos
triple entendre
in praise of delegation and teamwork
in praise of awareness
why anti-snow car lasers don’t work
tonal fallacy

great moments in socialized medicine
taking responsibility
young offender
silence in the morning
self correcting in the long term
talent, such as it is
military melancholy
one laugh per technical minute
multimodal go/no-go
the feds can’t do a thing to stop her

Posted Sun Jun 13 17:44:00 2010 Tags:

Having just seen the aforementioned, I’m not sure yet whether it was a good movie. But it was definitely not a good little kid movie.

My brats (3.5 and 5.5 years old) enjoyed just about every Pixar feature. They enjoyed Cars far more than it deserved, but then it wasn’t the merchandising king for nothing.

Minor fight scenes don’t freak them out, but the level of violent imagery and action in Toy Story 3 was well beyond any of the others. Combined with the gutcrunching audio level in a modern theater, I would expect that the recurrent fearful cowering / shrieking from my brats would not be unique to them. (They did insist on finishing the film.) Fellow parents with little ones — don’t assume that this feature is not substantially more intense than others. I wish I had waited for the DVD, to dilute the experience. Maybe the brats would have laughed more than once.

As for those with a weakness for melodrama, bring some hankies. Pixar lays it on pretty thick in this episode – from the opening credits “our friendship will never die … [blackout]” scene right through the overpregnant pauses at the denouement. I suspect many people around my age ponder the finiteness of time enough that tear-jerking based on life, death, aging, passing-the-torch, blah blah blah, is just too damn easy. I am starting to resent it.

Posted Sun Jun 20 18:55:00 2010 Tags:

Sweet words heard recently around the house:

(Eric, frequently): “My whole life is a hug.”
(Stuart, pleasantly surprised): “I just can’t believe my eyes!”
(Juimiin, midnight): “Come closer.”

Posted Wed Jun 23 09:57:00 2010 Tags:

Last night, I renewed my IFR privileges for another two years, after passing a flight test with my friend Charlie Rampulla. One mistake I made may be interesting reading for other pilots.

The mistake involves the VOR-DME-A approach into CNC3 (Brampton, Ontario). This is a non-precision circling approach. The airport is near hills and towers, so some step-down points are dictated, which best not be busted. Here is a copy of the approach plate:

The challenge here is not the simple following of the inbound track from the northwest. Unfortunately, that was the challenge I set my mind to, and missed the real one: vertical navigation.

The last stepdown fix, TIBIB, is 1.9 nm (3.5 km) from the airport edge, PEVGU. One starts at 2020 ft up, and one must descend to 1440 ft for the circling manoeuvre needed to line up with any of the runways. Once lined up (via the circling), one may descend the remaining 505 ft down to the airport’s 935 ft elevation.

At the speeds of GXRP, that TIBIB-PEVGU leg of 1.9 nm distance takes about one minute to cover, during which time it has to lose 580 ft. No big deal, right? Wrongo, as I found out. One does not actually have 1.9 nm to descend, but much less. This is because, in order to begin circling, one already has to have sight of the airport. If one pops out of the clouds exactly above the airport (1.9 nm later), it’s too late! One needs to see the runways at least 1 nm ahead of time, and preferably closer to the airspace radius protected for circling: 1.4 nm or so. (The approach plate suggests a visibility minimum of 1.5 nm too.)

That means that instead of 1.9 nm in which to descend 580 ft, one has only … 0.5-1 nm or so. That’s only 15-to-30 seconds of flying, which means a 2320-to-1160 ft/min descent rate! Whoa dude, elevator going DOWN! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize/calculate this ahead of time, and arrived to the circling altitude way too late. I barely salvaged a passing circling/final/landing. (The simulated failure of an engine during the exercise didn’t make it any easier or harder.)

So, lessons. Circling approaches can require getting to the final minimum altitude (1440 ft in this case) earlier than for a straight-in approach to a particular runway. Prepare for high-rate descents. Oh yes, and have fun.

UPDATE One should remember that even for straight-in non-precision approaches, high rates of descent may be required.

Posted Wed Jun 23 21:44:00 2010 Tags: