With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

We have the tools, we have the talent!

2005 March 28 21:28

Ok, I've created a php function in the page template for my blog. It implements a function that takes the name of the source image as an argument, and depending on what directory it was invoked from, puts the correct pathname into the tag.

So...anyway. I was recently shopping for aircraft headsets, and there was a neat emergency flashlight advertised on the front page of one of the sites I looked at. It doesn't have batteries in the conventional sense. The main barrel of the flashlight is hollow, with a couple of coils of magnet (very fine) wire around two spools. A tube goes through the middle of the spools, in which is a small magnet. When the shake the flashlight, the magnet slides from one end to the other and back, passing through the coils on the way. The changing magnetic field due to the moving magnet induces voltage and thus current in the coils, which is tapped to charge the flashlight. I assume the actual energy storage is capacitive.
It has a cool blue light (LED I think). It'scalled an "LED Shakelight".

...are the windows of my mind...

2005 March 28 08:31

It's interesting how smells can be very strongly tied to memories. I came downstairs this morning, to the smell of wood smoke, and the house "felt" different than it had in a long time. Interesting.

I was going to finish this post up with a photo of a new gadget I just got, but it seems that due to the file archiving structure that blogger uses, photos won't show up correctly in directly linked single posts. So...I'll have to code up a php function to figure out what directory the file is being called from. Interesting.

That's the news...and I am outta here...

fireplace technology

2005 March 27 20:15

Being trained as a physicist, I sometimes (Ok, often) fall into the the trap of thinking that I know more about things than I really do, because I have training in some of the inner workings of matter. It's good for me when someone who knows much less about physics than I do puts my in my place by showing me that they know much more about an aspect of applied reality than I do.

My wife is back home, and her father is visiting. We'd given up using the fireplace in our house because it put lots of smoke into the house. This is very sad, because we like fires very much. When at their house, we'd discussed with my father in law the possible reasons for the fireplace not performing as it should. Yes, we had opened the damper. Yes, we'd primed the flue.

However, we now have a cheery fire burning in the fireplace. It turns out that the fireplace burns quite well, and doesn't smoke into the house if the fire basket (the metal grate-thing that the logs sit on) is pushed all the way to the back of the fairly deep fireplace. The fire burns nicely (and draws quite well; that is, the smoke is drawn up the chimney strongly). It never occured to my wife or I to move the fire away from the front.

Ah well--one mystery solved. :-)

flying club

2005 March 26 09:33

March 9, I went to Decatur and joined the flying club there.

A flying club is an organization that owns one or more airplanes, and "rents" them to its members. The idea is that airplane ownership (to say nothing of operation) is a very expensive proposition, and amoritzing the costs over a larger number of people is a pretty financially sound thing to do. If you own an airplane and fly it a lot, then the hourly and monthly costs will pretty much be a fixed amount. However, if you dont' fly for a while, you're still incurring hangar rental, and insurance and other fixed expenses. The idea is that in a club, the fixed costs are shared with as many other people as possible, so you only pay per hour what it really costs per hour.

The ideal flying club to be a member of is one where most of the people fly very little or not at all. Their monthly dues keep the cost for everone cheap.

The club that I joined is $600 to join. You get $300 back when you leave. Dues are $45 per month. The club owns three aircraft, the cheapest of which is a Cessna 172 which rents for $60/hour. Instructor's fees are from $20 to $30 per hour, so I'll be able to get instruction for less than $100/hour, which is a pretty good rate. Renting a 172 at a regular rental place would be significantly more expensive than that; perhaps 80 or 85 an hour.

I'm not starting to fly yet, but it only costs me the 45 per month to stay a member. That way, when I choose to start, I know what the hourly rate is.

Right. Saturday. Lots to do.

A day in the country

2005 March 20 15:32

The day has gone pleasantly from cold to cool to sunny to almost too warm to be outside. Spring has sprung.

I just got a new prescription for my glasses and contact lenses, and so I sat out on the deck this morning in the sun, reading Taking Flight and breaking in the photogrey on the new glasses.

Am I the only person in the world who was confused by what "pipe cleaners" really were (other than to make cute crafty things out of)? I'd always wondered how one cleaned out (water/sewer) pipes with things that small. I thought that they weren't long enough, and you'd really frankly need things that were much stiffer, and I would think larger diameter. My father in law was cleaning out the barrel of a pipe (the kind you smoke tobacco in) this morning and I had a revelation.

It's the sort of thing where you think "Am I the only one who's this misguided?".

There's been a rock sticking up in the middle of the driveway coming down to the cabin bothering me. I don't think it was really seriously in danger of hitting the bottom of our car, but it's hard to tell. So I grabbed a sledge hammer and cracked off enough pieces that it's basically level with the road around it. The rock was pretty heterogeneous, so it broke much more easily than I anticipated. It's some igneous rock with streaks of iron oxide. Some of the fractures look to be the first time that those surfaces have seen sunlight in tens of thousands of years. I saved a couple of the smaller pieces for a geologist friend of mine.

the cats are vindicated

2005 March 20 10:45

I've updated the cats page, and edited a couple of earlier blog posts to have cat links in them. Being on the end of rural dial-up is always a gentle reminder to not overpopulate pages with big photos. If you have a lot to say, and digital pictures are a big part of it, then split the pages and navigate through them with "next page" buttons.

Lying in bed, updating my web site. :-) As Wierd Al says: "Such a thrill just to be me, This is the life!"

sitting by the fire

2005 March 19 23:04

Am sitting in front of a fire at my parent-in-laws' retirement cabin. The NCAA tournament is on the TV in the background. West Virginia vs. Wake Forest, just went to wva 98, wake 94.

This place is relaxing to incredible degree. With the help of my mother in law, I convinced my wife to come down to spent this coming week (spring break) here to take a serious, much needed break.

I'm writing this on my iBook, sitting by the fire via the wireless that I installed on the cabin's computer. Ah...this is the life. The wireless was a present to the parents in law, but (I admitted it to them) it was at least as much a present to me as them. Now I can do stuff on-line, and read and write e-mail on my own machine while I'm here, and I don't have to wait in line for the one computer that has the modem.

I'm almost to the Wright brothers in Taking Flight. It's interesting reading about Samuel Langley. I've always known that he was famous for failing to acheive flight with his Great Aerodrome. However, he was the head of the Smithsonian, and a very accomplished scientist. I think that lots of people expected it to succeed. He and those on his team had some excellent ideas, and they had an excellent engine. He just didn't understand structural scaling.

Hmm...not doing much, so not much to write about. I should probably stop before I get boring.

Oh; I expect I'll be writing a bit on shell permission bits at some point soon. I recently saw a presentation on bash shell scripting tied a lot of things together about it.

Have a good weekend/spring break/whatever.

the wheat from the chaff

2005 March 14 22:04

Well, that's about all the work I'm going to do on the front page tonight. The site went from over 900 files to 221. Once I've downloaded a new dump of the current state, I will fix the front page, and add a link to this blog.

So as of Today, March 14, 2005, this blog is "official" (that is, it's linked from a real live web site). Well, Ok, but it made me happy.

I tore out most of the old, derelict pages. I left the cats page, though. That needs to be restructured, so that it's not so painful to load over a modem.

Ok, downloads finished. Back to fixing the front page.

Hmm...I just realize that I had sort of a milestone last Wednesday, but due to my thinking about other things, I haven't blogged about it. It even has to do with flying. That, in a day or two.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...

2005 March 14 22:00

Suddenly...New York City makes sense. Patricia Neilsen Hayden makes the analogy that living in a city is like an expert system. That is, there aren't necessarily the protections that exist elsewhere, and it's assume at all times that everyone knows what they're doing. I'd never thought about living in a large or large-ish city as that, but it helps explain that concept. Hmm...interesting. [Note to my wife: this doesn't mean that I'm all keen to live in New York. I would 1) have to get rid of 3/4 of my stuff, 2) there would be absolutely no way that I could ever build an airplane and 3) driving would not be fun any more.]

One more link, and then that's all for now. I can quit any time. :-) I read this at work last week, and it had me laughing so hard tears were running down my face. I've had some personal issues going on recently, and the emotional release of this page was actually very theraputic.

I've been putting off updating this until I got some stuff done, and some more DVDs burned, and more of the basement tidied up. That's coming along as soon as Godot the basement-cleaning elf, so this entry, which has been a draft for the last 5 days, is going out the door.

I came downstairs to spend some time with Ripley, and to get my front page updated. I'm doing the first, but while I type this, I can't do the second. So off I go.

all of explored space

2005 March 09 10:03

Forgive me for slightly mis-quoting Opus here, but I would just like to say that I have the very best wife in all of explored space.


2005 March 08 20:58

Am finishing an evening filled with leftovers from my wife's wonderful split pea soup and the last of the birthday cake. Spent it reading Patricia Neilson Hayden, who is very fun and cool.

One of her links I ran across which has always interested me is a page about the anatomy of a Denial of Service Attack. I mention it here for completeness, and that it makes it much easier to find in the future.

_Who_ won?!?

2005 March 08 09:22

Spent some time stuffing ballots yesterday. When I first read Wil's post on WWDN about it, Wesley was tied for "most annoying character" in Star Trek.

I'm happy to report that the power of the WWDN market segment has spoken. Q has now overtaken Wesley for 5th most annoying character. Will monitor the situation as it progresses.