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

I wasn't lost; reality was mis-placed

2006 December 19 09:03

I flew my first solo cross-country Saturday. Whoo-hoo!

From Morristown to Virginia Highlands through Tri-Cities and back to Morristown. The first two legs went like clockwork. The third wasn't great. My main problem, I think, was that I was expecting VOR navigation to be more precise than it is.

I ended up improvising with the map to figure out the final turn toward the Morristown airport, and I ended up 5 or so miles off. I knew the area well enough, though, to correct and come back and land with no problem.

The idea of the first solo cross country flight is to repeat a flight that you've done before, so the navigation and airport finding is something you've done before. My next cross-country I go to Chattanooga; I've never been there before.

set wrenches to tighten

2006 December 19 08:54

Like working on my car, working in high energy physics in graduate school involved periods of dis-assembly, periods of upgrading/fixing/preparing things, and then periods of putting things back together in preparation for the next experimental run or test or whatever. During that process, there was this wonderful transition day where you realized that everything that you were putting together wouldn't be taken apart again until after the next real experiment. That was the day that the wrenches first stayed on "tighten".

Well, I've gotten there with the beetle on this round of changes. The engine tin is in, and the new heater boxes are installed:

I'm now finished with what I want to do to the bottom of the car. The next time I go out to the garage, I will take the car down off the jack stands and work on getting the battery compartment ready to re-install the battery.

he may have already programmed a countermove

2006 December 03 07:43

Life is full of games. The competiveness that is bred into humans to survive, thrive, and compete is expressed in modern society as social and financial pressures to do one thing over another, a person's response to those pressures. Much of the time, the rules are different than you think they are, and so it's hard to know how to spend your time and money.

One game that's often mis-understood is the role of media. For instance, television producers (or magazine publishers, or newspaper editors, or whatever) aren't in the business that many people think they are. Publishers/producers are in the business of selling an audience to their advertisers. The advertisers are their customers. We, as subscribers, get the priviledge of paying money to be part of the pool of the audience. The tradeoff is that we may get articles that have information that is of interest. Whether to buy a magazine is the question of is the value of the content worth putting yourself in their advertising pool.

And the games change. The game of airline travel used to be that travel agents could get you things that was available nowhere else. The ubiquity internet travel sites and information sources (who are providing an audience for their advertisers too) have made travel agents less relevant.

And nowadays you can check into your flight, print boarding passes, and get seats assigned on-line 24 hours in advance of your flight. This is a hook to get consumers a service that makes their lives more convenient. I've only done that once, for a Delta flight I was on a few weeks ago. I got on the morning of the flight, and got to choose seats (sort of, most of them were reserved).

I'm flying United tomorrow morning, and I just checked in and printed my boarding passes. However, United has put an interesting twist on that process. During the check-in process, United offers to let you pay them money to buy a ticket with more leg room. I declined that, and continued with the check-in process. Then I went to select my seats, and I discovered that the coveted exit row seats have been X-ed off. I can't sit in them with my class of ticket. Apparently, the procedure (at least at United) has been altered in favor of the airline. You can pay for the priviledge of an exit row seat...or you can sit in a regular seat with the rest of the schmoes. It's still worth it (in my opinion) to check in early, but the possibility of picking an exit row seat has been taken away. We live in a society of games. If you don't know who the sucker is in the deal, it's you.

This has been a public service message from www.craigsteffen.net.

the bleeding edge

2006 December 01 09:08

I didn't make it up, but I think media content will be undergoing a complete overhaul in the way it's distributed in, say, the next 20 years. The internet as a delivery mechanism is going to completely change how we look at "shows" and "channels" and what it is we spend our time doing.

I just ran across a new on-line channel called Revision 3. I heard about it from Wil Wheaton, who is now on a show there called InDigital, which reviews tech toys and gadgets. I just watched episode 5, in it they talk about cell phones, Wil talks about a Linux based game system. I look forward to seeing more.

(One more point: they distribute their video on the web, without commercials...in formats that can be played under Linux. How cool is that?)