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

new this season

2007 September 27 23:20

A new show premiered on NBC this last Monday, called "Chuck". It's a spy-spoof sort of story, with lots of Computers. The show's web site has discussion boards and a video section, which includes episodes of the show (which I was able to play on my Linux laptop under Firefox, no crappy Windows DRM--Rock On!).

It looks like the show is going to be an interesting blend of action and comedy, with some interesting characters, I definitely plan on tuning in. The premiere episode is going to be shown again this coming Saturday at 9pm eastern.

I'm so very pleased. I missed the first two seasons of the new BattleStar Galactica and I'm still frantically trying to catch up, and it's been a really long time since I was invested in a show while it was airing.

something I've not felt since...

2007 September 27 22:36

I used to love to program. It was something that I think I was really good at, in a certain realm, and it's cool to be able to apply a skill like that that's worthwhile.

Due to various reasons, I haven't had that much fun programming in a while. Part of it has been being busy, and working in a new environment, and having too many things to really be able to sink my teeth into any of them. Today, it was fun to program, in a way that it hasn't been in a couple of years. Why the resurgence? Maybe because I'm up against a deadline. But it's not just that, either. There's a fun in it that I haven't felt in a while.

In thinking about this, I thought I'd list my favorite quote from a programming book ever. This is the book that I taught myself how to program on out of round about 1985 on a TRS-80 Color Computer 2:

The quote:

Section I

The Basics

In this section you'll learn how to program. Before you start, though, put yourself in the right frame of mind...

Don't try to do everything the "correct" way. Don't try to understand everything. Above all, please don't take our word for anything!

Do have fun with your Color Computer. Try out your own ideas. Prove us wrong (if you can). Type anything and everything that comes to mind.

Ready? Turn the page and begin.

I work with new computer systems at work, and so this philosophy continues to serve me, because everything isn't known about how these machines behave, and it's often true that there are undocumented features, both pleasant and unpleasant, that needed to be understood and accounted for.

uphill...both ways...with a map!

2007 September 26 22:46

The other reason that the GPS that came this weekend was interested was that it's the third old-school (mid-1990s) GPS that I own. Those are the type that have 20 routes with up to 30 waypoints per route.

Nowadays, the GPS units have full street maps, dynamic intelligent routing and voice directions so you don't have to look at the screen. We rented a car from Budget this last weekend, and we got a Garmin Streetpilot c550 with the car. I've seen GPS receivers that talked to you in taxis before, but this was the first time I got to use one myself.

It's pretty cool. It never failed to get us to a town or an address. In one case it was wrong about the nearest restaurant of a certain name. It did direct us correctly through a complicated interchange between the Minneapolis beltway and one of the crossing highways to get us to the airport.

One thing that's really annoying is that it won't let you change destinations or even change preferences while driving; you can only do it while stopped. I don't know if this is a feature of the rental units or if all the Garmin units do this.

GPS trifecta

2007 September 26 17:07

I was gone over the weekend on vacation (filial piety tour 2006!) and then I was sick when I got back. Starting right now, today, I'm going to try for 30 posts in 30 days again, since I failed so spectacularly last time.

We we got back, something that I'd bought on ebay had finally arrived:

I bought a (used, obviously) Garmin GPSCom 190 on ebay a couple of weeks ago. This unit would be just the treat for flying in something small, like a Hummel Bird or BK, because it's a navigation system and radio all in one, and it weights just a couple of pounds.

This auction was sort of a long shot. The GPSCOM 190 is a very old model, and they don't come up for sale very often. The seller of this one bought an airplane and wanted to put a better GPS in it, so technitian "just cut the wires". You'll notice above the spliced-together power wires. I'm charging the battery here, with the grey box which is an old disk drive power supply.

Below is the unit still attached to the yoke mount, as it came out of the box:

Buying something like that, untested, condition-unknown is chancy. You pay much less than you would otherwise but take the risk that it's a dud and doesn't work. I got lucky this time:

something old and something new

2007 September 19 09:12

The October issue of Flying Magazine has an article about the new Cessna 162 Skycatcher. The Skycatcher is an aircraft specifically designed for pilots to train and fly using the new sport pilot rules for pilots and aircraft that have been enacted in the past few years. The idea of the sport pilot rules is to lower the bar for people wanting to become pilots, to get more people involved in aviation with less effort and money if their interests are more casual. The Cessna 162 is specifically targeted at that market. The article states that they will fly it for the first time in 2008 and plan to start delivering in 2009.

Interestingly, the engine chosen for the 162 is the very very venerable Continental O-200 engine. The O-200 is the powerplant of the Cessna 150, and in the years since the 150 went out of production, has also become staple of experimental aircraft, like the Q-200 tandem-wing. The January 2007 issue of Sport Aviation magazine has an article on the O-200 which states over 25,000 of those engines have been manufactured, and it has never gone out of production.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

2007 September 16 22:37

One of the featured guests at DragonCon were the Mythbusters build team, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tori Belleci. After the reading by Peter Beagle, I went to the autograph area to get something signed by him. As it turned out, the Mythbuster's table was right by his.

After I bought The Last Unicorn and had it signed, I went over and bought Grant Imahara's book Kickin' Bot at the Mythbuster's table and had them sign it:

They had a short line of people waiting for them, so I didn't talk to them much, but their were very gratious (and didn't charge for autographs; apparently some people do). I have heard of people having an "electric charisma". Kari Byron has it. When she talks to you, you get the impression that what you're talking about is the most important thing of the world, and she finds it incredibly facinating. [For Kari Byron admirers/stalkers, in the Q&A she said that she was already married]

it's something they call "assembly"

2007 September 13 09:14

The model is finally coming together. Last night during Mythbusters, I glued the cockpit floor/seat assembly into the fuselage. Here it is, ready to glue the two body halves together:

Notice coil of solder in the front. The official way to put this model together is to have a tail stand if you want to display it with the engine compartment open, because there's not enough weight in the nose. I'm trying to add weight in the front whenever I can.

The fuselage is finally together:

At the end of last night, the main wing is ready to attach and the front landing gear strut and engine have been attached to the firewall.

reject only your ignorance and you may survive

2007 September 09 17:59

One of the neat costumes I saw at Dragoncon was this one: which I asked if I could take so that I could use a flash a get a good shot:

She's dressed as the title character from the Electronic Arts game American McGhee's Alice:

The game is a very dark adventure in the world of Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. (The wikipedia article on the game probably has spoilers.)

You pick up various "toys" in the game that are your weapons. There are multiple copies of each weapon in the game, some of them hard to get to. I didn't realize when I was playing the first time through (when the game was still fairly new) that getting a weapon multiple times makes it more powerful. More than half way through the game, I ended up stuck in a boss fight. Looking through some on-line strategy guides, I found out my mistake. I didn't have the heart at the time to start the game over, but now a few years later, I think I'll take this chance to give it another try. For those who know the game, I'm playing on "medium" difficulty.

The Cheshire Cat goes along in the game and has advice and tips for you. Here's my favorite bit; it's when you get the Vorpal Blade at the beginning, which is your base weapon.

you're not from around these parts

2007 September 05 22:18

I went to Dragon*Con last weekend. It's huge--more than an order of magnitude bigger than Pengicon, which is the only other sci-fi con that I've been to.

Interesting costumes. Here's someone dressed as Sephiroth in the food court; slightly surreal to have someone carrying a sword in one hand and a Subway sandwich in the other.

A group costume crossing the street.

My favorite, however, was listing to and meeting Peter Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn.