October 23

The most suitable moments.

Travelling long distances to new places has been part of my life since I were just a child. The first very long journey I recall clearly was the vacation to Pinellas Park Florida with my family in 1978, and I’ve traveled many a weary mile since then.

Last week I flew once again to San Jose for a training class and to meet up with some co-workers in the region whom I rarely get to chat with in person. I had an early morning direct flight from PHX to SJC on American Airways and in typical fashion I arrived at the departure gate well before boarding had begun, and so I quickly scanned the waiting area for a free chair.

Some recurring themes came to mind as I looked about the room, and I began to tick them off as I came upon them. Observation 1 is that the airport waiting chairs are typically the same type. A row of 6 or 8 seats attached together on a shiny metal frame, with wider than an average leather-like seat-cushions which put an additional 2-3 inches of room between waiting passengers. Even with the extra room it’s obvious that complete strangers still do not want to sit side-by-side and so it is customary to see several passengers sitting on one of these benches with an unoccupied seat between each of them. As additional passengers arrive at the gate and find seats available but not contiguously, they will typically choose to stand with their bags rather than squeeze between *two* complete strangers and occupy one of these remaining seats.

After looking past numerous inconsiderate individuals, you know – those who have their ass in one seat and their bag in the seat next to them instead of on the floor in front of them where it should be – I spotted a seat between two nerdy looking fellows in the corner near the boarding ramp door, and made my way over and took a seat without compunction. No one complained, and so I wondered why the others preferred to stand rather than have a rest.

Being the conscientious individual that I am, I placed my backpack on the floor in front of me and tried to take up as little room as possible. I put my prescription distance glasses on and waited for the cattle line to form.

At every airport the story is the same. You listen for the barely intelligible announcements made by speed-talking-operations-crew, who sprint through their sentences with the pronunciation agility of an auction barker who has become completely bored out of their mind from having to babble the same information every day of every week, repeatedly and, seemingly ad infinitum.

“Attention all passengers, American Airways flight 667 with service from Phoenix to San Jose will now begin boarding at gate B-Seven.”

More instructions are given that First Class, Preimum, Executive, and upgraded passengers are to board first. Then any passengers with disabilities or small children. Then they board the remaining cattle in three groups. Tickets marked Group 1 will board when they call for Group 1. Tickets marked group 2 will board when they call Group 2. My ticket is marked Group 3. Guess who boards when they call Group 3?

At any rate as soon as the first call comes up that boarding will begin, approximately 75% of the sitting passengers will stand up immediately. People who are First Class etc will start filing toward the gate attendant with ID and boarding pass to be scanned, and then they trundle on down the jetway to the flight attendant waiting by the open aircraft door. People in groups 1, 2, and 3 will start jockeying for position and before you know it, there is a relatively steady stream of cattle being scanned in at the gate door and lining up down the jetway as traffic backs up in the tiny aircraft aisle.

This is where it gets fascinating to me as I remain seated, watching the procession. People moving in baby steps. Inching forward, shuffling one step at a time. Shuffle forward, pull the bag, adjust the purse, fish out the ticket, hand it to the lady, get it scanned and read it two or three more times to remember your seat number. Shuffle forward into the jetway. Stand in line. Wait. Step. Wait. Step. shuffle on down the line and wait.

Eventually they get through the important people, the infirm and young, then groups 1, 2, and 3. Just after Group three they start making final preparations to sign off on departure.

The whole time I sit there watching them until the last one goes through the door and the gate attendant starts checking to see that they have all passengers checked in. In my mind, I’m calculating how far down the jetway the last passenger is. The gate checkers know I’m not on the plane, so they can’t close the doors and they have to wait. I stay calm. I wait for them to say “Final Call for flight 667 with service from Phoenix to San Jose.”

This is my most suitable moment. Now it’s time for me to go. I stand up from my comfortable seat, discard my coffee cup and walk toward the gate attendant and hand her my boarding pass. I walk slowly, but freely down the jetway without a soul in sight. No waiting. No rushing. No anxiety and best of all, No standing in line for me. I get to the jet door, step in and greet the flight attendant, turn to the right and walk to my seat with very little delay. A few passengers are still getting situated and one guy is apparently trying to stuff a carry-on the size of a large dog into the overhead compartment. I dodge around them and get to my seat at row 21. But I have the middle seat so the aisle guy has to stand up, but I don’t care and neither does he. I stuff my bag in the overhead, grab my soda, purse, and fleece jacket, then dive into the seat and strap in for the trip.

I haven’t delayed us. I haven’t made us late. There is still lots of work for the flight attendants to do when the door is closed and they set about getting it done without delay. I was simply the last person to board, and I boarded well before departure was scheduled. I didn’t get anxious or nervous or jockey for position. I knew we had a scheduled time to depart and I used all of my available time until that point to read a few more paragraphs of a book, without wasting of my time in line.

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May 24

Progress with projects.

Guilty cat hides his eyes in shame after destroying the Inductrix.
Bart hides his eyes in shame after destroying the Micro Inductrix.

My latest major build called “Project Rome” went live on Monday 5/23 and has been declared hugely successful.  I built a new engineering/compute environment in San Diego and migrated the workload from Sunnyvale into it this weekend.  Monday was day 1 on the new infrastructure and we had only minimal issues.  Months of planning, hard work, and stress.  The sense of relief feels very good.  Of course the work doesn’t stop here – I have to tear the old environment down and dispose of the equipment and a lot of other things, but at least I feel like I’m moving forward.

Hal finished up the engine in the 97 NA MX5 and it runs like a new car.  In fact it turns over on the first turn of the key now, just boom, instantly to life.  I think the last thing he needs to do is set the timing more precisely and then it should be good for another 150,000 miles.  We really have gone over nearly every inch of that car in the last few years and it’s a very fine example of a first generation MX5.  I think our next project should be restoring the 1974 Sun Beetle.  (However the racing team has voted that the next project be race-car suspension rebuild, and so that will probably be Project Next.)

Concrete wall rebuild is done and all of the gravel on the sides of the patio has been removed, graded, and replaced with compacted sand & clay.  Essentially it’s just desert hardpan earth which is very natural in this environment.  It feels like about 50% soil & 50% finely crushed gravel.  After it gets wet a few times, it’s nearly hard as stone.  We’re going to have the block walls painted to match the colors of the house.  I think the entire yard will be very pleasing to the eye with a matching color scheme.  Next autumn I plan to get some large 18-20″ pots to plant some desert flowers in.  I’ll place them strategically around the yard and add a bit of color.

Hal and I have been playing with quadcopters lately and have built quite a fleet.  We just picked up two Zeyrok quads and two of the Inductrix models.  One of the Inductrix is about 3″ across and generally for indoor use only.  It was a hoot until I flew too close to Bart and he smacked it out of the air with authority.

It slammed into the ground so hard that two of the motors were damaged.  C’est la vie, eh?  The wind has been a bit stiff the last few days so we haven’t gotten a lot of air time, but I did get enough video to upload a few here & there on the Youtube channel.

I’ve also been doing a bit of gardening lately.  I have had a number of succulents and cactus on my kitchen window sill since I bought the house, but since Sue passed away I’ve taken a bit more interest and gotten quite a few more little green friends.  Sue gave me one of the first plants I had in the house and just a few weeks before she departed, she had given me some clippings from her golden Pathos plant in her kitchen.  I really wanted to keep them healthy so I nursed them in water until they started growing roots and then moved them into a hanging planter near the sink.

Now there are about 20 different succulents in pots, various cactii being spawned, and the makings of two closed-jar moss & succulent terrariums with a collection of at least six mosses.  I have a couple of epiphytes about to spawn even.  Sue used to say that helping plants grow was good for the soul and I think she’s right.  It makes me feel better to do the little pruning and watering and even talking to them a little bit so they can absorb the carbon dioxide.

The weather is getting warm but we’ve been able to get by with using the swamp cooler, which essentially cools the air by adding humidity to it.  Average humidity in this area is 7-12% in the summer – quite dry.  By passing humidified air though the house, it brings the temperature of the air down and does the plants a world of good.  Of course before long (when Monsoon arrives), the air will be too humid for the swamp cooler to work so we’ll have to turn up the HVAC.  But we’re certainly going to enjoy it all we can.

I hope my next update comes sooner than this one did.  I’ve been stressing and working lots over this project, but now that it’s wrapping up I hope I’ll have more free time.

Until then.

 

Category: GeekStuff, Home, Work | Comments Off on Progress with projects.
April 12

Home from Sandy Eggo

I got a 2015 Mazda 3 sedan as a rental from Avis with about 25K on the clock and headed out on the I10 around 11:30 AM on Monday.  The drive was uneventful save for seeing the aftermath of a jack-knifed truck just south of Beaumont California as I was passing through.  A few miles before, I had seen a freeway warning sign saying there was a “truck jackrabbit incident” on the 79 at Beaumont and puzzled over what a “jackrabbit’ incident might be.

Anyway, I think I’ll stop taking the 79 as a short cut toward San Diego because that drive through San Jacinto valley & Hemet always annoy me half to death.  Coming down from hours of 82mph driving into 35mph traffic can be rage inducing when one hasn’t been properly caffeinated.  I may even consider switching to the I8 because the drive is much more scenic than the I10.

I had planned to stay in California until Thursday but we wrapped up meetings a little early on Wednesday so I checked out & started back home around 3:30PM & decided at the last minute to take the I8 east to the 85 through Buckeye & then hook up with the 10 back into Phoenix.  There were far fewer trucks on the 8 & the drive is absolutely beautiful the entire way.  The I8 winds through large rocky mountains down into a desert of drifting white sand before climbing back up to the Northern Sonoran Desert just as you roll into Gila Bend Arizona.  Someday I’ll make this trip in a convertible.

The car was…not my favorite.  It felt cheap and plastic everywhere, the road noise was horrific, and the automagic transmission does not suit my tastes at all.  I really don’t like how an automatic car will immediately lurch forward when I take my foot off the brake.  I’m quite accustomed to keeping my foot on the clutch or shifting to neutral when I stop at a traffic light, but I simply could not get the hang of it in this car.  I also did not like the lack of visibility at the rear quarters which felt quite dangerous to me in close-quarter traffic and those famously narrow California parking spaces.  With these modern designed vehicles it’s of little wonder to me that the backup camera has become nearly ubiquitous, and is in fact a mandatory safety feature in 2017 or 2018 model vehicles.

I got back home around 8:45 Wednesday evening and ended up being awake until nearly 2AM so I could finish up emails & incidents from when I was away.  I feel as if I should post a few photos but have just been too busy with other things to sit down and upload them.

The block walls in the back yard are going to be replaced starting next Monday at 6:30AM and I need to get some work done.

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April 2

It’s never too late for coffee.

I uploaded a video to YouTube of me driving the race car out of the paddock & onto the track.  Sharp-eyed viewers will take note of several mistakes being made right off the bat which culminate in my spinning sideways & leaving the track.  This resulted in a black flag & pit stop for safety inspection.  The HANS clip which came loose was fixed before I rolled back out of the paddock & the rest of the race was completed without incident.  See it here:

There are lots of video clips of the race available on Youtube from other driver perspectives if you just search for 24 Hours of LeMons Inde 2016.  You may even see our car #419 show up in a few of them.  Here’s a few good scenes by Jesse Cortez:

Last weekend Hal & I took the motor out of his 1997 MX5 and started the tear down.  The oil control rings were completely gone on all of the pistons and so we’re fairly sure we’ve located the root cause for the burning oil.  The cams are a bit worn & the HLAs weren’t spinning at all so there’s little divots in the tops of most of them.  Typically if you replace cams you replace the HLAs too, but he really wants to keep this car as close to factory as possible & finding “OEM” cams does not seem likely at this point.  This puts us in a bit of a pickle because if you have to grind the cams & replace the HLAs it will typically result in idle changes because the subtle difference in cam lobe angle, and will necessitate adjusting timing to compensate.  Every after market cam I can find changes the cam angle to some degree but the more severe the change, the more the ECM will have to compensate.  The OEM engine control module cannot be reprogrammed and so if the changes to cam angle & timing deviate too far from the limits of the factory programming, the ECM will have to be replaced with an after market module and a custom engine tune will need to be uploaded.  Some of the after market cams can’t even be used with the factory ECM at all.  Swapping that out & tuning a new one is an entirely different level of tinkering than we’re in the market for.

Monday April 4th I’m driving to San Diego in the morning for business meetings on Tuesday & Wednesday.  I’ll stay just a few miles from the office and come back home either Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.  Either way I’m working from home on Friday.  I’ll probably make a post from San Diego to critique the rental car and driving experience through the empty desert between here & L.A.  I’m taking the I40 to L.A. & then driving south to San Diego because the border patrol checkpoints on the I8 always delay and annoy me.  I plan to download an audio-book for the road from Librivox to listen to on the drive.  It’s such a brief trip that I likely won’t have time to see my friends Conquistador Marcos & Eve unless we can get together for dinner on Monday or Tuesday night.  We’ll see.

I guess the most interesting thing I can note in this post is that Hal & I pre-ordered a Tesla Model 3 on the 31st but probably won’t see it for at least three years.  I want a blue one.  :)  On my longest commutes & most circuitous travels around the metro area I drive maybe 100 miles, so for 90% of my driving an electric car with a 200 mile range will be plenty.  I know it’s a bit of a gamble to hand over $1000 now and wait three years for just the option to buy a new car, but I like the idea of an all electric vehicle and I’m very happy that an American company has taken the lead to develop something like this for the general masses.  When that battery plant is fully operational in Nevada, the Tesla will be the most “Made In America” car on the market.  I like the cut of your jib Mr. Musk.

The weather has been so beautiful in Mesa the last few days that we’ve gotten lots of work done around the property.  Pulling weeds and sweeping up, setting up a nice work area on the back patio so we can work on the cars under the shade and just generally enjoy being alive.  I worked my butt off earlier today so I had a nap and woke up just a little while ago.  I think I’ll go make some coffee and tinker with my robotics stuff.  Sure, I’ll probably be up all night now but it’s never too late for coffee.

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October 25

Please adjust as necessary

One of my leading goals in life is to own my home free and clear, so I need to pay my mortgage off as soon as possible.  I focus on this perhaps obsessively and to that end, I recently changed employers in large part for the earnings increase and substantial bonus potential.  This has resulted in a need to readjust my perspective on some personal things.

 

Not being a fan of T.S.A.’s “x-ray or sexual assault” security theatre, I haven’t flown on a commercial airline since 2010.  My new employer requires my presence in Cambridge UK, so I’ve had to apply for “pre-check” clearance in order to avoid having some government goon groping my girly bits without my consent.  I figured since I always like avoiding lines and long waits, I also applied for Global Entry so I can speed my way through re-entry.  I’ll try not to be too smug as I stroll past the suckers waiting in line while twirling my cane.  ;)

Category: Home, Travels, Work | Comments Off on Please adjust as necessary
August 1

Anticipation

The boss asked me to document some server automation processes related to lockdown/hardening for a response to a recent audit inquiry.  He was very pleasantly surprised when I told him, “Already done.  In fact, more than 2 years ago….but it’s twenty-five pages long.”   :)

A quick OneNote search turned up the document and all 25 pages were printed in under 10 minutes.

Of course, since the data in the document is 2 years old I’ll have to brush it up a bit and include some of the changes we’ve made recently, but I’m very happy with my ability to anticipate audit requirements so far in advance of their request.  :)

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