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Century of flight

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

Noted the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful powered flight today.

While it’s certainly a cause for celebration, it seems to me that advances in aviation tapered off in the second half of the twentieth century, or at least in terms of the usual metrics: speed, altitude, range, etc. Case and point: by 1953, we had jet-powered aircraft, had achieved supersonic flight, and jet aircraft that could cross the oceans non-stop. Fifty years later we’ve not pushed those boundaries much further, something evident when you consider that some planes built around 1953 are still in service today. Comparing 1953 to 1903 the advances made during that period seem much greater.

I suppose there’s something to be said for other metrics: for example, over the past fifty years air transport has become much more available to the public, as would be shown by statistics (if I could only find them) on the number of people traveling by air, number of airports, miles flown, etc. Still, such advances aren’t anywhere as glamorous… I feel we’re overdue to take the “next big step up” in aviation. What form will it take? Inexpensive space planes? Hypersonic air travel? Time will tell.

At last, victory!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2003

I was delighted to see from last Sunday’s autocross results that I placed first in my class (A-Stock Novice). Now this isn’t technically the first time this has happened, but last time it was because I happened to be the only entrant in my class. This time I went against two other competitors, one driving the same kind of car as mine.

Granted, another driver driving a stock Evo managed a time over five seconds better than mine—so clearly I still have much to learn…

An army of one…

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

… untrained soldier.

Someone pointed me to a silly little online “strategy” game called Kings of Chaos today. I signed up and immediately launched an attack, the results of which were fairly amusing:

Your soldiers march onto the battlefield

Your generals report on your army’s status:

0 of your soldiers are trained attack specialists
1 of your army consists of untrained soldiers

None of your 0 trained soldiers have weapons

None of your 1 untrained soldiers have weapons

Your field scouts report on the status of the enemy:

The enemy has 2,630 trained soldiers with weapons and 1,120 with no weapons

None of the enemy’s 273 untrained soldiers have weapons

Both sides charge!
Your army strikes!

Your troops inflict 4 damage on the enemy!
The enemy sustains 0 casualties!

Everous’s forces counter-attack and inflict 69,914,433 damage on your army!
Your army sustains 0 casualties!

Your generals report on your weapon damage:

Everous’s forces expelled your army!

As your soldiers flee the battlefield you try to figure out what happened.
Were you overwhelmed by superior force? Were your soldiers tired?
Were your weapons in poor condition? Perhaps your soldiers were cowardly?
If you continue to fight and lose word will spread throughout the land about
your army’s incompetence!

Results that would qualify me as a general in the Iraqi army, I think…

Apparently I can gain more soldiers by having people click on a link to the Kings of Chaos website. Please, help me out and click on this link!

Don’t count your fry…

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

41 of the 44 corydoras eggs that I moved to the isolation tank hatched last night and this morning. I was able to witness about a half dozen of them hatch in front of my eyes: first, I could see the fry wriggling around inside the egg, and a few minutes later the egg would burst open rather suddenly and the fry would dart out, and upon gaining its bearings a second or so later it would immediately swim down to the safety of the gravel. In the gravel the fry are completely invisible except occasionally when they move about. When I got back home tonight I could still see that at least a few were still alive, though it’s impossible to know how many until they grow large enough to be more easily visible.


Friday, November 28th, 2003

I heard one of the bala sharks in my aquarium chomping away on something and when I went to have a look, was startled to find that something had laid clusters of eggs overnight.

[photo of corydoras eggs]

Further research pointed to the cory cats as the likely source of the eggs, and sure enough, I saw one of the fish laying more eggs. I cut off one leaf that had eggs stuck to it and put it into my isolation tank; as for the others I can only hope that a few will survive the incessant foraging of my bala sharks. If enough hatch and survive I may use the new fish to re-stock my office aquarium, where my attempt to kill off snails using copper unfortunately killed off two of the four panda corys.

Mettle to the pedal

Thursday, November 27th, 2003

Installed new racing pedals from AutoVation in the Evo today:

[photo of racing pedals]

The actual reason I installed the new pedals—and the reason they’re called “racing pedals”—is not the stylin’ look, but rather the fact that the smooth, flared-out gas pedal is designed to faciliate heel-and-toe shifting, a technique most commonly used by race car drivers to ensure maximum speed and traction through fast turns.

Heel-and-toe is a technique known to only a small fraction of drivers, and mastered by an even smaller number. Having only learned to drive a manual transmission two months ago, learning to do the heel-and-toe seemed like a daunting task but I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it. These new pedals should make it easier, as I don’t have to twist my right foot around quite as much to reach the throttle and therefore can more easily control the throttle while braking.

Captured on film

Monday, November 10th, 2003

Met photographer Doug Richardson at Sunday’s autocross event in Marina, and later upon visiting his website, SportsCarImage.com, was delighted to find that he’d captured three photographs of my Evo on-course at the Oakland autocross.

Here’s one of me putting the car on three wheels (or almost) through a hard left turn:

[photo of my Evo on three wheels]

I’ve put copies of the images up on my gallery at NorcalEvo.net.

Sidebar history

Saturday, November 8th, 2003

Finally got around to making a page to maintain a history of all the items that have appeared in the sidebar (books, music, TV, movies, games).

The Evo returns…

Saturday, November 8th, 2003

… November 18—assuming the repair shop stays on schedule.

In the meantime, my friend Jason has kindly offered to let me co-drive his Street Modified-class M3 (basically a stock 2001 BMW M3 with an almost entirely aftermarket suspension). Seeing as how I’ve never driven his M3, much less any M3, much less a rear-wheel drive car, much less at autocross, much less in the rain, this should prove to be an interesting experience…


Sunday, November 2nd, 2003

Had a great time out at autocross today. Posted somewhat-mediocre times but showed some progress and—most importantly—had fun.

Less fun was what happened afterwards.

After pulling out of a gas station, I was making a left turn to get back to the freeway when out of nowhere, a big white sedan slammed into the left side of my car, right into my door. Luckily he hit me at an angle so although my door and some of the body panels around it were bent up, I wasn’t injured.

What really shocked—flabbergasted—me was that as soon as he hit me, he just took off—fled. As a typically-conformant, law-abiding and otherwise responsible individual I was simply shocked. What could possess someone to go from being involved in a relatively minor accident to committing a felony? (If I had to guess, it was that he was driving without insurance—Oakland isn’t exactly the most affluent neighbourhood…)

I can only take comfort in the fact that neither I nor my friend from work, who was riding with me, were injured in the slightest. Cars can be fixed more easily than people…