31 March 2011

The Long Watch

It's a RAH Favorite in "The Past Through Tomorrow".

Unfortunately we may be seeing the story play out in present day Japan. The premise is different but the end result may well be the same.

Godspeed guys.. We are all counting on you.

27 March 2011

ePostal reminder

The first ePostal of the season closes Thursday night.  Targets are due by midnight Monday night.

I took a couple more tries at the match today.  Here's a target i won't be submitting:
Of the shots that hit, all scored negative for a total of -19.  Fortunately the other target turned out much better.

24 March 2011

The correct number is zero, not one or two.

The media is in a tizzy over a tower controller that (apparently) fell asleep on a very slow overnight shift.  Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood reacted demanding two controllers on the overnight shift.

Here's the deal.  Landing at an airport without an active control tower is No Big Deal.  Most airports do not even have a tower, and most of the towers close over night.  Instead of getting clearance to land from a controller, they check the runway themselves looking for unsafe conditions and broadcast in the blind to tell other aircraft in the area where they are and what they are doing.  Then land on the runway of their choice.  If there is more than one aircraft in the area aiming to land, pilots self coordinate who is first and who will follow.

In reality, the tower controllers job is very simple.  Look to see if the runway is clear and assuming no one is holding a drag race on the runway, clear the plane to land.  Why do we need a highly paid professional to check the runway then get on the radio and say "Citation 12345, cleared to land runway one niner".  Then a second call as they clear the runway "Citation 12345, taxi to parking, monitor ground, good night."

Pilots are a self sufficient bunch.  They can judge their own runway safety and find the way to their destination on the field.  The go-around on short final due to a fouled runway is a standard training scenario.

Reagan National airport (KDCA) is at the center of the most highly restricted airspace in the country.  The TRACON controllers watching the airspace out 30 miles know what planes are in the area and where they are.  I cannot think of another airport more secure both in the air and on the ground, and less in need of an overnight controller.

A comment at MArooned notes there is no commercial traffic after 10PM.

LaHood's two controller "solution" effectively means one controller's job is to make sure the other does not fall asleep.   What a waste of a second controller!  Train engineers I understand have a deadman switch that requires a human interaction every so ofter unless the controls are otherwise adjusted.   In my experience working off shift, the second one controller means will cover while the other one sleeps and vice versa.  They will each spend half the night sleeping, snoozing for dollars.

There's an old joke about the aircraft cockpit of the future.  "The crew will consist of a pilot and a dog.  The pilot is there to monitor the autopilot and systems.  He doesn't actually do anything since that's all handled by computers and controlled from the ground.  The dog is there to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything."

The right answer is not one or two controllers, but no controllers.  Close the tower overnight and save the money. DCA is probably the most secure airport in the land.  Pilots can judge their landing runway and taxi to their destination.  We do it all the time. 

Even if there is some reason to keep the one controller, a better solution is to hire a dog.   Or a very loud alarm.

17 March 2011

Ronald Reagan Library

The weeks leading up to this vacation week were filled with "What shall we do while we are there?".  The obvious "Disneyland", and "Universal Studios" immediately headed the list.  I checked out Jeopardy (Yea, I'm a geek) but they aren't taping this week.  The SCQueen caught a "100 years of Reagan" or somesuch on the tube.  She asked how close it was to the timeshare.  A quick mapquest check showed 100 miles and just under 2 hours one way without traffic.  Ok this is LA, when is there NOT traffic?  The "with traffic" time pushed beyond 3 hours.

Uggg.  But I talked to a local that had spent some time there and his only regret was that he didn't have more time to spend.  OK because I love my wife and this is a one time deal, "We'll" make the drive*.

And it's well worth the trip.

The Library is set up to chronologically follow his life from school years to early career, acting roles and into politics.   He was governor of my home state for several years before I became politically aware.  Still I am proud to have cast my first presidential vote for Reagan late in 1980.  It was the first and possibly only "affirmative" for a presidential candidate.  1984 was even easier.  Most if not all of the rest have been "negative" votes against the other guy.   The lesser of two evils.

I recall this statement. This is the statement of an office holder that understands the shareholder-employee relationship. Contrast that with the current residents "I won, you lost" attitude.

The oval office is an exact replica of the Oval Office as it was during his watch.  I should have taken more pictures to splice together *sigh* my career as a photographer is a history of regrets and "almost great" shots.  This is yet another one.

The Hinckley assassination attempt was covered in dramatic fashion.    I guess I never realized the attempt was made with a .22 revolver.  The exhibit shows a like model Rolm RG-14 revolver.

The collapse of the Berlin wall was a significant portion of the visit.  The portion of Reagan's speach "...Mr Gorbachev, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!" was in heavy rotation,
The SCQueen asked a nearby docent if she gets tired of hearing that line.  She answered "Never!  I hear that line hundreds of times a day and I never tire of it."  Amen.

The current 747 based Air Force One 28000 was ordered during Reagan's  second term but not delivered until the HWBush's term. 

What do you suppose this bad boy is worth:
S&W .44 Magnum base price (est) $1500
Optional engraving with gold inlay  $5000
Owned by President Ronald Reagan:PRICELESS!

Finally, here's a panorama looking out from behind the library:

Bottom line, it was well worth the trip.  I say that even considering this "trip" cost driving 100 miles across the heart of LA in rush hour traffic twice (there and back).

15 March 2011

Road Trip!!!

The SandCastle Mom (not to be confused with the SandCastle Queen) loved to travel.  To that end my parents bought a couple time share weeks here and their.  They rarely stayed at their timeshares but rather traded them for weeks at other locations.  Now with mom gone, dad has no appetite to travel. So we scheduled the SCSon's spring break week out in La La land.

Part of the reason for picking this resort is that it's close enough for fly ourselves.  Plan A was to fly out, land at a nearby airport and rent a car for the week.  Unfortunately the plane is down with a leaking fuel fitting.  Plan B was to just rent a car in Phoenix and drive.  However between spring training and spring break, the rental cars were sold out.  We looked at several other options including Southwest, AmTrak and Greyhound.   Surprisingly, of the three Greyhound was most expensive (over $300 per person).  Whatever happened to "Go Grehound and leave the driving tu us".  If those were plans C, D & E, plan F was to rent a car from Tucson.  It'll adds a hundred miles each way to the trip, but it also cut $100 off the weekly rate in Phoenix.

Driving I-10 to LA Sux!  It's a 7 hour trip, most of which is spent trying to avoid those trying to kill you. SCS-1 makes the trip in under 2 hours without the high speed close quarter stress.  We also made our first > $4/gallon fillup.  Monday we drove the length of the LA Basin to visit the Reagan Library, Griffith Observatory & La Brea Tar Pits (look for future posts on these topics).

LA freeway traffic just about put the SCQueen into a catatonic state.  It's sometimes 70 mph bumper-to-bumper, and sometimes stop and go.  The transitions from "go" to "stop" tend to be particularly abrupt tending toward scary.  I could not make this drive on a daily basis but I'll make a one time exception to the visit the library of the greatest president of my lifetime. 
We visit the Queen Mary Wednesday.

I'll add more on our visits as I get time to go though the pictures.

11 March 2011

Crescent Moon

The weatherman mentioned we had a space station flyby scheduled for last evening.  I needed to visit the airport anyway and grabbed the camera and tripod to see if I could get a shot. 

No luck there but we had a nice moon.  Here is via a 15x optical zoom.
I took several shots with varying settings and this came out the best.  So while I'm happy with the shot, I didn't take any notes so I have absolutely no idea what settings worked best.  I didn't get any smarter (which is the whole reason for taking the pictures!)   Maybe I can find something in the metadata.

Spring Training!

This is a really nice time of year here in the desert.  February started with sub freezing temps but a month later it's really starting to get nice (87F).

This time of year a large portion of our division at the DayJob(tm)  takes an afternoon off to visit a spring training game.  The stress of tracking down bugs is traded for the stress of avoiding sunburn and dealing with traffic.

Today the DiamondBacks dropped in on the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.  Here's what it looked like during the Angels pre-game workout:
The  home Angels are the team in red and the visiting Diamondbacks are the team in (slightly darker) red.  Had to look close to see who is who.

These "action" shots were taken with the "advanced sports action" settingand I must say it's not what I expected.  I'd hoped it would "prefocus" to minimize the shutter delay.  Instead it seems to stretch out the shutter speed to blur the action.  There are times that makes sense, (like taking airplane pictures - fast shutter speeds stop the propellers and just doesn't look right).  But in these shots, I'd rather catch "the instant" rather than seeing the bat and ball as a blur.  I'm still learning and got a little smarter today.
The Pickoff.  Note the ball just right of the first baseman's head.
Here's a hit with a ground bounce. The ball is the streak in the grass on the left and you can trace the line back to the dirt splash.
Anyway, you get the idea..  It was actually a pretty good game. started out slow with no action but the Angels pretty quickly built a lead.  The local team battled back to tie and then  take the lead.  But the Angels got some players on base and retied the game.  For a while it looked like the game might end in a tie.  But next at bat scored a run for the win in the bottom of the ninth.

I hope your Friday was as pleasant.

02 March 2011

People of the Gun

People of the Gun is back and now hosted by ammo.net!

I liked this project from the get go.  To me it was a collection of people that believe in safe gun usage.  A politician at the time was trying at the time to paint gun owners as bad guys of all sorts: gang-bangers, mobsters, etc.  This shows we are your next door neighbor, your meter reader, plumber, coworker, dentist, airline pilot, etc.  In other words, we are the Good guys.

One item jumped out at me back in the early days of the project.  Jeff sent out the call for pictures without any rules or guidelines on what the pictures should show.  The only guidelines were on image size in terms of pixels.  New pics rolled in for weeks and months with one common theme:  Safe gun handling.  Muzzles were pointed in a safe direction and fingers were off the triggers, except for the obvious live action shots.  And those were typically taken from behind the firing line.  This is a testament to the mindset of responsible gun owners - we are safety minded and we do it right.

If you believe in and practice the constitutional and natural right to self defense, please submit your photo to ammo.net's POTG sign up page  I loved tuning in every day and seeing another couple rows of photos added to the page.  Join us!

You can see our picture in the 6th row from the top, right most column.  The SCSon launching clay pigeons and me doing my best to ensure they do not land safely!