Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hurricane Season 2017 Summary

Well *we* got off light here in coastal Mississippi, for once.  Outside of that though it was a pretty rough year: Harvey, Irma, and Maria were particularly bad.  Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground gives a detailed summary.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

18,000 miles

Rolled over 18k miles on the road bike today.  At almost exactly 9 years since purchase, that averages out to 2k miles a year.  That's better than I though I was doing, with all the pneumonia, broken bones, asthma, weather, etc. that have been dogging me these last few years.

When I was seriously racing, I was clocking 3k per year on the road and 1k per year on the mtb.  Off-road miles get a 2x factor, so call it all 5k road equivalent miles (REM).  These days my weekend off-roading and/or CX-on-the-seawall comes to about 1k REM.  For having dialed back, a total of 3k REM still isn't bad.  Anyway, I'm having fun.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Movie Reviews: It Might Get Loud and The Wrecking Crew

Two documentaries about musicians and their music.  It Might Get Loud focuses on three very different guitar masters, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes).  They all have their focuses, they all have their strengths, and they all get together and learn some guitar slinger tricks off each other.  It's a remarkable in-depth look at their very different approaches.  Page can play anything technically very competently and then stirs in some soul to make it come out right, while The Edge strips down music to its fundamentals and builds it back up with technology.  White, on the other hand, attacks his instrument and we get to listen to it bite back.  (In many respects this reminds me of some of the ways in which different physicists approach their work.)  It's a fascinating blend of one-at-a-time interviews, retrospectives, and three-way jam sessions.  

On to The Wrecking Crew, it's a story of the music business in the 1960s and how it naturally just morphed into having a running set of studio musicians who bridged the gap between the faceless backup orchestra members in 1950s music and the DIY rock stars of the mid-1970s onward.  Also an interesting story, one that TWC's unofficial and semi-anonymous members deserve to finally have told.

I'll give The Wrecking Crew 3 out of four stars, while It Might Get Loud digs deeper and earns 3.5 stars.  Both are highly recommended and well worth your time.  You can read more about them respectively here and here over at Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Oh, I'm still around.

Just taking a breather around and after Thanksgiving.  Speaking of which, here are a couple of items that've popped up recently, sort of reminiscent of events this past Thursday.

Giant fruits and vegetables from Messy Nessy:
Looks like pumpkin pie time.

And whipped cream overload from Foxtrot:

Mmmm, more later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Stopping the Cycle of Violence

SMBC shows us how it's done:

This bike needs some Velociraptors to complete the bloody image.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hypersonic Flight is Harder Than We Initially Thought

But there's still good progress being made.  Here's a short article from the current issue of Physics Today.  Oh man, trim a control surface and suddenly you get air dissociating into a super-heated high-pressure layer of atomic oxygen.  Honestly, garden variety spaceflight is much easier.  But again, we're making good progress.  At least, we're no longer melting scramjets off of manned rocket planes.  Go read the article to see how things are developing.

This was 50 years ago.  50 years before that, WWI biplanes were state of the art.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Review: Andy Weir's Artemis

Short version: If you enjoyed The Martian, dive right in.  It reads like drinking cool water on a hot day.

Slightly longer version:  Take someone awfully like Heinlen's character Friday and plunk her into a similar setting to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Have her run around and fix problems a la The Martian for 300+ pages.  Have an underlying economic story about a Lunar outpost city transitioning from running things as a company store into a more free market system, while fending off a mobster-rule threat.  Interesting problems crop up regarding breathing air – we take if for granted, but on the Moon, it's a – what? – public utility good?  Or a commodity to be traded?  Or...?  Then throw in some insider trading, a stagnating economy, sabotage, and a nascent economic boom and things start getting exciting.

And just to keep things moving along, this all happens at a frenetic Quentin Tarantino movie pace, with the accompanying snappy dialogue.  Realistic, perhaps not, but entertaining as all get out.  In fact, when this book gets picked up for a movie, Tarantino would be a good choice to direct.

Look, if you're looking for some mid-20th Century existentialist message novel, this isn't it.  If you're looking for deep insights into the human soul, go elsewhere.  If you want to see a few characters grow into some awfully big shoes while action swirls all around, there's a lot of it here.  Mostly though it's just a quick read in which Andy Weir successfully fends off the sophomore slump.  

Three out of four stars.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Shortwave Blues Update

Just a reminder, with the shortening days and the shift from daylight savings to standard time, WWCR's Friday evening blues show Last Radio Playing is now on 5935 kHz at 6pm CST, or 0000z.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Andy Weir's Book #2 is Out: Artemis

Haven't read it yet, but considering that this is from the guy who wrote The Martian, I'll have it on my kindle in a couple of minutes.  From the blurb:
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.  Well, sort of.  Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire.  So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right?  Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers rent.  Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.  But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
Very different than The Martian, but of course it should be.   BTW, NPR's reviewer was not impressed.  Do you need more recommendation than that?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All the Hurricanes of 2017, in Two Minutes

Pretty impressive.  Click to embiggen.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Circular Development in Cycling

Remember the old SoftRide suspension bike stem?  Maybe?  Long gone, but now there's this:

Nothing wrong with the idea, and it seems to have pretty good bearings in this incarnation too.  Still... it's weird to see the idea being trotted out again.  It was never a bad idea to begin with, it just couldn't keep up with telescoping hydraulic forks on the trail.  But you know, on the whole they worked pretty well circa 1995.  Biggest difference this time around is that the new product is intended for rough but not off-road use.  Full details, a video, and an entry form to win one over at Bicycle Times.

BTW, what ever happened to SoftRide?  Looks like they're in the bike rack business now, having dropped all of their suspension products.  I guess "suspend the rider, not the bike" was a seeming good idea that's been surpassed in this age where 4" travel XC forks are the norm.  Here's a link to SoftRide's current site.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Movie Review: The Lost City of Z

After hearing that this movie is about Percy Fawcett, one of the real-life people who inspired the character Indiana Jones, of course I was going to see it.  As you can probably guess from the title, it's about a British explorer who goes looking for a fabled lost city in the Amazon jungle.  There are several expeditions that come tantalizingly close, but something always hold the expeditions back at the last reach.  And of course, the entire enterprise is interrupted by World War I.  Finally and inevitably, Fawcett doesn't return and that is that.

As for the movie, it's beautifully made and well acted.  Perhaps the worst that I can say about it is that the continuity of events gets a little choppy, and the wardrobes and costumes department perhaps had too good of a time dressing people up.  But the events span twenty years here, so of course to pack it all in the filmmakers had to jump quickly from WWI to 1924, and a little bit of over-plush wardrobe can be forgiven.  Finally, the ending is tastefully handled and followed up by a few small, respectful epilog title cards.  It's a good movie, call it 3 out of 4 stars.  Nothing really ever knocked my socks off at any point along the way, but the overall effect is of a good tale well told.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Tent Maintenance: Nicwax Solarproof-ing the Tents

As recommended on The First 40 Miles podcast, we bring you Nicwax Solarproof:

It's advertised as a water repellent and solar-proofing spray, and it gets good general recommendations from hikers and reviewers.  Interesting part is that the instructions say to wet the fabric before applying, and that really does seem to be key to getting this stuff to wick around and into the individual threads.

On the new backpacking tent the fly was still reasonably waterproof, so even dunking it into a bucket of water didn't do a lot.  However the old 2-man tent was a different story.  The fly must've soaked up a gallon of water, and it greedily soaked up the Nicwax too.  No wonder it wasn't doing such a great job in heavy rain anymore!  They're both out in the yard drying right now.  Just did the rain flys, no need to do any of the covered parts.

Protip: wear some kind of wet-proof gloves, rubber or nitryl or similar.  When you wipe off the excess (and use a cloth you'll throw away), you're going to get it all over your hands and by intention and chemical engineering this stuff doesn't want to wash off.  It's not horrible, but... I wish I'd though of this ahead of time.

Book Review x2: Authority & Acceptance

Having read, reviewed, and reconsidered and re-reviewed the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, and with the movie of Annihilation coming out in February, what the hell, I read the last two books.  And I have to say that while they had their highlights, they weren't worth the slog.  There are some interesting ideas brought up, and of course lots of wonderful weirdness, but it's all overpowered by the political maneuverings within the government organizations investigating the weirdness.  The two books just drag and drag, and the payoffs and reveals aren't enough to warrant a reader's time.

Ah well, there were a few moments of "hey, I know that place" recognition that were confirmed in the author's acknowledgments.  That was pretty cool.  And I'm still looking forward to the movie this coming February.  But as for the books... well, maybe if you're really into New Weird and a fast reader who doesn't mind plowing through hundreds of pages of bureaucratic maunderings, then give it a shot.  As for the rest of us, admire the inside-cover illustrations, see the movie, move on.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mmmmm, a cup of CDM...

Sipping my after-supper cup of CDM coffee this evening, this 1958 picture popped up:

It's from an article over at Messy Nessy, They Just don't Make Vacations like they Used To, a random collection of Kodachrome depictions of the good life in times past.  Worth your ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The First 40 Miles Podcast

I'd mentioned them before a little while back, but now that I've caught up on the back episodes it's time to mention them again: The First 40 Miles is a fine little podcast about backpacking, especially for beginners.  It comes in easily digestible 30 minute weekly episodes that, while they do have a main theme, also have enough other show segments going on to fill in the gaps if that theme isn't your thing.

Also worth mentioning is that it is very family friendly listening, so crank it up with the kids around without worries.  No politics, no objectionable material (but I repeat myself), just good info on backpacking and all things that come with the topic.


New shows are generally posted every Tuesday.

SARnet-FL's Apalachicola Repeater is Online

Which means that I was able to get into the Statewide Amateur Radio network (i.e. SARnet) over the weekend with nothing more than a hand-held radio with a decent aftermarket antenna.  Talked briefly to a guy over in Madison, just enough to confirm that things were all working together.  And of course, that I'd programmed my radio correctly.

The repeater's not really in Apalachicola, it seems to be located up near Sumatra about 20 miles north of there.  That does generally put it out of hand-held reach, especially on the 70cm band.  Being upstairs helped a lot in establishing an RF line of sight, made things just possible.  I'll bet that a small beam antenna on an outside mast would make this very reliable.  Something I'll have to try in the near future.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Coffeeneuring Stop #2: Cafe Con Leche

The madness continues.  Here are this week's particulars:
1. where: Cafe Con Leche, Apalachicola FL
2. date: 11/4/17
3. what: double macchiato
4 ride details: a nice October-ish day in early November; '89 GT Karakoram; more below
5. 2.2 miles round-trip

Hmph.  Between rainy weekends and mis-spending the remainder of the time hiking, I'm out of days to finish the 2017 Coffeeneuring challenge.  Ah well, it was still a good ride with my sister – you can see her styling Schwinn on the right – on the day before Seafood Festival.  IIRC, she had her usual latte.  We enjoyed our coffees out on the front porch overlooking the Wards' shrimp house and discussed the state of the world.

Still might make a few more turns at blog posts about official coffeeneuring this year, but with only two of seven stops done and four possible days remaining, I'm kind of off the back with this one.  Here's to next year!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

'67 GT500 (emulated)

Sure, it's new-built on a modern chassis, but wow...
Prices start at $219K.  Yeah, wow.   Full article over at Fox.