Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Friday, July 26, 2013

End to a great vacation.

"Are you sure that you don't want to come?" I asked my wife again, as she dropped me off at the Museum Of Flight in Seattle.

"Oh, no. The girls and I aren't that interested, and it's $18 a ticket, and we want to go to that Curiosity Shop before we go home," she assured me.

Good.

I know that's mean, but she's right; my daughters just never caught the bug for airplanes, and my wife never had it, either. It was afternoon on my last day of vacation, and I wanted one last cool thing to do before we left. I hopped out of the rental car and skipped up the walk past a B17 to the door of the museum, concerned about the fact that I only had two hours before it closed.

Two older gentlemen were standing on the front steps, wearing docent name tags and talking. They stopped talking and turned, along with everyone else, as a 747-8 started its take-off roll about 200 yards away. Honestly, I thought that it was only a hundred yards away, but Google Earth shows me different: Runway 31 Left is about 200 yards from the front steps of the museum. Supposedly, the new GEnx-2B67 engine is supposed to be quieter and more environmentally friendly, but one can't fault the pilot for unleashing every decibel available when pushing 900,000 lbs of one of the largest passenger jets in the world up to take-off speed.
 600 feet isn't very distant when four General Electric engines each put out 66,500 foot-pounds of thrust.

The two guys both clenched their jaws as they watched the airship gain speed down the runway.

"Come on, up! Up!" one of them said. The nose lifted, and a second later the great plane took off, a mile and a half away, with plenty of runway left.

"I always feel like they're never getting up in time, when I watch them," the elder gentleman said. I would have bet a fat paycheck that he'd pulled back on the yoke during a few take-offs, himself. Most museums, the patrons would get annoyed if you had put that kind of ruckus up right at the entryway. Not here. Every man, woman, and child in attendance was watching the takeoff. Because we all were here to look at airplanes.

I went inside, and gladly shoved my money at the cashier, and got the audio tour guide device, too. I looked at the map that they gave me of the place, and realized that there was NO WAY that I was going to see half of this place, at a dead run. Blocks and blocks of multiple levels of great displays of real airplanes. So I relaxed and decided to walk to see what I could.

I went into the TA Wilson Great Gallery, and found myself looking straight at a M-21 variant of the A-12, which was an early Blackbird. This one had a D-21 drone on its back. If you think modern drones are exotic, you should consider that we were launching these things at Mach 3 during the 1960s. Check out this video (narrated by Kelly Johnson) of a failed launch, taken from another Blackbird, an SR71:



I looked around, and found that they had an actual fuselage from a wrecked SR71, which cockpit you were permitted to sit in. Don't think for a second that ten-year-old Matt G was going to miss a chance to sit in the cockpit of an SR71. I hassled a dad who had just helped his son out of the cockpit to take my picture.
 
 
 
 
 
I think that the seat must have been lowered.  I'm sorry that I left my right leg cocked, but there was a line, and I knew that I must get out.
They had a simulator that would let you fly one of three different aircraft. .
video
 
 
I texted my Dad and Tam and Old NFO, asking which one they would go with.

Options are: P38F Lightning, F4U-1A Corsair, FM-2 Wildcat, F15 Eagle, EA-18 Growler, F22 Raptor.
I immediately knew which one I wanted to fly, and I got in the slow-moving line. Old NFO, predictably, immediately responded that he would fly the F4U Corsair. Well, duh; he's an old Navy pilot. Dad was still mulling it over, and Tam, rarely known for quick email responses (!) didn't get back to me. I didn't send one to my best friend Scott, because he knew exactly which one I would choose, we having had the discussion many times in junior high and high school. (Honestly, though, I don't know for sure which one he would have flown. I'm guessing that without his beloved P51, he would have flown the Corsair that his Grampa John used to fly.)
 
The line was moving slowly because one of the two simulators was down. The rules said that the machine needed a pilot and a co-pilot, because of the weight distribution issue. I was alone. The lady in front of me was waiting in line for her son. I subconsciously labeled him a brat, until she explained that he was a great kid, and she had volunteered to wait in line while he hit other exhibits, and that he was in his Vancouver civil air patrol group, and had piloted her around. The 15 year old kid showed up and thanked her for her help. I asked him suspiciously what plane he planned to fly. (Probably a jet.) He said that he wanted to fly the Wildcat. I explained that I was paying for him to be my copilot as soon as he was done with his own flight. He was tickled with it.
 
Basically, I suck at tracking around and getting my Zero. I focused on one Zeke, and just couldn't turn with him. I would overtake him (once I learned to deal with the backwards throttle. Pull back to go faster?!?), and struggle to keep my .50s on him, and then overshoot him. In the end, I should have focused on the Janes and Bettys that the Zeke was escorting.
 
I got out, and headed rapidly to the World War II aircraft wing.
 
Ah, there was my beloved P-38 Lightning. Twin tail, twin Allison engines, 4 .50s and a 20mm cannon all snugged up in a box of power in the nose in line with the gunsight. It was the second fastest prop plane in the war, after the Mustang. While it had its problems (at 20,000 and above, the engine under-performed and began to wear terribly, making it sadly not as useful as one would hope as a bomber escort), it was a great fighter and attack plane.



Oh, as for the Mustang? They had a very nice one:
Well, the PLANE was very nice, even if the picture wasn't. I had turned off my flash to save batteries, and was trotting through the darkened room, as this shows. I was shooting a bitty little Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot, with its standard-issue tiny lens. Surely this was no way to treat the Cadillac Of The Skies. 
 
As well as a lovely Spitfire:

And a nice Corsair:
 I was running, taking pictures as fast as I could, when the announcement came: it was time to leave. I've got more pictures that I'll post later.
 
I went outside to await my wife in the parking lot. It wasn't a boring wait; I had something to look at:
Like this WB-47E Stratojet.
Or this B-17F:








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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stampede! Wiki Mini-Wander.

Check out this amazing list of human stampedes causing deaths in the 20th and 21st centuries. I remember when the 11 people crushed at the Who concert in Cincinnati was huge news, and WKRP In Cincinnatti did an episode about it. But that's nothing compared to other such events, which are surprisingly common.

This took me to the 2003 Great White* fire at The Station. I've watched the entirety of the video, and it's chilling. What's fascinating to me is the fallout of 100 people dead (mostly due to smoke inhalation because they couldn't escape in the stampede that packed the exits): The band, which employed the manager who placed the pyrotechnics, paid the families of the dead $1 million. The owners of the nightclub settled for  $813,000. JBL Speakers company paid $815,000. The foam companies paid $25 million. The state of Rhode Island and the City of Warwick, which apparently didn't properly enforce updated fire codes, paid $10 million. Okay. But the one that blows me away is that the television station that employed the cameraman that got the footage that told us what happened agreed to pay $30 million, because the cameraman supposedly got in the way of the exit and didn't help people get out.

I've watched the video, frustrated that people aren't helping to pull the crush of persons out of the exit. But this seems extreme.

The installers of the foam insulation haven't paid anything.


_______________________
*Edited

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Racial tension.

When our President, Barack Obama, was elected in November of 2008, I hadn't voted for him. But I took some solace in the thought that at least some of our national racial tension would now be eased. No longer could we say that a black man had less of a chance in this country, when the most powerful man in the world and leader of this nation was a black man. Then he was re-elected. Well, now surely the cries of racial injustice would be... well, not silenced, but quelled, somewhat.

Man, am I a sucker.

I'm not going to make this a blog about Zimmerman and Martin, except to note that I want to live in a country where, if the state cannot eliminate reasonable doubt, the accused goes free. Yeah, that means that O.J. walks. Yeah, that means that we miss jailing some really despicable persons. But if we can't eliminate reasonable doubt to a jury, then what business do we have taking a person's liberty?

I have long held that the most racist people in our country are the most outspoken activists against it. I have never seen the Reverend Jesse Jackson nor Reverend Al Sharpton leap to the defense of an accused white person. Yet they immediately offer damning condemnations of whites, and furious defense of blacks, in controversial cases involving mixed race crime. Given their histories, I wonder why they're considered relevant.*

But I'll admit to actually being shocked that our President is one of those people, who become instant and amazing criminal analysts based upon the race of the accused and of the victim.

Maybe I should have known better, after our President, with less than half a year in office, declared that Cambridge Police had "acted stupidly" in their arrest of black activist Henry Louis Gates. Later, our President, often declared one of the most articulate and well-spoken men ever to hold office, gave the non-apology:  
"I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically — and I could have calibrated those words differently." 
In other words, "I'm sorry that I'm catching flack over this."**

But I thought, well, he's too smart to do that again. Barry's a lot of things, but he's not dumb.

This Spring, our President said: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." Some took this to mean that he was siding with the Martin family's account of how the case went. But I thought, "Hey, maybe he's trying to remind us that there are other sides to the story, and that we should all remember the other person's point of view." Look, I make a point of trying to see the other side of things.

But today***, our President said "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."
Again, I don't think so. 35 years ago, Barrack Obama was a privileged kid graduating high school in Hawaii. He was a smart kid on a mission. I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't a little smarter at that time than he is now. Because this Nobel Peace Prize recipient isn't bridging very well; he's dividing. I don't actually believe that he means to.


_________________________________________
*Full disclosure: In early 1988, I shook Jesse Jackson's hand, following a speech that he gave at a local college while he ran for the Democratic nomination for President. (I had cut class to see the guy.) The man was a dynamic speaker. He was optimistic. He stirred that crowd up. I was impressed, and not a little shaken, by his ability to whip up several thousand people into a chant. I was at the time reminded of an After-School Movie called The Wave, in which a group of students get caught up in a fervor during an experiment about cults. I wasn't sure what he was, but I knew a force to be reckoned with when I saw one.

**Wikipedia says, "An opinion poll released by Pew Research found that 41 percent disapproved of Obama's "handling of the situation", while only 29 percent approved,[60] and support from white voters dropped from 53 percent to 46 percent."

 ***On which lawmakers are trying to overturn aspects of the 1965 Voters' Rights Act, to give states more freedom to change voting regulation without the federal oversight that was found necessary for some states 46 years ago:
J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS: "My Fair Lady" had just won the Oscar for best picture, "My Girl" by the Temptations topped the charts, and "Bonanza" was the most-watched show on television.

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Friday, July 05, 2013

Here's where I piss some of you off.

Beware: a dog dies violently in the following video. 
Keeping an open mind, here? I'm most angry at the possibility that the cops arrested a guy simply for video recording their actions in a public street. I suspect that there's more to it, but that's the given reason here.

Then, I'm angry that the dog owner would set things up so that his dog ran loose. That's on him.

Finally, I wish that someone had snapped an ASP before going toward the dog. Pressuring it into a charge wasn't a good idea.

I almost shot a large dog, the day before yesterday. Somehow, I kept my perfect record of never having to defensively put down a dog in the street. But this one didn't pay attention to the expandable baton that I had snapped out while I stood in a public street. I nearly had to get to deadly force, as I was backing toward my car, before the dog's owner appeared and called the dog off. And I would have gotten criticized. But I've got scars that I will carry for the rest of my life, because I've hesitated, before. When you get bitten, badly, you're not able to do your job. I'm sorry, but the dog's not worth it.

Still, I've tazed dogs which I was later told that I should have shot, to avoid having such issues. (On one occasion, the Taser didn't work, and I had to use my stick to keep me from getting bitten.)  I don't WANT to alienate my community from me. I not only work here, and try to serve these people, but I live here. I don't want members of my community worrying that I'm a person who would kill their family pet. It would do harm to my family relations to the community, and to the department's. I don't want to kill a dog. But if I must, I will.

It is not a human. It is an animal. I should not have to endure being bitten before taking action.

And whatever faults those cops may have, shooting a (sadly confused, loyal) animal to prevent getting bitten in the street isn't really one of them. What they did to lead up to that, though, may well be the subject of my scathing criticism, soon.


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