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2004/05/31 Moffett Air Show and rant
π 2004-05-31 13:49 by Merlin in Flying, Public

So, this time, the yearly air show at Moffett AMES happened on memorial day, and I read it was due to the fact that the availability of the thunderbirds demonstration was what set the date.
Since I like fighter jets and that Moffett is like a 10mn drive from home anyway, I've been going every year they've had the show since 1999 (besides, this year I had premium seating at work on friday where I could see them practise through my office windows (not counting the one that buzzed our building ;)
Of course, since I was also French-sitting (hosting two school mates visiting me for the weekend), it was a good event I could bring my two guests to. Besides I knew that they were going to buzz my house and sunnyvale/mountain view anyway, so I might as well go see them. So there! ;)

In a nutshell the entire venue was a little bit disappointing, like two years ago. Unless they hid them very well, there were no real static displays, and one could not enter the impressive blimp hangar.
The air show itself was reasonably good, although we didn't get to see as many planes as previous years like an F117 or funny things like a jet powered car versus a plane, or a combat rescue demonstration with an apache helicopter, troopers, and by pyro explosions , but eh, it was Memorial day weekend; maybe they weren't able to get everyone they wanted.
Oh well, no matter, the F15 demonstration was actually quite enjoyable, and the thunderbird demonstration started quite nicely too (everyone tells me that the blue angels are better though). So, the funny (or not so funny) part was after getting more than another earful about the superiority of American air force (which I don't dispute, mind you: French planes, which probably come second, are actually quite good too, but I'm not too sure they entirely compare anymore, and besides, there's a lot less of them anyway ;) ), the thunderbirds demonstration had to be stopped in the middle due to trouble with one of the F16c they use.
I have no idea how serious it was, all I can tell is that one of the other planes escorted plane #6 to the runway, and it took him a while to get there. No one got hurt, and the pilot landed safely which is the important part, but I couldn't help but wonder what went wrong. The F16s were known for being the first fly by wire US jet figthers, and the trailing 'c' does mean it's the 3rd or 4th revision of that plane, which wouldn't be all that unusual, planes get updated all the time, but the F16 was known for having many inexplicable computer failures, which caused many crashes and pilot deaths. I've also always questioned the wisdom of using a single engine in a jet fighter (F14s, 15s, and most later planes that I know all have 2 engines in case one fails and/or gets shot at)

Anyway, just like some get goose bumps from the sound of a V8 (eh, don't take me wrong, I very well understand :) ), having an F15, 16, or some other kind of jet do a high speed low pass (aka buz) is just something I find really cool. It gives you a glimpse of the awesome power those jets can harness (one jet has more power than the entire indy 500 lineup just to give a point of reference). Let's just say that it's an experience you can see, hear, and feel :)

Here are pictures of the F15






and the single engine F16c from the firebird formation


Before I go on, you can find all the pictures here , and the previous years there

This brings us to the subject of hearing protection. The funny thing is that I wasn't really concerned about that for the couple of loud passes a few of the jets made, but more as a wish to cancel out the brainwashing propaganda that was served to us during the entire show.
Ok, it was memorial day weekend, I fully understand that they played the national anthem, although the two french guys I brought were in awe in front of the instant reaction from everyone (hats down, on your heart, and standing tall and proud or something): it's just not something I've ever seen in any other country, and I'm not very fond of the peer pressure that people exercise on others to follow suit (sorry, it's neither my country nor my anthem, I'd be pretending if I followed along, and pretending is not something I casually do. Of course I try to be respectful when other people listen to their authem, that's normal).
Anyway, that was no big deal: it's part of the culture and I'm used to it. However it got worse throughout the day, from all the songs they played (I wish I had taken notes)
  • I am a real american "fight for your rights" (my cinical side would of course say 'you mean your "right" to attack other countries to get their oil instead of using your own for now')
  • America the beautiful
  • Proud to be an American
  • God bless america
  • and probably another 4 or 5, I kind of tried to block them out after a while
    (I'm fairly certain France or Holland, just to list those two, do not even have any such songs, and you can keep your cheese eating surrender monkey jokes to yourselves, thank you :)
On top of that, the announcer was just delivering heavy layer after layer of "you should be proud", "they defend our country" (which they do, but there's a "funny" story about that, see below), and more pro war, and "everything is ok and we are right" propaganda.
I have more problems with the politics though, as I do have much respect for pilots, or everyone else working in the airforce, navy or army. They do what they're told in often harsh conditions and they're not responsible for whether what's they're doing is right or not.
Don't take me wrong, I am really not a militant, or any kind of political activist. For that matter, I wouldn't be able to vote here anyway since I am more right wing, but liberal so I'd be screwed with either party. The funny thing is that I'm slowly realizing that right wing here is actually very different from right wing in France. I'm starting to wonder if right wing in France is not actually closer to left wing here, and right wing here dangerously close to ultra right wing in France (aka the facists and Jean Marie le Pen, who for the first time got to the second round of presidential elections in France, along with the "regular" right wing candidate, for an evil twist of second turn without any left wing)

Anyway, as I was saying, my friends were appalled by the brainwashing, and I now remember that when I went two years ago with some Americans, the same thing happened, and my American friends also said that it was bullshit, although it's hard to boo in that case :(

I really have nothing against patriotism, but I'm very worried about the blind patriotism and blind pride in this country considering the fucked up things that are being done and that most people (or at least a majority of voters) don't seem to really be aware about (or that they try to ignore otherwise, like those who hope that gay people will go away if you just pray enough at night and pretend they're not there...)
But it's true that having lived in a few countries, I wouldn't say that people here should be more proud of being Americans than people in France should be proud of being French, or Dutch people are proud of being Dutch. The only difference is that Americans are really really proud of who they are (even the ones who had nothing to do with it, just eat burgers and watch TV), and most other people not only do question whether it's deserved, but also find that arrogant (how's that for a twist, it's not the French who were arrogant afterall ;-) ). I guess in my book, Americans should be thankful instead of being proud, unless they were actually involved in making this country what it is (I'm refering to the good sides of course), I'm just not quite sure how you can really be proud to be born somewhere, it's not an accomplishment, it's just luck.

Man, this was supposed to be about an air show. See what happens when you try to feed propaganda to me? ;-)

Oh yeah, I promised a tidbit about how fighter planes actually did not defend America the one time they could have. The following abstract is from this page . I should say right now that I do not agree with the conclusion from this writer, but some of the points he raises (and some having been undisputed so far as far as I can tell) are quite interesting...
The 4 hijacked planes were all being tracked on Federal Aviation Authority radar, and air traffic controllers across the country were in communication with each other. Since no junoir officer would have the authority to override the interception routines. the failure to activate them, can only have come from orders to that effect, from the very highest levels. In the case of the plane which struck the pentagon, United Airlines flight 77, It should have been intercepted, as it approached Washington, by fighters from Andrews airbase, a mere 10 miles from the pentagon (see AG 631). In fact in should have been intercepted a lot earlier than that. By 9.05 at the very latest, the Pentagon knew that two hijacked planes, had struck the world trade centre, and that at least one more hijacked plane was at large. It may not have been clear by this time, that flight 77 was headed to Washington, but it was clear that a terrorist attack of massive proportions was taking place, and that at least one more plane probably had intentions to strike somewhere. The fighters at Andrews airbase stayed on the ground. By 9.25 at the very latest, it was clear that this plane was headed to Washington. The Andrews airbase fighters stayed on the ground, and whichever squadron was responsible for covering the area where the plane was originally hijacked, had also failed to activate. At 9.41, just 2 minutes before the plane struck the pentagon, two F16 fighters from Langley airbase, were dispatched to intercept it. Langley airbase is 130 miles away! They had no hope whatsoever of intercepting it. Meanwhile the fighters at Andrews airbase stayed on the ground!The official story is that no fighters were available at Andrews that day
Don't take me wrong, mistakes happen, and this is a shitty mistake at best, but I can't help but cringe when I hear about how we should be proud of the jet fighters that are defending the country when the one time they could definitely have helped, they failed to do so (I'm pretty sure however that this was linked to political problems, budget cutbacks or whatever other reason that is not related to the great work that people in the air force or army do considering the situations they're put in and what they're given, like known understaffing in Irak, causing more needless deaths, and other very questionable orders. Actually, in last week's 60 minutes, general Zinni , chief of central command, explained how the army was getting screwed by the government, and how heads should fall, but haven't yet)

I will however add again as a disclaimer that I'm not anti-American (or I'd be very stupid to live here), I'm just able to see the conditioning that happens starting early on in schools (wrt to blind pride, and a freeze reaction or goose bumps from the national anthem), and it scares me somewhat when I see that and then how some people are dying to vote for Bush again (if I were republican, I'd abstain or something). I understand that if you're republican, you kind of had to vote for Bush in 2000, and I also realize that many do regret having done so now (thank you). On top of that, I am aware of the fact that more than half the voting population didn't vote for him in the first place, but the remaining people do scare me (and no, that still doesn't make me a democrat, but I would vote for the lesser evil).
I've been lied to in France too, but it just feels a lot worse here, and about things that are much more important than what happened some evening the president and a few interns (which I honestly couldn't care less about). Also, it seemed that people in France were more aware of the fact that they were being lied at than here (but I may be wrong on this)
Either way, if you've never seen it, do go rent and watch wag the dog , it illustrates my point fairly well.
2004/05/25 Thunderhill picts
π 2004-05-25 23:00 by Merlin in Cars

Current Music: Paul Van Dyk - That's Life
Current Mood: Fair

I got some pictures back from my car at Thunderhill last week. Here's a cool one:


Watch the penguin hanging from the windshield and see how sideways it is (it usually hangs straight down), that'll give you an idea of the cornering speed :)

Today, I was also supposed to go to Speedring for some karting with coworkers, but the organizer didn't make reservations (ok, that I can understand since they ask for money up front), but neglected to even call before we headed over there, so we went there for nothing because they were booked for the afternoon. Grrr....
(I was both really disappointed because I was very much looking towards doing this, but also very annoyed at having wasted my time due to very poor organization. One phone call to check they had spots wouldn't have been too much to ask... I guess that's what I get for trusting other people :)
At least I won the fastest drive from work to speedring and back, but whatever, that one wasn't really hard to "win" (not that it even was a race, but what can I say, I had my mind set to it and didn't get it...)
2004/05/24 Montebello calling
π 2004-05-24 01:42 by Merlin in Exercising

Current Music: ID &T; Classics - The Megamix
Current Mood: Brain no worky worky :)

Yeah, so while I had plenty to keep me at home, I just couldn't bear to skip another day of exercising. It had been 10 days since I stopped due to my cold...
I didn't get fancy, I just went to my usual spot, Montebello, happened to meet a fellow miata friend from BAMO over there (funny how I meet people in that parking lot), and went for the ride.
I already noticed on the way to the parking lot that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor (doh), and half way down the path, I see a "you are wearing your helmet, right?" sign and say double-doh (it was in my car in the parking lot).

Oh well, today was not a day I was going to use my brain apparently... I did grizzly back up in 24:48, which isn't bad (second best time), but wasn't better than my last time even though I had hopes to have done better. I guess I shouldn't have been too hopefull after having been without any exercise for 10 days and having just recovered from a cold...

At least I'm able to clear the river without stepping off my bike now, but I still can't make it through the pile of rocks on the other side (one day maybe).
Further on the path, there is that really tough piece that I've just had to step down for the last 2 times I tried it, and this time I refused to go through without making it, so I went back down and up 8 times, until I managed to clear it. What was cool is that soon afterwards, there is a really steep incline covered with loose sand, and I somehow managed to barely clear it in third gear. That one was very tricky, my back wheel slipped a lot despite the higher gear, and I was actually happy to have gone through that one without setting a foot down.


The rest was mostly uneventful, I just need to change the break pads on my protege, I've apparently managed to wear them out on my last trips up and down 84
(well down mostly, I guess :)

I've moved all my Montebello pictures in the same directory. They're all here now
2004/05/19 New Brakes / Thunderhill
π 2004-05-19 23:28 by Merlin in Cars

Current Music: Björk - Big Time Sensuality
Current Mood: Good day

So, at the very last minute (7 hours before I left), I received my new compound E brakepads from Wilwood and ended up installing them around 19:00 (a bit behind schedule, but I was just not feeling that great, and really needed a nap when I came back from work)
After swearing in different languages untorking my lug nuts with the cheapo wrench that comes with the car, and pushing the pistons back in, I put in the new pads (took less than 30mn, not too bad considering how under-equipped I was :) I went to try them in the neighborhood. Holy crap, did they make a world of difference, I could almost lock my tires instantly because how well they gripped.

I ended up heading for Thunderhill around 20:10, somewhat behind schedule, but got there in about 1H55mn (163 miles) and the funny part is that I passed both John who left 20mn before me, but from Fremont by 680/580 (about 30 miles ahead of me), but the better part is that I also passed another 10 or so thunderhill bound miatas on the way, including the BAMO guys who had left from Milpitas an hour before me. The only hitch was that by running a full boost on 505 (about 135mph), I ate up a lot of gas (funny how that works) and barely made it to willows on my full tank of gas (11 galons, 163 miles, that would be under 15mpg, ooops, my car used to do up to 26mpg when driven nicely)

The next morning I pretty much felt like a trainwreck when I got up (well, it was also the fact that it was 06:30). Maybe the caffeine or being on the track helped, but by the time I was on the track, I was feeling a bit better.
As I expected, I wasn't doing too well on my first times out (2:24 lap times), and even got my car very sideways several times, although I amazed myself when I was able to save the car every single time (i.e. I didn't spin out or even layed a single wheel off the track). Group A had a couple of seriously fast miatas though (a white one with blue stripes was actually running a good 15 to 20 seconds faster than me apparently, it had a big turbo (much bigger than mine apparently), and also a very fast driver)
I also rode with "Maniacal Engineer" Matt in group B, thanks to whom my car was in running order, and he didn't need a lot of instruction from me. On his second time out, I really didn't have much else to tell him. He pulled a 2:25, which for his second time at Thunderhill in an NA car is seriously impressive (I don't think I'd have done a whole lot better in his car, and I've ridden thunderhill a few more times than him).
By lunchtime, the adrenaline that was keeping me alert wore out and I went to crash somewhere, I was absolutely dead. My first session out in the afternoon was just not good, I was feeling really weird physically, still feeling the effects of that stupid cold, and was actually apprehensive about doing something stupid while on the track.
I had another caffeine drink, and somehow pulled out of it, so that by my last session, and especially open track, I was finally doing better again, bringing my times down to 2:21, and finally under 2:19 during open track (maybe 2:18, but that's on my stopwatch, so I might have been off by a second). This is mostly by improving my times through turns 1, 5, and 8, realizing (thanks to Char) that was sometimes being too conservative in 9, and doing my last laps under very light rain (WTF, where did that come from?)

While my brakes were fine, I could really use some heel and toe shifting skills as I'm now losing too much time braking and trying to pop the clutch back in without unsettling the back end too much, but on the equipment side, I've really reached the limit of my Toyo T1-S tires. I was really driving the car sideways in sweepers, at the very edge of what those tires would do, and that wasn't nearly as fast as some other people can do with slicks (surprise, surprise). That said, it was cool to see how far I could push them and flirting with the edge (mmh, reminds me of something else, bug I digress ;). I however stayed conservative on turn 1 and 8 (85mph and 90mph max respectively) as screwing up on those yields really bad outcomes, and my balls are only so big (at some point the will to survive kicks in :)
I was pleasantly surprised by how well my car performed under stress, both in handling, and turbo-wise. It got warm (oil reached 150°C and coolant reached about 108°C according to my Tec-II readings), but that was within acceptable numbers (luckily the day wasn't too warm, which is why things worked so well). I also have some pad left on my brakes, about 2/3rd, which is nice, and while they were dusty as expected, my rims weren't entirely covered with dust by the end of the day.

On the way back (2H flat to sunnyvale), I drove a bit more conservatively as the day being over, I really got hit by fatigue (to the point that I was close to pulling over as I was afraid to fall asleep at the wheel), but just this once, it actually subsided. On 505, I was able to pull a top speed of 139mph which was a new personal record for the car :)

All in all, I was really worried about today considering my physical condition, but somehow, my brain and reflexes pulled through while I was on the track, and I had a great day (and no tickets on the road, which is always good)

Here's the relevant link to miata event page as well as a link to the pictures
Comments:
sweet ass!! :-)
posted by goaliegirl : 20 May, 2004 02:34

2004/05/19 T.E.A.M. Track Event at Thunderhill
π 2004-05-19 00:00 by Merlin in Cars
Man, 7 months since last time at ThunderHill already? Time flies... :(
Thanks to Bonni from T.E.A.M. Racing for organizing this event again, it went quite well, and it was fun to meet up with the The BAMO crew at the track again.
The best part, is that for a second time in a row, my car performed flawlessly, I didn't overheat, my compound E brake pads worked quite well without actually being 100% worn by the end of the day like the D compound ones
I managed to improve my skills throughout the day, I was able to get my laptime under 2mn 19 secs on my last time out (actually another cool part is when I was not doing so well in the morning, I almost lost my car 5 times, but each of those times, I was able to react quickly enough and save it without leaving the track)

The picts are here

[picture]

2004/05/18 Car work before the track
π 2004-05-18 13:22 by Merlin in Cars

Current Music: Les Misérables - Fantine's Arrest
Current Mood: feeling better yet?

"I will see it done", "but Mr le maire...", "I will see it done", "but Mr le maire...", "I will see it DONE!"

Ok, so first thing, Matt absolutely rocks, when he says "Maniacal Engineer", he isn't kidding :)
So, I was really feeling uneasy about going to thunderhill and driving 320 miles plus racing my car at the track with a possibly flaky crank position sensor.

From what I can tell, my sensor did "see" the teeth in the trigger wheel, but the difference in measured resistance was just not a lot, so I think my Tec-II ECU barely saw the teeths (which gets in the way of knowing when to trigger the spark plugs or send gas and air to each cylinder). My guess is that my recent "breakdown" about a week ago was due to heat expansion causing the sensor to be slightly too far from the teeth and the computer then not being able to see the engine position.

Anyway, the fix was to upgrade the magnetic sensor from the default 3/8" to a bigger half inch. My checked it out before installing it, and indeed my ohmeter was showing that it could "see" the teeth from a much bigger distance, and that the resistance differential in ohms was much larger (i.e. a lot easier for the ECU to pick up).
So, great, it's was "just" a matter of drilling a bigger hole in the sensor holder, and putting the new one in, except... that there wasn't enough spare metal around the hole to safely widen it.


But a puny detail like this is not what's going to stop Matt, we were at OSH in no time, he picked some random metal bits, and before you knew it, the half inch sensor was installed and working

and the best part is that I was able to drive my car home with that :)
The remaining pictures can be found here


The part that wasn't as great is that I found out why I didn't feel too hot when I got home. It's because I was (fever stroke again). I'm still hopeful to be able to drive to TH tonight (160 miles) and be on the track tomorrow though

For that matter Wilwood finally returned my front caliper, and the racing pads I had ordered. Talk about last minute... (their fault, I did ship and order all this two weeks ago, and they kept sitting on it. They then swore I'd get it yesterday, and when I called them today, they couldn't find the tracking number. Tss, how lame...)

How well, I guess I'm going to go to work for a few hours, get home, pack my stuff, install my new pads, and head for TH.
2004/05/16 Rafting Trip
π 2004-05-16 13:59 by Merlin in Google

Current Music: South End - Take Me Up - Musicquarium
Current Mood: I'm doing *cough* just *cough* fine *cough*

So, we had our "annual" ops rafting trip at work, and just for fun I somehow decided to catch a good cold the night before (no idea when, I was fine when I went to bed, but woke up with a sore throat and clearly decreased energy)

Actually, that would be the 2nd time out of 4 company outings, as I got quite sick right before the first company ski trip I went to. Anyway, it didn't stop me from going then (and somehow partying and snowboarding), so it didn't stop me from going that time either. I mean, what can icy river water do to a cold with fever? :)
Long story short, I was doped up on various meds so as to mostly pretend I was ok, had a good time, and ended up with a good fever when I got home friday night (who would have thought?)
I took a few pictures, but none during the rafting itself as last year, the guide purposely drowned the boat under water (aka "surfing") for about a minute, which defeated the waterproofing for my canon S10 I brought back then (actually I was barely able to recover the pictures from the camera itself), and while I was ok with losing the camera (it was my backup camera back then), I was not overly thrilled with all my coworkers who always ask for my pictures and enjoy them, as none of them chipped in a cent when I suggested that I'd appreciate a small contribution for my camera loss from those who routinely enjoyed my pictures.
I didn't need the money mind you, but entire the lack of gesture from any of them gives me 0 incentive from busting my butt to give them much better pictures than most of the ones they'll have gotten with the lame 10 meter fixed focus disposable cameras they brought on the trip this year.
No, I'm not bitter :)
Anyway, the pictures from last year (which frankly have the same rafts and river, so no reason to really get another set :) are here while the new ones are here
Comments:
Hmm, I can’t say I fault your coworkers on this one. If I had a friend whose cooking I enjoyed immensely, I would offer to buy her ingredients. But should her pot break or her oven go on the fritz, I certainly wouldn’t offer to help pitch in for a new one. The problem with digital photography (unlike film) as a hobby is that there are no “ingredients” that others can help you with. :-/
posted by goaliegirl : 20 May, 2004 02:28

2004/05/09 Mountain Biking, new shoes
π 2004-05-09 23:48 by Merlin in Exercising

Current Music: Paul Oakenfold - Great Wall CD1 - 02 Little Wonder - Eclipse
Current Mood: ask me later :)

After advise from Naomi and Xav, I broke out and went to buy some biking shoes with a clip that fit my pedals (Shimano SPDs), and I found out what Xav was actually talking about when he kept mentioning clits :)
(ok, I'll skip the lame jokes about them having to be the right size and so forth ;)
This did cost me $130 ($110 shoes from specialized, plus $20 for the plate and clip), and it felt wrong to pay that much for shoes, but I have to start living like I actually do earn decent money once in a while. Saving is good, but what's the point of money if it's just sitting in a bank earning really meager interest (yes, if I didn't hate paperwork as much I would actually be investing it somewhere).

Anyway, after riding home on my bike from the bike store, having just proceeded to lock myself out of my car (which is hard since I carry two separate keys for that exact reason), I finally made it back to my car with a 3rd key (I figured it was faster than calling AAA on a sunday), and left, quite late (past 17:40) for Skyline.
I did my usual ride, and actually scored a 24mn33secs up grizzly flat, my personal best by a whole 45 seconds. Unfortunately, I achieved that time both thanks to the clips on the shoes and to the fact that I felt tired and my legs weren't happy from the very beginning, so I did a fair amount of climbing while being out of the saddle instead of sitting on the bike (en danceuse en Français dans le texte).
Either way, who cares, I did a great time while being in a questionable shape.

Because I have questionable common sense, and I enjoy pushing myself a bit apparently, when I reached skyline back up from the lake, it was 19:40, and dailight was running out fast, but I just didn't want to ride back on the road, I took the trail across which I had taken once (white oak trail). It is reasonably challenging after a good ride, but I went as fast as I could so as not to get stuck uphill in a forest in the dark.
Long story short, I made down and up in less than 25mn, and somehow missed a turn and ended up back on pagemill instead of the montebello parking, and by then I was so disoriented that I didn't even know which part of pagemill was up or where the parking was, so I figured I'd try what looked up, since going down past the parking was a really bad plan after the sun had set (it was twilight by then).
Somehow, what I thought was up ended up being down, and going to the parking lot where my car was, so I made it back ok, with 10mn of twilight to spare :)

Summary: I was very happy to have brought my jacket because it actually was quite cold (not cool; cold). The shoes fit nicely, and while clipping them in definitely takes some using to, and is quite hard when you do an uphill start, at least clipping out hasn't been a problem. I think being able to pedal up (i.e. pull with the legs in addition to pushing) has also been somewhat useful as an alternative source of power when my other muscles were getting tired.
Overall, I do like them, I think they'll grow on me with time.
Comments:
One word: “halleluiah!” :-D
posted by goaliegirl : 20 May, 2004 02:31


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