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Apple Sues Steve Jobs Figurine Maker Over Likeness

ptomblin Simple solution (172 comments)

They just have to rename the figurine to "Sosumi".

about 4 years ago

First Electric Cars Have Power Industry Worried

ptomblin Re:Good! (450 comments)

You mean Enron?

more than 4 years ago

Rocketman Takes Off In Custom-Made Wingsuit

ptomblin Wingsuit? Looks more like a hang glider to me. (73 comments)

He's got a rigid carbon fibre wing strapped to his back, with jets attached to it. I'd call that a powered hang glider, not a wingsuit.

more than 4 years ago

Tesla Signs $60 Million Contract With Toyota

ptomblin Re:Electric cars are not the answer (233 comments)

And what do you do when it snows? Stay home? Some of us need to travel all year, not just the 120 days a year when it's not snowing, raining, too windy, or too cold to ride a bike. Plus some of us buy groceries, or need to get our kayaks to the water.

more than 4 years ago

US Says Plane Finder App Threatens Security

ptomblin Sounds like bullshit to me (524 comments)

Since when does an iPhone have a means to receive ADSB signals? More likely it uses something like FlightAware.com.

more than 4 years ago

Microsoft Busting Its Own Browser+OS Myth

ptomblin Re:Doesn't Matter (204 comments)

Funny thing is, I have a quote from a Microsoft patent application that occurred around the same time they were arguing in court that the browser was part of the OS: "It should be understood by those skilled in the art that a Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, ... is separate from the operating system." Man, I wish I'd recorded the patent application number when I put that in my quotes file.

more than 4 years ago

Louisiana Rep. Preps State Bill Banning Human-Animal Hybrids

ptomblin My cynical take on this... (422 comments)

...is that they're not worried about human-animal hybrids, they're worried about using non-human stem cells in humans or human stem cells in animals.

more than 5 years ago

How Does Flash Media Fail?

ptomblin Re:In my case (357 comments)

Usually the case falls apart. I can still get the data off the drive, but I stop using it and just spend another $20 to get something with 8 times the capacity of the last time.

more than 5 years ago

How Does Flash Media Fail?

ptomblin In my case (357 comments)

It usually "fails" because it went through the washing machine in my pants too many times.

more than 5 years ago

Alaska's Mt. Redoubt Has Erupted

ptomblin It's not Russia, but... (327 comments)

Sarah Palin reports she can see it from her house.

more than 5 years ago

Battlestar Galactica Hosted At the UN

ptomblin Re:Video (252 comments)

SO SAY ...buffering... WE ...buffering... ALL!

more than 5 years ago

Calif. Politican Thinks Blurred Online Maps Would Deter Terrorists

ptomblin Re:Cough Up Some Hard Evidence, Buddy (597 comments)

As an American (I assume) you *must* know that there were absolutely no terrorist attacks in the world before Google Maps came along. Not one.

more than 5 years ago

New Netbook Offers Detachable Tablet

ptomblin Re:Add a GPS... (209 comments)

Is there any EFB out there that doesn't require plugging into the cigarette lighter?

more than 5 years ago

New Netbook Offers Detachable Tablet

ptomblin Add a GPS... (209 comments)

Add a GPS, and maybe XM-WX weather, and this would make an AWESOME Electronic Flight Bag!

more than 5 years ago

Buffalo plane crash

ptomblin Funny thing about NY this time of year (2 comments)

Here in Rochester (50nm from the crash), the day before the accident, it was 50F (10C) and the evening of the accident it was 27F (-3C). So it went from perfect IFR weather (too warm for ice, too cold for thunderstorms) to prime freezing rain conditions. But the Dash 8 is supposed to be a good bird in ice from everyone I've talked to whose flown it, so I don't think ice is the only problem here.

My CFII always said to do ILSes with no flaps, since there is a danger of ice just about any time of year, and ILSes nearly always lead to really long runways.

more than 5 years ago

Dutch City Fears Loss of Pornography Archive

ptomblin In other news... (61 comments)

In other news, Dutch cities have their own porn archives!

more than 5 years ago

February Deadline For Emergency Beacons Approaches

ptomblin Re:New Becons cost too much (184 comments)

What makes them so different to normal consumer ones?

They're a permanently mounted part of the plane, and therefore they have to be certified to the same standard as anything else mounted in the plane. In the case of the ones we mounted (Garmin 530), they also replace one of the communications radios and one of the navigation (VOR, LOC and ILS) radios, so they have to be certified to that standard as well. And then on top of that you have to load in a new database every 56 days or the unit will refuse to let you use it for instrument approaches.

Consider also the consequences of getting it wrong. If your TomTom is off by 100 metres, you park in front of the wrong house. If my Garmin 530 is off by 100 metres, I crash into a mountain side and die.

more than 5 years ago

February Deadline For Emergency Beacons Approaches

ptomblin Re:New Becons cost too much (184 comments)

When you've had your plane for a decade, and it's all paid for, do you really want to spend $1200 (and our flying club was quoted more like $2500 installed) at a time when avgas is still at near record highs (currently paying $5.25/gallon), government over-reactions to 9/11 are making it damn near impossible for new pilots to get started and damn near impossible for existing pilots to keep up with the ever changing regulations, and pilots are worried about their jobs? Our club has seen membership decline from around 60 members and 5 planes pre-9/11 to 20 members and 2 planes now. We shelled out $10,000 per plane to put GPSes in the planes because it's getting hard to fly IFR anywhere without one. And now we're being told that because there are air carriers on the same airport as us, all members and potential members will have to pass a TSA background check costing upwards of $250 each.

more than 5 years ago




My other journal

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  about 11 years ago

In my other journal, I've been writing about getting my aviation medical back, the death of my very good friend, and my daughter's struggles with anorexia.


What's new in my other journal?

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

My other blog has recent posts about:

  • RSS news
  • My ex-wife's continuing exposing of my daughter to her abusive boyfriend
  • My friend Maddy's cancer
  • A list of things that I feel uneasy about as a nominal liberal. (If I was still living in Toronto, I'd guess you'd call me a Rosedale liberal like Bob Rae).

And a bunch of other stuff.


Experiment continues

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

When I started journalling, it was an experiment to see if I liked it or not. I do, so now I've installed Movable Type on my home machine and I'm going to start blogging there instead.


That cowboy attitude

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I belong to a couple of mailing lists for pilots. One of my favourites unfortunately gets extremely political at times. A lot of pilots are extremely right wing, as you'd expect in a hobby as expensive as flying. You might have gathered that I'm *not* extremely right wing. This has lead to a bunch of blow-ups, to the point where I actually quit the list for several months. But I came back, resolving to avoid political discussions. I also took the precaution of using procmail to filter out any posts by one particular person whose hatred for my politics lead to him attacking, mischaracterizing and outright lying about anything I said, even non political statements. (By the way, Dan, if you're reading this, I'm still waiting for your apology for all the personal attacks because I said that the administration had not proven a connection between the September 11th attacks and Iraq - it appears that recently even George W Bush has had to admit that this is the case)

Anyway, a month or so ago, one of the nicer guys on the list had his plane partner and best friend die in a plane crash in their shared plane. Randy wasn't in the plane, but the loss of his friend hit him pretty hard. One of the bigger idiots on the line started mouthing off about what a terrible and reckless pilot his friend must have been to do an instrument approach in such conditions, and it was all his fault. Never mind the fact that the NTSB hadn't even published a preliminary report, never mind a little thing called tact, he just went on and on with his attacks. Randy left the list because he didn't want to be reading this stuff while he was still burying his friend and dealing with the grief. Most people were pretty mad at Greg for being such a tactless jerk.

A few weeks later, Randy came back. Somebody made some joking remark about how nothing much had changed, but that Greg had learned his lesson. Evidently Greg treated that as a personal attack, and immediately started talking about what a terrible person Randy's partner had been for killing his passengers like that. I told him to shut the fuck up. He emailed me another justification for his actions off the list. I wrote him back telling him that he's a tactless jerk, and why doesn't he just shut up? A few days later, he emailed me and said "So, do we have to do this on the list?".

It took a few back and forths before I figured out what he was getting at. It appears that he didn't get my response, and so he was "calling me out". Yes, evidently if you insult this bozo, he has to strap on his six shooter and spurs, and walk down the main street yelling for me to come out and face him like a man. And if you don't come out and face him, he'll make sure the whole community knows that you're a yellow bellied coward.

I haven't seen Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine", but I understand that his take on the gun problem in the US is due to this cowboy mentality. After watching Greg in action, I can believe it.

Fortunately, I'm strong enough to eventually realize that an argument is not worth engaging in, because neither side is going to learn anything, so it's time to just let it go. Let the other guy think he's scored his points, but don't read his final emails because they'll just made you mad. Who cares if he's being a jerk, annoying or outright lying? Anybody worth caring about will spot the flaws in his arguments without you having to point them all out.


This I love, This I hate.

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Things that are making me angry right this second:

  • The conspiracy and complicity between the fashion industry, the beauty industry and anything else oriented towards youth that makes gorgeous young girls think that they're too fat or ugly and have to buy all their products to be beautiful, oh, and if along the way they cause a few thousand or hundred thousand of those girls to have eating disorders or ulcers, that's just too bad. My youngest daughter, Alyssa, is *almost* one of them, but she seems to have realized herself that something is not right and is doing something about it.
  • George Fucking Bush. And his whole cadre of venal pigfuckers who think they can use the Constitution as toilet paper, trample our rights and dismantle everything good about the US government and do anything they want if it will make their cronies richer, secure in the knowledge that people will continue to swallow their phoney excuses, even if the excuse changes from day to day. I was reading a Tom Tomorrow book with all this cartoons from the George Fucking Bush the First era, and I realize nothing has changed, except I don't think the First thought he was doing God's work.
  • Spammers and virus writers who have reduced the utility to email, a tool that could be so useful if it wasn't for them. Right now I'd guess that 75% of my home bandwith is taken up by downloading 100 copies an hour of SWEN.
  • The fucking morons who click on binaries in email, don't update their virus definitions, never run Windows Update, and who buy from spammers. Actually, I hate them more than spammers and virus writers, because without them the spammers and virus writers would go away.
  • MicroSoft. 'Nuff said.

Things I'm extremely happy about:

  • That I found a wonderful wife the second time around. Someone who works at making the marriage work, and doesn't just up and leave when it doesn't end up like a romance novel.
  • That this wonderful woman and I actually got to spend some time together last weekend. I wish we could have more time like that.
  • That I'm in a good job, doing the stuff I like doing in an environment I enjoy, making tons of money.
  • That (sometimes) I've got a pilots license, a priviledge that very few people have and which is such a beautiful and spiritual experience.
  • That for the last week or so the pain in my knees and hips has been at a bearable level.
  • That while I can't run, cross country ski, mountain bike, orienteer, backpack, or canoe any more, I have a lot of happy memories of those experiences. Like David Wilcox says, "Can't keep it in a camera, not a trophy on a shelf, not a tale to tell your children, not a way to prove yourself".



ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Ok, hurricane Isabel has come and gone, and we got nothing more than a bit of rain. Last night we went to bed wondering if we should move the birds away from the picture window and/or tape up the windows. This morning I woke up wondering where it went. It obviously hadn't rained or even blown hard. The aviation forecast predicted surface winds hitting a maximum of 17 knots gusting to 24. Heck, I've landed in a 45 degree cross wind in worse winds than that.

Ok, we dodged a bullet. A hurricane is a nasty thing with loss of life and property damage and just plain inconvenience. Intellectually, I know we're way better off without it. But all my life I've listened to people talk about Hurricane Hazel, which caused massive flooding and loss of life in Toronto and Southern Ontario in 1954. I was almost looking forward to having our own hurricane to tell stories about.


Work? How dare they!

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Ok, they've just opened up the repository to start work on versions 3.1 and 3.2 of our product. I've had bugger all to do for the last couple of weeks, which is one reason why I started this journal. But now I've got a bunch of things to do. How grossly unfair that they actually will want to me to work on them during my work hours.

This job has been a source of great joy and great stress to me. For one thing, it came along just as my step daughter was about to start college at one of the Seven Sisters, which as you can imagine are hideously expensive. The guy who hired me knew me from a previous job, and when I interviewed he basically said "name your price". I named a price that I expected him to bargain me down from, and he took it. So now I'm earning nearly double what I was earning two years ago, especially when you consider this job (on contract) pays time and a half after 40 hours a week, and during busy periods I was cranking out over 60 hours a week.

Vicki, my darling wife, got a pretty good promotion and raise at the same time, so we're sitting pretty. I've never felt this sort of financial freedom in my life, and it's wonderful. No credit card debt, money in savings, giving money to charity and the church, money going into 401(k)s, two reasonably new cars nearly paid off, flying lots and buying furniture. It's all good.

But at the same time, my natural pessimism says that this is too good to last. With all the outsourcing going on, I have to wonder what's going to happen when this contract ends. Will I ever be able to work on high tech again? Will we be able to survive on Vicki's salary alone? I'm not cut out to be a stay-at-home house husband.

Oh well, live for today, because tomorrow you'll probably get hit by a bus. That's my motto.


Skiing versus flying

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Yesterday a friend asked me if I get the same feelings from flying that I did from cross country skiing, orienteering, mountain biking and other activities that I had to give up because of my pain problems. There isn't an easy answer to that question. Or there is an easy answer, but that answer is "yes and no", so it isn't too helpful.

It would be hard to enumerate the feelings I got from skiing and the other things, equally hard to enumerate the feelings I get from flying, and pointless to compare the two lists with each other. So that's basically what I'm going to do.

The most overwhelming feeling I got from cross country skiing is a sense of being the centre of the universe. I don't know how else to put it. I was a drinking in a firehose of hyper-sensory perceptions. I'd filter all these perceptions, from the feel of my skis on the snow and the sun and wind on my cheek to the rise and fall of the trail, the look of the snow, the anticipation of what's to come, and a million times a second compute the variables and make decisions to optimize my animal machine body. Maybe I need to kick here instead of there, maybe I could get away with a short rest, or maybe I need to use my arms more. Maybe it's time to take the temporary loss of time for a gain later and stop to rewax. And meanwhile you've got spare cycles for appreciating the woods around you and the animal tracks beside the course and the look of the sun filtering through the trees. When it all worked, it was glorious. In orienteering, it was much the same, except there it was also route choice, reading the map and matching it with the ground, trying to anticipate what you were going to see next, decide if the rustle in the woods over there is a deer or a competitor, and if you can mislead them by looking confident when you're not or looking lost when you're confident. And all this complexity happened alone in the woods, you against your competition, but mostly you against yourself. A good day wasn't the day you won, but the day you did better than you expected or better than you usually do - a day when it all fit together for the whole course, and nothing interrupted your hyper-alertness and feeling of flow and belonging.

I remember my best orienteering meet ever. I was in the mens 19-20 year old category, so I was on the same course as the elite women (including most of the national team) and the men 35-50 year olds (including two former members of the national team). I was absolutely flying that day - even though the course was not easy, it just all clicked that day. At one control there were two people taking pictures for a magazine article, and afterwards, one of the photographers (another former national team member) said that I was the only person who came into and out of that control without even the slightest hesitation. The whole race was like that - I knew exactly where I was going, where I was, and the best way to get from here to there.

Flying feels sort-of like that, but not as much. For one thing, there are other planes, other voices on the radio, unlike skiing or orienteering where you are alone most of the time and unaware of the other people out there except peripherally. But there is the same need for intense concentration, but in this case it's not just to get the peak performance out of yourself, but a very real feeling that if you don't concentrate, you could very well end up killing yourself or far worse, killing somebody else. (I think every pilot knows that if it comes down to it, saving your life is far, far less important than saving the lives of people on the ground or passengers in your plane.)

One thing I got out of skiing that is irreplacable is the feeling of physical accomplishment. At the time I took up skiing, I was a fat nerd. After a year or two of skiing, I suddenly realized that while my high school peers probably wouldn't think of it as such (because it was skiing, not football or hockey), I was an athlete. Ok, an athletic nerd. Now that I'm a fat nerd again, I have an awful sense of loss.

Another thing about skiing, and especially orienteering, was the sense of community. We'd all go out into the woods and do our individual thing, but afterwards we'd all swap stories and go out for pizza and beer. You'd travel all around the country and meet the same people. In orienteering, there just aren't that many people who did it, but in ski racing you'd have the real feeling that there are a million people who had a pair of cross country skis in their basement, but the racers were an elite subgroup. I had a very real feeling that I was a first name basis with all the people in the province, and most of the people in the country who are better at it than I was. There aren't as many pilots as cross country skiers, but since I'm not in one of the elite sub-groups like aerobatic or race pilots, I don't feel like I know everybody. Although at Oshkosh, I felt almost that way. At Oshkosh, we were all pilots together, and we all felt extremely priviledged to be there.

One of the things I like about flying is swooping through the air, not going anywhere in particular, but enjoying the feeling of g-force and motion. I used to do the same thing on skis and on a mountain bike. I wish I had the stomach for aerobatics.

Another thing about flying is the promise of freedom to move. As a skier, orienteer, mountain biker, backpacker, canoer, I travelled a lot of miles in areas that few people are priviledged to see. I like to say I put a lot more work into each mile, but I got a lot more enjoyment out of it than somebody who rode in a motorized vehicle. But now as a flyer, I go to places I've never been before, sometimes just picking out the name of an airport I've never been to before and flying there for the fun of it. So I'm going a lot more miles, but maybe not getting as much enjoyment per miles as my human powered days.

My dream is to get a seaplane license, and find somebody who would rent me a seaplane (there aren't very many - insurance is a bitch) so I can go off and find lonely lakes and get back some of what I used to get out of backpacking and canoeing.


CSM Memories

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I was going to write this as a comment in Sloppy's journal, and then thought what the hell, it's too much of a digression. Sloppy was writing about how he just didn't "get" non-representational photographic art (like some of Ansel Adams abstract landscapes), and I wrote a comment about how they evoke the feel or trigger a memory.

One of the pictures he linked to was a very low sun picking out details of one aspen tree while leaving others in the dark. To me, that evokes two memories, both involving trees in the early morning sun covered in frost. I don't know if Adams' picture had frost or not, but mine did. There was the "waking up as the sun hit the tent" memory that I talked about in that comment. And there is the Canadian Ski Marathon memory.

The Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM) memory is more bitter sweet, because of all the things I've had to give up because of the pain, cross country skiing remains the one that is the hardest to give up.

Anyway, a couple of times in the CSM, I did the Courier du Bois (CdB), which involves skiing 168km over two days. There are three categories of CdB, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Bronze just means you are attempting to finish the distance, Silver means you're attempting to finish with a 5kg pack on your back, and Gold means you're going to camp out overnight, with just the clothes and food in your pack (although the campground has a communal fire and bales of straw to sit and lie on). You had to have completed the previous level before you could attempt the next. I completed my Bronze and Silver, but was never crazy enough to attempt the Gold.

The CdB skiers start very early in the morning, 6am, long before the sun comes up. At first, there are lanterns and road flares guide the way as you leave the village of La Chute Quebec, but very shortly after the start you're winding your way through the trees in almost complete blackness. Some of the skiers have headlamps, but mostly you're in dark or at best pre-dawn near-light. The skiers are quiet, because it's cold and they know they've got a long long day ahead of them. Besides the occassional clinking and creaking from their packs and the swish-clunk of the skis and poles, it was eerily silent. The skiers around you are just half seen forms ahead and behind you. It's almost impossible to believe there are a thousand of you out there in the woods.

After an hour or so, the sun starts to come up. Parts of the trail go through farm land, and you can see farm houses coming awake, lights coming on, farmers heading out to do their chores. Some wave at you. Sometimes we wave back. Mostly we keep chugging along. You can start to resolve the details of the skiers around you, maybe recognize what colour clothing their wearing or what brand of skis they're using. Maybe you chuckle to yourself at the guy ahead of you with the Blackfeather ski poles, because you know these poles are extremely light, extremely expensive, but also extremely fragile, not the sort of thing you'd want in the middle of the bush with the dreaded "Bobsled Run" coming up in a few hours (plus, you've coveted Blackfeathers for your normal racing, but haven't saved up enough money for them yet). Maybe you think that next year you're going to bring a headlamp as you nearly catch your ski in a sapling beside the trail.

As the sun comes up, you go through some fields where the ridge line to the east means that the sun has hit your head but not your feet. You wish it would come up faster because you're cold, and you know that the magic time when the sun hits your feet will make it all better. You're cold because you dressed for high exertion, and for the temperatures you're expecting for the majority of the day. Sure, later in the afternoon you're going to be skiing with your ski suit zipper wide open and your hat tucked into your backpack, but you didn't want to wear something warm enough for now because you'll be carrying it all day. So for now you just shiver a bit and wish the guy ahead of you would ski a bit faster. There aren't too many opportunities to pass on this stretch. Later on, there are lakes that you cross - plenty of opportunity to pass there, if you've got the energy for it.

By the first feed stop, it's quite light out. People are a little warmer, a little more relaxed, and they start talking to each other. Unlike a normal race where feeding stations are grab and go affairs, the CSM is an all day affair, so you actually stop, drink the drinks they have on offer, maybe grab an orange slice or two, maybe shove a few oranges in your pack for later, stop for a pee. The snow is getting warmer, so you stop and rewax your skis. In the light, you sometimes are startled to recognize somebody you know from races back in your home area or from a non-skiing activity like Orienteering.

The next highlight of the day is the "Bobsled Run". You think about it for an hour before you get there. Is the snow going to be well groomed, is it going to be icy, will somebody fall and take you out as they go? Then the climb starts. You climb and climb and climb. I think officially the ridge that is the pinnacle of the Bobsled Run is 4,000 feet above the ground before and after it. You climb it in about 10km, and it's pretty hard going. Maybe you stop and rewax along the way to get more grip. But mostly you slog along and think about the downhill to follow. That 4,000 feet is lost in about 3km. It's steep, it's twisty, it's narrow. One year there had been a big thaw just before the weeked of the race, and natural springs had covered parts of the run with water which had then frozen into ice dams. That year, I saw a woman being carried out a stretcher. I walked. A large group of us were walking down, congratulating ourselves on a wise safe decision as we picked our way over another ice dam when somebody came careening by. He looked just on the edge of control, but definitely in control. Then we noticed that he only had one arm. None of us thought to ask if he'd had two when he started.

Even in good years, the Bobsled Run looms large in our memories. It was on one of the good years when I found myself in a tight group snowplowing and dragging our poles, going just about as fast as I've ever gone on skis. We were also too close together. I was sure that even if the guy behind me fell, he'd take us all down in a big pile of skis and legs and arms. I found what I thought was a safe landing spot and cut out of the line, but unfortunately it was softer than it looked and I ended up falling, but at least I didn't take anybody else out. At the feeding station at the bottom of the Bobsled Run, I noticed that the guy with the Blackfeathers actually had a collapsable spare pole that he'd made himself sticking out of his pack. Maybe he's smarter than I gave him credit for.

The rest of the first day was pretty much just another day skiing. There were a couple of unofficial feeding stations set up by people whose property the course crossed. There were lakes, where people passed you and you passed others, only to have the order reestablish itself at the next uphill. There was the inevitable encounter with the Siren Ski Team. I think they're from Montreal. These guys start at 8am, when the non-CdBs start, and they still manage to finish the course. They come roaring past just when you think maybe you should slow down a bit if you're going to make it the next day. Ok, forget that idea - if they can go fast, so can I.

One year on the way to the last feeding station I got caught up by a guy from the Ottawa University ski team who slowed down to chat. His team was trying to catch the Siren Ski Team, and he was despairing that he wasn't going to make the last feeding station before the cut-off, because non-CdB have to get to the station by 2pm or they can't ski the last leg. I told him that I was pretty sure I was going to get there by 2pm, and so he took heart and skied off again.

The first day finishes in Montebello Quebec, and while it's not quite as restful as just getting into the shuttle bus to the area accomodation, I always loved picking up my skis and walking into the Chateau Montebello. Such a beautiful resort, and far too posh for me to be there any other time. We walk past the sign that says "Gentlemen are requested to wear suits and ties in the Dining Lounge" in our sweaty ski clothes, and crash in the chairs around the stone fire place that is the center piece of the massive main hall. The pictures on the wall show Trudeau, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and other heads of state arriving for G7 summits and other important functions, but this weekend the place goes a little downscale with people drying out their ski suits around the fire. The CSM banquet that night is a huge affair, and approximately 2,000 of the 4,000 CSM particpants eat there. One year I was so wiped by the skiing that I fell asleep with a forkful of roast beef in my hand.

The next day, you get out of bed at 5am, and hobble to breakfast. You think to yourself "if I can't even walk to breakfast, how am I supposed to ski the 86km into Ottawa?" After breakfast, you wax your skis, prepare your pack, and head out into the darkness to the start line. You put on your skis, and take a tentative shuffle, and realize that while walking hurts, standing around hurts, but skiing actually doesn't hurt. So you ski. The second morning is pretty much like the first, except the second day is much flatter, more open, and is the real fun day of the two.

One year it started off really cold in the morning, probably around -15C or colder, but by the height of the afternoon it was +2C. Hard waxing, but I skiied along in the brilliant sunshine with my ski suit top down around my waist and my hat in my pack, I was thinking what a beautiful day. I was even doing a double pole with a kick, which is a less efficient but faster propulsion method, such was my confidence in my abilities and stamina. I passed a couple of skiers who exclaimed "Un beau, eh?" as I passed. I even managed to get out "tres beau", thus exhausting 2/5ths of my French vocabulary.

One year, toward the end of the second day, I got caught in what I still think of as a death trudge. There was a line of skiers ahead of me, and they were all skiing very slowly. So slowly that it was inefficient for me, and probably inefficient for most of the people in the line. After trudging along with them for a while, I realized that I would never make it if I had to ski at this speed, so I marshalled some reserve of energy and passed them in a very narrow space. It was hard work, but it was worth it when I got past them and could ski at my normal pace again. It was like a rest just being able to stretch out. I noticed that about a dozen people followed my lead and passed the death trudge line. I even let a few of them past me because their natural pace was faster than mine. One of the people was a guy I knew from Orienteering, and although he sped ahead, I eventually passed him later. One of us wasn't pacing well, and I think it was him.

Before the end of the CSM in Ottawa, you have to pass through Hull. Hull isn't the nicest looking town at the best of times, and in order to find us snow to ski on they routed us through some grimy industrial land and the back of a paper mill. The snow was full of grit and hard to ski on. But you're soon down to the river and across. One year we crossed on the ice, but usually they shovelled snow onto a bridge. The year we crossed on the ice, I had a severe "bonk" climbing up the hill beside the canal locks. I grabbed some gorp and an orange out of my pack, and ate it, and just as I was about to resume my skiing, Ron Lowry of the Canadian Orienteering Team came skiing by. Evidently he'd hit the last checkpoint with so much time to spare that he'd stopped for a nap. I have no idea why he did that instead of just finishing, but there you have it. I skied with him for a bit. Coming down along the canal, you get a bit of a second wind seeing all those people out skating on the canal, and the smell from the concession stands, and the music from the speakers out on the ice. Then it's into Lansdowne Park and collapse. Come to think of it, there's no comfortable seating or warm place to relax in Lansdowne Park, so maybe that's why Ron had a nap at the previous feeding station.

Skiing the CSM is an incredible feeling. You ski from pain to triumph, and afterwards you feel like you've seen the limits of your body, and they're pretty far out there. And those little bronze and silver badges that you put on your ski hat afterwards, you know that most people who see them won't know what they're for, but you do. And that's all that matters.


The plus side of upgrades

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

A few days ago I wrote about how I didn't want this computer upgrade, but I took it because it was supposed to come with a monitor upgrade, and then the monitor upgrade didn't happen.

Well, I whinged a bit more about the monitor to my sysadmin, and he dug out an SGI 21" monitor that had just come back as a warranty replacement, and was sitting on a shelf as a spare. I stuck it on, and it was fine for a few days, but one day I came back from lunch and found I couldn't get it out of screen save mode. Even plugging it into a different computer didn't help. Neither did hitting the on screen menu buttons, or power cycling, or anything. So I took it back to the sysadmin, and he and I went to look at the spares shelf. And what should my eyes light upon, but a 24" SGI monitor (a Sony GDM-90W11 in disguise). Cinema aspect ratio, 1920x1200@73Hz. Sweeeeeet.

So while I can't get any work done on the new computer yet (still waiting for the Clear Case admin to install Clear Case on it), the new display looks really nice on my old computer.


Well, that felt better

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

My wife and I spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast. It was great to spend some time away from computers and TiVo and kids. We laughed together like we hardly ever get a chance to do these days. I think we've got to do more of that.


Grounded, part II

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I was looking at the AOPA web site to see if there were any drugs I could take for my chronic pain that wouldn't disqualify me from flying, when I saw the following little bit of bad news.

Of the seven doctors at the FAA's Aeromedical branch who review special issuance medicals (like mine), three of them are reservists who were activated for the Iraq war. So the current backlog is causing them to take 12-14 weeks to get around to review applications. So even if they don't decide they need more information or further tests, I'm grounded until almost Christmas. Dammit.


The Woz

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I went to see Steve Wozniak give a talk about his live at the local Apple CIDER user group.

He's had an interesting life, and been extremely lucky to be at the right place and the right time, but man, he's NOT an interesting speaker. He rambled along for two hours, and never even got to the interesting stuff that he's doing now in education.

Still, I saw a tiny bit of myself in him. Maybe if I'd been born 10 years earlier, in Silicon Valley, the son of an electrical engineer....



ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Last night I was in a meeting of the officers of my flying club. There are 5 of us. Twice during that meeting, somebody mentioned either not getting an email, or getting it late because of their spam filters.

This makes me fucking angry. Spammers have reduced the utility of this wonder tool we've build to the point where it's nearly gone from being the best way of communicating with people to nearly the worst way.

I know I'm more "out there" on the net than most people - I own several domains, run several web sites, have several thousand posts with my current email archived on Google, am quoted on numerous web sites, use my own email address when contacting companies and ordering on-line, etc. Oh, and my kids took a while to get weened off of the "electronic greeting card" scam. So I expect a lot of spam. And the spammers don't disappoint - I average 600-900 spams a day caught in my three levels of spam filter.

But these people talking are NOT way out there on the net. Just a couple of anonymous pilots who don't even post to Usenet. And they are losing mail because they've had to filter so agressively in order to get *any* utility from their email.

That sucks. And something has to be done. The first thing that needs to be done is that spam merchants need to be visited by Narn Bat Squads. Second is that "legit" companies that spam have to be told how much business they are losing, so they aren't tempted to do it. Third is that email has to be replaced or supplemented with a protocol that is tracable and unforgeable. That would help the Narn Bat Squads find the spammers.


More whinging about pain

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Last night I decided that since my hips got sore while I was lying on the bed watching TV that I wouldn't do that. So I sat in my "good chair", the office chair that I bought from a company's "going out of business" sale about 15 years ago. Usually sitting in that chair helps my hips (but hurts my knees a bit). But the same god-damned thing happened! Over the course of the evening, I could feel the hips getting worse, in spite of doing the stretches. By bed time, it was unbearable and I ended up trying to find a comfortable position in bed, on the couch, sitting up on the couch, on the floor, standing, etc until finally around 1am I was tired enough that I could sleep through it.

I don't know how much longer I can take this. I'm just about at the end of my rope. Fortunately I know that these episodes of massive hip pain usually only last a week at most, although that time has been getting longer and longer over time.

Hopefully in a few days the pain will be down to its usual dull roar and I'll be able to sleep through it.


Pain sucks

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I'm sitting at my computer right now because I'm in severe pain. I'm in severe pain most of the time, I have been for 28 years now. Good God, that's nearly 3/4 of my life now. Depressing thought.

It almost killed me a few times, like the time I thought a ruptured appendix was just mild gas for three days, and when I finally went to see a doctor he said that it was unlikely it was my appendix because I was too cheerful, laughing and joking etc. But he said, when somebody has tenderness there, they open them up and whip the appendix out just in case. Not to worry, it will only take 45 minutes or so, and a day in the hospital. 4 hours on the operating table, 9 days in the hospital, 25 days at home recovering with a 15 cm long gash in my stomach, and now I try and notice the little aches and pains that show up above the background level of pain I deal with every day. The surgeon had had to remove part of my stomach because of gangrene. I wonder how bad it would have been if I'd waited any longer.

Right now I'm sitting at my computer because it hurts too much when I lie down. It's not too bad sitting up in my office-type chair. I took at much ibuprophen and acetemino...tylenol as I should, and then took some more. I did the stretches that sometimes help. But based on past experience, my only hope now is to get so tired that I'll sleep through any pain. And then hope I can wake up enough to function tomorrow at work.

It's hard to remember back before the pain started. Well, I had other types of pain back then, like a brother who physically, psychologically and sexually abused me, a mother I only heard from about twice a year, and a father who did nothing to save me from my brother. I'm not sure, but I think this is better.

Year ago I used to say that when the pain got too great, I'd commit suicide and end it. But then I had to go and get family. That put an end to that idea. Suicide doesn't end pain, it merely transfers it to innocent people, and that's fair to anybody. So I'll bear it as best I can. There's nothing else I can do.

The pain has gone down to bearable levels. Maybe I'll try lying down again.


"The Talk"

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I had "The Talk" with my older daughter yesterday. Actually, I didn't say all the millions of things I meant to say, especially about how sex crazy 16-18 year old boys are and how they trade tips with each other on how to pressure or trick girls into having sex with them. But she says she's already had "The Talk" with my ex-wife and her grandparents, so I guess I'm just gilding the lilly anyway.

I don't know if she was humouring me or not, but she sounds extremely focused on her goals in life, and realizes how much getting pregnant would ruin those goals. Man, I hope she's not just talking a good game, but she has always been pretty good at acheiving her goals.

I didn't focus much on STDs and the like. When I was in high school in Ontario, they covered that stuff pretty thoroughly, and I can't imagine they'd de-emphasize that now in the era of AIDS.

It's her younger sister I'm worried about. Attention span of a gnat, young but looks older, drop dead gorgeous but with a really bad body image, naive, yet trying hard to prove that she's a rebel, and needy. I'm also worried that she's possibly bulemic. People have noticed how she *always* spends a lot of time in the bathroom after dinner.



ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

If there's any readers out there, I'm afraid you're in for a self-indulgent angsty post, just like every other blog or journal out there. Sorry about that.

I'm depressed again. I've been feeling out of sorts and sad for weeks now. I don't think this is a full blown depression (oh, God, please don't let it be that again) this time. Just too many things weighing on me.

  • I'm convinced that the George Bush is dragging the entire world into a hell hole, and he's doing it for only two reasons:
    1. He wants to make his rich friends even richer, and more scary,
    2. He thinks he's spreading his brand of Christianity to the Muslim nations
  • I'm currently in a boring stage of the project at work.
  • The project I'm on hasn't sold a single copy even though we're just about to release version 3.0.
  • Thanks to outsourcing, I'm worried that I may never work in tech again, and I don't have any other saleable skills.
  • I'm currently without my aviation medical, although I hope to have it back in a while.
  • Too many things to do, too little time.
  • My on-line community of friends is squabbling and breaking up.

But more important than all of those things put together, is that sometimes it feels like my wife and I are room mates rather than mates. We occupy the same house and the same bed, and sometimes we even talk to each other, but we're both occupied with our own lives and it seems like they don't intersect enough. We keep making plans to spend a weekend away from the computers and the kids and the thousands of interruptions and personal projects and just spend some time connecting with each other, but those plans keep getting cancelled or pushed back. I'm as lonely as I was as a bachelor sometimes. And I feel like it's mostly my fault.

I don't know what the problem is. I still love her, deeply and painfully. I still need her. I still feel loved. But much of the time, what time we have together is more of an annoyance than a blessed opportunity.

The weird thing is that I think part of the problem is the change in our routines. In the mornings, we used to both sit at our computers in the family room checking our email, but now I go to the family room but she sits in the kitchen with her new laptop. We didn't talk that much (I'm barely coherent first thing in the morning) but it was a contact that I miss. So this morning at great risk to my sore knees and hips I sat in the kitchen with my laptop as well. It's not much, but it's a start.

A bigger change in our routines is the evenings. I used to sit in the family room at my computer, while Vicki and the kids watched TV. But it annoyed me that I never got to watch the sort of shows that I wanted to watch, so I got a TiVo for the TV in the bedroom. The plus side is that I get to watch all the shows I want to watch, the downside is that I'm isolated from the family. It probably wouldn't hurt me to spend more time watching crap reality shows and the like instead of Babylon 5 and History Channel shows if it meant that I was out there with them.

I can't fix everything that's wrong with my life, but I can at least try and fix this. And I suppose that gives me some hope.


Upgrade blues

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I have the computer upgrade blues again. The difference is that, for the first time in my life, the blues aren't because I want an upgrade but can't get it. This time I have an upgrade, but I don't want it, and don't want to spend the time to switch over to it.

It's easy to see why all the hardware manufacturers have declining sales now - the previous generation is fast enough for just about everything, so why spend thousands getting the latest whizzy upgrade when everything you do is limited by the speed of the network rather than the CPU?

Several months ago I was told I had an upgraded machine on order. I said I didn't want it, my current machine is fast enough and I'm too busy to configure it so they should give it to somebody who needs a faster computer. They told me that the sysadmins would take care of installing RedHat 9 and everything else I need, and if I didn't take the upgraded computer, I couldn't get the nice 21" monitor that comes with it, and I'd be stuck on my 17". Ok, I said, I'll take it.

A month or two went by, and they dropped off the computer, but no monitor. I was still busy, so it's been sitting under my desk unplugged since then. We've hit code freeze, so I'm not very busy right now, so I decided to set it up. Only two problems: The other network drop in my cubicle is dead, and the promised 21" monitor is nowhere to be found.

So the upgrade is on hold again. And I don't give a damn.

Currently playing on my iPod: Bob Bossin, Gabriola Island VOR 1X0.


Grounded again, sigh

ptomblin ptomblin writes  |  more than 11 years ago

It's the beginning of September, and once again I find myself grounded. I'm a pilot, or at least I was until the end of August. Hopefully I will be one again soon. It all started back in 2001.

I was driving somewhere and letting my mind wander, and I guess I let it wander back to things I hadn't let it wander back to in 25 years. I suddenly found myself pulling onto the shoulder because I was crying about something that had happened to me when I was 15. I went to see a therapist. I worked hard with her to explore how repressing these memories had affected my whole life and personality. Ok, I said "repressing" and I'm sure people are rolling their eyes and thinking "false memory syndrome", but it wasn't technically repression - I always knew those things had happened, I'd just never let myself feel the emotions that came from them.

Anyway, I was in therapy, and while I was feeling too depressed to fly, I never gave up my FAA medical. Until September 11th. On that day, two of my co-workers died, including one whom I'd been working with on a project. It was depressing for everybody, but when you're struggling to make progress in therapy, it felt more like the last straw.

I asked my doctor for anti-depressants and was given Welbutrin. It gave me the mental strength to continue to make progress, but it also instantly invalidated my FAA medical. I had researched the issue before asking, and knew that it would take some work to get my FAA medical back, so it wasn't a decision I took lightly.

Oh, I should also mention that during this period I was diagnosed as borderline diabetic. I tried taking Glucophage to control the blood sugar, but was only having middling success with that.

After 2 or 3 months of the Welbutrin, I decided that I'd gotten over the hurdle, and went off it. I still continued to make good progress on the therapy.

Around about this time, I also started on a low carb diet - not strictly Atkins, but close. It was having amazing results on my blood sugar - I no longer got the shakes every day at lunch time, and I no longer saw my blood glucose readings swinging wildly between 45 and 300 - it was more like 75 before lunch and 95 after.

That spring, I went to the "Sun n Fun" fly-in in Lakeland Florida. It was there that I firmly committed myself to getting my medical back. I talked to a medical examiner there, and he said that after I've been off the Welbutrin for 6 months, I should go to my local Aviation Medical Examiner, take a physical, and send in the results.

So I did, 6 months to the day. I also started training for my instrument rating, since you don't need a medical to take dual instruction, just to solo. It took nearly two months for the FAA to respond that they needed more information, both from my doctor and my therapist. They seemed concerned about both the diabetes and the depression. I got the information and send it in, and *another* two months went by before they sent back a letter requesting more information and a couple of blood tests. I did that, and finally about 8 months after starting the process, I got a medical. A special issuance medical, good for only 6 months instead of the usual 2 years. And with a whole list of further hoops I'd have to jump through before it expired at the end of August to get a normal two year medical.

Ok, I admit it, I screwed up. I waited too long to start the hoop jumping, and so the damn thing expired, and I'm still waiting for the FAA to decide whether my hemoglobin a1c shows that I have the diabetes under control and my doctor and (now former) therapist think I'm not a danger to society.

Part of the reason I waited too long was that I went to Oskhosh, the biggest fly-in in the world. While I was there, they announced that 10% of all the aircraft in the United States were parked at the airfield that day. It was like a visit to Mecca. I borrowed a really good digital camera and took some pictures. But mostly I walked around with a huge grin on my face, because I was *home*.

It's the waiting that's the hardest part. I know how slow the FAA can be. And I won't be able to fly until they get their collective asses in gear and read the letter from my doctor and the lab results, hem and haw over it for several weeks or months, and then finally write a response. I just hope like hell they don't want any more hoop jumping like they did last time.

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