Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Need glasses?

This clip from Google Video of the Day. It is a site well worth bookmarking.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stellarium astronomy software

Another great piece of astronomy software. Uses OpenGL, and is open source! You select your current location, and it looks magnificent. For a few nights now I have been watching a particular star pattern, but did not get out the telescope. Now I know it is a cluster of galaxies, and tonight I hope to view it in all its glory (weather permitting).

What temperament are you? And other fun tests.

Seems I am melancholic. Interesting site. Check it out.

You Have a Melancholic Temperament

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.
You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.
You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.
You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.
Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.
You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.
You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

Friday, January 27, 2006

JJR (Jake's Jokes Rule!)

You can find it here.

And this one is my personal favourite (so far, as I am sequencially working backwards through all of them). I just took a break for a while so I could stop laughing and regain some breath.

Jake, you rule, mate!

Back up your blog posts

Found this very good advice on how to archive your own blog, instead of just posting your hard work into the ether.

By the way, found it via www.blogexplosion.com. I now have a backup of my thoughts, which, if you knew my brain as well as I do, is a very good idea.

What were we speaking about?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Life is hard

Strangely enough, that is the first sentence in the book I am busy reading (mentioned in a previous post). It feels as if my whole world wants to crumble around me.

So there was this incident at church on Sunday. A nice excuse to not attend for a while. But that would be a lie if I use it as a reason. There is also the issue of my music. Yesterday, for the thrid/fourth month in a row, I did not attend practice. Yes, I had just landed, I took an earlier flight so I could attend, but when it was time to go I just did not feel like going. So I did not go.

And of course I feel very bad. It has been more than a year since my first audition, during which time I scraped through as a bass guitarist. My second audition went just as badly. Why, I do not know. I used to love performing on stage. But butterflies got the better of me on both occasions. My timing was terrible, and songs I aced at home during practice, I very neatly stuffed up. But those were just the auditions.

I enjoyed attending the practice sessions. Playing with other musicians is very different to rehearsing at home. To cut a long story short, I do not know what I should do. How can I be rostered on for regular weekend duty when I travel so much. Valentine's Day is the next practice, the exact time I will have landed in Bangkok again. So I miss another month. I will be away the whole of March, and who knows when I will be going to Japan in April?

So, there you have good excuses for me to quit. And all I can think of is "The difference between failure and success is time". Do I really want to quit? Do I really want to be known as a quitter? How can I go back to church, and face all the other musicians, knowing that I just did not have the cahooneys to stick through this tough time?

And there-in lies the conundrum: No need to tell me what I should do. That I know very well. But sometimes I feel that it all becomes too much.

You know, a few months ago I would never have written thoughts like this for public viewing. But perhaps this is what I need to do. Face my demons, make my weaknesses public, and deal with them.

The road to success is not easy. Life is most definitely hard. But should I succumb to instant gratification, knowing very well that it is exactly what the enemy wants? Do I bow out of music and spiritual life for the second time in tthirteen years, just because it is too hard?

Will I be granted another chance if I bow out again? At least I have an answer for that one - God is gracious, and He will always love me, whatever I do. But He desires all of us to re-establish that special bond. The bond that was lost due to original sin.

I think I am now just rambling. But it does help to clear my head.

Have a good day, everyone.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Scary Personals

Check out this site. Worth quite a few laughs.

Dealing with Anger, theory and practice

The sermon this morning at Riverview Church was about anger, and how a simple thing such as road rage is not about the person cutting in front of you, it is most likely about all the other stuff going on /wrong in your life, and here you see just an easy target, because his car is slower than yours, he looks puny, and the rest is history.

It made me think about the times I have sulked, and acted inappropriately due to unrighteous anger. And I felt bad.

So after the sermon, my daughter is playing on stage, and I go up to just ensure all the kids are still alright. I notice this non-parent guy taking a keen interest in the children, but decide to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I walk away. There are still hundreds of people around, the kids will be fine.

I nearly get to my wife and friends, and the guy had followed me. Asked my whether I had a problem. Exsquueze me? Yes, a problem with him. Mate, what are you talking about. He determines that I do not want to start something, and neither does he. So he leaves.

And now I start fuming. Since he followed me, he obviously was trying to start something. And since I am of much smaller build than him, so he could.

Just before all this transpired, I spoke to my wife, and we planned the perfect afternoon, We were going to give our daughter her new bicycle as her fourth birthday present, so we could spend the afternoon riding around.

Instead, I realised that I was in a foul mood, started the car, raced home (note to self: The Vectra does not understeer, turn the steering wheel slower when cornering at high speed), and I even managed to get the car airborne by ramping over a speedbump. My wife duly asked me to stop the car, which I did. I walked home the rest of the way, both ladies emotional wrecks, I grabbed a bottle of sake, my cigarettes, and took two oxazepams (mood depressants).

Chainsmoked five cigarettes, and slept for five hours.

So much for the perfect afternoon for my daughter.

All I could think of was that my behaviour was very selfish. The afternoon belonged to her, and I managed to ruin it for everyone.

Ephesians says to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. And without trying to take the blame from myself, could that idiot not have done the same? Especially after hearing the message? And could I have reacted differently, Of course I could have. But I didn't.

This afternoon I was convinced that there is only one solution, that I should quit the church. I could state my reason that I feared for my safety. But that would just be an excuse. External locus of control, instead of an internal locus of control. So you know what, I will remain in church, I will attend band practice.

A few posts ago I mentioned that the only difference between failure and success is time. Do I really want to be known in my own heart as a failure. Become bitter, and blame the church for everything? No. We all make mistakes, we all sin. My only issue now is to find it in my heart to forgive this idiot. He has issues. I do not know what they are, but God knows.

Perhaps I could pray for him. Now that would be sweet revenge.

Please pray for me as well. I find it difficult to forgive, and to forget.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Female or shemale - can you tell?

Try it out. I scored 14/16. Girls/girlz, don't take advantage of my innocence...

The 1983 Nuclear war - almost

This from http://vulturesrow.blogspot.com/2006/01/day-world-almost-died.html: The Day the World Almost Died
Most people in America recall the early 80s with fondness. AIDS was still, “just a gay thing” Uncle Ronnie was in office, and Parachute pants were sooooo cool!

But for most of us, we do not know that just after midnight (Moscow time) on September 26, 1983 the world almost saw a full scale nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, 44 was sitting In the commander’s chair of the Serpukhov-15, the secret USSR command bunker hidden in a forest 30 miles northeast of Moscow, looking down from his mezzanine desk to the gymnasium-sized main floor filled with about 120 military officers and technicians charged with monitoring the U.S. missile system and retaliating instantly at the first sign of any nefarious activity. Some one shouted out in alarm and all attention was focused on the man. The new satellite monitoring system picked up a thermal bloom in one of the American Minute Man missile silos. A Thermal bloom is an infrared signature that indicated the launch of a missile, then another and another and another and a fifth one.

Believing they were under a surprise nuclear missile attack, the staff prepared to alert the high command and order a full strike of more than three thousand missiles. Once the order was given there would be no recalling it, there was no fail safe measure, no way to stop the night mare. Lt. Col Petrov held his “Red Phone” in one hand shouting orders to calm his staff down and get them to verify the launch. He had a hunch, if America was starting a nuclear war, why would they only launch five missiles? Why were the vaunted American missile submarines not launching, why were the B-52 bombers still on the ground? He held off on the knee jerk reaction to strike back that he and all other watch commanders had been trained to do. He waited, he stalled for five critical minutes. In those minutes it was verified that there was no US launch. It was later determined that the Thermal Blooms that the new system had detected was nothing more than the sun reflecting off of clouds over the Minute Men bases.

Had Lt. Col. Petrov ordered the launch, the us would have detected their launch and believed that it was a first strike. Thousands of missiles would have crossed each other on their way to their targets.

Petrov received a special World Citizen Award at a UN meeting in New York on January 19, 2006. Petrov was honored as the “Man Who Averted Nuclear War”. But for his foresight and intuition, Lt. Col. Petrov was reassigned to busy work, his career over. He would never gain another promotion and he would never see success. His wife became ill with cancer, he retired from active duty to tend to her. When she died, he borrowed money to give her a funeral.

Today, Petrov, 67, lives in Moscow on a monthly pension of less than $200.

Also view Doctor Marco's blog.

Monday, January 16, 2006

To the tea garden that is no more

I was walking to lunch today in Beijing, and noticed that the tea garden where Susan and I once had tea in September 2003, is no more. It is a very quiet spot, which is what I liked about it. The relaxing live music, the calm atmosphere.

The alternative in the complex is opposite the grocery store, very noisy, very open. I think I will give it a pass.

The end of an era. Always difficult when you appeal to a certain demographic (people who like it quiet, in this instance), and then that is the exact thing that works against you in terms of business volume.

So, to the ex-owners of the ex-tea garden in the Guomao Centre mall, close to South Beauty, I salute you. Thank you for the memories.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Greetings from Beijing

My apologies for not posting, Shanghai has not been internet-friendly. Actually, even here in Beijing I can not access any blogs on the blogspot.com domain. Quite wierd. And neither does my webcam work with MSNMessenger...

It is warmer than I expected, it was -2 degC when we landed. What a day. The flight from Shanghai was supposed to leave at 10h40 this morning, and eventually an earlier flight left at 14h00. An Air China B744, with competent pilots (Yes, an earlier flight which was also delayed). We had lunch on the plane, while we were still on the ground. I sat in seat 1J in first class, and I was looking out the window to estimate the flare height of the cockpit above ground level, versus what the landing sensors situated between the main wheels would indicate. And strangely enough, it did not feel that high when we flared, and touched down.

One of these days, I will fly again. I really miss piloting. Any of you wish you could win the lottery, and spend more time doing fun stuff?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Failure and Success

"The difference between failure and success is time" - P Vermeulen, Jan 2006.

I see it in my daughter, I see it in myself. The predisposition to give up quickly, to not complete something. In my early career days, part of a classification system used was "Completer Finishers" and "Ideas people". I was never a completer-finisher, and whatever money was spent on those consultants just affirmed my lack of self-discipline as phyco-analytically explainable/justifiable.

Today I think that was all a lie. All people have the ability to be completer-finishers, even my daughter and I. And you know what the only difference is? Time. When you feel like giving up, just keep on trying a little longer. I did just this last weekedn. A deadline for work, very high expectations of the results I would be able to achieve. And for months the results eluded me, the process to achieve the results eluded me. And then, on Sunday, the veil was lifted. And it all suddenly made sense.

I started coding formulae and assumptions, and about halfway through, I felt that it was really hard. And I almost quit. But I did not. For the first time in a long time, I persevered, and the answer was given to me.

There is more to do, more problems to solve before I can take the whole answer to our customers, but enlightenment has begun. Of course, after having had this small personal breakthrough, the methodology, and the results, are extremely simple. But with hindsight, everyone has 20/20 vision...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Road Less Travelled

This is the title of a book I am busy reading, by M. Scott Peck. It was a gift from my parents-in-law, and arrived in the last week. I am only on p23 so far, and already it has had profound impact into my life.

The book starts by stating that life is difficult, full of problems. But we define ourselves, and our children, by how we approach these problems. Do we spend the time solving them, or do we do our best to avoid them, hoping that they will just go away? Procrastinate, ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. We take drugs to help us in the ignoring/forgetting process, we do whatever we can, except face them head on. In the words of Carl Jung, Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.

And that discipline is the basic set of tools we need to solve life's problems. The first one of four that Mr. Peck deals with is Delaying Gratification, and eventually makes the point that many of our problems stem from feelings of lack of self-worth, and an example case study shows how a perfectly competent, intelligent professional struggled in many areas of her life, just because of lack of knowledge of a few basic rules in life.

Fascinating reading. I will let you know later what I think of the rest of the book.

Is an X52 any good?

My X52 finally arrived on Friday, and it is a thing of beauty. A BIG thing of beauty. I think this is what makes it so special, the fact that it is so big. You really get more precise control. Now, I did not purchase it for FS9, but since I still am waiting for my Falcon 4: Allied Force, I did test it with the Lago FSFalcon (I was part of the beta test team - look for the General Dynamics 1985 Tiger meet paintjob with my name on it). Now, when you land an F16, the procedure is as follows:

Firstly, depending on fuel load and external stores, touch down on the main wheels at ~150 knots. Maintaining the same landing attitude, keep the nose wheel in the air, performing an aero brake (add extra frontal area to increase drag) and then at 80 knots gently lower the nose wheel onto the tarmac.
From the time of the beta I have not been able to perform this manuever successfully, but I did on Friday night! Since the HOTAS is loosely modelled on the actual F16 control system (more realistic versions are the Thrustmaster HOTAS Cougar, as well as the CH F16 Fighterstick - both much more expensive), the control inputs are more realistic than with my CH Yoke.

And don't go blaming the yoke for my inabilities. Last night, I was flying with my yoke again, since the Cessna C172 my daughter wanted to fly has a yoke in real life.

Anyway, I digress. The verdict: It must be the mother of all Flight Control Systems, with even a built in mouse, and some keystroke combinations. So, now the long wait until I am back at home in two weeks' time, to see what Falcon 4 flies like.

Keep landing on the black stuff.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Microsoft Flight Simulator X release date

After all the incorrect information and speculation floating around the web, the following from Avsim:

MS Announces FSX
Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2006 - 2:34
If you have been wondering when the next version of MSFS was going to be released, then this is the announcement you have been waiting for. In a press release to AVSIM, Microsoft has announced that the next version to be known as FSX will be released during the 4th quarter of 2006 in time for the holiday sales season.

Be sure to check out the screenshots as well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cockpit Control Systems

If you see a business opening, take it. Here are some folks that did just that. Looks very impressive. Wish I could afford one...

Sim Cockpit Systems

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Resolutions for 2006

1) To forgive myself when I sin.
2) To stand up to temptation, and lick them again (all three have come back in 2005 to haunt me, and all three won by a country mile).
3) To confess my weakness to these temptations, and get some help.
4) To pilot a plane again, to play more music, to spend less time at work.
5) To be more realistic with these damn new year's resolutions...

How about you?