Riding into the sunset sucks

It’s been a romantic image of movies for a hundred years. The hero, fresh from rescuing the damsel in distress / princess / willing sex slave mounts his horse and rides off into the sunset as the end theme plays. Now, until you’ve actually been a “rider”, then you’ll fail to realize that riding into the setting sun blows like almost nothing else on Earth. In a car you can use the sun-shades, block the sun with the bodywork etc. On a bike you can do nothing but maybe drop your eye level a little and hope the brow of your helmet blocks the sun from blinding you.

Obviously from my rant you can tell I just did this… damn that sucks. Important note for the future; wear shades! I have a pair… unfortunately they were in the garage at home, and I was on my way home at the time. C’est la vie I guess.

Nothing much to report at this time. As you can tell my blog has taken a back seat to life again, which is no bad thing. My life of late has been mostly riding every opportunity I get, learning the limits of myself and the bike and practicing all the stuff I learned at the MSF course. You know, it’s going to take me a long time to get all of this “down”, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s as close to flying as I get most days… I can only imagine the kind of mood I’ll be in when I ride to the airport, fly a plane for an hour or two and get to ride home again :)

I’m also learning that despite having a Corbin custom seat that was delivered with the bike (purchased by a prior owner), I’ve come to like the stock seat a lot more. Why? Well, the Corbin is nice, looks sharp… but it does give a harder ride. Fine for short distances, but doing any kind of serious riding can give you a serious pain in the arse.

Well, hopefully I’ll get some more time in the next few weeks to write again. I must admit it, I bought the bike primarily as a commuting tool, and a way to maybe reduce some of my monthly expenditure. I honestly never thought I’d enjoy riding as much as I do. It’s really much more fun than I ever thought it would be. As a result I’m riding every opportunity I get. Even riding in the rain once did nothing to dampen (literally) my enthusiasm. My jeans on the other hand were a completely different story. Add to that the windchill in my crotch…

I’ll leave the rest to your twisted imaginations.

Wow, what a rush!

Once again, I have to say that I’m knackered. It’s been incredibly busy for me the last few days, hence no updates. So what have I been up to? Well, let’s start with the short summary (on which I will expand later, if I have time;

1. Revenge of the Sith: So what did I think of it? Actually, I enjoyed it rather a lot. Pretty good movie all in all. Not a work of art, and still not as good as Empire Strikes Back or A New Hope… but probably equal in the series to Return of the Jedi. Definitely better than The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. Worth your time.

2. Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course: The main reason I’m so tired is that I have spent the last two days at a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. Very good course, and I can honestly say that I learned a lot of good stuff. I’m definitely a better motorcyclist because of it, I think.

3. The Motorbike: Sweet! Been riding my bike a lot the last few days. Put 160 miles on the bike since Sunday including riding to and from the MSF course. 45 miles per gallon on regular unleaded… yep, I can live with that. Of course, the sheer freedom of riding a bike is just absolutely awesome.

I’ll expand on all of this later. Right now, got work to do. Toodle-pip.

Maintenance and Schtuff

Motorbike Maintenance. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Well, it is and it isn’t. Maintaining a bike sure is more frequent than maintaining a car. There’s oil changes and stuff which are about the same, but then there’s stuff like chain maintenance that’s ideally done at least once or twice a month. I’m planning on doing some maintenance on the bike tonight in preparation for starting to ride it next week.

Why next week? Well, first of all I still haven’t gotten the bike street-legal. It needs a Missouri inspection and then I get tags on it. No problem. That’s pretty easy all things considered and I’ll do that Monday on my day off. Second thing is that I’m going out next week to take a formal MSF course (Motorcycle Safety Foundation). What is that? Well, you can check their site for a description of what they do, but the upshot is that it’s an intensive two or three day course to get you into good habits when riding a motorcycle, as well as train you the right way to ride in most circumstances. I’ve heard very good things about the course and decided I wanted to take it so that (a) I can be a good and safe rider and (b) so that I don’t get into any bad habits. I’ve been deliberately avoiding riding my bike on the roads for the last couple of weeks I’ve owned it so that I don’t get into any bad habits. It’s parking lots only for me right now!

Speaking of maintenance though, I am trying to track down a really irritating oil leak on the bike. It’s not more than a few drips every couple of days, but it’s annoying. The most annoying aspect? It’s dripping from the centerstand which happens to be nowhere near anything that actually contains any oil. Ack! That means it’s wicking across the underside of the bike from somewhere and making it to the centerstand before it drips off. You know what this means? Yep, it’s a trip to Autozone tonight to pick up some UV dye and see if I can see where the hell it’s coming from.

Also noticed some oil under my SVX on the driveway yesterday… last time that happened I lost three quarts of oil on I-270 near Olive and it ended up costing me $1000. I don’t particularly want to go down that route again… so I guess I’ll get enough of that dye for two vehicles :)

Feeling tired again today though… not so good. I haven’t really slept in a couple of days… I guess tonight I’ll need to take sleeping medicine.

On a positive note though, a friend of mine’s girlfriend decided that she didn’t want to go see Star Wars: Episode III tomorrow night with him after he pre-bought tickets… so I’ve got an invitation and a free ticket to go see it. Sweet! I’ll be sure to post on Saturday and let people know what I thought :)

People are Strange

Why is it that people are acting so oddly lately? It seems to be an epidemic of people I know who have recently begun acting in ways that seem contrary to their personalities… or at least as far as I can tell. Is it some form of malaise that has struck the entire St. Louis area? Friends of mine from outside this area seem to be immune… is it something in the air?

You’d think with summer coming up and the weather finally turning nice that people would cheer up… but the winter malaise that hits most people in the midwest during the winter seems to have given way to… well… a summer malaise. More to the point, why does it seem to be predominantly females struck with this sudden depression?

Yes, I’ve been down lately, but I know the reasons why. Mostly work-related stress that I’ve been coping with through my pastimes and trying not to think about work once I leave the building. OK, so I meet with varying degrees of success…

I would say perhaps I’m the cause of this, but I don’t have that high an opinion of my ability to influence others… nor am I conceited enough to think that I could possibly cause this. Maybe I’m just more attuned to attitudes of others this year than I have in previous years, but for some reason things just seem different. My interactions with friends seem to be undergoing a rather awful metamorphosis… as far as I can tell I personally haven’t changed (much).

Well, I’ll play wait and see on that one. Figure it’s probably the weather here at the moment… going from cold to hot and back again several times in the last few weeks, and supposed to rain tonight. I love St. Louis weather.

Not much else to write, just feeling like the world’s got a bone to pick with me all of a sudden and I want to know why! :)

Come Fly with Me

Ahhhh, that feels a little better. Took some time out last night to go flying. Took some pictures with my phone, but none of them turned out really except for two (and it gives me a GREAT excuse to play with embedded images in my blog text). So for your enjoyment, first we have the plane that I flew last night;

And now the sunset that I took a picture of from the ramp at St. Charles County Smartt;

BTW, comments about my crappy parking of the plane will be summarily ignored; there was noone else around and I knew I’d be leaving again pretty soon.

So what was the story and plan? Well, I took off out of 3SQ at about 6:30pm Central and headed out to the West. Initially I thought about heading down around the Washington area but changed my mind partly due to a balloon that was right on my flight path at about 2600 feet. It was a good 8 or 10 miles away, and I could have gone around it easily enough but decided that I’d just change my plan and head North West. Now, this is my usual “playground” in a Cessna; between two rivers and heading up generally the East bank of the Illinois river.

Anyway, cruised up that way for about 50 miles or so (nautical FYI) and climbed to 6500, and was about 10 miles from Quincy, IL when I decided just to change my plan a little and go land at an airport I’ve never been to before. Lo an behold on my sectional is an airport called Jacksonville, IL… almost exactly due East of my position. So I climb to 7500 and head on over to the East and over the Pruitt Military Operations Area (extends to 6000 feet) Although you can quite legally fly through the MOA, I figured it would be good “airspace recognition practice” to stay above it until I came out near Jacksonville.

So, as I got over the airspace I could see Jacksonville about 8 miles ahead of me. I did some nice slow and lazy circles as I descended to pattern altitude and finally came in nice and slow for a good landing in Jacksonville. Hmm… 7:20pm. Time for a soda! Grabbed a quick soda from the vending machine and took off again with said soda in the passenger seat.

Came out of Jacksonville and headed almost exactly due South again. Since the sun was setting, the bumpiness I’d encountered earlier was starting to peter out. Climbed to 4500 feet and flew a track of 184 which would take me back to St. Charles County Smartt.

Came over the river at around 2000 feet and entered a nice smooth downwind for runway 09. Found myself feeding in a lot of trim as I decelerated from the 120 knot AIRSPEED I’d somehow managed to muster but touched down with a nice greaser right past the numbers, and slow enough to come off on the first exit to the taxiway. Sweet. As I taxied to the ramp I watched a powered parachute take off from the grass and commented to the pilot over the radio that it looked like fun. Didn’t receive a response… but he was pretty busy.

Anyway, made good time… shut down on the ramp at 8:10. Civil twilight begins in 45 minutes, so I just chilled on the ramp and drank the diet coke I’d bought in Jacksonville and hadn’t gotten around to drinking yet. Made some phone calls to friends, and finally wantched that PPC come back in and land at almost less than a good walking pace. Cool.

9:10pm I took off again on 09, stayed in the pattern for two take-offs and landings to a full stop, then headed back to the Southwest and back in at 3SQ on runway 09 to shut down at 9:25pm almost on the dot. Since I’d rented the plane up to 9:30pm that was good timing… and yes, I parked it better on the ramp at 3SQ. :)

All in all, a very relaxing evening out. Had a lot of fun, watched the world from 7500 feet as I cruised and enjoyed the hell out of the view. Not the cheapest hobby in the world… but VERY engrossing.

Stuff and Schtuff

It’s been a busy morning in the Haslett household… I’m knackered. Yep, there’s a good Anglicism for all you Yankees reading my blog. For those that read this blog and don’t know (and there are a few judging by the occasional emails I get), I’m British by nationality and still speak with a sort of half-English and half-Irish accent. There’s a little bit of Midwestern mixed in there now, probably inevitable after the 10 years I’ll have spent in this country in just a couple of months. For those who still remember when I came over… yep… 10 years this August. Scary, huh?

I must admit the lethargy and just plain old depression of a few days ago has subsided a little. Spent a good chunk of yesterday taking out my frustrations on the mess in the garage, breaking out my air compressor and sharpening the blades on my lawnmower, then taking out some more frustrations on the lawn. Actually helped a bit, but my God did I feel it afterwards! I had been driving continually forward for a couple of hours, and when I finally stopped moving I almost collapsed where I was standing.

This morning… well it’s Laundry. Woo… fun! Yeah, I have such an EXCITING life don’t I? Between loads I’ve been fixing the dishwasher that has taken a bad habit of containing standing water every time it runs. Finally found a kink in the drain hose so now I’m running it empty a few times to flush it entirely.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, figure I may as well. talk about my life, as boring as it might be.

As far as all the stuff I’ve promised in the past on these pages; well it’s coming when I get a chance. My MythTV box has worked out to be a very successful project. Got a few minor issues with video quality, and a strange error where the backend service keeps shutting down for no apparent reason (only really a problem when the machine is working on transcoding previous recordings… it tends to restart the transcoding process without terminating the previous, still active one). I’ve written a little script that checks running processes every minute and restarts mythbackend if it’s not running. Annoying, but functional until I can figure out WHY it’s crashing. At the moment it’s not consistent enough.

On the positive side, finally tuned my system so I have XvMC running. That’s hardware-level decoding of the MPEG2 stream in my NVIDIA card. Previously it worked but was quirky… now I’ve tuned the system a little so it’s nice and smooth. Shame about the known bug in MythTV that has the OSD in black-and-white only on XvMC displays… but nothing I can’t live with.

For those who’ve read all the really old entries in this blog, I still am very happy with my Motorola MPx220. Now, Motorola has pulled these off the US market for reasons they’re not elaborating on, but they’re already appearing rather successful in Britain and Europe since their recent release. Interesting. Rumors abound on the Internet right now as to WHY they’ve done this. Current favored rumors are that they’re stockpiling the devices to covert to Magneto (the MPx220 has been a test mule for Windows Mobile 5 almost as long as it’s been out), including improved antennae, improved Bluetooth support and WiFi. Should be interesting. Currently the rumor is that the device will be re-released in the US as the MPx230 running Mobile 5, offering an upgrade path to those who already bought the 220.

So why do all this? Well, simply there were too many problems with the MPx220. I can honestly say that I have spoken to internal people in Microsoft and can confirm that the problems weren’t at their end. Rather the problems occurred because Motorola’s integration team (who take the base OS provided by Microsoft and make it hardware-specific) either worked around some perceived problems with the API or just plain ignored the documentation. Either way, Microsoft and Motorola are working VERY close right now to ensure that the next Smartphone out of the gate is a rock-solid device. A bad device reflects badly on both companies, so they’re both motivated to fix the problems. Either way, I know the MPx220 will have a new firmware release sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2005 which will be the “Microsoft Approved” version, and should fix a host of bugs. So will we see an MPx230 or a re-released MPx220 with the new firmware? Don’t really know at this time… but I can report that my experience with the 220 is that if you can live with a few minor bugs then it’s a damned fine device. Now, I only get bitten with bugs in the phone about once every few weeks, so to me that’s acceptable.

To many phone customers this isn’t acceptable… they want their devices to just work. Well, the Smartphone is one hell of a lot more than just a phone… so still being on the (b)leading edge of the technology I am one of those who will accept bugs so long as the workarounds aren’t overly onerous. Most of the bugs I’ve encountered get cleared up by a reboot. Go figure… it’s Windows :)

Anyway, gotta run. Got lots more work to do today…

Chronic Fatigue

I’m not sure what I’m suffering from. Maybe it’s depression, or some sort of malaise but I seem to be having a problem with chronic fatigue at the moment.

The symptoms? I’m tired all the time… I can’t get myself up in the mornings, though generally I am sleeping. This has been for a couple of weeks and I can’t fathom what the hell is wrong with me. It’s sort of worrying actually, though I also realize that it’s quite possible my worrying about it might actually be making it worse.

So maybe it’s stuff at work, maybe it’s something completely different… but I just have no enthusiasm for anything right now.

That’s really part of the reason this blog sometimes languishes for weeks without an update; I just can’t muster the enthusiasm to do it. Anyone out there reading this got any thoughts or suggestions?

In other news, managed to get back in touch with a very old friend lately. Found out he’s doing rather well for himself and living in Houston. That’s actually pretty cool from my perspective, it’s nice to hear about friends who’ve made of their lives what they wish and are happy.

Oh, and I didn’t get flying last night. A line of thunderstorms rolled across Missouri yesterday evening. They were North of where I live and work, but close enough to the airport that I called up and cancelled the booked plane before I even drove out there. It was obvious that I could have gone up, but the risk seemed to outweigh the benefit in my book. Maybe Monday… I went ahead and booked the plane.

Maybe I’ll get online and update again later… post afternoon coffee :)

Feeling sorta bleagh…

It’s been hell at work again. Typical.

Six months ago I dropped support for our Windows 2000 Server build primarily because we were moving to a Windows 2003 environment. I developed the build myself using VB Scripts, an imaging engine and Windows PE… it works pretty well and is very flexible. However, because of the difficulty in maintaining two seperate build-trees I rescinded future development of the 2000 build and instead chose to focus on Windows 2003.

Fast-forward to last Friday. It appears that because of a vendor not supporting the 2003 platform yet, suddenly I have to break out of storage all of my old working source trees for Windows 2000 and create a brand new image. Why? Well, in the last six months HP has gone through a major hardware refresh… and guess what doesn’t install on the new DL380G4 servers (our standard baseline server for the majority of our applications). Great. Three days of solid work to get a working, tested build on DL380G4′s and now I have a headache.

On the bright side, yesterday we got a pair of AMD64 machines; a DL385 and DL585, each with 8GB of RAM. Woohoo! Playtime!

On the home front… well I’m mostly tinkering with the bike now. Haven’t actually had a chance to ride it yet because I still have to deal with all the state paperwork to make it legal on the roads. I’ve been tinkering with it though, just making it “My bike”. Also I’ve really not had time or the weather’s not been good. Weirdest thing? Went through the garage this morning because I needed to get my fuel tester (weather permitting I’m going flying after work this evening), and on the floor next to the bike is oil. Not a lot, granted… but a pretty serious smattering. Weird thing is, the oil is behind the tailpipe and under the left turn signal at the rear. Last I checked nothing back there had any oil. I need to figure that one out… I guess that’s what I’ll be working on Saturday morning.

On the MythTV front… well it’s stable as hell in version 0.18. I’ve still got to take some pics of the setup and post them up on this blog for your enjoyment, but rest assured that the suite is awesome. Are there glitches? Yeah, certainly… but I can more than happily live with them. Next problem; running out of disk space. I think it’s probably time to invest in a SATA controller and a pair of 200Gb drives :)

Time to get back to work… that build I started on the DL385 is almost complete (I love IP KVM’s!) and I need to check to make sure it works as intended.

Mostly Harmless

I can’t believe there’s actually apparently a demand for my drivelling. There’s more people reading this than I thought. Strange, I don’t advertise this… just have it linked off my Slashdot profile. For this update; my thoughts on the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy movie.

Now, since I’m British and therefore practically weaned on the dry humor of Douglas Adams (he was senior writer for Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s run as the Doctor) I guess I have a different viewpoint on this movie than a lot of my friends do. That’s OK… perfectly understandable.

So the summary first: I liked it… quite a lot actually. It was a lot of fun and maintained a lot of the quirkiness of Douglas Adams himself. While not perfect in many ways, it was good and well deserving of a sequel or two.

The details: From the opening montage of dolphins “mucking about in the water and having a good time” to the strains of “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish”, a showtune that’s been running through my head ever since… I knew I was in for something different than anything Hollywood has put out before. I was right… it WAS different… but not as different as that beginning promised.

Let me start with what was good. First of all, the cast was perfect! While Alan Rickman’s first couple of lines fell a little flat as Marvin, I felt that he conveyed the same sort of withering contempt for life that he managed to bring out during Galaxy Quest. The rest of the cast carried their roles well, especially Martin Freeman as the poor put-upon Arthur Dent. Mos Def as Ford Prefect? Inspired… but I felt he wasn’t given a lot to work with. The spark was there… just the material wasn’t.

The Heart of Gold was definitely not how Douglas described it, at least on the outside… but the interior was perfect, exactly as I’d imagined this incredible starship to look. In fact, the look of just about everything was spot on.

The story? Well, it’s changed… that’s definitely true… but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Douglas himself often stated that the story needs to change to fit the medium that is being used… that’s why the radio series, TV series and books all seem so inconsistent; because DA was constantly tweaking them for the media they were using. You could do stuff with radio you couldn’t do with TV and vice versa… and pretty much anything went with the books. While some of the changes I take issue with, most of the changes were merely to make it work in the fundamentally different medium of the Hollywood movie.

The Vogons were fantastic. As a British citizen I have in my past often come up against British beureaucracy at its worst, which is exactly what Douglas Adams was attempting to parody with the Vogons. The failing of the earlier TV series is that the Guide itself describes them as “… not exactly evil, but beureaucratic, officious…” and so on… while the look of them on-screen was distinctively that of an evil menace. In the movie they don’t look evil… they look like a parody of British courts and parliament… in fact precisely what I myself envisaged. And the look of them on-screen shows me exactly why I don’t think CGI is going to replace good puppetry any time soon despite what George Lucas thinks; they look solid and more alive. CGI despite advances in recent years still looks way too much like a plastic action figure that’s moving around independently. Then again, given George Lucas’ penchant for 2 dimensional actors that’s probably reasonable…

I digress… onto the bad:

The movie has been changed a lot from the source materials. There are a few issues I have with those changes, not least of which was the fact that many of the funniest parts of the source material were cut. The Guide entries, while note-perfectly narrated by the fabulous Stephen Fry (whom I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago in London) were abridged significantly from the source and somewhat lacking the dry wit of Peter Jones blatantly sardonic tones (from the TV series). The animation also wasn’t quite as “in your face” as the TV series had been, though they did have a charm of their own.

Let’s clarify one thing though; I understand why these guide entries were often cut: It was because the guide entries often wandered off on tangents that had nothing to do with advancing the story. A prime example of this is the Babel Fish entry which goes on about the Babel Fish proving the non-existence of God. I feel the whole aspect of the little yellow fish was somewhat skipped over, but I do see why. Still, it loses some of its original charm because of it.

Generally the only significant problem I had with the movie was the speed at which it was trying to move, especially in the first half. Now, although the first section on Earth (prior to its demolition) is only marginally shorter than the one from the TV series, I still prefer the TV series version of it because it flowed more naturally. In the movie it seemed a little stilted and “tacked on”.

Because of this high-speed flow, much of the movie suffered. Marvin especially suffered because of this because much of his comedy came from his lugubrious droning and pauses for effect that were note-perfect in the TV and radio series, but completely lost in the movie.

The whole Arthur/Trillian love story thing though… that’s the bit I really felt wasn’t a good addition. It’s too “in your face”… and what’s with the “… for one week I thought I had it all” sort of attitude from Arthur??? Unless I was missing something he knew Tricia MacMillan for all of one night? And not even all night at that? Sorry, this didn’t work for me at all because it was logically inconsistent, and in fact inconsistent with the character of Arthur as already defined by that point.

Although I have to say the Point of View gun was brilliant… but again I felt that the Deep Thought section suffered from rushing too much.

Still, will I see it again? Yes… but probably not until it hits the movie shelves. Even then I’ll buy the DVD… but I don’t get that kind of time to go to the movies and watch a movie.

’nuff said. Signing off and will update again soon.

I still exist…

Yes, for those who’ve asked… I’m still alive and kicking. Just busy as hell with work and home stuff that’s been eating me alive.

Well, enough has happened of late that warrants an update I think. First is the fact that I can now update this thing from work when I’m not really busy… say during lunch… so hopefully I can get more time to work on this blog.

Second, and I’ve received some email asking about this, yes the MythTV box is ticking along quite nicely thank you. Still no pictures yet, but I’ll get some as soon as I get a chance to. It works really well actually, in fact some might say surprisingly well for a product that is (a) free and (b) not even at version 0.2! I’ll take some time later today to write up some more info about it for your enjoyment.

Third, I got my bike this weekend!!! Sweet! OK… so it’s going to take some practice for me to ride it. I have ridden before but it’s (a) been a long time and (b) that bike weighed a good 50% less than this new one. As a result my first attempt at riding the bike was a little… interesting. Ah well, some practice and I think I’ll be in good shape. Now all I’ve got to do is get the title changed, tax paid, plates… oh you know, all the fun stuff.

As I said, more later… when I get some more time!