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the robots are coming

Sled Drivers

SR-71

Tomorrow, October, 22, 2014, at 12:30 PM eastern time a former pilot of the fastest jet ever made will be doing an AMA on reddit.  It will be over in /r/iama if you’re interested, and you should be.

One of the best stories about flying in an SR-71:

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us and tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions and when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn’t match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.” Now the thing to understand about Center controllers was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the “Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed in the Beech. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.

Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.” Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a read-out? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.” And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.

Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it the click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if it was an everyday request.

“Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.” I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice when L.A. came back with, “Roger that Aspen. Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.” It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on frequency were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there

 

This is from the book Sled Driver, which is out of print and as such, at a ridiculous price on Amazon.  SR-71

2 Hours of Game Boy

Well, closer to 3 hours actually, but whatever, you’re not going to watch all of it are you?  This is supposedly the start screen for every original Game Boy game made.  I believe him, mostly because I’m not investing 3 hours of my life watching it and taking notes of every game, and then matching what he put in with what that respective game’s actual opening sequence is.

I will say that there is a surprisingly large variety of music on hand.  Way more then I would have guessed.  There’s also way more games then I ever knew existed, but that’s pretty much a given, have you ever looked in Game Stop at the old used games section, it’s huge, or at least it used to be.

{Destructoid}

Nazi Gold

I like Jude Law, he’s sadly not appreciated as much as he should be.  I also like Nazis, so when I saw this trailer, I was admittedly excited.  Afterall, what could go wrong?  Well, alot of things, but I’m not going to worry too much about that, I’m going to be excited and hopefully go see this movie when it comes out, too bad I have to wait until January, after which time it might get lost among other films, and things to be doing, like skiing.

{Filmonic}

 

P.S. If you haven’t you should watch Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,  Seriously, that film is so well done, it’s a shame that it tanked at the box office and will never get a sequel.

Alternate History Thursday: Desert Fox

Rommel

On this day in 1944, Erwin Rommel, the famed “Desert Fox,” was given the unique opportunity to kill himself.  You see, he was semi involved in the failed July 20 Plot, Operation Valkyrie, to kill Adolf Hitler.  Being the famed war hero, and popular public figure, he wasn’t put on trial, or outright killed by the Gestapo, instead he was given a cyanide pill and a state funeral.  WW2 Today has a nice take on the day from the words of Rommel’s son, it’s worth the read.

In our alternate reality, Rommel wasn’t accused of treason because in our alternate reality, Hitler wasn’t evil.  Instead, today is remembered as the day that Rommel pushed back England in the Cross Atlantic Landing, Alternate History’s version of D-Day.  His tactics successfully put the final nail in the coffin of the English Empire.  After the war, Rommel used his strategic knowledge to assist the growing number of freed english nations to join up, and come together as one united nation.

{Wiki}

The Mighty Ducks

You can thank reddit user StreetFur for this link:

On this day 21 years ago the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, became an NHL team in the Western Conference.  Now they are simply known as The Anaheim Ducks, shedding the Disney legacy in 2006 with new owners.  However, fans of the Ducks cannot deny that at heart the team’s existence owes itself to a movie, from the year before their inception, which just so happened to be called, The Mighty Ducks.

All in all The Mighty Ducks weren’t a horrible team, but with the new owners, new name, and new logo, they broke into their own and won a Stanley Cup.  Just this past season (2013-2014), they saw the retirement of a truly great player, Teemu Selänne, who played 15 (non consecutive years), for The Ducks.

Anyway, it’s the start of the 2014 Hockey season, let’s hope it’s a good one, and Lets Go Rangers.

Manual Bitcoin Mining is Useless

Manual Bitcoin mining

Computers really are magical machines.  Unfortunately, it’s not until you do some things by hand that you truly appreciate it for yourself.  Ken Shirriff can now appreciate computers better than anyone I know.  You see, he decided he wanted to mine his own Bitcoins, by hand.  Using a paper and pencil.  At first glance you’d think that that’s impossible.  Well, it’s not, apparently it’s a rather simple process, if you’re a math major.  But he outlines the whole process and the calculations needed and everything.

His initial time took just under 17 minutes to mine a single block.  To put that into comparision, current dedicated hardware can mine bitcoin blocks a quintillion times faster than that.  If that’s not enough, someone on reddit asked him how much energy he expended doing this.  He’s 10 quadrillion times less efficient than the above chip.  And the cost of this, (just the energy, pencil and paper wasn’t included), was 67 quadrillion times less efficient.  Truly this is the wave of the future.  I can see hipsters mining this at coffee shops right now.

He even has a video of himself doing it, it’s 8 minutes long:

{reddit}

PBS ruins Sci-Fi

PBS has done the regular “science as we currently understand it” take on popular Science Fiction battles.  Easily glossing over the 2nd word of the genera’s title, fiction.  Sure, if you take what we currently know of physics, and the current levels of technology that we have, space battles would largely be uneventful, boring, and either over in minutes, or days.  Would those make for an interesting and engaging story?  No.  You know what would?  World War 2 action reels.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face about all the physics and science behind space battles.  And I won’t disagree with you on any of that.  I will tell you that just because you may be technically correct, it doesn’t mean you have to get all up in my face about it.  Let me watch my unrealistic, atmospheric fly-bys in the middle of space.  Let me see nuclear missiles fly off and explode in spectacular fiery explosions.  I know it’s not real.  I’m not watching/reading a documentary.

{Engadget}

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