I remember first reading about the SR-71 Blackbird in Freddy Forsythe's The Devil's Alternative. I don't remember anything about the plot, but I do remember being awestruck by that plane. I suppose, looking back, I should probably be impressed at how much detail Forsythe managed to include about a spy plane that was still cloaked in secrecy.
Not so much now. SB*NATION's Spencer Hall has a great interview with a former pilot, Rick McCrary which goes into granular detail about the program. Especially striking is the way the Blackbird comes off as part spaceship.
SH: People forget you had to basically wear a space suit.
RM: It was a Gemini suit, built for sitting. Very cumbersome. It was the same suit you'd see astronauts walking into the capsule in, except ours were gold.
SH: How long did that take to put on?
RM: We'd go in about four hours before flight. Each day they'd give you a mini-physical, since you couldn't fly in a space suit with a head cold or anything like that. We had a backup crew ready for each mission ready to substitute. You'd then go have a breakfast, what was termed a "high-protein, low-residue meal" of steak and eggs. You're gonna be trapped in that suit for six or eight hours, the low-residue part is pretty important.
Here's why you needed the spacesuit:
One of the most amazing sights was flying out of England to the north of Russia to have a look at things up there. If you did that, it was a pretty long run. We'd refuel twice just to get up there. You would get a couple of sunsets and sunrises, because at those northern latitudes often you would see day to night, and then a terminator line, almost like a black velvet curtain where you can see how it's light on this side, and dark on the other side. It's the most amazing thing you can imagine to see that.
Another one was at night. It's astonishing--you're above the haze, and in the atmosphere--how deep into space you can see from up there. There's all this meteor activity you never see on the ground. A lot of stuff's going on.
We flew across a huge thunderstorm that covered half of Montana. Looking down into it from 75,000 feet and seeing lightning going for hundreds of miles across the top of this giant storm was just awe-inspiring. Sometimes it was hard to pull your attention back into the cockpit because it was just mesmerizing to see that stuff.
Once we were coming down off the coast of California and letting down across San Francisco and hit this huge thunderstorm. We had to go down into it because we didn't have enough gas to go anywhere else. There was incredible turbulence as you penetrated the thunderstorm, and the aircraft is just bouncing viciously around. St. Elmo's Fire is just rolling across the canopy. It was kind of like the first scene in the original Alien. To get down, pop out the other side, and see our tanker waiting with gas was an incredible sight.
Every flight had something like that to remember.
The full story is here and totally worth a read. Thanks to Beeso for the head's up.
17 Responses to ‘Flying the SR-71’
I suppose I could list the shitstorms of perdition which have attended my upgrading from Dragon 3 to 4, but I don't know if the internet is big enough to contain them.
Lets just say I'm getting to know all of the customer service representatives at Nuance's Third World Call Centres very, very well indeed.
My advice, for now, stay the hell away from this product.
Oh, what the fuck.
• They charged me double for the download.
• The software registration is borked.
• Following the instructions to fix the software registration totally bricks the program which crashes before loading.
• And the final insult? The automated online 'customer service' system prompted me to change my password, and now won't recognise the new password.
I've uninstalled every file I can find. Trashed and deleted the preferences. Run disk repair four times. Redownloaded the program. All to no avail.
I think, as annoying as this would be anyway, it's having been double-charged that adds that certain exquisite frisson of butthurt to the whole experience.
Turns out this is a 'known issue'. A thousand code monkeys are hammering away at a thousand keyboards in the basement of Nuance to fix it.
Oh, and their server has crashed.
So for now my advice remains DO NOT BUY.
3 Responses to ‘Do NOT buy or upgrade to Dragon Dicate 4’
I dips me lid to Prof Boylan for this video. A local TV spot in the US to promote a book by 'Chef Keith'. Leftovers Right: making a winner of last nights dinner. Or something.
Turns out chef Keith isn't a chef. And he hadn't written a book. About leftovers or anything. I think he may have been taking the piss.
But damn if those mashed potato ice cream cones don't look mighty temptin'.
6 Responses to ‘The TV chef who wasn't. ’
I bought a new to-do app for my iPwn the other day. A freebie called Finish that I paid .99c to upgrade. It lets me sort my deadlines into three groups. Short, medium and long term. I check it at the start of each day and whatever's in the short tern catagoory goes into another app, Clear, which is a great daily manager. There's other workflow tweaks I do too (like maybe scheduling a pomodoro or two for medium/long term projects in the afternoon and evening).
But as much as I love the apps, and the odd way they complement each other even though they're from different devs, I simply wanted to point to this story at NYT this morning, about young app developers. The guys they used as talent for the piece were the developers of Finish. I was more than surprised when I read that; this elegant, almost perfrectly imagined app I'd been using was coded by a couple of kids whose combined years on this planet wouldn't add up to the age of some of my butt wrinkles.
Nice work kids.
The story was also interesting because it reminded me of my own time as baby writer, when I had to make a call between studying law (bwahahahaha) and going to Sydney to write for Rolling Stone. I was hooked in the opening pars of the story because of the way it brought back those choices. (Although I was way older than this kid, had moved out of home and already had my first degree.)
Ryan Orbuch, 16 years old, rolled a suitcase to the front door of his family’s house in Boulder, Colo., on a Friday morning a year ago. He was headed for the bus stop, then the airport, then Texas.
“I’m going,” he told his mother. “You can’t stop me.”
Stacey Stern, his mother, wondered if he was right. “I briefly thought: Do I have him arrested at the gate?”
But the truth was, she felt conflicted. Should she stop her son from going on his first business trip?
Ryan was headed to South by Southwest Interactive, the technology conference in Austin. There, he planned to talk up an app that he and a friend had built. Called Finish, it aimed to help people stop procrastinating, and was just off its high in the No. 1 spot in the productivity category in theApple App store. Ryan was also eager to go because, as he put it: “There were really dope people, and I really like smart-people density.”
Ms. Stern loved her son’s passion, but told him that he could go to Austin only if he finished the schoolwork he’d neglected while building the app. But Ryan didn’t comply, and, like battle-weary parents everywhere, she let him go anyway.
Also loved the way the kid came back from an internship in SIlicon Valley, complaining about the lack of freshly squeezed OJ and properly made coffee at home.
It does raise some interesting question for parents whose kids show any aptiude for this sort of work though. Are their kids wasting their time at school and college, or does the traditional school-college-work track still offer a cushion against the hard knocks of the job market. As the story points out later, 'having a degree doesn’t insulate people from economic tumult'
19 Responses to ‘Supernerd kids’
I've opened this thread at Quokka's request, although it's been a while since we had a check in so it's probably overdue.
I came out of my deadline in reasonable shape, mostly because I went off the grog and carbs in January and February. Dropped from 91kgs back to 83 last time I checked (a week ago), without increasing my exercise time. In fact I skipped a few sessions, trading fitness for words.
I'm at my goal weight now, but not my body fat percentage. I need to clip another six or seven points off that to get down into the lower half of the healthy range. So my plans over the next two or three months are to ease off on some of the high intensity cardio I've been doing to strip blubber, and to build up the weight I'm lifting to convert that remaining fat to lean muscle mass.
With all these good intentions in mind I'm off to the dojo to do some grading work.
28 Responses to ‘Burger Lite 8 March 2014’
I've watched on with amused horror as the SFF (I think that means 'science fiction and fantasy') community – where community means 'gang' – has gone all Raging HULK over the choice of a guy called Jonathon Ross to host the Hugo Awards, which are sort of like the Oscars, BAFTAs and Nobel Prize for genre fiction all mooshed into one. Like Jeff Goldblum and the fly.
I didn't have anything to say about this because, I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit, I wasn't quite sure who Jonathan Ross was. I thought maybe he was some writer I'd never heard of, or maybe the Executive Producer of a sci-fi TV show I never got around to watching. Turns out he's some sort of English radio personality. Possibly a comedian. But he likes comic books and science fiction and apparently he's very popular so on the advice of Neil Gaiman he was offered the job of hosting the awards.
So far, so meh.
But then a Twitter storm blew up. Exactly, and I do mean exactly like the fictional Twitter storm I wrote that weekend column about a couple of weeks ago. As best I can tell some writer who's not as good as Neil Gaiman and not as popular as Jonathan Ross, objected to Ross hosting the awards because he might make jokes about her being fat.
I hesitate to write this lest I provide the flap of the butterfly's wings that sets off another unholy shitstorm, but were this the case, Jonathan Ross would be a very silly fellow indeed. Because anybody who's ever been to a science-fiction convention would realise the last thing you'd ever do there is make jokes about fat people.
(Did I tiptoe around that carefully enough?)
Anyway, as best Google can tell me, Jonathan Ross hasn't actually made any jokes at the expense of fat people, and specifically fat ladies. I have no idea whether the female author who provided the initial butterfly flap is indeed generously sized. But it turns out that Mr Ross's daughter is, and she fronted the woman about it on twitter, accusing her of insulting and defaming her dad who, she avowed, would never, ever, ever make anyone feel ashamed of her size.
Too late. Twitter was a-storm. Beset by a raging sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or rather, signifying what a bunch of sanctimonious proto-Nazis a good many people on twitter can be when given a sniff of blood and told "the angry mob is over there, please feel free to join them."
Ross and his wife, a science-fiction screenwriter of note in her own right, and the other members of his family, were subjected to the sort of biting, tearing social media zombie swarm that makes you think most people, when you get down to it, are just a bunch of braindead bitey cunts.
I know Murph has had issues with this over the years, and I have advised him again and again that living well is the best revenge. I also note that Jonathan Ross, if he has had a long career in comedy radio, has undoubtedly upset some people, and hurt others. He was somehow involved in the cruel prank played on Andrew Sachs (the actor better known as Manuel from Fawlty Towers), which saw Russell Brand sacked by the BBC. An egregiously stupid and nasty incident. And yet Ross is not a plummy voiced Kyle Sandilands.
Gaiman is seriously pissed off and has rounded the feral fans (and some fellow writers who egged them on). Speaking to The Guardian he said:
...he was "seriously disappointed in the people, some of whom I know and respect, who stirred other people up to send invective, obscenities and hatred Jonathan's way over Twitter (and the moment you put someone's @name into a tweet, you are sending it to that person), much of it the kind of stuff that they seemed to be worried that he might possibly say at the Hugos, unaware of the ironies involved".
The Hugo organisers have apologised to Ross and his family, which is only fair because their mismanagement of the whole fiasco made it worse. But then, they made it even worserer. How? By trying to placate to the mob who'd gangfucked Ross and his family in the first place!
Having just issued a grovelling mea culpa to Ross, the Hugo Committee then said they "regretted any and all offence caused to those who disagreed with our choice of Jonathan Ross, those affected by the exchanges that followed on social media, and those who are disappointed that he has now withdrawn".
So, on the one hand they're sorry for Jonathon Ross because they let him get stomped by an angry douchemob, after they "failed to brief him about the recent debates in fandom, and failed to help him deal with the controversy which ensued after we announced his participation. [And] He and his family have had a horrible few days, and it was our fault for putting him in that situation."
But then they apologised to the angry douchemob for enraging them by having the temerity to place Ross in front of them in the first place.
If Andrew Bolt hadn't copyrighted the phrase I might be tempted to say something about political correctness gone mad.
But I won't. I'll just quietly agree with whoever wrote that the Hugo Committee just shot themsevles in the arse, because nobody outside fandom even knows what the Hugo Awards are. And Jonathon Ross might have changed that.
47 Responses to ‘The Hugo Awards Fiasco’
Minutes of an Intelligence Briefing
The Oval Office.
General Biff McBrisket (Head of NSA)
Admiral ‘Big’ Dick ‘Nautical’ Miles. USN Ret’d. (Head of CIA)
Sir Talbot Duckenweave (Head of UK SIS)