Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

Just got back from the Art Theater where we saw "Cowboys and Aliens".
I liked it.
My wife liked it.
Good little summer movie, and I recommend it.
No, it's not "Firefly" or "Serenity", but it was fun, and the little place next door has great gelato!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Castigo Cay" by Matt Bracken

I just finished reading Matt Bracken's latest book, "Castigo Cay".

Matt is the author of the "Enemies" series of books, which are a set of three books dealing with the near future of America. They're excellent thrillers, and I've read them a couple of times, so when I saw he had another book out, I preordered it, and started reading it as soon as I received it.

It's pretty good, but I like his first three books a lot more. "Castigo Cay" seems to drag a bit, and doesn't really "get going" until the last half of the book.

I think it's well-written, but not in the same vein as his first three books, which held my attention from start to finish.

If you liked "Unintended Consequences", and "Molon Labe!", then you'll love his "Enemies" series.

"Castigo Cay", while different, was a worthwhile read, a perfect "little book" for some light summer reading.

Gallows Humor....

Light posting this weekend as I'm working on my Honeydew list, but I thought you'd all get a kick (in the head?) out of this:

Let me get this straight . . . ...
We're going to be "gifted" with a health care
plan we are forced to purchase and
fined if we don't,

Which purportedly covers at least
ten million more people,
without adding a single new doctor ,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,

written by a committee whose chairman
says he doesn't understand it,

passed by a Congress that

didn't read
it but
themselves from it,

and signed by a President who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who
didn't pay his taxes

for which we'll be taxed for four years before any
benefits take effect,

by a government which has
already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,

all to be overseen by a surgeon general
who is obese,

and financed by a country that's broke!!!!!

'What the hell could
go wrong?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sub Off The Coast

I'm not sure what they were doing out there (backside of Catalina Island), but all day Monday and Tuesday we saw the sub going back and forth, accompanied by some small "patrol" type boats. Tuesday afternoon it looked like one of the small boats made a rendezvous with him, so I'm gonna take a SWAG and say the little guys were U.S. Navy, too.
NOBODY in their right mind would get so close to a sub that they could transfer people unless they were authorized!
I don't know enough about U.S. submarines to tell what class it was, but I know to see one run on the surface for so long is unusual.
Of course out where we were, there aren't too many other ships just hanging around!

For you guys that know far more about this than I do, I added a crop from one of the better pix I took.
Have at it!

Back Home Again

We got in this morning about 10am. Took another hour to get from the Pilot's Station to the pier, and then tied-down.
By this time the Purser (who has our passports) had gone to lunch, so we had to wait for her to show back up.
Then she had to call the Captain to see if it was OK to "release" us!
Oh, well, she's new, and it was her first time out, so we all just sighed and cut her some slack.
Wonder how long the floor will continue to move under me now that I'm back on dry land?

Took some interesting pictures, and I'll post some after I finish unpacking.

There was a sub running on the surface the last three days, making rendezvous with some small boats. They never got closer than a few miles, but I thought it was quite interesting to see one running on the surface.

And there was a C-130 circling overhead a lot of the time.

Should have brought my 400mm lens this trip!

Friday, July 22, 2011

See you all sometime next week.....

Headed out for Sea Trials early Saturday morning. Since we don't have the contract for our satellite services provider signed, we'll have no Internet or email access while we're at sea, so I'll be incommunicado for a while.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Mil Training Op

Catchy title, isn't it?
Over the last couple of days, we've been visited by no less than 12 CH-47 Chinooks. Man, those suckers are LOUD! They'll come in from the ocean, and hover over the lone MARAD ship that's docked at the next pier over from us.
Today, they gave the ship the Full Monte.
At least six came in, and dozens of troops in full battle gear fast-roped down on to the deck. All this time four or five Super Cobras were orbiting the area, backed up by several particularly nasty looking Blackhawks.
While this was going on, two more Chinooks set down in the parking lot next door, and a whole lot of fully armed troops came out and stormed up the stern ramp (it's a RORO Cargo ship) of the ship.
Since the helos were Marine units, I'm guessing they were from Camp Pendleton, which isn't too far down the coast from us. A couple of times a year their LCACs will come into the inner harbor/turning basin, and maneuver around for a while, and they skeedaddle back out and over the horizon.
Pretty interesting, but I don't see any way these guys could sneak up on the bad guys! They shook the building I was working in the last two days when they went overhead, and we could hear them coming a good ten minutes before we could see them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Any VME Experts Out Here?

Well, we're about 70 days from our Return To Flight, and I've been asked to assist with getting another computer system up and running again.
Geez, guys....I'm a RADIO guy, remember?
I just spent a week getting the Antenna Control Unit for our 6' fully steerable dish up and running, but we still have to check out and calibrate the telemetry receivers, and the rest of the RF system we use for the Telemetry and Command links we provide our customer.
The ACU had a myriad of problems, all of which were caused by leaving it out in the dome for two years with the air conditioning turned off. It's about the same things as storing your desktop PC out in your garden shed, and expecting it to come up and run!
I had to pull all the boards and clean the connectors where they plug into the backplane, and clean all the other connectors. I found RUST on a lot of the exposed metal parts, and had to clean that. Then I found the fan on the heatsink attached to the little Pentium 233MMX was was shot, so I brought in a fan from my "stock" here at home. It was thicker than the OEM fan, so I had to drill and tap the heatsink for longer screws. I was attaching it back on the CPU when POP! The fifteen year old plastic gave out.
Luckily I found a better unit up at Alltronics in Santa Clara, and had them here in a few days. They're a great place to find obscure parts for projects, and are VERY reasonably priced. I highly recommend them!

ANYWAY.....I was asked to help get our VME computers running again after one of our Technicians replaced the CMOS batteries on the motherboards, rendering them "unbootable". I trust the Tech that did it. He's an extremely talented guy, and in the seven years I've known him, I think he's maybe made one mistake.
His soldering job was impeccable, and we're both scratching our heads on this one.
The manuals that came with the system are useless for hardware repair, as they were written for programmers working with the system, and for any hardware problems you have, their solution is "Return To Vendor".
Great, except the company that originally made these systems, VMIC (VME Microsystems International), was bought by GE/FANUC, who deny ever hearing of these things. Their "Customer Service" is absolutely deplorable, and they hung up on one of our people yesterday.
These are basically 200MHz Pentium P54C, Intel Triton "FX" single-board computers with AMI BIOS and a Cirrus VGA chip in a Eurocard package running Windows NT. The scant information in the manual states that they're "A/T Compatible", and that they are, indeed, standard PC components.
And we're going NUTS trying to get them to boot after a simple CMOS battery change.

Like I said, any VME experts out there?


Well, it turns out the CPU boards are OK. I tried them in the "test" rack we have, and they ALL powered up just fine.
I had to reset the system clock, and redetect the hard-drives, but they're OK now.
Turns out there's a "gotcha" in the external hardware connected to the racks the VMEs are located in, and *I* didn't know about it, and the other guy had forgotten about it.
That kind of thing happens when you've been shut down for two years, or get tossed into it.
So thanks, everybody, for the suggestions and comments.
Were 62 days away from Return To Flight, and counting. We're going out for Sea Trials at the end of July, and the first launch will be towards the end of September.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011 Old Fort MacArthur Days Pictures

We didn't get to Old Fort MacArthur Days last year because we forgot, (DOH!), but we set aside the time for it this year. It's always fun to go and see the reenactors, and talk to them. It's rather strange to see a Roman Centurion talking to a Viet Nam USGI, and hearing them talk about their computer problems! I think I learned more about smoothbore vs rifled muskets this year than I knew before, and had an absolute blast talking to the guy that owns the M29 Weasel you'll see in the pictures. He'd always wanted one, and was at a Military Vehicles Collectors meet a few years ago where he saw one for sale. It turns out he couldn't afford the fully restored one, so he bought FOUR that were in various states of disrepair, and built the one good one you see here. The Browning M1919 air-cooled 30cal on it is set up to "fire" propane, and he said it works very well. And he said the neighborhood kids just go nuts when he fires up the Weasel, and brings it out.
The other interesting thing we saw was the guy in the red jacket playing this very strange, hand-cranked stringed instrument. I'd never seen or heard anything quite like it, and it turns out it's a Hurdy Gurdy, also called a "Wheel Fiddle". Look for the guy in the red jacket holding it in his lap.
This year I took some pictures of the displays inside the tunnels that honeycomb the hills under and around Battery Osgood-Farley. Sorry for the dark shadow in the middle of the ones I used with my flash. I forgot to take off the sunshade on the lens, and the built-in flash will cast a shadow if it's on.
If you're ever in the Los Angeles/San Pedro area, drop in at the Fort MacArthur Military Museum. It's a very interesting place, and one of the last remaining examples of a Coastal Defense Installation around.
Unfortunately we missed the "Live Fire" this year of the artillery. We got there a bit later than I wanted to, and were over on the other side of the park when they started. We could hear them firing (boy, could we), and could see the smoke, but weren't able to make our way over there in time.

Enjoy the pictures!

Friday, July 8, 2011

R.I.P. Sarah Jane Smith

Back in an earlier life, I was a huge "Doctor Who" fan. Particularly The Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker. I tremendously enjoyed watching the escapades of the Doctor and his "companions" like Leela, Romana, and of course, K9, but my all time favorite was his companion Sarah Jane Smith.
Man, did I have a crush on her, or what!
And when she guest-starred in the "School Reunion" episode with The Tenth Doctor, it all came roaring back to me.
Sarah Jane had aged very gracefully, better than I had, and her acting was as good as I remembered it.
So anyway, as I stopped by the Wikipedia site today at lunch time, I noticed the featured article was about the episode called "Doomsday", which was the one where the Tenth Doctor said goodbye to his current companion, Rose Tyler. As I poked around the various Doctor Who episodes, I decided to check out Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who played Sarah Jane, and was saddened (bummed, really) to see she had passed away on April 19th of this year.
God Bless, Sarah Jane. Doctor Who was a better series because of you, and I'll certainly miss you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Radio Daze

Well, I finished putting my satellite station back together today. I could have had it up yesterday, but there were some improvements I wanted to do, mainly weatherproofing things.
Don't laugh.....we DO get "Real Weather" out here in SoCal! Granted it's nothing like Northern Illinois where I grew up, but it does rain here in the winter (a LOT lately!), and we get get pretty soggy in the morning from the moisture the Marine Layer brings in. Saturday morning I went into San Pedro for the monthly breakfast my club has, and it was really socked in driving over the bridges into and out of Terminal Island, where I work.
I made some enclosures for the preamps and diplexer I use on the 2 Meter / 70cm side of the radio, and another rain shield for the elevation rotor. They're just Rubbermaid plastic boxes, but it will keep direct rain and dew off these items and their connections, hopefully prolonging their usable time on Earth!

"It Takes A Long Time To Control The People"

This is an absolutely DISGUSTING video to watch.

I'd embed it, but Brietbart doesn't have that option.

And on Independence Day, no less!

H/T to The Market Ticker

Happy Independance Day!

Let's hope we can get our country turned around soon, and restore it to what it should be.

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...