archive for September, 2005

DMV Improving?

I had to go to the DMV this morning to renew my drivers license. To my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. There wasn’t a huge line (possibly because it was on a weekday morning), and I didn’t have to wait more than a minute or so before being called to a window. For some reason, the guy that was working my window wasn’t actually there. I did have to wait a few minutes for him to return.

I was smart enough to have gotten everything ready. All of my forms were filled out correctly, and I’d already written the check. He was nice enough to ask if I’d be traveling in the next few weeks, and when I said I would be, he let me keep my old license. That’ll be a lot easier than having to carry my passport everywhere as proof of ID.

Funny story: When I was a kid (probably in 4th grade or so), I remember my teachers telling me about how bad it was in the Soviet Union. They said you had to carry “papers” with you any time you wanted to travel and that any authority could demand your papers on the spot. Is it really any different now?

Back at the DMV: Once my payment and forms had been processed I was sent to another window to have my picture and thumb print taken. Of course, nobody was at that window either and I had to wait a few more minutes. The lady that finally showed up verified my address, had me sign on one of those electronic devices that always turns my signature into mush, and then took my thumb print and picture. We’ll see how it turns out in a few weeks.

This is definitely the best experience I’ve had at the DMV. I was expecting that no appointments would be available for the next six weeks and that I’d have to wait in a 45 min. line before being helped by some grumpy idiot. It still wasn’t ideal, and I may have lucked out a bit.

Luck that kept me from being assigned to any of the windows where the attendants were more interested in steam cleaning their keyboards than helping people. The online reservation system must have been designed by some of the guys I went to collage with that never really got software design and had big plans to work for the state. So, is the DMV improving? I’m not sure, but I hope so.

Flight Lessons: More Instrument Simulation

I got another half hour of simulated instrument flying using foggles. I did some of where I flew the plane around with my eyes closed (per Buzzard’s suggestion), and some of it the old way where my instructor made the turns. He took it a little easier on me I think, and I didn’t feel sick at all. (For the editors: see how I dodged that whole “nauseous” issue?)

Once we got back we practiced a few takeoffs and landings (that went well), and then parked. There was a lot of traffic from people returning from their Labor Day weekend, so we couldn’t really hang out an just fly.

This is just for me to look back on, but…
I finished off another page in my log book last week, so I have some more totals.
103 landings
30.8 hours total
4.6 cross-country
3.1 night
1.0 simulated instruments
0.6 pilot in command

Fundraising

How could I pass up the chance to talk about Katrina and fundraising when everyone else is (see Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Microsoft, etc…)?

If you haven’t already, it would sure be nice if you could donate to an organization like American Red Cross that are on the scene of an emergency soon after it happens.

Of course, there are several other organizations that could use a donation. WorldChanging suggested Architecture for Humanity as a way to help more in the long term.

Wikimedia Foundation is is holding a two-week fundraising drive to help cover their expenses. Keep in mind, they do more than just Wikipedia, but if that’s all they did it would still be worth it. Bringing information and education to the world is hugely valuable and it’s effects can last much longer than a bowl of soup or even a house.

If you want to make a donation that could have a positive impact until the universe grows cold, check out the Singularity Institute. It might seem a little too much like science fiction right now, but it’s certainly worth thinking about. If a little long term planning is good, then a lot of very long term planning is great.

Link Roundup: Sep. 2, 2005

Arimaa
Arimaa is a game similar to chess, but that is a a little more open ended. The designers/promoters(?) claim that it’s easier to learn and harder to create an AI that can win against a human. I’m not really sure that it is easier to learn (there are a couple of weird rules), but it looks fun. Anyone up for a game?

Regenerative Mice
I haven’t seen this story picked up in the science websites that I visit, so I’m a little bit skeptical, but it’s being reported that mice have been discovered (or created, I’m not sure which) that have the ability to regenerate damaged body parts — something not usually seen in mammals. I wonder if this makes the mice more prone to cancer. I also wonder if they’ll be able to figure out how to apply what they learn to humans existing humans.

Massachusetts Switching to Open Document Formats
I sure hope this sticks. If it does, Massachusetts will most likely be dumping MS Office for free and open alternatives. My opinion is that if states are going to spend tax payer’s money on software, then they should be buying software that the taxpayers can use. The government should also be making more efforts like this to ensure that anyone can read public documents without having to pay a private organization like Microsoft. Now, if we could just get a few more states to band together and commit to open standards, Microsoft might have to support openness.

Gourmet Recipe Manager
This project won SourceForge‘s August Project of the Month. I tried to use it myself, but it throws an error when I try to run it. I don’t know if I’ve installed it wrong, or if I’m missing some component. Hopefully the project will mature over the next few week enough, and I’ll be able to try it out.

Dive Into Python
I’ve been playing with the idea of rewriting my blog software in Python. Python is my favorite language that I never use. I’d like to make it my favorite language. I’ve been reading and enjoying Dive Into Python and would recommend it for anyone who already knows how to program and wants to learn Python.

Flight Lessons: Night flight to Riverside (RAL)

Last night I made a cross country flight out to Riverside with my instructor. We used the special flight rules area to fly over LAX. From about Long Beach we cut east. Most things went well, but it was a lot harder than I expected. First of all, LA is just a sea of lights at night. Without VORs and GPS I’d get lost very quickly. The Riverside VOR wasn’t working for some reason, so we switched to GPS to find our way there. If I had planned correctly, I would have been able to use another VOR to find the Riverside airport. Lesson learned.

Once we got to Riverside, we turned on the lights by clicking the mic and made several landings and takeoffs. I think my landings are finally starting to get okay. I didn’t have any bad landings, and one of them I would even say way good. Of course, there wasn’t any crosswind, but on the other hand it was night which makes it a lot harder to judge distances and how high you are over the runway.

For the flight back, my instructor said that I’d have to do it all on my own, and that he would charge me $1 for every hint that he had to give. He ended up giving me a few for free and just charging me for one mistake I made with the VORs. I was actually surprised with how well I did. The hardest part was, once again, the radio communication. I’ve ordered a book that’s supposed to be good at covering everything I’ll need to know about talking on the radio.

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