Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Which would you rather fly? Posted by Hello

Your Own Personal Zeppelin

60 Minutes' story on "Flying Cars Ready To Take Off" had a nice PopSci feel to it. But upon reflection, I've had some concerns. Specifically - there was no Danny Deckchair flight of whimsy. Don't get me wrong - the featured inventors are dauntless Field of Dreams types. But the whole transit-made-easy perspective of it fails to inspire me. The flying cars all looked like the noisy helicopters we've lived with for decades now. I've mentioned my complete lack of scientific ability in the previous post, but if I were to fly my own vehicle - I'd like it to hover more effortlessly - say, like a blimp. I'll let the engineers deal with the details like lift, wind shear, & thunderstorms. But before I go flying my own chopper to Tulsa, I'd like the SkYacht folks to create that - a fun personal blimp. That way we could take it out to the park on a pretty spring day & fly like a kite for spell. That should be the way we start - nice & easy. I'm not talking a "Sunshine on my Shoulders" glider either. That's entirely too daring for the rest of us. As they quote on the home page of the Personal Blimp folks, "In an airship, one does not fly, one does not drive, instead one travels in a most beautiful kind of way that gives meaning to the word journey." -- Hugo Eckener

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Skype Call from Scotland, Space Physics & Political Economy - The World is Flat

Happy Birthday, Bryan! Glad to see your team in the finals against Man U for the FA Cup.

My Scottish pal Darren called me using Skype today. The audio fidelity is fantastic - way better than a typical phone call and no transatlantic echo either. And it's FREE. I felt a tad bit like a baseball announcer using the Plantronics PC microphone that I had picked up at Fry's. But it worked splendidly. He also used his WebCam to send live video from his flat in Edinburgh. (I need to buy a WebCam next!)

Went to Houston with the wifey-poo for a friend's mother's funeral. It was a really nice service. The Klein Funeral Homes & Memorial Parks did a fine job. We learned about the origins of "Amazing Grace". The cemetery where she was put to rest is beautiful - a very woodsy area with lots of wind chimes on tree branches. The breeze was just right to get a very nice blend of chimes during the service - very peaceful. The spiritual nature of the occasion was blunted somewhat by the speeding ticket I was dealt on I-45 by Officer Simmons of the Fairfield, TX Police Dept. (85mph in a 70mph speed limit zone). Consider that my contribution to the economic development of rural Texas. (I needed to brush up on my Defensive Driving anyway.)

Last night we went to my friend Tom's biannual BBQ for his international students (ESL). I always enjoy the opportunity to meet these bright young minds from countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea & Peru. Tom had his Ping-Pong table set up & I got to play the Peruvian Space Physicist (wicked backhand) & the Chinese champ - Wei Lin (the Korean Political Economist kept score!). I lost on both occasions - but with great flair. Tom insisted that the winners sing their countries' national anthems. But we never got around to that. After all, there were some dominoes to be played!

We enjoyed talking to the Chinese students about the recent & ongoing Chinese demonstrations against the Japanese. Unfortunately there were no Japanese students present to spice things up a bit. But BBQ & international incidents don't mix well. The Thai guy brought some Leechy fruits to settle things down a bit.

The wife & I enjoyed speaking with the Peruvian Space Physicist about the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the troposphere, the thermosphere & the exosphere. My complete lack of understanding about the basics of physics didn't stop me from asking about the Hubble Space Telescope. He explained how they would take measurements of the space in the area of the telescope to detect the amount of electrons, the solar waves & magnetic activity. I can't believe he dignified my inquiry with such a detailed response. (Fr. Deeves gave me a D in Physics back in High School.)

It was a very interesting evening. And the Korean Political Economist gave the Peruvian Ping-Pong champ a ride to Club Babalu in Uptown.

This afternoon I got to take advantage of Borders' Bookstore's annual Educator's Discount weekend. I bought the Sneakers DVD & my first audio book - Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. My brother was going to borrow the book, but this way we can just burn him copies of the cd's & give a set to Dad too.