Wednesday, December 10, 2008
You could always tell the new pilots to 'Nam. For instance, I was stationed in Danang, working one day, and this Braniff 707 comes on, and asks me to vector him in on a straight, 15-mile long path from due north. I told him this was not advisable (since it took him over North Vietnam), and that the recommended path was to come in from the east, and pop down hard and fast. He refused this choice, telling me he had a bunch of VIPs aboard, and he didn't want to jostle them that much.
"Now that you've announced you're a high-value target, I strongly recommend you let me vector you to a new route."
He still refused, and I didn't have a lot of time to argue. We were pretty busy. So I gave him the route he wanted.
No sooner had he settled into his route, when I got a call from a flight of Navy A4s coming back from the North, who had battle damage and needed to land, ASAP. Now, the A4 lands at 190 mph, while the 707 does 140. I thought a moment, and then had these guys come in over the top of the 707, and drop down in front of him to the field.
I'm guessing he got some jet-wash turbulence, because sure enough, a moment later the 707 was back on the horn. "What the hell was that? You didn't give those guys enough separation!"
"Were you touched?"
"I'm going to write you up! That was insufficient separation! You can't do that!"
"I say again: were you touched?"
"What do you mean, was I touched?"
"I mean, did any part of any of their aircraft physically contact any part of your aircraft?"
"No, but ..."
"In a combat zone, that's called separation. Welcome to Vietnam!"
For the next several minutes, all you could hear was the Navy pilots keying their mikes, laughing and hollering.
A little bit later, I got a phone call. "Curry, the commander wants to see you at end of shift. And somebody will be by shortly to collect the tapes."
Somebody picked up the tapes of that afternoon's activities, and when I got off duty, I went over to the squadron. The First Sergeant waved me on into the Commanders office. He was sitting there, with a piece of paper in each hand. One was the Braniff pilot's report on my 'poor performance', the other was a 'Mission Saved' letter from the Navy. He looked up at me as I entered.
"Only you, Curry, could pull off something like this on one mission. Now get outta here."
I turned to leave.
"Oh, and Curry, that 'Welcome to Vietnam' was a bit over the top."
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
This post, dated yesterday, is almost scary: Blog of helios.
To think that a teacher, who is responsible for helping children learn and grow, can be so out-of-touch with reality. It saddens me.
Like one of the follow-on posts says, "I have rarely seen a worse, more damaging ignoramus...."
Monday, December 08, 2008
Mandriva is letting Adam Williamson go at the end of the year. That got me to post Mandriva ... :sigh:.
A report on a virus attack on military bases in Afghanistan prompted this.
And, finally, a bit about the Status of PCLinuxOS 2008/2009.
I guess, other than those bits, I've had nothing to say, lately.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This weekend the grandsons are having a Scout campout. I'm glad they have zero-degree sleeping bags. And new coats, hats, and gloves.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
At the Civilization Fanatics Center, there is discussion going on about the latest Civ game issued: Civilization4: Colonization. There is much ranting and raving occurring, based on the perception of some customers that the game is ‘broken’.I wrote most of this in response to some who argued that they didn't want to “pay to be a beta tester”.
More at Ramblings of a Professional Computer Geek.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
While the leaders met with the camp director, to find out where we would be, I stayed back by the cars, to help keep an eye on the girls. One of the older girls got out of her car to stretch her legs. As she stretched, she looked up above the trees.
"Oh. My. God! Look at all the stars!"
She had grown up in the city, and had never seen the night sky in all its glory.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Polar Bears and Penguins: Just what is up with PCLinuxOS anyway?
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Linux (or Gnu/Linux, as RMS would have me say) is Free Software. That is to say, the Gnu tools, the Linux Kernel, and most of the rest of the software, is licensed under the GPL (the Gnu General Public License, sometimes called a copyleft), which is considered a “Free” license. (Technically, a given copy of the Linux kernel may not be entirely Free, as it may contain some proprietary binary “blobs” to aid in wireless network connectivity and certain video card drivers.) Indeed, several totally “Free” distros exist,and several popular distros also provide Free versions.But what is Free Software?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
What IS it with the IDIOTS on the freeway? Every day, it's the same thing. Driving too fast for conditions. Taking stupid risks. Why? Because they might get to work/home a minute or two faster.
This morning, I was on the on-ramp, just preparing to merge into the traffic. I was doing all of 20 mph, but that was because the rest of the traffic was doing the same - normal backed-up conditions leading into the construction zone. I was ready to pull into the flow when the guy who would have been behind me gunned his car into the spot, apparently just so I couldn't be ahead of him. Fortunately, the guy behind HIM was considerate....
On the way home, the first 10 miles is usually a pretty easy cruise. But when we hit the I-80/Kennedy Freeway interchange, all bets are off. The two inside lanes go straight through as I-80, with one more lane going either I-80 or continuing around to I-480. Another lane is pure I-480, while the far outside lane can be either I-480 or off to the Kennedy. Most of us wanting the Kennedy get in the far outside lane about a mile ahead, around the 42d Street interchange. OF course, Kennedy is where the construction is, so traffic slows, and backs up onto I-80. I can live with that; it's just a fact of life. Sometimes you can just roll through the interchange at 35 - 45 mph, which isn't too bad.
But, usually, there's a large truck needing to head down the Kennedy, somewhere up ahead. And, face it, an 18-wheeler has a lot of inertia. It takes time for it to both speed up and slow down. And the ramp to the Kennedy is uphill, which means they can't accelerate very fast on it. So, of course, there's the idiots behind me who can't wait the extra 30 seconds it will take to get to the ramp, and they pop over one lane, zoom down to the ramp, and then dive into the traffic flow again, cutting off the vehicles that are already crawling along. This, naturally, forces the backed up traffic to slow down even more, or even stop, which apparently upsets another idiot from behind, who pulls the same stunt. You wish you could make them understand that the reason we're going so slow is because of stunts like that. That if they would just hold their places, we would all be moving faster.
Of course, going home last night, I was cruising down I-80, when a pickup came zooming up from behind, cut in front of me, accelerated past the truck inthe next lane, ducked back over, and dashed on down the road. My first thought was that maybe I had been daydreaming, and unthinkingly had eased up on the accelerator. But a glance at my speedometer showed this was not the case. If anything, just the opposite. The speed limit there is 60, I was doing nearly 70, and this IDIOT came screaming by me, like to blow my doors off. I saw him as he went by, and he didn't seem to be in a particular hurry, his speed notwithstanding. He was just casually driving, at 20+ mph over the limit.
I have come tot he conclusion that much of this behavior is pure selfishness. "I am more important than you. My need to get to work/home outweighs yours." I can only shake my head, and somtimes smile when I see something like I did a few months ago. I was on the entrance ramp to the freeway, doing the speed limit. The guy behind me obviously thought it was too slow, and the instant there was pavement beside us, he popped out and around, hitting the accelerator all the way, right into the arms of the police, who had a speed trap set up just around the bend. :-D
Monday, September 15, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Friday night was chilly, but that was not unexpected. Getting the two-year-old to sleep was another matter. I finally went into the tent and lay down with her, so she wouldn't feel alone. I evidently dozed off, because a while later my wife brought her back to the tent. The little sneak had figured out how to work the tent zipper, and slipped out the door into the dark. Fortunately, one of the boys saw her and reported her escape to my wife.
Finally, at "Lights Out", when everyone went to bed, she started crying. Loudly. To quiet her, my wife brought her to our bed and put her between us. After fussing for a while, and doing her best to make us to uncomfortable to sleep, she finally drifted off. I carefully re-deposited her in her own bed, and crawled into mine. About a half-hour later, I was jolted awake by her screaming. She was having a nightmare. Back between us she went, with my wife cuddling and quieting her. After she was once more soundly asleep, my wife disengaged her arm, and rolled over to sleep, herself. Immediately, the baby started screaming again. Back to cuddling. Between the nightmares and the little one's "anti-social" behavior (pushing, kicking, etc.), my wife figures we got, maybe, two hours of sleep.
Morning dawned cool and gray. After a nice breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and fruit, I needed to head back to the house to let the dogs out. I took the little one along, just to keep her out of my wife's hair. Thirty minutes later we were back, and as we walked from the parking lot to the camp site, another adult asked if I could give him a hand with a car problem. I said sure, and took Haley down to the camp site. I pointed her towards my wife, said, "Go play with Grandma", and went back up to the parking lot.
As soon as I was out of sight, Haley spun around and headed after me. My wife immediately gave chase, and caught her before she reached the parking lot, but not before my wife missed a step and fell down on her left shoulder, hard.
The rest of the day went pretty well. We had to keep Haley and her five-year-old cousin from running off in to the forest. Then they found the latrines, and were fascinated by the smells, and the noises things made when they "fell" in. (We rescued toys before they got that far.) And, of course, Haley found the soap at the washstand by the latrine, and was pleased to find that if she played with it, she would get to play in the water, too. (She adores "washing her hands".)
There were the usual mishaps. One Scout fell and got a shallow gash on his hand from a nail, or something. Another bunch accidentally ran into some "disgruntled" hornets, and got back with only three stings among them.
After dinner (ravioli, salad, and garlic bread, topped off with peach cobbler -- you really can eat well when camping, but that's for another post), I took Haley with me to go back home and let the dogs back in. By then it was dark, and as we got back to camp, it started raining.
Now my wife and I started talking about heading home for the night. Neither of us had gotten much sleep the night before, and both Haley and her cousin were getting crabby, and were threatening to to make it an even worse night than last. We finally agreed that we would take the little ones home for the night, so they (and we) could sleep, and bring everybody back for breakfast in the morning. But first, I needed to grab the little cooler from our tent, that had the baby's milk and bedtime bottle in it.
I grabbed a flashlight and headed to our tent, pausing a moment when I got there to grouch about my oldest granddaughter not zipping up the tent when she had been in it earlier. She had left the door unzipped at the bottom, so the rain that was pouring down was running down the door and into a nice puddle, right inside the tent.
I grabbed the few items I had come for, and then went to leave the tent. But as I stepped over the bottom edge of the door, my foot caught. My other foot was in the rain puddle, and starting to slip. I grabbed at the side of the tent, but it was slick with rain. In a fraction of a second that seemed like an eternity (I distinctly remember trying three times to get my foot over the door edge), I fell out into the rain, with the cooler landing under my right chest, and me striking it with the full force of my body being pulled down by gravity.
I remember rolling off the cooler, because it was too painful to be laying across it. I remember lying on my back in the rain, trying to convince my diaphragm that I really really, did need to breathe. After I had lain there without moving for a [probably short time, but felt like forever], one of the other adults came over to see if I was okay. My wife stayed under the dining shelter, because she didn't want to communicate her worry to the little ones. (She said that when I fell, Haley called out, "G'ampa! You OK?") By then, I had taken quick stock of myself. My heart was still beating. I was still breathing, albeit raggedly. I didn't feel any broken bones grating in my chest as I breathed. So I told him I thought I just had the breathe knocked out of me, rolled to my side, and got myself to my feet.
We picked up the stuff I had dropped, took the kids home, and crawled into bed. Sunday morning we went back to the campsite and packed up our gear, and assisted with the general teardown of the camp. I was moving very slow.
When we got home, I called the base clinic emergency number. The Urgent Care Clinic was closed, being Sunday, but if I was in unbearable pain he could route me to a civilian ER for treatment. Otherwise he could make me an appointment for Monday. I took the first appointment he had. (I've had kidney stones - considered to be more painful than childbirth. While I hurt, this was not unbearable.)
Monday morning, the doctor checked me out, and said that the fact that I wasn't coughing up blood was a good sign, and that indications were that I had cracked a rib. At the very least, I had stretched and strained all the connective tissues that held the ribs in place. The only way to verify a crack would be an X-ray, but that wouldn't change the treatment any, and only subject me to unneeded radiation. So now I'm on 800mg ibuprofen 3 times a day, with a tablet of Vicodin (narcotic) at bedtime if pain keeps me awake.
My wife and I don't think we're taking toddlers camping again any time soon....
Friday, August 29, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Bellevue police have also charged the grandmother with misdemeanor child neglect. Their public statement was that it was a difficult decision to make, but the law was very clear. It is now in the hands of the District Attorney, who may or may not take it further.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thursday, my daughter’s Dell Inspiron laptop was working fine. She finished as usual, just closing the lid, which puts the laptop in suspend/hibernate mode.
Friday evening, she opened the lid, and got … nothing. It was plugged into power, the indicator light was on, but the screen remained totally blank. She tried moving the mouse, clicking buttons, pressing keys. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Finally, in desperation, she hit the power button.
When she booted it back up, she got the comforting splash screen, then it cleared, and … nothing. Just a little blinking cursor in the upper left corner.
Saturday, she called me and said, “I need help.”
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Saturday lunchtime. The neighbor girls are playing out front with my grandkids, and some other neighborhood kids. The oldest girl is 14, but has Down's Syndrome, I'm guessing mental capacity of about a three or four year old. The younger girl, her niece, is 2 and a half. Three weeks younger than my own granddaughter.
At 1:30, we need to take my oldest grandson to a birthday party / sleepover at a friend's house. (15-yr-olds and XBox360s. Go figure.) I send the neighbor girls home. No, you can't go into my house. No, you aren't going in my car. I point them in the right direction, and give them a gentle push. We get my grandkids loaded into the car, and, as we leave the house, I see the older girl sitting on her front step, and the baby opening their front screen door.
We drop the oldest grandson off at his friend's place, and chat for a few minutes with the parents. Then we take the rest of the kids to Dairy Twist for an ice cream cone. About 2:30, as we are driving home, just a few blocks away, my wife points out the window. "Isn't that Monica? What's she doing up here, by herself?" The older neighbor girl is walking up the hill, away from her house. Since we aren't sure if she knows us well enough to get in the car with us, we drive the last few block to home, and see a police car in the neighbor's driveway.
We asked if they were looking for Monica. They said yes, so we told them where we had just seen her. Her brother took off right away, and the policeman foll wed a minute later. Then her sister asked if Katie, the two-year-old, her daughter, had been with her. She was missing, too.
My wife immediately headed across the street and through the playground, and up the hill, which was the most direct route to where we had seen Monica. If Katie had been with her, she might have been lagging behind, up the hill. Other neighbors came over, and started searching in other places. One said she had seen them in the park behind our houses, watching the planes from the Air Force Week Air Show going on just then. A couple of neighbors headed to check out the obvious routes back from the park, since they hadn't just used the gate to their own back yard.
Time passed. My wife and the brother were asking people out watching the Air Show if they had seen Katie. Nobody had. The police were trying to get whatever information they could from Monica. All she said was that Katie was at the pool. There is no public pool in the neighborhood. It had to be a private, backyard pool. People immediately started checking every yard for a pool.
About 3:15 a motorcycle cop went screaming down our street, siren blaring. A moment later, a police car followed. A few minutes later, we heard an ambulance siren in the distance. Then a neighbor's 16-yr-old daughter came running up the street as fast as she could. They had found Katie, face down in a pool, about 3 block away. Nobody was home. They were trying to resuscitate her now. They family jumped in a car and headed that way. A little later, we heard the ambulance leaving for the hospital.
Around 5:00 the grandfather, our neighbor, got home from the hospital, in tears. They hadn't been able to save her. She was gone.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Back in September 2007, I got laid off from my job as a defense contractor. I had been with the company for eleven years, so I was "expensive". When the prime contractor on the job I was working screwed up their financials, they decided to cut costs by getting rid of developers, instead of management. And since I wasn't even a real "developer", but instead a Software Configuration Manager, plus being "expensive", and belonging to their biggest competitor, I was an "obvious" choice.
My company was able to find me a temporary position until the end of September, but at the end of the fiscal year, they couldn't justify the overhead of keeping me on any current contracts. So they gave me my severance pay, a pat on the back, and a reminder that my security clearance would still be good for two more years.
I expected to be out of work for only a couple weeks, at most. Given my knowledge of DoD computing systems, and the skillset I had developed over the last 25+ years, I figured I was pretty much a shoe-in. I made the rounds of smaller defense contractors working on the base. They all said I had an impressive resume, and should be able to just walk in to nearly any job they had. But, no jobs are available, right now. Check back after the holidays, when hiring picks up. Everywhere I went it was the same story. You'd be a great fit, but we can't use you right now.
I ended up going on Unemployment, and basically sitting around the house over the winter. I'd make a couple of job searches/applications every week, just to continue to qualify for my weekly unemployment checks, but nobody was hiring. Finally, in February, with resumes posted on a couple of world-wide sites, I began to get a few hits. Harris was interested in having me come down to Florida's Space Coast to work with NASA. Sounded promising, but I was still hoping for something in the Omaha area. (I've been here since 1984. I've put down roots! It would have been a severe hardship, for my wife, especially, to move so far away.) I asked them to keep my name in the hopper for a few weeks, while I waited to see what else came up. (To their credit, they did just that.)
Raytheon called me about working as a Software Configuration Manager on a new project down in Dallas/Fort Worth. They offered me a 35% pay raise in conjunction with it. Looking very promising. But, again, it's a long way from Omaha. I put them on hold, too. Meanwhile, the local Raytheon office contacted me about doing SCM for a project on base. I asked only one question: "Is this on the ISPAN contract?" That's what I had been doing when I got laid off, and I was pretty burned out on it. They said no, it's over at AFWA. Sounding pretty good. They said they would set up an interview. Great.
Meanwhile, another local company, with no affiliation with defense contracting, found my resume, and gave me a ring. West Corporation was looking for qualified senior software engineers, to help form a core, non-client-based group to build standard system libraries, manage system-wide applications, and generally serve as an internal standards organization. Okay, that sounded kind of interesting. We set up a telephone interview for the next day.
The initial telephone interview done, I talked to my local "headhunter", who was interfacing with Raytheon for me. He pinged them about my interview with them. "As soon as we can set it up." Okay, just let me know. Then I got another call from West. I had made the initial cut, and they wanted to do a face-to-face interview. I was quite agreeable to this.
At this interview I learned that the primary language used is CLASS, a proprietary, interpreted language written in C, and maintained entirely on-site. Some applications are written using Java, with a specialized Eclipse front-end. The Java, in turn, produces VXML files that control the actual application. The most interesting thing, to me, was finding out that the applications are run almost exclusively on UNIX/Linux servers. Hundreds of them! And the starting pay would be a little more than I had been making on base. This sounded right up my alley.
The next day I got a call officially offering me the job. I thought about it for nearly a day, then called my headhunter and told him to tell Raytheon they blew it. They had had two weeks to ask me in for an interview, and hadn't seemed able to get their act together. I was accepting the offer from West. He said he couldn't blame me, and we parted friends.
Now I sit at my workstation all day having fun. I have written an Informix database / Stored Procedure backend that clients can call to get billing data for overseas telephone calls. I have written a CLASS program for an internal client (West Notifications Group) to let their clients generate their own voice messages for telephone systems. (Actually, that one ended up being a kluge of several languages/systems, to meet their specialized needs. CLASS for the main app, which calls a TCL script to validate callers against their database, using SOAP web service calls. Their voice messages are then moved to another server, where a Perl script is run every five minutes to check for new voice files, convert them to .wav format, and ftp them to the WNG server. Finally, the Perl script calls a Java routine to notify the SOAP web service that new files have been added. Phew!)
I've also updated some library routines to provide requested, added functionality, and to start making them standards-compliant. As part of my team, I have helped define the CLASS Coding Standards. Probably my biggest accomplishment to date is taking the existing online Application Developers Manual, and convert it from a mishmash of html 2, 3, and 4 code, only accessible from IE, into an xhtml-strict compliant system, using a common "look and feel" on all pages, and can be used from any web browser, even Lynx! My next plan for it is to make it PHP/java/DHTML, and handling it as true XHTML1.1, delivered as application/xhtml+xml. Except that IE can't handle that, so I have to write a bunch of IE-specific code to handle things. (Stupid Microsoft.) (Our "corporate desktop" is Windows XP, running IE, and MS Office. I spend all my time in xterm windows sshed into various Linux servers, to do my job....)
My only complaint about the job is the 20-mile commute on the freeway, each way.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Hundreds of Boy Scouts from several states were at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, situated on the bluffs of the Missouri River, attending a week-long leadership course. There was a tornado watch in effect, but this is part of Tornado Alley, during tornado season; you're always under a tornado watch. You just keep your eyes and ears open, and go about your business.
Late in the afternoon, a string of supercell thunderstorms fired up in Nebraska, and headed east.
As the Scouts finished dinner, they broke up into a few groups. About half went to the North Shelter, to watch a film. A few boys went for a hike in the woods. Most of the rest just hung around the camp, doing chores and taking it easy.
As the thunderstorms approached the Missouri River, they grew in size and strength, and started dropping twisters out of their wall clouds. Warning sirens began to sound in nearby communities.
About 6:30, the boys in the shelter were getting ready for the film. The camp warning siren started to sound, meaning a tornado was somewhere nearby. One of the boys happened to look out and saw the tornado as it came around the bluff. He shouted a warning, and everyone hit the floor, under the heavy tables. Things might have been more-or-less okay, but as the tornado went by, it picked up the camp ranger's pickup truck and threw it against the fireplace chimney, knocking it down. several boys were hit by the bricks and stones as the chimney collapsed onto them. Four died as a result, while others had serious injuries. Two members of my grandsons' troop were inthis shelter, but by good fortune were on the opposite side of the room and emerged without serious injury.
The group that was hanging around the camp heard the sirens, and high-tailed it to the South Shelter, their designated spot. One of our troop's boys, who was there on Staff, was herding his patrol to the shelter, running at the rear of the group, said all of a sudden he felt like he hit a brick wall, and found himself sitting on the ground beside another staff member. They couldn't figure out what they had hit, until they realized the funnel had dropped down right in front of them. And now they were sitting directly underneath, looking right up into the center of it. They knew that if they stayed where they were, they would be sucked up and killed, so they decided to try to break through the wall of wind. The first boy jumped through okay, but when Ian jumped, he only got partway. His arms and head were outside, and he was holding on to the ground for his life, as his feet were still inside, and were now pointing straight up the funnel. His friend grabbed his arms, and was able to yank him the rest of the way out. When they made it to the shelter, it was virtually collapsed, but the boys inside were relatively unhurt.
The group that was out hiking had sheltered in a ditch, and also came out relatively unscathed, as the tornado didn't come as close to them.
With the tornado past, the Scouts assessed the situation, and took action. First concern was rescuing their fellow members who were buried in the rubble in the North Shelter. Others grabbed chainsaws and began clearing fallen trees from the roads leading from the camp, as any rescue vehicles would need to get through. Yet another group headed for the Ranger's cabin, as it had been reduced to a pile of wood and masonry. Inside was the Ranger, his wife, and their young children.
The Ranger had taken his family to the safest part of the house, but when the tornado made a direct hit, no place was safe. He and his wife sheltered their children with their own bodies. But when the cabin collapsed on them, they couldn't move. Their two-year-old son had gotten a baby formula can jammed onto his face, and was just minutes away from suffocation. Then the Scouts arrived and began to clear and search the wreckage. They family escaped with just cuts and bruises.
When the rescue crews from nearby towns got to the camp, they didn't find a bunch of boys, scared witless by what they had been through. They found a group of young men, calmly doing what they had been trained to do in an emergency.
In that time, much has happened. I got laid off. Had to commit bankruptcy. Got a new job better than the old.
I'll try to commit some of my thoughts back here, again, in the very near future.