Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pelican 22 engine run

This last Saturday I went to Air Force Base Ysterplaat to attend an amateur radio club meeting. Before the meeting the museum unit hauled out the last airworthy Avro Shackleton for an engine run. This thing just barely fits in the hangar; it clears the steel pillars by less than a meter on each side.

I remember seeing this plane (and/or others of its type) flying during airshows, and I think I've even seen it depart for or arrive from its former maritime patrol missions.

The engines seemed to have some trouble starting, but they did eventually all get up to speed. Engine #1 in particular really didn't want to get out of bed, but the crew persisted and eventually it ran on its own power, although it seemed then to run significantly faster than the others before the cockpit crew did something and brought it back to a similar speed as the others. One of the volunteers keeping this thing alive mentioned something about "over-revving", so I hope the engine didn't take any damage from this run. He also confirmed my suspicion that the engines weren't doing so well, and explained that that was why they cut the engine run short. (I was at a similar engine run in 2014, which seemed to last much longer than the 10 minutes here.)

I hope this wasn't Pelican 22's last engine run.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fire in a dam

I always enjoy the drive from Cape Town to Worcester via Villiersdorp, although it is a bit longer, so I don't go that way often when I visit my dad. About halfway is the Theewaterskloof Dam, that I remember being completed to some fanfare when I was a child. Wikipedia says 1980, so what I remember is probably the post-completion Nationalist euphoria.

On one trip in September 2010, I remember it as a gloomy, overcast day, I noticed something odd while driving past the dam:

There's a stand of dead tree stumps still standing in the dam (I could have sworn there was; I can't find it in satellite pics), and seeing one aflame right in the dam was quite bizarre. I wonder if the fire started when a lightning bolt hit the stump, or if it was a human-made fire.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A scorpion

Back in September 2010 I once hiked up Lion's Head with Sonja and Aleks in the evening (but apparently nowhere near full moon??) and on our way down I spotted a scorpion on the footpath.

I think it was the first one I'd seen in 20 years, and it was a glorious one. About as textbook an exemplar as I could hope to see. According to some pub wisdom it might have been a non-venomous one, judging by its large pincers and relatively small tail. (I wouldn't stake my life on pub wisdoms, though.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book review: The Rules of Dating

About a decade ago I bought this book - it seemed interesting. It's definitely been food for thought, and while my first impression was that it seemed like mostly good advice, over time my opinion has reversed and I now consider it the memetic equivalent of eating glass shards.

Many of my current thoughts are expressed in a reddit thread about a "modernized" edition of the book.

Overall I now think that the book contains kernels of truth, but its message gets terribly corrupted by the time it gets put into practice. There's also a sampling issue: I don't yet know what it is about this book, but it seems to positively attract unempathic users as its readers / practitioners. Wherever I've found fora where women focus on this book, I've found a vast majority of them to be deeply broken people. Sometimes they're broken in an innocent kind of way - they're hurting, and they're trying to find a way not to hurt, and they find themselves there. But to me the majority seem to be broken in a way that telegraphs misanthropy / misandry / psychopathy - a danger to others, if not always actively evil. This book should rather be taken from shelves and burned, lest it be the instrument of more people getting fucked over. As for the redeeming kernels of truth in the book - well we'll just have to find some other way to teach those truths. This book isn't it.

My most serious concrete concern about this book is that it seems to encourage women to think of and actually treat the men they date, and claim to want to marry, as relationship objects. I don't think the more darkly dysfunctional fans of the book really see men in general, and the men they date in particulat, as persons, people with feelings and needs and desires of their own. Instead these men are just objects to be used to check that "Married" checkbox, to fill that dark hole in their souls, and to reassure themselves that they're desireable.

As for all the tactical advice, taken merely at face value? That's probably not the worst part of this book. Having a life is indeed a good thing (and a little bit of faking it till you make it is forgiveable - but don't be just a fake!) as is communicating in moderation (but maybe not to the point of observing radio silence). I think there's a point that wants to come out of the book, but nobody really addresses it properly anywhere: training people (men, in this case) to treat you well. It's fine to "punish" people when they treat you badly, but don't forget to also reward them when they treat you well! I think this latter point tends to escape most Rules fans. Even though the book itself hints at it in its advice on how to act after the Rules Girl has gotten herself a husband. But I think reward should be applied more liberally than just as a treat for performing the grand trick of marrying the girl.

TL;DR: burn this book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Caught a mouse!

About a week ago while I was cooking something or talking on the phone I thought I saw a little mammal skit across my kitchen floor. Probably a mouse, I guessed, and sure enough, in the next few days I started noticing signs of mouse co-habitation. No, it didn't nest in my couch or do any other damage (AFAICT). There were the semi-creepy noises coming from the chest-of-baskets and from my daily compost bucket - but I never saw the source of these poltergeist sounds. Then I found mouse poop in one of the baskets and I laughed a little, thinking, "Oh, so it's my turn now."

But Mr/Ms Mouse (say, what are mice's pronoun preferences?) revealed their hiding place when s/he tried to drag a bit of toilet paper into a gap behind the tiles above my stovetop. With the hiding place exposed, I hatched a plan to catch the little squatter.

Like in a caricaturized mousetrap, I set little cubes of cheese along a path to the far end of an ice cream tub lid, which teetered on the edge of the kitchen counter over and old pool chlorine bucket.

Hipster ice cream - not just vanilla

Within a few minutes of my first trap, I heard a thunk and felt so proud that my humane trap had worked so perfectly. It was so easy. Too easy. As I turned around to open the back door, I heard another, softer thunk and already half-knew what had happened: the mouse had simply jumped out. Must have been gathering its strength for a minute and then bounded out. Or maybe it ran around the perimeter fast enough that it could stick to the side walls and escape with a gravity-defying parkour stunt. I wish I had seen it.

Luckily I have taller buckets too. My second trap worked just as well overnight, and didn't yield to the mouse's parkour prowess. By the time I got up, the mouse had found its way into the bucket again, and this time I was able to convey it outside. It learned to fly as I tried to make it my neighbour's problem, but the universe conspired against my subterfuge and I mis-timed the release, and the mouse landed on my side of the wall. I haven't seen or heard it since, though, so I'm sure it's telling all its buddies at the mouse bar about that one time that an alien abducted it.

Arbeit macht frei

I'm writing this as I have a cathartic fire going in the yard, burning much more wood than I really need to braai some kebabs. Cathartic because about two weeks ago I threw in the towel and decided to come to terms with a disappointment. I should have done this a long time ago; I've just been hurting myself trying to do this with acceptance-lite where I try to muddle along with crumbs while wanting bread. Bummed at probably losing a friend in the process.

So no, I'm not exterminating peoples; I'm distracting myself from my disappointment by getting busy. I've been sieving the gravel from my driveway, and made more progress in the last two weeks than in the last two years:

Foreground-background: Clean gravel, gravel + soil, cutting, newly spread gravel

(I'm sure it doesn't look like much to anyone else. Take my word for it: shaking all that gravel over my sieve is backbreaking work. Many evenings after an hour or three of this my back aches. It's getting less now as my body gets used to it - just as the project nears completion.)

Even as I throw myself into the physical labour, my head spins with what-ifs and second-guessing my interpretations of events. But at least the exercise keeps the feeling-like-shit at bay and gives an outlet to the desire to physically "get it out of my system". Physical exertion seems to have that magic ability.

My dark web drug marketplace (no, not really anything to do with drugs, I'm no DPR) also has been making progress. I've had a few black triangle moments by now. I still haven't completely figured out the important bits of the site, but the unimportant ones that I have need doing too at some point so that's what I do.

Even my ceilings are looking better. I've scrubbed them to remove marks left by swatting mosquitoes. And a few spiders are homeless too. I'm not exactly a neat freak, so this is new territory for me. Hell, even a blog post.

TL;DR I asked for something, didn't get it, coming to terms with it only now, getting busy as a distraction.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Inaccessible accessibility

A few years ago the City of Cape Town spent some money upgrading the area next to the Plumstead railway station. A new parking area, prettier paving, a raised pedestrian crossing.

Also, ramps up and down the sidewalk to get onto the crossing. In theory this is good, providing better access for the wheelchair-bound to the station. But then I noticed something:

Wheelchair ramp with a lamppost right in the middle of it.

Someone had planned the ramps, apparently without regard to where the lampposts were. And now we have a wheelchair ramp with a lamppost right in the middle of it. That money spent on the ramp seems wasted now. I wonder if anyone thought anything of it during the construction?