The World's Only Cybermorphic™ Weblog
: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rcousine/ on line 311.

When bad things happen to complicated systems

This is a story about complex systems failing obscurely.

"The first thing, of course, was the noise that alerted us to something had gone wrong."

On November 4, 2010, an Airbus A380 (that's their new double-decker superjumbo) blew an engine while in mid-air. That is something that happens, but this one was an impressive and quite rare uncontained turbine failure, which is a euphemism for "blew up bigtime." Bits of the turbine disc cut into the wing, damaging several systems and making a huge headache for the aircrew, who performed admirably and landed the plane without serious incident or any injuries.

Maybe I will not become an NDP member this year

As many of you know, I am a right-wing kook. I do not tend to favor left-leaning policies, though I have a greater tolerance for mushy-headed distributivist tendencies than I usually let on.

That said, both the provincial NDP and Liberal parties here in BC have gone through sudden leadership turnovers this Fall. A bit of dirty laundry was aired during the Liberal's veangance for Glencoe, but the NDP disclosed a lot more of their internal workings in the process of disposing of Carol James.

A ride in an electric car

My friend Dave works at BC Hydro, and offered to take me for a ride in one of the odder company cars around: a Mitsubishi i MiEV. This isn't the first electric vehicle (EV) on the market, by a long shot, and technically the i MiEV isn't even on the market. But it's a little taste of a highly probable future.
BC Hydro i MiEV

Driving It

A scrapbook of Video Game news reports

So my Video Game exhibit at the Surrey Museum has been a pretty good success. Here's a summary of some of the news reports that mentioned it. I'll include a summary in case of link-rot.

News 1130, Nov. 21: 'Best and worst video games of all time on display in Surrey
Including the infamous "ET for Atari"', by Jesse Johnston. Based on a phone interview with me, mentions the "early days" playday on November 27, 2010, with a special emphasis on E.T.: the Extra-terrestrial for the Atari 2600.

We did indeed play it, and it was indeed amazingly frustrating.

Idiosyncratic thoughts on cars

I've been thinking about cars a lot lately.

I'm going to put down my thoughts on what matters and what does not when it comes to a car, in terms of how much most people will like owning it, and what it will cost.

What doesn't matter

Fuel costs often don't matter. A Prius is (surprise) the most efficient vehicle sold in Canada. According to that metric, it would cost about $760 to drive 20,000 km, using a locally optimistic $1/l gas price. By comparison, the best full-size car would cost $1600 (Hyundai Sonata with a manual transmission).

One of the worst cars, economy-wise, is a Chrysler 300 SRT-8. It's a shade under $3000/year. Money well spent, I say, considering that car can carry five in comfort plus a good load of luggage and has more horsepower than every car I've ever owned, COMBINED. And I've owned four cars.

A tiny footnote to the Internet, EV edition

So, in the midst of a long discussion on a particular electric car publicity run, someone posted this:120kW is huge by residential standards but not unusual for industrial/commercial. Your average 50kW radio station would have electric service that big.

Now if you want to replace gas stations with fast charging stations you would have to put 2-12 or so of these 120kW chargers in your facility. Then you have your customers vehicles occupy the premises for 20 minutes each. After this wait they pay you $4 (at 10 cents per kW-hr). Does this sound like a good business to anyone?

The List

You have a List, don't you? Names, incidents, the stuff that you want fixed. The stuff that makes your life worse.

Here's the start of mine:

Office Suite (and nearly every other major spreadsheet and mainstream text editor), for not including the functionality that regex offers, you've made manipulating data worse, not better. I had an actual case, here in October 2010, where the easiest way to de-munge a bad spreadsheet was to export it as a CSV, open it in vi, and run a few googled-up regex substitutions to get all the data into a usable shape. So often, the best data-manipulation tools are still ancient Unix routines.

Youtube Advanced Uploader, you've successfully mis-reinvented FTP, because your sessions can't really be suspended and resumed, so multi-GB uploads, which take hours, tend not to make it. The real question is why you reinvented FTP in the first place? Alternatively, why don't you offer FTP (or SFTP, or FTPS) upload?

Video Games Playday this weekend

And as long as I'm updating you, here's the rest of the days I've been seriously underpromoting.

The History of Video Games exhibit is on from now until mid-December, showing at the Surrey Museum in Cloverdale (17710-56A Avenue).

Recent quotidian vignettes too long-form for a status update

Today I did something I cheerfully call The Death Ride:

  1. Ride from Port Moody to New Westminster for work
  2. After work, ride from New Westminster to south Richmond
  3. 35-minute bike race
  4. ride back to Port Moody

The name is a misnomer. You only wish you were dead. The morning ride is about 30 minutes, the evening ride is 3-4 hours, depending on how you figure it.

Failure's Virtues

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas Alva Edison.

I have been thinking about the utility of failure, especially its importance to institutional quality.

Syndicate content