November 2008 Archives

Fiesta Disaster!

What a disaster, I have accidentally destroyed some of my precious FiestaWare dishes! I was carefully washing them by hand, when a stack of drying dishes started to slide. I grabbed them to stop the slide when two dishes hit together and exploded. That is $120 of collectible FiestaWare, smashed to pieces!

Broken FiestaWare

The worst part is the little 5 1/2 inch bowl, it's one of the rarest colors, Medium Green, so it's worth $80, according to the latest Fiesta Price Guide. The Chartreuse Dessert Bowl is only worth $40, but it is one of my favorite colors. I had two matching Chartreuse bowls in mint condition, they're my favorite bowls since they're just the right size for almost any place setting. But now I only have one. And I have fewer Dessert Bowls than anything else in my collection. Dammit.
I inherited my FiestaWare collection from my Mother. I used to take my Mom around to estate sales and antique shops, we spent years accumulating a massive collection, and I became a big fan of Fiesta myself. She gave each of my 6 siblings a huge set of Fiesta. She left me her personal collection in her will, all her best pieces she could not bear to part with. I helped her find most of these pieces, so I figure it's just as much my collection as hers.
My Mom kept all her Fiesta in a big display case, but she also used them as everyday dishes. She always said, "What's the use of having such lovely dishes if you never USE them?" No doubt the wear and tear reduced the value of the pieces as collectables. But that's what's nice about Fiesta, it's collectable, but most of the pieces are not so expensive that you feel bad when you break one. Usually.
I remember one day when I broke one of my Mom's favorite Medium Green Dessert Bowls. I microwaved something in the bowl (Fiesta is microwave-safe) but something in the food developed a hot spot. I heard a large BANG from the microwave and the bowl was split in half. My Mom looked like she was going to faint, but she said not to worry, that's the risk you take when using Fiesta as everyday dishes, sometimes you break one. I only found out years later, when I looked in the Fiesta Price Guide, that dish was worth $800! No wonder it was one of her favorites.
Fortunately, my accident isn't quite as bad as it seems. The Chartreuse bowl is a total loss, but the Medium Green bowl was actually worthless. It had a huge crack in it, destroying its value, but the damage wasn't visible when the dishes were on display. This was a clever strategy my Mom used, I only discovered it when I acquired the collection and did a full inventory. I found several pieces like that, I call them "fillers," you put them on display, stacked in with the good dishes. Her fillers are rare and expensive pieces with major hidden flaws, she must have paid almost nothing for them. But the fillers make it look like you have a huge collection of Fiesta in all the best, most expensive colors. I should really just toss them out, they're worthless, but I like my Mom's clever little strategy.
But it seems this strategy has backfired. When I grabbed the sliding dishes, I barely touched the cracked bowl when it split apart, and the energy of the split transferred to the Dessert Bowl underneath. Sometimes this happens with ceramics, the interior stresses store a lot of energy, when it finally lets go, it can spray shards and crack other dishes. I think maybe I will remove these dangerous dishes from my collection. Oh well.

GCAS: Ground Collision Avoidance System

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I am fooling around reconstructing my old Mac IIcx and I found my old joystick. I used it to play a lot of Falcon, an F-16 flight simulator. I played a lot of flight simulator games and Falcon was probably the best. I bet if I could get my IIcx running it would have Falcon on the disk and ready to fly.
One of the features of Falcon that is realistically modeled after the real F-16 is the GCAS, the Ground Collision Avoidance System. The flight computer continuously calculates if your current flight path intersects with the ground. If you are going to crash, a pleasant but insistent female voice shouts, "Pull up! Pull up!" It was thought that a female voice would catch the (predominantly male) pilots' ears.
With a computer flight simulator, you get to try a lot of boneheaded flying stunts that you'd never try in a real plane. Real fighter pilots get millions of dollars of training, all you've got is a $39.95 flight sim, a brief manual, and lots of trial and error. You hear the GCAS a lot because you're constantly pushing the envelope to learn what the plane can and can't do. You chase around dogfighting, and you fly poorly and you get into a "maneuvering kill," where you're chasing someone and he is more agile and he can pull up and you can't. Maybe you're in a steep dive, going too fast and you haven't got enough altitude to pull up in time. You can pull back on the joystick as hard as you can, but by the time the GCAS shouts "Pull up! Pull up!" you are already doomed to hit the ground.
I used to play Falcon when my girlfriend Susie was around, she'd be quietly reading a book or something, my Mac would be emitting soft whooshing flight sim sounds, and suddenly it would startle her by yelling "Pull up! Pull up!" One day I was playing the game, and she snuck up behind me and started shouting "Pull up! Pull up!" She sounded just like the GCAS and I just lost my focus and crashed the plane immediately. We both cracked up with laughter, I don't think she thought her prank would be so successful.
So after that, once in a while Suzie would see me doing something stupid or something she didn't like, she'd start yelling "Pull up! Pull up!" and I would just burst into laughter. She seemed to use it appropriately, sometimes I needed a little warning when I didn't realize I was flying into the ground, even outside the flight sim.
Sometimes lately I feel like I am trying my hardest to pull up. The economy seems to be flying into the ground. People are working themselves to death in an attempt to keep flying. I know I'm working way too hard against way too difficult circumstances, it is hard to keep the old plane in the air. I can put on the afterburner for more power and it may only fly me into the ground quicker, or run me out of fuel faster. I need to pull up or I will crash. I am pulling back on the stick with all my might and it still seems like the ground is rushing up at me too quickly to recover.
Recently I've enjoyed watching the TV show Dogfights , it has amazingly detailed computer graphic animations of famous dogfights and flying techniques. It's like watching a movie with the best flight sim graphics ever, it reminded me of how much I loved flight sims. Much to my surprise, they showed a few maneuvers that will avoid a collision even after the GCAS says it's too late. Some of the greatest dogfights depend on these maneuvers, the thinnest margin of error in a crazy stunt means victory or a crater in the ground. Just a very few maneuvers will allow you to snap vector, slow rapidly, and recover a viable flight path that points up instead of down. And you have to be a pretty skilled pilot to pull off such a stunt. Even the most skilled pilot can easily fly himself into a corner he can't fly out of. But a great pilot is always pushing the envelope, constantly pushing himself to the brink of disaster, that is The Right Stuff.

What's That Weird Red Dot on my iPhone?

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What's that weird red dot on the iPhone icon? It means your iPhone is dead.
My iPhone suddenly developed this weird problem today, I lost my EDGE service which means no internet or email, and no voicemail. The local AT&T Store replaced the SIM card but that didn't work, and that's all they can do. The phone still makes and receives calls, but that is the least frequent use of my iPhone.
My iPhone is just barely out of warranty, but Apple's Customer Relations Department has generously agreed to replace it free, since I have unsuccessfully tried to resolve a couple of other minor hardware issues while it was in warranty. Unfortunately, the nearest place that services iPhones is an Apple Store 250 miles away and I have been unable to travel there. But now this is a major problem, it must be resolved immediately. And Apple is convinced this is an urgent problem, they are shipping me a new phone.
Thank you Apple, this is why we pay premium prices for premium hardware: we expect premium support, and we get it.
Update Nov. 12: I received a brand new iPhone by FedEx at 9:30AM. I plugged in the old SIM card, synced it to my Mac, and I am up and running again in just minutes. That was easy.

Miss Manners Nails It Again

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I am a huge fan of Miss Manners. She expresses the spirit of etiquette so eloquently, compressing books of arcane rules into simple ideas. Today she nailed it again, expressing a core idea of etiquette:
It is not uncommon for rude people to act offended when their rudeness is not tolerated. Miss Manners assures you that this does not make it rude to refuse to tolerate rudeness, as long as this is not done with retaliatory rudeness.