March 31st, 2009

Volcano blows!

This  is a neat video, done with time lapse.  Kinda just runs along, then.. BALOEY!
Redoubt Eruption March 27 2009 from Bretwood Higman on Vimeo.

March 23rd, 2009

Riki Ott on Democracy Now! this Tuesday

I just received an email to let me know that Dr. Riki Ott, a resident of Valdez Cordova, a commercial “Fisherma’am,” author and Marine Biologist will be on Democracy Now! this Tuesday. Riki is the author of Sound Truths & Corporate Myths and more recently, Not One Drop. It’s rare that current Alaskan environmental issues get national coverage. If you miss Tuesday’s show you can always download Tuesday’s show fromThe Democracy Now! website.

March 10th, 2009

The violinist

Through egodialogues.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning.
He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.
He collected $32.
When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Must have been the acoustics. Siiiigh. I wrote earlier about Joshua Bell. He is such a nice unpretentious guy. I am not surprized he went along with this.

March 7th, 2009

Obama: “Let me be clear”

I voted for Obama – but when I heard he tried to exclude Rep. John Conyers from his recent “Health Care Summit” even though the White House invited several high profile health care industry lobbyists I thought – here we go again. Conyers, BTW, introduced HR 676, a bill that would implement “single payer” health care. Let me “be clear,” I predicted that Obama was a Clinton clone – and at least so far that seems to be the case (take a look at his cabinet). It’s time to really change things and I don’t see that happening. Obama is tossing out some crumbs while sucking up to the usual suspects. I don’t think Obama’s plan will work (too many things are missing) and when the money is gone we (the people) will be the ones that have been screwed. But the money may already be gone – the rich bastards that have 30% + of my retirement are now busy deciding how to spend my tax dollars. Flame out.

P.S. I’m sick and tired of Obama’s use of the phrase “Let me be clear.” He should think of something else to say.

March 4th, 2009

The crash (final, no more updates)

Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 crashed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport at 10:31 AM local (CET) time this morning, Februari 25th (8:31 UTC, 4:31 AM EST, 1:31 AM PST).

Last edit: I am going to put this entry to rest, with my understanding of what happened. Do feel free to comment the hell out of it. Still, it’s kinda heartbreaking and shows again how only a chain of event leads to tragedies like this. The aircraft was piloted by the First Officer (FO), with the captain monitoring his performance and doing the non-flying duties. The FO was not hand-flying the plane. They came in a bit fast and high, but all within reasonable margins. Next thing, the left hand radio altimeter, a downward looking radar system, fails, indicating they are already touching down instead of being 1950 feet in the air. The crew notices this problem, but dismisses it as a serious event as the barometic and the right hand radio altimeter indicate the correct position. The autopilot (or to be more precise the auto-throttle part of it) keeps the engines on full idle. The crew interprets this as getting rid of the fast and high situation but in fact the auto-pilot has determined they are almost touching the runway. The airplane flies through the decent path and starts flaring, read, pulling up the nose to bleed off airspeed while “hugging” the runway, that of course in reality is NOT under the tires. Things go fast now. The FO notices they are decending though the expected glidepath and that they are loosing speed rapidly. He grabs the throttles and slams them forward. It take a couple of seconds before the engines spool up. The captain is now also aware of a serious problem. He calls “my plane” taking over control. The FO removes his left hand from the throttles, assuming the captain to takes them. Things might still have been recoverable at this moment. Unfortunately, the autopilot system still “thinks” they are flaring and with no hands on the throttles, they are retarded once more. It takes the crew six vital seconds to realize this horrible mistake. They slam the throttles forward once more, but it is too late. Before the engines can power them out of this situation, they slam in the mud with hardly 100 knots (aprx 120mph) forward speed, the nose pitched up high and in a full, deep stall. The Flight data recorder had 25 hours of flight on them, in 8 flights. In those 8 flights, twice more the left radioaltimeter failed.

  • Had the left hand altimeter been properly repaired, or….
  • had it not failed at that crucial moment, or…..
  • had the crew recognized this as a serious event, or…..
  • had they not been fast and high, thus having more time to realize what was going on, or……
  • had the captain not taken control, or…..
  • had the captain taken over the throttles immediately, or…..
  • had the crew hit the TOGA (Take Off Go Around) button, or even simply disengaged the autopilot….

this horrible incident would not have happened. May all that passed away rest in piece, and all the wounded, both physically as well as mentally recover soon.

Latest (I’ll do this twitter style):

Mar 4: First preliminary results from the OvV: Plane was on full auto pilot (AP), but the left radio-altimeter was defect, indicating the aircraft was already on the ground (-8 ft when the actual height was 1950 ft). The AP then throttled back to flare the airplane on the runway that simply wasn’t there. Pilots intervened too late.

Mar 1: The video in this page, made on the day of the crash, gives a good impression on the damage to the aircraft and the incredibly short debris track. I doubt it being more than 3 times the length of the aircraft. This is another indication of the very slow forward speed (reported by GPS derived data to be only 83 knots = 154 km/h = 95 mph).

Mar 1: Status: 44 in hospital, one still in critical condition.

Mar 1: The wreckage will not be removed today. The investigators need more time and it will be Tuesday earliest.

Mar 1: Some more background on the legal versus safety argument here and here.

Feb 28: It is now confirmed by Boeing that all 4 Americans on board were Boeing employees, of which 3 perished, and one is still in hospital. Of the badly injured, one is still in critical condition, the others will survive. It is not stated anywhere that this last person in critical condition is in fact the 4th Boeing employee. The 4 were all sitting in the front of the aircraft.

Turkish pilot association Talpa claims the wake of the 757 that landed before TK1951 was probable cause and is said to blame ATC. Again, this is all speculation. As far as is reported, the 757 and this plane were separated 2 minutes, which AFAIK is sufficient. Maybe a pilot friend can comment on that.

Two of the 4 Americans that were killed in the accident were Boeing employees.

The OvV has refused to give the justice department, who is conducting a separate investigation focused on liability (guilt), access to the black boxes.  Safety Board officials feel witnesses will not be able to speak freely if they feel their statements could be used in a criminal investigation. Traditional “FBI vs NTSB” conflict, if talking in US terms. The justice department is not amused being flipped the finger.

The flights First Officer (often called co-pilot) was on this flight to familiarize himself with this particular (sub) type, which was also reason for the jumpseater. Let me stress that this is not “learning to fly”. The guy was flying airliners since 2004. It has not even been established that he was actually flying the airplane, if it was in any auto-pilot mode. That is all speculation.

The plane is supposed to have had some technical issues in the last couple of days. An aborted takeoff on February the 23rd, after flap issues the 18th.

The 9 killed: 5 Turkish, 4 American. From the 6 badly wounded, 4 are still critical (but made it through the first 24 hours).

The “Onderzoeksraad voor veiligheid” (OvV, Dutch Safety Board,  roughly the Dutch NTSB) started its investigation immediately after the crash. The black boxes haven been sent to Paris for analysis. Preliminary results expected after the weekend.

Crew was reportedly crushed by the instrument panel buckling forward in the crash.

- – -

One fatality At least nine fatalities, 20 50 86 wounded, of which 25 severe, 6 in critical condition.

ASN reports: Turkish plane crashes at Amsterdam-Schiphol. 135 on board. Presumably TK1951 from Istanbul. B737-800 TC-JGE. No fire reported, airplane broke in three.

Airframe is sitting next lined up to the “Polderbaan” (36L/18R). At least 50 walked off unharmed. One engine ripped off.

Audiovisuals here. Location on google maps here. Note the site being lined up with the runway.

Twitterfeed here.

CNN have reported it an Airbus 380. Typical.

All three cockpit crew (one jumpseater) reported dead and still trapped in the aircraft. They are not being moved, probably because they are stuck, but maybe even more importantly, nobody wants to flip a handle or switch by accident that could invalidate the investigation.

Speculation part: very short crash path and described as “fallen out of the sky”. That would suggest a stall, which could have had several reasons.

It’s been 13 years since the last airliner accident in my country, the crash of a historic Dakota (DC-3). The worst (in terms of within the borders) was El Al 1862, a freight 747-200 that crashed into an appartment block . If a Dutch aircraft involved is the definition, it’s histories worst aviation disaster ever, Tenerife.