Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Learning from Someone Else's Mistakes

I found an interesting web site today, called Vincent Flanders' "Web Pages That Suck". It's a neat read for those of you who are involved in web design projects or those who are interested in seeing some really, really bad web page designs. An awful lot of research went into this page, and I agree with just about everything I've read there so far. So if you have an idea of what good design is, but you're not sure why some designs are better than others, check it out.

They also have an interesting analysis tool called Dr. HTML where you can plug in a URL (whether it's your own or someone else's) and let them tell you what they picked up that's wrong with the site (i.e. bad links, spelling errors, etc.) instantly. I think my poor little weblog failed. Guess it's back to learning more about HTML!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002


In my daily cruising of weird junk this morning, I found this. It's a model of the Nebuchadnezzar Hovership, built entirely with lego. It is absolutely amazing what people are building with lego these days. If anyone has any lego they'd like to donate to my cause, let me know, 'cuz I'd like to do something like this, if I ever get enough bricks to do a good job of it.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Testing Inserting Images

Here' a test to see if images can be posted up here....a joke from FBTB!

Technology and the Former-USSR: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Maybe it's just me, but the formerly-Soviet Republics scare the bejeezus out of me. The cold war has been over for more than a decade, NATO and Russia are in bed together, the ages-old threat of fiery-hell raining down across the North Pole has been virtually neutralized. Communism has been swatted on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper and sent to the kennel in the backyard. From a warmongering point of view, the world seems to be a safer place. But what kind of technological legacy has the USSR left in its wake? The sickle and hammers have all been painted over, but the planes, tanks, missiles, and other wonders which the USSR built to prove their technological and engineering superiority over the US still exist today. They exist, with no money to maintain them or to keep them safe.

The cash-strapped former-USSR Republics seem to be entirely incapable of operating them safely. Over this last weekend, 83 people , including 16 children, were killed in the worst air show accident in history in Lviv, Ukraine. 116 others were injured. The causes of the crash are still under investigation, but a number of things have become clear. The Sukhoi Su-27 is one of the most agile and deadly aircraft in the Ukrainian Air Force, capable of speeds of up to Mach 2.35, and yet the Ukrainian officers in charge of the air show did nothing to control or protect the crowd at the show. There were no barricades keeping viewers from entering the flight path (read: potential crash-path) of the performing aircraft. The aircraft, which may have suffered a major engine failure before the crash, had been inadequately maintained due to lack of funds. And the pilots of the two-man plane, who may or may not have been able to control the plane and keep it from crashing into the audience, ejected to safety well before it plowed into the tarmac and burst into flames. This was after performing a risky stunt at extremely low-altitude, clipping the surface of the runway, and slicing off the nose of another plane, proving the pilots' deadly lack of skill and training.

A day later, a Russian Ilyushin Il-86 airliner crashed shortly after take-off from the Sheremetyevo-1 airport in Moscow, killing 14 of its crew. Fortunately, the plane wasn't carrying any passengers at the time. Although the causes of the crash are still under investigation, witnesses saw that the plane was climbing too steeply before leveling and falling from the sky and suspect another technical failure with the plane itself.

A month ago, 71 people died when another Russian airliner, a Tupolev Tu-154 carrying Russian children to a holiday in Spain, collided over the Swiss-German border with a cargo plane. Last October, a Ukrainian anti-aircraft unit launched a missile during a training exercise and hit a Russian airliner, killing all 78 people aboard. And don't even get me started on the sinking of the Kursk. And these are only the accidents that are reported in the media.

These tragedies keep happening. They have been spawned by a relatively new concept in world history: a technological superpower that has been dismantled, impoverished and burdened with the legacy of its symbols of strength and superiority to the point where it can no longer support itself. The former-USSR Republics cannot afford to maintain this legacy, and as these vehicles and weapons age with time, there will be more of these accidents. Training has also been reduced to keep costs down, making the crews of these vehicles less capable of avoiding such disasters and compounding the problem. And what happens if weapons of mass destruction are involved -- not necessarily a launch system failing, but maybe reducing security to the point where such weapons can be stolen and used for a private agenda? It makes me weak in the knees thinking about it.

I don't really have a solution. As this is a new historical concept, there aren't a lot of clues we can gain from the past. I suppose the key here is sustainability: if Russia and the other formerly-USSR states cannot afford to maintain and operate their vehicles safely, they should not be operated at all. Air Forces, fleets, and stockpiles should be reduced and destroyed to a sustainable level as soon as possible, leaving more money available for the vehicles that are needed more regularly, such as airliners and commercial vehicles. Mothballing isn't enough: when you put too many of these machines together, it might make a tempting target for those who sell them on the black market. Although these nations have done a great deal to reduce the amount of materiel remaining in active service, more obviously needs to be done. And who's going to tell Russia that they have to scrap half their fighter planes? Something tells me that they won't see this as being in the best interests of their national security.

Maybe there are simpler lessons to be learned: don't go to air shows in former-USSR Republics because something is liable to explode into a fireball, avoid Russian airliners, and if there's something big falling out of the sky at you, don't stand and look at it, r-u-n a-w-a-y. It's just common sense, isn't it?

Don't worry, something more uplifting tomorrow....I promise!

Mid-Morning Golf

Anyone for a round of mini-putt? Wheee!!

Friday, July 26, 2002

Wedding Pics!

For those of you that are interested, here is a website with pics from the wedding that Stacey and I just attended in Kananaskis, Alberta. No pics of me, but some of Stacey and her family and some great pics of the lodge and grounds. It was beautiful there. Enjoy!

"I'm trying to fix the FUTURE!"

Last night, my ravishing girlfriend and I had the honour and privilege of watching the modern re-make of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine with my friend Mike. Although hardly a cinematic masterpiece, it was mindless and flashy and showed off our TV and surround sound system well (love that DTS sound!), which Mike was really interested in. I'm not going to start in on the failings of the movie, or the stadium-sized holes in the plot, or the leaps of logic necessary to follow the plot (Mike and Stacey started to use "imaginary logic," as I called it, to explain the ludicrous science and physics of time travel whenever I found yet another plot hole)....but it did start to get me thinking.

One of the main driving motivations for this movie's adaptation of Wells was the question of using time travel to change an event in the past to effect change in the present. Although I won't go into the specifics of the movie in case you want to see it, I thought that they handled this question in an interesting way. I usually don't like to dwell on past decisions and regret anything that I've done (you can drive yourself mad that way), but it made me ask myself the question: just for fun and all aspects of the movie aside, if you could change one event or decision within your lifetime in the hopes of making your "present" better, what would it be?

I have three answers off the top of my head:

1) The gushy answer: I'd have gone back to convince my past self to go to the Arts School in Ottawa, Canterbury, instead of the academics school, Lisgar. I would've had a lot more fun in highschool, I'd be a much better artist today, while still being challenged in academics, and I would have met my Stacey earlier. Awwwwwwwww.....

2) The serious answer: I would have gone back to tell myself at some point before University that I need to choose a career and focus on that. It wouldn't have even mattered what it was, as long as it was something creative and lucrative....I wish I knew what the hell I'm doing right now.

3) The space tourism answer: I'd go back and convince the NASA people not to send up Challenger and fix the problem with the solid-fuel boosters. It was a tragic loss of life and we'd be a lot further along today if there was greater public-support for space travel. When those poor souls went up with Challenger, people were scared off the idea or worse still, didn't see the value in space exploration anymore. Of course, this answer is totally framed by that Lance Bass thing, which is still bothering me....

What would you do?

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Still Fighting the Plague

Well, I've been home for close to two weeks now from the *most amazing* trip ever to Alberta and BC, and I'm still fighting the four infections (two ear, one sinus, and one throat) that I got as a consequence of air travel. There's nothing quite like sitting in a narrow space, jammed up like cattle (thanks, Air Tango!), breathing in everyone's dirty, pre-exhaled air....if it wasn't for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to places unknown and unseen, I'd say that flying is for suckers. Yes, for suckers. I still get a tear in my eye whenever I see a plane flying overhead though, plague-boy status aside.

But, our trip out west has driven Stacey and I to make a decision. Drum roll, please.....We're quitting smoking (yay!). It took some soul-searching and another brutal hike in taxes, but we figure that we'd be able to save close to $1500 apiece each year by quitting now. And that means another vacation to another beautiful place, which would be wicked-cool. Our next destination, set for some time next year, is going to be Greece. Stacey and I are desperate to go, so with that incentive, it's time to kiss the smokes goodbye. Our deadline, for the sake of an easy transition, will be when we move into our next place, which we hope to do by the fall. Being out west also convinced us that we needed a place that was going to be a little quieter and a little less crazy in a nicer neighbourhood. Right now, we have a nice house for cheap rent, but we have to make a lot of sacrifices for that.

So let me know if you hear about any gorgeous houses in Ottawa for practically no rent. Hey, now that we're going to be non-smokers, it should be easy, right?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002


Well, gee. Now that I know I'm part of the blogger cult, I expect that I have to start living up to my status as a member, lest Matej and the thought police start tracking me down to give me a firm scolding for my lack of updates.

As you might be aware, I'm new to this whole blogging and web page design thing, but being who I am, I insist on mucking with things until I get something that I like. Strangely enough, I find that the page looks different on different browsers (I guess that this has to do with all the codes I've been blindly messing around with). If the page looks screwy to you, drop me a line, and if you have some HTML advice, even better still! Hey, I don't even know if that mail link will work, but I'll see soon enough.

Something absolutely out-of-control idiotic has come to my attention recently. My sister wrote me to tell me that the Russians are planning to send a boy-band pretty boy into outer space. That's right, Lance Bass of N'Sync is going to the International Space Station. Really, it was just a matter of time, kiddies, wasn't it? I mean, he can howl into a microphone and pass it off as singing, he can flail his limbs around wildly and pass it off as dancing, and he can prostitute himself to Teen Beat magazine and MTV and pass it off as a career.....why not sit in a tin can filled with thousands of gallons of liquid oxygen fuel, look pretty while others push the buttons, and pass it off as being an astronaut?

Now, I have to admit that I like the idea of space tourism. What kind of self-respecting Star Wars fan wouldn't? When I said that I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, I was dead serious. I was completely focussed on the math scores were up, my science scores were through the roof, I read anything and everything about astronomy and space travel that I could get my hands far as I was concerned, I was going and no one could stop me. That is, until I had to get glasses. To this day, NASA still screens their astronaut candidates based on vision. I was crushed and lost most of my interest in maths and sciences and instead became an art bum. I guess a part of me felt that I had wasted my time with it only to have my body fail me. Anyway, maybe today I would have played it differently, but I didn't at the time, and no point going back there again.

And then, two years ago, I heard that they were finally going to send a privately-funded citizen into space. I was overjoyed. If he could go, maybe someday it would be financially viable for ME to go. Way to go Tito for paving the way! And then I heard about the X-Prize competition and I was even more excited. There was an organiztion that was doing something to stimulate space tourism technology and there were companies out there that wanted to make a trip into orbit cheap!

And now, Lance Bass is going to be the "average man's" newest representative in space.


Forgive me if I resent the fact that he's going and not me. He's not paying his way (his label is footing the 20 million to get him the ticket), he doesn't meet the requirements set by the international space community, he's not going to be fully trained by launch time, and in the event that something goes wrong on the flight, what's he going to do? Sing "Bye, Bye, Bye"?

This is a pretty clear statement that Russia doesn't care who they're putting into space, as long as they can pay the price tag for the ride, and the record label is paying the bill for the sake of publicity for the band. Now sure, putting him into space will raise the profile of space exploration with the younger, teenage generation. Maybe once again, it will inspire young people to think about space and recognize the benefits of space exploration to our society....but any benefit from that will only be realized several decades down the road. If the international space community wants to raise their profile now, send someone who will impress the people who actually have the money to finance space exploration ventures and make space tourism an affordable reality.

And someone send Russia some money for their space program. Star City is becoming a laughing-stock, and not one that I particularly enjoy.

And now, back to learning HTML! The appearance of this site may be changing around a little over the next few weeks, but it'll settle down, rest assured.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Well, here it is. My very first post. Welcome! Enjoy! Please don't pee on the rug, I just had it steam-cleaned.