CWords Of Wisdom: Paddle & Ride (December 18, 2013)

Opportunities are waves.

You can stand on the shore and watch others ride, or you can paddle out and get your own.


Hang loose.




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CWords Of Wisdom: Appreciate Movement (December 13, 2013)

Thankful does not mean content.

Imagine you are lost in the desert with only a few drops of water to keep you alive. After 4 days, a search party finds you leaning against a saguro cactus barely conscious. They give you a astronaut style dehydrated snack to give you enough energy to make it back. In this critical state, you are immensely thankful for the nutrients and your severe hunger masks the bland taste.

Does this mean that you are content to eat dehydrated astronaut food for the rest of your life? Will you never want or need to have a crisp apple, juicy steak, or glass of wine?

Of course not and nobody would call you insatiable or greedy for feeling that way. Being thankful for what you currently have is not a life sentence to remaining with what you have. Wanting something else is a sign of growth, not arrogance or greed. Don’t use modesty and humility as an excuse for expanding your boundaries. Be thankful for what you have and unashamed to reach beyond.


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How Men Shop

While training one of my clients, they asked about my plans after Thanksgiving. This is an exact transcript.


Client: “Are you going to go shopping on Black Friday?”

Me: “Hell no. I’m a man. I do all my shopping on December 24th.”




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Shareholders Vs Engineers

I really wonder about the stock market sometimes. Every day they’re either nervous or optimistic about some random event that might affect the economy specific to their particular investments. Snowstorm in Alaska? Better sell all the king crab futures you can. Hurricane in Indonesia? We should raise the price of Florida oranges. Wait, did someone just say that an iron core meteorite landed in Manitoba? Oh we better buy up stock in planetariums before the shares start to skyrocket. The display of emotions on the trading floor is only rivalled by the emotions at the Aqueduct when the 40 to 1 long shot takes the lead.
The recent event that led me to write this is the ridiculously ignorant reaction of investors to the Tesla fire. A Tesla Model S sedan “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road causing significant damage to the vehicle“. The car sounded a warning to pull over and the driver was able to exit the vehicle before it caught on fire. I have no idea what large metallic objects are in the middle of streets, but my mind keeps picturing the Sanford and Son pickup truck bouncing along in front of the Tesla with old file cabinets and radiator cores falling out as the possible source (this was written one day before Elon Musk released the statement about what the object was…I was close!).
For some reason, the people (mostly the individual investors) who have invested in Tesla apparently thought “electric” meant “fireproof”. This is what happens when we tell entire generations to ignore science and major in business and law instead. Nobody understands simple concepts such as electric current and impact force. When a fire breaks out in a battery powered car, the assumption is that the design is fatally flawed and therefore they should sell before Chapter 11 sets in. Any car that hits an object at a certain velocity runs the risk of igniting. In gas powered cars it’s usually hot engine or exhaust parts that set off gasoline vapors (gasoline the liquid doesn’t burn, the vapor does which is why an empty fuel tank can be just as dangerous than a full fuel tank). In an electric car, a short-circuit, thermal runaway or arcing can produce a fire provided the right conditions are met. This isn’t a design issue, it’s science. The design issue is how to provide sensible protection against the 1 in 100,000,000 occurrence without making the vehicle to heavy or too expensive.
Anyone who remembers the spate of laptop battery fires a couple years ago became rapidly familiar with the temperamental nature of lithium-ion batteries (lithium is very testy and tends to do things like ignite spontaneously when exposed to air). But before those accidents, the general public just assumed a battery was a battery. The advantages of lithium-ion batteries still outweighed the risk and after a recall and redesign by several manufacturers, we all happily use these types of batteries in our phones and laptops today. The Tesla fire was caused by the same temperamental battery technology which despite extensive safeguarding and crash-testing somehow found a way to ignite. To be fair, watch laboratory crash-testing of any gas powered vehicle and then go ask a firefighter about some of the wrecks they’ve seen. It’s one thing to have controlled conditions, a car travelling at a set velocity and a impact a flat wall. It’s quite another to be in a real car doing twice the posted speed, lose traction and wrap the chassis around a tree. The Tesla simply got a real world test that the lab was unable to produce.
Engineering and design are long-term processes. Often times there are long periods of time when small, almost invisible improvements are made and those who are not used to this type of progress assume nothing has been done. At other times there are dramatic setbacks which scare the crap out of people who do not take the time to understand the reasons for the setback. The stock market on the other hand is both a short and long-term process. Some people have the patience to see the 5, 10 or even 20 year potential of a given company. Other people want a return on their investment in 3 quarters or less and demand radical and often destructive changes to the company and its structure be made. Or they may simply remove their money and run to the next hot new stock to begin the process all over again. This is a problem for all companies but especially those which are involved in advanced or unusual engineering.
Why are people running away from Tesla as if they’ve never heard of thermal runaway before? Probably because they’ve never heard of thermal runaway before. The car is meeting design specifications and has extensive safety features, however the simple fact is that it is still a machine and it will have problems. Since it is the first of its kind (a high performance electric car that doesn’t take 12 years to accelerate to 60mph), every single one of its problems will be a “first”. That does not invalidate the basic design, it just means adjustments are required. Adjustments, which are part of the long-term engineering mindset that one bought into when the decision was made to invest with them. Have some patience and read a book or two on electric storage or power conversion. Or better yet, research the problems with Ford Pinto gas tanks and try to understand that what seem like clear-cut problems are not always so simple.
The responsibility to the shareholders is vastly overrated and there should be as much responsibility from the shareholders to be educated about the science and technology behind the company they’ve chosen. The company has a responsibility to the customers first. If nobody buys the product, the shareholders cannot get a return no matter what they request or demand. Don’t invest to get rich in 90 days…invest to help a company achieve something that you believe in. Do it because the company makes a product you like and you want to help the continual support and development of that product. The best investors are either customers, well educated on the technology, or both.


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Big Boy Moves To Frisco

All I see are a couple of GP units in the old BN colors...

All I see are a couple of GP units in the old BN colors…

Maybe he knows something I don't.

Maybe he knows something I don’t.

There it is! 1.3 million pounds of iron and steel, the 4-8-8-4 Big Boy.

There it is! 1.3 million pounds of iron and steel, the 4-8-8-4 Big Boy.

Out of the 25 built, only 8 escaped the scrap heap and are preserved.

Out of the 25 built, only 8 escaped the scrap heap and are preserved.

68 inch driver wheels were grouped in 2 articulated sets of 8 to allow the 133 foot locomotive and tender combination to navigate curves.

68 inch driver wheels were grouped in 2 articulated sets of 8 to allow the 133 foot locomotive and tender combination to navigate curves.

I agree completely.

I agree completely.


That's the North Denton Rd crossing for those wondering.

That’s the North Denton Rd crossing for those wondering.

And this is the Perry Rd crossing. Yes, it was easy to beat them there considering they couldn't go above 10mph.

And this is the Perry Rd crossing. Yes, it was easy to beat them there considering they couldn’t go above 10mph.

The Big Boy was powerful enough to pull over 4000 tons, but was soon replaced by diesel-electric locomotives that were cleaner, more reliable and less expensive to operate.

The Big Boy was powerful enough to pull over 4000 tons, but was soon replaced by diesel-electric locomotives that were cleaner, more reliable and less expensive to operate.

The Big Boy now resides at The Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco, TX.

The Big Boy now resides at The Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco, TX.

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6 String Reclamation Project

I love music. Composing, performing, listening and studying it all are pastimes of mine (probably beyond pastime status but who cares, its just a label). One thing that is annoying me is the lack of powerful guitar-based music today. Yes, there are independent bands and metal bands that still know how to get the most out of a Marshall stack but where there used to be several rock bands in the top 40 lineup, now there are almost none. Even on dedicated modern rock radio stations there seems to be a lack of raw volume and heaviness that was commonplace up until the mid 1990s with popular artists.

I’m not claiming that our popular music has been completely wussified, but there are signs indicating that this is the path we’re on. Too many “ding ding ding ding ding ding” xylophone and mandolin songs are being used on commercials; I can’t remember the last time I heard a Stratocaster used to sell anything. Too many love songs permeate the airwaves by far; I get it, you love her, you want her, you had her, you lost her…tell me a different story (or at least deliver the message in a Foreigner style power ballad). And of course, there’s that God awful autotune; Don’t even get me started.

What am I really complaining about? Simple, I want a certain type of music and I’m not hearing it, that’s all. So instead of writing piece after piece about how the industry does this and that and how indie bands are kept off the radio and it’s a conspiracy, blah blah blah, I’m providing a solution. I’m going to start recording again.

You’re probably wondering when would I have the time between the training, flying, photography and non-stop eating that I do. But I have a habit of bending space-time to my own advantage. Recording is just another kink in the timeline. As a warning, I don’t sing love songs and I don’t stick to one style. As long as you’re armed with this information up front, I shouldn’t hear any complaints later.

Okay, I’m off to the studio.

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More Evening Flying


Gulfstream returning from Aspen, CO.


Another classic point-click-hope photo. This one looking aft towards Belt Line Road.


Looking north along the Dallas North Tollway.

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Songs To Save By

During CPR training this week, the instructor reminded everyone that the tempo for compressions is the musical equivalent of 100 beats per minute. And that the song Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees has the correct beat for administering CPR. I’m sure that’s all coincidental and Barry Gibb had no idea when they picked the song title and tempo of the cardiopulmonary significance. Just as Freddy Mercury and Brian May probably weren’t thinking of chest compressions when Queen selected a 100bpm tempo for Another One Bites The Dust.

This video by the 2013 Chattanooga Fire Academy is a great example of Stayin Alive in practice (disco balls = nice touch).

ZDoggMD has compiled a list of 100bpm songs in the Code Gold: CPR’s Greatest Hits “album”. Remember, the results are not typical.

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Sunset: July 13, 2013

Two more reasons I like going up.
7-13 Sunset2 7-13 Sunset1

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Happy America Day

View of Kaboom Town fireworks from the US Sport Aircraft hangar party.
Light Sport Fireworks



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Doppler Based Fujita Ratings

Several recent tornadoes have been given official ratings via radar scans, the practice causing a bit of a stir in the meteorological community. The massive El Reno, Oklahoma tornado was classified as an EF-5 based on a Doppler radar indicated wind speed of 296mph. The traditional way of estimating wind speed and intensity is via a damage survey along the tornado path (damage surveys originally rated the tornado at EF-3). Some feel that using radar will negatively impact the consistency of the current methods. Others think that radar should take the lead in future storms. My personal belief is that while damage surveys should still be performed on any tornado, using radar-based wind speeds when available to assign a rating is a good idea. Here is my main argument why.

The Fujita Scale has always been a past-tense measurement. When Dr. Ted Fujita first devised the scale in 1971, there were no Doppler radars to determine wind speed. The only way to estimate wind speed was through evaluating the damage caused by a given tornado. While reliable, the Fujita Scale also had a major drawback in that it assumed buildings of a given type were all constructed to the same standard. In several cases, tornadoes were downgraded when it became apparent that builders took shortcuts like not anchoring roofs or loosely attaching homes to concrete slabs. The more recent Enhanced Fujita Scale uses more thorough analysis of damage and accounts for differing levels of workmanship in construction. Since it is based on the original Fujita Scale, it too is only applicable after a tornado has destroyed something.

Imagine if hurricanes had no ratings and no wind speeds given until after they destroyed a coastline. It would undoubtedly be much harder to prepare for them. This is the problem facing residents and government officials who deal with tornadoes on a regular basis. The Fujita Scale is determined using the opposite method of the hurricane Saffir-Simpson scale. The wind speed dictates what category the storm falls into, giving forecasters, community planners and emergency response teams the information they need to make wise decisions. Of course a primary difference is that a hurricane’s large size and slow progression means wind speeds can be monitored by multiple radars, satellites and airplanes.

The biggest benefit in my view to assigning ratings based on wind speed relates to building construction. The National Weather Service states that only 1% of all tornadoes are at or above the EF-4 level. This is true only when counting tornadoes that were surveyed for damage. The ones that were not surveyed or went unseen by either radar or spotters do not count. With no damage survey, we do not know how powerful they were. A tornado in an open field can easily have EF-4 level winds but only do EF-2 levels of damage to trees and crops. This technical loophole gets repeated year after year and leads to an underestimate of average tornado intensity and has dire effects on building strength and codes.

The devastation in Moore, OK shows how violent tornadoes can be. While not many storms reach that level of potency, the question is how do designers build to provide adequate shelter when faced with winds of 150mph, let alone 250mph. Currently in the most tornado prone parts of the country, the minimum national standard for residential home wind resistance is a 3 second 90mph gust. Individual states and cities may have higher standards but this is still somewhat alarming. This design standard is not even enough to protect against a slow moving EF-1 storm. The 3 second gust ratings also do not include loss of structural integrity due to flying debris impacts. Repeated impacts can open holes in walls, break windows and weaken the structure to the point of failure, even with the sustained winds far below the gust value.

The design standards along the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts on the other hand are much higher, up to 150mph in some areas. This is in part due to the way that hurricanes behave and are monitored. With a hurricane strike, a large number of houses are guaranteed to encounter powerful sustained winds. The historical data backs up this assumption with detailed information on wind field size, intensity and duration. Adhering to a higher standard is therefore not just the moral thing to do, but it makes economic sense. People can survive inside a properly rated structure and repairing a slightly damaged structure is much less expensive than rebuilding completely. With tornadoes, the area affected is far smaller but the intensity is concentrated. By designing to the minimum standard, builders take the gamble that a significant tornado will not strike. Most of the time, this is true. When it is false, it is devastating to these buildings and those seeking shelter within their confines.

The main drawback is the lack of Doppler radar coverage at ground level in many locations. Unless a storm passes fairly close to a stationary radar, it is very hard to get accurate data. There are several mobile Doppler trucks used by research organizations but they are relatively rare (the El Reno storm was scanned by a Doppler On Wheels). These mobile units are the most accurate when it comes to scanning the extreme low levels of the atmosphere. With high risk weather forecasts usually giving at least 2 days notice, positioning a mobile radar into a region where severe weather is likely is possible. However, getting the radar into a clear position to scan a tornado within a given storm in that region is still a challenge.

Getting a better understanding of the life cycle intensity of tornadoes is very important. Without this data, structures will continue to be built to a much lower standard putting people’s lives and property at risk. Accurate wind speeds have helped coastal regions enhance the building standards for their most threatened areas. There is no reason that the residents in Tornado Alley should not have the same protection.

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CWords Of Wisdom: Empty Search (May 27, 2013)

If you can’t identify what you’re looking for, don’t get mad when you never find it.






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Mt St Helens Day

On this day 33 years ago, Mt. St Helens exploded in Washington state, creating an ash cloud that blocked out the sun, pyroclastic flows that leveled forests and mudflows that choked rivers.

Famous photo of eruption/landslide by Gary Rosenquist

Famous photo of eruption/landslide by Gary Rosenquist

Nature is feisty.

Mount Saint Helens information page

Volcano Cams

US Forest Service Mt St Helens page.

National Geographic Image Gallery

USGS Image Gallery

Mt St Helens Wildlife areas

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Singularity Syndrome

Black Hole

We can learn a lot from the stars.




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Wings and Feet

What did I do this weekend? Looked at airplanes I can’t afford and ran a 5k like I knew what I was doing. Each event can be read about in light detail by clicking the links in the following summaries.



Many businesses don’t realize that operating their own aircraft can be affordable if they buy a share of an airplane rather than the whole thing. Avoiding TSA lines and personally knowing everyone on board are just two of the reasons that private flying kicks butt. Saving time over driving and in many cases eliminating hotel bills are important additional benefits. Here are some images from the event and hopefully they convey the reality that although airplanes may cost a lot outright, they cost a lot less when shared among several owners.



The Carrollton Trails 5k was my first race in a year and the first since a spinal/cranial adjustment. Please don’t think that I am an actual runner since historically, I could easily be out-sprinted by a squirrel. However that is no longer the case. All you little woodland critters are on notice…you can’t catch me anymore. Here’s why.

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Clean Up Your Cleans

New article up on my fitness site. Avoid some of the more common errors in doing cleans and actually make progress. Just read

It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning for a sport, for fun or for Crossfit. Not using the proper form will let you get by for a while, but eventually you will reach a plateau that is virtually impossible to break. That and you run a much higher risk of damaging or injuring your back, knees, elbows and arms. Be patient, be consistent and treat every lift with relentless perfectionism. You’ll get there.


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TFR Wednesday

I understand the importance of protecting our leaders from things like hang gliders, model rockets and radio controlled airplanes. But isn’t this getting a little ridiculous?

Umm okay, did someone just keep clicking away with the "Make-A-TFR" app? Isn't one ring enough? Maybe they're doing airshows I don't know about out of Love Field.

Umm okay, did someone just keep clicking away with the “Make-A-TFR” app? Isn’t one ring enough? Maybe they’re doing airshows I don’t know about out of Love Field.

In case you are wondering, that’s a 60 nautical mile wide VIP Temporary Flight Restriction (with a bunch of other random turducken TFR’s within the main one, all of which have different start/end time…have fun figuring that crap out). It’s only in effect for less than one day but the size is what’s so confusing. For a Presidential visit to SMU, gliders in Midlothian, warbirds in Lancaster, aerobatics near McKinney and flight training at Addison, Arlington, Mesquite, Rockwall, Redbird, Spinks, and Midway are all grounded.

The general public is not aware of this but aviation really does bear the brunt of security initiatives. Can you imagine if all non-commercial road traffic was banned from operating within even a 10 mile wide region? The ruckus that would ensue from everyday drivers is proof positive that pilots are a very accommodating bunch.

The types of flying that are restricted make very little sense as they include some of the most harmless airborne activities in existence. Some are things that do not require an FAA approval or waiver. Seriously, how many 12 year olds check FAA publications before flying a radio controlled styrofoam glider in their backyard? Do your kids have a model rocket they want to fly? Better check the NOTAMS because the last thing you want is for little Junior Von Braun to trigger a response from a fully loaded F-15C (I should write to the FAA chief council to find out if Air Hogs count as model rockets).

Anyway, at this point, to reduce the impact on aviation, I think the POTUS should just start wearing an Iron Man suit. He’ll be impervious to any threat up to and including The Mandarin. An added benefit is that other countries respect a leader who shows up with afterburners for shoes.

Quite literally, a carbon footprint.

Seriously, forget all the stealth hydrofoil ships, multirole fighter jets and new troop transports. Put all of our R&D money into building Presidential Iron Man suits. Don’t pay to launch spy satellites when the President can fly over other countries to do the recon. Why pay for the operating costs of Air Force One and its escort fighters? An Iron Man President is his own escort. And in a worst case scenario, if another country lobs missiles towards the West, all the President has to do is rocket up to the mesosphere and Tae-Bo a couple of warheads.

But since comic book technology never gets taken seriously until a big budget movie is made about that character, we’re still years away from weaponized exoskeletons. So for now, I’ll skip flying on April 24th and 25th and just go this weekend when things quiet down. On the plus side, I’ll probably get to hear at least one fighter jet screaming down from 25,000 feet…most likely going after Junior’s 1/100 scale Space Shuttle.

Images courtesy and
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Watertower Sunset

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Haven’t done a lot of photography lately but here are a few new ones. Taken on a hill in Carrollton, TX…obviously, facing west. The only alterations were cropping and slight contrast enhancement on the day/night terminator photo. Feel free to … Continue reading

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Dallas Skyline

One of these days we’ll do a city tour at 1700 feet but until then, enjoy this. Taken just north of I-635 looking south. Click for the full res image.

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Just Because It’s Viral Doesn’t Make It Right: Harlem Shake

Out of 214,976,185 reported cases of Harlem Shakes, over 93% have been diagnosed to be Harlem Siezures.

Please, do it right people.





Thank you.

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