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September 12, 2019

Banality: Milk Cheese

It's not going to be an exaggeration to say that the "B.Yu.Aleksandrov" brand milk cheese stick is one of the most amazing industrial foods I have ever eaten. It may beat the white Ferrero Raffaello. Unfortunately, the milk cheese requires refrigeration, so those wanting to taste one must find a Euro food store like Austin's BEM. It's not something I recommend ordering online.

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September 11, 2019

Banality: Polymer80

This gun was made using a hand drill and pen knife, and it works perfectly.

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September 10, 2019

Banality: Breakfast 1

These rolls have bacon strips between layers.

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September 08, 2019

You are a weaboo, right? Read this.

This is what my wife told me today. She wanted to cook some udon and wanted to know how. I saw "約1l", "湯の中へバラバラと", and "約10分", so I said with confidence: "Take 1 liter of water to boil per 1 bunch of udon, separate strands and throw it in there, then boil for 10 minutes. Then pour cold water on it."

But it wasn't all. A few minutes later, she asks, "Do I need to drain on a sieve or do I drown them in cold water in a pan?" Suddenly, it's an emergency. That stuff is already boiling, and all I see is: "ゆで上がりをザルに取り冷水で水洗いをして blah blah blah ください". There is no katakana "zaru" in a dictionary. There's no "torireisui" either! Well, reisui is cold water, so that makes sense. But I already know that cold water is used to anti-scald pasta, so it's not helping! The only thing that saved me is that IMI has a very broad search, and apparently "zaru" can also be "笊", which means a strainer. What a relief! Quickly I report that we throw udon on sieve first and all is good.

UPDATE: Brickmuppet comments: "Important life lessons we didn't know we needed!" See, I can do the lifestyle banality with the best of them!

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June 29, 2019

Banality: Kymco

This one is not as upscale as Burgman, but still looks nice, especially if its rider is not too tall.

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June 24, 2019

Banality: Burgman

Although I know that it's a dumb idea, I find these high-end scooters irresistibly cute.

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June 22, 2019

The deadly crash of SU 1492 and pilot errors

I am not a native English speaker and perhaps I'm quite wrong about this, but in my mind, a "pilot error" is an error that a pilot commits. He needs to press the top rudder, but he presses a bottom rudder — a deadly error. In case of Atlas 3591, the error is hitting the TOGA button. So, when my friend Kirill said that the crash of SU 1492 was caused by "pilot error", I was very tempted to deliver a lecture. Well, Kirill is more correct than journalist Mike Eckel when he blames lightning. Still, it's not an error that killed 40 passengers, it's a series of strange actions by the captain that followed his error. In a way, I want to draw a distinction between a pilot error and pilot incompetence.

Errors are abundant in pilot's life, but what matters is what happens after tthem. Just a week ago, I made an error following a takeoff from Big Spring, Texas: forgot to raise the gear. So, I detected an anomaly (the aerodynamic noise), identified a root cause (my error), and took a corrective action (lifted the nose sufficiently for the airspeed to decrease below Vlo and raised the gear).

Of course, incompetence prompts errors, sometimes dangerous ones. Worse, it results in errors in response to errors, thus contributing to an accident chain. So, I guess we can consider SU 1492 as a sequence of errors: let the airplane settle below the glideslope, keep the power on for too long, thus causing an overspeed at touchdown and a bounce, command a nose-down input that turns a bounce into a porpoise, forget that spoilers do not deploy automatically, fixate on sticking the landing instead of going around. But I think it is more productive to look at the episode as a whole, rather than decompose it into pilot errors. Maybe we can talk about deficient training and lax standards at Aeroflot instead.

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June 21, 2019

Banality: Pecan

I found a pecan growing naturally. I guess birds scatter those.

Update: pecan 2.

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June 20, 2019

Banality: Meal

My better half added an exotic fruit in there. Feels like a mix between kiwi and asian pear.

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May 21, 2019

The lesson of Google Fi

Here's the best part from the (very) long post about dealing with Google Fi, which made rounds recently:

About a year ago I tried to get my parents to switch from AT&T to Google Fi. I even made a spreadsheet for my dad (who likes those sorts of things) about how much money he could save. He wasn’t interested. His one point was that at anytime he can go in and get help from an AT&T rep. I kept asking "Who cares? Why would you ever need that?”. Now I know. He was paying almost $60 a month premium for the opportunity to able to talk to a real person, face-to-face! I would gladly pay that now.

Now he knows. Respect your elders!

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April 15, 2019

Wires crossed in one's head

Seen something interesting on Beechtalk, in the Atlas Air thread:

My story: During my fed ride as a new 737 Captain (check airman in the right seat, fed on the jumpseat), I was on a visual approach to Rochester when I clicked off the autothrottle, only my brain misfired and I pushed the TOGA button instead. It was instantly obvious what I’d done as the throttles immediately started forward and the FD bars started up. I did what I assume anyone would do - hold the throttles back (they’re easily overridden) until I disconnected them. The FD was now in GA mode, so I reached up and turned it off, continued the approach and landed. It was a 5 second debrief with the check airman, and the fed missed it completely. Total non-event.

The point Chris C. was trying to convey was that if Ricky Blakely, Captain on Atlas Air 3591, hit TOGA by accident, it did not need to cause the crash. Other people chimed in with a view that, if the leaked narrative was anywhere near the truth, it indicated an absurd lack of basic airmanship.

But what I found interesting, wires crossed in the brain can happen even to an airline captain.

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April 10, 2019

Insurance in space

Things you can never learn unless you read Russian social media. So, the meat:

Ariane 5 - 2%, Falcon 9 - 2.5%, Soyuz - 5%. Electron - 5% (but, only if you pay now; if it suffers a mishap, rates will shoot up). However, one panelist said that the premiums tend to divorce from the carrier rocket and follow the cost of the payload, with a steep climb above $50,000,000. A separate case is Angara, which basically cannot be insured at this time. Some people quote rates of 25%, but they will not come through when it's time to underwrite. Insurers need a breefing, which neither Khrunichev nor ILS got around doing.

The cost of insurance of GSO comsats is only 0.2% per year. Absurdly low rates, thanks to large lifetimes of modern satellites.

UPDATE 2019/10/10: Angara - 30-40%, Proton - 16%, Ariane - 5..6% (unclear if he meant Ariane 5 or 6).

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February 28, 2019

Mu accounts

Okay, here's the breakdown:

@pro: Programming, computers, networking, maybe some technical fields. It's basically migrated from SeaLion and whittled down.

@stuff: Pictures of butterflies, gardening, and general banality (to borrow from Brickmuppet).

@gat: Boomsticks.

@avia: Flying.

@union: Politics.

@anime: Anime, manga, and weaboo. Note that Ani-nouto is still officially at Smug.

Thinking about adding @cars and @space, if needed.

You can subscribe from any Fediverse instance, just hit the "Remote follow" button.

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February 01, 2019

SCCY CPX-3 is released

In the least noticed release of the 2019 SHOT Show, SCCY started deliveries to dealers of their .380 offering, CPX-3. The guns are hitting Gunbroker right now. What a long road this was. They started talking about more than 3 years ago. Two times, in 2015 and 2017, they sent the guns to the media, so the glossy magazines published the usual articles. But the launch was canceled in both instances. That must be embarrassing.

The gun itself reuses the grip of CPX-2, because .380 and 9mm cartridges have the same diameter. But the slide is smaller. This gives CPX-3 a weird, hammer-like appearance. It would probably scare people off in the world where Glock 45 is not a thing, but fortunately for SCCY, this cherry has popped without them.

Not sure if it's going to help or hinder CPX-3, but while SCCY were working bugs out, S&W released a broadly similar gun: the "Shield" 380 EZ. I call it similar because it's another large .380, although it uses a single stack magazine. It was a success in the market where .380 was largely synonymous with a small, pocketable gun (notwithstanding Beretta 84, Walther PK 380, Browning 1911-380). So the market has changed since the CPX-3 was initially conceived. The category found acceptance, but the competition also increased.

UPDATE: Dan T.F.G. pointed out that the grip is not entirely reused. They made its circumference smaller. However, the length is the same, I'm pretty sure.

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December 21, 2018


Yeterday night, Russia's Proton orbited a military communications satellite "Blagovest 13L", pushing the world's 2018 launch record to astonishing 103 successes, or a 27% jump over the CY 2017. The name is often translated as "good news", which appears to be an attempt to dismantle the portmanteau word into stems. But actually, "blagovest" means the ringing of bells before a church service. But wait! "Blagovestie" means "the gospel", "blagovestvovat'" means to preach the gospel.

Are Russians just doing this to trigger the Muslims? I don't think so. They appear to pick words at random to identify military programs, ostensibly for reasons of secrecy. In another widely publicized case, a self-propelled flamethrower was caled "Buratino" or Pinoccio. Ironically, Pinoccio is made from wood and presumably burns very easily.

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November 19, 2018

And the winner is...

In the past year, we considered a number of small-ish crossovers, but nothing quite worked out. The failure of Volvo XC40 stung the most — I had big hopes for that car. But it wasn't particularly premium for the money; seats were surprisingly uncomfortable; the no-knob HVAC controls on the touchpad drove the last nail into that coffin. The Subaru Crosstrek (XV) came very close, and I think I would've gotten one if the 6th gear was reasonably tall. Eventually, I had no choice, but shop a size up: above 4000 lbs cut-off, and more than 180" long. Once there, the 2019 Acura RDX and BMW X3 quickly came on top, and I went with the latter because Acura's infotainment is just too weird.

My 2010 Wrangler was the best car I ever owned and almost completely reliable for the 9 years (2 days in the shop total; no break-downs aside from a flat battery once). I test-drove the JL and it is basically the same thing, only improved over JK everywhere they changed. However, the headroom is just as lacking as before. In the JK, I modified the seat rails to lower the seat, but this time around I just don't have the energy. And frankly, I wanted to try something different.

The 2019 X3 is oppressively large, but at least it has the headroom.

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November 06, 2018

Goodbye, Karlsson

I sold the Carlson and ferried it from Texas to the new owner in Iowa. What a fine flying machine this was. Unfortunately, it was a single-seater and I mostly use airplane for travel, so... The expense of rent is what did it in.

Pictured: the final photo of the Carlson, at an overnight stop. I forgot to take a picture when I handed the keys over.

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November 09, 2017

I want a premium small SUV

After the fiasco of the communicator, when Google even dropped Nexus 7, I started to realize that my tastes are abnormal, even in cars. I want a compact SUV that is not too big, but is real. Something that now-dead Suzuki Grand Vitara would be great. Here's a table:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat TrueDelta
2018 Wr.Rubicon 4010# 73.7" 164.3" 34.6' 66.61 32[6]
2018 Renegade 3532# 74.2" 166.6" 35.3' 18.4 [1] 29
2018 Crosstrek 3142# 71" 175.8" 35.4' 16.96 24
2018 RR Evoque 3865# 78.1" [a] 172.0" 38' ? -
2019 XC40 3629# 75.2" [c] 174.2" ? 16.8 (est.) -
2017 HR-V[3] 2888# 69.8" 169.1" 37.4' 17.14 6[7]
2017 CX-3 2959# 69.9" 168.3" 34.8' 15.37 -
2018 Countryman 3510# 71.7" 169.8" 37.4' 15.50 55[b]

For a comparison, here are some of the bigger SUVs, that also stratify:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat
2018 GLC 300 4M 4145# 74.4" 183.3" 38.7' 17.98
2019 BMW X3 4167# (-63) 74.4" (+0.3) 185.9" (+2.3) - 16.95 (15.96)
2017 GLE 350 4M 4751# 75.8" 189.1" 38.8' 17.08
2017 Jeep GC/WK2 4984# 76.5" 189.8" 37.1' 42.2
2019 RDX SH-AWD 4020# 74.8" 186.4" 39' 17 (est.)
2019 Lexus GX [4] 5130# 74.2" 192" 41.1'[2] 17.98

[1] With an optional 4.438 final ratio, C635 manual. Canceled for 2019.
[2] Specified as "radius". All others are "curb-to-curb".
[3] Manual only with FWD. AWD with CVT only.
[4] 16-18 mpg, 38" headroom.
[6] 106 for 2006, 80 for 2008, settles down thereafter.
[7] Likely not statistically significant.
[a] With mirrors folded.
[b] For 2011. Newer are better, but show 40s anyway.
[c] A Canadian 3-view drawing says 1863 mm or 73.4".

The slowest gear is only decent in real Jeeps, unsurprisingly. For a reference, the 2006 RAV4 2.4L+4sp auto had 12.13, and I found it unacceptable (that is to say, I've never been stuck because clearance of RAV4 wasn't great enough, but I have gotten stuck with a TQ stall). So, I'd like to have somewhere around 18..20 at least.

So far, Crosstrek looks like the winner, thanks to its modest dimensions (although it's long and has a long snout). Both Crosstrek and Renegade allow to combine a manual transmission with AWD. {Update: 2019 Renegade drops manual+AWD.} Supposedly the interior is much improved in the 2018 generation. The specified headroom is only 39.8", which is barely enough, but it works.

Renegade would be my choice, thanks to low gearing. But wife says the interior is trash. I am not sensitive to it, but she need good seats for her back.

Evoque is intriguing because it is almost the right size, and is modestly off-roadable. But it may be too wide, and has a small headroom. It uses the same 9-speed ZF auto found in Renegade and Pilot for the crawling gear. Also, a Ford 2.0L turbo -- not sure if I like that. {Alex says the Indians are putting a new engine into top trims of Evoque for 2018+.}

The upcoming XC40 is also intriguing, as long as they sell a model without the stupid glass roof.

HR-V and CX-3 are probably too small, although I like small. Fortunately, I don't need to agonize over their size because their offroadabiltiy is too poor. CCX-3 also loses with the headroom of 38.4" They are included for a reference only.

UPDATE: I saw an edifying video where the previous generation Crosstrek and Renegade work side-by-side in real life. It highlights the difference quite nicely. Both vehicles make it, but Crosstrek has to have the front bumper removed and runs with 2-inch lift. The Renegade is a Trailhawk model with the factory 3/4" lift. A certain lift is required on either one in order to sustain skid plates.

UPDATE 2018/02/20: Alex chimes in. Note the ground clearance. But then, XC40 has climate controls on the touchscreen, which is a problem.

UPDATE 2018/05/11: Alex posts a full review. The glass roof appears unfortunately standard (I looked at Volvo website, and the headroom has no option in the U.S. market, although it is an option in Europe; the deletion of the glass increases the headroom to 40.5"). Seats are heated but not cooled, a problem for wife, who likes those (every time I try them, they make me want to pee). The climate controls are on the touchpad, although they seem to work. On the upside, I loved the trash bin. A number of reviewers were militant about the double-toggle shifter, but I'm okay with that. The steering ratio seems a bit excessive.

UPDATE 2018/09/20: XC40 failed a test drive and is out of contention. In fact, there's no workable small premium SUV at all! I have to go a size up. (/spoilers)

UPDATE 2018/10/24: Writing under official TrueDelta byline, Michael Karesh relays the summary presented by Consumer Reports at Automotive Press Association meeting:

Volvo ranks last of all. We've also seen this in TrueDelta's data. Even in its third model year the XC90 has been far worse than average, and nearly the entire Volvo line now uses the same powertrains, infotainment systems, and other parts.

Looks like I made a good call. Also:

Audi, BMW and Mini continue to to better than other European brands. It is important to realize, though, that their scores are based on only the first 2.5 years or so of ownership. I've noticed in TrueDelta's data that European cars are now often reliable for four and even six years, but once older often lapse into moneypit status. Coincidentally, the standard warranties on these cars last for four years, and the CPO warranties last for six.

Well, it's only money.

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July 04, 2017

Harper's Ultimate Kneeboard

Not everyone does that, especially when flying VFR, but I use a kneeboard. Since I have trouble fitting into small airplanes often, I don't want a gigantic tri-fold. But a little clipboard is not enough either: I want AOPA prints and some other materials to be accessible, while writing on the top sheet. Not many products exist in this class, and I settled onto "Ultimate Kneeboard" by Harper. It has the necessary features, without going overboard.

I put 7 holes on all the materials, including the stack of the note paper. The picture is a bit deceptive in that I stopped running standardized navigation log. Left that for IFR. But I still put down all the necessary times, including tank times. Other things that are recorded include weather reports (again, with times), assigned frequences, and squack codes.

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April 22, 2017

Albuquerque Motor Trend Auto Show 2017

The 2017 was even less notable in terms of new cars than 2016, when at least Honda presented new Ridgeline. The new JL Wrangler is scheduled for 2018, as is the new Crostrek (although its platform leader, Impreza, was introduced for 2017). The car of the show is actually a Ford truck: F-250 King Ranch. It feels so comfortable. Sticker price is $64,000, more than a Mercedes C330 Coupe at $50k, also present in the show.

Toyota reskinned GT86, and now I cannot even fit into it, as they added a bump in the roof where my head needs to be.

Lincoln showed Continental, and it mostly served to highlight how uncompetitive their previous flagship was, the MKZ. It's still not quite there, but props for trying. Maybe one year LMC will release a true luxury car. BTW, my wife could not unlock the passenger door of Conti from the inside until I rescued her. It's like the designers spent so much effort thinking if they could that they forgot to ask if they should (use a button as sole door release).

Oh, and I took a little drive in FIAT 124 Spyder, the "Fiata". The engine sound on it is just hilarious, purposely omnipresent to remind about itself. The auto transmission is well sorted, as promised.

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