Archive for May, 2016

Caution: Wake Turbulence

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

I never expected that my worst wake turbulence encounter would be on a bicycle.

I’ve been biking to work pretty regularly the last week or two, and honestly one of the highlights has been going past LAX airport.  I’m way too much of an aviation geek not to enjoy being close to the big iron. Aviation Blvd. goes right behind the runways and has bike lanes.  I get excited when I hear a jet push in the power levers and take off.

I’ll stop to watch from now on.

I was coming home Thursday night (19 May) when I heard an American Airlines jet firing up its engines and taking off.  I’m crossing behind it, and I’m assuming my face looked like Tom Cruise’s in Top Gun when he’s pacing the F-15 on his motorcycle.  Then it got windy.  I began to realize that I was moving laterally toward the curb and didn’t have enough power to stay on the road.  I hit the curb and went down hard on my side.  Folks who know my history can imagine that I was extremely concerned when my hip hit concrete (as did my helmet).  It’s not like there’s even a lot of concrete there, but evidently I’m a concrete-seeking missile. The adamantium inserts held and I rode away with road rash (contusions) and some bruises.  I did need to straighten the trucker’s handle bars.

Two very kind people did stop to make sure I was OK.  And I was delighted to tell them I was fine.  I suspect I was the most cheerful person either had seen crawl from a  bicycle wreck, but I was experiencing the simple joys of femurs bearing weight.  It’s nice to know people will stop to help a stranger.  I’m much happier I didn’t need it this time.

One woman said that she felt her car (a BMW MINI) blow right as well – “a gust of wind” she said.  “It was the jet, ” I told her and the light dawned.

Anyway, I’ll be being more careful and I expect to be biking around again Monday.  I was very stiff and sore Friday.

Of course I filed an ASARS.

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

I recently read Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth for the first time.  This is the first time I’ve read it in prose, from a Dover Thrift edition on Google Play.  It claims to be unabridged, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the edition it’s reprinting were abridged.  It feels short-winded  compared to the version of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea I read a few years ago.  I also read a Classics Illustrated adaptation years and years ago that I recollected as I went along.

For me, reading Verne is to get a glimpse at the beginnings of hard SF.  I feel like I getting an excellent lesson in the science of the day sweetened with an adventure story.  As an older reader who loves science, history, and writing that sweetener is hardly necessary, but much appreciated.  I appreciate the story from the perspective of seeing the craft with which the science and story are woven, not because of breathless anticipation of the resolution.

Surveying the science is rewarding as well.  Most of Journey is showing off the state of paleontology.  It’s very interesting to see what’s stood the test of time there and what hasn’t.  I also appreciate the extent to which Verne shows how this is a field of argumentation from limited evidence.  There are only so many fossils and the hunters get prestige out of both the finds and the theories.  Verne’s protagonists are active participants in those arguments and reap the practical benefits of success in them.  That’s as important to understanding scientific progress as the dry descriptions of the scientific method are.  That’s a great bit of medicine to wash down with a two-fisted adventure story.

Recommended, if a bit dry and tame to modern ears.