“PSYCHIC FAIR CANCELED DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES”

Or so the sign said. I have no idea whether the irony was intended (or even whether the sign was for real). But how could I not share this with you?

SWOOPING

Charles and I went to see “Iron Man 2.”

Where every TV show when I was growing up was a Western . . . riddled with extended chases, ominous music, and the thunderous clomping of hooves . . . now every movie has people flying around exploding things in spectacular ways – and a lot of swooping.

You saw “Avatar?” It was all about the swooping. People plunging from great heights and then swooping around mountain crags and soaring and swooping. Lots of swooping.

You saw Harry Potter play quidditch? Swooping and more swooping.

I haven’t seen the one about training your dragon, but I’d be surprised if there were not extensive swooping.

I prefer sweeping, as in “Gone With the Wind” or “The Godfather” or “Dr. Zhivago.”

Or searing (“Hotel Rwanda”). Or soaring (“Invictus”). Or sappy (“The Blindside”) or side-splitting (“Role Models”) . . . or sexy or sentimental or sophomoric (insert your own favorite).

Visually, “Iron Man 2” dazzled (like Avatar), with several talented, amusing performances, to boot. But quite a lot of swooping.

THE FIRST OF MARC’S 12 MOST USEFUL THINGS

“The list below obviously does not include useful things such as running water, electricity, Google, or my car,” writes my wonderful friend Marc Fest. “Rather it focuses on tools, services and tricks that you may not be using yet yourself.” He uses all of them. Here is the first, with the rest to follow, like the 12 days of Christmas:

1. Remember everything.
Anki is a software program that makes remembering things easy. It’s a “spaced repetition system” – basically using electronic flashcards. Depending on how well or poorly you remember the information on a card, the software will present it to you again soon (poorly remembered) or farther into the future (well remembered). I have hundreds of cards in my Anki deck, including the names of my colleagues’ spouses, frequently used phone numbers, my creditcard numbers and birthdays. If I attend a conference, I will prepare and practice with an Anki deck with the attendees’ photos and names in advance, so that I will know everyone by the time I get there. Spending five minutes with my Anki deck is part of my morning routine. Runs on PC, Mac and other platforms. Free.

BOREALIS

☞ One of you crazy bastards went nuts Tuesday and paid $3.42 for 1,500 shares of BOREF. And then some damn fools bought 3,500 shares yesterday at prices as high as $5 – about double what they sold for a week ago. (It closed with potential buyers offering $4.50 and potential sellers asking $8.)

Or maybe it wasn’t you who bought these shares. Maybe it was readers of any of the several squibs that appeared in Aviation Week and elsewhere these last few days. Like this one:

Electric Nose-Gear Proposed For Airlifters
Aerospace Daily & Defense Report May 05 , 2010 , p. 14
By Graham Warwick

An electrically powered nose-gear under development to save fuel during taxiing of commercial airliners is being proposed for military airlifters to improve operations and autonomy on unimproved and austere airstrips.

WheelTug is developing the system for airlines, initially targeting availability on the widely used Boeing 737NG by early 2012, but says it has responded to requests for information from two airlifter manufacturers and is in discussions on the C-130.

The system uses powerful electric motors built into the nose wheels to allow the aircraft to taxi and maneuver on the ground without using its engine. On an airlifter, WheelTug says, the system would reduce foreign-object damage to engines and improve ground maneuverability.

The company also is looking at helicopters, carrier-based aircraft and unmanned air vehicles as potential applications.

WheelTug does not identify the two airlifter programs for which it has supplied information, but indicates production of a C-130 retrofit package — which would include an auxiliary power unit to drive the in-wheel motors — could potentially begin by 2014.

☞ Or this one from the latest issue of Drives and Controls (in case your own copy has not yet arrived).

But remember:

  • These reports are basically just company press releases, rewritten. It’s not as though any investigative reporting was done to assess the viability of the project.
  • If some other damn fools should rush to unload a few thousand shares, BOREF would plunge as fast as it has soared. (Swooped?)

Alvin Bluthman: “It is a bit of an overstatement when you say WheelTug ‘could eventually become standard equipment on 10,000 jets.’ Actually of 6,348 built 737s (as of April 2010), only about 4,500 are still flying (the model line goes back to the 1960s). About 2,000 are still on order, with 200-300 or so delivered annually (and the number is trending downwards in the ongoing recession). Please note that Chorus Motors has not, as yet, demonstrated ‘proof of concept’ on any larger aircraft, such as the 747-, 767, the 777 or the upcoming 787.”

☞ Well, for starters, thanks for this – and of course I’d be thrilled beyond words to see WheelTug eventually on 5,000 jets. But there’s no obvious reason it would fail to work on other aircraft makes and models.

The original test was actually done on a 767, fully loaded (with ballast) in searing desert heat (a tacky tarmac) and apparently went fine – albeit not with the actual motor inside the actual wheel. But then again, NO actual WheelTug motor is yet to have been placed inside an actual wheel and driven a plane, so of course you’re right: it’s an open question whether any of this will, well, fly.

The problem I do know of when it comes to larger jets is they are used for the longer-haul flights, which means relatively little taxiing to and from gates each day. A transoceanic jumbo might taxi to take-off just twice a day, where a 737 might have six or eight take-offs in a day.

I think if it works well on any aircraft, it will ultimately be a feature on all of them. But there’s still a long way to go to be sure it will really work and be accepted. So, as always, this is a long-term gamble.

Repeat after me: o n l y w i t h m o n e y y o u c a n t r u l y a f f o r d t o l o s e . ’Cause you definitely might. (But isn’t this fun?)

 

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