Where Did Empathy Go?

Coach_USA_ShortLine_50889A detour on the commuter bus into NYC clearly showed how little empathy people have for their fellow passengers.

Because of construction the bus was sent on a detour and ended up taking a wrong turn.  When the driver realized what he had done he asked if anyone knew how to get back to his route.

I provided directions to quickly and easily turn around and get back on track and was immediately shouted at by several other passengers who insisted that he should take the next right and go directly onto Rt. 208.  

When I pointed out he would then be unable to pick up the people still waiting along the regular route there was a collective (and loud) “So what!?

I’m assuming the people acting this way are the same ones that will be on the phone to the bus company if the bus is a minute late.

When did getting to work 5 minutes earlier become more important that making sure that other people are looked after and treated fairly?


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Filed under Life - or something like it, Travel

Mandatory Snopes Checks

falseThe Presidential election season is the perfect time for Facebook, Twitter and other social media to implement automatic Snopes checks.  

You know who these people are.  These are the ones that can’t help but instantly share stories about Obama being pro Muslim or removing the phrase “In God we trust” from currency.  Or ones about Donald Trump* saying black people should go back to Africa if they don’t like America.

Implementation would be pretty easy.  All posts would be immediately fact checked with Snopes (or other reputable sources).  To encourage people to think before they share the following tiered level of rebuke would be implemented:

  • First offence:  The post is not shared and you are reminded to check facts before sharing
  • Second offence: The post is not shared and you are blocked from the site for 5 minutes
  • Third offence: The post is not shared. You are blocked from the site for 20 minutes and a mild electric shock is introduced through the keyboard
  • Fourth offence:  Sterilization.  That might seem a little harsh but we really need to clean this one out of the gene pool

interlockThey have ignition lockouts for people that are DUI repeat offenders, so why not social media?

* There may have to be an exception for posts about Donald Trump.  It’s often hard to tell fact from fiction in these cases.


Filed under Life - or something like it

Simple trick to save money on car maintenance

What if I told you an easy to use $20 tool could save you hundreds or even thousands in car repair bills?  

It’s true!

This week my wife came back to a car with a dead battery after my son left the lights on.  Fortunately there was a friendly truck driver with some jump leads nearby and in just a few minutes the car was running and ready for the journey home.   Twenty years ago that would have been the end of it.  Not anymore.  Now the dashboard was covered in warning lights and scary messages telling her to “Have your vehicle checked by a dealer“.  These would not go away even after charging the battery.

Now she needs to book the car in to the service center, drive to the dealer and wait around while they “check the system”.

We know that the car was fine before the battery died, and it was only serviced a few weeks ago, so I think we can safely conclude that we know what the problem is.  But nooo…they have to run through a battery of standard tests that will rack up chargeable time before they use their tool to reset the computer and send her on her way with a bill for between $50 and $150.

Or you can do what I did.  

  • Spend $20 on a OBD II reader (I already had one)
  • Look up the code it provides on Google to make sure there isn’t anything seriously wrong
  • Use the tool to reset the warning codes

This is exactly what the dealer will do but without the cost and hassle of sitting in a service area waiting room.  These things are super easy to use if you can follow very basic directions and this thing will pay for itself over and over.


While I’m sure the auto manufacturer lawyers can make a good case for why fault codes should be checked out, it’s also a great way for the dealers to make extra money.

I can pretty much guarantee that if resetting the codes was performed at the dealer expense they would provide a button in the car to allow you to do it yourself.

Oh…and while you are there they will probably tell you that you need to replace your windshield wipers while you are there and they can do it for only $80.


Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles

An “Exciting” Test Flight

Today was a test flight of the F550 and boy did it turn out to be eventful!

A little background.  A while back I had a minor crash when experimenting with batteries to find out why I was only getting 4 minutes of flight time when I should be getting much more.  Since I had to remove the top anyway I figured this was a perfect time to try move all of the electronics inside to give it a much cleaner look.

IMG_1835I got it all in there but the squishly little balls in the anti-vibration plate were heavily compressed (see picture) and I was worried that vibration would cause the APM Flight Controller (FC) to go a little loopy.

To quote the APM wiki.

High vibrations can lead to the copter rapidly climbing as soon as altitude hold is engaged.

I considered flying in the back yard but, since this was practically a full rebuild, I figured I had better give myself some room and there are lots of overhanging trees.  One of the few smart things I did today!

I set up instead at a local field with plenty of room, confirmed I had a good GPS lock, and decided to launch it in “Position Hold” mode, which should use the barometer to automatically hold altitude and the GPS to keep it in the same location.  the plan was to just let it hover until the battery was low.

I armed the motors, pushed up on the throttle and up she went!

She was climbing fast and at a height of about 30ft I backed the throttle off and it stopped right where I needed it…except…that never happened!  Instead she kept climbing like a rocket and, at the same time, started moving away from me.

By now I had the throttle all the way down and she still climbed, topping off at about 45 meters (almost 150′).

Of course, I did what any self respecting drone pilot would do.  I PANICKED!

After having it spin in place for a while I realized that it had sort of stabilized.  It wasn’t climbing anymore and it was staying in place.  But how to get it down?  I had the throttle at minimum and it was just hanging there laughing at me.

Figuring that vibration was messing with the barometer I switched to manual mode (Stabilize).  Of course…since I had the throttle at minimum that immediately turned all the props off and she dropped like a stone!

I quickly gave it throttle again, got it back up in the air, and after a frantic 30 seconds managed to get it back under control.  I had to keep on top of it all the time but it was flying now and responding to my inputs.  Phew!

It was about this time that I realized I never actually hooked up the little beeper to the battery so that it would beep when it was getting low.  No worries though, I had set it to auto land on a low battery warning so I decided to just let it ride.

Unfortunately the jamming in of the FC seemed to have pushed it off kilter and it took constant backward / left pressure on the controls to keep it in place.

All was fine for a while until, suddenly, it took off for the sky at a great rate of knots with no input from me!, topping out this time at around 100′.

Again I put the throttle all the way down to no avail, and then (stupidly) put it in Stabilize mode again.  And, just like before, it dropped like a stone again!


After moving the connections inside

I powered up but this time wasn’t quite fast enough (perhaps because less power was available) and the best I could manage was a crash at a speed low enough to cause pieces to fly off, but not damage anything permanently.

It wasn’t all bad news.  The flight time was better (7 minutes) but still not good enough.  And the gimbal I had mounted to replace the one that went nuts every time the thing took off seems to be working perfectly.

Sadly though it looks like I will be spending a happy evening moving everything back on the top.  Not hard to do…just a PIA.


Filed under Building Multirotors

Who’s Grass is Greener?

Some time ago I was talking with a friend who was pretty fed up with her job.

grass_is_greenerDespite the fact that her work was intellectually engaging, provided interaction with interesting people, and the autonomy to do things the way she wanted to do them, there were some niggling chronic issues that were bothering her.

She was starting to become disengaged or, as she put it, “The grass elsewhere is looking pretty green these days.”

That reminded me of a quote and so I told her “Your grass would be just as green if you would water it once in a while.”

She looked at me with a mix of shock and surprise, then laughed and said “You know…you’re right!”

She’s still at the same place and every so often I get a ping from her saying “Still watering that grass!”

If you’re starting to feel like a change, look around you.  Is the situation really that bad that you can’t fix it with some care and feeding?  Would the change elsewhere be better than the change you can make in your own back yard?

Keep watering that grass and see what you can grow!

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Filed under Career, Life - or something like it

900 Miles on a Motorcycle – It’s All Dolphins!

I have just spent the past few days enjoying the best scenery and back roads that the Catskills and Adirondacks have to offer with the wonderful folks from Backroads magazine.  

It’s hard to put into words how great this trip was.  The weather was perfect and the ride pace set by my good friend MB was spot on – fast enough to enjoy the roads to the full but without being a hero.  We rode through spectacular scenery and little towns with architecture straight out of a fairy tale.  I spent a good deal of time checking out the beautiful old stone churches with tall spires and thinking how great they would look photographed from the air – my current obsession.

While on the trip I finally came to realize that the bike I bought new in 2001 is now the old girl of the group. Despite that she still rides great and, even though at least 50hp down on most of the bikes we were riding with, can hold her own.  After 15 years the old girl can still fly. 

MB and I were joined by Jeff, an honest to goodness private detective sadly minus the obligatory fedora.  Hanging out with Jeff and MB was a blast.  Their irrepressible charm and quick wit turned even the mundane items such as ordering lunch into a laugh fest for all concerned.  My cheeks ached from laughing so much.

Over lunch on Friday we talked about how sad it is that so many people are afraid to enjoy life.  When I told people I was going away for several days of motorcycle riding many assumed the worse.  As Jeff put it “People are afraid to go in the water because of the one in a million possibility of being eaten by a Great White when they are far more likely to encounter Dolphins.”

This led to the catch phrase “It’s all dolphins” being used for the rest of the trip.  This caused a few raised eyebrows with the wait staff:

  • “How was dinner guys?”
  • “It’s all dolphins!”
  • “?”

Backroads motorcycle magazine

On Backroads rides most of the riding is done in your own group, and at your own pace, with everyone meeting up at the end of the day for some lively chat and a few drinks.

If this is your first time with Backroads the first thing you will notice is just how friendly people are.  Everyone is family. People will walk up to you, shake hands and start chatting as though you have known each other for years.  Brian and Shira somehow know everyone personally and have great stories of their own but, as hosts, are in much demand.

Sadly our little troop all had things to do and couldn’t stay so we headed home early on Saturday morning.  I followed MB down as far as Lake George where we ate breakfast and then went our separate ways, with him blasting home on the highways while I took a more meandering route down through the Catskills and Bear Mountain.

I arrived home mid afternoon on Saturday after about 900 miles of amazing back-road riding in near perfect weather.  My BMW performed flawlessly and now needs to be rewarded with a service and a new rear tire, which is completely shot.

It’s a shame that many people will never experience something like this because of fear of the unknown.  Yes, things can go wrong.  But more often things go right and, personally, some of the most amazing times I have started out as a disaster and ended with the making of life long friends and memories.

I once heard the quote “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives” and that resonates with me personally.  Don’t be afraid!  Get out there and enjoy life.  It’s all dolphins!

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Travel

Who knew it had been so long?

I don’t write as often as I would like…but I do still blog and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.


I often find myself sending links to older posts because they were relevant to a conversation.  I’ve received many compliments…and a few rants.  It’s all good.

For the people that have followed, commented, complimented, joked, argued, and complained on my blog over the past 5 years – thanks!

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Filed under Life - or something like it