Saturday, December 20, 2003

LOTR:ROTK: Presidential Politics. There are two scenes that could be used by either Dean Partisans or Bush Partisans to, um, cast aspersions on the opposing candidate. Interestingly, they both involve the same character.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

For Dean Partisans: The scene where Faramir is shown leading a suicide charge (beautifully done, I might add, with Pippin singing being the only real sound). Meanwhile Faramir's father, Denethor is obsessively eating and Jackson portrays him with a red liquid (blood?) running down his chin. "See?" they will say, "Bush sends our boys to the slaughter, just like Denethor."

For Bush Supporters (although, more accurately, I should say, Dean detractors): Shortly after this battle, where the men with Faramir are slaughtered, we see Denethor, stumbling about on top of the city castle, which is Minas Tirith, while the city is surrounded by the vast armies of evil seeking to destroy this citadel of an elegant civilization. Yet, Denethor is muttering about laying down arms and generally ignoring the imminent threat, instead of rallying the troops looking to him for leadership. Fortunately, Gandalf bonks him on the head and rallies the troops for battle.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Kitty Hawk Update -- today there's a good strong wind out of the northwest. In fact it may be too strong for flying. Current weather conditions at Duck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

No Flight Today - Kitty Hawk, NC -- When I woke up this morning, around 5 a.m., the first thing I heard was the blowing winds -- in my parents upper room, you could hear the strong gusts. I thought this was a good sign as we were down here for the Centennial celebration of the Wright Brothers first flight.

Wilbur Wright, left, and his brother, Orville. The Wright brothers worked together to build the first airplane to make a successful flight, on December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, N. C.The reason the Wrights came to Kill Devil Hills was because of the high winds, the machine propelling the plane into the wind providing the necessary thrust and lift to get the plane up. Back in 1903, the motorized Wright flyer was ready for flight on December 12, but the winds were too light to take off. The next day was a Sunday, and they were committed to not flying on the Sabbath. Their first attempt at powered flight (remember they'd been flying a glider version of their plane) took place Monday, December 14. That day, the brothers tossed a coin to see who would fly; Wilbur won. On the attempt, the engine propelled the flyer down a guide rail (so the plane would not sink in the soft sand), Wilbur pulled back on the elevator, causing the craft to turn upward rapidly. The flyer climbed a few feet, stalled, the wing dipped to the right, and then hit the ground, slightly damaging the flyer. What has always struck me as interesting is that they could've claimed this was the first flight, since it did leave the ground under it's own power, but the integrity of the Brothers and their compulsion for getting the job done right wouldn't allow them to be satisfied. Repairs were necessary and the wind had to be right before they could try again.

On the morning of the 17th of December, 1903, the wind was too strong to make the flight safely. Too strong a wind could lift the craft and damage it beyond repair. That morning broke with both a strong wind blowing (Wilbur estimated that it was at least 25 mph) from the north and a driving rain. The rain stopped, but the wind kept blowing. They waited until 10, hoping that the wind would die down a little. When it didn't, they decided to go ahead anyway and signaled the men at the Kill Devil Hills Coast Guard Life Saving Station to come and help them haul the flyer to their staging area up the hill. John T. Daniels was stationed at the camera to record anything that happened.

For us, this morning brought the strong winds and rain as well; thankfully, our temperature was in the 60s as opposed to what the Wrights had -- in the high 30s. My father raised the colors on the end of the dock and minutes later, that flag which had been nearly board straight, with winds out of the southwest, had torn partially loose and was hanging by one tether. My father and sister when out and retrieved the flag and we set off for the first flight site in Kill Devil Hills ("KDH"), just 8 miles away; leaving just after 8.

On the bus to the site, the rain which had been threatening, finally broke loose. Those of us on the bus were excited by the news reports which confirmed President Bush, President George W. Bushrumored to appear, would be there to address the crowd at 9:45. Unfortunately, by the time we cleared security, the President was beginning his address. We made our way around to a large monitor, catching the tail end of his address. We were positioned at the front of the barricades when the President drove by on his way to Marine Corps One and were all thrilled to catch his eye and see him wave and give us the thumbs up. (As an aside, I think the kids were more excited to see a helicopter leaving the ground than the possible re-enactment.)

The Memorial -- we're on the right side, just outside the frame of this pictureAbout this time -- 10:15, the rain began to let up. My baby, Emilie, age 2 was a dear and had no complaints at all today -- the other kids held up as well. It was helpful going with my mom and dad and sister, the beloved Aunt Kathy. We made our way up the hill overlooking the field for the first flight re-enactment. Soon, however, they made the announcement that the winds were now too mild, at about 3 mph, to attempt the flight. The flyer required winds of at least 10 mph and not more than 25 mph. Disappointed, we headed down the hill, toward the displays and exhibits.

Just before 10:35 -- the approximate time of the first flight, the B-2 bomber "The Spirit of Kitty Hawk" AV-19 did a low fly-over. I tell you, I've seen the B-1 and B-2 a couple of times now, and they are really awe-inspiring. The bat-wing shaped dark jet creeps and flies relatively quietly. This morning, with the rain lifting, (and an announcement made, so we knew where to look for it), it emerged low from the fog looking like death. Immediately after, the announcer sought 12 seconds of silence to commemorate the first flight (although it was hard to quell the excited chatter after the B-2). Later, Air Force One did a low fly-over as well -- with the pilot dipping the right wing to the crowd.

In 1903, Orville drew the honor of testing the flyer. They started the engine and set it running on the rail -- working the controls Orville pulled the flyer off the ground for 12 seconds and then landed—intact except for a slightly damaged skid. The flyer, weighing 745 pounds (with the pilot) had flown 120 feet from takeoff. In his diary, first flightOrville wrote:
I got on the machine at 10:35 for the first trial. The wind, according to our anemometers at this time, was blowing a little over 20 miles (corrected) 27 miles according to the Government anemometer at Kitty Hawk. On slipping the rope the machine started off increasing in speed to probably 7 or 8 miles. The machine lifted from the truck just as it was entering on the fourth rail. Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks. I found the control of the front rudder quite difficult on account of its being balanced too near the center and thus had a tendency to turn itself when started so that the rudder was turned too far on one side and then too far on the other. As a result the machine would rise suddenly to about 10 ft. and then as suddenly, on turning the rudder, dart for the ground. A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of the tracks ended the flight. Time about 12 second (not known exactly as watch was not properly stopped). The lever for throwing off the engine was broken, and the skid under the rudder cracked.
For the first time, a powered flying machine had taken off from the ground, traveled through the air, and landed under the control of its pilot.

The second flight, made by Wilbur (following a repair of the skid), at 11:20 and flew about 175 feet. A third flight, this time by Orville went about 200 feet from the starting point. A fourth flight took off around noon with Wilbur at the controls. This time, however, after about 300 feet, Wilbur got the flyer under control and flew for 59 seconds and traveled just over 850 feet. That proved to be the last flight of the day, however, because in securing the plane for day, the wind caught the craft causing the men to try to grab the flyer. Orville wrote theamateure photographer, "Mr. Daniels . . . hung on to it from the inside, and as a result was knocked down and turned over and over with it as it went. His escape was miraculous, as he was in with the engine and chains. The engine legs were all broken off, the chain guides badly bent, a number of uprights, and nearly all the rear ends of the ribs were broken." The plane at last secured, Mr. Daniels taken care of, the brothers returned to the boarding house where they were staying and sent their father a telegram announcing the success of their efforts
Success four flights thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind
started from Level with engine power alone average speed
through air thirty one miles longest 57 [sic] seconds inform Press
home Christmas
Those two words near the end "inform Press" inspired a telegraph worker to tip off reporters at the Virginian-Pilot which ran the scoop the next day. Here's the original story, and here's the belated correction that ran this morning.

With pilot Kevin Kochersberger at the controls of the world's most accurate 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction, the flyer comes to a halt in the mud and water never lifting off completely from the wood track(AFP/Tim Sloan) Around noon, we decided to call it a day -- the kids were cold (although not reduced yet to whining about it) and there was no guarantee the winds would pick up by the anticipated 2 pm re-enactment attempt. Arriving home, we learned that an attempt had been made while we were on our way back, however, the flyer failed to leave the ground. Later attempts were shelved without heading down the rail -- the winds proved to be too gentle today.

To me, this just underscores the achievement of Orville and Wilbur Wright -- nothing about this was easy. It took dogged persistence to make this happened. They succeeded, ushering in the 20th century and the age of flight.

Some other links, not mentioned above:

A 1940 essay on why the Wrights chose the Outer Banks.
The Baltimore Sun on the Wrights
The WaPo on the changes in a pilot's role.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Query -- for lawyers: Do you call a QDRO a "Kwa-dro*" or a "Cue-dro"? As I've traveled around the country, I've heard both.

*or Quad-ro.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Dare You. Christopher S. Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal raises the possibility that the ECUSA(postate) establishment might try to play the "race card" against the members of the confessing movement:
I thought the Episcopal left would explicitly play the race card a lot sooner than they have. I think that conservative Episcopalians should expect a good deal more of this sort of thing as the months go by and that they should be ready for it.
I dare them to try.

The fact is the establishment is solidly white and very upper crust. These are the cream of the limousine liberals -- folks who decided they would rather "reach out" to upper-class wealthy white gays in urban areas than to reach out to the poor and down-trodden non-whites in these same urban areas.

Moreover, when faced with opposition from the whole of the third-world, they turned their backs on their brothers and sisters, accusing them of being "superstitious" "animists" and being bought off with chicken dinners.

Go ahead you members of the establishment -- I double dare you.