Doofus Of The Day #1,060

Today’s award goes to the pilot of a Airbus A330 airliner of Thai Airways.  It clipped a Gulfstream IV corporate aircraft with its wing at the airport in Vientiane, Laos the other day.  The results were catastrophic for the smaller plane. The much larger airliner suffered only minor damage to its wing, and will be repaired before resuming scheduled flights;  but with damage like that, I daresay the Gulfstream is a write-off.  It certainly can’t be flown anywhere for repairs, and I doubt that a minor third-world airport can handle what’s needed, even if parts and equipment were flown in. Used Gulfstream IV aircraft appear to

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Adventures with lawnmowers

At the end of last summer, our old lawnmower (a low-end Toro unit we bought when we moved here in 2016) blew its engine in fairly spectacular fashion:  a loud bang, a puff of white smoke, and a deafening silence thereafter.  Our local small engine repair shop said it was deader than the proverbial doornail.  I asked the mechanic’s advice on a replacement, and he said that none of the low-end machines were worth getting these days.  He pointed out that all their engines either came from China, or incorporated Chinese-made parts, and estimated that none of them had a

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Inflation and your clothes (literally)

I’m still mind-boggled after reading this report. After London College of Fashion designer Harikrishnan unveiled his inflatable latex trousers that come in a variety of colours, people couldn’t help but make fun of the high fashion number. The quirky graduate collection featured billowing latex trousers which are tapered at the ankle. But folks in their droves took to Twitter to say it looked more like ‘swollen testicles’. Tough crowd. Clearly the essence of the piece was lost on the audience. There’s more at the link. Looks more like an inverted life-jacket to me.  Let’s call it a death-jacket.  Fall into the water

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Saturday Snippet: Debugging the Oak Ridge nuclear plant

During World War II, Richard Feynman, then a very newly-graduated physicist, was sent from Los Alamos, New Mexico (the heart of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb) to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, where the nuclear material for the bomb was to be enriched.  He was tasked with making sure that the factory there would actually work, and that its design was technically and scientifically acceptable.  Needless to say, as a relative novice, he was more than a little unsure of his ground. In his book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” he describes what happened.        I sat down

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“A River of Horns” is published!

My latest Western novel, “A River of Horns“, fourth in the Ames Archives series, has been published in e-book format.  A print edition will follow soon The blurb reads: Walt Ames and his Texas partner, Tyler Reese, know that the U.S. Army is bound and determined to push the Comanche and Kiowa tribes onto the reservation for good. Once the Texas Panhandle is pacified, millions of acres of land will become available. They aim to be among the first to set up a ranch there – but that’ll take money… a whole lot of money. How do you raise money

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Media hand-wringing versus reality: aircraft test edition

Last week there were alarming headlines when the fuselage of a new model of Boeing’s 777 airliner split while undergoing a stress test. Boeing got an unexpected jolt in September when engineers in Everett put the new 777X airframe through an extreme test of its structural strength. Just as the test approached its target stress level, an explosive depressurization tore through the fuselage. Boeing has kept the details secret, but photos obtained by the Seattle Times show that the extent of the damage was greater than previously disclosed and earlier reports were wrong about crucial details. The test plane is a complete write-off,

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Saturday Snippet: the perils of small game collecting in West Africa

In the 1950’s, naturalist Gerald Durrell went to what was then known as British Cameroon in West/Central Africa to collect animals for zoos in Britain.  He chose the region of Bafut for his collecting activities, and recruited local tribesmen to help him in his hunt for specimens.  In a moment of whimsy, he christened his hunters, collectively, The Bafut Beagles, which became the title of the book he wrote about his adventures.  It was an instant best-seller when it was released, and remains popular today. Here’s how Durrell and the Beagles hunted the rock hyrax, an animal well known to me in South Africa as the dassie.  The picture

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Meal delivery services: all hat and no cattle?

In Texas, an expression I’ve often heard is that someone is “all hat and no cattle”.  It means that someone is full of grandiloquent talk, but lacks the accomplishments or assets to lend substance to their words. I’ve long felt that services such as Grubhub, Doordash and their ilk are pretty much “all hat and no cattle” in business terms.  They don’t add even one cent of value to the goods they deliver.  Their entire business model is based on providing convenience for a price, but that’s an entirely dispensable benefit.  If I’m short of cash, there’s nothing stopping me cooking

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