Category Archives: Stories

A not quite International Airport

(This is a little story that I wrote in my blog before their were blogs.)

I loved the little air strip of Jerry and Lucy up there in the High Sierra. And I was afraid of it. It’s one of the places that possibly pushed me over the edge to make the decision to learn to fly. The romantic feeling of flying a bi-plane, wind in your hair, into a strip out there in the wilderness. Here is a strip like that. I call if Jerry’s paradise. Because it is. Last time I was up there, Jerry told me they are there for thirty-seven years now with no intention to leave.

Nearly every airodrome looks small when seen from the distance. However most of them get bigger when you come closer. But Jerry’s airstrip, even when you are close enough


to make a decision to land, still looks really small.

During primary training, my instructor always complained if I did not land exactly on the center line. I never really understood it, because on a runway like Burbank’s 8 there was so much space on both sided, so who cares about the couple of feet to the left or right. On Jerry’s air strip you just don’t have a couple of feet to the left or right. There is only the center line.

After touchdown on Jerry’s air strip I always try to get trusty 08L stopped before reaching the middle of the strip. There is a mown area to the right of the actual runway to tie down a couple of planes. Never managed to do so though. Always had a bit to much speed still and had to run all the way to the end of the strip, turn around in Jerry’s yard and taxi back to the tie down. One of these days I will manage – I promise!

Takeoff in contrast is rather easy for me. This one time my friend Ron, with whom I stayed for the weekend up there in his mountain hotel, dropped me of at 08L’s parking space and took a nice series of shots of my take-off. I thought I share these ….


Going through the pre engine start checklist

ng_to2CLEAR PROP !!

ng_to3Increase power to start rolling – and it takes quite a bit of power to start rolling on the grass surface.

ng_to4Taxi Back towards Jerry’s Yard

ng_to5I really had to figure out how to turn in Jerry’s Yard. It’s a bit too narrow to turn directly, so I use the technique I learned in driving school for turns in narrow streets: All the way to the right, then a sharp left turn toward the curb, followed by backing up with a right turn – –  only 08L does not have reverse! Fortunately, the yard slopes up, so my left turn goes up a slope and gravity helps me to go backward – – then another left turn and the 180 degree turn is done.

ng_to6Aligned with the runway with Jerry’s yard behind me, Checklist, Ready for Take-Off! No need here to announce my departure on unicom frequency – first, there is no unicom frequency, and second, Jerry would have told me had somebody else announced his arrival.

ng_to7Gaining Speed – 30 Knots

ng_to8Rushing by Ron at 40 Knots

ng_to9Reaching Rotation Speed at 60 Knots

ng_to10Staying in Ground Effect to Gain Some More Speed

ng_to11Leaving the Earth Below!

Reaching 4500 feet, 500 above the strip, I turn around, fly over the field once more and rock the wings to say good bye. Then it’s climbing nearly all the way to Bakersfield to get up to 9500 to get enough altitude between me and the Grapevine. Crossing Gorman VOR I start letting down slowly until I’m at 5000 over Magic Mountain

ng_mmwhich looks so insignificant from up here. Still, I don’t think anybody would ever get me into Colossus, Ninja or Viper.

And then, just a little bit later:

“Burbank Approach, Cherokee 8308L, over the Magic Mountain, five thousand, landing Burbank with Information Alpha.”

The Internet is Humming with Dr. Who

The-Doctor-and-ClaraToday the wait was over – the second half of season 7 of Dr. Who has started.

I bet that most views of the show happened on the official channels like BBC America here in the US of A, but, as we are out in the boons, with the cable left behind, we depended on the good old pirate bay to get our fix of Dr. Who (obviously this is a lie, as we would never download any tv show illegally.) Had we actually looked at the torrents we would have been surprised by all the buzz on the interconnected pipes that make up the internet. Way over 2000 seeders is rather rare, and still, download speed would have been – had we done that – still rather slow, so there would have been many, many people as excited to find out about the Doctor’s new adventures and all with a new companion.

Had we been able to watch the show after downloading it illegally we would have been able to actually watch it on the west coast before it officially aired. As I write this, it’s only a bit after the show ended and we would have finished it hours ago – way ahead of all the people waiting for the BBC to start it – Man – are time zones cool, or what?

I’m really curious if the Doctor will get lucky with this companion, but I’m not really holding my breath as one of the big tensions in the series is that that never happens. Strange things can happen if time travel is involved, like Amy turning out to be the Doctor’s mother in law – who comes up with those things?

Thanks, Steven Moffat!

Patrolling Space In the Spaceship Orion

I have mentioned the spaceship Orion previously in my post about Living Under Water. The German science fiction TV series Space Patrol (Raumpatrouille) follows the crew of the space ship Orion on their adventures through the galaxy.

Orion landed on a desert planetI remember waiting very excitedly for the première of the series and then every next week’s show. It came out at about the same time in 1966 as the original Star Trek, but it was much later that I finally watched my first Star Trek episode and it confirmed the German arrogance that we (the Germans) are better at creating things but it also confirmed the other stereotype that America is much better in marketing. Orion lasted seven episodes with a remastered movie version in the early 2000s, while Star Trek is still going strong after nearly half a century. Sets and special effects were so much more creative than the original Star Trek even though some people dared to make fun of some of the props, like the electric iron used to do some mysterious tuning task on the navigation console. In my mind then, those people just didn’t get it.

I do have the whole series on DVD and it is about time to watch it again, but today I enjoyed running into another fan of the series who took his admiration for the show a bit further than just buying the DVDs – he created stunning illustrations of the adventures of the star cruiser Orion.

I discovered Crossvalley Smith through a post on Facebook that featured one of his illustrations from the Perry Rhodan universe, another sweet memory of mine, a science fiction series published as weekly pulp novellas.

A scene from a landing of the Orion on a desert planet has for now replaced an anime illustration as my computer wall paper – go check out Crossvalley’s site, maybe you find something you enjoy.

A Hollywood Experience

st_schoeneOne of my early Hollywood-experiences occurred in the late 80s – the place was the Irish pub ‘The Cat & Fiddle‘ on Sunset Blvd.

My buddy and I hung out there pretty regularly, had learned that just a single extra dollar in tips was well worth the investment for much faster and friendlier service and were, that fine summer evening, out in the patio, slurping our Guinness.

The table next to us was occupied by two guys, one of the a very tall, and cool, guy that looked so familiar but I could  not place him. I heard somewhat of a German accent, but that did not help much at that time.

If was a few days later that my buddy dragged me to the gig of a German guy he had met a few days earlier. As yours truly is from that area of the planet as well and ethnic support is a given I was glad to comply.

Even this big Hollywood is a small place and so I was only mildly surprised that this tall guy I had seen at the Cat and Fiddle was there as well. The gig was great and I still have a video document of this band, Bigger than Blue, even though this is not of the gig, which was much wilder and much more hard rock.

Already at that time I perceived the vibes between this tall German guy and the cute, absolutely petite, singer of Bigger Than Blue, Francesca Capasso.

To make a long story short, the tall German guy turned out to be a very well-known German actor, Reiner Schoene (Schöne), whom I had seen in television shows when I was a lot younger. He and Francesca started dating and we (my buddy and I) had a few parties at our house with the whole Bigger than Blue and so Reiner was there, obviously.

Francesca and Reiner did get married and had a little farm in or around Agua Dulce but, despite efforts to do so, we never managed to visit and the contact went away eventually, especially after Reiner moved back to Germany and he and Francesca separated, unfortunately.

So, why would I write all this after more than twenty years? Simple, when going through my old music collection, I found demo tapes of Reiner as well as Francesca and the most amazing piece on that was a song, written and performed by Reiner, telling the beginning of the story…

      Wild Wild Rose of Texas - Rainer Schoene


Boys Staring at Goats

One fine winter up in the mountains…
(isn’t it amazing that there are, in that densely populated Southern California, still places where boys can go out by themselves and explore – and make friends with goats – and stare at them?)

(Click on an image to start a slide show.)

The Hobby Kitchen – A Pre-Blog

thai-recipesThis is history as we made it!

It was in the early days of the internet, a time when Google did not exist yet, when we used Alta Vista to find things on that interweb. When Netscape was strong and the driving force for new developments on this world wide web. When there were pages at Netscape where you could tell the world about new sites or pages – and the world came.

It was 1995!

This is when we stared something that would later be called a blog. Sure, there was no php and certainly no WordPress, so the blog-entries had to be crafted by hand, usually in a simple text editor and the blogger had to know html. Not that there was much to be known – the leading edge of html tags were background images and music.

This was the year ‘My Hobby Kitchen’ was born. The plan was to publish one Thai recipe every few day, or how often we managed. If we would have kept it up, by now we would have – at one recipe per day – close to one thousand recipes. That number shows that it was just not possible as nobody knows 1000 recipes. We did – maybe – foresee that and invented the ‘guest-blogger.’ But only one came on board, shortly before the project died.

The amazing part of the story is that these pages survived. After a multitude of ISPs, and moving between different domains, these pages are still there and they are finding a new home no on this (real) blog.

I kept the pages as they were, just made some adjustments to fit into the framework of this blog, removed any pointers to web sites that don’t exist any more and anonymized it to protect the guilty. But I left all the tacky background music and images intact so that those young people can see how it all started. It was written from the perspective of my significant other who is Thai and knew what she was doing – your’s truly was just the webmaster.

Without any further ado, here is

My Hobby Kitchen.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

KodachromeI got myself some nice Canon T4i but I can’t figure out where to put that film in, of which I still have a few rolls and which I don’t want to let go to waste.

I think I like Nikon better because on the old 6006, I still have, there was not problem with that – I just opened the back – and there is the space where the film fit in. I got the back of my new T4i open but there is still no place for that roll of film, only all that electronic stuff, chips and wires and such – hmmm.

But, jokes aside, I know there is no more film produces any more – at least not in form of a mass production – and that I would have a hard time to find a lab these days that could still develop film. This roll on the right is probably about 15 years old and expired so solidly that there would be hardly anything on it any more, even if there was a process to develop it with.

But I got to think about that when I ran into a video of photographer Steve McCurry, securing the last role of Kodachrome produced in 2009 and going on a world tour to shoot that last roll ever to leave the factory.

Reminded me of the beginning of my photography career back in Germany. Obviously, with the German arrogance, I did not use Kodachrome – the colors were just too American to satisfy a German eye – we used Agfachrome which displayed a softer gradient of colors and saturation. Back then I always shot slide film and I don’t really remember what my reason was to suddenly get into film for color prints when I got a much better camera – the Nikon 6006 – after coming to the US of A. It might have been because there was an affordable service to give me, with the prints, a scan of the images I could download from the lab’s web site. Another reason probably was, that I was not a purist any more and did break down and took memory photos – back in my early days that would never had happened – the shutter was pressed only when art came out.

This very selective pressing of the shutter was paramount for Steve McCurry when he shot the very last role of Kodachrome. Here is his report…

This documentary got me very interested in Mr. McCurry and I found this interview with him.

You can see the gallery of the 31 images from the last role of Kodachrome on Vanity Fair.

PS: Reminded me that, during my early days of photography (with Agfachrome), I considered it a good outcome when I got one good shot from a role of film.

X11Forwarding But DISPLAY variable not set

x11-logoSerious programming in the olden days mean to deal with Unix – the father of today’s ubiquitous Linux running bigger part of the internet.

The first bigger project I was involved in was still the good old DOS with Turbo Pascal – anybody remember that?

As soon as I could, and we had to build something less of a hack but more of a software-engineered application, I steered my client into Unix, first the X86 version of Xenix, which turned out to be too flaky, and then a nice hundred thousand dollar HP Workstation. As it was an application involving graphics, an important order of business was to get familiar with the principles and techniques of the X11 windowing system.

This was not a very long-lived project and with the advent of more powerful x86 hardware and a finally decent piece of software from Microsoft – Windows NT – the develoment was moved to that new platform. The fact that the port from X to NT was not terribly difficult was a nice testimonial for proper application of software engineering principles. Hacking mentality as promoted by something like Turbo Pascal would have required a complete rewrite.

System administration, I had become familiar with during that time, was helpful when I started to maintain a few linux web servers years later. I always considered X11 far superior to all the other graphical windows software but I really had never anything to do with it any more – until a point in time a few days ago.

First of all, I finally succeeded in getting Ubuntu running on an old laptop. A flaky DVD had never gotten me through an installation properly and the machine was so old that it could not boot from a memory stick. I ultimately succeeded when I found a utility I could burn on a CD and boot from that made my USB bootable. Now I could load Ubuntu from the USB stick.

So, there I finally was again with a computer with a proper graphical user interface. But that computer was tucked away somewhere with little physical access. It serve as a local testing machine for web development – did not really need that X Windows for that!

But it was sitting there, teasing me, so I finally got XMing – an X Server running on MS Windows – installed on my main computer where I sit all day and I could finally connect to that old laptop remotely with a graphical user interface. In my early days of X11 there was not too much concern about security – it was all on the local network – yes, a coax ethernet cable – and to have an application display on an xterminal you just had to set the DISPLAY environment variable to the IP address of any X-Server, like a xterminal, and authorize its use.

That is all different now. I learned that from a remote machine you start an ssh connection on my workstation (windows 7) to the remote host (old linux laptop) using putty. If the putty session had X Forwarding enabled then a secure tunnel for all the X traffic was created. This tunnel could even go through a router with NAT without a problem. Initially I had wondered why I saw the value of the DISPLAY variable set to strange things like localhost:10.0 – but I finally understood that this was how the ssh tunnel worked: the ssh server on the old laptop pretended to be a local X server on display number 10; then it transported all the X traffic it received securely to the machine I was sitting on and fed it into XMing. It all worked perfectly.

Two weeks later I received my first Raspberry Pi and that little wonder did behave the same way as the old laptop, a bit slower I have to admit, so the old laptop is still a bit more powerful than the miniature linux box sitting over there on my speaker. Both are full LAMP systems and are even accessible from the rest of the world through the magic of DynDNS and port forwarding.

But then my trouble began.

As I had all this so nicely and easily set up, it was suddenly not enough any more that I logged into my real web servers only with putty, SCP, and DirectAdmin. Nostalgia had me in its grip and I just had to get X running on them as well.

First of all there was no X-stuff installed on those servers as they were web servers in some remote data center. But a “yum install xterm” got this handled. Still no go – starting xterm from the ssh login gave me the error message that the display was either not there or could not be opened.

The next step, I found out, was to enable X11Forwarding for the sshd on the remote server – but still no go – the DISPLAY variable was still not set. Lots of Googling around but no solution – everything I tried made no difference.

But I learned about the -vvv parameter to ssh. It would give me insight into what was happening during the establishing of the ssh connection. Unfortunately, putty does not have it! But I found that it has a logging function and after turning this on and comparing the logs from connections to my local old laptop and the remote web server I finally saw the light:


After I had it yum-installed and run to generate a new .Xauthority file for a local X server my quest for the xterm running on that web server and displaying on my local machine behind a NAT router in my office had come to a successful conclusion.

Not that I will use that much – putty and SCP have done the job for me for years – but I now could, potentially, install firefox on that server and start browsing through that server located at a very different place on the planet.

Hmmm  – why don’t I just try that: yum install firefox……………………….
finally, after installing a gazillion dependent packages, the installation is – complete!

Now: firefox& – wait – wait – wait…


But it is clear that I have to file this away under ‘education’ as it is so slow to make it more or less unusable.

When Only The Government Has Guns

I grew up in a country that has one of the strictest gun control in the world – Germany. Once I tried to get a gun permit after I was being beat up by some guys and was very afraid that my little sister got mauled (which fortunately did not happen) without me being able to defend us.

I remember a cop actually showing up at my house interviewing me to evaluate if I had the maturity to be entrusted in defending myself – but I was mostly scoffed and laughed at. Funny part of that story is that I was asked by another cop for help with the guys that had beaten me up. Looking back, it was somewhat funny. After these three or four guys let me go, I did what every good citizen who survives violence is supposed to do – I called the cops from the next phone booth (cell phones were not invented yet). And they came pretty fast, scouted the area and apprehended two of them, which I identified. After then I made my way home and the cops look the bad guys to the station.

There, apparently, one of the guys got so solidly on the police man’s nerves that he hit him. He then came to me to ask if I would testify in his defense should the bad guy complain about that rude behavior. It never came to that, though.

But back to gun control – so I, as a law-abiding citizen, was absolutely not able to get me the means to level the playing field to put up an effective defense. Now, interestingly, the Wikipedia article about German Gun Control tells the story that gun and weapons (which in Germany includes bigger knifes) control was tightened even more in the early 2000s after a chain of school shootings. Imagine this, even with this nearly complete disarmed people, school shootings were possible and did, in deed, happen. This should be reason enough, at least for any semi-logical person, that gun control does not stop gun violence and school shootings.

So, what would then be the real reason for gun control – meaning a society where only the government has guns?

It becomes glaringly clear when we look at the following:

  • In 1911, Turkey established gun control. Subsequently, from 1915 to 1917, 1.5-millionArmenians, deprived of the means to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. Then, from 1929 to 1953,approximately 20 millon dissidents were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1938 Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945 over 13-million Jews,gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, union leaders, Catholics and others, unable to fire a shot in protest, were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1935, China established gun control. Subsequently, between 1948 and 1952, over 20 million dissidents were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1956, Cambodia enshrined gun control. In just two years (1975-1977) over one million”educated” people were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1964, Guatemala locked in gun control. From 1964 to I 98 I, over 100,000 Mayan Indians were rounded up and killed as a result of their inability to defend themselves.
  • 1n 1970, Uganda embraced gun control. Over the next nine years over 300,000 Christians were rounded up and killed.

Doesn’t that looks like more the act of a gang of bad guys trying to get rid of a threat to their monopoly on violence?

The only thing that stop the bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Cops are supposed to be just that. But history shows that those guys often become the bad guys and then there is no line of defense if they are the only ones with the guns, except, maybe a few of the private bad guys who are the only – if weak – competition.

if only the government has guns