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The Etymology of the term "Jerkwater Town" and Steam Locomotive Trackpans...

Doing a bit of research on Steam Engines (Izak loves Thomas and steam engines)... I found the following article regardling the origin of the term "Jerkwater Town".  Very interesting..


On a side note - I had always thought that stem engines took on water via a water tower.  And while this may have been the case for smaller engines in the early days - it was much more common for large trains to use a "Track Pan" that was filled with water and they would scoop it up as they passed at full - or nearly full speed.  There were several such high speed track pans in Michigan.. Here are some pictures of Steam engines in Michigan going over track pans:

And a link to a page discussing the Track pans in Michigan:



Super 8

If you were a child of the 70's or 80's even, go rent this. Great scifi storytelling.


Cameras, Music, Gaming!!

Seems like most blogs I read fall into this dilemma... lots of updates off the bat, and then months of silence... sorry to be the same as all those!  Well, I know there are only *maybe* two or three people that will read this anyway, but I'll just pretend I have swarms of avid readers hanging on my every cyber-word... ;)

Camera Stuff

So - In the last few months I have switched over to a new Camera Kit - sold off the Nikon gear and went with a Sony Nex 5n.  (Link below)


Its an amazing little camera - Full DX sized sensor - essentially the same as used in the Nikon D7000, which has hoards of folks in photography heaven.  It also will do full 1080p 60 fps video.  And WOW does it ever.  The video quality is as good as any broadcast HD video I have seen.  

Best of all - its low light performance is phenomenal.  Shooting by candlelight is literally amazing... ISO equivalent of 25,600!!!!!!!  And it only starts showing any grainyness above around 9600... amazing performance.  No flash needed for most circumstances.

The only downside is that it accepts NEX specific lenses - of which I have purchased all but the most expensive one, so I have virtually every focal length covered (the high dollar lens is a super zoom 16-200mm).  


This follows closely on the heels of my Camera info above - I shot an HD video of some guitar noodling and posted it to my youtube site, feel free to check it out and make sure to be nice!!  I hadn't played in about 3 weeks when I shot the vid...

Look for more over the next few weeks, I have a couple bed track that I posted previously that I will probably put Lead tracks on soon...



Have you seen this??


Well, Let me just say - its a pretty breathtaking simulation game set in the year 2070.  Truthfully, I have only played about an hour so far, but the graphics and game play mechanics are pretty cool.  Tons of videos on youtube and elsewhere about it, but think of Simcity done correctly with factions, trading, full diplomacy, and war...  ohh yeah, and the graphics are awesome...

So - thats it for now - Hopefully more updates soon!!


- Chris


Thoughts on Steve...

For me not being involved in the tech industry, the thought of Steve Jobs passing should be a relative non-event.  Bear with me, but its true - Death is always sad and makes us think about our own lives, but for the most part, when someone in the public eye passes away it only affects us for a moment and then is forgotten.


Not so this time.


I can't say why I have been fighting back tears since I found out about his passing late last night..  I'm writing this in more of a cathartic sense, to deal with why I feel as I do.  I posted the following on facebook in response to a friends status update referencing the loss:

Just found out - very sad day indeed. The man was truly a revolutionary. Many never met him, but many can honestly say he changed their lives - I am one of many."


That is the fact of the matter, and why it is hitting me so hard.  This is the first time that someone in the tech industry has actually affected my day to day life.


The truth is that this man changed the way I live my life.  


I converted over to Macintosh around 2001.  I had been, up to that point, a total and complete PC zealot.  I would die before I would use an apple product... I thought the whole world was stupid for ever buying such overpriced and limiting proprietary hardware.  But, I admittedly had never actually "tried" an apple product.


So, I purchased a second hand Performa and played with OS 9.  I liked it, but felt it still was lacking.. so I continued on my PC path and ran the Basilisk mac emulator and tinkered off and on..


Then OSX was released and around the time of 10.3 my good friend Alex recommended that I take a serious look at it.  Being an amateur musician, the idea of Garageband in the iLife suite was more than I could handle.. I soon had a used Powermac G4 (Gigabit Ethernet model) and a 800mhz iBook G4.


This completely changed the way I did things - of course I struggled a bit in the beginning, but eventually, the OS became an extension of my every day life... I no longer was fighting with the computer, I was USING it.  The machine was augmenting my life instead of being a hindrance to it... Things became second nature - if I wanted to record a song, bam! - it was done.  No more finding software and wrangling it to work on my "custom" machine.

At this point, I still kept a PC, "just in case"... it was my fallback... afterall, I did briefly work in IT and could build a machine with the best of 'em, so I kept telling myself that I needed that ability.


Then, I finally took the complete and unadulterated plunge in 2008...

When the first generation Macbook Unibody (which later became the Macbook Pro) was released, I RAN to the store... It was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen..  I'm an Engineer, and anything that is custom machined from a block of metal gets my juices flowing...  This was the sexiest computer, hands down, to ever be sold... period.  Glass etched trackpad... Widescreen, wow... just wow...

Fast forward to today - The original unibody has been sold, and I now use, as my primary machine, a 17" Macbook Pro (2011 model) with max spec. as of last march.  I bit the bullet and dove in with both feet - and I don't regret a thing.  The machine is amazing and using it is a joy.


But, I digress - the reason I tell you of the backstory is to show how this man changed the way I do things... His vision, his love of pure design excellence came through in his products.  Look at the iPhone - the most revolutionary thing I have seen in my lifetime.  It changed the way people looked at communication.  I can't live without mine.  


So - why does my heart ache for a man I never met, whose life values are in complete opposition to my own?  Because, like him or hate him, he cared about his customers and he was passionate about his craft.  He strove to be the absolute best.  Average simply did not cut it... he would rather close up shop than become like his peers.

We could all take a cue from that attitude.  

May God bless his family in their time of grief, as well as the employees of the company he so loved.

Rest in peace Steve, you are missed.



RIP Steve Jobs...