Well, this is rather awkward…

I rent a PO Box from the local post office (a remnant from when I stayed in a flat with no post boxes of its own, and when I moved out of there, I decided it was more convenient to keep it and pay the Post Office their yearly school fees than inform all and sundry who still live in the Stone Age and send me snail mail about the change of address).  I’m also terrible at remembering to empty out said PO Box.  It’s almost as terrible as me remembering that I have a blog…

Anyway, for the first time in several months, I made a detour on my way to work and emptied the damn thing out.  I was running a tad late, so didn’t check the contents there and then.  A while later, when I arrived at the office, I then quickly filtered through what I’d obtained.  There was the usual junk mail and bills pointlessly sent by various companies (who e-mail their bills to me anyway, and my efforts to educate them about the wastage thereof have so far been futile).  But that wasn’t all.

There was also a traffic fine.

Someone else’s traffic fine.  Approximately two months old.  And sent all the way from Beaufort West.

Which the Post Office had, in all their infinite wisdom, placed in the wrong PO Box.  My one.

To the intended recipient of said traffic fine: I’m so, so sorry.  I’ll make sure it ends up your PO Box on my way home this afternoon.

The last three months

I must apologise for the lack of updates over the past while — real life suddenly got very, very busy.  I’ll sum up what I’ve been up to:

Work stuffs

I left Web Africa at the end of November 2013: several internal changes made in 2013 transformed the company from an awesome place to work to a totally hideous place to work.  (And, from general sentiment on MyBroadband, a totally hideous place to do business with as well now.)  I’m now over at Khanyisa Real Systems, which is another awesome place to work: small, everyone has fun while working hard at the same time, new technologies to play with, I’m no longer bored out of my skull… it’s how the development department at Web Africa was before upper management wrecked it.

Of course, this means that I have to update the About Me page again.  I’ll do this Soon™.

Family stuffs

Some of you reading this already know, but for those who don’t: Little Annoying Sister is expecting her first child in late June.  Tim, Kelle and Amy have already taken to calling me “Uncle Won-Won”… yeah, that title isn’t going away any time soon.

Relationship stuffs

Amy and I have been up to all kinds of awesome/crazy things lately — an awesome weekend going back in time to the Victorian era at Matjiesfontein, acting like tourists in our own city — it’s been fun.  I’ve obviously been slacking with putting write ups on here, but Amy has been posting our adventures on her own blog, so I’m just going to redirect you all there.

Location stuffs

Due to (1) new work location, (2) proximity to Little Annoying Sister and her Future Spawnling and (3) proximity to Amy, I’m relocating back to the Southern Suburbs (specifically: Rosebank) at the end of this month — though, I’m going to really miss living with Tim and Kelle.  Blog updates will probably stop dead again until Telkom wires my new place up.  Probably in a few years or so.

World of Warcraft stuffs

We had a lull since my post detailing our Kor’kron Dark Shaman kill due to people not being around due to end of year work pressures, then people not being around for December/January holidays, then people deciding not to raid any more and me having to recruit new people and gear them up.  We’ve slowly ramped back up since mid-January though, and are currently working on Siegecrafter Blackfuse.  After that’s killed, it’s just the Klaxxi Paragons (which, from my experience on the “tourist” difficulty levels, should be dispatched without too much trouble) and Garrosh (which, being the last raid boss, will be a nightmare) left until we’ve cleared Siege of Orgrimmar (on normal anyway, we’re not going to get very far on heroic, I’m afraid).

I’ve been considering setting up a separate blog for the World of Warcraft stuffs, but if I’m slacking on maintaining this one…

Miscellaneous stuffs

  • One of the PCF admins got in touch with me requesting a patch for a user-requested feature, so I wrote and submitted it.  I took a quick look around the place while I was there, and Panorama Publishing has totally ignored the place since my departure, which I had predicted.  They seem totally uninterested in having someone around to keep it going, and since my patch met with a frosty reception (evidently, some users still have the mindset of me being responsible for Panorama’s mismanagement), my feeling towards the place is now: let it burn.  Good riddance.
  • I managed to turn my mother into a planespotter when British Airways sent an A380 to Durban for crew training for around two weeks.  (There’s a video of it landing here, which is well worth watching for any aviation enthusiasts lurking here.)
  • If you ever visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, don’t pull a Jeremy Clarkson and run out of petrol in Pripyat.
  • A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood.

How hard can it be?

… trying to get from Upper Woodstock to Parklands in good time before the afternoon peak?

Well, if the N1 outbound is closed due to a freak truck accident, very hard.  Instead of cruising up the R27, which should have taken me around 30 minutes, I ended up having to take a rather convoluted route home to avoid the resulting city-wide traffic jam.  Made it home in 90 minutes though.

Of course, it happens on a day that I didn’t ride the bus in to work.  Just lovely.

What I like most about my raid team…

… is that the extremely strong bond between all 10 of us is based solely on inappropriate activities that no sane person should have.  Ever.

Take for example, last night’s raid (in which we finally killed Blizzard’s latest incarnation of a headache of a boss fight for those of us who are colour co-ordination challenged).  I’ll let the post that popped up this morning in guild forums (no link, it’s restricted access) from our hunter titled “Epic Raid Fails” say it all:

We’re on our usual milo break, standing in front of the eyeball, when Mr Smartypants (That’s Cataplexy) decides he wants to kill a rogue. He lifegrips Gatstamper to in front of the boss, runs off giggling and mind sears him from a distance.

Of course mechanics don’t work the way him thinks they do. Firstly mind sear doesn’t draw aggro to the target and secondly the damn rogue was stealthed. Durumu wakes up and because there’s no one in melee range he proceeds to wipe out the rest of the raid. Whoever wasn’t zapped got dunked in the water by the dropping platform and the only survivors were one lucky hunter who saw it coming and squeaked through on a feign death (yes that’s me)

and a totally oblivious rogue.

I look forward to the retaliation.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  Which will probably be after Thursday night’s raid.

In Kazakhstan we have three major problem…

… social, economic, and… exploding space rocket.  (Apologies to Borat, but I couldn’t resist!)

Spaceflight Now has the full story:

A Russian Proton rocket went out of control and slammed into the steppes of Kazakhstan mere moments after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Monday night.

The government booster was carrying three Russian navigation satellites on the ill-fated mission that launched at 0238 GMT (10:38 p.m. EDT).

Live video showed the Proton gyrating left and then right as it ascended off the pad before going horizontal, barrel rolling and falling into a nose dive. The front end of the rocket sheared away and the main stage erupted in a massive fireball before hitting the ground in a horrific explosion.

The entire flight appeared to last a half-minute.

Russian rockets do not carry self-destruct explosives like Western boosters, which prevented any attempt to destroy the wayward Proton before impact.

A Russian Federal Space Agency statement said an emergency committee being created would be headed by Deputy Head of Roscosmos Alexander Lopatin.

Standing 19-stories tall, the rocket weighed nearly 1.5 million pounds at launch, its first three stages loaded with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants and the upper stage filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen.

The Proton is built by the Khrunichev State Research and Production and RSC Energia makes the Block DM upper stage.

Six main engines ignite at liftoff to power the vehicle away from the launch pad and burns for two minutes. The second stage and its four engines fire through five-and-a-half minutes of the mission before the third stage and its single engine takes over. The upper stage then completes the necessary burns to shape the orbit for deployment of the spacecraft.

Monday’s launch featured a three-stage Proton core vehicle topped with a Block DM upper stage to maneuver three GLONASS navigation satellites — Nos. 48, 49 and 50 — into their desired Earth orbit.

The flight was carrying fresh craft for the space-based navigation constellation, which transmits positioning signals for military and civilian users. The satellites fly 12,000 miles above the planet in 64.8-degree inclination orbits. The system is similar in concept to the U.S. GPS network.

It was 388th Proton rocket to launch since 1965 and the fifth this year, following a series of commercial missions.

The program has suffered five failures in the past two-and-a-half years, mostly due to upper stage issues. Three other GLONASS satellites were lost in a botched launch in late 2010 due to a fuel miscalculation that prevented the vehicle from reaching orbit.

The next launch, presumably grounded for the investigation, was slated for July 21 carrying the commercial ASTRA 2E broadcast satellite for Europe.

Here’s an amateur video showing the entire sequence.  At a ~9 second delay, this puts the amateur observers at around 3 km from the launch pad (assuming the launch pad is at sea level, which it probably isn’t, but the estimate is still probably close enough).  These guys were lucky that “exploding space rocket” didn’t head in their direction…

Of course, this begs the question: why does all interesting/weird stuff always seem to happen in that part of the world?

Cloud computing, a tad too literally

I couldn’t help but chuckle when this Slashdot post popped up:

The Register carries the funniest, most topical IT story of the year: ‘Facebook’s first data center ran into problems of a distinctly ironic nature when a literal cloud formed in the IT room and started to rain on servers. Though Facebook has previously hinted at this via references to a ‘humidity event’ within its first data center in Prineville, Oregon, the social network’s infrastructure king Jay Parikh told The Reg on Thursday that, for a few minutes in Summer, 2011, Facebook’s data center contained two clouds: one powered the social network, the other poured water on it.

Someone had better explain to Facebook that having an actual cloud in the data centre isn’t really what cloud computing is all about!

That said, this has happened before.  Boeing’s Everett factory (initially constructed to assemble the 747, and now assembles all of their widebody jets) used to have clouds forming near the ceiling, before the installation of a specialised air circulation system sorted that little problem out.  Evidently, some are destined to repeat history’s mistakes…

Winter has come

And back to real life: here in Cape Town, winter has come.  (Apologies to the Starks.)  It’s at this time of year that those of us living here realise that we’re on a tiny peninsula on the southern tip of Africa with nothing between us and the Antarctic.

While Tim (my housemate) posted on how his office park became a raging torrent, I came across photos on how the persistent winter rain caused a section of Lover’s Walk (just below the university) to collapse.

Dammit — I used to stay right around the corner from there…

In Soviet Russia, asteroid plays YOU!

The nerd community had a bit of news earlier today: a meteor streaking across the skies of Russia.  Since everyone in Russia seems to have a dashcam (apparently it’s a car insurance requirement over there due to police/judicial corruption), we even got footage of it:

While the meteor didn’t cause any damage itself, the sonic blasts were significantly more destructive; current reports seem to indicate around 400 injured, mainly from broken/falling glass.  Not surprising: the sonic wave arrived ~30 seconds after the meteor passed over, and a lot of people would have been at various windows having a look at what had just happened (and in their defence, if I saw a massive flare like that, with a beautiful contrail in its wake, I’d be out there as well trying to get photos for this blog!).  It’s similar to tsunamis: most fatalities happen to people who chase the receding sea, unaware that the reason for the receding waters is that they’re about to un-recede in a rather spectacular and destructive way.

(You may want to turn your speakers/headclamps down for the sonic blast videos, unless you either enjoy extremely loud bangs or you’d like a crash course in Russian swear words…)

Of course, being Russia and therefore having Russian temperatues, blown-out windows are a serious problem in winter, so hopefully the emergency services there are more jacked up than ours.

The big question here is: is this related to the asteroid 2012 DA14?  For those of you living under a rock, it’s an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 50 meters, an estimated mass of 190,000 metric tons — and it will be passing approximately 27,000 kilometres from Earth’s surface in a few hours (19:25 UTC, 21:25 South African time).  Over on Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait seems to think that it’s totally unrelated:

For one thing, this occurred about 16 hours before DA14 passes. At 8 kilometers per second that’s nearly half a million kilometers away from DA14. That puts it on a totally different orbit.  For another, from the lighting, time of day, and videos showing the rising Sun, it looks like this was moving mostly east-to-west. I may be off, but that’s how it looks. DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, so any fragment of that rock would also appear to move south-to-north.

However, some folks over on Slashdot aren’t so sure:

Not necessarily. Imagine a basketball in front of you. That is the Earth. Now draw an imaginary line from your nose to the left side of the basketball. Your line is going east to west. Now draw another line to the right of the basketball. Your line is now going west to east. Same point of origin. Same basic direction of movement. Different perceived trajectory for those living on the basketball.

Information on the meteor is still rather sketchy, although we may get a better picture in the next few days — it appears that the meteor broke up in the atmosphere and may have rained down some chunks on the ground.  If true, and if and when those chunks are found, we may learn more.

For now, I’m going to have to end off with this image by EUMETSAT, showing the vapour trail:

Meteor vapour trail, 15th Feb 2013

UPDATE: 6000.co.za reminded me that something similar happened in Gauteng back in 2009.

I’m still around!

I haven’t posted anything lately.  Here’s why:

  • The intensity at work went up several notches.
  • Getting my World of Warcraft raid team sorted with the new expansion — in fact, getting the guild as a whole sorted.
  • Helping Little Annoying Sister out with final wedding preparations (the big day is early next month).
  • The big one: I’m moving out of my current flat at the end of the year.    Goodbye Rondebosch (and all your drunk students), hello West Coast!

And a few minor reasons as well that I can’t think of right now.

So now you have it.