Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Live ATC Radar

Ok, so it's not the actual radar image the ATC guys get, but it's still pretty cool.

You can watch live radar of JFK airport traffic (as in flying traffic) in New York here...

Here's a JFK example - you can see the arrivals (blue planes) getting routed out over the Atlantic to circle and lose height, then coming back in to Kennedy "in trail".

Green aircraft are the departures. Anything else, isn't a JFK related aircraft (but most of those are for the adjacent La Guardia or Jersey airports)

LAX (Los Angeles) is also available, here...

Here's an LAX screenshot - lots of parallel-runway departures out over Santa Monica bay in green, and a great illustration of the routes they come in on for the parallel landing runways. Most flights from the East and South end up coming in over the East of the city, and getting lined up for one of the southerly two runways. Aircraft from the North and West (which means most flights from Europe) come in over Malibu and Santa Monica, and fly a U-turn just past LA city centre, to line up for the northerly runway.

So if live JFK and LAX radar doesn't satisfy your plane geek factor, why not hook up your audio with the accompanying ATC transmissions?

LAX tower is here, and JFK tower is here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Benji Candelario - Central Park / Rum de Coco (Released for Pleasure)

Seeing as it's Friday, it's time for a Friday sort of track. Here is one from New York, from back in 1996 - the occasionally incredible Benji Candelario, and Central Park (Rum de Coco).

Back at the tail end of the time when NYC was really doing it for house music (who remembers those days?), it comes from the post-Strictly Rhythm era when Candelario, MoodIISwing, and Masters at Work were in their prime. This really is one of the best examples of the era, and it's nothing short of awesome. A deep hard-hitting house beat, and a pounding bassline in fifths and octaves are a gift to get a more musical tune on to the tougher dancefloors.

Then there's the break that introduces the organ solo, and then the drop back in to the kick drum. Not only is it musical, it's thunderous.

When you've been playing darker and tougher house tracks in a set, there is absolutely no record that is guaranteed to lift the atmosphere like this one - and consequently, you can safely drive into darker territory with a less 'techno' crowd, ready to slam this in as the payoff when the moment is right. In fact, nothing makes this record work better than approaching it through a couple of austere tracks.

I'm not sure I can remember a single time that I've played it out in a club where someone hasn't come up to me and asked me what it is. It doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What actually is going on in Iran?

There are some fascinating thoughts from Paul Craig Roberts on Counterpunch.

The full article ("The U.S. Regime-Change Recipe for Iran") is here - my excerpts of the most interesting nuggets are as follows...

On May 16, 2007, the London Telegraph reported that Bush regime official John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

We are now witnessing in Tehran US “attempts to foment a popular revolution” in the guise of another CIA orchestrated “color revolution.”
Even if the mullahs hold together and suppress the protests, the legitimacy of the Iranian government in the eyes of the outside world has been damaged. Obama’s diplomatic approach is over before it started. The neocons and Israel have won. ... One cannot avoid the conclusion that the West wants the 1978 Iranian Revolution overthrown and intends to use deception or violence to achieve that goal.
According to a wide variety of news sources (for example, London Telegraph, Yahoo News, The Globe and Mail, Asbarez.com, Politico), “Before the polling closed Mr. Mousavi declared himself ‘definitely the winner’ based on ‘all indications from all over Iran.’ He alleged widespread voting irregularities without giving specifics and hinted he was ready to challenge the final results.” ... Mousavi’s premature claim of victory before polling was over or votes counted is clearly a preemptive move, the purpose of which is to discredit any other outcome. There is no other reason to make such a claim.

In Iran’s system, election fraud has no purpose, because a small select group of ruling mullahs select the candidates who are put on the ballot. If they don’t like an aspiring candidate, they simply don’t put him on the ballot.
Neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman let the cat out of the bag that there was an orchestrated “color revolution” in the works. Before the election, Timmerman wrote: “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.” Why would protests be organized prior to a vote and announcement of the outcome? Organized protests waiting in the wings are not spontaneous responses to a stolen election.
A writer on pakalert.wordpress.com says that he was intrigued by the sudden appearance of tens of thousands of Twitter allegations that Ahmadinejad stole the Iranian election. He investigated, he says, and he reports that each of the new highly active accounts were created on Saturday, June 13th. “IranElection” is their most popular keyword. He narrowed the spammers to the most persistent: @StopAhmadi, @IranRiggedElect, and @Change_For_Iran. He researched further and found that On June 14 the Jerusalem Post already had an article on the new twitter. He concludes that the new Twitter sites are propaganda operations.
The unexamined question is Mousavi and his motives. Why would Mousavi unleash demonstrations that are obviously being used by a hostile West to discredit the government of the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the US puppet government? Are these the actions of a “moderate”? Or are these the actions of a disgruntled man who kept his disaffection from his colleagues in order to gain the opportunity to discredit the regime with street protests? Is Mousavi being manipulated by organizations funded with US government money?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rudder - "Matorning" (Nineteen-Eight Records)

So I recently got a copy of “Matorning”, the new album from NYC based group Rudder on Nineteen-Eight Records. I’ll get the interest declaration out of the way right now, and state that I’m related to one of the band. Whatever about that, I’m not one for plugging stuff that I don’t like, plus you can get audio clips on the web and decide for yourself.

Where was I – oh yes, the album. So, they are all great musicians, and they’ve got a sense of humour. Rudder are a four-piece, composed of Keith Carlock on drums, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Henry Hey on keyboards, and Chris Cheek on saxaphones. They’ve all done various famous stuff, including Steely Dan, Saturday Night Live, Rod Stewart plus their own projects - you name it.

To the album. The band claim to “feed the intense craving for [an] organic and phenomenal groove experience". Now I'm all about phenomenal groove experiences (although they typically are more likely to be supplied by rigorously quantised machines, but that's a subject for another day) - so giving the ten-track “Matorning” a spin is particularly interesting, as my 'phenomenal' threshold for grooves is set pretty high.

First to hit is “3H Club”, and within 3 seconds it’s an experience alright, with an insistent groove getting hit from here to next week while the edge-of-distortion bass grumbles over the top and the keyboards vamp around. It’s difficult to describe the genre, but it’s a good genre whatever it is. Just when you think it’s going to be a pure bass groove, the sax appears and leads the whole track in to a more classical jazz mode, joined in a second by an organ. Every so often it breaks, and every time it comes back (for an organ solo, then a stomping building jam, then a sax workout, then the main tune again), the groove seems heavier and more insistant. 3H Club runs for a touch over 7 minutes, and every time you think you have a label that you could pin on it, something happens to make you think again.

If you weren’t sure about the electicism after the first track, then the rest of the album will definitely sort you out. While the theme of jazz and jamming runs across the whole album (although this is udpated jazz - without being different-planet unlistenable), the extra ingredients are always being mixed. “Toyko Chicken” adds electrified and cheeky ska-punk, “Lucy” distills a stunningly contemplative downtempo track into the most plaintive sax melody, “One Note Mosh” is an urgent and musical car chase.

Usually anything with 7 beats in the bar sounds horrifically indulgent, but on “Jackass Surcharge”, Rudder manage to get those beats in (or take them out) to come up with a stunningly funky looping monster, without sounding deliberately clever – it’s good solid fun.

The second half of the album is just as good – from the deranged offkilter “Innit” (where did that title come from - aren’t these guys supposed to be American?) to the hilariously titled “Lucky Beard” which seems (amongst other things) to have a time signature which simultaneously leans two ways. Devastatingly funky. “Daitu” comes across almost like a sub-acid-house jam, all distortion and looping, loping bass – custom made for a big PA. Then it’s in to the last two on the album, with the frantic and claustrophobic 2 minutes of jamming that is “Neppe” leaving on to the finale, “CDL”, which appears in a sweep of pads and effects, until a repeating bassline and piano motif opens up the track and reveals (together with “Lucy”) the most commercial sound on the whole record, as straight powerful chords underpin an arching sax tune as the band drive inexorably towards the end in a deliberate and articulate full stop on the ten tracks.

The music itself really is great, and suprisingly easy and engaging to listen to for something that has so many ideas. The mix of players sounds right too - if you haven’t noticed by the end how well the band work together, then you need to listen again – the effortless and easy flow of the sax, the always-in-the-right-place stylings of the keyboards, the busy and hugely effective work going on all the time in the bass, and the freakishly metronomic and funky drums, it’s effortlessly musical, and highly recommended. Just don’t ask me what to call it.

Tuneful, thought-provoking, and funky to the point of uncontrollably danceable, Rudder supply music to snap genres by.

If they are this heavy, engaging and funky on record, you wouldn’t want to miss them live...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The KLF / JAMS - It's Grim up North

Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty have always been up to wierd stuff. Cauty is from Liverpool, and Drummond is from Scotland. For a few years in the 90s, they formed "The KLF" together, and launched in to a bizarre and temporary career as art-pop terrorists, foisting a unique, strange and fascinating series of pop/dance singles on the charts.

One of their later singles was "It's Grim up North", and although I didn't understand it at the time, it's come to seem more and more significant to me as I've grown up.

The "North" in the song refers to the North of England. A place of stunning scenery, post-industrial waste-towns and cities, riven with unemployment, it's generally experienced from one of the few major motorways that arc across this part of England. The main artery (the M6) runs from Birmingham directly North, passing between Liverpool and Manchester before trailing up all the way to the border with Scotland. On the other side of the country, the oscillating disaster that is the M1/A1 grinds slowly up the East Coast, passing Hull, and eventually reaching Newcastle, before snaking up and around in to Edinburgh.

Linking these two is the M62, which cuts directly East-West from Liverpool to Hull. Driving from, to or through "the North", you spend a lot of time on these motorways, gliding past parts of England forgotten or deliberately neglected for huge parts of the 80s by London and Thatcher, with the attendant social problems and unemployement that resulted.

In "It's Grim up North", the KLF somehow captured this atmosphere in one of the most surreal tunes ever to make the UK charts. Set entirely in front of a rain-drenched motorway underpass, a searing industrial kick drum thunders out underneath klaxons and horns, as a litany of distored Northern English placenames is intoned from a guy standing in the driving rain in front of the biggest pile of back-floodlit speakers. Political parties seeking to fight the BNP should at least have to watch this video and soak it up a little bit.

It somehow captures the bleak and resiliant spirit of the North, in the context of the never-sleeping dirty motorways that constantly stream through it. The most amazing moments of the tune are halfway through, as the grinding industrialism breaks and slowly melts into the plaintive and powerfully epic "Jerusalem". Tied up in "little England" psychology (check Jerusalem at the last night of the Proms from London for some idea), nothing is guaranteed to fill the hearts of middle class England with more pride.

Two completely disparate atmospheres, one track. As musical pivot it's incredibly skilfull - as a cultural counterpoint, it's jaw-dropping.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Arthur Kade

Forgive me for posting this, but have you met Arthur Kade?

Or perhaps, seen his Twitter page?

I'm not sure what constructively I can say about this - except, please send help.

Kade in his own, inimitably self-obsessed Twitter words:

"All of my female friends are hot and have implants and the unattractive ones at least have successful, high paying jobs."

"Acclaimed casting director Mike Lemon says my performances are cool and effortless and that I'm a "once in a generation" talent."

"I am too good looking for radio, but I think I have a diverse, powerful, and interesting enough personality, that I could be great at it."

"Just finished an amazing radio appearance with Danny Bonaduce. He mentioned several times how good looking I am"

"Went to my ex's bday party and had to be careful not to monopolize the whole party with my good looks and celebrity stories. Impressive."

"People don’t realize the effort that goes into getting perfect pictures. I have had times where a look was so hot, I just look amazing."

"I just hired an acting coach (Pat Jordan of Philadelphia) and I could tell she was shocked by my good looks and innate acting ability."

"My beard is really looking amazing. I think it gives me that leading man/tough guy look, like Colin Farrell."

"Changed my Twitter backgrounds today with head shots because I think it better perpetuates the "Kade brand"."

And my own personal favourite:

"I'm blessed with thick, full hair that looks amazing straight or curly."

Just for some fan perspective, here are some snippets from the comments people have left on his webpage:

"I might have to just stop posting, because there are no words whatsoever for the trainwreck that is that commentary video at the top"

"I started to watch the ‘autograph’ clip and had to stop :10 in . . .
again Arthur,

"someone needs a severe douching of the soul i thinks."

"he is truly a perfect storm of douchebaggery"

"The decline of western civilization has finally happened."

"The pig in Babe had way more highly evolved acting skills"

If you don't feel uncomfortable already, then be sure to check out the Kade Scale (his rating system for women).

And if that doesn't do it, then his Youtube Channel surely will.

Perhaps the Final Dance Rehearsal will do it for you. Or mabye even seeing the "Kade Dance" go down live in a nightclub...?

If none of that works for you, then could I suggest that you try the poolside danceoff?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Across 110th Street on the Emerald Isle

Here's a stunning performance by Bobby Womack, with a double-header of songs - California Dreaming, and the incredible "Across 110th Street", which is as relevant today as it was the day it was written (1973).

I've always found something quite magnetic about "Across 110th Street" - it explains urban decay and what follows more accurately than any dry text is likely to, and it's an amazingly soulful song. With Womack's voice, it's even better, and this performance with just an acoustic guitar is about as good as it gets.

It's a timely song as well, and it's a warning following the insane property bubble and unhindered development that's been happening in Ireland for the last 15 years. This frenzy of development was one of the first things that struck me when I moved to Ireland in 2003 - building of shoddy housing estates, on the extreme periphery of cities, and some of the larger towns. This is exactly what happened in Scotland back in the 60s with the concrete tower blocks - which were the great new thing at the time. The problem is that the estates typically don't get finished, you can't walk to anything or anywhere, public transport is patchy, and viable and plentiful services such as schools, shops, and a proper sense of community are never developed.

Take a very poorly positioned housing estate that sprawls for miles and is walking distance to nowhere, fail to complete it, fail to put in public transport, fail to add shops, gardens, parks and community, and then throw in a price crash trapping owner-occupiers on the estate, and a recession with job losses sapping them of any money they might have remaining, and watch the inevitable outcome.

A lot of people in dream housing estates are going to find themselves across 110th street in the next few years...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Regina Brett's 45 life lessons

I got this as a circular email recently. I usually bin them, but this one ties in with a lot of stuff I think about life too. It reminded me in places of Walter Payton (if you haven't got his book yet, get it) - and some of the ways that he talked about life.

Anyway, here it is - 50 pieces of life advice from Regina Brett, columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Air France 447

The disaster involving Air France flight 447 is a very odd one. A widebody airliner, running a regular scheduled oceanic flight, suddenly dissapears with no distress calls. A debris field has been found, so it seems certain that the aircraft is destroyed - whether this happened prior to or after contact with the water is to be determined.

I've been sifting the web - there are a million theories out there, but here's a super-condensed version of what seems to be known, and the most reasonable conjectures out there.

Firstly - what seems to be known (with UTC times).

A couple of notes - aircraft fly 'routes' in the sky that are marked with 'waypoints' at specific locations. Over the ocean, there is no radar coverage (it only extends a certain distance from land due to the horizon). So normal procedure is to radio in to Air Traffic Control as you pass a waypoint, advise them of where you are, and advise them of your estimated time at the next waypoint. These reports from aircraft allow ATC to track aircraft they cannot see, and to keep adequate separation between aircraft over the ocean.

The waypoint TASIL mentioned below is the halfway waypoint between South America and Africa. At this point, the flight would be 'handed over' from Atlantico ATC (CINDACTAIII - covering the South American side) to Dakar ATC (covering the African side). HF radio communications over the ocean can be a bit tricky, and other pilots have indicated problems in establishing communications when transitioning from Atlantico to Dakar, so just because no radio transmissions were received, does not mean that none were made.

22:03 (19:03 local) The Aircraft (An Airbus A330) left Rio de Janeiro, heading for Paris Charles de Gaulle

01:33 Flight reports to Atlantic Area Control as it overflew the INTOL waypoint, indicating it expects to arrive at the TASIL waypoing at 02:20

01:48 AF447 leaves the radar of CINDACTAIII at Fernando de Noronha, as expected. The aircraft is flying at 35,000 feet, and 453 knots as it leaves radar coverage.

02:20 The aircraft fails to report at waypoint TASIL. Atlantico ATC raise the alarm, and inform Dakar ATC also.

05:33 No further radio or radar contacts from the aircraft. A search is initiated by the Brazilian authorities.

The above, seems to be fact. What follows is less solid - but it seems to me the "most useful" info and the "most likely" scenarios that I can glean from the torrent of information, theory, supposition, and wild-eyed conspiracy flying around.

According to the Aviation Herald, "sources within Air France" suggest that the aircraft emitted a stream of ACARS messages, starting at 02:10 and ending at 02:14. (ACARS is a system for transmission of simple, short messages between the aircraft and ground, which can also be automatic). The unconfirmed sequence of ACARS messages is alleged to be:

02:10 Autopilot had disengaged, fly by wire system had changed to Alternate Law
02:11-02:13 A flurry of messages issued indicating faults with both ADIRU and ISIS systems
02:13 PRIM 1 and SEC 1 faults indicated
02:14 An advisory is issued regarding "cabin vertical speed".

The final ACARS report on "cabin vertical speed" pretty much speaks for itself. The most interesting one is the first one - the deselection of Autopilot, and the selection of "Alternatve Law" for the flight control system. Normally on the A330 (and other Airbuses), the flight is controlled by the pilot, via flight control computers (two of which - PRIM 1 and SEC 1 - started to get cranky at 02:13). Normally there are quite a few protections built in to these computers - they stop you getting the aircraft in too wierd positions, basically.

In "Alternate Law" mode, a lot of the protections are removed - you can stall the aircraft, you can put it in to extreme banks left or right, and you can fly at extreme angles of attack.

What is interesting is, under what circumstances would Alternate Law be engaged? It would seem that it's caused by "multiple failures of redundant systems". One other site suggested that Alternate Law can also be engaged if the aircraft gets in an attitude that is abnormal (i.e. pointed way up or way down, or banked left or right to an extreme degree).

So IF Alternate Law was in fact one of the first problematic ACARS transmissions, it could be supposed that the aircraft was in a highly unusual position *before* the other failures (ADIRU, ISIS, PRIM 1, SEC 1) started.

What could have gotten the plane in a highly unusual position? There's a fantastic weather analysis by Tim Vasquez here (it's a must-read if you are curious about this disaster) which for me comes the closest so far to putting a finger on a likely start to the problems. The plane had to fly through the ITCZ, and the thunderstorms there are not your average animal.

If you combine Vasquez's moving animation of the expected aircraft track, together with the times of the error messages, it does start to look more likely that extreme weather may have been where this problem started.

People are also pointing to the possibility of a dual engine flamout. On another forum, a pilot alleges that the aircraft had CF6 engines, and that they have a history of rollbacks (uncommanded reductions in power), including ones caused by super-cooled water droplets in the vicinity of thunderstorms.

Could it have been a double-engine failure?

Others are pointing out the possibility of a rudder failure, which Airbus may have had a couple of in the past, particularly when extreme rudder deflections are called for from the flight deck. Mabye. In response to extreme weather?

Finally - as of writing it seems to be a debris field of up to 35 miles in length. If that's the case, it strongly suggests the aircraft broke up in the air, not upon impact with the water. That's an interesting investigative point, and also it might provide some small solace to the families of those involved. If the aircraft broke up in the air, it would (together with the very quick flurry of ACARS error messages) point to something going wrong very very quickly.

One thing is for sure - I don't like 2-engined aircraft flying ETOPS long haul flights, no matter how reliable modern engines are. And I definitely don't like fly-by-wire either. Not only is the computer modifying what the pilot is trying to get the aircraft to do, but if for example the pilots were still concious and attempting to control the plane in the 02:10 - 02:14 timeframe, then not only were they trying to cope with extreme weather, and a huge aircraft getting out of control in the dark, but their systems were bombarding them with error messages - Alternate Law engaged, ADIRU faults, ISIS faults, PRIM 1 fault, SEC 1 fault - all this at the same time as trying to figure out what way up they were (it was dark) and how they could rescue the plane.

The area where the debris has been found is several thousand feet deep, and the locating transmitters on the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder only function for 30 days. Let's hope they can find the two boxes before that time is up, and a bit more light can be shed on what happened in the last few minutes of the flight, and doing everything possible to prevent a repeat.