Project Chilligrow 2014

by Chris Hawkins @

As someone who gets through a lot of chillies, I'd been curious about growing my own for a while, so in January I went and bought myself a grow-your-own kit. The kit itself was brilliant, fitted perfectly on my windowsill, and required nothing except water and time.

Initially not all that much seemed to be happening, I'm guessing because it wasn't a particularly warm winter, but once it got going the shoots really started appearing. There were around 10 seeds of each different type of chilli: numex, tabasco, jalapeno and habanero. The habanero were the slowest to germinate, and at this point are the slowest to flower as well. There are plenty of buds at the moment though so hopefully this mini-heatwave will be warm enough to encourage them to come out to play. The tabasco seems to be the most successful so far, although I only seem to be able to get 3-4 fruits per plant, despite having lots of flowers. The jalapenos have took longer, but now they're going they seem to be providing more fruit. The numex are going nicely, but aren't particularly large so far.

Have some pictures to make this post more colourful!

Numex plant (purple fruit) Numex plant (green fruit) Jalapeno plant Tabasco plant Habanero plant Collection of chilli plants Another collection of chilli plants

Unless I manage to get through all the fruits I guess I should learn how to pickle them next.

Apple are useless

by Chris Hawkins @

After being annoyed with many, many aspects of Apple and continually wondering how on Earth they keep their reputation of being better than Microsoft, and the saviour of good user experience, I finally got sick enough to ask them to answer me a single question today. As if to prove my point, their support website doesn't work.

Not only doesn't it work, but it's made worse by appearing to work up until the point you hit send. The button does nothing. So after typing out a long diatribe to the poor support monkey who has to answer I couldn't even send it on.

Since I've typed it, I thought it may as well go somewhere, so let the rant begin:

I'm sick to death of Apple continuing to refuse to provide an MP3 option for bought media, and making it as awkward and inconvenient as possible to create your own.

I've used iTunes Store for many hundreds of pounds worth of purchases, which in this day and age I almost regard as being a hero to the music industry. Despite the fact you've finally got rid of DRM (huzzah!), I still cannot play a single one of these purchases in my car without going through a long and convoluted process of converting the files to MP3s. Generally, this involves ripping a CD with the songs I want converted on it, and them ripping them back onto my own computer, manually selecting MP3 as the required codec. And why? Because my car stereo, despite having iPod connectivity (and recognising my iPod as an iPod), refuses to play .m4a files.

When choosing which music to stick on my iPod - in so far as I can tell - there is no way to filter songs based on file type. While I accept my car stereo manufacturer bears some of the responsibility for this failure, just as much rests on you in my opinion.

If I do convert a purchased song to MP3 and add it to my music library, these days I'm constantly inundated with attempts to re-download the originally purchased file. This results in duplicate entries in my library (doubling the disk space used, making playlists a nightmare, and ruining your play counts functionality). All seemingly superbly designed as being as annoying as possible. And all the design of a company that built a reputation around superb user experience.

At this point in time I have only one question to ask of you (although I would appreciate a more in-depth answer to the qualms raised in this e-mail): why should I continue to buy music through iTunes, when Amazon - usually the cheaper option by a sizeable percentage - offers me the MP3 equivalent?

Digging In: Air Accident Investigation Reports

by Chris Hawkins @

As usual, I've managed to spend the best part of the day watching Youtube and browsing the internet with no real purpose (which in itself is why the internet exists schurely?). While doing so, I started reading through Air Accident Investigation Reports. Along with confirming that I really do have no life, this has thrown up some interesting incidents. Here's an abbreviated version of some of the highlights.

Mind the step

G-EZDN Airbus 319 parked

Let's start off innocuously enough, with a simple mistake of slightly misplacing your steps. [source]

During pushback from its stand at Liverpool Airport, the aircraft’s right wing trailing edge struck a set of steps which had been positioned to service another aircraft arriving on the adjacent stand.

There's plenty of runway left yet

G-EZDN Airbus 319 taking off

I think I can assume the following excerpt isn't something anyone would like to think could be said of any flight they'd been on in their life. Oh and just to really rub it in, this was the exact same aircraft to which the last incident occured too! [source]

...The takeoff run appeared normal to the pilots until the point they realised the aircraft was rapidly approaching works on the runway

If you'd all like to make your way to the rear of the aircraft

G-VSHY Airbus 340-600 taxiing

When you board a plane you probably never really think about how the weight is distributed, but it is calculated beforehand, usually in a way that allows for passenger weight variations. It's maths though, so someone is bound to get it wrong at some point, as is the case in point with this Virgin. [source]

The aircraft departed with the CG (Centre of Gravity) forward of the operator’s allowable limits. The error was detected whilst the aircraft was still airborne. The aircraft crew was contacted and some passengers moved to bring the CG back to within limits

Ooo-err Missus!

G-DBCI Airbus 319 taxiing

And finally, my favourite one of the bunch. The AAIB report writer in charge of this final report had an absolute stormer of a performance. So, to recap: [source]

During the latter stages of the takeoff roll the aircraft yawed rapidly to the right and took off over the side of the runway on a heading that was 18° to the right of the runway centreline.

The above says basically, that the airplane rapidly veered off to the right. You might be asking yourself, is this normal? To which the answer is definitely: no. So, why might this have happened?

Recorded data showed that the rapid yaw during the ground roll had been caused by a deflection of the rudder. The evidence indicated that there had been no malfunction of the aircraft...

Okay then, the rudder on the tail of the plane moved, causing the veering. But we can't find out why. Oh no, what a to-do!

So, cutting out a lot of pre-amble, science and psychology, we come to the reports conclusion:

However, it was considered that distraction and under-arousal of the flight crew in benign conditions were possible factors.

Yup, this is where the writer really came into his own. He could have mentioned fatigue or attention more specifically, but no, he went right in with the real kicker, under-arousal. Buy that man a pint.

Oh and for those wondering where this event took place, but where else? Amsterdam. Some punchlines just write themselves.