November 2015

CSICS 2015 was held in October in New Orleans. Oh, what memories we have made, in particular, the sound of police sirens at least once in each session. Next time we need to find a conference venue at higher ground than street level.

Bourbon Street is the local attraction, but how much drunken debauchery can an engineer stand? What else is there to do? How about a little side trip to Six Flags Jazzland?  Didn't see a brochure for that in the hotel lobby, did you? How about some references to microwave engineering, does anything like that exist in NOLA?

Microwave sight-seeing

Here's a photo of a FET-related concept, from the streets of New Orleans.  Under normal circumstances water drains down the pipe below.  During hurricanes however, gate-to-source breakdown can occur, the drain can become the source and you'd better scoot inland.

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Wilkinson street in my mind pays tribute to one of my favorite microwave engineers

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That's all I have on microwave site-seeing in NOLA.  Perhaps next time I will visit the WWII museum and see a radio or radar.

Drunken Debauchery

Overheard in a NOLA CVS drug store: "what do we need, honey?"  "A bottle of tequila, and some Zantac".  

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One problem with New Orleans is it is a beer wasteland.  Most pubs you visit offer Budweiser, Coors Light, Heineken, and the local bathwater named Abitas.  They are more than happy to provide you with a "Hurricane" in a souvenir glass that will bring on a sugar headache whenever you roll out of bed the next day.  We found just one bar on Bourbon street that sells a variety of craft beers, but at eight bucks and up the bartender is not gonna be collecting a lot of tips.

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Bigger is not always better

Music and seafood make up for the beer problem.  Just don't think about British Petroleum when munching that shrimp po'boy.  

Many of the music acts seem to be lost... why are we listening to Billy Joel and Elton John renditions? The trick to finding a good venue for music is to never listen to anyone when they say "you simply have to go to blah blah blah..." just take a walk, listen outside, peer in, if it's not too crowded pop in and have an excellent time. The guys below aren't making bank and are happy to see you. 


Rolling on a River

The Natchez IX awaits you for a tour... The Natchez VII lost the greatest steamboat race in history to the Robert E Lee back in 1870, each boat traveling 1200 miles in somewhat less than four days, similar in scope to when a Lockheed Connie flew coast-to-coast in less than seven hours in 1944.  Historians have different points of view on the river race, but it is likely that Robert E Lee was not carrying much cargo or passengers, while the Natchez went about a normal trip.  With Christmas coming up, a book on this topic might make a good gift (hint hint).

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Natchez IX was built in the 1970s but reuses a steam engine from the 1920s which puts out 1200 horsepower. There are other riverboat tours, but currently the Natchez is the only authentic paddle-wheel steamer berthed in NOLA.  Traveling the river on a stern-wheeler powered by diesel just seems wrong. Natchez IX remains unbeaten in all modern steamboat races it has participated in.

Twenty-six tons of steel and white oak drive the boat, quite inefficiently. Sometimes even a good Druid can overlook increases in entropy.  Make up for it by biking to work!

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Twin boilers Thelma and Louise, are oil-fired.

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The steam engine on Natchez IX is a tandem-compound unit with 15 and 30 inch diameter chambers, more efficient than a single chamber.  With an opposing set-up on the opposite side of the stern wheel, four power strokes occur per rotation.  You'll notice the ship is almost vibration-free under full power, the only time you sense a vibration is when the bow thrusters (electric-powered) are used to spin the ship around. A 250 kW generator provides juice to the ship, the steam engine is only used for propulsion.

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Years ago, "donkey" steam engines were not self starting. In the case of a stern-wheeler, some unfortunate person would be sent out to walk the wheel into its expansion cycle.  Accidents during this procedure could be horrendous.  Engineering is all about continuous improvements.

Six Flags - Deep Six

Did you ever notice that the best stories often end in "and then we hauled ass?" I first observed this when reading about OC and Stiggs in National Lampoon Magazine, around 1981.

Six Flags New Orleans was fist opened as "Jazzland" in 2000, far from downtown and off the radar of most tourists. It lost money and was bought by the Six Flags franchise in 2002. This was just around the time Six Flags introduced "Mr. Six" in their television commercials.

Mr. Six

Did you ever wonder where Six Flags got its name?  If you count the flags that have flown over Texas, you'd see Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States of America, and currently the USA (for the second time).  The Texas statehouse capital dome displays six coats of arms to signify the six flags that they are so proud of.  No word on when they will remove the Confederate coat of arms, but I am sure it is going to be a of discussion as this Red state turns Blue. Glad to see that they stay in touch with their French heritage, iin any case.

Back to the Six Flags theme park. When Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, the park was protected by an artificial berm that gave way, and the pumps failed and the park was submerged. Up to seven feet of water stayed for a month, pretty much wrecking everything. Six Flags sued their insurance company for not coughing up what they assessed to be the full value of the park, removed the rides that could be salvaged, and broke the lease. The park is now owned by the City of New Orleans, which doesn't know what to do with it. They fenced it off and hired a security guard to keep people out. Entering the park is expressly forbidden and carries a stiff penalty for trespassers. We would never commit a crime during a symposium week, but maybe we know of some anonymous people who took a chance and toured the park. Mostly, they wanted to see the giant clown head and offer it sympathy.

It is just a short ride from NOLA to the park, maybe $30 using Uber.  First you have to crawl under a chain-link fence and walk maybe a half-mile down the driveway. Then crawl under another chain link fence and you're in the park! Did you ever wonder how fast an alligator can run?  That could be important data when exploring the park.

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Here is the vistor entrance, where up until August 26, 2005 you'd have to part with a pile of twenty dollar bills if you brought your family. 

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The ride that you will encounter first, if from a distance, is the Jester, one of the Six Flags upgrades that tied in with a Warner Brothers (Six Flags owners) penchant for comic book merchandising.

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Someone tried to steal this bumper car, pushing it halfway to the park entrance before giving up.

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Here are its stable mates. Being under six feet of water voided the warranty.

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And then we hauled ass!


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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