This is the we use bar we use in the Telstar Logistics Executive Lounge. Actually, it's an old airline galley cart, and this is the story of how it ended up in our headquarters... and how you can get one too.
A few years ago, we decided we wanted a galley cart -- the kind that flight attendants push down the aisles while serving food and drinks in the skies. Why? Well, we're hopeless aviation geeks, of course, but we also admired the simplicity, durability, and functionality of airline galley carts. Plus, we reasoned, a galley cart would be the perfect foundation for a compact bar setup.
Our quest to find a cart eventually took us to the deserts of El Mirage, California, where we found an aircraft boneyard with a few old galley carts to spare. Here's the one we liked best, as it looked the moment when we first laid eyes upon it:
It's an old SAS galley cart from the late-1970s, manufactured in Switzerland by a company called Bucher. We bought it, took it to a self-service car wash to clean off the dust, then carried it home. Later, we built a few matching drawers from acrylic sheet plastic, then loaded our cart up with vintage airline glassware, tiny bottles of liquor, cans of mixers, and plenty of napkins and bags of peanuts pinched from the cabins of the world's leading airlines.
It's turned out to be a wonderful tool for living. When not in use, all our barware and booze stows compactly and unobtrusively inside the cart. Come fun-time, the cart quickly converts into a bar, with plenty of workspace, easy access to bottles, and a snap-on tray (also found at the boneyard) that provides another level of storage for condiments and cocktail accessories:
And you can imagine how giddy we became when we flew on SAS in 2007, and discovered that the airline still uses carts exactly like ours in regular commercial service:
So where can you get one too?
Used airline galley carts are hard to find, and short-wheelbase carts like ours — which are much better-suited to domestic use — are even more rare. And even if you make the trek to the desert to visit a boneyard, the carts you'll find there are often in sad shape. New ones, however, cost several thousand dollars.
Happily, we just discovered another option. The Swiss company that manufactured our cart has an American subsidiary called Bucher Aerospace, and Bucher is now selling new carts to the general public at a very fair price.
Prices start at around $800 for an empty cart sold in a selection of 10 tasteful colors. Throw in options like top rails, a foot brake (handy during social turbulence), and some interior fittings, and the final price comes closer to $1300.
That's much less than a premium class roundtrip ticket from California to New York, and trust us when we say this: Having one of these carts at home makes every day feel like flying First Class.
Photographed testing on public roads and highways, we think this behemoth might actually be more of a truck than a limo. With so much armor being added, it appears GM may have needed a medium-duty truck chassis like the Topkick platform. We observed the limo testing along with two regular Topkick trucks and the wheels and tires on the limo appeared to be the same size as the Topkick. The tires on the limo are Goodyear Regional RHS tires on 19.5-inch wheels.
As far as powertain, all we can say for sure is that it sounded like a very large diesel was under the hood. Possibly a V8 Duramax.
Style-wise, we can see bits and pieces from a few different Cadillac models. Xenon headlights from the Escalade adorn the front while the rear seems to have some parts. We can also see holders on the top of the front fenders where two small American flags would traditionally go. The doors on this limo are absolutely astounding. We'd guess they are at least 20 centimeters (8 inches) thick!
The New York Times also dug into the story, and here's what they learned (which is to say, not so much):
Although the raised roof and wide windshield pillars are inherited from the ultra-armored limousines that entered presidential service in 2001, only educated guesses can be made about the technical details. Because neither the Secret Service nor General Motors will discuss the car, or even confirm that a new one has been under development, it is impossible to provide basic specifications or dimensions. Calls to Cadillac's media relations department were not returned, and the Secret Service declined to comment.
(IMAGE: Spy photos by Chris Doane/Brenda Priddy & Company)
Uh-oh. As if the latest economic news wasn't scary enough, Google just introduced a new productivity-killing tool that is all but guaranteed to shave a few points off this quarter's projected GDP growth figures. The culprit: Google's digitization of the vast photo archives of the former LIFE magazine. Google's official blog explains:
Continuing our mini-tradition of filling your Fridays with useless video, Telstar Logistics presents this week's installment: "Woman Stripped by Mechanical Shovel." Yes, it's pretty much as described, and thankfully it's more or less safe for work. It's also from Italy, so we assume it goes well with pasta -- a farfalle, no doubt.
(Tip of the hard hat to Ninavizz!)
Proprietary platforms vs. industry standards ... closed kernels vs. open source .. the cathedral vs. the bazaar... those are familiar fault lines to anyone who has followed the Great Intellectual Property Debate that has taken place in the IT and software industries for the last three decades. Yet that same debate is also playing itself out right now in the defense sector (of all places), where an attempt is underway to liberate the cockpit interface used in many Pentagon unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the proprietary grip of the company that manufactures them.
It's fascinating, actually. San Diego-based General Atomics currently manufactures both the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs that have been used so extensively by US forces in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. The UAVs are unmanned, of course, but they're not autonomous robots — most are piloted remotely by pilots who sit in cockpit-like ground control stations that act as the primary interface between the soldiers and their machines. Since the UAVs were developed by General Atomics, General Atomics also sells all the ground control stations, because the company holds a proprietary lock on the technology used to link the aircraft to their human controllers.
Raytheon wants to change that. At the moment, Raytheon is making an unsolicited bid to sell the Pentagon a new, open-platform version of the standard UAV ground-control station. In the magazine's 10 Nov. issue, Aviation Week reports:
Arguing the USAF is held hostage by the platform primes with their proprietary interfaces, Raytheon [business development director Mark Bigham] says: “The [current ground-control station] is an afterthought. The primes will always spend their independent research and development funding on the aircraft. All we focus on is the ground.” He says the CGCS (common ground control system) would reduce training costs and losses caused by human factors and “pay for itself in three years.”
Submitted in September, Raytheon’s unsolicited proposal is to provide an open interface control document which the government would own and give to UAV primes; to develop the core GCS software; and to provide three MQ-1B systems flight-certified with the new open interface.
In the event General Atomics refuses to open its Predator interface, Bigham says, the proposal includes an option for the Air Force to “send us three aircraft and we’ll take out the proprietary stuff, put open interfaces in and give them back three flight-certificated aircraft. All we are asking them to be is open.”
Raytheon believes an open GCS is inevitable. “There will be a competition in 2009,” predicts Bigham. “If General Atomics fights too hard, the Air Force will shut off the Predator program. The MQ-1B will be isolated and they will have won the battle, but lost the war.”
Get that? Raytheon is threatening to reverse-engineer a Predator UAV. Just like Compaq did to IBM's choke hold on BIOS, or much like what Linux has done to Microsoft's control over Wintel. Raytheon wants to do the same to General Atomics's lock on UAV ground-control systems.
But what's so bad about the current General Atomics UAV control stations? Telstar Logistics did some supplementary Googling, which brought us to this thoughful blog posting about the limitations of the existing General Atomics user-interface:
Pilots of UAVs are hoping for improvements in the cockpit. Currently, though there are control sticks like that of an aircraft, they do not function entirely like a traditional control stick and most of the interface is done through the keyboard, especially when the autopilots are engaged which is most of the time. Beyond this, the cockpits are not the most optimized ergonomic environments for pilots with lots of functionality in awkward places. What they need and desperately want is something that looks more like a cockpit with a stick and throttle that behave like a stick and throttle and dials and gages instead of little number readouts on computer displays. Also and perhaps even more importantly, having the ability to have a wider field of view which is critically important for situational awareness [...]
[O]ne of the student pilots was complaining about the difficulty in landing when he realized that there is no difference in sensitivity of the control stick in flight mode versus landing mode and he noted that even his flight control stick connected to his Microsoft Flight Simulator had a landing mode that would reduce the sensitivity allowing for more slop necessary for slower air speeds over the control surfaces. The same is also true for the fly by wire F-16. When you put the gear down, the flight control system changes gains in the movement of the control surfaces relative to movements in the flight controls. The question is "why does not the Predator or Reaper control systems have this functionality? The standard military answer is simply "because it doesn't", however the reality is a bit more complicated than that and is due to the supply chain of these aircraft being a sole source proprietary system. The Air Force takes what General Atomics gives them and if General Atomics is not really interested in providing these things to the pilots, then the Air Force does not get it.
It will be most curious to watch how the General Atomics vs. Raytheon dogfight plays out in the months ahead.
Built during the 1950s, Nike missiles were anti-aircraft weapons designed to shoot down Soviet bombers before they could drop their deadly payloads on American soil. The missiles themselves were equipped with either nuclear or conventional warheads, and a total of more than 300 Nike batteries were erected around America's major cities, where they operated until the early 1970s. In the Bay Area alone there were two dozen Nike sites scattered around the region, but SF-88 is the only one in the country that remains more or less intact.
Operated under the auspices of the National Park Service and maintained by a staff of devoted volunteers, SF-88 retains most of the equipment and hardware that was used when the battery was operational.
Apart from several of the old missiles, the underground missile storage facilities are also restored, and visitors can even ride up and down the elevator that carried the rockets into firing position. Wheeee!
And now for a refreshing dose of retrofuturism....
Filmed in 1956, the following video is part of a Walt Disney series called "Man and the Moon" that envisioned the technology that would enable human space travel. As is so often the case with these sorts of things, the imagined future turned out to significantly more gee-whiz than the subsequent reality, but that's just part of the fun. No less fun is the narrator, the eminent scientist Werner von Braun, who describes the rockets and space stations of tomorrow in a parody-perfect German accent. Buckle up your space suit, and enjoy the ride:
When we arrived at Bernal Speedway in San Francisco to take in the 2008 running of the Illegal Soapbox Derby, some unpleasantness ensued between the racers and several representatives of the San Francisco Police Department. It seems the Parks Department had received a pre-race complaint from someone in the Bernal Heights Temperance and Abstinence League, and the cops were under orders to put the kibosh on the event. (According to the police, San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano had attempted to intervene on behalf of the Soapbox Derby, but to no avail -- Ammiano was overruled by the bureaucrats at the Parks Department. Thanks for trying, Tom!)
After some futile and frustrating attempts at negotiation, the crowd dispersed peacefully and relocated (no less peacefully) to an another gravity-rich location elsewhere in the city.
The backup race course was steeper, narrower, and more curvy than Bernal Hill, which changed the tone of the racing dramatically. Check out this g-forcing, wheel-lifting action! Action! ACTION:
Suffice to say, we will not provide much advance notice of the Illegal Soapbox Derby Races in 2009, to ensure that a repeat of this year's SFPD unpleasantness does not occur. You'll be on your own to figure out the date. But when you do, Telstar Logistics be there too, and we look forward to saying hello.
Lots more photos fro 2008, below:
The Really Really Illegal 2008 Soapbox Derby (Flickr photoset by Telstar Logistics)
UPDATE 11/3/08 12:42 pm: Via Jocelyn, here's a video of the SFPD talking to the crowd. The officer in charge was friendly enough, at least, and he confessed that he used to race soapbox cars down Russian Hill (illegally) when he was a kid:
The 2006 Illegal Soapbox Derby (Flickr photoset by Telstar Logistics)
The 2005 Illegal Soapbox Derby (Flickr photoset by Telstar Logistics)
(IMAGES: All photos by Telstar Logistics)