Thursday, August 28, 2008

Anniversary poem

To my pookbear, my partner and mate
Who is tied to me by destiny and fate
Who chose me as partner to procreate
Who frequently hands me my ass on a plate
For our fortunes which are combined
And for your love, for which I pine
My hand in yours and yours in mine
Happy anniversary darling - happy nine.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Puttin it on autopilot

On a recent flight from Petaluma to Lake Tahoe, I set the autopilot on my Skyhawk for a 600 feet per minute climb to 11,500 feet, and resigned myself to a prolonged climb where the autopilot would be doing most of the flying.  I was going to circumvent the Military airspace (Travis, if memory serves) around there, but decided that I needed the practice with transitions.  Somewhere around Lake Berryessa, I gave them a call.
I asked for a transition to Tahoe.  They asked me for the identifier.  It was at that moment I realized something was wrong.  My airspeed indicator was reading around 50 - for the uninitiated, a borderline dangerous slow speed for that plane and close to stall speed.
Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.  Travis, standby.
Some of you out there realize my error.  A 600 feet per minute climb at sea level for this plane is reasonable - but at higher altitudes, it becomes unsustainable and outside the plane's parameters.
The error was easy enough to correct - nose down, gain airspeed, 300 feet per minute with plenty of miles to climb to that altitude.  But my little story does illustrate some of the dangers of autopilot, and taking your will and attention out of the equation.
Speaking of putting it on autopilot, I haven't been blogging much of late.  This is probably due to the newest member of the household, my daughter.
I'm not one for conventional adulation, so I didn't want to call my daughter "Princess."  So I started calling her Taco.  Because I love tacos - so crispy and delicious, they are so perky, I love that (reference, anyone?).  Then I decided that she was like a shitake mushroom.  I've now taken to calling her Princess Shitaco.  My wife says that makes her sound like an anime character.  Which I'm not entirely against.
He's a story I've told at bars, about a strange confluence of events.  Few read this blog, so I'm not too worried about it leaking.  Once, I was running late to work, and just grabbed some clothes to change into at red lights and stop signs and such.  I happened to be listening to the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack, a gift from my wife.  I'm park at a stop sign, when a cop rolls up in my rear view mirror.  And the situation suddenly comes into focus.
There I am, sitting there, across from a school, pants around my ankles, listening to the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.
I have never driven so by the book.  No California rolling stops.  Stop dead at the stop signs.  After about 4 blocks, the copper dropped off my 6.  Another disaster barely avoided.
I finished reading "Fate is the Hunter."  It's a great book.  It gets me thinking of the early days of aviation, the "Bad Old Days" as I've heard Max Trescott say, when aviation was a great deal riskier, when the lessons we now study were paid for in lives lost.  Reminds me of good old Jeppensen, who said "I didn't create these (aviation) maps to become famous.  I did it to stay alive."  (Side quote, Woody Allen - "I don't want to become immortal through my work.  I want to do it by not dying").  The deaths of pilots were a far more common thing.  Countless deaths were interwove into the narrative.  It is a real meditation on the fickle nature of things, with severe consequences.  It is a fairly haunting book.
One must remember to be thankful for the trailblazers.
The day George Harrison died, my wife and I went to another funeral.  A few months after September 11th, there was another crash.  Fortunately, there were no ground casualties.  But the brother of one of family friends was a Steward on the flight.  It was quite the picture, all these pilots and steward/esses, in full matching company uniform, in one church.  It was inspiring to hear all the tales of the man these people worked with, admired, loved.  He was a social worker, but loved to travel, which is why he became a steward.  From all the tales of the people who confided in him, relied on him for advice, trusted and loved him, it was clear that his social work continued - just in another form.  Later that day, we went down to Strawberry fields, where a celebration of George Harrision was in full swing.  We sang and drank and danced and lived and loved.  It was a strange, beautiful NYC day. 
I miss New York sometimes, but know where we are is where we are supposed to be.
Conclusion:  Seize the day, be greatful for your memories, embrace the moment, and be mindful of what you put on autopilot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A study in contrasts

How the day began:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Public transportation sardine can

How it ended:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mountain vista SF glory

And finally, junk or philospohical statement?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

P.S. Sorry about the border bleed - we'll get the IT department on it ASAP

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Night Flight

Just finished reading Night Flight yesterday.  I tend to gravitate to the books that are under 100 pages : )  The author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (from "the Little Prince," which I read for the first time on the Green Tortoise, a cross country bus ride) has a great outsider perspective on things.  It is about the early days, the "Bad Old Days" as one of my CFIs referred to it, when there were pioneers and low low tech and bad/no charts.  It detailed an evening where a bureaucrat send a pilot to his doom.  More than a piloting book, this is more a critique of bureaucracy and a meditation on leadership.  I will excerpt two inspectors talking to each other:
"You should keep your place, Robineau"  Riviere weighed his words.  "You may have to order this pilot tomorrow night to start on a dangerous flight.  He will have to obey you"
"The lives of men worth more than you are in your hands."  He seemed to hesitate.  "It's a serious matter"
I won't reveal too much but I will say the part about the "two truths" is shattering.  Nuff said.
Want to finish "Fate is the Hunter."  I'm stalled half way through.  Sometimes I read something that I recognize as good and valuable, but somewhere half way I run out of fuel.  Does this every happen to you?

Stumped my CFI - but not her fault

So I am preparing for the written test.  I am using the software from, which has served me well.  I read that taking tests is good for the memory, so since taken to testing.  One of the questions was regarding timed approaches from a holding fix.  Apparently, you can't do it if it requires a procedure turn in the Missed Approach.  We had to look it up in the AIM, as my CFI says it isn't done too much in the U.S.  They do it in Mexico, we think.
So I am testing, and I realize I have it on the most difficult possible setting.  Which bodes well for me, as I am testing around 80% now at that setting.  But there is an awful lot to know about flying a plane - not everyone has the answers all the time, and pulling out and springing a question from one of the most esoteric corners of Aviation; you can see how it happened.
I have been having a little problem with my E6B calculations.  If there are any pilots out there, drop me a line.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Rules of the Game

Before I launch into my diatribe, let me just ask this - why is it the Naan and Curry in North Beach always smells like cleaning products but never smells clean? Good food though, that's why I go back.
Certain factions wish to break up the California presidential electorate, so that each county has a vote. In practice, this means that California in 2004 would have not cast 55 votes to Kerry, but 33 to Kerry and 22 to Bush.
What a bunch of gerrymandering tools.
The article above covers most of it. You gotta love how the people behind it claim to be non-partisan.
It seems to me that if such a proposition were instated, it would need to be a blanket rule for all states, not just the large prizes with divided loyalties. California is a hell of a prize but a foregone conclusion, usually - which is why it doesn't get much attention, especially proportionate to population. Which begs the question - why this half-ass democracy, anyways? If not state to state, is county to county better?
Why not just do away with the antiquated electoral college and institute a popular vote instead?
It isn't likely to pass - the interests have to pass the prop in a state that is weighed against them anyways, and the people aren't stupid . It said in the article that if nothing else, it does serve to drive Democrats crazy. Well, I'm distracted from the real issues. Mission accomplished.
In other observations, did anyone else notice while watching "Snakes on a Plane" that they were talking to Air Traffic Control, saying the avionics were out? That's like calling someone on the phone, reaching them, and telling them that their phone doesn't work. But perhaps this movie's primary goal was not realism.
Does anyone remember that scene in "My dinner with André" (just alienated 7/8th of my readers) where they were talking about New York City (how everyone talks about leaving it but no one does), as the model for the new prison where people are both the prisoner and the guard? Seems esoteric, but there is truth behind it.
Say there is a question of wages (raised? lowered?) at a company - and you are an employee and a shareholder. Where do you stand on the issue? Is this stance proportionate to principals or your interests? It's this schizophrenia that drives us bonkers. I guess it's inevitable in a society of rank and hierarchy, where you aren't the highest or the lowest.
In other news, my brother's family came to town for a visit. Which brought the whole family together, which is great but not as effortless as one might wish.
Oh wait I just said family and effortless in the same sentence. Please delete previous paragraph from your memory banks : )
They are well and beautiful, if a trifle homesick. California is a beautiful place, and there is much to miss. 55 we stand, 33/22 we fall.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Golden Rule

Just completed the first month of sharing a house with my family and my sister-in-law. It's been pretty smooth, but some growing pains are inevitable.

I was in a hurry to clean our house because on an impending visit from my brother, so in my haste I took the piles of clothes off the bed and brought the mattress downstairs. She was a little bent out of shape as she viewed this as disrespect. "You wouldn't like it if I did that to you."

Apparently, she hasn't looked in my room lately. There are piles of clothes EVERYWHERE. I didn't put her clothes on the floor because I'm a jerk. I did it because I am a slob. A fine distinction - I hope she catches on.