Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Not?

Sometimes, life will hand opportunities to you that you weren't expecting, had no plans for, and aren't quite sure what to do with, but know they definitely interfere with your set plans.

Sometimes, these are the stuff that memories for a lifetime are made from. I certainly wasn't looking for a partner when I was introduced to Calmer Half. I wasn't looking for my plane when I met her. I didn't expect to fly her down to the Lower 48 right after her wings went on and were rigged - at least, not for the first two years I was rebuilding her.

So, when I had to go a couple states away to deal with a paperwork snafu in person, it wasn't that much further to go see my brother and his family - and given life happened and the road trip was pushed back a week, it was just as easy to go a few hours further out and make it to the blogmeet in Broad Ripple. Which was awesome!

So, back home - cleaning up my house, cleaning up a friend's house, cooking, trying to not chew my nails to the quick waiting on word when the start date for the new job will be... and today, the opportunity comes up completely randomly to go to Dragoncon.

Well, why not?

So I'll be headed down with Oleg Volk and Michael Z Williamson.

This oughta be fun!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, hi!

Funny thing, I go on a road trip culminating in a blog meet and get thoroughly oversocialized, and now I feel guilty because I've been too busy on a road trip and cleaning up the house to get a blog post up about the blogmeet. Do me a favor and go over to Home On The Range, who's on the sidebar, and read her post. She's linked to everybody, with a great set of pictures, so y'all can read about the fun there! (Because Brigid is thirty-seven flavors of awesome, including the nutty one of secret squirrel).

Right. Um. Let me finish making a new DIY dog bed to replace the ratty, stinky old one, paying the bills, and mopping the floor, and I'll get to the blog three days late and a dollar short.

Speaking of bills, I'm contemplating doing "the hunger challenge" this year - you know, the self-righteous feel-good guilt-tripping-for-liberals idiocy that's supposed to "raise awareness" of how food stamps aren't enough money for farmer's markets and brie, and the poor starving masses that weigh twice what I do and have better cars and brand new sneakers are supposed to get more of my money extracted at gunpoint by the IRS. Mainly I'm interested in the snark, because the food bill for this month works out to roughly $5/person/day already, so if I could cut that to $4.77, I'll be "starving for a good cause!" ... if you call homemade beef stew with sirloin tips and syrah, fresh-baked bread, corn chowder with roasted poblanos, fish tagine, spicy beef kabobs, creamy polenta with roasted red pepper coulis, spinach frittata, scalloped potatoes and the like starving, not to mention the amount of ice cream, peanuts, and chocolate sauce this place goes through.

Clearly, if I can squeeze the food budget by a buck a day more, by dropping some of the feta, the ice cream sandwiches, the shrimp, possibly even cutting my wasabi-pea habit, we'll be starving. Awesome! If I'm starving, clearly I won't have to go to the gym, and the weight will magically come off!

Yeah, right. Back to reality and paying the bills, and the floor that still needs mopped, because there are no such thing as rainbow-farting magical wish-granting unicorns, and the marxist in chief keeps making my food bills rise while insisting there's no inflation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What's a good answer?

As we rambled through the World War II section of the Air Force Museum, my niece pointed at a plane. "Daddy! Daddy! What is that?"
My brother folded down to preschooler eye level. "You mean the metal above the wheel?"
"No! That!"
"Do you mean the wheel?"
"No! That!" She stabbed her finger out again, waving in the vicinity of the wheel.
"That's a chock, honey. That's to keep the airplane from rolling away."
She stomped a foot, face screwed up in a scowl. "That's stupid! They should use ropes, like you do!"


"See this? These long ones running the length of the wing are spars. And these ones running front to back are ribs."
"Airplanes have ribs? Are they ticklish, too?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Have you read

So, the top 100 NPR sciFi/Fantasy Books. Frankly, a lot of things I liked better weren't in here, which shouldn't be a surprise - after all, it's listed by NPR. Michael Z Williamson's Freehold and related books in the series are anathema to them, much less the sheer fun of Larry Correia! They also missed a lot of good military scifi from Weber and Drake, and a lot of good fantasy by Charles deLint, Jane Yolen, Emma Bull, Charles Stross, and Joan D. Vinge!

Bolded are the ones I've read, and italicized are the ones I picked up and just couldn't finish. Or hated, and wouldn't recommend even if I finished. Did you notice how any of these are movies or cartoons, tv shows or musicals? How many do you think have been read as opposed to watched by the voting audience?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson (only the first one so far, but I like it! Will finish as funds permit!)
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson yech! Do Not Recommend!
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson - need to read this.
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey Do Not Recommend
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire The musical was better
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock - Stopped after one
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gloom is not synonymous with doom

I had a beautiful summer day, but no one wanted to go flying with me - Calmer Half is still recovering from getting cut on by the doc, Awesome Farmer was busy moving a tractor and fixing things, and Line Guy was busy working, and busy after work. Housemate wanted to, but he was exhausted from a week of work - so he took a nap first. The nap stretched til 5:30 in the afternoon, when I had dinner already cooking, and house chores I was doing.

After a dinner of red beans and rice, we headed out to the airport (over 20 miles away.) The FBO was already closed, as they go home at 7, and the sun was a mere handspan over the horizon. In Alaska, this means we have anywhere from 2 to 3 hours of usable dusk - not so much here in the sunny south, where they think it's proper for August to be the hottest month of the year.

By the time we had checked the airplane thoroughly, discussing the whys and wherefores of the engine, and taxied to mag check, the sun was finger-widths above the horizon, and dropping fast. We climbed into golden air, smooth as silk and all the haze aglow with honeyed sun. Below, shadows streaked indigo and violet across the land, and the river was a tracery in deep shades of purple and blue as night rose from the eastern horizon and the land below to the still-lit sky.

We turned around, and by the time I was in downwind, the instrument panel was getting hard to read, the runway lights were shining like stars, and the headlights of a car parked by a plane cast long beacons across the ramp. I sank into dusk and landed, amazed that the air was so smooth it barely seemed possible that a 7-knot wind was blowing, and taxied to the tie-down.

All the way home, Housemate and I discussed the questions that came to mind during the flight, and what I felt I could have done better. Among other things, I think next time we skip dinner and eat afterward - from daylight to deep dusk was a mere fourteen minute flight.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Scalloped Potatoes for hungry people

5 or 6 potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced (you know, this is one of those times you use that other side of the square cheese grater)
1 chopped onion
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used pepper jack) or 2 Tablespoons Parmesan
2 cloves chopped garlic (1 Tablespoon, roughly)
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 can vegetable or chicken broth (roughly 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
Breads crumbs

Grease a casserole dish, and preheat the oven to 325.
Slice your potatoes thinly, and chop your onions and ham. Layer or mix these in the pan as you please (I stuck the onions and ham in the middle for tasty surprise, and sliced the last three potatoes on top.)If you're working with red or yukon gold potatoes, you might even leave the delicious skin on. Add the cheese to the top of this.

If you have stale bread, pulse it in a food processor (or put it inbetween a folded clean towel and pound it with a hammer) to make bread crumbs. If you have seasoned bread crumbs, do not add salt to the upcoming roux. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, and saute the sliced/minced garlic. Add the 1/4 cup flour, rosemary, salt, and black pepper, stir well until all the butter is absorbed into the roux. Let it cook a little while, stirring constantly, until the roux starts to turn a dark ivory color. Add the chicken broth slowly, stirring to incorporate, and add the 2 tablespoons of mayo. Mix, stirring, until thick and bubbly. Pour it over the potatoes, onions, and ham, and then sprinkle the crumbs and paprika over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes at 325F, then remove the cover and cook it 10 more minutes. (If you chopped your potatoes not-so-thinly, stretch out the covered cooking time another 5-10 minutes)

Serve with a nice green vegetable, like broccoli or brussel sprouts, that'll go well with the cheesy sauce from the scalloped potatoes.

Should serve 10, but probably only serves 4-6; It tends to evaporate around hungry people.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Three Flights

The thunderstorm had barely rumbled on to the east and rain stopped falling when I led the motley crew out to my plane. Well, via the community hangar - My housemate's freshly-ten-years-old boy was super-excited to show his father the Focke-Wulf in the community hangar, and I was happy to distract them while the isolated cell put a bit more distance between the airport and us.

While the boy went directly to the airplane in camo and iron crosses, my housemate stopped in his tracks to stare at the beautiful black, red, and yellow Citabria gleaming under the lights. He's had a ride in one before, and for all the disparaging remarks he makes about hanging from the straps when inverted while 40-year-old dust falls out of the floorboards and up your nose, there was nothing of that in his face as he looked at the lady sitting pretty on her tailwheel and daring him to fly. His daughter, too, was far more distracted by the Citabria, and they walked around, examining it and giving her a beautiful fabric reality to her dad's stories of flight. My Calmer Half, who was uninclined to fly that day, was more interested in the Cherokee undergoing maintenance, but let himself be the interested audience dragged along for the boy's excited exclamations and explanations.

As we headed out to the airplane, the boy was highly excited, the girl was interested in a "well, this is better than fighting with my brother for which game on the wii" sort of way, and my housemate had ceased to pay any attention to us at all, as his eyes and hands were on my full-scale non-remote-control rag and tube airplane.

After a thorough preflight, I decreed I'd take my housemate up first, with the coolest air and the least amount of fuel. The rest of the gang trooped back to the FBO, and a man who makes a 1911 look like a small gun in his paws tried to figure out how to fold into the airplane. Once he managed to get buckled in, I slid in next to him, and pulled the checklist off the top of the instrument panel. He adjusted his left knee so it wasn't blocking the mixture, and started to laugh when he saw that I'd condensed all my checklists onto a single laminated sheet. The windsock was hanging limp, the asos reporting calm winds - but a faint breeze was coming from the south, and I never take a tailwind. Besides, with the full asphalt runway in front of us, even at almost gross weight, we managed to climb high enough to safely rock the wings as we passed everyone standing outside the FBO.

After I'd rocked the wings, I belatedly remembered the good advice to never make seemingly-drastic moves with new passengers on board, and looked over, worried, at my housemate. He grinned back like a boy who's just managed to pull off a dirt bike stunt, and I figured he wasn't going to be too upset. We headed southeast, toward the speedway. When I turned control over, the grin disappeared into a frown of concentration. In a long-ago epoch of B.C. [Before Children], he used to catch rides quite often in airplanes - and after a couple decades away, he was having difficulty holding it straight and level. After turning the controls back over and watching two cars doing laps on the speedway, the grin came back.

The battling duo decided on the next passenger, and the girl won. After fueling, we took off - and with her, I remembered to ask if she wanted the wings rocked. She was completely emphatic at not wanting to take the controls at any point, and I was quite worried that she didn't like it - until we headed west and I started pointing out things she knew, like I-40 and the Cumberland River. "Cool!" She was excited and taking cell phone pictures, especially when she spotted her high school. We circled for a bit, then headed back, and I reminded myself that she hadn't wanted to take the controls of the truck after turning 16, either. I'll have to talk to her father about how to win her over to wanting to take the wheel, as I know she likes racing around on the farm in the four-wheeler (and coming back splattered in mud.)

The boy was last, and if least in weight and age, definitely not in excitement. He'd been looking forward to this for the last two weeks, and was split between playing with his birthday present binoculars and taking the controls. We went north over the Cumberland's winding river, and he got to look down at plenty of people floating, fishing, and skiing along its channels. By the time we flew, the sun had come out enough to grow thermals, and he spotted a bird that was all black but for light tan chevrons near the tips of its wings, riding the thermal along with us.

Coming back, I tied down as the others came out to meet us, and then piled into the air conditioning while I paid for fuel. The line guy who'd pumped my fuel as I'd explained to the kids that his job was a great one for finding ways to trade time for flying was behind the counter. He gave me a big grin, and recklessly plunged in. "So, if I pay for gas, can I go flying with you sometime?"

You never accomplish anything if you don't try - and it's better to ask than to wish you had! How could I turn him down, especially after I'd pointed out to the teenagers that this is how you get rides? So I grinned, and we roughly coordinated schedules. Next weekend, weather permitting, I'll swing through the airport and see if he's up for a ride.

Once home, the girl was more interested in getting the lawn mowed in exchange for pizza for dinner, and hanging out with her boyfriend (who seems torn between his love for a WWII M1, and his young love for the girl - and happy that her father encourages the former and tolerates the latter). The boy was totally engrossed in playing a World War II aces games on the wii (to occasional cries of "You just shot down your own bomber, son!"). And their father, inbetween working on the recalcitrant boat motor (worthy of a saga like Adaptive Curmudgeon's on his tractor), was the one muttering "I like the lines of that Taylorcraft. You know, she's a sweet little airplane. Damnit, you did a bad, bad thing. You've got the flying bug back in my head again!"

Calmer Half retreated to the cool of the basement, where the old black lab had also decided that being underfoot for testing a boat motor wasn't nearly as interesting as stretching out under an air conditioning vent and trying to summon treats by her pathetic looks alone. My husband may seem relatively calm and deceptively mild, but his eyes sparkled with wit as he waited like a jaguar in a tree until both Housemate and I were in range, and proposed selling the plane under an installment plan of free rent for a few years - and waited to see which of us threatened him first.

A good day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Applicable?

Not everything fits into neat boxes in life. This is a problem, when those neat boxes are the gatekeepers to getting a job. How do I explain "No, really, I haven't collected any unemployment, I'm not a lazy layabout, I've just moved twice, gotten married, finished restoring a '41 Taylorcraft and flown it four thousand miles across the country between the last time I was punching a time clock on an 8-5 with a regular W2 and now? (Not that the last one was 8-5, but anyway?)"

Sigh. I think I'm going to indulge the inner child who's glaring in puzzled bafflement at the job apps and go clean the house and do laundry, so I can feel like I was productive and got something done today. Then back to being in a maze of twisty job apps, all alike, hoping I don't find a Grue...

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Flight Grin

Note to self: when you put a boy on top of an Oregon Aero cushion and a PFD cushion, and stick a horse blanket behind his back so he's comfy and can see over the instrument panel, there is no real way to get the shoulder harness straps short enough to work. Must eyeball the setup and see if I can fix that before next flight with precious cargo/copilot.

Note to self II: Do not propose where you'll go until you've gotten up and can see the weather north of the airport.

Note to self III: Wearing shooting muffs so he can't communicate, perched on top of a stack of stuff, hazy day, unable to go north to the farm due to low ceilings... none of it matters. Look at this picture and stop worrying about it.

Note to self IV: Weather permitting, next trip is to see Dad's house, and the farm, in that order. Because we all know there's gonna be a next trip. And he's too young to demand gas money, does too well at his chores and in school to hold a flight out as a bribe... aw, I'll leave those negotiations up to his father, anyway. Well, maybe I'll demand to get to fly his RC airplane. Or some doves and rabbits when the seasons open. There's a new meaning to will fly for food...