Monday, May 28, 2012

At the end of the day...

It's been a long, hot muggy day at work, the kind where I'm absolutely unashamed to hang my head over the trash can and slap handfuls of water from my waterbottle into my hair to try to cool down, while tucking the ends of a gel-filled neckerchief into my shirt to avoid dripping on the paperwork and keyboard. My subordinates, who are great people, kept coming by to check on their transplanted Alaskan, and even my boss was giving me a few long, measuring looks and urging me to leave off getting all the cats herded and go sit in the air conditioning on break.

I came home wanting a shower far more desperately than food (a very strange turn of affairs; I'm almost as food-motivated as a black lab.) Calmer Half stuck me into a shower that was a good fifteen degrees cooler than I can normally stand, then prepared a light dinner of tuna salad and veggies. He said gently to me that the two overwhelming things he felt after a day in desert combat were a dirtiness down to his soul, and a weariness down to the marrow of his bones - and while I was not in combat, I was trying to do a lot of intellectually and physically demanding work in a heat all out of my element - he figures I've come stumbling home with a shadow of the same feeling.

I know it is only the faintest of shadows, if that - and I have the deepest respect and appreciation for those who have withstood the boredom, the terror, the drudgery, the dust and mud, and the distance it places between them and those who will never know what the price of freedom really is. To those who have served, those who are serving, may you rest easy. To those who did not live to see what their service bought - may they rest in peace, and with my gratitude.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting older, maybe smarter

I was putting a small fabric patch on the plane this weekend, and touching up the silver on some other patches. When I went through Home & Aircraft Depot to pick up a few things (masking tape, brushes, nitrile gloves, etc), I stopped at the aisle with the good masks. I frowned at the price tag - over thirty bucks - and shook my head. "I'll find my mask, and come back for the right set of filters."

Halfway down the aisle, I stopped, called myself a fool, and went back to get a new mask. I know all too well that I'll get everything else set up, and want to forge right on ahead instead of wasting precious weekend hours looking for the darned mask. I've already had enough exposure to MEK to never want another molecule of it in my lungs or absorbed through my skin; there's no sense in wasting more time looking for the mask and coming back for the filters, or endangering my health by thinking I'll just do this little bit, and the ventilation ought to be good enough... (never is.)

Upon laying out all the tools and supplies for the job, I realized I have no idea where my calibrated iron is. It's probably still in Alaska. I'll miss that iron - it was a good one, held heat well, and was easy to use. I don't know how many airplanes it's helped repair or recover, but it's a few. (Yes, it's an iron just like many used on clothes. However, once you start using an iron around epoxies and aircraft dopes, it is no longer fit to be used on clothes. The instructions for covering an aircraft mention in no less than fifteen places "Do NOT use your wife's iron!". So a good iron that holds heat well, is calibrated, and is availabe for aircraft... gets passed around.)

Since I'm only doing small patches instead of whole huge wings, I only need a hobby iron. So I look in Home & Aircraft Depot - no luck. The hobby store is closed for memorial day weekend. The next hobby store doesn't have one. Hobby Lobby and Jo-Anne's fabrics don't have the kind I need - they have hobby irons, but they're tiny, with little shiny steel flat wedges barely a tenth the size and almost none of the mass of what I need, for $39.. with no ability to calibrate, so it's just as likely to make things worse as to work. My other option in the store is to break down and spend $89 for a new full-scale clothes iron.

After having put an hour and a fair bit of driving into this, I realize the answer is at my fingertips - or, literally, in my pocket. The little computer that masquerades as a cell phone listens to my frustrated search term, and pulls up an listing of exactly what I want, for seventeen bucks, with two-day shipping available. I buy an aircraft tool on my phone, shaking my head at this future I'm living in, and buy a soda on the way out the door to go back to the airport and buckle down to work.

There's a fly-in next weekend, in Savannah, TN - Ladies Love Taildraggers is hosting it. I probably won't get the paint on over the silver by then, which is kind of like going to the car show in a three-color (rust, paint, & primer) car when you know other people are going to show up in washed & waxed beauties. On the other hand, I'll get her up, get reacquainted with her after our mutual grounding, get the oil hot & change it, and show up in an airplane that flies better than her pilot, like she has for over seventy years. And if she doesn't look so wonderful next to the other planes there, well, her pilot is smart enough to realize that looks aren't everything, and even A-10's have people who think they're beautiful.

I'm getting a little smarter as I get older - someday I aim to be both smart and wise.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spouses and Airplanes

We got the bill for the annual. (The aircraft's annual, to be precise.) Ouch. I knew it was going to be bad, and it was a little (but not much) worse than expected. Still, seeing the number was like a fist to the gut - ah, the joys of airplane ownership.

Fiscal matters are at the heart of many a couple's fights, and money is usually the obvious breaking point between many a wife's mock-jealous sufferance of her husband's "other woman - that airplane." and her determination that it needs to stop competing for money, time, and affection. (And threat to her spouse's life?)

So when Calmer Half and I discussed how to settle the bill, and what we could reasonably afford in terms, he reached forward and gently grabbed my shoulders. "With the amount of money that plane is costing us..." He took a breath, and I thought, well, here comes the typical your darned plane fight, "...I want you to fly that thing every chance you get!"

*blink* *blink*

Did I mention I adore this man?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oops, work and an AR-15 shirt

Oleg has shirts from around his house, as he's been taking photos of them. I needed a shirt at one point, and he offered one of them to me. (Sorry to disappoint the minds in the gutter, but no, not like that. I don't remember, but it wasn't as exciting as the life you think I have.)

Earlier this week, this shirt came up on the top of the stack of clean t-shirts, and in my pre-caffienated state, I put it on without a second thought, shrugged into my safety vest, and continued on with my morning routine. Everything was just fine, until right after the morning meeting, when one of my subordinates came up to me. (Not unusual; I encourage comments and questions to my face, to avoid having to try to answer the rumor chain or clean up the "I tried to figure it out myself" mess later.)

He grinned at me. "Is that an AR-15?"

I blinked, grinned, and shrugged. "Well..." Meaning, huh? What AR-15?

Another subordinate, nearby, chimed in. "What's an AR-15?"

The first one gestured at my chest and said, "It's the rifle the military uses. Those are the sights for an AR-15, aren't they?"

Oh, yeah. That. I grinned wider, and nodded. "Yeah. It's kind of a joke."

"That's pretty awesome! Where did you get that?"

Now, I'd be more inclined to say the military has the M-16 than the AR-15, personally, but this subordinate has never struck me as being one of the many prior-military and reservists among the ranks of my company. (We have lots. I fully endorse this practice, because vets are self-motivated, bright, problem solving, and understand the critical difference between the time to point out there's a better way to do something, and the time to drop everything and do this right now.) Still, he may have been the first to ask me openly, but he wasn't the only one to glance at my chest and grin.

Yeah, that's me. Providing logistics, leadership, and a gun nut in-joke because I didn't check the t-shirt stack for differentiation between work and not-work shirts. I probably should resist the temptation to get a few more, and see if my crew can recognize the rest of the designs. What could possible go wrong with wearing a Gasden snake curled around a AR-15 during meetings?

(As an aside, it's a good shirt, stands up to work and wear really well. Wish it was a little lower-quality in this muggy heat, actually, as a cheaper t-shirt might be a little less... insulating. But it wicks sweat well, and holds up to grime. And FCC, about your disclaimer rules? I got it free, I like it, I plan to buy a replacement. Resign and go do something useful in the real world instead of being a useless parasite on my taxes.)