Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How to Dodge Airport Security And Still Fly

From my current location in central Louisiana, to visit a friend in Nashville is 10 hours on the road, or really about 12 hours when you include the bathroom and stretching breaks. (Meals were pre-packed and eaten in the car for frugality and time.) We spent around $150 each way in gas, or around $300, on the travel.

To fly in a commuter jet takes about one and a half hours, plus security, which makes it 5.5 hours right now. Recent ticket search shows $242 for one-way, or $429 for round-trip. And you'd be unable to bring toothpaste, get charged heftily for all luggage, ($20 to $140, depending on how many bags you packed), subjected to unreasonable search under low-wage responsibility-free authority, and either pay airport parking or taxi fare there.

If I go down to the community airport - almost every town has one - and got in my own plane, well, she's older and slower, and doesn't have a great heater. She'd take 3 hours, 41 minutes to get to Nashville, and that's probably 4.5 hours because I'd stop for fuel and get a meal on the way. It'd cost around $100 in airplane gas each way, or $200 round trip.

Parking's free at your tie-down, or if we have two cars, I poke my head in to the manager's, tell them you're leaving the extra car for a trip, and nobody bothers it. Luggage is restricted by weight, but no extra charge. Luggage and carry-ons are restricted by airplane weight and balance, and will be arranged so the don't re-arrange with turbulence. Bring your own food and drink unless we're sharing my sandwiches on home-made bread, fruit, trail mix, and bottled water. (Short trips have water and Clif bars).

Weapons, including guns, are encouraged, and will be inspected for how I like them. You will be asked to safe them and remove the round from the chamber because I have a bugaboo about guns and turbulence, and I'm the pilot. If you're flying your own plane, you can do what you want. You are to keep your door closed, body parts inside the airplane, and hands and feet off the control surfaces until I'm not busy and feel assured that you're safe in a small cockpit.

From here to there, with the occasional exception of busy airspace I don't want to play with or restricted airspace, it's straight-line, no stops, no signs, no left, no right, no stops, no slowing down.

And no speed traps. No TSA. You do have to put up with the pilot, though, until you learn to fly and get your own damn plane. Which isn't as hard as it sounds.

Come fly the curmudgeonly skies, where freedom reigns!

No, TSA and FAA, I am not "holding myself out for hire" in violation of the regulations as a private pilot. I'm pointing out that despite your bureaucratic nincompoopery, there are still ways to be free and get where you want to go. All readers are encouraged to get their own licenses and their own planes, and to go fly.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Locavores need to read Dies The Fire

Note to the slow-food movement, locavores, and hobby farmers: you didn't invent farming. Most of you come from non-farm households, and you don't know what goes into full-scale farming. If you don't know your history, you're doomed to repeat it.

And repeating history is exactly the worst thing to do, since history without rose-colored glasses and politically correct rewriting is a nasty, ugly place where people lived short, hard lives, filled with sickness and death. When people spent 90% of their lives and times focused on finding food, it didn't leave much time for advancements and refinements. As soon as people got their hands on fire, they started cooking - the oldest traces of human habitation show that when we got our hands on a way to sterilize, cook, soften, and make food more palatable and digestive, we figured out this was a good thing and hung onto it. Once we got ahold of starches we could plant and replant for a predictable food supply, we became able to free up time from hunting, foraging, and scavenging to come up with writing, and technology.

The industrial revolution didn't happen because of some massive media propaganda machine convincing people that evil, dark, dirty, dangerous cities were the place to be. Heck, you look back at the casualty rates, and the loss of life and limb in the early revolution, and then sit and think to yourself: how bad was farming, then, that people flocked to the cities, ran to the cities, deserting house and homes, farms and villages?

You have inherited cities that are clean and shining, free of the choking coal soot, of night-soil tossed in the gutters for rain to wash away. You have inherited streets not only paved, but free of dung and attendant swarms of flies - cities so clean you rarely see the rats, anymore. Even the thick, foul smog from car exhaust from your childhood is gone, leaving only a haze. Technology has gifted blue-sky days, where the north side of Chicago doesn't even remember what it was like to live by the mold of the penicillin factory, and the south side does not remember the smell of stockyards, so surprised when the "clean country air" smells like pigs.

I agree with you that duck and chickens raised in labor-intensive environments, by loving people who often have a second income to support the household, modern medicine, vaccination, air conditioning, electric or natural gas heat, running water, and access to power tools and vehicles to help, can be incredibly delicious. I agree that small-scale-farmed vegetables are delicious, and it's really fun to try heirloom varieties of vegetables.

But when you start complaining with one breath that "living simply takes a lot of money" and with another showing just how much work went into your homemade cheese and why it costs so much at the farmer's market, I will look at you with cold eyes and note that both of these prove that small scale labor-intensive organic hobby-farming will not feed a nation. The fact that we have so little agricultural land and so few farmers, yet live in a nation that tends toward obese and exports food to the world, is not accidental or unrelated. You can compete in quality. You can compete in giving shoppers warm fuzzies. You are right when you point out that you are not Monsanto and that's a good thing. However, you cannot feed the world, and frankly, you should not try to convince the world that it all needs to join you. When you start saying "all the world needs for peace is to eat locally", I'm going to point to SM Stirling and say "The SCA's been tripping down that track for years. Save it for your big fantasy novel and sell me those tomatoes."

Because they're really good tomatoes, and with the fresh basil someone else raised and the fresh goat's milk cheese somebody who actually raises goats because they like goats has made, my non-farm-income money is going to have some luxury food tonight. On the other hand, I'm having kiwi fruit from New Zealand in my dessert. Why would I eat only expensive slow food as a locavore when I can live better than any king of an agricultural kingdom in history?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Been Out...

Spent the last two weeks up at a friend's, visiting. What do you do when you have weeks instead of hours at hand? Well, first, massive organization and cleaning, including trying to diagnose and repair both vacuum cleaners. Second, cooking - my fiance and I conspired to put a few pounds on our favorite bachelor by making tasty dinners and leaving leftovers in meal-sized portions in the fridge. Third, baking - I left several loaves in various stages of attacked by hungry men on the counter and placed several in the freezer to be discovered later. The blackberry-lemon muffins, I fear, won't make it that far. Fourth, entertaining the cat - we spent no few hours exploring the backyard, playing "kill the laser dot", or tag. Fifth, sprawl on a comfortable surface reading things from their bookshelves.

Oh, yes, and getting photos taken, shooting roughly fifteen different kinds of guns, playing with ballistic gelatin, meeting the strangest fun people, going to a gun show, chatting with models, and sleeping under a big light diffuser on the studio floor. But then, that's a given when it's Oleg Volk's house, isn't it? You never know just who is going to be polishing off the beer bread or turning up half-frozen from a photo shoot and delighted by homemade hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies while crowded 'round the computer setup to see the raw images. And if you can't find a laser pointer for the cat who's batting at the ties to the bathrobe, there's always a revolver with crimson trace grips around somewhere (just unload the gun, leave the cylinder hanging out, and don't muzzle anyone besides the wildly enthusiastic cat).

You don't have to like having your picture taken to be a friend with a photographer, and you'll still get an enthusiastic hug for the lasagna all the same. You don't have to know a lot about guns to hang out with a gun-nuttery crowd; they'll be delighted to veer from debating esoteric points of military history or ballistics to praising the venison stew for dinner. Besides, they usually have other interesting hobbies that are just as fun to learn about when you tire of this caliber versus that thingie hanging off a rail, amusing stories, and the men can be counted on to be polite gentlemen, even when I'm imitating a modern zombie in search of caffeine at too-bright in the morning.

Miss him already - haven't even unpacked yet, and though the cat in my lap is most insistent I catch up on two weeks missed scritching (I'm not fooled - the neighbors have been feeding and petting her, no matter what she claims), I keep expecting Oleg to come thumping down the stairs in search of food, tea, or just someone to share the latest amusement with. It was a good vacation - we needed the break. I just wish I could have gotten a little more order imposed on the creeping chaos, and a few more pounds on him. By the last few days, I had given up a quarter of the counter to various fired and unfired munitions, and the top of one of the food storage bins was becoming a default handgun abandonment point. (In order to peel potatoes, first check that the guns are safe...)

Good times!