Saturday, January 30, 2010


I need a couple semi-adopted friends who are over three nights a week for meals, or two dogs willing to grow obese cleaning up leftovers. Not that I cook too much for the two of us - but that I cook too often, and when my Calmer Half is left alone, he'll reheat either cook his own meals, or heat tinned soup instead of searching the fridge for leftovers.

Today I went through the kitchen, and regretfully tossed half a home-made pizza because we didn't get to it in time, the heel of a loaf of brown bread I'd baked, and a cucumber. The green peppers need to be used soon, and the carrots aren't getting any younger. Also, after two meals of honey-bourbon barbequed chicken earlier this week, neither of us felt like tackling the last of it. No matter how inexpensive the ingredients (whole chicken was fifty-nine cents a pound on sale), it's still wasted money if you're tossing it in the garbage can uneaten!

This lines out meals for the next three days: barbeque glazed meatballs tonight, stuffed peppers tomorrow for lunch, and probably tsatsiki and naan bread with some spiced chicken on carrot pilaf for dinner.

For midnight snack, well, the last of the watercress bought for a special meal was fading fast, so I took inspiration from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and turned it into pesto (even used the mortar and pestle for proper texture). There wasn't enough to make a meal for two, but it'll be a good snack!

If I got two big dogs, I'd do more walking at the request of brown and blue eyes, and get all over the neighborhood keeping both of us in shape. If I got a couple friends over for dinner, though, they'd invite me along or help pull off more crazy and fun things... Clearly, the answer is both. Now to sell the Calmer Half on this... I must go plot, and cook.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Notes on Flying in Louisiana

Squall Lines and Isolated Tstorms both move at rough 30-40 mph across the ground, and have a gust front up to 10 miles out in front, as well as hail up to 10 mi from the anvil on top. (The hail will probably be no larger than pea sized).

If you see / are warned of an approaching squall line (edge of cold front), get on the ground, preferably in hangar, tie plane down well (use hurricane hitch; winds not only gust fiercely, they change direction as the storm passes over.) Better weather will be behind the front.

Isolated thunderstorms have a life cycle of 35-90 minutes, so if you can see them, you can avoid them. If they are approaching your intended airport, do not race the thunderstorm to the airport. Circle well clear and wait for it to pass. If multiple isolated thunderstorms are blocking your route, land and wait them out. These storms tend to spawn in the afternoon through late evening, flying in the morning is better. Warning:in bad haze, the isolated thunderstorms are hard to spot until way too close for comfort. Keep your head up and eyes out.

Louisiana never has 130-mile visibility days. Ever. They have "real clear" 30-mile-visibility days. Their haze increases to estimated >3mi flight vis, before smoke, in the summer. They also have a near-permanent inversion layer, which with the moisture source of the Gulf explains the permanent haze. When they start "burning the cane fields" en masse (as opposed to isolated field burnings visible today), visibility decreases to IFR below the inversion layer. When the haze is at >10mi visibility, keep a sharp lookout for smoke trails from burning fields (embedded IFR).

Due to the subtropical environment, while the inversion layer is at 3000 feet in the morning, it can rise to 10,000ft by late afternoon. Do not plan on being able to climb above inversion layer.

Fog in Louisiana can occur in a thin layer at treetop level, or from 200-300 feet. This fog condenses in thin ribbons, not large sheets, and drifts with the slightest breeze. Due to its height, thinness, and drifting characteristics, ASOS will not catch it, and your only indication from higher altitudes is a faint halo around lights below. Often forms in early morning and late evening, usually summer, but will occur in fall-winter-spring after a warm front follows a cold front. Like ice fog, it will suddenly blind you on short final. Watch your temp/dewpoint spreads.

In winter, a thin icing layer can form at the cloud base, usually around 3000 feet. As winds aloft don't report temperatures until over 3000 feet, usually cannot be detected by weather forecast, and rarely pirep'ed. "the airlines power right through it, and the single-engines don't hang out at the cloud base, so don't expect any warning."

In spring, and sometimes in winter, Louisiana gets "high winds" of 15G25 to 25 knots steady. And during hurricane season, they get hurricanes, sometimes...

Expect no-radio ultralights and light sport planes in rural areas - farmers checking crops. Expect not-using-radio ag planes all over the fields below 700 AGL (mainly between 15 and 50 AGL) spraying crops, and at same [lack of] altitude coming into refuel / fill tanks at "nontowered" fields.

The alert area around the Gulf is there for a reason; very heavy helicopter traffic out to the oil platforms & back!

Ft Polk's controllers are very friendly and responsive for information on MOA status / flight following through MOA, and whether restricted areas are hot or cold.

Essler (ESF) used to have a staffed control tower until Alexandria (AEX) opened and became the main airport. Now, the field has an empty control tower and a CTAF. When the National Guard there is doing exercises, they may have military controller(s) up in the tower, and your call on CTAF will be answered with traffic advisories.

Pineville has a very amusing identifier - 2L0. Find out why it's ID'ed as "Too Low" someday. They also have MoGas available on field, not sure if it's accessible from the water runway. Runway 18 will always have an interesting rotor on short final (unless calm), due to shape of treeline - do not get low before you clear the railroad tracks! Flightline Air Service is a great FBO, very friendly, good maintenance, offer a sport pilot for rent/instruction as well as the usual assortment.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FAA Statistics - Airport version:

Have you ever looked up an airport online and seen the statistics the FAA compiles for an airport - including number of aircraft on airport, number of operations (take-offs and landings) per day, and type of traffic? How do they get those numbers for aircraft without control towers?

They don't, actually. There is no Federal big brother hiding in the weeds off-airport and writing your tail number down - they use statistics, instead. Interestingly enough, some states have used acoustic counters, machine counts, surveys, and operations logs, the FAA relies on the surveys filled in by pilots, the mandatory reporting by flight schools, and mostly, statistics.

Yeah, 'lies, damn lies, and statistics.' Including the lumping of towered and untowered airports together. See: report here.

Some interesting items do come of reading the report the statisticians put out to defend their accuracy. For example, "Other things equal, it seems that the number of operations grows as the number of based aircraft increases, but at an increasingly slower rate. This “slowdown” is governed by the negative coefficient on the square of based aircraft."

And this footnote: The negative parameter estimate for the airport’s percentage of based aircraft among all based aircraft at airports within 100 miles is somewhat counterintuitive. It might be thought that an airport with more of an area’s based aircraft would have more operations, other things equal, but this seems to be true only relatively. What seems to be more important is that if a single airport is dominant (in terms of based aircraft) within the surrounding 100 miles, then the area itself has relatively low levels of GA activity, even if that dominant airport has the bulk of it.

and on massaging the equations to try to model reality:

In Equation 17, operations per based aircraft are reduced (i.e., have negative coefficients) for airports with greater than 100 based aircraft, for those in the Western or Alaska regions, for those that are “regionally prominent” in the sense that they have a large proportion of all based aircraft at nearby airports, and for those with relatively higher populations within 50 miles. Operations per based aircraft are modestly increased (i.e., have positive coefficients) for those airports with relatively higher populations within 100 miles.

So, next time you look up an airport's activity, just remember that if it doesn't have a tower, it's a government-created statistically modeled number supposed to reflect reality. Which is to say, a good guess.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's All My Fault

Consciousness, self-awareness, is in the moment between a stimulus and a response. Imagination allows us to frame a different response than the one programmed in genetically, socially, emotionally, or physically. Conscience gives us a moral grounding of the rightness or wrongness of the responses available, and free will allows us to choose which response we have.

Consciousness is the freedom to choose.

This does not mean you always get to choose the circumstances - no matter what blind blowhards claim, we don't have power over wind, weather, earthquake, other's mindsets and behavior, or mechanical problems. What it means is that one of the very things that defines you as a human is that you can choose how you react.

Your behavior is a function of your decisions, not your conditions.

You have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. You are responsible for your own life.

Responsibility comes from "response" and "ability" - the ability to choose your response. Do not blame circumstances, conditions, conditioning, God, Allah, society, the Devil, or the government for your behavior. Your behavior is a product of your own conscious choice, and you choose your values, including whether or not to discard them and base your behavior on condition and feeling.

Do you choose to react to every change in the weather, to allow your mood to be driven and determined by the sunshine or the gloom, or the political weather, or the tides of your social life? Or do you choose to be driven by values, and if you value good work or your own well-being, to be driven by that no matter the sunshine or hte hurtful things people say?

As Ghandi said, "They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." It is your willing permission, your consent to what happens to you, that hurts you more than what happened to you in the first place.

If you choose to define yourself as a victim, and to remain a victim, that is your choice, and no one but you can change that. All the money in the world, all the aid concerts and talk shows, all the shoulders to cry on and helping hands reaching out, therapy and benefits, will not be able to rescue you from victim-hood.

You are responsible for your own life. You are responsible for your dreams. You are responsible for your own survival.

I am responsible for my own life. I am responsible for my own dreams. I am responsible for my own survival.

I may be broke sometimes, but I'm not poor. I may have had bad things happen to me, but I'm not a victim. I may have to leave a place behind, but I'm not a refugee. I may be different from you, but I'm not a "disadvantaged minority".

I'm living my dreams. You can sit there in the mud and cry, or you can join me - I'm just on the other side of a state of mind.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cooking the numbers so I can fly

Last night I sat down and worked out the numbers again on an excel spreadsheet, looking up receipts and working out proportions. Excluding the cost of tools involved, but including cost of water and electricity, it cost $0.53 to bake last Friday's loaf of bread.

The reason I worked the numbers? I just bought a 25-pound bag of flour, instead of the 5-pound bags normally found at the grocery store. Today, I used the last 1/2 cup of flour from the old 5-pound bag, and the rest from the new, so I'll have to adjust my figures for the transitional loaf. My next loaf of bread, made from the 25-lb bag, will cost $0.30, assuming I don't put any spices, nuts, pumpkin puree, zuchinni, bananas, or anything else in it. (Not all of those make the loaf more expensive - I bought pumpkins at 50 cents for ten pounds after Halloween.)

A regular loaf of bread is $3.97 if you get the good stuff (we don't have a habit of buying the wonderbread) - and we go through roughly a loaf and a half a week. (The greatest rate of usage is in the first thirty minutes - fresh-baked bread aroma attracts people to the kitchen.) While saving $3.67 per loaf may not seem like much, that's roughly $286 a year, assuming constant bread consumption, and better flavor and nutrition.

What can you do with $286 free in your budget? Even with avgas being more expensive than autogas, that's a couple of full tanks, a few repaired parts, or a bit of extra ammo.

There are three lessons to draw from this:

1. If you want to save money, don't start cutting out the things you love - start thinking about how to make your life better while spending less money.

2. If you don't know how much you're spending, you'll never know how much you can save, or where. I know we're all taught to whine "math is hard!" and avoid it, but if you don't take the effort to know what you have, you'll never be able to know what you can get. Corollary: if you don't track your budget, you'll never stockpile savings from any one action.

3. This takes time and attention to detail - but there is nothing stopping you from doing the same if you break habits of thought and action. After all, I bought my own plane not due to rich spouse or high-paying job or mummy and daddy or the lottery - I was working retail at the time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

This is a love story

There are many reasons for a man to make a documentary: admiration, warning, celebration, sociological curiosity...

And then there's love.

It's love, pure and simple, for the subject, that I want to show to you. For a love story of aviation, with stunning flight scenes interwoven with interviews from just a regular guy who flies to a World War II Triple Ace, this movie showcases an airport from its first dirt-field beginnings and the children who hitchhiked rides 25 miles out of town to see the post-WWI barnstormers to its modern day incarnation and the pilots who call it home.

One Six Right has been called the world's most expensive home movie, because that sheer joy in the subject shows through. For the moment, it's up to watch for free on Hulu, here:

Take less than an hour and a half to celebrate love, and life, amid the darkness and political gloom. And please, especially for those of you who are not pilots, coming through, would you take the time to tell me what you thought of this? What moved you? What bored you? What did you learn?

No one can save their passion without the help - or lack of hindrance - of those around them, and I am passionately interested in the future of liberty, of freedom in the sky, and the ability for all of us to fly.