Monday, May 30, 2016

In Memoriam

Yesterday, Ray Carter, known as Gay Cynic online (though he was much more of a lighthearted optimist than the name proclaimed), went off on a grand scheme to consult with G-d on his pranks, black humour, and the fabulousness of the angel's weaponry.

He left behind a lot of friends, a long legacy of fighting for second amendment rights for all people of all persuasions, a red, white, & blue leather with rabbit fur and rhinestone-studded holster, and a body that lost its second round with cancer.

 Here's to all those we've lost, who have gone before. May we meet again, in a better, brighter place, where there is peace, and laughter, and no more tears.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stretching My Wings

Went flying today.

A good friend asked if it was exciting and fun, and was puzzled when I said it was more akin to finally getting out of the hospital and into rehab. I was flat exhausted, and wiped out for the rest of the day. My darling husband had to wake me from a nap to go to dinner.

There were a few reasons for that - the first being that I haven't gotten my plane down here yet. She's in with the mechanics, getting everything triple-checked and tweaked, a lot of minor fixes done, before I fly her on a long cross-country. So I was flying an unfamiliar airplane, in an area I'd never flown before.

The unfamiliar airplane was really unfamiliar: it was a Grumman Cheetah, which about as different from my plane as you can get and still be a single-engine airplane. Instead of a canvas sling seat that seats two, this has leather seats for four. Instead of high wing with clear patrol doors, it's a low wing with a canopy that slides back. Instead of tailwheel, it's a castering nosewheel. Instead of drum brakes activated by little tabs down by my heels, it has hydraulic toe brakes (at the top of the rudder pedals.)

Instead of cruising along at 85 miles per hour, it cruises at 127 knots (146 mph). It doesn't get down to 85 until you're landing. Oh, and it has flaps. Electric flaps.

Instead of a basic panel and a handheld radio, it has a full IFR setup with two nav/coms, including an IFR-certified GPS. We had to do a VOR check. I didn't even remember what that was...

Essentially, it's like driving a Ford Model T on farm roads for 15 years, and then getting plunked behind a 2016 ferrari with the new-car smell still reeking from the seats, and being asked to perform skids, sharp corners, spinning circles, and parallel parking.

On top of that, we took off in wind 19G30 (nineteen knots steady, gusting up to 30 knots), and found the practice area went from clear on the way over to heavy haze while we were there. So I was trying to perform visual maneuvers without a visual reference... "nose on the horizon" is a whole lot more work when you can't see a horizon.

And then, as the wind got stronger, I started practicing landings. By the time I did my final landing, it was steady 25 knots - thankfully, straight down the runway. The peak wind I like to fly the Taylorcraft in when I'm out of practice is 15 knots - fortunately, this plane is not nearly as good at converting wind to lift, so I was able to get her down smoothly.

Yeah, my brain feels like I took the flying skills portion, and the even-more-atrophied IFR flying skills portion, broke the casts open, and put them through a really vigorous round of physical therapy. The neurons hurt.

Other important thing I learned: must bring water when flying in Texas. I hadn't realized how dehydrated I got in an hour and a half flying, until I was working through the water bottles in my car before I got to less important things like seatbelt, putting keys in the ignition, going home...

But you know what? It was worth doing, and worth doing well. I regret nothing. I got to fly, so it was a good day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Low(ish) carb gravy!

Just followed an excellent suggestion on the net: put one chicken in crockpot on top of onions, celery, etc. as standard. Cook chicken. After removing chicken from crockpot, pour off most of the broth, until there's just enough to cover the veggies. Then, hit that mess with the immersion blender. Salt & spice to taste, and hey, presto! Flour-free, no-wierd-gums-or-starches, gravy!

...update. Works great when served hot; add more salt & seasonings first. Does not work for frozen & reheated meals; the solids separate out from the liquid.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mr. Lincoln's Haircut

Hopefull all y'all were taught the tire tread penny check by your fathers. If not, it goes like this: take a penny, and stick it in the channels on of the tire tread, with Lincoln's head pointing down. If the remaining tread is high enough to decapitate the guy let the income tax come into being, or at least kill him by slicing off a chunk of his brainpan, then life is good and your tire has enough tread.

On the other hand, if Mr. Lincoln merely gets a marine hair cut, then it's time to replace your tread. There are more precise methods to define for street legal, but this is an excellent rule of thumb for when it's starting to eat into the margin of safety.

The car now has 4 brand new tires, and it's like getting an upgrade on the entire car. It rides smoother, making a lot of the familiar ruts, cracks, and patches in the road almost unnoticeable. Farm more importantly, it stops faster, accelerates a little better, and the car doesn't dip and sway into turns as much. Now, my "haul two kids, a dog, and two kayaks" sized car will never be a sports car by any means, but it's a wonderful upgrade. Even better, I'm now no longer eyeing wet intersections with the narration in my head going "Will it blend? Or will it hydroplane?"

I shall resist the temptation for a road trip via country roads just to take it on sharp corners, leaving a trail of exhaust and giggles. Really. Maybe.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Small town Saturday

This morning, we met at a diner for breakfast with LawDog & Phlegmmy, and then headed out to go see a classic car show. It was the sort of small-town show where the cars and trucks were a mix from the professionally-restored polished classics in cobalt blue, to the antique tractor being started by flywheel (on the fifth try, it still hadn't caught, and the young gentleman in the cowboy hat eyed it in exasperation. "I just cut the grass with it yesterday, and it started right up!")

There was also a dolled-up ATV made to look like a locomotive, pulling a train of fuel barrels cut out to be little train cars for little kids, advertising train rides for a buck per seat. It was beautimous.

The announcer was busy thanking just about every business and church in the small town as we walked past the booth, and Although Peter's on a diet, I stopped to contribute $3 for a funnel cake to a church booth. Long habit from running a booth sticks; I handed over three one dollar bills, to the delight of the gentleman who claimed I was the first customer to do that. "Everyone wants change for twenties!"

Yes, sir, that's going to be a universal human habit as long as that's the base ATM currency. If you're ever going to staff a booth, whether it's major convention or small town car show, make sure you have lots and lots of 1's, 5's, and 10's for change. Most vendors like to price their products at 5 / 10 / 20 just to avoid compounding the change issue - but clearly, North Texas small town felt that was a little too rich for a funnel cake. I'm not complaining! It was delicious!

We saw OldNFO in passing, bustling by and muttering something about forms. I suspect he got sucked into herding cats - as long as he's happy! I got a hug from him, so I'm happy.

Not a terribly exciting day, but it was quite fun, and we got to see friends & neighbors, and some really nifty cars. Hope your weekend is just as fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A reading list for understanding Apartheid

When asked for a book that would explain apartheid, I turned to Peter. He replied, in his usual way, with the fact that no one book could hold it all. But here's a list:

1.  MY TRAITOR'S HEART - Rian Malan - - a personal and highly charged journey -

2.  THE MIND OF SOUTH AFRICA - Allister Sparks ( ).  Left-wing, but comprehensive and reasonably balanced.  See also his sequels, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER COUNTRY ( ), the story of the transition period (through which I lived - he captures the flavor well) and BEYOND THE MIRACLE: INSIDE THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA ( ), which IMHO is less good, but studies the first post-apartheid period.

3.  COUNTRY OF MY SKULL by Antjie Krog ( ) - the account of the first two years of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.  Shows in stark, horrifying detail what apartheid was like for most blacks.  Searing.  I was personally involved with some of those who went through some of these things.  It can still make me weep.

4.  KAFFIR BOY by Mark Mathabane ( ) - a black child growing up under apartheid.  Published in 1986, eight years before the end of apartheid.

5.  THE LAST TREK by F. W. de Klerk ( ) - the last white president describes his life and how he helped end apartheid.

6.  LONG WALK TO FREEDOM by Nelson Mandela ( ) - the sanitized personal account of how he turned from terrorism to statesmanship, and partnered with F. W. de Klerk (see 5 above) to end apartheid.  He and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

Those are only a few out of many possible suggestions.  1, 3 and 4 will give a raw, unvarnished portrayal - essential, IMHO, to grasp the reality of apartheid.  2, 5 and 6 will give a more factual, balanced approach from three different perspectives.