Monday, March 27, 2017

Relearning the basics

It's a truth and a truism that you don't necessarily go to experts to learn the very basics: if you want to learn to paint, you'd better learn a bit about gauche vs oils vs watercolor and what brushes, or brushstrokes, do what, much less how to mix pigments, etc. before you do a class with Franzetti, Whelan, De Royo, Sam Flegal, or Melissa Gay.

This is because experts at doing are much in demand to do instead of teach, so their teaching time is limited and best saved for going from good to really good and need a lot of practice with the new techniques you just learned, eh?

Except... (there's always an except) When you learn from someone who's very good at what they do, and they're taking the time to start at the utmost basics, you can learn a heck of a lot faster because you get to skip a lot of guesswork, learning wrong, and having to unlearn the wrong way in order to relearn the right way.

And a surprising amount of what goes wrong at the mid level, preventing you from getting to great, has to do with needing to go back and fix / perfect the basics.

I've been lucky, or unlucky, enough to receive basic flying instruction in several different environments, from Palo Alto to Alaska Oklahoma to Appalachia. This was partially a function of running out of money for instruction before achieving the license several times, and partially a function of relearning after physical therapy. When your muscles no longer pull with the same amount of force or pressure that you used to have, it's a good idea to go over the basics of how much push, pull, turn, and twist to do before you get into a tight spot where you really need the airplane to do what you think you told it to do.

I like the crusty old curmudgeons, the quiet guys in the battered ballcaps, because the experience they can impart and the standards they hold me to are priceless. Each one had something different to teach me, and some extra experience to learn, over and above their local knowledge. Some things I learned in offhand comments in conversation would later save my life, or prevent me from getting into a fix that required greater skill than I had to get out of.

Now I'm back in physical therapy (and I'm probably going to pick up a local flight instructor when I'm done, at least for an hour or two.) But I'm tackling another physical sport... shooting.

Now, my dearest darling husband wisely absented himself from teaching me, because husbands teaching wives is... fraught. But OldNFO and LawDog consented to drag my carcass out to the firing line, and start with the very basics: stance, grip, how to carry the gun on and off the range, where to focus, how to sweep the safety off, etc.

Those two gentlemen are very good shots. OldNFO is an extremely patient teacher. And I... I try to be a good learner. Tell me what you want, and I'll do my best not to have to be told twice. (Though I inevitably miss some things on the first round. I aspire to make different mistakes, instead of the same ones over and over!)

Now, when LawDog is demonstrating where my elbows should be when carrying the pistol, in order to make maneuvering in the stack and fighting a hostile who's going for the gun easier... Yeah, that's the thing with learning from experts. Their tangents are fascinating, even when your skill level is nowhere close to being able to apply it.

Like Paul Claus muttering about having to rock the floats for a curving takeoff on glassy water, because the suction with no waves will increase the drag and lengthen your takeoff run significantly otherwise. Or... shoot, I don't remember which author it was now, but explaining that writing to length was a matter of writing the story, then if you needed to pad 10-20 thousand words, you added another character, 20-30K another subplot, and if you needed to cut, see prior. Or Mr. Buckland noting that boredom kills, so if you're likely going to get stuck under a slow-moving low pressure front, make sure you have a good thick book you wanted to read and some handicrafts in the plane. "I think I'll go see if I can make it" is the cause of a lot of heartache.

But make sure you get the basics down first.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Getting better

I know I'm getting better when the symmetrical physical therapy exercises are a challenge to the uninjured side of the body, too.

...or more out of shape? Um, let's stick with getting better. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Low carb flan

Still working on the syrup at the bottom, but I've got the proportions worked out for the custard.

Syrup: next time I'm trying
1 Tbsp Truvia powder
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp water

1 cup cream
1 cup half & half
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp truvia

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Find a pie plate that fits inside a baking dish.

To make syrup: combine ingredients in bowl.
Spray pie pan with nonstick cooking spray & pour mixture in.
Microwave on half power for 4 minutes.
Place pie pan in large baking dish.

To make custard:
Whisk together all ingredients, and pour over syrup in pie plate.
Place baking dish on oven rack, trying not to slop custard over the side.
Add water to baking dish, trying for up to the level of the flan, but not in danger of slopping over on the oven bottom or in the pie tine when you put the oven shelf in so it can bake.
Bake for 45 minutes or when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (65 minutes on my last try.)

When finished, if you turn the sink into a room-temperature water bath and plunk the flan in it, it'll cool quickly. Otherwise, let cool however and cut into eighths. Serve with clotted cream for pure decadence.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spell check problems

Alma and I had a hilarious conversation the other month, in which we pontificated upon the theoretical problems of spell check in a world where magic works, and auto-correct might try to substitute shrubbery wrath (like the shining) vs. Shub Niggurath...

She now has the result up for free on her blog! Go forth, and giggle!