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.


  1. Thanks for the notes on words to add or subtract! And you done good. You asked the right questions, were patient, and shot a 3 inch group. That's all good!!! Now if we drag you back out there a few more times and start 'imprinting' those lessons... An hour of range time, just like an hour of instruction doesn't equal years of experience, but it IS a building block for you to better yourself. Always remember, front sight, press... :-)

  2. I can't imagine more excellent teachers.

  3. I know that's where my problems start (besides my eyes' strange inability to get the sights on long-guns to come into focus): scattershot [pun intended] teaching on handguns by someone who is much better with rifles. I know what I ought to be doing, more or less, but not how to get everything to do it. I.e. I'm better than Antonio "You stick the pointy end in the bad guy?" Banderas, but I'm very, very far from Errol Flynn's sword-fight double.