archive for July, 2005

Flight Lessons: more takeoffs and landings

Yesterday’s flight was pretty nice. It was only 1.1 hours so it stayed pretty relaxing. The wind seemed pretty calm too. I’m actually starting to get comfortable with landing. Instead of worrying about breaking the plane, now I’m just trying to make a good landing.

We didn’t do touch and goes this time. Even though I didn’t get as many landings in, I think it really helped because we had more time to talk about each landing as we were taxiing back to the runway.

I think it was on my third flight that we had a really smooth landing (of course with his help). Ever since then I’ve been trying to repeat it.

Link Roundup: Jul. 25, 2005

I’ve been putting of posting links way to long. Instead of not posting because I don’t have time to do a nice write-up on each link, I’m going to make this Link Roundup a quick dump of some interesting links. Hopefully next time, I’ll get back to my regular format.

Accelerando – a sci-fi novel available for free online. I started reading it, and it looks good. Maybe once I finish the other three books I’m working on, I’ll get back to it.

BookCrossing – a cool way to share and track books. We really need to use technology to improve sharing networks.

Unexpected images – a camera takes surreal images. Very cool and pretty.

Open Letter Did you know a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe?

Brainpixels – and you thought cat brains were worthless.

The Lost Liberty Hotel – article on eminent domain.

Simon of Space – From the author of The Darth Side.

Peerflix – a non-free (but cheap) DVD sharing network. Very interesting idea IMHO.

Konfabulator – Yahoo! buys Konfabulator and makes it Yahoo! Widgets. I looked at Konfabulator a while back and was very curious. It’s the price that stopped me from using it. Now, it’s free.

Flight Lessons: first Camarillo trip

Yesterday we flew to Camarillo airport which is about 30 miles away from Santa Monica. I really liked flying straight and level and having a chance to look around. We practiced navigating with the VOR/DME system. Since we went to a different airport that was pretty close, it felt like most of the flight was spent setting up and using the radios.

My landings still need a lot of work, but they felt better than last time. It was a little weird being at a different airport. I had a little trouble at first judging distances, but it didn’t seem to be a problem.

On one landing I didn’t keep the wings level enough, and the wind picked up the left wing quite a bit when I had just the right wheel on the ground. We were able to level it out without breaking anything, but it was pretty scary. After that I really focused on keeping it level. Unfortunately, that meant I wasn’t as focused on keeping us going straight down the runway, so there were a couple of times where we got pretty close to the dirt. It’s a good thing the runway is 150 ft. wide.

Slacking — Catch-up

As you have probably noticed, I haven’t done a very good job of keeping my blog up to date. I’ve only had a few non-aviation posts this whole month. I’ve collected a nice set of links for another Link Roundup post, but I’ll need a good half hour to an hour to actually post them (sadly, that’s not now). I really need to implement some sort of “Save as Draft” system for my blog so that I can work on posts in smaller chunks.

So, other than flying, what have I been up to? A couple weeks ago Jesse’s mom came out for a visit. She divided her time between here and her brother’s house an hour and half away (much more in traffic). It was nice to have a visitor again.

Last weekend we had John from Conversive’s partner company Computer Aid over for bar-b-qued ribs. It was the first time I cooked ribs and was having a hard time finding recipes for cooking them on the grill. Ribs really come out best when they’re cooked as slowly as possible. I ended up wrapping the ribs in heavy duty foil and turning the gas down to low. I let them cook in the foil for about 45 min. before opening them up to finish on the open flame. Once I started applying BBQ sauce I needed to turn off one side so that it wouldn’t burn to a crisp right away. I probably should have gone the whole time with only one burner so that I could have slowed the cooking down even more. In the end, I think they turned out really good. I’m not usually a fan of ribs, but these were a lot of fun.

I haven’t been playing any video games, though I’d really like to play Battlefield 2. I loved the first version of the game, and I’ve heard version 2 is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I’ll need a new video card before I can play. My card is unsupported, will crash my computer just trying to run the game.

Jesse picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (along with half the country). I’ve only had time to read a chapter each night, but I’m enjoying taking my time.

Last weekend we saw the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. I enjoyed it. You can’t help compare it with the original. I think they both had their strong points, and think the new one did a good job of delivering the same feel without sticking exactly to the story in the older movie. The worst part about the new one was all of the computer graphics. They felt out of place, and a bit like a short cut, in a movie that doesn’t really need CG. I liked the added backstory and the new ending. Overall, it’s worth seeing, either in theaters or at home.

That’s all the time I have for today. I promise to try to post more regularly (and more frequently) in the future.

Flight Lessons: it's been a while

My last flight was Wednesday evening. It had been a week and a half without flying because two of my flights were canceled due to weather. It’s funny how I used to love low clouds and fog, but now I know that it means I can’t go flying and I hate it. Nice clear, calm, days are what I look forward to.

My skill level seems to have dropped compared to my previous flight. It could have been that I was flying a different plane (the club’s other 172), or it could be that I was tired from work, or most likely – I just got rusty from not flying. I felt that I was doing a little better with flaring on my landings, but my instructor said that I wasn’t keeping the plane level enough. Probably, I was focusing on my speed and height and not as much on my angle. Hopefully with a little more practice I’ll be able to bring it all together.

My other major mess up was with the radio communication. Most of the things I needed to say, I knew how to say. I just couldn’t get it all out. My first mistake was forgetting to tell ground control that I had the weather information before taxiing. That’s actually twice that I’ve made that mistake. I’ll have to be extra careful in the future and make a practice call before the real one.

Once I started getting nervous on the radio I began making a lot of little mistakes, like not doing a proper readback and just acknowledging the call instead. One time I totally choked, held down the button to transmit, but couldn’t get any words out. Oh well, I’m sure that with more practice this will all get easier.

Flight Lessons: more pattern work

Yesterday I did some more taking off, flying the pattern and landing. We couldn’t do touch-and-goes because they’re not allowed on the weekend. My takeoffs feel really good and my landings are a lot better. I actually had a few that I was pretty happy with.

Flight Lessons: touch-and-goes

Today we focused more on takeoffs and landings. I had one go around because I was two high, and a couple times we had to make full stops because there wasn’t enough runway left for another take off. Overall, I had a lot more fun than last time. The wind was a lot calmer, so that made everything a lot easier. My biggest problem is still landing and knowing when to pull up and by how much. I’m flying too fast in the downwind (the part of the pattern opposite the runway), and that’s making it hard to set up for a nice easy approach. With a little more work, I think I’ll start making nice landings on my own.

Home Work

With a full three-day weekend and no plans, Jesse and I decided to get a few home improvement jobs out of the way. We’ve talked about painting a room for quite a while, I’ve wanted to upgrade our thermostat since we moved in, and life without TiVo makes TV practically unwatchable.

The painting went pretty smoothly. We bought the supplies and masked off the room Friday evening. Saturday morning we primed, and once that was dry we painted. The paint looks ok. The color is darker than it looked on the sample, but that’s ok. I just noticed a few spots that we missed around the edge of the door jam, and there is more than one spot on the ceiling that got painted even though we were trying to leave it white. It’s a good thing we started small.

The thermostat replacement didn’t go as easily as Home Depot’s website made it look. We followed all of the directions, and still somehow managed to fry the transformer in the air conditioner itself. I think what happened was that a little crack in some of the insulation of one of the wires allowed a short to occur. We tried everything we could think of to fix it, but it was beyond our capabilities.

We ended up having to call a repairman out to take a look at it. He was able to find the problem right away and had all of the parts to fix it. He didn’t want to use our new thermostat because he suspected that it might have caused the problem in the first place, so we had to buy one of his if we wanted him to install it. I didn’t want to try it myself, so a few hundred dollars later he had everything working. Oh, while we were doing all of that work on the thermostat, we changed out our air filter. It turns out that the one we had been using was the wrong size and was installed incorrectly. Oh well. Live and learn.

Finally we come to the TiVo. I expected this to be easiest of all, but I’ve probably spent the most time on it so far. It’s really pretty easy. Plug it in to the cable, power, and phone, and you should be good to go. Unfortunately, TiVos don’t like to communicate with the servers over our Vonage VoIP connection. I tried every hack that I could find on the Internet to try to get it to work, but nothing worked well enough to download the programming that it needed to finish the setup process. Eventually I gave up and took it over to a friends house to borrow his phone line.

Once I was there, everything went smoothly… at least for getting it setup. TiVo likes to make a call every day, and it can’t do that at our house. We bough a USB WiFi adapter so that we could connect the TiVo to our wireless home network and use that for the daily updates, but there was one more problem. We need to upgrade the operating system on the TiVo to recognize the USB adapter. The only way to get the upgrade is to request it on the website and then wait for it to be pushed out. I went back to my friends house to check to see if I’d made the list, but no luck. No upgrade, so no network connection. I’ll just have to try again later.

It turned out to be a very busy weekend. I don’t think I got the rest and relaxation that I would have liked. We’ll have to schedule some of that for next weekend for sure.

Recipe: Licorice Ice Cream

My latest batch of ice cream is in the refrigerator chilling right now. Here’s the recipe. I just made it up, so let me know if you find a better one! I’ll let everyone know how it tastes once it’s done.

1 pt. heavy cream
1/5 cup sugar
1.5 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. anise extract

Flight Lessons: takeoffs and landings

I got some more time to fly today. The weather was pretty nice. There was a fairly steady breeze off the ocean, but it was going right down the runway. We were going to do touch-and-goes, but since today was a holiday (Happy 4th of July!), we had to come to a full stop and leave the runway for each landing.

I think I’ve got the takeoffs just about down. I need to pull up a little sooner though. The plane gets really hard to control on the ground when you’re going that fast, especially in the wind. I’m just glad there wasn’t a crosswind!

My landings were rough, but not bad enough to break anything. I still need quite a bit of work to recognize when to start pulling up as we get close. My approaches are getting better, but I tended to come in too high. The wind made me really nervous because as we got close the airplane tended to twist and turn and I wanted to keep it as level as possible. I think I’m getting better at stopping once we touched down, but it was a lot of work to try to keep it straight.

I somehow managed to find (and hit) a bird on my final approach. We were pretty high in the air. I’m not sure what it was doing up there, but it really surprised me. All I saw was a bit of a black blur and then I heard a loud thump. If it had hit the propeller, the landing would have been very interesting. Instead, it seemed to have hit the top of the windshield and bounced off.

Between all of those takeoffs and landings, I flew in what’s called “the pattern.” You basically take off and start climbing. Once you get a little ways out, you make a 90 degree left turn and fly a bit more. Pretty quickly you make another left to parallel the runway. By this time I was at pattern altitude and it was time to level off (something else I need more work with). When you’re about half way back along the runway, it’s time to call the tower (if they haven’t called you first) and let them know where you are. Two more left turns, lower the power and flaps, and you should be lined up for a nice approach.

With all of this taking off, landing, and flying near the airport I had a lot of time to talk to ATC. I messed up a few times, but by the end I was starting to feel almost comfortable.

Today was probably my most stressful flight. I should be doing touch-and-goes in a couple days, and hopefully everything will get a lot easier from here on out.

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