archive for August, 2005

Monterey with John

How is it that I don’t have a travel category? I’m not sure, but I think it’s something I should create. Anyway… on with the post.

Last weekend Jesse, John and I took a little trip up to Monterey, CA. John works for Computer Aid in Pennsylvania, and has been consulting with Conversive for the last few years. For the last several months, and probably for the next year or so, he has been living here in California and working in our office.

The trip was very nice. We drove up to Monterey on Saturday, checked out the wharf, and drove down to the Big Sur area. We stayed in Salinas because it was about half the price as the hotels in Monterey, and isn’t that far away.

On Sunday morning we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a good thing that we bought our tickets in advance because there was the typical line to buy tickets stretching around the block. I think it has been about 8 years since we were last at the Aquarium. It looked like they had made some improvements, but nothing drastic that I noticed.

Once we were done with the aquarium, we headed out of town. I’d made reservations for the Noriega Hotel restaurant for Sunday night, so we had to cut across the valley to get over to highway 99. Dinner, as always, was wonderful. I gained 5 lbs. over the weekend, and I’m sure most of it was at Noriega’s (although Margie’s helped too).

I’ve uploaded the pictures from Saturday and should have Sunday’s pictures up soon, so be sure to stop by Flickr and check them out.

Flight Lessons: Focus on Instruments

Today’s flight focused on the instruments. We flew out to the Simi Valley practice area using VOR navigation. I think I’ve really got it down, I just need to focus more on remembering to verify that I’m on the right frequency.

Once we were out there, I put on the foggles that make it so that you can only see the instruments. We started off with some basic maneuvers (turns, climbs, and decent). I think I did pretty well. It was actually very similar to flying in a flight sim, so it came pretty naturally to me. One thing that I did notice is that if I didn’t focus on the attitude indicator an turn coordinator that I’d slowly get get off of level and start turning.

Once we got the basics out of the way, my instructor had me close my eyes and he did some drastic maneuvers to disorient me. I could feel the g’s of a sharp turn or a climb, and some nice steep descents. I could also notice the sun changing position as the light and shadows would pass my eyes, but usually I got very lost within the first couple seconds. The goal was that after several seconds of disorientation, I was to open my eyes and right the plane just by looking at the instruments. Again, video games paid off and I didn’t have any trouble.

The motion sickness started pretty much right away and after a few rounds of disorientation, I started to feel pretty sick. I let my instructor know that we should take a break. It was a good thing that we quit when we did because it took me a few minutes to get my stomach calmed down. We did a little more work with the foggles and then flew back to Santa Monica.

Once we got back, we did a few rounds around the pattern to work on my landings. I did better than last time, but still none of my landings were as good as I’d like. The whole flight was a lot of fun (in spite of the sickness). I’m looking forward to doing more instrument work and hopefully developing a better tolerance for motion sickness.

Google Talk

I caught the rumors this morning that Google might be launching a chat program. Well, it turned out to be true. Google Talk is live. The best part is that it does use the Jabber protocol. Hopefully this will bring the attention to Jabber that it deserves and start a trend of interoperability in Instant Messaging networks just as there is with email. What I mean is that with email, you can send a message from Hotmail to an AOL user without any problem, but with IM that hasn’t been possible. Google’s choice to use Jabber means that it should be able to communicate with any other Jabber compatible system. I’ll have to be sure to test it out tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and I guess they have some sort of Skype type voice chat functionality. I guess that’s good for some people, but it doesn’t really interest me. When Google offers services like Vonage, then I’ll me impressed.

Flight Lessons: Change of Plans

Today I was told that we’d be flying to Santa Paula, so I did a little research on the airport. I was really looking forward to checking it out. On the way there, my instructor said “One of your passengers is feeling ill. You need to land at the closest airport.”

This was the first surprise scenario and I was caught a little off guard (my flight to Santa Paula was going really well too!). We were pretty close to Van Nuys, so that’s where we went. First I had to figure out exactly where I was, find their frequency, and slow down. It was a bit much for me, so he helped fly the plane while I talked on the radio. We were cleared for 16R, but that changed to 16L once they found out that we were going to do multiple landings.

My first landing was pretty bad. I think I was still a little stressed from the change of plans, I ended up coming in a little slow and my flair was not up to par. All of that ended up making me pretty nervous and my post touch down breaking really suffered. My instructor had to take over so that we didn’t roll off the side of the runway.

We did a few more take offs and landings there and flew back to Santa Monica. Once we were there we did one more loop around the pattern and called it a day. It was definitely a learning experience.

First Flight to Santa Barbara

I’m pretty sleepy, so I’m going to keep this short. Today I flew (with plenty of help from my instructor) to Santa Barbara. Here’s the list of firsts that go with this flight:
first time to land at a Class Charlie airport
first time to plan a flight in detail (on paper) and fly it
first time to file, open, and close a flight plan
first time to use flight following
first time to use flight watch.

It was also the farthest flight that I’ve made so far. Overall, it was a lot of fun and a huge learning experience, but some of the radio stuff got a bit overwhelming. Of course, most of the radio work was right after take off, right before decent, and on the ground. This left some gaps in the middle of the flight to relax (a bit) and focus more on holding my course and altitude which is not as boring as it may sound. The views were really nice, and the air was relatively clear.

Link Roundup: Aug. 21, 2005

Syn (via BoingBoing, via MindHacks)
Syn was a student project to create a prototype magazine. Claire Mills decided to make a magazine for people with (and interested in) Synaesthesia. I’ve been meaning to read it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Vonage and DirecTiVo
I tried for days to get TiVo to work with Vonage and never succeeded. Hopefully this link will help someone else who wants to try. Of course, the best solution would be for TiVo to come with a built in Ethernet jack.

What Business Can Learn from Open Source
Paul Graham is at it again. This time he has an insightful take on what he believes the future of business is. Here’s a hint: professionalism is overrated.

Orion’s Arm
Orion’s Arm is a Creative Commons licensed, community driven, sci-fi universe. It’s a great idea that will hopefully be the start of a trend in literature. I only wish there something like this ten years ago when I had a lot more time for Science Fiction.

Nanotube Ribbons
This story is being picked up on a lot of different sites, but I saw it first on WorldChanging, so they get the credit (they also have the best article I’ve seen). Nanotubes have got to be the most interesting material today. Read the story to find out why.

Python Grimoire
I’ve always loved Python. It’s probably the most beautiful programming language I’ve seen. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to use it. When I do, this cookbook (or spellbook) will be a great resource.

Agua Dulce Airpark Ranch

I’ve gotten a little behind in my blogging. Last Thursday, I was given the choice to fly to: Agua Dulce, Santa Paula, or Catalina. I went for Agua Dulce.

On the way there (and back), we had to call SoCal Approach so that we could fly through the Class Charlie airspace over Burbank. It was a little more complicated than normal because I wasn’t used to using squawk codes or changing frequencies on demand.

I found the airport pretty easily, we overflew it and landed. Agua Dulce is a nice little airport in the hills. We landed about at sunset, parked, and walked around a little bit. They have a pool, lounge, and horse shoe pit. I don’t think they have camping space, but it would be a great little get-away if they did.

This was the first uncontrolled airport (no tower) I’d been to, so I had a chance to practice the radio calls you make in that situation. Basically, there’s a common frequency for the pilots to use to say where they are and what they’re going to do. If there’s some sort of conflict, you just have to work it out. Luckily, we were the only ones flying in the area, so it was pretty easy.

The flight back was nice. As we were taking off, the full moon was just starting to rise above the hills and coyotes were howling. We had to go back through Burbank’s airspace and even had a Southwest Airlines jet fly below us. By the time we landed in Santa Monica it was getting dark. I need to pick up a flashlight to keep in my flight back.

Flight Lessons: New Takeoffs and Landings

Sorry if I’ve turned my blog into an aviation-only blog. Hopefully I’ll have some new announcements in the next few weeks about a little project I’m working on. Now… back to the flying.

I didn’t get to solo on Saturday. The weather just wasn’t quite good enough, but I did get more lessons today. We flew back out to Simi Valley to refresh slow flight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to fly the plane I usually fly, so I had a little trouble getting used to the plane. I was a little rusty, but nothing went too bad (except almost taking off with the cargo door open — oops!). When we got back we did a couple short field takeoffs and landings, then some soft field takeoffs and landings. It was fun. I just wish I was better.

Flight Lessons: I soloed!

Today, on the drive to the airport I was thinking about soloing and trying to decide if I was ready. I got really nervous thinking about it, so I just tried to relax and listen to the radio. My instructor arrived at the airport before I did and was nice enough to have gotten the plane ready and called for gas. I just had to do the pre-flight and we were ready to go.

We did the normal left hand pattern a few times and then he ask if I was ready to solo. I wasn’t sure (remembering the nerves from the drive over), but I was feeling pretty good about how I’d been doing so far. The weather was really nice, so I went for it. We stopped in transient parking and we got out so that he could endorse my log book. He quizzed me a little more and told me that I could do two or three times around the pattern as long as I was comfortable. With that out of the way, I got back in the plane.

It’s weird sitting in there alone, starting it up, talking on the radio, taxiing, and in pretty much every other way. I noticed the weight difference even when I was on the ground. I went to the run-up area and check everything out again (more to help me relax and get in the flow than anything else). After taxiing to the runway I called the tower to request left closed traffic, and I let them know that this was my first solo.

Everything went really well. I had a blast the whole time, but after my first time around the pattern I was able to really relax. There wasn’t much traffic in the area. I think one time I had to follow someone in, and I was able to spot them when they were off my wing. On my third time around tower asked that I turn crosswind at the shoreline (there was a helicopter in the area and they wanted to give it plenty of room), but other than that everything was really normal. My landings weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either.

I can’t wait to go up again. I’ve reserved some time for Saturday morning to do an unsupervised solo. Hopefully it’ll be nice, clear, and calm. I’m really excited that I get to start working more on cross country trips now — after all, that is the whole point of flying isn’t it?

(Note: I removed all of the flight times from my blog posts because the club treasurer emailed me saying that I’d made a mistake on calculating my flight time by 0.3 hrs. Instead of re-figuring all of my totals, I just deleted them. I currently have 18.0 hrs. dual (with an instructor) and 0.6 hrs. solo.)

Flight Lessons: back to Van Nuys

Today the weather was pretty bad again — hot in the valleys and overcast along the coast. We just barely got out of Santa Monica under VFR and to do that we had to use runway 3 (the opposite of normal direction). It was over 90°F in Van Nuys which made the plane fly a little differently because the hot air is less dense. There was a pretty decent cross wind, so I got a some more practice with that. I’m really messed up the first few but by the end I was starting to do ok. I’m still having trouble straightening out at the last second before touching down. We had to go to IFR on the flight back (even though we never flew through any clouds), but I still got to land when we got back.

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