Flight.

The club airplane has been grounded for the past couple of weeks for a maintenance inspection. Luckily, I was able to fly in Kansas City in a rented Cessna 172 with a rented instructor and my husband in the back seat. It was Earl’s first time flying in a small plane and first time flying with me at the controls. He’s really excited for when I have my license now.

Because the club airplane has been grounded, we haven’t been doing a lot of flying. My instructor sent me a text message on Sunday advising that he had rented another airplane for Monday after work. He was “getting the itch” and he invited me and another student and friend to tag along.

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It was my first time flying with my instructor in the left hand seat. He did some maneuvers that I haven’t done in a long time. The three of us did Lazy-8s, Chandelles and some fancy landing maneuvers usually used in formation flying. The rented Cherokee, a Cherokee 180, is a faster airplane so there was an extra dose of exhilaration. As I sat in the right seat, carefully watching every move he made, every indication of the instruments and felt every shift in gravitational pull, I had a huge grin on my face. We were flying like I had flown when I was a kid with my dad and the best part was, I now know how to do what he was doing. It was awesome.

The checkride for my private pilots’ certificate is not too far away. I am more excited than ever to be a pilot and I’m looking forward to the challenge of doing well on my checkride.

Flying is so awesome.

Hysteria.

Nearly three decades ago I was sitting in the break room of a regional department store, enjoying my 15-minute break from sharing my social security number with hundreds of customers1. There were several of us on break. A television sat in the corner; we were excited because cable had just been added to the mix. Headlines were being discussed on CNN, the topic at hand was the growing AIDS epidemic. One of my co-workers spoke up. Her name was Kelly.

“I think we should gather up all the AIDS patients, put them on a rocket and blast them off to Mars.”

I found this to be rather harsh. After all, at the time we didn’t really know a lot about the disease and though it seemed rather scary, we should probably still keep our wits about ourselves and not overreact. I don’t remember what I said in response, probably something non-committal, because I was still navigating as to who I was and honestly I was worried about becoming a statistic. I needed to know more before speaking on the subject with confidence.

Fastforward to present day and CNN and many other flavors of a similar brew are all vying for advertising money. In that quest to increase revenue, conjecture, opinions and claims are all spun in a certain direction so to yank in the viewer, and subsequently, boost ratings. Pundits are calling to block air travel to and from Africa, where Ebola is most prevalent. People are showing up at the airport in homemade hazmat suits. In short, many are just losing their minds amongst the hype (and I bet the woman in the hazmat suit REALLY wanted her photo to go viral).

Like the day I sat in that break room at the department store, I don’t feel confident enough in my assessment of the facts to make a broad statement as to ban flights to and from an entire continent. I mentioned on Twitter that since folks are calling for a ban for air travel to and from Africa, we might as well do the same with Texas, since that’s where Ebola patients are being treated in the States. This horrified some and I understand why it would do just that. It’s crazy talk.

I believe that a lot of the hysteria around the Ebola situation is media driven. That grab for ad clicks and viewerships and all that stuff prompts for outrageous headlines and bombastic statements from folks that are just trying to get attention. Instead of spending time how to figuring out how to help fellow human beings, folks are spending time screeching about sealing ourselves off from the perceived threat. Calls for locking door our border in this manner is nothing but grandstanding.

Folks forget that it’s one Big Blue Marble that we all share together. Borders are man made and locking down a border is not going to stop anyone from getting anywhere they want to go on this Big Blue Marble. If you’re that concerned that you’re going to contract Ebola on a flight then here is a simple answer: don’t fly. Just keep it all here in the States and don’t step foot on an airplane. And if you choose to fly, don’t lick the vomit or blood of another passenger, because after all, Ebola is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids.

The hysteria around all of this would not be this crazy if we weren’t only three weeks from the midterm elections2. You know it and I know it, that is, if you knew that the midterm elections are three weeks away to begin with.

Calm down and think rationally.

1 I was a cashier at said department store. The first bit of information on the cash register receipts from back then, aside from the logo at the top, was the cashier ID number, which was our social security number. My social security number was shared with thousands of people.

2 Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 4. Honestly, I don’t care how you vote, but I do care that you remember to vote. You have the right to share your voice through the voting process and if you don’t vote, you’re not being a good citizen of this democracy.

UA 3765.

The origami case I recently purchased for my iPad has to be one of the best purchases I have made for an Apple device. This case allows me to store and efficiently use a full-sized Apple keyboard with my iPad, and it all fits on a snack tray on a CRJ-700 whilst flying Mesa Airlines doing business as United Express.

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The smaller things amuse me.

We were about 45 minutes late for takeoff on the second leg of this trip; a computer responsible for “making the dinging noises” in the cockpit wasn’t doing its job, so they had to replace the computer. This involved going back to the gate, having maintenance come on board, swapping out a module and then rebooting the airplane. All in all the fix took about 15 minutes once maintenance was out to the aircraft and then we were on our way. Folks on the flight were good natured about the delay. This isn’t a full flight. Earl moved across the aisle to a pair of empty seats so we have lots of elbow room.

I’m wondering if this flight is using the traditional Victor Airways for navigation instead of going GPS direct, because we just jumped in line with four different aircraft flying in the same direction at differing altitudes. This is very cool to me. As a student pilot, I’ve flown a Victor Airway on just a couple of occasions and I’ve only seen one aircraft within reasonable eyeshot when on that Airway. It’s kind of nifty being on the highways in the sky. The aircraft closest to us the flight we are currently on is close enough in that I’m able to identify that it’s an American Airlines flight with the new livery.

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I’m excited about our trip to Kansas City. Even though Earl and I will be working for a couple of the days there, the change of scenery and new experiences will be quite enjoyable.

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Earl and I are on United flight 4583 from Syracuse to Dulles. This is the first leg of a two leg trip that will eventually find us in Kansas City later this morning. Our flight attendant’s name is Kyle. He is on Twitter. I’m good like that.

Our flight left at 0600L this morning and we were right on time. The captain advised the passengers that there could be a little choppy along the flight but it’s nothing thus far.

I am always like a kid when I’m flying, even as a passenger on a commercial flight. My head is plastered against the window and now that I’m allowed to, I take many photos. I don’t feel sorry for those that see flight as a form of transportation, but I consider myself quite lucky to experience awe, excitement, wonder and beauty every time I’m on an airplane. Sometimes I believe that the U.S. Security Measures are designed to make the flight experience as miserable as possible, but once you’re through that theatrical mess, they are left behind and quickly forgotten. I’m too overwhelmed by the amazing experience of flight, even as just a passenger, to be bothered by such things.

I just remarked to Earl that maybe I should be one of those old guys that becomes a pilot for a regional airline late in life. It doesn’t pay much and it’d probably cost more than I could ever earn, but flying everyday would be such an awesome thing. My current plan is to become a flight instructor and enjoy flying the two of us around in a Cherokee 180 or something similar. I want to see the land from the sky as often as possible and I want to share my passion with anyone that wants to share it with me.

I don’t know how people can sleep on flights. There is so much to see, so much to feel and so much to experience.

Life can be such a beautiful journey.

Walk, Part 2.

I usually my days by going for a walk or bike ride. Yesterday was such a lovely day for a walk but this morning it was cold, with the thermometer showing that it was 40ºF. As I get older, the idea of riding my bike when it’s that cold grows less appealing. So I bundled up and went for a walk.
 
 While I wasn’t stopped by motorists looking for directions to a Pop Warner game this morning, I did have a pleasant yet brief chat with a man getting to spend the day working in the woods behind the cornfield at the top of the hill shown in the picture below. He was getting ready to join others and do some logging. They’ve been working the woods back there for a couple of days. He was very pleasant and asked how far I walk each morning.
 
 It’s good to enjoy a brief conversation with a complete stranger without having to do it in 140 characters or less. Many seem to have forgotten how to communicate or are afraid that their neighbor is a terrorists spitting out Ebola all over the place. It was nice to have speak with someone who wasn’t afraid to speak to a passerby on the street.
 

Walk.

I’m just back from an hour long walk in the neighborhood. I walked around our block. Because we live in a somewhat rural area, walking around the block is nearly five miles. I feel great after the exercise. 

I’ve mentioned before that power lines criss-cross our area. We are near the geographical center of the state and many of the higher voltage power lines come together here to a couple of large switching stations. Power from Niagara Falls, southern Québec and a number of local power plants of various shapes and sizes gets distributed to other parts of the region from here. 

These guys bring power in from Niagara Falls.

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There are spacers along the lines. When you walk under the lines you can hear snapping, crackling and popping noises coming from the spacers.

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Not too far from our property is the railroad line that goes from Utica to just south of Old Forge in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is a popular tourist attraction, especially at this time of year. Leaf peepers love to peep at the brilliant autumn colors one finds in the Adirondacks.

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During my walk I was stopped by six different vehicles. Apparently there is a big Pop Warner football game at the local town park but folks didn’t know where the park was located. I gave them directions that would be easy to remember. I hope they have a good time up there at the game.

Friday Dance Party.

I already tweeted this video out earlier this morning, after dancing around to this track in my home workspace, but I just had to watch this video again at lunchtime. This track has been on my short-list in Spotify for the past six months or so. It always puts me in a great mood.

As a former club DJ, I find this song from 2011 to be absolutely amazing. I have always been a fan of both Sylvia Tosun and Bellatrax, so it’s makes sense that I would find a collaboration to be awesome. The musicality of the track is sound, the production is top-notch and I have always liked the way the song builds along its flow. It doesn’t immediately jump into the goldmine, it seductively finds its way there.

And to be completely candid, Sylvia Tosun is my girl crush. Her vocals, combined with the imagery in her videos, make me all starry-eyed. I love the way she expresses her sensuality. I’ve watched several of her interviews on YouTube and the like, and she seems like a genuinely talented singer-songwriter.

Here is Sylvia Tosun, produced by Bellatrax, with “World Keeps Turning” from 2011.

Flight.

I was slated to fly the club airplane to KSCH, or Schenectady County Airport, this morning. The plan was to have me drop off the airplane at the maintenance facility on the field and another student and instructor would pick me up and fly me back home. As a student pilot that has soloed, I am allowed to do this sort of thing with the proper endorsements in my log book. I just can’t take passengers along with me.

I started planning the nearly 70 mile flight last night, with the intent of completing the flight plan this morning once I got the relevant weather information.

I’d show you a picture of my flight planning work here but for some reason Apple has decided to stop syncing my camera roll and photo stream on my iPad. It probably has something to do with iOS Vista iOS 8.

Edit: The picture just showed up on my iPad after turning my iPad on and off and then disabling photo stream and re-enabling it.  There was a message about “Photo Stream (beta)”, but the accompanying message with the suggestion was so dire that I decided not to risk it.

 

This morning I received an email from the club maintenance officer who decided that perhaps the airplane shouldn’t go to Schenectady, so my flight was canceled and I am sitting on the ground working like a good soldier today. While I understand the motivation for canceling the flight, I was a little bummed because it turned out to be a beautiful day to fly and now the club airplane is in for maintenance so I don’t have any airplane to fly. Well, it’s not actually maintenance, it’s an inspection.

Earl and I are traveling next week so the timing of the airplane inspection is almost on the money. I plan on flying a lot when we get back because it’ll be crunch time to ready myself for my checkride with an FAA examiner.

After I pass that I’ll be able to take passengers.

Speed.

During my work day at home I often go for a 15-20 minute walk in the morning and again in the afternoon. My walk involves walking along the shoulder of our fairly busy road because we don’t live in an area with sidewalks. I’m not sure that I would want to live in an area with sidewalks, what with being a farm boy at heart and all that.

Traditionally, not having a sidewalk hasn’t really been an issue; folks would simply move over a little bit to give the pedestrian a little bit of breathing space. However, I have noticed that over the past year or so, people haven’t been driving in as friendly a manner down the road and they’re driving a lot faster. I need to leave the shoulder of the road and take refuge in the adjacent lawn at least three or four times a week. This makes my walk less enjoyable than it is intended to be.

The county Department of Works must have noticed that tendency of motorists speeding down the hill as well, because a week ago they added an electronic speed indicating sign. Random observations during my walk have confirmed my suspicions. People are driving faster than the posted 45 MPH speed limit.

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I’ve noticed that quite a few drivers are slamming on their brakes when they see that they’re exceeding the speed limit by 10 or 15 MPH. I fully believe that they’re afraid that the display has some sort of camera embedded in it, but I don’t believe that it does. I think it’s just a velocity indicator and nothing more.

Nevertheless, I wish people would use some common sense and slow down just a little bit to keep our quasi-rural area somewhat enjoyable. Actually, I wish people would just start using common sense, period. But I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Priced Randomly.

So earlier this year my primary physician awarded me a year’s supply of Norvasc, a medication used to treat high blood pressure. As my luck would have it, he has the pharmacy dish this out on a monthly basis, however, as I mentioned, I did win a year’s supply. Earl likes to call this my distemper medication.

Shortly after starting the Norvasc, I received a letter from the administrator of the company prescription plan, advising me that I needed to get routine and regular medications in 90 day increments by mail. I was discouraged from using the local pharmacy, because apparently that’s a more expensive proposition. I was told to go online, use the provided credentials to register with the mail-order company, and then I would reap the savings in medical costs.

The website is wonky at best.

The provided credentials don’t work.

I lost interest.

Squirrel!

I decided to ignore the directive from the company prescription drug program and stick with the local pharmacy. The cost varies from month to month and I end up paying anywhere from $6.00 to $9.95. The name of the mail-order prescription drug company is emblazoned across the label from the local pharmacy, so this tells me that somehow the local pharmacy and the mail-order provider are in cahoots.

Despite the cahoots, I continue to receive letters from the company insurance provider, reminding me that effective the next refill, my prescription price will skyrocket unless I use the mail-order plan. This has been going on for months. Tonight I refilled my prescription at the local pharmacy and it went from $9.50 to $4.75.

Somehow, somewhere, the cahoots are on my side.

I don’t know how people with crappy medical plans, well crappier medical plans than what we have at work, and multiple medications, keep all of this rigamarole straight. It’s bad enough that I have a deductible on my body, like I’m made up of front fenders and rear quarter panels, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to rely on the US Postal Service to deliver my medications in a timely manner. They can’t even get a package from 75 miles away to my house in less than a week, and even then the tracking information indicates that it’s been routed through Bogalusa, Louisiana on it’s way from one Upstate New York city to another, why on earth would I trust them to get my medication on time.

Once upon a time we relied on our friendly neighborhood pharmacist. I refuse to give and I will continue to do so.