I’ve written before about my doing practice approaches with a safety pilot in order to be current for IFR operations. Well, there is another way to restore your currency, and that’s to perform an Instrument Proficiency Check with an instrument instructor (CFI-I). The main difference between doing 6 approaches with a safety pilot versus doing an IPC with a CFI-I is that you can only do the 6 approaches with a safety pilot if you’re still current (ie. you’ve done 6 approaches, holding and tracking courses in the last 6 months), and you can do the IPC up to 6 months after your currency expires. Also, the IPC has a list of tasks to be done, but doesn’t specify how many approaches you have to do, so if you’re sharp and complete your tasks quickly and without any bobbles, you can do it pretty quickly.

Our club’s Dakota got a new Garmin 530 GPS and a new engine this winter. Over the summer, the club arranged a ground school on how to use the GPS, instructed by a CFI-I who is a member of the other club on the field who put Garmin 530s in all their planes. He seemed like a very good and patient instructor, and knew the 530 pretty well, so when the engine break-in was finished on the Dakota I decided to kill two birds with one stone and have him give me some air instruction on the 530.

I was still within currency, so at first Jim said we’d just do the 6 approaches. But we went out and did a couple of GPS approaches – RNAV (GPS) RWY 28 and RNAV (GPS) RWY 25. One of them we did the full approach, including the missed approach hold. I can’t believe how easy it is to fly approaches with this thing. Even the hold was easy – it told me what hold entry to do, it showed me the hold legs on the map, it timed everything and showed me the distance. After the second approach, Jim said that as long as I didn’t blow the next approach, he’d be willing to sign me off for an IPC if I didn’t want to do a full 6 approaches. He called for an ILS to a full stop.

Then, before I got established on the localizer, he went and slapped covers over the DG (Directional Gyro) and AI (Atitude Indicator). Oh oh. It was hard trying to use the “TRK” reading on the 530 to stabilize on the course, but it wasn’t good. I went full deflection, but Jim let me continue because we were still outside the FAF (Final Approach Fix) in VMC. I brought it back, and soon settled the sword fight down to keep both needles within a dot or two of centered. I think for partial panel like that, it’s probably easier to use the HSI on my hand-held. But for normal approaches, I like the panel mount GPS.

Man, I wish they’d put one of those Garmin 530s in the Lance. The Lance’s carrying capacity and roominess make it my favourite plane, but I’ve got to say with its smooth peformance, beautiful paint job, and great panel, the Dakota is a very close second.

Putting the Democratic Party on notice

I’m with orc, in his post Crossing the line.

I’m putting the Democratic Party as a whole, and candidates individually, on notice: If you don’t come out strongly and clearly against this torture bill and any other attempt to legalize illegal detention and torture practiced by this administration, you will not receive one penny from me. You say that will leave the House and Senate in the hands of the Republicans? So what? If you’re not against torture, then you have demonstrated that you wouldn’t be any better than them on the most important issue facing this country.

The future of America is at stake. Take a stand, or fade into oblivion.

Maybe this will make Gravatars suck less

This morning, gravatar.com is throwing a wobbly, which it does with depressing regularity. When that happens, the front page of my blog loads fine, but anytime you click on an entry with comments it takes forever. I was wondering if there was a better solution, and a quick google reveals the presense of a “Gravatar2” plugin.

This one caches gravatars for all the people who’ve commented on your blog, and instead of going off to consult gravatar.com when a user views a post, it does it out of a cron job that runs in the background. This means the users don’t get slow page loads when gravatar.com is responding slowly. I guess I’ll have to wait and see if it actually loads and displays them properly when that site is responding again

If MMORPG gamers acted the way in real life that they do in-game

I guess I’m going to have to marry my girlfriend. Sure, I don’t know anything about her, but I’ve completed all the girlfriend quests and I need to level up.

I keep encountering players who just run from quest to quest, ignoring any of the detail along the way. It’s like the game is something to be gotten through as quickly as possible. I tried to praise the art and mood of the game on the forums, and got jumped all over by people complaining about the frame rate or how low resolution the beta graphics are, and how so many of the animations suck. It’s as if all the art and beauty that the designers slaved over is inconsequential because it doesn’t help them level up.

They’ve finally done it!

I’ve always said that no user interface could possibly be worse than that of Lotus Notes. Well, our company recently announced that you could access your Notes through a web interface on the intranet. Hooray, I thought, I could get rid of Cross Over Office and the bletchery of running a Windows emulator on my Linux computer.

Then I tried it.

First problem – every 5 or 10 minutes, it pops up a window to tell me that my session has expired, which requires me to click on it, then enter the first character of my user id in the pop-up authentication window, then tab to accept the Firefox fill-in of the user id and password, and click again on the login button. Then retry whatever I was doing. Ugh.

Second problem – every time I accept a meeting invitation, it disappears into the ether, and I get some warning about it being outside my available time. So I looked, and evidently I’m only available from 10pm to 3:30am. I tried to change that to something more sane, and my meetings didn’t come back. I guess they’re gone for good.

Third problem – after leaving the application running for three straight days, I start getting a Firefox popup saying that the script is unresponsive and do I want to end it. If I say “Continue” the operation I’m doing will complete, but I’ll get the same popup a few minutes later. If I say “End script”, the operation I’m doing won’t complete, and I’ll get the same damn popup when I *do* want to do the operation. Shift-reload won’t fix the problem. Even closing the tab the Notes client is running on and re-opening it won’t fix the problem. I suspect I’m going to have to exit Firefox, and that’s just ridiculous.

So I’m back to running Notes under CrossOver Office. Sigh.