A stupid idea, stupidly done

In amongst my podcasts, iTunes downloaded three “PDFcasts”, two from Make Magazine and one from PilotCast. Of all the ways that people on the Internet have found to re-implement the same basic idea as Usenet, this has got to be the worst. If I wanted content that I had to read on my computer, what’s wrong with a web page? Or better yet, an RSS feed for a web page. Or an email list. Or Usenet.

The nagging-est highway

I-79 between Pittsburgh and Eire has a stretch where every few minutes you encounter large signs with black letters on a bright yellow background. They’re full of advice, mostly about wearing your seat belts (the best one was “Seat belts required, next million miles”), but also slogans like “Slow down and save lives”, “Stay alert”, etc. After a while it feels like they’re nagging you. Vicki and I spent some time coming up with suggestions for future signs:




The Good, The Bad, and The (Plane) Weird

It’s time for pilot bloggers to think back and reflect on the highlights (and lowlights) of their flying “careers”, even for those of us for whom it is an avocation rather than a vocation.

The Good

There have been so many high points, but there are two that are definitely the highest:

  1. The day I passed my checkride, I got to take my wife flying as a “thank you” for her patience while I obsessed over the studying and spent vast sums of money on flying.
  2. The day I landed at Oshkosh. I felt like I had finally arrived as a pilot, even if I wasn’t manipulating the controls, I was PIC because we were IFR and the guy in the left seat wasn’t rated.

The Bad

Oh, this is embarrassing. I’ve never told anybody but my wife the truth about this.

The worst thing that happened to me flying was on my very first flight. I had just signed up with the Rochester Flying Club, and had interviewed a couple of instructors, and one of them, Geoff, wanted to take me for a flight, as a first lesson. The weather wasn’t great – it was overcast and the visibility stunk. But Geoff was ok with it, and who was I to say no? I had read books about flying and how to fly obsessively, so things went pretty well doing basic maneuvers. But the lack of a good horizon was making me air sick. I didn’t want to mention it, but he clued in and we headed home. But as we got close, he still had me flying but just as we turned downwind suddenly I doubled over with a cramp. And instead of spewing out the mouth, my sphincter let go and I did something I hadn’t done since kindergarten. I guess that big vindaloo curry I’d had the night before hadn’t agreed with the air sickness.

Geoff was a trooper. He went into the FBO and got some carpet cleaner while I tried to sneak into the toilet to clean up. Even more amazingly, he agreed to continue training me.

The (Plane) Weird

Hmmm. This category is harder. One of my aviation pet peeves is the fact that when you check in with a new controller en-route, some of them expect you to read back the altimeter setting and will prompt you again if you don’t, and some get annoyed if you do. There is no consistency. I find that weird.

Another weird thing is when you go to fly a route that you’ve flown before, and you file the same clearance you got last time, but this time they give you an entirely different route. And once or twice, I’ve gotten a full route clearance for a totally different route, and after I’ve gotten my GPS reprogrammed and into the air they give you a re-route back to what you filed. Or when you file a good route and they give you a full route clearance with what you filed instead of just saying “cleared as filed”. The whole process of handling IFR routes and clearances between flight service and air traffic control (ATC), and between different ATC sectors is seriously fucked up. You’d think by now they’d have it straight.

The worst and the best of cycle racing

I finally got around to watching the TiVo’ed coverage of last weekend’s “Amstel Gold”, one of the “Spring Classics” pro bike races. Unusually for them, the weather was beatiful – probably too hot for the tastes of the riders, but it made for good coverage and I’m sure the fans appreciated it. In previous years it’s been wet or snowy or so foggy that the tv coverage was almost non-existant.

As usual on these sorts of races, there wasn’t much happening until the last 30 minutes or so. There was a break-away group up the road and a big peleton, but a couple of the race favourites manged to bridge up to the leaders. That’s what I mean about “the worst”. 2 hours of watching a bunch of guys cycling without any changes in leadership, without teams organizing chases, without anything really interesting happening. Yawn.

With only a few minutes to go, the lead group consisted mostly of guys who had a reasonable expectation or hope of winning, because of previous wins on this or similar races. The only wild factor was that one of these favourites, Davide Rebellin, also had a team mate with him. I expected this would mean that his team mate, Stefan Schumacher, would attempt to launch him on a break-away on the second last or last climb of the day. But instead, their team played a very clever card.

Schumacher attacked alone. The other guys in the bunch wouldn’t counter attack to bring him back because none of them wanted to tire himself out and give the upper hand to one of his rivals. You could see Paulo Bettinni and Michael Boogerd trying to get the others to lead the counter attack. They just couldn’t get it together to cooperate, knowing that Rebellin would sit on any counter attack but wouldn’t contribute to it. So Schumacher sailed on ahead and won by a good margin. Even better, Rebillin used his tactical advantage to grab enough rest that he could outsprint the rest of the group to take second. And that’s the best of bike racing, the team tactics that say it’s better for some second banana in your team to get a clear win than for your team leader to fight it out in a bunch sprint. Every team has its star, but when it comes right down to it, it’s the team that matters.