Sunday, February 25, 2007

Women Fully Clothed

Last evening the wife of my dreams, myself, and six others went to the show: Women Fully Clothed. They perform about once per month, and from the show schedule it seems to be centred in Ontario (all the women have full-time entertainment jobs, presumably in Toronto).

This show will especially appeal to the middle-aged surburban woman (about 75% of the audience, by my estimate). But husbands of same certainly will appreciate the show. Having been through parenthood is an asset.

If they are performing anywhere in your area, make an effort to see them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beware of Thunderstorms

An amazing story today from New South Wales, Australia, where two paragliders unsuccessfully tried to skirt a thunderstorm, got caught in an updraft, and soared to in excess of 30,000 feet.

One died.

35yo Ewa Wisnierska, reached a height of 9947 meters (about 32,600 feet), had no oxygen supply, survived -40C temperatures, encountered hailstones the size of baseballs, and lived to talk about it.

According to her GPS unit, maximum climb rate was just under 4,000 feet per minute.

Ewa, buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Just got back from a business trip, which took me to Columbus Ohio for one day. Due to the winter storm which socked in the US midwest, I spent most of two days there.

We flew there&back in a Dash 8. Going there was low-altitude and in cloud, so I got to watch the wing leading edges ice up, and the infalatable boots blow them off.

KCMH de-ices and anti-ices planes wherever they happen to be. I shudder at all that glycol draining off to wherever - the airports around here have a specific de-icing pad with a catchment system in place.

I changed my flight back online on, and three hours later the changes were not still in the United company. The check-in, which was incredibly inefficient, took forever, but she could not assign a seat. So I went to the gate to get my seat assignment, and I still was not shown as being on the flight, so we did it all again.

Stories from other passengers were "amusing". The weather truly sucked, precipitation was active, and there was rain, freezing rain, and snow, in below-zero temperatues. Streets were tough to go through, cars were parked in the ditch, and the passengers were complaining that they couldn't get where they wanted. An inconvenient combination of a death wish and ignorance of the technicalities of flying?

Airlines really need to work on their communications. One very irate [twit] was chewing out a gate agent (hah- just wait until you want to get a standby seat!) when she explained that a flight was delayed some number of hours, and all he heard was "cancelled".

Me? It flies when it flies. CMH has free wireless, so I got online, read blogs, wrote a report, processed email, and generally kept busy. And got home safe.

And I got to the mall in time to buy the Valentine's Day earrings for my wife.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Flying Bananas

An "artist" has become inspired to build and launch a flying banana over Texas. Approximately 300m in length, filled with helium, unmanned, high-altitude.

Being an artist, he's doing this with OPM (Other People's Money). Frankly, I could think of a few thousand things that would produce more lasting value than floating a yellow banana in the very high altitude over Texas, but woe to anyone who speaks out over funding the Arts.

I support funding "the Arts". Hopefully, someday, we may have the courage to recognize that not all proposed projects in "the Arts" are worthy, some are just tremendously stupid or nondescript ideas.

The banana irks me on two fronts.

First, it's funded by public money. I have no problem if somebody thinks this is a good idea and wants to put money into it. But taxpayer money is also being tossed in. There is also likely indirect tax money (my money) - I'll bet that the private and corporate donors are also writing this off as a donation or a marketing expense on their taxes, and so the oter taxpayers (you and me) are taking up the slack. Go ahead and float your ballon, but don't ask me to pay for it.

Secondly (and this is an aviation blog so there is - finally - an aviation relationship), it is a Really Dumb Idea, technically speaking. For example:
  • Helium is a rare gas, really expensive, and finding 200,000 cubic metres of it for a 1 month lark is going to be a challenge.
  • Helium atoms (molecules) are Really Small - so small they'll (slowly) pass right through even a dense substance such as glass. The plan is to have this thing hover over Texas for a month, and without really terrific materials and contruction the helium will seep out long before that time.
  • Because the thing flies, there are standards to be met. Our artist figures to bypass all the rules by launching from Mexico (apparently he thinks Mexico has no airworthiness standards) and going so high the blimp will technically be in outer space, above the legislative reach of the FAA. Alas, the height required is so high that the banana won't visible from the ground - which rather defeats the original inspiring purpose.
  • What goes up must come down, and this thing is supposed to suddenly magically and simultaenously self-destruct and then burn up on the way to the ground. Of course, what will really happen is that it will start to leak, be unable to maintain altitude, and come fluttering/drifting down in some random location.

Obviously, this guy is not an engineer. Though his website says the project is "in the final stages of engineering", perhaps that is a marketing statement.

If the objective of art is to get people talking and thinking, he has been successful. Hopefully, he'll stop here. It would be a lot cheaper and safer, too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More paperwork done

Checked the mailbox today, and was pleased to see that another step towards solo flight has been accomplished... my medical certificate has arrived in the mail.

Category 3. And even though my left eye is 20/800 uncorrected (and virtually uncorrectable unless I have a coke bottle lens), my right eye is about 20/25 uncorrected, and 20/20 corrected. The only restriction on the certificate is that I must wear glasses when flying.

Woo hoo.

Radio operator certificate - done.
Medical certificate - done.

Next up - the PSTAR.

I guess I better get flying again. Though I have been travelling weekly on business travel, I've generally been in seat 2C, not the front left one. Dang.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mid-Winter Celebration

One of the traditions at "my" gliding club is a mid-winter dinner, held just after the mid-point between the end of one gliding season, and the start of the next. The dinner is held in either very late January, or very early February, at a local country hotel. The food is hearty, the conversation vibrant.

Of course, everyone asked me where the blazes I was all last summer, having not shown up at the club once. I then confessed as having moved to the dark side, to power flight from gliding. One of the highlights (lowlights) of the conversation was around cost, where a power lesson approaches CA$250, and a glider rents for CA$21 per hour.

But it got me thinking about what to do for next summer, where I believe I will continue the power lessons to the point of license (or rec permit), and also do some gliding. I'll also get myself on track for flying the tow plane, so I can get hours and lots of circuits, but not have to pay to fly. So I guess I'll need to add a tail-dragger validation as well. All in due time.