Friday, August 28, 2009

Multimedia Frenzy time! Here's a bunch of random pics and videos from a trip we did to Texas and Arizona recently. I'm still getting the hang of my new camera, but the initial results are a lot better than my old one. I'm mostly happy that the speaker on the new camera doesn't freak out every time there's ambient noise.

My baby in Fort Huachuca (Waa-chew-ka) AZ. Half the airport is a military base and the other half is civilian. They launch unmanned predator drones here to patrol the border, and the base is primarily military intelligence. We saw some pretty crazy aircraft coming and going - King Airs with tip-tanks and bristling with literally dozens of antennas. I didn't take pics because I don't wanna wind up in Gitmo.

Watching an airliner pass a thousand feet above us while in cruise. We approached each other at about a thousand miles an hour, so it's a fast clip :)

The flight school in Nogales AZ offers maps, headsets and energy drinks. That's actually pretty smart marketing, I wonder why more pilot stores don't have cases of Red Bull in stock.

Departing Goodyear, AZ. Without irrigation this place would look like the surface of the moon. It was +43c when we took off - normally our plane takes about 2000-3000 feet of runway to take off, but hot temperatures really suck the performance out of the plane, and it took us 5,110 feet before we got airborne.

Gratuitous cloud shot! Note the thunderstorms in the distance. They will become more relevant shortly.

Our onboard XM weather system is the cat's ass. In the pic, the pink triangle is us, heading east. You can see Albuquerque and Las Vegas NM to our south. See all those pink/purple dots by KTAD? (Trinidad, Colorado) The dots are lightning strikes emanating from a storm cell. This one was impressive, but we saw some truly amazing storms a little further down the line.

This is what the storm cell looks like out our window. The top rises at least twenty thousand feet above us. Not many aircraft can climb that high, so we plan to avoid it laterally by a fair distance. Thunderstorms like this have more than enough energy to remove the wings from our aircraft, which I respect on a fundamental level. On the left hand side of the storm cell, see the cloud shelf coming from the main mass and extending to the left? The overhang might look clear but that's where storm cells spit hail out, so we never fly under the overhangs. An acquaintance of mine got suckered into flying under a similar overhang a few weeks ago and the resulting hail damage to the wing skins of his aircraft cost just under 250k to fix. He didn't tell me how much it cost to clean the pilot seats after that flight.

Eventually the lunar landscape gave way to the prairies of Kansas.

We made our way past that storm and then found ourselves paralleling a truly spectacular one. This was in Kansas, just between Oklahoma City and Wichita. This one was still building while we flew past it - you'll see the video I took shortly that shows it was up to 65,000 feet, but it eventually built to 70,000 feet up. Storms like this can have more energy than a small nuke.

Here's a video showing the uber-badass thunderstorm.

Another video showing some clouds, some traffic above us, and an added bonus at the end!

After a while we passed the evil thunderstorms and were left to happily cruise between some cloud layers.

After a while it got dark and the sky turned silver and blue.

Passing by Chicago on our way home. It is duly noted that my new camera sucks at night shots :)

We made it back to Toronto after 5 hours of flying, tired but happy to be home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This is an angst post, so feel free to skip it if you aren't into that - I'll have fresh aviation stuff up soon.

Lisa and I have stopped trying not to have kids. That's exciting, and terrifying at the same time. Normally it's a good thing when her friend comes to visit and I suspect it will take a little while to make the mindset adjustment. I have been thinking about kids lately for a variety of reasons (incidentally what do you guys think about the name "Balthor" for a boy? He could carry a sword!) and it has made me reflect more about the nature of consciousness and the inevitable loneliness we all feel as we occupy ourselves during our brief time on the planet.

I read once that there are 5 unavoidable truths in life, 5 things that we will experience again and again during our tenure on planet earth.

1. Everything changes and ends
2. Things do not always go according to plan
3. Life is not always fair
4. Pain is a part of life
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time

I hope I can show my kids how to deal with the challenges they will inevitably face, and I hope I can show them that the single most important thing is life is love - who you love and who loves you.

The thing that I have to figure out is how to do that when I think that we are essentially alone in our minds - our consciousness is a solitary one.

I can share a fairly limited version of my thoughts and feelings with you, gentle reader, and I can share a much fuller version with close friends and family, but I'll never be able to show someone what I'm actually thinking, nor really know what they are.

It's like there's darkness and we are groping around, looking at shadows and hoping they are friendly. Sometimes we find people in the darkness and sometimes we huddle together to share a spark, but the darkness is always there and it inevitably overwhelms. Someone said that every relationship that doesn't end in divorce ends in death, which is depressing as hell, but also true. I can be close to people, I can even be inside someone, but I'm still essentially alone in my head. Will having kids change that? I don't think so, but maybe I'm hoping I can be in their minds for a little bit, before they strike out on their own and move into their own lives.

I know that's likely a good thing that we can't read each others thoughts - I'd hate for people to know what goes through my mind when I'm driving on highway 401 and some doorknob cuts me off, but it's can also be a lonely thing when you are trying to communicate and the darkness interferes.

Pets are generally honest as are small kids - you can usually tell what's on a dog's mind and if you ask a three-year-old what they are thinking you'll likely get a pretty direct reply, but beyond those, everything we hear from anyone is filtered though countless layers and sometimes it can be hard to tell what's real, what's valuable and what is just static. What if my kids don't believe me when I tell them I love them? What if they tell me they don't love me?

I'm looking forward to having kids, but sweet Jebus it's a hell of a responsibility. I want them to be healthy, happy and fulfilled, and I want them to know they can talk to me about anything, even if it makes them (or me) look bad. My parents did an absolutely fantastic job in this regard and I hope to continue that legacy.

I want to share a campfire with my kids, and I can only hope they trust me enough to sit with me for a while and share the warmth. I'm not sure why I'm saying this, but my gut tells me that it's important that I do.
I got a new video camera and this is my first official video on it. The compression youtube uses makes it look less nice than I'd prefer, but it's still okay. It records in hi-def so you can click on the red HQ button on the youtube video to see it in 720p glory. As an added bonus the microphone works great!

I took some flying videos this morning but the sun flare overwhelmed the camera (we were headed east) so I toasted them.

This is a video of the hotel we are in today 'cause I like taking videos of my hotel rooms.

The camera is a Kodak ZI-6 which I got from for $170. Pretty nifty!

I was on vacation for most of July so that's why I didn't post for a month. Lisa and I did a tour of the interior of British Columbia in a camper van. We took about a thousand pics so I'll be sorting through those and posting the pretty ones shortly.

We have been flying a lot lately - I have flown 5 of the past 7 days. We have signed an agreement with another operator that uses the Citation 550, guaranteeing them an available pilot in exchange for a few thousand bucks a month. It saves them from having to replace the Captain they lost (he retired) and it helps us lower our overhead so it's win-win.

Oh, and our plane is painted and beautiful. I'll take some pics this afternoon and post them later.

As far as our house goes, we take possession on Sept 30th and it can't come fast enough - it's like we bought the coolest toy in the world (the house) but can't play with it for 6 more weeks.

I gotta check the weather now - there's a 40% probability that Toronto will be wiped off the face of the earth by thunderstorms this afternoon and that may affect our plans to return there this afternoon :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My job is pretty cool sometimes. This is Snoop Dogg, one of Lisa's favorite performers of all time. We flew him to/from a concert. He was really laid back and polite, much more so than some of the businessmen and politicians I have flown. He called me Captain and we did the fist-bump thing where you make a fist and bump it against the other guy's fist. I think I'm in his posse now.