On Tuesday Ralph and I headed up to the Bowl on the Mount for a spot of ESE @ 15kts. I had the trusty Karwai and after a short flight with only soft lift we decided it wasn't going to be a great afternoon's flying.
It seems that when the temperature is down, the air would rather wrap sideways around the slope than go up and provide lift. So as an alternative we decided to forge a track further round to "Ralph's Rock" a spot he had been to before in easterly conditions. It overlooks the Hot Pools complex but is pretty rugged going to get here.
After much bush-bashing we did make it to the rock and I had a little fly. But conditions were pretty marginal so I tried a very poor landing attempt across the top of the scrub that meant a tortuous rescue attempt to retrieve the plane. As we were getting short on daylight we hurried back through the bush, but it just got darker and darker. Here's a pic I took of the streetlights coming on in the town.
We had a bit of trouble locating our exit point in the darkness and were also under attack from some nocturnal birds (bats?) that were making strange squawk noises. They were dive-bombing us all the way back to the top of the Bowl where we gathered our breath in the darkness. This pic shows just how dark it was and that was only 6pm. Phew, what a way to stay in trim!
So in the absence of a flight report, I thought you might like to see a little more progress on my Su27 Flanker project. Spent most of my time agonising over construction details. As with all prototyping I guess it's worth making sure all the components are going to work together and are carefully packaged to optimise the design.
As you can see from the pics below, I am building the fuselage in two parts, with the wing going thru both. This made it easier to have the long skinny nose (to aid knife edge flight) without having to carve a mountain of foam from one block.
Anyway, here's the progress pics. Next step is adding some spars to the fuse for strength and shaping the wing roots.
Until next time - stay in trim!
I laughed and told her I appreciated her restraint and then regaled her with some of the worst things I've heard, some of the cliches that make me craziest. She was sympathetic; we talked some more, and it was good to reconnect with her after all these years.
At the end of our chat, though, I did tell her that one of the most common platitudes is, in fact, utterly true.
It's better to have loved and lost ...
I think I need to remember that every once in a while, especially when I get fed up with the annoyances and disappointments of daily life: Yes, I would do it all over again.
I did have a look at a couple of open homes though. One of them was too dark, and therefore a non-starter, but the other one might be a possibility. The ad for this place contained the word "fabulous" ten times, and it'll be up for auction in just under two weeks. Getting any useful information about the place from the agent was like getting blood out of a stone. There are 4.3 million people living in New Zealand, of whom 1.7 million seem to be real estate agents. And they're all the bloody same. When trying to get at least some vague idea of a price range, I was informed that the vendors were "genuine" sellers and I was looking at a "genuine" house. That was really helpful, because for a minute there I thought I was staring at a holographic image, and that the sale of the property was just one big hoax.
Last Tuesday I went to the men's group again. Andy definitely impressed me with his guitar playing, and what's more, he's written dozens of his own songs. It must be amazing to have such talents. One of the other blokes also brought out his guitar, and he could certainly play too.
On the subject of music, I just bought two albums off TradeMe: The Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy and Levelling the Land by the Levellers. The Grandaddy album has similarities to Radiohead's OK Computer and to be honest I found some of it a bit too weird, though I really like the very first track (weighing in at nearly nine minutes it's a real epic) while Jed the Humanoid is the saddest song about an alcoholic robot you'll ever hear. I first bought the Levellers album about half my lifetime ago (well I didn't buy it, I borrowed it from the library and then copied it) but my copy has long since vanished. I love the whole album from beginning to end, though my favourite tracks would be One Way, The Boatman and Far From Home. The Levellers are wonderfully British somehow, and the message "be yourself" resonates strongly with me. I mustn't forget though that the album came out in 1991 when being yourself in the UK was still an option - I feel there has been a marked trend towards conformity since then.
The highlight of my work week was probably Tuesday when I made $80 on iPredict during my tea break. I'm strangely optimistic that the coming week will be better.
(Is that post title long enough?)
What was the first thing you and Nick said to Rock and Hard Place when you met your boys and brought them home? I love this question! I can't speak for Nick, but as I sat in the elephant chair, cradling those sweet heads against my chest, I told them over and again, "I'm your mommy, and I love you."
Why don't you have a pet? or do you? Click here to read about Clara Kitty! But that's actually a valid question, because I resisted a furry critter for the longest time: Too much money, too smelly, too much work.
If you don't have a pet what kind of pet do the boys want? The boys want a dog. If we wind up staying in Arizona, I will consider it. But I refuse to have a dog in Maryland, because I will NOT walk a dog in the rain and the snow and the ice. And we don't have a fence-able yard in Maryland.
Strangest place you have been to on vacation? Tee-hee. Another question that I love. When I was a student in Chicago, my favorite getaway place was an Anglican convent in Racine, Wisconsin. Yes ... my friends were heading to the beach for Spring Break, and I went to the convent for a week. I didn't see anything strange about that!
Would you care to share a favorite childhood memory? I was in 4th grade; my folks had just gotten divorced; Christmas was coming. I wanted a watch. Desperately. I'd spent weeks looking at the packages under the tree and in the tree. Nothing that was the right size had my name on it. I kept hoping. I kept looking. Nothing. It's finally Christmas Eve; we're poor, so there are a lot of socks. A lot of individually wrapped socks, but no watch. I had known we couldn't afford it, but oh I wanted a watch. The last present for me was a cute koala bear, made with rabbit fur so he was REALLY soft and fluffy. I loved it, but still couldn't hide my disappointment. My sister said, She doesn't see it. I looked. Arthur was wearing my new watch on his ear. I burst into tears of happiness. (And I still have Arthur, tucked away in my trunk of memories.)
When you go to the library/bookstore, what is the first section that beckons you? First I go to the new releases, then to the discount table, then to general fiction.
Who is your favorite Beatle, and why? Paul's eyes and voice... John's lyrics... George's spirituality... But Ringo is my favorite, and not only because he was an amazing drummer. He got over himself and got real more quickly than the others, I think. Seriously -- he narrates the Thomas the Tank Engine videos. What's not to love!
Were you always so devout, or was it something that you found in adulthood? Another great question, which I'm happy to answer because my Spiritual Journey in a Nutshell always makes me giggle.
- I was raised a theist: There's a god, but everyone who talks about god is wrong.
- I became an atheist: No way there can be a god.
- I because a wishful theist: I sure hope there's a god.
- I yielded: Okay, there's a god, but all these religions are wrong.
- I yielded: Okay, but I don't need to go to church to believe in Jesus.
- I yielded: Okay, but I don't need to be baptized or believe all this other stuff.
- I yielded: Okay, I'll get baptized, but really, this is as far as it goes.
- Oh! THIS is what Catholicism is? I had no idea.
- I love the Catholic liturgy, but I don't have to actually BECOME a Catholic.
- Oh, yeah, I guess I do.
- Baptized into a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church (ultra staid and ultra conservative)
- Regularly attended BOTH a charismatic Mennonite church (conservative, but not staid) AND a non-denominational house church (neither conservative nor staid)
- Would celebrate the midnight Easter service at the Episcopal church and then go to the house church for an all-night prayer vigil until the sunrise service at the Lake. A week or two later, I'd go to the Russian Orthodox church for as much of their Easter service as I could stand (literally "stand").
- Regularly went to the Roman Catholic church on Saturday and the non-denominational church on Sunday.
- Read Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent, and my fate was sealed (though I didn't know it at the time)
- Embraced the liturgy and sacraments of the Catholic church. My movement to the Eastern Catholic Church is summarized here.
And do you ever get sick of sunshine, day after day? Nope! We get fantastic sunsets and the air here is clean. On the other hand, in the heat of the heat, I can't imagine living here without a swimming pool.
If you could be any character from any children's cartoon who would you be and why? Karen, I love your questions! I would be Gleep or Gloop from the Herculoids! From wikipedia:
Gloop & Gleep, two protoplastic creatures. They could assume any shape or form that they chose; for instance, if they spotted an allied human falling, they could make physical contact with the person, then spread out their mass to become a crude parachute to allow the human to land safely. They could also subdivide themselves into multiple smaller units (each having eyes), which moved more or less in unison. Gloop was the larger of the two, while Gleep seemed to be a juvenile and was often paired off with young Dorno. Gloop and Gleep's unique physical makeup apparently provided even more protection from physical or energy-based attacks than Igoo's stony hide. They seemed to be able to absorb energy blasts and laser beams.Besides all that, they just had FUN!
And I have had a lot of fun answering your questions. I wish there were more...
How many Legos are in your house? My conservative estimate would run about ... ohhh, 10,000. Yes, you read correctly: TEN THOUSAND. Impossible, you say? Well, let's take a look.
100 Legos, neatly arrayed for your counting convenience
The same 100, gathered in a small pile
That pile, in context
How many would you estimate are in those two under-bed containers?
But wait! There's more!
This is the collection in the tv room
And more! The Legos that are currently living in Rock's room, mixed in -- most appropriately -- with rocks
Oh! Let's not forget the ones that I have confiscated because the boys didn't pick them up on the 1000th time of being told to do so.
See the pile of 100 Legos next to the box? That box is holding A LOT of those piles, easily 20 of those piles, so there are probably 2,000 Legos in that box alone.
And the Imperial Star Destroyer has 1,366 pieces.
Finally, this does not include the CUBIC YARD of Duplos that I left behind in Maryland, or any of the myriad Legos that are currently scattered around the house, in the car, in the garage ... upstairs, downstairs, or in my lady's chamber.
I think 10,000 is too small a number.
Have you been to Legoland? I want to go, you should plan a kid friendly bago to Legoland. The boys and I have been to Legoland twice! I totally love the place and strongly encourage you to go. I don't have the money to go this summer or I would organize a widow/kidow trip!
I'll answer the rest of your questions tomorrow, but I had to give Legos the distinction they deserve. It's not too late to add questions to the queue.
It's been a while since I shared music with you, so here goes.
Ask me a question, and I will answer it in my next post.
Do you want to know a little more about me?
About my family?
About my life story?
About my likes and dislikes?
About the kids?
About my house?
What kind of tree I would be?
Do you want my political or theological opinions? No subject is off the table.
Ask a specific question, and I'll do my best to answer it!
Life is what it is. My life is what it is.
I want change. I want something new. But I don't see it coming. I don't see any way to MAKE it come. I'm not going to whine about it though. I promise.
On Wednesday things got worse. I had a marathon phone call with Julie that night (an hour and three-quarters actually, so people almost have run marathons in the time it took us to finally hang up). Apparently I was a rude inconsiderate prick the time we went to those open homes. Now I don't think I am a rude inconsiderate prick, but I do think I'm socially clueless, and according to her I'm even less socially adept than I thought. My antenna doesn't always pick up the right frequency, and I doubt living by myself for the last two years has helped. I do my best, but if Julie expects socially normal behaviour from me 100% of the time she'll be disappointed. Hell, hanging around with a 63-year-old woman probably isn't normal social behaviour in the first place. I felt sick after that phone call though. I hated myself for having upset her, and realised not only that I'm unlikely to make friends but also that I'll alienate any I do make.
I saw Andy on Thursday. He instantly made me feel a lot better. People's salaries really are arse-about-face, aren't they? He makes a significant positive impact on someone's life and gets paid $x; my bum makes a significant positive impact on a chair all day and I get something close to $2x. OK, I've had to pass a few exams along the way, with all the angst involved in those, but wouldn't it be really cool, just once, to feel I was making a difference?
That evening I went to see the Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy with a few people from work. I wasn’t in the mood for comedy at all. I got home from work and thought, shit, I’ve got to go out and meet people in town and what if I miss them and then we’ll have to go to the bloody pub and I’ll be expected to talk and I’m so bad at that and I’ll just sit there and not say anything and feel stupid. The ferry leaves in half an hour and I haven’t got any clean clothes that are even vaguely acceptable to go out in and I look in the mirror and I’ve aged five years since the last time I looked and I wouldn’t buy a second-hand car from that man and my flat is a complete mess and I scream. My landlords upstairs must have wondered what the hell was going on in the basement but screaming relieved the tension a bit. I got into town and met up with two of my colleagues and had a couple of drinks with them before the show; I was extremely lucky because if I had to pick two work people to have a drink with, it would have been those two. And Danny Bhoy was amazing. I was in stitches the whole way through. Returning to the subject of overpaid and underpaid professions, well comedians earn every penny. Being able to stand there in front of thousands of people takes some serious cojones for a start. And Danny could make just about anything seem funny: Australian motel rooms, flatting in London, what the woman in the front row did for a living, and so on. He would go off on some crazy tangent but would always somehow get back to the original point. He could also take the mick out of himself; comedians who can do that go up in my estimation. I really wish I’d taken full advantage of the Auckland Comedy Festival – it brought a real vibrancy to the city which is so often missing – but it’s always the same story for me: there’s hardly ever anyone to go with and I feel silly going on my own. I now realise that comedy is a great drug for dealing with depression, even if the effects wear off very quickly.
Which they did. Friday was casual day and two fairly eminent members of the department were leaving, so we had lunch to “celebrate”. The head of one of our teams had all kinds of vitally important strategy meetings so wasn’t participating in casual Friday and was only at the lunch briefly. Plenty long enough for me to spill wine all over his trousers however. The odds that my glass would topple at precisely the required 45-degree angle were pretty slim, but it had been that kind of week. It wasn’t a lot of wine really, and at least the glass didn’t break.
Last week was an unusually sociable one for me: on Saturday I went to the rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park, again with work people. I got caught up in a Stop the War in Sri Lanka protest and then, for the first time ever in Auckland, got on a train. Based on my limited knowledge of trains in the UK and France, I found the whole Auckland train experience a surprisingly civilised one. Crusaders fans are a vociferous bunch – about half the crowd seemed to be decked in the red and black of Canterbury. My parents live deep in Crusader country – red-and-black letterboxes are commonplace down there – so I suppose I was glad when the Crusaders kicked a late drop-goal to eke out the match 15-13 and keep their season alive.
Yesterday I went to Takapuna market with Julie. It’s a lively market and I should go there more often, particularly as there are now real bargains on offer. Among other vegetables I bought some chokos – until Julie told me yesterday, I’d always wondered what they were. I had another crack at that badugi tournament, and this time I lasted only ten minutes. I caught a 543A badugi, the fourth-best hand, only to be trumped by 432A, the top banana. My opponent took two cards on the last draw, so his/her odds of outdrawing me were around a hundred to one. I felt I was on a pretty good wicket there; as far as I knew, he/she might not even have known the rules of the game. One player on our table kept showing down hands like trip sixes and KK66, and must have wondered why he didn’t last very long. All my chips ended up in the pot, and that was that. Poker teaches you that in life there is always a best decision based on the information available at the time, and bad things can happen that you simply can’t legislate for; when one of these bad outcomes does eventuate, that doesn’t suddenly mean that you made a poor decision. When I’m depressed, however, my decision-making process goes out the window and I end up not making decisions at all. (As an aside, I was also dealt four aces in one badugi hand at odds of over 270,000 to one. In hindsight that would have made a good hand to bluff with.)
I've just got home from a hit of tennis. Today is pay day and yes, money really is still going into my account. About half of it will go straight into my savings. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up.
On Thursday I ventured up the Mount with the trusty old Vampire to fly combat air patrol over the coastline. Weather was cold with 15kts WSW forecast and was a bit light when I reached the top but also the big rain squall was moving down the harbour heading towards me. Here's a pic I took of it.
I took shelter under the trees and was chatting to a Polish couple who are now living in Glenorchy (spelt?) in the South Island. Very interesting people - also met a chap from Quebec out here on holiday. The Mount has always got tourists up there enjoying the views.
After the rain passed i was able to get in some flying time - not great conditions - very cold air meant there wasn't as much lift as you'd expect from the windspeed. I was constantly hunting on the elevator trim and struggled to make height for a while.
As 3pm was looming up (had to work at 6pm) decided it was landing time. Tested out the airbrakes up high - not to bad, just a little too much down elevator in the mix still, and brought it in to land into wind along the top after only two passes. What I thought was going to be a perfect landing was ruined by coming down on top of a sharp rock which tore all the underside of the fuselage. Bugger :-( It's very differcult to watch your plane AND your projected landing zone at the same time. Something Ralph agrees with too - maybe we need to spot for each other at landing time.
And as promised here's a couple of pics I took at Easter when Doug and I went to the Classic Fighter Airshow in Blenheim at the Omaka aerodrome (grass runways). I think the newly completed Spitfire did it for me - what a beautiful aeroplane.
I have lots of video from this trip - must get a short movie together. Cheers everyone. Stay in trim.
Yesterday I had a go at a badugi freeroll tournament (freeroll - doesn't cost anything, so can't be gambling, right) on PokerStars. I came 115th out of around 5500 players. The top 64 made the next round which had real moolah up for grabs, so while I was a bit bummed I didn't make it through, I really enjoyed the three-and-a-half-hour battle. That's after I got abuse hurled at me in the first five minutes and almost got eliminated; thankfully I survived and got moved to another table. It never ceases to amaze me how some people act online - they develop an alter ego, making them unaccountable for anything they might do or say. Or maybe their virtual personality is their real, bigoted personality which they have to suppress in their offline lives, hence why they're attracted to the internet in the first place. Whatever the reason, I don't get it. Anyway, the badugi was fun and it was clearly not gambling. I realise now I'm better at badugi than hold 'em. With hold 'em the only information you get about your opponents is their betting patterns - in a freeroll I can use those to deduce that they have precisely two cards. With badugi they also get to draw cards - I seem to be able to use that extra information to my advantage.
I've also be playing around on iPredict, where you can bet, I mean invest, in political and economic events. They even have a swine-flu-related stock. At the moment I'm a bit more exposed to the official cash rate (OCR) than I'd like, but hey we're all exposed to the OCR one way or another. And I can't see any mention of the words "bet", "gamble" or "wager" anywhere on the iPredict site, so I've got nothing to worry about on that score.
This afternoon I went to that auction in Birkenhead. If we're in a housing market slump, I saw no evidence of it today. People came in their droves. The auction itself must have lasted twenty minutes as the price rose above anything I could possibly afford, then above the reserve price, then above the vendors' champagne-cork-popping price. It was four-way action, reminding me of those occasional hands you get in a poker tournament when four players are raising, re-raising and going all in. A lot of the bidders seemed to have "advisors" - I was a bit confused about that - but it was certainly a useful experience for me. From what I see on TV, where some properties struggle to get a bid at all, I imagine this will be the exception rather than the rule.
Unfortunately a lot of my weekend has been a distraction from what I really need to be doing, which is figuring out what I want to do with my life. In my current job it's clear I'm going nowhere at ninety miles an hour.
So.......I thought I'd for this post I'd show a couple of pics about whats happening in the hangar. First up is a shot of all my flyable planes gathered together in the lounge.
I've also started building a new plane - a jet which is loosely based on a Russian Su27 Flanker. The idea being to use twin fins with rudders to try and assist flying on its edge (knife edge). This is very hard to achieve without a motor, so gliders are not supposed to be able to fly knife edge. Here are the plans...
I have decided to use my old Fusion (my first kitset plane) wing for this project but it needs a rebuild after all the hits it took from learning to fly!! So here's a shot of some filler on the underside where I broke the spar :-(
And finally for now another pic of the wing with hand made extensions which will increase the wingspan to 60" or 1.5m. It still needs sanding, wrapping with fibreglass tape and covering.
Next post will include a couple of photos from my trip to Omaka at Easter for the Classic Fighters Airshow.
Stay in trim.
My life would be much more sorted if I could just have a bit more meaningful human contact. Hell, some days I could benefit from any contact, human or otherwise. To help achieve this I'm hoping to buy a house and get a flatmate, so on Sunday I went with Julie - my real estate guru - to look at three places in Birkenhead. I love the bush of Birkenhead - it's so quiet and peaceful there - but I have to make sure I don't end up in a cold, dark, dank hole. Two of the houses were non-starters for this very reason, but the other place was wonderful if just a tad too big for me (it's got four bedrooms and two bathrooms and sits on a quarter-acre). It's up for auction this Sunday - the chances are it'll go for something well above my price range but I'll pop along anyway; my only hope is that it doesn't go at all. It's funny how being a bit of a loner has almost worked to my advantage in trying to enter the property market. I never piss my money away on a night with my mates, nor devour it at über-cool restaurants in the city. And I can put my exam passes - each one of which generates a pay rise - down to single-mindedness rather than intelligence or enthusiasm for the subject. I'm hardly coining it in my job, and it does drive me up the wall, but I have managed to squirrel away a significant deposit in the last five years.
Last night I went to the men's group, only it wasn't much of a group - just three of us were there: Andy, Brendan and myself. We ended up watching Youtube videos including one of Dylan Moran who is a brilliant comedian. He'll be performing in Auckland on Friday - alas the tickets are sold out; I never find out about theses things until it's too late.
I miss being in the UK at this time of year, mainly because of the amount of sporting drama the likes of which you just don't get over here. Both my favourite football teams - Birmingham City and Peterborough United - have just won promotion by finishing second in their respective divisions. Though football has become bastardised in recent years, the system of promotion and relegation never ceases to produce edge-of-the-seat excitement. In 1999 the Carlisle goalkeeper - Jimmy Glass if my memory serves me correctly - scored a 95th-minute winner to keep his side in the Football League, sparking a mass pitch invasion. No amount of rugby or league comes close to that for my money.
And then there's the snooker, which might not even be a sport at all. My grandmother has been filling me in on the latest action from the Crucible (which has just finished), making me homesick. Many a time I'd be glued to the telly till late at night watching coloured balls being struck into holes, or even long drawn-out but utterly captivating safety exchanges. Matches would last hours, even days, and would regularly go to the deciding frame. And when I try to explain any of this to Kiwis, they don't seem to get it at all.
If anyone cares (I doubt it), I spent three years of my four-year degree in Birmingham (the third year was spent in Lyon, France). Part of me wishes I'd stayed there after graduating in 2002. That final year was the only sustained period of time when I've felt good about myself, so Birmingham always brings back happy memories for me. I then had to find one of them job thingies so I shifted back to Mum and Dad's and promptly got depressed again. I finally moved to Peterborough where I got a job making maps - it didn't seem a great job at the time, mostly because the pay was so low, but it sure seems a lot better now. As regards the football, well Birmingham has two professional clubs, Birmingham City (aka Blues) and Aston Villa. I plumped for Blues because they were less fashionable and less successful. Peterborough (nicknamed the Posh - heaven knows why) had always been one of my local clubs growing up anyway. Football was hardly in my blood so I felt I could support whoever I wanted, even multiple teams. I should point out that I never ever enjoyed playing the game. At school I was always last picked, and I used to stand there in defence, talking to two other hopeless players (but not quite as bad as me) about the previous night's episode of Red Dwarf, while my nuts froze. Man was it cold. To be honest I never really "got" team sports, full stop.
I've been writing this post at work; it was the most constructive thing I could think of doing before my lunch break. I haven't been silly enough to post it at work; I'll leave that till I get home. In the meantime I'll have to listen to two of my younger colleagues rabbiting on about the incompetence of some of the people in our customer services team. They don't seem to realise that the customer services people are poorly paid and are probably only here because they need the money to feed their kids, not because their planning on pursuing a career in the industry. I've also got a meeting with my boss - these encounters are no longer daily - but apart from that I'll be counting down the four hours and seven minutes until I can go home.
Greetings to all who have landed at this flog (my flying log!)
I decided it would be useful to post up debriefings of my sorties as and when time permits. Hopefully this will allow me to keep in touch a little more with where my time is being spent - both at home in the hanger, and out in the fields thrashing around the skies.
So just to get started, I'm not going to tell you yards and yards of background info - other than I like slope soaring gliders. You'll learn more about me as we go along with this Flog. And so to today's little sortie up the top of Mt Maunganui.
I spent a couple of hours walking up to the top with a promise of 15+ knots of West as shown in our local Port of Tauranga's website page "Harbour Conditions". Here's an old pic of the page which shows wind strengths, direction and other stuff in yellow - all of this info is updated every two minutes. This is obviously a fantastic resource to have available for free on the internet. Thank you Port of Tauranga!!!
Ok so today was a good "forecast" and I did manage about 30mins flying the Karwai (below) but then the weather became more and more variable. At one moment if was blowing like crazy with big black clouds all over the sky. Then a few minutes later, the skies would clear and the sun would briefly come out and the wind drop off.
After testing out a couple of landing passes, I managed to land without damage (phew) and removed 100gm of lead ballast from the underbelly of the plane. It was much easier to fly after this but then the wind got real buffetty and way over the back of the Kaimais I could see big rain showers coming. So another good landing - just love my airbrakes now they work properly - and after waiting for a while I decided the conditions were not going to improve and I headed for home. Not the nicest day I've had up the Mount!