Tuesday, November 24, 2015

She Went To Bed At 11 And She Woke Up At 12

Abby turned 12 today.

The kid is growing up fast.

This morning we had our traditional cherry cheesecake for birthdays, with hers having 12 candles, sang her happy birthday, and gave her some presents.

Since it is a half-day at her school, she's invited her friends for a lunchtime party today, so she's going to have a great birthday indeed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Now That's How You Do A Trailer

The crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) did a US Navy-style recut of the trailer from The Force Awakens, and it's rather epic:

I'd watch that film.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flying Lesson #24 - Landing In A Winter Wonderland

I got my first experience flying in winter today.

The storm last night dropped in 10+ inches of global warming.

This made for some fun, including taxiing on ice.

Happily, they had moved N757MK into the hanger and cleaned the snow off of it before I got there this morning.

I pre-flighted it in the hanger and it was then moved outside.

Unfortunately it had no usable fuel in the right tank and about 8 gallons in the left. That's not enough. The fueling trucks were actually stuck at the fueling depot by the snow.

So we started MK up and I got a taxi clearance to the fuel depot. We then were asked to go past and turn back so a plow could come through and clear the way into the depot for us, and we were happy to oblige as we would not have been able to get through the ridge from the taxiway to the depot without it being cleared.

We got in, got the fuel and then the engine wouldn't start. Finally we got it working and then the heading indicator decided it liked to spin around. Since its not required equipment as we had a compass we went flying. Funnily enough it stopped spinning after we were airborne and righted itself.

Only Runway 27L, which I had never used before, was open, and winds were 10-15 knots from 250-300 shifting.

I got to do some fun patterns today. It was busy as only one runway was in service, so the controller had his hands full with spacing and at times we were asked to expedite turning crosswind, extend our downwind, or tighten and shorten our base, and on one occasion to do a go-round so he could clear some traffic just after we had turned base.

We did both right and left patterns.

As usual my cross-wind takeoffs were really nice.

As to landing, I'm starting to get a bit more stable in my approaches, but now that I sorta have that I'm now not flaring enough. Actually, I flare enough to float up but then not enough at the point of landing itself so I'm landing flat. When asked, Sean has said I shouldn't be frustrated as I'm getting there and just need to put it all together.

I swear I should just yell "Banzai!" on my next final.

That's 1.5 more hours, 7 landings and one go-round more.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Karate Test Day

Today was a Shinsa day for the North American Beikoku Shido-Kan Shorin-Ryu Association.

To translate that, it was a black belt test. All black belt tests for karate practitioners of the association are held in Lansing three times a year. There are pre-tests you need to pass before you can proceed to the test, and test-takers from all over North America attend - we had people from Canada, New Jersey, New York, St. Louis, and Michigan there today.

I had passed the pre-tests and was permitted to test today.

The test began at 9 am. I drove through blowing snow to get to Lansing and arrived at 8:15. I checked in, changed, and started stretching out. The judges assembled, all seventh degree, or higher black belts and the test began.

Each person was called in order of rank (ie everyone testing for 1st degree went first, then those testing for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th) and then alphabetically to do their kata alone in front of the judges and the spectators.

The katas were announced as Passai Sho, Kusanku Dai and Chinto. You will always do Chinto, but you do not know which two of the four katas: Passai Sho, Passai Dai, Kusanku Sho, and Kusanku Dai you will do until they blind draw them on the day of the test.

You do all three in a row, starting with the Sho, then the Dai, then Chinto.

Kusanku Dai is also unofficially known by the names "You Count And I'll Die" and "No Kata For Old Men".

Here's why:

Interestingly enough, the sensei in this video was present today for his 5th degree test. He looked even better today.

Kusanku Dai lived up to its reputation today as "You Count and I'll Die", almost killing a few test-takers' hopes.

After each of the 16 testers individually came forward and did their kata, four testers had to redo Kusanku Dai due to mistakes. You're allowed to blow one kata and redo it after everyone else has finished, and if you blow it again you're done. Luckily they all settled in and redeemed themselves with really good retakes.

Happily for me, I had no mistakes in any of the kata and felt pretty good doing them. Feedback I received later was they were some of my best demonstrated efforts yet.

Then we all went to the basement of the dojo to continue the test.

We had to hit the Makiwara (striking post) with three punches from each arm, then we had to kick a bag with 3 front, 3 side and three roundhouse kicks with each leg.

Then we had to try and break a board.

The boards were one-inch thick pine, hanging unsupported by a clip from a string from the ceiling.

You had one punch to try and break the board. If you hit it wrong it wouldn't break and then it would swing and fly off the clip at rather high speed.

Of the 16 testers, only 7 were able to break the board.

I was one of them:

You get to keep the board as a souvenir if you break it.

Then we all headed back upstairs.

We did kumite (2-person drills) involving kicks, punches and throws in set combinations, both right and left sides.

Then we did Bunkai. Bunkai are set interpretations of the various kata and involve a defender in the middle surrounded by three or four attackers. Again the attacks are set and the proper response is set and typically involves a block and counter-attack which can be a strike, kick, throw or combination thereof. There were four bunkai and you were expected to not only be able to properly do all the actions in the middle as the defender but also be a proper attacker from each angle as well, including knowing how to fall properly and be thrown head first in one bunkai.

The test ended at 12:30 and the results were announced.

I'm pleased to report that I passed the test and am now a Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Flying Lesson #23 - How To Get Really Winded

Today I had the pleasure of flying the pattern and doing landings in a cross wind with gusts from 15-30 knots and low level wind shear warnings. I was flying N7455PR for this particular lesson.

Today, that the flying did not go particularly well would be putting it delicately.

I was fighting the plane all over the damn place and the gusts and shear was doing their level best to kick my butt, including some impressively frightening moments that were really not happy-making. Lots of trouble making anything close to a stable approach today.

I actually called a go-round on one landing and did so as the approach was not working well at all. Meanwhile, before and during the go-round an idiot was chatting with the tower about whether the tower has seen any security changes since 9/11, cause that's important for flying operations now, right? He kept right on chatting away. Will this guy ever shut up? Apparently not.

So, go round completed with no way to notify the tower, rejoin the pattern and he's still chatting away. We get on approach to final and finally dip in at the first pause of blessed silence asking if we have clearance for the option, which we get on very short final. Not a terrible landing on that one - crab into the wind and at the last moment get the nose aligned with the runway.

We did some landings with less than 30 degrees of flaps and more speed due to the wind gusts and then Sean had me try a flap-less landing - which really sucked but I got it down and for a first time it's supposed to suck, right?

Certainly not my finest bit of flying and to say I was not having fun in those conditions would be an understatement. Some days you think you're ready to finally solo and you're getting it, and then a day like today comes along and slaps you around nicely.

That's 1.3 Hours, 9 landings with 8 by me including one flap-less, and 1 go-round.

Not Exactly The Definition Of Being Tactically Ambiguous

Saw this on the drive home last night:

Hard to be carrying concealed when you're announcing to all and sundry that you're doing so. Also, leaving the car in a public parking lot in Detroit and expecting it to not get broken into if it's near a CPL-No-Go-Zone venue may be a forlorn hope.

Any bets the first question he gets asked when he's pulled over is: "Where's the gun?".

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The New York Daily News' Diversionary Hack At The NRA

The New York Daily News, in a mad attempt to divert attention from (Islamist) terrorism and the threat posed by all these incoming "refugees" as potential terrorist actors, decided to print "Hey Look, Squirrel!" on the paper's front cover.

It's a rather transparent and desperate attempt to get attention back to the left's favorite bugbear, gun control, and to defame the NRA.

National Review: The NRA Is Absolutely Right to Fear the ‘Terrorism Watch List’

The real question is, if there really are 700,000 people in America on the terrorist watch list, is anyone actually watching them? If they're suspected of terrorism or support for terrorism sufficient to get themselves placed on the list, why isn't some serious interdiction occurring rather than just putting them on a list and letting them walk freely about in society save for an occasional and only possible extra experience of being felt up at the airport?

After all, if they're allowed to walk around freely without any real attempt to apprehend them as terrorists that means they can acquire materials to make bombs and such, so perhaps this list is not really being taken seriously by the authorities.

When 280,000 people are on the list with no known terrorist affiliation, that's a cause for concern.

That there are thousands with actual listed affiliations to terrorist groups like Hamas, Al Qaeda, Hezballah, and the Taliban, and they're allowed to just wander around this country while the only thing done after identifying them is putting them on the list shows the government is rather fundamentally unserious about this whole counter-terrorism thing.

Indeed, since the criteria to be placed on it seems rather vague, and that people can be added to the list at whim, there is darn well a reasons to be concerned to add a new disqualification from owning firearms at the whimsy of some faceless official.

One can certainly see the Obama administration expanding such a list very quickly to do some "gun control under the radar" should it become a disqualifying condition. After all, he seems more rather obsessed with his "Republican enemies" rather than enemies of a foreign ideology and origin.

In short the New York Daily News should save the bile it is flinging at the NRA and instead direct it at the administration that has us fighting a phony war rather than a real war on terrorism while humming "I've got a little list".

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Antiochus IV's Fortress Of Acra In Jerusalem Discovered

A very cool archaeological discovery:

The Detroit Free Press: Ancient Greek fortress may solve archaeological mystery in Jerusalem

Archaeologists believe they have unearthed the ancient remains of the Greek fortress of Acra.

The discovery solves one of the city's “greatest archaeological mysteries,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday. The 2,000-year-old remains were found under a parking lot in the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

For the past 100 years, archaeologists have puzzled over the location of the ancient fortress, which was used by Antiochus IV Epiphanes to monitor activity on Template Mount and subdue the Jewish population.

The fortress was finally retaken from the Greeks by the Hasmoneans in 141 BC, and its discovery before Hannukah is rather timely.

Flying Lesson #22 - More Happier And Crosswind Landings

Lesson 22 had me using runway 9L for takeoffs and landings, with a left pattern as the wind was from 130 degrees at 10-15 knots. I had Sean as my instructor today.

Overall the landings went pretty well, even with a gusting crosswind, with my last three out of four being very nice indeed. I had decent roll-outs and flares that got better as the lesson went on.

I think I'm getting the hang of it, finally.

Sean demonstrated an engine out emergency landing with a short base turn and then I got to try it.

Wouldn't you know it? My engine out glide-it-in-at-idle landing was perfect - a nice turn to base and then final, pitched for 65 knots the whole way through, then lined up with the runway and I was perfectly on the glide path and had one of my best landings.

But to keep me humble, my last landing of the day sucked - approach was too low so it wasn't stabilized, and while I landed ok it was really not great by any means.

Apparently, I'm making sufficient progress that I was given a take-home pre-solo written test to complete. So, we'll see how it goes from here.

That's 1.3 more hours and 11 landings.