Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Singapore Day 2 - The Maritime Museum And The Steamboat

The next day, we got up at a jet-lagged reasonable time and had breakfast and then John came by to meet me and he and I headed out for a adventure while the girls decided to do girly things closer to where we were staying.

We first went to the Singapore Maritime Museum.

With over 100,000 ships visiting every year, it's the busiest port on the world and Singapore's fortune depends upon its maritime trade.

The Maritime Museum is very focused on introducing Singaporeans to maritime jobs and many flyers, books, and pamphlets, free to all, were in prominent display and talked of opportunities in the shipping industry.

Cargo containers are indeed a big deal.

Begun by the British who acquired it from its former Malaysian rulers and set it up as a free port city, its continued to grow in size and influence. As a free trade port with no duty the British had to make their money to operate the colony somewhere so they made it up with opium.

Yep, the drug trade isn't a bad thing when the government is in charge of it.

Lot of interesting storyboards and videos detailed the changes in Singapore's ports.

The highlight of the museum is a ship's bridge simulator where you can handle maneuvering a ship in various conditions.

Happy to report there were no collisions even in a very crowded shipping channel.

Then we had a Tex-Mex lunch on a paddle-wheel steamboat that had been turned into a floating restaurant.

Yes, a Singaporean had acquired a US paddleboat, brought her over here and rhen turned it into a Tex-Mex restaurant.

The food wasn't bad but it was really surreal to be having a Tex-Mex-style burger and fries on a riverboat in Singapore harbor delivered by hospitable Indian waiters. It seemed rather out of place.

Then it was on to our next stop, the Singapore Air Force Museum.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Last Weekend In Ithaca

Lack of blogging was due to my being out of town with the family for an event.

One of Abby's friends from camp, who had attended her Bat Mitzvah here in Michigan, was having a Bat Mitzvah and Abby had been invited. The Bat Mitzvah was very nice and she did a good job with the reading.

Both of the girl's parents are professors at Cornell and are seriously geniuses with a capital G, and nice people to boot.

They also happened to be a couple of the few politically-conservative leaning profs at the University along with a few others, one of whom I had hoped I might meet at the event.

So we piled in the car and drove to Ithaca, New York. On the way there we went through Ohio and Pennsylvania and finally arrived.

We stayed with some friends of the girl's family there, who were very, very, nice and welcoming indeed, and we had some great conversations with them during our stay. The man of the house is a famous artist and a serious golf aficionado and it was a treat to chat with him and see some of his work. The wives got along great, and my kids absolutely adored their daughter who is a college student. Really great people who went out of their way for us.

At the Conservative (movement rather than political, it was highly lefty to say the least) synagogue, when talking to people I managed to meet another conservative-politically speaking fellow and we had a nice chat indeed. He then introduced me to none other than William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, who I knew was a good friend of the Bat Mitzvah girl's parents and I had been hoping to meet there as I've enjoyed reading his blog quite a lot.

It was nice to briefly chat with Mr. Jacobson, and if you're not reading his blog on a regular basis, you really should be doing so.

Ithaca in northern New York is really in some very scenic country and is a nice University town, it looks a lot like northern Ontario - lots of lakes, very green, and sparsley populated outside of the town.

Then we drove home through Ontario, crossing at the Rainbow bridge by Niagara Falls. Stopping for lunch in Toronto in the later afternoon we made it home late Sunday.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Flying Lesson #146 - Victory is Mine! At Long Last The Nightmare Ends.

Well, it finally happened.

Last night it was not looking very promising at all weather-wise - rain, thunderstorms and the like and the Outlook briefer was saying it was going to be IFR conditions.

This morning the standard briefing was more promising with light winds, decent cloud ceilings and rain.

Rain I can deal with.

So I went to the airport early ahead of my appointed and the examiner was running a bit late finishing up a Commercial Pilot Exam and said he'd give me a pirep of the conditions but thought they would be ok for flying.

He came back and said we could go ahead if I wanted to do so, and I said I did.

So I went, and I did it.

I am now a licensed Private Pilot.

To say i'm on top of the world right now would be an understatement.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Singapore Day 1 - Paging Doctor Fish, And Meeting An Old Friend

After lunch, we wandered around the Flyer complex which had a selection of shops and activities.

We came across one particular location that had Abby's interest. She had read about it before, and had to try it and dared us to come along, so we all did so, especially as our Flyer tickets gave us a discount.

Yes, it's not a spa for fish, in Singapore, it's a place where the fish spa you.

We went to get fish pedicures. Abby stated we would all do it and double dared us, and since it was a dare, I could hardly shirk my fatherly image of being unafraid of the strange and unusual as this certainly was both strange and unusual.

The Doctor fish eats dead skin off your feet leaving them smooth and uncalloused.

So we went in, paid, and after taking off our shoes and washing our feet sat down on a comfy wooden platform and put our feet into a pool swarming with Doctor Fish.

Since I never have had a pedicure in my entire life, when the fish saw my feet they went:

"Holy Carp! We got a live one here! Everybody to the Buffet!"

Yep, I got mobbed by Doctor Fish.

This was extremely ticklish and was rather weird to realize there were fish eating my feet, you could feel them attach and nibble but it didn't hurt at all as they only ate the dead skin, but none of us could stop laughing due to the constant tickling. Certainly not something you experience everyday, that's for sure.

After feeding the fish and with now smoother feet, we headed back to our Singapore home and after the obligatory change of clothes due to the heat, a friend of mine who has been living in Singapore for the past 17 years dropped by to visit. I last had seen John when we were at University together so it was great to meet up with him again.

We had a great time catching up and he's now an accomplished journalist in Singapore. After socializing a bit he took us on a mini-tour of the Little India area of Singapore and we had a nice Mediterranean dinner at a restaurant he liked, and then we went to Mustafa Center - a huge supermarket in Little India. The Center offers pretty decent budget prices on foodstuffs and necessities and it was full of workers doing their shopping.

Not just full, it was packed to the gills with people doing their shopping and combined with narrow aisles led to the need to literally push through the crowd to get anywhere.

Yes, personal space was at a premium and measured in microns and people were puzzled when we said "excuse me" or "pardon me" as we pushed past - the etiquette is simply to push your way through to where you want to go without so much as a by-your-leave, and try to not get separated in the crush of the crowd.

We purchased some necessities and then waited in line for a cashier, who closed before we could get to the till. We went to another line and the process repeated itself. Finally, we got to a cashier that stayed open long enough to check us out and interestingly zip-tied each plastic bag shut - a rather interesting comment on both the center's customer service and how it viewed the honesty of its customers.

After that, the jet lag and excitement of the day really started to take hold so we called it a night and made arrangements to meet up with John later.

That was a very long, exciting and full day indeed.

Remember That Whole Good Weather Request?

And of course instead of good flying weather today it is rainy, winds 15-25 with wind shear, and a nice potential convective sigmet (think thunderstorms), and an airmet tango for turbulence, and the weather briefer said the magic words: "VFR flight not recommended". So, no checkride for me today. No openings in his schedule for the rest of this week either, especially as the one opening he had I can't do as have depositions to do all day tomorrow.

Just cannot catch a break.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017

An eclipse broke out in between clouds today, giving us much to ooh and aw about after darting out of work for a late lunch with the family to view the event.

Thanks to a solar filter from Thousand Oaks Optical, ordered quite awhile back for the occasion, my camera was ready to capture the moment.

While not at a location to see the totality, and with clouds blocking the eclipse from sight at times, I did get some decent pictures all the same.

Singapore Day 1 - Ride The Wheel

The first attraction we did was one we saw on the way from the airport to the city.

Singapore's Flyer at 541 feet is the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world.

Each Gondola is rather spacious and we had 10 people in ours, be nches are there for sitting on and you can move about the cabin quite freely during the ride.

It takes half an hour for the Flyer to make a complete rotation and it's a nice gentle ride around the wheel.

The views are spectacular (click on any to embiggen as they say).

Looking like a Cylon Raider, the National Stadium is a very prominent landmark.

A close-up of the roof of the Marina Bay Sands Casino, Hotel, and very upscale shopping mall:

Gardens By The Bay:

We also got to see bands preparing for the National Day Parade - more on that later.

From the Flyer, we also had a great view of Singapore Bay - one of the busiest ports in the world, over 100,000 ships dock in Singapore every year.

It was a great overview of the city and showed many of the attractions we were to visit over the coming days.

Then we headed off to a lunch and then pretty much the weirdest thing we did in Singapore.

Singapore Day 1 - Part The First

We arrived in Singapore after a helluva long but actually enjoyable flight. United economy was spacious enough that it was no bother and it had a ton of in-flight movies and TV shows available for view. The food was typical airline fare and it was weird to fly along, fall asleep, wake up and then realize there was still 8 hours to go.

In Singapore we then cleared customs and immigration and got our passports stamped, and then went to a money changer and got some Singapore dollars. The Singapore dollar is about 71 cents US so we did well on the exchange.

Interestingly, not only are the bills different colors, but each one is sized differently and are thus really easy to tell apart. They're also the high-tech polymer type complete with transparent areas and holograms.

Then we took an Uber to the place where we would stay the next ten days. Uber as it turns ut is extremely popular in Singapore and the city-state is one of Uber's most popular locations.

We found the condo that we had rented through AirBnB and it was quite perfect it was centrally located on Bencoolen street - right by a mall, an MTA station, bus stops and a Hawker center. With two bedrooms, two baths a kitchen and a washer/dryer which was important as were were already sweating in the heat and humidity. The washer would be used many a time during our stay. We unpacked and then headed out to get a lunch at the local Hawker center.

What's a Hawker Center? Well it used to be that various vendors would sell food on the streets from carts, but the government there considered it rather less than organized or sanitary so they built Hawker Centers - buildings stuffed to the gills with vendors side by side selling tons of tasty and varied dishes.

The Hawker center was also our introduction to the Asian concept of personal space - Americans like 3-6 feet, Asians are happy with 3-6 millimeters. Talk about crowded. We watched what the locals did and queued up at a likely food stall, pointed to what we wanted, paid for it and then grabbed an open table in the center to eat.

This was our first meal in Singapore:

Pretty tasty and only costing S$4.00, and quite filling. We were to try lots of other dishes at the Hawker center throughout the trip and I soon found a favorite. The Hawker centers offer a large variety of prepared food at very cheap prices.

Then we headed off to purchase the Singapore Pass.

The pass is a pretty neat item that you buy that gets you access to numerous attractions and can also skip the standard ticket lines, but it has multiple confusing conditions and takes awhile to figure out all its permutations and limitations - in short if you use it right you can save a lot of money on some fun attractions, but if not you'll lose quite a bit, especially as it expires within 5 days so it can be a whirlwind rotation among the various cool places in Singapore.

The Singapore Pass location was right beside just one such attraction, and we went right to it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Flying Lesson #145 - Alone Again

Today after the range trip I took Leah home, had a quick lunch and hopped in the car for the airport.

The weather was far too nice to not fly today. Sky clear up to 25,000 feet, winds light and variable around 5-7 knots eventually blowing up to 10 knots variable as I was flying.

How could I not go up?

Apparently a lot of other people thought the same way as the airport was all sorts of busy with tons of planes taking off, landing, and flying the pattern.

Even better, this was to be Solo time again.

After my standard careful pre-flight and run-up I headed off to the to the practice area climbing to 3,300 feet.

Arriving in the practice area I snapped a quick picture of the Ford Proving Grounds at Romeo.

The proving grounds offer an easily identifiable landmark and make for an excellent emergency landing spot should something go awry.

I then did some clearing turns and then did slow flight, a power off stall, and steep turns, and then just had some fun flying around.

I then headed back to Pontiac for some pattern work.

Coming in, I initially got told to prepare for a 2 mile right base entry but the controller then changed it to a straight in but I was told to keep my speed up. Final was a tad faster as a result and I did float a bit in ground effect but made a nice landing anyways as the speed bled off.

Then up to do it again in the pattern and an even better landing.

While taxiing back to take off again, I saw this nice looking Bonanza in the run-up area and grabbed a quick picture for Murphy's Law as he likes Bonanzas:

I did a couple more patterns with some good landings and called it a day.

1.2 solo and 4 landings.

If y'all would send some kind weather thoughts consisting of clear skies and calm winds for this week, that would be appreciated as something quite good may just finally happen.

Morning Range Trip, P30SK Hits 550 And Springfield Makes It Easy To Shoot like A Girl

One thing about jet lag, you tend to get up earlier than usual.

A morning range trip was in order so Leah and I headed out to the range early this morning.

In addition to the M&P compact .22 with Gemtech that Leah loves, she got to shoot a used while new-to-me and to her firearm - a Springfield Armory 1911 9mm.

It just so happened she was wearing her Springfield Armory Shoot Like A Girl t-shirt and it matched the pistol nicely.

She really liked the pistol and handled it with no issues.

As acquired it turned out it is setup with a popsicle type sight picture and I'll likely adjust it to a center hold. While used aside from a couple scratched in the finish you can hardly tell its been fired and it likely wasn't fired much if at all before I acquired it from its previous owner. It has a very smooth action once it was cleaned and oiled, and aside from an initial couple failures to extract the fired case from the chamber on the second-to-last round from one of the 9 round magazines, it eventually stopped malfunctioning after a few magazines were run through it. Recoil is very light when chambered in 9mm from a full-sized 1911 and Leah pronounced the trigger to be excellent and stated it really was quite nice to shoot.

Leah's target:

I shot the P30Sk and it had no malfunctions after 100 rounds through it, making it to 550 rounds with one failure (round 22) not due to the firearm. The trigger takes some getting used to after shooting the Springfield 9mm. Leah also shot the P30sk and with some coaching was hitting the target but initially was dropping the shots very low due to the long trigger pull.

A very nice time at the range.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Flying Lesson #144 - Shaking Off The Rust Of Two Weeks Off

Getting Jet Lag while flying is one thing, flying while jet lagged is another.

This afternoon I went up with Ray. I did a short field takeoff and headed to the north. There I did some turns around a point, slow flight, power off stall and steep turns. All went well.

Then I headed back to Pontiac and was told to setup for a 4 mile final due to traffic. It was a nice long, straight in approach which worked out very nicely with the wind at 310 at 10 knots for a bit of a crosswind and an excellent landing.

I then did another short field takeoff, followed by a short field landing which was decent, then another short field takeoff and what would have been a nice short field but had to go around due to a slower Cessna not getting off the runway in time. No big deal and I'm quite good at go rounds. Then back for a very nice short field landing indeed, followed by a nice soft field takeoff and a soft field landing. I then did another short field takeoff and finished it off with a textbook short field landing that was just beautiful.

Ray said I flew just fine indeed and I'm looking good.

1.5 and 5 landings.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back From An Epic Vacation

Back from the second longest non-stop flight in the world, and an adventure that began August 3.

16 hours in a United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner direct from San Francisco to Singapore.

Before that was a 6 hour flight from Toronto to San Francisco in an Air Canada Airbus as its code-shared with United.

Abby instead of a Bat Mitzvah party wanted to go somewhere special for a trip and she chose Singapore, certainly she has fine taste in exotic destinations.

Luckily enough, it just so happens, a friend of mine from High School and University lived there and we got tons of good info and met up with him and got a native (or ex-pat) guide.

Now I have much jet lag, such jet lag, really the best jet lag, as its a 12 hour time change.

But, postings with plenty of details and pictures to follow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

WTH Canada?

I'm really hoping there's more to this story to explain this travesty of justice.

A fellow in Nova Scotia, Canada is at home when the home is invaded by three intruders who are armed with firearms.

In the struggle that breaks out, he gets ahold of one of their firearms and shoots at least one of them, causing them to flee.

One would think this is a happy result, yes? Well, the story isn't over......

He is then charged with attempted murder and unauthorized possession of a firearm and a raft of further firearms related charges including improper storage of a firearm.

No kidding.

Herald News: Break-in suspect shot, man in home charged

Police said that three men entered the residence with guns and a struggle took place with two men inside. The two in the home seized a firearm from one of the suspects and several shots were fired as the suspects fled. Police later located one of the suspects, who had non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. Munroe [the guy who beat back the home invaders] faces charges of attempted murder, intent to discharge a firearm, intent to discharge a firearm when being reckless, careless use of a firearm, improper storage of a firearm, pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm knowing that possession is unauthorized, and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

I had no idea that Nova Scotia had turned into the United Kingdom when it came to self defense, and I expected better of the RCMP.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Stop Touching It - Part The Umpteenth

I can't think of a single reason why this would have been a good idea, and considering the outcome, it certainly wasn't:

The Detroit News: Cops: Man shoots self, woman while unloading handgun

A man and a woman more than 30 years his junior are recovering after both were wounded when the man attempted to unload a handgun on Detroit's west side early Monday morning, police said

The shooting took place about 1:30 a.m. in the area of West McNichols and Telegraph, said Dontae Freeman, social media manager for the Detroit Police Department.

The man, 56, and the woman, 25, were sitting in a Chevy Malibu when the man attempted to unload the gun, Freeman said. In so doing, he shot himself in his left hand, and shot the woman in her right arm.

Who the heck at 1:30 am, while parked and seated in the confines of a vehicle thinks to themselves -
"Hey, this is a great time to handle and unload a firearm".

Apparently it's no longer nobody, ever, as this doofus apparently did so.

I suspect either alcohol or showing off how cool he was had something to do with it.

Seated in a car at oh-my-gosh-early in the morning is neither the time nor the place to be handling a firearm without a darn good reason.

I can't think of any valid reason to be fumbling around and trying to unload a firearm while inside the confines of a Chevy Malibu. It really doesn't lead to a good outcome, especially while ignoring basic safety rules such as "Never point a gun at something you're not willing to destroy" and or course the classic "Keep your darn finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, yes, that includes you sitting in the Chevy Malibu".

They really need to teach basic gun safety in schools, along with some common sense.