The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The IM-SAFE checklist

Pilots will tell you they'd rather be down here wishing they were up there than up there wishing they were down here. (See also, "All takeoffs are optional; all landings are mandatory.") Most of the time it's an easy choice for private pilots whether to go for a flight, especially in Chicago where the weather, not to put too fine a point on it, often sucks.

Today, I had scheduled a flight, but I decided to stay on the ground after thinking really hard about it. Right now Chicago Executive reports scattered clouds at 3600 ft and a medium (9 kt) breeze; nothing I can't handle. However, the forecast calls for gusts to increase to 18 kt, thickening clouds, and the possibility of thunderstorms this afternoon.

Today's mission, though, was simply to fly up to Waukegan or Kenosha, shoot some landings, and return. Today's weather forecast ordinarily wouldn't stop the flight, because as the weather deteriorates, I only have to fly 15 minutes and be home. Not to mention, I'll never be more than 6 minutes from an airport, as the whole point of the flight is to practice landings.

So why stay on the ground? Because I decided I didn't meet the IM-SAFE checklist. Here's how it went: Illness, no; Medication that causes physical impairment, no; Stress, hmmm; Alcohol, no (nor its effects—the FAA considers "under the influence" to include a hangover, even with a zero blood-alcohol content); Fatigue, hmmm again; Emotion: not an issue.

See, today, I'm thinking about the stack of reading materials for Duke on top of a lot of client work due this week, and even though I got a good night's sleep, I feel like I could have gotten more. Am I safe to fly around the airport and practice landings feeling like this? Yes, I believe I would be—if the weather were perfect. But the winds and clouds are going to increase while I'm getting fatigued from all those landings, which means each landing will be much harder than the last one. That means I probably won't learn from them, I'll probably start to get frustrated, and then by the time I return to Chicago Executive I'll be cranky, tired, and fighting gusty crosswinds while trying to get an aluminum tube to fall 500 m out of the sky so gently that someone can use it again. Not to mention, it's an hour-long drive each way, two hours in which I could be writing for clients or reading for school.

So it's a very tough call, and I'd really like be up there today. Just not enough to risk wasting the trip.

Today's Daily Parker

Parker and I had a great two-hour walk this afternoon, punctuated by essays on Botswana and economic institutions (Duke reading). We stopped to admire the view at North Avenue, though I think Parker was more interested in the speedboat than the skyline:

Here's the rest of the view:

Her Majesty's Recession

Apparently the Duchy of Lancaster, which is essentially the property of the British Royal Family, has suffered a bit of a decline:

The Duchy of Lancaster - a portfolio of land, property and assets held in trust for the Sovereign - saw a drop of £75m to £322m in the 2008-9 financial year.

But the income the Monarchy received from the Duchy, used to fund her public and private activities, increased by 5.4% from £12.6m to £13.3m.

During the last financial year, the total cost to the taxpayer of keeping the monarchy increased by £1.5m to £41.5m.

The Beeb notes, however:

[T]he Duchy of Lancaster is a body created under Charter, it is completely self-financing and does not rely on any taxpayers' money.

Foreign Policy adds:

This is further bad news for her Highness, who has had her many, many requests for increases to the royal budget rejected by parliament in the last year. The monarchy's annual expenses currently run at £41.5 million, excluding an estimated £50 million in security costs. Nonetheless, Palace officials continue to engage in talks with the Treasury to elicit more funding for the Crown for, amongst others, planned household refurbishment and the 2012 diamond jubilee celebrations.

The Queen recently dipped into her now-dwindling private funds to pay for a few royal expenses, including Prince Harry's latest trip to New York.

The most surprising thing to me, though, is that £90 million doesn't seem like a lot of money, given the income to the country the Royals may generate merely by existing. How much money from tourists comes in because of the Royals? Has anyone studied this? And how much do most countries spend on heads of state, to what benefit?

Quick hits

Lots to do for the next, oh, 17 months, so I thought I'd get started. My first Duke box arrived today, containing 6 kg of books, course packets, handouts, and more books, all of which have to be read by August 15th. Fortunately I have a few extra hours each day to do all this (I use them to sleep right now, so they're kind of wasted).

Just a couple news stories of note today:

  • President Obama gave an hour-long press conference yesterday in which he spent 50 minutes discussing the single most important domestic-policy issue in the U.S. right now, health care. Since health care policy is complex, full of compromises, difficult to understand, and absolutely imperative to fix, the network talking heads spent all their time today discussing a stupid Cambridge, Mass., police officer who made an ill-advised arrest Monday. This, in turn, is why network talking heads are useless. I can't wait to see Jon Stewart's take.
  • Mark Buehrle, who plays for the other Chicago baseball team, threw a perfect game this afternoon, the 2nd club history and only the 16th time ever in the major leagues. (A perfect game is one in which none of the offensive players gets on base by any means.)
  • Finally, Gidget the Chihuahua, aka the Taco Bell dog, died yesterday at 15.

Back to work...

How green is your city?

Via Beth Filar-Williams, the National Resources Defence Council has ranked U.S. cities by environmental factors. The study ranks 67 large (population 250,000+), 167 medium (100-250k), and 405 small (50-100k) cities on nine factors, including standard of living, water management, transportation, and environmental participation. Seattle comes out on top for big cities; San Francisco, 2nd; Chicago, 10th.

Other leaders include Madison, Wis. (medium) and Bellingham, Wash. Bottom of the pack: Lexington, Ky., Paterson, N.J., and Pine Bluff, Ark.

Spotted in North Beach

Someone had time to have the sign made up, then had the inclination to stick it on the construction site. That's kind of sad:

There's a building in Chicago, at the corner of Wacker and Clark, that could use similar treatment. Someday, there will be funding again. Someday.

As long as we're in San Francisco, how about an iconic shot of a successful construction project? Here you go:

They're landing one of those at Oshkosh?

Airbus Industrie and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) have worked out how to get an A380 to the EAA show at Oshkosh next weekend:

The aircraft will do a seven-minute flight display before setting up for landing on Runway 36. In a web conference Friday, Airbus test pilot Terry Lutz said that while the 8,000X150 runway is plenty for the A380, there's only one taxiway that will accommodate the aircraft, although, happily, it's the one that leads to Aeroshell Square. That gives the crew about 5,500 feet before the turnoff, which Lutz said will be plenty, even with a 10-knot tailwind. The aircraft that's coming is a test plane and will land at about 720,000 lbs, about 60 percent of its maximum weight.

EAA had to bring in a tug from JFK in New York to pull the plane into place. The tug driver has one shot to get the plane positioned correctly. Lutz said the wingspan of the A380 is exactly one foot less than the width of the ramp.

More from EAA. And even more coolness (if you're a pilot geek), Airbus has an interactive cockpit tour that holds nothing back.

Oshkosh is only a 3-hour drive from Chicago...hmm...