The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Night flight last Sunday

I had to scrutinize my logbook to figure out when I last flew at night: 26 April 2006, in Nashua, N.H. So I took a flight instructor with me this past Sunday to get "recurrent." (Regulations require that pilots make three full-stop landings at night—further defined as 1 hour after sunset until 1 hour before sunrise—within 90 days in order to carry passengers at night.)

I had a good flight, they can use the airplane again, the instructor enjoyed flying with someone who knew how to fly (as opposed to a pre-solo student), and Chicago Center almost flew a jet up my butt. You can see the last bit in the KML, where I do two 360° turns, one of them at a mile-and-a-half short final. The jet got within 4 nautical miles of me before calling Chicago Executive Tower, which isn't illegal, but did make me a bit uncomfortable watching the TCAS. (Yes, the flight school now has a training plane with a TCAS. They are that cool.)

Flying dogs

My sister got her pilot certificate just to get me to shut up about jumping out of planes ("why jump from a perfectly-landable airplane?"). And if you think I love my dog, well, she outdoes me there, too. The combination means she has two dogs who each have their own airplane ear protectors. I can't imagine Parker in a Cessna, but I think he'd be at least as cute as this:

By the way, she named her dog Codey, after the final approach fix on the runway 15 IFR GPS approach at Lincoln, Calif. Seriously.

Two stunners from the Economist

First, if you know anything about Chicago, you'll understand why I nearly passed out to see this week's Economist in my mailbox this week. Since I moved into this neighborhood I think I've gotten it once on Saturday, and the rest of the time on Monday or Tuesday. So, wow.

Second, even more stunning if you know anything about the the Economist: they've endorsed Obama for President:

The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Third, not a stunner at all, I had a good flight this morning, from which I'll post a Google Earth track tomorrow morning.

Finally, friend-of-a-friend Jerry Fields has a new website as "a truth oasis in these truth-thirsty political times."

Polls open in 3 days, 8 hours, and 12 minutes...

Long solo flight

With my days for doing this sort of thing dwindling rapidly, I took advantage of the perfect weather this morning to do a cross-country solo flight: Chicago Executive, Madison, Kenosha, back home. And, of course, I have a Google Earth file, in which you can see that I overshot the turn to final on my last landing, which mars an otherwise good track. It's not apparent from the track, though, that winds aloft were around 30 kts, which accounts for the course corrections on the long legs.

Flying around in circles ahead of the rain

This morning I flew solo for the first time in two and a half years. I really missed it.

I last flew solo on 24 May 2006, from Nashua, N.H., to Nantucket, Mass.—208 km each way. Today I had a more modest mission: Wheeling to Waukegan, Ill., 34 km and less than 10 minutes' flying time.

Some rain moved into the area so I only got four landings in, as you can see from the Google Earth file. (Remember: all takeoffs are optional; all landings are mandatory.) Still, I have to hand it to Chris Johnson, my CFI at Windy City Flyers: all four landings were among the best I've ever made, right on the numbers and so smooth I didn't know I'd touched down until the plane stopped rolling.

Friday, I plan to fly to Janesville, Wis., for a family event. I'm looking forward to spending a couple of hours in a plane again, just flying.

Cubs sweep Atlanta

I wrote this post on my flight to Dallas listening to the Indigo Girls. Fitting, because having an extra day to spend in Atlanta, my cousin and I went out to Decatur to have lunch with one of my oldest surviving friends and her wife. As my cousin said while we were poking around the interesting kitsch in Blue Moon (below), "Ah, here's the Community."

My Decatur friend suggested the most appropriate (and, in fact, tastiest) place to have lunch in these circumstances: Watershed, which the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers co-owns. In for a dime at this point, I put in my dollar by having shrimp grits and a mint julep. I know what my fellow Northerners may think right now: "grits? Ew." But what are grits? Nothing more than pieces of corn pan-fried in butter. Well-prepared grits—at Watershed, they prepared them well—are quite tasty, and these, paired as they were with possibly the best-made mint julep I've ever enjoyed, completely ended any reservations I had about this Southern staple.

From there, my cousin and I got back on the MARTA (Atlanta's cute little ol' light rail) and headed next to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. Wow. Intense. I've studied the Civil Rights Movement from the distance of 20 years and 1000 km, but standing by the Ebenezer Baptist Church and walking past King's tomb truly moved me:

We wrapped up the day at Turner Field, where we got to watch the Cubs sweep the Braves with 29 runs in two days. The park hardly contained any Braves fans at all; it sounded like a home game at Wrigley, complete with "Let's-Go-Cub-bies!" chants and mocking the Braves' tomahawk chop. Milwaukee also lost last night, increasing the Cubs' first-place lead to 4½ games. This year, the post-season is ours to lose.

It was, I kid you not, NASCAR night at the park, with actual stock cars lekking around the warning track during two inning breaks. Occasionally one of the cars would rev at us, causing some in the crowd to cheer. I really don't have anything against NASCAR, but there is something of a cultural gulf between my crowd and theirs.

I did find the two local-beer vendors, and had some Sweetwater 420 Ale. Good pale ale; I recommend it.

From Dallas I'm on to San Francisco, mostly to see family, but also to visit park #15 on the 30-Park Geas, Oakland's Cisco Field. The As are playing the White Sox, which means rooting for the home team (and wearing a Cubs hat) are doubly enjoyable. That's Sunday; tomorrow, it's beer and curry at Kennedy's. I can't wait.