Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"I look at these people and can't quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention? To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. 'Can I interest you in the chicken?' she asks. 'Or would you prefer the platter of s**t with bits of broken glass in it?' To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked."
On Sunday, in Fort Collins, CO, I had the chance to look at and listen to "the chicken."
And so did another 44,999 Coloradoans.
The chicken looked good and sounded great. We ended up on the stage behind Senator Obama, which was quite fortunate because otherwise we would have been in that sea of people.
It goes without saying, but this was perhaps one of the most exciting moments of my life. Senator Obama spoke at 3:30pm, and the first person in line showed up at 4:00am. There were so many people that wanted to see and hear this transformational leader, that even though the 2 mile-long line started moving in 2 hours ahead of when he was going to speak, there were still people entering the Oval as he closed his remarks.
Believe me, and the other tens of thousands of inspired Coloradoans: the chicken is for real, and it is good. When the flight attendant pulls up to your seat on November 4th, you can comfortably order the chicken.
And, in case you are wondering, I did not get to see his campaign plane, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
After the historic landing, the plane was donated to the airport and ceremoniously placed in the C Concourse for all aviation enthusiasts to admire. I asked around and learned that the plane was disassembled and came into the Concourse through the windows.
Now that's what I call decorating. They should put that on one of those design shows.
Here are some shots from the flight from the flight out west. This is the aircraft that took me the whole way to Denver. The sun tries to catch up to us as we head west to Detroit.The foliage around Detroit, which is no match for the foliage in Albany.
And the arrival in an overcast Denver.
And here are some shots of the flight back east. She was a sweet ride. Here she is pulling into the gate at Denver International.
This time, I'm leaving the sun in the west (and probably will not see it until April - jk).
A rainy approach into Detroit.
And a rainy Albany, just like I remember it!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Well, I have talked the talk, and here is evidence of me walking the walk. A short time ago, I endorsed the green bag from the Unspeakable Visions Market as the "must have accessory for today's air traveler" since it allows passengers to pack their own, hopefully healthy lunch and carry it on board.
Folks, I not only own a green bag of my own, but on this last trip I baptized it at 35,000 feet. And I even did it with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as one of the resident experts recommended. And all it cost me was about $.22 in peanut butter, $.17 in jelly, and $.47 in bread. That's $.86 instead of $12 for a tuna crapwich at the airport.
On the way back, I turned it up a notch. I packed, or rather, had packed for me by my mother and sister, four milanesa sandwiches, two apples, and four oreos. (Not all pictured.)
Don't worry - I did not eat it all at once, although I really wanted to. But after a horrifying pant-buying experience, I did not need any more motivation to slow my food intake down a bit.
So - there you have it. Green bagging it at 35,000 feet. With the economy as shaky as it is, every $11.14 kept in your wallet counts.
I could picture these charts as the flights were occuring because of all the maneuvering that we did in our approaches. These look like my flight paths on Flight Simulator - you know, due to the non-directness of the routes. In Northwest's defense, there was some pretty nasty weather around both Detroit and Albany last night, so much so that the captain of the second leg did not allow the flight attendants to offer the complementary beverage service.
Here is the flight between Denver and Detroit:
The pilot announced we would be flying over Des Moines, IA, Madison, WI, Milwaukee, WI and Flint, MI.
Here is the flight between Detroit and Albany:This was a really bumpy ride, especially during the approach. I was a bit disappointed that we landed on runway 19 instead of 1. A landing on runway 1 gives you a great view of the city, and I would have been positioned to get a great overhead shot of the Empire State Plaza. No such luck though.
I cannot recall landing in such rainy weather before - I am sure I must have at some point. But I was especially vigilant last night, and it was really neat to see the rain drops illuminated every time the strobe lights on the wing flashed. I tried to get a picture of it, but I could not get the timing down.
Speaking of pictures - I have not downloaded my trip pictures yet. I expect to do that tonight, so expect a comprehensive blog post (including evidence of Green Baggin' it at 35,000 feet) in the very near future.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Since Gov. Paterson is on a mission to ruin the summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (Hannukah for me), I had to scrap any plans to fly to Colorado for the high holidays. So instead, I decided to surprise the mother and the sister this weekend in Colorado.
I booked a flight to Denver International for Wednesday and rented a car with the hopes of showing up in Fort Collins to surprise the family. It was a simple plan, a plan that could not fail. That is, until my sister told me casually that she and my mother were going to be in Denver on Wednesday afternoon.
Great. There goes Plan A.
I secretly became very interested in the whereabouts and travel plans that these two renegades had for Wednesday. I feigned massive interest in when they were leaving, what street they were going to be on, and how long they planned on being there.
Since I got to Denver in the mid-morning and they were not going to be in Denver until 4pm, I had plenty of time to scout the location and make a plan, Plan B at this point.
I staked out the office and secretly spied them as they arrived. My sister was going in for an interview, so I did not want to spook her before that in case it affected her performance. As soon as I saw my sister go in, I called my mother and told her that I had done some web-based research and discovered that there was a Starbucks about three doors down from where my sister was interviewing.
My mother took the bait. I planted myself on a bench between the building where my sister was interviewing and the coffeeshop. As my mother made her way to Starbucks, talking to me on the phone and thinking I was still in Albany, she suddenly realized that the voice she was hearing was coming at her from the park bench to her right.
Needless to say, she was both shocked and awed. She muttered something about how she thought she was going crazy and imagining things - going as far as demanding that I remove my sunglasses to verify that it was indeed me. (NOTE: I still don't know if she believes I am here.)
After sipping our coffee, we went back to the building where Luci was. As soon as Luci left the interview, my mom told her, "Call your brother, he's been bugging me and wants to know how it went."
My sister dialed me up and was somewhat surprised to hear my ring tone around the corner. She was even more surprised when I emerged from said corner and asked, "May I help you?"
As my loyal readers undoubtedly know, I have fully documented the trip, and will have pictures up as soon as they are downloaded. For the impatient ones, occupy yourselves with this map of my connecting flight between DTW and DIA. I flew on Northwest, which was a first. I have no major observations or complaints, except to say that I had a ton of legroom on the exit row, and I actually liked it very much that they allow people sitting in the exit row to board with all the special members/elite folks. I got a free cup of coffee on both legs of the flight (which incidentally was on the same plane - deplaning required in Detroit).
The aircraft was an A319 (but not the one above), which I must say was rather beat up on the inside. But whatevs...it got the job done. Like I said, and I am sure you believe me, I documented the flight extensively - so stay tuned.
Monday, October 20, 2008
A few weekends ago, I was summarily recruited by one famous teacher dudette from the T.O.C. to assist in the selling of adirondack kettle corn and kettle corn accessories at a Harvest Festival in Colonie's Heritage Park.
I know exactly what you are thinking: that is a great place to watch planes approaching Albany International from the south. You read my mind.
Unfortunately, I was so busy bagging, selling, dodging, and snacking on popcorn that I was not able to take in the full extent of the viewing opportunities until the way out, when this very classy SW B737 made it's approach.
What a poetic picture. A human-made flying apparatus in the background and nature's version in the foreground.
And here is my photographer's depiction of the plane flying into a tree.
Don't tell anybody this, but if I had known our location, I probably would have worked for free. Plane-watching is its own reward.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I made the case in October for the candidate that, in my opinion, will best serve the interests aviation enthusiasts. Our interests, in case you were wondering, include the following planks:
(1) approach routes that maximize the plane-spotting experience at all major airports,
(2) arm rests for every passenger,
(3) gentler wand people at airport security,
(4) puke bags in every seat back pocket, and
(5) a place for every carry-on bag.
If aviation is the biggest issue for you in this election, and you were conviced by my arguments, the campaign button above is the perfect way to show it.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
On a tip from a high ranking environmental official in New York, I learned that finally there is some good news for the penguins. The Argentina Fisheries Secretary has permanently banned all fishing activities around Burdwood Bank (Birdwood?) - an underwater ecosystem 136 miles off the country's southern tip - which happens to be an important feeding ground for penguins. From the article:
“Armed with sound science, Consejo Federal Pesquero has taken a big step in ensuring sustainability in Argentina’s fishing industry by protecting Burdwood Bank,” said Dr. Claudio Campagna of the WCS-Sea and Sky Program. “With the protection of this small, but critical area, the ocean is better able to replenish what we take from it, and equally important, Argentina’s unique biodiversity is reserved.”
Somebody pinch me. Since when is Argentina the most progressive country in the world on fishing? And what is this nonsense about using sound science to develop environmental policy?
I kid, of course. But seriously, you made me proud today, Country.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Today when you travel, you can choose to (1) buy food onboard, (2) buy food at the terminal, or (3) go hungry. I would suggest an often overlooked option: pack food from home --- and carry it in a Green Bag, one of the many handmade crafts available at Unspeakable Visions.
Here's the reasoning: travelers are allowed to carry food from home through security - only drinks are prohibited. Instead of purchasing a soggy $12 dollar tuna sandwich at the airport terminal, why not do as these travelers (cited in the MSN article) have done:
Kerry Neville, registered dietitian: packs the inexpensive, indestructible and inevitably superfilling peanut-butter sandwich.
Candy Wallace, personal chef: packs as if on a light picnic: a nice salad, hard cheeses, grapes, nuts and perhaps a little meat in a separate bag.
Bob Cowen, travel guru and the founder of Internet Travel Tips: carries granola bars and water on every trip, even quick Detroit-to-Chicago hops.
Guess what? Each of those meals would fit in a Green Bag. And you could even stow it in the seat pocket in front of you until you are ready to eat. Better yet, when you have finished your meal, your Green Bag folds neatly into your carry-on bag.
Forget the funky pillows and the earmuffs (those people look ridiculous anyway). The Green Bag is the must have accessory for today's air traveler.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The most important upgrades, however, are the dynamic scenery, the ridiculous amount of airports that were added, and the amazing new navigation tools. Until this weekend, I had lacked the software to run the game, but that all changed with a quick trip to the local technological doogy-thingy-majig store.
The first order of business was to try the hop over the Andes from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile in the Learjet 45.
It was a great success. Not to brag (because my success rate is only about 30%) but these were two of my finest landings - and back to back.
Here is my approach and finals at Arturo Merino Benitez in Santiago.
Flaps down, center line in view - what else can you ask for?
How about a ridiculously handsome touchdown complete with smoke coming off the tires?
Ask and you shall receive:
Seriously, how good am I?
Another of the upgrades to this deluxe edition is interactive Air Traffic Control. You have to request permission to land and you are guided to a specific runway by the controller. The 1998 game has a version of ATC, but it consists of scrolling text on the top of the window. This edition features actual audio interactions. Shortly after landing ATC hands you over to Ground control which tells you what gate to taxi to.
So, to give you an idea of the totality of the flight, check out the flight tracker from MDZ to SCL. At the point where my flight path crossed the gridline, I was just to the north of Aconcagua.
After chilling out in SCL for about 30 minutes, I realized I wanted to head back to the good side of the Andes. I requested a southbound departure so that I could circle to the west and pick up altitude before heading over the Andes. I flew at somewhat of a southeastern heading over the Andes so that I would emerge in Argentina at a location that would give me plenty of time to descend comfortably into Mendoza's El Plumerillo International Airport from my cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Hence the loopiness.
Welcome to MDZ.
By the way, does anybody else find it coincidental that I primarily blog during the work week? Just checking.
The outbound flight looked like this:
By all estimations, it was probably a pleasant flight since they did not hit any major weather patterns. She covered ten states by my count, although that generously gives her Kansas which is questionable. The major cities she flew over were Peoria, IL and Columbus, OH.
My mom called me to let me know that she had landed in DC, and she was more than a little surprised when I said, "I know."
I actually missed the majority of her flight home but I found out that you can do searches for already completed flights. After a quick search, I pulled up her flight from BWI to Denver, and it looked like this:
For some reason, I could not find an image with the highways so as to identify major landmarks. By my best estimate, the highlight of this flight was St. Louis, MO. The plane then veered north of Kansas City, MO and hit some weather in eastern Kansas.
It is a wonder that I get any work done at all anymore.
Friday, October 10, 2008
It was also "Mission Accomplished" for Misty because she finally bit me. Those of you who know Misty will no doubt be surprised to find out that I had not been bitten by her until last night. And it is not for lack of trying on her part, it is because I also have cat-like reflexes. She was on top of her game last night, though. And she looked so proud of herself after finally getting me.
Here's something you may not know: Misty has a wonderful sense of humor. During the course of our Flight Simulater game night, I started playing around with the elements to create a difficult landing environment. I had the visibility down, the winds gusting, rain falling - they type of weather that Cyclocrossers dream of.
I had a particularly rough landing with these elements. The wings only evened out right at touchdown, the descent was nausceating, and the landing itself was - well, let's just say that the Learjet bounced higher than Barack Obama after the debate. It was so bad, I almost got sick.As I was taxiing to the gate, basically just thankful to be alive, Misty looked at me and wittily said, "Did we land or were we shot down?"
Then she licked herself and left the room.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I stopped by this morning on my way to work and told her that tonight we would be playing Microsoft Flight Simulator all night. She licked herself and left the room.
I have a set routine for my Flight Simulator game nights. My aircraft of choice is a Learjet 45. I have the option of a B737, but I have only been able to land it successfully once, so there is very little point of flying with it at this point.
When choosing my destinations, I have two general rules:
1. I like to keep the flights relatively short, about 45 minutes max, and
b. only go to airports that I am certain I will locate with landmark cues.
My version of Flight Simulator does not have the advanced radar and maps of the deluxe editions so I have to rely on visual landmarks to fly. You can imagine how annoying it is to fly for 45 minutes and then not be able to complete the flight because you can't find the airport.
To meet those two general rules, I generally stay around the Chicago/Great Lakes region. I cannot think of an easier airport to find than Merril C. Meigs (at least in computer world, thank you very much Mayor Daley). It's right on Lake Michigan with Chicago's majestic downtown as a backdrop.
My destination of choice is Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, MI. It is about a 30 minute hop across the lake from Chicago. From there, I either do a quick turnaround back to Meigs Field, or operate a quick flight to South Bend, IN - which usually takes about 25 minutes from Grand Rapids.
I used to run a flight to Detroit, MI but I have stopped primarily because there are no distinguishing landmarks in "cyber Detroit" to guide me to the major airports. With better visual cues, that would be a great flight, because I used to do it in around 45 minutes and Wayne County Airport is a lot of fun to land on.
Toronto has a nice airport right on the lakefront as well. The appeal of Toronto City Center Airport is that it is easy to find and I have been generally successful with the landings there. The only catch is that a flight to Toronto is a longer flight than I am usually interested in making.
Maybe my cuddly co-pilot will convince me to visit our other neighboring country: Afghanistan.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
This is how the bracketing worked out. I had to hold a mini-primary in my head to get the tournament field down to a manageable level. For the critics out there, I say: "RELAX." Even the World Cup has a qualifying round.
Bracket 1: Aeroflot (Russia), Air China, Pakistan International Airlines, and Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines v. Vietnam Airlines: This is a difficult match to judge. On the one hand, Singapore is one of the most successful airlines in the world, and I have a soft spot for them due to the fact that the first commercial A380 flew under their colors. However, this is not a popularity contest. Vietnam Airlines is the nerd to Singapore Airlines' jock in this matchup. But Bill Gates was a nerd. I am a big fan of the blue, so much so that I have the same shade in my bedroom. WINNER: Vietnam Airlines.