Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Home Improvement

The Quest for Normalcy continues... not just within, but without and throughout all of Dallas.  After a pounding rainstorm this past weekend, the city is finally starting to dry out -- aided significantly by strong north winds that, while not quite as furious as those that plagued pilots landing at Addison Monday, are still fairly strong.

There's a chance of rain again tonight... but a small chance, not anything like the 7+ inches most of the city received between Saturday afternoon and Sunday night. Just goes to show... when it comes to Texas, even excess is done on a grand scale.

Meanwhile, I'm slowly starting to make some improvements around the apartment. Nothing major, but I did tackle a few projects that had been at the back of my mind since before the first of the year. I finally broke down and visited the garden department at Wal-Mart yesterday, and bought a new planter for the two spider plants my Mom gave me for Thanksgiving 2004. They'd been thriving in the small pot they arrived in, but clearly it was time for a larger home. After detangling their roots (that had become a rock-hard foundation underneath the old pot) I think I successfully moved them into a large hanging planter. As we approaching 24 hours since the move, it doesn't look like they're dying yet.

Afterwards, I moved the Swedish Ivy I got as a gift from my old boss at AG from the small plastic container it came in, to the larger pot that had once held the spider plants. That move went considerably easier, leaving none of the old dirt and plant entrails the spider plants gave up on my patio. My only concern is the new pot may be too big for the ivy... and I've already tossed the old container; oh well, we'll just have to wait and see.

Other improvements... I ordered a new stereo online, remote control everything, a few weeks back. I was tired of admiring the home stereo decks of others, while my five-year-old K-Mart-spec White-Westinghouse (a brand renowned for its high-quality audio equipment) soldiered on in the tinny background. The new deck arrived Monday. It's just a Memorex -- so, OK, a small step up -- but has much better sound quality. It also had a record player on top... so I could finally listen to the Jim Croce album my friend Jennifer bought me for Christmas. What struck me as a cool-but-quirky gift at the time has turned into my favorite album... in fact, I might start to search out some other old vinyl because of it.

I also want to get a small table to accompany the two chairs on the patio. I hardly spend any time out there... but really, it's a great planewatching spot when ADS is using 33. I can tune in the tower freq on my navcom, and about 30 seconds (Learjet) or two minutes (Skyhawk) after I hear the takeoff clearance given, the plane comes roaring (Lear) or puttering (Skyhawk) over the house.

I guess all of this is to make the apartment presentable when the folks visit next month for Easter. It will be nice to have both of them here... as well as erase the "last time you were here" stigma from Mom's visit in February, and my last visit to ABQ in January (a photo of me, Mom and Abby is below.) Plus, I get to see Abby again.

They're scheduled to drive down on the 12th of April, and stay through the 17th. That's but one day after I'm due to return from Lakeland, FL for Sun 'N Fun... so I'll pretty much only have time to unpack before they get here, no time to clean up. So that means I have to do all the cleaning done beforehand. No biggie -- the apartment is only 750 sq. ft. -- but still. I want the apartment cleaner than it's ever been before I leave for FL on the 2nd. That's probably a psychological thing, tied into the cancer scare.

Which reminds me... I don't think I've had a soda since the end of January. No particular reason... although the fact they aren't very healthy (and some diet sodas contain things the FDA isn't completely certain don't cause cancer) weighs on that. I almost slipped a few weeks ago; I ran by KFC on my way home and grabbed a value meal. Instinctively, I ordered a Pepsi with it -- habit -- but when I got to the window, the guy asked me again what I'd ordered to drink, so I changed it to tea. Almost like I was supposed to stay away from soda... let's see how long the streak continues.

Except for trying to keep a healthier diet altogether, as well as eating MUCH less and exercising MUCH more (getting weighed every month at the oncologist's gives me an incentive, and a way to track progress) I haven't altered much else about my day-to-day life in the wake of the cancer scare. To attempt to determine what caused it would be a path to madness -- no one knows what causes TC. It's likely a perfect storm of dissociated events -- a genetic predisposition, perhaps, combined with environmental and, who knows, physiological factors.

That reminds me... and this is how I'll end this post. As a rule, I despise "reality" televsion. Unless you are able watch it with a properly jaundiced eye -- which, if you can do that, what's the point of watching it in the first place -- it's always seemed to me to serve only as an escape for those who cannot completely function in the reality of everyday life. Okay, there's a difference between programs like "American Idol" and "Amazing Race" that award talent and creativity, versus those like "Joe Millionaire" and, the latest from the bastion of Quality Programming that is FOX, "Unan1mous" ... but it's all tripe, IMO. All filler, no nutrition.

The premise of "Unan1mous" is interesting: in order for one contestant to win a cash prize of up to $1.5 million, all contestants must reach a unanimous (so clever, ain't it) decision on who to award the prize to. Each time consensus is NOT reached, the amount of the prize is reduced by x number of dollars and one of the contestants is "voted off". Sounds like a neat game show, really... although it isn't hard to imagine most of the shows ending with everyone involved going home with washing machines, and no actual money...

...So, FOX being FOX, they've spiced things up a bit. SEX! DECEIT! INTRIGUE! And one contestant who attempts to garner sympathy by telling the other participants that he has testicular cancer. He doesn't, of course... but may I recommend to whatever higher power exists, that he probably should get it?

That's just sick. Bring on the lions in Coliseums, because maybe our society is doomed, after all. Meanwhile... back to housecleaning, and not drinking soda.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Am

I never been on a railroad, as many times as they pass me by
I never crashed in the desert or seen a rodeo
I don't know much about the world wars, or Vietnam
I've yet to read about Uncle Tom
Never climbed a real rock... or seen Colorado

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the friend I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be..?

This song, "I Am" by Train, was on the mix CD I tossed into the player this afternoon as I drove down to ADS to catch a few moments of watching planes land in 29-knot direct crosswinds (with gusts to 38!) 

I couldn't believe it, but a few brave (incredibly dense/lucky?) individuals were even out in their 172s. I could tell those pilots were NOT having fun, with their planes crabbed at 10-15 degrees off centerline up to the final moment the right main wheel touched down. From my perspective down the runway, it even looked like they were taxiing in a crab, too... like one sudden gust under the wing might flip the lightweight (most Skyhawks gross out at around 2400 lbs) planes right over. Because... well, it could.

"That did not look like fun" the controller told one of the pilots, who had made a less-than-graceful arrival on the runway.

"It wasn't," came the somewhat shaky reply.

"Well, you made it, you're on the runway," the controller said. "Left at Gulf, contact Ground on 121.6."

Something I love about Addison... for such a busy airport, the controllers seem to be a generally jovial bunch, quick to offer student pilots encouragement (or, on the flip side, chastise experienced pilots who really should have known better.) I can't wait to fly out of here, someday. I hope I do.

I never had a day where money didn't get in my way
I never listened to much Elvis
I can't remember a warm December

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the friend I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be

Next up: a dilapidated Lear 25, part of freight hauler Cherry Air's fleet of similarly taxed ancient jets. They're loud, they're ugly... and, they're fast (top speed 465 kts Mach.) Did I mention they were loud? Two Stage I noise-restricted CJ-610-8As (Stage IV is the current state-of-the-art) that positively wail at full throttle. Like when they're taking off.

In fact, if the wind is strong enough I can hear these things take off in the middle of the night from my apartment, three miles away. So imagine the noise when it's about 150 yards in front of you.

Yeah! The sound of freedom, baby!

I can't hear the radio very well as the Lear rockets off the runway, but I watch with some amusement as the jet immediately sets up a crab angle relative to centerline. You know its windy when it's strong enough to make a jet fly crooked.

I'm here for my sanity, sanity
I am here for you
I'm here for your fantasy -- sanity, I am here
I am

"Wind, 230 at 25, gusts to 35." A Citation decides to brave it, and takes to the skies with nary any visible effort.

A Challenger, sitting down near the Mercury Air Center ramp, decides to wait. "Eh, we don't have to leave right now," the pilot tells ground control, requesting a taxiback to Million Air. "I don't think the owner will mind if we sit here awhile longer, especially if it means we don't burn all his fuel fighting a 150 mph headwind." They must be heading west; for as bad as it is on the ground, the wind usually blows MUCH faster up in the flight levels, above 18,000 feet.

"Taxi back to Million Air," the ground controller replies. "See ya in a minute."

Am I the son I think I am
Am I the father that I think I am
Am I the man I think I wanna be

I'm here for my sanity sanity I am here for you
Whether or not I'm walkin in
Or whether or not I'm walkin out
I'm always here for you

By 3:30 pm, no one else seems willing to brave the winds. Tower and Ground frequencies are both quiet; I briefly switch over to Approach, and catch the tail end of an American pilot asking "what are the winds like at DFW?"

"240 at 28, gusts 36."

"Holy..." the pilot's voice trails off. "This is gonna be a fun one."

Given that most of Dallas's winds come from either a) south, from the Gulf of Mexico, or b) north, from the jet stream, nearly every runway around the metroplex is oriented more-or-less in a north/south direction. Addison's runway skews southeast/northwest, 15/33, meaning a wind from 230 -- the southwest -- is almost a direct crosswind (80 degrees). DFW's runways are 17/35 and 18/36 -- directly north/south, a little better -- but still a force to be reckoned with.

Maybe all of the shit happening recently in my life is just a crosswind... and I'm just waiting things out on the ground until the breeze calms down... you know?

The American plane must have gotten down OK; I never saw or heard otherwise.