Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food, Footy and Flying

Chris and Oura came over to team up with Melch on the 3-person task of feeding me.  They opted for a hand-made three-cheese mushroom pasta dish, which was a bit of overkill for that task.  I could definitely live on kale smoothies and balance bars.  Perhaps they had motivations for raising their cooking game that had nothing to do with my preferences, that's a matter for their blog, not mine.

Three out of the four of us were hard at work.
The pasta stylings varied by practitioner.  We had raviolis, tortellinis, won-ton like things and stuff for which I'm not nearly sophisticated enough to know a name.

I wasn't going to leave the evening without at least a little of my touch, so naturally whisky was on hand as well.

After dinner even those who had consumed no whisky seemed to drive drunk anyhow.  Kannyn, daughter to our house mates Kris and Thi, had just obtained a self-propelled trike-like device.  Much to our amazement and glee, the rated weight for the machine was 200 lbs, which is more than any of us weigh.  Awaken, inner child!

I rode the trike as well, although for some strange reason there don't seem to be any photos...

The EuroCup tournament is under way, which means I've been joining some other European football fans in telecommuting from the kitchen. The group stage games have been okay, but generally going to seed. My hopes of an Ireland-Sweden final had already been dashed by the conclusion of the second group round. So it goes.
My laptop is the unmanned station on the right.

Later in the week it was over to Ra's where the cooking happens in the oven instead of the stove.  Ra was preparing another batch of racy lemon cookies for some affair or other and Melch was called in as an expert decorator.  No one called for me at all, but I decorated a cookie any way.  See if you can guess which one.  This week featured another Hello Kitty cake as well, with Oura joining the Melch-Ra team for that one.

I got a flight in on Saturday, went out over the harbor and back for some touch and go landings on the main runway at SBA.  I've now landed a plane 96 times.  Pictured below: campus point, the Mesa ("I can see my house from here...") and the harbor.

Chris joined me and Melch in some post-flight eats at Brummis, where we were treated to an unexpected operatic performance by a patron.  I kid you not.

Wie sp├Ąt ist es?  Viertel nach Bier!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Roller Derby Brawling, Irish Pub Crawling and Epic Nerd Balling

The season was slow to start due to scheduling conflicts at the venue, but the Mission City Brawling Betties finally had a home brawl last weekend, hosting Oakland.  The bout was very physical with many penalties and the three-board playing a major role in personnel decisions on both sides.  Though it seemed close at times, Oakland was able to pull away in the second half.  I was pretty surprised by all of this - Oakland isn't really known for thuggishness, is it? =)  

One note: the Betties were playing without Vino, a veteran jammer who should be returning from injury in the near future.  I hope to see her schooling some fools later in the season.
Brawling in the Mission City
More Betty action can be found here, thanks to Tina for taking some of the shots.

In Irish Pub news, I have recovered the mayorship of Dargans.
Now it's time to start reneging on my mayoral campaign promises!
I celebrated by - well, you know exactly how I celebrated.
Melch getting it done at the table
This weekend we took a brief break from our regularly scheduled ultimate playing, plane flying and beer drinking (but almost never all three at once) to head down to Anaheim for the MLG Spring Championship.

If you don't know but for some reason have the time to find out... There's a company called Blizzard that released a game called Starcraft that was pretty popular.  The expansion to Starcraft was Brood War, and that was even more popular.  It became big in Korea, where a group called Kespa put together a pro league featuring both individual and team competition.  Meanwhile in the states, a group of pro gaming scenes combined to create Major League Gaming.  

Blizzard created a money-making machine called World of Warcraft and got distracted for a long time, but eventually produced Starcraft 2.  The foreign (i.e., "not Korean") scene switched pretty quickly from Brood War to Sc2, but Kespa was still pretty bound up in Brood War.  That's changing though, and Kespa sent 8 players to MLG to demonstrate their intention to move to Starcraft 2.  Blizzard is sort of okay with the MLG and Kespa, but they can't just sit around and let others monetize any channels related to their stuff without doing something about it.  So Blizzard created the World Championship Series.

Now that we're all caught up, that means that the MLG Spring Championship featured three separate tournaments for the same game: the MLG Championship, the WCS American Championship, and the Kespa Invitiational.  In addition to all of that, the expansion for Starcraft 2 (Heart of the Swarm) is coming out, so Blizzard had demos for that.
Must have been a huge bet
It's a Zerg thing
Meeting Huk, Melch's favorite Protoss
Chris meets DongRaeGu, possibly the world's best Zerg
As for our weekend itself, you can find the photo set here. Saturday was awesome - we got to see some of the best pros in the world close up, playing as well as hanging out in the crowd taking photos and signing for fans.  Dinner was at Roy's, a "Hawaiian fusion" place that caters to the DisneyLand tourist crowd.  The food and drinks were good and the patio was nice.  Melch and Chris concocted a scheme to send ice cream to a broadcaster who we recognized at another table.  It was an inside joke and it was funny.  Good times were had by all.

You know it's a good place because it has a really hefty menu
Good Eats
After dinner was Kespa.  Flash, Jaedong, Bisu, Fantasy, Stork, Calm, Soulkey and Leta.  These are basically the best players ever, at their prime, finally playing Sc2.  Flash was on the main stage the whole time but I got to go see Jaedong play up close at one of the smaller stages.  If you're into this kind of thing, that's as good as it gets.  Jaedong lost to Bisu in semis, so I didn't get the Flash-Jaedong match that I (and pretty much everyone else) wanted, but Flash smashing Bisu was entertaining as well.

Never thought I'd see Jaedong play live
Just like an ultimate tournament, Saturday was pool and Sunday was bracket.  The Kespa thing was a one-evening affair on Saturday night, but the MLG championship and the WCS finals played out on Sunday.  The WCS was kind of in a rough spot since the players weren't as good, but the final was sandwiched between two really good Korean match-ups (SlayerS Alicia vs MKP and SlayerS Aleica vs MVP DRG).  Root Vibe took the American crown though which was pretty cool as I dig both Root and Zerg (Vibe's race).  

In the MLG Championship, DRG beat MKP decisively in the winner's bracket final.  That might be a minor upset but was definitely no surprise to me.  MKP dropped to the loser's final where he lost to Alicia, making it Alicia-DRG for the championship.  That was surprising.  Alicia fought hard against DRG but was basically out-played all series long.  His only win was a single all-in that barely worked and his losses were situations where he held on bravely but really never had control of the game.  In the end, DRG won it all pretty convincingly and had some great ceremony to boot.

Watching DRG play was awesome.  He's fast and once he hits three bases his pressure is relentless.  Here's a video of his play, starting about a minute before he launches the multi-pronged pressure on Oz that will eventually win him the game:

In general, it was a pretty awesome weekend.  Starcraft is a lot like ultimate in many ways.  It's a pretty obscure sport that requires a huge commitment to dominate, but which is basically unknown to the general public at best.  As a result, the communities have a bit of an inferiority complex where every tournament is trying its best to seem "legit."  No one wants to work hard at something and then have it get laughed off with comments like "you mean, like throwing to your dog?" or "so you're playing a video game, right?"

The inferiority complex bothers me a bit.  I understand that folks want respect for their efforts, but at the end of the day I think it would be better if everyone would quit worrying about what the world thinks and just do it for themselves.  If it's as awesome as you think it is, it'll impress others all on its own without you worrying explicitly about impressing others.

On the flip side, the obscurity makes for a close-knit community.  When you go to an ultimate or Starcraft tournament, you feel like you're already friends with everyone there even if you don't know them yet.  That's a connection that you wouldn't have if you played basketball or soccer.  The fans, players, coaches, teams, broadcasters and sponsors interact with each other much more than they do in established sports.  The amount of money is still low enough that everyone involved is still in it for the love of the game.

These things might well change in my lifetime and the change might end up being better for everyone, but I'll be happy to have been around at the ground level.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

He's probably saying "holy s---! It's Mr Pinto!" Yeah, I'm sure he's saying that!

Yesterday was my first solo flight.  After 19 hours of dual training, I logged my first 30 minutes as PIC (Pilot-In-Command) of 4717L, a Cessna 152.  The task of the day was two touch-and-go landings and one full-stop, though my instructor indicated that I could take a third touch-and-go if I was having fun.  I took the third touch-and-go.

No boys, there's two O's in "(incl. solo)"
Flying solo doesn't mean that you're a private pilot.  There's still a bunch of stuff left to be done.  Longer distance flights, short-field, night time and instrument flying, MANY more regulations to learn.  After that, a written exam, an oral exam and a check flight, THEN you're a private pilot.  I'll keep you posted. =)

What DOES flying solo mean though?  There are guidelines out there, but ultimately it's up to the flight instructor.  Your instructor must write an endorsement in your log book permitting you to operate the plane, and he won't do that if he doesn't think that you know what you need to know.  Here are some of the things that I needed to know:

  • Basic aerodynamics of planes - lift, drag (parasitic and induced), angle of attack, pitch/yaw/roll, etc.  Without those basics, a lot of the rest of the training won't really make sense.
  • Stalls - what they are, what kinds there are, how to recognize them, how to recover from them.
  • Radio procedure - weather, frequencies for regular and emergency use, clearances, rules, etc.  
  • Slow flight - planes require air over the wings to stay airborne, and the control surfaces (things like ailerons and rudders) work better with more air going across them.  That means it's easier to fly fast than slow, but you land while going slow, so you have to learn how to fly and maneuver at low airspeeds.
  • Traffic patterns - there are no lanes marked in the sky, but there are rules about where and how to fly around airports.  Controllers and other planes are going to expect you to be at the right altitude, going the right direction and in the right location.
  • Airspace rules - there are a bunch of kinds of airspace and each requires different equipment, training, procedures and its own set of weather and speed requirements.  Many students have their first solo at quiet airports that are used primarily for small planes and training, but my airport is the second-busiest class that there is.  In addition to little old me, there are big jets being operated by airlines.  That means that I need to know more rules, manage more radio frequencies and handle more runways and taxiways.
  • Approach and landings - I had to work on landing with and without flaps, with and without a cross wind, with and without engine power and so on.  Landings are pretty tricky because many things can go wrong and the lack of altitude means that you won't have much time to recognize and address them.
  • Emergency procedures - what to do if your engine, battery, alternator, radio, or anything else stops working during flight.  I had to practice the emergency procedure for a failed engine a few times for example.
  • Taxiing - there are rules for driving a plane on the ground also.  Airport runways and taxiways have a marking system like roads do - there are signs and painted lines and all that.  You don't want to wander onto a runway that someone's about to use for take off or landing!
  • Pre-flight - you don't just hop in the plane and take off like you might in your car.  There's a whole long list of things that you have to check both inside and outside of the plane before you can take off.  If there's a family of squirrels nesting in your engine bay or a broken aileron cable, it's a lot nicer to find out about it while parked on the ground and not thousands of feet in the air.  
  • Collision avoidance - there are rules about right-of-way and collision avoidance just as there are with cars.
  • Aircraft instruments - a car basically has a speedometer, a tach (maybe), a gas gauge, and perhaps a few other goodies like oil temp.  Planes have a lot more than that.  There are multiple semi-redundant systems to figure out how high you are, how fast you're going horizontally and vertically, which direction your facing, what your current bank and pitch angles are and all sorts of stuff like that.  My plane even has two fuel gauges - one for each wing.
  • Aircraft controls - planes don't just have a steering wheel and two pedals.  You've got a yoke that goes forward and backward as well as in and out, two pedals for rudder and brakes, a throttle, a carburator heater, flaps, in-plane engine mixture control, fuel shutoff valves, circuit breakers, a bunch of different kinds of lights instead of just one set of headlights, etc.  The radio and navigational equipment is different too.  You might talk into your car radio, but no one will hear you. =)
  • Speeds - The FAA has a speed limit for the airspace around my airport, but that limit is about twice as fast as my plane could go.  I'm not too worried about getting a ticket.  That said, I do still have to worry about speed.  Planes have a speed for everything.  There's the speed at which you can lift off, the speed for your best rate of climb and best angle of climb (they're two different speeds!), the speed at which you glide the best, the fastest the airframe is rated to go, the slowest you can fly without falling out of the air, the fastest you can go with flaps down, the speed at which you should approach to land, your cruise speed, your maneuvering speed, the speed at which you can read a really long sentence, and so on.  Thankfully my plane is fixed gear, otherwise I'd need to know gear down speeds too!  You can look these up, but a few of them  really need to be memorized for the plane that you're flying on any given day.  This was a tricky task for me as I flew two different types of plane during my pre-solo training and they each have their own set of values for each of the speed types.
If you want to know any more about any of this, I'll be happy to tell you.  I'll tell you and then tell some more until you can't take any more telling but I'll still have telling left to tell.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that you'll have to tell ME when to stop. =)

Enough of the telling though.  Here's a little video to put the show into this show-and-tell:

My flight was about 30 minutes, but bullshit 30 minutes, this thing'll be over in 8 minutes!  I sped up some of the laps around the airport and cut out some of the taxi/waiting time on the ground.  

So that's my first solo.  There are many others like it, but this one is mine.