Monday, July 15, 2013

Hour 66

Hour 66 was my High Performance check ride.  In the plane world, "High Performance" means planes with more than 200 horsepower.

Car drivers might scoff at that number.  Motorcycle drivers might understand.  Given that the planes I fly weigh somewhere between the weight of a motorcycle and that of a car, well there you go.  There's also more for a pilot to deal with in a HP plane than in a car.  These planes are also air-cooled and carbureted and the pilot controls the mixture.  A single flight will take one to areas of higher and lower temperature and pressure (due to altitude mostly, but distance also).  Most cars don't change their situation that quickly, and modern ones have computers that deal with it even if it does happen.

So what's a HP check ride about?  Managing engine temperature.  Managing propeller angle and manifold pressure.  This has to do with a variable pitch propeller which is much more common in HP planes than regular ones.  The propeller control functions sort of like a gearing system does on a car - it manages the load on the engine during climb out and cruise.

I decided to get my HP rating so that I could take 4 people and full fuel on trips.  The regular planes allowed for one or the other, but not both.  Now I've got my rating and my checkout in our club's 182, so I'm good to go whenever the plane is free.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hund und Heim

TLDR: we moved and we have a new foster dog. There are links to pictures and videos at the bottom.

The Condo

When you purchase a hair brush or a computer or a bunch of bananas, the process is pretty straight-forward.  There are many vendors with a set price for their wares.  You can check reviews or perform your own inspection or whatever you want, but you never really feel like you're getting a raw deal or like the process is too onerous.

Purchasing a car is a bit worse.  If you buy new, you have to go through a dealer.  AKA, a miserable middle-man between the producer of your car and you.  You could say that the grocer is a middle-man between you and the banana grower too, but the grocer doesn't charge you a thousand dollars for wheel locks or "premium sound."  You can purchase from a private seller, but inspecting a banana is a bit easier than inspecting a car.  Unless you really know what you're doing, you're going to want to get the thing inspected by a professional, which requires a bunch of coordination with the seller...

Purchasing a house makes purchasing a car look easy.  The Grand Canyon was once a ditch, but over time the Colorado creek became a stream became a river and wore the rock away.  You can see that process in home purchasing.  Somebody hundreds of years ago had the idea to write down property writes in things called deeds.  Since then a creek of lawyers, bureaucrats and their ilk has become a stream and then a river.

You've got the loan people, the inspector people, the HOA people, the realtors and the appraisers.  Each of those guys have a bunch of government agencies up in their stuff.  Federal loan requirements, local deed copying requirements, FEMA disaster warning requirements, CO detection requirements, etc.

Everything takes time.  Everything is paper-based (this feels very archaic to a cloud-computing engineer who doesn't own a printer).  Turn-around times are measured in days or weeks, even for simple requests.  Even online lenders can't reply in less than 3 business days.

Everyone needs to get their beak wet.  Want me to email you the PDF of HOA minutes that you really need to have?  $200.  Want me to record a copy of your deed?  $89.  Is your loan going to be conforming, or jumbo?  You can save some points by paying a discount rate, but only if you lock for 21 days within the next two days.

An isometric exercise is what they call it when your limb applies force but doesn't move.  Republicans vs Democrats is a good example of that: both spend tons of money and effort but balance of power remains even over the decades.

The house process is kind of like that too.  The regulators and the private sector gatekeepers push back and forth at each other.  They invent and regulate new complexities but never make the process easier or cheaper or safer for the person that all of the shenanigans are actually for... the home buyer.

You could say that Melch and I waded into this adventure last year, but we really entered into it a decade ago when we started saving for an eventual downpayment.  You ever buy a pair of shoes and they just "give" you the shoebox for free?  Purchasing a house in Santa Barbara is like that.  You buy the land, which in super-high demand.  The house might as well be free.  The boards and plumbing and siding that comprise this dwelling would retail for one third of our down payment.  It's the land that costs money because there isn't much land between the ocean (where it's too wet to live) and the mountains (where it's too slanty to live) that separate us from the desert (where it's too hot to live).

So, it was a long process and an aggravating process and an expensive process.  We had offers rejected, appraisals delayed, contingencies renegotiated and the escrow date postponed - twice.  We ended up moving in about 60 days after we had hoped to close, but this is "Mr Pinto's Adventures," not "Mr Pinto does nothing hard or interesting or worthwhile ever and just watches TV and goes to bed early the end."

Compared to getting a pilot's license, doggie cancer treatment or setting up a training program for broken ankle recovery this didn't feel like TOO much of a departure from the usual day-to-day around here.

Anyway, enough bitching.  I'm writing this from my own home, that I own (Sort of.  I mean, it's in my name, even though I owe the bank for most of its value).  That feels pretty awesome.  If it hadn't been hard maybe it wouldn't feel as good.

The Move

Some folks are stressed out by moving.  Melch and I actually enjoy it a bit.  We've been married nine years at the end of this month and this will be the ninth place that we've lived in during that span.  On the one hand, we have more stuff than I want and more than we need.  On the other, we spent three years living in a garage with the two of us and a dog so we don't have THAT much stuff.

The previous owners needed to be out on the 3rd.  We had to be out on the 7th.  The 4th was a holiday so there's your date.

We still had boxes from the last move and sourced some more from friends.  We spent Sunday and some of Monday evening packing the non-essentials.  We posted to facebook looking for some extra hands to make the moving truck part of things go more smoothly.  Melch secured a Ford Explorer from a co-worker.

On Wednesday we got the keys and came over to make sure that the utilities were running and drop off breakables (glasses, liquor and wine bottles, beer bottles, etc).  We also carted all of our hanger stuff since that was easier than un-hanging, boxing, and re-hanging.

Thursday morning we got up early to wrap up the packing.  Melch packed the pantry and some last minute bathroom stuff while I picked up the U-Haul.  We got the cheapest one because we figured two trips would be cheaper than one in a big one.  I hadn't rented a U-Haul in a few years, but they've become awesome.  I live 5 miles away from the place and I had an appointment for 10:15.  I was back at my house with the truck by 10:30, and I had to wait for the guy to get off of the phone before he could help me.  Smooth, computerized process.  The return went similarly well - they checked the odo and gas and told me I'd be emailed a receipt.  Less than 5 minutes each time.

Shortly after I returned with the U-haul of our helpers began to arrive.  Gabe and Elysse came by and our housemate Kris helped a bit as well.  We had the thing loaded so fast that I had to text the remaining helpers to meet us at the new place instead of the old one.  I had told everyone to meet at 11:00, but we had the thing loaded by 11:15 and were out the door.  Tony, Mark, Chris and Jon joined us at the new place and unloading went super-smooth as well.

Mark is a neighbor now as well as a co-worker so he had some tips about the place.  He suggested that we not even try getting the couch through the door and advocated a through-the-window strategy.  I left him and some others to manage that project and returned to the old place with Jon, Gabe and Elysse to pack the U-haul for the second trip.

That went just as well and we were back to the new place within the hour with the balance of our belongings.  The bed was upstairs, the couch was in the living room and all of the boxes were strewn about the dining room.  Perfect!

We returned the U-haul and celebrated by drinking some patriotic beer (I loaded up on Sam Adams for the holiday) and giving the helpers a tour of my place and Mark's next door.

That done, they departed for their remaining July 4th plans and we set out to meet Eric and Ra for some seriously needed lunch.  They came back with us after the meal and helped us split all of the boxes out by room.

Once they went home, it was off to get some supplies for our incoming giant dog at Karen's house.  Karen is a friend of ours from DAWG who is a generally awesome trainer and who always has tons of extra dog supplies hanging around.

After that we returned to our place to pick up the fridge/freezer items and get some Taco Bell because we were too tired to cook (not that we had any pots, pans, food, plates or silverware readily available back home anyway) or even stay awake through a sit-down meal at a restaurant.

Finally back at the new place, we rationed out our remaining energy as wisely as possible in order to dog-proof the house for our new arrival.  We expected him somewhere between 7 and 8 am on the 5th, so whatever didn't happen before bed wasn't going to happen before Donnie.

The Dog

Speaking of Donnie, he's listed as a Pit Bull / Great Dane mix, but we think he's more likely Pit/Lab/Mastiff.  He's about 50% larger than Kogane was.  We've been looking for a new pooch for a while now and we found him down in San Gabriel a week or two ago.  We liked his mellow personality and his love of people so we figured we'd sign up for a two week foster and see how things went.  12 hours in, things are going pretty well.

He's been a dream in the house while we were working and didn't even give us too much crap when we gave him a bath.  He was a little shy around Mark, a departure from his normally friendly pleasure-to-meet-you demeanor.  We aren't sure if that's Mark or the fact that the meeting was in his home instead of on neutral turf.  We'll be introducing him to some others soon to find out and work on that.

He needs to learn some commands.  If he stays with us, he might need to learn a new name.  Donnie is way too similar to Gani.  He also needs to go to work, go to the beach, go to the field and generally participate in all of the awesomeness that Santa Barbara has to offer.  There will be time for all of that.

For now, we're just happy to have a dog in the house again.  It appears that Donnie is happy to be here as well.

The MultiMedia Extravaganza

There are a bunch of photos from the move.

There is a video of the new place before we moved our stuff in.

There is a video of the new place about 24 hours later.  Donnie features in that one.

Remaining work

We still aren't done putting up boxes.  The kitchen has been delayed as we want to wash a lot of the stuff that we didn't use much when we were sharing things with our housemates in the last place.  We still need to get a craft desk for Melch to replace her old sewing cabinet, so those boxes are in a corner. We are still going through some laundry.  We need a dining room table and maybe an area rug and... and... and...

The "and" is the thing.  When you have a rental it doesn't activate the nesting instinct in the same way because you can't just change things.  You're not going to paint the walls on a whim or get a new fridge or remodel the bathroom.

When you own, there's never a "done."  That said, we tend to be busy folks with spartan needs at home.  I don't see us turning every weekend into a DIY adventure.  Then again, you never know what the future will bring.

Cabin life in Mammoth

Ra and I joined Melch's co-workers on a wekend trip up to Mammoth Lakes for some end-of-season skiing and snowboarding.  This is a way-past-the-fact post - the trip was a few months ago.

Good times in the mountains
I was still barely walking from my ankle break the slopes would remain un-hit by me.  I still found other ways to occupy myself.  We had internet, so I played some Starcraft while the others were away.  On Monday I worked from the cabin.  In the evenings I hung out with the returned snow sporters.

Texas Hold 'Em

Beer puzzle!
 Melch got to go up though and it seems like she had quite the fun time, even meeting some Mammoth mascot.
Back on skis after a long time 
I assume that's a Mammoth mammoth?
It was a good trip, but I look forward to returning next year when healthy enough to actually get out there!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hour 74

Emilio and Tina had been in the possession of not even the smallest smidgeon of luck when it came to aviation.  They'd been clouded out, winded out and this time around the plane had too much gas to take the four of us up.

We weren't going to let that stop us.  We decided to fly to Santa Ynez and back without Melch for the experience of it.  The round-trip having consumed some fuel, we would have the ability to lift off with Melch in the plane and head on to our original destination, L52 (Oceano).

First rule of aviation: headsets are optional, but sunglasses are mandatory

Tina also knows the first rule of aviation.
 The weather wasn't going to be perfect today either, but it was better than before.  SBA was pretty clear on climb-out, allowing for this nice shot of Campus Point.

Where UCSB goes to surf instead of study.
 The flight out was somewhat uneventful, though we did have to go a bit out of our way to avoid clouds.  The landing at Pismo wasn't my best, in fact I've rarely had a good landing there.  The winds can be deceptive down the strip and I find myself with a sink rate too high or low.  Oceano doesn't report weather so you have to overfly the field and check the sock (aka "keeping it old school").  That's well and good, but I tend to find that the wind on short final doesn't match what the sock is saying.

I assume that it can all be blamed on the fact that I'm just a giant noob who still has a lot of learning to do.  All whining aside though, we made it safe and sound and enjoyed a lunch at the Rock and Roll Diner.

Some good looking wind down the runway

The return flight was more eventful.  The cloud cover had come in and my transponder had stopped working.  Planes use transponders to send data to controllers.  If you don't have a transponder, you're just a dot on a radar scope.  With your transponder on?  You're a dot with a tail number, an altitude and an aircraft type.

Controllers like transponders because they make their job easier.  You don't have to have one generally, but busier airports require them.  Notably, Santa Barbara Airport requires one.  I worked with the controller, cycling the transponder and trying different codes, but the transponder was not working.

I received special permission to enter SBA's class C airspace with the inop transponder.  For me, this required extra radio work as I had to identify my situation and altitude at every handoff.  I'm sure it was some more work for the controllers as well, but the airport was pretty quiet at the time and everything proceeded smoothly.

Oceano was clear and Santa Barbara was clear, but the cloud cover had expanded substantially during our lunch.  I requested a higher altitude from Santa Barbara Approach to maintain my legal cloud clearance requirements.  Even so, I kept to the edge of the clouds wherever possible as it's always safer to be able to see the ground in case of emergency.

Clouds might cause some headache, but they sure are beautiful
 The successful landing in SBA was greeted by applause from my two rear seat passengers and I packed things up as the sun began to set.

Although we didn't do this trip in 37G, I have a soft spot in my heart for her

Grunion Banquet

Although my rugby season ended back in January when I broke my ankle, the remaining Grunions soldiered on until recently.

The season gave us some things to celebrate and some things to forget about.  In proud Santa Barbarian tradition, we accomplished both with beer and the beach.

As any rugby player knows, the first priority to be considered when selecting a sport is safety.  That's why we opted to amuse ourselves by drinking beers out of a whiffle ball bat, spinning around and then trying to hit a ball.  

An idea whose time has come

Another important lesson about rugby players: following the practices of our sport's British Prep School  heritage, rugby players always attend banquet ceremonies in proper formal attire.

It was a white-ish tie event.
 Jon Bell has a lot going for him.  In addition to being a standout at lock (that's a rugby position), he also plays ultimate, sails (he's in a sailing race from CA to HI presently!) and displays some mad carpentry skills.  Those skills were on display when it came time to bring out the season trophies.

Coach KB handing out some well-earned bling

Good times were had by all, as they usually are when the Grunions are involved.  No one was injured either, as pretty much never happens when the Grunions are involved.  I guess we can call the whole thing a success and tie it up with a nice sunset photo bow.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The CA Relay

I ran the Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego last year and had a blast.

I'd signed up to join my company in a similar relay up in the Bay Area this year, but my broken ankle tossed a wrench in the works.

I think though that if I were the type of person that let a silly broken ankle keep me from adventuring, I'd probably be the type of person who wouldn't have run the Ragnar race last year even while healthy.

So of course I went.

The beginning, when everyone's awake and no one is hurt and the van still smells like a van.
My ortho said "no running," so I volunteered to be the driver instead.  My trusty navigatress Melch and I would be crewing a 15 passenger van, piloting our runners from leg to leg, from food joint to food joint for the weekend.
Not my usual cockpit
Good times were had by all.

There are more photos on flickr.  There's a stop-motion video on youtube.  I'm tired just thinking about it, but you have fun looking at it!