Random Bullets from my head

June 15, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion, Work 

My life has been … not so much turbulent as full of changes at my periphery and disquiet in my mind.  Here are some random thoughts:

  • Today is the last day at my company of the woman who sits across the aisle from me.  She started with the company about 3 months before I did back in 1993.  For the last almost-year we’ve sat across from each other and been very happy (we both like quiet, we enjoy each other’s company).  I’m really gonna miss seeing a beautiful, intelligent, and friendly face every day.
  • Also at work:  the CIO has realized that morale within the IT group is not particularly good.  We’ve had four voluntary departures in the last month (out of a group that was about 45 people).  He’s holding lunch meetings with a smattering of people in each (everybody goes to one of them) to talk about issues.  I took the initiative to meet with him this past Monday.  I scheduled the meeting for an hour and his questions drew my list of issues out to an hour and 45 minutes.  It was a good session and minor happenings since show that he listened to what I said.  The problem is that many of my issues are outside of his direct control – they are company-wide.
  • Between what is happening with my church work (on an upswing) and what is going on at work (on a downswing), I’m wondering if I’m in the right career.  That’s right – not just right job but right career.  Any assistance for someone undergoing a mid-life career discernment questioning period would be appreciated – leave a comment or use the e-mail link at left.
  • This weekend I should be going flying for the first time since the end of March.  My blood pressure broke free of control back then – my doctor changed my dosage and I’m now stable again.  Actually I’ve been stable since early May, but I’ve been too busy to fly.
  • Also this weekend I’m a bachelor.  Carolyn is headed up north to go to a garden show with her parents.  She’ll stay overnight Saturday and come home on Sunday.  My bachelor amusements will include lawn-cutting, bill-paying, and laundry.
  • Sunday at church we have the Annual Congregational Meeting.  This includes the usual reports and election of officers.  I’m not on the program (either giving a report or being elected), so I will probably attend.  If it’s too hot (and it’s looking that way) I might just grab a copy of the annual report and check out if they have a quorum.  You see, our church isn’t air conditioned ….
  • I’m waiting for Verizon to finish installing FIOS in the neighborhood.  They ran the underground conduits 2 weeks ago.  So far the box in the ground had nothing in it but mud (or high water when it rains – I don’t know if they’ll actually be able to use the box).  I’m looking forward to getting FIOS Internet service and dumping Cablevision completely.  I might get FIOS TV as well (it’s available in my town) but I’ll have to see how it stacks up against DirecTV.  I’d like to keep my HD Tivo, but DirecTV is switching technology for HD programming and a Tivo will not be an option soon.  I can do a Tivo Series 3 with FIOS, but I lose video on demand and pay per view.  Decisions, decisions.
  • The cats are fine, but increasingly geriatric at age 11.  Sometimes they still run around like maniacs but those episodes are few and far between.

Have a good weekend!

Vacation and topics

May 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin 

I will be on vacation next week.

This is not a “go somewhere and see the sights” vacation.  My wife and I (and my entire family for that matter) tend to plan to do too much on a “go someplace” vacation.  What I NEED right now is to relax – to plan one activity at day at most and sleep until my body says it’s had enough sleep.

But who are we kidding – I’ll be doing some stuff.

Monday I plan to go to Camp Johnsonburg and help out replacing light ballasts and fixtures to complete their conversion to lower energy lighting.  They have to have it done by the end of the month to get the grant from the local utility and they still have a ways to go.

Later in the week I plan to go flying again, since my blood pressure is under control again and I can.

My wife needs to replace her 1996 Chrysler Concorde, and we’ll go car shopping next week.  We’ll combine one trip with my need to get the oil changed in my Highlander Hybrid.

On Sunday, my church is holding a choir concert featuring works inspired by the Song of Solomon.  THAT should be interesting.

I know that I owe you a few posts.  One on Youth Sunday – if you can’t wait until I get that written you can go here to see pictures, or here to listen to the sermons (April 22, 2007).  I also owe you a post on the opera Rigoletto by the Boheme Opera company in Trenton – that’ll get done soon.

I also want to write something about the loss of church members when they graduate from high school and drop out of church during or after college.  It hasn’t gelled yet, so I’ll be writing that when the spirit strikes.

I’ll be back at work on the 14th.

PP – ASEL – IR

January 6, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Flying 

That title is FAA abbreviations for pilot certification.

PP – Private Pilot

ASEL – Airplane, Single Engine, Land

(I already had those two)

Today I added “IR” – Instrument Rated.  This allows me to fly in clouds and bad weather (though not too bad in the little planes that I fly).

I wrote up the whole story in pilotese here.

Holiday Roundup

January 1, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying, Life, Religion 

Here’s a roundup of how the holiday went.

  • Flew with my flight instructor for the last time before my instrument rating checkride.  Checkride is scheduled for January 6, weather permitting.  If I didn’t mention it previously, I got a 95% on my written test.
  • Went to 4 hockey Trenton Titans hockey games.  Went with friends, family and co-workers the first two (they lost).  Went with just Carolyn for the last two (they won).
  • Went to 2 services at church on Christmas Eve.  First the morning 4th Sunday of Advent service.  Then the 11pm Candlelight service, which was lovely and included wonderful music.  Then on New Year’s Eve I went in the morning to the regular service (2 baptisms!) and then to the special intimate New Year’s Eve Communion service in the evening (which was also lovely).
  • Went to see Mom, Dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law at Mom and Dad’s on Christmas Day.  We did the gift exchange thing (which is always hilarious for some reason) and had dinner.  Good time.  Everybody seemed to like my gifts and vice versa.
  • Discovered a flat tire the afternoon of 12/26.  30 minutes to replace with the spare – 1 hour to get it fixed and reinstalled at the local Goodyear.
  • On 12/26, Carolyn’s parents came for the Christmas thing and stayed overnight.
  • Watched the Rutgers football slaughter of Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.  Go RU!
  • Got the 15,000 mile service done on the Highlander Hybrid (three days after the tire repair).
  • Rested early and often.  I’ve been overscheduling myself lately between church, flying, hockey and the rest of my life.

I had planned to blog on “Buyer’s Remorse” in terms of joining my church, but a few experiences yesterday told me that the issues I planned to blog about are turning around.  So I’ll hold those thoughts for now.

Happy New Year!

Instrument Written Test

December 19, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying 

Yesterday, I took the FAA Instrument Airplane Written Test, in preparation for my checkride to get that rating.

I got a 95%.  Passing is 70%.  Reportedly, 95% is pretty good.  It’s a really tough test – LOTS of stuff to learn.

The next step is to get 1.6 more hours checkride preparation with my instructor.  Between joining a new church, family stuff, other life stuff and weather my instructor and I have only flown together twice in the last 2 months.  You have to have 3.0 hours in the last 60 days, so I have to fly with him again.

Then, I’ll probably do my checkride in January.  There’s a TINY chance of doing it before New Year’s.

The Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry is my co-pilot; God is in the back seat

October 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying, Religion 

Yesterday afternoon, I went flying with Nolan Huizenga, the Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry at Lawrenceville Presbyterian.  Nolan and another person are sharing the duties of the Associate Pastor at the church while the church undergoes a search for a new Associate Pastor.  (and I’m pretty sure he’s a Candidate for a call – he’ll make somebody a great pastor someday)

Nolan is a little ahead of me in flying – he has his Private license and his Instrument rating while I’m just finishing the work for my Instrument rating.  However, he doesn’t get to fly much (I imagine that a church paycheck will do that).  When he learned that I am an active pilot, he made his interest in accompanying me known (we pilots call that “begging” with the same cool demeanor expected of us).

So, yesterday we went up.  I needed 2.5 hours of cross-country time.  We flew from South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY) in Mount Holly to Cape May airport (WWD) flying essentially due south across the lower 1/2 of the state.  On the way home, we headed up the coast past Atlantic City most of the way to Barnegat, then turned inland, over Lakehurst, and up to Robbinsville.  We then headed to Lawrenceville and after contacting the Trenton tower, we took pictures of the church from the air.  Then we headed south to Hamilton and I showed Nolan the aerial view of the solar panels on my house.  We headed south back to Mount Holly (with a few zigzags to make sure we had the required hours) and landed.

We had a good time.  The weather was pretty good for pictures – a bit overcast and a little windy but not too bad.  He will let me know when the pictures are uploaded and I will point you there as well.

Update – the pictures are uploaded at Nolan’s Site.  Here is a picture of the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville from the air

Camp Johnsonburg from the Air

June 19, 2005 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Flying, Life 

Yesterday, I decided to put two of my interests together.

In the mid-1980’s I was a camper and staff member (counselor) at the Johnsonburg Presbyterian Center (formerly known as the Presbyterian Camps and Conferences at Johnsonburg, NJ).  I will write more about this summer camp later, but this is truly a special part of the universe – one of two places in my life where I’ve felt totally accepted.

I’m also a pilot.  So, why not take a picture from the air?

My solo flight departed South Jersey Regional Airport in Mount Holly, NJ (KVAY).  I flew the club’s Cherokee 180 to Blairstown Airport (1N7) and landed so that my time would count as a cross-country flight.  I then departed to find the camp.

Here’s the picture that I finally got:

Camp Johnsonburg from the air

This is cropped from this picture:

Camp Johnsonburg from the air full size

This was a really hard picture to take.  For one thing, the camp is two meadows and a pond surrounded by trees, in a landscape full of ponds and trees.  Luckily, my GPS had Glover’s Pond labelled and it was easy to find on GPS.

Then I had to contend with flying the plane with my left hand and feet, while holding the camera in my right hand taking pictures – all in very light turbulence.  Aiming the shot was approximate.  I took 3 shots – the camp was partially over the nose in one, missing in the 2nd, and this was the 3rd.

Maybe someday I’ll go with another pilot and use a Cessna 172 – so that we can make a side pass in a high-wing plane and I can take the shot out the side window.  For now, this will have to do.

A quick life update

September 23, 2004 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Flying, Life 

I haven’t blogged for a while, so here’s a quick life update.

Flying – I am still at it. I am probably within a month of getting my pilot license – maybe less if the weather cooperates. I have to do another lesson or two to prepare for the test. After that I have to take a “mock” checkride with another instructor from the club. After that – the big day. I already know who the examiner will be – he’s a pilot for Continental so I’ll probably need to take a vacation day for that as his schedule can be wacky.

Solar Panels – still cooking. With the cooler temparatures and sunny days this week, we are pumping (selling) lots of power back into the grid. Be sure to go to Smith Electric Company for pictures and stories of the installation. I’ll update that blog as soon as I have news.

Hockey – Hockey is almost here again. The NHL is on strike, but my Trenton Titans (ECHL) are still playing. I’ll be attending a game on October 11 between the Titans and their AHL affiliates the Philadelphia Phantoms. Since I’m such a good husband, I give my wife an opera or two every year to offset the 30 or so hockey games that she goes to. Unfortunately for me, the local company is performing their fall presentation on October 22, the same night as the Titans’ opening game. I’ll have another two weeks to wait for the next home game!

My Wife’s Job – She’s settling in. She still has to finish out her old Black Belt work, and she has one new person frustrating her on two projects. However, she’s coming home a little less frazzled every day. I think that’s a good sign. She’s been on vacation without me all week – tomorrow I’ll be home too.

Cats – they’re fine. They’ve enjoyed having my wife home all day this week. They are starting to get snuggly again now that the temparatures are beginning to drop. Still shedding a lot, though.

That’s the roundup!

NBC News Fake Hijacking

August 13, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Television 

This story talks about NBC News’ attempt to fake a hijacking of a helicopter in St. Louis in order to back a sensationalist story for the news:

http://www.aero-news.net

Aero-News Alert: Non-Aviation Media Trying To Discredit GA Thu, 12 Aug ’04

American Association of Airport Executives issues alert, reports NBC trying to set up GA facilities and FBO’s Rebecca Morrison, Staff Vice President, Transportation Security Policy Department at the American Association of Airport Executives, has transmitted the following memo and requested widest possible distribution:

The following is a description of an incident that occurred today (11 Aug) at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, a large GA facility. We are sharing this story with you as there are indications that it might be repeated throughout the country. We would like to thank Bob McDaniel, the Director at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, for sharing the details of the incident outlined below.

Earlier today two Middle Eastern men attempted to penetrate our security. They telephoned one of my helicopter FBOs and asked about a charter flight. After discussion of price and directions to the business, they arrived an hour later. When the office agent asked how they were going to pay for the flight they produced cash. When asked for ID, they produced driver’s licenses from two different states and they were driving a car licensed in a third state.

Things didn’t smell right so the mechanic took them into the hangar to see the aircraft while the office person called the FBI and local police. The helicopter they were going to fly was blocked in by other aircraft so the mechanic was able to stall them by having to slowly shuffle the blocking planes. Meanwhile the two men got their backpacks and odd-shaped luggage out of their car. Soon the local police arrived and they were hauled off to jail in handcuffs.

After a little time behind bars, the FBI verified that the two men were employed by NBC New York and were on assignment to get a story of how easy it is to charter a helicopter for a terrorist attack. The men had stayed in a local hotel and purchased box cutters, leather-man knives, and other potential weapons at the local Wal-Mart using a credit card. The box cutters had been hidden in the lining at the bottom of the back packs and the other weapons were hidden throughout their baggage. They had audiotaped the telephone conversation with Arlene and were going to use it as part of a national news story about how easy it is to get information and directions to the location of the helicopter and then hijack it to commit a terrorist attack.

I doubt they will be back at our airport soon and this is a story that will never be seen since they were caught. A very “well-done” to my FBO and staff and the local FBI and police response forces. We have since learned that we were the first airport where this had been attempted and NBC planned to attempt similar penetration stories around the country. Please help me spread the word to other airports.

AOPA’s annoyed: [Ed Note: Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association – I’m a member.]

http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2004/040812watch.html

Proof AOPA Airport Watch concepts work

Here’s the proof that GA airports really are small communities and that the “residents” know when something is amiss. Yesterday, alert folks at a general aviation airport contacted authorities who nabbed two suspicious characters before they could cause trouble.

“This incident demonstrates the validity of the Airport Watch concept,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Vigilant pilots and airport workers make the best security force because they know who does and doesn’t belong at the airport. They can easily spot the things that just don’t seem right.”

But there’s more to this story, including a twist worthy of Paul Harvey.

The story begins as a man telephones an FBO at St. Louis Downtown Airport (CPS), not far from the Gateway Arch, and asks about chartering a helicopter. About an hour later, two men of Middle Eastern appearance walk into the FBO, pull out cash to pay for the flight, and present driver’s licenses from two different states as ID. Office staff notices their car is registered in a third state.

“Things just didn’t smell right,” said St. Louis Downtown Airport Director Bob McDaniel, “so the mechanic took them into the hangar to see the aircraft, while the office person called the FBI and local police.”

(Airport Watch guidance says to call local police or the FBI if you suspect an immediate threat to life or property.)

The helicopter was blocked by other aircraft, and the mechanic used that as an excuse to stall the two suspects, who began unloading backpacks and odd-shaped luggage from their car.

Local police arrived shortly and hauled the suspects off to jail in handcuffs. Police discovered box cutters and other potential weapons hidden in the bags.

And now (with apologies to Paul Harvey), the rest of the story.

After a little time behind bars, the two “terrorists” confessed that they were NBC employees from New York. Their assignment: A story on how “easy” it was to get information and directions to a helicopter and then hijack it. St. Louis was their first attempt; the network reportedly planned similar tries to penetrate security at airports around the country.

“Kudos to the folks in St. Louis for using the Airport Watch concept to thwart this ‘terrorist’ attempt,” said Boyer. “Praise, too, to the local police for responding quickly and appropriately.

“And to NBC, we challenge you to put this story on the air, as you have done so many anti-GA security references. But somehow, I don’t think we’ll see it leading Nightly News.”

I’m a student pilot – about a month or two from completing my training and receiving a Private Pilot license. This kind of stuff really bugs me.

Since 9/11, General Aviation (essentially, non-military and non-airline pilots) has been subjected to restriction after restriction. And for no good reason! The planes that I fly (Piper Warrior) have the load-bearing capacity of a Yugo with less space to do it in. With full fuel tanks, I can only carry about 600-700 pounds, and that includes ME! The Department of Energy has done studies, and a fully loaded General Aviation plane would be unable to breach the containment vessel of a nuclear power plant.

In the fall of 2001 (if I remember completely), a suicidal teenager crashed his Cessna into a tall building in Tampa, FL. It broke windows, and damaged two or three offices. It did not start a big fire. It did not destroy the building. An exploding microwave inside the office would have done more damage.

It’s time for the government to stop picking on the little guys, and concentrate on the big guys. At the little airport that I fly out of, nobody’s getting near a plane without being identified. New people (like me on my first day) are stopped and spoken to as soon as they are spotted. The merely curious are given rides or intro lessons – as we have seen above the real terrorists are arrested.

And SHAME ON NBC for wasting law enforcement resources by trying this stunt. They have enough to do already!