Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bugatti Veyron vs Eurofighter Typhoon

Just a quick & fun something to share from a friend:

The two will start side by side from a standstill, the car will go 1 mile, slow down enough to turn around on a full width runway, then come back the 1 mile. The fighter will take off as quickly as possible, go straight up 1 mile, turn around and come back down to about 100' off the deck to fly parallel to the car to attempt to cross the Finish Line first.

Who will win? Click on link below

Hat tip: JPL

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ryan Blanchard, Chef Supreme

Every now and then, I'll mention Plate World Cuisine in a post. I have dinner there during happy hour a couple times a week, or sometimes, just stop in for a beer at the bar and conversation with a friend. I can't ever say enough about the phenomenal quality of the food. Phenomenal.

Ryan Blanchard is why. So here's a link to an article from this past Wednesday's Gazette and a teaser to tell you what it's all about. Enjoy.

Ryan Blanchard is no Emeril Lagasse, at least when it comes to being a bombastic, flamboyant, larger-than-life celebrity.

But he might be every bit as talented where it counts: in the kitchen.

Tonight, Blanchard — executive chef at Walter’s Bistro and Plate World Cuisine — will prepare a six-course lobster-themed meal at the esteemed James Beard House in New York City, an invitation-only gig extended to the top cooks in the U.S.

Few chefs get even one invitation. This is Blanchard’s second in three years, but he’s not one to broadcast the achievement. He’s modest and soft-spoken, and can’t believe his good fortune.

“I was really surprised the first time I was invited to the Beard House,” Blanchard says. “I never thought I’d be invited again, but when they read about my lobster-themed dinners I was doing at Walter’s, they asked if I’d come and do one there. Of course, I jumped at the chance.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Great Instructors: Been There, Done That

Interesting question: Why would anyone ask advice about relationships from a guy nearing the end of a 21-year marriage? On the surface, that looks to me a little like going to a marriage counselor who's principal recommendation is that she steered a friend's marriage through an amicable split.

Then again, I sometimes recall what I used to tell students who, for some reason, thought that I was a pretty decent instructor in the cockpit. "A really great aviator doesn't necessarily make a great instructor," I would tell them. "The really great instructor is someone who's already made or seen all the mistakes you'll ever think of and then some. It allows him to know what you're about to do wrong before you do it, to save you from it if need be, or let you press on, then explain what happened, why, and what tricks you can use to keep it from ever happening again. The really great instructor is really great because he's been there, done that, suffered those consequences and lived to tell about it." By that standard, I should write a book.

A surprising number of friends recently have seen difficulties in their own relationships. Well, not surprising really. Marriage is hard. What's been surprising to me, I suppose, is that they've shown no reluctance to ask my opinion on things. I pretty much don't give advice except when absolutely pressed for it. For the most part, I prefer to ask questions, to try to help friends see things from a new perspective, remind them of the things they've forgotten about why they fell in love in the first place. Help them concentrate on the one person they can control: themselves. And, at least once, sadly, I've helped a friend see the same thing I did.

Which brings me back to that aviation analogy. The great aviator doesn't always bring the aircraft home. Shit happens. Sometimes what happens is completely beyond the control of the guy with his hand on the stick. And in a two-person aircraft like marriage, there's always the possibility that the copilot may throw the fuel dump switch when you're not looking. That eerie silence of jet engines sans jet fuel has parallels in relationships as well. And when that silence comes, sometimes you can dead-stick it in, re-fuel, and give it another try. That might be counseling in a relationship. There are other times though, other system failures that are unrecoverable. Stay in that aircraft and it will carry you to one destination: the crash site. I've seen couples in that shape. We all have. You know it's painful to watch. The person dedicated to staying with the aircraft all the way into the smoking hole is never going to be one of those great instructors. He or she's going to be dead. Period. Boots and dog tags.

Nobody likes to give up. Not even me. But BOLDFACE procedures are written in blood. Those are the procedures we memorize, because there's not going to be time to refer to a checklist. You get the BOLDFACE done, then you get out the checklist. And sometimes, sadly, in the air and in relationships, there is no checklist after the BOLDFACE. There's the BOLDFACE and then, God willing, there's the sound of nylon fabric opening over your head. That BOLDFACE is simple, straightforward, and unforgiving of anyone who refuses to execute it: HANDLES RAISE; TRIGGERS SQUEEZE; BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT!

So, maybe I'm not so much like a counselor adept at the amicable split after all. Maybe I can, from time to time, help someone keep it in the air. Leaving a hard broke aircraft doesn't make you a bad aviator. The same can be said of relationships.

And all that said, the memory I'll leave you with is one of my favorite moments with my departed friend Scott. When I made it back to his Huntersville airfield after parking the experimental aircraft I'd built in the treetops of a forest, the first thing he said was, "You need to get in mine and take it for a flight." When I protested that he was awfully trusting of a man who'd just totaled his own aircraft, he just smiled. "Brother, I've flown that thing you built. Any man who could get that thing off the ground and back as often as you did can fly just about anything. Get back in the air." Go write that book.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I would have let this go today, but friend Jay, over at The Extended Table, made it nigh impossible. I was going to send him a little comment about why or why not some of us are race fans, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wouldn't be so little, so what the hell . . . .

I grew up in race country. On Saturday nights, I could hear the engines revving from not one, but two different directions: from the west would carry the sounds of Mooresville Drag Strip; from the south, the sounds of either the Concord Motor Speedway or the Charlotte (now Lowe's) Motor Speedway. If we didn't make it to another race all year, we drove the short 20 minutes down the road every year to The World 600 (now the Coca Cola 600).

I won ten bucks in 1975, the first time Richard Petty, already the winningest driver in NASCAR, ever one a race a Charlotte. Having taken the top ten starters' names and dropped them in a hat, we drew them out for a buck a name. I drew Petty and figured I could kiss my buck goodbye, but my Dad, more savvy to the law of averages, told me before the race even started, "Son, he's won more races than any other man alive and he's never won at Charlotte. I'd say he's due. Don't count your dollar lost yet." If memory serves, he finished about a lap and a half ahead of David Pearson's Ford.

Winning the ten bucks wasn't the best part though. The best part was cousin Marty, a Ford service manager at the time, and so a Pearson fan, through and through. Every time Petty would come by our spot in the second turn, Marty would stand and shout "Blow, Petty, Blow!" hoping for a blown engine. Once, as he said it, he slammed his beer can right through the top of his styrofoam cooler, resulting in an innovation later stolen by Coleman in the form of plastic coolers with small built in openings through which you can retrieve a beer without opening the whole lid. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was that I was listening to the race on my transistor radio and had information about parts of the track we couldn't see. So when I told Marty with feigned disappointment, "Petty's into the wall on the backstretch," he bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. He was still dancing on the bench and broadcasting the news to everyone around us when Petty came cruising by a half minute later, smooth as silk, and still a lap ahead of the competition. It's the only time I think I can remember my cousin calling me a son of a bitch. :-D

Dale Earnhardt's original garage was less than a mile from my boyhood home. For years I resented "The Intimidator" for no better reason than that he got more famous faster than I did. I got over it though. His statue stands in the center of town now. Frankly, I think I prefer still drawing breath to that sort of fame. May Dale rest in peace.

With geography like that though, it would be far more of a wonder if I weren't a race fan than that I am.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Perspective: Time and Space

Begun before flu laid me low and something else made me, for at least a time yet to be bounded, utterly transcendent, this is a contemplation of at least one thing that made the latter possible.

Perspective is really nothing more than another word for distance. Too close to a thing, you have no appreciation for that thing as a whole or for its place in the larger picture. The holistic view requires distance. There really is no substitute.

Those same rules of perspective that apply to objects in space also apply to events in time. Time is distance. When I began to contemplate this analogy, I briefly thought that chronological perspective proceeded in only one direction, that we could only move further away from events. But that's not true. Events in the past, yes, we move away from. But there are also events that we anticipate, move closer to and through, before beginning to move away again. A job change, retirement, a young adult's departure from the protection of our roof. These events we move toward and past in time like a comet swinging through perigee. The temporal loss of perspective that ensues can be just as debilitating in its approach as any corresponding spatial myopia.

For years now, I've been marveling at the advantages in temporal perspective conveyed by the simple act of waking up each day. Unless your life is just miserable, few would argue that waking is preferable to not, yet too often people complain of "growing old" without giving sufficient attention to the advantages conveyed by simply growing older. I prefer to focus on the positive. I can still remember when it finally became possible to confront the utterly clueless without being angry at them for their cluelessness.

But back to the idea of temporal perspective. Nearly always, there's some very personal realization behind these posts. Today (and the weeks since I wrote "today") is no different. More and more, I notice that events and situations that would have pegged my anxiety meter in youth merely tweak my curiosity now. In that sense, I think life in general is like skydiving to me. Initially, the adrenaline rush was nearly overwhelming every time I left the door. Now, I am hardly ever more calm or at peace than perched with one foot on the tiny tab of metal known as "the camera step," clinging by one hand to the side of an aircraft in flight. This is the peace that comes with experience, with temporal perspective. But skydiving isn't behind this post. Relationships are.

Younger, most of us are yearning for permanence. It's the standard by which we assay new relationships. "Will this last?" "Is this the person I'm meant to spend the rest of my life with?" It's the standard by which we value relationships because we don't have the experience yet to know that it's a false standard. I do believe that those relationships exist, that there is such a thing as a soulmate. But I also believe that there is value, much value, in the other relationships that cross our path as well. And I believe that few find their real soulmate in any given lifetime. Most I know who've thought so, perhaps myself included, have learned eventually that forever is more elusive than they thought. More importantly, they can also learn that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I say can. Not all do. Some will pine the rest of their lives away. Some, I think, long for the pining more than the permanence itself--the perennially melancholy.

This is not me. I am passionate. A friend once told me that he envied that passion. The price was greater when sadness rolled around, but the highs were commensurately lofty as well. The trick with experience, perspective we're calling it today, is to allow it to translate anxiety into excitement, petrification into calm, to modulate the sine wave of pleasure and pain that Gibran tells us are inseparable aspects of the same experience, but without flattening it entirely. Perspective.

Perspective enables us to better value things. Experience enables us to better value things even when they are at hand. I've often laughed at the saying that "Old age and treachery will win out over youth and enthusiasm every time." But while I've laughed, I've also been well aware that under the mucousy surface of most truisms, there resides a pearl of truth. "Old age" though has negative connotations. More accurate to substitute "Experience," because that's what it's really about. Experience enables us to know that the end of the world and our own disappointment are not as closely tied as we are born thinking. Knowing that if something doesn’t work out, the world won’t end, can give us the courage to try things we otherwise wouldn’t. Grasping early the theme of “Ozymandias”-- that permanence of almost any sort is an illusion--shouldn’t be devastating; it should be freeing. It should encourage us to live in, love in, appreciate the moment, knowing that when the moment passes the memory remains.

I have known friends who have plunged into depression over a loss of some sort--emotional, monetary, professional. I have, more than once in my life, done the same. But I'm learning, slowly, to imagine my way into a better perspective. I do believe in fate. I don't believe in coincidence. And believing in fate means, to a certain extent, believing that some things can be foretold, yet cannot be changed. It's a delicate balance, frequently explored in literature that dares to tackle it. Which visions granted us are inevitable, and which are granted us as agents of their own destruction, that in the granting of the vision we are given the key to banishing the reality, changing what is to come. Therein lies the paradox: if to come, then to come; our knowledge and ensuing action changed nothing, avoided nothing. Read The Crossing. McCarthy has thought about these things long and hard.

The point, before I digressed, was to be that if we could project ourselves backward a week, a month, a year, 20 years and imagine that a gypsy had told us then that our path would lead us to the place we stand, what would we change? Frequently, I think our answer might be, "Nothing at all. I would not forego an instant of my life as lived to avoid this momentary melancholy if in doing so I should also forego the elation that is its twin. Nothing at all, except, perhaps, to have been more aware in the moment, more fully immersed, less tentative, more willing to suck the very marrow from the bone of happiness that fate had thrust into my hands."

Don't misunderstand. Not all things are like this. I could easily wish changing lanes at the wrong time undone. But not walking a path for a time holding a hand. Not caressing a face. Not daring to love. Not those things. And it's those things this post is about. About the value of perspective. About knowing that, yes, the hand gone is like a limb lost. The face withdrawn is like finding the air suddenly sucked from a room in which we can no longer breathe. But the world does not end. The value of perspective is that we are not paralyzed with fear that the face that lights our world and makes our heart sing may not always be there. Rather, we can accept that it may not (I won't say will not because there is always the chance, slim though it may be, that it will). And rightly done, that accepting doesn't cause us to hold a part of our heart in reserve out of fear, but to commit the whole to each moment, knowing that only the heart fully consumed in the flames of a pure passion can rise from its own ashes like a young Phoenix.

So, what is this all about? It's about a willingness to embrace uncertainty and about the role of perspective in that willingness and in the embrace itself. The value of distance, spatial or temporal, is perspective. The value of experience is the acquired ability to maintain perspective at close quarters and in a moment itself. Holding that face in my hands, the moment is the moment. It doesn't depend for its beauty on the likelihood that I'll hold it that way again. Its beauty isn't lessened by the chance that I may not. I hope I will. I refuse to fear that I won't. Either way, the moment is wondrous.

I hope I will.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Flu Sucks!

Apologies to all for my extended absence.

Last Saturday, I finally got out of bed at 7:30. . . . p.m. I took a shower, put on fresh PJ's and got horizontal again. Sunday was only a little different.

This week I've worked, but I've canceled a hunting trip this weekend--really I canceled a long overdue visit with a friend. The birds wouldn't have minded my cough, but I haven't been able to talk above a whisper for two days now and when I cough I sound like I belong in a sanatorium, so it seemed best not to inflict the worst flu I've had, probably in my life, on my friend and his family without at least the benefit of some occasional wit to make it worthwhile. Whatever it is has already infected my entire office staff, so whether I started it or was just the first to fully feel its effects, we know it's highly contagious.

I also canceled a trip to CA this week to take a canopy flight course with the man who set the world's record for landing the world's smallest canopy, Luigi Cani. When I say the flu sucks, I mean it.

I'll be back up and writing shortly, but in the meantime, I simply wanted to say, I am alive, but any rumors of my demise weren't exaggerated by much this time.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What Makes Angels Smile?

There was a time once in Chapel Hill, NC, when I popped a wine bottle bag on my knee and my oldest daughter, one year old at the time, sitting in her high chair, just started belly laughing. So, for the next 10 minutes, I stood there, slapped my hand holding the already popped bag against my knee and just reveled in the full belly laugh of my infant daughter. I think the angels were listening too. This video reminded me of that. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Flat Jackson

Sometimes it really helps to have seen a child or two through to young adulthood. Like several weeks ago when my sister called thinking her school had just come up with about the silliest thing she'd ever heard of and that I was going to think her next request just nuts. Any of you who have ever received or overseen the sending off of a Flat Stanley will know what I mean and laugh. The challenge is remembering back to the first time you ever encountered such a thing. A couple of kids and at least a couple of Flat Stanley's later, you're an old hat at the world of two-dimensional tourism.

So when she started describing the black construction paper cutout, labeled Flat Jackson, with an accompanying story describing the cutout as my nephew Jackson's shadow, it took only a moment to recognize the slight twist on the standard Flat Stanley story.

What I didn't tell her was that I didn't have the greatest record with them. When friends in California sent one some seven years ago, I lost it after taking the first few pictures. Never found it. I did though, send one back, a straighter, trimmer version, with an elaborate story about how the time at the USAF Academy had changed Stanley into one sharp troop--so sharp his own mother might not recognize him. Stanley turned in his standard clothes for a cadet uniform and a military haircut. A new man. Literally.

This time around, I was determined not to let that happen. But . . . my house is for sale. And every now and then, everything gets put away to prep it for a showing. Sometimes it all comes back out later that day. Sometimes, not for a few days. Sometimes, things are never seen again until you unpack in the next house. (I've been through this a few times.) So it was that midway through Flat Jackson's visit, I began to sweat. Then to wring my hands. Then to actively consider pulling my retirement and taking that deployment to Afghanistan again after all. But finally, Flat Jackson returned, with incredible stories of his trek home through the snow after escaping a radical two dimensional cult from Trinidad who had intended to take him there, remake him into Flat Stella, and install formerly-him-now-her as the queen (in multiple senses) of their two-dimensionally androgynous culture. Shadows you see, are wise beyond the years of their corporeal sources, and so can tell stories beyond the ken of their youthful progenitors, like the two dimensional characters of a Disney film, who are, frankly, rather famous for that trick.

Anyway, during his visit here, Flat Jackson kept a journal of sorts, the bulk of which is reproduced below. (I excised the parts about Trinidad, partially because I think the journal is going to be shared in three-dimensional Jackson's class of five-year-olds, but mostly because the contract I brokered on Flat Jackson's behalf with the Fox Network for the made-for-TV movie of that little adventure prohibits advance release of any significant details until after FJ's first appearance on Jerry Springer.)

Monday, 14 Jan 08: Arrived in Colorado Springs. So cold here I almost broke into a third dimension just to have goosebumps. The first thing my uncle did was take me off to dance class. I could see right away why he's learning West Coast Swing and Night Club Two Step where he is. Check out my photo with the instructor, a four-time world champion. I had a hard time imagining how the visit was going to get better than this.
Wednesday, 16 Jan 08 -- Friday, 18 Jan 08: But it did. On the morning of the 16th, once the blizzard conditions had let up enough to see the runway, the hangar doors opened at Peterson AFB, CO, Colorado and we taxied out to take off for a seven-hour flight in an Air Force UV-18B "Twin Otter" bound for Montgomery, Alabama. The eight guys on board, four jumpers (including my uncle), two ground controllers, and two pilots had invited me to come along to see a class of newly minted second lieutenants graduate from Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery. One of those new lieutenants was a former staff member with the Wings of Blue Parachute Team, thus the reason for the demo jump at the graduation ceremony. In the end, we spent two days flying around over the parade grounds, frustrated by a cloud deck at just the wrong altitude for the jump. Still, it was fun to fly in the airplane. I especially liked riding in the cockpit with the pilots and looking out the jump door at the clouds as we flew along above them. For flying around with the jump team and being willing to jump with them, they made me an honorary parachutist and pinned a set of jump wings on my chest.
Sunday, 20 Jan 08: This was the day of my uncle's open house. Everything was fine until the Flat "Family" from Trinidad, Colorado, came through to see the house. I don't remember a lot from the next 10 days, but my uncle promises that what I do remember has the makings of a major television mini-series he's working to debut on Fox next fall.
Thursday, 31 Jan 08: This was the day search crews found me sunbathing on a snow bank and returned me to my uncle. Since he needed to hurry me home to Jackson, we did the whirlwind tour of the US Air Force Academy, getting pictures in his office, by displays in the cadet library, and on the terrazzo with the chapel in the background. And this was the day I got a prop and wings pinned to my chest as an honorary member of the class of 2011.
After that, there wasn't really anything left to do but climb into an envelope and head back to North Carolina where the weather's warmer and the wind doesn't blow so hard. Without pockets to fill with rocks, a stiff 40mph wind can be a little bit of a problem. I was just glad to be home. --Flat Jackson

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Have a Blessed Day"

Here. Have a chuckle on me. Unhappy with the new Palm Desktop, not wanting to install it on my second computer, and having lost the disc (it's somewhere around here) with the old Desktop on it, I decided to lean on Palm Support Chat for a little help. Ever seen that PhotoShopped picture of the tech support guy on the bicycle with the satellite laptop? (Send it to me if you have a copy.) Well, I got to talk to him.

What follows is the transcript of our conversation. (I could have edited it to make it more funny, but I think it's funny enough just the way it happened.) I thought I asked pretty clear questions. Eventually, I just gave up and went along for the ride. Enjoy. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping myself in check, well, except for just one second--but I got it back.

Status: Analyst Glenn is here and your issue status is: working Problem: Question about PD 6.2

DocI sync with both my computer at work and my computer at home. I live by my Palm. Installed 6.2 at work yesterday. It sucks. Shoot the idiot that thinks it's okay to "update" software and remove capabilities (like color for Calendar categories). I'd like to reinstall the Desktop from my CD, but don't have it with me here. Questions:1)Is there a place I can download the version that came on the CD?2)Until I can do that, or find my CD, will it cause a problem to sync with 6.2 here, then sync with the CD version on the computer at home?3)Will the lack of color-coding on the Desktop affect the color coding on the Treo itself?

>Hello Doc, Thank you for contacting Palm Technical Support. My name is Glenn. How may I help you?

Hello.Glenn>I am sorry for delay.

>I'm here

>Did you read the questions?

>I have not synced the Treo with the computer that has the new Desktop installed. I would like to uninstall this giant step backward and re-install the desktop from the CD but can't find the CD this second.

>I understand you are facing issue with the Palm Desktop software.

>Your developers have the issue. Your customers are now unhappy.

>Can I confirm the model of the device?

Doc>Treo 755p

>Please let me know the Operating System you are using. Is it Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista or MAC at Home and work place?


>on both


Doc>So, how’s the weather in Bangalore?

>It's cool.

>Let me know you are syncing with Palm Desktop or Outlook.

>Desktop. I prefer it to Outlook. But not the new version.

>Thank you for the information.

>For the first question.

>You can download the software from the website.

>The only software on the website that I can find is the new version. That's what I want to UNinstall. Where can I get the old version until I can find my cd?

>You can download the latest version of the Palm Desktop for your device.

>The latest version sucks. Thought I'd made that clear.

>Calendar color coding--gone. Auto import of bdays--gone.

>Could you provide me with the complete error message you see?

Doc>There is no error message. Grab someone with better English skills and read the original questions again. You're pretty good, but there's nothing unclear about the issue if you read carefully. No error message. Personal preference. Like the old version of Desktop better. Want the unimproved update gone. Clear enough?

Glenn>I am afraid you inform, there is no color coding in the 6.2 version Palm Desktop.

>No shit.

>For the second question.

>The CD version and Website version is different.

>Glenn. Seriously.

>You keep telling me what I already obviously know. No kidding. Get someone with better language skills. I'm sure you’re a tech wizard, but the language thing is killing you here.

>The 4.1.4e version is equal to CD version.

>I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

>Where can I get 4.1.4e?

>Can you provide me the log information?

>What log?

Glenn>The log information of the HotSync.

Doc>There is no log yet. I have not synced since installing 6.2.

>You can get the 4.1.4e on the website.


>I will provide you the link to download the 4.1.4e version Palm Desktop.


>Please open the below link to download the software from it, let me know if you have any issues doing the same.

Doc>Superb. Thank you.

>You 're welcome.

Glenn>Is there anything else I could assist you with?

Sure. Take a shot at questions 2 & 3. Just for yucks.

>It won't cause any problem syncing with 6.2.

>You need to assign the color category on the device.

Doc>So, you're saying I can sync with 6.2 here at work, then sync with 4.2 at home, and it won't cause any problems?

>And that the sucky lack of color coding on the desktop won't affect color coding on the device?Doc>Just want to be clear on these answers.

>Yes, you can sync it on both versions. It won't cause any problem.

>The color coding will affect the device color category, you need to assign the color category on the device.


>Thanks, Glenn. I think we're done here. Have a blessed day.

>You 're welcome.

Have I addressed all your issues?

I think "addressed" is your most skillful application of the English language during the entire session. Namaste. Out here.

>Thank you.

>Thank you for contacting Palm Technical Support. A customer survey will pop up once the chat ends.Please feel free to contact us for further assistance.
Trust me. You are so welcome.