#ReduceTheStupid Part 4: Banana!


So it’s Thanksgiving. What do I do? I get up early and write provocative stuff. Because science reduces the stupid.

This is the fourth in a series of pieces that I’ve cast onto the waters to see what kind of traction they get. None has yet equaled the Blood post (especially if you include the shares that SciBabe got by misappropriating it), but we’ll see how this one goes.


The Labor of Decades Repaid in Moments


Yesterday, I smelled burning leaves. I heard a steam locomotive’s whistle. I saw the colors of the changing leaves. All of these things visited me while sitting in the back of a glider flown by my son, who left me little to do but receive these indica of the world around me.

There are those who view the calculated risks we take as irresponsible. Our studies as wasteful of valuable time. Our labors as tilting at windmills. They fail to understand labors of decades that are repaid by moments. But we know that moments are more than enough.

You and I will again meet those people – probably at the coffee machine tomorrow morning. Do your best to suffer them.



I Move that Candles be Brought

On 11 September 2001, I was in Lansing for a meeting of the state’s registers of deeds to try to draft proposed legislation that would allow recording of electronic documents with electronic signatures. Electronic documents and signatures had been authorized and effective in Michigan since the enactment of UETA on 7 October 2000, but conveyances of interests in real property still needed to be recorded in order to be effective. A ragtag group of registers of deeds, title companies, and lawyers were working on bridging that gap.

AA 11 hit the north tower while I was getting gas in Fowlerville on the way to Lansing. I was at the offices of the State Bar of Michigan as coordinated news coverage was beginning to put all of the pieces together.

Though we stayed within sight and earshot of the TV monitors showing coverage of the events, several of us sat down and went over some of the major issues of the legislation. It was really hard, but we did it.

On 19 May 1780, the skies darkened over Connecticut and much of the rest of New England and parts of Canada. Although the exact cause is not known, it likely involved uncommon weather conditions and forest fires upwind. It has since become known as New England’s Dark Day. The Connecticut legislature was in session and many of the members were so affected by the darkness that they moved that the legislature be adjourned so that they could go home and prepare for the end of the world.

Abraham Davenport was a member of the Connecticut legislature and a colonel in the Connecticut Connecticut State Militia. He was at the session of the legislature that day. He famously said “I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I move, therefore, that candles be brought.”

I was not a CAP member in 2001 or I might have had directly-related duties to which to attend. Instead, I was a lawyer with what I understood (and understand) were important opportunities to help new technologies find acceptance and use in commerce. Lacking a uniform to put on and go try to be helpful, I and a few others sat down and did the best we could. We figured that working on legislation would be the last thing that those behind the attacks would imagine that the target would do in reaction.

I didn’t know the story of Abraham Davenport then. I only heard it later in a Christopher Hitchens book, But I like to think that I did the right thing.

I’d like to think that we all might do as Davenport did. Lacking a uniform, an aircrew slot, an ambulance, or a badge, let us continue the unsung but vital processes that are so important to our communities.

I move that candles be brought. And keep bringing them in for as long as the darkness lasts.

The Truth Never Have a Clue to the Hand

Clue to the Hand 03

It seems that FOD’s video of the engine-off landing in the TG-7A has picked up steam overnight and now has something like 26,000 views and 600+ shares.  A link to the Vimeo video appears below.

Interestingly, much of the share velocity seems to be among speakers of Spanish, French, or other non-English languages. Curious, I clicked to see the translations and, in several cases, I was treated to some pretty interesting prose. It reminded me of Henry Rollins‘s piece called “Language” from A Rollins in the Wry, in which he reads a letter in broken English from a fan in the Czech Republic. Sentences such as “On two concert. I’m shootive collective photo but small, fat, bald-headed technologist be insane.”

So I thought I’d post a few of the funnier, disjointed, and sometimes oddly beautiful translations here. Please bear in mind that I’m sure that all of the commenters are fluent and erudite speakers and writers in their native languages. If anything, post this is a meditation on the ways in which technology does its best to help us understand each other and sometimes succeeds, sometimes fails, and sometimes creates art that no one expected.

Jorge Caballero: Myth eliminated. If you turn off the engine you will fall as piano, explode and die all burnt ability to plan on all aircraft depending on their characteristics will be the time and distance that they will be able to go.

Miguel Zenon: Splash this dale???

Svensk Truckförarutbildning:  In the interest of safety, maybe this should also be tested on our machines. Test, therefore, that quite spontaneously turn off the engine and take you out of the cab in a safe manner. (oh, just kidding. ;-))

 Rémy Villeneuve:  As said, it’s a TG-7 A (AKA SCHWEIZER MGS 2-37), and not the propeller is not put in flag.

 And my favorite.  I think we might use this as a cut quote for next year’s airshow poster.

Manolo Lion: The truth never have a clue to the hand but it’s good to know what to do in case given.


O-Flights, Dual Given, and the Camera Rig

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 5.40.23 PM

Despite some pretty iffy-looking TAFs for the surrounding areas, FOD and I showed up at Owosso yesterday to find nicely flyable weather. Overcast between 5,000 and 11,000 feet, but good visibility and the even the occasional convection that allowed 2,500-foot tows to result in flights of up to 0.5 hours.

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I had a few objectives for the day. Fly such cadets as were there for orientation flights, fly with a couple of cadet students, and test out the camera rig for shooting video aloft. All three missions accomplished.

A quick word about the camera rig. Actually, calling it a camera rig is a little overblown. It’s a first-generation GoPro attached to the sturdiest selfie stick I could find. The attachment is essentially lots of gaffer tape. Theres no housing on the camera so the form factor is as small as possible, creating very little drag. This helps in positioning the camera and also making sure that there’s no risk that any part of the rig could depart. I tested it using the car and it performed well driving at 70 mph (about the peak speed that I’d expect in the airflow outside the gilder.

After safety, the most important thing was testing angles and dangles. I quickly found the right vertical angle that would keep the telescoping pole out of the frame and also tested a couple of perspectives.

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I think that my favorite angle is straight out the window looking back. It’s the most vertiginous and it also clearly shows both cockpit seats. Right-hand turns with good landmarks in the background (like the airport here) seem to work best. A close second is the view looking forward, like the second shot in this post. The lead shot (looking back at the rear seat) is okay, but the others are better. I want to shoot some video from the front seat as well, but I was only flying cadets yesterday and I want a qualified glider pilot in the front seat to operate the camera, so those test will have to wait.

I flew three cadets on four orientation flights: Everything from Syllabus 1 to completing one cadet’s glider O-flights with Syllabi 4 and 5. Most cadets never complete all of their O-flights. It’s becoming more common in the Michigan Wing for cadets to get all of their flights, especially their five allotted glider flights.

Probably the most satisfying part was flying cadets on C missions. Two cadets are actively training to become glider pilots and I gave dual instruction to both today.  The first is a Johnson Flight Academy graduate who’s getting close to solo. He has all of the 30 flights required to solo and we’re just working on getting him to where he needs to be in order to do the solo. Flying on tow, boxing the wake, doing slack rope drills, performing all of the required maneuvers, and landing.

FOD KRNP Grass 2016-05-07

Probably the best part of the day was flying with the other cadet, namely my son, Nicholas “FOD” Tupper. He has about 12 hours of dual instruction (not counting the 20 or so hours or so flying the TG-7A as my guinea-pig student while training up for the CFI checkride) and 50 or so flights, of which nine are aerotows, including the three tows today. He flew very well on tow and all of his free-flight maneuvers looked good.

I demonstrated boxing the wake for him once on the second flight. On the third, I gave him the controls and let him try it. He flew the most perfect box I’ve ever seen flown by a student. Not that I’ve seen many as an instructor – I’ve only been a CFI for a year or so. But it was checkride-perfect. Really nice. I just sat in back with my arms crossed and watched.

On the last flight of the day for each glider, we usually land on Rwy 6/24 and get is stopped right next to the ramp, which makes it easier to get the glider back in the barn. For Rwy 6, that means landing on the last 1,000 feet or so of the runway, past the paved runway and taxiway. This helps with retrieval and also prevents hitting the pavement of the runway and taxiway, which feel like sidewalk curbs if you hit them while on the roll. FOD picked the aim point all by himself and got the landing very nicely in the grass.

I like the grass. I miss the grass. But Owosso’s grass runways are pretty short and a little shaggy, so operating from them isn’t an option. Takeoffs would be a little close to the trees at the end of the runway if we tried to launch from the grass and it’s not an option to land on the grass and then drag the gliders a half mile back to the launch point on Rwy 11 /29. No biggie, but I miss the grass.

Flying with both cadet students gave me another chance to work out my instructional technique and figure out what I’m doing. Both cadet students are flying very well, but have a lot to work on. They’re past the basics and neither is going to bend the aircraft, me, or themselves, so I got to work on figuring out how to get each to the next level. That’s a very different thing from flying early ab initio glider students (who have no idea what they’re doing) and it’s also different from flying with ASEL pilots (who know airplanes, but are mostly scared about making it back to the airport in a glider and don’t know how to use their feet).

I didn’t know anything about flying until I started flying in formation. Then I realized that I didn’t know anything about flying until I started instructing. I suspect that there are many more experiences that will cause similar epiphanies.

In the meantime, I had the kind of day that people envision when they decide to have kids. FOD was perfect in every way. Running wings, lining up a powered O-flight for himself (of which he flew nearly everything above 1,000 AGL), and flying the ASK 21 better than I’ve ever seen him fly anything before. I’m really proud of my son and I can’t wait to continue this journey.