Monday, December 04, 2006


So... I got assigned to Pensacola TRACON.

First reaction: Holy motherfracking God that's far.

Over 650 miles driving from where I live now, which translates into 12+ hours of driving or at least $360 in airfare per person. All other FAA facilities in Florida are within 6 hours of driving.

Second reaction: Good home prices, laid-back way of life, and lots of aviation-related activities.

We've been doing our homework and are really starting to like the area. The home prices are half of what they are here in Miami. And...the place is nice. Like, pleasant. Small-towny.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Webbed Feet

It was definitely not what was expected (cute and funny fluff), but as a big fan of penguins (my company's name is Wicked Penguin :P ) it had a good message and beautiful execution.

^ This needs to be a ride. :)

There's a saying that applies to this movie: "We have not inherited the Earth from our parents; we are borrowing it from our children." Many children have and are going to see this film, and I'm hoping that they and their parents realize that if things are going to be better in the future, then change needs to start now. I want to know that when I have grandkids many moons in the future, they'll still be able to see the funny flightless birds and the many other threatened species alive and well in their natural habitat.

Some things I liked (Spoilers of course):
  • All of the action scenes. They were amazingly shot, often with single cuts that lasted a minute or so at a time. Well choreographed, and really awe-inspiring, the seal chase, the skua fight, and the whale scene really had me on the edge of my seat, thinking "wow, that's cool". The one that ended with the huge ice wall cracking off (revealing the steam shovel) was especially incredible. I play around with Maya 7 for game mod development, but this movie really made me want to just delete Maya from my hard drive, LOL.
  • The scene where Mumble escapes from the skuas and jumps into the hole. After they leave, he's lying there alone, crying. That was just... heartbreaking. So cold, so alone, so scared - and no one to protect him, no one who even cared he was missing. I personally think it's on par with the "Mother?" scene from Bambi in creating a sense of despair and loneliness. That one shot really made the movie for me and made me want him to succeed.
  • The attention to natural detail. As a big fan of March of the Penguins, it felt as if I was watching an animated version of that. The environmental artists did a phenomenal job of capturing the surprising amount of textures, terrain, and windblown atmospheres that Antarctica can produce. The underwater and sea shots were also incredible. At times it felt as I was watching live-action footage.
  • The creature design was quite good. All of the animals were pretty close to being anatomically correct, except for some "cartoon embellishments* (bigger eyes, for instance) but overall looked very close to their natural counterparts. It's a far cry from, say, "Madagascar" where all of the animals were essentially caricatures.
  • Showing the natural cruelty of the Orcas/Killer Whales. Everyone associates Orcas with Shamu and cuteness, but in reality they're pretty sadistic creatures who enjoy beating the hell out of their prey for fun. That whole scene where they play ping-pong with the penguins around the frozen buoy gave me a real sense of deja vu from documentaries I've seen elsewhere. Just take a look at this: (notice that the seal in question is still alive throughout).
  • The five adelies rocked. They're my favorite penguin species and it was just cool to see the animators have some fun with their characters. And for those who were offended by the "Hispanic stereotypes", I'm Hispanic and live in a predominantly Hispanic city and wasn't offended in the least. They made every scene they were in and injected a lot of warmth and snappy humor.
  • The scene in the "Sea World" exhibit gave a (somewhat exagerrated) view on what happens to many animals in captivity. They lose their natural abilities to hunt and surive.
  • A different take on the common "be yourself" message. A lot of people here are saying the movie takes an anti-organized religion stance. I disagree. It's broader than that. To me it's message is that blind conformity can be stifling and that it's okay to question things if they hurt or ostracize innocent people. Many religions just happen to be guilty of that. There are of course the messages of tolerance and forgiveness which are always welcome.

Things I didn't like so much:

  • The parents' voices annoyed me. I got that they were supposed to be Elvis (Memphis, as in Graceland? :P ) and Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean) but the mother's breathy voice sounded like she was trying too hard and ticked me off. I did like that detail of the mole on her chest. :P
  • The preachy ending. I like the message, but it was delivered a little too over-the-top. No one cares about penguins more than me, but... we get it - penguins need to survive, the world's nations need to regulate fishing, and we all need to get along. But there could have been a better and more subtle way of showing that than flash cuts of the United Nations and its various members arguing. However, it was good in showing that protecting the environment is a global issue that is prone to considerable argument.
  • Lack of progression from Mumble's time in captivity to when he arrives back at the rookery. One second he's indoors, the next he's right back home. I would have liked to at least seen a minute or two montage of footage showing how he went from captive to free.
  • Some of the pop songs were a bit annoying. "Shake your Bon Bon"...gag.

The Sexual Innuendos:
As far as the sexual innuendos everyone's going on about, get over it. If you're ticked off about your five year old knowing the real lyrics to "Let's talk about *eggs* , Baby" then *you* are the one that should be monitoring their radio or TV-watching. A normal five year old is only going to think they're talking about - you guessed it! - eggs. There are some definite sexual innuendos in the movie, but you'd have to be sexually knowledgable to get them. Some of them kind of pushed the envelope of what you'd normally see in an American animated movie, but none of them were any stronger than Shrek or its kin.

I know someone here mentioned that their kid was staring "wide-eyed at the screen" during the scene where Gloria and Mumble are falling all over each other in various positions. Did you think that maybe they were wide-eyed because the scene was funny, as opposed to your own dirty mind going off? If your 5 year old knows what the doggie-style position looks like and what you're doing while *in* that position, I'd suggest getting a channel blocker on the cable TV in your kid's room.

In Conclusion:
It's not a perfect movie, but it was definitely more good than bad. My wife and I had a good time watching it. I'll be buying the DVD whenever it comes out.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Nail Biting

So the FAA's started calling Florida hires. An online acquaintance just got Palm Beach Tower. Another got Fort Lauderdale Tower. Oh crap.

With my luck, I'm getting a Level 6 Podunk Tower, Nowheresville, or worse... Tamiami...

/me rolls the dice.

C'mon! Gimme a FLL or an MIA... c'mon baby!

Monday, November 13, 2006


In the past two weeks, I've done a couple of flights:

Sunday, October 29th: Mary and I flew to Stuart, FL out of Opa Locka. It was a great flight on a beautiful day. I mean, just absolutely gorgeous. We had a nice relaxing flight up on the west side of civilization, passing over miles and miles of empty Everglades.

We landed at Witham Airport in Stuart and got treated to a courtesy car via Galaxy Aviation. One of the ramp guys recommended a Mexican place down the way called Dos Amigos. We went there and enjoyed our "$100 burritos" ($90 per hour for the plane, $10 per person for the food :) ). Awesome food. We even took a container of salsa with us, it was so good.

On the way back, we flew down the east coast, passing directly over Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale (with a near mid-air with a jet coming out of Boca). Mary slept most of the way back, since the dramamine had taken its toll and the espresso she had drunk wore off.

Sunday, November 5th: I got checked out in the diesel Cessna 172 down at ADF Airways. What an interesting plane. It's an entirely new way of flying!

  • First off, she's heavier by about 200 or so pounds than a regular 172, so carrying three people is iffy at best.
  • Secondly, she's got less power - 135 horsies as opposed to 180 in the 172SP. She tends to climb slower, though the instructor showed me that if I shoot for Vx (65 knots) instead of Vy (75 knots) she climbs pretty nicely.
  • Thirdly, most of her engine procedures are completely different. Instead of mixture or carb heat, you've got loadmeters, FADEC tests, digital LED readouts, and a single jet-like power lever.
  • She uses a constant speed prop, whose pitch is automatically controlled by the FADEC. You have to be gentle with power changes, since when you throttle up or back the pitch is automatically adjusted. As explained to me by the instructor, quick power changes result in "scary sounds". This reminded me a lot of the German WWII jet fighter, the Me262, whose engines would flameout if power was adjusted too abruptly.
  • As far as landing, it's totally different than a standard 172. In a standard 172, you can go idle abeam the numbers and do a short approach to the runway, with plenty of room to spare. On the diesel, when you cut that power she sinks like a stone. You need to think like a jet pilot: on approach, have power on at all times and only cut the power once the mains kiss the ground. The instructor suggested that this plane could almost be used as a transition aircraft for people moving on to light jets, since it's a similar power-on approach but at 1/2 half the airspeed.
  • The autopilot is a little quirky. It's a single axis (Heading) and we had some trouble getting it to work right. It synched up fine with the heading bug, but it didn't seem to respond when we set to GPS.
  • She's very, very efficient. We were cruising at 70% power, doing about 100 knots, and burning only 5 gallons per hour. Jet-A is also much cheaper than Avgas.
I love this plane. It's got a great interior, a great look, and it's just a cool piece of flying machine. I'm happy that not many people like it or are weirded out by it - it means more availability for me. :) The downside is that those who are checked out in it tend to take it for entire days at a time, since it's very efficient and comfortable.

"Sitting here in Limbo...

... but I know it won't be long /
Sitting here in limbo, like a bird without a song /
Well they're putting up resistance /
But I know that my faith will lead me on"

Jimmy Cliff is "the man".

No word from the FAA yet, but I've heard that they've made their selections. Time to chill out and just let it happen, while the drama continues in Washington and the FAA leadership continues spewing crap about there being no troubles within the workforce. My contacts amongst the ATC community say otherwise.

Some people on the board are starting to get calls and OKC dates, but most of them seemed to have graduated between December 2005 and May 2006. One girl says her OKC date was slotted for June 2007.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Waiting Game

As most of my friends and family know, I'm in process to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

So tomorrow, I'm faxing in my application to the FAA. They've appointed me to a tower somewhere in Florida, but I have no idea where. Mary and I have been discussing worst-case-scenarios, but most of them don't actually sound that "worst case".

Before I get into it, all FAA-operated towers, approach facilities, and en route centers have an ATC number that indicates how much traffic that facility has. This number directly correlates to the facility's complexity, how long it takes to get trained there, and how much the staff there gets paid. For instance, a little 1-runway airport in the middle of nowhere might be an ATC-5, whereas a big airport with lots of heavy airliner traffic might be an ATC-12.

As far as Florida options, most don't sound horrible...

Pensacola: Low cost of living, right on the the Gulf Coast, ATC-9 level facility, plenty of military traffic to keep it fun. The downside is it borders Alabama and is in the Western-most tip of the Florida panhandle. Driving down to visit our families would be an 8 (or more) hour ordeal, so quick weekend trips up-and-back are out of the question.

Miami: The "big mama" of the state, she's an ATC-12 and comes fully loaded with both a complex tower cab and a 14-radar station TRACON. Going from zero to ATC-12 is not advised, but I think I'm up to the challenge. It could take forever to check out, though; there's a lot to learn, a lot to absorb, and a lot of responsibility to take on.

Fort Lauderdale: I like this airport. It's an ATC-9, close to where I live now (15 minutes away) and is quite busy for its size. While they're extending their south runway, they currently only have a single runway capable of handling airliners. When I was at Miami En Route Center (the facility which feeds all the traffic into Florida) the traffic going into FLL looked like a conga line.

West Palm Beach: Not really familiar with this one, aside from driving past it on occasion. ATC-8 I believe. Pretty serious driving distance, but at least it's within 1 hour of our families.

Tampa Area: There's two major airports in the area - Tampa Int'l and St. Petersburg - plus an associated radar facility attached to TPA. Cost of living is pretty high, but it's a good city with a lot to do. We've been up there twice in the past year and enjoyed ourselves.

Jacksonville: Ugh. I've been up in that area. Just...ugh. Boring. Muggy. Resembles the Deep South more than Florida. I just don't really like it at all. Saint Augustine on the coast is beautiful and quaint, but Jax just didn't rub me the right way.

Orlando Area: Lots of airports in this area, but the king is Orlando International. Orlando's a great place to visit, but I really wouldn't want to live there. Once you get past the Disney / Universal schlock, there's some pretty nasty areas there. Too much "touristyness" (yay - new word) results in a city that feels like plastic - cheap and recycled. Then again, cost of living in the suburbs is pretty decent.

So... those are the major places. There's a few other scattered airports around - Florida Southwest Regional (Fort Myers), Sarasota, Tallahassee, and more.

It's not up to us at all, so we'll see what happens. I'm hoping for Fort Lauderdale, maybe even Miami Tower. I want to stay close to home, to our families, to our businesses. While change is good, the next few years will most likely bring us a little one, and for that you need stability and family.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Most Dangerous Person in the World is...

...a new pilot! (i.e. me).

So far I've taken up 5 people, and it's been fascinating seeing everyone's reactions to their first adventure in a small aircraft. Let's do a rundown:
  • My dad: Well, not a "passenger" - more of a safety pilot. :) I just wanted him to be my first passenger, since he was the main reason I went into pilot training in the first place. I got a little embarrassed on my first landing attempt - the local controller gave me a hard time after I went around, even thoughthe ass. It was just a real special moment for me, having him by my side the first time I took to the air as a pilot-in-command.
  • Adriano (Friend): My first non-pilot passenger, he was a bit...err...anxious. While I was doing my pre-flight, he photographed every dent, rust spot, and crack in the airplane. Keep in mind, most 1970's era Cessnas are pretty beat up on the outside - it's what inside (i.e. engine and structure) that counts. Of all the people I took up, he was definitely the most nervous.
  • Mike (Friend): Mr. Calm - he was relaxed but alert.
  • Ed (Friend): Like a kid in a candy store, he was constantly taking photos, looking around. He was thrilled when I let him fly a bit. After we got back, he was looking all over at the flight training brochures.
  • Annemaria (Actress): A beautiful young actress from Finland, Annemaria was playing the role of a Cessna search and rescue pilot in a local Miami play. She was very calm on the outside, but she told me afterwards that she was feeling a little nauseous - probably nerves, she said.
Future victims:
  • Mary, my wife: I don't know what it's going to take to get her in an airplane with me.

Brave New World

After reading so much and posting so much on so many different forums throughout the wide, wide Internet, I decided it was high time I snagged a little space of my own. What you'll find here will be various subjects such as aviation, web design, some politics, and some entertainment.

So anyways... here we go!