Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekend Two: Pistols, Pirates, and Idiot Sticks

Fairly busy weekend here.


Kelly and I'd made plans to go shooting today. She came by in the early afternoon (after braving 1 hour Walmart lines to get a cleaning kit for her pistol) and we set out to the range. H&H Gun Range is just down the street from me (south of Reno, just east of Meridian) and we set up shop there for a little bit. Kelly brought her .45 out and laid waste to a paper silhouette. I don't think he's going to be having any silhouette kids anytime soon...

It felt good to take the Makarov out again. I hadn't shot it in about a year, so it was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. I won't win any points for bullseyes, but I was happy with the results at 30 feet:

And here's the Mak itself:

The craziest part of the whole deal is that the range only cost $9.50... for the entire day! Back in Miami, Ace's charges $15.00 per hour. Un-freaking-believable.

Afterwards, we grabbed something to eat and came back to my place. The music came on and we just mellowed, cleaning the guns. It was pretty funny, as Kelly's gun has about 25 separate parts... and the Makarov breaks down into two. I was done cleaning my entire gun by the time she was finished with the barrel of hers.

We met up with Matt afterwards in the outdoor park here and studied a bit for the Block test that's coming up on Tuesday morning. It was a beautiful day and it didn't feel right to be cooped up inside.

Afterwards, the three of us headed down to Bricktown to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Awesome movie. It was a lot more action-oriented than the previous two. Parts 1 and 2 were much more comedic and focused, while this one kind of careened all over the place. It's a hell of a ride and a good closer to the series, but I think it's the weakest of the three. It had some really amazing action set-pieces (the climactic battle has to be seen to be believed. Just...wow) but overall it's story was weaker and a bit more forced. Also, Jack - who in the first two was a driving force to each film - just kind of takes a back seat to all the action, occasionally chiming in to deliver a one-liner. Keira Knightley still looked smoking hot though... and that made everything ok! :)


Got more progress done on the TED Center videos for Cynfyn. I finally got some music tracks down that work with the presentation. Two of the five segments are good to go, and I've been plugging away at #3 and #4. The After Effects animations on this pass look much better than the earlier ones - I'm happy.

Overall I like video, but it can be a real pain in the ass when it wants to be. Like with any long-term project, I'll be glad to see its conclusion.


We had our first at-home set of runs today. Matt, Paul, Kelly, and Joanna came over for a while. We went over a lot of the phraseology, using the callsigns they had provided to us at the academy. It was good to actually say it out loud instead of just reading it. We also practiced stripmarking using the strips I'd printed up. We went over many of the procedures required for taxiing aircraft, working with helicopters, and getting a workable flow of traffic into and around the airport. We weren't very organized, but that was fine. The next session will be even better I think.

One thing we touched on was runway crossing coordination between Local and Ground. At the Academy, Ground has a big ugly yellow metal bar that has "Runway Occupied" written on it. It is used in coordination with Local Control to let them know the runway is occupied. In ATC parlance, this sort of device is called a "memory aid". In the real world, we call it the "Idiot Stick", because it makes you look like a total moron when you forget to use it.

I made my own at-home version, lovingly called the "Dumbass Stick".

Here's how the runway crossing procedure works: Let's say you're Ground, and you want to taxi an aircraft across Runway 16, an active runway, at the taxiway Bravo intersection. Here's how the dialog goes:

You (to Local): "Cross runway one-six at Bravo."
Local: "Cross runway one-six at Bravo."
You hand the Idiot Stick to Local, and he puts it within view on his strip bay. This is to remind him not to land or depart any aircraft on that runway, since it is now occupied.
You (to the aircraft): "Cessna one-seven-two-papa-tango, cross Runway one-six".
Aircraft responds and then taxis across the runway. You observe that the aircraft has completely crossed the runway edge.
You (to Local): "Runway 16, RCC (short for Runway Crossing Complete)"
Local hands you back the Idiot Stick, and runway 16 is back in operation.

It's not overly complicated, but like everything else in ATC, once you start getting busy it gets cumbersome to remember to do it all. Losing coordination and losing the flick will get people killed, and in this business the devil is certainly in the details. However, sometimes the errors are simply so glaringly obvious you have to wonder what the person was thinking.

There was one person who failed her Local PV because of a stupid mistake involving runway crossing coordination. Ground coordinated a crossing of runway 16 with her. Then, just as she finished telling Ground she could cross the airplane, she cleared an airplane to takeoff on the same runway. Bam. Deal.

I think our next at-home runs will be more coordinated. I was talking with Kelly about maybe having a few people on dedicated ground and/or local for a while, instead of switching back and forth every few "planes".

Some quick phraseology snippets of commonly used commands:

Taxiing an aircraft from Spartan Aviation to the intersection of 28R and Charlie, with hold-short instructions at one-six:

A VFR popup calls in 7 miles east:

Calling for IFR release:

Landing Aircraft on 28L:

Anyways, that's it for today. Pretty good weekend. I wish Mary was here though...

Today's Note:
I started watching Heroes. Wow, interesting show. I really like how it focuses 90% of its energy on the characters (at least so far in episodes 1 - 3). They're realistic people... who just happen to have superpowers. Very different than the typical comic book superhero whose character is actually defined by their abilities.

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