Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Days

It's been a surprisingly busy summer, with family visiting and a lot of projects in the works.

Firstly, I'd like to direct your attention here ---->

A few people have expressed an interest in making donations to the blog. I know many authors just put up a big PayPal donation button. I'm not really comfortable with that. I'm a big believer in giving folks something for their money, whether it's an album of MP3s or some original fiction.

Via those links to the right you can help support this blog and my varied creative endeavors.
  • Escape the Clouds is my own instrumental musical project, a blend of many different sounds from hard rock to industrial to Latin rhythms to steampunk to electronica. I play and record all of the instrumentation - guitar, bass, drums, keys, synths, etc.. It's something I've done for years. The band name comes from music's power to shove away all of your troubles.

    I've also started working on a second album. Demo tracks are available here:

  • Steampunk Tales is now available on all platforms, not just iPhone. The PDF version is only $1.99. It is DRM free and includes 10 original short stories - over 120 pages of reading! My story is titled "A Grain of Sand".

    Click here to buy!

    Also, I just found out one of my other stories has been picked up for a new issue. This particular story is the longest and my favorite of the ones I've completed so far (about 15,000 words). I'll post more when I find out the publication specifics.

ATC Updates

So far, I've been recommended for a couple of the Pensacola scopes. However, we've basically had to stop training over the past few weeks due to staffing. Our new TRACON building is nearing completion and they had to pull seven people off the floor to send to STARS cadre training for two weeks. Lots of OT as a result for the remaining CPCs. In addition, we developmentals were used for coverage, so there was slim pickings for training.

On the upside, the new building's looking good. It's a smaller, one-story facility as opposed to the three story "battleship" we have now, but I'm looking forward to the new STARS scopes. One thing I don't like about it is that there are far fewer places to hide. In our current building, if you want to go read a book or fool around on your laptop in a quiet place, we've got a lot of spaces where you can still hear the pager but there aren't a lot of people around. The new building's a lot more compact and we're all just going to be on top of each other.

I took these pics in the winter. I haven't been over there since, but apparently all the new equipment's in and they're getting close to completion. The switchover is scheduled for October and it actually seems to be right on schedule.

New TRACON, next to the new PNS tower (built late 90's)

The radar room. Ah, that new TRACON smell.

The back porch, looking out on runway 17/35.

Grilling Time

Summer wouldn't be complete without the smell of outdoor grilling, and we aimed to make good.

My in-laws came to town for a week and a half for their anniversary. We Hispanics usually equate family time with food, and this was no exception. My wife and I broke out the grill and went to town. We're normally pretty light eaters by ourselves, but for that week we just decided to enjoy ourselves food-wise.

Fired up, ready to go: Chicken, brats, and peppers

Movie Night snacks. Front to back, right to left: half-size burgers, pepper and goat cheese salad, fig and cheese puffs, risotto and cheese balls, zucchini fritters, spinach and cheese puff pastry, and some refreshing strawberry lemonade my wife whipped up.

Sunday special: Potato and beets salad, homemade moros (rice and beans mix), chicken wings, sausage, steaks, and pepper and homegrown eggplant salad.

In-Laws' Anniversary: Steak, homemade gravy, and homemade risotto and cheese balls

Breakfast: Homemade guava pastries

Let's just say, after the in-laws went home, the missus and I went back to eating salads and wraps. I'm actually eating a nice healthy turkey wrap right now. :) Need to get back on an even keel before I capsize!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Feeling Gassy

So I was working the Whiting sector the other day. Things were dead. I had nary a plane on the freq.

Suddenly, I got a call: "Approach, Airship 156LG."

Readers of this blog know I've got a thing for airships. I read about them. I write about them. I have a general fascination with the subject matter. I'm a fan of all things alternate history/steampunk, and airships are just a huge part of that. So, needless to say, when I heard that my reaction was a mental "Ooooh...."

I keyed up and asked him his intentions. Turns out he wanted to land at Pensacola Regional. I issued him a squawk code and a few seconds later he popped up on my scope. I told him to proceed as requested to the airport, which was 20 miles south. He was cruising at 1000 feet.

It was at that I point realized that airship pilots must be some really patient chaps. His ground speed was showing a whopping 20 knots over the ground. 20 nautical miles to fly. 20 knots of ground speed. That's right - he took nearly an hour to traverse that distance.

We have a function on our scope that lets you click on an aircraft, click on a point along the aircraft's route (in this case our airport), and it'll tell you how long the aircraft will take to get there and what his ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) is. Yeah... when I tried that with Mr. Airship, it spat back "XXX". He was going too slow for it to calculate, LOL.

The funniest moment came courtesy of a Navy trainer. She was departing Whiting NAS about six miles east of the airship's position and turning west towards him. As she was climbing up to 2500 feet, I noticed another, unrelated target, approaching the airship at 1000 feet. So, I call the airship and tell him, "Airship 6LG, traffic, 9 o'clock, three miles, southwest bound, altitude indicates 1000 feet, type unknown."

Well, the Navy trainer thought the traffic call was for her. "Approach, Red Knight 123, I have the.... uh... traffic in sight. I, uh, I... I think it's a blimp!" The tone of wondrous confusion in her voice was hilarious. I cracked up.

I responded. "RN123, Approach, that traffic call was not for you, but, yes, there is indeed an airship out there. He's no factor for you."

Anyways, after a (long) while I handed the airship off to the next sector, who actually worked the arrivals into Pensacola Regional. I got relieved by another controller and grabbed my camera (Always keep a camera handy!). I wanted to snap some pics of him landing. After all, it's not very often we see airships in these parts.

I hit the outdoor rear staircase. The airship was still 4 miles away. I swear, he looked like he was standing still in the sky. I took one pic, then went inside and packed up my laptop... made a phone call... checked my e-mail... hit the bathroom... and did a bunch of other errands. I had plenty of time. :)

Upon finishing my business, I took another peek out the window. At last, he was on his final approach. I ran outside, set my camera on video, and started filming. The entire ground crew was ready and waiting, along with a mooring mast.

Here's the resulting video of his approach and landing, about 2.5 minutes long after editing. The music is "Wings of Steam Remix" from the soundtrack to American McGee's Alice.

(Don't forget to hit the "HD" option)