Whew.

So I mentioned a few days ago that I was studying for my FAA Written Exam to become a Private Pilot. I probably should have taken this test a month ago but I wasn’t feeling as confident as I felt I needed to be to do well on the exam, so I delayed it until yesterday. I spent the weekend studying hard and doing nearly two dozen practice tests. On Monday and Tuesday night I was consistently scoring in the mid 90s on the practice exams so I felt confident going into the exam yesterday.

Various sources on the web warned to expect a five to ten point drop from your practice scores. They attributed the drop to a couple of things, mainly test anxiety and the fact that the FAA no longer publishes all of the questions that can be pulled from the bank and presented to you. So while many of the questions that I had on the exam yesterday were quite familiar to me, there were a couple of new ones in there that had me thinking. When all was said and done, I scored an 87 on the exam, which, when you figure in the hypothetical 5-10% drop from test anxiety and such, is still pretty good. I completed the exam in a little over an hour and I even went through and redid all my math and checked my answers before letting the test proctor know that I was completed. All in all, it was a great experience in that it helped boost my aviation confidence considerably and I learned a great deal from devoting myself to the books to feel really prepped for this exam.

The next step in my aviation career is the combination of the oral and the practical portion of the exam. I will be spending the next few weeks with my instructor tweaking and refining my piloting skills. I have all the basics down and most of my maneuvers are well within the standards prescribed by the FAA, but I have some things here and there where I need improvement and I more importantly, I just need to ramp up my personal comfort level so that when I take the examiner on an airplane ride, I don’t think of him just as the examiner but rather as my practice passenger.

I feel really awesome. This is definitely a dream come true for me.

Breaking News.

I am an avid user of Twitter. If you’re not following me on there and you’re all about the Twitter, please feel free to follow me at flyMachias. While I talk about my piloting adventures on there, I talk about a lot of other stuff as well. It’s like a mini-version of this blog but with more frequent updates.

One of the thing I like about Twitter, at least until the company messes up the stream by “curating” what the users see, is that you can get breaking news quickly. A couple of years ago when the earthquake rocked Virginia, and subsequently the northeast, I actually saw it on Twitter a split second before my computer monitors at work started rocking from the same earthquake. When a celebrity passes on, I always see it on Twitter first. It’s like Twitter contains the pulse of what’s going on in the world.

One of the accounts I follow is @breakingnews. Since I rely on Twitter for news information, it makes sense to follow @breakingnews. They often tweet important things, like the number of people that have died from Ebola, details of a shooting in Europe and details of the latest unrest in the Middle East. This brings credibility to the account, in my eyes, and it sets a certain expectation for me. So imagine my disappointment when not one, but two tweets today were devoted to this drivel:

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Now, I know I’m getting old. At 46 years old, I realize that I am seeing the world in a different way than those of the younger generation and I often my comparisons between my reactions to a given topic versus what my father or grandfather would have said. So, be that as it may, after looking up Rhianna and realizing who she was (she came around after my days in radio), I realized that not only is this woman the epitome of everything that is wrong with the entertainment industry today, I doubt that whether her song is played before a football game on CBS really qualifies as “Breaking News”. I mean, if this is what is breaking news in the United States, then I’d say we have all our poverty, health care, human dignity, governmental, etc., problems solved and we should therefore devote our time to trivial things. But the truth of the matter is, there’s a LOT of stuff going on in the world today, and quite frankly, whether or not this Rhianna woman’s song is going to be played is not even in the Top 200.

I call this “distracting the masses.”

Going through the recent tweets of @breakingnews to research a little bit for this blog entry, I realized that they also have a tendency to include Apple news as breaking news. News flash, unless Apple has had a massive security breach, has been nuked by a terrorist, or has outright purchased the United States Government for a bargain basement price (face it, we’d be on a corner rack in Filene’s Basement if that chain was still around), nothing that Apple does is “Breaking News”. It’s more distraction. And because people are celebrating the steady decline of the average IQ by applauding mediocrity and reducing their world view to a very tunneled down definition, the masses are distracted easily.

So now I’m wondering if I should unfollow @breakingnews and go with something a little less ridiculous. If anyone has any suggestions of another Twitter account of follow, I would welcome the input.

Tests.

So this week I am taking the first of my three required tests to become a licensed Private Pilot in the United States. Admittedly, I should have probably taken this test a few weeks ago, but I didn’t feel pumped and ready for this particular phase of my flight training. So I postponed taking the test until this week. You see, this week’s test is the written test, and this makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I test well, especially with a written test. It’s kind of like when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office and he’s checking my blood pressure. My blood pressure can be 110/80 at home and then I get in the doctor’s office and bells and whistles start to blow, people get nervous and I get antsy. I have high blood pressure because when they take my blood pressure in a doctor’s office, it’s high. It’s never high elsewhere. I can check it here and there and I’m a healthy guy, but get in a doctor’s office and zoom, there it goes.

I just don’t feel like I test well.

I can fly the airplane, I can land the airplane, I can even land the airplane when the instructor pulls the power (gliding is fun!), but because I like to analyze the hell out of everything, I obsess over the multiple choice answers and occasionally confuse myself. When I was a youngster I had the habit of whipping through a test as quickly as possible because I figured if I didn’t know the answer at warp speed, I wasn’t going to know the answer at idle, so why waste the time idling. Later in life I recognized this approach as being unwieldy at best, so I tried to keep it at bay.

I guess what’s making me a little nervous is the fact that I don’t feel like facts stick well in my brain anymore. I can tell you, right to your face, that two different actresses portrayed the older daughter in the sitcom “Hello, Larry” (Donna Wilkes and Krista Erikkson, and yes, I know that’s frightening that I didn’t even look that up) but I have to chant repeatedly “craft class man cat” to remember that an airplane is an Aircraft Classification but an Airmen Category designation. Getting old sucks.

Luckily, there is some excellent exam prep software out there and I have been going crazy with practice tests since Friday (and I had been doing them here and there before then). Yesterday alone I spent eight solid hours just going through the databank of questions that should appear somewhere on the 60 question test and honestly, I think I’m going to do fine but I’m still nervous about it.

I figure the worst thing that can happen is that people will make fun of me and I’ll have to take the test again after some remedial training (the wings go on either side of the airplane), so that’s not particularly awful, but since I’m finally doing something I’ve wanted to do all my life, I want to make sure that I do it right.

How Can We Forget.

I’ve been pondering this blog entry all morning. I’ve been trying to decide if I really wanted to share my thoughts but then I figured that it’s my blog and in the spirit of honesty, it would be dishonest to not share my thoughts.

As we all know, today is September 11 and today is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. Like most other Americans, I vividly remember that day. I know where I was, I know what I saw and I know how I felt.

I remember thinking, as the first tower collapsed, right there on television “the world is never going to be the same again”. Admittedly, I remember thinking, “things are going to get bad.” Actually, my thought was, “well this country is going to go down the shitter.”

9-11 was a horrific day. When I go to memorials, or hear tributes, I still shed a tear or feel a lump in my throat, even though it’s been 13 years since that awful day. I mourn the loss of life that day. I think of those left behind.

Right on cue, Twitter and other social media outlets are streaming the memories from folks from that day. The hash tag “#NeverForget” is quite popular. I have no desire to relive a play-by-play through someone’s Twitter stream; I have unfollowed quite a few people that are bombarding their stream with a minute-by-minute account of where they were and what they were doing. There’s a fine line between sharing a memory and being prideful of the fact that you were on the periphery of the rubble.

The truth of the matter is, how could we forget? As a citizen of the United States I am bombarded by the fact that 9-11 actually happened on a constant basis and that we should be fearful of everyday life because of this. Our government, the media, hell, everyday life constantly reminds us of 9-11 and the existence terrorism. I bet you can’t go a month, or maybe even a week, without hearing a specific mention of 9-11 somewhere. Somewhere someone is going to utter the phrase “9-11″ and the importance of modifying (actually degrading) our freedom in the name of preventing another “9-11″ from happening again. Terror threat levels. Stock up on plastic wrap. Get duct tape. ISIS. ISIL. Whatever the hell they’re called. Al Qaeda. The theme of the United States is now a constant drumbeat of war and that we should all be fearful, fearful, fearful. We must protect the “homeland”. If the goal of a terrorist is to inflict terror on a target, then I’d say the terrorists met their goal. I’ve seen many that act terrorized at the very smallest thing. Just last week there was a power failure in a small town nearby and the newspaper article mentioning it included the sentence, “terrorism has been ruled out.” Really? 500 people in East Bumfuck, New York lose their electrical service and they have to mention terrorism? Did they really think that terrorism was involved with the loss of power for a community of less than 500 people? The folks in the “homeland” have lost their minds.

God how I hate the word “homeland”, especially when it’s used by government officials. It’s a jingoistic word steeped in propaganda. It’s meant to stir up national pride and I think it’s a cheap shot. It works well though for people with an IQ hovering around the speed limit. The naming of the “Department of Homeland Security” has grated on my last nerve since George W Bush came up with that idea back in the mid 00s, and now President Obama is throwing around the word “homeland” just as much as his predecessor did. Why the sudden use of “homeland”, outside of referring to the DHS, again? What happened to that hope and change we were promised? Yeah. Call it our country, call it the United States, call it home, but “homeland”? It sounds like a line from Nazi Germany or at the very least an early episode of Wonder Woman.

I get that there are evil people out there. And I understand that we need to protect our citizens, but please don’t tell me to “never forget”. How can anyone forget? We’re damn near raped by minimum wage workers before we get onto an airplane, we have a whole assortment of wars to serve as a reminder and our liberties that we tout as the gold, shiny ring of why we’re awesome are being eroded away on an hourly basis, all in the name of safety because 9-11 happened. Again, 9-11 was awful, and my heart aches when I think of that day and all the lives that were lost. But trust me, we will never forget, and sadly, the propaganda machine will make sure that we will never forget.

Mix It Up.

I’m at work in the middle of the week for the first time in many, many months. I usually make the trek on a Monday, every couple of weeks or whenever the mood strikes me. I know that I’m a lucky man in that I have this sort of flexibility in my employment opportunity. I’m not complaining in any way.

A co-worker remarked that he was surprised to see me at work and I told him that the only reason I came to work today was because I was a little behind on the office lottery pool payments. He giggled at my joke. I guess the joke is in actuality I came to work only because I’m behind on the office lottery pool payments. I tend to work harder and longer from home than I do at the office. All that being said, the commute was enjoyable this morning as I was able to wave at some Amish men for the first time in a long while. One of them even waved back.

The seagulls have vacated my favorite parking area, probably due to the construction going on. Progress is marching along on the new Taco Bell they’re building where the old Burger King used to stand. The workers on the structure are all gathered underneath the shade tree that I usually park near. I’m not bitter about this as there is a nice late-summer breeze blowing through the Jeep at the moment and this is helping my mood stay sunny.

I was awoken this morning in the middle of a very sexy dream. Perhaps this is why my mood is sunny. I wasn’t hot nor bothered when I woke up, but I know that I woke up with a smile and because I have a knack for this sort of thing, I am able to recall the details of the dream in a most vivid manner. This increases the intensity of the smile on my face.

I have decided that I need to start carrying my real DSLR camera around with me again. The camera on my iPhone 5 is adequate, but there’s still something great about pointing a camera at something, doing some photography magic with dials and lenses and such and snapping a photo. A commentator online recently remarked that when he’s at Fenway Park, he notices that most of the fans are taking selfies instead of photos of the ball game, the park or any of their surroundings. Quite frankly, I don’t think the world needs that many duck lipped photos. I have never made duck lips in a photo and I don’t intend on continuing to do so. Instead, I shall just mock those that choose to make the ridiculous face.

Perhaps I’ll take a photo of them with my DSLR.

iGeek 6

So today was Apple’s big announcement of the year. Today the tech company introduced us to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, ApplePay and the WATCH (or AppleWATCH). While I’m excited to see the bigger iPhones and I really like the idea of ApplePay, I’m still questioning how useful WATCH would be for me. I’d probably like it more than I realize, just as I initially felt about the iPad when that came out a few years ago.

The live video coverage of the event was horrendous, to say the least. The stream kept dropping and repeating and at least half of the event had an Asian translation playing over it. I’m wondering if this is impeding my excitement about the announcement. I didn’t hear or see a lot of the announcement because of the video glitches.

The one thing that I’m not really happy about is that Siri’s evolution has been incremental at best. Google has superior functionality, hands down in my opinion. I like the predictive nature of Google Now; Siri still feels more gimmicky than Google Now.

I’m due for a new phone and most likely my next phone will be an iPhone 6. I’m not 100% sold, but I’m close. All in all, it was a good day in Apple land.

Autumn.

It’s only the 8th of September but Autumn knows when it needs to be in these parts and Mother Nature is starting to show her colors. The greens of the fields are starting to be replaced golds and purples. The air is starting to get a little crisper and the nights have more of a chill.

This is my favorite time of the year and I’m doing my best to enjoy every moment of it.

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Still Awesome.

I never finished that degree in Music Education. I am no longer the Program Director of a radio station. Both of those things came to a close many, many years ago. But I still know a really good song when I hear it. The goosebumps never lie.

And this track still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Here’s Gary Barlow and Agentha Fältskog with “I Should Have Followed You Home”. Released in Europe last year, I don’t know that this track ever made it to the States in any meaningful way, but it’s still a very, very well done song.

Beard.

It’s been over two years since I last sported a full beard. Today I have been contemplating starting a beard again. Just to mix it up a bit.

Please don’t like it when I let it get all wild looking, though. Hmmm. I might have to take a walk on the wild side again and not give a hoot about what people think.

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Morning Ramp Up.

Many people start their workday with copious amounts of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Others go through a regimented routine involving gyms, sweat and bouts with traffic snarl ups. Some are bleary-eyed, unable to put together cohesive sentence for the first 60 or so minutes of the day. And then there’s us that need a gentle yet distinct schedule to get ourselves together for the day.

I fall into that latter category.

When I get situated at my desk for the day, with a big glass of water in one hand and my iPhone in the other, the first thing I do is put on my headphones and listen to a specific music playlist. The contents of the playlist change once in a great while, but I never shuffle the songs or listen to them out of order in anyway once I have decided on the flow of this important playlist.

Right now, my morning playlist consists of the following tracks:

“I’ll Be Around”, The Spinners
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, The Spinners
“Heartbreaker”, Dionne Warwick
“Lotta Love”, Nicolette Larson
“(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”, Rita Coolidge
“Shout To The Top”, The Style Council
“Breakout”, Swing Out Sister
“It’s A Miracle”, Barry Manilow
“It’s My Life”, Talk Talk
“Time (Clock of the Heart)”, Culture Club
“New Day For You”, Basia
“Crystal Blue Persuasion”, Tommy James and the Shondells
“Yes”, Merry Clayton
“Romantic”, Karyn White
“Save Me”, Lisa Fischer
“I Want You”, Shana

I have to admit that typing that list out just now made me realize that I have really eclectic tastes when it comes to the selection of these tracks. The inclusion of a song on this list is usually because of the musicality of the song. For example, I’m not particularly a fan of Dionne Warick’s but I do love the production that Barry Gibb used on “Heartbreaker”. Many of these tracks take my head to a specific happy place that helps motivate me for the day.

Sometimes it takes just a little thing like this to make the day exceed its potential.