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Inspiration.

So on my flight lesson today we were headed out to the designated practice area. My instructor wanted to review some skills that I was taught on my lesson earlier in the week, namely slow flight. These skills would be used later in the hour as I worked in the pattern around the airport; the focus on being how to fly the pattern and position the airplane for landing. After all, takeoff is always optional but landing is always mandatory.

On the way to the practice area I took a few moments to look around at the ground beneath us, the horizon, the weather coming in from the northwest and Oneida Lake before us. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to just look around for a few moments on my lessons because while I’m loving every moment, I’m concentrating on learning how to fly the airplane. I’m cautious but gaining confidence. And while I was doing the same today, my comfort level was at a place where I could just look around for a few seconds and enjoy the moment. I did so briefly and silently.

One of my recent realizations is that I’m learning to fly because I want to fly. No one ever suggested I should become a pilot, no one ever told me that’s what I should be doing. I’m not following in the family footsteps. While time spent in the air with my dad for almost all of my life, as well as dozens of experiences with other pilots, have certainly contributed to my desire to fly, the truth is, I’m doing this because I love it and because I came to that realization on my own. I was inspired by my dad but I found my love of flying on my own. While I’m taking in a lot of information from my flight instructor, practicing during my lessons and watching videos and studying on my off hours, I feel so amazingly relaxed when I’m in “pilot mode”. Work stress is gone. I might be worried about my performance on a lesson but overall the experience puts me in a happy place. Every time. Poor Earl, he listens to hours of my chatter about flying and how awesome the Cherokee is and how many turns I made and how I know I will do maneuver X better the next time I fly and how many times I talked on the radio during a flight. Tonight he listened to my excitement about an SUV parked on the road at the runway watching me learn landing techniques.

I will be a different pilot than my dad. He flew on small grass strips and mostly stayed in a defined radius around his home airport. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I have different goals. I’m liking the structure and mechanics of controlled airspace. Paved runways that can be used year ’round are awesome! I want to explore places I haven’t been to before. I want to fly to vacation destinations. Maybe someday I’ll share my skills with others that want to learn how to fly. I know that I want to share my enthusiasm for flight with anyone that holds a similar interest. There’s where I’m like my dad; I’ll tell you why becoming a private pilot is an exciting adventure and I’ll share my experiences with you, but you’ll find your path and become your own pilot.

Looking over the snow covered ground from 3000′ is a beautiful thing. I’m happy, grateful and thankful for everything that fueled me to get to that moment. I look forward to what lies on my path ahead.

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Passion.

Some have noticed that I haven’t written in the blog for nearly two weeks. There are a couple of reasons for this and to those of you that reached out to make sure that I was OK, have no fear, my life is better than ever.

A while back I commented that I had hoped to do more with my blog, after all, it’s been around for over 12 years and I’ve met some really nifty people as a result of having this blog. But the times have changed and since blogging was around long before the big social networks, I’ve started to wonder how “out loud” I want to live my life. I’ve been pretty open and honest in my musings on this blog thing and lately I haven’t felt the need to be that way. I think I’ve become more accustomed to the controlled atmosphere of the social networks, where I have control of who is seeing what content. With my blog in its current format, I don’t really have that luxury.

I still love to write but I’m feeling the need to write about specific topics these days. This blog has been a catch-all for everything that has gone on in my life since August 2001, and that’s all well and good, I suppose, but again, there’s that privacy issue that I’m started to be conscious of.

Another thing that kind of irked me about my blog is that I received an email from a person who wanted to start contributing to my blog because I haven’t written enough about a certain subject. Years ago I wrote a blog entry about a long-gone discount department store chain and it still ranks quite high when you search for that chain on Google. The comments to that one entry have connected many former employees together and I think that’s wonderful. That being said, I don’t want to devote a blog to discount department store chains, I just don’t have that interest and quite frankly this is my sandbox and the only other person that would ever be allowed to write in this blog is Earl and he’s going to that he would say, “not in your dreams.”

I am thinking about writing about my flight training and my journey to becoming a private pilot. My lessons are going well, yesterday I started the “next chapter”, as it is, with slow flight and turns at a point. I still can’t describe how much I love flying but when I’m in the airplane, all cares, concerns and worries melt away as soon as we lift off the runway. Learning to become a pilot requires focus, discipline and a whole bunch of work, but those elements are effortless for me because, well, I get to fly! I don’t think I want to write about my student pilot journey on this blog, so I haven’t quite figured out how I want to parse that information out yet. There are a lot of pilots that film their flights, edit them to a beautiful presentation and then share them on YouTube and/or their personal webspaces. I’m not ready for the filming part yet, I’d be too distracted, but the writing part, that’s something I think I’ll do.

I mentioned to Earl that I was really considering just shutting down this blog but he urged me to think about it for a while before doing so. So I’m going to leave it here for now and see if the mood strikes me again when the days get longer or something.

In the meanwhile, I’m here, all is well and I’m lucky because I’m a guy that’s learning how to fly.

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Photo courtesy of another student that rode along and snapped a photo during my lesson yesterday.

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Reboot.

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So I haven’t blogged much lately. I haven’t even really read the small number of blogs that I still read, though there are a few I’ll get back to when I’m back on my routine. I have been enjoying vacation immensely and the experience has definitely recharged my batteries. I had to get through some “stuff” in my head. Perhaps it’s a midlife crisis of some sort. I wonder how many of those I will have before I’m an old man. Nevertheless, this vacation had given me a lot of time to think about all sorts of things and the end result is all good. Disney has that effect on me. Being in “the magic” brings a smile to my face.

It all started with a “delete” icon. Killing my original Facebook account was more cathartic than I ever imagined it would be. The “sigh of relief” I have felt from dumping that account was much bigger than I ever anticipated it would be. There is some saying that says something about wheat and chaff but I don’t remember the exact syntax at the moment. I’m focusing on the good stuff and steering away from the extraneous fluff. It’s like beer – why drink the cheap swill when you can invest a bit and savor an amazing taste of experience?

I have also been making significant adjustments to my Google+ circles and the folks I follow on Twitter. These accomplishments have furthered the feelings of renewal in many ways. Google+ has always been my “techy” social media presence, but now I’m steering it toward aviation and other interests. Many of the tech journalists I have followed over the years have turned their social networking presences to little more than a promotional / information regurgitation outlet. Twitter had been a catch all for me. I’m bringing that into focus as well. I want to read opinions. I like the intelligent debates. I like genuine points of view. That is what I seek today.

The vacation isn’t over yet. I don’t go back to work until Tuesday. So I’m going to go back to sitting back, relaxing and enjoying this flight I’m on. The view is awesome, the sky is bright and the horizon is easily seen. I’m not piloting this plane, but I will be behind the yoke soon enough.

Life is good.

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Zest.

Photo on 1-14-14 at 10.58 AM

I was warned that these boneless chicken wings were insanely hot. It was projected that I wouldn’t be able to finish one, let alone multiple bites.

I just finished my third boneless wing and while I am sweating profusely and possibly now hearing things, the truth of the matter is that I found them quite delicious and I’m looking forward to eating them again.

Apparently I enjoy more zest in my food as I get older.

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Calm.

So I have but one goal for this vacation, and that is to relax. While I appreciate all that the House of the Mouse offers and I certainly appreciate the time and effort my husband has put into coordinating the few reservations we have set up for this week, I just want to relax. My mind needs to get back to an equilibrium.

Today was definitely a positive step in that direction.

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Today we spent some time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I hammed it up enough in the audience to get picked to be an extra in the Indiana Jones attraction. I played “screamer #2”. This was a new role for me, as in the past I’ve played one of the “pointers”. Earl confirmed that today was my third appearance as an extra in the attraction. I had a good time.

When we travel and people ask where we are from I always say Syracuse instead of drilling down to specifics. When on stage today and asked where I was from I responded with the usual and there was a cheer from a surprisingly large section of the audience. Go ‘Cuse!

I’m the one in the middle with his feet in a duck-like stance. It’s just the way I stand.

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We hit some of the other big attractions throughout the park. All lines had wait times of 15 minutes or less. We like this January visit thing.

For lunch we enjoyed our first visit at the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre Restaurant, where we sat in a modified vehicle with many others and enjoyed snippets of B-movies on a big screen.

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We’ll definitely do that again on future visits.

We wrapped up our visit with the “Beauty and the Beast” stage performance, which I think of “Beauty and the Beast Express”, where the entire story is told through dialog, song and dance in 25 minutes.

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Contentment. It definitely leads to calm.

Onward and Upward.

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Earl, Jamie and I are sitting aboard United flight 5986 headed to Dulles. I’m sitting in seat 20A on this Embraer EMB 145. Ironically, the seat is a 1/2 inch wider than the seat I will be in on the 737 from Dulles to Orlando.

This is the first commercial flight I’ve been on in nearly two months and it’s the first commercial flight I’ve been on since starting my training for my Private Pilot License. While as a passenger I have always paid close attention to what is going on in and around the plane, this is the first time that I’ve paid super close attention to runway markings, taxiway signs and the like. Back in the day when I was a passenger with my dad, the small airstrip had lights on each side of it and two numbers made out of embedded cinder blocks. That was it, other than the markings of runways 16 and 34, it was a mowed out hayfield. Learning to fly at Griffiss Airfield is much different than the environment that my dad learned to fly in. One is not better than the other, it’s just different, and this is where my path and goals of becoming a pilot are different than my Dad’s.

My flight instructor and I talked about this a little bit when we met on a Friday. Many of the student and certified pilots fly like my dad did: they love to fly, they want to fly around the local area a bit and they might want to build a plane or two. I think that’s awesome. I know that I spent many hours flying with my dad under these intents and it is what fueled my love of flying. However, my goals of becoming a pilot are a little different. In addition to loving being in an airplane, I want to explore as a pilot, much like Earl and I do in the Jeep. We will be flying to airports we’ve never been to before. We’ll fly to weddings and family reunions and all that. If the weather is good, we’ll fly if we can and the thought of this makes me so amazingly happy.

I have no desire to build planes. The type of craftsmanship involved is something that I did not inherit from my dad or my grandfather, but Earl knows that I absolutely want to own a plane someday. I see us flying in a Cessna 182 or a Piper Cherokee 180. While waiting for our flight this morning, I told Earl that maybe I won’t ever retire and instead I’ll fly tourists around in the summer months and give them a tour of the 1000 Islands or something. After the brief shock of dollar signs flying above his head, Earl smiled.

I have tried many different ideas during my 45 years in this life, and if I allow myself to have one regret, it would be that I didn’t pursue this passion soon enough. The emotion, rather the _elation_ I feel when I fly is something that I can’t adequately put in words. It’s kind of like the elation I feel as a married man.

I’m the luckiest man in the world for finding my passion and being able to pursue it. Onward and upward.

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That Was Easy?

I am just back from Staples, where I picked up some shipping supplies. It was your standard trip to Staples, the store that touts itself with the slogan “That Was Easy”.

It is 2014. Technology is bounding ahead in enormous leaps. Everything is connected to everything else and everyone wants to know your business. Like every other retailer in the U.S., Staples wants you to be part of their rewards program so they track your spending habits and give you a carrot once in a while for buying three tons of paper clips.

When it was my turn at the checkout I was asked the question, “Are you a rewards club member?”. I can never remember if I am or not, because after all, Staples wants you to carry a card and quite frankly I’m not that invested in the program. But then some sort of ding happened in my head and I decided to rejoin the rewards program. Maybe I can use a carrot after all.

“I’m not a member, but I’ll sign up.”

The cashier pulled out a pamphlet the resembled something you fill out to sign up for a credit card, pulled off a flimsy piece of paper that was glued to the pamphlet and scanned the number.

“If you could please take a moment to fill this form out, I’ll enter it into the system and you’ll be all set.”

This is where I took pause. There was a considerable line of people behind me. After all, it’s 2014 and retailers are cutting back wherever possible. Theoretically they could probably save a chunk of change by not buying expensive point of sale computer systems that they are never going to use, but I digress. One checkout, long line.

The cashier started fumbling around for a pen. Or a pencil. Or a crayon. He couldn’t find a pen but if I’d wait for a few moments he could probably grab one off the display, because after all, I am at Staples. That Was Easy.

“Can I just register online later?”, I ask.

“No, we have to enter the information into the system”, was his response.

It’s 2014. This should be simple. There shouldn’t even be a card. Sign up online, get an app for your iPhone or Android device and they scan it. It works for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and lots and lots of other retailers. But Staples, where they say “That Was Easy”, can’t get with the program. They’re still thinking along old-school lines, where customers like paper-based engagement and carrying lots of cards that feel like coupons.

“That Was Easy” couldn’t be further from the truth.

I finally convinced the cashier that I would take the paper home, complete the exam at my leisure and bring it back when I ship the items that I was buying the shipping supplies for. He approved my taking the exam out of the store.

It’s sitting here on the dining room table. It’ll probably be burned for warmth.

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Same Old.

With the arrival of the New Year I decided to ramp back my listening habits when it came to politics radio. This has not been an easy task, what with my selected satellite music stations playing the same handful of 70s and 80s songs over and over again. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for music and I feel like I need some intelligent discussion so I find myself back on POTUS channel 124.

I was trying to get away from politics radio because honestly, I find it disheartening to hear politicians in D.C. congratulate themselves for some of the worst representatives of the population in the history of the nation. Plummeting job approval records are for a reason, and that reason isn’t to find an excuse for a raise. Citizens are so polarized these days. It’s either very black or very white with no room for the grayness of compromise along the way.

I like to think that things are going to change for the better with the New Year, but then we hear stories like this: Christie on Bridge Scandal: ‘I Knew Nothing About This’.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, back in September, Bridget Anne Kelly, one of NJ governor Chris Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, worked with an inside at the NY-NJ Port Authority and purposely orchestrated a traffic jam inbound on the George Washington Bridge at Ft. Lee, N.J. For several days. Because Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich did not support Christie for the governor’s race.

Mayor Sokolich won his race by a landslide.

Motorists were held up for hours. Kids couldn’t get to school. Emergency Medical Services were delayed, including the ambulance that carried a 91-year old woman in cardiac arrest to the hopsital. The woman later died.

This delay was orchestrated out of spite. It sounds like a page from a script of “The Sopranos”. There’s more detail here.

This is exhibit A as to why I’m ramping back from politics radio. Stupid people are electing stupid people to power and then the stupid people in power are doing really stupid things. Stupid is winning. I seriously believe that we are in the opening moments of the movie “Idiocracy”.

Then we have the fine folks in Utah who are basically playing whiplash with the emotions of some of its citizens. You couldn’t get married if you were gay, then you could, now you can’t and if you did, you’re not married anymore, the state won’t recognize it.

Sorry, but that’s bullshit. That’s the Utah state government going out of its way to make things as awful as possible for same-sex couples.

Do we see the theme? Governmental officials making things awful, all based on personal agendas. Where’s the good? What happened to our elected officials representing the people that elected them?

Blargh.

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Photo from The Wall Street Journal.

Missing.

I am working at the office today. Because of my fun-filled schedule I had to take an early lunch, so I decided to mix it up a bit and go to my “alternate” parking lot. The seagulls that usually hover around this area are nowhere to be found. It must be too cold for them. This has me wondering as to where seagulls go in the wintertime? Where do they hide? Are they equipped to handle sub-zero temperatures? How do they eat? Who eats the discarded Burger King french fries? Do they seagulls feel thinner after eating SatisFries?

I’m very curious.

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Cold.

Look how pretty the back yard is today.

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It’s a sunny day with partly cloudy skies. But let me tell you something, it’s cold. It’s very cold. In fact, it is currently +5F/-15C. The wind chill is at -17F/-27C.

The local school district is one of two districts in Central New York that opened today. Most won’t agree with me on this, but being open makes sense: the students are bused to school, the buses are heated and the school can be heated just as easily as a home can be. I wouldn’t really make my kid wait out by the road for the bus but a good sprint down the driveway as the bus approaches can do wonders for the circulation. I was there many times as a kid and as I grow older I lose touch with the latest trends in nanny states and all that.

That all being said, I’ll admit that I didn’t go to the gym this morning but instead opted to work out in the basement. That’s the hypocrite in me, I guess. However, if I was scheduled to go into the office today I would have still gone into the office, just like the thousands of other folks in the area did today. On the other hand, I will be going out after work to head to the chiropractor. I hope nothing on my body is frozen up to the point where there won’t be any snap, crackle or pop.

The worse thing about this weather is that I am unable to fly today. It’s not good for a student pilot to fly a four-seat airplane in 25 MPH winds and single digit temperatures. I’m looking forward to the day that I’m skilled enough to fly a hearty airplane in this kind of weather, though.

Just as long as it has heat.