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April 11, 2014

Albuquerque Motor Trend Auto Show 2014

I did not try to kill myself checking out every car this time (almost killed myself last year and did not like it). So, the personal highlights follow.

Car of the show is Mitsubishi Mirage. I know that it was maligned by the car press and that supposedly it drives poorly. Sure, it's made by Mitsubishi, which teeters on the exit from the U.S. market. But it only costs $13k! THIRTEEN. I was in the market for "cheap" cars last year (got a Fit). You could not even get a poverty spec Spark for that much. And the Mirage is rather comfortable even for someone 6'5" or 200 cm tall. Even steering and pedals are in the right place. I drove a FIAT 500, and had to drive it with outstretched arms. Sorry, Sergio, but this is way better. I am fighting the urge to visit the dealer and drive one of these.

Of course if we consider quote-unquote "cheap" cars overall, then Honda Fit is still the king. They rolled out the redesigned 2015 model, and it's just as good as the one I bought last year. A little full of electronics, but whatever, it's the life.

The civilian Ford Transit Connect was the close runner-up after Mirage. It's awesome in how purposeful it is. If you need a universal transportation module, nothing better exists on the market. And that headroom! Kickass! Only $25k, too.

Ford brought out the new 2015 Mustang with the IRS, but it was labeled "Prototype Vehicle Locked For Your Protection". Jerks. Jeep people did not bring Renegade either.

The hachiroku is still very nice. Well, there was no change from 2013.

Forrester is nice but overpriced.

Nissan continues to boycott the show, except for Infiniti.

The entry BMW still has a better interior than Mercedes, but the difference is not anywhere as stark as it was in 2013, when Benz was crazily bad. A lot would come down to their infotaiment, but cars were unpowered. Neither brought out one of their new FWD cars. I can understand missing 2AT, see Ford and Jeep above, we are in deep flyover country that did not deserve it. But CLA is a 2014 model! Perhaps I missed it after all?

I had time to sit in S-klasse. Ugh. Gauche as all get out. Even has the analog clock. If that's what the rich have to deal with, I don't want to be rich.

Finally, I pinched my fingers in an Acura door. Window was open and I closed the door while holding the frame. That hurt 3/10. I was too used doing so in the Jeep, but was no Jeep. I suppose it only takes one lesson not to do that for an Acura owner, and it was my own fault, but not an excellent first impression anyway.

Tags: cars

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February 06, 2014

flying: Into the Carlson at 250 hours

A discussion at PoA reminded me that writing down one's impression can come handy later, even if, or precisely because it may be distorted or completely false due to inexperience. So, here's what it was getting into Carlson Sparrow Sport Special.

Firstly, I realized that since the Sparrow SS is a single-seater, I had to check myself out. So, I went for a tailwheel refresher with Mr. John Lorenz, widely considered the best tailwheel CFI in the area.

FAA, in their wisdom, dedicated a special attention to low-inertia, high-drag airplanes in Advisory Circular 90-109, Appendix 4. They were concerned that it was too easy for a pilot coming down from traditional airplanes to lose airspeed and crash. While perhaps a potential hazard, it didn't feel like an issue to me. Sparrow SS is not a Quicksilver. It's more like a Cub in how it slows down, and I was equipped to handle that.

The ground handling was the biggest problem and hazard, in particular on rollout. I experienced all kinds of dangerous PIO, both up and down (enough for a prop strike) and left to right (enough for a good look into irrigation channel that lines the runway at my field). But in the air the handling is benign. There's no excessive adverse yaw, stalls are gentle with 27% MAC.

As far as PIO goes, it took about 6 hours to get comfortable. I see now why insurance requires 10 hours in type. I made something like 100 landings in that time. I learned to raise and lower the tail at the right moment, how step on the rudder decisively, and what the aileron input does on the ground. This controls the usual left-right PIO. Fortunately, I have a Matco tailwheel, which allows for easy steering.

To control the porpoising, the biggest help was getting low enough to the ground and stay low while increasing AoA all the way to stall. People mention the sight picture in regards to it, and that's exactly what the main problem was. That, and having the stick in your gut at touchdown. I haven't tried a wheelie yet, as the original builder warned me not to attempt it.

So, rather than the problems with low inertia and high drag, Sparrow presents problems with tailwheel. Otherwise, it's nothing, really.

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January 20, 2014

Christmas present 2013

I had no idea these even came in actual 1:72 rather than DLC.

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December 28, 2013

flying: In which I pretend to fly a real airplane

Due to various circumstances, I was running low on the "pure" gas, so I refueled with 100LL at a pump for big boys.

While I was there, the next guy in line helped me to deal with the hose. Hose of an airplane pump is much thicker and heavier than that on a common car pump, and something was not working in the latching mechanism of its spool. Anyhow, he held it down while I filled up for 6 gallons (a Cherokee in which I learned to fly takes 50). The helpful gentleman was quite amazed that it was all.

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December 05, 2013

Golden Time begins

I cannot stop watching this terrible romcom and I blame two things: Evirus and Crunchyroll. I don't think I would ever bother torrenting, and I would not give it a second chance after the facepalm of ep.1 without Evirus' advocacy and spoilers.

Oh, and one other thing: the comparison with the classics is very instructive here. When I watched, say, Initial D, I never paid any attention to the moldy tropes as they occured, because they were masterfuly deployed. When I watched Yowapeda, the same tropes were obvious and painful. What is that magic of competence? I am sure Yamakan would love to know. Golden Time, too, makes me appreciate initial Ai yori Aoshi and the original Nodame this much more.

Tags: anime

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November 15, 2013

flying: safety is srz bzns

I probably should feel ridiculous, but sadly with my long neck and the sharp insides of Carlson this is necessary even before we talk crashes, so I don't. The most unpleasant part is not the pretend-pilot looks, but that with only 56 horse-power on tap, every pound is precious, so I would be quite happy to leave this get-up on the ground in exchange for 5 more f.p.m. climb rate.

The only other aircraft where I bumped my head in a painful way was, surprisingly, the vaunted Cessna 162, the future of S-LSA and all. Due to extreme weight problem, Cessna omitted all the interior upholstery from the 162. The result was predictable and painful.

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November 13, 2013

Jeep and mileage

22 mpg in daily driving? Better believe it. Note the Mileage Counter A and the fuel gauge: 280 miles on something like 12 or 13 gallons. I reset the counter when I refuel.

Truth to be told, it's mostly an artefact of traffic not being heavy around there. Cruising at 75, Jeep does about 19. Slowing to 65 stretches a bit about 20 at flat land. Getting into a traffic jam can get really bad quick.

Tags: cars

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November 11, 2013

flying: Surprisingly, I'm still alive

Just posting to commemorate my success...

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November 04, 2013

flying: An amazing gyroplane

I visted an airport open house in Belen on Saturday, which was quite well attended, and even included an amateur air show with 5-ship formations (local RVers from Albuquerque put it up)! One piece of visiting hardware in particular was remarkable, I think. Check it out:

It's a gyroplane with a Subaru engine. The owner put a turbocharger on it, the combo delivering 230 hoursepower. The top speed is 120 mph, or half greater than my airplane! Of course the gyro costed quite a bit more, but still... Impressive. It can haul a ton and land vertically.

Also observe the lack of tall amortizing landing legs, present on e.g. SportCopter Vortex. The owner said that he does not need them even when he lands to a confined spot. He opted for a heavier main rotor, which stores enough energy to level off after a descent and put it down gently. The excess engine power hauls the heavy rotor easily.

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November 02, 2013

flying: A dollar a gallon

What if a local gas station started to sell a gas for one dollar per gallon? The traffic jam would be huge, don't you think? AvWeb reports on the aftermath of the Redbird Skyport experiment:

Redbird’s San Marcos, Texas, Skyport made quite a splash earlier in October when it sold avgas for two weeks at a buck a gallon. Yet two weeks after the cheap gas experiment ended, flight activity is still up threefold at the airport, according to Redbird CEO Jerry Gregoire. [...]

"We’re glad to say the demand is out there to fly. It surprised us quite a bit. We expected in the first two weeks to sell about 16,000 gallons where we would have normally sold about 2000 gallons in that period of time. We ended up selling 90,000 gallons," [...]

"Now what we’re seeing after this is that the amount of flying into this airport and the flights scheduled into this area are up about threefold on a daily basis since that promotion ended,” Gregoire said.

In exchange for gas at a dollar a gallon, Redbird interviewed more that 1600 pilots flying in a total of about 1000 airplanes [...] Pilots were asked about how much they fly, where they fly and what type of flight they typically make. Interestingly, almost a quarter — 23 percent — said they hadn’t flown in at least a year before the cheap fuel became available.

I'm sure this will add ammo to people who claim that aviating always was too expensive and there's nothing new to it. Unfortunately, a 3-fold increase in traffic still puts us a half again below the levels of 1980s, when the population was only 280 million.

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October 20, 2013

flying: Visiting Mr. X

In the middle of Arizona desert, there lived a man, Mr.X. Not a unabomber or a pedophile, just a regular kind of working man. Mr.X had an illegal airplane, a very small one, which he bought for $6,000. He wasn't a drug traffiker. But the U.S. Government decreed that his airplane should not exist. Not for any reason related to public well-being, but simply because it could.

American airplane pilots and owners reading this have probably already guessed what was up. Mr.X did not register the little tube-and fabric airplane by the 2010 deadline, when it became impossible. Well, okay, you can still register it in the "Experimental Exhibition" category, I think, maybe. Then, all you need to visit a Casa Grande fly-in is a fax from your local Flight Standards District Office. It's a category in which people flying jet fighters register. Still... Isn't it kind of... excessive? Maybe something they do in a police state where citizens must register motorized bicycles.

P.S. I probably should mention that I did not buy Mr.X's little airplane. The truck, from the cab of which the picture was taken, is carrying a different, fully legal airplane that was based on the same airfield.

Personally, I do not see anything wrong with an illegal airplane, as long as it's not used to commit crimes against persons or property. But I do not live in the middle of Arizona where I could get away with it.

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October 13, 2013

flying: Mystery Airplane, bis


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October 09, 2013

flying: Phoenix Class B

Well, that was different. Just look at all that water:

Okay, just kidding. The water had no import on the flight, however the Bravo was on the bucket list for a while. And surprisingly, they even cleared me into it, albeit on the way back.

You can tell it wasn't like Denver, where a controller once told me: "I don't have the time to deal with you", after the usual "Squack VFR, remain clear of Class Bravo". I went into Glendale (KGLU), and thought better than zig-zag around without knowing the landmarks. Instead I squeezed on top of the Scottsdale Delta at 4800 and then dived down under a shelf at 2800, from where it was smooth sailing to a 45 degree entry for right traffic at 16. Score!

On the way back it was another story, as I had to gun 2700 r.p.m. all the way from Metro Center and contemplated a careful switchback to climb on top of Deltas. Speaking of Metro Center, I never saw it on either way there or back. So much for a supposedly prominent landmark.

Another funny thing happened on departure, too. Since I went left crosswind for a north-east departure out of GLU, I checked in with Phoenix at 120.7, who immediately told me to contact Luke at 118.15. That was despite me hearing how they called me as a traffic to someone else. When I got through to Luke, they bounced me back to Phoenix, while also advising another aircraft about me. Fortunately by that time was almost at Metro and Phoenix agreed to deal with me.

It felt like both controllers were confused by my attempt to get on top of Scottsdale. Apparently locals take north and go around Deer Valley in such circumstances. Oh well, it was Sunday. I never saw another airplane except in the pattern at Glendale.

Oh, and one other thing. While the scaremongering about thraffic and ATC turned out to be overblown, the airspace is complex indeed. I had to resort to flying by the terminal approach chart, because Phoenix sectional was just too dense with symbols. In Denver, TAC only made me confused due to scale being twice off, but here I had to suck it up and focus on hitting pre-planned altitudes carefuly (which would be impossible even to write on the sectional).

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October 04, 2013

flying: Mystery Airplane

The subject is a reference to Wonderduck's series of "mystery ship" postings, but only a reference. I am not asking anyone to guess what it is, and there's no prize. But it certainly offers a mystery. Like, if it actually flies.

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Vladimir Putin should receive 2 Nobel Peace Prizes

Now that Vladimir Putin stymied President's Obama attempts at war in Syria, there is a talk of giving him a Nobel Peace Prize. I think this would be incorrect, and Nobel Prize Committee ought to give him at least 2 prises.

President Obama already has one Peace Prize. Therefore, should Mr. Putin be awarded the same prize, he would be of equal rank. However, it is clear that in the fight for peace he's victorious. Therefore, the situation would be incorrect.

One possibility to correct it would be to institute a "Super Nobel Peace Prize", awarded for forcing regular Prize holders to maintain or establish peace. But I think awarding two Prizes would be more expeditious.

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September 15, 2013

flying: Commercial to Los Alamos, maybe

Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I did not actually do it. It's merely on my bucket list.

A local airline flies a little airplane between Albuquerque and Los Alamos in a rare case of a short line making sense. Most of the time, a feeder line (such as Oakland to Modesto, or any hop to Stockton like what America West used to offer) does not pay for itself, because it adds between $200 to $500 to the cost of airline ticket, and passengers are willing to drive for hours in order to avoid it. In this case, mere $50 is quite competitive with the cost of a van ride.

Of course, this is helped by the lack of a decent road between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. It did not take me long to notice that weak roads correspond to healthier GA, which is why New England is still a hub of practical personal aviation in America (Texas is just full of RV jocks).

Interestingly enough, a sizeable ratio of passengers are not airline travellers, but residents of Los Alamos who visit Albuquerque.

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A Daihatsu Rocky sighting in 2013

Look at this storied antique:

It still looks sharp and attractive despite decades of neglect.

Tags: cars

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September 11, 2013

Annals of Journalism, issue 1

In an article about two Democrats recalled for helping to pass awful Colorado gun laws, Sean Sullivan writes in paragraph three:

On one end, the National Rifle Association dished out six figures. On the other, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did too.

You could easily imagine that Bloomberg responded to NRA in kind, if you aren't attentive enough. But deeply inside... woa:

And the anti-recall side easily outraised the pro-recall interests.

The article looked like Mr. Sullivan tried to pass for an objective journalist, and it's almost there, but no cigar. Maybe it's his editor's paw prints.

P.S. Just so you know, although it's not mentioned in the article, Obama won Morse's district by 21% and Giron's district by 19% a year ago.

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August 29, 2013

Cars in Hokkaido in 2013

A mysterious sporty kei car by Honda (may be Beat according to Thomas' article about Cappucino):

The aforementioned Cappuccino near Toyota Comfort:

The Unmatched GT-R:

A common pickup truck:

A less common pickup: Toyota Tundra, which may even be re-imported from Sun Antonio, TX, U.S.A.:

And as the final oddity, a one-lane freeway:

Tags: cars

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August 28, 2013

flying: Takikawa 2013

While not frolicking in Akihabara on my trip to Japan, I took a detour to Takikawa Skypark to fly with a local soaring association. Unfortunately, conditions weren't good, so the flight was reduced to a short joyride rather than a soaring flight. We took a tow to 1500 ft up, found no lift, and landed after 15 minutes up (I logged 0.2 of dual just to be honest).

Here's a big blue gap at our 10 o'clock while under tow:

But with the rest of the sky being like this:

And here's my instructor's head while on final to 19:

One interesting part is that someone felt like it was necessary to maintain a controlling authority at a field where all of a glider, a motor glider, and a towplane may be flying around. In America, it would be ridiculous. In Japan (and Russia) it is the way to operate, apparently. I am somewhat more familiar with Russia, where every airfield has a control tower, often a monumental concrete building presiding over a grass field. Takikawa offers a more reasonable facility: a trailer that looks like a greenhouse:

The overall lesson is that it's paramount to find the good weather, and it may not necessarily occur in the afternoon. The low ridges that surround Takikawa may provide wind lift in the mornings when the sea breeze blows over them in a certain direction. Their website actually has a document that discusses pecularities of the local weather, but not being a real glider pilot, I was unable to make a good use of it.

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