Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Nuance I Hadn't Considered

If a person's arguments don't hold up, or if they ignore or refuse to examine pertinent evidence, it becomes permissible to look into the psychological reasons why they hold their positions. I've long been aware that many liberals hold a "progressive" position in order to feel good about themselves. Oftentimes taking the progressive position allows an ersatz form of atonement. If virtue is as virtue does, there can often be much to atone for. For instance, what if, for whatever reason, you never volunteer your money or time to charitable works? Well you fix that by voting for Democrats, the party of the downtrodden, who will take from the rich and give to the poor! What if you favor abortion, the ultimate form of the strong oppressing the inconvenient weak? Easy! Vote for the party of "the little guy", or maybe go out and protest the eating of meat, or the cutting down of trees.

I often think of the liberal holding his positions in order to bludgeon conservatives over the head for being morally inferior. Ace of Spades has a post which got me thinking about the other side of the coin. He points out that the vitriol is oftentimes not so much an offensive move as it is a defensive move. If your very sense of virtue and absolution comes from the compensating liberal positions you hold, then what happens if someone tries to undermine your positions? Where does it leave you if the thing that served to "wipe away your sins" is taken away from you?

This all brings to mind the following bumper sticker idea I had a while back (it would be kind of an inside joke for Catholics or Orthodox, as it refers to the Sacrament of Confession):
"Relativism Is For People Who Can't Handle Absolution"

What I mean by that, is that everyone carries a burden of guilt. If you are repentant and have Confession available to you (and you use it!), this guilt can be washed away from you using God's way. It is absolutely amazing what a load off this is. And if you refuse God's way? Well you've still got the guilt, only now you need to redefine the very nature of morality to turn your guilt into something else (hence, moral relativism), and get relief from the weight of it.

Ace's post is well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

In college I was a spectator to a fight between two people. One was a conservative, the other a liberal. They were fighting over whether or not the government should provide some social service. The liberal was quite insistent that the conservative's failure to support this service made him a loathesome, selfish person.

He blew up. "What are you talking about?!" he demanded. "You and I do the same things. Neither one of us donates our time or money. We just sit around and [shoot the breeze] and drink beer. But because you have this political position that costs you nothing in terms of effort or money, you pat yourself on the back for being morally superior!"

I actually think that's a big problem with modern liberalism, especially in terms of its diminishing political appeal.

Liberalism isn't just an ideology. It's not just politics. It's what makes them good people. The political has truly become the personal.

Many liberals take genuine offense at the expression of an anti-liberal political notion. It's not just a political disagreement; to them, it's an attack on them as a person. As the liberal has so much of his sense of personal worth invested in his identity as a liberal, disagreements over policy are actually attacks on the core of his feeling of self-worth.

Who Of Us Could Write Like This?

Besides Lileks, that is.
This year I winnowed out many ornaments and bits of holiday decoration that get put out for no reason other than they were put out last year. There’s a fat monk we got in DC, for example – a free gift from Macy’s, I think. I don’t like him. There’s nothing wrong with him, but some ornaments you’re glad to see, and others just annoy you as the years pass. If I had a vast ceramic monastery into which I could place him, well, yes. He would make the cut. But standing on his own he suggests a sort of medieval Christmas, with birds eating from the hands of monks and chants and illuminated manuscripts and people using words like “Shrovetide.” And frankly, that isn’t Christmas at Jasperwood. Nor do we fix Christmas in the Victorian era – as much as I love the Gospel of St. Scrooge and its filmic manifestations, I can’t quite buy the little houses and lamps and shops and Merrie Olde England stuff without thinking of Whitechapel, the horrid sanitary and social conditions, the tanneries spilling offal and toxins into the gutters, urchins threading their way through gin shops to find the syphilitic heap they call mother, etc.

I’m more of a cranberry topiary kind of guy, is all I’m saying.

Those French

Made a pretty cool commercial (via Peeve Farm). Also via Peeve Farm is this article written by the Blue State liberal father of a Marine. Well worth reading.

Don't You Ever Change, Joe Trippi!

Joe..it..it's not you...it's us. We...we're just not that into you guys...But, hey!..Keep trying! Just be yourselves and I'm sure, uhh...someone will vote for you. You guys are super! Good luck...I mean it! I do!

Opinion Journal has an article by Joe Trippi about what (he thinks!) the Dems need to do to win (answer: quit being so moderate!). The reader responses are also good.

Tell Me More About This Deity You Speak Of

For some reason I found this to be amusing and telling (via James Taranto):
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, is investigating how Democrats can talk more effectively about religious issues in the run-up to the midterm elections, when the party of an incumbent president traditionally loses seats in Congress. He was reluctant to talk about his plans until his staff completed research he requested.

Also in the article cited by Taranto we have this:

"Why is it that abortion is a litmus test and not the death penalty?" [Jennings] said to applause earlier this month at a postelection round-table discussion organized by Gaddy and the Interfaith Alliance.

I don't know, lessee here...Yes......Yes, that's it! Criminals on death row are innocent human life and never even had a chance to emerge from their mother's wombs to be welcomed into the world, while unborn babies got that way (unborn I mean), due to societal, class, and gender pressures over which they had no control! So it's really the same situation!

Life's Simple Pleasures

I haven't done any morning lap swimming since the Thursday before Election Day (now doesn't that seem like another era!). A bad cough kept me away for about three weeks, then there were other events and also the Thanksgiving holiday to prevent me from getting up at 6:30 AM and heading over to the pool. So I was looking forward to a workout with great anticipation.

The pool is outdoors, and it just so happens that this morning was the coldest weather we've had all year (about 29 degrees). Now, how can you beat getting up at dawn, driving past the frost covered roofs and lawns to the pool, stripping down to trunks, earplugs and goggles in the shower room, then bracing yourself for the stinging scurry to the edge of the pool and taking the plunge into the 78 degree water? After maybe 8 laps, I was warmed up enough that the cold air on my back was no longer annoying, and toward the end of the swim, the peach colored sun rays were lighting up the steam as it swirled above the waters. If the dry walk out to the pool was bracing, the drenched walk back to the shower room was something else!

Here's another simple pleasure: ever have a Taco Bell Caramel Apple Empanada?

Via Google, I've gathered the following testimonials:

"Have you partaken of the joy that is the new Taco Bell caramel apple empanada? Ohhhhh, but you must. I know that the restaurant is a cheapie fast food joint; I know that they are lovingly referred to as Taco Hell (by George, anyway) but the caramel apple empanada = muy freakin' bueno."

"New Taco Bell caramel apple empanadas are the F---ING BIZZ-ZZOMB"

"My lunch choice has been influenced. I just got back from taco bell. I brought a santa sack full of apple empanadas..."

"sooooo good. why do you guys keep making me hungry today. i wish someone would bring me some taco bell..."

99 cents, people!

A Dynamic

In a Front Page Magazine article about the killing of Theo van Gogh by a Dutch Jihadi, a thought came to me while reading this paragraph:
Holland is a country where drugs, euthanasia, and gay marriage are legal, and prostitutes and the military are unionized—simply put, a real country as close as possible to a liberal, tolerant, multiculturalist utopia on earth. And that, as the Dutch have belatedly discovered and become angry about, is precisely the problem. This belated anger—two years after the equally shocking assassination of gay, environmentalist, and equally libertine populist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn by an “animal rights” militant claiming to “protect” Muslims—explains the post-van Gogh attacks on Muslim schools and mosques (there have been retaliatory attacks against churches, as well) in a country famous for its strong distaste for argument. Add to that the fact that prior to Fortuyn there had been no political murder in the Netherlands since the 1584 assassination of Wilhelm of Orange, the nation’s founder, and one begins to understand why one murder in Amsterdam may have an even more profound impact on Dutch culture and behavior than 3,000 deaths in America on 9/11.

What jumped out at me was: "Holland is a country where drugs, euthanasia, and gay marriage are legal, and prostitutes and the military are unionized—simply put, a real country as close as possible to a liberal, tolerant, multiculturalist utopia on earth. [Holland is] a country famous for its strong distaste for argument." And it struck me that in the US after 9/11, no mosques or schools were attacked, but in Holland they were.

Here is my thought: Could it be that a society (Old Europe) which has an ethos of unquestioned (and it is; there is no abortion debate in Europe whatsoever, nor is there much debate--yet--about the welfare statism that is killing European civilization), bland, socialistic relativism, and where being argumentative is frowned upon, could it be that this sort of passivity means that there is no emotional safety valve whatsoever, so that when sufficient provocation comes, a surprising level of violence is the result?

I have a vague intuition that sometime in the next few decades, extreme "at each others throats" violence is going to break out in Europe again. The bovine ideal of tolerant-of-anything, docile, egalitarian, no-one-should-try-to-get-ahead-of-anyone-else, eat-drink-and-be-merry, six-weeks-of-holiday conformity, just isn't in accord with healthy human nature. These people are going to go berzerk.

Have you ever seen the old Star Trek episode, "Return of the Archons"? This is the one where they go to a planet (which is in a sort of small cowboy town Victorian era) where everybody is super polite, childlike, peaceful, and under the powerful mind control of a central computer (named Landru, whose motto is "Peace and contentment will fill you."). Once a year, they have something called "Festival". At the Red Hour, the clock strikes 6 PM, the computer releases the mind control, and everyone goes nuts, getting into fisticuffs, raping, looting, and burning down the town.

Does a European Red Hour approach?

I've had the thought that when, say, France, decides it has to do something about its "Moslem Problem", the viciousness of the roundups, arrests, and deportations will be something to behold. Those who have complained, complained, complained about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib will finally show us as the mere pikers we really are. Meanwhile the US will continue along pretty much as it always has...

Meat Eating Vegetarians

A friend of mine has started a new blog, called REAL Catholics Online. One of her first posts concerns the talk that Gavin Newsom gave (I blogged on this earlier). She was sitting a couple of seats away from me, so also got to experience Newsom's charisma up close. In her post she recalls a quote from the audience that I had forgotten about.

Someone said "Isn't saying you're a Catholic but you disagree with the Church on abortion and homosexual marriage like saying 'I'm a vegetarian but I still eat meat?'"

Isn't it, indeed!

The whole post is worth reading.

Being a Catholic in today's progressive society means it's up to me to decide which teachings I am going to accept or reject. No more of this "accepting the authority of the Church." If I believe a woman should have the right to kill her unborn child, surely my 20-some odd years of wisdom and experience outweighs the 2,000 years of the Church's. After all, God gave me the gift of freedom of choice--shouldn't I exercise it?

Of course, if I'm exercising my will, and my next-door-neighbor is exercising his will, and Gavin Newsom is exercising another will all together, where does that leave us?

What does it mean to be Catholic? To put it simply, I suppose it is something similar to what is means to be a vegetarian: that there are a set of beliefs and standards of living that one adheres to. Period. If there are a million different contradicting beliefs that one group of people subscribe to, what is the commonality that binds them together? If there is no central standard, what is Catholicism?

Mayor Newsom can call himself whatever he wants, but "[coming] to terms with [his] difference of opinion" with the Church does not change the state of his soul or the teachings of the Church. It simply gives him a way to sleep at night, and perhaps a way to keep his mother happy.

To be Catholic--to REALLY be Catholic--means understanding and accepting the teachings of the Church; not because you are a brainless lemming, but because you understand that the authority of the Church comes directly from Christ. It means that when you fail, you ask for forgiveness and try again--you don't try and disguise your failure as an ultimate success.

BTW, one of the audience members gave Newsom a paperback copy of the Catechism (which is really a beautifully written document). When Newsom finished his talk and left, the Catechism remained on the podium.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Good Point

Lee at Right Thinking from the Left Coast makes a good point in addressing a UK newspaper's analysis of why the movie Alexander is failing:
Do you know why the film Alexander bombed this weekend? It’s not because it was a lousy movie that got consistently terrible reviews. No, my friends, it is because we red-state Americans are totally homophobic.


So, basically the article sums up like this: “The movie has been plagued by horrendous reviews, and has been widely anticipated to be a flop for quite some time. Nonetheless, there has to be an angle in there somewhere whereby we can twist it to blame the whole thing on those homophobic Christian yahoos over in America.”

So, this sets up an interesting proposition. See, if the film is a flop in the UK as well, then obviously the same conclusion can be inferred from that fact, right? Unless Alexander is a monster hit I’m going to assume that they’re just as much a group of single-neuron sister-marrying gun-toting paranoid homophobes as we are.

Roundup of Lunacy

John Leo has collected some choice liberal quotes from the election season. Here's just one:
Natalie Maines, apparently surprised that many Dixie Chicks fans hated her famous anti-Bush comments of 2003, said “I realize that I’m just supposed to sing and look cute so our fans won’t have anything to upset them while they’re cheating on their wives or driving around in their pickup trucks shooting small animals.” Then she complained that the political climate is “so the opposite of me as a person and what I believe in.”

Where's The Nuance?

Here's an article examining how the NYT is shocked, shocked! to find that people watch the same trashy television shows in the Red States as they do anywhere else. What hypocrites these Red Staters are! It's funny how the libs, who are supposed to be such nuanced observers of the shades-of-gray world we live in, try to pigeonhole everyone else into some sort of behavioral box. "If you vote a certain way, you ought to be entertained a certain way." No stereotypes or black-and-white thinking there!

The Pursuit of Happiness

Pete du Pont has an excellent article on the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats. At one point he uses a somewhat watered down version of the quip: "A liberal is someone who, while watching a 14 year old girl performing a live sex act on stage, worries whether she's being paid the minimum wage." I also liked Gingrich's observation:
Rather than applauding Hillary Clinton's telling them last summer that their taxes must be raised because "we're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good," they prefer Newt Gingrich's observation that the Declaration of Independence's Pursuit of Happiness includes an active verb: "Not happiness stamps; not a department of happiness; not therapy for happiness. Pursuit."

The whole article is worth reading.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Dowd Surprises

Maureen Dowd, who, for some reason, is given space on the NYT editorial page, confesses that the rest of her family is actually very conservative, and she includes a very nice e-mail written by her conservative brother which explains why he supports Bush. Amazing that this appeared in the New York Times! Free registration is required to read the article, but, hey, everyone trying to keep informed should register to read NYT articles, even if you only read the ones you see linked from other sources.


You can put Tom Hayden in the same category as the 19th century French Bourbon dynasty, restored after Napoleon was defeated. "They learn nothing. And forget nothing." Here's a brilliant article in which he spells out his strategy for engineering an American defeat in Iraq (that's a progressive goal, people!). Traitor. Also, uhh, MORON, this is the kind of stuff that lost you the election. I guess throwing Indochina to the wolves wasn't enough for you, Tom? Nothing ever is for you "progressives".

The anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to leave Iraq by denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary to its strategy for dominance.


There is a lesson here for progressives. Since the anti-war sentiment was a factor of public opinion during the presidential race that made Bush defer tough decisions, the movement needs to create an even greater force of opposition that will become indigestible, a kind of gallstone in the stomach of power.


While it is theoretically possible (and in my view, desirable) that the January election might bring to power a Shiite-led coalition that would ask the U.S. to withdraw troops, that is hardly the intent. The U.S. still plans to permanently remake a new Iraq, plans that include American military bases, a privatized market economy, ready access to oil, a prime target for Western and, especially Christian, proselytizing in the region. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. is already flooding Iraq with satellite dishes and televisions while privatizing its 200 state-owned companies: "Bremer discussed the need to privatize government with such fervor that his voice cut through the din of the cargo hold."

Instead of assuming that the Bush administration has an "exit strategy", the movement needs to force our government to exit. The strategy must be to deny the U.S. occupation funding, political standing, sufficient troops, and alliances necessary to their strategy for dominance.


Two, we need to build a Progressive Democratic movement which will pressure the Democrats to become an anti-war opposition party. The anti-war movement has done enough for the Democratic Party this year. It is time for the Democratic leadership to end its collaboration with the Bush administration – with its endorsement of the offensive on Fallujah, the talk of "victory" and "killing the terrorists" – and now play the role of the opposition. The progressive activists of the party should refuse to contribute any more resources – volunteers, money, etc. – to candidates or incumbents who act as collaborators.


Four, we must build solidarity with dissenting combat veterans, reservists, their families and those who suffered in 9/11. Just as wars cannot be fought without taxpayer funding, wars cannot be fought without soldiers willing to die, even for a mistake. Every person who cares about peace should start their daily e-mail messages with the current body count, including a question mark after the category "Iraqi civilians."

Groups like Iraqi Veterans Against the War deserve all the support the rest of the peace movement can give. This approach opens the door to much-needed organizing in both the so-called "red" states and inner cities, which give disproportionate levels of the lives lost in Iraq.

The movement will need to start opening another underground railroad to havens in Canada for those who refuse to serve, but for now even the most moderate grievances should be supported – for example, relief from the "back door draft" that is created by extending tours of duty.

Over one-third of some 3,900 combat veterans have resisted their call-ups, and the Army National Guard is at 10 percent of its recruitment goal. More generally, the "superpower" is stretched to a breaking point, with 14 of the Army's 33 combat brigades on front-line duty in Iraq. Though most discourse on Vietnam ignores or underplays the factor of dissent within the American armed forces, it was absolutely pivotal to bringing the ground war to an end. It already is becoming a real "gallstone" for the Pentagon again.

Five, we need to defeat the U.S. strategy of "Iraqization." "Clearly, it's better for us if they're in the front-line," Paul Wolfowitz explained last February. This cynical strategy is based on putting an Iraqi "face" on the U.S. occupation in order to reduce the number of American casualties, neutralize opposition in other Arab countries, and slowly legitimize the puppet regime. In truth, it means changing the color of the body count.


By any moral or economic accounting, we now are worsening the lives of Iraqi since the fall of Saddam. We have turned innocent young Americans into torturers in places like Abu Ghraib. When going into battle, we close hospitals first. We make sure that television and newspapers are not "able to show pictures of bleeding women and children being taken into hospital wards" – this reported on Veterans Day in the Times. Not even our friends like us anymore, whether we are tourists in Europe or diplomats at the United Nations.

We bomb Iraq towards an American-style market economy, passing along a $200 billion war cost and trillion-dollar debt cost to our children, while our own market economy has failed most of us: minimum wage, down thirty percent since 1978; company pensions, holders down 18 percent since 1979; median job tenure, down from 11 years to 7.7 since 1978; health insurance coverage, down from 70 percent to 63 percent since 1987.

We may even be making another 9/11-type attack more likely. What kind of government repeatedly states that another attack is "inevitable," "not a matter of if but when," then behaves in way to provoke one?


Both parties now are trapped in the vicious cycle of the "war on terrorism," just as they were caught up in the Cold War, be it the nuclear arms race, opportunistic alliances with dictators, and McCarthyite suppression of domestic critics. Only the Sixties peace and civil rights movements could finally shatter Cold War thinking at that time. It will take another such movement today to restore America's respect in the world, take steps towards global justice, and in the process possibly prevent another 9/11 attack.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Examining Metaphors

Victor Davis Hanson takes apart some flawed metaphors employed by the MSM when covering the war.

The article brings to mind a bumper sticker I've seen. The sticker says "We are creating enemies faster than we can kill them." Maybe I'm dull, but doesn't that just mean we need to kill them faster?


Military pros like this one. We supposedly broke the thermometer of Iraq during the invasion. Thus we are now faced with droplets of leaky mercury that split apart as quickly as we try to corral them — in an endless and futile exercise of trying to capture what cannot even be grasped. Thus, Fallujah is subdued, only to see Mosul erupt in some perpetual succession of violence, the terrorists nearly elemental in their uncanny ability to resist being collected and disposed of.

Two things are wrong with this smug metaphor. First, once mercury is out of its container, its original utility vanishes. One cannot take one's temperature with mercury beads that have scattered all over the floor — anymore than terrorist pockets can reform into some central command to recreate Saddam's reign of terror. The likes of Zarqawi really do have computers, written orders, ATM cards, safe houses, and weapons depots; they don't float on carpets above the sands of Iraq. Thus, the cleansing of Fallujah was a terrible setback for them all.

Second, scattered mercury bits soon become so small that they literally separate into oblivion and are forgotten about. So too with the terrorists: Crush their nests in Fallujah, shut down the borders, raid the mosques, warn Syria and Iran of a reckoning to come for their export of terrorism, hit outbreaks hard elsewhere, and by the January elections once-emboldened Wahhabi and Baathist killers will reluctantly join a Kurdish and Shiite government rather than be crushed between the hammer of Iraqi democratic militias and American air and ground power.

For all the talks of virgins, paradise, and beautiful suicides, most of those who survived American firepower in Fallujah chose to run, hide, or be captured. After all, suicide is for young zealots, not pudgy men to whom life has become altogether too dear with its money, fame, and women in the here and now. In short, far from "there is no military solution," the truth in Iraq is rather that there is no political solution without a military victory and humiliation of the terrorists.

Malkin on Thanksgiving

A nice column. Here's how it starts:
My 4-year-old daughter recently learned to say grace at mealtimes. I taught her the same little prayer my mom taught me in childhood:

God is great
God is good
Let us thank him for our food
By his hands we all are fed
Give us Lord our daily bread

At first, my daughter questioned the need for reciting this strange passage. "Why do we have to thank God?" she wondered.

"To show that we are grateful for our daily bread," I explained.

"What is 'grateful'?" she asked.

"Being appreciative for what we have," I answered.

"But I'm not eating daily bread," she argued in between bites of macaroni and cheese.

"It means whatever fills your tummy each day," I clarified.


In typical toddler fashion, my daughter is now absolutely fanatical about her new routine. Not only must we say grace before every meal, but also before each snack. And anytime we have a drink. And anytime her baby brother gobbles Cheerios in his car seat. Failure to give thanks to God is met with swift retribution. Our daughter has no qualms about chastising us in public -- at restaurants, airports or Starbucks:

"Hey, stop eating! You forgot to say grace!"

Despite the embarrassment it sometimes causes, I love her unrepentant zeal. It reminds us not to take for granted our too-infrequent gestures of daily thanksgiving. It reminds us to be humble. Following her lead, we must all bow our heads and fold our hands and shut our eyes and shout a full-throated "Amen!"

Merry Chr--, I Mean Happy Hol--, I Mean Krappy Kwanz--, I Mean...Oh, Forget It.

Man, I hate the PC crap that happens this time of year. Last year I saw a joke that this season will henceforth be know as Channuramakwanzmas.

Don Feder has a roundup of outrages that have been perpetrated lest anyone publicly acknowledge Christmas. That would be the establishment of theocracy, you know.

Perhaps I will cut to the chase and make my greeting be "Bland Nondescriptime! May the non-blessings of the non-season be without you!" Or perhaps, "May the weak sun of this solstice season shine upon you! Unless it's cloudy." Maybe "Indifferent Secudays to you!" I don't know, how about "May your credit line be extended in this no-reason season of pleasin'!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Better Luck Next Time, Oliver

A 10 percent on the tomatometer!

Congress Shall Pass No Law

Respecting the accurate teaching of history.

This from Captain's Quarter's.

Fox News reports that Maryland educators have such a fear of anything religious that they have begun rewriting history to remove any references to faith in the classroom -- beginning with Thanksgiving:

Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims (search) and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower (search) voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director. School administrators statewide agree, saying religion never coincides with how they teach Thanksgiving to students.

Every time I think I've heard the dumbest education excuse, along comes another one to top it. Teaching that the Pilgrims gave thanks to the God in which they believed doesn't amount to teaching religion -- it's teaching history. The Pilgrims of the Massachussetts Bay colony came to North America to practice their rather radical and austere form of religion unmolested by the moderating influences of the mainstream Anglican Church. How can schools teach history without mentioning the faith of the colonists?

The forces of political correctness threaten to turn us into a nation of historical illiterates. I don't want public schools teaching religion to students -- not because of any First Amendment issues, but because they'd do a horrible job of it -- but rewriting history to turn the Puritans into secular humanists is ridiculous. It recalls the worst of Soviet-style education, where teaching the party line carried more worth than the truth.

I'm a Rolling Thunder, a Pouring Rain

I'm comin' on like a hurricane!!

Here's an article about the usage of amplified music against jihadi insurgents. A little AC/DC, a little Zeppelin, a little Metallica, a little Barney the Dinosaur....

"Hell's Bells" lyrics here.


Last night I went to an interesting event. San Francisco boasts a couple of large, active Catholic young adult groups (YAG's). I hadn't been to one of the St. Vincent de Paul YAG meetings in about a year, but I wasn't going to miss this one. The infamous Mayor Gavin Newsom would be talking to the group about his faith and his politics (he comes from an old Irish Catholic family). Newsom is the guy who started handing out same sex marriage licenses at the beginning of this year. I also found out a month or so ago that he went to my high school, graduating two years behind me. Looking in my senior yearbook, I did recognize the little sophomore, but I don't have any specific recollections of him. Newsom is now all of 36.

Usually the SVdP YAG meetings have about 60 to 100 people in attendance. Last night's meeting drew 250. The crowd was probably about 1/3 gung ho for the Mayor, and 2/3 against. Of course, the big question on the mind of 2/3 the people was "How can you oppose the Church on abortion and homosexuality and consider yourself a Catholic in good standing?" The other 1/3 are, I assume, unaware (willfully or no) that it should matter whether you agree with Church teaching at all.

As it happened, I ended up sitting in the front row directly in front of the podium, about 4 feet away from Newsom. Newsom proceeded to tell about his upbringing, education, adult life in business, and how he became Mayor. Although it was not particularly on topic (he really never did talk about his faith with any specificity whatsoever), I did find his story to be quite engaging. Later he went on to why he supports abortion and gay marriage. It was all pretty standard liberal democrat "Rosa Parks" kind of stuff, no surprises there.

The most interesting thing was to experience the charisma and "mojo" of this politician. You can see when someone has star power, and this guy has it. Assuming he doesn't bungle the whole SF Mayor job, he's going places. He'll probably end up Senator or Governor some day. Despite the fact that I and the other 2/3 would never vote for the guy in a million years, and consider his kind of anarchy to be a threat to the Republic, we did find him quite charming and likeable (interestingly, many of the ladies I talked to afterward, who are dead-set against him politically, did acknowledge that he's quite a mensch).

Another point in his favor is that he is not a BS'er. He knew that most of the room was against him (not that there are enough of our kind of votes in the city to be the slightest threat to him politically), and he was very straightforward and blunt in telling us his position and that he stands for what he stands for and that no leader ever amounts to anything unless he does what he thinks is right and takes a clear stand.

After having seen Newsom (and about 15 years ago, Jerry Brown, also from right in front of the podium), I understand a bit more about charisma. I've heard on many occasions that Clinton had it (i.e. that he was amazing to meet in person), and I think that Dubya also has it.

He also acknowledges that he's not a Catholic in good standing. That's got to be a first for a politician! You'll never hear Kerry or Pelosi say this. Now of course, a serious Catholic wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of being elected San Francisco mayor in the first place. As far as I know, he didn't use his status as a "Catholic" when he was campaigning. Also, his vague references to faith without mentioning a single specific are another indicator that he is a cultural Catholic only. Just replace "Catholic" with "Irish" and that's probably all it means to him. Either that or he knows that showing any actual devotion would be political suicide.

Now, there are a lot of Catholics who think they are "Good Catholics", while supporting abortion, fornication, active homosexuality, contraception, and euthanasia. But thinking does not make it so. To be Catholic is to be in communion with the Church and what she teaches, and to believe that what she teaches is true. However, what Bishop has ever had the cojones to make it absolutely clear that believing and acceding to Church teachings is a requirement for being truly Catholic? Hence all the politicians who might as well be Baal worshipers but unashamedly claim the Catholic mantle for themselves.

A lot of atheists, secular humanists, and skeptics hate the Catholic Church for the mind control they think it imposes on its members. As if....

Anyway, Newsom has got some serious mojo. Keep your eyes on this boy. He's probably got a bright political future ahead of him.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Nice Trio of Posts

Peeve Farm has some good stuff today.

Hawkins Reviews 'The Incredibles'

If you haven't seen the movie, yet, go! Here is John Hawkins' mini-review.

Note: I did a microblurb on it last week.

The Tantrums Never End

Here's the latest. Hey, pal. If you turn your back on the President, you're turning your back on me. You're turning your back on democracy. You're turning your back on America. You're also presenting my boots with a really tempting target.

It's Democracy When I Win, But If I Lose, I Leave

Chuck Colson takes a bemused look at liberal threats to leave the country.

A Look At The Numbers

Michael Barone has an article which takes a look at Ken Mehlman's huge success in turning out the Republican vote. Keep in mind that this was achieved against the 15% MSM headwinds-o-bias, and you can see how significant these numbers are.

Many people figured they had made the decision already and didn't need to go to the polls again. Not so in 2004, when Bush faced a second liberal Democrat who had spent much of his career in the Senate. With the absentee votes in California and Washington finally counted, it appears that overall turnout was up 12 percent. John Kerry's popular vote was also 12 percent above Al Gore's. But the popular vote for Bush was up a stunning 20 percent. Before the election, some liberal commentators were claiming that Bush would win no votes he hadn't won in 2000. Not quite: He won 10 million more.

Bush's popular vote was up 23 percent in the 13 battleground states that decided the election. Kerry's paid-worker, union-led turnout drives in central cities nearly matched that -- his vote was up 21 percent over Gore's in the battlegrounds. But that wasn't enough to outdo the Bush volunteer efforts in the make-or-break states of Florida and Ohio.

Elsewhere, Bush had a bigger edge. His popular vote was up 21 percent in safe Bush states and 16 percent in safe Kerry states, compared to 12 percent and 5 percent for Kerry. The Bush organization literally reshaped the electorate. The 2000 exit poll showed an electorate that was 39 percent Democratic and 35 percent Republican. The 2004 exit poll, which was tilted toward Democrats, found a dead-heat: 37 percent to 37 percent. That means that Republican turnout was up 19 percent and Democratic turnout up only 7 percent. This is the most Republican electorate America has had since random-sample polling was invented.

Update: The Kerry Spot also takes a look at the get out the vote effort.

Intellectual Diversity

Opinion Journal has a nice editorial addressing the lopsided (really, one-sided) ratio of liberals to conservatives on campus faculties (this subject is also one of the main ongoing themes of David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine website).

Mr. Rothman used statistical analysis to determine what factors explained how academics ended up working at elite universities. Marital status, sexual orientation and race didn't play a statistically significant role. Academic excellence, as measured by papers published and awards conferred, did. But the next best predictor was whether the professor was a liberal. To critics that argue his methodology is flawed, Mr. Rothman points out that he used the same research tools long used in courts by liberal faculty members to prove race and sex bias at universities. Liberals criticizing his methods may find themselves hoist by their own petard.

Furthermore, a new national study by Swedish sociologist Charlotta Stern and Santa Clara University economist Daniel Klein found that in a random national sample of 1,678 responses from university professors Democratic professors outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 in economics. 28 to 1 in sociology and 30 to 1 in anthropology. Their findings will be published in Academic Questions, the journal of the National Association of Scholars.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Have you seen the riot the other night at the Pistons game? Here it is, via DailyRecycler.

Did you know that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian was almost deposed in the sixth century by widespread riots among the fans of the two main chariot teams, the Blues and the Greens? After a week of this, the general Belisarius (who went on to reconquer North Africa from the Vandals), put an end to it (to the tune of 30,000 dead "sports fans").

Excellent Satire

What are morals? The BlameBush blog turns to the morning talk shows for answers...

Obviously flustered, Diane managed to maintain her composure and ask Platz one finally question.

"This country is more divided than ever," she said. "But aside from mocking their religious beliefs and portraying them all as a bunch of superstitious, inbred chimps, how can democrats bridge the divide and win their 'hearts and minds,' so to speak?"

Platz clasped his hands together thoughtfully. "The key, Diane, is to turn Americans away from the zealotry of organized religion and towards a loving Father in the form of a federal government which will nurture them and satisfy all their wants and needs. As long as they believe that "morality" is dispensed by an all-knowing entity other than the state, they'll never vote for Hillary in '08."

"Hey, that rhymes!" Diane giggled before thanking Dr. Platz and breaking for a commercial.

Some Of The Prettiest Pictures

I've ever seen online (via Instapundit).


Friday, November 19, 2004

Geraghty's Roman Vacation

Jim Geraghty, the hard-working author of The Kerry Spot, took a vacation to Rome after the election and has an interesting report.

Excerpts (The excerpts are from the negatives. The column has many positives, too!):
The Continent is burning down: I'm not a fan of cigarette smoke, and in Italy, everyone smokes like a chimney. Young, old, man, woman, wealthy, poor, morning, night — every corner, every shop, every café, everybody is puffing away and you feel downwind 24/7.

What's really striking is that this comes from the continent full of folks who lecture Americans about a) healthy living and b) pollution. Hey, here's the deal, Fabio: I'll sign on to the Kyoto Treaty when Europe quits smoking, because for all of the greenhouse gases I'm emitting by using electricity and living in a country with a thriving economy, I'm not constantly burning things. And take your stinky diesel-sputtering cars and Vespas, too.


Now, here's a bit of a political observation (besides the Communist-party march I found myself walking through).

The last evening we were there, Mrs. Kerry Spot and I were sitting in a wine bar when, over at the next table, some British banker was discussing Italian culture with a woman who was (I think) his coworker. The guy seemed like the epitome of British propriety, coupled with an incensed mood — picture John Cleese. The gist of his rant was that Italian society is dominated by a patronage system riddled from top to bottom with rampant nepotism and impropriety. Apparently this made getting anything done nearly impossible, as every business had to find room on the payroll for the boss's mistress, as well as his slow-witted nephews and cousins. One had to wait one's turn for 50-some years to get into any position of responsibility, and then once one got there, the primary method of relieving those decades of stress was browbeating subordinates. Attempting to promote a promising and energetic young employee over an older and mundane employee who had paid his dues by showing up for a quarter of a century was seen as phenomenally risky and a societal taboo.

"It is holding them back in the modern economy," Cleese fumed. "They don't know what's in their self-interest. The Italians are stupid."

"Aren't the Americans stupid, too?" the woman asked, having the audacity to nod her head in my direction. (Cheerio to you too, toots.)

"Of course, but that's different," Cleese said, not willing to be distracted from his current fury at the Italians.

I wouldn't want to base my entire opinion of the Italian economy on the irritation of one wine-sipping Brit, but I would cite it as anecdotal evidence that Old Europe hasn't quite worked out all the details of the opportunity society and the benefits of the free market. Just keep it in mind the next time you read that the EU is going to be the economic superpower of this century.

Sitting in those cafés, eating the good food, it was easy to conclude that Europeans sure know how to live...because they don't know how to work.

The Big Picture

As seen by Victor Davis Hanson. Excellent!

Do They Ever Quit?

David Limbaugh has written an energetic screed against the latest liberal complaining. Apparently, they are looking at the cabinet reshuffling as some sort of Stalinist purge and consolidation of power. Liberals. Too afraid to fight the real Taliban theocrats. Too afraid to report on the real Stalinist purges while they were happening. But bravely fighting theocrats and Stalinists that only exist in their fevered imaginations! Limbaugh quotes Sydney Blumenthal:
The op-ed pages are even more pregnant with anti-Bush screeds than before the election. As just one example, Sydney Blumenthal, former Clinton senior advisor, had plenty of venom to spew in his latest Salon.com column. After detailing how the Bush administration exploited, deceived and cashiered Colin Powell, Blumenthal savaged Condoleezza Rice as an incompetent, opportunistic backstabber.

Blumenthal wrote, "As incompetent as she was at her actual job, she was as agile at bureaucratic positioning. Early on she figured out how to align with the neoconservatives and to damage Powell. Her usurpation is a lesson to him in blind ambition and loyalty."

And of the administration, Blumenthal said, "In this strange Soviet Washington, a system of bureaucratic fear and one-party allegiance has been created in which only loyalists are rewarded. Rice stands as the model. One can never be too loyal. And the loyalists compete to outdo each other. Dissonant information is seen as motivated to injure the president -- disloyalty bordering on treason. Success is defined as support for the political line, failure as departure from the line. An atmosphere of personal vendetta and an incentive system for suppressing realities prevail. This is not an administration; it does not administer -- it is a regime."

The libs have been throwing tantrums about the Darth Vader Republicans for more than my entire adult life (since 1980, when I was 15). That's a quarter century of crying wolf. Shut your pieholes, already!

Holland The First to Wake Up?

Mona Charen has a good column on the van Gogh slaying in Holland.

The bullets did not kill van Gogh. He survived long enough to stagger toward his office and plead with his attacker not to kill him -- just as Nick Berg, Margaret Hassan, Kenneth Bigley and countless others pleaded with their murderers. But the killer, a Moroccan/Dutch jihadist who reportedly converted to radical Islam after Sept. 11, 2001, pulled out a long knife and methodically slit the throat of the 47-year-old van Gogh. He then withdrew a lengthy manifesto from his pocket used the bloody knife to impale it on the chest of the filmmaker.

The letter is a screed of terrific savagery, written partly in quite conversational Dutch and part in Arabic. Much of the vitriol is aimed at Hirsi Ali -- a Dutch member of parliament of Somali birth who has renounced Islam and had helped van Gogh to make a film, " Submission," that unveiled the abuse many Muslim women silently endure.

"There will come a day," declares the threat letter, "when one soul will not be able to help another soul. A day of horrible tortures and painful tribulations which will go together with the terrible cries being pressed out of the lungs of the unjust. Cries, Mrs. Hirsi Ali, which will cause chills to run up someone's spine, and cause the hair on their head to stand straight up. ... Hair-raising screams will be squeezed from the lungs of the non-believers."

Later the letter warns: "I surely know that you, O America, will be destroyed. I surely know that you, O Europe, will be destroyed. I surely know that you, O Holland, will be destroyed."

The response of the editorial board of The New York Times reveals why Western civilization is imperiled. "Urgent efforts are needed to better manage the cultural tensions perilously close to the surface of Dutch public life," intoned the Times. "The problem is not Muslim immigration, but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society. One very real danger is that the public trauma over the van Gogh murder may lead to a clamor for anti-Muslim policies that could victimize thousands of innocent refugees and immigrants."

Right. The problem is not a murderous, totalitarian religious ideology bent on domination of any society with which it comes into contact (just ask the Sudanese Christians, the Israeli Jews or the Hindu Indians), rather it is the Western world's lack of "diversity." Good Lord, where are these people's brains?

The article goes on to note that public opinion in Holland might be starting to turn away from the multiculti group hug ideology that is killing the West.

The Rest of the Story

Oliver North has a column which gives more details about the "shooting the wounded" incident in Fallujah. I suppose that for the quislings in the press, this incident will be the story of Fallujah.

Update: Mackubin Owens also has a good article on this, which includes an e-mail from a Fallujah Marine which has been getting some play in the blogosphere. And there's another great column here.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Has This Been Said So Succinctly Before?

Found this gem in Wednesday's Lileks column:
It is helpful to remember that if 9/11 had never happened, and we had never invaded Iraq, these people would be bringing the same level of ire and outrage to the presence of irradiated beef on school menus. They are the squeaky wheels shrieking for grease.
It's true, isn't it? Some people do nothing but complain, complain, complain, and never really grew out of that aspect of toddlerhood.

Good Job. Now Lock 'Em Up.

Ohio has caught some double voters red-handed. So punish them already, and set an example!

Dare We Hope?

President Bush apparently aims to fix the tax system. Here's a good article that explores many of the non-obvious-at-first-glance benefits of a flat income tax. You know, if Bush manages to pull off something like this, it will be like yanking the lynchpin from the federal social engineering and income redistribution machine. Now that would be a legacy!

Sitting In Judgment

One of the big news items of the last few days is the Marine who shot a terrorist who was playing dead in a house clearing operation in Fallujah. I haven't seen the video, but apparently the audio captures a Marine in the next room saying "This guy's still alive! *BLAM* *BLAM*". Well of course, the liberals, and the press, who, you know, "support our troops" think this was a war crime. And oh, how happy it makes them! This same marine apparently took some shrapnel to the face the previous day when another "dead" terrorist tried to take some infidels with him.

Froggy Ruminations (who is a former Navy SEAL) has something to say about all of this.

Let me be very clear about this issue. I have looked around the web, and many people get this concept, but there are some stragglers. Here is your situation Marine. You just took fire from unlawful combatants shooting from a religious building attempting to use the sanctuary status of their position as protection. But you're in Fallujah now, and the Marine Corps has decided that they're not playing that game this time. That was Najaf. So you set the mosque on fire and you hose down the terrorists with small arms, launch some AT-4s (Rockets), some 40MM grenades into the building and things quiet down. So you run over there, and find some tangos wounded and pretending to be dead. You are aware that suicide martyrdom is like really popular with these kind of idiots, and like taking some Marines with them would be really cool. So you can either risk your life and your fireteam's lives by having them cover you while you bend down and search a guy that you think is pretending to be dead for some reason. Also, you don't know who or what is in the next room, and you're already speaking english to each other and its loud because your hearing is poor from shooting people for several days. So you know that there are many other rooms to enter, and that if anyone is still alive in those rooms, they know that Americans are in the mosque. Meanwhile (3 seconds later), you still have this terrorist that was just shooting at you from a mosque playing possum. What do you do?

You double tap his head, and you go to the next room, that's what.

What about the Geneva Conventions and all that Law of Land Warfare stuff? What about it. Without even addressing the issues at hand you first thought should be, "I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6." Bear in mind that this is a perpetual mindset that is reinforced by experiences gained on a minute by minute basis. Secondly, you are fighting an unlawful combatant in a Sanctuary which is a double No No on his part. Third, tactically you are in no position to take "prisoners" because there are more rooms to search and clear, and the behavior of said terrorist indicates that he is up to no good. No good in Fallujah is a very large place and the low end of no good and the high end of no good are fundamentally the same... Marines get hurt or die. So there is no compelling reason for you to do anything but double tap this idiot and get on with the mission.

If you are a veteran then everything I have just written is self evident, if you are not a veteran than at least try to put yourself in the situation. Remember, in Fallujah there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow, there is only now. Right NOW. Have you ever lived in NOW for a week? It is not easy, and if you have never lived in NOW for longer than it takes to finish the big roller coaster at Six Flags, then shut your hole about putting Marines in jail for war crimes.


It's Show Time!

I just got back from seeing The Incredibles. What a great movie! Visually stunning, stylish, good voices, not a single dull moment, and very, very clever. Also, the world of the movie looks exactly like 1962. I was born in 1965, but I remember being a 5 year old and still seeing that 1962 world all around me. Not everyone turned into a hippy, you know. There's also a great big-band, hard lounge-jazz, groovy musical score. Even some accurate aviation speak ("Checking in VFR on top"). It's a very wholesome, pro-family movie, too, with an anti-"nobody should be more talented than anyone else" message.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Oh, What a Lucky Man I Am, Part 4

Part One of this multi-part series of posts is here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here.

After all the work of getting the plane ready, taking off, climbing to 2000 feet, and setting up for medium cruise power, I am in the sky over Palo Alto, flying towards Skyline Ridge and the clouds that are hanging over it and in front of it. Crossing over highway 280, I cross under the first cloud, whose base is 500 feet above me. This is as close as I’m allowed to get below a cloud when I’m flying using Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Because of the clouds, there is no way to immediately cross the ridge, which rises to a height of 2500 feet in front of me. However, as Skyline Ridge stretches out to the northwest, it lowers in elevation, bottoming out at a 900-foot saddle where Highway 92 crosses over (this is the road between the San Mateo Bridge and Half Moon Bay). The cloud bases are uniform at 2500 feet, and I can simply follow the ridge until the land drops enough for me to get over it with, say, 500 feet of clearance. I’ve done this before. There might not be a whole lot of point in crossing the ridge if it’s super cloudy on the other side, but it’s worth having a look.

As I turn right to follow the freeway, I can see a long distance up the Peninsula, with 280 (considered one of the prettiest freeways in the world) snaking through the hills and up past Crystal Springs Reservoir, which is an elongated lake lying directly on the San Andreas Fault. A look at the GPS shows me that I’m doing about 130 knots (150 mph) over the ground. I’ve got about a 10 knot headwind at this altitude and heading.

One thing I noticed after getting through my first 20 or so hours of training is that I don’t really perceive the yawning void between me and the ground as a height. Nor do I particularly perceive my high speed. Instead, it is as if the whole world has been shrunk down and made accessible to me. If there had been no clouds today, I could have climbed right to 3500, vaulted over the ridge and been over the ocean, all in about 8 minutes after takeoff. The nearest car route following roughly the same path would take about an hour and a half. On the auto route, you need to take a windy road up past the mansions of the Palo Alto Hills, and through chaparral and oak forests to the ridge crest at 2200 feet after which you descend down the other side, driving through rustic redwood forests, fern-filled canyons, and the occasional hillbilly shack, Christmas tree farm, or retreat center, and finally past a buch of artichoke farms to the coast. Another example: if I wanted to drive to North Beach in San Francisco, it would take about an hour and a quarter. The Trinidad can do this in about 13 minutes. When I started flying, it was an amazing thing to rediscover home in a brand new way after living in the area for almost 30 years. The Northern and Central California landscape is like a friend, and after seeing so much of it from the air, I perceive it differently while on the ground. It is no longer just a backdrop to a landscape painting. I know its scale and three-dimensionality in a way I hadn’t before.

As the ridge drops in elevation off to my left, I finally get a good look toward the coast. Almost all the clouds are bunched up along the ridge itself, and the skies over the shoreline are pretty clear. Good! I’m going to fly down to Santa Cruz for a joyride! I’m about 9 miles out from the San Francisco VOR, which means I can climb as high as 4000 feet (although VFR cruising altitudes occur on the 500’s, so effectively that means 3500 feet). Crossing the ridge, flying under a cloud, and making a left turn to the south, I see I can do a climb in clear air that will take me past a big puff of cloud ahead and to my right. So: mixture full rich, prop control to 2500 RPM, MP to 25”, and pitch the nose up to climb. I’m on a diagonal course that will take me to the shoreline. I look at the terminal chart and see that along the shoreline as soon as I pass the 15-mile ring of the San Francisco VOR, I can keep climbing to 5500. I won’t have reached 3500 before that, so this will be one continuous climb. Every thousand feet, I open the throttle more to compensate for the thinning air and to maintain manifold pressure. Passing 3000 feet, I can now lean the mixture during the climb to a fuel flow rate of 18 gallons per hour.

Passing through 3700 feet, I note that this is the level of most of the cloud tops. Quite often, when puffy clouds are in the sky, the air below the cloud top level is bumpier and hazier than the air above. As I reach 5500 feet, I’m in silky smooth, crystal clear air with a deep blue cirrus-streaked sky above, and the clouds, instead of being behemoths that I have to dodge and watch out for, are now far below me and look like cute, harmless little puffballs. As I level off, I set up for full cruise power (24”, 2300 RPM). I lean the mixture to 15 gallons per hour. Checking the GPS, I see that I must have a 13-knot tailwind, because my ground speed is 173 knots, or just about 200 mph. The temperature outside is about 50 degrees.

Okay, let’s talk fuel economy. In an hour I burn 15 gallons. And I go 200 miles. So that’s 13 mpg. But wait! If I want to compare that to a road vehicle I should add another 30%, because I don’t have to follow any twists and turns. I’m doing “as the crow flies” miles, not road miles! So, it’s more like 17 mpg. Well, maybe that’s not so great. A Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator SUV can probably do that. Ah, but would they do that at 200 mph? The driver would have to pay some serious attention to the road at that speed. Who knows, she’d probably even have to hang up her cell phone!

Now I’m enjoying a pure, unadulterated, magic-carpet joyride. I fully understand the weather situation, and I’ve made all my decisions. Now I’m just going to fly south over the water, following the shoreline off to my left. Truth be told, right now my perception isn’t that I’m sitting in a machine and controlling it. It feels more like…being an angel? I don’t know, but being up alone in an airplane on a gorgeous day, well, what does it compare to?

The view is tremendous. Off to my east is the highest part of the Santa Cruz Mountains with the tallest peaks right around 3000 feet. The stratocumulus is scattered over these ridges and also over the ridges to the east of the Bay Area and southern Santa Clara Valley, giving an impression of a solid wall of clouds all the way to the horizon. Ahead of me about 50 miles away across the waters, I can see the mountains of Big Sur (which start just south of Monterey), glowing a hazy blue in the distance. The November noontime sun is hanging low in the sky, creating a wide band of sparkle on the ocean starting directly under me and going all the way out to the southern horizon. There’s a little sprinkling of puffball clouds hanging low over the water about 10 miles out over the ocean to my right. I can look down and see the cars driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. They look like ants (ha-ha).

After a while I reach Santa Cruz, which is half-obscured by a fairly big bank of clouds (visible from space, as you’ll see shortly). I cross over the Santa Cruz Boardwalk at about 11:30 AM, and do a descending 180-degree left turn to head back up the coast. I’m going to descend to 3300 feet for the flight back up the coast. This time, as I descend, the problem is that the air gets thicker, and the engine starts putting out more power than I want, so I have to throttle back 1” every thousand feet to maintain 24”. The flight back up the coast is slower going because my tailwind has once again become a headwind. Also at 3300 feet I’m back in the slightly hazier bumpier air.

Here’s a closer view of the 11:30 AM weather satellite picture, with my route superimposed on top (click to enlarge):

Click to Zoom

The yellow lines on the map are the one thousand foot elevation contour of the topography. My route is in red, and I've pointed out some of the cities.

I haven’t mentioned the green yet, have I? The heavy winter rains have come much earlier than usual this year. The previous time I flew, back on October 12, it was still summer. It was 91 degrees at Monterey, the air was full of forest fire smoke coming from the northeast, and the hills had a dead, dusty look about them. Northern California is sort of a parched wasteland by the time October comes around. It just so happens that there are a couple of low earth orbiting satellites that cross over the area every couple of days, taking beautiful, high resolution color photos that are then posted on the web. Here’s what the area looked like the previous time I flew:

Burnt, Brown, Hot, and Smokey

The Santa Cruz mountains are a dark green because they're heavily forested with pines, chaparral, oaks and redwoods. But the rest of the state is covered with dead brown weeds on the treeless hills. You can see forest fire smoke blowing over from the northeast.

Lucky me, there’s a beautiful satellite photo taken the exact moment I was over Santa Cruz! Have a look:

Beautiful Emerald Green

Notice how much more green and alive the area looks. If you’ve never seen it before, there is nothing quite like the green hills of California during the rainy season. Well, maybe some parts of Ireland. In early spring the glowing emerald of the hills becomes sprinkled with the orange of California poppies and the purples, blues, and yellows of wildflowers. It’s just phenomenal. So on this flight, in addition to the blue sky filled with luminous streaks of cirrus (visible in the photo), a sparkling ocean, and puffball clouds, I’m also glorying in the view of emerald hills and fields. And, because, the winter rains came so early, I get to see all this green accented with trees that are still aflame with fall colors!

If you look at the photo you can see the very cloud bank that I was above when I did my turn over Santa Cruz, you can see why it looked like unbroken clouds to the eastern horizon when I was over the coast, and you can see the line of clouds over the ridge between Palo Alto and Half Moon Bay. You also see the pretty cirrus clouds that were above me. Coming back up the coast I flew over the Pigeon Point lighthouse (pannable view here). I was prepared to go all the way back up to the highway 92 saddle again if necessary, but I was looking to see if I could find a passage between the clouds to get me back over the Skyline Ridge at 3000 feet, preferably over 2000-foot Windy Hill (pannable views here and here), which is a prominent landmark on the Ridge (it is the only grassy spot on the Bay side of the ridge).

In preparation for crossing the ridge, I stage-cool the engine, one of the tasks that you have to do with these high performance piston engines. If you reduce power too quickly, the engine can sustain damage or reduced life due to the stresses of “shock cooling” the metal. The stage cooling procedure is to reduce the MP by 2”, wait two minutes, and repeat until the MP is down to 18”. 18” is the power setting I’ll want to use to execute a steep descent on the other side of the ridge, cross over Palo Alto, and enter the airport traffic pattern. Any more power than that and I’d be barreling home like an out-of-control meteor. I also listen to the latest ATIS for Palo Alto and copy down the information (the sequence letter now is “Oscar”).

A bit north of abeam Windy Hill, I see a clear passage between a small cloud puff on the left, and a big cloud puff on the right, with nothing but clear skies past the ridge. For legal VFR, I need to maintain at least a 2000-foot lateral separation from all clouds. This notch looks like it’s just about 4000 feet wide. I’m quite alert as I cut through the notch. My biggest worry would be some other plane crossing in front of me from behind the big puffball to the right. Once I cross the ridgeline, I point the nose down into a rapid (about 1000 feet per minute) descent. I call the tower, who clears me for entering the left traffic pattern. As I steer towards the 2-mile-long Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) building, I’m dropping fast, but the ground is dropping even faster. Being back on the civilized side of the ridge, I’m seeing the ritzy homes of Portola Valley, golf courses, small lakes, Highway 280, and the town of Palo Alto. Ahead of me is the Bay, off to my right is Stanford Campus, and along the bay shore I can see the Dumbarton Bridge, to its right, a railroad bridge, and to the right of the railroad bridge, a golf course almost at the edge of the bay. Behind the gold course is the runway.

I meet my goal of crossing SLAC at 2000 feet. I continue toward the railroad bridge, until I intercept the 45 degree course to the left downwind. All of this is happening very quickly after I cross the ridge. For noise reasons, I am not allowed to descend below 1500 feet until crossing highway 101, so I shallow my descent to about 300 feet per minute as I fly over the town of Menlo Park. By now the runway is clearly visible ahead. I do the pre-landing checklist, which includes turning on the landing light and the fuel boost pump, as well as switching to the fullest fuel tank. I’ve got my head on a swivel looking for other planes. It is my goal to be level at 1500 feet, carrying 18” of power a bit before crossing 101. Because the left downwind is just past the freeway and is supposed to be flown at 1000 feet, I’m going to want to have the landing gear down before I descend, so I can use their drag to do a steep descent at a reasonable speed. I need to be below 129 knots of airspeed before I lower the gear (otherwise, damage!). 18” and level puts me at about 125 knots.

Here's how it looks when I'm getting close to the airport (click to enlarge):

Click to Zoom

You can see the golf course and the runway on the right, while higway 101 cuts across the bottom of the picture (note, this picture of the airport, and the other airport picture in Part One, are from Rich Acuff's Palo Alto airport page).

Just before I cross the freeway, I reach for the gear lever donut, pull it towards me to disable the safety, and move it down toward the floor. One of my favorite sounds is the gear coming down! One of my favorite sights is the gear lights turning green! The left main light turns, on, then the right, and a couple of seconds later I feel a satisfying “kick” in the rudder pedals as the nose wheel drops into place and its gear light turns green. Three greens! I won’t be accidentally bellying it in today! Life is good!

Simultaneously, I pull the throttle back to 15”, turn onto the downwind leg to parallel the runway and push the nose down to descend to 1000 feet. When I reach pattern altitude I level off and bring the power back up to 18”. “Trinidad 52JG you’re number three behind a Cessna on the right downwind abeam the yacht harbor.” I look to my left to see where the other two guys are. One plane is on 1 mile final, and I can see the other guy over the Bay on the other side of the runway. When he turns base, I’ll wait for a bit, then I’ll turn base.

Ahead of me, I see 101 stretching off into Silicon Valley, I see Moffett Field, I see Shoreline Park, with its lake and sailboats. My airspeed is about 100 knots. The number two guy turns base. I keep straight and level for awhile to keep separated from him, then I bring my power back to 15”, put in 10 degrees of flaps, and push the nose over to set up about a 300 fpm descent. Now my speed is probably about 95 knots. I turn base, push the mixture and prop controls full forward, where I’ll need them if I have to apply full power for a go around, and then, just before the final turn, I throttle back to 12” and put in full flaps.

I’ve always liked how the Trinidad responds at this moment. When the huge flaps start to swing down to 30 degrees, the plane surges upward as the new lift comes in. At the same time it pitches down. It's like riding a bird of prey that is flaring out its wing feathers, stretching out its talons, and getting ready for the kill. I’m pushed forward a bit in my seat as the airspeed drops due to all the massive drag. The plane also sounds different under these conditions. It sounds like a flying truck! With a little finesse on the yoke and throttle I nail 80 knots just before I line up with the runway (the throttle is back up to 15” again). There are a couple of lights on the side of the runway that help the pilot determine if he’s too high or too low. The rule is: “white above white, your high, red above white, you’re all right, and red above red, you’re dead”. I generally like to see white above white when I straighten out on final, and that is what I’m seeing. I’ve also got a light crosswind from the right, so although I’m moving exactly along an imaginary line extended out from the centerline of the runway, the nose of the plane is pointed a little to the right. I do another reality check. Gear lights are green, prop and mixture are forward. About half a mile out I’ll do this again.

Now we hit the Zen of the thing. My job is to keep the airspeed pegged at 80 knots (faster than this, I use up too much runway, slower than this, the plane is harder to control, and is more subject to the dangers of wind shear and gusts), right on a glide path to the numbers painted on the end of the runway (i.e. ‘31’). If I’m aimed right at the numbers they’ll just hang there in the windscreen getting bigger and bigger, without sliding up the windscreen (meaning I’m undershooting) or down the windscreen (meaning I’m overshooting). I make tiny adjustment to pitch and throttle to achieve this. If I’m too high above the glide slope, I’ll throttle back. The plane will slowly descend onto the right glide slope again at which time I’ll nudge the power back up. If I’m too low, I’ll do the reverse.

Now we get to the part that took 40 hours of initial flight training to perfect. The numbers I’m aiming at are some distance in from the runway threshold. When I get in close enough, I see that the runway threshold is fixin’ to cross under the plane. Now I shift my gaze to the far end of the runway, and slowly and smoothly ease the throttle closed. As I do, the Trinidad starts to drop toward the runway. As it drops in, I’m raising the nose of the plane. In my peripheral vision, I’m seeing the edges of the runway sweeping up on either side of me. It’s a big swooping transition from looking down on the runway to looking down it. This maneuver is called the round-out. It takes hours and hours and hours of practice to learn to do this. You wouldn’t believe what a klutz you feel like learning this! There are all kinds of mistakes you make during the learning process. Rounding out too late, so you darned near punch a hole in the runway with the nose wheel before you pull back on the yoke in a panic, resulting in a bounce. Rounding out too high, resulting in the plane hanging in the air with the airspeed draining away and the plane about to sudenly plunge onto the runway. All sorts of fun.

A successful round-out has the plane skimming over the runway with the nose tilted up, the main gear a couple of feet off the ground, and the throttle completely closed. Now comes the flare. What you don’t want to do is just push the yoke forward to put the plane on the ground. If you do that, you’re contacting the ground when the plane still has plenty of flying speed. Resulting in swerving all over the place because the weight of the plane is not really on the tires, or maybe porpoising, which is a series of bounces that if not squelched immediately can result in some serious damage to the plane (like a busted nose wheel, bent firewall, bent propeller, and a totaled engine).

No, your job is to keep the plane flying for as long as possible. You want there to be no flight left in the thing when it touches down. So you do a maneuver called a flare (hours and hours of training and frustration here, also). As you skim the runway with the throttle off, drag is slowing the plane down. As the plane slows down, the wings are losing lift, and the plane would like to sink to the runway, but you prevent this by increasing back pressure on the yoke and pointing the nose higher. This replaces the lost lift by increasing the angle of attack. The higher angle of attack results in more drag which results in more slowing, so you raise the nose some more, and the process repeats. Finally, you’ve got the nose pointed pretty high with the yoke pulled pretty far back. The plane has slowed way down, the stall warning horn goes off, the airflow starts to separate from the top of the wing, and suddenly the plane, all on its own, sinks that last foot or so to the runway. “GAJINK!” go the mains as you touch down. The nose wheel comes down soon after. With the nose wheel down, you’re at a very low angle of attack, and you’re below stall speed, so the wings are not generating much lift (they’re not stalled anymore, but there’s not enough airspeed to do anything with). You are now a ground vehicle again, steering with your feet.

Of course, crosswinds, gusts, and thermals on the runway greatly complicate the picture…Hours and hours of training!

I’m very satisfied with my landing. Once all the wheels are down, I retract the flaps in order to reduce residual lift even more and get maximum weight onto the tires. Carefully and slowly I start to increase pressure on the foot brakes, and as I do this I pull the yoke all the way back (this takes weight off the nose wheel and puts it on the mains where the brakes are). The Trinidad’s tires are a bit small for a plane of that size, making them very easy to skid. I’ve learned how to handle braking the hard way. I slow down enough to make it off the runway at the second taxiway.

Tower switches me to Ground frequency, and I’m given permission to taxi back to Delta row. I do the after landing checklist, turning off the transponder, fuel pump, and landing light, as well as resetting to takeoff trim for rudder and pitch. I also unlatch my door in order to get some ventilation from that big three bladed fan up front.

I stop the plane one spot past its tie down (this gives me room to push it back and steer it into its spot). I convert it back into a big inanimate object by switching off the avionics, pulling the mixture control to cutoff (this starves the engine of fuel after which it promptly quits), and turning off the magnetos and master switches. After noting the engine stop time (looks like I’ll be logging 1.4 hours, of which 45 minutes was the joyride to Santa Cruz and back), I open up my gull wing door, take off my headset, and to the sound of the instrument gyros spinning down, I climb back out into the real world. There’s a gentle breeze, and it’s warmed up since I left. Skyline ridge is visible in the distance, just part of the scenery again.

I’m feeling kick-ass and life is good!

A few years ago, a friend of mine was working as an advertising salesman for a weekly alternative paper. He came up with a clever idea, which he pitched to a local high-end motorcycle rental business. They placed an ad in the mental health and counseling services section of the classifieds, which said “There’s nothing wrong with you that two hours on a Harley can’t fix!” They got a great response.

It works that way with airplanes, too…

Click to Zoom

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Monday, November 15, 2004

Oh, What a Lucky Man I Am, Part 3

Part One of this multi-part series of posts is here. Part Two is here.

With the technical basics covered, I can now write about the flight itself! As I said in the first post, bad weather and a chest cold had kept me out of the sky for about 5 weeks, which is a pretty long hiatus for me. Usually I fly every two or three weeks. When I was training, I was flying two or three days a week. I hadn’t flown in the Trinidad for 7 weeks, and this plane has a currency requirement at the flying club of 60 days. So as soon as I had some decent weather and felt well enough to fly, I had to go!

The day before this flight, we’d had some bad weather, with towering thunderstorm clouds, overcast skies, and even hail in some parts of the Bay Area. The weather forecast was for this weather to have moved to the south and east and for clear skies in Northern California. Here’s a satellite picture of the weather when I did my flight (click to enlarge):

Click to Zoom

You can see all the crud left over from the previous day’s weather system off to the east over Nevada, and lots of residual stratocumulus over the southern San Joaquin Valley and over the mountains south of San Francisco Bay. At this scale not every little cloud puff shows up. Some of the areas that look clear are actually covered with scattered little clouds. Offshore, on the left side of the image, you can see the sweeping arc of the next frontal system hundreds of miles out to sea. The only effect this had on me was to put some pretty cirrus clouds into the sky above me.

Before I headed out for the airport, I thought there’d be less stratocumulus clouds in the sky than there actually were. My goal was to head off to the east and fly around the open mountainous country out behind Mt. Hamilton. However, on the drive out to the airport, it was obvious that the lower atmosphere still had a lot of moisture from the previous day’s storm. There was a light haze, and the surrounding hills were covered with low, ragged, puffy clouds. Looking to the east, it looked like the way through Sunol Pass was almost blocked, with the cloud bases just touching 2000-foot high Monument Peak. The clouds looked like they were about 1500 feet thick. Looking to the South, the top of Black Mountain was in a cloud, and clouds were distributed over the whole length of Skyline Ridge. There weren’t many clouds over the Bay plain itself. Since the Bay Area is ringed by mountains, and since the San Francisco airport airspace lies on top of it like a lid, this meant that it would not be particularly easy to just go up and have a hassle free joyride. This is doable with a 3500-foot ceiling, but not under 2500 foot cloud bases. So I figured, I’d just stay in the airport traffic pattern and practice takeoffs and landings.

Walking into the club, I got the schedule book and keys for the airplane and had a brief chat with my flight instructor, who was between flights. I noticed that I still had a tinge of that surreal “sick” feeling from my chest cold (you know, where things look a bit like you’re looking through a fisheye lens, and there’s something a bit “off”). I decided I’d go out to the plane and do the preflight inspection and see if I could get my mind into it and feel normal enough to fly (it seemed pretty unlikely that I wouldn’t be able to).

When you haven’t flown in awhile you’re definitely a bit apprehensive. “Do I still remember how to do this?” But walking out to the flight line carrying your flight bag, those circuits in your mind start to reactivate. Ah, surrounded by airplanes again! I pass my old friend Bonanza 828R and continue another couple of hundred yards to Delta Row, where the Trinidad is tied down. I always take my time getting a plane ready to fly. It gives my memory a chance to put me back into “pilot mode”.

The first job is to open the gull wing doors on both sides of the plane, take all the glare shields out of the windows, and check the tachometer hours reading against the schedule book. Next I step up onto the left wing and climb into the pilot’s seat. I take a good look at the panel, which I haven’t seen in almost two months, and spend a few minutes gazing at and studying each of the gauges, thinking about how they will come into play during the flight. It all comes back to me. I’ve got over 100 hours in this type. I am a Trinidad pilot! Even though I haven’t looked at or thought about this panel in 7 weeks, I am intimately familiar with it. It is second nature to me.

I turn on the master electrical switch and turn on the avionics. I check each of the two COMM radios by tuning them to the Palo Alto Tower information recording (this is called ATIS), and listening over the speakers. The ATIS recording gives the wind direction and velocity, sky condition (in this case “2500 scattered”, which confirms for me that the bottoms of the puff ball clouds are at 2500 feet), visibility, temperature, altimeter setting, and runway in use. I next check the NAV radios by tuning them to the frequency for the Woodside VOR beacon, checking the Morse Code identifier for the beacon, and an indication that I am on the beacon’s 046 degree radial. The beacon itself is about 9 miles southwest of me at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. After this, I check that the GPS database is current. The avionics having checked out, I flip the avionics power switch back to “off”.

Next, I check a few other electrical items. I take a look at the fuel gauges (not that I trust those things), and toggle the flap switch to full extended, watching as the flaps lower on either side of me. Next I turn on all the switches for the exterior lights on the plane, as well as the heater for the pitot tube (the pitot tube is a little device under the left wing that measures the airspeed). Climbing out of the cockpit I walk around the plane, feel that the pitot tube is heating up, and that all lights are working. I also check the stall-warning switch, which is controlled by a little vane on the leading edge of the left wing. When the wing gets within a couple of degrees of the stalling angle of attack, the airflow gets to the other side of the vane and pushes it up. This closes a switch, which causes a buzzer to go off in the cockpit. If I’m a pilot and I hear the stall warning go off unexpectedly, I have the instinctive reaction of pushing the yoke forward and cranking in more power to prevent a stall. It turns out there’s something wrong with the switch or the buzzer, so I won’t be hearing any stall warnings today (no major problem, I’m not foreshadowing anything here). I note on the “squawk sheet” in the schedule book that this needs to be looked at.

I turn all of the electrical switches back off and do the external inspection of the plane. This includes checking the overall condition of the plane, checking the control surfaces, untying all the tie-down ropes, checking the tire condition, checking the fuel levels and examining fuel samples, checking the oil, wiping the rainwater off the windscreen, and checking the micro switches of the landing gear system (these control the gear indicator lights and tell the control unit when the gear are fully retracted). During all of this, I reflect that the plane is still just a 2500-pound, inert, inanimate object. Well that’s about to change!

I get all of the items that I’ll need for this flight out of my flight bag and place them in the right seat of the plane. My noise-canceling headset (It’s very noisy in these planes; a headset saves your hearing, and allows you to listen to the radio and your passengers. It also has a boom mike for talking over the radio or to passengers wearing their own headset). My kneeboard, which holds the Trinidad checklist, and a flight information sheet where I will copy down ATIS information. A pen. A kitchen timer which I use to countdown 30 minute intervals for switching fuel tanks. A San Francisco terminal area chart, which I fold so that the Palo Alto and coast areas are handy. Then I toss the flight bag into the back seat, close the passenger gull wing door, and climb in.

I go over the preflight checklist to make sure I’ve covered every item. Checklists are crucial. Airline crews do not make a single move without consulting a checklist, and it took me a while during my training to force myself to adhere to one and not go by memory. It turns out I forgot to check the fuel vents, so I climb back out and make sure they’re okay. All right! Time to spend some money! So far this flight hasn’t cost me anything. The rental charge only accrues when the engine is running. I put on my seatbelt, close my gull wing door, and flip open the little ventilation window so I don’t suffocate (I exaggerate) in there while on the ground.

This inert machine is about to come to life! Following the checklist, I set the parking brake, turn on the master switch and prime the engine. The big, fuel injected engine needs to have some liquid fuel pre-squirted at the cylinder intake valves when the engine is cold. This allows enough fuel vapor to be available at the cold temperature. The procedure is to crack the throttle lever open about a quarter inch, turn on the electrical boost pump (which results in a high-pitched whine), and move the mixture control to full forward, waiting for a stabilized flow indication on the fuel flow gauge. Usually I wait a bit and nothing happens until I crack the throttle open a little more. After the flow indication settles down for a second, I pull the mixture knob back, turn off the boost pump, and reset the throttle to one-quarter inch open. This is it! I note the current time on my information sheet. I’m allowed to log the entire time between engine start and engine shutdown in my pilot log book. I shout, “Clear!” out of the ventilation window, giving anyone standing in the propeller arc a final chance to live. I put the key in the ignition, turn it full to the right and push.

In order to save weight, the starters on these airplanes are not very powerful. The engine has pretty high compression, as well as cold oil in it, so the propeller doesn’t just spin up, but does more of a choppy, slow chunk, chunk, chunk motion. The first chunk is the slowest because the oil hasn’t started moving yet. On about the fifth chunk, the engine fires. I get one hand on the throttle and the other on the mixture control, which I ease all the way forward, while tweaking the throttle to achieve 1000 RPM. Once the engine is running smoothly I bring the mixture control back about 20%, because a full rich setting can foul the spark plugs at low power. Checking the oil pressure, I turn on the alternator switch and make sure the battery is charging. Then I flip on the avionics switch and put on my headset. The physical headset itself saves my ears from all the high frequency cacophony of the engine, and turning on the Active Noise Reduction cuts out the low skull-pounding frequencies (not that the engine is so loud at idle). “Check, check, check”, I say as I tweak the intercom volume, adjust the squelch, and copy down the ATIS information (each hourly recording has a sequence letter associated with it, in this case ‘N’, or in military/aviation speak, ‘November’). Looking at the checklist, I retract the flaps, and release the parking brake (I’m keeping the brakes applied with my feet by pressing on the top of the rudder pedals).

Time for the first radio call! I push the transmit switch on my yoke. “Palo Alto ground, Trinidad Five-Two-Juliet-Gulf, Delta Row, taxi 31 for right closed traffic with November.” 31 is the runway in use. The number is derived from the magnetic heading of the runway. The Palo Alto runway is laid out with a magnetic heading of 306 degrees. Round to the nearest ten and drop the final zero, and we get 31. This is the number painted on the end of the runway. “Trinidad Five-Two-Juliet-Gulf, taxi 31”, replies the tower (from now on, I’m going to refer to the plane as 52JG, but over the radio I’m really saying “Five-Two-Juliet-Gulf”, all right?). Right closed traffic means I’ll be flying the rectangular pattern over the Bay and practicing takeoffs and landings.

Keeping my feet on the brakes, I crank the throttle open to 1500 RPM. I release the brakes and as the plane starts to move out of its tie-down spot, I tap on each brake separately to make sure I’ve got the expected differential action. When I’m steering on the ground I push on the appropriate rudder pedal to make the nose wheel swivel left or right, and if I need to make a tighter turn, I can also use differential braking. As I pull out of the space and make a left turn onto the taxiway, I’m checking the main flight instruments. The turn coordinator should be tilting the wings on the miniature airplane indicator to the inside of the turn, while the ball moves to the outside of the turn, the compass and heading indicator should be swinging around and showing my changing magnetic heading, the attitude indicator (or artificial horizon), should show me level, the altimeter should show me at airport elevation, the vertical speed indicator should read zero, and the airspeed indicator should read zero.

The taxiways all have yellow lines running down their centers, and it is my job to keep the nose wheel on this line. This keeps my wings from hitting parked aircraft while I’m heading to the runway, but I’m always keeping an eye out. A plane is a lot wider than a car! In the early part of my training, it was very tough to steer with my feet. I’d be weaving all over the place, trying to use the yoke as a steering wheel…

I follow the yellow line out to one of the run-up spots adjacent to the runway entrance. I stop at the yellow crossbar and set the parking brake again (but keeping my feet on the brakes). Now I am facing perpendicular to the runway. Here I will perform the run-up checklist, in which (after checking that the control surfaces all move correctly in response to moving the yoke) I will check the airplane systems at partial engine power. I push the mixture control to full rich, and open the throttle to 2000 RPM. At the 1500-RPM setting that I used to start taxiing, I was at about 17% power. At 2000 RPM, I’m at about 40% power (100 hp), which is a decent amount of power. So the plane is shaking a little bit from all the thrust coming from the now fairly loud engine. The first task is to exercise the prop governor in order to check for proper operation and circulate warm oil through it. I pull all the way back on the blue lever until, with a whooshing sound and a descending roar from the engine the RPM drops to 1500 RPM. I push the lever all the way forward to bring the RPM back up and then do the sequence a second time. When I pull the lever back, this causes the governor to turn the prop blades so that the broad flat part of the back of blade turns toward the direction of rotation of the prop. This causes the air resistance on the blade to increase, resulting in the whooshing drop of engine speed.

Next I check the magnetos. Unlike a car, an aircraft engine has a fully self-contained ignition system, which doesn’t require a battery or functioning electrical system. It’s a safety thing. For redundancy and increased efficiency and power, each cylinder has two sparkplugs instead of just one, with one plug fired by the left magneto, and the other fired by the right magneto. A magneto is a self contained generator and spark producer which is driven directly by the engine. In the magneto check, I turn the ignition key to short out each magneto in turn. This results in about a 100-RPM power drop. If there were something wrong with one of the magnetos, the engine would quit when I turn the key to short out the opposite magneto. Sometimes the plugs get fouled by running at idle with too rich a mixture. Then the RPM will drop by a couple of hundred RPM and the engine will run rough on that magneto. It’s possible to fix this by switching to both magnetos, cranking up to 2200 RPM, and leaning the mixture in order to “burn off the carbon”.

After the magneto check, I check the vacuum gauge to make sure there is enough suction to power the gyroscopic instruments (i.e. the attitude indicator), and then bring the power back down to idle again.

Okay, finally, this bird is ready to fly! Actually it’s only been about 10 minutes since I started the engine, and maybe 35 minutes since I walked out to the plane. The pre-takeoff checklist has me lowering 10 degrees of flaps, activating the transponder so I will show up on air traffic control (ATC) radar, setting rudder and pitch trim, making sure the doors and ventilation window are closed, turning on the fuel boost pump, and releasing the parking brake. “Palo Alto tower, Trinidad 52JG is ready for takeoff, 31”. “Trinidad 52JG, pull up and hold short.” There are other planes in the pattern, including a couple that will be landing before the tower lets me take off. I can see them stacked up along the final approach path. I taxi up to the hold bars at the entrance to the runway, with the plane facing out a little toward the final approach course. I want to be able to see if anyone is coming in when the tower tells me to get onto the runway. It is legally my responsibility even if the tower makes a mistake.

It will be a couple of minutes, so I pop open the ventilation window again. At this point, I am filled with a serene calm. I figure I’ve done more than a thousand takeoffs in the last three years, so I’m not pumped up with adrenaline. I look at the takeoff checklist and mentally rehearse what I’m about to do. Once the Trinidad gets moving, things happen fast. The tower tells a third plane in the pattern to extend his downwind, “to allow one departure, a Trinidad.” After the second plane flies across the runway threshold, I close the ventilation window and push the mixture control to full rich. “Trinidad 52JG, position and hold.” I cross the hold bars and roll out onto the runway, using differential braking to get myself lined up with the centerline. I have the whole runway stretched out ahead of me. The second plane that landed is still rolling, so I have a few seconds before I get my takeoff clearance.

You know, right now I’m getting excited just writing about this!

Just before the other plane turns off the runway, I make sure the blue lever and the red lever are full forward, and I crank the throttle up to 2200 RPM (about 55% power). The plane is straining against the brakes. I check the oil pressure, oil temperature, and fuel flow gauges. I tell myself, “rotate at 68 knots, gear up.” I look at the windsock along the right edge if the runway. There is a bit of a right crosswind, so I turn the yoke halfway to the right to compensate.

Although I did three times through the pattern before heading to the coast, I’m going to describe my final takeoff. After three really nice landings and feeling solidly confident, I at least wanted to fly toward the hills and check the cloud situation (I wasn’t expecting to make it to the coast).

“52JG, you are cleared for takeoff.”

“52JG, rolling.”

I take my feet off the brakes and the plane surges ahead. Over the next couple of seconds I smoothly push the throttle lever all the way forward. Single engine propeller planes have a strong tendency to veer hard to the left at takeoff power (for various reasons), so as I increase the power, I am pushing harder and harder on the right rudder pedal to keep the plane rolling straight down the runway centerline (my first training flight featured a takeoff that had me careening wildly down the runway; it takes awhile to get a feel for rudder control). The engine at full power is just monstrous (this ain’t no trainer airplane). I glance at the tachometer and the MP gauge to make sure I’ve got 2700 RPM and 29 inches. I glance at the airspeed indicator to make sure the speed is coming up. If anything looked or felt wrong, I’d pull the throttle closed and abort the takeoff. If I had any spare attention to take notice, I’d feel the acceleration pushing me back in my seat, but most of my attention is in looking at the runway with the occasional quick glance at the airspeed indicator.

During my first 30 hours of flight training I suffered from an awful rudder pedal coordination problem. When I was in the air, I’d work the pedals correctly. When I was taxiing, I’d work them correctly. But when I was hurtling along the ground during the takeoff roll, my ski reflexes would kick in. When you’re skiing, you push with the right foot to turn left. When you’re taking off, it’s the opposite. Imagine my frustration. Anyway…

As the plane speeds up and the airflow increases over the elevator and ailerons, the control feel on the yoke firms up, and any deflection of the yoke has a bigger effect. For this reason, as the plane accelerates, I turn the yoke more towards neutral to maintain my crosswind correction. At 68 knots, I firmly and smoothly pull back on the yoke. This lifts the nose wheel of the plane off the runway and pitches the plane up into the climb attitude. As discussed in part 2, this increases the angle of attack, and therefore the lift that the wings are generating. The plane continues to accelerate in this position for another second or two, and then to me, it feels like a giant wedge of air hits the bottom of the plane, suddenly boosting it off the runway. In my peripheral vision I can see the ground quickly dropping away from me on all sides (at this point I don’t have a lot of forward visibility of the ground due to the takeoff attitude). “Gear up!” I say, pulling the white “donut” of the gear switch toward me to disengage the safety lock and moving the switch to the up position. I keep my hand on the switch to remember to check the gear lights once the gear have come up.

Checking the airspeed indicator I see that I am a little slow, so I lower the nose a bit by pushing forward on the yoke. I want to nail 95 knots, which I quickly do. The vertical speed indicator is showing me climbing at better than 1000 feet per minute. I glance at the gear lights which are all off now, and execute a 10 degree right turn to keep me from over flying the neighborhoods straight out past the runway. At 1000 feet altitude, I push the yoke forward a bit to establish 100 knots, pull the throttle back to 25 inches, and pull the prop control back to 2500 RPM. The engine quiets down considerably. I also retract the flaps, which causes the plane drop a little and then suddenly feel much more slippery through the air. When I reach the road that goes to the Dumbarton Bridge, I start a 90-degree turn to the left, which has me flying toward downtown Palo Alto, and Skyline Ridge. As I pass 1500 feet, the tower says, “52JG, frequency change approved. Have a good flight.” “52JG, good day.” I am now out of the Palo Alto airport airspace and am no longer much concern to the tower.

At 2000 feet I level off. I’m going to go with a low cruise power setting because it is often bumpy at low altitude near a ridge, and it is generally bumpy flying under puffy clouds. Also, the lower cruise speed lets me do tighter maneuvers, if necessary. I bring the MP down to 22 inches with the throttle and bring the RPM down to 2300 with the prop control. I also lean the mixture (there’s a special gauge that helps me do this precisely), and set the rudder trim for cruise. I put the San Francisco VOR beacon identifier into the GPS so I can measure my distance from it. I can then use my chart to stay out of their airspace (basically, the farther away I am, the higher I can go).

Now my workload has decreased considerably. All I need to do is hold my 2000-foot altitude (an automatic reflex for me), steer the plane, and not accidentally “bust” San Francisco’s airspace.

To be continued…

Update: Part 4 of the series is here.