Flying – defining terms


Today I’m going to define some very basic terms for flying. As I work through the Private Pilot test preparation, I’ll be using the terms at times, and if you understand what I’m talking about it will be easier to follow. It also gives me a good review of what I used to remember easily.

First, the airfoil. An airfoil is a structure or body which produces a useful reaction to air movement. This includes airplane wings, rudders, propellers, and helicopter rotor blades. Today we’ll talk about wings on fixed-wing aircraft.

Here is the cross section of a wing:

“A” is the leading edge. That’s the front of the wing. “B” is the trailing edge. The dotted line going through the wing is an imaginary straight line from the leading edge to the trailing edge called the chord line. The chord line does not necessarily go through the wing, depending on the wing’s shape.

If you lower the flaps, the chord line will drop and go from the leading edge to the bottom of the flap.

Before we go any further, I’d like you to wrap your brain around a concept. When we’re talking about the movement of air around an object, the air acts like a fluid. The next term I want to introduce is relative wind. This is the wind felt by an airfoil, but it can be produced by either the airfoil moving or the air moving past the airfoil. Possibly the easiest way to explain that idea is by poking a stick into a stream bed. The water is moving past the stick. That is the relative wind. Even though the stick is not moving, there is a relative wind. Relative wind is parallel and in the opposite direction of the path of the airfoil, so if the wing is pointing up at an angle, the relative wind is going down. Straight and level flight produces wind coming from the front of the airfoil going straight back. If your flight path goes down, the relative wind is upwards.

This explanation is important because it defines one of the very basic terms that will be used when we’re talking about climbing and stalling. The angle of attack is the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind. You can change your angle of attack by changing the control surfaces of the airplane.

The angle of incidence is the angle at which the wing is attached to the rest of the airplane. This doesn’t change.

That’s it for now for the test prep. Next time I write about flying we’ll go through lift and a few explanations of how airplanes fly.

Fiction: Love means…


“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Worst line from a movie. Ever.

The reason it’s the worst line from a movie is that there are people out there, both men and women, who actually believe that. They think that love is all about forgiveness and forgetfulness, especially if it’s the other person doing the forgiving and the forgetting. If you ask them to forgive or forget, though, you are asking too much.

I can kind of get behind forgiveness. I mean, people are people, and people screw up sometimes. You can remember something, though, without having to grind it in every day. You can’t completely forget something without running the risk of becoming a doormat.

I have a story to tell. About a friend. Yeah, I know. “A friend” is about as transparent as it gets. This is a conglomeration of people, though, not just one person, and not just me. I was in a bad relationship for a long time. I left. Life is very good now. That’s all that matters, for the purpose of this story.

I’m going to go with the guy being the abuser. It doesn’t always work that way, I know, but it’s the easiest way for me to tell it. I have heard a lot of these stories, and some of them end well. Many, though, don’t.

Girl meets boy. Boy is much more experienced. He seems very sweet at first, woos her, pays attention to all of her likes and dislikes, and makes sure not to push too hard. He asks her to move in with him. She refuses at first, then eventually gives in. Life is wonderful for a little while. After the honeymoon period is over, he starts getting more critical. He isn’t necessarily critical of her, at least not at this point. He’s critical of her friends. He doesn’t say they are bad. He just suggests that maybe she could do better. He points out any deficiencies, tells her they are not really good enough for her, and makes a point of complaining about any time she spends with them. If he spends time with them, too, he is the center of attention or he is not happy, and when they leave, he tells her all of the things they did that were unkind to him.

If he’s good at it, he undermines all of her friendships. If she’s really lucky, she keeps a few friends.

She loses touch with her family. Every time she wants to call them, there’s something he urgently needs from her. If there isn’t something he needs, sometimes he’ll just ask for sex, saying it has been a while and he misses her. Over time, she will not talk to her family much.

When she is sufficiently separated from her support structure, he begins tearing her down. He compares her to his previous girlfriends, and she always comes out badly. He compares her to people they meet, people who still have the glow of newness and unfamiliarity on them, and she never comes out looking good. “Why can’t you be more like…” becomes the beginning to a lot of questions, and she doesn’t have an answer. She thought they were doing all right, but she begins to doubt, thinks, perhaps, that she is not doing enough.

He wants her to quit her job. She has support there, too, and it threatens him. Maybe he offers to help her get through school, because school and work are hard to do well at the same time, and she could do so much better with more education. If she refuses, he starts complaining about the time her job takes away from their relationship. He tells her their friends look down on him for having such an uneducated girlfriend. He pushes constantly, calls her at work, says he misses her, and the quality of her work starts degrading, just slightly, because she can’t focus like she used to.

Maybe she’s one of the strong ones. She keeps her job, her lifeline to feeling less lost.

If she goes back to school, that, too, will eventually take up too much time. Either that or it will be a waste because her grades aren’t perfect and he doesn’t see why he should keep paying for it if she’s not serious. If she tries to do homework at home, he tries everything to distract her. “Let’s go out to dinner!” “We haven’t seen our buddies in ages – let’s go play pool. It won’t take long, you’ll have time to study.” As soon as she sits down, he comes up with something. If she objects, he gets angry, says she clearly doesn’t care as much about the relationship as he does. He’s putting her through school and now school is more important than he is. He works to make her feel indebted to him even more.

If she stays at school to study, he is not supportive. He says she doesn’t feel like the house is home, clearly, as evidenced by the fact that she doesn’t want to study there, to spend time with him at the same time she’s studying. Oh, and the house is never clean enough or decorated nicely enough, which is her fault, because she clearly just doesn’t care enough about the relationship. It’s always something.

The pattern, no matter the specifics, are that he gradually pulls control away from her, gets rid of all of her support, and then makes sure she feels unsure and afraid of everything. He sets himself up as the only sure thing in her life, even if his presence constantly hurts her. She believes that she isn’t doing something well enough. If she could do things right, he’d be happy.

That’s the key to this whole thing. He gets her into a position of wanting to please him, then he is impossible to please. He has power. She doesn’t. If she makes the mistake of being proud or happy about anything, he tries to make it look useless. He works on making her feel like nothing she does is good enough.

This is where the story stops, because it can go a few different ways.

One: she gets help – family, friends, a therapist, whatever. Someone gets through to her that she’s better than this, that he’s cruel and controlling.

Two: she stays, and eventually he has complete control. No one knows her as anything other than his shadow, and she has nowhere to go.

Three: it gets worse. He starts hitting her, and she defends him. He makes fun of her in front of other people and she supports him. Eventually, perhaps, she ends up in the hospital, or worse.

This last bit isn’t a story.

You may know someone in an abusive relationship. You might not know it, though, because abusers are very good at hiding who they are. They can look like perfectly nice people.

If you have time, volunteer at a women’s shelter. Help out at a crisis call center. Become part of the solution. If you see yourself reflected in this portrait of an abuser, get help. It’s possible to change, but you have to want to change and stop hurting people.

Most important, though, if someone asks for your help, try to give it to them. They may need you more than you can imagine.



My younger brother Daniel has Down Syndrome. While I was growing up, the focus was on helping him, as it should be. I’ve noticed over the past ten years or so that people are recognizing the unique challenges faced by the siblings of people with disabilities.

Daniel was the focus of the family from the time he was born. I was almost seven, and I felt fiercely protective of him from the moment our mom brought him home. My older brother had threatened to run away if she brought home another girl, so when Daniel was brought home they had their bond, too. Since I don’t know my little sister well I will mostly leave her out of it, but she put as much time and energy and love into raising him that the rest of us did.

We reworked the house to adapt to Daniel’s needs. We lived in the top two stories of a three story apartment building, with the two stories connected by a spiral staircase from a bedroom to the basement. From that basement to the front door of the apartment stretched a road made of carpet where Daniel, with our encouragement (resulting in a lot of jeans with holes in the knees), learned how to creep and crawl. An overhead ladder was set up in what would have been a living room, and we all had calloused hands from swinging on it. We started home school about that time, too. That made me happy, since I didn’t much like people and I really didn’t appreciate my teacher not letting me read when I finished my work before anyone else. We did patternings, which taught Daniel how to move better and how to breathe more deeply.

I slept in the room next to his, and when he had night terrors I would get up to help him calm down. It got to the point where I’d wake up a little bit before he did so I could calm him as he woke up. I still hate being awakened by loud, strident noises. Adrenaline, while useful, is not a rush I need to wake up.

People often said “I’m sorry!” when we explained that Daniel had Down Syndrome. It made me furious. I didn’t want anyone to be sorry about him. He was my little brother, a wonderful person with a wicked sense of humor, and by saying they were sorry they seemed to be implying that I should be, too. Someone used the word “defective” in my hearing once and I yelled at them. I think they were a bit startled by that, as I was generally fairly well behaved.

I was sometimes embarrassed by him. He was terrified of ceiling fans for a while, and he’d hide under tables to get away from them. I’d glare at anyone who had the temerity to stare, but part of me wanted to pick him up and take him away where no one would judge him, or me, anymore. I never showed him that he embarrassed me, though. His feelings were, and still are, much more important to me than mine.

He knew he was different, and I saw it hurt him, and I couldn’t protect him. I still sometimes have nightmares about that.

I want the best for him. I want him to be happy. I wanted him to be fully part of the community, which was rather funny, in retrospect, because I’ve never been particularly good at that.

The most important graduation I have ever attended, far surpassing my own, was Daniel’s high school graduation. He was part of the class. He walked up with them, received his diploma, and walked out. I have never seen him so happy, never seen him smile so hard. He was shaking from the emotion when he hugged me, and I was very close to tears. I was deeply proud of him. He was a valued part of that community, that school, and that meant so much to me that I stumble when I try to explain it.

He makes his way through life with blocks I can’t fathom. My father once said that he would never be as proud of any of the rest of us as he was of Daniel, because Daniel had to fight many times harder to achieve the same things. That hurt at the time – however true it is, and I understand the feeling, I still wanted to be able to know that my parents would be as proud of me as they were of him. It’s an odd place to be, knowing where the sentiment comes from, agreeing with it on some level, but always wanting approval for what I worked so hard for, too.

I wasn’t angry at him growing up, but I was angry at the rest of the world and how cruelly he was treated, sometimes thoughtlessly, sometimes with complete awareness. Even now, the word “retard” makes me angry.

I think I took a lot of things for granted before he was born. I don’t take nearly as much for granted now. Everyone’s experiences are different, and often those experiences are not visible. Looking at me, people generally see someone reasonably smart and relatively confident, but underneath there is the person who still wishes desperately to protect a little brother from a world that doesn’t bother looking at him past what his face looks like. They make judgments based only on that and move on.

Having him in my life has changed how I see the world and, I think, made me less quick to judge. I try to understand people for who they are based on who they show themselves to be, without making quick assumptions based on appearance. I’m not always great at it, but I am always working on being better. I sometimes get burned because I trust too much, but I made a decision that I’d prefer that to hurting people by making assumptions.

Daniel is pretty stable these days. He lives in a good situation and seems to be happy, or at least content. When he and most of the rest of my family moved to another state, I thought long and hard about joining them, but eventually decided that I needed to make a life separate from them. It’s probably better for him to not have his big sister hanging over his shoulder and butting in all the time, anyway. I miss him a lot.

It’s an interesting journey, loving someone with a disability, and one that pulls reserves I didn’t know I had. I am still very protective of him, love him dearly, and would do just about anything to make his life better, but I also understand how much he changed our lives, and I can begin to understand why people said “I’m sorry” about Daniel. I still don’t agree with them, and I’m still not sorry he’s in my life, but he did drastically change how our family worked and how we lived our lives, and I can understand people thinking that must be a bad thing.

Circuit breakers


One of the scariest things I’ve done while flying was take off with my flaps fully down. It wasn’t on purpose, and it could have caused a crash.

I learned to fly partly in a Cessna 172 that was about 30 years old. It had resettable circuit breakers for several things, including the flaps. In general, this was not an issue. These were checked every time I did a preflight and they were easy enough to push back in.

I was doing touch and gos after I had been soloing for a few weeks, which meant that I took off, went through the pattern, landed, and, instead of stopping, took off again. My instructor thought it was very important for me to learn to land with full flaps (having already flown some aerobatic planes, I was much happier not using the flaps) so I was doing as he asked – every round, I’d lower the flaps all the way (which slows down the plane considerably), land, then raise the flaps, do a quick run through to make sure the plane was in good shape, and take off again.

I had done several touch and gos already that day, and I was feeling pretty comfortable. I landed nicely, retracted the flaps, started getting back up to speed as I ran through my checklist, came off the ground into ground effect at the correct speed, and then realized that something was not right. The controls felt sluggish, and my airspeed was not increasing.

I looked out the window. The flaps were still down.

I looked at the controls, and I had raised the flaps.

I looked at the circuit breakers, and the flaps breaker had popped. I thought the flaps had gone up, but the breaker popped, so they never actually came up.

Flaps can increase lift, but only in the first increment. After that, they increase drag. This can be a significant increase in drag. I was in ground effect, which is the distance from the ground that is less than or equal to the length of the wing of the plane, and in ground effect, you get extra lift. You kind of have a cushion of air. For the moment, I was reasonably safe, but the end of the runway was coming up fast, I didn’t have enough space to land, and I couldn’t retract the flaps that close to the ground because I would lose lift rather suddenly and likely hit the ground hard. There were also trees at the end of the runway.

I was talking to tower throughout this, at least a little bit. They knew I was a student pilot and they could see the flaps. They asked if they could help, and I said I didn’t think so but could I possibly not talk to them for a few minutes, and they said ok and let me be. That left me with enough attention to do something about the problem.

I started going up, carefully. I couldn’t raise the nose much because, when you climb, you lose airspeed. With the flaps down, this close to the ground, I couldn’t afford to lose any airspeed because I would probably stall (flaps full down decrease stall speed, too), and stalling would probably make me crash. I cleared the trees without a lot of room to spare and very, very carefully made the turn to the next leg of the pattern. Once I had gained enough altitude, I set the flaps so they would not all retract at once and reset the circuit breaker. I then retracted the flaps slowly as I continued flying up to the pattern elevation.

I really wanted to stop flying right then, but I knew if I did I might not get back into a plane, so I did one more touch and go. The tower people were very nice (and probably very relieved that there weren’t any messes to clean up!). I did my last touch and go with no issue, landed, taxied off the runway, got the plane near the hangar, shut her down, got out, and shook for a few minutes.

I don’t assume that instruments are telling me exactly the right information anymore. I pay attention to circuit breakers and to feeling like something is off. I was lucky this went as well as it did and I had the opportunity to learn from it.

Cessnas are great planes to learn in, but keep an eye on your circuit breakers.

Sick and tired ramblings


So apparently my doctor is not amused when I’ve been sick for more than two weeks and show up in her office and she has to tell me that, just like last time I did this, I’m about *this close* to having pneumonia (“your chest sounds very rough, you know”), and I have a full blown case of bronchitis, and would I please just come in earlier next time so she doesn’t have to have this discussion with me. Again. Then she gives me a prescription for lots of antibiotics and tells me to go home and sleep. She also says I’m not supposed to belly dance tonight. I really shouldn’t have asked.

I spent most of the day asleep. I watched Armitage III, which was a rather neat movie. I think I stayed awake for all of it. When Xander got home we watched three episodes of Smallville, which I’m sure I stayed awake through, and then I watched a little bit of one of the Robocop movies and decided that it was really boring and that I’d rather be asleep. Not that “I’d rather be asleep” is saying much right now. If I hold still too long, snoozing is a definite possibility.

The chair in my office at home isn’t very comfortable, so I’m not likely to fall asleep while writing this. Really.

I don’t like being sick. When I get sick, I tend to ignore it for as long as possible. I generally only go to see a doctor when it’s actually interfering with my daily life, which, since I have a pretty high pain tolerance, can take a while. One of the least brilliant things I’ve done in the past few years is ignore pain for too long. I was biking 8 miles to work, swimming for an hour, going to work, then biking home. I loved it. My thumb hurt some after a few months of this, as did the inside of my elbow and part of my shoulder, but I kept telling myself it wasn’t too bad and I ignored it. The day I tried to put on my balaclava so my lungs would have some protection from the cold air and my thumb was suddenly released and I found myself sitting on the ground in an immense amount of pain, I had to stop ignoring it. Mostly because Xander saw it happen. Anyway, I’d managed to get tendonitis in my elbow and shoulder and something called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis on the tendon in my thumb. That took several months of physical therapy to heal. I managed to avoid surgery, happily, but I was told not to swim or bike until it was completely healed. That was very frustrating. I took up walking instead, but it wasn’t as satisfying.

The problem I have, though, is that I have better things to do than sit in a waiting room. I really don’t notice being sick as more than a minor irritation for quite a while. I went in today because I’ve had bronchitis before and this was feeling like that did. If the cough had been getting better instead of worse, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

I think that either makes me a doctor’s dream (not a hypochondriac!) or a doctor’s pain in the neck (a week earlier would have been better) – I’m not sure which. Oh well.

It’s probably time for me to go back to sleep again. I think I may be getting less coherent.



He watched her wrap her tongue around it, licking it, clearly relishing the sensation. She made a noise of enjoyment deep in her throat and he shivered a little.

She sucked, licked around the base, then sucked again, passionately.

She stopped, took a deep breath, licked from the bottom all the way to the top, then back down and around and up. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

She breathed in as she licked, slurping a little. His breath shortened.

She started sucking in earnest, stopping now and again to lick the base and wrap her tongue carefully around its rigidity. His breathing grew rough.

She finally finished, licking up the last few drops.

She looked up at him between her lashes, teasingly.

“What? I like popsicles!”



I’m an atheist. I have been for a while. I grew up Episcopalian, but it stopped making sense to me. I drifted to agnosticism and then, upon thinking about it for a while, decided I am really an atheist. I really only miss religion when I’m ticked off at something that happened that is completely not fair but not something anyone has control over. At that point, I sometimes wish I had someone to yell at. Other than that, though, I don’t have any holes in my life.

I understand that a lot of people have problems with atheists. I have problems with evangelicals of any stripe, and sometimes atheists come in that mold, too. I believe very strongly that people should be allowed to choose their belief systems. I don’t force my atheism on anyone (I know at least a few people who don’t have a clue that I’m an atheist) and I really appreciate it when other people manage to avoid pushing their beliefs on me. I will respect your beliefs if you will give me room for mine, too.

I don’t mind discussions, but people getting obnoxious I can do without.

So. The next question everyone seems to ask is “How do you know what is right if you don’t have a god to guide you?” I was raised to think about everything. I understand that I don’t like it when I get hurt. I do not see any reason why I should think it’s a good thing to hurt someone else if I don’t like it. Seems pretty basic to me. I think about how my actions and words affect other people. I would hope that people in general would be capable of doing that without the threat of an angry god or hell hanging over them.

Religion to me started feeling like the carrot and the stick. If you did everything right, you got into heaven. If you didn’t, the afterlife was not a pleasant place to be. I decided that I will live knowing that this is the only chance I have to do things right. I don’t believe that I am being judged by some omnipotent being. I believe that my life, if it is going to make a difference, will make a difference now. I can make choices now about what I want to do and how much of an impact I want to make on the world.

If I do something wrong, I have to make amends. I can’t pray to some being and make it all better. If I hurt someone, I hurt a person. I didn’t hurt something I can’t see. I hurt someone standing right in front of me, and it’s my responsibility to deal with it in this lifetime. Preferably quickly, too. If I’m wrong, I’ll say so. I accept it. I make mistakes. Sometimes I stick my foot in my mouth and say things that hurt people. It happens to everyone. The difference is, I know this is the only chance I have to do this living thing right. I have to clean up my own messes, and no one is going to come along and fix things for me.

I am responsible for myself and my actions. I don’t need a god making rules for me. I know what is right and wrong. Doing things to purposely hurt someone is not good. Trying to help people is good. Thinking about the consequences of actions is very, very important. I can do that. I’m not always right, but when I did believe in a god, I didn’t get feedback on right or wrong, so I’m not sure how that helps.

Don’t even get me started on the contradictions in the Bible.

It’s a different kind of life for me. I think, I like to think, I am more aware of the results of my actions. I try to be honest with myself about what I need and what I can handle. I try to think as much about the people around me as I do of myself. I try hard to live my life fully, so when I look back there are no regrets.

I have one shot at a good life. I have one stretch of time in which I get to be a conscious being. This is mine to fill with living a good life, and I will do my best, and I will try to be happy and enjoy it and not cause unnecessary pain to anyone else.

I’m happy to talk about it. I’ll be adding links on the sidebar to atheists I read, so if you have any interest, you can follow links to their sites, too. Please come to the discussion with an open mind and we can have an interesting conversation. If you come in waving religion like a red flag, I’ll have a harder time with the discussion. Reasoned arguments are never bad, though.

I hope this might help change, even if only slightly, the perception that atheists are bad by definition. Morality is not based on a god.

Ice, ice, baby


I was talking to a person on a bus while I was in Washington DC recently. He was from Florida, and he was talking about the storms they’ve been having this winter. He said he completely understood why airplanes couldn’t fly with ice on their wings and tails; it’s because the ice is so heavy that it pulls the plane down.

He was rather surprised to learn that he was wrong.

The weight of the ice can be a problem, especially if you are talking about ice picked up in flight. The main problem, though, and the reason a visual check of the wing may not be enough to keep you out of trouble for your preflight check, is that ice on the wings spoils the airflow. Even bits of ice as small as grains of salt can decrease lift and increase drag. If you’ve planned a flight based on the normal flight capabilities, ice on the wings can cause you to run out of fuel, for instance, or stall at a speed and attitude that is usually safe. Another issue, if you are talking about bigger pieces of ice, is that a piece of ice can come off the wing and hit some other part of the airplane.

The lift generated by the wing is dependent on the shape of the wing. Even tiny changes in the shape can change the airflow. If the air coming off separates from the wing too soon, you don’t get the lift you need. Ice can also form on propellers, limiting the efficiency and increasing the work required from the engine. Some planes have boots on the leading edge of the wings that can be inflated so the ice breaks off. There are also several other options, including bleeding heat off of jets to keep the wings warm enough so they don’t ice up (which I think is really neat).

Checking for ice before you fly is a good start. There is another problem, though, that you need to keep in mind. Moisture in the air can be supercooled. This means that the water can actually be below freezing, but because there is nothing for the water to freeze around, it stays in a liquid state. If you introduce something new, such as the wing of an airplane, the water immediately crystallizes into ice. A pilot flies into a cloud with no ice on the wings and suddenly has a noticeable accumulation of ice. Not a good thing. If you fly VFR (visual flight rules – no cloud flying!) this part of wing icing shouldn’t be an issue, but if you are flying IFR (instrument flight rules) and it’s cold outside, this can cause you pretty serious issues. You can still get wing ice if it’s cold and you aren’t flying through clouds, but it isn’t quite as dramatic.

Wing icing is not something you want to take chances on. If it’s cold out, run your hand over the flight surfaces when you are doing your preflight. You’ll feel ice if it’s there, and you’d rather find out before you take off than realize there’s an issue when you can’t make the turn out of the pattern.

Fears, bravery, and being sick


I’ve been sick for the past week or so. I’m not good at being sick. I get impatient with myself and my inability to do what I want to do, and I try to push too hard and end up sicker for longer because I won’t accept limitations.

I get really frustrated with my fears, too. I am afraid of drowning, due to an unfortunate incident with a boogie board and some big waves at the Del Mar beach when I was very young. I decided I couldn’t stand to be afraid, so I learned to swim well and then I learned to SCUBA dive. It turned out that I was afraid of the ocean even when I knew how to swim, so diving in the ocean was very hard for me to get through, but I did, eventually.

I’m afraid of heights. I’ve discovered, though, that I’m afraid of heights between about six and thirty feet up. Above that, as far as I can tell, some part of my brain figures I’m dead anyway, so who cares? I fly, and I love it. I got up on a ladder yesterday in the snow to get a branch out from on top of a cable in the backyard. I was overbalanced a few times, but I’ve been working through this particular fear enough that I could steady my breathing and finish what needed to be done.

My first reaction to fear is the sensible one. Don’t do whatever you are afraid of. There are reasons for most fears. Spiders, snakes, and scorpions, to name three.

After that first reaction, though, I generally get angry. Why should I let my fears limit me? I understand that sometimes I will have physical limitations and if I work hard I may be able to overcome those. Mental limitations, though, really tick me off.

I am afraid of standing in front of a mirror and dancing. I’m a klutz. I was in ballet for several years growing up and was told I just didn’t have the body for it. My shoulders are wider than many men’s, and while “petite” is a good word for my height, even in perfect shape I am not a tiny person. So why am I belly dancing? Because I was afraid. Because I still am, sometimes. Because I stand up next to others in my class who are poised and comfortable and absolutely stunning, and I challenge myself to learn, dance, and not fall over a veil (again). I’m learning, slowly, how to choreograph. I like moving to music. I may never be awesome at it, but I am getting pretty good. My hands don’t hurt from zill drills anymore. I’m getting better at isolations. I’m even learning some of the harder moves, and I don’t look bad doing them. I balanced a sword on my head, and danced with it, and didn’t drop it.

When I was fairly young, I was fascinated by Nelson Mandela. He said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” That quote still resonates with me.

I’m still learning to be brave. My braveries are small things, like cooking without a recipe or dancing in front of a mirror or an audience, or even flying, but I am learning to overcome fear where I find it, however hard that can be at times. There are also still things I am afraid of that I have not faced. I may eventually learn to face them, too.

What are you afraid of?

Suck. Squeeze. Bang. Blow.


However the title may sound, it’s not X-rated. Not even R-rated.

The last blog I wrote, I got tired of hearing myself ramble sometimes. Feelings are all well and good, and I had a lot to work through, but I ran out of things to say. I don’t want to do that this time, and I do want to start moving towards flying again, so I am going to start working my way through the various tests that people have to pass to get a pilot’s license. My license is not current, but I’m hoping to remedy that soon. I can’t take you up in a plane with me, but I can talk a lot about flying, especially about the knowledge required. This is the first of those posts. If you don’t care or aren’t interested for whatever reason, skip the posts under the “Flying” category. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the ride!

Suck. Squeeze. Bang. Blow.

Those are the cycles of a four stroke engine. The first time I said that to my flight instructor, he just about spit his coffee across the room. I had been having a hard time remembering them, but I came across this somewhere and loved it, both for its suggestive qualities and because it was easy to remember.

Suck. Intake. The piston is near the top of its cycle. As it goes down, the exhaust valve closes and the intake valve opens. The vacuum (suck!) created by the piston moving down pulls in the fuel and air mixture. We’ll talk about leaning and enriching the mixture later, and what effect altitude has on that.

Squeeze. This is the compression part of the cycle. As the piston comes back up, it compresses the air and fuel mixture. This raises the temperature and increases the pressure of the air/fuel mixture.

Bang. Ignition, blastoff, whatever floats your boat. Or flies your plane. Whatever. The mixture we just compressed is ignited by the spark plug, increasing the pressure and shoving the piston back down again. This is where the power comes from, what makes the engine go.

Blow. Remember the exhaust valve that closed during the sucking part? It’s opening again, and the pressure forces the gasses out. The piston is pushed back up again, the exhaust valve closes, and the cycle starts again.

This is really basic. This is why, if your spark plugs are fouled, your car doesn’t work, or it doesn’t run smoothly – without the “bang” part, the piston doesn’t get shoved down and the cycle doesn’t work. This is the beginning of understanding a four stroke engine, and the beginning of my lessons for you, and for refreshing my memory, about how airplanes work and how to fly.

Welcome to my brain. Prepare to learn a bit of physics, weather, and what all of the random dials in front of the pilot do. Oh, and just to be clear, I don’t fly jets. You can make a brick fly if you put jets on it. The planes I fly are maneuverable, exciting, and responsive, and they are quite enough for me. Not that I’d object to a ride in a jet, but it’s not my cup of tea. Right now, anyway.

This is just the beginning. There’s a lot of information to get through, and if I have a hard time understanding something, you’ll hear more about it.