A Juan and a two…

For the past year, The Boy has lived the life of a nomad, working as a field auditor for power and communications companies. He isn’t home to visit often, but when he’s in town we’ve adopted a new tradition – Bad Juan margaritas at the local TexMex dive.

These are not just any margaritas.  Not the frozen girlie variety sold in chain restaurants.  Not the syrupy-sweet stuff that bachelorettes drink to excess in Vegas. They are both terrifying and magical in their potency – bringing inexplicable cheerfulness when consumed responsibly. And by “responsibly”, i mean “less than three”, as the restaurant generally won’t serve any individual patron more than three of these things*.

But what fun is that?

We continued the tradition on his last visit.  Bashing tortilla chips and sipping the neon-green power-punch, The Boy talked about the frustrations of life on the road.  Ten to twelve-hour days.  The work is repetitive enough to be mind-numbing, but still requires just enough intellectual effort to prevent him from completely zoning out.  He doesn’t
want to do this forever, but isn’t quite sure what’s next.

daisyfae:  In the meantime, you’re not stuck behind a desk.  The pay and benefits are good.

The Boy:  True. But how much money do I need?  If you have enough, it loses meaning.

daisyfae: Then reframe it into terms that DO have meaning!  How many Bad Juans do you earn an hour?

The Boy:  I like the way you’re thinking here…

We did some basic math.  At $7.00 per drink – accounting for overtime, taxes and other adjustments to income – he earns more than enough to get really, really shit-faced drunk.

Motivation.  We haz it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This month, The Boy is working in Florida, so it’s a bit more difficult for him to visit for the weekend.  He uses my place as his permanent mailing address.  Usually, i just pile his mail up in a basket on his desk, but the letter from his auto insurance agent was likely a bill.  i realized last weekend that he wouldn’t be home before the due date, so i
paid it.  Sent him a text afterwards…

daisyfae:  Just paid your car insurance – $392.  We can settle up next time you’re in town!

The Boy:  Thanks!  If you take payment in Bad Juans, it’s exactly 56.

daisyfae:  That would more than kill me.  Nice try.  Cash or check preferred.

The Boy:  Shekels it is!

it'll get you drunk

image found here

* unless you time your visit to coincide with a shift change, when you can sometimes scam a fourth one…

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Ace Hole

“Pull back! Harder! More! MORE! That’s it! Tighten your stomach. Keep your eye on him! LEFT! Keep pulling back, but push the stick to your left knee!”

Upside down, banking left in the middle of a vertical loop – a barrel roll attack or an Immelmann. i had no fucking clue. Head back, looking up through the canopy as my eyes watered, i was trying like hell to keep track of the other plane – which was doing the same sort of maneuver. Pulling over 4 g’s.

It wasn’t the fear of death that was chewing on me. It was the fear of failure. The instructor pilots fly these “missions” three times a day, or more. Thousands of hours experience. They’re not going to let an ego-driven derp, with more money than common sense, do something stupid and wreck one of their sexy Marchetti SF-260’s.

When i realized we were going to be ‘scored’ on our dogfighting skills? That’s when i got a bit puckered. Why? Because i don’t know how to fly a damn plane!

“He got you! But you hung in there! Level out a bit, catch your breath. OK. I’ve got the plane.” i looked back and caught a glimpse of theatrical smoke coming out of the tail of my plane.

Not exactly what i was expecting when i drunkenly raised a paddle at a charity auction last February. What was i expecting? Not upside down, three-dimensional combat, with my hand on the damn stick! Not a fur ball over Lake Erie!

The day started with our “Mission Briefing”. i met my “opponent”, Dennis, as he arrived with his father-in-law. JR, our instructor pilot, asked us both what brought us to the briefing room on that particular day.

Dennis: My wife bought me this as a gift!

daisyfae: Jack Daniels.

JR: Yeah. We get a lot of referrals from Mr. Daniels…

JR briefed us on basics of safety, including how to use a parachute. Fundamental Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM), specifically basic fighter maneuvers. We were instructed how to maintain 500’ clearance, and how to hold our opponent in the gun sight before firing. The flight plan included formation flying on the way to the operation zone and tactics – trading altitude for airspeed, avoiding overshoot. After two practice dogfights, we would be engaging in four freestyle fur balls.

concentrate

JR used two toy planes on sticks to show us how to execute the maneuvers. They were cute. At first, i tried really hard to track and internalize what he was saying about “angle of attack”, and the proper method to perform a Low Yo-Yo. After about 10 minutes, i started to think about whether the sanitary undergarment i had put on under my flight suit would be sufficient to contain what i’d eaten for breakfast that morning…

what was i thinking

When i bought the Air Combat package, Studley (the world’s most amazing wingman) briefly considered buying one as well, so we could play together. After further thought, he realized i might need a driver… and that as a licensed pilot, he had a lot more to lose by a shitty performance… He also figured it would be fun to watch.

Off we go

It was out to the planes.  i’d already put on my true safety gear before getting into my flight suit.  For what it’s worth, these things are quite comfortable!  Good to know, i guess…

D Ring

Additional safety gear included a parachute and life vest.  “That’s your ‘D-ring’.  No!  Don’t pull it right now!  Only if I say ‘Bail, bail, bail!'”

  grease 'er up

With a little bit of WD-40 and a crowbar, my instructor pilot, Smudge, corked my lardass into the itty bitty cockpit.  Left seat. Yeah. Totally didn’t expect that either…

It was a stunningly gorgeous day – and we launched in formation out to the ‘battle zone’, 16 miles north of Cleveland over Lake Erie. Once we cleared the pattern for takeoff, Smudge informed me that it was my turn to fly the plane.

“Just follow Dennis. Stay to the right and down.”

Simple enough, in theory. i couldn’t do it. Tiny movements of the stick led to gigantic movements of the plane. i had expected the stick to sort of be ‘neutral’. Nope. For all 16 miles i was bouncing around, trying to stay stable. It occurred to me that if i couldn’t manage this simple task, doing anything more complicated was going to be impossible.

We did some basic tracking and targeting. Then the High/Low Yo-Yo maneuvers. These were fun. Diving speeds you up, so you work the angles in all three dimensions. Swoop back up, and drop right down on his tail.

Maybe i could do this?

We rolled into the dogfights. i lost the first one – totally surprised at the intensity of that whole ‘upside down’ thing. For the second round, i decided to put my mind on hold and listen to Smudge, who was telling me exactly what to do. “Pull back”, “Hard left”, “Nose down”, “Track”, “SHOOT!”

i got him. Smoke from the ass end of his plane. “Shack!”

Marchetti

Two more rounds. i won the next fight. Dennis wore me down after an extended battle for the fourth. By the time he finally hit me? i was relieved. Having done at least three vertical loops in a row? i was wrung out.  Time to head back. 

“It’s your plane. Just keep your nose down a little bit, and aim to the right of downtown. Can you see the airport? Make an easy turn so we’re flying parallel to the runway.”

Without realizing it, i was now flying the plane – steady and level – and getting us back to the airport. How the hell did THAT happen?

yay

We landed, taxied back to the apron. Shaking hands with Dennis, we went inside for the ‘mission debriefing’ – which, in my case, included removing my completely un-soiled undergarment!. Watching the cockpit videos was a little bit surreal. “i just did that? Whoa…”

Studley drove home, as i was still a bit rattled even an hour after getting out of the cockpit. We had a chance to do a bit of a post-game analysis in the car.

What i spent on that “charitable donation” would have gone a long way toward becoming a pilot. It would have at least paid for my “Pinch Hitter” course – how to land a plane in an emergency.

The flight was fun, and definitely exciting. But it wasn’t on my bucket list. That’s because i don’t actually have a bucket list. i put this in the category of “contrived thrills” – where all risk is managed, and you pay money for an adrenaline rush, and a chance to say “I did that! Woo Hoo!”.

It required no skill. There really wasn’t much risk. When you get down to it? Not much different from bungee jumping, or doing a tandem parachute jump. i have done neither of those activities, nor do i wish to…

Excitement? Of course. Growth as a human being? Not so much…

As we worked through this in the car, Studley asked if i’d do it again.

daisyfae: Probably not. i mean, it was pretty amazing. But…. It was a stunt. What about you? You were getting pretty jazzed during the mission briefing!

Studley: I might think about it….

daisyfae: i would probably do it with you… but i think i want to learn to fly first.

Life on the Imaginary Axis

The wonderful world of scientific research has suffered some seriously crunched financial cherries this year.  As is always the case, one of the first things that gets cut is the travel budget.

This has had made planning and organizing productive and useful technical conferences virtually impossible, as even the rock stars of the scientific community are grounded.

Trying to recruit an alternate for a tech session i’m organizing, i snagged one of our brilliant junior geniuses, AU*, in the hallway this afternoon.

daisyfae:  Hey, i know it’s a long shot that we’ll have a travel budget anytime soon, but would you be willing to be an alternate for my session at the “Nerdliness is Next to Godliness” Symposium next November?

AU:  I would LOVE to do that, but there’s no way I can commit.  I’ve had to back out of the last two Plenary talks I was invited to present.  I’ve finally had to start telling people “No!” before they ask!  I’m tired of letting people down!

daisyfae:  Yeah.  i know the feeling.  i’ve got to do the same thing when the supermodels come knockin’ at my door…

He wants me...

image found here

* i’ve written about AU before – here and here.  He is a million kinds of awesome…