Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday October 14

We made what may be our final boating jaunt for the season on Shasta Lake last Friday, with one of Dylan's schoolmates and her parents along for the ride. I was beautiful out on the lake, and warm, until the sun dipped below the horizon. Then it cooled, quickly, reminding us that summer is indeed over, and what we call "Indian Summer" is often but a teasing connection to our memories of a season recently past.

My online amigo Algernon and I have something in common: We both went through much of our lives thinking we'd never be fathers. I've enjoyed watching his journey into fatherhood, even if from afar. Here's one of his posts of Monday Morning Gabriel.

In the early eighties, I bought a copy of a Barron's Learn to Type book, borrowed my sister's old electric typewriter, and began pecking away for twenty minutes a day. I only need look at about a half dozen abandoned journals from my teens and twenties to remember that writing longhand was always a chore. If I hadn't taken up typing, I doubt I would ever have taken up writing as a hobby.

I usually don't even make notes in longhand to organize my thoughts before writing. I should, but I don't. I'd almost rather take a beating than write anything of length in longhand.

I'm guessing that in the days before word processing, it was common for folks to write drafts in longhand before typing a manuscript. I suppose nowadays, with the proliferation of blogs and other online product, it's more common to compose on the keyboard. That's why it struck me when I read this on the blog The Daily Coyote.

"Part of the reason I don’t write much on this blog is that I cannot compose on the computer. I wrote my entire book (both of them, actually) with pen and paper. I often write things longhand, things I want to share on this site, but simply never get around to transcribing them into the computer."

I'm curious. How many of you writers out there compose in longhand?

Monday, October 12, 2009

On Fire

I think this is a good video to watch to start out the week.

Oh yeah: Jason is 5'6".

Thursday, October 08, 2009

B.B. Has a Bad Day

Most maintenance on PHI's offshore fleet is done at night. Makes sense, because the helicopters are flown mainly during the daytime. But, like anything mechanical, sometimes helicopters break. That's why most of our Gulf Coast bases have a couple of day mechanics. Often, the fix is simple, and in an hour or two, our heroes in charcoal uniforms can have an aircraft up and running again, producing revenue.

If you're going to be a day mechanic with an offshore helicopter company, it helps to be patient. It helps to be really patient. Look, I like most of the pilots I work with; we have a lot of great folks in our ranks. But sheesh, some pilots can be awfully opinionated, even when discussing aircraft problems with guys who hold a federal license for working on them.

Add to that dynamic the fact that so many of our pilots come from a military background, where the pilots are officers and the maintenance folks are enlisted. There are guys who just can't seem to dispense with that condescending "listen to the officer speak" bearing.

Yep, for the most part, I like my fellow aviators, but there are times when I wonder if Will Rogers ever met a helicopter pilot.

One of our day mechanics in Boothville is a Louisiana native by the name of B.B. Smith. Before he became a licensed helicopter mechanic, B.B. was, of all things, a jockey. I have a lot of respect for B.B., who epitomizes the qualities needed by a good day mechanic: He has a great talent for troubleshooting, he works well under pressure, and yes, he deals adeptly with the Big Bad Pilot Ego. He's also funny as heck. Folks tend to gather around B.B. just to hear one of his stories. He’s like a one-man “Redneck Comedy Hour.”

Boothville is a busy base, but problems with helicopters seem to run in spurts. Sheesh, sometimes we'll cruise along for days with very few maintenance problems. But then, a day will come along when you might think that one helicopter got the flu and gave it to several others.

Our day mechanics had a really busy week the last time I was at work, but one day in particular was just the day from hell. Our day guys were juggling multiple aircraft problems, and I remember thinking how awful it would be to be in their shoes. I spotted B.B. in the afternoon, after my second flight, and the look on his face spoke volumes. He’s always seemed perpetually cheerful, and I've never seen him go so long without a smile on his face. But, he managed to get through the day with his sanity, and without clobbering an obstreperous pilot with a large wrench, so thankfully, I'll see him again come my next hitch.

Here's B.B. ejecting an unwelcome young visitor from the hanger.

B.B and family.

B.B. posted this on Facebook. He wrote that it pretty much explained the way he felt his last week at work.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Little About Not Much

Geez, when I left home last time, it was still broiler weather in Redding, with the temps regularly topping 100 degrees. Shorts and t-shirts everywhere. Now, a few days after my arrival back home, I'm sitting in a coffee place watching people walk in wearing jackets and sweaters.

It's kind of weird having Dylan back in school. I should have tackled chores at home today, but with Rhonda at work and Dylan in school, the place seems so empty. (I hope the dogs won't feel hurt if they read this.)

My online amigo Thom G once posted a link to Grammar Girl. She's quite a story. Her name is Mignon Fogarty, and she started the "Grammar Girl" thing more or less as a hobby, creating podcasts on grammar and usage for iTunes. She was surprised to learn one day that her podcasts were the number two rated downloads on the site. She was further surprised another day when the folks from Oprah's show contacted her asking her to appear. Now she has a New York Times bestseller on the shelves, with another book on the way later this month. I was reading her book while flying home from Louisiana and learned something interesting: Most people under the age of thirty-five say "on accident," while most people over forty say "by accident." It seems a bit of a mystery how that language usage generation gap came about; a university professor even wrote a paper on the divide, but he didn't provide a firm answer.

You're likely aware that California has a law in effect allowing the possession of marijuana for medical purposes. I was surprised to learn here that in Redding, where Shasta County's D.A. seems to take a conservative/authoritarian stance (he slaps people with felonies for possession of methamphetamine for quantities far below what sentencing guidelines call for), we now have thirteen medical marijuana dispensaries.

Man, I'll bet sales of Pink Floyd and reggae music have boomed in our county.