Learn something every day

At the bottom of the Nav Canada NOTAM query page is a box with red text that I’ve been curious about for as long as I can remember:

Note: Under certain conditions being familiar with this section only, before commencing a flight, doesn’t meet CAR 602.71 and AIM-RAC 3.3 requirements. Please review all NOTAM files above for complete information.

I have read through 602.71 and RAC3.3. They offer no clues as to what the “certain conditions” might be, so I’ve always just ignored that phraseology and pulled all the applicable NOTAM files, slowly picking and choosing my way between stuff I care about and stuff I don’t. But I remain curious about that language: this is aviation. Nothing is a part of any process Just Because. There had to be a reason.

The answer, it turns out, is available right here. And it’s my own damn fault for not reading the manual in the first place, because the explanation is actually quite obvious when you stop and think about it. The fact that I had never actually encountered the described phenomenon is a function more of luck, or circumstance.

Interesting, eh?

Soundcheck Sunday: Shawn Colvin, “These Four Walls”

The title track from the latest studio album (2006). One of the things I love dearly about Colvin is that she’s only inclined to record when she actually feels like she has something to say. This can be frustrating sometimes because you’re forever waiting for something new and interesting — Sarah McLachlan, I’m looking at you — but when the results sound like this it’s oh-so-worth the wait.

Currently reading

Or, my tabdump for 18 September 2011, potentially of interest to some people I know read this blog:

Soundcheck Sunday: Shawn Colvin, “Wichita Skyline”

So it turns out we’re going to do a pair of tracks from “A Few Small Repairs.” This one’s been in my mind since last week, when we went out to Alberta (my first time back in two years) for a day and a bit, and I found myself driving down the arrow-straight highways we never see in this part of the world. And for some reason, this was the song that was playing in my head the entire weekend. It’s not about the prairies, and Kansas is a long way from southern Alberta, but for some reason I think about life in small towns and the yearning for escape and, sometimes, the utter futility of the whole thing.

I wished hard enough to hurt
Drove fast enough to catch the moon
But I must have been dreaming again
’cause there’s nothing around the bend
Except for that flat, fine line
Of the Wichita skyline

Soundcheck Sunday: Shawn Colvin, “84,000 Different Delusions”

It turns out there’s no video for this song. You don’t need one.

I recently stumbled upon a (very small) poem by the Jodo Shinshu poet Asahara Saichi:

84,000 delusions
84,000 lights
84,000 joys abounding

I have no idea if Shawn Colvin knew about this poem when she wrote this song. My understanding is that “84,000” is a number used in Buddhism — not just Jodo Shinshu teachings — as a shorthand for “a lot”, so it isn’t unreasonable to think the song drew some level of inspiration from either the saying or the poem. In this case, Saichi is talking about the great ecstasy that comes with the enlightenment of a severely deluded mind.

Which makes the context for “84,000 Different Delusions” interesting: “A Few Small Repairs” is sometimes described as a concept album exploring the emotions that come in the wake of a divorce, and if you were to think of the idea of divorce (or the ending of a fundamentally flawed and unhappy relationship) as a kind of enlightenment, well, it’s not much of a stretch to see how one could find abounding joy once one sees the light.

Obligatory post

Herewith, a collection of links to articles that either helped shape or closely mirror the way I think about what happened a decade ago:

  • David Foster Wallace, “Just Asking“: “What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”? In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort? “
  • Jim Henley, “Proportion“: “What they really mean is not “remember,” but dwell. Obsess. Lingeringly finger the scab. And most of all, fall in line when assured that some grand policy, however wise or unwise, is put forth in the name of that day and the atrocities that marked it. Don’t listen to these people. You and I do not need their instruction in how to remember or honor our dead.”
  • Paul Bertorelli, “Yes to Commemoration, No to Commiseration“: “To me, the survival lesson we have to learn is resilience, to put the tiny risk of terrorism in perspective and to understand it is not nearly the inflated threat we imagine it to be. It has never and it does not now threaten the Republic. What most threatens is unreasonable fear, over reaction and a political class that capitalizes on both as a cudgel to gain votes or to raise an agency’s budget without restraint.”
  • Jesse Walker: “What Happens Next?“: Subheaded “Six options beyond peace and war,” this is one of the most eerily prescient items I’ve ever read in my life. “[T]here are at least six choices before us, each with its own subgenres and mutant variations. None is perfect, and one is actually insane. But each is worth examining, if only to understand what people actually mean when they call for war, peace, or some other path they can’t quite articulate.”

Are you sensing a theme? Then perhaps you’d like to read the ACLU’s new report on the loss of civil liberties in the past decade. It… isn’t pretty.

And thus my fall is much like my spring

This is what 11,921 miles and six weeks looks like:

Once again, I have a staggering number of PNRs floating around in my iPhone and one hell of a lot of ground to cover over the next month and a half. And yet, I find this deeply soothing.

PIREP: Telex Stratus 30XT headset

Back in the spring, I bought a Telex Stratus 30XT aviation headset from these guys. Not because they’d been offering the world’s greatest price or anything, but because they had the best shipping plan I could find (to Hawaii). Owing to scheduling issues, it has only been in the past couple of weeks that I’ve actually manged to fly with it very much, and I can now report back on what it’s like. I offer this PIREP mostly because when I was shopping for the thing, I found very little by way of reviews to work off of — people seem to like talking about the Stratus 50D or the Bose X, or the Lightspeed Zulus; the mid-tier headsets seem to be neglected.

So: the headset. It is very comfortable — much more comfortable than the David Clarks I used to fly with, and more comfortable to my head than the Bose X that everyone else seems to like, though I admit I don`t have a lot of time with a Bose on my head. The clamping pressure is adjustable through a couple of cams on each earcup, and the seals are sufficiently padded to spread the pressure out over your skull. It can get hot: while doing crosswind landing practice in the middle of the summer, it was awfully sweaty under the headset. But the overlarge earcups make it tolerable.

Noise isolation is excellent. I’ve managed to forget to turn the noise cancelling on a couple of times now and it wasn’t until I was in the climb that I noticed the plane was a lot louder than normal. This is actually a good thing, in that you don’t have to carry a charging cable and/or spare batteries if you’re willing to “tolerate” some time in the air with “only” 26dB of noise reduction. You probably learned to fly with less noise reduction, so I can’t think this is going to be a deal-breaker for anyone. Turn the ANC on and discover that it is, in fact, a lot quieter in the cabin. I don’t have numbers readily to hand, but it’s more than quiet enough to help combat some of the fatigue.

The sound quality is excellent. I’ve piped my iPod directly into the headset and it sounds as good as my Audio-Technica headphones. Yeah, I know it’s an iPod, but it’s good enough. Whatever readability problems I’ve had so far have been aircraft-specific; in our fleet there are a few planes that have wonky intercoms or balky radios built by people wielding rocks, but with a good avionics panel it sounds great. With bad avionics it sounds OK (the plane I’m thinking about in particular is damn near intolerable with passive David Clarks).

The phone adapter works. I know because I’ve been using it as my hands-free device at home (yes, I am a loser, there’s no need to send e-mail on this) when waiting on hold with call centers and such. I have not been able to get it to work with my iPhone, because the iPhone uses a 3.5mm TRS connector and the Stratus takes a 2.5mm. I need a wiring diagram to get the appropriate cable (though I think a straight four-ring 2.5 to 3.5 would do the trick), and I’ve been too lazy to do that so far, though I probably should since it’s cheaper than buying a handheld radio and the light gun is hard to see at CYYJ.

The microphone’s windscreen stays on. The boom stays where you put it. It does an acceptable job at dealing with the wind noise when the eyeball vents are open and blasting straight at you (an issue when flying in the middle of summer). Sound quality (for other people) is great; people say I sound perfectly normal, and I guess that’s a good thing.

So there you have it: $500-ish for a reasonably good-quality noise cancelling headset. Not as flashy as a Bose, but also not as expensive. Recommended.

Edit: As I was shutting down from today’s adventures in the air I was reminded of the one minor nit I have with this headset — Telex ships a set of Energizer rechargeable batteries in the box. These are shit batteries, especially if you’re not flying every day; the self-discharge rate is atrocious (like, they last about two weeks flying 4-ish hours in that interval). I’m probably going to replace them with NiMH Eneloops, but I’m not sure how the charging circuitry will hold up. Anyway, just be aware this is a bit of a problem if you don’t feel like plugging your headset in every couple of weeks.

The view from up here

I saw an interesting thing last night. “Combat Hospital” — a Shaw Media-produced show about life at KAF in the middle part of the decade, with a multinational health care team at its centre — featured the death of a Canadian Forces officer. It made me think about Nichola Goddard (the analogy having been pounded home thanks to the presence of The Trews and their song about Captain Goddard and highway 401), but it also made me think about the last time I saw any military death on television that didn’t feature an American.

What I’ve been thinking about, though, is how this played out down south. “Combat Hospital” is, like I said, a Canadian production; Shaw owns it and produces it, and it’s filmed in Etobicoke. But it also runs on ABC. And as has been a trend over the past few years, it’s one of these shows produced by Canadians that explicitly features Canadians, or is set in Canada, yet it runs in the United States with absolutely pretentions of being anywhere or anything else. This is the “Rookie Blue”/”Flashpoint”/”The Bridge” phenomenon; “The Bridge” flopped because it was awful, but “Flashpoint” and “Rookie Blue” seem to be doing OK by whatever standards are used to judge television these days. (I watch exactly zero of these shows so I can’t even begin to comment on their quality or how their Canadian-ness is displayed or handled.) Still, you don’t have to be very old, or very sheltered from a media perspective, to remember a time where setting a show, destined for any market south of the border, in Canada was absurd. You just wouldn’t try it. I can’t think of a single time that was done up until a few years ago.

So it was nice to see, acknowledged on TV on both sides of the border, that people not carrying US passports get killed in Afghanistan, and it’s not all stars-and-stripes draped coffins and dead bodies coming home to Dover. The inclusion of The Trews was a nice touch (and one that thoroughly screwed me up) though I wonder how many people watching in the US really understood what it was talking about: that hundred-ish mile stretch of the 401 from CFB Trenton to the Forensic Institute in Toronto, and the bridge guards and the bizarre and yet uniquely Canadian thing that happened without any prompting or poking by anyone in any position of authority at all. I hesitate to call it sublime, but it might have been the most moving and perfect moment of dramatic TV I’ve seen in years. Not necessarily because of what it showed, but what it left out, what every Canadian knew would be next for this fictional officer — and I don’t know a single person in this country who doesn’t get hugely weepy when they think about what process.

Did American viewers get it? I dunno. But I also know I don’t care, because that scene wasn’t for them — it was for us, for the memory of our dead, in recognition of their sacrifices. The returning soldier is something of a cliche, but I think this was different, and more meaningful for the difference.

Soundcheck Sunday: Shawn Colvin, “Polaroids”

If late August was the time of The Northern Pikes, September seems to be the month of Shawn Colvin (and Paula Cole, but that’s a Soundcheck for another week). We’re fast approaching what is easily my favorite time of year around here, with the shortening days, the turning leaves, and the bright afternoon sunshine; Shawn Colvin is, for some reason, inexorably linked with all of this in my mind. So this month, I’m going to show off some of her best work.