31 August 2009

Nickels & Dimes...

..add up. Pretty soon you're talking about real money.
Or, how about a free Hawaiian vacation?

Long about last spring, SCMom mentioned they have this timeshare on Hawaii available. She offered to reserve it during the SCSon's school break so we could all meet up down there. We checked into airfares and found that I could by myself a "new" car* for what the airlines wanted to transport us there and back. So we backed out.

Turns out SCMom made the reservation and cashed in a bunch of airline miles for their tickets. Now that she's no longer available for the trip, SCDad says he's not going. So if we want to go here's the week's lodging and two round trip tickets. We'd only need to get a ticket for the SCSon.

Oh and rent a car for the week. +$230
Then the resort charges a cleaning fee. +$80
.State wants a cut too, +$35.

And that flight To and From the islands originates 300 miles west of the SandCastle.
Option 1: SandCastle-1
Gas for round trip budget $400
Parking for SandCastle-1 probably another $100.
And taxi rides between whatever airport we abandon the plane at and LAX, easily another $100. Oh and the return flight is a red-eye which gets it back to LAX around 6am. Weather conditions could be IFR (Instrument Flight Rules (clouds/fog) - a reasonably easy video game, but you only get one life and the results are permanent. This is not a good bet following a red-eye flight).

Option 2: South West Airlines $375.

Option 3: Drive - gas: $50-60, Parking ~$100 + an extra vacation day and plan on two days driving. Across Los Angeles. (no thanks)

Easy choice - SWA wins

Oh, and the timeshare is on the island of Kauai. A lot of what we want to see (like Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona) is on the island of Oahu. So we need to figure a way to get over there for a day or two. add in another $350 for round trip tickets. Maybe another rental car as well. That's still cheaper than a separate trip back here.

Oh and that third ticket for the SCSon. +$750 (aren't we in a recession and the airlines are hungry?).
There is a fee to change those free tickets over to our names, about $45 each.
Oh and $20 for the first checked bag. ($30 for the second.) Each way! Budget an extra $100 for baggage fees. (Can UPS ship cheaper?)
Once on the plane, the airline charges for everything on the 5+ hour flight. So if we need dinner, a snack or a drink, fork over some more. +$25 each way

So now our "free" trip to Hawaii is going to cost us "only" $2060. I've probably missed a few incidentals, round it up to $2100.

But we're going anyway. I firmly believe a) you can't take it with you, and b) on your death bed you only regret the things you didn't do. Look for pictures on our return!

* I buy used cars, not new cars. This is a big part of how I save money to do other fun stuff, like fly aiplanes. Last time I paid more than $2500 for a car, Bush-41 was in the White House

29 August 2009

Exercise in self delusion

Background: Arizona legislature passed a law allowing patrons with a CCW to carry into restaurants that serve alcohol, but cannot consume themselves. The law takes effect on September 29th.

A local news station ran this story on the late news last night (from the video version of the story):
"Just forty two cents to buy one of these signs from the state.
The relief that comes from knowing one of these is posted is priceless".
Of course the story is full of bias from the opening lines where she boasts of Bar owners finding a "loophole". A loophole implies an unforeseen, unintended consequence of the language of the law. This is not a loophole, it's an intentional out written into the law. Also, while the owner refers to his establishment as a "Restaurant" the report immediately turns around and calls it a "bar". And I love the critical omissions where she never mentions that a person carrying a) must carry concealed and b) cannot consume alcohol. I also loved the part where "the Brit" lectures the "colonists" about how ludicrous the law is.

Responsible carriers agree guns and alcohol do not mix, and take this responsibility on themselves. Conversely, bad guys that wouldn't think twice about committing a major felony or violating any/all of the Ten Commandments are not going to be stopped by a sign on the door.

Your reality check just bounced.

The George & Dragon has been around for many years. I dropped with the SCBro in shortly after moving to the area looking for a place to get a decent pint of ale and throw some darts (Weapons!). Stepping inside the taps all showed American lagers (e.g "Budweiser") and electronic dart machines. Not an ale or real broom dart board in the house. We turned around and walked back out. Maybe he's upgraded in the intervening years but now I'll never find out.

Interesting numbers though, The .gov has printed 1500 signs but so far only has orders for 200.

22 August 2009

Funeral Flight (A.K.A. "Spy Mission")

This time last week the SCCrew headed out to Northern California for the SCMom's funeral. Headwinds slowed the flight and made for a bumpy road. But we're back home now, and with a couple blogworthy (surely someone has already coined the term?) events to boot. First things first... the trip itself.

We requested and were granted VFR* flight following for most of the route. This means we were in touch with at ATC** the entire route. This is not required but I like to talk to the controllers because they will call out potential traffic. A midair collision will ruin your day and more than one has probably saved my life. It also speeds up the response should we ever have to use the infamous words "Houston, we have a problem".

It used to be that weekends were very busy for controllers. There wasn't much use in plugging in the MP3 player as some controllers, especially LA Center (ZLA) were pretty much machine-gun mode. That is constant traffic with no let up. However this weekend was different. ZLA was relatively quiet as were the other controllers and I enjoyed plenty of rock-n-roll enroute. Here is one place where we put our fingers on the pulse of the economy and it's pretty quiet out there!

Anyway ATC routed us near a few presumably sensitive sites. Since the camera was handy...

First off, our local nuke plant:This is what makes the SouthWestern desert livable during the summer. Apparently this plant generates nine times the electrical power as the Hoover Dam without any so called "greenhouse" gasses. If plug in electric vehicles are going to be a success, we'll need a lot more of these.

Second, Edwards AFB which is normally under a restricted area. However this day was open at our altitude. So here we go, right over the top.

And finally Le Moore Naval Air Station where F-18 pilots are trained. The return trip was a little eventful as apparently the controller was dealing with a minor emergency. The F-18 was on a different frequency so we couldn't hear him, but our controller was working both our frequencies, which meant we only heard half of the conversation. It sounded as though an F-18 had an emergency with a parking brake warning light and requesting an arrested landing.

Normally the tires spin up to landing speed of roughly 160mph in a fraction of a second. But if the wheel is locked, it might only last a second or two before burning through leaving the pilot badly out of control. But an arrested landing will stop the plane in a few hundred feet hopefully before the tire burns through.

We offered to go somewhere else so the controller could deal with the emergency, but by then we were overhead and any direction, including our original course, was "away". A few minutes late as the F-18 flight neared, he requested a 30 deg right deviation which we immediately complied with.

PS, no need for anyone to get their panties in a bunch... these pics are intentionally low res... wouldn't want to give intel to any baddies.

* VFR = Visual Flight Rules
** ATC = Air Traffic Control

13 August 2009

Spin spin spin...

(Update to Epic FAIL or just tone deaf)

Seems someone figured out El Presidente is going to shut down one of the Nation's premier National Parks on a weekend when visiting was supposed to be free.

Now Gibbsy is saying the trip is to bring attention to the fee free weekend.

Right, by shutting down the South rim of the Grand Canyon, you are promoting the fee free weekend. Next one of which won't happen for several months. I might have believed that if it was in the original story. But a week later and two days prior to the arrival? Sorry, no sale. He should have been here a short time AHEAD of the free weekend, not DURING the weekend.

Spin Spin Spin.

Anyone attempting to visit should expect long lines to get into the park, closed roads, invasive car searches when you get there and no place to park near the rim. Parking is atrocious to begin with and the SS will have closed much of that. In short choose a different park. The Ch0sen one has usurped the free NP weekend for a photo op. Get over it and go somewhere else but remember the event come election day 2012.

I just hope we escape the Phoenix area for the SCMom's funeral before the CFR 14-91.141 TFR* takes effect. According to news reports 0-No will be here is less than two days. Sure would be nice if they'd publish the NOTAM** so SandCastle-1 can be wheels up and clear of the area prior to the closure. We have the flexibility to push up the departure by several hours if need be, but we need to know the closure times!

Update: Just checked with Flight Service. The NOTAM has been issued. The local TFR will start at 6pm. That gives us several hours margin between our proposed departure time and the TFR time.

FAA defined terms:
* TFR = Temporary Flight Restriction. 91.141 refers to the restriction of flying in the proximity of presidential parties.
** NOTAM = NOtice To AirMen. Note: AirMen is a unisex term defined 70-80 years ago which is understood to include pilots of the female persuasion.

10 August 2009

Epic FAIL or just tone deaf

You make the call!

Our National Parks are great places to visit but have become a bit pricey in recent years- $25 a visit. But a couple times a year the fees are waived. This upcoming weekend August 15-16 is a free weekend. Click here for a list of free parks that will have free admission this weekend.

Just don't try to visit Arizona's crown jewel, The Grand Canyon, on this free weekend. Check the banner pic at the top in case you need a reminder/

You see El Presidente['s handlers] has decided this Sunday is the perfect time to visit the canyon. So expect roadblocks, exclusion areas, more SS troops[Secret Service agents] than tourists, and no air tours either within 30+ miles. (Check back for updates when the TFR* is released). And you know all the best spots will be blocked off to ordinary mortals.

It will not surprise me to learn the park restrictions will start a day ahead of time. This pretty much negates the benefit of the free weekend at one of our nations premier National Parks. Visitors this weekend will probably get a pitch along these lines: "Yes it's free today, but this area is closed because the president is coming here with his family. Perhaps you can visit the North rim today. it's only a 4-5 hour drive, let me show you on this map. Thanks for coming, you can turn around just ahead. Don't go beyond that because you will be shot."

I'm going with "Tone Deaf" on this one, cuz I'm sure as heck he's not worried about the $25 park admission fee and clearly doesn't care about the peons his travel affects.

The local birdcage liner loudly proclaims AZ has become a swing state [see above link, paragraph 4 and brags this is the anointed one's 3rd visit to the state since election. But to pick this weekend to shut down the South rim is just st00pid! I hope those stuck in traffic jams remember come election day.

I just hope his Phoenix visit doesn't affect our need to depart the area for the SCMom's funeral. [yes, I value my need to depart for mum's funeral and be with my sibling units higher than any possible benefit from his lordship's presence here in the area].

TFR = Temporary Flight Restriction. See CFR14-91.141 "Restrictions in the proximity of presidential or or other parties" for more details. Typically surface to 18,000 ft, no movement within 10 mile radius,restricted movement out to 30 NM.

SCMom update

The doctors say all that can be done has been done with without improvement. In fact things were getting worse. They did a scan of some sort that showed a tumor on her liver that they hadn't been worried about in the past had become active.

She put up a heck of a good fight but it's time to let her go.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and good thoughts.

- Danno & the SCCrew

07 August 2009

Prayer Bleg

A request for help from any prayerful friends.

The SCMom (my Mom that is, not to be confused with my wife the SCQueen) is in the hospital and it's not looking good. She is in best care and the bills are covered. Prayers are about the only thing any one can do at this point. She is deeply religious and she will hear you.

[Warning: possible TMI ahead]

She's been fighting cancer for several years. Originally the OncDocs thought they'd gotten it all and in time. They said things like "We got it all and we don't expect a recurrence for at least 10 years and that's plenty of time to die of something else" (She was already in her late 60's).

The cancer was back in less than 2 years.

Since then it's been round after round after round of Chemo. Fortunately she never seemed to suffer most of the bad side effects of Chemo. Recently she's been sleeping most of the day and not eating much.

We saw them in June for their 50th wedding anniversary and again up at Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago. She looked ok in June but had a bloody nose the entire time at Tahoe and even spent a day in the hospital. One of her drugs had thinned her blood to the point that it would never clot.

She woke up a week ago having trouble breathing. SCDad called an ambulance. (I pictured AD & EpiJunky showing up at the door. I only hope this crew was half as good & thoughtful). The Dr's diagnosed pneumonia. They started her on a respirator and started antibiotics. Now in my experience with antibiotics (as a user), symptoms rapidly improve. That didn't happen. In fact for the last couple days the respirator has been doing all the breathing for her.

The SandCastle is several hundred miles distant, the SCSon is already back in school and fortunately I still have a job in this economy*. It's a bit frustrating we can't be there for them. We check in by phone at least twice a day. Yesterday SCDad was optimistic: "The lungs are still working as evidenced by the oxygen level in the blood." Today the optimism seems to have changed to acceptance: "No change and the doctors are now saying that in itself is a bad sign."

I'm afraid there is a call in my near future that starts off "I have bad news..."

* More accurately, I work for a CEO that sees value in his staff. He figures by keeping everyone on board, we'll get our new products to market as the economy recovers while our competitors that laid people off are late to the market. We Win. Instead, we made other sacrifices to keep the company profitable - unpaid furloughs, pay reductions etc.

05 August 2009

Rule #2


Headline: "Police: Man changing magazine shoots girlfriend in the head"

Glad it was only a .22, glad she is surviving. I hope he and their friends learn the four rules before shooting again.

Will she ever fully forgive him?