Monday, June 13, 2016

#81 - An old interest

Line of private planes parked at the fly in
When I was a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time learning about aeronautics.  I took an advanced summer course that dealt with airplane ground school topics and model rocketry.  I read about the history of flight and tried to keep up with news from NASA.  Part of this interest came from my Dad's own interest in the subject, part from the fact that my brother-in-law was a professional pilot, and some from watching small planes circle over our farm since it was close to the local airfield. 
T-6 ... these planes were used as trainers for pilots during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War
As my life changed when I went to college, grad school, and started my career, this is an area that sort of fell by the wayside for me.  I was still thrilled any time that I could actually go up in a plane (particularly a small aircraft) ... though I have to say that I don't really enjoy sitting in coach class during a commercial flight ... but I didn't make time for this interest in the same way as I did earlier in my life.  I've recently started thinking about it more though - particularly regarding small planes and historic ones.  So, this weekend, I started small by taking my parents to their local airport's fly-in / drive-in breakfast.
T-6 from the front

This is a small event - nothing like the huge crowds at AirVenture in Oshkosh or some of the military shows - and most of the attendees drive in rather than fly there.  But it raises some money for local groups (particularly the Lions club who does a pancake breakfast that serves hundreds of people) and gives people an opportunity to see aircraft (and classic cars) up close.  This year's feature was 3 T-6 "Texan" training planes.
T-6 formation

I actually got a better in the sky view of the T-6 planes in formation when they came to land earlier in the morning.  They flew in low turning directly over my parents' house as I was outside with their puppy.  Sadly, I didn't have a camera on me at that point, so those photos only exist in my memory.  The puppy - who was cool with all of the other planes coming in and out - was terrified by the formation because they were flying so low.

Another interesting plane at the fly-in was an Albatross. This aircraft was developed for the military for ocean landings - particularly search and rescue missions.  The wingspan is a whopping 96 feet across, and it had very interesting landing gear that folds up into the side of the plane rather than underneath.  The small bubble window in the front has a seat directly behind it.
Albatross
I'm glad I took some time for this - especially since it could include my Dad and his interest in planes.  Perhaps I'll try to take in a larger event with more of an airshow component in the near future.

video
I didn't get the fly-by of the T-6 formation on film, but here's a glimpse of them starting the planes up and taking off.  If you watch closely during the second video, you will see that there was a fairly strong crosswind on the runway.
video




Sunday, May 29, 2016

#67 - Unexpected Rocking Out

I had no parameters on what sort of a concert that I wanted to attend when I wrote my goals.  I was open to classical, stadium rock, high school band ... basically anything that came my way.  An opportunity in the form of an invitation to see a tribute band play this weekend easily fulfilled the requirement.  So, last night, I attended a concert by Hotel California - an Eagles tribute band.  Ironically, the Eagles played the only stadium concert that I have ever attended thus far in my life, and I attended both concerts with the same person.  It made for an evening of comparisons between the two experiences.

Hotel California was in a much smaller venue, so I could actually see the musicians from where I was sitting.  And, thankfully, although it was loud, I didn't feel the full body buzz for several hours afterwards that comes from being exposed to an extremely loud environment.  They have some very talented musicians - particularly on guitar.  I think that the solo guitar rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was my favorite piece of the night.  I was a little disappointed that the set list was heavily slanted towards the Eagles' earlier work and didn't include many solo or post reunion pieces.  There was even one piece that I don't think I've ever heard before (my friend said it was from a less popular album).  But there were also lots of favorites that I expected to hear, and I had a really good time. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

#22 - Light hearted murder

This is the mystery of the evening - box, a clue book, and the business card that one of the characters brought to promote her fictitious business.

I don't always invite my friends over for a murder... but when I do, we always have a good time!

I love taking part in murder mystery dinners - as writer, as host, as unwitting participant - they are so much fun.  However, it can be a little challenging to make everything work smoothly.  Writing one takes a large chunk of time, so I like to use the kits.  However, these pre-boxed sets are generally written for couples, and I have a  ton of great girlfriends (not all of whom have an associated partner who is willing to come along).  Last night, I used a women's only game from a company that I found on the internet (note: I purchased this several years ago, and they do not seem to be selling online any longer) - this allowed me to be in the dark about the murderer as well.

If you have not tried this sort of game, here's the general outline:
  • there's a theme - essentially a reason for all of the outlandish characters to get together.  Last night, the theme was contestants in a reality bachelor show type of contest trying to convince a prince to wed.
  • each character has a name that reflects their background, goals, or other personal trait.  For example, I was playing Destiny Wilbemyne - an aspiring singer/songwriter looking for her big break despite her lack of talent.
  • each character has a personal agenda of why they wanted the murder victim out of the way
  • the game starts with a message / statement / announcement that the victim has been murdered and the players are the suspects.
  • then there are several rounds of clues - those you try to keep hidden and items that you reveal about other characters as they try to defend themselves.  This is the main part of the game as you try to figure out motives and opportunities. 
  • finally, characters read (in ascending order from least opportunity / motive to the killer) a final epilogue that reveals how the crime happened
Clare (the wealthy black widow), Destiny (the star to be), Wanda (the royal do-gooder), and Lacey (the wedding planner)
I usually serve a course of food with each round.  Last night, I used the conceit that the 18 course feast promised by the prince's caterers was unexpected cut short when he died and only the first 3 courses of appetizers and a dessert had been finished.  Really, I had been looking for an opportunity to try lots of different appetizer recipes at once to get some feedback, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Our menu was:
First course (Dips):
Individual Seven Layer Dip Cups - recipe from this site
Fiesta Dip
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
The last strawberry tart
Vegetable Crudites
Blue Corn Chips
Cheesy Phyllo Crackers - recipe from this site
Pita Chips
Pretzels
Whole Grain Crackers
Cheese Tray

Second Course (Cold Appetizers):
Devilled Eggs
Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels - recipe from this site
Prosciutto wrapped dates stuffed with feta

Third Course (Hot Appetizers):
Sausage Cheddar Balls
Spanokopita
Pepper Poppers
Ham & Cheese Spirals - recipe from this site

Dessert:
Individual White Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts

Doing this recipes many did make my kitchen a disaster zone by the end of the evening, but I would make any of them again.  I was taking a bit of a gamble on trying 7 brand new recipes in one party; however, the guests pronounced themselves stuffed (in the best of ways) by the end of the evening.

The evening was great fun - three of us (including myself) did figure out who the murderer was.  Some of my favorite moments from the evening were - singing (as badly as only Destiny could) several of the clues, Jade's side stories about the lamb-ahs (llamas) on her daddy's Texas ranch, Goldie's waitress wedding dress costume, Lacey's insistence on the need for ruffles and descriptions of the weddings that she had helped to plan, etc.  My friends are so clever and had great costumes and props - I, unfortunately, did not take many photos - the off-the-cuff remarks were often much funnier than the actual written clues.  I look forward to the next party because I was reminded of how much fun I have with these games.
Mary (the self-help guru), Goldie (the waitress), and Clare


Sunday, May 1, 2016

#68 - It's good to help

Kiva is a crowd-sourced funding site that I had learned about from my sister Diana.  I must admit that I find crowd-sourcing intriguing.  I am a big user of Kickstarter and will occasionally contribute to Indiegogo campaigns.  However, I'm not a user of Gofundme.  If you are familiar with these sites, you will know that although you may get something back from your contribution (for example, a product or t-shirt), the funds that are received by people through the sites are not expected to be repaid in dollars.

Kiva works a little differently.  When you make a contribution, you are actually helping to fund a microloan which the recipient is expected to repay (the interest, repayment schedule, and other details vary from one loan to the next).  When the loan is repaid, the money goes into a Kiva account for you which you can use to fund another project or request to have the funds put into your bank account.  In effect, you become a very small lending institution with all of the paperwork handled behind the scenes.

For this goal, I decided that I would donate / loan $100 as a starting point.  (I use the term donate because when the loans are repaid, I plan to keep the money going back out to other projects.)  Over the last week, I've been looking at projects and chose four for funding at a $25 apiece level.  I wanted to spread the money around, so I managed to find a mix of projects and areas of the world where I can help.  My first four loans went to:
  • purchasing a water pump and filtration system for a school in Uganda so that the students and teachers would have access to drinking water during the school day
  • helping a group of five women in India expand their individual businesses that pay for each family's living expenses
  • buying basic tools for a trained blacksmith in Palestine so he can set up his own forge as a second source of income 
  • allowing a restaurant in Haiti to add small food carts that will create additional jobs in the community

Searching for projects was a big reminder of how fortunate I am.  Though it was tempting to fund campaigns that would make a family's life more comfortable (through simple things like financing a latrine for their dwelling), I tried to find projects that had the potential to create something positive for the entire community where they were located.  I look forward to seeing how the process continues and sending the money out again on additional loans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

#60 - Maybe something was chasing me

I did not expected to have another goal completed so quickly.  In fact, I thought this particular fitness goal would take me at least a month to achieve (if then).  However, yesterday morning, I did manage to break my running plateau in WiiFit - and it wasn't a fluke since I got a 2nd four star rating today.  You can see from the second photo (taken yesterday) that it wasn't a significant jump over my previous high scores.  While I don't believe that I could ever run this quickly in the real world (my living room has absolutely nothing for me to trip over but my own feet and the only hills are on the screen); it is nice to know that I can at least sustain a decent jog in place for half an hour without having a heart attack.