Monday, July 31, 2006

Cheeseburger B-Fest: Not for Sissies

Now before all of you who didn’t make it due to some ailment or another get all bent out of shape, I’m not referring to you in the title of this post . . . as far as you know. No, I’m referring to the level of commitment that it takes to not only stay up late watching crap, but the kind of intestinal fortitude necessary to eat boat loads of crap while you’re doing it. As I told my fellow Cheeseburger B-Festers, I should’ve kept a journal of what I ate. Then, if by chance, some combination of food items proved poisonous the paramedics would know what happened. “Vodka, kosher dogs and twinkies? Is this man insane? Call the CDC. We’re going to need their top men on this one.”

Thankfully the journal proved unnecessary and I survived, albeit with a slight tummy ache. But just for fun, here’s a quick reminiscence of what I consumed and during which film I consumed it. Laurie and I got there late, so my movie list does not include Mark of the Gorilla.

  • Film: Future Hunters (starring Robert Patrick with a cameo by his gooch) Intake: Sam Adams Summer Ale, Vodka Tonic, and a Hostess Cupcake

  • Film: Trancers (starring some dude that looked like he could’ve been Kurt Russell’s father and Helen Hunt who seemed Mad About Punk) Intake: A bottle of water, a few Doritos, and a Twinkie I think.

  • Intermission: A cheeseburger, kosher dog, coleslaw, tater salad and a Miller Lite

  • Film: Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo (starring Ozone, Turbo and Lucinda Dickie with her skimpy leotards) Intake: an ice cream sandwich, Cold Stone Birthday Cake ice cream, a smattering of Doritos and I think another Twinkie.

  • Film: Airport 75 (starring Boeing’s 747-200 with costars Kennedy and Heston) Intake: Nothing. Maybe a beer. It was a flying movie for Pete’s sake. I was too busy looking for technical errors. Surprisingly, it was about 92.3% true-to-life.

  • Film: Robot Monster (starring Rock Hudson’s boyfriend and some other actors I’ve never seen before) Intake: I don’t think I ate anything. I slept through most of it.

  • Film: Night of the Kickfighters (starring Adam West and some other guys) Intake: Nothing. Katie and Mike set me up on a blow up mattress right at the foot of the screen, but even with people getting kicked in the face and Adam West’s laser I was unable to fight the food coma that was kicking my butt. I fell asleep.

  • Film: Airport—or 30min of it anyway. It was “too slow”<said in a whiny voice> for Chicken and Cheeseburger. *sigh* Kids. (starring Boeing’s 707 with costars Heston, Martin, Kennedy, Bissett and her side boob which Chicken forced me to view twice—honest dear, he made me) Intake: Laurie’s scrumptious Cinnamon Cobble Stone Muffins, or as I like to refer to them—Monkey Bread in a Cup. I washed three of those bad boys down with some piping hot Folgers.

  • Film: War of the Gargantuas (starring The Gargantua Bros., Russ Tamlin and most of Japan) Intake: A few Doritos, more water and some of the leftover Cold Stone. I eyed the Twinkies and Cupcakes but doubted I could stomach anymore.

  • Intermission: A cheeseburger, kosher dog, pile of cole slaw and a Miller Lite

  • Last Film: So Close (starring the tuffest women on the Pacific Rim) Intake: More water (in a vain attempt to detox), more Doritos (in a rather successful attempt to retox), an ice cream sandwich and I think that was it.

Laurie drove home as I was on the verge of a serious, er, movement. We pulled off at Bourbonnais (or Burbonus as Laurie likes to call it) where I got some iced tea and took the anxiously anticipated potty break. And that, my friends, was that.

Thank you Mike and Katie for the wonderful time. Please don’t let the low turnout prevent another Cheeseburger B-Fest. We’ll have more folks next time even if it means FedEx’ing Panno out here. How much is it for triple oversize packages anyway?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Excellent Pilot

I arrived at Cirrus about 9 a.m. Sunday to prepare for the flight home. Walking in the door I ran into Chris Huhn heading out for his second day of transition training. As he passed he asked if I’d seen the weather. I’d looked at it right before I checked out of the hotel and hadn’t seen anything unusual. “A big thunderstorm’s cropped up over Minneapolis. Looks like it stretches into Wisconsin a ways.”, he said. That put it right across the GPS direct routing I’d just filed.

I hopped back online and checked—my go to site for aviation weather. Sure enough, where nothing had been on radar an hour ago sat this angry Nexrad blotch of color indicating a thunderstorm of significant strength and size. Back out came the charts and flight planning software. At least I had some time before I left. The service center was still working on the header replacement on the #5 cylinder. Maybe the storm would shoot its wad before I took off. It didn’t.

Instead of Duluth direct to Lansing, IL (my first stop) I decided to head east along the southern shore of Lake Superior toward Ashland, WI and then bend south on a route that took me over Rhinelander and Oshkosh into the Chicago area. Figuring I’d be vectored all over creation and back if I tried to file through O’Hare’s class B airspace I opted to skirt it to the west and then turn east toward Lansing over Joliet.

About 11, the service center released N218DF and I was finally able to take this incredible machine home. It was 90+ on the ramp as I did the pre-start checklist. Sweat seemed to be oozing from places I didn’t know sweat glands existed. It felt good to finally get the fan out front turning. I quickly programmed the flight plan into the GPS, did the run up and was cleared to taxi to rwy 27.

Shortly after takeoff tower handed me off to approach. As I checked in I said, “Duluth departure, Archer . . . “ caught myself and continued, “I mean Cirrus N218DF climbing through 2,000 for 6.” The controller kind of laughing came back, “That was your old plane wasn’t it?” He must hear gaffes like that all the time from guys leaving the factory. He vectored me out over Lake Superior a little before clearing me on course. Soaring out over the blue water dotted with freighters and tankers, It felt good to finally be heading home.

After settling into cruise I dialed up the moving map on the MFD (multifunction display) to see if I could see the Nexrad image of the storm in relation to my route. There, pretty as you please, was the big blotch of red shown to the south of me. The map showed my programmed route bending nicely around the end of the trouble and continuing into clear air to the south. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

While the autopilot took care of the navigation I took some time to play with the avionics. Around Rhinelander I tried to find Little St. Germain—the lake I fished a while back—on the GPS. Apparently Little St. is so little it doesn’t get a mention in the GNS430’s database. I spotted a shape that looked like it might be right, but the GPS referred to it simply as “water”. Most helpful.

Over Oshkosh Chicago Center told me to get ready to copy new routing. I’d been watching my fuel state and was trying to ensure I would have an hour’s worth remaining when I arrived in Lansing by tweaking the mixture. I was hoping the reroute wasn’t going to be longer. It turned out to be shorter—and right through the O’Hare space I was trying to avoid. I guessed they must be cooler about the little guys flying through there than I thought. They weren’t.

Just south of Milwaukee they vectored me off the new route and sent me out over Lake Michigan. And they kept pushing me out farther the closer I’d get to the Chicago skyline. Then they started pushing me lower. Before I knew it they had me about 20 miles offshore down to 4,000 feet. It was about then the uncomfortable realization I had no floatation gear on board began to cause a familiar puckering sensation in my seat cushion. Further exacerbating my anxiety was the wind vector on the PFD (primary flight display) indicating a strong wind blowing directly offshore. If I lost the engine, I was going to be treading water for a very long time.

It was about this time I began to see the occasional boat down below. I figured if worse came to worse I’d steer for one of those guys, pop the chute and hope they saw me. Obviously my fears were never realized, but I now know I’m probably not going to be trying that flight to the Bahamas anytime soon. Not without a raft for peace of mind anyway. That was easily the most uncomfortable 30 minutes I’ve ever spent in the cockpit.

Finally, a little southeast of the skyline, Chicago Approach started reeling me back into shore. Over the Gary shoreline I cancelled my flight plan and, using my fancy shmancy moving map display, squirted between O’Hare’s and Gary’s respective airspace boundaries then made a beeline for final on runway 18 at Lansing. Laurie was there with lunch, ice cold drinks and a seriously needed smooch.

After showing the bird off to her folks I hopped back into the plane for the last leg home. It took about 35 minutes. I was not sparing the horses. Climbing out of Lansing though I had another rather unnerving experience. I’d just switched from Lansing’s common traffic advisory frequency to Chicago Center to see if I could obtain flight following home and was futzing with one of the MFD’s checklists when I looked back up to see a Cessna 172 in, what appeared to be at first glance, a rather unfortunate reciprocal heading. I instinctively rolled left, not exactly sure what his trajectory was yet. He passed about a quarter of mile off my right side. I could almost make out the color shirt the passenger was wearing. Needless to say I’m going to be waiting a little longer to clear a departure airport’s airspace before I get too tied up in the new gizmos.

To bring this long story mercifully to an end, I arrived home without further incident and got the plane put in the hangar with the help of Luke and Laurie. I hope some of you who read this get to go up with me sometime. I know I’ve probably diminished the chances many of you will ask to with portions of this story, but I guarantee you I’ve had more close calls on the ground than I’ve ever had in the air. Hey, “If the government trusts me, so can you.”

Thursday, July 20, 2006

C-Day +7

OK. So I missed a few days. I'll get around to filling in the blanks this weekend. In the meantime here's a link to a few pics I took the last day of Cirrus Transition Training. The guy I'm referring to as JePanno in some of the pics is my instructor. I gave him the nickname after I realized how much he reminded me of Panno. He's a much better pilot than Panno, though.

Friday, July 14, 2006

C-Day +2

Today was all about failure. Not mine, the aircraft systems. We practiced dealing with such emergencies as the failure of an alternator, the failure of a PFD, the failure of the MFD and the failure of the engine. In all cases Cirrus has come up with systems and methods that make most abnormal procedures no more troublesome than losing a headlight. Even the loss of the engine is somewhat ameliorated by the CAPS (Cirrus Aircraft Parachute System). No, we didn’t try the later out. I hope I never have to.

On the way back I noticed that my airspeed seemed a little slower than the day before. All I had to do was look out the windshield and at the leading edges of the wings to find the answer. Bugs. The laminar flow wing this aircraft uses is so aerodynamically clean that the accumulation of bugs created enough drag to slow it down by as much as 10 knots (11 mph). It’s getting a bath tomorrow. I want my knots back.

That’s all I have to talk about today. Sorry, still no pictures. The intensity of the training Cirrus puts you through leaves little time to think about anything else. Tomorrow’s the last day of training and I’ll be done early. I’ll get some pictures then. Now I’m going to get changed and trek to Tejas for 22 oz Dos Equis and a burrito. Adios.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

C-Day +1

Today started much too early. I went to bed at a decent hour last night, but couldn’t get to sleep no matter how many Good Times reruns I watched on TV Land. I don’t think I got into deep REM until about three hours before the alarm went off. DYNO-MITE!

I was at the factory by quarter to 7 this morning, going over normal and emergency procedures in the workbook I completed before I came up here. About 8:30 they had a coffee for all new Cirrus owners and the Cirrus execs. I didn’t get to meet the Klapmeir brothers who started the company, but I did get to spend a little time talking with the CEO, David Coleal. David came to Cirrus from Toyota in SoCal. He’s a very intense guy. In the course of our conversation I found out he’s really into RC monster trucks. He also has a Mini-T. We talked about having a few Horizon folks up to take a tour of Cirrus. He said to e-mail him and he’d see what he could do. I told him Cirrus service, marketing and its drive to innovate is something any company should observe.

Then I got to meet my instructor, Jeff. Jeff’s a young guy with a disposition not unlike our beloved Panno. I wondered if he listened to gangster rap as he drove his white Maxima home from work. I was to find out later because like an idiot I left the temporary registration for the airplane in my hotel room and he drove me back to pick it up. You see, federal regs say you can’t fly unless the airworthiness certificate, registration, operating handbook and weight and balance documentation are in the plane. So for want of a pink slip of paper, my first lesson in the left seat started about 30 minutes late. Oh, he’s more into classic rock.

All the lessons are scenario based. In other words I plan cross country trips as I would in regular operations and I learn the systems on the fly, if you’ll pardon the pun. Going from the “steam gauges” of the Archer to the flat screen PFD (Primary Flight Display) and MFD (Multifunction Flight Display) proved easier than I thought. All the practice with the avionics training software they sent me months ago has really paid off.

I saw some beautiful country. If you’ve seen Grizzly Man, the documentary about the hippie who thought he could talk to bears and then got eaten by one, the scenery was a lot like that only without the mountains. Lakes and forests dominate the landscape. Lose an engine and you’re either in the sticks or swimming with Walleye.

My first few landings as PIC (pilot-in-command) were utter and total crap. I didn’t break anything but did bounce a couple. This aircraft truly is technically advanced. The laminar flow, high aspect ratio wing does not abide ham fisted operators. Once I forced myself to not fly it like an Archer and fly “by the numbers” instead, I started greasing them on. We also tried a fully automated approach. I won’t go into a lot more detail, but 4.1 hours later I was ready for a beer.

So ready in fact I had two tall ones at the Tejas up the road when I got back to the hotel. Think I’ll go back tomorrow night too. They had a bunch of good stuff on tap and in bottles. Until tonight I thought I was in some beer-less village of the damned. There is no beer at the convenient store near the hotel and I’m far enough from downtown, it’s almost impossible to get a cab. Lucky for me I spotted the joint as the hotel shuttle passed it taking me back tonight. It’s about a 10 minute walk along the highway from the hotel. I felt like Carl from Slingblade walking along the shoulder to get to dinner.

Tomorrow training gets tougher. Jeff, or a JePanno as I now think of him, will take me up and we’ll do the same type of cross country scenarios we did today, only this time he’s going to start failing equipment and observing how I respond. So before I hit the hay here I’m going to peruse the emergency and abnormal operations checklist.

Sorry, no pictures. I was a little pre-occupied. Tomorrow I will do better.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The look I have in this picture is actually that of the “pinch-me-is-this-really-happening” variety. Seeing it now, I think I look mildly retarded. And in a way I was for a bit. Words completely failed me when I walked through the hangar door and laid eyes on N218DF for the first time. All I could think was, “I’m the luckiest little boy in the whole wide world!”

The day began at 8 a.m. I arrived at the Cirrus factory and was greeted by Judy—a perpetually smiling individual who made me feel right at home in a nanosecond. The only time she didn’t smile at me today was when I pulled out my digital camera to take it with me on the factory tour. Then, she looked at me like I’d just pulled out a 357. You see, under no circumstances are guests, even paying ones, allowed to take pictures in the factory. I told her I completely understood and put the camera back in my bag. Like flicking a light switch, the smile returned.

Judy then introduced me to Ken, who was to be my guide on the tour. Like everyone I’ve encountered from Cirrus, Ken was genuinely friendly and eager to answer any questions I had. The factory is a marvel of efficiency and technology. While every plane is assembled by hand, the process is honed to such a degree that they can build as many as four aircraft per day. All tools and framing jigs are machined on site. In fact, with the exception of a couple of components, the airplanes are almost 100% American made. Considering the Cirrus SR-22 is the best selling aircraft of any kind, including military aircraft and commercial airliners, I don’t think anyone can say America doesn’t do anything well but burgers anymore.

After the tour I was given a warranty briefing and instructed on the use of the software that I will need to update the avionics’ databases. After that came lunch where I got to spend a little time talking with a couple of other pilots that were picking up SR-20s. Then, finally, Debbie Backlund came into the pilot’s lounge with a Cirrus corporate pilot to take me down and show me the plane.

After a thorough walk around, the pilot got in the left seat and I in the right for the “delivery flight”. This is basically where they take you up to show that all the avionics work correctly and to see if there are any little details you’d like addressed. The only things I noticed were a sticky map light switch and a little squeal in the headphones that seemed to be linked to engine rpm. The pilot said he thought the door seal on the passenger side wasn’t right. Even though I told him it seemed fine to me, he wrote it up anyway. That's how dedicated to getting it right these people are.

Tomorrow begins my first day of transition training where I finally get to sit in the left seat. They’ll have to shoot me to keep me from getting pictures of that.

Oh, one more thing. While Ken and I were sitting in the front office I got to meet the Cirrus copywriter/marketing consultant. I think I freaked her out a little bit because I was almost as excited to meet her as I was to see my plane. Cirrus does the kind of advertising I wish Horizon would do more of. Their current ad plays up their parachute system. The headline is “Chute Happens . . . Live With It.” The other ad, which I have hanging in my cube shows a picture of the Cirrus from behind that really shows off its curves. The headline for that is “Finally. Something Else With Curves a Man Can Trust.”

Now, I’ve been convinced from the second I saw that ad that the copywriter intended for the headline to be “Finally. Something With Curves a Man Can Trust”, but that she was forced to change it because some nervous Nelly was afraid it would offend women. The fact that it was a woman who came up with the headline obviously didn’t matter one bit. Well folks, I was 100% correct. Debbie (the copywriter) told me that the ad originally went out sans “else” but that someone higher up saw it in a magazine and made them change it. It was both a kind of relief and sadness to know that aversion to taking risks in advertising existed even someplace as forward thinking as Cirrus.

C-Day, -1

Greetings from Duluth, MN, home of . . . home of . . . well, home of Cirrus aircraft for sure but besides that I have no clue. Due to the enormous economic benefit Cirrus has brought to this community, people have been rolling out the red carpet for me ever since I arrived. The hotel I’m staying at is just 2 miles from the factory and they provide a shuttle to and from. The folks behind the counter at Country Inn and Suites, North Duluth couldn’t be nicer.

The trip up was uneventful. I rented a car to get to Midway because Laurie has been up in Chicago the last three days at a teachers’ seminar, so we would’ve had a car stuck up there if I drove mine. She did meet me though at the Budget drop off at the airport and spent a little time with me before I headed to my gate. It was nice to get a little sugar to help sustain me the next four days.

While we were sitting down by the baggage claim (the only place non-ticketed passengers can really hang out), I happened to glance over my shoulder and see a very familiar face. A face I’ve seen about a thousand times on TV, usually in March. MSU basketball coach, Tom Izzo was on his cell phone looking a little put out. Don’t know what the problem was, but it seemed serious enough that I decided to keep my distance even after he got off the phone. I really like Izzo. I think he’s an exemplary coach as evidenced by how disciplined his teams are.

After kissing my wife goodbye I headed for the gates. I flew Northwest for the trip up and let me tell you, I’m going to love flying myself back. No taking off my shoes and getting wanded. No ridiculously priced concourse food. No uncomfortable, forced conversations with someone you’d otherwise ignore if wasn’t for the fact they’ve packed everyone so tightly into coach you feel more awkward not saying something to the guy you’re going to be rubbing knees with for the next two hours.

From Midway to Minneapolis/St. Paul I was wedged into an A320—Europe’s answer to the 737. But because Airbus, a consortium of European aerospace companies, depends heavily on government funding from the various countries of the companies within it, it is slower in responding to competitive threats. I often hear Airbus trumpeted by the left here in the states as a shining example of what government can do for industry. And while Airbus did have a good few years where it was slightly outselling Boeing, Boeing, which is not encumbered by a bureaucracy and actually has to turn a profit to survive, responded quickly and has once again asserted dominance over Airbus.

Anyway the ride on the Airbus was nice but because it’s almost entirely flown by computer the control responses feel more digital and not as smooth to me. Granted Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (which was eventually bought by Boeing) also use flight computers but they are there to augment the pilots, not replace them. As such the control responses in a Boeing or other older airliner feel more analog because during many of the most critical phases of flight a human is at the controls that knows how to keep other humans comfortable. This is what came to mind as I rode the older DC-9 that flew me from St. Paul to Duluth. I love DC-9’s. They have such a solid feel to them.

But enough of my ruminations on commercial aircraft. Tomorrow Project Cirrus commences in earnest and I need some sack time. My tour of the factory begins at 8 a.m. followed by the paper signing, then lunch, then . . . drum roll please . . . delivery of N218DF. Expect a picture or two in the next post.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Peace Corps with Guns

Anyone that hungers for an analysis of American foreign policy that goes beyond sound bites, Sean Hannity and silly contrivances like Fahrenheit 911 needs to read this book. Robert Kaplan has spent most of his life traveling to the worst places on the planet to chronicle the efforts of modern-day empires. In the 80's he was in Afghanistan covering the Soviet exercise in imperialism there. In the 90'’s he was in the Balkans with NATO. In Imperial Grunts he returns to these places in addition to visiting many others as he travels with the American military to see up close how the only empire currently on earth conducts itself.

His analysis is refreshingly different in that he goes to great pains to place all of what is happening in the American military'’s various theaters of operation in historical context. And I'’m not talking within a context of the last several administrations. He goes back centuries to show how what is happening today was basically inevitable. That by and large, empires have risen and expanded in response to what was going on around them. Not as a result of conscious will.

But I will spare you an amateurish attempt at a detailed review and stick to the basic points I came away with.

  1. Imperialism is not necessarily a bad thing.

  2. Imperialism is most powerful when it is least visible.

  3. America'’s political leaders would be better served to study the lessons of the plains Indian wars and British colonialism of the late 19th century than those of WWII or Vietnam.

  4. America'’s military, like any organization, works best when command is decentralized and the officers on the field are given freedom to adapt and improvise.

  5. Special Forces spend more time training other militaries than fighting them.

  6. America should not shrink from the role of police officer. It should, however, rethink how it executes that role.

  7. The greatest obstacle to democracy in the Arab world is not Islam but tribalism.

  8. The American military is not only the most potent in the world, its men and women are quite possibly the most educated, best trained and most motivated all-volunteer force in the history of the world.

I know eight is kind of a funny number to stop on, but that'’s about all that really sticks out to me. As you probably have surmised I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in the future of America'’s role in the world. It is exhaustively notated and Kaplan is about as objective as I think was possible under the circumstances. I throw in that last caveat simply because his admiration and respect for the soldiers he traveled with is undeniable. Thankfully, though, he does not try to tie their dedication and heroism to any political affiliation. He simply reports what he sees and tries to put it in context for you. If only all journalism was this good.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Control Room

The Netflix envelope, and nearly every other synopsis I've read, will tell you Control Room is about Al Jazeera's coverage of the war in Iraq. For me, however, it seemed to be more of a study of how moderate Arabs view the world, and specifically the U.S. I came away encouraged as well as sobered.

I think the only real criticism I have is that they left so much of the good stuff out of the theatrical release. Unlike the deleted scenes on many DVDs, the number and quality of those on the Control Room disk almost amount to a second movie. I can only assume they were left out because documentaries are hard enough to market to theater goers without making them 3 hours long. If you rent it, you must watch the deleted scenes. Otherwise, you simply will not have seen the entire movie.

On a side note, I just read the other day that Josh Rushing, the Marine public relations officer who is a focal point of the movie, was just hired by Al Jazeera. Now that I've seen him in the film, I'll have to admit I'm more than a little impressed they did.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Goodbye Charlie. Hello Delta Fox.

In the past few posts you might have heard something about a new "family" airplane. I fly up to Duluth, MN next Tuesday to pick it up from the factory. I've been reticent to talk about it because 1.) I assume most of you do not share my passion for aviation and 2.) It has seemed almost too good to be true.

The airplane is a Cirrus SR20-G2. Like my old Piper Archer (N6897C), the Cirrus (dubbed N218DF) is a 4-person, single-engine airplane with fixed landing gear. But that's where the similarities end--rather abruptly too. Whereas the aluminum-and-rivets Archer was a 30+ year old design that topped out at 128 kts (147 mph), the 95% composite airframe Cirrus is a 21st century design that cruises at 156 kts (180mph). And it does so with just 20 more horsepower than the Archer had.

The SR20's instrument panel consists primarily of two large, flat-screen displays that present attitude, GPS navigation and systems information to the pilot in a logical, easy-to-comprehend manner. Only someone who's had to piece together the separate indications of over a dozen WWII-style gauges to maintain situational awareness while flying through clouds will be able to fully grasp what a miracle this is. Instead of a yoke, the Cirrus is controlled in pitch and roll with a side stick controller reminiscent of the kind used in the F-16 and Airbus 320/330/340/380 airliners.

The pies de resistance, however, is the aircraft's ballistic recovery system. If the proverbial excrement every truly hits the fan (i.e. midair collision, engine failure over the Rockies), I can reach up above my head and pull a red T-handle that deploys a giant parachute which will lower the entire airframe safely down to earth. So far the system has been used eight times in real-world situations and each time it saved the lives of those on board. You can see video of the BRS in action here.

While all of these features certainly make flying the Cirrus easier and safer than the Archer, they will require me to undergo three days of transition training at the Cirrus factory just to familiarize myself with them. I plan on posting while I'm there, so watch for the daily debriefings. When you get a chance, check out the Cirrus website. Even if you're not a pilot, but someone who admires visionary technology, you'll find it interesting.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


UPI Headline:
"Large Asteroid Will Miss Earth Tomorrow"

Who says they only publish the bad news?

Of course, leave it to the French to take the negative slant.

AFP Headline:
"Asteroid Has Near-Collision With Earth"

Hackman and The Conversation

Netflix continues to grow in my estimation as one of the greatest uses of cyberspace yet devised. On its recommendation (based on about 300+ movies I’ve rated) I checked out The Conversation (1974) starring Gene Hackman. Hackman plays Harry Caul—a brilliant recluse who is one of the “top men” in the field of surveillance. The supporting cast is full of up-and-comers that went on to make it big, including a very young Harrison Ford, Terri Garr and Cindy Williams. There's also a bit performance by a not-so-young, but still-on-the-rise Robert Duvall.

While I’m sure some who view the film today will probably find the eavesdropping aspect particularly prescient, I found it merely an instrument to tell one of the most poignant stories of loneliness I’ve ever seen since Taxi Driver. As such, it’s not a real feel-good movie, just a brilliant bit of cinema that satisfies in a way too many of today's vapid flicks won't.