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“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

Poliwood: Cultural Suicide Watch: Will Hollywood Embrace Islam?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I always enjoy Lionel Chetwynd & Roger Simon’s exchanges regarding moviemaking and Hollywood’s political culture. This episode is especially important:

Poliwood: Cultural Suicide Watch

Nose Back to Grindstone on the Flying Thing

Monday, October 18, 2010

There is so much more that I want to do and write about, and even as parenthood places tighter constraints on my time and energy than I have ever before experienced, I’m feeling renewed optimism and determination to do whatever I have to do to make the things I want most come to pass.

In the wake of recent inspiration that’s included reading about last month’s Reno Air Races, discovering some great aviation podcasts, and hearing about Scaled Composites’ latest achievement, I’ve put my nose back to the grindstone and started reading the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook (via the Kindle app on my iPad). I started reading Eichenberger’s “Your Pilot’s License” a while ago, but found it frustratingly light on technical details. I know there’s a lot of highly technical stuff I’m going to need to learn and master, about piloting, radio protocol, aerodynamics, navigation, maintenance, etc. I engineer complex software for a living, and studied physics up through some early graduate-level quantum mechanics as an undergrad. I’m not afraid of hard-core math and science — in fact, I hunger for the stuff — by all means, please throw it at me! The FAA handbook might not be quite that, but it certainly seems like a step in the desired direction so far.

If anyone reading this is a pilot and there are other great introductory books you’d recommend, I’d love to hear about them! (Thank you!)

Flight Aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker

A rare and unique treat, thanks to Steve Tupper and the “Airspeed” podcast that I mentioned recently: Experience a training ride aboard a USAF KC-135R Stratotanker: 16min video

C-17 Globemaster sidling up to the mid-air watering hole

Awesomeness, all around.

SpaceShipTwo Hits Solo Glide Flight Milestone

Monday, October 11, 2010

Congratulations to visionary pioneers Burt Rutan, Richard Branson and team, on SpaceShipTwo’s latest milestone — a smooth and successful 11-minute solo glide flight yesterday, after being dropped from mothership Eve at 45,000 ft. Story here, and by all means watch the video highlights here.

Their achievement marks a significant step on the road to developing Rutan’s history-making SpaceShipOne prototype into a viable commercial space tourism platform.

landmark SpaceShipTwo flight - October 10, 2010

I think Johan Norberg is right: Entrepreneurs are the heroes of the world. Space is opening up for broader access, and it’s the efforts of can-do problem solvers like Rutan and Branson who will drive innovation and lead the way. My admiration for them, and gratitude that the human race can produce such people, is tremendous.

To any who missed the making of history the first time around, when in 2004 Scaled CompositesSpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize for manned commercial space flight, I heartily recommend the Discovery Channel’s superbly done “Black Sky: ‘The Race for Space’ and ‘Winning the X Prize’ documentary. If it doesn’t get you all fired up about the future of space travel, nothing will. As Rutan said of a milestone on the road to that earlier achievement:

This is the first time that a small company, without being supported by the government, has developed and flown a supersonic airplane. Now you would think that the first private supersonic airplane would just barely go supersonic in level flight. This morning we went supersonic going almost straight up. [laughs] That was cool!

Clearly there is an enormous pent-up hunger to fly in space, and not just dream about it. We do want our children to go to the planets. We are willing to seek breakthroughs by taking risks. And if the business-as-usual space developers continue their decades-long pace, they will be gazing from the slow lane as we speed into the new space age.

Thanks to dreamers and doers like Rutan and Branson, the pace of development is accelerating, we are on our way to a promising and exciting future in space.

UPDATE 2010-10-13: Fixed the “Black Sky” documentary link and enclosing paragraph. (It’s easy to overlook a missing closing quote in a Markdown link title, but the result should have been more apparent to me in proofreading — text gobbled up until the next quote!)

Great Aviation Podcasts Newly Discovered

Friday, October 8, 2010

Having long hungered to learn to fly, I’m surprised I waited until now to go hunting for aviation-enthusiast podcasts. I don’t think the thought even occurred to me that something in that genre might exist — which, in hindsight, was completely silly.

I don’t remember what prompted me to look yesterday, but the iTunes search I did immediately turned up three absolute gems that I have to recommend to anyone interested in this stuff:

First, check out this 14-minute Airspeed video episode, shot from 3 angles, of pilot Steve Tupper practicing recovery from stalls and spins with instructor Barry Sutton providing guidance from the back seat. It’s educational, inspiring, and made of awesome. As I tweeted this morning: Why waste time watching TV when I can sit in the cockpit with a pilot practicing stalls & spins?

picture of Steve and Barry in cockpit

Next, I had the great pleasure of listening to Steve’s 2007 “Why I Fly” episode, which is beautiful, inspired, true to everything I’ve felt compels me to seek to become a pilot, and something I’m sure Bill Whittle would delight in too. (For me it’s reminiscent of — and, impressively, on par with — Bill’s great & inspired writing on the subject. — See, for example, Bill’s unmissable 2003 essay “Courage”.)

Finally, I wrapped up last night’s bout of insomnia with an Uncontrolled Airspace interview, in which pilot and instructor Amy Laboda recounted the 2001 experience of having to ditch her Cessna 210, following total engine failure in a turn at 1500 ft., in the water off Key West. Again, amazing and deeply educational, and an invaluable opportunity to learn from another pilot’s experience and wisdom.

After being rewarded with such great content on my first foray into aviation podcasts, I’m sure to continue listening and looking for more podcasts to try. And I’m feeling newly inspired to pick up the books and do all the learning I can in the moments I can make for it. I’ve more or less put the dream on hold since becoming a parent a year and a half ago, but I’m determined I’m going to get there someday. I will not give up!

Americans: A Thought for the Day

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don’t want this to just disappear into my tweet stream:

Americans head West in search of Wide Open Spaces, Risk, Opportunity, and Freedom; not Left in search of Safety and Dependency.

That one manages to sum up a lot of what matters for me.