Wednesday, March 26

A Fruitful Day

Grey clouds and a cold North-East wind blew its Saturday greeting as Electra and I made the short trek to Downtown. A Sausage, Egg, and Cheese bagel for me, an everything Bagel for the Electra, and an Apple-Cinnamon Scone for both were the company to two warm cups of coffee at our local coffee house.

We followed our breakfast up with a walk down the block to the Farmer's Market to pick up our two weeks worth of vegetables, meat, cheese, and bread. The vegetables, though early in the season, look good. The meat and eggs are a treasure to behold. the cheese, being goat cheese, tastes and smells much like Soda Pop(my Mom and Dad's goat). It really is good, quite good really. Just very goaty. And the Bread, ahh, the bread...wonderful.

Seventy-Three dollars, a few plants, two pots, and a truck full of horse manure later we were home doing what we both love best. Tending the garden.

Tonight, it is Jack and Dr. Pepper for me, wine for the Lady, and an evening of good books.

The Newest Member of The Family....

Electra and I had a wonderful Easter in many special aspect was that we had our first chance to meet our newest nephew. I immediately was smitten with him....and evidently he with me. I know that some nephews enjoy emulating** their uncles, but this is rediculous.

** I am known as boards due the surface area of my ears roughly approximating the surface area of a jet's speed brakes.

On A Wednesday Evening

How kind, how secret, now the sun
Will bless this garden frost has won
And touch once more, as once it used,
The furled boughs by cold bemused.
though summered brilliance has but room
In blossom, now the leaves will bloom
Their time, and take from milder sun
An unreviving benison.

The Garden
Robert Frost

This poem was actually written on the prospect of a fine day in early autumn. However, it seemed to match the persona of the day, and I thought it fit in smartly.

Our raised bed is set, and is bringing new life as we speak. The downstairs of the manor nears completion and the deck awaits my vigor on the morrow. Four more days before life for Kermit begins anew.

Wednesday, March 19

And The Debate Rages on.....

A friend sent me this video on the "front lines of Berkely" is great..trouble is, I can't tell these days whether I am wathcing John Stewart, Fox, CNN, or MSNBC. My solution, I stopped watching...but this is worth the 2 minutes, you will love the logic.

Another Day At The Office

The alarm goes off at some horribly early hour and I quickly curse the fact that I have to leave the warm bed. It is cold and dark outside and I really do not feel like facing it. My 28 year old back is already making me aware of its presence...years of riding horses and flying jets is already taking its toll. I limp into the bathroom and do my best to turn it into a steam room. I silently thank God for hot water and indoor plumbing.

When I emerge from my self induced steam room, I find that Electra, God bless her soul is up and she decides to make sure that I drink my "Gogi" juice and have a lunch packed before I leave. She is purely amazing.

I jump in the car and suck on my coffee. A far too bright eyed Marine greets me at the gate. I wish him a good day and think of the Proverb that says something about rising early, greeting your neighbor, and a curse, though not always in that order.
After I get to the squadron I head into the Paraloft to check all my gear. The evening duty remarks: "got the early one again Sir"? he smiles.

Upstairs I meet my flight lead, the Air Combat Tactics Instructor. He is a grizzled veteran whose eyes are sunk back into his head and the black circles surrounding them make his eyes appear as dark valleys. We talk for two hours about tactics, threats, our planned fights for the day and the sequence of events. I have to rattle off a littany of threat briefing items: today we are simulating fighting a Soviet made fighter that most of our not so friendly neighbors fly.

The brief done we receive our last minute weather brief and walk down to the Paraloft to get dressed. It is cold today and the water temp is below 60 deg F. This means that we have to wear our dry suits under all of our other gear. It is physically impossible to dress yourself so one of the parachute riggers helps me.

The maintenance books signed, my lead(we fly in a formation of two) and I walk out to the jets. The sun is barely above the horizon and an icy wind is blowing, but for a pilot the day is perfect. The wind is right down the runway and the sky is crystal clear. I meet my plane captain, a young Marine from Michigan. He is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of my jet. In all reality, the jet is his and he is only lending it to me for a few hours. I preflight the jet. The Harrier requires that you actually crawl up into the wheelwell and check hydraulic gauges. Not an easy feat wearing all of the aforementioned gear. The jet looks good, I confer with my plane captain over one or two small items and he kindly asks me to bring her (the jet) back in one piece. Believe me, I will try.

I strap in, which again requires a superhuman effort with all of my gear. I run through the pre-start checks. Again, all look good and I throw the switches for start. The jet begins to whine, then lowers her tone into a deep growl and finally a deep rumble emits as she comes to life. Hydraulics, RPM, and JPT all look good. The Harrier idles at around 29% RPM, so I feel like I am sitting on a bull ready to go out of the chute. She leans against her tiedowns and chalks. I spend the next ten minutes going though my post-start checks. The TV, NavFlir, Dual Mode Tracker, and Inertial Navigation systems are turned on and warmed up. The ordnance Marines come out to check on my missile. I uncage the seeker head and the Sidewinder emits a low growl as an InfraRed wand is passed in front its nose.

Final Checks complete, my lead and I taxi out to the runway. I run through the last few pre-takeoff checklist items. We call for takeoff and I push the power up to 60% for RPM and IGV checks. "Power coming up, IGVs coming down, time is 2.15, IGV's are 14, Water not required, Nozzles set STO stop, Flaps are 62,62 nozzles 60, 60, duct pressure 45, no warnings or cautions" I call checks complete and away we go. I push the power to Mil and immediately get shoved down into my seat. All 23,000 lbs of thrust are pushing me and my 19,500 lb Harrier down the runway. 2 seconds later I hit 60 knots, my nozzle rotation speed. I throw the nozzles to the STO stop and the jet leaps off of the deck. I nozzle out to 25 degrees of nozzles and put up the gear and flaps. I then finish nozzling out and am joined up with my lead. He points his jet 65 degrees nose high in a climbing right hand turn. We have to keep the nose so high in order to keep below the 300knot speed limit near the airport. I look down at the airfield. We are just over the end of the runway but already passing 12,000 feet. I am riding a rocket ship.

After leveling off at 15,000ft I fall back into a 1 mile trail position and complete my missile checks. I lock up my lead with the sidewinder, check for a good tone and then uncage the missile. She stays locked up so it looks like I have a good missile. I then switch to my gun and pull up to a closer position. The gun looks good. Weapons check complete. I assume a combat spread position and my lead call for an unloaded acceleration into a "G Warm". I push the nose over, accelerate to 400 knots and call "speed right". We make one 90 deg turn targeting 3 G's. My lead calls "resume" and we then aim for a 5-6 G pull to our initial heading. I then pull 15 degrees nose high and roll inverted. I hold the nose up forcing negative G's and check for loose items in the cockpit.

My lead and I then spend the next twenty minutes going through various drills practicing essential air to air basic fighting skills. We run through a snap shot drill with the gun, followed by a heat to guns drill, next comes the rolling scissors and then the flat scissors.

Now for the excitement. We end our session with three neutral sets. in this scenario I take a cut away from my lead until we have three miles of separation and then I turn back into him and we pass head to head at over 1000 MPH of closure. My job is to defeat him, his job is to defeat me. My plan for this attack is to turn tight across his tail and race him for the deck, forcing him to fight me in a turn rate fight verse a turn radius fight. By beating him to the deck I deny him altitude to trade for extra energy and I can then hopefully wear him down.

All I see is a black dot racing towards me, the dot then turn into the shape...of..a..jet. We pass.. I overbank, place my lift vector below and in front of him and smoothly pull the jet into a lift limit pull. I twist my body in the straps, straining against the G forces, trying to maintain sight of my enemy. I hit 6.2 times my body weight on the way down and my vision is obscured by the large cloud of condensing air flowing off my wing. The entire aft section of the jet is obscured by the cloud...I watch for the deck and begin my rate transition... so far my plan is working we are now established in a rate fight. My goal is now to fly as smooth as possible and work into a weapon solution. Two turns later I am now getting into a good position. The enemy is not giving me any room for error and I am having to contend with a constant 4G's pressing against me. It looks to me like I moving into a good position to take a shot, but he is not going to let me get away with this so easily. I sell the farm and pull past 6 G's to get my nose pointed in front of him for a chance at a shot. No luck, he throws in his nozzles and causes me to shoot past his tail. I point the nose straight up trying to lose as much airspeed as possible. He is directly above me and slightly behind me, not a good place for me. We enter a rolling scissors. I am trying very hard to fly the jet on the edge of her envelope. I try to hard and the "bitching betty" immediately warns me that I have gone too far...I am close to departing controlled flight...and I have to ease my pull. This gives my opponent just the advantage he needs to gain a position that I can not shake and I end up losing the fight.

We call knock it off and head home. I join back up with me lead, trying to wipe the sweat out of my eyes without hitting him, and look over his jet making sure that there is no external damage. He does the same for me. I fall back into a loose formation and finally try to catch my breath. The sun is now coming up behind me and is illuminating the beach and shoreline beyond it with all of its early morning radiance. I have time to think about my flight: the mistakes I made, the lessons I learned, and maybe even a couple of things I did right. We will debrief when we get back...I know that I will get it for the mistakes that I made...but I also know that I will be better off for it.

We approach the break at 400 knots, pass the center of the airfield and my lead kisses me off. I count to 4 and then break, I pull 4 G's to try to slow the jet down. At 250kts I lower 25 degrees of nozzles and lower the gear, followed by the flaps. I check my performance for a vertical landing, it looks good. Abeam the landing pad I lower 60 degrees of nozzles and the jet decelerates to about 150 knots. My flaps program down and I anticipate the nose pitch associated with their programming. At 350 feet I lower the nozzles to the hover stop position and transition from wingborne to jetborne flight. I slow to 30 knots and align the nose with the relative wind. Once lined up with the wind I hover to the center of the pad and try to land as gently as possible.

I taxi back, complete my post flight checks, fuel up at the fuel pits and then head back to my line. As I get closer I see my plane captain waving at me. He is no doubt just as relieved as I am to be back in one piece.

Tuesday, March 11

There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but of the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants and the sea, yield it
to the imagination intact.

William Carlos Williams

I just finished reading Wendell Berry's The Art Of The Commonplace. It was a great read and the second book in a row that I have read of Berry. I am impressed by his wisdom, his eloquence, and his outlook concerning the stewardship that we are called to give to the Earth.

There are a number of points he made that struck me as being very true and are points that very few other Christians are making right now. For example, As Christians we are called to plow in hope, both literally and figuratively. Well, what does he mean by that...? To plow in hope figuratively means that we are to be involved in culture. Have you ever noticed that it is the folks Christians usually scoff at that are running the eclectic coffee shops, the edgy, good art galleries, and truly making a concerted effort to be stewards over our resources? At best, we tend to look at these folks as liberal Christians, at worst, just plain old liberal humanists. To plow in hope culturally requires that we, the Church, involve ourselves in culture. Open the neighborhood Pubs, support local artists, write great music. Additionally, plowing in hope literally means just that. Steward the Earth in great anticipation of the wonderful day when the wedding supper of the Lamb has been consummated and we are finally worshipping as we were created to worship!

Well, ok. So to the nitty gritty. What do we do when the kids have runny noses, we are stuck in the suburbs and are barely able to afford the $3.25/gallon fuel ticket? Well, I would start with simply trying to love your family, love your neighbors, love your community. Treat people as if they matter, and let it it go from there. As far as the figurative plowing goes however, I think you will find that Mr. Berry's following advise is quite sage.

1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing food for yourself will you know all about it and appreciate it fully, having known it all of its life.

2. Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household.

3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, the freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and influence.

4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. By such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both products and consumers.

5. Learn, in self defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to food that is not food, and what do you pay for these additions?

6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.

7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.

Friday, March 7

When in Tennessee

We hibernate on the farm. However, this trip has been different. We've sat in on classes at a literally New College, met friends for lunch, visit the downtown Starbucks 3 times a day, inbetween other appointments, and plan to tote all our renewed knowledge back with us in our knapsacks of the mind. When we return to our home computer with the comfortable simplicity of a cheap PC vs the high tech Mac of the grandpapas and mamas, I'll find some pictures to post.