Categories
Life

Virtual Flight

This “virtual flight” thing is addictive. While most people have been reading books, and watching TV shows during lockdown, I have been learning how to operate and fly a Boeing 737.

I’m not even sure why.

I’ve always been interested in aircraft. I grew up next to one of the busiest Air Force bases in England, so they were unavoidable really – always in the air overhead, or rumbling away in the distance.

Perhaps it’s to do with the complexity – the challenge of mastering something complex. Taking a commercial airliner from cold and dark on the tarmac to a humming, hissing, roaring, fifty ton lump of metal thundering down the runway and into the air – and navigating across contintents via GPS, navigation beacons, and radio communication requires a certain mindset.

In many ways I suppose the attention to detail, following of procedures, planning ahead, and working through scenarios have parallels with my real-life work. My real life work doesn’t involve travelling at thirty six thousand feet with a few hundred people’s lives depending on my skill though.

While talking to some friends about my idiotic new hobby earlier, they asked if flying an airliner was actually pretty straightforward then – given that I had learned it in a few weeks. I responded that yes, it was pretty easy – as long as everything went as planned. I have learned just enough to operate a perfectly working machine. If anything untoward happens though, I’m in trouble.

Have you ever seen a pilot being tested in a simulator? The only time they really use simulators is to throw Kobyashi Maru style tests at them (unwinnable situations) – to test their decision making skills – to find out if they follow procedures when under stress.

There’s a wonderful moment in the movie “Sully” – about the landing of the plane on the Hudson in New York – where the air accident investigation board suggested that pilots in simulators had been able to get back to a runway in the city after the bird-strike that wiped out the engines. They had one crucial advantage – they knew what was going to happen in advance.

One unexpected outcome of playing around with the simulator is taking friends on virtual flights. I’ve done a couple now. This morning I flew from Melbourne to Canberra in Australia – while being watched both by my teenage daughter (sitting next to me), and a friend on the internet (sitting at home in Melbourne, Australia).

If you would like to tag along for the ride, sit in the virtual cockpit with me, and fly from and to somewhere in the world while talking about anything and everything, let me know – all you’ll need is Zoom. If you’re scared of flying, it might even be a good way of “pulling back the curtain” – seeing what the flight crew do, and how the plane really works.

Anyway.

Coffee. I need another coffee. I think I might be continuing from Canberra to Sydney a little later this evening.

Categories
Life

Rings, Rabbits, and Flying

I’m not entirely sure where this post is going to go. It’s three minutes until midnight on Sunday night, and you find me sitting in the dark of the junk room, typing like mad at the desktop computer, because I should really be in bed already.

I just spent the last couple of hours watching a wonderful video onYouTube with my other half – a Zoom meeting between the Lord of the Rings cast members organised by Josh Gad (you might know him as Olaf, the snowman, in Frozen). While in lockdown he’s been organising cast reunions of iconic movies, and last week was the turn of the Lord of the Rings.

It was so lovely to see the cast back together again, sharing stories of their time on set together, and reminiscing. I won’t ruin it too much for you – just go look up “One Zoom to Rule Them All” on YouTube.

In other news, I watched the movie “Jojo Rabbit” last night, and it’s been on my mind ever since. If you’ve not seen it, please – just do it. I’m amazed that it was ever made, to be honest – given that a US studio signed off on it. I posted on Facebook about it, and wondered if the studio just didn’t understand the message (you’ll realise what I mean when you figure out which studio paid for it, and their political leanings).

I think perhaps the biggest shame about Jojo Rabbit is that the people who most need to see it and realise it’s about them won’t understand or realise – which almost perfectly explains why America is in freefall at the moment.

Anyway. That got a bit heavy and judgemental.

I’ve been playing with the flight simulator some more, and my respect for airline pilots goes up each time I play with it. I’ve progressed on to a very realistic recreation of the Boeing 737. Tonight I “flew” from London to Groningen, and nearly killed all the passengers after missing some air conditioning switches during the pre-takeoff checklist. Thankfully the plane informed me via a violent klaxon while cruising at 20,000 feet.

I’m still not sure how real-world pilots handle the workload. Perhaps they don’t spend time looking for switches and buttons though – perhaps they’ve learned where they are, what they do, and why they are pressing them.

I really need to go to bed now.

This was a late night blog post on behalf of the “writing a blog post in ten minutes because you feel like you should” party.

Categories
Life

Missing Days

I think it’s fair to say I’ve well and truly fallen off the blogging horse. After several years posting almost every day, I’ve dropped back to posting every few days, and it feels strangely fine. Nobody has come after me with a pitchfork (yet).

I’m sitting in the junk room for the first time in three days. It’s just getting dark outside, and I’m wondering what I will fill the next four days with – I’m not due back in the office until Tuesday next week.

I’m still running with my youngest daughter every other morning – working our way through the “Couch to 5K” programme. She has unwittingly become something of a superstar at school – they are taking part in a challenge where all pupils are asked to walk, run or cycle, and to submit their miles towards an overall total. We are heading out on bicycles in the morning to finish the challenge in style – it finishes at noon – so will hopefully add quite a few kilometres to the final total.

It will surprise nobody to discover that I still haven’t read any of the colossal mountain of unread books that I listed at the start of the coronavirus lock-down. Evenings have been spent watching movies, playing board games, meddling with computers, or running quizzes on Zoom. Days off have been spent fighting with our jungle of a garden.

I am starting to wonder how difficult it will be to resume normal life. For years our live has run on rails – working all week, doing chores throughout most evenings, then running ragged most weekends taking the children to sporting fixtures, washing kit, buying groceries, and so on. I’m not entirely sure how we did it, because even with days to burn, we’re still somehow managing to fill them.

Anyway. It’s getting late. Perhaps a glass of wine, and then bed.

p.s. I’ve been listening to a lot of Katherine Jenkins recently. I’m not entirely sure why. I didn’t used to like her voice, but it’s grown on me.

Categories
Life

Unfollowing Drama Queens

I’m sitting at the dining table this morning, opposite our youngest daughter who is getting on with school work. My other half is in the junk room, working. I have the day off. So far I have thrown a couple of loads through the washing machine, cleared the washing up, been for a cycle around town, and had a shower.

The cycling thing is my master-plan to “fix” my right knee. It’s been hurting for the last week when I run on it – I imagine because I’m nowhere near as fit as I was three months ago, and have probably put on weight while at home. It seems to be working so far. Thankfully the “Couch to 5K” running plan doesn’t really ramp up for another couple of weeks, so we’ll see.

Cycling around town was… interesting. If not for gale-force-winds, it would probably have been really enjoyable. As it was, it turned into a serious workout – but miraculously my knee was fine. I only stayed out for twenty minutes, and covered about 6 kilometres. I saw nobody throughout the ride, other than a car that got stuck behind me on an uphill stretch of the route. I imagine they were pretty furious – given that I didn’t see any more cars anywhere in town – and they got stuck behind the only cyclist they probably saw all morning.

One up-side to the wind? It’s making short work of drying the washing on the line.

This is what my life has been reduced to – washing clothes and dishes, running and cycling to avoid becoming enormously fat, and minding children to make sure they get their homework done. I’m starting to identify really strongly with the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day”. At least I’m working tomorrow – even if that does mean sitting in the junk room, instead of the lounge.

Following the Prime Minister outlining plans for the beginning of the UK lifting itself out of lock-down last night, Facebook erupted with a torrent of ignorance, misinformation, fear, and uncertainty. I swear – some people love nothing better than to set fire to the ground beneath their own feet, before climbing atop a soapbox of their own construction, and attracting as much attention as possible. For a change I think the government are doing a pretty damn good job in impossible circumstances – and now is not the time to start pointing fingers, blaming, or whatever else. How quickly people forget what it means to be British, and instead start whispering “but what about me though?”.

I blame the social internet, and the ability for people to foster their own insular bubbles filled with self-obsessed attention seeking idiocy. And yes, I realise there is a certain amount of irony involved here – given that blogs are of course insular bubbles filled with personal content – but they tend to describe life in a fairly even handed manner (or at least the good ones do) – not complain, shout, scream, and wallow. Bloggers tend to be highly introspective and reflective – rarely finger pointers or blamers.

I had to un-follow several people last night – if only to protect my own mental health.

Anyway. Here’s to you and yours, and another day in lock-down. I’m here all day.

Categories
Podcast

Rambling On and On

Rather than talk to anybody in particular on the podcast this week, I’m talking to myself. I’m pretty sure this is a direct route to madness, but I’ll risk it.

I probably need to take a step back, don’t I – since returning to WordPress, I haven’t really talked about the podcast. I’ve been recording a podcast! I started in January, and have been putting a recording out roughly once a week – talking to fellow bloggers about where they are from, how they got started, what they write about – that kind of thing.

Anyway – this week’s episode is just me on my lonesome, rambling on for a little while. It’s surprisingly cathartic – I recommend it.

You can listen by visiting Anchor.FM, or if you have spotify, via the embed below (the podcast is available at Spotify, Apple, Google, and lots of other places – check out the Podcast page):

If you would like to be on the podcast, and tell the world about your blog, let me know!

Categories
Life

Familiar Faces

We setup a Zoom meeting with people living nearby in the neighbourhood this evening, wired up the laptop to the television in the lounge, and spent a couple of hours catching up with each other. It was nice to see familiar faces again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have had far too much to drink, and am trying to figure out how I might go for a run in the morning.

Categories
Life

It’s about being there

I watched an old episode of “Halt and Catch Fire” this evening. If you’ve not seen it, the show ran for four seasons, and broadly told the story of the 1980s computer revolution, the birth of the internet, and latterly the world wide web. The story was told through the lives of a small group of people that cross through many of the defining moments of those decades – sometimes by luck, sometimes by foresight.

There is a monologue towards the end of the third season, where one of the characters is trying to describe not so much what the future might hold for the World Wide Web (which in the time-line of the show had just been invented by Tim Berners Lee), but that the Web wasn’t the important thing – and neither was the Browser – it was all about the means of getting to the place you’re going.

The internet, the web, and the browser were “the thing that gets us to the thing”. You might even argue that directories such as Yahoo, and latterly the search engines were a further extension of that – because we don’t set off in search of pictures or words – we set off in search of the subject of those pictures, and the author of those words.

When we access the internet, the thing we are trying to get to isn’t a distant computer, or a page of text, or a photograph. It is a person. Their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. It’s not about how we get there – it’s about being there.