EAA AirVenture 2005 update- Windows Tablet PCs are very big here at this private pilot conference. Motion Computing seems to own the market for small aircraft; I have seen the fastest and smartest software companies using Motion Computing's Tablet PC products exclusively (especially the LS800). Pilots use Tablet PCs as an aide in electronic flight planning, from simulated visualization in bad weather to planning a runway approach.
¶ Permalink 7/29/2005 11:16:00 PM0 comments
These celebrity auction things are neat. I mingled with people who have lot of social capital last night at the cocktail party beforehand.
Harrison Ford just sold his Pilatus PC-12 and got a Citation CJ3. He's very passionate about EAA's Young Aviators program and helped raise over $650,000 last night. Looks a little silly with a hoop earing and I didn't have anything to say when we shook hands.
His wife, Calista Flockhart, really was the smartest woman in the room. Very hot. I asked her where she wishes she was from; she said Africa.
Richard Branson was smaller and less garrulous than I had imagined. I asked him about comparisons between the Segway and SpaceShipOne, making sure to point out that SpaceShipOne was the real deal. He didn't know what the Segway was. First flights to space on Virgin Galactic will be $200,000 and the price should really drop once they can produce more aircraft.
My father, who I'm just tagging along with on this trip, also met the toast of everybody this year- Burt Rutan.
Among supersonic jet fly-bys, hundreds of WWII bomber formations and
even seeing Richard Branson, the coolest thing here at Oshkosh has been
the Police Dog attack training demos. These canines (German Shepherds, I
think) have an amazing grasp (no pun intended) on police commands.
Hello from the lobby of Wilson Air Center, the #1 North American FBO for six years straight. (FBO stands for Fixed Base Operator; it's essentially a private airport.) I am flying on business to Oshkosh, Wisconsin today for the annual EAA AirVenture fly-in.
Oshkosh, as it is more commonly called, is the Mecca of aviation. Nowhere on planet Earth will you find a larger collection of private aircraft in one place at one time. We'll be flying up in a friend's Citation Excel.
I'm antsy and about to board a private jet for only the second time in my life. This airplane has some of our in-flight entertainment equipment on-board so it should be neat to see.
There is a distinct difference in Mountain Dew flavor coming from different containers. I promise you that I can tell the difference between glass bottle, aluminum can, plastic bottle and fountain pours. (While I prefer a good fountain beverage, it is also the most difficult to perfect. Too much syrup or too much CO2 is a common disgrace to fine sugar water everywhere. For solid consistency, I would pick plastic bottle.)
¶ Permalink 7/25/2005 03:40:00 PM0 comments
Yesterday we hired a car to visit a Monkey Cave. What was initially a one half-dozen primate welcoming crowd quickly multiplied at the sight of our peace-offering banana bushels. Climbing down the cliffs and running through the trees, our little petting zoo was about to turn into a pack of pocket pickers. We ditched the fruit and peanuts and hoofed it a few hundred meters uphill to the cave. The space was nice, if damp and dark.
(Did I tell you about my new Surefire flashlight? It rocks.)
Then we drove a little more north to the town of Mae Sae. It is an official border crossing with Myanmar (Burma) at the northernmost point of Thailand. Lots of gimmicky tourist retail shops and more Burmese beggar chilren than you could shake a stick at. I bought some authentic gross-weight snack food that looks like brown lima bean popcorn and tastes like peanuts.
Back to our hotel to swim and dry off before a dinner cooking class from the mahouts. In the middle of a jungle clearing, under a bamboo thatch hut we learned how to cook sticky rice in bamboo log containers and fry fresh fish from the Mekong River. These men have been partners to their elephants for a long time - 10, 20 and even 30 years. It is a lifelong commitment and I should feel a little silly thinking that I could tame an elephant in two long days.
The extent of my real mahout skills is getting on and off of the elephant (no small task). Turning left, right and backing up is at the animal's own will. We would be making a good slalom course around the camp when La-Wan (my elephant) would lumber off to snap some fresh bamboo or steal a few dozen bananas. But it was quite fulfilling to sit on her head by myself and go along for the ride.
If you have ever wondered what riding a brontosaurus would be like, you could try looking at an elephant. We have spent the last two days in a small town near Chiang Rai, Thailand. Our hotel is on a hill near the Mekong River, and from our balcony you can easily see three countries - Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. My sister and I have been learning how to ride elephants each morning and afternoon; the elephants eat a lot of bananas and are very docile. We take hour-long jungle rides and all is well.
¶ Permalink 7/19/2005 01:24:00 AM0 comments
Saturday, July 16, 2005
We've been here in Bangkok for three days and are heading to Chiang Rai tomorrow morning (another 6:00am flight!). This is my third time in Thailand. The best part of my Saturday was a fitting of some new shirts at the tailor's and a nice vegetarian Indian thali lunch afterwards. I helped my sister buy - literally - a garbage bag full of some really nice clothes at the weekend market this morning. She and I are hanging out on Khao San Road tonight, eating pad thai and drinking Red Bulls while watching the scene and enjoying the humidity.
I don't mean to brag, but it's awesome. E-mail me if you want a postcard.
¶ Permalink 7/16/2005 09:56:00 AM0 comments
More often than not, I get selected for special security screening at
the airport. It is a small price to pay for the benefits of an emergency
exit row seat (only available by request on the day of flight).
The special security screening process is embarrassing. As a
huge black man asks me to unbuckle my belt and outstretch my arms
(thankfully not at the same time), I can't help but feel like a prisoner
for a few minutes.
The cleanup process afterwards is equally awkward. I am a one man show
putting my travel arsenal back together, cleaning up buckets of my
Humpty Dumpty metal objects. The security escort assigned to me drums
her fingers nearby. I put my belt back through the loops, slip my shoes
on and rearrange my backpack and carry-on. My wallet and cell phone sit
on the table; where else do I usually empty my pockets? Not in the
company of strangers.
Kudos to Wake Forest roommate Pete, who got a comment published in the most recent issue of MIT's Technology Review magazine!
Blog reader Pete Sulick comments: "Are we taking the first steps toward digitizing our lives, or is this just an inevitably more efficient way to share information, like e-mail, TV, the telephone, radio, the pony express?"
I have been blessed to successfully fly on very many airplane trips during the past few years. For all of my independent passenger flights that go like clockwork, I have mixed up some small logistics on three notable occasions.
My Top Air Travel Blunders
January 2005 - Meherabad, India
Somewhere en route from Atlanta to Mumbai via Milan in November 2004, I lost the paper copy of my return airfare. I think that I accidentally gave the Delta ticket agent both copies of my ticket, including the return, in Atlanta. The fantastic story is that I had to fill out several police reports in rural Maharashtra, India stating that I lost my ticket before Alitalia airlines would re-issue another paper copy. Their "form letter" for a lost airline ticket was only a single blank sheet of paper; it was very important to the Police Chief that I signed my lost ticket statement letter "Sincerely Yours." What a bureaucratic nightmare!
March 2003 - Atlanta, Georgia
I was returning to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem via Atlanta after a Spring Break in Los Angeles on the set of the movie American Wedding. I had taken Amtrak from Chicago on the Chief line- nice, scenic trip- but opted to fly home instead of taking the long train ride. My layover in Atlanta was just long enough to grab a bite to eat and totally miss my departure time. The plane left and everything for the next 20 hours was booked. Very embarrassing.
June 2005 - New York
I wrote down the wrong departure date in my memory calendar and missed my flight to Manhattan by 24 hours. The cost of the lost ticket wasn't nearly as bad as losing travel face to friends; nobody can put a price on lost opportunity friendship cost.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is... No matter your travel kits, mind the flight details!