Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It’s been a slow few weeks on the blog. I’d like to say that the silence is due to me flying every day, studying for my written test, and that the only thing I’m waiting on is a date with an FAA examiner to approve my flying.

In reality, I haven’t flown since my last entry. Reasons for this range from Good (week-long road trip from Washington to Nebraska for a close friend’s wedding, playing Mr. Mom with The Girl for a few days while The Lovely and Gracious Wife (TLGW) and The Boy went to another friend’s wedding in Indiana), to Bad (forgot to move logbook from firesafe to flight bag after returning from vacation, found this out when asked to present said logbook to CFI to receive sign-off for a solo flight) to Ugly (wind, wind, and more wind. Who’da thunk that it’d be so difficult to get a tee time with less than a seven knot crosswind component in Seattle in August?!?)

Still, it’s been a fun month. For the Nebraska road trip we deviated from the Interstate onto a lot of two-lane highways, and a highlight of one night’s all-night drive through Nebraska was seeing the rotating green/white airport beacons as we came into each small town. Those beacons were often the first milestone that some civilization was coming up, and someday I’m looking forward to seeing a few of those little airports from the air (though perhaps not at night).

On the Indiana trip, The Boy got his first taste of real aviation with a pair of non-stop rides on an Airbus A319, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Even a week and a half later, he’s still talking about the ride on “Big Plane” (with arms outstretched as far as they’ll go) with Mama, followed by a choo-choo ride (with whistle noises).

And then there’s the weather. August is one of the sunniest months in the Puget Sound, and this year is no exception. What I’m also learning, though, is that August also seems to play host to a lot of unstable weather patterns, most of which blow in from the bay at about an 80 degree angle to the Boeing Field runways. I’m beginning to think there’s a Murphy’s Law corollary for August flying weather in Seattle, and it goes something like this:

1. On sunny days, the crosswind will be too strong to fly.

2. On days when the crosswinds are okay, the ceiling will be too low to fly.

3. On days when both the crosswinds and ceiling are okay, you will be too busy at work, need to spend time with the family, or forget your logbook. Barring all of these, no aircraft will be available.

C’est la vie, I suppose. Or as the great philosopher Calvin would say “When life gives you lemons, wing ‘em right back with some lemons of your own.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just like Beggar's Canyon Back Home

Saturday marked the successful completion of my second supervised solo. Due to circumstances beyond my control (namely the perpetual rehabilitation of the Bravo taxiways at Boeing Field, which this weekend meant that they closed the main runway) we made the very short hop over to Renton (RNT) to conduct the procedures.

I've never flown out of Renton, (home of Boeing's 737 assembly line) but it's an interesting field. One end of the single runway is backstopped by a great big barrier fence, while the other ends where the lake and seaplane base begin. We were operating towards the water, which at least solved the question of where I was going to go if I had an engine failure on takeoff.

I had fun though. Renton has some interesting aircraft operating out of there, and having success flying the pattern in an unfamiliar airport definitely boosted my confidence. The only squawk was that the mic on my headset started acting up again, requiring me to borrow my instructor's headset during the solo.

Oh well. During one circuit I had a brief bit of excitement when a flash of light at my altitude caught my eye absent of any warning from Renton tower or the TCAS system. I started to shade right, until I realized that I was attempting to avoid a mylar balloon.

Finally, my instructor was nice enough to use my little hand-held video camera to record some grainy video of my landings for posteriety. Here's one of my better ones from Saturday (visible short final starts at about the 00:53 mark).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Milestone

According to the statistics published by the AOPA, there are only about 600,000 pilots in the United States. This means that pilots make up about 0.2% of the population.

On Tuesday, I felt like I truly joined them as made my first solo flight.

As flights go, it wasn’t anything terribly special. Three touch and goes in the pattern with my instructor to make sure I was having a good day, with the third landing being a full stop. We taxied back to the flight school, my instructor got out, grabbed his hand-held radio and signed my logbook, then I fired up the DA-40 again.

This, of course, was the point when I found out that the fuel injector system in the DA-40 doesn’t like being shut down and hot-started within fifteen minutes. I’ve grown accustomed to an engine that reliably holds its RPMs as soon as it starts, but not this time. This time it started with a bunch of 50 RMP swings, which made me a bit nervous. But the roughness went away at flight RPMs with a slight leaning of the mixture, so I figured take it to the run-up area and if it was cleared up by then, I wouldn’t worry.

I calmly dialed in the ground control frequency, and pushed the transmit button. And was immediately rewarded with a squealing bit of feedback while I tried to talk to the controller. Time to switch to the handheld mic that I’ve never used before.

Honestly, after that, things seemed to go pretty easily. The Diamond climbed a bit faster with just me on board, and while my landings weren’t great, they weren’t bad either.

I made three touch and go’s, then brought her back to the flight school. In the same number of pieces I left with.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A vacation and a fresh start

It’s been an interesting month since my last post. My flying was interrupted by a week and a half vacation to California, then resumed with a focus on passing my first stage check. In the parlance of the flight school I’m attending, this stage check is a flight where one of the school’s Master CFIs rides in the right seat, and observes your behavior as though you were flying solo. It’s his determination of whether you can safely get one of the school’s expensive aircraft off the ground and return it in the same number of pieces you left with that decides if you’re ready to solo.

I figured that I was pretty well prepared for my stage check. I hadn’t done much of any studying while on vacation, preferring to simply enjoy some time to unwind from the 60+ hour work weeks I’ve been doing for the past few months, but I had scheduled a refresher flight with my instructor for the day after we the family got back from our trip. The refresher flight went up on a nearly windless Saturday morning, and was probably one of the smoothest I’ve ever had. Stalls, slow flight, and steep turns were all within PTS standards, and one or two of my landings even felt pretty good. I was confident of a good performance the upcoming Tuesday.

Tuesday arrived, and as I drove to the airport, I could feel a bit of nervous energy kicking in. I was still excited though, and the butterflies were doing a pretty good job of flying in formation. I tossed up a couple of quick prayers, and soon enough, my questioner for the day started in on the ground school questions.

And then everything fell apart.

It’s been more than seven years since I graduated college, and at least that long since I’ve taken a difficult test that meant something important. I had totally forgotten that when I feel confident beforehand with limited preparations, I’m setting myself up for a world of hurt.

My recalled ground school knowledge wasn’t up to standards. I think it was close in most areas, but not enough to pass the actual FAA test. Still, the instructor didn’t fail me right there, so we headed out to preflight the airplane.

At least that part went well. I’m fairly sure he had pulled the circuit breaker when I wasn’t looking, but either way, I managed to catch and reset it when it came up on the checklist. The transponder was also not in its proper VFR configuration, but again, those were little things that I managed to catch before firing up the engine. It wasn’t until after the prop started spinning that I started getting rattled.

In hindsight, my first mistake wasn’t as bad as I thought. The winds were in the process of shifting, a new ATIS bulletin was about to go out, and the ground controller told me to taxi to the wrong runway and only caught his mistake after I’d finished my run-up checks. Of course, I thought I’d misheard (the instructor confirmed that it was the controller’s mistake, not mine afterwards) and spend the taxi back to the other end of the runway mentally kicking myself for being stupid, and telling myself to shake it off and focus.

Unfortunately, I was starting to get rattled, and it started to show when combined with my lack of recent practice. I blew through the final takeoff items checklist a little too fast, and forgot to note the takeoff time before we went roaring down the runway. In fact, I pretty much forgot the proper use of checklists, period, until we were in the practice area and I was working on my maneuvers.

It was a bumpy afternoon. None of my maneuvers would have met the PTS standards, but they, at least, were sufficiently close that the instructor felt comfortable saying I could practice those solo. Then it was time to head back, and my fun really got started.

The winds were still shifting, and the pattern was nice and busy. Boeing Tower was obviously dealing with a lot of aircraft, and I started on a long base leg entry; an approach I’ve never quite done before. Predictably, I came in too high, and ended up going around. On the bright side, the landing on the go around was one of the smoothest I’ve managed yet (and it ate up more runway than it should have. Ed.) After that we pulled up for another touch and go, only to have the tower flip the active runways and have me do a 180 in the downwind leg. In a move that shouldn’t have surprised anyone, the instructor then decided that it was the perfect time to have me simulate an engine out landing. Had it been an actual emergency, I could have made it (I would have used the big 9000’ runway) but on the 3150’ foot little airplane runway my engine miraculously fixed itself in time for me to go around. And have my flaps do a simulated failure.

I couldn’t do a flapless landing any better than I could an engine out. Perhaps sensing that I was just about at the end of my rope, nothing else had simulated failures on the next go around, and I was able to get the aircraft on the ground again (with a decidedly jarring point that I was very definitely on the ground).

After one final confused brain fart about where to park, I sort of fell out of the airplane and had a brief discussion with the instructor. The short was that my landing approaches weren’t good enough yet, but everything else was close enough that he’d leave my actual solo approval to my regular instructor.

That was the Tuesday of a week ago. In perspective, written down, the story doesn’t sound that bad, just a challenging day with a lot of good learning experiences, but it took a lot out of me at the time. There certainly hasn’t been anything recent that has left me as mentally and emotionally drained as that couple of hours.

But I’m pressing on. My next flight is Thursday, back with my regular instructor. With some better focus on using checklists and maps, and not relying so much on the fancy G1000 instruments, I should be soloing in a couple more weeks. I’m trying to keep in mind what a pilot friend of mine, a guy who used to be an Air Force instructor, told me about training:

“Training isn’t the fun part. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to teach you to be safe when you’re ready to fly for fun.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wake-Jumping at 4,000 Feet: More flights

The slow, drawn-out process of Spring is finally taking hold here, but the weather patterns involved have continued to make flight lessons a challenge. In the past couple of weeks, I've had two lessons canceled outright, and one that we ended prematurely after finding the ceilings too low at the practice area, and the air too turbulent at the airport for me to learn anything. There's a time and a place for learning crosswind landings, but my instructor isn't a big fan of the "throw you in the deep end and tell you to swim" approach. Considering he has to ride in the seat next to me, I don't blame him at all.

Still, Saturday managed to bring with it an unexpected heat wave, and some good flying weather. With my regular instructor on a vacation (not my fault, I swear) I went up with another instructor from the school, and committed aviation.

Actually, it was a flight with a lot of personal firsts for me: First time flying off the big runway at Boeing Field, first Vashon departure, first time my left-hand steep turns have approached adequate, and my first landing at a different airport. Oh, and my first time flying into an uncontrolled airport as well, plus my first attempt at a landing on a runway using PAPI lights rather than VASI.

I didn't do too badly, though it's still crystal clear that I need a lot more practice before my landings can be described with adjectives other than "jarring", "bumpy", or "tooth-rattling". With 8.9 hours in my logbook, that's to be expected.

I've got another flight scheduled for tomorrow, about which I'm guardedly optimistic of my chances for succesfully completing. The weather is back to its typical combination of rain and small sunbreaks, so we'll see.

Until next time,
For those with wings, Fly to your dreams.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Flight Lesson 4 – Takeoffs are optional, Landings are mandatory

I fear I’ve taken a bit longer than I should for this update [and that’s a change how, exactly? Ed.] but the weather and my schedule haven’t exactly been cooperating again, thus I’ve had one flight in the past couple of weeks, plus a ground-school lesson.

Ground school was somewhat illuminating as we mostly focused on airspace regulations, and map reading. It was a good reality check session for me, on the order of realizing how much I don’t know. Odds are I’ll be resorting to flash cards to memorize the subtle distinctions between Class B, C, D, and E airspace rules. At least maps have legends you can use to (mostly) figure out what things mean.

The real fun, however, was on my flight lesson. I finally got some good weather, a cool, clear, crisp Saturday morning with nothing but the light haze from a thermal inversion layer making The Mountain (Mt. Rainer for the non-local) a little less than picture perfect. Either because the weather North at Everett was less stellar, or because I’m still taking too long to do my pre-flight checks, we scrubbed the original plan to fly to Paine Field in Everett and learn landings there, instead staying in the Boeing Field pattern for an hour.

No complaints here either way. Takeoffs, especially when I get to do them, are still a rush that I don’t think I’ll ever completely tire of. If pushing the throttle full forward and getting pushed back into your seat by acceleration as your airplane lunges for the sky ever starts failing to bring a grin to my face, it’s time to check my pulse, because I’m probably dead. Plus, in an hour of pattern work, I finally started to feel like I can keep up with the airplane during these maneuvers.

Nobody was going to mistake my landings for those of a pro though. By the end of the hour, I’m pretty sure my instructor wasn’t adding a lot of extra control input to get us on the ground safely, but every single one of them was definitely of the “Hard Thud” variety. Still, it was definitely fun, especially as I started to get the reference points and important directions.

Weather.com and the Magic 8-Ball both agree that tomorrow should be a good flying day, so hopefully I’ll get Lesson #5 in. Saturday should be interesting as well, since I’m planning on taking The Boy with me to start getting him familiar with the airport and real airplanes. No flying (obviously) we’re just going for the point where jet noises don’t freak him out.

For those with wings, fly to your dreams.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Flight Lessons 2 and 3

Flight training report this week. I missed doing an update for my second lesson, wherein the most significant thing was experimenting with slow flight. We just barely got the flight in under cloud cover that would start snowing later in the week, but it’s time logged, and right now I’m still of the opinion that any flying day is a good day.

I finally got to try out my new flight bag too. I’d been using a backpack I’d gotten as a freebie at a game developer’s event a couple of years ago, but for my birthday, my Lovely and Gracious Wife got me a dedicated flight bag from Sporty’s. She even got my initials monogrammed on the bag! I’m really blessed to have a mate who supports my crazy plans and dreams.

Tuesday was another flying day. Lesson number three, and my introduction to stalls and instrument flying. It was a really bumpy afternoon, and of course, I would be under the hood (a vision restricting device that blocks your view outside the airplane) during the worst of it, just fighting to keep the airplane straight and level. In some ways, though, it’s easier than trying to do the same thing in a simulator, since your tactile senses help tell you the airplane is moving. Not that I can entirely trust them. I’ve “enjoyed” some lovely vertigo sensations while playing simulators, when I knew my butt was nailed to the floor, and could tell my inner ear to shut up, I know better than to trust my sense of balance when the airplane really could be banking left.

Stalls in the DA40 are interesting too. It’s a very well behaved trainer, and after the stall warning horn starts, the next thing you get is a mild buffeting on the stick, then buffeting of the entire aircraft, before the nose finally drops at around forty-five knots. Basically the aircraft gives you plenty of “Don’t do that”, “No, really, don’t do that”, “Seriously, if you keep it up, stuff is going to happen!” feedback beforehand. It also seems to glide quite nicely at seventy-eight knots, as demonstrated when my instructor decided to give me my first taste of emergency procedures with a brief bout of “engine trouble”.

Assuming the weather holds out as good, I’ll go up again tomorrow morning (Saturday). Apparently I’ll try landing for the first time *twitch*.

For those with wings, fly to your dreams.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Please Help Global Warming!

Note: I did get to fly on Thursday, and will have a post about that and my schedule up in the next couple of days, but first, this important message!


Because it's past the middle of April, it's Seattle, and it's snowing outside. Seriously, can we get some extra CO2 here? Blizzards in Cleveland in April I can deal with, because it cancels baseball games that give me lovely double-headers to attend in August (anyone else remember the fun that was the first couple weeks of last year's baseball season). But Thundersnow-storms out my office window I have a little more of a problem with.

Well, at least my kids are happy. Per the Lovely and Gracious Mrs., The Boy and The Girl are standing at the dining room window shouting "Snow!" right now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Getting Older

As my younger brother noted, today, in addition to being Tax day and Buy A Gun day, is also the annual anniversary of my release from the womb.

I've been blessed with two wonderful children, a beautiful and tolerant wife, a dream job, and the ability to reach for my dreams.

My occasional complaints about a lack of cooperation from the weather for accomplishing my aviation goals pale in comparison to things like that.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Flight Lesson #1

Tuesday was my first official flight lesson. Oh, look, I’m already behind on my ground school reading *nervous eye twitch*. Granted, the reading was my own fault, since I decided that spending the weekend submerged in the sea of manga, anime, and Japanese culture that is Sakura*Con was a good idea. I regret nothing.

Fortunately, I’m familiar with most of the material in the first couple chapters of my ground school book anyway, so I should get caught up in short order. I’ve got to remember to ask my instructor what kind of information I’m supposed to be reading out of the DA-40 reference manual though. That things as dull as the FAR/AIM book, and laid out less coherently.

But book learnin’ is boring anyway, when compared to actual flying. Tuesday was graced with partially cloudy skies, and while unseasonably cold for early April (seriously, we had snow over the weekend. That DOES. NOT. HAPPEN. In Seattle during the last few days in March), still sufficiently good flying weather for a low VFR lesson. I finally got my checklist cards, and tried to follow along as my instructor demonstrated proper pre-flight and checklist procedures. They seemed simple enough, provided you can remember where everything is.

Then we were off, with me tap-dancing on the toe brakes to get us to the run-up area. Boeing Field didn’t seem terribly busy at the time, with just a couple of corporate jets, a twin, and a couple of other trainers leaving at various times.

Once off, we headed to Galvin’s designated primary practice area for my introduction to basic maneuvers. So far, so, … adequate… I managed to mostly hold altitude correctly while flying straight and level, and manage decent level turns. Turns while climbing and descending, and just descents in general, are going to be trouble until I can really get a good feel for proper power management. We also tried steep (about 45 degree of bank) turns. My first one wasn’t so hot, but on the second one, I did a bit better. That was basically the last maneuver I tried, and I think by that time I was starting to get used to the feedback coming from the instrumentation in my inner ears and gluteus maximus.

I think I was finally starting to get the whole “terrain picture” thing my instructor was talking about too. I still feel a lot more comfortable trusting what my instruments tell me I’m doing, but I think with a few more flights, I’ll start recognizing the visual picture as well. In some ways, comprehending the picture outside feels like learning to read a new language: until you learn the patterns that make up the letters and words, it’s all incoherent gibberish.

Hopefully this weekend I can get my reading caught up, unbury my home flight-sim stuff. If I can get in a couple of sim hours before next Tuesday, I’ll be really interested to see if there’s any kind of noticeable improvements.

Until then,
For those with wings, fly to your dreams.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weather Intervention

No flying this week. My scheduled first lesson yesterday was scrubbed due to the predictably unpredictable Pacific Northwest spring weather (don't like it? Wait ten minutes) that meant nobody but the big boys in their jet toys were leaving Boeing Field. Well, this is why I started doing the work now. Better weather will come with summer, and hopefully I can get my Private rating completed before fall brings the unpredictable rains and shorter days back.

The day wasn't a total loss though. I got to meet my instructor, an IT refugee who did a career change to flight instruction. I think we'll get along just fine. I also got books. A lot of big, thick books. One for the FAA regulations, three to study for tests, two plus a syllabus and a DVD for my actual groundschool, and the manual for a DA40. Good thing I'm comfortable with homeschooling, because there's going to be a lot of studying going on.

I also stumbled on a website selling a DA40 set of add-on aircraft for the version of Microsoft Flight Sim that I own! One of them even has the Garmin G1000 cockpit I'll be flying in. So my task for the rest of the week is to start hitting the books, get my desk cleared off to where I can use my sim setup again, and see if I can set up the G1000 equipped DA40 sim.

For those with wings, fly to your dreams

Friday, March 21, 2008

Introductory Flight

On Tuesday, March 18th, 2008, a second entry went in my logbook. At around 3pm local time, Keith, my instructor for the day, and I took off from Boeing Field in a Diamond DA40. Amid mostly sunny skies, we looked into Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners), turned west to fly over Bremerton, then headed back south-east to overfly SeaTac airport before returning back to Boeing Field.

It took me two days to stop smiling.

I was impressed (and very surprised) by the amount of flying Keith let me do. He handled all the power management, and was never far from taking control when necessary, but for the most part, he let me do the vast majority of stick and rudder work. It’ll be interesting to see how that compares to actual lessons.

The most valuable thing for me though, was that the whole thing just felt right. Sometimes you worry that when you’ve wanted to do something for so long, when you finally do it, reality fails to match your expectations. Not this. For me, getting off the ground and playing with the birds, even if only for a little while, felt good.

I’m really excited for my next lesson, happening next week, weather permitting. As a side note, this should guarantee at least one blog post a week, as I write about my training experiences. :)

For those with wings, fly to your dreams.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Logbook

I have a little black book. Not THAT kind of little black book, but a small pilot's logbook. It was purchased sometime in spring of 1992, a few weeks before my twelfth birthday. The first entry was made on my twelfth birthday, an hour of dual time in a Cherokee 140 with the pilot friend of my dad's. After that, the logbook went onto my shelf, looked at on occasion, but never added to.

When I went to college, moving across the country to the cradle of Naval aviation, Pensacola, Florida, the logbook went with me, on the off chance I got work at the airport or something. Twice yearly, the book was packed into a box, shipped cross country, taken out and placed on a shelf, then put back in the box and shipped back across the country. I did this for all four years of college, but never had opportunity to actually open and write in the book.

When I graduated college, and made my final cross-country drive, the logbook went back on a shelf while I tried to find a job. I got married, my wife and I moved into our first little apartment, and the logbook found another shelf. We bought our two-bedroom condo, and the logbook ended up on another shelf while we busied ourself with bringing two little children into the world.

And the logbook sat on a shelf, slowly gathering dust. Out of sight, but not entirely out of mind. Until one gray February afternoon last month, I walked out of a physician's clinic in Kirkland with a small, yellow piece of paper tucked into my jacket pocket. There were a bunch of words and phrases on the paper, but the ones that were important said this: "Medical Certificate 3rd Class and Student Pilot Certificate".

I was actually supposed to go up today for my first official lesson, and make my second entry in my little black book. Unfortunately, Seattle's temperamental March weather forced a rescheduling of that flight, but that entry will go in the book soon. And, Lord willing, it will be followed by many more.

Sometimes dreams take a little longer than we expect. But I'm reminded that sometimes, if you wait long enough, and have the courage to take a big risk and grasp at the opportunity when it's given, you really can fly to your dreams.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Roadtripping the Caravan

For the President's Day weekend, my wife and I decided it was time to take the new Grand Caravan out for a test of its road-trip qualifications. To that end, after leaving The Boy to spend a few days of quality time with his grandma, the remaining three of us set out for the three hundred-some mile jaunt from Seattle to Canyonville, OR to visit some college friends.

Despite my general ambivalence towards all things minivan, I have to admit that the GC is a fantastic road-trip vehicle. Comfortable, never short for music thanks to the Satellite radio and MyGig systems, plenty of room for our stuff, and it actually surprised me with the gas mileage. While the around town MPGs are generally horrible, averaging about 65mph on the freeway gave us real fuel economy numbers around 25 miles per gallon. Considering the EPA estimate is 23, I'd call that pretty darn good.

Hanging out with our friends and seeing their five-month-old little girl for the first time was great, but far too soon it was time to head back. Unfortunately, we brought something unexpected back with us: another evil version of The Flu. Urgh. The Lovely and Gracious Wife was the first to succumb, feeling the symptoms on Wednesday night, and in full-blown illness by Thursday. This also left me staying home playing Mr. Mom, a role I didn't exactly manage with my usual aplomb. By Saturday night, The Boy had succumbed, and let me tell you, I'd be hard-pressed to think of anything more pathetic than my tow-headed two-year old laying on the couch whimpering because he's got a fever and his body hurts.

Oh, and then on Sunday, I started showing symptoms, leaving The Girl as the only healthy one of us all. Well, at least work hasn't been too stressful today. Much like being in the eye of a hurricane, I don't imagine that this calm spell will last much longer, but it's nice for the moment, and well timed at that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Things are going to change... Part 00

When I said I was going to get more material to blog about this year, I really didn't intend to switch to a three posts per month mode. That's just how January ended up. On the bright side, while I've been busy elsewhere, things have begun to change.

There's a chorus to a song that gets sung a lot as special music at my alma mater. And while I can't seem to find the audio anywhere on the internet (What? Nobody wants to pirate PCC Ensemble CDs? Whouda thunk it???) here's the start of the chorus that's been periodically pogoing though my head for a while

"Things are gonna change someday.
Trouble's gonna fly away.
Things are gonna change for the better
and I know that the better's gonna stay."

It's going to be a big year. And the first major step happened on the last weekend in January, when my wife drove off the lot of our local Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealer in the vehicle pictured below (I was following her in our VUE, recently returned from the repair shop with a brand new muffler and back hatch)

My Lovely and Gracious wife now has a minivan of her very own, and for the first time in our nearly six years of marriage, we're officially owners of two cars.

Now for those who know us, no, we didn't suddenly find out that we need more space for car seats than the back row of the VUE provides. However, where we do need more space is in our living arrangements, where the two bedroom condo that was roomy for two adults and two cats has become rather cramped when two toddlers are added to the mix. Since we're highly unlikely to find a larger home within our budget that still allows me to walk to work, and since I really like my job, procurement of a second vehicle became a necessity.

The Lovely and Gracious wife really, really enjoys her new ride too. She's spent pretty much every drive thus far burning our entire CD collection into the MyGig system, and her sole complaint is that it's too easy to go too fast. And while I would have probably preferred something more expensive that exuded masculinity (hey, you can probably fit three carseats in the back of an F350, right), even I have to admit that behind the wheel, when you turn on the heated seat, adjust the height, and let the 251hp 4.0 liter V6 take you from 0 to 60 in about 8 seconds, the fact that you're driving a minivan doesn't seem to matter nearly as much.

I guess it's appropriate though, that the herald of all the upcoming changes this year is a car. After all, cars get you from place to place, and in this case, start the first domino in a long chain.

See you space cowboy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Final Approach to a shipped game

It's almost noon here on a typically rainy Seattle Saturday. The blinds and sunshades that keep the summer afternoon sun off my bank of monitors are all open, and I can see the ripples of raindrops hitting the puddles on our building's North-West deck.

I'm in the office again.

Since coming back from Christmas break, I've had one day off. This looks to be another such week, and I'll likely be in on Monday even though we're officially closed in observance of MLK day.

I started the day with sixty-one bugs on my plate. Yesterday I started with fifty-two, fixed or moved about eight of them, and left with sixty assigned to me. We're a week and a half from sending our game to be certified by Microsoft and Sony, and I'll probably see everyone else left on the team at some point this weekend. We're not work-a-holics. Well, not most of us anyway. I'm sure there are some who are, but the vast majority of us would rather be spending the long weekend with friends and family, rather than hunkered down at our desks squishing bugs.

But that's the price you pay for turning your hobbies into a career. Life on the bug lines continues...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Playing Now Update

I finally finished Kingdom Hearts last night. It took close to a month, and forty-five hours or so of playtime (Thank you Square, for those wonderfully depressing "Hours Played" counters), but at least now I understand why this game is beloved by so many people. Mix Disney characters with Final Fantasy characters, add world-spanning plot to allow the fusion to make sense, set blender to Frappe, and viola. And I'm only five years behind the times on this one too. :)

At this point, though, it's on to something newer. One of my Christmas presents this year from my Lovely and Gracious wife was Assassin's Creed for my PS3, so now that I've wrapped up the epic RPG, it's time for something a little more action oriented, and shorter. I just don't have the time for epic adventures that I used to. Of course, I'll also be working in the new Sam & Max episode sometime soon...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And believe me, I am still alive

I'm doing game development and I'm still alive...

With apologies to Jonathan Coulton and GlaDoS. Seriously though, I'm still here, just working my slowly expanding fanny off as we push to get Big Game Sequel out the door by the end of the month. Not that I'm working any less than I did when I was on the QA side of this equation, but it's a whole different ballgame when you're responsible for fixing bugs rather than writing them.