Solo XC: KMDH – KSIK – KMDH

This one was familiar! Sikeston, MO was where I went on my first cross-country. And this time I got actual pictures! So I’ll let them do the talking.

The mighty Mississippi.

This one was taken on the trip there, somewhere past Reynoldsville.

This is me flying an airplane!

Even when I’m flying an airplane, I’m still vain enough to take a self-portrait.

Sikeston runway

Okay, this one didn’t turn out awesome, but it’s the runway at Sikeston, MO.

My aircraft, post-refueling

Here’s my little airplane right after re-fueling. When I got to Sikeston, a kid (okay, probably 16 – 17 year old) came out to help me park it. When I told him I was just here to re-fuel it, he helped me find and operate the the pump, too. There was a Beechcraft jet also parked there, and he said it’d been a busy day.

Scotty City bridge

This bridge is an easy to spot checkpoint, but this picture is less about the scenery than it is about the conditions. Moderate visibility but the clouds were rather low, way lower than forecast.

When I got back to Carbondale, I made a pretty drawn out landing and that was that!

15JUL10 / C152 / N95374 / KMDH-KSIK-KMDH /Landings: 2 / SEL: 1.9 / XC: 1.9 / Day: 1.9 / PIC: 1.9 / Total: 1.9

Dual XC: KMDH – KFWC – KMDH

This was a big one! It was my NAV ride, which is the second road block on my way to being a private pilot!

So I went up with someone who wasn’t my instructor. The first leg was easy, just getting into the air and getting to Fairfield. Once we got there, and we got off the ground again, the instructor had me put on the goggles that simulate flying into a cloud. Then he had me close my eyes and he’d do a few maneuvers and then tell me to open my eyes and I’d have to put it back to straight and level.

After doing that a couple times, he told me to figure out where I am and get us home. I used the navigation radio, found a point on the map where it told me I was, and looked outside. None of it lined up with my map. So I did that two or three more times. Still nothing. Then I started to think about the instruments.

There’s a directional gyro and a magnetic compass. The directional gyro is made to be set by hand because it can get off direction sometimes, so you look at the mag compass, and set the DG to what it says. While I had my eyes closed, the instructor had twisted my DG around, which is why the road that was supposed to be East-West was running North-South. Once I’d set the DG straight, I pointed us in the correct direction and got us back to Carbondale.

14JUL10 / C152 / N95843 / KMDH-KFWC-KMDH /Landings: 2 / SEL: 1.9 / XC: 1.9 / Day: 1.9 / Sim Instr: 0.3 / Dual: 1.9 / Total: 1.9

How good is Borderlands?

I beat it on Xbox 360, getting nearly all of the achievements. I beat the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned DLC. I quit on Mad Moxxi because that DLC suuuucked. But between the main campaign and Dr. Ned, I put a load of time into it.

I just beat it again on PC. 14 hours, 30 minutes. I just started Dr. Ned. Then I’ll do the Secret Armory of General Knoxx.

I’m still amazed by some of the weapons this game throws at me. A lot of them are garbage. Then you get something absolutely fucking magical. Like an accurate shotgun with high damage, fast reload, large magazine, and ammo regeneration. This is the gun that Zombie Island was made for. I can’t lose with this thing.

Brutal Legend

Oh boy, I sank some time into this one this weekend. Brutal Legend is the definition of a mixed bag. When it starts out, you’re hacking things to death with an axe and blasting them lightning bolts out of your guitar. Soon after, you’ve got a car and it’s an open world game where you’re driving around and doing side missions and collecting stuff. Then you start collecting followers and guiding them into battle. About halfway through, you’ve got a handful of units, you can fly, give orders, build stuff, and it’s a full blown console RTS.

The transition from simple action to RTS is very smooth, and you never lose the open world aspect when you’re not in the middle of a story mission. What is kind of a jarring is that the whole first half of the game is the tutorial into the RTS side. The game has three continents and that whole first half of the game takes places on the first one alone. On top of that, there are two other factions in the game, but you spend that first half fighting against the same units you’re using. You then spend almost the rest of the game fighting the second faction, and you only really fight the third faction in the absolute final mission.

It’s pretty obvious to me that a lot of time and effort went into the first continent and first half of the game, then the rest was cleaned up and rushed through. Everything about the pacing in the second half of the game is off and rushed, and the end drops like a hammer. There’s that final RTS mission and one final action sequence and then you’re done.

Despite this, Brutal Legend is a ton of fun. It’s fun to drive around in. It takes place during the Age of Metal and the backstory and environments and soundtrack are all fantastic. It’s simply a fun world to exist in if you’re into metal. I’m pretty horrible at RTS games, and I still enjoyed the RTS battles. The controls kind of take some getting used to because they focus on your character as a leader, and so you can only issue orders to your units if you’re near them. This is probably why the first half of the game feels like a tutorial, but by time you get off the first continent, you’re definitely proficient at commanding your units.

I don’t know how to recommend this. I was turned off of it when it was released by reviews saying it was half-baked, and not that fun. It is true that it was definitely a rushed release, but it never feels incomplete. Everything is there, it’s just paced poorly. And I definitely had a lot of fun with it. I guess it boils down to whether or not you like metal. If I didn’t enjoy the setting so much, I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time playing it.

Solo XC: KMDH – KSLO – KMDH

My first solo cross-country! I had a choice between flying to Salem-Leckrone, Sikeston, or Fairfield. I picked Salem because I’ve been to Sikeston before, and Salem was a little further away than Fairfield.

This was pretty much an ideal day to fly; clear skies, decent visibility, only a slight wind. I got to Salem without any problems, saw the Mt. Vernon and Centralia airfields, and put it down at Salem. There was a cropduster there, but he was on the ground almost the whole time I was there and he had a radio.

Proof I was there.

Apparently solo cross-countries require students to re-fuel at each stop. I’ve only had to re-fuel once and that was at Evansville, where the FBO took care of everything. I stopped my plane on the wrong side of the gas pump, so I had to get back in, fire it up, and putter around to the other side. From there, it was almost as easy as re-fueling a car.

Cellphone picture of me and my aircraft

As I was taxiing to the runway, I noticed a couple walking their dog… on the runway. Thankfully, they got off of it once they saw me pull on to it.

The flight back to Carbondale was even less eventful than the flight to Salem. When I got off the runway, the controller cleared me to taxi to park. Once I got on a main taxiway though, someone else tried to get on it. The controller cleared me, and I didn’t hear him clear the other guy, so he yielded.

Overall, I probably couldn’t ask for an easier flight.

1JUL10 / C152 / N5198L / KMDH-KSLO-KMDH /Landings: 2 / SEL: 1.7 / XC: 1.7 / Day: 1.7 / PIC: 1.7 / Total: 1.7

Dual XC: KMDH – KPAH – KM25 – KMDH

This was a relatively interesting flight. The first leg was rather straightforward, except that clouds were way lower than reported and I had to fly it 1000 feet under what I planned. We get to Paducah, and set up to take off again when my instructor tells me we’re going to fly the Cunningham VOR to Mayfield. So I tune the VOR, intercept the radial, and fly it straight in.

Mayfield is uncontrolled. I put it down and we’re getting set up at the hold short when a Bonanza comes in for a landing. It’s way too high, keeps gliding past the midway point, and for whatever reason the pilot still tries to put it down. From my angle, there was no way in hell he was going to make it, and he realized it just before touching the ground. He goes around, then I get to take off.

On our way back to Carbondale, my instructor tells me to put the simulated instrument goggles on. Again, we fly the VOR to Cunningham, then to Carbondale. It’s really nice flying without exactly knowing where I am because my instructor can’t ask me how fast we’re going or when we’re going to get there. About halfway through he tells me to take the goggles off, then he pulls my power for a simulated engine out. I do the routine, recover from it, then he tells me I can’t go higher than 1,700 ft, my VOR is busted, and I can’t put it down on any nearby airfields.

Now, when he pulled my engine, I was pretty much on course for Carbondale to begin with. I picked a field directly below me, so I didn’t deviate far from my course. I still had my flight plan, so I point the plane towards Carbondale, and climb to 1,700. From that low to the ground, you can’t see that much to reference, but whatever. I find one of the towns on my flight path and trust my instincts, and voila, I’m in Carbondale. So close to the ground, I got a really good view of the new stadium.

Next time, I fly solo to some uncontrolled airfield near Carbondale!

29JUN10 / C152 / N5198L / KMDH-KPAH-KM25-KMDH /Landings: 3 / SEL: 2.4 / XC: 2.4 / Day: 2.4 / Sim Instr: 0.5 / Dual: 2.4 / Total: 2.4

Metro 2033

This game caught me by surprise. It didn’t get much hype and what it did get didn’t excite me. Crawling around in tunnels in the dark, who cares? Then I found out that the developers are the engineers who made S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which I loved. It got pretty positive reviews, with some complaints being about the difficulty and poor gunplay and dumb AI.

I’m pleased to report these complaints are mostly unfounded. Metro 2033 is a beautiful game with a strong narrative, even if Artyom’s motivations are somewhat unclear. I beat the game on normal difficulty without much trouble. The weapons in the game are no less responsive than those in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. I knew from the start that bullets were currency in the game, and that crappy bullets existed, but I didn’t figure out how to use those crappy bullets until halfway through the game. The crappy bullets really are crappy, being much louder, less powerful, and more inaccurate. It really makes you value those money bullets and forced me to decide when it was worth shooting my money away.

Around the halfway mark, there’s a vendor who will sell you either heavier armor or stealthier clothing. I had spent nearly all of my good bullets on a better gun, which was poor foresight on my behalf because guns are everywhere. I was duly punished for it though, as I was never offered the opportunity to buy a different armor again.

I got Metro 2033 on sale, and it’s one of those games in which I wish I had bought it on release. The game is short, but it’s really immersive. I hope 4A made enough to keep developing, because I’ll definitely get their next title the minute it comes out.

Dual XC: KMDH – KSUS- KMDH

This flight has been in the works for two weeks now, thanks to weather cancellations. It almost didn’t happen this time either, because I had planned to go to Paducah, KY but the clouds were low over Paducah so we went this route instead.

Flying cross-country during the day is relatively simple. There are lots of landmarks on the ground that are on my maps, so it’s easy to hop from one to next. My trouble came when I got into the St. Louis area. There’s so much stuff that it’s difficult to distinguish one landmark from another. At one point I was on my course and my instructor asked me if I could see the airport yet. I couldn’t pick it out of the noise around it so I started to doubt myself and felt lost. Thankfully, St. Louis has rather extensive radar service so they pointed me in the correct direction and I made it to the airport just fine. I did a substandard soft field landing, we turned around, and then flew right back out again.

On the way out of St. Louis I noticed landmarks that I had seen on the way in before I began to doubt myself. I was on the right track the entire time. I may have ended up overflying the airport, but I definitely would’ve gotten there. Oh well. The trip back was dead simple and I had radar following me the whole time. I managed to correctly pick out Carbondale from at least 20NM away, which is amazing because I almost never spot it until I’m 10NM from it. I put it back down with another horrible soft field landing, and that was that!

24JUN10 / C152 / N5198L / KMDH-KSUS-KMDH /Landings: 2 / SEL: 2.4 / XC: 2.4 / Day: 2.4 / Dual: 2.4 / Total: 2.4

Dual Night XC: KMDH – KEVV – KMDH

This was my second night flight ever. On the first, all we did was fly in circles around the airport to do a bunch of takeoffs and landings. Evansville, IN is about 50 minutes away in my little 152. My normal instructor paired me up with another instructor for this flight.

A bit about my current instructor. He’s a team leader and a check airman, which means that when people finish a course, they go on a flight with him and he checks them out to make sure they can fly up to standard. He’s got a ton of experience flying, and he’s generally rather chill.

The instructor I flew with for this flight was quite a bit more uppity. He threw some things at me on the ground that I wasn’t exactly expecting but wasn’t unprepared for. In the air, he kind of nagged me about things that I was probably getting around to but not currently focused on.

But the flight was pleasant enough, and I didn’t get us lost, and I even found the airport before he did. I put it down, we got some fuel, hung out at the FBO for a little while, then we came back. The way back was even less eventful.

We got in around 10 till midnight. We were the last ones in, so the girl working the dispatch counter was half asleep. We did our debrief and log completion in the terminal, and that was that!

17JUN10 / C152 / N95670 / KMDH-KEVV-KMDH / Landings: 2 / SEL: 2.5 / XC: 2.5 / Night: 2.5 / Dual: 2.5 / Total: 2.5

A roommate returns.

About midway through finals week, one of my roommate’s left. He said he was going home for a few weeks and didn’t really give a timeframe for coming back. That weekend, my other roommate moved out entirely to go live with his girlfriend. I had the whole place to myself!

I relaxed a little more. I kind of let myself spread outside of the confines of my room. All good things must come to an end, however, and my remaining roommate returned yesterday.

I almost wish he hadn’t left, because I got used to living alone. I could wander around the apartment in my underwear whenever. I could leave dishes and pans in the sink for a couple days. I didn’t have to get my clothes out of the dryer as soon as they were dry. I could leave a mess of razors and face cleaning stuff in the bathroom.

But now I have to go back to living-with-other-people mode. And it’s annoying.

Ne Cede Malis