Best Aviation Weather app

Hello everyone,

It’s been a long time since I’ve published any thoughts.  I don’t get the sense that they make much difference.

But a week at Oshkosh for Airventure 2016 has thoroughly rejuvenated me as far as getting excited about life.  Writing?  Maybe not so much.  I’ll focus on making money for now.  But at the moment, there’s something you should know.

As a pilot, one of the most important things we learn is that the weather matters.  This may seem trite, but the fact is that most people, and too many pilots, take weather for granted.

We are content to watch the weather-people tell us what the weather is going to be a few weeks out. Maybe we make some plans based on those predictions, maybe we don’t.

What you may not know is that those predictions come from a whole lot of data that the government collects every day, every minute.  Thousands of balloons are sent high up in the air from all around the world, twice a day.  Radar stations send out about a dozen separate beams at different angles, about once every second.  And every airport, marine port, and many other locations are busy collecting a lot of other weather data continuously.

The government headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in charge of digesting all this data and representing it to us, the general public, commercial customers, and pilots, in forms that we can understand.  The team that works on weather for pilots, for example, only makes predictions out as far as two days – max.

Here’s the fun detail most people don’t realize.  When the weather channel people get the data, they massage it a bit so that it fits their style more comfortably.  Same for your local news station or anyone else for that matter.  One form of that massaging is that your local radar data doesn’t show you a dozen slices of weather – only one.  Another massage is that they stretch out the prediction period from one to two days to almost two weeks!

So if you care about weather, and you want it as pure and clean as organic food, then stop getting it from a processor like your news station.  Go to the source.  Go to NOAA.

Here’s where you can get the app for pilots (sorry, nothing for apple).

     Use this link to spread the word – this is our FREE html web browser version:
     EAsy way to remember – just Google: zoa2  and the first entry will be this webpage for mobile.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Yoga Deconstructed

I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandria Crow the other day and learning about her perspective on yoga.  It was fantastic.

She’s an ex-gymnast and a push-the-envelope kind of person.  She has intimate knowledge of what our bodies are capable of, and what they aren’t.

She knows better than most because she’s suffered.  She went too far.  You’d think that would be bad news.  But it isn’t.

For that’s how the best of the best learn, and we mere mortals must learn from their pain.

Ms. Crow is like a yoga test-pilot.  She took her body to places it shouldn’t go.

She’s learned about what’s out there, the demons who live beyond the envelope.  She lived through the experience, and she’s willing to teach us about it.  We should listen.

As soon as I figured that out, I was riveted.  She wasn’t just another bendy-body beauty, but someone who could give me a deeper insight into my yoga, and yoga in general.

I hadn’t planned on being so captivated.  I thought it would be a nice way to learn some sequencing tips from a seasoned professional.  The fact that she appeared to be twenty-something gave me doubts, but by the end of the session I realized she’d blown my mind.  And not just with respect to sequencing.

For some years I’ve been learning from many different experts, people who have taught, and thought, long and hard about yoga.  I’ve studied a bit of yoga history and about some of the great players in the field.

I’ve only passing interest in the current fads in today’s marketplace.  Mostly because they’re trendy and about establishing brand.  As a business person I can pick up and understand those aspects quickly.

No, the big insight came from combining what I learned from and about Ms Crow, with what I’ve learned from other great yogis I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Ginny Nadler has taught me that the hips and deeper are the true center of any pose.  Some independent practitioners and a bit of anthropology agree with her.  Peter Starios taught me that even the innocence of balasana (child’s pose) could be the basis for a rock solid regime.  Yes, he taught me to sweat in child’s pose.  Reading Judith Lasater has taught me that deep and gentle and listening to your body is far more profitable than any standard set of pictures.

Yes there have been others, each of whom has their own particular “angle” on yoga.  But each and everyone had something else: they had broken free of the tyranny of perfect posture.

Ms. Crow calls them fancy poses.  BKS Iyengar made them famous in his book.  Only a professional contortionist can do all of them well.  But I don’t.  I can’t.  I own an old, stiff, anti-athletic body.

But what Sterios, Nadler, Crow and Lasater have done is deconstruct yoga down to its most essential elements – body positions.  And where those body parts should go is indicated by looking at your own body, inside your own body.  Not at someone else’s picture.  Not even the person next to you or at the front of the room.

We don’t have to strive for fancy pose number 9.  We do have to strive to put our hips, feet, and shoulders in the right place.

What makes any place right?  It’s all up to you.  Are you practicing for flexibility? Balance? Strength? Endurance? Coordination? Or something else?  Then that defines where your body goes, how you get there, how long you linger and how hard you push.

Are you warming up for intense forward folds?  Then back off on the updogs!  Need some spinal twists?  Don’t force yourself with external pressures like your arms, legs or ropes.  Let your twist come from inside yourself.  You won’t twist as far, but it’s a better workout, and you’re far less likely to hurt yourself.

Don’t hurt yourself!  It’s fine to feel discomfort that goes away within a day.  But pain lingers and annoys and reduces your quality of life.

I’m a firm believer in this part of the Marine creed: “pain is weakness leaving the body.”  For us civilians, it should read that “discomfort is weakness leaving the body.”

What all these insightful teachers are creating is a new yoga.  Each has taken their bodies to beyond its normal limit, and come back using the power of yoga.

Now they’re teaching us a new way, a more rational, even scientific approach to yoga.  It’s not a trend, yet.  It will never be a fad because it’s too deep.  Right now its leaders are smart, courageous, and working hard.

The results are well worth the effort.  I’m convinced that I’ve avoided hip and knee surgeries that my friends have already had.  My busted shoulder healed faster and better because of yoga.  And I’m certainly a more relaxed person than I would be otherwise.

Yoga means many things.  For me, it’s about harmony.  For Ms. Crow it boiled down to attention.  For our proto-indo european ancestors, it meant “to join.”.

My conclusion from all of these maverick yogis deconstructing today’s yoga is this: they are all closer to the true spirit of yoga’s greatest founders, T. Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya didn’t believe in fancy poses or perfect positions or their names.  His student BKS made many of those up for business purposes.  Krishnamacharya never taught the same way twice, for every student was different.  And he was always learning.

For me, that’s harmony, that paying attention.  And that’s having the ability to join all the different parts of our bodies and lives together in one big practice.

Namaste.

 

Disclaimer: I’m an amateur yogi and only study this as a hobby.  Any mistakes are my own.  Let me know and I’ll fix them as soon as I’m able!

 

 

Question Authority

I’m on a good sized airplane.  I’m comfortable, in my proper seat, and ready to fly.

So is the aircraft.  The pilots are almost through with their checklists, and the flight attendant is finishing up her required briefing to the passengers.

I look about, and the aircraft is only half full.  I have work to do, and it would be nice to spread out.

Since the attendant is still busy, I unbuckle and quickly switch seats.  In no time flat another attendant comes to hover above me.

We can’t have you changing seats sir.

Why?

I’m sorry, but I’ve been instructed by my superiors that no one can change their seats.  I’m sorry.

Alright.  I move back to my seat, and ponder.

Can’t move?  It’s not hard on the seats – they are designed for many butt touches.

It can’t be the airplane.  This one is large enough so that even an elephant could move around without bothering the pilots.

No, it can only be for the flight attendant’s convenience.  It makes it easier on them.  It’s for making their lives easier, not ours.  The more they can treat us like cattle, the better.

I realize that if the airline could figure out a way to put us to sleep and stack us up like firewood, they would.  No need for food, toilets, and more people on the plane.  Fewer attendants even.  Heck, they’re probably working on the idea even as I write.

More importantly, you and I live in this world, in this society, and are customers of that airline.  To the degree that we don’t question their authority in order that we can have better lives is our fault.  To the degree that we don’t insist on questioning their authority so that our children can have better lives is a sin.

I looked in that attendant’s eyes and said “sorry to have upset you.”

But in my heart, if it had been something important that I was fighting for, I wouldn’t have stopped.  The future is worth it.

 

Crowd Compression

Studying behavior never stops.  And it comes in all forms, from complex societies gasping for breath, to the simple, linear, line.

Yes, there is behavior in the simple line.

You say “What?  How can there be behavior in a line?”

Of course there is line drawing.  Drawing and art are behaviors, but not necessarily simple.

There is line dancing.  But that’s another form of expression along with a good dose of socializing thrown in.  No, not the simplest form of behavior.  There’s something simpler still!

As simple as a line in mathematics?  Perhaps not.  Let’s face it.  The one dimensional construct is as simple as it gets.  Unless you like Norton Juster’s book.

No, the line I’m referring to is the one you might be standing in even as you read this.  The line at the bank, or the line of cars getting on the highway.  Or the line heading to the ticket window for off-track-betting.  Those lines.

As a young student, I learned the art of line-manship.  I like to think it was one of my minors.  I learned to dodge, weave, thread, and yes, even cut into lines.  Most importantly, I learned how to avoid them altogether.

However, it was a recent line experience that reminded me that there’s some insight into human nature buried within every line.  Here’s how.

I was recently in a line catching a flight from Japan to Korea.  Expectant travelers filled the corridor, shuffling and fidgeting about.  The longer we waited, the greater the fidgeting.

Suddenly a surge.  Was the head of the line finally moving forward, onto the flight?

No, none of the people at the very front were moving.  Someone behind them decided to take a small step forward, compressing the space between himself and the next person more than before.  The person behind him did the same thing, and so on.

By the time the new compressed line reached my place, it was a good two or three steps!

We weren’t moving, but we were given the impression of moving.  Our personal space had been three hands in front and back, and now it was only two hands.  Not comfortable for me.

Does this new personal space distance help any of us get on board the flight any faster?  No.  Does the few steps some of us were able to take let off enough steam so that we can patiently wait another fifteen minutes?  Maybe.

What’s important about this line is that everyone waited about fifteen minutes before they decided they’d waited long enough.  Their personal space had been worth three hands before they waited.  After fifteen minutes it was only worth two hands.

Why does any of this matter?  Because every culture, every age, and every venue has a different exhibition of these characteristics.

A Korean crowd compresses more and faster than a Japanese crowd.  The Chinese crowd compresses more and faster than the Korean.

When a Western culture compresses there is likely to be conflict.  In Eastern cultures, conflict is rare.

Compression at sporting events, and large musical rock concerts generally see the most compression.  Classical and operatic events see the least.

Why it matters is it allows us a little window into the heart of the culture, and ourselves.  it may also teach us how to deal with lines during emergencies so that people don’t get crushed to death.

Finally, perhaps we will all learn enough about lines so that no one has to stand in one any more.

I wonder how long I’ll have to wait in line to see that happen?

 

Yoga in Space

I love things that go fast.  Cars.  Jets.  Spaceships.

Nothing goes as fast as a spacecraft heading out to the stars.  There’s something that excites my soul when I look up into the night sky and think that someday, our children may live among the stars.

There’s a problem with that.  In fact, there’s lots of problems, most of which have to do with our attitude.  But there’s one problem in particular that has lots of medical types worried.

People don’t do well living in space.  Who knew?

That’s the point.  No one could know.  No one has ever tried living in space before.  Everyone who goes up is doing an experiment on their own body.  The people who live up there for months at a time are at the most extreme.

When doctors examine these “long-timers” they find that they have lost bone and muscle.  They go soft.

So far the solution has been bicycles and other aerobic type equipment.  In the movies you see big circular rooms where people run in artificial gravity.  The problem with all of these solutions is that they require fancy equipment that weighs a lot.  The biggest problem is that none of those conventional exercises can address everything our bodies need: strength, stretching, flexibility, coordination, balance, control, all tied to our breath.

The only exercise that tackles all of these components is yoga.  And here’s the surprise.  You don’t need gravity to yoga!

I’ve been thinking about this a long time.  Yes, my head is constantly in the clouds, but that’s how I deal with all the troubles we get into down here in the dirt.  So every time I do a down dog, I’m thinking about how I’d do the same thing in zero gee.  And I’ve finally got it licked.

Believe it or not, we take gravity for granted.  You can’t do that if you live in space.  We need it to keep our bodies healthy.  And yoga can help.  The trick is to realize that yoga is really about the balance of forces.  And space travel is all about understanding the balance of force.

Like our mat, or the blocks, or blanket, or even a mirror, gravity is another tool we take into our yoga practice.

If you are a true yoga minimalist who doesn’t believe in tools, good luck!  Your body is a tool.  The ground is a tool.  And gravity is a tool.  You need all of these.

In space, we’ll have a set of tools unique to practicing yoga in zero gee.  And those tools will keep our future space travelers healthy and balanced for the many adventures yet to come.  Those tools won’t take up much room, or much weight.  Yoga can even be done at any time, not just during an authorized exercise break.

Yes, the next time you watch a space travel show, think about how they will stay healthy.  They probably won’t be running in circles or riding a stationary bike.  My guess is that they’ll be doing a half-moon, as they travel to the moon.

Yoga.  Not just for earthlings.

 

Extreme Fliers

I’m here at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, enjoying the world’s largest general aviation extravaganza.  The smell of jet A and 100 LL (low-lead) in the morning air, the gentle roar of piston and turbine, and the sight of man-made objects defying gravity is something I’ll never get tired of.

For many people, everything associated with aviation is scary, almost unholy.  Money spent for aviation is unnecessary.

What these people don’t fully realize is that it is only by pushing the envelope of human experience do we learn new technologies that can help everyone.  For instance, seat-belts and anti-lock brakes are two easy examples of aviation innovations that the rest of us use every day.

Here’s another innovation that we might appreciate years from now.  A group of aviation enthusiasts at Purdue is working with quadriplegics, paraplegics, and others who have been disabled in order to teach them to fly.  And so far, they have fledged 40 people into the skies.

Why is the work of Able Flight and the Purdue Aviation Technology Department important?  Because it pushes our knowledge and technology to the limits.  It does the seemingly impossible and makes it possible.  And in so doing, they may learn something that can help others, or perhaps even you and me.

So, the next time you see a child playing with a model airplane, or a youngster taking their first flight, encourage them.  After all, they might help the rest of us in unexpected ways.  Now excuse me, I’ve gotta fly!

 

Ultimate Fighting, Round 3

Welcome to our third round of the ultimate fight between humanity in one corner, and Mother Nature in the other.  Mom, as I like to call her, is absolutely radiant and beautiful, but she packs a wallop.  Humanity, as we all know, also has a certain beauty.  But, since we ourselves are all too human, we can also see many blemishes and frailties.  Keep your fingers crossed!

In a real sense, we have been ‘fighting’ Mom since our birth.  Humanity is the one species that keeps pushing the boundaries of what Mom says we can, and can not do.  Don’t play with fire, she said.  Then one day one of us discovered how useful fire could be, and so we tamed it.  Don’t jump off cliffs, she said.  Yet, here we are, with all sorts of people jumping off cliffs wearing wing suits.  And so it goes.

Climate change is one of those battles.  In the fight with Mom, however, it’s a relatively minor spar.  One, maybe two jabs at the most.  Why?

Because there are even bigger issues at stake.  Just because we can see a single punch coming doesn’t mean that the entire fight can be described by one punch.  The reason most boxing matches go “the distance” and are decided on technical factors is because the fight is composed of many different components.

We are fighting Mom on many fronts, and taking many jabs.  We are experimenting with new compounds in our products.  As a result, those compounds end up in our food, our water, our bodies.  Most frightening is that all of these compounds haven’t been fully tested on people.

I’ve only recently learned that a woman, pregnant with her daughter, can ingest or breath some of these compounds.  Once these compounds are inside her body, they can be taken up by her embryonic daughter.  This is scary in and of itself, but we’ve known this for some time.  But it’s not the truly scary part.

Our technology has gotten good enough such that we can now prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those same compounds are not only taken up by the embryonic daughter, but that those same compounds are incorporated into her eggs.

The mother has been poisoned.  She has also poisoned her unborn daughter.  And her grandchild.  In many ways this is more critical than climate change.

Who says Mom can’t pack a wallop?

Ultimate Fighting, Round 2

Don’t fool around with Mother Nature, she plays for keeps.

Mom, as I like to call her, is all-powerful.  Gentle as a baby almost all the time, she packs a wallop on the rare occasion.  And she never, ever, forgets her laws.  Those laws define the edges of where we can play, and where we can die.

As adventurous humans, we push the edge, always looking for the next extreme, wondering how much further we can push it back.

In only the last few years we’ve seen a man jump from a record height of 39 kilometers, breaking the speed of sound as he fell.  He landed on his feet, by the way.  This sort of thing is only done once every so many decades.  The man who did it first was back in the 1960s.

We’ve seen the development of wing suits, where perfectly intelligent people throw themselves off sheer cliffs and glide past trees and rocks at breakneck speeds for a thrill that lasts only a few minutes.  They do this stunt more often than I’d like to admit.

Finally, we even see people climbing sheer cliffs using only their hands.  Free-climbing is something that climbers do all too frequently.  They may use aids to help prevent accidents, but getting up the rock is all about them.  By the way, this is aviation related in that they are gaining altitude!

What is it about us that wants to test ourselves against Mom?

For one, it pushes us against absolute limits.  Two, it sets us apart from our fellow adventurers.  It allows the survivor to say, I’m the best!  Three, it’s a physical and mental challenge requiring inspiration, focus, and perspiration.  Four, it provides us with a mision in life that gives us a persona, a defining character for our friends.  Five, it acts as a beacon for others to watch, or assist us in attaining this ideal.  Sixth, there is a greater emotional state to be found than that moment in which you confront your greatest fear, alone.  You know Mom doesn’t play favorites.  But she plays using open rules.  Where we push the edge, we can only guess what those rules are, and we dare to guess.

Only then do we dare to fly in the face of Mom.  If we guess wrong, it doesn’t end well.

And that’s an adventure.

 

Watching glaciers move

Great trends take time to reveal, much like watching a glacier move.  No one wants to do it, but to really understand the process a student of behavior has to be ready to take the long view of things.  It’s like watching a glacier move down (or up) a mountain pass over the years. It’s still moving, but soooo sloooowly!

One great trend we all talk about on occassion is the spread between the rich and poor.  Sure, we have our handy truisms, like “It takes money to make money,” or “The rich get richer,” but no one has ever taken the time to prove it.  And even though we do measure it to some extent, no one really has a way of connecting that disparity to the health of our society.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s get back to that glacier.

Can we actually see it moving?  Is it possible to go to the edge of the cliff and be lucky enough to see it calve an iceberg?  Sure it is!  It’s all in where you look.  Like looking at the edge, we don’t have to try and take in the whole glacier at once.  Strangely enough, a great place to see a piece of this particular glacier is at altitude – 30 thousand feet of altitude!

When aviation began, all air travel was high end.  Mnay airlines began their services with fuly cooked meals, served hot, on china with silverware and linen.  There were beautiful young women as attendants.  Over the decades this has changed.  the fancy services become expensive, and the passengers less appreciative of them.  The passengers themselves became more ‘common’ as the numbers of people increased.

People got used to air travel as well, and their expectations dropped.  There was a time, some decades ago, when the whole idea of classy service was dropped.  Everyone became a regular passenger.  Everyone was “cattle class” (as some call it) on an equal footing.

The decades rolled on, and this brief flirtation with classless service did, too.  Business class emerged in the 80s, then first class came back.  Now there’s super-economy and many shade of rewards programs.

How do these classes appear to us in the here and now?  There’s an impenetrable curtain drawn once we reach cruising altitude separating our classy cabin from the classless.  Attendants make an announcement telling commoners to stay out.  They even hide behind the pretense of “national security” to keep the common folk out of the front bathroom.  Then there is also the free-flowing alcohol, large meals, and other affectations of class.

So, which is better for our society?  One in which there is little true separation between rich and poor?  Or one in which there are great disparities?  Which ones feel right to you?

 

Sun-day

On this typical day of worship, let us all rejoice in that greatest of all forces in our part of the universe, the Sun.  On the day I’m writing this, I started out feeling quite gloomy.  So did the day.  Cold, gray, fog, snowflakes.  Yuck.  A bit of a downer, I’m afraid.  Did I have a bug?  Was it something I ate?  Perhaps.

I got up from yet another nap, and looked outside.  Sunlight!  Immediately my mood is brighter!  I’m feeling alive again.  I can write again – if you’ll allow me to call this blog, writing.  At any rate, there is a definite connection between my mood and sun!  Why is that?

Well, there’s the chemical reactions that have been well-studied.  Our mood altering hormones and other neurotransmitters seem to be influenced by light.  When it happens during our day-light cycle is also important.  We started to notice this sort of thing when people began jetting about the globe, hence the term, jet-lag.  (Yet another way aviation has shed light on our behavior!)

But why else?  What is it about daylight that would make this particular animal feel better?  And that I’m not sure about.  It should give us an evolutionary-reproductive advantage over the uninfluenced beasts, but why?

Yes, it’s one of the many mysteries of behavior?  Any ideas out there?  I have to cut this short, because I’m going outside to catch some rays!

Aloha!