Category Archives: World


It’s amazing how a long-winged sailplane gets tucked into a sleek trailer and ready to be towed away in less than an hour. Of course, the pilot/owner gets points for having a state of the art clamshell Cobra trailer with good tires ready to roll.  His spouse/crew/fellow club members appreciate that!

There’s quite a lot of trailering going on in the Northern hemisphere now – it’s the high summer season.  Pilots are rolling to contests; pilots are going cross-country for contests and contest practice; and landouts happen!  May they all be as uneventful as this one was.

Pipistrel’s Taurus

Here are more photos of last Saturday’s visiting motorglider.

While it was parked at the Soaring Club of Houston, our Field Operations Officer of the day pondered it….

In fact it attracted a crowd. 

SCOH and the Greater Houston Soaring Association have a traveling trophy that can be collected from either club from by a pilot from the other club – presuming they arrive in a glider that made the trip as a glider.  The Pipistrel motorglider was flown from GHSA without use of the propeller.   Conditions were weakening, though, as attested by SCOH having two landouts later in the afternoon.  The GHSA pilot elected to extend the propeller for the purpose of getting home.

The takeoff  was remarkable.  Motorgliders with propellers in this position look improbable anyway, and this one leaped into the sky like the proverbial homesick angel.

Pipistrel is a light aircraft manufacturer in Slovenia.   This model of theirs is called a Taurus, and among other unusual features, it has side by side seating and a parachute for the whole aircraft in the event of emergency.

Pipistrel’s logo is a bat.  Pipistrel/pipistrelle is indeed a kind of bat.  Come to think of it, I saw a Western Pipistrelle last fall in Longhorn Cavern State park – a tiny bat that looked like nothing so much as a Chicken McNugget.  Pipistrel bats in Eastern Europe may be a little bigger and more dashing as bats go.  Anyway, as gliders go, the Pipistrel Taurus goes with style.

Thing of Beauty

One of  the pilots in SCOH is married to the talented Judy Williams Beskow who just won the Hoffman Challenge for her latest quilt.   It’s gorgeous and clever.  The challenge fabric has a  swirly blue and green, impressionistic pattern that looks like flowers – but could be bubbly water. To depict carp at different depths in the pool, she layered mesh over them;  she  quilted each of the Red-Crested Crane’s feathers separately.  And she did the piece  in two  months, in a blaze of inspiration while navigating  through a couple of crises in the family.  Inspiration works like that sometimes – it becomes the flow you go to when life is hard.

Crew Duty Day

It was a fine day yesterday at the Soaring Club of Houston – even for the crew who launched and retrieved gliders much of the day in broiling heat.  There were enough of us that nobody got worked to death.  And there were these interesting circumstances:

A very large, very well positioned spider has a magnificent web on the porch of the clubhouse.  She’s been there for several weeks.  She set up shop right in front of the knockout roses where nobody would accidentally walk into her and everybody could admire her.  Her admirers flick crickets into the web, whereupon she pounces on the offering with lightning reflexes.

A pilot came calling from the Greater Houston Soaring Association in a motorglider.  The pilot/owner (pink shirt) attracted a great deal of attention upon landing, while parked on the Field, and when making a takeoff  (a) without need of the tow plane, (b) with an impressive rate of climb.

Lastly there was a landout when a SCOH pilot flying cross-country (in a conventional, motorless sailplane) found himself in weakening conditions and landed at the residential airfield called Sport Flyers.  A couple of us got to go get him by hitching his glider trailer to his SUV and driving to Sport Flyers.  A very nice airport it is.

The landout pilot is the fellow in the bucket hat.

Retrieves are fun when someone  has landed without a scratch on pilot or glider.  And a sailplane and a trailer as well engineered as these make for fast, satisfying work.

More Interstate Travel Notes

Seen on I-85 South in north Georgia:  hot pink ragtop Mustang.  It sounds like a contradiction in terms – hot pink/muscle car?  But hot pink turns out to be a great-looking color for a Mustang.  It was being driven (fast) by a chick with a ponytail.

Noted on every Interstate everywhere I went:   the unintended consequences of cruise control.  Used to be there were flocks of cars going 60, 70, whatever.  But now cruise control comes with incremental accelerate and decelerate as well as cancel and resume.  You get an unpredictable mix of cars that imperceptably speed up or slow down with the drivers behind belatedly reacting.  If you come up on somebody going slow the simplest way to bleed off speed is cancel cruise control and resume or reset it at a slower (or faster) speed when able.  So on a busy freeway, cruise control goes like this:   CRUISE ON, SPEED SET, CRUISE, NOTE SLOWDOWN AHEAD, DECELERATE, NOTE TRAFFIC SPEEDING BACK UP, ACCELERATE, CHANGE LANES AROUND SLOW VEHICLE, ACCELERATE TO MATCH SPEED OF VEHICLE AHEAD, NOTE SLOW-MOVING TRAFFIC IN *BOTH* LANES AHEAD, CANCEL! CANCEL!  BRAKE!  SET LOWER SPEED THAN PREVIOUS.  CRUISE, NOTE TRAFFIC SPEEDING BACK UP.  ACCELERATE….

This was a driving trip and I ran short of prep time so I flung everything I could possibly need into the depths of the car’s trunk.  I spent most of the trip feeling over-equipped, since I didn’t need all the stuff I brought. Among other items, I had a short extension cord that just went along for 3000 miles of the ride – until last night.  This otherwise adequate Best Western lacks a wall outlet near the bed.  The outlet is eight feet from the bedside table, too far for the clock-radio cord.  The room’s clock-radio was parked on a dresser clear across the room.  Well, I like to listen to a clock-radio at night, and I like to have it on the bedside table.  So  – extension cord deployed, clock radio in desired position, pleasant night’s rest had.

Before this trip I invested in a Netbook computer.  Good thing.  It’s been helpful.  Like this morning:  thanks to the Netbook and Wi-Fi, I’m holed up in the Best Western room, blogging in cool comfort, instead of being on I-10 east of Baton Rouge where traffic is moving at 0-10 MPH.  Seems there were one or more accidents or stalls on the freeway.  Local traffic map on the Web indicates situation improving.  So I’m soon off.

Sights and sounds

Washington DC – wonderful place.  Monuments and memorials.    Peal (change-ringing) bells at the National Cathedral AND the Old Post Office,  where the Congress Bells are pealed in the Clock Tower.  There’s a  Clock Tower observation deck;  this is one of the views.

And this indicates that Washington (Georgetown) has some of the same urban pestilences that Houston does….

Location, Location, Location

I’m staying with a friend in Crystal City, on the other side of the Potomac River from Washington DC.   When a new job brought her to the DC area she chose her residence VERY well.  Not only does she live across the street from where she works, but her seventh-floor apartment balcony has this view.  From left to right, note Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, airliner departing National Airport, and US Capitol Building on the on the far right.


The Walruses of Complacency

In a recent article in the Green Living Tips newsletter, Michael Bloch  reflects on the notorious flaws in BP’s emergency response plan for the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.  Apparently the plan was more of a cut-paste-and-print job than robust contingency planning.   Nobody reviewed it well enough to catch the part about oil spill impact on walruses. “While these walruses would certainly be a wonderful tourist attraction, you probably haven’t heard of their presence in the region as it appears they haven’t been in the Gulf of Mexico for 3 million years,” Bloch writes.  Evidently material was cribbed from a similar document for a different part of the world.  The plan also included the emergency contact number of a marine biologist who died five years ago.

BP has a lot to answer for, but there’s plenty of fault to go around.  The document in question had much in common (including the walruses and the deceased scientist) with several other oil companies’ Gulf of Mexico emergency response plans.  Neither these companies nor the government’s oversight agency, the MMS, took the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill seriously.   The insatiable American appetite for resources and wealth is implicated too.  Bloch  concludes, “BP’s mess in some ways is an oil spattered reflection of us all.”


OK, my previous post panning the french fry billboard sounds irritable.  It WAS irritated, but not because I’m against food.  Food can  be every bit as as wonderful as it is necessary.  Good food is nutritious, preferably local and organic whenever possible.  And everybody deserves to enjoy something special and dietarily splurgy on occasion.  Case in point:  the excellent Raven Grill (specializing in fresh regional food) has lately offered single-orchard desserts on the daily menu.  That’s like single-vineyard wines and single-source chocolates;  here it’s peaches from a single Texas Hill country orchard.  Just imagine a superbly prepared single-orchard peach crisp.  Yum! I know the terrifically skilled pastry chef  – his wife is a colleague of mine.  She describes the two of them driving back from Fredericksburg, Texas with 100+ lbs of peaches in the car as a remarkably fragrant experience.

Have a safe, special and delectable Fourth of July!

The Lord of the Hallows

I love Interlibrary Loan.  It’s such a fine way to read books that my own Library doesn’t have, including obscure, scarce, or expensive titles and ones that for other reasons I’m just not in a position to buy.  Today I’m returning an Inter-Library Loan that I enjoyed very much – The Lord of the Hallows by Denise Roper (Denver:  Outskirts Press 2009.) It’s a compact  and insightful summation of the Christian symbolism in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  That the series is loaded with  Christian symbolism was blazingly obvious by the climax of the seventh book .  Roper places the Harry Potter books  in the tradition of  Christian fantastic novels that includes Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia.   Recommended!