Writing down the bones

Has the Writers Guild of America strike really been going on this long – as in since November 5, 2007? Well, yes it has. And it looks like the studios are going to keep it going for a lot longer. If you’re interested in the issues, Wikipedia has an article here on it all. I commented earlier here on the matter.

If you’re interested in reading a series of blog essays on why writers write, you might like to head on over to Why We Write. Knowns and unknowns (as Dick Cheney likes to say) can be found there, courtesy of Charlie Craig and Thania St. John and their blog, explaining — or trying to explain — why, how, when, where and how often they write. It’s humorous, insightful, inspiring and full of b.s. too. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the various essays as much as I have done. In the words of the blog authors the site is

a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers … the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers.

Most of all, I hope you will continue to support the WGA and their members in their quest for adequate compensation for their efforts.

It’s Vonage time

VonageUpdate June 25, 2009: I picked up a new Vonage V-Portal to replace my old D-Link VTA adapter. Upon installation of the V-Portal, I discovered that the modem’s internal time zone was set to Alaska time. I called Vonage customer support and had them reprogram the V-Portal to the Mountain time zone and I was good to go.

The Vonage customer support numbers can be found on Vonage’s home page, at the bottom. Click on the “Contact Us” link.

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I was having the usual trouble with my caller I.D. time being reset every time I received a call. I searched the internet for the obvious cures, but none worked. Why do people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about profess to have solutions to problems?

Here’s why some Vonage customers have that time resetting problem with Caller I.D.: each Vonage telephone modem comes pre-set with a default time zone.

Here’s the solution: call Vonage customer support and ask them to reset their modem to your time zone, and voila! Problem solved.

Don’t bother trying the internet solutions that you find should you search online for answers to the problem. None of them work.

D.B. Cooper, where are you now?

Updated August 1, 2011: It sounds like there could be a new lead on old D.B. Check the U.K.’s Daily Mail online for the story.

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On a cold November night 36 years ago [in 1971], in the driving wind and rain, somewhere between southern Washington state and just north of Portland, Oregon, a man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted out of a plane he’d just hijacked clutching a bag filled with $200,000 in stolen cash. — from the FBI file on the case

I remember the disappointment I felt in 1980 (was it 1980? I don’t remember the exact year) when I read the story of how some of the money from the ransom – identified by the serial numbers – was discovered. Given the penchant for law enforcement to exaggerate somewhat, I remember wondering if they were trying to excite new interest in the case. I mean, really – and I’m pretty ignorant about available technology back then – how could so many serial numbers be recorded in such a short time?

…his clothing and footwear were unsuitable for a rough landing…

As well – although my memory may be faulty – didn’t witnesses on the flight describe a man who was dressed in an overcoat and bulky clothing? I’m not certain, but I seem to recall this mentioned by the press at some point in time. That led me to believe that old D.B. quite possibly was well prepared for a cold night jump.

Whatever the case, alive or dead, D.B.’s exploit lives on in the imagination of many, including my own. I like to picture him sitting on an isolated beach down Mexico way, living free, cheap, easy and content in some small, isolated place with a tiny cantina nearby, protected by the amigos he has made since his arrival. He has learned enough Spanish to get by. He knows everyone. His suspected shady past is ignored by the locals because he has become accepted among them. As for all that money, well, not a lot is needed in many places down there, and I don’t think he cares about it any more.

Long live D.B. Cooper, wherever he is.

Link to FBI story here. There’s a link to more case details from November, 2006 at the bottom of that page.

Experience makes a great teacher

When first learning to fly, I had a number of flight instructors. Most were inexperienced in the rigors of bush flying, having been kept on by the flight school to build their flight times up to some magic number or other imposed by the industry and the companies they wanted to work for. They were good for instilling the basics, though.

Basics are everything.

Beyond basics comes a knowledge required to survive in the harsh environment of the bush pilot. Fortunately, at just the right time in my training regimen, the flight school hired Ben. He was an old-time helicopter aviator who had been a part of the beginning of the piston helicopter era in Canada. He was British, although by then he had spent many years in Canada, and whenever we crossed the line to go beer drinking, he had me coach him in correct pronunciation for the appropriate phrases in answer to the questions at the border. I never failed him.

Nor did he ever fail me. In six thousand hours of helicopter flight time, his principles, guidance and flight instruction held up. He taught me much that I needed to know to survive in the harsh environment of the bush pilot. Over the years I acquired first-hand experience in bush, mountain, arctic and desert flight environments, but Ben’s initial training was the foundation for most of what I learned on-site.

When you start out flying, you have no experience and a whole lot of luck, and you hope to end up with a whole lot of experience before you run out of that luck.

Thanks to Ben Arnold, I made my own luck.

And yes, I was lucky too.