Friday, May 27, 2011

Eating Only What You Kill

This week, a blog post in Fortune described how Mark Zuckerberg came to the decision that he’ll only eat meat from animals he himself kills. I strongly support the ethos behind this. Too often, we are disconnected from the source of our food. Every major religion encourages prayer before and / or after eating so that we may take pause to appreciate the effort that went into getting good food on our overabundant table.
Michael Pollan’s excellent Omnivore’s Dilemma goes into this in depth. The author decides to prepare a meal completely from the fruits of his own toil and sweat. He grows the vegetables and herbs. He mushroom hunts in hidden spots of local forests. He even scrapes salt from rocks near the sea. The most arduous and time consuming task is hunting and killing a wild boar. A meal for twelve takes two months to prepare. I bet it tasted good!
A decade ago when my son was three, we served him a small piece of steak at dinner.
“Dad, what are we eating?”
“What is steak?”
“Steak is meat.”
“What is meat?”
There was a purpose to his questioning, unlike the typical three year old behavior of asking until exasperation.
“Meat is the muscle of an animal. We are eating part of an animal.”
“What animal are we eating?”
“We are eating a cow. Steak is the muscle of a cow.”
Now, he had seen cows before at the farm. He had petted cows. He’d seen dairy cows being milked. He could not connect a big living cow to this cooked slab on his plate. The wheels were spinning and he was trying hard to connect the dots. It took him three days.
“Dad, I want to kill a cow.”
He wanted to make the ends meet, to see the whole process from living animal to cooked steak. It was an ephemeral moment more for me than him. I realized that I had spent my whole life eating animals without taking personal responsibility for the animal’s life. If I was going to eat meat again, I had to be ready to personally kill the animal or I would be morally vacuous.
Later that year, I took a hunting class, bought a gun, and then the nice Jewish boy from the suburbs hunted his first prey, beautiful eider sea ducks in a small camo boat near Duxbury. While I still don’t kill every animal I eat, I now have a deeper respect for the profound meaning of eating another animal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Catching up on blog posts

Has it already been two months since my last post? Egad. Life has been quite busy, so I'd better catch up. In the last two months:

  • Neil and I successfully took the Mustang round trip to the UK over the World War II North Atlantic ("Blue Spruce") routes
  • Had a routine VFR flight to Bar Harbor which turned out not to be so routine
  • Test flew the Phenom 300
So lots of interesting information to share. Posts and pix are coming shortly. Also, some buddies and I will be attending AirVenture / Oshkosh. Drop me a line if you'd like to meet there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review of "The Cockpit: A Flight of Escape and Discovery"

As a follow on to my review of "My Heart is Africa", another perspective on "lone pilot takes single engine piston plane across Atlantic to Africa and discovers himself", can be found in "The Cockpit: A Flight of Escape and Discovery" by Dr. Paul M. Gahlinger.

The Cockpit has plenty of danger and adventure to keep the reader enthralled, but without the recklessness of Griffin's book. Gahlinger is a more sympathetic person. He never seems to have his personal life together, yet he's clearly intelligent, sensitive and has the support of a loving family. He seeks a greater purpose in life through various adventures and jobs, of which this specific flight is but one volume of a multi-volume odyssey. And indeed since this flight, Dr. Gahlinger continues to write relevant books, most recently "A Guide to Medical Tourism", surely to be an important topic as health care costs continue to exceed inflation in the US.

The author must have been inspired by Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, as he also weaves a parallel narrative between his personal life and the legs of the flight. It's particularly effectively here, without trickery, as various phases of flight trigger different memories explaining how he reached this unusual circumstance. The idea of going forward in flight from the US, his birthplace in Canada, his parents' origins in Switzerland and eventually to the dawn of mankind in Africa, is a stretch and less interesting than learning about the frailty of a single man, who wants to do the right thing but can't always find the right path.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Choosing a VLJ Mentor Pilot

I've finally completed an article about Choosing a VLJ Mentoring Pilot. Insurance companies, training companies and web sites discuss the need for a mentor but rarely explain the qualities that differentiate a good mentor from a great one.

Last week, Philip and I went to Phoenix with the family for a business trip. There's no blog entry, as I really didn't learn much from my third cross continent trip in the last few months.

I'm not worried about my learning curve flattening. This weekend, Neil and I leave for London, England in the Mustang. It will be my first piloted Trans-Atlantic trip. Almost all of our preparation is complete. Wish me luck and expect several posts about the experience.

Friday, March 26, 2010

VLJ Accident History

New wiki article: VLJ Accident History. Summary:

  • Eclipse incidents have been primarily due to manufacturing and design issues.
  • Mustang and Phenom incidents have been primarily due to operator error during landing, especially runway overruns.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review of "My Heart is Africa"

Just completed "My Heart is Africa - A Flying Adventure" by Scott Griffin. Griffin is a CEO who takes off two years to contribute to the Flying Doctors Service in Nairobi, Kenya. He flies his Cessna 180 from Toronto, around Africa and eventually back home.

The book is an enjoyable read, both as a flying journal and as insight into the unvarnished world of living and loving in Africa. The adventures, flying challenges and tangible contribution to the less fortunate are inspiring.

The risk taking he incurs while flying seems beyond reason to me. While he's lucky to be alive, his need for adventure and personal challenge seem excessive, almost pathological. Some of situations, like purposefully flying into a thunderstorm or landing 1000 lbs over gross, are engrossing like a bad horror movie, waiting for the blood to spurt. The descriptions of the landscape, the diversity of people and societal injustices are the strengths that hold the book together. Recommended, provided you don't mind watching multiple suicide attempts.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Impressions of the Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) Course for the PW615F

Today, I completed the completed the Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) online PW615F General Familiarization Course, which is the engine exclusively used on the Mustang. There are equivalent courses for the PW610 (Eclipse) and PW617F (Embraer Phenom 100).

The Mustang Wiki has a review of the course. Bottom line: highly recommended for the Mustang Pilot 4/5.

Online courses have become inconvenient. In addition to this course, I recently took several other commercial online courses. In protecting the intellectual property of the courseware, the utility has decreased. As a software guy, I'm all for the protection of intellectual property. The course material is no longer conveniently available offline or in a portable way. Worse than that is the material times out completely in as little as three months in the case of some of the providers. At least in an instructor led course, the materials are yours to keep forever.

The moral equivalent is paying full boat for a perpetual software license but then the software shuts off after three months. Either charge less for monthly access, or let me have perpetual access.