Thought for the Day: Comfort vs Sensation

“What  stops so many would-be sailors nowadays owning such craft [i.e. a  Viking-style ship], is that their perceptions have been warped by modern  urban living and the expectations of urban living. Modern urban man  travels in his sealed luxury ‘car pod’ to his/her centrally heated  office, then back to a centrally heated, carpeted floor house. For  exercise he/she joins an expensive gym, where he/she runs on a treadmill  like a hamster or a 19th century convict. All the time protected from  the wind, the rain and the sun. The Vikings protected their bodies  comfortably from cold and wet with wool and oiled leather. We have  yachting clothing today which is as good. So we have the small boat  design, we have the protective clothing. All we need now to have a new  renaissance in modern sailing man, is to drop the comfort perceptions of  urban city man.”

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I came across this while reading about boat building. In the last 25 years I have built a number of wooden boats from a 7’6″ kayak for my nephews when they were little, to a 29′ Bolger sharpie. If I couldn’t build airplanes, I would build boats.

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There is a lot of common ground between the two. Historically you find a lot of aviators also spent time on the water. The quote above holds true with planes. Flying in light planes is a cornucopia of sensory input that you don’t get in modern cars; sounds, bumps, smells wind, tactile feel on the controls. For those who like the sensations of reality, it is rich pay dirt. For those that seek comfort to the point of anesthesia,  light planes are an exercise in discomfort and frustration.

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I have noticed how wide this gulf in experience is for many new young people getting a first flight in a light plane. Many people who are under 40 have never ridden in far less driven or owned a car that you could hear the engine in while driving down the road. My youth was spent joyously putting headers on V-8 cars and savoring the sound. I welcome the sound of aircraft engines as the herald of power. The acrid smell of burning rubber automatically makes my heart pound. I am not taken back by the typical aircraft flight experience, I like the idea that it is a sensory load, all reminding me that I am working with a machine.

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Conversely, the people who grew up driving in a “sealed luxury ‘car pod’ , often find the initial exposure to the sound, vibration, smells and visible mechanical  systems daunting and foreign, and it greatly heightens their sense of fear. The cars these people know are appliances, not machines.

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This observation has a more important function that sorting people who loved Mötley Crüe’s song Kickstart My Heart from people who love their Toyota Prius. I am of the opinion that new pilots are better off being constantly reminded they are in a responsive, and occasionally unforgiving machine, very different than the appliance they drove to the airport. Yesterday Dan Weseman remarked if all new pilots were at least required to solo a 7AC Champ, they would know what a rudder was and understand that all of the most rewarding planes to fly require the pilot to be an active participant. This is a particularly important revelation for people who grew up thinking that the word ‘crash’ was invented to describe a computer malfunction. Heightened awareness is critical element in being in control of your environment, and that is what flying is all about.

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Sound check: Other General motors products brought to you by the same people who engineered your Corvair motor:

572 cid blown Big Block Chevy burnout in a ’57 Bel Air:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBBFzEaLJNY

Rare 12 cylinder blown and turbocharged Detroit 12V-53, (Detroit was a GM division, yes it is 2 stroke diesel):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWrg3cFod7Q

Two Allison V-1710’s on a P-38, (Allison was a GM division)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY6d-_ILCvo

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Above in our driveway, 2011: I stand beside my mentor in flying, Chuck Nelson. In the foreground is the 15 foot lapstrake double-ended sailboat we built. Over coffee a couple of years ago, Chuck casually said that he had actually done just about everything he ever wanted to do in life. And in Chuck’s case this is a long list of adventures, the centerpiece of which is an incredible array of experiences in flying. I was concerned that there were no more items on his “bucket list” to check. After I pressed him for a while, he confessed that he had always wanted to build a sailboat. He had owned plenty of them, lived on one for years, and cruised for months at a time, but he had never built one. The boat above is the result of several years of working one morning a week or so. I qualify the term “working” because this time included a whole lot of coffee drinking at the kitchen table, a lot of plinking in our backyard range, flying around in the Taylorcraft in good weather, messing around with sailplanes, and general screwing around. Quality time well spent, with something nice to show for it in the end.

 

An hour of TV or something of value?

Builders:

Here is something off topic: Today is the 150th anniversary of a dark day in US history. Tonight you could watch a hour of worthless TV news or you could invest an hour in learning about the Sand Creek Massacre.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Creek_massacre

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Sand Creek is in eastern Colorado. On this date in 1864, a large encampment of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho were attacked there in a premeditated raid executed by 700 cavalrymen. Accounts differ on the total number killed, but all sides agreed on two points: most of the victims were women and children, and a number of the cavalrymen mutilated the bodies of the victims, including scalping women and children, and these were later put on public display. It is not a pleasant story, but one that adult Americans should know at least was well as the plot of their favorite TV sit-com.

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Although many people were appalled, and there was a federal investigation, no charges were filed against the man who planned and led the attack, Col. John Chivington, who was ironically also a Methodist pastor. The man who testified against him was assassinated weeks later. The attack eliminated the peaceful leadership of the tribes and empowered those willing to fight to the death. Chivington’s actions greatly prolonged a bloody conflict.

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Sand Creek is thought of as the start of the last phase of warfare against native Americans. It ends with the massacre at Wounded Knee, on December 29th 1890, twenty six years later. That may sound like ancient history, but consider this: I was born 72 years to the day after Wounded Knee. That is within someone’s living memory; My Father joined the US Navy as a 17 year old, 73 years ago, and today he can tell you anything you would like to know about 1943. Most Americans have short attention spans.  I fear that Native Americans do not.

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When I was small, I read Hal Borland’s When the legends die. A few years later I read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Both are well worth reading and considering. In recent years I read Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel, it provides a scientific/historic look at what happens when cultures clashed in world history. -ww.

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