23 February 2014


Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
-Leonardo da Vinci 

Oh dear. Someone please intercede before I become one of those people. You know, the ones who start their blogs with quotes and then have pictures of dolphins, wildflowers, and cute, dressed up babies on them.  I already do the dolphins and costumed babies thing, but once I start posting pics of wildflowers all will be lost. Knowing me, the quote above may not even be at all relevant to anything. But it is! See the great influence my engagement has had on me in the short time-span of three weeks?
This is me and the backside of Tal's head.
For Christmas Caity got me an introductory flight lesson at the Gaithersburg, MD airport and we cashed it in yesterday. The Gaithersburg Airport is by far one of the busiest airports in Gaithersburg (Pop: 60,000) and the central hub for such airlines as "Gaithersburg Airport Flight School" and "Gaithersburg Airport Flight Academy." Being a Saturday, it was packed. Commuters, pilots, students pilots, and athletes returning from Sochi were all up in that terminal. The baggage check easily had 2 people waiting impatiently. No one had the heart to tell them they'd be waiting indefinitely  there is no baggage service in Gaithersburg. In addition to those two crowding the place up, the security lines were ridiculous. At one point my instructor took me straight out to the airfield and took two tries- yep, TWO tries- to remember the padlock combo to get us on the runway. But finally we made it out to the runway with our instructor, Tal. Tal is not tall, but he is Israli so he's got that going for him. After the combo-lock mishap I was a little reticent about flying a plane with him as my copilot, but seeing as he'd logged over 10,000x more flight hours than me, I decided I ought to give him a chance, and I followed him out on the runway. We almost got run over by a plane. Then we almost got hit by a car that was driving on the runway. Then we nearly got clipped by a motorcyclist using the runway as  a drag strip. Then a bicyclist ran over my foot, all in the 30 feet from the gate to the Piper. Apparently the Gaithersburg Airport has been short on cash recently so they started renting out their runways. The only problem is they are still being used as runways, and there's no control tower so it pretty much felt like I was back in Thailand trying to navigate the streets of Bangkok on my beach cruiser: utter chaos. I realize that is not the scene being portrayed in the photo above, but that just so happened to be an uncharacteristically calm moment.
This was the Piper Archer I flew.
Once at the Piper Archer (180 hp) I was amazed at how small it was. It's a one door vehicle so you have to enter single file, and climb over the wing to do so. Caity sat in the back and Tal and I were in the front. It would be too generous to say we were in the cockpit because the cockpit, cabin, first class, and business class were all the same. I would have been really mad if I'd bought a first class ticket and then seen my seat. In addition to we three, there was a fourth, rather bulky man in the back next to Caity. He went un-acknowledged the entire time, but when we entered the plan Tal gave me a look as if to say, "We should be safe this trip; we've been randomly selected to have an undercover air marshal on board." I immediately felt better about our safety, knowing that we three would be safe with this armed man. It was awkward not being able to talk about it, but I guess that's the point of being in disguise.
Getting ready for takeoff. 
The takeoff went very smoothly: we only hit one motorcyclist (there were at least six in our path so I was immediately impressed with Tal's ability to only strike one). Once in the air it was breathtaking. Tal did some flying and then I took complete control of the airplane and did some flying. I worked the yolk, pushed the pedals, spoke in the headset, turned the plane, emptied the trash in the plane, served a tray dinner to Caity and the air marshal, and pretty much did everything else you do in a plane. IT WAS SO AMAZING! I loved it! I loved being up in the air at 2,500 ft. turning the plane, climbing, and descending. Tal let us feel a negative G and dropped us like a hot potato. It was incredible being weightless up in the sky. You can get a similar feeling on a roller-coaster  but even then you're still attached to the ground. Here we were just floating! It's amazing that when you're up in the air all the perspectives change. I really couldn't tell how fast we were going, or if we were climbing or falling. I couldn't tell the difference between 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet. Turns out all those instruments in the cockpit are real. Until Saturday I always thought they were just for show! Yes, I think flying could be a great hobby. I just need a little more time and a little more cash. I'm going to start by following Tal's example- I've already applied for Israeli citizenship. It worked for him and put him on a trajectory to be a pilot, so I'm going to start there too.
I am so grateful for Caity for this ingenious, creative, perfect Christmas gift. It was so clever of her to think of it and I LOVED it. I would highly recommend flying to anyone doesn't get motion sickness and who has lots of cash lying around.

Here I am actually flying the plane; Tal was preparing the mid-flight meal so he gave me complete control.
Caity, looking beautiful as ever, holding down the back seat.

A large lake we flew over. I tried to land on it but the air marshal interceded just in time to prevent me. I thought our plane had skis on it, but apparently it didn't.

04 February 2014


This last weekend something happened that only occurs once in a lifetime. You know those types of things, like being born or having your house burned down by a pack of angry chimpanzees. (That actually happened to me twice, but I've come to understand that for most people it only happens once in a lifetime, statistically). Perhaps my faithful readers have noticed that I haven't updated in a long time, and will make a connection between my absence and the special occurrence of this weekend. If you were able to see the connection- I commend you. And yes, I'm here to set the record straight: I have been in absentia from Holla Atchya! for a few months because I was preparing for... my MathCounts competition on Saturday!
I have switched my coaching allegiances from baseball to Mathematics, and I had to take my team of 8 mathletes to the regional competition. There's a lot to prepare for, frankly; not just anyone can successfully lead their math team to 71st place (out of 80). It takes a real leader to watch his/her apprentices do math problems for 7 straight hours without interfering. There are pencils to sharpen, black eraser junk to wipe off, calculator batteries to be checked, sweat bands to be replaced, and scratch paper to be distributed. All of this was under my supervision, and it took months to make sure everything went without a hitch. So thank you for your patience and I'm sorry I was missing in action there for a hot minute.
Of course I'm kidding. Sort of. I did go to a math competition on Saturday, but that wasn't the once in a lifetime opportunity that was awarded to me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm only 27 and I've already been to three MathCounts competitions. At this rate it's more like a 25 times in a lifetime opportunity. Still special if you ask me, though.
No, the big news from Saturday was that I was engaged! I mean, I've watched reality television before, but Saturday was the first time in recent memory that it actually engaged me. Who knew that the Home and Garden Network could be so thrilling? I was hooked!
Of course the real news is that through the Home and Garden Network engagement, I myself entered into an engagement, but this time with a beautiful woman and a diamond ring. That may be confusing to some of you; allow me to clarify. I used the diamond ring to get engaged to the woman- I didn't get engaged to a ring using a woman. I only engaged with the ring for about twenty-four hours before it started burning in my pocket and I had to give it to the woman whose been burning in my heart for 8 months and counting. Now I'll be engaged to this incredible woman- Caity Jones- for a few months and then we'll stop being engaged and start being merry. People say an engagement is a difficult time, and based on my 24 hours with the ring in my pocket I would have to agree; it burned through six of my pants' pockets. Luckily, Caity and I have decided not to wait until we marry and have our own Mary to be merry. Okay, weird choice of words; perhaps too much alliteration. Let's try again: "We're not going to wait, we're going to be gay now!" Dangit, that's not much better. One more time: "We're not going to wait; we're going to be absolutely, hands down, deeply in love and eternally happy RIGHT NOW." We already are! Of course marriage will be better, but we are SO HAPPY with where we stand today.
Everyone wants to hear the engagement story, so here goes: I invited Caity to go downtown to the National Mall to walk around the monuments with me on Saturday night (after my MathCounts competition). I was pretty nervous. We admired the Lincoln Memorial for about 5 minutes, then I suggested we go to the other side and look over the river. It was a beautiful night and I couldn't wait any longer, so I got down on one knee, told her I loved her and that she made me very, very happy, then asked her to marry me. She said "Yes!" Then she said it many more times. Then she hugged me. There was no one around except Cupid. One little thing I was impressed with was that she was more excited about me and the question than the ring. I mean, she loves the ring, don't me wrong, but she is so dedicated to me and our love that it means WAY more to her than a ring. She puts love ahead of materialism any day. We fell in love in DC, and we got engaged under the approving eyes of Honest Abe.
Yep, it feels great to be engaged to the one I love. It's a little surreal, and a lot bit AWESOME.
I'M GETTING MARRIED! (in June 2014).