It been a long winter, but I got back out the St. Andrews the last couple of days to start working on IFR training.

For the non-pilots reading, IFR stands for instrument flight rules. As opposed to VFR, which is visual flight rules, IFR means you’re flying without visual reference to the ground, and using your instruments to tell you where you are and where you’re headed, and for that matter, if you’re in cloud, whether you’re wings-level.

At the commercial level, you have to be able to do an intercept to a beacon. Most people do a VOR because it’s easier. Even so, I nearly slipped up being given an inbound intercept and when asked what heading I was going to turn to once I reached the radial, blurted out the radial heading instead of the inbound heading, but caught myself and changed my answer.

The last couple of days has turned my brain to mush. Yesterday we did holds in the simulator, starting with a VOR. Since I made it through that and wasn’t yet curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the sim cockpit, the second session was over an NDB, first with an inbound leg of 090, then switching to non-standard left hand turns, then switching to holding with an inbound leg of 270. All following procedure turns, and expecting me to make the appropriate radio calls entering and established, and since I was doing so well I guess, he gave me a 15kt crosswind.

I think it’s like learning a new language. You can learn the grammar and the vocabulary, and look up unfamiliar words and kind of manage. But to really function in society, you have to gain a certain minimum fluency, and there’s no way to do that but practice. IFR, it’s one thing to be able to answer questions on a paper, but to be able to figure out whether you’re going to do an offset entry or a parallel entry before you cross the beacon and have to start your turn, and then you have 60 seconds of a standard rate turn to figure out what the ADF with display once you’re abeam the beacon, and then throw in wind correction to muck up your angles, that just takes practice.

In any case, I have a hard time being certain what a realistic timeline is for finishing these things. When I got my commercial licence I had three weeks last may to finish up and prepare, and we were definitely cramming, but I did it. I now have vacation planned for August this year, leaving myself lots of time to get the written test done and then finish up in my three weeks of vacation. He shook his head and said, nah. And told me I was going to be finished well before then. I guess I’m doing okay!


The New Car

I wrote about the Grannymobile. That’s done.

I spent the summer, fall, and winter borrowing my bestie’s roommate’s car, which is a 95 Toyota Tercel – nothing fancy, but it got me to my float lessons through the summer. I got my rating, that’s what matters. It worked decently well, since my bestie and I (she gets mad when I call her that, hee!) because the two of us communicate pretty well and we were able to organize sharing a vehicle better than I think most people could, but it’s not a substitute for having my own car.

My dad is a beekeeper, so his busy season is in the summer. He’s the one I go to when it comes to big purchases like this. I was setting a budget for $3000 to $5000, planning to bite a bit more than I might be able to afford to maybe, hopefully get something that I wasn’t going to constantly need to pay for repairs.

My Dad was finally free, or at least less busy, after the fuss of Grandma going into the hospital died down. He was able to help me look for a car. Part of it is I know ten times as much about aeroplanes as I do about cars, and part of it is my Dad is in some ways a walking stereotype and shopping for cars is practically his hobby. And part of it is the fact that I know car salesmen will try to get away with things with a woman that they won’t try with a man. I hate it, but it’s true.

I was at a dealership at one point looking at new cars. I could get financing and pay around $300 a month for the rest of my adult life for it. The bank totally would approve it. I did not get a new car.

My Dad said, get a Toyota Corolla. Apparently they’re the best – after the old blue car died, my aunt got a Toyota Corolla, and when her new hubby hit a caribou, they liked it so much they got another one.

I was like – dude, this is my first car that I’m actually going to be able to pick what kind of car I *want*, and pick something that’s, you know, “me”. Something that suits my personality and is exactly what I need in a car. I don’t need to let my Dad tell me what kind of car I should buy.

So I start shopping on Kijiji for a Toyota Corolla.* I was looking at 1999s and 2000s. There’s lots on there, and they were way newer than my old car. Like – they had cd players instead of tape decks. Fancy shit like that. And air conditioning. JFC, how is air conditioning and cruise control not standard in a vehicle these days? Whisky tango foxtrot.

But then I got news from Dad. Grandma had given me basically everything she’d planned to give me for my inheritance already for flying, and I was grateful and didn’t expect anything more. It was more than most people I know have got from relatives. But for whatever reason, whether it was because she knew I was in need, or because she was proud of me getting my commercial license, she and Dad decided to chip in some money so that I could get something newer that will hopefully last me a fair bit longer.

Suddenly I was able to look at 2008s and 2010s. I was a bit overwhelmed – these cars were way nicer than anything I had imagined could be a real part of my life right now.

My Dad and I got going on car shopping for real. There was a Toyota Camry Hybrid for a good price that we went to see. A lot of people said “What if the battery fails!” because battery replacement is killer expensive on those, but my Dad said he knew I guy who worked in a repair shop and and for all the worry about how expensive it is when a battery fails, in all the years hybrids and electric cars have existed now, the shop had yet to ever replace one. So with the reassurance that my Dad didn’t think buying a hybrid was a bad idea, we went to see it, and took it for a test drive.

I wouldn’t have picked up on it, buy my Dad could tell it had been in an accident. Hard to tell how bad, but when he pointed out the parts that had been repaired, and how they’d done kind of a half-assed paint job on them, suddenly it was obvious. The way the hood fit against the side panel – it didn’t line up as smoothly as a new car – the gap between panels wasn’t even. The seller owned up to it. He was one of those guys who buys a car to repair and then sells it. We didn’t buy it.

The other one we looked at was really nice. Toyota Corolla, it was slate grey, and had an aux input so I could plug in my phone and play my mp3s. 2010, for $9750. Previous owner had passed away, but they’d only had it for two years, so it wasn’t a single owner vehicle.

And it was a smoker’s car. I don’t know what would have been involved to get the cigarette smell out of the car. We offered $9350, to keep the taxes from putting the cost over 10k, and the guy storing the vehicle said he’d get back to us if the owner agreed.

But we kept shopping. My dad spotted one that was an estate sale. Old person car. One box checked.

LE. LE means “luxury edition”. This was a car purchased by someone who had money to spend on a nice vehicle. Fancy things like tire pressure monitoring, and fog lights, and snazzy dash guages that light up with a sharper contrast than the standard model. Power remote door locks and power mirrors. Traction control. Another box checked.

It came with snow tires. Another check.

It had, when purchased, had a rust protecting coating applied to the underside. This car was a car the owner had spent extra to make sure it lasted. Check.

They had all the maintenance records. That was a huge check for my Dad, showing the car had been looked after properly.

It didn’t have an aux port for my tunes.

You know what – the most important thing is I get a car that’s going to be reliable and last, and I would be stupid to make an aux port a dealbreaker. It was a 2008, and we got it for $9000. I gave my Dad the okay and we bought it.

The weird thing is I’m so primed to be stressed right now. It’s like I don’t know how to not be stressed. I’ve been without my own car for so long, I’m used to that stress, plus I was ready for the stress of worrying about whether or not I should have spent so much, or if I should have spent more and got something more reliable. And worrying about whether or not I got a good deal, or if I’d gotten taken advantage of. It’s now my most valuable possession, money wise. But the money from Grandma meant I’m not in much worse shape than I was already, and my Dad’s help shopping for a vehicle reassured me that I was making a good purchase.

So for the lack of anything else new to stress about, I’m stressing about feeling guilty for being so lucky to have family looking out for me. Stupid, huh? Literally feeling guilty for having opportunities and such that I know so many people will never have.

So I have a car now. It’s slate grey, and very nice and I like it a lot.The trunk is way bigger than it looks – I could get like, five bodies in there. I have named the car. The car’s name is Diane. I have named the car after my Grandma.

Here is my car:


I brought it in to Portage to show Grandma. It was still cold, and Grandma’s in rough shape, so we didn’t want to drag her outside, so we did something I’m sure we would never get away with in Winnipeg. My dad didn’t tell her I was there when he wheeled her upstairs and through the emergency room and into the ambulance bay. He says she was starting to get after him, “Now, Don, we shouldn’t be in here – Don, they’re going to get mad at us, you can’t go in there!” He’d asked permission to pull the car into the ambulance bay for a few minutes so she could see it, so that’s where I was waiting for her.

She told me he’s talked of nothing else since we got it, so it was nice to be able to show her what her money had bought. And she quoted me a bible passage about how a wise man listens to advise, and a foolish man thinks he knows everything, when we talked about me taking my Dad’s advice on buying the right car. I’m really lucky to have had someone who could help me make that kind of decision.

I just wish my Grandma wasn’t so old and so weak.


*I mean, if money were no object, and I could afford any car I wanted, I would totally buy a Jeep Wrangler, but that’s not really financially feasible right now. Someday though, I will get myself a classic Jeep and when I pick up my bestie to go somewhere, I will hop the curb, drive it up onto her lawn and honk the horn like a high school boyfriend your parents disapprove of. Someday.

**It kind of looks ghetto because the winter tires don’t have wheel covers, but I’ll pick up some of those next winter. It’ll look way nicer with wheel covers.

Aurora Nominations 2016

For those not in the know, the Auroras are kind of like the Hugos, but for Canada. And for those still with the deer-in-the-headlights look, the Hugos are like the Oscars or the Emmys, but for science fiction and fantasy writers.

Every year I get to watch my writerly friends post the obligatory Aurora nomination eligibility posts. “Hey – it’s aurora nomination season, and  if you’re so inclined, not campaigning or anything, but you should be aware I have x, y, and z short stories or novel that’s eligible.

And I smile and go fill out my nomination form, and think someday I’ll have something published that’s eligible. Someday I’ll make one of those posts.

And so I was reading those post and thinking that and realized wait a damn sec! I did get something published last year. And it’s totally eligible.

The Maestrom At The End Of The World was published in 2015, by Silence In The Library Publishing and I was paid pro rates. So yes, if you’re Canadian (ex-pats are also eligible!) and you’re so inclined, I do have a story eligible this year that you can nominate.

As do many of my friends, including Chadwick Ginther, and Marie Bilodeau. Sherry Peters and E.C. Bell, who I shared a Chiseries reading with, both have novels eligible this year. I’d especially like to point out another member of my critique group, Timothy Gwyn,  who has a couple of short stories published, and I’m certain has an illustrious publication future ahead of him.

Here’s a link to the eligibility lists. Many of them (including Timothy Gwyn’s), if the works are available online, have links to the publication.

Membership is a piddly ten dollars (here’s the link to sign up, since the site is not especially well organized), and the deadline is March 19th. The site is a bit confusing, since voting is just for the short list and that doesn’t come out for a few months yet. What’s open right now is nominations, and you can do that here after you’ve joined or renewed your membership.

So if recognizing the best of Canadian science fiction and fantasy matters to you, this is the Grey Cup of fantasy and science fiction and you’re the ones who decide who wins. It’s the American Idol for writers – come on, you guys love this shit. Nominate, and when the time comes, vote!

Ode To The Grannymobile

My poor old grannymobile died. I got it from my Grandma after she lost her license because she’s mostly blind. She was ticked when she lost it too, she figured she could still drive. Legally blind. My Grandma is awesome.

That’s my Grandma on my Dad’s side – Grandma Kitson. Anyway, she’d held onto it to give to me when I needed it, and when we moved to the outskirts of the city and did need it, I borrowed it and just didn’t give it back. After a while, my dad made arrangements to make it legal, and the black cherry red Buick Le Sabre was my first car.

The rad spring a leak and was replaced twice. I really liked the car, and I was attached to it – I learned to drive in that car. It belonged to my Grandpa – they bought it new, and when he died of leukemia, at around eighty-five, then it belonged to my grandma. It was the family car, almost as long as I can remember. Except that I do remember the car before it – it was a blue car that was passed on to my aunt when we got the new one in ninety four.

I and my friends called it the Grannymobile, because not only did I get it from my Grandma, but, well, it was  Buick Le Sabre, which is in a class with the Crown Victoria when it comes to luxury sedans typically driven by elderly people.

It was big. A boat of a car. A boat of a car I learned to drive in, and parallel park in. I’d be driving around with the husband, looking for a parking spot, and I’d be slowing down by one that looked big enough, but maybe there’s another bigger spot further down and Nathan would say “you can’t get the car in there.” And I’d slam on the brakes and squeeze my baby into the spot. Never had to give in and find another spot.

But the engine started shutting off every time I came to a stop, and it was too old to be worth replacing the engine. Couldn’t justify it.

My Grandma has been in the hospital for the last several weeks. She’s ninety five, and been living on her own until now. My family builds ’em to last, but I guess nothing lasts forever. The parallel between my Grandma and her car reads like the literary novels I can’t stand. She might end up just kicking around in a care home for a good long time, and I hope she’s around a while yet.

I live in another city an hour away and don’t see her that often, but she spent as much time raising me when my parents divorced as either of my parents did. She was the one who, when she saw me crying, would sit with me and tell me it made her sad too to see my parents so busy trying to hurt one another they couldn’t see what they were doing to their children.

She taught me love. I never saw her say anything nasty about anyone, do anything mean. She thinks for herself, and she cares about her family. I’m glad that right now, at least, I might be broke but I’m managing, and she doesn’t need to worry about me. Even so, she’s managed to soften the blow of losing the car by passing on money to help me buy a new one – one far newer and better than I could otherwise hope to get. Like I said, my Grandma is awesome.

to be continued….