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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for August 2005

The day marches on, and that promised movie review

Child Two stepped in a previously undiscovered puddle of dog vomit in a dark corner on the stairs. I’m not sure if it’s new or leftover from the morning.

I’ve had two unsolicited comments from people who say how much they like my writing, and that I should consider writing for a living: my wife and my dad. Booker Prize, here I come!

I don’t mind adopting a cliche, for “Valiant” was all cliche and reveled in it, so I’m comfortable in describing this as a film for the whole family. The animation was adequate, not at the level of “Shrek” or “Monsters, Inc.“, but generally good enough to stay out of the way. An early shot of a buoy in the English Channel had me worried, though.

The movie takes place during the war, in May 1944. Kids will like the movie for its simple moral: don’t judge a bird by his wingspan. Dads like me will enjoy it for the accurate, if brief, depictions of a Tiger, Hummel (?), and several Halifax (?) bombers. If the movie doesn’t engage you, you can always play “Guess the Voice” if you go in not knowing the cast. Hugh Laurie and Ewan McGregor were easy to “spot”. Others are harder.

The movie reminded me very much of “Chicken Run“, and not just because it was birds in a military atmosphere. The tone is similar, as well, and while “Chicken Run” is the superior film, “Valiant” remains enjoyable for nearly all audiences.

One of those days

Those days happen far more frequently to me than average, and I don’t think that’s a purely subjective judgment.

Last night, my wife’s aunt gave us free passes to a preview screening of “Valiant“. Child Three had a baseball festival and preferred to go to that, so the movie was left for Child Two and myself.

The movie was to start at 10 a.m., and as we were about to leave, our vet called. My Samoyed had escaped and was waiting for me there. The dog gets out of the yard once every two months or so, always the same way: someone leaves the gate open.

I checked. Sure enough, the gate was open. Normally, no one in the family admits to leaving the gate open – shocking, I know – but this time no one had any cause to open the gate. It was closed yesterday and nobody used the backyard today. I closed the gate and headed off to the vet.

The vet told me that the dog had been parked on someone’s lawn since around 7 a.m., and had been so pitiful that Urgences-sante (the local ambulance service) had checked him out to make sure he was OK. The vet herself passed by then, recognized him – for, as I said, he escapes often – and took him to the office, from where she called me. The neighbourhood must not be so accommodated to my dog’s neurotic mellowness.

I suspect a neighbour may have gone into our backyard, and I’m going to padlock the gate.

Off to the movie we went.

My wife had left the minivan extremely low on gas, but I hate missing the first few minutes of a movie, so I didn’t fill up beforehand. The digital mileage estimator helpfully displayed the 0 km we could expect to travel on our fuel load.

After the movie (watch this space for a forthcoming review), I came to the highway on-ramp. I could veer right and get on Autoroute 20 to go home or I could stay left and hit a gas station. I wisely chose to get gas. Within two blocks, the minivan started shuddering from what I thought was a lack of gas. Fortunately, the gas station was downhill. My engine died as I crossed the sidewalk threshold and I coasted to the pump.

I filled up (about 66 L @ $1.054/L = about $70) and turned the key. The engine did not start. I did it again, and again the engine didn’t catch. I thought the problem might be an empty fuel line, so I pressed the gas pedal. The engine caught, then died. Maybe I flooded it, I thought. More cranking, more starting and dying.

If I gave the engine fuel, it stayed running, although it made a horrible ticking. I was able to pull the minivan into a parking spot. Child Two and I took the Metro home.

While we were gone, the dog threw up a good serving-plate-sized puddle of pea-soup green vomit on the rug in front of the vestibule. I wonder what those kind strangers fed him.

We arrived home the same time as Child Three and my wife. We have to go get the minivan now. She has a CAA account, so the tow will be free. We plan to tow it to the garage that replaced the engine last May. I hope the garage honours its guarantee without too much hassle.

Why I love my job – part 1

I get e-mail like this:

First of all thanks a lot for featuring [site name removed] in the Netsurfer digest – we really appreciate it! Now – since none of our crew is subscribed to Netsurf, is there any way you can send us the article/review so we can mention it, or quote a part of it in [site name removed]’s “others about us” section? Is it ok if we do this and link to you?

Sure, I sent them the blurb and let them do what with it what they wanted, but if they really wanted to make me happy, they could have passed the hat and bought a subscription.


As I wrote, the children’s last scenes took place after dark out in the country. That means mosquitos.

Mosquitos love me. They will hunt me down in a crowd. My wife is astounded how quickly they home in on me.

A logical combination of the previous two paragraphs explains why I’ve spent the last day and half scratching my ankles and feet. Mosquitos in warm regions of the US (I’ve had lengthy stays in Houston and San Jose) bite, and the reaction itches for a day. The mosquitos in Montreal make you suffer for a week.

Thank goodness for Gold Bond Medicated Cream. It’s the only thing I’ve ever found that really does stop the itch. Calamine is a joke.

I have to stop shilling….

IDF and the A-10

I posted this on a mailing list a few days ago as part of a discussion on why Israel never bought the A-10. Might as well repost it here….

Tactically, the A-10 is a fantastic aircraft for IDF/AF needs. Armour is the game in the Middle East, and the A-10 is one of the top anti-armour weapons in the world. It wreaked havoc in Iraq.

The A-10’s strength is in its ruggedness and its ability top bring its pilot home despite any damage it may receive. It’s slow, and vulnerable to hits, but it will get home. The USAF can afford this strategy. It can send out assets and replace those that are damaged.

The problem is that the A-10 doesn’t meet Israel’s strategic needs. Unlike the USAF, the IDF/AF has few resources.

Israel’s strength lies not in the number of planes but in the number of sorties. What the IADF/AF does better than probably
any air force in the world is turn around aircraft. The IDF/AF’s pit crews can get more sorties per day out of an airplane than anyone else.

The A-10’s strength doesn’t match the IDF/AF’s strength. What good is all that rapid turnaround if your A-10s have to go in to be patched up or get a new engine every third sortie? The USAF can afford to do this, air forces with fewer aircraft can’t.

The IDF/AF and other less wealthy air forces need to opt for fast attack aircraft that will evade the hits or for pop-up attack
helicopters that will hide from them. It’s a strategy of avoiding damage rather than taking it and coming home.

At the movie set

We were picked up in a Dodge minivan at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday and got to base camp about an hour later. My kids were playing two of the three children of a destitute family. Their older sister was ironically the same size as my Child One, who missed all this because she was in summer camp.

The costumers dressed the kids in period clothing, then proceeded to “schmutz” the clothes with dirty wax. Make-up artists dirtied the kids’ faces and hands with a soot-like powder.

We got to the set at about 2:30 p.m., but only ten minutes of that was the drive. Most of it was waiting around. The first scenes were filmed inside this family’s clapboard wagon, so I couldn’t see much. The kids sounded like they enjoyed themselves. The only snag was that the caterer had gotten lost and was three hours late – and the kids were hungry.

About two hours passed. I spoke with the father of the other girl about the regulations concerning child actors and what I would be in for if we pursue this. It sounds like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The crew did ship plates of eggs and bologna to the kids once the caterer showed up at base camp.

As soon as the kids were done, the outdoor set was interrupted by a torrential storm, with hail and lightning on the side. Everybody on set rushed into vans, pick-ups, and trucks. The lead had been out in the woods making a phone call and was caught in costume in the storm. We all enjoyed watching him struggle in high winds and hail with an inverted umbrella as he tried to cross the “keep out” ribbon that surrounded the set.

One of the regulations the other stage dad told me was that the kids can only stay for eight hours a day. We’d showed up at noon, and mealtime doesn’t count, so we had to leave by 9 p.m. The kids got to set at 8 p.m. to film a couple of scenes in the dark. That last hour was rushed, and I’m not sure the director was entirely happy with the results. That was my favorite part, however, since the scenes took place outside the wagon and I could watch my kids do their thing.

Everyone was impressed with my kids. Sabine, who plays the wife of the lead, suggested I get them an agent. We’ll see.

We go back home, and I spent the next hour de-skunking my dog with OxiClean. They don’t advertise it as such, but it is the most effective product for skunk smell I’ve ever tried. OxiClean works by oxidizing. The skunk smell comes from mercaptan compounds, which oxygen breaks down. I put two and two together – the OxiClean works instantly.

Don’t let your children grow up to be movie stars

Last week, Child Two let it be known that she wanted to start acting. I spent the weekend looking for local theatre clubs or classes without much success, but I figured that was more a failure of my own searching than of any real absence of outlets for kids.

Sunday night, I received an e-mail on a local screenwriter’s mailing list. A local production was looking for volunteer extras downtown for Monday at 11 a.m. The woman in charge, Josa, worked at a local theatre school – and the e-mail also advertised courses at the school, including one for kids.

I called Josa and asked whether my kid and I could be extras. Child Two was exited when she heard about the opportunity and would have enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately, the production had prepared no costumes for child extras, and this was a period piece. I was welcome to go, but I declined. I didn’t need to waste a good writing day volunteering to make someone else money. I spoke to Josa about the course for kids and said goodbye.

Later that afternoon, Josa called me back to ask if I had any pictures of my daughter, because the production needed kids for a few scenes. These would be non-speaking acting roles. I sent three photos of Child Two, one of which also featured Child Three.

This morning, Josa called to ask if Child Three also wanted to be in the scenes. “Why not?”, I said. From starting a career as an extra on Monday, my daughter (and son) now has an acting role on Wednesday. We even get star treatment – the production is sending a car to pick us up.

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