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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for 2009


In my absence, our Novice B Cougars played their first playoff game, against a team we’d faced three times this year including tournaments.

In our first encounter, we won 8-1, in our second 6-2 (I think), and last time 4-1. Detect a trend?

Well, the trend held. As our head coach described it to me, “Probably the worst game we have played. (Child Three) saved our butts, he played great. It will be nice to have you back – hopefully you can help us get back on the right track.”

The final result was a 2-1 win in overtime. Zoiks! I don’t know what happened, but our boys were not the team that scored 100 goals in 18 league games this year.

The Monitor had a write-up of NDG playoff hockey that featured a photo of our team after our tournament victory. Can you spot me? (Hint: only barely because the nine-year-olds are almost taller than me.)

The next playoff round sees us host the Chiefs (no, not those Chiefs), who battled us to a 2-2 tie and then lost to us 3-2. We’ll need more goals than the lone regulation tally in the first game.

Bonus countdown:

37 hours and falling.

What I did on my spring-break vacation

I’m in the Bahamas with Child One visiting my dad. I enjoy coming here to see him and his wife, but after some 35 visits to a town that’s now sleepier than ever, things can slow down.

We arrived March 2 and ever since, I’ve missed Wife One terribly. Remember, we’ve only been in each other’s company for seven days since February 13.

I miss her, and I mope. My vacation for our first five days here consisted of chatting with her online and waiting to chat with her online. Sure, I can do it in warm weather in an outdoor jacuzzi that overlooks the ocean, but still.

I haven’t been completely useless. I helped my dad tear down two trees and place a boulder in the waterfall basin that runs into the swimming pool. Our intention was to remove one casuarina tree but physics got out of hand. One major branch took out the pride of the papaya trees on its way down. The base of the papaya tree split like a dropped watermelon.

We tied the papaya with rope to return it upright and used electrical tape and soil to seal the split trunk and protect the spongy exposed innards. I have little hope for our patient, but recovery is not impossible.

The second major branch we felled got loose of the guiding rope and plonked itself down on top of the waterfall’s rock wall. The resounding “ploosh” told us that one of the boulders had been knocked loose. Fortunately, it’s a relatively small one and even more fortunately, my youngest brother is coming here this weekend with a friend and will have to fish it out instead of me.

While I was mopey at the best of times, last week brought some bittersweet news that seemed a lot more bitter than sweet. We have friends who moved to P.E.I. last spring/summer, and they have realized that they want to come back. The man of the family has job interviews next week in the Montreal area, so he and the whole family (with dog) are coming to town for a week or more. They need a place to stay, so Elvi invited them to stay with us.

That’s fine – I look forward to hosting them. The problem is that their stay cramps any time I have to spend with Elvi between this trip and my Passover visit to Houston scheduled for April 7. Our guests are scheduled to arrive March 15, the day scheduled for Child One and I to fly home. They will probably stay through the following weekend, and the weekend after that we are due to spend at a synagogue retreat and before you know it, I’m flying away again (with the other two kids).

I want to spend more time with my amazing wife. I need to spend time with her. I explained this to my father, who had sprung for the airfare to bring us down here, and asked if he’d mind if we skipped out early so I could get this coming weekend with Elvi. He may have been disappointed to lose me for two days, but he generally was fine with it.

I called American Airlines. It would cost $800 to reschedule our tickets and that’s just too much. While I resigned myself to my fate, my father found a different flight that could get us home for a total of $325 and bought that for us, which I wasn’t expecting. Thank you so much! I think it might be worth it to him, though, because today he remarked that it’s been a while since I walked around smiling or seemed so content.

We will now light out Thursday, in a manner we’ve never attempted yet. My father is a pilot and owns a Cessna 182. He has to visit Florida anyway, so he will fly us to Fort Lauderdale Thursday morning and we’ll take a commercial flight from there. We’ve never done that before in either direction. I wonder how many times Child One will lose her breakfast.

Bonus Bahamas:

Yesterday, a small bug flew up my nose. I instinctively pinched my nostrils to try to get it out, but all I could do was detect the smell of something faintly mildewy. I think I squished it in my nose. In any case, it never flew out.

I also almost broke my toe. I got up from my seat (which was plastic and had a hole in the middle), not realizing that my left foot was asleep. My big toe buckled under my foot on my first step (off the pot) and I heard a resounding crack and felt quite a bit of pain through the sleep numbness. There seems to be nothing wrong with it now, except for some slight soreness, so I think I only cracked the toe knuckle.

LogMeIn is way, way, way cool

For a plugged-in geek, I can be remarkably late to the party. Any year now, I’ll get myself a mobile phone.

This post, though, is about mobile computing – of a sort many folks have used before I became acquainted with it.

LogMeIn is a free download for Windows or Mac OS. Install it on your home desktop (or laptop if you want). Once the software is installed and you’ve chosen a username and password, you can go to the LogMeIn Web site, log in, and control your target machine anywhere you can access a browser.

Right now, I’m on a crappy Fujitsu laptop, logged in to the Miami airport WiFi network, and typing this blog post in Safari on my old Mac on my desk at home. I have no higher praise than to write that LogMeIn just works, and works exactly as expected. Want the command key (a.k.a. the apple key)? Hit the Windows key on this laptop. My Fujitsu trackpad controls the Mac’s mouse.

I caught Elvi playing on my Mac, so we opened two text-processor windows and chatted to each other that way. We had to alternate control of the keyboard and mouse, but it certainly worked.

One feature I love is the ability to make the LogMeIn browser window fill the screen. Anyone looking over my shoulder would think I had turned this laptop into a full-fledged Mac. The screen refresh – when scrolling, for example – is a bit slow and blocky on the remote computer, but works well enough.

I may be a geek or I may be a Luddite, but sublime technology still sends chills up my spine.

More future to “Futurama”?

Two independent sources have indicated that sales of the three “Futurama” DVD movie/episodes have sold so well that the gang is making noises about making more beyond the fourth, released this week, and about bringing the show back for a whole season on Fox.

Our family loves the show. I think the original run was some of the best television ever. We were all disappointed with the three movies so far, though. The writing seemed stale. the culprit may have been the format. Each movie was written in four chunks so that each chunk could be broadcast as a complete episode on Comedy Central. It didn’t work for us.

Nevertheless, the DVDs have sold well. So well, that creator Matt Groening has discussed the possibility of making more with CNN: “We’re having discussions and there is some enthusiasm but I can’t tell if it’s just me.”

Meanwhile, star voice Billy West (Fry, the Professor, Zoidberg, Brannigan, etc.) mentioned that Fox is interested in a new season:

If and until then, there’s the new DVD, “Into the Wild Green Yonder“, to not suck, we hope.

One more tied end

Remember my Amazon credit? I decided to buy a camcorder and have it delivered to Elvi’s sister in the Bay Area. I bought a Canon Z900, which Consumer Reports highly rates.

I’m surprised that consumer-level camcorders (in the $200-$300 range) still rely so much on tape. I’d have guessed that most of them would have memory stored on chips or hard drives by now, but that technology remains a step up the cost ladder.

Oh, yeah – and Child Two got her ears pierced in California.

Tied ends

I had a follow-up at the doctor today and asked about generic substitutes for Cipralex. I knew there were none, but I also knew the dubious history of the drug.

Cipralex is the brand name for escitalopram, which partnered drug companies developed after their patent for plain old citalopram expired. Without getting into the chemistry, let me explain that escitalopram is just a purer derivation of the same compound – and it could be and was patented anew while citalopram is available in generic form.

The next end to be tied is my next book. I’ve finally received a package from my co-author Alex and I will get to work on that soon. With luck, the book, on the B-17 bomber in the Israeli Air Force, will be out by the end of summer.

Elvi and Child Two have returned from out west. I’m taking off south with Child One next Monday. Elvi and I are looking to get away alone over the coming weekend, our only one together over a month-long span.

Boy, those last two items are repeats, eh? Sorry.

Child Three’s regular season ended tonight with a game that decided whether we or our opponents would finish in second place. Our team played beautifully, I remarked to the other coach that we should frame this game and hang it in a museum. We won 5-1, with the other team scoring on a play in which one of our defencemen put the puck between Child Three’s skate and the post. Oh, well. Playoffs start in a week and a half, and I’ll miss the first week of them.

Lastly, I applied to be part of a study on undiagnosed ADHD. I can’t even get that job. The screening ruled me out – I don’t have ADHD. I’d suspected I did, but no….

Kid stuff

Child Two is off to California for the weekend. When I was a kid, a sleepover was a big deal.

She’s flying as an unaccompanied minor to join Elvi and Elvi’s sister in Mountain View. Child Two and I had some time to kill at the airport so we were thinking of ways she could make her journey more entertaining.

I told her to act mentally handicapped so that she gets free food. We also started joking around with what answers she could give when a flight attendant asks, “Hi, sweetie, what can I get for you?”

Possible answers:

1) “I’m hungry, but I still only breast-feed.”

2) “I’m hungry and I only eat cheese.”

3) “I’m hungry and I only eat things that are orange.”

4) “Are there any cute boys on the plane? I’m in the mood for smoochin’!”

I am, once again, Superdad.

As for Child Three, here is the article that appeared in this week’s Suburban:

The team in red, the Panthers, has won every game but two they’ve played this year. Those two games were the tie tie against us in the game described in that article and the championship game in the NDG tournament, a game that our team won in a shootout.

Here’s that winning shootout, from late last December:

It’ll be an interesting playoff season.

Highs and lows II

There’s a funny postscript to the story of my medication (see last post).

As I wrote, Elvi’s student insurance changed and part of that was the dropping of the drug plan. Quebec requires drug insurance and will provide it with a program called RAMQ if a resident is unable to secure private insurance. That happened to us, and RAMQ is retroactive.

My Cipralex had cost $70 and a dozen sleeping pills, prescribed should I need them, had cost $7. I filled and paid for the prescriptions the day before our RAMQ coverage began, but I knew I’d be able to go in later and make a retroactive claim.

I tried that Monday. Cipralex is not covered by RAMQ, which is a shame. I really can’t afford an extra $70 a month right now. The better story is the sleeping pills.

The pharmacy charges $7 for uninsured customers. (I don’t entirely understand why there are any uninsured customers, but that’s what the lady at the counter told me.) RAMQ covers 50% of the cost of pills, but the pharmacy charges insured customers $18. She printed up the forms and told me I owed her another $2.

I was literally speechless for a moment, which gave her time to try to explain the above. That doesn’t make any sense. I was flabbergasted, and the nice lady was sheepish. She didn’t feel good about it, for sure.

We exchanged comments – mine perplexed, hers embarrassed – until she ended the stand-off. She slid the official forms she’d printed across the counter to me and whispered, “Let’s just forget you ever came here.” I told you she was a nice lady.

But I’m still flabbergasted.

Highs and lows

For the past year – or years, or possibly lifetime – I’ve been feeling bleh. I’ve had trouble falling asleep, I haven’t felt much joy or satisfaction, and the effort I require to start to work has been mountainous. I wouldn’t get as much done as I wanted – or, often – anything done – and I’d beat myself up over that.

I’ve never been the cheeriest person, and this didn’t feel so out of the ordinary. I’d have occasional down periods, but I’d never say I felt classically depressed and never felt even remotely inclined to self-harm.

This winter, I heard a radio campaign about depression and it felt like they were talking about me. I know I didn’t used to be this way – OK, not so much this way.

I called my GP; I was overdue for a check-up anyway. Through Elvi’s student status, we used to have good private health insurance that would pay for private clinical work and offered a drug plan. Things changed, though, and the latest student insurance plan doesn’t cover the $600 cost for blood work at my GP’s in-house clinic when I could go to a hospital and get it done for free with my provincial Medicare.

In January, I called my GP to book an appointment and got one that same month. When I mentioned that we didn’t have the private insurance anymore, couldn’t afford the $600, and would need a requisition form to get this done at a hospital, the receptionist said she had to move my appointment to August. She did say to make an appointment if I had an emergency, but I didn’t think my suspected chronic low-grade depression was an emergency.

The rest of my family uses a family health clinic in a local hospital, but they were not taking on new patients. They referred me to another clinic and I got an appointment for a couple weeks in the future.

I saw this new doctor February 4. I had been hoping for a referral to a psychiatrist, but he was willing to prescribe an anti-depressant right then, and to take me on as a new patient. In an odd coincidence, he was born in Rehovot, Israel, within sight of the airfield (Aqir/Ekron/Tel Nof) that was 101 Squadron’s first base.

So I’ve been on Cipralex for two weeks now. I suffered a few side effects immediately, not all of them bad. For example, the daily pills make me sleepy and I’ve taken them after supper, so I’ve been getting to bed at a more regular hour. They also seem to suppress my appetite; I enjoy my food as much as ever, but I just can’t eat as much as I used to. Not bad, eh?

The pills are supposed to take three to four weeks to kick in, but I’m feeling pretty good today. I did a lot of smiling. Maybe I’m just having a good day.

When I opened the front door to take the kids to school, there was a skunk about a foot in front of it. I closed the door quickly, but nothing happened. The kids wanted to see the skunk, and it was extraordinarily cute, so I gently opened the door and peered around it. The skunk was sniffing the concrete where some garbage had spilled Sunday night. It was completely calm and ignoring us and it didn’t smell in the least. The kids and I watched it decide there was no food here. It squaeked through the railing and waddled off on the snow. Score!

I took Child Three to a dermatologist for a red scaly rash on his hands. It turns out to be “winter hands”, excessively dry skin brought on by winter air and too much washing. All he needs is some lotion. Score!

I went to the hospital to get my blood test after dropping Child Three at school. It’s terribly hard to park on the street there and the lot costs $15. A spot opened up in front of me half a block from the entrance but the street sign said there was no parking Tuesdays 9:30 (the time at the time) and 10:30 so I drove on. It wasn’t until I’d circled a few blocks that I realized that the parking regulations only kick in between March 1 and December 1. I beelined as much as possible for that first spot and it was still empty. Score!

My blood work required 12 hours of fasting. I’d eaten my last food at 10:59 p.m., having forgotten my plan to get the blood work done in the morning. I was confident there’d be some wait, but I figured 11 hours would be sufficient. I had my iPod and a book to help me spend the time. At 11:00 a.m. exactly, I was called in to have my blood drawn. Score!

I also learned this morning that the Suburban has plans to publish an article on our Novice B team tomorrow. Score! I’ll try to get a copy, but the article may appear online.

I was miserable over the weekend, missing Elvi more than usual. It’s not her domestic contributions I miss. I’m capable, and I kick into high gear when she’s not around. I miss her friendship – and I’m jealous of the fun she seems to be having. But I feel good today, dwelling more on her return than her departure. Score!

I’m finally supposed to start working on my next airplane book, about B-17 bombers in the Israeli Air Force. Score! My producer loves the work I’ve done on that biopic. Score! Now, if only I could get to writing those instead of blogs.


Yesterday morning, I took Elvi to the airport. She’s in San Francisco, taking a research course this weekend, presenting a paper at a conference next week, then spending the weekend after with her sister. Child Two will be joining her for the latter weekend.

We get to spend one week together when they return, then Child One and I are headed to my father’s place in the Bahamas for spring break. The other kids don’t get this break, they get Passover off instead – and I’ll be taking them to my mother in Houston.

I did a little work this week, some computer consulting. I solved a confounding printer problem by re-installing OS X. I think the printing system wiped out and couldn’t regain its feet even with the help of a number of targeted fixes.

But mostly, I’m thinking about the wife. She’s made extra effort to keep life fun, and we’ve spent a lot of great time together lately. It sucks that she’s so far away on Valentine’s Day.

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