November 20, 2017

Life goes on

Life has continued much as ever since my last post on My Trike just over a month ago. My life unfortunately has been dominated by my chemo which has ensured that I have felt as sick as a dog for much of the two week cycle between treatments. But as they say, ‘All things must pass’.

My next treatment is due on Thursday, chemo number 11, and as I’ve been told by my oncologist that I have to complete a full cycle of 16 over 8 months, that means I’ll only have 5 more to go, taking me through into February of next year.

Regrettably, that means that I can expect a dismal Christmas as (a) the French only take Christmas Day off after which life continues as usual and (b) if treatment proceeds according to schedule, I’ll have a chemo on 21st December giving it just the right amount of time to have the maximum negative effect on my constitution by Christmas Day. Oh well… 🙁

Looking back at my domestic life, the highlight has been a visit by a telecoms engineer from France Telecom. The reason for his visit was fundamentally that here in France they have serious difficulties actually maintaining and running their infrastructure. What do I mean by that? Well, for over a year now my home telephone service (and therefore also my internet) has taken it upon itself to disconnect every evening (just about) by 8.30 pm and then stay off until about 8.30 am the next morning.

I’ve complained about this on and off for months but only recently, while I’ve been too sick to want to bother actually, have I felt ornery enough to tell them that as I’m only receiving a 50% service, I want a 50% discount going back over the last 12 months.

To me it seems pretty obvious that it’s a network problem and all that my service provider (Free Telecom) had to do was contact France Telecom and demand to know what the heck’s going on. But no, until I got nasty, they couldn’t be bothered and just kept trying to feed me the usual nonsense about disconnecting and reconnecting my modem and all that stuff. Suffice to say that totally unexpectedly, out of the blue an engineer came knocking at my door.

He could hardly bring himself to smile let alone offer me a friendly greeting, but this is the usual way that French business organisations ‘do’ client service – as though it’s always the client’s fault. As it was, he ended up pulling out and replacing about 20 metres of rotten cable from ‘their’ side of the connection and since then, with the exception of one evening so far, the service has stayed up and running.

In the meantime as Free Telecom clearly didn’t know that an engineer had already been, they sent me an email asking for me to arrange for an engineer to call. When I declined, for obvious reasons, their stuffy response was more or less to say, ‘OK then, tough, your line is as good as it’s ever going to be’.

If they think that if I still have problems I’ll just sit back and accept that they’ll have another think coming, but it shows the attitude of people who have been brought up under the yoke of state owned monopolies who always try to give anyone complaining the bum’s rush. They seem to get quite emotional when we Brits complain and call a spade a spade and often just try to put the phone down on us, but it never works.

On other fronts, the gorgeous summer flying weather that I’ve looked out at through my living room windows has continued, unbelievably, through into November. My pal Wim, to my great envy, has enjoyed some fabulous local flying in recent days and weeks and would you believe, we’ve even been told by the forecasters to expect a possible high of 20 degrees Celsius in the latter part of this week. Astonishing!

I’ve also nearly completed my Figeac-Livernon X-Plane scenery. X-Plane has really come on in leaps and bounds and will IMO become the system of choice if only commercial and independent 3rd party developers, like me if you like, get behind it.

There are several reasons, not the least being that because its ‘engine’ uses current 64 bit technology compared to the obsolete 32 bit system that Microsoft FSX, the current market leader, still relies on, you don’t need a Kray supercomputer to run it. This has many advantages the main one being that the software isn’t crippled as you increase the level of detail.

As I’ve found in the X-Plane sceneries that I’ve done, including this one, you can add eye candy with little or no performance penalty which is good for the user. But more importantly, you can add huge volumes of things like 3D trees, which is critical for the surrounding environment.

And that’s what I’ve been concentrating on, as well as all the little ‘easter eggs’ that I’ve built in for people to explore and discover by roaming around the scenery once they’ve landed there, as I’ve done in a little video, which I’ll come back to in a moment

This means funnily enough that I haven’t done lots of general ‘flying’ in X-Plane, although in Version 11 its highly suited for it, as the terrain is covered in accurate roads that you can follow with moving vehicles, joining villages and communes in this part of the world that are in the right places (but admittedly don’t look too much like the real things) and lots of 3D detail, the trees in particular, that is much more effective than the flat photo textures that FSX employs.

Instead I’ve been concentrating on getting the approach environment right, which includes buildings, trees, water areas, roads etc, because those are the things that concern real pilots. It’s very time consuming, but time is what I’ve got a lot of at the moment and in any case, I’ve been using fs scenery design as a distraction mechanism which I can pick up and put down as the mood takes me while I’ve been unable to fly in reality and to take my mind off other things. And its been very effective.

What it also means is that I’ve been doing lots of approaches and landings as I’ve made changes to the scenery that I want to assess, and as we all know, you can teach monkeys to fly, but you can’t teach them to do greasers every time 😉

I’ve had to make lots of ‘custom built’ objects, as they are termed in fs scenery design. The ones that have given me the most pleasure have been the main ULM/aeroclub building and, funnily enough, the airfield’s AVGAS point, which I’ve done in very great detail including the pump itself, the electric grounding cable, the associated electrical supply box and even the tank filler (in blue) and signs and labels that have been attached to the real thing.

The two scenery design tools of choice for X-Plane are Blender and Sketchup, both of which are free to download. Blender seemed to me to be more complicated (but very powerful) but essential if you want to create complex objects, like aircraft, which I don’t. Sketchup, on the other hand, I found met my scenery design needs and was also very easy to get into, with lots of tutorial material on the internet and on Youtube in particular. So that’s the way I went and so far I’ve not been disappointed. Plus it’s been a lot of fun and kept me amused.

I included a few images of the scenery in my last post and here are a few more now that things have progressed and moved on.

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What about that video? Well, although the scenery isn’t yet complete mainly on account of my needing to add more local environmental detail at a distance from the airfield itself, I created a little video a few days ago to show what it’s all about before finishing it off and uploading it to the X-Plane portal. I’ve put the vid on Youtube and you can see it by clicking on the image below.

Aérodrome Figeac-Livernon

As I said earlier, ‘All things must end’ and hopefully, for me that’ll be in the Spring when I hope above all else that I’ll be back flying for real. Until then I just have to be patient and wait and see.

PS I just popped back to say that earlier today Victor and I were heading off up in to the Charente to view an electric bike that I’d spotted on LeBonCoin. I think that one will be ideal in helping me to regain my strength during my recovery in the spring and I’d been watching this one fall in price almost by the day until it became too big a bargain to resist.

Well obviously someone else thought so too, because in between my arranging to see it yesterday evening and this morning, the lady selling it sold it to someone else. Luckily we’d only got to Périgueux when I phoned to say that we were running late… but at least it gave Victor and me the opportunity to stop off for a couple of coffees and a delicious pastry each 😉

Other bargains will come up, they always do.