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Air Traffic Control
A couple months ago my flight to Chicago had a medical emergency and we had to land in Cleveland to drop off a passenger. I decided to listen to Air Traffic Control (ATC) which is a feature offered by United. I found it pretty interesting and not at all like what you see in the movies.

One thing to note is that ATC is made up of several independent divisions. Here is a brief summary of all the divisions that my flight passes through on its way from Hartford to Chicago:
  • Taking off from Hartford we start with the Tower, which provides runway conditions and clearance for take-off.
  • Once the plane leaves the ground, we contact Departures which coordinates which way the plane turns and what bearing and altitudes it should take.
  • Once clear of the airport, we contact Boston Center to coordinate regional traffic, altitudes and flight conditions
  • Leaving the Northeast and passing through North Central, we contact Cleveland Center
  • Leaving North Central and crossing over the Canadian border, we contact Toronto Center
  • Crossing back into the US, we contact Cleveland Center again
  • Approaching the Chicagoland area, we contact Chicago Center
  • Approaching O'hare, we contact Chicago Approach for headings and runway assignment
  • After receiving runway assignments and headings, we contact O'hare Tower for clearance to land
  • Once we've landed, we contact O'Hare Ground for taxi and gate routing.

Below is a transcript of radio chatter from my flight, United 719. This starts soon after we contacted Cleveland Center. It's interesting to hear all the different people talking. For instance some people are friendlier than others and some have thick accents, like Korean 360 which obviously had a Korean pilot. It's also interesting to hear them announce "traffic" when routes intersect or run parallel within 2000 feet of elevation.

Numbers are constantly tossed back and forth and may refer to flights, speeds, headings, altitudes or radio frequencies. Sometimes they say the whole number and sometimes they read out the digits. Jargon is also pretty common, for instance saying puddle to refer to a puddle-jumper, a small propeller driven plane for short regional flights or heavy when referring to jumbo jets or cargo planes. They also use words to call out letters for instance Quebec for Q, Foxtrox for F, etc, particularly on the ground where every taxi-way and runway has a specific letter and number designation (more on that some other day). So it requires a basic understanding of what's going on and a good ear to figure things out sometimes.

One thing you can't see in this transcript is how crazy things get near Chicago where the traffic and congestion mean constant radio chatter. The radio is always on with updates from dozens of flights and you never know what you're going to hear when your crew switches channels. I really feel for the ATC controllers that have to work at O'hare. I actually heard pilots saying "Unbelievable!" to the ground control after having to back-track a route to get to their gate. The controllers have to be on top of things and there's very little breathing room with so much traffic and thousands of lives in their hands. My hat goes off to them.
...
(UA719) Cleveland Center we're experiencing moderate chop at 3-6.
(CleC) United 6, conditions?
(UA6) light chop last four minutes
(UA719) How is 4-0-0?
(CleC) light chop reported but that was 20 minutes ago
(UA719) Trying 4-0-0
...
(CleC) United 7-19, Status heading up there?
(UA719) It's been continuous chop all the way, United 7-19
...
(UA719) 7-19 now picking up light turbulence at 3-8-0
(CleC) Puddle 6-60, how is it where you are?
(660) at 3-6-0 had some chop while we leveled out but it's better now
(CleC) United 7-19, Puddle 6-60 says 3-6-0 is better now
(UA719) Going to 3-6-0 United 7-19
(CleC) United 7-19, Toronto Center says 3-60 should be a pretty nice ride soon
(UA719) Appreciate you checking for us, United 7-19
(CleC) 7-19, contact Toronto center 3492
(UA719) Toronto 3492, United 7-19
...
(UA719)Toronto Center, this is United 7-19 at 3-6-0 experiencing light chop
(TorC) United 7-19, hello, that should clear up for you in a little bit, it gets better as you head west
(UA719) Thanks
...
(TorC) United 7-19, traffic at 12 o'clock 1000 feet below
(UA719) Traffic ahead, United 7-19
...
(TorC) United 7-19 contact Cleveland Center 1-2-6-5-2
(UA719) 1-2-6-5-2 Cleveland, United 7-19
...
(UA719) Cleveland, United 7-19, 3-6-0 finally smooth
(CleC) 7-19, what was your condition?
(UA719) Well, it was 100 miles back, continuous light chop
...
(CleC) United 719, maintain 3-4-0
(UA719) 3-4-0, United 7-19
...
(CleC) United 719, contact Cleveland Center 1-3-3 dot 8-7
(UA719) 1-3-3-8-7, 7-19
...
(UA719) Cleveland Center, United 7-19 at 3-4-0
(CleC) United 7-19, maintain 3-2-0
(UA719) 3-2-0, 7-19
...
(UA719) United 719, at 3-2-0
(CleC) 7-19, Roger, no complaints
...
(CleC) United 7-19, descend at discretion, maintain 2-0-0
(UA719) with discretion, maintain 2-0-0
...
(CleC) United 7-19, contact Chicago Center at ????
(UA719) ????, United 7-19
...
(UA719) Chicago Center, United 7-19 descending to 2-0-0
(ChiC) United 7-19, 2-0-0
...
(ChiC) United 7-1-9, cross fire ??? at 0-0-niner thousand
(UA719) Cross fire at 9000 feet, united 7-19
...
(ChiC) United 7-1-9, contact Chicago Approach, 1-1-niner-0
(UA719) 1-niner-0 7-19 g'day
...
(UA719) Approach, United 7-19 at niner thousand
*lots of stuff*
(ChiA) bonzo?, United 7-19
...
(ChiA) United 7-1-9, descend and maintain 7000
(UA719) 7000, 7-19
...
Of course we had to turn off all electronics after this so that's all I could get.
Posted 06/25/2009 10:14 PM in Chicago, Geek Stuff, Hartford, Ramblings, Travel, Who knew?
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Hartford Forever
As an update... there is currently a 50/50 chance that I'll be working in Hartford until the end of this year. If that happens, that will mean a full 2 years here, which would be my longest time ever in one location for work (aside from Chicago). So far, it looks like this will be my second year where I'll be away from home more than I'm at home. Crazy.
Posted 03/11/2009 09:49 PM in Hartford, Travel, Work
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Grand Flights
I had a bottle of regular Grand Marnier at home that I've used mostly for cooking for the last few years. With just a little bit left and inspired by the Grand Marnier Centennaire I had at L2O, I decided I should finish it off. For the last month I've been sipping little glasses of it while doing various chores around the house. I think I've become quite a fan of it...

Now, I found a restaurant in Hartford called Peppercorn's Grill that has a Grand Marnier flight. You get three round bottom Grand Marnier shot-glasses with about 1.5oz each of classic Grand Marnier, Grand Marnier Centennaire (100th anniversary) and Centcinquantennaire (150th anniversary) in a Grand Marnier holder and a dessert of your choice for a very decent $25. If I had that Canon DSLR I could take a picture...

So I tried all three of them in different combinations to compare them. I started with the classic Grand Marnier which was basically the same as what I had at home. It has a nice light orange flowery bouquet and generates nice warming sensation as it coats your tongue. It finishes with a slightly rough spicy sensation.

The Centennaire is slightly darker and has a deeper bouquet reminiscent of dried apricots. The taste is smoother and deeper with more complexity.

The Centcinquantennaire is in between the two, not as floral as the regular and not as dark as the 100. I actually prefer the flavor of the 100, but the great thing about the 150 is how smooth and soft it is, it's very pleasant to drink. Even more shocking is how different the regular tastes after trying the 150. After the 100 or 150, the regular tasted rough and dry with a much sharper spiciness and a hint of chemical harshness. 100 or 150 is definitely the way to go.

Then there was the after taste. I'm not sure which one it came from since I tried them all but even 10 minutes after I left the restaurant I could still taste some Grand Marnier on the back of my tongue. It reminded me of the fruitiness of Haw Flakes and Chinese Gyem-seung-dee (salty-sour-sweet) preserved plums. Now I want some more...

Oh, yeah their homemade gnocchi of the day and the free Italian sundae were pretty tasty too.
Posted 08/26/2008 08:14 PM in Drinks, Hartford, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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I want my baby back, baby back, baby back...
This weekend I did a test run on some ribs that I'll be making for next weekend's church barbecue.

I started with a coffee rub that Natatia and Caroline gave me two years ago. I had tried it on steak before but it didn't quite fit but I suspected it would be better on pork with a few tweaks. Those tweaks included mixing it with brown sugar, black pepper, chili pepper and some mesquite salt from Max's Downtown in Hartford, CT. I rubbed this on a rack and let the flavors meld overnight.

Saturday I barbecued it (meaning low indirect heat, as opposed to grilling) for 6 hours over mesquite charcoal with an hour of smoking with Applewood. Then I basted it with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce. Honestly, I wasn't that pleased with the result. It was not as tender as I hoped and not as tasty as I wanted so I put half of the rack directly over the coals for another hour. Then I refrigerated it overnight and today when I re-heated them, they were MUCH better. The tricky part is going to be reproducing the result next weekend...
Posted 08/10/2008 11:13 PM in Cooking, Food, Hartford, Restaurants
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Hartford Redemption?
I've started searching for more local eateries in Hartford based on Chow Hound suggestions.

The interesting thing is that some of the places I dislike so far received good reviews and recommendations. I feel like these people may be saying "this is a great restaurant... for Hartford." I suppose in comparison to what Hartford used to have they are good, but I don't think that being in Hartford is an excuse for not-so-good food so I remain skeptical in general.

But aside from that, I've found that there is actually a very large ethnic representation. There seem to be some more adventurous eaters on my new project in Hartford so I'm hoping that we'll be able to try some interesting places.
Posted 08/07/2008 11:22 PM in Food, Hartford, Travel
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