Anno 2023

It is that time of the year again: I am writing a post in a post-blog world. (This could totally be the start of a pop hit.) Could I be any more Millennial than this? Anyway, here is a month-by-month retrospective of memorable moments from my/our 2023, with a small (but not so small that you should be browsing this on a mobile network without an unlimited data subscription) collection of images in case Instagram dies.

I kicked off January very strong, with a lot of training – mostly indoor cycling on Zwift -, doing sports every day from the 29th of December until the 5th of February. This was my longest active streak ever with 39 days. Although this included a weekly yoga session, but I will be generous and count that as sports too. The fact that on 11 days I was actually biking outside during this period must mean that the weather was not that bad after all. We saw a book with a photograph of mine (legally) on its cover out in the wild. At the end of the month I finally managed to purchase a PS5 for a not ridiculous price, replacing our trusty PS4 after many years of happy usage, and I took Cole for a short sightseeing flight while he was back in town for a few days.

On the 1st of February (while turning 38) we commemorated my ageing by having a dinner in the Michelin-starred EED, which was excellent. At work the first production units of our Telraam S2 devices started rolling in. One weekend we went to the Ardennes for some hiking (where I was also very successfully testing my new Black Diamond Pole BD Distance FLZ hiking poles and the Garmin inReach® Mini 2), and some comfort food at Belgium Peak Beer. Unfortunately just after this I got sick with high fever and no energy which lasted for a good week, maybe at least partly from over-training combined with a completely messed up sleep-schedule… Of course that week the weather was perfect (and I had plans to go biking and flying) so I was not amused at all. A week later I flew to Sint-Truiden for the first time and also crossed a CTR on my own for the first time. In the rest of the month we visited the first flowers of the spring (and some warmth in the greenhouses) in the Botanical Garden, and had nice Italian food at Ristorante Guzzi (more or less ending our Gault Millau pilgrimage across town over the past months).

March could not have started any better than it did. Right on the 1st I made my longest trip (and my last non-local flight) with the Sonaca 200 ever by flying to Koblenz-Winningen in Germany. It was an awesome sunny (but cold) day, and it definitely gave me good vibes for the following weeks. A week later I watched in awe as Liverpool trashed Manchester United by 7 goals, which was definitely the highlight of an otherwise below-par season for the team. I met up with my brother in Brussels, and since we could not go flying as the wind associated with a named storm was causing trouble even for the big jets up there, we just had good food and walked around the city instead, talking about flying and fancy watches. Since I am never in Brussels everything was as new for me as it was for him.

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Minimalistic live Belgian aviation weather (METAR) map with a Raspberry Pi

After almost 5 years of more-or-less continuous operation of my DIY weather and air-quality monitoring system, I decided that it was time to do something else with my Raspberry Pi, so I spent an evening on making a small, live METAR map of Belgium (and Luxembourg). I used the same hardware as in the previous project, you can check that out via the link above.

I simply placed the airports that provide METARs (Meteorological Aerodrome Reports) via the free CheckWX API on the low resolution matrix display (by selecting the most appropriate pixel, keeping especially the relative positions correctly represented), colouring each selected pixel according to the current weather condition, ranging from purple (LIFR – the worst), via red (IFR) and blue (MVFR), to green (VFR – this is what we like). This minimalistic display works very well, if you are familiar with the shape of Belgium and the location of the airports.

The coding is pretty lazy, but it does what it needs to do. The only extra feature that I added besides polling the API every 2.5 minutes (to stay inside the daily limits of the free tier of the API) is that the brightness of the LEDs changes according to the time of the day (or the altitude of the Sun to be precise): they get slowly dimmed approaching and past sunset so that the display is not disturbing at night (as it is placed under our TV).

It is nice to see the changing weather from the couch without having to check my phone :)

What is in my flight bag and how do I record my flight videos with audio (2023 edition)

I often get questions about the gear I use for flying, and about the gear I use for recording video and audio in the cockpit. I try to answer all of these questions in this post. I will start with an overview of the contents of my flight bag. I will give comments on each item as I see fit, in order to provide some background information supporting my choices, and to make it easier for you to see if a similar item would make sense for you. Then I will cover the settings used on my main media recording devices. Finally, I will provide a few tips and tricks about editing flying videos.

So what is in the bag?

My flight bag is an old North Face laptop bag, I don’t even know its type anymore (as it is not in production anymore for a long time already). I did not manage to find anything better which would fit all the stuff that I personally need in the plane, even though I must have checked out at least a hundred flight bags online. It is showing heavy signs of wear and tear already, but I think I will be using it until it really breaks.

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Vesterålen and Lofoten at 50mm

As a slightly mad experiment I took only a single normal lens for our two-week road-trip in Norway last summer. This is definitely not the standard choice for landscape photography, but I wanted to do something different than usual. And for the touristy (Instagram) shots I had my trusty iPhone Pro with me anyway. This phone is actually the main reason why I tend to do less and less photography with “a real camera” – it simply takes too good photos, which makes carrying a heavier camera and the related equipment (bags, lenses, tripod, filters, etc.) less attractive lately.

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