Weather did not break our way today – Pocuiani had low cloud and occasional light rain through mid-afternoon. At the morning briefing a practice task was set, optimistically hoping to connect with what might have been marginal soaring conditions about 60 km west of here. But no sun reached the ground until around 4pm, and at no time did the cumulus cloudbase look higher than about 1500 ft.
Which is not to say that gliders all stayed in their trailers. It was the final day of scrutineering, so a good many gliders had to make their way to the large hangar to be weighed, measured and certified for competition. (Previous periods of dubious weather had caused many to postpone this required inspection.)
Bob Fletcher’s Discus 2a (for which I am crew) passed scrutineering with flying colors. We had put 180 liters of waterballast on board, thinking this would be plenty to bring the ship to its allowed maximum weight of 525 kg. But it was not – we had to add another 16 liters, for a total ballast weight well over 400 lbs (think of a 200-lb person sitting on each wing). This means the glider has a commendably low empty weight, and should thus do well in weak soaring conditions (of which current forecasts seem to indicate we can expect plenty).
This glider has been something of a mixed bag. It’s around 16 years old, but has clearly been maintained in excellent condition. During the limited flying that’s been possible, Bob has found that it seems to climb and glide well. But it has been a beast to assemble. A Discus 2 should more or less “fall together” – it’s overall one of the easiest-to-rig gliders ever made. But getting the wings onto this one is a fight, calling for much wingtip wiggling and shoving. On our first attempt (a hot and humid day, which probably contributed to our difficulties) it was over 4 hours (!) from opening the trailer to securing the main pin. That’s a fair percentage of the total time I’ve spent putting wings on N200X – my 1999 Discus 2a that has well over 1000 hours in the air.
The Lithuanian language is interesting (read: notably difficult for almost anyone who is not a native speaker). It’s a Proto Indo-European language that apparently has retained more ancient features (i.e. from 5000 or so years ago) that almost any other. The only modern language with which it’s similar is Latvian (Latvia being the neighboring country to the north). It has 32 letters, of which 11 are vowels. As compared to English, it omits w and x, and adds a bunch of others expressed as Latin letters with various accents. Its pronunciation is regular (which is very far from the case with English) but unobvious to any speaker of a romance language.
Few of the native words have meaning that can be guessed (except, apparently, by speakers of Sanskrit). Examples include pienas (milk), duona (bread) and namas (house). There are plenty of “loanwords” (usually “Lithuanized”) that are easily understood, such as kompiuteris (computer) and taksi (taxi). Some rudimentary understanding of pronunciation rules can help: the letter C is pronounced as “ts”, so a sign that says Pica indicates a place that serves pizza. (It’s a fairly safe bet that if you understand a word, it’s not originally Lithuanian.)
People’s names are an issue. Men’s first names end in -as, -is or -us; women’s names end with a vowel. This means that most foreign names look wrong to Lithuanians, and they tend to want to stick an appropriate ending onto them. We have a guidebook that explains how Brad Pitt becomes Bradas Pitas.
It also explains that family names have three types of endings: -as, -is or -us for a man, -iene for a married woman, and -aite, -yte ou -ute for an unmarried woman. So Mr. Petrauskas’ wife’s last name would be Petrauskiene, and their daughter’s would be Petrauskaite. (Note that, under the assumption that my readers don’t speak Lithuanian, I’ve omitted numerous accents.)