Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tammy's New Job and Goodbye Stephanie

Tammy has been a Registered Nurse at Masonic Home in Bloomington for the past eight years and she's ready for a change. Masonic has cut her hours considerably as they go through a period of downsizing in preparation for some renovations. I'm glad she's moving on. The facility, as are so many others, is short of staff and that puts the nurses out on the floor trying to hold it together in a difficult position.

She's accepted a position with a company in Bloomington where she'll be sitting at a desk answering phone calls from people seeking medical advice. I'm not certain how it works but my understanding is that the company contracts out with corporations as part of their health care coverage. Rather than spend money on an office visit, people are encouraged to call the help line (Tammy's job) and explain their symptoms over the phone. The nurses on the other end will help determine if an office visit is necessary or possibly some other less expensive approach.

She's very excited. The new place sounds like they value their employees and that's refreshing. She'll be taking a part-time position with some intensive training for the first three months.

I'm trying to get on my rollers every other day if not more often. I'm good for 60-90 minutes before climbing off. It's been a few years since I've done any indoor training...ever since discovering a few years ago that winter riding in Minnesota was very doable. I changed that up this year however and I'm back to the indoor routine. I only have road bikes and this hasn't been an easy winter for keeping them on the road with all the ice and snow in addition to the frigid temps which aren't helping matters.

One thing all my indoor training has done is spark a strong desire to get back on the road. I've accumulated a bunch of miles in the last few years without much of a break. That can lead to burnout and I feel like that was where I was headed when winter arrived. This break has done me well as I'm feeling rested and ready to get back out there. I'll shoot again for the same goal as last year...anywhere between 7000-9000 miles. No winter riding will put me at a disadvantage mileage wise when compared to the last few years but I'll be fresh.

I said goodbye today to another Controller from my era. Stephanie will be done on Friday after 25 years with the FAA and she's heading to Arizona with her husband, Al. Stephanie was my first trainer when I came back from my exile to Huron in '85. She was just a pup training a pup but she was good. It would've been nice to have worked a sector feeding hers on her last day so I could send some pilots over to her frequency to wish her a happy retirement...this time for real. I did that to her once last year just for fun and she sent one back to my freq to wish me a happy birthday. It wasn't my birthday. The pilot caught on right away and didn't mind being a part of our ATC games.

I'll miss you, Steph.

I'm no geography wiz, in fact, I'm embarrassed by how much I don't know. Here's a fun test for you...see how well you do. I took it a few times and could only manage a 101 I.Q.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Defining Moments

David Baerwald, Why

I had a bit of a nightscare last night...not quite a nightmare but the next thing to it. I dreamt I was in Oklahoma City at the FAA academy for supervisor orientation. As I looked around the room there were several other familiar faces all there for the same thing. Faces I didn't expect to see. We'd all put our names in to become supes. What happened to our pact to fight our lack of a contract together and avoid the lure of easy money and easy duty?

My feelings of shame gave way to anger as I listened to the speaker begin his propaganda and I sat there struggling to understand how this could have happened. There was a time in my career when I figured that at some point I'd make the move into management but that was long ago.

September 2nd, 1992 to be exact.

I was training Mike Thompson on his D-side (data side) at sector 18. There was a line of weather extending from north of Minneapolis and south to Texas. There were no holes with the exception of a couple gaps near Rochester to get traffic through so nearly everything traversing the country was routed toward the north end of the weather and then to points beyond.

The squall line had been there all afternoon and it was now nearing 6:00pm and the evening push was coming through. There shouldn't have been any surprises with respect to the weather and alternate routes which would be necessary for the approaching traffic. That didn't stop our Traffic Management Unit (TMU) from revising the ORD (Chicago) arrivals route three times within 45 minutes adding to our complexity. But that was really nothing compared to what was about to happen.

TMU made a call to have us hold all our traffic going into the next sector in area 2. We did as we were told then promptly looked left and and told the sectors feeding us to expect to be shut off. We had a scope full of planes and two of our more seasoned high altitude controllers driving them; Tim Hehr was working radar in our sector with Dick Becker tracking for him. Pat Lambert was working radar in sector 11 to the north. I took over from Mike on the D-side and had him monitor.

We were in the process of getting our traffic turned away from the next sector and put into hold when I got a call from a controller in area 2 asking me what we were doing. I told him that TMU had shut us off from sending any traffic his way. He said 'what?...nonsense'. He had no traffic and told us to disregard the hold. Our sectors had been thrown into disarray for no reason.

During the ensuing chaos an aircraft at 41,000 establishing itself in a hold northwest of Minneapolis got together with another aircraft which had overflown its holding pattern. It seemed that we all saw it at the same time...both aircraft nose to nose at no more than 6 miles with no time to spare. Traffic was issued and both pilots managed to get each other in sight but we failed to maintain the required 5 miles separation.

What happened next would be the reason I would give up any desire of ever wanting to take a management position.

We (the controllers involved in the incident) were sold down the river by our area manager, Larry R., to protect the responsible supervisor in TMU who made the inexcusable decision to have us hold our traffic. Rather than look at that decision as being the reason for throwing the sectors up for grabs they only wanted to look at the final few minutes leading up to the loss of separation...those final few minutes spent trying to fix the problem created by the TMU supervisor.

A couple days later we gathered together in Jimmy Walker's office (our facility manager) with about a dozen people who had either starring or bit parts in the incident with the exception of one key player; the TMU supe who orchestrated the chaos which led to the near miss. We went around the room and offered our opinions as to what happened and why.

I'd contacted some former coworkers at Flight Service in Princeton and asked them if they could provide me with forecasts for the day of the incident. The information showed that the weather forecasts we were dealing with that night were accurate and gave a good 12 hours notice as to what to expect. I pointed this out in the debrief and felt that TMU should have done a better job and not been in a scrambling mode.

The person I most wanted to hear from in our discussion, the TMU supervisor, wasn't present but his manager, Jack H. was and his body language was speaking loudly. He took a seat in the doorway to our manager's office with his body mostly outside the room but his feet protruding in. I had to lean forward to see him. When it came time for him to speak he said two things. He said that the TMU supe felt bad about what had happened and that now was neither the time nor the place to discuss TMU's role in the incident. He promptly got up, told us he was late for another meeting and left.

I remember feeling stunned that he was for all intents and purposes being given a pass; at least so far as I could tell. If the purpose of our meeting was to help identify what led up to and caused the error I could think of no better time to discuss the role of TMU than the present.

The next person to speak was our deputy manager, Ward H. He went into a several minute dissertation about how he used to be a radar controller and that his job was to maintain a safe sector. If he didn't like what he was getting from the controller feeding him he wouldn't take the hand-off. He'd tell them to spin 'em if he had to...because he was a radar controller. He punctuated the end of each sentence with "goddammit!" His diatribe was nothing more than an admonishment to us controllers for not doing our jobs and keeping them separated. Not once did he mention the mistakes made by TMU which created the fiasco. I have no doubt that he was the sort of controller I'd least like working next to me when things got down and dirty. I also have no doubt that he did a minimal amount of time actually working traffic before moving 'up' into the supervisor ranks. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The final person to speak was our manager, Jimmy Walker. He told us that whatever happens in the way of disciplinary action with respect to TMU was none of our business. I sort of expected that but I wasn't anticipating what would happen next. Jimmy took the stack of papers which comprised the 'deal' (controller lingo for loss of separation) and turned it face down on his desk while at the same time stating that "this stops here"...meaning, nothing was going into anybody's personnel folder and that nobody was being decertified or made to jump through hoops of any sort. And that was that.

I believe Dick Becker took the weather forecasts I'd compiled and a bunch of other information he'd assembled regarding the separation error and sent it off to NASA. The folks at NASA are a collection agency for situations such as this and where data can be submitted anonymously. I have my doubts as to what if anything meaningful becomes of the data they collect.

To my knowledge nothing was ever entered into my record. None of us were decertified nor did the TMU supe in the middle of all of this miss a step; he remains in his position to this day. Mistakes happen but covering them up doesn't get us further down the road toward prevention and that's pretty much what happened here. The controllers were ready to take the fall for mismanagement and would have had it not been for Jimmy Walker. He may have had his faults but he at least got the controllers' participation in this one right. Nobody else in management was even close.

So, when I awoke from my dream and realized that I was still 'just a controller' I was relieved. My dream did cause me to reflect upon why it is that I'm still 'just a controller' and hopefully will finish out my career as one. I'd honestly always assumed that I'd quietly play out the final years of my career in management as it's often said that controlling is a young person's game.

Sadly, I don't know that FAA management is interested in improving the way they do business or in changing the disrespectful approach used toward their employees. If you have time, here's an interesting essay from 1995 by Rebecca Pels which details nicely an environment which existed so many years ago and persists today.

Disclaimer: I have an obligation to say that the national airspace system is safe and to not undermine public confidence in the FAA. The events I described are from 1992...hardly something current with respect to air traffic control. Employee/management relations are however much worse now than they were then. I still fly when necessary and will continue to do so. Someday, when I'm retired I'll expand on my feelings about what I've just written.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lefse and Looking For Inspiration

I'm going on some new meds and I need 72 hours to determine if they will have a negative affect on me with respect to doing my air traffic control duties. The only thing having a negative affect upon me doing my ATC duties (read attitude) lately is management but with respect to my meds, so far so good. Unfortunately my Saturday night shift will be swallowed up by the 72 hour test period. So sad.

Tammy and her aunt Joyce are making lefse, a Norwegian potato roll-up. I asked them if it was considered a pastry, desert, delicacy or main dish but they weren't sure. It's something that Norwegians typically make in November and December. I'm sort of lukewarm to Lefse. They're okay but I need lots of sugar on them for me to say that.

We're thinking of checking out the ice sculptures at the Winter Carnival tomorrow. We're suppose to finally be out of the deep freeze we've been in for the past month. I can't remember a winter as snowy and cold as this one. I'll refrain from the global warming comments.

I spent a good part of yesterday at the drawing board laying down some initial designs for the panels in our basement entertainment center. This project has me stymied more than any other project has but I think I'm warming up to some ideas. From early on I've wanted to do a combination of Frank Lloyd Wright and Art Nouveau. I'd never seen those two ideas merged together but Tom has turned me on to some early 1900s architects/artists who did exactly that.

Louis Sullivan, William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie were part of a movement in the midwest which embraced a simple, clean approach to design during a time when emphasis was still on traditional European Victorian styles. Their work along with some of their contemporaries brought about the Prairie style look. Along with that look was often a simple stained glass style which Frank Lloyd Write made his signature style.

Frank Lloyd Wright was actually a protege of Sullivan's for five years.

Along with the clean lines in their stained glass work was often times a bit of Art Nouveau and that's the look I'm after. Tom turned me on to an excellent book titled At Home on the Prairie The Houses of Purcell & Elmslie by Dixie Legler and Christian Korab from which I hope to be able to get some inspiration.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good Dog Bad Dog and Wells Fargo In Owatonna

Performance appraisals came out at work this past week and there are several Controllers who aren't too happy and rightly so. I've heard it said more than once from fellow Controllers that they plan to live down to their rating. My area has 44 Controllers who were rated against one another. 9 were given the highest rating resulting in a 1.8% bonus based on yearly salary. Another 24 were given the 2nd highest rating resulting in a .6% bonus and the other 11 were given no bonus. I can think of several people in the no bonus group who are feeling very disrespected and unappreciated and they're right to feel that way.

The entire awards program is flawed in that too much importance is placed on how well a person is liked by management. You could be a hard worker but if you're maybe just a bit outspoken you can forget it. It doesn't help to be a union member either.

It's not as though management could have rated several people higher but chose not to. They were allotted percentages for each group which meant from the outset that 11 of the people I work with were destined to receive no amount of bonus.

There is strong belief that this is just another tool for management to help divide the workforce by creating resentment among those who received no award and those who did. They're right. The last thing management wants is a cohesive group of Controllers who stand together and assert whatever little rights remain. What the FAA fails to realize is that the bulk of the resentment won't be from Controller to Controller but rather from Controller to management.

The amount of this award is added to an organizational award to determine what if any additional pay we'll receive this year over and above our base pay. Because management uses a double standard in nearly all they do, Controllers can't use this added amount to count toward their base pay for retirement purposes but management can. The higher a persons base pay the more their pension. For the next several years I'll add nearly nothing to the amount of my base pay while management will add another 20% or so to theirs. How's that for fairness and leading by example?

There's much cynicism among the workers. During my meeting with my supe to discuss my rating he mentioned that myself and others need to be careful with being too negative around the younger people coming into the system. I suppose he's afraid that we'll taint their view of management and the FAA. I told him not to worry. I said that management was doing a good job of that all on their own with the disrespect they've shown the newbees in so many ways.

Enough of work.

Tammy and I took another road trip last weekend...this time to Owatonna. A couple years ago a friend of Tammy's mentioned a bank in Owatonna which had some glass work and wondered if we'd seen it. Neither of us had and I don't suppose we were in much of a hurry to check it out as it didn't sound all that unique. I sort of forgot about the bank until recently when Tom (a friend I've recently met online) asked us if we'd been to the Wells Fargo bank in Owatonna. I mentioned that we'd heard about a bank there but no, we hadn't seen it. Tom said it was a must see.

Any recommendation from Tom is enough to pique my interest so we packed up the camera gear and took a trip 45 miles south. Tammy had to drop off her resume' at a retirement facility in Farmington so we took the back roads through Northfield and Fairbault.

The bank is referred to as Louis Sullivan's 'Jewel Box' and is considered by many to be America's most famous small-town bank. I'd never heard of Louis Sullivan until Tom mentioned him to me. He was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright and considered by many to be the creator of the modern skyscraper. You can easily see the look of the Prairie School style spawned from his designs.

Here's a link to a set of photos Tammy took. This photo especially captures the 'Jewel Box' feel. It really is an amazing work of art and I'm not just referring to the stained glass. The glass is gorgeous all on its own but the incredible detail within the architecture is unlike anything I've ever seen. I mentioned to Tammy that I couldn't believe something so beautifull was so close to home and I wasn't aware of it.

Here's some video I shot of the bank.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Frustrated But Maintaining Perspective

David Crowder, A Beautiful Collision

Rachel played broomball with the youth group from Prince of Peace last weekend. She came away a bit beat up but she had a blast and can't wait for the next game. She thinks it would be a good idea to use some protective gear. Ya think so?

I've been a bit down the past few weeks as the wear and tear of work continues what seems to be an ever increasing drain on me. Maybe it's the realization of unfairness that each new year brings as management enjoys the spoils of another year of raises while the workers go without. Controllers (workers) are given bonuses based on performance but those bonuses don't figure into our yearly salary figures for retirement purposes. Management sees their yearly raises in the form of increased pay which counts toward their yearly salary amount and relates directly to their retirement annuity. They also enjoy some nice bonuses as well.

But hey...if you can't control traffic, maybe you can control people? A hat tip to a fellow Controller from work.

I wrote acting FAA Administrator, Bobby Sturgell, yet again this past week about the lack of leadership coming out of FAA headquarters in regard to this matter. I didn't hear anything from him the last time I wrote him and I don't expect I'll hear anything this time either. I'm still trying to make a difference in my own little way but feeling more and more that I'm just whistling in the wind. I'm persistent if nothing else.

I got a phone call from John Kline's (my Congressman) office in D.C. this afternoon. It wasn't John this time but one of his aids. She said they received my letter and would be sending it to the president's office. I asked if it would simply be just one of a thousand letters which makes its way to the White House each day. She assured me that it would be accompanied by a phone call to an aide for Bush and that it would be seen. By who exactly I'm not sure.

I have some guys at work telling me that I'm painting a bulls-eye on myself for these letters I'm writing and some of my posts in my blog. I can't disagree with them more. I'm careful to not infer that the skies are unsafe or say anything which would allow FAA management to say that I'm undermining public confidence in the national airspace system. Pointing out FAA management hypocrisy is something on a whole other level in my opinion.

People in government, both FAA and office holders are at least seeing my writings as I can see the searches which bring them to my blog and the FAA servers as well as house.gov servers which leave their traces behind. One such search which I see occasionally and which gives me a small bit of satisfaction is 'faa mismanagement'. Google indexes my blog in the #1 position for that search.

One thing I need to be careful of is getting wrapped up in resentment and bitterness. My father suffered that fate at the end of his career and it effected all those around him. I always told myself I'd never let bitterness get the best of me. When I went through my divorce ten years ago I remember that my prayer then was that I didn't want to be left a bitter and angry person when it was all over. I simply wanted to go on with my life and have no ill feelings toward my former wife. My prayers were fully answered as I never felt bitter or resentful toward her. What more could I ask?

I suppose that should once again be my prayer and let God take care of the rest. I'll continue to do my small part but to not let this whole matter take away from the many blessings I have in my life. Keeping it all in perspective and reminding myself that I have much to be grateful for should continually play through my mind.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

First Flight and Things I'd Rather Do Than Work

I took my RC plane out yesterday and today. I need to have virtually no wind for this trainer of mine to work. Either the motor isn't strong enough or my piloting skills aren't what they should be to fly it with any sort of breeze. I had it airborne but was having a difficult time turning and compensating for the wind...and there wasn't much. Anyway, on my last pass I got a bit too close to a tree in the parking lot of Hosanna and clipped the left wing. It broke in a few places but I've got it on the mend thanks to some 5 minute epoxy.

Tammy and I were going to bed last night and I commented that it was "back to work for me tomorrow". I told her that I had a fun time on our trip to Winona and running around town with her the previous few days. I said, "you know...I'd like to relive the past four days all over again rather than go back to work tomorrow even if it means that I have to have the colonoscopy procedure again." We both laughed. It's a sad day when I'd rather go through a colonoscopy than go to work but such is life working for vindictive, mean spirited and short sighted management within the FAA.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Time for Modesty, Riding and a Trip to Winona

I went in for a colonoscopy a couple days ago. I tuned 50 this past summer...the magic age where they recommend you begin to be regularly checked. The morning didn't start out so smoothly. We arrived on time but they didn't have me on their schedule for the day. I was scheduled for the procedure the next day but that's not what the paperwork they'd sent me stated. Their mistake. I jokingly told the woman at the front desk that I'd cleared both my schedule and my bowels and it had to be done today. She said there wouldn't be any problem getting me in.

The most difficult part of the entire experience was the day before when I had to drink a gallon of some formula which flushes every last bit of food from the digestive track. I tried to go into that part of the prep as thirsty as I could but it was still difficult consuming a full gallon. It took me two hours but I managed.

Not to fear...the procedure itself is virtually painless. I was given an intravenous sedative which allowed me to be entirely alert but feeling no pain. At times it got a bit uncomfortable but that sensation was usually short lived.

There was a monitor in front of me so I could watch...and I did. One small polyp was found and cut away. Apart from that I was given a clean bill of health...so far as my colon is concerned.

Sure, it's a bit of a hassle and not something I was looking forward to having done. But too many people put the exam off only to find out later that they shouldn't have and whatever concerns of modesty they may have had which kept them from being checked will pale in comparison to what they'll be faced with.

Okay, the public service portion of the blog is over...on to better stuff...

I just spent an hour on my rollers. I haven't felt compelled to be outside on my bike this winter as I have the past few winters. Actually, I get a better workout on my rollers than I do out on the road this time of year. In the cold temps wearing the extra gear it makes it difficult to get a fast leg turnover necessary to get my heart rate elevated. I finished 2007 with 7500 road miles...quite a bit less than 2006 but then that was my goal...to do less miles. I'll look to do a similar amount this year.

Tammy and I spent yesterday on a bit of a journey to the town of Winona, MN, about 125 miles southeast. I met a guy (Tom) online a few weeks ago who'd found our website and emailed me about some of the stained glass work we've done. We've exchanged several emails since then. Tom has a wealth of knowledge related to stained glass and gigabytes of photos he's taken over the years. It's been interesting getting to know him.

Tom told us about several places in Winona which have some of Tiffany's work as well as other artists. So we planned a day trip down there to check it out. The only problem being that we really needed a couple days to take it all in. The town has so much character and interesting little shops and restaurants. We'd like to plan an overnight trip there sometime this summer...maybe find a bed and breakfast to stay at. I told Tammy I'd love to ride my bike there and have her meet me as the roads along the way are beautiful.

We saw some spectacular glass-work...especially the Tiffany windows at the Winona National Bank. Not only did the bank boast many windows from Tiffany Studios but the entire building is a work of art. When we walked into the main entrance a woman sitting behind a desk approached us and offered us a brochure detailing the building, its history and the art work it contains. A must see if you're ever in Winona. Here's a more detailed view of the window above.

Nearly as equally impressive is the Merchants Bank of Winona just a couple blocks away. It too has an incredible display of stained glass in addition to some great architecture. Check out my Flickr account while you're at the last link for some additional photos from the day.

We caught a bite to eat at the Junction before heading for home. We stopped near Lake Pepin to get a look at several eagles which were flying around near some open water along the Mississippi river. Tammy took the photo to the right. I think it's a beautiful shot. It appeared there were several pairs of eagles out there. They're such a majestic bird. I love it as a symbol for our country although I often wonder if we're doing such a good job of living up to what the eagle represents...courage, strength and freedom.

I put together a YouTube video of the day. Here it is.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Damn You, Tim!

Most of the guys I work with know that I'm a bit of a YouTube freak. I've currently got 131 videos posted to the site. One of those videos has seen quite a bit of activity in the year or more since it's been uploaded with over 51,000 views and 464 comments. (edit: it's since been removed from YouTube and uploaded to my Vimeo account)

A couple nights ago a friend from work, Tim, was at home digitizing some 8mm video from years ago. He was walking out of the room when he noticed a scene on the monitor which caught his eye. He thought it would maybe be a good clip for the site break.com. He uploaded it and the gatekeepers at the website picked up on it and gave it 'Latest Video Pick' status on their front page. In the little more than 24 hours since it's been posted it's received over 203,000 views...totally blowing away my Judge Judy video.

I took a lot of ribbing at work last night about it with comments such as 'all your videos views together don't come anywhere near what this one video of Tim's has.' It was total humiliation for me but you know what they say...that which doesn't kill you blah blah blah.

Anyway, I have a prediction that this lame (and it is a lame video) of Tim's will be just flash in the pan and once it's taken off break.com's front page it will find its place in obscurity among the so many other lame videos while my Judge Judy video will press on and eventually surpass Tim's lame video. Maybe I'm using the word lame too often in this post.

Damn you Tim!


Catcher Drills Batter With Ball - Watch more free videos

Tammy and I are taking a day trip to Winona to check out some stained glass in a couple of the buildings in town. I hope to grab some interesting photos along the way. Maybe stop off near Lake City and see if we can see some eagles soaring out over the river.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Glen Hudson...Rock, Developing Friendships and a Letter To the President

Leeland, Tears of the Saints

Glen Hudson retired from the FAA today and I'll miss him. I've known Glen since 1982 when he was training on his radars and I was A-siding on the C row. We've spent nearly our entire careers together with the exception of a couple years when I was exiled to Huron, SD.

Glen wasn't the moody type but on occasion he'd yell for everybody to shut the eff up in the area when he was the only one busy and the rest of us were talking too loudly.

You could almost always count on Glen to keep things light.

Many have tried to imitate his humor but Glen has a certain style which is all his own and anybody trying to do what he does comes off as a wannabe. I'm guilty of that as well. Best wishes for a happy retirement brother and here's hoping our paths will cross again one of these days.

Okay, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that with Glen's departure comes a bit of sour grapes on my part. I would've been numerouno in seniority in my area had it not been for our union's decision that my time spent in Flight Service shouldn't count toward seniority. I drop to the number 5 position. What's frustrating for me is that I'm being penalized for time spent outside the bargaining unit but all of my time spent in Flight Service was done before the 'bargaining unit ever existed. There was no bargaining unit to be outside of. Whatever.

I had a guy (Tom) from Duluth email me last week. He'd found our site and was interested in our stained glass work. We've exchanged a few emails as well as Flickr account addresses. He's a talented photographer and has an appreciation for stained glass but that's about all I know about him.

Tom is hoping to begin work on a stained glass project of his own but is having second thoughts about attempting it as it's a bit ambitious he thinks. He asked if I'd be interested in being his technical advisor on the project and offered to send me a couple prints of photos of his work which I admire as payment. The prints arrived today. I've never been a technical advisor but I'm currently a trainer for my trainee...Reid, who is a budding Air Traffic Controller.

I've got my RC plane assembled but I'm having trouble with the electronics portion of it. I made two trips to the hobby store today trying to get it running but it's still not right. While I was there I purchased RealFlight, a remote control flight simulator. The amount I spent on it will easily be made up in hopefully a lesser amount of crashed and ruined planes once I take this hobby live.

I'm fortunate to have my Congressman live just down the street form me. It's not something I want to abuse but there are times when I feel it's important to take advantage of that connection. I wrote a letter to President Bush tonight and I intend to deliver it to Mr. Kline tomorrow with hopes that he'll do what he can to see that it makes its way to the President's desk. Maybe I'm incredibly naive as to how the system works but here's my letter...

President Bush, January 4th, 2008

My name is Kevin Gilmore and I’ve been an Air Traffic Controller with the FAA for 26 years. I asked John Kline, my Congressman, if he could possibly see that you receive my letter. Allow me to briefly say that I voted for you in both elections and I’ve been an strong supporter of you. Time and again I’ve posted comments of support on your behalf to message boards I frequent all the while taking a fair amount of heat in return…but I don’t mind. I do however feel that my trust in you has been abused as a federal worker and a union member.

For the 2nd year in a row, FAA management and staff personnel received the yearly Congressional raise while the men and women who make up the people in the trenches, the Air Traffic Controllers who put their careers on the line with every clearance they issue will receive no raise whatsoever.

If the goal was to get costs under control you have my support but I don’t see how that could possibly have been our goal when you’ve asked management to contribute nothing in the way of monetary sacrifice. It’s fundamentally wrong that people in management who fled the stress of the job as a Controller for a position in management are rewarded with yearly raises while those of us who accept the stress of the position are being put down and disrespected.

If your goal was to create a resentful, demoralized and bitter workforce, let me tell you that you have succeeded. I don’t mean to be glib but the hypocrisy we’re being subjected to is ridiculous and we deserve an explanation. Do you believe in leading by example? I respectfully request you to please ask your ATO leaders to begin to do exactly that because there is a serious disconnect occurring within FAA management in terms of leadership.

I recall the movie, We Were Soldiers Once. There was a riveting point in the movie where Mel Gibson (playing the part of Colonel Harold Moore about to lead his troops into battle) says, "But I swear this, before you and before Almighty God. When we go into battle, I will be the first to step onto the field and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive we will all come home...together." Would you say that Mr. Sturgell is leading by example? Is anybody in FAA management leading by example? Not from my perspective.

President Bush, I implore you to put a stop to the hypocrisy which we’re being subjected to within the FAA. I request that you either freeze managements’ pay or allow Controllers the same raises until we come to an agreement. For the record, there was nothing fair about the negotiations which resulted in impasse. Your side simply waited out the clock. Hardly a fair fight would you agree? Natca moved 1.9 billion dollars in your direction while management moved not one penny in our direction. What am I missing? This needs to be fixed and you have the power to do that.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I sincerely appreciate it.

Respectfully,


Kevin Gilmore
xxxxx xxxxxxx Terrace West
Lakeville, MN 55044
952-220-xxxx
kevin@kevinandtammy.net


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I Want This and More Reasons to Avoid BestBuy

When I was around 12 years old there used to be a guy who had a remote control airplane which he'd fly in the local school yard. It was one of the cooler things I'd ever seen. I watched him fly it several times over the course of the summer until he crashed it into the backstop behind home plate. I never saw him or his plane again .

I've had a fascination with RC planes ever since but never enough of a fascination to buy a plane of my own. But, as I mentioned a couple posts ago, I now have my first RC plane thanks to a Christmas gift Tammy bought me. It's a simple trainer made of styrofoam. Nothing too expensive but certainly nice enough and perfect for me to learn on.

Tammy showed me some videos on YouTube of the type of airplane she got me in action. I looked a bit deeper into the tube and found that some guys were outfitting their planes with small video cameras to record aerial views of the earth below. That whole idea intrigues me.

I came across another aerial video today which blows away any of the others I've seen. It's not so much the video content but the way in which it works. The other videos were captured and viewed after you got back home and downloaded the data to your computer. The video you're about to see was viewed through a pair of virtual reality goggles in real time as the flight took place. It would be the next best thing to sitting in the cockpit of the plane and directing it where to go while seeing the world from a few hundred feet up. Not unlike what they're doing with surveillance drones in Iraq.

Here's the video which has me so intrigued...



I was reading some of the videographers comments and he said that the VR goggles give a much better view than you would think. Did you notice the bird he was following toward the end of the video? Anybody who has posted videos to YouTube knows that a whole lot of resolution is lost through compression so I've no doubt that the real time video you see through the goggles will be very acceptable.

I was telling Tammy today that I want to do this. She too thought it sounded fun. She's so cool about indulging me in my passions and I love that about her.

There are several guys at work who play Aces High. Tim and Rob have been trying to get me to join them online at night to play but so far I haven't been all that interested. They use joy sticks, foot pedals and some infra red gizmo which allows them to look all around while in combat. I showed them the above video and they're both very interested in looking further into it. I could see several of us doing this together and chasing each other through the sky...for real and not in some video game.

I hate to ruin a perfectly pleasant post with anything BestBuy related but I really need to keep beating the drum about this worthless place every chance I can.

A couple guys at work this morning were complaining about BestBuy and for good reason. The company is bad, bad, bad I tell you...they're bad. Bob had to take a camera back which was unopened. They wanted to charge him a 15% restocking fee even though the seals on the box the camera came in had never been broken. He told the manager that there wasn't anything outlining that policy anywhere. The manager pointed to a sign off in the distance which neither of them could read from where they were standing. The manager went on to say that each camera box comes with a sticker on it which explains the policy. There was no sticker on Bob's box. The manager walked Bob over to the boxes of cameras where he got his from and had to pull out three cameras before finding a box with the policy sticker on it. The manager wasn't budging. Bob could see he wasn't getting anywhere so he proceeded to open the box and pull out all that could be pulled out and open anything which could be opened so it couldn't be sold as new. Excellent move, Bob!

Grant recently purchased a big screen TV from the evil place and no sooner got it home when the set would suddenly turn off. He called the store and was told that the only set in the area which he could exchange it for was 30 miles north in Roseville and that they could have it delivered to the Apple Valley store in four days. Grant didn't want to wait so he boxed up his set and drove to the Roseville store.

When he got to the Roseville store a guy from in back wheeled out the box containing the set as well as a big gash in the box. Grant had them open the box in the store to make sure it wasn't damaged. He noticed a film covering the screen which wasn't on his supposedly 'new' set when he bought it...the sort of film which is there to protect the screen. Since his original set didn't have a similar film covering the screen he's certain that TV wasn't new at all and was a reject somebody had used and brought back. BestBuy boxed it back up and put it out there for somebody else to come along and take it home rather than fix it or junk it.

Like I said...they're bad.