Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Feeling the Blues and Bike Theft

My response to the Letter of Reprimand being put in my file at work was supposed to be turned in yesterday but management dragged their feet in getting us some necessary paperwork so they've put off until next week our deadline for responding. My original letter was two pages in length. It's since been pared down to one page as I removed a lot of the opining I'd done in the original. Just the facts.

The letter is all typed and ready to go—like it will matter any.

There is legislation moving through the Senate (H.R. 2881 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007). which will hopefully address our lack of contract negotiations with FAA management. There are still many hurdles to overcome before the biggest hurdle of them all: a Presidential veto. Bush has said he will veto the bill if it contains language which is favorable to labor. What a guy.

This is a snippet from a longer statement the Bush administration made with respect to some of the language in the bill..."The Administration strongly opposes the substitute’s proposal to change the way that the FAA and its unions resolve contract impasses. The House bill includes additional, highly objectionable language that would open the existing air traffic controller contract."

The language the administration is concerned about will keep them from failing to negotiate in good faith and imposing whatever they desire on the workforce as is the case now. It's pointless to have negotiations when management simply waits out the clock then declares an impasse. The new language will fix that.

I came home from work on both Monday and Tuesday feeling exhausted. Usually, I'll get on my bike for a couple hours but I was too tired. I hit the couch for an hour nap each day then took the pups walking. Between the hassles at work and the lousy weather, I've not been myself lately. I'm looking forward to some better days in more ways than one.

I left work an hour early today as it was my Friday and I wanted to get a jump on my weekend. Tammy asked me if I was going riding. She was encouraging me to get out and so I did. I told her I'd be gone quite a while as I really needed some time on my bike. She was fine with that. There was a stiff southeast wind blowing at 20-25 mph in advance of a wet system moving our way for tomorrow. I headed in the direction of Hastings then worked my way into Wisconsin through Prescott.

It was tough going out there but I wouldn't realize until putting my bike away after my ride that it wasn't only the wind slowing me down. My back brake had been rubbing on my wheel. How much extra effort it was requiring of me I have no idea but it certainly wasn't helping. Lance Armstrong actually had the same thing happen to him in a stage of the Tour de France so I don't feel so stupid. I had one other mechanical problem out there when my front shifter cable broke leaving me in the small ring in front. That was disappointing because for the remainder of the ride I wasn't able to take full advantage of the tailwind. Ah, so what...I was riding and that's really all that mattered.

It was a good day otherwise as I brought it home in just over 100 miles.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had begun taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin to help with my knee pain. I can't say that my pain has gone away when I ride but I can say for certain that my knees feel much better. I first noticed it two days after I began taking it. I got out of bed and usually, the first thing I notice is the pain in my knees. It was gone. I'm going to keep using it for the remainder of the riding season to get a better feel for it. The early results are good.

I never carry a lock with me when I ride. The last thing I want to do is add unnecessary (yeah, until my bike is stolen) weight to my bike. Besides, most of the locks I've seen are too bulky. When I'm out riding and I have to run into a convenience store to refuel or use the restroom, I park my bike near the entrance and try to minimize my time inside as much as possible. I probably should consider a small lock as all my riding is done solo and I'm not with a group of guys where there is less chance of bikes being left unattended.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Barack on Fox and the Ironman Rolls Through

I'm not a Barack Obama supporter but neither am I a John McCain supporter. I watched Obama on Fox News Sunday yesterday in an interview with Chris Wallace. It was an interview he was reluctant to do. He shouldn't have been as I thought he only helped himself. I watched McCain one week earlier in an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press. He wasn't impressive and came across as a man well past his prime. I don't see how McCain could possibly win the election. My guess is Obama will be our next president.

The last thing our country needs is another Clinton or Bush in the White House. Let's get rid of the Ted Stevens' and Teddy Kennedys' and the like while we're at it. I say term limits for all!

The job of Senator or Congressman was never meant to be a full-time position. It was intended for individuals from the masses to step forward and represent the people then go back to their lives. That was the one thing I admired about Paul Wellstone when he first ran for office in the early '90s. He pledged to only serve two terms if elected. He too succumbed to the lure of power and died in a plane crash while seeking a third term.

I'm not going to talk about the lousy weather anymore. Just the good weather. My co-worker Tim has the market cornered about the winter which won't end. I've told him to stop blogging about it but I don't think he will. Tim is actually a frustrated weatherman and only opted for life as an air traffic controller because he loves to play video games. What better video game than ATC?

I was driving into work yesterday past Lakeville North high school when I noticed that the parking lot was overflowing and cars were parked all up and down the side streets. I tried to recall an event which the parking lot couldn't accommodate and then I saw the cyclists. It was the last Sunday in April and the Ironman was back in town. There were cyclists everywhere as they put the finishing touches on their ride.

The riders run the gamut from young kids and the more unfit riders doing the 30-mile course to the more serious sort hammering home as fast as they can through 100 miles although it's not a race.

I haven't done the Ironman since 1981. Back then it began from Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis and went out west toward Buffalo. I remember seeing yard signs along the way from people protesting the ride due to the trouble it created for vehicle traffic along the route. The venue was changed ten years ago to my hometown of Lakeville. I haven't heard any negative talk about the large number of riders (approximately 4000) but then I haven't ridden the new route. Maybe the signs are along the current route as well.

I suppose the reason I don't do the ride is that it's common for me to go out and do the distance on my own so why do I want to pay $45 for the support when I don't need it? I understand it's a fundraiser for Hostelling International and I'm sure that's a good thing but that's not enough to lure me in. I know that some cyclists ride along and don't pay (referred to as 'outlaws') but neither do they use the support provided. I see nothing wrong with that. Maybe I'll do that one of these years just for fun.

We've got a pair of ducks hanging around the neighborhood for the past few weeks. They were in our backyard for several hours one day last week just hanging around and picking at some spilled seed under our bird feeder. A little later I noticed another male duck shadowing the pair but he was keeping his distance. Today when I was out walking Toby and Allie I saw the same trio a few blocks away but this time they were close together. It's odd as there are some ponds nearby but they seem to prefer dry land. It would be nice if the other male is able to find his own mate as I'm sure the original pair is going to soon want some alone time to start their family.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Turn and Ache Speak

My area manager at work asked me if I would write a response to the Letter of Reprimand they intend to place in my file. I told him I would but that I'd rather let this entire episode fade away so I can get back to thinking about other stuff; stuff less frustrating. Writing the letter describing my thoughts at what played out would only suck me back in again. And it has.

I spent part of last night and a bit of this afternoon drafting my reply. I've put way more thought into this than I'd care to admit. My weekends are mine, not the FAA's.

I wrote a two-page response in 10 point font. I'm not at all hopeful that they'll do the right thing and turn the focus from me to the supervisor who unnecessarily escalated our disagreement into something much more. I'd love for them to look at what the supervisor did wrong that day and how his actions were uncalled for and extremely disruptive. I've been around long enough to know that FAA management is only interested in protecting their own. The truth is an afterthought; something to be considered only if there is enough time after the trash has been taken out and only if nobody is looking.

There was a story out of Indianapolis a couple days ago about a bank robber who shot a 30-year-old pregnant teller in the abdomen before getting away. The twin babies she was carrying were 5 months along. They've since died. So, is this murder or not?

I took off work an hour early on Wednesday to go riding. I felt like I needed to go long and I did; 90 miles. It was the warmest day of the year with the temp reaching into the mid-70s. It was windy but abundant sunshine made up for it. I used sunscreen on my face and neck but let the rest of my pasty white body soak in the rays. I needed a day like that on my bike.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with another controller and fellow biker, Paul Osika. We were comparing aches (knee-related) and he mentioned that he'd been taking Glucosamine and that it was helping him. I'd taken a combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin years ago but I couldn't honestly say that it helped. I'm willing to give it a go again. I don't understand it but it seems that once I get my mileage up over 250 miles per week my knees are fine. It's when I'm doing anything less than 200 miles that they give me trouble and that's where I'm currently at. Tammy showed me a container of Osteo Bi-Flex she's been using. The daily dosage calls for 1500mg of Glucosamine and 1250mg of Chondroitin. I'll report back.

Today's ride wasn't so nice. When I left home there was a steady rain and a temp in the low-40s. It wasn't so bad but the stink of slimy worms all over the road was a bit of a distraction. I don't think I've ever seen so many worms—well, maybe at a supes meeting at work. :)

Gotta go.

The Anatomy of a Lynching

(Across the bottom of the hard copy of this letter as I prepare it for upload to my blog is written: "Input ignored, not considered".  I assume those words were written by my union rep.  It doesn't matter who wrote it; it's true.)

The following is a letter I wrote to FAA management in response to a Letter of Reprimand they intend to place in my file for some trumped-up charges against me.

I was conducting on-the-job training in sector 29 when Mr. Mark said he needed a 30 and a 15 (miles in trail restriction between aircraft) on some ORD (Chicago, IL) landing traffic. AAL764, #1 in the sequence was in our sector. #2 in the sequence was AAL1210, well south of OBH (Wolbach, NE) in sector 39 and already 10 miles-in-trail with AAL764 when measured to their next common fix of DBQ (Dubuque, IA). #3 in the sequence was a United flight, 20 miles-in-trail with AAL764 being worked by sector 28 overlying us.

After analyzing the situation I felt that it wasn't our routine ORD sequencing problem because the aircraft in sector 39 was further south than normal. I thought that it presented a good teaching scenario for my trainee about how to achieve the needed miles-in-trail through the use of other available resources; Mr. Mark, the supervisor in the area, being one of those resources. I called Mr. Mark over and asked him if he could work through either our Traffic Management Unit (TMU) or Area 6 to have them follow our lead aircraft, AAL764. I wanted my trainee to see that the supervisor could be a good tool in helping to effect the needed coordination.

Often times sector 29 will have to reach out to sector 39 and have them put an ORD flight on a northerly heading to blend them in with sector 29's ORD stream. I felt this situation was different due to how far south AAL1210 was. Mr. Mark told us to bring AAL1210 into our airspace and work him ourselves.  Had my trainee done as Mr. Mark suggested by having sector 39 drive AAL1210 north into our sector (considering the aircraft's southerly position and very strong westerly winds, 280 degrees at 130-145 knots), the aircraft would have easily been the necessary 30 miles-in-trail before ever reaching our airspace and still south of OBH. It did not make sense for us to be involved in the control of this aircraft. I told Mr. Mark that we should simply have sector 39 follow AAL764; a very reasonable request.

Mr. Mark disagreed and said that we were responsible for the ORD sequencing and that we should do it. I reiterated that it would make more sense to have sector 39 follow our #1 aircraft, AAL764, because it would never enter our airspace. Mr. Mark was adamant that we do whatever ORD spacing there was. Whether he was deliberately being pigheaded or confrontational or simply just plain ignorant about how best to do the job, his actions were causing me confusion and frustration in the sector.

In retrospect, I should've made the call to sector 39 myself and kept Mr. Mark out of the equation but I was trying to provide training.

Mr. Mark inquired what the order of sequence was and I told him (we're only talking 3 aircraft in total). He then proceeded to tell the sector 28 controller the wrong order causing that controller to later have to go back and turn out his aircraft to gain additional miles-in-trail because of the bad information Mr. Mark had given him.

I've since learned that a similar situation recently occurred where Mr. Mark made a controller sequence an aircraft for ORD which also never entered his sector. This ill-advised approach to air traffic control is entirely wrong and needs to be addressed so that people like me can go about the business of doing our job rather than having to defend ourselves for doing our work correctly.

In addition to investigating my actions, I would hope you would also take a good look at Mr. Mark's actions and see who posed the real problem. Also, if we're going to have an investigation (and I welcome one), let's not forget TMU's role in this and how AAL1210 was allowed to proceed direct DBQ from where it was.

I'm disturbed about this incident for several reasons. All of this resulted from me disagreeing with Mr. Mark about the best way to achieve the ORD spacing. I was the controller in charge of the sector conducting OJTI and making a reasonable request of him. I had intimate knowledge of the traffic and weather conditions in the sector at the time and was in a better position to evaluate how best to achieve the ORD spacing. Mr. Mark did not possess the same understanding.

Mr. Mark has a difficult time whenever he's challenged or disagreed with but you already know that. If you would like me to expand on this I'd be happy to as it goes to the heart of the matter. His inability to work in a cohesive way with those he manages shows poor managerial skills. With all the talk about CRM, I found it sorely lacking during this situation.

The sector was becoming busy with lots of other traffic in addition to what little ORD traffic there was. It was all I could do to maintain "the flick" in the sector as M.r Mark presented much more of a distraction than was reasonable. At one point, I asked him to get me out of the sector so we could discuss the situation because I felt he was creating an unsafe environment for working traffic. I've never in my career been in such a position. It was at this point when he asked me if he should have the #2 aircraft routed up over FOD. I told him that would be fine. My trainee later conveyed to the sector 30 controller the need for 30 miles-in-trail between AAL764 and AAL1210.

This could have and should have been a good teaching tool for my trainee but I'm afraid the lesson learned (and he learned one) wasn't the lesson I'd intended for him.

I can't imagine myself as Controller in Charge, not facilitating a controller's request in the sector. To countermand their method of moving traffic would serve no useful purpose if they were doing nothing wrong. If I had a problem with what they were doing I would save it for when they got out of the sector and talk about it then. Becoming confrontational with them in the sector would not be one of my options especially when the plan they proposed was a solid one. This was a live traffic situation; this was not a simulation. This was no time for chest thumping.

My relationship with other supervisors in the area is good; ask any of them. If they need something done, I do it. My relationship with my peers is also good; ask any of them. I'm very easy to work with and I get along with everyone. Can Mr. Mark say the same? Does he have issues with people he works with or with those he supervises? I think an honest evaluation will lead you to the truth.

My relationship with Mr. Mark soured last December when he accused me of being disrespectful toward himself and Ron Sekinski during a discussion between the three of us. I left work that day very bewildered as to why he would accuse me of such a thing. On the drive home I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened so I phoned Ron and asked him if he felt I'd been disrespectful. Ron thought I was joking with him. I assured him that I wasn't. He told me there was no way that I was being disrespectful. I asked him to say nothing more as it was my desire for the incident to fade away. Please call Ron and ask him as I'm sure he'll recall our conversation. I bring up this incident for you as it bolsters my case that the one with the problem is Mr. Mark and not me.

Since that episode last December, Mr. Mark and I have spoken to each other only when necessary. Our relationship has sunk to a new low now and this was neither my desire nor my fault. My aim is to lessen stress in the control room, not increase it. I am not one to pick fights or create turmoil in the workplace; ask anybody I work with beginning with the balance of your supervisory staff.

I welcome this investigation, but for it to be meaningful it needs to be a full investigation and not just Mr. Mark's side of the story. I'd like for us to discuss how Mr. Mark did or didn't utilize CRM with me that morning and how he decreased sector safety by complicating a simple situation.

I'm disappointed that this entire matter has been blown out of proportion and that I have to spend time on my day off defending my actions with this letter. I'm bothered that Mr. Mark's actions aren't the ones being scrutinized as they should be for being so unnecessarily disruptive. But, if we can gain a better appreciation for working together then we will be further down the road in a good way and I welcome that.

If CRM is truly our goal, serious consideration should be given to what I've said.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Christmas is Over So Where is My Warm Weather?

I finally got around to taking down the Christmas lights off our house on Thursday. This is the latest I've had them up. I thought it'd be fun to light them one last time and so I did—all Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. I got some fun remarks from neighbors and no doubt some strange looks.

The gloomy weather continues its hold on this part of the world. I think we're all in need of some sunshine; I know I am. Hmm—maybe there's a connection between the gloomy weather and turning on our Christmas lights.

Yesterday's ride found me 20 miles from home in a cold rain. I was soaked through by the time I made my way back. It wasn't too bad and if it's all I've got to work with I suppose that's the way it has to be but I'd really like to feel the sun's heat on my back for a change. I miss that. I think I saw a forecast temp in the 70s for the early part of next week. That's a start.

Rachel made plans to go up and see her best friend, Camille, in Maple Grove this weekend. Tammy and I were both hesitant to allow her to drive the 40 miles up there. We eventually did allow her to go provided she didn't leave until after rush-hour traffic had dried up. She left at 7:00 and was texting me 45 minutes later to tell me she arrived safely. Her text to me: "just got here. Yall were freakin out about nothin. That was easy." I'm glad she made it safely. With each trip she takes, it gets a bit easier to watch her drive away but it's still an odd feeling.

Woohoo, Natalie is gone. If you don't watch Big Brother that will mean nothing to you.

Bummer, Ozzy is gone. If you don't watch Survivor that too will mean nothing to you.

Yeah, I know, I'm pathetic—but like I said, the weather has been lousy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

The Beatings will continue until morale improves. I don't know who coined that phrase but I've heard it more than a few times since the FAA imposed its work rules (wrongly calling it a contract) on Air Traffic Controllers of which I'm one. Sure, it's a funny phrase because it sounds so absurd but there's a certain amount of truth in it.

I had a meeting with management on Tuesday where they gave me a letter of reprimand which they intend to put in my file. I have two weeks to respond in writing to the charges. I began to write a response but I never finished it as it became apparent that whatever words I'd write wouldn't change the outcome. They'd already heard whatever I had to say and they dismissed it all. The charges are baseless and the, um, investigation which followed filled me with anger which concerned me.

I came home from work on Tuesday and Tammy didn't like what she saw in me. She did the best she could to convince me that I needed to let it go. It was eating at me and I was emotionally absent from both her and Rachel. Rachel mentioned to me how she'd been reading the Bible in the book of James where it talks about using difficult times to test your faith. Her words stuck with me as I kept pondering about how I was failing.

The next day I was talking with Rob in the control room while looking over at the supervisor (Doug) who brought the charge of insubordination against me. I could sense an anger in me that I knew I could neither let go of nor live with.

Some history...

My father was a financial manager with Control Data Corporation in 1985 when his division was bought out by a company called VTC. The year prior to the buy-out my father had received a distinguished achievement award from his division. I remember that it was an important accomplishment. He was just a few years away from retirement when he was forced out of Control Data and acquired by VTC. He didn't have any say in the matter. Within one year VTC would fire him. I don't know all the particulars as to why he was fired but I think a big part of it was his age and pending retirement which VTC would be on the line for. My dad filed a lawsuit against VTC for age discrimination. The suit would eventually end in failure with my dad settling for the cost of his attorney's fees. The firing and lawsuit left him a bitter, broken and angry man. I can't say that he ever got over it. I remember telling myself that I would never allow anger and resentment to rule my life the way he allowed it to.

As I sat there looking at Doug I was getting a glimpse of the anger my dad must have felt. It wasn't a good feeling and I knew it had to stop. It seemed to me that continuing the fight was going to do nothing to help the matter and only anger me more. I was in the process of burning down my house to kill a rat.

I decided the only course of action I could live with was to approach Doug and tell him that we needed to do whatever was necessary to move forward. And so I did. I got up from talking with Rob and walked over to Doug and asked him if we could talk for a couple minutes. I told him I was holding onto a lot of anger and resentment about the way the entire process played out but that I needed to move forward. I told him that I would accept responsibility for whatever role I played in allowing our altercation to escalate to the point it did and that I would hope we could work together.

He accepted what I had to say and agreed with me that we needed to work together but interestingly I don't recall that he ever took ownership of his role in the altercation. I suppose that's to be expected as I can't recall a time when FAA management ever took responsibility for their failures and that list is long and unending.

Doug suggested that I tell his boss what I'd just told him as he felt it would go a long way toward minimizing the extent of disciplinary action against me. That wasn't a concern of mine; relieving myself of the anger I'd been feeling was.

Later, I did see Pat (his boss) on the way out of the control room and repeated to him what I'd told Doug. I stressed that I was disappointed that we couldn't as adults have come together early on, checked our egos and talked about what had happened. He agreed. I told him that I came into work the morning following the incident intent on doing exactly that but the disciplinary process was already underway. Doug had jumped the gun and filed charges against me and in his haste (in my opinion) totally disregarded the first step in conflict resolution; talking. I don't know a thing about protocol when it comes to these matters but it appeared to me that the process was too rigid and lacked common sense.

There's no question that I let go of my anger through the course of talking with Doug and Pat. It wasn't a matter of me telling them that they were right and I was wrong because that wasn't my intent nor what I did. My intent was to let them know that I no longer wished to invest any more of myself in the matter and that I was moving forward and not looking back. I told them that they could do whatever they felt necessary with respect to the letter of reprimand but that I didn't intend to respond to it.

I'd made peace with myself.

I went to find our union president to tell him what I'd done but he wasn't in his office. I emailed him and a couple other reps who had been helping me with the matter to tell them what went down and why. I knew they wouldn't be happy and they weren't.

Their response was that management will feel this is a win for them because I threw in the towel. Me giving up will only embolden them to continue operating as they are and that is wrong. By letting go I've done nothing to help the next guy who comes along and falls into the same trap I did. The case with me is a solid one for Natca (my union) as I've got an unblemished 26-year career to stack up against management's baseless case against me.

They're right.

Natca intends to push this matter with or without me as it's a solid case and an important one. I do owe it to my union to do whatever I can. I have to find a way to walk that fine line between being involved and not getting sucked in. I intend to try. Should we fight this and my name is cleared that would be a bonus. I'm no longer emotionally invested in it and that's how it has to be. I'll do whatever my union needs me to do. I'll go before our facility manager and explain to him what happened if it will help. I'll write or talk to whoever they want me to. It will just be that my heart is in a different place as it has to be if that makes sense. I won't be doing it for me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Juno, Package Delivery and a Tuber's Tutorial

The killer snowstorm they were forecasting for us never materialized but still, you'd never know it's spring around here. I've heard we can expect temps in the 60s next week. I'd be happy with 50s at this point.

Our furnace went on the blink a couple nights ago. I couldn't even get the fan to turn on. I phoned Center Point and they were able to get a tech out within 20 minutes. It appeared there was no power to the furnace at all and the tech couldn't explain that. He found that the igniter was bad. A simple fix. From the time I made the phone call for help to when he left was no more than 45 minutes. Quite impressive.

We watched Juno this past week. I suppose some may call it a chick flick but I thought it was an excellent movie. I believe it comes out on DVD this week. Tammy and Rachel thought the writing reminded them of the Gilmore Girls. This will probably be one of those movies we buy. I don't usually buy movies but I have a few. The last one I felt the need to own was the World's Fastest Indian. Great film.

I usually try and support my local businesses as much as I can but occasionally I'll use an online retailer especially if it means avoiding a trip to Best Buy. We went online through Amazon to buy Rachel's GPS. I couldn't locate the one I wanted locally and I didn't feel like driving all over town to find it. Even with opting for the express, one-day delivery charge of $17, I was still quite a bit ahead both in time and gas money making the purchase through the convenience of my laptop. The obvious advantage of purchasing online is the ability to compare features as well as prices. The abundance of reviews to mull over is an added bonus.

It's great to be able to track your packages as they make their way to your door. I was concerned that this one wouldn't make it in time as we really needed it by Friday and I'd never used one-day delivery before. No problem.

Carrier notified to pick up package at 12:34:47 PM, April 10, 2008
Shipment picked up by UPS at 05:38:00 PM, April 10, 2008 from Tulsa, OK
Arrival scan, 12:45:00 AM, April 11, 2008, Louisville, KY
Arrival scan, 03:45:00 AM, April 11, 2008, Minneapolis, MN
Delivered, 01:49:00 PM, April 11, 2008, Lakeville, MN

I played around with the unit for a while so I could show Rachel how to use it. She probably already knows more about how it works than I do as her friend has one. Anyway, in typical geek fashion, I took it out for a test drive and wouldn't you know I brought my video camera along. Lucky you...

Rachel and I got out this morning for a test run to put it through its paces. She'll have no problem finding her way around with it. The main concern I have is making sure she hides it from view when her car is parked. I hear they're popular targets for theft. My sister was telling me that thieves will look for the suction cup mark on the windshield and know that there's likely a GPS unit in the car out of view. I was reading the directions and sure enough, they caution you to wipe off the suction cup residue from your windshield for that very reason. I asked Rachel to keep it in the house when she's not using it.

The Nuvi 260 has an anti-theft feature in case it's stolen which disables the unit from performing any functions until the user types in a specific 4-digit PIN or takes the unit to a predetermined secure location. I sort of like the idea of a predetermined location rather than a 4-digit PIN as a person could crack the code in a couple hours if they're persistent. I'll have to look and see how the predetermined location thing works.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Collecting Thoughts, More Winter and a New Nuvi

Thanks to Rob, my post about the fine folks I work for will have to wait to see the light of day. I thought it was a good post but Rob thought I should maybe hold off on going live with it for a little while; like until after I retire. And so I will. The main purpose was served though in that I was able to document my frustration about the environment I work in. You'll simply have to wait to read it. Unless of course, you request it in which case I'll happily email you a copy of it.

You've probably heard the saying: those who can't do, teach. In the world in which I work all too often those who can't do, manage, and some of them do it quite poorly. But don't take my word for it; just ask any air traffic controller.

I'd been too tired to ride earlier in the week so when I got home yesterday Tammy insisted that I get out on my bike. I love it when she does that. She told me I'd feel better once I got out there and she was right. It was a beautiful day to ride. There's no better place for me to collect my thoughts than on my bike and I did a lot of that. Tim and Mark, if you're reading this, that is what prompted the email you received from me.

But enough about work-related stuff. It's my weekend.

There's a major storm in the making as I blog this with strong east winds gusting over 30 mph. I spent a good part of the morning checking the weather radar and assuring myself that there was no way I was going to get a ride in as it appeared the rain and snow or whatever would fall would begin at any moment. A little after noon I got tired of seeing a windy but okay opportunity to ride slip away so I suited up and got on my bike. I hadn't yet left my driveway when it began to sleet. I didn't care. Sleet being driven by strong winds stings your face. It doesn't help to be pedaling into it. I didn't care. It was nice to be riding. The sleet eventually turned to rain and by the time I got home I was soaked through but yeah, I didn't care. I wasn't at work having to deal with the little fella and his insecurities so it was all good.

We've got some flower chutes poking through our garden in front and with 6-8 inches of snow in the forecast, I figured I should try and protect them. I found some buckets to place over them so I think they'll be fine. This weather is nuts. Usually, Toby gives me the look until I take him for his daily walk but he knew enough not to even bother this afternoon.

Tammy and I went out looking at GPS units for Rachel's car last night. We'd both like for her to have one and she too thinks it's a good idea. She has to drive to Hastings on Sunday for a dance competition and she's not so good when it comes to finding her way around. As I mentioned in my previous post, she got lost last Saturday night on her way back from a friend's house who lives ten miles away. Hastings is a straight shot about 25 miles east and I think she could navigate it on her own but what if I'm wrong? Tammy and I will both be at work and unable to help her should she need us. She has a map in her car and I think she could find her way but Tammy and I both feel better about her having this technology so she can keep her eyes on the road and not trying to follow a map.

So, when we got home I looked on Amazon and found a unit which I think will be perfect for her. I ordered her a Garmin Nuvi 260. I put it on rush order so we'll have it tomorrow and in time for her trip to Hastings. It's a nice little unit, nothing elaborate but perfect for her needs. We plan to give it a test drive tomorrow so she'll be comfortable using it.

Guilty pleasure time—we watch Big Brother on CBS. I know I probably just lost a degree of credibility by admitting that. I could cheat and find out who won Head of Household. I'm very tempted to but I think I'll wait and find out Sunday night. I have a bad feeling that Natalie wore the others down with her constant jabbering but I'm hoping that Sharon hung on.

Um, Tammy just told me who won. I didn't want to know that...yet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Losing My Religion

This is one of several posts being put on the back burner until my days with the FAA are finished for fear of certain reprisals should this go live while I'm still employed. So much for freedom of speech.

If I had any illusions that I work for reasonable people, those illusions have proved to be a mirage. The title of this post is in reference to those who stumble their way through mediocre careers while sitting in judgment of people who do a job from which they ran (or as in the case with the supervisor at the center of my dispute)—decertified themselves when the going got tough.


This is about coming to the realization that truth is something which gets in the way of power and not something which necessarily wins out at the end of the day.

I made reference a few days ago to some troubles I was having at work as the result of a traffic situation and how it was handled. It was a simple sequencing problem for some Chicago arrivals and me trying to show my trainee how to go about rectifying the problem by enlisting the help of the supervisor. I made an assumption that the supervisor would work with me but instead, he chose to use the situation to flex his muscle and disregard my 26 years of experience in favor of his lack of common sense.

They haven't told me what I'm being charged with but I'm assuming it's insubordination of some sort. I questioned a bad plan from somebody who isn't known for his understanding of how to sequence aircraft and for that I'm in the wrong. It doesn't matter that my approach to the situation was better. All that matters is that the little fella had his feelings hurt and for that, I must pay.

My union has done a great job of going to bat for me and I've got all the support I could want from those who saw what happened but none of that matters if management isn't interested in the truth. And they're not.

Little man syndrome can be a difficult thing to overcome and I'm not just referring to the person who suffers the affliction.

The part of this which is most difficult to swallow is that I'm being advised to not fight it. If I do push back, management will come down even harder on me and who knows what that will result in. I've never in my career been in this situation. I've never had any disciplinary action brought against me and I've enjoyed the respect of my peers and supervisors my entire career.

The troubling part of all of this is that management knows that the supe I had my troubles with has a long history of terrible interpersonal skills and being unable to overcome his shortcomings. They've chosen to ignore the problems with the supervisor and instead, make me their focus. I'm naive when it comes to these things. I expect reasonable people to come to reasonable solutions but the FAA doesn't work that way.

I'll be disciplined while the real problem won't be addressed. My attitude will sour while the person responsible for the entire mess walks away with the blessings of management.

I used to take pride in the training I provided but I no longer feel that my efforts are appreciated. Training others in the art of air traffic control with live traffic is easily the most difficult job in this building when it's done right. You have to allow your trainee to go to the edge of their abilities before stepping in and it often creates for a stressful environment. Not everyone is cut out to train others and the list of those who do it well isn't a long one. It's quite likely the list will soon have one less name on it. That will be my decision.

How could I have been so naive for so long?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chris Greseth and Directional Help

We've got a new worship leader at Hosanna! Chris Greseth. He had the service rocking this morning by following a traditional hymn (which we seldom sing) with a Joe Cocker tune, Feelin' Alright. Not that I've ever heard a Joe Cocker tune sung in church for that matter; I'm pretty sure that was Bill's idea as it was a nice segue into his message. Chris came to us a couple months ago from St. Joseph, Missouri (I think). He's filling some very big shoes left behind by Jon Russel and from what I can tell he's going to be a really good fit. I can't sing nor can I play any instruments but I do appreciate good music.

On the way out of church I had a former neighbor tap me on the shoulder—Greg Green—easily one of the best neighbors I've ever had. We both made promises to get in touch with each other and I really hope we do. He moved maybe ten years ago to a place out in the country. The only contact we have now is of the kind we had today and that's too bad.

Today was the end of an era of sorts as Rachel drove herself to church. She meets with the senior high kids and then they form into small groups after their service. It's nice that's she's able to drive herself and come and go as she pleases. Our schedules don't always match up so well on Sundays as I'm usually rushing to get to work. I admire the way she's putting herself out there with the kids at both Hosanna and Prince of Peace. She's a good kid.

Speaking of Rachel—I seem to do that a lot in my blog—she called last night at around midnight to say she was lost. She was coming home from a party at Matty's house and made a wrong turn. She pulled over into an unlit school parking lot to call me. We have an agreement about not driving and using the cellphone. She listed some of the familiar streets nearby. I got her out of the parking lot as quickly as I could as I didn't like the idea of her being in a dark, secluded place like that. She got herself pointed in the right direction and made it home 20 minutes later.

I rethought our no cellphone while driving rule and told her that if she ever finds herself lost again to not hesitate while driving to call us and that Tammy or I would get her heading in the right direction. I see a GPS unit for her car in her future. I think I'll go see what Slick Deals has. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bad Dog, Gas Money and Some Tough Miles

I was a bad dog at work last Tuesday; at least according to a certain supervisor. I'd love to tell you all about it but I should probably exercise some discretion and hold off just a bit and see how it plays out. I spent far too much time during my days off dwelling on it. I hope to return the favor by the time it's all over. Let's just say that common sense met unreasonableness and because of that an investigation is underway. I welcome it.

Little man syndrome. Ever heard of it?

Rachel mentioned that she's down to a quarter tank of gas in her car. I have to smile about that. We'll no doubt be hearing her say that a lot in the weeks and months to come. She works teaching dance but whatever she earns goes back into her studio dance lessons. She had some leftover money from her trip to Seattle which she offered to use to fill her tank. We told her to keep it. Tammy and I both feel that her main focus should be school and there's no way she can take on another part-time job with all the homework she has. She attends "early bird" classes and is taking APUSH (Advanced Placement US History), a college-level history class. She's doing her part so we have no problem doing for her those extra things which many parents would consider her obligations.

I had to laugh yesterday—we have an agreement with Rachel that for the first month of driving, she'll have no kids in her car with her. After the first month, she's allowed one other person for the next couple of months. Anyway, I got a call from her asking me if it was okay if she went to a restaurant with five other kids. She said that the other five would be in Katrina's car and that she'd drive herself. Katrina drives a small Toyota and the thought of all those kids crammed into her car with Rachel all by herself in her Taurus had me laughing. But that's our agreement.

I got some decent miles in on my bike the last couple days. Yesterday's ride was brutal. The first 35 miles were straight into a 20 mph wind. The temp was fine, in the mid-50s. Once I got to Belle Plaine I could see some dark clouds developing to the north in the direction I was headed. I called work to see if I could get an idea for what was happening with the weather as rain hadn't been in any forecast I'd seen. Mark Anderson gave me as good a description as he could and with that, I decided to press on northward. I'd at least lose the headwind and not have to work so hard. Ten minutes later I was in driving rain and getting soaked with a temp which felt like it was dipping into the mid-40s. I'd spend the next 15 miles being rained on.

It's one thing to be in rain when the temp is warmer and there's hope for eventually drying off once the rain ends. I didn't have much hope for that. My shoes were soaked through. Each car that passed by hit me with another blast of grit filled spray. We're still dealing with an abundance of sand on the roads from all the sanding and salting done over the winter. The grit took its toll on my rear cassette and within an hour I'd lose a couple of my preferred gears. The cold sapped the warmth from my quads and as a result I had no leg speed whatsoever. It was becoming one of those rides where you just have to endure. All the while I kept thinking that I'd still rather be out on my bike than at work dealing with the little fella and I was thankful for the perspective.

The skies were clearing by the time I got to Prior Lake and my upper body was actually drying out a bit. I was glad to be within reach of home. I finished the day with just over 70 miles. Not as far as I wanted when I first started out but feeling good about getting some tough miles behind me. I've done much longer rides which didn't take as much out of me.

Toby and Allie have me trained to take them for at least one walk and sometimes two walks a day. Toby has a look which says it all. He'll sit in front of me and look at me until I get up and then he'll lead me to the back door. I don't mind. It's the least I can do for all the love and affection they give us.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Out Like a Lion and She Did It!

I don't remember if March came in like a lamb but it definitely is going out like a lion—a white lion. The winter of 2007-08 will be one to look back on and be thankful that a winter like this is the exception and not the rule. With temps forecast to be in the mid-40s by Wednesday, this will be gone soon. Sucks to be a hobby farmer trying to keep from falling on your butt as you make your way through the slush and mud to feed the animals. Hi Tim .

Rachel has her license. Maybe that last sentence should be ended with an exclamation point. I'm happy for her but I'm probably more worried than I am happy that she will be out there on her own. Tammy took her this morning for an 8:20 appointment for her test. She didn't breeze through it but she passed. Maybe that's a good thing if it leaves her with the impression that she can do better.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing her when she gets home from school so she can fill me in on all the details. I'm curious if the examiner initially told her that she failed only to follow that statement with, April Fools!

Speaking of April Fools—I remember when Rachel was in 2nd grade and she was really into pulling April Fools pranks on Tammy and me. I have no idea if she came up with these on her own or if they're classic stunts but I do recall that Tammy wasn't too happy with one of them: the spray attachment for the kitchen sink stunt. Rachel secured it in the open position with a rubber band and pointed it toward whoever would be standing in front of the sink when the water was turned on. In this case, Tammy. Hey, I thought it was funny but I wasn't the one who got wet. Rachel also placed plastic wrap over the toilet bowl under the seat thinking that we wouldn't notice. We did. She switched out the 2% and skim milk with each other—original thinking I'm pretty sure. The only other prank I can think of was toothpaste on the faucet handles in the bathroom. That one we didn't notice until it was too late. Pretty cute stuff for sure—at least to me.