Saturday, January 31, 2009

Finally -- a Design and Randomness in 25 Parts

Tammy and I just finished watching the movie, Fireproof. I probably shouldn't mention that it's a movie based on Christian principles because that may turn some people off but in the interest of disclosure I'll put that out there front and center. It's a film about a couple's crumbling marriage and the process of trying to save it. It doesn't matter how secure you are in your marriage; this film will have meaning for you.

The last time I looked at the outside temperature today it was 42 degrees. I was glad to finally be able to spend an hour out in the driveway removing the layer of ice that fell in the form of rain some four weeks ago before a hard freeze set in. I'm back to a fully exposed driveway and I'm glad. A north facing concrete driveway requires a bit of work in the Midwest when it comes to the slippery stuff.

I woke up this morning to no back pain whatsoever for the first time in over two weeks. I have a new appreciation for a healthy back so my days spent with pain weren't all a loss. I've been slowly getting back into my rowing machine workouts over the past few days. Rather than going at it full out as I was doing (I know...real stupid) I'm taking it much slower/easier this time. There are some games on the rower's monitor which allow you to focus more on them than on your effort and I'm finding that they work well for me. It's nice to be working my upper body again. I think I've found a friend for life with my rower.

Tammy and I have been struggling with a stained glass design for the six panels above our entertainment center in the basement. We toyed around with the idea of a Minnesota scene and were pretty set on doing that. The left two windows would represent southern Minnesota. We planned to do a farmland scene and a windmill. The middle two panels would be the skylines of both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The right two panels would be upper Minnesota and the North Shore; Split Rock Lighthouse and a birch tree scene. I still like the idea but it wasn't happening. It's been two years since we finished our kitchenette windows in the basement and we both wanted to get moving on the entertainment center project. We've procrastinated long enough. It's felt like a monkey on my back and I need to get it off.

Anyway, I spent this weekend coming up with a fully functional drawing for the panels. I'd made a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design a dozen years ago for the windows in our den and decided to use it for these panels too. I think it's going to work fine. There will be lots and lots of tiny pieces to work with but I like doing that sort of stuff; so does Tammy. It shouldn't be that bad as they will all be straight cuts. Each of the panels measures approximately 9" x 28". We're still working on the colors but I think we've got that figured out for the most part. We stopped in at J. Ring Glass Studio in St. Paul Wednesday night to pick out some glass but after getting it home I'm not feeling so good about our selections. J. Ring doesn't accept returns so we're stuck with what we bought. I went back there today and found some glass that I'm feeling much better about. I hope to be cutting into it this week. Photos to follow.

In the past few days I've been 'tagged' by four 'Facebook Friends' requesting that I list '25 Random Things About Me'. The first person to tag me was my brother Bryan. I liked the witty responses he'd made and thought mine would be lame sounding in comparison so I dismissed the idea. Besides, I was too busy designing a stained glass project. Then I was tagged a few more times by other people and I decided that it was time to put together my own random 25 list. Here goes.

I can begin this by saying that I very much love my wife and my daughter so I'll save the other 25 for things you may not know about me.

1. I love politics.

2. I used to boast that I'd be the last guy in Lakeville to go on-line. That was up until 10 years ago when I got a computer and never looked back.

3. Being betrayed hurts but remaining in the bitterness hurts even more.

4. I cried when Snickers died but not when my father passed away.

5. I always carry dental floss with me but sometimes I'll go an entire day without using it.

6. I voted for Bush twice. I now regret it.

7. My all time favorite album is Supertramp's, Crime of the Century. My favorite song from the album is Hide in Your Shell.

8. I finished toward the bottom of my class in high school. I didn't learn that until years later but I always suspected it.

9. I swear it's true that I remember my baptism when I was merely an infant. I know that sounds impossible but nothing is impossible with God.

10. I get irritable if I don't get to workout.

11. I used to think I could sing somewhat well until Tammy told me that I couldn't. Rachel confirmed it. I still sing.

12. I have a fear that my life will be cut short by an inattentive driver while I'm on my bike. I still ride.

13. I hate politics.

14. I've never changed a baby's diaper.

15. I can no longer write cursively.

16. I have a strange ability to remember dates from trivial to important happenings in my life. I can also remember the phone numbers of friends from over 35 years ago.

17. I love blogging; it's therapeutic.

18. I pray daily.

19. If I didn't live in the U.S. I think I could easily make my home in Australia.

20. I'm very much the same person I was 30 years ago.

21. My facial expression often gives people the wrong impression of what I'm feeling.

22. There are many people in my life whom I would die for but I wouldn't expect them to do the same for me; not that they wouldn't.

23. Arby's used to be my favorite fast-food place but I'm not sure anymore.

24. My favorite movie is Breaking Away. I so much identified with David Stoller.

25. I love life.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rides and Reminiscing

Somebody on the Serotta forum posted about their 'favorite San Diego rides'. That's a thread for me. San Diego is where I fell in love with cycling more than thirty years ago.

I remember when I was maybe five or six years old and my parents bought my older brother Bryan a new bike. They got it while he was away at camp and before we left to pick him up, they set it up inside the garage with the door closed. When we got home we pulled into the driveway and my dad had Bryan get out and open the garage door; this was before the days of garage door openers. Bryan opened the door and there stood his new bike on its kickstand. A very cool way to surprise him I remember thinking.

Like any kid, I had a fascination for two-wheeled things early on. I always had a bike growing up. I never wanted for much in the way of a bicycle until I saw Miles Harvey's Orange Krate. It didn't get any better than that and I would love to have had one but I knew that wasn't happening. A year or two earlier I'd disappointed my dad with my lack of enthusiasm over a bike he'd refurbished for me and because of that, I was pretty sure I'd quashed any chance I may have had to appeal to his good graces for this tricked out bike. I didn't even try.

My dad had found an old Schwinn ten-speed dumped in a field not far from home. He brought it back and spent an entire Saturday restoring it in our garage. It was a gold color and had the look of a Schwinn Varsity. That's pretty much all I remember about it aside from the fact that it was too big for me.

All the while he was working on it I figured he was fixing it up for himself. He got it done and presented it to me. I don't know what I said but it must've totally been lacking in tact because he picked up a nearby wrench and threw it hard to the garage floor. I felt bad but there wasn't any way I was going to pretend to like it. None of my friends had bikes which looked like that one and I wouldn't be seen riding it.

Sometime later he bought me a new bike from Sears. Keith got one too. It was a purple stingray model with dual rear brakes. It actually wasn't a bad bike; it was just a little bigger than I wanted. Sort of like an Orange Krate on steroids but it was purple. If he'd only let me go with him to pick it out. Was that too much to ask?

I don't believe I let on to my dad that I wasn't too keen on this bike either. I sucked it up and made the best of it. What else could I do? More importantly, it got me to the golf course for those days when I'd go hunt for golf balls that had been sliced off the 4th tee at Highland Greens and sell them back to other golfers who were in the market. It would serve me well and be the last bike my parents would ever buy for me although I did have one final request.

Sometime around the age of 15, I began to want to ride further than I'd ever considered riding before. Much further. To do that I'd need a different bike; something a lot less stingray-ish and a lot more ten-speed-ish, .like the one my dad had fixed up for me years earlier. I remember approaching him out in the back yard one evening about purchasing me a bike which would more easily take me miles from home. I made my case to him about how I really wanted to go out exploring. I was too young for a job to earn money to pay for the bike myself and the only paper route around was already secured by a kid who wasn't interested in giving it up. I know because I tried to buy him out of it a year earlier. My dad wasn't at all interested in my proposal and I never mentioned it again. I'd be driving before too long and maybe that's what he was thinking.

My desire to ride would have to take a back seat to the rest of my life as it played out over the next few years.

I sometimes wonder how my life may have been different had my dad allowed me to get the bike which would have given me a freedom and instilled a confidence in me I hadn't known to that point. I can imagine a scenario where I would have discovered the benefits of a healthy body through riding rather than one abused by cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs while hanging out with the wrong crowd. I may have even gotten it together enough to avoid having to join the Navy. Could a bike really have done all of that for me? I think it could have. No kidding.

But, I'm not disappointed with all the choices I made those many years ago. My job as an air traffic controller is a direct result of my having been a radar operator in the Navy. I can't imagine I would've stumbled onto this profession any other way.

One year into my enlistment, I finally got my bike. I actually wrote about that a while back, here's a link. I remember once I finally got into riding and was putting in some serious miles, I thought, if my dad could only see me now, what would he think? My desire to have a bike to ride long distances with wasn't just some kid's fantasy. I was serious. He was wrong not to have believed in me.

So, when I saw the thread on the Serotta forum it brought me back to my early days of riding out in the hills east of San Diego. Those days were some of my most memorable times riding. I spent a bit of time last night on Google Maps tracing some of the routes I used to ride. The image below is from Otay Lakes Road near Brown Field where I once considered skydiving before coming to my senses. It may not look like much but it's bicycle heaven. At least it was for me back in the day. I'd love to put a trip together with Tammy for a few days and either pack up one of my bikes for the trip or rent one while I'm out there. It's a strong urge but we've got a puppy to finish potty training first.

My dream can wait. I live by the motto: good things in life take a long time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Aching Back, Watermarks and the Pups

I knew this would happen. When I bought a rower for our home a couple weeks ago one of my main concerns was to avoid injuring myself by going at it too hard before my body had a chance to adapt to the new demands I was placing on it; my knees and back in particular. I had a couple of very good workouts early on which left me pumped for more.

I came home from work a couple Tuesdays ago and jumped on it for a quick 10,000 meters. I remember thinking during the workout that I really should back off and maybe do just half the distance. My body was tired and I was trying to finish the distance faster than any of my earlier efforts. And I did; I shaved a full minute off my previous best. A few hours later though I was beginning to feel some twinges in my lower back which had me wondering if I'd made a mistake. I had my answer the next day. Yes, I'd injured my lower back and I'd have to wait for it to heal before I could do any more rowing. I'm still waiting. I hope to be back on it by the early part of next week.

I'm still able to ride my rollers without any discomfort in my back so that hasn't changed.

I post a lot of photos online either on my website, my blog or my Flickr account. I have a friend at work who likes to put a watermark on all of his photos so nobody else can claim them as their own. I like to give Tim, a coworker, a hard time about it as I think he's a bit over-the-top sometimes with his watermarks. But maybe not.

I was looking at some Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass photos on Flickr this morning when I ran across one of my own...on someone else's account. Hmmm, I recognized it right away and wondered why someone would lift a photo of mine from my website and place it among theirs. Maybe I've got the wrong idea about how this is supposed to work. Anyway, I left a comment on the photo with a link to where it is on my site. I expect that it'll be taken down. If not, it's no big deal as long as they leave my comment intact. But, should they simply delete my comment and leave the photo I think I may be a little bit miffed by that.

Maybe I'm no better for sometimes using The Duplex comic panels at the end of my posts without giving full credit each time to Glenn McCoy. The difference, I think, is that I'm not passing it off as something I did.

I still don't think I'll be placing watermarks on my photos. The large ones take away from the photo itself and the small ones off to the corner are too easy to Photoshop out.

Charlie has come a long way in the last few weeks toward winning Allie over. I was just upstairs watching the two of them wrestle for a good 15-20 minutes. Allie is very gentle with him even though he can be a bit of a pest at times. Tammy picked him up when she thought Allie had had enough but she no sooner did that and Allie was reaching up on her hind legs trying to get at Charlie in Tammy's arms. She put him back down and they resumed their play.

They finished a few minutes later with Allie getting Charlie on his back in a submissive position. She held him there and didn't walk away until he had finished resisting. It was neat to watch.

Toby has become a lot less aggressive toward Charlie. He's still reluctant to join in with them in their wrestling and chasing but I think he will before too long. I feel bad for him that he's not able to let his guard down yet.

I compiled some video of this past week and stitched it together. The last half is especially funny.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

I worked an afternoon shift yesterday which was unusual for me on a Tuesday as I usually have a day shift but the change worked out well. I was up by 7:00 and on my rollers an hour later watching news coverage of the inauguration. It didn't take long for me to become bored with it so I muted the sound on the TV and fired up my mp3 player strapped to my arm. It came alive to the sound of Third Day's, Tunnel.

I twisted the original intent of the song for my own purposes as we're coming out of the shadow of the Bush administration. The light at the end of the tunnel worked for me and the song would remain in my head all day.

I dismounted long enough to share a link to the song with my Facebook 'friends' then climbed back on to finish my workout.

I knocked out 30 miles and then hurried to get into the shower. I needed to make a quick trip to Burnsville Center before work to stop at Macy's and buy a tie. Anything already hanging on my tie rack is outdated and that wouldn't work for this day. Most of the controllers in the area I work in were dressing up to mark the occasion of Obama's presidency and hopefully a return to some fairer treatment from the FAA. It's a shame that our workplace is so affected by the ebb and flow of elections but because of presidential appointees to head agencies such as ours; it's the nature of the beast.

I don't know how long it will be before we see some change in the tenor of FAA management but it wasn't happening yesterday. I got to work and was sent off to listen to a "Conduct and Discipline" briefing. The first words out of the briefer's mouth were "No disciplinary action will be taken until a full investigation has been conducted." I whispered "bullshit" just loud enough for those in my immediate area to hear. The briefer went on to say that "Effectiveness, productivity economy and high morale generally can be expected to occur where progressive and constructive discipline is fostered and maintained. Progressive and constructive discipline helps to produce a positive change in an employee's undesirable behavior or performance." You're joking, right? I thought I was listening to instructions on how to train our new puppy. What a joke. In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves. How about when you have runaway supervisors who abuse their positions of authority and area managers who blindly and foolishly encourage them? When do we talk about that?

Someday, somebody is going to write a book for employers about how to get the most from their employees; what to do and what not to do. The FAA's leadership, especially the past eight years, could fill several chapters of what not to do. I can think of nothing, nothing, that they've done in that time which hasn't been done out of spite toward the controllers who do the real work around here.

Okay, I really didn't intend for this to become a rant about the FAA.

Let me get back on track. Yesterday was a good day. We have new leadership in our country in the name of President Obama.

I came home from work and was greeted by Toby and Allie. Charlie was downstairs with Tammy and Rachel. Allie is warming up to Charlie but Toby is still unconvinced that having Charlie around is a good idea. He mostly growls when Charlie invades his personal space which is approximately three feet in all directions.

I went downstairs and Tammy poured us each a glass of wine. We sat down with Rachel and watched Obama's speech. I liked his words; in particular:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers...our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine drafted a charter to ensure the rule of law and the rights of man. A charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

"We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you."

"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

For me, those were the highlights. I didn't sense any Martin Luther King Jr moments which will be remembered generations from now. But, it's going to take more than words to cure what ails us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lotsa Thoughts on a Friday Night

I like to give my co-worker Tim a hard time for his blog posts about the weather but today I find myself making a passing mention of what we've been dealing with in our corner of the Midwest. Temps of -35f last night in Lakeville. This is way beyond getting old. It's not enough that we've had such frigid temps but there's also a layer of snow and ice on the side roads which is making driving somewhat treacherous and bicycling nearly impossible.

Rachel has been thrown into the deep end insofar as winter driving is concerned with the road conditions she's had to negotiate. We say a lot of prayers for her. My truck hasn't been out of 4-wheel drive in the last month. There is some relief on the way though with temps forecast to be in the lower 30's in a few days. It's gonna feel like short-sleeve weather.

It appears that Charlie is no longer on probation and has earned his place in our home. Hurray for Charlie! I never had any doubts he'd make the cut. Toby and Allie are slowly learning to adapt to his presence but they haven't really warmed up to him all that much. They've played together some in the form of chasing each other through the house but that's about it. Mostly they try and avoid him. He does puppy stuff which isn't cool. He eats his poop. I don't suppose I'd want to be seen hanging around with the kid in school either who was known to eat his poop.

I came into the house the other day and found stuffed animals all over the family room floor and into the kitchen. Charlie was enjoying some time free time from his kennel. We're finding it necessary to use the kennel more than we thought we'd need to as Charlie is still working on the potty training thing. It's not been easy with the cold temps. The poor guy just sits out there and shivers with peeing and pooping being the last thing on his mind. He's a work in progress.

I had a day to kill today so I climbed aboard my bike and knocked out a century ride on my rollers down in our basement. For you non-biker types that's a 100-mile ride. I had my Greg LeMond DVD's to keep my mind occupied as well as the Pink Floyd concert DVD Tammy got me for Christmas. It's difficult enough for most people to do indoor training of this sort as there's a tendency to focus on the pain rather than the beauty of the world passing by because there is no world to view from the trainer other than the TV. It seems to work alright for me. As I commented to a fellow rider, Steve, the ride really began at 75 miles. I found myself having to dig deep at that point.

Today's effort gives me 212 indoor miles for the week. Call me crazy but it's my way of coping with this harsh winter.

Tuesday is Inauguration Day. Have I mentioned lately that change is coming? We had a bit of change today within the FAA with the departure of Bobby Sturgell; Bush's appointee to run the agency. I have to wonder if he's proud of his service, as nothing more than a puppet and a tool of the Bush administration? Do you suppose his father is proud of the job he's done? I don't see how he could be. I've never admired 'yes men'.

A supervisor at work confided in me this week that he's friends with one of the negotiators on the FAA's contract negotiating team which failed to negotiate in good faith with our union, Natca. The failed negotiations back in 2006 allowed FAA management to force their work and pay rules on the bargaining unit. He spoke with Terry back in the fall of 2006 at the St. Louis indoctrination and he said Terry told him that they went into negotiations with orders that they weren't to negotiate. The outcome was set in stone before anybody sat across from anybody at the negotiating table. When he told me this it simply confirmed all that I and thousands of other air traffic controllers across the country felt about what went down with respect to 'contract negotiations'. Still, it was sobering to have my suspicions confirmed. I can't say for a fact that this is true but I cannot imagine this particular supervisor fabricating this. That would be out of character for him.

Is there any chance of hauling this pseudo negotiator and others from their contract negotiating team before an investigative committee and have them swear to tell the truth before asking them a few pointed questions? This needs to happen.

I knew Terry when we worked together in the 1980s. He was a professional sort of guy who wore nice clothes and was always neatly groomed. He was a good controller. His cologne may have been a bit strong at times. A company man for sure which has apparently worked well for him as he's the facility manager at an east coast facility. I remember he drove a blue Honda Civic of some sort about the time Honda was becoming known for building a reliable car. His brother would go on to become a professional baseball player and 7-time All-Star for the Houston Astros.

Terry was one of several players who made up our Friday morning (or was it Thursday?) hockey league at the Farmington ice arena. For $5 we'd get 90 minutes or more of ice time. You couldn't beat that deal and the price remained unchanged for as long as I played up until 7 or 8 years ago when I hung up my skates. My brother Keith also used to play with us as our group wasn't limited to air traffic controllers.

You aren't going to find a nicer guy than Keith. There's never anything cheap about his tactics on the ice. The same couldn't be said for Terry. I remember taking a breather next to Keith on the bench during one of our scrimmages and him commenting to me about Terry..."what's with that guy?...he keeps hacking me and taking cheap shots". I watched and sure enough, Keith was right. The last thing Keith needed was for me to defend him considering he's bigger than I am and can take care of himself but he's my little brother and that seemed to matter more.

Terry wore every piece of protective gear imaginable. It didn't take long for me to find an opportunity to send Terry a message. I skated up behind him along the left side of the rink and positioned myself to take a cheap shot of my own. I don't even recall if he had the puck. I worked my stick in front of his ankles before giving it a big yank and bringing him down hard like a sack of potatoes. He got up and threw his gloves down ready to fight. Yeah, like I'm gonna get through all the armor he was wearing. Anyway, before it could go any further, Mark Mullane got in between us and that was that. I believe Terry got the message.

Those were some fun times.

I'd guess the vast majority of Viral Videos come about unintentionally. Sure, there are some that are simply great works of production that rise to the top but most viral videos are freak events caught on tape. My friend Tim, who I mentioned earlier in my blog had a viral video of his own this past year when he submitted a small clip his wife had filmed years earlier of their son during a baseball game. The clip (now gone) was showcased on the front page of for several days giving it great exposure and launching it to a significant number of viewer hits. As I write this it stands at 561,335 views.

I attempted to make my own viral video this past week. A lot of viral videos are animal related and I thought I had the perfect footage for the makings of one thanks to Charlie. I submitted it to and waited to see if it would catch on. I'm still waiting. Edit: I actually pulled it off and I'll embed the YouTube link below.

So, if you're so inclined please send this off to all your friends and see if we can get this little puff of a cloud video to become a towering cumulus and mature into a cumulonimbus and rain down on everybody.

Yeah, I know, that was some corny composition.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Row Row Row and Surprise Surprise

Our Concept 2 rowing machine arrived Thursday afternoon just as I was trying to catch a quick nap on the couch to begin my weekend. I didn't mind the interruption as I was psyched to get it set up and give it a try. Tammy was surprised at how big it was but fortunately, we've got an ideal spot for it. It also folds upright should we need the space.

It's a heck of a workout. I did a couple of 2000 meter efforts on Thursday at a moderate pace to see what sort of pain I could expect. I pushed it on Friday with a more strenuous and continuous 10,000 meters. I finished in just under 48 minutes thinking that I did really well. I uploaded the workout to my online logbook and found that the average for my age group for that distance is a little over 42 minutes. Wow, I wasn't even close. How depressing is that? I have to remind myself that I'm new to this and my muscles are nowhere near conditioned for what I'm asking them to do.

I didn't row yesterday but opted for 60 indoor miles on my rollers instead. Most people, cyclists included, would think I'm nuts to go that far on rollers but I actually enjoyed the workout. I was watching my Greg LeMond, remastered 4-DVD pack; great stuff. I'd have gone further but we were having friends over last night and I needed to get ready. I don't think I've ever gone that far indoors and I was surprised by how fine I was with the distance. I'm thinking of knocking out a century ride down in the basement in the next few weeks just to say I've done it. Hey, it's been a rough winter and it's my way of coping.

I climbed back on the rower today and improved my time by 4:30 for the 10,000 meters. Tammy took some video of me. If you think I'm buff now just give me a few months.

That was a joke.

We got a phone call on Friday afternoon from a friend of ours from church. Lorretta lives on the 2nd floor of an apartment in Burnsville with her ten-year-old son Manny. She bought a puppy (Charlie) for Manny last week and it's turning out to not have been a very well thought out idea. Lorretta recently had knee replacement surgery and trying to keep up with Charlie has been much more difficult than she imagined it would be. So, she called us to ask if we'd be interested in taking Charlie in.

While still on the phone with her Lorretta, Tammy gave me a quick run-down about what she was calling about. I could tell that Tammy was wanting to say yes. "What kind of pup is it?" I asked. "It's a four-month-old Shit-Zu" Tammy said with a definite 'can we keep him?' look in her eyes. Oh boy. All I could think about was how this would likely upset the harmony of Toby and Allie's world. I'd never want to stress their little lives and I didn't see how bringing a puppy into the mix would improve on what they have.

The talk soon turned to the idea of bringing Charlie over for a couple days to test the waters and see if there was any chance of him fitting in with our family. He's a cutie but then what pup isn't? There's not an unfriendly bone in him. I feel bad for him because he so much wants to play but he's getting nothing but the cold shoulder and nips from Toby and Allie, especially Toby. It's apparent that it's going to take more than a couple days for them to warm up to Charlie.

Tammy did some research online this morning to find out the best approach to bringing a new pup into a home with older dogs. The most important thing is to not make the new pup the focus of attention. It seems obvious and makes sense but how do you do that? You've got this little ball of energy getting into everything and then you've got Toby and Allie just chilling.

Charlie has been winning the battle for our attention.

We're making an effort to give Toby and Allie the same attention they normally get which means they spend a good deal of time in my lap. That hasn't changed. But we're also keeping Charlie on a leash inside when he's not in his kennel so he's a bit more subdued and Toby and Allie aren't being pestered by him. I've been at work all afternoon and evening but Tammy says it seems to be working.

I don't know how long we'll give this probationary period a try but I'm fine with giving this little guy a chance to make his case to stay with us. He sure seems worth it to me.

I took some video over the weekend. Be sure to stay with it until the end.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rowing Into the New Year

It's been more than three weeks since I've been able to get out and ride. One snowstorm after another has left little room for a bike to safely navigate any of the highway shoulders nearby. We'll get a bit of melting during the day but very cold temps at night leave behind glare ice which keeps me confined to my basement and my rollers. I'm just grateful to do any sort of riding.

I'm a pretty one-dimensional person these days when it comes to working out. I ride. I owned a Soloflex for years and for several winters in the mid-'90s I'd attempt to get into a routine with it but those plans always fizzled after a couple months each time I'd try.

Mike Corte from work finally took the Soloflex off my hands 6-7 years ago for what I felt was a good deal for both of us. I know that Tammy was glad to see space freed up in our den.

I was a runner for most of the '80s and into the '90s and I loved it; it's still my favorite activity to do if only I could. There's nothing like the feeling of being running fit and floating along the road barely noticing the contact your feet make with the ground, clicking off mile after mile. But it's hard on knees.

I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee in the spring of 1992 to clean up some torn cartilage from when I'd injured it in 1975 in addition to the wear from thousands of miles of running. The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Schmidt. I don't think I could've asked for a better surgeon as he was the same man who operated on Dick Beardsley in 1989 after he'd mangled and nearly lost one of his legs in a power takeoff unit on his farm.

Dr. Schmidt told me I could continue running but that I should do fewer miles and with less intensity or I'd risk going into my later years with arthritic knees. The surgery went well and I was running pain-free afterward but it just wasn't the same. The temptation to run further and faster was too great and I had to stop for my own good. That's when I rediscovered my bike.

I enjoy the time I spend in the saddle but for quite a while I've wanted to do something for my upper body as well. Cycling does absolutely nothing for that. In fact, most professional riders are careful not to do anything to add weight to their upper bodies as those pounds (even if they're muscle) only serve to slow them down in the course of a race, especially on the climbs. I think I can afford to take on a few pounds of muscle.

I've listened to Rick and Bryan at work remark about their Concept 2 rowing machines and how much they enjoy using them. Rick is always so pumped up whenever he talks about his workouts. I suppose it's a lot like me talking about one of my rides. They've both been steadily knocking out the meters on them for the past few years. Between Rick and Bryan's excitement and my need for an upper-body workout, my interest in rowing as an addition to my cycling had been piqued.

Last week I was perusing one of the cycling forums I frequent and there was a thread in there about a Concept 2 rowing challenge. The guys on the forum were putting together a team to compete against other teams around the world. How cool. I read a bit more and found that several forumites are rowers. This could be for me.

I visited the Concept 2 site as well as their forum and founds lots of information. One of the reasons for considering rowing is to give my knees a break from the stress of cycling. After doing some research I found enough complaints from people about stress on their knees that I began to have second thoughts. Rick told me that he feels very little stress on his knees as did some other people I messaged with. The best way to know would be to actually get on-board one and give it a try.

Rick invited me out to his house on Sunday morning so I could see and feel for myself how the machine worked. I could tell within just a couple minutes that this was going to be a good workout and I was sold on the idea of buying one. I was also relieved that the stress on my knees was considerably less than I imagined it would be. In addition to being less stressful to my knees than cycling, rowing is also done at a much lower number of reps than cycling. My average cadence on the bike is around 90 rpm. An average number of reps for rowing is in the low to mid 20's. Considering also that the time spent on a rower during a workout (usually less than an hour) vs a how long a typical ride of mine is (usually 2-5 hours) I think this will be some good cross-training for me.

My order has been placed.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

No Soup for You and Taking the Lead

It's that time of year at work where awards are given out to the most deserving of my fellow air traffic controllers. Not really. What I just said sounds good but in reality, the awards program is only designed to drive wedges between the workforce. I seriously doubt it will still be in place this time next year after an Obama administration has had a chance to give it more than two minutes of consideration.

Yesterday afternoon one of my friends at work was taken aside an hour before his shift ended and his weekend would begin, say nothing of it being New Year's Eve, and told that he'd be receiving no bonus money. His efforts weren't good enough. No soup for you. He'd finished in the money the previous year and gave the same effort this past year but it wasn't enough.

This blog entry belongs in the context of having just finished the Crew Resource Management class and my encounter with my Area Manager (AM) the next morning. I began working on this post back in November but shelved it as it was too depressing to think about. I had my year-end review yesterday as well and that prompted me to finish this post. It's an important message which needs to be heard.

My conversation with my AM was civil but I had a difficult time keeping my composure in the face of such utter hypocrisy and poor management decisions from himself and others. I began my talk with him by asking him if he'd attended the CRM class. He said he had and that he was one of the first persons to attend it. He almost seemed proud of that small fact. I asked him what part of the public lynching that he and the others had put me through last April was exemplary of the concepts being pushed in the CRM course? He paused a moment then stated that my situation was one of discipline and therefore not one where CRM would be utilized. I said that the only reason we were talking discipline was that the supervisor at the center of this (Doug Mark) had jumped the gun and elevated it to that status. Nobody asked for my input at all. No CRM for me.

I recounted for him how I'd tried to find Doug when I got out of the sector but he wasn't around. I was told he was in a meeting but I'm quite certain he'd found a nice quiet place to build his case against me. I went on to tell my AM how the first thing I did the next morning when I came into work was to ask to have a meeting with him, my supervisor and Doug to talk about the distraction Doug had created in the sector the day before when I was training Reid. I was told that there would be no meeting and that there was disciplinary action being taken against me. Oh really?

I told my AM that everything I did in the course of responding to management was textbook CRM but there was nothing in kind being utilized by management. I challenged Doug's poor plan at the sector; again, another technique taught in CRM. Yes, I offered resistance but his plan was so poor that it cried out for resistance. I told my AM that if given the same scenario today I'd respond the same way. I'd challenge Doug's poor plan again. We were talking live aircraft here and this was no time for chest-thumping.

I asked my AM why he didn't interview Rex and Barry as they were witnesses to what played out that day. I told him that had he interviewed them he would've heard something 180 degrees different from the story being told by Doug. He responded forcefully that he will always back his supervisors. Say what? "What about when you've got a 26-year veteran controller telling you something completely opposite" I asked. "I will always back my supervisors" he restated. "Didn't I deserve to have Rex and Barry interviewed?" I asked. Blank stare. I repeated my question again and he agreed that yes, I did deserve to have them interviewed.

I was upset after hearing him say after all this time and hassle for me that he was now finally admitting he should've interviewed Rex and Barry. I demanded an apology. If you have to demand an apology what good is it? I still wanted one. He responded with "Kevin, I'm sorry if you perceived...". That's as far as I'd let him get with it. I stopped him in mid-sentence and told him to forget it. I said that what he was about to say would be nothing but a hollow apology and that I didn't need it. I turned on my heels and left to go sign in.

After signing in I got together with my trainee to get into the sector but there was already training in progress so we went out on break. As I walked toward the front desk on my way out my AM saw me and got up out of his chair to meet me. Our conversation was far from over.

"Kevin, can we talk about this?"

"That's all I've ever wanted" I said.

I told him that I lost a lot of sleep over this issue and I was vacant for the better part of two weeks, maybe longer to my wife and daughter as I tried to come to terms with this train wreck of CRM meets heavy-handed FAA management with heavy-handed management winning out and the truth becoming a casualty.

I told him that I disagreed with him backing his supervisors no matter what, especially when this particular supervisor has a history of confrontation with those he works with. He responded that there have only been allegations of Doug being difficult to work with. Whatever. Everybody knows his reputation and for him to suggest that there were only allegations against Doug discredited anything more he would say to me.

I reminded my AM of the story I'd related to him about how this wasn't the first time Doug had wrongly accused me of disrespecting him.

I told my AM in so many words that my expectations of him were higher than what he was delivering. I thought he'd bring fairness to any sort of conflicts we'd have to work through in Area 5 but I couldn't have been more wrong. I said that the only leadership in this entire debacle was what was being provided by me. I asked why I was never given a meeting with Doug and himself. I said that was my one request in putting this behind me. He didn't have an answer. I told him that I thought CRM was all about coming together and discussing problems and finding solutions. All I ever wanted was to sit down and for all of us to put our cards on the table. What could be so hard about that? Why would Doug be reluctant to meet with me?

Everything I did in my endeavor to try and resolve this matter was just as the FAA's own Crew Resource Management class had taught and I hadn't even been to it yet when this was all going down.

I could see that there were some people in the periphery listening to all of this as we talked next to the watch desk in front of the control room but I didn't care. Let them know my side of the story because it's likely they may have heard the other version. My reputation is important to me and nobody else defines it for me.

I asked my AM what message did he send to Doug in all of this? A bewildered look came across his face. He didn't get it. I told him that by backing Doug the way he did he had emboldened him to do the same thing to some other poor unsuspecting individual who's out there just trying to do their job and that Doug knows he'll have management's support. I said that I didn't think that was a good thing but it's where we are.

I closed by telling him that as long as his only interest lies in defending management's flag there can be no CRM ideals practiced in our area and that it was past time to move beyond his doing just that.

To his credit, he offered me a more sincere apology and we shook hands.

I'd always assumed early on in my career that I'd one day find myself in a supervisory position but it wasn't meant to be. I have respect for others and I stand up for what is right, not for what side I may be on. I wouldn't be a good fit for today's FAA management team and that's definitely their loss.