Sunday, April 26, 2009

Number 2 of 6 and Upgrading to an Edge 705

I spent a good deal of the weekend (yesterday and today) cutting and grinding glass for the next panel above our entertainment center. I'm making much quicker work of this window than the first one by using a more systematic approach. Rather than doing one section of the window at a time, I'm cutting all like pieces in one sitting and working the window as a whole rather than individual sections.

Tammy will pick up where I've left off by applying copper foil to the edges of each piece before positioning them on the work table. We make a good team.

I'd tried to take photos of the first window with my Pentax SLR but I didn't have much success. Wherever there was blue glass the camera saw white. I gave up after two rolls of film. My brother mentioned that I may have better results with my digital camera. I usually avoid using my digital camera for shots of stained glass because it never fails to come up short when compared to film. What did I have to lose? I stood on a bar stool this morning and took a few photos to see what would happen. Wow. I'll have to rethink using digital for shots of our glasswork. A little manipulation in Photoshop and I've got a very good representation of the true colors of the window. This is where we were a few months ago. It's nice to finally be moving on this project.

My Garmin Edge 305 has been showing signs that after three years the battery is beginning to lose its ability to hold a charge. I considered sending it in and for $90 having the battery replaced. The other option was to buy a new one or even upgrade to the Edge 705 which was released last year. The advantage of the 705 is that you can upload maps to it; something I couldn't do with my 305. But honestly, I never considered having maps to be all that important on my bike. I know where I'm going when I head out so what good would a map do me?

I researched the 705 online and the more I read the more I found myself leaning toward buying one. I found them on eBay for some reasonable prices but in the end, I opted to spend my money in town and for not too much more than I could've bought it online, I picked one up at REI last Monday before work.

I was able to get it out for a 40-mile shakedown ride on Tuesday and I noticed right away that its graphics were a step above those of my 305. That and it has maps. I was warming up to that feature as I biked.

What better way to put the map feature to the test than to go on some roads I'd never been on; at least not that I can remember. I headed out Friday morning trying to put some distance behind me in the direction of an approaching cold front. I'd hoped to time it so that the wind would switch out of the southwest to the northwest when I was ready to head for home. It wasn't working out as I'd hoped but I didn't care; I was biking.

I got off my usual roads when I got to Chanhassen where I picked up Powers Blvd and took that north to Excelsior where I stopped to refuel. I was maybe 35 miles from home and usually when I'm that far out I have a good idea where I'm heading so as not to find myself further away from home than I'd like for the return. But today I didn't have that concern. I had maps.

I got back on my bike and wound my way through Tonka Bay and other various small lake communities. I normally enjoy whatever time I spend on my bike but even more so today. I was exploring and planning my route as I zoomed in and out on the map page of my 705. Still no change in the winds.

I eventually worked my way to old highway 12 and took that east to Long Lake. I couldn't help but think that this sign was lacking a letter or two. I would eventually merge with one of my familiar routes when I came out on Wayzata Blvd and took that to highway 101. It would be a few more hours before the winds would change to the north. Too late for me to take advantage of but as I mentioned earlier, I didn't care.

I considered staying out another half hour and finish my first century of the season but I had plans to head to the dog park with the pups. I was happy to bring it home after 90 miles.

GPS in the car is one thing but to have it on my bike? Too cool. I'm very glad I opted for the upgrade from the Edge 305 to the Edge 705. Many cycling purists turn their nose up at this sort of technology and there's a part of me that understands the desire to keep the sport as simple as possible. If I had that mindset though I'd never have improved on my first odometer.

Then and now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Serious Miscalculation At 20,000 Feet Over Iowa, "Eject!"

I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I satisfy most of my adrenalin related cravings on my bike but riding Power Tower at Valley Fair does a nice job of providing me with a fix too. I remember the first time Tammy and I rode the ride together nearly ten years ago and how she began having somewhat of a panic attack as we slowly climbed higher and higher until the ride came to an abrupt, clunking halt at the top. We were suspended there for about 8 seconds as we took in the view while hanging on tighter than we needed to in preparation for when the ride would send us shooting safely down toward the ground. The keyword being "safely". You never have anything to worry about on these sort of rides 'they say'. The drive to the amusement park is much more dangerous.

I love the rush a ride like that gives me.

I think I'd enjoy parachuting but to be honest, I'm not sure you could convince me to jump from the plane once I got into position. I don't know what I would do and I doubt I'll ever find out.

Tammy and I went hot air ballooning over Napa Valley several years ago and we loved it. Neither of us sensed any fear of heights at all as we serenely floated over the earth and vineyards several hundred feet below.

Riding Power Tower, hot air ballooning and even parachuting are all relatively safe when you consider how many people partake in those activities without incident. What about an invitation to ride along with the South Dakota Air National Guard in an A-7 over Iowa? That too would sound reasonably safe to me and I think I would jump at the chance. I've got a story for you. Not a story, story but a real-life story of an invitation and a ride-along in an A-7 that went terribly wrong.

I was writing in my blog last month about emergency situations I've been involved in over the years as an air traffic controller. One of the incidents I wrote about was of two A-7 aircraft which collided while engaged in combat maneuvers over Iowa. There wasn't anything that I as a controller could do to affect the outcome; in fact, I was no more than a bystander. I only brought it up because there was a more interesting story within the story. There happened to be the Executive Editor of the Sioux Falls newspaper, the Argus Leader, onboard one of the A-7 aircraft and he was forced to eject from the plane. I don't know that there's another experience one can go through other than possibly a space shuttle launch that would rival ejecting from an A-7 at 20,000 feet. It's simply not the sort of thing that reasonable people volunteer for.

After I wrote the piece, Tim found some specifics on the incident and I edited them into the post. He also came up with the name of the executive editor, Ward Bushee. I found an email address for Ward at the San Francisco Chronicle where he's currently the Executive Vice President and Editor.

I wrote Ward to see if he would be interested in recounting the experience for me to post in my blog. He graciously took time to both write about the incident as well as send me some photos taken that day back in 1990 by himself from inside one of the A-7's and by a photographer riding in a refueling aircraft shooting photos of the A-7 Ward was in.

I'll let Ward take it from here.

I do have vivid recollections of the crash. I never blacked out and can remember details almost 19 years later.

I was invited up for the Civic Leadership Orientation Flight after an editorial that we had written in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that criticized a noisy, early-morning flyover of the city by the South Dakot
a National Air Guard that seemed to shake every window in the city. "What if a jet crashed?" our editorial asked. The air guard leadership was upset by the editorial, visited us and set up my ride. When my ride was cleared by the Pentagon (I was then a 41 -year-old executive editor of the Argus Leader) that was to be a refueling and training flight. The mission was the day after Memorial Day weekend (May 30, 1990). During the weekend, I went into the air guard headquarters to try on a flight suit, undergo egress familiarity training and sign the waiver that took the air guard and military off the hook in the event of an accident. Interestingly, I assigned a photographer to come along and there are photos of the egress training somewhere.

After sitting through the strategy session with the four pilots before our mission, four A-7s took off in tandems from Joe Foss Field on May 30. I was in the back seat of Major Duncan Keirens' A-7K as we took off aside another A-7. Keirens who attended the Air Force Academy and flew missions in Viet Nam, was a social friend but I had never met the three other pilots.

I had a photographer in the air tanker shooting pictures of us refueling from a position in the open aft of the tanker. I actually have one photo from the photographer of me shooting a photo back at the tanker with a Nikon 35-mm camera. Interestingly, the camera was recovered at the crash site and returned to me -- but only after the military had examined the photos.

We completed the refueling exercise. By then we were over Iowa, and Keirens allowed me to take the stick and he guided me through some maneuvers that included 360s. It was amazing how responsive the fighter jet was, how fast things happened and how the G forces limited the human body and compromised clear thinking. Keirens checked in frequently to see how I was feeling as we rolled, dived and flipped. He told me to use the oxygen if I felt I was going to pass out. They may have been testing me to see if I could withstand the next step -- which was an air-to-air engagement. I was fine and they proceeded on with the dogfighting -- games designed to lock in and "kill" other jets like in the movie Top Gun.

The air-to-air engagements were intense. I was struck by how fast the jets maneuvered the skies and how quickly reactions had to be for the pilots. There were four engagements in which we killed or were killed. On the final engagement, we needed a kill because we had lost the last two. Duncan engaged Major Gregory Gore's jet, closing on him but he veered down and Keirnes lost him. He asked me if I could spot Gore. I noticed him coming back and then Keirnes picked him up. As Gore closed, Duncan apparently put the jet into a "S" Pattern ("S"for stall -- at least that's what I recall that it was called), which meant he put the brakes on, with the nose slightly up with the purpose of getting behind Gore again to position for the kill. At that point, Gore was coming in at us directly on our left wing. I remember thinking that this must just be normal but also noticing that the Gore jet was porpoising through the air right at eyesight level -- and closing fast. I could see Gore's eyes for a split second, then the jets collided with Gore apparently passing through our tail section -- about 15 feet behind me. The sound was like two semi-trucks hitting head on -- metal on metal. The cockpit instantly exploded with orange flames and black smoke. And Duncan yelled "eject" and I was blown out first and then himself.

With the collision, I was fortunate to eject skyward (rather than earthward). Flames engulfing my midsection, arms, and legs -- a product of so much jet fuel that was enflamed. Duncan later said that we were a fraction of a second from being burned up by the firestorm -- "you were close to being a crispy-critter," as he called it. Some said I had to have blacked out, but I know that's not true. I remember vividly watching this incredible, unreal scene as I emerged above the exploding jets. I was thinking I was a dead man and vividly remember seeing my baby daughter's face and thinking what a shame I would never get to watch her grow up. But the ejection process worked beautifully from the bailout through the canopy (A7s ejections include a process of cracking through a weakened canopy by the ejection seat), to the release of the seat from me and the deployment of the parachute. After all the drama of the crash, I remember hanging in the air, head stuck in the chute's risers and watching my boots smoke from the fire that had extinguished when the chute stopped my fall. Below me, parts and pieces of the exploded jets were floating like big pieces of confetti toward the Iowa floor. It was suddenly quiet and peaceful and I can remember being exhilarated and a little surprised that I had survived a near - death experience. I noticed Keirnes' and Gores' chutes were also deployed (thanks to a very competent junior air guard members who packed the chutes), meaning that everybody had survived. My neck was burning in pain, however, because of fracturing two vertebrae in the ejection process. My left wrist burned in pain because the steel back of my wristwatch had heated to a sizzle.

By the time I reache
d a few thousand feet from the ground, it was clear that winds were blowing pretty fiercely over plowed cornfields near Spencer, Iowa. It turned out that at least two farmers had been near the fields watching the engagement above. One of them told me the collision looked like the explosion and aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1987. I landed poorly but was unhurt because the ground was soft, plowed and the corn had been cleared for the season. Then the wind took my chute and I was dragged for a considerable distance before a farmer caught and stopped it. I figured at that point that his reaction to my face would tell me a lot about my condition. He winced when I took off my helmet because I had a cut above my eye that had bled down my face and the oxygen I was breathing caught some of the flames and singed my eyebrows and hair above my forehead. I looked like a mess but I had survivable injuries. Keirnes and Gore also hit the ground nearby and I noticed that they were talking, likely discussing what had happened and why things had gone wrong.

My injuries involved a broken neck, first and second degree burns and facial cuts. I spent a few nights in a hospital and went home to recover. The military suspended Civic Leadership Orientation Flights for a few years after that. The military investigations centered on the air-to-air mission that was done independent of approval, and the fact that they had exceeded the 12,000-foot level with a leadership flight (the crash was at about 20,000 feet). Gore was suspended from duty and assigned to fly tankers; I think Keirnes received some kind of sanctioning, too, much less severe than Gore's.

It became a common joke that this was the story about how the air guard had tried to show the editor how safe it was and almost killed him doing so.

Here are a couple links to the People Magazine article from June 1990 that Ward sent me which I've scanned an uploaded: page 1 and page 2.

Ward, thank you for taking the time to put your experience into words. It's an incredible account but try as I might, I can't imagine what it must have been like to go from being in the relative safety of the rear seat of an A-7 one moment to being on fire and rocketing through the canopy of the same aircraft 20,000 feet above the ground then falling among a sky littered with smoldering debris seconds later. It's simply unfathomable.

Depending on your perspective, you're either incredibly lucky or blessed to have cheated death in such a way. If I manage to cheat death someday, I'd like a story similar to yours to go along with it if it's not too much to ask.

On second thought, I'd be happy to just fade away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Paying to Play and a Tendinitis Solution

Charlie is on a first-name basis with our Congressman, John Kline. I had the pups out for a walk this morning and we came by John's home as he was walking out to his mailbox. He bent down to pet the pups and said "hello Charlie" as we crossed over to his side of the street. I'm impressed as he's only met Charlie one other time and that was a few weeks ago. With all the new names and faces John encounters any given day or week it must prove difficult to remember any of them. I can only assume that Charlie made an impression on him.

Would you pay to upload videos to YouTube? It may come to that unless they somehow begin to miraculously start raking in enough cash to cover their costs. Apparently, YouTube is struggling to remain viable and the only reason it's still up and running at all is because of the deep pockets of its parent company, Google.

I've got a Flickr account that I pay $25 a year for. There's a free version as well which has some limitations but it works pretty much the same as the 'Pro' version. I don't mind paying for the service and would likely pay a bit more if need be. I feel the same about YouTube. I'd happily pay $25 a year or more to have them host whatever videos I put up and for me, that's quite a lot.

What I don't understand is why if they're in such dire straights did the folks at YouTube recently decide it was a good idea to allow people to upload videos up to 1gb in size when their previous limit was 100mb? I like that I can now upload high-resolution stuff but I'm not sure that's going to bring more revenue to cover whatever costs are associated with the increased storage and bandwidth to support it.

My tendinitis is nearly gone and I hope to be back on our rower later this week. A visit to my doctor a few weeks ago enlightened me as to what was happening and what I needed to do to rehab my arm. He said that the condition would be very slow to improve on its own and that what I really needed to do was to build up the muscles around the tendons which would allow my tendons to more quickly heal. It made sense to me. I began exercising with a small one-pound hand weight while driving to and from work or sitting in front of the TV.

I suppose that would've been all I needed but I came across this on a rowing forum a couple weeks ago. I found them locally at REI (for a bit more) and went out and bought one. They're quite the gizmo and I can tell you that they work incredibly well at exercising not only my forearms but my hands too. Tammy has also been using them as she has the same tendinitis issues I do. I bought an extra one to keep in my truck for when I'm driving.

Not only is it a great gadget for strengthening my arms but it can also be fun to play with and see how fast you can get the gyro inside spinning. I've had mine up to just over 10,000 RPMs that's nowhere near what some people can do.

Yeah, I know...I'm a geek.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

29 Years of Catching Up

We hung the panel on Thursday. I tried to get some photos of it but I had a difficult time getting the blue glass to show up as anything other than the color white so I won't post a picture. Instead, I have a video of the final assembly phase and our initial view and reaction to it after the install. We're very pleased with the outcome and intend to begin cutting more glass tomorrow for the next panel. Here's a link to the video in HD. For those who'd rather not watch the full six minutes, skip forward to the 5:00 point in the video for a look at the final result.

It's been another full weekend and I'm looking forward to slowing things down over the next few weeks. I wonder if that's possible?

We took Mom to see The Thorn at North Heights Lutheran Church last night. The play replaces the Passion Play they've done for years. You can't help but be impressed by all that goes into the production and the play itself. It's based on the Gospel of the Disciple, John. Mom had a nice night out although I think we got her home later than she's used to. We tend to forget that she's in her 80's and doesn't have the stamina she did just a few years ago.

I spent a few hours on my bike today getting somewhat lost in and around St Paul Park. I'm quite sure I'd never ventured that way on my bike before and I'm fairly certain I won't be going back anytime soon. Not that I didn't enjoy my time on my bike because I did but the roads left a lot to be desired. Highway 61 north out of Hastings is easily the worst road I've traveled on in the metro area. With the exception of a couple areas where it's been repaved, the shoulder is full of chunks of crumbling asphalt, debris and rocks. I couldn't take my eyes off the road directly in front of me for fear I'd hit something that would cause a flat. I was glad I was on my red Serotta which is still sporting Specialized Armadillos from winter riding. The ride isn't as nice as the Michelin Pro Race 2's I ride in warm weather but they're a lot less likely to puncture because they're beefier.

I got off highway 61 at Summit Avenue where it became a freeway. I crossed back over thinking I could find a road to take me west and across the river but there was no such animal. I should've known better but I'm not familiar with all the river crossings. I spent at least a half-hour looking for a nonexistent bridge while running into dead-end roads before I got back on 61 and took it north to 494 where I crossed over on the bike path.

It was nice to get on the other side and into Inver Grove Heights where I've done my share of riding. I felt a bit like I'd broken free of the Bermuda Triangle when I finally crossed over. I quickly found Lone Oak Road and took that west while calculating whether or not I had time to squeeze 80 miles out of the day. I was worried that my aimless riding across the river would put me behind schedule to meet with a friend tonight who I hadn't seen in over 29 years since leaving the Navy in December 1979.

I got home 82 miles later with time to spare but one look in the mirror told me that I really should've turned back when I realized 4 miles into the ride that I'd forgotten to use sunscreen. I've got to be more disciplined about that.

I met Paul at the Bloomington Holiday Inn and after greeting each other and taking note of how 29 years can't change the unique look of a person's eyes or smile or simple mannerisms we headed less than a mile down the road to David Fong's for dinner.

I had two distinct memories when I drove into the parking lot. I recalled that my high school girlfriend's dad used to hang out here and I also remembered the last time I was in the parking lot 27 years earlier. It was the spring of 1982 and it was there that I saw a new, charcoal-colored Mazda 626. I loved the lines of the car as they seemed a sleek European style rather than the boxy look of so many American competitors. I'd own one of my own later that year after graduation from the FAA academy. Still, my favorite car ever.

Paul and I took our time getting through dinner and a couple of tall beers. I left our ship, the USS Fresno, a little less than a year ahead of him. He told me how morale had deteriorated badly after I'd left and that his tour of duty on the ship was a difficult time for him. It was the opposite for me. I think that maybe Paul wanted more from his enlistment than I did. I knew I was done when my four years were over whereas Paul remained active duty for nearly ten years before finishing out his career in the Reserves.

Paul can tell some stories and he had me laughing for a good part of dinner. He's got a keen memory for many of the finer details that I'd forgotten.

I thought back to the first time we met. Our ship was deployed to the western Pacific and he came on board in Guam in I think October 1978. I brought him up to CIC (Combat Information Center) where he'd be working as an Operations Specialist (radar man) to show him around. It was evening and we sat up there and talked just the way we were tonight.

Paul is an interesting guy who can easily discuss a lot of different subjects. Our conversation focused a lot on the economy when we weren't reminiscing about shipmates and sea stories. He currently works as an Administrative Assistant for the FDIC in Chicago.

We left the restaurant and I brought him by to the house to meet Tammy and Rachel. We settled downstairs in the shop and chatted for another couple hours. Tammy slipped out to pick up some beer as I'd totally neglected my duties. We got online and Paul pointed me in the direction of a couple links to check out later to better understand the makings of the financial mess our country is in: Frontline, Inside the Meltdown and CNBC, House of Cards.

It was interesting talking politics with him as he isn't owned by one party in particular. Neither of us made excuses for our votes in the last election although we voted for different men. Sarah Palin's name came up at one point and I think we both may have rolled our eyes.

I'd planned to bring him by 'the office' but we never got there. We agreed that the next time he came into town I'd show him around the facility with the understanding that we can't wait another 29 years if that's going to happen. The facility may not last that long.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who Has Time to Sleep?

I got half of the panel soldered last night before I had to put it away and leave for dance class. I took some video of it before I began soldering and decided that I'll video the next panel from start to finish to give people an idea about what goes into the making of a window. I'll pick up from where the design phase leaves off.

I took a sick day on Monday and spent part of the day working on the back-lighting for the window. It's up and ready to go.

I'm working the all-night shift tonight and hope to have the rest of the panel soldered tomorrow afternoon after I catch up on some seriously needed sleep. I came into work this morning on four hours of sleep and figured I'd go home and crash after work but that didn't happen. I took off two hours early and went riding instead. What can I say? I'm an addict.

The plan was to do at least 30 but probably no more than 50 miles. So much for the plan. I got to Northfield and decided to head east and work the hills in the direction of Dennison. There aren't a lot of them but there are a few long ones I like. Have I mentioned that I thrive on hills? And pain? It's a part of the addiction I suppose.

Heading south out of Northfield I knew I was committing myself to at least 70 miles but I'd have plenty of time to get home and get a couple hours of sleep before the mid-shift; or so I thought. My legs were feeling great and with the low humidity levels I was pressing along at a good pace into a 10-15 mph headwind.

This sounds so personal but just west of Dennison I took notice of what I thought was a gas bubble but I couldn't be sure. What if it's not; what if it's something more and the next small town is a half-hour away? I took no chances. I swung into the Marathon station and was very glad I did.

Back on the road, I tried to hook on with a farm tractor which passed me as I climbed the 4% grade out of Dennison but he was too fast for me. I can comfortably sit in on one of them at 30+ mph barely breaking a sweat but the hill limited my ability to catch on with him. It didn't stop me from trying. No worries; I'd be turning off shortly onto highway 56 and putting the wind to work for me.

Highway 56 has deteriorated from what I remember it being just a few years ago. It's no longer the smooth ride it once was due to all the cracks running through it but there weren't any rim damaging potholes. The cracks were a small inconvenience.

I started doing the math and figured I'd finish with 75 miles if I took the shortest route home. That's a good distance for having to be back at work in less than six hours while still hoping to catch a couple of hours sleep but what about 80 miles? That would sound so much better I kept telling myself. Not that 75 is wimpy; it's just not 80. My average speed kept climbing from a low of 16.2 when I turned out of the wind. My goal became 18 mph for an average speed before finishing the ride. It was certainly doable but would take some work.

Now that I'm in my fifties I'm fine with an overall average speed of 18 mph. There was a time not long ago when I wouldn't have been happy with that speed. 19 or 20 mph was usually the norm back then it seemed. I don't often see those numbers at the end of a ride anymore but I'm okay with that. My mindset now is to not be so hard on myself and be able to continue to ride for years to come. If it means I must slow down a bit I'll manage. That's not to say that I don't still push it because I do and always hope to be able to; just not to the extent I once did.

One thing I should add; all of my rides are solo efforts. I'm not being sheltered from the wind by a group of riders. It's a lot more work out there on your own.

I got within a mile of home and decided to extend the ride just a bit to achieve the 80 miles I'd convinced myself I needed to ride. I finished with a little over 81 miles and an average speed of 18.2 mph. I was happy with those numbers.

I showered and tried to sleep but it wasn't happening. Another mid-shift with no sleep going into it but I felt content knowing that I had a fun afternoon on my bike. I can sleep when I retire.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Prophecy and a Protein

The words of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 53 always cause me to pause. Consider when you read them that they were written about a savior who wouldn't be born for another 700 years.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal
he was put in a rich man’s grave.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ride Notes

I'm surprising myself by continuing to work on stained glass this late into the spring. I hope to have the first of six panels for our entertainment center done this weekend and with that, either relief or disappointment. I've never been entirely sold on the colors we've chosen and won't know if they'll work until I get the panel hung.

I got home from work yesterday afternoon as Tammy was getting ready to take the pups to the dog park ten miles to the southwest. I was heading out on my bike and told her that maybe I'd see them as I biked past the park. Our timing was perfect as they were rounding the perimeter by the highway just as I was coming by. I got off to chat for a few minutes.

As I took off down the road, Toby tried to run alongside me. I felt bad leaving him behind because he was running so hard to try and stay with me but I kept pulling away. They love their walks around our neighborhood but nothing compares to the park where they can be off-leash. I try and take them there a couple of times a week.

The temp was in the mid 40s and it was all I could do to average 15 mph into a steady 20+ mph wind from the northwest. I headed west toward Jordan as I contemplated how many miles I could squeeze out of the remaining daylight.

My plan when I left home was to do a simple out and back with Jordan being the turn-around point but once I got there I decided to head north into Chaska looking forward to the help a tailwind would bring for the ride home.

I flipped through the screens on my Edge 305 until I came to the one showing sunset time: 7:48. I felt relief as I thought about the ever-lengthening days that will play out over the next couple months until sunset will max out at 9:04 the third week in June. This is a nice time of year for me with much to look forward to with respect to riding; God willing.

I felt good as I continued north out of Jordan and across the Minnesota River. It's a beautiful stretch of highway with little traffic even at its peak as it was when I came through. Just beyond the view in the photo to the left, the road climbs for a couple miles at a moderate 3-4% grade. I thrive on hills and the challenge they offer. It's nice to occasionally get out of the saddle but doing so can unnecessarily drain energy reserves. You're much more efficient to remain seated although it's nice to bring different muscle groups into play and standing does that.

By this point in the ride, it appeared the wind was beginning to subside but I didn't want that. I was hoping it would hang on to give me more of a push home once I got near Carver and Chaska and turned toward the northeast. It was still there but rather than the 20+ mph I'd been struggling against, it was now nearer to 10 mph. I wouldn't fly home like I'd hoped but I'd push myself and that's really all that mattered.

I took five minutes to refuel at the Holiday gas station on Hwy 212 just past Hwy 41 in Chaska. A package of Hostess cupcakes and a 32oz bottle of G2 Gatorade would easily get me home.

I had 50 miles in as I climbed south on highway 13 into Prior Lake where I began to feel the burn in my quads. It's a good burn but I had to back off just a bit to avoid cramping. I was casting a long shadow by this time but was reasonably sure I'd make it home with enough daylight so long as I had no mechanical issues and I had none.

It was a nice ride covering just over 63 miles. I didn't notice it while I was riding but my lungs felt a bit sore after I got home. It's going to be a few weeks of regular efforts to put some of these aches behind me but they hurt in a good way so I really don't mind. They remind me what it took to achieve the pain and that causes me to smile.

I'm still on my red Serotta and hope to have my blue one out later this week. I'll need to change the skins on it first. Yeah, I'm out riding again. I'll have to make a serious effort to keep plugging away in our glass shop from this point on but I must.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Time to Vent and a Time for Change

I was driving past my mom's townhome while chatting on the phone with my sister on the way to work this afternoon when I heard a car honk. It was Reid, my former trainee. He'd spotted me as he was heading home to get some sleep after working the day shift before heading back for tonight's all-nighter. He wanted to talk. My phone beeped a few seconds later and I told Jackie that I'd call her back.

"Hey, what's happening" I asked him as I switched over to his call. Before he could answer I told him that I heard he'd gotten a little fired up at work the other day over some nonsense. I let him vent for the next six miles as I continued my drive.

We last spoke a little over a week ago when he was telling me about his previous week in San Diego. He'd had a blast and was taking life on with a new, refreshed attitude. Just the sort of thing a vacation is supposed to do. I couldn't help but wonder how long it would take for our beloved employer to send that good attitude packing. I didn't share that with him because I didn't want to spoil his moment. He deserved it.

Apparently, it didn't take long for the FAA to begin to undermine those warm fuzzy feelings Reid was having. Our Quality Assurance people are monitoring our radio conversation (read phraseology) unlike they ever have in the past and it's verging on becoming harassment. Actually, that's exactly what it is.

As I was signing into work a couple hours ago my supervisor gave me my most recent 'tape talk' (as we refer to them) to sign for. I had one error out of 131 transmissions. My error was saying "American thirty-two, expect light chop twenty minutes up the road." rather than saying, "American thirty-two, expect light chop two-zero minutes up the road." There is no provision for me to say the digits individually but who am I to argue and why would I bother to challenge it? It's not worth it. Reid is still learning that you can't fight city hall; certainly not the FAA's version of it. Believe me, I've tried and with my little blog, I continue to make observations for whatever they're worth.

I know, no big deal...find something real to complain about. These things I occasionally highlight here are a very small part of a much larger problem and it is a problem especially when you see what's happening to the attitudes of young guys like Reid who only want to come to work and enjoy doing their job but are made to unnecessarily jump through hoops along the way. I can't imagine having the cynical attitudes many of the younger people have so early in their careers. It took me a full 24 years to reach the point they've achieved in less than 3 years.

There's plenty of good works that FAA management could focus on but they choose not to and I find that frustrating. I could nit-pick my daughter's every move but I doubt that would bring out the best in her. It would most likely have the opposite effect while at the same time strain our relationship. Why would I do that especially when she's a good kid?

Just to be clear: Reid has a great attitude but I'm sure he would be the first to admit that it could be better and that he wants for it to be. He's doing his part and the FAA is doing all they can to deny him that good feeling he gets when he's doing his job. Why?

I have no problem with management monitoring how we work and ensuring there's a high level of compliance—that's to be expected. It's how they go about that which troubles me and the motives behind those efforts. Those in management would do this agency and themselves a ton of good if they'd simply get out of the way and find something more useful to do. Treat us with respect and encourage an environment where we respect one another. That does not exist today and is so very far from being a reality. That's not to say that there aren't those in management who do their job well because there are. It's the tone at the top which trickles down that is unmistakable.

Many of my fellow controllers are growing impatient for the desired changes we assumed an Obama administration would bring with it. I think we were hopeful that FAA management would realize there's a new sheriff in town and begin whistling a different tune but that hasn't happened...yet. But why would they change? For management to begin operating any differently than they've been for the last several years before being ordered to do so would be seen as an admission that they've been wrong in labor/management issues and that's not going to happen. But, when change does occur, and it will, it's going to bring a smile to my face, to Reid's face and to a lot of other faces of good people who make up the real workers of this organization. You know, the only people in the FAA who have been denied pay raises that everyone else in the federal government has received the last three years.

For those who've enjoyed the last several years of a complicit administration and the power of the hammer over those you're supposed to be leading, I have just one link for you. The K├╝bler-Ross model.

Are you listening, Frank Whiten?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Becoming Refined, Refining Directives and Rachel's Road Trip

I took some time the other night to watch The Town that Dreaded Sundown; see the last part of my previous post. It had been more than 30 years since I'd seen it so I figured I should probably make sure it's how I remember it if I'm going to recommend it to others.

I'm not sure what to think after watching it again. One thing that stands out is that it wasn't as chilling as it was the first time I saw it; not nearly as scary. I'm sure that speaks to the desensitization I've gone through in our 'civilized' world the last few decades. Human decay and violence have never been more acceptable as entertainment.

Back in the mid-1980s, my parents opened Landmark Rental, a videotape rental business in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. My dad was going over a list of movies from which to purchase for their inventory and in the list was a series of videos called Faces of Death of which I remember voicing my disapproval. What I knew of the shows was that they were a collection of actual video of people dying. How morbid I thought; who would want to watch that sort of thing? Apparently, many. I don't think my dad ordered any of them but I'm not certain.

I spent some time in the doctor's office a couple of days ago and one of the things I was seeing him for was tendinitis in my right forearm. It's been one month since I've last used our rower and I was expecting that the pain would be a lot more improved than it is. He told me that it likely won't go away until I strengthen the muscle surrounding the tendon. He gave me some exercises to do which I'm happy to comply with and he told me what I wanted to hear when I asked him if I'd be able to resume rowing after rehabbing my arm. Yes.

I've been off my bike the past two weeks working through some health issues but I was able to finally get back out on the road today. The temp was in the upper 30s and it was cloudy but with only a light wind out of the east. It was nice to be out feeling the burn in my lungs and quads from too much time spent not pushing myself.

I managed just under 57 miles and probably would've brought it in with 10 miles less had it not been for the bike path along 35W being flooded. I had to double back but I didn't mind as this time of year is all about putting in base miles. I could've pressed on but I know the path dips a bit beyond the photo where the water would be even higher and I wasn't interested in trying to negotiate the muddy, slippery path beneath the water.

While the nurse was taking my vital signs at the doctor's office she gave me a pamphlet to look over; The Minnesota Health Care Directive. She said I could leave it on the desk if I didn't want it as she closed the door on her way out of the room. Actually, I took a few seconds to rummage through the stacks of pamphlets in the holder on the wall to find another that I could bring home for Tammy. Filling this out has been on our list of things to do.

We spent 20 minutes Thursday night making our wishes known in the legally binding document. No attorney necessary—just a notary to make it official. There wasn't much difference in how we made known our desires with both of us placing little emphasis on sustaining our lives should we find ourselves in a condition where we're rendered unable to interact with those around us but with a heart which continues to beat on. It's not the stuff anybody wants to spend much time thinking about but we all should. Look over the pamphlet for an understanding of the things I'm referring to which you too may want to give some consideration.

Rachel left with a group of 15 kids from Prince of Peace Church in Burnsville this morning in a van bound for Atlanta, GA. They'll be staying in Nashville tonight, arriving around 11:00 pm. She's been excited about this trip. Each time she goes on one of these mission trips she comes back determined as ever to reevaluate and adjust her life's priorities. Last year she decided that name brand clothing was no longer a priority after being among the homeless. She wears the cheapest stuff she can find now and I see no sign of that changing.

They'll work in soup kitchens, deliver meals and spend time out in the streets connecting with homeless people. Last year's trip took them to Seattle where she was exposed to homelessness in a way she hadn't been; up close. It was a profound experience for her and you could see it in the tears she had as she recalled for us some of the people she encountered. She'll be heading back to Guatemala this summer. I love that she has a heart for this sort of work. Sure, she has fun along the way but it's about much more than that.

We're in the home stretch on the 1st of 6 stained glass panels for above the entertainment center in our basement. I thought I'd have it done this weekend but I've allowed myself to get distracted from the task with a bunch of other stuff vying for my attention; my blog being one of those distractions.

It looks like I've got maybe another 6 to 8 hours of work before I'm ready to solder it but I know it's easily twice that amount or more. I'll spend a considerable amount of time redoing pieces that aren't fitting just right and I've got several of those. The project is all straight lines and they need to match up which is easier said than done when talking about the hundreds of tiny pieces which make up the panel. But that sort of busywork is all a part of the escape a project like this offers so I don't mind.

One more distraction just popped up. We're headed out for dinner. Maybe when I get back...nope...we're gonna watch Wife Swap. Pathetic, I know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thank You, Twitter Me and A Scare for You

Focus FAA published a couple of rebuttals yesterday to Frank Whiten's venomous screed from last weeks edition which I blogged about. They didn't print my submission but I was happy with their choices nonetheless. (note: I think Frank's last name may actually be spelled Whiten and not Whitten. I'll leave both spellings here so the internet search bots will be sure and find his name no matter how it's spelled in the query. Frank deserves to have people know the kind of guy he is and I'm happy to do my part. This blog will be here for years. Sorry, Frank but you need to own this one and I've yet to receive any sort of apology.)

Leading And Managing

I was reading through the posts of “Your Two Cents” last week, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the entry by Frank Whitten (see “A Supervisor Responds”). I’ve always been told that there are those who lead, and those who manage. I’ve never been completely confident in the difference between the two, but I think we’ve found something in Mr. Whitten’s reply.

For one, a leader certainly does not display a condescending and elitist tone to his/her employees. Boasting that the disproportion in pay between controllers and management exists because management deals with a few skeletons in the closet is callous and below the belt. If Mr. Whitten is completely serious, shame on him. If he’s being sarcastic, then I hope he has a change of attitude. Don’t forget that controllers work with those kinds of people, as well (and I’m not implying that those people are in management — this could apply to anyone in any part of the aviation industry), and we might have to deal with rotten attitudes just as often.

Additionally, I don’t know Kevin Gilmore, and he’s entirely entitled to his opinion. Yet criticizing Kevin’s integrity without having the full picture of his situation (in this case, denigrating Kevin by stating that he has veiled anger/stress problems) illustrates Mr. Whitten’s own lack of integrity. Ultimately, a true leader must maintain a sharp sense of humility, and would apologize for treating Kevin like Mr. Whitten has. Instead of trying to manage your employees, lead them.

Erik Sosa
Western-Pacific Region

Get Back In Your Box

Way to lead, Mr. Whitten. I'm sure there's a lively game of "Who's the Kevin?" going on at your facility right now. Leave it to FAA management to provide a forum for employee comments (look to the left; see where it says "Opinion"?), and when they don't hear what they want to hear, they begin with the personal attacks (whiner, negative) and then question why the employee stays around. FAA management likes to manage by motivational poster and routinely sends employees to feel-good, think-positive training and claim to reward risk-taking and thinking "outside the box," but as soon as you walk out of the classroom and try to act on those principles you've just been taught, it truly is a "boot to the throat" and “get back in your box.” There's a herd mentality in the FAA, as with most large organizations, and true leadership is feared. I did see one motivational poster that did ring true for me, but you’re not likely to find it hanging in any FAA offices. It said: "A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. In the end, leaders are much like eagles … they don't flock, you find them one at a time." Kind of puts a whole new perspective on "leadership conferences."

John P. Allen

Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center

Actually, I couldn't be happier with what both letter writers said in my defense. Many thanks.

Am I not understanding the attraction to Twitter? I signed up because all the cool kids were/are doing it but I'm not sure why I did; it's definitely not because I'm cool. From what I gather, you're expected to text (multiple times) your daily movements so those who follow you will feel engaged in your life or something like that. My blog pretty much does that but I can't imagine people wanting to know what I'm doing every hour of the day. Get your own life.

Facebook works a bit like Twitter in that people post their comings and goings but not with near the frequency, or at least that's been my take on it. But, lately I've had one of my Facebook friends spamming his every move on Facebook and it's becoming a bit much. On average for every single post any of my other friends make this guy posts ten messages. I'm sorry but it's spam to me and I can't figure out how to suppress his comments without deleting him as a Facebook friend altogether. He's a very interesting person and I enjoy knowing what's happening in his life but it's sort of like the guy who won't stop talking when all you want is to quietly do your thing.

I was having a conversation with my trainee, Kristy, during a slow time in the sector a few months ago. I was telling her about the scariest movie I'd ever seen; The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Movies don't come any scarier than this one. I'm not much for horror stories but I'll make an exception for this one which is based on a true story. I saw it not long after it first came out when they showed it on the ship I was on in the Navy. That was back in the late 1970s and I haven't seen it since. I've looked for it in rental shops from time to time but nobody seemed to carry it. I don't know that I'd ever looked for it online.

I came into work a couple days ago and Kristy said: "I found that movie you were telling me about". I asked her "what movie?" "You know, that scary movie, the town that dreaded sundown?" She told me she'd found it online and that it ranged in price from around $25 up to $80. She thought it would be a good idea for me to buy it and make copies for everybody to see. I get it; since I was the one who hyped it up I suppose I could spring for it.

The movie is based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders.