Happy Independence Day!

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When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was spent at my great Aunt Frances’ house. An old farmhouse, she had a decent sized pond with two rowboats that we’d spend most of the day boating around in. One of the boats had a leak and either me or one of my cousins were designated to bail out the boat with a coffee can while the others cruised around on a three-hour tour.

One year, my two youngest cousins on that side of the family got into a fight (they were still aged in the single digits at the time) and made a big spectacle fighting in the intact boat in the middle of the pond. In a classic Laura/Nellie “Little House on the Prairie” moment, my cousin that became an animal keeper at a zoo shoved the cousin that became a Christian missionary out of the boat and into the pond. The velocity of the screams intensified and I might have suggested that there were snakes in the pond (I think I was 12 or so), which probably didn’t help the situation.

Good times, those family gatherings, good times.

We always had birthday cake at this family reunion. For the longest time I thought we were celebrating Independence Day with a birthday cake, which is kind of nifty if you think about it, but we were having cake to celebrate my great Aunt Rena’s birthday, which was July 4. Curiously, I dreamed about Aunt Rena last night, though she’s been gone for at least 15 years. She taught third grade for seemingly hundreds of years. I always likened her to Aunt Clara from “Bewitched”. She had a nice disposition. I enjoyed her.

Today I enjoy celebrating our country’s birthday but I’m not one to go around screaming “We are number one! We are number one!” because I think that’s too showy. I’ll enjoy a few barbecue items, eat some chips, watch some fireworks and thank our founding fathers for coming up with a great way to build a country.

And as others have mentioned around the Internet, no one wears the red, white and blue as well as Lynda Carter.

Continuance.

Having a little more free time to relax and recover yesterday and today, I found myself drifting deep into the early years of my blog. It struck me that my blog will turn 14 years old this summer, with the first entry in what I was calling “my journal” was from August 2001. My first blog entry talked about flying with my Dad in his homebuilt Acro-Sport II for the very first time. The last sentence of the entry, “I imagine I’ll be a private pilot someday.” seemed to be quite accurate.

Reading through the millions of words I have written over the years made me once again miss when I would take the time to sit down and write a blog entry, whether it was a creative missive, a small observation or my attempt of conveying my opinion on any given topic, versus the habit of belching out something witty in 140 characters or less on Twitter or blasting my own horn on Facebook. Over the years many blogs have come and gone and quite frankly, I miss them a lot.  I used to track everyone’s blogs via Google Reader but Google decided that they couldn’t monetize that information stream so they killed that application. I have a couple of other applications that I use instead (Feedly, TT Reader) but the experience isn’t the same. I don’t think the degradation in experience is entirely because of Google Reader’s disappearance; people are just in too much of a hurry to sit down and write a blog entry. So many blogs end like many sitcoms, no final, wrap-up episode, it just ends on a typical note.

I figure if my blog can survive the MySpace era, it can continue to exist in the Twitter and Facebook era. Unlike 90% of the blogs out there which talk about important subjects and have opinion and conjection spun into a representation of the truth, my blog has always been a creative outlet. It’s the precursor to the selfie (and I’d like to think much less obnoxious). It gives insight to my life and the way I think in a more complete manner. Usually I think before I write. I’m not trying to entertain, I’m just trying to be myself here. 

Looking back at the entries I wrote in 2005, when I had the same surgical procedure that I’m recovering from right now, it’s amazing to see how much things have changed and yet stayed the same. The world is in turmoil, I’m obsessed with gadgets and I’m still trying to lose weight. On the last point, with all the weight I’ve lost in my adult years I should be about the weight of a bedsheet by now. Have you ever tried to put skinny jeans on a bedsheet? Not a pretty picture. So what’s changed? I’ve grown a little more conservative in my expectations of the general public and I’m definitely not as salacious as I used to be. I’ve told Earl that once I have the hardware from the surgery removed, I’ll probably be much more randy than I’ve been over the past year or so. He said he’ll prepare for the event and then he smiled.

I don’t think I’ll write about that, though.

With everyone’s reliance on texts and tweets and status updates, I wonder what the world will be like in a decade or two after the “abbreviated communication” crowd grows older. It could be that my blog will still be around, looking as ancient as the penmanship on the Declaration of Independence.

Hopefully it’ll still make people smile.

Elevator Logic.

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I started the new chapter of my career this week. I am in Greenville, S.C. and starting the path of “Senior Consultant” at Windstream Communications. I officially have a Virtual Office; I will be doing most of my work from our home office, but if I had decided to move us to Greenville, I’d be working in my own office (complete with door and windows) in the 23rd storey building shown in my photo. Our team is situated on the fifth floor.

I’ve noticed each morning that there is quite a traffic jam at the bank of elevators. I like to think that I’m pretty adept at the operation of an elevator: press the button in the desired direction of travel, await the arrival of an elevator car, step aside to let passengers out of the elevator and then get in, face front, press the button of your desired floor and try not to pass gas. It’s pretty simple.

These people ALWAYS press the elevator call button in BOTH directions, regardless of where they are going. I don’t know if there is some sort of code that I missed in the orientation manual or if it is some secret incantation that only works in the south, but every person that wants to get on the elevator in the lobby calls the elevator by pressing both the up and down button. Invariably the down bound elevator arrives and people pile in. They head down and then in a few moments the same car load of people arrive and the elevator opens the door in response to the “up” request. Because the car is full of people, I’m not stepping foot in the elevator.

Today I was a rebel and joined a couple of other men in the service elevator, even though the sign said “no passengers”. The metal lined walls had a sleek look to them and I figured the elevator was rated for more weight since it was designed for service purposes. Plus, the service elevator doesn’t have CNN blaring in the car like the five other cars (designed for passenger service) do. I’m not a fan of CNN blaring in the elevator.

It covers the sounds of someone passing gas. Without that, there’s no warning.

DL 1805. 

We are currently on a flight from Atlanta to Vancouver. This is our second attempt at flying to Vancouver today, about n hour into the first flight we had to return to Atlanta. The flight attendant in the back jump seat either didn’t put her seat belt on or did it improperly and slid out of the seat on take off.  Word is she broke two ribs. She had struggled through the safety briefing, using cue cards to recite the narrative. 

During the first flight another flight attendant asked for our patience because they were down one FA and the beverage service would be delayed. About 30 minutes later we were headed back to Atlanta. I didn’t think being down a flight attendant would fly that well. 

I noticed that during this crisis the flight attendants didn’t stick to procedure, there was no check of seat backs, tray tables or seat belts prior to landing. This irked me, because the flight attendants were acting on behalf of the captain and if I was captain of an airliner I would want to know that all my passengers were safe. 

We got back to the gate, the paramedics came on board and escorted the injured flight attendant off. Delta decided the pilots needed to stay behind as well, so a new flight crew, a new flight attendant and some more fuel was added and off we went.

The flight attendants again did not check for seat belts, tray tables or seat backs in their upright position.  There were at least four violations within my eyesight. The flight attendants walked back and forth several times like they were checking but they were just going through the motions.

If I’m ever just going through the motions as a pilot, please keep me on the ground. 

I didn’t say anything to the procedure violators or the flight attendants because I didn’t want to create a scene because I don’t want to get booted off the airplane, but I did contact Delta via Twitter and their app and shared my feelings with them.  I don’t know if it will make a difference but at least I did my part. 

Things happen, I get that, but what makes the friendly skies so safe is that you always stick to rules, procedures and protocols. That’s how pilots handle airplanes so well in emergencies.  Stick to what you know.

It’s a shame that the flight attendants on this flight forgot that. 

The Facial Hair Conundrum.

I recently saw a friend that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. We were very happy to see each other as it had been much too long. As we shared hugs and conversation, he mentioned the fact that I am clean shaven. It’s not a look that he is used to on me. I gave him my standard answer when asked about the absence of my beard these days, “most pilots don’t have facial hair.” This was something that my Dad mentioned to me over 30 years ago during my first trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I know many of pilots with a beard or mustache, but I don’t feel comfortable amongst their number.

It’s not the first time that I’ve heard a comment about being clean-shaven. Back in the day I was known for my huge fireman’s mustache.

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I thought about growing a mustache again but I’m not really feeling it right now. I love the attention that I get when people compliment the mustache but I’m not looking for attention these days. Getting that attention pushes me into a prideful mindset. I’m content with who I am and how I look these days. In the past it’s been rare for me to be able to say that.

I feel good. I think I look good. I’m a happy man.

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The Technology Invasion.

Anyone that’s had any sort of awareness of the 21st century has probably noticed that technology has permeated the life of everyone in some sort of a modern society. I sometimes wonder how my grandmothers would have enjoyed the likes of Skype and such but they moved on back in the days of AOL floppy disks so I never had the chance to see how their interactions with the Internet would have been. I think my city grandma still had a rotary phone in the kitchen, now that I think about it.

I’m digressing.

With technology everywhere, it’s easy to see that people are now becoming dependent on technology. It’s not uncommon to see a driver behind the wheel of a car in the dark without their lights on because the whizz-bangy doo-dads didn’t turn the lights on for them. This drives me crazy for many reasons, including the fact that it’s a safety hazard for the rest of us. Is it necessary to use technology to automatically turn the headlamps on? Shouldn’t the responsibility fall on the shoulder of the driver, not the computer?

There was recently an article in the LA Times that suggests getting rid of automatic flushing systems in toilets to could save California millions of gallons of water. I know that back in the day when these automatically flushing toilets came about that we were told it was better for the environment because the toilet could control how often it was being flushed. I don’t know about anyone else’s experience, but every time I use a public toilet that has the automatic flusher, it flushes two or three times as I move around in the stall trying to get my pants back up. If it was a manual system, like in the “good ol’ days”, I would have flushed the toilet once and that would have been it. If we figure three gallons of water per flush, that one incident would have saved six gallons of water right there.

Who’s idea was it to automate toilets, anyway? Have we become so lazy as a society that we need someone to flush our toilets for us? Have we become unable to use our foot to push down the flusher (because god forbid we use our hands.)?

Sharing information and having the world at your fingertips at all times in pretty nifty in many ways. But when people are more focused on their phones than on the world around them, who is benefitting from the advancement of technology? The user? The viewer? The ad companies?

I’m all for technological advancements, even in my middle aged years where I’m probably a little crankier than I used to be. But those advancements need a purpose. We should have a reason for implementing technology, not just throwing an electronic doo-dad in every thing we use and do because we can.

Play.

I like to think of Earl and me as a “power couple”. We both have pretty intense careers; Earl’s is a little more high pressure than mine, but in recent years my career has really started to move in a positive direction and I am very happy with that.

It is because we work hard during that week that we are able to play hard on the weekend. Traveling isn’t an easier affair for us; I carry two computers, one or two iPads, my iPhone and possibly my work phone (I usually use my iPhone for both work and personal business) and Earl carries his personal iPad and his work iPad. There have been many occasions where Earl has taken care of conference calls along the side of the road in places like Des Moines, Iowa or at the entrance gate to Animal Kingdom. Last week I spent two hours along the New York State Thruway in a snow/sleet/rain storm fixing a server issue using my iPad, my work computer and a smattering of profanity. I know others that do the same thing; a very good friend of mine writes applications using his laptop whilst sitting at a resort hotel swimming pool.

The only time that I’m really disconnected from the world is when I’m flying an airplane, and even then I’m not disconnected; I can still get phone calls and text messages, I just wisely choose to ignore them.

I am living the life I had always dreamed about and it’s because of a lot luck, some crazy twists and turns along my path and a lot of hard work. When you put your mind to it, one can accomplish anything.

Exercise.

I had my annual physical this morning with my primary care physician. I’ve been seeing the same doctor for nearly 20 years and he’s a good guy. He’s moved his practice a few times but I follow along like the good patient. One of the reasons that I like my doctor is that he is always punctual. If my appointment is scheduled for 9:20 a.m., he is in the room at 9:20 a.m. There’s no waiting around. He doesn’t like to keep his patients waiting.

To comply with FAA medical expectations, I had to resort to taking medicine to control my blood pressure. Happily, my blood pressure has been staying where it belongs, it was good this morning. I don’t like being dependent on medicine but if it’s going to keep my alive longer, and it allows me to fly an airplane, I won’t complain about it. My doctor didn’t pressure me to start taking medicine, we just discussed the pros and cons. We had the same discussion about cholesterol medicine today. I’m waiting for my blood test results before deciding if I want to do go down that path or not. He said it was up to me.

I’ve been wanting to exercise more now that the spring-like weather has arrived, but Mother Nature is still living on the wild side a bit. I started a 20 minute mid-morning walk in the sunshine this morning, but a fast approaching storm had me being pelted with hail for the last five minutes of the walk.

It made for a pretty sky, though.

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Sears.

Sears Holdings Corp. recently announced that they will be closing the Sears store in our local mall in June. This particular location opened with the mall in 1980. It is one of four anchor stores. The mall has been struggling a bit over the past decade or so; I’m not surprised to see the Sears store has been slated for closing.

I am surprised that the nearby Kmart, also owned by Sears Holdings Corp. is not going to be closed. The store has not been updated since the mid 1980s and shares a building with an abandoned grocery store. It seems to never be busy and is often in disarray.

I’m sad to see that our Sears is closing. I don’t like to see any establishment closed down, even a national chain in a nondescript mall, and especially an establishment that’s part of a company that’s been around for a century or so. Sears is as American as the Brady Bunch.

Hard times have fallen onto the Sears Holding Corporation; I don’t know that the folks of K-mart really knew what they were getting into when they bought Sears. There’s been a whole bunch of missteps since the acquisition; Sears Grand, Sears Essentials, the continuance of “Big K” (when we all know the damn thing is just a Kmart). However, a few years ago Sears tried a new concept in Duluth, Minn, and from the outside it looks like an upscale version of your typical Sears store. I think the return to the original script Sears logo adds a touch of elegance.

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photo courtesy of Labelscar.com

Personally I think Sears should completely abandon the Kmart name and focus on two things: upscale Sears stores with a boutique approach, located in malls and revitalized downtown areas, and Sears Essentials, the Sears name going after the Kmart crowd. With names like Kenmore and Craftsman behind them, I think Sears Essentials can carve out a niche outside of the Walmart/Target mindset. Get rid of all the other variants and stop trying to be everything to everyone everywhere.

Outside.

For the first time in 2015, I am able to sit on our front steps and write a blog entry without fear of frost bite, sleet, snow, hail or other weather calamity. It’s a good feeling.

With the weather being less than stellar over the past month or so, I’ve been walking every morning in an effort to get ready for cycling season. The snow banks are slowly receding and we see a little more of our lawn every day.

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They’re predicting that tonight’s low is going to be relatively sane for this time of the year (in the low 40s), so I’m determined to go on my first bike ride of the year tomorrow morning before work. My bike is in great shape, I’ll have my clothes readied before bed tonight so I will have very little in the way of excuses not to ride.

I’m looking forward to getting this spring thing in motion.