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Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword…

June 6th, 2009 · No Comments

The Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy, France began 65 years ago today. The landings of Allied soldiers on that beach on that day begain the liberation of Europe in earnest. It was far from an easy landing, and far from an easy campaign. But in the end, thanks to the heroic unselfishness and sacrifice of the men of the Allied forces, Europe and the world was rid of an immeasurably evil fascist and Europe’s people were freed from tyranny.

The entire world owes an unending debt of gratitude to the countries of the Allies and men of the Greatest Generation who put the welfare of free nations ahead of their own.

→ No CommentsTags: Anniversary · Military · politics · Uncategorized

A New Deal…

June 1st, 2009 · No Comments

For the last month, the pilots at my company have been hotly debating the pros and cons of a new tentatively-agreed-to collective bargaining agreement. The negotiating between the Company and the Pilots took two-and-a-half years to come to the point where we pilots are now voting on the new deal. The CBA we currently work under has been in effect for almost 15 years and is riddled with loopholes and gotchas that benefit both the company and the pilot group. All in all, however, it’s been a very good CBA to work under (the best I’ve ever worked under at three airlines, at any rate). We get treated excellently, payed well, have flexible schedules that we are individually in control of, and we lead a very productive existence for our Company. The new deal we’ve been offered leaves a little to be desired, though. That is my opinion.

If I’ve interpreted the tentative agreement correctly, there are two things that have set me on the path towards a “NO” vote. First, we lose some of the leeway in the ability to control our own productivity (which means trading/dropping/picking up trips to enhance our quality of life). Second, the company gains the ability to involuntarily snag us at the end of our originally-scheduled trips to fly trips they’re not able to cover for whatever reason. Sure, we gain some things (mainly a couple percentage points to our hourly rates and a bump in 401k match), but I feel that I’m payed pretty well under our current agreement.

Basically it comes down to each pilot educating himself and voting according to his individual needs. Personally, losing the ability to control my own productivity is what’s turning me off.

We’ll see how things turn out in a couple days. The voting ends on this week.

→ No CommentsTags: Aviation · Operations

Five years ago, today…

May 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

Five years ago today was one of the best days of my life! My wonderful wife gave birth to our most amazing little girl!

Momma and Baby, Day 1.

Momma and Baby, Day 1.

Since the day she was born, she’s done nothing but delight our whole family.

Her first birthday!

Her first birthday!

Watching her grow up has been a very special treat!

Her second birthday!

Her second birthday!

She’s most always got a sunny disposition and a smile on her face!

Her third birthday!

Her third birthday!

And she’s growing very quickly towards becoming a beautiful young lady!

Her fourth birthday!

Her fourth birthday!

Today is Catherine’s fifth birthday! We are so blessed to have such a wonderful little girl. There’s a “hula party” in store for her, complete with a bounce-house, a pinata, plenty of little friends, all of her family, and a big old slab of birthday cake! Tonight, we’ll be going to the Getty Center Museum to watch the sun set and to take her fifth birthday portraits.

Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Post Script:

Here’s her fifth birthday portrait (taken by yours truly).

→ No CommentsTags: Personal

Hotel Pet Peeves…

May 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I stay in hotels. A lot. It’s part of the game when you’re making your living as an airline pilot. Most hotels we stay in are quite nice and very well appointed, but every room seems to have little nitnoid type things that, over time, have worn on my nerves…to the point of writing a blog post about them.

Some hotels’ rooms seem to have been designed by or for pygmies. The sink counters hit me at mid thigh, and the mirrors aren’t tall enough for me to see anything above my armpits if I stand up straight. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun having to bend ninety-degrees at the waist to be able to see my face so I can shave in the morning. And why can’t the sinks be located in front of the mirror? Finding a sink that is 2″ from the left side of the counter with the mirror’s left edge a foot and a half to the right of the sink is just flabbergasting. Now, I’m bent at a right angle AND leaning at a forty-five degree angle to the right so I can see my face in the mirror while I shave.

Other hotels’s rooms are just poorly planned out altogether. Why is it that the only two wall electrical outlets in the room are buried behind the thousand-pound TV hutch or the anchored-to-the-wall bed? Oh sure, there’s an outlet on the base of the desklamp, but it’s a two-pronged outlet that won’t take my laptop’s three-pronged power cable. I guess I could just plug my laptop into the bathroom wall outlet and sit on the toilet lid while the laptop is on the abnormally low counter.

Then there’s the “Johnny Cutcorners” rooms. “Bah! Just toss that furniture in there anywhere!” Or the “Afterthought” rooms that seem to be nothing more than a remodeled broom closet. And how is it that shower fixtures are hooked up backwards so often? When I turn it to COLD, I shouldn’t get HOT water.

And what is it with putting the towel racks IN THE SHOWER? Towels typically absorb water pretty well, right? So WHY put them IN THE SHOWER? Yeah, it’s simple enough for me to pull them out and put them somewhere else. But the rack could easily be mounted on the wall over the loo. Oh wait, there’s some cheesy and useless piece of artwork hanging there.

I can’t wait to be home tomorrow.

→ 1 CommentTags: travel

Best Laid Plans…

May 9th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I’d gotten everything ready to head on down to San Diego early tomorrow morning. The goal was to “set up camp” on a small patch of ground in Coronado’s Centennial Park from which I could photograph the 2009 Red Bull Air Race qualifying event. I’d borrowed a nice lawn chair from my sister’s RV. I’d been to the grocery store to grab things with which to make a nice lunch. And I’d driven forty minutes each way to retreive a rental lens (a gorgeous piece of Nikon equipment) from Samy’s Camera in Pasadena to shoot through. As any kid with a new toy could understand, I had hooked that big lens up to my camera the minute I got home. You know, to “play test” it a little before packing it back up and getting everything prepared for loading into the car in the wee hours of the following morning.

It felt more like a Browning M2 .50 cal machine gun...

It felt more like a Browning M2 .50 cal machine gun...

Then, I got the phone call.

My buddy Bob, who was planning on going with me in the morning, wound up having to work an evening shift today. He wouldn’t be getting off work until 1130pm, and of course, a car trip starting at 4am the following morning didn’t sound do-able to him in the least. I don’t blame him a bit. I’d feel the same way.

So why didn’t I just suck it up and go alone?

Well, it would have been wholly impractical, really. I would have staked a claim to a 4′ x 4′ slap of park grass overlooking San Diego Bay only to have to give it up for my first run to the Andy Gump for a whizz break, or I could have left $15,000 worth of camera gear to the watchful eye of a complete stranger.

Fortunately for me, the guys in the rental department at Samy’s Camera in Pasadena were very understanding. I got the lens back to them only about two hours after I left the store with it. I took a little grief from the guys behind the counter (I’d reserved the lens a month ago and called last week to make sure it would be there), but they were good enough to not charge me a single dime.

Oh well. These things happen. I’d already been down there in 2008 and 2007 anyhow. I guess I’ll just have to make sure I hit the Edwards Air Force Base Air Show this year.

At least I got my photo taken with the lens!

9 pounds of lens, 3 pounds of camera!

9 pounds of lens, 3 pounds of camera!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Airshows · Lenses · Personal · Photography · Uncategorized

Interesting Passages VII…

April 18th, 2009 · No Comments

From Mark R. Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto:

In regards to property equaling liberty: “As the individual’s time on Earth is finite, so, too, is his labor. The illegitimate denial or diminution of his private property enslaves him to another and denies him his liberty.”

“A free people living in a civil society, working in self-interested cooperation, and a government operating within the limits of its authority promote more prosperity, opportunity, and happiness for more people than any alternative.” This is such a cut-and-dried, historically upheld idea that I find myself really wondering how anyone in local, state, or national politics can argue for anything else. Yet, so many still seem to believe that huge, overgrown, overreaching government is the way to go.

“Change unconstrained by prudence produces unpredictable consequences, threatening ordered liberty with chaos and ultimately despotism, and placing at risk the very principles the Conservative holds dear.”

“There is profound self-deception at work in people who luxuriate in the fruits of worldly success while disdaining the personal habits and cultural conditions that make such success possible” (quoting University of Tennessee professor Wilfred M. McClay’s The Idea of Change in American Politics: Meaningful Concept or Empty Promise?). Hollywood. Feh! Anyone who takes the opinion of someone like this seriously is dafter than daft.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience” (quoting C.S. Lewis’ God In The Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics). No one knows better than the individual what is good for the individual. Any other way of thinking is an abject relinquishment of liberty.

Regarding the necessity of faith in society and the dangers of a lack thereof: “…faith is not a threat to civil society but rather vital to its survival.” and (quoting George Washington in his farewell address) “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

On governing to the lowest common denominator: “There is no justice, and great harm, in diminishing the whole array of future opportunity to save a few people now from a regrettable fate” (quoting Will Wilkinson’s Failure: For Our Future).

On the supposed “consensus” among scientists that man is directly responsible for the warming of the globe (or “climate change” as it is now called, since the world is actually in a cooling phase, now): “Skepticism is essential to science; consensus is foreign.”

On illegal immigration: “Being without work [in the United States} is still far better for most people than being employed in Central America.” Promoting an open immigration policy is absolutely suicidal to a society when that society also promotes a welfare state.

On readiness (quoting George Washington in his fifth annual message): “There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost by reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it.; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

Regarding preemptive action: “…preemption is prudent. For a government to be irresolute in the face of a growing or imminent threat to its citizenry is suicidal.”

→ No CommentsTags: Literature · politics

Read This Book!

April 15th, 2009 · 6 Comments

I don’t care what your political leanings are. If you want to understand how real Conservatives think (and the term “real Conservatives” absolutely does NOT apply to Republicans over the last ten years), then you absolutely must read this book:

It is an absolutely no-nonsense, no pulled-punches look at Constitutionalism and Conservatism and why we who consider ourselves to be Constitutionalists and real Conservatives believe what we believe. It will also tell you why we who consider ourselves Constitutionalists and real Conservatives are afraid of the direction our nation took when FDR came up with “The New Deal.”

I don’t get overtly political very often, here (I prefer to do my political posts covertly), but this book is (in my opinion) a very succinct summary of my way of thinking.

Perhaps some “Interesting Passages” are in order?

→ 6 CommentsTags: Book Recommendation · Literature

Load Factor…

April 2nd, 2009 · 3 Comments

During the month of March, I did something I don’t normally do. In addition to tracking the total time of each leg I fly in my little gray crew logbook, I decided to keep track of how many passengers I carried on each leg. It was interesting to see the changes from week to week (I flew the same trip four times in March), and the results of a bit of math-in-public gave me a new understanding of the state of the economic “downturn” we’re in.

I flew a total of 41 flights last month. Each of those legs was in our Boeing 737-700 type aircraft, which carry a total of 137 in passenger seats, which means I flew 5,617 available seats in March. On those flights, I carried a total of 4,337 people. So, the percentage of total seats filled on all my flying in March was a shade over 77%. Considering that our break-even load factor is between 66% and 69% (depending upon the segment), it looks as if I carried about 10% more passengers last month than it took for my company to turn a profit on that flying.

We had only two legs last month that were completely full. Our lowest load was 27 passengers. We averaged about 80 people per leg. This is a far cry from what I was used to seeing as little as a year ago at the same time of the year. Spring break travel usually loads us up pretty well. The downturn in air travel is very apparent.

But my company is still making money!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Airliners · Aviation · Logbook · Operations · Uncategorized

Interesting Passages VI…

March 30th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of Robert Heinlein? Even in passing? These are quotes from several articles and short stories of his that were collected in his book Expanded Universe. As usual, while reading this book, I’ve highlighted several passages that are meaningful to me and help describe my thoughts on current events. Here are a few:

“There has grown up in the minds of certain croups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profits in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.” – from RAH’s short-story, Life Line.

“Most liberals believe that water runs downhill, but, praise God, it’ll never reach the bottom.” – from RAH’s short-story, Solution Unsatisfactory.

Also from Solution Unsatisfactory, a passage regarding those that would prefer to see one-world government over the current situation of individual nations: “There are a lot of good, kindly people who are internationalists these days. Nine out of ten of them are soft in the head and the tenth is ignorant.”

“If two men are locked in a basement, one armed with a 50-calibre machine gun, the other with an 18th century ball-and-powder pistol, victory goes to the man who shoots first, not to the one with the better weapon.” – from RAH’s opinion piece, titled The Last Days of the United States (a .pdf of which can be purchased here for a paltry $2).  It was specifically discussing the logic of atomic weapons, yet I believe this opinion accurately describes any situation between two individuals, groups, or countries. The best defense is a good offense.

“Democracies usually collapse not too long after the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses…for a while.” – from the afterword to RAH’s opinion piece, Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry? Get the .pdf of the article here (not sure whether that contains the afterword or not). I think this is very near what is happening (has happened) in this country right now. He wrote similar passages in several different articles, including this one from The Happy Days Ahead: “One chink in the armor of any democracy is that, when the Plebs discover that they can vote themselves Bread & Circuses, they usually do…right up to the day there is neither bread nor circuses. At that point they often start lynching the senators, congressmen, bankers, tax collectors…take your choice. For they know that they didn’t do it. The citizen is sovereign until it comes to accepting blame for his sovereign acts – then he demands a scapegoat.”

Also from the afterword of Where Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry? : “…the events of the last fifty years prove that anybody can sit in the Oval Office; it’s just that some are more impressive in appearance than others.”

“Spying is wise and necessary insurance against utter military disaster.” – from his travel/opinion piece “PRAVDA” Means “TRUTH, a .pdf of which is available here.

“An animal so poor in spirit that he won’t even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.” – from RAH’s opinion piece The Pragmatics of Patriotism, or the James Forrestal Memorial Lecture given to a brigade of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy (.pdf here).

Also from The Pragmatics of Patriotism: “Patriotism – An abstract word used to describe a type of behavior as harshly practical as good brakes and good tires. It means that you place the welfare of your nation ahead of your own, even if it costs you your life.” I’m not sure we’ll ever see another generation in this country that upholds that definition of patriotism.

And lastly, here’s a quote that sums up my feelings toward our current (and most recent former) administration’s spending policies: “A trillion seconds is 31,688 years, 9 months, 5 days, 8 hours, 6 minuts, and 42 seconds – long enoughfor the precession of equinoxes to make Vega the Pole Star, swing back again to Polaris, and go on past Alpha Cephei. Or counting time the other way, it would take us to 29,708 BC! I don’t understand a trillion dollars any better than I do a trillion seconds. I simply know that we had better stop spending money we don’t have if we want to aavoid that Man on Horseback.” – from The Happy Days Ahead.

If there were a new political party created that made a platform of Robert Anson Heinlein’s philosophy and ideals, I might just hitch my cart to it for the duration.

RAH’s book, Expanded Universe, is available for purchase on Amazon.com. The topics are a bit outdated, but the philosophy can be applied to today’s world very easily.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Literature · Personal


March 30th, 2009 · No Comments

I don’t know exactly what’s been keeping me from writing for the blog, lately. I think it has at least partly to do with my recent discovery of Facebook, a site that I hate yet can’t seem to stop using. Rest assured, everything is still okay here.

We became something of a victim of the economic downturn when Jeannen was laid off earlier this month. I’m of the opinion that it was sort of a “panic-induced” move by upper management at her company (a finance-industry company), since it came the day after a record stock sell-off and she’d just gotten an “atta-boy” in the form of a $500 bonus on the previous paycheck. Oh well. When life gives you lemons, they say. I think we’ll be okay with a little belt-tightening. I’m hoping to work things out so that my wife can either stay home or work part-time. I think she’s leaning towards working again, though. The down-time during the weekdays seems to be getting under her skin (although I do appreciate how clean the house has been).

I’m working on setting up a photography club for employees of my company. I’ve met a whole lot of people all around our system who seem to have a geniuine interest in photography. I think an internet-based club where people can make friends and learn new things about the hobby they love would be a neat thing, and so do a lot of the people I’ve been talking to about it. I originally wanted to have it up and running by April 1, but life has intervened and I’m looking at May 1 as the target launch date, now. I still have some bugs to work out and some problems to solve with the web page software.

I’ve been taking a few pictures, too.  With it being Spring, I’ve been on sort of a flower-picture kick. I’ve also been doing a small amount of paid photography work. Hopefully there’ll be more of that in the near future.

And this week, I start 10 straight days of work: a “training sandwich,” i call it, where I’ve got recurrent ground school and simulator sandwiched between two flying trips. I’ll be leaving home to start that this afternoon. Lots of BUR overnights make it tolerable, and the pay is good.

The pilots here at my airline are in the process of considering a newly-proposed contract. After the small amount of research into it that I’ve done so far (reading the executive summary and several important parts of the actual contract language), my vote will be a “No.” This is not a “HELL NO!!” kind of no vote. Rather, more of a “No. It’s not status-quo or an improvement. Go back to the drawing board, guys!” kind of no vote.

We’re researching schools for our daughter to start kindergarten in the Fall. The public school right around the corner is the primary choice as it is a math/science magnet and is one of the best primary schools in the country. Apparently, parents have been known to camp out in front of the school the night before applications are accepted for the first-come, first-served enrollment process for the ONE kindergarten class they have. That seems a little stupid to me, being that its our local public school. Want to know what else I find stupid? Admission to the magnet school, which starts in first grade, isn’t based on any kind of aptitude tests. Instead, they populate the two first grade classes using ethnic demographics only. Acceptance there is 70% minority and 30% Caucasian (which sounds like discrimination against Caucasians to me). So a kid who lives across the street from this public school could be forced to go to the next-closest public school just because he or she doesn’t fit a specific demographic. What a load of shit! Now, in order for us to get our daughter into this school, we have to do something that is 100% against our beliefs. We’ll have to use our daughter’s mixed heritage (my wife is part Hispanic and part American Indian) in order to get her into this school. I don’t want our daughter growing up thinking that she can have things handed to her on a silver platter rather than earning things on her own merit just because of her sex or ethnic background. At the same time, I want the best education for our little girl. I so very much hate affirmative-action and race-based bureaucracy.

→ No CommentsTags: Aviation · Operations · Personal · Photography