Monday, January 01, 2007

Writing More

When I retired, I promised myself I’d do more writing. This blog is one effort to keep that promise to myself. Another was to write a letter to the editor when the occasion arose.

Opportunity knocks in the strangest places -- and at the strangest times. This time it knocked in Asheville, NC. The air traffic control tower at Asheville (AVL) ran out of controllers.

This news story coincided with the release of the in-depth article about controller staffing that I mentioned before .

When Asheville (AVL) ran out of controllers, the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (Atlanta ARTCC or as controllers refer to it -- ZTL) took over the airspace. ZTL just happens to be where I worked. As a matter of fact, I worked in the specific area that works the airspace around AVL. This led to the opportunity to write one of those letters to the editor I was talking about. As the old saying goes, chance favors the prepared mind. Or the guy that writes often. Or the guy that just shows up.

In a previous life (BC -- Before Children), I was a pretty serious photographer. My favorite photographer is the late Galen Rowell. Galen wrote several books and in one he mentions his take on being “lucky.” Like most, he knew that being “lucky” was a matter of being prepared -- and showing up. If you want to catch a spectacular sunrise on film, your odds of being lucky improve in a direct relation to the number of times you show up for the sunrise. They aren’t all spectacular but if you show up for all of them, you’ll catch the ones that are.

Galen’s most famous photograph is “Rainbow Over the Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet.”

It is simply breathtaking. Literally. In Galen’s book, he explains how to chase rainbows. Again, literally. He knew the conditions needed for a rainbow and knew where to look. Rainbows form in a 40 degree arc around the antisolar point. He also knew that a rainbow’s apparent position is dependent upon the observer’s location. In other words, if you move to a new position, so does the rainbow. Galen -- knowing where to look --saw the rainbow and ran (I believe it was about a mile) to the position which placed the rainbow on the palace. It all sounds so simple until you realize that the Potala Palace sits at an altitude of 12,000 feet. I won’t be running anywhere at 12,000 feet. I’d be fortunate to breathe at that altitude much less move.

About now, you’re probably wondering why I have you chasing rainbows in Tibet when I started out talking about air traffic control and letters to the editor. In truth, I don’t really know. I only know that we’re all connected in the crazy trip called life and it doesn’t always make sense. Why does a brilliant photographer become an activist for Tibet ? Why does a respected economist become a political columnist for The New York Times ? I don’t pretend to know.

As I told you when I started this blog “ my only goal is to provide thoughts, ideas and information.” What you do with them is up to you. If you use the thoughts to write your Congressman about the air traffic system...if you use the ideas to make better political choices...if you use the information to find a rainbow for a child...

Well, that makes the day for me .

Don Brown
January 1, 2007

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