Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rush Hour on the Lake

Rush Hour on the Lake by Get The Flick
Rush Hour on the Lake, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I bet it was a bumpy ride this morning around Atlanta. (Probably still is.) There was all kind of drama in the sky this morning.

Don Brown
December 26, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blue Christmas Eve (Eve)

I just noticed I haven't shared one of these with my blog readers. It's an idea I've been working on for about a month. Take a look around my Flickr page if you want to see more. (Just click on the picture and you'll be taken there.)

Don Brown
December 24, 2012

Heretics for Christmas

I know, heretics are a strange subject for Christmas Eve. And yet, here I am.

I know that This American Life is one of the most popular radio shows out there. So, of course, I've largely ignored it. I don't do popular. Well, at least not until I discover it on my own. But a friend of mine directed me to a link of the Red State Blue State episode and I was looking for a new podcast for Sunday mornings and...there you go.


No matter where you lie on the political and religious spectrum, at some point you'll probably become uncomfortable listening to this show. Keep listening. All the way to the end. I found it deeply thought provoking. (They handle podcasts differently. Just set aside some time and listen to it on line.)

And finally, I'll leave you with this clip I got from my friend and fellow controller, Todd. I'll be performing this tonight at midnight. That's after I run photograph the sunrise and ring the bell for the Salvation Army and, hopefully, photograph the sunset tonight.

Merry Christmas everyone. Peace on Earth. And good will towards men.


Don Brown
Christmas Eve, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Love Winter

I Love Winter by Get The Flick
I Love Winter, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

'Tis the season to be busy. And for great sunrises.

Hopefully, as soon as the holidays are over, I will have more free time.

Don Brown
December 23, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Convincing Argument

Watch this segment from the Rachel Maddow Show (with Ezra Klein as substitute anchor). Take notes. Then rewrite it as an argument for healthy controllers. File it away for a rainy day.

This is how it's done. Pay attention. The job you save could be your own.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don Brown
December 7, 2012

The Iron is Hot

You may remember; I told you that Senator Jim DeMint hates you. Click on the link because I want you to tie all the names together, especially The Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee. Refresh your memory. I'll wait.

Here's today's headline: Jim DeMint leaving Senate for Heritage Foundation

I'll assume you remember The Heritage Foundation in that I've warned you about it so many times. DeMint leaving the Senate is just another sign of the Republican Party falling apart. And in the broader scheme of things, it signals that America's political pendulum has stopped swinging to the right.

I have to remind myself how difficult it is for controllers to stay engaged with the rest of the world. In case you've missed it, workers are going on strike in much of America. The strike I've chosen to highlight is the fast-food worker's strike in New York (as opposed to the shipping strike in California.) This is an important article in the New York Times. Read it if you can find the time.

Unionizing the Bottom of the Pay Scale

"Their activism, part of a flash strike of some 200 workers from fast-food restaurants around New York City, caps a string of unorthodox actions sponsored by organized labor, including worker protests outside Walmart stores, which, like most fast-food chains, are opposed to being unionized, and union drives at carwashes in New York and Los Angeles."

To splash more paint on this broad canvas, I'll return to my pundit hero, Paul Krugman. From today's column:

The Forgotten Millions

"Lavishly funded corporate groups keep hyping the danger of government debt and the urgency of deficit reduction now now now — except that these same groups are suddenly warning against too much deficit reduction. No wonder the public is confused." 

You may think I'm wandering further and further from controllers but let's take just a moment to consider that sentence. "Lavishly funded corporate groups". Have controllers ever had to deal with similar forces? "No wonder the public is confused". How about that aspect? Has the public -- which, just happens to be your boss -- ever been confused about your profession? Outrageously expensive training? The cure for sleeping on the job is...sleeping on the job? Am I ringing any bells?

Let's get back to Krugman's column:

"Meanwhile, there is almost no organized pressure to deal with the terrible thing that is actually happening right now — namely, mass unemployment. Yes, we’ve made progress over the past year. But long-term unemployment remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression: as of October, 4.9 million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months, and 3.6 million had been out of work for more than a year."

Here's the hitch -- the sticky part. How do I convince a bunch of egotistical, well-paid controllers to care about the "lowly" -- the underpaid and unemployed? Most of you will say I haven't got a prayer. Well, actually, I do. A real prayer. Prayer #30

 "30. For the Unemployed 

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer
want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this
land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find
suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment
for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." 

This isn't the divine word of God -- this is a prayer written by modern man. You might find it consternating to combine the word of an Episcopal prayer with a Jewish pundit but there is a method to my madness. Controllers helping the unemployed and underpaid shouldn'tbe viewed as an act of charity or an act of self interest -- although it could be viewed as both. I want you to see it as an act of responsible citizenship -- the act of decent human beings. 

Controllers could be "organized pressure". You could use your public stature for something greater than what you currently are. Controllers could apply pressure and "Guide the people of this land." Remember, "the public is confused." We could lobby our governments for public policies that strive to ensure "that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment". I have never found anything better than a union to ensure people "receive just payment for their labor". 

Controllers should be visible on every picket line. They should be in front of every Labor Day parade. In short, the iron is hot and you have a hammer. Strike the iron. Mold the public discourse. Lobby for labor-friendly laws. Work for social justice. 

You won't change the public discourse with one blow anymore than you would make a sword with one hammer blow. But you can make a difference. You can fan the flames. You can strike the iron. With enough effort -- and time -- it will bend. You'll find that it will make you stronger. It will also make you some friends. And in the end -- hopefully -- it will make us all a better nation. 

Don Brown 
December 7, 2012

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Happy Anniversary

I went to a birthday party last night for a good friend. I believe I was the youngest person there. And I had been retired the longest. That's how it came out that I was an air traffic controller. It always comes out. Sooner or later.

Being a controller still holds a certain mystique. People always want to hear about it. I mean, there I was in a room full of people that hold doctorates and I'm the one getting all the questions. And when someone asked how long I'd been retired it hit me. Today is December 1st. I've been retired 6 years, today.

So, of course, after basking in the faded glory of having been an air traffic controller last night, I came home, went to sleep and dreamt of airplanes. I was working my favorite sector -- WILKES. North of CLT -- 10,000 feet and below. It's really nothing more than an Approach Control for Hickory, NC -- in the Center (ARTCC). And, of course, some knucklehead at 7,000 decides to make a 360º turn for no apparent reason. And that puts him with another airplane at 7,000. And they almost hit. I have to issue a couple of "immediate" altitude changes and a prayer. And the sector falls apart.

The next thing I know I've got airplanes inside of GSO, CLT and ROA without handoffs. I'm alone of course. How did it ever become the norm that controllers work alone? What a nightmare. I could feel that cold, empty spot in my gut and I knew Panic was trying to rise to the surface again.

But salvation shows up in the form of my buddy Skip. Skip loved working the WILKES sector as much as I did. Our styles were as different as night and day. I was straight by-the-book and he was as laid back as you could be. But we could work together. It was a comfort to see him again. Unfortunately, Skip didn't survive being a controller.

Anyway, pretty soon, the sector is back to normal and an AF tech comes to put some greenery (floral-type stuff) behind the sector to block out the sunlight from the newly installed windows (you could open them, let in fresh air and everything) in the control room. Don't ask me what all that means. I was a controller, not Dr. Freud.

There's no moral to this story. It's just a report on your possible future. Happy Anniversary to me. Thanks for reading.

Don Brown
December 1, 2012