Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Beautiful Death

A Beautiful Death by Get The Flick
A Beautiful Death, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I searched for some appropriate words -- a poem or a quote -- but I couldn't find any. Retirement gives you time to think -- even about such things as the simple beauty of a leaf, from birth to death. We humans should do so well.

Don Brown
December 7, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Controllers: Become Leaders

NATCA's convention is right around the corner. Instead of wasting your time on the endless seniority debate or trying to figure out how to pay less dues, I want you to consider becoming a leader. Not just a leader of controllers, but a leader of your country.

Specifically, I want you to lead controllers and convince them they should lead the nation. There are two issues of national importance in which I believe controllers could become effective advocates. I want you to consider writing a resolution for one (or both) of these and submitting it to the convention.

1) End the cap on income subject to Social Security tax.

Currently, any income above $113,700 is exempt from the 6.2 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security. I'll leave it up to you to come up with an argument that will win the day. That has never been my strong suit. I can only tell you that it is the right thing to do. The fact that it would put controllers in a good light with the pubic would just be a bonus.

2) Get air traffic controllers back on a regular pension plan and off FERS.

I realize that these two proposals might (at first) seem contradictory. In case you didn't know, employees on the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) didn't pay Social Security tax because they weren't eligible for Social Security. I'm advocating a total makeover for pensions so the role of Social Security in Federal pay is up for debate as far as I am concerned. The real debate is for having a pension as opposed to this poor substitute called a 401k. It is summed up succinctly on Bill Moyer's page (by Lynn Stuart Parramore).

It was an extraordinary shift in thinking about public policy: Instead of having predictable streams of income from traditional pensions, ordinary people with little financial expertise would suddenly transform themselves into financial gurus, putting money aside and managing complicated investments in tax-deferred accounts.

We all know controllers that failed to "transform themselves into financial gurus" and wound up in trouble. If it can happen to a group as clever as controllers, imagine what has happened to the rest of America. This idea of pension reform might be more popular than eliminating the income cap on Social Security tax but, regardless, it's still the right thing to do.

To elaborate a little more on pensions, I believe NATCA (and Labor in general) should advocate for required payments to pension funds. In other words, corporate promises to pay into funds have proved worthless in too many cases. Cash money should be put into the "bank". And when I say "bank", I'm thinking of the only entity you can really count on -- the U.S. Treasury. That's right, I think everybody's pension should be held in T-bills.

My intention here is not to get bogged down in specifics, it is to make you think. It is much easier to see how our current system is designed to confuse when you have people think of something much simpler. Long-term treasury rates of around 3% make you wonder how anyone can responsibly base a promised pension on a rate of return of 10% (over, say, 30 years). The simple answer is that that they can't. Keep going with this line of thinking and you'll see how big the lie Americans have been told really is. And, of course, you wind up realizing that the Mortgage Backed Securities that crashed our economy had nothing to do with making mortgages affordable and everything to do with stealing public employee (State and Local) pensions. Those pensions (by law) could only be invested in "safe" securities. Securities that had a "AAA" rating. It's less than amusing to realize that these "toxic assets" had triple-A ratings and America's bonds now have a AA rating. How's that for a big lie?

I've said that NATCA can lead Labor and the nation before. Here are two ideas that you can tell NATCA are worth pursuing and make it union policy to do so. You can put the wheels in motion to affect change on a national scale. Or, conversely, you can spend all your time trying to figure out how to get Saturday and Sunday off. It's your convention. It's your union. It's your country. The decision is up to you.

Don Brown
December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 27, 2013

I am happy to report the only item in the FAA's history that mentions Thanksgiving is the following one from November 15, 2013. Let's keep it that way shall we?

For the non-controllers reading this, the day before Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest day of the year for air traffic controllers. We always pray for really good weather...or really bad weather. The rationale is (of course) safety. We want weather good enough for the inexperienced (or rusty) pilots. Or we want weather so bad that the only ones that will consider flying are the professional pilots. In short "got-to-get-there-itis" is the number one cause of accidents in aviation. Y'all be careful out there.

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"November 15, 2007: President George W. Bush announced an agreement between the FAA and DoD that temporarily released military airspace for Thanksgiving holiday travel. Under the airspace agreement, the Department of the Navy released airspace, above 24,000 feet, off the east coast from Maine to Florida. FAA was allowed to use that airspace from 4 p.m. eastern standard time on Wednesday, November 21, to 6 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 26. The Navy continued to control airspace off the east coast below 23,000 feet for training operations."

For my long-time readers, you might remember this little piece of history happened shortly after I retired and I was able to weigh in on the subject. And thanks to James Fallows, a lot of people got to read about it.

Don Brown
November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Need For a Photography Park

My wife and I went on a weekend trip with another couple to Carters Lake, in the North Georgia mountains. As always, the place we pick is a compromise. The girls want to shop. I want to take photographs. My friend wants to fish. Carters Lake is near Ellijay and looked like fun for everyone.

Carters Lake is a pretty place. It's an Army Corp of Engineers project. That made the encroachment of private homes somewhat surprising to me. Trophy houses in the mountains ceased to surprise me a long time ago. What did surprise me was how close they were to a Federal facility. The approach roads to the various picnic areas, fishing docks and boat ramps were littered with expensive homes. And they were, of course, visible from all over the lake.

I'll never accept the stupidity and arrogance of trophy houses. No one comes to the mountains to enjoy the view marred by trophy houses on the hills. Yet everyone wants to own (or rent) a house they know will ruin the view of others. And they'll keep building them until they have spoiled the very beauty of the place that attracted people to the area in the first place. Oh well. Let's get back to the subject at hand.

After arriving the first afternoon (check in time was 3 PM), I'm stuck with the typical photographer's dilemma: I need to find a place for the rapidly-approaching sunset and find a place for the sunrise. You have to think about the details. After sunset it's dark. To get to a place before sunrise, you have to be able to find it in the dark. There's nothing like getting up two hours before sunrise, driving (or walking) to an unfamiliar place, stumbling around in the dark, waiting for many minutes in the cold, and then finding out you've chosen a horrible place for a sunrise picture. Another detail that escapes non-photographers is that the Sun "moves". It doesn't set at 270º West and 90º East all year. Currently (around here) it rises at 115º and sets at 244º. (The U.S. Naval Observatory will calculate it for your location.) I carry a compass with me wherever I go so I can make an educated guess as to what might make a good sunrise/sunset location.

The trail from our rental cabin to the lake is about a 10 minute hike. Not a problem. My buddy and I take the short walk to the lake. The "big" view is to the north (with the trophy houses on the mountains) and a more limited view to the southeast. What are you going to do? By the time we unpack, grab our gear and walk to the lake, it's too late to get anywhere else for the sunset. I'll make the best of it and maybe it will work out for the sunrise. My friend fishes until the sunset and we both enjoy the view as the streetlights start coming on in the dusk. Nothing reveals the beauty of nature quite like a mercury-vapor lamp. (Or sodium vapor if you prefer.)

Sunrise was a little better than sunset. One thing you can say about a "little" view; there's less room for trophy houses.

The next day, we did a little scouting for better fishing/photography places. "Scouting" is an ugly process. You waste an awful lot of time and gas. I guess that keeps the guides (both fishing and photography) employed. (I'm pretty sure you could find a fishing guide for Carters Lake. Not so sure about a photography guide.) To make a long story short, neither Doll Mountain Recreation Area nor Harris Branch Recreation Area provided a place that was promising (that was also open.)

Once again, we were out of time so we just drove blindly down the road to whatever was next around the lake and run into this sign.

In case you were wondering, sunrise was at 7:18 (42 minutes before the park opens) and sunset was at 5:30 (30 minutes after it closes.) It was a nice sunset but there wasn't even a place to pull over off the road from which to photograph it. We drove home in the dusk dejected -- fishless and photoless.

I hope the need for a photography park is obvious from this little story. I also hope it's obvious that the needs of photographers can coexist with other park users. You can fish in a lake designed for photography. You can picnic in a park designed for photography. As a matter of fact, these things would only enhance a photography park. Sailboats are photogenic. People playing in a park are a favorite subject of some photographers. Kites look spectacular in photographs. People riding horses? Yes please.

But all parks are not conducive to photography. As a matter of fact, many seem designed to prevent decent photographs. Wether it's utility wires strung willy-nilly, trophy houses littering the view, blindingly-white boat buoys visible from two miles away on the lake, day-glow yellow trash cans, reflective trail markers or sickly-green street lights....there are hundreds of fixable things that would make a park more photogenic. But that wasn't the most important lesson I learned this weekend.

I didn't get a great photograph. My friend didn't catch a single fish. But the weekend was deemed a resounding success. Our wives found tons of junk to buy. If I have to make a photography park commercially viable, I'll have to work trophy houses and an outlet mall into the master plan.

Don Brown
November 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 19, 2001

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" President George W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107-71), which, among other things, called for the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the Department of Transportation, to be responsible for security at airports. The act also broadened AIP eligibility to include costs for additional security-related activity required by law or the Secretary of Transportation. The period of eligibility for such projects was for FY 2002 and could include only those additional costs incurred from September 11, 2001, to September 30, 2002. February 13, 2002, TSA took over responsibility for aviation security from FAA. (See October 18, 2001; December 6, 2001.)"

Don Brown
November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Photography Park -- Economic Data

One of the things I'll need to "sell" this photography park idea is the economic portion of it. So do me a favor and be on the lookout. If you see some economic statistics that might be of interest, do me a favor and just pass along a link to me.

Here's a "for instance" I stumbled upon the other day when I was looking for a chuck wagon cook off.

Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking

"Pigeon Forge Mayor, David Wear met with the City Hospitably Association stating, "Every business sector was up having a phenomenal year during 2012."  Gross receipts total were $905.8 million for last years tax revenues breaking their previous record of $872.5 million 2007 prior to the recession."

"Pigeon Forge, with a population around 6,000 attracts over 10 million tourist each year nested on the banks of the Smokey Mountain range."

If you stumble across some stats like that in your daily reading, do me a favor and email me a link to the web page. You can find my email under the "View My Complete Profile" link on the righthand side of the page, or if you're comfortable enough just typing it in, I'm still using atcsafety@ the gmail domain (amongst about 5 other addresses.)

Specifically, I'm looking for the economic impact of:

Photography -- the entire industry, outdoor photography, professional photography and/or amateur photography.

Parks -- Pigeon Forge (for those that don't know) is a gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A billion dollars for being located next to a park tends to get the Chamber of Commerce's interest.

Thanks for whatever help you can provide.

Don Brown
November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Photography Park

Some of you may have caught the hint a week or so ago. It doesn't matter. I think I have hit upon a simple -- yet unique -- idea that I would like to pursue. And under the heading of "no good deed goes unpunished", you my faithful readers get to follow along as I think out loud on my blog.

Come now, you've followed me from Safety Rep to retiree. You can follow along this path too. Because, the more I explore this idea, the bigger the possibilities seem. The more avenues I see it can go down. The more possibilities of all sorts.

I want to build the first park dedicated to outdoor photography. That's your first challenge (should you care to check.) Is there another park purpose-built for photography? In a quick (and very casual) search I didn't find one. I'm all for being the fist guy with the idea (and this post is indeed my claim stake saying, "Hey! Look at me! I was first!). But it isn't really important to the idea whether I'm first or not. And, as you'll quickly realize, anybody could steal this idea. Instantly. So what? So what if every single State in the Union wound up with their own photography park? That would be a good thing, right?

So, back to the idea. The photographers that follow me already have this idea in their head. There's no need to even explain it. They get it. Instantly. The General Public needs a little help. "Aren't all parks photography parks?" That's understandable. So here's an explanation. Follow along for a moment.

I photograph the sunrise every single morning (that my body will let me.) I'm fortunate enough to have a neighborhood where I can do that. But suppose I wanted to photograph the sunrise in the local park? Most parks are closed. I need to be on location one hour before sunrise. A lot of parks don't open until after sunrise. A lot of parks close at "dusk". That's the first thing that would be different about a photography park -- the hours. You'd be able to get in long before the sun came up and stay until long after it had gone down.

Quick, if I was to come spend the night with you and said, "I need a place to shoot the sunset", where would you take me? What location? Unless you're a photographer (or happen to be very, very lucky) I bet any place you take me would have either a utility wire or a streetlight marring the picture. Especially on the East Coast, it is hard to find a vista without a street light in it. In a park built for photography, there won't be an overhead wire. Or a streetlight. Getting the picture?

I've broached this idea with a few people already. I talked to a painter today. He, like photographers, immediately "got it". If a park is created to be "photogenic" you can be assured that painters will enjoy the scenes just as much. I'd be interested in hearing whether you "get it". Or not. I don't know where this is going to take me, but I'm excited about the journey. I've got a hundred ideas about it already but I think the first thing I'll need to look at is non-profit vs. not-for-profit. I don't know a thing about it. If you do, I'd love to hear from you. And then there's the fundamental problem of all ideas -- what do you call the thing? Well talk more. A lot more.

Don Brown
November 15, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 15, 2001

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" FAA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made a new tool available to convey advanced storm information to pilots. The National Convective Weather Forecast (NCWF) product, designed and developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in Lexington, Massachusetts, provided pilots with a plotted map depicting the current location of convective hazards and where they would be an hour later. Pilots, federal aviation weather briefers, air traffic control specialists, and airline dispatchers who routinely made operational decisions associated with thunderstorm hazards routinely were turning to the NCWF for essential information."

If you'd like to see my opinion on how this bit of history played out, read this.

Don Brown
November 15, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 11, 2008

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" The new Indianapolis International Airport opened. Construction funds came from $120 million in federal grants, airport revenue bonds, and passenger head taxes. More than 1,100 residences were bought for the $220 million project, which started in 1987. Parallel runways opened in the 1990s, and after 9/11, the terminal design changed to accommodate improved security. A new air traffic control tower and TRACON opened in 2006."

Don Brown
November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 09, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Nov 9-10, 1965

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

"New York's La Guardia and John F. Kennedy airports were forced to shut down when the overloading of a switch at an electrical generating plant in Ontario, Canada, set off a chain reaction that caused a massive power failure in the northeast, blacking out for 13 hours or longer an 80,000-square- mile area. The power failure hit during the evening rush hour, but several factors combined to head off disaster: clear weather, a moonlit night, and the fact that FAA's air route traffic control centers in the blacked out area continued to operate. Relying on secondary commercial suppliers, the ARTCCs guided aircraft to Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, and other airports not affected by the failure.

Prior to the blackout, the agency had believed that a standby engine generator was not as desirable as a second source of commercial power when two or more such sources were available, for the simultaneous loss of multiple sources was considered highly improbable. The power failure, however, demonstrated the need for generators at individual facilities. On Mar 2, 1966, FAA announced a program to install standby engine generators to power essential services at 50 airports in the contiguous United States. The 50 airports, chosen on the basis of their activity and location, would receive standby engine generators capable of powering a control tower, airport surveillance radar, approach-light system, instrument landing system, and runway lights on the primary runway.

The following year, FAA began planning a similar program for the air route traffic control centers. Over the past three years, ARTCCs had suffered more than 1,300 power failures lasting long enough to impair the operational use of critical equipment. Recognizing that power loss would be a potentially more serious safety threat in the future due to increased reliance on automation, FAA planned to equip all 20 centers in the contiguous U.S. with adequate auxiliary power sources and uninterruptible power units. (See Jun 27, 1969.)"

Don Brown
November 9, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Nov 8, 1991

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

"FAA notified Congress of an Auxiliary Flight Service Station Plan adding 26 permanent and five seasonal auxiliary stations to supplement the 61 automated flight service stations already planned (see Oct 2, 1981). The Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act (see Nov 5, 1990) had mandated the project. (See Feb 12, 1986, and Feb 15, 1995.)"

Feb 15, 1995: Commissioning of the final Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) capped FAA’s flight service modernization plan. On this date, all AFSSs also had the Model 1 Full Capacity system. By fiscal 1995’s end, 286 flight service stations had been consolidated into 61 AFSSs, 31 auxiliary stations, and one remaining conventional station. (See Nov 8, 1991.)

Don Brown
November 8, 2013

Thursday, November 07, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 7, 2011

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"United Airlines flew the first-ever commercial domestic flight using a blend of 40% biofuel mix created from algae by Solazyme, a San Francisco based company and traditional jet fuel. (See September 13, 2011; December 1, 2011.)"

Don Brown
November 7, 2013

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Real Deal

The Real Deal by Get The Flick
The Real Deal, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Well that's interesting. This was the #1 picture on my Flickr page yesterday. Ahead of all the cowgirl pictures. I'm not sure I know what to think about that.

Don Brown
November 6, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 6, 1998

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"President Clinton dedicated the new Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill, Arkansas. He told the audience his administration was working to make the national aviation system better able to handle the anticipated 50-percent increase in global air travel in the coming seven years. He added that FAA and other agencies were working together “... to convert our air traffic control system to satellite technology, to change the way we inspect older aircraft, and most important over the long run, to combat terrorism with new equipment, new agents, and new methods.""

Don Brown
November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- November 5, 2010

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"November 5, 2010: FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that, when finalized, would require each certificate holder operating under 14 CFR part 121 to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS) to improve the safety of their aviation related activities. A SMS included an organization-wide safety policy; formal methods for identifying hazards, controlling, and continually assessing risk; and promotion of a safety culture. (See October 7, 2010.)"

Don Brown
November 5, 2013

Monday, November 04, 2013

Fade to Black II

Fade to Black II by Get The Flick
Fade to Black II, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Sorry guys. I've been busy processing rodeo images.(30 pics so far.) I'll get back around to ATC again soon.

This is my favorite image so far. I liked it so much that I even did a little retouching on it (which I rarely do.)

I also have another (even greater) distraction I'll write about soon. Nothing that won't wait though.

Don Brown
November 4, 2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

You Can Never Have Too Many Flags

All rodeo folks, click on the picture and it will take you my site on Flickr. You'll have to check back because I'll be putting up more pictures over the next few days. I have a lot of them.

If you can't figure out how to navigate around Flickr after you get there, click here and it will take you to a different page that's easier to navigate from.

Don Brown
November 1, 2013 (Just barely. It's almost midnight.)

FAA History Lesson -- November 1, 2010

Who knew? Evidently, November 1st is Wake Turbulence Reclassification Day at the FAA.

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"November 1, 2010: An interim FAA requirement mandated that planes landing after Boeing's 747-8 jumbo jet stay at least 10 miles behind went into effect. The FAA said the interim standards were based, in part, on guidance received from international regulatory organizations that studied the wake vortices of the Airbus 380-800 in 2006. After those studies, the International Civil Aviation Organization issued a 10-mile separation standard for the A380 superjumbo jet. This was later relaxed, but a separation of 6 to 8 miles was still required for the A380, depending on the size of the aircraft behind it. Prior to its Boeing 747-8 ruling, the U.S. requirement for large airplanes was just 4 miles separation from other heavy jets and up to 6 miles from light aircraft. (See August 17, 1996.)"

But wait! There's more!

"November 1, 2012: FAA implemented new wake turbulence categories for aircraft separation standards. Under the re-categorization, aircraft models were placed in one of six categories (labeled A-F) based on considerations other than maximum gross takeoff weight, such as approach speeds, wing characteristics, and lateral control characteristics. FAA split the heavy category (including the “super” Airbus A380) into three wake categories, “A” (super); “B” (upper heavy); and “C” (lower heavy) aircraft. When a lower heavy jet followed an upper heavy jet into an airport, the separation standard remained at four miles. When an upper heavy jet followed a lower heavy jet, the separation could be reduced to three miles. The former method of wake turbulence categorization was based solely on maximum gross takeoff weight. (See November 1, 2010.)"

But wait! There's EVEN MORE! From today!

Wake re-categorization begins at Louisville

"The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has expanded wake re-categorisation (RECAT) standards to Louisville International Airport-Standiford Field, writes Focus FAA."

Don Brown
November 1, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 31, 1999

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Egypt Air Flight 900 crashed and killed all 217 onboard. The voice and data recorders from the aircraft revealed that, just before the tragedy, one of the pilots, apparently alone in the cockpit, turned off the autopilot and then uttered a short prayer. The cockpit voice recorder tape also contained sounds similar to a door opening and closing more than once, sources said. This evidence led investigators to question whether one of the pilots left the cockpit, which would have given the other pilot the opportunity to take some action that could have led to the crash. (See March 21, 2002.) "

In that the entry leaves you kind of hanging as to the outcome of the investigation, here's the Wikipedia entry on it.

Don Brown
October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 1956

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Oct 1956: CAA leased a computer (IBM type 650) for installation in the Indianapolis ARTCC to assess the value of computers for the preparation of flight progress strips and to familiarize its personnel with this type of equipment."

In case it's never soaked in on the 100 times I've said it before, take the time to hand write all the strips on an aircraft's flight through your airspace. Then, maybe, you can imagine what it was like to hand write every single one of them, every day. You'll learn something valuable.

Don Brown
October 29, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 30, 1955

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

"The first commercial flights began at the new O’Hare Field, Chicago International Airport, which had been under construction since 1949. The facility was named for Lt. Commander Edward H. O’Hare, who won the Medal of Honor as a naval aviator in World War II. Subsequent years saw major improvements at the site, and the expanded Chicago-O’Hare International Airport was dedicated on Mar 23, 1963. "

Don Brown
October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 28, 1998

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" FAA officials told a public hearing in Rockville, Maryland, that, while a federal plan to consolidate four of their region's air traffic control facilities would lead to an overall reduction in airplane noise, it also might aggravate the problem for some local communities. Under the plan, FAA would close the separate terminal radar control (TRACON) facilities at Dulles International, Reagan National, and Baltimore- Washington International airports and Andrews Air Force Base and open an overall center in Loudoun County or Fauquier County. (See January 7, 1999.) "

Potomac TRACON is born. How'd that work out? Anybody remember "The Potomac Current and Undertow"?

Don Brown
October 28, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 26, 1999

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"A Learjet, without a pilot in control, flew for almost four hours from Orlando, Florida, to a swampy grassland in South Dakota. The Learjet was shadowed by USAF and Air National Guard jet fighters, whose pilots reported that the aircraft's windows were frosted over, suggesting that it had lost pressurization. USAF pilots also reported that the Learjet meandered from as low as 22,000 feet to as high as 51,000 feet, but never strayed from a northwest heading. Pentagon officials said the military began its pursuit of the aircraft at 10:08 a.m., when two Air Force F-16 fighters from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on a routine training mission were asked by FAA to intercept it. The F-16s did not reach the Learjet, but an USAF F-15 fighter from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida got within sight of the aircraft and stayed with it from 11:09 a.m. to 11:44 a.m., when the military fighter was diverted to St. Louis for fuel. Fifteen minutes later, four Air National Guard F-16s and a KC-135 tanker from Tulsa were ordered to try to catch up with the Learjet, but got only within 100 miles. Two other Air National Guard F-16s from Fargo, North Dakota, intercepted the Learjet at 12:54 p.m., reporting that the aircraft's windows were fogged with ice and that no flight control movement could be seen. At 1:14 p.m., the F-16s reported that the Learjet was beginning to spiral toward the ground. Professional golfer Payne Stewart was killed in the crash. "

I hope you'll take a few moments and let your mind wander through this scenario. Ask a few questions. "How long does a verified Mode C remain verified?" "How much vertical spacing do you give to a Lear and 2 fighters that wander around from FL220 to FL510 and then to the ground?" I'm a big fan of The Book but some things aren't in The Book.

Don Brown
October 28, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Just Reward

My Just Reward by Get The Flick
My Just Reward, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Life is good. In case I haven't said so lately...I highly recommend retirement.

Don Brown
October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 25, 2007

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA announced that 23 schools were now participating in the agency’s air traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program, part of a broader effort by the agency to recruit, train, and hire controllers. CTI schools were accredited to offer a non-engineering aviation degree in aviation programs. To the original 14 CTI institutions, FAA added nine schools: Arizona State University; Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland); Florida Community College-Jacksonville; Green River Community College (Washington); Lewis University (Illinois); Kent State University (Ohio); the Metropolitan State College of Denver (Colorado); Middle Georgia College, and the University of Oklahoma. These nine schools joined fourteen others that renewed their commitment to the program, which was first established in 1990 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College."

To this day, I still look at this program as a scam. I realize that some people will be upset by that, but it's the way I feel. I went to Oklahoma City right after the PATCO strike in 1981 and was paid a good salary to learn air traffic control. The washout rate was well over 50%. (65% if I remember correctly.) To send people to college for a "degree" for which there is (effectively) only one employer and a washout rate of over 50% is crazy. And it saddles the FAA with people that shouldn't be controllers and people that should be controllers with a lot of student loan debt.

I am not the only one that holds this opinion. Some have expressed it with better nuance.

Don Brown
October 25, 2013

Drifting Towards Decay

Drifting Towards Decay by Get The Flick
Drifting Towards Decay, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

It would seem as if it's not just the swans that are molting.

Don Brown
October 25, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 24, 2000

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" FAA awarded a contract to Sensis Corporation to develop the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, version X (ASDE-X), a traffic management system that provides seamless coverage of the airport surface, as well as aircraft identification, to air traffic controllers. ASDE-X uses a combination of surface movement radar, transponder multilateration, and sensors to display aircraft position labeled with flight call-signs on air traffic control tower displays. (See June 14, 2000; February 29, 2004.) "

Don Brown
October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 23, 2001

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"The National Transportation Safety Board issued its findings on the crash of an American Airlines MD-82 during landing at Little Rock airport in 1999. The Board determined the probable cause of the accident was the flight crew's failure to discontinue the approach when severe thunderstorms and their associated hazards to flight operations had moved into the airport area, and the flight crew's failure to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown. Contributing to the accident was the flight crew's impaired performance resulting from fatigue and the situational stress associated with the intent to land under the circumstances, continuation of the approach to a landing when the airline company's maximum crosswind component was exceeded, and use of reverse thrust greater than 1.3 engine pressure ratio after landing. The accident occurred on June 1, 1999, as the flight was arriving from Dallas/Fort Worth with 139 passengers and six crewmembers on board. The aircraft overran the runway, passed through a chain link fence, went down an embankment and collided with a structure supporting the runway lighting system. The captain and 10 passengers were killed; over 100 others were injured. As a result of the investigation, the Board made 22 new recommendations to FAA and two to the National Weather Service. (See June 3, 1999.) "

Don Brown
October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 22, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA issued a new rule reducing the minimum vertical separation between aircraft from the current 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet for all aircraft flying between 29,000 feet and 41,000 feet. RVSM implementation would significantly increase the routes and altitudes available and thus allow more efficient routings that would save time and fuel. FAA planned to implement Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) procedures on January 20, 2005, to give airlines and other aircraft operator's time to install the more accurate altimeters and autopilot systems needed to ensure the highest level of safety. The long-awaited rule – FAA initiated the process with a notice of proposed rulemaking in May 2002 – detailed equipment requirements, including dual altimeters and a more advanced autopilot system. Aircraft equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance system version II (TCAS II) had to be updated with new software, compatible with RVSM operations. (See May 10, 2002; November 26, 2003.) "

This is one of the most effective changes the FAA made in my entire career. We had two sectors at ZTL (Atlanta Center) that were among the toughest in the facility -- SALEM and GA HIGH (Georgia High). They were both abominations. The airspace needed to be totally redesigned but ZTL was fighting the natural order of busy, hub airspace to trend towards long, narrow corridors working arrivals and departures into and out of the hub (Atlanta in this case.) With the number of thunderstorms ZTL has to deal with, this was understandable (if futile.)

Anyway, SPA HIGH (Spartanburg, SC) worked the east departures out of ATL (Atlanta) from FL240 through FL330. On the opposite end, PSK HIGH (Pulaski, VA) worked the arrivals from the northeast into ATL from FL240-FL330. As ATL grew, both became unworkable. In man's eternal quest to reinvent the wheel, ZTL management decided to spilt the sectors by altitude instead of geographically. The boundaries of SALEM and GA HIGH both looked exactly like PSK and SPA HIGH (respectively) except they only had two altitudes -- FL310 and FL330.

It worked. For awhile. But as they got busier and busier it got harder and harder to work an increasing number of airplanes with only two altitudes. Not surprisingly, all four of these sectors managed to make the "Top Ten" on ZTL's list of operational errors by sector every year. With the introduction of Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM), SALEM became a piece of cake (comparatively.) It's pretty simple to figure out a sector is easier to work with four altitudes instead of only two.

The introduction of RVSM brought its own set of problems. Every facility had its own idea of how sectors should be spilt by altitude stratum. Some wanted FL240-FL340. Some wanted FL240-FL330. Some wanted something different. I don't remember how it all ended up, I just remember what a mess it was until the dust settled. While it was great progress in the Enroute world, I think it worth noting that it didn't increase the capacity of a single airport. It's still the runways, Stupid.

Don Brown
October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!

Hopefully, my regular readers remember the name Martin Wolf -- the chief economics writer at the Financial Times. That's all you need to remember at the moment -- the head economics guy at the United Kingdom's version of the Wall Street Journal.

Everything you have heard from Conservative Republicans about economics since 2008 is wrong. (It was wrong way before that but we don't have that much time.) Everything you've heard from the Tea Party people about economics is Crazy wrong. (That's "crazy" with a capital "C".)

Pay attention to these quotes from his interview with Bill Moyers. The subject is sequestration, the debt ceiling, default and balancing the U.S. budget

"Now, the fact is that an instantaneous balancing of the budget, even if we leave aside the terrible possibility of defaulting on debt, would do enormous economic damage, impose an instantaneous and, I think, really very large recession on the US and on the world."

"But also it would create an enormous recession because instantaneously, even if they cover their interest obligations, the budget deficit will be closed. It's about a little over four percent of GDP, which is a very big sum, instantaneously that will be taken out of the economy and the economy would just as its beginning to recover reasonably well, collapse again."

"But threatening actually to default on your obligations in this way seems to me to go well beyond normal political life. And any president it seems to me has to defend the political process against that."

"...there's a lot of hysteria about it, but I think the US has a completely manageable long term debt position."

"...imagine a negotiation with the Democratic Party which after all really did win the last election..." (Emphasis added. I took that to mean the million plus more votes Democrats received nation-wide vs. the Republicans.)

"What I think is the bigger cost if the theater goes on is simply that the government of the United States is distracted. Obviously if it's going to now have a rolling every couple of months crisis and a rolling discussion of these issues, it can't do any of the other things that the world would like the US to do..." (A major, major ploy of the Republicans. Budget, immigration, banking reform and a whole host of things that Republicans don't want to change.)

"I think actually the US is clearly cutting the economic functions of the government too far, it's basically being reduced to just defense interests, social security and Medicare. There are other things government needs to do which are shrinking dramatically to a tiny proportion of national income. I think it's a tremendous mistake. So I think you should relax budget, not tighten further."

There's more. A lot more. Now go watch it and listen to the context.

Did you catch this part. I think it's the most important part.

"What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one."

Continuing that thought....

"And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don't fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it."

I suggest you "combat". Push back. Stop muzzling yourselves. The Federal Government does some mighty important things -- things a lot more important than National Parks -- and you happen to do them. Stand up. Be counted. Or the nuts are going to take over your government.

Don Brown
October 21, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 21, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"October 21, 2003: FAA announced the nationwide deployment of the first all-digital airport radar system. The Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-11) replaced older-generation analog radars nearing the end of their service life. The replacement technology provided improved digital aircraft and weather input needed by FAA’s new air traffic control automation systems, such as the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS). The first ASR-11 went operational in March at the Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Naval Air Station, and was providing radar data to STARS at the Philadelphia International Airport. The new radars grew out of a joint FAA/DoD program. FAA planned to procure a total of 112 ASR-11s, with scheduled deployment completed in 2009. FAA had procured 25 systems since the contract was awarded in December 1996. "

Don Brown
October 21, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Oct 20, 1980

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan wrote to PATCO president Robert E. Poli, saying: "You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." On Oct 23, the PATCO executive board endorsed Reagan for President. At the same time, the union charged President Carter with ignoring serious safety problems that jeopardized the nation's air traffic control system. (See Aug 15, 1980, and Dec 15, 1980.) “

Don Brown
October 20, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Oct 19, 1927

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”Pan American Airways began its operations with an air mail flight between the United States and Cuba, accomplished with a rented plane to meet a contract deadline. The company began regular air mail service route on Jan 16, 1928. “

Don Brown
October 19, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 18, 2001

In case you ever wondered how long it took to get things back to normal after the 9/11 terrorist attacks...

I hope you never have a need to know this.

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced that beginning the following Friday, October 26, flights at Reagan National Airport would be expanded to include 18 more cities, bringing to 26 the number of cities served by the airport after the president authorized its reopening. (See October 13, 2001; November 19, 2001.)"

Don Brown
October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

FAA History October 17, 2011

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA broke ground on a new $69 million, 324-foot air traffic control tower and terminal radar approach control facility at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The new tower would replace one opened in 1988. FAA expected to commission the new tower and TRACON in late 2014."

Don Brown
October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FAA History October 16, 2000

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"A Cessna 335, carrying Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, his aide, and piloted by his son, crashed ten miles northwest of Hillsboro, Missouri. All three persons on the aircraft died in the crash."

Don Brown
October 16, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Electric Peak at Sunrise

I got into Yellowstone for the sunrise, right before it was closed by the House Republican's failure to do their job. It was the first decent sunrise of the week. Yeah, I was mad for the rest of my (expensive) vacation. But it beats being a controller and not getting a paycheck.

Don Brown
October 15, 2013

FAA History October 15, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"The White House commission established to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks issued a subpoena to obtain needed documents from FAA. In May, the commission had requested all documents relating to FAA's tracking of the hijacked airliners and communications with the North American Aerospace Defense Command. FAA had provided 40 boxes containing 150,000 pages of information in September, but during subsequent interviews, the commission had learned that some materials had not been included. FAA officials responded that their failure to turn over all documents had been caused in part by internal procedures used to search for material. (See July 22, 2004.)"

Don Brown
October 15, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Paycheck? Blame Art Pope

I've written so much stuff over the years that I can't find it. And on this particular one, this is the second time I couldn't find it. It's tough getting old. But don't let me distract you. (Like I haven't already.)

I'll keep this short and sweet because I want you to be able to read it for yourself. In 2010, a guy named Art Pope bought the mid-term election in North Carolina. He owns the Rose's department store (amongst other things) and is (surprise, surprise) a conservative. As you ought to know by now, the Democrats lost big in 2010, the Republicans took over and gerrymandered a bunch of Congressional districts, which ensured they'd keep the House of Representatives for a while.

One of the districts they redrew was North Carolina's 11th -- around Asheville, NC. As you might have guessed, Asheville is a hippy-dippy-artsy Democratic place surrounded by Conservative hillbillies.

The guy that took over NC-11 for the Republicans was Mark Meadows. He's another Conservative whack-a-doodle that is more than willing to whip up the Birthers and other whack-a-doodles whether he truly believes in their nonsense or not.

In August of 2013, Congressman Meadows (NC-11R) sends a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner and suggests he refuse to fund the government unless Democrats agree to defund Obamacare. (Side note: Send this link to your Conservative friends that need to know how Obamacare is doing.)

So, it's a straight shot for you. Billionaire buys the North Carolina election for the Republicans, Republicans redraw the electoral map, a Democrat gets replaced by a Republican in a previously liberal district and the next thing you know, I'm locked out of Yellowstone and you don't have a paycheck.

Who are you going to vote for next year?

Here's the link to the New Yorker story you should have read back in 2011:

State for Sale -- A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012’s top battlegrounds.

And you can click on the video below for Rachel Maddow's briefing on Mark Meadows.

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

Don Brown
October 12, 2013

Monday, October 07, 2013

Looks Crowded

Looks Crowded by Get The Flick
Looks Crowded, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I really have no idea why I'm still not living in the mountains. Somewhere. Here would do.

Don Brown
October 7, 2013

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Yellowstone National Park -- Fall 2013

Just Add LightYellowstone BluesA Lucky BreakWinter's WarningBefore the ShutdownReach
White HotBetweenSurroundedFire & RainWide Angle WowPoser

I'm finally getting some pictures up and captioned from Yellowstone. I'll probably add a few more but this is a good start.

Don Brown
October 6, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Privatize What???

In case you haven't seen the story yet...

Talks on Private Air-Traffic Control Turn Serious in U.S.

“We should have this discussion,” Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union representing more than 15,000 FAA-employed controllers, said at a June 27 conference on NextGen. “I don’t have the answers, but I do know the current system is broken.”

You can imagine my chagrin/surprise/dismay.

Let me repeat myself (repeating Ted Koppel.
"And we are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another. We've privatized a lot of what our military is doing. We've privatized a lot of what our intelligence agencies are doing. We've privatized our very prison system in many parts of the country. We're privatizing the health system within those prisons. And it's not working well."

As someone who has opposed privatization for about 20 years, I can't help but feel some vindication in Ted Koppel's words. I realize that privatization is not necessarily evil in all cases but I also know that that is exactly what makes it so dangerous. It's a bad policy that occasionally works out. The exception does not invalidate the rule.
I'll have more to say (I'm sure) but I'm headed out of town and out of touch.  You can't sling a dead cat on this blog without hitting a post panning privatization.  Take a look around.  It's all still relevant even if I'm not.

Privatization is bad policy in general.  Privatization of air traffic control is wrong.  Dead wrong. If you're in aviation, you need to talk to your representatives -- union, associations and governmental.  Get loud.

Don Brown
September 23, 2013

P.S. I still hate you Blogger

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Quick Pick

Quick Pick by Get The Flick
Quick Pick, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Turns out it's not the best. But it will do. (It'll make sense if you click on the picture.)

Don Brown
September 21, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Transformed by Get The Flick
Transformed, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The first cold front of the season worked its magic on the lake. Summer is almost done and -- as always -- I eagerly await Fall.

Don Brown
September 15, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Sound of One Hand Typing

You would think with only one hand operating (minor surgery, nothing to worry about) I'd have some extra time on my hand (<-- see what I did there?) to write. Reality is never what we think it is, is it? Nevertheless, I'm going to put something to paper blog here.

I'm currently reading a biography on William Jennings Bryan: A Godly Hero.  I'm struck by how much I like him and the policies he espouses.  Well, until we start talking about "free silver" and how much he injects religion into politics.  But listen to this passage:

"In big cities, the private charities ran short of bread and clothing, and sympathetic local and state officials could muster more creativity than cash.  Detroit's mayor, Hazen Pingree, a Republican reformer, invited the hungary to grow potatoes on vacant city land.  By late fall, thousands of immigrant workers were sleeping under bridges and in city parks. 
Others tramped along highways and railroad tracks and listened to speakers such as Jacob Coxey, a wealthy Ohioan with a social conscience, who vowed to lead them on a march to Washington, "petitions with boots on", to demand federal jobs and an eight-hour day."

Forget that is sounds a lot like today.  Many will think it was the Great Depression, but it was actually the Panic of 1893.  You see, before FDR implemented a lot of financial reforms, we had "panics" on a regular basis.  After FDR, we had a relatively quiet (economically speaking)  period for some 60 years. And we remember who undid those reforms, right class?  Well Reagan undid a lot of them but the straw that broke the camel's back (in my opinion) was the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.  And while it was a Republican Bill, the guy that signed it was a Democrat -- Bill Clinton.  (If you're interested in all that, you need to be interested in Robert Rubin.)

The more things change the more they stay the same.  In the 1896 election (McKinley vs. Bryan), John D. Rockefeller gave the Republican party $250,000 from Standard Oil profits.  According to my handy-dandy inflation calculator, that would be $6,790,596.24 in today's dollars.  That's 3 times what the Koch brothers donated to beat President Obama in 2012.  Well, that's 3 times of what we know about.  If you add up what we don't know about, the Koch brothers may have spent 10 times what Rockefeller spent

Do you understand why people obsess about the Citizens United decision now?  Fortunes are being spent to buy votes.  And with that much money buying, you can bet somebody is selling.

But let me end this with a twist.  With all the coverage on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Rachel Maddow had an interesting, little-known story. Before the march, when Bull Connor was locking up black people in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. King and company were running out of cash to post bail for that many people. Enter a Rockefeller, this time by the name of Nelson.  He dropped $100,000 in cash on MLK's lawyer to pay the bail.  You don't want me to spoil the whole story.  Watch it when you have time.

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

Don Brown
August 30, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

He's Reading Again

"There are two types of government..."

"There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below.

The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them."

William Jennings Bryan -- 1896

From Michael Kazin's book A Godly Hero.

1) I'm using Blogger to write this because I'm in a hurry. (And I hate it.)

2) History is a great place to learn something.

3) I consistently learn more from reading a book than I do surfing the internet.

(Really Blogger? I can't figure out how to turn the bold and italics buttons off in 3 tries? POS.)

Enough of the trickle down.  Let's try some trickle up.

Don Brown
August 17, 2013
(So much for saving time.)

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

My Podcast List

About a month ago, I asked for some suggestions on podcasts from my Facebook and Twitter followers. The response was underwhelming. All is not in vain. I now have something to write about.

I'm not going to go to a lot of trouble linking these things. I assume everyone has a different way to get podcasts. I use a program on my iPhone called Downcast and I'm guessing you don't. I'm sure you'll figure out how to get these on your device.

The Rachel Maddow Show -- Still, far and away my favorite daily podcast. Rachel will occasionally drone on a little too long on the gay thing, but she's usually right about whatever it is she's droning on about. And if she's wrong, she admits it with a wit, sense of grace and honesty that is all too rare. Basically, I don't always agree with her but I like her even when I think she's wrong. And she isn't wrong very often. She's usually ahead of the pack.

MarketPlace -- Kai Ryssdal is my idea of the perfect host. I don't know why. He just has a great voice and a great style. He's normally LA-laid-back but he can bite when someone deserves it. I'm not really into money but I know I should keep up with it. Kai makes it easy. He's also an ex-Naval aviator. If you listen close, you'll occasionally hear it.

Fareed Zakaria's Global Public Square -- Now we're starting to get a little more serious. Fareed's expertise is foreign affairs and he interviews people from all over the globe. It's what I love best about his show -- he brings in experts from other countries to discuss global issues, including America. He can get anybody -- Henry Kissenger, Bill Gates, Wen Jiabao -- but it's the guys you've never heard of before that fascinate me.

I think Fareed works a little too hard to stay in the center of politics but I respect him for it. I don't see a false equivalence that you hear so much about. I perceive that he works very hard at not letting the crazies enjoy any legitimacy.

Bill Moyers & Company -- Embrace your inner liberal. Bill Moyers (for the young folks) was LBJ's White House Press Secretary. Seriously, how liberal can you be if you were working for a guy from Texas 50 years ago? And yet, Bill is considered one of the true liberals of our time. I consider him great. He appeals to our better angels and he's very, very good at it. I hope you'll give him a try. These other podcasts will make you smarter. Bill Moyers will make you better.

NPR: TED Radio Hour Podcast -- These are radio versions of the famous TED talks. I'm not sold on the format. But I'm sold on TED Talks. The podcast isn't a bad way to find out about them.

The RSA -- Pay dirt. These are my new favorites. The RSA is The Royal Society of Arts (and various other things.) I'd bet this is where the idea for TED Talks came from but that's just a guess. The talks are very British so they may be a little tough to follow. But it's a very smart audience and they act as if liberals are as natural as the Sun rising in the East. I've already picked one out for you to try.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History -- It's the history they should have taught you in high school and college...except you didn't know enough to appreciate it. It's seriously fascinating stuff and the guy is really into telling a story. But I'm a history nut. Some folks may be overwhelmed with 4 hours of Cuba/USA relations. I thought it was great.

This American Life -- It's only the most popular podcast is America. As I've said before, I'm a slow learner. It's quirky. It's brilliant. You'll like it. Everybody does.

I've got a few others I'm trying out but I'm running out of time. I rarely listen to the radio anymore. I now listen to podcasts when I'm driving. Or walking. Or just waiting around. If you've never tried them, I encourage you to do so. They cover every topic under the sun. And best of all, most are commercial free.

Don Brown
August 7, 2013

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Swans Swim in the Sky

Swans Swim in the Sky by Get The Flick
Swans Swim in the Sky, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Who knows, typing isn't too bad with my hand bandaged up so maybe I'll get to write something.

Don Brown
August 6, 2013

Friday, August 02, 2013

RSA -- The Austerity Delusion

For those that follow my Twitter feed (embedded on the right side of this blog) you already know about the RSA. For those that don't, the RSA is the Royal Society of Arts. Properly, it is the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Since the demise of Talk of the Nation, I have been casting about for a new podcast. I've struck gold in the RSA. I think of it as the United Kingdom's version of TED Talks.

I've been listening to various podcasts for about a week now and I just finished listening to this particular one a second time. That's right, I've listened to an hour-long podcast about economics a second time. Here's why.

The speaker is Mark Blyth. He's a Scot so the accent is troublesome when you're trying to listen to a podcast. But on top of that, he talks at warp speed and doesn't take a break. He puts forth an idea that just blows your mind and -- without pausing -- proceeds to the next idea, which is just as big. You're still trying to process the first one and he's already halfway through the next one. As I told those on my Twitter feed, it's like listening to Scotty give Spock a lecture on engineering (except we're talking economics.) He knows his audience is smart (except for folks like me and I've got a rewind button) so he doesn't have to dumb it down, slow it down or water it down.

And it's that last part I want to tease you with. To me, this is Professor Blyth's greatest strength; He is blunt. He is to the point. He doesn't even bother with the "straight to the". Him -> point. For instance:

"The United States could run 200% debt and everybody else would have to just shut up and deal with it."

(If you'll listen to the podcast, you'll understand the aircraft carriers. But, then again, the aircraft carriers make the point don't they?)

(Yes, you've seen this before.)

When an audience member asked about the gold index he replied dismissively,

"Look -- Gold is a fear index. Just stop. Anybody that talks about gold...take them outside, give them and drink and send them home. There's nothing there. One third of the gold in the world is around the neck of Indian peasants, right? It doesn't mean they're a rich county."

These quotes are from the Question & Answer period. In other words, he's thinking on his feet and speaking with a clarity that is rare even when one's remarks are prepared in advance.

Set aside some time and listen.

As you might be able to tell, I've become addicted to podcasts. I encourage you to find some you like. You'll enjoy this more if you're listening on your iPhone or whatever. But if you're confused by all this, click here, and you can listen to it on your computer just like any other .mp3 file you're used to.

I'll leave you with a plea to visit the RSA's archive and listen to something that grabs your attention. They cover every topic under the sun so you ought to be able to find something.

Don Brown
August 2, 2013
(You know what that makes tomorrow, right?)

Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Days Drift By

The Days Drift By by Get The Flick
The Days Drift By, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Hey! I got Explored on Flickr! I'm famous! (Again!)

(Yes I know you might not know what Explored means. Me and 499 other photographers are on the most popular page of Flickr for a day.)

Don Brown
July 6, 2013

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Goodbye "Talk of the Nation"

The first show I started listening to on National Public Radio was Talk of the Nation. It happened to be in the time slot where I would catch at least some of the show driving in for an evening shift or driving home from a early shift. I guess that dates me -- someone that actually listened to the radio in the car. Regardless, TOTN was like a gateway drug, the next thing you know I was listening to all sorts of NPR shows.

Little did I realize how good Neal Conan was (at the time.) Over the years, listening to different shows or guest hosts when Neal was "away", I came to realize his brilliance. The depth and breath of his knowledge was stunning. He was unfailing kind to the vast majority of his guests and callers. You had to really work at irritating him but if you succeeded, you quickly found out how powerful and dominating he could be. What I loved best about his style is that he knew when to shut up. He would ask a question and then he would shut up and listen. It is a rare and refreshing ability in today's world.

After 36 years with National Public Radio (11 years as host of Talk of the Nation) Neal Conan has said goodbye. I loved his last words. You'll have to listen to the show to get the proper context but suffice it to say he was talking to National Public Radio:

"Tell me what's important. And don't waste my time with stupid stuff. Bye-bye."

With 3 million people listening to his last words, I thought it was a great choice. I also liked his choice for a last guest -- Ted Koppel.

I encourage you to listen to the whole conversation -- it's 43+ minutes and covers a wide range of subjects -- but there is one tiny snippet I have to highlight. Ted Koppel said;

"And we are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another. We've privatized a lot of what our military is doing. We've privatized a lot of what our intelligence agencies are doing. We've privatized our very prison system in many parts of the country. We're privatizing the health system within those prisons. And it's not working well."

As someone who has opposed privatization for about 20 years, I can't help but feel some vindication in Ted Koppel's words. I realize that privatization is not necessarily evil in all cases but I also know that that is exactly what makes it so dangerous. It's a bad policy that occasionally works out. The exception does not invalidate the rule.

As I've already mentioned many times in this blog, it was a very close thing with the privatization of air traffic control. It could have happened. It almost did. It could still happen. It would still be a disaster. The biggest argument I can make against it now is the fact that the same people that want to privatize everything have simultaneously been destroying the government that is supposed to regulate it. Think about where privatized ATC systems are touted as success stories. Are the governments strong regulators or weak ones? I don't need to spell it out. Think away.

In this one blog entry you have three old guys telling you what they've seen and learned over the years. But we're no longer in the game. We're no longer at the center of the action. You are. Privatization isn't the last fancy idea that will come down the pike. You'll have to decide for yourself at some point in time about what is right and what is wrong. You won't always "know" what it right. Sometimes, you have to depend on your instincts. When you have to, don't be afraid of it. "Instinct" is really just experience. It's self correcting (if you're working at it.) As they say, a lot of good judgment comes from bad experiences. Don't be afraid of making a mistake -- at least a mistake you can recover from. If you make one, admit it, learn from it and press forward.

One day you'll have to sign off the air for the last time too. You'll want to be proud of what you have done. Do the right thing -- the best you know how -- and you will be.

Don Brown
July 3, 2013

Monday, July 01, 2013

Last Sunset of June

Last Sunset of June by Get The Flick
Last Sunset of June, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Life is good, here in retirement land. I'm busy, but it's a good busy.

Don Brown
July 1, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

CPC 747

CPC 747 by Get The Flick
CPC 747, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Seriously? Nobody commented on this on Facebook or Twitter yeterday. It's not everyday you see a B747 30 miles from the airport, down low and with the gear down.

Don Brown
June 22, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

They're Biting

They're Biting by Get The Flick
They're Biting, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

This could be you. Have I mentioned how great retirement is lately?

Don Brown
June 14, 2013