Sunday, December 14, 2014

Double Bubble

What??? You mean you haven't been keeping up with my Flickr page? The link is sitting right over there on the right side of the page.

Unlike here, I post something over there almost every day. But I don't mind if you come here first.

Knock Me Over With a Bubble

Don Brown
December 14, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sick Leave Soliloquy

Well, seeing as I can't do anything else, I might as well blog. It's odd, I really don't remember the last time I was sick. And I'm not very sick at the moment. Just fuzzy-headed enough that I don't need to be driving -- or out in the cold weather. Oh well. Your loss.

I started the day off sleeping in. Something I never do. Then I started in on the internet. (Something I always do.) I so wish I could leave Facebook. But it's almost like saying I wish I could leave reality. I had a good time taking my time on Twitter today. I think I'm missing out a little on the Twitter experience in that internet coverage is so spotty down here. But I learn so much more from my Twitter feed than I do from my Facebook page. Well, at least about the stuff I want to learn about. Remembering somebody's birthday is nice. Seeing vacation pictures is nice. But I could live without the cat videos and most of what normal people consider "fun" about Facebook. Of course, as soon as I find something interesting on Twitter I go share it on Facebook. Sigh.

One of the things that got me fired up today was reading an article from John Cassidy ‏at The New Yorker.

Should the Democrats Give Up on the South?

"In an anguished and pointed column on the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky, the liberal journalist, says the Party should “dump Dixie” and concentrate its electoral efforts on other parts of the country."

Fortunately, Mr. Cassidy didn't sip that Kool-Aid.
"For a number of reasons, I think that would be going much too far. If the Democratic Party wants to be a national party of government, it needs to retain and expand its presence in the South, rather than neglecting it."

I had read Tomasky's article. I'd basically blown it off. But, evidently, others had paid attention. I agree with John Cassidy. They shouldn't have taken Tomasky's article to heart.

(For those that have forgotten, I was drafted into the position of Chairman of the Democratic Party of Pike County, Georgia a couple of years ago. That's sort of like being Jim Bowie at the Alamo. You might get famous but you'll most likely lose.)

When Tomasky talks about writing off Democrats in the South, he's talking about abandoning me. Unsurprisingly, I'm not real keen on the idea. But more to the point, it's stupid. There are smart political operators out there that will tell you it's politically smart. They're being stupid too. There are people down here that are dying for a real Democratic party to show up. Despite what seems to be the common wisdom about the South -- that liberal Democrats will have to soften their message to play in the South -- there are plenty of Southerns that wish the real Democrats would actually show up down here.

For instance, take Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter. Both had name recognition from their daddies. I wasn't real keen on that but, okay, the smart political people said it would play. They both ran away from Obama. Again, the smart money said that was the smart play. How'd that work out? Now, look at it from my perspective -- a somewhat liberal white guy in a very red county. What am I left to deal with? The only Democrat I have to fight for me is a President the rest of you ran away from.

I'm not a smart man. But even I could see it was stupid to run away from our own President. Win, Lose or Draw. It was stupid.

Here's a thought. If you want me to hold onto the Alamo at least let me take a shot at Santa Anna. If I'm going to die defending this place at least make the fight about something more important than a man (or a woman.) How about an important idea? Or a set of ideas? Do you think everybody in the South is against a minimum wage? Do you think everyone working in the new car factories down here is anti-union? More importantly, do you think they'll stay that way after working in an anti-union factory for a few years? Do you think everybody down here is racist?

Or can you grasp the idea that a supposed racist from the South rammed the Civil Rights Act through Congress? Can you grasp the fact that the largest strike ever to occur in America was in the South? Have you forgotten that our greatest Civil Rights leader was a Southerner? Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Is that the South Mr. Tomasky wants to write off?

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Take a look a the trends and the numbers. Check out farming.

Agriculture is still Georgia's largest industry. Farms are less "family" all the time. They're getting bigger. Who might be working these bigger, not-so-family farms (some smart guy, somewhere, might ask)? That's right. Less rednecks and more Hispanics. The internet parlor trick I leaned today was tracking population by counties on Google. Rural county's populations have flatlined in Georgia. Some (like mine) are even shrinking slightly. Try to keep up. The reddest counties in Georgia aren't growing. The bluest ones are.

Fulton and DeKalb are the Democratic base of Atlanta. Bibb County is Macon, GA, one of the mid-size cities in Georgia. All the counties on the bottom are among the reddest in the State -- each voting 80+% Republican in the 2012 (Presidential) election. Everybody that lives in Georgia understands that Atlanta is slowly consuming the State but no Republican wants to see the obvious: The "red" part of the State is withering away. It's only the "blue" parts that are generating growth.

Only stupid people would seriously consider pulling the Democratic Party out of the South. I understand Mr. Tomasky's depression. I live it. I forgive him. And I thank Mr. Cassidy for writing a reality check.

(Helpful tip: Jameson's does NOT make the best hot toddy. And I'm out of B&B. Curses!)

With that subtle segue let me bring you up to date on my life. My term as Party Chairman is ending in a few days. In searching for a political message that will sell in a rural, 80+% Republican county, I came up with the idea of parks. (Thank you Robert Moses/Robert Caro.) Specifically, a photography park. I intend to concentrate on turning that idea into a reality starting January 1st. That does not bode well for my blogging here.

I'll make no promises or close any doors. This blog will remain up and available for the foreseeable future. But I will be moving on. For those that have followed me all these years, I hope you can see the path I have taken. I am so far from where I began, yet the power of ideas still guides me -- even to places unexplored. An insider's belief in the good of government, a 40-year-old book, and a job that nobody wants has led me a unique idea. An idea that I hope will employ some people in good jobs, show citizens how government can work towards the common good and make the world a slightly more beautiful place.

See you around.

Don Brown
December 9, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Barrel Racing in Concord

I need to figure out a better way of doing this. I need a non-business card. I don't want to print a card because I'm not selling anything. But I have so many people that want to see my pictures that I need a card with a web address. On the other hand, why should I send anybody to Flickr instead of my own web page? This free stuff is difficult. Oh well, Enjoy the pictures. It usually takes about 2-3 days to get them all up on my Flickr page.

From the barrel races at the Shadow Rock Arena near Concord, Georgia.

Don Brown
November 22, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A Nice Sunday

As you can see from the picture below, this Sunday started off in a nice way for me. I'm not sure how many of you have been following "The Chair" series on Flickr, but this morning was kind of extraordinary in that about four (maybe five) different flocks of geese overflew the scene while the sun was coming up. (You can't get lucky unless you show up.)

I had to pack up my cameras earlier than I wanted to in order to make it to church on time. Yeah, I'm retired now so I actually have time to make church a habit. (You can have good habits or you can have bad habits...but you *will* have habits.) I noticed a visiting priest hanging around but I hadn't been paying attention so I didn't know who she was. Turns out, she's the Vicar of ATL -- Reverend Donna Mote. That's right, she's the Chaplain at Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta International Airport.

It was interesting in that I had just noticed her on Facebook and "friended" her. The next thing I know she's at my church. I don't know if that was divine intervention or an algorithm on Facebook. Who knows, they could be one and the same thing for all I know. Anyway, it wouldn't hurt you to have an extra friend at ATL. Be sure to say hello if you see her. You can follow her on Twitter too if you'd like.

I was reminded the New York Times had run a story on her back in March. (In case you thought you had an idea what an airport chaplain at a place the size of ATL does. You don't.)

I'll be flying out of ATL tomorrow to spend a week with a controller friend that's been sick for a while. She is on the road to recovery now and this should be a fun week in the sun. Just because I'm not a controller anymore doesn't mean I don't toss up a prayer every once in a while. I have become more grateful for the ones -- both big and small -- that have been answered.

Don Brown
October 5, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Great Chicago Fire

Yes, I'm around and I've been trying to keep up with the fire at ZAU (Chicago ARTCC). I just can't seem to get loose. It's Saturday at 5 PM and I haven't even had a nap yet. This life of retirement is tough, I'm telling you.

Seriously, I've said it all before I think. I've been gone too long to have any new relevance (I think). A new generation will learn how important it is for the system to "fail gracefully" in air traffic control. A new generation will learn how important it is to understand the fundamentals of air traffic control and the fact that a pencil and piece of paper have a reliability that can't be matched by a computer (yet).

My generation rose to the challenge. This one will too.

If you need any help, I'm here. You have my address. After the crisis is over and you decide you'd like to brush up on the basics, I can't do much better than the series I wrote for AvWeb. Yes, I wrote it for pilots but it's the short course on the fundamentals of air traffic control. If you need a glimpse into the past -- on how we survived with less technology -- you will find it there.

Be well. Do good. Remember who you're serving.

Don Brown
September 27, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Checking In -- Labor Day

I don't write nearly as often as I'd like, so when I do, there is too much to say. I'm still here. And the more I change, the more I stay the same.

I dropped in at a local NATCA meeting the other day. Just to say hello. I missed the fun parts. I'm sure they were talking about convention resolutions -- which was part of the motivation to be there. Unfortunately, I had a meeting just prior to that and it ran long. (An Agriculture - Business meeting. I do change. Life goes on.)

Privatization came up when I wasn't there. I'm sure the NATCA leadership is trying to find their way through the morass of sequestration. Privatization is still wrong for America (in most cases.) In any case, I still think of controllers. I still care. I even think about y'all in the pre-dawn darkness when I wrote this.

(Life in the country: It wouldn't send until I got home with a WiFi connection.)

Anyway, argue with NATCA's leadership. The greed-is-good/privatization/government-is-the-problem era of the United States is ending. It is played out. It is dying. Paul & Co. are good people. Let them know what's on your mind. And then follow their lead. Back them up. Even if your viewpoint loses. That's the way it works in a democracy. Your view cannot prevail in every instance. Nor mine. Not in a democracy. That's when it's tough to believe in the rule of law. But here's what happens when the rule of law does not prevail. (A story sent to me be a fellow controller, by the way.)

Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party

I bumped into a controller-friend at the store not long ago. He'd quit NATCA. Like most controllers, he wanted to argue about it -- to make his point. I understand. I remember the fury of being a controller. But there is nothing to argue. Not for me. I understand the heat of the moment. I also (now) understand taking a step back and viewing things a bit more dispassionately. Controllers can't always afford to do that. The job requires an intensity that...well...that it requires. It isn't easy to work up that passion and then to let it go. I'm not even sure it's smart. But here's the truth to keep in mind. I'm 55 years old, retired, secure and happy. I've made money. I've saved money. I've bought bonds. I've bought stocks. TSP. IRA. Mutual funds. I've saved. The very best investment I ever made was union dues. Period.

Pay attention: You want the security of a Federal pension. Use your union to get one. For NATCA. For union members. For Americans.

Local issues are small potatoes. NATCA is important. Unions are critical to our well being as a country. History is clear. You can see what we looked like with unions. You can see what we looked like without them. You decide which world you'd rather live in -- which you'd rather have your children inherit.

Moving on to worse things...for some of you, this will be the first time it seems as if the world is falling apart. Ebola. Russia invading Ukraine. Ferguson. ISIS. It has all happened before -- Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu, The Plague. Of course, that's the problem. You never know if you're facing the 1968 riots or the Dark Ages. The world will keep turning.

For me, I'm living the good life. I hope you enjoy the same. If not now, at least one day. I just got back from another rodeo.

I know most of you don't follow me for the photography but I'm changing there too. In a fit of creative desperation (that I learned in ATC) I've started a new series of pictures involving a chair. I won't go on about about it. I've learned that too. Like the lyrics of a song, the important part is that you get to fill in the meaning. It's not important what it means to me. The important part is what it means to you.

You can find the whole series here.

There is so much more to say. But there always is. Be well. Do good. Be thoughtful in whom you allow to have your attention. In today's world, your attention is a precious commodity. There is too much information. There is too little time. Use it wisely. Have a happy Labor Day. You can be proud of your part in it, no matter how small. United, we are so much larger than ourselves.

Don Brown
August 31, 2014