Friday, October 22, 2010

COffee of the Day is Guatamalen Blend, Description: tastes like coffee

That's the sign at the coffee shop today.

I was going through my email inbox a couple days ago looking for a particular email that contained some very important information that was needed exactly at that moment. I found a lot of emails from a lot of people, and for some reason, usually laziness, I haven't bothered to delete. Some of these emails go back to 2002, but I suspect there are some that may have been sitting there for longer, just having been forwarded from another older email account. All in all, this particular inbox contains 670ish emails at any given time. This doesn't account for the 150 or so that have separated into various folders with clever names like "stuff i should save." OK, so that's the only cleverly named one.

My other email, that is used for the less personal things (ie when I sign up for any new website to buy whatever, it get's this email address) is pushing 1000 messages... again mostly crap. Every now and again, I go on a tear and delete a massive block of messages. Facebook is the current object of my deleting wrath. For whatever reason, those messages from facebook pile up. Most the time I delete them, but occasionally something from some one else comes in on top of that message in the queue. And slowly it gets pushed down out of my view. Apparently anything not in the 10 latest received seems to be pushed below my first glance, and thus is destined to sit there for months. This also is a probelm if I don't reply to a message immediately, within a day it's moved out of site and thus out of mind.

The Facebook messages are easy to part with, but others seem to kick in my need to cyber-hoard them until some day I deemed them completely unneeded. For instance, ordering info to get discounts on apparel from a company I haven't worked for in 6 years. The discount code, last I checked, still worked.

There are of course some messages that I have no intention of parting with. Some of them are really uplifting, really funny, or just bring back some great memories. Some, not so great memories and I usually run across those at times when I least expect it, a sort of "I thought I cleansed you from my life but you pop up again" instance. Of course curiosity gets the best of me and I start reading it, in the event there's some morsel of information that I need in there for my benefit, or potentially to use against said person should they ever run for president.

Sometimes it's hard to let go, especially messages from friends who, for whatever reason, you've lost total track of or who have passed away. Kind of makes you think, wonder where they are today? Or more fun, the random emails some one sent me, before I actually met her in person, chronicling a trip around Europe. It's also fascinating how many emails I send myself. SO much for that great memory.

OK, now to shift some gears. I feel like I've been hearting logistics way too much lately, and frankly I'm over it. I spent my last day "off" shuttling to Texas and back. I had a job interview down in the Republic. It's a well known airline and they have a reputation for being a fun place to work... you know treating their employees like people and not liabilities. I think I did OK, but there was a knowledge test that kicked off the session and it left me feeling a little dumb.

Now, way back when in 2001 when I wen through Aircraft Dispatch class, they taught us all this stuff in a 10 week or so period about aviation, navigation, meteorology, regulations, and other various stuff. We were to ingest this knowledge stream, in the way one might ingest water from a fire hose, and at the end of the course regurgitate this vast amount of information during a 4-5 hour long interrogation with a gentleman from the FAA. He then deemed us worthy or unfit to receive the prize of our quest, an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher certificate. Once obtain, riches beyond imagine awaited us in our future.

Like most instances of higher learning, I've found that the basics of the theory are often not required to do the mechanics of the job. It's like not really needing to know the endothermic properties of beef in order to cook a perfect fillet. Such has it become in my job. I don't need to read wind/temperature charts anymore to do a flight plan, I've got a snazzy flight planning computer program that does all that.. sometimes. The day I took my FAA oral and practical exam, when it was all over the examiner remarked "Congrats, you've done the last manual flight plan you'll ever do." He was almost right, I think I've done one as a training exercise since.

So back to the test, the questions on it were basic info I should know, or did know, the day I walked out of dispatch class. Unfortunately, the modern paradigm of punching out 30 or so flight plans usually doesn't lend itself to much more than click this, click that, send, and file. Who gets out a chart???? (For non aviation types, a chart is a what we in aviation call a map. Sounds more impressive... which would you rather hear form the cockpit "We've pulled out our charts and worked a new route" or "We got the map out and are trying to find a way to Boise"?)

And with much sadness, I have to relate I didn't ace this particular test. I missed at least 3 of the 63 questions (it was a timed test, but it wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't). Back at my first dispatch job, we lived in the charts. Why??? It was a small carrier, the flight planning system wasn't one that took into account everything (my current one allegedly does but we keep finding little things that it occasionally forgets... luckily nothing major), or our aircraft weren't equipped with all the new super whiz-bang avionics for navigation so we had to go the old fashioned way (from radio beacon to radio beacon on the ground). Now, I have planes with GPS, IRUs, RNP, RNAV, and a whole bunch of other combination of letters that basically mean we can fly from point to point across the sky with no regard for anything on the ground, except for the place they're landing. I don't look at what causes a particular weather phenomena, but more that it's foggy and some meteorologist says it won't be at a certain time. Even if it's foggy, most big airplanes at big airports can land and the pilots never see the runway until.. well the wheels touch down. So know what causes advection fog to rise into a low level of clouds really doesn't figure into my everyday work. It's good trivia though. Even that it's advection fog versus radiational fog versus upslope fog isn't really that important, it's fog and it makes it hard to see thus increasing the spacing requirements for landing and slowing down the arrival rate. That's important.

That being said, there's currently a brown airplane flying around with an inop piece of equipment that precludes using all the whiz-bang hi-tech computers to navigate with. So, it's back to the dark ages of airways and radio beacons. And when anyone gets that particular airplane, groans follow. Apparently I'm not the only one who needs to clear the cob webs to pull out a chart, and plot out a route from navaid to navaid. Some are less successful than others (frightening), I imagine the pilots are even less enthused, no more following the "magenta line" (its a little line on a screen in the cockpit that represents the intended route of flight, and basically you just keep the crosshairs on it and go forth.. the computer calculating all the course corrections for wind and directions and all... basically the pilots have to aviate Lindbergh style).

So, the next job interview (and there will be a next one) I'll have to study for. There's volumes of information to ingest again, or to learn to recall from the cobweb covered recesses of my brain.

Otherwise the interview went OK, but I'm not sure it's a change I want to make, for various reasons. But it's good practice and I'll learn and be better when that dream job comes up, though I'm not sure the "lottery winner" position has an extensive interview process.

Now that I've thoroughly bored everyone... it's time to wrap it up and forage for food before work tonight. Look for me in the ATL metro area starting Wednesday for a few days..

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I've got the whole world here between my fingers and my thumb

One of the things a few of us aerosexuals do at work to pass the time on slow shifts is track random flights. I often will watch flights that I may know some one on when I know they're flying. Grace used to get frequent texts welcoming her to random cities. Charity has become the latest to get the tracking experience when I know she's out there. But last night, one of the coworkers located an interesting flight. Not an airline, but a private plane (we can track almost every civilian airplane flying in US airspace) that had just departed Hilo, Hawaii. The aircraft, a Cessna C-208 was flying to Majuro Atoll.

If you're not familiar with Majuro or can't find it on a map, it's roughly 2400 miles southwest of Hawaii in the Marshall islands. It's essentially a coral atoll with a runway, a few buildings for government contractor to blow things up and test new weapons, and a McDonalds (seriously I read somewhere years ago there's a Mickey D's there).

If you're not familair with the C208, it's a single engine prop plane that carriers maybe 10 people. Now imagine flying solo across 2400 miles of open ocean in a plane with one engine, that's droning on and on, at about 10,000 ft. Oh, at an speed of about 170kts, this is going to be your life for 14 hours. If anything happens... well it's been nice knowing you.

I know a lot of pilots, and I'd say 99% I'd trust with my life, though I wouldn't trust the majority of them to date my niece or a good friend. But I don't know any of them that would up and fly this one. I don't think, some are a little nuts and may agree to it after a few beers. It's a small reminder of how comfortable the general public has come with air travel, and how much of a modern convenience it has become. Very few people think twice about stepping into a pressurized tube that hurdles them through the upper atmosphere at close to the speed of sound.

I just read an article about the first commercial flight across the Pacific Ocean. Next month is the 75th anniversary of the Pan American Airways inaugural service from San Francisco to Manilla in the Philippines. Eventually the route extended to Hong Kong and took over 60 hours to traverse, with a stop at Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Islane, Guam, and Manilla. The price for this little adventure was about $1700 in 1935, or roughly $25,000 in todays money. You can make the same trip non stop in 14 hours now for $600. But in all fairness, you don't get a private cabin with dressing room and an onboard chef. First class ticket toady only runs about $6000 nonstop.

The flight actually carried more mail than passengers, at about $2 a letter in 1935 (about $30 today) for standard delivery and took the same 60+ hours to get there. Today, i can video chat with Grace (who's eating her way through Vietnam for those who don't read her blog... you should) instantly. Yay technology!

So, now that we zip carefree across the globe, and if that's not quick enough, instant communication is available. I do love my airlines and aviation, which apparently according to family I've been a fan of since i could first say the word "airplane" at an age of roughly 4 months old... ok maybe no that young but close. Airplane wasn't my first word, though I'm sure it had to be fourth or fifth (apparently 1 through 3 were dada, mama, and ambulance... seriously).

One day I'm going to write a blog that will possibly scare most people from flying, based on the everyday goings on in the industry. I'll just say this, some one asked me recently how often I deal with an emergency at work. They were shocked (and possibly appalled... but definitely shocked) when I said about once a week, I hear a flight declare an emergency. DOesn't necessarily mean they are doomed, but just they have an issue that required immediate attention and priority to land. Most the time, I dare say passengers don't even know.

OK, enough of that... I just got back from a weekend in Massachusetts where Tanya and I were graciously hosted by Adri. We spent time trekking through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Mass looking at scenery and changing leaves. It's really quite nice up there this time of year. Tanya and I apparently are still carrying on a torrid affair and this was our romantic getaway. Don't worry, I'm just using her to get to her husband.

One of the amusing things about staying at Adri's is the company she keeps. I like to think I'm of above average intelligence and well educated, but when the room fills with a plethora of PhD candidates I start to feel a bit like a kindergartner in a calculus class. It's not like these guys are being snooty know-it-alls, (it's the opposite) it's just they're like... wow.. I read about particle accelerators, you run them.

But we all have a good time, and this trip I wasn't the token American in the room (there were 3 of us this time). A gathering at Adri's is like convening a meeting at the UN, except we actually accomplish things... like ridding the world of jello shots.

Next trip, dunno yet. I'm working on some things, plus I have to work in a trip to Vietnam, most likely after Christmas. We tossed around the idea of a cae package for the Lewii, so far i'm thinking Sweetwater Blue and microwave popcorn are definitely going. And I'm overdue for a trip to Atlanta. I do have a birthday coming up, so maybe around then. there's als the idea of a Vegas trip in December. I made an adult decision to not buy DMB tickets for the fall show, and just after those sold out a series of Dave and Tim acoustic shows were announced. That may be too much to pass up, and they're in Vegas. Time to reopen Studio 54 at Aria????

That's about it, I have laundry and cleaning to do. Nolen is coming up this weekend for fun and Auburn football and I don't want to look like a slob (regardless that I am one). Later.