Thursday, November 3, 2011

Patience is a vitrue, and it turns out I'm not very virtuous

So, it's been almost a month since I've pontificated on something. I've been kind of busy, and not all that sure if I managed to get anything accomplished. The month of October has been very hectic it seems, even with the vacation thrown in, and working a couple of long weeks (you know, 5 days in a row). Turns out if I'm at work, I have a lot less time to go spend that disposable income .

The downside is my sanity and well being suffer, but that's not important. So, Rocktober has seen the return of the Lewii to resident status in the US, and I've made my trips accordingly for visitation. I'm just reminded how much I miss both of them being at arms length. Grace is once again Gracious (hahaha PUN!) enough to allow me free run of their spare (for the moment) bedroom. But I'll be evicted in due time.

So, while in Atlanta I've been scoping out new bachelor pads for me (or as I get older, Cougar traps?). I found several possible new places, but they seem to go rather swiftly. Other part of this equation is mathematical. And I've decreed my budget will allow me to invest in such a property, granted with a significant reduction in the disposable column. But that's not always bad, a little focus and less "blow" money could be a good thing.

Depending on the results of my latest bidding, I may be downsizing in Louisville to something smaller. Which, again, isn't all bad. The other tormenting decision has been along the lines of do I want to buy in a city I'm not technically "living" in. Well, to that I say I do "live" there more than I "live" here. My weekends are spent away most the time, with the occasional one stuck in town. Plus, regarding it as being "stuck" also shows my feelings. SO, what the hell, if i get tired of commuting after a few years I'll sell. Hopefully by then we'll have an economic recovery and housing prices might just rise.

And really, who wouldn't want a view like this?

SO I'm actively bidding for a place, and thanx to HGTV and my realtor I'm kind of figuring this all out. If it works out, expect a housewarming party to be announced shortly after the new year.

Otherwise, the last week of October found me on vacation. And I know everyone expects me to flit off to the far reaches of the globe when I have a weeks vacation. This time, I kept it local. By that, I spent some time with Adri in Amherst, crashed a party in NoHo, checked out the Capitol building in DC (and thinking about applying for a job there, Senator looks like a pretty easy one you can get with no qualifications), spent a day in Annapolis with Jennie (and her great company), drove down to ATLizzle, and caught up with friends and family. It was a nice little east coast tour.

I was very lucky to get to spend time with all the lovely people up in Amherst, some of whom I don't even know at a party we weren't "technically" invited to. Also great to catch up with friends over beers in Little 5, not to mention Halloween festivities and karaoke in New-Nan. And as always, time with Jennie is awesome. She's best little sister a brass line can have.

Oh, and speaking of brass lines, there was a small reunion of us drum corps types outside Montgomery a couple weeks ago. it was great to see old friends and make a couple new ones. It amazes me, still, that even though we, as a group, can not be around each other for over a decade but fall abck into friendships like we just saw each otehr yesterday. Sure some of us have grown up, have careers, families, etc... but we're still those bewildered kids that would wake up almost every morning on some gym floor in god knows where wondering what we were thinking by signing up for this, and paying for it. But, for all the speeches and pep talks Wofford, Big Dave, Tommy, and the rest gave us about "enjoying this time", "missing it when it's over", and "the person you can't stand now will be the life long friend you know you'll always be able to count on" that we all didn't believe... well they turned out to be dead right. I feel kind of bad for the spouses that look at the adults they married revert to adolescents and wonder "what the hell did they do to these kids" to cause this behaviour. To paraphrase bouncey Pouncey, it was the worst summers of our lives, but it was the best times of our lives.

Well, like all good things, the vacation had to end, October has closed, and the beginnings of winter are being felt arund the country. The drive home was good for some time to think, and snicker at passing the Beaver Carpets and Hardwoods sign again, and make a plan. I liek fall, and hate to see it go. Even the drive to ATL and back wasn't horrendous, owing to the colorful fall foliage along the way. Not quite to new England standards, but it helped. Of course on the way back I was talking (and texting and emailing) to my realtor and bank and working out a bid for a new home. Amazing device that little iPhone.

So, now all I can do is wait for the bank that holds the property (it's a short sale) to say yes we accept or go # sand. Its a time of excitement and terror. Meanwhile, the peak shipping season is coming, hopefully I can make some extra cash and have a nice vacation in January. Look for me to be a little grouchier, owing to the cold weather and extra hours, but maybe a lot excited about having a cool place for people to come hang in the big city. We'll see where this road ends.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

remember two things...

Couple things have been amusing me of late. And I'll handle them in in one massive angst ridden, vitriol laden blog. OK, maybe I'm not that passionate about the subjects.

One: Apple brought out it's newest version of the iPhone. Which, really, it's just a phone. A crazy, amazing, sexy, miraculous phone. But the genera consensus amongst the interwebs is the newest option is a bit of a let down. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Yes, I would have liked something a bit more grandiose like say, a holographic projector or fortune telling app. But the new phone, while not changing anything on the outside, is a total rework of the innards. They of course have thrown around all kinds of numbers and statistics... and I'm waiting to pass judgement when I see a few things... how it works on multiple networks, being a "world phone". For example, can I buy an unlocked one and use it on Verizons network, then change sims and us AT&T, then back to T-Mobile. This is of most interest to us world traveler types.

The second is if it will work on T-Mobiles 3G and pseudo 4G network. One of the issues being it's not a true "4G" phone. But since there are 3 different 4G standards... well, it's a lot to ask from one phone.

But the best part is that every major news outlet ran stories on the phones unveil. Apple has done something HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and the likes haven't... they make their tech so mainstream everyone is curious. My mother, who thinks a rotary dial phone is still a good idea, probably is aware a new iPhone was announced.

Now, if Apple is a master at putting it's ideas and marketing out there to the public, the exact opposite can be found in southern Manhattan. The Occupy Wall Street protests seem to be a general assembly of random ideas and pissed off people. No one can truly tell me what they're protesting, other than everything.

Anytime a seemingly random group of people get together to protest I'm always interested to hear what they are protesting. In my effort to be fair and balanced when forming an opinion, I've tempered the Fox News reports with the New York Times articles. Like every group, you get your more opinionated folks out there with signs protesting Andrew Jackson or wearing a giant penny mask. And there are your slackers, who I imagine are there for the party and the social interaction. Let's face it, in NYC, where will you find cheaper entertainment and still have a chance to express your ideas for society to the hippy chicks while being chemically enhanced? And you get to meet Susan Sarandon!

But when you wade through the crazy, you can find a group or two with some serious and worthwhile agendas. For instance, how can people who bankrupted a financial system by lying and stealing walk away with millions in taxpayer funds and not be considered criminals? And I do agree that the US has the best government money can buy.... and that's wrong. Unless we amend the constitution to say "We the Multinational Corporation..." Corporations aren't inherently evil, but they are designed to maximize profits for the shareholders. The common good isn't part of their charter.

It's good to see people exercise their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. And it's funny to see some deride them for doing that... though those same critics claim to love the America and hold the Constitution dear to their hearts. OK, yes some of these people are nuts... Roseanne Barr for instance and shouldn't be given a second thought. But a little civil disobedience can be refreshing.. and I'll take the stance best described in the movie quote.."Maybe something good will come from it. A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don't you think?"

Now, some chillaxing before work while the laundry dries. Somehow I ended up scheduling myself for 6 days this week... that was a bad idea... later.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Always look on the brightside of life

Now is the winter of our discontent... or something. And I believe it was Socrates that said "I drank what!!!!"

I've been silent on here of late, jut haven't had much good to say. I wrote a couple of rough drafts and just shelved them, for either lack of content or lack on motivation. It's hard to keep life interesting sometimes. There seems to be a good bit of negativity swirling around with the autumn leaves. Much of it is justified giving the situations involved. While much of it is not really affecting me personally, it's hard to sit on the periphery and see friends going though such dark times.

That seems to add a bit to the general malaise I'm in. It's tough enough staying happy and giddy ALL the time when little things really start to annoy the hell out of you. For instance, traffic sucks in the morning, my laptop grinds to halt anytime i try to change websites and no longer holds a charge, the public has began to generally aggravate me with their lack of tact in public situations, and my schedule at work sucks harder than usual for a few weeks.

Soooo, let's talk about positive things: I have a well paying job. Yes I deal with morons who seem to think they're "in charge" but I can handle it with my well developed intellect and justifiable superiority.

I don't live in Indiana! Besides the general reasons for not living in Indiana, now that one of the main bridges in town is closed for unscheduled repairs (it has a huge crack in it) venturing across the Ohio even less appealing than before. And even though the traffic annoys me, it still cracks me up when the radio advertises a "10 minute ride" they think that's ridiculous. I guess I still am used to the ATL traffic, where the normal speed is approaching 80 MPH and a 45 minute delay is nothing unusual.

I can afford to buy a new laptop, and most likely will be within the next month. Of course that depends on the pricing and availability of the next iPhone, because you know I have to have one!

I have vacation coming up! I'm thinking a quick trip to Europe or Morocco. but first I have to figure out if theirs going to be a revolution planned while I'm there. Even if there is, could be fun and get really good deals on accommodations.

It is Autumn, and the air has cooled down a good bit. The days aren't overly long or ridiculously short, meainng I can be home and asleep before the sun is to high in the sky, but I can still wake up and enjoy sunlight in the afternoons. And football is back, giving a me a 95% chance of having something to watch on TV during the weekends I stay here.

I have fabulous friends, even though some are having trying times. And with the Lewii's return from exotic overseas locations and the upcoming S-Dub gathering, I should be able to see many of them about. That makes me smile.

I'm still in the market for an upscale bachelor pad in the heart of the ATLizzle. My last venture down didn't produce the results I hoped due to timing, but maybe soon I'll be working it out. I'm still unsure about going through with the whole thing, I have some concerns... but we'll see.

So, There's more that's pretty good. I just need to keep that in mind when the gloominess starts intruding. Now, I'm hungry. Off to find some "lunch". And decide how to handle the next couple weeks.

So a final thought...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just breath...

I've been quiet of late. Not only in the Blog posting, but in just general Facebook status updating. I know, it's a required part of modern life that I update everyone in the world on my current location and the thoughts associated with being in such places. Of late, it seems nothing exceptional has been happening. Only the reality is that the exceptional has become fairly common place. This being the first weekend in a while I've stayed home. It needed to be done, if only to remind me to get out more.

Last weekend, I had the chance to take some time and get away from it all. Well, not from it all. I still had an internet connection and the company of fine friends. So I got away from most of it. After a 36 hour day filled with aviation to an excess between work and extended airport appreciation time (Thank you FAA!), I finally made it to New England. My 4 pm arrival delayed about 5 hours.

But that stress and endurance race was well rewarded after Adri fetched me and we made our way to Ludlow, Vermont. Christine and Scott, or the Berardii, had arrived at the destination before us, and the home fired burning in our weekend retreat the Jackson-Gore Inn. Thanx to Adri for inviting us up to this piece of tranquility.

I think the four us desperately needed the retreat, short as it was, from the noise and hectic life we run. Well, the hectic life they run. Sometimes, you forget how nice quiet can be. I live in a fairly urban area, which I personally enjoy for the convenience and accessibilty to the things I like. The Berardii are in the same boat... well, not the same boat a much noisier boat that's docked on the Hudson River. But the noises of life being lived around me, the sirens of firetrucks (the firehouse being a mere 2 blocks away), the garbage trucks emptying the dumpsters for the restaurant row behing m house at 5ish in the morning, and the general noise of delivery trucks dropping off their goods int he early morning make for a fitful sleep.

That's assuming I'm sleeping at night. The day sleeping is much harder, since theirs an almost constant cacophony construction, lawn maintenance, traffic, and even more sirens blaring during the lighted part of the day. It's like the world doesn't even care I'm trying to sleep. Enter the peace and quiet of the Okemo State forest in the hills of Vermont. Adri has secured for us a sweet suite; thee bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a push to start fireplace, full kitchen, and living room. And it was quiet.

Once arrived, I graciously accepted the offering from Scott to share in his recently purchased local brew after the stress of nonrev travel and the exhaustion of pushin my self well beyond the healthy time of being wake. On a side note, while I love my travel benefits, there's always an added level of stress when you're not sure exactly when you're going to arrive. It makes it worse when there are people waiting for you on the other end. I have some friends who that lvel of uncertainty would drive them over the edge and totally ruin the vacation. To me, it jst takes a few years off my life. This particular trip, I was 2 minutes and one person away from turning around and heading back to Louisville. Thanx to passengers who gave up and went to the train, the gate agents that just said "get on we'll figure out how to list you on the flight later,' and the pilot who held the plane to the point of nearly missing a take off slot to put me i the last available seat. The stress of waiting in uncertainty sucks.

That part over, it was a welcome midnight conversation and beer. And finally sleep. Normally, I tend to wake up mid sleep. Either from the external noise factors or my internal eternally jacked up body clock. Not the at night. I work 8 solid hours later, a little drool on my cheek, but well rested. At which point I found Scot brewing coffee and partook of Christine's delicious peach muffins, which I found to be crack addict-like in my need to consume them. We eventually ventured out to find lunch in the small mountain town, and decided on a dinner in to exploit Christine and her culinary talents.

The afternoon in the sun at the pool, complete with hot tub, added to the whole lazy day theme of the weekend. After the delicious (albeit partially form a can.. so disappointed :-)) dinner, we spent the night looking at stars and roasting marshmallows with other guests around a bonfire. The occasional shooting star would streak across the Vermont sky, easily noticed in the dark of night. Along with the lack of ubiquitous noise, the lack of the ubiquitous city lights that drown out the stars at home was easily noticed. An again, I slept like a baby.

The time to leave, and that sucked. Though the sadness was eased by the discovery of maple syrup ice cream near by, I still didn't want to leave. I love my trips home to Atlanta, and I do love seeing all the friends and family, but it gets to the point of being run ragged from pint to pint. And while I generally feel the need to always be going and doing something, it was nice to just have company and lounge. Either by the pool or the fire or just staring out the window at the forests. It was nice to just sit back, and breath.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Come fly with me, let's fly away.

For those of you who either work with me or are employed in the same position at another airline, please go ahead and save yourself some time and skip this. It'll be dull. I'm trying to answer some of the questions posed about what it is I do for money... well I'd do a lot of things for money to be honest, but this is my actual "career". OK, lets get going....

I'm going to focus on a specific flight for this, but keep in mind there could be 30 or so others being worked/watched at various stages during a shift.

So what does a flight dispatcher do? That's a tough one. We do all the things that most people assume airline pilots do, like figure the fuel needed to get a planeload of people from point A to point B and determine if the weather is nice on the way and what not. They don't, at least not at the big plane level. By big plane, I mean any airplane carrying more than 19 people including the Barbie Dream Jets that my commuter friends fly :-).

So, let's get down to the boring details shall we. Hours before the pilots get to the airport and start looking are self important in their uniforms, or passengers are being harassed about the size of their carry on, I and others like me are planning to get them safely to their destinations. Could be 6 hours before departure, all depends on things like weather and my personal busy level.

If I've noticed anything in the last 10 years of doing this, it's that the amount of information related to weather conditions has become incredibly voluminous, though it's not always anymore accurate. Could be I've gone from airlines with minimal budgets and resources to airlines with seemingly unlimited variety of maps and charts. For a brief introduction to what we're looking at, check out the Aviation Weather Center. It's the weather products provided by the US Government (via NOAA and the NWS). A lot of the info here is published for private pilots in their single engine prop planes, but the basic content is the same used by the large air carriers Granted, we have prettier maps that are more detailed and go further out into the future (I think we have a 128 hour map that's pretty much pointless to me). But that being said, you can pretty much get away planning an airline flight with the weather info the government gives away for free on that website if it's a good weather day and there's no extraneous issues to deal with. But it's not generally specific enough to do it really well.

So, here we go. Tonight, we're going to focus on a flight to Omaha. We all know the airport designator system, where we refer to a city by a three letter code. In this case, it's OMA. That's for the traveling public. The airlines operations use the four letter coding system, so OMA is known as KOMA. Fairly simple in the contiguous US, basically it's the regular three letter designator with a K on the front. Outside the US, it's slightly more complicated. For instance Paris-Charles De Gaul airport, or CDG, becomes LFPG in ICAO parlance. It's an easier system once you learn it. For more information, check here if you're really curious.

So, we're operating a B757 from KSDF to KOMA. In a summary of what happens now is we check the weather and NOTAMs (or NOTices to AirMen,which is the system for letting us know something at the airport isn't working or certain airspace isn't usable). Checking the weather forecast for an arrival at a 1000Z (Z denotes it's in Universal Coordinated Time,or Zulu time. This is a time set at the Prime Meridian that runs through Greenwich England. The use of "Z" time is a way to standardize flights and ATC operations worldwide. All flight plans are filed with a planned departure time in Z. In the Eastern US, currently Z time is 4 hours ahead of local time, so 1000Z is 0600Lcl in ATL... trying to compute Z versus local in ones head on a global scale gives me a headache).

SO, the weather forecast that's issued for KOMA currently reads:

KOMA 052320Z 0600/0624 VRB03KT P6SM SCT015 BKN100
TEMPO 0600/0601 -SHRA SCT015CB
FM060300 VRB02KT P6SM SCT100
FM060700 VRB02KT 3SM BR OVC006
TEMPO 0610/0613 1SM BR OVC006

FM061500 10005KT 6SM BR BKN015
FM061700 17006KT P6SM SCT250

IN plain English all that means that around the time of the expected arrival that winds will be almost calm, visibility of 3 Miles, mist, and the clouds will overcast at 600 feet above the airport, with occasional periods of visibility of a 1 mile. Weather that "bad" requires an alternate airport be used. Simplistically, any weather forecast less than clear and beautiful requires an alternate airport be designated for the flight, and fuel be planned to get there in case you can't land at the destination. Tonight we're using KMCI (or MCI, Kansas City Int'l... trivia... why is it MCI and not something like KCI? The original name for the airport was Mid Continent Int'l Airport... MCI).

Also a consideration is the en route weather. This time of year, there's a lot of instability in the atmosphere. This is mostly caused by heating during the day, but there's the instability caused by a weather fronts (in general, "cold" fronts bring thunderstorms, "warm" fronts bring moderate to light rain, Low pressure is bad weather and High pressure is good weather..the "L" and "H" you'd see on the TV weather maps of old. There are of course exceptions). So, though there's no frontal systems, the weather guessers are putting out there's a possibility of thunderstorms forming in the middle of the country. There's a system moving through the Dakota's and again in Kansas and Oklahoma... where every night in the summer there's seemingly thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are generally recognized to be bad for airplanes, and to be avoided. But the nature of severe thunderstorms not associated with a weather front makes it hard to plan for. Basically guessing where a thunderstorm will form in 6 hours... you can get a pretty good idea of the area but not the exact spot. So we plan for this uncertainty by adding fuel to "deviate" around them.

Let's talk about fuel for a moment. In the "domestic" US (which excludes Hawaii and Alaska according to the FAA), the law prescribes a minimum fuel requirement. In nutshell, you have to have enough fuel to fly from point A to point B, which considers any forecast headwinds or tailwinds and any whacky required routings. Back in the olden days you needed to stick to "airways" that ran between ground based radio stations that sent out a signal for receivers onboard to home in on. Today, we have al kind of fancy equipment that allows us to go from any point to any other point. But there are still some general rules that need to be followed, and during busy times of the day between busy airports, like ATL to LGA, there are required routings for traffic management. Oddly, between Louisville and Omaha at 4 AM there's not much demand so I can plan the flight any way I want. You also are required to carry fuel to get to an alternate airport if needed, plus a 45 minute "reserve" of fuel. ANd then anything else I see that looks liek ti would require more gas above and beyond that.

Generally we aspire for the most economic or fastest routing depending on the needs at the time. Since this is a fairly short 1 hour and 25 minute flight, the hurry up factor isn't important and we have favorable winds. Also, since the plane continues on west from KOMA, and gas is expensive there, we're carrying enough fuel to get to the west coast to save money and not buy gas in Omaha. Had this not been "tankering" flight, would have probably picked a closer Alternate airport to save on the costs.

I've heard people ask why we don't just fill 'er up and go. This usually comes up when a flight has to divert after holding for a while. Well, fuel has weight, and the more a plane weighs, the more it burns. So carrying extra fuel for no reason costs money in burning extra fuel. By regulation, I have to plan for "known or anticipated" delays. Like if there's thunderstorms anywhere east of the Mississippi and I'm planning a flight to Newark (KEWR), there's a good chance there's going to be holding or delays or required reroutes. In the New York area, if the wind is blowing strong (more then 12 MPH) from a certain direction, all the airports of there go on a delay. The other reason we don't gas em up is the weight. You don't need a plane that's too heavy to take off or land. That's bad, cause then you leave money making stuff behind (or you leave a bent airplane at the end of the runway is (in technical aviation terminolgy) "no bueno").

So, all his stuff has been looked at. The computer has spit out the most efficient (allegedly) route based on the winds and temps and all that. We've looked at the weather and the NOTAMs that say the airports will be open and we can land there. We've checked the runways to make sure they're long enough for us to take off and land at the weight we need, and we've added a (and this is another technical aviation term) "shitload" of fuel since we have to get to Reno next without getting gas in Omaha.

All the above taks me about 15-45 minutes depending on the weather and amount of crap I have to read. There's other considerations (like determining if the airplane has anything not working that would make flying this route "no bueno". (Little known fact for the public, airplanes can fly with not everything working in perfect order. Somethings require a penalty (like driving a car without working windshield wipers, you have to make sure you're not going to be in rain), somethings don't (one of the 40 reading lights in the cockpit doesn't work.. no biggie). Today, the plane is in good shape.

All this relevant info has been compiled, and a 20 page packet has been generated to give to the Captain. When he shows up about an hour before departure, he (allegedly) reads this 20 page brief and says "I like it". At that point he signs off on it. I've already digitally signed it by sending the flight release, and both us agree this flight can be operated safely as planned. Now this packet is 20 pages just to get from Louisville to Omaha. Some longer flights, lets say from Paris to Hong Kong, can be 40+ pages long. It's a true statement that when a plane moves, a forest must die (and thins in the age of "electronic record keeping"). I've also sent an electronic message to Air Traffic Control that contains the info they need, like the type of airplane, planned routing, altitudes, speed, endurance (how long the plane can fly with the fuel planned), types of equipment (or avionics) the airplane is equipped with, and a bunch of other things. It looks basically like this:


The FAA computer ingests this and spits out a "strip" of paper with the relevant information to the Air traffic controllers that will be handling the fight. (And yes, I changed a lot of the info on there to be non specific to an actual flight/airplane)

SO, now the planning part is done. There's 25 more to do. Meanwhile, I've taken over "watching" about 15 or so planes in the air from another dispatcher. Let's get into the watching part, or flight following.

Now we get pretty pictures. We have this nifty program that allows me to put up a map of the US (or World and zoom where ever I want) and overlay weather radars, and fronts and locations of airports and radio aids and all kind of crap. it can almost be information overload if you let it. it also gives an almost realtime location of airplanes flying. You can get the same thing from websites, and even some airline websites pull up a feed like this when you check your flight status. My first dispatch job, we used the websites for free for a while. But we always knew where the plane was if we needed to find them from their paper flight planes and position reports they'd send every hour or so. The old "manual" flight following was ok for 5 or 6 flights, but it can be labor intensive and quickly become overwhelming if you're having a bad day.

So now, our flight is about to take off. Since the crew got out to the plane some thunderstorms have formed up and moving into the planned route. (In the picture below, the airplane has just got off the ground, and the blue line is the flight plan routing

Well, I can't let him fly into a big 60,000ft tall airplane killing thunderstorm. And since, by law, I'm jointly responsible with the captain for making sure this flights ops safely, I need to tell him what's coming. So, i send him what is essentially a text message to a communications unit on board the airplane:


ISSUED AT 060755

The white box on the map pic above is the graphical representation of a convective sigmet, or an area of a significant meteorological event (can be rough turbulence or icing, etc..). In this case it's a"Convective" area, which means thunderstorm. I'm telling the crew to go north to the SPI VOR (a radio beacon on the ground) then direct to the LMN VOR. The yellow symbols are radio navigation aids, or navaids, of various types. SPI is goes by the name "spinner" and is near Springfield, IL.

So shortly after the message is sent, I see this:

The crew and ATC have worked out a route from his current position "direct" to destination. the blue line is the new planned route of fight. However, that isn't going to keep them away from the hail laden 60,000ft tall thunderstorm. Airplanes have found themselves in airborne hail storms and lost pieces, had windshields cracked, been dented, and some cases crashed. (On example, look up Southern Air Flight 242 that crashed in New Hope, GA in 1977. The good news is the weather radar technology is 1000 times better today.) So while the crew will see this on their airplane's weather radar and avoid, if I can get them to go around earlier, it'll save them from burning excessive fuel to get around at the last minute, which could put the flight in a low fuel situation later.

However that direct doesn't give them enough room to go around, and the crew has asked ATC for a deviation from the route (notice they go almost to the SPI VOR I suggested earlier, go me!). Also you can see other company flights (the blue planes) that aren't my flights. There's another flight (the blue line to the south) that I'm also following and working on a plane to get him through the airplane killing thunderstorms. ATC has also issued a new Convective Sigmet area, shown on the map below

ISSUED AT 060855

30 minutes after the first message I sent, we're around and on the way to KOMA (A city in middle America). The pink line behind the plane shows his route flown, the purple lines are the boundaries for Air Traffic Control centers' airspace. Our KOMA flight is currently talking to Kansas City Center.

Keep in mind, this is only one of my flights. there's all the others that are flying through these other areas of weather (the white boxes around thunderstorms) that are getting the same attention. The red planes are mine (and have the associated information tags) the blue are other company jets:

Now they've started descent into KOMA, about 90 Nautical Miles out. The crew as the ATIS (Automated Terminal Information System) that gives them the latest actual
weather, the runways in use, and any important information about things at the airport not working. This is both available to be sent to the airplane as a text message, and is read by a recorded voice over the radio:


Translated to English, at 0944 Zulu time a special weather observation as taken (special in that it's not the normal hourly observation), the winds are blowing form the east at 4 knots (About 4.6 MPH), visibilty is 10 miles, there's a cloud "ceiling" at 3100 ft above the airport, the instrument approaches to runways 14R and 14L are currently being used, and a bunch of taxiways are closed.

Almost there, they will fly a downwind leg (or parallel to the runways the opposite direction of landing) then turn to final. From the info tag, you can see the plane is at 6800 ft (above Sea level in this case) and descending and flying at 276 Knots. The other info I have set up to show is org and dest, airplane type, and Estimated Arrival time. You can also see the runway layout for the airport (and KOPF, which is Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha).

So, that's that. Plane lands and another miracle of aviation is completed. This night I had a relatively light work load, so not a lot of stressing out. No major weather systems ruined my night and it was a light flying night being a weekend for us. So, I only had to do this about 20 times. That in a nutshell is a night for Jamie at work. I hope that this was informative and interesting and not too verbose for everyone. I think that's a pretty good coverage of the job, but I didn't get into too much detail (seriously, this is the light version). There'sa bout 30 other programs and applications running on my 3 monitor workstation, and a 4th montior that's just the phone keypad (that I dial up or radio any airplane, anywhere, we have flying and the saved numbers for seemingly every Air traffic services provider in the world.) I do not work for the FAA, but instead the airline. Every air carrier has a relatively small group of dispatchers that keep the planes moving safely. The dispatchers are legally the ones who delay and cancel your flights (don't hate us). And we have all been tested and certificated by the FAA to perform the job, then trained for what seems like an eternity by the airline. Not to mention the yearly recurrent training for things that change and ongoing new procedures instituted worldwide.

If I left anything unclear please ask. I'm thinking about saving this to show anyone who asks what i do for a living, but I don't think whipping out a lengthy presentation with visual aides will quite work in a bar. So, I'll jut keep telling people "yes, I work in the tower". Yeah, it's a neat job.

Last pic, a snapshot of every plane in the air, regardless of airline or owner, at 630AM Eastern on a Saturday:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fly by night away from here.

I've tried to get this going for the past week, and just haven't been able to make it work. If I'm getting bored writing it, I'm sure anyone reading will be gone before the halfway mark. Maybe it's the amount of distractions at the times, or a general lack of direction at the moment? I don't know, but well give this a shot.

I just finished a week of vacation. I'm not so much used to just having a week off after the last year of super flexible work schedule and a month off without pay. This year, due to a combination of factors (and a lack of staffing), vacations are harder to extend. But oh well, it's still a vacation right!

Again with the general lack of direction of late, I had no plans for this week off. I had several thoughts, but none of them seemed really appealing. I did have plans to be in Atlanta for the last part for a DCI show and (more importantly) the small reunion of old friends. But what to do for the first half of the week. I was looking around for options, and nothing jumped out at me as being reasonable and feasible. I mean, I can't get to Oz and back in 4 days without wanting to commit murder.

After spending days before perusing the interwebs for last minute deals and see what was doable on the cheap, I came up with nothing. So, I spent Saturday here in Louisville hitting the usual places in town. Still in an indecisive funk.

Sunday morning brought a sunny hot day (again) and a small headache. Per my normal non exciting Sunday morning ritual, I walked to the coffee place iPad in hand, grabbed a coffee and water, turned on the Dave FM Acoustic Sunrise stream, and started reading the paper. About halfway through the second article I totally lost focus... and decided I had to go. Somewhere. Anywhere.

A quick check of the Delta website showed a 2 PM to Atlanta that would get me there in time to catch the evening outbounds to anywhere. In truth I had narrowed down the destinations in my head to about five. The trick was, at 1135 to pack a bag, shower, and be ready to leave and be at the airport by 1300 (including the park and ride from the UPS lot). I did learn it's slightly more complicated packing for an unknown destination.

I made it, and was sitting in the cockpit of an CRJ900 bound for Atlanta by 1415. I only had to commit to the captain that, unlike the UPS pilot that had jumpseated in with him, I would not fall out of the airplane by trying to deplane before the jetbridge was up. What an idiot.

ON arrival, I checked the boards, and checked the service counter with an unusual request. Which of five flights had the best chance of me flying on them, and the winner was... Brussels.

Why Brussels? Though I'd technically been there twice, I'd only seen the inside of a train station and the airport. Oh, and an airport hotel for 9 hours. The other European option that worked well would have been Madrid. Brussels topped out Madrid because of the temperature (the mid 60's versus the mid 90's... I'm kind of over hot) and a better beer selection. As I can't think of a single Spanish beer but 100 Belgian beers easily come to mind... easy choice.

So off I go... after getting my seat assignment, saying hello to the crew, being briefed on opening the emergency exit, then being moved form an exit row to a better seat by the captain, I settled in for the 8 hours to Europe.

This being the first time I've tried an international trip like this, I was a bit worried that I'd be told to "pound sand" (that's a technical aviation term that equates to "get lost" or something more graphic) and get off the plane. But the whole trip went smooth. Except for the interrogation by the customs official on arrival ("No I don't have an onward ticket, I'm taking a company jet home"), no complaints.

I'll do the Brussels travelogue later, but suffice it to say I did a few cultural things, museums and what not. And had several beers, and just enjoyed the cafe culture of Europe.

The trip helped just lift me up for a minute. The whole indecisive planning part had been a real downer. For some reason, I just didn't feel it. Not wanting to deal with the hassle and spend the money. I've been unusually thrifty of late, mainly since July as an expensive month for me. But, as I sat here (literally in the same place I'm writing this) that Sunday morning, nursing a light hangover, I could see how the week would go if I remained in town. That was unacceptable. I've been feeling a lack of adventurism lately, maybe I'm getting old. Maybe the idea of traveling to foreign lands alone is less appealing than in my 20's. Maybe I'm more aware of the dangers and pitfalls of a solo traveler in the world today than I was a decade ago.

Whatever that was driving the reticence to go jump on a plane, destination unknown, needed to be smite down. I had a good time, if a little dull at times, but did meet a couple interesting people and a number of interesting beers. And like the first time I took of to Europe 12 years ago, I can't wait for some one to go with me.. I'll just go solo. I have the benefits to make it happen on a whim. And now that I know it can be done, maybe I'll try more destinations as money and open seats allow.

I'll be posting a more "went here, ate this" description of the week later. But I did have a great time, if only from having a change of scenery. Then a day at home and off again to be in the company of many good friends for the weekend. It was nice to see people I haven't seen in a long while. I say it every time, and I mean it every time, but we shouldn't only meet up once a year. But life makes that harder as we get older and we, as adults, pile on more "adult" responsibilities. Well, everyone else does, I still act like a child for the most part.

I'm going to work om the travel narrative a bit later, and some other things as well. I'm resisting the urge to buy a new Macbook Pro. My laptop has an issue with the battery charging or holding a charge and that bothers me. Add the general annoyance of grinding down when trying to multi task. And I noticed a lack of disk space these days. But since I don't have the cash on hand I am hesitant to take on another debt, even with 12 months no interest.

I'm also settling in for an August involving me working more. At least I'll have the aircon at work to keep me cool. There's some plans on the horizon, but we'll see what happens with that. Until then, I'm just trying to stay cool.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WHat i want is what I don't have, and what I need is all around me

I meant to touch on this last week, but was distracted by life. Last week was the last launch of an American Space Shuttle. This brings both a tinge of sadness mixed with a bit of hope. The sadness comes form not having a serious pace program anymore. It's the end of an era I suppose. I mean I can remember the days in elementary school when a shuttle launch meant the entire school stopped and gathered around a TV. This was a time before each classroom in America had a TV, so we had to gather around one of the rolling carts with the 200 lb tube TV. The limited availability of TV's usually meant we had 4 classes of kids crammed into one room. How that wasn't a fire hazard have 100 little people ina confined space I don't know??

But there we were, all wanting to grow up to be an astronaut for at least the next recess period. Some how, shuttle launches became common place to the point that the world didn't stop to watch anymore. Major networks didn't interrupt daytime TV to show a launch. Then came Challenger, and people were reminded that exploring the far reaches of the unknown was still dangerous.

The next couple of launches were heavily covered again, until once again the public became less interested again. That lasted until we'd get bad news from NASA, like the uber expensive Hubble telescope had cataracts. Or the mars lander went missing because one person used pounds in the program instead of kilos. But no one got hurt. The Columbia. And we lost seven more explorers. Another slap to remind us that somethings are still dangerous to do.

Now, America has no manned flight program. There's no ambitious plans to do anything other than hitch a ride with the Russians to the space station we built. It's like building a vacation home in Hawaii but not having airfare to go there.

BUT, lest I seem like one of hose "America has lost her greatness" people I see on Fox News, I have hope that NASA has something else cooking. I firmly believe that we've totally, as a country, given up our ability to fly a man into space on our own metal. Perhaps the current vehicle is in the hands of the Air Force and classified. And maybe it has phasers and a warp drive. :-). But maybe once we quit starting wars and collectively paying for people to not work, we'll start doing something that can be inspiring, even if it costs a little bit of money.

That's enough of that. This past weekend was me in ATLizzle. I know some of my loyal fans may feel a disappointment that I didn't spend any or enough time with them. I apologize, but I had specific plans to attend an event and see people in town from the far reaches of the earth, like Vietnam, China, and Hoboken. I didn't not call because I hate you.

But I did have a good time. Driving around town on beautiful days was so nice, even if i was delivering and shuttle about. If anything it renewed the spark to buy someplace in town there. That way I could more easily spend time with all my adoring fans. :-)

Now I need to figure out what I'm doing with myself next week. I have vacation and no plans, and a only a little $$$ i'm willing to part with.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time in new england took me away to long rocky beaches

Looking back at my schedule over the past couple weeks, and looking ahead to the end of the month, I notices that I've managed to not work any Fridays. That equals the general greatness that is a three day work week. Except this week, I have it down to a two day work week. The long weekend ahead promises some amusement and general frivolity, and getting ti done on a tight budget has been the goal fo the week thus far. Well, the goal of the week since yesterday.

I'm fairly upset with the Avis rental car company. I shouldn't be, but I am. They've seemingly determined that I was finessing the system to get the lowest rates possible. Sure, it took a little effort, a MARTA ride, a 2 block walk through downtown ATlizzle, but would sve about $50 for a weekend rental in taxes paid at the airport. You could still drop the car at the airport and fly fly away. Well, seems they've raised the rates downtown to compensate for that, and since the airport is in "College Park" and not Atlanta, there's a one way rental fee. This is all new this month. So, it looks like I'm driving south this weekend.

Otherwise, I have just returned from a lovely weekend in New England. As in the past, I've really enjoyed the scenery and vibe of the area. And of course, I enjoy the company of my gracious host. We took Christine on the nickel tour of the area, accumulating for her five more states to claim visited.

On of the other amusing things about trips to Adri's is the randomness of places we end up, usually some one's house who's having an impromptu gathering that I seemingly crash. And this time was no different, and included margaritas, which after the lime juice was exhausted became tequila slushies. The area seems for the most part to be a slice of old Americana with roadside vegetable stands (many operated on the honor system being devoid of an owner in sight).

This was the first summer trip I managed up there, usually I tend to go during high season for the fall foilage, and the one trip during the dead of winter (I do not do well with cold). So this time, it was a lush green landscape.

Unfortunately, on Monday, Adri had to return to the grind and Christine and I absconded to Rhode Island. I think we determined that we are not fans. Rhode Island, for the most part, is guilty of blatant false advertising. They claim to be the ocea state, but it's more like the long boring road state. Which, ironically, is more a function of the scenery than the actual distance, being a tiny state. The other issue is it's not an island at all. Again, misleading the world. We finally found Newport (and the adjacent ocean) and marveled a the touristiness as well as the excessivity of the homes. Seems this is where all the rich folks from Manhattan came to get away from the city. It's hard to imagine having a second home that could house roughly the entire population of the small town I grew up in. Some were nice and tastefully kept, some were a bit over the top. I can imagine the residents of the "low rent" district of Newport having annual incomes 10 times my own.

After that, we headed to drop Christine at the train station in New Haven for her triumphant return to the Dirty Jersey (and hopefully a new swimming pool in front of her house).

Again, it was a great weekend away. We always seem to eat so well and meet such interesting people up there.

Now this weekend, I'm heading south for a wedding and associated festivities that accompany a Lewii visit to the ATLizzle. Not sure what's all on the agenda, but I'm sure sleep will be the lowest priority. Then I have a week to figure out how much my budget for the impending vacation week is, and how far it will get me.

In medical news, the bills are rolling in. Woohoo! And My latest doctor visit has found my enzyme levels back closer to normal (40 points high in one case, but down from 300 points high). Still no clue why the elevated, but we're gonna keep going as is. S i'm done with medical visits for a month (hopefully).

In political news... I'm over it. I'm looking for a nice banana republic I can move onto a beach and start my own bar and airline to provide service to said bar.

Otherwise, it looks like August is going to be a slow month for travel, mainly because i have to pay for July (in both money and paying back days I owe for working 3 day weeks all month. I know some of you out there think I'm always on vacation... but it's not completely true ;-)

I suppose i should get busy getting ready for the trip south. Apparently no matter how long i wait the laundry won't wash itself and then jump neatly into my suitcase. Later!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A window on the world.

I seem to have lost the urge to write frequent and interesting blogs. I'm sitting here this morning thinking about possible things to write about, stuff that's on my mind. Most everything that comes to mind seems like a bunch of whining the more i try an lay it down. I mean I have a couple "problems" that really are just ridiculous that I think of the issues as "problems", like where to go on a vacation. Part of the annoyance is I have so many options, part of it is I can only reserve free seats on our planes on certain days. Yes that's write, I'm seriously bitching about how many days a week I can fly free to foreign lands, and having too many potential options to choose from. Who wants to come slap me now?

The mre serious issue is monetary. I have money to take a frabjulous trip somewhere, but some time in the last month I became a little miserly. I do have plans for the cash I've saved, and of course I'm worried about the potential extended medical leaves (though that seems less and less likely). ANd there's this more recent phenomena that involves me not wanting to go to exotic, if slightly less savory, locations. WTF? What happened to being adventurous? That being said, once I get my head out of my ass and get over these non-issues I'll probably take off somewhere interesting.

So, I'm doing some people watching this morning. I've got a fairly nice panoramic view of the street, with the occasional interesting mix of characters passing by the window. The one thing I do enjoy about Louisville has to be the eclectic mix in my neighborhood. For instance, a middle aged couple in their Sunday best just parked their red Porsche (that I'm seriously thinking about stealing) and are attempting to cross the road, only to be nearly taken out by a shirtless, inked up youth on a skateboard.

Or the young girl who just nonchalantly jabbed a syringe in her leg while sitting at an outside table. I'm assuming it's most likely a medically required injection. But whens the last time you watched some one, in the middle of conversation, pull out a needle, inject themselves, put it back in a case, and then continue to drink her cappuccino?

Then across the street, at the Irish pub, a bicycle club has just finished their ride. Their all decked out in neon spandex, and drinking water or coffee (I'm guessing since alcohol cannot legally be served before 1 PM). I think the most amusing part is they've probably road miles on the bikes, only to load them in the backs of SUV's and minivans to drive home. I find that amusing for some reason.

OK, subject change. In medical news, I' seem to be doing ok with the previously known issues. For instance, I'm not having any new back pains, the numbness seems to be waning ever so slightly. A second blood test revealed my abnormally high enzyme count as normalized, and I don't have any liver diseases or hepatitis (which given the places I've been in the past it was actually possible... I have now been vaccinated against Hep AB to make sure that' not an issue in the future).

However, a recurrent issue has popped up over the last week. About 4 year ago afte a particularly painful week I was diagnosed with gout. For those who don't know it's a type of disease cause by a high level of uric acid in the blood, and it essentially feels like some one jamming a a spike heeled show into the joint in my foot. Through the reading and research and doctor visits, I found out that certain foods can cause it. Also, beer is a big cause. There's also some lifestyle factors. But there's a lot fo we don't know factors (for instance people with high levels of the uric acid never have gout, and people with low levels do... weird). It wasn't long after this episode that i started my fitness quest.

Well, this past weekend I had attack number 2. I'm blaming the oysters I had Friday night (and not the beer, since I've been drinking beer for 4 years with no problems and shellfish are known causes). SO, after a week, my foot still hurts, but it's manageable with drugs. But seriously, can I not be well for a month straight? And yes I know beer is a high causal factor, but I've actually i the last month cut back on my consumption. I have a theory that alcohol is the thin filament that holds my body together, and going for weeks at a time with out a drink is causing me to fall apart.

Now for the agenda for future weeks. I'm spending this weekend in Louisville, doing nothing really. It's a holiday weekend, and that in itself makes nonrev travel tougher. Combine that with my temporary gimpyness and that I'm planning to be gone the next 2 weeks at least, possibly the next 4 depending on my vacation plans it just seemed like a good idea to stick around the place and catch up on my DVR and netflix.

Hopefully getting out the next few weeks will help the restless feelings I've been having... or the urge to get the hell out of this place.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My head aches -- warped and tied up I need to kill this pain

It's been a week since I hit the limits of my mortality.

That may be a bit over dramatic, but when you wake up unable to feel parts of your leg there's a certain about of concern that sets in. Since then, I've seen 3 doctors, had my insides scanned twice by two different means, and been stuck by 3 needles to take my precious blood and test it. The last part really sucked since I've been only ordered to give up two blood samples. The extra jabbing was just to aggravate me apparently.

The results??? Well... looks like I'm going to live for now. Let's address the issues separately:

Issue one, as carefully detailed ad nauseum in the last blog I have the lack of feeling in parts of my leg and bum. This week I saw an actual neurosurgeon and have a little clearer understanding of this particular ailment. The piece of disc material in the spinal canal that blew out of the disc between the L4 and L5 vertebrae is constricting and pushed against some nerves. This is causing the numbness or tingling. The disc (which is a spongy cartilage type substance contained in a membrane) has a rupture, which allowed the chunk to be broken off. For now, I'm not to do any heavy lifting or extraneous activity involving the lower back so more material isn't ejected until the membrane is healed, which happens naturally (think a cut on your skin). The disc material, once outside the membrane, will dry out and be removed by the body.. sort of dissolving in the spinal fluid (which pulses with your heartbeat.. who knew?).

As for the feeling, the sensory nerves will in time regain their feeling. According to google, the Mayo clinic, WebMD, and any number of medical related websites, this takes from 1-6 months usually. According to the doc, the sensory nerves take much longer to return to normal than your motor nerves. As long as I don't lose any motor control, there's no call for surgery. The downside is I have to maintain vigilant watch to make sure I'm not having issues controlling myself... whether it be bladder control or walking. So every time I think i may stumble a little (which is my usual modus operandi... ie I'm clumsy) I flash a thought of "Run to the hospital and have my spine cut out". So the challenge, again, is not panic.

The next step; maintain vigilance, stay out of the gym, return for another MRI the first week of August, and a followup neuro visit the next week.

Easy enough, but this is still really annoying. I don't like the feelings of numbness. I don't like the constraints on my activity. Worst of all, I don't like thinking that some sensation I haven't noticed or paid attention to in the past could be the first step to paralysis. In short, I don't like having to realize I'm not invincible.

Nest issue: The first blood work came back with a anomalous reading of excessively high liver enzymes. That was surprising, but also surprising is otherwise I'm in pretty damn good health. My cholesterol is not high, both good and bad are in the good range. Blood sugar levels are good. I do have what is called "white coat hypertension", which basically is high blood pressure brought on by seeing a doctor. Hard to believe that getting a call "Got your MRI results, we need to see you immediately and set up a consult with a neurosurgeon" would get ones blood pressure up. Given my level of health and diet for the first 30 years of my live that's pretty good.

But the enzymes. These can be caused by any number of issues, including liver damage. Now, I've been known to have a drink or two more than I should on rare occasions. So, when I was ordered to get an ultrasound to determine my liver health I was a little worried. The results however came back that I have a healthy, unscarred, unfatty liver. I do however have a gallstone. For the moment, it's not affecting or blocking anything. So, we'll deal with that later. Still no reason for the high enzymes... except I was on pain killers and muscle relaxers for the 4 days before the blood test.

I don't use pain meds often. It's gotta be pretty rough or distracting to get me to take an Advil. And one of them usually take so much of the edge of I'm good for the day. Part of the upbringing was that pain doesn't hurt, it just feels different. Well, that's just stupid and I kind of want to punch the person that told me that. Pain is a defense mechanism, it tells you something is wrong and you should probably check it out. Sometimes it can wait, sometimes it's good pain (sore after a workout or when you're handcuffed to the bed and the hot candlewax... never mind). But my youthful "don't think about the pain" mantra probably isn't gonna work much longer.

Anyways, so I'm hopped up on painlkillers over the weekend. Probably cause of the high enzymes. Waiting to hear back from a second blood test. But since it was due back this past week and no "I need to see you immediately" calls came in, I think I'll live. In a side note, a discussion with a coworker revealed that he had also in the past couple weeks had the same enzyme issue and went through the same sonogram procedure. Nothing found. We've concluded that it was the diseases spread in the workplace (probably by a particular person who seems to developed a particularly flattering cough that's reminiscent of a cross between the bubonic plague and pneumonia).

So, that's where I stand medically. It's a waiting game now. I really hope my health return to it's nominal level in short time. I have big plans coming this way. I've already had to shelve some things for this month. Not to mention I'm starting to feel restless and this need to get out of town.. well country.

That's the latest update. Thanx for all the support through these trying times. :ater!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hey, Hey! What's going on!

It's been a while since I've put words down on the pixels of the screen. I'll try to catch up on what's going on in my world. And a few comments on recent events.

First. This whole Weiner thing. I have two things to say. In his defense on not resigning, if we demanded every congressman who lied or misled the American public resign... We would be out of congressmen. Not entirely a bad idea. Ok, that's all the defense I can must for the guy. He's an idiot! Everyone under 35 knows anything you put out there in digital form will be found. It's never truly deleted from the servers. That's the both the beauty and the danger in the online world. It ensures that our important digital keepsakes and messages make it through multiple catastrophic server failures, but it also ensures that we can be tracked by our digital footprint. And if the Representative from NY thinks he San send dick pics around and not get busted... He's an moron. That sort of hubris has no place in public service. Unfortunately, he's not the only one that is affected by that particular disease.

Budget battles... Apparently the US is about to hit it's debt ceiling. And the republicans are blocking a raise of said limit. I find this a bit hypocritical, since it was raised 5 or 6 years under the last administration. But hey, now we need to reign in spending. Or just spending on things we don't want to send money on. In all fairness, the dems aren't really going gangbusters on cutting meaningfully on the budget. I really hope this gets fixed, but im less than optimistic. Here's a simple plan. Quit spending money on stupid things ( studying migration patterns of rodents) and make people pay their taxes. Dn't raise them per se, but close the loopholes that allow a highly profitable company pay $0 in corporate taxes. I think that's fair. Hell I'm willing to kick in a $1000 more a year if it means the fire station a block away stays well trained and equipped and the bridges I cross on the way to work won't fall down.

Alright, enough of that. More about me. A few weeks ago I was able to have some much needed Grace face time. I spent the weekend in ATL (which incidentally had been rated the Best Man City in America by Maxim magazine) and was able to see some friends and do the general hanging out I enjoy so much. Other than the gathering at the Pollard Palace, there was lunch with Ginger upstairs and to the left, some quality with Jersey over beers and baseball, a nice quiet evening with Maggie with takeout and deep conversations, cheap Braves baseball with free Ludacris to follow, and a family visit for my nieces 11th birthday.

All good times. I'm still really pondering the condo in the city, but for now I'm on hold due to potential of an unscheduled financial outlay that may be in my future... more on that later.

This past week I've been looking back over my shoulder a bit, thinking about some of the good ole days. As Billy Joel said "the good ole days weren't always good," but it sure seems that way. I think there's a few triggers that got me thinking about this. I watched a special on SNL from the 90's, a few of the musical selections really brought back memories. I've always been a fairly musically inclined person, and tend to associate events and places with what was playing on my radio/portable cassette/portable cd player. Remember those? The seem so archaic now.

Anyway, listening to the skits I remember laughing about with friends in school on Monday, or a particular song that brought a flashback of that never ending bus ride from nowhere USA to the next nowhere USA. Also thoughts of old friends, some who I don't talk to enough now, or who aren't here to talk to. The days of living at home and making too much money for any mid 20something should while having fun at work. Sundays at Fellinis or Friday's at Bar in Buckhead. Saturdays at the Chamber.

Another catalyst for this nostalgia comes from a book I'm reading. It's about Dave Matthews Band (go figure). And with the walkl back through their history I find myself thinking back to when I first heard a particular song and how I related it to the high and low points of my life. Apparently, I'm not the only one that does that since the book has tons of testimonials from similar people. Of course the memories of 28 concerts jumble together. The first one way back in 1998, the most recent one last year, my last "date" with my ex-fake girlfriend Grace.

So, for the last 13 years that has been a staple of my summers... A random date and a DMB concert. This year, I have no plan to see them, since they aren't really touring. I'm a little put of about that. Those concerts were always little breaks from real world, and no matter how bad a mood I was in before the shows, I always came away feeling a lot better about life. There was a time when I could escape the real world for months.... Ah Drum Corps tours. No real responsibilities... My day scheduled down to the minute, meals provided, no concern about getting from point a to point b. Surrounded with friends (almost too surrounded at times) and only having to focus on the shows. It was nice. Days before cell phones and the interweb.

This morning, as I was streaming Dave FM from ATL through my stereo via my Apple TV (recent purchase, I blame Jersey for hooking me on this). I decided I was over seeing the generic screensaver and created my own. It involved using my Flickr account (which I didn't know I had, but comes with my Yahoo! account) and a few of my fave pictures from the past decade +). Its like a walk down memory lane. If you're interested in seeing whats made the cut, look up swmellodees on There's only one album.

Oh well, time to look forward. Now seems to be one of those trying times. In the last week I've spent more time in doctors offices than I have in the last decade. Seems I'm not invincible, and maybe I shouldn't have been loading airplanes by myself all those years ago. Or at least I shouldn't have been on a treadmill 3 weeks ago. That's the start.

If you read this far you're obviously either bored or really interested in my life. So I'll share:

After a jog/walk on a tread mill for a couple miles, I immediately felt sore and hurty. And not the normal hurt, worse than usual. So. I took a week off, got to feeling better and went back for some elliptical action, which treats my knees better. Apparently the muscles weren't as healed up as I hope and I was again hobbling about. Then, while brushing my teeth 2 Thursday's back, I straightened up after a spit in the since and felt a pop in my back... Immediately I grabbed the sink and waited for pain to start shooting from somewhere. It never came, and off to work I went.

Through the night I started feeling a little numbness in my posterior, and though maybe I'm sitting to long. Standing and walking didn't help. So when I got home I called my doc and made an appointment, the next available one was Tuesday. Ok. Off to sleep I went. I woke up that afternoon feeling worse. Still numb and no my lower back was screaming at me whenever I moved a certain direction. By certain I mean any. So I thought a trip to doc in a box (urgent care) was warranted, he diagnosed me with muscle strain, issued some muscle relaxers and pain meds. Neither of which I could really use immediately. So it was Advil and off to work I went. Luckily since I never take pain meds, one advil usually knocks out anything I feel. I've been told I'm an idiot for not using pain meds more liberally, but I prefer to just endure it.. After all pain doesn't hurt, it just feels different. Right?

I had plans to visit Atlanta that weekend, but when I woke up Saturday I could barely walk and numbness had spread... now on my right thigh and right foot. I reluctantly canceled the much anticipated weekend, too the drugs and spent the next 20 hours pretty much laid up on the couch or bed sleeping.

Tuesday rolls around and while the muscle pain seemed to mostly be waning, the tingling and numbness still persevered. After relaying to my doc the symptoms, he ordered a blood test and an lower back MRI, arranged for Friday. After work I headed to the hospital to Ne body scanned. I kept wonder why everyone asked if I was clausterphobic, now I know why. Turns out I'm not. The tech told me to expect the results to be at the docs in 2 business days. On my way home I called my doc an made another appointment for this coming Tuesday. Then off to sleep I went. 2 hours later, my doctors office is calling me. I wake up and answer to be told my MRI results are back and doc wants to see me as soon as possible.

This can't be good. So I roust up and head over in a near state of panic expecting to be told I need a new spine immediately. When I got to the office I had to wait about 45 minutes to be seen, which actually helped calm me down a little ( though my blood pressure readings seem to contradict that) thinking if it was bad they'd be waiting with an ambulance.

Finally the news, a couple of discs in my lower spine were bulging a little, but a third one had actually broke off a chunk that had pressed on several nerves and I had a sever spinal stenosis. I'm not really sure what all this meant, but severe sounds bad. He also said he wanted me to see a neurosurgeon that afternoon. Yeah, can't be good. Oh by the way your blood work shows you have abnormally high liver enzyme rate... but that can wait till next week. In other news my cholesterol is good, my blood pressure is normally good ( that day it was reading a little high but we'll not worry about it).

So he called the neurosurgeon, of the two one is on a mission trip and the other was in emergency surgery all afternoon. So he got me in to see a PA, and off I went to doc office number 3 for the day. There were more questions and history and finally the PA came in and did an exam which involved a lot of poking, prodding, and pushing me. Then she explained what the MRI results were in more specific terms.

Three of my discs are dehydrated, one had a chunk break off and that's floating in the spinal cavity and causing the stenosis (which means narrowing, and I had thought they were two separate issues from the previous conversation with my doctor... Not his fault, he's not a neurosurgeon). There had been some situational improvement from the fisprst visit, which was good. And I seem not to have any issues with my motor skills, also good. So it seems some sensory nerves were being impacted. I also learned that your spinal cord stops a lot higher in your spine than I though... again good news.

Then came the "here's what we can do" conversation. The Physician Assistant had talked to the actual surgeon (who also had seen my MRI) they had agreed that right now, I was not in an emergent situation. So we'd start with some medications to see if we can get some improvement. Or, if I wanted to, we could schedule a spine surgery. I went with the medication. However, if I start having issues with motor skills, like moving my leg, or bladder control issues, I should immediately get to an ER. So home I went, and a quick nap (try sleeping after that... It takes a high level of exhaustion... Luckily I had achieved that level) before work.

So all night at work, I'm moving and walking, just to check if I still can normally. Bathroom visits were hyper analyzed to try and remember if this was how I normally peed (have you ever noticed your urinary habits before? Me neither. So knowing it's normal or not wasn't the easiest thing to determine).

I started the meds the neuros issued that might, and by the time I got home I was feeling a little better. A lot of the pain in the areas has gone. Still some numbness. And I'm told to not do anything physically exerting or any lifting. So I have been ordered by my doctor to be lazy. I can do that!

So after near panic attacks Friday, I'm feeling better and hopefully on the way to a non surgical recovery. Just incase, I have a down payment sitting in saving account for either a condo or a new lower back. I prefer the condo.

So, there you have it. That's what's happening. I'm not looking for sympathy, just an update as to why I may be a bit scarce over for a little while. I do however appreciate the good thoughts many have sent my way. I'll gladly accept them :-). The hardest parts have been A) not assuming the worst based on WebMD results (stroke and paralysis) B) having to cancel plans for things I've really really been looking forward to and C) being open and admitting that things aren't right to the doctors who ask more and more personal questions. I'm now over C and stopped checking on A. B is a work in progress.

Life is currently in progress, I'll make updates as it happens. Thanx for reading!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still looking for my muse.

I tried to start this yesterday, but quickly found myself rambling pointlessly and with no direction. Seems to be a current theme in my life. SO, I'm going to try and focus and at least make some coherent moves in a specific direction... at least with the blog.

For anyone who is wondering, the whole Dubai thing didn't work out. The stumbling block was the compensation. I'm a high dolla' ho! There were some other considerations but the money was the starting and stopping point. I'm both happy and disappointed that it didn't work out. Happy that I don't have to pack up and leave my pals behind to move to a desert (though to be fair it's a very nice desert, they've done some nice things with the decor). Disappointed because of a lot of the same reasons. I'm not packing up and moving to an exotic(ish) land where new and interesting experiences abound.

So, as a friend so accurately put it, I'm still "trapped". It's not a bad prison to be in, as we at work refer to it as the "golden handcuffs". It's just not where I want to be, both geographically and career wise. I'm paid well, but I'm forever to be in the same position. Why? Two reasons I see immediately.. I have neither the background nor the attitude to move up here. Example, I didn't start at 18 throwing boxes, then drive a van, then go to "Brown U", then go into a management position, and then be moved around (usually the Northeast US) from job to job, then manage to kiss enough ass to be put in charge of airline operations with little or no actual experience working for an airline. Sounds like an implausible career path?? Nope, our new VP of Airline Ops.

The second reason, attitude.. well. I don;t see a lot of integrity as you climb the ladder. Sure my immediate level of supervision are full of smart and good folks. The level of bother decrease significantly above that. I just don't get that either, be the person you are all the time, why do you have to change personalities completely when the door closes behind you? Odd. Then again, maybe I'm just a little bitter from near furloughing and being questioned repeatedly for decisions I made about a flight that have a clear and precise regulation saying "don't fly there".

So... something else has come up... and we'll see. Though the idea of moving to this particular town is ugh. I mean, my chance of being murdered statistically increases beyond my comfort zone... and I have a huge comfort zone. I mean, meandering off the beaten path in Bangkok or back alleys of Cambodia seems less threatening. But at least there, I have a previous experience with how the company works and have 7 years built up toward retirement funding already. SO I got that going for me... which is nice.

The other thing I'm trying to figure out is.. how the hell am I broke all the time. For the last month I've been back on full pay (no longer having money deducted to cover a month off without pay). And even had a raise thrown in. But.. seriously, I'm like flirting with zero balances on my accounts. I think I have most of it pinned down to recouping vacation expenses for the last month. I refused to tap into savings (ironically the savings account was originally set up to for paying for that vacation but I changed my mind as to the purpose right before leaving). That international roaming on T-Mobile nearly killed me. Lesson learned there... even though you may be waiting for an important phone call (which never came BTW), buy a local sim card and just call in to your voice mail.

At this point, I stopped writing this to go do something else, and I completely forgot where I was going from here on out. Instead of faking it and starting over, I'll just ramble some more.

This weekend I'm heading south again. G-Ho is home on an RnR trip from 'Nam. SO that promises to be a fun time. I also think there's some family stuff that has to be handled. And that's kind of a blah. But at least everyone seems to be doing well. Mom's new place had a new sky light installed during the recent tornado outbreak. SHe neither asked for or wanted the skylight, and turns out now there's a ton of repair work to be done. Luckily, she had yet to sell or rent the old house so we have a place at least to keep stuff, and her.

There's a couple other new projects in the works, (part of what I had stopped writing to go do). That will be published as soon as my creative staff ha a chance to review the materials. So, look forward to that.

And now, it's time to put away laundry and get mentally prepared for work (is stand in a corner for thinking outside the box). But I'll be thinking of someplace else...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gotta keep rollin', gotta keep ridin', gotta find what's right

Some days you're just cruising along on the road of life, and it's honestly looking a little boring. You kind of know which way your going, having seen the map before. You don't necessarily like the destination that seems to be inevitable, but you know at some point a junction will come into view, and an opportunity to change directions will present itself. That's life. Occasionally while you're busy looking for that junction and trying to scope out where that turn will take you, a fork pops up in front of you and you didn't even see it coming.

I've seen to have hit that fork. I've seen it before, however last time it led to a dead end. This time???

So, while I've been toying with finding a place in ATL and resuming the commute or buying something in Louisville and making it a more permanent home, exterior options have presented themselves. Quite unexpectedly at that.

As I was making arrangements to view potential residences in the dirty south, and thinking "Hrrmm, I got a bit of a plan going", I get an email that suddenly has me reconsidering it all. And it's a BIG change.

So, as we all do when we come up with life decisions, I sought out input from those close to me. It's amazing how varied the opinions can be. The complete spectrum is reached, from "I think it would be a great experience and you should go for it" to "I don't think I like the idea of you moving to the other side of the planet" (Ironically that came from the other side of the planet... albeit from a temporary resident).

I think it shows that I have some great and varied friends to make some input (and at least one family member who's cool... but she's trying to move to Oz so...). There's obviously some financial considerations that have to be met before proceeding. And though I thought I made those clear in previous conversations, you never know.

And it would be a boon for one of my planned new endeavors. If I was to do some serious travel writing, the opportunities this move would open are immense. Either way, as soon as I settle on a blog name and get going with being grammatically correct for the first time since my freshman year of college, I'll be making trips here and there and chronicalling them in a way that will hopefully become a source of income. Which will allow for more here and there travels.

SO, next week at some point I should be getting a phone call and the negotiations will start. Again, I'm kind of apprehensive that it will be financially gainful for me.. I mean I gots bills to pay and as we say in Amurica... "It's all about the Benjamines"... or in this case all about the Makhtoums. One of the things that keeps running through my head is a quote that I was thinking of using for my blog name...

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

At any rate, I'm moving forward with what is plan A, a place of my own in the ATL. I'm headed down Monday to check out a potential short sale property. I do have some reservations (like can I afford it and will the FHA buy that my primary residence is in a different city than my job). But the price is too good and the location too nice to pass up on at least checking it out further. And, as Grace pointed out, it's only about a mile from the Brick Store Pub. What an amazing coincidence!

So, stay tuned for news on.... something. At the very least a new blog to read. And thank you to everyone that's listened to me waffle on things of late, I appreciate and value all the input. If you would all get together and come to a unanimous consensus it would be easier deciding, but then again what fun would it be to have friends that all thought exactly the same.

I suppose it's time to go cook up some lunch and get ready for work.... ugh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Listing to Port

For the past few weeks I've been feeling a little like a boat tossed about on a stormy sea.  That feeling seems to have started months ago, prior to my jaunt to the far side of the world.  I guess it started with the self critical rehashing of my last job seeking endeavor.  I didn't feel positive when I left, and thus I felt even less enthused about much else.  It's no secret I'm not the most contented person here in Louisville.  And I really blame myself for that more than anything.

When I came here almost four years ago things looked really rosy.  Major airline, good pay, and a love interest.  The realities of the work environment set in slowly.  I work with some great people, but the corporate attitude leaves something to be desired.  It has to do with my lack of tolerance for disingenuous people.... especially when they are my "superiors". 

The bigger issue though, since work stays at the office when I walk out the door, is the social calendar. The first years I was here I wasn't actually here. My life was still 450 miles away.  The year of having weekends off found me running to the airport on Friday afternoon and jetting south, either Atlanta or Birmingham.  Then I took a weekend midnight shift, which was a dearth to a social calendar. I did however make the acquaintance of a few people outside work, but really who rocks out on a Wednesday night in Louisville?

So, even though my drivers license says I'm a Kentucky resident and my tax returns list this as my primary address, I never fully moved here.  The blessing (or curse) of free flying allowed for the jet setting life.  Now the question comes, do I want to maintain that?  

The last couple weeks I've been halfheartedly looking at potential homes to buy here.  Unfortunately, the housing market hasn't tanked in the way it has in ATL.  And I have high requirements, sort of champagne tastes on a beer budget.  But with some budgeting  I could make it work to have a place here and there.  Though... For how long?  The prospects of satisfactory employment in Atlanta have all but dried up. 

This was on my mind for a good part of my jaunt around Southeast Asia, and since I've been home.  I was thinking of just making Louisville the home, but this past weekend I went back to Atlanta for the first time in 2 months.  And suddenly, the draw has returned stronger than ever.  

I think it comes with the ability to call up some friends on moments notice and suddenly we are gathering somewhere.  Or maybe it's the fun that is a Braves games in the summer, or GT football in the fall (with a sprinkle of some Auburn football). I'm sure once the Lewii and TanJoe return the attraction will grow in intensity. Even though they're settled into the old, married people routines. :-P

There's the attraction of close by family, even though of late that's been the cause of more stress than help.  Nothing terrible, just years of avoiding certain truths that are no longer ignorable. I am lucky though, everyone worries about how I feel.  I feel fine.

This weekend found me at Turner field with Jersey, both of us resplendent in our new Braves jerseys, numerous visits to Taco Mac with Jersey, Charity, Genna, Erika, and Ed at various different times, lunch with a gleeful Maggie (more on that later), and the most surprising meet up with some one from way back when.  You know, back in the day when I went to Sunday school.  I guess I haven't seen Ginger since I graduated high school.  And through the miracle of Facebook, we ended up meeting for food, drinks, and drag queens.  And it was a blast.

Now, lunch with Maggie and Jack (who turned 1 year old today!!) was inspiring.  Jack is looking great, and given his less than ideal start at life, is a modern miracle of pediatric cardiology.  After lunch at Thai Spice (Maggie's choice...  I assured her after a month in Asia I could handle more Thai food because it's amazing), we did some shopping. Since momma needed to find clothes, I was babysitter.  Of course, all the ladies there commented how adorable Jack was and asked me all about him, and of course I just shrugged my shoulders. "How old is he?" *shrug*. " He looks like he's got some sun already, where?" *shrug*. I'm sure the random strangers believe me to be the worst father ever.  Luckily, I'm not the father...  Not that I'm opposed (totally) to kids, or that Maggie wouldn't be a fine wife...  But I'm just not a big enough douchebag to compare to the real father. But at any rate, the reactions were fun. 

And while at lunch, Maggie proposed an idea I find intriguing, and slightly frightening.  After some further research and encouragement, I'm seriously contemplating her proposal. Look for details soon.  It should be fun, and potentially lucrative.  But I mostly think it'll be fun.  

Now it's back to the grind.  Today is laundry day.  With the exception of a load I flew with me to Atlanta (and thanx big time to Jersey for not only for the bed to sleep but use of the laundry facilities) I have about 2 months worth of clothes to wash.  My apartment is a disaster area, and laundry is the first step.  Returning home to a non functional dryer allowed for the laundry pile to reach Himilayan heights.  And now, there's a leaky kitchen sink to deal with.  Well mostly for the landlords to deal with.  But the mess of wet cardboard under the sink was mine to handle.  I'm also getting back on the diet.  While still way to the good side, I'm putting on weight.  And I don't like it.  The new schedule, as much as I hate midnights all the time, will help with it's consistancy.  If only I can get my sleeping  pattern down.

I suppose I shuld get back to the laundry, since apparently it won't put itself away...  I know I tried to wait it out. I have a list of other things I need to do...  Starting with learning to be a better proofreader.