Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hero on State Street

So today I was doing some heavy simulating from La Guardia to Albany International. I had set up the game to handle as much air traffic as it allows and I thought, "What better venue is there than New York City to test this unprecedented level of simulated air traffic?" Well, Atlanta, Chicago, LAX, Heathrow...

Whatevs, NYC it is. So I took off from La Guardia and headed up the Hudson River Valley. There was, as I expected, traffic everywhere. But, after I left the NYC metropolitan area, I seemed to be all on my own again.

That is, until I started my approach to Albany. There was an MD-83 operated by Soar Airlines ahead of me. It was pretty neat to see another airplane making the approach, and actually it helped me to better position my own approach. That's one thing about the sims - they are perfect in everything they do. Here's the screenshot of my approach immediately following the MD-83. Then, I became concerned because the sim was taking way too long to get off the runway. I could see it still on the runway as I made my final. I mean, I was literally over Albany-Shaker Road and Soar had still not exited Runway 1.

That was when the Air Traffic Controller radioed that I do a go-around. For all those non-aviation enthusiasts out there, that means power up and try again.

So I did, but I was very upset because my approach to that point had been near flawless. And, I also don't like doing go-arounds. I have done some in the past, but always due to my own messed up approaches. This was the first one that was caused by external factors.

I flew out towards Schenectady and then south towards Guilderland. I was cleared to land a second time, and I joked back to the Air Traffic Controller, "Yeah, that's what you said last time." Just kidding, you can't actually make small talk on this game. But I thought that.

My second approach was a bit more erratic. I gave myself very little room to maneuver so when I was pretty much over The Desmond when I was finally lined up over the runway, so there was no room for error. Touchdown was right on the center line, and since there was an airplane following my landing, I did the courteous thing and got off the runway as soon as possible. This is what the whole ordeal ended up looking like.
I felt like that dude from the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson after it was all over. Good thing I was quick on my...laptop.

I taxied to gate Bravo 9 - that's B9 for the laymen - where I had a view of the jerk that forced the go-around.
We fought. She won.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Crafty like a fox

In high school, I was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program. Basically, it's like AP on steroids. Students in IB have to take all their classes at an advanced level, complete a 4,000 word essay and 150 hours of community service prior to graduation. It was nuts, and unfortunately, I was very lazy during the high school years so it was doubly stressful.
As part of the program, students had to decide on two subjects to take at a Higher Level, as opposed to Standard Level. So, get this: Standard Level was already at the AP-type level. By extension, you can imagine how difficult the Higher Level classes were.

My choices for Higher Level were Physics, Chemistry, Math or .... Art. I got a C- in regular Physics, so that was out. Ditto for Chemistry. I figured if I really dedicated myself I could pass Higher Level Math. So, I went to talk to the math teacher and he refused to let me in the class, citing the laziness I had demonstrated in Trig. Thanks a lot, asshole. That meant I HAD to go into Higher Level Art. Luckily, I ended up in a hockey league with that same teacher and ... did absolutely nothing about it.

By the way, I suck at art.

So, I made my way through Higher Level Art for two years. I had to come up with some BS vision statement for my art and then complete 20 "masterpieces." So, I designed this whole vision centered on airplanes and cities and thunderstorms. Some day I may feel comfortable sharing pictures of my work on this forum, but that day is not today.

What I will share today is some artsy fartsy crafting that actually did go pretty well. I did this at summer camp two years ago. Whenever my campers were at woodshop, I would be there right along with them and I worked on this airplane all summer long.
It's my life's masterpiece. It even has a landing light.
There are some problems with it. The main one is that the tail is so heavy that the plane is constantly in a nose-up position. That's not necessarily a problem because it looks active and engaging that way. It just means that I cannot pla ... err ... never mind.

So, maybe I was not ready for prime time artwork back in the day. I was just a late bloomer. Do you take back all those things you said about my art, Mr. Hubka? Do you? Do you?

Breaking the ice with Jon & Kate

When I start new jobs, one of my perennial concerns is about having to learn to socialize with a whole new group of people. I am what my sister calls a homosapienaphobic - that is a person with an intense fear of people.

At the government, I work on a team with five committees. Each committee, with few exceptions, has an analyst and an assistant, and there are two counsels that split the committees by issue area. Out of all these positions, I am the only boy. There were two other boys not so long ago, but they have gone away via retirement and, most recently, promotion.

This demographic reality significantly affected the co-worker socialization curve. I struggle talking with the girls I know, much less with a pack of unknown ones. Recently, I have started to break the ice with the pack. I have started eating lunch with them in the conference room. Mostly, it was terrifying. For starters, they have no interest in discussing the UA basketball team, or the episode of Seinfeld that was on the night before. They care about pink, chipmunks, design shows and ladybugs.

I realized if I was going to tame the pack, I was going to have to do some recon. I researched subjects, studied film, and prepared memos. And, at last, I was able to wow them all with my surprisingly accurate and detailed knowledge of Jon & Kate Plus Eight and Desperate Housewives. That's right, ladies, I am a dude that knows the various moods and temperments of Cara and Maddy. And I know that Preston Scavo is a terror.

Did I sell out to be accepted by the pack? No doubt about it. At least now I get nods of acknowledgement when I pass a member of the pack in the hallway. Before they all looked at me like I had lupus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

All I want in life is a good sandwich

You just can't get a good sandwich around Albany anymore, ya know?

So, on Monday, since Diane and I were in a mood for a good, hearty sandwich, we took a road trip through three states (New Yawk, Taxachusetts - I kid, I kid, it's Massachusetts - and Connecticut) in search of the perfect deli dinner. Goodbye Albany, NY. Hello Torrington, CT.

Yup, that's right - Salerno's Import & Deli had just the stuff I was looking for: a Godfather with The Works.It was no accident that we ended up in the armpit of New England known as Torrington. That is, after all, the site of Camp Wah-Nee, where I spent six glorious summers bringing up young campers with proper manners and excellent writing skills. My time there was lovely, until I was banned forever from the camp by the evil ogre who owns it for choosing to go work at a different, nicer, gentler camp in 2007. And that was after two summers as a Group Leader and twice decorated Color War Lieutenant.

So, since the ogre would have probably prosecuted me if I stepped into the camp, we were satisfied with looking at the sign at the driveway. And Diane did not have any bail money on her, so that made the decision much easier. Always carry bail money, people. Just kidding, that was a joke.
Salerno's, by extension, has a bit of a cult following among the staff at Wah-Nee. So much so, in fact, that when I sent Mad Dog a picture of the delectable eatery, he immediately responded with incredulity and, in my opinion, a hint of jealousy.

So, would I spend around 3 hours driving for a 20 minute meal again?

You betcha! Not only is the sandwich worth it, but I am addicted to driving because it reminds me so much of flying for some reason. By the way, look at all those enormous icicles on the side of the mountain. Neat-o, right? And kids, don't try taking cell phone pictures while you're driving.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson, on tape

Goes to show you that everywhere you go you are being watched.

Surveillance cameras caught US Air 1549's crash landing on the Hudson. By the looks of it, the landing was so perfect that the pilot could have been trying to land on molton hot lava and everybody still would have made it.

Historical, in a way

Tomorrow, the United States will inaugurate the first African-American President in the country's history. As Barack Obama was making his way to Washington DC on his historic reenactment of Lincoln's train trip, my mother called and was somewhat shocked that I was not following the minute-by-minute details of the train ride.

"It's historic," she said.

Yes, I suppose she's right. It's going to be the first time in history that we have a black President. But, frankly, I did not volunteer for Barack Obama, or vote for him, because he is black. I was so committed to his candidacy because he, quite simply, was the best candidate.
I had two opportunities to vote for Barack Obama. Once in the primaries, and then again in November. The first time I supported him in a losing cause here in New York. Hillary Clinton absolutely schooled him, which is to be expected since she was the very popular and effective junior Senator from this state. I knew Obama stood no chance of winning the popular vote during the primaries here, but I voted anyway because I believed he was a better candidate than Clinton.

Ditto for the general election. Even though Obama certainly did not need my vote to carry New York, I gave it to him anyway, as well as a dozen or so votes I got out in the greater Carbondale, PA metropolitan area.

I do not mean to belittle the sense of relief of so many African-Americans who are genuinely moved by the election of Obama. However, I'll be here in my corner thinking that Barack Obama's presidency is historic in that he is the most insipirational President to ever be sworn in. It will be historic in that he is perhaps the most intelligent President who has ever served. And, I hope to be able to say in eight years, the his administration will be historic in that it has been the most successful ever.

Oh, yeah, and he happened to be black, too.

All the best, Mr. President. I for one can't wait for you to get started.

Friday, January 16, 2009

All this hero nonsense

For over a year, pretty much all I ate was oatmeal, rice and beet salad. Don't ask, I was going through a phase. As it turns out, I can no longer stand even the thought of oatmeal. Why, you might ask? Because something repeated over and over and over again will eventually start to lose meaning. I ate so much oatmeal that were I to eat it now, I would taste nothing.

This phenomenon translates into other areas of life. For example, as a camp counselor I would never raise my voice over "little things" such as bickering or whining. I wanted to save my loudness for moments of imminent danger, such as when a few of my campers thought it would be neat-o to jump from the rafters onto their beds. I did not concur, proceeded to raise my voice, and they listened because they knew I was serious.

I bring this all up now in light of Captain CB Sullenberger being called a hero for his daring and miraculous landing on the Hudson yesterday. In todays world, the word "hero" gets thrown around way too loosely and has lost meaning do to its promiscuity. Mr. Sullenberger is not in fact a hero, but rather a really good pilot.A professional athlete, for example, is not a hero, unless he or she does something heroic - playing a sport really well does not count. Death also does not a hero make, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Another thing - doing your job does not make you a hero. Police officers, firefighters, and the like have all chosen valiant professions requiring courage and a commitment to the greater good and safety of their community. But when they do their job, they did a job well done. I do my job at work pretty darn well and nobody's calling me a friggin' hero when I write a glorious memo or draft a brilliant bill.

Mr. Sullenberger's job is to fly airplanes and land them - and that's what he did. In actuality, flight itself is such a daunting task that literally every pilot of every successful flight ought then to be considered heroic. But that would be asinine. So, Mr. Sullenberger, commendations on a job well done. You are a damn fine pilot. Not a hero, but a damn fine pilot nonetheless.

So, World, I beg that we start choosing our words carefully and stop being hero whores. That way, when somebody does deserves to be called a hero, I don't roll my eyes at them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Birds of mass destruction

I do not know if video exists of the crash landing that happened this evening in the Hudson River, but I would certainly be interested in seeing what a water landing looks like where the airplane remains intact afterwards.
When I heard about this story, I immediately thought back to a video of a plane landing in the ocean with much different results. Granted, the landing seen on the video would have also been a terrible failure on a runway.

Nevertheless, the video highlights how destructive water can be upon impact, thereby revealing how ridiculously amazing the landing of US Air 1549 must have been.

By the way, I understand the glamour of landing on the Hudson, but we also had an incident occurring closer to home. An Air Canada commuter jet made an emergency landing at Albany International today, blew out all four tires in the process, and closed the airport since it finally came to a stop at the intersection of the airport's only two runways.

What is it this week with airplanes?

Of course you must know by now about that wacko that faked his own death by setting his Piper on autopilot and bailing out. What did that plane ever do to you, sir? In response to this atrocity, I'm starting my own advocacy group: People for the Ethical Treatment of Airplanes, which will also be known as PETA.

New digs

I was relocated today to better and brighter stomping grounds. Unlike other moves that provide the opportunity to rid yourself of loads of unwanted junkiness, an inter-office move actually reveals MORE junk, usually stuff you had completely forgotten, or attempted to completely forget due to painful memories.

Nevertheless, I found a spot for all my stuff.
And, when I turn around, this is what I see. For those non-Albanians out there, that's the State Capitol on the right and the State Education Department on the left.
Ta-ta for now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Airport Tycooning

It seems like they have simulation games for everything. I was thinking about the good ol' days this past week and I remember that my debate partner in high school had an awesome game on his computer where you built and managed an airport Sim City-style. I must get my hands on this game, me thinks - mostly because Fligh Sim X is too powerful to run on my laptop.

I went over to the local electronics and electronics accessory store and failed, but alas, that's why we have that little thing called the Internets. And, behold, the object of my soon to be obsession:
Look at these screenshots. I'll have more to say after I actually play the game. I was too young and innocent and relatively uninterested in airports or simulations when I was first introduced to this game. But, as somewhat of a simulation expert now, I will be sure to offer my cunning and stellar commentary after I perform some market research.

Of course, one of the potential pitfalls of this discovery is that I will soon start simulating every aspect of my life. Maybe somebody out there has come up with "Night Owls Hockey 2009: Crosschecking for Life" or "Seinfeld Marathoning: Not that there's anything wrong with that" or "P&C: Sound Basic Education With a Vengeance."

The Stupid States of America

If you had to guess which US state had the highest teen pregnancy rate, which one would you guess it was?

Probably one of the Blue, liberal, no family value states, right? It would have to be, those Blue States have no morals, the teens just go out, get meth, and do it all night long. It would probably have to be a state like Taxachusetts, or Connectisucks.

Well, you would be wrong. The winner is...M-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. Good Ol' Mississip'. In the Deep South - a state where W. could still probably get 65 percent of the vote. Bible country.

And those goony liberal states, you ask? They have the LOWEST teen birth rates. Hippie parents and all.

It does not stop there - the states in purple on the map below are the ones with the highest child poverty rates in the US.

Besides New Mexico and New York, what do all of those states have in common? Let me give you a hint: John McCain won those states with 54, 55, 59, 59, 57, 61, 52, 57, 58, and 56 percent of the vote.

I'm just getting started. Look at the average IQ by state - here the darker shades correlate with higher IQ's. Notice a pattern?

So basically we a situation where the dumbest states in the country have the highest poverty levels and teen birth rates. Yet those same areas continue to espouse their moral superiority and vote en masse for a political party that panders to the wealthy.

I'm done feeling bad for you, idiot states.

Monday, January 5, 2009

He's still my speaker

Later this month, Coloradoans will lose one of the finest public servants in the State's history. Current State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver), who is term-limited, will pass on the gavel to his Rep. Terrance Carroll (D-Denver). Democrats owe a lot to the out-going Speaker. He assumed leadership of the chamber with a relatively slim 7-seat majority - he is handing it off with a much healthier 11-seat advantage for the Democrats.

I had the honor to serve the Speaker as the Historian of the House during the first two years of his tenure. In that role, I was in a position to observe every single minute of debate on the House floor, and got to witness first hand as the Speaker moved Referendum C through the legislative process in 2005. It was that policy debate that inspired me to attend graduate school.

There are far too many fond memories of the Speaker to recount on here today, but I will share a few of them.The Speaker had very sensitive hearing. While Speakers before him had always allowed the members to speak at will during introductions and announcements in the morning, he demanded that the members take all conversations outside or sit quietly at their desks. This did not sit well with everyone, especially the Representatives - of both parties - he called out by name to shush.

I was caught up in all of this. You see, I have the annoying habit of clicking my pens. One day during Third Reading, I was clicking away when I heard the Speaker call me over. "What an honor," I thought. He handed me a note. No doubt some important message to deliver or fact to look up. Wrong. I opened the note and saw that the Speaker had scribbled if I could please stop clicking my pen.

He was less discrete about asking the members to be quiet. He wen about that by gaveling like a mad-man and looking over the chamber until people understood what he meant. Unfortunately for the Front Desk staff, we always had our back to the Speaker and the first time he gave out one of his famous gavelings, it caught us all by surprise. So much so that Marilyn, our Chief Clerk fell off her chair. As she was scrambling to pick herself, and her chair, up, the Speaker scolded the Members, "See what you made me do to Marilyn."

At this point, Marilyn was bright red and the entire chamber had erupted in laughter.
On another occasion, he gaveled, then said, "I just had to get it out of my system." That prompted Rep. Al White (R-Winter Park) to come to the podium and remark, "Mr. Speaker, with that gavel, you got it out of my system."

After a bill that would have authorized the Colorado DMV to issue Denver Broncos license plates passed with a 52-12 margin, the Speaker announced the result as such, "With 52 aye votes and 12 Raider fans, the bill is passed."

The Speaker was also good at taking jokes. In 2005, the Speaker got an especially awful haircut. Rep. Pommer (D-Boulder) got a picture of the Speaker with the new do and had a transparency made to display on the amendment board, which, incidentally, I was in charge of. The day the Speaker revealed his new haircut was, tragically for him, the same day the House was slated to debate a new bill regulating hair dressers and barbers. Rep. Pommer hatched a scheme with me. He said he would come to the microphone to make a statement in support of the bill, but ask for a technical amendment at which point I would display the picture of the Speaker.

The stunt was an enormous success. The Speaker was in the back of the room for the stunt and I could see him laughing it off. Rep. Pommer got some cracks in with the picture on the screen. He said that the Speaker's barber had a 2-for-1 special on that fateful day, but since the Speaker was on his own he had decided to get both haircuts himself.
My favorite memory of Speaker Romanoff, however, was one day after Session had ended. My carpool friends and I were stranded because our ride had incurred a flat. We had no recourse and were hoping somebody would drive from Ft. Collins to come pick us up. As we were walking into the Capitol to go use the phones, we ran into the Speaker. He asked us what we were still doing at work. We told him our ordeal and he said, "Well, you know, I have AAA. Let me call and see if they'll come take care of you."

They would, but there was a catch: the Speaker would have to stick around to sign the paperwork. So, the Speaker waited with us, three guys fresh out of college, for an hour in the Capitol cafeteria until our car was set to go. And he never complained. He asked us questions, told us stories, and was as pleasant as could be.

He even let us in on a little secret: he had a date that night that he was really nervous about. He called the lucky girl right there in front of us to let her know that he was going to be a little late. I could not believe my ears. The Speaker of the House had taken the time to help us out on a night that he had a hot date.This last week, the Speaker could have been appointed to the US Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO). Governor Ritter chose not to appoint him, I think, to the detriment of all Coloradoans. The State is much better off because of Andrew Romanoff, that's why he'll always be my Speaker.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Foggy McFoggerton

My mom and sister flew in for the holidays. They were supposed to arrive on Saturday, December 20, to which Mark said, "That's good, all the bad weather is supposed to come in on Friday."
That was wishful thinking. They were laid over in Baltimore overnight, had to fly backwards to Cincy International, which is actually in Northern Kentucky, and finally made it in on Sunday in this...
That is the view of the Runway 1/19 area from Albany-Shaker Road. I could barely see the road - what must it have looked like from the cockpit? We are all pretty good fliers in my family - that is, we never become scared or freaked out. But when the plane touched down and seemed to take a bit longer than usual to slow down, my mom reportedly said, "We're going to end up on Central Avenue."

On the way over, Diane and I discussed the possibility of potentially investing in some sort of warm bevies. I insisted on stopping before we got to the airport, thinking that there was nowhere to buy said products at ALB unless you were travelling. Diane resisted, and bet that there was a coffee shop accessible to non-travelers. I had forgotted about this little hole in the wall...
Fail. But at least the lost bet went to a good cause.