Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

28 December 2009

Strange Things We Pilots See From The Air

There are a lot of military bases in the northwest Florida area. Right here in my home town we have the Pensacola Naval Air Station (summer home for the Blue Angels!), which still has active training squadrons. Nearby Whiting Field is where the bulk of the Navy’s “primary” fixed-wing and helicopter training takes place. (That’s where the newbies get their first real flight training.) Just to our east is the Air Force’s Hurlburt Field, where the hush-hush “Special Ops” squadrons are based. Further down the coast is Eglin Air Force Base. And just to our northeast in Dothan, Alabama is the U.S. Army’s Fort Rucker helicopter training base.

So there are always a lot of military aircraft flying around. And there is a lot of what we call “Special Use Airspace” we have to know about. The military uses big chunks of the sky here. There are different categories of airspace. Some of it we are prohibited from ever entering; these usually surround “sensitive” military ground installations. Some of it is restricted pretty much all the time. Others are just “Military Operating Areas” or “Alert Areas," where we know to be on the lookout for military planes and helicopters.

Enroute Charts at SkyVector.com

If you right-click on the little snippet of map above, it'll open up a portion of the FAA aeronautical ("Sectional") chart we pilot use. You can scroll in and out. You'll see a bunch of odd-shaped boxes bordered in either blue or magenta. These are all the special-use airspaces. By zooming out a bit, you can see that northwest Florida and south Alabama are just about covered with them.

As you can see, the different airspaces are "clearly" depicted on our aviation charts. But here, where so many different types of airspaces often overlap, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which is which and what type of airspace you’re in, and whether or not you should be there. It can be a challenge. It takes some diligent studying of the chart to make sure you don’t go astray. Communication with ATC is vital. The military doesn’t take incursions into “their” airspace lightly.

Destin, Florida is a popular vacation spot. Its little airport gets lots of traffic. Unfortunately, it sits smack-dab in the middle of the Eglin Restricted Areas. Graciously, the military has given us a couple of corridors through which to get there. We can get in and out, but we must talk to Eglin Approach and we must have a clearance in advance.

The north-south corridor takes us over an old training airport called Field 2. It's a big place. There’s not much going on now, although I imagine that it was hopping back during the Viet Nam days. Perhaps it dates back to the Korean War or earlier? On the ground is an old Lockheed C-130 Hercules that probably should be in a museum somewhere. Also there are two old F-4 Phantoms. These airplanes seem to be in an almost-flyable condition. However the runways are not maintained so it would be pretty tough to fly them out. I don’t think they ever will.

It's not a great picture, but I don't like flying too low over these facilities, especially if they are still in use, as Field 2 seems to be - although for what, I have no idea. (The curved thingee in the lower-left corner of the picture is the defogger vent of my helicopter.)

When you fly low, as we helicopters do, you can miss seeing the big picture. I'd flown up and down the corridor a couple of times before noticing something odd. Just south of Field 2 is a site that is now used as a gunnery range for tanks. However, it is a little unusual.

As you can see, it is very clearly in the shape of an arrow, and it must have been cut that way deliberately. It even shows up well Google Maps.

View Larger Map

I suspect that the field was originally made and used during WWII. (The buildings at the point of the arrow are fairly recent.) I have no idea where it might have been leading Air Force pilots. It does not seem to point “at” anything. The city of and airport at Crestview, Florida are well to the left of the point.

Of course, maybe it is just a gunnery or some sort of bombing range that just happens to have been carved out of the trees in the shape of an arrow. Maybe somebody knows.

24 December 2009


The weather people had issued dire warnings about this morning. Heavy rain by morning, they said. So of course, I headed out to Walmart at 7 a.m. to buy some groceries. Gene is in town, and Matt and Alisha are coming down on Saturday. Shouldn’t be too crowded early on a Saturday morning, right? Under nasty-looking skies, I wondered if I should have parked closer to the door instead of my usual spot way out on the end of the lane. But the parking lot was packed with others who obviously had the same idea as me. I didn’t really have much choice.

Although crowded, the atmosphere inside the store was mellow. People were smiling and being of good cheer, as you’d hope. I like that. Why can’t we be in this mood all year long? Also, there was a tangible sense of relief. “It’s almost over.”

Oddly, when I got to the front of the store (I shop from back to front, which is the wrong way because I don’t use a list and if I’ve forgotten anything I have to back-track) I saw a long row of empty cashiers! I walked right up to one just as the guy ahead of me was pulling away. Suh-weeet! As I left, I smiled and wished her a merry Christmas; she wished me a merry Christmas back. If anyone thinks that companies are discouraging their employees from saying “Merry Christmas,” I have not seen evidence of it happening in practice. Everywhere I go, people have been saying, “Merry Christmas!” like they mean it.

So my little Walmart experience went well this morning.

It’s been a crazy holiday season though. I see traffic accidents all over the place. Some have been pretty serious, not just your typical rear-enders. People seem to be in such a rush, so impatient, so distracted. It’s almost as if, for some people, the holiday season is just getting in the way of their lives. You see evidence of this all over. People are curt with each other, brusque even. It’s a form of expediency, I guess…our subconscious attempt to Keep the line moving. Don’t get in the way. Let’s just get out of here.

My own philosophy in times like these is to just go slow. Go extra-slow, in fact. Lines are going to be long, yes? Parking lots are going to be crowded, yes? The mall will be jammed, yes? Traffic is going to be bad, of course. So I take it down a notch. I understand that people are frazzled and stressed. So, I…me…the only one I can control…I make an effort to chill out. You wanna cut in front of me in line? Okay, go ahead if you’re in that much of a hurry. I’m not. When traffic gets backed up, I don’t get angry. I expect traffic to be bad.

Generally, I always take the time to greet people I’m about to interact with, but especially so this time of year. Look ‘em in the eye, smile and say good morning (or whatever). Make contact. Ask about their lives – not deep philosophical questions requiring long, involved answers – but just a sincere, “How’s it going in your life on this day?” kind of thing. When I leave, I don’t just walk off. I make sure I tell them good-bye, and lately, wish them a merry Christmas. I want people to see that…well…I don’t know what I want people to do. I just want to put a little human-ness back into our existence here.

People seem to like this, they respond well to it. They smile at me, sometimes when they certainly were not smiling before. That right there is worth getting out of bed for. The sad thing is that I see this not happening a lot. I see so many instances where an encounter between two people might as well have been between two machines, with neither party acknowledging the other’s humanity. It should not be this way – at any time of the year.

Slow down, take it easy. Deep breath. Life's too short. No reason to get all stressed-out. Let’s forget about everything else and focus on why we celebrate this holiday in the first place.

Peace On Earth

Good Will Toward Men

Merry Christmas!

And to you, whoever and wherever you are, I thank you for visiting with me on this blog. I wish for you nothing but the best...good fortune and joy every day of your life. You deserve it.

16 December 2009

Meet The New Boss: Same As The Old Boss

This is a blog by a helicopter pilot. I am not an expert on politics, or the economy, or anything else. But although I am as interested as anyone in current events, I try to stay away from subjects about which I know very little. I’ll leave that to people who do know what they're talking about. But a recent article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone Magazine got me thinking. In it, Taibbi lists who’s who among President Obama’s economic advisors, and shows how they’re all connected. It’s a long article, but a fascinating read. A link to it is at the bottom of this post.

A lot of people think President Obama is a huge, flaming socialist who’s “driving the country off a cliff,” whatever that means. They ridicule his “hope and change” campaign platform, saying that the kind of change we’ve seen so far is not what we need or want. Less than a year into his presidency, many already consider it an abject failure.

Me, I’ve taken a wait-and-see attitude. I know better than to judge someone on short-term effects. Sometimes things take a while to play out. Like, oh, ten years?

In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act (also known as the “Banking Act of 1933”). Very simply, it prohibited banks from being at the same time a commercial bank, investment house and insurance company. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time to keep these things separate and thus, to keep the overall risk for bank depositors low as the economy rebuilt itself.

In the rock’n’roll 1980’s, business was booming. Banks wanted to be more things to more people. They pressured the government to do something about Glass-Steagall. It took a while, but it eventually happened. In 1999, Republican Senator Phil Gramm, along with Republican Representatives Jim Leach and Thomas Bliley introduced the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act ("GLBA") which effectively did away with the Banking Act. A bill such as GLBA had been wanted all through the ‘80s. It was worked on in the 90's and finally signed into law by dumbshit President Bill Clinton on November 11, 1999.

And with that, Citigroup began its takeover of our economy. Well, it and Goldman-Sachs. (If you think the President “controls” the economy you are sadly mistaken.)

The repeal of Glass-Steagall was the instrument that allowed companies like Citigroup and Goldman-Sachs to become “too big to fail.” It allowed banks to, with little oversight, invest in all kinds of cockamamie things like mortgage-backed securities and the infamous collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s). It opened the doors to the sort of financial hanky-panky that uneducated boobs like me barely understand. What uneducated boobs like me do understand however is that things obviously got out of control and the economy collapsed. And by God, somebody is to blame. That "somebody" is a guy named Robert Rubin. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

When it comes to blame, it’s easy to point at Bill Clinton, but Gramm-Leach-Bliley was mainly a Republican initiative. But Clinton did sign it. And they say that Democrats aren’t for big business! How or why he thought it would be good for the economy is anybody’s guess. Mine is that he was an idiot. I take that back- in the short term, the repeal of the Banking Act was "good" for the economy.

But here we are, ten years later and the country is in shambles; the result of Wall Street running amok with nobody watching. No, that’s not correct- lots of people were watching…and approving. Like that nitwit, Alan Greenspan who thought corporations would exercise good moral judgment and responsibility. Yeah. Uh-huh. Right, Alan, good call.

Today, a person doesn’t put their money in a simple “bank” anymore. Oh, no. Now it’s a financial services organization. Smalltown banks get swallowed up and absorbed by progressively bigger and bigger banks. Sooner later, the fish gets so big we can't let him die. He has to go on some sort of fish-life-support funded by the U.S. taxpayers.

Okay, back to Obama. People call him a socialist? Heh. Let’s look at the people around him.

Now we get to Bob Rubin. Right now, Rubin is listed as one of Barack Obama’s “financial advisors.” Let’s see why.

In the early 1990’s, Rubin was with Goldman-Sachs for twenty-six years, ending his career with the company as CEO. In 1992, Rubin was appointed Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton. It is said that during his time at Treasury he was one of the driving forces behind Gramm-Leach-Bliley, without which Citibank would never have morphed into the giant conglomerate it is today. (So sure was everyone that Gramm-Leach-Bliley would succeed that the merger of Citicorp and the insurance giant, Traveler’s Group into Citigroup was approved before the bill even passed. Talk about a ringer!)

After "retiring" from Treasury in 1999, Rubin went right to work for…ta-da!…Citigroup where they paid him $126 million dollars over the next eight years. A cynic might conclude that this salary was a “Thanks!” for a job well-done on Gramm-Leach-Bliley.” Rubin finally resigned in controversy if not disgrace from Citigroup in January of this year, unable to survive the economic meltdown he more or less engineered.

While he was Treasury Secretary, Rubin had a guy working for him named Timothy Geithner. Geithner left Treasury in 2001, and in 2003 was named President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where he stayed until 2009. Now here’s where it gets fun.

When Barack Obama was elected President on November 4, 2008, he appointed a former Harvard Law School classmate of his named Michael Froman to be his Deputy Assistant of the National Economic Council. At the time of the appointment, Froman was working for...(wait for it)...Citigroup. Coincidentally (or not), Froman had been Chief of Staff to Bob Rubin when Rubin was Treasury secretary under Clinton. While still working for both Citigroup and President-elect Obama immediately after the election, Froman appointed Tim Geithner(!) to be Secretary of the Treasury. Obama concurred.

A little over two weeks later, on November 23, 2008, the huge bailout of Citigroup was announced. I mean, whodathunkit!

Are there others? Oh hell yeah! When it comes to economics, just about everybody who surrounds our current President is connected either to Bob Rubin, Citigroup, Goldman-Sachs, or all three.

Who really runs this country? The people who control the money, of course. This should come as no surprise to anyone. But banish any thoughts of Barack Obama being a socialist. Obama talks out of both sides of his mouth. He says we should hold "Wall Street" accountable. Yet at the same time he will do what the bankers and his “economic advisors’ tell him to do. The really rich and powerful are not being hurt at all by this current economic burp. For them it is business-as-usual. (There is no telling where Bob Rubin will land next, but it will surely be on his feet.)

Wall Street (and thus capitalism) still rules, if that’s any consolation. The bad news is: The same people that caused this mess in the first place are still in charge now.

I don't know about you, but I don't see this as a good thing.

Rolling Stone Article

04 December 2009


It's not that I'm terrified of bugs, but I really don't like them. My last place was "fairly" bug-free. Oh, the occasional stray would waltz in once in a while but he would be swiftly dealt with. Spiders were tough to completely eradicate. Roaches...well, this is Florida...

My theory is that if you see one roach there's probably a thousand just like him you don't see. So I have a very proactive approach to bug control, inside and out. Malathion is my weapon of choice for the outside. It works! My problem was that I'd spray it so, um, enthusiastically that the pungent aroma of malathion would linger for weeks. (Well, I did mix it a "little" more strongly than the package recommended.)

This new house is absolutely bug-free. Matt and I "bombed" it when it was empty. I can go into the bathroom or come out in the kitchen late and night and be confident that nothing will be scurrying when I turn the light on.

But this morning I was surprised to see this crawling on my dining room rug when I got up:


I don't know what it is, or how it even got in the house. What I do know is that it is a dead something now. And I hope there aren't any more like him in here.

02 December 2009

Balloon-Boy Syndrome Strikes Again

Okay, normally I resist the urge to comment on the idiotic things that sometimes entrance the nation - or at least the media. Like the Tiger Woods deal. I mean, really: WHO FRIGGIN’ CARES?? If you gave the Tiger Woods story anything more than a casual passing glance, you are an incredible moron who should really get a life of your own. And I think that, truly, most of us do not give a rat’s ass about it. However, the media acted like it was the JFK assassination all over again.

Speaking of which…

So here’s the other Huge Story that everyone seems to be focused on: This couple crashed a party at the White House last week. Big hoo-hah about it…big breach of security. They could have been assassins! Or whatever. They bluffed their way in, and now they’re national celebrities, which was their intent all along. WHO FRIGGIN’ CARES??

Well…you know…like a wreck on the Interstate I could not help reading an Associated Press story about them on my Yahoo homepage this morning. The headlines was: “WH gate-crashers went without confirmed invitation.” When I saw that I thought to myself, “No shit.” Was there any question about that? The White House has already said they weren’t on the guest list. End of story? Should’ve been. NOT IN AMERICA, BABY! Even as I clicked on the headline link I knew I was wasting my time. But I'm a glutton for punishment, and I figured that if I read one story about these idiots, it might as well be that one.

And then, down at the very end of the story was this bit:

NBC's parent company, NBC Universal, also owns the cable network Bravo. Michaele Salahi has been trying to land a part on an upcoming Bravo reality show, "The Real Housewives of D.C.," and was filmed by the Bravo show around town as she prepared for the White House dinner.

(Ahhh, well that explains why I saw their ugly mugs – briefly, as I was surfing by – on some NBC “news” magazine show last night. Yay, give them some MORE publicity, NBC!)

But wait…hang on. This Salahi bimbo has merely been TRYING TO LAND a part on that reality show I’ve never heard of and will probably never watch, but Bravo was following her around with a camera crew anyway as she prepared for a party she wasn’t even invited to? And she isn’t even on the show? Oh for the love of God... Andy Warhol, where are you, man. You were so right!

There’s this big debate raging about Fox News. Proponents say it’s the only unbiased news outlet. Detractors say it’s just as biased as NBC, but in the opposite way. Let me tell you something – ALL MEDIA IS BIASED, okay? And all media sucks. The inane, incredibly stupid and out-of-proportion attention given to bullshit stories like the Tiger Woods incident and the White House party-crashers are the very reason I have such a low opinion of the mainstream media.

I may not have more important things to worry about, and I may not be able to completely avoid exposure to the media, but I absolutely could not care less about the things that seem to fascinate our news outlets nowadays.