I’ve entered Hopewell Elementary School in the Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress Contest.  Grand prize is a $20,000 grant for the school.

Go ahead and register and vote for the school here!

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I’ve been too busy to write with the kids starting kindergarten, but wanted to pass along this video I found yesterday.

Enjoy!

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About 15 years ago, I knew a NATCAvist named Billy Bob. If you have to know his last name to remember him, you just didn’t know Billy Bob. Those were the days when NATCAvists contacted each other via pager (remember gang pages?), telephone, fax and snail mail. Cell phones weren’t widely prevalent yet; we were just coming out of the thankfully-short bag/car phone era. It wasn’t unusual for us to leave a page saying “I’m working tonight, can I call you about midnight your time?” And the other to leave a page responding, “Whatever works for you, bro.”

I needed info from Billy Bob for one thing or another and we hit it off immediately and became fast friends. I probably didn’t see him in person more than a handful of times before his death, but we sure burned up telephone minutes. We’d talk about NATCA, complain about the FAA, discuss our lives and sometimes talk about nothing much at all. Billy Bob was one of those people who could surprise a belly laugh out of me fairly frequently.

I know my husband would’ve liked him and my kids would’ve liked to have an Uncle Billy Bob and stomp around in his cowboy boots. They never got the chance to meet him; he died far too young. Part of me is ashamed to say I don’t remember a lot of specifics of most of our long-distance conversations, but whenever I think of him, I smile. Looking back, I’d say Billy Bob was a junkyard dog: fiercely protective and loyal to those he cared about and mean as the dickens to those he felt threatened them. Maybe I could’ve come up with a gentler comparison, but I imagine he’s in his version of heaven right now, drink in hand, kicked back, laughingly shaking his head, saying “yeah, that fits, sister.”

I started thinking a lot about him because of these posts (one, two, three) by Praxis Foundation. I don’t know who Praxis is, but I’ve added him or her to my RSS feeds and I’m looking forward to reading more. You see, there is one conversation with Billy Bob that I do remember quite clearly. So I started thinking about writing this. Then I saw today’s post at Praxis and knew I needed to get this out, if only for me.

I think there were some people who underestimated the sharp mind behind the name and southern drawl that was Billy Bob. During that long ago late night conversation with Billy Bob, we were discussing fiberoptics. He told me, “Mark my words, Vivian. The FAA’s setting themselves up to remote terminal radars and towers. They’re going to reduce the number of TRACONs to a number closer to what we have for centers and they’re going to want us to control all the tower traffic that they haven’t contracted out from some huge complex in Kansas or something.”

I’ve never forgotten that conversation because at the time, working traffic at Boston Tower, the thought of NOT seeing my traffic terrified me (still does). Even if every vehicle and plane were outfitted with special transmitters or transponders, if I were in Kansas, how would I see that DC-9’s compressor stall and flames shooting out an engine, or that hot brake on that B727, or that snowy owl hanging out to the left of the runway, or that flock of seagulls flying down the final, or the dog, deer or coyote crossing the runway in front of a departiing aircraft…and so on. And you know, I’ve seen nothing in the years since we had that conversation that proves Billy Bob wrong and way too much that proves he was right on with his predictions.

Billy Bob had his faults, like everyone else, but he was my friend. He worked hard and he played even harder. I sometimes wonder if he knew subconsciously he wasn’t going to live a long life and wanted to pack in his living early. Billy Bob, I really miss you, man.

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I know I haven’t written in awhile and I really don’t have much time now, but I couldn’t let this one pass me by.   In February, 2008, I wrote a post about the FAA and their plans to install tower simulators to reduce controller training time.  Almost 2 years ago.

Today I see this article.  First, it’s incorrect when it states the average air traffic controller makes $150,000.  There’s a bid that closes tomorrow at Pittsburgh Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) for a Support Manager.  Low end of that pay is $143,000.  It’s a MSS-3 position, which is THREE levels above the “average” controller.  Pittsburgh ATCT is an ATC-10.  Highest level is an ATC-12; lowest is an ATC-5.  You do the math.

The article states, “There are thirteen simulators in place currently.  Nine more will be activated in the next six months, but it comes with a big price tag: between $600,000 and $700,000 each.”  So 24 simulators by the end of June, 2010.  In February, 2008, Mr. Trinka of the FAA said, “An additional 24 simulators are being installed over the next 18 months at busy Class B towers including New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Washington Reagan National, Dallas Fort-Worth, and Atlanta.”

I’ll help with this math.  20 months ago, the FAA claimed they were going to have 24 simulators installed by what should’ve been 2 months ago.  Now they’re claiming that the original 24 simulators will now be installed 8 months later than originally planned.  We’re only talking 24 installations and they’re projecting to be 30% later that what they planned.  So, the first article pretty much has the FAA on a schedule of installing .91 simulators a month.  The actual completed work averaged about .41 of a simulator installed per month (remember, they already had 4 installed in February, 2008).  And now they’re saying they’re going to install almost 2 simulators per month to meet their new timeline.  Anyone else a bit skeptical that they’ll meet that deadline?

NextGen looks like it’ll be a long time coming, people, especially if they don’t start including NATCA on the front end.

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I’m not sure where all the angst was coming from yesterday about President Obama’s Speech to students.  Have we sunk so low as a nation that the thought of a Presidential address to our children is cause for banning said address?  Are we so narrow-minded that there was a reason to be concerned to the point of not allowing our children to hear our elected leader?

Here’s the thing.  I did not like our previous POTUS.  I wasn’t enamored of the man, and, most certainly, I disliked his politics.  But had he chosen to make a national address to our children, I still wouldn’t have thought it reasonable for school systems to decide not to broadcast his speech during school.  I’d listen to it, watch it myself and just discuss it with my children later.  But as much as I didn’t like the previous President, I still would not have had the expectation that he would, in an address specifically for children, say or do anything overtly harmful.

President Obama obviously has some nerve.  I mean, how dare he suggest to our children that they hold some responsibility for their attitudes and effort in school?  How dare he suggest that they are the future of this country and that a good education will aid them?  How dare he infer that they find the things that they are good at?  Or that failing is not an excuse to quit?  Or to work hard, keep trying and ask for help if they need it?  How dare he tell them that their government, parents and teachers consider the education of our children important?  What horrible, terrible tenets to teach our youth.

I don’t know if it was prejudice of the man, his race or his politics that caused the outcry in some areas, but it certainly was prejudice rearing its ugly head.  Random House Dictionary’s first listed definition of the word is:  an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.  Sounds about right to me.

John and I discussed the issue last night at dinner.  He made the observation that he wasn’t sure if some of the parents weren’t more concerned that they hadn’t taught their children well enough to be free and critical thinkers to view the President’s speech in the “right” way…or maybe that they had taught them well enough.

Our twins are preschool age and we watched the address on YouTube last night.  I doubt they got a lot from it, due to their age, but we used it as a teaching opportunity…try your best, don’t give up, and you can do or be anything.  As a parent, I feel the more adults that can reinforce those concepts to my children the better.

Oh, one more thought, for those parents of older kids that felt it prudent for their children’s school system to not show the President’s address and were successful in obtaining that goal, all you did was make it “forbidden” and more of a temptation for them to watch it on the sly.  I can only imagine how disappointed they will be to find that President Obama says many of the same things you’ve hopefully said to them over the years.

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Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything and if you’re really interested I could go on and on about a couple months of family illnesses, but at this point, it would just feel like whining.  So instead I’ll talk about something else.

As a federal employee in a safety-related profession, privatization is usually something on my mind…as something to guard against.  Despite what “Corporate America” might have people think, I believe, on average, federal employees give good value for the taxpayer money.  Too many times, nations have privatized safety-related professions and seen a degraded level of safety and service and end up paying more for less.  Contracting out Flight Service here in the United States has proven to be more costly, in terms of money, and definitely in terms of safety and service…not only to pilots, but also to air traffic controllers.

Last month, I was able to read a book called The Unincorporated Man written by Dani & Eytan Kollin, their first, and hopefully, not their last offering.  The premise is that, in the future, every individual is incorporated at birth, with the government holding 5% of the stock, parents 20%, and corporations and individuals owning the rest.  Your “stockholders” can make you take certain jobs to get a decent return on their money, and it’s a shock for the protagonist (a billionaire who underwent a cryogenic procedure 300 years prior) to find that society has changed so much that the idea of being unincorporated, as he is, is anathema to many.  If someone wants to disappear, “stockholders” can track you down.

Today I found out about the contest at Wired magazine to locate writer Evan Ratliff (sidenote: Ratliff was my great-grandmother’s maiden name; I wonder if he’s distantly related).  It made me think again about The Unincorporated Man, how much of our living is able to be tracked digitally and how such a contest could not take place in the imagined (but not out of the realm of possibility) future of that book.

I could wax poetic about it all, but it sure seems to me that if we go overboard on the whole “privatization” mindset, it’s really not too far a jump to privatize or incorporate individuals.  And the sad part is, I could see people voluntarily giving up their personal liberties to go that route.  Read the book.

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Sorry I haven’t been able to post anything new lately.  Life’s been crazy here.

Anyway, I attended NATCA in Washington (NiW) last month.  It was the first one I’ve attended in all these years.  I was glad I went.  I was a little disappointed at some of the internal politicking that was taking place during business hours, but overall it was a great event.  I’d highly recommend it to other NATCA brothers and sisters.

Pics can be found here.

P.S.  If you get a chance to eat at the District Chophouse or Bobby Van’s, do so.  Great food at both places!

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It’s that time again for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association elections.   If there’s someone you wish to nominate for President, Executive Vice President or your respective Regional Vice President, do it today.  The nomination period ends on Wednesday.  The election rules can be found here.

Paul Cox has started a website in an effort to have a central clearinghouse, so to speak, to make it easier for people to find information on each of the candidates.  Hopefully, all the candidates will participate.

I’ve personally been disappointed by the low participation on Rick Foster’s NATCA Elections Forum.  If you’re a NATCA member, please sign up and ask the questions you’d like the prospective candidates to answer.  It’s not only your right, but also your responsibility as a dues-paying member to make an informed decision as to which individuals will lead our union for the next three years.  This is important, especially for those who have been hired in the last three years – you’re the new foundation of the union for the next 20 years or so and you should be trying to find a candidate who will fashion that bedrock in a manner that will benefit the collective you in the long-term.  If you’re a candidate, sign up and answer those questions for all to see.

I don’t endorse candidates because I believe every individual should take the time to get informed about the issues and choose a candidate that most meets their own criteria.  I’m not voting for someone just because I recognize the names of the endorsers and/or know a couple of them personally, nor would I expect someone to cast their vote in favor of my “chosen” candidate(s), just because my name is there.

When making my decision, I also try to look at the total makeup of the National Executive Board.  I factor in the experience of all, hoping that the mix isn’t too weighted toward one skills set or another (mostly legislative, mostly LR, etc.)  In my opinion, if you don’t make an informed choice, or don’t vote at all, you shouldn’t spend this next term complaining about the outcome.  That’s my two cents on the subject.  :-)

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Finally got our updated genealogical database uploaded and online.  I’ll try to get the gedcom on Rootsweb tonight or tomorrow.

Got some cool maps now.  Maybe I’ll play with the calendar feature on my Second Site software next.

Let me know what you think.

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Last week, I was investigating booster seats for the kids and I really wanted something with a 5-point harness that they could use as long as possible.  If you care to know, I think we’re going to upgrade from the Britax Marathon and go with the Britax Frontier.  In the middle of it all, I was listening to the radio and the lyrics of Different World by Bucky Covington and it reinforced to me how much has changed since I was a girl.

We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint
No childproof lids
No seatbelts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets
And still here we are
Still here we are

We got daddy’s belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside
Playing outside

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

School always started the same everyday
The pledge of allegiance, then someone would pray
Not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed but that was alright
We turned out alright

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

No bottled water
We’d drink from a garden hose
And every Sunday,
All the stores were closed.

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

It was a different world

I guess it hit home a little harder since I’ve been hearing my 4-year olds say things like “I’m going to check my email” as they head for the desktop to surf their favorite websites (Playhouse Disney, PBS Kids, YouTube and Starfall).  And watching them spell words like “blog” and “computer”.  Or fighting for the stupid remote control for the television or DVD player and decide whether they want to watch Little Einsteins or Phineas and Ferb.  They flip-flop between Winnie the Pooh and Hannah Montana.  I sometimes get the impression that they’re toddlers on the brink of adulthood.

I hope that John and I can balance giving them what they’ll need as adults to function in the future with their need to just be kids now.  But I admit that I worry sometimes if, despite our best efforts, the digital age we live in is going to rob them of some of the innocence that every child deserves to have.  And then I worry that I’m worrying too much.

But I think that while the details of what concerns us may be different now than in the past, parenthood itself really hasn’t changed all that much at its most primitive level.  In the meantime, I’ve got a little girl who just brought her blankie and stuffed bear to me wanting to cuddle and a little boy wanting kisses and hugs.  It’s time to remember to enjoy it.  As Darius Rucker sings – It Won’t Be Like This For Long.

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