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29 April 2011 -- Temporary Detour

I haven't forgotten the next installment in 'Chickens Come Home To Roost'.  The reason for that title will start to show up in my next installment
(Part 3) ... when it finally arrives.  

On the 27th, I did not write anything because I actually went to work!!!           Yes, really!  I still do that from time to time to earn a little spare
pocket money.  Today my excuse is that I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning about one-third of the carpets in the upstairs of my house.  I
pulled most of the furniture out of my guest room, and then shampooed the carpets in that room and in the hallway (for the first time in about 15
years, which is a little embarrassing).  Tomorrow I will put the furniture back and do a little spring cleaning, and then start rearranging things in
preparation to clean the carpets in my own bedroom.  I've got more in there so that will be more of a chinese puzzle than the guest room.  I'm
scheduled to work tomorrow evening as well, which won't leave much time for typing here.  Sunday is Green Up Day in my neighborhood.  I'll be
raking.  All of which is to explain that I hope to resume 'Chickens' on Monday.

To tide you over, here is a little ATC anecdote that is related to my last entry.  

I was working Clearance Delivery at Bradley Airport one day.  There was a horrendous line of storms out to the west that was shutting down
virtually all westbound traffic.  (Since Bradley is in Connecticut, that means pretty much all departures.)  When something like that happens, one
of Clearance's jobs is to keep track of the order in which aircraft requested to go to each destination airport.  On this particular day, I had three
aircraft that were trying to go to Pittsburgh.  

After several hours, the Traffic Management Unit located at the enroute center (Boston ARTCC) called and said that they had a route opening
up through the storms, and they were looking for a flight willing to serve as a "pathfinder".  First, let me explain that the rules concerning how far
ATC has to keep aircraft from thunderstorms means that this gap in the storm had to be at least 100 miles wide
minimum.  They were not going
to be snaking this 'pathfinder' through an alleyway between storm cells that was one or two miles wide, or putting it in a funnel that was going to
close in on it in a way reminiscent of a crocodile snarfing down a chicken carcass.  Second, this was the only time in my career I heard anyone
use the term 'pathfinder'.  At the time (about 20 years ago) it was already an archaic term.  What they were really looking for was an aircraft that
was willing to go first and to report on turbulence and other weather conditions along the route that does not show up on radar.  

I diligently contacted the #1 aircraft waiting to go to Pittsburgh, explained that the center had a route available and were looking for an aircraft
willing to serve as a pathfinder.  (It's a good enough term to describe what the center wanted, and there's a rule about relaying information
verbatim that made using the word reasonable.)  

"No,thanks.  We'll wait," the pilot replied.  

I duly contacted the #2 aircraft, and made the same offer.

"We'll wait, thanks," said the guys in the cockpit.

Huh.  All of sudden no one is in a rush to go to Pittsburgh.  They were chomping at the bit just 20 minutes earlier.  Go figure.  

I contacted the third aircraft and inquired if they would like the route.  I'm assuming the flight crew was younger than the pilots in the first two
cockpits, because these guys paused long enough to ask a question.

"Uh, I'm not sure.  What exactly is a 'pathfinder'?"  

While I was sitting in the tower trying to come up with a more tactful way to explain 'pathfinder' than by saying it was a really bad idea, a voice
came on the frequency and said, clearly and slowly ...

"Gui ... nea ... pig."

Third aircraft:  "Thanks, but we'll wait our turn!!"
28 April 2011 -- A Moment of Thanks

I took a few moments to stand on my porch this morning, gazed out over a sodden, water-logged lawn and the golf course beyond it, and offered
up a few thanks to whoever might be paying attention.  I said thank you for all the acquaintances and friends who made it through last night's
storms okay.  Some of them were in the path of some truly horrific weather.  I'm still waiting for one person to check in, but so far everyone has
come through unscathed.  

And then I stood there, breathed deep, and spent several minutes being thankful that I was not working as a controller anymore.  I miss it
intensely ... and I cannot overstate my appreciation of the FAA's and the U.S. Government's retirement system for controllers.  There are a lot of
things I disliked about working for the federal government, but I do not believe you will ever hear me criticize the stability, the certainty of getting
paid and receiving my pension, or the benefits.  

This morning, there is a diminishing line of severe thunderstorms stretching from the Canadian border all the way down the east coast to the
southern border of West Virginia.  There is an insignificant (by air traffic standards) gap in the vicinity of Raleigh-Durham, and then another line
stretches southwest all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Those two lines of weather have been tromping eastward since yesterday.  

The air traffic system and the airlines must be a total mess this morning.  There are very few substantial gaps in those two lines, and both -- the
southern one especially -- are loaded with the type of severe weather that pilots won't go near.  These were the types of days that I dreaded.  
Flights are being delayed, waiting for weather, which has a way of being totally unpredictable.  Pilots and passengers are tired, unhappy, and
angry.  Crews have long since run out of duty time, airplanes are stranded at the wrong airports, dispatchers are approaching meltdown, and the
poor folks manning the phones at the airline reservation centers are probably on the verge of suffering nervous breakdowns.  On the ATC side
of things, controllers are attempting to cope with cancelled flights, delays measured in epochs instead of hours, reroutes, special requests,
airborne aircraft that refuse to accept headings because they can see weather that the controller cannot, and an enemy (the weather) that will
not stand still.  These days were terrible at a small airport with no connecting 'through' traffic.  (No flights connect through Burlington, Vermont.  
You either start or end there.  You don't catch a connection.)  The controllers at the high density airports are dealing with the same problem
increased by a factor of at least 10.  Where I sometimes had to cope with 10 or 12 frustrated pilots on the frequency, they're dealing with 100 or
more.  

These days I will not ever miss.  Busy days with decent weather and a couple dozen planes on the frequency, each one going somewhere, were
a treat.  Bad weather days when everyone wants something and no one can go anywhere comes close to hell-on-earth for controllers and pilots
alike.

The next time you are travelling and get stuck somewhere because of this type of extensive severe weather, and the airlines start telling you that
your flight is delayed "due to ATC", try to remember that it is not true.  Remember that the controllers are attempting to find safe routes through
the weather (which may be nonexistent), and then when they do, they have to funnel all of the traffic to and from the entire eastern seaboard
through one tiny opening.  They are often receiving conflicting information from the Central Flow Control Facility in Washington, they aren't in
direct contact with whatever air traffic facility has jurisdiction over that one single safe highway, and they are competing with 100 other facilities
who all want to get their traffic through that one hole.  And just when the aircraft at several dozen airports get out to the runway, ready to leap
into the air and hustle toward that gap in the weather ... it closes.  

God bless them.  Today every controller east of the Mississippi is doing a miserable, frustrating, challenging, often thankless job.  I wish every
one of them could be sitting on an enclosed porch, warm and dry with a hot cup of coffee nearby, watching it rain.  
26 April 2011 -- Chickens Come Home To Roost, Part 2  (Disclaimers 1-3, posted in my previous entry, remain in effect.)

I received the latest issue of Scientific American in the mail yesterday.  In one of those quirky coincidences that life sometimes hands out at
random, it contains an article about new research into how our eyes function and how they affect our circadian rhythms.  

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the article is that our eyes (and the eyes of most mammals) are similar to our ears in that they serve
two functions.  For example, our ears are for detecting sounds, but they also provide our sense of equilibrium (balance and awareness of
motion).  Turns out our eyes have specialized neurons that are, among other things, in charge of synchronizing our biological clocks to pesky
things like daylight and darkness.  The neurons function in the same way whether the mammal is diurnal or nocturnal.  

What does this have to do with ATC and the recent furor over controllers falling asleep, you ask?

In my last entry, I talked very briefly about circadian rhythms, about how it is extremely difficult to stay awake at 3:30 in the morning, and about
how putting controllers on midshifts for a week or a month at a time was not an effective solution.  This latest research reveals just how futile it is
to attempt to change circadian rhythms.  Waking up when it is light out and sleeping in the dead of night is hardwired in; it is built into us on a
genetic level, right down to neurons in our eyes.  We began evolving to be asleep at night back in the caveman days, or possibly as early as
when we dragged ourselves out of the primordial ooze still equipped with flippers and gills.  Tinkering with work schedules, time off between
shifts, and turning up the lights in the radar room is not going to resolve the basic problem that the human body desperately wants to be
unconscious at 3:30am.  (I keep using 3:30 for the rather egocentric reason that it was the time when I was most in danger of nodding off during
a quiet shift.)

The question remains.  What needs to be done in order to help controllers stay awake while on duty in the middle of the night?  Here's one
solution.  Addressing the recent lousy publicity over controllers being asleep on the Job, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
(the FAA's upper-upper-level boss), Ray LaHood, has said, "I'm hopping mad about it and we will continue to suspend controllers and doing
investigations until we put a stop to this."

Outstanding!!  I commend Mr. LaHood for taking the harsh, unyielding (not to mention unhelpful and unproductive) stance.  I say, "Good on ya,
Ray!  Go forth and suspend controllers."  That will work!  Suspending controllers will reduce staffing levels, putting even more of the burden on
the controllers who continue to work, and probably result in even more sleepy controllers and a veritable avalanche of suspensions.  Round and
round we will go until there won't be anyone left to work traffic.  Well done.  He shows exceptional insight into the problems of shiftwork, the
burdens and stresses put on controllers by the job, and FAA management's history of how they have addressed the problem in the past.  

Ooops. Was the snark getting a little thick there?  I apologize.  Perhaps I am selling Mr. LaHood short and being unfair.  I admit I have some
preconceptions when it comes to Ray LaHood.  Well into the Toyota Stuck-Accelerator mess, he was the person who suggested that the solution
was for Toyota owners to stop driving their cars.  It took him several days (and perhaps a whack upside the head with a half-frozen halibut) to
decide that his statement was hasty, ill-informed, and that perhaps Toyota should look into the malfunctions instead of asking tens of thousands
of consumers to just stop driving their brand new cars.   

Silly me.  What was I thinking?  I'm sure Mr. LaHood has a more reasonable strategy in mind this time around.  

</sarcasm>

So ... back to the controllers.  What is the real source of the problem, other than circadian rhythms, and what can be done about it?

As I hinted at the end of my last entry, as far as I'm concerned, the answer leads directly to management.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200,
do not stop to point fingers at anyone other than management.  I'm talking top to bottom management of the FAA, from the policies set at the
highest level including those that determine how hiring and training are conducted, right down to the facility level and the first-line supervisors
where silly little things like accountability, fair application of the rules, teamwork, and effective communication are supposed to be practiced and
encouraged.  And seldom are.

That's a huge chunk to chew through, so I'm going to ignore most of it for the moment, and go 'anecdote' on you before signing off for the day.

In June 1985, I transferred from my first control tower, which was a part-time tower open from 6:00am-10:00pm, to my second facility, which was
open 24 hours a day.  Approximately one year later I finished training (became a journeyman or FPL), and shortly after that I was assigned my
first midshift.  Since I had never worked a mid before, I was paired off with another controller and we would work the shift together so I could learn
the proper procedures for dealing with some of the unique situations that come up at that time of night (or morning).  Outstanding plan, right?  

There's a little bit of a trick to this story.  I'll give you that piece first.  This particular airport had a curfew.  No regularly scheduled flights were
allowed between midnight and 6:00am.  If an airline flight was late coming in, it could land; private aircraft could take off and land; and the airport
was technically open for any kind of unpreventable operations.  However, due to some very 'enthusiastic' noise abatement procedures and some
hefty fines for breaking the curfew, there was virtually no traffic for six hours every night.  And yet the tower was manned, and according to the
regulations, we were supposed to be awake and alert, diligently scanning our celestial dome (the sky) for wayward aircraft on the verge of an
aviation mishap.

So I get up to the tower that first night, a shiny, newly minted FPL all excited and eager to learn the ins and outs of working a midshift.  At which
point the guy who is supposed to be training me says, "Nothing ever happens on the mid that you haven't already seen during the day.  If you
have a question, wake me up."  He then proceeds to pull a blanket and a pillow out from where it was stored behind one of the consoles, rolls up
in the blanket, squirms in under one of the consoles so he is out of the way, and goes to sleep.  



I had just received my first lesson in how to work a midshift.  Over the next several weeks, I was to learn several more lessons.  The supervisors
began to tell (often hilarious) 'war stories' about sleeping on the mid and the outcome of being unconscious when a plane called.  The facility
manager was in the tower one day, joining in and openly acknowledging that he knew that his controllers were
going to sleep (not to be confused
with inadvertently falling asleep) on the midshift.  A few months later, one of the supervisors pulled the pillow and blanket out from where they
were kept, announced that they were disgusting and filthy, and took them home to be washed.  They were back the next day, clean and ready to
be used later that night.  

I am not embarrassed to say that I fell right into line in a hurry.  I'm a quick learner.  The rules seemed pretty obvious to me.  Wait until the last
arrival is in, and then ... ZONK!  


It took about 10-12 months before I began to think that this was not such an all-fired wonderful idea.  While I was dead to the world one night, the
weather changed from clear with fantastic visibility to less than 1/4 mile visibility in heavy snow.  I woke up to a call from Boston Center (the
enroute control facility) saying that they had several aircraft that were going to divert in to my airport because the weather was so good.  Folks,
this is swallow hard and suck-it-up time.  There is simply no graceful way to confess that your weather has gone to crap and that you have failed
to pass that information along to anyone.  You do it, you take your lumps, then you hang up the landline and stand there looking out into the
dark saying, "F**k me, f**k me, f**k me.  That was f**king stupid."  I was lucky.  Those aircraft were able to land at other nearby airports.  If they
had been running low on fuel because they flew halfway to my airport only to find out the weather was lousy and that they needed to fly to a third
airport in order to land, my negligence could have turned into a full-blown catastrophe.  

That was the last time in my career that I deliberately went to sleep on the job.

So whose fault was it that I was sleeping on the job?  Mine, undoubtedly.  I was stunned when my supposed trainer sacked out.  I could have
followed up on my gut-reaction.  There were experienced controllers at my previous facility who I respected and trusted.  I could have called one
of them and asked if this was normal, acceptable behavior.  I knew I was in a perpetual learning status at that stage in my career.  I was barely
out of probationary status!  It was foolish and downright stupid not to ask some questions.  On the other hand, I had observed explicit approval of
the practice by my supervisors and my manager.  Regrettably, I eventually learned that those three individuals were pretty typical human beings,
which means that before I transferred to another facility I had the morale crushing opportunity to watch all three of them lie through their teeth to
save their own skins on more than one occasion.  In one particular instance, the lies and deceit cost a controller his career.  

Fortunately, my next facility was a good one.  Good management, excellent supervisors, outstanding controllers.  The manager's name was Dan
Downing, and he was the best manager I ever worked for.  I once told him that if the airport had been 250 miles farther north, I would have
stayed there my entire career, and I meant it.  I should have put an addendum on that statement.  I should have told him that if I knew for certain
that Dan would manage the facility for the next 15-20 years, I would have stayed ... regardless of where it was located.  Dan was a superb
manager.  As a result, a lot of people hated working for him.  I loved working for him.  In essence, you only had to know one thing in order to get
along with Dan:  Know the rules, follow the rules.  One standard, applied consistently across the entire workforce.  Know the rules, follow the
rules.  If you did that one thing, you could not go wrong with him.  In my book, that's work-place heaven.  

Enough nostalgia.  Back to current events.  I'll leave you with a question concerning the controllers who have recently been caught
deliberately
sleeping on the job -- the roll up in a blanket and sack out types.  

Where do you think they came up with the idea?
25 April 2011 -- Chickens Come Home To Roost:  aka ATC Asleep On The Job, Part 1

Disclaimer 1:  What I am about to write is nothing more than my opinion.  I have been retired from air traffic control for three years, I have
not stayed in touch with my coworkers, and I am not an expert on the current work conditions in ATC facilities.

Disclaimer 2:  I am eventually going to make some comments that are going to sound extremely critical and disrespectful of the
current crop of air traffic controllers.  I am not.
 Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Any individual who makes it through the training
process and reaches the status of Full Performance Level (FPL ... also known as a Journeyman controller) has my undying respect.  I am going
to be extremely critical of the FAA’s policies, methods, overall culture, and management.  I know ahead of time that some of that criticism is going
to come out sounding like I am aiming it at the controllers and trainees who have been hired in the last 5-6 years.  Again, that is not my intention.

Disclaimer 3:  What follows will frequently qualify as a thorough foam-at-the-mouth rant.  I think air traffic control is the best job in the
entire universe.  I adored the work right up to my last transmission.  I believe that what the meddling by politicians, political appointees, and
upper-level management has done to the service is a total abomination.  They have turned the finest air traffic control system in the world into a
global embarrassment.  That belief is going to come across loud and clear.  Enter at your own risk.  

                                                                              * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Let’s start with current events and the piece of information that I think is most important when considering the recent rash of controllers caught
sleeping on the job.  Where are the accounts of the other controllers?

As of this morning, I believe the tally of air traffic controllers who have been caught either sleeping or otherwise not paying 100% attention to
their duties is up to six. There are roughly 14000-15000 controllers in the U.S.  

Where is the media coverage of the other 14,994 controllers, most of whom perform their job flawlessly day after day, putting up with shift work
and working conditions that would have most people running out the building screaming after a week?  If we are to believe the media and the
alarmists, every airplane currently in the air is in immediate danger of a midair collision that will kill everyone on board.  

What a load of baloney.

At the moment I am typing type this sentence, there are roughly 5500 flights being handled by the continental U.S. air traffic system.  Controllers
handle somewhere in the realm of 52,000 flights each day.  All but a tiny number of those will arrive at their destinations safely and without
incident.  Do the math.  That’s over 18 million flights a year.  Take out 10% for when the weather gets horrendous and shuts down entire chunks
of the country for a day or two, and you’re still left with more than 16 million flights a year.  And those are just the aircraft that being handled
under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).  I can’t begin to estimate how many aircraft are out punching holes in the sky on Visual Flight Rules (VFR).  
On a nice day, the VFR aircraft at some facilities can outnumber the IFR flights 10 to 1.  Just for giggles and grins and to give us a total to work
with, let's double the number of IFRs to account for the VFR traffic.  Let's call it 30,000,000 flights handled safely and successfully every year by
15,000 air traffic controllers.

Kind of staggering, isn't it?  More importantly, when is the last time you saw the media talking about those numbers?  

This furor about controllers falling asleep is media sensationalism, pure and simple.  They are taking something that on the surface appears
alarming, and they are deliberately and premeditatedly attempting to scare the living crap out of the general public.  I have not read one article
yet that has mentioned the other 14,995 controllers or 16 million flights a year.  I believe the media's omission is deliberate, it is unfair to every
person who travels by air at some point during the year, it is lousy reporting, and worst of all, it is inexcusable.  They are promoting their
business at the expense of some of the most hard-working, dedicated professionals on the planet.




Yup, I was sliding into rant mode there.  Lies of omission infuriate me.

Now that I've calmed down and caught my breath           , let me move on to what I consider the second most important aspect of what the media
is talking about, and the first one that requires an insider’s perspective.

The real problem with what has been going on is NOT that a controller fell asleep.  I’m talking about falling asleep now, not deliberately rolling up
in a blanket and sacking out.  I’ll cover the latter instance in more detail later, but for the moment I’d like to set that aside and just focus on “falling
asleep”, as opposed to “going to sleep”.  

I don’t want to scare any nervous fliers, but the plain fact of the matter is that controllers fall asleep all the time.  
The real problem is that
someone did not wake up.
 I’m talking about the supervisor at Reagan National Airport (DCA) who slept through several calls from more than
one aircraft as well as landline (phone) calls from the approach control facility.   This is where the entire ruckus began, so let's focus on this guy
initially.  Think about how soundly asleep that guy had to be in order to sleep through a number of calls on the frequency and the landlines.  He
was either out cold, or he had the volume on the speakers turned down ... or both.  (I know of a controller who did 'both', which is why I am
bringing up the possibility.  He is going to show up when I get around to talking about effective management and accountability.)

The supervisor at DCA made some claims about the shiftwork and being tired.  Folks, the rules about duty time and time between shifts have
been the same for the last 30 years or more.  Controllers have been coping with the shiftwork for decades.  If this guy did not get any sleep
between shifts, then that is a problem with his life or his self-discipline, not with the system.  If he had a personal emergency that prevented him
from getting any sleep, he should have called in sick.  Controllers have a relatively liberal sick leave policy for precisely that reason.  If you are
not physically and mentally capable of doing your job adequately, you bang in sick.  On one infamous morning, I was driving into work and
judged the traffic so badly I got myself boxed out of the right lane and missed my exit for the airport.  I realized that if I was so exhausted I could
not choose the right moment to merge with other cars, that I had no business attempting to control airplanes.  I took the next exit, reversed
direction, drove home, and called in sick.  

The FAA is currently talking about instituting two changes to address fatigued controllers falling asleep on the job.  The first is increasing the
mandatory break between shifts from 8 to 9 hours.  It is a commendable idea.  It is going to cost the FAA money, and it is going to cause one
heck of a hassle with the work schedule -- since 3 shifts times 8 hours conveniently works out to 24 hours and the new number is going to cause
coverage problems -- but it is not going to address what happens to the human body around 3:0-4:00 in the morning.  At that hour, the human
body is going to do everything possible to shut down.  It is a very rare individual who is not at risk of falling asleep at 3:30am.  From 2:00 until
around 5:30 it is an ever-loving bitch staying awake no matter how much sleep you got the past several days or nights.  Changing to a 9-hour
break between shifts is not going to adjust circadian rhythms.  

And before anyone suggests it, having people assigned to the midshift permanently or for long periods of time (for instance, a month at a time) is
not the answer either.  The goal of having someone work the midshift (also known as third shift) for a month at a whack is to allow their circadian
rhythms (body clock) to adjust to being awake at that hour.  The reality is that most controllers have families, and at the very least, they revert to
a 'normal' schedule on the weekends, which disrupts resetting that internal clock.  The other problem is that traffic is normally very light on the
midshift.  After working next to no complex traffic for a month, they hop back onto a day shift and promptly get their asses kicked by the traffic.  It
has been tried.  It does not work.  

Getting back to current events, the other proposal being floated by the FAA is to always have two people on a shift.  The idea is that they will
keep each other awake.  

Been there; done that.  

The FAA tried this the last time there was a media furor over controllers falling asleep.  They eventually dropped it for two reasons.  First,
money.  Budget cuts.  It means taking a body off a day or evening shift and putting them on the midshift.  That means increasing staffing in every
24-hour facility by a minimum of one and sometimes two (a spare body in the tower and a spare body in the radar room).  That means an
increase in staffing at dozens, if not hundreds, of air traffic facilities, along with an increase in the cost of pay, retirements, and various benefits.  
It’s not going to happen.  Not long term.  Not because the FAA does not want to do it, but because Congress is not going to increase the FAA’s
budget to cover it.  Been there; done that.  They will not vote through the money necessary.

The other reason it failed the first time is because it meant putting two controllers in the operating quarters at a time when there is not enough
traffic to keep one person awake.  It is easy to stay awake when you’re actually working traffic.  Nothing is simpler!  You’re active, you’re thinking,
you’re engaged, you’re attentive.  A busy night is a wonderful thing because you do not spend 5-6 hours struggling to stay awake!  The problem
occurs when you are watching a single aircraft crawl across a 60-mile expanse of radar scope (at 180 knots, that’s 3 miles a minute, which
means watching a single target for 20 minutes) that you conk out between one breath and the next.  For most controllers, it is not intentional!  
Most of them will do almost anything to stay awake when they've got an aircraft on the frequency.  The harsh truth is that sometimes the dark,
the white noise of cooling fans and machinery, and the hypnotic effect of watching the radar all combine into a single whole that will cure the
worst case of insomnia.  (And for anyone left who isn't put to sleep by that combination, there's always the Air Traffic Manual -- FAA Order
7110.65.  That's a sure-fired cure for sleeplessness. )

So now you have TWO controllers up there … theoretically to keep each other awake.  According to regulations, they are not supposed to read,
talk on the phone, watch TV, play cards, or do anything that would distract them from their assigned duty … monitoring that radar scope with the
single airplane.  

Come on.  These are human beings we’re talking about.  What are they going to do under these conditions?  What would any of us do when
there’s no traffic and just two controllers in a dark room?  Be honest now.  (I said honest, not dirty-minded.)  Remember that traffic is going to be
absolutely dead for about 4 hours, probably from 1:00am until around 5:00am at a lot of facilities.  (Not any of the truly busy high-density airports
or the cargo hubs that handle FedEx and UPS.  Those places are busy all night long.)  

Answer:  “I’ll sleep the first two hours, and you can sleep the last two.”  (For the record, I don't condone this.  At the same time, I don't blame the
controllers either.  You have to live and work at a mid- or low-level 24-hour facility to understand just how boring it gets on the midshift.)

The FAA has tried the two-controller method before.  It didn't work.  The fact that they’re suggesting it again just means that they’ve had enough
turn over at the upper-management levels that no one remembers what a glorious flop it was the first time around.  The really sad thing is that
they tried it not all that long ago.  They tried it sometime around 2003, give or take a year or two. The higher-ups only pay attention until the
media furor goes away.  Then they conveniently forget.  The troops doing the work remember though.

Which opens the door for my next entry, which will be about FAA management, and what I think is the true cause of this latest rash of problems,
and makes this a lovely spot to end this entry.
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Mushroom Patch -- Page 13
April 11, 2011 thru April 29, 2011
11 April 2011 -- Reflections on Life Changes

I apologize in advance, folks.  This isn't going to be funny or even insightful.  File it under drivel or blather, and say a prayer to the Youses
Muses Gang that I come up with something more interesting for my next entry.  

This evening's observation has to do with shifts in what we consider 'normal'.  For more than 25 years, a normal state of affairs was a sink full of
dirty dishes.  That is a part of reality when you work a bizarre schedule and do not own a dishwasher.  Stuff gets put in the sink to soak, you grab
clean dishes or containers to take a meal to work, and you ignore the expanding heap of dishes piling up in the sink because you're not going to
sacrifice 15 minutes of sleep to clean them up when you're living on 5 hours (or less) per night.  When I remodeled the kitchen back around
1995, I put in a larger, deeper sink specifically so I would not have to wash dishes as often.

Jump forward in time.  It is now 2011, and I have been retired for just shy of 3 years.  One of the weirder yet more trivial adjustments that I have
made recently is getting used to having an empty sink and a clean kitchen.  

What does it say about my life during the FAA Years that it is still feels remarkable to look at a tidy kitchen?  What does it say about my life now
that it even matters to me ... or that I derive so much pleasure from having time to wash the dishes?  What's that saying?  A clean house is a sign
of a boring life?  Uh oh.  On second thought, no worries.  There's plenty of time to overcome the excessive cleanliness, and I'll always have the
deeper, larger sink for when life gets interesting again.  And in the meantime, it's kind of cool having a tidy kitchen.  
24 April 2011 -- Happy Easter!

I am sitting out on the porch today for the first time in months.  It's been a long, tough winter, even by Vermont standards, so today's weather is a
very welcome change to what we've been putting up with since last November.  It's warm enough that I can sit out here without being bundled up
to the ears, the sun is shining, the cat is flaked out in one of the chairs, and it is very peaceful.  I even got the spring yard work done a couple of
days ago, so I'm not looking at a lot of potential labor.  

The only downside to this blissful moment is that it is so bright out here, I can barely see my computer screen.  I came out here intending to type.  
I have a choice of slowly going blind trying to see the screen despite the glare, or going indoors.  

<snivel>  Why can't I have it all!!!!  <whinegripebitchgrousewhinge>  

Ignore my whining.  If that's the worse of my problems in life, I've got it pretty good.