Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On Leadership - A Brigid Post

Back when I was in my late 20's, I had an evaluation for a entry-level leadership position for an outfit I worked for.  It was something in which no woman had ever held the position and certainly not anyone my age.  I'd like to say I was cool and collected but I was nervous as hell.  At any point in the interview, I expected the next thing out of my mouth to be a Homer Simpson utterance of "Beer" or "Donut".   The senior folks read through my resume (oh please, please tell me I used the word "Statistical" and not "Sadistical") and commented on the recent MBA (not my first choice in studies, but I knew that just being a science geek or a pilot isn't guarantee of leadership positions later).  They also mentioned my age (back in those days you didn't have HR breathing down your next going "Good Heavens, Man, you can't ask THAT question?")

After the technical type questions I did OK at - came the deal breaker - "Describe your organizational skills".

I thought of all those classes, I thought of Peter Drucker books and multi-attribute, utility diagrams; I thought of getting a big box of an airplane across a big desert with steam gauges and sweat. One never forget those flights, suspended in space, hanging from a point between mobility and absolutely motion, thinking there is no better job as you chase the wind, knowing it's too good to last. I thought of budgets and acquisitions and purchase orders and how none of them do you any good when you're looking down at miles of open water late one night and the EICAS panel is lit up like a Christmas tree and everyone is looking at you to make a decision before the other one flames out.
All those things I thought, but what came out of my mouth without pausing for breath, was "I once cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 23 pilots including real mashed potatoes and pie without a microwave and everything was hot on the table at the same time."

"Oh, Crap, did I just SAY that?"  I thought as I felt a breeze on my cheek, the ax falling, most likely. What's next, a conversation about dishware and shoes?

But I got hired.  A couple days later I was riding herd on a couple hundred people.  I hoped they didn't all expect pie.
I've been in command positions a good part of my life, on the ground, in the air. I'm not usually just the only woman leader, I'm often the only woman-- period.  I spent the last 7 years as the leader of a group for several years, in a unit, that with one brief exception, had been all male, I was their first female team leader.  I was replacing a former General. .But I tried to show them, through my own work ethic that I was engaged (and I think my email that I was probably personally responsible for the media hyped bacon shortage won them over). I miss that team dearly, all but one Veterans, all strong men, strong personalities. We had some losses, and we've had some laughs (specifically someone in defense that once called a planned Post 9/11 tabletop exercise among various agencies as a  "Practical Exercise Not Involving Soldiers".  Yes, Operation PENIS had us in stitches before someone caught that and changed the name.  But I needed to take a position that didn't have me away from my husband half the month.

I wouldn't trade those years for anything and it's the reason I spent at least two weeks a month away from my husband for several years, not willing to give it up for a desk at headquarters quite yet. My husband too is a leader.  He knows that if he asked-- I'd quit my career in a heartbeat as he is more important, just as he knows he won't ask that of me, for he totally gets it.

These thoughts here tonight, are based on the core principals of military leadership that many have passed on to me by my Dad and my superiors, as well as things I just learned by watching bad leaders as well as making my own mistakes, finding my way.  I revisit them regularly, and with humbleness.
Seek out your strengths and weaknesses, even the ones you can't see yet, and look to improve on those daily.  Do it openly, do it quietly, but each day try to improve on something in which you are lacking and perform just a bit better on those things of which you are skilled.  Teach those with you to do the same.

You can get away with not knowing how to play Dungeons and Dragons but if you are managing people, you must know the latest of technical developments in your field and how to use them to deploy your resources. Never stop learning.

Seek responsibility and take it.  A key leadership principle is that we ALL make mistakes, but it's how we respond to them that separates the "men from the boys", as they say. If you make a mistake and blame someone else, no one is ever going to trust you again  (though some people might be stupid enough to vote for you again).

Your Mom doesn't work here.  If you screw something up, own it, don't wait for someone to make an excuse for you or correct it for you.  If you break it, fix it, if you open it, close it. You are accountable for your actions, you are accountable for your outcomes.
Act with your head, not other parts of the body.  You're angry, desperate or just want to fling a colleague into the next county with a trebuchet? Don't.  Take a deep breath, go drink some cold water and deal with it rationally. Once you've acted rashly or solely on emotion or hormones, you will lose ground you don't get back. If you're already perceived as weak, it can be fatal, as a leader.

The rules that apply to your team, apply to you.  If they have to sort it, document it, retain it, verify it, or fill out 8 forms for it,  SO DO YOU.

Lead from the front. You are setting the example. If you are thinking  "just this one time",  or "let's take a shortcut",  "let's just this once, sacrifice a (little) standard", whatever it is, then your team will be OK with it too when you're not looking.  Hold yourself to a higher standard, and they will try to as well.

Waffles are great for breakfast but they make lousy leaders.  Think out your decisions and take into account, every bit of information you can get when you make them, asking those who are more informed and, if they aren't available, then questioning yourself.  But make them decisively. Do NOT wait for popular opinion or the news cameras to come out to make them.

Questions are less bloody than not asking them.

Know yourself, but know your team as well, and look out for their welfare like your own.  Loyalty may be bought, but only very briefly. Be compassionate, but be firm, and be clear that what they offer is important. If they know that they can count on you, you can count on them.

We all have wounds that drive us and the scar tissue usually isn't visible.  Understand what drives your people, what gets their hackles up, what motivates them not to be in some particular place.  Never be so busy that you fail to listen to them about something that may sound like it has nothing to do with the team.  It will have everything to do with the team.

Successful missions come in threes - the mission you plan, the mission you do, and the mission you wish you had done.

Some things are classified, but don't be a mushroom farmer.  Keep people informed.  Share those things that may not necessarily be their specialty, or even within their current technical grasp. They will learn, and they will feel included and valuable, for they are.

Go into battle with them.  Don't sit at your comfy desk with your giant mocha latte every single time they hit the field when conditions are beyond crappy or risky.  Get out, be in front, and get seriously dirty and a bit dinged up with them.  Never forget those places that got you to that desk and revisit them when you can.

Successful completion of a task depends on how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Don't give out a task you have not prepared them to do.  Experiments are for a science lab, not the field.

You set the standards by what behaviors you ignore, reward and punish.

There is no "I" in "Team" but there's "Me" if you rearrange the letters.  Yes, and No.  Respect the individual, know the individual.  But train and cross train as a team, individuals have weaknesses, teams learn to compensate and overcome them.  Reward is not the only thing shared, responsibility is.


Have a sense of humor.  It can disarm, it can engage.  Don't overuse it, and in the workplace, avoid with strangers, but never forget it.  And someday, when I'm retired and all witnesses are dead, I'll tell you a story about getting someone to collect evidence by milking a goat.

Just because it's not your fault, doesn't mean it's not your problem.


Trust but Verify.  You have to trust your team to do their job without micromanaging every step.  But verify it's done to the standards you have set, standards that are clearly communicated and adequately supervised. For their mistakes aren't just theirs, they are yours, for you are accountable to your superiors.

People like rewards, be it monetary or even a plate of home-baked cookies - but that's not why they sign up to work with you when there are other choices.

Recognize not just physical courage but moral courage.  Standing firm on values, principles, and convictions is just as important as putting life and limb on the line.

Know your limitations. Not just your own, but the limitations of your team and the individuals that comprise it, as well as those of your organization as a whole, at the highest level.  If you know that, you know when to call in back up and how and who to call for back up.  And don't be afraid to, no matter whose toes or egos get stepped on.  There are jobs where failing that might mean a bad meal, a bad haircut, loss of income, or a loss of face for someone.  In some positions, failing that means people will die.  NEVER forget that.

Never get so self-important that you can't take advice from the probie and thank them for that.

Dishwasher has a 20 year old security bug

The Internet of Lousy Things shows once again that security wasn't an afterthought, it wasn't thought of at all:
Don't say you weren't warned: Miele went full Internet-of-Things with a network-connected dishwasher, gave it a web server, and now finds itself on the wrong end of a security bug report – and it's accused of ignoring the warning. 
The utterly predictable vulnerability advisory on the Full Disclosure mailing list details CVE-2017-7240 – aka "Miele Professional PG 8528 - Web Server Directory Traversal.” This is the builtin web server that's used to remotely control the glassware-cleaning machine from a browser. 
“The corresponding embedded Web server 'PST10 WebServer' typically listens to port 80 and is prone to a directory traversal attack, therefore an unauthenticated attacker may be able to exploit this issue to access sensitive information to aide in subsequent attacks,” reads the notice, dated Friday. 
Proving it for yourself is simple: Using a basic HTTP GET, fetch...
/../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/shadow
...from whichever IP address the dishwasher has on your network to reveal the shadow password file on its file system. That's pretty sad.
This attack was the 'sploit hotness in 1997.  Congratulations, Miele: you have a 20 year old security bug in your shiny brand new dishwasher.


You Don't Own Your House

You don't own your house or your car or your boat or anything else you pay property taxes on. You may have paid off the loans and have a clear title but you still don't own the property. If you doubt that, try not paying the property tax annual rent to the government that permits you the continued use of the property.

You, me, and everyone else pay rent to the government to be allowed to use the house, car, boat, etc. Last year, that rent was $540,701,000,000.  Call it a tax if you like.

"If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? The correct answer is four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.”
--Abraham Lincoln

Update: Bradley dives into the topic in the comments and does a better job than I did in the original post.
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html

Monday, March 27, 2017

Warning about phone calls from the "IRS"

I've been getting a couple calls where a recorded voice says that the IRS has a warrant for my arrest and I need to talk to them to settle up my back taxes.  If you get one of these, HANG UP.  The IRS does not work this way - if they want to communicate with you, they send you a letter via snail mail.

These are like the Nigerian Prince, only via telephone (almost certainly Voice over IP, or VOIP, which lets them call from pretty much anywhere in the world toll free).  Just hang up if you get one of these nuisance calls.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Obamacare, Trumpcare, and Breadlines in Venezuela

I have given up, for the most part. I think that WesternCiv has reached the event horizon and there is no recovery. I think it happened somewhere in the last 30 years, as we allowed the debt to grow, failed to address the external threats, and used the education system to raise a generation of socialists. So mostly I ignore the news. But two related news stories have rousted me today and I will grab the spinning axle.

First, let's speak of Venezuela. An ever increasingly communist government reacted to bread lines this week by blaming the bakers. They took over some bakeries, accused the bakers of trying to make a profit, hoarding flour and making brownies. Not kidding.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/venezuelas-socialist-leaders-seize-bakeries-bread-war-46268076

 This is a hopeless effort. Large economic decisions have lead finally and inevitably to a flour shortage. The breadlines are the direct result of another country trying communism, whatever they are calling it. It has failed again and people will suffer as a result. The Venezuelan government's response is to double down.
"We're going to distribute bread at a much cheaper price and in larger quantities than before," said Jose Enrique Solorzano, who heads the socialist committee that assumed control of Mansion's. "It's no longer going to be about the exploited and exploiter, no more boss and chief. We're all going to become productive, living and producing in equality."
I bring this up to juxtapose it with this post on The Smallest Minority where the question, "Why are guns a right in the US, meanwhile education and healthcare are not?", is explored. First, and most obviously, guns and education/healthcare are not being considered the same way. The right to keep and bear arms does not come with an assumption that the government is going to pay for it.

Although it's not currently in the Constitution, and amending the Constitution has a clear process that has been accomplished a number of times, I could be convinced that adding a couple of Amendments that state that "healthcare and education are rights that shall not be infringed" would be harmless. Fine, I'm with you. Now arms, education, and healthcare would all be given the same protection. They could not be denied to anyone who could afford to pay for them.

The evil in Obamacare is the idea that healthcare is a right that must be provided and paid for, taxing everyone to provide the goods and services involved. Trumpcare was going to do some variant, tweaking the model, but not addressing the underlying wrong. Like Medicare and Medicaid, this is a model destined to fail. It won't fail all at once, but it will fail.

The communist model for healthcare will result in everyone having a right to healthcare and no one getting any of it. There will be black market health care for those who can afford it, a lovely parallel system for the politically well connected, and a crumbling system of overworked, over-regulated providers working to give some care to all the rest of us.

To tie this together, think of healthcare provided with the exact same mindset as bread in Venezuela today. Take a failed premise, force the system to use it, and then blame everyone and everything else for the failure. Blame the fat-cat doctors, the hospital administrators, Big Pharma, etc. Point fingers as wait times for services and procedures go up, blame the profits of the insurance companies and finally do what has been planned for decades. Establish the single payer system that Obamacare was designed to push us to. Even if we do some sort of Trumpcare along the way, that's where we're headed.

Just like the nationalization of the Venezuelan bakeries, nationalization of the U.S. health care system is coming. It's the the same thinking and it will have the same outcome. I don't expect to change this. I don't Trump or any other President could change the direction this takes us. We don't have the data on a national healthcare system yet, so I'll use Medicare as an example. Once we nationalize healthcare, I expect the same sort of growth in cost over time.

This, just in Medicare, is unsustainable. Make it an national healthcare system and we will consume the economy. Once we get done blaming the folks I mentioned and creating the single payer system, the government will be unable to manage the hospitals, doctors, pharmacy companies, because central control and planning won't work any better in the U.S. than it is working today in Venezuela or than it did in farm planning in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. You can like it or hate it, but it will fail. Update: Bayou Renaissance Man provides some of the math

And to ask my final two questions. Is a system that promises bread to everyone and fails more moral than the capitalist system that provides a surplus of bread that must be paid for? Is a system that claims that health care is a right and destroys the healthcare system trying to provide it to everyone more moral than a capitalist system that provides healthcare related goods and services for those who can pay?


Maurice Ravel - Une Barque sur L'Ocean

Today is the birthday of Nathaniel Bowditch, born this day in1773.  Bowditch is considered the founder of modern maritime navigation.  A mathematical prodigy, he began work correcting the calculation tables in other navigation books, finally deciding to write his own.  What made his different was his determination to "put down nothing in the book that I cannot teach the crew."  The resulting American Practical Navigator is still in common use today, and is carried aboard every U.S. Navy ship.

In honor of Mr. Bowditch and his gift to the seafaring world, here is a musical sketch of a ship sailing the ocean currents by Maurice Ravel.

Murphy

While Borepatch was out riding, I was doing home repairs. The house was built in 1946. It was rental property when I bought it in 1986. It's a forever project.

In 2000, I tore out the kitchen to the studs. New cabinets, wiring, sheetrock, appliances, countertops, floor, sink, and windows. We washed dishes in the bathtub, the refrigerator stood in the corner of the living room, and we cooked on a camp stove while this took place. It took weeks months.

The faucet assembly I installed in the new sink in 2000 had developed a drip over that few months. There was a position you could set the handle in that wouldn't drip, but it was getting worse. Moen makes faucets here in the USA. One of their plants is with 50 miles. So Moen it is and I run out to the big blue store and get one.

Got out all the right tools. Removal is easy, if anything done by a 60 year old laying on his back under the sink is easy. Installation is even easier. Maybe 40 minutes, start to finish.

It is at this point that an accumulation of events and decisions starting in 1946 finally coalesced. Here they are, in order, as best as I can surmise.

1. Window installed at a certain height on the back wall of the house.(1946)
2. Sink and associated plumbing installed under window.(1946)
3.  New cabinets, with a 38" countertop, installed. (2000)
4. Replacement window installed. (2000)
5. At her request, a 6" wide windowsill to put things on, installed over the sink. (2000)
6. New sink and fixtures installed in countertop, directly under windowsill. (2000)
7. Replacement faucet assembly, with a taller center and an arched handle installed. (2017)

And there you have it. Murphy. It was installed, but you could not turn on the water, except a little bit right in the middle. No full hot or full cold at all. The handle would not clear the windowsill.

It is to laugh. Which I did. I liked the new faucet. I did not want to remove it, return it, and buy a different one. I did not even consider this possibility when I selected it so on some level this is my own fault and responsibility.

Add an hour going up and down to the basement, some cutting, sanding, and painting, and then putting even more tools away and behold, my solution to a problem 70 years in the making.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Out riding

Up to Lancaster PA with the local HOG chapter. So far I'm keeping to my resolution to ride in each month this year. Photo taken by the Queen Of The World.

A Sea of Open Sky - A Brigid Post

An aircraft engine has as many variances of sound as a human.  There are satisfied hums, deep throated snarls, and the incessant whine of someone who is never satisfied no matter what you do for them.  Then, there is that sound, in and of itself, the sound of an aircraft engine over the ocean at night, when there is not enough fuel to turn back, only to go forward to a far away shore

The sea is a broad expanse that neither eye nor voice can span, and when it's calm it lulls you into a false sense of comfort as the engines hum and you gaze out the window with clear, unconscious eye. You are not pondering thoughts that come to you poignant and silent, the order of your conscious, the conduct of life if there really is a proper way to die.  You are not thinking of the operational capacities of a Vickers Pump or your own limitations.  No, you are thinking about the really cold beer you will have at the end of a day, and the laughter of companionship.  That is when you hear it, or think you hear it. That sound.
"Oh, that's not right" you think and then you hear it again, that asthmatic thump.  As you check EPR's and pressures and temperatures, somewhere in your head are the words:  "An engine driven, two element (centrifugal and gear) fuel pump supplies high pressure fuel to the engine. Loss of the gear element of the fuel pump will result in flameout."  You feel no fear, only annoyance, at the callous outcry of machinery and cold water that have caught you unawares, making you give up your daydream of cold beer and a warm bed  and confirming unreasonably, your fondness for narrow escapes.

Then it is gone, if it ever occurred at all except in your mind, the engine only emitting a steady, slow hum, like somnolent bees.  But your senses are back on red alert, that seeming malfunction that the mind hears on such over water trips, ministering to a boldness as forged as its own pretense of  fear. What is it to fly such a vast distance, one youngster asked me once? I replied, " it seems like 999 minutes of boredom and 1 minute of stark terror."
You either loved or hated your ship.  Aircraft, in general, are easy to fall in love with, with their ever present potency and  mysterious uncertainty.  Even as a child I dreamed of them, watching  them fly overhead, the contrails a heroic thread, the sun glinting on their promise. But they varied among even the same make and model, twins of different mothers.

Then there were the mornings where you went out to the flight line and there, on the tarmac, perched four large birds, three of them bright, shining and gleaming, perfect in form.  And the fourth, older than the dirt upon it,  with a stain of fluid on the ground underneath, the Scarlet Letter of hydraulic fluid.  The smiling crew chief  is happy to introduce you to them like an old Puritan father to a prospective bridegroom "here are my four daughters, Faith, Hope Charity and Pestilence", and you know which one you are going to end up with. Even if you got a good aircraft,  there would be days they could be as unruly as a mule, refusing to start, to move, and occasionally willing to give you a swift kick.  It is sometimes the smallest of things that can be your undoing.
But it's not just your own craft turning on you that you have to be concerned about on such trips.  Weather over the ocean is its own continent.  Perhaps not so much now, but 20 years ago, when I was a pup with four strips on my delicate shoulders that were not yet tarnished, weather planning for ocean crossing was less meteorology and more alchemy. I think about many long flights, our course drawn out with paper, not electronic blips of a satellite fix, a small x marking a fuel stop, a small cross marking our destination, a line marking the path. where we as Pilgrims, sought out that holy place, that grail of a full night's sleep.

I remember one flight that would have a stop on an island, a piece of land in the middle of an ocean, just big enough for a tourist's fat wallet and the occasional aircraft.  There was great oceanic storm brewing off in a distance, but it was to have no impact on our flight path, according to all of the aviation weather experts.  Still, as the craft pitched ponderously in air that was to have been still, even if the sky was clear, there was this nagging tickle at the back of my neck, that said "should have stayed in bed".  As we passed the calculated point of go on or retreat back to base,  the controllers telling us it looked good ahead, the clouds began to build and form, not so huddled we couldn't easily pick our way through them with the right tilt of an antenna, but building nonetheless, and rapidly.
As we got within a hundred miles of our destination, they built into full blown thunderstorms, releasing their energy in broken bursts that boomed like the barrage of heavy artillery firing at a very small enemy. The air was full of flying water, heavy sheets of rain that extended well past the individual cells, landmines with up and downdrafts I was trying to avoid.  It was supposed to be clear and sunny, no alternate landing site required, our biggest concern being what food we could get to eat before taking off again.

My copilot was very young and fairly inexperienced, not with the craft, as he was fully trained, but to this whole environment.  I could sense him getting pretty nervous.  I just smiled and said "we're almost there". There is no quitting in this sort of thing, and often there is no going back. You endure because you have a conviction in the truth of what you are doing, duty being not a thing, but a name, that establishes the order, the mortality of conduct and the outcome.

"Skipper?", a gentle voice from my right.

We checked the weather for our landing destination. The wind was very heavy but not beyond the limits of my skill or the aircraft's proven handling, but it was going to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  What concerned me more was the torrential rain, barely enough ceiling and visibility to land, "barely" being optimistic but enough to make the  Precision Instrument approach and hopefully see the required lighting.  Otherwise, we'll declare an emergency, get a good signal on the approach, keep the needles centered and the donut amber and fly it to the ground. There were no other options when the nearest bit of land is hours past the fuel you have.
My copilot, on hearing the terminal weather, gently stammered a "what are we going to do?"

We were either going to succeed or we were going to be scorched by a flame that fate will flick at us without pity, with no time to utter any last words of faith or regret.  But I wasn't going to tell him that.

I gave him  my sweetest  smile and said simply -

 "We're going to land this mother*(#*er".

And we did, dropping our nose and descending down into that somber wall of rain and grey that seemed the very stronghold of that small place we were trying to breach, picking up the runway there through the rain at the right moment, the wind pounding us like surf. When we landed,  my copilot wanted to kiss the ground. I simply gave my aircraft a grateful pat on the nose, like the trusty stead it was, as it stood there, trembling in the wind as if it had just run a great race.

I'd not ever quite seen weather change so violently and rapidly outside of the forecast. Apparently Mr. "Giant Rotation of Water and Air" took a sharp bend in the hours we were aloft, pushing some weather up our way.  Not yet  hurricane strength by any means, just the nasty stuff you generally try and avoid.

After that, I think I was owed my 999 minutes of boredom and just wanted to go perch on a bar stool somewhere dry.
There have been many other storms, ones with premeditated gales of wind that seemed to have a fierce purpose all of their own, a furious attentiveness in the howl and rush of air that  it seemed to personally seek us out. But that did not summon in me a feeling of fear but rather, a deep sense of  awe in the power of our planet, though I might have said a quick prayer to the Patron Saint of landing gear (that's good to minus 2 g's extended),  prior to touchdown.

There were days we left the ramp, to launch into that deep sea that is the sky, no one to see us off,  as in days of old, where the ships left port while some quiet mothers and anxious maidens cried waved lace handkerchiefs and dreamed undrowned dreams. We were on the move so much, most of us had no time for such ties, our connections were brief sparks from cold stone, unexpected and as short lived. For now, at least, we just had our crew and crew chief that, who, while immensely competent, normally ate tacks for breakfast and was typically as excited to see us arrive or leave a house cat.

There were days of fierce delights, of sun that bounced off the nose, like some  weaponized ray of an alien craft, its power deflected by mere sheet metal, and more relays that anyone knew (seriously, when they built this craft, SOMEONE was having a sale on relays). There were nights we hung motionless in the air, with no sense of motion, ourselves a futuristic craft that flew beyond a brace of suns into the darkness, awaiting the kiss of imminent adventures.
It was also long work and hard work.  It was machinery that would break in a place of isolation and natives that had long pointy guns, requiring kitchen sink repairs with a manual you wished you had brought with you, which was like trying to explain the order of the universe with one brief, hazy glimpse of truth.  It was learning to trust equally, providence and the immutable laws of physics.  But its reward was great.

I understood the conjured  diplomacy of relationship between earth and sky, alive to its looming dangers and measured mercies.  I bore the power of the atmosphere and the criticism of men, the levy of duty and common severity of the tasks that build a backbone and enables you to break bread.  It's a life that will check the edge of your temper and the point of your command; that will affirm the character of your fight  and the hidden  truth of your fears. It's a life that beguiles as it disenchants, a life that  frees you even as you willingly let it enslave you.

Our world was long drawn out days, a future that disappeared moment by moment into history, days that fell  forever into the arms of the sea or drifted down upon deserts or  mountains where they caught and hung on the landscape like clouds. Our world was one aircraft, that fired up with a belch of smoke, then hung there, lonely under that smoke, til we were released with a quick salute.
It was an orderly world that revolved around a specific precise and measured way of doing something, while working in an environment that cared little about either prevision or order.  You were trained in every possible outcome, only to find that circumstance that wasn't like you were trained for.  Then you discover the most unyielding of haunts of mans own nature, wrapped up in a question like rolled steel, more chilling than your brief mortality.  And that is the distrust of the absolute power consecrated in an established standard of conduct. You can go off the path, right?, boldly go where no man has gone before.  It works out in the movies, doesn't it? Then, in that instant between heroism and insanity,  you realize what you are made of, for the only thing that will save you,  is that trust, and you take off your cowboy hat,  get out that checklist and do what is expected of you.

I don't miss it, and I do, there on those nights, when the golden blaze of sunset bites into the rim of the earth and the night casts its shadow upon me.  On such nights  I see the form of an aircraft overhead, not the modern airliner,  but a craft that's seen some battles, one with ancient radios, and tired rigging, visible there in the last remnant of light.  I don't see them often, but when I do, I simply stand, there in that slant of light, the form moving away to the heart of a sky that is its own vast enigma. Only the moon now watches me, hanging in the sky like a slender shaving of pale wood. I watch that aircraft until it's only a flash of a strobe, one that captures all that last bit of light in the sky, disappearing  into the darkness, gone, even as it's forever contained in the center of it.

The sky is an incomplete story and for that I am grateful.
 - Brigid

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kim !

Kim Du Toit has returned to blogging. He's been removed from Sadly Missed and restored to the active roll. This is a Very Good Thing and I hope he's doing well.

The Religion of Global Warming

From The Atlantic, an article on cognitive dissonance that explains how people can hold a belief in the face of facts and logic that clearly points to a different conclusion. The article starts with cults, but touches on religion, politics, political parties, selective bias and even mentions global warming.
“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,” Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schacter wrote in When Prophecy Fails, their 1957 book about this study. “Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point … Suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before...”
I was reminded of the history of stomach ulcer research and the difficulty that discoverers of H. Pylori had in convincing the medical establishment that ulcers were caused by a bacteria, not stress, stomach acid, or spicy food. The widely held belief that no bacteria could survive in the stomach and that there was no bacterial factor involved in this disease persisted for years in spite of the unambiguous results of the studies.

Believing (about anything) that "the science is settled" is a spectacularly good way to put on the blinders.

World War II B-17 pilot goes up in one again

"I remember now why I'm hard of hearing," he said. "A thousand hours of those engine grinding in my ears probably didn't help."

20 years old and in command of 12 bombers and 120 crew.  I expect he was harder to "trigger" than today's 20 year olds.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Filed Under: You Knew I was Rattlesnake When You Picked Me Up.

From Ricochet.com, a chart to help understand the news as the media grapples with the events in Britain today.

 

Carbon Dioxide levels hit "Point of no return"

Rick emails to point out the latest climate change news:
Levels rose 3 ppm to 405.1 ppm in 2016, putting CO2 at its highest levels in over 10,000 years. This increase matched the record rise recorded in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the “point of no return.” After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.
His question is whether since this is irreversible, the Usual Suspects will now shut up about it.  Confidence is not high on that.  The other question is whether they read Borepatch.  Sadly, confidence is not high on that, either.