Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Let the Games begin…

I’m not sure what it is, but the Olympic Games has always been an exciting television event for me.

The atmosphere, the buzz, the excitement.  It’s in the air and all around the host city.  In 2002, when Salt Lake City was the host city of the Winter Olympic Games, there was something magical about it all.  The entire city was transformed into pretty much the absolute largest sports convention in the world, and it was happening in my backyard!  For 16 days, the world comes together, despite it’s differences and gathers to compete in what is arguably the most prestigious sports award in the world.

Now the world stage is ready to light up the Vancouver skyline, and I can’t think of a more beautiful city to have host them.  I had the privilege to work on the very first flight of the day from San Francisco to the Olympic Games today and you could really feel the electricity in the cabin as the passengers were set to begin the next chapter in world winter sporting competition.  There were several athletes onboard who waited until the last minute to come to the Games as they finalized their last workouts, honing their laser-sharp talents for the entirety of mankind to behold.  What a feeling that must be, to be a competitor in these most competitive of venues.

There was an older couple on the flight this morning wearing their leather USA jackets.  This is their 10th Winter Olympics and those jackets we adorned with pins from all the various games they had attended.  There was a young Korean family traveling with us who were there to inspire their two young daughters–perhaps one day they would be on the ice, winning their OWN gold Olympic medal!

Even though I will be on the road for most of the days of the Games this year, I will be running my SlingBox into overdrive this month, trying to keep my DVR from filling up too rapidly from all the events I want to watch.  I remember having to work to Tokyo during the 2002 SLC Games and being forced to watch the coverage in Japan was an interesting experience.  I was amazed at what events drew the attention of the Japanese, as opposed to an American audience, and it made me realize that with all the hundreds of different events that are offered, it’s good to know that there really is something for everybody.

To to all the world’s athletes: we salute you and wish you all the best in your endeavors to conquer gold!  And to the spectators, both in Vancouver and around the world: Let’s watch and play together in a spirit of harmony and good sportsmanship.

I believe it truly defines our species as worth growing together as a single world!  Cheers!


Did you hear what I heard…?

As I was going through my TiVo programs, trying to get caught up on Idol, Vampire Diaries and Project Runway, I caught a little snippet of a news report from a few days ago. And it sent a chill down my spine…but…

This country has been on high alert for terrorists infiltrating this country since 9/11/01. That’s eight and a half years of keeping our “ear to the ground” (so to speak) and trying to remain vigilant. The saddest part of all of this is that the American people, as diverse and proud as we are about our country, have a really bad case of ADHD when it comes to this stuff. It’s very easy for them to become complacent and get themselves into the mode of “my government will protect me” and just move on with their lives.

The problem with that is that those whose sole mission it is to destroy our way of life, those who hate our culture and our government, our excesses and gluttony, our success and our dominance on the world stage, do NOT have a short memory and they have, over time, begun to use the very tools and technology that our own country has developed and cultivated against us.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and U.S. intelligence expert Leon Panetta

According to the experts, it’s just a matter of time — and that was the gist of the news report that I saw — before the terrorists are causing havoc and mass destruction within our borders again, and in light of these recent events, they are saying that just such an attack is imminent within the next THREE to SIX MONTHS!

The TOP intelligence agencies have all reported to Congress in the past several days that Al-Qaeda and it’s operatives have begun recruiting rogue Americans to carry out their desires for the destruction of the United States, our economy and our freedom — to bring us to our knees, because in their eyes, we deserve it and we — the Infidels — must be punished.

Now, I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little here (“The Sky is Falling!”), but as an airline safety professional, my “guard” has been up since the 9/11 attacks. I have no choice and I have no tolerance for those who wish to believe that it can’t happen again. It almost did on Christmas Day, for goodness sakes! And I have no idea why our Intelligence leaders would mislead the American public on so serious an issue as this.

Attempted terrorist aprehended on Christmas Day Delta flight

The fact of the matter (in my own mind) is that these terrorists are testing the system EVERY DAY. I’m not a suspicious person, but I also can’t afford not to keep alert whenever I step on that aircraft. I get that the average traveler isn’t thinking about that at all. But if the bad guys are successful in bringing down another passenger jet in the name of their god, I know that once again, the flying public’s guard will be heightened and aroused.

I might sleep a little better knowing that we can prevent it every time it’s attempted rather than live through another 9/11 morning. I’m not giving up on America and the freedom and way-of-life that I am privileged to have. But I still believe it is a gift to be cherished. If we don’t protect it, someone is always out there to take it from us.

Let’s hope it never comes to that…

“Drama” Idol

So, two days down…two more to go before we have the final 24 American Idol singers for season nine.

I believe that there are some real talented people on the show this year. I was really impressed with some, and very surprised at others who I thought were not very good, yet were allowed through to the next round. It makes me wonder, “Did I hear something different than the judges did?”

And the group sessions were your typical drama-filled chaotic mess. But I have to say that I really have had a major complaint with the producers of the show every single year, and this year is no exception.

During the auditions, I can accept all the dramas and train wrecks that get their 5 minutes of fame on t.v. You really have to expect that. But at this point, you have 181 people that you have brought all the way to Hollywood, so they are supposed to be the best of over 100,000 people who auditioned, right? So why can’t we spend more time actually hearing them perform!

Look, I know I’m not a television producer, but does anyone else feel this way? If they want us to start feeling some sort of loyalty towards any of these kids, they need to stop showing us how stressed out they all are at trying to learn to dance and sing harmonies in a group, while at the same time trying to remain a focused singular talent.

Perhaps that formula still works, I don’t know. But I still think the show would be better if we could see more performance and less drama…and while they’re at it…show us a little more of the “behind the scenes” with the vocal coaches and the accompanists. I think those would be much more interesting.

But what do I know…

What defines “safety”?

As you know by now, I work for a major airline, and I have done so for over 13 years.

While I have enjoyed my career there, I have felt an “undertow” of change in the industry that has become increasingly disturbing to me and many like myself who take pride in what we do and truly do have concern for the traveling public.

As an airline employee, I am a SAFETY PROFESSIONAL first and foremost.  And I take that duty very seriously.  I know that 99.9% of the people I work with also take that duty with an almost religious fervor that is tough to find in any other industry except maybe the medical profession.  We are responsible for millions of lives everyday–and all we are trying to do is to get the public from Point A to B in a safe, comfortable condition.

The recent focus on airline safety is not only disturbing to the general public.  We, as the airlines FRONT LINE employees are truly concerned at how the “suits” at the top of the ivory tower have whittled away our ability to always have that focus as our number one priority, and it seems that more and more “whistleblowers” are stepping forward to try to put a dent in the public’s perception that those who manage the airlines truly have the public’s safety in their sites.

While the major carriers can boast about on-time arrivals and safety being #1, a large dark shadow has increasingly loomed behind them that they tend to turn a blind eye to: the regional carriers that masquerade as being part of that major carrier, but in reality is run but a smaller, separate company that may not have the same integrity or motivation as the majors do.  And all because the regional carriers are making huge money at the expense of it’s own employees.

Don’t get me wrong.  The airlines WANT you to believe that airline employees make BIG money.  That myth has to end!  What job do YOU know of that requires you to work (on average) 12-16 hour days, with as little as 8 hours of rest in-between, and of all that time you are on duty, you are only paid for 30-40% of it?  Most pilots and flight attendants are only actually paid for the actual flight time (that is, from the moment the brakes are released at departure to the time they are set at arrival).  All that time before flights (including during boarding, where we are actually interacting with AND serving passengers), in-between flight segments waiting for aircraft, including time waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, as well as the time we spend away from home, waiting for hotel vans to and from the airport while away from home — NONE of that is PAID time!

The airlines will argue that pilots and flight attendants really ARE paid during all that time (via a “per diem” stipend) but that usually amounts to $0.90-$2.50/hour when away from our home-base but that is strictly dependent on each workgroups’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and since most of these airlines have recently had the ability to have these CBA’s altered due to bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy threats, most airline employees have either had NO cost of living increases (COLA) in years, or have actually LOST income over time.  At my own airline, we are currently paid at 1991 pay levels…that’s almost 20 year-old wages without an increase (and soical security beneficiaries have gotten routine COLAs 15 times since 1991!).

PBS’s Frontline series is airing a special investigation program on this ever-increasing problem.  I have posted a preview of this program here for you to view.  Tell me what you think and please feel free to respond to my poll below…

Please go to: FRONTLINE

The Difference Between “Sweet” and “Are You Serious???”

A few years ago, I was given a pair of those amazing Bose Quiet Comfort 2 noise-reduction headphones for my birthday. They were one of the best presents I had ever been given and I got an amazing amount of use out of them.

Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Noise Reduction Headphones

After owning them for about 18 months, I fell victim to someone’s sticky fingers and I found myself actually sick to my stomach that such a great gift was gone in an instant. I was determined to replace that wonderful piece of equipment as soon as was possible.

About the time I was ready to make the purchase, I read a review of a new product that was comparable to those wonderful Bose headphones that I had lost. These new headphones, the Auvana X-Fi, were produced by Creative Labs, a company whose products I had come to trust and rely on for over 10 years, as they are the producer of the extremely popular “Sound Blaster” series of audio components for computers. They’ve always been a reliable and well made product.

Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi Noise Reduction Headphones

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Bloggers…Bloggers Who Need Bloggers…Are We the Luckiest?

This blogging phenomenon is pretty damn cool!

Just give people a forum to express themselves and you’ll find that there is a whole new world of…well, for lack of a better word, entertainment out there. And I don’t use the word to belittle or besmirch (hehe—THERE’S a $3 word for ya!) those that take the time out of their day to put thought to the virtual page. In a way, it sort of validates who we are as an individual and I’m finding it so very liberating.

Of course, there is a lot of pure rubbish out there too. Some people are truly out of their minds with the stuff they fill the internet with. Cyber-trash. I suppose it’s no different than surfing the almost 200+ channels of satellite television just to return to the same 5 or 6 channels that I used to watch when I only had 20 or 30 to choose from in the first place. I’m sure it’s very easy to get caught up in it all too.

When I was first made aware of MySpace, I thought “Wow! That is such a cool idea!” A place where I can literally make my own site, fill it with all kinds of decorations and goodies and things, but mostly just junk! I made some new friends there, I learned about old friends there and I reconnected with people I hadn’t even THOUGHT about in years—maybe even decades—there.

Then people started talking about Facebook. It was a more simplistic device; it had a more intuitive ability to connect the people, places, events and hobbies together, but in a form characteristic of CNN’s Headline News rather than The Situation Room. And jumping into the fray, I too, connected with more people, my family, my long-ago friends, my newly-met friends and people with similar interests.

Somewhere in the past year, though, it has evolved into something a little more like banner ads and pop-ups on the web, rather than real information I cared about. Who gives a rat’s ass that Susie planted a new virtual flower in her new virtual flowerpot in “Gardenville” or that Rickie became a level 59 vampire in the continuing saga of “Sucker Wars!” I mean, come on people!

That’s not to say that I am not guilty—I am, but I have become ever sorrier that I am these days. I still use the old Facebook (I even advertise my blog on it, to the chagrin of probably everybody I know there, but whaddyagonnadooo?

Don’t really know why Twitter is gangbusters at the moment. To me it is a twisted combination of cell phone texting and the old “ticker-tape” stock quotation machines…and everybody is just keeping close tabs on Ashton Kutcher’s every move…like he’d have any idea who any of the over one million Twits he boasts are following his every move, hanging on his every word. As my friend Michele would say: Really? (Insert a huge dose of sarcasm to that “Really” and you’d know what I am talking about!)

I’m not sure I am smart enough to answer that question to any degree of accuracy or expertise. But I think that we, as a society, may be evolving into a new species. Technology has forever altered not only what we say and when we say it, but also how we express it, where it gets heard…and interestingly, we have no idea who is “hearing us.”

Some of us place our hearts on our sleeves and expose our inner selves for the entirety of humanity to ingest, unaware of any unintended consequences that might result of it. Others have really nothing at all to say—they just want to be heard and will say anything to accomplish it. Still others try to educate; to contribute to the ever-expanding human consciousness and knowledge of pretty much every subject imaginable. It boggles the mind because it truly is the absolute definition of the human species—to create and be creative.

Imagine what our lives would be like if no one imagined anything new…!

So why do I blog? It’s a pretty basic premise for me. This is where people will truly learn who I am. While I may post moronic, sophomoric rubbish from time to time—that’s me (I get this from my family—if you ONLY knew!)—this is where I can create, dream, relish, long, hope, cherish, despise, abhor, admonish—this is where I can be real, and therefore validated.

I blog…therefore, I think I might just really be!

All hail…Conan…the Conqueror?

Sadly, it’s the end of an era in late night television in the United States…at least it is for me (I can’t speak for the rest of America tonight).

I still remember my curiosity the night I first watched this “so-called” replacement of David Letterman, who left the NBC network when he was passed over for the “Tonight Show” gig for stand-up comic Jay Leno. Conan O’Brien?? Who the…what the…huh? I can still remember Conan’s first shows and how uncomfortable he seemed, but he usually ran with it, no matter how bad things seemed. By the end of the first year, I was hooked.

Over time, his signature bits (“In the Year 2000,” “Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog” among others) always made me laugh, and made it worth waiting up for. Although his humor was pretty much lost on my parents, to me, he was fresh, original and it always made me wonder what he was going to do next.

So as I sit here watching his final “Tonight Show” performance, I feel like something is really over. Although Leno makes me laugh, his kind of humor is more “yuck, yuck, yuck” and not the true “belly laugh” humor that I tended to get from Conan’s sophomoric slapstick and self-deprecating barbs (I think my sister Susan would agree!).

So I wanted to just take a few paragraphs in my personal blog tonight to say “Thanks, Conan, for making me laugh, for putting a smile on my face pretty much every night and congratulations for sticking it to NBC!”

I’m looking forward to his next project when he’s finally allowed to take off his legal collar and start up the REAL “Tonight Show” in the fall.