Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Promise Keepers & a lesson learned

It has been a little while since I've written a tall tale. I awoke about an hour skyscrapers ago to the sound of my wife suctioning my handicapped son's trach. I now find sleep eluding me. I keep the radio on Music Thru The Night so that there is something worthwhile to listen to should I awake between midnight and 5am. Mike Kellogg told the brief tale of Jackie Robinson the first black Major League Baseball player. Mike said Jackie was not given a warm reception by the white fans, and during one of the games he committed an error that drew the ire of the fans. Jackie stood near second base listening to the booing of the fans and contemplated quitting the major leagues when the shortstop approached him and placed his arm around Jackie's shoulders and faced the booing fans with him. The booing quit, but most notable was that Mike said Jackie considered quitting the major leagues until his fellow player offered his support against the booing fans. That story caused me to think of my "Promise Keepers" experience as well as some pretty top notch black men I have known in my life most notably a man I know only as Hatchet who is as honorable and good as any man I have known regardless of race. Hatchet is now deceased, but it has been my great privilege to have known him in this life and to have been introduced to horse back riding by him. He is one that you would want on your side and on your team. It is my great hope that I will see him again.

As I thought about the story Mike Kellogg told about Jackie on second base and the shortstop it stirred the memory of my Promise Keepers experience. I probably would have preferred to simply return to sleep, but sleep did not want to seem to easily return and when the creative juices for writing a Tall Tale strike they often do not return with the same fervor if at all when they are set aside for later, so I take the time to spin this Tall Tale now.

Promise Keepers first appeared on my radar through a Christian radio station in the very early 1990's. My wife and I both had an interest in my attending one of their events. I was working an EMS job on the old "Kelly Shift" cycle back then. The Kelly Shift consisted of a 9 day cycle consisting of 3 twenty four hour shifts during the first 5 days followed by 4 days off. The closest event was scheduled for Dallas Texas, but did not coincide with a date that matched my four days off. My wife and I were disappointed and hoped another one in a suitable location that matched my off days would eventually be scheduled.

Then an act of God occurred that caused the current Dallas event to be rescheduled to a time that perfectly matched my four days off. A hugh thunderstorm with strong winds blew down the stage for the first scheduled Dallas event causing it to be rescheduled inside a sports arena. To my knowledge no one was hurt and they simply suffered the inconvenience of having to reschedule to a time and date that was very convenient for me. I quickly bought two tickets. One for me and another for a black preacher I knew from South Louisiana.

My preacher friend was not able to attend, so I headed to Dallas alone with both tickets. I would spend two nights with a Christian couple that my wife made a missionary trip to China with before I knew her. I invited the man to attend with me offering him my spare ticket, which he declined. So, with excitement and anticipation I headed to the event unaccompanied the following morning.

While en route and listening to a local Dallas station they talked about the event and brought up the subject of parking along with a required parking fee. Uh oh! I heard warning bells go off in my head. Back in those days I never traveled with any cash carrying only a checkbook and a credit card. The radio didn't clearly alert listeners that only cash would be taken to pay the parking fee, but that eventuality felt strongly implied. I was optimistic though. I reasoned at best I could get them to take one of my checks and at worst I could quickly panhandle my second now unused and unneeded ticket.

When I arrived I patently waited my turn in the parking line for what was a huge mass of traffic. When my turn to pay came I explained my situation to the attendant accepting parking fees. He wasn't understanding or helpful at all with my cashless dilemma. He simply said, "You can probably go down town and find a place to cash your check and then come back." I simply said, "Okay" as I pulled out of my place in line.

I was somewhat offended yet still optimistic as I headed into downtown Dallas to attempt to cash an out of town check. After several failed attempts at different establishments my optimism faded and my sense of being offended greatly increased. I came within a hair's breadth of simply heading home and telling myself that all those people care about is money anyhow. Then I spied some tall skyscrapers about a mile's walking distance to the event. I set my face like flint and told myself that I would find an available empty and free parking spot near the skyscrapers since it was the weekend, and then I would make the mile long hike back to the Promise Keepers event and they would have to put up with my now disgruntled spirit.

I found my parking spot and my mood was quite sour as I began my long walk from my parking spot. As I got very close to the event I entered some kind of college campus just across the road from where I initially attempted to pay and park. On the college campus there were all kinds of open and shaded free parking spots within an easy walking distance if only a person could have known about them. I saw several college students sitting around watching the goings on. Then there was what appeared to be a lone student tossing a Frisbee for his dog in an open field I was crossing.

As I entered the Frisbee field with my face still set like flint and my spirit covered with the sour mood of my parking experience offense, the man looked up at me and asked, "Are you going over to that promise keepers event?"

I said in what I am sure was not a too pleasant tone, "yeah!"

He said kindly, "Well, I'll walk over there with you. If that's alright?"

His choosing to walk over there with me knocked all the crud that was covering me, from being offended by the promise keepers parking debacle to garner a little extra money, right off of me. I can only imagine what I experienced at that moment was similar to what Jackie Robinson felt years ago when the shortstop put his arm around him in solidarity thus changing Jackie's mind from quitting the major leagues. My sour spirit instantly changed to a more pleasant one now that I had someone to hang with who showed himself friendly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two days at the Dallas Promise Keepers event. I rendezvoused with my new found friend the next day. I got to meet several of his other friends and we all got to share and witness to other men attending. Tony Evans even made an unscheduled brief appearance and almost took the roof off of the place. I wouldn't learn the significance of my being offended by their parking situation until I arrived home after my Promise Keepers trip was completed.

When I arrived home I gathered all my children together for a small bible reading in my bedroom. I opened my bible to Matthew chapter 24 and began reading. I was reading from the New King James version. The Bible the man gave me in this previous Tall Tale was a NASB. Historically I have favored the NASB translation, although I occasionally like to read a different translation. The very first time I ever opened my original NASB as a new bible reader it was to Matthew Chapter 24, so this chapter carries great meaning to me since I felt Jesus was personally talking to me about the things that would come upon the world. Every time I read verse 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another." I have always told myself, "That's not me. I'm not interested in falling away and betraying anyone. I want to be one who endures to the end."

This day while reading from the NKJ version to my children I reached verse 10 in the different translation which said, "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." God hit me right between the eyes! "then shall many be offended" "shall hate one another". Wow! The memory of how the Promise Keepers parking fee offended me and the hatred I had felt came full circle. I heard God's still quiet voice say to me, "And look how easy it happened to you David!"

It was a great lesson for me. Little things that should be insignificant can often easily end up offending us stirring up strong emotions. I had personally experienced it at Promise Keepers. It can happen between spouses, friends, work acquaintances, and strangers. I am much more wary of this trick of the devil since my Promise Keepers experience and the NKJ translation. I hope this Tall Tale can also make you wary of this clever tactic of the enemy and help you also be one who endures to the end able to look with compassion on those who may unknowingly give offense.

The man that befriended me on the Frisbee field wasn't aware of what had just happened to me regarding parking, but God was and I have no doubt that He placed the man with the frisbee and dog there for me for such a time as this. Likewise I believe God had the shortstop there for Jackie Robinson when he needed him most. Thank you Mr. Kellogg for that story. Music thru the Night is almost over now, and I've added another Tall Tale to my collection that will hopefully be of benefit to some of you. I have company arriving later today, so hopefully now I can catch a little more sleep and this visit will also be in God's hand.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:27,28


Friday, August 20, 2010

Take on minimal fuel

One of the things I was told as a brand new EMS pilot was to take on the minimal amount of fuel necessary to get back to base where the fuel is cheaper.

Any of you out there who are successful business people know the importance of saving a buck here and there if you can.

Night flight patient delivery to the big city of Memphis followed by refueling at Memphis International Airport. Minimal fuel, minimal fuel, minimal fuel... Memphis to Cape Girardeau. Okay, I made my choice and decided what I needed.

Many pilots will tell you that the only time you have too much fuel onboard is when your aircraft is on fire.

Well I took on minimal fuel, climbed to altitude where you get better fuel consumption and hopefully favorable winds.

Only head winds on this trip back. God, we seemed like we were moving slow. The fuel gage needle wasn't though. Do I have enough to make it back? One thing in aviation and stacking the deck in your favor besides always taking on extra fuel is to have contingency plans.

Well, there I was over the top of Blytheville Municipal Airport at a point of decision. Do I chance it and see if I can make it with truly minimal fuel or land and get some more gas?

View Larger Map

The conservative side of me had me land. At midnight the airport was closed. I called the sheriff who got the airport manager out of bed for us. No way was I going to tell the man to give me a couple of gallons. I said, "Top it off!"

Always better to be safe than sorry. And, who knows when I might need the man to get up out of bed again for just a little bit of fuel.

After that experience I always took on a little more than just the minimal amount of fuel necessary to make it back.

If the powers that be didn't like that, they could dang sure come and fly that bird their own self.

Ciao! and, if you fly: FLY SAFE!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stacking the Deck to Maintain GPA

A couple of Computer Science professors overhead a group of students talking about a 4.0 GPA; the two CS professors looked at each other as one commented, "Obviously not Computer Science students".

When I decided to return to school late in life to pursue a computer science degree I did my first semester back in school at a small branch of the big state university located in my current home town. I was under the miss impression that I would be able to get everything I needed there. I could have done one more semester here before going off to the big campus, but I would have used up a lot of my filler classes and would have not been left with much easy stuff to buffer the extra hard classes required for a BS in CS. Fifteen credit hours of nothing but tough classes is hard to digest. It is nice to have some soft and easy stuff sprinkled among the hard and demanding stuff.

Initially, I didn't know the fine arts, of which a student had to choose two out of three choices, were some of the easy stuff. I took my first fine arts at the little campus, but which one would it be?

There was Fine Arts Music, then there was Fine Arts Visual, and Fine Arts Theater. None of the openings for Fine Arts Visual matched my schedule so I had to choose between Music or Theater. Well, I had no clue what fine arts was all about and I have ZERO musical talent; my wife hogged it all and did a pretty nice job of it. So, I decided I had better try Theater.

My fine arts theater class was at the end of the day. I really enjoyed learning and entered the classroom with pleasant anticipation. The room was full. Finally a haggard looking teacher entered. She had evidently had a long day. She started talking handling her haggard condition well. A couple of things she said set off warning bells in my head. Something then inspired me to look around and survey the room. It was full of women. I was the only guy in the whole class.

The teacher was not a normal fine arts theater teacher; she was substituting because the school didn't have one for the moment. The teacher started talking about the class doing plays, then one of the girls spoke up and said, "What are we going to do about guy parts? We don't have enough guys to go around."

The teacher then said, "Oh, we'll just have to be transgendered. I can't say transsexual, because that would be wrong, but it's alright for us to be transgendered."

I found myself thinking, "I'm not interested in being transgendered. I'm glad I'm a guy. It should be easy to fill a guy part."

Then the teacher said, "Lets do a reading" as she arbitrarily opened the text book to a play and told us where to turn to. The reading started on the far end of the room from me. It was a guy / girl play. It didn't take long for me to realize that I might not have any say or choice as to any part I might be assigned. I started deliberating what I could do. I felt trapped.

The reading continued from student to student as it approached me. The teacher was happily smiling as each student in succession read their line. Finally my turn arrived. I looked directly at the teacher and said, "Teacher I have serious inhibitions about doing a transgendered part! Do you think there is any hope for me?"

When what I had said sunk into her tired brain and she realized it wasn't the line I was supposed to read and comprehension of what I said set in, her happy little smile disappeared. She looked up from her book directly back at me as darts flew from her eyeballs toward me. Then she pointed at me and commanded, "NO! Now read!"

I said, "What? You don't like my ad libbed line?"

She said, "We'll come back to you later", and motioned with her hand to skip over me. The reading continued. As it progressed toward the end of the classroom, the bell rang.


I exited the classroom and went directly to the administration office where I dropped fine arts theater and registered for fine arts music. Fine arts music was a great class. I completed it with an "A". It wasn't noting like I thought it would be.

The following day after dropping theater, I stopped by the fine arts theater teacher's office and told her I dropped her class because I thought it would be better for both her and me. She pleasantly said, "Ah, we could have made it worked." I said, "Well we don't have to bother trying now." It might have been a good class. I didn't hang around to find out. I cut my losses while I could, and bailed on what I discerned could turn into a bad situation. Discretion is often called the better part of valor.

At the "BIG CAMPUS" I now had the choice between fine arts visual or fine arts theater. Given my previous theater experience, I opted for the visual. Nice teacher. Brand new though, yet easy on the eyes and pleasant. The visual stuff seemed very interesting. My gosh! The amount of work and study it required though. I think a lot of brand new teachers have higher expectations than reality allows especially for a class that should have been an easy ride. I worked and studied hard for her first test. I aced it! Woohoo!

The teacher wasn't too happy though with the overall class performance. Evidently the lion's share of the class didn't do too well on her first test. Her boy friend was a chemistry professor that told her, her students just didn't put out the required effort. Wow! I wish I had the luxury to put out the necessary effort all semester her class would have taken to continue to ace her tests. I had a Calculus III class I was also contending with, so I went and dropped her class like I had dropped the theater class at the small campus. I didn't bother stopping by and visiting her office after my drop though like I did the other teacher. I didn't have anything I could tell her that would be useful. I'd imagine she'd figure it out eventually like most do. I kinda felt sorry for her, but that wasn't going to help me stack the deck in favor of my GPA.

After dropping fine arts visual I eventually ended up taking theater at the big campus. Imagine that! This teacher didn't make us do any plays. We just studied theater and learned what thespians are. It was a pretty easy "A". I also did an extracurricular project for this teacher on my own initiative unrequested. I wrote a play titled: "Prettier at Closing Time, A tale from the dark side". I gave it too him with a smile saying I had a blueprint for him. After he read it I found he didn't much care for it. He told me it was a morality play and that they weren't too popular. He also asked me how could you get someone to play the part of LouElla. I just agreed with him and said, "Yeah" with a countenance of disappointment. Every time I watch something now that has a part that could be difficult to cast like "Peach" in Lonesome Dove, I ask my wife, "Now how can you get someone to play that part?"

The inspiration for Prettier at Closing Time came from a dream I had once where I feel the Lord was showing me what I had waiting for me in the hereafter if I didn't change my former debauched and hedonistic ways. The play wasn't the first time I had capitalized on the dream for a classroom project. During my first ever semester in college at LSU in the fall of 1981 we were given an assignment to watch any television show of our choice and put it on paper. There wasn't anything on television I was interested in. Then the idea came to me to write up my dream as if it was an episode of the Darkroom TV series which aired at the time. My english teacher gave me an "A" which you can find at the lower right of the second page.

  1. The Other Side by the Dark Room pg1

  2. The Other Side by the Dark Room pg2

Now that typewriter written paper is an old artifact.

Here is the link to the song in the play: Old Fashion Man

OldFashionMan Album Cover

I came close to changing my major a time or two, but I managed to make it through with a respectable GPA though not a 4.0 because of it being Computer Science you know...

I'd rather be coding (programming), but thanks to my foggy headed days I can handle writing a whole lot easier. Reading Tall Tales is probably a lot easier for others that visit here than reading software code, but then maybe I could have created a farmville, mafiawars, or youtube application that would have scored a billion users like ProximityCast (NOT). Then I might have managed to become a much better host and gotten to travel and see more of you along the way.

Regardless, I've had interesting hands dealt to me to play along the way. When all is finally said and done, having a journey full of tall tales is probably more valuable and entertaining than anything else I could have done. As long as I manage to pass through "the" narrow gate and endure to the end I'll have to consider myself blessed. Thank You Jesus!

It ain't over yet though... Are you ready!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Coming Back Stronger ~ Drew Brees

I just finished reading

I predict that the Saints will not win a single game in the up coming season. Don't bother asking until we know whether or not my prediction held true.

If I am wrong: Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

If I am right, I will write my book review explaining how I came to my conclusion.



New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 14-9 in the season opener at the Superdome.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

I'll still write my book review. Just sooner than I thought, and it just won't include the reason for my prediction.

Who dat! Who dat say they gonna beat dem saints!

My Review of the Book found on Amazon.com

5.0 out of 5 stars
Finally a Real Saint Leads the Saints, October 13, 2010

One reviewer, Mr. Belvedere, wrote: "The most annoying thing to me is the fact that Mr. Brees is arrogant enough to believe that God and Jesus care about the football heroics and success of a guy who happens to be lucky enough to play for a living."

If God cares enough to count the very hairs of each of our individual heads, I think He can care enough about Mr. Brees to even assist him in making New Orleans Saints football history.

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Matthew 10:30

I told a man about six years ago that I believed God would never honor a team with the name Saints with a championship victory until real saints were part of the team. Then along came Drew Brees whose book testifies that the New Orleans Saints got a real deal modern day saint, and look at the miracle that happened!

Yeah, I think God and Jesus care a lot about even the supposedly little things that comprise our lives.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Duty Officer ~ Opportunity to show mercy

"For the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment."

James 2:13

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Matthew 5:7

I have been shown more mercy in my life than I probably deserve. I have a tall tale or two I could tell where I probably would have lost my opportunity to go to Army Flight School if I had not been shown mercy. Because of the mercy I have been shown, I am inclined to show others mercy when I am able and when they will allow it.

This is the story of a young black soldier named Henry that served in my unit in Korea. I was the duty officer one night when I was called to the front gate. Korea had and maybe still does a curfew where the streets shut down at midnight. Only Military Police patrols are allowed out after that. Sometimes drunks do not necessarily like complying with a curfew and other inconveniences that may seem unreasonable to those who can't understand or refuse to accept the reason for them whether justified or not.

It was either midnight or very close to it when I was summoned to the camp's front gate because of a ruckus one of the drunks that didn't want to call it quits for the night was causing. When I arrived at the gate I found the source of the ruckus to be the young soldier mentioned above. I made several attempts to reason with him telling him that party time was over and it was time to put a cap on it and go to bed. Every attempt to extend mercy was met with loud, obnoxious, and disrespectful protests about how he was ready to continue partying, and no one was going to stop him. I did my best to show this young soldier mercy that he wanted no part of. I finally just shook my head and wrote him up when it became obvious that all attempts were fruitless. After he was wrote up, the guards were able to escort him to the stockade where he could sober up and cool off. His fate was now out of my hands. I had no idea what else would result from his obstinacy.

Besides getting to sober up in the stockade Henry was placed on restriction. I was surprised by the length of restriction he received. My turn at duty officer rolled around again, and Henry was still on restriction from the previous incident involving me. Basically, he was not allowed to leave the compound. All of the officers in the unit took a turn at duty officer. Since we were an aviation unit there were plenty of officers, so duty officer didn't roll around that much.

Henry approached me. He was very polite. He even told be that he understood why I wrote him up. Others had told him I had done my best to try to give him a break that he wouldn't take. The length of Henry's restriction presented him with another problem. He had a korean girlfriend in the ville that had some of his possessions at her place. He was afraid that he would lose them if she moved on since he had not showed up in such a long time. Henry asked me if I could give him permission to leave the compound and go fetch his stuff.

This request was outside the realm of my authority. I told Henry, "I don't have the authority to allow you to do that, but I can take you to the company commander and let you personally ask him if it is okay." Henry didn't want to do that. He then asked me what would happen if he snuck out in the back of a deuce and a half. A deuce and a half is a standard sized military truck commonly used for a variety of purposes. I told Henry that if he didn't get caught then I guess nothing. He thought about that and said, "Okay" as he left.

I then called the front gate and told John Wayne, this was the nick name for a particularly large korean guard, to make sure he carefully checked every truck that left the compound. After calling John Wayne, I got myself a chair and placed it outside at the corner of one of the officer's BOQ where I had a good view of the front gate so I could comfortably sit back and watch the show.

Well, it wasn't long before a deuce and a half pulled up to the gate. John Wayne bee-bopped around to the back of the truck and lifted the flap and peeked in. There was Henry. I could see the surprised on John Wayne's face as he ordered Henry out of the truck. When I was called up there I told Henry the offer to personally ask the company commander still stood. He was now ready, so I took him to the Major. The Major said, "He can go and get his stuff as long as you escort him Robert".

So, Henry and I had our little ville excursion. It was uneventful.

OUCH! This wasn't uneventful! (This was a link to a helicopter crash of a botched loop where the pilot crashed and burned literally. I removed it because the page had sneaky links to inappropriate videos. Don't ask.)

As a pilot I am sometimes asked to do things I shouldn't. If you looked at the video, I have no personal desire to do any flying like that. Why do it other than just to show off? If I have a genuine operational necessity, then I'm all for doing something I have the ability to do, but I have learned that IF something is going to go wrong, it will most likely go wrong when you are doing something you have no business doing. Yeah I have gotten away with stuff I probably shouldn't have done, but I've learned to ask myself a good question to gauge whether or not I should do something requested. So what's the question?

"If I do this, how would I like to be sitting across the table from someone explaining why I did it?"

If the answer is "I wouldn't", then I don't!

Not everyone is inclined to show mercy in this day and age. As I have gotten older I try hard not to put myself in a position where I might need it because of doing something something I probably shouldn't have done. I know of a couple of stories where the individuals involved deserved to be shown a little more mercy than they received. Both were innocent in their assumptions, but those with authority over them viewed it otherwise fair or not. Neither did those in authority show any mercy. It is getting tough out there.

Be careful!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marginal Weather Flying ~ Civilian EMS

In previous posts I covered marginal weather flying in the military. Civilian EMS is a whole different ballgame that requires a different mindset.

When I first knew I was going to get a job flying civilian EMS I called a buddy of mine that had flown EMS previously. He gave me the best attitude mindset about the job than any other I've heard. He said, "Dave. That aircraft is not there for just any given patient. It is there for all the patients it may have to serve in the future too. If you make a bad decision and break your aircraft because you pushed weather, or worse hurt or kill yourself and/or your crew because you made a bad weather decision; you just took that aircraft out of service for all the people that will need it down line".

Most of the unknowing public consider civilian EMS as a job for heros, but in reality it is not. Pilots are told to consider their patients as simply a box of rocks they are trying to deliver. There is no sense in risking your life or your crews life for a box of rocks, so if there is any question as to safety; the pilot does what is safe for himself and his/her crew first and foremost. The mindset is similar to what the Red Cross teaches in swimming lifesaving; if you don't have the ability and skill to enter the water and rescue someone, it is better to have one drown instead of two.

All of the above is sometimes easier said than done since we are human. We can find ourselves feeling compassion for our fellow man whether we want to or not. Because of our human condition the company I worked for had a policy that the pilot was not to be told any patient information until after the go/no go weather decision was already made. The idea was that the company wanted their pilots to think with their minds and not with their hearts. When I first heard this policy I thought I would always make an appropriate weather decision regardless of what I knew about the patient. Well, I didn't have any choice because the company, e.g. medical crews and dispatchers were pretty good about sticking to the policy.

Late one night while on shift I personally experienced the wisdom of this policy. The flight phone rang for a flight request to a scene and then on to Little Rock. The weather was really quite lousy, so I turned the request down. After I turned it down the medical crew told me a ground ambulance was beating feet to Little Rock with a pregnant woman and things were going south for the woman and baby fast. At that time a friend's wife was pregnant with what was to be their only child. This friend lived in the area and there was a real possibility that it was his wife needing help. I had the hardest time going back to sleep wondering if it was my friend's wife. Well it wasn't his wife I found out later with a lot of relief, but it was someone's loved one. Since we did not participate I never heard how things turned out for the woman and baby.

A pilot that pushes it too much in civilian EMS and is overly concerned with doing whatever they can to get the job done to help the patient gets tagged as a "Rescue Ranger", which is a bad reputation to have in civilian EMS. A "Rescue Ranger" is considered an accident just waiting for a place to happen.

For the majority of the EMS flights I've flown, I couldn't tell you from one day to the next what the flight involved patient wise. Most of them just all blend together. Then there are some that you never forget; mostly those involving children, and some involving unusual circumstances. For instance one attempted suicide I flew where the bullet took the person's face off of his head without hurting his brain. My medic said, "Man Dave! If you ever find me like that, just finish the job for me." I said, "If I ever find you like that, it's not my job to finish it for you. So, you just better do the job right in the first place." This was the only patient I ever flew that I established a friendship with after the fact. I figured he needed a friend. He had a tough go of it trying to make it through life without a face caused by something he had done.

Anyhow, back to weather. In Korea we knew the area we flew in like the back of our hand. We trained low and flew low much of the time for tactical reasons, plus if the weather forced you lower you were already familiar with the terrain so it felt like home where otherwise a lower altitude could feel like a foreign land over territory that you commonly covered from a high altitude. In aviation, altitude is your friend unless you are in hostile territory where the enemy has the ability to easily shoot you down. Though EMS aircraft have been shot at before by crazies on the ground (I never have that I know of) it is not a significant concern, so we tend to fly at a reasonable altitude. Also in Korea there was quite often a convenient rice paddy always available in most areas if the weather became impossible to deal with. In civilian EMS you most often get to pick what tree you'd like to set it down into if you let it go as far as we could in Korea. The weather can be unpredictable. I have had to make weather precautionary landings. That can be frowned upon, but if the weather is going south fast it is the better option as opposed to crashing. It is always much better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground.

In the military we could legally take advantage of the IFR enroute structure if the need arose when there was an IFR enroute structure. Because it takes extra money and equipment to have legal IFR capability, that is often not an option with many civilian EMS flying jobs. There is enough instrumentation to save your bacon if you encounter IIMC and are competent, but you can't intentionally select that option legally unless your aircraft is certified for it and you are IFR current. It is something most pilots would like, but just not available in most cases for various reasons.

On one interesting flight the weather was showing signs of deterioration as we neared our destination of Little Rock. The medic told me, "What ever you do Dave, I don't want to set on the ground with this patient". That was the wrong thing to say... The weather continued to deteriorate. I had established communication with Little Rock approach control about thirty miles out so I could enter their Class C airspace seamlessly with the time approached. I continued to monitor the deteriorating weather situation along with the "extra pressure" from the medic not to do a weather precautionary landing prior to our destination. Well, it soon became obvious that the safe thing to do was the weather precautionary landing regardless of what the medic wanted. I advised Little Rock of my intentions. The controller then offered me several options on different IFR approaches. Though it would have been nice to have been able to accept them, I had to turn him down because even though I had the ability I would not have been legal accepting any of them.

We made our weather precautionary landing and rendezvoused with a ground ambulance that completed the delivery with my med crew. The medical crew often stays with the patient on the ground ambulance in situations like this rather than turn the patient over to a lessor level of care.

There is a lot involved in making a good weather decision. The tools available to help the pilot make a good decision have improved over the years I have flown EMS. There are conditions I've flown through in the early days that I would have never found myself in with the new tools available. For example; I remember one night flight where everything available looked good to go, but I wanted to personally see a weather radar screen before taking off. Just call it a hunch. All we had back then was the weather channel on TV that occasionally cycled a radar screen up. Well, I waited, and waited, and waited for the radar to come up. Finally we just left without seeing the radar. Ceiling and visibility was good that night, but boy did we ever fly through a lot of rain. I probably would have turned that flight down if I had a convenient peek at the radar screen. My medic certainly saved this patient's life having to do an in the field tracheotomy. The receiving physician complemented him on the job he did. So, what do we do when we turn a flight down? Well, if it is night time we go back to bed and go to sleep. They don't call EMS "Earn Money Sleeping" for nothing.

In the company I worked for besides the policy of not telling the pilot what they were requested for prior to making the weather decision, they also have a policy of "three to go, one to say no". If any one of the crew members is uncomfortable with the weather they can call the flight off regardless of whether they are a pilot, nurse, or medic. Some pilots have a tough time with this, thinking it is solely in the pilot's domain to make a weather decision. But, it is simply the way it is and sometimes with good reason; some medical crew have had pilots scare the living hell out of them. Knowing what I know after a little over 6000 hours of total time I'm not very interested in riding in the back with just anyone upfront. Neither am I interested in ever letting my wife be a flight nurse. Now if I were a patient or any of my loved ones were a patient needing air transport, I wouldn't think twice about letting them fly. Both of my sons have had an air medical flight for which I was quite grateful. I can show you the bill on one of them which I have framed. In one good week of flying I can easily make my whole annual salary. C'est la vie!

Sometimes pilots receive pressure to fly when they shouldn't. This can happen in the military too. I remember flying a Colonel once that was a non-aviator and thought pilots had xray vision based on how he acted. The weather was getting worse by the minute and he was practically swearing that it was getting better. I flew to the point where to continue I would have had to make an "educated guess", pull pitch, bust into the clouds and guesstimate when to let pitch out to get by the mountain blocking our way along with the inclement weather. Actually there would not have been anything educated about it; it would have been pure ignorant stupidity and foolishness to try and continue. Another time at the hospital co-located with our corporate headquarters where we were to pickup our patient, I stepped into dispatch to look at the radar. Thunderstorms were popping up all along the route to the receiving hospital. The company president just happened to be in dispatch also. This man was pointing out all the ways I could pick my way through the storms. I personally knew with the changing weather that it would not be prudent to attempt to complete the flight, so I had to call it off in spite of the company president's encouragement to accept and make the flight. I told this gentleman the words of wisdom my buddy had passed on to me years before and also told him that we'd be going back to our base and not making this flight regardless of what he thought I could do. This man prior to becoming our company's president had been a hospital administrator and was a non-pilot, but even if he was a pilot if I felt not to go he would be more than welcome to try it himself as long as none of my loved ones were in the back. And, more power to him if he could have successfully made it. C'est la vie, and some of my friends consider what I did for a job was not real work. That may be debatable, but when they actually do the job we can then have a better debate.

HEMS has been a good job though that I thoroughly enjoyed. Its accident rate has gone through the ceiling recently and has gotten a lot of national attention. I have my own theory on the best means to improve their current lousy safety record that differs from current well meaning attempts. Time will tell whether or not the current attempts will produce viable results.

Till then, if you fly: fly safe. If you drive, don't drink. If you drink, don't drive. Cherish each day you have because life is a precious gift. No one is promised tomorrow. Value the time you have with those you love. Later...


Friday, August 6, 2010

Why I'm No Fan of Microsoft

Once upon a time I was a "BIG" fan of Microsoft and their products. I got burned by them, left and never looked back. I'll spare you the details of why I was once a fan and will tell you why I no longer like Microsoft. This information is somewhat dated and Microsoft "may" have made some improvements, but I'm not looking back and could care less. I'd been and would be better off now if I had "NEVER" been a fan of Microsoft in the first place. I used to listen to the Microsoft detractors and share why I was a fan and maybe even encourage others to give Microsoft a chance. To any others whom I may have encouraged to use Microsoft and subsequently got burned too, please accept my apologies and regrets.

Microsoft was not involved in my initial programming experience, but along the way when I switched to IBM clone products because of their ubiquitousness in the work place I started playing with the Microsoft programming product that came freely with every IBM system because of the convenient access. I could generate code and test on any IBM computer without having to install any software. I also went back to college along the way and was "delighted" with the Microsoft student license pricing and convenience.

But then I returned to the workplace and began doing what I thought was some significant work that had potential to go somewhere. I had a small problem in that I was now doing this work with a Microsoft product that I only had a student license for.

The product worked well for me except I decided that it would probably be a good idea to get a valid commercial license just in case what I was working on got wings and really took off. This was in the very early days of Microsoft's Dot.Net products being advertised and released. What I was using worked fine and even though Bill Gates touted the Dot.Net product as allowing you to get your projects up and running faster and better than ever before, I didn't see a need to fix what was not broken and spend what was a lot of money for me to step up to the Dot.Net products.

I contacted Microsoft first in an attempt to upgrade my "student license" at cost of course. Microsoft would not do this for me since they had an interest in seeing users step up to Dot.Net. I then purchased what I needed over the internet "THREE" or "FOUR" times. Three or four times??? Yes. The product I needed arrived packaged and looking legitimate each time, BUT I scrutinized the EULA and the products "authenticity" with a fine tooth comb each time. All of them proved to be pirated versions that did not provide me with a valid license which was the whole reason for the purchase since I had a working product and only needed a legitimate commercial license so I could commercially offer what I was working on and not have Microsoft come back after the fact and tag me for not having my "i"s dotted and "T"s crossed.

Everyplace I purchased the pirated products from that had the appearance of legitimacy accepted their products back and gave me a full refund when I advised them the license agreement was not valid and did not provide what I needed.

Well, because of an obstinate Microsoft corporation that would not help me upgrade my student license to a commercial license, I finally bit the bullet and did what Microsoft wanted me to do and purchased the commercial version of Microsoft's Studio.Net suite. I think I paid in the neighborhood of $1200.00 for this back then which was a big chunk of money for a poor boy that really was just a "hobbyist" programmer even though he now had a computer science degree.

In only got worse from there. Bill Gates said you'd get your projects up and running faster and easier than ever before. Well Bill, that proved to be a "BIG LIE" from my point of view. Explanation follows...

I referred to myself as a hobbyist programmer even though I have a computer science degree. Well all the intricate details are a long story, but the short of it is I'm more of a commercial helicopter pilot with entrepreneurial interests in computer science than a professional programmer. My real job involved HEMS which provided me the time I needed to work on my hobby which I had high hopes for. For those of you that think helicopter pilots make "BIG MONEY", I started HEMS in 1990 with an annual salary less than 20K. I finished my career due to medical reasons in 2006 with a salary of only 52K. As a father of five with a stay at home mom for a wife the $1200.00 I paid for Dot.Net in 2001 tacked on with my brand new student loans was a big chunk of change.

I found the Dot.Net product to be a nightmare back then. I have no idea what it is like now and no desire to know. Here is my analogy of Dot.Net as it relates to my flying:
As a helicopter pilot and not a mechanic I have "NO" desire to have too assemble an engine just so I can go do a little flying. I don't mind doing my preflight inspection to make sure my aircraft is in an airworthy condition, but then all I want to do is crank and takeoff. If I had to assemble an engine each time I wanted to go fly, I doubt I would ever fly.

Likewise, as a coder that loves programming, I have no desire to assemble a "framework" just so I can do a little coding. Every time I tried to do anything with Dot.Net it was a nightmare trying to get anything to work properly much less my code. Microsoft provided technical support, but the money meter was running every time you utilized it. All of that may have been fine for a large company with the financial resources and support personnel to keep the Dot.Net product up and running and ready for a coder to write a little code. As a one man show I got pretty much burned out trying to get Dot.Net to where I could do a little coding without dealing with all the overhead problems. I experienced Dot.Net as the death of the hobbyist coder. I also put my programming and dreams on the shelf for a long, long time because of my Dot.Net horror story and Bill's false promises.

For all of you coders happy with your "student" licenses you better think twice if you're not planning on working for a larger company that will provide you with all you need to create "their" products.

For Bill Gates who put his word on "Get it done easier and faster than ever before with Dot.Net", you would if you are a man of your word, at a minimum sit down for a meal with this poor boy to discuss the issue. I'd even pickup the meal tab at the restaurant of my choice. At the maximum, you'd step up to the plate and become my venture angel. Yeah, fat chance either one of those two things will happen just like fat chance dot.net would have made my dreams come true.

Once upon a time I was a fan of Microsoft in spite of the plethora of detractors. Now I am no fan of Microsoft and have joined the ranks of their many detractors. If you are a coder that loves programming, do yourself a favor and seek other options besides Microsoft products.

Comments both pro and con Microsoft are welcome.


ps I'm not alone: