Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's been a pretty good week. I had Kelly and Rascal over for dinner Tuesday night. Kelly's been doing P90X, which is something I might want to try in the future, but I'm not sure I would show as much discipline as she does in following it exactly as it's designed. I'm interested in the work-outs but don't know that I'd be compelled to follow it exactly every day. Same with the diet. She's been really good about following it all. I admire her dedication! Anyway, I wanted to make something that hopefully wouldn't totally ruin the diet, so I did some research online looking to see what people on this diet are supposed to eat. I ended up making chicken fajitas. I seasoned some chicken with cumin/chili pepper, etc, and grilled it the grill pan. I then sauteed three different colored peppers with onions. We had them in multi-grain tortillas and for add-ins I reheated some thick black bean soup I'd made the night before, plain non-fat yogurt, cilantro, and tomato. I also had a little bit of 2% cheddar in mine. I also made homemade guacamole. I have the best recipe ever from my aunt and mom.

-One avocado (or more if you want a big batch)
-about 1/3 to 1/2 of a medium tomato
-a clove of garlic (or I just used the minced garlic in the jar)
-a little bit of fresh onion (a little goes a long way, so maybe like 1 big tablespoon)
-a big tablespoon of chopped cilantro
-about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of lime juice
salt and pepper to taste.

Mash altogether with a fork or in a mortar/pestal or food processor to desired texture. I like mine chunky.

In case you can't tell, a lot of the time I'm an "eye-baller" when it comes to recipes.

I think the guacamole and chips kinda threw off the diet slightly- sorry Kel! And I also made some yellow rice, which probably didn't help either. But the rest seemed to be pretty much on par with P90X recipes I saw online.

The doggies had their second play date together and OMG Clyde could not contain his excitement over Rascal and Kelly at all. No I mean, he LITERALLY couldn't- he peed himself like 3 times. Lovely!
The dogs were funny though. Rascal taught Clyde how to growl and bark. Very important doggie skills to have. They spent most of the night chasing each other around and barking at each other. It was silly.

I had planned on going to running group for the first time in a while tonight, but I have wimped out on that due to the FRIGID temperatures outside. I went out at lunch and almost got blown over by the wind chill. It's really like in the 40s here today, which isn't that bad, but when you add the horrible cold wind it feels brutal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flying Cheap thoughts

So, I'm definitely not the first one to bring up this piece that Frontline did called Flying Cheap. I didn't have a chance to watch it until Friday. Greg and I were actually home together that evening so we decided to watch it online. My impression? Well, I know the general public doesn't know much about the airline industry but I can say the two of us were NOT sitting there going, "OMG I can't BELIEVE this, how shocking!!!". Meaning, in reference to what was brought up about pilot's rest and pilots being pressured to fly despite imperfect conditions, this is nothing new to us. That is fairly universal in our experience. My husband has been with at least 4 airlines now (I say at least 4, because one was an airline that sort of became another airline, so if you count them separately, that would be 5): a couple regionals, a start-up, and most recently a major/legacy. Some people might think this kind of situation would only exist at a very lowly bottom-feeder type of operation, but in our experience this is pretty universal and standard operation no matter what kind of airline you're at. It mainly comes down to pilots knowing their rights and exercising good discretion. Most airlines want their pilots to fly as much as they can get them to. The scheduling department people relentlessly try to get the pilots to fly, be it more time in an already jam-packed day, on a day off, etc... With airlines now all operating with the bare-minimum of pilots to keep their costs down, the existing pilots are going to get kind of "abused" in order to keep things running, when they don't have extra pilots around to pick up the slack. We're not sure if it's just that schedulers don't know the pilot work rules (possible) or they do and just hope the pilots don't their rights and possibly the schedulers are being pressured by the higher ups to get pilots to work more. My husband has always been really good about knowing his work rules and standing up to the companies when they have tried to get him to fly when he doesn't have to. I think that is very key. Not that it is right for airlines/scheduling to be trying to get their pilots to fly illegally, but as a pilot you should become as familiar as you can with your contract/work rules, etc... and not be afraid to cite them when you need to and say "no, I'm not legal for that" when the company comes calling on you with some shady assignment.
Same goes for maintenance/weather issues, which is another point that I believe they brought up in the piece. A lot of maintenance falls to pilot's discretion on whether they will fly or not. In the case of the Colgan 3407 flight, they were legal to fly under FAA and company policy, but the pilot needed to be the one to make the judgment call on whether they felt safe to fly or not based on conditions. I think this is one area where the pilots' inexperience really showed. They maybe shouldn't have even been flying in crappy conditions in the first place. There have been many times my husband has received a plane with maintenance issues and refused to fly it though other pilots have signed off and flown it. Such an example would be the APU being broken. FAA and company policy will allow you to fly a plane with a broken APU, which is the equipment that regulates the temperature/air conditioning in the cabin. Well, on a 95 degree day, it might be kind of essential to have a working APU so your passengers aren't going into heat stroke. Technically you can fly, but should you? Or the American flight that crashed in Jamaica- should they really have landed on that runway despite high winds that hindered their ability to land safely? I think pilots need to speak up if there are issues like these that might become a problem.
The Colgan crew's inexperience also showed in their reaction to the problems that occurred. My husband told me about how in most training programs in a stall situation they train you to absolutely not lose altitude (which he disagrees with), which caused the Colgan capt. to react in the opposite way he should have to their problem (I think he pulled up instead of down or something). Greg said since the crash, some airlines have actually amended their training and let up on that altitude issue (he has a good friend in the training dept at Trans States that said they changed their training).
I know Greg has said for a while that he hopes for big changes in the work rules and rest rules. He said from day one of the crash that he hoped that it would be the positive change to come out of that crash. Eight hours of rest from the time a pilot gets off the plane is not nearly enough when you have to wait for a hotel van, check in at the hotel, get to bed, and be up the next morning and shuttle back to the airport. Not only would better rest rules be good for pilot rest, but it would also be good for furloughed pilots and hiring in the industry, because existing pilots wouldn't be able to fly as long or as much and therefore it would require airlines to increase pilot staff in order to keep flying as much as they currently are. This would be such an overhaul and expense to the airlines that they are definitely fighting the idea of the work/rest changes though, so it remains to be seen if it will ever happen.
Bottom line, it was an interesting program to watch but we definitely felt like they dumped a lot of bad press specifically on Colgan for things that many many other airlines do as well. It's more of an aviation industry issue than an issue with this specific airline. I'm glad woke some people up to some of the issues of the profession, but I hope that the people don't think that these issues are only specific to Colgan or even to regional airlines. Even majors/legacies have low pay the first year, about $30,000 at best. There are a lot of issues in the industry in general that are not just on the regional level.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Good weekend

The weekend was great. The main theme was introducing Clyde to people. Saturday he had his second "play date" with my friend Stephanie's dog Kipper. I took him over to her house so the doggies could meet and play and we could have some lunch. She made us taco salad and I baked a Nutella poundcake for us for dessert. The play date went ok. Not as good as his first one with Rascal. Kipper is about 40 lbs and is a Beagle/Australian Shepard mix, so he towers over Clyde, even though I wouldn't normally consider Kipper to be a big dog. Every dog is huge next to Clyde since he's still only about 3-4 lbs. We had to really supervise them because Kipper would get excited and almost trample Clyde or want to play bite or something, which obviously could do some serious damage. It was fun though. Maybe when Clyde is bigger they can try playing more. Stephanie said we did a good job picking Clyde because he is the sweetest puppy ever :) I totally agree!
Saturday night I had dinner with Brent and Becky for the first time in a while. We did our "usual" BBQ dinner. Becky is pregnant and due in August. It's been hard to get together because she's had like all day morning sickness and doesn't always feel up to going out these days. They came over to meet Clyde after dinner and loved him. Everyone does- he is so cute and lovable!
Today was Clyde day part deux. My friend Sarah came over at lunch time. She, Greg, and I went to lunch in town and ate outside because it was SO gorgeous today! Such a change after the crappy we ather in DC and here. 65 degrees and sunny! We got back to the house and took Clyde for a walk and then Josie and her daughter came over to hang out and meet Clyde too. Josie's daughter totally wore Clyde out with fetch and running around in the yard. We got a chance to sit on the deck and all chat and catch up a little too. After they all left Clyde collapsed on my lap and slept for about 4 hours straight. I could barely wake him up to go out! haha!
I'm totally smitten with this pup and it's obvious everyone else is too :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Regional Salaries vent

I need to vent. I was reading an airline forum and clicked on a thread that was about Michael Moore's movie "Capitalism". I haven't seen this movie yet, but I have heard that apparently he talks to some pilots who are on food stamps. Anyway, the thread was started just to make the point that pilot pay scales are sad. A few posts into the thread someone wrote this: "Its not sad at all. If you look at the resumes stacked on Colgan's desk you'll understand that the regional salaries are justified."
This really pissed me off. You could take this to mean two things: One, there are a TON of applications coming in, so based on supply and demand, the salaries are justified because pilots still apply and want to work there even though the pay sucks. Two, the resumes of pilots that apply justify crappy pay- IE they don't have enough experience to be paid better than they are. In both cases, this struck a cord with me.
Regional pilot pay in most cases is still ridiculously low. I realize that in a perfect world pilots could take more of a stand against low pay and refuse to consider working at airlines do not pay their pilots more. The thing is, when your choice is between driving a hotel van or flying a plane and you are trained to fly planes, I think you're going to choose flying planes, even if it goes against your principles that this and other airlines are not paying their pilots enough. Or, if you are a newly trained pilot- what other choice do you really have? It kind of puts all that in to perspective. Which is not to say that it's not still very wrong that a lot of airlines don't pay their pilots enough. Because I personally thing it is wrong that they pay so little. I get why it is that way, since regional airlines under bid each other to keep their contracts with the majors, and therefore to keep the costs low, they have to pay their pilots less. I still think it's wrong though and don't agree with the statement that it's justified. Pilots go through a lot to get trained to fly planes. It's a big responsibility, whether it's a huge 777 or a Dash 8. I think there should be a minimum acceptable pay level and that pay level is not $20,000 a year.
Now, taking it to mean the latter- that all pilots that apply to certain regionals have resumes that should warrant low pay- I obviously disagree with this as well. I think there's an awful lot of pilots that have been cruising along with a career that started at A and is progressing towards B without much of a bump in the road and are sitting pretty with six-figures plus, just thinking "if I did, so can they". My husband, on the other hand, has a career that looks like a game of Chutes and Ladders. He was moving along the board nicely climbing ladders, moving up to Captain, then bam a chute: your airline went out of business, go back to start. You got furloughed, go back to start again. It's hard for a pilot that hasn't had this happen to understand that the entire pilot population is not made up of pilots that had a smooth career and are right where they should be in the hierarchy/seniority. It's easy to judge and say that everyone at the bottom deserves to be there because they MUST only have 500 hours of flight time and not know how to tell their left from their right yet. Well, those people need to wake up and see that the industry actually has a lot of very qualified, hard-working, pilots that maybe just weren't in the right place at the right time. Even if Atlantic Coast Airlines/Independence hadn't gone under in the first place and Greg was still a Captain there, there would still be a lot of major/legacy pilots that would be judging him and saying he deserved less pay than them. There are tons of regional pilots that have a lot more experience, hours, and years of flying than major/legacy airline pilots. I just want them to think about this stuff before they generalize and say that everyone on the bottom of the totem pole deserves to be there. A lot of this industry is being in the right place at the right time, luck, and who you know. In the end pilots just want to fly and want to be able to provide for themselves and their families. It seems to me that if you have that, you should want the same for your fellow pilots. This whole fraternity-hazing mentality of the bottom people getting abused with work hours and pay and justifying it with the "well I paid my dues and now they have to pay theirs" attitude is just selfish and wrong. What about guys in my husband's situation who already "paid their dues"? How many times do they have to keep paying their dues because of bad luck/timing? The salaries are not justified. People are applying/going to airlines, because they love to fly and need a job. And I bet you will find a lot of passion and heart among the pilots there, since they were willing to work there even though the pay was not what it should be, because they love the job.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Home at last!

I finally made out of Snowmageddon 2010 or whatever they are now calling it! That was really an insane amount of snow! I drove straight home Friday and couldn't wait to see Clyde, Greg, and the bunnies! Once home I bounded through the door and scooped up my puppy! It was so good to see him and Greg got home from work shortly after. It was SO GOOD to be home!! I had missed a lot! Clyde pretty much has "fetch" down now, and can ring a bell at the front door, although I don't think he's completely figured out the whole bell-connected-to-going-out-to-the-bathroom thing yet. We still have some work to do on that. He's been really good about going outside though, no accidents as of late.
Once home I was faced with what else- more snow! We got about 4-5 inches in Charlotte. Here's a couple pictures from the morning after:

Being away made me take stock of my life. Going away for long periods of time, being in an area where you used to live, and being alone with yourself in the car for 6 hours each way gives you some time to think. It's taken a while, but I can honestly say I'm happy in Charlotte, and it really feels like home to me. The first couple years here were hard. I liked my life in Virginia and harbored some resentment towards Greg when we moved here and he uprooted me from my life there. I missed my job, my friends, and the area where we lived a lot. Going up to Virginia used to be a little bit painful for me. I would get all nostalgic and think about what my life would have been like if we'd stayed living there. It doesn't help that we've been through so much crap with the furlough and everything since moving to Charlotte. For a long time I just wasn't that happy here. This trip was a real epiphany though, because I realized I just wanted to go HOME, and home is Charlotte. I missed my house, my hubby, my pets, my friends, running group, etc... It's all here, and this is really home for me now. I like my life here.
Well, time to take the puppy out for a walk!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Have I mentioned I wanna go home??

I'm still in Virginia, and if feels like I've been here FOREVER! I hit the wall a couple days ago and it's just been dragging on and on. I'm SO ready to go home. I'm learning a lot at work and this is some of the most important training I've been to. It's a GREAT class, but I just feel so homesick! I'm not one to be homesick normally. When I think of Greg, Clyde, and the bunnies, I just want to cry, because I miss them so much! I call Greg every day and hear all about everything I'm missing with Clyde. It's hard! I just want to be home snuggling with them.
There have been times when I've wanted to go on international assignments for work that last 30 to 90 days and now I'm realizing it would be really really hard to be away that long, even if it was for an awesome experience.
I think this trip has also been rough because the weather has been horrendous! They are literally calling this the Blizzard of 2010 and talking about all the records this snow has broken in VA/DC. I miss snow sometimes living down south, but this has been ridiculous! We got about 2-3 feet over the weekend and then about 10 inches today. I'm just hoping I can dig out and can drive home on Friday. The snow prevented me from seeing about 3-4 friends I had hoped to get together with while up here, so that was a bummer.
Here's a couple pictures of the view from my hotel room:

I've met some nice people that I'll probably keep in touch with though and it's always good to have work contacts.
I can't wait to get home to my family!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Well I'm still in Virginia. The first week here has been good. I've met some cool people to hang out with and got in a visit with my old friend Kim on Wednesday night.
It started snowing like crazy a few hours ago and everything is shutting down early today here, to prepare for the storm. Looks like we're snowed in for the weekend for the most part!
I've been in touch with Greg every day getting updates on the puppy. I feel like I've been away a lot longer than a week and I'm jealous of all the bonding time they are getting together, but I'm glad Greg has Clyde to keep him company.
Greg heard from an airline this week. He applied a while ago and first got an email from the owner, then two phone calls, and now it looks like he'll have an interview in a couple weeks. We're crossing our fingers.
I also have a potential job prospect. Some people from my office called to let me know about a posting we have right now that they have me in mind for. It's three pay grade levels above where I am, so I'm definitely interested. We'll see what happens.
Ok, back to the winter wonderland I go. I'm probably going to catch a movie with some people in a little while since there is a theater near the hotel :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

There's no place like home

So I'm away from home for two whole weeks. I had to go to Virginia for work, so I'm up here living in a hotel. I love to travel, and it's especially nice to travel for work when it's on someone else's dime. I lived in this area for 6 years, so it's nice to get up here to visit. I've made plans to see a whole bunch of friends while I'm here, so it'll be cool to see people. The only thing was that the time of this travel was terrible. It's funny because I'm always looking for ways to travel for work, and hoping for these types of opportunities. I'm glad I had the chance to travel for work, but it could have come at a better time. We just got the puppy, I'm swamped at work in Charlotte, and I actually didn't really feel like going anywhere once this rolled around. I actually got pretty weepy when I left yesterday to drive to Virginia. I have really bonded with Clyde in the last week. He's the cutest puppy ever. I love snuggling him and can't believe how in love with him I've fallen after a week. Putting him in his crate when I left yesterday was completely heart-wrenching. I also miss Greg of course. At least I come home on Valentine's Day weekend. Hopefully we can celebrate that weekend.
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