Angels of Vengeance by by John Birmingham

Angels of Vengeance is a very appropriate title for Birmingham’s third book of his latest trilogy. Three female protagonists are thrown into a post-apocalyptic America. The storyline switches back a forth between their separate quest for retribution. Then there is a fourth storyline about an unlikely President of the United States and his overbearing Chief of Staff. It wasn’t until very late (too late) into the story that we finally see how he fits in with the rest of the characters.

What I liked most was the attention to detail. This is probably one of the best-researched stories that I have read. Much of it is set in Kansas City, where I live. The depictions of what a scorched-earth version of Kansas City would look like were so accurate that I could “see” the scenes unfold.

I picked this book randomly, so the author’s references to “the wave” didn’t really get explained until about halfway through the book, and then in was a one-liner. Apparently, it was some mysterious, man-made, energy wave that wiped out everything east of Kansas City. I guess it was something that happened in the first book.

The middle part of the book dragged. I liked reading about battleaxes on parade but I didn’t like the fictional politicians. Birmingham is a Tom Clancy want-a-be. This whole story could have fit into something the size of a comic book. At 544 pages this story was too long winded, like this review.

Is it a Diary or a Journal?

I am guilty of making diary entries into my journal. What is the difference between a diary entry and a journal entry? Let’s look at three similarities and three differences.

Some ways they are similar is the way both help to develop a writer’s voice, establish a consistent writing routine, and act as a log of achievements towards a goal.

One way that they are different is that a journal can be a collection of different types of personal writing; whereas, the diary is a newscast of the day’s events.

Also, a journal would be something a writer could bore people with, by reading from it, or publishing parts of it, much like a scrapbooker would show-off their creative pages. A diary is somewhat more personal and may act as a way for its author to sort out emotions and challenges that the day presented to him or her.

Finally, because a journal should be something that is shared with others, it challenges the author to be creative or informative.

Maria Popova’s contribution to Brain Pickings has numerous excerpts from John Steinbeck’s diary that went on to become a book. It is titled Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath.

  Paired with the numerous experts from the book are Popova’s take on how each acted as a tool to motivate Steinbeck to finish his book. Popova and Steinbeck seem to use Journal and diary interchangeably because it seems to have characteristics of both. This diary, like some other famous diaries, became a creative work even though that wasn’t the intent of it.

Many of the entries are very sincere and honest feelings he had about himself as an author. Ironically, the entries highlighted how unqualified he felt as an author, but he slogged on despite his self-doubts.

A Brief Guide to Jumpseating

During my flying days, I was able to jumpseat for little or no cost. (flying internationally requires a customs fee). Jumpseating is named after the extra seat in the cockpit that is usually used for flight crew check pilots or instructors. The seat is usually a fold-out seat that is situated between the pilots on smaller two crew cabins or behind the pilot on three crew cabins.

It is also a way for pilots that commute to their base of operations to get to work. When I was flying, airlines had “jumpseat agreements” with each other. Your pilots can jumpseat on our airline if our pilots can jumpseat on yours. I have never seen such an agreement but their were so many agreements between airlines that it was easier to remember the airlines that we didn’t have an agreement with.

Usually, if there is room in the cabin, the Captain would offer an open seat “in the back” for better comfort. It is important to remember that even though the airlines have a jumpseat agreement the Captain has the final say and he must be asked, in person, for permission to ride on his airplane. The actual request is usually done with a informal greeting and then the rider introduces himself and what airline he or she flys for, then ask permission to ride.

If the cabin is full and the jumpseat was taken, there is still a chance that you can bump a jumpseater. Jumpseats are granted on a list of priorities instead of first come, first served. For example: If it was on my own airline I could bump a jumpseater from another airline.

It was usually a roll of the dice with every trip the airport. Just like hitch-hiking, its a good day if you make it to where your going and don’t get stranded somewhere in between.

Pink airline terninal windows
Sunrise at Michel International Airport in Milwaukee, WI

 

Nascar’s New Rules: More Crashes and Higher TV Ratings

When do most crashes happen? During the restarts and in the last two laps.

Heads

The Draft

Drivers cause late-race crashes because timing the draft for the last lap is key to winning races. The limited burst of speed from aerodynamic drafting only gets you past a car you are drafting. Now the lead car in a “draft” has the disadvantage. Given enough time, the car he passed could use the draft to retake the lead.

The Block

For every action, there is a reaction. The final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500 shows how the lead car can react to the drafting action by “blocking” the passing car. As the 1979 Daytona 500 example shows, blocking can lead to a crash.

  1. Blocking brings out crashes.
  2. Crashes bring out cautions.
  3. Cautions bring out restarts.

 

Restarts Bring out More Crashes

I believe the restart is the most dangerous time of the race. A driver might give the car in front a push. If the push isn’t close to the center of the bumper, it could cause the pushed car to spin. The spin could cause a chain reaction of collisions that result in a big wreck.

New Rules add a Checkered Flag at the End of Each Stage

 

The new rules for the 2017 race season divide the race up into three stages. There is a caution flag at the end of each stage. After the first two stages, there is about a 10 minutes break.

A New Set of Playoff Points

The winner of the first two segments gets 10 points towards the championship and 1 point in “playoff points.” the other 9 finishers of the first two stages get championship points in descending order from the 10 that the leader got. In the final stage, at the checkered flag, the winner gets 5 “playoff points” which accumulate to the playoffs in parallel with championship points.

Scoring Benchmarks Increases the Chances of More Crashes

So, with two additional “checkered flags” in each race, there are additional benchmarks that will cause more blocking, more crashes, more cautions, and more restarts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Unions Fail

Regional Jet on taxiway
From author’s private collection

I viewed my local union chairman as King Louis XVI running around grabbing young french maidens then turning to the camera to say, “It’s good to be King” (1981. The History of the World: Part 1). It is difficult to form solidarity when the leadership is as unapproachable as the cool kid’s table was was my high school cafeteria.

Unions Leadership Competes for each Employee’s Loyalty

Union leadership competes for the hearts and minds of every member. I learned this when I was convinced to join the union after a long period of refusal. I was part of a small percentage of the line pilots that were not members the newly organized chapter at our airline. I didn’t think my joining the union would get anyone’s attention. Wrong! I got a call from the Chief Pilot just a couple hours after the local union chairman convinced me to join.

The chief pilot was just voicing dismay, If he had probed my reasons further, he would have discovered what I didn’t want to admit myself. I was only bowing to peer pressure. I knew that the company management wasn’t mistreating us.

Union reps should build a sense of community and pride through social outings and professional development. Don’t alienate those who take pride in efficient and productive work. As an example: I was called a scab, over an air traffic control frequency, because I shortened my taxi time by starting my takeoff from a runway intersection, instead of going to the end. A scab is someone who crosses a picket line. I have never done that.

At the time union leadership thought that job actions, in the form of a work slowdown, would help our negotiations for our first contract. I recognized the voice of the pilot that called me a scab. I was disappointed in him because I thought that he would have more respect for someone exercising their free will.

Colonize the Regional Airline Local Chapters for the Majors

The union gradually increases my Union fees while obstructing my ability to pay for it. Everyone knows the financial burdens of being a new homeowner. Soon after our contract was signed, I was signing up for some extra trips to make some more money. I was disappointed in the contract because I didn’t see any improvement in our work rules. To add to my disappointment, I was not only paying dues but I was also paying strike support. The Eastern Airlines pilots were striking.

That was another $80.00 a month. The Eastern Pilots had valid reasons to strike. Unlike, many of my fellow pilots, I had met a lot of them as a regional pilot on the East Coast. They seemed like pompous bastards to me. If our tiny regional went on strike and requested the same strike support from them, I don’t think we would have got it. I saw the same double standard in travel benefits.

At the time, we were expected to let Delta Airline pilots jump seat on our planes; however, we were unable to jump seat on theirs. They said it was part of the companies demands in their contract. They said that every time I denied them a jump seat on my plane.

The Cool Kids Want to Take My Overtime

To add to my frustration, I was included in a list of eight Captains that were being told that we should not ask for extra trips anymore. According to someone’s calculations, the company management could management would have to upgrade two First Officers to Captain if nobody flew any extra trips. So here I was paying strike support, dues, and political action money and now

So here I was paying strike support, dues, and political action money and now I’m not allowed to make-up for the bite out of my budget with some extra income because the Executive Chairman’s friends want to make as much as I do.  How is it solidarity, that eight members must sacrifice so that two can prosper?

I guess the picture of King Lois XVI came to me when I was on the Washington Mall with my family and I just happened to see the Executive Chairman of our local chapter riding the tram that I couldn’t afford with a female flight attendent. I must be good to be king.