Month: March 2014

MH370 and Some Confounding Questions

Why has it taken so long to find this plane? This truly is a tragedy for the families involved and there has been, obviously, a massive effort to find the plane. I am not sure what the cost is at this point, but I am sure we will all look back on it and say to ourselves, “Why did it cost so much and why did we even have to look for it in the first place.” Aside from the fact that Malaysia has fumbled the search from the very beginning, the international community has put out a massive effort in both time and expense to locate the missing jet.

There in lies the problem as I see it. Why is the search even necessary in the first place? I am not talking about the fact that we need to find planes that crash in remote or hard to reach places. That isn’t the issue I have with this whole thing. The questions that keep running through my mind is that I don’t understand is this…

When would an airplane ever need to turn off it’s transponder?

I am not in the aviation industry and I will never claim to know lots about it (though I have ridden on them and maybe slept in a Holiday Inn Express on occasion). However, this seems like a rather obvious question. A question that, as yet, I have not yet heard an answer to in the endless news cycle, commentator blather filling the airwaves.

So, how about it? Anyone in the aviation industry that can tell me why it would be necessary for a plane to stop broadcasting it’s location? Any reason why turning the transponder off is even possible? I can’t think of a single reason why a plane would need to go “stealth,” especially when it is full of passengers.

Based on my, admittedly, limited knowledge of how these things work it seems that THIS would be one of the first areas for consideration, adjustment, and redesign. In a transportation industry that relies on locating it’s moving parts at all times, this seems like a no brainer. It can’t possibly be that expensive to design new planes this way. Yes, it might be a significant cost to retrofit already produced planes but it seems worth the cost if a situation can avoid the cost of having to locate a plane after an unexplained air disaster.

Additionally, how about putting more than one on the plane? These big jets are designed to have redundant systems to keep the plane in the air. I think I heard one former pilot say that a plane such as the one missing has 10 generators on it. There is bound to be some redundancy there, right? So, why not have a backup transponder in case it gets turned off…accidentally or on purpose…or that generator goes out…or the fuse for that one is pulled…?

Here’s an article I found on this issue and it answers some questions. The explanation of “safety” makes sense, but that should be something an air traffic controller should have control over, not people in the plane.

Why are “black boxes” still on airplanes?

Those “black boxes” aren’t really black, as we all know, they are orange. So why are they called black in the first place? Well, that really isn’t important at this point. More importantly, why are we still relying on outdated technology? The black boxes collects and stores all the data the airplane systems produce and they collect the conversations in the cockpit, between air control and the cockpit, and extraneous background noise in the cockpit. This makes sense because this could all be important information while determining what went wrong on the plane or what the pilot(s) did/didn’t do. Great. These boxes have obviously proven very helpful when solving past airline incidents.

My question stems from that fact that the black boxes are still ON the airplane in the first place. Why are they even necessary at this point? With the ability to communicate with a plane nearly anywhere on the planet, you would think that it would be possible to also send data. Satellites circle the globe so there seems to be no shortage of ways the plane (or the people inside) could communicate with people on the ground. Why isn’t the data that is stored in the black boxes transmitted in real-time to a storage unit on solid ground? If computers can collect data from the Hubble Space Telescope or rovers on Mars then computers should be able to collect data from a plane that spends no more than 12 hours in the air at any one time. In the event of something catastrophic, data would be instantly available, including where the plane was at the time of the event. No hunting necessary.

The confounding part of this question goes back, at least, to the Air France Flight 447 in 2009. This plane also crashed and took time to locate the debris, though not like the current missing flight. However, there was still the mystery of WHY it crashed and that couldn’t be solved until the black boxes were found, which took two years and lots of money. Shouldn’t this crash have triggered an industry wide change in how the data was collected? You would think when mysteries such as these occur that people would want to do something to keep them from happening in the future. Of course, that costs money (and perhaps the info, or safety, isn’t as important as the bottom line).

There was an article that answers some of these questions as well. Cost for such technology shouldn’t be holding change back.

So what now?

Like I said, I can’t offer a whole lot in the way of solutions and I am probably not bringing up anything that hasn’t been brought up before. But, maybe that is the problem! I don’t work in the industry and I only have nominal experience as a passenger, but as a casual observer and information consumer it appears as though the solutions to these particular problems are fairly simple. Why they haven’t been done already is the puzzling thing to me.  These technologies should have already been incorporated into the missing plane.

These airline passengers are victims of a crime. That fact may well have been established when the transponder was turned off and the plane continued to fly. Unfortunately, now their grieving family members are victims as well. Victims of an aviation system that should work better than it does because they have failed to use technology that already exists.



Not Global Domination, Yet!

A diagonal swath across the globe!

A diagonal cross-section of the globe!

This week I didn’t post a new blog. I have been really busy and sitting down to put my thoughts or opinions down for others to read just didn’t seem like an effective use of time. I enjoy writing and to some degree it is freeing to put yourself out there for others to know what is going on in your head. However, it can also become a distraction and one I can’t afford to spend much time in over that last few weeks.

However, one thing that has fascinated me is that there are still people looking at my blog despite the fact that I haven’t put anything new out there for those who “follow” me. So far this week I didn’t get many “visits,” only ten, and there were only fourteen “views.” Yet I am still being found. How can this be? Who is it and where are they?

That is where the STATS button has caught my attention. When I click on it I am given a running view of the stats my blog is collecting. A picture of traffic, if you will. Ultimately (at least at this point) I am not overly concerned whether or not I am generating traffic at my blog because I am not being paid to write. Maybe some day that will be an option! For now, I just find looking at this stuff to be interesting.

There are some boxes on that screen that keep me clicking to see where and what people are looking at on my blog. The cool thing is that you can tell how people are finding your blog, whether it be through WordPress, linked social media accounts like Facebook, or through web searches. The web searches seem to be where the looks have come from lately. WordPress says that Goggle has blocked the specific terms used by the searcher so all you get is info stating a search was done via their service. However, I have seen search terms from Bing and from Yahoo and I have to say that people are finding my blog through the search terms they use. I wish there was a way to see how long they actually spent on my blog rather than just what they clicked on. Who knows if they actually took time to read or just clicked to find out that it wasn’t something they were looking for. Either way, image searches and search terms to generate looks.

What was recently looked at via search engines?

My home page

Don’t Be So Bossy

An Unfortunate Metaphor

The really cool thing is the photo that I showed you at the top. I can see where in the world the people who are looking at my blog come from! This really makes me curious. Why would someone in Iraq or Malaysia be looking at my blog? What did they find and what did they think when they read it? India? WOW! United Arab Emirates? How cool is that? This particular window into the blog stats will always fascinate me. A very literal diagonal cross-section of the globe has stopped to take a look a what I write. Little ol’ me!

Isn’t that exciting? OK, maybe not for you and, really, not for me. But, it is interesting to say the least. Did I already say that multiple times? See, I DO find it interesting!

So, thanks for stopping in and taking a look. I hope you found something that was worth reading and, at the very least, thinking about. Now, let’s see if I can get the rest of the world to fill in their country’s identifier on the map above. Only 179 more to go!!

Don’t Be So Bossy!

This isn’t just a woman problem, so why make it that?

What? Don’t be so bossy! Once again, our Hollywood “elite” have a message for the American public that is both ridiculous and pompous. If you haven’t seen an article on this yet, you can check one out below.

Jennifer Garner, Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, and More Urge Ban on ‘Bossy’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

The whole premise of this movement just stinks of false feminism. I say false feminism because it is being painted as a “female” issue. That the word, when used towards women, is being sexist. What an utter obfuscation of reality!

The fact is that the word “bossy” can, and is, used in context to both men and women is some how lost here. Yes, there is a negative connotation to the word, but the connotation isn’t just solely reserved for women. As I see it, if the word is being used in context and appropriately, there is no problem. When people get power (or in this case celebrity) they feel abused when their demands aren’t met or their expectations are too high. Then, when someone points out that they are being unreasonable and “bossy,” well then we have just violated their sense of entitlement and their sense of dignity (apparently). Indignation then follows as the “elite” are called on the carpet for their misbehavior and the only way for them to justify their indignation is to make an issue of a non-issue and paint it as something it is not – a sexiest word.

We all have been there and done that. We make issues of non-issues in our daily lives. So I am not going to make that an issue.

What burns me red here is that we all have had the opportunity for power in leadership roles. We then become “bossy” and demand more or expect more than we should. Power goes to our heads and we get bossy. It is in our human (sinful, if you must) nature to take more than we deserve or need. So, when I or you become bossy and begin to wield power over people that is unjustified we need to realize that we are going to be called bossy. Is that a negative thing? YES! Should we be offended by it? Maybe, but likely no. If someone calls us bossy, it should cause us to pause and reflect,”Why am I being called bossy? Could they be right?” Ultimately, being called bossy should cause us to change because there IS a reason (in most cases) it was warranted.

This isn’t about empowering women. To some degree, I think this new initiative degrades them by making it about a word. Most people are better than that and I don’t think banning a word is going to make the difference. Next they may try to ban the word “woman” because it makes them feel inferior because it delineates them as a sex…where will the insanity of the word Nazis end?

The fact that female celebrities are leading this push gives it even less credence since I am sure that at one time or another they were bossy, let alone another word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with itchy. All have likely demanded things that made them come across as bossy. Rich people get that way because they feel entitled.

Rather than spending money on a campaign that has, really, very little relevance, how about contribute that money to ACTUAL needs?

Ladies, your social activism in trying to ban “bossy” comes across as just that – bossy.

An Unfortunate Metaphor

(C) R. Grenz

(C) R. Grenz

A student found this dollar bill in a textbook that I handed out about a week earlier. Obviously this dollar had been torn into many different pieces (some lost) and then taped back together using packing tape. The student was perplexed and didn’t want it. I posted a picture of it on my Facebook account and asked if people thought it would still be legal, which I thought it was since it still had both serial numbers. Others thought it would be legal because it had more than 50% of the bill still intact. One friend even recommended taking it to the bank and exchanging it for a whole dollar.

I admit I have thought about attempting to spend it but exchanging it for a “fresh” one seems less sketchy. Am I sad, or just desperate?

An Unfortunate Metaphor

The more I thought about going and exchanging it, the more I realized it is a pretty good representation of my paycheck. As most of you know, I am a high school teacher. Many of you probably don’t know that I work in a state that ranks 23rd for teacher pay. No, that isn’t the worst nor is it the best, but certainly it could be better! That dollar pictured above is literally what it feels like each month when I get my paycheck. I have lost so much buying power of the years that just maintaining a “middle class” standard of living gets more difficult every month. Not only do I make less than I used to (or should), but the cost of nearly everything continues to go up.

Milk and cheese have gone (or are going) up.

Flour has gone up.

Fruits and vegetables have gone (and are going) up.

Gasoline keeps going up, usually for no reason other than speculators are gambling on the world supply based on current world events.

Pet food has gone up.

Containers/packaging have gotten smaller and contain less, but the prices have gone up!

The cost of everything is or has gone up. The paycheck buys less and less each month! My dollar, what is left of it, doesn’t go as far as it used to.

I know what you are thinking. I can hear you muttering to yourself now. “Here we go again. Another teacher whining about how much they don’t get paid but should. Enough already!” I can understand your skepticism, but perhaps one teacher’s personal experience can convince you otherwise. I am going to try at least. I may not be successful but at least thanks for listening.


I’ll start with the fact that my family doesn’t live a lavish life and we try very hard not to live beyond our means, a difficult endeavor these days. We live in a three bedroom house (mortgaged and underwater) that is just slightly over 1300 square feet. We have two cars, one paid for (it’s an 11 year old Volkswagen) and one belongs to the bank (a car we bought used more than a year ago when it was already two years old). We bought the second one because we needed a more economical commuter car for me. We don’t go on vacations every year and when we do we have either saved for it or it is a simple family camping trip to the other side of the state. We don’t have any fun “toys,” a camping trailer or recreational vehicles. We have enough to be comfortable.

Next, I work TWO jobs. I am a full time teacher (day job) with nearly 12 years of experience and I also work part time (15-25 hours a month) as a driving instructor. I have a college education. Should it be this way? “Get a college education,” they say, “you’ll make more that way!” That’s funny because I never thought I would be working two jobs to make ends meet. I knew that teaching was never going to make me rich. I’m a realist. But, I never really believed that I would be counting every penny, and picking them up in parking lots because I just might need them. Yet, with all the work and effort, sometimes the ends still just don’t meet.

My wife works part time and tries the best she can to balance a work life and a home life, not an easy task and one I don’t envy. She makes our $300/month grocery budget magically stretch and still puts tasty meals on the table. It’s not easy and I am thankful she puts out all the effort that she does. 

There are lots of things and experiences that I would love to give my kids, but I can’t. I have kids that have grown and left the house. They have needs and I would love to be able to help them when they need it, but it is hard when it feels as though it could risk our own financial stability. I just simply can’t do all I need to, let alone want to.

I know I am not the only one out here dealing with this issue. There are many people in the same boat as me, making due with one oar. There are many public servants who don’t get paid enough. There are many people working in the social service community that do miracles every day with resources that could and should be more plentiful. So, I am trying not to complain and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. I am really just trying to help some people see the reality that many people live with every day – I am surviving. I don’t have it bad, but I don’t have it good either.

A Final Thought

I once heard an anecdote about Bill Gates. The way I remember it is this: Bill Gates is so rich that if he dropped a $100 bill on the floor it would be a waste of his time to pick it up because the effort to retrieve the bill from the floor would actually cost him more money than he dropped. Now, I am not going to fault the guy for having money. He is living the American dream and then some. But, that obviously isn’t how 99% (probably more) of Americans live.

So, what am I going to do? Well, I am going to go to the bank and exchange that sad little dollar held together with packing tape for a fresh one. Then, I am going to go out and make it stretch as far as I can.

Just a little bit more…

It’s I Don’t Fricken Care Friday Giftures

This one made me giggle today! Sometimes I imagine this is a blog I wrote because you seem to read my mind and dare to put it out there. Thanks for providing me with laughs on this Friday!

Ben's Bitter Blog

It’s Frickin Friday and I don’t care.  I don’t care about work, or science or what I cram down my pie hole.  And by that I mean Pizza.  I’m gonna slap some tomato sauce or paste or whatever on some crust, lots and lots of cheese, whatever kind, and pepperoni, put it in an oven, then call Pizza Hut, and tell them to freaking deliver it to me, because I don’t want to work on the Pizza, I just want to eat it.  You know what else I don’t care about? This post.

I’m gonna take my time getting to work… you can suck it, traffic.  Snailed it!

I’m gonna break stuff…

…or paint a wall…I don’t care. Maybe I’ll do both.

I’m gonna throw caution to the wind…

I'm gonna chuck stuff in the air. …and bowling pins in the air.  Cause I might go bowling later.  Whatever. I’ll do what I want.

Maybe I’ll…

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