This morning, KGAI, Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
At bottom, 2006-vintage Cirrus SR-22.
At top, 2013-vintage young Great Blue Heron.
(Thanks to Steve Inkellis for the photo.)
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More
James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
This morning, KGAI, Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
At bottom, 2006-vintage Cirrus SR-22.
At top, 2013-vintage young Great Blue Heron.
(Thanks to Steve Inkellis for the photo.)
Exposure to modern China leaves you with an endlessly expanding list of specific questions*, plus one unchanging Big Question. That big question, in various forms, is where this whole high-speed juggernaut is headed.
Do the past 30 years of growth mean (as many credulous Westerners, and a few assertive Chinese, have assumed) that China is soon destined to dominate everything, everywhere? Or is the real worry whether growth and progress can be sustained at all? Is the Chinese system too strong? Or too weak? Or both?
Will the newest crop of leaders realize, as Deng Xiaoping did 30-plus years ago, that if China is to stay Communist-run, then Chinese Communists will have to relax controls as fast as they can? Or will they keep pumping out slogans about “reform” without doing anything serious to clean up the structural imbalances, the crony-capitalist/communist corruption, and the needless intrusions (like Internet censorship) that threaten the country's ability to move up to fully modern "rich country" status? My attempt to wrestle with all of these questions, especially the last, is in the form of my book China Airborne. [Below, Beijing on my latest visit a few months ago.** I feel unsporting posting pictures like this, but they're part of the reality.]
The more confident people sound in answering the big Whither China? question, the more skeptical I've become of them and their views. On a day when the news out of China includes the still-unexplained multi-fatality crash of a Jeep into a crowd in the governmental heart of Beijing at Tiananmen Square, here is a sample of the attempts to answer questions big and small:
1) “One Big North Korea?” John Craig is an analyst based in Queensland, Australia who produces an idiosyncratically formatted, and very long and detailed, set of reports on Asian and global affairs. He has put up a new one in response to an (overexcited, IMHO) U.K. article saying that the Chinese leadership is taking instruction from the Kim family of Pyongyang. Worth reading.
2) Will Creative Destruction be more creative, or destructive, for China? The latest online discussion from our friends at the ChineFile site of the Asia Society, involving a number of my real-world friends, considers whether China should be considered unusually supple in dealing with world economic surprises, or unusually brittle.
3) “Unhinged in China.” From the always elegant and insightful Ian Johnson, a NYRB piece that seems particularly suited to today's Tiananmen Square news. China has achieved an undoubted GDP miracle over the past generation; like previous pell-mell rushes to industrialization, it has come at considerable human cost. Check his article for more.
4) On the bearish front, What about those millions upon millions of empty apartments? A cautionary report in Forbes by Anne Stevenson-Yang. See this parallel report today in our China channel about the risk of a Chinese version of the Lehman collapse.
5) On the anti-bearish front, see this in Bloomberg on why the Chinese economy keeps heading for a fall, but keeps not falling.
6) Two of my best-informed economics-world friends in China—Michael Pettis, of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing; and Andy Rothman, the chief economist for the brokerage firm CLSA in Shanghai—keep turning out convincing, but differing, assessments of the strains on the Chinese economy. Pettis has been among the earliest, strongest voices warning about unsustainable distortions in the Chinese economy; Rothman has consistently pointed out the system's ability to make adjustments just in time and repeatedly work its way out of jams and corners.
You can find most of Pettis's dispatches on his site, for instance recently this about the rebalancing of China's economy from export/infrastructure- dependence to consumer-led growth: “I believe that 3-4 percent average annual growth rates is likely to be the upper limit for China during the adjustment period [of around ten years] ... If the adjustment period is much longer than ten years, perhaps ... because political opposition is fiercer than expected, growth rates might be a little higher on average in the first few years but the period of stagnant growth would last longer than ten years and there would be a much higher risk of an economic collapse.”
Rothman's analyses come mainly through his in-house newsletter and email list—whose latest entry, for example, said this about the ongoing Chinese “slowdown” (quoted with his permission):
China’s 3Q macro data offers little to worry about. As long as you are comfortable with the idea that growth rates will continue to slow gradually. Fortunately, the Party leadership seems comfy with that, and is more focused on longer-term structural change. GDP growth of 7.8 percent in 3Q and 7.7 percent YTD, compared to 7.7 percent last year, provides plenty of room for change ...
China remains the world’s best consumer story, with retail, new home and car sales healthy and inflation modest. Restructuring is well under way, with private firms, not SOEs [state owned enterprises], driving growth in investment, employment and profits, and with, for the first time, the tertiary sector overtaking secondary as the largest share of GDP ...
It is also important to recognize that, unlike in many developed countries, wages continue to rise rapidly for China’s low-income workers. Wages for the migrant workers who hold the majority of manufacturing and construction jobs in Chinese cities are up 13 percent this year. In our view, strong income growth at the lower end of the pay scale, along with rising government spending on health care and education, is far more important than the wide gulf between rich and poor.
It's not false equivalence, or mere courtesy to friends, for me to point out that both the cautionary and the more confident analyses are very much worth following, and both could in different ways be true. We may need a concept of “false contradiction” when it comes to China: recognizing that incompatible-seeming observations may all be accurate. The slangy way of putting this: everything you might say about China is true—somewhere.
7) Speaking of friends in print about China, I can recommend Damien Ma's In Line Behind a Billion People (with William Adams), about the role of scarcity in everything about modern China; and Adam Minter's Junkyard Planet, which I've mentioned previously and which you can read more about here.
8) The New York Times's online presentation of yesterday's Magazine story "A Game of Shark and Minnow," on nationalistic tensions in the South China Sea, deserves the praise and attention it has received. It is an amazing piece of work.
9) Last week, we ran an item by Eric Fish on the firing of a prominent Peking University professor, Xia Yeliang. There are two contending interpretations of his dismissal: Was it one more step in an ongoing wave of retribution against political dissidents in China? Or was it because students and colleagues didn't like the way he taught? Our previous item laid out the case for the “teaching problems” view. In a WSJ interview a few days later Prof. Xia explains why he thinks this was because he was an original signer of the “Charter 08” appeal for civil liberties and political reform. Check them both out.
* Example of the specific questions: What is the business model for so many fruit-and-nut vendors from the farthest western extremes of China, often ethnic Uighurs, having so many identical push-carts heaped with dried fruits and "nut cake" through major eastern cities thousands of miles away? Who actually runs the pirate DVD business? Who, exactly, is underwriting the costs for those Armani/Prada luxury stores in which you see lots of sales clerks and no customers?
** I am supposed to make my next trip in a few weeks. But my latest visa has expired, and in a standard “this is China” moment one state-sponsored research organization has invited me to a conference in Beijing—while the local Chinese embassy seems highly skeptical about renewing my visa.
Similar things happen all the time in the U.S., of course, especially since 2001. A federally sponsored research organization will invite foreign scientists or researchers to a conference, but consular officers won't let the foreigners in. In their case, and mine, I think the explanations are the same: over-reach by each government's security organizations, and lack of coordination between them and other parts of the sprawling, bureaucratized state.
By Deborah Fallows
We took off from KGAI -- the Montgomery County Airpark, our home airport outside Washington DC -- early on a Friday afternoon, with big plans to look for the fall foliage en route to Eastport, Maine. The flight would be about 3 1/2 hours, even less if the expected strong tailwinds prevailed. [Above: Sunrise over Campobello Island, once we got to Eastport.]
We were climbing initially to 2500 feet, which I think of as the Norman Rockwell altitude. If you look down, you can spot yellow school buses stopping in front of white picket fences and see smoke curling out of chimneys. Just after we took off I heard Jim, my husband and pilot, say “Damn,” before I noticed the small “no communications” light on one of the electronic screens. This was a big word from a mild-mannered guy, but he immediately reassured me with, “Well, the worst that can happen is that we turn right around and try to rent or borrow a plane.”
In a moment, the “traffic sensor failed” light came on, identifying the problem. Even I knew this wasn’t really important; the traffic sensor detects nearby airplanes and displays them on an animated screen, along with their altitude and direction. It is a bonus rather than a necessity for flight safety. The most amazing part of the system to me is the loud, metallic, electronic voice that warns “TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!” when another plane is near you. (Technically, or so I'm told by Jim, this is when the plane is within 1000 feet above or below our altitude, and 2 miles horizontally.) I think the voice must be optimally designed for pitch, stress, amplitude and general surprise value. I don’t like it, but that is probably the point.
This is the screen that should show the traffic sensor. If you look hard you can see the little yellow indicator of “traffic FAIL” on the middle left of the right-hand screen.
Requesting “flight following” from the air traffic controllers (ATC) would substitute for the sensor system, which we did. Along the way, the ATC would periodically call us with something like “435 Sierra Romeo. (our call number) Traffic. 3 o’clock. One mile. Southbound, a G4 at 4000 feet.” We would look for the plane and inform the ATC “in sight” when we spotted it. Jim then stated a fact that I already knew: “Obviously, I’m gonna be watching this like a hawk.”
The leaves were still very green over Maryland; they were turning a mild yellowy-brown over Pennsylvania. The had barely even changed over one of my favorite flyover markers, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which sits proudly on a bluff over the Hudson with its expansive emerald green sports fields and marching grounds.
About that time, Jim mentioned he was looking for the updated weather report from the eastern Maine area, which was supposed to be clearing during our flight but was overdue on its hourly refresh. He played around with a few dials. I was still looking for leaves when he pointed out the major screen, the one showing all the gauges and important stuff like altitude and airspeed, began flickering. That was occasional. Then the flicker turned to longer flutters. Then it would go blank for seconds at a time. I could see the redundant manual dials were normal, and Jim said, “We’re fine; this is exactly why I did all that extra training during the spring. That's why I was doing those simulated-panel-failure drills, with all the screens turned off."
You won’t be surprised to hear that we decided to make a precautionary landing in Portland, the closest big airport (as Jim has previously described). It seemed beyond foolish to keep flying an extra hour north to the Eastport airport, which has no tower, no weather station, and no mechanics or repair shops. Jim told the controller that we were “changing destination because of non-emergency equipment problems,” a phrase I hadn’t heard before. He also requested a change from "Visual Flight Rules," under which we flew whatever course we chose, to an Instrument Flight Rules plan, in which ATC would guide us to the destination. The ATC responded without a breath’s delay. "November 435SR is cleared to the Portland airport via direct, maintain 3,000 feet. Let us know if you require assistance."
We landed in Portland, and stayed overnight with friends we had been long trying to visit. Through the magic that Jim described, we were on our way north to Down East Maine by noon.
That geographic nomenclature – Down East – was puzzling to me. I could understand the East, since Maine really sweeps out there into the Atlantic Ocean. The Down, I learned, apparently dates back to the olden days, when prevailing winds sent ships from Boston sailing downwind (hence down) to head north along the coast of Maine. Or maybe it's some other reason.
We flew over the upscale enclaves of Mount Desert Island, and Bar Harbor, and many small private islands inhabited by either the wealthy or the reclusive—or sometimes one and the same. We swung around over Campobello and other Canadian islands for our landing to the west at Eastport, with its charm offensive of church steeples and clapboard houses. As we came in on our final approach, only a few hundred feed above the ground, a big green lawn-mowing tractor pulled out onto the runway. That was a surprise! So we "went around," climbing back to 1000 feet above ground (and ocean) and setting up for another approach, by which time the tractor had spotted us and pulled off the runway.
The small airport was deserted. We were unloading and heading for a red Honda in the parking lot. The amazing Linda Godfrey, who is one of the dynamic forces for change in Eastport, had picked up the ball when she got word we were coming for a visit, and anticipated needs I didn’t even know we would have: “There are no car rentals here. I’ll find you one to use.”
Then a car drove up. “I heard you coming in,” greeted Captain Bob Peacock, one of two pilot boat captains who guides the enormous cargo ships into the deepwater Estes Head pier at Eastport. Amazing that he found us, I thought. We were one day and one detour late. This proved to be the first of about a dozen times we ran into Bob Peacock during the next several days. And also his friend Dean, and also Linda Godfrey, and many other people of Eastport who were all out and about on the streets. They seemed to have an uncanny anticipation of just what we would need and when we would need it. Cap’n Bob, as I fondly began to think of him, directed us to town (turn right and follow the road about a mile to the water) and said he would catch up with us later.
[Our plane in the background, another plane in the foreground, gasoline tanks at the end of the pavement, red Honda just out of view on the left, Eastport all around.]
It all felt comfortable and familiar to me. I grew up in a small town in the midwest, on the Great Lakes. Everyone knew everyone. Kids didn’t have playdates; we just showed up at a friend’s house or at the corner lot to play. And parents always knew where to find us.
The next morning, Sunday, I got up and dressed early. I had a feeling I should be ready for whatever might happen. Sure enough, Cap’n Bob showed up at the back sliding glass door. “Hope it’s OK, “ he said, “The front door was locked.” Yeah, I thought to myself, I probably didn’t need to lock that door. Cap’n Bob began telling yarns – true ones – of the stories and characters of Eastport. Stories of Eastport rebuilding – in industry, in commerce, in architecture, in culture, and in spirit, which had been bruised and buffeted by decline, disappointments, and broken deals, but which was poised for a comeback.
We were already learning the first lessons of Eastport. It is a town that is very far away from the rest of the US; it is tiny; and it is surrounded by cold, deep water. Eastport residents turn those givens around to be wholly positive: Eastport, they describe, is close to the rest of the world, commands the engagement of all who live there, and understands the promise of the water.
To contact Deborah Fallows: DebFallows at gmail.com
Seven-plus years ago, I argued in a cover story that the open-ended "war on terror" was damaging American interests and American values more than the (still-real) threat of terrorist attack had or ever could.
This wasn't some big leap of insight or imagination on my part. I was mainly citing military strategists and historians who had demonstrated, over time, that the reaction provoked by terrorist attacks was always more damaging than the original assault itself. Extreme illustration: the nationalist-anarchist assassination of two people in Sarajevo in 1914 leading to the deaths of tens of millions in The Great War. (Hyper-vivid death-car recreation at left, via Smithsonian.) The damage done by an over-reactive response to terrorism seems almost a ho-hum point now, but it wasn't prevailing opinion at the time, and I will always be grateful to James Bennet, then just installed as our editor, for sticking with it as his first cover story
Thus I was glad when, earlier this year, President Obama announced that it was time to "define our effort not as a boundless 'global war on terror' - but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America."
But as with various other aspects of the Administration and of this era, we've learned that it's one thing to announce "change!" and something else to bring it about. The drone war goes on, the NSA programs go on, surveillance increases and detentions continue -- and the damage mounts up faster than we reckon. There's immediate damage to the objects of these programs, of course -- but broader and longer-lasting damage to American institutions, interests, and ideals. (As you've read from Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Cohen, and other Atlantic writers over the years.)
This is all by way of directing you to David Rohde's latest installment in this vein, "Our Fear of Al-Qaeda Hurts Us More Than Al-Qaeda Does." Exactly so. And he speaks with the credibility of someone who knows about the direct damage terrorists can do, having been kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban for nine months in Afghanistan.
Read it, and let us see whether our government can change a policy that the president himself has stated is damaging the world in general and us as well.
My wife and I have exactly one frustration about the series of cities we've been visiting over the past two months. It is that we have been seeing things, meeting people, asking questions, getting answers, and overall being surprised-and-informed at roughly ten times the rate at which we've been able to describe any of this on line.
Yes, we realize that in the journalism business, as in life, this is a very fortunate sort of problem to have. But it's a challenge nonetheless, which we're continuing to address in several ways. Soon we'll be augmenting our web posts -- and Esri geoblogs, and reports from our friends at Marketplace -- with a sequence of articles for our print magazine. I'm writing one now for the January issue -- November's the one that's just appeared. (Say it with me: Subscribe!)
And when it comes to Eastport itself, where over the course of a week we had such a surprising range of interactions, with such a variety of people, drawn from such a minuscule community, I thought it might be useful to list the kinds of things we learned about and intend to discuss. I do this partly for journalistic transparency reasons; partly as a signal to people who generously spent time with us that it wasn't for naught; and mainly to hint at the density of effort, imagination, and commitment to community we were exposed to during just one week. Items on the upcoming-features list include:
Plus a lot else. All of this with the theme of people in the middle of what they universally recognize as a struggle for a town's survival. Again I am piling these up in a list not for spoiler purposes but to indicate the same thing we repeatedly encountered in China: the density and surprise of local experience, and its connection to larger national and global trends.
A final note on location. As mentioned yesterday -- and as cited non-stop by local port authorities -- Eastport has the deepest natural harbor in the continental United States, at 60+ feet. Its siting, "remote" from the rest of America's perspective, is also a potential strategic plus. The maps below are via the handy online Great Circle Mapper. They're not exact renderings of sea routes, but they give you the idea that Eastport is the closest U.S. location to ports in Europe:
And perhaps more surprisingly, also those in Africa, as shown first with sample routes to Casablanca:
And then Dakar:
And, while it's harder to show with this kind of map, Eastport also becomes by far the closest Eastern Seaboard location to Asia, through the warming Canadian arctic route.
More ahead. You can see why we are excited, and also the fortunate sort of frustration that we feel.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my wife and I were meeting people and asking questions in Eastport, Maine, along with Kai Ryssdal and his colleagues from Marketplace, Bridget Bodnar and Brendan Willard. What you see above is the view from the back seat of a Cirrus SR-22, where Brendan Willard was sitting, toward the front seat with me on the left and former naval aviator Kai Ryssdal on the right, Kai doing the radio work as we neared the little airport in Eastport.
Last evening, as mentioned here, Marketplace had a very nice short feature on one of the surprising, surviving industries of a very small and economically battered town: a century-old family-run mustard works. In just a minute it will have a longer feature about the ways in which the city is making major bets on connections to the global economy as its source of long-term economic hope. You can read about it on the show's site, here.
Much of this strategy -- as you'll hear on the show, and as we'll elaborate in days to come -- involves making use of natural feature shown on the map below. (This map is a static screen shot -- as soon as I post this item, I'll do a live version in which you can scroll and zoom on our Esri geoblog site.)
The map indicates water depths at major sites along the U.S. coast. Eastport, in the far northeastern corner, is the deepest of all ports in the lower 48 states, with a mean low water depth of more than 60 feet. (Valdez, in Alaska, is also very deep.) Moreover the seabed here is rock, rather than sand as in many sites in the Gulf Coast, so the depth is constant -- rather than changeable or in need of frequent dredging.
As you'll hear, a group of ambitious people in the city are trying to use the port's unique capacity -- and its proximity to Europe, and its potential proximity to Asia as northwest passages through a warming Canadian arctic become more frequent (they are already happening) -- as one foundation of its hoped-for economic revival.
It's just one of several foundations, whose stories we'll be telling here -- and in an article for our print magazine very soon. For the moment I will sign off with a reminder to tune into Marketplace. Among other things, you won't want to miss hearing the actual voices we heard in town.
[Photo by Brendan Willard.]
1) Pacific Standard magazine, based in Santa Barbara, has an excellent new issue out. You can read it in print if you subscribe, at the link above -- or you can wait as the articles come from behind the paywall over the next couple of weeks. (Everyone in our business is experimenting with web-revenue schemes*; this is an interesting one.)
For the record, Pacific Standard is edited by Maria Streshinsky, formerly managing editor here at the Atlantic, and many of the articles are by people in the Atlantic or Washington Monthly force-fields. But even if I didn't know anyone involved, I would have read this cover to cover, and enjoyed it. You can do that too if you subscribe.
2) The New York Review of Books is out with its 50th anniversary issue. Year in and year out, through now an impressive series of decades, the NYRB has sustained an amazingly high level of quality and sophistication. (Minor disclosure: I wrote frequently for the magazine in the 1980s and 1990s, back before the advent of online journalism eliminated the concept of "free time.") This issue is also full of great articles, many of them behind a paywall that is lifted if you subscribe.
Congratulations to Robert Silvers and his colleagues on what they have created and maintained over the years.
3) The Atlantic's new issue is also on the newsstands and should be in subscribers' hands.
Most other people at the magazine naturally see all its components as they are coming together in the weeks before each issue's "ship" deadline. My practice has long been to wait and see the whole thing when it arrives in the mail. That way I know little or nothing about the back story of each issue -- which stories worked out easily, which were author-handling (or fact-checking) nightmares, which tradeoffs we made in mix and emphasis. I just see the results, as a reader would. And on that basis I think this month's is very strong, in its range and quality.
Obviously I knew all about the cover essay, which I wrote -- and which I had a lot of fun doing the interviews for. But I hadn't even realized that among our list of current-day tech innovators celebrated by their peers was Jack Dangermond, a longtime home-town friend and the founder of the Esri company that is (with Marketplace) our partner in our current American Futures project. One of many positive surprises on opening this issue. Check it out and ... subscribe!
* As I argued several years ago in this piece, most veterans of the tech world think that "will people pay for information on the web?" is not even an interesting question. Of course they will, as we pay for everything else, once a sensible and unobtrusive pricing and payment system evolves. Every experiment with pricing and paywalls, whether it succeeds or fails, takes us closer to discovering the right iTunes-like, EZPass-like, cable-TV-like payment system. In the meantime, just pony up! None of these involves that much money.
[Tech update: if you cannot see the images in this item, please click here. Our system for handling images changed yesterday, with some transition issues we're still working out. ]
What you see above is the view from Eastport, Maine, looking toward the famed Campobello Island in Canada, yesterday morning. Eastport is where my wife and I have spent most of the past week, on the most unusual and one of the most rewarding parts of our American Futures travels. We've just returned from a long (and very bumpy) small-plane flight back.
This evening our partners at Marketplace had a very nice intro report on Eastport, featuring the 100-year-old Raye's Mustard works -- which has survived far beyond its original business reason for existence, as the Marketplace report explains. We are fans of Raye's and its products -- and will soon conduct, with our colleagues in Atlantic-land and other passers-by, a taste-test of the 20 different mustards we collected at the HQ this week. There are 21 rather than 20 bottles shown below, for cheerleader-pyramid-style symmetry. You will pick out the dupe.
Tomorrow evening Marketplace will have an extended report, and my wife Deb and I will kick off a series of our reports too. Two things are immediately obvious about this town:
First, given how small it is (our beloved Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is more than 100 times as large) how much is going on -- from the community production of The Glass Menagerie we saw on our first night there to the large-scale infrastructure efforts.
Second, how conscious people there are of their community's place on the historic cycle of decline and recovery. A century ago, the town had at least four times as many residents as it does now. Everywhere you go, there is an account of the wharves, the factories, the jobs, the businesses that used to keep the community going.
Most of the other places we've visited are able to look back on a big bet, a turning point, that shifted their fortunes in a positive direction. Sioux Falls, with its attraction of the credit-card industry 30 years ago; Burlington, with its salvation of its lakefront-downtown; Holland, with its own effort to defend its downtown against suburban malls; even La Jolla, with the big bets that drew the bio-tech and super-computing industries there. Eastport, which has endured a number of disappointments through the decades, seems plainly to be in the middle of placing a number of such bets, as we'll try to describe. Seeing people who are trying very hard, but who can't yet look back and tell a tale of success, has its own drama. "We're a startup," one of the people we interviewed this morning said. "Really, the whole town is a startup."
We'll get into that starting tomorrow, from the ambitious plans for the port and aspirations to lead in clean-energy generation, to the building-by-building plans for restoring a downtown. For a moment, here's a look at the process this evening's Marketplace report described. That yellow stuff, flowing down the ramp in the foreground, is mustard, as it comes out of the century-old grinding wheels at the Raye works:
And this is one of the ancient grindstones, outside the shop.
More on this starting as soon as we sleep off the latest round of travel. We met a significant share of the town's population, and we thank them for their approachability.
Much of the town, from above, as we came in a few days ago.
Yes, I can read this -- written characters are my friend, spoken Chinese with its tones and its indistinguishable q/x/sh fricatives is my foe -- and I know that it is a security warning about someone trying to log into an Apple account with my email ID. I think I received it (and not the English counterpart) because I bought the equipment in question earlier this year at an Apple store in the Wangfujing district of Beijing.
Still, I couldn't help doing a double-take on getting a security warning in this form. And, perhaps irrationally, wondering if it was phishing. To be safe, I went to the English-language Apple site (and not the linked Chinese site) and changed the relevant passwords. No larger point, but to me an interesting little document about our connected-for-better-and-worse world.
Why did it take so long to invent the wheelbarrow? Have we hit peak innovation? What our list reveals about imagination, optimism, and the nature of progress.
Greetings from the American city closest to Europe, and first to see each day's sunrise: Eastport, Maine, which Marketplace will describe in its broadcast on Friday and which we'll say more about starting tomorrow. The scene above is of an unimaginably vast warehouse full of bales of Maine hardwood pulp, destined for mills in Asia.
The "pulp," which I had envisioned as a kind of slurry, turns out to be thick sheaves of papery material, which will then be re-ground and turned into high-quality paper in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese mills. Each of the small footlocker-sized rectangles shown above weighs more than 500 pounds. We watched them loaded into a Norwegian-flag freighter, with a Filipino captain and crew, at the Eastport dock at a rate of 28 tons (one of the truckloads below) every 90 seconds or so.
More on that later, including its significance for a town of some 1,300 people. For now, these notes on the news:
1) Maddening. On the "shutdown is forgotten but not gone" front, the cancellation of a decade-long Antarctic research program because the interruption in funding happened at exactly the wrong time. According to the Chicago Tribune:
"We are still dealing with the shock of it all and figuring out what to do," said [Ross] Powell, chief scientist on the project known as WISSARD, for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling. "A lot of our students are really disappointed and a lot of them were crying. We are totally devastated."
The project is funded by a $10-million grant from the National Science Foundation, and the government's 16-day shutdown began at a critical time for antarctic research, when shipments of equipment and food are sent in preparation for the continent's short summer research season. The shipments, which typically occur three times a week, were canceled during the shutdown, and now there is a logistical "bottleneck" that makes it impossible to get all the gear and people there in time, Powell said.
2) Sobering. A report by the Center for International Media Assistance (which receives U.S. government funding via the National Endowment for Democracy) on the ways that Chinese government restrictions on its own domestic media have spilled over to international news organizations.
3) Ditto. Check out the most recent China Files conversation, plus other items like this, on the recurrent signs of what I've long argued is China's major challenge to itself and the world: pollution in all its forms.
4) Meanwhile, on America's own problems. See this story on the latest little illustration of self-inflicted damage via the American security state. It involves one more U.S. tech company whose business has been compromised by concerns about NSA abuse.
5) The promised cheering note. I've mentioned many times that the Mac-only program Tinderbox is one of several "idea organizer" programs I have used and been fascinated by, like the DOS-only Lotus Agenda and the Windows-only Zoot. The creator of Tinderbox, Mark Bernstein, has launched a creative approach to funding the program's next iteration. You can read about it (and sign up) here. Essentially it's a request that beta-testers pay for "backstage passes" that allow them to participate in the program's evolution.
6) Speaking of massive beta tests. If you're one of the many who downloaded Apple's new Mavericks operating system today, thanks! There has never, ever been a major software update whose first version was free of significant bugs. So by putting this program into use right now, you're speeding the discovery of the bugs, their correction, and the release of the more stable and usable follow-up version. The computing public is grateful for your service.
A reader sends this screen shot from his news stream this morning:
(Before you ask: Yes, this reader must be based on the West Coast, because the jobs figures would still have been under embargo as of 6:46am Eastern time.)
By John Tierney
If you’ve been attentive to the growing series of posts here under the banner of the American Futures project, you know that Deb and Jim Fallows have been examining small, resilient American cities that are home to intriguing innovations and entrepreneurship. A few days ago, as part of the project’s recent focus on Burlington, Vermont, I took a look at two of the three great colleges there. Now let’s look in on the third, Champlain College. You’ll see why this one fits the project’s ongoing “American ingenuity” theme.
If you could design your ideal college from scratch, what would it look like? Mine would look something like the following. Students would acquire training that makes them immediately employable. They’d take courses in the liberal arts that would sharpen their skills in writing, analysis, and reasoning. And they’d graduate with some real-life knowledge, such as how to interview for a job. There’d be no tenure for faculty, but instructors would be made to feel they’re valued members of the enterprise. And administrators would constantly ask themselves “how can we prepare students for what the world needs of them?”
While you’re busy designing your version of the ideal, I can take a nap or go fishing, because somebody has already built mine: Champlain College. It is doing everything I’ve described and, in the process, is gaining the attention of the higher-ed world. The words I’ve heard used to describe Champlain include innovative, nimble, adaptable. A professor from nearby St. Michael’s College told me, with unabashed admiration, “Champlain is always asking itself What works?”
Founded in 1878 and long known as the Burlington Business College, Champlain assumed its current name in 1958, when it had only 60 students in various associate’s degree programs. Starting bachelor’s degree programs in 1991, the college now enrolls 2000 undergraduates – an enrollment cap it committed to several years ago in an agreement with the student-rich city of Burlington. When it launched its bachelor’s programs, this college long known for training secretaries and accountants, began to reinvent itself, earning respect for its enterprising spirit.
The dominant ethos of Champlain – that “what works?” mentality – intensified when David Finney arrived from NYU in 2005 to become president. Finney quickly instituted what he calls a “three-dimensional education” program, an undergraduate curriculum consisting of interdisciplinary liberal-arts courses, a life-skills program, and training for a career.
Though it’s a career-focused college, Champlain requires its students to take a core curriculum of liberal-arts courses over four years to enhance intellectual discipline and critical thinking. Believing that “American higher education has really lost its way with general-education courses,” Finney told me that when he arrived in his new job, he decided to spend all of his “honeymoon capital” as new president to replace the “hodge-podge of courses” that formed the liberal-arts core. He assembled a faculty task force to design a revised core aiming to build habits of mind students will need “not just as they’re leaving here,” Finney says, “but over their lifetime.“
A painstaking process of reinvention led to new core courses designed to help students develop global awareness and strengthen their analytical and reasoning abilities, critical reading skills, and writing proficiency. These courses have no tests. The work is heavily oriented toward writing. Classes consist mainly of discussion and project teamwork rather than lectures. Students and faculty are active learners together.
A second component of Champlain’s undergraduate education comes through its required “Life Experience and Action Dimension” program, which has two parts: (1) some real-world education, emphasizing financial literacy and sophistication (developing a budget, making sense of credit cards, understanding how employee benefits work and why they’re important, etc.) and job skills (marketing oneself, negotiating business contracts, and developing skills in interviewing, networking, etc.); and (2) a community-service element that puts students to work helping Burlington’s needy and simultaneously broadening cultural awareness and a sense of engaged citizenship.
The third element of a Champlain education, and the part for which the college is probably best known, is its career-oriented training. At Champlain, “professional education” doesn’t just mean traditional majors like marketing or accounting, but an array of innovative concentrations such as computer and digital forensics, computer networking and cybersecurity, computer-game art design and animation, digital and streaming media.
Moreover, Champlain inaugurated an inventive “upside-down curriculum,” allowing first-year students to take up to six classes in their major. Consequently, students get hands-on-learning experiences right off the bat, with theory saved for later. This helps students get internships and early job offers. According to an article in Seven Days – the successful print newspaper in Burlington that Jim profiled last month – Champlain students in majors like cybersecurity (recently recognized as the top such program in the country) “are now so highly sought after that many are being recruited while still in their junior year, and sometimes even earlier.”
Champlain wants to be an economic engine for Vermont and tries to stay in front of the curve, especially on tech-driven career training. Finney explained one of the ways the college does that: “Most of our programs have affiliated advisory boards with people from Vermont businesses. We ask these people ‘what are you going to need?’ Not ‘what do you need now,’ but ‘what are you going to need in the future?’ And we try to meet those needs. So people in companies here have the sense that Champlain is their partner. And we’re very future-oriented.” Little wonder, then, that Champlain has become, as one reporter put it, “a training ground for Vermont software development firms and other high-tech employers” [like the ones Jim described here and here].
Internally, the college seems healthy, too. There’s palpable energy and enthusiasm on this campus. You might expect the faculty to be angry or resentful about the no-tenure policy. They’re not. Several people, including Finney, told me the absence of tenure “has never been an issue,” a claim the Faculty Senate’s President, Laurel Bongiorno, affirms. Faculty members work under individual, multi-year contracts – a good arrangement most American workers would love to have.
As I walked around campus, talking with students, I was struck by a common theme: many spoke of Champlain’s congeniality, its spirit of collaborative learning, and the absence of barriers separating students from faculty. Addressing that theme, Finney told me, “Yes, our DNA is very unusual. The vast majority of our faculty prefer that students address them by their first name. People see themselves as part of learning teams. It’s an intensely personal place.”
I got one small indicator of Champlain’s specialness when visiting in mid-September. I went into the beautiful library (photo above) on consecutive afternoons, a Thursday and Friday. If you’re familiar with contemporary college life, you know that on many campuses, students typically treat these like weekend days. Not at Champlain. I was astonished (and I don’t use that word lightly here) to see nearly every seat filled, students working. When I told Finney about this, he chuckled knowingly. “I’ve noticed the same thing. Encouraging, isn’t it?”
Finney’s right about Champlain’s unusual DNA. American higher education would be better off if more colleges tried to replicate what’s going on here.
All photos by John Tierney.
Photo 1: Champlain campus green
Photo 2: Campus sculpture of Samuel de Champlain
Photo 3: S.D. Ireland Family Center for Global Business and Technology
Photo 4: Stiller School of Business, Champlain College
Photo 5: Students working together in gazebo on Champlain campus
Photo 6: Library building, Champlain College
To explain why I call (b) final: When I got in email range again yesterday, I found an enormous harvest of really interesting responses to the ASG chronicles. Most of them included informed, historically allusive, and well-crafted observations on the politics and psychology of the person involved. And those same messages generally said it would be a mistake to drag this out any further. Real world sample: "Can’t understand why you’re giving the Atlas Shrugged guy so much visibility," followed by several paragraphs of provocative exegesis.
I agree! Case closed, despite all the illuminating follow-up messages.
Oh, but wait: I need to offer a tip of the hat to reader MM. Solely from clues in the emails I posted, he correctly figured out exactly who the Atlas Shrugged Guy is, where he lives, where his business is located, what it does, how many employees are listed on its 401(k) forms, and how heavily dependent it was on government contracts -- which had dwindled since Obama came to office. Nicely done.
Now, back to the good news. I try to avoid using a quasi-public forum to gripe (too often) about customer service, because inevitably you come across as a whiner and borderline bully. Thus I have said nothing about recent encounters with Boingo, or Citibank, and have given other hobby-horses a rest.
But on the principle that you should never miss an opportunity to give a deserved compliment, here is one to the Avidyne corporation, of Lincoln, Mass, which got my wife and me out of a difficult situation yesterday -- with the crucial help of Nexair Avionics in Mansfield, Mass.
I'll save the details, for anyone interested, until after the jump. The summary is that because of a mid-flight equipment problem, we had to land in Portland, Maine, an hour's flight (and a five-hour drive) short of our intended destination of Eastport. The situation was not in any way dangerous, but it had the potential of being highly inconvenient, since we were due to meet our partners from Marketplace in Eastport and indeed to provide Kai Ryssdal and his engineer with ferry-flight service.
Two or three times over the years, we have had a similar AOG, or "Aircraft on Ground" situation, which is often a big hassle to correct. The airport where you end up stranded usually doesn't have the exact part you need. If you're traveling after working hours or on weekends, you can be out of luck. An equipment problem that occurred late on a Friday afternoon (like this one), far from a service center, could strand you for several days, until parts can be shipped the following week.
Fortunately: I had signed up for the "extended service" warranty plan from Avidyne, maker of the crucial system in question. (Thank you, Steve Inkellis and OpenAir, for that advice!). Under this plan, Avidyne has an after-hours "AOG Help Line" for situations like mine. They scrambled on a Friday evening to find a repair site that (a) had a spare of the part I needed, (b) could be open on a Saturday, and (c) was close enough that I could fly there comfortably and safely with the failed instrument.
Within a few hours they had lined up this site, Nexair Avionics in Mansfield, Mass. Early Saturday morning, we made the short flight to the small Mansfield airport, not far from Foxboro Stadium; and there, within 90 minutes of our arrival, the Nexair director of maintenance, Steve Bonvino, had swapped the defective system for a replacement. That's him in the picture at the top, standing with my relieved-looking wife. By early afternoon, we had made our way in beautiful weather to Eastport, with this resulting route.
I emphasize the fast response of the "extended service" Avidyne-Nexair system because otherwise the prospect would have been several days of working through Plans B through Z. Seeing the opportunity to give a deserved compliment, I am doing so to Avidyne and its affiliated service centers, and Steve Bonvino and David Fetherston of Nexair.
For the aviation crowd, in-flight details below.
Nearly a year ago, just before Election Day in the Romney-Obama contest, I began receiving emails from a person I eventually referred to as the Atlas Shrugged Guy. The name of course referred to his threat-and-promise that if the American public returned Barack Obama to the White House, this man would, like Atlas Shrugged's John Galt, withdraw his labor and creativity from a leveling, confiscatory society that didn't realize its true dependence on its productive class.
You can read his series of explanations from last year, along with responses, support, and jibes from other readers, in the compendium here.
Since then people have kept writing in asking what became of the man and his threat. For months I just didn't get around to collecting his messages; as you will see, they are voluminous. But now I have, and my purpose is to provide an archive of an extended, detailed expression of what, as the shutdown fight showed, is obviously a significant point of view.
This post is extremely long. I don't expect anyone to read it in one crack. But it may be a useful political/cultural reference source about this element in our current politics.
The hard-line GOP forces in our latest shutdown fight felt that the Obama healthcare plan, and Obama policies generally, were such dire threats that extreme steps in opposition were justified. The man I'm quoting here was not recommending resistance, a la Ted Cruz, but withdrawal, a la John Galt; yet both responses spring from the shared sense that the country has become something alien to them. You'll see the depths of that outlook expressed here.
For the record: From the start I have known the real name of this person, because he told me. I have figured out the location of the personal website on which he develops many of these same themes, and where he lives and what line of work he's in. (You'll see an exchange in which I reveal this to him.) I can't independently confirm what he says about his business plans.
Without further comment, here we go with the first tranche. Some of these overlap with ones I quoted before, but I am including the whole sequence. Meanwhile, we're heading off on another American Futures trip, to the far northeast.
November 3, 2012, three days before the election.
To: James Fallows
Subject: What happens if Obama wins?
I will tell you what happens, I close my business of 10 years and lay off my employees. I am done. Thats what happens. You might consider me one of those know nothings but I am highly educated, run a high technology company with several very high paying positions and am very much steeped in US History and am a stalwart in the notion of individual liberty and self reliance. Freedom and liberty built this nation, not parasites like Obama and ilk. Obama has never produce anything in his life. Nothing, zero. Yet he is qualified to lead? Really? I have worked for leaders and he is no leader.
The economy picking up is a joke. Really? Where? 100% debt to GDP and counting and for every job created 75 food stamp recipients? I have never seen it this slow and a second Obama term will spell the end. The tax increases alone are enough for me to call it quits. Why, I make to much so pay more of my fair share? Maybe you should attempt to understand the concept of a S Corp and how it's income becomes, for tax reasons, my income. Hence while my income may look very good on paper the vast majority of my income stays as operating revenue. So much for the fat cat theory, no?
Why should I continue to work myself into the dirt just to have it confiscated to transfer wealth to a parasite class? The work requirement for welfare gutted, Obamaphones, the taxes in Obamacare alone are enough to throw in the towel.
This OP ED [in response to something I had written] is a fantasy of deranged and feckless liberal gibberish. What your now calling the mainstream is terminal unemployment and lower standard of living for all but then again, we all know that is the lefts dream right? After all, when your mentality is zero sum gain then making the rich poorer the poor become richer, correct? WHy let reality get in the way of your fantasy? Had the housing market, for example, been left to market forces without government intervention the housing bubble would have never happened but hey, another brilliant idea from the left. Good intentions are all that matter right?
Try this. Open a business, deal with all the headaches for a few years, payroll, taxes, permits, employees and then come back and explain to me how Obama has helped me?
You want jobs, you create them because I am finished. Atlas will indeed shrugand I have no clue whom you and other democrats think is going to pay the tab because there is no money left to burn.
Then again, for the left the end justifies the means. As Milton said;, "better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven?"
November 3, 2012. I wrote back asking if I could quote the note, and whether he really owned a business.
Yes I do own one. I started in 2002 in my spare bedroom and now have a payroll of almost 500k per year. I will close it if he wins.
November 5, 2012, after I had posted some critical comments from other readers, including one calling him a spoiled child.
I am glad to privately provide website, not publicly. I enjoyed the spoiled child comment best. Spoiled children usually work 60 to 70 hours a week? What the readers fail to grasp is that the market is shrinking. I will do just fine, I am highly skilled. What I don't want to deal with is declining growth and growth is revenue driven. I don't understand why people cannot grasp that we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending and regulatory problem.
Simply put, why should I work myself into the dirt for no return? This is, or was, my dream. Why is that suddenly something I didn't build nor deserve to reap reward from?
Maybe your readers should ask, whom are they to take the fruits of my labors? Is not creating jobs a form of sharing wealth?
I will gladly rebut anyone whom wished. One man said no and all of Rome trembled? I am no afraid to stand my ground....
November 5, 2012, in further response to critical comments from other readers.
I just had a chance to sit and read this on large screen. Funny, I'm am to be burned at the stake? Spoiled child?
I put myself thru college selling scrap metal and working. I have a degree in physics from Seattle University. I worked avionics and fly by wire systems and missile technology for 16 years and switched to embedded systems, gps and wireless telemetry (no not wifi, wifi is for pussies) for the past 10 with a emphasis on extreme ruggedization. We do research and development into new technologies and guess what funds that; r&d? Profits which apparently are now a resource better allocated by the geniuses in government than I.
The comments are mere bitter mockery. I treat my employees very well, the issue at hand is growth. Growth is fueled by profits, not regulation and taxation. The national issue is not taxes it is spending and over regulation. Maybe you and your readers could enlighten me as to the 18 tax cuts I got that I have no clue about?
Is it so unreasonable to advocate a government to leave me alone and live within its means? Is it necessary that to insure a few requires the control of a entire industry? Student loans are now the business of the federal gov? Really?
Since when is, or was, a college education assured? I paid me way, I am paying my children's way? I am the spoiled child? What but a child are you to expect, demand, I pay for secondary education?
No, I stand as a man whom is proud to know the virtue of hard work and thru work alone i expect to reap the wealth of my labors. Giving back implies I took something. I took nothing and created something. I feel no guilt, why should I?
Your readers can pound sand.
I stand by my assertions. I will be fine, will they? Maybe they should vote for the business guy? The business of America is business, isn't it?
I appreciate a chance to respond. So seldom does anyone do such.
November 6, 2012 -- election day, after I asked whether I could quote his latest comments.
Quote away. It is not as if I relish this thought of moving on but the decline in business is a reality I must, as a business owner, deal with. I didn't get here by being lazy nor stupid. What I am is tired. I made a promise to myself long ago that if it starts to decline I am not riding it down to the bottom.
I should point out I am not opposed to a reasonable means tested safety net nor the usual responsibilities of govt. What I am opposed to is a ideology that promotes redistribution of wealth simply on some moving target of "fairness" and a debt that is unsustainable and that, despite claims of the pols, is not going to be fixed by taxing the rich.
If your down on your luck or cannot make it, that is one thing. However, a lifestyle generation after and after on public assistance is just plain wrong.
I could pontificate ad infinitum, we shall see tonight which vision for America prevails.
November 6, 2012, as the returns came in.
FYI, just talked to a large moving company owner.... Said same thing I did. Read it and weep.... Atlas is indeed going to shrug. Enjoy poverty.
Well looks like I am closing up shop. So be it. You wanted jobs, LOL, you make them. I will survive no matter what. It is sad, apparently our fathers died for nothing more than a check. Wow. My fathers died for liberty, you traded it for security. How does that feel? All those lives wasted on a generation of takers.....
We gave you a Republic, if you can keep it?
Lol looks like you we're right. I guess the concept of individualism has died. No problem, hope you enjoy socialism, it is probably best. After all, shared misery trumps unequal prosperity...
After the race was called:
Notices start tomorrow. Welcome to poverty...
November 7, 2012
Well, the beginning of the end.... I weep for what was, and fear for what we are becoming. If I wanted to live in a socialist nation then I used to have a choice.
So this is how freedom dies, to applause.....
More after the jump.
Recently Deb Fallows, aviation veteran and linguist, did a popular item about the strange and whimsical patterns of naming aviation waypoints, plus other aspects of flying-speak. She has gotten a lot of interesting response about why the system works the way it does, and she will follow up soon on some linguistic aspects she's learned about. For now, she has asked me to handle the messages that address the "National Airspace System" itself, so here goes.
Your call for interesting waypoint names brought back memories of flying out of Mather AFB near Sacramento, CA. Crews from the surrounding AFBs of McClellan, Travis, and Beale would construct “training” missions dialing in the MUSTNG VORTAC for recreation at the eponymously-named Ranch of ill repute. Then times changed and it was given the less-controversial nomenclature of RENO which it bears today. While you’re in the area It is worth checking out some locally-flavored waypoints such as PYGOW and BLKJK.
Hold the mayo (as shown above)
I always enjoy the inventiveness that folks at the FAA are able to use in making up instrument waypoints. My favorite is the RNAV (GPS) approach to runway 1 at NPA [Pensacola] - omitting the [several waypoints], we get:
EATNN TTUNA SNWCH - hold (at) MAYYO.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Andy Griffith
Consider: WITCH and WAXEN in the vicinity of Salem, MA.
Last year I was enroute from White Plains to an airport outside of Atlanta, and happened to pass by Mt. Airy NC. Being somewhat bored at the time, I pulled up the approach charts and was thrilled to see the Andy of Mayberry cast of characters immortalized there: ANTBE, OPBEH, BOMRR, OTISE, ANDEI, TALRR, FIFEE, BRNEE, etc.
Take that, LeBron
I wanted to point out one intersection over here in Cleveland that has fallen on hard times. "LEBRN" was named after LeBron James, the superstar Cleveland Cavalier who left abruptly for the Heat in 2010 among much local angst. I have been told - somewhat tongue in cheek - that local controllers started pronouncing it "Layburn" shortly after he left.
There must be a back story
As I understand it, these are chosen by the local air route traffic control center (ARTCC) in collaboration with the "big FAA" folks who design approaches, SIDs, and STARs. For example, I remember (but couldn't find a citation) that the local folks named the BAXTR intersection near Beaumont, TX after Gordon Baxter, the well-known columnist for Flying magazine and long-time Texas radio personality.
My favorite is the ILS 36R to Orlando (MCO). The approach fixes, in order, are TRAMP, FLOZY, SILKY, and JAKOR. I'm sensing a pattern here but would love to know the back story.
I chuckled when I saw the discussion of "say again" in Deb's latest post. I'm not a pilot, but back in 1981-82, when I was barely a year out of law school, I worked at the firm that represented PATCO during the air traffic controllers strike, and in the aftermath of the strike we represented lots of fired controllers in their appeals. As a result, I spent a lot of time talking to controllers, and I picked up the "say again" habit, which I still have more than 30 years later.
How the system works. These last two messages go into the details of how the FAA comes up with the names.
I am a controller at Chicago Approach Control. I've been here for 23 years and the number of way-points in our airspace has increased by an order of magnitude over the last few years. With the increase in the use of GPS approaches the trend will continue.
I don't know your history in aviation but I'll try to explain the history of aviation navigation and waypoint naming.
You mention the VORs and they were the bedrock of the navigation system for decades. [VOR stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range; you can learn more here.] We still use them although they are mostly used for non GPS aircraft, instrument approaches, and pilot training.... The airways all had intersections on them with the 5 letter names although they weren't as creative in the naming back when they were designed.
Many of the names were created when the original STARS [more here] were designed years ago. You mentioned BEARZ and KUBBS. They have been here longer than I have and they are each about 40 miles from O'hare, KUBBS to the northeast and BEARZ to the southeast near Gary....
When the RNAV and GPS approaches [landing procedures based on GPS signals rather than radio beams] were first designed about 10 years ago the FAA had a computer generate the names used for the fixes. This was an unmitigated disaster and many of the the names were unpronounceable....
Because of the computer generated name disaster in the GPS approaches, the local Procedures staff were allowed to name these way-points and they got creative in doing so. They had certain rules to follow such as no duplicates nationwide, 5 letters, nothing considered offensive, etc...
Some are named for places they are near: PLANO is near Plano, IL, FARMM is over or near Harvard, lots of farms out there. NUELG, near Elgin, NAPER is near Naperville, etc. Look at a terminal airspace chart to see them.
There are many named for retired controllers. Most of these are fixes on the ILS approaches into ORD. Just to name a few: GRABL, MISCH, CHSTR, FNUCH.
SIMMN intersection west of Dekalb, IL is named for Senator Paul Simon, a great champion of aviation.
We have the following STARS into ORD: ROYKO, PATON, ESSPO, BULLS. Can you guess who they are named for?
We will be getting some interesting fixes early in 2014.. A number of them will be named for local football, baseball and hockey players. These are new GPS approaches into MDW. I remember seeing CUTLR and DITKA....
And after the jump, one more detailed explanation.
Familiar elements in this American Bounty Still Life:
And in the center, the new entrant, or at least new to me: proudly branded Dogfish Head sausages!
The beauty, the bounty. It is almost too much to take in.
The people above are Charlie and Beth Peters, some years back, outside the house in Washington where they've lived since they came to town during the JFK administration to help create the Peace Corps.
Charlie is renowned in journalism for having founded The Washington Monthly in the late 1960s and given many generations of journalists their start. I began working there, alongside Walter Shapiro, at age 22, and my wife and I have remained close to Charlie and Beth ever since. The Atlantic's James Bennet is also an alumnus, as are National Journal's Matt Cooper and many other people we've published over the years.
This afternoon at 4pm, at the New America Foundation in Washington, Norman Kelley will show the documentary he has been making about Charlie, called (as was one of Charlie's books), How Washington Really Works. Matt Cooper will introduce the program; Charlie and Beth Peters will be there; and I will moderate a panel made of Monthly alumni Michelle Cottle, Steve Waldman, and Paul Glastris. Details here. If you can't come, keep an eye out for Norman Kelley's film.
It turns out that collating and formatting all 17,000+ words of email from the Atlas Shrugged Guy is incredibly labor-intensive and slow. It was underway until very late last night and will appear.
In the meantime:
1) I mentioned recently that since it was virtually impossible to change the (flawed) structural rules of American politics, it was all the more important to re-institute norms of acceptable partisan behavior.
If you'd like to see an example of what that means, listen to yesterday afternoon's NPR interview with Scott Rigell (right), a Republican congressman from Southern Virginia who came in as part of the Tea Party wave. He voted repeatedly against Obamacare but was an early voice for compromise, orderly procedure, and an end to hostage-taking in the current showdown. It's probably the kiss of death for someone like me to say it, but this is the kind of Republican argument and tone that could attract support beyond the (actuarially shrinking) base.
2) My wife Deb did a very nice item yesterday about the odd conventions of waypoint-naming in the national airspace system. I know that she has received lots of elaborations and background info, which she will share very soon. For the moment, here is an illustration of a waypoint sequence I had not been aware of—because it is practically impossible for normal civilian pilots to fly into Washington, D.C.'s National Airport any more. (I did some memorable night-flight training down the Potomac, over National, and out along the Anacostia in the 1990s. That will not happen again.) It's the sequence of points on the FRDMM TWO arrival sequence from the west to National airport. You'll get the idea
You can click here for the original, if you can't read what's on the chart. Or, as a spoiler, the waypoints are: HONNR, BRVRY, COURG, PLDGE, WEWIL, NEVVR, FORGT, SEPII, ALWYZ.
3) Back to norms and rules: Senator Ted Cruz has been remarkable through this whole process, but never more so than last night. On Fox News, he told Sean Hannity "Senate Republicans became basically an Air Force, dive-bombing House Republicans and conservatives." You can see it between about times 5:00 and 5:40 in the clip below.
I would love to hear Cruz explain to a revivified Ronald Reagan how his approach squares with one of Reagan's most famous norms -- his "Eleventh Commandment" about public squabbling within the party. The Gipper, The Cruzer: One of their examples will prevail.
4) When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, I noted the sadness of the moment for the Graham family and for a certain kind of journalism. But with trademark chipperness I said: "Let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age's major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence. We hope it marks a beginning, because we know it marks an end."
Pierre Omidyar (whom I know slightly—I've never met Bezos) is a contrast to Bezos in many ways, and his decision to bankroll a new venture with Glenn Greenwald also differs from Bezos's undertaking at the Post. But let's hope this is another marker in the same direction.
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