Regarding 21 March 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, this vote does not directly affect my health coverage. TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program, was explicitly excluded from any of this.

Health care and health insurance needs to be reformed. I don’t believe there’s a sane individual who doesn’t agree with this basic thesis. Where the conflict arises is the HOW it gets done.

We can debate specific provisions all you want, and I’m willing and able to make a good case. But what I find disconcerting is that my kids will now be required to have health insurance or face a financial penalty.

Neither of my kids drive, therefore they are not required to buy car insurance. When they DO choose to make that choice, then they will be required to buy it. Fair enough.

However, both of my kids are struggling as it is to make ends meet. This will create a financial burden on them both. I get that yeah, it’s good to take care of yourself anyway, and this is sound. In fact, a couple years ago, I helped the older son find affordable, appropriate health insurance for someone his age and health.

What concerns me is that, assuming this passes Constitutional muster, the federal government will now for the first time have the ability to compel the populace to purchase a good that they may not want or need. One can argue that taxes are similar, and you’d make a valid point.

What will be the next item the Federal government deems necessary for me to have? Broadband internet access? Solar generating equipment? Both of those items can be considered to be part of the greater good as well.

My point: where are the checks and balances on what the Federal government can now direct individuals to purchase in the interest of the greater good?

The sky isn’t going to fall today. People WILL get covered now who were uninsurable before. Preexisting conditions will become less troublesome. These are all laudable goals and should have been part of a reasoned, measured incremental plan to reform health care and insurance. I believe we could have gotten there without the mandatory Federal provisions, had the politics of the situation not run amok. But here we are.

I hope that as a nation, we’re up to making the best of the situation.

Stage Check 1, By The Numbers

Number of take offs: 4

Number of landings: 4 (these should usually be equal)

Mistakes made: 1,345

Percent that I was so nervous my mouth was dry: 75

Times the instructor said “Just do it!”: 17. (What, is this guy Nike, or what?)

Price of lunch at the drive through afterwards: $4.65

All kidding aside, it was a good lesson, even if I wasn’t at my best.

I arrived around 7:30 and organized myself. Tom, the Chief Flight Instructor and my instructor for the day, was running behind. He’s a busy guy, since he runs the place, and was constantly being interrupted to take care of little management fires which seemed to be popping up.

We finally sat down together for the oral quiz about 8:15 or so and he took me through the usual suspects: What paperwork do you have to have on you when you fly? Which documents must the airplane have on board? That sort of thing. Airspace. Maps and charts. Navigation.

I thought I did pretty well on those. I missed a few, which is to be expected, particularly since I had been away from flying for extended periods of time. During the course of the conversation, he provided me with tips to make things easier, and clarified some questions I had. This was time well spent. As such things always do, It helped me to reinforce the things I did know, and point out the weaknesses.

On our way out to the plane, we had a chance to chat. Tom did, indeed, start flying in 1956, though he told me it took him nine years to get his private pilot’s license. He is retired from one of the major airlines, but wasn’t a pilot. Somewhere along the way, he said something about it being easier when you’ve had “10,000 hours doing this.”

By the numbers: I have 14.


To say that I was intimidated would be accurate. To say that I performed poorly because of it would also be accurate.

To say that once we spent a little time in the air together, I found myself really liking him would also be accurate. He’s a funny guy with a strong laugh and a penchant for telling silly jokes. You know, like “mother-in-law” jokes. It was really somewhat endearing.

Anyway, he put me through all the moves, and praised me when I did right, and let me know when I screwed up. And, as I have said, I did that a lot. I got so nervous, I had a death grip on the yoke, which makes flying about….

By the numbers: Times harder it is to fly when you’re hanging on the yoke for dear life: 1,000

Anyway, after about an hour or so of my own frustration and three of the four landings, we headed back to Manassas. I shot the approach quite well, I thought, though his opinion was to fly by eye and ignore the existing runway visual aids for landing. I thought that was rather peculiar advice, given that I would think that any pilot would want any resource at his disposal. But his point about not always having them was well taken, after my experience in Ohio where there were none.

If you’re going to end, it’s best to end on a positive note. As I have always said, I’d rather be lucky than good, and this time I was lucky. I settled the plane in just as nicely as if I had been doing it every day. Tom said “Nice landing” more than once, so I think I got at least that right.

Once inside, we went back and went over the lesson and did the paperwork. Routine stuff.

The biggest lesson I learned from all this is that I talked myself into making this lesson way more difficult and nerve-racking that it needed to be. I was well prepared, academically speaking. I had reviewed the basic maneuvers in Ohio, so I wasn’t lacking in understanding. I just let my own performance anxiety keep me from being at my best. I talked myself into being intimidated by both the words “stage check” and by Tom when neither were warranted.

By the numbers: Balls present: an adequate pair.

I shoulda used ’em.