Another Aviating Post

Here I go with another “I’m offline and frustrated” post. I’m starting this as I wait to board my flight from Detroit back to Halifax, annoyed that DTW still doesn’t have free wifi for customers like most decent airports. Of course I wouldn’t really care if I was in Canada because I would have 3G, but here, I don’t.

Instead, DTW has a Boingo hotspot. With a two hour layover I figured I would sign up and I could fritter away time twittering as I do. I filled the form out with my credit card info, hit go, and nothing. So I tried calling the customer service number only to sit on hold for ten minutes and get disconnected. Now we are close enough to boarding that it seems not to matter anymore.

DC turned out to be overall a great trip. I met some pretty interesting people, saw some great sights, and lamentably enjoyed some decent weather which wasn’t what they promised and thus I cancelled my original plans to rent a Harley-Davidson and roam around Virginia. In the end, it was actually a good thing because I would likely have missed a lot of neat stuff, including the Newseum, and meeting the legendary @DCDebbie who didn’t make the tweetup I was going to because she was sick.

It’s interesting to meet people you’ve only been acquainted with via Twitter. So far they’ve been basically exactly what I expected them to be like – not personas, not fake at all. That’s pretty awesome. I was disappointed that some people I expected to meet weren’t there, but that’s how things go

I got in some great conversations as well, about politics, about careers, about ambition, about all sorts of things. There is a networking aspect to social media that’s there for those who wish to avail themselves of it, and it’s fantastic. I cannot help but wonder what will come out of some of the discussions that took place this weekend.

It got me thinking about my own directions for the next little while too, actually. This week, hopefully, I’ll know what’s about to be my life when I find out whether my tour is happening. Given the need to make nice with my day job, I have to make a call soon. I don’t want to be in a position of having a bunch of new enemies on account of things coming apart last minute. I know exactly what that is like: it happened to me in 2009. It’s what actually spurred my move to Nova Scotia in the first place. I had to get away from some people I had basically pissed off.

I had a slight epiphany this weekend that I have a concrete, real life example in my life of exactly what my unit wants to prevent. A friend of mine took a Class B callout (basically, a full-time Reserve gig) he was unqualified for. He was promised all sorts of support to make it work, none of which materialized, and the resulting toll on his sanity was severe. Create a situation like that in a place like Afghanistan where there is a lot more pressure – and ready access to weapons – and potentially you have a recipe for real disaster. There have been suicides among people put in jobs they simply couldn’t handle – one in particular jumps out. It was a tragic example of the Army failing someone.

I remain not terribly worried – but I understand the apprehension.

The wonderful thing about the last few days is that I haven’t really had to worry about any of that stuff, I’ve just unwound mostly, admiring the sights of a city I’ve only really been to once before, when I was only 9. I did go to DC in 2006 as well, but really, it was a brief stop for a few hours, on someone else’s schedule. There is so much to appreciate there being older, and wiser, and all that. I particularly liked the FDR Memorial, given the state of affairs particularly stateside economically, and a common refrain that something as bold as The New Deal is what is really needed to spur a Renaissance of sorts.

The FDR Monument is particularly striking as it’s a staged process using fountains to illustrate watershed events in his Presidency (pardon the pun). The fountain in his third term section appears broken, chaotic, like the world at war. The second is a more elaborate, stepped fountain evoking the TVA, the massive infrastructure project that helped resuscitate the US economy, spurring massive development potential. One has to wonder what could be a contemporary effort with the same effect. It isn’t enough to just start spending money – filling potholes or building unneeded infrastructure isn’t what will lay groundwork for a solid future, there has to be more thought invested than that!

To me this all ties to arguments I’ve always made: the manufacturing economy in North America is mostly dead. Without some manner of trade policy intervention (i.e. protectionism), manufacturing will largely never return to what it was. Emerging economies can do it cheaper, and that’s really all that matters. Barring shipping costs for low margins soaring, there simply will be no cost incentive not to manufacture widgets in China, or India, or wherever. The costs cannot come down here without a subsequent impact on lifestyles. Given that it seems to me that the middle class even as I knew it growing up is fading into history, that simply won’t go over well. We – my generation – and the ones just behind me, the so-called millenials, have to determine that and push the powers that be toward them. I guess that’s what I wish I had more answers for.

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