About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

Good God, Democrats

by Erik Dolson

Seriously? This is the best Democrats can do? Goddamnit.

Where in hell is the wicked smart, 50 to 60 something, experienced enough, visionary, charasmatic man or woman (I really don’t care) to lead my America into the next half century of challenges that face us all?

Hey DNC! Don’t you watch TV or the movies?! There’s your prototype. Find a Martin Sheen or Louis-Dreyfus! Look at the GOP! Their two most popular presidents were a “B” grade movie actor and a reality TV star! Can’t you figure it out?! Liberal bona fides don’t matter. The filters are too fine.

You have the most unpoular president in recent history, one who didn’t win the popular vote and hasn’t gathered many more supporters after three years in office. You have tremendous issues to run on, and, in Clinton and Obama, two of the best politicians to advise you. Why can’t you figure this out!?

You bumbling party incompetents are going to put up a candidate to lose against a man most people recognize as deranged, who is harming America, using the constitution to clean himself and to whom you will give another four years because you can’t find, across all this great land, a woman or a man who inspires, a leader around whom Americans can come together?

Then your system is broken. It is designed to fail in some fundemental way. Please, please, fix this before it is too late.

Hiding in plain sight

By Erik Dolson

We often just see the surface of things, the shapes we impose upon the world. Our filters block what we don’t know, or allow in only what we think we know already.

La Push Beach by Zan Maddox

Early one morning waiting in Anacortes for the ferry to Victoria, I decided the broad expanse of dry, empty asphalt would be perfect to practice on my electric unicycle. I just call it my “wheel,” it’s a single wheel 16 inches in diameter with two foot plates on each side. It looks quite simple, covers hiding the complexity of motor, gyroscopes and batteries that make it a wonder of transport.

But it had not been easy to learn. An empty parking lot early in the morning while waiting for a ferry was an irresistable invitation.

The second vehicle to come into the lot was a motorcycle; the rider and I exchanged good mornings as we crossed paths. Eventually the waiting area began to fill with cars. I put my wheel away and went over to sit on benches put out for passengers, to watch the sunrise.

Motorcycle rider asked about my wheel, then we talked about motorcycles, his and the one I’d sold during the recession. His was not a Harley or a BMW, so common among those riding long distance. It was a 2014 Honda NC 700 X with a dual clutch transmission; smaller, lighter than most road warriors. “I wanted it light enough to handle sand and mud or quad trails, as well as highway speeds,” he said.

There were times, like when crossing the U.S. continental divide through a pass with a head wind, he could have wished the bike had more weight or horsepower, but those were few.

He was from South Carolina, about as far away from Anacortes Washington as it’s possible to be and not get wet. In fact, we were both headed to Victoria, Canada on Vancouver Island. He was on his way to see the sights. I was on my way back to the boat I’d left a month before.

Before long we were joined by a woman who jumped into our discussion when it was about sailboats, she’d cruised with an on again, off again lover or husband, I wasn’t clear. She was high energy, opinionated and fun, responding to my stories of working on my boat by saying there were those who worked on boats and those who cruised them. I responded to the prod that I intended to cruise, but don’t think she was convinced.

The three of us are “Travelers.” I’ve not found a better word over the years. “Tourist” is too temporary and superficial. “Gypsy” is too rootless, “wanderer” too searching, “drifter” too aimless. Travelers just go, often with a destination but not too clearly defined, just to see something not yet experienced, to embrace a new context, planning to return home but not knowing when.

Motorcycle Rider was in transition, his marriage in the process of termination. He’d visited friends and extended family on his ride across the U.S. He was on his way to see the Butchart Gardens, planned to take pictures. He was 49, 6’4″, spoke directly, seemed open, uncomplicated, vulnerable. He had no anger for his soon-to-be ex wife, saying he hoped she would find happiness.

The three of us sat together on the ferry after we boarded, the woman heading back to Friday Harbor from a trip to Alaska or Canada where she’d spent time with her partner who worked up there, maybe, memory fades. She loved apples and I gave her the one I’d brought up from my car. She was a nurse among many other accomplishments or certifications, and would that afternoon or the next day again care for someone on San Juan Island.

Rider and I continued on and across the border to Canada, paradoxically to the southwest of where we left the U.S. Once in a while, Rider would look out and say something about the how wonderful the light was in the clouds. I just saw familiar shades of Pacific Northwest gray, but he’d grab his camera and go take a photo.

I asked if he used a polarizer to enhance his pictures. He had one but didn’t use it much, he used other techniques, and emphasized exposure time. He might change photos digitally, he said, but only in ways imperceptable. He was educated as a painter, a fine artist, in what I think he described as a classical style. I was surprised by his answer, then noticed his camera was a small Leica, often regarded as the best one could buy. Rider said he liked its simplicity.

I realized the camera was like his motorcycle: very high quality, purposefully chosen for how it matched what he needed it to do and not for any external reason, not at all for how it would be perceived. I recalibrated my impressions, again.

I told him if he had no place to stay in Victoria, there was plenty of room on my boat and easy parking. He was appreciative, said he would give me a call in a few hours after he’d visited the Butchart Gardens.

I didn’t hear from him at the designated time and figured he’d headed north on Vancouver Island instead of south, that’s the kind of decision Travelers often make. But he called a couple of hours later, saying his phone had not connected when he’d tried to call earlier. That’s a problem often encountered in an international transition.

He asked if the invitation was still good, I gave him the address and he came down to Victoria, parked his bike in the lot next to the marina. Another benefit of this bike was it had a lockable storage compartment that looked like the gas tank, and would fit his full face helmet. I’d cleared boat parts and supplies from the lower bunk in the aft cabin. He’d often camped out on his trip across the continent and brought in everything he needed, sleeping bag and all.

He insisted on buying dinner in exchange for the hospitality, and we went to my favorite restaurant where he ordered a vegan meal. Again I had to readjust my bigotries, rooted as they were in his South Carolina accent and complete lack of self aggrandizement.

We talked about traveling solo and the reasons relationships fail. I’d just left a woman with many attributes, but it wasn’t going to work. It was clear the ending of his marriage was having an impact, that he loved his wife. They’d started a business together, in graphic design. She wanted more, wanted it to grow, he was content as it was.

As artists, she thought they should collaborate more. He said they already worked together but that wasn’t what she meant, she meant on the same canvas. She spent a month in Arizona, staying at an Air BnB. Rider was supposed to go, but literally the day before he was to fly out, his elderly father drove off the road and hit a tree. The injuries were severe. Rider had to stay in South Carolina.

He thought his wife would return to be with him, but she stayed in Arizona. While there, over the phone she spoke highly of her host’s qualities, often, and when she did return wasn’t off the plane for 10 minutes before saying things that caused Rider to doubt the future of their marriage. It seemed like she’d realized there might be a better match for her out in the world. She later told friends that Rider wasn’t “fighting” for her.

She said often that Rider had such great potential. It didn’t feel like a compliment. Over dinner, I wondered if she failed to see his love in giving her freedom to be who she thought she wanted to be, that she mistook acceptance for passivity, or weakness. He responded, as he always did, that he wanted her to be happy.

She may have misjudged him. When she asked for things not already given, such as money after she bought a new home before they’d sold theirs and shared the gain, he said that element of their relationship was no longer in effect. Once when she was angry and unloaded on him when they met to discuss dissolution, he told her they should probably communicate through lawyers. She did later apologize, he was careful to point out.

He defended her when I suggested she’d not realized what she had in him. It was clear he’d been wounded, but he would not lay blame. “There were many, many good times. I choose to remember those,” he said, rather than brood upon the loss. He was in no hurry for another relationship, the divorce would be final in January and in the spring he planned to hike 2,200 miles of the Apalachan Trail, possibly spending his 50 birthday at a summit in Maine.

Back at the boat I showed him how to work lights and plumbing, which are not obvious. The next morning we walked up to a café for breakfast, my treat since he’d spent more on dinner than he would have on a bargain hotel, certainly more than on a campground spot.

Rider took off, crossing on the morning ferry back into Washington at Port Angelas, to the south. He planned to visit friends or family somewhere close to Seattle. He might soon be heading back east.

We exchanged cards, if I was ever in South Carolina, if he ever came back to the Northwest, yadda yadda …

His card was very different than most, square and of a finer, heavier material, the text quite simple. It was exceptional and elegant and matched his camera and motorcycle and his attitude about life and wife and everything else I’d come to appreciate in the 24 hours since I’d met him at the ferry terminal in Anacortes the morning before.

A month later I received another thank you, and a link to a page of photographs taken on his trip across America. Of course, they were from a different perspective, and stunning.

Boeing may need a hug

by Erik Dolson

Boeing has released information to airlines on how to convince customers and crew that the 737 Max planes are “safe” after two crashed, killing 346 people. One point made was that passengers are more emotional than rational:

“Every interaction with an anxious passenger, whether face-to-face or online, is an opportunity to demonstrate our care and concern,” the presentation said. “This is as simple as recognition of a passenger’s state of mind. Research shows that emotions drive decision-making, so a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” 

Perhaps Boeing should focus on fixing the planes and telling the truth, rather than manipulating emotions. 

Most aircraft fly in a “balance” of forces acting on wings and tail that rotate the plane around the “center of lift.” At any given speed through the air, wings push up with a certain force, and the tail pushes with a different force. Change the speed of air over wings and the balance will change, the plane will rotate up or down, finding a new equilibrium.

If the nose rises too far and the angle of the wing to the air flow (angle of attack) is too great, the wing will stop flying. This is called a “stall.” Usually, the main wing will stall before the tail, which will cause the nose to drop, the angle of attack to improve, airspeed to increase, and the wing (and plane) plane can start flying again.

Boeing put new engines on the 737 Max, but had to move them forward on the wing. Engine pods have their own lift. Being farther forward, there was more of a “lever arm” of lift from the engines, and this changed the balance between wing and tail, especially at high angles of attack.

It’s possible that the new configuration allowed the main wing to have more lift and not stall before the tail. If the main wing does not stall before the tail, neither wing nor tail can provide control. The airplane could fall out of the sky.

Or, it’s possible that at a certain angle of attack, lift from the engine pods might overwhelm the control of the tail surfaces, causing the nose to suddenly flip up.

In designing the plane, one solution would have been to change the wing. But a new wing would have required new certification, higher costs and delay. So Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software that prevented the plane from approaching extremely high angles of attack.

In most planes, including the older 737s, if a plane’s nose drops one of the first things a pilot will do is pull back on controls to bring the nose up and increase power to gain more lift from the main wing. This appears to have happned in the two tragedies.

But changes Boeing made to the behavior of the new planes were not highlighted, nor were recovery procedures if the software was misbehaving. In those situations, pilots had to turn off the new software before they could regain control of their airplane because the software pushing the nose down was stronger than pilots.

It appears pilots of the two doomed 737 Max planes did not know this because Boeing did not want airlines to have to retrain pilots to fly the new Max. This would have increased airline costs and made the new plane less competitive, so Boeing downplayed the impact of the software and did what they could to avoid calling attention to this new characteristic, both with their airline customers and the FAA.

Boeing also included a single angle-of-attack sensor as standard equipment on the 737 Max, despite being required by military buyers to install three sensors. Airbus planes also have three sensors. The reason for three is that if two sensors disagree, which one is right? Boeing said the pilots themselves would be the “redundant” system, unless airlines wanted to spend the money on an additional sensor. Add-ons were a profit center for the plane maker.

One has to think that if Boeing, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, could fix this issue with a software tweak that would have been done long ago, and 737 Max planes that were piling up before Boeing ended production a couple of weeks ago would be on their way to customers. Why hasn’t this happened?

One guess is that a software tweak won’t fix a fundamental problem with the plane and the placement of the new engines. Will it still fly if computer systems failed, the MACA system was not there to babysit, and the plane encountered a condition of extremely high angle of attack where lift of engine pods destabilized the plane to the point of loss of control?

Would a plane built to those specifications be allowed to fly passengers?

If not, remember that Boeing believes “a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” The company may need a hug.

(I welcome comments on this topic by professional pilots, especially test pilots and/or aeronautical engineers)

Boeing is still hiding something

By Erik Dolson

I’d been working on a blog saying that Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg had to go. Boeing beat me to it. Meulenberg was let go over the weekend before I could publish.

Muilenburg was clumsy through the crisis following the crash of two of its new 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people. He applied political pressure and embarrassed the Federal Aviation Administration, which delayed grounding the airliner until many other nations had already done so. He repeated “Safety is our number one priority” long after that was obviously untrue. He failed to effectively communicate with his customers, the major airlines.

But it’s now critical for Boeing to accept that the tragedies resulted from deeper issues within the company that predate Muilenburg’s fraught leadership. Boeing has a cultural problem that has been stewing for decades. 

This is not a secret. Conversations with current and former Boeing employees uncover a uniform thread that runs all the way to the 737 Max: Boeing’s culture veered from making the best airliners in the world to profit and growth for its own sake.

It will not be easy nor quick for Boeing to recover. Huge damage has been done, not only to the reputation of the company but to internal resources. Good people whose primary goal was quality have been lost. Systems that provided feedback loops for safety have atrophied. Trust, within the company and in the company by customers around the world, has been squandered. It will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.

Boeing has been in denial about this cultural problem. Like an alcoholic who has been successful in business for years, Boeing has relied on presentation and powerful friends to hide core weakness. But Boeing lives in a world defined by physicis. Boeing’s attempt to fool the world has become unmanageable.

There’s a recipe for recovery that’s strangely appropriate. To paraphrase: “…Those who do not recover … are constitutionally incapable of grasping and developing … rigorous honesty… be fearless and thorough from the very start.” 

The 737 Max crisis reeks from lack of honesty. Boeing tried to pass a new engine configuration off as having the same characteristics as older 737s currently flying; said no additional pilot training was required; blamed pilots of the crashed planes; presented a fatuous power point to the FAA instead of a book of actual software changes. Boeing has been trying to buy time.

Boeing is still hiding something, despite Muilenburg’s “resignation.” If I had to guess, it’s the divergent flight characteristics caused by relocating the planes new engines further forward on the wing. Simply stated, a passenger plane is supposed to “converge” to straight and level flight at a certian throttle configuration. 

With “divergent “characteristics,” an abnormal situation will get worse, or “diverge” from straight and level, because of the abnormal condition. The new engine location causes the nose of the airplane to pitch up further when it’s already too high.

In the case of the two crashed airliners, a single (!) faulty sensor may have triggered an automated response in software designed to compensate for the divergent condition, and to make the plane seem to fly like older 737’s without the new engines. The software pushed the nose down, and the planes flew into the ground.

This may not be curable by software changes. Some regulators elsewhere in the world, and maybe even the FAA now that it seems to have found some spine when it comes to Boeing, may not approve a plane that has divergent flight characteristics. Airlines that purchased the plane may want their money back.

This could break the company.

Boeing may recover, but can no longer exist in denial. It will be fascinating to watch how the company deals with the crisis moving forward.

How history will remember them …

“… Equally important, senators acting as jurors in an impeachment trial must take a second oath as well, required by the Constitution: to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

And so senators—especially the Republicans—will face a choice that they should understand goes far beyond politics. They must choose whether to follow the facts, or to follow their fears; to uphold propriety, or to perpetuate partisanship; to champion the truth, or to legitimate lies; to defend the interests of the nation and its Constitution, or the personal interests of one vainglorious man. In short, whether to comply with their solemn oaths, or not.

Should they choose to violate their oaths, history will long remember them for having done so—not simply because of the insurmountable evidence of what Trump has already done, but also because Trump, by his nature, will assuredly do it all again.”

An excerpt of an article written by George Conway, a Republican, and lawyer working in New York City.

Read the whole article here.

 

December 7

Yesterday on December 7 there was a post, by someone whose politics I do not share, about the sacrifice of our fathers in WWII. Later, I read about Eisenhower’s call to duty after Pear Harbor.

Few of our fathers were “professional soldiers,” but they went to war. Friends and brothers lost their lives. Though the navy uniform of my father sits in a chest two feet from where I write, I helped squander his sacrifice and made too few of my own.

I believe we are again at war, but today’s war had no declaration. It seeps into crevices between us and expands them, like water to ice. Our country, our way of life, and the future of our children may yet be lost.

Those whose politics I do not share blame me for this, as I am inclined to blame them. Our common enemy gloats at creating this discord, hoping civil war will destroy our ideals. So, while I’m a little shocked when called an enemy of America, I refuse to return rhetorical fire.

The real enemies are those who gain influence from our discord, and the collaborators who profit from it. I don’t know how to oppose them, yet, but give thanks to those whose sacrifice gives me the freedom to try.

Gary Tewalt Finally your pen has made some sense. Let us all gather some more sense and repair this swamp. Where to start is somewhere on the next page. Let’s turn it.

Erik Dolson Ha! Gary, you HAVE to know that turning the page together would be easier if the first sentence from YOUR pen wasn’t that my beliefs are nonsense. Right? (smile)

Gary Tewalt Say, what duty did your dad have. What ship. WWll ? Etc. T

Erik Dolson Hull Platte Dolson was a second leutenant in the U.S. Navy charged with supply operations in the Phillipines.

Gary Tewalt Oh. Not much pressure on him huh. Lol. That was a tough environ. Still that way in Nam era. We were in Manila when two of our guys dropped a life boat in the night and went awol. Our chopper found the boat several up a Chanel completely destroyed by natives. Those men were never found.

Erik Dolson Gary, in the original of my post, before this morning’s edit, I referred to Viet Nam. You and I lost a friend last week who served there, Dave Byrum. I deleted that section because it diluted what I wanted to say about December 7.

But I still think it’s important.

I did not serve in Viet Nam because my lottery number gave me a pass. I did not believe in that war, either. At the same time, I was so ashamed of those who greeted soldiers and sailors with contempt upon thier return from Viet Nam. It was so wrong for so many reasons, not least of which was the sacrifice that you and your fellows made when over there.

Despite the outcome of that conflict, your sacrifice was no less than our father’s in WWII. Though the world had changed, the courage and valor of soldiers had not, and there were and are many heros. John McCain, John Kerry, Robert Meuller, and you, Lynn Johnston, Dave Byrum. All of you.

This is part of the reason why I feel I squandered the sacrifices made. Because I was not vigilant enough to say often enough, “Wait! These are fellow Americans! We’re on the same side!”

I am a wordsmith by trade and know better, but let labels guide my thinking. “Conservative,” “liberal,” “socialist” right-winger.” But at this moment, and because of a revelation I had yesterday in the office of the current editor of your local newspaper, I choose to not take the easy path of dismissing you with a label.

I need to know why you and I disagree about what seem to each of us to be obvious fundementals. Because I do believe my country — your country, our country — is being attacked in a way that could destroy everything you and my father and our forefathers fought for.

So, Gary, here I am. And I’m going to start by saying I’m sorry for my past ommissions, and thank you for all that you’ve done.

~ Erik

Fires That Forge Us

by Erik Dolson

Thanksgiving. No reservations available, but there’s seating in the bar. The restaurant has run out of turkey, I decide duck will do. The dish is labeled “Canard Deux Façons,” so that’s what I order.

At first, there’s just the surprising way you toss “du rien” over your shoulder while walking away from the table after I say thank you; the speed with which you glide weightless from dining to bar and back, feet barely touching the floor; the way your laugh proves presence at every table you serve.

But standing there talking to me while holding an armful of heavy plates, you slip unimpeded into places I guard closely at heavy cost. You just returned from France, I lived and studied there decades ago. When your age, I waited tables in places just like this. You want to ask a question, maybe two. Will I be around?

Why are choices so hard? Why do you need to traverse the world? Why do you need to go, when you’ve finally created a life where you want to stay? Read more…

What are friends for?

By Erik Dolson

“Daddy!”

Donnie Boastful was at his desk in the Oval Office trying to solve the Tik Tok Toe game in the “Washington Times.” Normally he wouldn’t tolerate an interruption, but it was Ivanka, and, well …

“What can I do for you, you gloriously amazing most wonderful human (from my loins) who ever graced this planet earth in the history of time?”

“Daddy, they say I should give back my China trademarks that I got after our wonderful trip there last summer! Because that bad Biden boy had to quit his job on a China board of directors!”

“Ivanka, sweetest and most lovely creature who ever walked the world, what have I always told you since you were a tall, willowy young female of immense beauty?”

“That if I wasn’t your daughter…”

“Not that.”

“I know! I know! You said to never tell the truth! That it just confuses people!”

“That’s true, it does. But I was thinking of something else. It’s about ‘rules.’ “

“I know! Rules are for other people! We Trumps do what we want!”

“That’s right! So the bad Biden boy has to resign, but you and Don Jr., and that other boy in the family don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s just the way it works.”

“Oh, Daddy, thank you!” Ivanka ran over to his desk and took both his small hands in hers and held them tightly to his side while she gave Donnie Boastful a peck on the cheek.

“Oh, hi Uncle Rudy!” She sang out as she left and Rudy the Rat walked in.

“Hi, Ivanka,” Rudy said. “Boss, I think we got a problem, two of my men got busted as they were leaving the country.”

“What do you mean, Rat, ‘we got a problem?’  Didn’t you just say they were ‘your’ men?”

“Well, they gave a lot of money to your campaign.”

“A lot of people gave a lot of money to my campaign. I couldn’t possibly know all of them. Or any of them. By the way, now would be a good time to ask: Are you still my lawyer?”

“Of course! I just said so on TV!  Some wise guy reporter asked if I was working for the government in Ukraine, and I said, ‘No, I work for the President!’ ”

“You could have said yes, because I’m the President and working for me is working for America. Say, did you see Lou Dobbs? He said that I fulfilled yet another campaign promise getting us out of the Middle East, that pulling out was a brilliant, seventh level chess move.”

“I didn’t see the Dobbs show today, but I’m supposed to go on it tomorrow again. Sheesh, I think I’ve been on Fox 17 tines this month!”

“Rat, don’t start thinking you’re a star. I’m Prime Time Donnie, capiche?”

“I work for you, Mr. America.”

“Great answer. I’ve got a press conference in 20 minutes and have to pretend to slap that guy from Turkey around for roughing up the Kurds. I’m gonna say I’m thinking about destroying his economy, and that I’m going to have conversation on what to do about it. I might send a team over to Turkey. I’ll have them stay in the Trump Twin Towers. It’s the most spectacular hotel in Istanbul!”

“That’s brilliant, Boss. All those people whining about the Kurds. What do they know? What did the Kurds do for us? They’re just in the whey. We made the Kurds some promises … so what, promises are made to be broken, right? This is Trumpworld, right? Just ask them people who built your hotels in Atlantic City!”

“Yeah, didn’t the Kurds read my book? Hellooooo?! They been fighting for so many years over there, it’s easy for them!”

“Who really cares, Boss? Just those people who talk about honor like it’s something you can spend!”

“That’s right, Rat. And it got that impeachment hoax off TV for a whole week! That’s not the reason we’re clearing out of the Middle East, though. I wouldn’t do sumthin’ like that just to change the subject or nothing, right?! It’s because I promised my base!”

“And you keep your promises, Mr. President. Even if Lindsey Graham yesterday said kinda sorta not the nicest thing about what you did.”

“Lay Down Lindsey? He’s just providing a little cover for himself. He’ll fall in line. Vladimir told me he’s got dirt on Lindsey and if I have any trouble, I just need to give Vlad the word. Besides, so what if we pull out of the Middle East? What difference is it going to make? Let them solve their own problems over there! Maybe it’ll disappoint a couple of people, but who cares?”

The intercom on the desk in the Oval Office buzzed.

“Mr. President, the prime minister of Israel is on Line 1. He says it’s urgent.”

“Hey, Rat, would you mind using the back door as you leave? I’m not sure we want that a lot of people see you’re still around.

“Bibi! How you doin’? How’s things in Jerusalem? You know that’s one of my favorite places, right? I think you need a Trump Towers Jerusalem, Bibi, has a nice ring to it, don’t it? It should go right on the beach. Maybe we can do a deal. Hey, sorry I didn’t get back to sooner, it’s been a little hectic around here, maybe you heard … ”