Category Archives: Musings

General Thoughts

When Too Much Good or Bad News Is Numbing

Many years ago, my mother got so upset about the Oklahoma City bombing, she got deeply lost watching CNN headline news. One day to break the spell, her caregiver, Judy, unplugged the TV, and said, “C’mon Eva. We’re getting out of here and going shopping.” Just getting my mother out of the house broke the spell.

I feel the same way about the current political crisis, and am limiting my news input. I am relying more on comedians to get my news, because it is easier to take. After all, listen to too much news starts to sound like we have crashed on the crazy planet.

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Before and After 2016 Election

From twitter ‏@langeIand :

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Learning Less Stressful Ways of Navigating Life From Children

I work with amazing people in our municipality. One of them has a young mobile, talking, pre-school daughter, and I get to hear about her daughter’s latest sayings.

I plan on incorporating two of them in the never-ending struggle to get work done and offending as few people as possible while keeping most of them from commandeering my time.

Mom swears she does not know where her daughter picked up these phrases.

These sayings are:

No, I’m good.

Not right now.

And here are some examples:

Parent: Don’t you think it’s time for bed?

Toddler: No, I’m good.

Early Childhood Teacher: How do you feel about going to pre-school? [How do you feel about advancing a grade?].

Toddler: Not right now.

So, adapting these to municipal life:

Elected Official: Come to a meeting to discuss implementing a software solution in one week that should take a month.

Municipal Employee: Not right now.

Boss: Would you come to a meeting with me that will be like having your teeth drilled without Novocaine?

Municipal Employee: No, I’m good

Now, what do we have here? Language that can be spoken in front of children, maintaining calmness, and communicating with short, concise answers.

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Baklavillin Walnuttobutericin

A Baklava Safety Warning

A Baklava Safety Warning

It is that time of year. There are a lot of Greek festivals at local churches. I have always had very good baklava from those festivals. Home made baklava  is made from the pure stuff, honey, walnuts, butter, and filo dough. Some people even use rose water, though it is rare. A friend of ours who makes baklava put this warning on a package of home made. I took the warning seriously.

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The Green Phone

Many years ago at the end of the Carter Administration, Paul Volker was appointed chairman of the board of governors of The Federal Reserve System, August 1979. A few years later I was married, and came to appreciate my wife’s thriftiness and ability to deal with financial figures quickly, almost effortlessly. This was a talent I sorely lacked. Around about the same time, my mother-in-law, who also worked effortlessly with finances, and found both a several thousand dollar and a $0.10 error in two different bank statements. Now, because of that, I built up a mythology around my mother-in-law, kind of like William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, but requiring less talent. I imagined she had the financial equivalent of the direct-connect phone connecting the White House and the Kremlin, only this was to discuss financial matters. I called it the Green Phone, which meant in a financial crisis, Mr. Volker could pick up the phone and get advice from the very same person who had found a $ 0.10 error in a banking statement. The dinner time stories including fixing the accounting of several German financial institutions, when my mother-in-law was touring Germany along the banks of the Rhine, to saving the U.S. from economic disaster. She was embarrassed by all this, and, since the mythology included Paul Volker, like Wagner’s Ring cycle, the mythology concluded after Alan Greenspan was appointed the next FED chairman, much to my mother-in-law’s relief.

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A Glimpse Of My Youth

For the most part, the Gary Larson Non-Working Breeds cartoon applies to me. It shows a husband and wife dog couple. The husband is sitting in front of a television in a T shirt. The wife has come in from the kitchen, and is glaring at the husband, who answers her glare with “Hey, Look, You Knew When You Married Me that I was a Non-Working Breed”.

Perhaps the only exceptions to this is when we entertain our friends and riding my bicycle. Getting my driver’s license was probably the worst thing I ever did. Before being able to drive, I rode by bicycle a lot. Physical fitness-wise, everything seemed to go downhill after getting my license.

For about a decade, I have ridden my bicycle to work, and although I don’t work that far away, riding my bicycle for the first few years was drudgery. Lately, while riding, it almost seems like I’m young again. I’m not an exercise enthusiast, and don’t have to be on my bicycle every minute of the day, but riding more seems to make riding more better.

I sometimes think it is because my 23-year-old Giant Rincon hybrid bicycle was overhauled last year. Overhauling the hubs and cleaning the drive train probably helps riding by reducing friction and making shifting smoother, but probably it’s due to my wanting to ride and building up some stamina. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

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A Wonderful Juxtaposition

A wonderful juxtapoistion

A wonderful juxtaposition

I really do hope Roger did not actually hate the park and everyone in it, but there are days that remind me of this. Personally, I think it’s better to have humor, and the plaque is funny.

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But We Think You Should Keep Your Old Snowblower

We all try to save money. It’s the same with snowblower maintenance. I take good care of my 26-year-old Toro 521 snowblower. Occasionally, I have to replace an auger belt between maintenance sessions. It’s not too hard, and snow starts getting thrown properly with a new belt.

This week, the ultimate happened.  Right after replacing the auger belt, part of the cowling that protects the engine and belt assemblies from rocks and moisture on the ground, had rotted away, hung down, and was caught in the snow. Now bent, the snow blower started acting like a dirt plow farmers use before sowing seed. One side where the cowling fastens had just plain old rotted away.

So, we have no more snowblower, until it gets repaired. This will undoubtedly include welding the cowling where it rotted away. While my dealer has the snowblower, they might as well perform a maintenance as well, even if were 6 weeks away from the end of the snow season.

So for today’s storm, it is shovel time.

But here’s the punch line. Before the cowling broke, I was picking up the extra belt and asked about purchasing a new snowblower.

“Your snowblower isn’t that old.”, the owner of the shop said.

“As long as the engine and body are intact, why not get it repaired?”, she went on.

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The Intermediate Milestone

Yesterday New Year’s Even 2013, I was at work. Like many projects, the last 10% seems to be taking 90% of the time. I was hoping to reach a a milestone, whose description would be so boring it would put most people to sleep or drive them out in the street. So let’s use rockets and lunar modules as an analogy, specifically, putting an astronaut into one orbit around Earth with a safe return.

I didn’t reach that sought-after milestone. The milestone I reached was more encouraging than the rocket blowing up on the launch pad, or the rocket launching and ascending a few hundred feet and then crashing. No, my rocket ascended, descended, and no one was injured. Pretty soon, we’ll have the capsule into one orbit and then several, but for now, I’m content with the results.

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The Spreadsheet, Factory Floor, and Goodbye Columbus

My life exists in a hybrid world. I was born before personal computers and CDs. Stereo had just been invented, and there were not many FM radio stations. You learned how to use a slide rule in high school, and, if your school had them, you got to use those mechanical calculators, that could estimate logarithms and trig, let alone crunch decimal numbers.

Now, we have all this electronic stuff and computers. We can build buildings with them, and solve just about every problem. I believe the electronic spreadsheet is one of the most powerful things every invented, and I also believe it is one of the most misused.

A bit of spreadsheet use might go like this. Here, I can save the company some dough by eliminating network hardware maintenance and wipe away the budget for network hardware upgrades. Oh, and, by the way, I want the network speed increased. Why isn’t it running faster?

Spredsheets are great. You can run what if I did this scenarios to look at all the impacts from different budget decisions. But just tweaking numbers in a spreadsheet doesn’t take you to the factory floor. That is, just moving numbers in a spreadsheet does not give you the experience of what moving those numbers actually does.

In your life, you probably don’t work in a factory, but your factory floor is there, nonetheless. It’s wherever you work. I’m just using factory floor as the name to describe where the works gets done. Those who make decisions in a room never having walked on the factory floor miss out on what is really going on and why a process taking us from point A to point B does not always work the way we would like.

And that brings me to Ron Patimkin from Goodbye Columbus, a 1969 film about the merging of classes.

To me, one of the funniest, saddest, and most poignant moments in the film is Ron, having returned from Ohio State on a basketball scholarship, is now a manager in his father’s plumbing supply business. After all that education and playing basketball, the only job Ron can have is holding a clipboard telling workers who already know their jobs loading a large supply panel truck, to keep moving along.

That’s what seems to be going on these days. We want a tasks to happen, don’t understand what it takes to make it happen, and then say to those who report to us, C’mon, c’mon, keep moving.

 

 

 

 

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