Quote of the Week

"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils."
- Woodrow Wilson

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Purge

It's that time of year. When people reflect on themselves and make plans and promises for self improvement. A majority are caught up in the "it's the end of the year and I've accomplished nothing" mindset. A few are getting a early start on getting the financials together for taxes, and wonder why they are broke. Personally for me, it's a time to start making some changes because I went to put up my Christmas tree.

I keep my fake tree in a box that spends about 11 months out of the year in the back of the guest bedroom closet. It took me about 10 minutes to move plastic totes out of the way to clear a path to the closet. That's when it became clear to me that I need to purge.

While my work areas at the day job and my home office are kept clutter free and streamlined for efficiency, my guest bedroom is quite the opposite. In fact, for a guy who prides himself in keeping things clutter free, my guest bedroom an embarrassing thing I do my best to ignore that takes up the southwest corner of my home.

Even me calling it "the guest bedroom" is a lie. In the thirteen years I've lived in my house, I've yet have had a guest bed down in my guest bedroom. Over the years it has basically become a big ass closet with a closet inside it that I keep a fake Christmas tree in for about 11 months a year. On top of what might be a bed, is a pile of clothes, camping & hunting gear, and who knows what else. The rest of the floor is cover with plastic totes, books, a bunch what can only be labeled as "stuff." Half of the "stuff" I'm not even sure is even mine, let alone what it's for.

Time for a purge. Currently I'm putting all that "stuff" into one of four piles. One pile of stuff to keep and put away properly or use. One pile of stuff to sell off on Craigslist or something. One pile of stuff to just give away to friends & family, or a thrift store if no one else wants it. And one pile to go to the recyclers & dump.

Now that I'm getting into the mood and have momentum on my side, I'm going to keep this purge going. While the home office is in decent shape, it could use a little purging too. Old files, notes, papers and other documents will be scanned & tossed, or maybe just tossed in some cases. The computers could use a digital purging & reorganizing too.

Every once in a while we look around and realized we've lost a little bit of our organization and order. Every once in a while we need to regroup. And when it takes ten minutes to rescue your fake Christmas tree from your clutter, it's time for a purge.

Jealous? Of what, doing something? Anyone can do that.

A few months ago I left my position at a small defense manufacturer to return to working for a medium size medical device manufacturer. Something I probably should have done years ago, but I kept hoping that the ownership of the defense manufacturer would wake up and realize how poorly they were allowing their investment to be ran.

I started wondering if my previous employer was serious when they told me "if you ever want to come back, we'll have a position for you." Long story short, I went back to where I most likely should not have left I the first place. Now I'm happy again, working at a profitable company that has its act together. But I'm still left shaking my head at something that keeps happening of late.

I keep getting messages from former coworkers congratulating me on leaving. They tell me I'm "lucky" and they wish they could "get out" of the company that is creeping closer and closer to shutting down. It's a weird thing. They make it sound like there's a barbed wire topped fence around the place with armed guards keeping them in the prison they are forced to work at.

But there is no fence. There are no guards. They are keeping themselves in the prison of their work and I don't understand why. The overall moral at the company has been lower than any place I've worked for years now. It is an at will employer. No one is bound to the company or a slave to a union with contracts or the threat of losing their pension. They can walk away at any time.

Most people who remain at this company hate their job, have no convenience in the leadership and are smart enough to see the company's health is on life support. They know the company can not compete with its competition; they know the equipment is worn out, obsolete and there are no plans or money for replacing it. They know the banks forced the owners to sell off the only division of the company that has been profitable in the last four or five years to pay down their debt. They know all these things, but do not know how to leave.

The only explanation I have for this is it's just human nature to fear change and to stick with what's familiar to you, "the devil you know" type of logic. It truly bums me out when I see smart, skilled people who should be happy doing what they do for a living, settle for being a prisoner in a self made work house based on fear of the unknown.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Mouthful of Turkey Can Keep the Peace

As in many houses across the country, a good portion of my extended family gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner. This is one of my favorite events of the year. Relatives of all ages gather at my parent's house, my great grand parent's on my Dad's side homestead.

We all gather for the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings, sides and two choices of homemade pie. We eat, drink, play with the kids,watch football and talk. Just like in many houses across the country.

While at the table, the topic of conversion was how college was going for one of my cousins. She was telling a story about one of the older teachers and how she like his matter of fact, tell it like it his attitude. She smiled as she told us this teacher considers her generation as the dumbest one he's seen come through his classroom.

My cousin is going to a private Catholic college on a hockey scholarship. While not Catholic herself, either the school takes anyone, or at least good hockey players. Being a private school, the teachers (at least the one she talked about) are not as PC as found in the public side.

This was shown right away when one of my Uncles, as retired English Teacher who spent his whole career teaching in Madison, exclaimed "oh my word! What a horrible thing to say. I never would have said anything negative like that in front of a class or to any of my students."

I the chimed in saying, how I kind of agree with my cousin's teacher. We as a whole are way too reliant on technology for one thing. I pointed out how most kids who work par time can't make change without the cash register telling them exactly what to do. Another relative added how most people today can't function without a calculator or spell-check in their daily lives.

Then my uncle sighed and said "ah spell-check. What a Godsend that was! It would drive me batty trying to even read papers turned in before spell-check came along. Each year their grammar and spelling got worse and worse. It took me forever to grade papers before it."

Mmmm..... a  Public School English Teacher praising what a Godsend spell-check is. It was a good thing I had a mouthful of turkey to bite down on at the time; would have severed the tip of my tongue off otherwise.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I am thankful

I am thankful. I am thankful for many, many things. A short list of some of the things I am thankful for are

  • my parents who raised me (and still influence me) with values
  • some teachers, coaches, bosses and other who mentored me and given me a chance to improve myself
  • some teachers, coaches, bosses and other who didn't give me a chance and allowed me not to waste my time with them and to pursue influence from better people
  • my lack of patience for the negative things and people that keeps me from wasting my time with them
  • my ability to see potential in what is sometimes disguised as negative 
  • my wiliness to continually learn
  • family
  • friends
  • freedom
  • knowing that I can achieve what many others find not achievable, simply by trying and working hard with a plan
  • being able to learn from those who don't see things the way I do, by both keeping an open mind and also by seeing their failures
  • my faith in a higher power that has had a direct or indirect influence on all I listed above   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Observation on Winter Commuting and Social Media

Surprisingly, luck is on my side as it is not my week to drive when the first snowfall of the season hit us this Monday morning. As I enjoyed the rode from the passenger side, I made an observation based on my Facebook fed. You can tell a lot about a persons work ethic by what they post about their commute.
One of my over the top liberal school teacher friends was posting on Facebook something about enjoying a "snow day" and planning on doing nothing but relaxing in her pajamas, drink coffee and watch TV today. She did this a fair amount last winter, then complained in the late spring about something called "make up" days that she was forced unfairly do. Poor thing.
On the far other end of the spectrum a friend posted triumphantly that he was able to drive to work, even though the commute was slow going and took an extra 20 minutes. But he was still as proud as if he climb the K2 solo. I guess we all take pride in something, some take pride in every, single, thing.
Fortunately there are still a large percentage of people who simply get up, brush the snow off their vehicle, and just go to work. Snow happens in the winter around here, act like you've seen it before and carry on.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Voter ID Laws. No argument, but the arguing continues....

Now that it's getting closer to election time, the neverending debate of Voter ID laws are a topic of choice again. To me this is down right embarrassing that this debate continues.

Those who are adamantly opposed to such laws scream it hinders the poor and elderly from being able to vote. They say many people have no photo ID and this makes things too tough for them. And the closer is usually something along the lines of "voter fraud is so small, it really doesn't matter."

I tend to point out that their arguments have no merits at all. You need an ID to get a job, a loan, a checking or savings account, buy ammo, tobacco or alcohol (when your age is in question), to even get a library card.

State ID's are free, so it by no means an inconvenience to the poor. Who by the way if are really poor, need an ID to get food stamps. The only inconvenience is someone has to take a few hours of time to get an ID. Since the normal election cycle is 2 years, the average person has about 730 days to get this taken care of.

That means the elderly shut in or poor person who has no car has 730 days to arrange a ride and or time off of work to go the DMV for their free state issued ID. As I often said, people today put more thought and effort into voting for the next American Idol or who the draft for their fantasy football team than who they send to the state & federal capitals to represent them.

Usually after I state my case like I just did above, the usually rebuttal is something along the lines of "if everyone needs an ID, those who are dishonest know how to get them. So it doesn't really make any difference."

Those who are going to break the laws are going to break them anyway, so why bother? Is that the final line of defense for those who don't want Voter ID laws?

Interesting reason to oppose something. Since there is apparently nothing we can do to stop the rulebreakers, maybe we just shouldn't have rules to begin with? Would make things simple and save us a ton of money. No need for government to make new laws, police to enforce them, judges & courts to make sure they are being enforced properly, or jails to imprison the convicted. Sounds pretty silly doesn't it? Just about as bad as the arguments against Voter ID laws.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thank You Technology for Taking Us Backwards, or Do We Just Don't Like Talking to Eachother?

The way man communicates hasn't really changed much since the dawn of civilization. Pretty much the two predominant ways are vocally or by written text. About the only thing that has changed is there are more methods to rely the communications.

The original and still the best way, is talking to someone face to face. Then came along the idea and practice of writing things down. People typically prefer to talk face to face, especially in business where important meetings are still held face to face even with all of the modern technologies. Beside showing sincerity and commitment by making the effort to meet; it allow helps eliminate miscommunications since tone and body language can easily be seen.

This first improvement is still the most significant of all time. It allows people to communicate over distance and time. It also allows documentation, which is a big plus for sharing and retaining information.

Not much has really changed with how we communicate today, besides the technologies used to do it. We still talk and write things down. We meet each other face to face and send written letters much the same ways since antiquity. Just our modes of transportation and mail delivery have improved. But there has been improvements in specific methods of delivering the message.

I think the biggest leap forward came with the invention of the telegraph in 1832. Now for the first time people can converse over long distances almost instantly. Instead of traveling or sending a message by mail, taking days maybe weeks to reach the destination; a person can write a short note, send it electronically to a far off place where someone reads the short note in text.

From the dawn of man to 1832, not a whole lot happened. But from 1832 to 2014 an incredible amount has. The telegraph, telephone, wireless radio communication, television, fax machines, cordless phones, the internet, email, cellular phones, communication satellites, web sharing, voice over internet, video conferencing, and I'm sure several other technical wonders I am forgetting.

Now in 2014 almost everyone I know has a tiny smartphone that fits in the palm of there hand. With it, the can talk to almost anyone in the world, the can send and receive photos and videos, and they can access the limitless information on the internet.

And how do most people use this almost magically technical wonder to communicate the most? With a short text message. Basically the same way we used the telegraph starting in the 1830's. Full of abbreviations, acronyms and bad sentence structure to shorten up the message. Which has been destroying our language by the way. Thank you, Technology for taking us backwards over 180 years! May b mor cause ppl can't type real wrds now.

Or do we just don't like talking to eachother? I guess that could be it too.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

My Yard Sign Observations of the 2014 Election Cycle

Now that we are ramping up the BS for this election cycle, the yard signs are spreading through the neighborhood lawns faster than dandelions do in the spring. I personally find them annoying on many levels. Some day I will do my stunt I mentioned a few years ago here.

Today I made a drive through some scenic areas along the St. Croix River Valley and two things regarding the political yard sign I noticed. The first is something that may confirm my ideas of how people with similar political views tend to live in a particular town or neighborhood.

A town or area that is more industrial or business oriented, requiring skilled or semi-skilled labor tends to be more conservative. And a town or area that is more service industry oriented with craft stores, hotels, restaurants and other service businesses catering more  to tourist and entertainment seekers are usually more liberal.

On my drive today the towns that have well developed industrial parks and office centers seemed to have more yard signs for the Republican candidates and the towns that had more craft stores, speciality shops, and touristy restaurants predominantly had signs for Democratic candidates displayed.

That was not meant to be a knock or put down on anyone, just an observation that, when I think about it makes sense to me. People who have industrialist or production type careers tend to have conservative views and people who have more of a service or artistic career tend to be more liberal.

The other thing I ended up paying attention to on my little trip today was how many signs were in a person's front lawn. If a saw a yard that had one sign, maybe two. It projected the message of "the person who lives here likes this particular candidate." Especially if the campaign sign was for a local or county office.

The houses that had every single candidate from local to federal campaigns lined up all from one political party, it shouted an entirely different message to me. It screamed "the person who lives here is a proud member of a political party. This person refuses to think for themselves and will vote down the party line accordingly per the script provided to them by the party, a union, or lobbyist group. This person blames all problems on the other party for their wrongful views and agenda, and that party's refusal to compromise by agreeing on everything my favorite party proposes."

That was meant to be a knock or put down on everyone who always votes along party lines. Your refusal to think on yourself, research the candidates and for the ones best for the job, regardless of political party is why we have career politicians and we our democratic republic now more resembles an oligarchy.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Spewing pollution sometimes is all in one's persective

I do my best not to argue, especially with strangers, even more especially with strangers on the internet. But for some reason I remembered this morning, as I mowed my yard for the last time a time, I felt obligated to do just that.

Years ago, about this time a friend and I where having a discussion under her Facebook status about getting ready for winter. One of her friends comments about her "asshole of an old man neighbor who was running his outboard boat motor in his garage, spewing pollution into the air." She went on and on for a long paragraph about how this old guy didn't care about the environment.

Even though I knew better, this woman's comments struck a nerve with me. So I politely commented that all he was doing was winterizing his outboard, And that what he was doing help ensure that the motor will run properly in the future. And in the long run this would cause less pollution.

I should have stopped there, but of course I went on to say that while it may appear he's wasting gas and polluting the air no reason, is it any worse than someone running an outboard motor in a lake? Since they are serving no purpose other than personal enjoyment by going fishing, pleasure cruising or maybe water skiing; they are not accomplishing anything productive or required for daily life. In reality, maybe the guy enjoyed sitting in his garage watching the motor run, is that really anymore environmentally unfriendly than motoring around a lake simply for enjoying the view?

Of course I was called an asshole for pointing this out, but I couldn't help it. Too often we see something and scream about how wrong it is for whatever reason, but fail to realize how similar that act is to things we deem acceptable environmentally, socially, politically, etc,

Friday, October 3, 2014

What if we were attacked in order to help us

Now that the US military is bombing ISIS locations across the Middle East, I can't help but wonder: What if we were attacked in order to help us? How would that set with Americains?

What if the drug gangs got so bold and out of hand that Canada launched airstrikes on part of Chicago or Detroit in an effort to stop violence and restore peace? Or some ultra religious militarized group (insert the faith and location of your choosing here) began attacking others around them in the United States. How would we react if UN or NATO drones started taking out their training camps located within the United States?

I can't help but think that us continuingly being the "world's police force" is just simply adding fuel to the hate the USA fire. I honestly feel if we need to interfere with the affairs of other countries, it should be done in one of two ways. Either we need to declare war and invade the country. This, of course can't be done if the trouble makers we are after are not the leaders of that country. In fact, it rarely works out well when the trouble makers are the leaders of that country. Occupying foreign lands just isn't a good idea, unless a country truly wants to keep that land forever.

The other option is to stop this BS of calling it an international coalition of action, or something catchy like that. We need to call it what it really is: being a hired gun for a country that can't take care of it's own problems. Then the blame of the problem will fall on where it belongs; the people causing the problems in the first place and the people who can't stop it on their own.

What happens now is a problem gets out of hand, an international response that is made up mainly of the US military responds, and anger from around the world is directed to the problem and the United States.

What I feel it should be done is how it has been done in the past. When a country can't handle it's own internal problems, they hire the services of another country's military. In other words, when things get out of control, they brought in mercenaries. That way the displeasure would be directed to where it belongs, to the government that is responsible for the problems in the first place.

Seems like a strange idea today, but a few hundred years ago countries like Switzerland did quite a bit of business in the mercenary industry. Maybe instead of World Cop, NATO and the US could be World Hired Gun. Maybe after we fires off a cruise missile at terrorist training camp, we fire off an invoice to the host country's defence department for services rendered. Sounds weird, but maybe it would help get our defence budget paid for.

Or I suppose there is the third option. Let someone else be world cop. I'd be fine with that too.