Quote of the Week

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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Dem Representative Moves to Block Obama's Congressional Pay Increase

Dem Representative Moves to Block Obama's Congressional Pay Increase

Once again, an article on Drudge about the Congressional pay increase via Executive Order catches my eye.

Earlier today my Representative, Sean Duffy, posted to Facebook that he plans to introduce a bill to block this. I usually avoid commenting on post like that, but I suggest he should donate his raise to a worthwhile charity and challenge all the other members of Congress to do the same.

If I was in Congress I would milk it out for all it's worth. I'd call a press conference and present an oversize check to a charity that's working on a cure for juvenile diabetes, or something similar. In fact, I would donate an extra $50,000 just to shut up the people who would whine that I wasn't doing enough, even though they haven't (and won't) donate one red cent to any worthwhile cause.

I would also use this soapbox to voice how I believe better to donate to charities and other causes directly, than having your money taxed and given to those who need it through the welfare system. I feel it's more cost effect and faster to give money or food and clothing to a community food shelf, than have money taxed and go through the government to people in need via food stamps. I will tell the people I represent to take advantage of tax breaks by giving directly to food shelves.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Obama Orders Pay Raise for Biden, Members of Congress, Federal Workers

Obama Orders Pay Raise for Biden, Members of Congress, Federal Workers

I saw this headline and thought; this is truly what our Federal Government thinks of the "fiscal cliff."

One can argue that the amount of our tax money that our government plans to spend on itself is not even a drop in the bucket and it really doesn't matter. You are correct that it's not even a drop in the bucket. But all those little "not even a drops" add up.

Think about that the next time you write the check for the minimum payment on your credit card bill. While some people out there complain about how the "rich get richer, while the poor stay poor" also told themselves at Starbucks "what's another $6.50 in the credit card? I already owe $26,724.81."

Not even a drop in the bucket, I guess.

How to defeat your own security system

This picture was taken at one of the local hockey rinks. I noticed they taped a note to the alarm keypad with instructions on how to arm and disarm it. Including the password. Now I'm not a security expert, but.....

Friday, December 28, 2012

What a Day, What a World

This week I've been enjoying my end of the year "use it or lose it" paid time off from the day job. I'm not really doing much on my PTO. Just a relaxing Christmas with the family and getting some stuff done around the house. Today I took in a high school hockey tournament that my cousin played in. I wish I could say she got her skills from me, but she's way better than I was.

During her first game, a got a work email on the iThing that really ruined my day. No, it was an angry customer, something going wrong on the shop floor, or anything like that. It was a company wide email from the HR lady giving unbelievably bad news. A seven year old grandson of one of my bosses was killed in an accident on Christmas day.

I guess a neighbor was backing out of the driveway and accidently struck the kid. I don't know the specifics, but you can imagine how this could so easily happen. You get into your car, check the rear view mirror and see nothing. Look down for a split second to put the car in gear. Press the gas and... the world changes.

Just thinking about that scenario puts a lump the size of a softball in my throat. Like I said, I don't know the specifics. I don't know who the driver was. I never meet the kid. But my heart breaks for everyone involved. And it scares me because I'm reminded how fragile and brief life can be. I'm reminded how the lives of people, families and neighborhoods can change dramatically in an instant.

Between games I went to a neighborhood restaurant with group for a quick meal. We were a little short on space, so I ended up sharing the end of the table with a one year old in a highchair.

This was the first time the one year old ever saw me and was, understandably, a little uneasy with me sharing the end of the table with her. I broke the ice by making some silly faces. Then I handed her my iThing. I have a ship's bell app for it. 

It rings on the half hour the number of bells according to a four hour watch. You can also bring up a picture of a bell on the phone's screen and ring the bell by pressing the screen. When my new friend figured that out, she was having a ball. She pressed the screen, bell would ring and she would laugh. Over and over, louder and louder.

The little one was having so much fun she scooped up the phone and was waiving it around, making the bell ring while laughing the cutest laugh I've heard in a while. At this point the mom got motherly and went to take the iThing away saying "be careful, put that down. We don't want to drop Shane's phone on the ground."

This, of course, didn't sit well with the one year old. As she started to fuss, I said "it's alright, let her play. The thing can survive a drop from a table just fine." I thought this kid is having a blast and it's putting a big smile on everyone at the table's face. All from a simple bell.

That thought was still stuck in my head as I got into my truck to drive back to the rink. As I checked my mirrors an extra four or five times as I backed out of my spot; I said to myself "what a day, and what a world." Within two hours I was brought nearly to tears of sorrow by reading tragic news about a seven year old I never met, to being brought to tears of laughter by a one year old I had just met. 

I'm glad the restaurant was crowed and I had the share the end of the table with a toddler. That experience, along with the horrible news, really helped me put things into perspective. Life is precious and it can change in an instant. We need to pay more attention to what we do and what is around us. If you look the wrong way for a second, you may get hit by a car or hit someone with your car. If you don't make a funny face once in a while, you might miss out on a meal filled with laughter.

Some More Thoughts on Concealed Carry

Since Wisconsin past a concealed carry law this year, and with the recent events. I know a lot of people who have either recently received a carry permit, are in the process of getting one, or are planning on getting one in the near future. As I mentioned in this blog before, that makes me a bit uneasy.

I really have no problems with someone carrying a concealed firearm, as long as they know what they are doing, have the proper setup (the right firearm and holster configuration), have received some training and practice with their firearm regularly.

The way Wisconsin currently issues it's CCW permits adds greatly to the uneasiness I feel. In my opinion, it's currently too easy to get one. A few weeks after the law took effect, a ran into one of my best friends. He was all smiles when he said "Guess what I got" and quickly pulled his brand spanking new Wisconsin concealed carry permit ID card out of his wallet. I said "cool, that didn't take you long. Are they offering classes already  or do they except the Minnesota training requirements?" He replied "no classes, I just went to the courthouse, showed them my Hunter's Safety card and filled out some paperwork."

I don't like that one bit. While there is a good deal of firearm safety training required to pass Wisconsin's Hunter Safety program (required before you can purchase a hunting license of any kind) but this is no where near the amount of, or type of training one should have for concealed carry. It's a good foundation, but it's not enough. Plus most people (at least in my neck of the woods) take that when they are 10 or 11. I know some people now in there late twenties to early forties who are interested in concealed carry who may have took Hunter's Safety when they were about 11 and haven't touched a firearm in the last 10 to 15 years. I don't like the idea of someone carrying with that little experience.

Minnesota, the state that's about two miles away from where I type this, has a much better process. Concealed carry applicants must take a class and pass a shooting test. At this time I don't know all the details, but I will be learning soon. I feel strongly that not only one needs to pass written and shooting tests, they should be evaluated and renewed often, like our police and military personal have to do. It only makes sense.

I know it is a Constitutional right to be able to bear arms. I in no way would want to limit that. I'm just saying if you want to put a firearm that you legally own into your pocket, purse or waistband and go out in public; you have the right to, but without proper equipment, training and practice you are more likely to shoot yourself in the leg than anything else.

This is why I keep telling people to take a concealed carry training course. I tell that to people who are thinking of getting a Wisconsin permit whether they are an experience firearms owner or not. I've been recommending it to friends who don't own a firearm and have no intentions of ever carrying. I've even suggested taking the class to friend of mine who is against the idea of anyone carrying a firearm. There is a ton of information that can be learned from such a class, I would strongly encourage anyone to take it.

Far as my friend who was so happy to show me his permit, he doesn't worry me. I've been at the gun range with him many times. He is an excellent shot, knows the ins and outs of his firearms and how to properly handle one. But more importantly, he doesn't carry. He simply got the permit just to have it. And that's more or less what I am now in the process of doing.

I'll tell you all about that later. Some people have told me they'd like to see more posts about this topic, since I'm knowledgeable on the subject of firearms. I promise I will not turn this into another gun nut blog, there's enough of those to go around.

I will close and try to keep this post short by saying; if you are going to carry, do it right by getting training, buy a proper concealed carry holster and shoot your firearm often (and I mean 100's of rounds per month often) at the range. You need to have a proper setup and know the ins and outs of your firearm before you even consider carrying. If you are not going to spend about $80 to $100 on a safe, comfortable conceal carry holster, blast though a $100 worth of ammunition each month at the range, and properly clean and maintain your equipment because you "don't have that kind of time" or to spend that much money on bullets, THEN DON'T CARRY!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Better Think About It Before You Start Packing

The other day I ended up finishing my Christmas shopping at a Gander Mountain. Kind of last minute, but I was still on schedule and on budget. Nothing on a credit card. Another debt free Christmas, but that's not what this post it about. I'll rub that in mid January, when you all get your Visa bills.

As I wrapped up my shopping, with time to spare before the Packer game, I decided to do a little window shopping in the gun department. As I expected with the recent events, there were a fair amount of people in at the handgun counter, looking at the smaller concealable models.

I have mixed feelings about concealed carry, and the site at the Gander Mountain made me a little uneasy. Recently Wisconsin past conceal carry laws making it legal to carry a concealed firearm. I know quite a few people who now are permitted to carry. There are quite a few who are planning or at least think about doing the same now.

Before you jump on the heat packing bandwagon, please think it over. While it may be your right that is protected by the 2nd Amendment and upheld by the State; it is a huge responsibility that nobody should rush into.

I was made to feel a little better when I overheard the conversion a couple was having with the man behind the counter at Gander Mountain. The couple said the the woman has been considering carrying a handgun for "a long time now." She has been going regularly to a range a shooting a handgun owned by her husband/boyfriend. She has completed the conceal carry training required by the State of Minnesota (which as much stricter requirements to get a permit than Wisconsin) and now she is confident she is ready.

That was the big statement that made me feel better. She was confident she was ready. Not that she wanted to carry, not decided it was time to carry. She was confident she was ready. This wasn't a decision based on pure emotion. It was thought through and the proper steps were taken.

She didn't go out and buy the smallest gun she could find that held the most bullets, went to a range for a few hours to figure out how to shoot and rushed through the permit process. Nope, this lady was taking her time and made sure she was ready to carry and that she was confident in her choice.

As I listened in on the conversation, I found that the couple did their research. She has tried several sidearms at a range and had a short list of makes and models she found to fit her well. The couple asked very good questions about function, reliability and safety features. Never once was asked "how many bullets does it hold."

If you are considering getting a concealed carry permit, please don't rush into it. If there is anything you should be overly prepared for, carrying a gun is it. Spend a lot of time at a gun range trying as many different makes and models you can. Once you narrow down a list of possible side arms you'd consider carrying, consult some experts. Talk to the people behind the counter at several different gun stores. Talk to gun smiths and instructors in your area and get their opinions.

Even as this world seems to get crazier by the day, I have no desire to carry a concealed firearm. When the concealed law past in Minnesota and now recently in Wisconsin, I was repeatedly ask if I was going to get a permit. My standard response has been I don't want one. If I need to carry a gun in my pocket in order to feel safe in an area, I just won't go there.

But since I like to be prepared, I will be taking class for concealed carry some time in 2013. It's one of my resolutions for the year. Even though I will most likely never exercise the right to carry, I want to be prepared. There may be some unseen upcoming reason that will change my mind.

I've recommended to several people to take the training. Even if they do not own a firearm and have no desire to ever carry. There is a lot of things a person can learn from the classes. Not only how to properly handle a handgun and the laws involved, but you'll learn skills on being aware of your surroundings. It's a great idea to learn how to avoid being in a position that would require you to defend yourself.

Far as how my window shopping went, a .40 caliber Walthers PPS did catch my eye.
Here's a nice YouTube video showing the 9mm version. I have watch several videos posted by "Hickok45" and found them to be very informative.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Preventing the Next Sand Hook: Two Ideas, Both Bad

With the recent shootings, gun control laws and the 2nd Amendment are front in center again. They are talked about, debated and argued everywhere right now. With the horrible act of insane violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the debate is more important than ever.

There are two knee jerk reactions gaining momentum right now. A large group of people think the best solution is to ban firearms. Some want to ban military style weapons, some want to ban everything. On the far, far other end of the spectrum is the idea of having armed guards at schools.

If implemented both ideas would have almost the exact same result. Some people would feel a false sense of security. Other people will fee less secure and that they had their civil right impeded upon. And the schools would not be any safer than they are right now.

Why Banning Firearms Won't Work

A partial ban on firearms will not work. It has not worked in the past. It does not work now. Currently in the United States cities with some of the strictest gun laws included Chicago and Detroit. Look up the stats yourself on firearm violence for those two cities.

Plus a gun is a gun. It doesn't matter if its a scary looking black AR-15, or your grandfather's lever action 30-30 deer rifle. A gun in the hands of a person who wants to kill who knows how to work the weapon will be able to kill a lot of people in a short period of time. With practice, a person can load a gun about as fast a they can shoot it.

A full ban would be next to impossible to enact, but even if it could take place, it would not work. Just look what happened when the United States banned alcohol during Prohibition. A black market developed and organized crime flourished with the sale of alcohol that; eluded the initial destruction, was smuggled into the country from Canada and the Caribbean, and the production of unregulated, dangerous moonshine and "bathtub gin."

One could expect the same thing with a full (or partial) ban on guns. An initial hording, followed by smuggling in arms from elsewhere and people making their own unsafe weapons.

Also look how well the ban on drugs has gone. I'm willing to bet if I drove around the county I live in with a pile of cash and knocked on the right doors, within a hour I could fill a grocery bag with marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine. All illegal.

Bottom line, criminals don't follow the laws we have. If facing life in prison or execution is not enough of a deterrent to keep someone from opening fire on a school, do you really think making it illegal to possess a firearm will help? You can not make guns disappear off the face of the Earth and better than you can make methamphetamine disappear. Besides, most of these people are on a suicide mission anyway.

I could go on and on about the subject of gun control and I might in other posts.

Arming the Schools is Just Bad, Bad, Bad

I am even more against the idea of having armed security at schools. Just how are we going to accomplish that? Give the teachers guns? They have more than enough on their plates right now. Their budgets are wasted on administrative BS before the funds make it to the classroom. More and more of the kids they work with are close to uncontrollable. And their struggling to keep up with testing requirements. Now you want to throw marksmanship into the mix?

Do we add government security? Should we have all the kids and visitors pass through a TSA security check at the front door? That will do wonders. Can't wait to take off my shoes and step through the scanner before the next volleyball game I go to.

Yes the arming of teachers and the TSA examples are silly and completely unrealistic. But, even a realistic example of having a couple of city police officers is not a good idea. Unless you have an armed guard at every entrance and in every classroom, a rush attacked could still take out many. What would happen if a  high school kid thought it would be funny to run down the halls with a realistic looking squirt gun and a cop shot him dead?

What good would an army platoon do at a school, if some sick piece of trash placed a backpack bomb on a crowed school bus?

So What Do We Do?

Both ideas would make some feel better, but would just be a waste of resources without providing more that minimal results. But what do we do? Is this simply another part of the decline of mankind?

I say we stop concentrating on the "hows" and focus on the "whys." And I don't have an answer, but here are the things that have been racing through my head.

  • We need to be more aware of our surroundings and look for the signs that someone will do this
  • Make an effort to befriend the lonely outsider at school. Don't need to become BFFs, maybe a simple "hey" when you pass in the hallway could make a sad person's day less sad
  • Find better outlets for anger and frustrations
  • Find the reason for the sadness and depression and confront it, instead of simply suppressing it with prescribed medication or self medicating
  • Are we really being desensitized by violent movies and video game? Maybe when junior wants the next Black Ops shooter game, his parents take him to the VA Hospital to meet and talk to some of our Vets who can tell them exactly how fun those game were in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam.
  • A lot of this comes from broken families. Families need to start bringing back old fashion family values, like spending real time with the kids, no dropping them off at soccer practice while you meet your BFF for coffee at Starbucks.
  • Mentoring. Be a big brother/sister to someone who might have a tough road ahead of them
  • Maybe this seems to happen more in modern times simply because of pure numbers. This didn't seem to happen in the 1950's. There where semi-automatic carbine rifles and handguns then too. But there wasn't 350 million of us in this country either.
I don't know what to do. But I know arming the schools or making 20 round magazines illegal is not the answers. I know what I am going to do. I'm going to pay more attention to what's around me. I'm going to care more. I'm going to get to know more people. I'm also going to be more vigilant for possible trouble. I'm going to be more willing to help.

I also know what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to look for a quick cure all fix. I'm not going to blame. I'm  not going to over react.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marine father stands watch at Nashville elementary school - KCTV5

Marine father stands watch at Nashville elementary school - KCTV5

What this Marine is doing is pretty much awesome. This type of action seems to be very common among them. Might be part of the reason they are "The Few, The Proud."

I can understand the reasoning behind the fuss about his uniform. Rules are rules and there is logic behind this one. Perhaps some of the other parents at the school could help him out by taking take of his dress uniform for him?

Also note, all that he is accomplishing is giving parents and children a little bit of peace of mind. In all reality, the odds of that school being attacked is next to nothing. And if that happens, he will be of no use. We all know that. But if one student see him standing guard (even just in symbolism) and feels a little bit safer, his efforts are not done in vain.

This Marine is just plain awesome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Call Green Shenanigans!

Yesterday I was giving a coworker a hand preparing the Company Holidays Cards, that we send off to our customers and vendors, by stuffing and licking the envelopes. No I am not going to rant on and on about them being "Holidays" cards and not Christmas cards. That's someone else in the company's choice to make. I don't care, but now I starting think of good ideas for another post.

What I am going to rant about is what was printed proudly on the back of every card by the card manufacturer: "We run our company on 100% certified renewable energy" and "Paper made with 100% Windpower."

Bullshit. Shenanigans! Certified to what and by who?

I've seen a few paper mills. Even toured one. Never saw one that was "off the grid" and hooked up to it's own windmill. Power companies do not run separate lines from their windmills direct to another facility. The power generated from the windmill is put into the same circuit as all the other electricity generated by the other sources the power company has. Including natural gas, coal and nuclear.

And again I say certified to what and by who. What is the governing body who issues the certification? Is it a trade origination? Is it a state or federal government regulatory commission? Is it an independent testing or standards board? Where is this certification? Can a view a copy of the signed document?

Doing estimating and project engineering for a living, I deal with a lot of certifications. You don't just say "it's certified" and that's that. Things need to be certified to something. "In compliance to AS9100" or "heat treatment IAW AMS-H-6875" means something. "100% certified renewable energy" is a marketing tag line that has no meaning. Technically coal is renewable, if you wait long enough.

This "100% certified renewable energy" is something stamped on the back of a greeting card,with the sole purpose to tug on your heart strings and make you think you buying a product from a company that cares.

It bothers to think that people are dumb enough to read a statement like that, and buy it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fiscal Cliff

Well it looks like the Dems and the Rups are willing to drive off the "Fiscal Cliff" like Thelma and Lousie. Only they won't be holding hands, although Boehner might cry.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We tend to elect mostly narcissistic adult children to office. They get elected because they promise us whatever we want at the time. If we end up getting something they promised, half the time it's pure coincidence but they are sure to take all the credit. If we don't get it, they blame the other party and tell us to keep voting for them to fight the evil bastards. And we do.

Perhaps if instead of sending lawyers and CEOs to congress for the last 3 or 4 (maybe 5) generations, we should have sent accountants and CFOs instead. People with the mindset of "no we won't buy it now and figure out how to pay for it later, we are going to either find a way to pay for it now or do without."

If I ruled the world I could solve this problem.

  • Term limits using the twelve year system with the below exceptions
  • If at the end of your term the budget isn't balance, your out and nobody representing your political party (or whoever has we ain't putting up with that party switching "fake canidate" crap) can run for your seat
  • If the state you represent doesn't have a balanced budget you can not chair a committee
  •  If the state you represent doesn't have a balanced budget you can not introduce or sponsor a bill
Light that fire under their feet and I bet congress could learn to work together and try that "compromise" thing. Find solutions to our self made problems and find ways to make the citizens lives better. You know, what we sent them to Washington to do in the first place!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yoga. I guess it's a gateway to changing your child's religious beliefs

Link to article

I just read the above article and shuddered at how stupid people are. Parents are actually feel that yoga at school will introduce their children to religious beliefs they oppose?

Yoga. I guess it's a gateway to changing your child's religious beliefs. Here I always thought it was just stretching and breathing exercises that can help reduce stress and strengthen your body.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pet Peeve Lazy Mail

It's one of my biggest pet peeves. People who pull their vehicle over on the wrong side of the road, so they can roll down the driver's window and get the mail out of the mailbox without getting out of the vehicle. It's dangerous and shows just how lazy we've become.

I see people do this on busy state highways and winding, hilly country roads. Sooner or later an accident is going to happen in my area because some body is too lazy to park their car at the end of their driveway and walk the ten feet to the mailbox.

It's bugs me just about as much as the bicyclist and pedestrians who can't figure out what side of the road the belong on.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Snow of the Year

The first real snowstorm has arrived in my neck of the woods and it was timed perfectly. It was forecast to arrive late in the day Saturday and snow through Sunday, leaving behind 3 to 7 inches.

Yesterday I dug out the snow shovels and cross country ski gear out of storage, pulled the snow thrower out of the corner of the garage, and I put away the patio furniture. I even had enough time to pile up the remaining firewood that's been cut and cover what has been split & stacked.

Late this afternoon I shoveled the driveway and in front of the garage. So far what's fallen is about six inches of fairly light snow. Even though I have a snow thrower, if it isn't a lot or heavy, I like to shovel by hand. For a desk jockey, who only gets to see daylight on the weekends this time of the year, it's about all the exercise I get in the winter. Plus it's a nice, relaxing break from my routine. Helps clear my head while I clear the driveway I guess.

But one thing I notice today:  nothing destroys the pristine beauty of the year's first real snow fall, like shoveling it with a shovel you used the day before to clean up the dog poop.

Glass Steam Engine

This is a pretty cool video that was sent to me. I just had to share it here. Below is the email text that came with the video.

This Model of Stephenson's Steam Engine was made in 2008 by master glassblower Michal Zahradn.
The crankshaft is glass. The piston is glass. The counterweight that makes the wheel spin evenly is glass. Imagine that everything is made out of glass. There are no sealants used. All is accomplished by a perfectly snug fit. The gap between the piston and its compartment is so small, that the water that condensates from the steam seals it shut! Notice the elaborate excessive steam exhaust system next to the piston. The piston is the most arduous part to make due to to extreme level of precision needed. Its parts have to be so accurate that no machinery is of use here. The piston and its cylinder must be hand sanded to perfection, and they are very likely to crack in the process! On average, three out of four crack.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let's All Be Prepared, But Not For Doomsday. That Would Be a Waste of Time.

I get teased about it once in a while, but I don't mind. I like to be prepared, just don't call me a prepper.

I think it's another trait I picked up from my dad. I keep things organized and easy to find. I keep a bag of clothes packed and ready to go, in case a rushed trip is required. I keep and extra button down shirt at the office, in case I spill something on myself right before a meeting. To me it only makes sense to be prepared.

Some of my friends think I must be a prepper. You, the people who turn their basement into a bomb shelter with 55 gallon drums full of freeze dried food and rounds of 5.56mm NATO ammunition. But that is not the case. I have no attention of waiting out the apocalypse in a crawl space, re-hydrating beef stew. I just don't see the point of emerging three years after the end of the world as we know it, once my rations have been depleted, to start a new life on the barren landscape.

No that's not the kind of thing I prepare for. I'm ready the more realistic situations. Like I mentioned, I keep a carry on size bag packed with clothes, shave kit, universal charger and a small assortment of other things. This is handy for last minute business trips, an impromptu weekend getaway, or an emergency trip to the hospital.

I spend a fair amount of time in the outdoors, so there's a duffle bag of clothes (and a towel) behind the seat of my truck. This comes in handy if there is an unexpected change in the weather. I have found the towel comes in handy if you get caught in the rain, or if you slip off a boat trailer and fall into a lake.

Around the house I have 5 gallons of water in the refrigerator and a flashlight in every room. If the power is out for an extended period of time, the extra water allows me to cook, clean up and even flush the toilet. Plus, it works as a "ballast" for the fridge. A full fridge runs more efficiently. If you need more room for food, just take out a gallon jug of water and set it aside.

A year or so ago, we had a nasty wind storm where I lived. The power was out at my place for 73 hours. Besides Internet withdraws, I survived just fine. Although I must admit, I did purchase a "luxury survival item" after that. A percolating coffee pot. Cowboy coffee on a propane camp stove is pretty tasty when you're roughing it in your living room.

As I type this, the first winter storm warning has been issued for my area. So with that in mind, here is a list of items one should have in their vehicle:

  • extra clothes
  • blanket and/or towel
  • pencil & paper
  • book or two
  • toilet paper
  • water
  • food (candy/granola bars)
  • flashlight (keep those batteries charged or get a crank up type)
  • pocket knife
  • whistle
  • lighter
  • jumper cables
  • tow rope
  • 2 quarts or motor oil
  • duct tape
  • screwdrivers
  • ratchet set
  • adjustable wrench

Seasonal items (if you live where it's cold)

  • coat, hat, boots, & gloves
  • collapsible camp shovel

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Days Like Today Is When It Sucks Living In a Small Town

Days like today is when it sucks living in a small town that you know everyone. No, it's not the rumor mill running over with gossip. That's not a problem for me. I often joke a say "I better head to town and go to the bar so I can find out what I've been up to lately." Days like today suck because a tragedy has smacked this small town.

Out of respect for the families' privacy at this difficult time; I won't go into the details about what happened. Plus, as I write this, I don't know all of the details. So I will sum up the general story from my perspective. I apologize if there are any inaccuracies, like I said, not all the details are known.

From my standpoint, it started this morning when a co-worker's wife called him saying a neighbor kid is missing and she was wondering if he had a picture of him to post on Facebook (my co-worker also runs a photography business and recent took senior pictures of the kid for his family).

During the course of the day through phone calls, text messages, and Facebook; the co-workers and I learned that the kid disappeared sometime during the night. By late afternoon he was found near his house. It appears, at this time, the young man ended his own life.

It's bad enough when this type of thing happens to strangers, but it makes it worse when you know all the families, neighbors and friends events like this touch. With this being such a small town, I know them all. I can see all their faces and hears their sobs in my head; it weighs pretty heavily on my heart right now.

One silver lining of this very dark cloud is started shining through even before much was known; and that's the tremendous outpouring of support for the family. That is one of the reasons I love living in this small town and one of the reasons why I moved back to it years ago.

Better days are on their way to the family and the community at large. But today is a tough one to say the least.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Habitat For Humanity Has It All Wrong

Habitat For Humanity is building another house on the edge of the town I work in. I really don't see why they're doing this. No, I'm not going to rant on and on about building a house for someone who can't afford one. But, what Habitat For Humanity is a huge waste of time, materials and money. Plus they are not doing as much good for the community as they could.

Within eye sight of the construction site are several houses that are sitting empty, and several more that are for sale.  To me, is seems like a much better idea for Habitat For Humanity to buy these properties, fix up what needs fixing (if anything) and give them to the unfortunate.

By doing this, Habitat For Humanity would:
  • Put people into housing in a faster time frame
  • Would most likely be able to help more people with their funds
  • Help out current homeowners who are on the verge of being foreclosed on
  • Help out the real estate market people
  • Reduce the unneeded sprawl of a neighborhood/town/city
Just seems wasteful in so many ways to build a new house, when a perfectly good house sits empty a block away.

Sir Richard. British for: awesome.

Richard Branson is a role positive model for all leaders.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

$7 Per Cup Coffee & Stupid People

Here's a link to something very funny yet very sad.

Starbucks now offers a premium coffee that's $7 per cup. Late night host, Jimmy Kimmel, setup a on the street taste test. Only neither of the samples were the new premium coffee.

Do you know what really makes me cringe? I can buy a whole can (makes 240 cups) of Folgers for $7 and have coffee for a month, and I know a few people who would justify buying Starbucks because it is soooo much better. Plus make fun of me for either being cheap, or not having any taste in coffee.

Some of these same people also complain about being broke and buy into the whole "rich get richer while the poor stay poor" way of thinking. That's partly because some of the poor are buying $7 per cup coffee from the rich, instead of brewing their own for a few cents per cup.


Last night the Powerball lottery had a record jackpot. This really brings out the stupid in America.

You hear people say things that defy all practical logic. My favorite three are:

 "I normally don't waste my time with this, but when the jackpot is over $100 million  then I play."
 Right, because $99,000,000.00 is really not worth all that effort it takes to buy a ticket.

"I didn't when the jackpot, but I won $10!"
Sure you "won" ten dollars, but you spent twenty playing the game. But the ten dollars you actually lost doesn't count in their mind, because that was "an investment."

"Sure I not likely to win, but some has to win it! You never know."
Someone will win it, and it won't be you. You have a better chance of being stuck by lightening SIX TIMES AND LIVING that winning a lottery jackpot.

The saddest part is, the people who throw their money away on the lottery saying "someone has to win" or "you never know", are the same people who won't invest in stocks or mutual funds because they are "too risky." They see something that has maintained an average 12% yearly gain over the last eighty years as too risky, but they'll buy tickets for a chance at a jackpot, when they more likely to be stuck by lightening six different times and live, than the win that jackpot. Someone has to win, and it won't be you.

Let's put some numbers to it. Let's say have an extra dollar each week and you have two options on how to use that dollar. One: you can add it to a mutual fund. Two; you can buy a Powerball ticket. If you bought Powerball tickets, at the end of the year you have on average about zero dollars. If you put the money into a mutual fund, at the end of the year you have on average about $58.24.

The old line of "the rich get richer, while the poor stay poor" is very true. One of the reasons is the rich aren't stupid enough to waste their money on the lottery. But hey; "some has to win it! You never know."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stuck in the ISO Rut

Having company standards and following industry standards, such as AS 9100 or ISO 9000 are a great thing. In today's market they are pretty much mandatory in order to be competitive, or even to be considered by a top tier company as a potential vendor. The benefits are many; consistency of process and product, increased efficiency, higher maintainable quality, etc. It is easy to see how these benefits are achievable. By creating standard work instructions and following a set of predefined "if than" options, re-thinking the same processes over an over can be eliminated.

But unfortunately, standards can be a double edged sword. I have had the opportunity to work for a defense contractor that is heavily involved with ISO 900 and AS 9100 procedures. A major problem with creating detailed work instructions and following a strict set of standard procedures is: when a situation arrases that does not meet those exact standard procedures, some people just stop dead in their tracks. I call it being stuck in the "ISO rut."

The ruts are extremely deep at this defense contractor, so deep progress on a project is often stopped dead in it's tracks. For one project I worked on for close to two years, the customer required all test assets, components and assemblies be shipped to their location via Fed Ex. The contractor's standard carrier is UPS. Every time I wanted to ship something, I had to walk the shipping department through the process.

"Do you really want this shipped Fed Ex? Normally we use UPS, because they stop here everyday. If I ship Fed Ex, I have to call them and sometimes it takes an extra day." is the response I got EVERY TIME I shipped something. I would respond "Yes, the customer requires Fed Ex and they are fine with the shipment taking an extra day." Instead of an "okay" or something similar the shipping person's response was usually "But, per our work instructions we ship UPS. If I ship Fed EX, I have to call them."

I got to the point I would leave the box on her desk with a note that said: "Please ship to the customer via Fed Ex. The customer requires shipments via Fed Ex and they are okay with the shipment taking an extra day, due to you having to schedule a pick up." Even with this note, about half the time I would get an email or a phone call asking if I was positive the parcel couldn't be shipped UPS. Stuck in the ISO rut.

This problem was not isolated to the shipping department. On another occasion, a part that needed to be shipped soon, was held in the inspection department. When I asked why the part was not moving on to it's next operation, they told me they couldn't inspect it. The work instruction for that part stated to use the Ziess CMM. Unfortunately the Ziess was off line for repairs and not available for use. I asked if there was a reason why the part couldn't inspected using other equipment. I asked if there was a feature that could only be inspected by the Ziess. The inspector said no, the part could easily be checked by other means, but the work instruction clearly says to use the Ziess. I told him to please inspect the part by any means possible, for we would miss our delivery date if we wait for the Ziess to be repaired. In a state of disbelief he say "But what about the work instruction? It clearly says use the Ziess." Stuck in the ISO rut.

I could bore you with other examples from engineering, purchasing, machining and assembly departments from this company of people, normally smart people, being stuck in the ISO rut. The downside with a system that is reliant on standards and procedures is if you're not careful, people will no longer trust their common sense and be lost without specific directions.

There needs to be a constant effort to make sure people will use there best judgment when a situation arises that does not meet the standards. That, after all is the very reason to adopt a ISO 9000 style standard. Originize your work and operations, create a maintainable order out of the chaos. That way you can spot potential problems before they become problems, giving you time to react.

People should keep vigilant and make sure company policies or procedures (ISO 9000 or otherwise) are not only being followed, but are helping bring the most out of the company, not limiting it inadvertently. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shop Small Local Business Day

Today is Shop Small Local Business Day, and its just a crock o' crap. It's just a way for people who pushed and shoved their way through Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and Toys-R-Us to feel less guilty about it.

Today Facebook is full of posts from people pleading that they care and are shopping local today. While yesterday, they were bragging up the steals at Kohl's with their 30% off card.

You don't need a special day to shop locally. Those businesses are open year round.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Union: 'Bain-style' killing of Twinkie - Kevin Cirilli - POLITICO.com

Union: 'Bain-style' killing of Twinkie - Kevin Cirilli - POLITICO.com

I found the picture to this article interesting. A guy in designer glasses and a tailored suit blaming rick people for the demise of the Twinkie.

I truly wonder if he sees 18,000 people who lost their jobs, or merely 18,000 less monthly union dues being sent to his corporation organization?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Petitions to secede are filed for 23 states since election - Washington Times

Petitions to secede are filed for 23 states since election - Washington Times

 John Andrews, director of the conservative Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. I no clue who this man is or what he does, nor do I really care. But he has the quote of the day in the attached article!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

No Voting For Me This Time

This upcoming election day I will do something I've never done. No, it's not vote for a Democrat, or a Republican. I have voted for many candidates from both the major and third parties.

For the first time in my adult life, I will not be voting. This is a very weird feeling for me. It's not that I can't make up my mind, or I'm protesting because the candidate of my choice isn't on the ballot. It's because I will be out of town for a last minute business trip. I just found out about it last Thursday and I didn't dawn on me that I will be on a thousand miles away from my local polling place until last Friday.

Sure I have time to submit an absentee ballot, but that would be against my principles and make me a hypocrite. You see I firmly believe that, unless you are confined to a hospital bed or are in the military, you should not be able to vote absentee. There is no other excuse for not being able to vote on election day in person. No exceptions.

I know many people will disagree (many have) with me on this. So below is a FAQ style answer to some of the common reasons people have discussed with me before and my responses.

Q: What about retirees who winter in another state?
A: They can come back and vote, or claim residency in that other state.

Q: What about somebody who moved and forgot to register?
A: Too bad, they should have been more responsible.

Q: What about somebody who JUST moved to a new place?
A: Again, too bad, they should have been more responsible. Many states have same day registration, if not the process doesn't take that long. You found the time to find a new place to live, get utilities, get mail sent to your new address, arrange for garbage pick up, and most likely cable or satellite TV. If you can find time for those things, you should have been responsible enough to register to vote.

Q: What if someone goes somewhere for vacation?
A: If going on vacation is more important to you than voting, then you're going to miss out on voting.

Q: What if someone works out of state?
A: Come back and vote, or claim residency in that other state.

Q: What if someone goes somewhere for a business trip? (like what I'm doing next week)
A: If going on a business trip is more important to you than voting, then you're going to miss out on voting. (like what I'm doing next week)

Q: What about an unavoidable emergency?
A: That one is unfortunate, but unavoidable emergencies don't happen all that often. If they truly did, we would have election week, not election day.

I strongly feel that there are few things more important than voting. It is a major responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Some will say that, that is the very reason for allowing absentee voting. They do make a very valid point. But I argue that making voting easier takes away from the commitment one should take in making their voice heard. Besides there are too many problems with absentee voting, both fraudulent and accidental errors happen too often.

Therefore, because I'm a man of my word, I will uphold my strong beliefs of voting... by not voting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Mother of All Attack Ads

Recently I went on a long weekend trip to North Dakota. It is an annual bird hunting trip with family and friends. I look forward to this every year. Lots of fun with great people and dogs, enjoying the rugged beauty of the prairies and the wildlife.

It is a refreshing vacation, taking me away from the stress and responsibilities of today's hectic life for a few days. On election years, it used to be a break from the negative, attack political ads that flood the mail and airwaves in Northwestern Wisconsin. It's bad enough to have to put up with them, but where I live, most of the radio and television stations come from the Twin Cities market, so I have to tolerate ads for candidates who aren't even running for offices that represent me.

I say the North Dakota trip used to be a break from the attack ads, because up until this election cycle attack ads seemed rare out there. To be fair, I don't watch much TV out there, but when we travel from hunting spot to hunting spot, there wasn't much for attacks on the other candidate.

But, this year they caught up to the rest of us with a vengeance. Pretty much every ad was a negative ad and with good reason (I guess). It's been pretty well documented that negative ads work. Researchers have found that we humans remember negative things better than positive. Plus, when a politician  only talks about how bad the other guy is, it's one of the few times they can actually be honest.

On our way back this year, I heard the ultimate attack ad. I dare say the mother of all attack ads. It was a radio ad of the format of two everyday people talking back and forth about a candidate. You know the format. It sounds like two friends talking over coffee, or at the grocery, or at the break room table at work.

It went with one person saying how the candidate (the ad was attacking) supported one thing, then the other person saying the candidate was against one thing and how that will further hurt the economy. Then the first person said this candidate was aligned with another political figure and will only vote along party lines.

Then came the kicker that set it apart from the thousands of ads that followed the above format. The second person said "and I really don't like the way she is running her campaign." The first person replied "I know! Her campaign is a bunch of negative attack ads against (the other candidate). That's not how a campaign should be run."

That's right folks, an attack ad attacking the other candidates attack ads.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Survey: 40 Percent Of Americans Have $500 Or Less In Savings « CBS Philly

Survey: 40 Percent Of Americans Have $500 Or Less In Savings « CBS Philly

I AM THE 60%! You should be too.

There is a very good reason having a $1,000 emergency fund is "Baby Step 1" of Dave Ramsey's plan to financial peace. If you are one of those who whine "the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer" you need to stop whining and take control of your finances.

Being broke and whining it's somebody else's fault is easy, being responsible for yourself is not (at first).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Amtrak snack bars lost $84.5 million last year; $833 million in 10 years | WashingtonExaminer.com

Amtrak snack bars lost $84.5 million last year; $833 million in 10 years | WashingtonExaminer.com

So Amtrak lost over $84,000,000 last year selling... snacks? I wouldn't expect Amtrak to be profitable. Afterall, that's why there are no private companies that provide passenger rail travel anymore. It is not profitable. But to lose money selling snacks to a captive audience! Only the government can accomplish that.

So Amtrak lost over $84,000,000 last year selling snacks. The Post Office loses billions each year delivery the mail. Well, maybe our federal government will do better with healthcare.

Sign, Sign Everywhere A Flipping Yard Sign

I'm sick of them. They're everywhere. Political campaign yard signs. Sign, sign everywhere a flipping yard sign.

It must be close to election time, because they are starting to annoy me. One or two in a yard here in there is fine. But do you need to get a four foot by eight foot billboard for every candidate running for every available seat that's a member of your favorite political party?

A guy down the road from me just put them up yesterday. I know him well enough to know that, besides the Presidential Candidates, he couldn't pick one of the others out of a line up of two people. But he's got their campaign yard sign, in a neat row with the rest of them. I'm sure he stopped at the local party headquarters and said "one of each, please." At least he has them front and center on his property. Ever see those people who get two sets of signs and put them on the very edges of their land? Makes it look like maybe they're their neighbor's signs.

This summer in Wisconsin, we had a recall election. There were lot's of signs out for that too. I ran out to my township hall to vote during my lunchbreak. On my way back, I got stuck behind a little car driving very slow. The backend of the car was covered with political bumper stickers. When he drove by a yard with signs supporting who he supported, he honked the horn and gave a "thumbs up" out the window. When he drove by a yard with signs supporting who he didn't like, he honked the horn and waved the middle finger out the window. Really? That's how far you take your political interest? Slowly cruising the Northwestern Wisconsin countryside honking and waving at..... signs?

I don't dare put out a sign. For the most part I don't like any of them enough to have to mow around a sign in the first place. Plus then strangers may be honking their horns, bored high school kids will steal them for shits and giggles, or worst yet I'd have to turn down signs from other members of a political party. Just because I might like one enough to put a sign in my yard, I may not feel as strong about other members of that political party. "Sorry, I like you, but I don't like like you" would just feel weird to say to a politician.

I was going to put up a sign for one of the candidates for County Clerk. After all she is a friend of mine, very qualified for the job and a great all around person. But, I know the other lady too. She's also pretty nice and I wouldn't want to hurt her feelings.

Sad thing is, yard signs sometimes work too well. One of my neighbors is works for a town a few towns away. She grew up in that area and knows many people. Years ago she was at the cafe down the street from her office. There was recently an election. An old farmer walked in and sat with another old farmer to have some coffee. One farmer said to the other "I bet you're glad the Sheriff was re-elected." The other replied "Yeah, especially since I voted for the other guy." The first farmer said "Voted for the other guy? Why would you do that? I thought last week you said you were going to vote for the Sheriff?" The other farmer explained "I was planning on it, but my neighbor had his sign in his yard, and I'm not going to vote the same as THAT asshole!"  My neighbor swears this is a true story and I have no reason to doubt her.

It's too late now, but I think I might fill my yard with signs next year, and I mean fill it. Hundreds of them stretching from the road ditch to my front door, from the one edge of my yard to the other. But they won't be for the candidates for the two main parties, or candidates currently running for office, or for that matter candidates that represent my area. I would like to fill my yard with signs from independent or third party candidate from out of state and if possible, from election campaigns from the past. Just to throw people off.

If would you, please do me a favor. The next time you clean out your garage and find some old campaign signs, send them my way. I don't care if their for one of the main parties or a independent. I don't care if they're from someone running for President, Senate, Governor, City Council or School Board. The older and from farther away from me the better. I want my yard filled with names nobody in my area knows. I want the guy in the little bumper sticker covered car stopped and shrug his shoulders in utter confusion.

One last thing, can we please make an effort take the signs down after the election promptly? I will give the people in my area threes days to celebrate or mourn the election results. If the signs remain out Friday night, I'm putting out a no questions asked bounty for them. I'll get a start on my display for the next election.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Major Andrew Olmsted's Posthumous Thoughts

Below is a link to another blog I follow that is written by one of our servicemen in the Navy. He posts some interesting photos and thoughts. In the linked post, the blogger writes about a fellow member of the military and blogger, Major Andrew Olmsted, who lost his life in Iraq.


In case you can't open the link, Major Olmsted wrote a post that was to be published after his death. Here is  a very powerful excerpt from that post:

"Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven’t agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging."

In my opinion, Major Olmsted it hit out of the park with the above statement. If we don't stop shouting our opinion over the other person's, we will never find a way to fix our broken government, economy and way of life. The founders of this country did not agree with each other on everything. But, through compromise, they found a way to make something that worked. 

Now, sadly our country has gone off in a different direction. Well, actually two directions at once: the far left and the far right. Two directions at once, down the same road of the Decline of Mankind; because the United States is not alone on this commute.

What's that old saying about a house divided? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Day I Realized The Human Race Is On The Decline

Hard to believe it's been a year already, but today is the one year anniversary of me giving up on all of us. Take a good look around, it will never be better than this ever again. In fact, I think mankind peaked maybe in the early or mid nineties. You know, back when people would make sure to be home (or if they were home stay up ) to watch Saturday Night Live because it was really funny. Television was great back then, along with most things.

Now look at the TV shows today. Sure there's a few good programs, but it's mostly mindless reality shows that are a rip of other reality shows. The movies are now all remakes of old movies, based on books, comic books, or are a sequel. Since they are out of original ideas of their own, Hollywood is relying on technology and other people's ideas. The current Hollywood movie formula is: popular book + computer generated special effects = movie.

Hollywood is just a sign of the decline of mankind. We are all too reliant on technology to survive and function. The high school kid, working the counter can't make change without the cash register telling them what to do. And if they gave you the wrong change, you'd probably wouldn't know the difference. I didn't know I had seven misspelled words up to this point until I hit the spell check button.

We can't think for ourselves, like we could in the past. If it wasn't for Google and Facebook, we couldn't research anything on our own. If it wasn't for the GPS, we couldn't find a motel on our road trips, or around the road construction on our daily commute.

I knew we as a whole were getting bad, but I didn't realized how bad until October 12th 2011. That was when I heard about the news story I linked to the bottom of this post. At first I thought it had to be a story from The Onion, but no, no it really happened.

A couple got lost in a corn maze and call 911 to be rescued. That alone isn't shocking these days, but what pushed me over was the fact that the police ACTUALLY RESCUED THEM!  If the couple couldn't figure out to just walk through the damn corn in one direction on their own, wouldn't a 911 dispatcher be able to tell them that? My guess is the Police "rescued" the morons out of fear of the morons having a lawyer in the contacts of their cell phone they used to call 911. No municipality wants to be sued for violating a moron's civil right of being saved from corn.

It's bad enough there isn't anything good to watch on TV anymore. It's bad enough we sue restaurants because we spill our hot coffee on our own laps. But now we call 911 because we can't find our way out of flipping standing corn, and the cops send in the hounds to find us! This was part of a Simpson episode years ago. Mankind is becoming Homer J. Simpson.

Couple Lost In Danvers Corn Maze Calls Police For Rescue « CBS Boston

Take a good look around, it will never be better than this ever again.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My "Go Sioux" Went Away

I'm a life long fan of the sport of hockey. I played it during my youth. I tried to ref and coach youth teams, but found I couldn't tolerate a lot of the parents. So now days I just watch. The most fun I have watching has been watching some of my younger cousins play. Of course I watch the pros too. Some of my favorite memories growing up were going down to the old Met Center to watch the Minnesota North Stars.

When I can't watch my family members play in person, my preferred way to get my hockey fix is watching college hockey. The games are a faster pace and played with more passion than at the NHL level. Especially now with the lock out threatening the season! 

For the last several years I've been attending the WCHA tournament, that is held to see which teams from that conference will advance to the NCAA tournament. It's held in St. Paul at the amazing Excel Energy Center. The home of the Minnesota Wild NHL team, an awesome place to watch a hockey game.

This is the last year this tournament will be held because the WCHA is, for the most part, disbanding. Wisconsin and Minnesota are leaving to join the new Big Ten Conference and the other hockey powerhouse schools Denver, Colorado College and North Dakota are joining a different conference as well. It is a shame, in my opinion, because this was one of the oldest conferences with some outstanding rivalries.

Another shame, also in my opinion, is what is happening to the University of North Dakota itself. North Dakota has been my favorite hockey team for many, many years. They are one of the oldest college teams around and one of the most successful too. 7 NCAA championships, 19 appearances in the NCAA frozen (final) four, 27 total NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 conference tournament championships and 15 total conference regular season championships. Besides their success, the main reason they're my favorite team is they play a very aggressive, fast place game. They're just a fun team to watch and they have a huge, loud, loyal and (for a college team) well behaved fan base. But in recent years, they've been a team under a lot of pressure from the NCAA itself.

The have not been under the scrutiny of the NCAA for cheating in the classroom or on the ice; not for recruitment violations, bad behavior of players or coaches. They have been pressured by the NCAA to change their name and logo. They are known as The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and their logo is a profile of a Native Warrior. I personally find it a fitting tribute to the native people of the state and the logo an awesome image of a proud person, which I can not help but respect. But that is just me. Some find it offensive, or fear it may offend native people.

That is a touchy issue, but there is no doubt some Native Americans that do find it offensive. Although from what I've seen, most do not. In fact some view it as a nice tribute to their people. One tribe in North Dakota actually petitioned the school to KEEP the name and logo. I could babble on and on about both sides, but there is no point. The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux with their indian head logo are now The University of North Dakota with the words "North Dakota" across their jerseys.

So be it. In the days of being overly politically correct, out of fear of offending someone, this should be expected. With the Sioux name stripped from The University of North Dakota, some more school names need to be address as well. Of course the Florida Seminoles, University of Illinois Fighting Illini, and any other school with a name referring to Native Americans. We also need to change any school name with any other reference to race or ethnic heritage as well, such as Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

We shouldn't call anyone Pioneers, Settlers, or Cowboys either. After all, these are the people who treated the Native Americans so poorly in the first place. Vikings may offend people of Scandinavian heritage, and we can't have that don't-you-know. Pirates, Raiders, and Buccaneers may offend people with a criminal history in their family. Admirals, Bombers, Crusaders, General, Patriots, Warriors and Volunteers may promote or glorify war; and Angels, Demons, Devil or Saints might push someone's religious view on another. Barons, Dukes and Knights could even promote a class system and hurt the feelings of a kid whose parents are in the lower-upper-middle class. The name Lumberjacks might promote deforestation and Brewers make light of Alcoholism. Animal names, forget it! Aren't pitbulls misunderstood enough already? We can't go simply with colors either, gang related.

We are just going to have to go without nicknames or logos. The University of North Dakota with the words "North Dakota" across their jerseys is all we dare have anymore. Someone's feelings might get hurt and we make rules that prevent that kind of thing. I guess that works out the more I think about it. We don't keep score in youth sports anymore so nobody's feeling get hurt, so why should we bother naming the teams.

Go....team, go!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The OCD Dog, overmedication and being ourselves

Seems these day everybody has to diagnosed with something. It's almost like it's a requirement. A pill for everything and everything requires a pill, or maybe just extensive therapy. I could rant for a week about this. It really bothers me how dependent on medications we've become for things that could be dealt with by simply eating right, exercising and accepting the fact that life isn't perfect and it okay to cry. I'm sure there is a pill I could take so this wouldn't bother me anymore, but I'll go without, thank you.

There is a use for medications, all medications. But we've seem to simply choose to take a pill and that's it. Especially with mental health issues. People think "I'm depressed, I'll take a pill and it will all be better." Well, no it won't. If you have high blood pressure, you don't just take medication for it and continue on without any changes to your lifestyle. Well, at least you shouldn't. We should change your diet and exercise more, addressing the CAUSE of your high blood pressure, not just treat the high blood pressure.

But the deal is us humans don't like change (even for the better) and we're growing lazier by the day. Lazier with ourselves, lazier raising our kids. I remember hearing a parent say to me that her kid has ADHD and "has to take ritalin because he would rather go outside and play all day than sit down and do his home work." Stop the presses! An eight year old would rather play than do homework? Better get him some pills! Of course when you take him to visit the Doctor, ten minutes away you'll have to play that Sponge Bob Square Pants DVD to keep him quiet during the car ride there. (That's half the problem right there, DVD players in cars to keep the kids occupied, you really have to wonder why kids have the attention spans of flies?)

I am willing to bet that with in 5 years, there will be medication available from my vet to treat my dog's OCD. I'm serious. Both on the mental health meds for pets and that my dog has OCD. If I move is bed two feet, he panics when he sees it has moved and has to adjust it until it's just right. He will not walk through the kitchen in one direction. My parent's have two sets of steps going down to their living room. My dog will only go down one set of steps and will only go up the other.

It's weird, but that's my dog. He is a little different, like every dog is a little different, and has a distinct personality. Just like people. We are all a little different, we WANT to be a little different and stand out from the crowd, but freak out when we do stand out.

I truly believe a lot of our health problems, both physical and mental, can be controlled or eliminated with regular exercise, a better diet, a little discipline and slowing the pace down a few notches. Turn off the cell phone for an evening and take the kids for a walk. Accept the fact that your not perfect and never will be. Quit comparing yourself to others, who are actually just as messed as you on the inside. Surround yourself with people who care and stop caring about what those who don't care think.

No, you can't fix all problems by walking a little more and having a few less cheeseburger, but it will help. It's better than making excuses. "I know I should exercise more and live on a written budget, but I just don't have the time." So instead you stress out over money, your body goes south and your depressed over being broke, fat and you have high blood pressure. Not willing to make the time to live happier, healthier and longer? No problems, they got a pill for that.

Like I've said before and most likely will say again, we're getting soft.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

This weekend's chores

Some proof of how soft we've become.

This weekend, a big part of my chore list was cutting fire wood. There is storm damage on my property that  I've been cleaning up, with help from my dad and neighbors. There is a lot to clean up. My property was hit by a fairly severe wind storm last summer and a glancing blow from a small tornado the year before. We've been attacking the tangled mess with chainsaws, tractors, ATVs with trailers, and hydraulic wood splitters.

This spring, while the temperatures were cool and before the bugs came out in force, my dad cut up a bunch with his chainsaw. With up from my neighbor, I hauled it out of the woods, split, and stack it. Now that the cool temperatures of the fall have returned, so has the work.

Work it is, too. Every morning now, I awake with a stiff back and sore muscles and joints. Last week I had one wild swing with the splitting axe and was rendered useless with a thrown back for a few days. After some planning, my neighbor and I spent about two and a half hours using his hydraulic splitter. I'm feeling the burn right now.

Granted I'm a desk jockey, but I'm in pretty good shape. Sadly, by today's standards I'm in great shape. I really do mean sadly too. The work I've done this weekend, that by today's standards was a good deal of work, is really nothing compared to a few generations ago.

When this part of the country was settled on a typical morning on the typical family farmstead, the men got up and went to the field or barns to work. The women went to the woodpile and cut & split, by hand, the morning's wood so she could start cooking breakfast.

What today is a weekend chore that can require planning, gasoline powered tools, frequent breaks and followed up with pain pills and chiropractor appointments, was considered the housewife's morning routine.

We have gotten soft.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Regular Refs Should Be Scared

Last night my beloved Green Bay Packers were defeated the NFL's Monday Night Football game. It was not just any lose, this one will be talked about for a long time, possibly forever. The game came down to a Hail Mary throw to the end zone that ended the game in dramatic fashion to say the least.

My personal thought is: that it is pointless to blame the replacement refs for a bad call that decided the game. If Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rogers, threw one or two touchdown passes, instead of being sacked eight, yes eight times, in the first half; the game would have a much different ending. But that didn't happen and everybody in the free world knows it by now.

Football fans around the country are screaming "get the striking regular refs back on the field." One might argue this is a great thing for the regular refs. But is it? I think the regular refs should be scared. Each week the football fans, the announcers, the call in talk show hosts, etc. are over analyzing every play of every game and questioning every call. Judging the replacement refs, comparing their call to what they assume the regular refs would do.

In most people's eyes, right now; the replacement refs can do nothing right and the striking refs would have called the plays perfectly. With each week the regular refs are off the field, their assumed judgment improves with every play of every game.

Again, the regular refs should be scared. When they resolve their issues with the NFL and take the field, they better be perfect. Because that is what will be expected and that is also impossible.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saying No to a Customer is Never Fun

Recently I had to "no quote" a project. I can not stand doing that. Work is work and I like to take on as much as I can, but sometimes you just have to say no.

The project was designing a plastic injection mold that produces three different medical instruments. It really looked like a fun project, but a very time consuming one. Unfortunately with my current and projected schedule, I would not be able to devote the amount of time required for it's complexity. I'll spare you the details, but it would have been a pretty wild and challenging project. A project that I would have enjoyed being a part of.

I will regret turning this one down for a long time. Not only is it work I'm walking away from, but a chance to build on a relationship with a new customer. A customer that I've only done a few projects with and would like to do more work for. That was also a strong deciding factor on way I turned it down.

If I decided to chance it and take on more than I could handle, the quality of this project (and everything else I'm currently working on) would suffer. A good way to loose the confidence of a new customer is to turn away challenging work.

A better way to loose the confidence of a customer is to take on challenging work and fail miserably by making preventable mistakes. Mistakes that can ruin the whole project before the customer even cuts the first piece of steel. Simple mistakes that normally I wouldn't have made or didn't find while reviewing my work, because I was rushed.

Two things has remained constant in the mold making trade since I got into it during the mid nineties: it has to be right, and it has to be done on time. Missing a deadline is not acceptable. Missing one delivery date can mean loosing a steady long term customer. I will put in long days that leave me with 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I will work through weekends and miss family events to meet a dead line. But I will not take on more than I know I can handle, because nobody wins. Quality and productivity is lost. I suffer and so does my work. That means my customers start off with a sub par design that may cause them problems, long days, working through weekends and possibly disappointing their customers. Both my and my customer's professional reputation can be negatively impacted.

No quoting a customer is never fun and I despise doing it. Personally it feels like I'm saying "No thanks, I don't want your business. It's not important enough for me or my company." But taking on something while knowing I can not deliver the product correct and on time is worse. The customer may see it as me saying "Here you go. It should be good... maybe. Sorry it's so late. Good luck getting the job done on time. Please give me your money, net 30 days."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Working with wood

I truly enjoy working with wood. I'm not any good at it, but I still enjoy it. Especially staining.

A few years ago, I converted a spare bedroom into my home office. With help from my dad, I replaced the wallpaper with a knotty pine tongue and groove planking. Besides a major error that I seem to be the only one to notice (or at least everyone is kind enough not to point it out) the project turned out pretty nice.

As I type this, I'm in the middle of remodeling my living room. This is was of those projects that got away from me. The original plan was to replace the carpet with ceramic tile and install a wood stove. Now I'm redoing the whole room. Floor, paint, refinishing the window, and replacing the trim.

I didn't like the original trim. I was a dark, solid stain. I'm sure plenty of people like that style, and there really isn't anything wrong with it. I'm just not a fan. There is no doubt many people who would cringe at my tastes.

I actually like pine the best. To me, it looks great plus it's a lot easier to work with than say oak or maple. As you can see from the above picture of the new living room trim drying, I like to use a very light stain. Simpler is better in many cases. I find a light stain, that just brings out the grain, highlights the natural beauty of the wood instead of just coloring it. 

I'm sure if I ever sell this place, the first thing the new owners will do is repaint the trim a solid color.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Can we recall the candidates?

As the November elections approach, I'm having a hard time trying to decide who to vote for, in regards to who will be the next Senator representing my awesome state of Wisconsin.

Everyone who keeps an eye on politics knows, Wisconsin has been a pretty active place when it come to politics. With special elections, recall elections, protests, counter protest, and on and on; voting has become so time consuming for me, I see the township election officials more often than some of my family.

Currently the Senate is pretty much split right down the middle between two parties, that only know how to blame all the nations problems on the other party. The next Senator for Wisconsin could play a pivotal role in which party will hold the majority in the Senate. With all of this at stake, I would like to ask: Can we recall the candidates? Seriously, can we please choose between to other people?

I am tired of trying to choose between two career politicians. Career politicians are why our government is a giant, bloated, wasteful, out of touch, incompetent, corrupt, gridlocked, mess that only makes things worse even when it tries to make things better. We need fresh people with good ideas and leaderships skills, who are in touch with the people they represent, because they are the people they represent. Kind of like what our founding fathers wanted our congress to be in the first place.

Congress was not intended to be a career for someone. It was intended to be a civic duty for citizen leaders to temporarily step away from their normal jobs as businessmen, farmers, doctors, laborers, community leaders, etc. and represent their fellow citizens for a few years in Washington. Kind of like a voluntary jury duty, but with a title. Get in, do your part, get out, go back to your day job.

Now it's a career with life long benefits, where people come in and stay, grabbing and holding on to as much power as they can for as long as they can. Many may go fully intending to help fix the problems of big government, but they soon become part of the problem. Two products of that system are what the citizens of Wisconsin now have to choose between.

One one side of the political spectrum is the Democrat candidate, Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Rep. Baldwin is currently representing Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District and has been since 1999. Before that she was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from the 78th district from 1993 to 1999. Baldwin was first elected to political office in 1986 when she was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors, a position that she held until she went to the Assembly. She also served for one year on the Madison City Council. Of her fifty years on this planet, she has spent close to twenty six of them in public office. About half her life.

Rep. Baldwin is running on the platform of: she is not a Republican, and she will help fix our broken federal government that she has been a member of for the last decade.

Then over on the other side is the Republican candidate, former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Gov. Thompson was Governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001. Prior to being Governor, he was in the State Assembly since 1966. Thompson left the Governor office when he was appointed by President George W. Bush as HHS Secretary until resigned January 2005. Of his 70 years on this planet, he has spent over 39 years in public office. Also, about half his life.

Gov. Thompson is running on the platform of: he is not a Democrat, and Wisconsin was great when he was Governor.

Interesting side note: way back in 1978, incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman William Steiger of Wisconsin's 6th congressional district died at the age of 40 from a heart attack. There was a special election in 1979. In the February 1979 Republican primary, Thompson was defeated by Tom Petri. Petri won the general election and still represents the 6th district today. While 33 years in office is a long time, it's short of the tenure of my former Congressional Representative Dave Obey's tenure of 42 years. Obey spent two more years in Congress than Congressman William Steiger lived!

So those are my choices come November. Either a career politician from the far left, or a career politician from the far right. I'll ask again, can we recall the candidates? These two people are examples of why I'm in favor of 12 year term limits for Congress. Get in, do your part, get out, go back to your day job.

Please don't get me wrong, I believe both of these people are qualified for the job. They are both intelligent and experienced leaders. But we need people in office with a majority of their experience out side of politics. A vast majority, like all of it. We, as a nation, need now more than ever politicians that do not want to be politicians for the rest of their lives.

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Impressions: Parking

It can not be overstated how important first impressions can be. They can make or break a job interview, a business meeting, a first date, and any other imaginable personal and professional meeting. Despite what we tell ourselves, humans are very judgmental creatures and first impressions are critical.

It recently accrued to me of one first impression I have overlooked in the past. Parking.

Lately when I walk across a certain company's parking lot, one vehicle instantly stands out and annoys me. There is a  truck that is always backed into a spot in the back row of the lot. Well, I should say spots. Every time I go by that parking lot I can't help but look at this truck that is taking up two spots. Sometime by a tire width, sometime the white strip on the pavement goes smack dab down the centerline of the truck. I think to myself "what an ass" every time I stroll by. The reason is I think this is because there are only three reasons someone parks like that.

1. They we're in a hurry or distracted and didn't realize they did it. We've all seen the car at the grocery store or shopping mall that was just over the line or not quite all the way into the spot. We've all done it once or twice too. It happens, we are all in a hurry these days.
2. They feel that they and their vehicle is more important than everybody else. They don't want a ding in the door, plus it's their way of saying "Hey everyone, look at my car! It's why I'm better than you!" What makes this worse is usually the car is not worth looking at. Half the time it's like a 2001 Chevy Cavalier with a homemade spoiler on the back of it.
3. They simply don't care to put enough effort into parking correctly. The stop the car and say "eh, close enough."

I had an almost "light shining on my from heaven" like moment when I walked past that truck in the company's parking lot the other day. The way the owner of that truck parks really represent him. He parks like this everyday, so reason number 1 can be ruled out. He's personality matches  reason number 2 for bad parking to a tee. He is extremely arrogant and proud of himself. He is not a team player at all, quick to say "that's not my job" or "I'll get to that later" or "It may not be 'the company way', but that's how I always do it." Plus his work matches reason number 3; sloppy, incomplete, inaccurate and late. Just like his parking; sometimes the back tires are off the pavement and in the grass, sometimes the front end is sticking out into the traffic lane by two feet.       Eh, close enough.

The thought that stopped me in my tracks, as I was walking by his truck, was "if I was the manager of the department that he works for, and the guy parked like that when he came here for he's first interview, I never would have hired him."

I challenge you to take a look at your work's parking lot. Think about the difficult employees you have, or your pain in the ass boss, or your annoying co-worker. Now look at how that person or those people park. Keep that in mind when you interview people to fill an opening. Keep that in mind when you go to interview for a new job.  Keep that in mind when you park at a vendor's, customer's place of business. Not only make sure how you park in the visitor place, but how others park. Pay extra close attention to the owner's or manager's reserved spot.

First impressions can make or break many things. First impressions say a lot. Remember that before you take the keys out of your ignition.