Quote of the Week

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

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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Solving The World's Problems, One At A Time: Same Sex Marriage

If I were king of the world, or at least Dictator For Life of my own little island nation, I could solve the world's problems. Granted there are few simple problems and many (most) people won't agree with my solutions, but I still think I have some good ideas.

If I were king of the world, I would make a decree that there shall be no law banning a form of marriage. I would also say there shall be no law legalizing a form of marriage. There would be no tax advantage or any other incentive to get married, other than the marriage itself. That's it people, the problem would be solved.

You see marriage, your marriage, other people's marriages, or how you view marriage to be is a personal matter. In other words nobody else's business, especially no business of the government. Even though some people view marriage as an exclusive thing to their religion, marriage is a term and a form of commitment that transcends many religions and cultures. Different people from different cultures and religions (or no religion) have different customs, practices and ideas of what marriage is.

Besides, if the government steps in and says only some types of marriage shall be recognized, or decides to recognize a marriage that many don't and forces them to accept a marriage that's against their religious beliefs, isn't that a big ol'breach of separation or church and state?

With the government not taking a stance on the subject of marriage, the people will be free to decide for themselves. Which they, for the most part, all ready have. Most churches have publicly stated their stance on gays and same sex marriage. Some accept gays "into their flock" while others shun them. So we already all have options to make everyone happy.

If you are for gay marriage and belong to a church that accepts it, you're all set.
If you are for gay marriage and belong to a church that does not accept it, find a different church.

If you are against gay marriage and belong to a church that does not accept it, you're all set.
If you are against gay marriage and belong to a church that accepts it, find a different church.

If do not belong to a church, then you're all set. You don't need a church's approval to tell the world that you are married, or to who you are married to. There are plenty of non-denomination ceremonies for you to choose from.

In short, if you're gay and you want to say you're married, say you're married. If you don't believe gay people should get married, then don't believe their marriage is valid.

Now I do know people take a firm stances on this issue. I know plenty of people on both sides of this issue and I feel I understand where they are coming from. But the bottom line with this item (along with many of the world's problems) there is no one all end all argument that will make everybody feel the same way on this. Face it, people are going to disagree with you and that's that.

If you are wondering, my personal stance is this: I don't care. I don't care if some one is gay or straight. I don't care if someone is married or not. It really doesn't effect me one way or the other.

Yes, the Bible says that gay is a sin, but so is lying, cheating, stealing, adultery and a host of other things. Does this mean people who commit adultery should be banned from marriage as well? ....well that would actually make a lot of sense the more I think about it... but that's another topic.

The point I want to make is: if God has a problem with someone because they're gay, that's between the person and God. And if that person gets married, it doesn't change things at all. I was brought up a Christian, and was taught (at least what I picked up) to leave the judging to God. The way I see it, if you don't like gay people for being gay, fine, just don't be a jerk about it. Same thing goes to you people who have a problem with people with conservative religious views. Like I said above, people are going to disagree with you and that's that.

Forcing your views onto someone else will never work as good as you want, even if you are truly completely absolutely right. The best you can do it be respectful of others regardless. Remember you can always roll your eyes and call them an ass behind their back.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There's no "we' in that team!

The NFL season is in full swing and that means many things to me. Mainly that it's time to watch my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers and fall further behind on my chore list. Since I do not own a working TV, my options are either watch the game with family and friends, or at my favorite local bar. occasionally to strike a balance with what I have to do and what I want to do, I'll have the game on the radio in the back ground while I accomplish some form of work.

One thing for sure picks up this time of year is the sports talk. Living on the boarder with Minnesota , there is plenty of banter with friends, neighbors and co workers about who is the better time. Besides a large number of Viking fans in the area, there is a fair number of Bears fans and a sort of various fans of various teams for various reasons.

Unfortunately with all this talk come one of  my greatest pet peeves referring to a professional sports team as "we." absolutely drives me up the flipping wall.

"We kicked their butt this week." "We will definitely be making a run in the playoffs." "Our offense is unstoppable." 

No you didn't. No you're not. No it isn't. And you know why? Simple really, YOU'RE NOT ON THE TEAM! You are a fan of the team. You do not play for the team, you are a fan. You do not manage or coach the team, you are a fan. I don't care if your season ticket holders or bought the $200 share of Packer stock, you are just a fan.

The only time I can accept some one referring to a team they are not on as "we" is if the team is a school team (high school or college) and that person is either apart of the school body, has a kid at that school, or graduated from that school. School spirit is the only exception.

It begins with this

I've been kicking the idea of having a blog around for quite some time. My friends and family always seem to like my Facebook posts, with my goofy sense of humor and sometimes serious points I make. On occasion, I also try to put some professional material out on LinkedIn and other forums. I always liked the idea of having a blog as an outlet for random rants, thoughts and opinions that would simply not be a good fit for Facebook, G+, LinkedIn or other forums. Now that I took the 3 minutes to set this up, I really wonder why I haven't done this years ago.

At this point, I really have no idea how this will develop. I will try to keep it somewhat organized and not all on one subject. I will also try to add something as often as I can. I will try to develop a scheme of titles, labels and such so you can skip the subjects and crap you don't want to wast your time with.