Monthly Archives: October 2012

An Introduction, Digital Assistants, TSA and The Moose

This seems like a good way to introduce a blog, a rainy Saturday watching as the Storm of the Century of the Decade of the Year of the Month of the Week wanders its way up the Eastern Seaboard.  It’s Sandy so every time I hear it discussed my brain queues up the Grease soundtrack whether I like it or not…yep, that’s how I roll.

I awakened [or woke up] this morning to the sound of very loud giggling as Sharon was in the bathroom drying her hair.  Now I know there are no naked pictures of me around so that was off the list of possible triggers…I think I am the only person with a smartphone and a digital camera who has not felt compelled to take photographs of myself either naked or opposite  a mirror, with something that looks oddly like ducklips.  But I digress.

The giggling was very soon identified as Sharon stopped the dryer and came in to read the first couple of paragraphs of Dave Berry’s new book Insane City. It had to do with a bunch of guys going to a wedding, working their way through TSA security where the future groom had his luggage searched and he had to explain an unknown sex toy that he knew nothing about.  Seems his esteemed peers – The Groom Posse had slipped a battery operated artificial vagina into his carry-on luggage.  After they tossed it in the garbage a well dressed man walked up to the garbage and quickly put it in with his stuff.  “The man’s got himself a good device there” said Marty “Hardly used.”   Wait…HARDLY?

Actually having fun at airports reminded me that it had been 20 years since I met Moose…350 pounds of Cynthiana, Kentucky, genuine redneck  Bubba in each and every sense of the word.  Great engineer and a blast to travel with as we toured manufacturing facilities throughout the Rust Belt in the early 1990s. He was big, loud and funny on every level.  When he saw that I brought my ZR1 Corvette to work the first thing he said, at full volume  over about 20 cubicles was “Know the difference between a Corvette and a Porcupine?  The Porcupine has its pricks on the outside.”  Later, in the parking lot as he was getting his XXXL frame up into his pick up truck I yelled “When you are in a hurry do you ever get your Downey fresh white sheet caught in the door? ”  And, in between negotiations, inspections. blueprints, travel and conferences that is how we conducted our professional experience for over three years.

…a time of innocence 

We were at Chicago,  I went through security with no problem.  You just put your change, keys, pocket knife, pens, etc in the tray go through and done.  Moose beeped.  So he went back through.  This time he took off his belt.  BEEP.  This time he took off his steel toed boots…BEEEEP.  So the nice security folks asked him to step to the side so they could wand him.  Moose being Moose, he “assumed the position” which got the security guard laughing.  She told him that wasn’t necessary.   As she started wanding him I said, in my very best stage whisper…”It’s his penile implant”.  I took off running.  The security guard doubled over laughing. Moose grabbed his stuff and took off, laughing after me.  So, running down the concourse as fast as 250 and 350 pounds could rumble, two of Kentucky’s best representatives were giggling like school girls in the middle of O’Hare.  Serious is for amateurs.

At the airport v2.

It had been a long flight.  There were four of us that had been from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids to Omaha to Milwaukee to Pontiac.  We were ready to get home.   One problem.  Our incoming flight was late getting in and we were on the opposite end of O’Hare from the flight to Lexington.  I was the youngest and most healthy…I said “I got this”.  So I took off running to the opposite side of O’Hare while everyone else made their way as quick as they could.  My one ace in the hole was that one of our folks, a VP of Finance looked for all the world like a politician.  So when they got to the gate the plane had been held and the nice folks welcomed Congressman Dale to the plane.  It’s good that nobody knows the Congresscritters.

The Friendly Skies

There were four of us again as we hopped on yet another commuter from – yes, you guessed it O’Hare to Lexington.  We got over Lake Michigan and I saw a beautiful moon rise to the left.  Then it was gone.  Then back again.  Then gone.  By now I realized we were circling over the lake and one of our party – Congressman Dale I believe, mentioned he smelled hydraulic fluid. So the two VPs did what any execs would do…started drinking.   At some point the pilot came on and told us of our problem and said we would be diverting to Grissom Air Force Base in Northern Indiana.  Nice.  Later, when the flight attendants came by and sized up the situation they asked us if we would help assist the two VPs through the emergency exits should the need arise.  Moose…see, you thought I had drifted from Moose stories, Moose said, in a rather loud and disconcerting voice to those not used to him “Darlin’ if this plane crashes there will be plenty of holes to throw them through”.    We had no brakes, no flaps, no anything that made flying convenient for the pilot but Grissom had 12,000 feet of pavement and we used it all.

I left the contract a bit after that, my job of consolidating suppliers and finding parts redundancies done.  I also was able, at that time to keep parts manufactured here, not China.  That part is somewhat important.  There was a guy named Moon.  He spent much of his time “greasing the wheels” of offshoring.

You might need to have the right…

The phone call came one afternoon,  Jack was dead.  Jack was the VP of Purchasing that traveled in our little troupe.  He had been sliced and diced with a hunting knife 16 times in Schaumburg, IL.  He had a difference of opinion with the VP of International Purchasing, a friend of Moon.  Moose ended the call with “When the FBI calls you, we will pay your lawyer”.  It was one of the first times he had been serious and the last times I talked with him.

A call gave me the news a bit later, Moose was dead…350 pounds takes its toll.

And that is how to start a Saturday…giggling about sex toys, the TSA and Moose.


256 Shades of Gray and the Politics of Guns

Multiple people killed by gunman. It is nearly every day that we see that particular news story…sometimes it is part of a blaring Breaking News headline, other times it is a quiet story, tucked in the local section of the paper or on a website’s “other stories we are following” tab.  But the stories come just the same and they are never-ending.

This week two stand out.  In Annetta South, Texas a 17-year-old boy killed his mother and sister.  He said that he had been planning on killing for a while…“pretty much anybody.”  His surprise was that they didn’t just die quick and easy like he expected.  The upscale gated community was “shocked”.

In another story, a Herndon, Virginia man killed his wife, two sons and then himself because “He felt that our God-given rights were being taken away he didn’t like where the country was going.”.  According to friends he was obsessed with talk radio and held a level of paranoia that pushed him to take the lives of his entire family so they would not have to “inherit that kind of world”.

I point out these two incidences for a couple of reasons.  First, they are upper middle class Caucasian.  Second, they were quickly described by friends as “ill”.  When the conversation of gun violence occurs if the participants are African American…seldom do you hear the words “ill” or “mental illness” associated with the incident…it is all about blaming it on violence.  But as we move to upper class Caucasians…there has to be a reason.  It is just not as easy to explain away for many folks.

When society has the debates on gun violence [and we really do seem to try to avoid them], it generally breaks into two black and white discussions.  One is centered on the 2nd Amendment argument and [seen from  the opposing view] that there is an absolute right to bear arms, with no restrictions whatsoever or, the other side  that the “antis” are out to take all guns by any and all means possible.   The second discussion is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Both are black and white arguments in a 256 Shades of Gray world.  In that we have both the challenge of defining the problem and  with honestly framing the debates so that a goal can even be expressed, we exacerbate the complexities of the national conversation.

I had a conversation with some systems folks last night…our lament was that in systems work one of the hardest things is defining the problem.  We can’t begin to formulate a plan, determine the variables, concern ourselves with the project scope until we have honestly defined the problem and, as a follow on to that, expressed an honest goal.  What is wrong, what we want when it is fixed.  In this discussion we most surely want a safer society but we also want to respect the very legitimate expectations of those who support the 2nd Amendment.  I come from a state whose motto is United We Stand, Divided We Fall.  That demands compromise…a country cannot continue without it and we as a country cannot continue to look the other way as violence by gun, whether by accident, gangs, drugs, mental illness or just plain stupidity continues to erase lives.

As these missives continue look for more on the big-ticket items of this subject…the 256 Shades of the 2nd Amendment, People Kill People, Rosie’s Spoon, Muskets and Barrettas, the Drug War and Lawyers, Guns and Money.

For those who drop in that want to quickly categorize me as anti-gun…I have been shooting since I was about five years old, that’s over 50 years.  While I do not hunt, I have killed my fair share of paper and cans and I learned to shoot at a garbage dump on the side of Pine Mountain, so the rat population there is much less than it might have been thanks to my father’s $14 Mossberg 22.

The goal is very simple…open up the dialog…that means CONSTRUCTIVE dialog from every corner.