Thursday, June 23, 2011


Many years ago I played saxophone in my middle school band. I wasn’t very good at all. Typically I was either 3rd or 4th chair. That depended entirely on how many saxophones there were that semester, 3 or 4. In band if you wanted a promotion to a higher chair you had to “challenge” the chair in front of you. Friday’s were challenge days. We would go around the band and listen to each challenge. Typically the 2 players would each play the same piece and they were judged by the band director. If that challenger played it better they advanced to that chair. Sometimes challenges would be issued to show an expertise in a specific technique. I remember challenges issues entirely on breathing at the correct spots in a piece.

I will always remember one particular challenge. I was in the flute section. Our band director had been working with us on keeping our fingers close to the keys; basically not wasting energy and time by completely straightening your fingers when a smaller motion will get the job done. So the 3rd chair recognizes that she had an advantage in this area and challenges the 2nd chair to a piece. Here’s where it got interesting. She challenged him based on two criteria, accuracy and keeping fingers on the keys. Both musicians played the piece and then the director had to make a decision. The 3rd chair flutist clearly had mastered the concept of keeping her fingers near the keys. However the 2nd chair played the piece with more accuracy. So what do you do? Which of the 2 challenge criteria trumps the other? Without any ground rules in place before the challenge he decided that a tie meant no change in the positions.

No you’ve probably already realized that this post isn’t really about who sits where in a middle school band class. At our company we have a long standing safety creed. Until a few years ago it read,
“No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we can not take time to perform our work safely."
I have no problem with that at all. It’s simple and to the point. When I would get spot checked while on site my supervisor would ask me what it meant in my own words. I would typically say something like, “It’s just your phone or your internet. Nobody should have to get hurt to make this work.”
Well a few years ago we were bought out by a larger company. And that company made a slight change to the safety creed. It now reads,
“No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we can not take time to perform our work safely and in an environmentally responsible manner."
Hmmm. Now like our band director I am presented with a possible conflict. I have no problem with either of the goals expressed in this creed as long as they don’t conflict with each other. But what about when they do conflict? I can think of several cases where the most environmentally responsible thing to do would not be the safest thing to do in the short term. What if a coworker is being attacked by a Canada Goose? Whose side do I take? The coworker’s or the threatened migratory bird? While I have no criticism of either goal, I just think that bringing up environmental issues in the context of a safety creed waters down the creed and could actually make a situation more dangerous.
Now on to other issues. How many times do we find ourselves in situations like this? Do I swerve to miss the animal in the road and endanger my passengers in the process? Or make a professional decision without considering the family? I guess my only point is that you need to be clear which goal would trump the other before you get into that situation.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


We’ve started making the plans for our biannual family adventure. Every other year our family does a reunion. This year it’s in Utah. We do our best to attend and we also try to make a big road trip out of it. The kids really look forward to it. This year we plan on hitting several of the National Parks in California as well as some old favorites, possibly Yellowstone and Carlsbad again. We’ll see. The hardest part about planning these trips is reminding the family that we only have two weeks to get everything in.
The bittersweet part of this adventure comes because we are going to have to leave one of the family home. If he wants to graduate on time Aaron’ll have to take a summer school class which means that he will not be going with us. While I recognize that he has to sleep in the bed he made, it’s still rather tough to make plans like this knowing that we won’t all be going.


I bought another car last week. That’s actually the errand we were running last Sunday when we noticed the water coming out of the house. A few months ago I noticed a cute little VW bug parked in a driveway about 2 miles from the house. Every time I drove past I became more apparent that it hadn’t move for quite some time. I checked some online aerial shots and based on some other clues in the area it had been there for several years. So after work one day the last week of May I stopped by and talked to the owner. We talked for a little bit and I made him an offer and he accepted it.

The owner and his family are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Just a treat to talk to. He actually owns a tool rental company and when he found out what happened to the house he loaned us a carpet blower to help dry things out until the abatement people showed up. So if you need to rent a tool consider using Temporary Tools in Lilburn. A good friend of mine from the bug club loaned me tow bar and a wheel and helped me get her home. The previous owner and his son were also very helpful in getting her rolling so we could move her.

She’s a 1967 zenith blue VW Beetle . 1967 is a one of kind year for Beetles. Sometime in ’66 VW made the decision to completely overhaul the design by the ’68 model but the still had to get a new model out for ’67. Many VW aficionados think this is the best year for the Beetle. It still had a lot of the old body style and quaint features like the overrider bumpers, longer hood and the horn grills. But it also has some of the modern technical features like the 2-speed wipers and upgraded 12 volt electrics. Before ’67 they were only 6 volt.

Rachel decided to name her Judy, or Jude for short. She’s very much a work in progress and I’m probably going to have to learn to weld to get her fixed right. I’m not holding my breath that she’ll be on the road any time soon. Every day reveals some positive surprises and well as a few let downs. I’m very happy that most of the ’67 only features are still intact and very salvageable. It’s gonna be fun to work with my girls to help get her back on the road. I already have a set of replacement doors and Rachel wants to keep her the same color. First priority is to get the foundation solid enough that we can drive her safe. Then we’ll worry about cosmetic details.

Water Water Everywhere

We had a little excitement last week that made for a very stressful Memorial Day week. Sunday after church we’d gone over to the in-laws for a dinner. Around 3:00 or so Victoria, Rachel and I left to run an errand. We stopped by the house for just a second. I hadn’t even planned on going in the house, just needed to get some tools out of the truck. Well when I got out of the car I noticed that the driveway looked wet. I then noticed that the water seemed to be coming out of the garbage can. I moved the can saw it coming from under the garage door. I quickly dashed inside and it sounded like somebody had left the shower on. I ran up stairs and the steps were splashing as I ran. When I opened the bathroom door water was spraying everywhere. My first instinct was to check the shower but it was fine. The pipe behind the toilet had sprung a leak and was spraying water everywhere. I shut the water off there but it was still leaking. So I went into the garage and shut it off at the house too. When I opened the door to the garage it sounded like it was raining. The ceiling had become completely saturated and was buckling in several places. I backed Victoria’s car out just a few minutes before pieces of the ceiling began to fall.

So it was chaos for several days at the house. Plumbers, electrician, water abatement companies, insurance adjusters etc. for most of last week the house was around 110degrees inside. The water abatement folks had 3 of these mini-fridge sized dehumidifiers that were very effective but they were like little ovens. On top of that there were 18 high volume fans. The place sounded like an airport during a vintage prop plane air show with all those rotors turning at once. The kids and Victoria stayed with family most of the week. Personally I was afraid to leave the house unsupervised with all that heat and that many electrical appliances running.

We got somewhat back to normal on Friday when the insurance adjuster showed up and the water abatement company left. The house is now dry and the air conditioning is back on. All the flooring in most of the rooms is damaged beyond repair but they’re taking care of that for us. We didn’t have much damage besides the house. Everything in the garage got wet but not much was damaged. Now we just start the long process of dealing with flooring contractors to get everything taken care of. So far the insurance company has been great to deal with. It isn’t quite like the commercials (i. e. the agent standing side by side with you seconds after the damage occurred looking at the home owner saying, “We’ll make this right”) but I don’t have many complaints.


So I haven’t blogged for a while. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s because nothing has been happening worth talking about. Actually quite the opposite. Life’s been throwing a lot at me lately. I’ll try to catch up a little bit but I may have to break it down into a few posts.


Last month sometime my blog was tagged as offensive on Facebook. Somebody who calls themselves a friend of mine, at least as far as facebook’s definition of “friend” goes, reported my blog as offensive. I had to appeal it to the powers that be at facebook in order to get unlabelled. Every since then I’ve been really wondering what specifically I said that was offensive. I’ve never intended to offend, disagree? Certainly. But never offend. I’ve since brushed it off as just somebody who doesn’t know the difference between offensive speech and disagreement. It’s just taken me a little bit to get motivated to actually post something again.