Sunday, December 31, 2006

Executive Training

The following paragraph was dictated using iListen software I received for Christmas. It's great fun seeing what a mush-mouth I must be and correcting all my errors. (Everytime I say "All", the computer thinks I say, "Old". Is there a message there?)

If you strive to be a successful executive, it is best not to be funny. A new technician arrived one morning and I assigned him to a chemist for training. Early that afternoon I saw the chemist standing idly by a lab bench with this new technician standing equally idly beside him. I went up to the chemist and said "What are you going?" The chemist replied that he was waiting for an adhesive to dry. I asked how long he thought that might take. He said that he thought about two hours. I said, "So you are doing nothing and you are teaching your new technician how to do that? I suspect he learned that before today." (Tough talk, huh?) Instead of the remorseful answer I expected , they both burst out laughing. I had great difficulty with them from then on. They couldn't seem to take me seriously.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Moderate Drinking Can Be Healthful

Lots of years ago a group from my company had a meeting at the reseach facility of a large chemical arm of a larger petroleum company. Because I have a poor memory, much of the preliminary details of this story may be hazy, but my memory of the high point is "like yesterday"! As I recall, the research buildings we were meeting in were in or near Oakland, California. Evening approached and our hosts announced that they wished to take us to dinner in a "quaint and arty" town on the other side of San Francisco Bay. I think the name of the town was Sausalito or some such spelling. Those of you familiar with the area may know the name of the restaurant. It is quite classy (read: expensive) and overlooks the bay. Four car loads of the cream of the research staffs of two corporations piled into four cars and set off around the north of the bay to reach Sausalito (sp?).

Traffic caused the four cars to get separated, but we saw the car in front of us pull off the road and flag us down. One of their passengers owned a cabin cruiser which was docked just a little way up the road. Would any of us like to cross San Franciso Bay in a boat? Six or seven of us said "sure". The cars drove off and left us at a marina with the captain. The marina was cozily protected by land and getties and this seemed to be a fun thing to do. I owned a boat on the east coast and knew a little about boating. So I became slightly nervous when the boat owner hopped on board, unlocked the cabin and started the engine. I much prefer to hear the exhaust fan in the engine compartment running for a few minutes before the engine is started. We rounded the getty and everyone aboard knew we were in trouble. We hadn't expected a tempest.

The wind was violent and combined with a wicked tide to create awesome waves. Instead of quickly turning to return to the marina (as I would have done), our fearless captain headed across the bay. The prop would come out of the water and race with a whine. Waves were coming over us. I stood by the door and slammed it when the water started in and opened it when it receded. I didn't want to get trapped inside if we went over. Life jackets were passed around along with questions of how anyone could survive in that sea. We rocked and we rolled and the engine kept stalling. The look on the white and perspiring face of our pilot improved no one's confidence. We could see the Coast Guard Station in front of us and just prayed that they were watching us. Finally, the captain's grinding of the starter couldn't get the engine to catch. Dead in the water, as each wave hit us we were turned more nearly broadside to them. Each assault of water rolled us closer to going over. At the last second the engine started again and turned us back into the waves. At last, the captain got the idea of turning and backing down on the engine speed to keep the prop in the water. When we reached the lee of land we felt cold, wet, and battered. And scared. We clung to the lee of land and made it to Sausalito.

The water in our shoes squished with each step into the restaurant. We dripped on the rug and while our table was prepared we were grateful to sit side by side on a long bench in the lobby. A classy lady with a "veddy" British accent went down the line taking drink orders. I was first in line and as she returned with a large tray of drink, I got mine first. She came back up the line after serving eveyone. I held out my empty perfect Manhattan glass and asked for another. She replied, "Oh sir, I think you have broken the record."

After dinner I, and most of the rest, returned by car, thank you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Few Things I Have Been Busting to Say

The most sickening sight on the Florida Turnpike is the parade of car-carrier trucks hauling all those snow birds’ cars south for the winter. We have plenty of year round traffic without them. Snow Birds, Just leave your money and go on home.

Proven again by a visit from a friend with baby – Cute girls have cute kids.

I am convinced that it is pretty silly when we fight a war and can’t put a definitive name on the enemy and can’t give a simple answer to how we will know if we win.

Maybe their specialties are extraordinary, but the regular Starbucks coffee you pick up at rest stops along highways is just ordinary and not worth the premium price they charge.

I nominate SunPass and similar methods for paying highway tolls without stopping as one of the miracles and greatest conveniences of the past, present, and future centuries.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Land of my Fathers

Over in SeniorNet there is a hot discussion going on about racial discrimination. It mostly revolves around the treatment of aborigines by early settlers in the US and in New Zealand. Before you hurry over to join the fight, let me tell you a story I personally have an interest in. I came into possession of a genealogy of my father’s family that was written probably a century ago. Until my father’s generation, his family had lived in Vermont for years. The genealogy mixed the usual who married whom, where and when, and when they died; with a historical narrative of the times. It told for instance, of the great raid by Indian tribes led by King Philip in which all the settlers farms and houses in an area were destroyed “except those of Samuel Leonard, who was a friend of King Philip.” Several paragraphs later the wedding of Samuel Leonard’s son was recounted. He married Sara, daughter of Philip King. I suppose the authors thought they were getting away with something, but if they had seen a picture of my grandfather they would have known better. And I used to tell my father that he should have been proud to have had his portrait on the Indian nickel.

After the "ALL CLEAR"

One of the side benefits of a fall without hurricanes and power outages is that come December 1st we can start eating from the third shelf in the pantry where all the hurricane food has been hoarded. Today for lunch I had a whole can of Underwood’s White Meat Chicken Meat Spread on Mountain Bread. (OK, I gave each of the cats about half a teaspoon full because they put up such a fuss.) It tasted great, much better than it would have without bread or electric power in the days after a big storm. There are several cans of sardines that I have my eye on for future lunches. (I think we can count on seeing the felines again.) And I am sure those little containers of Cheese Ravioli will taste better after a few moments in the microwave than they would have cold. There are few absolute negatives in every day life in Florida.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Candlelight Processional 2006 at Disney World

Last year I believe I closed my post about the Processional by saying that God willing we would return this year. He was and we did. Last year I may have mentioned that it rained the entire two hours we were in line. This year the skies were beautiful, but the temperature was very un-Florida like. Not as cold as the previous evening, but cold enough to induce stomping of the feet and rubbing the ears. Nonetheless, the over-400 choir members and the Disney orchestra soon warmed the air with their music. It was grand. It was strong and loud and joyful just the way you love to hear Christmas music. The gentleman that narrated the story of the Nativity did a fine job. He was the Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman. Although he was new to me, he is apparently popular, judging by the audience reaction to him.

The choir members in gold who stand on either side of the "tree" consist of guest choirs from over fifteen states. In a season (111 performances) a total of 24,000 amateur vocalists will take part in this massed choir. The green garbed members of the "tree" are staff members of Disney World who audition to appear in the Candlelight show. The "base of the tree" in black and red are professional singers and members of an a cappella ensemble which entertains regularly at Epcot.

The visual effects this year were again impressive. The scarves worn by the choir had tiny lights that twinkled at appropriate moments. The theatical lighting enhanced a celebratory mood. And as in past years a signer translated the words sung into graceful motion. The latter is a wonderful addition to the otherwise static picture.

By all means, go and be inspired. And while you are there , be sure to visit the other parks and the Disney hotels to view the unique and delightful decorations with which Disney has honored Christmas . Merry Christmas to All!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holidays by Disney

Well, we are home again safe and sound. For those whom we don’t see on a face to face basis daily, an explanation is in order. After the receipt of some quite good medical news and some not so good medical news last week we decided it would be good for our morale to get away from the medical atmosphere we have been surrounded by for the last few months. On very short notice we were able to get a hotel room at DisneyWorld and off we went. Any complaints I ever had about Disney were evened out by the chunks of plaster, wood and concrete I knocked off their walls with my wheelchair with the jet-assisted engine. I spared small children, but convinced a number of adults never to come back. Unfortunately, S was in the way of some of my spurts of speed also. We thoroughly enjoyed the Candlelight Processional again this year. More about that in a separate post later. From our hotel we were able to reach Epcot and the Disney MGM Studios by boat. Boat is much easier than bus or driving with the rocket designed wheelchair. So we went in both directions. At MGM we viewed the Osbourne Christmas lights as they came on and then stayed for several sessions of the lights dancing to jolly Christmas music. That is a foot stomping adventure. But as far as a celebration of the true Christmas, the light display verges on the gauche, or even tacky. But spectacular! The pictures are still in the camera so I must fall back on the TV line – pictures at eleven. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Surprise Motivation

It was a dark and stormy night … NOT. Actually, it was a crisp cold, sunny Saturday afternoon. It was after football season and before baseball season. With no lawn to mow nor garden to plow and nothing to watch on television, I was sitting at the kitchen table making idle conversation with my wife. I decided to clean out my wallet. My credit cards, membership cards, gas cards, were soon spread out on the table while I decided which should go back to the wallet and which would do just as much good in my bureau drawer. (Now the following will give you a clue how long ago it was.) My wife looked at the table and said, “Why is your ESSO card different than mine?” She got out her card and we studied them for an embarrassing long while before we noticed the obvious difference. Hers had someone else's name on it.

We lived in a fairly small town and so I took a chance and looked in the phone book. Sure enough, he was listed. I called, but he wasn’t home so I explained to his wife that apparently the cards had been switched at a gas station. (In N.J. you weren’t allowed to pump gas for yourself. You stayed in the car and an attendant took your card, pumped the gas, and then gave you back the card. If two or more were getting gas at the same time, cards could easily get switched.) She said she would have her husband call when he got home. But he didn’t call; he arrived at the front door soon after, all flustered. He had my wife’s card and we switched. But he wasn’t through. He had his Esso bills for the last two months with him and nothing would do but that we figure out who owed who, how much.

The next month he was back again with his bill and we settled up again. The third time he came it was to say that there were no charges on his bill that weren’t his. He wanted to see our bill to be sure that none of his charges were on it. There weren’t. I was by then a little annoyed that he had made such a big deal out of a few dollars. Gas was cheap then. I made a not-too-friendly comment about being glad we had settled the mix-up without having gotten Esso involved in it. He practically gushed about how happy he was. He turned to leave, then returned and standing very close, in a hushed voice, he said, ”You see, I am a manager in the credit department of ESSO”.

PS For those reading this outside the US. The brand name "Esso" was changed to "Exxon" in 1972.