Wednesday, March 28, 2012

United (or not)

How long has it been since you spent a full day without hearing one of the following?

War on Women
Fair Share
Corporate Greed
Warren Buffets’ Poor Secretary
Oil Company Profits
Occupy Wall Street
Occupy DC
            $250,000 (The Rich)
            Jabs at Religion (Catholic for now)
The list could go on and on…

When you hear these words and words like these, does your life somehow seem better? 
Do the words make you motivated to go out and enjoy the blessings of your life?
Does a little ray of sunshine fall upon you and brighten even the darkest of nights?
I doubt it.  These words make you fill threatened, worried, angry, and maybe even just a bit envious.  As the emotions fill your thoughts you separate yourself from others, the negativity builds in your life creating more anguish and misery.

I’d like to share two short stories, two examples that may shed a bit of light on what we are seeing in our society today.

    Let’s say we’re at Podunk Air Base in the middle of nowhere at shift change.  All the dayshift and nightshift crew chiefs (mechanics) are in the hanger discussing what condition the jets are in, what maintenance needs to be done, the flight schedule and fuel needs.  Suddenly the Squadron Commander walks in and starts making a few off hand comments “Looks like dayshift didn’t do a thing today, all the jets came in broken but they just parked them and must have walked away”.  “It’s a wonder we ever make our flight schedule”.  “Guess it’s up to nightshift to pickup the slack… Again”.                          

What do you think the outcome was?  Did nightshift fill dumped on, was dayshift motivated to come in and get the jets in the air the next day?  Do you think the unit started to tear its self apart, crumble and not meet its daily flight schedules?

    Now back at Podunk AB, same shift change but a different Commander walks in.  He starts talking to the troops “Wow, Dayshift got hit hard”.  “All the jets came in at once, in poor, poor, shape”.  “We’re going to need a stellar effort to meet tomorrow’s flight schedule”.  “Thanks for your efforts today guys”.

Different outcome maybe?  Nightshift may still fill a bit dumped on but they know why and they know they’re being counted on.  Dayshift is motivated by the Commanders recognition and will be even more committed to meeting the flight schedule.  Actually most of the time if a Commander came in making comments like that and things are bad the shifts will stay over (without being asked) to help get the jets ready.  You’re looking at a unit that will pull together and meet its flight schedule.  I’ve seen it firsthand more than once.

    Leaving good old Podunk behind now we’re all standing in hanger America.  Men, Women, Rich, Poor, Middle Class, Corporations, Small Business, Employees, Management, Unions, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhist…  We’re all here, discussing the economy, jobs, national priorities, rights, privileges, entitlements…
And in walks the Commander (and Chief)...

What message is he bringing?  Is he uniting or dividing?  Building or tearing down?  Are we being motivated to pull together to solve our problems or are we bickering amongst ourselves.  Only difference between us and the poor mechanics at Podunk 1 is we get to pick our Commander.  It’s your choice…

By the way, us crew chiefs can’t stand it when our jets miss a scheduled flight; if need be we’ll pick’em up and throw them into the air. Those things are heavy, my back still hurtsJ

Till Next Week

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Doing the JOB!

    I work in a cabinet factory it’s a major producer of kitchen and bathroom cabinets for the Midwest.  Today as I walked in to the factory a feeling came over me, “I’m going to build the best cabinet to ever be built here”.  I went to the warehouse and selected perfectly matched sticks of cherry lumber, the wood grain lined up without a flaw.  Not only did I measure twice before making the cuts, I measured three times.  Instead of running the parts through the glue applicator I applied the glue by hand before placing the blocks of wood into the clamp assembly.  Normally the cabinet parts would then be run through a progressive sander, it does a good job but I wanted perfection so I sanded them by hand.  The wood was so smooth it looked as if it were covered with a thin layer of glass.  With all the parts ready I began putting them together, the front, the sides and back then the top and bottom, finally I installed the doors.  Stepping back to admire my work I thought to myself what a thing of beauty, you couldn’t see a single seam. It looked as if it had been carved out of a single piece of wood.  Yes it’s truly going to be the best cabinet ever and I haven’t even put the finish on it yet.  Damn I did a good job!  Right about then the plant manager walks up and asked “What are you doing?”  I answered “Making the best cabinet ever”.  Looking it over he said “That has to be the best cabinet I’ve ever seen, YOU’RE FIRED!  The finish line has been down for three hours. “
    See I had a problem, although I work at a cabinet factory I’m a mechanic my job is to maintain the spray booths, conveyors, ovens and such.  When one part of the finish system stops 80 people stop working and a major portion of the factory stops dead.  I wasn’t doing the job I was hired to do. 

                                     Don’t get worried I didn’t really do this but someone did. 

    A Virginia middle school teacher broke his class into four groups, giving each group the assignment of seeking out political weakness on one of four Republican Presidential primary Candidates, and then devise strategies to exploit these weaknesses. 

    OK, I can see where there may be some push back being this was a civics class.  What needs to be considered is the appropriateness of the assignment vs. the age level (12-14 year-old) and the curriculum goals (citizenship).  “Opposition Research” would be a subject best handled in an advanced collage level course.  Let the kids master the basics first.  Sounds like a gentleman doing his own thing on company time… 

YOU’RE FIRED!!!       

    The United States spends more money than any other country on education, roughly $525 billion.  That’s $375 billion more than the next big spender, Japan at approximately $150 billion.   What do we get for this investment? According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the US is ranked only as average against the top 34 industrialized nations (see Pisa note below).

Reading:          United States ranked 14th     (South Korea was 1st)
Mathematics:   United States ranked 25th     (again South Korea was 1st)
Science:          United States ranked 17th     (Finland was 1st)

    Are you kidding me?  We spend more than triple the amount of any other nation on education just to be AVERAGE (below average in mathematics). Little Susan and Little Johnny won’t be able to balance their checkbooks when they get older but they can plot on somebody else’s demise.  The children don’t need an exercise in “Opposition Research” they need a math class with a real teacher.  I’m not anti-teacher; I’m anti-IDIOT that’s pretending to be a teacher (idiot is a bit harsh but this really spools me up).  I know there are some fine teachers out there.  I know two of them.  One that got me started on writing blog’s (Smart young man) and one that’s on his way to becoming a teacher (He’s going to be great, I’ve known him all his life)J

Hit the books Kid-O's              (NOTE This week there will be an additional posting Wensday)

OECD Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009 results, published December 2010.  Comparison of educational performance conducted every three years.  Approximately 470,000 15-year-old children from around the world participated in the 2009 assessment.  Data source: OECD, PISA 2009 Database.

Educational expenditures:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kill People and Break Things

Of all the topics to choose from this week to write on, this is the one I don’t want to do… 

      I got up this morning had my coffee and wrote the first line then I stopped.  I’ve cleaned the garage, burnt the brush pile and took care of the animals.  Anything but this.  

    Today a young man returns to the United States, a soldier, a husband, a father of two.  I could easily be describing myself not so many years back or anyone of tens of thousands of other young men and women that have been sent to foreign lands by our nation.  But the return of this soldier is different, this soldier returns under a black cloud of shame.  The cloud of shame blankets the troops still in the Afghan region, it shadows our entire nation.  This soldier stands accused of killing 16 men, women and children.  An act of pure evil.  A phrase had been coined that the military is only good for “Killing people and breaking things”, I’ve used it and coming from an Air Force bomb squadron you would think when called upon I would be accepting of the phrase but it’s a byproduct of the true mission of the military.  Some years prior to being assigned to the 9th Bomb Squadron I was assigned to the Med-Evac C-9A aircraft flying out of Scott AFB IL.  As a flight mechanic I flew 1,997 sorties transporting patients of every sort, accident victims, burn patients, even premature babies.  Ever so often I would see a patch on one of the medical crewmembers with an angel holding a globe and scrolled across the bottom the phrase “THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE”.  This phrase stayed with me the rest of my military career, sometimes to live up to the idea it meant seeking out evil and killing it, or destroying the capabilities of others to inflict harm.  All in the goal of achieving the true mission of the United States military, defending the defenseless, bring aid and comfort to the hopeless and freedom to the oppressed.

    There are groups in the world that will use the actions of one disturbed individual to paint our entire nation as evil but we need to pick ourselves up dust ourselves off and start building trust again.  Every solder in the field, every U.S. citizen in foreign lands is an un-official ambassador of our nation, mind your manners and watch out for each other.  You may be the only American a person of another nation may meet, leave them with a good impression.  Start the long, hard healing process that lay ahead of us.  Show that we are a just and good people, a shining light of freedom.  To the men and women of our military I am not “Generally” proud of you, I’m VERY PROUD of YOU!  I’m proud to have been among the ranks of the enlisted force.  You will be facing some hard times in the coming months but I’ve got full faith you will come through as a better force.  

    I can not judge the guilt or innocence of the accused sergeant but if he is guilty I hope he stands tall, admits his crimes and accepts the consequences to allow the healing to begin.

Till Next Week

                                     I wish I could have found a better picture

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lessons from my Daddies (Yep, you can have more than one)

    There is an adoption/foster care commercial that uses the phrase that goes somewhat like “Just about any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a daddy”.  I would like to share three lessons from three dads. 

    First, my father.  As far back as I can remember my father got up early to go to his full-time job (a beef-breaker in a meat packing plant) after leaving that job (normally after some overtime) he would go to other part-time jobs as a bartender /cook so he would get home very late just to get a few hours of sleep and start again the next day.  On the weekends he would take his beat-up old truck to local factories to collect scrap metal, cardboard and such to turn in at the recycling plants for a bit of extra cash.  He worked hard to provide a nice life for the wife and six children he had at home, in my memory we never lacked a necessity and always had just enough of the niceties’ of life.  Looking back I remember seeing in his eyes and on his face the fatigue but I never once heard him say “I’m tired”. 

Lesson one (of many from him): A DADDY provides for his family with every ounce of his energy if necessary.  When he thinks he can’t go any further he’ll dig a little deeper inside and succeed.  Now that he’s well into his 70’s it’s about time I say a heart felt Thank You to a DADDY that dug a little deeper each day.  When an important need has to be met but I’m tired, I look to your example and somehow push through. 

    Moving forward a few years I’d like you to meet Arthur (my wife’s father).  Art was also a loving, hard working family man.  Besides his family he also loved working with wood, he could make any piece of furniture you wanted and had the wood shop to do it.  The first couple of years when me and the wife would visit I would go and play around in the shop making small items that would rival any high school woodshop project.  Then came a big change in my life, my wife was expecting our first child.  Somehow the idea of making a cradle came up (at that time a project that was well beyond my skills).  The wood in the shop was all rough cut sawmill lumber so it took a lot of work to trim and fit the pieces together but Art always seemed to be in the shop working on a little this or that when I needed a bit of advice or guidance and occasionally working in a hint when I wasn’t smart enough to ask a question but never to the point of giving me the filling he was looking over my shoulder.  The cradle was finished and has made it through my two children; I hope it sees it through grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

Lesson two:  A Daddy stands far enough away to allow the child (or others) the sense of accomplishment in bringing their vision to light but close enough to keep them on the right path and knowing when to drop the subtle (or not so subtle) hint.  Art passed away several years back and I miss him but the woodshop is still there.  I try to stop in and build a little something every couple of weeks, just to fill him standing by my side.  Thank You DADDY for the skills and the love of creating something beautiful out of some wood, glue, sweat and vision.

      Finally I never met the third man who inspired me; he taught me a life lesson but I’ve never seen him in person.  I joined the Air Force in 1981 and I’ll be honest with you the military was still suffering the effects of the hollow force from the 70’s.  My first duty assignment was at Scott AFB IL.  As I walked into the dorm on day one I was greeted by two guys standing in the hallway smoking a joint (wow this wasn’t much of a change from what I left in the civilian world).  The facilities were old and rundown. The first jet I was assigned to maintain was a 1959 Jetstar (two years older than me).  Moral was in the basement.  But change was coming, slow at first, then at a furious pace.  Facilities were refurbished or completely rebuilt, our equipment was updated.  All under the leadership of one man, President Ronald Reagan.  Moral began to build at a steady pace matching our increased capabilities.  President Reagan led with an air of honor, a steadfast commitment to the ideas that made the United States the greatest nation in history and a sense of obligation to those who he may have to call upon to protect the ideas and freedoms of our nation.

Lesson three:  A DADDY provides all the skills and tools for success that he can.  President Reagan also passed some years back, he never knew it but he left me with some great tools, he set the example of honor, commitment and integrity, they have served me well.  Thank You DADDY.

If I were in charge of the Great Man Hall of Fame, you just met the first three inductees.
Three men in my life, three Daddies, three short stories, three lessons but we’re not quite done yet.  There is a fourth lesson, in all that a daddy does, all the lessons he may teach, most of the time he will never know because he does it out of love.  A challenge to each man out there, (father or not) be a DADDY to someone todayJ

See you in a week
The TOMCAT        

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gone Fishing (It’s a Health Thing)

   Hi All, I hope your weekend has been good…

     Winter is rapidly coming to an end and spring is just around the corner that means one thing, its time to get the fishing equipment ready to go.  As with any activity great or small there is some expense involved.  A new spool of fishing line, hooks, sinkers, maybe some lures or bobbers, possibly some bait and of cores a fishing license.   Day one of fishing is going to cost me a minimum of say $50.  Throughout the season I will have to pickup more bait replace worn tackle so I’m looking at another $25 a month (I’ll call this the maintenance fee).  Total I expect to spend $200 to $250 this season, a decent chunk of money but a small price to me for what I get in return.     

    The amount you are willing to invest in the pursuit of your chosen activity is a personal decision based on your commitment and desire.   Myself, I really enjoy fishing very early in the morning starting at 4:00AM until about 7:30AM.  The water is calm looking like a sheet of glass, the air is cool and crisp, sounds of the crickets give way to the soft songs of birds as they greet the morning and the stars dim then disappear as the soft pastel colors of the sunrise fill the sky overhead.  I fill all is right with the world.  I become calm and relaxed, the stresses of the past week fade and some how become unimportant.

    Hay I might be onto something here.  Stress can cause high blood pressure that in-turn can lead to a stroke, heart problems or a number of other medical or mental issues. According to The Mayo Clinic “High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, increase in blood pressure”.  Some stress-influenced conditions include, but are not limited to:
1         Depression
2         Diabetes (I’ve already been hit with this, Type 1)
3         Hair Loss
4         Heart Disease
5         Hyperthyroidism
6         Hypertension
7         Obesity
8         Obsessive-Compulsive or Anxiety Disorder
9         Sexual Dysfunction
10     Stroke
11     Tooth and Gum Disease
12     Ulcers 
In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as 90% of doctor’s visits are for symptoms that are at least partially stress-related.  Earlier this week I watched a news segment showing a young collage student testifying before a congressional committee stating how her chosen activity (practicing breeding) was causing her and others finical hardship to the tune of $3000 over a 4 year period in LAW School and that she (and others) should be reimbursed for the cost of their chosen activity.  Ms. X never once mentioned any medical condition alleviated by participating in her chosen activity.  At least fishing could prevent a stroke by reducing stress (The local pharmacy is going to have to stock some new items).

    OK, I’m not above admitting that I may have missed something so I went to the source on the subject of practicing breeding, Planned Parenthood.  According to their web site the only 100% method of avoiding any adverse effects of sexual contact is to abstain from the activity, finical hardship $0.

Next came the use of latex condoms anything less leaves the participants exposed to HIV, Hepatitis, and a whole host of other STD’s.  Alright the argument is some will engage in sexual activity regardless so protection needs to be provided.  The condom is the best/only protection (according to Planed Parenthood).

So what do you get for $3000?  Another web search… I found a 12 pack of name-brand lubricated, ribbed, ultra-sensitive condoms priced at $3.67.
                                                                               4 Years
$3000/$3.67= 817 packs X 12 = 9804 condoms / (4 X 365) = 6.72 condoms used per day.

That’s some busy participants…  Actually you could go to any junior high school and probably get them for free.

    The young lady must be a first year law student when a lowly mechanic put together a better argument (in about 1.5 hours) for a medical prescription requiring insurance to pay for fishing tackle.  Look I don’t care what activities you get into (as long as your not hurting others) me, my wife and our children spent a large portion of our lives defending the freedoms of others (me and the wife are both retired military, our children grew up moving base to base including overseas) and again I would stand by your side to fight for your freedoms…  Just don’t demand that I pay for your choices.  Its time to stand up, pull up your big boy (or big girl) pants and be accountable for your choices.  But if Congress would like to hear my testimony, a new BASS BOAT could really improve my health J      

From fishing to condoms… Who Da’ thunk that’d happen?

Side Thought: For years Liberals have been screaming “Keep Government Out of the Bedroom” but as soon as they have to pay for their choices they call for the same Government to step right back through the bedroom door.  Watch what you ask for… You just might get it.  Have you ever seen a government agency shrink in size or scope?   

Hope to see you next week