Friday, April 29, 2005

As the Crow Flies
It's Spring, so birds of all sorts are happily (my interpretation) chortling around my place of work. The manufacturing facility, a 300,000 sg ft building, has a huge parking lot to allow the 500 folks here a place to leave their car/truck close to their work site so they can scoot in under the bell and make it on time.
The sprint toward the timeclock is particularly interesting on Mondays, as the under-30 set are still living the Live-for-the-Weekend lifestyle. At my kids' elementary school, during family days, relay races were held pitting the kids against the 'dults (pronounced dolts by those adorable offspring). To make things especially interesting, or to make the races equal, at the start of the race and at each exchange, the kids and the adults had to put on excessively large pants, shirts, hats, & ties. Considering the fact that, as parents, every weekday morning was a clothing battle royale to try to get your children clothed and off to school, it struck a lot of us as irony that the kids were beating our pants off in this aspect of the relay race. Who'd of thought what took 15-20 minutes every Monday through Friday, took only a minute in this competition. Size matters and we the parents had obviously missed this point. If we had only dressed them in XXL, one of the morning battles would have been won. These memories come streaming back each Monday as I see the younger employees zipping into the parking lot, leaving their windows down and their lights on, and madly running to our factory, while pulling up their pants and buttoning their shirts.

But that's a different path gone down than the one I'd intended on. Sorry about that; let's get back to the birds. Our site is, as the crow flys, about 2 miles or so inland from the Delaware Bay. So, along with the usual robins, grackles, red-tailed hawks, assorted species of sparrows, we also receive visits from gulls, killdeer, and even an occasional osprey. The lord and master of our asphalt bird sanctuary is the crow. Now, everyone knows that the crow is extremely intelligent. and somewhat vicious. I realize these are all human attributes, ones that should not be attributed onto an animal. But, since I'm at this point already, let me throw in vengeful. There, a threesome of human traits all unloaded on this most admirable of birds.
One Monday, while laughing in the privacy of my car at the Sprint of the Partially Clad, I was slowly driving through our parking lot in search of that elusive slot close to the building left open by a departing third shifter. A bird was standing in the middle of the parking path, not eating, just looking around. It didn't move as my car approached. I honked. It disdainfully (my interpretation) turned it's head sideways to get a better look at what was disturbing its Monday morning constitutional. I eased up slowly and honked again. It remained still, watching me. I stopped, got out of the car, and chased it off to one side. It thought so little of this disturbance and clearly saw I was no danger to it that it didn't bother taking to wing. Just simply shifted from side to side as it walked off. I got back into the car and put it in gear. The crow, beak slightly open, hopped toward the middle of the road.
The winged and wingless performed this stop 'n chase two more times.
Some folks that had been running to get to their work stations had stopped, shirts mid-buttoned, to take in the drama.
Stand-off of the species.
Some of the more NRA leaning spectators threw out helpful suggestions.
"Gun it 'n run it!"
Others, seeing this as a confrontation between management and workers, just stood and took it in, filing the crow's behaviour as a possible line of action to be exercised by themselves at a later point of negotiation.
I scrounged through the car and noticed a half-eaten donut (my interpretation). Throwing it off to the side of the road right by the crow, I jumped into my car, hoping to end this confrontation. The bird didn't move for 5-10 seconds, then slowly ambled over to the donut. It looked at me one more time with disdain (my interpretation), cawed a few times, then turned its back to feast.
I drove down the aisle of cars, nary a space in passing.
I turned and finished the loop, going the other direction. Out of the corner of my eye, a flash of black appeared. Hadn't had my morning coffee so I chalked it off to failing vision or synapses.
Parked the car in the next zip code, my escapades with the crow having taken a good 5 minutes and filling any parking spcaes closer to our building. I got out, locked the door, slung my pack on one shoulder, and started a briskly paced walk to the over the horizon office.
A loud caw.
I turned, about 15 feet from my car.
The crow was on the roof, standing slightly sideways.
It cawed once more, a dig, I assume.
It turned its back to me, deposited a calling card in a color similar to the half eaten donut (my interpretation) onto the roof and the windshield, and flew off.

I walked into the building, a Monday exhaustion that was totally unexpected. There were boxes of donuts in the cafeteria. Folks were chewing them with vigor. A few spotted me and opened their donut-detritus filled mouths and cawed (my interpretation).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A recent trip to the ever-amazing daughter's favorite store, IKEA-Philly ended up with a Camry jampacked with various kanick-kanacks. The trunk was tied down. One backseat was in the horizontal position to allow a box from the trunk to snake its way to the passenger seating area. Another box was propped in the front passenger's seat, leaning back toward the rear. The ever-loving wife's patience was being tried tremendously as she bent under the box, hunkered in the back seat. Oh the price we pay for feng shui.

One of the smaller purchases was a personal one, a Dragon Tree. Well, really more like a Dragon Shrub, or better put, a Dragon Plant. It sits on my desk, right next to a computer speaker. I want to make sure it's soothed by the invigorating sounds of office jazz. Office jazz is not smooth jazz. Office jazz is a non-orchestra, heavy on piano and saxophone, no vocals jazz. It can be heard at low volume, but it lacks the David Sanborn-ish sound quality. No wailing clarinet nor soprano saxes. Mainly tenor sax, with a rare alto here and there.

My office can best be described as being bare of any bare spots. If there's a shelf, it's packed. If there's a chair, reports, books, or printouts are stacked precipitously. You would think with the capacity of PC's these days, I woudln't need to see and touch so much paper. But, alas, I'm surrounded by dead trees. Folks that would visit tended to scrunch in their shoulders for fear of triggering a paper pile into an avalanche. They would keep one eye on the door, judging that they weren't far enough into my office to be able to make leap out. Some folks would just loiter at my door, preferring to keep conversation at a distance; they didn't want to pull a muscle in case of a necessary sudden movement.

(Professor of Dance Jessica Fogel of the University of Michigan presenting a new work, "Dragon Tree, Waterfall, Tea")
The introduction of the Dragon Plant into my office was such a strange event, for me. Throwing caution (and their arms) to the wind, people would come in to see and to touch the tree. Was it the oddity of seeing a live thing in my office? Was the touch of natural green it offered in the sea of white and brown? They would even look at the plant and then at me, working on how to pose that question that eventually all of them asked.
"So, how long before you kill it?"

The responsibility of a living thing in my room is heavy on my shoulders. Plan B is already in place. Next Saturday, I'll have to trek up to Philly to buy some of my little plant's brothers. Just in case, the now resident Dragon bites the dust. Morde sorghum.
If I lay off the water and don't empty my coffee grounds into the tree pot, The Dragon'll have a chance. Who knows, in a couple of years I may be able to send an invite to Professor Fogel to dance in my tree. I'll even move out some of the paper mountains and clear the floor of fallen binders.

The Dragon's looking at me. Thank God, it can't speak.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Whole Lotta (loud) Singin Goin' On
Taking into account xenosphere's comment on the previous entry, I will decline the dare to discuss "heavy ladies" vis-a-vis the perfomance of Bizet's Carmen that I had a chance to see at the Lincoln Center over the weekend. There were certainly weighty issues to mull over, but the specific body mass indices of any of the main performers were not any of said issues.
I warn you now that the following opinions are those of a totally ignorant opera viewer. I know nothing of the subtleties evident in a performance where the un-miked voices of singers can reach the fifth level in the New York State Theater . As I stated before , my ear has been limited to operas involving cuddly hedgehogs in a community opera production. A leap to "Carmen" and to the Lincoln Center was almost enough to cause a nosebleed. I enjoyed the performance; there were two intermissions. There was a grouse of men queued up for refreshments of the alcoholic kind at each dispensary of overpriced booze set up in the lobby. Discussions tended to stray quickly away from "arias" to the complexities of drafting for talent in the 4th round of the NFL college draft. Carmen and Don Jose may have been having their troubles in stage, but out in the lobby the topic of the idiocy of (insert your fav team here) draft pickers was the point of interest.

The set pieces were quite stunning as were the costumes. It was obvious why the Spanish Army never faired too well in battle; their brightly colored costumes made it easy to pick them off from long range. And, let's face it, what soldier goes around with a flower on the top of their hat? I understand the feathers that were popular with hats back in the days. But flowers? Was their a thimble of soil there? Was watering required? The four seperate scenes were quite convincing. Don Jose, the lead male singer, tripped over some faux stones a few times, prevaling through to the end of the performance with a noticeable limp. I know he was struggling through rather than just acting; we were struggling through his acting.

I don't mind and, in fact, enjoy musicals. Not generally, as in carte-blanche enjoyment, but specifically to a small selection of them. West Side Story, The Producers, and Stomp (my favorite musical because there is no singing). I'm even looking forward (in the distant future, as tix are hard to come by) to see Spamalot .

I can do that thing which is so necessary to enjoy a musical, suspend my belief. My ever-loving wife, on the other hand, likes most musicals and she needs no such suspension. She loves to sing and can't fathom how she gave birth to children that don't have the urge to just belt out a song when things are going well....or not. She has a lovely voice, does the spouse, and a strong one. We have several vacuum cleaners and not a one is able to drown her out as she goes through her Housecleaning Song Repertoire. Growing up in her household was a unscripted musical of its own. That's for a post that she will do some day; write what you know, right?

But, this is straying from the topic, which is Carmen, specifically Bizet's Carmen . Was I hoping to see Miranda's Carmen? Yes, I won't lie, I was hoping that there would be allure, comedy, Brazilian music, and fruit. The orchestra, squeezed into the pit, was fine; the music for the opera was even hummable. But no fruit. No comedy. And no Carmen Miranda.

Katharine Goeldner, the Carmen of this performance, had a strong and effective voice. Her body movements and her facial expressions were also attuned to what her character, Carmen the cigarette factory worker and (as my ever-loving wife noted) town floozy, was. Her wild hair, her sassy sashaying and the placement of her feet (I didn't think checking for hernias could be conducted this way) combined to have the males on stage handing out wolf tickets by the batch load. Confined within the sappy and often conversationally-challenging lyrics, she was able to intrigue and to repel, sometimes within the same song. The men in the opera, aside from being drips, dunderheads, saps, cartoons, and creatures being blessed with minimal self-control came off as grist for Carmen's mill. The lead fop, John Bellemer as Don Jose, overstayed his welcome on stage. Bizet may have wanted his lead male part to be portrayed in this way. Or, perhaps Bellemer may have interpreted it this way. I was just a viewer, with a modicum of opera knowledge.

The belief that I was straining to suspend was coming back from its limbo status after the second intermission. Even the always-admirable daughter was softly guffawing into her coat. At one point, the translated French to English text appearred on the stage as, "I'll be telling you this sonny-boy..."
She laughed, perhaps a bit too loudly.
Now, there's a woman after my own heart.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Loud Gesturing
As an early birthday present, the mater familias is sending us to Lincoln Center this weekend for a performance of the opera "Carmen". My mother is an opera nut. Repeated attendance at the same opera performace is de rigeur. When she describes the story behind the singing, it's not too long in her rendering that she starts to speak much quicker and that the tears start flowing. She doesn't speak or understand German, Italian, or French. She tends not to read the superimposed English translations either. It's the emotion of the singing and the performers' acting skills that get her full attention.
I have let hints from her about going to an opera go over my head. Emergency wisdom teeth operations had always come up the on the same dates as an opera she had suggested. I think she caught on after my tenth wisdom tooth needed to be pulled, but she never let on. Personally, I never wanted to shell out that kind of money for a performance. Cost benefit analysis always resulted in my attending a jazz or rock and roll performance.
The last time I'd gone to (what was generously termed) an opera, the singers were belting out the arias in Croatian. The title, loosely translated was "A Hedgehog comes before the Judge". Catchy title, no? I forgot what the gist of the story was. The only thing I remember, aside from the ear-numbing sound of the singing, was that the main character in no perceptible way resembled a hedgehog. He looked more like a rotund baker. Since the singing was not understandable, which, I guess, qualified it as a legitimate opera, and the acting was statue-like, I was hoping that the costumes would carry me through the 2 1/2 hour performance. Luckily, a friend accompanied me and he was more than happy to poke me with his car keys whenever he decided I was dozing off. The yips and yelps I let out when prodded were not appreciated by my fellow audience members. Something about a lack of respect for the art.

My ever-loving wife, quite a bit more aware of this opera thing, assures me that "Carmen" is the opera to go to if you're not fond of operas. I asked her if there would be any hedgehogs making surprise appearances in this performance. She assured me that no rodents of the four legged variety would be on stage. I'll be keeping the car keys in my pocket. Slapping me with the program will be less painful.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Points of Commonality
Limitations to personal connections abound in the shrugs and kisses we exchange daily. The hugs we hold back with fear just serve as bidding adieus as we leave that port of human contact.
We wake. We shoe ourselves. Walk out for the required 8-10 hour shift. And then scoot on back home. Shelter in the storm. Discussions limited to the latest civic disaster paraded last night at News-At-11.
Geometrically, the globe's tangentially touched. Minimally, but in multiple points.
It's just the music carrying the connective chains through the pouring of the days. Each, we have a unique soundtrack.
There's a reason Apple shares are doing so well.
Actively entertaining ourselves, keeping the pain present but afar through a multitude of soft plastic bracelets proclaiming one dying cause or another.

A reminder of the tombstone, without the dirt and the dirge.

It's a late night.
A death's veil is still dragging down the hallways.
It's soundtrack is too full of 1980 songs.
No waking up sleeping in your arms again.

A well thought out plan gone awry; a shattering of sorts.

Oh yeah, weekend readers, if the weather outside is frightful and you've got your PC/Mac cranked up, take a hike over to WVUD to hear an audio version of yours truly. Much more music (connected in a planned but offbeatr way) than voice, thanks to yours truly. Playlist will be posted by the next day on Morning After . Guarante to squeeze in Galactic, John Ellis, Saw Doctors, Blind Boys of Alabama, (the OLD) Little Feat, John Lewis, the Charlies Haden & Hunter, & Mr. Greg Brown.

I only wish you a World of Good.

Who's doing the Unionizing ?
I've heard it, so control those itchy fingers! O.K. then. What am I doing blogging on the weekend? Mainly due to a lack of reading material elsewhere. A blogging vacuum out there. I'm late to catching onto this fad; is there anyone out there who doesn't punch out on Friday and continues with the posting of thoughts happening ove the weekend? (I'll expect some comments coming this way on Monday...clock in time...). Is there a union I should be sending dues to? Are there United Bloggers of Earth (U BE? Yes, I B 2! HA!) meetings happening out there that I'm unaware of? Is there a Jimmy Hoffa Of UBE buried under Giants Stadium? Is blogging now a 9 to 5 gig Monday to Friday? Hey! I haven't been informed of this?!? No union card to flash. Thank God there's work to allow us to maintain some regularity with posting. Punch the clock, it's the weekend. The blog is now work, not pleasure.

Playing with my own thoughts.

"Do you count your friends on your fingers? When you run out do you start on your toes? All I need is a special friend and I'll be the Urban Gentleman." - Richard Ruiz

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pitching a Fever
My ever-loving wife, usually immune from treacle and syrup, is a sucker for AT&T commercials. If one weedles its way into a tv program, I leap up with might & vigour, clasp my mitts around the nearest box of tissues, extract a handful, and dive onto the floor beneath her seat, the tissues pointing upwards toward the torrent of tears that will soon follow. There are enough water stains on our wooden floor where my inaction or slow action have been duly recorded. It's the human interaction thing that gets to her, especially between parent and child. She's a grandmother in the making (Kids! If you're reading this, I won't be ready to be a grandfather in, oh, 15 years, so no rush).

Fever Pitch, an across the Atlantic, Arsenal to Red Sox transformation movie has been playing the theaters recently. An AT&T relationship movie possibility. Relationships, sports sentimentality, the Red Sox curse. Oh the burden of tears! So, when Fever Pitch, with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon had a sneak preview 2 weeks ago, I begged off going. I didn't want to be sitting next to her plying her with 2 plyed tissues. I had visions of the SNL Bosox fans skit that Fallon & Rachel Dreitch do. Only, the 5 minutes that is somewhat funny is now an extended 80 minutes of a one joke act. Fever Pitch (the original) had a curly-haired Colin Firth as a stand-in for a not as curly Nick Hornby. Mr. Hornby wrote the screenplay for this 1987 film, based on his own book, Fever Pitch.
Mr. Hornby is also involved in the American version as an executive producer. The new movie has transformed an obsessed Arsenal football (i.e. soccer) fan into an.... obsessed Red Sox fan. I loved the book and I loved the original movie adaptation. Hornby & Firth both treated the Arsenal Obsession as an unfortunate malady that had no cure. There was no desire for the cure anyway; the Obsession was the strongest tie Hornby/Firth had with his father. I had dread in my heart about this new version of things; SNL does Hornby. Yipes. Sap & Sardonicism. Not my favorite combination.

I parted with my wife, telling her that I hoped she enjoyed the one-joke movie.
Oh course, I'm now dreading that comment and I'm eating it every chance my wife offers it up (like revenge, it is a meal served cold).

Last Sunday, I accompanied my ever-loving wife to the local multiplex. I watched, I smiled, I laughed. Fallon was without his self-indulging over-the-top persona here. Drew Barrymore was divine. Her "Friends" friends were not grating. And the Sox won. I was wrong (my ever-loving wife loves this phrase, well, as long as it's emanating from my mouth). It wasn't a 1 joke movie. It had its moments.

But, be forewarned, it has been Americanized. There is sweetening involved here. Fallon is no Firth, but this new version of the movie would not be a comfortable vehicle for Mr. Firth. Go see the American version. Then, rent the original DVD/VHS version. Two side of the same coin.

The book? Well, I'm assuming you already are off to the bookstore for that. Go on, get off your backside!

Dali's Iceland
(from I know that Salvador Dali had an unreal travel agent. How else to explain, aside from talent and drugs that are probably no longer available, the images that spilled onto the canvas? Once in a while, by concentrating on the minutiae of daily life, the world does appear as some of his paintings ahve revealed. And then, sometimes you actually see a place, say as in Iceland, where Dali must have been. Concoction of the natural.

The family's go their clanedar cleared in late April. Hoping to get to Philly to see Dali at the Philadelphia Museum of the Arts. Early Sunday mornings are still FREE!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Enjoyin' this new cd, One Foot in the Swamp from the talented John Ellis. He's a sax (and clarinet) player that's been featured on several of Charlie Hunter's cd's. This is his latest release and, for some inexplicable reason, is dirt-cheap ($11.98) @ Players include John Scofield on guitar, Jason Marsalis (the Marsalis gene pool is absolutely incredible) on the drums, Gregoire Maret on chromatic harmonica, the incredible Nicholas Payton on trumpet & flugelhorn, and Aaron Goldberg on rhodes. Nine of eleven compositions are by Mr. Ellis. This cd has been reviewed and classified as "Southern" modern jazz. Not sure what that means. Usually when music is classified as "Southern", the critic is referring to rock 'n roll and specifically the Allman Bros. and their musical descendents. I'd correct that and say it's New Orleans in the style of Los Hombres Calientes . Jason Marsalis was a founder and a player in that group, along with Jason Moran and Bill Summers. Nicholas Payton hails from New Orleans as well. John Ellis, born in North Carolina, moved to New Orleans and attended the U of N. O., where he was taught by, among others, Ellis Marsalis, the father of many performing sons. The album has hints of Charlie Hunter, with Hunter's space-time continuum thing happening. The organ playing even has the hesitation style sound of the George Lowell version of Little Feat. There's a low level funk to the album. But, Jason M. is there to ground the beat and Mr. Payton is there to add vigor and flavor. I recommend this highly for the jazz folks out there. For the other folks, $11.98 is an unheard of price for such great music. Give it a listen. Exercise some patience. You'll love the scope of this cd. For a fascinating bio on Mr. Ellis, scoot over to While there, click on "Gigs". He'll be playing with his own trio as well as with the Charlie Hunter Quartet in a city near you. I, unfortunately, clued in too late to this site. Bummer on a large scale!! He'd just played in Philly this past Tuesday.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Jazzin' the Taxes
It's gorgeous outside. Sitting here, in between keystrokes in TurboTax, I sneak a peak out through the skylight. The steel banded brick chimney is to the right of the frame (another summer project, this, climbing onto the steeply pitched roof to do some perpetually put-off brickpointing) and the sunlight's heating up the roof's shingles. It's 70 degrees. The windows are all cracked open, letting the first warm breezes of spring come in the south side of the house and blow on through to the north side. Neighbours have pulled out their mowers and foul sounds are emitting all over the neighborhood. They are definitely emitting from said writer. Always putting off the April 15th filing date, I'm forcibly glued to a chair, inputting W-2's and deductions.
Why delay?
I always make sure I owe the IRS, rather than vice-versa. Can't figure out my friends and co-workers who seem so pleased and happy when they get their rebate. It's as if the IRS gave them a present they weren't counting on, even though they expect (and receive) it every year. I'm stupid about this; I just prefer to have my now, and then settle up with Uncle Sam in April. As long as I've calculated semi-correctly, no penalties, no interest.

I've tried to explain this to the ever-loving wife. She heard her friends talk about the large refunds they receive; she looked at me to see why we seemed to be missing out on this parade of cash. I think it comes down to the "check" thing.

Now, each April I write up a dummy check, complete with IRS logo, address it to her, and she's now one of the happy millions, enjoying their money that the IRS graciously decided to return to them. Sometimes, I even make the amount out for thousands and thousands of dollars. Once, it was denominated in Euros. I even cash the check for her, right there at that bank in the corner of this room, First Shredder National Bank.

But, it's time now to return to TurboTax land. Crank up the stereo with various jazz cd's. I can only do taxes to jazz. It's the only music as complicated as the tax code. I figure if I understand some of the playing on Coltrane, Morgan, or Walton, I stand a chance with the IRS regulations. Besides, Eastern Rebellion cranked up loud will always drown out the din of the lawnmowers. And if I put on some extra dark shades, the mid-morning sunlight seems more like an early sunset.

Friday, April 08, 2005

To Read is To Do is To Be
I am in need of some major temporal inebriation. Somehow, massive units of time, preferably measured in days, have to be deposited in my time today. Withdrawals from said bank will begin yesterday.

A new right side addtion to this site will be a rip-off from Nick Hornby'sPolysyllabic Spree. This addition is not set up to impress you; it's there to remind me that there are books to read before I sleep. Hopefully, it will also keep my visits to that evil place amazon, at least until my Purchased but unread Pile decreases.

I've tried other methods, all short of this self-directed public humiliation. Propping books on the bed stand so they collapse onto me at the slightest gust of bedroom air. Shelving unread tomes in the bathroom to the point where they nudged my shaving supplies out the door. Keeping books in the car, occupying the full back seat and slowly now encroaching to the front seats.

It's bad. Very bad. Packed-to-the-gills bookshelves in the house are groaning at the strain of the physical weight. My conscience is groaning under a similar strain. The worst of it is, these unread volumes are like children you have criminally not paid attention to. You can't get rid of them; you have to become a better parent. That or go blind.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

NYC Playtime
From Curbed , click on over to this interactive transparent map of NYC. While there, check out the other options, specifically "Perspecitval fly through". Anybody who is a fan or is simply drawn in by Edward R. Tufte's books, such as "Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative" will get a kick out of this site.

Sorry. No Iceland pic today.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

(From The wondering eye). When in doubt or low concoctive energy state, do a little good. Continuing my unpaid position as unofficial USA-based Iceland promoter extraordinairre, these postcards are linked for your trip's temptation.

And if you still think tourists do not go to Iceland with a smile and leave with a laugh, here's a photo and story of an Iceland Trip. It's a chance to pick up some good pointers and seriously start considering why you haven't travelled here before.

Some other sites that I go to each day, hoping for new entry additions. They each have a very unique eye and ready wit:

Delawhere (A displaced Delawarean in the Blue? Red? state of Ohio)

Stephenesque (Regaling you with tales of VERY faraway lands)

Xenoverse (Song of an verse)

The Glory of Carnolia (An American in Slovenija)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Boiling Pot
(Iceland-1.jpg from layne kennedy) It's Sunday, the a.m. Well, the late a.m. Sometime last night the time dwarfs stole an hour from me and I sit here at 11:00 a.m., looking for 10:00 a.m. As Autumn so graciously extended my day by an hour, Spring grips it back, shaking me out of bed at an ungodly hours. Even my dreams were disturbed, as they usually are each first weekend in April.
What with the Pope's passing, my dreams meandered in and out of death last night. My late father drifted in and out as well, his laugh and his shake-of-the-head coupled with a sad grin greeting each new foray into my night's thoughts. Somehow, I ended up in the Congo, mid 1950's. My father's uncle, the man who was responsible for getting my dad out of the "New Europe" into the "New America", was a petroleum engineer for an American oil exploration company. In those days, "petroleum engineer" was something like today's rappers or yestrday's skateboarders. It was an exciting and dangerous profession; one that you actually packed a pistol when on the job at times. He disappeared in the Congo; he was never found. Family legend has it that he was captured and then served up for a celebration feast by the infamous man-eating pygmies. My father told me this story, grinning if I recall correctly. His ability to pass off a dry tale as the truth was extraordinary; I always believed or wanted to believe his version of things becasue the alternative was so boring.

So, there was my father's uncle in a huge enormous pot, boiling, possibly with other nationalities so as to get the stew tasting just right. He was even smiling, although unlike this pic, I don't recall him having breasts, well not cleaving-type breasts. But there was a lot of steam and the pot was huge, its outer rim stretching over the horizon.

But, I lost my hour. Maybe the stew was getting overcooked.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Icelandic Esoterica
Every blog serves some purpose, self-involvement being the underlying current. Here, at Verging on Pertinence, my altruistic purpose (not my main purpose, however) is to let my gentle readers know what the most requested Googled image of Iceland is. For at least 2 months, this lovely picture , from dominated the searches. Today, after Googling, this beautiful picture from came up as No.# 1 . At this fellow's site, you'll find some quite amazing pictures. There's even a picture from the tiny drive-through Tax-Free Shopping (one of its mottos)state of Delaware. This picture was actually taken at St Andrew's School, site of Robin Williams' film, "Dead Poets Society".

After I'd Googled images of Iceland, I floated through 12 pages and this lovely picture never even materialized. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
And, Oh how the traffic here has thudded to a light drizzle. Seems the main reason to stop over here for a second or two was a mis-conception that Verging on Pertinence had something to do with Iceland. That reason has now fluttered away to other sites. To those dedicated readers still coming here, Iceland or not, you have my gratitude. I will still occasionally check up on this Iceland picture obsession; it seems at least 100 folks a day are Googling for just one look at its beauty.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I work in a section of the economy that is fast becoming extinct here in the US of A. Manufacturing. At the end of each fiscal year, we have a huge plant get-together. There's no music nor dancing. Scowling is a daylong facial condition. It's called inventory time.
For some manufacturing companies, this is the day that they find out if they've made money or not for the whole year. As you can deduce, waiting until the last day of your annual business cycle to find out if there will be some extra dollars in your till does not bode well for your company's future. Your grip around the true value of the stuff piled to the rafters in your warehouses should be tight, two-fisted hands-around-the-financial-health of your company throat.
Our company is OCD about our inventory. We've seen competitors disappear due to sloppiness in this area; when you're selling commodity type items, margins are the cliche-ish "razor thin" and any looseness with what and how you're manufacturing could cause a rapid disintegration from profitability to bankrupcy. For us, our annual event is simply an acknowledgment that we know what we're doing. Our physical counting of our stock falls within 0.15% of what we think we have (usually, anything within 3.0% is acceptable in our particular industry). The end results is not the cause of the scowl on most of our faces. It's the amount of time, 10-14 hours, that we spend on a late March Saturday (guaranteed to always be an absolutely gorgeous Saturday) while our families are out enjoying what is usually the first warm weekend in Spring.

Folks are not very happy. We've been working on a new system of doing things; a system that quite a few companies had adapted long ago. I won't go into any detailed or even general info about cycle-counting; I mean, I do want you to stay awake reading this piece! The short of it is that you simply spread the counting, checking, and worrying activity over the course of the year rather than putting all the calamity and the ill feelings into one day.
Dilution of effort.
Our inaugral year utilizing the newly installed methodology passed with flying colors. Saturday was saved for freedom. What had taken over 12 hours was cut down to 3 hours, on a mid-week day.

Rare is the time that a supervisor/manager will compliment one of their workers/associates.
Rarer still is the time when a worker/associate will bestow praise on their supervisor/manager.
It was amazing how the gift of an unencumbered Saturday affected our plant personnel. Hugs & kisses from everyone. Now, I'm just hoping for the appearance of the sun and 60 degree weather for this Saturday. Unexpected free time is (I apologize for the following word and hope it's not been copywrighted) priceless.

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